27th November 2016

What is it about Thursdays? Growing up, strange things always seemed to happen on that day. This week was stormy. No, not election storms, though heaven knows it's still ongoing....in the US someone's paying to have those marginal State votes recounted....in the EU the clown they call Boris is making us all look foolish, and here in France, with Sarkozy now out, it's a race between Fillon and Juppe. However, Meteo France predicted storms in the Aude region, south-east of us. No problem then; we should avoid the worst. Wednesday night was indeed very windy, but we felt safe in our strong stone house. But, early Thursday morning Bruno alerted us, going berserk as tremendous waves of thunder and lightening crashed down above our heads. Dawn arrived bleary-eyed as we surveyed the worst. Our beautiful giant, century-old lime tree - one of a matching pair - was down, together with two birches. Feel so sad for the remaining lime, standing so alone and forlorn amongst the debris. Have always felt an affinity for trees, living/spiritual things and when they die/fall, I have real fears. Didn't help that, just then, before I'd had time to tidy up, our buyer arrives unexpectedly with viewers of 'his' house!!....Meantime, it appears Thursday is named from Thor, the Norse god, and Jove, Roman god - both noted for creating thunder and lightning!  Well, there you go then.

20th November 2016

Theresa May felt bad enough at being 11th on Trump's arbitrary phone list, but Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel were even further behind! Now, if this had been the careful and thoughtful Obama, I'd have been worried. But it's that out-of-control new President-elect we're talking about. Don't suppose for a minute he'd thought about the importance of priority here. To my mind, the UK should have been first. Who stood behind the US in all their travails in the past? Yet he rings Turkey and Saudi Arabia before us?? My worry here is that we have a 'shoot first and think about it later' world leader. Just don't let him near that nuclear button..
In France it may be possible for British citizens to become 'associate European citizens' after Brexit, giving them free EU movement, according to an MEP.  And today French voters head to the polls in the 1st round of the centre-right parties to pick a candidate for the 2017 elections. As long as they remain centre-right and don't get pushed to extreme-right wing. Will the bling candidate Sarkozy win again or a man called Poisson, who - like the NF Le Pen - was the first to congratulate Trump? It all sounds very fishy to me!

13th November 2016

For many today is the day of remembrance. Below is a poem I publish every year in the hope things might change around the world.

At early morn' I had a dream
that man would cease his futile scheme
Fighting battles, suicide missions
Murder, hatred, blazing seditions
What man needs is re-appraise
in eyes of beings not so fazed
Yes, don't fight tribe v tribe
as if nothing else but diatribe
But see with eyes afresh from birth
that we're all one tribe - that of Earth!
by Olga Swan


So now we have a Disney character called Donald in the White House! The year 2016 isn't over yet. Brexit was deemed improbable, President Trump extremely unlikely and in a few months here in France the unimaginable prospect of the Front Nationale leader, President Marine Le Pen. That's one of the reasons we're leaving. Even if she's not elected, it's the fact that such a large percentage of the French endorse her policies. I've raged against racism and extreme nationalism all my life, epitomised in my two noir wartime thrillers. Why can't we learn from the past and recognise those early, dangerous steps towards disaster so that people in power can stop it in time?  Don't forget: in the '30s the crowds cheered for a man called Hitler.  After this week's ringing endorsements from far-right people like Nigel Farage and Mme Le Pen for a man called Donald, the world can only duck....

6th November 2016

Remember, remember, the 5th November...I've always hated Guy Fawkes Night. Why commemorate burning someone live at the stake? There's been explosive action around the world this week. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been sparking each other off in the most malicious way. Is this how politics should be run? I don't mind special artistic events such as the one in Montreal or Le festival l'art de pyrotechnique held in Cannes each year. But, even then, it's not worth the very real danger to spectators. These are explosives of the sort used in war zones. As a child in the '50s I could buy packs of these explosives from our local tobacconist's shop.  Madness. And just look at the explosive action in the seat of the English parliament this week, when the judiciary had the temerity to cast aspersions on the actions of the government. In days gone by this would have been treason. Just ask Guy Fawkes! Should we eat rocket salad and bangers and mash before sending the judges to the stake, commemorating burning them alive for centuries to come?

30th October 2016

Why are the French and English so hostile to each other?  Entente cordiale? Don't think so!
The sang froid was palpable at the Calais Jungle this week as, with a Gallic shrug, the mini-pelles arrived effectively to shovel the Channel emigration border over to Kent. Why do they hate the English so much? You only had to see the fury in Hollande's face that the UK had the temerity to reject all that he and Merkel had manoeuvred so artfully in their favour!  His face captured perfectly the distrust that has haunted Fr:Eng relations for 8 decades. As I wrote in Vichyssoise, even De Gaulle - who was welcomed by Churchill in London during the '40s Vichy era - did a volte-face 20 years later with a categoric Non to the UK's entry to the EEC. We seem to be connected yet divided by old historic hatreds.
Brexit or no, the French and English are geographic neighbours. Isn't it time they shook hands? Wish our neighbour here would shake hands with us......

23rd October 2016

Today is the first anniversary of the release of my first novel with Crooked Cat Publishing:  '3rd Degree Murder', drawing on my 30 years' working at The University of Birmingham. Who killed Prof. Axel Sloan? Was it me, i.e. the secretary? You'll have to read it to find out (authl.it/4ia).
 Anniversaries are always a good time to reflect on the past. Did we make the right decision in coming to France, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 11 years ago (chronicled in 'Pensioners in Paradis' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pensioners-Paradis-Olga-Swan/dp/1847994156 )? Yes. We've really enjoyed it but, now we're both approaching 70, we need to return to our roots. A new branch in the tree of life. But, it's not going to be easy. On Wednesday we signed the Compromis de Vente, so the sale of our home is proceeding. But the buyer - a marchand de bien - needs first to get a business loan then planning permission to divide the land into 2 building plots. Thereby hangs a tale. Schadenfreude for us in getting our own back on the neighbour perhaps? Or, giving him the chance to voice his public objection, which he may well do?
Let's hope it doesn't all end in 3rd Degree Murder!!

16th October 2016

Don't wish to tempt fate, but are things finally happening on the French house sale front?
.....Meantime in the UK the High Court on Tuesday started hearing details of three legal challenges over the process of triggering Britain’s exit from the EU. Senior judges will decide whether Theresa May, the prime minister, has the power to serve notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 or whether she will need a vote in parliament approving withdrawal.  Perversely, for me, at this present time of low euro:£ exchange rates, it would be better if Brexit went ahead!  I know, I know. But, you see, if the legal challenges were to win and Brexit were cancelled, the £ would probably then shoot up making our search for an English house within our budget impossible! Some say Fix the Rate now. Also problematical. There'd be a deposit of c.£18K to pay with international exchange banks, which we'd lose if a sale didn't go ahead. And... previously I thought that all buyers, after signing the Compromis de Vente (first stage), had 10 days to change their mind. However I've now discovered that if the buyer is a Marchand de Biens (a company dealing in renovations/land e.g.) there is no 10 day reflection period but you have to wait to see if nec loans are approved. All too much for me. I'm too old for all this.
                                        .........more next week on the rolling sale news of a house in Gaillac.