* Why is there so little music that I like on the radio? This is easy to answer. There is a quota in place on French radio. Actually there are quotas (for radio, tv and film) all over Europe in case anyone is interested. The French radio quota was introduced on 1st January 1996 in an attempt to “defend French culture and economic activity”. It is the French version of political correctness. I bet the Anglo-Saxons wished they’d thought of such quotas in 1066. Anyway, 40% of “all music aired must be sung in French with 20% if this consisting of new French bands”. Back in 1996 there was a real fear that the evil American entertainment industry posed a threat to indigenous entertainment. Some rebellious DJ’s pointed out early on that there was not enough good French music or bands to meet the quota and this made programming tricky. Stations could either repeat the few good French songs ad nauseam or look at scheduling arrangements. Many radio stations now get most of their francophone quota in during the day, reserving the right to play Anglo songs for when the kids are back from school.
* Who said giving priority to drivers from the right was a good idea? (Article 18.4.a of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic did). This much maligned law of priorité à droite causes no end of fun for non-French road users. Many British drivers in particular, while coping bravely with driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, are flummoxed by the priorité à droite.
In effect, unless there is a Stop or Give Way sign at the junction, where a little baby road meets a big daddy one, the one from right has priority – even if it appears little more than a goat track. After a few nasty surprises I now view every side road with suspicion. Adrenalin inducing close encounters are getting fewer though as I now anticipate cars lurching out in front of me, their drivers simultaneously smoking, talking on the mobile and shouting at the unrestrained children fighting in the back. Unfortunately not all drivers believe in priorité à droite and there is no guarantee that they will stop for you if you trying nudging out (or even lurching) from their right.
The use of the Priorité à droite is on the increase in French towns because, supposedly, it works as an effective traffic calming device. The logic being, I suppose, that it is such a nutty idea it keeps people on their toes. When you are driving along out of town watch out for these signs.
* Why do French drivers have difficulty driving or parking legally, safely or considerately? Answers on a postcard, please. A certain Abelard unashamedly states in his website that “…the French cannot drive. No, they seriously cannot. France has twice the area of the whole UK to spread out about the same population, but until recently they still managed to kill twice as many people… The French are not just dangerous drivers; they are widely and generally incompetent drivers”. Mind you, I don’t think that Abelard had ever been to Sassari in Sardinia. However, non French drivers should not attempt to mimic French driving or parking techniques – it will go very badly for you. Previously invisible traffic cops, blind to everyone else’s transgressions of the Highway Code, will swoop down on you and pluck you like an allouette!
* How do the French prolong the life of their car batteries? In Lodève there are quite a few drivers who protect their batteries from excessive wear and tear by limiting the use of their headlights at night. Add this to the priorité à droite rule and you have all the ingredients for a fun night out. But I have been assured by several French friends that driving without headlights does, in fact, save on fuel. So that’s alright then.
* Do bears poop in the woods? Yes, and so do hunters. Sometimes hunters get shot in the buttocks while pooping. At which point the 64 species of bird and 24 of mammal which are regularly hunted in France raise a cheer. Seriously, several people each year (not exclusively other hunters) are accidently shot by hunters. If you are going to enjoy the French countryside at the weekend or on a Wednesday when the kids are off school – wear bright clothing and make as much noise as possible!