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Archive for April, 2010

It’s that time of year again… you know, the time when you receive a dreaded blue plastic envelope through the post containing your Declaration d’Impots. Surprisingly these must have been sent at about the same time as Earth day, do the French government not have any concern for the environment? Surely, a recycled paper envelope would be better, although I’m sure they have a good reason (that reason maybe being that a dog cannot eat a plastic envelope?).

I’ve been so caught up in events recently, that I didn’t even realise these blasted things were in the process of being sent out. But lo and behold, despite my busy life, the French tax office certainly did not forget me. How thoughtful of them! Maybe they read my post ranting about not having a right to vote despite paying taxes?

I was intrigued to see that they had pre-completed parts of the form for me. How did they know how much I earned in 2009 and more importantly how did they know about a bank account that both Hubby and I had forgotten about? They just know. But thanks to them we’ve located an account where we have about 100 Euros and earn a teeny tiny amount of interest each year. That’s saving for you! Of course, I now have to check everything to make sure that they’ve got it all correct so I now know what I’ll be doing this weekend. It’s going to rain anyway, so it’s not as if I’ll be missing out on any fun outdoor activities.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with French tax returns, this is a true social event. My earliest memories date from my first propery job, where we used to spend our lunch breaks calculating how much income we were allowed to remove in order to pay less tax. French Francs (yes, even though I am not yet 30, I have been working that long) could be deducted depending on how far away you live from your place of work and also whether or not your company provides kitchen facilities. It always was an interesting debate as to whether the decrepid microwave consisted of kitchen facilities.

The basic form is just 4 pages long, but trillions of other forms exist and should be completed depending on what you need to declare. Of course, they don’t necessarily send these forms to you, so you have to know what they are and where to find them. An interesting task indeed!

You also get a 24 page guide on how to complete it and then a new guide with each new form. This makes for great bedtime reading and for anyone with insomnia this may just be a sure-fire way of finding sleep.

Sorry, I’m feeling very sarcastic, so I’ll go and pour myself a glass of wine and I’ll leave the French speakers among you to re-visit this amusing song about the French tax man I posted last year…

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Jardinage Jeudi

Some people are born gardeners, others are not. I tend to class myself in the latter category much to my despair but being a fair-weather gardener is probably part of my problem. My Mum however is an excellent gardener and I frequently envy the satisfaction she gets from her garden and the hobby it has become for her over the years. I’m much better watching the gardening shows on the TV than actually pretending to have green fingers, so here goes…

There’s nothing better to take the Apero in a lovely garden, surrounded by flowers and plants, or to eat home grown produce.

We don’t have a real garden per se, more like a courtyard style back yard and as we don’t have any flower beds we are limited to growing stuff in pots. We did have a great garden in the UK but it was big and needed way too much maintenance so we’re quite happy with the downgrade.

In fact, we’re more than happy, living in a city we’re very lucky to have any outside space at all yet alone a space we can actually call a garden.

Therefore, as soon as the weather turned good, we got our gardening gloves on just like we did last year and the year before. This was also spurred on by the Flower market (with the frog band) we attended the weekend before where we purchased lots of lovely (but unidentified flowers).

So folks, I’m going to need your help please – can anyone assist in identifying any of these flowers and telling me what they like/don’t like please?

Unidentified Flowers 1

Unidentified Flowers 2

Unidentified Flowers 3

Other than the flowers, we’re re-growing tomatoes this year. Some of the tomato plants we bought, others we found growing in the pots from rotten tomatoes we forgot to remove last year. This proves that this should be a fairly easy task to have home grown tomatoes as it would appear they grow on their own!

Teeny tiny tomato plants

We were luck in that we had a few survivors from the frost and snow; thym, oregano, chives and strawberry plants which have now infested the garden (I didn’t know what rampant meant in French/gardening terms until now). How the cold did not kill these I do not know especially as it managed to kill a lot of my other hardy plants.

The strawberry infestation started from here

A surprise was the kiwi tree that Hubby purchased last year. It has always been this small weedy thing and was rather overwhelmed by the Rosemary. We actually thought it was dead just a month or so ago and now it seems to be growing at an incredible speed. At this rate it’s going to be vying for competition with the strawberries in taking over the garden.

Kiwi, Strawberries and Rosemary

For good measure and because Hubby tells me it will keep the mossies away, we’ve also thrown in some Geraniums. I’m not overawed with these yet as they look a bit scrawny and I’m not keen on the leaves but hopefully with some TLC they’ll turn out all right. Here’s hoping.

Geraniums

Anyhow, after much rummaging in the garden shed trying not to befriend any spiders or creepy crawlers, I ran out of pots so I haven’t been able to pot the Lavender and Mint as yet, which is probably just as well as I’m not sure whether they prefer sun or shade? Also, I don’t as yet know where I’m going to put them in the small space I have left!

& we bought this because it looked pretty!

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When we were living back in the UK for a few years, I often used to reminisce on how much I missed French markets. Whenever we came back to France for holidays or business, I would always be quick to identify where the nearest market would be and would do everything I could to ensure I was able to go. Hubby would often then be quick to point out that when we were living in France I’d never go to the market, except on the rare occasions my parents came to visit. Yet, I had the option to go if I wanted.

Where we based in the UK that option didn’t exist, the only markets we had were once a month when we were lucky enough to have a farmers market – but you cannot compare the measly show of produce at the farmers market with the fabulous 5 sense experience of an authentic French market.

So, yesterday, I had a ‘I’m going to live the French life’ moment. I hauled my sorry backside off the sofa at the very unheavenly (for me) time of 9am and got dressed up for market day! Getting dressed up didn’t mean heels and lippy for me as it would for many French women, but I lost the Crocs and put on a trench instead of a fleece. After dusting off my bright orange shopping trolley (always known to me as a Granny bag), off I set, avoiding the cumbersome dog poop on the way, to visit my local Villeurbanne market in Les Grattes Ciel.

The sun was shining and as I advanced on my walk the streets got busier and busier. So much for the super chic French women I was expecting to encounter though, this was more the polyester and viscose parade. Obese women dressed in brightly colored bags hanging over their bodies and looking like they’d gone out in their slippers. So much for loosing the Crocs! Okay, so Villeurbanne isn’t exactly the 6th Arrondisement its Lyons poor neighbor or sometimes falsely called Lyon’s 10th Arrondisement. Les Grattes Ciel is the quartier where I live; it’s a perfectly acceptable working class neighborhood traditionally inhabited by Italian immigrants and built during the Art Deco era.

I’m slumming it here market wise though, my Beaux Parents (doesn’t Beautiful Parents in French sound better than the In Laws in English?) live in Provence and we’ve always been spoilt for choice on deciding which market to go to whenever we visit them. As they’re surrounded by beautiful villages and markets they’ve become a bit blasé about the whole thing, but they still humor me 11 years on whenever we go to visit even. It has to be said the markets in Provence are absolutely fantastic.

Summer Market in Provence, photo taken in 2009


Provencal Market - The must had Olive Stand. Photo taken in 2009

Back to my market. Approaching the market I stop to get cash and avoid my first two beggars (mendiants) next to the cash machine. Cash in purse, I continue, dodging the Polyester Brigade and continuing with purpose. Next I’m asked to vote for someone about our pensions and I politely explain to the bewildered man that I don’t have any right to vote so it’s useless him talking to me, then I avoid no less than two more beggars before finally arriving in the market.

This market doesn’t take place in a fancy market square, but in large car park flanked by scrubby buildings on one side and the back of the Art Deco buildings on the other. My first sight of the market was not, unfortunately for my eyes, wonderful displays of fruit and veg, but polyester tops costing no less than 5 Euros. I had arrived in the clothing section. Fighting my way through bustle of the clothes section and mildly interested in the cheap socks for sale (until I remembered they’d probably be made from polyester instead of cotton) I battled my way into the food section.

Relief. This is what I’d come to savor. Fresh produce all around me, the beautiful reds of the tomatoes, greens of the peppers, and hold on what is this? Yellows of bananas? All the way from Colombia! It was surprising how much stuff was imported, so much for buying local, seasonal produce for tuppence.

I was in luck though and I continued on my mission filling up my trolley as I went along. A whole pan of green chilies for just 1 Euro, even a free lemon on when stand when I said to the lady that she could keep the 4 cents change she was due to give me.

A mental note was made of the delicious smelling spice stand I saw as well as the fishmongers and butchers. I didn’t need any of this yesterday and didn’t buy as I’d already planned my meals but it’s good to know if it is needed. I did manage to spend over 20 Euros though and I have a Granny bag full of stuff that I’m not yet sure what I’ll do with, but it was good fun and I felt healthy.

I was embarrassed to take pictures as this certainly wasn’t your traditional tourist market. People were not lingering here, no-one was having a gentle traipse around the market for something to be done, everyone had a sense of purpose and I didn’t dare take too many photos for fear of being branded a fool. Why I was worried what people thought I don’t really know, but I did manage to whip out the photo whilst paying at one stand so I could share here. Not the best photo you’ll see of a French market though!

Les Grattes Ciel Market - A rather nice stall.

Seriously lacking for me were the delights of the Provencal market; the fresh olives and tapenade stands, wine, saucisson even cheese. But I’m happy with my market, whilst the clothing is not to my taste from what I immediately saw, it merits to be explored but maybe on another occasion. As for the food, well functional and exactly what I needed and who knows, as we advance into the summer maybe the produce will become more seasonal as I’m not sure much is even grown in April anyway.

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Just before I left the blogosphere for a while, I was honoured to discover that Keith at A Taste of Garlic had written up a great review of PigletinFrance and I had been meaning to post a link to it on here. Better late than never I suppose. Thanks Keith!

I’m not going to try and review his site, I would never do it justice and I have never read so many funny reviews as I have over on there. If you love French related blogs, visit now; although you will be in danger of exploding the number of blogs you bookmark – you have been warned!

Ps. Just whilst writing this I think my spellcheck must be way out of date as it doesn’t recognise the word blog, it keeps wanting to correct to bog. Does anyone else have this problem?

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Something to brighten up an already sunny day…

Photo from the 20 minutes website - click for full article

The French justice Minister wants to engage a penal lawsuit against a photo of a man wiping his bottom with the French flag.

The photo is currently causing outrage in France after it was entered into a competition organised by the FNAC in March and then published in a newspaper in the same month. The photo was entered into the category “politically incorrect”.

The whole story made me smile, its just so wrong to do what that guy did, but I’m not commenting any further just in case, after all, I don’t want a lawsuit as well!

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Photo by Barrysmissen on Flickr

Or should I say, screamer! I mean this is a total scream isn’t it? Given that most summer jobs in France are low paid, the possibility of earning £750 a week to rub sun screen on peoples back on the beach is amazing!

I stumbled upon this article on The Telegraph website a few weeks ago and it has been in the back of my mind ever since.

Apparently, the seaside resort of Les Sables d’Olonne is looking to employ one man and one women to apply sun screen to beach goers during the peak six week holiday period. That’s £4500 for 6 weeks work, not to mention just working 35 hours a week. Way more than I ever earned in a student job!

Not that I’d ever have wanted to spend my holidays rubbing sun screen into peoples backs! EURK! That would be so gross, I’m totally grossed out just thinking about it.

Anyway, for those that are interested, you have until 26th May to send a CV and video in which you need to explain why you would be good for the job!

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Catching Up!
Well, its been a good couple of weeks since I last wrote a post here and its good to be back! I’ve been suffering from writers block (oh, that sounds so serious !) but seriously, I have not been capable of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) due to my world being turned upside town and spun round and round. Personal events in my life had taken a grip on my day to day life and left me first in great expectation and then in deep anguish but I am pleased to report that I’m feeling much better and am back on track. Itching to write!

As Graham Green said: “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition”

Cadbury’s Eggs
I have found over the last week that writing is an excellent from of therapy so me being back here is proof in the pudding. A Cadbury’s cream egg that arrived today from the UK has also been of much assistance and tasted so delicious that I just had to write about it! Whilst biting into the yummy milk chocolate (which wouldn’t be considered as chocolate in France) it came to my attention that British chocolate really does taste difference. Now I am seriously worried what will happen to my beloved crème eggs now that Cadbury have been taken over?

Weather – Sun & Ash
Since I last wrote, the weather has definitely taken a turn for the better and we have had two consecutive sunny weekends in Lyon which have been fabulous. No signs of volcanic ash here even though the airports are still closed although there has been a horrible burning smell today although I think that is more to do with our neighbours bonfire! It did have me wondering this morning though!

Its been quite fascinating stuff to watch everyone’s great struggles to get home on the TV, they’re have been some pretty amazing stories of how people have walked, cycled and maybe swam (I don’t think anyone did but that just sounds good doesn’t it?) to get home. Obviously those with money have been more financially able to make arrangements than those on tight budgets, I mean seriously, would you pay a couple of thousand Euros to get home in a taxi? I doubt I would (I mean if I could financially) although it would really depend where I was stuck and whether my airline was paying for my accommodation or not. Stuck in the Bahamas or somewhere exotic, no, I would probably stay there but if I was stuck in somewhere obscure with not a lot going on and I had the money then I’d definitely pay up!

Another Strike, another moan by me
What’s really got me is that the French SNCF are still carrying on with their strikes. I’ve been so disconnected recently that I didn’t even realise they were striking again, but now I know its been ongoing and the transport system in France is in crisis. Surely the French army should commandeer the trains that are not running due to the strike and help people continuing to move? They could be milking this for every penny which would no doubt pay for the extra money they want to earn or whatever it is this time. I just don’t see how they can continue to strike when so many people are in difficulty and are trying to get home – not to mention the fact that it’s the school holidays. I find anyone who can strike during a transport crisis to be of incredible selfishness. I’ll stop on the subject of the SNCF now that I’ve relieved myself of that gripe.

Frog Band & Plant Market

Frog Band


On Sunday there was a plant market in Les Grattes Ciel near where I live, so being in an inspired gardening mood (I am a fair weather gardener) off we went to buy some more plants for our garden.
Les Grattes Ciel is an Art Deco district in Villeurbanne and I am a great fan of Art Deco architecture and design. In fact, my home is in an Art Deco building and when I went to Miami a few years ago I spent all my time taking pictures and admiring the Art Deco buildings there.

The shopping area is a wide avenue lined with trees that ends with the rather grand Mairie, a beautiful white/grey building with huge Art Deco pillars, a really fantastic building but so difficult to capture in a photo. The street was transformed into a pedestrian area and was lined with all sorts of stalls selling many variations of plants and flowers, so many in fact the street looked like a garden centre.

It was a really lovely morning out, with the street cafés open and so many people meandering around, buying plants and flowers. I actually wondered whether all these people had gardens as lots of people here live in apartments and I wondered whether thanks to this market there would be a lot more flower boxes this year. I will have to keep an eye out for those.

Frog Band outside the Town Hall


Everything was topped off by a very animated Frog Band playing fanfare music that had me jigging around like a demented person who couldn’t control their feet. I really didn’t want to jig but with the sun and the music my feet kept jigging much to the embarrassment of my Hubby! I was rather fascinated why they were dressed up as frogs but didn’t want to ask for fear of being misinterpreted. Also, I don’t think they would have heard me as they didn’t stop playing for hours on end.

Now we just have to plant the rest of the stuff we bought and when we do I’ll take some proper pictures and maybe someone can help us in identifying what we purchased!

Rubbery Man
I’ve been following Sion’s Faux Pas Fridays over at Paris (im)Perfect for quite a while and have enjoyed laughing until my sides hurt, but last night I had a reversed faux pas of my own thanks to Hubby. He asked me how to spell Rubbery, so I politely spelt it out for him R U B B E R Y. I then wondered why on earth he wanted to know how rubbery was spelt (we were playing on our Iphones – quite sad I know but hey, this is my generation) so I asked him. He replied that it was for a game he wanted to register to play. So, what type of game I asked thinking it was really weird. Texas Hold’Em he replied. Ahhhh, imagine a light bulb in my head slowly lighting up. He wanted to know how to spell ROBBERY. Poor guy, he was registered as RUBBERY, it was too late! We had a laugh and I don’t think anyone wanted to play against him as he soon shut down the application!

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