29th December 2013

Some say 13 is unlucky. Well, 13 has certainly been a rollercoaster year for us. In February we'd been thinking of moving to the US but then met the worst blizzards ever in New England. In June our dog Tina was poisoned by something or someone(!), but was then treated by the kindest and best French vet ever. He even took blood from his own dog to give Tina a transfusion. But then we ourselves were ill. However, the whole year was put in perspective when I read about lonely, bereaved 91 years-old Roger-Marc from the Gironde. He put a wooden sign up in his front garden and along came 86 years-old Yolande from nearby Arveyres, who has now moved in with him, complete with her chickens and dog Bianca.  'It's not a passionate love affair,' says Roger-Marc.  Quite right, Monsieur, it's companionship that we all need the most.  But, Him indoors still says the end is nigh. Pessimistic? No, says he, not 'nigh' but NYE - Tuesday night is New Year's Eve!
Don't forget your own resolutions. Let's see what year 14 brings.  A very happy and healthy New Year to you all.

22nd December 2013

The best-laid plans oft go astray.....
I had been reading the best little book in the world: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  In it he tells anyone who ever asks what's the point of it all, to focus on 2 things: responsibility and attitude for your own life. Ask not what life can offer you, but what you can give to life. So, in this vein (and because 'tis the season) I made some traditional mince pies and decided to give them to 4 neighbours - you remember, those who wanted to shoot the dogs, who complained about a garden bonfire and had never welcomed us. So, first I ventured next door armed with a paper plate of 6 pies covered by cling-film.  Up the drive and up the step, pressed the door bell...but just when the door opened I foolishly stepped back, fell down the step and 5 pies slipped onto the floor!  Him indoors' response later? Do as I did at the medical clinic. What? You remember, when I came out bent over, you asked 'are you in pain? And I said Look at the sign over there. It says Toulouse-Lautrec Clinic, walk this way!
Season's greetings to one and all.

15th December 2013

A French lawmaker has spent the last 8 months walking around France listening to the views of ordinary people. Everywhere he went he found people 'without hope', he told listeners on Europe 1 Radio. People reported that France has no more industry, farming is in crisis and city suburbs are terrible. He said he “needed to get a feeling” for the country, and wrote on his personal blog that he was impressed by peoples’ willingness to speak frankly with him. France is changing, he said, and the government has failed to explain what this change means. Worse, he found latent racism everywhere, even in the smallest villages, especially a return of 'anti-Semitic' rhetoric. Have people learned nothing from the past? Let's hope his report to M. Hollande in February will do something, but I'm not confident. My comment to M. Hollande: follow the UK's lead and get the French economy moving again. For British expats, their French house values have dropped alarmingly, whilst English ones have risen - pulling those who wish to return out of the UK property market. So, where to go from here?

8th December 2013

Toulouse, busy with shoppers.  Le Metro its usual Disney ride, one minute up and over the city streets, the next whizzing to Capitole in the heart of the city.  Metro announcer eclectic with French and Occitan announcements. Everywhere people, everywhere noise, everywhere life. Just what we needed. The wooden chalets had gift ideas and  traditional handicraft like wooden toys, pottery, jewellery, candles, clothing, leather goods and food. Lots of it. Everywhere people sitting on stone bollards eating aligot, a local dish made from mashed potato and cheese. Had to steer Him indoors away from the smell of mulled wine and hot chestnuts - reminded us of a time long ago in Birmingham, where a little man used to sell them with  baked potatoes from his black cart, just off New Street. Ah, those were the days.  
Now I don't have to avoid invitations on Mondays, said Him Indoors, clutching a new pack of socks from C & A's.  Why? He used to have 7 pairs of socks, each with a day of the week, but had lost Monday's.  Now, we're available again any day. Gott sei dank!

1st December 2013

December already. Below zero. And not just the weather. Tensions between British expats in the EU and the mother country are chillier by the minute. Lately there's been conflict over the freezing of the so-called 'winter fuel payment'. The crux of the matter: this payment is part of the old-age pension and, as such, cannot be deleted on a whim.  War veterans like 90+ year old Harry Shindler in Italy are courageously mounting their own personal crusade. You see: it's not the amount; it's the principle that what you've paid for you should get. But now it looks like there is even more artillery being mounted by the anti-EU brigade in the UK. NHS costs are ever-rising against the insidious slide of services. Fundamental really. Bevan's original, wonderful concept of free health care for all simply can't cope with the current overburdened population size.So, how to claw back costs? It's proposed to pay EU states less for expat health care, meaning we must in future return to the UK for non-urgent 'elective' care.  So, who's going to pay our travel and accommodation costs for this?  For pessimists like me, things couldn't get worse could they? Oh no, there's that awful Marine Le Pen from Le Front National on the cusp of winning great gains in France in the Spring.   Him indoors: time to hit the bottle.