(Currently updating this from the beach. This is currently my view, above!)
Firstly, sorry for not updating this recently. I have started a new job a week ago which is now taking up a lot of my time. All good though!
Last Monday, on a rather overcast day here in Marseille I organised a small apéro at one of my favorite café overlooking the port to discuss the French elections with Guardian journalist Jon Henley. Jon was on a mission to travel around France through the week, hearing ‘normal’ people’s opinions on the French elections so far. He was then live blogging his experience through The Guardian website and twitter, to create an interactive map of his journey along he way. He arrived in Marseille on Monday morning, and would leave Paris on Friday, and his journey in between would be entirely spontaneous, based on suggestions of issues in certain regions and people who wanted to talk to him about it.
I gathered a few friends I have here, including my fiancée, and some choice opinions from the discussion can be found HERE.
(NB: I was more involved in the organisation of the project, and didn’t share any views that I have, as it was more based on people who had lived in and knew Marseille for a long time.)
Just a quick update to say that the site for the election results in Marseille is now live, and is being updated as soon as the results come in. You can search by arrondissement or polling station.
Click the image above or click HERE to go to the site
A little round-up of recent events…
Ok, so Le Mistral is currently battering our house making it very difficult to sleep at night due to the foroscious noise. For those not in the know, Le Mistral is the strong Provencal wind which travels from the North towards the South out across the Mediterranean sea. Myth has it that a Mistral will last for 3 days, and if it doesn’t stop after 3 days then it will rage for another 3. So far this seems very accurate! The strangest thing about this wind is its ability to switch on like a light. All was calm when we went to bed last night, but during the night all of sudden we were woken up to all hell breaking loose, as plant pots, wind chimes and out-door furniture went crashing about as the Mistral commenced. It was a case of my fiancé making a quick dash to the window boxes to bring in the plant pots before any damage was done!
The great thing about the Mistral however is that it clears the sky of all cloud, as the picture below demonstrates…
So the week before last I was invited by an old University friend to a concert at Le Dome. She is currently touring the world with the Australian Pink Floyd, and this date in Marseille was part of a massive arena tour of France and the rest of Europe. Le Dome is the largest indoor events venue situated in Saint-Just in the 4e Arrondissement and seems almost like a mini arena, similar to the Birmingham NIA.
I took a few friends along, and we made our way to the VIP section, behind the sound desk. I had heard a lot about how bad the sound quality is in the Dome, but we had a great position and I thought the sound quality was generally great. The show itself was very impressive, with an incredible light show and all manner of stage tricks and visuals to bring the Floyd back-catologue to life.
After the concert we attended the ‘after party’ for a short while. It is a long time since I toured with my old band, but it still amazes me how unglamorous venues and festivals are backstage. I found it hard to imagine recent performers such as Beyoncé and Rihanna pigging out on peanuts and lounging on the plastic chairs in the rather empty and bland backstage lounge. Maybe Monster Munch is more their thing? Who know… Anyways, it was good to catch up with an old friend for a short while before we departed into the chilly Marseilles night.
For much of last week we had a lot better weather, and the temperature hovered around 18 – 20 degrees with a tiny breeze. We were invited over for our first BBQ of the year (In Februay!?!) at the mother of my fiancé in the Blancarde area of the City. I thought this might be a perfect time to buy some fresh fish from the famous Marseille fish market on the Vieux Port. I am slowly getting a lot better at identifying the various strange and wonderful species of fish we have down here, so I felt confident I might be able to order something suitable for the BBQ!
Once I got down there I hovered around the various stalls in amongst the fish lovers and bemused tourists for a good 15 minutes. I desperately tried to suss out which fish I wanted, the name in French, how many I wanted and how much I would need to pay by listening to other people ordering. At last I plucked up the courage and asked one gruff-spoken, leather skinned Marseilles fisherman for some Dorade Sar, or small Sea Bream. There are many different varieties of Sea Bream in the mediterranean, the most highly prized being the Dorade Royal or Guilthead Bream in English. Unfortunately all the stalls were fresh out of Dorade Royal, so I felt the Sar could work well on the BBQ. I thought 15 Euros seem to be the amount many other people were paying so I plumped for the same. I soon started to worry as the man filled a bag with these fish, 10 in all before handing it over for the cash. I walked home feeling a bit silly that I had ordered so many fish, and that I would be eating Sar for the next 2 weeks solid!
One final thought before I go…
One of the things that I have been having a lot of problems with lately is when you have English words, phrases or names within everyday French speech. I have been working very hard on my French accent, but when it comes to pronouncing anything in English I always revert back to my English native speaking accent. This inevitably leads to me having to repeat what I have just said again, as the person I’m talking to hasn’t got a clue what I just said. Take asking for a packet of cigarettes for instance. I have now worked out that I need to say the English word, phrase or name with a fake French accent in order to be understood.
Rather strange if you think about it… On y va!
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.