19 April 2015

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?

12 April 2015

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....

5th April 2015

It's Easter. Which shops are open tomorrow and which ones shut? French websites never tell you. No commercial spirit.The Lidl and Aldi car parks around here are empty most days anyway!  Now that does tell me something. When it comes to food, the French always know best. I was watching Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (US) on TV. The Americans, like the English, have their priorities all wrong. They go for food bargains, quickness and quick-chill options served in large portions. That's also why Lidl and Aldi do so well in the UK.  Here, although the French in the poorest banlieues obviously look for food they can afford, they go to the popular Food Coops or the street markets. With French living costs constantly rising (a retired couple here apparently need 2,437 euros/mth), France is hoping to open a food co-op like Paris's Louve in Toulouse soon. Ramsay, although a millionaire, with all his bluster knows a thing or two about food: go for fresh, simple and quality food. Your own body will thank you in years to come. When the chips are down, get your priorities right.

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.