Candidates’ posters outside la mairie
It’s election time in France. Our region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, and department, Vienne, go to the polls on June 20th. I’ve not been following these elections too closely, as I can’t vote in them. My Irish passport only allows me to vote in municipal and European elections. Sadly, after Brexit, Madame can’t even vote in those.
One interesting thing that I have learnt is how carefully election promotional material is controlled in France. A few weeks prior to the election, large temporary metal billboards are installed by the local authority outside the town hall and voting stations. These are for election posters, and the rules are strict and extremely precise. Each candidate, pair of candidates, or list of candidates in the election is allocated an equal space on the boards. According to the Electoral Code, candidates who put up their posters outside the legally sanctioned areas or periods risk a fine, and their posters can be taken down.
In order to be completely fair, the ordering of space for candidates on the boards is decided by a draw. The panels must be large enough to allow for the correct display of at least a small poster measuring 297 mm × 420 mm and a large poster measuring 594 mm × 841 mm. In the case of a second round of voting, the posters of candidates no longer involved in the ballot should be removed by the Wednesday between ballots.
There are also rules on allowable colours in posters – for example, the French bleu-blanc-rouge combination is not permitted unless they are the colours of the party logo. Posters should not be printed on white paper, unless they include writing or colour pictures.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the posters at the town hall and, by Friday, only one had been defaced, that of Marine Le Pen’s party, Rassemblement Nationale, with the leader being given pencilled horns and chewing-gummed teeth.
In Paris last week, I noticed that they are a little more direct about these things.
Still on the subject of elections, while out campaigning yesterday, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, president of the left-wing party La France Insoumise was pelted with flour. This is a relatively common experience for politicians here, and the French have a word for it, enfariner – to throw flour at someone. This is not to be confused with entarter, to throw a tart at someone, again a routine occupational hazard for French politicians. I’m not seeking to condone such activities, but there is a nice medley of the two here.
The French for milkshake is, er, milkshake, but I’ve been unable to find evidence of any politicians in France being enmilkshaké in the way that the awfully nice Mr Farage was two years ago. More generally, in the English-speaking world, it would seem that the egg is the weapon of choice for disgruntled voters.
I had my second anti-Covid jab on Friday morning. In and out of Dr L’s surgery in fifteen minutes. The only after-effect was a slight drowsiness in the afternoon, and to be honest, that was more likely due to the two previous evenings, when Madame and I had been celebrating the full opening of bars and restaurants on Wednesday. A spell of glorious weather has meant that since then the city centre has had a carnival atmosphere. It was almost a relief when a sudden thunderstorm on Thursday evening cooled things down a bit – if only for a little while.
Within minutes of my vaccination, my online national health record had been updated, and I was able to download my vaccination certificate onto the government TousAntiCovid app on my mobile phone. This will almost certainly be required for international travel for some time to come. It is planned that the app will also be used as a way of recording the restaurants and bars one visits, but this system isn’t in operation yet. When it is, it’s meant to be an alternative to the ‘visitor’s book’ system that restaurants and bars were supposed to use during the first lockdown (but which, in practice, everyone quickly forgot about).
On the subject of vaccinations, Wednesday saw the 60th anniversary of the death of a famous Poitevin, Camille Guérin. He was born in nearby Châtellerault, and you would be forgiven for having never heard of him, though you will almost certainly have benefitted from his work as a bacteriologist and immunologist. With his colleague, Albert Calmette, Monsieur Guérin developed the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, a vaccine for immunisation against tuberculosis. This is the BCG injection that we all used to dutifully line up for at school.
Camille Guérin (the man in the photograph behind him is Albert Calmette)
In France, it is still compulsory for children to have the vaccination before the age of six. In the UK, mandatory vaccination was replaced in 2005 by a targeted programme for babies, children, and young adults at higher risk of TB – the justification being the low TB rates in the general population.
Things I’ve learnt this week:
In 1986, 12 jurors got stuck in an Otis elevator in a courthouse on their way to hear a lawsuit against the Otis Elevator Company.
The Queen won’t reveal her favourite meal in case she never gets served anything else.
Viagra can make your urine turn blue. (I read this on the Internet.)