Frontline France, Bread and the Contents of a Woman’s Handbag

More simplistic and misspelt ramblings of life in France.

It was French playwright, Jean Anouilh, who, in an interview, when asked what he had done in the War replied that everday he had looked out across the street at the baker’s, and when they actually had any bread, he rushed down to join the queue. Getting through and getting by, that is probably how most French people have been living their lives this week since the tragic and bloody évents in Paris on November 13th.

Numb with grief or still in a state of shock and disbelief, the country is doing the « business as usual » thing. « We won’t change our habits just because a bunch of terrorists … » A well worn cliché in the event of any terrorist attack, especially this one. The good folk of France though are trying to carry on as normal. Of course in the wake of the attacks you think twice about going to the cinema or the theatre, or getting on the Métro. You look twice at people who don’t look like you, you think dark thoughts when you see people in Islamic religious garb – yes I am sorry to say it, but we have all become very suspicious,however we are at war.

At war ????

Rest assured, thousands of Russian tanks are not poised to come crashing across France’s eastern border – of course this is the war that we prepared for and the war that will now probably never happen and the war (according to military experts) that we would probably have lost anyway in under three weeks – no folks, this is a different kind of war.

First, who says France is at war – well President Hollande – the man with all the charisma and stature of a provincial grocer has suddenly taken on the allure of a major world statesman. Our normally timorous President whose statements are charged with whimpering self doubt, is now a just a little more hard-edged. Gone is the rising intonation at the end of every phrase as if our president were a small boy seeking approval, now we have firm , well accentuated, matter-of-fact phrases. Has Mr Hollande has been to a voice coach ? On the day after the Paris attacks, Mr Hollande pronounced the word « war », so too did the prime minister Mr Emmanuel  Vals – always considered to be a bit of a « hardman » and often loathed by the left wing of his own party for his authoritarian stance on matters such as law and order.

So, the government say war, and this week they took to war to Daesh by bombing one of their strongholds in Syria, namely the town of Raqqa. In the first air strikes, 10, French Mirage and Rafale jets dropped 20 bombs on Daesh and then 16 bombs and …

“Hang on! 20 bombs, just 20 bombs  and ten planes? This is hardly what constitutes a « massive air strike. » However, as reported on French radio station RTL, these babies are all laser guided and at 200,000 Euros a pièce they pack a powerful punch. There will be more air strikes as the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gualle deploys to international waters just off Syria – on board 20 spanking new Rafale jets, 2 mini AWACS, five helcopters and of course more bombs – this isn’t top secret – I heard it on the radio.

If war this be, just where is the frontline ? Everywhere, hence the déclaration of a state of national emergency, initiated straight after the attacks and then approved by the French parliament and extended for three months. Here we are then, living in lockdown. There is no curfew, but there are plenty more soldiers and policemen on the streets and they have sweeping powers to stop and search individuals and vehicles. We haven’t quite reached the point of checkpoints, but there are enhanced security checks at entrances to theatres, department strores, concert halls and such like – by « enhanced », I mean, instead of a disinterested or disgruntled private security guard glancing at your bag, they are actually now searching right to the bottom and also asking people to open their coats and jackets to make sure no one is wearing a suicide bomb belt.

This bag searching thing leads me to wonder, how long does it really take to thoroughly search a woman’s hand bag ?

« I need your car keys, » I shout to the wife. « They’re in my bag » she yells back.

Oh dear, the deep and mysterious world of a woman’s hand bag. I swear that if we ever find a lost continent it will be lurking at the bottom of a woman’s hand bag.

Oh dear I am being a little too flippant

Let’s get back to the war. The President and the Prime Minister have both pronounced the previously taboo W word.   Air srtikes in Syria ? They were happening anyway. For sure though, we have to be vigilant, however not to the point of psychosis – yes I do think that the government is trying to maintain the psychosis. Just yesterday (Thursday 19th November) It was announced that the nation’s ambulance crews and paramedics will be issued with antidotes against neuro toxins – chenmical weapons if you prefer. Is this common sensé or way of scaring us with the idea that the terrorists are planning a chemical attack ?

I must admit that I am thinking twice about taking my annual Christmas shopping trip to Paris, but then, what can possibly happen to me ? Statistically speaking, I am more likely to get run over by a car on the Champs Elysées than killed in a terrorist attack.

Anyway it is time to sign off. I have to nip out and buy some bread , (providing of course that there is any bread to be had, after all, we are at war.)

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