26th December 2011

Re-read my Dickens-like blog: nothing's quite what it seems.  Xmas may be a Christian festival, but all religions are merely a different door leading to the same house.
As HM The Queen said yesterday, whatever your personal ethos may be, family is all-important.  But it's not the material things like gifts that matter, it's the communication.  Stop and listen to the birds who live in our urban landscapes.  The din from traffic, sirens and people has become so strong that many have stopped their traditional song. Tragically, some have started mimicking burglar alarms.  A desperate plea for help, but is anyone listening?
Someone once said 'give 'em the flowers now', and it's very true.  It's vital to show the people you love that you care.  Not by buying them material 'flowers', but by telling them.  Don't wait until after they've gone.  Many are the glorious eulogies read at funeral wakes.  Too late.  Give 'em the 'flowers' now.
Communication. That's the key.  Tell the right thing at the right time to the right person, and all will be well. You know who they are. Don't wait.  Do it now.
Season's greetings to you all.

25th December 2011

Xmas Day in the workhouse
The rain was snowing hard
A barefooted girl with shoes on
stood sitting in the yard
Xmas Day in France. Who'd have thought it.  No glitz, no sparkle - and I love it.  I know - bah humbug. What the Dickens is the matter with me?  But who exactly is buying all those presents back home?  Women of course, spending money they haven't got just because it's expected of them. And what's it all for?  There's no spiritual message in it. If there were, people would be giving charity to the homeless, the poor and the deserving - not loading up pampered members of their own families with commercial glitz and rubbish they don't really need. I liked the pictures of Wills and Kate visiting that homeless charity in London, with Wills doing an urban dance with that Afro-Caribbean girl. His mother would have been so proud of him.
Here in France it's traditional at this time of year to give etrennes - tips to tradespeople who give good service throughout the year.  Here, as in our last house, the local firemen came knocking on the door offering their seasonal calendar. I'm always happy to contribute to them, as they're quite literally life-saving and are generally volunteers.
Him indoors, Mr. Bah Humbug himself, has scotched all the above - he's too busy searching for the real Xmas spirit, the one labelled Johnnie Walker.

18th December 2011

News and weather too depressing. Time to lighten up. I know, I'll apply for a new passport. It expires in March and you can't travel within 6m of the end date. And so the saga began.  Why does everything need to be so difficult?  First thing to notice is that the application system for French expats has changed. You now need to apply to the Embassy in Paris. But where's the address?  Must have spent hours scrolling before finally finding it: Paris Regional Passport Processing Centre, 18 rue d'Anjou, 75008 Paris. All-important website: ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk. Next big problem is the price.  For 2 people, total cost was c.350 euros!  Have to start saving for the next one now.  After locating 2 willing 'official' people who have known you for 2 years, they countersign the form and photos to say 'I certify that this is a true likeness of....'.  I've never been photogenic, but mine looked so unbelievably ugly, their statement made us all laugh. Anyway, the price includes return of the passports by special courier. But why, when we had to pay twice for 2, did they both come returned in one envelope! Don't even think of contacting the Embassy. Only fight the battles you've got a chance of winning.
After inspecting the new e-passports, complete with embedded e-chips, Him indoors commented:  oh good, now even our travelling will be virtual.  Might as well stay embedded at home then.

11th December 2011

Oh Mr. Cam'ron, what shall I do?
I wanted to leave old B'ham to go and join EU,
Take me back to London as quickly as you can
Oh Mr. Cam'ron, what a silly girl I am!
Last swan song for all us expats?  26 nations of Europe are not only forming a ‘fiscal union' , leaving Britain alone outside, but also will merrily sign away all sorts of treaties. No say for Britain, inevitable referendum.  And we all know what the result will be.  Out of the EU for good. 
Will this be the Domesday scenario: 
No longer able  to move and live freely in any EU state, regardless of income?
No longer able to vote locally or receive local health care cover?
No longer able to receive any local welfare benefits, or local state pensions for those who've worked in the EU?
Difficulties in withdrawing/accessing money in the EU state?  
Would life still be comfortable for we British expats just in the EEA instead?  Doubt it.  My paranoia's already setting in. Sure I'm getting strange looks from the Frenchman over the road. But there again, he thinks les anglais are all mad anyway.  War time thoughts are looming yet again.  Should David Cameron have been Neville Chamberlain waving his paper of appeasement?  And is our Nicolas Monsieur Daladier all over again, ready to appease Angela 'Hitler' in her grand plan?
Pack your bags ready.

4th December 2011

The clock's ticking. Eurogeddon looms. As we speak, British embassies are finalising contingency plans for expats. Back home English bloggers are barely disguising their schadenfreudish glee!  See, we told you we shouldn't join the EU in the first place.  I understand that when the USA was formed, Texas was the last 'man' standing. So, are all you Texans happy about being part of the large Union, or do you miss your original 'sovereignty'? Britain needs to know.
But, for now, what should we expats do?  1. Send some money back to the UK; 2. Keep some money in your home country to cover your daily expenses;  3.  Hide some large-denomination notes under the mattress;  4.  Hide some gold bars or jewellery (but not under the mattress - too lumpy).  That way, whatever happens, you've got options.
Trouble with France, though, is nothing comes easy. Many French banks won't let you transfer euros to a UK bank via your PC. Annoyingly, you have to go to the bank and fill in legions of forms - often in the public welcome area. All privacy/secrecy eroded. I'm sure that le Bourse traders don't have to do that! Him indoors recalls his name for the bank manager: Mr. Cuprinol - treats everyone with de-stain.