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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Storms, stationery and pigs named Napoleon

This week there's been a lot of weather chat, plus some political watching and the start of 'stationery season' - our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Storms, stationery and pigs named Napoleon
Storms lashed France this week as the heatwave broke. Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

In a development  guaranteed to make Brits feel at home, the whole of France has been talking about the weather this week, specifically rain.

Rain storms over the weekend were welcomed with joy when they broke another scorching heatwave and brought cooler, fresher air.

But as the week went on the storms got heavier, leading to flash flooding in cities including Paris and Marseille until, on Thursday, an extremely violent storm hit the island of Corsica, claiming six lives.

IN PICTURES Flash-flooding hits Paris

While storms along the Mediterranean coastline are normal as the temperatures fall and autumn arrives – they’re known as épisodes cévanol – weather experts predict that they will be unusually intense this year, due to the extremely high temperatures recorded over the Mediterranean this summer.

Macron return

After a few weeks holidaying in Fort Brégançon, Emmanuel Macron stepped back into the limelight on Friday with an official visit to the Riviera town of Bormes-les-Mimosas to attend the ceremony marking its liberation in 1944.

The trip down to the Riviera villa of Brégançon is traditional for French presidents, since the property has been the official ‘holiday home’ of the holder of the office since the 1960s.

In previous years Macron has combined beach time with hosting meetings or foreign leaders, but this year his entourage let it be known that he needed a break and would be spending a couple of weeks ‘studying’ – a sign perhaps that even the famously hyperactive Macron was exhausted after two years of pandemic, followed by war in Europe and back-to-back presidential and parliamentary elections.

Pencil time

Have you ever wondered why French schoolkids have those enormous bags? It’s because schools insist on a ridiculous amount of kit – 29 items are stationery alone are apparently required for the start of each school year.

Although the kids still have a couple of weeks of holiday left, this week the back-to-school allowance was paid out to parents and supermarkets began filling up with the dizzying array of pens, pencils and geometry kit for la rentrée.

Cake, pigs and Napoleon

And I’ve been greatly enjoying researching our French History Myths series, where we delve into some of the widely-touted ‘facts’ about French history – did Marie Antoinette really tell the poor to eat cake? Has it ever been illegal to name your pig Napoleon? And does the French army always surrender? Find the full series HERE

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

From good news for French bill-payers to the art of surviving strikes, via festivals and the iconic Citroën 2CV, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

After a surprisingly quiet summer in terms of strike action, French unions are once again causing chaos – this time all over Europe – as air traffic controllers go on strike in a dispute over pay, working conditions and future recruitment.

It’s obviously never fun getting caught up in a strike, especially airline strikes which can ruin important trips and much-anticipated holidays.

However they are a fact of life and I believe that one of the most important skills for life in France is learning how to be philosophical about strikes. Everyone finds their own path to this form of inner peace, but for me it was realising how much of the French social contract – from good public services to workers’ rights – depends on the power of the street to hold governments to account.

Oh, and strike days are also a great time to learn some new French swear-words. 

READ ALSO How to stop worrying and learn to love French strikes

It looks we may all be getting some practice at this soon in a possibly troubled autumn – unions and leftist political parties are already calling for demos later in September over the cost-of-living, and that’s even before Emmanuel Macron introduces his highly controversial bills for reforming both the pension system (again) and the unemployment benefits system.

Things could get lively. 

Bills

Whether because they’re afraid of social unrest or because they’re lovely people, the French government has announced that the cap on energy prices will be extended into 2023, albeit raised to a maximum 15 percent increase.

Bills increasing is never good news, and of course will hit those on low incomes the hardest, but a glance over the Channel at 200 percent increases in electricity bills is enough to make me thank my lucky stars that I live in France.

Champagne communists 

Running since 1930, the Fête de l’Humanité is a pretty big deal in France, attracting around 500,000 people – it raises funds for the Communist newspaper l’Humanité but attracts speakers from across the political left, as well as being a major music festival with dozens of well-known bands appearing over the three days.

But for my money, the best thing about it is that local Communist parties from all over France (and the world in fact) come and set up stands, most of which lure in punters with the food and drink speciality of their regions.

If dancing in a tent with drunk French Communists while sipping €4 glasses of Champagne is your thing, then you will love the Fête de l’Humanité. (And no, ‘Champagne socialist’ is not an insult in France, instead we say gauche caviar).

Podcast

If you like idle chit-chat about France – as well as some serious topics – check out our weekly Talking France podcast.

In the most recent episode we tackle the heavy subjects of assisted dying, plus the problems of the French nuclear industry, before heading to the lighter waters of Dijon mustard, Bordeaux wine and some topical French phrases.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts, download it HERE or listen on the link below.

Photo of the week

This has to be the French photo of the week, for all the reasons explained below

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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