30th December 2012

The new year 13 is nigh. Hope, despite its number, it's a lucky one.  We should all take a moment to reflect on how our lives are going, and I can't think of a better time than when one year ends and a new one dawns. Is there anything we can learn from our mistakes and do better?
For us, living in France is still an uphill climb - but we're learning. And slowly, slowly the EU seems to be recognising that there're a lot of expats living in France who need a helping hand. Whether it's restrictive French inheritance laws, completing onerous tax returns each April or health rules - gradually the French (with a nudge from Brussels) are easing their 'living in the box' mentality to recognise the needs of expats.
Last April expats in France got a boost from their language struggles by reading that  being bilingual helps your brain and even wards off Alzheimer's.  There was even a lovely story where a British woman is helping French dementia sufferers by taking her two dogs into a care home in Nice. One male sufferer, who can no longer speak, laughs out loud when the dog licks his face. I know - you're gonna say this is unhealthy. But sometimes, anything that reaches deep within a person's soul and gives us a reason to carry on living can only be a good thing in my book. Him indoors joins me in wishing you all a very happy, healthy and loving New Year - wherever you live. Keep smiling. :)

23rd December 2012

Hurray!  We're all still here.  Unless you're all part of my virtual world?  Hard to tell from some strange things happening lately. Some joker tried to sell the English port town of Dover to the French!  I know that the English once owned Calais, but this is ridiculous.  Even Dame Vera Lynn (she who sang of the White Cliffs during WW2) is up in arms.  But it does look as if something is moving very subtly. Not just us but a host of British brands have fallen for that Gallic charm – or at least cash – the latest being Hamleys, which runs the world's biggest toy shop in Regent Street, London. Groupe Ludendo has just spent £60m buying the 250-year-old company. And there's more:  Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, maker of the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress are also at least half owned by the French.
But the Scots are up in arms. A Paris-based luxury goods group, LVMH, spent £300m chasing off competition from local rival, Pernod Ricard, to secure control of Glenmorangie, one of the best-known single malt scotch whisky producers. Him indoors doesn't care where it comes from, though. He says they serve it in a tumbler to stop you falling down. He's scotched all rumours and wishes you all very slurry grestive feetings.

16th December 2012

My grandparents hailed from Kretinga near the Baltic in Lithuania, which may have been Russian a few centuries ago. That's before pogroms and depression forced the family to flee.  But, depression still rules.
Are mysterious, elemental forces still about today?  Wednesday saw the strange date 121212 (the French called it Le Douze) and there's the phenomenon of the dieback of the ash tree - something that some say foretells the end of the world. The disease has just reached the town of Aspatria (called the ash tree of Patrick)  in Cumbria, an English county where the tree plays a special part in history and folklore. Legend has it that the saint struck his staff into the ground and up sprouted an ash tree.  Strange that that's just where the present ash tree disease has been discovered. Then, there's water. Lots of it. Rising waters worldwide mean that no-one should even think of living near the coast or even near a river. At least the canny French build their living areas a floor above the ground. 
Well, let's hope all this folklore and worry is mere superstition. After all, there's a certain Friday the 21st fast approaching. See you all in Bugerach. Him indoors says not to worry - he's ordered a poster saying all is well, and has arranged to pay for it on the 22nd.....

9th December 2012

There's trouble brewing in the Loiret region. An infants' school in Montargis has attracted a storm of controversy because it foolishly axed a visit by Father Xmas because of pressure from Muslim families. The head teacher of the Grand-Clos school said she wanted to 'respect different beliefs' so told the children that Xmas would be different this year. However there have been threatening phone calls and emails denouncing the head teacher, many from people not even connected with the school.
I remember back in Birmingham, England, when the Council foolishly decided to call Xmas 'Winterval'. As a child I remember quite happily moving to a side room during school Assembly. I can even remember humming to the carols and hymns sung by the other children. The lesson I learned very early on is: if your beliefs differ from those of the country where you live, practise them quietly at home, never try to proselytise others, and embrace the local culture. It's up to those of different faith or culture to that of the country where they live to fit in, not the other way around.
So, as a 'foreign' expat:  peace and goodwill to you all, or as Him indoors puts it: Happy Crotzmech!

2nd December 2012

Why are French women so thin?  For decades now, countries like England and the US have assumed that the French must be eating less fat.  So, since the 1980s we stopped eating butter, cheese and fatty meats like duck and lamb.  Success?  No. English and US obesity levels have doubled since then, and we all seemed to be yo-yo dieters. Well now a leading UK diet doctor, Dr. John Masefield, says that to be healthy we should all eat French. Here's his list of what to eat:  Eggs, butter, full-fat milk, cheese, all meats including the fatty ones, all fish, all vegetables including potatoes (but not chips), all salads, wholemeal bread, grains and pulses, all fruit, one glass of red wine a day, water. Avoid:  sugar, confectionery, white bread, cakes, desserts, beer, soft drinks, processed foods.
Of course, we all live in a body that has its own unique way of metabolising food. If you've got a body that, despite what you eat, never puts on weight, then still follow the above diet for good health.  If yours is otherwise then you MUST do something about it. So, during the festive period eat that fatty roast duck, ditch the margarine, buy whole fat milk and cheese and from now on don't search for the cheapest food, only the best quality.  (For economy, cut down on those cheap nasty presents that will only get thrown away in the new year.). What you put in your body is the most important thing of all - it'll help you live longer.  Him indoors says all this is very hard to swallow.....