Friday, February 15, 2008

The Changing Face of France.

It's less than two months since the French nation stubbed out their cigarettes in accordance with the new laws on smoking in public. The last bastion of smoking freedom, the bar/tabac is now a smoke free zone. It's truly ironic , bizarre even, that you can buy your ciggies, a coffee or a cognac at any time of day, drink the coffee or the brandy(or as is usually the case with Frenchmen, both together) but if you want a smoke with it you'll have to head for the door. I never thought to see the day... the French obeying the law, and puffing away outside. Come the summer it's going to be difficult for us non-smokers to find a seat outside the café. All the tables will have been taken by the smokers. We will have to find seats least it will be a smoke-free zone. But will French bars and cafés ever be quite the same without that distinctive smell of stale Gauloise ?

Now it looks as if the French Government is hell-bent on attacking that other great French occupation... drinking. Petrol stations are to be forbidden to sell alcohol in their shops, or on the forecourts. Already there are rumblings of mutiny from wine producers who often have concessions from petrol stations to sell their locally produced wines. I can slightly see their point. Their sales come almost totally from travelling tourists, and they aren't offering wine tastings, they'll point the visitor in the direction of their 'caves de degustation' for a full blown tasting, and hopefully the sale of a few cases rather than a spur-of-the-moment bottle.

But the road accident fatalities speak for themselves. Last year road deaths in France accounted for 4,500 lives. Admittedly that figure is half of what it was in the year 2000, but most of that success can be attributed to a relentless campaign to improve driving standards ( amongst the worst in Europe) and the introduction of speed cameras. I can remember the mirth that surrounded the Chirac government's minister for transport when he urged the French to drive more like the British. We did think of having a rear window sticker in the car which read...'Drive like me....I'm a Brit,' but then we had an accident so we thought better of it.

Apparently it's the youth of France that are having the accidents. Elderly French drivers can merrily down a bottle of wine at lunch time and their driving isn't any worse than it was before lunch. (Did I mention France is bottom of the league when it comes to good driving ?) A recent report says that every day 2% of all drivers on French roads are over the recommended limit for alcohol ... yipes ! In actual fact I think in rural areas such as ours it's well over 2%. Kiss a Frenchman after lunch and alongside the overpowering smell of garlic there will nearly always be the underlying aroma of a glass or two of wine.

On the subject of grim percentages Prime Minister Fallon (he of the Welsh wife) has said that 46% of all road fatalities involving drivers under 24 are alcohol related. So a tightening of the alcohol laws are perhaps long overdue. The image of the Gauloise-smoking, lunch-time brandy imbiber should perhaps rightly be a thing of the past.

The dreaded words 'Health and Safety' seem to be making inroads into French life. Things may never be the same again !

Friday, February 1, 2008

Keeping in Training

When I was marooned in the real world, and unable to blog, edit or email I realised I was going to have to return to the ancient form of communication and recording...pen and paper. What a chore! But the enforced absence from my computer did mean I caught up with some long overdue housework ... oh joy!

I also had a great idea (well I though it was a great idea) for a new novel. It's so much nicer to start a new one instead of having to keep editing the old one...a bit like buying a new car instead of taking the old one in for a service. Trouble is you then finish up with several novels floating around waiting for your attention..or a garage full of second-hand cars.
So the new book had to be transcribed out of my head onto paper via my usual scrawl. All well and good, but I'm now trying to decipher the hieroglyphics and get it into some sort of readable text. And I want to do more work on my very first novel 'New Wine, Old Enemies' before I recommence the soul- destroying task of finding an agent. And I have some unfinished articles that I must upload to a website. And I must try and keep my blog going.

Well that's 2008 sorted then!

The poem 'Winter Fun' was an exercise with words which I composed whilst doing the washing up. Dull chores are a great producer of ideas, some good, some just plain daft, as in the case of my poetry. I don't usually write anything other than prose, and judging by my first excursion away from it I can see why. I deliberately tried to rhyme the first three lines of each verse with the same sounding words just to make it even sillier. I don't think Andrew Motion need worry that I'm going to be a rival for Poet Laureate. I think my verse owes more to the Great Macgonagel !

New Wine Old Enemies was downloaded in an abridged version onto where the first few chapters can be seen, should anyone be interested.