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Monday, 31 December 2012

"Call me maybe" - the Nicolas Sarkozy version

The past few months hasn't been the most inspiring - politically-speaking - in France.


(screenshot from Les Guignols video)

Sure there was the Trierweiler Twittergate affair early in to François Hollande's "normal" presidency.


And there have been a couple of policy decisions since that will surely have left those who voted for Hollande in May and the Socialist party in June somewhat...er...perplexed.

Same-sex marriage and adoption by couples of the same sex is still very much a live topic but it's probably taking longer to implement than many supporters had imagined and, let's face it, Hollande has hardly "led" the debate.

More recently of course there has been the balls-up over one of Hollande's principal (and for many, most controversial) election promises, to raise to 75 per cent the tax rate for those earning over €1 million per year.

Somehow those responsible for drafting the legislation and writing the budget failed to notice that a household in which both partners earned just under one million (say €900,000 each) per year would not be subject to the new tax but one in which just a single person earned over €1 million (and the other didn't work, for example) would.

Duh!

Someone overlooked the fact that taxing by person rather than household was unfair. The constitutional council didn't though, so it's back to prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's government to get it right.

The super rich can breath again...for the moment.

Apart from that - nowt much, other than the Dallas-type leadership contest for the opposition Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) which gradually became more than a little tedious.

No. French politics hasn't really been that enthralling of late. Well, not in the way it used to be.

(screenshot from Les Guignols video)


Still, there's always hope that things might perk up a bit for 2013, especially with rumours that Ségolène Royal (yes, hasn't she been quiet recently?) could well be making a (welcome) return to the frontline with a post in government (word has it that "justice" is has been Seggers-marked)

Anyway, just to leave you with a grin on your face and a reminder of how things used to be (without necessarily implying they were any better) here's a video from those marvels of parody, Les Guignols de l'info on Canal +.

It's their spin back in October on one of the year's biggest international hits, "Call me maybe" by Carly-Rae Jepsen,  only Les Guignols wanted to make clear how dull things had become for news editors, journalists and anchors alike in France ever since you-know who took early retirement.

Smile as you sing along karaoke-style and spot a host of TV news personalities  from Claire Chazal to David Pujadas, Michel Denisot to Harry Roselmack, Nicolas Sarkozy himself relaxing in the jacuzzi with a cameo guitar-strumming appearance from Carla, and Nadine Morano looking as manic as ever.

Enjoy and...Happy New Year

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday's French music break - Calogero, "La fin de la fin du monde"

Friday's French music break this week is far from being a recent song, but over the past couple of weeks it has been receiving a fair bit of air play - and not just because it's a spirited little number with a catchy riff.

It's the 2009 single "La fin de la fin du monde" by Calogero, taken from his album of the same year "L'embellie"

Mayan predictions aside, the sound is quite typical of Calogero's "pop rock" musical style as a solo artist.

Calogero (screenshot YouTube video)


He has had a string of hits over the years such as the 2001 "En apesanteur" "covered recently by Shy'm), his 2003 homage to Soeur Emmanuelle "Yalla", "Face à la mer" in 2004 with hip hop artist and rapper Passi and another duet in 2007 with fellow composer and singer, Stanislas, "La débâcle des sentiments".

Calogero's bio on his official site doesn't exactly tell you much about the man (although there is quite a revealing video interview which focuses mainly on his new project "Circus") apart from promoting his most recent album and tour in which he re-interpreted some of his own songs with a symphony orchestra.

But pop over to the ever faithful and admittedly not always entirely accurate Wikipedia and you'll discover a rather sketchy profile of a man whose, "Moving lyrics and tender voice (in other words he can sing but it's nothing extraordinary) have made him one of France's top pop/rock singers."

For a more complete profile you can check out Radio France International's biography of Calogero (in English) or the TV5 Monde's archives (in French)

It's perhaps not so much the "tender voice" that has guaranteed Calogero a faithful fan base, but rather the instantly appealing and memorable melodies he composes as well as lyrics that are far from being banal.

Both have contributed to his success and helped him pick up the best male singer award at the 2004 Victoires de la Musique - the French equivalent of the Grammys.

Next up for the 41-year-old is the "Circus" project: a band of sorts made up of fellow established artists, Stanislas, Philippe Uminski, Elsa Fourlon and Karen Brunon.

If you want to see them in concert watch out for them next year when they'll be performing songs from their debut album written by the likes of Jean-Jacques Goldman (don't barf - even if you don't like him, you have to admit he's talented and successful), Dominique A and Marc Lavoine.

There again we might not all live that long...which brings us back nicely to this week's Friday's French Music break, "La fin de la fin du monde".

See ya around again soon...or maybe not.






Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Star Academy's Manika Auxire - the voice that could sink a thousand ships

A couple of familiar formats have returned to French TV screens recently and both of them are searching, or supposedly acting as launching pads, for musical "talent".

Star Academy, the show that "discovered" Jenifer, Nolwenn Leroy and Magalie Vaé (who?) during its nine seasons on TF1, and the Pop Idol-inspired Nouvelle Star which over eight years on M6 gave France the likes of Christophe Willem, Julien Doré, Amel Bent and Jonatan Cerrada (another "who"?) are back after an unregrettable absence.

Manika Auxire (screenshot profile on Star Academy)

You might have a little difficulty finding either of them as there was a reason why TF1 and M6 cancelled the shows.

But that hasn't stopped two of the country's digital terrestrial television (TNT) channels, repackaging clapped-out concepts in an effort to attract viewers.

While Nouvelle Star is still in the audition phase on the newly-relaunched D8, owned by the Canal + Group, Star Academy is well underway on NRJ 12.

There have already been two live prime time shows: the first to introduce the contestants to the viewing public, and the second to begin the process of weekly elimination.

And on the evidence so far, the least that can be said is there's far from being a bottomless pit of musical talent in France.

Well, that can surely be the only conclusion to be drawn by the inclusion among the 14 Star Academy competitors of a certain Manika Auxire.

The 22-year-old put in a show-stopping performance of the Carly-Rae Jepsen smash hit "Call me maybe" (Jepsen was herself the product of a TV talent show in Canada) during the opening programme.

Obviously not content with brutalising Jepsen's song, the former Miss Poitou-Charentes (aha...the real reason for her inclusion - to add "une touche de glamour" to the proceedings?) found herself among the three nominees threatened with elimination the following week and promptly massacred another tune...Zaz's 2010 hit, "Je veux".

Now for those of you with strong constitutions, you can hear just how talentless Auxire really is - well at least when it comes to singing.

Here's her version of "Call me maybe" followed by Jepsen's just for comparison.





And if you're a real glutton for punishment, speed through the whole of the second programme to discover her - thankfully - last TV warbling performance (for now) at one hour 21 minutes and 47 seconds - almost two minutes of aural torture.

Or you could always listen to Zaz.



A word of warning. Dowloading the full replay programme will take a while, so you've more than enough time to peel the spuds, wash the kitchen floor or wrap some Christmas presents.

But if you have both the patience and the masochistic tendency to hear how awful she is, you might want to dull the pain with a very stiff something-or-other beforehand.

The woman can't sing - in tune at least - and perhaps it's not surprising the French have the expression "chante comme une casserole", although that's being a little unkind to saucepans.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

What colour is Rodez cathedral? It can be hard to get a straight answer to a simple question

What colour is the cathedral in the southern town of Rodez?

That's what radio show host Laurent Ruquier wanted to find out on Wednesday.

His "quest" proved to be almost a "mission impossible".

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez (from Wikipedia, photographer Jean-Paul Cronimus)

For those of you not familiar with Ruquier, he's a well-known journalist, satirical comedian (whether you find him funny is another matter), columnist, author, playwright, impresario - in fact an all-round talent basically.

He also hosts both television and radio shows and among them is the daily chat show (of sorts) on Europe 1 radio  "On va s'gêner" .

Ruquier takes an often irreverent look at some news headlines by having his faithful band of fellow commentators guess "what the story is" after giving them the briefest of clues in the form of a question which doesn't give away too much of the answer and then...well let's things develop from there.

On Tuesday apparently one of the regulars, veteran journalist Pierre Bénichou, had mentioned that the cathedral in the southern town of Rodez in the département of Aveyron was red.

Not so, said Ruquier the following day, relying on information he had been provided by a listener who insisted that Bénichou had confused the cathedral in Rodez with the arguably more famous one in Albi in the neighbouring département of Tarn (which is well-known for its red brick buildings).

When Bénichou stuck to his guns, Ruquier decided he would ring the Town Hall in Rodez to check who was right.

After all, who better to ask than the people responsible for running the place?

This wasn't a prank call or Ruquier trying to mess around. He genuinely wanted an answer to the question as to whether the cathedral in Rodez was red.

But from the very start it was clear he wasn't going to get a quick answer.

What happened over the next 13 minutes (you can hear the exchanges here) almost defies belief...except it doesn't.

At the beginning it was amusing. Several minutes of radio which perfectly reflect how difficult it can sometimes be to get even the simplest of answers to the most innocent of questions.

Gradually though it became both frustrating and embarrassing.

First of all Ruquier was answered by a receptionist who, clearly not wanting (or able) to answer the question herself, put him on hold while she put him through to the "right department".

Once connected Ruquier repeated his question and once again was put on hold until the person in charge could be found at which point...he landed an answerphone.

Another attempt to call the Town Hall had Ruquier once again transferred from person to person, each one unable or unwilling to answer his question until finally he was put through to one woman who replied rather abruptly, "Who are you?" before giggling and putting the the 'phone down.

Ruquier tried another tack and rang the Bishopric where a woman was unable to answer because she had "a window in her office which didn't faced the cathedral!". Appearing to have been cut off, Ruquier called back only to be told by the same woman, "I'm too busy. to answer. Goodbye."

Next Ruquier turned to what he thought was a local café where a woman replied quite convincingly that the cathedral was neither red nor pink. "It's grey," she asserted. "We're in Aveyron here, not in Tarn."

Hallelujah!

Ruquier had his answer. Someone in Rodez, a town with almost 25,000 inhabitants and which boasts the rather splendid Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez (built from 1277 to 1542 - thank you Wikipedia) had been able to answer his question...INCORRECTLY.

Because later in the show Ruquier had the mayor of Rodez Christian Teyssèdre who, while insisting that the staff at the Town Hall were a "cheerful crowd" confirmed (at 68 minutes) that the cathedral was, "Red or rather pink as we say here."

Phew. At least one Ruthénois who knows what colour the building is.

Perhaps Ruquier should have rung the Tourist Office instead. Someone there would have been able to tell him that the cathedral was made from red sandstone - er...you would hope.





Gérard Depardieu puts his Paris house on the market at around €50 million

If you have a little (lot) spare cash lying around at the moment then you could help out one of France's BIGGEST (in all senses of the word) actors.

Because that's the rumoured asking price of an hôtel particulier owned by the soon-to-be "shabby" tax exile Gérard Depardieu, in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quartier of Paris.

Gérard Depardieu (from Wikipedia, photographer - Georges Biard)

The modest little pad - all 1,800 square metres of it has been listed with estate agents Daniel Feau, "a key player in luxury (no kidding) real estate in Paris for over 65 years."

Although Daniel Feau hasn't confirmed the official asking price - the agency is far too discreet to do such a vulgar thing presumably and, let's face it, if you have to ask then you probably can't afford, the French media has reported that it's around the €50 million mark.

Depardieu perhaps needs the money to finance the purchase of a place he has his eye on in the Belgian village of Néchin where he'll be able to escape inheritance and wealth taxes.

The reported price of that house is €800,000 which means the 63-year-old will have plenty of lovely lolly to spend if and when he sells his house in Paris.

So what will the potential buyer get for their money at 95, rue du Cherche-Midi in the VI arrondissement?

Well according to the agency's blurb, the property comprises "the Hotel de Chambon built in the 19th century, listed as a Historical Monument and complemented by a garden and terraces".

And - because we're talking about more than just your run-of-the-mill property here - "On the other side of the garden is a second loft-like building, light up (sic) by beams of light."

There are 20 rooms, 10 bedrooms (almost one for every month - if you get bored) a lift (if you don't feel up to climbing the stairs after a night out on the town), a balcony, terraces, a heated indoor swimming pool and a kitchen (how unusual) and...well presumably the odd bathroom here and there although they're not mentioned in the listing.

You can see photos of the tastefully restored and renovated house on the agency's website (here) and contact them directly if you're interested in a viewing.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rainbathing at the Edward Hopper exhibition in Paris

If you're planning on making it along to the Edward Hopper retrospective at Le Grand Palais in Paris, here are a few things worth bearing in mind.

First up of course, buy your ticket in advance.

If you don't, the chances are you'll spend several hours queueing, or standing in line if you will, watching those who've had the foresight to book online pass in front of you.

That said, even if you have a ticket, there's no guarantee that you'll actually make it through the doors at the time stated.

The numbers allowed in are clearly limited by the space available, and that's perfectly reasonable, if only for security purposes.




Ah waiting!

This being Le Grand Palais, so completely unused to organising major exhibitions that have popular appeal (let the irony carry you away) there's a very French approach to "service".

Because the exhibition is running from October until January - the months when Paris offers the very best of weather - absolutely no thought seems to have been made by the wonderfully-named Strategic orientation council or those involved in running the whole shebang as to how visitors might comfortably spend their time outside, rainbathing.

Temporary shelter to protect those waiting from the "inclement" (don't you just love that word - very TV presenterish n'est-ce pas?)  weather?

Hah!

Not at all.

Instead, just as the masses who went to see the Monet exhibition a couple of years ago, you can take full advantage of whatever Mother Nature showers upon you.
 

Edward Hopper retrospective, Le Grand Palais, Paris - brolly parade
What about staff on duty to explain waiting times, deal with complaints from very patient (given the circumstances) often damp and probably cold visitors?

Oh yes...one solitary and decidedly miserable-looking attendant who sympathises with the predicament of those waiting, clearly doing his best, but cannot really deal with the situation.

Nor should he have to.

Ergo - take a brolly, wrap up warm and...hey, perhaps have a flask of something hot (or warming) to hand.

When that moment comes and you're allowed inside, be prepared to go shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors desperate to get a glimpse of the works on display.

The atmosphere is decidedly one in which there's an intimate sharing of space as everyone politely pigeon-steps their way from room-to-room, painting to painting.


Edward Hopper retrospective, Le Grand Palais, Paris - through the doors and then what?

Oh and keep an eye out for the "professional" who has brought their own stool with them and will happily hog a prime location slap bang in front of the work THEY want to see.

As for the exhibition itself, well it's a delight as Hopper's work is accessible and his Realism - because that's what it is - is something your mother would probably approve of as "proper painting".

Plus it provides a great insight into the man often described as an iconic American artist.

If you hire the audio handset to guide you through the exhibition, be sure to return it to the unmarked little plastic basket, almost hidden,  as you leave.

Otherwise you could end up taking it home because the woman responsible for collecting headsets for groups will refuse to take it with a jobsworth, "No you cannot leave it here."

Alternatively of course you might decide to go it alone and instead simply enjoy what you see, including the influence Paris had on his style (here's a pretty good piece on that) with the occasional and inevitable pontificator happily sharing their "knowledge" and "understanding" of Hopper with anyone who doesn't really want to listen.

There's always (at least) one - isn't there?

Finally, for those of you who take the...er...more shall we call it the "French and Saunders" approach to any sort of exhibition...well the coffee's all right.



The Edward Hopper retrospective runs at Le Grand Palais until January 28, 2013


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Almost incomplete faction: Miss France 2013 versus Téléthon

Every year it's the same story here in France.

The annual beauty pageant to elect the country's  newest Miss falls on the same weekend as the national Téléthon.


A kiss from the president of the jury Alain Delon, as Marine Lorphelin is crowned Miss France 2013 - Ah! (screenshot from TF1)
TF1 - ever the sharp private channel that it is - broadcasts the annual "Boobs and butts fest"...oh, terribly sorry... the search for the young lady who best fits the bill as France's most beautiful woman and meets a set of criteria which would make her fitting role model in the 21st century and an ambassador for the country...or something equally blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile the public-owned France télévisions, and most notably France 2, treats viewers to the money-raising event meant to encourage the French to tune in and dig deep into their pockets for the muscular dystrophy charity l'Association française contre les myopathies (AFM).

No prizes for guessing which "wins" in terms of viewing figures or ratings. More than eight million watched Miss France being crowned while not even one-and-a-half million managed to stick with the Téléthon.

But hang about.

Wouldn't it be more rather more noble if the organisation which owns the rights to the pageant, the Dutch television production company Endemol, actually chose another date.

After all it surely wouldn't require too much organisational effort and it would avoid the clash of conscience so many French must have: cheesy glamour or worthy (albeit it somewhat soporific in its length) charity event.

Just for the record this year's Miss France and the young woman who will spend a year upholding the values of the country...you know, the three teas: frivolity, maternity and...um...qwerty (or should that be azerty?) is Marine Lorphelin, a 19-year-old medical student from the town of Mâcon.

Miss Burgundy - as was - "charmed the judges and television viewers" to be crowned the new Miss France ahead of Misses from Tahiti and Nord-Pas de Calais.

Also taking part in what must be the only truly global national beauty pageant around were Misses from other far flung regions of France (and not just the bit at the heart of Europe that everyone knows and loves) such as Guadaloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Saint Martin and er...South Kensington!

Well why not?

After all, the French president François Hollande has just appointed TV environmentalist, journalist and miffed  Europe Écologie-The Greens presidential primary candidate Nicolas Hulot to the post of "Special envoy to protect the planet".

So why shouldn't France have women from around the world battling it out to be crowned the country's latest Miss?




Friday, 7 December 2012

Chimène Badi - Gospel and Soul at Olympia - or champagne served in a beer glass

French singer Chimène Badi returned to Olympia, that mythical musical venue on Boulevard Capucines in Paris, this week to "treat" her fans to a collection of songs mainly taken from her most recent album - "Gospel and Soul".



It could and should have been a chance for the 30-year-old to prove that the rather mediocre rendition of many of the songs on the album had been down to over-produced studio arrangements and that "live" she would belt out what was a great selection of songs, with passion.

After all, Badi arguably has one of the best voices of her generation. It's powerful and distinctive and you would think ideally suited to both Gospel and Soul.

It wasn't to be the case.

Things didn't get off to the best of starts with fans sitting through a 20 minute warm-up act and then having to wait almost another 40 minutes before Badi made an appearance.

The Paris audience - and let's face it, they're never among the most patient - began the inevitable slow hand clap interspersed with calls for their "star" before...finally the curtain raised and the first chords were struck.

Musically-speaking the choice of "Proud Mary" as an opening number was far from being inspired as it displayed just how lacking in stage presence and charisma Badi really is.

Yes, she has a voice that makes her instantly recognisable, but choosing only half-heartedly to emulate Tina Turner's performance of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, proved to be her undoing.

Breathless, as she seemed to forget all the lessons she might have learned from her recent appearance in Danse avec les stars, Badi also missed - or failed to make (there's a slight distinction) some of her notes.

It rather set the tone, as far as the English-language songs were concerned, for the rest of the evening.

There was Stevie Wonder's "For once in my life" - best described perhaps as simply karaoke-inspired.

An a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" was...well simply neither "amazing" nor "graceful" - but perhaps it was never meant to be.

Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" was lost amid the "battle" that seemed to ensue between Badi and a band of undoubtedly individually-talented musicans whose volume seemed to have been cranked-up to the max.

Thankfully the late Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell are no longer around to hear what Badi did with "Ain't no mountain high enough" and hopefully nobody will tell Diana Ross.

And as far as Otis Redding's "Try a little tenderness" was concerned...well Badi shouldn't even have gone there. It was cringingly embarrassing.

She fared better - it wasn't difficult - with some of the French-language songs.

Georges Moustaki's "Ma liberté", Native's "Tu planes sur moi" and Nicole Croisille's "Parlez-moi de lui"  - all worked pretty well - given how dreadful the English-language songs had been.


Getting it right - "Tu planes sur moi" excerpt


The inclusion of a couple of "favourites" from previous albums such as "Le Miroir" and "Entre Nous" - both given the Gospel and Soul  treatment - will have kept the most loyal fans happy.

Or will they? After all this was far from being the Badi that most of them had grown to appreciate since she was said to have a "Rolls Royce of a voice" by one of the judges when she first came to the public's attention on the now-defunct TV talent show "Popstars"

Really,  Badi - and her management - needs to learn that there's more to Gospel and Soul than dismal cover versions of stand alone originals.

And it's not enough to have six and sometimes a dozen other singers with less-than extraordinary voices, dressed in the appropriate garb and swaying and clapping in accompaniment, for the performance to qualify as Gospel.

Badi will be back at Olympia for three dates in January 2013 when again she'll be subjecting audiences to what can only be described as a rather lame or tame attempt at either Gospel or Soul.

If they - or you - want to hear the real thing - French style - and yes it does exist - then they would be better off trying Nicoletta. Perhaps that's a piece of advice Badi should also bear in mind.

And here's some more.

Chiméne - Yes, you can sing. There's no doubt about that. But no you cannot sing Gospel and Soul - at least not in English because you don't have the voice, the passion or the feel for either.

Stick with French ballads or even uptempo numbers

But please, for the sake of those who really love music and for whom the genres matter - leave well alone.

Quote of the night overheard in the bar just before the show - perhaps an omen of what was to come.

Bar lady: "What would you like sir?"

Customer: "I don't know...I"m torn between a glass of champagne or a beer."

He finally plumped for champagne served, in what appeared to be, a beer glass.

And that's pretty much what Badi did too.

Here's how "Try a little tenderness" should sound.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Happy Birthday (former) M. Le President - Jacques Chirac turns 80

The former French president Jacques Chirac celebrated his 80th birthday on Thursday - a chance for the media in this country to pay tribute to the man who held the top job for 12 years.

Chirac might not figure in opinions polls any longer - and with good reason as he hasn't been politically active since leaving office in May 2007 - but the so-called "received wisdom" is that he's still pretty popular with many French.

Bernadette and Jacques Chirac (screenshot Les Guignols)

While Chirac's memory isn't apparently all it once was - with those close to him admitting that his deterioration was worrying, it would also seem that the collective powers of recall from many sectors of the French media as well as the population at large aren't any better...at least as far as the satirical show on Canal +, "Les Guignols de l'Info" was concerned, as it, in its own special way "celebrated" Chirac's 80th birthday.

Here's the clip of the show's very special trip down Chirac memory lane (from one minute 38 seconds until two minutes 45 seconds).

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Friday's French music break - Cauet, "La fin du Monde"

Friday's French music break this week is from someone who isn't exactly known for his singing prowess.

"Ah," you might be saying. "When did that ever stop anyone?"

Quite.

It comes from French radio and TV presenter and entertainer Sébastien Cauet who ingeniously goes under the name "Cauet".


Cauet (screenshot from official clip)

Taking what was undoubtedly all of five minutes out of his busy daily schedule, Cauet has come up with a timely number that's supposed to raise a smile or two but is actually hard to sit through.

"La fin du monde" ("The end of the world" just in case you really needed the translation) sees the 40-year-old jumping on the Mayan prediction for the "cataclysmic or transformative events" which are supposed to occur on 21 December 2012 - aka the end of the world as we know it.

Cauet struts, raps, croons and hip hops his way through a mess of verbal images and moves which bear a remarkable resemblence to another - more internationally successful clip relying heavily on ridicule, Psy's "Gangnam style".

And it would appear that the over-produced studio "style" is working almost as well for Cauet as it has done for the South Korean singer and entertainer Park Jae-sang (or Psy).

Almost 1,5 million (and counting) have viewed Cauet's "La fin du monde" since it was published on YouTube on November 19 - although there are no stats available to say whether everyone who logged on actually made it to the end...of the clip, that is.

It's truly awful, very "unfunny" and far from having any musical merit.

Or, as many of the comments seem to suggest it's hilarious and worth a mighty LOL!

Oh well. "Enjoy".


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gay marriage and adoption - a hotbed for terrorism?

Even if you're in favour of same-sex marriage and two men or two women being allowed to adopt, you probably agree there's room for debate.

It's healthy after all isn't it?

Opinions can be shared, explanations attempted as to why neither should be feared, how society isn't going to collapse, the world isn't going to end (well it might on December 21, but that has nothing at all to do with the matter at hand) and the proposed legislation is just French lawmakers catching with what a majority of the population already believes to be right and just.

And hey, who knows, in the process of a constructive discussion, some people might set aside their intolerance and realise that same-sex marriage is not a threat to religious institutions.

But - aha - you knew it was coming didn't you - some arguments against same-sex marriage and adoption are surely more than absurd.

Such as the one put forward earlier this week by Nicolas Dhuicq, a parliamentarian for the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

Nicolas Dhuicq (screenshot YouTube video)
 Dhuicq was speaking during a debate in the national assembly on Tuesday on the government's anti-terrorism bill when he made the link between - here we go - same-sex marriage, adoption by parents of the same sex and...terrorism.

Firstly he helpfully explained how or why some people became terrorists.

"One characteristic of terrorists is that in most cases they've never had paternal authority while growing up," he said

"They've never had the opportunity to learn what's feasible and what isn't, what's good and what's bad," he continued.

And then addressing Manuel Valls, the interior minister who was present during the debate, Dhuicq made that link between same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and terrorism.

"Isn't there a certain contradiction in the government's anti-terrorism proposals and those which at the same time seek to strike the word 'father' from the civil code," he said.

"What you're doing is setting the basis for gender confusion in the future, the denial of sexual differences and psychosis," he added.

So there you go. As far as Dhuicq is concerned the government is helping set the conditions for future generations of potential terrorists by blurring the boundaries of sexual identity.

Just for the record, Dhuicq is a qualified psychiatrist, a member of the rightwing grouping Droite populaire within the UMP and a supporter of Jean-François Copé.

Maybe we should be more thankful that the media has been focusing less on what he has had to say over the past week and more on the turmoil within his own party.


Le député UMP Dhuicq lie homoparentalité et... par LeNouvelObservateur


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dominique Strauss-Kahn to return to French politics?

 Oh no!

It's just what French politics needs.

The return of another disgraced dinosaur.

Let's hope it's just idle gossip dreamt up by some bored journalist at Le Figaro desperate to deflect attention from the potential implosion of the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

A piece in Tuesday's edition of Le Figaro suggests that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is preparing to make his return to politics in 2014.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn (screenshot from i>Télé interview September 2012)


DSK isn't thinking about taking to the national political stage, says Le Figaro, rather he's interested in securing the Socialist party's nomination to run for the post of mayor in the town of Sarcelles in the northern suburbs of Paris in the 2014 municipal elections.

Far-fetched?

Well it might be a bit of a stretch with the judicial problems still hanging over him, but as the weekly magazine L'Express points out, DSK has been mayor of the town before (from 1995 to 1997) and we all know a criminal record doesn't necessarily mean the end of a political career in France.

But hang about. Isn't there someone already in the job?

Of course there is - another member of the Socialist party and a close friend of DSK, François Pupponi.

He was contacted by the free daily Metro on Tuesday and and didn't mince his words when asked what he thought about a possible DSK return.

"What's this crap?" he's reported as saying in response to the piece in Le Figaro.

"I don't comment on rumours or bull***t that some journalists make up just to say something."

Oh well. That's telling it like it is...hopefully.

The problem of course with politicians in France (as well as many other countries come to that) is that you can really be certain how sincere they're being - can you?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Never mind Alain Juppé - you never stood a chance

Plenty of people thought he was the man for the job; Alain Juppé, one of the founders and the first president of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) when it saw the light of day back in 2002 as the Union pour la majorité présidentielle (Union for the presidential majority) was the person could break the deadlock between Jean-François Copé and Francois Fillon.

(screenshot BFM TV)
Alas, "Super Juppé", the man who, so many political pundits, fellow party members and even opponents have praised and/or described as a real "Homme d'État" has failed to bind the union that, over the past week, has redefined the term French farce.

Maybe it's not surprising though, because Juppé's career hasn't really been so "Super" after all has it?

Yes, he has held high office; prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister - twice and ecology minister, and he has been mayor of Bordeaux for 15 of the past 17 years so - on the face of it - he definitely has the political credentials.

But he also has all the usual baggage which goes with political office in France.

He was prime minister under Jacques Chirac from 1995 to 1997, drafting into government a number of so-called "Juppettes" - the somewhat sexist and condescending term used to describe his appointing 12 women into ministerial positions - and overseeing a jolly old period when strikes became almost a national pastime in France.

Juppé also "did" the typical political French thing of being convicted in 2004 - for mishandling public funds and finding himself "suspended" from holding political office of any sort for 10 years.

As this is France though, Juppé bounced back (a little faster than expected) and after a "period of rehabilitative convalescence" in Canada, he was re-elected as mayor of Bordeaux in 2006.

Proving his full political credentials had been re-instated, Juppé was back in government - briefly - when Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidential election in 2007.

He was named number two behind the prime minister François Fillon, as minister of ecology, but had to stand down (again) after failing to be elected in the parliamentary elections which followed (Sarkozy had made it a requirement that any minister standing but losing would have to resign).

Towards the end of Sarkozy's reign, Juppé was back in government - this time replacing the disgraced Michèle Alliot-Marie as foreign minister and using all his statesmenship to play second fiddle to the French president as Sarkozy took over affairs in Libya and later in the year bringing about a speedy diplomatic resolution to affairs in Syria - not.

Yes there was no doubt that with such a political pedigree and success rate, Juppé was the obvious choice to mediate between Copé and Fillon.

Now that he has thrown in the towel the party's only hope is probably the very person whose counsel should have been sought in the first place...


Carla Bruni-Sarkozy says she supports same-sex marriage

All might be quiet on the political front at the moment as far as the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is concerned, but that hasn't stopped his missus from dabbling in affairs - well not quite "of state" but almost.

Yes the natural beauty and simplicity that is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is talking to the press again.

Recently, you might remember, she chose an interview with Elle France magazine to break her silence six months after leaving the Elysée palace and to offer - among other things - a piece of advice to her successor as the country's first lady, Valérie Trierweiler,

It was of course to tie the knot with the current president François Hollande because, "I think it is simpler to be the legitimate wife of the head of state rather than being his partner," she told the magazine.

Now the former model-turned singer has chosen the special Christmas edition of Vogue Paris - complete with another front cover naturally - in which to share her beliefs and thoughts on a number of all-important matters.


(screenshot Vogue Paris)

And among them is a point of view that doesn't exactly reflect that of her husband.

Bruni-Sarkozy is in favour of both same-sex marriage and couples of the same sex being allowed to adopt.

"I have lots of friends - both women and men - who are in same-sex relationships and who have children," she tells the magazine.

"I don't see anything unstable of perverse about it," she adds.

"In fact it might be the case that same-sex parents try harder because they are more aware of the way in which society perceives them."

So how does the 44-year-old marry (forgive perhaps the inappropriate choice of words) her opinion on the subject with that of her husband who decided not to include it in his unsuccessful presidential election campaign and instead spoke out against same-sex marriage.

Simple.

She sees things differently.

"My husband is rather against (same-sex marriage) for reasons related to his vocation as a politician, because he sees people in groups of thousands (er...does she mean voters?) rather than in terms of the people we actually know."

Ah wise words from the former first lady whose full interview and photo spreads as the magazine's "guest of honour" can be found in Vogur Paris available from December 3.

Rush out now to order your copy.

A little music from Bruni-Sarkozy while we await the release of her fourth album?

Oh, all right.





Thursday, 22 November 2012

Incomplete animal faction - French cows want "Mariage pour tous"

It might seem that the French president, François Hollande, is blowing hot and cold in his support for same-sex marriage, but the country's cows are clear where they stand.

The official organisation representing both France's dairy and beef herds has issued a statement demanding that the draft legislation dubbed "Mariage pour tous" or "Marriage for everyone" be taken literally and be extended to allow cows to tie the knot.

La Normande (from Wikipedia)

Speaking from her pasture in northwestern France, the president of "Oh la vache!", Marguerite la Normande, told reporters that the current proposals were clearly discriminatory.

"At the last count there were more than 3.5 million dairy cows in France alone and everyone knows that we constitute a vital part of the rural economy," she said.

"It's just not fair that the debate so far has centred on marriage between two men or two women. What about us? We also have feelings," she continued.

"And we have the means to protest and get our point across," she added.

"Just imagine the effect it would have, for example, on cheese production, if we up-uddered tomorrow and refused to be milked."

La Normande's "Oh la vache!" has already had what she describes as "moo-ving support" from several government ministers, but there has not yet been any official response from the Elysée palace.

That might be down to the fact that Hollande is still busy trying to work out what he meant when he told the national mayors’ conference earlier this week that the country's locally-elected mayors would have "freedom of conscience" to decide whether to perform marriage ceremonies and then appeared to do a U-turn the following day,

But if the French president has been slow to react, the same cannot be said for groups opposed to "Mariage pour tous".

"It's this sort of threat that the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, warned against last month," said a spokesman for the movement Civitas, well-known for its objective and humanistic opinions on all social matters.

"The very basis upon which French society is built is in danger if the proposals for same-sex marriage become law," he continued.

"Cardinal Barbarin said it was one step on the road to legalising incest and polygamy - in fact the very destruction of all our principles and morals. And here's the proof now, with cows also wanting to marry. Never!"

La Normande, who has personal reasons for feeling so strongly about the issue, hopes that her organisation will be able to persuade the French president to introduce a new clause into the draft proposals, although she admits she doesn't have a great deal of faith in Hollande sticking to his initial election promise, let alone meeting her demands.

"He's a man who seems to enjoy chewing the cud almost as much as I do, and never actually making up his mind," she said.

"Still I remain hopeful he'll take on board how important this issue is to the French bovine population and take into account our own person feelings," she continued.

"I've been engaged to a bull at a neighbouring farm for over a year. He already has the ring in his nose and I'm just waiting for him to be able to put it on my hoof."

Moo!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Can France find its Pudsey?

M6 is currently broadcasting the seventh season of "La France a un incroyable talent", the French equivalent of "Britain's got talent".

Canadian impresario - Gilbert Rozon, the artistic director of Cirque Pinder - Sophie Edelstein and Wouter Levenbach - the Dutch-born singer better-known in this country under his stage name Dave - are back again sitting through the usual motley bunch of acts from which they and later the viewers - can find that "incredible talent".

Precocious children all "autodidact" of course convinced they can sing, dance or play an instrument.

Acrobats from around the world (that's right, the programme is not confined to purely French "talent") who've clearly trained professionally but want an extra bit of exposure by being on telly.

Dance troupes in all shapes and sizes.

"Comedians"- well they think they're funny even if nobody else does.

Those with a message, political, social or just downright dumb such as bursting out of a bin liner or slapping food all over the table.

Motorbikers, magicians, drag acts, choirs - young and old - bands, singers...the list goes on an on.

Still it makes for - ahem - suitably mindless television with presenters Sandrine Corman and her sidekick Alex Goude entertaining themselves as much as the viewers and all the while keeping the show going.

Somehow though anyone watching must be left with the feeling that the real "talent" is to be found elsewhere, especially as immediately following the programme there is the additional and imaginatively- named "La France a un incroyable talent, ça continue".

It recaps what has just been broadcast - very handy if you missed the show in the first place - takes a look at what has happened to past contestants since they first appeared and, most importantly perhaps, allows viewers a glimpse of what's going on in other countries.

And given the original concept is one that has pretty much been picked up around the world, there's obviously enough material out there.

Somehow though you get the feeling that the copies aren't really a patch on the original which gave the world Susan Boyle (although she didn't win) back in 2009 and earlier this year brought us a 16-year-old girl and her dog.


Pudsey (screenshot from "Britain's got talent")
That's right. Ashleigh Butler and her six-year-old performing Border Collie, Bichon Frise and Chinese Crested cross Pudsey walked - or should that be danced? - off with the title of "Britain's got talent" in May this year.

And it's only thanks to "La France a un incroyable talent, ça continue" that viewers here have finally discovered the dog's truly amazing talent.

So here's the video.

Enjoy.

Woof.

Monday, 19 November 2012

UMP party president...and the winner is.....

Could we have drum roll please.

It's Jean-François Copé!

Er.

François Fillon!

Hang about - nobody!

Even though both men declared themselves victorious in the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement,UMP) party's election to choose a new president over the weekend, the post is still vacant.

That's right folks, the UMP organised itself a piss-up in a brewery, asking its 300,000 or so members to choose between the two men and then suspending the count overnight because it was too close to call.

Oh yes, and as this French politics, there were the usual claims of vote-rigging or fraud.


Jean-François Copé "I'm the winner" (screenshot BFM TV)

"There's no question that the results from polling stations, where there have been suggestions of vote rigging, should be taken into account," Copé told BFM TV on Monday morning, confirming that he was the winner.

"But even if they were, then I would still be the winner," he said.

Right. Very clever M. Copé - basically win-win.

"I'm waiting for the vote to be validated by the party commission charged with overseeing the election. And I'm confident I'll be confirmed as the winner."


Copé : "Oui, j'ai gagné cette élection" par BFMTV

Yes. Well. Copé didn't wait for confirmation on Sunday, appearing before supporters to declare that he had won by a couple of thousand votes.

Only to have Fillon announce a few minutes later that he had in fact won - by an even smaller margin.


François Fillon says he has won (screenshot BFM TV)


"Our party is still unable to declare the result officially," Fillon said in the small hours of Monday morning, after having earlier countered Copé's claims of victory with his own.

"It's a major malfunction and I'm completely shocked."

Oh come, come M. Fillon.

Shocked?

This is French politics after all.

And look what happened to the Socialist party in November 2008 as Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal slugged it out amid claims of stuffed ballot boxes and "missing" votes.

http://www.france-today.com/2008/11/frances-socialist-party-soap-opera.html

It's par for the course.

Plus ça change - and all that.

So the party - no the country...oh well go on then, the media - waits on tenterhooks for a final decision and...

Wait, who's that in the (far-right) wings gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of the UMP imploding.

Oh look. It's Florian Philipott,  the vice-president of the Front National.

"We're experiencing live the demise of the UMP," he said.

"What's clear is that whoever is elected president of the party will not have a real mandate because in effect what you will exist, is a party split into two."





Cue ABBA!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet launches la France Droite

Does France need yet another political party?

Well the former environment and ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) seems to think so.

On Wednesday she launched "La France Droite" - not a party as such but a "movement" as it will exist withing the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party.

Yes this is French politics - never straightforward at the best of times.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet explaining the reasons behind the creation of La France Droite (screenshot from radio interview in July 2012)


Of course it's not just NKM's reaction to the "cock-fight" going on at the moment to become president of the opposition UMP (remember she was forced to withdraw from the race because she couldn't get enough signatures to stand) which will be decided this weekend.

Instead it is in her words - or rather those of the official site, which are surely one and the same thing - an attempt to "lay claim to Gaullist values and those of independence, resistance and national identity."

Say what?

Well in short it's obviously a platform for NKM to stamp her mark and make a potential run for either mayor of Paris in 2014 (although she hotly denies it) or for the French presidency.

But it's also NKM very clearly reasserting her belief that under no circumstances should the UMP enter into an alliance with the far-right Front National.

There is of course the usual political fudge in the new party's stated raison d'être.

NKM clearly has a lot of praise for her former boss Nicolas Sarkozy and says as much on La France Droite's site in that the party, "draws inspiration from the way in which Nicolas Sarkozy managed to unite French tradition and modernity with the reforms required in Europe and the world, to the 21st century."

But Sarkozy was also the man who fought (and lost) the last presidential election on a platform which clearly went after the far-right voters.

And NKM was his campaign spokesperson, surely biting her tongue on occasions but also paying the price for her outspokenness against the Front National in calling it "poisonous" and "anti-republican" by finding herself challenged by one of its candidates during the parliamentary elections.

Then there is NKM's refusal to state openly who she supports in this weekend's election by UMP members for a leader.

Politically, she's far closer to François Fillon and she openly criticises the shift to the right that many think might occur under Jean-François Copé.

But she doesn't want to get involved in the spat, instead preferring to present herself as...here we go again...a "unifying force" for supporters of Copé, Fillon and even Jean-Louis Borloo, who quit the UMP in protest over Sarkozy's rightward swing and took his Parti Radical (Radical party) into yet another newly-created party (with himself at the helm) L'Union des démocrates et indépendants, (Union for Democrats and Independents, UDI).

Anyway, here's wishing NKM well.

Even if you're not a fan of either her or her politics, it's surely good to see another woman (unless it happens to be Marine Le Pen) trying to make it, in what is primarily a world of stuffed shirts and ties.


Jean-Marc Ayrault's "productively awful" German gaffe

It can happen to the best (and the worst) of us can't it?

A slip-of-the-tongue while speaking another language - or even our own come to that.

Usually it's both amusing and perhaps a little embarrassing; a quick smile and a laugh will make light of it though.

But sometimes there's maybe something more...er...significant about the mistake...as though subcosnciously we're really thinking what has inadvertently just come out of our mouths.

Take the case of the French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, during his two-day trip to Germany this week.

He came out with a gaffe that could be...well revealing?


Jean-Marc Ayrault (screenshot TF1 clip)
Now as we all know relations between France and Germany are not the easiest at the moment.

The so-called two powers of the European Union - well at least the Euro - seem to have been dancing the unprettiest of jigs around one another, at least since François Hollande became president of this country.

To the rescue comes Ayrault, a former German teacher, ergo fluent in the language and well capable of reading out a prepared statement (yawn) in German in front of the invited entrepreneurs.

Not!

Because he clearly either couldn't read his own handwriting or actually wanted to say what he did when he substituted the word "fructbar" (literally "fruitful" or "productive") with  "furchtbar" ("terrible" or "awful") in describing how he wanted the discussion and exchange of ideas with the German chancellor Angela Merkel to proceed.

He didn't even bother correcting himself!

Er M. Ayrault, a word of advice perhaps.

Stick to French the next time and let the interpreters do their work.

Schönes Wochenende


Friday, 16 November 2012

Is France a "time-bomb at the heart of Europe"?

The weekly international affairs and news magazine The Economist certainly thinks the country has the potential to be.

(screenshot of The Economist front cover from the official site)

It devotes a 14 page special report on France in this week's issue and runs with a front cover that is far from being the truth - at least as far as the French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is concerned.

"It's just a magazine going over the top in an effort to sell more copies," he said, reacting to the report.

"I'm not impressed."

A synopsis of the report can be found online here.

It's worth a read - and not just for all Francophiles.




Thursday, 15 November 2012

Paris finally gets to hear and see Martina Serafin as Tosca

It has been a long time coming, but Austrian soprano Martina Serafin has finally made her Paris debut - singing the part of Tosca in Puccini's opera of the same name.

"Tosca" is arguably one of the most popular operas around - well that's if you take a look at how often it's performed during festivals and the frequency with which the main Houses around the world slip it into their schedules.

And that's in spite of - or perhaps because of - its surely preposterous plot.

As this is the 21st century and the age of social networking sites, what better way to outline what takes place on stage than Twitter style (the other option was a Daily Mail-type headline, but dear reader, you have been spared).

"Tosca - passion, sex and jealousy in 1800 Rome. 4 main characters belt out Puccini's great score before, one by one, popping their clogs."

How many characters is that?

If you would like more info then scoot over to those nice folk at Wikipedia or try this site for starters.



Anyway "Tosca" is back at Opéra Bastille - a sure fire hit with the public as it's...well, such an accessible piece.

Besides this is opera - darlings - and with tickets at premium prices, it must be good.

Right?

Well almost.

Perhaps it's something of a shame that the current version has had nothing spared on it in terms of set design...apart from money and imagination.

Very early 19th century Rome it is not. Still at least audiences  aren't distracted from the singing, the voices and the wonderful music.

And what of those performances?

Under the direction of Paolo Carignani, the Orchestre National de Paris gets the whole thing started of course, although there's the odd occasion when you have to strain to hear some of the voices above the music.

Sergey Murzaev as the police chief Scarpia, will give you the spooks.

Calin Bratescu does a fine job as the artist/lover Mario Cavaradossi and dies exceedlingly well in front of the firing squad.

And there's no faulting Nicolas Testé as Cesare Angelotti the political prisoner on-the-run, probably because he's dead (suicide) by the middle of the second act having been last heard singing at the end of the first act.


Martina Serafin (screenshot from Verona performance of Tosca)


The star - in all senses of the word though - apart from Puccini's magnificent score - has to be (Floria) Tosca herself, performed by Martina Serafin.

It's a role the Austrian-born Soprano has very much made her trademark, if you will, in recent years, having sung it in London, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Verona and Milan.

But this is her first time in Paris - hurrah and a definite operatic "bravo" - as she brings a stage presence that combines acting...yes opera singers do that now...with a great voice.

And then there's THAT aria...

Well take a listen to this clip of her performing "Vissi d'arte" in Verona this summer.



Tosca runs until November 20 and will be replaced by another couple of crackers - Rossini's "La Cenerentola" and another pack 'em in without trying kind of opera, Bizet's "Carmen".

And Serafin? Well she'll be back in Paris in February singing the part of Sieglinde in Wagner's "Die Walküre" ("The Valkyrie") , the second part of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" ("The Ring of the Nibelung").




Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Incomplete faction - Paris mayor announces new Marchelib' shoe sharing scheme

Do you live in or around Paris? Or are you thinking of a trip to the French capital?

Well here's some news for all those trying to make their way around the City of Light.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, has plans to make it easier for you.


A bit wobbly on two wheels and still unsure as to whether you can defend yourself in the precarious bicycle lanes that have been squeezed out of the existing roads?

Fed up of going bumper-to-bumper and getting nowhere slowly on the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road separating Paris from its suburbs?

Not keen on suffering unwanted, almost sexual, encounters while sardined into the Métro?

Delanoë,  has the answer.

First he gave us Vélib', the bicycle sharing system launched in the summer of 2007.

Then Delanoë introduced the electric car sharing Autolib' programme guaranteed to annoy any driver stuck behind one of those flippin' dinky toys and render even the most mild-mannered motorist (not easy in Paris) barmy.

And now he's planning to go one step further with the world's first ever shoe sharing scheme - Marchelib'.

The idea is a simple one: using the same pick up and drop off stations already available for Velib', Parisians, out-of-towners, visitors - in fact just about everyone - will be able to grab a pair of walking shoes or boots and strut their stuff happily through the City of Light.

The announcement came on Monday as part of a package of measures aimed at trying to reduce pollution levels in Paris - still too high at certain times of the year and which contravene EU regulations - and simultaneously piss off the maximum number of motorists.

Among the proposals are a reduction of the speed limit on the ever-flowing (as if) Boulevard Périphérique from 80km/h to 70km/h (as if), a ban all cars older than 17 years from the city centre (and drivers with less than 17 years of experience), the introduction of a péage, or toll, on the motorways immediately surrounding the capital to limit the number of trucks and the launch of Marchelib'.

"These propositions represent a new step in our battle against pollution," Delanoë said on RTL radio.

"Parisians have changed their habits in the past decade because we've dared (to introduce progressive policies) but pollution still remains a scourge," he continued.

Delanoë added that Marchelib' would not only help cut drastically the levels of pollution, it would also make Parisians fitter, healthier and give a boost to the economy by insisting that the shoes supplied would only be "Made in France".

The mayor, a prominent member of the Socialist party, said he would be talking to the government minister in charge of industrial renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, to help draw up a list of French cobblers who could meet the new schemes requirements.

Time to strut your stuff.

Take it away Nancy!

Friday, 9 November 2012

François Hollande - the "friendly" French president

You cannot fail to have noticed that Barack Obama won a second term in office  as US president this week. 

And his victory of course set in motion the usual round of congrats from leaders around the world - including François Hollande.

It was an opportunity for the current French president to break with tradition, grab a pen and a sheet of official paper and zap off a letter in flowing and eloquent English.

After all, when he was just 20 years old Hollande apparently spent the summer studying Stateside, so he must have picked up at least a smidgeon of the lingo.

Sadly though a smudge was all he could manage as he addressed his enthusiastic felicitations in polite French and ended with a one word informal English "friendly" flourish.

Oops.

And just to add the personal touch, Hollande signed it himself and had it posted to the Elysėe Palace's Facebook page.

Very 21st century, and a great opportunity for everyone, including the French, media to pick up on the mistake.

Perhaps an easy error to make when you're translating literally from French to English, but surely one that could (should) have been noticed - if not by Hollande
himself, then at least by one of his staff, n'est-ce pas?

Oh well. Maybe Hollande was using his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as an example on "how not to get it right" when writing to the US president.

Remember when Obama was first elected in 2008, Sarkozy too sent his congratulations...but with a mispelling right at the beginning when he addressed him as "Barak" without the "c".

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