19th February 2012

So many opinions about British expats are stuck in the dark ages.
For some time a small group of British expats have been campaigning to get the Winter Fuel Allowance for British pensioners who don't qualify, like me. One of them, Brian Cave who lives in Gourden, reports how at long last the plea has reached parliament via a House of Lords debate from Lord Lexton.  They need to know what conditions are like for some of us. Truth is, there's 54000 of us here in France, many having moved because of the cheaper house prices, many existing solely via their British old-age pensions. 
What does citizenship mean? Shouldn't working and paying taxes all your working life guarantee payback at pension age (wherever you subsequently live?).  If I take out insurance from a private insurer, country of abode at payout time is irrelevant. It's clear that the citizenship of British expats is recognised by paying the basic state pension, so it's therefore illogical to discriminate by withholding add-on benefits enjoyed by pensioners still resident in Britain. Other countries, like France, even give their citizens living abroad their own government representatives.  
How to change the way the resident British public view the Briton Abroad?  We all should follow the lead of 90-year old veteran Harry Shindler in Italy, who has a case before the European Court of Human Rights.  He's visiting England in May to meet some MPs. Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' 

(Olga needs to take a break:  see you all again in 3 weeks).

12th February 2012

So, Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for 60 years. Back then, all us kids were given special coronation mugs and silver spoons to commemorate the event.
But, looking back, all I can think is how different everything is today. Not so much the material things, but general attitudes and the things we said. It's one of the reasons we moved to France in 2005. I so love the old-fashioned courtesies still prevalent in today's France. At the moment we've got local French workmen in the house renovating our kitchen and bathroom. There are two young apprentices learning the trade from the skilled older artisan. I wish this practice was still used in the UK. Young people have so much to learn from those who've learned the hard way. But what I've particularly noticed this last week is how very courteous and respectful they are to us. Just like England, I don't think! I know we must move with the times, but some things have proven value, so shouldn't be changed.
A good thing that has changed over the years is the Queen's plummy voice for one more suited to today. Him indoors notes how the Spanish all talk with a 'th' lisp, apeing a former King who had a speech impediment. He says it's a good job the King back then didn't walk with a limp!!

5th February 2012

Not a good week. Someone's been misbehaving again (no, not Him indoors this time). Plus, in sub-zero temperatures, when the new cast-iron fire gives a good blaze, the overhead wooden mantlepiece gets red-hot. So, we called back the poelle-man to fit some sort of metal fireguard. As Him indoors says: yet another paying opportunity.
For those who've not met our dog Bruno, he loves to run and climb fences with all four paws off the ground. All of which makes life difficult. We've discovered that the patch of ground to the left of us is rented out to the man whose property lies along the bottom. So, when yet again Bruno climbed the adjoining fence, it's not our immediate neighbour who's at war with us, but the one with the gun(!) in the next road. (And, of course, our neighbour can't take our side because he doesn't want to lose his rent money!) Fortunately for Bruno, we managed to catch him and lead him back, tail between his legs. Sigh of relief.  But then, that evening, the ubiquitous white Berlingo arrived. Him indoors was out walking the dogs, so I opened the gates and let whom I thought was our poelle-man into the drive. But it wasn't him.  It was the irate couple from the next street!
Nothing for it. Despite the icy, hardened ground, Him indoors went off to Brico yet again to arm himself with more materials to fix a sturdier door to the dog pen. Will it be completed this time? As he says everytime he puts his key in the door: 'what have I let myself in for?'