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Archive for October, 2009

A beautiful phone for ugly conversations

Yesterday was a true reminder that I am a foreigner living in France and that it is easier to be French living in France, or, at least have a decent French accent when you speak the language!

I borrowed Hubby to help me with some work as I needed to cold call a number of large organisations to set up some appointments. I’m not into cold calling but this type of activity never used to daunt me in the least when I was doing it in the UK. But, in France, I absolutely HATE speaking on the telephone.

The reason I hate speaking on the phone so much is often people make out they can’t understand me at all, but funnily enough if I shout at them they miraculously understand, although shouting down the phone isn’t very professional for an important business call! In fact, some people are so rude (I’m thinking of certain professions who are renowned for being obnoxious) that they don’t even consider that even though they don’t understand me I may just understand them and say things like “oh my god, I’ve got a bl***y foreigner on the phone, can’t understand a word she’s saying”. Of course, the latter is said in French and of course I understand!

So, I convinced Hubby to help me and was amazed when he managed to set up two major appointments for me in the space of two days. I’d had a go with exactly the same places in September and couldn’t get passed the secretary for her saying “err, can’t understand you, what do you want?”.

I’ve asked some of my French business contacts with whom I speak regularly on the phone if my French is that bad and they cannot understand what the problem is. Fortunately it is not everyone I call who re-acts in this way but it is a lot and it is very frustrating. Maybe I should work on my accent some more or maybe I should just buy myself this gorgeous phone I found on the internet so I’ve got something pretty to look at whilst I try and call such ugly minded people?

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Its now the time of year when the French tax man bleeds you dry. During October I paid the Taxe Fonciere, in November I have the Taxe d’Habitation to pay and also the social security debt tax which I forgot the name of but is basically due because in 2008 I earned my income outside of France. Whilst no income tax is due on my earnings thanks to the double tax treaty I still have to pay a 12% tax on it…

It hit me that France penalises you for owning a property. In any country it is a privilege to own a property and is not something that is accessible for everyone, I’m aware of that. But in France it really is a privilege and you will be taxed for the rest of your property ownership days just to remind you of that!

First, when you buy a property you will pay horrendously high notary fees which comprise your stamp duty etc (in the region of 6 – 10% of the property price for existing property depending on the price). Then every year after you pay the Taxe Fonciere which is an exclusive tax paid for by property owners. You then also pay the Taxe d’Habitation which everyone who owns or rents a property pays. How unfair is that?

Oh, and I forgot to mention, all this in a country where I do not have the right to vote at National Elections… Bitter, moi? Never!

It appears the French feel very similar, Les Inconnus did a fantastic song about Les Impots, if you understand French you have to watch this, its so true!

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Last weekend I decided to impress my French friends with some traditional English cooking.

On Friday, I made Somerset Pork, a delicious pork and apple recipe from Somerset not far from the region where I used to live in the UK. I served the Somerset pork with mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden.

I now realise where English food slips up – presentation! My presentation was appalling and thank goodness it tasted good otherwise English food would have taken another hit! I was too embarrassed to take a photo in front of my friends but I can pretty much describe my presentation: I created a layer of mashed potato, then added the pork chop on top of that and then the sauce. As the sauce was quite heavy with onions and apples it ended up looking like slop on a plate! But boy it did taste good and everything finished their dishes!

I didn’t have the proper recipe so I made up my own based on what I could remember doing before. Here it is:

Serves 6:
6 Pork Chops
1/3 Cider (brut not sweet)
2 Canada Apples, finely sliced.
2 Onions, finely sliced.
Sage
Chicken gravy

Brown off the pork chops in a little oil with the sliced onions. Place the chops in an ovenproof dish and continue cooking the onions until soft. When the onions are soft, poor in the cider and add the sliced apples. Add the sage and season to taste. Prepare some chicken gravy and add a little to the cider sauce mix to thicken it up. Cover the pork chops with the apple and cider sauce mix. Place in the oven at about 180 degrees Celsius and cook for 40 minutes.

On Saturday, I decided to bake a Victoria Sponge Cake to impress some more French friends with my English cooking. Again, I didn’t have a recipe and I tried looking on the internet and blindly picked a recipe which went something like this:

100 g caster sugar
100 g butter
100 g flour
2 eggs

whisk. Cook for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.

There wasn’t a picture on the site I choose but I’d imagined that my Victoria Sponge would look something like this:

 

Nope. It looked like this:

Victoria Sponge Cake Disaster

Victoria Sponge Cake Disaster

 

 

 

Oops! Have to make sure I do better next time!

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Guilt free chips!

Actifry Picture on Amazon

Actifry Picture on Amazon

Have you ever been on a diet (or supposed to have been on a diet !) and yet had a mad craving for junk food?

SNAP!

I’m desperately trying to loose my excess holiday kilos in a bid to fit back into my bikini this Christmas and yet the other night I had the most desperate craving for chips… Enter Actifry.

Actifry is a new slim way of cooking chips and other fried food – it uses just a spoonful of oil to cook enough chips for two greedy people. You can also cook many other things such as fried chicken, fried rice and potato wedges (to name but a few) all using much less oil than the traditional recipes.

I originally bought my Actifry before seeing it on The Apprentice’s shopping channel week and probably wouldn’t have bought it after as it seemed really naf, but my opinion is that it is really great and a fab way of having chips and other fried food without the guilt…

Now I just have to make cheese have less calories and I’m on to a winner!!!

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