As our American friends were tugging into their Thanksgiving dinner and battling the Black Friday crowds, we were having a perfectly quiet time in Aix-en-Provence. No groaning dinner tables (yet) and no sales until January. For now, all local activity is focused on the rather noisy pre-Christmas commerce which in Aix-en-Provence consists of a big children's fair (bumper cars, choo-choo trains, bungee cords, merry-go-rounds) with its cacophony of "music" that takes over part of the Cours Mirabeau as well as the Rotonde, and the Christmas chalets that occupy the remainder of the Cours − all this for fully six weeks. The first Christmas decorations appeared in October (!) and the basins of our famous fountains, waterless for the duration, have been adorned with unattractive metal structures that light up at night.
every year again, I miss the decorations of natural greenery with pine cones, apples or red berries, and the lovely wreaths on people's doors; the homes fragrant with cinnamon, mulled wine, pomander balls, and burning logs in the fireplace. And, with luck, a performance of The Nutcracker. Mmmmm, I can almost taste it.
NICOLAS SARKOZY has just won the leadership of the Conservative UMP party which since last summer had been run by a temporary triumvirate after its then-president Jean-François Coppé was ousted following a financial scandal. With 64.5% of the vote Sarkozy fell short of his hoped-for score of 80%, needed to avoid presidential primaries in 2016, where he will face two heavy-weight fellow contenders: former prime ministers Alain Juppé and François Fillon. This is a first step for Sarkozy in his attempt to regain the French presidency in 2017. After losing his bid for re-election in 2012 he withdrew from politics but admitted earlier this summer that he misses politics too much. Despite his legal troubles, he is clearly aiming for the presidency but his first challenge will be to revive and reunite a broken-down and divided UMP party.
As part of the crackdown on tax evasion in Spain following the country's economic crisis, footballer Lionel Messi who plays for Barcelona was charged with tax evasion during the years 2007-2009. He and his father, who manages Messi's financial affairs, will have to stand trial at an as yet unspecified date, even though Messi has repaid the outstanding taxes plus interest.
Judges are being helped by the stricter rules and increased international cooperation against tax evasion and money laundering, and catching some big names has undeniable value. They are fishing in fertile waters and we probably have not heard the last of this.