Friday, January 29, 2010

February CBJ now in the shops

The February issue of the CBJ is now available in the shops. The main feature in this month's Journal focuses on the 2009 census figures that were released in January 2010.
The magazine contains a special map showing population density of the Breton communes, which graphically illustrates how few people live in Central Brittany.
The article somewhat controversially proposes that these figures would qualify Central Brittany as Terra Nullius i.e. land not already occupied and therefore free to whomsoever wants to make use of it.
The truth is, however, that business interests have been operating on this principle for the past twenty or thirty years and have building industrial-scale farm buildings for which they would never have received permission if there had been more people in the area. Central Brittany has also been proposed as a suitable site for 'storing' nuclear waste, and, at the moment, as a suitable dumping ground for industrial waste.
The ease with which the administration, and their contracting companies, have been able to rush through wind-turbine construction over recent years is another sign that the land is effectively unoccupied and there is not a large enough local community to be able to defend its own interests.
Of course, business cannot actually occupy land, and sooner or later Central Brittany will be re-populated by human beings. The interesting question is what sort of society they choose to build - a modern consumer society or something more closely-allied to the self-sufficient society of Brittany of the past; a society that looks to Paris for money and support, or a society that can stand on its own two feed and deal with the rest of the world on equal terms. People might not like the idea of Terra Nullius, but it does open up the possibility of exciting times in the future.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Population Figures

I'm working on an article about the recently-published population figures, based on the 2009 census, for the next issue of the CBJ.

From my point of view, the interesting thing about these figures is that they give a very graphic indication of how few people live in Central Brittany at the moment. I've been tapping questions into Google and Wikipedia to try to get some context on the question, and I worked out today that the Cotes d'Armor has less than half the number of people per square mile than Devon.

I made the comparison with Devon as, historically, the two regions have a lot of links, and and they are quite similar in terms of industry, climate, etc. I am sure that up until quite recently the population density of the Cotes d'Armor would have been quite a bit higher than that of Devon - because the climate is milder and, overall, the terrain more hospitable.

The local press don't seem to see it as a particularly grave issue (its more a matter of counting heads to see how much money each commune will be entitled to in the coming year, than anything else).

In any other time and place, these figures would be taken as evidence of a cruel people driving people off the land through exessive taxation and harsh regulation. We are expected to believe that in this particular case, however, it is caused by the irresistable draw of the city luring everyone away.

I would be interested to know what people thought about the issue before putting the finishing touches to my article.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I think, therefore I am...or at least I think so

Last week, I received a new book from the Breton Publisher, Yoram Embanner, entitled Descartes, Breton? The Breton Point of View. The book is by Simon Alain and the French edition came out last year, and it has now been released in English.
It immediately caught my interest as I have a private grudge against Descartes dating back to my days at school, or rather, University. It seemed to me when I was a student that Descartes was one of the major figures responsible for the unfeeling approach to scientific study that has led to so many problems over the past 400 years. It was an issue that brought me into frequent conflict with my teachers, and ultimately, I came to the conclusion that most of the things that I had been taught at school had been based upon a false premise.
The thesis of this book is that Descartes is fundamentally misunderstood. In France, perhaps because he was the first significant philosopher to write in French, his name has become inextricably linked with the idea of being French. In the words of the author, for the French public, his ideas have been synthesised down to:
I think, therefore I am.
I think in French, therefore I am French.

Apparently, however, Descartes, was not French. His father was Breton – living and working in Rennes, and a member of the Breton Parliament – and Descartes himself chose to leave France to live in the Netherlands, where he found the atmosphere more conducive to freedom of thought.
Therefore, to Descartes, the idea of 'I think in French, but I am Breton' or 'I think in French, but I am a human being, just like everyone else', would, presumably, have been perfectly acceptable.
I am enjoying reading the book, perhaps because I have always had a soft spot for philosophy. The book is written from the perspective of a Breton person, who has more or less reached the limit of his endurance with the whole concept of 'Frenchness', but I must admit that one aspect of France that I do like is the willingness of people to discuss philosophical issues.
Just for the record, I still think that Descartes was wrong. If he had said 'I love, therefore I am', he would have been on a better track.

Descartes, Breton?
The Breton Point of View
Simon Alain
Yoran Embanner
71 Hent Mespiolet 29170 Fouesnant 17.50euros ISBN 97829165792214

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Megalith Diary

New on the CBJ site - Magalith Diary.
Samuel has been working on putting the Megalith Diary from the CBJ online.
It is still a work in progress, but comments are welcome.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow in Central Brittany

We have had more snow than at any time since we moved here, and have been snowed in since Tuesday evening.
The CBJ advertising team took the afternoon off yesterday to do some work in the snow (left).
It occurred to me that people might have some interesting pictures of the snow - wildlife, etc. - that they might like to see printed in the Central Brittany Journal.
If so, please send them to me at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anyone Interested in Old Farm Buildings Near Morlaix?

A charming Breton gentleman phoned me last week and asked me to help him to advertise his farm buildings to potential buyers in the UK.
He is asking 285,000€ for the buildings which come together with 3/4 hectare of land. The property is in the Morlaix area.
For more info call the owner on: 0033 (0)2 98 79 16 82 (I think that a reasonable command of French is necessary).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Return to Resistance

The cinema in Callac is screening 'Walter, Retour en Resistance' on Sunday 10th Jan at 2.30pm. The director, Gilles Perret, is scheduled to be present.

The film is a documentary based around the life of Walter Bassen, who is now 82 years old, and describes his long combat and many battles against demagogues, injustice, and oppression. During the war he distributed anti-fascist leaflets in the streets of Annecy and was deported to Dachau concentration camp.
Today he has concerns about a world in which inequality and injustice gain more and more ground.

One of the themes of the film is the relevance to resistance in today's world.

I don't know if I will be able to make it to Callac to see the film on Sunday, but seeing the publicity for this film made me concsious of the fact that it has become fashionable to complain about the bureaucracy and other aspects of Frenchy life, but it is not mentioned so often anymore that this is a country in which it is still possible to express serious views and have people listen to them.

Callac Cinema Website

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New issue Central Brittany Journal

New Central Brittany Journal now in the shops.
This month's issue focusses on gardening jobs that can be done in the winter, and especially upon coppicing.
It is seldom mentioned, but completely true, that up until fifty years ago, Bretons produced more fuel than they could possibly know what to do with - and the vast majority of it came from coppicing.
People used wood for heating their houses, for cooking, for firing bread ovens, for bonfires and festivals, and did not have to pay for any of it, because almost the whole of the countryside was covered by a patchwork of tiny field, each of which was surrounded by a bank topped with trees - many of which had been coppiced regularly for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years.
Many of these banks were destroyed in the infamous remembrements of the 1970s, but many have survived. However, even of these, relatively few are being managed properly, and it is more common to see straggling, tangled, multi-trunked trees on top of banks than the beautiful symmetry of coppiced plants.
When these once-coppiced trees occur beside a road, they become a nuisance to passing traffic, and the commune 'solves' this problem by employing contractors to maserate them with the awful circular saw machine, often collecting up the cut branches with giant tractors and bulldozers, and leaving them in huge piles beside the road.
To my mind, this is a typical example of the madness of modern European man - lecturing the rest of the world about what should be done in the Amazon rain forest, etc., whilst still behaving like the world's biggest idiots at home.
Surely it should not be too difficult for us to do something about this and to start managing our coppiced trees properly.