A couple of years ago, the French government asked people not to take the day off, but to work for free. The money saved would be put towards paying off the Social Security shortfall, and thus, they implied, you would be helping yourself and those less fortunate. There were not many takers for this idea, strangely. If the choice was to work and not get paid, or have a day off, whether you were paid or not, it wasn't going to be difficult to guess which would be the chosen option.
Had they gone about it in a Comic Reliefish sort of way, making it a fun day at the desk-face, but with a charitable goal, perhaps more people would have signed up; but to appeal to people's consciences to help the government out of a fix was never going to succeed.
So it is a holiday weekend, and all sorts of events are planned. Driving back from town, we found, as we entered out village, signs warning of dangerous junctions, and strange little arrows painted on the road. This means there will be a cycle race coming through. Cycling is a national pastime. Wherever you are in France, and particularly, though not exclusively, on Wednesdays, you can be passed by pods of lycra-clad figures, mostly men, on bicycles with the narrowest seats and the thinnest tyres possible. These men, if you can catch a glimpse of their faces as they whizz by, are frequently in their sixties and seventies. They have legs like whipcord, the colour of walnuts, and they chat. They will set off for the entire day, for 50, 60, 70 kms and more: and at the end of that feat of endurance, they will still be chatting. They will go out there in all weathers, and they will apparently enjoy themselves.
It's not natural.
Another sporting activity this weekend is the three day international eventing competition in the next village. Whilst some are in it to win, others will go out there and ride horses cross-country for up to 110kms, for the sheer pleasure of it.
So they could go to work, and sit at a desk, and do nothing, for no pay: or they could go out and get wet (it always rains in Brittany for the big events) and saddle sore for the sheer pleasure of it.
Rather to my surprise, I can see their point.
This summer the Tour de France is passing though Brittany. The newspaper says that there is no best place to be a spectator, as the whole lot will pass through rather fast - it is a race, after all, and not a circular one - but people will go out in their droves, with picnic lunches, just to see the blur, and to say they were there.
A man cycled past our house this morning with "Mon Petit Tour de France" emblazoned on his rucksack, which he was towing behind him. Not only is he cycling round the whole of France, he is doing it on a racing bike pulling a trailer.
I feel I should rush out, unhook the bike from where it is hanging from the roof of the shed, wipe the grime of ages off the saddle, pump up the tyres, remove the cobwebs and shine up the spokes, de-rust the wheels, check the puncture repair kit and the brake blocks, and search out a helmet and some lycra shorts with something the shape of a skateboard stuffed down them to protect the unwary.
Or perhaps I'll just go and cheer on the racers, in a heartfelt manner. Some things are best left to the professionals, the ones with the whipcord legs the colour of walnuts, and the specially-toughened bottoms. I think I'll stick to walking: I like being overtaken by octogenarians. But that's another story.