27th January 2013

Message to all British expats in France:  be very afraid.  The thing that we all feared has come to pass. a threatened in:out referendum on Europe.
O.K. Let's think what would happen if the man in the street votes to pull Britain out of the EU - and he might. Here's a quick list: All rights accorded to us under EU law would stop. The 4 freedoms of movement of people, goods, services and capital would stop. No longer would we be EU citizens – passports would have to be changed. We'd all  need Carte-de-Séjours and these demand a minimum level of income. No British citizen would have the automatic right to live in France. Those with little capital could be asked to leave. All the 500,000 British Pensioners here would be most severely affected. Medical subsidy support would cease - no carte vitale. We would no longer have the vote for local commune councils, nor the right to be a local councillor. Cross border trade would be affected. Goods from abroad would revert to pre-1973 practice.  The purchase of goods on the internet (such a boon) could be taxed and subject to import duties. The current relaxation of inheritance laws for EU Citizens (although confused) would not operate for the British citizen.
And remember: at one time the French imposed taxes on the import of money. I foresee a mass re-migration back to Blighty - over a million if you include those in Spain. And, that's if we all manage to sell our houses. But, many won't have enough to get back onto the English property market. 
For me and Him indoors, maybe something radical needs to be done.....

20th January 2013

Him indoors had a birthday on Thursday so we planned to have lunch in our favourite Albi restaurant, Buffalo Grill. I know, I know - not very French - but once a steak man, always a steak man is what he says.  But, woke up to snow. Lots of it.  We can't go, I told him.  Oh yes we can, says Him the Builder.  But, first, he opened his present - one of those new tablet Androids. However, the Android is still not talking to Google.  At 11.30 our temperamental front door meant we had to go out the tricky downstairs route, through the workshop and into the garage.  The 4 x 4 expertly reversed, we pressed the gate gadget but, as expected, too much snow.  At last, armed with trusty spade, voila, they opened. We skidded left along our narrow road. Naturally, a large truck was heading our way. No-one was going to budge for fear of getting stuck. Did we ever get to the restaurant?  Surprisingly, yes, albi-it, very late.  The main roads had been well gritted and the A68 motorway to Albi was superb.  The food was, as usual, very much to our taste. But, having eaten in a Buffalo Grill in America, it's clear why the French are so slim. The French portion sizes are much smaller. And I managed to drive home, in the snow!  Well, he had to have a drink on his birthday, didn't he.  And his birthday present, the dratted Tablet?  Unlike the meal, very hard to swallow!

13th January 2013

I'm feeling unsettled. And the British news doesn't help.  Half the British public believe that the UK should withdraw from the EU if Cameron can't negotiate things in his favour.  But Merkel and Hollande would never agree to opening up this Pandora's box:  every EU member would then want to tinker in their favour also.  Cameron received quite a shock this week when his greatest ally, the US, told him not to be so silly and to stick to the status quo in the EU.  So, Cameron's stuck between a rock and a hard place:  should he pander to the man in the street (i.e. the voter) and have a national referendum (probably the biggest gamble of his life and which would cause we expats to shiver in our beds), or heed wise old owls like Lord Heseltine and even Obama by pledging to stay in the EU. Either way Labour are odds-on to win the next general election.
Yet more news arrives to make us expat pensioners in France clutch at our purse-strings. A wonderful, bigger flat-rate pension is being unrolled tomorrow by Cameron. At last, the full amount for all pensioners including expats. Hurrah? Well, not for us. Those already in receipt of a British pension won't benefit and must stick with their original, smaller, payment - the lowest in the EU! Him indoors says all this is a mere EUphamism.
Hurry up sun - this is supposed to be the south of France. In every sense I'm feeling chilled.

6th January 2013

Growing up in the postwar years, it was instinctive for English people to help one another. Even today I love to watch the BBC's 'DIY SOS' programme, where neighbours club together to help someone in a crisis.  But I have yet to see neighbourly spirit in the French, especially in Gaillac! So I was surprised to read about the people of Saint-Martin-des-Fontaines in the Vendee, who have actually rallied round to build a brand new wooden house for a local 47 years' old unemployed man in trouble.  This poor man was living in a dilapidated old mobile home, down on his luck, having given up all hope. Well, not any more. Local tradespeople and neighbours have worked hard to give him a decent roof over his head. The Association des Bassins Versants de la Grande Fontaine started the scheme when it contributed an amazing 20,000 euros worth of building materials, which prompted local volunteers to give of their free time in labour. Now, not only has this man a new, decent home, but also a new farming job - offered to him thanks to local publicity. This has buoyed me in this new year: there's some hope for the world after all. Him indoors says p'raps there's a chance for a DIY job himself. 'Are you handy?' say prospective employers. 'Yes,' says he, 'I only live down the road.'