23 August 2015

Fears about Brexit are growing.  Whilst the media are, quite rightly, currently concentrating on the plight of the many thousands fleeing their impoverished countries for the EU, the looming issue of Brexit is still on the back-burner. Whilst Britain contemplates leaving the EU, ironically the reason so many are desperately trying to reach Europe's golden shores is its 70 continuous years of peace and thereby jobs. The Guardian did a survey and discovered that thousands of expats across the EU are applying for dual nationality due to fears about the potential effects of a Brexit. Some have cleverly unearthed Irish family connections to smooth their path, whilst others are contemplating the unthinkable - moving back to Britain whilst uncomfortably off the housing ladder. The latter include pensioners with health problems who, if not covered by the reciprocal health agreement in the EU, would find it impossible to get the mandatory, private cover needed by non-EU citizens. If all those refugees can see the benefits of living in Europe, why can't Britain?  What's particularly worrying is Britain's narrow, inward-looking stance - the old 'I'm all right Jack' mentality.  But, what if things went wrong in the future?  That's the time you need as many friends as possible. There's a very chilly draught blowing across from the Channel.

blog extra 21 August 2015

Some readers would like to hear my comments re the current immigration fiasco. Seeing Ms. May and M. Hollande fiddling while Calais burns is the last straw really. As with all important issues, you can only see the whole of Mount Sinai if you view it from a distance, so here goes.  What exactly is the problem and why has it flared up now? The world has long had its inequalities. However, modern technology has exacerbated them by showing all the 'have nots' exactly what life would be like in a richer country. If I lived in war-torn Syria, for example, I too would want to move to 'richer', now peaceful Europe. However, just picture the atlas if everyone actually did that.......Europe would be so crammed with people, life would be impossible, and the whole of Africa would be empty of people!  So, my solution?  NATO/EU/and all other global welfare institutions should convene an urgent conference, pool resources and immediately start modernising the impoverished Third World by sending in task-forces.  It's important they don't hand money over to corrupt leaders (who would use it to fund more artillery) but via equipment, food, housing materials, clean water and modern facilities - not just for isolated villages but enough for the whole country.  That to me would be the first step. I'm sure people would far rather stay in their home countries once improvements and peace were introduced. Comments welcome!

16 August 2015

Wednesday was still hot, but Him indoors needed some stitches removed from a head wound.  So, we ran to the car and jabbed at the air-conditioner. Ah, wondrous relief. Safely parked, we sweated up the narrow rue Joseph Rigal, past the hearing specialist, the radiologist's, mammographist - no, not today TG - until at last our Medecin Traitant.  Fortunately only one person in the waiting room. Yes, c'est la France.  Quickly the doctor got out her staple remover - well, that's what it looked like - and removed each stitch. Gritted teeth from Him indoors. There's an infection, she said.  When was the last time you had a tetanus injection?  And what about you too Madame?  We looked at each other.  Jamais, I said, ashamed.  Pointing up the street, she shoved an ordnance into our hands and demanded we fetch the medicine from the pharmacie up the road and come back in 10 minutes. Remembering Tony Hancock from our Birmingham days, Him indoors said I'm not walking round with an empty arm for anyone.  Pausing at the bar, I told him in disgust: You'd better have a quick whisky, remembering too late that the doctor wasn't taking anything out of our arms, but putting something in (unlike Him indoors at the bank!)  Nothing much changes around here.

9 August 2015

When we came to France ten years ago, I asked the vendor lots of questions. But, the important one I missed was 'does it have fast broadband?'  TG it did. Zoom back nearly 30 years ago when my professor first brought in a brand new, sooper-dooper Apple Mac, and introduced the phrase desktop publishing onto my job description (even though I didn't have a clue what it meant.) Sleepless nights trying to work out how to use the infernal machine, staring myopically at the tiny screen. What an embarrassment when the professor you worked for knew more about how to work it than you did!  Fast forward to yesterday, here in the wilds of SW France, far away from any English tech support.  Because I had to, I overcame my apprehension and managed to:  i) create new Amazon and FB Olga Swan and Gillian Green author pages and ii) cope with the fact that my publisher informed us of the unavoidable change of FB rules that required authors to re-create their own FB new event launch pages.  How did I get on?  Take a look at:
So, at last I understand what 'desktop publishing' means! My old, working, self would have been amazed.

2 August 2015

Were you, or a family member, a university student? Very different today to when I worked at a leading English red-brick university. Current degree subjects go from the sublime to the ridiculous and (unlike in France) student fees and maintenance are so high only the super-rich can afford them. But, other things stay the same. Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes?  The lecturers who hate the HOD's guts, the research students who could murder their supervisor, anxious support staff, or even the professors who, in the corridors of power, harbour dire and murderous feelings towards their V-C?  Soon you'll be able to find out.  Even Him indoors is interested. He's been asking everyone if they've got a 'Desmond' (2.2) or, like him, a 'Mother Therese' (None)!  Yes, Third Degree Murder, is imminent:  a cerebral tale of university intrigue, a conflation of foreign PhD students, admission procedures, English support staff, arrogant professors and a Vice-Chancellor holding a deadly secret.  But, you'll need to wait until October 23rd.  The University clock's ticking.

26 July 2015

Thursday was our 48th anniversary. In those early, heady days we would leave our Birmingham flat at 10 p.m. and head out to the smoky Elbow Room where we'd dance to Wilson Pickett 'In the Midnight Hour'. But that was '67, a lifetime ago, and this was France. Despite this being the land of le bien manger, lately we haven't had much success.  First there was the drunken waiter at Brousse. Then there was the vegetarian restaurant La faim des haricots in Toulouse. Unfortunately they've moved their premises to the opposite building and said we must now eat downstairs, where it was damp and impossible to balance our food on frequent trips up and down the stairs. Albi fared no better. Our favourite Le Tournesol was inexplicably shut the day we arrived, and at Le Vigan brasserie - well - we walked out. Enough said.  So where?  We ended up in the place that we feel the most comfortable, not a French place at all really, the Buffalo Grill in Le Sequestre. It never lets us down. The most wonderful oven-baked jacket potatoes and desserts anywhere.  Sittin' on the dock of a bay? No, but it suited us.  Cheers.

19 July 2015

Interesting week. Who'd have thought that a small, insignificant socialist called Hollande could - just maybe - have saved the whole of Europe from disaster by helping Greece.  75 years ago another small, insignificant socialist called Arthur Greenwood persuaded the British war cabinet to make the right decision:  not to appease Nazi Germany.  It was 1940 and the newly-elected Winston Churchill was chairing an urgent meeting.  At the table was Lord Halifax, a man supported by the King - who thought that he rather than Churchill should be PM - who said that the best plan for Britain, one that would save many lives, was to negotiate with Hitler.  However, up stepped insignificant socialist Greenwood who said No, never. Europe would be finished.  TG he swung the vote the right way.  In their way both Greenwood and now Hollande could well have saved Europe from absolute catastrophe:  not by fighting on the beaches but by saying the right word to the right person at the right time.  Something worth remembering.