28th July 2013

Current summer temperature in Gaillac may read over 30C, but British pensioners here are still out in the cold. I'm talking winter fuel payments.  Despite being encouraged to 'move freely within the EU', the UK government, to save money, made the crass decision that some EU countries, like France, had winter temperatures too high, whilst others, like Italy, did not.  This means that British expats in France will soon not be eligible to receive the benefit, even though winter temperatures last year reached -20C in places.  Is it too difficult to understand that, although it's warmer in summer, the winters are way way lower than the UK.? Fundamentally, this just goes to prove my point.  When you pay into a welfare scheme for the whole of your working life, shouldn't the eventual pay-out act like an insurance scheme - guaranteeing to pay out wherever you are and whatever the circumstances? What actually happens is that your contributions don't go into your future pot, but pay welfare claimants at that time.  Huh. Governments should not be able to move the goalposts whenever they see fit. Makes my blood boil - it'll need to if we're to keep warm this winter.

21st July 2013

Canicule. The weather forecast says 35C for Gaillac, but on our balcony yesterday it was 40C and rising. We no longer have a pool to jump in, there's a limit to how many cold showers you can take, so how to keep your cool?    Answers on a postcard, please.
The family kept telling us to get an annual medical check-up. I know, I know: France has one of the best health services in the world, so why don't we?  Long story. I come from a family who never went to the doctor's:  'if you go to hospital, you never come out'.  But, in Feb I had one of those free blood-pressure checks at a US pharmacie which read 198.  Shock, horror.  So, an appointment had to be made - and last Thursday was the day.  Well, even though my reading was now down to 168, it's still too high so I'm now on tablets - if I remember to take them.  Trouble is, they make me sleepy. And, don't even mention my weight.  Tut, tut, tut said the doctor.  Me and Tina, the Springer, have the same problem. And Him indoors?  No more doctor jokes, please.
And the answer to the heat:  we sleep downstairs in the sous-sol. A stone house may be difficult to heat in winter, but in summer downstairs - merveilleuse.

14th July 2013

Bastille Day or Fete Nationale, as the French call it. Well, they would wouldn't they?  People will always dream up ways of obfuscating the atrocities of life to make themselves feel better about their history.  But, it's only by seeing the mistakes of the past that we can know who we are today and try to do better. There's one historical French place I'd always wanted to see - Carcassonne, just a couple of hours S.E. of us. It's the site of the author Kate Mosse's trilogy. So, we drove our family there. We all agreed: the old 3C cite of  Carsac is exceptional. Although, being us, life is always difficult. One dog was still in the clinic, and we took the other one (yes, Bruno!) with us. So, as a party of 5 + one mad dog we traipsed in the heat around the most amazing mediaeval site you can imagine. And, the place was full of Americans. Of course. However much the US boasts, they can never match the history encompassed by Europe. As Him indoors says 'history is a thing of the past'. And Bruno?  We may, enfin, have found the solution - change his diet to hypo-allergenic food (no additives). Well, reader, it worked. He rode in the caleche and didn't even bark at the horses. So, although there may be fireworks tonight, for the moment all is calm en-famille. Ah...

7th July 2013

A week of the unexpected.  First, who'd have thought that a French girl, Marion Bartoli, would win at Wimbledon, against all those grunting, hard-hitting Americans and East Europeans? Second, at home in Gaillac I too am exhausted from nearly 3 weeks of entertaining and trips to the vet.  I'm happy to report that our Springer spaniel, Tina, is improving daily. No more blood, she is eating well and wagging her tail. The surprising thing is that the vet has finally diagnosed a rotten tooth - so, not the neighbours then!  He thinks it caused septicaemia which pervaded her whole body. She nearly died, but her prognosis now looks good. Third:  we took our friends to the local Chateau du Mauriac, famed for its 13C architecture and fittings. But, it wasn't this that took us back. The current owner is an artist with his work displayed on every wall. I was shocked. I know...I've led a sheltered life...but the paintings weren't of 'tasteful' nude women, but of men in various stages...!   There was even one positioned above the ancient marital bed. So, as the guide studiously avoided these whilst telling of the castle's history, all the onlookers were looking goggle-eyed at the walls. Him indoors said: Not quite shuttlecock then. Game, Set and Match. Quite.