This blog was intended as a commentary on the French political campaign, continuing where my book Schizophrenie Francaise left off. So I should really be talking about the growing anti-Sarkozy movement that deprived him of chocolate in Lyon last week after protestors held up banners saying he wasn’t welcome. Or Le Pen’s cloak-and-dagger excursion to Argenteuil, the Paris suburb where in 2005 Sarkozy promised to rid the neighbourhood of scum, a word (in French ‘racaille’) which has become emblematic of his menacing tough-love approach. Or the book which cost Equal Opportunities Minister Azouz Begag his job. He reveals his dislike for Sarkozy and the former interior minister’s inability to control his temper. ‘Will Azouz Begag have the right to the same media promotion as Eric Besson?’ asked Marianne magazine after it published serveral extracts from the book, a reference to the supposed pro-Sarko bias in the French media. Not if the anecdotes are anything to go by. Compared with Besson’s insiders account of Segolene’s campaign, Begag’s story appears to be more about his lack of political skills and support in Chirac’s government.
All very interesting stuff. But what I want to talk about today is a thought that struck me last night. French toilets, certainly in Paris, are mostly seperate from the bathroom and rarely contain a sink. A habit I had become accustomed to, thinking it reflected the small living space of most Parisiens. When my British visitors complained, I thought they were being British and directed them to the sink in the bathroom or the kitchen. When my Italian visitors expressed surprise, I began to think that perhaps it is the French who are different. And then last night, I started to think about toilet arrangements in Belgium or Spain. In each picture of appartments I have known, there was always a sink next to the toilet. Why then, in France, do you have to make a special trip to wash your hands?