Wednesday 8 August 2018

Back from La Canicule

Blue skies and unbroken sunshine meant that this Dieppe jaunt was – unusually in a part of France not famous for brilliant weather – something of a beach holiday, and all the more enjoyable for that. However, I did find time to visit the two great churches and check on progress. The restoration of St Jacques continues at an arthritic snail's pace – but at St Remy things are really moving, with impressive progress on the decayed Northern facade, most of which is now convincingly restored.
  This visit also added a word to my French vocabulary – 'canicule', meaning heatwave. This word was everywhere, all over the papers and television, where, in addition to alarming 'scorchio' weather reports, there were endless, very French discussions of the implications of 'La Canicule' for the future of the planet, etc.
  And then it was back to England, and to endless, very English discussion of a subject encapsulated in another single word – Burqa. The brouhaha over Boris Johnson's 'letterbox' remark – in the course of a piece arguing for the 'right' to wear the burqa – seems peculiarly fatuous and confected, even by the standards of such brouhahas. And nobody seems to have pointed out that it's based on an erroneous use of words: it is not the burqa but the niqab that lends the wearer the fetching letterbox look Boris remarks on. The burqa offers its wearer complete insulation from the lustful gazes of men by covering the entire body, eyes included. You don't come across it too often over here, but I've seen women shopping in the full burqa on Kensington High Street. They order this matter better in France, where the burqa is banned.

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