François Hollande’s “annus horribilis”

Mobi-Snaps: Yet another walk on the Darkside

Scenes from an evening walk around and near Lake Mabprachan.

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Mobi-Babble

Not too much of note has happened in the life of Mobi during the past week.

Noo has finally got her  UK tourist visa so its all systems go for our three week trip in July.

I have no idea what my brother, two daughters, and quite possibly my sister, (if she makes it from South Africa), will make of the third Thai woman (after my two wives, Noi and Dang), that I have brought to meet and stay with them.

I guess the truth is that they are all well used to my predilection for beautiful young Thai ladies, and they will no doubt take it all in their stride. I think they are  very tolerant of this alcoholic, ‘black sheep’ in their family.

As I have grown older, I have learned to appreciate just how tolerant, kind and understanding they all are.

If nothing else it will provide them with endless hours of conversation, and in any event, I am quite sure that Noo will charm them and bowl them off their feet – she is such a good hearted little gem of a woman.

*

I am very pleased to report that I am making good progress on my efforts to raise my level of fitness and reduce the circumference of my stomach prior to my UK trip, if for no other reason that none of my jeans fit me any more.

As I wrote last week, my arduous trek to a waterfall in Koh Chang was an eye opener to my precarious state of physical well- being.

Since returning I have taken to having a short, sharp swimming session in the mornings when I get up, which has the effect of getting my heart pumping and hopefully strengthening my heart muscles.

Then at sunset, we go for a longer, brisker and more testing walk than  previoiusly. We either take in a good ten minutes march up a nearby hill, or alternatively, we climb the dozens of steps up to a Buddha image perched on a high hill, just above the Wat near to my home. (see Mobi-Snaps, above)

These days, even at sunset, the temperatures are still in the mid-thirties and the humidity is still very high so I can’t pretend my walks are particularly pleasant at the moment, but I do believe they are beneficial. as I certainly feel a bit  fitter.  

I’m probably dreaming, but I am sure my stomach line has receded a few centimetres.

When we return from our trek, sweating and worn out, we then spend another ten minutes taking the dogs for their walk in near darkness and fin ally  I wrap things up back in the pool and swim a few widths to cool off.

Life could be worse.

 

Mobi-Bytes

François Hollande’s “annus horribilis”

Say what you like about Nicolas Sarkozy and his corrupt administration and his nationalistic anti-British prattling, but the poor Frenchies have  come to realise that he was a thousand times more preferable than his successor – the unrepentant Marxist, Monsieur François Hollande, – who has now held the froggy reins of power for exactly one year.

OK, the Sarkozy clique indulged in the usual French sport of ‘Ros-bif’  baiting, even trying to deflect news of  the downgrading of their country’s credit rating by trying to claim that the UK economy was in much worse shape and if any country should be degraded, it should be us.

Well it was, in due course, but how much the French had to do with it nobody will ever know.

But we hardy Brits are used to our Gallic cousins across the English Channel trying to put the knife in, and with the help of the Sun, we take it all in good spirit, with an Anglo Saxon shrug of our magnanimous shoulders.

It is all good sport and frankly means very little in the grand scheme of things. It’s just the way we – and they – are.

(We understand and appreciate that their inferiority complex stems from the fact that they are still licking the emotional wounds we inflicted by whipping their beloved Bonaparte not once but twice, and by being saved by the Brits  – with a little held from the Yanks…- in two world wars.)

But dear little Francois Holland went one better. He decided to go in for a little Kraut bashing. This wasn’t too smart, considering that Germany hold the keys of the Euro-kingdom.

At last year’s European summit, instead of sitting down with Mrs Merkel to hammer out a viable compromise on  austerity measures, he tried to rustle up an alliance with Spain and Italy behind her back, thinking this would be enough to counter the German position.

This enraged the Germans and ironically brought Mrs Merkel and David Cameron in closer alliance than they’d ever been. Not quite what La Presidente had in mind.

Hollande’s henchmen then started making increasingly belligerent statements about “German-imposed austerity”, accusing Mrs Merkel of “egotistical intransigence” and calling for “a democratic confrontation with Germany”.

Merkel was incensed with Hollande, not least because the French president and his froggie spin doctors had allowed the German-bashing because they wanted to deflect  the domestic dissatisfaction with Hollande  away from him and onto  problems with Germany.

The Germans then countered with comments that France was “Europe’s biggest problem child”, with a stalled economy and a “meandering” reform programme.

Sound familiar? Now where have we heard all this cross-border nationalistic bashing before?

Do the krauts have a point?

Well let’s see.

French public debt: 94% of GDP (UK: 87%)

French public spending: 57% of GDP (UK 45%)

French unemployment: at end of 2012 it was 10.2%, but, unlike the rest of the developed world, the French government have stubbornly refused to release any unemployment rates in 2013.

But we do know that unemployment in France has increased to 3.2 million, (an 11.5% increase since Hollande came to power), which is its highest ever.

By now, the French rate may well be hovering at 11%, as compared to 7.9% in UK in April, 2013. (Yes, like the rest of the world, except La France, we do publish the rates…)

It gets worse.

The internet giant, Yahoo, had agreed to acquire 75 per cent of Dailymotion, a successful French internet video site, valuing it at $300 million.

But the belligerent, anti-American minister for industrial recovery scuppered the deal by stating in an interview: “Yahoo wants to devour Dailymotion, but we told them no and that it had to be a 50:50 split”. Whereupon Yahoo called the whole thing off.

Similar grandstanding by the self-same minister had already driven the Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal from the Florange steelworks in Lorraine, and the American company Titan International from a floundering Goodyear tyre plant in northern France.

Then France’s budget minister, the man in charge of fighting tax fraud, was revealed to have a secret bank account in Switzerland – and in all likelihood another in Singapore – and to have lied to the president and parliament about it.

Sorry folks, but the bad news goes on and on, but I am feeling weary of the research…

Don’t I feel a little sorry for my little Gallic cousins?

Well in a way, I guess I do, in the same way as I might feel sorry for a pit bull terrier that had to be put down for attacking a child.

Just in case you think I’m just France-hater let me assure you that in my younger days I spent quite a while in that country; as a tourist, as a business visitor and latterly running a Paris office out of the Place Vendôme. So I do have a few French credentials.

The French can be rude, spiteful, disingenuous in business and in their work practises and unhelpful and deliberately perverse on a personal level.

In the rural areas of France, particularly Brittany and Normandy, of which I have some knowledge, I generally found the French to be friendly. Even in Paris, which is notoriously anti-Anglo Saxon, I did meet some very nice people.

But in the main, the citizens of Paris and other major French provincial cites are distinctly ill-disposed to foreigners and do not want them working or living amongst them.

There is still a huge anti-Semitic sentiment in the country, which from time to time reveals itself in the form of outrages of one kind or another.

It is not only the Brits, Yanks, Germans and Jews who are the targets of French anti-foreigner sentiment.

It turns out that every year, a number of  Japanese tourists  have to be repatriated from the French capital, after falling prey to what’s become known as “Paris syndrome”.

Paris syndrome is what some polite Japanese tourists suffer when they discover that Parisians can be rude or the city does not meet their expectations.

The experience can apparently be too stressful for some and they suffer a psychiatric breakdown.

Around a million Japanese travel to France every year, and many come with a deeply romantic vision of Paris – the cobbled streets, as seen in films, the beauty of French women or the high culture and art at the Louvre.

The reality can come as a shock.

An encounter with a rude taxi driver, or a Parisian waiter who shouts at customers who cannot speak fluent French, might be laughed off by those from other Western cultures.

But for the Japanese – used to a more polite and helpful society in which voices are rarely raised in anger – the experience of their dream city turning into a nightmare can simply be too much.

This year alone, the Japanese embassy in Paris has had to repatriate four people with a doctor or nurse on board the plane to help them get over the shock. The only permanent cure is to go back to Japan – never to return to Paris.

But I have little doubt that the loveable little froggies will rise above their present predicaments – as they have done before after two devastating world wars.

I am sure that things will carry on as though nothing has ever happened.

Paris will continue to empty itself of its entire working population during July and August, the work police will continue to ensure that no one is allowed to work more than 30 hours a week, and that  they will continue to put every conceivable obstacle in the way of foreigners who try to do business in their God-given country.

 

The American gun debate….onwards and upwards

A five-year-old boy in the US state of Kentucky shot dead his two-year-old sister using a gun which was marketed for children. The gun, a .22-calibre rifle was called a Crickett and was given to the boy as a gift.

The death has been ruled as accidental. The girl was shot in the chest as her mother went outside to feed their dogs and the gun was apparently stored in a corner of the family’s mobile home.

Officials and residents in the rural Kentucky county said it was common for children to begin shooting guns at a young age.

The Cumberland County Judge said, “It’s a normal way of life, and it’s not just rural Kentucky, it’s rural America – hunting and shooting and sport fishing. There’s probably not a household in this county that doesn’t have a gun.”

The rifle was manufactured by Keystone Sporting Arms, which has a “kids’ corner” on its website featuring images of children at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts. The guns are sold in pink, blue and other colours and designs.

The 17-year-old company states its mission is to nurture gun safety among young shooters and displays testimonials from parents who say they are grateful to be able to go shooting with their children.

In the past three days at least three young boys have shot their sisters in the US.

In addition to the Kentucky shooting case, a five-year-old girl was shot and killed by her eight-year-old brother in western Alaska on Tuesday, while a seven-year-old boy shot his sister, nine, in the leg in Auburn, Washington state, on Thursday.

A Democratic Kentucky state lawmaker said: “Why single out firearms? Why not talk about all the other things that endanger children, too?”

 cricket

This is a ‘menu link’ on the home page of ‘Keystone Sporting Arms’ website. There are three other options to click on and they all work except the ‘Cricket’ link which seems to be “either experiencing problems, or is undergoing routine maintenance”.

Or, following the shooting publicity, maybe it has been overloaded with enquiries…

I’ll let you be the judge…

I wonder… is there another country in this wide world of ours where five year old kids are encouraged to take up arms and where guns are specifically marketed for their pleasure.

You just couldn’t make this up.

We all like to bash the brutal and misogynous treatment of women under the Islam culture, yet in the heartlands in ‘The land of the Free’, they teach five year old kids how to kill each other with guns.

Why is it that  the Americans themselves are the only ones who can’t see the total madness in all this?

Because generations of Americans have been brain-washed by the powerful, money-hungry gun lobby into believing that it is their God-given right to bear arms, and that the ‘seconded amendment’  was especially enacted by their founding fathers for this purpose – which it patently wasn’t.

But I am sad to say that nothing will change in my life time.

 

Broadchurch and Lightfields

For the benefit of my non UK readers, the above title refers to two British TV dramas that were recently aired on ITV.

I am not going to do an in depth review of these two mini-series, but having seen both, I do have a few observations.

‘Broadchurch’ – a ‘whodunit’ in eight parts, set in the fictional English seaside town, was a veritable ‘tour de force’.

It was brilliantly written, directed and acted and was eminently watch-able, as was testified by the ten million or so viewers who tuned in, proving it to be ITV’s most successful drama of the year by a long way.

Unlike most crime series, there was a single crime and a single plot line running through all eight episodes, much along the lines of the highly successful Scandinavian police series such as ‘The Killing and ‘The Bridge.’

It would certainly appear that the Scandinavians have shown us the way on how to develop the characters properly and to keep the audience enthralled and on tenterhooks throughout the length of an entire story, without resorting to having a new crime to solve every week.

If I was being picky, both the Scandinavians and the Broadchurch writers were obliged to use a few ‘red-herring devices’ to keep our interest going. Having been a huge fan of the Swedish and Danish offerings, I knew that any likely suspect that emerged in earlier episodes, never mind how damning the evidence, was highly unlikely to be the ultimate killer.

But don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with formulaic drama, as long as it is new and fresh and isn’t overdone. That is why we all loved Broadchurch – because it was different, and didn’t have the case solved after one or two episodes which was then followed by new cases new characters and new story-lines.

This may sound silly, but one of the main reasons that I loved Broadchurch so much was because it was the first series I have watched in years that didn’t have a ‘Next’ section at the end.

You know, the part where within a few seconds of an episode concluding, they tell you exactly what is going to happen in the next episode.

I don’t know about you, but I absolute detest these appalling and dumbed-down efforts to ensure we tune in next week by showing us all the juicy parts of next week’s story. It absolutely drives me crazy, and every time a ‘next’ starts, it’s a race against time for me to shut it off before all is revealed.

I suppose if you are the kind of person who reads the last chapter of a book before you start reading the remainder, then fair enough – but my gut feeling that few of us ever do that. If we like a good story, be it a book or a TV drama, we like it to read or watch it in chronological sequence, and not be continually titillated, by what’s coming next.

Can you imagine coming to the end of a chapter in a novel and then reading:

‘Next! Tom dumps his girlfriend! Jimmy is caught stealing from work, and Jennie’s cat is poisoned….’

Why don’t the producers have sufficient belief in their work to feel that the sheer enjoyment of watching will ensure the viewers will tune in again next week, or the next day? It beats the hell out of me, and is one of my massive gripes with today’s television.

Then there was ‘Lightfields’ – an ambitious, well-crafted, supernatural ‘whodunit’ drama spanning three separate generations in the Nineteen forties, seventies and 2,000’s.

I say well- crafted, as it was superbly filmed, acted and directed, and by rights should have been every bit as successful as Broadchurch.

It was interesting to compare the two. In many ways, both were similarly constructed – a running whodunit with an in depth, ‘soul-searching’ examination of the principal characters.

Yet one succeeded and one failed. Broadchurch attracted over 10 million viewers, whereas Lightfields slumped to under 3 million on its second episode.

Why?

Well, I think it was purely down to the script. It wasn’t even that the dialogue was bad – it was just that the underlying plot simply could not hold our attention in the same way that Broadchurch had managed to do

The denouement in the final episode of Lightfields, where we finally learned who did it and why they did it and why the ghost had been haunting certain people through the years was a total let down.

It lacked credibility, (even accepting the existence of ghosts), and gave us a soppy, cheesy, happy ending, that no one was expecting or wanted. But by that time most of the viewers had already deserted the sinking ship…

There was also something else.

Clearly the producers of Broadchurch were so confident of keeping their audience that they saw no need to slap on a ‘next’ at the end of each episode.

In contrast, Lightfields was so brazen in its approach to this device that before you even realised the current episode was over you were watching ‘key’ excerpts  from the next episode. You watched for several seconds before you realised what was happening and before the producer had the good manners to plaster ‘next’ across the screen.

Frankly I was livid!!

But you know that already.

 

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One thought on “François Hollande’s “annus horribilis””

  1. Quote from Australian Shooter Magazine:

    “If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the past 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

    The firearm death rate in Washington, DC is 806 per 100,000 for the same period.

    That means you are about 25 per cent more likely to be shot and killed in the US capital, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the US, than you are in Iraq.

    Conclusion:

    The US should pull out of Washington.”

    ________________________________

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