Bastille Day – Heads could roll!

French president Nicolas Sarkozy can’t seem to take a trick right now. About two out of three – 64 per cent of the French public dislike him and disapprove of his actions as President.  Not only did the precious French football team, Les Bleus, implode at the World Cup to bring shame on the whole French nation, but its mutiny and “melt-down’’ mirrored a much wider malaise of France today.

On the cusp of Bastille Day, Sarkozy finds himself floundering in a quagmire of challenging issues if the Republic’s ethos liberte, egalite and fraternite is ever to become reality in what is now recognised as a divided France.

And it seems Sarkozy is slowly sinking into the quicksand of the “
Bettencourt affair’’ as it is known in France, or the L’Oreal cash scandal, whereby  L’Oreal heiress, frail, aged 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt  could have made possible political donations to Sarkozy minister, high profile Industrial Minister Eric Woerth.

The whole murky issue has hotted up with new material – 21 hours of secret recordings made by Ms Bettencourt’s butler, which reveals a certain “monsieur’’ .

Mme Bettencourt is France’s richest woman and is suspected of giving Woerth, a key Sarkozy ally and treasurer of his UMP party, a donation of  E150,000 in cash in March 2007.

Sarkozy won government in May of that year, but a donation of that magnitude breaks French law which limits political donations to E7,500 to parties and E2,400 to individuals.

Allegations have come at an embarrassing time as Woerth faces calls for his resignation as he struggles to impose the difficult economic reform to raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62.

Meanwhile, France totters on “national disintegration’’ reflected in “Les Bleus’’ shameful mutiny and woeful spectacle of defeat in the World Cup, according to philosopher and media superstar Alain Finkielkraut.

The soccer fan reckons the football “scum’’ from the banlieu  had “tarnished the image of France’’, and exposed  not a jot of “egalite or fraternite’, but of  ethnic and religious  division. He name-called the whole team “sulking spoilt brats’’.

“ France is contemplating the spectacle of her own disunity and exo9rable decline,’’ he wrote.

“We dreamed with the team of  the Zidane generation; today we are more likely to want  to vomit with this generation of scum.’’

The crises in the poorer Muslim suburbs hs never been resolved since the riots of 2005. Even Sarkozy found his grand idea – a debate on the essence of Frenchness – become too hot a political potato to handle.

Late last year, Sarkozy opened a national debate on what constituted the identity of France.  After four months of political quarrelling, Sarkozy did a Pontius Pilate and washed his hands of the project.

What was intended to be a community based discussion about the essential values of the Republic became a political football and like the World Cup Sarkozy wasn’t going to win.

Sarkozy’s plan was to throw open to debate the “essence of Frenchness today’’ and hopefully inject some measure of national pride into France’s Muslim population (now 15 percent) urging them to be “discreet’’ and assimilate into the French way of life.

Instead, the debate exposed a malaise in France that has been swept under the carpet for decades.

The Times reports French people, while disapproving of the debate, told pollsters that French identity is under threat from immigrants from other cultures.

The emergence of Jean-Marie le Pen, the far right National Front Leader has exacerbated their fear.

“Many French are unsettled by the sense of losing out to globabilisation and the presence of a Muslim population that seems eager to stay outside the local culture,’’  reported The Times.

Enter stage far-right is French intellectual and author Eric Zemmour who writes in his latest gloomy book Melancolie Francaise of a new “barbarism’’ with the rising of Muslim ghettos.

They have broken away from society, he says and quotes Charles de Gaulle as saying mixing Muslims and French Christians was “like blending oil and vinegar’’.

“French culture is not Mohammed,’’  writes Zemmour. “It is Francois, it is Christian.’’

The football debaucle reflected the whole multicultural mess.

“The captain of the French team who does not sing The Marseillaise, that shocks me,’’ said Education Minister, Luc Chatel.

In his private life Sarkozy has faced rumours not his wife has been unfaithful and that he has retaliated.

The French media, never bothered much about the private affairs of Presidents has not touched the matter, but rumours are rife on the net that Carla had an affair with French signer Benjamin Biolay, a long-time friend and that Sarkozy had found solace with right-wing politician Chantal Jouanno – his environment Cabinet minister.

If body talk speaks, then their love has faded of late. The kissy-kissy French, who kiss both cheeks when greeting each other, could hardly have failed to notice that when Sarkozy returned to Paris from Britain, Nicolas smiled at his wife, touching her lightly on her back. Not one peck on the cheek. His wife responded by patting his arm with a wedding ringless hand.

And yet, soon after, Carla (like Princess Diana, who used the media to tell her story) defended her husband against ugly rumour, an unheard-of happening for a First Lady in France. So the jury is out over the marriage.

One last hurdle before Bastille Day celebrations begin on July 14, the lower house of the French National Assembly will vote on banning the burqa in France in July 13.

Debate has raged for a year and Sarkozy has described the Muslim face coverings as degrading to women.

The French  Paper, a new English-speaking paper, reports fewer than 2000 women wear the full-face veil in France.  Muslim leaders warn any ban will escalate tensions by stigmatising France’s estimated five to six million Muslims, many of whom live in volatile suburbs.

Bastille Day could well be quite a sober affair.

My father Frank

My father, Frank, has reached the grand age of 91, which is the first thing he tells anyone he meets. He immediately follows with the statement “I’m travelling very well for an old bugger.’’ And yes, dad is in excellent health, and God-willing I have inherited those longevity genes (because my mum, Florrie, died at age 77 of heart disease).

Dad is remarkable because he takes no medication whatsoever, a fact which amazes the clinical nurse at the Renmark low care facility where he lives.

He has been known to pop the odd Panadol for “old man’s problem’’ when his hip slips occasionally, but he never complains of pain and has a remarkable constitution.

However, age has left dad profoundly  deaf and he is also seriously visually impaired through advanced glaucoma. He lost his licence at age 70 because of glaucoma and has walked everywhere since, which contributed to his amazing good health and agility now.

Dad is still stick thin. We placed him in low care when he was not eating his Meals on Wheels lunches or anything else much, living on his own.  The Aged Care Assessment Team approved his admittance into low care, despite his protestations that he had no arthritis (true) and didn’t take any pills.

“I’m alright in my own home,’’ he had said.

But, he wasn’t. His blindness meant his environment was deteriorating into squalor and his children are all based in Adelaide.

His life deteriorated after his second wife, Elizabeth, who was profoundly disabled, was placed into high care and dad followed her into the same facility (low hostel care) 18 months later. In that time, without his wife, dad did not care for himself, although he continued to go to church each Sunday and walk to the shops for the paper daily. Read more »

women’s artistic works inspire

We women need to learn how to buy things for ourselves rather than always buy gifts for others.

I mentioned this thought when I opened the latest exhibition at the Burra Regional Art Gallery which was filled with exquisite women’s artworks.

There were 15 women artists exhibiting in Parallel 1930, which exuded a strong theme of feminine resourcefulness captured in Dorothy Henderson’s “The Humble Pinny’’. 

Burra’s own Glenys Christopher joined Clare Valley artists Christian Vocke,  potter Jill Foster and Ronda and Jim Dunstan, who drew from images of the natural world.

However, the main reason I travelled to Burra was to open the exhibition of one of Australia’s most renowned naive artists, Marie Jonsson-Harrison, a wonderful personal friend.

Her colourful, dynamic and playful naive art filled the main art space at Burra Gallery, itself an exciting, historic bluestone building from where John MacDougall Stuart began his epic journey across the continent. Read more »

Fabulous Food by Fred

Take the gourmand’s good oil of French taste – truffle and inject it between the skin and flesh of chickens and marinade .

“la truffe’’ in Kangaroo Island honey.

And Voila!.

These titillating treats reflect how  French chef Frederic Boussard  will marry his traditional culinary skills with “amazing’’ South Australian produce at this year’s Bastille Day Gala Dinner at the InterContinental Hotel on July 14.

France’s national day will be celebrated with a grand gastronomical four-course banquet of 20 dishes and four fromages for the French community and Francophiles alike at the annual  dinner organised by the French/Australian Chamber of Commerce.

The InterContinental’s executive sous chef, who was a finalist in the 2009 Restaurant and Catering Awards of Excellence, Chef of the Year, has created a mix of flavours for his dishes, which all carry delightful French names such as “terrine de giblet avec sa confiture d’oignon, Gratin Dauphinois and Civet de chevreuil.

His poulet roti a la truffle is pure French cuisine. “It is a very classical French dish with truffle inserted between the skin and the flesh…it is very good,’’ he says in impeccable English.

All ingredients – game, onions, potatoes, venison, carrots and chickens will be local produce. And local cheesemaker Denise Riches of Hindmarsh Valley Dairies has her SA product

Fromage de chevre cendre presented along with fthree other French favourite fromages including blue d’Auvergne.
Read more »