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Monday, 27 July 2015

Life's a beach for Saudi king

What do you do if you're the king of Saudi Arabia holidaying at your private villa on the Côte d'Azur in the south of France for a month with an entourage of around a 1,000 people and you discover there's a public beach (albeit small) at the foot of where you're staying?

The answer is simple really.

You flout the laws of the land, start constructing your own personal lift (after all, it would be too stressful to have to walk) and block access for anyone else.

It's a story that has been brewing for the past fortnight when French national media began reporting that preparations were underway for the impending one-month-long stay of the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at his luxury villa in the town of Vallauris.

"The White Palace on the water", Vallauris (screenshot BBC news report)

 To avoid any unwanted hoi polloi upsetting the king's holiday plans and to ensure his privacy and security (and that of his family), the Mirandole beach at the foot of the villa was closed temporarily while the necessary construction work (without permits) was undertaken.

Some locals, upset by the manner in which a public beach seemed to have been commandeered without any consultation  were concerned that the closure would be extended for the duration of king's visit.

It's a fear that has become a reality as, even though  Michelle Salucki, the mayor of Vallauris, put a temporary stop to the work and wrote to the French president, François Hollande, to argue against the de facto privatisation of public property, she was overruled by higher powers with the sous-préfet, Philippe Castanet, invoking the need to provide security for a visiting head of state and Hollande...well, not reacting at all.

Yes, it's all a question of security...oh and the not-so-small matter of purchasing power.

Cash rich and shopping happy Saudis apparently come with the reputation of spending - big time.

And several reports have appeared on French telly showing how pleased local (luxury, of course) shop owners are at the prospect of all that lovely lolly passing through their hands.

Sod principles and the fact that public beaches are exactly that - public - and supposedly accessible (although there are plenty of other exceptions that prove the rule) to all.

And ditto for the petition that has so far attracted over 100,000 signatures insisting that the beach should be "available for the benefit of all".

"I'm talking about the equality of citizens before the law and the respect of coastal law," local councillor Jean-Noel Falcou said in  BBC news report (see, this story has captured the interest of media outside of France).

"A natural area, a public beach, is an inalienable. It's part of our common property. The point we wanted to make is that not everything can be bought."

Sadly Monsieur Falcou, it appears it can if the power behind the money is one authorities don't wish to offend.

Vallauris: la famille royale saoudienne veut... par afp

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday's French music break - Lisa Angell, "N'oubliez pas"

France wins the Eurovision Song Contest after 38 year long wait.

Well, that might well be the dream of France Télévisions executives who, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen a song that could have sealed victory several decades ago.

But that "dream" risks becoming a repeat nightmare of last year's final place entry when Twin Twin (who?) managed just two measly points.

Hoping for better things (well, let's face it, they could hardly get worse) France has plumped for another act largely unknown to the domestic audience to fly the tricolore at this year's annual "music" fest to be held in Vienna, Austria.

Lisa Angell will warble her way to Eurovision obscurity with the perhaps worryingly premonitive "N'oubliez pas" ("Don't forget").

Lisa Angell (screenshot from "N'oubliez pas")

Yep, while 21 of the 27 countries appearing in the final have opted to sing in the musical lingua franca of English (or "la la" approximative versions of it anyway), France has decided steadfastly to buck the trend by insisting on sending someone along singing a "proper" French entry...and that means in French.

Not that "la langue de Molière" will help improve Angell's chances though, as the song is dated, probably lacking in real appeal and instantly forgettable the moment it has finished.

And that can be an important element in Eurovision voting (you can decide for yourselves how weighted and unfair/fair it might be, there has been much...far too much...written on that subject)

as Angell will be the second act to take to the stage on Saturday and might well have become a foggy memory by the time all 27 countries have "done their stuff".

"Gifted with a powerful voice" and "extremely proud and happy to represent her country...with a song of hope and peace, of courage and solidarity," Angell may well be.

But that's unlikely to impress the millions who'll be watching the televised marathon, and France looks set to wait a little (lot) longer for that seemingly evasive Eurovision win.

Which is a shame, as there is so much (young) talent around that could have reflected the true nature and variety of the French music scene, such as The Avener, Cats on Trees, Marina Kaye, Louane Emera, Kendji Girac, Christina and the name just a few.

But hey. This is Eurovision - and more often than not it's the lowest common denominator that counts which, come to think of it, is probably the only thing to be said in Angell's favour.

Take a listen.

Try not to yawn.

And "enjoy" this week's Friday's French music break.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Valérie Trierweiler's "non-interview" interview on France 3 TV

It was surely the most peculiar of interviews; at the same time both surrealist and seemingly beamed in from a parallel universe.

Valérie Trierweiler's first appearance on French TV since her bust-up with the French president, François Hollande, THAT ("political memoire") book and promotional tour abroad and, even more recently, the slap she gave the 33-year-old  centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement) politician Mohamed Rizki, when he (some might say somewhat insolently) asked her in the street, "How is François?"

Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news)

Yet the presenter of the 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news, Jean-Noël Mirande, declined to pose any questions relating to any of those matters during the interviews because...well, journalistically-speaking apparently they weren't interesting enough or relevant as to why she had agreed to be interviewed in the first place.

Say what?

All right so the cause Trierweiler was "promoting" (not her own in this case) was without doubt virtuous - the work of the Secours populaire français, an association "fighting against poverty and exclusion in France and throughout the World".

But this is a woman who has made the headlines over the past year or so for all the wrong (or right - depending on your perspective) reasons.

And yet Mirande declined to ask one single question during the main body of the interview because he didn't want to detract from the serious nature of the Secours populaire's work.

Oh well, maybe he had gone to a different school of journalism to that of his colleagues.

The one which panders to the guest, doesn't ask the "burning questions" no matter how tasteless they might be and decides that news is set, not by events, but by avoiding any mention of them.

And just to ensure that viewers had completely understood why, he handed Trierweiler the most servile of questions at the end, when he broached the slapping incident by asking how she dealt with controversies whenever her name was brought up.

"It's difficult because a non event becomes a headline. And at the same time there are some serious things happening in the world," she replied.

"I just don't understand how such a fuss can be made out of something that is so inconsequential."

To which Mirande responded, in true probing style, "And that's the reason we decided not to talk about those subjects. But I wouldn't have been forgiven if I hadn't tried."

Valérie Trierweiler's truly absurd return to the French media spotlight as France 3 blows its "scoop".
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