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Archive for December, 2010

What a crappy year 2010 has been for me, probably the worst in all of my 30 years on planet earth. I am delighted to be slamming the door on it and determined after tonight not to look back.

2010 has marked the third continuous year of economic difficulties for the Piglet household as our businesses struggled to survive in a very difficult market and we had to take the decision to move on, both in our enterprises and by selling our home in order to downsize.

2010 has also been an emotional rollercoaster for me, full of emotional highs and lows which have alternated between into the cloud happiness and literally touching rock bottom. It has been a very difficult year emotionally and also medically and has been one that leaves me in tears as soon as I think about everything that has happened. Never before have I been so marked by a years worth of events, yes there has been happiness and sadness before, but never at the levels experienced this year.

Today, the last day of the year, has brought me the last possible piece of professional bad news possible, offering closure on an incredibly disappointing year and at the same time setting me free professionally.

I don’t have any new years resolutions for 2011 other than to live life to the maximum and to allow myself to make what I can of the year with Mr Piglet, in our new home (when we get one) and with our new baby (when she arrives). I am determined that 2011 will offer us plenty of opportunity and I’m going to work very, very hard in creating the happiness that was missing from a rather lackluster 2010 so to break the pattern of crappiness.

So, here’s to 2011! May it bring you all plenty of good health, happiness and prosperity!

The last New Years Eve I felt happy was 2006/2007 on holiday in the Bahamas

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Happy belated Christmas everyone!! Hope you all had a great holiday and that you enjoyed the festivities of the season.

The New Year is just around the corner and the Waiting Game continues in the Piglet household although there have been some small but major developments…

Our bank still has not come back to us on the mortgage despite last Wednesday requesting yet more information from us! I know there has been Christmas in between and all of that, but there haven’t been any bank holidays in France since Christmas day was a Saturday so all the banks have been open as usual.

I was absolutely furious when the request came through as the information they requested had already been supplied once, on their mortgage application form and they had acknowledged receipt of it two weeks prior. If they can’t read their goddamn mortgage application form then what hope do we have of getting a mortgage with them or what hope does the world have given that the world’s economic stability depends on these bankers?

Rather more annoyingly is the questions the bank asked do not relate in anyway to whether we can financially afford the mortgage or not. One of the questions was what my maiden name is, another is in which town was I born? What the hell does that have to do with lending me money? Supposedly to do with money laundering but surely they should have this information or have at least checked it out 4 years ago when I opened my account with them and before they initially lent me money for my first mortgage? It’s not as if I’ve just arrived in France and they don’t have any of my banking history! Argghhh! Needless to say the information was in the application form we submitted and also on my passport and my livret de famille so the fact they had to ask this again really does make one wonder…

In fact, I was so wound up that I could not relieve myself of the negative energy within me and I was absolutely gagging for an alcoholic beverage of some description, but now that I’m preggers I daren’t so much as take a sip of anything remotely intoxicating, so instead I took myself out for a walk, chanting away to myself to calm down and found myself in front of the food shops.

I bought the hottest curry paste I could find and all of the parsnips I could get my hands on and came home and made myself the hottest green curry I could possibly stomach and then had the delights of having our baby girl kick my insides until I felt like I had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Probably not the cleverest thing I could have done but the stress and negativity descended and I started to feel more human again.

On Thursday and in much desperation, I called upon the services of a mortgage broker and have not regretted it at all! Our mortgage application was complete by Thursday afternoon and he submitted it to a number of banks on Christmas Eve and by this Monday, we had already received a mortgage agreement in principle. I should have known that this would be the best way to go about things working in finance myself, but I did not have the energy to try and explain our rather bizarre situation to anyone yet alone countless banks – I know how headnumbingly stupid and illogical they can be, especially before the end of the year which is always a busy time for them.

Still no news from our bank though – I haven’t chased them and won’t do so. I want to see just how long they do take to come back to me so that I can tell them where to stick their mortgage, their bank accounts, their insurance policies and their savings accounts when they do. It will be of a great pleasure to me as we have spent a fortune with them in fees and policies over the past few years so it will be a great pleasure for me to tell them to take hike. Maybe they’ll think long and hard about how they should deal with customers, but then again, who am I kidding? Customer service doesn’t exist in France so what the hell?!

So we’ve finally closed one round of the Waiting Game but now the second round has commenced: we have just made an offer on the house (very low) and once again the ball is not in our court. We will just have to wait and see! Hopefully the estate agent will prove to be more professional than our bank!

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I’m an impatient Piglet and am certainly not renowned for being able to wait for anything, so at the moment it is like I am living through hell as my patience is being pushed to its limits and there’s not much I can do about it.

I debated even writing about this on here as I am also a superstitious person and don’t want to tempt fate in anyway, I need all the luck I can get right now otherwise I won’t have anywhere to live.

Mr Piglet and I have to move out of the city pad on February 15th, after which we will be homeless. We don’t want to ask the buyers for an extension as every month we remain here costs an absolute fortune.

It’s not as if we haven’t found somewhere we would like to live, we have. It is perfect. It is a farmhouse between Lyon and Grenoble and comes complete with a separate 3 bedroom gite with kitchen and living room, which would be perfect for us when having family or friends to stay. The house is plenty big enough for us and offers extension possibilities as well and is full of charm.

We first visited the house about a month ago and ever since I have been dreaming about it. I can see the family living there and can imagine large family Christmases with our huge Christmas tree and a large dining table full of lots of yummy things to eat. It’s a real family house and what’s more it’s not isolated in anyway, the nearest town is just 5 minutes drive away and has all the commodities you can think of (or I can think of anyway).

We’ve even been very British about the whole thing and had a technical survey done on the property which the French do not have done very often. As we’re no experts in old buildings and the house is made of something called pize which looks rather like weetabix to me we wanted to be sure that we know what we’re getting ourselves into before proceeding any further.

This took time to organize and time to get the report back on and in the meantime we started making progress with our mortgage application as we wanted to know exactly how much we can borrow. The house is over our price range and our financial situation has changed over the past few years (not for the better I may add) so it’s all a bit hit and miss at the moment.

Hopefully we’ll hear back from the bank this week and then we’ll be able to make an offer. It’s taking every possible ounce of will power at the moment not to call them to chase everyday, it’s dreadful but we need to wait as knowing that our finance is in place will help tremendously when it comes to making an offer on the property.

At the moment I won’t post anymore but if you want to join me in crossing your fingers, toes and arms then that would be fabtastic!

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Team Pink

Today was a very special day – it was our second official ultrasound and after 10 weeks of speculation, we finally got confirmation that we are TEAM PINK!!! May the shopping commence!

Not looking very comfortable

3D image of Little Miss Piglet's head

Mummy's nose

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I just realized today that I have not posted or been very present on the blogosphere over the past week and wish to apologise to all. I haven’t forgotten you, there’s just been so much going on here that it has zapped all of my energy and left me a quite tired.

Silly pregnant brain has been behaving itself quite well this week, except I did nearly take the tube in the wrong direction after meeting up with fellow Lyonnaise blogger Charley Appenzellar from 365 things I Love About France. Charley is an American writer who has been living in Lyon for the last 8 years and I was absolutely delighted to meet her. Charley is the first expat I have met in Lyon through blogging and I am really pleased that I did. I love her blog as it’s everything mine isn’t and gives me a constant reminder of the reasons I like France and enriches my cultural knowledge of the country at the same time.

We met to have a coffee in one of Lyon’s best pastry shops, Bernachon. I’m so glad Charley suggested it as a meeting place as I enjoyed the liquid chocolate hot chocolate and the most delicate of apple tarts I have ever tasted and have been having cravings ever since. Unfortunately I do not think it would be very wise for me to return anytime soon as strangely enough my weight took a giant leap up over the last week… If you want to indulge yourself in some visual goodies have a look at her blog post here.

Last week was also the week of the famous Lyon illuminations. I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I have never done the “touristy” thing and made a special effort to see them (Mr Piglet is convinced that we went there one year with my parents but I am sure I was ill and that we didn’t go… either way, I have no recollection of going). I did get to see some of them in 2007 but it was different as I was working in the city centre, it wasn’t as if I had made a special effort to see them. With little piglet on its way and our move to the country, I decided that this year we absolutely had to see them.

So, we wrapped up warm and drove head on into the huge traffic jams in the quest to find a parking space not too far away from the city centre as it was freezing cold outside and I was tired. Luck was on our side and we quickly found a space but that was where our luck ended.

We started off our tour by the Chambre de Commerce near Place de la Bourse which wasn’t lit up but is still a gorgeous building and meandered down the Rue de la Republique which is Lyon’s main pedestrian shopping street.

I had hoped to take lots of pictures to share here but after spending a few minutes to set it up so that the flash didn’t go off constantly, I managed to take one photo of Le Printemps building and then the battery died and I was left lumbering around a great big camera for nothing.

Le Printemps - The one photo I managed to take!

Not that you missed much finally. I was grossly disappointed by the few light displays that we managed to see, notably the one near Printemps, which was a water display where you could see a weird film projected on the water – you had to be standing in exactly the right place to see what it was otherwise it was just like looking at green coloured water. It was too arty farty for me and not practical as a display – how on earth were hundreds of people meant to view it at a time when you could only fully appreciate it from one view point?

The other display at Bellecour where a film was being projected on to the big wheel and foam headstones were being squirted out into the air by a big machine was also a let down. Compared to the snowball and ice rink of which I had seen photos of for previous years and had experienced seeing briefly in 2007 I was bitterly disappointed. Freezing cold, craving mulled wine and really peed off with the human traffic jams and people elbowing me constantly, Mr Piglet and I decided to call it a night before I decided to physically assault someone and headed off to seek out a table at our favourite Thai restaurant, Le Petit Siamois where we indulged in not one, but two spicy chocolate fondants for dessert…

If you would like to read someone else’s more positive experience of the illuminations I noticed that Le Franco Phoney had some good pictures and got to visit more of the displays than I could be bothered to.

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Silly pregnant brain had me believing hen had teeth after PIP said they were hard to come by… It’s a wonder I can even function currently, stupidity is becoming my middle name.

Yesterday I poured my coffee in the bin instead of in the sink. I turned the tap on over the worktop instead of the sink. I tried to drive around Lyon at 2330 to drop a letter off for a friend and realized that the car was no longer showing how many kilometers I could do. Not a good sign as it probably means zero. Who knows how long I’d been driving around on the reserve? Without any petrol I wasn’t even sure that I’d make it home and drove very, very slowly. So slowly I would have been stopped by the police for sure. Thankfully I wasn’t, needless to mention I hadn’t thought to take any ID or driving license with me (or money for petrol)…

Silly pregnant brain also led me to fall UP the stairs yesterday. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read correctly. I fell UP the stairs. Thankfully it was only a little tumble and I had a natural reflex to put my hand in front of my bump to protect myself. Other than a few bruises no damage was done. But I’m now going to wrap myself up in cotton wool.

Last night, silly pregnant brain decided to bake a banana cake. It’s been months since I tried to bake anything. But I’d forgotten my kitchen scales no longer worked so blindly guessed all the measurements – have you ever tried to figure out what 175 grams of flour look like? It was totally worth it though as the cake was delicious and served with magic candles it was the first birthday cake I ever baked for Mr Piglet and he thoroughly enjoyed it!

The recipe for the cake I baked can be found here.

So far today silly pregnant brain hasn’t done anything stupid but is very tired so took a nap at lunch instead of eating lunch. Now I’m trying to struggle my way through the afternoon and banish the thoughts of mince pies and Christmas pudding.

French Health Cover Update:
Just a quick update from my last rant – it’s beginning to look as if I won’t have to go to the CPAM social security offices after all! I have been saved from the silliness of the French administrative system, or so it would appear. This morning they deposited a tidy sum onto my bank account! I’m currently working out what it corresponds to payment wise but it is there, on my account! Yipee!

Christmas Tree – be aware of special card holder offers:
Sunday, Mr Piglet and I purchased our Christmas tree. We were going to get a real one but I was flabbergasted at the price and we kind of needed a big one for our living room otherwise it would just be swallowed up. Plus we had the pot from the dead palm tree that the cats peed on and killed, so an ideal location to put a tree.

We found one in Jardiland at 129 Euros down from 159 Euros for shop card carriers (which we are), it measures 2.10 metres. Delighted with the bargain I thought we were getting and exhausted from having to battle with the crowds, I handed over my card and paid.
Only later when I was home did I see the figures on the pin machine flash in front of my eyes. The buggers had overcharged me!! I called and had to take a trip back to the store to get reimbursed the 30 Euros they had overcharged me.

There are two lessons to be learned here:

1. Always check at the till that you’re paying the right price, especially at Christmas time as battling the crowds is no fun.
2. Artificial Christmas trees always seem smaller in the store. Our one is huge! It didn’t seem huge in the shop, but when we got it home and put it up with our decorations we realized that it was a bit too big! We didn’t have enough decorations to decorate it, so we’ve gone for the less is more look…

Our tree and proud Princess sitting next to it!

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All house hunting has been pretty much on standby this week as Lyon and most of Europe got a major dumping of snow and roads and motorways became best avoided if possible.

So I’ve been able to enjoy a nice relaxing week of home and work and what better way to start the month of December than with a blanket of snow? Even my blog has snow on it although I’m not quite sure how that happened but I’m not complaining!

Major snow dump in my back garden

I’d been feeling pretty down in the dumps because we’ve decided to have a stay at home for Christmas this year and I hadn’t been feeling at all Christmassy. But snow in December is not something I can remember ever having seen before and it has really got me in the mood for Christmas. Poor Mr Piglet however is getting rather fed up of me constantly singing out of tune Christmas tunes and I’m sure he’ll soon be ready to pay me to stop.

Prize from Littlewoods Europe

We’re off to get our Christmas tree today, but in the meantime I’ve been enjoying setting up an advent calendar. I was lucky enough to win this hand crafted, wooden advent calendar on the Littlewoods Europe Wordless Wednesday competition. I’m really glad I did, so a big THANK YOU the LW team! There’s nothing more magical for me than the opening of an advent calendar each day and I’m sure little Piglet will enjoy it for years to come also when she arrives!

Better not eat too many of these... Delish!

I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been having a moan about something though. This time it was the lack of British Christmas products in France that set me off as I had yet another craving for a Mince Pie. In the good old days when M&S were still here, I needn’t go without anything, however, not many expats live around here and there aren’t any Brit food stores (the closest one I know of is Jim’s near Geneva). So imagine my surprise when I was in Monoprix yesterday and came across Mince Pies?! I yelped with excitement causing a stir amongst fellow shoppers who all turned round to investigate what was causing my excitement. I stuffed four boxes of them into my trolley, vowing to go back and get more if they were nice. At 3.50 Euros for 4 they weren’t cheap but they made my day and sometimes happiness doesn’t have a price.

Whilst I was out and about in the city, I was full of admiration for how beautiful Lyon looked under the snow and managed to brave the ice like temperatures outside of my car to take some pictures:

Have you had snow this week and has it made you feel festive?

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