27th May 2012

Once a year Gaillac hosts a welcome soiree for all new arrivals in the town. Not one to miss a free drink, Him indoors and me went along to find the Abbeye de Saint-Michel.  We took the Land Rover, as it was situated about 2 km from chez-nous. As usual in France's ancient town centres, we had to negotiate a series of very narrow lanes and - you've guessed it - managed to scratch the wing mirror on his coveted prize possession. Good job no-one in the vicinity understood English invective! The Abbeye itself is historic, housing a cave, museum and tourist office. Around 50 newcomers enjoyed a video show, explanations of how the town is run and plenty to eat and drink. What I hadn't realised was that on each Friday night in July and August there's a free show on the riverbank gardens alongside the Abbeye, including drinks, jazz music and fireworks on special occasions like Bastille Day.  Sounds good fun.
One charming member of the Mairie's committee took the time to show us the beautiful river view and ancient bridge from on-high.  We had long discussions with him about many things French including the current euro crisis.  When Him indoors discovered his first name, he ventured:  'I'll be Franck with you, if you'll be Ernest with me!'  Clearly, the man had much to learn about dry English humour.

20th May 2012

What on earth are we supposed to do about the euro?  All British expats in France have the same worry at the moment.  Do we leave what little savings we have in our French bank, or transfer it (and lose at current exchange rates) to a British bank? Dire warnings from the British Council don't help. In the, previously unlikely but now decidedly possible, event of a total euro collapse, all euro banks would close, cashpoints would be shut, and even border controls would apparently be manned to prevent residents from fleeing the country!  But, if you leave your money in a Euro bank which subsequently reverts to its previous currency, it loses half its value overnight.
Optimists tell me:  don't worry!  The G8 group of nations is meeting as we speak, ready to sort out all this mess. Oh really?  Reports last night said that the current worry re Spanish banks wasn't even up for discussion. So, what to do?  Can't even transfer euros to pounds via my PC at home, as my French bank makes a great fuss and insists you go personally cap in hand to the branch. Certainly keep enough cash under the mattress to tide you over for a few days, but with thoughts of 1930's Germany, do I subsequently buy a large wheelbarrow ready to carry home masses of worthless old French francs?
Him indoors says he always used to be indecisive, but now he's not so sure!

13th May 2012

So, from today France officially has a new President.  Is this a new trend - state leaders taking their names from another country? Or is he making his own wry statement:  France woz Holland??  All week on the French news, I've been wondering:  do we ellide the s at the end of Francois onto the aspirate H of his surname - Franzwozollande or Franzwah Ollande?
Looking at the man, himself, though is a different matter.  How can a man who feels it's acceptable to father 4 children without being responsible enough to marry their mother take on the much greater responsibility of leading a country?  Will he leave France in the lurch, too, as soon as it becomes expedient for him to do so?  He certainly faces far greater problems than simply 'shall I or shan't I'.  Fellow EU country Greece is suffering long lines of previously working people, waiting patiently for food parcels - like a third-world country.  Hollande thinks he can solve this for France by simply dismissing all ideas of austerity and living within his country's means by taking on huge loans to feed people's immediate needs. Without a care for tomorrow. So the economic circle turns.
Him indoors says the man's got chutzpah, or rather what he calls Hollandaise Sauce!

6th May 2012

People often ask me why I moved to France. The answer's surprising really. Quite simply, I'm the last remaining member of my family.  Apart from our children, all my family died from cancer.
Researchers at the Institut Nationale d'Etudes Demographiques have studied lifespans and quality of life across the EU. Apparently, French men can expect to live until they are 78.2 years old, French women 85.3 years - the longest life expectancy in Europe. Those with the shortest life expectancy live in countries like Bulgaria and Slovakia, where women can expect to live only to the age of 77.4.  My mind races to my family's eastern European origins.  Is this the reason for my health fears?
So, armed with this knowledge, I asked our new family doctor in Gaillac.  I recounted briefly my family's terrible medical history, then told him the steps I was currently taking: daily consumption of 75 mg aspirin, a glass of red wine, raw carrot, tomato, leafy green vegetables, sunshine etc.  'Doctor, is this enough?  Will it override the huge genetic risk I face from cancer?''Je ne suis pas le bon D.ieu', he says, shrugging his gallic shoulders.
I turn to Him indoors, who asks the doctor: 'So, French people live the longest?'  'Yes, says the doctor, but you've got to remember, you're not getting any younger.'   'It's not younger I want to get, but older!'