29th March 2015

Today we've moved 1h forward to summer. Good. But today the French vote in the 2nd round of the local elections. Not so good if the 'wrong' party does well. You know whom I mean: the woman in sheep's clothing, who glosses over what the real FN represents. She is now calling for a referendum for France to leave the EU.  When those tragic events occurred in Paris, I was worried the French would rally to her cause to fight against  living in their country who were 'different' from themselves. And, a lot did: enough to give the FN candidates in 1000 canons across France. But, TG, she didn't come first last Sunday. It seems the man they all love to hate, UMP Conservative leader Sarkozy still has enough supporters to make a difference. Love him or hate him, I believe he is the man France needs. Centrist Conservative parties are always best placed to boost the economy, Socialist parties to borrow and Far Right parties to bring the country to its knees.
100 years ago the army report on a young officer called Petain said: 'if this man rises higher, it will be disaster for France' (Chambers). Prophetic indeed!  For the future of France and the EU, as the French go to the polls today, they must learn from history and not vote for the disaster called Le Pen.

22nd March 2015

Finally I have my new French driving licence. Yes, with enough perseverance, the infamous bureaucracy here can be overcome. But what's this on the name line?  I had forgotten that, since last year, the law states that married women will receive official documents in their birth surname. Apparently laws have existed here since the French Revolution stating that 'no citizen can use a first name or surname other than that written on their birth certificate'. Then, why is there a tick box on French tax returns for women to use their birth names? Surely the opposite should apply, but what do I know?  No point telling the authorities that I particularly wanted the new card, with my recent photo embedded, to be used as a useful id card - when the name 'Olswang' doesn't match the name on any of my other documents.  Indeed, it's the first time I've seen my forename and birth surname together for nearly 50 years!  Quite a shock.  I asked Him indoors what he thought. He says he doesn't know why babies take their father's name anyway, when his identity can often be dubious. I agree. Let's mount a campaign for babies to take their mother's name. At least she can't be denied.

15th March 2015

How d'ya solve a problem like the EU...
Are we heading for a US-style 'civil war' between individual States? Sometimes conflict can start with trivial issues. Take the euro coin design. Each has a common side, the flip side designed by each State. This week France succeeding in preventing a Belgium €2 coin being produced to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo - claiming it could cause "hostile reactions". Also a big re-enactment involving 5000 performers is planned in Waterloo in June, marking 200 years since the Duke of Wellington defeated Bonaparte. But France itself commemorated the Normandy landings against Nazi Germany!  It's the deeper issues that are the problem here. Each EU State has history: most of fighting the other States! Those wanting to commemorate such battles have not really committed their hearts and minds to the Union concept. The only way to avoid a General Lee v General Sherman conflict here, or even meet our waterloo is to stop commemorating past battles with fellow EU States and learn to live together today.
....otherwise the EU's just a will o'the wisp, a clown.

8th March 2015

The Imagin' cinema here in Gaillac is a multiplex that often advertises 'VO' films - in their original version. I'd been reading 'Alan Turing: The Enigma' by Andrew Hodges with fascination. Taken on by British Intelligence in 1938 as a shy, young Cambridge don, Turing combined brilliant logic with a flair for engineering. Two years later his machines broke the Enigma-enciphered messages of Nazi Germany. The cinema was its typical French self: no attempt to sell chocolates/popcorn/icecream. No-one in the auditorium smoked/ate/drank/made a noise. Great. Benedict Cumberbatch was ideal as lead, displaying all the angst/social ineptness necessary for the role. Even one of the characters in my own novel 'Campus Revenge' mentions Turing. To be gay in the '30s was illegal. Yet it's clearly how you are born. We are all different and must learn to get on with one another, not attack/imprison those who are different. Not only Turing but Darwin himself knew that. That's why  I wanted to see 'The Imitation Game'. It did not disappoint.

1 March 2015

Wise men say......
Last week we went to an amazing show at La Salle des Spectacles in Gaillac. It was sponsored by L'entente cordiale in aid of cancer support and the room was packed. After a meal and wine - well it is La France - we settled down for the entertainment. The show was entitled The Time Machine and two time-travellers sporadically twiddled a machine's dials and the curtains opened to a different time zone. I knew something special was about to happen when 'David Bowie' appeared singing Ground Control to Major Tom. But when the '50s appeared in the shape of an English Elvis singing, my spine tingled. I don't know who he was but his voice was spectacular - far better than you hear on TV talent shows. I can still hear his voice now. Have always liked the time-travel genre, so was sorry to hear of Leonard Nimoy's death on Friday. His family came from E. Europe too (Ukraine) and it was he who introduced that special wide-fingered salute in Star Trek in his parents' honour - it's the letter Shin, meaning God.  So, whether it's Elvis or Mr. Spock, remember LLAP because
                                     ............some things are meant to be.

22 February 2015

Noticed that 'Cinquante Nuances de Grey' was showing at our local Gaillac cinema. Jean-Francois Mary of the French classification board describes it as a romance. No queues and surprisingly only a 12 certificate (18 in the UK.)  Clearly the French get all the sadomasochism they need by watching the Strauss-Kahn trial nightly on free TV, or by reading the sexual antics of the President. But the E. L. James book has sold over 4.5m, so it got me thinking. Maybe I needed to incorporate something like that in my novels. But there again writers are s'posed to write about that which they know....Anyway, have just finished my latest, called 'Campus Revenge'. Certainly it draws on my experience of university life, but...horrors!...it does contain an element of sexual intrigue and revenge. A V-C, just before he retires, receives two formal complaints, one from an overseas PhD student, the other from a member of staff, both against the same professor. Worse, one of the plaintiffs alleges sexual misconduct.  Would E. L. James be impressed? Time will tell.

15 February 2015

The title above says it all really. Lost in France. Essentially I'm a sociable, spiritual person but it's difficult to connect with the French. English people tend to come over here for all the material things and France doesn't let them down. Gaillac's central Place de la Liberation is very attractive with its cobbled square surrounded by shops, market stalls, restaurants, banks, mairie, doctors, specialists etc. But, after 3 years here have I really connected with anyone?  So, Wednesday morning I was at the Cafe Bar Sports to meet a group, all members of Cancer Support France (CSF). Over coffee I agreed to join with them. Here was a way to socialise, yet support an important charity in memory of the 7 members of my family lost to cancer, and recognising Him Indoors' current struggle. I'm looking forward to Saturday when Entente Cordiale, which raises money for CSF, hosts a soiree of apero, repas and spectacle in Gaillac, and also the planned June garden party.  If we do nothing, every second person will get cancer in their lifetime. Dr. Wagner in Nice and my late family will be pleased I've put my name to the cause. Everyone should. No-one deserves to be lost.