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.
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.
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!
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.
I've always been fascinated by history... History reveals who we were: we must learn from it if we are ever to improve. On Monday a Frenchman called Robert Maloubier died aged 92. Most have never heard of him, and yet he was awarded France's highest honour, the Legion d'Honneur. He was one of the last surviving French agents from Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII. For the allies, he was a hero, carrying out special missions targetting German soldiers in occupied France. But in real life, things aren't always like James Bond movies. On one occasion, after being shot several times, he managed to escape a German guard by knocking him to the ground and throwing a motorbike at him! Like Maloubier, rapid, intelligent and lateral thinking is sometimes required if we are to live our lives unscathed. Unlike leaders of the past, e.g. Vichy leader Philippe Petain, those who are elected to the top position must be selected for their mental agility above all else, because you never know what's round the corner. Note from the world's biggest worrier: learn from history and be prepared...
Man never learns. Three weeks away from a General Election and what are the British concerned about? Domestic policies. Full stop. It's the 21st century and, despite all that warring history to learn from, still each country only thinks about themselves. The English in particular have an incredibly insular mindset. I'm disappointed in Cameron. He's made 2 big errors: one he escaped from by the skin of his teeth - the referendum to separate from Scotland - and the second agreeing to a referendum on the EU. Globally, who're still killing each other? Undemocratic, uncivilised, insular people. National security and immigration can only be seriously addressed if all nations act together. France knows that, Merkel knows that. The only way to alleviate tensions and negotiate seriously with uncivilised warring factions is from a position of collective strength. A Brexit will only make Britain weaker. Since the EU was formed: no wars in Europe. It eliminated extreme forms of lethal nationalism. Where's a Gorbachev now to break down walls when you need him?
A feud was reported between a retired English man and his neighbour in France. No, not Him indoors this time, but a Mr. King who lived in Calvados. The horrifying story appeared in La Voix - le Bocage newspaper. The poor man had been reported missing but the gendarmes had done nothing because they thought he was visiting his daughter in Australia. This was despite his passport and heart medicines being found. At last, after efforts by the English expat community of Caen, his body was found in the neighbour's well, who is now in custody on suspicion of killing him! A very sobering thought as we finished planting a line of fast-growing laurel hedge plants between us and our neighbour, although one plant opposite the infamous 12' no-entry sign, has mysteriously been uprooted in the night! Can't move house because of poor exchange rates and two dogs, but maybe the germ of an idea is sprouting in my now very lateral thinking. Let's hope that all goes well that ends well. Meantime must keep a careful eye on Him indoors and see if all augurs well near the deep pit at the bottom of our garden....