Monthly Archive for April, 2015


It took ten minutes in a bank near Gatwick to sort out my problem. And now I sit in the airport waiting to fly back to Toulouse. The expense and time waste is so appalling that I have to go Zen. Otherwise my teeth would chatter with rage and I’d be on my way into the City to incinerate…I think the bank I use is part of Lloyds…their headquarters. The clerk in the branch told me that I’m not allowed to hold my account if I give them an overseas address and I was advised not to do so. So I didn’t. There are a fair number of institutions that throw a wobbly if you tell them you live in a foreign part. Interestingly it’s the less grown up ones. If they’re really heavy duty they don’t seem to mind. Expats, perforce, have to lie a lot.
A guest had a hunger for cheap tobacco and booze last week, so we went to Andorra. I have to stock up on consumables as well in order to justify the trip. The prices are half what they are in France and a third of the UK, but it’s not a place I’d go to for any other reason. The ski season had just ended and that leaves nothing apart from dodgy money and duty free shit to employ the locals. We were advised to look out for the amazing displays of wild flowers, but mucky snow was still the predominant ground covering and the environs swarm with douane.
I had to phone HMRC. Spookie. The number rang, a lass answered and sorted out the problem in less than a minute.


I continue my desultory thrusts at various call centres. I had to ring the bank again about another account that had seized up. Experience has taught me how to duck and weave through the layers of people trying to be awfully helpful and it was sorted. And then an hour long schmooze with Orange to make my email work. And now it does. I’ve never become emotionally involved with mobile telephones but when the technology I do embrace fails to play with me life becomes bleak.
The maire came round yesterday to report that the grandson has permission from the Prefect to put a roof on his garage over the hedge. Heaven knows how long it will take him, how much buzzing machinery he will employ or how the result with stand up to a storm crashing through. His other news was that the chateau owner paid a visit from Sweden. It was the first time they’d met. He was very sympa and intends to make the place watertight before slowly restoring the building to its original condition. But he’s my age, not in great nick and doesn’t seem to have a family. So M.Le Maire doubts whether one can say the place is secure in the long term.


A nightmare day on the phone to banking call centres. The current account I use was locked because it was a joint account and the other party had not used it for a decade. I was told this would never be a problem, but yesterday it was. I drilled down through several layers of help desks to find incompetence and inadequacy at the heart and a surprising degree of powerlessness. The upshot is that I must present my body at a UK branch before I can touch my money. So I face a lost day going to and fro from Gatwick in a couple of weeks.

We visited the sorciere yesterday. Bingo was going on in the main room, so we wheeled the old bat into a lift to the first floor where we could shout in her ear without disturbing anyone else. The first floor landing was empty, save a couple of tables and chairs and an old man standing against a wall fiddling with his dick. The conversation was as impossibly incomprehensible as usual until a couple of clowns, a man and a woman with red noses, popped their heads round a corner. It was magical. The old man abandoned his willy and his face lit up with a grin of delight. The sorciere rocked with laughter. They were both superb and threw themselves enthusiastically into entertaining. I even had them marching round singing ‘The Flower of Scotland’. They turn up once a fortnight and tour the premises. They were reluctant to give much information as they didn’t want to get out of role, but being able to create such joy in ancients well down the path to dementia must give them huge satisfaction.

Hmm. I have three or four great tits hopping around on the carpet. Is this to be encouraged? They are pecking away at specks left by the dogs, so perhaps they’re cheap vacuum cleaners.


We’re enjoying a warm week – 28 is forecast for tomorrow. It’s mildly unsettling since it’s not considered cool to wear budgie-smuggler shorts till May 1st, but we managed to host half a dozen people on the terrace for lunch yesterday for the first time this year and it reminds folk why they decided to come to live in France. I also received the year’s first mozzie bite and the grandson made the afternoon merry by strimming the other side of the hedge. I consoled myself with knowing that he must be working in a mist of dog shit as every turd that lands on our lawn is flicked over onto his property.
The background noise here at this time of year is hoopoes, the kestrels nesting at the chateau, green woodpeckers, the early swallows and the constant of the tits and collared doves. I have to watch the latter. I fed them in the winter and they have decided that I’m unlikely to slaughter them. Unless care is taken they can become absurdly tame and I don’t fancy them strutting through the French window and defecating on the rugs.
The new big cheese in the department is said to be an unhappy bunny. He was a very successful and popular maire and he can’t find a successor for this post while he goes on to higher things. His wife is also said to be pissed off with him for taking the job and refuses to play the First Lady. And he seems to have a monster on his back who controls most of his council votes. He’s leftish but his elevation was the result of a sneaky plot by the right and I’m told half the officials are refusing to work with the new administration.


I still employ an accountant, which may seem pretty daft because I only need to send him half a dozen figures a year for him to be able to fill out my tax form. But I am now fully French for tax purposes and I fear the French bureaucracy. Usually it seems to have a passion for irrelevant pieces of paper that make HMRC look dilettante. At other times it can be surprisingly casual. A couple of days ago I received a terrifying form from the tax office up the road, at least half a dozen pages printed in red with lots and lots of boxes to fill in. I glanced at it, realised I understood little and would be quite incapable of producing the personal financial history it seemed to wish. I emailed the accountant to see if he could do the infilling for me. Ignore the form, he said. Put it in the bin. So I did. That’s why I pay a professional.
My handwriting, always a bit iffy, is now dreadful since it has atrophied in competition with a keyboard. My signature is a scrawl that varies every time I have a bash at it but it doesn’t seem to matter since cheques, which is when it is needed, could be signed with an X for all the bank cares. But as a Conseiller Municipal I have to sign my name at least half a dozen times each meeting and develop writer’s cramp at election time when every mouse that scuttles through the door must be duly attested in triplicate. The French always put a line straight through their name as a final flourish when they sign. One fellow councillor even turns the form at right angles to ensure his line is straight. I envy their motor abilities and consistency and am mildly embarrassed by my own attempts in comparison. The last meeting was on Good Friday and ended up with cassis, peanuts and crisps. We even opened and finished a second bottle of wine so some of our fellows became indiscreet and rather giggly. I asked if any of them had friends who voted FN. They were appalled at the thought; they would as soon have friends who were paedophiles.

Tea party

I spotted a pair of swallows yesterday and a covey of three hoopoes flew over my head as I was cutting grass just now. It’s also faintly torrid across at the chateau where a kestrel is making a determined effort to stake a claim of residence in the teeth of opposition from the crows and jackdaws. On a similar theme, a male hen harrier flew alongside me for a few seconds as I drove across the few hectares that seem to make up his territory.
Our preferred candidate did not land the big job in the department, and he’s cross about it since his family have occupied the post for nearly half a century. The FN was never in the running, but a Tea Party candidate from Montauban was. However she took some sort of a huff and the winner is a man who seems to be an extremely right wing leftie and, so far as I can determine, nobody has much of a clue what he’s about.