the astonishing odyssey of giant puppet Amal

Meet Little Amal – the not-so-little puppet of a 9-year-old Syrian girl who is walking 5,000 miles from Turkey to the UK.

The journey represents the stories of the millions of young refugees who are forced to leave their homes and often travel alone without their parents.

Designed as part of a project aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties faced by child refugees, the nearly 12-foot-tall puppet will cross the border of eight countries.

Amal means “hope” in Arabic.

She’ll be moving from Turkey to Greece, then Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and finally the UK where Little Amal’s journey will end in Manchester on 3 November.

Look, here she is in my most favorite spot in Paris: the gardens of the Palais-Royal. Had I known she’d be there, I would have gone to see her and take photos.

The giant puppet was made by the same people who worked on the horse puppet for the theatre production of War Horse.

Called The Handspring Puppet Company, it takes a total of four puppeteers to animate Little Amal: one for each arm, one for her back, and one actor inside her body, walking on stilts and also operating a contraption called “the harp,” a complex system of strings that control the puppet’s facial expressions.

The Handspring Puppet Company’s founders, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler even came out of retirement to create it.

“The refugee story is the big issue of our time,” said Kohler.

(text taken from the BBC website)

The Guardian has beautifully documented (with photos) the overland voyage of Amal from her starting point in Turkey to …. well, I’m not quite sure where she is right now, somewhere in England heading north up to Manchester. Here’s the link here. Take a look –

why can we not criticize religion?

Remember Monty Python’s satirical film, Life of Brian, in which they poked fun at Christianity? It was hilarious. The year was 1979. Fast forward to 2013 and Monty Python actor, Michael Palin: “Religious sensitivities have increased so much since my comedy days that it would now be impossible to make Life of Brian in which we satirized the life of Jesus.”

In 1979 they poked fun at everyone from the Establishment to Christianity. But thanks to the threat of “heavily armed fanatics”, Palin admits there is one comedy taboo he is too scared to break: Islam.

“We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into that. There are people out there without a sense of humour and they’re heavily armed. You can’t parody Islam.” In 1989, Mr Rushdie was forced into hiding after the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for him to be killed in revenge for his novel, The Satanic Verses.

The right to blasphemy and the Mila affair

“God does not exist.” In France, this sentence can be said without running the risk of death or imprisonment. An individual can even go further and disrespect religion in general or one in particular. The offense of blasphemy, which existed until the Revolution, was abolished throughout the country in 1881 (except for the Alsace and Moselle regions, I have no idea why.)

The Mila affair is a French media and judicial case, relating to freedom of speech, Islam and cyberbullying.

In January 2020, “Mila”, a 16-year-old female singer in Eastern France made a live-stream with followers and talked with them about their love life and other topics. A man hit on her inappropriately and she rejected him. The man responded with a series of misogynistic and homophobic insults in the name of “Allah”, including “dirty whore”, “dirty lesbian” and “dirty racist”. Mila later made a story (available for 24 hours) on social media stating that “there’s nothing but hate in the Quran. Islam is shit.” The video was copied and widely shared on social media.

After her video clip went viral, she received over 100,000 hate messages, including death and rape threats, edited videos of her being hurt in various ways; the haters also published the address of her school. She and her family were consequently forced to live under 24-hour police protection as per the decision of France’s interior minister.

This sparked a nationwide debate on the freedom of expression and the right to blaspheme (definition: to say something offensive, specifically towards a religion.) Blasphemy is not criminalized in France, and the initial police investigation against the girl’s online comments was found to be without merit.

A month later, President Emmanuel Macron had to wade into the brouhaha and defend the 16 year old girl’s right of freedom of speech.

“In our country, freedom of expression is protected. In this country, and there are few in the world, the freedom to blasphemy is protected, as is the freedom to criticize, and that is a treasure.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another politician on the left, stated that “In this country, we don’t threaten to kill people because they have an opinion we don’t like.”

However Abdallah Z., an executive officer of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said “You reap what you sow” and that Mila had to “Bear the consequences of what she said.”

Of course we can criticize religion, but not the religion of Islam. Soooo…how tolerant does that make it?

According to Islamic law, mocking, disparaging or criticizing the Prophet and/or the Quran is an intolerable crime. The punishment for blasphemy in Muslim-majority countries is death by hanging or beheading, imprisonment, flogging, stoning or, if you’re lucky, a fine.

Apostasy (renouncing or leaving one’s religion) is also a crime.

Why am I blogging this?

The beheading of Samuel Paty

Two days ago, on Friday October 15, most schools throughout France observed a minute of silence in remembrance of Samuel Paty, a teacher whose attempt to illustrate free speech to his students led to his beheading a year ago by an Islamist fanatic, an 18-year-old Chechen named Abdouallakh Anzorov.

A salient point that stands out for me is that France granted asylum to the Anzorov family. Persecuted in their native Chechnya, they sought refuge in France (and received it.)

Social media and Facebook also played a role in Paty’s death.

It was revealed that a girl who was allegedly in Paty’s class told her father a false version of what had taken place in the class and prompted the online frenzy that led to Paty’s grisly murder. She later admitted to not being in the class at all. But the girl’s father, with the help of a radical imam, filed a legal complaint against the teacher anyway and began a social media hate campaign based on his daughter’s false account. He identified Paty and the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, west of Paris.

The false story became a cause celèbre on radical Islamic sites on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and school parents received as many as 10 messages day, some from Algeria and other Islamic countries, calling Mr Paty a “criminal”, a “thug” and a “paedophile” and demanding that he should be sacked.

Abdouallakh Anzorov, the young Chechen — who was in communication with a jihadist in Syria — caught wind of this and decided to get his hands on a cleaver and murder Paty. He decapitated him in the street near the school.

Emmanuel Macron paid homage to Paty saying that the teacher had been slain for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.

“Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said. “They will never have it.”

proud to be French, proud to be European

I was invited to a reception given in honor of those who obtained French nationality in 2020 and 2021. I was honored to be there.

The Prez didn’t show up, but he was there in spirit.

For those new to this blog, there’s a backstory to this tale (there always is with stories concerning citizenship.)

Here’s the link below which explains why today I’m the holder of three passports. A friend recently said to me – “Are you sure you’re not a secret agent? Don’t you sometimes get your nationalities and passports mixed up?” I wrote this post in January 2021, it’s titled “I’m French!”

I’m French!

a fabulous new French perfume

I was in a cosmetic store the other day and after paying for my purchases the saleswoman asked if she could perfume me. This is a delightful French custom. 

Puis-je vous parfumer?” they say just as you’re about to leave. (May I perfume you?)

Avec plaisir.” I replied. You open your coat and they literally spray you from your neck down to your waist.

“Any particular scent, or would you like to try something new?”

I opted for something new, and I’m glad I did because I’ve now discovered a brand new scent that I love. And guess what? It’s vegan!


Discover the new Chloé Eau de Parfum Naturelle: a 100% natural origin fragrance with a fresh floral and woody signature that expresses the strength of the Chloé woman.

I recommend this, it’s totally original. People at work have been commenting on it, asking what that interesting fragrance is as I walk by. Here’s the video in black and white.

I am Chloé. Je suis Chloé.

it was the victim’s fault

It was the victim’s fault because she should never have “submitted” to arrest, and because she didn’t know about the legalities of arrest.

“Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process.”

Philip Allott, who oversees the North Yorkshire police, was accused of victim-blaming after saying women should “just learn a bit about that legal process” in case they are falsely arrested. He retracted his comments amid indignant calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard suggested that a woman could try “waving down a bus” to escape a person they believe is pretending to be police. Waving down a bus? Pretending to be police? If I understood correctly, the man who murdered Sarah Everard was the police.

“If a person still does not feel safe, they should consider “shouting out to a passerby, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or, if you are in the position to do so, calling 999.” 

If this is the best response the Metropolitan police in England can come up with in the wake of this appalling tragedy, then GHUA (God Help Us All) – and I don’t even live there. It’s clear as glass: we’re not in this together, we’re in it alone. It’s every woman for herself.

Another thing is clear: they’re not taking male violence against women seriously. Not like Spain, for example, a traditionally macho culture that did a complete turnaround recently and now recognizes male violence against women not only as an urgent public health priority, but a human rights violation. In contrast, what does the highest policing authority in England advise? Flag down a bus.

Why is the onus always on women to stay safe?

Society regularly reinforces the message that it is women’s responsibility to keep themselves safe, not men’s responsibility not to harass or assault them. 

“Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue.” Jackson Katz 

“Men have essentially been erased from so much of the conversation in a subject that is centrally about men.” Jackson Katz in his excellent TED Talk.

A Twitter user said – “Women are set up to be victim-blamed along the lines of “Why was she out so late?” Why don’t you focus on the need to vet police candidates better, weed out the bad ones and the ones who turn a blind eye, change the culture within the force?”

Not a single word or admission of culpability in the vetting of Wayne Couzens and missing (or choosing to ignore) warning signs that could have stopped him from killing. No, blame Sarah Everard, it was all her fault. Moreover, she’s dead, so she can’t speak for herself. My heart bleeds for her parents and sister.

At least three accusations of indecent exposure had been made against Couzens. It was also known amongst “the lads” (his fellow male colleagues) that he enjoyed watching violent porn. Urgent answers are required as to how he was allowed to remain in service.

The commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Cressida Dick (what? she hasn’t had the decency to resign?), actually said this when referring to the killer – “Sadly, some of them were abused at home, for example, and sadly on occasion, I have a bad ’un.”

A bad ’un? Is that some regional vernacular or is she being flippant? And what’s the relevance of mentioning that Wayne Couzens was abused at home? What’s your point, Ms. Dick? Or rather, Dame Dick.

In September 2019, she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in Theresa May’s resignation honours. In 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio.

Surely a Commander of the British Empire has some pull. Use that power, Dame Dick, and that astronomically high salary of yours to implement radical change and reform within your police force.