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CYCLING

WATCH: How the Tour de France deals with its ‘cock ‘n’ balls’ problem

From cyclists to race officials to volunteer helpers, there is a cast of thousands involved in staging the Tour de France.

WATCH: How the Tour de France deals with its 'cock 'n' balls' problem
Photo: AFP

But one two-man team has a really quite unusual role in helping France's most famous cycle event run smoothly.

Every day two people drive out in a minibus along that day's route with a very specific task – turning the obscene graffiti in the road into cute cartoons. And now they have been made the subject of a Dutch TV show NOS Sport.

READ ALSO Five things to know about the 2019 Tour de France

Thousands of fans from around the globe flock to line each section of the 3,500km route, and many of them like to write slogans in the road cheering on their favourite teams or favourite rider.

This is not a problem, but there are also a significant number of people who turn their artistic talents in a more childish direction – making the classic drawing in the road of a man's genitals, or “a cock 'n' balls” as it is more colloquially known.

This presents a bit of a headache for Tour organisers, since the race is televised in countries around the globe and screening obscene images is a bit of a no-no for most major broadcasters.

Hence the specialist anti-graffiti team. With no time to scrub the drawings off before the first riders come through, the duo instead exercise their own artist talents to turn the drawings into cute little cartoon characters.

The video below which is with Dutch subtitles shows the lengths the two men go to to cover up the rude artwork.

 

 

Team leader Patrick, who spends the other 11 months of the year working as an undertaker in Templeuve, north east France, previously told French radio station France Info that it is not just obscene graffiti they cover – they also deal with offensive messages and any political slogans.

He said: “My greatest joy is to receive the email in January where I am invited to do the Tour.”

But as this tweet below shows the odd cock 'n' balls slips through their grasp.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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