|Municipal Monstrosities, N° 10|
Anyway, you'd think that by now I'd have learnt to avoid vernissages. Young Hélène (who is only 70, and not to be confused with old Hélène, who is not) gave us some invites to the opening of an exposition at her second home, off in Aigues-Vives about ten minutes from here as the crow flies, twenty as the road wriggles. (Actually, there are about five places called Aigues-Vives in the Aude - it means "lively water" in occitan - and so of course poor Neville, who also go an invite, got hopelessly lost and headed off to one of the wrong ones.)
The exposition was good stuff, the work of an ancient English guy who'd spent yonks in Italy, Germany and France: collages, intricately detailed constructions of string, paper and scraps of wood, and some prints. It was the last that really caught my eye, and by the time we left we'd arranged to buy two. Which was not on my agenda when we set out.
They are more worried about who represents them where it counts, at the local level. (And given the miserable levels of participation in France even for those, I have to believe that lots of people have given up on the whole thing.)
Up to now it's been a club for superannuated politicians who can posture as they like (hell, José Bové was a candidate this year, and if anyone can posture it's him) knowing full well that with no power comes no responsibility. And now, in old news, it's been taken over by people who want to destroy it. Maybe not a bad thing, it's not as though it ever served any useful purpose apart from paying burnt-out hacks vast sums of money to shuttle between Berlaymont and Strasbourg, and flap their mouths where no-one's going to listen. I suppose it keeps them off the dole, and out of the unemployment figures.
Also, given the endemic corruption, it also keeps their immediate families and their idiot nephews off benefits as well. And it would be overly harsh to say that they do absolutely nothing: to show willing, it has been known for them to commission an outside consultant to produce a report - on what doesn't really matter. The consultant, not necessarily related, is paid by the MEP - or rather, his office, funded by the EU - who then multiplies the already inflated bill by some number or another but invariably more than three, and then bills that amount to the EU as expenses. Nice job, if you can get it.
Changing subjects entirely and completely without warning, it was not without a twinge that I suggested to Margo that we head off on a drive. Brought back childhood memories of being bundled into the back seat of the family car for that New Zealand penitential tradition, the "Sunday drive". We always pretended that we enjoyed it, for fear of being abandoned in a forest somewhere.
And as you will note, its coat of arms figures a crownèd serpent chowing down on a poor small wriggly guy who seems rather uncomfortable with the whole business, which is kind of odd because up till now the only place I've seen that is on the badge of an Alfa Romeo ...
Now as it turns out the Alfa badge has on the left side a red cross on a white background in memory of the Crusaders, and on the right side this people-eating snake, which is the blason of the city of Milan, which inherited it (OK, stole it when no-one was looking, they're Italians) from the Visconti family - and nobody knows where they
Apart from being pretty, the place is also renowned for making what is possibly the best olive oil in France (and, therefore, the world). I cannot actually vouch for that because I could not try a glug from every bottle - time, and the fact that Shaun was in the back of the car, desperate to throw up again, would not permit it - but I can say that the stuff is eye-wateringly expensive.
But before that, I'd better go get some sun. Only got another four months of it before autumn rolls around again.