4th October 2015

As a writer it's always exciting when awaiting a publisher's imminent verdict on a new manuscript. My two latest ones, called Lamplight and Vichyssoise, are books 1 and 2 of my David Klein series set in wartime Germany and France - the latter covering transportation of a victim to the notorious Drancy camp. Both are a lifetime's work. So it was with annoyance that I read of the recent shenannigans in Nice, where the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture unfurled a giant Nazi banner over the front of the building, in the middle of the historic Vieille Ville area and the Cours Saleya antiques market. Yes, this happened last week!  Had the neo-Nazis made a terrible come-back?  No, it turned out to be for a film. Realising the commotion that it caused, the prefecture then put out an explanatory press release at the end of the afternoon. The film, like my book, is also set during the dark times of Jewish deportations to Drancy. But what kind of idiocy is it to put a Nazi flag on a prefecture building, causing many, particularly the elderly who remember, to cry out?  Him indoors said it didn't help that the maire's name is Adolphe!!  You couldn't make it up.

27 September 2015

As a teenager growing up on the mean streets of 1960's Birmingham, young people were getting their own identity, the Mods on their slick Vespa scooters and the Rockers on their high-powered motorbikes. Inevitably things change, but some things unfortunately continue:  young men who congregate on street corners and struggle to contain their boredom.  So, I was interested to read Hollande's latest venture here in France. This month sees a voluntary scheme to help jobless under-25s gain a new direction and discipline. Yes, they're being offered a chance to participate in an army-like scheme, but with a difference. They'll be paid 313 euros per month, get a free uniform, meals and accommodation but will be taught skills e.g. basic education, social/life skills in community living and technical qualifications recognised by employers. Essentially they won't be given arms training (good!) but will be taught how to live and work in society without causing mayhem.  What an excellent idea.  I should imagine French youngsters will be queuing up at the first centres opening in Moselle, Essonne and Charente-Maritime. That's what the UK and other countries need to do right now but I don't suppose they will. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.     

20 September 2015

Living in France, but within reach of English TV transmissions, it's interesting to compare their different news media.  For me, France24 - a French news channel broadcast in English - is far superior to the UK TV media. I don't want to watch biased reporting: something some news mogul thinks will provide 'prettier' pictures or pander more to the emotive, as the late Sir Robin Day used to say.  It's especially true in the current refugee crisis.  I want to hear the truth, and not only that:  how each country is going to deal with the thousands - which may become millions if Lebanon, Iraq and other ME countries get drawn in - coming into Europe every week and how to filter out potential terrorists. It's crucial in tiny countries like England which, unlike Germany, simply doesn't have the space/housing/infrastructure to take the numbers that the 'emotive' news pictures say they must.  Let's hope the EU gets its act together very soon to come up with a more workable solution, as I suggested below. People aren't commodities to be advertised globally one minute, then forgotten the next when something more 'emotive' happens in the world. Thank you France24 news for giving a much more balanced view.

13 September 2015

For over 100 years France has prided itself on the principle it calls laïcité, in which the State doesn't recognise any official religion. And, in the wake of President Hollande's call to take in 24,000 refugees, PM Valls said 'you don't select by religion..'  So, why then did several French mayors say they will only take in those who are Christian?  Les Républicains' mayor Yves Nicolin in Roanne said it is only by checking refugees are Christian that he can “be absolutely sure they are not disguised terrorists”. Of course there have been reports that there may be thousands of 'terrorists' who have been smuggled into Europe under cover as 'migrants'. Clearly that is what is behind the mayors' frightened decisions. Some say it is easy to check people are Christian by asking a few questions about Christianity. Nonsense! Non-Christian does not equal violent. Christianity does not equal non-violence - check out the Crusades! For the record, I am the most pacifist of people. I don't kill flies and I savour life above all else.  Oh, and I could probably answer more questions about Christianity than the average person. The answer then? Admit all refugees and ask them to sign an agreement that they swear to uphold the law and conform to the natural lores, culture and general dress codes of the new country. Full stop.

6th September 2015

A week in the life of Olga...
Wednesday. Afternoon tea (unusual in France) at Sylvie's beautiful old farmhouse in rural Rabastens. You know what rural means - GPS doesn't read 'past the third cow on the left'. So, usual scenic route, then stumbled upon it by default. Lovely afternoon though. Interesting tea cups with strainer that fits inside cup. Met some nice people.
Thursday: Kine appointment with local physio. Usual shenanigans: my trying to translate medical symptoms whilst Him indoors groans.
Friday. Invited for lunch in Loupiac by a highly educated French couple. Lovely food and a lively discussion about the French during WW2. Monsieur said he believed the French were now ready, at last, to read and write about Vichy.  All good news re the forthcoming publication of my historical novel Vichyssoise.
Saturday, Bruno with head on my knee, doleful Diana eyes:  time to go for a long walk.
......all makes work for the retired woman to do.

30 August 2015

So much trouble in the world, yet programmes like X-factor return. The usual screaming voices singing songs without melody.  Where was the exquisite Sinatra phrasing, the Fitzgerald soul, the charisma?  I listened in vain. In the '50s my mother would drag me to distant cinemas showing Al Jolson in the Jolson Story. Electricity crackled when he sang.  A few evenings ago we went to the Abbeye in Gaillac. Our friend, professional singer Martin St. Martin, gave a 'Sous les Etoiles du Tarn' concert organised by Entente Cordiale in support of cancer research. The setting was lovely, high above the tinkling waters of the Tarn. A full moon gave a rosy glow to the ancient pink brick buildings, but it was the music that enthralled.  Martin even dedicated one song to me, the one that turns my knees to jelly:  '...wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you....'  Now there's a melody. Even Him indoors liked it, and he's difficult to please. And then Piaf's La Vie en Rose. Wonderful. A message for Mr. Cowell:  stop pandering to youth's foolish notion of stardom. Find the next Jolson/Sinatra/Presley/Piaf. Now that's what a lot of us want to hear.

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.