Friday, 30 January 2009

Coiff & Co.

Another sunny day. Hooray! Time to do something that I have been putting off for some time, a haircut.
I walked into town to the new location of the hair salon that I visited last year.
It is now in premises about 3 times the size.
Open the door, glasses steam up instantly. Young girl (probably not at lycee today due to the strikes) greets me. I make my demands for a cut and I am told that there will be a longish wait. That is not a problem I say.
There is no obvious waiting area so I hover about, looking out of the window.
This will obviously not do, and one of the 2 stylists waves her arm towards a cupboard and one of the chairs in front of a mirror. I spot a large notice on a pole which tells you what to do.
Remove your coat and put it in the cupboard
Take a smock out of the cupboard and put it on
Take a seat and wait

I follow the rules and swivel on my chair to watch what is going on. Eventually it is my turn. Other people have popped into the salon but they are not prepared to wait and will return later. Unless you make a reservation we cannot guarantee you a slot at the time that you come back, the stylist says. No one makes an appointment.
I have my hair washed. This seems to be compulsory, despite having washed my hair less than 2 hours previously. Before the washing, I am asked my family name. I spell it, and it is written onto a yellow pad. I wonder if they are the French branch of the Sweeney Todd family and that this information will allow them to contact the next of kin should an ear or anything else be sliced off inadvertently. The girl disappears behind me and there is a whispered conversation. She reappears and rips the page off the pad, folds it up and puts it in a pocket located high up on the left sleeve of my smock. Now at lease if I should get lost or collapse between the basin and the cutting chair they will know my family name.
I have my cut and as usual I am asked if it is ok. I put on my glasses and say Yes. I then ask if anyone ever says no. Now this could go horribly wrong and she still has scissors in her hand but I have always had a reckless streak.
Fortunately she is okay with this bit of banter and says that Yes it happens sometimes, but not often.
I quit while I still have a head or should it be while I am still ahead?Once I get home, I happen to see my reflection in the wardrobe mirror. I look like a pineapple with flyaway hair or a mandarin duck. An improvement, even if I do say so myself.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Bonne journée

The sun shone for a while this morning, so I set off to complete the task given to me by my Instep advisor before our next meeting on Monday next week.
I got my folder together adding the two letters that I had received earlier in the week and set off to the Chamber of Commerce which is in the centre of town.
I did not get far as I was waylaid by Madame, clad in her pink pyjama ensemble. After asking how I was, she asked me if she could borrow my extension cable so that she could vacuum her car. She told me that one had to take advantage of the good weather.
I went back into the house and gave her the item, telling her to just lock it back into the hallway cupboard when she had finished with it.
I set off again as it was coming up to 11am and the CCI closes for lunch at noon. I entered the building and saw that there was a young lady seated behind the reception desk talking to a man in is 20’s. He then started off up the staircase adjacent to the stairs. No, he could not do that she said. He did not seem pleased and after a few more words, he headed for the entrance.
He pulled the door open. Meanwhile the receptionist had said “Bonne journée” and he had ignored her. She looked displeased and said again in a loud, challenging voice “Bonne Journ2e”. He headed out of the door and she looked at me in a way that said –the rudeness of some people-
If she remembers his name, I suspect that any future business he may have there may well be more difficult to accomplish.
Bonjour, I said. I explained the reason for my visit. Did I have a copy of my CV and a letter of motivation? She asked. Now my advisor had not mentioned bringing any such items. I certainly don’t have a letter of motivation, but I have got a CV. I searched through my folder at least 3 times. Nightmare! No CV.
I had a dim memory then of my advisor asking me if she could keep a copy of it, but I should still have had one left.
The receptionist (they probably are not called receptionists and are much more powerful than that) said that it was not a problem and that I could email my CV to her. She wrote down the address on a post-it note and checked carefully to make sure that, being such a feeble person, I could read her writing. We parted with the mandatory farewell of bonne journée.
Once I got home I emailed in my CV and I received a reply that she would forward my CV to any interested parties and I would hear in due course should anyone wish to have a chat with me about my qualifications, work search etc. The receptionist has the power to progress my cause, or not…..
Oh well, at least I can say I completed my task and have an email to prove that I made the trip.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

27.1.09 – Mud in your eye , All piss and no wind

One of the ministersBold of the French Government is planning to announce a state of National emergency due to the chaos and damage that the storms have caused in France. As if this were not enough to be going on with, Thursday will see a number of major unions on strike and on the streets to protest about, amongst other things, unemployment, retirement, etc. So, good luck to anyone arriving in France then. I think that the main demonstration in my area will take place in Pamiers.
As a by-product of my recent commencement of officially registering as a job seeker, an application for unemployment benefits continues to grind along. I received a 2 letters today from Pole-emploi dated 21.1.09 saying that there was no chance of me receiving anything due to some clause in Article 1. The second letter dated 22.1.09 says that the paperwork for my unemployment benefit has been forwarded to Paris?
In the UK, such letters would be signed by a human being, possibly on behalf of someone. My letters have the typewritten ”Le Directeur”. I get the feeling that I am just a number and that I will soon have gigantic inflatable spheres preventing me from escaping from the compound.
I have just finished listening to the end of Elizabeth George’s “What she did before he shot her”. It ended in an even bleaker way than I had anticipated. Considering it was written by an American who lives in America though, and that it was set in the London of the run down housing estates in the Kensington area, the dialogue and local colour was impressive though.
Yes but where does the relevance of the posts title lie?
Well, at Sunday’s choir practice, a lady at my table for lunch was telling me that her English teacher had been teaching her useful phrases. So now whenever she in a PUUB and about to drink, she raises her glass and says “Mud inyereye”. Being a perfectionist, I told her that if anyone ever used that expression, it would be “Here’s mud in your eye” and that I thought it was an old American expression, probably used by Humphrey Bogart.
I tried to tell her that if she ever found herself in a similar pub situation in Scotland, she should say Slandje! I did not complicate things by trying to spell it for her though. Sláinte!

Another phrase that she had learnt was "I am going for a woz". Again I had to correct her "I'm going for a waz". She seemed sceptical that I knew what it meant. So I translated for her benefit and for the others at the table. "Je vais pisser"

Monday, 26 January 2009

Warning do not read! this post will waste your time

Shortly after posting yesterday’s blog we had a power cut which lasted about a minute. Still lucky though as many homes throughout France are still without power.
The rain poured down all night and this plus the day’s music which was going round and round in my brain meant very little sleep.
Yesterday I was given more sheet music, which I have paid for out of my annual choir membership fee. This now joins the other pieces of music in my small nylon briefcase. (a promo gift from Gresswells at some past library and information show).
If I was to go on the choir’s roadtrip to Fribourg in July, I would presumably be singing it all. As I do not read music, and evidence suggests that not many of my fellow choirist(e)s do either, this would present some difficulties. Still I am sure I read somewhere that if you go to sleep with a book under your pillow you take it all in subconsciously. So tenor parts here I come!
My new list of tunes:
Verbum Caro (extract des “Litaniae de Venerabilite Sacramento » by Wm Mozart : I didn’t know he had even been to Obamaland.

Miserere from the same work as above. Both appear to be in Latin

Signore Delle Cime by Bepi de Marzi. An Italian piece which is could be a haunting song about one man and his chimney, but there is also a montagna amongst the lyrics. He probably got the stone to build his house and chimney from the mountain.

Te Deum by Mozart. This is also in Latin and the title speaks for itself. He seems to have set some verb conjugations to music, probably to help him remember them
Salve Regina by Gabriel Faure. Now we have a road in town named after him, and I think that last year there was a celebration of his music in the nearby town of Pamiers. Although this is a kosher copy, the text is small and feebly printed. Again in Latin this is a song about an ointment used by the Queen.

Zigeunerleben by Bob Schuman Opus 29 no.3 extract from Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel. It seems to be a poem by Emanuel Geibel.
Fortunately there is a translation of the poem from German into French at the end of the score.
It starts off all about trees and leaves and the last 2 lines
“Le mullet piaffe au lever du jour”
Les silhouettes s’en vont, qui te dira où »
probably means that he woke up in the shower just like Bobby Ewing and dreamt about the forest etc. Why? Well it is obvious, but as there are many out there less dead good at languages than me so here it is.
His messed up hairstyle (a mullet is a hairstyle much favoured by footballers in the ‘80s) at daybreak. The shadows (dream like figures such as Miss Elly, JR etc) have buggered off, God knows where.

The Lord bless you and keep you by John Rutter which being in English is easy to understand. It is all about God blessing and shining and the last page and a bit is all amens, so the home straight in this one should be a breeze. Quite what it will sound like as my fellow singers miss off the endings to all the words………

Les fetes d’hebe by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764) obviously took him ages to write despite being only 8 pages long. He probably travelled with it constantly tweaking it like that Italian bloke with the Mona Lisa (which I have seen in the Louvre and in real life in very small, probably a handy magazine size for ease of portability).
At first I thought this might have been a song about the grass festivals, but a closer looks and I see an “r” has been omitted. Then I remembered a line from “The life of Brian” where the hero Brian Coen is refers to himself as a Heebee
i.e. a Hebrew. So this is a Hebrew party song, probably along the lines of “Agadoo-do-do” Should be a real crowd pleaser. Perhaps there will be movement and hand actions to go with it.

Did I mention that I was tired?? The good thing about our choir is that no one ever says what the songs are about, so I could be right.
If you read all of this right to the end. Give yourself a gold star or honk your horn.

OOPs! another power cut

Sunday, 25 January 2009

French resistance

After the night and day of the big storm all seems to be well. Apart from my wheelie bin being blown over no damage seems to have been done to my property. The man with the garage opposite has lost plastic sheeting off parts of the roof though.
It was the extra day of choir practice today, so I had to drag myself out of bed relatively early to reach the practice before the 9.30am start. I passed a few uprooted trees, a small collapse of rock and earth, road with lots of small pieces of broken roof tiles etc. Last night we had a power cut for a good 3 seconds. We were lucky. Hundreds of thousands of homes in France were left without power. Mental note to self, think about alternative emergency source of heating / cooking.
Almost the full choir turned out for the practice and we began the Petite Messe from the beginning. It was a struggle and I for one was glad when it was lunch time.
Before the meal appeared, people produced bottles of wine, olives, cake etc for people to share. Dejeuner was salad, blanquettes de veau (very tasty), red wine, tart, cheese and black coffee. Not a drop of milk in sight.
We managed to make the meal last as long as possible, but eventually we had to move all the chairs back into choral formation.
At around 2.45pm the choir’s part-time accompanist arrived to assist the choir director. This is the first time that I have seen her. She usually only appears at major practices and for the public performances.
As yet we have not met any of the people who will be performing the solos which are dotted about the piece. Boy are they in for a shock unless we make mighty strides towards perfection, or “top” as the choir presidente calls it.
In our quest for “top” she announced that we will have an extra day of practice on the 29 March.
By 5-30pm most of us were getting too tired to carry on. We were saved only because the lady who was in charge of the building was wanting to leave.
We knew this because she had her hat and coat on and was standing outside peering through the window at us……… Vive la France!

Friday, 23 January 2009

A duty to entertain and inform? That's pants!

Things are returning to normal as we march onwards through January. I think that if anyone aspiring to live in France came during January and February they might think again. The weather is dismal. So far all we have had recently is lots of rain, with more to come. Other departements especially in the North west of the country have been on an orange alert, red being the highest level. Rain and wind s of 100 mph or 140kph being the problem. It is being likened to the last bad storms of 1999.
I walked into town between showers. Well that was the plan. The weather decided to wait until I reached town and then to tip out some more of the wet stuff. The market only had a few stalls open for business. It is a head down, stay at home kind of a day.
I now have a loaf of bread though, so that will last me til Monday.

There has been nothing much to write about so I will cast about for something of import.
Miss France was invited to the inauguration of the new president so she will have been having a good time.

The “Where’s Wally” books are called “Ou est Charlie“ in France. “Where’s Waldo” in USA etc Wikipedia also has a list of his other names used for him around the world.

In my early days of employment in Glasgow I remember finding a dried out frog left in a book as a bookmark. Other items used to mark pages were bank notes, les capots anglais or French letters thankfully still in their unopened foil wraps, mostly empty foil strips of women’s contraceptive pills etc. The last odd item found in a book was as far as I can remember a pair of black panties with a skull and crossbones motif. From memory when we checked to see who the last borrower of the book was, it was someone who used the mobile library.

No we didn't touch them.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Steppin’ out

Being back in the rainy season for at least the next 4 days it is harder to stay motivated, but as I have probably got lots to do, I get up at 8.20am to start the day.
My first official duty of the day, after my caramel tea and cereal (in separate vessels) was to phone the UK tax office to see if they were expecting me to fill in a tax return. I had not received one from them, but this could have been because I told them I was going to be resident in France.
I dialled the special “from abroad” number and after some options I was through to a lady from the tax office. I gave her my details and explained my situation. She told me that unfortunately as their computer was down, she would not be able to check my records. She would however phone me back tomorrow. This means that I will leave all the paperwork which might be of relevance spread on the chairs and floor until tomorrow….

Bee boy is back after his long weekend away, so it is open house again. To keep him on his toes keyswise though, I continue to lock the main door when I go in and out.

In the afternoon it was back to the Instep office to meet my advisor. My advisor for the next 6 months is a friendly lady who tolerated my mangled French very well.
The Ariege is one of, if not the poorest departments in France and this year they are expecting 3,000 jobs to be lost. Our 45 minute chat lasted for an hour and a quarter, but this was okay she said, because the next appointment had cancelled. I have been given the task of going to the Chamber of Commerce in town to chat with them about possibilities. She did have a moment of excitement when she found a job advert for work lasting 8 months working in the south of the region. She had spotted the need to speak English but had however missed the fact that the person had to be an expert in the Prehistoric period and the prehistory of the Ariege. There are numerous caves with prehistoric painting in the area.
My next appointment is in two weeks time. As we were concluding the days business she asked me when I had registered. When I told her it was last week she seemed very surprised that I was already on the orientation course.
I like to think it is because I am special..

Literature update

I am currently listening to Elizabeth George’s “What she did before he shot her” which will keep me occupied for 23 hours. I am just over half way through and I fear that several of the characters that I have become attached to will not be the recipients of a happy ending. On verra.
Over the last few weeks I have listened to: “The Chopin manuscript” by Jeffery Deaver with chapters contributed to by 15 or so other authors. Jeffery wrote the first chapter, then the book was passed to the other authors in turn, who added their own twists and turns. Not one for the faint hearted as the body count mounts at a steady pace throughout. It fell to Jeffery to tie up all the loose ends created in the final couple of chapters. It was written specifically for audio, so I do not know if it will ever appear in text format.
Victoria Hislop’s “Island” set largely on Spinalonga, a small off Crete which was home to a colony of people with leprosy earlier in the 20th century, and which I visited briefly one afternoon in the mid 1980’s.

Disappointing ending with this one though, almost as though the author got bored and decided to end the book in as short a time as possible.
Alexander McCall Smith’s “The finer points of sausage dogs” which had very few funny bits in it and was rather a mess in my opinion. Did anyone edit it before it was published? I found the main characters extremely annoying and did not warm to any of them.
Alexander McCall Smith’s “Irregular Portuguese verbs” which was more successful on the comedy front, but I still hoped (in vain) that all the main characters would be killed off. There is a third volume but I do not have it yet.
Michael Simkin’s “Fatty batter” was far more successful on the funny bone front. Unfortunately the last section of the book with vignettes of some of his team’s matches tacked on, perhaps to pad the book out a bit. This space could have been used to fill in details e.g. about this English actor's relationship with his wife. Perhaps she got fed up of him and his obsession with cricket and whipped off his bails?

Monday, 19 January 2009

No Instep

This morning I set off for my first Instep meeting with my job seeker advisor.
I turned up on time and opened the office door. The lights were on but no one was in the small room. A woman called down the stairs and then appeared. The lights promptly went out and I pushed the wall switch pad to let there be light.
Did I have an appointment?
Yes, I said and showed her my letter.
She had not received any letter documenting the meeting and the advisor who would be guiding me throughout my orientation was not there today.
Strange, I thought as I had been with the lady at Assedic when she made the phone call and agreed the date, place and time of the meeting with the advisor. But I said nothing.
The lady photocopied my letter (the French are a nation of copiers and love nothing more than collecting more paper to file), then phoned the advisor to arrange a second, first meeting. So now I have all the excitement to look forward to again tomorrow afternoon.
The water bill for the last 6 months arrived a few days ago. I now see that it has to be paid at the same building that the tax office that I visited last week, is in. I will post the cheque for payment to them.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Up early this morning and once car de-iced I set off for Assedic armed with copies of the documents that they wanted from me yesterday. I noted that advisor appointment number machine had moved on from the 606 that was me yesterday morning, to 701, so business is brisk.
Next stop was Leclerc to buy a French keyboard. Their key layout is slightly different to the UK version and has the circumflex etc, required for French words. Can I get MS office 2003 to co-operate? Basically no. I have altered numerous default MS and keyboard settings and the French language or bits of it will work, but next time I switch on…..
Anyway I did not discover this until I got home.
Meanwhile it was off to the tax office for me, to register as a French tax payer.
After some chat with the lady on the reception desk, who had already been interrupted in taking down the Christmas decorations once, I was given the number of the room on the second floor that I needed to go to, to see if my records had my French address, or whether the lawyer had registered me with a UK address.
The lady behind the desk, took various details and said that she would correct the system. They will send me out a tax form in May.
I had a walk around the locality as I had not been there before. There is an open air velodrome, numerous tennis courts, rugby pitches, etc. Also a large tent like object which may be the polyvalent that I have seen advertised being a venue for various events such as dog shows.
There is also a stadium with floodlights, a dojo where one of the activities on Monday nights is Iaido, and various other sporting facilities that I did not investigate as the tummy was starting to rumble.In the afternoon the sun was still shining, so I walked into town. In front of the war memorial I could see a clump of women holding or leaning on wooden signs. As I approached, I could see that they were not happy about the Israeli action in Gaza. One of the figures looked familiar. It was Madame. I went up to her and we had our first chat of the New Year. I said “You are militant today”, she replied “I am militant every day!”. She is a member of an association that send aid for Palestinian children.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Instep mobilisation

Scraped the ice of my car and set off to keep my appointment with ASSEDIC.
I entered the building and loitered around the reception desk, above which there was another large digital display to indicate your turn in the queue.
I was 10 minutes early and when a lady appeared, she asked me if I had filled in the form and had I brought my carte d’identite and social security card. I flashed her my passport and my medical card and she indicated that I would need to copy them on the photocopier, which I did.
I showed her the form that I had printed off and she said that it was not the correct form. That form is for the ANPE.
She gave me another 3 page form to fill in while I waited. When it was 10am she would give me a number for my appointment.
I filled in most of the form before I was ushered into a small office where another lady waited for me. I completed the rest of the form, seeking clarification on some of the terminology. E.g. what did titre mean, before ticking a box or writing text.
She looked at my form and input the information into her computer. Did I have my payslips for my last year 12 months of work, also my P45 and my P60?
I happened to have my last payslip and my P45, but as no one had mentioned that I would need these or payslips…….
I now have to return to the ASSEDIC office with copies of the said documents.
Unfortunately the payslips are still in the UK, but I contacted S and she will send them to me.
Once they have received the documents from me, they will be added to my dossier (Yes I have my own dossier) and this will be sent to Paris. From Paris they will be sent to the UK. Somewhere along the line someone will decide whether I am eligible for unemployment benefit or not. This could take at least 2 to 3 months.
I was given an identification number and a code which I have to use on the last day of every month to log in or phone up to say that I am still seeking work. This lasts for 10 months. I don’t know what happens after that.
ASSEDIC and ANPE were merged at the beginning of the year. Yes of course there were, and continue to be industrial action about it, but meantime they have become Pole emploi (circumflex over the o). The aim is to create a one stop shop for the unemployed person seeking work where you will be allocated an advisor to guide your search for work etc.
My previous career was in public libraries. However ANPE never get any jobs in from local government sources. Entry to those is by exam.
I have had a look at the current job vacancies online. There are not many jobs available locally at all.
Did I want French lessons? I said yes, so she made a phone call. She discovered that there are currently no classes, as they wait to see if the government will make funding available for such things. There will be a delay.
Did I think that I required orientation?
I decided that I did. So she proceeded to enrol me on the “mobilisation vers l’emploi” scheme. I will be assigned an advisor who will work with me for the next 6 months. The advisor will discuss my requirements and give me assistance with the job seeking process. I need to decide what area of employment I wish to pursue. At the moment I am assigned to the code Rome number for librarian, which would equate to library assistant in the UK. As this will be a non-starter, I need to choose something else. I wonder how much trainee belly dancers get paid?
I may be sent to places???? And have to attend regular meetings with my advisor. While I am on the scheme I must ask permission to leave the country. The maximum block of time away that I could receive would be 7 days, with a maximum total of 35 days away per year.
I signed more documents and the lady told me that as part of the scheme, I could not turn down any reasonable offer of work.
Another phone call was made and I have my first meeting with my assigned advisor next Monday morning at the INSTEP office in Foix.
I think that this might be the first time that I have ever been in step in my life. Still, "the game's afoot" as Sherlock might say.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Belly Lorna

Some of you may be wondering why I am following the blog of a Scottish belly dancer living in Cairo. Is it some sort of secret fetish? Does he dress up and do the dance of the 7 veils? I hear you ask.
Well obviously!
Nope sorry to get your hopes up.
In 2004 S and I spent a few days at the Edinburgh festival. One of the Festival Fringe events that we booked up for was a midday meal in a restaurant complete with belly dancing. The restaurant was not very big and it was completely full. We had a very tasty meal and met some nice people at the table next to ours. The lady had been a pupil of the lady who was going to perform the dances.
When dance time came, the fully costumed dancer appeared. Before each dance she explained what it was about, the music would start and she would start shimmying across the floor and in between the tables shaking and wobbling those parts which are not usually shaken or wobbled, at least not at such speed.
Next it was time for audience participation. This is when you shrink into your seat and try to become invisible.
No such luck, and I am one of the lucky ones dragged up onto the floor.
Still no one will ever know.
Years later I did a Google search. I remembered her surname as it was the same name as that of the Very Reverend Dean Gow who had been our God bod when I was a lad.
The result was stumbling across this blog. I think that she is very brave to have moved to Cairo on her own to pursue her dancing career.
Here are a couple of photos from the event. There were some photos of me up dancing in my little scarf belt, but I cannot find them. I know how disappointed you are so here are 2 photos of Lorna in action on the day.
Any cold Americans out there could do worse than get their belly dancing costume on and create their own warm glow.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Employment search

Today I took the first steps towards seeking employment. I filled in the online registration form and a couple of hours later I received a phone call to come for an appointment with an Assedic advisor this week on Thursday morning.
I have to bring along my passport and some other paperwork.
Now all I have to do is master the French CV process, letters of motivation, and learn all the appropriate employment and employment seeking terminology.
I also need to go to the local tax office to make them aware that I am here, fill in some duplicate forms in French and English versions so that I don’t get taxed twice and find out if the UK tax office expects me to fill in a UK tax return.
Choir starts again tonight. Last weeks first practice of the year was cancelled due to the snow, so tonight we will see in the New Year with
“La dégustation de la galette et le pot de nouvel an. Après la répétition qui est prévue à 20 h 45 (pour les bisous de début d’année venez à 20h 30) »
Time to get your French dictionaries out I think….

Sunday, 11 January 2009


Crack fans will be pleased to hear that I have at last received the second quote for the filling in of the cracks in my outside walls and the required façade painting work. It is two hundred euros less than my first quote and involves use of plastic paint on the front of the house as well as the side. I will have to sit down and try and work out which is the best for me.
The lower quote came from the firm that have just painted the bungalow across the road. They seemed to take ages to do the work but it looks good now that it is finished.
I finally read the prefecture web site, or rather the bits in English. They questioned 15 English speaking residents about their information requirements and these pages are the result. Useful headings such as “Health and social services”, “Car” etc. The one about finding employment is very informative and I follow links, downloading lots of pdf file booklets (to read later). I can register on a website and an appointment to see someone would follow. I look at the registration form. Then I look at the information that I would need to bring along to the interview. Letters from former employers….
No clue as to what they want the letters to contain. I will have to do some asking around.
Today however I am going to the Prefecture to register as living in France. I follow links to the Europe part of their web site and discover a list of items that I must take to the Prefecture before 3 months have elapsed. I spend the rest of the morning printing off bank statements to prove that I will not (immediately) be a burden to the state, medical insurance info, etc etc.
Clutching my information folder I arrive at the reception desk. I explain why I have come, and I have to go to the ticket machine and press the red button. This is for foreigners. I then go through more doors and sit in the small waiting area with Africans, Spanish, Lebanese etc for company. There are 2 people before me.
After half an hour something goes ping and 407 appears on the digital display.
No one moves. After about 30 seconds it pings and 408 which is my number appears. I set off to the desk. Wait says number 407, I didn’t see my number. He sits down at the desk and I return to my seat just knowing that as the screen shows my number there will be trouble ahead unless the Spanish bloke (407) finishes at one of the 2 open counters first.
He doesn’t and I whizz up to the counter to try and stop the lady from doing the ping thing. I start trying to explain but even as I speak she presses the ping thing and 409 appears.
I explain and there is an intake of breath. I show her my number and she consults with her colleague. Yes she is dealing with 407. Meanwhile 409 is trying to get past me to the counter. ..
Well I am not likely to budge and I do have the next number and she has just finished with 406 so I explain what I have come to do having read their web site. Oh because you are European now you don’t have to register. Just keep your passport with you. If I like I can go to the Mairie Town Hall to register to vote. So despite what it says on the web site that European citizens must do, and despite the lady from the Mairie telling me before Christmas that I would need to go to the Prefecture to register, I don’t need to?
That is correct, it is not obligatoire now.

I thank her and say my au revoirs. It may have wasted some hours of my time, but at least it was relatively painless.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Tenants see

Bee boy got a new phone for Christmas. I know this because late morning my land line phone rang. You see as well as skype on my computer, I also have an Orange internet land line.
Anyway I looked at the number and it did not start with the pesky 09 of the number which keeps phoning to sell me something, so I picked up.
Hello I said.
Hello, this is your neighbour Daveed…

I am wondering how he got my phone number but I wait for him to continue

Could I go and look at the parking as he was in Toulouse and had lost his mobile phone. It might be near where his car had been parked.
Find my keys, put on shoes, down two flights of stairs, front door not closed or locked (sigh). Down path and steps, look at snow near car shaped bare patches. Try different angled approaches, no it’s not there, wait a minute, there is a bump lying under other bumps of snow.
You are lucky I say, still clutching my portable land line phone.
Does it still work he asks. I do not know I say.
He will ring off and phone his mobile. I cut my connection and wait. The mobile rings. It is him. Could I put his phone in his studio, his door is unlocked….

Friday, 9 January 2009

Taking your eye off the ball

I have just woken up after a long sleep under an apple tree. It is amazing how things change over even short periods of time.
Take the weather, and at the moment I wish someone would. Arctic conditions over Europe, coldest temperatures for over 100 years in some places, and this despite the large number of patio heaters in the world. Perhaps the recent banning of their use to keep smokers warm outside entertainment venues to help combat global warming has contributed to this global frosting?

The skiers may be happy, but I suspect that businesses have been hit hard.
Yesterday the Simply British shop was closed due to snow.
The perimeter wall of the bungalow across the road has fallen over into their garden. They have recently had their house, entrance and another of their boundary walls painted, but this wall had been left as it was, in breezeblock state, unrendered. Perhaps they expected it to fall down?

The French electricity company recorded the third successive highest ever usage in a row.
At least my town is not at a standstill and the falls of snow have been light.

I hope that anyone leaving their properties uninhabited over the festive period and beyond, remembered to switch off the water at the mains and that they left a shovel in a handy place for digging their way back to their front door.

The Christmas trees are still blocking the town’s pavements. Perhaps there is a plan to remove them all at the same time?
In the UK, businesses have started collapsing due to the world economic crisis. Woolworths has gone. Where will Dawn get her pik-'n-mix fix now?

Adams and Marks and Spenser branches closing. Will my parents no longer be able to buy M&S quality grapes in their high street?

Due to complaints about always having the date that the post refers to in my header, you will notice that I have taken the comments on board.

Welcome back everyone. Remember to buckle-up, we could be in for a bumpy ride this year.