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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

London on the move -those geographical wizards at CNN are at it again

Remember a couple of months ago when, during the G20 summit in Cannes the US cable news channel CNN managed to show a map during one report which placed the city not on the French Riviera but several hundred kilometres away in Spain?

No big deal perhaps as Cannes is only slightly well-known internationally for hosting an annual film festival and whoever was responsible for the mix-up can be forgiven for his or her error - can't they?

Obviously though the channel isn't content with "small fry" in its attempt to redraw the map of Europe.

It has now turned its attention to a much bigger "fish" - London.

(screenshot CNN)

Because in a report last weekend on the latest arrests in the 'phone hacking scandal that have "rocked" (don't you just love that word?) the United Kingdom, some bright spark at CNN managed to move the capital 120 miles to the north-east.

It is, according to the channel, now to be found in the county of Norfolk - right where Norwich used to be.

But wait.

That's not all.

CNN has also created an entirely new town in the south-west of the country; Cornwall.

That's reassuring isn't it?

Oh well, let's just hope that when it comes to the Summer Olympics the channel manages to get its act together.

On current form though, it doesn't bode well.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Armenian couple name baby after French president - "Sarkozy"

Without doubt it takes all sorts to make a world, including parents who name their child in honour of someone they truly admire.

But how would you feel if a member of your family or a friend named their son after the French president?

No not "Nicolas" which, let's face it, would be a more recognisably conventional first name, but "Sarkozy".

Well that's exactly what a couple in Armenia has done.

Sarkozy Avetisian was born last week in the country's second largest city of Gyumri and his parents had apparently planned on naming their first child after one of the grandfathers.

But they had a last-minute change of heart, and it was one full of symbolism.


Well last week also saw the passing through the Senate in France, of a controversial bill that makes it a criminal offence in this country to deny that genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians during World War I.

The bill was supported by Sarkozy (the French president that is. Are you getting a little confused?) and as it has passed through both the National Assembly and the Senate in France, now only needs his seal of approval to become law.

It's a decision that has not made him - or France - any friends in Turkey; quite the opposite in fact.

And France's foreign minister Alain Juppé has, and will have, more than his work cut out to ease those "diplomatic tensions" between the two countries that have occurred as a result.

In Armenia though and among France's half a million citizens of Armenian descent, the decision is of huge importance and was described as historic.

And it certainly wasn't lost on Karapet Avetisian, the father of the newly-born Sarkozy (the baby, not the French president, just in case you were wondering).

"On behalf of the Armenian people and my own behalf I thank Sarkozy (the French president, just in case you weren't following) for this step," Avetisian said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"And the name of the child is in his honour."

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Satire - France seen by foreigners and the French

Perhaps you recall a recent post here, "Europe according to bigots".

It featured satirical maps by Bulgarian-born graphic designer Yanko Tsvetkov and illustrated how the continent was viewed by others around the world by relying on clichés and stereotypes.

There's a similar set of maps doing the rounds concentrating specifically on La Belle France - as it's seen not only from abroad but also by the French.

Of course they're not to be taken seriously, but hidden behind the caricature isn't there just a slight element of truth?

For the Japanese, the country is portrayed as just one big tourist destination while the Chinese are only interested in Paris and its suburbs because both give them the chance to get their hands on businesses at a knock-down rate.

From the French point of view, there's one showing environmentalist and anti-globalisation campaigner José Bové's view of a country covered in McDonald's outlets for example.

And another emphasises Parisians' blinkered view that the City of Lights is the centre of the Universe and anything else is...well provincial.

Here are a few screengrabs showing UK and US views as well as those of some French.

Click on the images to enlarge

(screengrab from

(screengrab from

For the rest you can go here.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Hervé Morin's historic error - a trip back in time

Fancy a spot of time travel? Then French presidential candidate Hervé Morin seems more than willing to oblige.

Hervé Morin (screenshot from announcement of candidature video)

Morin isn't making life easy for himself.

His campaign launch squeaked into gear last November much to the annoyance of the ruling centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) which has been urging the leader of the smaller centre-right Nouveau Centre (NC) to put aside any stately ambitions he might have and throw his weight his behind the current president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Morin, who served as Sarkozy's - sorry that should of course read prime minister François Fillon as he's supposed to be the head of the government - defence minister from May 2007 until November 2010, was having none of it though and has so far doggedly stuck to his proverbial guns (ooh a bit of a pun there).

Not that it seems to be doing him much good as his poll ratings rarely climb above one (that really need to be spellt out) percent, as impersonator Nicolas Canteloup is of so fond of reminding listeners to his radio slot in the mornings on Europe 1 and viewers to his TV sketch in the evenings.

Then there's the case of François Bayrou - who used to be a buddy of Morin when both were members of the (not quite, but to all intents and purposes now defunct or at least on paper) centre-right Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF).

Are you following? This is French politics where allegiances are built on the shiftiest of sands.

Morin supported Bayrou when the latter became the so-called Third Man in the 2007 presidential race, but the two men fell out shortly afterwards with Morin joining the government and Bayrou setting up a new centre party Mouvement démocrate or MoDem.

In stark contrast to Morin, Bayrou's announcement of his candidature in December was judged by most political pundits as a success in terms of pushing him up the polls and into double figures. Bayrou was on a roll and for some still is, faring better than he did at the same stage last time around.

Not content with being an also also-ran (will he last the course and is anyone really bothered?) Morin has now made a complete fool of himself and provided everyone with a classic bit of political nonsense.

It happened at a meeting last weekend in the southern French city of Nice with Morin coming over all emotional as he recalled the Allied landings on the Normandy coast in 1944.

Only during his speech the 50-year-old (important bit of information that) managed an HG Wells kind of moment as he literally travelled back in time to give the impression that he had been present when the Allies landed.

"You, some among you, with grey hair, witnessed the storming of the Provence beach," he said.

"I saw the landing of allied troops in Normandy," he continued without hesitating at the absurdity of his statement.

Morin was born in 1961.

Journalists, humorists and of course Internauts were quick to pick up on the mistake and Twitter was abuzz with moments from the past at which Morin could claim to have been impossibly present.


But at least Morin had the guts to face up to his mistake (did he have any other choice?) by Tweeting his own "Congratulations on your humour" and saying that "The French were full of creativity."

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

British hairdresser brings the "Hair bus" to a part of rural France

You're probably familiar with the idea of mobile libraries, bakers or even butchers in France; serving mainly (although not exclusively) remote rural areas and a definite Godsend to many.

But how about a mobile hairdresser?

Mark Collett (screenshot from TF1 news)

Yes they exist too - at least one does in the département of Haute-Vienne in the southwestern region of Limousin and it's run by an enterprising British hairdresser, Mark Collett, and his French wife, Isabelle.

Collett and his wife Isabelle are both hairdressers and since last September (according to the regional daily la Montagne ) have been running a mobile service for those living within 30 kilometre radius of their base, the village of Saint-Bonnet-Briance.

They are both are both hairdressers and since last September (according to another report in the regional daily la Montagne ) have been running a mobile service for those living within 30 kilometre radius of their base, the village of Saint-Bonnet-Briance

They invested in an old (British) minibus previously used for transporting the disabled and adapted it to suit their needs.

"We chose that type of vehicle because we wanted to make it easier for people who had reduced mobility to take up our service,' Collett told the paper.

It took the couple almost 18 months to remodel the minibus and file the necessary official paperwork, but TF1 news reported on Monday, it certainly seems to be successful.

"We're very happy although sometimes it's pretty unpredictable who'll turn up in certain villages," admits Isabelle.

"But we manage - cutting hair for men, women and of course children."

At €9,50 for men and €13,50 for women their prices are a snip (sorry - inevitable) and customers, judging from the TF1 report, seem to be happy.

And there's no need to make an appointment.

Now that's an enterprising spirit!

The "Hair bus" screenshot from TF1 news)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cheap airlines tickets - don't be fooled by them

OK so the accompanying video doesn't have a great deal to do with France perhaps - apart from the fact that over the years an increasing number of foreign-based budget airlines have opened up the market by flying into (mainly) provincial destinations.

Ryanair and EasyJet lead the pack of course but there's also FlyBe, Vueling, German Wings, Air Berlin and many, many more. It all depends on where you want to go really.

But one thing many of them share in common are those so-called "hidden costs".

The initial price of the ticket looks like great value.

Only once you start including airport tax, excess baggage charges, the cost of getting to and from an airport which is often miles away from where you actually want to be (The Paris airport which Ryanair uses to "serve" the French capital is actually a good 70 kilometres away) the real "price" you end up paying is far from the original "bargain".

Fascinating Aïda (screenshot from YouTube video)

And that's very much the message behind this hilarious song from the British comedy singing group and satirical cabaret act, Fascinating Aïda.

"Cheap flights" might be a few years old now and contain some rather ribald lyrics for those of you who are faint-hearted (this version comes with subtitles to help you cope with the accent) but it's hysterically funny and - well let's just say - spot on.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Four young men save elderly French woman from fire

In need of a break from all the usual doom and gloom you see, hear or read about in the news?

Then how about the story of an elderly woman saved from an apartment fire by the quick thinking and bravery of some of her neighbours.

(screenshot from amateur video)

It happened on an inner city estate in the eastern French city of Colmar last Tuesday, was reported in the regional daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace (DNA) the following day and finally picked up by national news on Friday.

And just in case you missed it, here it is.

According to DNA the fire broke out in the 89-year-old woman's apartment late on Tuesday afternoon and, as the flames took control, she found herself trapped on the balcony.

"Some of the other neighbours had already lain mattresses on the ground in readiness for her to jump, but I shouted to her to stay where she was," one of her eventual rescuers, Dimitri Higelin, told DNA.

Dimitri Higelin (screenshot from TF1 news)

The 22-year-old soldier, who had recently completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, was clearly a quick thinker and definitely the kind of person you would want to have around in an emergency.

He rallied the support of some other young men who lived in the neighbourhood, and a ladder was found.

Hassan Hannoud (screenshot from TF1 news)

"I couldn't just stand around doing nothing and watching a woman being burnt. That was unthinkable," Hassan Hannoud, another one of the four rescuers told TF1 news.

"The only solution was to climb up. I think if she had been there five more minutes, it would have all been over for her."

And climb they did, Higelin putting himself between the woman and the flames when he reached the balcony and the four men working together to carry her down the ladder to safety one floor below.

She spent the night in hospital but was released the following day.

Go ahead, take a look at an amateur video shot by someone who witnessed what happened and watch right until the end as the four men bring her to safety, the onlookers applaud and the sirens of the fire service arriving can be heard.

And admit that it doesn't at least give you a slightly good feeling.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Fanny Ardant's (almost) radio silence

Asking open-ended questions is surely a golden rule of broadcast journalism.

In fact it's pretty much a guaranteed way of getting anyone to open up and talk no matter what the situation might be.

Fanny Ardant (screenshot from "Nos retrouvailles")

Open-ended questions will (essentially) give the person - in the case which follows, the one being interviewed - the chance to answer with more than just a simple "yes" or "no".

Sadly in France, all too often, a radio or television journalist will pose a mammoth question which, you just know, is going to elicit a response that'll probably end up being shorter.

It's a style which seems to be the accepted norm rather than the exception.

Maybe it's journalists wanting to show just how much they understand the subject under discussion.

Or perhaps they have inflated egos and are all-too-engrossed in themselves and their "take" on the matter, to the detriment of the person they're supposed to be interviewing.

Of course, it's a generalisation. Some can simply pose a pertinent question and the wait for the answer.

There are some very good interviewers with years of experience and capable of teasing a response - even from the most recalcitrant guest.

One such example is Jean-Marc Morandini, who hosts (among other things) a daily one-hour show on Europe 1 radio and a similar programme on one of the country's TNT channels, Direct 8, in the evenings.

All right, they're not exactly mind-stretching or highbrow. Morandini specialises in celebrity gossip and the media, and has a blog (which he's constantly promoting) that's not for anyone wanting a scholarly approach to news.

But even with his years of experience, Morandini sometimes finds himself up against a tough nut to crack, as was the case on Wednesday morning during an interview with one of France's finest actresses, Fanny Ardant.

She had been invited on to the show to talk about her role in the made-for-television film "Nos retrouvailles" scheduled to be screened on France 2 television in the evening and for which she had received some glowing critics (even if the film itself was less lauded).

But as you can hear from the interview, Ardant was being less than co-operative - and a ropey telephone line probably didn't help much.

You can clearly hear Morandini struggling to keep the flow going, although somehow he made it with a laugh of relief to the end of two-and-a-half minutes which includes pauses that were not so much pregnant as they were laboured (ouch).

It's all in French of course.

It raises a smile, but equally the listener is as grateful as the presenter when it's wrapped up.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis - to split or shoddy "reporting"

So after 14 years together and two children, French actress-singer Vanessa Paradis and US actor Johnny Depp are on the brink of splitting up.

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis (screenshot from Gothica940 YouTube video montage)

They're "living sad and separate lives" according to most "reports" and have been doing so for the past year.

Paradis hasn't been attending premiers of Depp's films (even when they're in the same city at the same time).

And goodness, the couple didn't attend last week's Golden Globes award together; Depp was there but apparently Paradis stayed at home with the kids.

The British and American media is "reporting" that it's as good as over and the French is following suit - but with a little more reserve.

It might be waiting for official confirmation but that doesn't stop it from "reporting" the rumours.

Why all those inverted commas?

Well you have to admit it, the term "reporting" has to be used loosely as there's very little demonstration of actual news gathering. You know, find a story, interview some people (preferably those directly involved) and then write or broadcast the material using attributions.

Nope instead "the highly respected publication" People Magazine - as that much revered bastion of quality journalism Britain's Daily Mail calls it - is used as the main source with "some insiders" or "informants" and of course unnamed "sources" providing insight into the couple's relationship and drawing conclusions which might - or might not - be true.

Accuracy, as it does so often, has flown out of the proverbial window to be substituted by rumour and speculation.

Paradis and Depp might well be on the verge of making some sort of announcement about splitting. They wouldn't be the first and they won't be the last.

They could also have been merely "co-habiting" for the past year, as has been suggested by plenty of celebrity journalists - or should that be "informed People watchers".

But come on, give us a break.

The story might sell and make great gossip, but how about doing some proper journalism before telling us all what is "apparently" or "supposedly" happening or about to happen.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Cloclo film trailer creates buzz

It looks as though so-called biopics are going to be putting plenty of bums on seats at cinemas over the coming year.

Already there's word out that Meryl Streep is in the running for yet another Oscar nomination for her portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady".

Similarly "My week with Marilyn" starring Michelle Williams has been getting rave reviews with the actress also tipped for a possible gong nomination for "capturing the magnetism and vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe."

Then there's "the role of a lifetime" (IndieWire's Melissa Silverstein)for Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh in her portrayal of Burmese opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in "The Lady".

Yeoh might not get any nods from Hollywood's direction, but film critics have been largely enthusiastic and the director, Frenchman Luc Besson, has also been praised for "crafting a masterpiece in the gentle telling of a wife and mother who is forced to balance her love for her country against her love for her family." (Working Author's Summer J. Holliday)

All well and good, but where's French cinema (apart from Besson of course) in all of this apparent "biopic trend"?

Well the answer will be revealed on March 14.

That's the release date set for the long-awaited "Cloclo", a film that takes as its title the nickname of an icon of French popular music, the late Claude François.

As far as critics who've already seen a trailer for the film are concerned, director Florent Emilio Siri has made an inspired choice in casting 31-year-old Belgian actor Jérémie Rénier to play the lead role.

Jérémie Rénier is Claude François (screenshot from Cloclo trailer)

The physical resemblance, as TF1 news reported, is "staggering" and, as the national daily Le Figaro wrote it looks as though Rénier has made the role his own - and not just in terms of looking like François.

"I asked for a lengthy preparation period before shooting began," Rénier told the paper.

"I couldn't sing, dance or play the drums, so I had a lot to learn," he continued.

'I also worked a lot on my breathing and exercised. In total it took four months of intense preparation - every day."

The result will be on general release in France just days after the 34th anniversary of François' death.

For those who can't wait, here's the trailer - just to whet your appetite followed by a (rather poorly recorded although there are others available on YouTube that cannot be embedded) clip of François singing one of his biggest hits "Alexandrie Alexandra".

As Radio France Internationale says in its biography of the singer, François was "the undisputed icon of French kitsch" and his songs remain timeless and popular.

Most of his hits in France were French renditions or adaptations of songs that had already been hits in English abroad, but he also co-wrote and recorded the original of what would become one of the standards of popular music throughout the world, "Comme d'habitude" or "My Way" in English.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

BFM TV rewrites Titanic history

The running aground of the Costa Concordia cruise ship after it crashed into rocks off the west coast of Italy last Friday was, of course, a major news story.

Those incredible images of the stricken ship quickly made their way around the world.

And as always, when these things happens, round-the clock news channels were busy reporting "in real time" while looking for new angles to develop the story (and fill air time).

BFM TV - true to its stated desire to bring a "dynamic" US or UK-style presentation to French news reporting - was as usual fast off the mark, pointing out that April would mark the centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

"How come a ship equipped with modern technology to ensure safety could experience a similar fate to that of the Titanic?" the channel asked.

Cue report with expert to "compare and contrast".

Except in its haste to slap something up on the screen, BFM managed to make the simplest of blunders which, in these days of the Net, remains there for everyone to see.

(screenshot from BFM TV report)

As the footage rolled of the Titanic leaving harbour to begin it maiden voyage back in 1912, BFM happily and helpfully informed those watching that just a few days after setting sail, it hit an iceberg.

All when and good, only some gormless newsroom twerp clearly hadn't done their research properly before putting together the report and instead decided to change the ship's UK point of departure.

Perhaps one Hampton was very much like another in the mind of someone who knew no better, but a simple search would have ensured that the channel didn't quite look so idiotic as it informed viewers that... well see for yourself.

For the non Brits among you or those who aren't that hot on UK geography, grab a map of Britain to find just how much of a coastline Northampton has.

Hint - none.

It's a major market town in the landlocked shire which carries its name.


"Dynamic" was one of the adjectives used in the launch of BFM TV back in 2005.

Perhaps it should also remember another that featured in the PR campaign - "Intelligible".

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Renault's same-sex marriage commercial

Some might consider Renault's latest TV spot to be commercialising the issue of same-sex marriage, others would probably say it's another step in making it socially acceptable in France even if it's not legal - yet.

Maybe both are right, but in any case it seems that the French car manufacturer has come up with a clever idea to keep its Twingo campaign going in a way which is bound to appeal to a generally younger, hipper and more progressive-thinking consumer.

Combining humour, social mores (not to be too pretentious) and a sometimes predictable punch line, the Renault Twingo campaign, in its different forms, has been running for a couple of years.

There are three new spots currently airing on French television, including one featuring same-sex marriage.

A young woman and her father are making their way to the town hall. It's the big day obviously; the wedding.

They enter the room where the ceremony is scheduled to take place and see the groom waiting for them to make the traditional walk with the father accompanying the bride.

Except this is a Renault commercial and things are never quite as they seem.

As they reach the groom, the young woman smiles and says, "Congratulations papa," before kissing him and going to sit down while he steps up to marry his man.


Yes all very light-hearted, politically correct (heavens that'll offend some) and in keeping with a campaign that is up-to-date in its thinking or even ahead of its time: the "drag queen", the "strawberry condom" and the "sexy poster" (click on the titles to see them and here for a brief explanation in English) have all been used in recent years.

The latest is again just 30 seconds long or short, but - forgive the pun - spot on, especially if you support same sex marriage, which still isn't recognised in France.

There again as Renault says in its oh-too-clever strap line "Times change. The Twingo too."

Renault's hip and progressive TV spots

Over the years Renault's Twingo advertising campaign has included several very clever television spots that have, in a simple way, challenged viewers' expectations of what is going to or is supposed to happen.

There was the "drag queen" spot in which a 20-something pulls up in his friend-filled Twingo in front of a trendy nightclub.

There's a queue waiting at the door, including several drag queens.

(Meaningful) looks are exchanged between one of them and the young man until the latter shouts over,"Papa can you help us get in?"

Then there was the "strawberry condom" commercial featuring two women in a car; a grandmother and her granddaughter.

As the older woman parks, the younger woman's 'phone starts ringing and in her attempts to scrabble around in her bag to find it, she upsets some of the contents of the bag on to the floor.

Among the items that fall out is a conbdom which the grandmother picks up to inspect.

"Sophie," she says questioningly.

"You like strawberries now?" and laughing she tucks it into the pocket of her blouse.

And there was a commercial which saw a mother and daughter driving and as they stop at a traffic light the mother spots a poster featuring her scantily-clothed daughter.

"What," she exclaims.

"You've found a job and you didn't tell me.

Don't you just love the commercials for the Renault Twingo?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Eric Cantona for president?

It's unlikely that he'll manage to get the support of the 500 mayors necessary to stand in the French presidential elections, but former international footballer Eric Cantona is apparently seriously thinking about it.

Image (screenshot from BFM TV report)

According to the national daily Libération, the 45-year-old has sent out a letter to all of the country's nearly 37,000 mayors seeking their backing and outlining how much of an "engaged citizen" he is.

In the letter he wrote that he wants to collect at least 500 signatures to "send out a clear and powerful message; a message of of truth and respect at a time when the country faces difficult choices which will be decisive about its future."

Image (screenshot from BFM TV report)

Cantona is already a sponsor of one of the country's most well-known charities helping the homeless, Fondation Abbé Pierre.

And he has the full backing off the Fondation which launched a petition in September 2011 to make homelessness and the lack of affordable housing a major issue in the presidential campaigns.

"We need a stimulus such as Cantona to restore (the issue of) housing to the place it deserves in the campaign," the Fondation's managing director Patrick Doutreligne told Agence France Presse.

So Cantona for president?

Well it'll be an uphill struggle. Even if he manages to collect those 500 signatures needed to stand, there's the additional problem of financing a credible campaign.

And few will forget his last foray into the political arena in December 2010 when he called for a run on the country's banks by encouraging savers to withdraw all their money in protest at the role of the banks in the global financial crisis.

That day of protest came and went with few heeding the call.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

French farmer fined for illegally parking tractor - an ocean away from home

Anyone familiar with France will know that it's a large country - a very large country.

First up of course there's the mainland that most (well there are exceptions) people will be able to point to on a map of Europe.

(from Wikipedia)

You know; capital - Paris, borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain and a stretch of water separating it from its oldest friendly enemy, the United Kingdom.

But there's more to it. Much more.

And it comes in the shape of its overseas départements, collectivities and territories.

They all have representatives elected to both the National Assembly and Senate and while the collectivities and territories are autonomous, the five départements are to all intents and purposes part of France.

In other words France isn't just the hexagon-shaped metropolitan area in Europe.

It's also the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte, Guyane française (French Guiana) in South America and the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

And that's worth bearing in mind, because it might go some way to explaining how bureaucratic mistakes can happen, such as the one Didier Labouygues is currently experiencing.

He's a part-time farmer in the village of Gagnac-sur-Cère in southwestern France, hiring himself and his tractor out when there's work to be done.

Last November he received a fine for having parked his tractor illegally and, as the regional daily La Dépêche du Midi reports, at first sight, all seemed to be in order.

But Labouygues read the letter a little more carefully and discovered that the "apparent offence" had taken place in Fort de France - the capital of Martinique, an ocean and several thousand kilometres away!

"I couldn't believe it," he told the newspaper.

"I took the letter along to the police station and was told that it must be some sort of clerical error (note from France Today - No kidding) and I wrote to Le Centre Automatisé de Constatation des Infractions (CACIR) in Rennes. I'm still waiting for a reply."

Of course Labouygues' case is not an isolated one - far from it.

CACIR has proven itself to be well capable in administrative cock-ups - on a frequent basis.

Just ask Patrick Pilak, a farmer in the village of Gouzougnat in the département of Creuse. From December 2010 until August 2011, he received three separate fines for illegally parking his tractor in Paris...admittedly only 400 kilometres away from where he lived and worked.

Another farmer in the département of l'Oise, just north of Paris, received a similar fine in October for apparently having overrun the meter - close to the château de Versailles. Another improbable location for a tractor.

And then there was the case of Gilles Rocher, also in October 2011, a motorist from Capbreton in southwestern France, fined 143 times for the same offence - each letter being delivered separately.

Back to the latest case though, and the last word perhaps should belong to the mayor of Gagnac-sur-Cère, mayor of the village, Danièle Vallin.

She told La Dépêche du Midi that, "CACIR should do its work properly and check on the credibility of a fine before sending out a letter.

And somehow, you can't help thinking that she might have a valid point.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

German skit of Merkozy "Rescue summit or Euros for No One"

Now it definitely helps if you speak German for a video that has become something of a hit on YouTube ever since it was first posted on December 28.

Merkozy (screenshot from YouTube clip)

It's a parody of a comedy skit broadcast twice every New Year's Eve on German television.

The original is "Dinner for One", a 1963 sketch featuring British comedian Freddie Frinton as James the butler and May Warren as Miss Sophie, who has sadly outlived all her friends but insists on celebrating her 90th birthday party in style...with places set for each of her guests.

Frinton serves each absent guest a drink with every course and raises a toast to the birthday girl on behalf of those invited.

The result is predictable. Frinton becomes ever tipsier until the final scene in which he is about to escort Warren upstairs with the "hilarious" lines,

"Same procedure as last year Miss Sophie?" asks Frinton.

"The same procedure as every year James," replies Warren.

"Well, I'll do my very best," responds Frinton with a saucy wink and a "Good night."

Perhaps it's a German thing, but it has most definitely become an annual institution.

Some bright spark at ARD, one of Germany's two national public broadcasters, though decided to update the whole thing and make it more...well relevant to a modern-day audience.

Satirist Udo Eling of the channel's Morgenmagazin decided to superimpose the heads of French president Nicolas Sarkozy on James the Butler and...well you've probably guessed the other "character" - Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel as Miss Sophie.

The dialogue is different of course focussing on the relationship of the two who're often collectively called "Merkozy" in the media.

And "absent friends" include the former prime ministers Greece and Spain, Giorgios Papandreou and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as well as UK prime minister David Cameron. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi wasn't invited.

The last line of the parody which has Sarkozy fawning to Merkel, described earlier in the sketch as the "only real statesman Europe has to offer" has the French president asking as they mount the staircase, "Madame Merkel, this time without Eurobonds?"

"Yes of course," she replies.

"As always without Eurobonds."

To which Sarkozy responds, "I'll give you my Triple A Madame Merkel."

Well, maybe it sounds funnier in German.


And the original "Dinner for One" just in case you're up for it.

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