Posts Tagged ‘France’

Noshing Across the Cultural Divide


Tired old tales for Thursdays – originally posted on 07/05/2010

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Tonight, I had the first of what I hope will be many ‘aperitivi’ in my new village.

Being a girl often on her lonesome own-some, going out and about in the evening has never been the easiest of things in any of the Mediterranean countries I have lived in. Although a solitary visit to a restaurant terrace in the touristy coastal towns would be perfectly acceptable, venturing into any of the village bars or eateries on my tod would get me the sort of attention that I could well do without.

Thus far, my only night-time excursion had been to the local pizza restaurant safe in the company of some French friends who had trekked over the border for the  simple pleasure of my company.

It was an interesting experience that got off to a cracking start with ‘Les Français’ being two hours late due to work issues.

I was then moaned at because my directions hadn’t been accurate enough.

Then there were the snide  asides about what a monied area I must live in because of all the large villas they had passed (either the pitch darkness or a little too much pre-dinner vin had obviously  been at work, for I travel that road at least twice a day and have yet to find myself nez à nez with a millionaire).

I was then treated to a bout of Gallic snootiness because there was no wine list (one just orders a caraffa of rosso, bianco or rosato – which are usually pretty faultless as well as costing less than a round of soft drinks).

To top it off, most of the group persisted in speaking to the bemused waiter all night in French.

I have often noticed that Italians who trot over the border to France, even if it’s just to visit the supermarket for a bit of variety, manage to communicate perfectly well in French. The French journeying in the opposite direction, however, can barely even seem to manage a ‘grazie’, when ironically a large percentage in the south-east of France carry Italian surnames due to the historical overlap between the two countries.

Anyway, although a laugh and a reminisce were had, and some indecently delicious pizza was guzzled, by the end of the evening I was reassured that the path I have chosen is the right one for me. Viva Italia!

(that said, I still get a real thrill from revisiting my old French haunts every few weeks and feeling just as home there as I am starting to feel in my new host country – I acknowledge that I am an extremely fortunate girl who has no reasons for complaint!)

So this afternoon, my colleague/friend and I decided to push the boat out and have a couple of drinks while we were waiting for her daughter to get back from a school trip.

We chose a bar with a terrace alongside the main thoroughfare, and settled back to enjoy our wine and nibbles. Italy is delightfully like Spain in that respect; with each drink, an array of goodies is spread out for you to feast on. For a measly five euros we had two drinks each, 1 bowl of crisps, 1 bowl of tacos, 1 bowl of peanuts, 1 plate of pizza chunks and 2 plates of cheese and ham piadina sections. (Piadine are hot or cold sandwiches made with a special unleavened bread from the Emilia Romagna region). And that was supper taken care of, although if we had had the inclination to continue boozing, the offerings would have become more and more expansive.

Whilst we were scoffing and chatting, a small lorry pulled up in front of us so that the driver could chat to a friend. After a few seconds everyone in the vicinity was made very aware of its cargo, as the smell of manure wafted fragrantly over the tables to mingle with the aroma of the delicacies on our plates.

And on he chatted, and on and on, whilst all around him people heaved, and gagged, and reeled. Eventually a similarly sized lorry, this time with a more acceptable cargo of strawberries, drew up alongside and pointed out that he was causing a Mexican wave of retching up and down the high street. With much guffawing and not a word of apology for the olfactory rape he had just subjected us all to, he drove off.

(and only my revolting Pooch was sad to see him go)

This is Status Viatoris, still chuckling to herself – “Only in Italy!”.


Mental trotty-wags


Memories for Mondays – originally posted on 26/04/2010

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I fall a little more in love with this village every time I walk around it.

During the first few weeks I was obsessed with getting out; fixated by the idea that Pooch couldn’t possibly be happy unless he was off the lead, and galumphing merrily round the countryside. But due to the fact that it isn’t an easy village to leave – most of the promising footpaths turn out to be someone’s driveway – and during the week I simply don’t have time to trek for half an hour before even sniffing freedom, Pooch and I have been spending a lot of time exploring the innards of our new metropolis.

Frankly, when viewed from the outside, the place looks like a bit of a mess. Not half as asthetically pleasing as my French village.

Close your eyes and picture, if you will, a sort of Daliesque symbiosis between the innermost workings of Heath Robinson’s mind and the balcony scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. Then picture the whole unwieldy caboodle clinging with palpable desperation to the steep side of a valley.

Now add the very busy little river that runs along the valley bottom, and the myriad of tiny tributaries that course underneath and around its walls as they made their own busy way to the aforementioned busy river.

Every so often, just for the hell of it, pop an ancient and cobbled humpback bridge dating as far back as medieval times over one of the many waterways. Don’t venerate them, or announce their presence with a fanfare,  just use them same way they have been used for many hundreds of years.

Interspersed with the bridges, you might try adding an abandoned watermill or two; the pitted mill stones still waiting patiently for a consignment of olives to squeeze the life out of.

And as you are mentally wheezing your way up and down its steep streets, don’t forget to keep peering either side of you. You don’t want to miss the narrow and endlessly winding steps tempting you up and tempting you down; luring you deeper into its honeycomb centre.

Now imagine a huddle of churches, oratories and towers all cozied up together on the site of a Apollonian temple built by the Romans. The oldest part of the construction dating back to the 11th century, the newest, a mere 250-year-old stripling. Together providing the perfect play area for a noisy family of kestrels that are enjoying what the faithful have long since abandoned in favour of the more modern edifice up the road.

To the whole image, add the deafening cacophony of mating frogs (it’s that time of year, the lucky lucky bastards😉 ) an occasional Mexican wave of howling from the village dogs, the flatulent squeals of scooters and three-wheeled ‘bees’, and the soothing ever-present vocals of the locals.

You’ve arrived! Welcome to my life!

This is Status Viatoris, waxing lyrical on the subject of her new Italian village.

How to Gesticulate, Nomad Style.


And for today’s Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays, we have this old chestnut…

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I was pondering recently, whilst watching my hands flounder about in front of my face as I spoke, on those gestures that are specific to each country. One ponder led to another, and I decided to make a list of all the ‘sign language’ I have picked up over the years and incorporated into my own body language.

Each sign comes with instructions. Remember, us Anglo Saxons are used to only very basic hand signals; to avoid injury to yourselves or others begin in slow motion, you can then gradually work up to continental speed.


“Your girlfriend/boyfriend/Wife/Husband is not taking the whole fidelity issue quite as seriously as you might wish.” Clasp your ring and middle fingers to your palm with your thumb, and point your fist, with index finger and pinky outstretched towards the unfortunate cuckold…

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Just one more small step…


And why not some Weary Old Wanderings for Wednesdays – it certainly beats having to dredge up new inspiration in this heat…

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Actually, despite having all the required elements in place, I still haven’t quite got around to moving to Italy. This is proving to be a somewhat of a staggered relocation, rather than the fluid leap into a new life that I had gleefully anticipated.

There are several elements at play here. First is the inconvenient fact that the delightful Italian apartment in the delightful Italian village has tenants in situ until the beginning of April. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I have been up to my elbows in paperwork and paint trying to prepare my French maison for sale.

Predictably this is not shaping up to be a straightforward task (complication, as opposed to the very prosaic Eleanor, should really be my middle name). Since I left France two years ago, I have been renting the property out…

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Vini vidi vici. Or not?


It’s Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays time!

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Thus far, my Italian plans have all been sliding rather uncannily into place, too uncannily to allow for complete peace of mind. The cynic inside me (the one who has been getting steadily louder and more insistent with the passing years) can’t help but wonder what the Fates have up their sleeves in revenge for this ease of passage. Their dastardly plans will be revealed in due course, of that I feel only too sure.

Having chosen to move to Liguria, the region of Italy that is just over the border from my French home in the Alpes Maritimes, I set to job searching as soon as I returned from New Zealand. Now Italy is not an easy place to find work, as I was well aware, and was therefore unsurprised at finding only one suitable job offer…

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It has EVERYTHING to do with religion


Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya, Nice… and these are just a handful of the places to have suffered grave and unimaginable losses due to terrorism so far in 2016.

And we can shout “Terrorism has no religion!” until our throats are dry, but it is a lie.

Because all those lives have been lost not just to terrorism, but to ISLAMIC terrorism. I reiterate again, that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

Most of those Muslims carrying out attacks in the West were born and brought up in the countries they appear to hate so very much, by parents who (I imagine) moved here for a better life. In order to try and stem the advance of this carnage, and the divisive social and political disintegration it causes, we need to stop coming out with both excuses and blanket condemnations, and start concentrating our efforts on finding out why these people hate with such vehemence.

We need to find out how they could become so radicalised against the relatively mild background of democratic Western Europe.

Is it disaffected youth, whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters?

Is it the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions?

Is it the ease with which religion feeds into the innate and divisive human trait of seeking a righteous “us” versus an immoral “them”?

We need to find out whether their families, friends and communities simply fail to notice this radicalisation process taking place, whether their sense of kinship is stronger than their compassion for the innocent men women and children of their host countries, or whether the numbers of the complicit are higher than we dare imagine.

Most importantly , we must ensure that within our message of democratic freedom, a very clear emphasis is put on a secular Freedom of Religion. Not the freedom to do whatever you please in the name of religion, but the freedom for everyone to believe whatever they please and to live as they please, providing it is not detrimental to others and whilst understanding that religion is a personal choice, not a political or a moral framework.

And for all those who feel that the only trigger for these attacks is clumsy Western intervention in the Middle East, what about those Muslims who kill other Muslims for being the wrong sort of Muslim? What about those Muslims who kill ex-Muslims simply because they no longer believe in Allah? What about those Muslims who kill other Muslims simply because they have dared questioned some of the tenets of Islam?

I have no solutions to the sickness currently affecting Islam, but pretending it is not there is the height of stupidity.

Nice wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya and Nice, cry for them and mourn with them, just don’t pray for them, for more religion is the last thing they need.

Status Viatoris

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives…

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Living on a Whim part two


Oh go on then, Tired Old Tales for Thursdays, why not…

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

One French language course and a fruitless search for gainful employment later, and Montpellier was officially off the menu. Circumstances were forcing me towards the one place I had sworn never to end up, the dreaded French Riviera.

(Only dreaded because the previous four years spent in such close proximity to the glitzy delights of Puerto Banús had left me with a lifelong allergy to the moneyed elite and their sycophantic entourage).

My ‘brief’ stay in France bafflingly managed to eke itself out for five years. Now who saw that coming, because I certainly didn’t.  To my utter astonishment I even found myself able to hold down the same  job for three and a half of them, and in that most sunniest of havens for the aforementioned shady elite, Monaco! During those five years, I lived in five…

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Living on a Whim part one


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays – a trip down memory strada…

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I am moving to Italy!

Now, I am extremely well acquainted with the whole moving scenario, but this particular shift in location has a sense of inevitability that was perhaps absent in most of my previous moves. It somehow lacks the frisson of excitement associated with my usual style of launching myself ‘dans la vide’ on little more than a whim and a prayer. Could that be because I have been pondering this for at least the last seven years? Does that mean that this relocation actually constitutes a well-considered plan rather than a thrill-seeking mission? How could I have missed the signs? It’s time to face up to the truth! MUMMY, YOUR LITTLE GIRL IS GROWING UP!

Up until the age of eighteen, I lived, to all intents and purposes, a pretty average life – premature expulsion…

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Au Revoir !


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No, not to you lot – despite the irregularity of my postings, Status Viatoris would have to be prised from my cold dead fingers before I abandoned it altogether…

No, the au revoir in this post is directed very much at my French apartment, which, after three and a half painfully long years has finally been sold. Admittedly for vastly less than if I had managed to shift it before the market nosedived, but at least I am no longer racking my brains for ways to pay the mortgage every month and staying awake night after night torturing myself with thoughts of the eventual maintenance costs incurred by an empty apartment in a damp medieval village.

The buyers were exactly the sort I had dreamt of – a young French couple who experienced a dramatic coup de coeur at first visit, and immediately set their hearts on obtaining it for their forever home.

(A huge improvement on the alternative cold-hearted Parisien or similarly detached foreigner in search of a holiday home to be used for a piddling fortnight a year, thus contributing to the ghost village phenomenon so prevalent in picturesque rural Europe.)

The price they offered me was in the region of what I had paid (purchase price plus the cost of major renovations) in 2004/2005 – investment, what investment? But desperation had my hands lassoed firmly behind my back, and after a small and purely symbolic haggle, the deal was done.

Then, having jumped once again through the burning hoops of incompetence proffered by Supercilious Turd, we were on the home straight; finally signing the Acte de Vente on the 8th of August, before departing our separate and varyingly happy ways – mine being the slightly less joyous path…

For although, after the agonies of the past three and a half years, I thought myself immune to further shock – and certainly felt the bad luck that had dogged every step of my French real estate journey couldn’t possibly find further ways to blight my life – I was wrong.

At the time I left France in 2008, I had been working for a number of months in a self-employed capacity – my boss at the time being keen to avoid the hefty taxes and social charges implied by having employees. He paid me a decent salary to compensate, so all well and good; but upon leaving both job and country, I then faced a two-year battle to convince French bureaucrats that they no longer had any right to my money.

Endless registered letters (Monsieur Le French bureaucrat’s most favouritist thing), normal letters, emails and phone calls whizzed their way, until the dreaded URSSAF finally backed down and let me be – the proverbial straw possibly being the bill for €52,000.00 in “social charges” that I sent back heavily defaced with red pen:


En français, bien sûr…

The upshot being that the French authorities were left in no doubt that I was no longer a resident of La Belle France; which in turn meant that upon the sale of my French pad, they were going to be able to sting me for over 30% of the plus value (capital gains).

To complicate matters further, mine was not a straightforward property. Had I been in the possession of a cookie cutter apartment of the like so popular down on the coast, the profit calculation would have been simple: purchased for X and sold for Y.

But being a renovation project left me wide open to government interpretation of what expenditure they considered “necessary” improvements to render the property habitable, and what, in their most humble and objective opinion, was purely aesthetic.

Windows, apparently, serve no practical purpose. Plumbing for lavatories is nothing more than a luxury. Railings to stop people falling to their grisly deaths out of Juliet balconies or down stairwells are the trappings of the rich and spoilt, and electrical points to allow a property to be lit, heated or otherwise are nothing more than fancy pants accessories.

Thus it was decided – by unbiased and disinterested parties, I’m sure – that I was selling my house for over €50,000.00 more than I paid for it all those years ago, and of those 50 smackeroonies, the French government deserved €21,000.00 of them.

Just like that.

This is Status Viatoris, who has a sneaky feeling that property investment requires a wilier touch than hers, in Italy.

Return to French Notary Hell


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Wanting to avoid all possible risks of jinxing (yes, that scientifically proven law of physics) I had until now refrained from mentioning that tomorrow I have an appointment to sign the bilateral sales agreement that should at last set the wheels in motion for the sale of my French apartment.

A brand new and very un-French real estate agent – friendly, cheerful, polite and communicative – managed to find me a lovely young French couple who fell in love with the property at first visit, and after various tussles with their bank, were eventually able to make me an offer.

Admittedly it was an extremely low offer.

An entire €50,000 lower than the offer I accepted back in 2011 (which due to the combined efforts of Supercilious Turd French Notary and dear old Nicky Sarkozy never resulted in a sale).

But after three years of struggling every month to find the mortgage, and with the French real estate market a fly ridden carcass of its former self, I was happy to accept any offer at all.

So far, so good.

Until my cheery estate agent asked me to contact Supercilious Turd and request that he leave the deeds to my house for her to collect.

During an initial telephone call, I was asked to formulate my request in an email, which I did.

It remained answer-less.

So I sent another email.


And then another.


At which point my estate agent stepped in.

It took her an entire week to get any response at all from Supercilious Turd’s office, at which point she was informed that the Bill of Sale for my problem room had never been signed.

Meaning that the room was still not mine to sell.

But how could that be?

Way back in July 2011 the previous owner and I had met in front of Supercilious Turd, both signed a document and I had handed over a cheque. Up until that meeting, the ownership of that room had been the only thing standing between me and a sale, and the signing of that document was what permitted Supercilious Turd to laboriously plod his way to preparing the bilateral sales agreement for the sale that never went through.

I am speechless.

Even if I completed misunderstood, even if the document I signed in July 2011 was only a preliminary to the bill of sale, why on earth would a notary make no further attempt to contact a buyer who was already halfway through a sale?

It makes no sense.

Thus my overwhelming relief at having been informed that this second chance at a sale would be overseen by a different notary giving me no reason whatsoever to have contact with Supercilious Turd, has been wiped away on a tsunami of distress that this incompetent excuse for a public servant once again has the power to fuck up my life.

It is almost too ridiculous to believe that I am yet again at his mercy.

This is Status Viatoris, feeling guilty that all the horrors currently going on the world over are not embarrassing her into feel less sorry for herself, in Italy.

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