It was the 18th Century philosopher, Edmund Burke who chose to tell the world of his somewhat anti-revolutionary « Reflections on the Revolution in France » – not so much a cohérent commentary on those évents unleashed by the storing of the Bastille, I’ve always though the book was just an excuse to have a go at Thomas paine after the publication of his work « The Rights of Man »
Anyway, no matter what you mght hear about France at the moment, we are not in a state of révolution, though there are some very angry Bretons – the Bonnet Rouge, busy staging their own mini rec-volt against the Paris based Hollande government . For the moment, the « revolt » has taken the form of destroying speed cameras on Breton roads. So widespread has the destruction become, that there are now police and Gendarmes mounting 24/7 guards on speed cameras. Note that the government is calling the speed cameras « symbols of the Republic » – most of us motorists just think they are nothing more than a bloody nuisance.
Anyway, here is not the place for reflections on the current revolt in France – simply because the French are not revolting and also because it is November – a month when the French tradionally vent their anger.
In November 2005 the country we had serious rioting. In Novemner 2003, hundreds of thousands of high school and university students took to the Streets to protest about proposed short-term work contracts for the under-25s. In the nineties it was always the nations raod hauliers who took to the Streets in the run up to Christmas, and in November 2012 there were the first major démonstrations against the government’s same sex marriage law. The French always have a riot or a demo in November.
Well, it is the fag end of the year. The weather is awful. Christmas is still a long way off and we’re all just generally fed up. And come Christmas, we’ll put the flags and banners away for a few months before we unfurl them all in May for a spot more protest and discontent when the weather is better.
Anyway, things in France at the moment are bad – in fact they are worse than bad, though because the French spend all their time complaining about everything, I am under the impression that thinngs are no worse than usual. So, the Standards and Poors and Fitches of this world have once again downgraded France. There have been 84 new taxes announced over the last two years. VAT will be increased to 20% in January 2014 and pretty much all corporations and lobbies from school teachers and truck drivers to farmers, vêts, midwives and shopkeepers are out protesting against the Hollande government.
In this climate of protest and général malaise, I thought it would be opportune to teach you a few phrases which the French use to measure the général level of « malaise »
« On va droit dans le mur » – meaning we are all heading at breakneck speed directly into a huge brick wall. Note that in French you can also have « dos au mur » or backs to the wall. Now, I don’t supose anyone would be stupid enough to drive into a brick wall, if they did however then chances are that it would be in one of these new, low cost Morrocan or Romanian built Renault Dacia cars – retailing for under 10,000 Euros. Were the funds avaialble to rebuild the wall, then it is highly likely the job would be done by an Estonian bricklayer. Seems nowadays, according to French Building Industry reps that around 90% of labourers on French building sites are Estonian – a bit like the late nineties when most of the nation’s plumbers were Polish.
Vast tracts of France are still covered by forest, hence you might have thought in times of crisis that we might have talked about « not being out the woods yet » – This is France though and hence « on n’est pas sorti de l’auberge » meaning literally that we are not out of the Inn yet. Well if it is a good Inn, serving excellent food and good wine, why would anyone want out ? We’d all want to stay in. Of course if it is a bad inn…. I presume though, that if we haven’t left the Inn yet, it is not because of the choice wine and victuals, it is simply because we can’t pay the bill.
There is of course some discussion as to whether we will be going to the inn in the first place. The heavily taxed French middle classes would probably prefer to stay home. Under the Sarkozy government, VAT for the nation’s restaurateurs was reduced to 5.5% from the statutory 19.6% – an effort to help the nation’s ailing restaurant industry. Lower VAT would mean lower menu prices and the punters would come flooding in, except they didn’t, and quite a few restaurants didn’t reduce their prices and pocketd the différence.
More bad time phrases
« On n’est pas dans la merde » meaning that weare not in the s*** , meaning that we are well and truly in the faeces. I suppose that this is closest in meaning to that English phrase where the occupants of a canoë find themselves a long way up a polluted river having lost their paddles.
Finally, the lelvel of discontent in France is such at the moment that no one really bothered that the French football (soccer) team ballsed up their chances of qualifiying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Beaten 2 nil by Ukraine last Friday, our national team « Le Bleus » will have to achieve a mracle scoreline at the return Match in Paris next Tuesady of they wish to qualify.
So things are bad, worse than bad and going from worse to a fate worse than worse. No matter, on Thursady 21st, Beaujolais Nouveau will be unleashed on the world, so we can all drown our sorrows in wine that smells of rotting fruit.
Have a good week.