Tuesday, 26 February 2013

CPAM 1 - Us 1

This morning we took to Perigueux:

our marriage certificate
translated birth certificates
document to say we had bought a house
document to say we had sold a house
document to say we were renting a house
document of Him Outdoors' pension
document to show Him Outdoors' tax paid in France
health insurance documents for last 3 years
document to say no longer entitled to health care in the UK
RIB - details of our french bank account


a document to show interest on an Assurance Vie (place where house money is sitting)
a document to show bank account interest for the last year

Good news is that they agreed we didn't need the S1 form but neither did they ask for the form we had obtained especially from the UK


Go away and fill in this form and come back with all these pieces of paper and your form. (And I think I'll get the marriage certificate translated too.)

So maybe it will be third time lucky :-)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Marrakech - I wish I liked it more

We deserve a few days in the sunshine. We met 40 years ago last week, that's worth celebrating with something exciting. I have been dreaming of a Riad in Marrakech that I had read about several years ago in a book called Cinnamon City by Miranda Innes. Riad Maizie. So we booked and it was as charming as I had imagined. Done up with a wonderful eye for all things Moroccan, it is a really beautiful oasis in the middle of all the chaos that is an arab city. Slightly shabby after having been well loved for a decade but charming.
We arrived very late at night but were met as arranged and escorted to our riad down the maze of little alleyways that are the medina in Marrakech. Comfortable room with an amazing Moroccan painted ceiling that was everything we could hope for. 
After an excellent breakfast, we were shown the way through the souks to the money exchange and were left to explore. Wonderful bright colours, endless heaps of fascinating objects. Soon sat comfortably in a roadside cafe with delicious orange juice we watched the world go by.

On the second day we boarded the tourist bus which circles the city allowing you to drop in on the various sites. I wanted to see the Jardins Majorelle which were designed by Yves St Laurent. A beautiful oasis of shady green.

One night we went to the large square to eat as Jamie Oliver had shown on one of his programmes. Lovely sounds and smells, delicious food.

So what's not to like?
Well, the weather didn't help. It was so cold, and pouring with rain for a day and a half. It has to be sunny and you have to be able to live outside.
It is expensive. We went out one afternoon determined to buy something. The received wisdom is that you expect to pay about 1/4 to 1/3 of the asking price. Well when they are starting at £35 for a shawl, that's a silly price for a souk shawl. Food is expensive too, pretty much what you would expect to pay in england for a restaurant meal and even the street food soon mounts up. 
But mainly it is the perceived attitude of the locals. They appeared to me to be so angry all the time. Every day there were guys fronting up to each other and yelling at each other in the souks. Explosions of yelling between stall holders.
Every time you look a tiny bit hesitant someone will appear to help you find where you want to go, to invite you into their shop, to show you just where you can buy spices, take you to the tanneries or whatever. Initially, oh how kind, but always, always for every little thing money will be demanded.  I know times are hard and I know I shouldn't be surprised but I find it really intimidating, irritating and exhausting.
If you are standing in a square, someone dressed in something Moroccan will come and stand in front of you and demand money for looking at him. If you are sitting in a cafe, someone will start acrobatics in front of you and then demand money for looking at them
We spent one afternoon being permanently gentle, smiley, charming and slowly wandering through the souks. Determinedly answering every demand with a polite no thank you and a smile. Smiled till we had face ache. Didn't cut down on the hello, hello, madam, madam but made for a gentle afternoon.
So, interesting, challenging, not hurrying back any time soon.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Mothers' Day

I have just noticed that it is Mothers' Day in England in the middle of March.

My brain immediately went into finding a card and something to send....................................

But I don't have to. For the first time since I first drew something in infant school, I do not have to remember Mother's Day. That is so weird and brought me up short.

I do remember one year when the children were small and life was chaotic that I noticed it was Mothers' Day and thought oh that's ok, Him Outdoors can get them to sort something out for me, that's one thing I don't have to do anything about. Completely forgetting that I had a mother and mother-in-law.

In our life, it has always been me that sorts out all the family cards/presents so it would be me that bought two cards, one for my mother and one for my mother-in-law. My mother insisted that it was Mothering Sunday and always looked for meaningful words. My mother-in-law was happy with Mothers' Day and veered towards the cute animal picture.

Nowadays, Him Outdoors has time to do his own mother's cards. We are fortunate that we still have my dear mother-in-law to send to.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Anyone for the skylark?

We're off on the emotional roller coaster of house buying and french life.

Up - We have a lovely architect.

Down  - He doesn't feel able to deal with the local Batiment de France complications (our new house falls within 500m of a heritage sight which makes it a lovely place to live but means that there are complicated rules about what you can do to it).

Up - We know a plumber

Down - He doesn't answer the phone for a week

Up - He does answer the phone and he can come and he has a friend who is an electrician

Down - But we still don't have an architect.

Up - Find one that can see us the next day and he was lovely and we have another local architect for whom 'everything is possible'

Meanwhile the rented house electrics are messed up.

Yes the electrician will come, no he doesn't turn up, yes he does turn up, yes he fixes it.

He leaves and it breaks again.

We have a new to us cooker so that we can have an oven that works and we can have cake!

Yes we collect it.

No the gas doesn't work

Him Outdoors fixes it

Yes, gas works,

Electrics don't work

Him Outdoors can't fix it

Electrician fixes it.

Electrician leaves and the electrics blow again.

If we don't have heating we can have cake. So we sit eating cake with our coats on :-)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Half Time Regroup

Seems like we're all right.

After lunch we thought that perhaps the english help line might just put any old answer machine message on to make people go away. And hey presto they were there after all!

This lady still saying we need an S1 but also bank details, translated birth certificate, proof of income, as well as proof of residence, and passport.

In my wanderings around the internet I came across something that said there was an overseas health team at the DWP (DHSS as was). Let's try them.

Oh yes, says the lady, what you need is a letter from us saying you were part of the english health system which has limited period cover in france and will get a state pension. Not an S1. Where would you like it posted to?

Apart from the fact that it might take 2 weeks to get here which will give us time to get the birth certificate translated (how many words are there on a birth certificate?) everything is hunky dory.

Look forward to the second half.

CPAM 1 - Us nil


Today was the day we decided to tackle the french health service.

Monsieur Sarkozy, in his wisdom, brought out a bill that meant that early retirees moving to France had to be seen to be resident and paying taxes for 5 years to be part of the french health service (CPAM).

This year, our 5 years is up. So we gathered all the paperwork we could think of, including some 'they can't want that, but take it anyway' and set off for the office in Perigueux, a 45 minute drive. We knew where it was and found somewhere to park, took our ticket to join the queue and sat down to wait. We seemed to be part of the local immigrant community but we had 'MIGRANT' firmly written on our file, so we were obviously in the right place. Hurrah, ticket holder nos 38, 39 and 40 weren't there (where had they gone?) so we were soon at the table of Madame G.

I explained in my carefully rehearsed french what we wanted.

'You need a form S1.'

'Are you sure, no-one has ever mentioned that before?'

'Yes, get a form S1 each, fill it in and come back.'

Nothing to do but say 'ok' and retreat defeated.

So now we are home, looking up Form S1 on the internet. According to everything we can find, S1 only refers to people who have a state pension. So then start searching for the CPAM english helpline number.

'Do you think they are really english and work through lunch?'

'Don't know, give it a go'

'Exceptionally the helpline is closed today, please call any day between 9 and 5.'

I expect they're on strike!

Monday, 4 February 2013

New Adventure

On Saturday we signed the compromis for this unprepossessing village house. I love it already.

It is owned by the only son of the elderly couple who died about 14 years ago. From then it has been used as a weekend/holiday home occasionally. It is a rarity in that it hasn't been done up in the past. There is very little of the concrete and brown tile additions that are so much part of local french style! The man who owns it is very ill in Bordeaux and apart from moments of lucidity when he ups the agreed price, he sends his wife to do the business deals.

We met Madame on Saturday. A tiny, frail, french lady who had had a 2 1/2 hour train journey from Bordeaux to sign the papers. She comes every fortnight to see her father (93) in the local hospital and have lunch with her brother who farms locally. Her husband has had 3 strokes and is on kidney dialysis twice a week and can't be left over night. We didn't like to tell her that she didn't need to be there to sign the papers and that it could all have been done by post (or email) at this stage.

We did our best to be the good guys - even though sick husband had upped the price by 10,000 at the last minute - and took her to her brothers and only pushed slightly for the timescale to be as quick as possible. It is so important in village life to be seen as good people. Everyone local that we meet knows the house by the elderly couple's name and are sorry for the owner's wife.

At the moment, the house is only lived in on the street level, a series of interconnecting rooms. We plan to open up the lovely attic space for two bedrooms and put stairs down to the cellar to make an entrance to the large garden from the back of the house. At the moment you have to go round by the street. The back of the house has stupendous views and a huge garden and the town is just up the hill.

Can't wait.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A cheque arrives!

Well who'd 've thought it. The first instalment cheque for the staircase actually arrived this week.

Quick, off to the bank.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Burying your head in the sand

A fortnight ago, Him Outdoors woke up complaining that he must have done too much energetic walking with sticks because his arms and legs ached. Gradually worsened with both of us not mentioning that perhaps we ought to do something about this but it was the weekend, we had to get across the country to Mum's funeral. Worrying about the snow was bad enough we'll ignore this. (Bury head in the sand no 1)

When he couldn't get himself off the floor on Saturday morning we frightened ourselves and went through the out of hours doctor system. All very efficient and we went to see a very pleasant doctor who had never seen such a thing before, it didn't fit any of the usual combinations of symptoms, she would recommend we see a neurologist but not at the weekend and in her opinion it wouldn't get worse and we could go to the funeral.

So, weakness in all four limbs at once, no pain, no numbness, no tingling, sudden onset, no illness, no muscle fatigue, blood pressure slightly high but not very.

Able to drive perfectly well, in fact enjoyed feeling like himself, but stairs were difficult and much to his childrens' delight, lifting a pint required two hands - someone helpfully brought him a straw. Had some quite severe shoulder pain in the night which we put down to all the different muscles he was using to lug himself about and how awkwardly he was holding himself on occasion. (Bury head in the sand no 2)

When we got home again we saw a GP in our practice who also had never seen such a thing, how interesting. Again didn't think anything would be solved by being in hospital or anything dramatic but a neurologist might be good. No it wasn't any of the horrors we had been googling.

Meanwhile we have a ferry booked and given up our rented house in England so nowhere to live...............

So we arrive back in France and visit our local doctor.

Your blood pressure is very high, the shoulder pain is arthritis, go and have this raft of blood tests. (In France, the blood test you have in the morning has it's results on the internet in the afternoon.)

Back to the doctor with results. I think your body is tired take this tonic of quinine and B6 every day and come back in a month. (Bury head in the sand no 3)

What interests me is that both English GPs were quite happy to admit that they were ignorant and were interested in him. The French guy also has no clue but his reaction is to throw medicine at it.

Being us, and given that it is improving slightly every day and it is only a fortnight after it started, we will continue to bury our head in the sand. And hope it just goes away.