open letter to President Macron to do something

It’s not an open letter, but rather an open video (below), imploring the President of France to act on the problem of violence towards women in this country. The statistics are overwhelming. What is he doing about it? Nothing much. What about his wife, Brigitte? Couldn’t she get involved as spokesperson or head of a commission? Finding a solution seems to be low on the list of government priorities. I know, I know, we have the pressing problems of the gilets jaunes, the underfunded hospitals, the upcoming transportation strike scheduled for early December, the migrants and refugees and where to house them, radical Islam and a hundred other concerns. There’s just no time or budget set aside for the pesky problem of women being killed by their partners or ex-partners.

In mid-September, I wrote a blog post on this very same subject. The number of femicides then was 107. In October that number jumped to 116. Today, the number is 131! What’s going on? Has femicide become an epidemic in this country? I’m starting to get really pissed off.

Femicide: the act of killing a woman, as by a domestic partner or a member of a criminal enterprise.

Femicide: a gender-based hate crime, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of females because they are females.”

Céline, Sarah, Clothilde, Eliane, Hélène, Denise, Ophélie, Martine are the names of some of the other women murdered by their current or former partners this year. There’s no law condemning femicide in France.

Up until just a few years ago the killing of a woman here was called – are you ready for this? – un crime passionnel (a crime of passion) – thereby letting the man off the hook.

§§§

Two weeks ago, 40-year-old Sylvia was fatally stabbed by her husband in the region of Alsace.

Sylvia’s death represents the 131st femicide since the beginning of this year, ten more than last year.

Yesterday a shocking report was published on the subject. Of the 88 cases of domestic violence studied in this investigative report by the Ministry of Justice, 80% of the complaints were dismissed. Dismissed? By who and why?

To be continued.

Last Sunday night at 11 pm, the daughter of Sylvia received a frantic phone call from her mother begging her to come over quick because her violent husband was stabbing her. The daughter immediately called the local police and told them what was happening. The daughter arrived in three minutes. The police, whose station is blocks away – and who were aware of the problem because Sylvia had already lodged formal complaints – took thirty minutes to show up. Too late, Sylvia was dead.

“No one wanted to listen,” says Stella the daughter, “No one wanted to help.”

 

 

November 13, 2015 – Paris terrorist attacks – Remembrance Day

Four years ago on the night of November 13th, 2015, I was in my apartment listening to the saddest song in the world. It was on the radio. It was a Friday night around 9:30 pm and the song was Avec le Temps by Léo Ferré.

A feeling of melancholy and desolation washed over me, so strong that I actually started weeping. Unbeknownst to me, over one hundred innocent people were being gunned down on the other side of the city. I turned on the television and watched the news unfold with horror (the loud and incessant sirens from police cars outside alerted me to the fact that something was amiss.) A state of emergency was declared in France and the borders were closed.

On the night of Friday November 13th, 2015 and in different locations around Paris, 130 men and women were executed by radicalized Islamic terrorists. 350 people were wounded.

Here are a series of poignant photographs that I’m reposting. Lest anyone forgets.

https://julietinparis.net/2015/11/15/the-aftermath/

https://julietinparis.net/2015/11/27/flag-day/

https://julietinparis.net/2015/11/17/red-white-and-blue/

 

new film, Les Misérables, about the inner city suburbs of Paris

Those coming to Paris in search of glamour probably shouldn’t venture into some of the surrounding suburbs, otherwise known as les banlieues chaudes, the fringe urban ghettos where the inhabitants are segregated, socially excluded, and feel abandoned by the government.

October and November 2005 were marked by a three-week period of riots in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities. A state of emergency was declared. 8,000 vehicles were burned by the rioters and 2,760 individuals arrested.

Youth unemployment. Discrimination. Racism. Police brutality. Exclusion. Poverty. Lack of opportunities.

The unrest was an expression of frustration with high unemployment and police harassment and brutality. “People are joining together to say we’ve had enough”, said one protester. “We live in ghettos. Everyone lives in fear.” The rioters’ suburbs are home to a large, mostly North African and African immigrant population, allegedly adding religious tensions, which some commentators believe contribute further to racism against Muslims. (from Wikipedia)

How did the government respond to the 2005 riots? Not well. Nicolas Sarkozy, interior minister at the time, publicly called the youths racaille, which means ‘scum’, a term considered by some to bear implicit racial and ethnic resonances. That just threw more oil onto the fire.

The then Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced tightened controls on immigration.

Sadly, since 2005 nothing much has changed which led to the making of this new movie. It was filmed in the eastern Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and neighboring Montfermeil. Its aim is to show the daily life and frustrations of some of the inhabitants there.

Paris_riots_satellite

Clichy-sous-Bois remains one of the most isolated of Paris’s inner suburbs due to the fact that it is served by no highway, major road, or railroad. It’s where the 2005 riots started, which subsequently spread nationwide.

a book recommendation

 

This is not only a good book, but a topical one. Yesterday, precisely 1,606 migrants were expulsed from squalid living conditions at Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris. They had been living under a bridge and on sidewalks, some out in the open, some in small tents donated to them by charity organizations. Under the watchful eyes of 600 policemen (and dogs) they were herded onto waiting buses and transported to fifteen different gymnasiums scattered around the region. Winter is coming, and Paris’s mayor doesn’t wish to be embarrassed by mass deaths by freezing on city sidewalks.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015 – the largest movement of people the continent has seen since the end of the Second World War.

To fully appreciate this book, it’s important to understand the migrant-refugee crisis. At the bottom of this page you’ll find a BBC link entitled Migration to Europe explained in seven charts.

As for the book itself, here’s a review from London’s The Guardian newspaper. “Erpenbeck humanizes migration in this powerful, candid novel”, it says.

Displacement has moved beyond a literary theme; for millions, it is reality. The notion of war has been overtaken by upheaval, which forces desperate people to flee without hope of a final destination, allowing history to repeat itself, relentlessly. This is the humanising lens through which Jenny Erpenbeck, Europe’s outstanding literary seer, views our world.

Previously she had looked to the layered history of her own country, Germany, in dazzling metaphysical fictions such as Visitation and The End of Days. As a Berliner born in the former East Germany in 1967, her early experience was dominated by living in a divided city within a fractured country; her work suggests that she believes human understanding resides in memory.

Her new novel resonates with an unexpected simplicity that is profound, unsettling and subtle. The prose, as before astutely translated by Susan Bernofsky, is this time far less incantatory. There is none of the stylistic bravura of Visitation, with its haunting scenes of lives lived and ended, often in images of horror, and of a silent gardener serving as a lone witness to the rampages of history. Instead Erpenbeck has relinquished theatricality for a conventional, calm and at times wry narrative that follows Richard, a self-contained widower and newly retired academic, as he discovers empathy through delving into the individual ordeals of a group of African asylum seekers in Berlin whom he gradually befriends and tries to help.

the author, Jenny Erpenbeck

As the novel opens, the former classics professor is dealing with the prospect of retirement. His self-absorption dictates his daily routines; he is Everyman minding his patch. In his case it is a comfortable home complete with a high-maintenance garden. There is even his boat, tethered by a picturesque lake. Only there is a problem: the lake is less appealing these days. A man has drowned. It was a swimming accident, not suicide. “They say the ill-fated swimmer was wearing goggles.”

Disturbingly, the body remains lost somewhere beneath the placid surface. The image of it drifting in the water recurs throughout the novel and is a powerful metaphor for the uncertain existence of the asylum seekers suspended by bureaucracy – forbidden to work, to stay, to make a life.

It is only when watching the evening news that he realises he had walked by 10 African men staging a hunger strike. “Why didn’t Richard see these men at Alexanderplatz?” When the anonymous protest is ended, he regards it as a pity. “He’d liked the notion of making oneself visible by publicly refusing to say who one is. Odysseus had called himself Nobody to escape from the Cyclops’s cave.” From the opening pages, Erpenbeck makes clear that this cultivated academic knows little about Africa. “Where is Burkina Faso?” he wonders, and is surprised to learn that there are 54 African countries.

The book could easily have become a well-intentioned polemic, but Erpenbeck combines her philosophical intellect with hours of conversations conducted with refugees to tell a very human story about a lonely, emotionally insulated man slowly discovering there is a far wider, urgent world beyond him through his meetings with extraordinary, vividly drawn migrants, each with a story to tell.

Richard is a remarkable creation. He was once himself a displaced child in wartime; initially it is curiosity that draws him to the men. He approaches them as if they are a project, reading several books before compiling “a catalogue of questions for conversations he wants to have with them”. The list is heartbreaking: “Where did you grow up? What’s your native language? What’s your religious affiliation? How many people are in your family? Was there a TV? Did you have pets? How did you say your goodbyes? Can you imagine growing old here? Where do you want to be buried?”

But these men are not cases, they are lives. Some had children, some saw parents being killed. Others watched from boats as friends drowned. Erpenbeck and her translator make effective use of the inane rigidity of bureaucratic language. The law is not concerned that the men are victims of war: “The details of their histories are the sole legal responsibility of the country where they first set foot on European soil … The first thing that’ll be decided on is whether or not they’re allowed to apply for asylum.” The Africans master many languages yet struggle with German. Why? Because no one speaks it to them. Richard helps the men, responding to their interests, contrasting individual cultures and specific dilemmas, whose agonies make him recall tales from the Brothers Grimm. The refugees have nothing except their memories and their mobile phones, which contain invaluable numbers – their sole links with family, friends and who they once were.

Richard, a present-day pilgrim, becomes only too conscious of what he does not know. Music enables him to establish a friendship with one of the men, Osarobo. This echoes the sentiment from Visitation when an old woman recalls: “In the end there are certain things you can take with you when you flee, things that have no weight, such as music.”

Great fiction doesn’t have to be real, but it does have to be true. Erpenbeck’s powerful tale, delivered in a wonderfully plain, candid tone, is both real and true. It will alert readers, make us more aware and, it is to be hoped, more human.

Here’s the BBC link explaining the migrant crisis:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911

Rita Hayworth, silverscreen goddess

Let’s take a break from this coarse, brutish world and travel back to the mid-1940s of Hollywood.

rita bw one

When I watched the classic 1946 film, Gilda, for the very first time just a few years ago, I was subjugated by the beauty (inside and out) of Rita Hayworth. Why it took me so long to see Gilda is beyond me, but everything about the movie blew me away, including the controlled and gritty performance from a young Glenn Ford. Gilda is the role that defined Rita Hayworth. A professional dancer too, she could hold her own in any performance. (She danced with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.)

 

gilda2

Rita and Glenn in Gilda

But what a sad personal life she had. Rita’s real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino and she started dancing at the age of 6 to support her family. Throughout her teen years she was subjected to sexual and physical abuse by her father who was also her dancing partner. She would be exploited by men for most of her life – in her personal life, her professional life and even in the onscreen characters she played. Her five failed marriages included Orson Welles and playboy Prince Aly Khan. She would maintain a lifelong friendship with Glenn Ford who played opposite her in Gilda. Her later years were marked with struggles with alcoholism, and then the disease that ultimately took her from us in 1987 at the age of 68: Alzheimer’s.

Rita and Glenn burned up the screen with sexual tension. In 1946, this was OFF THE CHARTS! And the tension was real because not only were they lovers in the film, they were also lovers in real life.

Here’s a YouTube video of extracts from Gilda –

world travel via the internet, and off to Sweden

The world is at our fingertips, and last night I did a crazy thing: I booked a 4-night stay in a lakeside cabin south of Stockholm.

Comfortably ensconced on my chaise lounge with a glass of red wine at my side, I was scrolling through the lodgings offered on Airbnb. I’ve only stayed in one Airbnb before, years ago in Montreal.

The images of this lakeside cabin ‘spoke’ to me, and I impulsively booked it. (How many glasses of wine did I have?) No, really, I crave nature, beautiful vistas and quietude. There’s a lot of noise in my life, especially at work.

I’ve never been to Sweden before, or any of the Nordic countries. I’ve been wanting to go for years. How wonderful that we can travel the world and book (at whim or otherwise) our next vacation with just a few simple clicks.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23726652?source_impression_id=p3_1572786695_qf08ErpjcGCRXb9f

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23726652?c=.pi80.pkdmlyYWxpdHkvc2hhcmVfaXRpbmVyYXJ5&euid=14b398f1-d945-dd5b-7705-44143616ca83&source_impression_id=p3_1572786255_pnA2PpeIuB%2B5q4f5

a 3-day weekend and choco peanut butter cups

BFV14244_Chocolate_Peanut_Butter_Cups_FB-thumb

Yup, this is my idea of bliss: a long weekend, my pantry and fridge stocked with good food (and wine), a three-day rain forecast, homemade choco-peanut butter cups on the horizon, and hunkering down to finalize 10,000 words from the draft of my soon-to-be-published memoir. My editor in London, Ardella, is awaiting those words to work on. It’s good to have a deadline and a bit of pressure. It’s good too to have a great editor.

Aside from venturing out on Saturday afternoon to return some books and DVDs to my local library, I don’t plan on going anywhere this weekend.

Why is it a long weekend? November 1st is Toussaint which means All Saints. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic festival and a statutory holiday in France. On Friday, cemeteries all over France will be frequented by flower-bearing families paying a visit to their deceased loved ones. Florists love November 1st.

I don’t know where the idea came from to make choco peanut butter cups. I think I was standing at my kitchen counter looking at a large tablet of dark chocolate and two jars of peanut butter I had just purchased – one smooth, the other chunky.

Chocolate-Peanut-Protein-Cups

I’ll do it. I’m going to combine two recipes. Here’s one from Tess Masters. Her two cookbooks, The Perfect Blend and The Blender Girl, are excellent. I purchased them in London and never tire of her inventive recipes. Here, she uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate and almond butter instead of p.b.

  • half a cup or 120 ml of liquid coconut oil
  • a quarter of a cup or 18 g of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • a quarter of a cup or 65 g of raw almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • a quarter of a teaspoon natural salt

As optional boosters, Tess suggests an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and/or a quarter of a cup of crushed walnuts.

Throw everything into a blender or mixer and blast for 10 to 20 seconds until well combined.

Pour the mixture into silicone cupcake molds or paper baking cups set out on a tray (or in a muffin tin.) Chill in freezer for 20 to 30 minutes until solidified. Gently release them from the molds and transfer to a plate or container. Serve slightly chilled. Because of the coconut oil, the chocolates will melt if left out in room temperature.

I must say, though, that I’m wary of her use of coconut oil. She uses it because she’s a vegan (coconut oil is a substitute for butter.) There’s just too much controversy over this product for me to use it liberally. Nobody seems to know if it’s bad or beneficial. If you happen to have some and don’t want to ingest it, then use it on your hair.

nourish_bookcover_289_gn

blender girl

And then, there are these two recipes, using chocolate:

https://www.veganbell.com/chocolate-peanut-butter-cups/

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018460-chocolate-peanut-butter-cups

Have a scrumptious weekend!