Thursday, 1 March 2018

Stereotypical stuff!

The weather app on my phone told me this morning that it was -3 degrees in London and -2 in Edinburgh. The school where our daughter works in Greater Manchester was closed because of the snow. So was the school the middle grandchildren attend and the nursery that the smallest one goes to. So they spent the day all tucked up at home keeping warm. Later she told me that a tree had blown down opposite their house. Great drama! I suspect that her partner had to go into central Manchester to work, assuming the trains and trams were running; banks don’t like to let a bit of snow close them down.

A friend of mine has gone to visit her mother in Hamburg and has been complaining of -10, made to feel colder because of the wind. Her main complaint is that it is too cold to go out onto the patio for a cigarette without her fingers freezing. This is a woman who always liked to turn up the heating in the classroom we shared. Yet she still goes and stands in the cold to smoke. That is a measure of addiction, surely!

All in all, with temperatures such as those and snow making travel difficult, I am not going to moan about 12 degrees and a bit of dampness here in Vigo. Sunshine would, of course, be preferable but you can’t have everything. And besides, my suster is having storms in Andalucía. And another friend tells me that he has been comprehensively rained on in Seville! He should know not to expect stereotypical “sunny Spain” weather as his parents were Spanish, refugees from the Civil War.

Stereotypes exist though. We know we should avoid them but they do persist.

In Orleans, France, they have a sort of festival every year in honour of Joan of Arc. The French go on a bit about the English having burnt poor Joan, forgetting that it was the French who handed her over - an uppity girl thinking she could lead armies! Whatever next?

Anyway, every year a girl is selected play the part of Joan of Arc, dressed up in appropriate armour and riding a horse through the city, celebrating the breaking the English siege of Orleans in 1429. This year they have chosen a certain Mathilde Edey Gaamassou, 17, chosen from 250 hopefuls.

There has been a twitter storm because Mathilde’s father is from Benin and her mother from Poland. “Joan of Arc was white,” read one Twitter post. “We are white and proud of being white, don’t change our history.” Another comment, on the anti-Muslim site Resistance Republicaine, complained: “Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa.”

Oh, boy!

Mathilde’s defenders, including the French women’s equality minister, the president of the committee in charge if the festival, and the mayor of Orleans say things like:-

 “The racist hatred of fascists has no place in the French republic.” Women’s equality minister.

 “This girl was chosen for who she is; an interesting person and a lively spirit. She responds to our four criteria: a resident of Orléans for 10 years, a student in an Orléans high school, and a Catholic who gives her time to others. She will deliver our French history to everyone, as have previous Joans before her.” President of the festival organising committee.

“In 2018, as for 589 years, the people of Orléans will celebrate Joan of Arc played by a young woman who shows her courage, faith and vision. Mathilde has all these qualities.” Mayor of Orleans. 

There’s nothing like a bit of fuss about national treasures. Some time soon I expect a fuss when some people discover that Saint George is also the patron saint of other countries besides England. 

Meanwhile here is a link to some pictures of Vespa Club Uganda.

Who knew that little scooters, an Italian stereotype, could be so well thought of?

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