30 October 2011

At the third stroke it will be 07.35, precisely. Traditionally we all looked forward 1 hour to summer, and back with gloom to the winter.  Ever since 1847 (and no, I'm not that old) when GMT was first adopted by the GB Railway Clearing House, we all fell into line. But in this digital and techno world, is it still the best way? GMT could be a thing of the past in more ways than one hour if new plans for coordinated universal time (UTC) by a Paris body are enforced. Proposals by the Int. Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris could see GMT sidelined. Something to do with an apparent 'leap second' that is needed every 18 months.
Of course, Britain objected - as they do with all things EU! British Science Minister David Willetts grumbled about 'undercurrents of nationalism'. Only last week Cameron annoyed Sarko by having the chutzpah to tell him what to do with the euro, even though Britain isn't even in it. Hanging on for grim death to its isolated island status will, I fear, mean that Britain is nanoseconds away from its own Waterloo.
In the (not Greenwich) digital meantime, there's a generation of children who no longer understand the term 'clockwise'. But what's more important: history, national pride or technological progress? Only time will tell.

23 October 2011

Canny those Chinese. In a week of Greek strikes and anti-capitalist rallies, there was little Jin Qin. The solution, said Jin, Chairman of China's sovereign wealth fund, is for Europeans to work harder and for longer, rather than being cushioned by the welfare system. "The root cause is the overburdened welfare system built up since WW2 in Europe: sloth-inducing, indolence-inducing labour laws," Jin told Channel 4 News. The average Chinese working week is nearly 48 hours. "We work like crazy," said Jin.  Trust the Chinese to hit the nail on the head.
And what's happening back home? In the UK everyone's arguing for a referendum to get out of the EU. My father used to say if the UK joins Europe fully, then Hitler would have won. But the world's changed. No Empire; we can't go it alone any longer. I never thought I'd say it, but I rather like Angela Merkel. She eschews facelifts and US-style power-dressing, sticking to her own quiet style of pastel jackets and black trousers - perfect for concentrating on the essentials: the terrifying financial burdens facing us all.
And the message from English expats to the UK? Please don't vote to leave the EU. Bereft of our link to health care, we'd all have to come home again, swelling even further a UK population bursting at the seams. Him indoors says we should all follow China's lead, but not like Mr. Yu - when asked what to call him, he said anything but A!  

16th October 2011

Toulouse yesterday.  Place Capitole vibrant. Everyone looked happy. What a difference to our Birmingham UK origins, where typically a customer would greet a retailer with the memorable lines: 'I don't s'pose you've got one of these' - almost not entering the shop, so sure was he that they wouldn't have one!
And there, right on the corner, was C & As - last heard of in Corporation Street, Birmingham decades ago. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed it until I walked through the doors. Picking up a dress, there were the old familiar 'Sixth Sense' and 'Canda' labels.  And, oh joy, large-size tops. Now at last I could actually choose something, instead of grabbing anything, anywhere that was near to fitting me. Just like old times. Except, footwear.  French women everywhere have small feet, and women's shoesizes stop at size 41 (UK size 7). What am I, with size 8 (French size 42) supposed to do? Clomp around in men's shoes? I asked the saleswoman why, and memorably she said 'Oh, I have the same problem too'.  Well, order bigger sizes then!!
Him indoors was O.K. though. Everything fitted him well. But, he then insisted on buying a 7-pair pack of socks. All well and good until we got home and saw that each pair was emblazoned with a day of the week. I knew what would happen:  Wednesday'll get mixed up in the wash with Sunday, and because of his increasing longsightedness, each foot, each day, will display different days. A veritable 'Feet (fait) accompli'!

9th October 2011

Autumn. A chill in the air.  In the summer, the sun's all I need to raise my spirits, but in the dark days to come?  Time to stock up on my favourite winter pick-me-up - for me an essential antidote to my seasonal affection disorder.  Music to the ears of the organisers of the 17th Salon de Chocolat taking place at the Porte de Versailles on the 24th.  During the Spanish Inquisition, Jewish artisans, who had become experts at making palatable chocolate from Mexican beans, were expelled yet again from Spain and Portugal and settled in Bayonne where the European chocolate tradition was born.
I grew up a stone's throw away from the Cadbury factory in Bournville. Ah, those Dairy Milk bars, Fruit n Nut and Whole Nut.  Bournville in the early 50s was an idealised social village, where workers were housed, fed and looked after by their employer. As a child I remember school tours around the factory, being handed wonderful samples as we watched all the different varieties being produced, and being given treasured gifts of assortments and Cadbury pencilboxes as we left. But, today in France, I have taught myself to only eat dark chocolate, the healthier variety as I struggle with my weight.
Researchers recently reported that eating dark chocolate does not raise cholesterol, has the same health benefits as exercise and definitely works against depression.   So what can I do but succumb?

2nd October 2011

Aux barricades!  Yes, the French are going on strike yet again. Tuesday 11th, the five main unions are calling for coordinated action against the country's austerity plans. 
It's all deja vu. I'm thinking back to the '70s when the unions brought the whole country to a standstill.  Yes, it was a different country, yes it was a different union leader, but the motive and rationale were just the same:  we don't like the country's leader - far too arrogant, the party's not to our taste and I'd like some of that power and glory for myself.  And, while all this prancing about and celebrity-chasing was going on, the ordinary man in the street was suffering.  No services, no transport, no vital utilities.
You can be forgiven for thinking all this is 'crying wolf'.  France is hardly in Greece's position, yet. But what if things were really bad (like in 1930s Germany), would anyone listen to the unions then?  This is a democracy:  if you don't like the government's policies, simply vote them out. At a time when the economy is at such a critical stage and we're all worried about the euro, it's preposterous of the unions and the strikers themselves to cost the country even more money. Him indoors says any striking aircrews should stage a walkout at 30000 feet....