All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Just a little something for the weekend....from Rue 89.

For the French speakers among you....General de Gaulle gives his New Year message...from the Other Side........where not even Sarkozy can have him put in detention for 'outrage' to a serving President.

Source...Rue 89, to whom many thanks and awaiting the royalty bill in the new year.


'Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky;
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells across the snow:
The year is going, let him go:
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more:
Ring out the feud of rich and poor
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand years of war,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Tennyson.... 'In Memoriam'

But it won't happen unless we all put our hands to the bell rope.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

If You Go Down to the Sales Today...

SalesImage by Nils Geylen via Flickr
In the U.K., you had just recovered from Christmas when The Sales were upon you and if you were of the tendency that has had its eye on a particular cashmere jersey for three months but baulked at the price tag, then you would sharpen up your elbows and head for the shops.

In France, of course, these things are better regulated....well,  the French shopkeepers think they are.
You can't just have sales when you feel like it, that would be unfair competition for those who didn't feel like it, so you all have to have sales at the same time - though there are shops which get round this by frequently 'liquidating' their stock ahead of remodelling the store...i.e., moving a cash desk.

It's not worth nipping out between Christmas and New Year in search of bargains in the supermarkets either.
Those chocolates will not be reduced by fifty per cent until the last member of the family has returned to work after the break and the womens' magazines are full of post holiday diets.....
While as for the turkeys, it is amazing how a bird with a sell by date of 31/12 and present on the shelves at closing time on 30/12 can have metamorphosed into full price turkey portions with a sell by date of 07/01 by opening time on the next day instead of whole bird marked down to half price.
Just who was it who was supposed to be 'a nation of shopkeepers'?

Having moved to Costa Rica and experienced supermarket shopping here there are two things I could recommend to Mssrs. Leclerc et al. for their French operations....

Armed guards on the car park who also note any damage to your car and stick a note on the windscreen as to circumstances thereof.

This would put a stop to the wild side swiping and bumper crushing so typical of French supermarket carparks, though I'm not sure that I wouldn't prefer the perpetrators to be shot rather than just identified....
Especially when they try to claim on your insurance on the lines of Old Harry's marine insurance claim...
'Stationary end of pier slot machine flying no signals carried away my jibboom...'

It would also empty the car park of 'gens de voyage' threatening to smear your car windows with filthy rags while attempting to sell you overpriced baskets made in China.

Car parks that are designed for people with large cars and larger ideas of space when it comes to parking them......

A far cry from my local French supermarkets which always seemed to be arranged in a herringbone fashion with the one way systems deliberately arranged so as to make turning into the spaces provided as difficult as possible and extricating your car an exercise in gymnastics when the two bright sparks who have parked on either side of you while you are shopping decide to huddle close to you in case of a German invasion.

I have entered my car via the hatchback more than once.....and, thanks to the brainwashing administered by my schoolmistresses, have done so by sitting on the tailgate and wriggling forward backwards, if you see what I mean, to avoid awarding passersby an unseemly view of my backside - something we were always solemnly warned  to avoid.
We used to speculate about these shibboleths as schoolgirls...but, ours not to reason why, ours just to get a slipped disc obeying the rules.

Had suggestion Two been adopted in the north of France we might not have had the incident of the 'doigt d'honneur'....the raised finger which is the French equivalent of the 'V' sign.

Two drivers, one male one female, were competing for a car parking space....and from my experience it isn't just the shortage of places which is the problem, but the awkwardness of design that makes manoevring such a nightmare.
Both became incensed and high words were exchanged.
Finally the woman managed to park and the man drove off, but not before giving her the finger.
Typical car park rage.....

But not a typical outcome.
The woman was a deputy maire in the town in which the car park was situated. After doing her shopping she complained to the police who, instead of uttering soothing words, shot off to arrest the man.
He was an immigrant. From his name one would imagine that he did not have the typical Nordic colouring.

He found himself held at the police station for forty eight hours.....the police could not do this on their own initiative, they needed the permission of the public prosecutor....the 'procureur'.

The charges? 'Outrage' to a representative of the wit, a deputy of the many classes of person so protected...everything from a gendarme to the President.

The man said he did not know she was a deputy maire....the woman admitted that nothing he said indicated that he knew...the man admitted making the storm in a teacup.

He was brought to court and the procureur sought a sentence of five months in the jug...on the grounds that elected representatives and functionaries of the state were entitled to protection at all times, even if not in pursuance of their duties.

A dangerous doctrine.
Wives of councillors who give them a curtain lecture on the virtues of correct positioning of the loo seat risk being bundled off to the cells in their negliges....
A landowner who finds the maire illegally fishing in his lake and gives him the verbal one two might find himself wrapped in his own lines and carted away....
Carla Bruni, upbraiding the President for not getting up for the night feeds, might find herself following Marie Antoinette to la handy for the Palais de Justice...

Clearly, the judge....another whose name does not bring up associations of blond hair and blue eyes...was aware of the dangers.

He fined the man 38 Euros.
For insults...not 'outrage'.

And they worry that Le Pen might gain power.....

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Monday, 26 December 2011

Spanish practices.....

Which may explain some of the problems of the clubmed countries in stimulating their economies.....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas

My favourite French soothing after a surfeit of commercial muzak in the supermarkets....I hope you enjoy it.

I have given the words below...please forgive the background as I had to copy and paste to keep the accents! 

Quelle est cette odeur agréable,
bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?
S'exhale t'il rien de semblable
au milieu des fleurs du printemps?
Quelle est cette odeur agréable
bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?

Mais quelle éclatante lumière
Dans la nuit vient frapper nos yeux
L'astre de jour, dans sa carrière,
Fu-til jamais si radieux!
Mais quelle éclatante lumière
Dans la nuit vient frapper nos yeux

Voici beaucoup d'autres merveilles!
Grand Dieu! qu'entends-je dans les airs?
Quelles voix! Jamais nos oreilles
N'ont entendu pareils concerts.
Voici beaucoup d'autres merveilles!
Grand Dieu! qu'entends-je dans les airs? 

Ne craignez rien, peuple fidèle
Écoutez l'Ange du Seigneur;
Il vous annonce une merveille
Qui va vous combler de bonheur.
Ne craignez rein, peuple fidèle
Écoutez l'Ange du Seigneur.

A Bethléem, dans une crêche
Il vient de vous naitre-un Sauveur
allons, que rien ne vous empêche
D'adorer votre redémpteur
A Bethléem, dans une crêche,
Il vient de vous naître-un Sauveur.

Dieu tout puissant, gloire éternelle
vous soit rendue jus-qu'aux cieux.
Que la paix soit universelle
que la grace abonde en tous lieux.
Dieu tout puissant, gloire éternelle
vous soit rendue jus-qu'aux cieux

Monday, 19 December 2011

And meanwhile, as Merkozy fiddles....

English: Old petrol pump Old petrol pump outsi...                     Image via Wikipedia
The gendarmerie van pulls up in the farmyard. Its sole occupant gets out and heads for the barn.

Hoy! Victor! You there?

In the tractor shed...I'm overhauling the muckspreader. Well, you're a stranger these days....what fine breeze blows you in my direction? Here....let's drink to it.

Well, I'm on duty..

So who's going to breathalyse you?

Yes...well, go on then. What've you got that Albert's?

Yes, a good drop, make the most of it, he's got esca in the vines and he'll be pulling a lot out this winter...
Anyway, what's it all about? I see you're on your own...

Yes, I wanted a quiet word...

If it's about young Laurent's speeding ticket then all I can say is that one of those Parisians with holiday homes round here must have copied his numberplate...
How the hell could my muckspreader be doing 170 kilometres on the periphique at three in the morning!

No, no...that'll get sorted out. But the muckspreader is involved, in a way...there've been complaints.

Complaints? What about? If that's those English again complaining about me not ploughing in Bernard's duck manure for him for over a week ...when we had that hot spell a way back...they can just forget it. They're living in the country, not the middle of London.

No...but you know you're supposed...

I know what I'm supposed to do, but I was organising the Algerian veterans do what with Jean-Antoine being ill...and anyway, it's Bernard's responsibility to get it ploughed in in twenty four hours, not mine...I was just giving him a hand.
So what's it about if it's not the manure?

Well, it is the seem to be collecting a lot of it.

And if I am? Not illegal, is it? I'm a farmer. Farmers always have manure.

Yes, of course.....but there have been complaints that you're not keeping it in an approved don't have it drained and whatnot in accordance with EU regulations.... it's all in your barns.....piles of it.

You'd think people would have something better to do...what business is it of theirs?

I don't suppose anyone would have been interested but after young Laurent drove the muckspreader through Ste. Conasse last week with the spreader attachment still going, it caused a bit of ill feeling...

With all this rubbish going on about the euro you'd think they had other things to worry about!
I'm sorry if Mme. d'Enculade got her car covered in it, but that's life in the country!

From what I hear it was lucky the cold snap had started...if people had had their windows open you'd have had a delegation round your ears in a flash and a fair few claims for compensation.
Still, let's stick to the point.
Do you or do you not have a slurry facility in line with EU  regulations?

Yes, you know I have...your son's girlfriend works for old Machin who installed it.

So why is all that muck stored in your barns?
I hope you've not been buying one round here has a permit to sell manure..

No, people without 'a slurry facility in line with EU regulations' have been giving it me......for my project.

And what might that be?

Well, with all this crisis and whatnot, we're supposed only to buy things made in France...but there isn't much made here anymore so that's a bit difficult...look at my muckspreader...made in Italy!

I don't know who you think would be buying manure in those quantities Victor...but you'll still need a permit to sell it...even if you stick a tricolour on it.

I tell you, I'm not buying or selling manure!
I was wondering what to do to make a few bob extra....on the small scale, you understand...and then it came to me!
People are getting paid God knows what to make those windmill things...which is why the electricity bills will be going up what about something much more efficient....
Biogas! Made in France!

From the manure?

Yes, to start with...but you can use anything organic. Next year, the supermarkets are going to have to recycle all the stuff they chuck out in their bins and my idea is to get this up and running and go for a contract with The Mutant over in Les Deux Biscouilles.....
They pay me to take it away and I make the gas and sell it!
Win win!

But manure's not the same thing as supermarket waste.....oh no! Don't tell me that's you!

What's me?

The dustmen are complaining that someone took all their food waste bins from here, St. Ragondin and Ste. Conasse this week.....

Well, yes...I wanted to see how it would work so I got young Laurent to nip round the night before the collection and pick them all up...a sort of dry run for The Mutant contract.
Don't worry, I've got all the bins hosed out and he'll take them back as soon as he gets back from the dump...

Where, I suppose, he is dumping all the containers and wrappers....

What do you think we are! We're not fly tipping. This is professional.

And I suppose he'spaying the professional rate at the dump?

No, or course not...we're farmers.....

Isn't it a bit messy, this food recycling?

I should say so...Laurent had to take a shower and put his clothes in the wash by the time he'd finished...but it won't be so bad with the supermarket packs, they won't have been opened and squashed up with other stuff.
I was thinking that I could hire a couple of English pensioners to do the dirty work....they're all on their uppers with the pound the way it is...

Was,Victor, was. The way the euro is going the English will be the only ones with any money round here...apart from the politicians, that is.

Well, all the more reason to diversify...the biogas. It's a way of showing your patriotism...not just national but local....environmentally friendly...
It's win win!

So where are you making this stuff? The food waste gas, I mean?

I've fixed up the old root clamp...few valves and'll be a few days before it gets started properly, but I've already got the manure the slurry facility in line with EU regulations. That's going well. I'll soon be able to sell it off.

But how are you going to sell it? You can't lay pipelines all over the commune?

No, I'd thought of using that old pump  I used to use for the tractors......people can bring their cubis and fill them up at the pump....just like getting your wine in bulk...

Victor, you can't just start up like this. Where are your permits? Have you contacted the Fire Brigade for an inspection? Gas is dangerous stuff!

Typical! No wonder France is in a mess!
You get an idea to make a few bob and help the environment - just like these firms flogging windmills - and the next thing you know it's permits and inspections and all to be paid before before you see a penny...and when you do make a penny you've got the taxman hanging on one of your balls and the social security on the other...all useless mouths!

And don't go on to me about safety...I've worked it all out and there's nothing to worry about.

If the worst came to the worst and the tank explodes my bungalow is behind the cattle sheds so I'll be sheltered from the blast....I can claim the sheds and the animals and whatnot on the insurance and the only house in the path of the blast is owned by English.

And anyway, there won't be an accident. Young Laurent has made this sign to hang on the pump.
What do you think? You can't miss it! And it's in two languages!

Defense de fumer
Now smoking.

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Fog in the Channel, continent isolated.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  French Preside...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Well, that's got the Front National vote sewn up ahead of the Presidential elections, hasn't it!
Booted the British out of play!
Who's a clever boy then?

President Sarkozy is triumphant.
He has saved the Euro.
He has used the British to ensure that Chancellor Merkel...the other half of the pantomime horse....can't settle the finances of the Eurozone by a European Union level treaty.
So no referendum, no unpleasantnesses....and no binding agreement to what he has signed up to do.

Cigar for the gentleman!

Whatever one might think of the financial legerdemain practised in the City of London, whose lack of regulation is a major factor in allowing the shenanigans of the likes of MF Global to take place, the City is a vital British interest, so it was easy to trap Cameron into vetoing a treaty.

So where are we now?

The French prime minister announces that there will be no more austerity measures...until he sees where he is after the first financial quarter next year.
Election year, so no surprise there, then.
The French public have enough worries with SNCF changing the train times without receiving further nasty shocks before deciding which head of the political hydra gets their vote.

Private investors don't get a haircut...i.e. banks get off scot free.
So that's secured the consultancy when political life is over, then...

And, best of all, there's no need to do anything about balancing the French books because there's no way the necessary measures will get the required majority, now that the Senate is in the hands of the PS (socialist party). They won't hear of it.

So, Sarkozy is in seventh heaven echoing the prayer of Augustine....
Make me (financially) chaste, but not yet......

If ever....

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Monday, 5 December 2011


Česky: Detail fresky Danse Macabre. Hrastovlje...Image via Wikipedia
Watching the Merkozy Dance of Economic Death during this round of the Euro crisis made it clear that European political leaders leave a lot to be desired, running like headless chickens at the behest of 'the market' (which turns out to be a few banks) and attacking the interests of their own people.

Wondering how long it will be before we are trotting along to the Post Office (if not closed by 'austerity' measures) pushing wheelbarrows in which to take home the worthless paper in which our pensions will be paid, I see no one of the stature of Hjalmar Schacht on the horizon, to pull us out of the mess as he did for Germany in the twenties and thirties.
Let no one suggest Dominique Strauss-Kahn.....

Wishing that we hadn't let power fall into the hands of self perpetuating oligarchies who exclude all talent not under their control, I see nowhere in Europe anyone capable of putting life back into the real economies upon which, in the end, we depend.

The myth of the strong man is one to be resisted as a solution...there have been enough Stalins, Hiters, Maos in our lifetime....but there are temptations.....

What we need now is a remake of ....General de Gaulle.
De Gaulle in 1961 at the Köln/Bonn airport.Image via Wikipedia

A man who declared that you could bounce on your chair shouting Europe! Europe! Europe! for all you liked.....but that it meant nothing.
Forget slogans (for which read soundbites) had to see things as they were.

A man who devalued a currency to get an economy back on its feet.....not that my elderly neighbours in France took much notice, they were still thinking in 'old' francs fifty years after the event.
Just as they were still thinking in pounds and gallons two hundred years after the Revolution.

A man who declared that national policies did not depend on the state of the stock market.

A man who made America pay in gold, not in paper dollars, for the purchase of French assets.

A man who saw the morass into which France had staggered in Algeria....and got out.

A man who was honest with public money....if his family came to dinner at the Elysee, he paid what it cost to feed them.

A man with that forgotten virtue...courage. Walking unmoved down the nave of Notre Dame while Vichy sympathisers shot at him and his entourage dived for cover.

A man whose  'Non!'  kept Britain out of Europe....if only the politicians of the time had taken heed!

The General in his pomp was quite something...and for those who remember those years here is a little song about no way could it be described as a Flanders and Swann...when they also were in their pomp.


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Saturday, 3 December 2011


Scrapple and EggsImage by cheflovesbeer via Flickr
I made scrapple yesterday, for the first time in years.
We had had for breakfast a new brand of oatmeal for porage which had say the least..not up to sample.

Chuck it. Give it to the chickens.

I was going to do so when I thought of scrapple, that stalwart of the Scottish farmhouse table.

I had defrosted pork for a stew, so it was no problem to cut off a portion and simmer it, then shred the meat, add a finely diced onion and add oatmeal to simmer down with the cooking liquor, meat, salt and pepper.
Once cooled and set, egg and breadcrumbed and fried, it is the perfect accompaniment to a duck egg fried in butter.
Or mashed potatoes..
Or salad if you're feeling arterially encumbered.

Scrapple making coincided with an e mail from Gerard telling me, among other snippets, that his nephew had recently been 'enthroned' at the annual ceremony of the local wine confrerie.
These groups abound in France, promoting  local products whether it be goat cheese

                                             ordinary cheese


                                           or dried beans....

Not to speak of sardines and andouillettes. And when they all get together they look like this...
Not the Knights of the Garter, as you might be led to suppose,but a photograph of one of the assemblies of different confreries which mark the year in rural France.
They all seemed to go for medieval civic dress, just as comites des fetes always go for medieval fairs with people dressed up.
It's a pity that some of them also go in for old medieval practices such as charging a toll to get into the town for the event, which, at Chinon at least, used to lead to people swimming the river from the camp site, their bathing costumes blending nattily with the robes and wimples.

Still, returning to the confreries.
Every year, 'personalities' are enthroned...with usually a few local or national celebrities to leaven the lump of local politicians who need to be enthroned if next year's subsidy for the activities of the confrerie is to be forthcoming.
Gerard's nephew has the tourism brief in the nearby town.......

I don't know what the ceremonies are like in the dried bean confreries...and don't even want to know what they're like for the andouillette brigade....but I know what happens in the wine sector.
Or what used to happen.

The date would be set. 
The officers of the confrerie would decide whom to enthrone. 
The menu for the feast to follow the enthronement would be set, with much thumbing through Rabelais for the appropriate terms in which to describe the food under the guidance of the usual caterer who had the terms backwards by heart.
Other confreries would be invited.

The day would dawn.
Robes and hats would have been cleaned up and brushed down.
The officers would lead a procession of confreries through the town or village, each preceded by its banner, to the site of the ceremonies.
Some would be lucky, having vaulted wine cellars at their disposal...others had to make do with the salle des fetes - the village hall.
Audience seated, the chief officer, his colleagues around him, would welcome those present and then introduce, one by one, the candidates.
It was explained to them that they had to take an oath of fidelity to the confrerie and follow the instructions exactly...otherwise.there would be a forfeit.

The oath, Rabelaisien in character. was made up of double entendres, the hoary chestnuts being greeted with roars of laughter by the audience, after which the candidates, usually red in the face by that time,  proceeded to the next stage of the enthronement.

It was explained to them that, having sworn an oath to defend the wine promoted by the confrerie, they must show that they fully appreciated its qualities.
They must toast the confrerie in a glass of its wine...and no heel taps. 
Down in one.

The candidates lined up and the glasses were brought forward, to more roars from the audience as the candidates saw what awaited them...

A glass like a small bucket on a stand which held a half litre of wine. Down in one. No heel taps.

Generally they would meet the challenge...rumour had it that some of them had been practising. 
To others it came naturally, especially among the ranks of the local politicians...but if there was a splutter, a pause...out came the forfeit.
Another small bucket on a stand with another half litre of wine...

And then it was on to the meal....thirteen courses the norm, each with its accompanying local wine and each announced in the language of Rabelais.
Toasts to the candidates.
Toasts to the visiting confreries.
Toasts returned to the host confrerie.
A toast to the caterer.

Reading the above you will see why these events always took place on a Saturday evening.
You needed the Sunday to replace your brain in your cranium.

Gerard says that times have changed.....and not for the better as far as he is concerned.
In these days of political correctness there's no more Rabelaisien 'do as you will'.....examples have to be set and conformed to.

The oath has been bowdlerised.
The toast is given in an ordinary tasting glass, only half full.
The dinner ends at eleven o'clock.

It seems a far cry from the likes of the old days of the Entonneurs Rabelaisiens de Chinon.....
More like the confrerie of the Solitary Scrappler of San Jose.

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Mind your step.....

Stiletto heels                               Image via Wikipedia
Something that struck me when I was first in France...before it faded into the background of normality...was the popularity of dancing.
There was always the bal populaire on July 13th after the fireworks where the activity would keep going until the small hours....the couscous supper and dancing organised by the PTA (well, parents d'eleves to be precise)...and the bacchanalia of the annual fire brigade ball.
Even the Croix d'Or  (sort of Alcoholics Anonymous) had a dance, which confirmed my view that it was not just the alcohol consumption which made the feet fly faster as the night went on.
It was an intoxication of another sort...that of sheer pleasure.

The revival of traditional dancing took place while I was there...rondes, schottisches, two steps, to the point at which it is no longer something that figures as a curiosity at local fetes but has regular evening sessions where you are warned that the only respite will be mulled wine and a brioche at midnight!
Age is no barrier.
Most of those circling the room are well over fifty, while the perennial success of the 'the dansants' of the old age pensioners' clubs keep many a village hall in business.
They have a lot of energy, these French pensioners.

But dancing can have its hazards.....and not the ones you might expect seeing tidal waves of people advancing and retreating in the Argentinean Tango having, usually, drink taken.

Recently, at an OAPs' dance, there was an altercation which ended up in court.
A gentleman in his sixties was supposed to have shoved a lady of 70 not once but twice when she was visiting the ladies loo. The second time she collided with a table, fracturing her wrist.

She claims to have had to undergo treatment not only for the wrist but also for anxiety and depression and would like 2000 Euros in damages.
The prosecution wants the judges to award the gentleman four months in prison as well.

Oddly enough, in a previous case, the prosecution only sought a three months spell in jug for a drunken driver who has a death by drunk driving in his previous, so there might be something in the claim made by the defense lawyer that the gentleman is being discriminated against as being an immigrant.

The part which interests me is that between shoves one and two, the lady in question took off her shoe and counter attacked. The gentleman appeared in court with scars to his head and arms. Apparently, at 70, the lady still wears high heels.

The gentleman claims legitimate self defence and points out that the lady has previous on the dance an earlier encounter, some months previously, two couples bumped into each other while dancing.
Lady with her partner, gentleman with his.
The lady expressed her displeasure by giving the gentleman's partner two hearty clips round the ear.

The judges will give their verdict in January and goodness only knows what the outcome will be but what fascinates me is firstly that the lady in question still dances in high heels at 70 and secondly that she was still lithe enough to take off one shoe, balance on the other foot and give a good account of herself at the same time!

Who needs Kung Fu!
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Thursday, 24 November 2011

They call it sport....

François-Gabriel Lepaulle-Chasse a courre a Ba...Image via Wikipedia
We are in November, when la chasse  starts killing your cats, the shot rattles against your windows and longer established British expats tell you that this is all part of French tradition and is to be respected.
What they mean is that they are frightened of the buggers, the gendarmerie are frightened of the buggers and they reckon that you should be frightened of the buggers too.

I've had chasseurs send their dogs into my poultry runs, fire towards the house at close range from the vineyard beside it, and shoot rooks nests out of the trees while the young are still unable to leave the nest...coming onto my land to do so. Not to speak of the insults and threatening telephone calls.

In my own experience, I have known of one man (British) meeting a mysterious death after several run ins with la chasse, a (British) holiday house burnt out - problems with la chasse for years before - and a (British) family forced to give up their B and B business - after problems with la chasse.

Not to speak of the cats, lost, injured or killed, two people shot at while on public roads (one French one British) and a man killed while walking his dog (French). There might be more, but this is just what comes to mind.

Not all associations are the same...some are well organised and observe the law, others are simply bullies in camouflage jackets, whose chasse membership allows them possession of firearms, which in turn gives them effective immunity from the attentions of the gendarmerie.

Still, for the Pollyannas in our midst, help in maintaining the idea of the chasse as just a traditional rural pursuit is at hand.

In the month of November, many local churches celebrate a mass of St. Hubert...a nobleman of the Merovingian court who was so addicted to hunting that he even ventured forth on Good Friday.
As he became a saint, you will have already divined that Something Happened to him on that day and indeed it did.

Having brought a stag to bay he saw a cross shining between its antlers, and  heard a voice asking him if he thought hunting more important than his salvation.
Taking the hint. he became a  monk and eventually Bishop of Liege.
Given the vision you would think he would be the patron saint of the anti blood sports league, but since hunters pre-dated them they got to him first, thus all the adverts for 'la messe de St. Hubert' - not only in rural France, but in posh churches in Paris.

The main feature of a St. Hubert's mass is the presence of the 'trompes de chasse' in the church, playing at appropriate moments of the service.
You will notice that the musicians have their backs to the congregation so that the bells of the instruments face them, just as the hunt servants on horseback are heard by the field behind them when they signal the points and events of the hunt.
You will also note that they wear livery, again, just like the hunt servants.

The point of this is that the musicians, and the St. Hubert's mass, have very little to do with the armed followers of 'la chasse' and everything to do with the moneyed followers of the 'chasse a courre, a cri et a cor'....French hunting proper.

Hunting on horseback.
Main occupation of French monarchs until later ones took a lesson from Louis XVI who was more interested in hunting than in finding out what was going on among the revolutionaries and lost his head.

Don't be thinking Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities, here...this is France.

No jumping, for a start. Might fall off...though this used to be a technique for ladies to attract the royal attention in the days of the monarchy. A glimpse of white flesh and the chateau was yours...

No taking your own line either. This is, as I say, France.
You follow your leader, down the long rides through the trees leading to a sort of roundabout where the rides converge....take a look when you're driving past the remains of the old royal forests and you'll see the that the layout remains to this day.

I've put up a link to a video of la chasse a courre here, so that those who wish can look at it without upsetting others who don't.

But if you don't approve of hunting, or you loathe the behaviour of la chasse near you, you don't have to sit down and do nothing, as the wiseacres always tell you.
You can do as the French know...integrate. What you're always being told to do but no one tells you that it's more than exchanging 'bonjours' in the bakery.

You could look into joining  the roc association which tries to dialogue with the hunting fraternity on a way in which all can enjoy the countryside.
Or you could join abolition chasse which has a more formal name which currently escapes me.

A good website to check whether your local band of terrorists are within or outwith the protection of the law is that of the Office National de la chasse et la faune sauvage, and the person to contact is not the man on the desk at the local gendarmerie (they are under 'suggestion' to keep any complaints about anything under wraps in an election run up) but the garde chasse, who is employed by the ONCFS.

In my experience (considerable) these gentlemen know their patch, know the chasseurs and know what's what. They won't stretch a point to help you, but they will administer the law.

Our guy laid an ambush for those shooting the rooks' nests...not that rooks are protected, but the nests are, as offering nesting capacity to raptors.
He arrived before dawn, hid his van and lay in wait with a thermos of coffee until the band arrived and started activity. Then he cut off their retreat and copped the lot of them.

Upshot? They were fined 200 Euros each.

Some days later, I had a phone call from the wife of one of them.

My husband's been fined 200 euros.

I know.

I'll be round to collect it today.

From whom?

You. If you hadn't reported it he wouldn't have been fined.

Ah, yes, France...the land of reason...

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Sunday, 20 November 2011

To my sister in law

When putting up a blog, I was aware that it is in some sense a public document, open to the scrutiny of all, so why do I find myself disturbed when I see your co ordinates in the statistic logger?

I went to comment moderation in reaction to the hurtful comments of one person about my husband's health...I don't put up comments from Anonymous because it's either advertising or someone without the courage of their convictions....and I am aware that there are a lot of people who are kind enough to read the blog but who do not comment.
All this is fairly normal.
So why does your presence in the stats log bother me?

After your treatment of my husband in the period leading up to and the aftermath of the death of his mother you have become mute as far as e mails are concerned, no communication why check out my blog? What do you hope to find there? I don't write much about family, except in passing.

I think what disturbs me is a sense of intrusion....I feel that most blog readers dip in and out, find blogs they like or just want to read occasionally, or read blogs on a subject of interest to them, but whatever the reason for the visits there is a sense of complicity among bloggers.
We are all participating in the same process.

With you, I believe it to be otherwise.

You don't use.

You look for scraps to feed the image you have of yourself and your situation, to feed your sense of injustice that people are not on your side in your new life, to feed your jealousy of happiness.

I would rather you were happy in the choices you have made and that you did not feel the need to rummage for scraps, but if rummage you must I would rather you rummaged elsewhere.
If you want news, communication, opinions open, send an e mail - a good sight more effective than looking for augeries in the entrails of my posts.

You follow the paths of what you call spirituality....shamans, crystals, Mayan prophecies....but the fruits appear to be bitter.
I would be delighted to hear from you that you had discovered the other fruits....those of

Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Integrate! Assimilate! Tailgate!

Claude Gueant, Interior Minister and Dalek substitute, has been addressing the question of immigration....or rather, the conduct expected of immigrants.

Essentially his message is this....if you come to France, you don't bring your old habits with you. You become like the French.

While he was speaking in the context of Muslim immigration, it would be interesting to see the consequences for the British expat colonies out in the sticks were his ideas to be enforced among them.

No more breaking the curfew, for a start. You are to be behind your hermetically closed shutters by 7.00 pm at the latest, so that French villages preserve their traditional character - that of cemeteries with rather large tombs.
This will also fool the Germans if they bring down the Euro and take over Europe again.

You are to open no door except that of a restaurant between noon and 2.00pm, but you may open your shutters the better to see the serving of fressure, andouillette or tete de veau on your plate.

No more of the insubordinate 'jardin anglais', different coloured plants flopping all over the place.
You will plant everything in strictly aligned rows and eradicate any plant not conforming to the norms with herbicide.

Driving behaviour will alter.
You will drive at five kilometres an hour on a narrow road and park directly outside the baker's shop on a roundabout.
Without signalling.
You will tailgate.
You will give the 'coup de poisson' to any foreign registered car.
You will not give any version of the 'V' sign, but will raise one finger instead. The gendarme will arrest you in either case but it will tell in your favour in court that you have used a French method of outrage to a public official.
When you run over a dog on the road you will not seek out the owner to apologise and offer to take the dog to the vet, you will seek out the owner in order to make him pay for the dent in your bumper.

No more 'white vans'. No more 'English shelves'. No more smuggling golden syrup across the border.
You will happily opt for frozen frogs' legs from Thailand, Label Rouge poultry raised in a patch of mud alongside the battery cages and biftek - the latter strictly  from ancient Prim' Holstein cows.

You will learn to speak French.
Do not be discouraged.
In time your knowledge will extend beyond the mastery of the essential everyday phrases

'cons', 'connards', and 'merde'

and achieve fluency

'casse-toi', 'fous-moi le camp'.and 'putain de merde'.

The more you meet with and talk to your French neighbours, the more your vocabulary will be enriched.
Especially if they only speak patois.

You will observe the dress codes....flat cap and Charentaise slippers for the men, salmon pink corsets hidden under flowered crossover pinnies for the women.
No fascinators.
No panama hats.

Adultery will only be committed at the permitted hours...between 5.00 pm and 7.00 pm so that you are home in time for the curfew.
No more of this disorganised activity as and when convenient.
Adultery is a serious matter.

You will recognise the importance of sport in the life of the nation.
You will sing La Marseillaise in French at the start of the match, not the English version starting with
' A Frenchman went into the lavatory...'
You will support 'les Bleus'....whether it's rugby, football, tennis ...or twirling.
And remember...French teams do not play dirty...they merely anticipate their retaliation.

Your children will attend French schools where they will learn the skills to enable them to make their way in France.
They will quickly become adept at learning by rote, ticking boxes and carrying several kilos of books around every day which will fit them for the sort of jobs generally open to immigrants....stacking boxes in the chicken abattoir.

It may seem terribly complicated, but when it comes down to it all you really have to do to successfully integrate is to remember one phrase.....

French is best.
Sod the rest.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wine that maketh glad the heart of man....

Particularly the British expat in France, some of whom bear out the view of  Dr.Johnson that few possess the intellectual resources to allow themselves to forego the pleasures of wine as otherwise they would be at a loss to know how to pass the  interval between lunch and supper.

Still, at least they are relaxed about wine...they know what they like and enjoy what they know.

Chez the producers, however, it is a different ball game.

In theory the quality of French wine is maintained by strict regulation, controls and inspections, reflected in the price of the finished product.
The major guarantee is that of the A.O.C. ...the Apellation d'Origine Controllee... which links a product to a geographical area.
The best known example among wines is Champagne....whose producers throw legions of well paid lawyers at any sparkling wine that indicates it is made in the same fashion by using the word 'champagne' on its label.
Thus the labels proclaiming 'Methode Traditionelle'.
The wine that dares not speak its name.

How far the theory stands up in practice is open to question. The wine is blind tasted...but that's before it's bottled and there's many a slip between cup and lip, not to speak of the possibilities of the impossibility of refusing old Jean-Paul's wine as he is your wife's cousin, not to speak of his membership of the ruling party's local branch and his son being the local senator's gopher.

Now, when we think of wine we tend, thanks to tradition and publicity, to think of something that is the product of man's intelligent use of natural resources.
Deep soils are best suited to grain, so shallow, stony, poor soils can be given over to other uses...such as growing vines.
The wines produced from some of these soils can be magnificent...depending on the grape variety and the exposure to warmth.
They can also be total rubbish...

They are all the more likely to be rubbish when a particular A.O.C. becomes fashionable and pressure mounts for land originally outside the A.O.C. limits to be included.
The fate of Chablis and Sancerre, not to speak of Chinon, speaks for the results.

Recently, the growth of interest in 'bio' wines has provided a further complication.
These producers refuse to use the chemical treatments imposed by those running their local A.O.C. committees...worse, they refuse to cough up their contributions to the regional syndicats which take their money and promote the produce of the big firms.
Those who delight in the little ways of France will be entranced to hear that these contributions are described as voluntary and obligatory.
They prefer to sell their wine as 'vin de table'...the lowest rating above industrial alcohol.

Now in my time in France I had come to learn that vin de table could be decidedly drinkable.
In the age of the wine lake - before the European Union gave grants to turn it all into vinegar instead - surplus wine was supposed to be 'stripped' of its character and sold as table wine.
As you can imagine, producers and middlemen did nothing of the sort, so batches of 'vin de table' would arrive on the shelves from all over the place - in my area mostly from Italy via bottlers in the Maine et Loire - distinctly unstripped of their character.

The idea was then that you, spotting a new consignment, would buy a bottle, take it to the car park and taste it...a process made easy by the plastic stopper on the bottle.
If you decided that it was a wine to your taste - and there used to be unmistakable Barolos in these bottles - you would grab a trolley and load up, being careful to check the batch numbers to avoid the possibility of an unlooked for encounter with something sulphurous from Sicily.

I remember fondly another vin de table...this time a legit one from Languedoc...whose label showed a gnarled vine root, which on closer inspection after sampling the contents revealed itself to be a vegetative clenched fist...a true Red wine!

In my last few years in France, younger vignerons were experimenting with grapes unauthorised for A.O.C. rating in their local man had a plot of Pinot Blanc which made a superb white wine. It never made it to bottling stage as his customers were clamouring for it from the moment it finished fermenting and he could command a good price - so much for the A.O.C.

It is well said that good wine needs no bush.
These independent minded producers can sell their vin de table with ease. They have waiting lists of customers in some cases, both in France and abroad, and this does not go down well with the authorities.
This being France, boxes have to be ticked and beaurocrats employed.
Systems have to be respected.

So one vigneron in particular has found himself in deep doodoo.

Olivier Cousin of Martigne-Briand in the Maine et Loire.

Carrying on the family tradition of natural production methods and refusing to stay in the box provided he has had nothing but problems with the authorities for years.
For not paying his contributions he has been effectively bankrupted by the state...his accounts frozen.
Forbidden to indicate the geographical origin of his wine he has flirted with ways of giving a hint....he has labelled some wine 'Pur Breton'...Breton being the local name for the Cabernet Franc grape...he has given the name of his village...and, in one last cocking of snooks, he has labelled his wine boxes...not the bottles...

Anjou Olivier Cousin


He faces a fine of over 30,000 Euros.
To be paid, one supposes from the accounts the authorities have already blocked.

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

From the bathtub...

I am indebted to the wonderful Sapristi Balthazar blog for the above video.
Yes, it's in French...but with subtitles in English, so there's no excuse for not understanding the message.
You always knew the banks were the problem, but I'm willing to bet you didn't know to what extent.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Versatile, eh?

Ayak at Ayak's Turkish Delight has kindly passed me 'TheVersatile Blogger' award, for which many thanks, Ayak.

If you don't yet know her blog it is one of the best around...sincere, caring and funny. Get yourselves over there and enjoy meeting her.

But there is no free lunch. I have to tell you five 'quirky' things about myself and dob five more bloggers in it.

So, to divert attention from my revelations, I'll reverse the usual order and tell you about the bloggers to whom I would like to pass this award.

John Gray at Going Gently has a multifaceted blog...his work, his family, his animals,.his life in a Welsh village. It's a blog followed by many people, but if it hasn't crossed your bows yet, do take a look.

Genius Loci takes you on journeys with the author..journeys to work, journeys to go fishing, journeys to see family...journeys to the local park....and you'll want to journey with him on a blog I find so well written and rich in language.

Delana at du jour tells you just why a fifty year old woman CAN pack up and move to France. You've got it all here...super photographs and descriptions, and even cupcakes...whatever they may be.

A blog I enjoy very much is Chez Charnizay where Niall and Antoinette offer their observations on the seasonal round...deceptively simple and beautifully presented.

A fairly new blog you might not have come across yet is Secretly Skint, where it's all action, from helping with animals to fighting the tax man via family counselling...I'm beginning to think it might well be subtitled 'once more unto the breach'.....!

Now, with any luck you'll have become engrossed in one or all of the talented blogs above, so I can slip in the required revelations under the radar.

After years of eschewing their dark arts, I went to a hairdresser when in London this summer and had my mane cut and coloured. Felt wonderful. have to find a hairdresser to repeat operation. Not so wonderful.

Having bought a pirate music disc on the local bus for the equivalent of one pound fifty entitled English classical music (in Spanish) I discovered that it was music 'classics' from the 1980s and that I enjoyed nearly every one of the 146 tracks. Some I even recognised.

I never thought I would taste a kipper can rate friendship by the willingness of visitors to pack kippers in their luggage for a long flight to a hot destination....until we found a fish called cola de bagre which when salted and smoked tastes like the real, pre Mac Fisheries thing. (Yes, we salt and smoke it ourselves.)

I have consigned my non functioning Kindle to whichever circle of the Inferno will do it most harm.
Amazon were most helpful...but The Thing had clearly detected my apprehension of it and reacted like a rabid dog. Poxy object.

I am in disfavour with the local (American) why doesn't that surprise me?

Monday, 31 October 2011

Secrets of the tomb....

CrysanthemumImage by daisee via Flickr
The eve of All Saints' was not marked by trick or treating in my area of La France Profonde, not even on the little modern housing estate on the edge of the village.
No child in its right mind would brave the wrath of the farm dogs and no parent in its right mind would risk Papy - once apprised of what was required of him - 'treating' a child to a glass of gnole at eighty per cent proof.

Not that the day was unmarked. People who normally lived a troglodyte life behind their shutters were seen at the cemetery with cleaning materials for Tante's tomb....municipal employees were tidying up the alleys and the water tap was finally repaired in preparation for the avalanche of chrysanthemums to be brought by relatives on November 1st.
I liked the feast of All Saints. One week afterwards, the municipal employees would dispose of the wilted chrysanthemums and I would visit the dump to collect the flower pots which were, at that time, both hard to find and expensive.

Normally the cemeteries were deserted.....I could wander about looking at the tombs...everything from a simple slab with lettering half obliterated by time to gothic style mausolea with wrought iron and massive locks very much in evidence.
I often used to wonder whether it was to keep someone out or to keep someone in.
Celebrating the passing of mother in law by the purchase of a very sturdy iron lock in her memory...

In one graveyard a few villages away a stroll to the edge backing on to the fields would revel a heap of earth with bones....which used to set me thinking about the habit of only being able to rent a grave these days...forget eternal rest, when your thirty or fifty years is up, out you go.

Of  course, every commune would set its own rate for tomb hire, communes with old peoples' homes being particularly suspect...and that, linked to detailed study of the prices proposed by the funeral directors...the 'pompes funebres'....could give rise to unseemly incidents.

Thus the gendarmes who came across a van in a ditch before the driver could rouse a local farmer with a tractor to pull him out.
They were somewhat surprised and decidedly put out to discover a corpse neatly wrapped up in the back.
It would mean Paperwork on the grand scale.
Worse, when the driver appeared it was clear that he had been drinking.
He explained.
The corpse was his Tante Marcelle who had died at his mother's home, where she had been looked after for years.....but the price of a plot was exorbitant...and as for the price of the local undertakers!
So the family decided that she should appear to have died in her old village where she still had a house...and a plot, bought in the lifetime of her deceased husband.
And he had drawn the short straw to provide the transport.

Why didn't you just get the local undertaker to take her body there, then?
Well, have you seen what he charges!
Well, what about the undertaker in her village?
It's the same firm! They're everywhere! You should see what it costs for the refrigerated bed!
What do you want that for?
Well, it's hot, and people don't want funny smells when they're paying their respects...we can't do without the bed, but we thought if we could just economise a bit on the transport...

The gendarmes had of which involved Paperwork and one which didn't.
A call to their barracks confirmed the family relationship of driver and corpse...and the van was allowed to go on its way.
And this is not back in the dark ages of Monsieur Untel...this was only a couple of years before I left France!

It's a good job the family were not thinking of economising on a that department there is now a ban on bonfires in the garden.....all compostable items must be taken to the local recycling plant as it is euphemistically known.
How it is supposed to help the environment to use litres of fuel to drive kilometres to the gyppo headquarters...which is what these sites have dump your prunings rather than burn them yourself and have the ash for your garden is beyond me, but, as usual with France, if there's a box it has to be ticked.

Being of a generation that saved its bawbees, I think I would definitely prefer to go up in a pyre of apple wood in my own garden than to form an element of a spontaneous combustion in the compost skip at the local dump, but, of course, no one will ask me.

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Saturday, 22 October 2011

It's That Man Again.......Dominque Strauss-Kahn demands to be heard...

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 04:  Former IMF chie...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The town of Lille is renowned for

A...the annual Braderie...when stores and stand holders purvey their wares in a weekend of orgiastic shopping
B...a cheese.....le Petit Gris, whose aroma is so virulent that is is a contravention of the town bylaws to carry it in a taxi.

It has a Eurostar station as well, but that's by the by.

But Lille has come to the forefront of French news recently following a disagreement between various lodges of the Grand Orient observance practiced in the area.

French freemasonry has little in common with the British version where a disagreement between lodges would give rise only to solicitors jiggling with their trouser legs and Mr. Padge being refused retrospective planning permission to turn the flat above his offices into fifty kennels for immigrant workers.

In France, it is more serious and in Lille it has resulted in a number of local notables ending up being questioned by the police...who in their turn are being questioned by the internal disciplinary service of the police....about a prostitution ring.

Thanks to the Grand Orient squealers, the police have been made aware of a prostitution racket based on two of the best hotels in Lille...the surprise being that one of their narks...concierge at one of these intimately implicated in the affair.

One understands his scruples when one learns that a senior policeman  is also being investigated for involvement in the racket...a policeman who was aiding Dominique Strauss-Kahn with his election campaign as an advisor on security.

Also implicated is a businessman working for a large roadworks firm who happily admits to organising 'parties fines' - orgies might be the best translation here - involving the senior policeman and...inevitably, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

These events took place not only in private apartments in the centre of Paris but also in the United States while Strauss-Kahn was heading up the IMF, the whores being flown out as 'secretaries'.
One wonders whether the firm for whom they supposedly 'worked' will be prosecuted by the French authorities for employing them 'on the black' but, somehow, one doubts it.

Why should a businessman see fit to act as a pimp?
Because, he explains, it was good for business to be able to drop into conversation that his firm had the ear...or some other organ...of Monsieur Strauss-Kahn.
Monsieur Strauss-Kahn, influential member of the PS (Socialist Party) who are in power in the area and, as such, control the award of roadwork contracts.

So, once again, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been the means of exposing areas of French society that might have preferred to continue living under their gilded stones.
Not only has he exposed the phallocractic nature of gender relations in what thinks of itself as high society in France, but now he demonstrates how cheaply a politician's integrity can be bought.

One is accustomed to lumping all politicians together as crooks, capable of any base manoeuvre to get their hands into a few more tills, and the spectacle of a leading man of his party....tipped to wallop Sarkozy in the 2012 Presidential elections...willing to lend himself to such baseness just confirms the cynicism with which politicians are regarded.

General de Gaulle speaking on the BBC during t...Image via Wikipedia
General de Gaulle

There have always been dirty dogs sniffing around the legs of the seats of power, but can you imagine this man cavorting with prostitutes in order to allow a firm to get a contract for public works?

Portrait of Encoch PowellImage via Wikipedia
Enoch Powell

Or this man, despite his undoubted acquaintance with Suetonius' 'Lives of the Caesars'?


But these men had power...or were on their way to acquiring it.
Modern politicians have not....they are but the chorus line of 'Fiddler on the Roof' kicking up their legs to the baton of Goldman Sachs and their masters approve them holding the same standards as themselves.... frequenters of strip joints and pole dancing venues, all in the interests of business.

Thus the shamelessness of Strauss-Kahn...the standards to which he must conform are not those of the ordinary people...those who work to give their families a decent life...the electors, but the standards of those who created the virtual world of finance that the ordinary people are now paying for.
Elections are a sham. Whatever the face of the political party, its movements are controlled by the bankers who use the legitimacy of elected governments to line their own pockets.

So, returning to France after the shenanigins of  New York does Strauss-Kahn creep into obscurity?
Far from it. He demands to be heard. He appears on TV, downplays his conduct.
When a young woman brings charges of attempted rape against him......he demands to be heard - as a witness, if you please!
And now he demands to be heard in the affair of the prostitutes of Lille...regarding mention of his activities as 'malevolent' in character...
He is a man in a hurry.
If the PS win the Presidential elections he wants his hand back in the till, but while scum continues to rise to the surface he has to take a back seat.
He wants it all sorted.

The affair also shows the difference between French and British society.
By now, in Britain, some rugby club would be altering the words of their version of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas'.......substituting Strauss-Kahn for Lord Montague of Beaulieu.
In France people just shake their heads. Mockery of politicians has consequences, as a few radio presenters have discovered to their cost.

But there will be an effect.
Down in the gendarmerie barracks at Partouze les Bains the adjutant is speaking to the duty officer.

We're getting more and more sex cases reported....and people want action.
As if the usual incest cases aren't enough now we have some pest exposing himself under the windows of the old peeoples' home.
What's being done about it?

Well, I'm waiting, sir.

Waiting for what?

For Dominique Strauss-Kahn to demand to be heard.

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