31 May 2015

On Thursday we went to a Franco-Britannique quiz held at the beautiful Chateau de LasTours in nearby Lisle sur Tarn.  As a writer I always like to bring different cultures together (see  http://ailsaabraham.com/2015/05/26/incoming-swan to read a recent interview about my writing), so what could be better than a light-hearted evening where the French and English pit their wits on each other's geography, history, culture and, of course, gastronomy!  And, whilst we were wracking our brains, we enjoyed the wonderful wines - grown in the Chateau's own vineyards alongside, and live singing from Martin St. Martin, who includes Sinatra, Elvis, Ray Charles etc. in his repertoire. My favourite charity has always been cancer research, and I'm delighted to report that the club Entente Cordiale, who organised the quiz, raised over 400 euros on the night. The following day, Friday, was la Fete des Voisins.  How better to get to know one another than to enjoy each other's company and raise funds for charity at the same time. Long may it continue.

24 May 2015

You know what the best thing is about being over 40?  All that embarrassing stuff in your life happened before the internet and iphone cameras!  Imagine having to re-live all those stupid things you did when you were young, and know that the whole world can see and laugh about it too.  But, when I watch global news on France24 tv, I often think about the poor people who live in the 'third world'.  There they are living the kind of traditional lives their forefathers always lived:  unpaved roads, flimsy shacks, no sanitation etc.  Yet, some young people there are shown with iphones. How can they not compare their lives with those of us in the west and feel intensely aggrieved?  In the past they would have just soldiered on. Ignorance is bliss.  But now?  What can they do?  You can't just skip over centuries of lost opportunities of technological advances.  It can't be done.  Decades ago I remember that old English tv advert: Clunk-click every trip.  Today I make mistake after mistake by clicking too quickly and then can't retrieve what I've sent. To the people of the third-world:  enjoy your lives. Think twice before you click.      

17 May 2015

As a child I was always an avid reader. I still remember surprising the teacher by reading and spelling the word 'pneumonia' at the age of 6. However, for all things practical I was, and still am, rubbish! Now I'm retired and have a book publisher, thought I'd get a Kindle. For someone with my eclectic reading tastes, I'm contemplating buying the historical genre in paperback form, to assist with future research, and the rest on Kindle. This would certainly free up the diminishing space on my bookshelves.  However, as per usual with my rubbish practical skills, I've encountered difficulties. It seems that with a French address you can't buy a Kindle from a UK store, and Amazon tell me the only English downloads available on a French kindle are via the limited selection from their .fr or .cn (China) stores!  (Apparently I'd have no difficulty if I lived in Gibraltar...why?)  Clearly, the imminent arrival of the younger, techno, generation to the Olga household should help to kindle a flame and throw a light on how to circumvent the system. Why are practical things so difficult? All I ever wanted to do was read.

10th May 2015

A week of victories.  First, personal: Sunday I signed a book contract. 'Third Degree Murder' by Olga Swan will be out later this year (crookedcatpublishing.com). Second: Thursday, I believe the best man for the job was elected in Britain. Third, Friday was the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Forget the 'luxury' of domestic policies for a moment. Every democracy needs an educated, balanced leader who is a safe pair of hands. National security and negotiating skills with other nations are vital.  To do that you need someone who is supremely capable, has stature, and in whom you can trust to represent your nation correctly. Watching the VE day celebrations last night I realised just how important our tactful liaisons with other nations are. Nothing is as important as avoiding war with other nations, but with honour (unlike Petain in 1940 in France). Churchill knew that. Cameron knows that.  So, Mr. Cameron, before discussing domestic policies, make sure we are free from war.  Do not cut yourself off from the rest of Europe. Remember:  it's been 70 years without war in Europe.  Peace in our time.  Don't ruin it by retreating back into the trenches of isolationism or you'll have 'third degree murder' on your hands!

3 May 2015

A new birth. No, not mine - too late for that - but for Britain. They say the new Princess will be a boost for David Cameron. What is it about William and Kate that everything they do and say is so very perfect?  They even manage to produce babies in the 'correct' order, at the right time and they all look so handsome.  Unlike them, officialdom is sometimes shown to make a complete ass of itself. With the British general election coming up on Thursday, I'm pleased to see that James Jackson, a retired, British civil servant from Carcassonne has paid a £500 deposit to stand against London mayor, Boris Johnson. Mr. Jackson knows, of course, that he can't win. The point he'll show brilliantly is that whilst, like him, expats are banned from voting after 15 years of living outside the UK, he is allowed to stand as a parliamentary candidate! How stupid is that?  So, good luck on Thursday James.  But for the rest of us in the EU:  if Thursday's vote gives us a referendum, let's hope there's a subsequent massive IN vote.  Now that would be a wonderful EU re-birth.