Monsieur Macron: let them wear cashmere
Modelling in designer rollnecks is not going to help the French pay their bills
As his (non-apocryphal) answer to to “Let them eat cake”, Emmanuel Macron modelling a designer turtleneck to encourage lowering the temperature to 19C in French homes and offices went down as well as you would expect. Le Président, as well as his Minister for Finance Bruno Le Maire, posted official videos and self-portraits in cols roulés to social media to highlight one of the recommended energy-saving gestures for the planet, France’s finances and Western unity. Other gestures include air-drying rather than spin-drying washing; taking shorter showers at a lower temperature; unplugging appliances rather than leaving them on stand-by; and turning off the lights and heating.
“Light only one bar of the electric fire, put on an extra jumper” can only work unironically if it is led by quiet example instead of Instagram posts; if the jumper is an old cardie, not an Alexandre Bompard cashmere number. Reactions came thick and fast. “We’re paying for 10 years of mistakes,” thundered the conservative weekly Valeurs Actuelles, reminding its readers that the Hollande and Macron governments had bowed to Green pressure to shut down nuclear plants: its cover featured the turtlenecked duo of Macron and Le Maire, with PM Elisabeth Borne in a puffer jacket, calling them “Les sous-doués” (the dunces) after a popular film series. On the Left, L’Obs accused the government of “cosmetic” measures. The middle ground was held by Le Point, asking whether the decidedly cool turtleneck was a coded message for French public figures trying to simultaneously project political gravitas and the kind of edginess associated with Left Bank intellos: Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Albert Camus.
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But le col roulé has also become a symbol for a kind of nanny state the French are growing tired of. Back at the beginning of Covid lockdowns, France distinguished itself with especially Byzantine injunctions and regulations, punctuated by outright lies. To be allowed out of their homes for one hour in the spring of 2020, for instance, the French had to print and fill out ever-mutating Attestations Dérogatoires and Justificatifs de Déplacement stating that they were out to walk the dog, get their eyes checked or buying milk. (One of these forms had 17 boxes to fill out.)
Meanwhile, as long as necessities were lacking (masks, vaccines), spokespersons or government-mandated experts were trotted out to explain that putting on a surgical mask was such a “professional gesture” that laypeople couldn’t be trusted with it, or that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was not yet tested for side-effects. Most ordinary French citizens pay their household bills and know that they can save by heating less and turning off unnecessary lights. Subjected to quasi-weekly flowery addresses by Emmanuel Macron high on technospeak and low in concrete facts, they don’t find them any more convincing when the president delivers them in a turtleneck.
Why does everything have to be divisive? I am no fan of M. Macron and even though his message might have been delivered in a manner to upset all those opposed to him and always wanting to find fault with our leaders, is he not trying to make sensible suggestions and lead by example? We didn’t have central heating when I grew up in southern England. Hardly anyone did. Scraping ice off the inside of the windows in the winter mornings was common. Hot water bottles at night and Gran kept herself busy knitting, yes, turtle neck sweaters for all the grandchildren. These days, it seems many think it is their right to swan around their homes in shorts and T shirts in the winter, with thermostats set at selfishly high levels.
he does what ” mummy’ says!
Macron’s exhortations have about as much chance of success as I would have if I stepped outside and kindly asked the sky to provide some rain. The only ways to influence human consumption are with the invisible hand of prices in a free marketplace, or with force. Macron gives speeches because that’s all he can do. He doesn’t have the power to control consumption by force and his people are unlikely to give him such power. Western populations will not accept totalitarianism in order to decarbonize, nor will they accept abject poverty without protest. Net-zero and other green prerogatives will either be accomplished with violence and over violent objections, or more likely, they won’t be accomplished at all. Somewhere deep down, Macron and others like him probably know this, so they give pleading speeches and prostrate themselves before their voters just so they can say they did something.
Wearing warm clothes helps to keep out the cold but they can only go part of the way to keeping warm in the winter.
Our night-time temperature here dropped to minus one degree overnight. I shivered in bed until the central heating came on, a luxury which will not be available to most Ukrainians or, indeed, those in the UK and Europe on minimum incomes. It is time our politicians sought a solution to the problems that their populations will have to endure once the winter really takes hold…
A lot of people in the UK need to be taught how to make their winter bed. You don’t need to keep the whole of the mattress warm – just the section you are lying on. Before my wife died we didn’t need much in the way of central heating – she used to use me as a hot-water bottle. Now, aged 79 I don’t use a top sheet – just a 10 tog dooner/duvet/eiderdown. If the indoor air temperature drops below 0 degrees I use the central heating just very low for a few hours for the house fabric and I roll myself in the duvet, often leaving my feet outside. If you have to shiver until the heating comes on then you are not shivering hard enough. Although shivering is a natural reaction you can shiver-to-order with a little practice. I’m not a ‘hard’ man and I don’t join some of my younger aquaintances who go ‘wild-camping’ over christmas (tents frowned upon – “softies” not invited.) Britain is going soft. No! Britain has gone soft.
In Charente, I had to show my form just once. I held the attestation up to the window as the police woman was not masked or gloved. She made me open the window, took the attestation, read it and handed it back. They went on strike quite quickly after that for lack of PPE. Police suicides, especially the women , rocketed in the first lockdown.
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