Thursday, 5 November 2009

28. It never rains but it..

5th November 2009. I’ve been confined to barracks for a couple of days – last Tuesday the rhumatologue administered the final injection (last of three) of 'gunge' into my knees to act as a cushion in the joints. After my knees have stabilised, I’ll then have to see a physio for some “re-education” as they call it (sounds a bit Maoist). Rowing looks to be ‘off’ for the foreseeable future – it will probably be around Christmas before I can start again.

The Indian summer we’ve been enjoying up last weekend has suddenly segued into a week of most un-English rain. Fortunately, window shutters here in the South West are solid wood – they’re not the effete louvred jobbies beloved of impressionist painters – and, as always, there’s a very good reason why.

The Vieux Port, Biarritz taking a pounding.
Here, rain doesn’t manifest itself as a gentle drizzle that lasts most of the day, or as dancing showers that spatter the windows for a few minutes and puts a short-lived shine on the pavements. No, rain “à la Pays Basque” sweeps in directly from Ye Famouf Olde Baye of Bifcay (Purveyor of Torrential Downpourf to SW France fince Time Immemorial). Rain that, if it were any heavier, would be solid water. Rain that seems malevolent and blows in visible sheets that hit the ground and bounce back up again. Rain that drums in rising crescendos against the roof, walls and shutters, swept in by wailing winds that buffet and swirl around the house, rattling the tightly fastened shutters as if searching for the weak point.
Approaching storm at Anglet
Last night was a particularly bad night I’m told. While I was deep in my usual 3am coma-like oblivion, apparently the world as we know it was ending just the other side of our shutters and Madame feared for the house. This phenomenon probably explains why hanging baskets are rarely if ever seen here.. they'd be blown away in one of these storms.

Here's a clip of the breakers smashing in to the rocks at Biarritz..
I've come to realise that France is greatly more politicised than England. French politics exert a huge influence on daily life here. The complete politicisation of French society surprised me when I first noticed it and it continues to surprise me. Politics are everywhere and just about everything on the radar seems to have a political dimension.

In England, the Royal Family is available to act as a distraction for the media but here in France, with no Royal family, the media in all its forms has the government of the day's actions under permanent microscopic daily scrutiny. Every argument has 2 opposing elements – Left & Right – and the airwaves are awash with programmes with political journalists arguing and chewing over every action by the government. Journalists of the Left and Right try to tease an anti- or a pro-government spin respectively from daily events. The apparatus of the State is visibly politicised to a degree unknown in England – although maybe in England it is there but it’s less intrusive. The power of the State cascades down through a formal system of Prefets, sous-Prefets and mayors - all the way down to idle wasters.. like me.

And so we sign off on this rain-sodden dank grey day with this uplifting reminder of the 1950s:
And if I'm not mistaken, I reckon the chicken giving its all for Pathe News is a poulet de Bresse - ze Rolls-Royce of chickens, at least here in France.

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