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If her husband becomes France’s next president, Brigitte Macron will be the most unusual first lady the country has ever seen.

While French first ladies have a checkered history -- making headlines for excessive spending, extra-marital affairs, treason and even murder -- they’ve never been as central a figure in the formative years of their husbands’ lives as Brigitte has been for front-runner Emmanuel Macron. Brigitte Macron, who is 24 years older than the candidate, has been his guide and coach since he was 15, and is playing an active role in his campaign, advising him on speeches and effectively helping set his agenda.

“Emmanuel Macron wouldn’t have been able to embark on this adventure without her,” said Marc Ferracci, a campaign adviser and a witness at the couple’s 2007 wedding. “Her presence is essential for him.”

With just over two weeks to go before the first round of the vote, multiple polls show that Macron is a strong favorite to make it to the second round and will likely face the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, whom he is seen defeating with a large margin in the decisive round. 

“If I’m elected -- no, sorry, when we are elected -- she will be there, with a role, and a place,” the 39-year-old candidate said of Brigitte, 63, on March 8 during a speech in Paris. “I owe her a lot, she helped make me who I am.”

Many of the wives of French leaders have found a place in the history books: Queen Marie-Antoinette’s lavish spending contributed to the fall of the French monarchy in the late 18th century and Empress Josephine was divorced because she couldn’t give Napoleon an heir. In 1914, Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux’s wife Henriette killed the editor of the newspaper Le Figaro because he was a political threat to her husband.
When the founders of the new St. Paul Tool Library put out a call for tool donations, they didn’t expect their shop floor to be filled by one man. But then, they hadn’t counted on David Merry. When Merry donated his entire massive collection of woodworking tools, the tool library gained, in a single donation, an inventory it thought might take a year to complete. But the tool library gained something even better: Merry.

“Almost every time we're open, Dave's here,” laughs Hoh. “It’s not like we just got the stuff, we got the guy.”

Merry’s expertise is valued as he walks between his former table saw, planer, jointer and assorted other power tools, helping the tool library’s less experienced members with their projects. The 78-year-old makes it clear there is no place he’d rather spend time than a construction zone. 

The timing for the donation couldn’t have been better. The tool library was getting ready to open its doors in the old American Can factory on Prior Avenue, at the very time the declining health of Merry’s wife had moved them to assisted living – where there was no room for his tools.

“My parents lost so much in the last year and a half that we really didn’t know how to help him lose this too, so to not have to lose this it means the world,” says Sharon MacFarlane, Merry’s daughter.
A 12-year-old boy who apparently drove 1,300 kilometres across New South Wales on his own in the family car was involved in a crash before he was eventually stopped by highway patrol officers.

The boy was en route to Perth when he was pulled over at Broken Hill in far west NSW on Saturday morning.

He had left his home in Kendall, near Port Macquarie, about 11.10am on Friday.

“He’d taken the family car,” Detective Inspector Kim Fehon said on Monday. “His parents reported him missing immediately after he left home, so they were looking for him.”

Officers were still investigating why the boy took the car and attempted to cross the country.

Highway patrol officers stopped him at Broken Hill about 11am on Saturday after they noticed the car’s bumper dragging on the ground. The car had suffered some damage, Fehon confirmed on Monday. “So it appears [the boy] did have an accident while driving,” she said.