We had a bit of a panic this morning in the rue du Faubourg de la Barre. Nobody could raise our neighbour upstairs, a valiant lady who has been living in this house for the past 64 years. The fire brigade was called by an ever watchful neighbour (that's what you do in France to get emergency help) and, within minutes the firemen were on the spot, ready to break down the door, and with the resuscitation equipment that might be required.
In fact, the lady upstairs - who is half way through her nineties and will merit a bunch of flowers from the market on Saturday - did not need help. Firemen knock more loudly than ordinary folk and our lads succeeded in waking her from her slumber. No need to fuss, she let us all know.
I tell the story as an indication of the sense of solidarity that is still alive in this town of Dieppe, in an age when looking after Number One is thought to be everybody's priority. Here, in fact, there are a lot of people who are ready to help others in need. And that help is certainly required in this austerity era, when an increasing number of people are finding they don't qualify for bankers' bonuses.
A total of 425 families and 972 adults in Dieppe were given nourishing meals during the winter of 2011-2012 by the charity organisation Les Restaurants du Coeur, whose local branch was established in 1994. Last winter's call on its services represented a 10% increase on previous figures. Another charity, la Soupe des Bénévoles, distributed 7972 takeaway meals between 17 October and 29 February.
Catherine Schwartz, who runs the local "Restos du Coeur" - a national organisation set up by the late comedian Coluche in 1985 - says: "We help people who are at the end of their tether." And: "Even people who support us, say: 'Tomorrow, it could be our turn to need help'."
The solidarity spirit is expressed locally, too, in Dieppe branches of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, le Secours Catholique and le Secours Populaire. The services of all of them will still be required, whatever the results of the elections, for president and for parliament, that are taking place in France over the next two months.
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