France has chronic unemployment….in certain sectors.
If you are the ‘fils de papa” (well connected) you will have a non job which brings in the uckers for the rest of your life, whereas if you are the ordinary sort of chap whose mother did not cavort with her husband’s boss between the hours of 5.00p.m.and 7.00p.m. (le cinq a sept) in the interests of advancing her husband’s career then you are likely to be either unemployed or employed on a short term contract offering very limited social protection.
Are there alternatives?
Yes, setting up in an independent business. A one man band.
That has always been possible and Sarkozy made it easier, but, France being France, only if the proposed business fits within the procrustean beds of recognised activities.
Severely restricted activities.
So you can imagine the rejoicing when a judge in South West France expanded the categories: a previously unrecognised activity has now been accepted – in jurisprudence at least, if not by the taxman.
It all happened in Bearn…
Bearn…in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Bearn…home of Henri IV, King of Navarre and France, who brought the country out of the Wars of Religion by negotiating when he could – Paris is worth a mass – and fighting when he must – Battle of Ivry – but remaining always his own man.
Given the said Henri’s reputation with the ladies it is always possible that the farmer from Bearn who gave rise to this case was one of his descendants as he too negotiated before taking action as we shall see.
Theft from farms has been a growing problem in France and this farmer, like most of his kind, had locked up what he could and nailed down what he couldn’t before setting off with his bulldozer to continue his activities as a guardian of the countryside.
On his return, he found that he had visitors…a couple in an old van who, despite the frustration of finding little that would not need a forklift truck to remove, had stuck to their task and were carrying off the battery from his electric fencing system.
The farmer negotiated. They idea was that they would give back the battery and remove themselves from the premises.
This is the Paris is worth a mass bit: no point reporting it to the gendarmerie as the likely response would be the Gallic shrug accompanied by an inspection of his bulldozer to see if they could fine him for something.
So his visitors started up the old van and turned for home.
Unfortunately in their haste to depart they ripped out part of his irrigation system…which is when the Battle of Ivry bit came to the fore.
He might not have been wearing a white plume in his hat but it was with a certain panache that he revved up his bulldozer, pushed the van into the bed of a stream and, as his visitors took to shanks’ pony, reduced it to a total wreck.
You can almost see him spitting on his hands and setting off for a celebration where wine, women and garlic vied for pole position.
Some time later, however, he had a nasty surprise.
His visitors had complained about his activities and the local prosecutor had taken up their complaint…..the farmer could not take the law into his own hands.
This would come as a shock to any French farmer, accustomed as he is to blocking the highway at will, dumping manure in supermarket car parks, raiding the said supermarket’s shelves for alien produce and burning imported lambs alive in the lorry which has transported them.
None of which activities arouses the interest of the forces of law and order.
So, off to court.
You do wonder, sometimes, about people….their ability to appreciate the nature of causality…
For example, in my little town, an elderly person whose custom was to offer pre teens an Ipad or mobile ‘phone in return for mutual display of genitalia was so annoyed when one pre teen ran off with the ‘phone before the display could take place that he toddled off to the police station complaining of theft… and was very surprised to find a police squad on his doorstep a few days later, wishing to investigate his computer before carting him off to the jug.
Where he will, if so inclined, have time to meditate on the theories of David Hume while he plays billiards with the Mikado’s elliptical balls.
In the case before us, however, while the visitors had seen fit to complain that the farmer had done them material and moral damage they seemed to have overlooked the chequered history of the male visitor’s encounters with the law.
Which landed the said gentleman with three months in the jug.
If there is room in the jug, which is, at present, running waiting lists worthy of a three star Michelin restaurant.
His lady companion, however, was unknown to the judicial computer and after due deliberation the judge awarded her a derisory sum for the loss of her van…but a considerable sum for the fact that the loss of her transport had deprived her of the chance to earn her living.
Which is where we return to the expansion of employment opportunities in France….
If thieving is now recognised as an activity worthy of the protection of the law then there are an awful lot of people ready to avail themselves of that protection….entrepreneurs: no more hiding in the shadows, running around in clapped out vans….buy a BMW and put it down to the company……
Though perhaps she was an estate agent…