Alex Massie

To the barricades!

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There's something splendid about this. Brent Whelan, an American in Paris, runs, as you do, into yet another demonstration. There was the...

sound truck and chants, flags and banderoles, a regular labor action. But I missed the front of the cortège where the leafleters and signs were, so I couldn't tell what it was about. So I asked a guy on the corner, who told me, "It's the archaeologists."  And that's just who it was: several hundred archaeologists marching down the street, shouting and chanting, demanding that the government withdraw plans to disperse the headquarters of its national archaeological service from Paris.

Only, I think, in Paris. And long may this remain the case. There's a serious point here too, however: everyone wants to sty in the capital. The scariest moment in any teacher or university lecturer's career, for instance, comes when they discover where the state has assigned them. At one end of the scale there's a plum posting in Paris itself, at the other a position in some grim or stupefyingly dull provincial town just beyond commuting range from the capital. Or there are, of course, the banlieues of which we do not speak.

Then again, France is, geographically, a sizeable place but because it has a proper railway system it's possible to get to the provinces quickly. Thus a friend of mine is nominally a lecturer at the university in Montpellier. However she lives in Paris and spends perhaps one and a half or two days a week in Montpellier during term-time. This is an agreeably civilised arrangement, made possible by the fact that her bosses also want to spend most of the week in Paris and by the glories of the TGV.

In other words, even if the poor old archaeologsts are moved out of Paris, life may not be too intolerable for them. Still, whose heart is not gladdened by the idea of archaeologists at the barricades?

[Hat-tip: Art Goldhammer]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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