26th September 2010

Our son is here for 2 weeks!
Blagnac airport at Toulouse has changed beyond all recognition since our last visit. Must have been that nasty letter I sent them last year. The arrivals hall no longer has that baggage claim area where the man off the street could saunter in and take bags directly off the revolving carousel before arriving passengers get through passport control! Whilst waiting for the plane to land, I also noticed the brand new litter bins, complete with different 'green' sections for separating your waste coffee cups from newspapers from other dechets...trouble is, the inside was just one large plastic bag, to be disposed of all together!
Yesterday we went on a treasure hunt in the nearby village of Laguepie (literally means 'the wasp' - the locals must have known something). Anyway, it was v. entertaining. It's a global treasure hunt, which you co-ordinate to any area in the world from your cell phone. As we followed instructions, a clue came up: 'detruit par les ducs de joyeuse' (destroyed by dukes of pleasure). We looked up and saw a ruined castle. Sure enough, as we climbed up the hill, the cell phone beeped - 20m to go. And, there was the 'treasure' tucked in a hole in the crumbling wall. Inside a small box was a notebook and pencil to record our message and date and treasure we could exchange for our own. I left a pen.
If you want to play, go to: geocaching.com
Bien amusant.

19th September 2010

I have written before about problems caused by differing laws across the EU. Napoleon's old statutes still rule: blood ties only are allowed to inherit automatically. So, where a woman's husband dies and she marries again with a 'clause tontine' written into the marriage contract, only children from the current marriage stand to inherit when the surviving spouse dies. Blood is all in France.
Some years ago now, in the UK, I suffered from the aberrations of a relative's last wishes, irrespective of family ties. I, therefore, have some sympathy with the French. Imagine a 90-year old rich widower, his children growing up expecting to inherit his estate, only to see their expectations floored by a dying man's new need for a young companion! Think also of the many wealthy elderly ladies who leave their entire estate to the local cats' home.
On the other hand (and I'm very good at 'on the other hand'..), I also think that when you move to another country, you must accept their laws. I remember only too well how many in the UK would shout to new immigrants: 'if you don't like it here, go back to where you came from!'
The big question facing Sarkozy is: should he stick to Napoleon's original dictat and only allow blood relatives to inherit? Or, should he acknowledge the new, increasingly, complex family structures and allow people to leave their money to whomsoever they wish?
On verra.

12th September 2010

So, French workers are 'revolting' again! On 7 Sep as many as 200,000 took to the streets in Paris, 110,000 in Toulouse. And what's it all about this time? Sarkozy has suggested moving the retirement age from 60 to 62 in 2018. This doesn't even include workers from the French utility companies like my neighbour, who was able to retire at 50 with a handsome pension.
Remember England in the 1970s? Whenever there's unrest, there's a union representative. This time it's not Arthur Scargill but a Frenchman called Francois Chereque. He's so overjoyed he's called another day of action on 23 Sep. In response, the Employment Minister Eric Woerth has introduced some concessions for those whose jobs have left them unable to raise their arms above elbow level. Cue thousands of doctors' notes to that effect.
I'm very glad of my English state pension, earned after working all my adult life, but it's nothing like the amount the French receive and I didn't get it at 50 either. What's up with the French? Don't they realise we are all living longer than when pensions were first introduced?
Oh well, cue 23 Sep: barricade the doors. The French are indeed revolting again.

5th September 2010

The 4-year saga of our swimming pool continues. The glossy brochures never tell you how difficult they are to maintain. It all started when we realised that pools in France are a necessity, not a luxury. In hindsight (and all is so clear in hindsight, literally) we chose the wrong company, who charged us the earth but used the cheapest materials possible! As Him indoors says: it's a hole in the ground into which we pour money. Then, the leak followed in quick succession by the collapse of the pool because it was only the water that was holding it up.......and the fact that they said this kind of fault wasn't covered by their guarantee. Words failed me. But, even after the installation of a new liner, thick green algae started to grow and multiply. Nothing would kill it. Until now! At last, due to a chance remark from a friend, we found the man to fix it. However, even he couldn't clear 4-years' worth of algae regeneration. So, despite the danger of pool collapse, we emptied the pool, cleaned the liner with a special algicide then, importantly, added lots of sodium hypochlorite - liquid chlorine - as the water filled up. And, guess what? Our pool, at last, is crystal clear!
Him indoors says: before he could see a flaw in it, but now it's clear he can definitely see a floor in it.