23rd July 2017

50 years ago today Him indoors and I walked down the aisle together! Where did the time go? And now, here we are again in the same place. Below, en route to our honeymoon 23rd July 1967, standing in front of the Bham Hall of Memory on Broad Street. It was still the swinging sixties, flowered trouser suits all the rage - and that was just the men!  So much has changed in the world over the last 50 years but some things remain the same: still power-hungry, land-grabbing male world leaders causing havoc to ordinary citizens, still hungry people craving the essentials in life, still 'tribalism' amongst certain groups seeking to kill others unless they proselytise the rest of us to their beliefs....the list goes on. I, personally, am a spiritual person, but here's my Golden Wedding message to the rest of the world:  practise your religion by all means, but do it in private. Don't parade your beliefs or seek to proselytise others on the streets. Wear clothes normal for the country where you live and integrate into local society. That's what I've learned over the years, especially when living in other countries. Oh, and make sure you get on with your family - they're worth more than gold. Must dash to meet our precious daughter arriving from the US.and our precious son...enjoy your lives everyone. xx

16th July 2017

Why on Earth have you moved back to Bham from SW France...
First so much admin to deal with in an attempt to reverse what I did in 2005. So as a start I walked down the road to register with a GP and dentist, both conveniently in one building. As I walked in "Mr S. to Dr D. please" over a tannoy system. That was new to me. Next I applied for our 2 free travel passes, a real boon to me as both the bus into the city centre and the local train station are in walking distance from our new house.  Then I applied to the DVLA to swap our French driving licences back to UK ones, which should reduce our exorbitant car insurance - mainly because Him indoors insisted on buying a used Freelander HSE 3.2! (I wanted a new, nippy, reliable, easy to park car but guess who won?)
....Did you see the film Castaway with Tom Hanks? He had all the sunshine, fish, coconuts and peace he could possibly want but what did he do at the first opportunity? Rushed back to civilisation with all its faults.

9th July 2017

England. This green and pleasant land. Feel as if I've been in a coma for 12 years and just awakened. Familiar sights all around but new buildings plonked down overnight. New tech everywhere: every socket in our house has USB points and I'm trying to get to grips with Sky Q tv. How to play, pause and record whole series? No idea! At least I now have an old fashioned radio that simply plugs in so I can listen to BBC4. Joy unconfined after years of French tv babble. Shopping at Sainsburys surprisingly pleasant. Helpful assistants, long forgotten, familiar products and wide checkouts for ease of unloading. But, and there had to be a but, I hate online forms. They never have appropriate options, so I called a car insurance co. Disaster. They won't accept our French no claims, don't understand it and won't accept my translation. Ah the English. Some things never change.

25th June 2017

Change is in the air.
In the UK, the government's in turmoil. May had a seemingly unassailable lead in the polls, so gambled and lost. Formerly perceived as strong and capable, she was someone to take on the immigration surge and uphold Britain's values, as opposed to her opponent Corbyn - a die-hard hippie with 'dangerous' pacifist notions. Now all has been upended. Who will succeed her? David Davis, the one supported by girls in tight Tshirts emblazoned with DD??  Truth is we need a Macron! Neither right nor left, but someone to redraw Britain's political landscape. Just look what he's achieved in France, with the average MP age dropping more than five years and a record 38% females in his new assembly. I must admit, though, a few qualms when I saw his high handclasps with the smug, superior Merkel this week. Is this what Britain wants, a Europe dominated by Germany and France? (I know what my late father would say!)
Chez-nous a big improvement. At last the stupid blockade on our UK finances has been lifted plus, believe it or not, even a small compensation credited to our account! However, a new blockade is forming in Calais yet again, just when we're due to arrive there. Nothing ever runs smooth. Plus ca change....

18th June 2017

Him indoors is upset. His prized Land Rover has been sold to a dealership in Toulouse. Well, I say sold, but where's the money?  Their ads say 'Guaranteed - your money within 24 hours'. So Wednesday, in 40 degree heat, we first tootled to Albi to pick up a hire car, followed by a hazardous two vehicle drive down the motorway, me driving the LR, Him following in the unrecognisable hire car - both with GPS voices telling us to go in different directions! At last we found the dealership, signed the paperwork and waited for the transfer of a large amount of money into our French bank account....and waited....and waited.  Now Sunday. No car. Still no money, and our bank is shut Mondays. It'd better be there Tuesday or else.  Meantime, the saga of our English bank continues. Thursday, they agreed by email a small amount of compensation for all the stress over their threat to freeze our account. All sorted then?  No. Friday we received by standard post yet another letter, returning our previous id documents, saying they are unacceptable. Right hand:left hand syndrome? Words fail me. So tired. This leaving is so so difficult. Like the GPS all I can hear in my head: Take the exit, take the exit.

11th June 2017

Hottest day of the year and a lovely literary lunch chez-nous. Nothing better in my book! Was I going to let a little matter of a stupid Eng bank deter me? No, despite the fact that they're still refusing to recognise the id of Him indoors after being a member of theirs for 50 years. What have I sent them? Copy of his passport, certified by the mairie (whom they don't recognise), recent EDF bill, French bank statement showing credit of his state pension, letter from Bham City Council confirming his right to vote, his P60 etc. etc. But no: all our Eng money will be frozen from the 16th....until we can physically set foot in the UK and wring their necks personally. Will enjoy that.
Meantime far better to concentrate on the good things of life chatting to publishers Laurence and Steph of Crookedcatbooks.com, whilst enjoying chilled Vichyssoise soup fait maison bien sur! We enjoyed a friendly discussion author:publisher. Me: who are a publisher's customers - authors or book-buying public? What makes a prestigious publisher - no of books sold or recognition by industry peers? Answer 1: both. Answer 2: the latter. Them: what makes a good writer? Me:  write about what you know and are passionate about. Recognise importance of having a good publisher v downmarket self-publishing. Merci Laurence and Steph. An utterly charming couple.

4th June 2017

My patience is wearing very thin. Transport and bank problems. First: whether to sell the car Him indoors prizes. Decision: yes, as future problems of driving, insuring, registering and selling a left-hand drive vehicle in the UK are numerous. So, how to get there with a mutinous Him indoors and 2 old dogs? No, you can't hire a car in France and drop off in the UK. Eurostar doesn't take dogs. By air then? No. Cargo costs £1500 + expensive new lockable dog crates + harnesses + even more regs. Step in Folkestone Taxis. The only service offering one-way pet transport through the tunnel from the Calais end. Just need to hire a car from Albi to Calais then. Just catching a breath when in comes our English bank. They're going to freeze all our accounts from 16 June, held with them for 50 years(!), unless we walk in to a branch with our passports. Can you extend the deadline to 3 July? I asked. No, because of new money-laundering rules. Can I send a copy? No, must be the original. How to pay final balance for new house from a frozen account? Help. Must be thousands of weary British expats in this position, confronted by inflexible banks. And, this whole sorry saga was forced on us by Brexit - for which many expats weren't even allowed to vote, and if they had, there wouldn't be a Brexit! Very tired....