Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bakewell tart country

For those of you not on Facebook, here are a few photos from the past week, taken mainly in Cork:

The "Echo Boy" statue in Patrick Street.

Fish pedicures are all the rage!

The lotto : a tax on those with poor maths skills.

The Book of Lismore, on display at the Glucksman Gallery, UCC.

I wanted to enroll, but it wouldn't be practical to commute from Paris!

Stretching the truth.

Still, for me, the heart of Cork.

You pay your euro and you make your choice

Break-dancers are out there in the precincts, trying to get out the youth vote. Out there in France outre-mer, the polls have already opened. Yes, tomorrow it's the first round of the socialist party primaries here in France, to determine who will be the party representative in next year's presidential elections. Who has the stature to bring down the much-reviled Sarkozy? Six months ago, the answer to that question was clear:

But fate had other plans for the randy DSK. So the race is on. Who will be victorious? The safe, some might say "boring", front-runner Francois Hollande, who shed 15 kg in the run up to tomorrow's contest? Or will it be Martine Aubry, DSK's anointed successor, known by some as the "Angela Merkel of the left"? Recent surveys show Segolene Royale, Hollande's former partner, and the mother of his four children, to be flagging at the polls -- her loss to Sarkozy in the last election is considered a liability.

Anything might happen. Unlike the U.S., where voting in party primaries is restricted to the party faithful, that is, registered republicans or democrats, respectively, tomorrow's primary is open to voters of any party affiliation willing to fork out the 1 Euro participation fee. It's hard to imagine this happening in the U.S., where it would effectively be an open invitation to skullduggery and sabotage by the rival party. When I raised this possibility in class, Bruno's response was a kind of charming bewilderment at such a cynical idea, which he immediately dismissed as being impossible in France, because it is "contrary to the spirit of the Republic".

Let's hope he is right. In the likely absence of a clear winner in tomorrow's poll, a runoff will be held later in the month.

The campaign has been refreshingly free of the kind of dirty politics familiar to those of us living in the U.S.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fine Dublin Residence Available

Saying that the real estate bust hit Ireland hard is a bit like calling Sarah Palin mildly eccentric. The bubble has already left the Celtic tiger puking feebly in the gutter, brought down the government, annihilated the formerly monolithic ruling party (Fianna Fail), and the cost of the bailout will be felt for generations. Still, it was nice to see that someone in the real estate sector is left with an intact sense of humour, as the following photo attests:

The "ad" is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the upcoming presidential election, about which I will say more in a future post.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Adieu, profiteroles! Hello, Bakewell tart! (Part 1)

See, this is what happens when you take on the role of the prodigal son. You arrive home, and before you know it, all your time gets taken up with lunches and dinners and cups of coffee and catching up with people you haven't seen in donkeys years* and the next thing you know you are guilty of blog neglect.

I've seen so many old friends in the past few days, it would be impossible (and possibly not all that interesting) to give a full account here. So I will resort to the ever-popular, non-chronological, mosaic of random-snippets blogging technique.

* Even though I know we're not supposed to divulge troop movements in a general-readership blog, let me just say that the entire French army was going somewhere on Saturday afternoon. Somewhere that required them to take a flight from Charles de Gaulle airport. I have never seen so many French people in camouflage uniform with large rifles in one place in my life. Far be it from me to indulge in facetious over-generalization based on a single brief encounter, but what else are blogs for? So, based on my keen observation on Saturday, I can reliably report that (a) French male soldiers are all unfailingly polite and courteous in public spaces (b) French female soldiers have the comportment and manners of water buffalo (c) French soldiers of both sexes have a surprising love of McDonalds. One might be tempted to infer that their destination might have a dearth of McDonalds, but that would be extrapolating beyond the range of available data.

* The Airbus 320 on the Aer Lingus flight from Paris to Cork was quite snazzy. I was particularly taken by the Safety Information card in the seat pocket in front of me. So much so that, I am ashamed to say, I stole a copy, smuggling it out in the pages of my complimentary inflight magazine, Cara. But look at the picture below, and see if you have it in your heart to blame me:

I mean, come on, those smiley-faced airplane schematics are adorable.

Well, we haven't even landed in Cork yet, and already this post has gone on far too long. So the story will just have to be continued in subsequent posts. Coming soon, I promise!

* Not that I would have it any other way