25th March 2012

I was never really a fan of Robespierre. Wasn't he the organiser of the reign of terror during the French revolution?  And yet....
Today, at 5 p.m. sees a silent march through the streets of Toulouse. It calls on all citizens, public bodies, civil authorities and people of all religions to join in a show of solidarity in homage to the innocent lives lost this week.  Importantly, no banners will be waved nor any symbols of allegiance.Why? Because a banner gives you a false sense of an exclusive 'family', distancing yourself against other groups. And then?  As with football supporters, you feel the need to fight and jeer at others who aren't part of your exclusive club.
I was quite proud of Sarkozy this week. He showed himself, in times of need, to be a true statesman. With looming elections, the French people need to think long and hard. Forget personal idiosynchrasies. A leader isn't just someone to lower taxes, but someone strong enough to represent a nation amongst other nations.
As with Robespierre's 1793 declaration of liberte, egalite, fraternite: he who oppresses one nation declares himself the enemy of all.  As with today's march: against terrorism, hatred and extremism. The clock's gone forward...maybe there's hope for us all yet.

18th March 2012

I don't like flying, but as Him indoors says, it's better than the alternative. So, it was with trepidation that we recently took Alitalia flights that required a change-over in Rome.  Well, we certainly survived, but consistent they weren't. Although both connecting flights used the same airline, one airport accepted liquids in hand-luggage, the other didn't. Alitalia at one end allowed our hand-luggage on board, the other didn't. One airport waved me through security, the other connecting airport gave me a full, thorough body-search!  Yes, I know: just like Diana Ross.  I understand the need for security, but..
What of other airlines? EasyJet appeared in a Paris court yesterday accused of discrimination against a disabled passenger. A 39-year-old woman in a wheelchair was forced to leave a Paris-Nice plane because she was unaccompanied - despite having made the outward journey without a problem. Several passengers volunteered to 'accompany' the woman, but EasyJet said the accompanying person must be recorded before check-in.  I can see that a wheelchair might be a problem in an unforeseen evacuation of the plane, but it's the inconsistency that appears to be the problem.
Him indoors says it was St. Patrick's Day yesterday. So? Well, we should have used O'Flaherty's Travel - O'Flaherty gets you nowhere.....

11th March 2012

We're back!  I'm seeing our French home with different eyes.  Come, follow me in. First, notice our new front door with its secure 5-point locking system. (The last owner must've been more paranoid than me - 4 separate locking bolts.  Him indoors always tells everyone that my blood group must be B-negative!). Anyway, into the hall and a workman is still hammering away at our new kitchen. I can't wait. White stone, irregular floor tiles, and special antique-looking kitchen units. He greets me with a cheery wave. Always cheerful. Must learn from him somehow.  Continue down the long hallway, and there's our new bathroom on the left. This had to be modern. Never did like those old Victorian hip baths plonked in the middle of the room. Hip they're not. Prefer plumbing that works! Anyway, hurray it's almost finished.  Thank God the fashion for avocado baths went out the window. We've dressed up a simple new white bath witih large dark blue floor and wall tiles, coupled with a streamlined white vanity unit. And yes, we've also got a bidet.  Well, c'est la France.  Now cross over, through the lounge, and out onto the balcony. Out of shot of the picture, amazingly we've got palm trees. Still alive after the most bitter winter I can remember over here.
I touch the warm mellow stones of our home and feel a sudden rush of gladness in my heart. Oh how far I've come from the austerity, inbuilt guilt and shame of growing up in 1950's England.