As we all slowed down and went into energy-saving mode, there was no break for the firemen who worked to the point of exhaustion in battling the numerous blazes in the tinder-dry south of France and in Corsica, often against a strong mistral wind or on difficult terrain. Many thousands of acres were destroyed this summer, sometimes for good, reducing the pine-covered hills to desolate moonscapes, and displacing people from campsites, holiday homes and remote villages. Even the monks in the beautiful monastery of Senanque in the Luberon had to be evacuated when a fire in nearby Gordes threatened their ancient abbey.
Some of these fires were caused by lightning but others were the result of negligence or of careless drivers who threw a lighted cigarette from their car windows. [One mayor of a small town in the Alpilles region pleaded with auto makers to reintroduce ashtrays in cars.] But according to Vincent Pastor, investigator at the regional fire department for the Bouches-du-Rhône area, fully 25 percent of all fires are set by man, usually with criminal intent. One such pyromaniac, a 19-year-old from Istres, was finally apprehended after witnesses had denounced him. He has admitted to setting at least eight of the fires that have sprung up in and around Istres this summer because he was "fascinated by flames." If convicted, he risks up to 15 years in prison.
These wind-whipped fires in the Provence and Var areas of France could not be fought without the help of the Canadair fire-fighting planes that like giant pelicans scoop up the water that they dump on forest fires and hard-to-reach blazes. On windy days they are sent into action at the first alert and their distant rumble has become a familiar sound on hot summer days as it blends with the song of cicadas.
|Jeanne Moreau in Avignon, 2011|
Born to a French father and an English mother, she was perfectly bilingual, yet to some of us she was the most French of French actresses, sensuous, stylish, intelligent, and unpredictable. A star.
|Code de Travail, 3000 pages|
So after a somnolent August, September promises to be agitated as the government reassembles in Paris and the all-important issue of the labor code looms on the horizon. Mélenchon, with his "over-my-dead-body" attitude, aims for maximum disruption and has threatened to seize the Constitutional Council over the legality of a government decision by decree. It is the first major test for Emmanuel Macron, and he will be watched closely.
September can wait, with its back-to-school and back-to-work and back to strikes and protests.
Pass me the pastis, will you?