Seventy five years since the armada sailed from the ports of England to attempt to release Europe from the grip of the German Nazis…
Seventy five years since the young men died on the beaches of Normandy, neither quietly, nor heroically…neither was it ‘dulce et decorum es pro patria mori’. They were conscripts, not volunteers, sent on a gamble on the weather against troops well dug in on Rommel’s Atlantic Wall
British, American. Canadian, French and many more…they died in their multitudes attempting to get ashore to take the fight to the enemy.
Think of them if you can…the men sent in by gliders who drowned in the marshes of the River Orne….the frightened boys plunging into the sea as the ramp of their landing craft crashed down…those killed in their droves on the beach as they sought to advance…
Think too that it was not just one day…the campaign that was to free northern Europe was only just beginning and the fighting was to be hard, on the Eastern where the Russians had taken the brunt of the work so long as well as the Western front.
You ask yourself how they coped…how they bore the hardship, let alone the fear…and I think the answer lies in the speech from a D Day veteran.
‘We were there for each other’.
If we carry any message from the ceremonies it should be this one, to try to heal our societies which seem so riven asunder.
We seem to see ourselves as members of a group rather than members of a society…we are black, women, homosexual, transgender, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist, young, old, disabled, rich, deprived – Leavers and Remainers in the case of Britain – and we defend our group’s interests and demand its rights.
I suggest that if we want to enhance the chances of our group we start by building a society where all can feel secure….decent housing which is genuinely affordable…jobs which offer a real living wage….education which encourages children to think for themselves and emphasises that vocational training carries an equivalent value to academic studies….a police force which concentrates on real crime and a justice system which works.
All to easy to propose it…but how to achieve it?
By being there for each other, by pushing our differences into the background to work together to break the party system, to have the confidence to elect people who are really independent – not self described community leaders – to local and central government and to realise that, despite the legacy of the Thatcher years, there is a vital role for the state, one that no private sector provider can supply.
And perhaps, if we can start to see how destructive it is to see our group as in some way special…different…..we could start to see that every person is special and different and needs a safe society in which to be able to blossom to the benefit of all.
Let’s be there for each other…..but in peacetime, not just in war.
You know that an election is on its way when the council bulldozer, normally out of action for repairs caused by being unwise enough to start it up, is seen, not alone, but in company with the council road leveller, also usually hors de combat for similar reasons.
Not just seen as in passing the door of the council workshops…but working! Out on what are laughingly called the roads of the canton.
For the last three years the council has doughtily refused to waste public money on improving the roads….there are priorities, we are told. What those priorities might be has remained a closely guarded secret, save for a proposal to replace the current system of prowling traffic wardens with parking meters. Who is to provide these, and the relation of the firm to the sixth cousins once removed of current councillors also remains a mystery, as does the future of the current traffic wardens who must be related to someone to have got the job and so must be absorbed into the bosom of the council staff….probably to empty the meters, unless they introduce meters which only take bank cards as in San Jose, which is asking for trouble.
No! Mea culpa! I forgot…their staff have been repainting all the yellow lines in the town to improve traffic flow which was fine on the day the lines were painted and back to chaos the next day as there is little or no parking available in the centre. I solve the problem by making a small weekly contribution to the well being of the gentleman who looks after the parking lot of one of the supermarkets but most just park and hope that the traffic police don’t turn up with their crane and low loader….
A propos of parking, we have been investigating the process of having a handicapped sticker for the car…a process wrapped in mysteries like a Russian doll. I am convinced that you need a medical examination, from hints on the Ministry of Public Works website, but which institution for the handicapped delivers this remains obscure, given that their websites do not mention it and they do not answer e mails.
Seeing a gentleman sitting in a car with a handicapped sticker the other day I thought I would ask him how he went about getting it.
The process was simple, he informed me. I had to go to the MOGO print shop in town…turn right, then left and right again…and they would give me a photocopy of the sticker which would make life very simple.
The MOGO option sounds tempting….I wonder what the fine for having a false handicapped sticker might be…
Not that it is a great problem as yet…not here…but I notice that in San Jose the authorities are getting nasty with non stickered cars in handicapped parking areas so no doubt it will come here in time.
Still, roadworks are not the only sign of elections to come….the council have instituted rubbish collections for the outlying areas, not just in the town centre. We have received a leaflet detailing how to separate the rubbish into ordinary and recyclable, telling us which areas will be served…apparently on a Monday…but with no indication as to when it will start, so I suppose that we shall have to pin back our ears every Monday in the hope of hearing the dustcart’s loudhailer advertising its presence…
And, come to think of it, how come that the dustcart has emerged from hibernation, like a woolly mammoth emerging from the Siberian permafrost?
It could be because the council were threatened with an appearance before the Constitutional Court…but it might well be down to the elections.
As a friend said
‘We should elect the councils every year…that way we would get three months of action every year instead of every four years.’
Still, I bet the major political parties in the U.K. wish they only had to produce a dustcart to remove the menace of the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage in this week’s elections to the European Parliament…
You need to have a lawyer in Costa Rica…not just because any and everything needs to be formally entered in the National Register, but because they can arrange other matters too….
Some years ago the local council altered the drainage system on the road at the top of the finca, with the result that water poured onto our land and caused damage, destabilising one section. As the council had cloth ears on the subject of putting things right we went to the Constitutional Court which ordered the council to sort it.
Being our local council…which scored zero in the transparency section of the annual inspection this year – probably an improvement on past performance…it did nothing, pleading breakdown of its bulldozer, the absence of a qualified engineer, probably a rearrangement of the rings of Saturn…..until we rashly let it slip, altering the drainage ourselves to limit the damage.
Unfortunately, last year the affected section of land started to slip in its turn, so we were obliged to put in a retaining wall.
Promptly the council served us with a demolition order as we did not have planning permission for the works.
Which is when the lawyer came into the act.
He went to see the alcalde – the mayor – and had a few words in his shell-like to the effect that if the council did not withdraw the notice then the Constitutional Court would be made aware of the council’s disobedience to its orders which would result in ‘ooh nasties’ all round and the alcalde risking three months in the jug.
An immediate decision was made to withdraw the order and then the two chaps settled down over a cup of coffee to put the rest of the world to rights, as Costa Rican culture is distinctly non confrontational and little unpleasantnesses have to be papered over in a civilised manner.
Our lawyer enquired how the council came to know that we had put in the wall…after all, we are not on a main thoroughfare and the council’s officers rarely venture far from their fortress for fear of encountering outraged citizens.
Ah! We had been denounced!
The Neighbour! He of the crisp white hat with the curly brim!
He had been lying low since the failure of his marriage, so what had brought him out of his lair?
He had thought we were going to build a house….a house which would overlook the entrance to the lane leading to his property.
Ah! The Neighbour is understandably sensitive about any potential observation of visitors to his domain…especially the taxis which arrive in the early hours of the morning and depart shortly afterwards….but had the council sent out officers to check?
No….they had not.
So they took The Neighbour’s word for it?
Not exactly….The Neighbour is paying one of the Vice Alcaldes – wearing her hat as a lawyer – to get him a government concession to access water for his property so – wearing her hat as Vice Alcalde – she authorised the issue of the notice…
How much has she made out of him so far?
About two million colones…some two and a half thousand quid. And they haven’t even printed his request in the Gazette yet….
Where’s he getting the money for that, then?
Probably something to do with the taxis…
And so, mutually assured destruction having been avoided, there matters rested.
I called at the lawyer’s office to pick up a document and found him, as usual, drinking coffee while he contemplated the piles of dossiers on his desk. He did not, however, look at ease.
He had been at a fiesta the day before…no, hand lifted in reproof, he had not been on the sauce. He had not wanted to go even, but as it was the birthday of the man who looks after his horses it was a social obligation to show his face – and to take a contribution of beer to aid the festivities.
He had accepted a tumbler of whisky which proved to be of the sort that left you gasping for breath and worrying about the state of the enamel on your teeth, circulated for a while and then ran slap into The Neighbour who, scenting free booze, had invited himself on the strength of a distant family connection with the birthday boy.
So when are your clients going to pay me the twenty million they owe me?
What twenty million?
The twenty million they owe me.
Allowing them to take over my water concession…and the pipes. Cost me a fortune, those pipes…
You don’t have a water concession and apart from that they have their own concession…why would they buy yours..if you had one, that is?
Because my pipes run directly from the tank by the source and theirs have to go down the streambed…
But you don’t have a concession…what you are doing is illegal…
No, you don’t umderstand…I had a concession and I’ll have it back soon…I’m doing them a favour…but they won’t pay me! I just don’t understand you, helping foreigners against Costa Ricans…you ought to be shot…
Don’t even think about it!
He had left the fiesta before things got out of hand….
But had we ever agreed anything with The Neighbour?
Certainly not…but we had received an offer from him via one of his ‘friends’ to the effect that if we paid him fifteen million he would
A. Give back the pipes he stole from our finca seven years ago
B.Agree not to cut our water pipes
and C. Not poison the source with diesel.
So what had we done?
Suggested to his ‘friend’ that were he to poison the source he would find a number of very unhappy users of said source on his doorstep with machetes and as for the rest, he could go whistle.
Clearly, we have not yet fully adapted to Costa Rican culture as we did not offer the ‘friend’ a seat on the balcony nor yet a cup of coffee over which to mull the problems of the world. I showed him Einstein instead and he left abruptly.
And in keeping with the character of that city it was both low key and somewhat alternative.
Thanks to flight times and the pretence of security which in effect traps you in airports for sufficient time to be tempted to buy the overpriced rubbish on sale airside I am used to leaving Southampton in the early hours, keeping lonely guard over my piles of luggage by the bay into which I hope that the coach for the airport will arrive. I think one can judge the nature of a coach driver by his choice of bay…those who pull in where there is a queue and those who do not.
This time, though, I was not alone. A friend had accompanied me to the bus station, our journey enlivened by a sighting of her husband returning from the casino somewhat the worse for wear as he crossed the river by the Itchen Bridge using both hands on the parapet to propel him homeward like a crab seeking the safety of its rock.
Neither were we alone. As we trundled the suitcases to the waiting area a figure emerged from the shadows. Woolly hat a la Compo, jowly beard, puffer jacket and sock lined wellies, with a bag resembling grandmother’s knitting bag writ large, he addressed us.
Would the Pullman arrive?
Supposing that he meant the National Express coach we reassured him that it would.
But there are no signs!
No…the bus station offices are closed…you look at the timetable and it will tell you when the coach arrives.
Please? I am Italian. I do not understand. I am student at university. I am going home. I need the Pullman to come or I miss my flight.
Both wondering how he would benefit from a course at a British university if he had limited English we assured him that the Pullman would indeed arrive. Just look at the queue which was gathering!
How they know? There are no signs….
The coach – or Pullman – arrived and pulled into our bay….one up for the driver.
Our Italian friend was the first in the queue as we marshalled my luggage, assisted by a couple of students going home for the Easter holiday.
He faced the driver.
I tried in Spanish. I have no idea what ticket is in Italian but he seemed to get the idea, produced the e mail on his phone and was allowed to board.
Once underway all went well except that at every stop he would rise and enquire
To which the driver, face ruddy from stress, would reply
No Sir. If you listen I will announce each stop. The bus runs through Fareham, Portsmouth Hard, where we are currently standing, then Chichester, Gatwick North and finally Gatwick South.
At which our passenger announced that he was sorry to be breaking the driver’s balls but was this stop Gatwick Sud?
I had the strong impression that if the driver had not voted to leave the European Union previously he would now be doing so at the earliest opportunity which presented itself.
It being early spring the parks had been alive with flowering trees and swathes of daffodils, while gardens enjoyed from the bus windows showed camellias, their blossoms brown edged by frost, jews mallow flopping against walls and fences, flowering currant with the buds just colouring up over jewelled clumps of primulas, and everywhere a haze of pale green buds against a hard blue spring sky.
A fine last sight to remember.
Over the years I had become fond of the place….village style high streets in the suburbs with proper shops, good public transport, a restaurant where the owner’s Staffie bitch trotted among the customers, old fashioned pubs in the old town and all the glitz of the entertainment and shopping complex at West Quay.
Certainly there had been downsides…more and more people sleeping in shop doorways….. whole blocks of city centre premises torn down to be replaced by blocks of student residences as the two universities pulled in the money from overseas students’ fees…… the deterioration of the Friday market from one with a bit of everything for everyone to huts selling New Age balls and overpriced food.
But there was still a real market down at the pretty village of Hythe, so all was not lost to the forces of destruction.
I shall miss Southampton, but my reason to go there ceased to exist when my mother died in late March…my last visit was thus to attend to her funeral.
A million people marched through central London today to call for ‘A People’s Vote’ on the question as neither government nor Parliament are coming up with any sensible conclusions on the future of the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union after a referendum in 2016 produced a majority for the former leaving the latter.
This referendum was called to settle few hashes in the leadership struggles inside the Conservative Party. The government spent public money to urge people to Remain and gave further public money to politicians of their own party to persuade people to vote Leave.
It was, of course, a foregone conclusion that Remain would prevail…how could people vote otherwise? Membership of the E.U. was a given, just as that the sun would rise in the morning. The government was playing an internal party game at the expense of the nation….but they knew how the game would end.
The Conservative leader retired from public life in a hurry to be replaced by the home secretary, who had campaigned for Remain but announced that she would be working to leave the E.U. She called an election, where the Conservatives lost their majority and had to depend on the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party….representatives from Northern Ireland who quickly claimed their pound of flesh in terms of advantages for their policies.
The Labour party was in turmoil. Somehow the membership had overcome the power of the members of parliament and elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader, a left winger who called for policies to restore equality in society and who opposed armed intervention abroad. Labour M.P.s mounted coup after coup, but failed to shift him, taking their eye off the Brexit ball completely while they fought for power inside the party.
Not tthat the Conservatives were much better and Leavers and Remainers fought to control the party….leaving the negotiations with the E.U. to a series of ministers who were stabbed in the back by civil servants working to an agenda set by a prime minister determined to keep the U.K. within the sphere of influence of the E.U…..never mind the result of the referendum.
In effect, the country was being led by Humpty Dumpty, who explained the use of language to Alice thus…
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
So Leave meant Remain….and while the political parties contemplated their navels the E.U. and the U.K. prime minister cooked up the deal worse than death.
It provided for a transistion period in which the U.K. would be subject to E.U. law while being unable to participate in making decision making, would continue to pay into the E.U. budget and would be obliged to accept an agreement on the irish border which, if accepted, would cut off Northern Ireland’s trade from that of the U.K. Only then would talks on trade commence.
Man, according to Talleyrand – forerunner of so many modern politicians as being aptly described as shit in a silk stocking – was given the gift of language to conceal his thoughts. By the reaction to the withdrawal agreement, once it emerged from the undergrowth of Brussels, it appeared that the concealment had not been very effective.
The Democratic Unionists, who kept the Conservative government in power, were distinctly unchuffed. No separation from the mainland was to be contemplated….you could almost hear the sound of a piss and vinegar band playing ‘The Sash‘ in the corridors of power.
In passing I must say that it is a marker of the decline of standards in society that even Orange Lodge members no longer wear suits and a bowler when marching….though they keep the white gloves.
The agreement was presented to the House of Commons…and was rejected. Then the Attorney General was sent to Brussels to wiggle the wording….which, while for some reason describing himself as a codpiece, he did, but the wiggle did not seduce the Northern Ireland M.P.s. The wiggled codpiece was in turn rejected.
Enter the Speaker of the House of Commons.
In my time we have had as Speaker people who were, variously, a blackmailed homosexual, a tailor, a chorus girl and an expenses fiddler. They all upheld the traditions of the House, aided by the traditional costume…though the chorus girl and the expenses fiddler refused to wear the wig.
Currently, ‘as any fule kno’, we have Mr. Speaker Bercow, who more closely resembles an ink monitor at St. Custards than the custodian of parliamentary practice, while his procession through the Palace of Westminster could be characterised as’ a rough beast, its hour come at last’, slouching into the Commons to commence business for the day. I can’t call him shit in a silk stocking as he wears a lounge suit and, I trust, socks.
The Speaker’s role is to regulate the business of the House in accordance with the House’s standing orders, though Mr. Speaker Bercow seems to treat Erskine May, the authoritative guide to parliamentary practice, rather in the manner in which Little Jack Horner treated his Christmas pie…
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a plum
And said ‘What a good boy am I’.
He is unpredictable, which doesn’t make for sensible proceedings in the House which, since the government controls most of the time available for debate, makes the task of M.P.s who wish to find more acceptable solutions than that of the current agreement even more difficult.
Remember too that most options open to M.P.s are not binding on the government…and the E.U. negotiates with government, not Parliament.
If, that is, that the E.U. negotiates at all. Its pattern, proven down the years, is to issue a diktat which member states must obey.
Some member states.
Fance can run an unacceptable deficit for years…Ireland could not…nor could Portugal.
Ah, but France is special….the force behind the founding of the E.U. was to prevent further wars between France and Germany…they are the powers which count in the E.U.
Let me tell you…there is no chance of war between France and Germany.
Remember those French highways lined with trees?
The trees have been cut down. The German army can no longer march in the shade. Further…the mayor of Paris has banned diesel vehicles from the city, so no tanks driving down the Champs Elysees.
War…forget it. But France still has preferential treatment.
In dealing with the E.U. you must first recognise that it has no obligation to give up any of its advantages. You must resist any urge to engage with it. You form your own plans, refuse to accept its rulings and face it with a fait accompli. Any other way leads to ruin.
That is, if you genuinely want to leave its embrace.
Clearly, the U.K. government was quite happy to accept the caresses of the E.U. and so went along with whatever it required until meeting the roadblock of the refusal of the House of Commons to accept the agreement.
The prime minister blames Parliament for the lack of prgress with Brexit. The people are urged to blame Parliament too…thus the march through London.
Though not holding their views I am happy to see people motivated enough to travel to central London to express their opinion. My problem comes with the general lack of awareness of the realities of a parliamentary system where the government controls debate…..and with the speakers at the end of the rally.
Self seeking shits in silk stockings….Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, ready to mount a coup of his own. Tom Watson, whose willingness to believe in a fantasist’s allegations of child abuse led to at least one innocent man’s life being ruined.
Jess Phillips…. loud mouthed opportunist and opponent of Corbyn.
Here we have two using the movement to further their own ends.
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, whose coalition with the Conservatives enabled draconian measures to be applied to the unemployed and the disabled seeking the support that a civilised society should provide.
Anna Soubry…too extreme for even the Conservatives and now member of a so called independent group of M.P.s which has avoided the need to declare their finances by forming themselves as a company, rather than as a political party. A company…in Parliament….it beats cock fighting.
People who sincerely believe that the U.K. should remain in the E.U. should take a look at the company they keep…the company that is using them.
Brexit is too important an issue to be used for personal advancement. Its resolution will form the future of the country.
I left the U.K. over thirty years ago…I cannot claim that I should be entitled to vote for issues that will affect the future of citizens of the country but I am deeply concerned that people are not being enabled to form a judgement based on fact…are being misinformed…are encouraged to demonise those whose opinions differ…are, in effect suborning the British values of tolerance and compromise.
I had set the alarm for four in the morning….Leo had an appointment at San Juan de Dios, the main hospital in San Jose, at six and we needed to be off betimes in order to avoid the traffic jams which render the road to the capital impassable for hours in the morning rush.
I had been optimistic. Long before the alarm went off I had been roused from a deep sleep by something heavy and hairy breathing into my ear while sharp claws raked my head.
Sophie wished to go out and I had forgotten to leave the door open.
The door opened and Sophie released, followed by the other dogs who were now feeling the need to pee after being so rudely awakened I thought there was no point in disturbing Leo by going back to bed so washed and dressed, boiled eggs for the baby chicks’ breakfast and enjoyed a peaceful half hour with a book and a cup of tea. The alarm went off as planned and Leo was ready to roll by the time that Danilo arrived to feed the livestock by torchlight before setting off.
We were lucky with the traffic. The buses were picking up the workers with an early start as we headed for the capital and although we were half an hour early arriving, the streets on the approaches to San Jose were already becoming crowded with cars and commuter buses, their exhaust fumes knocking out the scent of the flowering trees which line those routes.
We had agreed with Danilo that he would drop us at the main doors…the nearest entrance to the department we wanted…and he would then go to a car park from which we could summon him once Leo was released. We rehearsed using his mobile ‘phone and all seemed well. We were organised.
I pushed Leo’s wheelchair into the Preferencial line…eye pads, plaster casts, crutches and wheelchairs…on one side of the entrance, while the mere walking wounded waited in line on the other side. The Preferencial are admitted five minutes earlier than the others to give them an advantage in the Gadarene rush to secure the chairs in the waiting areas before the late comers arrive.
The first roadside fruit seller arrived, paying off the porter who brought his load down from the market, and was soon doing a trade with his offer of eight mandarin oranges for aproximately a quid. Looking up through the branches of the roadside trees, the moon, which we had seen the morning before like a golden orb sinking over the hills into the sea, floated in the dark sky, silvering the clouds she wore as shawls about her chilly shoulders. For Costa Rica it was chilly at ground level too, and many in the queue wore those Peruvian hats with ear flaps making them look somewhat hieritic as they stood immobile in the half light.
The doors were opened and the Preferencial launched their asault. Through the general waiting area under its glass roof and off into the corridors which link the old buildings and gardens of its foundation with the various monstrosities of clinical blocks added over the years.
The department we sought was on the right as we we entered….but it was closed and a noltice announced that it had been temporarily transferred to the pharmacy building.
Fine, except that the pharmacy building was outside the hospital grounds, two blocks away, and Leo was in a wheelchair.
Others were similarly affected, but after a swift discussion it was agreed that the best thing to do was to head off down the low ceilinged corridor that led to the original part of the hospital, turn left past the laundry and out through the gates at the rear of the complex which gave onto a park used by Nicaraguan rough sleepers, then along the road to the next block
It was a spectacle worthy of treatment by Bunuel.
The halt and the lame, with wheelchairs and a flourish of crutches, surged through the hospital and out of the back gates…where we found Danilo. The car park had not yet opened and he had prevailed upon the security guard to let him park opposite the entrance to await our arrival. Just as well…the high speed hirpling through the hospital had exhausted me so Danilo was a godsend as the horde encountered the pavement which had not been repaired since the time it was built and invaded the cycle path alongside…yet another bright idea of the San Jose council to tick the boxes of eco virtue signalling while doing sweet Fanny Adams about the basics.
At the junction traffic stopped to allow us to pass…more from bewilderment than from obedience to traffic lights…and the horde moved on to the pharmacy building…an oversized garage on two levels with offices on its periphery.
Needless to say, our department was on the upper level….accessed by a ramp which needed oxygen, crampons and ice picks to assault. Those on crutches held onto the wheelchairs, rather in the manner of the infantry clinging to the stirrups of the Scots Greys at Waterloo while the helpers doubled up to push them up to the top where all concerned stopped to draw air into their lungs….and grab the seats.
The health service in Costa Rica has more ways than one of making you fit….
When in 1789 Louis XVI, King of France, was obliged to revive the old consultative body of France, the Etats Generaux, which had been in abeyance since 1614, the representatives of the three orders which were held to compose society – clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie – arrived at Versailles with their ‘cahiers de doleances´, which contained the views of those who elected them on how the country should be governed.
The current ‘monarch’ of France, the Eclipse of the Sun King Emmanuel Macron, alarmed by the possibility of his party losing heavily in the forthcoming elections to the parliament of the European Union, has in his turn decided to consult the nation, but, warned by the example of Louis XVI, has decided to do it his way…by having maires and ‘appropriate bodies’ hold meetings in which the populace can express their views and their wishes. They can even write them in books kept open in public buildings for that purpose.
What they can’t do is pop up to Paris to tell him in person.
He doesn’t like that.
Last week the people who are trying to tell him something broke into the building housing his official spokesman – the person trying to tell them something they are fed up with hearing.
He legged it before they could deliver their message.
Macron does not fancy being defenestrated from the windows of the Elysee Palace….and, unlike poor Louis, he doesn’t have the Swiss Guard to protect him. The poor bugger doesn’t even have his security guard extraordinaire behind him any more.
Monsieur Benalla would have come in useful now, with his experience of beating up protesters while dressed as a policeman but, alas, these days he is confined to confidential missions to African dictators bearing not one but two diplomatic passports…passports he said that he left in his desk when he resigned his post at the Elysee.
So Macron has to rely on the real police….where, once again, he has made a faux pas. To encourage the men on the ground to maintain the energy with which they employ tear gas, batons and something called flash ball which is capable of inflciting severe injury he has given them a pay rise.
Unfortunately he forgot the maxim of the French public service…if the man at the bottom of the heap gets a rise, his superiors get one too, to preserve the necessary distance between them.
So the Police Commissaires, Divisionnaires and other panjamdrums did not get a rise and they are not happy bunnies.
Already they have to try to maintain the morale of their forces in the suburbs of the major cities which are effectively no go areas for them. Where a gang can surround a police car and hold the doors firmly shut as they try to burn alive the three occupants, shouting ‘we want roast chicken’ the while.
There might be a knee jerk reaction from central and local government, but the no go areas remain no go for all that and the police are hung out to dry by local and national politicians if they attempt to maintain order.
But Macron’s government does not have to worry about the yobs from the suburbs or the people upon whom they prey…its members live elsewhere, well protected.
It is worrying instead about the rise of a popular movement, the ‘gilets jaunes’, named after the high vis yellow jacket one is obliged to carry in the car in France which those in the movement have adopted.
It is composed of people who work, pay their taxes and find that there is not sufficient money to go round to provide them with a decent standard of living.
Starting out as a protest against the rise in fuel tax it has become a movement demanding that Macron resign and his policies which favour the rich be overturned. Every weekend there are protest marches in Paris and the big cities….out in the sticks they blockade motorway toll booths and roundabouts.
Inevitably violent incidents have occurred…cars have been set alight, shops looted… in the wake of the marches but the police do not seem to be unduly worried by this. They are intent on ensuring that the marchers do not reach the Elysee and these wreckers make it easy for the government to accuse the demonstrators of violence.
Macron is gambling all on being able to beat the protesters into submission. The media report government spokesmen labelling them as fascists, communists, delinquents….people who wish to overthrow the state…
The police attack with – so far- impunity.
But the Commissaires, Divisionaires and associated panjandrums must be aware of something which seems to have eluded Macron.
People, generally, deplore the lawlessness which has overtaken their society.
They contrast the lack of effort to master the problem with the resources employed to silence decent people with genuine grievances.
They begin to view the police as being more focused on collecting motoring fines than on the protection of law abiding citizens.
Accordingly, they withdraw their consent from the government…just as have those who have had to suffer the lawlessness of the suburbs.
They no longer see the police as the guarantors of order…but as a government militia.
And once you see the government not as the embodiment of the people but as its overlord then revolt becomes acceptable whereas before an attack on the institutions of the republic would have been unthinkable.
Henry of Navarre’s great finance minister, Sully, noted that the great rebellions were not motivated by the wish to overthrow the government but by the impression that one had suffered long enough and it is evident that a tranche of the French population feels just that while a further tranche sympathises with them.
Already Macron’s proposed national debate is in chaos. The head of the body charged with organising it has withdrawn from the task after criticism of her 14,700 euro per month pay cheque. Not that she is resigning, of course….just refraining from workng on the project.
If you wanted a better example of one rule for the elite and another for the rest you could not have wished for better.
No one seems to know what will be done with the results….Macron gives no promises, but one suspects they will simply be trawled for spin material, while enabling the government to condemn the protesters for continuing to protest while the process is underway.
In the meantime a Monsieur Dettinger, a former professional boxer, has been arrested for laying into riot police in Paris. He gave himself up, admitted that he should not have done it, but said that after eight weekends of demonstrating where he and his wife had been teargassed each time he had just had enough of police brutality.
A fund was set up to assist with his legal fees which drove the Justice Minister to demand that the company running the crowdfunding site give up the names of all those who contributed, on the grounds that they were accomplices in his alleged crime.
How you can be an accomplice after the alleged crime has been committed is beyond me, but don’t let mere legal principles rein in a Justice Minister.
But will we have 1789 all over again? The storming of the Bastille? The heads on pikes?
I doubt it. The Paris of that period housed people of all conditions…the Paris of today has driven any but the comfortably off to the surrounding dormitory towns and you have to be made of stern stuff to take the RER into Paris in order to demonstrate.
The gang bosses of the lawless suburbs, though capable of extreme violence, are taking no part in this. Their livelihood comes from benefits, drug dealing and theft….undisturbed by a handcuffed police force. They have no interest in disturbing the status quo.
Macron’s head is safe…though we should always remember Sellar and Yeatman’s observation that uneasy lies the head which wears a throne….as far as Paris is concerned.
Ironic that the man who proclaims that the French expect something for nothing should be saved from the shipwreck of his project by the very forces which reflect just that philosophy.
But in the provinces it may be a different story….