7th February 2016

Yesterday we had lunch at the lovely home of two French friends.We meet at each other homes every few months to enjoy a meal but, above all, to discuss just about everything that's happening in the world. Although my French is sketchy at times, and their English is the same, we learn about things from an alternative perspective.  History books paint a very different picture when viewed from another country. People fight each other because of their differences, e.g. Syria, Africa and Asia.  Our host told us a story where two groups of similar people were given hats to wear, half had black, the others yellow, and lived together in an enclosed place for a length of time. What happened? You've guessed it. After a while the black hats were fighting the yellow!  By fighting those who seem different, a group feel more of a 'family' and so more secure. Go to any local football match and see.  So what's the answer? Wait until threatening aliens arrive so that all on Earth join as one 'family' fighting the invaders? No. Have stimulating discussions now with those who are 'different', meet for lunch, learn their language and above all learn to respect others. Bon appetit et bon conversation

31 January 2016

Eight years ago my brother died in England aged just 61 after undergoing what I later discovered was the infamous 'Liverpool Pathway' procedure. The patient was put into a coma then deprived of food and water until he died. After much controversy at the time, the procedure was withdrawn. Now senators in France have just approved a law that allows terminally ill patients to also be put into a state of ‘deep and continuous sedation’ until they die. Doctors can stop life-sustaining treatment. Sedation and painkillers can also be administered ‘even if they could shorten the person’s life’. There is also an earlier law passed in 2005 which allows so-called ‘passive euthanasia’, in which any treatment needed to keep a person alive is withheld or withdrawn. Health Minister Marisol Touraine, who previously said she would not support a euthanasia law, said: "This new law is a major breakthrough."  Is this correct or just euthanasia of ill people to free up beds?  For me, the maintenance of life is everything and this new law puts us all on a slippery slope to easy elimination when the going gets tough.

24th January 2016

What's yours?  Him indoors says 'a double whisky'. Understandable, but no. What I mean is: what's your plan B?  The question's aimed at other British expats currently living in France. All hinges on David Cameron's risky ploy at the Feb. 18th EU council meeting to convince the other EU countries to agree to the UK being treated differently to everyone else. If yes, then the looming referendum is likely to be held on June 23rd; if no, probably in September. Cameron doesn't want to choose 2017 because that clashes with the French and German general elections, in France pitting Alan Juppe against Sarkozy in the Republicain race!  For some of us, Plan B will entail taking out French citizenship. Others plan to go back to the UK, with all that entails. Trouble is, many of the latter find they've fallen off the UK housing ladder and must consider a flat. But, but, you say, what about the mechant, naughty Bruno? Yes indeed. Although 13 this year, he's the fittest of all of us, and certainly couldn't go to a flat, but if we took him to a kennel (which we won't) that would cause a major rift in the family. So, for us, it'd need plan Z.  What's that?  Him indoors was right all along. Time to hit the bottle.

17th January 2016

Yesterday we received election papers.Why on earth did the UK government agree to hold an EU referendum?  It will cause absolute disaster to the good British people if a majority vote Out. Too many are looking at comparatively trivial issues and ignoring future worldwide perils. Should unimaginable terrorism or further climate calamity strike, the UK would be out on a limb with no signed-up friends or allies. And, in the event of an Out vote, Scotland would surely soon call another union referendum in order to further split the UK. Remember: for over 70 years the signed-up members of Europe have not fought each other in war and have supported each other. And, even Iran are apparently new allies - but only because of pressure from a consortium of nations. For God's sake: having friends and allies is the only important issue. So, vote to stay In.  Today it's Him indoors' birthday. I couldn't understand when he said he'd been invited to Swan Lake. Yes, he said, it'll be because of all the flooding.  No, no, it's not a ballet paper you've received, it's a ballot!  Pity.

10th January 2016

Yesterday the French paid homage to the victims killed by terrorists one year ago. I often hear, especially from young people, that we shouldn't dwell on the past but move on. However, this is a mistake that has proven costly over the centuries. A few weeks ago France opened access to police and legal archives drawn from one of the country's darkest hours when the Vichy regime collaborated with the Nazis. On the right you can see the covers of my two books covering WW2, to be published in Feb and May.  In the second, Vichyssoise, I've attempted to show that atrocities can also happen indirectly via such things as weak leadership and poor governance. In the chaos theory of life, bad things are sometimes played out not by obvious evil but by an accumulation of events that start by the election of the wrong people at the helm. Petain was not Hitler but the outcome was almost the same! Whatever country you live in, remember this:  elect someone who is well-educated, of proven balanced mind and not so old that they take the easiest option at times of crisis as Petain did. Never forget. Our futures may depend on it.  

3rd January 2016

Were you happy with 2015?  For France it was a year of shock when terrorism took hold and the FN party threatened. But, Paris was resilient and the French voters saw off Marine Le Pen...for now. So, what about 2016?  The old 22 regions are now reduced to a more simplified 13, but until each has an agreed new name in July, here we'll have to fit the ridiculously-long Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrenees onto forms. I see Hollande has pledged to lower the cost of mutuelles for people on old-age pensions over 65, but will that include British expats?  New Linky, actual-consumption, electricity meters are to be fitted to do away with estimates and we can no longer have tinted side windows in our car that let in less than 70% light, but how to tell? All earning over 40K will have to declare online, but what of non-IT-literate pensioners? A single number for calling an out-of-hours doctor will be launched (ours is 3966), but why is our local vet on call 24/7 with his mobile number, but not our own doctor? Are pets more important than humans? Him indoors asks whether there'll be a new computer GP app asking 'if you've a broken leg, press 1, haemorroids press 2, a broken finger - please wait....'  Whatever, a healthy 2016 to all readers.

27th December 2015

Non, rien de rien.....
Saturday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of a remarkable Parisienne. Sometimes in life we can be born with deformities, illness and poverty as she was.  She grew up in Paris's 20th arrondissement amongst the prostitutes of the Place de Pigalle, suffered crippling arthritic pain from a twisted body but miraculously discovered a life-changing talent. As 2015 turns into 2016 that is a lesson from which we can all learn. Resolve to discover your talent during this coming year. It may not be life-changing like hers but it will give you a reason for living, evoke the very essence of your inner being, and maybe it will make your name memorable long after you've gone. If no-one remembers you in the future, what's life for? So, just like Edith Piaf (and the character David Klein in Vichyssoise, to be published during 2016), you can truly say:
.....je ne regrette rien!

A happy, healthy and memorable 2016 to all my readers, wherever you live and whatever your individual talents. Make the most of them.