Friday, 26 February 2010

Cock a doodle doo!

I heard an interview on the radio this morning publicising a bird show (the feathered kind, sorry!) being held this weekend not far from here. Throughout the interview, there was a cockerel crowing at the top of it's lungs. It was so loud and irritating that you could hardly hear what the woman was saying. If anybody having heard this interview goes out and buys a cockerel, they can't say they weren't warned! According to the interviewee, they crow like that when they want to make babies. I can now see why the cockerel is the national emblem of France!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Why I love living in France, Part Two

.... Say no more!

I love a good read!

You can tell a lot about people from the books they read. Not a half a mile away from us is Emmaus which is a second hand outlet set in an old Victorian railway station. The customers, and especially the people who work there could be characters in a book, but that's for another post!

In my efforts to de-clutter, I finally put the bin bag full of outgrown winter coats in the van and took them to Emmaus. As a young schoolgirl, I had a brief career working part-time in the Oxfam shop. The smell in Emmaus takes me back more years than I care to remember. Funny how second hand clothes and rejected household objects smell the same wherever you are in the world. Anyway, I digress - in those far back days, the manageress of the Oxfam shop was always less irritable if instead of just off-loading their junk, people took the time to buy something, so I always have a look round at the clothes in Emmaus and have had some real bargains in the past. They sell clothes BY WEIGHT, if you please, making it the cheapest place on the planet for kids' tee-shirts and even my denim skirt (the last thing I bought from there, only cost €1.20! I wear it a lot in the summer, more flattering than shorts at my age.

Anyway, this trip was a bit disappointing on the clothes front - they must have offloaded some stock to Haiti, since there was very litttle in the clothes section so I meandered over to the book area which is enormous. In the past, the English book section consisted of only three books including a Stanley Gibbons stamp directory from 1963 so I was very pleasantly surprised to find no fewer than three shelves devoted to English books.

Here is what I bought:

Your Talking Cat by Jack Richter
Men are from Mars ... by John Gray
End the Struggle and Dance with Life by Susan Jeffers
Websters New World Medical Dictionary (brand new, complete with CD!)
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy (also brand new)
Bizzarre and Eccentric People by Nigel Blundell
Analyse your Dreams (also brand new)

Pineau's not remotely impressed by my bargain books!

For the princely sum of €3.75, these books have kept me happily entertained throughout the two weeks half term school holidays whilst the kids have commandeered the TV for the Wii and Dear Daughter (11) the computer. Note to self, must remind DD who the computer actually belongs to ... when I've finished this chapter!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Reasons why I love living in France (Part 1)

It was brought home to me again yesterday how honest and straightforward the French are. A little old lady dropped a €20 note out of her pension book without noticing in the post office in town, and three people leapt to her aid and fell over themselves to give her the note back.

It reminded me of what could have been a very unpleasant incident a couple of weeks ago. I always walk the dog around the lake in Saujon on a Saturday afternoon whilst Dear Daughter (11) is in her art class at Royan. It's a very popular beauty spot for courting couples, fishermen and dog walkers, as well as the local boules club. When I returned from my walk after around an hour, I realised to my total horror that the car door was wide open on the passenger side and my handbag was on the passenger seat. I truly believed that the car had been broken into. To my absolute amazement, it was me that had left the door open, and the handbag was right where I left it, in full view of all the passers by.

Last summer, one of our holidaymakers left a new camera and his wallet on the beach - it had dropped out of their beachbag. They went to the police station at Royan to report it missing for their eventual insurance claim, and couldn't believe their luck that both had been handed in. This was in August, when the beaches round here are all absolutely packed.

When things get me down, like now, for instance, it does no harm to notice these things, where else in the world would such incidents occur?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Problems with Paypal in France

My first client in the US, when I started my VA business, wanted to pay me via PayPal. This suited me, especially since the account was already set up from buying off EBay. PayPal came in handy again when one of our summer visitors, who at that time was moving from the USA to France and had no French bank account, used it to pay for his holidays. That was a big mistake! The relatively large sum of money he transferred showed on PayPal's radar and, back in July 2009, they blocked the account. Unfortunately for me, they allowed me to have funds paid into the account for some bits of writing I did, but they refused to allow me to withdraw funds until I could prove my identity.

Times are hard for us in the winter season here at Chez Belliveau, especially with the arrival of the Christmas credit card bills, so every bean has to be counted. Besides, it's not the principle, it's the money!

I have now sent PayPal no fewer than 15 separate pieces of paper saying who I am, but STILL they refuse to unblock the account. They will only accept certain documents in my name only and for one reason or another (joint bank account, utility bills in DH's name) I can't provide them. "Well, Janet, ring them up and explain", I hear you say!

I was hoping you'd suggest that – the saga continues!! PayPal have a computer which answers their phone and after you've keyed in the phone number you are ringing from (why?) and your file reference, you listen to that irritating Musak –whose invention was that? They should be shot at dawn. Bizarrely, they have a recording of somebody shuffling paper (I'm not kidding!) presumably to give the impression of the presence of a human being, then you are told by the computer that you have at least a ten minute wait before you can speak to anybody. Undeterred, I have sat through this procedure more than a couple of times now, only to finally speak to a "real live person", who had no authority nor discretion to bend the rules and could only repeat word for word what I have written on my own computer screen. No joy there then!

My latest attempts to unblock my PayPal account are a statement signed by the Mayor in our commune that I am who I say I am and I'm now waiting for a statement from the Social Security saying the same, which I shall then send onto them. Finger's crossed!

Once I finally get my hands on this paltry sum (I need it to pay the kids' canteen bills!) I shall close the account and join this website – I only wish I'd found this first!