26th August 2012

Would you believe it?  Just when I've got everything sorted regarding English radio and TV here in France, sod's law has stepped in.  Word has it they're launching a new Astra 2F satellite in September which will affect reception of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 programmes in Europe.  Of course I know that the BBC isn't happy that people living abroad aren't paying their licence fee, but even so it's a bit mean to deliberately narrow the beam so it can't reach mainland Europe.  I know that Sky's broadcasting licence covers only the UK but the BBC and some other channels have always been available in unencrypted format by satellite so essentially available to all.  My recommendation?  Fix an enormous new satellite dish on the roof - one that will pick up channels from Mars if necessary.
Isn't it about time the EU gets its house in order and irons out national inconsistencies?  We pay French taxes (yes, even on our UK pensions) and French TV tax so what's the problem BBC?  Just liaise with M. Hollande and sort something out. Him indoors is enraged. He says he pays Scottish TV tax and so demands British TV. Scottish? You know, you pay up front and only claim it back if you haven't got a TV. It's called inertia (in Ayrshire!) selling.

19th August 2012

The European Court of Justice has finally come up trumps. When you first start work all European countries say 'pay national insurance and we'll guarantee you benefits in your old age'. What the UK doesn't say is that benefits like the winter fuel allowance (WFP) which all UK-resident pensioners receive automatically, will not be paid to those who subsequently move elsewhere in Europe before the first payment.Well the European Court of Justice has now ruled otherwise. All UK pensioners born before July 1951 can now claim directly from the DWP. Of course, inevitable 'outrage' in the UK press who think we're all lounging on hot beaches every winter. Ian Duncan Smith, the Pensions Secretary, has said that before everyone applies, they'll have to check temperatures in other countries! Last winter here was the coldest in living memory - far colder that England. But, that's not the point.  Old-age benefits should be guaranteed in full for all contributors, wherever they subsequently live. Either the UK should pay, or the European country you move to. They can't both opt out! Annoyingly for us, the UK has ruled that in a few years all pensions will automatically rise and include all benefits for all, but not for current pensioners.  Him indoors is already sharpening his wood saw. To cut down our trees for fuel? No, to attack Ian Duncan Smith.

12th August 2012

Him indoors isn't happy - no more alcohol!
It'd been building up for months and couldn't be denied.  The dreaded visit to the doctor's.  Tests at the Clinique Claude Bernard in Albi were prescribed.  In England it's normal to have to wait months, even years, for a visit to a medical specialist, but in France just 5 days, then 7 days for admittance to the clinic. What an amazing experience it all was.  No stupid starched caps, tight blue dresses or black fishnet stockings - and that was just the nurses.  Everyone at the Albi clinic - from the doctors, to the nurses, down to the cleaning staff - all wore loose cotton tunics, loose cotton trousers and soft shoes.  Everywhere was so clean, calm and friendly. The room where he stayed the night was like a hotel - complete with wardrobes and en-suite bathroom.  And, after his treatment the following morning, within 30 mins he was given a glossy brochure with a typed report, colour photos of his insides(!), plus a lengthy diagnosis.  And you know what?  Because we had top-up insurance, it hasn't cost us a penny.
Had to smile in recollection. When the nurse was struggling to fix a catheter in his arm and he kept wriggling, she said 'Do you want some Scotch (French for sellotape)?'

5th August 2012

So, team GB's habitual 4th has now moved up to 1st  Cycling, rowing, long-jump, heptathlon, 10000 m....don't know whether I can cope with all this success. Much more comfortable with losing, unlike the Americans whose dreams of winning are built into their DNA - chests puffed out, muscles bulging, eyes glaring - and that's just the women. In the opening events even the visiting French president, Hollande, gloried in team France's then-superior medal position, sarcastically thanking Cameron for laying out the red carpet for his athletes. Hollande even seems to have introduced new French words to the Olympics like Repechage and Domestique, but don't even think of introducing any more English words to the sacred francais! And what's with all these 'new' English verbs like 'to medal'?
All this excitement too much for me, but Him indoors is literally having a field day. From the opening Korean flag gaffe (don't make a Korea out of it), to the 'oarsome' display of the GB rowers, when will it all end? And, I'm sure his sideburns looked longer when 'Wiggo indoors' cycled to the boulangerie this morning!