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Friday, 29 July 2011

Friday's French music break - Elisa Tovati & Tom Dice, "Il nous faut"

What happens when a television actress and a former entrant for the Eurovision song contest get together?

The answer is they produce a sublime sound which is melodious, gentle on the ear and the choice for Friday's French music break this week.

Elisa Tovati and Tom Dice (screenshot from official video)

The actress is 35-year-old Elisa Tovati from France who has built up a solid if not remarkable career in television and cinema.

Elisa Tovati (screenshot from official video)

Along the way she has produced three albums.

Her latest is "Le Syndrome de Peter Pan" which is described on her official website as a "musical tale of a little girl who is all grown up."

And it's from that album that she has released the single "Il nous faut", a duet with the young Belgian singer Tom Dice.

Tom Dice (screenshot from France 5 performance)

Under his given name of Tom Eeckhout, he finished runner-up in the Flemish Belgian version of the TV talent show the X Factor in 2008.

But as Tom Dice, his name might be familiar to some Eurovision song contest fans as the 22-year-old sang his country's entry in 2010 in Oslo.

The song "Me and my guitar" finished a creditable sixth and didn't go unnoticed here in France picking up plenty of airplay.

Anyway back to the pairing of Tovati and Dice on "Il nous faut - and it's simply inspired.

Elisa Tovati and Tom Dice (screenshot from France 5 performance)

Neither of them has what you might call an outstanding voice; good certainly, pleasant to listen to and melodious. But not the sort that will make your jaw drop in admiration.

That doesn't matter though. The combination is a delight to listen to as their voices blend and they sing alternately in French and English.

From the opening bars of the guitar strings being plucked and strummed through to the violin and folksy feel of the melody, Tovati and Dice treat you to an almost perfect pairing.

If you liked, for example, the 2009 hit "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat, the chances are you'll feel the same about Tovati and Dice singing "Il nous faut". There are definite similarities in the effect both the song and the voices have.

"Il nous faut" is perhaps very easy-listening, but that doesn't make it any the less enjoyable.

Just as a treat, here are two versions; the first is the official video and the second is a live performance they gave on France 5 television - proof that they can after all sing and reproduce the studio sound in front of an audience.


Elisa Tovati & Tom Dice - Il Nous Faut (Clip... par wonderful-life1989



Thursday, 28 July 2011

EDF's final demand for zero euros - "pay up or risk being cut off"

Électricité de France, or EDF as it seems to prefer being called, might well be the world's largest utility company and its British subsidiary truly proud to be "powering the London 2012 Games" but that doesn't prevent it from making a complete arse of itself back home in France.

(screenshot from EDF commercial)

Yes, no matter how international it might be hiding behind those initials, EDF is, at its core, French.

And that means adding a totally new dimension to the way in which client relations are defined and conducted.

After all in France the customer is only sometimes king.

Consider the case of Jérémy Chassagne.

He lives with his girlfriend in the southwest of France, not far from the village of Roaillan in a house which the regional daily Sud Ouest describes as being "lost in the middle of vineyards."

It's in an area famous for its Graves Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wines and well worth a visit, but that's another matter entirely.

Chassagne pays his bills regularly but when the most recent one from EDF plopped through his letterbox he and his girlfriend were away and, as he told the paper, he was a little late in sending the cheque.

That meant of course that EDF sent him a reminder with the standard "request to disregard this letter if payment has already been made."

As it was obvious to Chassagne that the two letters had crossed in the post, that's exactly what he did.

All well and good, except last week he received a final demand from EDF telling him to pay his bill or risk being cut off.

How exactly he is supposed to pay though, has left him in something of a quandary.

You see, it's obvious from the amount at the end of the letter that EDF has already received his cheque, because the final demand is for precisely €0.

That's right, nothing, nada, niente or rien if you like.

"It's crazy and we're not sure what to do," he told the paper.

"We could wait and see whether EDF actually follows through with its threat to cut us off but that would probably mean we would have to pay a charge to be reconnected," he continued.

"Or we could send a cheque for €0 which is what my father (a retired EDF employee who obviously knows what he's talking about) advised us to do."

He's still waiting to hear again from EDF.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Friday's French music break - Daniel Lévi, "Là bas"

Friday's French music break this week is surely a lesson to any aspiring singer to learn the lyrics and, if performing a popular modern standard, try at least to stick to something resembling the original tune.

Daniel Lévi (screenshot from video of July 14 SOS Racisme concert)

Sadly that's something French singer-song writer Daniel Lévi must wish he had done at the July 14 concert for equality organised by the French anti-racist non-governmental organisation SOS Racisme at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The soon-to-be 50-year-old (he was born on August 26, 1961) was just one of a host of French singers to perform live in front of tens of thousands crammed on to the Champs de Mars, and the many millions watching the event live on France 2 television.

A chance for Lévi to shine and show-off that exceptional and powerful voice which won him so much acclaim when he performed as Moses in Pascal Obispo's 2000 musical "Les dix commandements" (The ten commandments).

But it wasn't to be, as Lévi took to the stage with Indonesian-born French singer-songwriter Anggun and Judith, a former contestant on the TV talent show Star Academy.

The trio were to interpret Jean-Jacques Goldman's "Là bas" in a manner which can only be described as awful.

Now even if you don't like Goldman - and there are plenty who don't - there's no denying the immense talent of the man and the impact he has had over the years on French music.

Many of his songs have become modern French standards and perhaps one that stands out is "Là bas", the 1987 hit he sang with the late Sri Lankan-born British singer Sirima.

It has been covered by many artists throughout the years but none can have been quite as embarrassing and appalling as Lévi's in what turned out to be surely the worst rendition - ever.

During the performance the teleprompter reportedly broke and that - to put it mildly - rather threw Lévi.

The true professional that he clearly wasn't under the circumstances appeared lost without the prompter and, forgetting the lyrics, la-la-la-ed his way through great chunks of the song.

Worse still he was out of tune in both his solos and harmonies and even though he grinned inanely throughout, nobody listening and watching could have been impressed.

Anggun and Judith didn't fare much better and couldn't have been too chuffed about their own performances, but in comparison to Levi, their voices were tunefully angelic.

If you're feeling exceptionally brave and feel those lugholes are up to it, then you might - repeat, might - want to click on the accompanying video to listen and watch.

Be warned though. It really is terrible.

Perhaps you would be better advised to listen to the original which is, quite simply, beautiful.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjx4mk_extrait-la-bas-daniel-levi-judith-et-anggun-page-facebook-welcome-with-paradispop_music


EXTRAIT : Là-Bas - Daniel Lévi , Judith et... par PARADISPOP

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dominique Berger - France's last natural latex inflatable doll maker

France has a reputation for producing expensive high-quality products from foie gras to champagne, jewellery, perfume, fashion and so the list continues.

But a little-known area in which one particular man is struggling to keep the Tricolore flying is in the manufacture of high-calibre inflatable dolls.

Dominique Berger and "Kelly" (screenshot from France 3 report)

It really is summer in France - even though the weather in many parts of the country and the rest of Europe come to that, might indicate otherwise.

But that's another story.

Proof of which season we're in is provided by the seemingly traditional attempt by the media, in all its guises, to scrabble around for just about anything to fill the column inches, airwaves, bulletins or whatever.

You know the sort of thing; the normally "And finally" stories that might appear at the end of TV news bulletins throughout the year but which seem to be the bread and butter of journalists during the slower summer months.

As the weekly New Yorker magazine wrote in an article last year, in the summer journalists "Fall back on old standbys like animals, folk heroes, strange crimes, the gruesome quirks of the elderly, overly obsessive coverage of celebrity weddings, and, of course, mass hysteria of a non-life-threatening nature."

The more off-the-wall the better, and if there's a smidgeon of sex involved...well, bingo!

And that's exactly what television viewers in France were treated to during the evening news on France 3 television on Tuesday with an item looking at one man's struggle to manufacture a top-quality product in the face of cheaper, lower-grade competition, primarily from China.

Inflatable dolls.

Yes, according to the report, the international market for the modern-day "dame de voyage" as they were apparently known in the 17th century, is dominated by the Chinese (did you know that?)

But a former baker from the north of France is reportedly putting up a valiant struggle.

Dominique Berger gave up kneading the dough to pursue a career in inflatable dolls eight years ago.

As the French website Rue89 reports, Berger used his savings to buy out a company that had closed its doors because of falling orders and decided to aim for the high-end of the market with his all-latex "Kelly".

"Kelly" in production (screenshot from France 3 report)

And he's apparently the only person left in Europe, let alone France, manufacturing Domax inflatable dolls made of natural latex.

"If you look closely you can see there are no seams," Berger proudly told France 3.

"Dolls made in Asia on the other hand have seams on the side and are made of plastic," he continued.

"And that means it resembles more a woman than it does a plastic buoy (yes, he really said that)."

At between €250 and €690 depending on the model, Berger's dolls aren't exactly cheap when compared to the apparently average-priced €40 of the Chinese-made competitor.

And while business isn't exactly booming with 80-90 latex dolls produced each month, Berger, who works alone and prefers it that way, says he can make a living and he believes in his product.

"I could double production by working twice as hard, but I prefer not to," he said.

"I'm self financing and work to order."

So there you have it. Not the first, and certainly not the last, in a long line of silly summer stories.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Roger Rolland's battle with French bureaucracy to prove he's alive.

Ah bureaucracy.

Don't you just love it?

Of course it's everywhere, but perhaps the French are masters of it.

Or should that be the most adept at making a mess of it?

Just ask Roger Rolland.

Roger Rolland (screenshot TF1 news)

He's very much alive - something to which his family, friends and now television viewers in France can attest.

But French bureaucracy, it seems, has had a hard time believing it and has certainly needed some convincing.

At the end of May the 67-year-old received a call from his local chemist telling him that the social security office had been in touch informing him they were refusing to reimburse the cost of supplying a prescribed medicine a week earlier because...get this...Rolland was dead.

"It certainly gave me something to think about and I had to keep asking my wife to reassure me I was still alive," he told TF1 news with something approaching a smile on his face.

But as he was to discover, proving to French bureaucracy that he was still alive was far from being a laughing matter and would be harder than he thought.

First of all he made his way down to the local health insurance office where he repeated what his chemist had told him.

After plenty of hunting around, an employee discovered that somehow the death certificate of another person had made its way into his file and there had obviously been an administrative error.

As the daily newspaper France Soir reports, the error was rectified immediately and Rolland was able to return home safe in the knowledge that French bureaucracy knew he was alive.

Wrong!

A couple of weeks later the pensions office sent a letter to his home, addressed to his heirs.

Rolland was on the blower immediately to explain that there had been a mix up and...well let's allow him to take up the story as to what happened next.

"The person the other end of the line told me that I would have to provide a certificate proving I was still alive," he said.

"So I went to the town hall to see if one could be supplied...only to be told that no such certificate existed."

While Rolland was busy trying to acquire some sort of non-existent official document to prove he was alive, his wife, Josette, took matters into her own hands.

She rang the pensions office, managed to get hold of the person who had sent the letter to her husband's heirs and was told to, "Have him sign a sworn statement (une attestation sur l’honneur) that he's still alive."

"It was surrealist," Josette told France Soir.

Quite.

End of story?

Not exactly.

The pensions office now had their records straight, but Rolland thought it perhaps wise to contact the office handling the supplementary pension fund to which he was also entitled - just in case.

And that was definitely a smart move, because according to their records, he had been dead since February!

While her husband remains somewhat phlegmatic about the whole mix-up Josette is less understanding.

'It's still amazing that the social security office which made the error in the first place, didn't bother to inform the other departments," she told France Soir.

"If something similar happened to someone more fragile and less able to understand bureaucratic red tape, it could well end up with their being dead - officially and for real."

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friday's French music break - Arielle Dombasle, "Porque te vas"

Friday's French music break this week isn't French at all, but Spanish.

It's sung by Arielle Dombasle, born in the United States to French parents, brought up (partly) in Mexico (both of which she never seems to tire stressing during interviews) and married to French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Arielle Dombasle (screenshot from video clip for "Porque te vas")

Dombasle describes herself in her biography on her official website as an "actress, singer, muse and model".

All four might be to a greater or lesser extent true, but quite frankly her rendition of "Porque te vas", the first track to be released from her latest album "Diva Latina", is awful.

Dombasle's version adds nothing to the original, sung by Jeanette in 1974 and used so effectively two years later in Spanish director Carlos Saura's award-winning film Cría Cuervos (Raise Ravens).

Such considerations seem to matter little though to Dombasle as she warbles her way through the song, successfully destroying any of the original's pure magic and flouncing her way in supposedly glamourous and elegant sensuality throughout the accompanying video.

Arielle Dombasle (screenshot from video clip for "Porque te vas")

The 53-year-old might well enchant some of those who've left comments on the YouTube clip, but quite honestly it's appalling how she has taken a song that was exquisite in its simplicity and added...well, nothing really.

What was the point?

Mind you, there are other tracks on "Diva Latina" - an all-Spanish album - which receive similar treatment including (among others) "Hijo de la Luna", "Mambo 5" and "Pata Pata".

They were all international hits when recorded first time around and well worth listening to - by the original artists.

While Dombasle might have many talents - and foremost among them is undoubtedly her gift for self-publicity - singing just isn't one of them.

There again, when did that ever stop anyone?

So why choose what is, to all intents and purposes, a Spanish song and not a very good version of it either, as Friday's French music break this week?

Well first of all it's to show that there's no chauvinism whatsoever involved in the weekly choice.

Sometimes the song is fabulous, is on a par with anything the English-speaking world has to offer and deserves more exposure.

Other times it clearly doesn't.

Second of all (sic), as some Americans might say, there's no getting away from the fact that Dombasle exudes a certain charm and is pretty popular in France.

So no matter what you might think of her singing, she has to be given a chance.

And thirdly if course it allows you to compare Dombasle's version with the original and to decide for yourself which you prefer.

So without further ado, here goes.

Arielle Dombasle



Jeanette

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A touching and tearful goodbye from French TV news presenters

It's one of those moments that only live television can give the viewer; a presenter saying goodbye and being unable to hold back the tears.

That's exactly what happened at the end of Wednesday morning's programme on LCI, one of France's all-news channels.

Audrey Crespo-Mara and Jean François Rabilloud (screenshot from LCI video)

As the French media and entertainment news site Puremédias reports, emotions were running high as the team of Audrey Crespo-Mara and Jean François Rabilloud signed off at the end of the show.

More than that, after four years presenting together, it also marked the end of the partnership as, although Rabilloud still has a week left before the final show of the season and the beginning of the summer break, both are to be replaced in the autumn by Sylvia Amicone and Philippe Ballard.

As the pair alternately presented their adieus and thanked the editors, producers, studio technicians and just about anybody else they could think of, it all became too much for Crespo-Mara who had difficulty holding back her tears.

"My thanks to you my dear Jean-François," she said, turning to Rabilloud and using the informal "tu" form seldom heard among journalists on either television or radio.

"I've spent four marvellous years with you," she continued.

"And it has been the best experience in my professional life."

Rabilloud, clearly prepared for the occasion and certainly less demonstrative in his emotions appeared touched.

"Happy holidays and have a good summer," he said offering her a somewhat unglamourous but nonetheless thoughtful pot plant as a leaving gift."

"Here's a hortensia which will accompany you - my dear Audrey. I'll see you (the viewers) in a moment for the latest sports news."

A touching moment indeed in the usually hard-nosed world of journalism, proving that they too, are after all, just humans.


(Really) Petty theft - grounds for suspension?

Hot on the heels of a French supermarket which backed down after threatening to sack an employee for "stealing" from a rubbish bin, comes an incident of a similar nature.

USB key (from Wikipedia, author Usb-thumb-drive.jpg: Evan-Amos)

This time around it concerns a store from one of the country's largest chains and a name known throughout many parts of the world, Carrefour.

As reported in the regional daily Le Dauphine Libéré, management at one of its stores just outside of the southern French city of Avignon has suspended two employees for, as the paper headlines the story "stealing a couple of pens and some chewing gum."

Now while that might tell part of the story and give the impression that management has meted out a punishment that seems inappropriate to the alleged crime committed, it remains a little misleading.

As the paper goes on to say, management claims to have caught the pair red-handed as they left the store, not just with a couple of pens and some gum but also a USB key.

"I just took the pens to use for work," Yassine, one of the men who has been suspended, told the newspaper.

"None of the products was on the shelf and they would all have ended up in the bin or being given to the Food Bank," he added.

Hmmn. The argument that a USB key - or a ballpoint or fountain pen for that matter - might, if thrown out, find its way to the Food Bank doesn't seem a very convincing line of defence does it?.

But perhaps the fact that the "hoard" taken by the two men is reckoned to be worth between 20 and 25 euros suggests that the store's management has rather overreacted.

It's hardly an amount to make a dent in Carrefour's profits.

Of course as far as the director of the store, Fabrice Bertin is concerned, that's not the point, nor the fact that Yassine has worked for Carrefour for the past six years.

"Theft is a serious offence and can result in a warning, a layoff or dismissal," he told the French website Le Post.

"For the moment the case is being investigated and I'll meet the two men on July 20 to decide what measures, if any, to take."

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A stage of The Tour de France - close up

When the Tour de France passes by your front door you get a close up view of what all the fuss is about and you can't help but realise that it's something more than "just" a sporting event.

Stage 11 of this year's race was from the village of Blaye-les-Mines to the town of Lavaur, both in the soutwestern département of Tarn.

The route took the riders past the pretty bastide of Castelnau de Montmiral.

Castelnau de Montmiral

To find exactly where that is, grab a map of France, look at the southwest portion of the hexagon-shaped country where you'll find the city of Toulouse.

Trace a path back northeast or at roughly two o'clock on a watch face and you'll come across Gaillac.

It's one of France's oldest wine-producing areas and, it has to be said, also one of the country's best-kept Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) secrets.

Just northwest of the town, and set in the area's typical rolling countryside, surrounded by vineyards and fields of sunflowers is Castelnau de Montmiral, a village well worthy of its rating as a member of France's 155-strong association, Les plus beaux villages de France (France's most beautiful villages).

A wander up the lane would be all it would take to be afforded a view of the riders as they raced past the foot of the village.

The Tour de France is much more than just about the sport of cycling, a glimpse of the riders, the unreasonable endurance or - dare it be said - the seemingly ubiquitous drugs scandals.

It's also a living, breathing postcard of the country - televised live nationally for the whole length of each stage, transmitted internationally and followed throughout the world.

The official website has some pretty impressive stats which drive home just how much of an EVENT it is, and the passion and aura that surrounds it.

It apparently attracts annually between 12 and 15 million spectators, 80 per cent of whom are French and the rest from abroad. That's a lot of mouths to feed along the route and plenty of lolly for local businesses.

Last year each stage was not only broadcast live on national television - just as it is every year - but also transmitted to another 188 countries, 60 of which also carry the event live.

Over 2,000 journalists from 35 countries also come along for the ride for the duration of the three weeks.

The 98 editions (including the current one) of the Tour has visited over 500 different host towns and villages - talk about a wonderful commercial for the French countryside.

And so the list goes on.

Back to that 11th stage- a decade after the Tour had last made its way past Castelnau de Montmiral on its way to Lavaur.

Just a day before this usually quiet and lazy part of rural France had been basking in sun and enjoying temperatures of 34 degrees Celsius.

But overnight storms followed by a morning downpour and that infamous Vent d'Autan had left temperatures barely poking above 20 degrees.

The riders were expected shortly after 3.00pm (the local paper had said so) but already several hours ahead of time some faithful followers had braved the rain and wind and were waiting patiently.

And with good cause, because ahead of the race there was the Advertising Caravan, a procession of sponsors' vehicles that set off a good hour-and-a-half before the riders and got the spectators "in the mood" as it wound it way along the course.

A truck in the Advertising Caravan

The first obvious sign that the riders weren't far away came from a commentary car telling spectators that the race leaders were just behind, three-and-a-half minutes ahead of the peloton.

It was soon followed by a motorcade of gendarmes, television cameras on motorbikes, organiser's cars and those from some of the teams and hovering above was a helicopter.

It was clear the leaders weren't far behind.

And sure enough, there they were, the breakaway group of a handful of riders, flashing past and disappearing down the hill towards the nearby town of Gaillac.

The breakaway group arrives

But it wasn't over. Far from it.

The first helicopter had been joined by five others; some circling the village of Castelnau de Montmiral, broadcasting those aerial pictures for which the Tour television coverage is so famous, others keeping track along with their motorised colleagues of the progress of the peloton.

And there it was, the peloton, so distinctively familiar to anyone who has followed even a part of one stage of the Tour on the television.

Up close it was electric. As it approached, individual riders seemed lost in the general blur.

But there, just there for a split second was the yellow jersey of the current race leader, 32-year-old Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, tucked in behind the rest of his Europcar team.

The peloton with Thomas Voeckler in yellow

As it sped past followed by a stream of team cars, more motorbike cameramen and commentators, spectators cheered, just as they probably do throughout the whole of the around 3,600-kilometre Tour year in, year out.

The peloton on the way to Gaillac


Team cars

And then it was over.

The last few stragglers had vanished out of sight and for the local Montmiralais Montmiralaises continued live coverage of this year's Tour would have to be from the comfort of their sitting room.

But La Grande Boucle, as it's nicknamed in France, was of course far from being over.

The riders might have left behind them the village of Castelnau de Montmiral and be on their way to Lavuar via Gaillac, but this year's Tour still has another 11 days to go before it ends in Paris on July 24 on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

And those include mountain stages in both the Pyrénées and the Alps.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The dog and the rock

When well brought up "man's best friend" is faithful, loving, trusting and, as any dog owner will tell you, often as daft as the proverbial brush.

Bottoms up (screenshot from YouTube video)

You need proof?

Check out the latest in a long line of canine capers that seem to dominate YouTube.

This mutt looks to be of the many breeds that would require a muzzle and/or special certification of ownership here in France as per the "dangerous dogs act" of 2008.

Among other things, the law obliges anyone owning a dog from groups 1 or 2 to undergo training with a qualified instructor (seven hours in total) in "canine behaviour and accident prevention."

Anyway, the dog with the rock, is clearly not from France, as can be heard from the voice of his owner with the infectious laugh.

But its behaviour in the video is proof positive surely that with the right upbringing, any pooch - regardless of breed - has the capacity to be...er...endearing.

Woof!

Monday, 11 July 2011

French supermarket sees sense over rubbish bin "thief"

Sometimes you just have to admit that it's a mad, bad world in which those at the top of the heap are in charge and make the rules and those at the bottom - well they just have to like it and lump it.

But sometimes - especially when the regulations are enforced and the outcome is just so barmy, the cause of the so-called "little man" can be helped by the support of those around him and justice can be done.

Monoprix (screenshot from BFM TV report)

Such is surely the case of Kader, a 59-year-old employee of the French supermarket chain Monoprix in the southern city of Marseille.

Last Monday he was sent home from his job and threatened with being sacked.

His crime?

He had supposedly "stolen" six melons and two lettuces.

Except there's a very good reason for the inverted commas.

As the regional daily La Provence reported, Kader had simply retrieved them from a bin at the back of the store where, as out-of-date products, they were waiting to be collected and taken to the nearest landfill.

It appeared that such behaviour was tantamount to "misconduct" and as far as Monoprix rules were concerned employees weren't allowed to take home food even if it were destined for landfill; it said as much in the work contract Kader had signed.

"I didn't know," the shelf-filler who had been working for the store for the past eight years told the newspaper.

"I'm so ashamed. I've never, ever stolen anything in all my years of working," he continued.

"I told my manager, 'If I've stolen something, call the police'. I'm not a thief and I've never taken a thing in my life."

Management at the store remained stumm, refusing to talk to the local media.

But the story soon spread and was reported nationally.

Kader repeated what he had told La Provence on national radio Europe 1.

"When I passed the rubbish bin I saw the melons and lettuce ready to be thrown away," he said

"I thought they were in a reasonable state so I decided to take them home - just to eat," said the father of six.

The unions were soon on the case, pointing out that Monoprix's main shareholder, Casino , had just reported record profits but according to company rules, "appeared ready to fire a man for taking home food that was going to be thrown away."

A demonstration was held outside the shop. Kader's colleagues were interviewed and expressed how "pathetic" they found management's decision.

Monoprix's official Facebook page started receiving complaints and there were calls from some Internauts for a boycott of the store.

And an online petition was started, calling for Kader to be reinstated.

So much bad publicity and on such a scale for a management stance that was surely both as untenable as it was ridiculous.

The Powers that Be at the store finally caved in on Friday, seeing sense and reducing Kader's penalty to a simple one-day reprimand for having failed to follow company regulations.

Regulations which the national daily France Soir says the company had hidden behind in an attempt to explain its (over)reaction and which officially aimed, "To protect human health by avoiding the consumption of spoiled products."

Kader spoke to the local commercial television station, LCM, after he had received news that he was being reinstated.

"I was moved by the reaction of the media, my colleagues and the unions," he said.

"I would just like to thank everyone for the support they've given me."

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A love story - Jean-Claude and Juliette, the reformed hunter and his wild boar

It might not exactly be along the lines of Shakespeare's tragedy, but the story of Jean-Claude Martin and Juliette could have had a similar ending, had the French justice system not come to its senses at the last moment.

Jean-Claude Martin and Juliette (screenshot from Europe 1 report on Dailymotion)

On Friday a court ruled that the pair could remain together; he a hunter of an age that should perhaps know better, she a three-year-old female boar.

The couple first "met" back in 2008 when Martin from the village of Lachau in the south-eastern département of Drôme found the then 800-gramme Juliette all alone and stuck in a hole in the forest, unable to get out and, as he told Europe 1 radio, "Facing certain death".

He rescued her, took her home, bottle-fed and cared for her until over the years she grew into a fine beast, weighing in at a mighty 100 kilogrammes.

Martin apparently tried to release Juliette back into the wild, but she was having none of it and kept returning for a little more TLC.

So the by-now former hunter put away his gun and gave in to the path of "true love", building a pen for her and Juliette became as much his darling as he did hers.

"She followed me everywhere and played with a ball," Martin said.

"Juliette knew her place in the household, got on with the dogs and in a manner of speaking we lived together."

But while Juliette's fame soon spread throughout the village and she became something of a mascot, officialdom threatened to put an end to their "idyll" and worse still, Juliette's life.

As TF1 news reports, in 2010 Martin received a visit from wardens of l'Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (the government-run organisation for overseeing hunting and wildlife in France, ONCFS) and was told that as he didn't have a licence to keep her, she would either have to be returned to the wild or be put down.

ONCFS even went as far as to take Martin to court for illegally "possessing a wild animal" but on Friday the case was thrown out and Martin acquitted.

Speaking afterwards Patrice Grillon, Martin's lawyer - and presumably Juliette's come to that - told Agence France Presse how relieved his client was about the decision.

"Jean-Claude Martin has a very special bond with his sow and there's no doubt she would have died had he not intervened in the first place," he said.

"Over the years it's clear that Juliette has become a domesticated animal," he added.

And Martin?

Well he's in pig heaven and can continue giving Juliette her daily treats of biscuits and sugar lumps.

Oink!

Grunt!




Jean-Claude et Juliette la laie

par Europe1fr

Friday, 8 July 2011

French couple find coins worth €100,000 in basement

Friday's European lottery EuroMillions promises a first prize of €185 million to anyone lucky enough to have the winning numbers.

Portrait of Louis XIII by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-74) - from Wikipedia

But one young couple from the city of Millau in the southern département of Aveyron have already hit their own personal jackpot - albeit much smaller.

Around two weeks ago, according to the local commercial station, radio Totem, the couple were clearing out part of the basement of their house in the centre of the city when they came across a jar.

It looked innocent enough, buried 50 centimetres beneath the surface of the basement floor and covered with a tile.

But inside the jar were quite literally, as the regional newspaper Midi Libre describes, "34 pieces of gold"

The couple didn't know it at the time but their find was worth an estimated €100,000 and included coins dating from 1595 until the French Revolution.

They took them along to Marc Aigouy, a local numismatist (the fancy word for a coin collector) who gave his expert opinion and estimated their worth to be €1,000 for the least valuable to €6,500 for a coin dating to 1640 during the reign of Louis XIII.

He excitedly told Agence France Presse how amazing the discovery had been.

"Most of the pieces were already pretty rare at the time they must have been buried," he said.

"I offered to buy the coins myself or to help the couple offer them up for auction, because we can easily expect them to fetch perhaps more than €100,000 especially if American or Japanese collectors are interested in them," he added.

"I'm waiting for the couple to get back to me to tell me what they want to do."

According to Aigouy the couple, who wish to remain anonymous, will pocket the whole auction price as the coins were found on their property.

If they had been found on public land then they would have had to share the value 50:50 with the state.

Time to start digging around in the cellar - or failing that perhaps choosing a few numbers for Friday's EuroMillions draw.

Friday's French music break - Philippe Lavil "La part des anges "

Break out the steel drums and welcome to the Caribbean for Friday's French music break this week.

It's Philippe Lavil with his latest single "La part des anges".

Philippe Lavil (screenshot from "La part des anges" video)

French music isn't just restricted to songs that come from what they call France métropolitaine; that's the bit which most - well some - can point to on a map, the other side of the channel from Britain and sharing borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy Monaco Spain and Andorra.

The country also has overseas five départements, every much a part of France as the mainland shaped like a hexagon (hence the often-used term l'hexagon) in Europe, including two in the Caribbean.

And it's from of those islands in the sun - Martinique - that Philippe Lavil hails...good word that.

Philippe Durand de La Villejégu du Fresnay, to be exact, is a descendant of one of the first white families to settle on the island back in 1750.

His career has, as he admits in his biography on his website, had its ups and downs over the years since he first recorded single in 1969 "A la califourchon".

And even though he has tried at times to branch out into other types of music, it has always been the style reflecting his "sunny roots" that have brought him most success such as the the 1982 summer hit "Il tape sur des bambous" (1.5 million copies) a 1987 duo with Jocelyne Beroard, "Kolé Séré".


Yep, there's no getting away from what Lavil does best and perhaps giving the fans what they've come to love and expect over the years.

So here you are. A taste of the Caribbean - French style - steel drums included (of course) - perfect summer listening. Well any time of the year really.

Just close your eyes and imagine yourself dipping your toes in the warm waters and allowing any other clichés you can think of to wash over you.

Mmmmmmm!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

French tennis player Alizé Cornet forgets to turn her mobile 'phone off during match

It was match point against her when French tennis player Alizé Cornet's mobile 'phone stared ringing.

Caroline Wozniacki serving for the match when Alizé Cornet's 'phone rings (screenshot from YouTube video)

We've all heard those announcements at the theatre, the cinema, a classical music concert, a live sporting event or whatever.

The reminder to those present to (if the organisers are feeling particularly polite) "Please turn off you mobile 'phones". Or at least put the ruddy thing on mute.

Ho hum.

No sooner said than done. And woe betide you should you fail to do so.

But what happens when it's not a member of the public but one of those being watched or listened to, who forgets?

This.



It was a first round match at the Swedish Open in Bastad between the world's number one ranked woman player, Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark and France's Alizé Cornet.

At 6-4, 5-3 and 40:30 up, Wozniacki was serving for the match when she - and everybody else present - heard a 'phone ring.

Wozniacki kept her cool and prepared to serve again, but once more the wretched thing went off.

Bemusement from Wozniacki and then a huge smile and laughter from everyone as the camera focused on her opponent who, realising she was in fact the offender, hurried to her kitbag to turn the thing off.

Applause and more laughter all round although it was hardly the "tremendous stuff" as suggested by the commentator on the accompanying video.

Wozniacki lost the game but went on to win the match 6-4, 6-4.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

French motorist "forgets" wife in the middle of the night

You've certainly heard of people abandoning animals on the side of the road - but rarely (surely) about a driver forgetting his partner.

It's apparently a true story worthy of the silly summer season and one which the national radio station RTL says is that of "an airhead at the wheel of a car".



A man somehow "left" his wife on the side of the road without realising she was missing.

It happened, according to Agence France Presse, in the wee (how appropriate - as will become clear in a moment) hours of Wednesday morning.

The couple were driving along a B road in the southwestern département of Tarn et Garonne and stopped just short of the village of Saint-Loup.

It's a pretty part of the country at this time of year with rolling hills and fields of sunflowers in full bloom and dotted with vineyards - not that the couple would have been able to see much as it was three o'clock.

Both apparently needed to pee and while the wife walked a little distance away from the car to do what was necessary, the husband was able to...well, let's just say it was easier for him.

Not surprisingly he was the first back and this is where the tale takes on those ridiculous proportions.

He "hit the road", driving off, seemingly not realising that he had left his wife behind!

For her part, she found herself barefoot and in the middle of nowhere without a mobile 'phone.

After walking some distance she knocked on the door of the first house she came upon, reports AFP, and only then was she able to call her errant husband, who returned to collect her - two-and-a-half hours later.

What's the betting he got something of an earful?

More details of the name, age and background of the "happy couple" when they become available, but it's somehow difficult to imagine the husband wanting any further information being made public.

Annecy crosses its fingers for 2018 Winter Olympic bid

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be gathering in the South African city of Durban on Wednesday to decide which city will host the 2018 Winter Games.

In the running still are three bids; Pyeongchang in South Korea, Munich in Germany and Annecy , the picturesque "Venice of the Alps" in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France.

(screenshot from official video)


The French candidature has been beset by problems, not least of which was the resignation in December 2010 of the president of its bid committee, former Olympic medallist Edgar Grospiron, because he feared the city couldn't stump up enough money to be successful in securing the games.

A replacement was eventually found in the form of French businessman Charles Beigbeder who remains upbeat about Annecy's chances even though most pundits rank them as pretty slim.

"Anything is possible," Beigbeder told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday morning.


"There are still three candidates in the running and the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogues, has said that they're all strong bids," he continued.

"Hosting the games is not just about business," he said.

"The Games is an opportunity for the Olympic movement to fulfil its mission of transmitting sporting values to the entire world."

Doesn't that sound like the speech of a man who reckons he's on the losing side?

As the weekly news magazine Le Point says, international leaders turning up at the final presentation in front of the IOC to support a bid has paid dividends in the past; Tony Blair for the 2012 London Olympic, Vladimir Poutin for the 2014 Winter Games in Sotchi and Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) supporting Rio's 2016 Summer Games success.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has chosen to stay away from Wednesday's presentation, a move which the magazine says some (cynics) might interpret as not wanting to be associated with a "loser" ahead of next year's presidential election.

Nothing could be further from the truth as far as Beigbeder is concerned.

'The president has always supported our bid and has written to each member of the IOC personally - which is very rare," he said.

'The prime minister, François Fillon will be making part of the presentation and we're proud of the team we've built," he continued.

"We are confident, determined and humble because we know it'll be difficult. But anything is possible."

Bonne chance.

At least Annecy cannot lose to Qatar!


Carte-postale-sport par annecy-2018

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cyril Couderc - Private school teacher fired for being openly gay files complaint

Almost a year after being fired from his teaching post for being gay, Cyril Couderc has decided to file a complaint with the French Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Commission (Halde).

(Screenshot from Daniel school promotional video)

In September last year Couderc came out publicly after he moved in with his partner.

His employers at Daniel school in the town of Guebwiller in north-eastern France knew of his sexual orientation but weren't happy at his being openly gay.

And as the national radio station RTL reports, the school principal sacked the 35-year-old who had been teaching at the school for 10 years.

Daniel is a private religious school, teaching children from Maternelle (kindegarten) age all the way through to the end of Collège or Junior High (14 or 15-year-olds).

"Its teachers are all believers," says the school's promotional video. "They're committed to passing on not only that faith but also a thorough education and an understanding of religious values and behaviour."



Values which Couderc said the principal of the school had told him had not been "respected" by his having openly declared his sexual orientation.

Interviewed by RTL on Tuesday, Couderc said the school principal had told him that his sexual orientation did not "respect the values of the institution" and he was given his marching orders.

"Not only was I told that I no longer had the right to work at the school, I was also informed that I was to have absolutely no contact with any of the pupils," Couderc told RTL.

"It was as though homosexuality was being defined as something 'dangerous'," he said, adding that he had also been offered a therapy to "deal with the torment of his homosexuality," - a proposition he declined preferring instead to look for another post in the public education sector.

Asked by the regional daily Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace (DNA) why he had waited 10 months to take his case to Halde, Couderc replied that he had been depressed after losing his job but had been motivated into taking action after he had seen a poster advertising Daniel's end-of-year festival.

"The motto was 'Vivre ensemble' (living together)," he told DNA.

"When I saw that, I knew I had to talk about it and they had to understand that what they did was unacceptable."

Defending the school's decision, Luc Bussière, the president of the organisation which is responsible for running Daniel, told DNA that the school had "lost confidence" in Couderc after he moved in with his partner.

"It was a problem of trust," said Bussière.

"We knew of his sexuality and his inner struggles," he told the newspaper.

"But there's a differences between having such tendencies and assuming them in a school which promotes Christian ethics."

Amen?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Samy Messaoud's (not so) "shocking" naked video - "Je suis gay"

French singer Samy Messaoud has reinvented the wheel, musically speaking.

Samy Messaoud (screenshot from "Je suis gay" video)

The 25-year-old from the western city of Nantes, who refers to himself as "Samylechanteur" on his blog, has come up with the brainstormingly original idea that "sex might help sell" when it comes to promoting his latest single "Je suis gay" (there's probably no need for a translation).

He appears completely naked in certain scenes of the song's video, flashing his private parts, and accompanied by an equally unclad man and woman.

"I decided to break down the taboo of nudity and without a doubt the clip has gone a bit far," admits Messaoud.

"It's a beautiful video, very elegant, but one in which I dance naked on several occasions with a girl and a boy who are also naked," he continues.

"I have no complex about showing myself naked and it's just too bad for those who are embarrassed - they simply don't have to watch."

No truer word has e'er been said.

If you want to see his wobbly bits wiggling to some trashy music, then just take a look at the video below.

Caution is advised though.

It's probably appropriate to follow the example set by journalist Jean-Marc Morandini whose site carries the warning that certain images contained within the video "might shock" especially those of tender years.

While there's no denying their clearly sexual nature: French kissing, simulated oral sex and tongues just about everywhere, there have certainly been equally "shocking" videos circulating on the Net and broadcast on MTV.

Perhaps the most disturbing or distressing element is that Messaoud actually believes the clip makes the mindless music any more palatable.

You have been warned.

Here goes.

It's awful.



The lyrics - if you're interested - were written by Ton Andries and are...er...how to put this politely...dumb.

They recount (ooh there's a rather overambitious word to describe them) a young boy dressing up in his mother's clothes and dreaming of taking to the catwalk one day.

About the song and its title Messaoud says, "I'm gay and I assume it 100 percent. I just wanted to prove that one can sing and be gay because today so many artists still hide it (their sexuality)."

Really? Obviously he knows something the rest of us don't.

But then, his creativity and words of wisdom clearly know no bounds.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The far right pottiness of Marine Le Pen - it's all in the name

Heaven's above. The leader of France's far right Front National, Marine La Pen, really knows how to milk the media.

Marine Le Pen (Wikipedia, author Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Her latest declaration is that children born in France or those born outside of the country but who have obtained French nationality should carry a "proper" French name.

It has worked in the past and it would help those of foreign origin to integrate better according to Le Pen.

She was talking to future journalists from one of the country's top journalism schools the Centre de formation des journalistes (CFJ) in Paris on YouTube's Election 2012 channel.

It's an initiative launched jointly by the CFJ, Agence France Presse and Twitter to allow candidates in next year's French presidential election to give their vision of the world and answer questions on a range of subjects.

Ah yes, La Pen and the rest of her dangerously loony friends on the far right of French politics have well and truly been given credibility by all elements of the mass media and the French are going to have to learn to live with it during campaigning for next year's elections.

Anyway, La Pen's vision of the world à la française quite unsurprisingly includes all children in this country having proper French names and none of those nonsense foreign ones.



Admittedly the question, supplied from Hélène from Paris (thank you Hélène) and which elicited Le Pen's typical "France for the French" response, was a bit of a leading one.

But there again Le Pen doesn't really need much encouragement (if any) to take the bait.

"Are you in favour of parents choosing 'French' names for their children born in France from among those appearing on the calendar (the so-called nameday custom in which every day of the year is associated with a given name)." she was asked.

"Yes, I'm in favour," she replied.

"It was one of the elements that worked extremely well throughout the history of France and allowed foreign communities to assimilate very quickly. It was the case for the Italians, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Polish," she said.



"It's a very effective way of assimilating which isn't the case today whereby children are given foreign-sounding names under the pretext of trying to maintain a link with the country or culture of origin," she continued.

"It think it makes life more complicated for them and it doesn't help them fit in."

Oh well, that's that said. So it must be true.

Expect more of the same and worse over the next 10 months.

Friday's French music break - Melissmell "Aux armes"

Melissmell provides Friday's French music break this week with "Aux armes", which reworks the national anthem, La Marseillaise, into a powerful protest song.

Mélanie Coulet - Melissmell (screenshot from acoustic version clip)

The transformation is not entirely inappropriate perhaps given that when Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote the original in 1792, it was as "Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin" ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine").

Tune into the French radio station Europe 1 of an evening and you'll be able to listen to the excellent Pierre-Louis Basse.

His two-hour programme Bienvenue chez Basse (available on podcast) is as eclectic and as fascinating as the man himself; culture, politics, society, sport - you name it, he discusses it with invited guests.

It's the sort of programme you really want to sit down and listen to.

Little wonder then that he also plays the kind of music that really grabs your attention.

And such is the case with Melissmell's "Aux armes," a song Basse has played with enthusiasm almost every evening and which the station has also finally picked up as well worth promoting to a wider audience.

Melissmell is essentially the singer and songwriter Mélanie Coulet, but alongside the 30-year-old with the extraordinary voice (more on that in a moment) are four other groups members: Stéfano Bonacci on guitar, Thomas Nicol on the cello, Claude Dos Santos on the bass and Jérôme Spieldenner on drums.

"Somewhere between nursery rhymes and realistic songs, electric hymns and a passion (for playing) with words and the ailments that make France a country of contrasting liberties," is how the group describe themselves on Myspace.

Perhaps that reads somewhat too seriously but heck, there'll always be a place for Indie music especially when it comes as classy as this.

No disrespect to the other group members, but it is Coulet or Melissmell herself who steals the show so-to-speak and whose voice is an instrument that transports you.

It has a quality and grain reminiscent of the late, great Janis Joplin, with subtle shifts of power, a range with perfect nuances and a theatrical aspect that makes you think of Jacques Brel.

Extraordinary.

As befitting such a great song, there's more than one version of "Aux armes" available on the Net and here are a couple you should absolutely listen to.

First up, the studio version on YouTube complete with animation.

And then an acoustic one - less rocky of course - in which Coulet is accompanied by cello and guitar; simple but magic. Watch her facial expression and how well they mirror the meaning of the lyrics.

Also check out some of the interviews Coulet has given (available on both YouTube and Dailymotion) - a fascinating insight into what makes her tick and her influences.

Finally don't forget to take a look at either the official site or Myspace for when and where you can see them in concert.

AUX ARMES!



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