Politics — Humbug!

I gave up on politics a couple of presidents ago when it became maddeningly obvious that everybody was talking and no one was listening.  What was once an honourable profession — where real people had a genuine desire to serve the public — has deteriorated into an IRL video game.  Choose your character and maneuver through the various levels until you’re not skilled enough to go any further; then quit and go play UN, EU, IMF, FIFA or some other useless sport of the rich and nobody-remembers-your-name.  I’m sure there are still decent politicians around, but the 99% asshole rate gives the other 1% a bad name.  However, as much as I like to ignore the boys and girls who run our world, they won’t go away and — like Instagram teenagers — are constantly polishing their egos.  So just a few thoughts.

The French are having an election.  Nobody outside France understands French politics.  If you think you do, google Francois Hollande and Segolene Royal – and good luck with that labyrinth.  Anyway, the socialists aren’t socialist, the extreme right is left of the other guys, the left isn’t right enough, De Gaulle is dead, Sarkozy’s under house arrest and, in 2017, Emmanuel Macron decided to have his own party and beat the pants off everyone in sight.  But here’s how things actually work between the Rhine and the Pyrenees.  Every five years, the French vote to elect somebody to beat Marine Le Pen.  Two weeks later, they vote again to beat her.  She goes back to her apartment to pout and throw darts at a picture of her dad — the Republic is saved — and everybody sings “La Marseillaise!”

The Australians are also going to the polls.  The Australians have this curious notion that, in a democracy, citizens should vote — and so they’ve made it illegal not to.  Thus, if you’re an adult living Down Under, you have no choice about making a choice: you have to do it — or else!  Apparently, you can get around the law by providing “a valid and sufficient reason” not to cast a ballot, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that would be.  Somehow, I don’t think “they’re all a bunch of wankers” would cut it.  Mandatory democracy might be a cure-all for optional apathy, but I’m on the other side of the fence.  I know more than a few people who have made the world a better place by not voting.

And finally:

There are still quite a few Putin supporters in the kleptocracy formerly known as Russia.  Here’s a guy who’s been winning elections by wide margins ever since he snuck under the wire with 53% in 2000.  Two decades later, he’s claiming a 75% approval rate, and anybody who disagrees better hire a food taster.  Poison and prison are the go-to political strategies of Putin and his pals, and so far, they seem to be working – Alexei Navalny notwithstanding.  But Putinmania is not a monolith, and ever since his tanks rolled into Ukraine, there have been some serious cracks showing.

Here’s a joke that’s been circulating east of the Vistula recently.

Every morning in Moscow, a man goes to a newsstand.  He buys a newspaper, looks at the front page and throws it away.  After a couple of weeks of this, the newsagent asks “What are you doing?  Every morning you come here, buy a newspaper, look at the front page and throw it away.  What’s the deal?”  The man replies, “I’m looking for an obituary.”  The newsagent doesn’t understand and says, “Obituaries aren’t on the front page.”  The man smiles and says, “This one will be.”


Paris 2019


We’re in Paris.  The clouds threaten rain and the unions a General Strike: c’est le vie!  I love Paris.  It sings.  It dances.  It laughs.  And it has an unconscious cool that I always hope is contagious.  Plus, it’s Fashion Week – the World Cup of Who’s Wearing What.  No, we’re not going to be sitting in the cheap seats, looking for celebs; we have other things to do.  Things like the cemetery at Montparnasse to lay a pen on Baudelaire’s grave (we promised) the Luxemburg Gardens for the puppet show, and a glass of wine and a few tears across the river from Notre Dame.  But mostly, we’re just going to hang out – try and catch the rhythm of a Parisian lunch, stroll the boulevards and maybe have one too many glasses of wine in some café somewhere.

But I said all this to say this space may suffer.  Between the time change, the Wi-Fi, the food, the wine and the unavoidable fact that I’m no travel writer, the next few weeks at WDFYFE.NET are going to be hit-and- miss, so please have patience.  Anyway, I’ll try my best to … Just a sec! … “Bonjour, deux verres de vin rouge, s’il vous plait.” … See what I mean?  In Paris, life intervenes.  C’est le vie!

The Bells Of Notre Dame


Several years ago, we rented an apartment on Rue du Petit Pont in Paris.  And for a lifetime of springtime, we walked, talked, laughed, cried and slept within the sound of the bells of Notre Dame.  They woke us up in the morning and put us to bed at night.  In the afternoons, we heard them with “une verre de vin rouge, s’il vous plait.”  And in the evenings, they rang as the great cathedral itself emerged from the gathering night, heavy with light.  And it was always there, from the sidewalks of the Seine, that we saw the people – people drawn to the light – drawn to the cathedral – drawn to the beating heart of Paris.  People from around the world and across the street.  We saw mimes and jugglers and fire eaters who blew plumes of flame into the sky.  Once, we saw a woman cross the bridge on rollerblades, weaving through traffic with one hand on her telephone and the other holding a cigarette – Gauloises, I suspect.  Once, we saw a line of pilgrims alive with faith and purpose and each one alone in exaltation.  We saw children with balloons and teenage lovers and workers eating their lunch.  On one particular afternoon, we saw a troupe of Esmeraldas, dancing through the tourist crowd, their brothers and boyfriends lurking with pickpocket intent.  We met a man from Italy who thought we were German. A man from Normandy who liked Kay’s hat.  And an elegant woman who became a character in one of my stories.  All in the shadow of Notre Dame.

Today, the heart of Paris is burning, and I whisper a prayer because once, in an infinite springtime, I sat in the warm evening and watched the world light up with the sound of the bells of Notre Dame.