Tag Archives: Living in France

Quality of Life Index ~ France No 1 again!

For the third year running France is the best place to live in Europe, according to the uSwitch Quality of Life Index.

Britain is the worst.

The uSwitch index calculates an overall quality of life score for ten European nations, based on 16 factors including net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods such as fuel, food and energy bills, as well as lifestyle issues like hours of sunshine, days holiday, working hours and life expectancy.

The UK was joined at the bottom of the index by Sweden and Ireland, while Spain took second place and the Netherlands came third.

Commenting on the findings, Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, said: “Last year at least our neighbours in Ireland were worse off, now we can’t even console ourselves with that.

“We are now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means that we’re living to work.”


uSwitch Quality of Life infographic

This news comes as no surprise to Frogsiders. The UK gives us a headache as soon as we drive off the shuttle. We don’t start smiling again until we’re back on French soil. Nothing much against Spain, but it’s too hot, it smells, the bread is rubbish, there are too many tourists and most of the builders and estate agents are dodgy.

Ex-Pats Beware of Bogus House Buyers

What value the internet? On reflection I find that those who either left it too late or just can’t be bothered to learn to use a computer, frequently criticise. Those of us who have been surfing for years, well we just can’t imagine life without it. The former group often try to strengthen their case by sighting paedophile groomers, bank account hackers and of course scammers and it’s those very scammers that have brought me to examine my own opinion.

We were recently targeted by someone who purported to be interested in buying our house which we recently placed with three local estate agents, plus a couple of ads on small independent internet sites. Actually we’re not in a hurry to sell, it’s a big house and we figured that it would take several years to shift so we were quite surprised when almost immediately; we received a phone call from a man asking for more details and some photos. He said that he would text his email address and when it didn’t arrive we were not concerned and forgot the whole thing. After about a fortnight he rang again and this time the email address came through very quickly – of course we responded to his request.

His story was that he lived and worked in Scotland (he spoke good French and English) and was interested in a house in our area. He was very busy so he would send his “expert” to look over the house – all feasible so far. However alarm bells began to ring when we were asked if we would accept part of the payment in Sterling, why we asked ourselves but didn’t really think too much about it as we have been very busy with other projects.

After several phone calls from the potential buyer we were contacted by the so-called expert who told us he would be arriving at our local station on the Paris train and could we pick him up. My husband did so and I must say that we were both surprised not only because there were two of them but their appearance was, not to put too fine a point on it, Middle Eastern in cheap clothes.

To cut a long story short they had a look round and seemed to us a bit too enthusiastic with the “buyer” ringing several times during the visit seeming impatient to do a deal. They were polite, pleasant and very complimentary even telling us that our house was worth more than we were asking. Now, having sold numerous properties in our time we of course thought this to be suspicious and started to think about scams. We wondered though how they could possibly dupe us as we thought it was simple, if they didn’t give us the money we wouldn’t give them the house. What could be their angle?

The following day the “buyer” rang saying he was meeting the experts in Paris the day after and would contact us further to make “a rendezvous”. This he did but the meeting was to be at Fouquets in Paris – things were now becoming ridiculous.

So we searched the internet and indeed we did find many such scams with a very similar chain of events. The one we were experiencing was potentially to be paid a part sum into our UK bank account and when it appeared on our on-line statement we would be asked to refund the buyer’s expenses (usually 10%) and then, voila, the original payment bounces.

My husband rang the scammer to say that we would be happy to meet him but we insist that it be at our lawyer’s office. You can imagine the reaction; of course the whole deal was off.

This scam would not work through an estate agent it is only doable through a private sale in this case via the internet. The process necessitates a transaction crossing two countries and currencies plus it is compounded by the use of internet banking.  Now all those technophobes are smiling smugly – but my point is that these scams are very soon “out there” on that very same internet warning us of dangerous pitfalls. Scammers used to be con-men and confidence tricksters the internet did not invent them.

With all new things there can be drawbacks but in general, progress is good and I for one will not stop using the internet. I have to confess in fact that both my husband and I are completely addicted, tapping happily on our iPods each evening at the same time as watching television. Who said that men can’t multi-task?

France and Spain come out top for quality of life in Europe

A normal day in the life of French people!

A new study by uSwitch.com examined 16 factors to understand where the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries. Variables such as net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods, such as fuel, food and energy bills, were examined. In addition, lifestyle factors, such as hours of sunshine, holiday entitlement, working hours and life expectancy were considered, in order to provide a complete picture of the quality of life experienced in each country.

France and Spain come out top for quality of life while the UK and Ireland are the worst places to live in Europe according to the study. France has taken the top spot for the second year running, despite families earning an annual net income of only £32,766 – £4,406 below that of the UK.

An everyday scene in a typical British street

High living costs, below average government spending on health and education, short holidays and late retirement have kept the UK and Ireland at the bottom of the list.

Significantly, the UK now no longer enjoys the highest net household income in Europe after falling behind Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark. This is a critical blow as people living in the UK were previously able to see a trade off between poor quality of life, but a relatively high net income, the survey says.

While last year net household income in the UK was £10,000 above the European average, this year it is just £2,314 above average. Last year compared with their European neighbours the British were miserable but rich, this year they are miserable and poor.

The UK pays the highest prices for food and petrol yet spends below the European average (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education. Moreover, Brits work longer hours, retire later, and receive less annual leave than most of their European counterparts, the study says.

They also enjoy less sunshine along the way and can expect to die two years younger than their French counterparts.

Feel happier now?

  • Pas De Calais – the Golden Triangle?

    Cycling in the Pas De Calais

    When we bought our first house in the Pas De Calais, just a mile or two from the site of the Battle of Agincourt, we could reach it in 3 hours by car from our home in Central London.  It was this arbitrary limit on travelling time that defined our search area in the first place, and we congratulated ourselves many times on the decision, as it made it possible for us to spend almost every weekend in France, starting late enough on Friday evenings to take an off-peak rate shuttle yet still arriving at our house before French midnight.

    The nearness of the Pas De Calais to the most densely populated and richest part of Great Britain was an advantage to us then, and it remains an advantage now, even though we long ago left London to settle permanently here.  Though the clientele for the holiday gite business we established came from all over Britain, the majority were from the South-East, and it was equally this region that provided almost all our useful out-of-season short break business – the icing on the cake for holiday landlords.

    Statistically the Pas De Calais is one of France’s poorer regions, so prices here tend to be lower than in other more traditionally touristic areas of France.  It’s a stroke of great luck (for homeowners and gite landlords, at least) that such an affordable region of France should be situated so close to much of Europe’s most Continue reading “Pas De Calais – the Golden Triangle?” »

    Anglican Church in Pas De Calais – updated calendar

    Each month Frogsiders publishes the latest Anglican Church calendar for the region.  You can find it and download it by following this link to the Frogsiders Church page.

    This month you’ll find details of an important fund-raising Harvest Fete event on September 25.

    We have not yet received the latest Boulogne congregation newsletter but we’ll provide a link to download that, too, as soon as we have it.

    Hold the front page! French Week is coming!

    France’s first English-language weekly is coming out on Friday July 30th 2010 and every Friday after that. Called French Week, it is for all those who still love the feel of a real newspaper and want to keep abreast of French affairs, news and culture.

    What? No Carla?

    French Week is independently owned so its main journalists can offer robust and unfettered views of French affairs. Editor Miranda Neame has lived and worked in France since her late teens, spending the past 15 years in publishing. News editor Robert Harneis is a seasoned observer of French and European affairs; he has published a biography of Ségolène Royal and translated Nicolas Sarkozy’s best-seller ‘Témoignage’ into English.

    French Week’s 50 or so bilingual correspondents, all well-implanted around France, will be delving into the country’s politics, administration, arts and lifestyle. The aims: to help French and English speakers understand each other; to get to the nitty-gritty of readers’ concerns and to whet the curiosity of all residents and lovers of France.

    Distributed in newsagents throughout France, price €1, and by subscription throughout Europe.

    For further information visit the French News website

  • Pas De Calais flax farmers – the new oil barons ?

    If you live in the Nord Pas De Calais you’ll be aware of the increase in recent years in the growing of Flax on the region’s farms. You may also be aware that flax is the crop from which linen fibre and linseed oil are obtained, but what you may not have realised is that this plant, which gives such an attractive look to many of our fields in spring and early summer, is one of the most exciting and versatile of all the crops that can be grown in our northern climate.

    Most of us will only ever have thought of flax as the source of linen fibre for our summer clothes and linseed oil for maintaining cricket bats, but it has a wealth of other uses, and like many other natural crops, every part of the plant can be used; nothing goes to waste.

    One of the reasons for the renaissance of flax as a major crop is the drive to reduce the reliance of our industrialised world on unsustainable sources of energy. The seed of the flax plant are a rich source of natural oil which can nowadays be relatively economically processed into fuel. You’ll have noticed, no doubt, when you go to fill your car with fuel, that some of the pumps deliver fuel containing a proportion of sustainably sourced bio-fuel material. Farmers in the Pas De Calais have been encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to supply this growing market.

    Of course, not all the oil goes into the production of fuels. Apparently it’s also important in the production of health food snacks (linseed is an excellent source of short-chain Omega 3 oils), salad oil, paints, varnishes, resin, baking ingredients, animal feeds, cosmetics, concrete finishing and of course, linoleum. Mind you, they’ve been saying lino’s about to make a comeback for years now.

    The increased demand for linseed has the happy effect of making flax fibre much more readily available. Apart from textiles for clothes, linen is used for the highest quality bedsheets, tablecloths and furnishing fabrics, and linen yarn can be woven with silk, cotton and wool to create interesting and fashionable new fabric textures.

    But flax fibres are, or can be used in a multitude of other processes and products, including sail cloth, tarpaulins and canvas, a sealing material for plumbing, workwear, tents, lace, bandages and horse bedding. It’s now also being used by some car manufacturers as a sustainable replacement for synthetic materials such as foam seat padding and carbon fibre reinforcement for their plastic mouldings. Papermakers use it to create luxury writing papers as well as the hard-wearing stuff that paper money is printed on.

    But here is a really original use for flax. This lightweight canoe was made of a linen cloth on an ash frame, (in the way that traditional coracles have been made for thousands of years). The British builder says the linen was impregnated with flax resin and then just left in the sun for a few days – the resin cross-links and hardens in the ultraviolet rays. It really works, as you can see from this video.

  • Help an Ex-pat!

    We hope a Frogsider reader can come to the rescue of this recent correspondent:

    Can any one tell me the French for a half-shaft?  One is worn on my car but as it’s internal I can’t point it out to the mechanic and I can’t find it in my dictionaries.

    One needs to avoid attempting constructions, eg,un demi-baiser which might result in violence!

    Unfortunately we at Frogsiders have been unable to come up with a definitive equivalent, in French, for the shaft on a rear-wheel-drive car which transmits the drive from the differential to the road wheel.

  • Et alors! How French cricketers aim to beat us at our own game

    This article, by Adam Sage, is reprinted from The Times, June 5, 2010

    For centuries it was dismissed by the French as an incomprehensible activity practised by British eccentrics and the inhabitants of other nations that had had the misfortune — or the poor judgment — to fall under British influence.

    Now France has decided to take us on at our own game, aiming for nothing less than humiliation for les Anglais at Lord’s — albeit within a few decades.

    The rise of cricket has been marked by its introduction to primary schools where pupils are getting to grips with le coup d’équerre (the square cut), la balle courbée vers l’extérieur (the outswinger) and a triumphant cry of et alors (howzat).

    A state cricket diploma is expected to receive official approval this year in a step towards France’s first professional cricket coaches. “We have several buds which we are nurturing,” Tony Banton, the chairman of France Cricket, the national cricket association, said.

    The rise of the sport in France comes 70 years after it was banned as alien by the Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazi occupation. It follows an influx of Britons and of Pakistanis, Indians, West Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, who probably form France’s biggest cricket-loving community.

    The newcomers are responsible for forming 42 clubs but the sport is also attracting Gallic interest for almost the first time since 1900, when a French side was beaten by England in the Paris Olympic Games final.

    France has a national side, which plays in the European second division, and 1,200 registered players — a number that is rising by about 10 per cent a year, according to Adrien Geille, the general manager of France Cricket. About 40 per cent of the players are French. “Our goal is to have a semi- professional tournament by 2015,” Mr Geille told The Times.

    The ambition has been strengthened by the arrival of cricket in primary schools. To date, four schools in central France have agreed to put le cricket — or rather, le kwik cricket, a version played with plastic bats and balls — on to their weekly sporting curriculum this year.

    Teachers elsewhere, notably in northern France, are expected to follow in their footsteps from September this year, after France Cricket taught them the basic rules and techniques.

    David Bordes, the national technical director of France Cricket, said that coaches had gone to primary schools about once a week to introduce pupils to the sport. “We get more requests than we can meet,” he said. “We try to pick those where the intervention is likely to be followed up afterwards.” About 40 enthusiasts have obtained a certificate to coach cricket on a voluntary basis.

    Mr Bordes wants to go a step further by persuading the authorities to create a cricket coaching diploma, which would enable holders to demand remuneration. He said that after a six-year struggle the Ministry of Health and Sport was poised to accept the move.

    Just in case France’s new coaches struggle to understand the 42 laws and five appendices published by the MCC, France Cricket has translated them and published them on its website for the first time.

    Thus it is that the wicket-keeper is now officially known as le guardien de guichet and lbw as jdg (jambe devant guichet).

    There was much head-scratching over the best way to translate “not out”. After what one insider described as a lively debate, a consensus emerged in favour of “rien”, which literally means nothing and which will no doubt be accompanied in practice by a classic Gallic shrug.

    Terms of engagement

    Fielder chasseur (literally, hunter)

    Batsman batteur (drummer)

    Bowler lanceur (thrower)

    Bouncer rase-tête (head shaver)

    Donkey drop balle en cloche (bell-shaped ball)

    Duck zéro pointé (zero points)

    Four touche indirecte (indirect touch)

    Six touche directe (direct touch)

    Googly bosanquet (after Bernard Bosanquet, the inventor of the googly)

    Stump piquet (post)

    Wicket maiden vierge couronnée (crowned virgin)

    Corridor of uncertainty le couloir du doute (corridor of doubt)

    How the English game of French cricket is played

    The aim of this traditional game is for the bowler to hit the legs of the batsman with an underarm delivery. There is only one batsman, whose sole aim is to stay “in” for as long as possible by shielding his or her legs with the bat.

    In some versions of the game, runs can be scored by passing the bat completely around the body until the ball has been fielded.

    Batsmen (or women, for that matter) can move their feet only after they have hit the ball — if they miss, they must stay rooted to the spot and defend their legs as best they can.

    As far as The Times is aware, French people do not play French cricket.

    Frogsiders Footnote:  Could this mean there’ll be jobs available in Northern French schools for English cricket coaches?

  • Summer Events in Northern France

    The Moonlight family is well known for its love of the arts, culture, and any excuse to have a good time, especially when the weather is good and there are summer festivals to go to.

    Here are a few summertime events in or within reach of Northern France that will almost certainly attract various family members:

    Cabourg, 9-13 June
    Romantic Film Festival, five days of open air screenings of romantic classics and new talent in Normandy. A pass for five days costs 25 euros.  This sounds like fantastic value and a sure way to impress your wife or girlfriend.

    Paris, 18-20 June
    The Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival The theme of this year’s festival is Storytelling and Politics. There will be readings, panel discussions and book signings in the park René Viviani next to Shakespeare & Company.

    Fatima Bhutto, Mark Gevisser, David Hare, Jack Hirschman, Jack Mapanje, Philip Pullman, Will Self, Erica Wagner and Jeanette Winterson are some of the writers on the agenda.  Sounds like a good excuse for a day out in Paris, which will greatly impress your intellectual friends and arm you with plenty of dining-out material for next winter’s dinner parties.

    Evreux, 25-26 June
    Le Rock dans tous ses États Babyshambles, Pony Pony Run Run, The Black Box Revelation, Bloody Beetroots, Death Crew 77, and the Black Keys will be performing, and the festival is even offering music lessons for children. Unmissable!

    Reims, 13-14 July
    Fête Nationale Reims celebrates the French Revolution with concerts and fireworks.

    Paris, 14 July-15 August
    Quartier d’été A month-long festival comprising parties, concerts and street performances, in parks, squares, and open spaces all over the city.  Another Paris outing excuse, with perhaps a good lunch and a free show thrown in.

    Brittany, 15-18 July
    Les Vieilles Charrues
    Mika, Mr Oizo, Alain Souchon and Jamiroquai are lined up for this festival. Camping is usual.  Say no more!

    Paris 15-25 July
    Gospel Festival Gospel Choirs, Gospel singers and dancers. Some acts claim to mix jazz and hip hop into their acts. Some of the shows will be open air.  Less boring than church, anyway

    Paris, 17 July-22 August
    Cinema en plein air festival Outdoor cinema festival in the Parc de la Villette.  This year’s theme is “Being 20 Years Old”.   François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Ken Loach, Maurice Pialat, Leos Carax, Abdellatif Kechiche, Cristian Mungiu, Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Stephen Frears, Jim Jarmush and Liu Jie, Hong Sang- Soo are on the programme.  Might make you feel 20 again!

    Etaples & Le Touquet, 31 July-1 August
    Rock en Stock 22 acts on two stages in the Parc de Valigot. There are restaurants, a food and craft market, camping. Bands include Eiffel, Sinsemilia, La Bal des Enragées, Crucified Barbara, Elmer Food Beat, Pigalle and Willie and the Bandits.  Poor Barbara!  What on earth did she do to deserve that?  Go to the show and find out

    St Malo, Brittany, 13-15 August
    La Route Du Rock This year’s lineup includes Massive Attack, The Flaming Lips, The National. Thirty bands will perform in three spectcular coastal venues. One stage is on the beach and another is in the Fort de Saint-Père, an 18th century Vauban fort.

    History

    I have found the last few weeks rather poignant because I have been contacted by 4 people from my past. They are two girl friends from school, a friend from ten years ago and my old hairdresser. You may think that the hairdresser was the least touching but you would be wrong because I saw this man for at least one hour, twice a week for more than 20 years. We liked one another a lot, shared confidences and supported each other when times were difficult. I know that I will probably not actually see him again but that doesn’t matter because we are both happy just to swap emails.

    The friend from ten years ago was a nice surprise as I had lost her email address through a computer crash and had often wondered how she was fairing. We met up, last week, in a cafe in Boulogne where we shared a chatty couple of hours. We brought each other “au courant” and have agreed to keep in touch in fact she is coming to stay “chez nous” in September. I found out that she loves gardening, misses it dreadfully and would love to spend a few days toiling in the soil. ”Come and knock yourself out” was my prompt reply whilst swiftly taking out my diary and pen. That kind of opportunity cannot be passed up on any account.

    The remaining two are old school friends with whom I lost touch around 40 years ago. You may remember that I wrote some time ago how I couldn’t see the point of Facebook. Privately though I was thinking that if I continued to log-on I would eventually, just like the young, become an enthusiastic user. Well that moment has arrived in the shape of Hazel Shepherd and Valerie Watson and yes I have to thank the much maligned Facebook.

    Since Valerie and Hazel first appeared on my home page the three of us have been emailing each other and gradually revealing our stories of the past four decades. There has been the inevitable exchange of “pictures of the grandchildren” together with rather reluctantly proffered pictures of ourselves. We have even tentatively arranged a meeting in London in September and personally I can’t wait.

    Normally I am not one to dwell on the past or live on past glories “you can never go back” has been my motto. Although I was coerced into attending a school reunion in 1995. The fact was that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I still had more in common with my old chums than I had imagined and was impressed by the percentage of pupils that had done well. However I did not find the evening that entertaining and vowed never to attend again. The problem was that none of the attendees were in my close circle of friends so I felt no connection.

    This time it will be different these girls were my best mates. We were simple unsophisticated adolescents who had very few material possessions. We had no designer sports shoes or computers, we were lucky if we had plimsolls to call our own and our maths aids were simply a slide rule, a book of log tables and a ready-reckoner. Our wardrobes were not full either we had 3 outfits each, one to wear, one clean and one in the wash. We certainly were not spoiled but we were very happy.

    All three of us agree that our most vivid memories are of how much we laughed in fact we giggled our way through our teenage years. When we left school the deputy head said “your laughter will echo round the walls of this school for many years to come”. Not a testimonial that would impress any future employer but for me with the luxury of hindsight I think that we were all three of us very, very lucky.

    MUSIC TO LEARN FRENCH BY 5

    One of the quintessential sounds of France is that of an accordeon playing the Java. It is a kind of jerky waltz and was a feature of the bals musette, dance sessions in Parisian bars and cafes run by immigrants from the Auvergne and Italy from the 1880s onwards. It was regarded as somewhat immoral, as couples on the crowded floor would dance with their hands on each other’s backs, straying ever lower (cf. le bas de son dos in the last line of the first song).

    My first song, by Claude Nougaro (1929-2004), is about a conflict between the old and the new, the former being the Java and the latter the jazz of the 1960s. Le Jazz et La Java (Sorry about the video!  Last.fm have discontinued full-track streaming.) The song alternates between the two styles of music, with some particularly deft work with the brushes by the jazz drummer.

    Il y a de l’eau dans le gaz: there’s trouble brewing.

    J’écoute béat: I listen open-mouthed / rapt / “sent”.

    V’la = voila.

    Râler: to rattle, usually with reference to drawing one’s last breath.

    Ses p’tit’s fesses en bataille: two cats in a bag?

    Du pareil au même: six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    Se saouler, se noircir: both mean “to get drunk”; a pun (intended?) on the latter, with the reference to Harlem, would be the literal meaning of “to blacken” or “black up”.

    Staying with the Java, my second song is an example by Georges Brassens.  Le Bistro is about an old bistro in a crummy part of Paris  (un coin pourri). The house red (ce petit bleu lourd de menaces) is not for the faint-hearted. The patron is described merely as large and disgusting (un gros dégueulasse) but we get the picture. His wife, on the other hand, serves behind the bar with (quote) all her charms, from top to bottom, in the right place (unquote). Woe betide any besotted customer who steps out of line – the patron is ready with a flic-flac to the face.

    L’est = Il est = Il y a: there is

    Si t’as le bec fin: in this context, if you have a fine nose for wine.

    La fine fleur: the “cream”.

    Viennent en rang commes des harengs: the customers line up (to gawp at the barmaid) like a row of herrings.

    Fontaines Wallace: a reference to drinking fountains donated to Paris by a British millionaire. See Eau de Paris

    Bouge: dump, hovel, low dive, sleazy bar.

    Palace: not a “palace” (palais) but a specific term for a luxury hotel.

    Appas: charms (pun: appât: bait).

    Qui fera…les cornes: who will cuckold…(the patron).

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