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One Flat Too Big

photo, roofs, snow, paris

From the garret of a starving artist in Montparnasse.

France In Winter

Paris:– Monday, 28. February 2005:– An uproar started a couple of weeks ago when the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé remarked that the Minister of the Economy, Finance, Budget, etc. – all one minister – was about to move into a vast apartment, a duplex near the Champs–Elysées, and it was going to cost the taxpayers a cool 14,000€ a month.

That French taxpayers pay to house government ministers is not news. That rents are high in Paris is not news to anybody paying 1000 a month for a recycled broom closet. In fact once we learned that the minister has eight kids, who knows? Maybe 14,000 a month is cheap.

So a week of medium media highlife went by, and the minister allowed that if he were properly 'bourgeois,' he'd own his apartment. This was the fatal slip of the ministerial mouth because that sneakyphoto, barthelemy, cheese shop quacking duck of a weekly then let us know that the minister indeed does own an apartment in Paris – in the seventh arrondissement near nice schools, with a whole 200 square metres for all those kids.

A sort of cheese heaven.

Nothing of course, everybody assumes, to compare with the 600 square–metre ministerial duplex, but his property is bringing him 2300€ a month in rent. Very slowly a heavy penny began to drop.

This minister, looking after the whole country's finances, is maybe a little uncertain about his own – and ours. It's true that he needs an apartment and a big one at that, because his own apartment is tied up in a lease until the coming summer. This raises the question of where he's been living with eight kids if not in his own apartment.

Leave that for another time. He told the property agent he needed 10 rooms – the majority of Parisians have to get by with studios, or one or two bedrooms – but she had to go out of the 7th to find two apartments totalling 10 rooms. All they needed were interior stairs to make one duplex. The extra kitchen was converted into a gym for madame. Then three parking places were found in the adjoining building, and with a bit of fixing up these were added to the lot.

Fixing–up the apartments cost the taxpayers 31,833€, plus an extra 10,000 for the kitchen–into–gym. Fixing–up the garage cost us 15,000€. The monthly charges for utilities, elevator and garbage, is 1,654€ and the rent for the parking is 843€. Finally, the rent itself is 14,140€. The agent's fee of 12,107€ hasn't been paid yet.

On Friday, according to Libération, the minister who wasn't bourgeois enough to own his own apartment, does own a house in Brittany and has some claim to a family estate in Savoie – plus, you remember, the 'bourgeois' apartment in the 7th, near the good schools.

The papers say the minister is a good Joe, an unassuming fellow from the country. They have begun to mention that he pays extra taxes because of his personal fortune, but they haven't yet found out where it came from. Not, we assume, from his pop's shoe shop.

At that point, except for a few mis–statements, there was nothing illegal here anywhere. When Nicolas Sarkozy was running the same ministry, he had a state apartment in the Bercy finance HQ – as big as a medium–sized mall if I recall correctly.

In fact the minister's only real fault, in the eyes of the Sarkozy clique, is that he is a supporter of the president, Jacques Chirac. Before this fumble some Chiracians were even calling him Chirac–bis.

Friday's Le Parisien said this affair is not making Sarkozy unhappy. On a tour of his future dominions on Thursday, hephoto, cigarium did whine a bit that the journalists were making it hard for him, only asking questions about his successor. He recalled 'media attacks' when he filled up the Bercy apartment with plasma screens.

Not for just its color, but for 'cigarium.'

And madame, who was to be surprised by monsieur le ministre, with a private gym – madame a high–ranking civil servant, often off on missions to peddle France to the world of megabusiness.

On Friday night we were supposed to expect to see and hear the minister on TF1's national TV–news explaining himself. No matter what, when the fan is flinging merde all over the place, a little sincere confession is supposed to sooth all bobos.

Serial killers are supposed to explain their acts. Politicians, facing mountains of evidence and dozens of witnesses, are supposed to explain their acts. The only person officially exonerated from explaining everything and anything, is France's president.

All the rest of us are guilty by default, but if we have a good excuse we may escape condemnation, depending on the good humor of the state. Grace is not God's to give, but the president's.

He is also the only one in France allowed to live in a palace. The Elysée Palace.

Part Two

Hervé Gaymard showed up on the TF1 TV–news on Friday night, after resigning his portfolio. That afternoon he'd gone along to his boss's place at the Hôtel Matignon and quit. This left the news shows up in the air on Friday until the word was passed that Thierry Breton agreed to accept the portfolio of the ministry of the Economy and Finance.

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