Les Flics: just as you can’t write about life in France without discussing wine, you can’t write about it without discussing that greatest of scourges, the bugbear and bane of everyone’s lives and a daily topic of conversation all over France, third only to the weather and politics. And what are les flics? The cops, of course.
Mostly, when the French talk about les flics, they are talking specifically about traffic cops, who are universally regarded with almost unlimited contempt and no respect at all. However, when the occasion merits, they expand the concept to include any other kind of cop who’s been getting in the way of the French being French. Continue reading “Flics: Traffic cops in France”
Napoleon was actually a tall guy. Did you know that? It’s true. The legend that the great conqueror of Europe was severely vertically challenged is just that—a legend. Maybe not quite an urban myth—I don’t think they had those back then—but nevertheless, a myth.
My friend Antoine the potter had a little incident with the Gendarmes from Bligny not long ago. Now before I begin this tale, I feel I should put to rest a belief that has become, apparently (according to my children,) current in the UK in the last few years.
This is that the Gendarmes in France are not real police. Well, they are, and this is a classic bit of Anglo-Saxon, er, confusion. I believe it has even been aired on that odious arch-slimeball Stephen Fry’s television show; not that that would make it any more the truth.
Palawan is an island in the west of the Mimaropa Admistrative region of the Philippines. The Phils is divided colloquially into three regions, Luzon in the north, Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the south. Palawan is on the far west of Visayas.
It forms the northern boundary of the Sulu Sea and is only some 70 kilometres from Malaysia at its southern extremity. It is served by two airports, the larger being at Puerto Princesa, the main town on the island.
I had come to the Philippines because I had met, on-line, a transpinay called Crissy José and I wanted to meet her in real. At the time I was still recovering from the end of my marriage and a brief and failed affair with a women close to my age. (Which was an unmitigated disaster.) I’d been chatting to a couple of women but here was a click with Crissy that I didn’t get with the others. So I booked my ticket.
Spring and summer of 2012 I had passed sailing my yacht Misty around the coast of Scotland. She was sold in September and I wanted something I hadn’t had in a long time — a good chillout holiday and plenty of sex. Well, the Philippines trip got me one of those.
That first visit to the Phils was only three weeks — back then you only got 21 days on the automatic tourist visa. I had made my base at the Oasis Paco Park hotel in Ermita, Manila, and Palawan was the second exploration trip. The first was to Boracay, which I write about here.
(As an aside, I again highly recommend the Oasis Paco Park. It’s reasonably priced, clean and the staff are super-friendly. It also has a really good, if a tad pricey, Italian restaurant.)
We had booked our tickets for the Palawan tour through TravelTeam, and found ourselves on a Zest Airlines flight out of NAIA at 0700.
Transwomen in the Philippines are classified locally as ‘gay’. The specific word used might be ‘bakla’, ‘beki’, ‘bayot’, ‘bading’ or any one of several others, depending on location and dialect.
Here, ‘gay’ does not mean what it does in the West. It means you are male but not a man; that you have ‘green blood’. You are an unmasculine male. In Luzon, the most popular local term is ‘bakla’. Their lifestyle is called ‘kabaklaan’.
Brazilian transsexuals, males who present as often highly desirable women, have become a well-known phenomenon. They accept themselves as submissive homosexuals and call themselves travestis.
Their cultural understanding of the nature of homosexual sex means that they have thus rescinded, effectively, their status as ‘men’. They have become part of an intermediary class of ‘not-men’ who are enabled to leave go their masculine identities to adopt feminine ones. However the majority believe that they can never be complete women, and that those Brazilian transsexuals who think they can, are suffering from delusions to the point of having a screw loose.
I’m at the local motorcycle repair shop where Sherwyn, a most competent mechanic and pleasant cove, is replacing a brake master cylinder on the Blaze. He first thought to replace only the seals, but he can’t find the right size. A new cylinder is 400 pesos, just under six quid, an unwell encephalopod. I just tell him to get on with it. Sherwyn works in the open space outside a motorcycle parts shop, where he seems to buy most of his stuff, although, as today, sometimes he has to go further afield. While I wait I sit on a wooden bench in the shade and observe the street life. Baklas soon begin to appear; it’s like they’re in the woodwork.