Francois Hollande’s ‘Escapades’ – A French Glossary

Followers of France’s political love story may have been intrigued by some expressions used in the media, writes Hugh Schofield. What, for example, to make of a presidential spokesman’s statement that Valerie Trierweiler has succumbed to the blues?

French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler

Le blues means (as in English) sadness or melancholy. To have a coup de blues is to get an attack of the blues, to feel down all of a sudden. Used of Valerie Trierweiler, it underplays the extent of her distress. You would not normally go to hospital with le blues.

Some have said that Trierweiler, President Francois Hollande and his alleged new girlfriend Julie Gayet are all from the gauche caviar – the caviar-eating left. This is the French equivalent of champagne Socialists. But because left-wing thinking is very much part of the French establishment, the gauche caviar is an easily identifiable social class.

The grille du coq

Discreet exit: The Grille du Coq

These people may abhor the pursuit of money, but find it normal to have a pied-a-terre in the Rue du Cirque – an exclusive street a stone’s throw from the presidential residence, the Elysee Palace. This is where Julie Gayet was lent a flat by actress Emmanuelle Hauck, in order (allegedly) to facilitate the affair. Incidentally, had it been Hollande’s flat, it would have been not a pied-a-terre, but a garconniere (bachelor pad).

Meanwhile Hollande was indulging in escapades discretes (discreet escapades) – the coy expression used a few weeks ago by L’Express magazine to describe his romantic adventures. L’Express knew what the president was doing, but wouldn’t spell it out – it left that to the vulgarians of the presse people (celebrity press) .

The French have also learned of the existence of the Grille du Coq. This is the ornate black metal gate surmounted by a large Gallic cockerel, at the end of the Elysee gardens, through which, L’Express says, the president would sometimes s’exfiltrer – smuggle himself out.

Other times he went by motorbike – or to be precise by a scooter a trois roues – a powerful scooter with two front wheels and one at the back: a kind of motor-trike. In traffic-clogged Paris, these are now the vehicles of choice for besuited middle-ranking executives on their way to business meetings.