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Yesterday’s post discussed Charles III’s proposed pared down coronation, scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023.

No bank holiday?

It is curious, given that it will have been over 70 years since our last coronation, the King seems to have ruled out a bank holiday.

May has two bank holidays, bookmarking the month.

This year, the second bank holiday, traditionally known as Whitsun (Pentecost) Bank Holiday, was moved one week later, taking place at the beginning of June to accommodate Platinum Jubilee festivities.

The Times reports that Parliament is all for a celebratory bank holiday weekend (emphases mine):

There have been calls from some MPs for the May 1 bank holiday to be moved or for an additional bank holiday to be announced …

Labour backed moving the May bank holiday to coincide with the King’s coronation. Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman said: “That would certainly be a good way for the country to be able to celebrate the coronation.”

David Jones, a cabinet minister under David Cameron, told the Daily Mail that combining the May bank holiday with the coronation would be welcomed “by the entire nation”. He said: “It would make a very special memory for all of us.” Tobias Ellwood, another Tory former minister, said: “A bank holiday would help strengthen our transition to a new era.”

Khalid Mahmood, a former Labour frontbencher, said: “We can move the holiday back to the coronation weekend. We have a unique system with the monarchy and an independent parliament; I would back Britons having a three-day weekend to mark the occasion.”

Royal sources have said that any decision about whether to move the bank holiday or create a new one will be up to the government.

No. 10 is open to the idea:

In response the prime minister’s spokesman said: “Obviously this will be a historic event. We are carefully considering our plans. All options remain on the table.”

Personally, I don’t think this is as much the Prime Minister’s reluctance as it is the King’s.

The diamond

It was thought that Camilla Queen Consort would be crowned with the crown the late Queen Mother wore, the one with the incomparable Koh-i-noor diamond.

Suddenly, that prospect appears to be in doubt.

On October 13, The Telegraph reported:

The crown was thought to be a front runner among the options for Queen Camilla to wear for next year’s Coronation, and has been under discussion at the palace for as long as it has been understood she will join the King for the ceremony.

One source last night suggested that the jewel had not, until recently, been treated as “problematic”.

Charges of colonialism have now been raised with regard to the Koh-i-noor:

In Britain, it has been used in the crowning of Queens for generations with pomp, ceremony but little noticeable fuss, mounted on successive crowns worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth [the Queen Mother]

The Koh-i-Noor diamond, which has been part of the Crown Jewels for more than 150 years, is at the centre of renewed calls for its return – with India the most diplomatically-critical country making a claim to it

The diamond, which is often said to have been “given” to Britain in 1849, is currently set in the crown worn by Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, in her own 1937 coronation.

Experts on colonialism have spoken out:

William Dalrymple, co-author of a book describing the Koh-i-Noor as “the world’s most infamous diamond” said its ownership was “not a small sensitive issue in the eyes of India” but a “massive diplomatic grenade.

Jyoti Atwal, associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, explained the diamond’s significance, telling The Telegraph how it travelled around the medieval world as a “prized possession” and in 1851, after British annexation, “went to the United Kingdom via a treaty with an 11-year-old King in Punjab”.

“In the colonial discourse it was seen as a gift from India, although it has a chequered history of being owned by different kingdoms across South Asia and West Asia,” she said. “It was one of the biggest signifiers of victory for Britain over the subcontinent and since India’s independence in 1947, there have been demands of bringing it back.

“It has always been at the centre of political restoration and restoring Indian pride, and doing away with this blot in history” …

Saurav Dutt, an author and political commentator born in Kolkata and raised in the UK, said: “Ensuring the Koh-i-noor remains front and centre in the public eye in this way flies in the face of any attempt by the Royal family and political orthodoxies to draw a line under the dispossession, prejudice, plunder and exploitation that imperialism revelled in.

“Such a position is at odds with the modern, egalitarian stance the royals seek to present themselves within a world that seeks to move on from the ugliest chapters of history that they benefited from.”

If this was historically known to be the case, why didn’t anyone complain in 2002, when it was the crown resting on the Queen Mother’s coffin at Westminster Hall where she lay in state?

No one said anything then, and even BBC commentators talked about what a splendid jewel in the crown it is.

It appears that, 20 years on, social media, which did not exist in 2002, could partly be to blame.

Jyoti Atwal said:

A resurgence of interest in “bringing it back” was now “very visible” among a new generation on social media

There also seems to be a potential vulnerability about Charles III that indicates he might well cave in:

Lauren Kiehna, a royal jewellery expert who writes a blog under the name of The Court Jeweller, last week predicted that the creation of a new crown for Queen Camilla was unlikely but called the inclusion of the Koh-i-Noor diamond a “real, serious sticking point”.

“I would imagine that Charles and Camilla would be keen to avoid additional criticism when possible, and Charles particularly has always seemed sensitive to the fact that jewels can carry significant symbolism,” she wrote.

This is how Britain acquired the diamond in 1849, during Queen Victoria’s reign:

… the Koh-i-Noor was signed over to the British East India Company in 1849 along with vast areas of land in the Treaty of Lahore.

It is described by the Royal Collection Trust as being “surrendered” to Queen Victoria “by the Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1849”.

At the time, the maharajah of the Punjab was 11 years old.

The jewel was brought back to Britain for presentation to Queen Victoria a year later, and put on display to the public at the Great Exhibition.

Afterwards, it was cut by Garrard & Co and turned into a brooch worn by Victoria.

In 1902, it was mounted on a crown for Queen Alexandra’s coronation, and in 1911 transferred to that of Queen Mary.

In the modern era, it is best known for being worn by the Queen Mother, and was placed on top of her coffin in 2002.

Another Telegraph article on the diamond states:

The thousand-year-old, 105.6 carat diamond is the subject of international dispute, with India, Afghanistan and Iran among the countries laying claim to it.

Again, why is this coming up only now? Why did it not come up in the past?

Unfortunately, the controversy is coming as a diplomatic row has taken place between the British government and India:

Our new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, is of Goan descent.

Recently, she complained about migration from India at the time the Government is trying to put a trade deal with that nation:

Debate over the [coronation] ceremony comes amid heightened tensions between Britain and India over post-Brexit trade.

Liz Truss’s trade deal with India is said to be on the “verge of collapse” after Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, said she had “concerns” about it, adding that “the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants”.

Indian government sources said the “disrespectful” remarks meant the “relationship has taken a step back”. Plans for Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, to visit the UK to seal a trade deal have been shelved, according to reports.

On Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] told The Telegraph a choice for Queen Camilla to continue the tradition of consorts wearing a crown containing the Koh-i-Noor would hark back to the days of Empire.

A BJP spokesman said:

Most Indians have very little memory of the oppressive past.

He added that the United Kingdom was not the only country that ruled over India:

Five to six generations of Indians suffered under multiple foreign rules for over five centuries.

He said that the Queen’s death revived memories of Empire:

Recent occasions, like Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the coronation of the new Queen Camilla and the use of the Koh-i-Noor do transport a few Indians back to the days of the British Empire in India.

Hmm.

The British government declared the Partition of India in 1947. George VI was King and his wife Elizabeth was Queen Consort at the time.

In short, India and Pakistan became independent nations:

The partition was outlined in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Raj, i.e., Crown rule in India. The two self-governing independent Dominions of India and Pakistan legally came into existence at midnight on 14–15 August 1947.

Maharaja Duleep Singh

It is also worth noting what happened to the young Maharaja Duleep Singh who gave the diamond to the British government.

He became a member of Queen Victoria’s court.

Wikipedia has a synopsis of the aforementioned William Dalrymple’s book, Koh-i-noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond, which he co-authored with Anita Anand.

The maharaja’s story begins sadly and ends sadly, but also included is the privileged and rather lengthy middle of his story from the second half of the book, ‘The Jewel in the Crown’. A summary follows.

It was unclear what the boy’s father, Ranjit Singh, also known as the Lion of Punjab, intended to do with the diamond.

When the Second Anglo-Sikh War ended in 1849, his young son gave the gem to the colonial administrator Lord Dalhousie in the context of the Treaty of Lahore. The boy’s mother, the regent Jind Kaur, had been taken away from him.

John Spencer Login, a diplomat living in India, adopted the boy to live with him and his family. Meanwhile, Jind Kaur was exiled to Nepal.

Then, a few years later:

After requesting to travel to England Duleep Singh joined Queen Victoria‘s court. When he was 15 he repeated the ceremony of giving the Koh-i-Noor, in this instance to Victoria.

When Duleep Singh turned 21, he:

began to express a great longing for his mother and more distance from the people with whom he lived in the court.

The following year, he was reunited with his mother:

At age 22 he traveled to meet her at Spence’s Hotel in Calcutta then brought her back to England.

Unfortunately, things unravelled for him for a few years:

From this point his life went into chaos with him no longer behaving like his peers in British society and spending huge sums of money.

However, his biography on Wikipedia tells us that, even as an adolescent, he lived a charmed life. Before he was reunited with his mother, he began receiving an immense annual pension from the East India Company and spent a few years in a Scottish castle.

He arrived in England in 1854:

He was a member of the Photographic Society, later the Royal Photographic Society, from 1855 until his death.[15]

On his return from Continental Europe in 1855 he was given an annual pension of £25,000 a year[16] (approximately £2,500,000 in today’s value) provided he “remain obedient to the British Government,” and was officially under ward of Sir John Spencer Login and Lady Login, who leased Castle Menzies in Perthshire, Scotland, for him. He spent the rest of his teens there, but at 19 he demanded to be in charge of his household. Eventually, he was given this and an increase in his annual pension.

In 1859 Lt Col James Oliphant was installed as Equerry to the Maharaja at the recommendation of Sir John Login. Oliphant was to be a possible replacement should anything happen to the Maharaja’s most trusted friend Sir John Login (who did indeed die four years later in 1863).[17]

In the 1860s, Singh moved from Castle Menzies to Grandtully Castle.[18]

Between 1858 and 1862, he also rented Mulgrave Castle, near Whitby.

When his mother moved to Britain, she lived with him for a time in Perthshire.

In June 1861, he became Maharaja Duleep Singh and either acquired or was given Elveden Hall on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk.

Singh not only transformed the estate into a farm with hunting grounds, becoming the fourth best shot in England, but he also restored the nearby church, school and cottages bordering the delightful town of Thetford.

His mother and adoptive father Sir John Login both died in 1863.

The Maharaja’s wife, Maharani Bamba

In 1864, with permission from the East India Company, which financed him, Singh was able to go to India to place his mother’s ashes in a memorial monument in Bombay.

On his way back to England in February 1864, he stopped off in Cairo to visit a Christian mission in the city. At the American Presbyterian Missionary school, he met a student, Bamba Müller, the illegitimate daughter of wealthy German banker Ludwig Müller and his Abyssinian (Ethiopian) mistress, Sofia. Müller had a wife and children, so he left young Bamba in the care of the missionaries, where she became a devout Presbyterian. Müller paid for her lodging and schooling.

In March that year, he wrote to the missionaries, asking them for advice on finding a suitable wife. Although Queen Victoria suggested that Singh marry an Indian princess, he wanted someone less worldly. Details are scant, but it was decided that Bamba was the candidate. The missionaries asked Ludwig Müller about it and he left the decision to his daughter. Bamba had wanted to teach in a missionary school, so she prayed hard about what she should do, eventually deciding that it was God’s will that she marry Singh.

There was only one problem: a language barrier. Bamba spoke Arabic and Singh’s only second language was English. An interpreter facilitated the proposal. Singh gave the school a donation of £1,000, a substantial sum. The couple married on June 7, 1864 at the British Consulate in Alexandria. Singh made his vows in English. His bride made hers in Arabic.

The couple sailed back to England and settled at Elveden Hall. Bamba gave birth to a son in 1885; sadly, he lived only one day. She gave birth to the first of six children in 1866: three sons and three daughters. All of the daughters became suffragettes. One was a debutante who was presented at court, and another married a Scottish doctor and moved to Lahore.

Two of the sons went to Eton before joining the British Army. A memorial to both sons is in the school. The third son died at the age of 13.

All the Singh children had the titles of either Prince or Princess, as Sikh royalty.

Later life

As the years passed, despite his privileged lifestyle, Singh became increasingly discouraged with the British and longed for his homeland.

In 1884, Singh’s cousin Sardar Thakar arrived in England with his two sons and a Sikh granthi (priest). Thakar brought with him a list of properties that Singh owned in India. Naturally, he wanted to return and to re-embrace Sikhism.

In 1886, the British government formally objected to Singh’s proposed return to India for a visit as well as a reversion to Sikhism. Nevertheless, Singh set sail for India on March 30 that year.

The Government intercepted him at Aden in today’s Yemen. Officials probably feared that if he reached India, there would be massive unrest. Aden was where the Viceroy of India’s rule began, so it was the first point at which he could be legally stopped.

Although Singh had to abandon his voyage, while he was in Aden, he reverted to Sikhism in a cermony performed by emissaries that his cousin Sardar Thakar sent.

In 1887, Bamba died:

The cause of death was reported as “comprehensive renal failure brought on by an acute case of diabetes, made worse by her drinking (of alcohol)”.[1]

Interestingly, Singh appeared not to have returned to England from Aden. He ended up in Paris:

upon being stopped in Aden by the British authorities he abandoned his family and moved to Paris.

He had met his future second wife, Ada Douglas Wetherill, sometime before he attempted to sail to India:

Wetherill had been Duleep’s mistress before he decided to return to India.

When Singh moved to Paris, Wetherill joined him.

They married and had two daughters, also Princesses in line with Sikh royalty.

Before he died, Singh resolved his differences with Queen Victoria, who refused to receive his second wife:

whom she suspected had been involved with the Maharaja before Maharani Bamba’s death in 1887.[38]

In 1893, at the age of 55, Maharaja Duleep Singh died in Paris. His body was brought back to England.

His request to be buried in India was refused on grounds that it might create unrest, as the Indians were growing increasingly upset over British rule.

Instead, Singh was given a Christian burial:

in Elveden Church beside the grave of his wife Maharani Bamba, and his son Prince Edward Albert Duleep Singh. The graves are located on the west side of the Church.

Elveden Hall had to be sold after his death to pay his debts. The First Earl of Iveagh bought it in 1894 and it remains the home of his successors, who are part of the Guinness brewing family.

All eight of Singh’s children died without legitimate issue, thus ending the direct line of Sikh royalty.

Conclusion

It seems that the lavish life the Maharaja was given in Britain and in Paris was compensation for the Koh-i-noor diamond.

Queen Victoria and the East India Company gave Duleep Singh everything he could ever ask for, except a permanent return to India.

On that basis, there seems no good reason why Camilla Queen Consort cannot wear the Queen Mother’s crown next year.

The Telegraph says that King Charles enjoys a good relationship with India:

He has recently had a warm relationship with India, meeting Mr Modi on several occasions in the last few years.

As for the crown:

The King, now Head of Commonwealth, and his advisers are understood to be mindful of the “issues around today”, with decisions about the coronation likely to be confirmed only at the last minute.

One suspects that those asking for the diamond’s return do not know about the final Maharaja’s history.

Advertisement

They might be small in number right now, but a growing number of doctors involved in the coronavirus outbreak are wondering about the wisdom of nationwide lockdowns.

In some countries, lockdown did not make much difference to the number of deaths.

On May 14, France’s Prof Didier Raoult posted a study from Spain which showed that those who kept working outside the home were less at risk of falling victim to COVID-19. Replies follow:

Why we were told the world over to stay indoors, I do not understand. It runs counter to everything we’ve been taught over 120 years with regard to fighting epidemics:

This chart comes from another source and has more testimony about New York’s lockdown:

A doctor from Paris can corroborate that households staying indoors did get COVID-19 more often than those who did not. People were already infected before lockdown and did not show symptoms until later on.

On Tuesday, May 26, RMC — France’s talk radio station — interviewed Dr Robert Sebbag, a specialist in infectious diseases, who works at the famous Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. The interview is a little over 19 minutes long.

Sebbag worked on the COVID-19 ward and said that if one family member was admitted to hospital with coronavirus, others from the same households were also infected days later.

He said that this led him and his colleagues to believe that general lockdowns are a bad idea. He explained that politicians were afraid of the number of deaths from this novel (new) coronavirus and decided to impose blanket lockdowns:

He said that the hospital, in the early days of the outbreak, was very gloomy indeed, with a seemingly endless number of COVID-19 patients being admitted. He, his colleagues and hospital staff were worried that they would be completely overwhelmed:

He thinks that an assessment needs to be done of how COVID-19 was handled in the first half of this year. While he personally thinks masks are a good idea, he objects to the restriction on nursing and care home visits, which he says are essential for patient well being, especially among the elderly:

Presumably, care home administrators can work out a system for visiting, perhaps requiring that healthy family members and friends make an appointment before visiting.

The greater question there surrounds infected patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes. This happened in the US, the UK, France and Germany. The very real pressure on the hospitals meant that they had to discharge elderly patients before they were fully recovered to make room for new COVID-19 patients. As such, care homes were overwhelmed with infection in some cases.

People rightly wonder if we will get a second wave. Some medical experts say no. Some say yes. Others say that we have to find a way of treating patients effectively so that coronavirus is no longer a fatal disease. The honest answer at this point is that we do not know whether there will be a second wave of infections.

As lockdowns are fully lifted in the coming weeks, we will all have to take greater responsibility for our own behaviour in a COVID-19 world. I dislike referring readers to the BBC, but they did have a good article on Sunday, May 24: Health Correspondent Nick Triggle’s ‘Coronavirus: How scared should we be?’ It is well worth reading.

For a start, we do not live in a risk-free world:

Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, says the question we should be asking is whether we are “safe enough”.

“There will never be no risk. In a world where Covid-19 remains present in the community it’s about how we reduce that risk, just as we do with other kinds of daily dangers, like driving and cycling.”

We might become more dependent on our ‘least worst’ options in managing that risk:

Statistician Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in risk from Cambridge University and government adviser, says it has, in effect, become a game of “risk management” – and because of that we need to get a handle on the magnitude of risk we face.

There are two factors that influence the risk we face from coronavirus – our risk of becoming infected and, once infected, our risk of dying or becoming seriously ill.

We should also keep in mind that, for most people, coronavirus is relatively mild:

… only one in 20 people who shows symptoms is believed to need hospital treatment …

Think of it this way:

If your risk of dying was very low in the first place, it still remains very low.

As for children, the risk of dying from other things – cancer and accidents are the biggest cause of fatalities – is greater than their chance of dying if they are infected with coronavirus.

During the pandemic so far three under 15s have died. That compares to around 50 killed in road accidents every year.

In the months to come, there will likely be tests and tools, such as this one from University College London, that can help us assess our individual risk of catching this unpredictable and sometimes fatal disease.

The most important aspect, even more than the dreaded mask, is hand hygiene. Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap or soap gel, then dry them well. Damp or wet hands create a good atmosphere for viruses and bacteria.

Also keep hands away from the face, the best receptor for infections.

The following video was made in 2014, but I saw it for the first time last week.

Leonora Hamill filmed this stag, named Chambord, in the Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris, which held Easter Day services for the parishioners of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was devastated by fire during Holy Week on April 15, 2019.

Look how beautifully the stag blends into its surroundings:

It has a respectful look round the altar before leaving.

This is a sublime blending of God’s creation and His gift of aesthetics to mankind.

Some who have seen it recall the pagan deer deity Cernunnos, but, according to the YouTube comments, Ms Hamill filmed it to promote the Church of Saint-Eustache, located near Les Halles in the French capital. It is a church, by the way, and not a cathedral.

It is no coincidence that she chose a deer, as Saint Eustache — or Eustace, in English — was a Roman general named Placidus who saw a vision of a crucifix between a deer’s antlers. This was in the second century AD.

Upon seeing the vision of the deer with the crucifix between his antlers, Placidus changed his name to Eustace, which means ‘upstanding’ and ‘steadfast’.

Eustace wasted no time in converting his family and all were baptised.

Then, they underwent a series of dramatic trials of faith that were reminiscent of Job’s. According to Wikipedia (emphases mine):

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.

Although God restored his social standing and reunited him with his family, he died as a martyr for the faith in 118, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice:

There is a tradition that when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox,[5] in the year AD 118.

He was part of the General Roman Calendar of saints until 1970, when he was removed from the list, presumably because his life’s story could not be fully authenticated.

Nonetheless, after his death he was venerated in many countries across Europe. He still is today in several of them and, fortunately, remains listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is St Blaise. The list of the Fourteen Holy Helpers was devised in Germany during the Black Death in the 14th century. People sought their intercession in times of need. St Eustace was the healer of family troubles. The Catholic Church unceremoniously dumped several of the individual feasts of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in 1969, although Catherine of Alexandria’s optional feast day of November 25 was reinstated in 2004, possibly because Joan of Arc was said to have heard the saint’s voice.

Other individual feasts days of the Fourteen Holy Helpers were dropped, such as those of Saints Christopher, Barbara and Margaret of Antioch.

Back now to Eustace, who is also the patron saint of hunters, firefighters and anyone facing adversity. His feast day is September 20.

There was another saint who had a similar vision of a deer. His name was Hubertus, or Hubert. He lived near Liège and was the eldest son of Bertrand, the Duke of Aquitaine. Hubert was born in 656. Although he was an agreeable character, he loved hunting. He loved it so much that, one Good Friday morning, while everyone went to church, he went hunting.

According to the legend, recounted by Wikipedia:

As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht at the time. Lambert was later canonised, as was Hubert.

Lambert became Hubert’s spiritual director, and the young nobleman renounced his title, gave his worldly goods to the poor, studied for ordination and made his younger brother Odo guardian of his infant son Floribert.

Sadly, Lambert was assassinated and died as a martyr. Hubert brought his mentor’s remains to Liège in great ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance.

One could say that Hubert put Liège on the world map. It was only a small village when he had Lambert’s remains brought there. Not long afterwards, it grew in prominence. Today, it is a renowned city. St Lambert is its patron and St Hubert is considered its founder and was its first bishop.

St Hubert’s feast day is May 30. He died on that day in 727 or 728.

His legacy, in addition to increasing Liège’s prominence, involves God. Hubert evangelised passionately to the pagans of the Ardennes region at the time. He also developed a set of ethics for hunting animals humanely, standards which are still used today among French huntsmen, who venerate him annually during a special ceremony.

His feast day is November 3. He is one of the Four Holy Marshals, another group of saints that also was venerated in the Rhineland. He is the patron saint of those involved in hunting as well as forest workers, trappers, mathematicans, metal workers and smelters. A few ancient chivalrous orders also bear his name.

In closing, those familiar with the German digestif Jägermeister should know that the drink’s logo refers to Eustace and Hubert’s respective visions:

I wonder if that label has ever converted anyone. It would be nice to think so.

The inferno of Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019, overshadowed Holy Week services in Paris.

The following day, the Archbishop of Reims in Champagne country issued a statement on the fire:

He called Notre-Dame:

a symbol of the efforts for peace, beauty, hope and faith — even well beyond the Christian faith.

He deplored the loss of a house of worship for the many Parisians and visitors, particularly during the holiest week of the Christian year, beginning with the Chrism Mass on Wednesday and culminating in Easter Sunday.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass, the first major Mass after Palm Sunday, is the one where the oils used in anointing the baptised, confirmands, ordinands as well as the sick and dying are blessed for use during the following year.

Notre-Dame’s Chrism Mass was held at Saint-Sulpice. The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit officiated.

KTOTV, a French-language Catholic channel, said that the alternative arrangements had been made as the fire raged on Monday evening. Saint-Sulpice’s pastor, the Revd Jean-Loup Lecroix, said that church staff and clergy had worked hard to make sure all preparations were in place:

The church was full:

The archbishop gave a moving and powerful homily:

He also called on Our Lady to pray for everyone:

The following observation of his, which I mentioned yesterday, resonated the most. This was the opening to his homily:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

The archbishop also spoke of chrism — the blessed oil — in terms of the cathedral. Unction refers to the anointing with that oil. The Sacrament of the Sick and Dying was referred to for centuries as Extreme Unction.

From the full homily transcript (in French):

The other thing that unites the cathedral with a human being is the unction that both can receive to show a transcendence, a divine presence that confers a sacred characteristic upon them.

He referred to the cathedral as the house of God — an expression I have not heard in years, but I learned as a small child. This passage also explains the importance of the altar:

Our cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris received that unction. During its consecration, the altar received chrism. The altar is the sign of the mysterious presence of God, like that which Jacob constructed after his vision of the angels who descended from and rose to Heaven. He called that place Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. The altar, essentially, represents the presence of God. The chrismation that we do on the altar signifies the presence of Christ. This is why priests venerate it and kiss it, because it is upon it that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is performed, recalling what Christ did through His love for us on the Cross. It is this Easter journey that we celebrate at each Eucharist: the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus.

The crosses on its walls also received this sacred oil, which we are now about to consecrate. This cathedral is inhabited by a people. But it is inhabited not only by those who pray in or visit it. It is the vessel of a Presence. St Paul recalled it when he said to Christians, ‘You are the Temple of God’.

He went on to speak about rebuilding Notre-Dame and the responsibility to the Church of every Catholic who has ever received chrism:

We are going to rebuild the cathedral. The worldwide emotion, the extraordinary élan of generosity that the fire engendered, will allow us to raise it up once again. We can speak during this Easter season of certain resurrection. But we must also raise the Church back up. May all who have been baptised, who have received the unction of Christ — Priest, Prophet and King — rediscover the fervour of that beginning, receiving that extraordinary grace in becoming children of God. Those who have received this unction at Confirmation must also manifest this whole gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the same expression of God’s love. This gift must fill them with joy in order for them to build a civilisation of love.

A fitting homily for such a special Mass.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, April 19, the Notre-Dame congregation gathered for the procession of the Way of the Cross:

The archbishop presided over the procession, praying for those who ‘acted with courage: firefighters, police and politicians’.

The prayers were even more intense than usual on Good Friday:

Holy Saturday

On April 20, French sailors serving on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, currently on mission in the Indian Ocean, sent a special message via formation in the shape of Notre-Dame Cathedral:

Paris is their mother city, so it was a particularly poignant gesture.

Easter Sunday

Easter Masses were held at Saint-Eustache in Paris. The main Mass honoured the firefighters.

Questions, questions

This fire has raised many questions. The two main ones do not yet have a final answer.

Who and/or what started the fire?

How will Notre-Dame be rebuilt?

More to come.

If you missed it, please check out my last post on Notre-Dame de Paris, which ends with this stunning tweet, quickly deleted:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

What follows is also a bit strange. It is the best glimpse of the flash from the cathedral before the fire started.

Note the time stamps in the tweets below. Did we know there was a Mass on the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019, that had to be evacuated?

I will come back to the mystery of this fire in another post.

Today’s entry looks at what had already been removed from the cathedral during renovations and what had been saved from the fire.

Fearless fire brigade chaplain

The Paris firefighters did an incredible and exceptional job, but special credit goes to their chaplain, the Revd Jean-Marc Fournier, who dashed into the burning structure to save the Blessed Sacrament and the gold Crown of Thorns, believed to be the one our Lord wore. The journalist who posted this tweet works for the Catholic network KTOTV, based in Paris:

Breitbart has more on Fr Fournier and the cathedral’s sacred contents. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Fournier has been in dangerous situations before:

The newspaper reports he responded with the fire brigade to the 2015 Bataclan terror attacks in Paris, where Islamist extremists killed 90 with rifles and suicide vests at a rock concert in the city, where he was “quickly on the scene after the attack… he helped remove the wounded from the hall and prayed with the bodies of the victims.”

The priest also served as a chaplain to the French army and survived an ambush in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed.

Television network Sky News reports the remarks of one member of the Paris emergency services who said of the chaplain: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

In the following short video, Fr Fournier describes what he calls ‘the fire of the century’, extinguished by 600 firefighters. He also praised the fire chief and his ‘extraordinary intuition’ to save as much of the structure and its contents as possible.

Fournier said that his first thought on arrival was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

He’s a good speaker, very well prepared. Francophones will appreciate this:

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paris Philippe Marsset said that if there were miracles during the previous night, then our Lord surely worked through the Paris fire brigade:

One can understand why they were the guests of honour at the Easter Mass held at Saint-Eustache for Notre-Dame’s congregation. Archbishop Aupetit praised them for their courage and their ‘human genius which renders honour to God’s love’ for mankind:

Items already removed for renovation

A number of items had already been removed and stored for safekeeping during the cathedral’s renovation:

The 16 copper statues of the apostles and evangelists that adorned the roof of Notre-Dame made headlines last week as they were removed by crane for restoration work, intended to go two at a time over the course of the coming years. They now stand on palettes in a warehouse, having been saved from the fire which the restoration work, ironically, seems to have started.

Breitbart‘s article has photos of the statues’ removal. They were around the base of the spire, which burnt and broke off the cathedral. The statues will be restored in Perigueux, in southwest France. They will be returned once the new spire is completed, thought to be in 2022.

Items saved from the fire

Fr Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament — consecrated hosts — and the Crown of Thorns from the fire:

Among the relics saved in the effort was Notre-Dame’s most famous and revered and holy relic, the gold-encrusted Crown of Thorns, believed to be the wreath of thorns that was placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.

A close up of the Crown of Thorns can be seen in another Breitbart article.

Elaborate candelabra and works of art were rescued and sent to City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for safekeeping in St John’s Hall. St Louis’s tunic is also there. Paris’s City Hall is immense, so it is likely that the items can remain there for a long period of time.

The first tweet I saw on February 16 discussed the rooster from the top of the spire, with historic relics inside, including one of the Thorns:

As this historian said that same day, every time something else was rescued, it seemed like a miracle:

The 700-year-old statue of Our Lady was rescued. The cathedral’s rector said he saw it at midnight. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude that ‘the Mother of Jesus protected’ the cathedral built in her honour:

Tweets responding to the original one below indicate it might go to the Louvre temporarily:

This footage shows that, although there is ash all over the floor, the cabinets with the votive candles are unharmed — as is the magnificent rose window in the background:

Amazingly, all of the cathedral’s resident honeybees, living among three hives, survived:

Good News Network‘s article has an aerial photo of the hives’ location and explains:

For the last six years, there have been a trio of beehives nestled on top of the cathedral’s roof. The hives were just a few honeybee colonies that were installed across the city as a means of of boosting dwindling pollinator populations in Europe.

The hives have been managed by Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant since 2013; so when the Parisian cathedral caught fire last week, he anxiously awaited news of their condition …

Once specialists were finally able to check up on the honeybees, Geant was elated to hear that they were alive and well.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Geant told The Associated Press. “Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep.”

That being said, the bees are particularly lucky because the hives reside only 100 feet under where the roof was burning. If their hives had been heated to 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit), the hive wax would have melted and the bees would have perished.

“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but I’m very, very happy,” Geant added.

Church bells tolled in solidarity

Church bells tolled in solidarity with the losses that Notre-Dame de Paris suffered in the fire.

NDTV reported that, in England, bells rang on Tuesday of Holy Week and again on Maundy Thursday:

Church bells will toll across England on Thursday in “solidarity” with France and its people as they mourn the Notre-Dame blaze, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The bells of Westminster Abbey, the church opposite parliament where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, will be rung on Tuesday at 1643 GMT – the time that Monday’s fire broke out, May said.

“Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe,” Ms May said in a statement.

“The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.”

Bells will then be rung across the country on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter.

Mrs May paid tribute to:

the “swift and heroic action of the first responders, France has huge professionalism in dealing with emergencies of this kind”.

She also offered to help with restoration:

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world,” said the British leader.

We stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, all French cathedrals rang their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame de Paris. I would encourage those who love the Church and architecture honouring the glory of God to watch this brief video of France’s magnificent cathedrals:

Bell ringing also took place in other countries, such as Poland.

In closing this post, I would like to point out the following for the many who think the Church is people alone, without houses of worship. The Archbishop of Paris had this to say in his homily during the Chrism Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

AMEN!

Tomorrow’s post will look at the fire’s influence on Holy Week services in Paris.

As French investigators continue to try to determine the cause of the inferno at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, April 15, 2019, I continue to pore over the dozens of bookmarks I have of this horrific blaze.

A friend of mine quickly alerted me to the fire, which started during the evening rush hour. Here is one news channel’s breaking coverage. The tweet says, ‘Major fire in progress … significant destruction’:

Already, some of those those commenting on the tweet said that President Macron was behind it, whilst others said it was an Islamist extremist attack. Another person blamed the gilets jaunes — yellow vests.

Here is another view:

And another:

And another:

The following image of a man on the roof appeared on Twitter early on, while it was still light. On Tuesday, the man from the scaffolding company says there were no workers present when the fire started. Also note the word ‘accidental’. But who was the man on the roof?

And who is this on one of the towers filmed by a Spanish-language news network? This appeared on Twitter soon after the fire started (my Twitter time stamp says ):

It made the rounds fairly quickly and appeared again on Tuesday. (Here’s another copy of the same video, in case the other two get deleted.)

Vernon tweeted a thread on this video, excerpted below:

This 23-minute video shows the early stages of the fire:

Macron tweeted about the nation’s collective emotion — from Catholics and all French people. He added that he felt their sadness in seeing part of their identity burn:

Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo ended her tweet with the city’s Latin motto of resilience which translates as ‘tossed (by the waves) but not sunk’. She said she hadn’t words strong enough to express her sorrow about the fire, which caused not just Parisians, but all French people, to cry. She added that they would find the strength to recover:

Messages poured in from all over Europe, including from Sweden’s Carl Bildt:

And Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May:

President Trump gave his advice …

… but the department of civil safety rejected it, saying that water from planes could damage the cathedral’s entire structure:

Eighty kilometres away, the mighty bells of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Chartres tolled, urging the faithful to pray for Notre-Dame in Paris:

In Paris, Christians watched and prayed for the indomitable structure that even the Nazis did not destroy:

Not surprisingly, the anti-terror brigade arrived that evening:

As darkness fell, the blaze lit up Paris — and the world. Notre-Dame’s future lay in the balance:

This was the scene from the blazing rooftop. Firefighters allowed a photojournalist to film while they worked tirelessly:

Here is an earlier view:

Here is a horrifying aerial view:

Fortunately, later on, the fire brigade chief announced that the main structure was sound enough to be rebuilt:

He also said that the two iconic towers were safe:

Macron also gave a brief address in front of the cathedral. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo were also there:

In closing, a strange tweet appeared during the early stages of the fire. It subsequently disappeared.

It says:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

Fortunately, someone took a screenshot of it:

Whatever we think of Jesuits, they are rarely wrong.

More tomorrow about what was saved inside and what was rescued from Notre-Dame.

The mystery continues.

Part 1 discussed the events of Presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron meetings and dinner on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

Today’s looks at the events Bastille Day — July 14 — and why this trip is so important not only for the two men but also for Europe.

I have been reading Hillary is 44 — renamed The Trumpet — since the summer of 2008. The author of the site — known only as Admin and Staff — has been incredibly precise with accurate predictions and political analysis since the 2008 presidential campaign. The author was a Hillary supporter in 2008 and, like many others, turned against the Obama team once they began bullying and threatening Hillary’s delegates that year prior to the Democratic National Convention.

If you think I’m big on Trump, you haven’t read The Trumpet. Excerpts below come from ‘Crusade In Europe: President Trump Liberates The West’. Emphases mine below:

Power narrative. The great President Donald J. Trump is building a power narrative and taking little President of France Macron along. Think about all the roads that led to today. The American revolution in 1776 inspires the French revolution in 1789 which begins with the attack on the infamous imperial prison The Bastille. The Bastille is brought down by French revolutionaries so every year on July 14 the French commemorate Bastille Day the way we remember 1776.

Today is also the centennial marker for the day the United States entered “the great war” World War I. World War I was the most brutal war America has been in topping even the horror of the Civil War. World War I was really World War Part I and was continued by World War Part II. So there is President Donald J. Trump in Paris watching as for the first time ever American troops lead the Bastille Day parade.

The French felt something, because even the left-wing panellists on RMC’s (French talk radio) Les Grandes Gueules (Big Mouths) show thought Trump’s visit was a good thing. No one among this small group of socialists objected. Au contraire.

Most of the photos that follow are from the military parade down the Champs Elysées to the majestic Arc de Triomphe.

Presumably, this first photo, showing a bit of levity, was taken before the parade started:

American troops led the parade this year. The French wanted to show their gratitude for US troops arriving in France in 1917 during the Great War, hence the invitation to Trump and the soldiers marching in period uniforms below:

The Conservative Treehouse has more information:

The President and First Lady will be joined in the ceremony by troops from the United States Army’s First Infantry Division as well as three heroic United States veterans of the Normandy Invasion. Also, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds will conduct a flyover with planes from the French Air Force.

This tweet shows the troops rehearsing at the break of day on July 12.

The Trumpet describes Trump’s address that day as one of narrative building:

As he did in Warsaw … President Donald J. Trump is in Paris at the biggest event in France on the day that marks the anniversary of the Muslim terror attack on Nice.

In one stunning historic moment President Donald J. Trump weaves together the historic paths America and the French people have traveled. Independence Day/Bastille Day. World War I/World War II. 9/11 Muslim Terror attacks/7-14 Nice Muslim Terror attacks. As he wove a narrative in Warsaw which echoed FDR and JFK, President Donald J. Trump wove a vast historic landscape in France today.

Macron tweeted the same sentiment earlier that day, saying that nothing would separate France from the United States — an enduring friendship:

In his early morning — shades of Trump — Twitter sermonette, he also reminded France why they have a military parade: to remember the price that the country has paid for the rights that bind them together as one people. He wrote that, although the history of France began long before July 14, 1789, that day determined the values the French people wanted to embrace. He concluded by wishing the French people a joyous and peaceful fête nationale, which is what they call Bastille Day.

Macron inspected French troops.

The Trumps sat with the Macrons to watch the parade:

This is what they saw:

Trump saluted the US military as they marched past:

The national anthem was played:

Macron inspected French troops.

The London Evening Standard has a video of a French military band playing, oddly, a medley of Daft Punk numbers. Daft Punk are French. The New York Times explained that one of the tunes was originally done in collaboration with Pharrell Williams, showing French-American co-operation.

The Trumps no doubt enjoyed seeing the legendary French Legionnaires:

There were tanks and armoured vehicles:

There was a flypast:

Trump thoroughly enjoyed it:

On July 19, the New York Times published a transcript of an interview three reporters conducted with him in the Oval Office. Trump was so effusive about Paris that his remarks even made RMC’s news on Friday, July 21. The French especially liked that Trump said the Bastille Day parade was better than the Super Bowl’s:

TRUMP: And it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.

HABERMAN: I wondered if you were going to say that.

TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that.

HABERMAN: Really?

TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that. I’ve thought of it long before.

TRUMP: But the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal. They must have had 200 planes over our heads. Normally you have the planes and that’s it, like the Super Bowl parade. And everyone goes crazy, and that’s it. That happened for — and you know what else that was nice? It was limited. You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy …

It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing.

HABERMAN: It was beautiful.

TRUMP: And you are looking at the Arc [de Triomphe]. So we are standing in the most beautiful buildings, and we are looking down the road, and like three miles in, and then you had the Arc. And then you have these soldiers. Everyone was so proud. Honestly, it was a beautiful thing. I was glad I did it.

This short video no doubt encapsulates some of Trump’s memories not only of the parade, but the entire trip:

The parade included a remembrance of those who died in Nice on July 14, 2016, victims of a crazed terror attack by a man in a truck mowing people down that night:

When the parade ended, the Trumps left Paris. Macron was going to Nice for their solemn commemoration (see photo and video, more here, here, here and here).

The Trump-Macron farewell was the most unusual and, perhaps significant, part of the day, in many ways:

The farewell handshake and embraces from the Macrons were lengthy. The final handshake between the two men including lasted 25-seconds: Macron did not want to let go of Trump!

Then it was time to leave:

The Trumpet analysed the Paris trip as follows:

And the Trump triumph does not end there. With this visit President Donald J. Trump helps little French President Emmanuel Macron grow in stature. How? Well, the invitation to President Donald J. Trump from President Macron is a direct challenge to the German leadership of Europe and to the decayed Angela Merkel.

And still it does not end there. The fact that the French still assert their nationalist pride in the face of German government hostility to President Donald J. Trump brings to the fore the hopeless task the European Union’s attempt to end nationalism on the continent faces. Macron’s embrace of President Donald J. Trump is a slap in the face (dare we say “schlonging”) to Merkel and an assertion of leadership by the untested, untried, apprentice Macron.

A grateful Macron loves hisself some Trump (and once again Melania does America proud) …

Trump discussed Macron with the New York Times:

HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

_________

TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

The day before Trump arrived, Macron’s government announced plans to ‘systematically’ deport illegal immigrants. This is probably what Trump had in mind when he said Macron was tough but has to be that way.

The world definitely noticed the handshake.

The New York Times said:

They repeatedly grabbed each other’s arms, gripping hands for several moments before parting.

An Italian said that Macron is a gerontophile. True, that:

It’s an Oedipal thing. The handshake is all “Look dad figure, I married mother figure and got all Freudian with her, who’s laughing now?”

Another tweeter saw it differently. I tend to agree — and this is more important than Macron’s peculiarities:

Interesting dynamics here, for certain, which go far beyond hugs and handshakes.

This is geopolitical.

It will be fascinating to see how this relationship develops — and where Angela Merkel, up to now Macron’s political elder, fits into this new landscape.

There is much more I have to say about the French election.

I haven’t finished writing it all yet.

For now, even a new French president isn’t enough to deter terror alerts.

The Sun reported that early on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, three ‘terror suspects’ remain at large after the Gare du Nord in Paris was in lockdown in the early hours:

Le Parisien reported the “three dangerous men” had been spotted in Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux – sparking the huge police hunt.

Officers are said to have emptied the train of more than 200 people that was arriving from the northern town of Valenciennes as they searched for the trio, whose profiles were apparently flagged to French security chiefs by a “partner country” on Friday.

Unconfirmed reports suggested two of the three men being hunted were Belgian nationals while the other was from Afghanistan.

Police evacuated passengers from the station late on May 8 and began readmitting them around 1:30 a.m.

Macron and the Left want to be nice and all-inclusive. That just won’t work with dangerous people.

Over the course of the past few years, migrant camps have been springing up in and around Paris, some with the authorisation of the mayor’s office.

Annie Hidalgo, the current mayor and a Socialist — as was her predecessor Bertrand Delanoë — has more planned.

The latest is said to be planned for an area in the 10th arrondissement between the Gare du Nord and the boulevard de la Chapelle (see bottom right hand centre of this map).

I last took the Eurostar in early 2002. The sidewalks outside the Gare du Nord were not a comfortable place to be then with panhandlers all over the place. I can only imagine how the situation has deteriorated since then and, even worse, what it will be like later this year once the new camp opens up.

At the end of June 2016, the City of Paris sent out a press release stating that the ‘humanitarian centre’ would be opening in that area. The mayor’s office refuses to state exactly where it will be, in case the project is ‘put in peril’ as a result. The decision as to location, they say, has been taken with the consent of local humanitarian associations.

Last year, in the neighbouring 19th arrondissement to the northeast, left-wing extremists and migrants squatted in Lycée Jean-Quarré (a high school), which was closed for refurbishment. The City had hoped to complete the work over the summer. Instead, vandalism and violence broke out among the squatters. I have read about it in French media and seen the pictures. The damage was so bad that it was becoming unsafe for the trespassers. In late September, the school was finally evacuated and closed.

One of the local councillors Aurélie Solans (EELV — Green), gave an interview to Metronews at that time in which she explained (translation mine):

Every day there was tension about food. The over-population of the place made the situation harmful. Right now, the atmosphere is dangerous for everyone. From Saturday night into Sunday, there were 160 cases of food poisoning.

Food donations kept the squatters going, but Solans said that most of the foodstuffs required cooking, and there were not enough facilities for that.

That situation and others elsewhere in Paris have contributed to councillors’ pleas for properly constructed centres in town. Everyone envisages only one or two.

Yet, in the 18th arrondissement immediately to the east of Lycée Jean-Quarré, residents are worried over their personal safety and health because of three camps there.

On June 30, 2016, the Nouvel Obs featured a story on one of the illegal camps which is in la Halle Pajol in the Esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, a residential area catering to hipster tourists. Incredibly, a migrant camp has popped up two summers running (see right hand centre of the map near Marx Dormoy station). It was cleared out once again at the end of last month, but not for long.

Nouvel Obs spoke with local residents to get their assessment. Everyone was apprehensive. Ibrahim, father of a six year old, said:

We’d heard there was tuberculosis in the area, making it impossible to walk past there. No one there asked anything of us, but it wasn’t a place they could stay long term.

Several hundred migrants — mostly Eritreans, Sudanese and Afghanis — were evacuated by convoys of buses which required police patrols throughout.

Ibrahim told the reporter:

It wasn’t this big last year, just some mattresses at the end of the street. This time, it really was a camp.

The article said that the residents are known for their tolerance (Socialist and Communist councillors), but even they were getting fed up.

Christel, a woman in her 50s, said:

It must have been 11 o’clock at night; we could hear noise. It was awful. They were beating each other up, pulling off branches from trees to beat each other with. There was a little 12-year-old in that camp. He was afraid. He was crying. It broke my heart.

She agreed with Ibrahim’s assessment:

Last year, the neighbourhood gave clothing, food. The associations seemed to manage it better. This year, we felt more aggression towards us, which isn’t normal. We can’t have that every summer.

Rita closed her Cuban restaurant in the area when the camp reappeared this year. She wants the government to reimburse her for a loss of €500 per day.

The mayor of the 19th arrondissement — a Communist, incidentally — said he is ‘powerless’ to act and despite the ‘anger’ he shares, it’s not his department. That’s the city’s problem.

The mayor’s office, the article says, gave the same ‘spiel’ — someone else’s problem. They did, however, acknowledge that complaints had risen sharply on the previous year and added:

Even people sympathetic to the plight of the migrants are finding that violence and squalor are occurring more rapidly.

Unfortunately for residents living near Halle Pujol, within days after the migrants were evacuated, they began returning little by little. Post-evacuation, they had been sent elsewhere in the city or suburbs. One charity worker said that one of the organised camps resembled a ‘prison’ and that a number of migrants were determined to find their way back to places such as Halle Pujol where they could live independently in tents.

Dominique Bordin, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, explained that some migrants are afraid and confused by being sent from one authorised reception centre to another:

It’s difficult to explain the situation when, on a single bus, there are three or four different destinations. It looks to them like injustice.

The article went on to explain that migrants feel they have nothing to lose by taking chances with their housing situation. If a reception centre is full, they might get to stay in a gymnasium.

The unsuccessful evacuation of the Halle Pujol camp was the 25th in Paris. Government ministers are working with local officials to create another 3,000 places in centres for migrants by the end of September.

The obvious question is, will that be enough? Those close to the situation describe it as an ‘endless cycle’ of unauthorised camps followed by evacuation. Because there are not enough places in the government’s reception centres, activists from associations and charities dealing with migrants encourage the pop-up camps.

This lack of communication and co-ordination with local officials produces a lack of safety and security in normally quiet neighbourhoods.

It is no wonder that residents get upset. They want to help but feel increasingly compromised, especially if they detect aggression. What about their quality of life?

There is no quick solution. There is, however, a lot of buck passing and obfuscation. The situation in Paris is likely to get worse.

It is hard to think of a worse place than an organised camp near the Gare du Nord, especially as it is relatively close to Halle Pujol and two other unauthorised settlements nearby. It’s bad for residents as well as tourists.

A few days ago I read a news item from Paris about food truck owners who have opened their own bricks and mortar restaurants.

It seemed odd. Surely a food truck is less of a headache than a restaurant. Not really.

Four food truck owners in Paris — Le Camion qui fume (‘The truck that smokes’), Le Réfectoire, Cantine California and Leoni’s Daily — now have fixed locations in addition to continuing with their mobile businesses.

Valentine Davase started Le Réfectoire in 2012 and says that the ability to have a restaurant saves money. She told Agence France Presse:

Having a fixed restaurant means having a big kitchen, storage space, a garage to park and clean the truck, to do all the production in one place …

We optimise charges [and] costs which really helps our day-to-day organisation enormously.

Davase’s career pattern is ideal for a food truck owner. She started out in communications, then worked in events before becoming an apprentice at the Ritz. She has what it takes to be a successful food truck owner: enjoying people, knowing how to market products and being a great cook.

She pointed out that running a food truck can cost between €80,000 to €120,000 in repairs if one has to have them done professionally. Other problems include working:

in the wind, in the rain, sometimes with power cuts. It’s hardly the ideal restaurant format.

Since she opened her restaurant in September 2015, she has noticed that not only do people appreciate eating indoors but they also spend more. Average spend at the truck is €10. In the restaurant it’s €14 to €15.

Former Los Angelena Kristin Frederick is the pioneer of food trucks in France. She started Le Camion qui fume in 2011. Parisians loved the concept. Although she invested €2m for a fixed location, Frederick says that owning a restaurant has helped her reduce costs. She points out that location is also essential. Hers is in Montmartre. She hopes to open another two locations in Paris by this time in 2017.

Frederick’s four trucks still operate in Paris. Altogether, she employs 50 people.

She is also the president of the association Street Food en Mouvement. She told AFP that half of food truck owners go under because of lack of customers. Bernard Boutboul, a restaurant consultant, said that, while Paris has expanded parking locations for food trucks, he expects the capital to reclaim those places as more food trucks go out of business in the coming years.

It’s hardly a promising prospect.

The trend of food truck owners moving into fixed locations is well known in the United States. It makes sense for newcomers to the food business to start small and establish their brand before moving into the restaurant scene. This is why I was surprised to read about the French experience above. Presumably, those food truck owners have made enough money to finance their restaurants. Yet, they made it in such a short time period.

Mobile-Cuisine has an interesting rationale for starting with food trucks before opening a restaurant. Their six reasons in support of a food truck for newbies includes cost comparison:

The costs involved in opening a restaurant vary based on the concept you develop. Opening a high end dining establishment can start at 500K and can run into the millions. Opening a food truck using the same style (only smaller) of menu can cost as little as $50,000. By starting small, you will learn many of the same lessons in a truck as you would in a restaurant. Operating any food service business is risky, but if your idea fails, would you rather have a smaller investment to lose than a much larger one?

Even then, food truck owners have a lot to do in order to make their businesses viable. Food Truckr asked readers to write in about ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Food Truck’. Fifty owners shared their experiences. It’s an excellent article.

The biggest bugbears are regulations and permits, including the requirement to be parked near a public restroom, truck maintenance, starting out without a proper business plan or budget and the realisation that owning a food truck will take up nearly all of one’s time.

The food truck contributors recommended:

  • Knowing what is involved before starting up: legal issues, city ordinances, trucks, menu;
  • Putting together a serious and thorough business plan;
  • Being a people person who can be nice to customers and promote the business;
  • Making sure you are on every type of social media;
  • Knowing what events to go to.

One of the contributors wrote (emphasis in the original):

Catering for a food truck is where the big bucks are.

Intriguing.

Although we see food trucks as being individualistic and maverick, ultimately, they are a business just like any other. And the idea that a number of food truck owners are going into the restaurant business indicates that owning a mobile business is not as easy or carefree as it looks.

Anyone with food truck or restaurant experience is especially welcome to comment below.

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