Sunday, October 17, 2010


Many of you may have read about the recent troubles in Grenoble – I’m talking about social disorder here, not my personal troubles. They didn’t make the headlines, funnily enough.

I live on a council housing estate, Teisseire, in an area euphemistically deemed sensitive. A couple of months ago, riots broke out on a neighbouring housing estate, Villeneuve, and these did make the headlines. Nicolas Sarkozy even paid a visit to tick off the Prefet – in fact, he removed him from office and put an ex-police chief in charge instead.

That night, I sat on the balcony and watched the search helicopter as it circled above Villeneuve. I felt pretty safe. Although I live on the Teisseire housing estate, nothing exciting ever happens in my neighbourhood.

I spoke too soon. A week or so ago, a young drug dealer (he was only 24) was gunned down…practically at the end of my road and at the time my daughter would have been walking home from one of her wild nights out (as I imagine them to be). Fortunately, she decided to stay with a friend at the last minute.

A few days later, a car was set alight a little closer to home but still not close enough to really worry me. Just as long as they kept their hands off my car… beautiful new car. It was a gift from somebody I love very much although I’m a bit confused as to why he bought it for me now – but I’m going off topic. Sorry.

My car hasn’t escaped completely unscathed. Not long after I had proudly driven it home for the first time, somebody keyed it. I was quite upset even though I’m not at all materialistic. A car’s a car and as long as it gets me from A to B (via F, M and Q – but that’s just my eccentric sense of direction), I’m happy. But I was very, very upset.

Then a few days ago, some drunken louts backed into it and drove off roaring with laughter. If I ever see them again, I shall beat them to a pulp.

Last night, I drove wearily home from an English lesson and looked for a parking space. At that time of the evening, there usually aren’t any left but I saw two, and I chose the first one I came to even though it was further from my flat. Actually, I often park in the other space, which was closer. I wasn’t thinking clearly, I suppose. I still had ’ow are you, I’m fine, and you ? echoing in my brain.

Now to this evening, when a series of explosions jolted me from my habitual reverie (I was fantasizing about Gérard Depardieu begging me for the lead role in the film version of my book). I ran to the window and saw that a car had been set alight and for one panic-stricken moment, I thought it was mine. It was right where I had nearly parked the previous evening – where I often park – where I shall never ever park again.

I called the pompiers and then hung out of the window, breathless with excitement, to watch.

Well – can you blame me ? Those pompiers are really, really hot...


Sarah said...

Wow, that all sounds pretty scary and exciting!

My car's been keyed on both sides too. It's a used car that came from Nice and apparently cars parked along the Prom des Anglais risk being keyed by vandals on roller-skates.

Yvonne said...

I can only hope to be dead before this sort of behaviour becomes the norm around here.
Why is it that we have to accept that it is our 'fault' for having property like a car and leaving it on show for the vandals to do their work on?
20 years ago in a hotel car park in the countryside of Northumberland, a friend had their car taken and later burnt out. I remember that all of us hearing about it at breakfast did the 'suck in of breath through the teeth' and said that well it was a tempting car'. The rot has set in.

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

I came here because Keith at a Taste of Garlic said there was a shirtless firefighter here! Hot, indeed! ;-) Thank you. :)

On a more serious note, wow. This makes my life here in Paris seem so tame. I'm glad to know more, but wow, this stuff is INTENSE.

I appreciate the humor and wit with which you have written about it all, though, and I hope that I can come back for more of a read soon!

Gigi said...

Yeah but I'm a bit fed up of excitement these days. I'm hankering after a quiet life - perhaps a little chalet in the mountains and a couple of goats...chopping wood all day for the fire and writing in the evenings to the strains of people, no cars...just goats and books and a couple of crackling logs in the grate...sigh...

Dumdad said...

I live in a reasonable quiet banlieue of Paris although there are some rough parts. My car has been keyed, of course, but not yet set alight (doigts crossed).

Bloody strikers: my wife and daughter and friend were going to go to The Outlaws in the Auvergne tomorrow but can't because the train back has been cancelled because of the protests etc.

Hope all remains quiet your neck of the woods.

Gigi said...

So far the strikes haven't bothered us much, Dumdad - I walk to work anyway :-) And my children went off to England without a hitch...I do have a problem with my English students walking out before the end of the lesson to join the least, that's their story :-)

Anonymous said...

Here, none of our pompiers looks like that! Last time they came round flogging calendars, one of them was a toothless shortarse, what's going on there?

Denise Covey said...

Hey there, interesting post. Those pompiers look hot!