One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Archive for February, 2012

Marseille’s Melting Pot – National Geographic

Some fantastic photos and an interest look at the different cultural communities which exist in Marseille, courtesy of The National Geographic.

Click the image or link below to view…


Englishman attempts to understand the French Election

So, Sorry for not updating this more regularly. I had my parents visiting me for the last week, so things have been a little hectic to say the least.

It is pretty hard to escape the forthcoming presidential elections here in France at the minute. The TV is full of debates in which everyone talks over each other, passionately arguing their side to the point where no one can understand what is being said anymore – let alone me! We have already had people canvasing in our street – although the FN soon cleared off when they realised I was a foreigner! The whole city seems to have been covered in a kind of election campaign poster wrap, and you can’t walk two feet down a street without seeing some brightly coloured poster displaying a slogan and awkwardly styled headshot. The one thing that struck me is just how many political parties there are in France, as opposed to the UK. Politics here seems much more black and white, and the differences between the main political parties seem very obvious. As an Englishman, I am of course not able to vote. I have however tried to follow the daily incidents and updates of the campaign so far, however  to me all the candidates seem desperately uninspiring.

The other thing I have really noticed is how the rhetoric has really heated up in the last few months, through a variety of different channels. The main issues that The FN and the UMP seem to speak most about is Security, Immigration and The Economy. You notice an abundance of programs on the TV now showing the police tackling crime in the major cities and suburbs, and these programs feature worrying statistics which, if you believed them would make you never leave the house again. After talking to friends here about this, they said exactly the same thing happened in the run up to the last election campaigns and that it just so happens that these channels are all owned by friends, donors and political allies of Sarkozy. This is very worrying if true.

For those not in the know, here are the 3 frontrunners and a little about them – (from what I understand!) I should also point out  I have no political ties and my opinions are purely as an impartial observer.

Francois Hollande – Party Socialist (PS) currently polling 32%

Francois Hollande is currently ahead in the polls and has styled himself as mister ordinary. His main policies include harsher curbs on the financial system, a re-alignment in the relationship with the EU, higher taxes on top earners and the creation of thousands more public sector jobs – particularly in teaching. To me Hollande is very bland, uninspiring and uncharismatic as a leader. One of the most exciting moments of his campaign so far was a rather miffed lady from Lille pouring flour over him just before a speech (yes, it is that exciting!). The current slogan for the PS  is ‘Le Changement c’est Maintenant’, or ‘The Change is Now.’ A slogan clearly taken from the succesful Obama campaign. This slogan has been much derided however, as it is accompanied by a rather funny bodily action. This has created many parodies on the internet, one of which I have embedded below…

Nicolas Sarkozy – UMP currently polling 26%

Current French President Sarkozy is deeply unpopular at present and is desperately trying to realign himself with the French people, after people took offence to his flamboyant scandal-ridden tenure, when many were suffering due to the recession. His campaign focuses of a Nationalist pride and Conservative values, including opposition to gay marriage which he called a “fashion of the moment”. Sarkozy used a recent meeting in Marseille to state that only he had the political strength and leadership to get the French economy back on top, and said that he had saved France from a similar fate as Italy, Greece and Spain. His campaign has moved further to the right to try to take votes from the FN, and he uses ministers such Claude Guéant to be his right-wing mouth piece. Guéant recently hit the headlines for saying that Arab cultures were less important than the French culture – seen as a anti-arab attack by many, echoing the rhetoric of former FN leader Jean- Marie Le Pen.  The UMP slogan for this election is ‘La France Forte’ or ‘A Strong France’.

Marine Le Pen – Front National (FN) Currently polling 18%

Marine Le Pen took over from her father, and former leader Jean-Marie in 2010, and has worked hard to try to bring the party into the mainstream, and be the voice of the French people who have been badly affected by the economic downturn. She has broadened the appeal by have a larger policy on many issues, and not just the anti-immigration policies of her father. Her policies include pulling out of the Euro and going back to the Franc, cutting immigration to tens of thousands a year and legislation giving first preference for native French people in new job openings. So far Marine has struggled with apparently not receiving the 500 signatures from mayors to certify her candidacy, as well as Jean-Marie’s conviction for Genocide denial in the past few weeks. Jean-Marie is still a large force in the FN, and attends many of the political rallies that are held.  I would look up what the FN slogan is for this years election, but I really can’t be bothered… probably something unpleasant though.

There are other parties also doing battle in the polls with smaller percentages, but I thought I would just focus on the top three, as in my view it is certain one of these will succeed.

I will try to keep my blog updated if something interesting happens in the campaign in the coming weeks, although this doesn’t look likely at present!

FYI: I have had to translate a lot of the information above from French articles, so if I haven’t got something quite right or have made any serious errors please let me know and I will correct it.

Beautiful sunset from my flat

Sorry I haven’t updated this for a little while. I will try to give a full update tomorrow.

This week I contributed to a piece for The Daily Telegraph on expats moving to be with their partners. This link to the piece can be found here…

Here is a shot I took just now from my living room, looking West towards The Frioul islands..


Have a lovely weekend all!

Addiction (a confession)

I think it is time I come clean and face up to an addiction I have. Over the last few weeks I find myself constantly needing a fix. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with only one thing on my mind. I really need help…

My addiction is not with Alcohol, Drugs, Gambling or Sex, however. I am addicted to the bread from my local boulangerie, specifically’La Benette’.


Sometimes I find myself unable to stop eating a Banette without finishing the whole thing in one sitting. Sometimes more than one. It goes perfectly with any Pâté , Frois Gras or Cheese.  I really need help! It is just too good!

If you are ever in Marseille, and would like to experiment with this particular vice, I recommend my local Boulangerie. Click the image below, or go to  the following address…

40 Rue Endoume, 13007 Marseille
(I don’t work for, or advertise for this shop btw!)
But be carefull though. This bread is very addictive!!

My first trip to Stade Velodrome

I would first of all like to apologise for the terrible state of the photography on this post! 

So, as some kind of right of passage now I am a resident of Marseille, I thought it only right to pay homage to the mighty OM (Olympique de Marseille for those not in the know). For the last few years I have been following the fortunes of OM, and I made sure to do my research on the players, manager and results for OM before arriving in Marseille, as I knew it would be a great starting point of conversation.

For those who don’t know much about OM, here is a little recap of recent history…

  • OM are in ligue 1 (the French equivalent of the premier league)
  • They are managed by former Chelsea and French international footballer Didier Deschamps, who was in the French team when they lifted the world cup in 98
  • OM play in the Stade Velodrome which at present can hold 60 031 places – but is currently being upgraded in time for the French European championships
  • They have won the Coupe de League for the last 2 years and last won the French League 1 in 2010. They last won the Champions League in 1993
  • Their major rivals are PSG (Paris Saint Germain) and previous meeting between the teams have ended in violence and rioting by fans. The encounter is now closed to away fans in each stadium to minimise trouble. This encounter is known in France as ‘Le Classico’.
Me and 2 friends decided to buy tickets for the mid-week semi final of Coupe de League as Marseille played local rivals Nice. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get to the stadium – just 20 mins by the metro. Certainly a lot easier than Wembley by Underground! Once we arrived we went and got some food and a beer/ Pastis on the Prado (the road that runs alongside the stadium) and soak up the atmosphere. I was immediately struck by how different it was to pre-matches in England. No heavy drinking, chanting, drunken antics or violence that I saw. As we sat down for a drink I realised how calm and civilised the experience was, with people slowly sipping and Pastis and chatting with friends, whilst dressed in the OM colours of blue and white.
Arriving at the stadium entrance the atmosphere started to pick up, as we could hear the announcement on the pitch, the classic OM songs and the rival fans whistles.


As we arrived the teams were warming up, and we first caught sight of our favourite players, such as Valbuena, Remy and Mandanda.


We stood down the front whilst the teams emerged.


Didier Deschamps walks to his position on the touch-line.


The match was fantastic. Marseille won 2-1, although key-player Valbuena was sent off for two separate yellow cards for tiny incidents – much to the displeasure of the home fans. I certainly learnt some new words and expressions that night that shouldn’t be repeated in front of the mother of my fiancé!

After the match it was back on the metro for 20 mins and home. I couldn’t believe how easy it all was. No crushing on the Metro, although admittedly the match was under-attended due to a bigger game this sunday vs Lyon. Apparently there were a few clashes between the 2 sets of fans after the match, but we were all home by then.

ALLEZ  l’OM!!!