To escape the heat of a presidential campaign marked by practical jokes, poisonous party infighting, and a public spat with her partner over money – taxpayers money admittedly – Segolene escaped from Paris to the bathe in the ‘warmth and energy’ of the Caribbean. After a difficult month, she admitted ‘it’s not a bad thing to put some distance’ from the French capital – roughly 7,000 kilometres – and surround herself with less critical crowds on the French islands of Martinique – where she spent three years as a child and one year as a civil servant – and Guadeloupe.
For four days, she was constantly followed by the sounds of the Carribean chart hit ‘Celimene,’ tweaked to ring out her name, and men and women in bring colours clapping, singing and dancing.
‘Seg, Seg, Seg, Segolene – ooWayhe – Seg, Seg, Seg, Segolene.’
At rally after rally, the Socialiste candidate smiled and swayed her arms, though her legs seemed less eager to swing with the rhythms of her childhood.
She was also greeted with a specially composed song – ‘weclome back to the school of your youth’ – by the pupils at Saint-Joseph de Cluny, still wearing the same uniform that Segolene had once adorned, a pleated blue and red tartan skirt teamed with a white shirt.
‘I wish for you to be happy at school and to have a wonderful career which allows you to be free and fulfilled as women,’ she told her adoring audience. Segolene recounted afterwards to journalists how her Caribbean experience helped her career. ‘Afterwards I had such a nostalgia that for homework I wrote poems about Martinique which helped me win the first prize for poetry.’
In a whirlwind series of open-air meetings, dotted with colourful diversions such as a beach pick-nick and market visit, one thing struck me as quite extraordinary. As the sweat poured off her minders and the photographers jostling around her, Segolene proved she is a real lady. She didn’t even glow, let alone transpire.
In the market of Fort de France, she made her way past crates and supermarket trolleys piled high with exotic fruits – limes, melons, star fruit – to press home her advantage over Sarkozy, who was forced to cancel a December 2005 visit because a law on teaching the positive effects of colonialism prompted protests in the overseas territories partly populated with descendents of slaves.
Segolene said she would be a president of a ‘mixed race France,’ and pleased the crowds with a few words in Creole.
‘Moin se on famn doubout, nou kay casse ca,’ which translates as ‘I am a tough lady, and we’re gonna shake things up.’
Her Caribbean visit was also a welcome break for the pack of journalists following the Socialist campaign.
‘It’s better than Scotland huh?’ said more than one hack as I dipped my tired and pasty limbs into the turquoise-blue sea.
‘Dare I say it, but it’s better even than France,’ I retorted, only to be met with boos and splashing.
‘But Emma, this is France,’ replied a radio journalist, insistent that this Carribean haven is as much a part of the Republique as Le Havre or the medieval villages of Bordeau.