24 April 2011

It's now 6 years since we came to France.  In 2005 the property market was in such full flow, anything seemed possible.  But, slowly, slowly, the economic bubble started to burst.  Just this week came news that  Russian “Nickel King” Mikhail Prokhorov made an offer of €390 million for one of the largest villas on the Côte d’Azur. When the economic crisis hit, however, he pulled out and sought to get his 10% deposit back through the courts. The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nice ruled against Mr Prokhorov and he lost all his 39 million euros!  Admittedly, the 'lucky winner' will be a new Alzheimer's Centre in Nice, but that doesn't help Mr. Prokhorov.
But despite all this, we're still set on signing our own Acte de Vente (the final procedure) this week for our new home in Gaillac. In retrospect, when we bought our present lovely home 6 years ago, we were still thinking in 'holiday home' mentality. Now, we're much more French street-smart. In these harsh economic times, we're no longer holidaymakers; we need somewhere that is a cast-iron investment - and that means a city - where the workers and the buyers are. Also, as we age and our eyesight gets dimmer (making driving more difficult), we'll be nearer essential facilities. That's the key for us right now.
I'll let you know how we get on next week. 

17th April 2011

So, Wills and Kate are soon to be married. What a quandary everyone's in.  Should the people celebrate uproariously as in the past?  Or should they follow William's lead:  keep everything low key, don't be seen to be affluent when so many are struggling.  But isn't spectacle, wealth and glamour what the royal family's all about? Isn't it diminished to the point of absurdity without it?
And what do the French think about it all? Magazines such as Paris Match have tried hard to show that the French are fascinated by the British Royals. Indeed, 3 years ago polls showed that  24% thought that having a King as head of state was a good idea. And yet, around me here in rural France I see general indifference. Perhaps there's still a deep guilt complex centuries after the atrocities of the Revolution.
I wondered even whether any of the top brass in France had been issued with a must-have invite.  But then, who?  Should it be the (republican) President and his glamorous wife?  Or should it be the 2 main pretenders to the French 'throne', Henri d'Orleans, descendant of Louis Philippe, or Louis de Bourbon, descended from Charles X? In practice, I doubt whether any of them have been invited. By doing so, the Queen would be seen to be making diplomatic considerations.
Him indoors just shakes his head, saying it's likely to be a very sad affair - even the cake's in tiers.

10th April 2011

Some time ago, amidst the furore of the pre-General Elections in the UK, I bravely sent an email to David Cameron's office stating that if he were to change the then overly-complicated system of means-testing pensioners to allow for top-up pension credits and, instead, consolidate all the benefits into one larger pension for all, this could be cost-effective as it would cut out unnecessary admin costs.  Of course, this would have benefited me and all other expat pensioners who currently cannot claim the extra top-ups.   So, I was particularly pleased to read recently that there's a new Green Paper that says the UK State Pension is to rise to around 150 pounds sterling a week.  Hooray!  But, wait a minute, what's this:  '...current pensioners will not benefit....'  Typical!   You work all your life, paying c.40 years of National Insurance (tax) payments, only to find the government moving the goal posts just when you get there.  It's particularly galling to read that those who will, in the future, qualify for the new much higher UK pension, won't have paid nearly so much - even if they do have to wait a bit longer to get it.
As I've always said, would have been much better to have deposited all those 40 years of payments under the mattress, then I could have used them as I wanted.
Is that a government cuckoo I heard just now?  Aren't they known to rob everyone else to feather their own nests?

3rd April 2011

It's Mothers' day - at least in the UK. In France, it'll be 29 May, and in the US - not sure. Confusing. What's a mother to do when one child's in England, the other in America? Some would say good job there's no mother-in-law day - the greetings card industry would have a field day!
And then there's the political worry about another woman here in France: Marine Le Pen, President of the NF party.  She's already won a lot of regional votes. She's known for being a Euro-sceptic and hates immigrants. What if she becomes French President next year?  She could throw all we expats out. Trouble is, as with all young females, she's photogenic and comes across well on TV. She's mild-mannered and apparently entirely plausible.  My worry is she will entice the French with her artificially-sweet, saccharine words and then?  A natural progression is to think back to Germany in 1933. The youthful Hitler snared the poverty-stricken Germans with encouraging words about food and jobs - and indeed, in power, fulfilled all these promises - but then, all that glory and popularity pushed him to reveal his true, evil hard core.
Today may be a day for women but, especially in politics, beware the wolf in sheep's clothing. Sometimes, better to stick to the devil you know.