Violence will catch up with us in Bordeaux. But first, in the French holiday delayed by Covid, it’s a first week in Paris before the second week in Bordeaux. It begins in a hotel on the Left Bank near the Luxembourg Gardens. Springtime in Paris. The hotel room, just under the eaves, has a view which swings from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame with Sacre Coeur in between. The room is in the old wing and has an odd-shaped and marvellous creakingly tiny lift that really has plenty of room for two people—if we both breathe in. It reaches only up to the sixth floor and from there we drag cases up a bare wooden staircase to the floor above. Nearby there is a fine wine bar (Au Père Louis), an excellent bakery (L’Épi du Prince) and most of what we want to see is only a short walk away. Even La Libraire Nouvelle—the only right-wing bookshop in Paris—is only a short stroll away facing the Gardens. On the street leading to the Pantheon a bus, destination Veterinary School, carries a large poster advertising a barbecue fair.
It’s nice to be in Paris again. Even here, in tourist Paris, we notice the occasional boarded-up shop fronts—victims of leftist violence objecting to the raising of the retirement age by the Macron government.
On our first full day, fine weather for the general strike, my ticket to see the Monet Water Lilies in the Orangerie gets me into a queue but not into the gallery, which the strike has closed. Afterwards, in a way, I’m glad because my earlier memory is of finding it by accident and being almost alone to wander around. Paris is not like that any more. Still, we are given access to the temporary Matisse exhibition and though I have lost the cost of my booked-in-advance tickets a few days later, my bank account is debited for the exhibition I did see.
Michael Connor appears in every Quadrant.
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After a coffee in Place Colette we wander along the rue de Rivoli; several hours later the street is hit by a wave of protesters who attack and loot an Occitane perfumery. Violence is occurring, but for tourists like us it seems either just out of sight or to have happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow.
Sainte Chapelle on the Île de la Cité is inside the boundaries of the modern Palais de Justice. I’m reading V13 by Emmanuel Carrère which is his account of the terrorist trial which took place here from September 2021 to June 2022 under maximum security. This way to Sainte Chapelle, that way to a refurbished courtroom with fourteen accused, 1800 plaintiffs, 350 lawyers and fifty-three metres of evidence—not in the courtroom were the 130 dead from the attacks, or the people who killed them. It’s as though during that time Hell was in the carefully prepared, and terrorist-proofed, courtroom and Heaven in Sainte Chapelle—suddenly revealed after climbing a narrow winding stone staircase, a room of pure soaring medieval stained glass. But Heaven would not be so crowded or so noisy—as the clamour mounts there is suddenly a recorded Sssh Ssssh and the noise level drops, temporarily. A Japanese woman smiles for selfies then opens her bag, takes out a doll, places it on her shoulder and snaps more selfies.
Afterwards, after crossing the Seine, I’m just outside the Sennelier art supply shop (Cézanne and Picasso among their customers). Even in a city where the sirens never stop wailing, the approaching wall of noise does seem attention-grabbing. A horde of gendarmerie vans stream into view as they pass from the Right Bank across the Pont du Carrousel to swish past me, turn right, and disappear. Each vehicle is packed with gendarmes.
It’s Easter. On Good Friday we wander into a procession of Catholics, led by priests and altar boys, winding its way down Boulevard Saint Germain performing the Stations of the Cross. They push their way through uninterested, uncomprehending crowds. In Paris, in the Catholic churches we visited God is a vague and uncertain presence—perhaps Catholicism has gone online? At the entrances the holy water fonts are dry and dusty (Covid precaution?). The churches have become monuments. They swarm with tourists like us. In one church even the altar has been invaded by us. A revitalised Catholicism would start by kicking us out. Though a sign of living religious life is that on the Pentecost weekend in May 16,000 pilgrims and 330 priests walk the ninety-seven kilometres from Saint-Sulpice in Paris to Chartres Cathedral, a line of people stretching almost ten kilometres. The pilgrims are traditional Catholics, proponents of the Latin Mass and the pre-1962 missal before the Second Vatican Council ruined everything. Also in May there were, on a single day, more than 33,000 selfie tourists trampling about Mont Saint Michel. The overcrowding was so great that authorities stopped the continuous shuttle-bus system between the carparks and the monument for several hours—the free buses replace a thirty-minute walk.
On Boulevard Voltaire after having lunch at the Hotel du Nord (drawn by the ghosts of the movie of the same name with Arletty and Louis Jouvet) I’m lost and head in the wrong direction. This is the same street where cafe terraces were shot up in 2015, the same street where concert-goers at the Bataclan were massacred and policemen risked their lives to take down mass murderers—just days afterwards it’s the same street where a policeman will be set on fire by protesters.
I want to have a coffee at the Deux Magots or Flore but they are crowded and tourists like me are queuing for tables. I give up. Last time I was here it was late at night and I asked where Monsieur Sartre was. “He’s sleeping, monsieur,” said the waiter. Funny the memories we carry around. I was young and it was a long time ago.
At the Musée d’Orsay there is an exhibition of Degas and Manet (or Monet—not sure which). The exhibition was so packed, with people taking photos, the blobs on the wall were unseeable. Heading away, anywhere out, I walked into a display of Art Nouveau furniture—absolutely empty, until a noisy group of Spanish women come and go, surely not talking of Michelangelo.
One afternoon, crossing the Place de la Bastille, I admire the familiar architecture—not the Opéra Bastille. A woman exits as I approach and I reach for the closing door. “Non!” she cries and saves me from a miserable fate. I had forgotten how much I hate self-cleaning toilets but soon remembered as I hung about outside waiting for the cleaning to end and the green light to come on. When I emerged two more people were desperately jiggling about—I delayed them because I had also forgotten that these wretched things don’t flush until you leave and the cleaning operation begins. Does anyone need reminding that Paris has a hopeless socialist mayor?
Exiting Paris for Bordeaux we drag suitcases past a boarded-up BNP branch and take the number 58 bus outside the Senate to the Gare Montparnasse. The bus lumbers past La Rotonde restaurant, which had its awnings set alight by protesters several days before. Our ABC reported on the event stupidly and claimed that La Rotonde “is known in France for hosting a much-criticised celebratory dinner for Mr Macron when he led the first round of the 2017 presidential election”.
It’s another national strike day and in Bordeaux I find the protesters spread along the tramlines beside the river just in front of the imposing Bourse—they had halted when I came across them. Several food sellers had set up in the elegant open place. I bought some chips—they were hot from the oil, crisp, salty and delicious. Frites (five euros) and a protest—nothing could be nicer. Having frozen in place, the protesters when observed seemed just a collection of oldish people and not remarkable for its ethnic mix. There was even an unkindness of feminists (or is that ravens?) behind an equally miserable banner and they added an unpleasantly nostalgic touch to the event—French women have other things than the pension age to be concerned about. Many protesters were surely public employees who seem most concerned by the age changes. There was a large woman, in a large green overcoat, with a large green whistle. There was live music and protest songs and she blew her whistle in time with the music. Like me, she seemed to be having a marvellous time. She may have been too young for the events of 1968 and was making up for it. These people are idiots—of the useful-to-the-far-Left category. Later in the day there will be some violence around their protest.
At the Cathedrale Saint-André they do a good business selling candles in glass containers—we tourists like them—it seems to be an acceptable form of necromancy. Lighting a candle is not the moment for prayer I remember but an opportunity for selfies and no-religion-necessary wish-making. A chapel near the main altar has been closed off because a genuine service is taking place—the real Catholics shielded from prodding by tourists.
The very pleasant square outside has a nice grand cafe and you can sit and admire the eighteenth-century town hall. The great blackened wooden door is still in place and has become a tourist attraction. It was set on fire only a few weeks before and the Green mayor had not yet set in place either preservation or replacement. Beside it are niches with two statues. A young woman climbs the male figure on the right.
Elsewhere the Eglise Notre Dame is very imposing. Near the main entrance in a small, elegant and quiet square is a statue of Goya, who lived and died nearby. Several military vehicles drive into the square and park. Armed, green-bereted soldiers step out. They rapidly form up and head out in single file to patrol the city streets. On the church is a cheerful sign: “It is possible that in entering this church you will hear God calling. On the other hand, it is highly unlikely he will contact you by telephone. Thank you for turning off your phones.” At the bottom was a further note in small type: “If you wish to talk to God, enter, choose a quiet place and talk to him; if you wish to see him, send him a text message when driving.”
On Monday night at eight o’clock, President Macron makes a national address on television about the new pension changes. The allocution ends and almost immediately there is live footage of protests in Paris. The crowds who have taken to the streets are noisy and violent. Then the shouting and noise aren’t coming from the television, but much closer.
Down on the pavement we walk to the crossroads and turn the corner. These are comfortable narrow streets and just ahead of us, at the junction with Avenue Alsace Lorraine where the tramlines run, a fire is burning. The action is really very close. It’s dark now and the protesters, many in black, are young. They are noisy. There is a “concert de casseroles”, a banging of pots and pans, reminiscent of the nightly concerts performed in Algiers during certain stages of the Algerian War—by the people who lost. Just further down the street more garbage bins and piles of collected rubbish are alight and the plastic produces an impenetrable wave of thick black smoke. It must be the single-use plastic the Greens campaign about. The fire burns and the protesters march on.
Writing in Le Figaro Magazine, Judith Waintraub describes accurately the tactics of the Antifas and Black Bloc thugs which we are seeing as “a frontal shock strategy, which overwhelms the police and benefits from the leniency of justice”. What is happening in America disguised behind Black Lives Matter and in France behind the pension protest could burst upon us with the Voice movement. The causes used by the extremists are a smokescreen for their attacks on Western society. President Macron has used a word we should get used to —“decivilisation”.
The mob passes, the fires burn and we go back to the pleasant apartment (L’Appart D’Oli et Tiane). Surely, just hours ago, these same fire-lighting fanatics were the same young people, with clean shoes, we were sitting with in the spring sunlight in cafe terraces nearby. The pension protests have also coincided with the end of senior school examinations, which have freed up eager politicised adolescents to join their older friends. If the Voice referendum takes place late in the year after Australian schools release senior students, then expect the indoctrinated products of our school system to take their places on the streets.
Suddenly, again, loud noise has returned and is right beneath our windows. The protest line has swung about and is now passing us by. Back to the street. In the time it takes to walk one and a half floors of stone stairs and open a large old blue door, garbage bins are already burning. Whatever accelerant they are using is very fast-acting. At the crossroads they have made a high pile of plastic wheelie bins which are burning fiercely. There is an explosion from inside one of the bins and we all leap back. The procession is moving on. The bins topple. They fall towards a parked white car and the flames are soon attacking its rear. Again those of us watching move away as we expect the car to start burning. Several young men work together and try to push it away from the flames but they are unsuccessful. Another young man runs into the roadway, opens the car door, throws himself inside and drives further away to view the damage. There is clapping (was it me?) though few people join in.
The fire is now being tended by the sort of freakish person you would move away from if you came upon him in the street. He has started a crazed sort of dance around the burning plastic. He even adds what he finds nearby, a wire mesh grill, to the flames. Later, when it is less fierce, a fire truck arrives and competently extinguishes the fire. By eight o’clock the next morning council workers have cleared away the mess. They appear to be black immigrant workers. The plastic fire was built on a rainbow pedestrian crossing and a large circle of paint has been burnt out—homophobia?
It is only a minor protest and a local correspondent for Le Figaro writes an online report: 200 protesters and thirty rubbish-bin bonfires. Two of the fires were particularly serious—one outside a police station and another against a bank. Only the arrival of the fire brigade prevented further damage. There is also a film of the protest on YouTube (titled “Concert de casseroles puis manifestation sauvage Bordeaux 17 Avril 2023” and embedded below). It shows a mixed group of protesters in the place in front of the Town Hall and its cruelly charred door; they then move into the streets—the violence is planned and begins immediately. The events in front of our apartment are shown around the 10.00 mark. Some of the protesters are armed with iron bars—there are no arrests. Around 15.48 on the video a progressive protester throws a homosexual insult at the police (pédés).
I have a sensation of déjà vu that it’s the early 1780s and the aristocrats have been play-acting in the safety of Versailles. I’m wrong. It’s 2023 and the far Left are waging civil war. But this is not the real story in France. It’s still Ramadan. Millions of people were at home eating the delicious food prepared by their mothers, sisters and aunts when, on a television in the background, Macron was talking and streets were burning. For the coming war against France, these protests are suicidal preparation for what is to come. The people I saw in the street are the cast of the curtain raiser before the main feature begins. They are so stupid they even believe they are the allies of an enemy who will wipe them out without compassion or hesitation. The young protesters have forgotten that 130 people just like them were massacred in November 2015. The real actors in the real drama to be played in France are out there on the streets selling drugs, studying Islamic fundamentalism in the French prisons, watching beheading videos in their bedrooms, teaching in hidden schools. Waiting.
According to an opinion poll carried by IFOP (Institut français d’opinion publique) in 2020 38 per cent of French Muslims and 57 per cent of young French Muslims consider sharia law more important than Republic law. A recent study of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in France by Florence Bergeaud-Blackler brought her death threats and police protection. A planned conference she was to give at the Sorbonne in May was cancelled for “security” reasons. A Paris taxi driver tells me, so it must be true, that weapons that have flooded into Ukraine are also pouring back across the border into Europe.
Hobart. On the flight back the airline screen periodically shows the direction of Mecca and updated Muslim prayer times. A bearded man near the emergency exit prays. When I get home I find my computer has been colonised by an interfering Bing and I can’t get rid of it. Everything is working slowly. I fiddle and attempt to clean up my files. I click a tab and too late realise it is taking me out of sites I subscribe to and they will all need to be signed into again. For YouTube I’ve forgotten my details and instead of seeing the videos I am used to I see a completely different version of YouTube—video after video is concerned with the mystery, magic and power of the Muslim religion, all directed to a young Western audience whose education has carefully destroyed belief in their own cultures, Christian religions, and homelands.