Tag: France

Time Trial in France

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018

When it comes to sport these days, all eyes are on Russia, where the World Cup is approaching its climax. For those who aren’t that into football, there’s always tennis and Wimbledon right now offers a more genteel alternative to the mania in Moscow. If neither small ball nor big ball satisfies, the Tour de France ticks the remaining boxes.

Today’s stage from to Lorient to Quimper glides past the citadel of Fort-Bloqué and through Pont-Aven, the city of the painters Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. The focus will be on Ménez Quélerc’h, a famous climb in Breton cycling, and the last 35km includes the medieval village of Locronan and the challenging côte de la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Couch-based Tour fans are treated daily to spectacular landscapes steeped in history but what’s usually missing from the picture is the pain of the participants. Finlay Pretsell, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker, places pain at the centre of his film, Time Trial, and his anti-hero is Scottish-born David Millar, a Tour stage winner, who was suspended for doping in 2004. If the World Cup is ecstasy and Wimbledon is elegance, the Tour de France is human, with all the heroic and horrible facets of humanity exposed. Time Trial is a valuable contribution to our understanding of sport.


And then there were eight

Friday, 6 July, 2018

What began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we get to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they begin today and finish tomorrow. The candidates are Uruguay, France, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, England, Russia and Croatia.

Part of the fun of the World Cup is making predictions, so here goes:

Uruguay vs. France, Nizhny Novgorod. Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina). According to the latest reports, Edinson Cavani, Uruguay’s star striker, is probably out of this evening’s game due to injury. If true, it’s a massive blow to the South Americans and his absence would tilt the scales further towards France, who can depend upon Mbappé to run Godín ragged. France, however, are more show than substance at times so it will be interesting to see how they’ll cope with the physical “toughness” (dirt) they’re going to encounter today. Verdict: France by a metre.

Brazil vs. Belgium, Kazan. Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia). With Belgium, we were promised another “golden generation” that was going to knock the socks off every team that dared stand in its way. And what happened against Japan? A Belgian winner in the last minute. Brazil, on the other hand, have changed their ways since that 7-1 hammering by Germany in 2014 and they’re one of the most efficient teams in the tournament. Neymar adds that extra element of Brazilian eccentricity, even if it’s mostly gaudy, but he’s usually good for a goal. Verdict: Brazil by a mile.

Tomorrow, the second group of quarter finalists.

France 1998


A. A. Gill and the je ne sais quoi in France

Sunday, 4 February, 2018 0 Comments

Background: A. A. Gill was an English journalist who died of cancer in London in December 2016, at the age of 62. Adrian Anthony Gill was also an alcoholic who stopped drinking at 29 and followed the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) “12-step plan” to recovery. In tribute to the fellowship, he began using the name ‘A. A.’ Gill professionally. His finest writing is collected in The Best of A. A. Gill and it covers his observations on food, television and travel. In “Markets,” published in July 2007, he pontificated on the phrase the French have created to “encompass it all”: je ne sais quoi. Snippet:

“My weakness, my pleasure, is markets… The Mercato in Addis Ababa, biggest market in Africa: dangersous red-eyed tribesmen, maddened and delusional on khat, unloading bushels of the stuff flown in daily from the ancient cities on the Somali border. The stalls selling coffee and the winding lanes of incense dealers, the gifts of the Magi, smelling of martyrdom and plainsong.

Tsukiji, the Tokyo fish market: miles of frozen tuna, lying like a thousand unexploded bombs steaming in the dawn as the auctioneers paint red characters on them, buyers cutting tiny nuggets of flesh from their tails to knead for water content.

Crawford Market in Bombay, the book market in Calcutta, the bird market in Denpasar, the karaoke market in Tashkent…”

However, when it comes to the market’s market, the perfect market, Gills puts his money on “the weekly markets of southern France.” And what makes them so superior? It’s the je ne sais quoi:

Je ne sais quoi is France’s abiding gift to the world. More je ne sais quoi for your euro is to be found in a French market than anywhere else. We wander down the aisles of trestles and stalls aghast at the marvellous repose of produce. There are peaches warm from the tree, ripe and golden. Figs, green and black, bursting with sweet, ancient, darkly lascivious simile. The smell of fresh lemon, the bunches of thyme and lavender and verbena, the selections of oil and olives, pale green and pungent, and the they honey, from orange blossom, from heath and orchard, and the beeswax. The charcuterie, the dozens of ancient and dextrous things to do with a dead pig, in all the hues of pink, and pale, fatty cream.”

Never was A.A. Gill happier than when in France, the land of Armagnac, Calvados and a thousand cheeses, wandering its markets, savouring the je ne sais quoi.

Apples


The 11 th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Saturday, 11 November, 2017 0 Comments

It’s Armistice Day. The event is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the truce signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne in France for the cessation of hostilities. The agreement took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. More than nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the First World War.

Lieutenant Robert Martin O'Dwyer Today, we remember the World War I dead of Ballylanders, Co. Limerick: Sergeant John Brazil, Lieutenant Robert Martyn O’Dwyer and his brother Rifleman Peter O’Dwyer. Their bodies were interred in places as far apart as Pas de Calais in France and the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. May they rest in peace.

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” — Czesław Miłosz


École 42 may be the answer

Wednesday, 11 October, 2017 0 Comments

At 8:42 every morning, students at École 42 on the Boulevard Bessières in Paris get their digital projects. They have 48 hours to complete them, so they are always under pressure, as in real life. École 42, takes its name from the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The answer, by the way, is 42.

The school is the creation of Xavier Niel, a French billionaire who has so far spent about €48 million on the Paris campus and an additional $46 million on a twin school in Fremont, in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Niel made his fortune with Free, the second-largest internet service provider in France, and in 2013 he declared that the country’s education system was not working so he set out to fix the software engineering, coding and programming part of it.

Incidentally, no degrees or special skills are required to apply to attend École 42, and those who are accepted attend for free for three to five years. According to Niel, around 80 percent of students get jobs before they finish the course and 100 percent are employed by the end. Clearly, if it’s broke, Xavier Niel is the man to fix it.

42


The race for la lanterne rouge

Thursday, 20 July, 2017 0 Comments

La lanterne rouge is the French term for the competitor in last place in the Tour de France. Currently, the “honour” is held by Luke Rowe from Team Sky, which is quite astonishing as his teammate Chris Froome leads the field. Clearly, the media-savvy Sky wants to hoover up all the publicity, from start to finish, from top to tail.

The race for the lanterne rouge among the tour teams has come down to three: Team Dimension Data, Team Katusha Alpecin and Team FDJ. Of the three, Team Dimension Data is the most fascinating as its sponsor is working on transforming the Tour into a Big Data project. Actually, the proper name of the team is “Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, Africa’s first UCI World Tour Team racing to mobilise change in Africa, one bicycle at a time.” Qhubeka is a charity that gives bicycles to young people in Africa and, as we know, mobility is vital for the development of every society.

Today: Stage 18 from Briançon to Col d’Izoard. The ascent of this legendary Alp will be crucial to determining the winner of this year’s Tour.


Vive la France!

Friday, 14 July, 2017 0 Comments

It’s the #jourdebastille and there are many reasons to celebrate it. For example, the 13th stage of the Tour de France from Saint-Girons to Foix. It’s being described as “brutal”, which should add to the enjoyment. Then we’ve got the Trump, l’« ami » américain de Macron bonding in Paris, and there’s always that classic scene from Casablanca when Rick Blaine, owner of the Café Américain, asks the house band to play La Marseillaise.


Late June poem

Wednesday, 28 June, 2017 0 Comments

On 24 June 1914, a steam train carrying an unknown English poet made an unscheduled stop at a village station called Adlestrop in Gloucestershire. The obscure poet was Edward Thomas and he immortalized his glimpse that day of “willows, willow-herb, and grass / And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry” in Adlestrop. The train moved on and a year later Edward Thomas enlisted in the Artists Rifles regiment. He was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917.

Adlestrop

Yes. I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917)


Macron first, second and third

Monday, 24 April, 2017 0 Comments

If you add Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 19 percent to the 21 percent Marine Le Pen got in yesterday’s French presidential first-round vote, you have 40 percent of the electorate now radically opposed to “the system” of which Emmanuel Macron is a product and a symbol. Still, he will be elected president of France in a fortnight’s time says Arthur Goldhammer, writing in Prospect. Why? The youthful Macron has three main advantages over the hapless Hollande. Snippet:

“First, he did not pretend to be anything but what he is: a reformist social-liberal technocrat.

Second, he is not saddled with the baggage of 30 years of maneuvering among party factions and a hundred past compromises.

Finally, and most importantly, he has the knack of reassuring the Germans, who in my estimation have recognized that some modification in their approach to strict budgetary discipline is in order if the European Union is to be preserved, as they hope it will be because they have profited from it so handsomely. Regardless of whether Merkel or Schulz is the next German chancellor, the Germans will have found in Macron someone they can work with, and that is long overdue good news for Europe.”

Given the nature of the French administration, being president is a critical part of the constitutional puzzle, but governing is a very different story. Or, as they say in France: c’est une autre paire de manches.


My Mélenchony Baby

Saturday, 22 April, 2017 0 Comments

The full title of this sobering piece by Spengler (David P. Goldman) on tomorrow’s French election is “Come to Me, My Mélenchony Baby” and it’s a thoughtful take from the American side of the Atlantic on the options that face voters in a contest that’s powered by “rage against the country’s complacent and corrupt Establishment.” In a choice between Macron and Le Pen, Spengler would opt for Fillon. Snippet:

“Macron is pure bubble; if the bubble pops, right and left could unite with some elements of the Establishment to put Le Pen in power. She is the only candidate to warn about the danger to French society posed by Muslim migrants. But she also wants to take France out of the European Union, which would mean the end of the EU. The main winner in that case would be Putin. If I were French I would at least consider voting for Le Pen; as an American, I hope she loses as a matter of pure American strategic interest. The best outcome from an American standpoint would be the victory of the conservative Catholic free-marketeer Francois Fillon.”

Only Mélenchon or Le Pen would challenge the rotten elites, but neither France nor the EU might survive their radical approaches. Which, then, is the lesser of the electoral evils? That’s what the voters must ponder, but regardless of the outcome, the decline of France will continue.


Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut

Friday, 21 April, 2017 0 Comments

“The Twilight of the French Elite” is the English translation of Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut, the most recent book by Christophe Guilluy, who describes himself an urban geographer. Guilluy is best known for his concept of France périphérique and Christopher Caldwell examines the idea and the works of Guilluy in the Spring issue of City Journal and his essay, The French, Coming Apart, is as enlightening as it is disturbing.

On many levels, France gives the appearance of stability, but signs of crisis abound. The ruling elite has lost its legitimacy and there’s a dangerous vacuum where the centre once was. Meanwhile, there’s terror on the streets, despair amidst the squeezed middle and a draconian political correctness. Snippet:

“French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency. Doing so allows them to ‘present the losers of globalization as embittered people who have problems with diversity,’ says Guilluy. It’s not our privilege that the French deplorables resent, the elites claim; it’s the color of some of our employees’ skin. French elites have a thesaurus full of colorful vocabulary for those who resist the open society: repli (‘reaction’), crispation identitaire (‘ethnic tension’), and populisme (an accusation equivalent to fascism, which somehow does not require an equivalent level of proof). One need not say anything racist or hateful to be denounced as a member of ‘white, xenophobic France,’ or even as a ‘fascist.’ To express mere discontent with the political system is dangerous enough. It is to faire le jeu de (‘play the game of’) the National Front.”

Tip: For excellent observations on the French elections, read the French Politics blog of Art Goldhammer, “a student and observer of French politics since 1968.”

France