Like most people who are lucky enough to move here from the UK I think this part of France is the safest place in the world. We previously lived in the suburbs of Leeds where anything that wasn’t chained down would disappear. Houses were burgled whilst the occupants slept in their beds, sheds were ransacked for lawnmowers and bicycles. Car theft was so common it was the norm. Burnt out cars littered the playing fields. One of our elderly neighbours was mugged in our street and died with a broken hip. At night the city centre was rowdy with drunks and the hospital was overwhelmed with casualties.
In contrast here’s a quick summary of today’s local paper, the Journal de Saône-et-Loire. The front page story is neglect of horses in the Bresse region … “Horses are not mobylettes!” …and advice on their care. Speeding on the A6, penalty points and a picture of the police on their motorbikes. The latest on the taxi drivers’ protests; they blocked the centre of Chalon yesterday morning. The usual round-up of news and gatherings in the villages, a feature on a wine producer, and what’s on at the weekend.
I am well aware there are problems festering in the banlieus of many big cities. In response to the Paris riots and car burnings of 2005 Sarkozy passed an antigang law to try and prevent youths getting up to no good. And there is the occasional shocking crime like the assassination of the family at Annecy last September. And unprovoked violence in Grenoble and drug crimes in Marseilles….
But those places and events seem very remote from life here. Everything seems to stay put, the car doesn’t always get locked, and nobody’s pinched my flower tubs!
So this morning it was quite a shock to find that our cash machine in Cormatin had been stolen. Apparently in the early hours an organised gang had ripped it out of the wall using a truck, before taking it to the Church car park to get to work with an angle grinder. Maybe it was the same people who had a go at it a few years ago. Then they tried to cut it open in situe but Gerard heard them from his flat above and called the police. The gang escaped empty handed.
The thing is that this is no ordinary cash machine. This one was the result of several years hard work by M. Bordet to persuade one of the banks to provide one. Otherwise the nearest places you can get money out are in Cluny or St Gengoux.
The grand opening of our distributeur was in September 2008 and everyone was invited. The Mayor cut the red, white & blue ribbon with a pair of silver scissors watched by the boss of BNP Paribas and there was quite a party afterwards at the Mairie with drinks and speeches.
After the first attempted robbery the cash machine was out of action for a long long time. What if this time the BNP refuses to supply another? That would be a great loss to both the locals and visitors. It is a pity that crime committed by the few should affect so many.
I heard from locals today that the maire was in tears when he told them about the theft. It had taken him ten years to get it installed and it was not likely to be replaced.
Apparently the gang of thieves did the same thing in St Gengoux last July and got away with 55 000 euros.
In Cormatin the robbery was witnessed by Lucien, an elderly man who called the police. But they took half an hour to get there and by that time the thieves had gone. It should have taken them ten minutes from Cluny HQ along the main road.
The robbery was reported in the Journal. Opposite was a full page item about the rich and famous the gendarmes had caught speeding on the A6. Just about everybody from Michael Schumacher to Eric Clapton. Perhaps the police should rethink their priorities.