Sunday, August 26, 2007

This may sound a strange title for a Blog. I suppose it does appear to be bit negative. But whenever there’s a gathering of expat Brits this seems to be the opening topic of conversation.
Not in so many words of course. The phraseology may be different, but it all amounts to much the same thing: Is living in France all its cracked up to be?
Well that depends on what sort of day you’ve just had.
Take today for example. It’s a yahoo, definitely bang-on day ! The sun is streaming in through the kitchen window, the temperature is hitting the mid thirties and there’s a free range chicken, stuffed with a whole lemon and a bunch of tarragon, roasting in the oven.
There will be a bottle of good wine as well, it being a Sunday. Not the daily ration of ‘vrac’wine, bought straight from the barrel and decanted into your own personal plastic jerry can. No, this will be a bottle of merlot, or a sauvignon costing a mighty 3 euros. If we’ve had a foray across the mountains into Spain it could be a tempranillo, or hopefully a rioja, for even less.
Life doesn’t get much better.
But if someone had asked me how I was enjoying ‘la vie en rose’ on the day my cat was splattered on the road outside my house I would have treated them to a long and vitriolic diatribe against not only French drivers but the nation as a whole.
So, as in everything, it’s all relative.
Uprooting yourself from family, friends, and your native soil takes a bit of doing. The fact that you may have spent God knows how many years dreaming, hoping, and planning the whole daft venture amounts to nothing. When the last of your earthly possessions have been loaded on the removal van, and the rose-coloured spectacles are firmly in place you take on the persona of a pioneer.
Exactly why is a mystery. Thousands have made the journey before you, but as far as you, and your incredulous friends are concerned you are the only ones. Others may fail, sell up after a couple of years, but you are different. You know exactly what you’re doing.
After all haven’t you got an O level in French? And that dates you, for a start!
You’ve also got a small pension. Too small to live decently on in the UK but it’ll be a fortune in France. Well, it's true it will go a bit further than in the uk, and if you're in receipt of a state pension despite M. Sarkowzy's new legislation on immigration you'll be okay as far as the health service is cincerned. You'll need top -up private insurance, but the two thirds that the French CPAM pays towards medication is paid by the UK Health service as part of a reciprical service.And if you are unfortunate enough to develop a serious illness which is life- threatening like cancer or heart disease your treatment is 100% covered by CPAM. At least, that's how I read it but as in all things Fench there are dozens of interpritations!
Moving to France is a a lot like marriage. The honeymoon period is idyllic. Then the cracks begin to appear. It all depends on how you view the cracks. Are they endangering the foundations, or just a minor inconvenience?
At the moment our new president M. Sarkowzy is enjoying just such a honeymoon. I know how he feels.
When France comes back from the summer hols it’s all going to sink in. But as for today, well it’s still August. The country is still ‘away’, summer has finally arrived this year (almost too late but let’s hope for a brilliant autumn)
And France are hosting the Rugby World Cup. God’s in His heaven and for a while all seems right with the world.

No comments: