My mum and dad 60 years ago

It’s official. A circular from the Prime Minister’s office yesterday, 21st February, has decreed that the term Mademoiselle (Miss) is to be phased out of official documentation. Women no longer have to pinpoint their marital status. France has never had an equivalent of Ms so it’s always been a choice between Madame or Mademoiselle. (Men have only ever had the choice of Monsieur.) However, feminist groups such as Osez le feminisme  and Chiennes de garde are a little suspicious. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that this has happened all of a sudden just before la Presidentielle (presidential elections). Is it just vote grabbing, or is it kosher? We’ll have to wait and see if it is properly implemented after the voting is over. The groups also hope that everyone will follow the government’s lead and stop using ‘Miss’.

The circular also says that the demand for maiden names on official forms should be eliminated too. Darn skippy it should. It has no relevance to anything, and certainly not to setting up a business or paying your cotisations or opening an electricity account, what you used to be called before you married. It’s your current name, whether you’ve kept your own surname or taken your partner’s, that matters. I for one finding it infuriating to get letters from French administration addressed to me as Stephanie Oakley. That’s not me. I stopped being her 25 years ago when I became Stephanie Dagg. I was perfectly happy to take on Chris’s surname and such was my choice. So it’s irritating when some foreign bureaucrat overrides it!

I dare say it will take a while for this change to come through fully, but it’s all for the good.

And now the bells. As part of the celebrations for its 850th birthday next year, Notre Dame in Paris, which Caiti and I visited the other week, is getting new bells. Its original ones were melted down in 1791 and 1792 to make canons during the French revolutionary wars. More than sixty years later, in 1856 the cathedral got some new bells, but they didn’t make the same sound as their predecessors. So they’re going. Nine new ones have been commissioned. They’ll be made from tin and copper and recapture the authentic sound of Notre Dame’s carillon. Go to the website www.notredamedeparis.fr and you can download an MP3 file to give you an idea what the bells will sound like.  (You need to have the volume set very high to hear them well.)