31 December, 2010

Sustainable financial commitments seem to be on the 2001 agenda of Angers city

The town hall of Angers sent on the lask week of december to hundreds of local decision-makers its traditional agenda. This custom lasts since almost twenty years and seems a good one. Useful to their beneficiairies, the diary is also a vehicle of promotion for the city. The 2011 edition has two differences with the previous.

First, the Angers agenda comes back to the calendar year (formerly, its pages started on september 1st and ended on august 31) instead of adopting the scholar rythm. Secondly, its format is a little bit simple but, nevertheless, with a more colored cover which make the book more attractive. Formerly, the cover were in carboard or even in imitationleather with the letters Angers and the year printed in gold (colour). This change is maybe nothing more than a detail, but such an evolution could come from the big turn the local authority is living in its finances.

The municipal messages the agenda is carriying have also changed. In the preface of the previous diary, Angers declared its support to social housing, employment and solidarity. In the last edition, the city only likes to think on itself as eco-responsible, evoke a network of transportation where the automobile is out and mentions its natural spaces. The purpose seems less ambitious but financially more sustainable. Clearly, the time is no more devoted to "shared influence" but to a lower and , ultimately, more reasonable, profile.

30 December, 2010

The French consumption seen through Angers customers

credit picture Fotosearch
The Angers customers are discovering, since a few days, an American cheese in their local supermarkets. "Philadelphia", the name of that cheese, looks more to a cheese cream than a real cheese French are fond of. Produced by Krafts, an multinational company from US (which owns the French Lu brand), the Philadelphia cheese is on tests in Angers because the city is a pilot market for MarketingScan, another company hired by Krafts to monitor the customers behavior.

Credit picture Krafts
The presence, and even the success of an American product, in the local market hs nothing original. But, Philadelphia looks, after the Californian wines, like an insider in a world-famous country for its cheeses as well as for its wines. If the Angers customers are pleased with Philadelphia, the cheese will be sold all over France. But the marketing studies will last six months...

Picture MarketingScan

Far beyond that specific issue, the Angers consumption habits will so indicate the attraction, or the repulsion (who knows?) of the French people for the most famous cheese of the American market, and, the cultural values that cheese is carrying. In order to get in Angers a faithful picture of the French market, Marketing Scan doesn't have even to say to Angers customers : "Cheese"!

29 December, 2010

At the Angers telephone booth : "it's an emergency!"

One of the most popular symbol of the British culture in Angers is in peril. Located at the corner of the Saint-Aubin street and Des Lices street, the ultimate red telephone booth of Her Gracious Majesty is a pitiful sight. Spattered with teared posters and graffitis, its door is amputated and most of its small panes of glass have been smashed. Is only the phone working ?

Installed there twenty years ago (another one was located on Foch boulevard and has been apparently removed), that icon of England could soon disappear if nothing is done to save it from rampage. The urban furnitures which surround it spoils a little bit more what was, before the appearance of the mobile phone, an irreplaceable equipment. What can explain such gratuitous acts of violence ?

Painted in red in order to be seen from a distance, the first cabin was set up in Birmingham in 1921. The last model, named K6, was produced up to 70 000 samples, of wich 13 000 are now scattered over the world. Very popular with the English, as are still buses, pillarboxes or cabs, a telephone booth may be sold on internet auctions at about 5 000 euros. Please Mr Antonini, listen to that SOS, save our booth, don't hang up!

27 December, 2010

Angers and Anjou change their mind regarding a railway high speed line

Did the politicians of Angers and, almost, Anjou realize that a high speed line is an an asset for the city and the province? It may be the case after Jean-Claude Antonini, mayor of Angers, and Christophe Béchu, president of the Conseil général de Maine-et-Loire expressed in december a common point of view. Both said a stop of that future high speed line must be set at Angers in a national scheme of transportation equipments in 2020.

But this unanimity has not always existed. Fifteen years ago, the Sncf announced its plan to continue the high speed line between Paris and Le Mans toward Angers, then Nantes. But the selfishness of some rural mayor and the stupid reaction of the public opinion lead the national railways company to give up its plan. The late public opinion had, at that time, a incompetent thinking which was : do we have to pay 10 billions francs to gain 10 mn in the jurney Angers Paris? So they refused the Sncf proposal. But the Angers inhabitants nevertheless paid (for another line in the East of France)!

Today the local politicians have changed their mind. Above the gain of time, what is at stake is the presence of Angers in an European network to Munich, Amsterdam or London. Phew! Let's hope it's not too late!

The Angers church asked the Christians "to move" in their mind

After its Christmas message celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Angers church delivered on December 25th another substance, that one aimed at leading the Angers christians to be confident in God's will for the year to come. As a symbol of a desire to tight the links between them and the audience, the priests asked to the two hundreds persons present in the nave of Saint-Maurice cathedral to move from the rear to the front, till the transept, to get in better conditions the message of the Church. "Thank you to those who move", they said.

While, in the present time, people want to get answer to any question they have, the representatives of the Angers church recalled that Christians have to accept their ignorance regarding the fate of humanity and be trustful to the will of God. That suppose they accept to change their mind. They have also to recognize they are, may be, less powerful than before and more dependent on technique, the priest added (when he asked an assistant to connect the microphone allowing him to deliver his homily).

At the end of the church service, celebrated both in French and Latin, the main organ solemnly escorted the audience till the Roman Portal. It was a little bit confusing to cross from the light to the night. Maybe like in some English churches, an instant of talk gathering faithful and priests (around tea and cakes) would have be a friendly end and another way of strengthen confidence and pleasure to be there.

26 December, 2010

The winter will test from today the Angers inhabitants Christmas solidarity resolutions

Santa Claus hasn't only brought animations in Angers city. The next gift is... the cold. On december 26th, the temperature will drop to 6° Celcius under zero (21° Farenheit) and will only rise to 1° Celcius (33° Farenheit) on the afternoon, according to Météo France. Consecutively the prefecture of Maine-et-Loire activated the big cold program designed to protect the most vulnerable person against the risks of an exposure to harsh weather.

The state decision will ensure that the homeless will find a shelter. The risk is real. Regularly, men die in the streets or in squats of Angers during the winter. Two phone numbers are available to inhabitants of Angers who could meet person endangered by the cold. After the Christmas period which promotes solidarity with the most weak persons the prefecture urges Angers inhabitants to be watchful and to report to phone numbers 115  or 15 (in case of emergency involving medical assistance) such risky situations.

After a light reprieve, the temperatures should drop again on the beginning of 2011. This is not the worse weather conditions Angers had experimented : in 1964, the meteorological station of Beaucouzé recorded -13,4° Celcius (7,8° Farenheit)!

25 December, 2010

Christmas on the tracks

There are special places in every cities favorable to express feelings during festive periods. In Angers, but it's the same everywhere, the hall of the Saint-Laud railway station on december 24th was one of these special places. People awaiting relatives were inclined to speak because Chrismas promotes friendship and because the meteorological conditions which disrupt families gatherings was the issue relatives'travellers were talking about.

The mobile phones makes the people's faces more expressive : anxiety, eagerness or pleasure were visible and audible. It was cold in the hall of Saint-Laud station and, like in England or US, men and women, youngs or seniors, are drinking hot beverages in cardboard cups listening music or giving calls.

The adverts about arrivals of trains speed up the movements of the crowd  lying in wait and lead it to form a kind of guard of honour for the travellers. Within a few seconds the stairs liberate travellers happy to escape to a Christmas Eve dinner in train. These, some with gifts, in turn, are looking for familiar faces in the crowd. The roller suitcases drive their owners to the exit. The cars swallow people and luggage. Once outside the Saint-Laud station, all blend with the night and the promises of a merry Christmas.

24 December, 2010

The Angers streetcar makes the streets without cars

While the streetcar made one's way through Angers city for the first time on december 22nd and attracted the looks of inhabitants, another phenomena is becoming standard : the desappearance of cars in downtown. With the implementation of a new mode of transport like the streetcar, the city of Angers clearly intends to slow down the automobile traffic through the urban area and even, in its core, to prohibit it. The Ralliement square is now at the center of ways cars can't use.

It's impossible to predict if such a choice will be advantageous or damaging for the economic function of downtown, but it's clear the way the Angers inhabitants - as well as the shop owners - will use it is just about to change. For the storekeepers the change is yet highly visible, especially for restaurants and bars which are now able to enlarge (not for free) their commercial surfaces. The customers could use downtown as a new open air commercial gallery without fearing to be knocked down by cars, buses or bikes (?) and in an atmosphere without exhaust fumes. All that looks pretty good.

The storekeepers seem to believe in the new vitality of downtown : in Roe street many shop are in works or for sale. In Ralliement square, a restaurant has just been refurnished and another one will open within a few weeks. A space the Angers inhabitants love could derserve more animation, especially on sundays. May a city heart stop beat with so much new arteries?

23 December, 2010

Angers city under snow

 In the end of afternoon of december 22nd, snow started to fall on Angers city. What, at first glance, looked rain was rather snow. A real snow, with flakes, instead of the endless rain the town received during the last days. In less than 90 mn, the streets, squares and gardens of Angers were covered by 2 cm of snow, twirling graciously in the wind.

Rapidly, the traffic became more difficult for pedestrians as well as drivers because of the slipping streets and the bad visibility inside and outside the cars. At 7.30 pm, the Alsace street was almost deserted and most of the wooden huts were closed. Only Ralliement square had a carnival atmosphere with the enlighted merry-go-round and young people rallying the first snow ball fights. In the slopped and cobblestoned David d'Angers street, some shop owners decided to salt the surface while in the Mall gardens, the cone-shaped yews were similar to the miniature tres which decorates the Christmas crib.

Météo France forecasted the continuation of the snowy falls during the following night and temperatures were predicted to decrease between zero and two degrees. On thursday, the meteorologic conditions would stay the same. The traffic should, therefore, be very slowed on the next morning. According to Angers inhabitants, the last comparable snow goes back to 2005. If, officialy, people complain about the desadvantages of snow, many of them could appreciate the cachet snow bring to Christmas. It's like a unexpected Christmas gift.

22 December, 2010

A newspaper messenger slams the door because of its labor conditions

 Some of the readers of a Western daily newspaper distributed in Angers city received, with their edition of december 21st, a letter in which their messenger explains why he decided to resign earlier than he had planned. His decision is due to his labor conditions which would have badly evolved recently. The schedules of his (former) job are its main caracteristics : the work starts between 4.30 am and finishes at about 8.30 am. If everything is going right. But that was not the case recently.

"Last saturday, I have waited the lorry (of a private routing and mailing company) for two hours under the snow and the temperature was -5°. During the waiting time, we are not paid. Having no information from the company (I refuse to buy a mobile phone for the purpose of my job), I came back home at 6.30 am", complains the messenger. This one, in his letter, criticize the behaviour of the customers who phoned to his home in order to get some explanations (but he had given them his adress and phone number) "instead of calling the newspaper which is responsible in case of delay or absence of delivery".

After a 8 years of early get up, the messenger slams the door visibly angry against the newspaper. That local media, swift to condemn the injustices of working life and to criticize the social inequalities against salaried employees, should be well inspired to put one's own house in order first!

ps. Nobody replaced the retired messenger...

21 December, 2010

Mayor of Angers and chairman of the Conseil général of Maine-et-Loire both criticized

The financial issues are on the forefront of the present debates both in Angers Loire Métropole and Conseil général de Maine-et-Loire's councils. Even if the missions of the two authorities are different, the origin of their financial difficulties - the balance of the 2011 budget - is common : the economic crisis which increased the expenditures and decrease the receipts.

While the Conseil général and ALM are managed by political opponents, Christophe Béchu, chairman of the first, Ump (right), and Jean-Claude Antonini, chairman of ALM, PS (left), the medecine they plan is almost the same : an increase of the local real estate tax on one side, a new tax on the other! Both have been criticized in their own assembly and even by political allies. The result is inhabitants will have to restrain their consumption as their savings to foot the bill.

On medium-term, it will be risky for the two authorities, to go on without an agonizing reapprisal of their financial strategy which relies heavily on debt. More financial autonomy will only come from difficult choices between missions which have to be implemented and missions which can be postponed or cancelled. An the help will certainly not come from state which is in much more critical situation.

20 December, 2010

Snow outside Angers could lead to water rise later

The famous "angevine mildness", depicted by the french poet, Joachim du Bellay, when he returned to his native province from Rome in 1558, could be true in winter. While nearby administrative departments, like Indre-et-Loire, Sarthe, Mayenne and Ille-et-Vilaine, are under "orange alert", because of the risk of snow, Maine-et-Loire was, till now, no affected even if snow was predicted last december 17th.

But that doesn't mean Angers is unaffected. On sunday afternoon, in Saint-Laud railway station, many trains were delayed till two hours because of meteorological difficulties in the North of Maine-et-Loire. During days to come, Météo France doesn't foresee snow but only an overcast weather with temperatures ranging from 2 to 9 degrees, winds reaching 20km/h and rains. There is no snow till the end of the year. In the recent days, inhabitants only noticed a thin layer of snow in the early hours of saturday. The fire brigades recorded three losses of control without physical casualties.

The situation is so very different of a severe winter experienced in Angers and Maine-et-Loire. In 2009 for example 6 degrees under zero were recorded in Angers. The mildness yet noticed centuries ago comes from the double influence of the oceanic and continental climates, with rainy winters and scarce frosts. But every advantage has its reverse. In Anjou, it is the rivers, and especially Loire, floods. If Météo France does not forecast snow and does not foresee inundations, everyone knows snow uphill comes always downhill.

19 December, 2010

Angers streetcar line : it's now the turn of the stops

Station installation in cold, rain and darkness
The line of Angers street car is, step by step, taking its permanent aspect. After the railtracks have been covered by cobblestones, schist or lawn and brigthed up with boxes and bowers, it is time now for the equipment of the stations. During the night of december 19th, two teams of the JCDecaux company started to fit the elements of the 25 stops of line A linking Avrillé city to the La Roseraie disctrict of Angers.

Credit picture : Wikipedia
Unloaded from three lorries, metallic structures of the future shelters and roofs made of glass were carefully put together by teams of three persons each. The task was not easy because of the cold weather, the rain and the obscurity, even if the technicians wore little miners'lamp necessary to screw the elements at the Foch-Haras stop. The benches could come later because the stations have not to shelter the public before the opening of the line on at the end of next june.

Glass roof at Foch Haras station
About 35 000 passengers will daily use the streetcar which will run from 5.30 am to 0.30 am. The medium waiting time between two trains will not exceed 6 mn in rush hours. Recently the works were finally completed in Létanduère street and in downtown Avrillé, two places where inhabitants will have hardly withstood the lengh of the works. The train could go through Angers on next week for its tests.
Credit Picture : Angers Townhall

Townhall has already planned a advertising campaign about new rules for a harmonious coexistence between pedestrians, bikers, drivers and streetcar along the line.

18 December, 2010

"The monarch" was in Anjou

Once again, Anjou and English are associated in national, even international, press coverage. The British Medical Journal published - in English of course - on december 14th a study entitled "Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king's head" written by a group of doctors from... France. They categorically identified it was Henri IV's head which was discovered by two editors in january 2010 in... Anjou.

 A retired tax collector, Jacques Bellanger, 84, bought (!) the relic in 1955 (at auctions!) and kept it since in the attic of his Anjou house. During 55 years, the head of "the monarch" (so qualified by the owner) was in a wooden case, itself put back on a shelf of a wardrobe. According to the BMJ, Henry IV's head has "a light brown colour, open mouth, and partially closed eyes. The preservation was excellent, with all soft tissues and internal organs well conserved". "The face is at the same time expressive and terrifying", told the French editors.

This is not the first "stay" of Henry IV in Anjou. The monarch was in Angers at the time he prepared the edit de Nantes. At that time, he was hosted in the Logis Barrault. He went also to Briollay for hunting. In order to get the confidence of the catholics, he went to Angers cathedral and he laid the first stone of the Capucins monastery.  The definitive version of the text was written in the Jacobins monastery. The Anjou province was twice the origin of the celebrity of Henry IV.

17 December, 2010

The bikers would not be welcome in Ralliement plaza and around

Credit picture Auva : tiny but dangerous    
If the pedestrians have yet recovered the core of the city, this is not the case for the cyclists. Apparently, no lanes dedicated to bikes have been drawn on the ground and the equipments to park the bikes are scarce in the streets near Ralliement square. So how will the cyclists do to cross the area and park their vehicles? Those could be sufficient to cause accidents.

No specific lanes for bikers
Presently, the only possibility the bikers have in Ralliement square is to tie the cycle to the guardrails of steps driving to the parking lots. That's a pity because those iron structures are styled. In Alsace street nothing indicates which side of the pavements is dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. And there is no signal indicating the zone is accessible to each other. Moreover, the only surface which could not be slippery is the central one, covered with cobblestones. But the traks of the streetcar constitute for bikers a dreadful snare and could lead to severe accidents.

Equipments unavailble in Ralliement plaza
 The most careful behaviour for these would be to step down from the top of Alsace street till the bottom of Roë street. But there is no road sign to warn them to do so. The risks could be more important in Roë street because of the slope. Another difficulty is much devious. The new road surface of the Chaussée Saint Pierre has two levels, only distinct with a slight difference in height : one or two centimetres. That little difference of height could provoke falls.

15 December, 2010

The Arthurs' classes on stage

Credit pictures : Les Arthurs
The Arthurs, a theatre company, presented, on december 14th, the first results of its beginners course, organized every year, in front an audience of relatives and friends. Fourteen scenes excerpts from masterworks of Shakespeare, Molière, Sartre, Goldoni, some extracted from dramas ("Phèdre", "Huis clos") others from vaudeville ("La puce à l'oreille" or "Un fil à la patte"), some in alexandrines, others in prose, distracted the public a couple of hours in the little theatre of the company, located in David d'Angers street.

The students, all amateurs, mostly women, of different ages, began their classes on october and, after only two months, have already the ability to overcome stress and stage fright even if, from time to time, knowledge-gaps are visible. If the scenes presented variable degrees in difficulty, the lengh of the dialogues and the expressiveness they require, the trainee actors will continue in january their discovery of that art and will be confronted to new challenges.

"The goal is to give to everybody the resource to be sensitive with theatre, to gain self-confidence and of course to be at ease on a stage, with a text, a staging and the feelings we want to express", says the Arthurs who, presently, perform "Des cailloux plein les poches" at the Chanzy theatre.

A twinning of Angers with the Us city of Austin could be in sight

The arrival of Saint Edwards University in Angers could lead to another consequence : the twinning of Angers with the city of Austin, the capital of Texas. Local medias announced that a twinning committees had been set up on each side of the Atlantic ocean but no date is precised regarding the signature of an agreement.

Angers could be more interested than Austin by such a scheme given the difference of size between the two cities. Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the fifteenth most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006. Its population sums 786,000. Created around 1830, Austin has since emerged as a center for technology and business. The Texas capital has a humid subtropical climate,  characterized by hot summers and mild winters (as Angers). Austin is known as a center for liberal politics in a generally conservative Texas.

 Among the Austin's largest employers, there are Dell, IBM, 3M or Apple Inc. Buildings that make up most of Austin's skyline are modest in height even it the city hosts some of the tallest condo towers in the state, topping one out at 56 floors and another at 44 floors. Angers could be then the only French city to be twinned with Austin.

14 December, 2010

The next local taxe increase already swallowed by some Angers inhabitants

If civism is a quality among citizens, an excess of civism could not deserve the same qualification. After a wise communication about the difficulties for Angers Loire Metropole to balance its budget, press and now press readers presented on december 12th the increase of local taxes in 2011 as something unavoidable.

For the reader, the transfer, from national state to local authorities of new tasks, particularly in the social area, is the origin of the present financial tensions. If that is worsening the local finances, the deficit has also local origins : the project of the authority to launch an ambitious housing scheme till 2012 with more than 2 500 homes in average per year, the cost of the first streetcar line which largely exceeded the planned amount and the duty of Angers Loire Metropole to refund the private local companies the local business taxe because its rate was illegal.

If the costly inauguration project of the streetcar had recently been withdraw by the mayor, readers of local press, whose some of them will have foot the bill, consider regrettably that the politicians have no way but to increase the taxes. Meanwhile a way has not been sufficiently worked out : the reduction of current expenses. The increase of taxes to fill a financial deficit only solve the result of the disease, not its origin. It's time cor local (as well as national) politicians to work on it.

13 December, 2010

Crowd in Angers downtown on sunday, a lively, but scarce, sight

The end of sunday afternoon in downtown of Angers on december 12th city illustrated, once again, that the city is much more lively when stores are opened. Even if those were almost all closed, the Alsace and Lenepveu streets, and of course the Ralliement plaza, were overcrowded. People were lining up to buy a glass of hot wine (mixed with cinnamon delicately sweetening the atmosphere and attracting new customers) or pastries bananas-shaped cooked in giant chip pans. And the few stores opened didn't seem to wait for shoppers.

Clearly, Angers inhabitants enjoy the ambiance of Christmas or New Year and would may be ready to spend money on others events. That kind of festivities would deserve a general understanding between stores owners who, may be, could get from town hall the necessary authorization to open up to five sundays per year as regulation allows it. Almost if they are food stores because, clearly, food in France remains closely linked with merry-making.

 While the open air terrazas of the cafes are clearly enjoyed by customers all year long, nothing was planned on Ralliement plaza to allow inhabitants drink their wine otherwise than walking... While all the Christmas huts were concentrated on a side of the plaza, a big tent would have been welcome on the other side. That would add money ... and fun.

12 December, 2010

A French-English expression will not anger some 11 000 Angers families

Credit Pictures Wikipedia
A new hybrid expression, at the same time English and French, appeared on december 10th in Angers city : the "triple play social" and about 11 000 households are going to use it. These families, tenants of the social housing local authority Angers Habitat, will have access to the programs of numerous tv channels, French and foreigner, a wired telephony and a two mega internet connection. And for only 3,69 € instead of 5,65 € per month! An unbeatable price compared to the fees paid - presently (because it could increase) - by the others customers (17 € et 29,90 € per month for a subscription to wired telephony and an illimited access to internet) which means a saving of 480 € per year.

For the instigator of such an offer, the advantages are... triple : it gives a new purchasing power to low income families (will they remember it when the rent will rise?), it contributes to the elimination of satellites dishes which, fixed to iron stays, defaced the fronts of the buildings of Angers Habitat (we'll see) and it reduces the "digital divide" between citizens.

With this implementation, Numericable, a British-American-Luxembourgian owned television operator, severely criticized in 2008 by the Angers consumers associations gets back in touch with the city townhall. And Angers inhabitants become more fluent in English !

11 December, 2010

The Angers department of an US university could register 400 students, a third American, in 2011

Credit Pictures : St. Edward's University
Angers, through the Western Catholic University, and the Maine-et-Loire, through the Bois-Robert Institute (the village of Bécon-les-Granits, west of Angers) welcome, since 2008, the french deparment of the american St. Edward's University established more than a century ago by Father Edward Sorin, of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which was founded in Western France.

Located Merlet de La Boulay street, St Edward's University could gather 250 to 300 students in 2011 in its Angers department and a third could be american students.  The educationnal programs should be dedicated, during a first step, to international business seminars and Apple Pro Application courses. St. Edward's University is twinned with the Bois-Robert Institute to offer a program for European students wishing to study at  St. Edward's in Austin (Texas,) to earn a bachelor's degree.

For St. Edwards, "Western France is an attractive, vibrant region and Angers is a central location convenient to many other French and European cities. Additionally, developing educational programs in Western France represents a “return to our French roots“".