'We are not amused.'
Henceforth within this article, the 'Royal we' shall apply, to refer to myself and every other right-minded citizen of 'la belle France'. Right-minded? Well, definitely right of centre, but not intentionally so; the alternative being too horrible to contemplate; Le Pen definitely being mightier than the sword.
'We are on strike.'
BBC headlines read 'France hit by massive strike'. 'France faces strike paralysis.' All this sounds pretty serious, so when I read this I thought perhaps a trip into town was called for.
As I wander past the binbags (dustmen) and past the bus stop (not much point in waiting) I pass a jolly lady delivering letters. This bodes well for my prospects of extracting money from La Poste (the only financial institution willing to accept me as a customer). She confirms that La Poste is in fact 'ouvert'; to what extent remains to be seen. You have to understand that disruption, rather than total anarchy is the name of the game here, so far at least.
The doors open; this is a good sign. There is a queue, this is normal, one of the more unwelcome British imports.
There are two robed ladies ululating loudly in the corner. This is not a good omen. I 'tatakallum Arabi'; I fully understand it means 'no money' and am not a happy camper. My beaming smile, Socialist Workers International Membership card and empty purse prove utterly futile. I exit, euroless, though my punchline of 'Vive la bloody France' does at least provide some amusement for the downtrodden masses all this is supposed to benefit.
I need some sort of chemical prop by now; the bars appear to be open and I have managed to collar a genuine Froggy friend and persuade him to explain the political ins and outs of all this over a drink. (He's paying, of course as, in theory at least, he is richer than me, therefore I am exploited ) So I go scuttling off to find some ciggies.
QUELLE HORREUR! The Tabac is shut!!!!
It suddenly strikes home that what I am experiencing is of immense importance.
'Nous sommes en grève.'
'We are on strike.'
The only response possible is Merde; putain!'; which loosely means 'Oh, bother! Fiddlesticks! What a dashed inconvenience!'
I decide to find out just why we are on strike.
Old people should always be treated with forbearance and kindness. Increasing infirmities sometimes render them over-sensitive and querulous, and every effort should be made to provide them with some light handicraft, so that they may be encouraged to feel themselves a help rather than a hindrance.
I think most reasonable people would agree with that and I would assume that it would be considered fairly kind to provide them with a little bit of money to help them to perhaps purchase:
'A little whisky in hot water or milk, at bedtime, helps to promote sleep.Stimulants are beneficial in strictly moderate quantities.'
Well, yes, quite. We can't have Granny zooming round the block on her zimmer frame breaking the speed limits can we? Probably with a CD player blasting out 'My Generation'; having proved that 'Hope I die before I get old' seems to have been replaced by 'When I'm 64'.
That, of course, is what all the fuss is about, the bloody baby boomers seem to have survived (for the most part) gratuitous sex, drugs and rock 'n roll and be with society still, someone now has to pay for all this.'We are on strike.'
This is precisely why we are on strike. 'We' for the most part (at least two thirds of the population of France) seem to feel that making people pay for at least 40 years into a pension scheme if they are to have any chance whatsoever of surviving after a lifetime's work is possibly not behaving with forbearance and kindness.
So, what to do with all these querulous old people then?
*Blinding flash of inspiration time*
Give them all a computer, that'll keep the little dears happy! At the moment, 62% of Brits have tried the net, but only 15% of those are aged 65+. However, Age Concern is offering free internet taster sessions in an attempt to increase this percentage.
This could be dangerous. If you take Members of Parliament for example (most people wouldn't, granted, but I suppose someone has to); only half of those aged 20 to 35 years have their own website, whereas three-quarters of wrinkly MP's over 65 do. Mind you, the poor dears really don't have much idea what the job involves; one in four of them receive more than 25 emails PER WEEK !!!! Never mind, 40% of them don't bother responding for at least a fortnight.
I'm all for radical solutions myself. The Home of Today has some excellent advice on what to do with all these old cocks:
'Electrifying the Grandfather: with pendulum and weights being no longer required... the bottom... can be turned into a cupboard to hold bottles of wine and spirits. An interesting, though not especially beautiful, clock, is the large, black-faced, gilt-figured 'Act of Parliament' timepiece.
Yes. As for what to put into those bottles, if you are looking for something ancient to pop into Grandad's milk, our good friend The Hon Wm (Cocktail) Boothby gives this advice for adulteration and ageing of whiskey:
'To each barrel of whiskey, add three-quarters of a gallon of prune-juice (a concoction made of steamed prunes, blood, spirits and sugar.)'
I shall leave you with one of the most poignant pages of 'Cours d' Anglais'. Page 51 introduces Old Joe; if this doesn't stir up the urge to strike, nothing will:
'Old Joe goes to the window. Old Joe on the road. Old Joe in the snow. It is cold.'