25 May 2014

For some strange reason not all countries vote in the EU elections at the same time - the UK voted on the 22nd, but la France goes to the polls today. Although apathy abounds, it's important.
This week I've been reading Robert Harris's latest 'An Officer and a Spy' - an intrigruing conflation of fiction and fact about the 19C Dreyfus case. Can't help but think that, two centuries later, the French mindset hasn't changed much. Back then crowds gathered in the place de Fontenoy in Paris, baying for the blood of someone, anyone, who must be the cause of all their problems. I can just hear the racist spin doctors of the day: 'He must be guilty, therefore let's find the evidence for it'. It was with this in mind that I read M. Jean-Marie le Pen's comments this week about 'M. Ebola' - at a stroke racially condemning and advocating the eradication of whole nations he didn't much like the look of. I hope that intending Front Nationale voters today bear all this in mind.  Putting all the blame for your own troubles onto someone else perceived as 'different' is childish and never the answer.  Forget 'vive la difference' and embrace 'nous sommes tout pareille'.  Unlike our neighbours here, hold out the hand of friendship.  Now if only our local candidate would say that.....

18 May 2014

From the sublime to the ridiculous.....
For 3 years I've done everything possible to make friends with our neighbours. Last Xmas I took home-made patisserie to each of them but alas nothing in return. Of course it all revolves around our naughty dog Bruno. I know, I know but he's a lovable chasseur who wants just 2 things in life: to be with us and to run.That was the reason we bought this house with its large, fenced garden, but Bruno knows no barriers; it's all one big adventure for him. Knowing this we give him plenty of walks, but he got out again while I was bringing in the washing, nosed open the cellar door, raced down the bottom of the garden and leapt the fence in one go. In a flash the neighbour (not the one with the chickens) was there with a giant baton and went to beat poor Bruno repeatedly. For God's sake: this isn't a wild fox; it's a neighbour's pet dog who loves everybody. I can honestly say that if a known neighbour's dog was in our garden, I would take him round to them again. But here? No. I shouted for Bruno to run, run.....he did, climbed the fence with all 4 paws and leapt over to safety again. Phew!  But now, look what the crazy neighbour has done....these signs have sprouted all around our garden, facing us. Does he think Bruno can read? Incroyable.

11 May 2014

Francois Mitterand once said 'nationalism equals war'. I wonder if he mentioned that to HM the Queen when, 20 years ago this week, he shook her hand at Calais-Frethun station as she said 'I declare this Tunnel open'.  The Channel Tunnel was an excellent way to stop being an insular nation and to forge links with other nations.
For me the tunnel was the only way I was ever going to come to France - my chronic travel sickness means sea journeys are impossible.  But a Norfolk farmer with a similar affliction has now developed special sunglasses. He noticed that when he covered up one eye on a journey, he didn't feel ill. His sunglasses have one eyepiece that is opaque: it lets in light but not movement. And, they can be worn the other way round. They work by stopping the conflicting signals that confuse the brain, cutting vision from 3D to 2D. So, now there's a solution in sight.  Maybe at the forthcoming EU elections voters, like the Norfolk farmer and M. Mitterand, will cease to have tunnel vision....

4th May 2014

You remember when Him indoors went for an eye test recently - and he said he couldn't read the words on the card (because he can't read French!)?  Well, then he had the problem of where to obtain actual glasses. (Should have gone to Mr. Bannister, to help cope with the stares!)  In France you're supposed to only buy directly through an optician, but at last the EU has come up trumps. It's ordered the French government to open up the market, but the law is still awaited. British expats here have long bypassed the system by sending their French prescription to a British company on-line. However, French ophthalmologists fought back by withholding vital info from the prescription like the distance between your pupils - a bit difficult to do yourself in front of the mirror! Well now there's a breakthrough. The new Loi Hamon (named after the old Consumer Minister) has decreed that all French ophthalmologists must provide this pupil info on all prescriptions.  Success. No good for Him indoors though as his doctor hadn't read the new rules.  So, he ordered his new varifocals from British Spex4Less but needed me to take a photo of just his pupils and send it electronically. I know, don't make a spectacle of yourself!