As long as Carla lived there with her cat, her dog, and her son Aurélien – whose father, philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, conveniently resides across the garden in another building – everything was hunky-dory, not least with her staid neighbours, who could recognise une jeune fille de bonne famille; one of theirs, however Bohemian.
Carla was always polite; if she gave parties, apologetic handwritten notes warned of possible disturbances; her in-house recording studio was soundproof.
Enter Nicolas Sarkozy, aka le Président bling-bling. Suddenly, residents’ cars parked on the quiet rue Pierre-Guérin are moved to make room for police protection and back-up; uniformed flics start checking the IDs of passers-bys; half the street’s wheelie bins (including the noisy glass-container ones) are moved at all hours to prevent terrorists using them for bombs; and everyone’s life is made thoroughly miserable.
Sarko jogs early in the morning, accompanied by a retinue of aides and protection officers; has breakfast before 7am; then zooms to the office in a motorcade of bulletproof limousines, all sirens blaring. Nobody in rue Pierre-Guérin can sleep in.
Sarko has famously said that he would “never yield to the pressure of the street”; but he meant the demonstrations the French so appreciate. The pressure of the Seizième rue was apparently harder to bear. And so Carla and Nicolas have been looking at suitable places to buy. It is, after all, the right time for it – Paris house prices have fallen by an average 25 per cent. The happy couple have looked at a 12 million euro former Carmelite monastery not far from Carla’s present address. Last week, they were spotted at Yves Saint Laurent’s old pad on rue de Babylone.
Wags have made a lot of the fact that Carla’s best-known old flame, Mick Jagger, owns two flats in the same building; but that’s not something Sarkozy will object to – if anything, he finds it an added attraction. A tribal man, he early on forced the bewildered Enthoven to call him tu; as the father of his wife’s son, he explained, he was now “part of the family”.
* The French are bemused by the MPs’ expenses scandal. French MPs, who are more or less paid the same amount as their British counterparts, have for a long time been in the habit of employing wives and relatives as parliamentary aides, a practice no one bats an eyelid about. They do not get large expenses, but enjoy low-interest bank loans, free first-class train tickets, and a good pension and health coverage plans. Those who do spend, spend, spend are Cabinet ministers. Rachida Dati famously claimed for tights and make-up.
* When former president Jacques Chirac heard that Google was planning to digitise all books, including French ones, with Google Books, he nearly blew a gasket. A commercial, American company? A large budget was immediately allotted to a committee of upper civil servants to create the digital library that would Save French Culture. Alas, three years later, Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France website, is still unable to provide more than a couple of thousand electronic books, so that it is still easier to read online Balzac, Molière or Proust in English at Project Gutenberg than in the original French.
© Copyright Telegraph Media Group & Anne-Elisabeth Moutet 2009