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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A blockbuster action film spoof video trailer on the French presidential elections

So they're off.

On Monday, the wise ones on the Conseil Constitutionnel (the Constitutional court) officially approved the 10 candidates in this year's French presidential elections.

(screenshot from "2012, mission Elysée")

Among them of course were all the usual suspects including Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande as well as virtual political non-entities in terms of nationwide support such as Philip Poutou and Jacques Cheminade.

Still it's all good for the cause of "democracy" isn't it? Although the presence of Cheminade in particular, his somewhat batty ideas and links to US political activist Lyndon LaRouche (do the search - it's weird and dangerous) might seem somewhat disconcerting.

Especially as two seasoned politicians, former environment minister Corinne Lepage and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, failed to gather the 500 signatures from mayors and/or regional councillors necessary to stand.

Anyway, before the gloves really come off (haven't they done so already?) and the 10 contenders get even more mean and serious about their intentions, perhaps it's time to take a step back and see the whole shebang through the eyes of those who delight in parody.

And it comes in the shape of "2012, mission Elysée", a "web series relating the adventures of our presidential candidates in 2012," from Staiff. fr.

Blockbuster action time indeed.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Toulouse shootings - seen from an expat bubble perspective

The deaths of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse on Monday after an unknown gunman opened fire on them has become not only a major local and national story, but an international one too.

Shootings in Toulouse and Montauban (screenshot from France 2 news)

All major news organisations, local, regional and international, have been carrying reports on the shooting, the reactions and the link that has been established to the separate shootings and deaths of three soldiers in the same city and the nearby town of Montauban last week.

The candidates in next month's first round of the presidential elections all suspended their campaigns for one day.

The current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as his main opponent, the Socialist party candidate François Hollande, have both visited Toulouse since the shootings, as have several other candidates and current government ministers.

A minute's silence was held in schools throughout the country on Tuesday.

Turn on the radio or the television or pick up a newspaper and you'll more than likely catch an update on who has said what, speculation about the gunman's motives, the police investigation that has been launched, the concerns of parents over the safety of their children, the fears of another fact you cannot miss hearing, seeing or reading about what happened.

Not even if you're unable to speak French because BBC, CNN, Sky and others have all been covering developments.

The region of Midi-Pyrénées, in which both Toulouse and Montauban are situated, has been put on "scarlet alert", the highest terror alert in France.

So it's hard to live here and not at least have an inkling as to what happened - right?


This was posted on a thread about the "scarlet terror" alert in the Midi-Pyrénées on one of the many sites for mainly native English-speakers to help them get to grips with living in France.

"Please explain what you're talking about," wrote (link withheld) the contributor

"I live in L'isle-en-Dodon, Haute Garrone...! (sic)"

Just for those of you who don't know, and at the risk of being repetitive, Haute Garonne is one of the eight départements in the region of Midi-Pyrénées, and its main city is Toulouse.

L'Isle-en-Dodon is a small town (two thousand inhabitants) 70 kilometres or just over one hour's drive away from where the school shootings took place.

No comment.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy furious as French magazines publish baby photo

After the French weekly "news" magazine Paris Match published a long-lens photo in it most recent issue in which five-month-old Giulia Sarkozy's face is clearly visible, two other French celebrity rags have followed suit.

Paris Match cover (screenshot AFP report)

And France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is livid.

It doesn't really matter what you think of Bruni-Sarkozy's past - or her present come to that.

You might well regard her as a somewhat laughable and/or incongrous presence alongside her husband Nicolas Sarkozy as he seeks a second term as French president.

But put aside whatever you think about her previous relationships, her career as a top model and the delightful strains of her raspy voice as a singer for one moment and concentrate on her role as a mother.

And surely you have to admit that she has a point in being furious at the French media for not respecting the rights of her five-month-old daughter, Giulia.

Voici cover (screenshot Voici magazine)

Even before she was born in October 2011, Giulia was the focus of more media attention than probably even your average famous adult could handle.

When Bruni-Sarkozy went into hospital for the birth there was a virtual media pack camped outside the hospital, waiting, ready to report ...well what usually happens after a woman has been pregnant for nine months: she gives birth.

Bruni-Sarkozy - or rather Giulia, kept the hungry "newshounds" waiting a while, but then she popped into the world becoming and remaining for the moment, arguably one of the world's most famous babies.

All of course because her parents are who they are.

So that makes her fair game doesn't it? The paparazzi should be able to take whatever long-lens photos they like and magazines publish them regardless.

After all Giulia is newsworthy because her parents are. They survive and thrive partially through exposure so they should expect their children to...well learn to cope with fame.

That's far from being how Bruni-Sarkozy sees it and she insisted from the moment her daughter was born that the French media cut her, and in particular Giulia, some slack and not invade what are very private moments for both of them

So her wrath - measured to say the very least - after the French weekly magazine Paris Match published a photo of the two of them in its last issue, was perhaps more than understandable.

"Because I believe in the principle of the freedom of the press, I have always accepted without any problem the publication of photographs or unauthorised information, even when it's erroneous, concerning my private life," she writes on her official site.

But I deplore any use made ​​of images of children as well as any reporting which might touch on their private lives," she continues.

"I have repeatedly expressed my views on this subject. My position has not changed."

The call though, seems to have fallen on deaf ears as far as the French media is concerned - at least the celebrity and gossip sector of the magazine market.

Paris Match has already featured a photo of Bruni-Sarkozy with Giula on its front cover; one in which the face of the five-month-old is clearly visible.

And two other French magazines are set to follow that example this week with Voici and Closer both planning to publish the photo as a "scoop".

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Sarkozy's Villepinte campaign speech allows Bernadette Chirac forty winks

Le Petit Journal has been up to its usual tricks on Canal +, treating viewers to a different sort of look as to what happened at Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign rally last weekend at Villepinte, a town in the northeastern suburbs of Paris.

The programme is of course irreverent and certainly doesn't take either itself or the subjects it chooses to "investigate" too seriously.

But it certainly provides a refreshing, if somewhat cynical, look at political news stories and what's behind them.

Monday's edition, introduced as usual by host Yann Barthès, decided to take a look at THE political event of the weekend; Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign rally at Villepinte.

You know the rally: the one at which, among other things, he threatened to suspend France's participation in Schengen if re-elected.

Sarkozy spent over an hour addressing an adoring crowd of activists who, as Le Petit Journal showed viewers, had been put in the mood by the appropriate warming-up beforehand.

Yes it was a grand show.

While the event's cameras were trained on Sarkozy, Le Petit Journal decided to concentrate on the reactions of those Big Cheeses seated in the front row, some of whom would also be addressing the masses.

They included prime ministers, past and present, Édouard Balladur, Alain Juppé and François Fillon; not a facial muscle moving as they listened (and inwardly groaned).

Much larger than life actor Gérard Depardieu was there, looking decidedly flushed and first lady, Carla-Bruni-Sarkozy, and Jean-François Copé, leader of the governing Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party seemed to be having quite a natter - perhaps they had already heard the speech too many times.

Bernadette Chirac (screenshot from Le Petit Journal)

And then there, true to her word, was Bernadette Chirac, the woman who had in a recent interview with RTL radio said that she would be a "fervent supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy" during his campaign.

But at 78, the effort was beginning to show as the former first lady bravely fought to shake off the descending eyelid syndrome which overcomes many of us when unable to concentrate or simply not that interested.

It was the most courageous of attempts but...not surprisingly, she lost.

Well until the applause stirred her, that is.

Now what's her husband, former president Jacques Chirac, up to?

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Wall Street Journal opinion piece renames Sarkozy "Nicolas Le Pen"

French president Nicolas Sarkozy might have gained a lead for the first time over his main opponent, the Socialist party's candidate François Hollande, in the first round of the presidential elections is April.

Nicolas Sarkozy's speech at Villepinte rally (screenshot from YouTube video)

That's what the most recent of many (many) polls, this time carried out by Ifop.

But that didn't impress the writer of an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal who launched a scathing assessment of Sarkozy's campaigning tactics and in particular his recent remarks on TV that France had "too many foreigners" and his threat during a rally at the weekend to suspend this country's participation in Schengen, if elected.

"Cynical", "xenophobic"and 'ugly" were just a few of the words used to describe a policy which the opinion writer said - not surprisingly probably for those who've been watching event unfold here - was an ill-disguised attempt to woo those who might feel inclined to vote for Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National.

Take a read. Here's the link.

It's not exactly long. It's well worth it.

And it has to be said, it's spot on.

Some within Sarkozy's supposedly centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) would doubtlessly leap up in public defence of his tactics.

But surely there must be a seemingly silent number among UMP ranks who are privately horrified by the lengths to which their candidate will go to be re-elected.

Politics doesn't have to be so disgusting, does it?

Apparently so.

Monday, 12 March 2012

What chance for France at Eurovision when up against Gramps and Grans?

It's admittedly a couple of months until that annual musical jamboree the Eurovision Song Contest takes place but it's already making the news as participating countries decide who they'll be sending to represent them in Baku.

Yes - as an aside - this year's "musical jamboree" will take place in the capital of Azerbaijan (break out the atlas) thanks to that country's win last year.

Anggun (screenshot from television interview with LCI)

And following hot on the heels of the United Kingdom's decision to send Engelbert Humperdinck to sing his lungs out, Russia has now decided to uphold a long Eurovision tradition by choosing a song to represent it which taking the Michael (that's putting it politely).

And France?

Well it just doesn't seem to be able to treat the "cultural event of the year" in quite the manner those inverted commas would deem appropriate.

Rather than relying on humour, it seems to take the whole affair far too seriously.

Granted, back in 2007 France sent Les Fatals Picards along to represent it in Helsinki with "L'amour à la française", but after only managing 22nd (out of 24 in the final) seemed to realise that perhaps the rest of Europe didn't "get" the French touch at being lighthearted.

So the Powers that Be at France television, realising that it had perhaps made an error, took the choice of who would represent the country away from viewers and reverted to the tradition of appointing an artist who would carry the colours in a manner more befitting the country's (ahem) musical heritage and cultural diversity

There followed, in order, Sébastien Tellier (2008, 19th in Serbia), Patricia Kaas (2009, eighth in Russia), Jessy Matador (2010, 12th in Norway) and Amaury Vassili (2011, 15th in Germany).

Following up on Vassili's dreadfully awful or awfully dreadful "Sognu" from last year, which bookies (at least as far as the French were reporting) ranked among the favourites but only managed in the singer's words a "shitty finish" it's the turn of Indonesian-born Anggun to try her luck.

While the United Kingdom will be sending along ageing crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, who'll be 76 by the time the contest comes around, and Russia has just chosen a bunch of grannies Buranovskiye Babushki (try saying that after a few vodkas) to, in the words of the song "Party for everybody" (see video), France is pinning its hopes on a serious singer with international success and appeal who has already "conquered France and Europe" according to her official bio and won umpteen awards.

Ah yes. But this is Eurovision, an event which has brought millions of viewers such memorable moments as Stefan Raab "ridiculing the ridiculous" as Terry Wogan put it for Germany in 2000 with "Wadde hadde dudde da" or Ireland's Dustin the turkey reminding everyone that "he comes from a nation what knows how to write a song" in 2008 with "Irelande douze pointe"
and Finland's Lordi head banging their way to victory in 2006 with "Hard Rock Hallelujah" (you can click on the links to jog your memory).

What chance does Anggun's "Echo (You and I)" stand especially when up against the gramps and grans of the UK and Russia?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Friday's French music break - Laurent Voulzy, "C'était déjà toi"

Friday's French music break this week is Laurent Voulzy's "C'était déjà toi".

(screenshot from "C'était déjà toi" video)

You know when you first hear a song and you don't think that much of it, especially as it's by an artist you're not particularly keen on?

But then you hear it again and again, and you actually listen to it and gradually - hey you find it has worked its way into your head to such an extent that - horror upon horrors, you actually like it.

And what's more, it then encourages you to do some research and listen to more of the artist's music.

That's exactly what Laurent Voulzy's "C'était déjà toi " is - one of those songs that...well grows on you and opens the door to a body of work.

It's taken from Voulzy's most recent album "Lys & love" which is the first collection of new material he has released in a decade.

As Radio France Internationale says of Voulzy in a biography, he is hardly the most prolific of songwriters in French musical history, at least not in terms of recording albums.

And as if to prove a point, "Lys & love" is only the 63-year-old's seventh studio offering.

Choosing Voulzy's song as this week's Friday's French music break is more than appropriate timing because he has just won a Victoire de la Musique (the French equivalent of a Grammy) for Best Original Song with another track from the album, "Jeanne", co-written with his longtime friend and songwriting collaborator Alan Souchon.

Mind you the night in question, when the gongs were handed out, was rather a feast for the "oldies" (or more kindly perhaps, those who've been around for a fair number of years); Hubert-Félix Thiéfaine won Best Male Artist, Catherine Ringer was Best Female Artist and Jean-Louis Aubert won Best Concert - although some would argue that he should have been given Best Album and/or Best Song.

Laurent Voulzy (screenshot from "Jeanne" video)

But back to Voulzy, the album "Lys & love" and more specifically "C'était déjà toi".

The album is, in Voulzy's own words, "atypical" and it definitely has a delicate oldworldly quality or feel to it.

That's not surprising really as the influence for the album has been Voulzy's declared fascination with the Middle Ages.

It shows.

The wait has been well worth it, and so is more than one listen - a fact with which Voulzy seems to be in complete agreement.

"There are those songs that instantly grab your attention immediately," says his official website of the album.

But there are also others that you have to play more than once and whose subtle beauty is revealed with every listen."

"C'était déjà toi" is exactly that.

Once again co-written with Alain Souchon, it mixes English and French lyrics, electronic and classical music and a melody that's almost hypnotically enchanting.

So close your eyes for a moment or two and take a listen as Voulzy carries you off to his own universe.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Where the main candidates in the French presidential elections stand on same-sex marriage

It's French presidential election year - just in case you hadn't noticed.

That of course means a chance for each of the candidates to outline where they stand on certain issues and that includes a whole raft of social policies.

They have their differences of course. That's only to be expected.

And one area where those divergences are perhaps most marked is when it comes to the subject of same-sex marriage and parents of the same sex being allowed to adopt.

Neither are currently allowed in France, but that could all change. It depends on who wins the presidential elections.

Broadly speaking, the main candidates fall into three camps.

First of all there are those who are against same-sex marriage (Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen) or would perhaps be willing to consider modification to the existing civil partnership law (in the case of Sarkozy) and are opposed to same-sex couples being able to adopt (both Sarkozy and Le Pen).

Then there are those who are in favour of equal rights on both issues - François Hollande, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Eva Joly.

And finally there's François Bayrou, who of course manages his own particular mix of being against same-sex marriage but for a change in the civil partnership laws and in favour of same-sex couples being able to adopt.

To make things clearer on the subject, the weekly women's magazine Femme Actuelle interviewed six women; five of whom represent each of the main candidates and the sixth, Marine Le Pen, who is of course standing for the far-right Front National.

Here's what some of them had to say.

Speaking for the candidates (screenshot from Femme Actuelle video)

Claude Greff (for Sarkozy), the junior minister for family said that Sarkozy had proposed a change in the civil union in 2007 to create one that would be "specifically for same-sex couples" but it was ruled anti-constitutional.

As far as same-sex marriage is concerned, Sarkozy is against it because it "opens the door to sam-sex couples being able to adopt" and the existing laws which allows single people to adopt is sufficient as it also gives homosexuals the right to adopt.

Anne Hidalgo (for François Hollande) a member of the Socialist party's election campaign team says the belief that both should be made legal is a "right" that has been close to Hollande's heart for some time.

"It's time for politicians to catch up with public opinion and what actually happens in society," she says.

"The two issues have to be treated in the same parliamentary session and Hollande's pledge is to do that by the end of this year."

Civil union should be an absolute right for everyone as far as Bayrou is concerned. And on the question of adoption, "He is a humanist", says Marielle de Sarnez, the vice president of MoDem.

"These children (of same-sex couples) exist," she says. "

Of course adoption needs to have a judicial basis which protects the needs of the child."

Finally speaking for herself, Marine La Pen says quite categorically that she's against both.

"I think a child should have a mother and a father," she says.

While she doesn't intend to reverse the PACS, as far as same-sex marriage is concerned, it's a no-go.

"I think it's just the wishes of an extreme minority," she says.

"I know plenty of homosexuals and not one of them has spoken out in favour of wanting to get married.

Femme Actuelle also interviewed two other women; Clémentine Autain (for Jean-Luc Mélenchon), a member of the Front de Gauche campaign team, and Dominique Voynet, a spokeswoman for the Europe Écologie Les Verts candidate, Eva Joly.

On the subject of same-sex marriage and same-sex couples being allowed to adopt, they were, not surprisingly, both in agreement with Hollande.

Take a look at the remainder of the interviews if you can.

Apart from the issue of same-sex marriage and adoption, the six women are asked about the candidates' policies on the status of step-parents and universal child benefits

They're interesting, not too detailed or heavy but at the same time avoid becoming merely sound bites.

And sometimes the points on which they converge are as surprising as those on which they diverge.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

"Right to die" campaign targets French presidential candidates

Wednesday sees the launch of a campaign by the L'Association pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité (ADMD) to persuade some of the French presidential candidates to rethink their positions on euthanasia.

ADMD campaign Nicolas Sarkozy (

ADMD campaign Marine Le Pen (

ADMD campaign François Bayrou (

In what the French media is describing as a campaign meant to shock, the association uses retouched images of three presidential candidates, all of whom are opposed to legislation which would, in the words of ADMD, "allow active assistance to those who wish to die".

François Bayrou, Marine Le Pen and Nicolas Sarkozy are all featured, ill in hospital beds and each of them is asked the question, "Do we have to put you in such a position to change your views on euthanasia."

For the association showing each of the three candidates in a position in which they were clearly suffering would "force them to reflect on the important issue of individual freedom" - in other words the right to decide.

While the images are definitely striking, the campaign is not one meant to shock but to change the opinion of the three candidates on the issue of the right to die, according to the president of ADMD, Jean-Luc Romero.

"We're all going to die at some point, but sometimes politicians behave as though they don't know that," he told RTL radio.

"There are millions of French who are regularly confronted with seeing someone in a hospital bed and they don't find it shocking," he continued.

"We wanted to choose the three candidates who were quite adamant that they were against introducing legislation that would allow people to die with dignity."

The campaign is part of an attempt by ADMD to raise an issue, which as far as Romero is concerned, has its place as part of the presidential debate.

At the end of the month the association will hold a rally in Paris and a conference to which it will invite all the presidential candidates.

Is the campaign really going to change the minds or policies of politicians who have already explained why they're against euthanasia?

Is it shocking and perhaps in bad taste?

Or is it a reminder that, if you believe an Ifop poll carried out for ADMD last year, politicians in France are well behind the current thinking of the population at large when it comes to legislation.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

NKM contradicts Guéant...and Sarkozy on vote for foreigners and halal in canteens link

Ah it must be wonderful to have your spokesperson seemingly contradict not only what you've said, but also a statement made by one of your closest political allies.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (screenshot from Canal + interview)

Such was the case on Sunday when Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who's thankfully more commonly known in France by her initials NKM, seemed to distance herself from one of the ideas expressed by interior minister Claude Guéant on the reasons for not extending the right to vote to non-EU residents in France.

Remember what he said? And in particular the sort of "threats" such a move would pose to society.

"We don't want foreigners becoming elected local councillors and then making halal meat obligatory in workplace canteens or public swimming pools being segregated according to sex."

Well, the link Guéant made between the reasons for not extending the right to vote to non-EU residents and faith-based meals in canteens, wasn't one NKM particularly appreciated.

She doesn't approve of either it appears, but also thinks the connection between the two is an "unnecessary" one.

And she said as much during an extended interview with Anne-Sophie Lapix, the presenter of the weekly political magazine Dimanche + last Sunday (of course) on Canal +.

Asked by Lapix whether she had the same fear that extending the vote would also lead to halal food in canteens, NKM took quite a somewhat different approach to that of Guéant - and indeed seemed to criticise him.

"I think there are enough reasons to be against extending the vote to foreigners in terms of it being the right of citizenship, and I think there are enough reasons to be against faith-based meals in canteens," she said.

"It's not necessary to make a link between the two."

(You can hear her say that at around nine minutes into the video)

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That's all well and good: NKM not agreeing with Guéant, the man, who until he became interior minister in February 2011 had been a close political advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy for nine years.

In other words, Guéant rarely says something without having had it green-lighted by Sarkozy.

But worse, as far as NKM's comment was concerned, Sarkozy had made exactly the same link between the two as Guéant during a lengthy interview in Le Figaro just days before he officially announced he would be running for re-election.

"If non-EU foreigners could vote in France today, just think what would happen at a local level," he said.

"Questions would start being asked about whether halal food be introduced into school cafeterias and public swimming pools being segregated," he continued.

"Is this what we want? My answer is no. Voting must remain linked to citizenship."

You see?

Precisely the same ideas and argumentation linked in a way which NKM said was "unnecessary".

Oh well.

Perhaps NKM hadn't been briefed sufficiently well as at the time she was still the
minister for ecology, sustainable energy, transport and housing, only stepping down once she had been appointed spokesperson for Sarkozy during his presidential campaign.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Is Germany's Angela Merkel leading a "boycott François Hollande" pact?

How could anyone think such a thing?

Of course there's absolutely no substance to the report in the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel that some European leaders have agreed collectively "not to meet the French Socialist party's presidential candidate, François Hollande, when he comes to their respective countries."

François Hollande (screenshot BFM TV news report)

The agreement, according to the magazine, is between Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime minister of Italy and Spain, Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy.

They've apparently promised to snub Hollande because of "his plans to renegotiate the treaty on tighter budget discipline for the euro zone."

And just for good measure, the United Kingdom's prime minister, David Cameron is also party to the alleged "pact", even though he didn't sign up to the treaty.

But it can't possibly be true because Berlin has denied the suggestion of the existence of an anti-Hollande pact as the German news channel n-tv reports.

A government spokeswoman told the channel that, "It's up to each individual government leader to decide whether to meet Hollande. So far in Germany, there has been no date fixed."

Aha. That's all right then.

Everyone can forget about that appearance Merkel made with the French president Nicolas Sarkozy on French television's prime time news as a sign of solidarity for the work the two had put in to saving Europe.

After all, Sarkozy wasn't officially a candidate at the time - that came a matter of days later - and Merkel seemed happy to throw her weight behind a man who is, after all, more-or-less in the same broad political family.

Nothing untoward or inappropriate there then.

And David Cameron not meeting Hollande when the Socialist party candidate was in London recently to woo the many French voters who live on the other side of the Channel and put the minds of the City at rest - well, once again that was completely understandable.

In theory at least, Cameron is on the same political wavelength as Sarkozy, so it's obvious he would support the current French president in his bid for re-election and to paraphrase, it's "just not cricket" (or goes against protocol) to meet candidates during an election period (although it's quite all right to offer support as he did to Sarkozy in an interview with Le Figaro a couple of weeks ago).

So it's not snubbing Hollande by any means. Merkel and Cameron et al are quite at liberty to decide who they support and meet; there's absolutely no obligation to even to appear diplomatic and objective.

But wait.

Is that a murmur of disagreement and a word or two of caution from someone highly placed within Merkel's own government?

Surely not.

Yes it is.

And it comes from none other than the German foreign minister and the former leader of the Freie Demokratische Partei (the Free Democratic Party, FDP) currently Merkel's coalition partner in government, Guido Westerwelle.

In an interview with the Sunday edition of the German national daily Die Welt, Westerwelle, while not directly addressing the reports of an implied pact, had a few words of advice for his own country's politicans.

"I would advise all German parties to exercise restraint," he said.

"The party-political debate in Germany is not one that should be transferred to France and the government is not part of the French election campaign," he said.

"We've worked very well with the current French government but we also should also make it clear that we would work closely with any government French voters choose."

Hollande boycotté par les principaux dirigeants... par BFMTV

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Claude Guéant's unsurprising appeal to far right voters in French presidential election

It can hardly have been anything more than a coincidence of course.

Just a day after the leader of the far right Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen, announced that she only needed 48 more signatures to be guaranteed being able to stand in the first round of the presidential elections, up pipes interior minister Claude Guéant.

Claude Guéant (screenshot from France 3 report)

He can always be relied on to appeal to voters who might be considering switching allegiances from the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, Union for a Popular Movement,UMP) party of Nicolas Sarkozy for Le Pen's FN.

He has done it in the past during interviews in which he has said the French don't feel at home in their own country, or France doesn't need foreign bricklayers and the number of Moslems in this country causes problems.

And on Friday he took up a theme recently introduced by La Pen who claimed there was a cover-up over the quantity of halal meat being distributed in the Paris region without consumers being aware.

Guéant gave the subject his own special but equally xenophobic touch by linking it to one of the policies put forward by the Socialist party's candidate François Hollande - giving foreigners (ie non-EU citizens resident in France) the right to vote.

"Giving foreigners the vote is a way of opening the door to communalism (the idea of there being a stronger loyalty to an ethnic group rather than society as a whole)," he said during a speech in the eastern French city of Nancy.

"We don't want foreigners becoming elected local councillors and then making halal meat obligatory in workplace canteens or public swimming pools being segregated according to sex," he continued.

"Foreigners must accept our rules, it's up to them to adapt. Everyone knows if we have fewer immigrants, things will be better."

Yes, it was a government minister speaking!

Little wonder that in the past Le Pen has, not-so jokingly perhaps, offered him honorary membership of her party.

Guéant was of course laying out a policy direction clearly designed to appeal to Le Pen voters and just as importantly he was preparing the ground for extreme views to become more acceptably mainstream to members of his own party.

Because guess what?

On Saturday during a campaign rally in Bordeaux, some of those very themes were taken up as part of a speech given by Nicolas Sarkozy, especially the fear of the power (non EU) foreigners would wield if given the vote

And his words fairly echoed those of the interior minister.

"It would amount to an attack on the Republic by opening the door to communalism (there's that word again)," he said.

"And it would put mayors under the threat of blackmail of communalism."

Do you think the UMP campaign agenda is being defined by Le Pen?

Just a thought.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A kiss of joy - French striker Olivier Giroud plants one on teammate Mathieu Debuchy

There's no more emotional way of showing feelings than a kiss - is there?

Well not if you happen to be a football player where kissing a fellow player could be misinterpreted.

After all there's something of a taboo surrounding homosexuality in the so-called Beautiful Game, and although Uefa has thrown its weight behind national campaigns to stamp out homophobia, most would agree there's still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Just last month for example, Uefa was urged to take action over Real Madrid manager José Mourinho's apparent homophobic slur before his side's Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.

But that's all rather an aside to an event that occurred last week during a friendly international between Germany and France.

It concerned the 25-year-old Ligue 1 Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud, making only his third appearance for Les Bleus in a game which would see him score his first international goal.

Giroud netted the ball after another relative newcomer to the team, Mathieu Debuchy a 26-year old midfielder from the current French champions Lille, passed to him.

Olivier Giroud kisses teammate Mathieu Debuchy (screenshot ZDF television)

And what happened next was a clear show of camaraderie and excitement as the two men shared a full-on smacker.

Well from the camera angle it seemed to be more Giroud kissing Debuchy than the other way round.

It was a moment which, while it left the German commentators completely unfazed - as you can tell (if you speak the language) they just kept on talking, wondering how Germany would the goal that is - seems to have plenty of "tongues wagging" on the Net.

Some of the headlines and comments were perhaps only to be expected and included phrases such as "French kissing" (yawn) or "Gay celebration" (even bigger yawn).

But any idea that the gesture was anything other than a complete expression of joy, especially on the part of Giroud, are surely wildly exaggerated.

Kissing another man in France - or in much of mainland Europe come to that - doesn't have the same sort of schoolboy-giggly innuendo it might have in say the United States or Britain.

It's just...well "normal" for want of a better word and definitely acceptable.

No big deal really and quite endearing - n'est-ce pas?

By the way, France won the friendly 2-1.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Friday's French music break - Oldelaf, "La tristitude"

Friday's French music break this week is something just a little different.

It's "La tristitude" by singer-songwriter Olivier Delafosse, who goes under the stage name Oldelaf, and surely puts paid to a couple misconceptions you might have.

Oldelaf (screenshot from "La tristitude")

The first one is that French comedy is defined solely by a seemingly endless number of stand-up acts who should perhaps really try sitting down, impersonators with rather iffy material that raise a smile for five minutes and then leave you looking at your watch for an hour, or those terrible homemade sitcoms which are, in the main, thankfully a thing of the past but can still be caught as reruns if you're unlucky enough to turn on the telly at the wrong time.

Yes Oldelaf, as well as being a musician is also a humourist - a funny one - with quick wit and a clever pen as demonstrated in "La tristude" - more on that in a moment.

Another false impression that's put to rest is the one that perhaps French TV host Michel Drucker is only capable of a "polite and toned down" approach to his guests during his (many) years of hosting shows and in particular since 1998 his weekly Sunday afternoon programme, "Vivement Dimanche".

The link between the two?

Well, Drucker also currently has a daily mid-morning programme on Europe 1 radio, "Faites entrer l'invité", in which he invites a guest and, along with his fellow contributors (Faustine Bollaert, Jérôme Commandeur, Mathieu Madénian, Matthieu Noël, Willy Rovelli and Walter) conducts a somewhat irreverent series of interviews.

Also present as a regular member of the team is Oldelaf (yes the connection was a long time coming) who, on each occasion, interprets "La tristitude", adding updated lyrics that often reflect a recent news event.

Yes, the beauty of the song is that it's constantly changing.

The tune remains the same but Oldelaf adapts the lyrics to fit the news and/or the context.

It's always funny, sometimes cruelly so, and very, very clever.

In fact "La tristitude" has become something of a phenomenon, almost a cult among some.

Oldelaf has had additional exposure across the media with what has become the concept "La tristitude" - (a contraction of "tristesse and solitude" or "sadness and solitude") and appears regularly on Drucker's Vivement Dimanche.

There has even been a competition organised on the video sharing service website Dailymotion inviting members of the public to make, create and record their own version of what constitutes "La tristitude".

There's more of course to the 36-year-old Delafosse than just one song, including 10 years worth of concerts and albums as part of the now-defunct act Oldelaf et Monsieur D, and a spell with the French band Les Fatals Picards.

You can read his full bio on his official site.

For the moment though, here's the original of "La tristitude" taken from Oldelaf's 2011 debut album as a solo performer, "Le monde est beau".

If you like what you hear, then you can catch him regularly on Drucker's radio and TV programmes or live at Le Trianon in Paris on April 28.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

2012 is a "bisexual" year for French weather forecaster

We've all had them haven't we? Those moments when our mouths become disengaged from our brains and what comes out is similar to, but significantly different from, what had intended that it sends us and those around us into fits of giggles.

It's worse of course when it occurs during a presentation or any form of public speaking.

And when it happens on live TV or radio, the chances are it's going to make its way on to the Net.

Jean-Marc Souami (screenshot France 3)

Such was the case with a slip of the tongue during the lunchtime news on France 3 on Saturday as weather forecaster Jean-Marc Souami, shared with viewers a meteorological outlook for the week ahead

Captions with unusually mild temperatures worthy of early Spring and plenty of sunshine especially in the south of the country were what he was about to introduce, but before he did that, he thought he would remind those watching that 2012 was a leap year or "année bissextile" in French.

You can find out the origins of the term (in French) here if you wish.

Anyway, you can probably see where this is going because of course Souami replaced "bissextile" with the word "bisexual" much to his embarrassment but also initial shriek of amusement from the news anchor Catherine Matausch.

Souami, who quickly corrected himself, continued, holding back his own laughter until the end when he offered up a somewhat sheepish apology for his blunder.

Ah the wonders of live telly.

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