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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Marly-Gomont's footballing team spirit after 20-0 loss

Until recently the village of Marly-Gomont (population, just over 400) in the département of Aisne in northern France was probably best known for being featured in the 2006 hit of the same name by French rapper Kamini Zantoko.

It's where "Kamini", as he's professionally known, grew up, and the song was a humourous recounting of everyday life and being the only black family living in such a small community.

Well, Marly-Gomont is back in the news for the performance of its local football team, ASMG.

It wasn't just the 20-0 defeat it suffered at the hands...or perhaps that should be feet...of opponents Tupigny, but the manner in which the team lost.

And to be honest, it's refreshing proof (if it were really needed) that the so-called beautiful game is at its most authentic at the amateur level rather than that of the multi-million euro exploits of the overpaid professionals.

Proof that even (or probably) at its most amateur level, the so-called Beautiful Game.

(screenshot from Kamini's video "Marly-Gomont")

 ASMG were already 5-0 down when, after 25 minutes into the match, their goalkeeper had to leave the pitch...because he had been called away to tend to one of his cows who was about to give birth.

On the bench, there wasn't really anyone suitable to replace him, as the club's president, Alain Braghéri,  explained to the local newspaper L'Aisne nouvelle.

"Fourteen of our players were absent through injury or for other reasons," he said.

"Only 12 of us had made the (20km) trip to Tupigny and of those, four weren't even 17 and didn't have senior team experience."

So with nobody around to keep goal, you've probably guessed what happened next.

It was 61-year-old Braghéri who "stepped into the breach"

And he didn't seem to be making too bad a job of things under the circumstances, letting in "just" another five goals by the end of the first half.

But when play resumed, things quickly went pear-shaped.

"Tupigny continued playing their game: short, precise passes and the 'red wave' always seemed to be surging towards me," Braghéri said.

"We suffered, that's for sure. But we tried to limit the damage and we continued playing right up until the end of the match. Tupigny even congratulated us afterwards. We could have abandoned. But what's better? To 'swallow the bitter pill' and get on with it and learn? Or to give up?"

Monday, 24 November 2014

The French male chauvinist's ideal Christmas present for his "other half"?

With Christmas (it's no good groaning, it's that time of year again) just over one month away, it's time perhaps to begin thinking about what you're going to buy your nearest and dearest.

And for the male chauvinists among you who might be looking for ideas as to what to offer your better/other half, her indoors, swmbo or whatever suitably clichéd term you might wish to use, Rowenta has come up with what could well be the "perfect" gift.

After all, it's clearly something only women use.

A vacuum cleaner.

Yes - it's THE thing made for HER!

At least if you're reading through the diagrammatic instructions that accompany the "made in France" Rowenta x-trem power aspirateur (that's your French word for the day. Try dropping it into a conversation. You'll definitely impress).

Now, neither the country of production (France) nor of the manufacturer (Germany) might seem particularly relevant until you cast an eye over (and this is admittedly a somewhat shaky and definitely laboured link to give this piece a semblance of up-to-date newsworthiness) the recent annual report from the World Economic Forum on the global gender gap.

It looks at gender quality worldwide in terms of education, work and health and ranks countries accordingly. As you might expect Germany at 12th position and France 16th rate reasonably well.

After all both are countries in which women's rights and gender equality are promoted - albeit with varying degrees of success.

Somehow though housekeeping and cleaning in this case (as far as Rowenta is concerned), are still apparently very much the domain of women.

How can you tell?

Well, it's back to those diagrammatic instructions - so handy as the written ones only come in nine different languages.

Because although the hand in the illustrations might well be considered to be androgynous enough to give the appearance that the instructions were for both men and women, those featuring the foot (figures 10 and 14) clearly give the game away.

Yep - that's definitely a woman's foot - or at least one clad in a woman's shoe.

So there you have it. A product aimed at, and to be used by, women.

Surely the ideal Christmas present "just for her".

So Messieurs, try stuffing that in the stocking or placing it wrapped at the foot of the Christmas tree and wait for the "squeals of joy and delight".

It'll be a Christmas you'll never forget.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday's French music break - Brigitte, "À bouche que veux-tu"

Friday's French music break this week is sheer delight and a real treat.

It's the title track "À bouche que veux-tu" of the the new album released this week from the duo Brigitte.

Brigitte (screenshot from official video of "À bouche que veux-tu")

The group are the "indie folk musical duo" of Aurelie Saada and Sylvie Hoarau and, it quickly becomes clear that "indie" label is highly appropriate in the sense that their music is hard to categorise.

Their Myspace bio - yes some artists still seem to be using it - describes them as "A throwback to the flower power era, '60s revivalists...combining lounge-pop, retro folk, and French cabaret to produce an authentic hippie-chic sound."

And that, if anything, seems a pretty accurate description.

Their music (and their videos) is (are) highly stylised, melodic and yes, retro without a doubt.

But the duo are also very "modern"...if that makes any sense (and when did you last read a musical review that did?)...offering a distinctive sound that won't leave you indifferent (in a very positive way).

Take a listen for example to two of their best-known past singles, "Battez vous" and "Oh la la" and you'll quickly become hooked.

Brigitte already have one Victoire de la musique award under their belts for Group or Artist Stage Révélation of the Year in 2012 - and this album, and the accompanying tour should ensure they'll be in the running once again next year - perhaps for one of the major gongs..

You can catch the pair on tour throughout France, including two dates at Olympia in Paris in May 2015.

So without further ado, here's a taste of what you can expect...Brigitte with "À bouche que veux-tu".

And as a bonus, the official version followed by an acoustic one.


You most definitely will!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

French government minister hesitantly re-opens the spanking debate

And so the debate has begun again - just as it does periodically in France with, nothing... changing along the way.

The French government has announced it wants to "re-open the debate about spanking" with the minister for families, Laurence Rossignol, saying in an interview this week on Europe 1 radio that she wanted there to be "a violence-free education in French society."

Laurence Rossignol (screenshot Europe 1 interview)

Now before those of you who are morally opposed to any form of physical punishment of children begin rejoicing and welcome Rossgnol's good intentions, don't think that "re-opening the debate" is going to mean a change in the law any time soon.

In May 2014, parliamentarians rejected the addition of an anti-smacking amendment to family law

And back in 2010, a bill presented to the National Assembly by the former parliamentarian and paediatrician  Edwige Antier in 2010 went absolutely nowhere.

Just as it always seems to, in a country in which (according to a 2010 poll) a majority of healthcare professionals (88 per cent) were against the introduction of legislation prohibiting corporal punishment (in all its forms) and in which public opinion runs along the lines of "smacking is all right, so long as it's done 'properly'".

Just take a look at this report from "your typical French town and the views of its inhabitants" which appeared on TF1's lunchtime news broadcast earlier this week.

And Rossignol's desire to "re-open the debate" is far from being a signal that she, or the government, intends to go any further than simply discussing the issue and perhaps making people more aware of alternatives.

Well, not for the time being at least.

"We can be parents and be obeyed (the French seem to be big on the word "obey") without resorting to violence, especially when it comes to small children," she said.

"The civil code already stipulates that interpersonal violence is prohibited, although there is an exemption within an educational context,' she continued,

"We just simply have to get rid of this exemption that seems to be part of the habits and certitude of parenting," she added, saying that relaunching the debate would allow a "period of reflection" with legislation "to follow a long time afterwards."

Oh well, it look as as though France is still a long way off joining the other European countries which have already passed legislation making corporal punishment, of which smacking is a part, a punishable offence.

Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine,

"Status of corporal punishment: total abolition has been achieved – corporal punishment is prohibited in the home, schools, penal systems and alternative care settings"

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Has Nicolas Sarkozy shot himself in foot with calls to repeal France's same-sex marriage law?

Well it sure looks that way - at least partially.

The former French president finally came off the fence, so-to-speak, when he announced at the weekend that the same-sex marriage law in France should be repealed.

Nicolas Sarkozy at Sens Commun meeting (screenshot i>Télé report)

His comments came during a meeting held by Sens Commun (Common sense), a fringe movement founded within the opposition centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) and one which had, and continues to have, close ties to the "Manif pour tous".

If that sounds familiar, it'll be because "Manif pour tous" was the organisation which most vociferously opposed same-sex marriage legislation (and joint adoption) and organised several large scale demonstrations in the run-up to the April 2013 parliamentary debates and votes.

In fact "Manif pour tous" is still going strong, campaigning under its current president, Ludovine de La Rochère, for family values and against assisted reproductive technology, surrogate mothers, same-sex couples having the right to marry and/or adopt children.

Yes, it's an organisation with its sights set on the past and not on the here-and-now and certainly not the future (unless it resembles the past).

Anyway, Sens Commun pulled off something of a coup by having all three candidates for the UMP leadership (to be decided by UMP members' votes in a fortnight's time) turn up to a weekend meeting.

First up (and the three men didn't appear on stage together but rather one after the other) was Bruno Le Maire, jeered when he announced he would not seek to scrap the law that had been passed allowing same-sex marriage.

Next up Hervé Mariton, a firm opponent to same-sex marriage and roundly applauded for his stance.

Finally it was Sarkozy's turn in front of an audience far from being impartial and eager (too eager perhaps) to hear him tell them what they wanted to hear.

And Sarkozy was happy to oblige - at first in words that seemed somewhat coded.

"Let's be clear about this, the Taubira law (for same-sex marriage, named after the justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament) needs to be completely rewritten from the top to the bottom," he said, happy to oblige in a language he thought would mollify those present.

But then as the chant of "Repeal, repeal, repeal," from the audience became stronger, Sarkozy  hardened his tone.

"All right, if you would rather that the law be repealed and another French, that's saying the same thing. The result is the same. But hey, if it make you happy, then frankly it doesn't cost much."

Rapturous applause from those listening. Sarkozy had said exactly what they wanted him to.

He might not be against extending the civil partnership rights (PACS) that exist for same-sex couples, but he wants to rewrite the law on marriage.

Hey ho. That'll be an easy one to get past the Conseil Constitutionnel - withdrawing a right of equality that exists to replace it with...something less.

So how far has Sarkozy shot himself in the foot?

Well only moderately.

Firstly, Sarkozy has made a mockery of the claim that he represents the unifying saviour of the party because some high ranking members and supporters of his push to become UMP leader, immediately responded that they were not in favour of repealing the legislation allowing same-sex marriage.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Sarkozy's spokeperson during the 2012 presidential campaign said repeal was "neither desirable, nor possible".

The mayor of Nice and a minister during Sarkozy's "reign" as president, Christian Estrosi, said there should be no going back on the law and that it had been a "step forward".

And much the same sentiments from other former ministers, Frédéric Lefebvre, Valérie Pécresse and most notably Alain Juppé, a declared candidate for the UMP's primary to choose its candidate for the 2017 presidential election and the biggest threat to Sarkozy should he decide to throw his hat into that particular battle.

Even - and this will surely have come as a shock to many - one of Sarkozy's most fervent supporters, Nadine Morano, seemed unhappy with his statement, tweeting (as is her preferred method of communication) "The French had expected other priorities than the rewriting of the Taubira law."

Secondly Sarkozy was seriously misreading public opinion at large.

Same-sex marriage - yes or no - might have been a subject of debate over 18 months ago.

But the vote has passed and recent surveys show a majority of French (68 per cent) are in favour of same-sex marriage and 53 per cent believe couples of the same sex should be allowed to adopt - together.

That said, Sarkozy's stance is unlikely to have done him any harm with UMP members. He'll still more than likely romp home to win the leadership contest.

But it has displayed once again his predisposition for telling people (in this case an audience composed largely of those opposing same-sex marriage) what they wanted to hear without really having the (constitutional) tools to deliver.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The finger on the (Opel) Mokka button

Opel is currently featuring former (or is that still) German super model Claudia Schiffer in its television commercials, with the 44-year-old "captivating (in Opel's own words) TV audiences around Europe with her chic ‘It’s a German’ ad' campaigns for the Opel Astra, Meriva, Mokka and Zafira Tourer."

Claudia Schiffer (screenshot Opel Mokka clip)

A pretty wise choice as Schiffer has more than a touch of class, elegance and intelligence to her, and Opel - the German subsidiary of the US car manufacturer General Motors - has its own very definite (German) identity and reputation for reliability and style.

And that's a point driven (ouch) home in the "It's a German" campaign.

The commercial for the Mokka is one that has been appearing frequently on French tellies.

Perhaps that's not a surprise as the market for subcompact crossover SUVs is a tough one and includes two "homemade" French models: the Peugeot 2008 and the Renault Captur.

Anyway, if you're not concentrating particularly during the 30-second spot, you could be forgiven for thinking that Opel is being intentionally "equivocal" while also relying on (and simultaneously breaking) gender stereotypes.

Because there's the matter of whose finger is really pressing the car's hill descent control button.

Finger on the button (screenshot Opel Mokka clip)

It's obvious really, but the lack of dialogue-action continuity could have you thinking otherwise.

The "plot" for the commercial runs along the following lines.

Schiffer pulls into the entrance of an underground car park.

A (smooth) male attendant chauvinistically asks (the of course blonde and by implication incapable) Schiffer whether she'll manage it down the ramp in her Opel Mokka.

"It's pretty steep," he tells her. "Maybe you need some help".

"OK," replies Schiffer. "Would you mind pressing that button."

It's at this point that a perfectly manicured and nail-lacquered index finger is seen pressing the hill descent control button with the attendant looking surprised as he steps away from the car and Schiffer accelerates down the ramp.

And this is where you might do a double take.

As Schiffer asked the attendant to press the hill descent control button as a way of "helping her" does that mean that he obliged and the finger belonged to him?

Of course not. But there's enough ambiguity of continuity and dialogue in the French clip to make you think (especially if you hadn't been paying attention) that...well, anything might be possible.

So a quick check on both the English and German  versions reveals exactly the same dialogue and that finger pressing...which, although of course it must be Schiffer's could just be (for those who wish car manufacturers would surprise viewers a little more often by breaking with the clichés) the attendant's...oder?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday's French music break - Carmen Maria Vega, "Oser les larmes"

Friday's French music break this week is from a musical.

It's "Oser les larmes", sung by Carmen Maria Vega who plays the lead role in the show billed as "the musical spectacle of the new season" in the shape of "Mistinguett, Reine des années folles"

Carmen Maria Vega (screenshot performing "Oser les larmes" RTL le Grand Studio, September, 2014)

Now, don't groan, be misled or become all snooty at the idea of a musical - and a French one at that (yes they exist) because "Mistinguett" distinguishes itself by Vega's performance and voice for starters and the inspiration for the show, Jeanne Bourgeois.

She was a French actress and singer who began her career at cabaret venues in Paris before taking her show to across the Pond to become a Music Hall star in the States.

"Mistinguett" is produced by Albert Cohen, a man who has had a hand in some of the most popular musicals in France in recent years including "Les Dix Commandements", "Le Roi Soleil", "Mozart, l'opéra rock" and most recently "1789: Les Amants de la Bastille" - all of which were huge domestic successes.

So the man knows how to put "bums on seats".

The musical cleverly portrays part of Mistinguett's life - and that of the history of the Casino de Paris - in the "Golden Twenties", complete with singers, musicians, actors and dancers who, "tell the story of the creation of the first vaudeville show and one that Broadway."

The show hasn't left the critics indifferent. Benoît Tourné writing for Musical questioned who would be the "core target audience" (the elderly who might still remember Mistinguett or the young unfamiliar with her) but admitted the show was "excellently crafted...seductive and not to be missed."

And Sophie Delassein in "l'Obs" said the show was "unlike any other musical" and one whose success lay "in combining new songs with those from the era in which the production is set."

The real star (and "find" if you like - at least to a wider public) though is 30-year-old Guatemalan-born Vega, whose performance is stunning: she really is Mistinguett, and reason enough for seeing the show as well as discovering some of the other work she has already done (visit her official site and check out her tribute album to Boris Vian for example).

"Mistinguett, Reine des années folles" opened at the Casino de Paris in September and will run until January before going on a nationwide tour.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

November 11 commemorations - and the lonesome boar

There's a certain ambivalence among the French as to how they honour those who died in World War One.

On Tuesday, there were the very official ceremonies, with the French president, François Hollande, leading the commemorations by unveiling a new WW1 memorial, "l’Anneau de la Mémoire" ("Ring of Remembrance") next to the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette military cemetery in northern France.

François Hollande at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (screenshot BFM TV report)

Up and down the country, there were similar services to remember those who had fought and died in WW1.

But that didn't mean the whole of the country came to a standstill.

Far from it.

For many, it was simply yet another public holiday - and a pretty long one at that.

With November 11 falling on a Tuesday, plenty took the opportunity to extend the usual  weekend into a four-day break.

Others, of course, had to work.

The usual services - transport, emergency and local supermarkets (yep, the country's - somewhat erratic - shop opening hours might be at the centre of a debate at the moment, but clearly there were still those who needed to pop out for groceries) for example.

And for international bankers (oh, what a shame) it was business as usual because the markets were open in many other countries.

Meanwhile, if you happened to be in rural France, you could well have been in for a very special treat.

The weather was mild - at least in the southwest of the country - and ideal for a pleasant stroll in, for example, the forest of Sivens (in the news recently for the death of 21-year-old Rémi Fraisse, a protester at the controversial dam project) in the département of Tarn.

Accompanying you on your walk, would have been the blood-curdling howls of hounds as they ripped through the woods and spilled out on to the roads, chasing their prey a dozen or so kilometres across the countryside and into the fields surrounding the picturesque village of Castelnau de Montmiral.

Yes, the hunt was on with some locals seemingly intent on paying tribute in their own special way...letting out the dogs, allowing them to rampage, and saluting the memory of those who had died by opening fire on their quarry - a lonesome boar.

How very appropriate for November 11.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Friday's French music break - Calogero, "Le portrait"

Friday's French music break this week comes from an artist who needs little or no introduction to the French.

It's Calogero (Calogero Maurici) with his latest single "Le portrait".

Calogero (screenshot live performance of "Un jour au mauvais endroit" le Grand Studio RTL)

The song is another melodic masterpiece from a man who has well and truly made his mark on the French music scene.

Once again, Calogero delivers an instantly recognisable tune which is more than pleasing to the ear with a voice that matches perfectly.

It's in the tradition of what he describes as pop-rock: another memorable and moving melody along the lines of  "En apesanteur", released in 2002, "Si seulement je pouvais lui manquer" (2004) "Pomme C" (2007) a couple of duos,  "Face à la mer" (2004 with rapper Passi) and "La débâcle des sentiments" (2008 with co Circus band member Stanislas), and, and, and.

Hit on the links to take a listen.

Now, there's a lot of material out there about Calogero and his career including inevitably Wikpedia in French and English (it's worth comparing the two, if you can).

From his beginnings as Charlie, lead singer of the 1980s band Les Charts, his re-emergence at in 2000 as a solo singer and the path which has seen him become an established member of mainstream French music scene.

So there's no need to repeat it all here.

You can simply search the Net, and you'll come up with something.

But it's worth perhaps pointing out just how respected and prominent Calogero has become over the years.

He has written for a number of artists including, Jenifer, Patrick Fiori, Françoise Hardy, Pascal Obispo, Florent Pagny and...of course (because just about every French composer has)...Johnny Hallyday.

And a fair number showed up for a recent edition of the France 2 Saturday evening entertainment programme "Le Grand Show", dedicated to to the 43-year-old and to celebrate 15 years (as a solo artist) as well as the release of his most recent album, "Les Feux d'artifice".

Which brings us back nicely to this week's Friday's French music break - "Le portrait" - the fourth track from the album to be released as a single.

Enough words.

Just listen - and enjoy.

Oh yes...and if you get the chance, try to see him live. He's on tour until April 2015.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bordeaux manager, Willy Sagnol, apologises for "non-racist" racist comments

Willy Sagnol, the manager of Ligue 1 side FC Girondins de Bordeaux, has apologised for the way in which remarks he made recently appeared to some to be racist when he suggested  that African players are "powerful" but "lack technique, intelligence and discipline".

Willy Sagnol (screenshot BFM TV report)

"I apologise if my comments were misinterpreted and if I offended some people," he said at a press conference on Thursday.

"I was referring on a purely sporting level and not on either a political or social one."

The 37-year-old former French international was referring to comments he made while being interviewed by the regional daily Sud Ouest earlier this week - comments that angered some.

“The advantage of the typical African player is that he isn't expensive to recruit," he said.

"He’s generally ready to fight and is powerful on the pitch.," continued Sagnol.

"But football is not just about that. It's also about technical skills, intelligence and discipline.”

The proverbial "you know what" soon hit the fan.

Lilian Thuram, a former international team mate of Sagnol's from 2000-2008, and arguably one of the most articulate men in the game, said he was both "surprised" and "disappointed" by the Bordeaux manager's comments.

Lilian Thuram (screenshot Bourdin Direct, July 2014)

"There has always been a certain prejudice about players originating from Africa, and that has  always focused on strength over intelligence," said Thuram who, since he retired, has been active in the fight against both racism and discrimination.

"When you read or listen what Willy Sagnol said, you can see that it simply reinforces those preconceptions," he continued.

"That surprises me as he has never made such comments in the past. It is true, unfortunately, that we live in a country in which prejudice remain. And such comments simply strengthen that."

Thuram : "Sagnol renforce les préjugés" sur les... by Europe1fr

 It strengthens them. I am extremely surprised that he can keep that kind of talk . Because , whether the national team or club , he ( Willy Sagnol ) had to play with players of African or African origin and had found that there was intelligent players , disciplined and tactically very good .

Others were less gentle in their criticism with the French anti-racist French NGO SOS Racisme calling on the Fédération française de football (the French football federation, FFF) and the minister of sports to take action and labelling Sagnols comments as, "Laid-back racism".

And Pape Diouf, the former president of  Olympique de Marseille, called on all African players in Ligue 1 to boycott one day's play in the championship.

Not everyone was so incensed by Sagnol's comments - least of all the president of Bordeaux, Jean-Louis Triaud.

"We don't want to widen the scope of what was happened especially as we find it totally unjustifiable," said Triaud.

"I'm angry because anyone who knows Willy Sagnol knows he is anything but racist. The interpretation of his statement was totally wrong."

Meanwhile sports journalist Jean-Michel Larqué went a step further.

Jean-Michel Larqué (screenshot BFM TV report)

"I'm sure that Willy Sagnol was referring to the 'intelligence of the game'," he said.

"A couple of decades ago young African players were referred to as 'rough diamonds' because they had learned the game on the streets and had little knowledge on the tactical level: they didn't know 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 meant. Was that racism?"

"Let's just stop with all this polemic."

So there you have it. Sagnol's comments were clearly "laid back" or "non-racist" - depending on whose arguments you follow.

Or better still, they were accurate - as some of these Bordeaux supporters seemed to think, when questioned.

"Much ado about nothing," says the first man interviewed.

"What he says is simply the truth," says the second.

"There's a little bit of everything - African and European - in the side and there's no need to get into an argument about anything," says the third.

The bottom line?

Already expressing racist (and maybe now would be a good time for those naysayers to reach for their dictionaries to discover the definition of racism) thoughts in private is indefensible and against so much of what the so-called beautiful game has tried to combat over the past decades.

But to express them publicly  is both inexcusable, ignorant and downright stupid.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

François Hollande in Canada - making his political mark - really?

All right, so we've established that, in spite of being briefed (presumably) the French president, François Hollande, doesn't exactly come top of the class when it comes to putting faces to names...well at least not in the case of Canada's national hero Kevin Vickers.

But what do you know?

It kind of works both ways.

Few, it appears, in Canada, seem to know who Hollande is.

The French president has just completed an official three-day trip to the country - the first by a French leader since François Mitterrand back in 1987.

François Hollande and Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper in western Canada (screenshot Euronews)

He was, of course trying to drum up business, pointing out that France was only Canada's "eighth-largest trading partner" and that "it could do better".

And he was paving the way for next year's United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) to be held in Paris, saying he was, "counting on Canada to be fully committed to the fight against global warming, and do its part."

That wasn't and won't be an easy task as Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol (committing countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions) in 2011 and reportedly has no plans for reducing emissions from the Alberta oil sands, the country's fastest growing source of carbon emissions.

All well and good on the political front, with a timely "message of support" in the global fight against terrorism, just a week after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier, Nathan Cirillo, guarding the national war memorial in Ottawa before going on a shooting spree in the nearby parliamentary buildings.

And you would at least expect politicians to know who Hollande was and what he stood for.

But not so, apparently for the rest of the country where he was apparently "relatively unknown".

"If you were to ask anyone on the street who François Hollande was, I bet they wouldn't know,"  Canadian journalist Vincent Brousseau-Poulliot for La Presse said on Europe 1 the day Hollande arrived in the country.

"Hollande's not exactly flamboyant,  and although he may well be likeable, he's not perceived to be as tough or as well known as for example Nicolas Sarkozy."

Bet that went down well at the Élysée Palace.

And there's more (or worse, if you like).

For the man, who during the final televised debate during the 2012 French presidential campaign delivered that now famous 15-point "Moi président de la République" speech insisting that he would ensure his behavior was exemplary at every moment ("Moi président de la République, je ferai en sorte que mon comportement soit en chaque instant exemplaire) guess what he is probably best known for in Canada.

François Hollande, "Moi président de la République" (screenshot Le Monde TV 2012)

His private life, according to Sébastien Tanguay, a journalist for the Canadian francophone newspaper Métro.

"We've all heard and read about his affair with Julie Gayet and the break up of his relationship with Valérie Trierweiler," he said.

"But very little his known about his politics and policies."

Join the queue Monsieur Tanguay.

So there you have it.

Hollande might not know what Canada's national hero Kevin Vickers (the the sergeant-at-arms at the House of Commons of Canada in Ottawa who put an end to gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeauman's shooting spree in the parliamentary building on October 22).

But in return, Canadians apparently know little or nothing about the French president.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

François Hollande's lesson on how to offend a country's national hero

Canadian's amongst you will be familiar with the name Kevin Vickers and will probably be able to put a face to the name.

And there's a fair bet that those of you from other countries will at least know what the 58-year-old is famous for, even if you don't know what he looks like and the name doesn't immediately ring the proverbial bell.

Vickers is the sergeant-at-arms at the House of Commons of Canada in Ottawa.

Kevin Vickers (screenshot CBC news)

And on October 22, he was the man who killed gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who had earlier fatally shot a soldier, Nathan Cirillo, guarding the national war memorial in the capital before going on a shooting rampage in the nearby parliamentary building.

Vickers has since been hailed as a hero, both at home and abroad, proving that the largely ceremonial role he normally plays also has an accompanying serious element in being "responsible for safety and security" within the grounds of the parliamentary building.

Indeed, as if to emphasise just how far Vickers' fame had spread, Hollande, paid tribute to him during a speech to parliamentarians from both chambers of the Canadian parliament on Monday, "saluting his courage" and saying that Vickers was now "a hero across the world".

François Hollande addressing parliamentarians in Canada (screenshot BFM TV)

Hollande, sometimes not always up to speed on who to praise or to whom his condolences should be made (see the last sentence in this post) while on an official trip, seemed to have been well briefed by his accompanying advisors during his state visit to Canada- the first by a French president since 1987.

Or had he?

Because just moments before, Hollande had, according to a report on Europe 1, appeared to all but ignore Vickers - or at the very least not recognise the man he would later describe as "a hero across the world."

It happened as Hollande entered the parliamentary building with apparently both the presidents of the senate and the house of commons there to greet him.

They were accompanied by...well, none other than Vickers who would, in his role as sergeant-at-arms, shortly afterwards show Hollande and the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, to their seats.

And all Hollande could offer Vickers - in terms of a personal face-to-face tribute - was a simple handshake...of a man who seemingly hadn't a clue who the other person was.

And that, dear reader, is a classic Hollande lesson on how to offend your hosts while on an official visit and yet another example of his seemingly muddled understanding of protocol or grasp on international events.

Remember his recent renaming of the Syrian town of Kobane as "Konabe?

Or, while on a trip to Japan in 2013 the tribute he paid to the Japanese nationals who had died in the Algerian hostage crisis earlier in the year by referring to them as "Chinese"?

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