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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Canada features at job fair for France's unemployed professionals

It goes without saying that unemployment is one of the major issues currently facing the French government.

The country's president, François Hollande, made tackling the problem one of his priorities, making endless promises during his first year in office that the upward trend would be reversed by the end of 2013.

It wasn't.

In January 2014, he admitted having failed, changed tack and maintained that his Pacte de Responsabilité (Responsibility Pact - agreed with trade unions and employers' organisations and which would give business increased tax breaks) would "put the French economy back on the rails".

The assumption being that a drop in the unemployment rate would be one of the results.

He went even further later in the year, when he started talking about not seeking re-election in 2017 if the effects of his economic policies didn't kick in and he failed to cut unemployment.

Well, the jobless rate is still on the rise.

The most recent seasonally adjusted figures for Q3 2014 released by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, INSEE) had risen to 10.4 per cent.

Without blinding you with an endless stream of figures and percentages (you can find plenty of reports on the stats by doing a simple Internet search) the bottom line is that France is still in deep economic doggy doo (now isn't that a profound analysis) .

Help is at hand though - at least for young professionals who are having problems finding the job to suit their qualifications or those who are looking to change their career, retrain or start their own businesses.

It comes in the form of the Salon du travail et de la mobilité professionnelle - a job fair organised by the weekly news magazine L'Express and with the official backing of the ministry of employment.

It's being held at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris on January 23 and 24, bringing together 150 exhibitors, workshops and consultants with those looking for jobs.

Among the advice given on how best to present yourself and your cv, and in spite of the special section for the handicapped, the whole shebang seems to be put a weird perspective by two factors.

Firstly, one of the posters promoting the fair suggests "mobility" - trying another region within France.

Fair enough. It might smack somewhat of the advice given back in the 1980s to Britain's unemployed by the former conservative employment (among other positions) minister Norman Tebbit to "get on their bikes".

Or go where the work is. But it's probably healthy to remind visitors and jobseekers that France doesn't begin and end in Paris.

Secondly there's  the "country of honour"  - Canada - and the poster declaring the low unemployment rate the other side of the Atlantic in Quebec.

(screenshot Salon du travail et de la mobilité professionnelle poster)

Does that mean the French government has in a roundabout way, (because it's supporting the fair) come up with a new strategy to reduce unemployment in France by encouraging people  to look anywhere - even abroad - for opportunities?

Any ideas François Rebsamen (the minister of employment)?

Monday, 19 January 2015

Peugeot - where sometimes an "open day" means "business as usual"

The French often come in for something of a pasting when it comes to business practices and customer service.

Unfair of course - because each country has its own peculiarities, although admittedly France seems to have more than its far share.

Still, no matter how much you might want to defend them, sometimes the French excel themselves in redefining common sense...and their own language.

Take the case of "portes ouvertes" or "open days" as interpreted by some car dealers in the country.

They've just taken place here with manufacturers eager to entice potential customers with the promise of special offers.

Those can include a 'manufacturer's official) dealer offering to take back your current vehicle at its market price (as defined by the "bible" of second-hand car value in France, the magazine and website "Argus")  and at the same time knocking off up to €5,000 on the purchase of some of models.

Others throw in free service for a year or more and monthly leasing rates without the need to put down a deposit.

In fact, there's almost a glut in the range of "special offers" available, limited to a certain period but repeated with such frequency that they've become almost par for the course.

And to give sales that extra boost, there are those "portes ouvertes" when dealers throw open their doors at times when they would normally be closed...or so you would think.

Because outside of the main metropolitan areas, it can sometimes be difficult to find car dealers who have understood that an "open day" is not the same as "business as usual".

Such was the case this past weekend in the southwestern département of Tarn.

The official Peugeot dealers in the towns of Graulhet and Gaillac (both with populations of around 12,000) proudly announced they would be holding "portes ouvertes".

Only you had to pay attention to the times, because in reality they weren't - "portes ouvertes", that is.

Peugeot 2008 (screenshot from video report by Malcolm Flynn on

The two dealers were open on Friday and Saturday - just as they always are, but closed on Sunday because, as they explained to the bemused potential buyer who turned up then and happened to find someone in the showroom not selling but simply catching up on some paperwork, "portes ouvertes had been on the previous two days."


Now let's take a quick look at the Gaillac dealer's regular opening hours.

Um...Monday-Friday from eight o'clock in the morning until half-past seven in the evening. And on Saturday from eight o'clock in the morning until seven o'clock in the evening.

And those "portes ouvertes"? Friday 16 January and Saturday 17 January (even though an Internet search tells you initially that it was in fact on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18).

Oh well.

Never mind.

There was always a 25km drive to Albi or a 50km one to Toulouse.

Or not.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

#ouestsarkozy and #JesuisNico trend after Nicolas Sarkozy's front row appearance at Paris march

Of course it's all a matter of interpretation,

But the French media and social networks have been having a little bit of (harmless) fun at the expense of the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

He was invited, in his capacity as the newly-elected leader of the opposition centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) party to take part in Sunday's rally in Paris.

And, after meeting his successor at the Elysée palace, François Hollande, Sarkozy graciously accepted.

Somehow though, Sarkozy didn't seem happy to play second fiddle - so-to-speak - as he found himself a couple of rows back from the front of the march.

That highly-esteemed position was given to world leaders who had made the trip to Paris to take part in the rally: leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mali's president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Britain's David Cameron, Spain's Mariano Rajoy and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

They were all snapped by the world's cameras alongside Hollande.

In total, 44 heads of state or government turned up.

And so too was Sarkozy who, on more than one occasion, managed to worm his way through to the front...where he presumably thought he so rightfully belonged...with his "fellow world leaders".

World leaders - and Nicolas Sarkozy - at the Paris march (screenshot from Europe 1 Dailymotion video)

Such "antics" soon saw Sarkozy ridiculed on the Net with Twitter a-tweet and Tumblr a-Tumblr (well you can't really say awash now, can you?) with photoshopped images of other world events (throughout history) that Sarkozy has "attended."

#JeSuisNico and #ouestsarkozy (a play on the "Where's Wally?" series of children's books which in France are known as "Où est Charlie?") were launched.

And there was Sarkozy alongside Charles de Gaulle after the liberation of Paris in 1944.

On the moon, ahead of Neil Armstrong, in 1969

Present and participating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

With the French football team as they lifted the World Cup in 1998

And...well you get the picture.

Yes Sarkozy really was an eyewitness to history down the decades.

Nicolas Sarkozy s'impose sur la photo by LeLab_E1

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Charb's poignantly prophetic last cartoon for Charlie Hebdo

After the events of Wednesday, when armed gunmen shot and killed 12 people at the offices in Paris of the French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo", there's little that hasn't been said, written or reported, both within France and abroad.

As a tribute to those who died here are two images.

The first is a screenshot taken for the weekly news magazine "L'Obs". It's the very last cartoon drawn by "Charlie Hebdo's" editor, Stéphane Charbonnier or "Charb", who was one of those killed in the attack.

It's tragically predictive with the headline reading, "Toujours pas d'attentats en France?" "Still no attacks in France?" and an armed Islamist militant saying, "Attendez" or "Wait".
"On a jusqu'à la fin janvier pour présenter ses vœux "We have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes" - a satire on the French (political and social) tradition of wishing others a happy New Year throughout the whole of the month.

Charb's last cartoon (screenshot from "L'Obs")

And the second powerful image is that of the front cover of Thursday's edition of the national daily Libération.

No translation needed.

Libération front cover tribute to "Charlie Hebdo"

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Valerie Trierweiler's tell-all memoir to be made into a film

We've already had the best-selling book - although we didn't really need (or want) it.

So it's perhaps not so much of a surprise that it's about to be followed up by a film...a tee-shirt, a mug and a song.

No. Those last three elements aren't true (yet) but the first part is.

The best-selling tell-all tale "Merci pour ce moment" ("Thank you for this moment") from France's former first lady Valérie Trierweiler is apparently going to hit the big screen after the actress-producer Saïda Jawad revealed that she had secured the films rights.

Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot interview with BBC's "Newsnight" - November 2014)

In an interview with the weekly glossy magazine "Gala", Jawad spoke about her plans to turn the book of her "close friend of three years" into a movie, saying that her production company was, in agreement with Trierweiler, was working on developing the film adaptation.

"In the book, Valérie embodied the struggle of a woman trying to tell the truth," Jawad said.

"The film will be a fictionalised biopic in which I envisage the main character telling her story to a close friend and allowing us to understand better the political world," she continued..

"And I can guarantee you that there'll be a lot of new things to discover."

Wonderful. Bet you can't wait.

As a book, Treirweiler's "tale" served as a (very) lame excuse for a women scorned and determined to give her side of the story after being dumped  by her former partner, the French president François Hollande - or as Hadley Freeman in "The Guardian" wrote when "Thank you for this moment" was released in English, it proved to be "a triumph of self-obsessed raving"

But of course "Merci pour ce moment" (which has sold over 730,000 copies in France and has been translated into 11 languages) is not a book of "revenge" - - even though that's pretty much how it has been interpreted -  but an attempt by Trierweiler to reveal the misogyny that exists in French politics and "to rebuild her life after the painful split."

So the film is surely a logical step in ensuring she'll be able to add an infinity swimming pool, top of the range sauna and other luxury accoutrements should she need additional resources in her rebuilding enterprise.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

François Hollande delivers a Spice Girls' "positivity" New Year speech

It seems that François Hollande has taken a lesson in politics from the former British pop group the Spice Girls.

Well, that would appear to be the case after listening to the French president's message to the nation at the turn of the year.

François Hollande, New Year's speech 2015
(screenshot France 2)

And that "2015 charm offensive", as it has been called by the French media, continued with a two-hour radio interview and the traditional endless round of presidential New Year greetings.

During his nine-minute televised New Year message to the nation, Hollande recognised the problems France had encountered in 2014 and will likely have to face in 2015, all the time revealing himself to be upbeat - without saying anything that had any real substance to it.

He stressed the need to put an end to the "denigration and discouragement" that seemed to characterise the image of France at home and abroad, stressing the size of the country, its economic status, its international responsibilities, diplomacy et yadda, yadda, can watch and listen to the whole nine minutes here.

The essence of Hollande's message?

Well, France and the French - had every reason to be proud and have confidence - even though 2015 was likely to be a(nother) difficult year and "France isn't about nostalgia, it's about hope."

"To move forward will require audacity and a rejection of the status quo," he said.

You see. Echoes of that 1997 hit "Spice up your life" n'est-ce pas?

"Smilin' and dancin', Everything is free All you need is positivity."

Take it away, Geri, Emma, Victoria, Melanie B, Melanie C and François...

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