Monday, May 30, 2005

The Day After

It's Monday, the day after the French vote on the ratification of the proposed European Constitution.

As has happened so many times down through the centuries, the French people realized that they had a rendez-vous with history. They responded Present, and 69.74% of the voters went to the polls,

The French people have rejected the European Constitution -- massively. With virtually all precincts reporting, including those of the overseas territories and departements, the outcome is quite clear: 54.87% of the French voted non, while only 45.13% put a oui into the ballot box. To simplify, the media are calling it 55 to 45.

Paris, which has been increasingly disconnected from the rest of France for the past decade or so, went 66.45% for the oui. Lyon, too, was "yes", at 61.35%. Marseille, on the other hand, voted non (61.17%). Looking at the electoral maps in Le Parisien, Amerloque can say that most of France is red (non), with the striking exception of blue Brittany and La Vendee which came down on the side of oui. A bit simplistic, yes, but an accurate representation of the truth.

Supporters of the oui promised "chaos" if the non were to win.

Amerloque has just come home after going out for his croissant aux amandes. The metros and buses are running normally. Agents de police and school crossing guards are on the job. Commuters appear to be going to work. Shops are preparing to open (although it's Monday, and quite a few of them always close on Mondays). The noisy construction site down the street has started up at 08h00, as usual. Why, news reaching Amerloque from the countryside reveals that French farmers have no intention of allowing their crops to lie unharvested in the fields !

Just what kind of "chaos" is in the cards ? (smile) Some kind of looming, unspecific threat ? Societal breakdown ?

A halt to European integration, certainly. Whether temporary or permanent will only be known in a few years, after all the other European countries have accepted or rejected the Constitution.

A vast rethink of le projet europeen by the French people, quite likely. When the French decide to delve into an issue and re-examine it, they go all the way and take the time they need. What kind of Europe do they really want ? What kind of Europe do they have ? Where has Europe gone wrong ? What has Europe done right ?

That's about it, in the "chaos" column.

Voters in the Netherlands will go to the polls on June 1st, and country after country (France is the 10th country in the series of 25) will ratify or refuse over the next year and a half or so. The Treaty of Nice, which governs the links and procedures among the current 25 EU members (plus two candidate countries, Romania and Bulgaria), remains in effect until 2009.

Note that French voters on both sides are absolutely outraged by suggestions coming from highly-placed Brussels Eurocrats that the French should be asked to "revote" on the same Constitution in a few years. Et puis quoi, encore ?! can be heard on TV and in the cafe where Amerloque quaffs his morning arabica.

Domestic French political considerations are another story, however, and there's a good chance that there will be a bit of "chaos" in that sphere for the forthcoming 22 months, during the runup to the next Presidentielle, which will immediately be followed by parliamentary elections.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Paris Spring

Today is Saturday. France is holding its breath.

Tomorrow is Mothers' Day. The first French Mothers' Day was in 1920. Introduced by the American doughboys who came over here during World War I, the holiday here was originally in honor of "mothers of large families", and not toutes les mamans. On May 25, 1941, during the Vichy government, Marechal Petain decreed a journee nationale des meres. In 1950 a law was formally passed instituting the holiday as a national tribute to all mothers.

France is not holding its breath because of Mothers' Day.

Tomorrow is the first big Sunday of the Paris Open tennis tournament on the clay courts at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris. This is 2005, not 1983, the year in which Frenchman Yannick Noah won the tourney. All of France lived and breathed tennis that Spring. For a full two weeks, one was unable to escape the jeu, set et match, in the papers, on the radio and on TV. Noah won (his only major victory) and the French love affair with tennis, so powerful in the 1920s and 1930s, was relaunched and has continued to this day.

France is not holding its breath because of Roland-Garros, however. This year there is no overwhelming French favorite for the top spot, as there was those twenty-two years past, although Amelie Mauresmo should fight the good fight.

Tomorrow, out at the Auteuil racetrack in the Bois de Boulogne, is the annual running of the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, a 5800-meter event (three miles and five furlongs, that is, about 3.6 miles) over 23 hurdles and fences, including the formidable juge de paix("the justice of the peace"), the rail ditch and fence, which requires each tiring horse to jump a span of 8 meters. Perhaps not as well known as the Grand National at Aintree or the Pardubice in the Czech Republic, the Grand Steeple heralds the opening of the Parisian classical racing season, which culminates with the June running of the Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby) and the Prix de Diane (the French Oaks) out at Chantilly, to the north of Paris. The Steeple is televised throughout the world, including the USA.

France is not holding its breath because of its Grand Steeple, either. Those days are long, long gone - - predating the first World War, when over a hundred fifty thousand excited spectators would wend their ways on foot, by omnibus and in caleches and in drags to the lovely track for a day at the races.

Tomorrow - - Sunday, the traditional election day here - - the French people will go to the polls and either ratify or reject the proposed European Constitution. That is why French are holding their breath today.

The campaign officially closed at Friday midnight. Is Amerloque imagining it, or does an unaccustomed silence hang over the country ? Each French man and woman is going about his/her usual Saturday morning business, but there is a suppressed excitement in the air. "How will you vote ?" seems to be the unspoken question in each person's eye as he or she stares at a fellow voter. Should Amerloque dramatize and say there is, indeed, a calm before the storm ?

For the expatriate completely plugged into French life, for someone who loves France and the French, this has been a truly marvelous Spring, the best in many a decade. The French people have risen magnificently to the occasion that their political leaders have offered them. Since the beginning of April, campaigners for oui and for non have been outdoing each other to obtain the vote of each French citoyen and citoyenne on the day. Analyses and syntheses, arguments and counter-arguments: all have been bandied about with enthusiasm, emotion and pleasure.

There was no lack of exegeses, no dearth of brilliantly-reasoned positions, no paucity of appeals to patriotism and for the common good. Just as inevitably, assertions preceded lies and misstatements and followed exaggerations and propaganda, in an unceasing torrent of discussion and dissention that only the French are capable of producing. Et tant mieux ! A defender of non would be characterized as un ennemi de l'Europe ("an enemy of Europe"), while a supporter of oui was termed un mauvais francais (i.e., "a bad Frenchman").

The entire mainstream political establishment from right to left, with a few notable exceptions (first-rank Socialists Laurent Fabius and Henri Emmanuelli among them), along with the media and big business, came out overwhelmingly in favor of the oui, but the proponents of non (souverainiste Philippe de Villiers and Communist leader Marie-George Buffet being the most visible) held their own. Hour after hour, day after day, the TV screens were filled with pundits, reporters and politicians waving copies of the thick blue-covered, densely- printed traite in each others' faces, their voices rising in strident and convoluted verbiage, frequently speaking at the same time in an almost-incomprehensible babble in their eagerness to persuade and convince.

Political has-beens (yes, the term is used in French) were trundled out of the closets of retirement and put to the task. Raymond Barre and Lionel Jospin, both ex-Prime Ministers, and Jacques Delors, a former President of the European Commission, all urging a oui vote. were paraded in the media. Surprisingly but emphatically in the oui camp, the European MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a hero of the May 1968 student/worker revolt and known once as Dany Le Rouge, came in for heavy criticism and used up what little political capital remained to him. European politicians and technocrats from across the political spectrum were unashamedly invited to participate in meetings for oui. They unhesitatingly heeded the pleas for help, perhaps forgetting that if there's one sure way to make a French person adamantly stick to her/his uniquely French guns, it's to involve foreigners, no matter how well-intentioned, in a purely French decision. Even the gliterati were drafted into the Establishment efforts to ensure a oui. From the actor Gerard Depardieu to the singer Renaud, cultural ions were called on to express their opinions time after time, in venue after venue.

On the street, in the metro, in buses and taxis, at work, in schools and universities, in cafes and restaurants, among the French, there was only one topic: the referendum. It seemed sometimes as if people from all walks of life were able to speak to one another for the very first time -- discovering others' lives, expectations and problems. In emails addressed to his French persona, Amerloque daily received exhortations urging oui and non, messages invoking the entire gamut of reasons, from the sacrifices made by French troops "to liberate Europe" (oui) to "the betrayal of the European dream" (non). Praying to Saint Joan of Arc as a rampart against evil foreigners ("les turques") and grasping globalists ("les americains") was suggested, too.

Though he knows the French well, and loves them, Amerloque was still, from time to time, astonished during the campaign. Among the major surprises:

Jacques Chirac, the President of the French Republic, admitting on prime-time TV during a much-awaited meeting with selected French youths, that he "didn't understand" why young people "were frightened". This savvy politician saying in public that he didn't understand an electorate which holds the future, his included, in its hands ? A remarkable and telling disconnect from the people he is supposed to lead.

Lionel Jospin, the Socialist former Prime Minister with Trotskyist leanings, apparently attempting to blaze his comeback trail, asserting that if they were to vote non, the French "would be misunderstood" by Europeans. Lionel, just where have you been keeping yourself the past two centuries or so ?

Olivier Besancenot, the 31-year old leader of the Jeunesses Communistes Revolutionnaires, debating on TV. A candidate for President in 2002 who pulled 4.25% of the French vote, Besancenot was truly impressive throughout. A man of remarkable self-control, he never raised his voice, no matter what the provocation, while contradicting the lies and verbally destroying the opposition's disinformational, pusillanimous attempts to portray his well thought-out non in an unfavorable light. Besancenot is not a professional politician and France is the poorer for it. In his day job, he's a mailman.

Less of a surprise, alas, was the International Herald Tribune missing the boat in its "coverage". Inaccuracies concealing omissions, mistranslations mixed with gross simplifications, arrant and ill-intentioned puffery heaped on self-satisfied political correctness. How truly, abysmally, shamefully bad it was.

Ever the optimist, Amerloque has for years been expecting the onset of the Pinocchio effect among politicians, but it never happens, whether the politicos are French or American. Each person's nose stayed the same this Paris Spring.

Finally, to those concerned American readers who have emailed asking worriedly "What about France ? Will the vote count be honest ?", Amerloque can but answer "One would hope so." A minor, almost niggling caveat, cependant: what must one make of a story in London's Daily Telegraph on May 8th ? Its Paris correspondent Henry Samuel, speaking of the oui supporters' lavish promises in the French overseas departements and territories wrote: "Jacques Chirac, the French president, is mindful of the fortuitous last-minute arrival of hundreds of thousands of overseas Yes votes in 1992, which saved the government over the referendum to ratify the Maastricht treaty. " Fortuitous ?!

Merci, la France, pour un merveilleux mois de mai. Vous ne m'avez pas decu ! Vive la Republique, et vive la France.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Keeping Up

For expatriate Americans in France, many of whom came simply to live an individual Sylvia FitzHemingway Parisian fantasy, there was a time not so long ago when keeping up with the news was serious, time-consuming business. Quite a bit of effort had to be devoted to maintaining one's awareness and understanding, one hoped, of current events. The French popular press (Le Parisien Libéré, France-Soir) covered US and international news, after a fashion, but lack of fluent French reading skills certainly limited the time one could - and would - spend poring over Le Monde's or L'Aurore's turgid prose. The young expat, usually désargenté and with better things than a newspaper to spend money on, such as food and lodging, would invariably find workarounds.

One of them consisted simply of going over to the rue de Berri, if the weather permitted. For years, the New York Herald Tribune's Paris Edition published from those premises. As soon as the most recent version came off the rotaries, the pages were posted up on the outside of the building, behind thick glass at eye level. One could spend as long as one liked perusing the headlines, taking notes from the wantads, checking the latest sports scores ... and encountering other Americans. That pavement was one of the unofficial American expat meeting points in Paris, mentioned only in memoirs and rarely in guidebooks. This lasted until the born-again and subsequently renamed International Herald Tribune decided to rationalize production and move to Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Another workaround was a stop at the mythical American Center for Students and Artists, on the boulevard Raspail. The library on the first floor had subscriptions to various American papers: the Trib was available every day - as were many daily and weekly French papers. Other icons of the American press, such as the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Review of Books, came by boat mail and were ready for reading on demand. Sometimes a visit to the Centre Culturel Americain, on the rue du Dragon or to the Ben Franklin Library in the Place de l'Odéon turned out to be profitable. In a pinch, a visit to the American Library in Paris would always enable one to catch a glimpse of the American press - and of the business-oriented, three-button-suited expat community, those individuals and families who could pay the annual membership fees or persuade their company to cough up for them.

In Paris, there was only one TV station - and four FM stations, all state owned and operated. There were also the radios peripheriques (Europe 1, RTL, Radio Monte Carlo), semi-private stations operating under governmental charter. In common with the French press, their coverage of US news was sparse, not to say nonexistent - and they were all in French. So, comfortably ensconced in a sixth-floor walkup chambre de bonne (for Amerloque, too, lived his Paris fantasy), one learned the power of international radio, and took advantage of it. One spent an hour or so working on one's French language skills. Then one gave oneself up to the pleasure and frustration of shortwave radio.

The Voice of America, Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Radio Liberty could be depended on for the official Washington view, while the BBC and the English broadcasts of Radio Suisse International, and Radio Canada would give the counterpoint. The powerful Radio Moscow, Radio Havana, Radio Tirana and a multitude of Eastern European stations offered the Soviet-bloc approach. One could evaluate international tensions by the change in the number and intensity of Soviet-bloc radio jamming signals: a jammed RFE program in Hungarian or Polish, usually clearly received, meant that international events were on the boil. (Frequently, such jamming increased before a geopolitical move. The Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968 was hardly a surprise to those who had noticed that jamming of RFE programs had suddenly increased.)

What of sports, however ? Where in the world could the intermittently-homesick young longhaired American expat, still adapting to French life and learning the language, listen to a baseball game, a football game, or a horse race ? Not read about it, but hear ? At the American Legion post on the rue Pierre Charron ? Harry's Bar ?

Why, on that radio, of course. Very late at night, if the atmospheric conditions were right, one could tune to medium wave and locate an Armed Forces Radio station broadcasting from a base in Belgium or, more usually, Germany. One could hear a Dodgers/Giants game, an NFL Game of the Week, or ... the Kentucky Derby, that most traditionally American of sporting events. One could - and did - thrill to Hank Aaron's hits, Johnny Unitas' TD passes, and Northern Dancer's win.

Times change. In Paris, Dragon and Franklin/Odeon no longer exist, nor does the American Center, swept away by speculation and, more generally, by modern life. The American Legion Post on rue Pierre-Charron is now a hotel. The Cold War is over. One listens to the radio stations of Eastern Europe for genuine news, not propaganda - although sometimes it's a close call indeed. Radio Suisse International has ceased broadcasting in shortwave and is now internet based. The Herald Tribune has become part of the corporate press: its ill-informed Paris "correspondents" now deliver politically correct, carefully expurgated views and stories, far removed from the realities of France and the French people.

Yesterday, with a few clicks and a zap or two on satellite/cable TV, Amerloque watched the Preakness Stakes live, en direct. He watched Scrappy T and Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo beaten by the remarkable Afleet Alex. He then went onto internet and clicked into a baseball game. No radio needed, anymore, although as a polychronic medium it's still very nice to have around.

The news and sports are right there on internet, for the asking, whether one is rich or poor. The trick is choosing the news one wants to read and hear, rather than relying on someone else's choice. Times have indeed changed, n'est-ce pas ?


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Words Before Action

Americans – and expatriates of other nationalities – living in France are sometimes astonished at the French penchant for "discussion".

Some even go so far as to assert that the French prefer words to action. Business executives frequently complain about the apparently agendaless, lengthy meetings which seem to consist of "nothing but discussion". The radio and TV here are filled with talk shows and at any time of the day or night one can tune in to reruns containing particular percipience.

What these foreign observers fail to grasp, being in French life but not of it, is the emphasis the French place on analysis, whether of a situation, a work of art, or an action. Succinctly, the French feel that to obtain the desired result from any action or series of actions, for example, a detailed analysis must be carried out beforehand. In daily life, this analysis takes the form of "discussion", for want of a better word. Cartesians, the French place equal emphasis on la forme et le fond ("the form and the substance"). Both must be carefully dissected, examined and combined to produce a suitable action plan - or critique, or opinion. It's as simple – or as complex - as that.

Success stories abound: the Citroen traction and la Sécu, for example. More recently Concorde, the Smartcard, Airbus and GSM spring to mind, as do hypermarkets, the TGV and Doctors Without Borders. Given situations were analyzed, almost to exhaustion, and appropriate plans developed and brilliantly executed.

Sometimes the analysis is profound but the plan catastrophic, with ensuing failure. The Minitel was designed and built to a) raise keyboard consciousness among the French people, b) move French society into the information age and c) ensure French excellence in computing for years to come. Wildly successful in parts a and b, it failed miserably in part c due to the adoption of a quirky minimalist standard that was just not exportable. The current brouhaha over the lundi de Pentecôte is another case in point. Working more to make a better life for senior citizens is a great idea, but it's the execution of the plan that is wanting.

Naturally, too much analysis and discussion can lead to apparent - or genuine - paralysis. After an overly long analytical period, the conditions laid down at the beginning may no longer hold true. Example ? Building a tramway in the Paris suburbs might have sounded like a good idea in the 1960s when public transport was king and people didn't own automobiles. Such a plan might have been debated and adopted in the late 1970s, after a 10-year analytical period, but never put into effect due to lack of financing and political clout. Resurrecting the same scheme in 2005 without taking into account the changes in society since then would be sheer folly and some French people realize it. The answer ? Re-analyzing the situation and modifying – or scrapping – the original plan. To the outside observer, this will appear, alas, as "discussion" or "inaction".

An example of prolonged analysis and paralysis ? In the late 1960s, the press was filled with headlines concerning the possibility that banks might pay interest on checking accounts. It was against French law and the consumer associations were pushing for change. The law needed to be revised, but, before modification, light needed to be shone on the possible and probable consequences - to consumers and to financial institutions, including La Poste - of such a momentous change. In the end, who could benefit, who could lose ? How ? When ? Like a mythical sea serpent, this issue surfaced regularly in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Study supplanted study, survey succeeded survey, discussion followed discussion.

Unbelievably, the question has only just been resolved. Several years ago when the euro was introduced, the Spanish bank Caixa announced that it would thenceforth pay interest on checking accounts. The government pointed out that it was still illegal and Caixa went to court, sending the issue up to the European level. The verdict was returned last year: the French law was illegal and interest could be paid on checking accounts. Nigh-on two generations to decide such an apparently cut-and-dried issue ? Yes.

Participating fully in French life requires constant exchange. No matter what one's opinions, one would do well to develop the patience to listen to and understand French "discussions" (aka analyses) and subsequent actions. One reason is to learn the manner in which the French see the world, and another is purely for one's self-improvement. If one is not comfortable with "discussions" (because of lack of intellectual interest or even language shortcomings) and prefers "action" to "words", France can be a very frustrating place.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Never Forget

Sixty years ago today "the war ended" in Europe. Which war ? World War II, as the powers-that-be call it. It's V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, today, le 8 mai.

All over France, in almost every city, town, village and hamlet, there is a commemoration at the monument aux morts. Aged, beribboned veterans, former prisoners of war and surviving forced laborers line up as best they are able. A child, usually female, lays flowers, the amateur fanfare tootles a few bars of of martial music, and a local politico intones thanks for sacrifices made and hardships undergone. The media interview concentration camp survivors, resistance members, and sundry senior citizens who were but callow youths when the Allied forces rolled through France to the Rhine and well beyond. Documentaries with almost-forgotten, grainy footage are dusted off, shown on prime-time TV, and discussed by historians and journalists.

This is right, and as it should be, in spite of the imperfections, inaccuracies, and exaggerations.

George Santayana, the American philosopher, reportedly said "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". On the other hand, George Bernard Shaw opined "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history". Il y a de la marge, as the French say. The truth, if truth there be, lies somewhere between the two.

A few historians – with whom Amerloque wholeheartedly agrees - feel that "World War II" is a misnomer. The series of events between 1914 and 1945 should simply be called "The Great World War".

There are certainly grounds for the appellation. The so-called "World War I", the initial portion of the Great World War, resulted not only in rampant irredentism but in the outright disappearance of several powerful empires (Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, and Ottoman). One cannot isolate the Russian Civil War, the Weimar Republic, the advent of both Mussolini and Hitler, and the Spanish Civil War from their proximate cause: the first half of the Great World War and the disastrous, precarious peace which followed. Moreover, without an unstable, inward-looking Soviet Union, a staggering, impoverished Europe and politically-inspired civil war in China, would Japan have really dared to invade Manchuria in 1931 ?

Quite simply; what is called "World War II" sprung from the failed attempts to deal with the consequences of "World War I". Beginning with Gavrilo Princip's attack at Sarajevo in June, 1914 the globe was riven by strife for over thirty years, until that day in September, 1945, when General Douglas MacArthur on the battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay accepted the surrender of the Japanese Empire.

Some continental Europeans have a tendency to minimize this, even to dismiss it, just as they forget that the war went on for some months after V-E Day, all the way to V-J Day. As a matter of interest, an American who mentions the Chindits, the Hump, the Flying Tigers, Saipan or Tarawa to a continental European will probably be met with a blank stare, since the Asian Theatre is rarely emphasized in the media.

However, the British know - and solemnly remember every year - what cataclysms they endured for survival and what feats they accomplished to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. After the bloodletting of the first part of the Great World War, they stood virtually alone against the Axis Powers, from September 1939 to August 1941.

Beyond all the hype and misinformation about la guerre and la fin de la guerre and l'Europe, one would do well to remember that without the British stand, things might have turned out much, much differently.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day

Today is May Day.

In memory of the deaths that occurred in Chicago on May 1st, 1886 during the demonstration demanding an eight-hour working day for all workers, today was adopted as Labor Day in 1889 at the Founding Convention of the Second International in Paris. In the years since then, this Labor Day has traditionally seen trade unions and other political organizations parade and demonstrate to protest various governments - and their policies - in many countries in Europe. During the Cold War, there used to be huge parades in the capital cities of Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. Kremlinologists would attempt to decode changes in USSR leadership by studying the positions, appearances and disappearances of the individuals sitting and standing on the podium in Moscow's Red Square.

Times have changed, eh ?

What hasn't changed so much, however, is how one spends one's day in France. Thirty or forty years ago, there were huge political demonstrations while the country simply stopped functioning on May 1st. Nowadays, with rampant globalization – and fewer demos and less political involvement - not everything shuts down completely. Preparing for May 1st does take a bit of advance planning. Not as much as it used to, but some forethought is necessary.

First, think about food. This paid national holiday is one on which the vast majority of shops (more than 98%, according to government figures) remain closed by law. Shopping for food on the preceding day is always a must. Huge numbers of restaurants are just not open on May 1st. Entertainment ? Some cinemas and almost all museums are closed as well. Transport ? Significantly reduced trains and metros; quite a few gas stations are closed, too. This year the holiday falls on a Sunday, so the impact of the May 1st break in the working week is substantially reduced. This morning two of the three boulangeries in Amerloque's neighborhood are closed. The line at the third one stretches out the door and down the street - at 07h30. Amerloque will give up his Sunday croissant aux amandes, since ever the traditionalist, he must locate and purchase the best muguet he can.

The muguet ? That's the Lily of the Valley, in English. For centuries the Lily of the Valley has been a symbol of renewal and Spring. On May 1st, 1561 Charles IX began the tradition of offering a muguet for luck. In 1907 the muguet was first associated with Labor Day. In 1936, year of the Front Populaire, unlicensed street vendors began selling sprigs of muguet to passerby. Nowadays, postwar French tradition ordains that one must offer au moins un brin de muguet ("at least one sprig of Lily of the Valley") to the loved one on May Day.

French commercial law, usually very strict as to who can sell what, provides that absolutely anyone can sell muguet on the street on May Day, without a license, from sunup to sundown. However, this on-street muguet must absolutely be the wild variety, gathered in the woods and forests - and not greenhouse plants, which can themselves only be sold at florists' shops. This proviso of the law is probably more honored in the breach than in the observance, since last year at Rungis (the wholesale market for Paris and its region) 1,212,135 sprigs of Lily of the Valley were sold, down from 1,227,422 in the year 2003. Not all of these were resold by florists, that's for sure.

So, off early to find muguet. Meeting the vendors, smelling the fragrance, checking for wild muguet and not the hothouse variety (wild muguet is darker green, hothouse muguet is lighter green and has larger white cloches), negotiating the price: those are the important parts of French May Day, for Amerloque. At Rungis the price this year is between 15 and 20 euros for 50 sprigs. He hears that the going rate on the street will be un euro le brin, at least in the morning (late afternoon prices will be lower).

That's quite reasonable - and a price Amerloque will cheerfully pay, for tradition.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque