Picture the scene. The stage is set on the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. Mario Draghi has a walk-on part singing Money makes the world go around, the world go around... A small, blonde German woman pushes on a wheelbarrow overflowing with euros whilst singing So what? In the backstage chorus is the darkly handsome Greek Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, waiting expectantly for today's limelight. In the audience, cheering loudly, is Hollande thinking Now this will at last increase my appeal. To his Far Right, Le Pen: You ain't seen nothing yet. Surely this 1931 stage couldn't actually be happening in today's EU, could it? I mean, back then in Germany anti-semitism was rife and Jewish people were actively leaving the country. Back then, innocent people were getting shot and the country's printing presses were hard at work printing lots of money. Back then, ordinary people were cheering and saying Now things are going to get better. Certainly on Thursday, as Draghi arrived at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt he received a rousing reception. And so it begins. And Him indoors? It's all one big Cabaret.
Feeling miserable. I thought our 'friendly' neighbour - the one who put 6' high red signs all around our garden proclaiming 'Propriete prive, defense d'entrer' - had seen sense at last as the signs suddenly disappeared. But no. The next day, there they all were again, double the size. Even though Bruno has been on permanent lock-down on our terrace, the neighbour had gone to immense trouble in constructing stronger, even higher (now 12') posts for the signs that our elderly dog still can't read. The exchange rate shows 1£:1.31 euros, giving more doom and gloom to those who want to escape all the mayhem and go back to the UK. At these rates, even if we could sell our house (despite the stupid garden posts), all we could buy would be a retirement flat in the UK. But such flats only take 'one small dog', i.e. not Bruno! So, I walked into the town centre on Friday to get a hormone drug for Him indoors. Miserable. Rain pouring down, leaking off the canopies at the weekly market. But, at least I didn't see any armed soldiers. Everyone going about their normal business, stoical to the last. That's what I'll have to be then. Where's Gene Kelly when you need him?
Ten years ago a bridge was built by a Frenchman and an Englishman. As the 50 millionth vehicle is expected to cross the Millau divide this summer, it signifies something special. I've always liked bridges. Although they cost a lot of money - this one cost 400m euros - and take a lot of time and effort to construct, it's worth it. They bring places and people together that were otherwise held apart. Global troubles and strife similarly need a lot of money, time and effort to cure. An important new bridge now needs to be built, one that will act as a global catalyst to cross divides and bring people together. Wars happen when people fail to understand each other and mistrust each other's motives. With all today's technology, with the internet already bridging global divides, we have that catalystic bridge already to hand. We have international organisations like the UN to use such a bridge. As the long, silent march begins today from the Place de la Republique in Paris, let that be the starting point. Erase misunderstanding. Use the bridge.
Still haven't got used to writing 2015 yet. So what's France proposing? I like the sound of the proposed new PAYE system. Anything that means I haven't to quake every April at having to complete a French tax form in French is a good idea! I'm never sure I've done it right and, being me, expect the gendarmes at the door any moment. Additionally France is removing the first income tax band, so that an estimated 9 million low-earners won't have to pay. Also like the idea of the new 'hotel hospitals', which will be a half-way house between home and hospital - a much cheaper, and personalised/adapted, way to convalesce after operations. Maybe the UK should look at this as a way of saving money so as to direct more funds to patient care. All in all, 2015 sounds promising. But, looking out the window, it's minus temperatures again. (Are you listening IDS?) Him indoors says it's like in Mississippi. What? Yes, it's Tupelo (2 below.....)!