Letter From The Président

I’ve been rather neglecting politics lately, having been preoccupied with anglers and sheep. (Still no lamb or lambs from No. 27. No. 28 is a little less splotchy now. We’re still giving her a dietary supplement on her granules twice a day – easy peasy – and that penicillin injection every night – not so easy, but once you’ve got a good grip on her wool she goes quiet. And I haven’t gone into anaphylactic shock through a misadministered jab yet either – so far.)

But back to the forthcoming elections. They’re starting to loom menacingly on the horizon. The Mairie at Nouzerines has erected extra wood panelling for a concerted postering campaign. This morning one of the commune’s employees was carefully measuring up and marking lines on the boards, making sure that each of the ten of the them was exactly the same size! I held the end of the tape measure for her while we were waiting for Ruadhri’s school bus to arrive. I’ve told you before how good I am at holding things when I’m helping Chris.

Both Sarkozy and Hollande have sent me long letters. Sarko’s first. This is a LONG letter. It opens with the first couple of sentences in handwriting. I think we’re meant to think that he handwrote the whole thing. It would have taken him about a week if he had. However, it’s a nice touch and encouraging to see that the Président has worse handwriting than I do. So what does he say? He’s glad to be contacting me directly without  going through an intermediary. Well, who wouldn’t be! He talks about the new world that’s being born – one with financial crises and strong non-Western powers emerging in the world, i.e. China. He goes onto security, mentioning the recent events in Montauban and Toulouse and emphasising that France must be well armed and strong. Ideologies of hatred and delinquence won’t be tolerated. Europe is a good thing and France will remain an open country where other people of other nationalities can come and live, but they must be prepared to embrace the French way of life and contribute to it. But he’s not prepared to go as far as giving us the vote, tant pis. Responsibility, professional training, young people, nurturing rural areas – he talks about it all. I lost interest by page 27 of the 39 of the document, I confess. But it’s impressive to get something like that. I never had anything similar in the UK or Ireland.

Hollande’s ‘letter’ is actually the talk he gave on 4 April at Rennes. There are an awful lot of exclamation marks. Should I take him less seriously than Sarkozy? It’s very rousing with paragraphs such as this: Mon message est simple ce soir, et je le répéterai autant de jours qu’il conviendra. Il faut changer : changer d’avenir, changer de politique, changer de président ! Je veux être le président du redressement, le président de la justice, le président du rassemblement, le président de la jeunesse de France ! (My message tonight is simple and I’ll repeat every day between now and the election. We need change: we must change the future, change politics, change the President! I want to be the president of putting things right, the president of justice, the president of gatherings, the president of the young people of France!)

And so on and so forth. It’s not as meaty as Sarko’s missive and again, my eyes glazed over before I got to the end. But that’s me and politics. However, I did try to read it all!

The current favourite is Sarko by a whisker. Since he’s the only pro-Auto-entrepreneur candidate out there as far as I can make out, I’ll be happy enough if he gets in, although I hope he will make more of an effort to curb the spending excesses and be more in touch with the majority of French people i.e. hard working, non-wealthy people. But we’ll see.

La Présidentielle – A Family Affair

La Présidentielle is quite a family affair. Not only do we have Marine Le Pen, daughter of a former presidential candidate, running this year, plus François ‘give me a fiver’ Hollande, whose former partner Ségolene Royal ran in 2007, but it now turns out that the two favourites, the afore mentioned Hollande and Nicolas Sarozy, are distantly related.

According to Jean-Louis Beaucarnot, author of Le Tout-politique, the pair of them share a common ancestor, a Savoyard peasant from the 17th century. This person is Claude Labully-Burty from Saint-Maurice-de-Rotherens, a little village 20 kms from Chambéry.

Don't think I could eat one of these now ...

Claude’s family included two sons – another Claude, who was Hollande’s ancestor, and Pierre, who was Sarkozy’s. These two settled in the neighbouring commune of Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers during Louis XIII’s reign. Labully is a famous name in the area since it’s associated with a rather grisly cake. A pastry-making ancestor of our two presidential hopefuls, invented a fake breast gateau. Seriously. It’s an appropriately shaped brioche decorated with praline which was originally created to celebrate the fête of poor Saint Agatha (5th February) who was martyred unpleasantly (weren’t they all) by having, amongst other things, her breasts severed. I hope you weren’t eating while you were reading this.

Let’s have a quick, closer at our two cousins. Nicolas Sarkozy was born on 28 January 1955 in Paris. His father was a Hungarian immigrant, and his mother was of French and Greek descent. (And Sarko wants to cut down on immigrants!) He’s on his third marriage and has three sons and one daughter. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, he’s an extremely wealthy man. He’s also an author and his better known works are these three books – Libre, Témoignage and Ensemble.

François Hollande was born on 12 August 1954 at Rouen and is as French as he can be. He lived for a long time with Ségolene Royal and they have four children. His new partner is Valérie Trierweiler. Like Sarkozy, he’s also not short of a bob or two. He’s written books as well, including Le Rêve Français and the forthcoming Un Destin pour la France which has an unnervingly smiley-faced Mr H on the cover!

I can only think this common ancestor, Claude Labully-Burty, maybe wasn’t so good at the marriage thing but excellent with money, had a strong political (i.e. ruthless) streak and a love of expressing his opinions (orally most likely, since the chances are he probably couldn’t read or write) which he has passed on down the generations. It’s not quite the family feud of the Milliband brothers recently in the UK, but I think this ancestral connection adds a little bit of extra excitement to the contest.