Archive for June, 2012

A voté


Which is what is said when you drop your vote into the box when voting here in France. Tomorrow is the second round in the French Legislative elections. Unfortunately I will not be voting. The first round of the elections took place last Sunday and in most places there was no-one who won more than 50% of the votes, so there is a run off between the top two or three candidates this Sunday.

Where I live in the centre of Strasbourg (Strasbourg 1 constituency result pictured – I like to think of it as Strasbourg City, or Strasbourg Centre constituency) we had the only Parti Socialiste(PS) deputé in Alsace elected last time, in 2007. This time Armand Jung is through to the second round with almost 42% and the UMP challenger has 28% so hopefully he will be back representing me after tomorrow.

The good news is that there had been fears that there might be a Front National(FN) deputé elected in Alsace but there was not. It was thought if they did not elect someone straight off then they might get candidates though to the second round. In fact they have only got one through to the second round of the elections, and that in a ‘triangular contest’ i.e with a PS and a UMP candidate. So hopefully they will not get a candidate elected in Alsace. The map shows that the vote of the FN from the Presidential election got stronger the further you got from centres of population, with the blue getting darker as the votes for the FN increased.

Other things to look for  include the result from Strasbourg 2, or Strasbourg South as I like to think of it. This seat has been held by the UMP since the 80’s and had Ostwald moved into it as part of a redistribution before the elections which brought in 27,000 voters believed to lean more towards the right. Despite that the PS led in the first round  and it looks like we might have Alsace’s second PS deputé.

In the third Strasbourg constituency, imaginatively called Strasbourg 3, or Strasbourg North to me, there was a huge commotion because the PS mayor of Schiltigheim, who had been selected to fight the seat for the PS, was forced to stand down as part of a deal with Europe Ecologie-Les Verts(EELV). Here there is an all woman slate with a female EELV candidate and PS substitute. Their task is much harder, only being ahead by 39% – 37% and a lot will depend upon how the FN vote splits between the different candidates.

Otherwise, nationally in the first round a number of PS deputés were re-elected but only one UMP deputé and that was here in Alsace. One of the things I like about Alsace is how Christ is a common surname. So, one of our existing deputés was J. Christ and he is in front on the first round and looks like he will be re-elected on the second round. It does the heart good to imagine the French equivalent of the Speaker, which could be Sego if she overcomes her little local difficulty, shouting Christ in Parliament to call him to speak! (Although one thing that came out before the election was that he didn’t do too much of that- the UMP excuse being that he was busy on Parliamentary committees showing not much changes the world over.)

Nationally the issue is whether the Vague Rose will result in the PS electing enough deputés to govern on their own or whether they will need support from other parties. All will be revealed tomorrow night.



Tomorrow, 16th June is Bloomsday. The event for English-speaking people in Strasbourg will be a Bloomsday event at the Association Parlementaire.

Cover of the 1922 edition of Ulysses

For those who, like me up to earlier this year, do not know what that is, it is the day on which James Joyce set Ulysses. It is called Bloomsday after the main character of the book, Leopold Bloom. The book recounts the events of 16th June 1904 in Dublin. Ulysses (Latin Odysseus) is the hero of Homer’s Odyssey which gives the Joyce book its structure.

During the production of Oh What A Lovely War by Strasbourg’s English-speaking theatre group, TAGORA, it was announced that it was intended to celebrate Bloomsday in Strasbourg. Readings were held and ten excerpts from the book were chosen. Two are being acted and the rest are being done as readings. The last reading, taken from the soliloquy by Molly Malone, is being performed by a professional actress.

Leopold & Molly Bloom in the scene where he takes her breakfast in Calypso

During the evening there will also be performances from the Pavarottis, a group of people who get together in Strasbourg to sing Irish and Scottish songs. They will be performing songs that either feature or are mentioned in the book and are relevant to the scenes close to which it is being sung.

The readings, singing and acting have been split into three parts and in between there will be relevant music from a group of people, including someone who played on the Riverdance recordings.

The Pavarottis rehearsing

Last night we held a rehearsal and I think Strasbourg is set for an enjoyable Saturday evening. I’m certainly looking forward to it. There’s still time to get a ticket.

For more about Bloomsday, there was a very good discussion, as far as I know, on the excellent ‘In Your Time’, here. The BBC are broadcasting Bloomsday throughout the day here and there is an RTE documentary on Joyce, called the Works, here.

Personal declaration. I started the book in April but as a result of something, coming here soon, I have not finished it yet.

The gallon whiskey bottle of cash


Sometime in the early 1990’s my grandfather won a gallon bottle of whiskey. He liked the odd nip but would never get through that amount so it was decanted and I got a bottle. I didn’t drink whiskey then, I learnt from an Australian relative when I was in the country at the end of last year. But I was still a whiskey snob and thought getting a free bottle of whiskey was less good because it was a popular blend rather than a single malt. This foolish attitude was amended by learning from a Scot, JTO‘s grandfather, that there’s no such thing as bad whiskey, just some’s better than others.

What I wanted more than the whiskey was the bottle. My father wanted it too but somehow I managed to end up with the bottle. I had recently moved out of my parents house into my first home in Reading. I wanted the bottle to collect my small change in. Money up to and including 5p in value was deposited in the slit cut in the top of the bottle when changing trousers or at the end of the day. I joked when friends visited that it was my unofficial unemployment insurance and would only be dipped into if I ever lost my job.

In 1996 my post in the health service was declared redundant due to cutbacks in administration level and I did not get an alternative. I found myself out of work so I turned to my insurance. I emptied the bottle and discovered I had collected £40 something without really noticing it.

I subsequently found work and started collecting loose change in the bottle again. When I moved in with JTO in 1997 the bottle moved in with me and the two of us added loose change to the bottle. There was also a change in that 20p pieces were also put into the bottle so that the next time it was emptied the amount it contained was much more.

The next emptying of the bottle was in 2005 when we left the flat we were renting and moved into temporary accommodation meaning the bottle would go into storage. This time the amount it contained was just over £100 which was very welcome.

After emptying the bottle out it took some effort to separate the different coins out and then count them up and put them into different bags so that they would be accepted by the building society or bank. After all the work involved in the counting it seemed that I had earned spending the money on something to enjoy, something special.

On moving to France the bottle came too except this time it is filled with Euro’s, or to be more precise 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 centime coins. The Euro coins are smaller than their sterling equivalents. I’m not making a value judgement about the two different currencies just talking about their composition. The result is that you can get a lot more of the coins in the bottle.

The bottle has now become too heavy to move about when cleaning etc so it was again time to empty it. So last night whilst watching the Russia vs Poland match the bottle was emptied and the coins separated. However they were only separated to count them as the bags they go in can contain coins of all values mixed together – French banks have machines to count coins! The bottle contained 214,92 Euros, 4 UK 1p pieces, 6 US cents and a Croatian 50 Liper piece!

Now we have the delight of deciding what to do with the money we have saved. One decision was taken last night in that we will go to the pictured restaurant for lunch on Saturday. The owner, Jacques, is much more than a chef, he is an artist with food. It is a place we take people when they come to stay and people have enjoyed eating there. I am looking forward to it massively.

Supping, but not cheering, with the enemy


I’m glad I left early to save some space for friends in the Irish Pub for last night’s game as friends and other people I was not expecting joined us, having a table and a lot of stools worked out well. The place was packed and it was hard to hear JTO singing our national anthem pretty much on her own. When it came time for the French national anthem all the, mainly young – the pub is at the edge of the University near the area where lots of students live – people sang it with gusto. It is a rousing song, which despite its name was written here in Strasbourg, and it was good to hear it sung with such passion. It was the only time that there was any singing as the French present with us did not sing for the rest of the match, just some almost Parliamentary banging on the table when something exciting or good for France happened.

When England scored first the group I was with jumped up and cheered loudly. This was of course exceeded in volume when the French team equalised. I was left wondering why Samir Nasri didn’t scored like that more often for Manchester City this last season?

I apologise for the quality of the pictures but they were taken on an iPod and it is not too good when there is little light. The top left is the view of the screen from my seat and the one behind is out onto the terrace and garden behind my seat and the last one is looking through, past another screen on the wall opposite the bar, to the bar.

Before the match started someone came round inviting entries for a competition to win a bottle of champagne. To do so you had to guess the score of the night’s matches. I said 1-0 to England scored in the 48th minute and 2-1 to Sweden. Needless to say I will not be taking up forecasting football results and was happy to lose the chance to win the champagne when England scored first around 30 minutes into the match.

I was pleasantly surprised at England’s positive start to the match and thrilled when they scored. The atmosphere in the pub quietened a bit after that but picked up after the French equalised and then got more tense as they got on top, having more possession, but without scoring. An enjoyable evening with some friends and, having lost the chance to win the champagne I didn’t have to stay on to see the other match.

I did think that by leaving I would lose the chance to see the match as one-third of the games are being broadcast on TF1, one-third on M6 and the remaining on the pay channel bein, the French branding for Al Jazera Sports. The France – England match being on terrestrial TF1 the other was on bein. But I had been reminded by a friend that we could watch matches free to air on German TV so I saw the game on ZFR.

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