Right now, as I sit typing this, I hear sirens, odd noises, chanting, French rock music, and those vuvuwhatzises being blown. No surprise, of course: France is having another of its general strikes today, so there will be noise.
This one I saw coming. Nicolas Sarkozy, in one of his rare moments of sanity, has proposed that the retirement age be raised to 65 from 60, where it is now, as a means of stimulating the economy. As someone who would have been forcibly retired by now under the current rules, and who feels like he has a lot of good work still in him, I think this is a wonderful idea.
These folks don't:
Or, to be precise, some of them don't. Some are buying food at McDonald's and some are, as I was, taking pictures. The folks with the red CGT (Conféderation Général du Travail, which my dictionary tells me is a "French trade union," which is pretty obvious) banners are the organizers here, and under their umbrella, as far as I can tell, are a lot of unions of various types, including health workers, researchers, and performers:
It's been a good day not to do anything. Our save-the-library meeting was postponed a day because the trams and buses aren't running, Air France is operating on a very reduced schedule (although the long-haul flights are happening), the mail wasn't delivered today (although it was picked up at the mailboxes, I noted), and even the market this morning was thin on merchants, although the vicious storms we had starting last night may have had something to do with that: parts of the area are code red on the France Météo map, while most of it is code orange.
And although one of the purposes of these huge demonstrations (there were delegations from all over the area) is to show unity, various shades of political opinion are very much tolerated. This gentleman, for instance, was, unlike the folks carrying a banner demanding retirement at 55 and 40 hours' pay for a 35-hour week (really, what are they smoking?), endorsing something very close to my own opinion:
So basically it's a day out in the big city for the country cousins, a chance to make trouble without being punished, and an excuse to play Fela records from big sound systems because, as all of us who live here can attest, France in 2010 is so very much like Nigeria in 1973.
* * *
From the proletariat to the nobility, now. For some months, a property has been on the market that, except for the possibility of a ghost, seems like it might be a good investment.
Here it is, 10 rue de l'Argenterie:
Actually, you can't see much of it in this picture, but the archway is old, old, old. It's also got a historical marker which I will (accurately, this time) translate for you:
PALACE OF THE KINGS OF ARAGON
13th to 17th Centuries
The Kings of Aragon lived here, and here, Jasques III, in 1343, killed his page, Bernard de Roquefeuil, for spilling a little wine on his doublet.
The house has been reconfigured.
It's a great midtown location on a colorful shopping street and a great investment opportunity, as well as a chance to brag "I live in the palace of the Kings of Aragon. Right across from the wine shop."