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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

"Hey honey, where's Junior?" Parents "forget" son at a roadside rest area

"Home alone" might only have been a 1990 film dreamt up by scriptwriters as a comedy in which Macaulay Culkin played the part of an eight-year-old boy mistakenly left behind when his parents fly off to Paris for their Christmas hols.

But let's face it, fact can be - and often is - stranger than fiction as the parents of an eight-year-old French boy can attest to after their weekend "lapse of memory".

They reportedly "forgot" their son on the side of the road, leaving him at a rest area and only realising he was missing half an hour later.

Lourdes Basilica (Wikipedia, author Milorad Pavlek)

The couple from the suburbs of Paris were on their way to the market town of Lourdes at the foot of the Pyrénées in southwestern France.

It is of course famous as a destination for Catholic pilgrimage and alleged miraculous healings.

They had set off on their holidays early on Saturday morning; mum, dad and three children in a camping car.

The roads were pretty busy with holidaymakers, just as they are every Saturday in August in France.

As Agence France Presse reports, at around nine o'clock in the evening, after having completed just over 700 of their 800 kilometre journey, the couple decided to take a break, and they stopped at a rest area on the nationale 21 in the département of Gers.

A few minutes later, refreshed and ready for the final stretch, they set off again, and it was only when they arrived in Lourdes that they realised one of their children was missing.

They immediately rang the emergency services, to be told that their son was with the police who had been alerted by other motorists who had seen the child alone at the rest area.

About turn - they were reunited with him a couple of hours later.

So, how could parents apparently "forget" one of their children?

It sounds even weirder than the recent case of the man who left his wife at the side of the road in the dead of night without realising she was missing.

That also happened in the southwest of France - is there something in the water perhaps?

Well there's a simple and innocent enough explanation according to the national daily France Soir.

When the family stopped, all three children were apparently asleep in the back of the camping car.

But while the parents stretched their legs, the eight-year-old slipped out without them noticing.

So they didn't really "forget" him. They just didn't realise he wasn't there.

In their infinite wisdom, the police have decided not to pursue the case, putting it all down to fatigue and a momentary lack of attention at the end of a long journey.

Maybe though, as the regional daily Midi Libre comments, the couple will light up a candle or two in thanks at their final destination.

One thing is for certain - it's a holiday neither the boy nor his parents will forget in a hurry.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Friday's French music break - Inna Modja, "French Cancan (Monsieur Sainte Nitouche)"

Friday's French music break this week is in Franglais.

Inna Modja's "French Cancan" uses a simple combination of instantly recognisable French words that everyone will know in an essentially English language song.

Inna Modja (screenshot from official video)

It's a little like telling someone you speak Italian and then stringing together "Spaghetti, ravioli, mamma mia, mozzarella di bufala, Giorgio Armani."

It's a fun and simple technique but a very effective.

And it's helped by mixing in a catchy tune that definitely has something of a 60s feel to it, a video with some extremely big hair, and voilà - guaranteed airplay and a song that has been a hit in France for the best part of the summer.

(screenshot from official video)

Originally from Bamako in Mali, Modja now lives in Paris.

The name "Modja" (she was born Inna Bocoum) meaning "naughty girl" Pulaar is, according to her Facebook page, "A nickname my mother gave me when I was being a nuisance."

Modja says she began singing in a choir when she was six years old and her earliest influences were singers her parents listened to such as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding or Sarah Vaughan.

Those were followed by music her older brothers and sisters listened to - Punk, Trash, Heavy Metal, Soul and Funk...well just about anything and everything.

"Today my music is the result of all that mix and when I compose, I do so instinctively," she said in an interview on TV5 Monde after the release of her debut album "Everyday Is a New World" last year and the success of the single "Mister H".

"There are a lot of artists I listen to that I like. I wouldn't say it had a direct influence on the album - but certainly on me."

Anyway, enough words. Take a listen to the song.

It's delightful.

French lottery winner strikes lucky - twice

Some people have all the luck.

A man from the southern French city of Montpellier has won the country's national lottery for the second time.

(screenshot from Loto commercial)

Back in 1996 he scooped the equivalent of €2.8 million (18,9 million French francs at the time) when his numbers came up.

And on Wednesday he pocketed a cheque of €3 million according to the La Française des Jeux (FDJ) the organiser of the France's national lottery, Loto.

What makes the win even more remarkable is that the 50-something has always played exactly the same numbers ever since the lottery was introduced in 1976.

"I chose the numbers randomly and wrote them down," he told the regional daily Midi Libre.

"Clearly I was born under a lucky star."

FDJ reckons the chances of one player winning twice with the same six numbers are one in 363 billion.

Lucky man!

But his double win comes at a price.

To begin with he has chosen to remain anonymous this time around as he had too many requests for money after he revealed his identity following the 1996-win.

And even though he maintains that he invested his previous winnings wisely, he also managed to spend around €1,000 on tickets before landing the jackpot for a second time.

Still it obviously paid off and winning twice isn't going to stop him from playing because, as he admits, he's addicted to the game.

Oh yes - and he doesn't want to rule out the possibility of winning for a third time.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Waitress from Hell, "If you're not happy, clear off!"

You have to wonder sometimes about Internet guides on the best places to eat out and comments made by those who've apparently dined at a particular restaurant.

After all, who's not to say that the "positive" reviews are in fact being written by Net-savvy restaurant owners keen to counterbalance anything negative that might have been said about them.

The key word surely has to be "caution".

And if you read of one person's unbound enthusiasm for a place among several less-than-glowing reviews, then perhaps you've only got yourself to blame if you don't take heed of what would appear to be the reality of what's going on.

Such is the case of a seemingly charming restaurant in a side street of the centre of the old city of Albi in southwestern France.

Albi was designated a Unesco World heritage site last year, and it's easy to understand why.

It's rich in history, culture, architecture, nature, sport.

Sainte Cécile cathedral, Albi

In fact it's got the lot, including a waitress who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Mary Poppins.

She works at a restaurant in rue de la Piale, where you'll find several places serving food more-or-less typical to the region.

None of them is swanky. Instead their menus consist of simple, decent, wholesome dishes, and eating there should be a delight.

Rue de la Piale, Albi

"Should" being the operative word.

Because where the Waitress from Hell works, you're far from being guaranteed a warm welcome.

The restaurant proudly displays a recommendation from the 2010 edition of the influential French restaurant guide Gault et Millau on a beam of the timber-framed facade, just next to the main entrance.

This year though, it doesn't feature among those chosen by the critics.

Perhaps it has something to do with the reception clients receive from that woman.

A review from one person who encountered her, described the service at "deplorable".

But the thing is, you don't actually need to eat there to "enjoy" the ambience and quality of hospitality provided by a dragon in a pinny.

A hot summer's evening in August, and while savouring a meal at a neighbouring restaurant, diners were treated to a display of French arrogance at its glorious best.

The "Waitress from Hell" was evidently upset with a couple of customers, and she didn't care who knew about it.

While it wasn't clear to anyone unfortunate enough to be within screaming distance as to what the poor clients had actually done, it was all too obvious that they were IN THE WRONG.

Their first bawling out lasted several minutes with the woman, whose job it was (remember) to serve and ensure the clientele was happy, making it loudly known that, "She had done her best but there was just no pleasing some people and they (the customers) should stop complaining."

The clink of cutlery and the chink of glasses and hubbub of conversation from diners at other restaurants stopped as everyone turned to watch and listen.

They weren't to be disappointed as the ogress continued her tirade.

Somehow though she seem to rediscover her composure and needing time to breathe became aware that perhaps she had gone just a tad too far (let's be generous).

There followed a calm, a half-hearted apology and a return to some level of dignity.

But you knew it was just too good to last and several minutes later the harridan was in full flow once again, raising the decibel level up several notches just in case someone, somewhere in the vicinity hadn't heard first time around.

It was the same bad-mannered tone ending with an aggressive flourish to the couple that if, "Things weren't to their liking, then perhaps they should go somewhere else."

Wisely they did.

Customer service with a difference - guaranteed - at the restaurant with the Waitress from Hell

Conclusion, if you want to be insulted, then this is the place to go.

If you want to watch customers being humiliated, then choose one of the neighbouring restaurants and wait for the shrew's show to begin.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Farmer fined again for "parking tractor" in Paris

Even though Patrick Pilak has a right to be annoyed and frustrated, he seems to be keeping a remarkably cool head.

He has just received another fine for parking illegally in tenth arrondissement of the French capital.

(from Wikipedia)

Something of a surprise really as spaces are plentiful in August when many Parisians are on holiday and it's not that difficult to find a place to leave your vehicle without picking up a ticket.

But of course this is no ordinary case of "illegal parking".

You see Pilak isn't from Paris and the vehicle in question isn't exactly one that would go unnoticed if you saw it parked in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, where the ticket was issued.

It's a tractor.

Pilak uses it for his job.

He's a farmer in the village of Gouzougnat in the département of Creuse - almost 400 kilometres from Paris.

OK. OK. So it's a simple mistake - right?

Well, not so simple as it's not the first time he has received a fine for apparently parking his tractor in Paris.

Just after Christmas last year he opened his mail to discover the first of what has now amounted to three different tickets for a clearly impossible parking infringements.

Back then he joked about it, sent a letter by registered delivery saying there must have been some mistake and thought no more of it.

He didn't receive any response.

In May a second ticket plopped through his letterbox - the same registration number (his tractor), the same street - rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in Paris.

This time he wasn't so amused, as he told the regional daily, La Montagne.

"Once again I sent letter by registered delivery and I also filed a complaint," he told the paper.

"The first time it made me smile, but for it to happen a second time means that it's clearly not a computer error."

The response? There wasn't one - well not to his letter.

But there was another parking ticket - a third one - that arrived this week. Same registration number (his tractor of course), same street.

"To me it's obvious that someone is driving around with false number plates," he told RTL radio.

"I've half a mind to drive to Paris just to see if I can actually drive a tractor along rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis and, who knows, perhaps I'll actually find the vehicle that's driving around with the same licence plate."

Should Pilak actually carry out his "threat" he would likely have the backing of the mayor of Gouzougnat, Eric Yoth, who thinks the whole story has now gone beyond a joke.

"It surely can't be that difficult to find the vehicle or the owner as three tickets have now been issued - all in the same street," he told Agence France Presse.

"This ridiculous story has to have an end."

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Friday's French music break - Bob Sinclar featuring Raffaella Carrà, "Far l'amore"

Friday's French music break this week breathes new life into a real blast from the past.

It's French DJ Bob Sinclar's remake of Raffaella Carrà's humongous hit throughout Europe in 1977 "A far l'amore comincia tu".

Screenshot from Bob Sinclar's video "Far l'amore"

Doesn't mean anything to you?

Then try the French version "Puisque tu l'aimes dis-le lui" or perhaps the German "Liebelei".

There's also the Spanish "En El Amor Todo Es Empezar".

Still doesn't ring any bells?

Raffaella Carrà back in 1977 (screenshot from YouTube video "Do it, do it again")

Well if you're of a certain age, you'll definitely remember it in English - Carrà's one and only hit in the United Kingdom, "Do it, do it again".

Yes it's the same song, sung in four different languages. Little wonder it sold so well way back then.

Anyway back to Sinclar's revamped club version for 2011 and it' camp at its most ostentatious, at least as far as the video is concerned.


Screenshot from Bob Sinclar's video "Far l'amore"

The 42-year-old (whose real name is Christophe Le Friant) along with David Guetta, Martin Solveig and Laurent Wolf is one of a handful of French DJs to have made a name for themselves internationally.

His biggest hit to date was his 2005 release "Love generation" which topped the charts throughout most of Europe in 2006 and was the best-selling single of that year in Germany, thanks largely to it being used throughout the Fifa World Cup which the country hosted.

Sinclar might be all about bringing that French house beat to clubs, but he's a "nostalgic at heart"...well at least if his official biography is to be believed....who "has never ceased to be that curious adolescent transported by music, building his universe from rhythms that take him to another place."

Let's see, adolescent...42 years old...born in 1969, so he was eight when Carrà was strutting her stuff around Europe in the tightest of 70s fashion, tra-la-la-ing her way through "Do it, do it again" and messing up her blond bob as she dipped forward while performing the "boom boom" (check out the video) refrain.

Whatever, the song is fun, It's great to hear that Carrà - who has had a successful singing, acting and TV presenting career both at home in Italy and abroad - is more than just the one-hit wonder many British (who have memories going back that far) might have mistakenly credited her with.

And at 68, why shouldn't she still be getting today's generation on to the dancefloor?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Gérard Depardieu pees aboard a 'plane - in public

What class!

The headline could have been more vulgar, in keeping with the reported behaviour of one of France's best-known actors Gérard Depardieu, aboard a Paris to Dublin 'plane on Tuesday evening.

Gérard Depardieu (screenshot BFM TV report)

But why stoop to the level of the 62-year-old?

Depardieu apparently took a leak in front of fellow passengers after the cabin crew refused to allow him to use the loo just as the 'plane was ready to taxi for take off on Tuesday evening.

"'I need to piss. I need to piss,' is what Monsieur Depardieu said," according to one of the passengers aboard the flight operated by CityJet, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM.

"A member of the cabin crew informed Monsieur Depardieu that the 'plane was ready for take off, everyone had to remain seated and the toilets were locked but could be used in about 15 minutes," he told Europe 1 radio.

"The actor said he couldn't wait, so what did he do? He peed right there in front of everyone."

A spokeswoman for CityJet confirmed that an incident had taken place requiring the 'plane to return to the gate to be cleaned and causing a two-hour delay in take-off.

But the airline refused to release the name of the person involved saying simply that he had been escorted off the 'plane.

As the French celebrity news website points out Depardieu is not unknown for saying exactly what he thinks or doing what he wants and has a reputation for what could politely be termed as, "his lack of social graces".

In April 2010 at the premiere of "Mammuth" in Paris he insulted a journalist who asked him why he had dedicated the film to his late son Guillaume, calling her, "A bitch."

And in August last year he was at it again, this time taking aim at French actress Juliette Binoche and questioning why she had been so successful in spite of being, "A nothing."

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Corinne Brosseau - a true heroine.

Corinne Brosseau is a true heroine.

She might claim not to be one, but Stéphane, a 40-year-old wheelchair-bound man from the western French town of Bouguenais, certainly thinks she is.

Corinne Brosseau (screenshot BFM TV report)

Brosseau saved his life, pulling him out of the path of a train reportedly travelling at 170 kilometres an hour.

As Stéphane told the regional daily Ouest France, he was taking the level crossing in the town just as he did every day to go to work.

"I was right in the middle of the crossing when I heard the bell go and saw the barriers come down," he said.

"And for some reason - I don't know why - my wheelchair got stuck in the tracks," he continued.

"I could hear a train coming. I was terrified."

Luckily for him though, it was at that moment that Brosseau arrived to rescue him - and she only just managed.

"It was raining, the barriers had gone down and I could see there was a man in a wheelchair in the middle of the crossing clearly unable to move," she told Europe 1 radio.

"I got out of my car, rushed over to him and after a couple of attempts managed to pull him from his chair to the side of the track and out of the path of an oncoming train."

Her quick thinking and actions undoubtedly saved Stéphane's life because the train hit the wheelchair full on, leaving it fit only for the scrap yard.

(screenshot BFM TV report)

But Brosseau remained modest about the part she played in the rescue.

"I only did what anyone would have done under the circumstances," she said, admitting that her arms had ached for the rest of the day.

"It was instinctive and I'm convinced that we all have it in us to find the strength to do what's necessary," she added.

But for Stéphane there's no doubting that she's his heroine.

"She's an extraordinary woman," he told BFM TV.

"She saved my life."

Monday, 15 August 2011

French TV's weather forecast cock-up

"And the weather for the rest of today will be overcast and sorry, sunny and hot"

screenshot from PureMédias' video

Anyone watching last Thursday lunchtime's weather forecast on France 2 public television will have been a little depressed to begin with and also slightly perplexed - especially if they'd had a chance to look out of the window.

As is usual the presenter - in this particular case Philippe Verdier, who's pretty new to the channel having joined at the beginning of the summer from the all-news BFM TV - popped up before the news bulletin to tell viewers what the weather would be like for the rest of the day.

And he reappeared afterwards to do exactly the same thing.

Only in the space of little over half an hour, there appeared to be a dramatic change in what weather France could expect, both for the rest of the day and the seven-day outlook.

Philippe Verdier (screenshot from PureMédias' video)

Before the news Verdier told viewers that there had been a fair amount of rain across the country in the morning and the pattern looked set to continue into the afternoon and evening.

Except as news anchorwoman Sophie Le Saint explained at the end of her bulletin, there had been a slight mix-up in weather forecast.

Someone had played the wrong recording.

"We would like to offer our apologies because the weather forecast you saw immediately before this news bulletin wasn't the correct one," she said.

"The wrong tape was played (it was a recording from the previous week) and you'll be able to see Philippe Verdier with the correct forecast immediately following this bulletin."

And as you can see from the screenshot which the French media and entertainment news website PureMédias put together to compare the two maps used to illustrate the weather forecast both before and after the news, there's quite a difference.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Friday's French music break - Melissa Nkonda, "Nouveaux horizons"

Friday's French music break this week is proof - if it were needed - that there's occasionally life after TV talent shows - even for those who don't win.

It comes from Melissa Nkonda - an "also ran" in the now defunct Nouvelle Star, the French version of Pop Idol.

Melissa Nkonda (screenshot from "Nouveaux horizons" video)

Nkonda took part in season seven of Nouvelle Star in 2009, making it through to the final 15 and then the top 10 but being but eliminated just three weeks into the show's run.

That obviously didn't stop her though and a year later she entered the (non-televised) search for talent launched in 2010 by the French record label AZ, which belongs to the Universal group.

The 20-year-old ran out one of the joint winners of "Je veux signer chez AZ", landing a contract with the label and the chance to record an album.

Since then Nkonda has been on roll.

The album, "Nouveaux horizons", was released earlier this year and includes a track, "J'ai fait tout ça pour vous" featuring one of the most recently rising stars of the British music scene VV Brown and a version of Nkondo's first hit single also entitled "Nouveaux horizons" with the critically acclaimed French rapper, Soprano.

The original of that first single is a catchy, funky uptempo number with an infectious beat and sung in a mixture of English and French which has already been a Top 30 hit in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Not bad going from a singer who was all but overlooked by the voting public during Nouvelle Star.

Melissa Nkonda (screenshot from Je veux signer chez AZ video)

Oh yes the winner that year - Soan.

Now that was a triumph of audience power in determining a commercially successful artist.

Oh well, Nkonda, along with a fellow contestant from the same season - Camélia Jordana - is proof that TV talent shows certainly don't always get it right.

Here's "Nouveaux horizons".

Try not to tap you foot as you listen.

Bet you enjoyed that.

If you want to catch her in concert, check out the dates on her official website.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

French pensioner organises her own "kidnapping" from retirement home

It's a story worthy of the summer months and one that definitely brings a smile to the face.

But at the same time there's surely a serious side to it, as will become clear.

Suzanne Burgain (screenshot from i-Télé report)

It involves a 90-year-old French woman who apparently went "missing" from an old people's home last Thursday.

Except that wasn't quite what had happened.

"We'll help you discover another way of thinking about retirement homes," says the promotional video for the Château de Villemoisson, an establishment set in two hectares of parkland, 20 kilometres south of Paris.

Unfortunately one of the residents doesn't seem to agree.

Suzanne Burgain is a bit wobbly on her pins, and after a fall last May, the 90-year-old caved in to pressure from the rest of her family and agreed to move in to the Château de Villemoisson.

And the retirement home certainly seemed to fit the bill in terms of the professional care and attention it could give her.

But Suzanne didn't quite see things the same way and, according to the national daily Le Parisien, made five separate attempts in less than three months to leave of her own accord - no easy feat as she requires a Zimmer frame to walk even the shortest of distances.

But then she hatched a plan and roped in the assistance of her 20-year-old great grandson Anthony and one of his friends to organise her own "kidnapping" in between a change of shifts at the home.

The alert went out last Thursday after the director of the home, Laurence Imbs, rang the local police to say that Suzanne could no longer be found and shortly before her disappearance a young man had been seen leaving her room.

Police took the call seriously and used tracker dogs to comb the area immediately surrounding the home.

But all the while, as it now transpires, Suzanne was sitting comfortably in the house of one of her granddaughters - Anthony's mother - who was away on holiday.

She couldn't stay where she was of course and finally 'turned herself in" to save Anthony from getting in to any more trouble than he already was by having helped her in the first place.

Château de Villemoisson (screenshot from i-Télé report)

Neither though, seems to show any remorse for what they did.

"She's in great form for her age," Anthony told RTL radio.

"And whatever the consequences, it was and remains an act of love and I have no regrets," he added.

And Suzanne?

Well she remains as stubborn and determined as ever.

"Anthony helped me because he knows exactly how I feel," she said.

"The only thing that interests me is my freedom and to go home - and I fully intend to try to get my way again."

According to Le Parisien, legally, there's nothing the retirement home can do to try to stop her from attempting another "escape".

Suzanne is under no guardianship or trusteeship.

"We cannot hold her against her will, it's not a prison," Imbs told i>Télé.

"All we can do is wait for her closest relative (her daughter) to return from holiday so that we can discuss what to do next."

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Vanity Fair's best-dressed woman - Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

So that arbiter of taste and supplier of news on pop culture, fashion and current affairs, the monthly magazine Vanity Fair, has released its 72nd annual best dressed list.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (screenshot from trailer for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris")

And as far as the women are concerned the winner is...the former top model-cum singer/actress and France's current first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Yes she of the finely chiselled features, raspy voice and elegantly increasing girth in expectation of a happy event has managed to beat out stiff competition from Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned (the second of the three wives of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar) and the recently-wed Duchess of Cambridge, aka to many still as Kate Middleton.

Perhaps not surprisingly the French media was fawningly quick off the mark to revel in the news.

"French chic - you've heard of it?" trumpeted the weekly glossy Voici.

"Well just to make matters easy, it can be defined in three words, 'Carla Bruni-Sarkozy'," it continued (un)imaginatively.

For fellow celebrity gossip magazine Gala it came as little surprise that Bruni-Sarkozy had made it as Vanity Fair's best dressed women as she had been among the "sartorially superior" for the past four years.

And let's face it, she's not exactly a stranger to the world of high fashion and GLAMOUR.

"She's known for having that refined distinction inherited from being from the upper middle class," it wrote.

"And she has been the flawless hostess at the l’Elysée (palace) with assured taste and a figure allowing her to show off to perfection clothes from some of the greatest fashion designers."

The magazine also delighted in the timing, remarking that while the "Mother-to-be might recently have given up on her Dior dresses and Louboutin shoes, she had also managed to dazzle through her natural beauty at the G8 summit in June where she appeared in her her simple Rogier Verdier-designed wardrobe."

And so it continued with the emphasis being put on Bruni-Sarkozy's "simplicity and elegance" (TF1) or "Vanity Fair having succumbed to Bruni-Sarkozy's charm" (Le Parisien)

But as much of the French media was equally at pains to point out, Bruni-Sarkozy was not the only woman on the list to "embody French style".

Because there at number six was the recently-appointed head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.

You can see the full list - of best-dressed women and men - as well as what Paris Match calls "Vanity Fair's 'ovation' to a certain Kate Middleton'," over on the magazine's site and check out the comments.

They just about say it all.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Friday's French music break - Zaza Fournier, "Vodka fraise"

Friday's French music break this week is Zaza Fournier's "Vodka fraise".

Zaza Fournier (screenshot from "Vodka Fraise" official video)

It's actually a recommendation from one of France Today's most faithful readers, Debbie from Dordogne.

In a recent email Debbie said of Fournier, "She's the best thing to have happened to French music since Lilicub." For those not in the know, they're a group formed in the early 90s and whose biggest hit to date has been "Voyage en Italie".

Well, who could ignore such unbridled enthusiasm? So a quick search on YouTube for Zaza Fournier produced her latest single, "Vodka fraise."

Actually there's not much else available, as the least that can be said about Fournier is that she is far from being prolific.

Since 2008, the 26-year-old has produced precisely two albums and the same number of singles.

"Vodka fraise" was released in March and is the first (and if the trend continues, potentially the only) single from her album "Regarde moi" which appeared in May.

In a 2009 interview with the magazine Ici Londres, for those French living and working in the British capital, Fournier spoke about her beginnings busking in Paris and how she had almost "fallen into music" before realising the importance it had become in her life.

"I started playing in the streets in Paris and at the time I had no ambition. I simply found it more interesting trying to sell sandwiches to pay for my studies," she said.

"The more I sang, the more I understood I needed to continue doing it and gradually I was invited to play in bars and small venues for about 18 months."

There then followed the self-titled first album, described by the French weekly news magazine L'Express as that of a young woman who "combined rock and multimedia" and whose songs had a "fluorescent retro taste."


It gets better for the second because she apparently manages to "alternate smooth, swaying sounds with those of a twisting dashing pop music."

So much for music critics who sometimes sound as though they're writing from where the sun don't shine.

That's a sentiment with which Fournier might perhaps agree as, again in that 2009 interview, she responded to parallels that one French magazine had made between her and Edith Piaf.

Presumably the journalist had been trying to linger on that "singing in the street" start.

"Piaf is part of my musical memories and I've listened to her music time and time again," said Fournier.

"I'm fascinated by her voice, her body, her stage presence and force but nobody can be compared to Piaf, and although I find it flattering it's also absurd."

You tell 'em girl.

The truth of the matter is that Fournier is an artist who clearly doesn't fit neatly into any particular mould and it would be useless to try.

Her character is one she has created but which is also apparently "spontaneous and instinctive", but there's also no getting away from the fact that her persona and her music are highly stylised.

As far as her influences go, well they're as wide ranging as you would expect them to be from someone who is so singularly distinctive from anyone else around on the French music scene and include - as she says herself, Barbara, Jacques Brel, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Rockabilly, Brigitte Fontaine, Christophe...there are a lot."

Check out her Myspace site for a couple of other tracks from 2008 "La vie à deux" and "Mademoiselle" (sic) and her Facebook page for all her latest news

But before you do that, listen to "Vodka Fraise" and if you like it, try to see her at Olympia in Paris in October.

Happy listening.

If there's any French song or artist you would like to have reviewed, please get in touch at

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Mood's Smiley bracelets tipped to become fashion hit for French children

They've only been available since June, but already the buzz in France is that Mood's bracelets are set to become THE fashion accessory for the younger generation in particular this autumn.

Mood's bracelets (screenshot from website)

The bracelets, as described on the company's website, are brightly-coloured silicone bracelets, currently available in 10 smiley emoticons corresponding to different moods and available individually or in a pack.

As the free daily 20 minutes reports they're a "cheap, easy and fun way to express what mood you're in" and much to the surprise of their creators - two French entrepreneurs - they're already proving to be a hit.

And not just with teenagers as Florence Bougault, one those who came up with the concept explains.

"The idea came to Stanislas Henriot and me when we were thinking about all those emoticons that are being used in text messages and chat rooms and which we're very fond of ourselves," she said.

"They're aimed primarily at teenagers, but to our surprise we've seen a lot of mothers buying and wearing them or swapping them with their children."

Smiley (from Wikipedia)

Hardly surprising perhaps as the bracelets have had a healthy dollop of free promotion.

It has come in the form of this year's Secret Story - a French version of the TV reality show Big Brother, only different but by no means better - in which the candidates can (if you're watching closely) be seen wearing them.

And as the show, broadcast throughout the summer, has a daily audience of around 2.4 million viewers for its early evening slot, that's pretty nifty bit of product placement.

As if to emphasise that Mood's is a trend not just in the making, but fast gathering momentum, the French news website is also calling them the 2011 summer must-have among teenagers

And it should know what it's talking about as it's a site specifically aimed at teenagers and young adults.

In fact Google "Mood's bracelets" here in France and you'll soon come up with several sites and blogs talking about how they've already become the fashion accessory for summer and are expected to become all the rage as new ranges are introduced for the autumn.

Next up - coloured elastic bands as glorified fashion statements?

Whoops - they've already been and gone in the form of Sillybandz.

Monday, 1 August 2011

"Sexy fingers" video for the rapid finger prick HIV test

It was only released a couple of weeks ago, but already a new HIV prevention video in France is creating the anticipated stir on the Net.

Sexy fingers (screenshot from video)

While YouTube has slapped a "potentially inappropriate content for some users" warning for those thinking about watching the video and requiring them to verify that they're adult enough by signing in first, the French-based video sharing website Dailymotion seems to have no such qualms.

As Laetitia Reboulleau writes in the French edition of the monthly women's magazine Marie Claire reactions to "Sexy fingers" video have been mixed.

"There are those who find it 'shocking'," she writes, "while other simply fail to see the link between its content and the rapid finger prick HIV test."

Sexy fingers (screenshot from video)

Launched by AIDES, a French association involved in the fight against HIV and viral hepatitis, and created by the JWT advertising agency, the "Sexy fingers" video is part of a new campaign in France to promote the use of the rapid finger prick HIV test.

The monthly gay magazine Têtu describes the video as "simple, original and rather sexy, using animation throughout to show the various sexual activities that can be achieved with just one finger."

And that's the link to the rapid test according to Floriane Cutler, AIDES director of communications.

"We want to create a buzz to make people realise how easy it is to be tested," she says.

"It's a video for everyone and while it's making the point that the test is a simple one, it's only meant to be show a 'tendency' (as in a pregnancy test) and not a definitive result," she adds.

"Of course it should be followed up by a proper HIV test."

Sexy fingers (screenshot from video)

Alongside the video there's also a website with an Android application allowing users to play a game, all clearly aimed at a younger generation.

And it's being backed up by an AIDES campaign this summer to offer finger prick testing by specially-trained volunteers in nightclubs and bars, initially in the French capital and then later across the country.

As far as the association is concerned it's meant to make getting the test almost as familiar as talking about sex in the first place.

But, as Reboulleau points out in Marie Claire, there are those who question how people will react to being given the news that they've tested positive in front of their friends.

Sexy fingers (screenshot from video)

Back to that video though, and whatever you think of it - whether it works or misses the point entirely - it's good to see the folk at YouTube taking a stand on the moral well-being of those who it deems potentially inappropriate viewers.

Since when has a campaign encouraging people to get themselves tested warranted a warning - no matter how suggestive it might (or might not) be?

Sexy Fingers (2011) par AIDES-association
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