Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Antoinette in 1942
Today I accompanied my wife to the city crematorium to say a final goodbye to her mother Antoinette who had died ten days earlier at the age of 94. It was a modest gathering: only six of us were there, including her two brothers.
I had known Antoinette only for six years until her death. The first time I met her was just after I moved to Nice and it was in her apartment. At the time she could still walk with difficulty and take care of herself with the help of a domestic aide. But she was already a very old woman with sad brown eyes. Six years is a very short time when you think of her long life. The rest of her life, 88 years of it, I have no way of knowing except through anecdotes that my wife and her brothers relate. And these anecdotes didn't seem to make her more real in my mind. On the contrary, they seemed to make her more insubstantial, more inaccessible, not to say more mysterious, than before. Then, I wondered if it was me, not her, who became insubstantial.
One of the brothers of my wife had come to the funeral from Corsica with his daughter whom I had never met. At the lunch table in our apartment, where all close family members - all of them French except me - gathered, he introduced me to her, saying I am her uncle. The daughter looked bemused. I, on the other hand, was more than confused. He was absolutely right about it but the thought had never occurred to me. Am I really her uncle? Do I really belong to this family? I don't even feel I belong here, to this Mediterranean town, to this country, from time to time. I often wonder where I am.
It is eminently true that this family exists, probably more solidly than I. There is a long history about it; there are many legends and anecdotes about it; there are sons and daughters and grandchildren to sustain it. When I look at the photo of Antoinette taken in 1942 (even before I was born), I see a peasant girl as robust and solid as a rock. She is there in front of my eyes but she is totally inaccessible to me. She stands too far away or I am too far away from her. We really don't belong to each other.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday, December 12, 2014

A little incident at the tobacconist's shop

After a long day of work, I went into a tobacconist's shop to buy a pack of cigarettes. It was the shop I had frequented for some time. I knew the people who worked there. But this time a young woman whom I had never seen before was serving clients at the counter, as I remember now, in a rather insolent manner. I asked her a pack of cigarettes, politely, as usual. She gave me a soft pack, but I wanted a hard one. So, I asked her to give me a hard one. She didn't understand me and gave me a soft and a hard pack. My money was already on the counter. I began to explain her what I wanted but she still didn't understand. Then she suddenly changed her attitude and she began to treat me like a con man trying to swindle a few euros out of her. She ordered me not to touch the cigarettes on the counter in a very severe voice... I was once in another tobacconist's where a shop assistant tried to short-change me.
The French are not known for politeness as everyone knows. But even they say that rudeness and deceitfulness that they encounter daily in Nice are quite shocking. At times like these, I wish I were somewhere else. Anywhere.

Friday, March 07, 2014


Last week I went back to Paris for the first time in twenty years. Contrary to my expectations, I found Paris was not at all what I remembered. The streets appeared much wider and the buildings much bigger. I felt as if I had shrunk. Then, in other parts of Paris, I found things were much narrower and smaller. It was a little disconcerting because I had thought my memories stayed solid and unadulterated even after this long interlude. If my memory is as unreliable as this, what can I trust about myself?
I wandered around Paris like a ghost from the past.  And then we passed Place Saint-Michel. How many times had I passed in front of that fountain? Just like before, I saw people hanging around, waiting for friends or lovers.  They were talking, pacing around, laughing, smoking. Of course, they were not the same people I had seen twenty years earlier. They were different. It's the same stage, the same script but only with different actors. My time at Paris was over long time ago and now new people have come to replace us all. Paris is big and monstrous like this.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Car torching: annual New Year celebration French style

Car torching is an annual event on New Year's Eve in France. This year a total of 1067 vehicles were torched all over France according to the Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls.
In our prefecture of the Alpes-Maritimes 39 cars were torched. In Nice the first torching was reported in Ariane, a crime-ridden, immigrant neighborhood in the north of the city. Firefighters went in under police protection to extinguish the fire - they never go there alone for fear of their own safety. While fighting the fire, they narrowly dodged a falling concrete parasol stand tossed from an apartment balcony above.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

"A couple attacked for a parking space in Menton"

From today's Nice-Matin 

The alleged attackers, one of whom is an officer of the Monaco National Police, claimed that they were from the police to keep witnesses from coming to help the victims who were being held down and beaten.

"Stay away! We are the police!" It's under this false pretense that the attack took place in the night of Saturday and Sunday. It originated from a dispute over a parking space.

The fact of the matter goes back to the night of Saturday and Sunday: it was past midnight when Sébastien Pesty knocked on the door of a neighbor at the Route de Sospel in Menton to ask him to vacate his parking space. "He flatly refused and, losing his temper, said to me that I didn't have to park in that parking place, and that his own place had been taken," told the newspaper agent of the neighborhood Careï. The matter could have stay there as a minor dispute between neighbors.

"Punitive expedition"

Then, as Sébatien Pesty claims, he became a victim of a "veritable punitive expedition". The owner of the vehicle who had parked in a wrong parking place took offense at his neighbor's remarks. Together with his father and brother, he started banging on the shutter of the bar above which its manager lived. The local Menton police was then alerted about the noise. But as the banging continued insistently, the bar owner took action to stop the disturbance. As soon as he opened the shutter, he was grabbed by two individuals and a third beat him up in front of his wife and child. Morevoer, while trying to intervene, Patricia Petsy was knocked down to the ground.

Policeman in Monaco but not in France

The attack took place before numerous witnesses on Saturday night. "To prevent them from intervening, the individuals pretended to be the police. They beat up the bar manager as well as his wife. They choked her, hit her and knocked her on the ground," explained a witness. 
One of the alleged attackers ordered the neighbors of Careï not to get involved in the "police" matter. This story is largely confirmed by many local residents.
When the "real" police arrived on the scene of altercation, they were challenged by people on apartment balconies, who accused them of being a party to this violent act. Clearly they got more than what they came for. 
But damage was done: the Petsy couple saw a "state-registered medical doctor" who prescribed each of them "8 days of disability leave from work".Charges have been filed by the newspaper agent couple for aggravated gang violence.
It has been revealed that the person against whom the Petsys filed charges is a police officer attached to the director of the National Police of the Principality of Monaco. So, he didn't lie when he said he was a police officer. But he had no authority to exercise his function in the French territory and above all, to act in this manner.