30th October 2016

Why are the French and English so hostile to each other?  Entente cordiale? Don't think so!
The sang froid was palpable at the Calais Jungle this week as, with a Gallic shrug, the mini-pelles arrived effectively to shovel the Channel emigration border over to Kent. Why do they hate the English so much? You only had to see the fury in Hollande's face that the UK had the temerity to reject all that he and Merkel had manoeuvred so artfully in their favour!  His face captured perfectly the distrust that has haunted Fr:Eng relations for 8 decades. As I wrote in Vichyssoise, even De Gaulle - who was welcomed by Churchill in London during the '40s Vichy era - did a volte-face 20 years later with a categoric Non to the UK's entry to the EEC. We seem to be connected yet divided by old historic hatreds.
Brexit or no, the French and English are geographic neighbours. Isn't it time they shook hands? Wish our neighbour here would shake hands with us......

23rd October 2016

Today is the first anniversary of the release of my first novel with Crooked Cat Publishing:  '3rd Degree Murder', drawing on my 30 years' working at The University of Birmingham. Who killed Prof. Axel Sloan? Was it me, i.e. the secretary? You'll have to read it to find out (authl.it/4ia).
 Anniversaries are always a good time to reflect on the past. Did we make the right decision in coming to France, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 11 years ago (chronicled in 'Pensioners in Paradis' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pensioners-Paradis-Olga-Swan/dp/1847994156 )? Yes. We've really enjoyed it but, now we're both approaching 70, we need to return to our roots. A new branch in the tree of life. But, it's not going to be easy. On Wednesday we signed the Compromis de Vente, so the sale of our home is proceeding. But the buyer - a marchand de bien - needs first to get a business loan then planning permission to divide the land into 2 building plots. Thereby hangs a tale. Schadenfreude for us in getting our own back on the neighbour perhaps? Or, giving him the chance to voice his public objection, which he may well do?
Let's hope it doesn't all end in 3rd Degree Murder!!

16th October 2016

Don't wish to tempt fate, but are things finally happening on the French house sale front?
.....Meantime in the UK the High Court on Tuesday started hearing details of three legal challenges over the process of triggering Britain’s exit from the EU. Senior judges will decide whether Theresa May, the prime minister, has the power to serve notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 or whether she will need a vote in parliament approving withdrawal.  Perversely, for me, at this present time of low euro:£ exchange rates, it would be better if Brexit went ahead!  I know, I know. But, you see, if the legal challenges were to win and Brexit were cancelled, the £ would probably then shoot up making our search for an English house within our budget impossible! Some say Fix the Rate now. Also problematical. There'd be a deposit of c.£18K to pay with international exchange banks, which we'd lose if a sale didn't go ahead. And... previously I thought that all buyers, after signing the Compromis de Vente (first stage), had 10 days to change their mind. However I've now discovered that if the buyer is a Marchand de Biens (a company dealing in renovations/land e.g.) there is no 10 day reflection period but you have to wait to see if nec loans are approved. All too much for me. I'm too old for all this.
                                        .........more next week on the rolling sale news of a house in Gaillac.

9th October 2016

A topsy-turvy week.  Suddenly interest seems to be growing at last for our French house. However, just as I was feeling more confident in our plans for the future, a rather unlikely cause has arrived to throw a kybosh into the works.  UK Secretary of State Sajid Javid has overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year, provoking outrage from local groups and environmentalists. Why has this outraged me too? The drilling site is just 3 miles from where we were planning to live! My understanding is that this deep drilling can cause nearby house foundations to shake or even a mini earthquake. My panic is rising because we had a viewing today, another one's fixed for Monday and another for later in the week. And, we have no idea where we're going to move to.....
For some, this is the time for talking to Him Upstairs about the past year and hopes for the future.  Wonder what decision He will make for us at this crossroads time of our lives!

2nd October 2016

I often write about French life v American. Best about the US:  the friendly people, the great State of Maine, the greatest customer-service in the world. Worst about the US:  the health system that would have bankrupted us as incoming senior citizens, and the gun law! The average US citizen obsessively allies the 2nd amendment with his citizenship, drummed into him at school.  History tells us that in 1791, having just used guns and other arms to ward off the English, the 2nd amendment was created to give citizens the chance to fight back against a tyrannical federal government. But that was then; this is 2016! America needs to urgently review this law, which gives all testosterone-driven young men (and even toddlers!) a tool to kill whenever they're upset about something. And they are, increasingly, every week! US youths are barred from buying cigarettes/alcohol but can walk into a gun store and easily buy a firearm and ammo. A French law I like: it is illegal for stores to dump expired food. Instead they donate 10m meals p.a. to those in need, via food banks. In the US, whilst 1 in 7 go hungry, 40% of food is wasted and ends up in dumpsters. Well done France.