It’s French election day. I got an email from a French friend here attaching a cutting from a newspaper about a couple of French kids, 8 and 11 years old, who were arrested for some petty crime and told they would be photographed, fingerprinted and also their genetic “fingerprints” would be taken – “empreintes génétiques” in French – thanks to a law presidential candidate Nocholas Sarkozy brought in in 2003, which most French thought was just to be used for sex offenders but which is actually being applied more widely and has no age limits.
I was listening to some of the French people talking outside Café de Paris the other night, which is where they stand when they want to smoke (which since they’re French is most of the time so they take their drinks out with them), and from what I could pick up from their French none of them were Sarkozy supporters.
But I’ve never met any Americans who have admitted to voting for Bush. From reading the newspapers it sounds like there are quite a lot of French who support Sarkozy. Most of Le Pen’s supporters will vote for him.
Sometimes it feels like there’s a parallel universe where all these Bush and Sarkozy voters exist and when there’s an election that universe, with its own laws of maths and physics (where 1 + 1 = 11 of course and quantum mechanics is a load of intellectual nonsense) encroaches on the universe that I exist in and exerts its imperial muscle.
Being here is a bit like being in Paris only cheaper, so I’ve decided to stay a while longer. From tomorrow I’m renting a flat for a month. It’ll be good to have some stability. I’ve moved about four times in the last three weeks because the places I’ve been staying in have always been booked up so I’ve had to move out and go somewhere else.
The music outside the Café de Paris last night was good, on the building site that had been concreted over the day before, I think by offering the workmen a bottle of vodka. Something like that wouldn’t have happened in old Europe where there would have been regulations against running cables across pavements and putting a stage on a public highway, all enforced by the police, but things here are a bit more flexible. When one of the DJs was playing a gypsy woman wearing a headscarfe and holding a blue leaflet, which she kissed at one point, started to dance and then a load of other people joined in. The DJ was playing a kind of trance reggae gypsy kind of music.
In Gedimino, the main street in Vilnius, the more official part of the music festival was happening. I stopped off there to get some food: sausages, potatos and I think what is called saurkraut, which I’ve had a lot of here. It seems to come with everything. There was a terrible Lithuanian rock n’roll band playing, and singing in English. When the singer started doing “I did it my way” I downed the rest of my beer and left.
I’m now sitting on the terrace of the Uzupio Kavine, by the River Vielnele down which a basket ball is floating, a guy in cycling gear running along the opposite bank with a stick chasing it.
There was a band playing here on the terrace just over a week ago. A Lithuanian ska band, with trumpets. It was packed. There was a crowd on the other side of the river and on the bridge. Someone who had been showing his bare chest to the people in the posh restaurent spoke to me in Russian. He wanted a swig of my beer. There were many blond dreadlocks, but now it appears to be tourists who are in the majority. Germans on one side of me and Americans on the other.
The lights have just come on. It’s started to get cold. I took the lining out of my jacket again today. A car alarm goes off. Car alarms here sound the same as they do in other places, and seem to go off just as randomly.