NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION

with Madeleine McMullin

Assault at the Bear Festival

A 30 year old woman was in a bar at the St Laurent de Cerdans Bear Festival in 2015 when one of the “Boutifarrons”, disguised in white and with his face covered in flour, ran in and grabbed her by the neck making her fall to the floor.  He then threw himself on her and started rubbing black pudding soaked in muscat on her face and trying to force it in to her mouth.  She’d just managed to get him off her, when a second whited up guy arrived and jumped on her knees with both feet causing her to nearly faint with the pain.  Bystanders got her out of the café and she was taken away in an ambulance.  She made a formal complaint to the police and according to the counsel for the prosecution there followed a huge settling of scores in St Laurent as people were worried that the festival might be barred from taking place again.  There were meetings of the Carnival committee where the pairings of the “Boutifarrons” were mixed up to confuse the investigation, anonymous letters sent to the police and a call to the station from a man claiming to be the mayor to try to get the interrogation of the 2 brothers who were suspects cancelled.  The elected official was reminded of the law and the “Boutifarrons” eventually confessed saying that it was an accident due to a movement of the crowd in the heat of the moment, before retracting their statements.  Today they maintain that they didn’t do anything, saying that they were pressured by the committee not to reveal the names of the real culprits because of political fighting but also pressured by the gendarmerie.  “They said that I wouldn’t be a voluntary fireman and that they would drop me in it unless I said it was me.   I wasn’t in the bar.  I’ve never met this lady” said the first.  “I was frightened of losing my hunting licence” said the younger brother.

The counsel for the defence condemned the accusations of Machiavellian plots and said that there was no question of the festival being annulled as it was already well recognised that there was an element of violence involved.  She added that the real culprits had owned up at a meeting of the committee but they had never been interrogated.  The judges disagreed and gave the brothers an 18 month suspended sentence with a 3 year probation, work, indemnity for the victim and a ban on taking part in the Bear Festival.  The victim said that she had suffered both physically and psychologically as she had been an auxiliary nurse in cancerology and had been declared unfit for her job as she could no longer bear any weight.  She has been assigned an expert doctor to evaluate the final award for damages which were awarded at €8000 provisionally.  So far she has suffered 125 days in hospital, 230 days on sick leave, one year of professional inactivity, a declaration of being unfit to carry out her job… 

 

Travellers quit the Porte d’Espagne stadium

The 60 traveller families who had been at the stadium since Sunday 26th June left on the 30th.  They agreed to do so after the authorities cut the electricity and water on the Wednesday afternoon.  The travellers have moved on to the stadium at Palau del Vidre and the entrance to the Porte d’Espagne stadium is now blocked by a clean skip.  The only place that is dirty is the area around that was used as a toilet.

 

Swiss parrot found in Perpignan airport

The owner of a parrot found in the departure hall at the airport last week has still not been found, despite publicity on social networks.  The parrot which was in a cat cage has a ring on its leg which identifies it as Swiss and 10 years old.  The airport director is currently looking after it and says that it won’t be handed over to anyone who doesn’t either know the number on the ring or have a vet’s certificate, as the birds are trafficked and he doesn’t want it ending up on Ebay.  If the owners don’t come forward, it may end up becoming the future mascot of the airport.

 

Catalan Dragons reach 10 and celebrate at the Castillet

The square in front of the Castillet was turned into a “rugby village” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Catalan Dragons.  Various festivities were held there over 2 days before the team played Wigan on Saturday 2nd July.  A match that unfortunately lost despite a run of recent form.

 

Tip prices go up

Professionals in Perpignan Mediterranée Médipole are going to pay more for tipping their rubbish as is any individual who tips more than 1.3 tonnes per quarter.  The rise is around 3% for most things, but it is still free to recycle paper and cardboard and to get rid of metal and cooking oil.  The cost of disposing of wood has even gone down by 25% as the price the authorities can get for it has gone up.

 

Sostrana recruiting for laying fibre optic cable

The Perpignan firm Sostrana has won the contract from Orange for laying fibre optic cable between Perpignan and Montpellier and is now recruiting technicians, industrial designers and operatives to do the work.  The contract will last till 2030.

 

Casinos busier

Business in local casinos seems finally to be picking up, after years of decline since smoking was banned in 2008.  But it has been helped by investment in the facilities to encourage clients to stay longer and to return.  The only exception is the casino at Amélie Les Bains where “the curists seem less and less inclined to play… and the number of staff has been cut from 80 in 2008 to 40 now.  The only encouraging sign is that the restaurant receipts are up”.

 

Regal Catalan products recalled because of listeria fears

Roussillon Salaisons recalled various of their patés as a precautionary measure on Wednesday 29th June amid worries that they might be infected with listeria. The local firm’s products are sold in supermarkets in 12 departments around France.

 

New action against the region’s name

A new group of citizens bringing together left wing politicians, intellectuals, artists, journalists and others with Renée Soum, the first woman deputy for the P-O from 1981 – 1988 at its head.  The group has been careful to distance itself from “Oui au Pays catalan” group run by the Catalanist CDC.  They have decided to submit a please to the government and the constitutional council, attacking the content and not the form of the new name and saying that they are being discriminated against as citizens of the French Republic, as “there is a break in the Republican continuity which didn’t happen with the old name which was decided on by the state, even though the geographical imbalance was there then as well.  This is the first time that the state has broken with that”.

 

3 years after the slaughter beekeepers still trying to understand why it happened

During the winter of 2013 – 1014 60 beekeepers lost between 50% & 80% of their bees.  The Peasant Confederation and the French Federation of Beekeepers organised the movement of 200 swarms donated by beekeepers all over France to replace some of the 3000 – 5000 hives that had been emptied and the beekeepers tried moving the hives and altering the pattern of movement throughout the year, but the winter of 2014-2015 was not good either although 2015 proved a good year.  The beekeepers are pointing to chemicals as the root cause and are waiting for the results of research being carried out by the Technical Institute of the Beekeeping Industry which will be completed in 2017. 

 

3 out of 4 days sold out at Deferlantes

There are no more tickets available for the 8, 9 and 10th July.  The only evening with tickets still available is the 7th when Skunk Anansie will be playing among others..

 

Joint tickets between Perpignan and Collioure

The Museum of Modern Art at Collioure and the Walter Benjamin Centre of Contemporary Art have announced that anyone who buys a ticket for either of these institutions will get in to the other one free.  The tickets also entitle the holder to reduced rates for guided visits of the two communes organised by the tourist office and the little tourist trains of Perpignan and Collioure.

 

Passengers complain about Perpignan – Paris Hop service

The passengers say that they are getting a low cost service at a price which is not low cost and are attributing it to the fact that Air France has a monopoly at Perpignan.  Since 21st May 106 flights out of 316 (33%) have been on time, 27% have been less than 30 minutes late, 12 were cancelled and 114 or 40% have been over 30 minutes late.  Season ticket holders are particularly aggrieved saying that the company has been cutting investment in the route, that they don’t get better prices, priority reservations and the compensation procedure is not operating.  There isn’t even an Air France desk at the airport any more.  The company representative who met the passengers said that they understand the anger, but 80% of the cancellations were not due to the company but to outside factors, that the weather had been causing problems and strikes had not helped.  They have also taken the unusual step of calling in a German company Avantiair to avoid having to cancel flights on the 1st July.

 

9 months for attacking a prison officer

On 2nd July an inmate of Mailloles in Perpignan punched a senior prison office on the cheek bone at the beginning of the exercise period.  The prisoner was rapidly handcuffed and taken to the disciplinary centre, but on the way he deliberately fell down in a stairwell, taking the two prison officers accompanying him down too.  The attack, his third in the prison since November 2015 was apparently premeditated and designed to cause his transfer.  He was sentenced to an extra 9 months without any remission, but stays in Perpignan.  The union representative said that his continued presence in the prison was putting the officers in danger.

 

The Little Yellow Train examined by the new region

The Vice President for Transport of the new region, Jean-Luc Gibelin came to visit the station at Villefranche de Conflent and listen to the workers on and passengers of the train.  The CGT union is hoping for a long term global project to sort out the problems of equipment and employment.  Mr Gibelin explained that he had come to find out what the real situation was and what could be done.  He added that they had asked for the Yellow Train be included in the TER network which would allow fares to be controlled by the region which also takes part in financing the renovation of trains, stations, track and level crossings for the network.  Passengers denounced the current war between the Train and the SNCF with connections not coordinated and high fares.  The workers argued that the original equipment had been replaced by some that was not right for the task and was too heavy.  Mr Gibelin agreed saying that we shouldn’t just assume that historical equipment costs more, and that the Region should help with promoting the Train to tourists within its borders, to Toulousains for example.

Madeleine McMullin lives in Palalda from where she runs her marketing business Marketing66.  She has worked both in the UK and abroad, with big brand names in the interiors and design industries such as Wedgwood, Denby, Sebastian Conran, Laura Ashley, Hemingway Design……..

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