The effects of Brexit. Marks and Spencer shops now empty in Paris.

I know, I know. There are far more pressing issues in the world than my little round jar of Marmite, my favorite crunchy peanut butter, my licorice allsorts or my milk chocolate digestive biscuits to eat with my morning coffee or afternoon tea. But in my small world Marks and Spencer, or Marks and Sparks as my English mother used to call it, plays a significant food role. It saddens me to go there and see nothing but near-empty shelves. And they’re getting emptier and emptier! Yesterday I grabbed one of the last tins of baked bins standing, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce and a bag of gluten free lightly salted tortillas.

photo LP/Delphine Goldsztejn

A view shows empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer food store in Paris, France January 5, 2021. The sign reads “Due to new UK/EU import legislation, we’re sorry some of your favourites might be missing. We’re working hard to get them back soon.” REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

So, this is one of the many wonders of Brexit ! What did those hideous Leave people promise Brexit to be once it was rammed through at the last minute by the charlatan Boris Johnson? The sunny uplands? No, the sunlit uplands of a golden age! A bright new dawn!

From The GuardianFor all the triumphalist claims of the Brexiters, the sunny uplands they told us to expect are no more than another cold, dark, wet winter’s day.

The Brexit deal itself is nothing but thin gruel. It will make it much harder for Britain to sell services to EU countries, where we were once advantaged. Britons will lose their right to freely travel, work and settle in other European countries. British exports will for the first time in decades face checks on their origins and compliance with EU regulations.

After nearly half a century of closer integration with the European economy, Britain is now locked into needlessly throwing up new barriers to trade with our closest neighbours. As the past few days has shown, the ports can quickly descend into chaos. Even if implementation of the deal is smooth – a big if – it will prove costly to the UK economy. That means fewer good jobs, lower incomes and higher prices.

Another example is a commercial cheesemaker in Cheshire who has been left with a £250,000 Brexit hole in his business as a direct result of the UK’s departure from the EU on 1 January. He says he had hoped to take part in the “sunny uplands” promised by the government post-Brexit but has instead seen the viability of his online retail come to a “dead stop”.

“It’s as if someone forgot to negotiate this part of the deal, they forgot that there needed to be an exemption or allowance for the direct consumer sales.”

To save his business he will now switch a £1m investment he was planning to make in a new distribution centre in Cheshire, England to the European Union, with the loss of 20 jobs and tax revenue to the UK.

“I’m now going to invest in France, provide French employment, and contribute to the EU tax system,” says the cheesemaker, “Which was pretty much going against the whole reason that we were meant to be leaving.”

In yesterday’s LE MONDE – After Brexit, British citizen status in Europe is equivalent to that of the Chinese tourist. (Ouch!) The most dramatic consequence of Brexit is the loss of European citizenship for the British. On December 31, 2020, 67 million British nationals lost the right to settle and work in the EU and in other countries. Likewise, EU citizens have lost these rights in UK territories. This is the greatest loss of rights that we can ever remember.

So getting back to my Marmite and licorice allsorts, which was the origin of this whole story, here’s a really good video I found of the M&S stores in Paris back in 2013. Now those were sunny days!

(186) Marks & Spencer Paris – YouTube

pajama party!

It was a freezing cold night when I headed over to my friend’s apartment at 5 pm on Saturday. We were going to celebrate my recent acquisition of French citizenship with – what else? – a bottle of French champagne followed by a simple home-cooked meal.

France is currently under curfew and so, fearing that I’d turn into a pumpkin if I was to be found outdoors at the strike of 6 pm, I rushed across town and made it to his apartment just minutes before the fated hour. Here’s what a main Parisian boulevard looked like at 7 pm on a Saturday night: completely empty, shops and restaurants shuttered.

We started with shrimp-stuffed lemon and then roasted cod and tapenade. French cheese and bread followed. All accompanied with an Alsatian red wine. My friend had wanted to select a wine from a different region, but the wine merchant said – Oh, non, non, monsieur ! You cannot drink that with codfish.

For dessert we had a small chocolate confection from pastry chef, Cyril Lignac.

And gifts! In honor of my new French citizenship.

A perfumed candle from Diptyque and thin vanilla waffles from the Maison Méert, a Lille family institution dating from 1849. Delicious with coffee or afternoon tea. Miam ! Merci encore !

bye-bye, Cheeto in Chief

And the world heaves a huge sigh of relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I wish you all the best but I don’t think that you were the one for us because you really didn’t fight for all of us. You just fought for yourself.”

Don’t slam the door on the way out! (Who’s the loser now, Trumpty Dumpty?)

I’m French!

I acquired French citizenship! Ha ha. Je suis française. In fact, I’ve been French for two months now and didn’t even know it. Two days ago I found the belated letter in my mailbox –

What was my reaction as I stood in the lobby of my apartment building, letter in hand? Surprising calm. I’ve lived here for such a long time, have worked 95 per cent of that time, and forked out A LOT in taxes …so I have paid my dues. But it was a funny feeling all the same.

Je suis française,” I said out loud as I pushed open the lobby door and headed off to work, a spring in my step. I’ve never uttered those words before.

I told my boss and some of my colleagues. Everyone congratulated me, it was a novel experience.

“So, now you have dual nationality!” exclaimed a colleague.

“Well, triple, actually,” I replied. (Canadian, British and now French.)

I’ve decided not to be critical of the French anymore because (a) I’m one of them now, and (b) I feel privileged and, well, grateful. Thank you, France. Merci.

If my parents were alive, I think they’d be tickled pink.

This all started because of BREXIT and that dreadful man, Boris Johnson. It was terrible. British citizens all over Europe suddenly found themselves stripped of their European citizenship. It was a rude jolt. Imagine being European your whole life – or for decades, as was my case – and then waking up one morning to find that you’re no longer European. What’s worse is that we were denied the right to vote. I don’t find that very democratic.

I had to get that status back, which is why I applied for French citizenship. The process was arduous, costly and took two years from beginning to end. But totally worth it.

Here’s the post I wrote in September 2019, weeks before my interview at the Préfecture de Police to obtain French citizenship. It’s about the beauty (and necessity) of being bilingual.

the beauty of bilingualism | Juliet in Paris

Malcolm and Marie. new Netflix movie.

This stylish, intimist film – what the French would call huis clos – is due out on Netflix next month. Not having a clue who Zendaya or John David Washington were, I had to google them. He’s the son of Denzel Washington, she’s an actress and singer. She’s very sophisticated for her 24 years, as you’ll see in the movie clip below.

The movie was low-budget and filmed at night in this stunning Californian house, located in the hills around Carmel. It’s known as the Caterpillar House.

 

Here’s the clip. I look forward to seeing this movie.

 

a perfect time to read Toqueville’s Democracy in America

I had planned on reading Toqueville’s celebrated Democracy in America when I retire, but I think I’ll read it now. Despite the fact that it was written in 1835, it remains revelant and engaging.

French sociologist and political theorist, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), traveled to the United States in 1831 to study its prisons. He returned with a wealth of broader observations that he codified in “Democracy in America” (1835), one of the most influential books of the 19th century. With its trenchant observations on equality and individualism, Tocqueville’s work remains a valuable explanation of America to Europeans and to Americans themselves.

From Sing-Sing Prison to the Michigan woods, from New Orleans to the White House, Tocqueville traveled for nine months by steamboat, by stagecoach, on horseback and in canoes, visiting America’s penitentiaries and quite a bit in between. In Pennsylvania, Tocqueville spent a week interviewing every prisoner in the Eastern State Penitentiary. In Washington, D.C., he called on President Andrew Jackson and exchanged pleasantries.

Tocqueville was impressed by much of what he saw in American life, admiring the stability of its economy and wondering at the popularity of its churches. He also noted the irony of the freedom-loving nation’s mistreatment of Native Americans and its embrace of slavery.

As “Democracy in America” reveals, Tocqueville believed that equality was the great political and social idea of his era, and he thought that the United States offered the most advanced example of equality in action. He admired American individualism but warned that a society of individuals lacked the intermediate social structures—such as those provided by traditional hierarchies—to mediate relations with the state. The result could be a democratic “tyranny of the majority” in which individual rights were compromised.

His observations were prescient –

Tocqueville’s penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American political life. He tried to understand why the United States was so different from Europe in the last throes of aristocracy. In contrast to the aristocratic ethic, the United States was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites and where what he described as crass individualism and market capitalism had taken root to an extraordinary degree.

Juliet in Paris again – wouldn’t it be fascinating to witness a discussion between Tocqueville and Jeff Bezos?

Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.

Democracy in America remains widely read and even more widely quoted by politicians, philosophers, historians and anyone seeking to understand the American character.

93. not a number to be proud of.

Before I point my finger at France: 93 women killed by their husbands, companions or ex-companions during the year 2020, it should be known that the numbers are higher in my native country. CANADA: 148 women killed by their husbands, companions or ex-companions during the year 2020. That’s 148 too many.

I’m shocked. And there I was thinking that femicide was a French thing, a Latin thing, a police-problem thing. No. It’s a global thing, and it makes me frustrated and angry. Just as the murdering of one’s wife used to be called – and is still called in unevolved parts of France – a crime passionnel, a crime d’amour or a crime de passion in order to lessen the sentence or exonerate the killer entirely, the same laissez-faire attitude appears to extend to other rich, “civilized” countries. Where in the world, I wonder, is this tragedy being taken seriously? Nowhere.

“What continues to kill us is impunity.”
Sandra Moran, longtime champion of women’s and Indigenous rights, Guatemala.

Femicide: the killing of females by males because they are female. A form of terrorism that functions to enact and bolster male dominance, and to render women chronically and profoundly unsafe.

In Canada, guns are the most commonly used weapon in the murder of women and girls. In France, it’s knives and beating.

Violence against women is an issue that transcends borders, class and socio-economic status.

Latin America has the highest numbers of femicide with Brazil and Mexico leading.

The home is the most dangerous place for women where 61% are killed by their partner or ex.

The risk of a woman being killed by an abusive partner increases when she leaves, or plans to leave.

Society still blames the woman, it’s a shaming process. A woman is admonished if she does not leave an abusive relationship, but equally seen as a failure if she does. There’s also a widely held belief that it’s better for children if the woman stays.

In 2019 and following the death of Salomé, 21, France’s 100th victim of femicide, the French government announced a raft of measures. But President Macron received a reality check when he listened in on a call at a domestic violence hotline centre.

A woman, who had endured decades of abuse from her violent husband, had finally built up the courage to leave him. She had asked a police officer to accompany her home so she could collect some belongings, but the officer refused, insisting he needed a judicial order to intervene. (Why is it the woman who must leave the home and go to a shelter?!?)

He was wrong, but the helpline had no legal authority and the operator could only direct the victim to a support group.

President Macron shook his head in frustration. “Does that happen often?” he asked the operator. “Yes,” she responded, “More and more.”

In 2003, Marie Trintignant, French actress and daughter of actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, was beaten to death in a Lithuanian hotel room by her then-boyfriend, Bertrand Cantat, lead singer of the French rock group, Noir Désir. Cantat repeatedly punched Trintignant in the head, leading to her death six days later from swelling to the brain. She was 41.

Loving father and daughter – famous French actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, with Marie.

 

Cantat claimed it had been an accident, a crime of passion. The truth is that he was jealous because of an SMS message Marie had received from her ex-husband. Convicted of “murder with indirect intent” Cantat served only half of an eight-year prison sentence.

“I’m delighted with the decision,” said Cantat’s lawyer when his client got out only 4 years later. “It will allow him to rebuild his future.”

And Marie’s future? Or her parents, robbed of their child? Or her own children, robbed of a mother?

Cantat was convicted of the crime in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, but complained that he was far from home. He was allowed to serve his sentence in a French prison to be near his family.

A year ago, a group of female activists who call themselves “les colleuses” (gluers) began papering the walls of Paris with slogans and the names of all French women killed by their companions. They only paper at night. They say they’re more afraid of rogue men shouting insults at them than they are of the police. How sad that we must rely on ordinary citizens (all women, there are no men in this group) to ring the alarm bell while the government’s response is lukewarm. Video below.

(161) “PAPA IL A TUÉ MAMAN” : la révolte des Collages Féminicides | Tous les Internets | ARTE – YouTube

dinner for one, New Year’s Eve belated

My intent was to prepare a simple but delicious supper for myself on New Year’s Eve. But that didn’t happen. By 8 pm I was lying on my bed watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder on my DVD player, and by 10:30 I was fast asleep. Things don’t always go according to plan. I guess I zonked out because of the four days I had spent with the kids. There was also an adorable but rambunctious cat that I babysat (catsat?). So I made my dinner on the eve of January 1st instead.

Leaving the office at 4 pm on Thursday, I raced to my local fish merchant who sells the freshest and most beautiful fish and shellfish. I knew it’d be crowded. And it was. A long queue of people all wanting their fresh oysters, shellfish, scallops, smoked salmon and fresh fish for their December 31st meal. So I left because no one was practicing social distancing and I don’t like standing in a queue. I managed to find everything I needed at my trusty local MONOPRIX: 4 fresh scallops (coquilles St Jacques), parsnips with which to make a purée and baby spinach to make a salad with sliced beetroot, orange and crumbled goat’s cheese. The day before I had bought a bottle of crémant (fizzy white wine), also called poor man’s champagne – delicious, especially if topped up with blackcurrant liqueur to make a cocktail called kir.

Oh, at another market I bought a lot of plump black Greek olives with which to make a fig tapenade. Warning: addictive! The sweetness of the dried figs cuts through the saltiness of the olives. Very easy to make and a perfect hors d’oeuvre to serve with the crémant or champagne. Actually, what was time-consuming was hand-pitting the olives which is why I like listening to the radio and podcasts while I cook. Throw into a mixer and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a few capers, one garlic clove, lemon juice, the cut up dried figs, a splash of olive oil and water. Whizz and serve on very good crackers.

Most French people eat foie gras on December 31st, but I don’t like it. Literally meaning “fatty liver” the process is to ram a pipe down the throats of male ducks and geese twice a day and pump grain and fat into them to fatten up their livers. Barbaric.

I added a potato to the parsnip purée because I thought the taste might be too parsnippy without it. Cauliflower could also work. Peel, chop and boil in milk then purée. I used a hand-held potato masher. Add salt, pepper, a knob of butter and a hint of nutmeg.

I asked the Monoprix fishmonger how long I should cook the scallops. I had read many Anglo recipes that all said 2 to 3 minutes on each side. My French fishmonger said “30 seconds on each side, no longer.”

“Not 2 to 3 minutes?” I said. He looked at me in horror and said “Absolument pas, ma chère dame. Si vous voulez savoir la vérité, je mange mes coquilles st jacques crues !” Translation: Absolutely not, my dear lady. If you want to know the truth, I eat my scallops raw!

Now it was my turn to look surprised. Raw? Sort of like sushi, I guess. Here are the scallops, so fresh they were literally scraped off the shell. I rinsed them under cold water, dried them thoroughly, heated a skillet until very hot, threw in some butter and when the butter began to foam and turn brown I gently put in the scallops, not touching one another, and just seared them. Salt and pepper, not much; lemon juice if you want or why not a splash of white wine or champagne. 30 seconds each side (60 seconds each side, if you want), and Bob’s your uncle. Forget the fancy sauces. If all your ingredients are super fresh, au naturel is best. The danger of overcooking scallops is they become tough, and that would be a shame.

There are so many beautiful French white wines that you could serve with this: Sancerre, Chablis, Vouvray, a Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire or a Pouilly-Fuissé from Burgundy. I finished off my bottle of crémant. Salad, cheese to follow and a light dessert would have been nice, but I forgot to make the salad and didn’t have any cheese or dessert.

I love cooking. I started young, around 11 years old, maybe younger, encouraged by my mother who cooked a lot and made her own bread and everything else. From our kitchen came a lot of love, warmth and nourishment in all forms.

I wish you a happy, healthy New Year.

a yuletide treat for you

Have I got a Christmas treat for you!

Rewatching Kylie’s vlogs of Italy made me think of a favorite movie of mine: Ingrid Bergman in Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia), directed by Roberto Rossellini. It was also titled Voyage to Italy. Digitally restored, this 1954 classic tells the story of an unhappily married bourgeois couple driving down to Naples from England to sell an inherited villa.

2013 movie review by A.O. Scott at The New York Times – “Voyage” is not driven by the usual machinery of plot and exposition, but rather by a succession of moods, an emotional logic alternately reflected and obscured by the picturesque surroundings. The rich symbolism of the Italian landscape — the volcanic pools at Vesuvius, the ruins of Pompeii, the vistas that have stirred the imagination of artists at least since Virgil — makes the emptiness of the Joyces’ marriage all the more palpable and painful. Their emotional and spiritual sterility contrasts with the fertility signified by the baby carriages and pregnant women Katherine encounters every time she ventures into Naples, and also by the religious procession of the film’s devastating final scene.

“Voyage to Italy” takes place in a series of simultaneous aftermaths — of World War II, of a glorious ancient civilization, of Uncle Homer’s wild life, of whatever passion once united Katherine and Alex. And yet amid all this exhaustion it finds signs of vitality. In its time, this film represented the arrival of something new, and even now it can feel like a bulletin from the future.

During this Christmas Covid season, I can’t think of anything better to do than curl up at home and watch a really good movie. Here it is. Enjoy!

(141) Journey to Italy 1954 720p Drama, Romance – YouTube