28th November 2010

'Tis the season. It's curious comparing French attitudes. In the UK, for months there's been the usual false glitz on all the ads. But, it's always the women of the world who spend all their money on others. You only have to look at the Boots' ads. Where's the lesson on charity for others for the kids? All it is for them is 'me, me, me'.
Rural France is so different. No outward signs of the season at all until at least the week before, and then usually only some sparkling decorations strung across the village main road. Oh, and a few Santas climbing up crepi walls. What the French do well, though, is the numerous Xmas fairs all over the country. It's like the summer 'vide-greniers' (car boot sales), but better.
Some enterprising English expats in the Lot region have even taken it a stage further. They've used the idea to set up un marche de Noel to thank all the locals for welcoming them to their region. The Maire has agreed to waive the rent on the Salle des Fetes village hall and all proceeds will go to their own village to fund equipment for the school and retirement home not provided by government.
What's so great about this is that, not only are these expats actively integrating into local life, but they've used local customs to actually pay back the village for welcoming them. Now that's what I call the way to live in another country!

21st November 2011

There's a new law in France. Cyclists and pedestrians now have absolute priority on French roads, from immediate effect. Whereas before they had priority only at certain spots like pedestrian crossings, now they can cross wherever they please. Pedestrians only need to show an ostensible gesture to cross, e.g. a hand gesture (!), and all approaching trucks must come to a crashing halt. Drivers who ignore the new rules face a fine of 135 euros or lose 4 points from their licence. Cyclists too are now allowed to skip red lights to turn red. But, they've always done that anyway! Cyclists have always loved the apparent flexibility of the road: to choose whether to obey the road laws or the pedestrians' - so now the law agrees.
Chaos looms. And what should French parents teach their children? Now they can cross wherever they like?? But at least I don't see in France what always happened in the UK: mothers pushing baby buggies down the kerb, using it as a battering ram, and placing their vulnerable child on the road until a vehicle stops. Ordinary people don't generally have the knowledge of precise stopping distances for large vehicles like trucks and buses. They often wander into the road, chatting to friends.
Quel catastrophe!

14th November 2010

'Sacre bleu!' The government has resigned, en bloc. Panic. 1789 all over again. I peered out the window in some trepidation, expecting to see anarchic riots on the village streets. What was that creaking noise? Could it be the sound of the approaching tumbrils as they arrive to cart away those pesky expats? Mais non. All is calm. The creaking noise was only the usual sound of our wooden volets banging against the crepi walls as we unlatch the nighttime pins. That distant cackling sound was not the rising tide of gallic dissent, merely the white turkey-like creatures pecking in our neighbouring field.
So, what's going on? Surely Sarkozy can't rule all by himself, can he? Well, no. French government moves in mysterious ways. It's apparently standard practice, ahead of a cabinet reshuffle, for the PM and government to 'resign' before some being re-elected again. It's like applying for your own job only to be shocked later to find out that somone younger and more beautiful has got your 'cast iron, totally secure job'. Let's hope that new, young Robespierre doesn't get the job!
When will I understand all things French? Never, probably. In the meantime, man the barricades and cancel that trip to the Bastille in Paris. C'est la revolution!

7th November 2011

Hypochondria rules o.k. Time to brave the rigors of the French health system. You turn up at the surgery any morning and hope the waiting room is empty. It wasn't. But, you can telephone and make an afternoon appointment. (I still don't understand. What symptoms require an afternoon appointment?) The doctor greeted me. 'Ca va?' Well no, that's why I'm here. I showed him a rough sketch of my family history. I'd circled everyone in my immediate family who had passed away with the big C. Unfortunately there were 6, 2 of whom both siblings. He said I must take tests. But, but, I feel O.K. And anyway, not all of the Cs affected the same part of the body. N'importe quoi.
Trouble is, medical science has only devised tests for certain parts of the body. So, what about the other parts? You must hope you don't get it. Great! But I did read recently that researchers have discovered a rogue protein that masks C cells, fooling the body that the C cell is injured and must be protected. Now, all they need to do is zap this protein so that the proliferating C cells will be destroyed by natural immunity. Where's Dr.Bones of Star Trek when you need him? I need him to run an electronic gadget all along my body to pick up annually anything untoward BEFORE any symptoms present themselves. And it needs to be in my lifetime..... In the meantime, here's what I take every day: 75mg aspirin, 1 glass red wine, raw carrot, tomato, orange, sunshine, home-made veg soup.