Monthly Archives: March 2010

Au revoir, les nids de poules!

Ironically, as I’m preparing to say ‘Au revoir’ to Bolton for a few days, they finally get rid of the potholes on the main drag towards Bury. And not before time. ‘They’ have also got rid of the potholes coming towards here from the A666 (the road of death!) too. However, I shall not miss the English roads, especially those that have chipped my windscreen, ruined my tyres and suspension and generally caused aches to my back I would expect if I were driving an old jalopy, not a lovely (shiny) Honda Civic (thanks to Steve cleaning it)

Nor shall I miss the random taxi-driving population. Because I work such odd hours, I often make my way home about nine at night, and it must be said, at that time, the predominance of taxis makes it an utter nightmare. They stop wherever they like at totally inconvenient places, fail to pull in or pull in badly, pull out when they feel like it, drive so fast because they’re on a drop off or pick up, or so slow because they’re on their phone, move without indicating, cross lanes intermittently, pull out about a metre over the junction line, slam on, speed up, swerve… it’s a disaster. The amount of times I’ve wanted to get out and punch someone don’t even bear thinking about.

But, all of this will be behind me soon!

I had a very spooky ‘stars’ experience yesterday. I tend to read them a bit, pretending disdain, but jumping on the coincidences that emerge. I have to say, I’m about as ‘typical’ a Sagittarian as you can be, but do I conform to the stereotype because it exists, or because it’s some strange star-influence? I have to say, if the Moon can cause tides and we’re 70% water, I definitely believe the moon has a pull on us, evidence or no. The Moon can shift the Atlantic, so I’m sure it can affect me. But the influence of the other planets and so on, well, my jury’s still out, though I tend to think I like to believe rather than not.

Anyway, I found this site yesterday:

which led me to the following prediction for March. Yes, I know it’s almost over, but I was late on finding it!

Sagittarius Horoscope for March 2010

By Susan Miller

What a lovely month you have in store! Your home and romantic life will have exciting news, and you may also get a chance to travel to distant points, if not now, very soon. There is much to discuss in this busy month. Let’s start at the top, with your home.

Well, in all fairness, I’m travelling to fairly distant points, in going to France, and yes, it has been a busy month. I suspect that ‘home’ is a big priority, given I’m moving house. Still…

At the end of February, you may have begun to think seriously about improving your home, property, or family situation that has been on your mind for some time. Until now you’ve not had many options, and may have felt stuck. Then, suddenly, in late February you experienced a spectacular meeting of Jupiter and the Sun over the weekend of February 27-28, showing you that this situation could be resolved, much to your surprise. You may have already seen a big breakthrough, but if not, this month will continue and advance this theme in remarkable ways.

I did feel stuck, on account of having not sold, and yes, the situation began to resolve itself around Feb 24th (a bit earlier) and I didn’t think it could.

As you begin March, you have Jupiter (luck), Uranus (unanticipated events), Mercury (news), the Sun (your interest and focus), and the new moon (fresh starts) coming to your aid. Uranus, the new moon, Sun, and Mercury will be at 25 to 27 degrees Pisces in a rare crown of stars in one part of the chart, showing something is about to surface. The fact that the new moon – always an indication of your domestic condition – is conjunct Uranus shows that unforeseen situations will be at play.

I’ve definitely got some fresh starts coming up… and it was all ‘unforeseen’ in my personal situation!

Your career may factor into the changes that are happening at home too and will bring added shifts. For example, you may decide now to relocate so that you can find a better job, or because you are already in a very fine position and being promoted to a job that will require you live in another city, or even a foreign country.

Now I know not all Sagittarians can be off to foreign shores to work… and for me, it’s not so much about work as it is about moving, but spooky, nonetheless!

Jupiter is your ruling planet and also the planet of good fortune and happiness. The fact that Jupiter will tour your sector of home and family during most of the year tells me you are likely to be protected and quite lucky when it comes to real estate leases, purchases, sales, renovations, and home decor projects. The changes you see will be changes you love and will lead you in the right direction.

Thank the Lord for that! I could do with luck and protection when it comes to purchases and sales!

You are also enjoying unusually strong family support, particularly from your parents.

Hmmm… very spooky. It’s not often that I need parental support, but if one month in my life was about parental support, it would have been this one. Weird!

You won’t see any of these changes coming this month, but you will need to be poised to make quick decisions when opportunity knocks.If you were born at the end of your sign, near December 16, plus or minus four days, you are most likely to be affected, or if you have 25 degrees Sagittarius rising.

That’s me!

Pluto will be at hard angles to the new moon, March 15, so you may have to write a number of checks. It looks like you are in the process of a lifestyle shift that that will require a hefty outlay of cash this month. Still, you seem to be spending carefully and deliberately. You seem to be dealing with an outstanding and unexpected offer, so it’s a matter of either snapping it up quickly or risk losing it entirely due to indecision.

You’re not kidding!

A new moon sets up two weeks of opportunity and will always be at its strongest during the first week, which in this case will be March 15-19. The actions you take this month have the power to affect you for a year to come, if not much, much longer than that. Actually, Jupiter’s position suggests you’re beginning a twelve-year cycle.

Indeed this will be your best month of 2010 to make home and family-related decisions. If you can’t get plans ready fast enough to move forward now, you will have another chance from mid-to-end of August, but they won’t be quite as special as the ones happening now.

I could do with a new 12-year cycle… to be fair, much of the last 12 years has been a very bumpy ride. It’s had it’s high points, like getting published, but it’s been a battle of the highest order, with mental health, with deaths, with work… and it’s been liberating in the long run but harrowing on a year-by-year basis. Could do with a new turn of events! Funnily, we’re moving en masse on 17th August. Our first date there all together when we have no plans to come back!

As you get to month’s end, planets will migrate into your true love sector. Jupiter, your ruler, will stay behind and brighten your house of home, but in June through September will also visit your fifth house of love, ensuring you a very romantic summer. (If you live “down under” then you can look forward to a very cozy, loving winter mid-year!)

Oh, I hope so! ♥

This month, Venus, Mercury, and the Sun will move though your romantic sector. Venus will be the first to arrive, from March 7 to 30, and Venus will work with Mars so that you get a number of travel opportunities that will bring a possibility to find love (or to enjoy the love you already have for someone special).

Well, I’m travelling with my love, so does this count?? Spookier still!

Mercury will follow on March 17, and the Sun will enter your romance sector on March 20. As you see, you will soon have a crowd of planets brightening your fun and love sector, so your outlook is very happy for month’s end and in April, even more so! On the full moon, March 29, plus or minus four days, your eleventh house of celebratory events will be lit up brilliantly. It looks like you have a stellar event to attend at some point over the weekend of March 27-28, or shortly thereafter. You may be a bit concerned about how much you’ll need to spend to attend this event, but it seems special and well worth the expense.

What’s so strange about this is that I am signing for the house on the 2nd April – within the four day full moon period, and It will be a stellar event! An understatement to say I’ll be concerned about how much I’m spending, but Susan Miller, you are damn right: it is worth the expense!

This full moon will be in beautiful angle to Mars, so you may need to travel a distance to get there. It will be fun, and you certainly need a chance to relax. This divinely social trend is just the beginning of something bigger to come, dear Sagittarius. You’ll be spinning romantic memories in April, too. We all want to be you!

What a lovely horoscope! And so bizarre that so much of it fits my personal situation. I hope it means the whole universe, stars, moons and earth are all conspiring to wish me this house! Oddly, Steve’s focused on his career – weird since he just finished his job. And the 29th Full Moon seems to be of some importance!

It inspired me a little!

Steve a pris la clef des champs

Steve’s finally free from work! It’s a week away. The money is in the hands of the solicitor. Everything is going well, I hope. I feel at times like this that it would be appropriate to give a little insh-Allah and keep my fingers crossed and do every little superstitious thing I need to do to keep the universe in check.

I’m not sure what state I’ll find him in tonight, given that one pint of beer left him with a terrible headache and he felt completely ill last night. I love the way he went to bed at 9:30 and then laughed at me for getting out of bed at 8:10 this morning, saying I was lazy! Transference I think it’s called!

So… a million things to do before we go, including learning French. The lady on the phone this morning rattled on at such a pace I felt truly terrified. I got to the end with ‘pas de probleme’ – a vendredi prochain – and I hope that everything is in order. Strangely, I believe I called when my father was actually dropping off the cheque.

So, that’s another step closer.

And I still can’t think how it’ll all be!

Phrase of the day:

Prendre la clef des champs. Literally, to take the key to the fields. However, I’m reliably informed by the unreliable internet, that this phrase originated when les champs literally meant ‘free space’ and so to take the key to freedom, or to head for the hills!

J’ai un coup de veine

Well, Steve has three working days left. Seems like forever since it was forty-six! In a week, we will be setting off for La France to buy a property, I hope, I really, really hope! And I’m a quivering bag of nerves and anxiety and excitement, but mostly ‘l’angoisse’ – absolute and utter anguish!

Millions of things to be done beforehand, including MOT (FAIL – I can see it coming!) and probably new tyres and new brakes and a billion other things I can’t afford! and car tax and euros and essentials-packing and xylene and paint-brushes and chaos…

How am I possibly going to coordinate other people when I can’t coordinate myself?!?

In less than 10 days, we will, or will not, be owners of French property. And some of my worries will lift.

Actually owning the house will be a start. Having paid for it, having our name on the deeds, it’s a start. But then other worries occur… wood-worm, asbestos, lead, floodings after this year’s tempest, water heating bills, oil-heating bills, electricity bills, sorting out phones and internet connections and setting up businesses (with help from the lovely Valerie at which has already been invaluable) and registering cars and bikes and transporting stuff. And Oh My God What Am I Doing??!

Maybe, by August, I’ll feel a little less ill.

Steve, however, is demob-happy. He’s excited and giddy and full of plans. I like it. I like that he’s not plagued by these worries, most of which are pretty pointless, but it will be better when they’re under control. I’m such a control freak it’s hard when everything goes a bit crazy, though the last three years have taught me a bit about living on the edge. Steve’s got three working days left, including a half day where he’s going out for dinner, and his biggest worry is that his big boss will do a speech and he’ll have to do a speech. Public speaking isn’t for him. Strangely, I don’t mind it. I’ll speak to millions of people, all at once.

And I’m glad he’s excited. He deserves to be. I like this relaxed, carefree Steve. I’m hoping it doesn’t all end in a panic and chaos. But I think he’s looking forward to frugal living, having made his big purchases to see him through. Some kind of ‘sucked toffee’ thing (I’ve still not worked out what it does…) that made me think ‘that’s a year’s worth of house insurance!’ and a mini-moto for Jake. We’re set about by ‘reclaimed’ items that he’s bringing with him. Used shower, anyone?? But he has got rid of the safe, which to be fair, I have mixed feelings about. I liked it, in all honesty. It made me feel a bit like I was going to be running a town in a Western. And he’s given it to his mum. However, in the name of sense, we didn’t need it and so I’m kind of a bit relieved we don’t have to take it with us… even though I liked it, in a non-bank-needy kind of way.

So I’m still not sure how he’s planning on getting all this into one van and across to France. I’m not going to ask!

I’m hoping that I just manage to make it through without complications and that I don’t fall apart before then.

Inside it all, I’m hoping I’ve landed on my feet (once again!) and that it all goes to plan. It’s about time something did! I can’t wait until I can actually say the house is mine, and that Les Ecures is mine, and that I have a new address. I can’t wait to move on with address labels (I have the cutest designs in mind!) and letting everyone know, winding down here and starting up somewhere else. I feel a bit superstitious about it all, like not announcing a pregnancy until it’s really necessary, just so as not to bring bad luck to it. I don’t want to say the words of my address as if something bad will happen to stop it in its tracks, a bit like Chez Blanchard, though I hope we’re far enough down the line for it to be fine now. Still, I’m terrified that a week next Friday, I’ll be coming out of Maitre Ferrant’s without my keys and crying my eyes out because it’s all fallen apart at the seams, when really, secretly, I’m hoping that I’ll be going over at 3:00 to our new home, and seeing the delight on Steve’s face. I wish I was more in control of the outcome!

So, from now until then, I’ll be reading my stars and taking their advice; I’ll be tipping my proverbial hat to magpies (saw five together today, and then two… I’m hoping for good!); I’ll be watching out for black cats!

And, maybe, just maybe, j’aurais un coup de veine!

j’ai tiré le bon numéro

Despite all my innate cynicism about the Government/banks/systems/taxes/petrol costs/EDL marches/UAF marches and every other petty bureaucracy/ hate-crime that seems to make me sadder about humanity and society, I have to say, those around me are wonderful. I’m very lucky.

My parents and grand-parents have made me a feisty, resilient, independent, confident go-getter with the spirit and drive to do what I wanted. I was born lucky because I was born in their family. From my father, I learned the gift of the gab, the charm and honest sincerity that win people over. I learned optimism and I learned that if you fail, you can get back up again. I learned that we continue to grow and develop, to become, every minute we’re alive. We aren’t what we were a moment ago. He taught me to smile and to pick up the pieces and move on. He taught me to be brave and to believe anything is possible. I never yet had a single argument with my dad. Not one.

Yet, I’m not my father through-and-through. Some of my best qualities are those I got from my mother. I learned to be honest and to be kind. She let me have independence, hard as it was for her to give, and she let me grow. She nurtured me and let me be what I needed to be, even if that wasn’t always likeable. She taught me that happy endings exist, in other ways than my father did. She taught me the quiet happiness of sewing, creating, making, growing.

And I’m my Gramps – stubborn and obstinate, steadfast and hard-working – And I’m my Nana – a nurturer, a cook, proud of what I’ve achieved.

They taught me that you can be what you choose to be, that life isn’t always fair, not to settle. And some things they taught me by omission. My Gramps taught me life is too short, because his was and there were still things he hadn’t done. He taught me to seize the moment, because it’s gone too quick. And my dad taught me frugality, by not having any! And my mum taught me not to worry, because she worries all the time, and she taught me optimism is better than pessimism.

I’m lucky to have them. And I’m lucky for my other relatives, too; my sister, who is my rock when I need her; my brother who is most like me, I guess. My uncles and aunts. I’m surrounded by good people. And in many ways, it gave me a blinkered view of life, because I thought this was how people are, when in reality, there’s petty grievances and jealousy and hatred and nastiness. I’m sad I had to learn the world isn’t like my family. I wish that was one lesson I’d never learned in life, but, if anything, it taught me that my family are different and precious.

And I’m lucky I have got Steve, my rock and inspiration through all of this. He brings me a calm I never knew before, and a peacefulness and a happiness I never thought would ever happen. I love his understated strength, and that people really don’t know him very well. I like that he’s something at work that his friends never see, and I like that he’s someone else entirely with his friends than he is at work, and someone else unique with me. He’s an amazing father, despite many difficulties, and he is determined and stubborn and I love that he will lie in that bed he’s made until he’s sorted it out as best he can. He will reap what he sows, but whatever it is he’s sowed, he will still nurture it and do his best by it. And I like that I never knew he could be like that. I like that he’s shy and he worries what people think  – people that matter to him. I like that he is so understated and few people expect him to succeed with such aplomb. He’s intelligent and practical in ways I am not. That makes me lucky.

And luck has brought me to Les Ecures, despite having ‘lost’ a house we never had at Blanchard, and having brought me down a path I didn’t want to tread, job-wise. I’m still here, still standing, and things aren’t as bad as I thought they ever could be.

Things will no doubt turn sour. Money is always an issue, as is work, and worry, and family, and health, and a million small worries at the back of my mind that have the potential to rip the fabric of my life apart – there’s an anxiety there that will never go away, but, just in case you are of the opinion I am one of life’s complainers, I have another string to my bow, too – that is I’m perfectly good at counting life’s blessings when I need to be!

Awash with lies and rusted promises

I’m still slightly filled with a pessimism and cynicism I can’t bite back, but I’ve been glad to read about so many off-the-gridders out there who have opted out of the system for many reasons. My problem, I think, is that I’m a child of the 80s.

You grow up with Thatcherism, with yuppies and Wall St types making cash, watching Greenpeace and falling in with Animal Rights’ campaigners, and something gives. I think I was very anti-establishment as a teenager, joining the humanist society (yeah, not quite sure why… some of it sits well with me, especially the teenage me, where I was more agnostic than believer, but not so much with me now, where I’ve found something vaguely akin to spiritualism) and how I got quite involved in Marxism. I liked seeing parts of Cuba at work. I like the idea that everyone is valuable and that society should reward us as such, that we should have enough to eat and not surplus, that we should have enough to live and enjoy life. I like the ideas. Practically, we know it doesn’t work. Bureaucracy is endemic, as is time-wasting and often fear. The State has become more important than the individual, and no ‘body’ is more important than its constituents, in my belief. Maybe it’s that my beliefs are more Confucius than Spiritual!

Anyway, I’d kind of fallen into the work-money-eat-sleep routine, and I’d forgotten what it was to enjoy life, to enjoy nature, to fight against my own cynicism with a healthy dose of respect for nature. Funny that I’ve been to some pretty spiritual places throughout my trips. I AM militant. I AM a champion of lost causes. I LIKE to argue and fight and make a small stand in my own small way, and I think I’d forgotten what I was fighting for. I think this cynicism with society, banks, politics, it’s all sent to remind me that there’s another path for me to take, one I might enjoy walking a little more than I did. Kind of like when I quit St Mary’s. It was tough, to leave employment, to find my own space, but whilst my life is poorer, I think it’s better. I sleep. I have time to be me. I can write. I have the happiness I sought and never found in work.

Coming back to the Humanist thing, though, I think now I’m more inclined to believe that there’s something greater at work, something that powers us all, something that moves us on, that connects us. I don’t know what that is. It’s a bit like the wind to me, a wind of change that steers people in certain directions if they heed the universe. I’m more of a Paulo Coelho convert these days, and I want to see that magic back in the world.

Le roupie de sansonnet

The rupee of a starling, apparently. Worthless. Which is what my bank is. Again, I come back to the notion that they’re all out to get us. I’m feeling rather paranoid, these days!!

I’m still waiting, almost 3 weeks on, for a new bank card. I can’t begin to explain the complications, including being unable to get car tax, to cash cheques, to get an MOT…. you’re worthless without that bit of plastic. Whatever happened to real money??!

I don’t know if this is because Steve came home with a huge safe yesterday – one of the old-fashioned types. I like it. It’s a bit like one of those old bank robbery safe jobs. You screw it to the floor and it’s heavy and you can’t do much by way of moving it. I think I like this idea. The only thing is, it’s becoming impossible to pay by cash.

Utilities companies give you money off for direct debits, as do telephone companies. I’d have to walk into Bolton to pay my council tax, and I’m not sure how the Halifax and Legal & General stuff would operate, but I’m getting leaner and leaner on Direct Debits. I used to have loads. Every time I got a pay rise, I’d give a little to a charity via direct debit. I had all my utilities and phones and Sky and so on coming out of there. I’m looking forward to France being simpler by default, though I am worried about not being able to open an account. Surely, you have a right to open a bank account??!

I have to say, I despise the banks. My bank charges me an account fee, which supposedly covers travel insurance and the likes. I get breakdown cover, which is fine, and travel insurance – also fine, but I don’t use anything else. Probably, the cost of these two things is smaller than the fee of £12.00 a month I pay. I’ve also got into a nasty habit of having a couple of bills run over each month (thanks, Bolton Council, for leaving the roads impassable and your residents to stay put. I lost over £800 due to snow-bound clients) and so I get charges which then make me miss another payment, and so on the cycle goes. When I can be free of all of this, I’ll be so glad. No mortgage on the new place, no gas bill. So…

  • electricity, which we hope will be increasingly solar. Steve was running through circuit designs last night; we’ve talked about having under-floor heating and a back boiler, solar-powered water heaters and so on, but he’s planning on using an air compressor and so on with his tools, bringing down costs further, as with the generator and so on.
  • the phone. Unavoidable. We’ve still not decided on mobiles, what with contracts and so on. How many will we need??! I’m hoping we’ll get by with two, plus the walkie-talkies. I’m guessing one contract and one PAYG – though I wish they both were ‘off-grid’ PAYG phones!
  • water: again, lots of recycling thoughts going on, as with boreholes and wells. Hmmmm.
  • taxe fonciere and habitation. Birth, death and taxes.
  • my contact lenses!

I’m hoping I can get those on the cheap over the counter in England and not have to bother with messing about. So… electricity, phone and water. Simple!

I’m also sick of their hypocrisy. I feel like it could all collapse in moments, and we could end up with a worse recession. Only today, the EU are warning England to cut debts. I feel like it’s impossible to live in a culture where money-borrowing is endemic at the absolute highest echelons, and then they pick up on the little man and slap huge fees on for everything. It’s immoral.

In this internet culture, ‘ether-trails’ are everywhere. Everyone knows your business. It’s so risky. I’m feeling like I should invest in gold or something, in case it all falls apart. Oh, how quickly I turn into a completely paranoid freak!! It’s amazing to me that banks really haven’t existed that long (though money lenders have!) and we trust them with some kind of innate ignorance that worries me a great deal. Even when they rob us, even when they have huge payouts, which they justify and feel no pain in taking, even when they collapse in on themselves, rocking the world, we still trust them.

And the arrival of the beautiful cast-iron safe marks a further departure I feel into the life of an outlaw! Still, beats putting it in envelopes in my Dior shoebox, I guess!

Banks: give details to outside stakeholders, notify the government of huge cash transferences (which is fair enough if you’re a money launderer, but surely it’s the government’s job to hound them, not the innocent masses. Oh, silly me, I forgot! Blanket punishment for all because of some Al Capone types out there. As if the Al Capone types don’t know how to get around with the IOM accounts and Channel Island accounts and offshore accounts in the Caribbean and Swiss bank accounts. Like banks have morals – look at all those Swiss banks who hid stolen Jewish artworks and jewels and cash! Let’s shut the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted!

I might start my own bank. The bank of Emma.

I did see, however, a brilliant Trigger Happy TV clip which about sums up my way of gaining revenue en France….

Setting up a ‘troll toll booth’ across the D6!

je suis une cynique

I’m just about up to the back teeth with this country. Cheating, lying, swindling politicians, potholes all over, rancid buildings à la ‘1960s USSR’, ridiculous policing that’s more bothered about car speeds than hooligans, gang culture, chavs, the benefits system, “asylum” seekers who give a bad name to those really in need of asylum, story after story of scandal and misbehaviour… and I get a letter from Bolton Council to say they won’t backdate my council tax rebate because ‘ignorance of the rebate isn’t a good enough reason’ for them to back-date it. I’ve paid into the system for all my life. I’ve worked since I was 11. My mother never claimed benefits, even when she could have done. I went to a private school on a scholarship, so I cost the tax payer nothing for my 11-18 education. I have grafted every single day of my adult life. I’ve paid 40% tax at some points in my life. And because I’d rather be self-employed than on incapacity benefit for my bipolar disorder, they’d rather not give me any money. I still haven’t claimed a penny. I still pay council tax. And here I am, eating spaghetti with tinned tomatoes for my lunch because I can’t afford anything better. Spaghetti and a tin of tomatoes will keep me going for 4 lunches for less than £2.00. It disgusts me. I can’t afford to buy washing powder, or bleach, or conditioner for my hair. And yet I have worked every day of my adult life. I worked hard. I didn’t claim benefits even when I could. And because of that, I’m being punished.

Not only that, I can’t open a bank account because I’m self-employed and I’ve only got 1 tax year’s summary because I’ve only submitted one set of accounts. I can’t, therefore, get a job that needs a bank account. I’m still waiting for bank cards that I asked for 14 days ago, and yet my bank harasses me as soon as they think I might go overdrawn. Bankrupts are treated better than this. It’s no wonder people declare themselves bankrupt. I’d be able to open a bank account if I’d just come out of prison, yet I can’t because I’m self-employed. So… those on parole, those who can’t manage their finances, those who are benefits’ hounds, they’re the ones who have privileges. If you’ve got credit, if you use catalogues and have cards, and store cards and HP and loans, then they’ll lend you money. But not me.

I hate this country and how it treats its citizens. It’s all about money. I earn enough to live (just!) and yet I still get slapped for tax and I pay my prescriptions, even though my drugs are cheaper than a prescription price, and I pay to see, because I need glasses, and I pay car tax, even though the roads are full of potholes. And my local council can go cap in hand to the government and get more cash. I can’t. If I can’t pay my bills, the bailiffs come round, not someone from the government with some more cash. I pay more than enough for my bank account, and they, more often than not, are responsible for pushing me over the edge when they slap on fees. £10.00 for 5 pages of bank statements exactly the same as the print-offs I had, but the bank I’m trying to deal with in France only accepts ‘bank’ copies, not mine, and so I pay, even though it probably cost a pound to print and post them. £217.00 to get from here to London on the train. £7.00 return from here to Bury on the bus. RIP-OFF Britain. And I’ve had enough.

It makes me sick.

We’re being constantly spied-on and monitored, and The Matrix is alive and well, people, and we’re living in it!

Today’s news:

terror; strikes; terror & strikes; expenses scandals; Budget reports; Income Tax rises; NI rises; man has heart-attack after yobs bait him; pay rise for MPs & pay freeze for doctors; Falklands’ rows; vanishing species of flowers; birds fall from the sky….

Now, of course, you and I are rational people. We know this is media spin. Bad News makes Good News. Good News makes Bad News. No-one likes to hear about animals being saved, or kind people, or how much we give to charity, but it’s just beginning to get to me. I’m a nihilistic sort of person suffering from anomie. Marx and St Simon were right. I can’t stand all this corporationism and globalization, despite its positives. Yes, I can be in touch with people at the touch of a button. Yes, the internet gives me reading and information and TV and it’s great. What I don’t like is all the negativity.

So… in a way, I’m looking forward to being a bit of a rural terrorist, living off the grid, without gas and a TV line. To some degree, not having a phone would be great too, for business. I’d dearly like to pay only the hospital bills I need to.

I’m just reading:

which asks us what we’d do if our electricity failed. I know, because Steve often forgets to top up the meter until the last minute. I know about living without a fridge – did it at uni. It’s amazing how far you can get without a fridge, and with powdered milk! Not sure how far we’d get without a freezer in France, because I’m planning on freezing a lot of it. Pickling and drying, I guess!! Living without music… a little harder, though you can make your own. Living without light? Candles, fire, early nights. Living without TV. Not so hard at all. Living without the internet? Not so sure.

Maybe this blog is kind of spiritual in the sense of sharing with an unknown world. My words are out there, even if no-one’s reading them.

So… a moneyless existence, by and large. How ridiculous I was thinking of getting a horse, yesterday, because along with my bike, I’d need only public transport for longer journeys. No dependence on the car and on oil and petrol! I could wash my clothes in the bath, like I used to at uni, and barbecue stuff and cook it on the range. I could also read by candlelight, and go to bed with the seasons.

Perhaps, then, I should prepare well for an off-the-grid life. I want to be self-sufficient and cash only. That’d work! Except for the taxes. It’s true what they say about death and taxes, you know!

Paul Weller does a good job here of summing up my feelings!

Anyway, having listened to a bit of Bob Marley, a bit of Jimmy Cliff and some ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’, I feel a whole lot better!

Gallivantin’ wi’ gobshites

Steve’s got the packing urge, really, really badly. He’s now packing and labelling things with a fury that is going to outstrip my own. I must add, however, that it’s in his own inimitable rag-and-bone, son-of-Steptoe way. All of the boxes are ‘reclaimed’ and have housed various other objects for various other places. I kind of like that. Boxes with history. They’re all pre-labelled with suitably dull-sounding things, and because his office is moving, there’s a lot of ‘reclaiming’ going on. There’s an OHP and a gooseneck lamp, a drawing board and some large set-squares, about a hundred rulers and pencils and clip-on wrist-bands and drinks mats and bags and rubbers, strange filing systems, previously used box-files and the likes. And there now seem to be more boxes than there were things in the house.

My packing makes my house smaller and more free; his makes his more cluttered. I’ve relegated my boxes to the spare room, and whilst it’s fair to say there are a good load at Steve’s, I’ve still managed to reduce the contents of my house accordingly, and it’s all now squarely secreted away in the downstairs toilet, waiting for April, when it will be moved to France. His packing has taken over the whole house. There are boxes everywhere you look, except in the bathroom.

All this means we’re given to entertain Steve’s friends in amongst the Steptoe Temple that is his front room. Mostly, they seem fairly used to it, as if it’s not unexpected to be sitting between 30 pairs of odd socks, some kettle plugs, a dog harness and a book about the Hell’s Angels. I, personally, shall be glad when I can relegate it to a room I never go in to. I would like to have more space simply so I can hide his findings more effectively. I would like to be able to sit on a settee without half of a laundry draped across it, and without a dog lead working its way up my rear end. I can’t wait for that moment. In the meanwhile, he will have to live in the austere minimalism of my house, which is a zen shrine of simplicity, where everything is tidy and hidden and clean. I think he might implode. I know he will find my house very small and he and all his long limbs will struggle to fit into it, like a giraffe trying to fit into a hen-house. I dread that moment to the point where I’d quite gladly say ‘you go off to France and be free for the next three months, and I’ll bring Jake when school’s over’ as I think Jake and I can manage quite well without the chaos.

Still, perhaps I under-estimate his ability to adapt, just as I have adapted to his clutter and lack of space. Maybe he’ll find it quite liberating, like last night when he shaved his beard off and said he felt like he could run faster now. I suspect he may even find it quite liberating.

I suspect that few of his friends recognise ‘new’ Steve… I think he’s much calmer than he was. Listening to Lennie talk last night about him, I realised what a fine man he is. I never under-estimate him. Nothing he does surprises me. I think he tries to pass off his lack of French as something amusing, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear him have a full-blown conversation. I don’t think he likes to surprise, particularly, just that he doesn’t boast, as I do! However, I think many of his acquaintances – maybe people who’ve never seen him at work – realise his talent. I know his boss, Tina, does – or at least, she seems to, seeing the same in him as I do… a man who is infinitely capable. It’s almost as if many of the people who’ve known him in ‘the real world’ remember how talented and able he is. He is a man of gross understatement. I’m hugely looking forward to seeing what he will become in France: blacksmith, joiner, craftsman, gardener…. I think it’s all up for grabs, and I think the Steve of the future will be a very different man from now. And I don’t say that in ways I wish him to change. I love every inch of who he is now, and I know, deep inside, that my worries about him adapting are unfounded. He will wear this new life it as if it were a garment made especially for him.

feckin’ whingey old Mary Anns!

Over a period of time, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with the quality of people posting on ex-pat forums. That’s a horrible phrase, anyway, ‘ex-pat’, it sounds so…… Malaysian-rubber-plantation-owner-in-a-gentleman’s-club-drinking-gin-and-tonic-wearing-linen-suits… so…Quentin-Crisp-Englishman-in-New-York…. so…. pensioners-from-Merseyside-on-the-Costa-del-Sol…. and I don’t like it. If I’m honest, I prefer ‘immigrant’ to ‘ex-pat’ – that’s how snobbish I am about that word.

Anyway, many of the forums seem full of Malvolio-Malcontent, moaning about everything. They moan about other posters, about schools, about services, about telephones. They moan about neighbours’ dogs. Here’s some of the moans:

First, following the ‘tempest’ yesterday, there are people worried about their houses. I understand this worry, myself, but it has invoked the moaning of the ex-pat community because the original posters haven’t worried about the 40-odd dead.

Second, there’s an ongoing moan about the price of cake and coffee in a local coffee shop. Yes, really.

Then there’s someone moaning that their broadband is bad, and someone else adding to the moan that they are lucky they even get broadband and moaning that they don’t. This seems to be a regular occurrence, superseding a moan with a moan-trump.

There’s people moaning about posters who don’t put a photo with a sale, and those moaning about those who do. Then the moaners moan about those who ask for photos, and those who don’t buy it when they’ve asked for a photo.

There’s a big load of moaners who moan about Ryanair, and then there’s those who moan about those who moan about Ryanair. There’s those that moan about it and use it anyway, but they do love a moan!

The rank seems to go like this today:

1 Moan about the weather

2 Moan about tiles coming off the roof

3 Moan about people who aren’t glad they’re still alive

4 Moan about people who aren’t sorry enough people have died

5 Moan about the price of cake

6 Moan about France Telecom

7 Moan about SFR

8 Moan about Orange

9 Moan about broadband

10 Moan about bank charges

It’s like they’re a nation of ex-teachers. Oh, wait… they probably are!

The worst thing about moaning is that it can really bring others down. Whilst it might do you some good to get it off your chest, it doesn’t do any good at all for those who have to listen to it. It makes me feel pessimistic and worried and sick and panicky and uptight. And it makes me forget there are at least thirty people I already know who don’t moan about it, even though life might be hard, and just get on with it, and are decent people. Bah.

So, there’s the irony: me moaning about moaning.