with Madeleine McMullin

Do hotels put up prices during VISA?

There is a rumour doing the rounds that the Perpignan hotels double prices during the exhibition, but according to the Independant’s research of 13 city centre hotels, only one had raised prices excessively compared with the cost of a normal night in August and some were actually lower. A room in the Ibis was available for €68 per night compared to €75 in June and €85 in August. The Park hotel had put its prices up from €59 to €110. The next highest price rise was €15 per night which is reasonable given that hotel prices have always changed according to the amount of demand.

The revolt aginst Occitanie is getting organised

Several thousand people are expected Saturday in Perpignan for the demo against the new region’s name and this time the left will join in. The demo is being led by Convergence démocratique de Catalogne, the party for democratic convergence of Catalonia, who are hoping that between 5 and 10 thousand people will be there. They are promising a day full of protest but also festive and family-friendly. The demo will kick off at 2pm in the Place de Catalogne where there will be castellers (human castles), sardane dancers, musicians and gégants (giant figures). The Al Chemists will close it in front of the Castillet with a rendition of “Occexit”, their song which has become the anthem of those opposed to Occitanie. The various factions have buried their differences and the left is now ready to defy the socialist majority in the region and its president Carole Delga. Ségolène Neuville, secretary of state, has taken to the airwaves to denounce the name as wounding her and all of us. Renée Soum, the socialist ex-deputé will also be there, but beforehand she will be received at the Elysée to make her voice heard. There have been 252000 visits to the Facebook page, 69000 views of the video and 30000 signatures on the petition to add Pays Catalan to the name.

130 soldiers leave P-O

130 soldiers, 3 sections, who were sent here to help guard the public over the summer as part of “Mission Sentinelle”, François Hollande’s post-Nice operation, attended a ceremony to thank them on Saturday 3rd September before leaving the department. A 4th section is still here and continues to patrol the border.

Wild boar take to the beach

A mother and her piglets joined holiday makers on the beach at Cerbère on Saturday 2nd September. The pigs came down from the woods and headed for the sea where they frolicked in the shallows, surrounded by people taking their photos and videoing them. The piglets played with people’s towels and kids’ toys and did not seem at all afraid. The mother was also not perturbed by her youngsters closeness to humans. After about an hour they headed back into the forest.

Hottest day in Perpignan since 1930

Tuesday was the hottest 6th September in Perpignan since 1930 with a top temperature of 34.3o. On Sunday 4th it was 35.4o. The record temperature in September was 36.8o on 1/9/1930.

Perpignan shops stay shut

The mayor of Perpignan agreed to let shopkeepers open on Sunday 4th September, after consultations with the relevant unions. Any bakers that normally shut on Sunday, were obliged to choose another day for their weekly closing, if they did open. However he might as well not have bothered. The streets had plenty of people in them, but most of the shops were shut. A local couple who had come into the centre to see whether the shops really would open said “We’re not terribly surprised to be honest, don’t talk about dynamism to us any more!”. One of the few shopkeepers who did open said that people assumed that their neighbours would not be there so did not bother to come in to open up themselves.

Fire risk

The heat and drought has meant that the risk of fires is particularly high at the moment with temperatures staying in the high twenties even at night. The Tramontane is adding to the problem. Forest tracks in the Corbieres were closed to all traffic, including vehicles, walkers, cyclists and horse riders on Sunday. The only exceptions were residents. Firemen asked that people were very careful with cigarette butts and advised refraining from barbecues even in private gardens.

Forget the name of the region, concentrate on the economy!

With Minister of State, Segolène Neuville declaring herself hurt by the choice of the name Occitanie and a demonstration planned for 10th September, the battle over the name of the new region continues. However, Bernard Fourcarde, the president of the regional CCI (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) said on 5th September that people should stop using so much energy on the future name and concentrate on trying to get unemployment down. The Principal Deputy in Perpignan, Romain Grau agreed with him. The occasion was a visit by Jean-Louis Chauzy, head of the Economic and Social Regional Council to EAS and Cémoi. The region currently has 532000 registered unemployed and only 180000 available positions. The focus will be on aeronautical, tourism and agricultural industries.  Renewable energy is another focus, where Perpignan is currently being considered for the seat of the regional headquarters of ADEME, the environment agency.

P-O dive clubs banned from Cap Creus

French registered diving clubs are no longer allowed to dive in the waters off the Cap Creus, 20km south of the border. This is a huge blow to the clubs whose clients are keen to include the area in their dives. According to the Generalitat de Catalogne, the measure is aimed at reducing damage to the marine park. However French clubs dispute this, saying that they received registered letters from the Catalan maritime authorities asking the clubs to register their clubs and boats under them. The French clubs refused as they are part of a French federation and do not have anything to do with the Spanish and Catalan authorities. The clubs say that the authority is giving way to pressure from the Catalan clubs who want to exclude them from the area, and that it nearly happened once before but was avoided when Christian Bourquin intervened. The Spanish clubs are still allowed to dive. The decision comes in mid season even though dive requests were made and accepted in the spring in the same way as every year. Michel Moly, the director of the Marine Park of the Golfe du Lion and a departmental councillor for the Côte Vermeille has promised to help the French clubs. The organisation is currently studying the decree working with the ministry for foreign affairs and the prefecture. He added that the Cap Creus was a victim of its own success and needed protection, but that it should be done intelligently with all interested parties being involved.

Parents block schools

Parents blocked the entrance to the Joseph Cortada in St Laurent de la Salanque on 1st September, the first day of the school year, to protest against the decision to axe a class. According to one of the mothers, the school had decided not to get rid of the class at the end of the last school year, and then they had reversed the decision during the holidays. The change will mean that there will be classes with pupils at 2 different levels, a change of teacher and the number of pupils in each class will be higher. It will also mean that there will be less projects undertaken.
Meanwhile a decision by the Schools Inspectorate to axe a class in the Perpignan infants school, des Platanes, is being hotly disputed by parents who are intending to occupy the classroom of the teacher who is being moved to another P-O school. The Inspectorate flatly refuses to reexamine the decision which is based on the low number of pupils at the school. Parents say that there are 8 children under 3 who have been refused places, despite François Hollande’s policy of offering places to children this young, and that class numbers will increase from between 22 and 25 to nearly 30.

He should have been more discreet

The owner of a sports club in St Cyprien called the police about a client who was causing a disturbance. The police arrived and intercepted the 27 year old who initially refused to cooperate, but eventually agreed to be breathalysed and show his identity card. He was drunk, but what’s more on further investigation, it turned out that he was wanted for avoiding justice on 2 counts: the first was a sentence of 4 months with no parole for driving without a licence and refusing to cooperate with investigations, the second for 6 months without parole for driving when his licence had been cancelled and taking drugs. He had also skipped a court appearance in February 2015. He was held awaiting trial in Perpignan.

Man hits own lawyer

A man was arrested for threatening behaviour when he stood in front of a residence in Perpignan at 4am calling on Allah and telling the people inside to come out while waving what was initially thought to be a knife but turned out to be a screwdriver. Once in custody, he asked the duty solicitor if he was a practising muslim. When the lawyer replied that he was not there to answer that sort of question, the defendant punched him in the back as he went towards the court room. He then threatened and insulted the police and injured one of them who was trying to restrain him. He has been in Thuir mental hospital on 5 occasions and has been diagnosed as a borderline case who is not mad and is capable of facing justice but is definitely confused with altered judgement. He said he hit the lawyer because he wanted to joke with him like the prophets companions joked between themselves. He continued that he was teasing the policemen who are angels. During the hearing he claimed to be a preacher who could talk to cats, dogs and pigeons. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

Burglars locked in toilets

Two children aged 13 and 15 and of Serbian nationality forced the window of a block of flats in St Marie and had climbed in when they were surprised by the owner. They hid in the toilets where the owner locked them in and rang the police who came and arrested them. They had not had the time to steal anything but the screwdrivers were found hidden in a toilet cistern. They have been taken into care and will come before a children’s judge in January.

Locked up for attempted murder of police

A man who was wanted for evasion from judicial control was arrested on Thursday 1st September. Police were called to what was thought to be a family quarrel where shots had been fired. When officers supported by a dog unit arrived they were fired at by a man through the window of a flat. He was eventually caught in the lift and is now in detention awaiting trial.

Homeless man made terrorist threats

The BST (a specialist brigade of gendarmes) were called to the rue Jean Payra in Perpignan on 31st August where an individual was demanding money from passers-by and drivers and making terrorist threats. Once arrested, it became clear that he was known to police and had been issued with an order to leave the country. He denies everything and will come up in court on Friday for immediate judgement.

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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