Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Paris Fair's Naughty Area: Vibrators in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, available (bien sûr) in red, white, or blue

The French, as we all know, are an inventive people
quips Stephen Clarke in the Daily Telegraph.
Where would we be without the bikini, hot-air balloons, and pétanque? (that gives me an idea for a great new televised sport, by the way, but let’s forget that for the moment.)

The problem is that France’s famous inventiveness can go a bit too far … It is May 1, the so-called Fête du Travail, or “Work Party” – a day on which, despite its name, the French don’t work.
[Alongside] the May Day parade (at which the French celebrate their right to work by marching in protest at working conditions), one traditional aspect of the holiday is the brin du muguet, the aromatic sprig of lily of the valley that is given as a gift to loved ones. Walk out into any main street and you’ll find half a dozen improvised muguet stands, with people selling bucketloads of flowers they’ve obtained from I don’t know where – I can only imagine that the autoroutes of France were full of fragrant-smelling lorries last night.

The sellers range from highly professional flower merchants with slick bouquets to kids earning extra cash for the family. The problem with the muguet stands this year was the sheer inventiveness of it all. I saw brins de muguet with a rose, brins in disposable vases of varying sickly colours, brins swamped in jungles of foliage, cut brins implanted in fake plastic “soil” … Where, I wanted to know, were the straightforward sprigs of lily of the valley au naturel? I couldn’t see any.

 … this is an inventive time of year in Paris. It’s the week of the Foire de Paris – the trade fair at which inventors and innovators show off their groundbreaking products.

 … The biggest novelty … was a new section of the fair, the Espace Coquin, or “naughty area” – a lovely euphemism. This curtained zone, out of bounds to the under-16s, is hosting a mini-fair for erotic products that – according to one report I saw – include vibrators in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, available (bien sûr) in red, white or blue. I suppose it’s the French version of “lie back and think of England.” Now personally, I’d feel that that was pushing patriotism a bit too far. Though you have to admit that the French are lucky to have a national monument that is so perfectly phallic. Imagine the same concept applied to the Pyramids (ouch) or Mount Rushmore (no, on second thoughts, don’t imagine that one at all).

Naturally, this being France, there is a pun to the whole thing. The annual competition for the best invention at the Foire de Paris is called the Concours Lépine. It just so happens that “pine” is a slang word for penis. So, spoken aloud, “concours Lépine” sounds like “concours les pines”, or “dicks competition”. If the vibrating Eiffel Towers win a prize, the headlines will be wonderful. …