How Penguins Part from their Partners

Wikicommons Pere Igor
Wikicommons Pere Igor
Driving to and from the hospital at Poitiers I would be reminded that this was a landscape known to man for a long time, and that my preoccupations were nothing new under the sun.
Megaliths abounded in that area; menhirs and dolmens, bearing witness to the antiquity of the human presence – and how many more would there have been had they not been destroyed by forces of, successively, religion and agriculture.
In the commune where I first lived a dolmen had been blown up as late as 1912… was ‘in the way’.
North of Taize was a group of four…one clearly visible from the road, that Roman road from Poitiers to Nantes which was frequented by St. Hilaire of Poitiers, Apostle of Poitou and his follower, St. Martin of Tours in the fourth century A.D.
St. Martin les Baillargeaux, Noize
St. Martin les Baillargeaux, Noize
The church of Noize, now standing out in the fields far from the village, was named for St.Martin.
Its earlier parts date from the tenth century A.D, and it is supposed that, like many Christian sites, it took the place of a pagan temple…but I can’t imagine that either St.Hilaire or St. Martin would have left such a temple untouched.
baptisiere St. Jean, Poitiers l'
baptisiere St. Jean, Poitiers
Normally I would have driven the hospital outside Poitiers at La Miletrie, and with some time to spare would have visited the Baptistry of St. Jean, said to have been founded by St.Hilaire in the period when baptism by immersion was the rule…but today I will turn aside between Taize and Noize to go to Oiron, via Bilazais.

fontaine de bilazais site officiel de la commune de oiron
fontaine de bilazais
site officiel de la commune de oiron
Bilazais is today, as it always was, an undistinguished little village……but it could have made its fortune had an entrepreneur taken it in hand in the great days of the spa, at the end of the nineteenth century. Its waters were the equal of those at Bareges in the Pyrenees…but in the late nineteenth century it was easier to go from Paris to Bareges than to Bilazais…so the fountains of Bilazais slumbered on…the source no longer even used for the health of the old people in the almshouses in Oiron, just up the road.

Those almshouses had been founded by Madame de Montespan.….once the mistress of the Sun King Louis XIV…. when, retired from the court, she took up residence at the Chateau d’Oiron.

Chateau d'Oiron monuments.
Chateau d’Oiron
An ambitious woman, she had succeeded in becoming the king’s mistress by pretending to befriend the then holder of the title, Louise de la Valliere, and – with or without the aid of black magic – had succeeded in supplanting her.
The relationship was so notorious that in 1675 the Church refused to allow the king to take communion at Easter unless he parted from his favourite…..and eventually the his Most Christian Majesty agreed to the separation….which lasted no time at all and once reunited added two more illegitimate children to the quiverful already produced between them.

In her turn she was to be supplanted…first by a silly girl who died in mysterious circumstances….then by the woman she had hired to bring up the brood of royal bastards, Mme. Scarron, whose aim was to draw the King back onto the path of virtue….and did it so well that after the death of the Queen Louis married her.

But the Sun King was courteous where women were concerned….he would raise his hat in their presence whether the woman be countess or chambermaid…..and Mme. de Montespan was not banished from Versailles.
She remained at court until her children, now legitimised to the fury of the aristocracy, made splendid marriages and only then did she retire from public life. Comforted by a generous pension she turned her attention to improving her chances in the afterlife by taking to religion and good works. Thus the almshouses at Oiron.

Louis XIV had a sense of his own worth which attached to anyone to whom he had given marks of favour: the glamour of his attachment extended to seeing that his favourites – and ex favourites – were respected.

Francois Hollande, President of the French Republic, has a well developed sense of his own worth too….at his recent meeting with the Pope in the Vatican he had his backside well anchored to a chair while the other Francis was still on his feet. Someone should tell him that one may be an atheist without being impolite.

But the signs were there….at the handover of power he turned on his heel to enter the Elysee Palace, leaving Sarkozy and his wife to find their own way to their car, which may have been the inspiration for Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s song…Le Pingouin.
I don’t propose to inflict it on you….you can look it up for yourselves on Youtube….but the penguin of the title is popularly supposed to be Francois Hollande.

A clumsy gait, but a superior air; sure of himself; a sly narcissistic cheapskate; and cold hearted to those around him.

Judge for yourselves….

But he is scarcely the Sun King, our Hollandouille: where the former would have raised his hat to his former mistress the latter could only manage…..the finger.



43 thoughts on “How Penguins Part from their Partners”

  1. A bit of everything, pre-history, history, extra-marital history and the usual bit of delicious malice. Glad you got to Hollande in the end.

    The thing I got excited over was when you told me about a dolmen being blown up for being in the way. In the way of what? Turnips?

    1. Goodness only knows! No one could remember!
      The place was on the edge of woodland and the ground was down to cereals in my time.

      And I rather hope that someone will get to Hollande in the end before he wrecks France entirely.

    1. We had several trips to Poitiers hospital for various emergencies with my husband… I began to know that road quite well!

      It is a lovely area with lots of hidden corners well worth exploring.

  2. There’s SO much here I shall have to re-read at least three more times for it all to find its place. Excellent stuff, Helen, on so many levels and with so much to enjoy. I rather liked the throwaway comment – not about the dolmen being blown up – but that you were living in a commune at the time….(I am now assuming that this is in terms of French administrative areas, but I had visions of you in long Inidan skirt and your hair to your waist!)
    Great post and love the title!

    1. I might have got as far as cheesecloth…but a commune would have been several steps too far!

      Seems a pity for the penguins to be used in connection with Hollande….I rather prefer the comparison with a sloth….eats and sleeps and comes down to defecate once a month…

    1. Whatever one thinks of Mme. Trierweiler his behaviour has been quite beyond the pale… any woman could vote for him is beyond me, let alone wait in a love nest rented from Corsican bandits while he pops out his croissants…

      And now he is looking to 2017 with him leading a coalition of the centre right/left to give France another five years of economic and social disaster…..aren’t there any fishwives left in Paris?

      1. I don’t understand my home country any more. I think that he should go. That said, you are provably right: he will want to stay on in 2017. Will the nightmare ever stop?

        1. Most of my French friends say that they begin to wonder where they are living these days. The economic crisis of 2008 only reinforced the power of the private banks instead of bringing about reform, the national institutions are more and more subject to an EU which has no democratic validation, and the current government is in the hands of a egomaniac.
          I can tell you, I was glad to leave when I did!

  3. You know we have driven around Poitiers many, many times but always in a hurry to get home one way or the other and we have yet to see the town – one day!

    Give me the penguin any time, much more attractive than FH.

    Keep well you two. Diane

    1. Le Mans was like that for us….though I did eventually manage to see some of it!
      I like Poitiers very much indeed, though visits were always combined either with hospital appointments or trips to court – in both cases a bit of tourism was very welcome!

      Ah yes, penguins any time over FH – though if you’re keen to improve your colloquial French the contents of the newspaper comment columns are offering a positive cornucopia of words used to describe him…my current favourite is the ‘zigatou’…

  4. I like penguins so feel this is a very unfair comparison!!
    Ah yes Hollande gracious isn’t he? Mind you he pulled the stunt with Segolene, so Valerie could have suspected she’d get a taste of the same unpleasant medicine.
    On Wednesdays I teach just up the street from the Baptistry.

    1. Yes, not a fair comparison. I await a delegation of penguins seeking compensation from Carla Bruni for character assassination.
      And yes, it seems a case of the biter bit, doesn’t it….but in both cases the zigatou was remarkable for his lack of concern…

      So you’ll know the building then…with so much to see in Poitiers you must be tempted to bunk off occasionally…

    1. I’ve always considered him to be a most unpleasant man….he sabotaged Segolene Royal’s bid for the presidency by his non organisation of the PS…played one faction off against another within the PS as its First
      Secretary….and seems to imagine that he can do the same again on the national scene, setting himself up as the centrist candidate profiting from the deroute of the parliamentary right after Sarkozy’s defeat and the implosion of the left which he has himself brought about.

  5. I listened to a BBC commentary today that Hollande seems impervious to opinion. Followed almost at once by a report that French unemployment is going higher. I enjoyed the consecutive remarks by different reporters.

    1. He announced that he was going to reverse the unemployment curve….words like Canute and tides come to mind.

      His attitude to his position as President is somewhat akin to that of Charles 1st as stated by Sellar and Yeatman:

      “Charles explained that there was a doctrine called the Divine Right of Kings, which said that:
      (a) He was King, and that was right.
      (b) Kings were divine and that was right.
      (c) Kings were right, and that was right.
      (d) Everything was all right.”

      Except his divinity is himself.

  6. I always look forward to another of your history lessons as you make it so interesting. If only I’d had a history teacher like you at school, I’d have learned so much more.

    Hollande is a sleaze isn’t he?

    1. History is people…and people are always interesting. I’d have gone mad on a learning dates by rote sort of history teaching which I suspect is what you had…

      Hollande is fairly typical of the ruling class male in France in his attitude to women…but he either can’t manage or is too arrogant to bother to hide his contempt.

  7. Very interesting, the saunter through a part of rural France, and that chateau is magnificent!
    One thing is sure about Hollande, he is not a gentleman in any respect. There’s no elegance about him (practically a crime in France) and his charm is reduced to telling inappropriate jokes. I’m glad the rottweiller is no longer on the scene, but her dismissal was cruel, cold and lacking in respect.
    The man is a loathsome prick who has no business being president. God help us all!

    1. It was an interesting area…well off the tourist route but with plenty to see.
      Oiron is superb…..there’s a super renaissance fresco in one of the wings to cheer you up after you visit the collection of modern art which the chateau now houses….

      Hollande was always going to be a disaster…..and the demo on Sunday shows that all sorts of disparate groups have had enough of him.

  8. I’m pleased I know stuff all about French politics, and even moreso that we didn’t choose France for our destination. Not that I have any love for Rajoy, I hasten to add, as sadly I am not as good at avoiding Spanish politics.

    Now the history lesson, and the photos, on the other hand, were excellent. Much more interesting and not depressing. One of the reasons I like history, it has less impact on my life than the current idiots in power. It’s all clothed with a rose tinted gauze from the past.

    1. No, Rajoy has nothing to recommend him, but he seems to be able to pass himself in company, unlike the uncouth Hollande.

      When it comes to history, too much reading of Marc Bloch at an early age to allow for rose tinted gauze…more like a bit of grubby sackcloth.

      1. Well so long as Rajoy doesn’t end up in my company that’s fine by me.

        Not read Bloch, that I remember. But I did have a view at one point that I didn’t want to study modern ie anything post medieval, history because it was too close to the current day and I didn’t feel I would study it objectively enough. I’ve moved on since those days, the rose tinted whatever is now cloaked heavily with an impenetrable veneer of cyncism 😦

        1. I’m not sure we study any period objectively…we always have our own period’s baggage with us, acknowledged or not.

          Perhaps it would be good for Rajoy to spend some time in your company…but I understand your reluctance!

  9. Your post reminds me that a visit to the Chateau d’Oiron is long overdue. In the summer, if you wander down to the Baptistry after dark and stand on the pavement outside the Espace Mendes, you can watch projections onto the exterior of the frescoes from the inside. It’s a pleasant way to spend 10 minutes on a warm evening.

    Regarding Hollande, how does such a grey, insignificant little chap so utterly lacking in charisma manage to wreak so much havoc on a country and in the lives of three apparently intelligent women? He’s a real little creep, and if Segolene went quietly, I doubt that the Rottweiler will rest until she has destroyed his already tattered and tacky image. Power to her pen!

    1. Oiron is well worth a visit…and if you are in the area take a look at the church at Noize…it has a wonderful atmosphere.
      I was never in Poitiers in the evening but the projections sound super….

      As for Hollande….he’s rather like Himmler; a man doing the dirty work in the background and out of his depth when called to take responsibility.

      As to the Rottweiler…it all depends how much she is paid, I reckon.

        1. She’ll have to weigh things up.
          The French press likewise publishing houses, will be too scared to let her loose…remember the big state subsidies they get….the foreign press has limited interest…..
          But don’t rock the boat and your offspring will find well placed jobs – like the underqualified son of the Defence Minister landing a big job with a property institution with close links to the Defence Ministry….

  10. And there was I, enjoying one of your fascinating forays into French landscape and history, when wham the sting in the tail appeared! I always learn so much from your posts, Helen, even though sometimes I would prefer to remain in blissful ignorance, 🙂 Cameron may be a inept creep too, but at least he lacks the arrogant selfishness of Hollande.

    1. I gather Hollande is planning to dress Cameron down when they have their highly staged meeting in a pub…..pooh poohing Cameron’s pseudo attempts at reform of the EU.
      Cameron does not need this….how can he wriggle out of trying for the reforms when the general opinion of Hollande’s arrogance is such as to bring out the UKIP in all of us…

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