Thursday, March 19, 2009
Le Fabuleux Destin De Frances Grahl
My university buildings are still bloqué so I have been able to devote all my time this week to demonstrating and pretending to be Amélie Poulain, two of my favourite things to do in France. I've never really felt myself to be a particularly useful member of society -an ornament, at best- but still there is something very particular about not really having any demands on my time at all. After 7 weeks of strike, I'm finding it difficult to even bother to go into school at all (although to be fair that's a problem I've had for the last ten years.) I pop in for the general assemblies, and usually bump into friends. The great thing about an erasmus year is that when you end up in a café in Place Plumereau drinking café creme and discussing Gloria Gaynor, you are still working on your French. I did this (with some variation of classic ballads analysed) almost every day this week. The trees are in blossom and everyone's wearing T-shirts and shades. I should finish reading Les Miserables, but this is really what I came to France for... Cycling across the Cher, eating raspberries by the lake, playing Jungle Speed, a game that still needs to catch on in England, over several bottles of wine in my loft... 25,000 people marched on Thursday in Tours and around 3 million in France. French demonstrations can be awfully fun- here the union of Artists of Touraine came out, wearing bowler hats, playing trumpets, and dragging dozens of massive sheets of painted corrugated metal, with which they built a sort of Berlin Wall around the Hotel de Ville. Tours musicology students, who have blocked their own faculty building for the past couple of weeks, sent a brass band, and the big trade unions competed as to who had the best music on their van/float (SUD won). In one of the speeches, someone said 'We're sending Guadeloupe our support, and they've sent us their weather,' which was true, it was blazing sunshine in a clear blue sky. Strike in France can also be horrible. The march in Paris on Thursday ended with tear gas and flash-balls, not really for any particular reason. In my experience, that kind of police provocation is usually to give the demonstrators a bad name, but if 5% of the population was already in the street I really can't see a point. A few weeks ago I went to Paris to march with my university in a massive university demonstration (50,000 people) and the police had just blocked off the route of the march completely, with amoured vans in a double row across Les Invalides, stopping the march from getting to its planned destination of the Assemblée Nationale. I don't think that kind of order comes from the police. It doesn't make that much difference to them, except that obviously a lot of people were angered, so the fun began for the CRS around 4.30 instead of 7.30. I tend to assume that the decision to break up a massive popular protest comes from the same guy who said 'Désormais, quand il y a une grève, plus personne ne s'en aperçoit'. Also this week I went on a much smaller march for a little girl called Nora, an Algerian baby adopted a year ago by a French couple. Her parents are fighting the baby's deportation, which would certainly lead to her return to an orphanage in Algeria, not, one assumes, the most wonderful of places to grow up. Her father has been on hunger strike for several weeks, leading to his arrest last week (I think for setting fire to his own car but I'm not sure). Poor kid is 16 months old! There's been a spate of deportations recently, many of people who have lived here for years, have jobs, are reasonably successful, pay their taxes and contribute to French society. Moral? Credit Crunch classic. 'Doesn't matter if you're integrated, when push comes to shove we're gonna screw you over as much as we like to show 'real' French people [i.e. voters] that we care. Even if you haven't yet learnt to walk.' These cases are examples to other immigrants, reminders of their second-class not-even-citizen status. I'm afraid the recession is gonna foster a lot more racial discrimination before it's over... In other news, I've finally been proved right- not hanging out with your friends enough does cause cancer. Louis has made a friend, a big ginger and white tom from the next door flat who likes to invite himself in over the rooftops. I'm trying to decide what to do over the summer- could be my last long summer holidays before I have to face the Real World. Until then I shall continue making believe I am a character in a French romantic comedy. Feels right.