26 October 2014

An amazing week. No, not in politics, but for me.  The children are here and for the first time for years just the four of us are all together en famille.  Tues and Wed we drove to Barcelona, with 2 dogs!  No border crossing (Schengen agreement), just a sign 'Bienvenida a Espana'.  A few things I learned:  don't attempt to drive in central Barcelona!  Like Paris and NY, you take your life in your hands.  Everyone drives scooters. They're parked on every pavement and roadside. No mode of transport would accept our dogs, not taxis, not buses, but the metro will only with a muzzle (on the dog not us). Two of us took the open-top tourist bus, but you need a second mortgage to pay - 24 euros for a 2h journey, which includes the '92 Olympics park. Noticed that more ordinary people spoke English than in France, and we found a good veg. restaurant off the La Rambla walkway. Back in Gaillac my daughter treated me to a restyle haircut: short club cut, with longer sides and a slanted fringe (carre en diagonale)! In Spain Him indoors thought Manual Labour was the waiter....

19 October 2014

There are fads with the way the general public thinks, largely driven by the media, but it can be dangerous.  Lately the English seem to be much taken with the blokish Nigel Farage. Everyone thinks how wonderful to have a politician who understands the common man.  Don't be fooled. Following a UK withdrawal from the EU, Steve Peers, Prof. in Law at the University of Essex, says:
a. The borders rules alone would apply, therefore more intrusive questions about the purpose of each UK citizen's visit, checks on the intention to return and level of income, potential for visa requirements on UK citizens.  b. You'd be part of the EU's entry-exit system, keeping a record of all movements of third-country nationals into/out of EU territory. You'd be subject to integration rules, e.g. need to speak the language of host country before getting visa status. c. Receipt and upgrading of British pensions would not be possible. d. Strict family reunion rules with waiting periods and integration language requirements. e. Intending migrants, as with current EU British residents, would be subject to quotas and preference rules on labour migration.  And much more. So,, for UK expats in France, be very careful whom you vote for in 2015......

12 October 2014

A few days ago a couple arrived at our front gate. 'Is your house for sale?'  Eh?  Well, not exactly, but...where did you hear that?  'A neighbour told us.'  Oh.  'Could we come round this afternoon and have a look.' S'pose so.  Frantic rush round to make the place presentable. Head in a spin.  1500h a car arrives and out climbs the couple together with the neighbours with the chickens at the back of our garden!  (For those with a long memory, the ones where Bruno jumped over the fence and attacked their chickens).  I should pause here. Did you ever see that film Castaway with Tom Hanks? Life casts him away from home in a lovely sunny place with all the coconuts he can eat. He adapts for a while, enjoying the sunshine, but eventually starts to build a liferaft. Why would you want to leave such a sunny place, family might say, before they return to their lives back home? Back to reality. Him indoors currently needs treatment that is only available in France, and exchange rates mean the price offered will only buy an apartment in the UK, and what to do with the 2 dogs. Nothing comes easy.

5 October 2014

Is France 'hopeless, downbeat and finished?' Andy Street (sounds like a convenient place to live) has been comparing France to England. He's the MD of the department store John Lewis, but does that make him expert?  Certainly the French economy is rubbish compared to the UK's current 3% growth, and France's unemployment is four points higher and the gap is widening. But:
In France university tuition fees only cost 188 euros a year v England's 11,461 euros p.a.!
In France unemployment benefits are 40% of your previous earnings v England's 92.19 euros p.w.!
In France childcare is 10% of family income v England's 26.6%.
In France, on average, people are thinner, they eat 3 proper meals a day and the health care is way better. Why are the French thinner?  No fast food, no snacking between meals and smaller plates! France has almost 4 times the number of Michelin starred restaurants as the UK (despite the lower obesity rates). And football? France has only waited 16 years since it last won the World Cup, whereas England?  Nearly 50 years.
So, have I answered the question?  Jury's out.