27th April 2014

It's now 9 years since we bought our first house in France.  Back then everything was in our favour. We'd just retired, and 1 British pound bought 1.50 Euros. But 9 years is a long time and, inexorably, things have changed. Since the Euro crisis 90,000 Britons have abandoned Spain, and thousands have also left France, most moving back to the UK. But, the property market is dead. Immobiliers report a 20% drop in property values throughout France, so what to do?  And, of course, why? Let's face it. It's a delusion to think you'll ever be fully-integrated in France. The French are very insular. They accept but never really welcome you into their hearts. And, as you get older, do you want to die here/end up in a French old people's home with rapidly-declining French ability? The answer for many is to put their French homes up for auction via the new Notaire system online. (Him indoors says he'd put the whole Government under the Hammer!). Anyway, sales are achieved in 2 months the seller accepting the best offer above the initial 75% of the full market value. For more info, go to www.immobilier.notaires.fr and click on the Immo-Interactif section. Bon chance!

20th April 2014

Back in the days of yore, money was always a preoccupation. So in these days of economic uncertainty we continued one English bank account. But now Barclaycard, in its wisdom, has decided to close accounts to those who do not have a UK address.  Is it mad?  If someone wanted to put money in my account, I certainly wouldn't put obstacles in the way!  But yes, it's true.  After objections, the MD of Barclaycard now says it will support overseas addresses on a temporary basis, but not if no activity has occurred in the last 6 months.  This will cause massive inconvenience to English expats who use their account for investment purposes only.  Some English banks who have international branches say we should move our money there, but don't tell you that if you do, you lose the major English government guarantee should the bank collapse.
So, with this in mind this week I filled in our online French tax form.  Him indoors, peering over my shoulder, noticed the section on dependants. He said I should put 50,000 illegal immigrants and numerous dole claimants. You can't put that. Why not?  Who have I missed out?

13 April 2014

I'll never understand the French.
They like to protest, but paradoxically they don't like change!  Take Manuel Valls, the new PM. With his film-star looks, you'd think he could do no wrong. But in his first policy speech when (in my view) he unveiled entirely sensible regional mergers, 77% were against it. Compared to Italy's 8000 communes, France currently has 37000!  The French apparently want to cut red tape but 'not in my back yard'.  Illogical French? This weekend 60 'go slow' protests are happening across the country against plans to reduce the speed limit to 80kph. I'd have thought a speed-up would have made the point better.
And, the new NF Mayor in Henin has thrown out the town's League of Human Rights (LDH), accusing them of 'interfering in municipal life'!   The LDH was founded in 1898, at the height of the notorious Dreyfus Affair that divided political and religious society in France between 1894 and 1906. Its declared objective is to observe and defend the rights of man in all spheres of public life.  So, here's this member of the NF - which is trying to cover up its extreme views - doing exactly that as his first action as Mayor.  Him Indoors says You couldn't make it up.

6th April 2014

They say never let the grass grow under your feet. Well, the Avignonois didn't in the end. They're all now dancing tous en rond, but us? No dancing in our garden. The grass isn't just under our feet, but up to our knees.  Any higher and the neighbours'd be round, and you know what they're like. Never mind that the delay was caused by illness. So, down to the shed at the bottom of the garden and turn the ignition on the old MTD...blue smoke. Head under the bonnet revealed a cracked fuel pipe and God knows what else. Verdict from local mower shop:  kaput/9 years old/it's had it!  But, but a new one would cost well over a thousand. What to do?  Buy a new one, but get yours truly to negotiate a way to pay it. Different economic arrangements are needed when you're retired. No longer is credit over many years an option any more and no-one wants to deplete steadily dwindling savings. The best deal I could arrange was four cheques - not to be cashed all together!  He agreed.  So now we have a brand new Jonsered tondeuse/tracteur, absolutely necessary for our acre garden. Like the Grand National  yesterday, all I have to do now is put Him indoors out to grass.