Saturday, 18 September 2010

Heading south

I've been longing to get away. But 'south' is 'le sud' not 'el sur': this is one long post with subsections so you can skip over it easily. But the pictures are nice.


Sometime in the late 18th century the Rue de l'Enfer, Hell Street, on the Left Bank in Paris, disappeared into a big hole. The Left Bank is built above underground quarries, and the authorities began to realise that the entire Latin Quarter was about to follow the Rue de l'Enfer into the abyss, so a vast underground cathedral-like structure was constructed to support it. Something to reflect on over a coffee on the Boul'Mich.

Evening: Paris feels warm, content, cheerful. London after work can feel restless, even self-destructive.

The night train.

Long ago, before the advent of the TGV, much long-distance travel in France was by night train. Now that you can have breakfast in Paris and lunch in Nice night travel hardly matters, but a limited service called Lunea survives, using the old carriages with couchettes and sieges inclinables to some destinations, at least during the summer months, although not every night. The Paris-Nice train is a real pleasure; waking up to sunrise on the red porphyry crags of the Esterel, then the crawl round the Baie des Anges in the bright morning sun is a real treat. The train runs non-stop Paris to Toulon with a brief halt in Lyon, presumably to change drivers, as the entire run is ten hours. & it really feels fast. In the TGV you lose the sensation of speed: there's little noise and the ride is totally smooth. But the older carriages aren't soundproofed and you know you're going fast, really fast. It's half the speed of a TGV and a lot more exciting.

The Baie des Anges seems to have little to do with celestial beings. I read that 'anges de mer' were a kind of shark that used to be common in the bay.


Ah, and today was Rivertango in London. The air would have been fresh and cool, but not too cold, the sun still warm, and the floor full with partners I know well, and know by sight. There would have been a demonstration of high kicking. & Tango Siempre playing a set, too. Great music, and their Pugliese sublime for a dance too, no doubt. But me, I'm heading south.

L'expulsion des Roms

This has been the big issue of the summer. The papers are full of it. The local paper (in the south, which tends to be very right-wing) sent a reporter to Romania to comment on their condition at home, which was said to be pitiful in that they longed back to the days of Ceaucescu when everyone had a little: now the Roms have nothing. The reporter found this heartbreaking, but the implication is that Romania should look after them better: then they wouldn't need to come to France. The Roms, as Romanians, are EU citizens, and entitled to travel for work, but if they are 'sans papiers' they can be expelled.

It's a sensitive issue. France still remembers another expulsion on ethnic grounds – of the Jews during WWII: there are monuments in many towns to recall the names, and ages, of those rounded up and deported. The government denies the Roms were specifically targeted, but leaked documents have contradicted this.

Sarkozy has an election coming up, and his polls rating is low. Critics suggest this has been done to snatch votes from the far right. It also distracts attention from 'l'affaire Woerth': M. Woerth, while Budget minister, was alleged to have helped the L'Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, one of the wealthiest people in the world, to evade taxes. & she is said to have made huge donations to M. Sarkozy's campaign: envelopes stuffed with cash have been mentioned...

Liberation is the French Guardian, but wonderfully concise. It protests predictably on the treatment of the Roms. It also published an analysis of the language used. The government said that it took action to protect the security of it's own citizens, that this was the heritage of the Revolution, which guaranteed 'surete': but a historian points out that the 'surete' guaranteed under the Revolution was security from arbitrary arrest and detention. He says that the idea of the state guaranteeing security from civil unrest is relatively recent. He's a member of the 'committee for vigilance over the public use of history': what a fascinating idea! The 'public use of history' should be monitored closely, indeed.

Anyway, expelling the Roms in order to protect French citizens from civil unrest seems totally disproportionate. People sometimes found them a nuisance, but no worse. But the idea that 'security' can be used to justify almost anything the state (or a politician seeking re-election) wants to do... that really is troubling.

Flaubert to George Sand, 1867: '...I came across a camp of Bohemians established near Rouen. [...] The great thing about it was that, although they are as inoffensive as sheep, they excited the hatred of the bourgeois. [...] That hatred is very profound and complex. It's the hatred people have for the Bedouin, the heretics, philosophers, the solitaries, the poet.'

1 comment:

Today in Tango said...

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Oscar Wright and Maria Teresa Ruocco
66 via ovidio
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Hm 06-45437139
Cel: 340-646-7159
Web Site: