29 October 2012

Boots and Co.

In March I posted this photo of a pair of leather boots dangling over Grande rue. 

March 2012

They've since been joined by some canvas low-top sneakers.

October 2012

As soon as another pair joins the line, you'll see it here.

23 October 2012

Breathalyzer Test For French Motorists

Source: http://www.english.rfi.fr
In 2012, while Nicolas Sarkozy was still president of La République, a law was introduced requiring all motorists traveling on French roads to carry an unused breathalyzer test in their vehicle. The idea behind the law was to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents.

The breathalyzer is a small disposable device that measures one's blood alcohol content. For the tests approved by the French government, drivers simply blow into the tube before getting behind the wheel. The crystals inside the tube change color according to the level of alcohol on your breath, indicating whether or not you should be driving (based on a legal blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per liter of blood).

Drivers were originally required to carry the test in their cars beginning July 1st, 2012; anyone caught driving without one risked an 11-euro fine as of November 1st.

With the four-month grace period coming to a close, the government is once more pushing back the deadline for individuals to procure a breathalyzer test due to the product's unavailability. Indeed, most major outlets, including pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations that are supposed to carry breathalyzers, have been out of stock for months. Motorists now have until March 1st, 2013 to get a test.

But even then it's not certain we will actually need one. This article suggests that Interior Minister Manual Valls might be "...considering whether to drop the measure altogether..."

Whichever way the decision falls in four month's time, there's one effective measure that seems to get lost amidst the passing of laws and the scramble to industrialize and transport and sell and buy millions of breathalyzer tests: if you drink, don't drive and if you drive, don't drink.

Nearly 4,000 people will thank you for it this year alone.

10 October 2012

The Wardrobe and Mr. Saint Cyr

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when Mr. Saint Cyr drove over with his small coil of nylon rope.  We had been rearranging the furniture in the upstairs bedrooms and decided that the four hundred pound mahogany wardrobe just didn't go anymore in the room with purple carpeting.  Had he understood that our intention was to actually lower it to the ground from the first floor balcony, he probably would have brought more rope, or his beefy farm-hand son, or his John Deere.  

So the three of us stood on the balcony, tying the little rope we had around this beast of a wardrobe and discussing how we were actually going to lower it down.  We had just enough rope to make a couple of loops around it and tie a knot.  But what all of us failed to notice until it was too late was that the rope wasn't long enough to lower the wardrobe all the way to the ground.  

But we were strong guys.  No problem.  True, Mr. Saint Cyr was pushing seventy, but he spent his life running a farm.  He had a strong back and a gorilla's grip.  Brawn over brains.  "Let's lower it down," a confident voice said in French.  "Everyone got a piece of the rope?"

We each grabbed a section of nylon and braced ourselves.  I glanced behind me at Mr. Saint Cyr whose back was relaxed and straight, holding onto the rope with one hand as if it were a garden hose and he was watering his roses on a balmy summer evening.  He was not even wearing gloves to protect from friction burn. None of us were.

"Wait, wait!" I said.  "It's not going to hold!" finally realizing the folly of what we were about to do.  But it was too late.  Muscle had already been put into motion and no amount of brain, however convincing, however true, was going to stop it.  We hoisted the wardrobe onto the railing, then prepared ourselves to lower it down on the count of three.

"One!"  In two seconds it will be over, I thought to myself.  I wonder if it's a male ego thing.  I mean, we didn't even have a real plan.  We didn't communicate who was going to hold most of the weight.  We don't even have enough f-ing rope!

"Two!"  Maybe the girls were right.  Maybe we should have called for more help.  But they could never understand the gravity of such an insult.  It's right up there with asking for directions.  Maybe my mother in-law should have put her Mercedes underneath like she suggested — to cushion the impact.

"Three!"  Here we go.  The wardrobe balanced on the railing for a brief moment before tilting towards the ground.  The next thing I heard was a flurry of voices — the men on the balcony, the women and kids down below — incoherent voices yelling simultaneously. Then the snap. Silence. And a thunderous crashing of wood hitting the stone patio below.

We peered over the railing, each still holding onto the lifeless rope, and saw that the wardrobe had shattered into about eight hundred indiscernible shards and splinters.

No one spoke. There was a lot of head scratching going on. Everyone seemed so surprised that our plans had failed. Finally Mr. Saint Cyr's voice broke the silence: Mais, ça se remonte. Serieusement!  But you can put it back together. Really you can!

Despite its gloomy fate, and whatever may still come of it, I will always remember Mr. Saint Cyr's optimism, prepared as he was to attempt the nearly impossible.  

The wood that once made up this wardrobe has since found itself a home in a tidy corner of the garage.  Though I fear for its future, I'm sure I will think of Mr. Saint Cyr with a cheerful smile as that old wardrobe is transformed into fire and smoke and floats up the chimney, keeping us warm on winter nights when the temperature drops below freezing — perhaps not the ending Mr. Saint Cyr would have chosen, but a practical one nonetheless.

In memory of Jean-Baptiste SAINT CYR

08 October 2012

Did You Know...? Part 8

Most sources agree that France gets its name from from the Franks, one of the many Germanic tribes that invaded Gaul during the fifth century.

The Franks' most famous chief, Clovis, became the first king to unify the Frankish tribes under one leader, and the Merovingian dynasty he founded ruled the Franks for the next two decades.

Over time the Merovingians ceded power to the Carolingians, and it was the land controlled by Charles the Bald (a grandson of Charlemagne) known as West Francia that eventually gave France its name.