28th February 2010

Strange noises in the house. Ghosts? Don't panic.
A neat hole on the bag of dog-meal under the sink gave the game away. The farmer's Spring-time cultivation must have disturbed some field mice, who've moved into our house. (Brings to mind the time when I sent Him indoors to the computer shop in Caussade. Did you buy a new Mouse? No, the assistant just grinned at me. What? Oh, you must have asked for a 'sourire' (smile) instead of a 'souris'!!)
I remember trying everything last year to get rid of the real mice humanely but to no avail. These French are very clever. They work out how to extract the cheese then run away! But then, in desperation, I did something extremely foolish. I threw a mouse-poison sachet behind the office cabinet, thinking Bruno couldn't possibly reach it. But, yes he did and nearly died.
So, this time I've come up with a foolproof plan. Get a very large glass jar, grease it liberally on all inner surfaces, sprinkle some seeds or cheese inside, then - la piece de resistance - put a ruler or polystyrene ramp up to it. The mouse is certain to run up the ramp, fall inside and then, in the morning, I can deliver him to safety far away.
If not, Him indoors says that if we've run out of cheese, we could put a picture of some cheese in the mousetrap, but then in the morning, we'd find a picture of a mouse!

21st February 2010

There's a phrase I hear all the time here from English ex-pats: Times may be harder, but we're so much happier here. Why is this?
When I think back, I was constantly chasing my tail in England. A never-ending cycle of debt owed to others. Paying the mortgage never went away, and every 3 years yet another credit contract for a car. Constant peer-pressure, struggling to keep up with the Joneses. And what does it all add up to? A lifetime of work, stress and tiredness.
So now we're old and looking back at it all. Like most UK ex-pats living in rural France, we're retired and living off a pension. Those of working age looking to move to France should think very carefully indeed. How will you support yourself? It's natural for the French to employ native French-speakers; the only way is to work for yourself on-line.
And Him indoors? Like Harold MacMillan, he's never had it so good. He laughs to think of all those bank managers of the past. 'We have an arrangement here, Mr....., you're supposed to put some money IN occasionally!' Mr. Cuprinol, he used to call them: he treated them with dis-stain!
TG that's all over with. We may be poorer but we don't owe anything to anybody: no mortgage, rent or credit cards. Now we can relax and enjoy la vie en rose. We've earned it!

14th February 2010

It's Valentine's Day, but forgive me if I'm just not interested. This isn't a 'headache' moment; merely commercial interests overriding the incomes of the poverty-stricken masses.
Talking about poverty stricken, several weeks ago Him indoors looked at the meter on our gas citerne - that bomb-like cystern out the back. With all this cold weather, I dreaded the news. But, sure enough, the meter read '20': time to call in TotalGaz to fill up the tank. The giant lorry duly arrived, down our narrow country lane (not designed for any vehicle larger than the ubiquitous Berlingo). Our neighbour's horrible dogs scattered in fright - good! - but then the lorry driver tried to negotiate our newly-erected gate. Buried in cement, underneath the gate, is what they call 'un sabot basculante' - to enable the gates to shut. Well, the lorry driver didn't use hydraulics to lift the vehicle, he just bulldozed straight over the sabot and damaged it beyond repair. We subsequently obtained a devis quote and sent it to Total Gaz. Yesterday we received their reply: '...when we installed your citerne we inspected your access route. By building new gates, you have changed the access, so we are not liable. Please do something about it before the next delivery. Respectfully.....'
Him indoors says 'sabotage', try not to take a-fence, and time to make a bolt for the door......
Grrr! St. Valentine's massacre of my own.

7th February 2010

We've been invited to a family celebration 'back home' in the UK.
Now, how to get there? Looking at myself in the mirror (never a pretty sight), I decided not to subject all and sundry to a full-body scan by some nameless cretins at the airport, so it's the car and Eurotunnel then. But that brings its own problems. Wasn't sure whether we needed a 'Green card' for travelling with a French car to the UK. But, all Google brings up is English cars driving through France. Tried our bank, which oversees our car insurance, and they say I can drive 'en toute tranquillite'. That's all right then!!
Then, I looked at UK hotel chains. Times have changed. If I try to email them from France, they either don't answer or some central call-centre responds with the ubiquitous FAQs. Urghh. It's so condescending of people to assume they already know what you're going to ask. The reason you're emailing them is because your question is non-standard. Why can't you get a person to respond to emails personally these days? It's the same with phones. I remember when we left Birmingham in 05, if I tried to call New Street Station about a non-standard issue, I'd get someone in Bangladesh!
So, I'll continue struggling with arrangements. After all, I've got to keep Him indoors in the style to which he's always been accustomed.