Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Basically I really do live in a rural idyll. Just now and then something shakes our small community to the core. One of my neighbours has an old Renault - so old that spares have to be cloned from cells scraped from an exhaust pipe found in Roman ruins. A few nights ago both of her front indicator lamps were stolen! Now, really this should not be surprising. In my old south London home they would have stolen the car, pinched the lights and set fire to it. However, here the act seems shocking. The reason for this is that when crime and selfish thuggery are "normal" in a society, it becomes a constant background noise - like elevator music or 24 hour rolling news.(Once upon a time there was a land without news). Here, such a crime is like a rock cast into a still lake or a clap of thunder from a blue sky. Last year someone stole a small solar lamp in the shape of a snail from my garden. Gilles says it must have been a robot hedgehog but that's the kind of thing he says to distract me from deep distress. So, I've been thinking about this. Once a street has a discarded cigarette packet on the ground, others will throw down more and more and more. Once crime becomes that background hum more and more crime will add to the sound and we all become immune to it. When I came to St Savinien from London, the hum stopped, and I heard the silence. So, we know the answer. The crime to stop is the first one. You offer ruthless massive punishments for plastic snail and car light rustling. Even if it worked for a day, the citizens would have heard the silence probably for the first time and would demand it as their right. Actually IT IS THEIR RIGHT.
The enforcement of law and order in France is slightly more complicated than in the UK. Essentially there are 2 police forces - La Gendarmerie and La Police Nationale. Obviously there are overlaps and shared missions but broadly les Gendarmes look after rural France and La Police Nationale look after the cities and larger towns. Unlike the Brits, the French had a militarily trained police force as far back as 1337 and probably a while before that. As an institution they survived the Revolution since they were perceived as on the side of the people. In my own small contacts with them their officers have been immaculate and correct, if maybe a little stiff. They don't seem to do the gum chewing, wise cracking, world weary, feet on the desk routine.
Somewhere in the boiler/utility room there is a spider. It sprang from a pile of washing. I slammed the door, wedged newspapers in the gaps and have retreated to my desk. If he wants any clean shirts he'll have to deal with it properly. All he does is put them outside where they wait a few days, grow to double the size and come back in. If all fails I'm gonna send in a remote controlled hedgehog.
Emma thinx: If a problem is out of control: stand back. You may be the fuel.