After an interminable winter, people are wandering outside this week to get a taste of sunshine, an element that now feels as priceless as caviar. Like goldfish bobbing to the surface of their aquarium to gobble down food, we turn our heads up and gulp down the few rays of sunlight that pierce through the clouds.
This was one of those record-breaking winters, not just in terms of quantity of snow and cold, but length. No one has ever seen anything like it, not the vegetable guy at the market, not the old lady downstairs, not even the weather service. It’s been so cold that it is mid-April and most of the trees still have no leaves. Plants whose buds usually start to open in late February are only daring to flower now. Who knows what kind of havoc this is going to wreak on food prices in the coming months, not to mention hay fever season.
Not only has the cold and grey had a serious impact on health and happiness on an individual level, but it seems to have also eaten a hole in the country’s psychic ozone layer. The number of scandals and predictions of doom has skyrocketed in the French media, which is not known for its sunny outlook even under the best circumstances. First there was the dreadful revelation that the budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, the guy in charge of cracking down on tax evasion—has been hiding money in a Swiss bank account and not paying his taxes. Apparently, he has been sleeping in his car to avoid the press. It is still unclear which is his worst sin: hiding the money or admitting that he lied about it. An elected official being linked to financial scandal is not an unusual occurrence in France, in fact it is so common that no one seems to think it’s a problem for a president to be under suspicion of fraud, or for a jailed politician to be elected again once he gets out of the clink. But what is unforgivable in this case is that the guy not only lied, but then he admitted that he lied. That is simply not done. What usually happens is that an official investigation drags on for so many years that by the time it goes to court, everyone has forgotten what the original fuss was about. What was he thinking? Must have been the weather that got to him.
But if that wasn’t bad enough, today's revelation is that the Grand Rabbi of France is not only a plagiarist, but also he lied about his academic credentials. I can only imagine the Talmudic discussions that are going to come out of that one. If you can’t trust the Grand Rabbi, who can you trust? Really, what I’d like to know is who is this guy in the first place and why is he so grand? What makes him any grander than any other rabbi? Why is this night different from any other night? If not now, when? All I can say is—feh.
You’ve probably noticed that I’m casually sauntering away from any discussion of the overall atmosphere of gloom and dismay that has settled over the current president, François Hollande, and his cabinet. (On top of everything else, the president's camel got eaten in Mali). I don’t feel qualified to even begin to sort that one out. Though he seems pretty OK to me, I hesitate to say that out loud or I could get punched out in my conservative suburb where half the population turned out for a march against the legalization of gay marriage. Don’t get me started…
Instead I think I’ll just sit on my balcony and soak up those rays and think about what plants I’m going to pot this weekend. That is, if it doesn’t rain.