Sunday, February 26, 2012

Salon de l'Agriculture, Frozen Toilets, DSK/Sinclair


Paris, 2/25 - 3/4.  It's that time again, and as always the lead story on all television news channels. For nine days every year, Paris hosts the biggest farm in the world when French farmers bring their best animals and products to the giant show grounds of the Porte de Versailles. No less than 4500 animals are exhibited here, from big bulls and draught horses to dairy cows, pigs, sheep, goats, fowl, ducks - the whole live food chain and the products they produce. Children can pet all the animals they can reach, while adults are drawn to the bigger beasts and to the food and wine or beer handed out everywhere. This Parisian event attracts 650,000-700,000 visitors every year and - inevitably - lots of politicians who come trolling for votes and for face time on TV. Farmers, who are traditionally of the right, still talk fondly about former president Jacques Chirac who was their greatest supporter and who never missed a Salon, where he happily patted or stroked the animals around him and ate and drank everything offered. President Sarkozy, who is running for re-election this year, is less at ease with animals and does not drink wine, but aware of his patriotic duty did pose with a handsome cow and tasted some cheese while saluting the admirable tradition of the French family farm. Vive la France!

Sarkozy at the Salon de l'Agriculture


How cold was Aix-en-Provence last week? Cold enough for the girls' toilets at the new Arc-de-Meyran high school to be frozen! A half-page article in the local paper indignantly reported that this multi-million euro school that is less than two years old and counts 950 students was so poorly designed that the pipes to the 20-toilet unheated girls bathroom freeze below a certain temperature. Built on the shady side of the building and therefore cool year-round, this space is located close to the boys' bathroom where pipes do not seem to freeze. School management decided that for the time being, the girls will have to use the boys' bathroom. Problem is, to get to the boys' toilet stalls the girls have to pass a row of open urinals which both sides found too embarrassing, so a guard has been appointed to regulate the male-female use of the few functioning toilets and guarantee some privacy. 
Meanwhile, the Education Department has determined that the girls' toilet space was in conformity with prevailing construction standards and the new rules for sustainable development and energy savings. Only concession: before the beginning of the next school year in September, the broken pipes and water meter will be repaired. Until then, the nine toilets in the boys' area will have to do for 950 students. [Didn't I promise you "French news"?]  

The saga continues.

A few days ago, the Cambridge University Student Union voted against the invitation of DSK to come and speak about the "State of the Global Economy" at a conference on March 9th. "This invitation by the University gives him public legitimacy at a time when he is still being questioned by police" said Ruth Graham, spokeswoman for the women of the CUSU whose petition carried 355 signatures. A cold shower for DSK after his warmly applauded appearance at an international conference in Peking in December.

On February 22, after two days in police custody in the city of Lille where he was questioned about an alleged prostitution ring in connection with the Carlton Affair, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released but ordered to appear again before investigating magistrates on March 28, when three judges will grill him about the soirées libertines - orgies in plain English - in which he is known to have participated. Prostitution is not against the law in France, but pimping or profiting from prostitution is. The services of the women made available for these parties were paid for by a businessman without apparent quid pro quo. Strauss-Kahn has already stated that he did not know that the women he was introduced to were prostitutes, to which his lawyer added: "At these parties people do not necessarily wear clothes. How do you distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman?" Just so you know.

Meanwhile, in New York where this affair is being followed closely by alleged victim Nafissatou Diallo and her lawyers, the civil suit she filed against DSK is being heard on March 15 - the Ides of March!

Anne Sinclair, DSK's wife, is moving right along and has accepted to appear on French television in an upcoming emission of the literary program "La Grande Librairie" where she will discuss her new book 21 Rue la Boëtie, the address of her grandfather Paul Rosenberg's art gallery in Paris. Friend and promoter of some of the greatest 20th-century artists, including Picasso, Braque and Matisse, Rosenberg had to flee Vichy France in 1940 and moved his gallery and family to New York, where his granddaughter Anne Sinclair was born. "This is my grandfather's story," said Sinclair "and indirectly mine."

(*)  To see a chapter on the Salon de l'Agriculture featured in Taking Root in Provence, click here.


  1. What a great thing to be able to do. I just adore France. Great blog. Just happened on it when I was checking my sister’s blog. She is another Annemarie. I am from New Zealand and blog on travel amongst other things. You might be interested in this post about my travel bucket list Will enjoy following your blog.