Dancing in the streets at Chiottes la Gare….but only if it rains.

Let joy be unconfined! Sabrer le champagne!

As part of the shake up in the policing of France, responsibility for keeping the peace in Chiottes la Gare is being removed from the Police Nationale (the ones in caps with an office on the main road into town) and given to the Gendarmerie (the ones in kepis with an office next to the Lycee).

The commissariat of the Police Nationale will close….its occupants thrown to the four winds.
No, no such luck…they will be found posts elsewhere….but, as one opined soberly, these posts might be in – gulp – ‘les quartiers chauds’…the hot spots, the high risk, high crime suburbs of major towns…the ghettos for immigrants.

Well, if they are I don’t fancy their chances….they’ve got a quartier tiede…a lukewarm mini suburb…in their current jurisdiction which has hotted up very nicely under their control.
Where once the neighbours complained about loud music now they thank their lucky stars if they come down to find that their car has not been burned out.

They also have jurisdiction over a campsite for what are politely known as ‘gens de voyage’, ‘bohemiens’…known to the exasperated populace at large as ‘manouches’…the gyppos.
One resident took umbrage when the site caretaker asked him to clean up the area round his pitch which looked as if someone had lobbed a bomb into a used car showroom.
Outraged by this impertinence he started his chainsaw and chased the caretaker from the site….he later turned up at the caretaker’s house and threatened his wife and child.

Where were the Police Nationale?

Probably tucked away safely in their offices which, as they say, are open twenty four hours a day to enable people to lodge complaints while the Gendarmerie lurk behind locked gates, access controlled by an intercom on permanent answerphone.
Very true, but if they are too busy receiving complaints to go out to deal with what is being complained about it is no wonder that the populace regard them with a jaundiced eye.

They claim that they provide a presence on the ground….well, not when it’s raining. The first spot and they’re all back in the commissariat receiving complaints.

They claim that their action is social, as much as preventative…..as evidenced, I suppose by the experience of a young lady who, returning from a visit to her mother, her new baby strapped safely in the car, was followed by a police car all the way from the suburbs to her home in the centre, at which point they alighted and gave her a fine for having one brake light out.
She was unlucky with her weather.

Pause for appropriate music….

Local politicians will be, of course, sorry to see them go. Fifty officers and support staff…and families…will be leaving. Fifteen gendarmes will be replacing them.
I must take a look a the census figures to see if the maire is on a borderline between two rates of remuneration according to the number of people in his bailiwick.

But even if the maire does not suffer financially local bigwigs will mourn their loss….after all, they know how things are; how things need to be run.

They know that when an ex maire adjoint parks at the bus stop on market day they will issue a ticket and then cancel it. Appearances are saved…equality and all that…by the issue of the ticket; faces are saved by its cancellation.

They know that they are not to interfere with the social housing louts installed in the old town, where beautiful old buildings have been martyred to provide gimcrack flats for the ‘youf’ who have been displaced from areas of Paris where they spoil the ambiance for the bourgeoisie by parading their pitbulls and dealing in hard drugs.
Why do they not interfere? Because these properties are owned by the town’s bigwigs and they want no interruption in the rents paid them by the social services.

The Gendarmerie are a bit more unpredictable….they have rushes of blood to the head…and they are likely to claim manpower problems when drafted in by an ex maire to close a street to traffic while contractors unloaded materials to martyrise yet another beautiful old building in the town centre.
His beautiful old building, just like all the others on that side of the road.
The Gendarmerie might be prone to ask where was the authorisation from the council.
Not so the Police Nationale.
They closed the road.

I was interested, because I had bought an old house to restore in one of the side streets served by this road to which there was no access to take a lorry except through a garage on the road itself.

I needed to unload sand and gravel there…in quantity.

I went to the Hotel de Ville and asked for an authorisation. It would take at least a month, I was told.
In a month the Turkish building firm I had engaged would be on holiday…and time was of the essence as some of the work was urgent.

I consulted the builders’ merchant.

To hell with the council…his guys could unload the lorry right at the door blocking only half the road…they were experienced…they knew the town backwards.

I consulted the builders.

Yes, they would guarantee to have the materials shifted in twenty minutes if I would agree to them bringing two more men on the site for the job.

I rounded up friends.
Yes, they would act as marshals for the traffic.

We were away.

The lorry arrived on time and tipped the material accurately. Only half the road was blocked. The builders were busy with shovels and barrows in instants, the friends were at each end of the obstruction, explaining and apologising.
There was no problem…it was a quiet time of day….it was all going swimmingly.

Then the Police Nationale arrived. They parked their car alongside the diminishing heap, thus blocking the road completely.

You’re blocking the road.
Shovelling proceeds

No, you are.
Shovelling proceeds.

You’ll have to stop.
Shovelling proceeds.

Shovelling proceeds.

By this time hooting has started from the cars at both ends.

You’re causing a public nuisance…listen to that hooting.
Shovelling proceeds.

No…that’s down to you. You can park in the side street and talk to me.
Shovelling proceeds.

You can’t tell us what to to.
Shovelling proceeds.

No…have to be a local bigwig to do that: then we’d see you hop!
Shovelling stops as voices are raised.

I’m warning you…this is outrage to a properly appointed officer of the French Republic! Where’s your authorisation from the council?
Shovels are put down to allow shovellers to give the scene their full attention.

I don’t have one, just like the ex maire for whom you blocked the road last week.
Shovellers close in a bit for a better view.

Don’t chance your luck!
Shovellers pick up shovels, scenting trouble.

I don’t have to.
Tahsin! Can you give me Osman and Ramazan a moment please?

Hefting their shovels, the edges silver and sharp as knives, they stepped forward, Ramazan built like a brick shithouse, Osman nearly double the size, stripped to the waist, bandanas round their brows.
They moved forward again.

Don’t you ever pull a stunt like this again!….

And the Police Nationale were off…or would have been had they not been blocked in and forced to listen to somewhat unflattering views on their probable paternity before making their escape.

I don’t give much for their chances in ‘les quartiers chauds’


And if you want a bit of fun, follow this link and see what the wonderful Coluche, founder of the Restos du Coeur, thought of ‘les flics’….and here‘s a link to the video if you want to try your French

Illustration from http://www.victorianweb.org.


26 thoughts on “Dancing in the streets at Chiottes la Gare….but only if it rains.”

  1. It always amuses me how repression leads to creativity. If you can’t do something one way (the most obvious, easy way), then you have to search for a solution. People are marvellously inventive.

    I’d also noticed that when it rains there’s not a cop in site. Wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West afraid of water too? For good reason. Maybe the cops are afraid they’ll melt into a puddle too if they get wet.

  2. Ours never come out, whatever the weather! And the only times I’ve seen a Gendarme are the times I’ve been to the Gendarmerie (10 Km away, because ours is closed all the time even though they built a spiffy new Gendarmerie to accommodate them) or just recently when two of them jumped out of the undergrowth on a Tuesday evening to breathalyse me!
    Coluche…I love Coluche!

    1. Coluche is special…if only he’d not withdrawn his candidacy for President in 1980 France would have been so much better a place.

      There4’s as spiffing new gendarmerie in our areas too…even less accessible than the last!

  3. If these vignettes of French life are accurate I wonder why so many Brits live there. After all, things are so very different in the UK. There are no ‘jobsworths’ here and corruption does not exist either.

    Now, if you were in Germany you’d have the full force of the law on your back, in triplicate. After all, Verboten is Verboten, and who dares rarely wins in the long run.

    What a great pity it is that sensible folk like us don’t get to rule the world.

    1. All too accurate, Friko!

      Most of the Britpack live in a bubble…pay what they’re told to pay…jump through the hoops…so they don’t offend anyone.

      I had German friends…indeed, Verboten is Verboten! That’s why they lived in England.

      I reckon our group of bloggers would make a fine world government, don’t you?

  4. I reckon your French posts should be required reading for all would-be immigrants to that fair land, Helen. They might still choose to go, but at least they would have been warned. Our little chef-lieu cantonal has a shiny new Gendarmerie which appears to be permanently closed too and I’ve yet to see its inhabitants anywhere within the borders of our commune.

    1. I notice on sites like ‘Survive France’that reality seems to be creeping in very slowly…you’re no longer lynched by the Britpack for saying you don’t like croissants…

      How come all these new gendarmeries are springing up? Are they expecting revolution?

  5. Well there’s quite a lot I could say about Turkish police and jandarma, but I could be here all day. Glad your lovely Turkish builders came to the rescue!

  6. If you need a pile of sand moving – best choose a few Turks with large shovels – they are well practiced and will have the job done while we are still adjusting our grip.

  7. Wish I could watch the video, I will have to bookmark it for the day they step up the broadband speed in this area!

    We have a brand new police station here as well, with houses and accommodation built at the back. I have yet to see a Gendarme, but friends did get stopped for a breathalyser test a few weeks back!

    Hmm maybe I will buy a chain saw, we have one very miserable neighbour unliked by everyone………

    Have a good weekend. Diane

    1. It’s ‘The bold Gendarmes’ which I expect you know…

      Have you noticed…we all seem to have new gendarmeries …but no gendarmes, even when it’s not raining!

      The chainsaw sounds good to me….you can claim to be a bohemienne reacting to racial abuse by the neighbour in that he did with malice aforethought, refuse to buy your handmade gyppo basket imported from China…

      I’m going to make a harissa soup following your post…

        1. I’ll have you know that the wonderfully named ‘colon’ was the most stable currency in the world last year….probably because as you can’t spend it anywhere but costa rica….

          What about bananas….?

  8. Thank you for the clip of my father’s favourite Irish tenor – Dad also being Irish also had a voice that would rival any of the performers of the day.

    Would love to have been afly on the wall and seen the pantomime when the brics labourers took on the police!
    Take care

    1. My father liked his voice too…though the aunts went for Count John McCormack.

      Sometimes, when you look back on something you become aware of a sort of choreography of which you were not aware at the time…being too taken up with your own role as chief fishwife…

  9. Our advice from neighbours was not to bother with asking permission to block the road, when our 18 wheeler wagon from Yorkshire delivered our furniture from storage…..as it happened…it couldn’t even get into the village to block the road at all ! It parked outside…..and friends and neighbours decanted the contents onto a flat bed truck, borrowed for such a calamity…..and made about 15 trips……all went smoothly, no one “official” took any notice, and 2 hours after all my furniture was moved from outside the front of the house, to its appropriate rooms. The guy who lent us the truck and helped with the decanting wouldn’t let us pay him anything….he just wanted an invite to the house warming. ( The ex mayor came too, but I think he had been out when we were causing chaos). Jx

    1. That’s much more typical.
      Everyone knows what a pain it is when moving furniture…and in unloading bulky stuff and most people are really helpful.

      This town does have a problem in that in the centre the streets are narrow…but it has avoided a sensible one way system solution for years because certain influential people don’t want traffic passing their houses.
      The builders’ merchants are well aware of the problem…their men are expert in tight drops, leaving room for traffic to pass….and they get up a head of steam with the council who make their clients jump through hoops…and close the road off for hours rather than just for the time it takes.

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