According to Garrison Keillor “a postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one… fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write…”  These are my Postcards from France:


Two very confused collared doves are sitting staring at a tree stump, wondering where their nest has gone.  The neighbour came and cut down a 9m-high laurel tree because it was blocking his light.  I feel almost as confused as the birds.  And very exposed. The tree gave us privacy.   (see postcard # 1904)


Marine Le Pen’s far-fight party is said to have borrowed millions from a Russian bank to finance previous election campaigns.  In 2017, Le Pen met Putin and spoke of a new world order spear-headed  by Le Pen, Putin and Trump.  Neither this, nor the current devastation of Ukraine with its human rights abuses and crimes against not just humanity but the environment, have sufficiently  deterred supporters in France where she is still a contender for the presidency.  Voting takes place next Sunday.


Reading a New York Times theatre review I came across this story from the 1990s, when an East Coast Theatre was thinking of commissioning a piece exploring US influence on Palestine – “on thinking and consciousness and not in just a political way.”  A Palestinian is riled: “Don’t get arrogant. It’s not a one-way relationship. Our land has produced the foundation blocks of Western civilization. The idea of one god was hatched in our neck of the woods.”


Any one who heard Fergal Keane’s reports from Rwanda, any one who read Season of Blood, would, I hope, be forever haunted by accounts of what happened in that country during the 100-day period in 1994 where c. a million people were mutilated, massacred, hacked to death.  Before this sickest of deals, even a Tory MP said Priti Patel’s behaviour  would be “a resigning matter under any normal administration”.  Johnson’s is normal government. It plans to deport vulnerable people  to a regime that persistently uses surveillance, intimidation and violence to suppress dissent.


The five greenest (most ecological towns) in France are, in first place, Angers then Nantes, Strasbourg, Lyon and Caen.  There was only one Green Party candidate in the first round of the French Presidential elections. This is how he had fared: in Angers he got 8.32% of the votes, 9.98% in Nantes, 6.41% in Strasbourg, 4.6% in Lyon and 8% in Caen.


I haven’t thought of the Grand National in years, haven’t placed a bet in decades but when a friend told me she had a bet on Fiddler On The Roof I looked at the form and asked five different people to place a bet for me on Noble Yeats.  Noble Yeats won at 50-1.  Had those bets been placed, I would now be laughing.  


In our town, Mélanchon was in first place with 2209 votes (27.63%).  In the outlying villages and the region as a whole  Le Pen was elected.  Society is increasingly polarised.  Radio France Inter aired the theory Zemmour was in fact Le Pen’s campaign manager – his extremist views making her views on immigration and Islam seem more electable.


From the New York Times 10 April 2022: The possibility of France lurching toward an anti-NATO, pro-Russia, xenophobic and nationalistic position in the event of a Le Pen victory constitutes a potential shock as great as the 2016 British vote for Brexit or the election the same year of Donald J. Trump as president in the United States.


I walked past the mairie on my way to market at 8am as cars pulled up and ancient couples got out to vote.   There were fewer gendarmes policing today’s elections than oversaw those gathering two weeks ago to listen to poetry at a local primary school.  Elderly voters tend to be Conservative, reactionary.


The slogans are (roughly from political left to extreme far right) Le camp des travailleurs (Trotskyist); ensemble changeons d’avenir; l’urgence anti-capitaliste; la France des jours heureux (looks like an 80s pop star); un autre monde est possible; faire face (Green Party); La France authentique (ruralist); nous tous (= Macron);  le courage de faire;  femme d’etat (links with Putin); Liberté (ironic) and pour que la France reste la France (peddling hatred and lies, dangerously rewriting history).


Today is voting day, round one of the French Presidential elections. It’s alarming to see what’s happened politically in the years we’ve lived in France.  I want to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and shout so the whole country can hear “Be careful what you wish for!”


Older cars may now face hefty fines if driven in some French towns.  It’s supposed to be a move to tackle pollution – as if manufacturing the big gaudy-coloured SUVs you see everywhere is good for the planet.  What’s needed is an affordable, reliable, well-thought out public transport system.   


I could fly to Naples – 4000 km away – for 26€ return, less than it costs to take the train and tube to visit my son 50kms away in Toulouse.  Public transport costs three times more and takes much longer than one person driving a car, even with motorway tolls.  And trains don’t always run at convenient times. 


With less than two weeks to go before the presidential election, The Shift Project has analysed in detail each candidate’s policies on the environment. Not one meets the criteria set by the Paris Agreement.  The far left candidate is closest, with ideas for changing infrastructures to adapt to climate change. The further right the politics, the worse it gets. The far right’s policies are actively detrimental to the environment (among other things!).


In his book The Creative Spark, Augustin Fuentes argues that creativity and cooperation have been the great drivers of human progress, that the ability to imagine and turn imagination into reality is what makes us distinctive. Without art, he says, we’re not human.  Making, seeing and thinking about art is positively good for us.  So let’s make art, not war.


From Denmark to Indonesia, Taiwan to Greece, Russia and India to Canada you will find adaptations of King Lear. Lear’s words cast spells in innumerable languages including Arabic, Polish, Urdu, Yiddish, Tamil, Greek and Japanese. Lear has been found beside a broken-down bus in the African desert, ranches in Texas and Iowa, getting stoned on a sofa in Ireland…


… Lear is  there in big corporations, mafia circles, an old people’s home. His story has been played out by samurai warriors, Indian film actors-playing-actors, Keralese dancers, puppets, Polish Catholic clergy and in oils on canvas. His story makes sense in the Noh theatre of Japan, Taiwanese dance, comic book format, feudal Russia.


King Lear is about the breakdown of society, families, civilisation.   It’s a tragedy in which all the values we think of as protecting our sense of humanity are attacked. A play about confronting the worst, it can prove overwhelming in performance.  An inmate at a high security prison said: “I had to leave. It was like my own family – that’s how they carry on.”


Last Sunday I went to the market early and came home feeling ill.  There are pictures of Zemmour everywhere – smiling white people pledging their support for the man who is deeply islamaphobic,  incites racial hatred and who hopes to be France’s next president.  Guilty of twisting history, he plays on people’s (unfounded) fears and is a powerful force in the media.