“I lied on my Weight Watchers list. I put down that I had 3 eggs… but they were Cadbury chocolate eggs.” Caroline Rhea
Chocolate first came to France from Spain in 1615, when the Infanta Anne of Austria married Louis XIII. They were both 14 years old, and chocolate was considered an aphrodisiac. There is a wonderful chocolate-maker called La Cigale in Nérac, about 20 minutes’ drive from here, and I persuaded them to send me some photographs of the pieces they are most proud of this Easter.
The almond and plum blossoms are over, but the magnolias and cherries and Judas trees look glorious, and so does the forsythia. Pale mauve wisteria is hanging delicately around the house, and the pale pink quince blossom is out too. Down by the stream there are cowslips, cuckooflowers and wood anemones.
Bright, warm sunshine is followed by heavy showers and plummeting temperatures — several times a day. Everyone is spring-cleaning. I learn that French friends empty their freezers before Easter and try to use everything they have been storing since this time last year, but that has nothing to do with Lent.
I love the French — my Sabatier bread knife fell on the tiled kitchen floor and the blade broke in half. I went back to the same shop to buy another and when I told the proprietor she said: “Ah, that’s how you tell good quality.”
More happens every day, and the mind boggles regularly. James McAuley wrote in the New York Review of Books: “To some extent, the French always turn against their presidents, but the anger Macron elicits is unique. This is less because of any particular policy than because of his demeanor and, most of all, his language.”
Yellow Vest protests continue every Saturday, not just in Paris, where an Australian friend and her daughter were confined to their hotel room for the entire day on the weekend, when Fouquet’s and Longchamp were set on fire while the President was skiing in the Pyrenees. The military have been deployed to guard symbolic sites in Paris, and courts have upheld the use of golf-ball-sized rubber bullets banned in most countries. Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons are fired regularly. It’s rather shocking to need anti-terrorist squads for crowd control. The government has already paid out over €10 billion to try to defuse the rallies, and the Paris Police Chief has been fired. Banning demonstrations must be a great temptation, especially since the riots are all over France. Last weekend’s were particularly hostile in Nice, Avignon, St. Etienne, Bordeaux and Toulouse. No one can do their weekly grocery shopping on a Saturday any more. And luxury shops have even started putting purchases in plain white bags without a logo, so no one can see where they come from.
The black boxes recovered from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been sent to France for analysis by BEA, which has extensive experience in extracting information from damaged devices.
Business partners have filed a complaint against Tereos, the French sugar maker, for allegedly “supplying an artificial sweetener to Syria, where it is being used to make weapons.”
France is upset that Germany has refused to sell arms to Saudi Arabia since the death of Jamal Khashoggi, thus blocking the sale of certain weapons with French-made parts.
The Minister of Finance has announced a GAFA tax — the acronym of the US companies it targets: Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. This would impose a three per cent revenue tax on digital companies with global revenues above €750 million and above €25 million in France.
A new drink driving law is also being introduced: drivers will either have their licence suspended, or a vehicle ignition breathalyser will be installed in their cars like the ones already compulsory on buses.
More than a thousand mutilated dolphins have washed up on Atlantic beaches so far this year. Apparently they get trapped in fishing nets dragged behind trawlers working in pairs and drown, and the fishermen cut off their fins to save their nets from damage.
Although two senior French figures in the Catholic Church have been convicted of failing to report child abuse, the Pope has refused to accept the resignation of the Archbishop of Lyon.
The 21-year-old daughter of President Putin’s spokesman is interning in the office of a far right French member of the European Parliament.
But the most unlikely story of the year so far is that of three Franco-Israelis impersonating the French Foreign Minister in a scam that swindled a businessman out of €8 million. They built an exact replica of the Minister’s office at the French Foreign Office in Paris. They are thought to have used a makeup expert to disguise one of the team as the Minister and another as his Chief of Staff for videoconferences with several French security companies they were targeting. And they asked for urgent financial assistance to conduct “security operations”, including hostage rescues from ISIS, arms purchases, and other secret operations.
What next? Happy Easter!
“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” Clarence W. Hall