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Friday, 29 October 2010

French reality TV's gay touch

As one reality show disappears from the screen of France's most popular national TV channel another one takes its place.

And both have something more in common than their time slot, target audience and less-than-challenging level of mindless entertainment; what could be called a gay touch.

Benjamin and Odile - son and mother from "Qui veut épouser mon fils ?" (snapshot from TF1 teaser)

"Secret Story" finished last week and it was the openly gay Benoît Dubois who picked up the winner's cheque of €150,000.

Dubois and his sidekick Thomas Vitiello seemed to become something of a cult among younger viewers especially as they camped and cattily commented their way through the three months they spent together.

The pair met in the Big Brother-style house and quickly formed the indomitable duo of "Brigitte and Josiane" (Dubois and Vitiello respectively) aka for the purposes of the show as the "Gayssip boys" - a term dreamt up for them by the production team.

And if all goes according to (their) plans Dubois and Vitiello have said they hope they'll become a more permanent feature on French television screens in the near future!

With Secret Story over, TF1 is serving up the delicious "Qui veut épouser mon fils ?" ("Who wants to marry my son?") as a replacement.

As the title suggests it features mothers - five of them - who will try to find future brides for their still-at-home male offspring.

Except from the teaser provided by TF1, it's clear that not all of the mothers involved are looking for potential daughters-in-law.

One of them, Odile, is looking for a "husband" (inverted commas because same-sex marriage doesn't exists in France although civil unions in the forms of PACS do) for her 28-year-old son, Benjamin.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

His participation marks the first time a reality television programme of the genre in which contestants "search for love"on a major domestic channel in France includes an openly gay man.

And to an extent TF1 has stolen a march over its main commercial rival M6.

It was supposed to feature a gay farmer among its candidates in the last season of "L'amour est dans le pré" ("Farmer wants a wife") but he reportedly pulled out at the last moment.

Is Benjamin's involvement in the show a bold move for TF1, a reflection of changes in French society or simply a ploy to boost audience figures by attracting the "pink" viewer - or all three?

Of course it's not the first time there has been a gay contestant in a reality TV show in France.

Back in 2002 during the second season of "Loft Story" on M6, one of the eventual winners, Thomas Saillofest, came out.

In last year's edition of "Secret Story" there was a lesbian couple from Belgium who split soon after the show finished.

A similar fate befell another Belgian couple (male) after they were eliminated during the last season of Pékin Express on M6 (even though they purportedly went into show to test the strength of their relationship with a view to tying the knot officially afterwards.)

And let's not forget "Zhoom", launched earlier this month on Pink TV, the country's only gay channel.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mamma Mia! the musical opens in France

It's the moment French fans of Abba have probably been waiting for; the opening at the Théâtre Mogador in Paris of the hit musical Mamma Mia - in French.

Screenshot from Mamma Mia trailer

The blurb surrounding the opening is almost as full of overblown superlatives as the phenomenal success the Swedish quartet achieved during their career.

Mamma Mia, l'évènement Europe 1
envoyé par Europe1fr. - Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

First staged in London back in April 1999, the musical has, according to its official site, been seen by more than 42 million people in 40 countries and every evening attracts more than 17,000 people.

Mamma Mia! (exclamation mark obligatory) we're told, is "a worldwide phenomenon" that has been translated into 10 languages, including German, Russian, Spanish and Japanese, which might for some raise the question as to why it has taken so long for a version in the language of Molière.

The explanation apparently is provided by the fact that while the translation of the lyrics by Nicolas Nebot also required the approval of Abba's Björn Ulvaeus.

"I sent him my translations and he was especially keen to keep the sonority and the catchiness of the phraseology," Nebot is quoted as saying.

"He (Ulvaeus) didn't want a word-for-word translation," he added.

The musical's dialogue has been translated by Stéphane Laporte.

The publicity machine for the musical has already been in full swing for several months and seems to have paid dividends with 125,000 tickets sold, the entire month of November fully booked and the run extended to April 2011.

So the French can finally enjoy the musical in their native tongue for the first time, but can anything really replace the original?

Perhaps not.

But there again there's always the version with which you might not be familiar from the British comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

Made by the pair for Comic Relief in 2009, it's a parody of the film starring Meryl Streep and is...well judge for yourselves.

And if that wasn't enough for you, here's part II.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

French toilet habits - just in case you were interested!

When you visit someone at home in France and they tell you they're nipping off to the loo (forget about why they would inform you in the first place) don't imagine it's just a case of relieving themselves.

Far from it, if a recent survey conducted by the polling organisation Ifop (L'Institut français d'opinion publique) on behalf of a loo paper manufacturer is to be believed.

Almost half of those questioned - 44 per cent to be precise - said they spent time "sitting on the throne" quietly reflecting...and reading.

Before you think flicking through the pages of a favourite magazine is all the French do while they're supposed to be going about their "business", think again, as eight per cent of those questioned also admitted that they used the "moment" to make a telephone call.

And 28 per cent think it's a place in the house which "deserves even closer attention" which is not too much of a surprise considering that 56 per cent of respondents said they made a mental note of how others' maintained their WCs.

You have been warned.

So now you know what the French get up to in the privacy of the smallest room in the house.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

It's a Barbie world for Laure Manaudou

France's former Olympic, world and European champion swimmer, Laure Manaudou, will soon be taking on a new role - as the face of a Barbie doll.

According to the website of the monthly French entertainment and cinema magazine, Première, Mattel - the makers of toy which first saw the light of day back in 1959 - have announced the launch of a new Barbie in the image of the 24-year-old with the release set for June 2011.

As far as the toy company is concerned the choice of Manaudou was an easy one as she "embodies the values advocated by the famous doll; namely those of effort, the desire to test limits and achieve her dreams."

"Vindication," wrote the weekly French magazine Paris Match, for a woman who left her sport prematurely in 2009 at the ripe old age of 22 after a glittering career which included titles at Olympic, world, European and national levels.

At her very best. Manaudou sets World record 200 metres freestyle, Melbourne, 2007 (screenshot from WCSN, video)

But it was also one which included several disastrous personal and sporting decisions including a break with her long-time coach Philippe Lucas, a move to Italy to train with her then-boyfriend Luca Marin, a highly-publicised split with him a few months later and the appearance on the Internet of a compromising video of the couple.

Manaudou currently lives in the United States with her partner, French swimmer Frédérick Bousquet (who was in the news last week following the disclosure of his two-month suspension from competition after having inadvertently used a haemorrhoid cream containing the banned substance heptaminol) and their six-month-old daughter Manon.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Paris concert to support French journalists held hostage Afghanistan

Monday marks the 300th day of captivity for French journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, held hostage in Afghanistan.

And as part of the ongoing campaign in support of the two men, a concert is being organised in Paris, featuring some of the top names from the French music scene.

Ghesquière and Taponier were on assignment for France 3 television when they were taken captive on December 29, 2009, along with three Afghan colleagues - Mohammed Reza, Ghulam and Satar - as they were travelling in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province around 120 kilometres northeast of the capital Kabul.

The free concert, to be held at the Le Zénith in Paris, a venue with a capacity of approximately 7,000 will be broadcast live on France 3 and among those taking part will be established stars from the French music scene such as Véronique Sanson, Alain Souchon, Alain Chamfort, Bernard Lavilliers, Calogero, David Hallyday et Zazie.

They'll be joined by singers who appeal perhaps to a younger generation or have more recently made that all-important breakthrough including Camélia Jordana, BB Brunes, Ben l'Oncle Soul, Grégoire, Renan Luce and Raphaël.

The full list of performers (as provided by Reporters sans frontières site)

AaRON, Jean-Louis Aubert, Chimène Badi, Amel Bent, BB Brunes, Ben l’Oncle Soul, Calogero, Christophe, Camélia Jordana, Cock Robin, Empyr, Grand Corps Malade, Guillaume Grand, Grégoire, I AM , Joyce Jonathan, Judith, Bernard Lavilliers, Renan Luce, Christophe Maé, Pony Pony Run Run, Raphaël, Véronique Sanson, Shy’m, Soprano, Alain Souchon, Stromae and Zazie.

If you wish to show your support for Ghesquière and Taponier and their three Afghan colleagues, you can follow the link and sign the online petition.


And once again, lest people might forget, there's also an Internet site charting activities and reminding us all as to just how long they've been held.

Friday, 22 October 2010

One driver's "answer" to the French fuel shortage - take the pump

Petrol has been something of a rare commodity over the past week and the shortage certainly hasn't been helped by motorists rushing to service stations in an attempt to fill up.

Petrol pumps run dry (screenshot France 24 video)

The words of the prime minister, François Fillon, on Monday that "There will be no shortage," seem to have fallen on deaf ears and news reports have followed drivers from station to stations as they search for fuel.

No fuel (screenshot France 24 video)

No region of mainland France has been spared and those who have been lucky enough to find a pump working have usually been rationed to €20 or €30 worth.

In the midst of all the chaos though, there was one somewhat lighter moment, even if the man at the centre of what happened didn't think so at the time.

It occurred in eastern France in the town of Romilly-sur-Seine as a driver, eager to avoid running too low on fuel, patiently waited in line.

Drivers waiting in line (screenshot France 24)

But, as the regional daily L'Est-éclair reported, when his turn finally came to fill up, the pump - quite literally - ran dry.

And that was the simply the last straw as he lashed out, without reserve, at all those he considered responsible.

"He was screaming like madman," a witness told the newspaper.

"He was blaming everyone for the situation; the government, the strikers, the owner of the petrol station."

Yes it was one furious man who got back into his car and drove the process forgetting to remove the fuel hose from his tank and taking the whole pump with him.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lady Gaga postpones Paris concerts

Bad news for anyone who had been hoping to catch Lady Gaga's Monster Ball concert in Paris this week.

Lady Gaga (image from Wikipedia, Author: The_Monster_Ball_-_Poker_Face_revamped2.jpg: John Robert Charlton aka Bobby Charlton of Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, England: derivative work: Nymf talk)

The 24-year-old has postponed the two dates scheduled at Bercy on Friday and Saturday.

Lady Gaga fans living in the French capital will have to wait a couple of months before being able to see her Monster Ball concert.

In a statement posted on her website, fans discovered that they'll have to wait until the end of the year before being able to see her.

The reason of course - the strikes and protests which have caused fuel and transportation problems throughout the country and which, Live Nation, the singer's backer, said presented "logistical difficulties" for the scheduled performances.

"Unfortunately, as there is no certainty that the trucks can make it to the Bercy for this weekend's shows, the Lady Gaga performances are now postponed," the statement read.

"The December 19th concert will replace the 22-October show and December 20th concert will replace the 23-October performance."

Anyone currently holding a ticket for the two postponed concerts has until November 14 to claim a refund, or they can exchange them for the new dates.

Alternatively perhaps, they could try getting tickets for concerts in other countries on the European leg of her tour or take a trip to Lyon on December 2, for her concert at the Halle Tony Garnier.

Haemorrhoids cream leads to French swimmer's doping suspension

French swimmer Frédérick Bousquet has been banned from competition for two months.

Frédérick Bousquet, image - from Wikipedia, author - Fred_Bousquet.jpg: myuzeme, derivative work: Philipmj24 (talk)

On Wednesday, the reigning European 50-metres freestyle champion revealed that he has been suspended for two months after testing positive for a banned substance during a meeting in Canet-en-Roussillon in southern France in June.

On the face of it you might be thinking, "Oh here we go again, another sportsman trying to cheat his way to success".

But even though Bousquet admits he was entirely to blame for testing positive, it was down to negligence and not an attempt to hoodwink the sport's doping controls.

You see the cause of Bousquet's suspension was his use of an ointment to treat his haemorrhoids, and unfortunately for him, it contained the banned substance heptaminol.

"I've suffered from this condition for the past eight years," he said in an interview with the sports daily "L'Equipe".

"The treatment I normally use doesn't contain the banned substance," he continued.

"But just before the meeting I suffered another attack and as I didn't have any medicine with me I went to the local chemist and bought a product which can be purchased without prescription...and the rest of the story is history."

Although Bousquet's ban came into effect last month, he has apparently tried to keep a low profile in the hope that his ban would be kept confidential and that the media would not make a huge story out of it.

Now it's out in the open though, Bousquet says he's not going to try to deny what happened.

"I have no extenuating circumstances," he admitted.

"I deserve this suspension," he added. "I should have read the instructions (on the packaging)."

As the French website Le Post points out, it's hardly the first time (and doubtless will not be the last) that a high-performance athlete has resorted to what some might consider "unusual" explanations as to how he or she managed to test positive for drugs.

The suspension, handed down by the anti-doping commission of the the Fédération Française de Natation (French Swimming Federation, FFN) began on September 20, but as it only lasts for two months, Bousquet will be eligible to compete at the French championships in December.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A musical tribute to Rachida Dati's "inflation-fellatio" slip of the tongue

French rapper Dirty Dahn has been at it again.

French rapper Dirty Dahn (screeenshot from "Amoreux 2 Rachida"

The self-confessed Rachida Dati admirer has paid tribute to the former French justice minister in his latest video and in particular to the much publicised television interview last month during which a slip of the tongue had her replace "inflation" with the word "fellatio".

While that blunder made the headlines both in France and abroad, for Dahn, and his sidekick Richie Adams, it was far from being unintended.

Dirty Dahn (left) and Richie Adams (screeenshot from "Amoreux 2 Rachida"

In fact it was just the excuse the pair needed to release a follow-up to their 2009 offering "Amoureux de Rachida" in which the pair lamented Dati stepping down from the government and "exiling herself" as a member of the European parliament.

This time around Dahn has reworked the 1989 Richard Marx (does anyone remember him?) hit "Right here waiting" in his own inimitable style to come up with "Amoreux 2 Rachida".

It is, as the introduction to the video makes clear, a song written with the conviction that Dati's slip-up was "a signal meant for his ears" and it reawakened hope in him after "several months spent in depression following the failure of his relationship with the former justice minister."

Indeed those are pretty much the sentiments expressed in the lyrics too of a video which has become something of an Internet hit in France since it was released at the beginning of this month.

So sit back, enjoy and swoon along with Dahn in his ode to Dati courtesy of Dailymotion.

AMOUREUX 2 RACHIDA feat. Richie Adams
envoyé par dirty-dahn. - Gag, sketch et parodie humouristique en video.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

French singer-songwriter Gérard Berliner dies

The French singer-songwriter and actor Gérard Berliner is dead.

Gérard Berliner singing "Louise" during TV performance (screenshot from video clip)

Best known in France for his million-selling 1982 hit "Louise", Berliner died this earlier week at the age of 54 following a heart attack.

Berliner's name might be unfamiliar to many outside of this country, and indeed his work is probably not that well known to younger French generations.

But one song in particular, "Louise", stands out.

It sold 1.5 million copies when it was released in 1982 and was, according TF1, a song he was regularly invited to sing on television shows throughout the years.

More than a one-hit wonder, Berliner wrote and recorded several albums and appeared on television and stage as an actor.

His performance in the 2006 Molières-nominated show "Mon alter Hugo", inspired by the life of Victor Hugo, won him critical acclaim.

Back to the THAT song though, and listening to and watching his performance, perhaps two things stand out.

First of all no matter how long you live in a country which isn't your homeland or how well-versed (forgive the pun) you might have thought yourself with many of the music standards that have marked previous generations there's still inevitably something to discover - even when it's sadly too late.

And secondly, as the cliché goes, great songs, like (some) wine, only improve with age.

Gerard BERLINER "louise"
envoyé par GERARDSERGE. - Regardez plus de clips, en HD !

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The saga of "Air Sarko One" and the bath

While the much of the French media is tying itself up in knots wondering who will be the next French prime minister in the government reshuffle expected this month, the weekly satirical, Le Canard Enchainé has been doing what it does best - focussing (among other things) on Nicolas Sarkozy's apparent "displeasure" over reports that his new presidential 'plane will include an on-board bath when refitting has been completed.

"Air Sarko One", as some critics have dubbed it, is due for delivery next month.

Reports during the summer suggested that the 11-year-old Airbus A330-200, formerly owned first by the now defunct Swissair and later by Air Caraïbes, would reflect to an extent a return to the "Bling Bling" character which marked the beginning of Sarkozy's term in office.

Airbus A330-200; similar to the 'plane that will become "Air Sarko One" (from Wikipedia, photographer Adrian Pingstone).

Indeed, at the time, Le Canard Enchainé went as far as to claim that Sarkozy had demanded a bath be installed so that "He would have somewhere to smoke his cigars."

The government spokesman, Luc Chatel, was quick to respond saying that although he had no exact details about how the 'plane would be equipped, one thing was certain and that was that there would be "nothing ostentatious about it."

But the rumour had been started and one journalist from the national radio station RTL decided to take it a little further by "investigating" what could happen if the president's bath water overflowed in mid-air.

He even interviewed an expert to discover how a "catastrophe" could be avoided should such an occurrence take place.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

The story could have been considered a light-hearted one broadcast at a time when there really wasn't much news around. And maybe some politicians would have shrugged it off without taking too much offence.

But Sarkozy apparently was far from being amused and, as Le Canard Enchainé (never one to let go of something it has perhaps wickedly started) revealed last week, pressure was put on the station and the journalist in question to "apologise".

Not just one simple 'phone call, according to the newspaper, but repeated threats including "professional sanctions and legal action".

The result was that the journalist duly apologised in person the day after the broadcast was made.

Now. Who is going to succeed François Fillion as prime minister?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Zhoom - France's first gay TV reality show hits the small screen

This weekend sees the launch in France of the country's first gay reality TV programme - Zhoom.

On Saturday nine contestants aged from 18-30 will be unveiled in a show whose format is described as "original" but which might be more than vaguely familiar to viewers who've already had a taste of what other reality TV shows have to offer.

Adrien, Dany, Florian, John, Lucas, Marvyn, Remy, Sébastien and Tybo will be split into two teams living in separate houses and who'll compete "in games of agility, speed and general knowledge" according to blurb on the official website.

Zhoom host Carlo Sata (screenshot from trailer)

Their goal is to win immunity to avoid elimination and the whole shebang will be overseen by the programme's host, Carlo Sata.

"Strategies and seduction" (hardly a first) are the promised ingredients to spice up the show.

It was perhaps only a matter of time before Pink TV, France's only gay channel, jumped on the reality TV bandwagon that seems to have become a mainstay of television schedules ever since Loft Story first hit viewers' screens back in 2001.

A quick flick of the remote control proves there's apparently no letting up in the trend.

Addicts can currently enjoy Secret Story, France's answer to Big Brother only more downmarket if that were possible (although it was recently challenged for that "accolade" by W9's tasteful offering Dilemme).

It'll reach its climax in a couple of weeks but it has apparently been so successful that a fifth season is promised for next year.

After it ends its time slot will be filled by a new programme, "Qui veut épouser mon fils ?" ("Who wants to marry my son?").

Meanwhile the tenth season of Koh Lanta (Survivor) is in full swing and there's also a series of the French version of MasterChef hogging a weekly chunk of prime time viewing.

Back to Zhoom though.

Zhoom, la nouvelle télé-réalité gay de Pink TV
envoyé par minou60300. - Futurs lauréats du Sundance.

The show was shot back in June and will be airing the first of its eight 50-minute episodes at 11.00 pm local time on Saturday.

It'll be broadcast simultaneously on Pink TV - a cable and satellite channel only available to those who subscribe - and Zhoom TV on the Net which will provide an X-rated version.

And the winner is....

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The tale of a forgotten Boldini painting sold for €2.1 million

"It was a magical moment, you could see that the buyer really liked the painting and paid the price of passion," art expert Marc Ottavi told the French news agency AFP after a painting by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini recently went under the hammer for €2.1 million.

Image: Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) from Wikipedia

And it's probably not difficult to understand his delight as the painting was only discovered in June this year, having spent 70 years in a forgotten Parisian apartment.

The painting was of Marthe de Florian, a former muse of the artist, and had belonged to her granddaughter who died earlier this year at the age of 91.

She had maintained the charges on the apartment but had not actually lived there for decades.

It was when the deceased woman's family asked auctioneer Olivier Choppin-Janvry to make an inventory of everything she had left behind that the masterpiece was found.

Because among the treasures and under the dust was what he discovered to be "the portrait of an actress of exceptional beauty who went by the name of Marthe de Florian enshrouded in a pale pink mousseline evening dress."

The only problem was apparently that to begin with Choppin-Janvry wasn't 100 percent certain of its provenance: there was no proof that it had been painted by Boldini and had never been listed among any works by the painter.

After Ottavi was called in, the real investigation began. It soon yielded results.

One of the artist's visiting cards was found with a scribbled message clearly indicating that Boldini had been one of de Florian's lovers.

And then lo and behold, a mention of the portrait was discovered in a book from 1951 by the painter's widow; a mention which was proof positive that the portrait had been painted in 1898 when de Florian was 24 years old.

Armed with that information, the painting went to auction where, from a starting price of €300,000, it was finally sold for a world record for the artist of €2.1 million.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

René la Taupe tops the French charts

René la Taupe (or René the mole) first hit the top of the French singles charts in September.

And now, five weeks later, the "virtual singing character" is still there, keeping off the likes of international stars (and real human beings) such as Shakira and Katy Perry.

Ah yes, from the country that has brought the world singers that include Edith Piaf to Charles Aznavour, or Serge Gainsbourg to Vanessa Paradis and not forgetting Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (Italian by birth, French by marriage) along the way, comes a little fellow that is...well "annoying" might be an appropriate world.

"Mignon mignon" is the critter's second hit single and, according to the entry on Wikipedia, took lyricist Séverine Thomazo all of seven minutes to write.

And the result of all that hard work has brought France and the world the following (first verse)

"Ce qui me plait chez toi
C’est ton petit bidon
Tes petites poignées d’amour
Je trouve ça trop mignon
Même si les autres dans la rue
Te trouvent un peu trop gras
Pour moi c’est confortable
Quand tu me prends dans tes bras"

Translated as:

"What I like about you
Is your little tummy,
I find your little love handles
Just too cute
Even if others in the street
Find you a little tubby
For me it's really snug
When you take me in your arms"

Ahem. All right.

Perhaps not Grammy award-winning material, but a commercial success nevertheless.

You want more?

Well there's the accompanying video of course available on YouTube and Dailymotion.

Wander over to Facebook and you'll find thousands of "friends" on both the pro and anti René la Taupe pages

And naturally there's a blog which tells you how to download the remixed ringtone.

That's right - ringtone.

Move over Myspace, the mobile 'phone is now clearly THE place to launch a perhaps short-lived but all-the-same lucrative singing career.

Because France's top-selling song is from an "artist" created to help promote and market a mobile 'phone content provider.

A Christmas song is rumoured to be in the works.


Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

"Who wants to marry my son?" set to hit French TV screens

Oh great, France's most-watched television station, the private channel TF1, is bringing its viewers another slice of life in the form of the seemingly ubiquitous reality TV format.

Starting at the end of the month will be "Qui veut épouser mon fils ?" ("Who wants to marry my son?") a show in which, as the title suggests, mothers will try to find future brides for their male offspring.

In total, five mothers (seven are featured in the trailer but two of the contestants won't make an appearance in the show) will be looking for the perfect partner for their sons aged 25 to 39 and who have not yet "flown the nest" and are still happily living at home.

"My son has a good job and has been very well-raised," says one mother in the official trailer to the programme which begins on October 29.

"I'm looking for a partner who will please him...and also me," she adds ominously.

Another mother introduces her son by saying, "He has a weakness for buxom girls, but they're just not interested in him."

Screenshot from official trailer of Qui veut épouser mon fils. "He has a weakness for buxom girls, but they're just not interested in him."

And a third is adamant that her son is, "Very, very (she has to repeat it) attractive and she's looking for a very (there's that word again) beautiful girl because she wishes him to be part of an exceptional couple".

The mothers of course get to choose which woman will make the "perfect partner" with the sons having to plump at the end to follow their "new love" or stay with their mothers.

Oh yes it promises to be intellectually stimulating, totally original and very cultured. Just the sort of programme that has been missing (not) from the small screen in France and brings variety and taste in abundance to viewers.

The show will fill the slot currently occupied by Secret Story - France's answer to Big Brother only more downmarket if that were possible - which comes to the end of its fourth season a week earlier.

And as points out its inclusion in the Friday night line up ensures that TF1 remains 100 per cent reality TV for the evening as it'll follow immediately after Koh Lanta (the French version of Survivor) currently in its 10th season and still happily pulling in millions of viewers.

Thank heavens for the on/off button!

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Assette the French cat who survived 18 days without food or water

Cats proverbially have nine lives don't they?

Well a French moggy called Assette has certainly had a part in maintaining that superstition - and then some.

Her incredible story appears in Monday's edition of the regional daily Le Progrès and tells how she was locked inside a house for 18 days without food and water before being freed weak and skeletal, but alive.

Assette belongs to Violaine, the daughter of actor and director Michel Crespin, best known for his work with street theatre companies.

She (Assette) was spending the summer at Crespin's holiday home in the village or Château-Chalon in eastern France.

The director's neighbour was an elderly woman who had recently died and in early August her children emptied the house of its contents before putting it on the market for sale.

That is of course when Assette's period of involuntary captivity began, says the paper, because she managed to get herself locked inside what was now an abandoned house.

Crespin began to worry after not having seen Assette for several days and began looking for her. He put up posters and distributed leaflets describing the missing black cat with a distinctive broken tail, and he mobilised fellow villagers to help him in his search.

One neighbour suggested that perhaps the four-year-old moggy was locked inside the abandoned house, but a look through the windows and plenty of calling of her name yielded no response.

It was with a heavy heart that he had to inform his daughter that Assette had gone missing and was nowhere to be found.

Fast forward to September 5 and Violaine, who lives 70 kilometres away in the city of Besançon, was in Château-Chalon for its annual festival when she decided to collect some apples from the garden of the abandoned house.

Almost instinctively while there, she called out the name of her cat...only to be greeted by a miaowed response from within the house.

A quick call to the number on the "for sale" board posted outside the property, and after a couple of hours wait for someone to unlock the front door and out charged Assette, thin, hungry and thirsty but otherwise in fine fettle.

"We didn't know in what state we would find her," Crespin told the newspaper

"It's just incredible - 18 days with nothing to eat or drink."

And in a new leaflet he has distributed to fellow villagers he writes, "If you see Assette in the street, say hello to her. She deserves it."

Some consider black cats unlucky, others lucky. The author's (almost) black cat, Hiro. For photos of Assette, click here.

World's oldest living twins aren't French but Belgian - or are they?

A couple of weeks ago the French media was paying tribute to Raymonde Saumade and Lucienne Grare as the pair celebrated their 98th birthday and entered the "Guinness World Records" 2011 edition as the oldest living twins.

It was a story that caught the imagination of many broadcasters and news outlets around the world and one which definitely appeared to have legs.

The TV cameras showed up, journalists seemed to fall over themselves to discover the secret of the sisters' longevity, which they revealed included the odd tipple by drinking "whisky or pastis, and mixing in a bit of exercise".

The pair certainly seemed to make a fine couple as they basked in their new-found notoriety.

Except it transpires that Raymonde and Lucienne aren't the world's oldest living twins, even if they will officially appear as such in the next edition of the "Guinness World Record".

According to Belgian media, there are a couple of sisters living in the French-speaking part of the country, Wallonia, who last weekend celebrated their 100th birthdays.

Screenshot from Belgian television, Gabrielle Vaudremer and Marie Hendrix - the world's oldest living twins?

And naturally the country's television cameras were on hand to film Gabrielle Vaudremer and Marie Hendrix as proof that the world's media and the "Guinness World Record" book had got it wrong.

The oldest living twins are Belgian.

Or are they?

You see Gabrielle and Marie, although definitely two years older than Raymonde and Lucienne (they have the birth certificates to prove it) hadn't taken the necessary steps to make their claim official.

A "formal application" has to be made for a record to be entered into the publication and although Craig Glenday, its editor-in-chief, has "invited all twins who able to prove they're over the age of 98 to submit an approved request" for the moment it's the younger French sisters who are officially the oldest living twins - if that makes sense.

Just for the record there is apparently another pair of French twins, Paulette Olivier et Simone Thiot, who are eight months older than the "record holders" but they're happy allowing Raymonde and Lucienne to grab the limelight by preferring their peace and tranquility and refusing to talk to the media.

And to complicate matters even more, the Belgian twins (Gabrielle and Marie in case you've lost track) were actually born near the northern French town of Beauvais before moving to Belgium as children.

So are the world's oldest living twins French or Belgian?

Or perhaps neither as the French website Le Post points out that according to the "Shanghai Guinness World Records" book, sisters Qiao Junior and Qiao Senior turned 105 last year.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Thieves steal a vineyard-worth of grapes overnight

Harvest time has been and gone - quite literally for Roland Cavaillé. He's a winemaker in the village of Villeneuve-lès-Béziers in southern France.

Cavaillé grows just 10 hectares of grapes and last weekend went along to see how two of the hectares - planted with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes - were doing.

image Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Wikipedia, Agne27

"I wanted to see not only whether they were ripe enough for harvesting," he told the regional newspaper Midi Libre. "I also wanted to check on the state of the vines themselves."

But Cavaillé was in for a nasty surprise that particular morning, as someone else had been there before him, and harvested the whole two hectares.

The entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon, totalling around 30 tonnes and valued at €15,000, had been stolen.

A neighbour heard the sound of a harvesting machine in the morning - not so unusual for farmers eager to make an early start - and there were also tyre tracks of a small lorry which had been presumably used to transport the grapes to nobody knows where.

But with a full moon to guide them and the relative isolation of the vineyard, the job of "lifting" the grapes undisturbed made it that much easier for the thieves.

"It has happened before but never to me," he told the national daily Aujourd'hui en France - Le Parisien.

"It's the work of professionals," he added.

"A private person most likely," explaining that it wouldn't be the work of someone supplying the local co-operative as it requires a provenance for all grapes supplied.

Les voleurs vendangent 30 tonnes de raisin en une nuit
envoyé par MCETV. - Gag, sketch et parodie humouristique en video.

"I'm disgusted by what happened," he told Midi Libre.

"We work hard to make ends meet, he said

As national radio Europe 1 reported there's even more bad news because Cavaillé won't see a centime in insurance money even though there's "irrefutable evidence" that a theft occurred.

"We're covered as far as theft of the vines is concerned," he said.

"But not for the grapes."
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