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Monday, January 15, 2007

I used to be indecisive... I am not so sure.

With the annointment yesterday of Nicolas Sarkozy - or Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa to give him his full name - as the candidate for the major centre-right political party for the presidency the battle lines seem set for a confrontation between Sarko and Ségo, the socialist party nominee. The nearest challenger appears to be Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National yet he has still to garner enough backers in order to be able to run in the first round in April. To all intents and purposes, unless all those who are still undecided swing behind Le Pen, it will be Ségo and Sarko in the second round.

Unless of course the current incumbent, Jacques Chirac, decides to try for an independent third go. His wife, french first lady Bernadette, seemingly supports this possibility and yet how seriously are we to take the challenge of someone whose presidency has been marked not by its successes but by its singular lack of progress nor change. There are whispers that Chirac detests the idea of a President Sarkozy so much he would prefer to split the rightwing vote and let Ségo become the first woman president. There are others who believe that his effect on the vote would be less of a problem for Sarkozy who would still go through to the second round against Ségo. Would Chirac risk this kind of humiliation?

From my vantage point with the benefit of notional neutrality ie I cannot vote for anyone in the presidential election, I find myself recently reconsidering the way in which I would vote were I to be enfranchised. An early supporter of Ségolene Royal I am now beginning to question whether her, and her party's apparent unconditional support for the workers could ever make the changes necessary to drag France out of the doldrums. The latest suggestion from her partner and leader of the Part Socialiste (PS), François Hollande, is that people who earn more than 4000€ a month net (ie after social security contributions but before tax) should expect to pay more tax. He was rapidly slapped down by his "wife". It would be interesting to know just how well that was received by the man who might otherwise have been their presidential hopeful.

Having done a rough calculation I believe the equivalent salary in the UK is something like £38K before tax. Yes, higher than average but hardly enormous.

As someone who is about to launch himself onto the self-employed system in France selfishly, though I don't believe for a microsecond I would be subject any time soon to a "higher earners'" tax, I do believe in enterprise and in encouraging the creation of wealth in balance with the establishment and maintenance of the rights of both the employed and those who attempt to make a living themselves.

I am increasingly unsure that the PS have the ability to make any real changes for the good of France although their overall stance is one that is attractive in the longer term in a country where the kind of rights they aim to support and even to extend were affordable.

The idea of a woman president appeals. The need for change appeals more. Who is in a better position to make those changes and to incur the wrath of the "workers". Maybe it is time for the man who they are calling the French Thatcher. I cringe to think of it but wonder if there is indeed any other way.

With three months still to go it will be interesting to see if the electorate move away from their almost equal support for the two main candidates. One thing is certain and that is the voters see the contest as being Sarko/Ségo and it would be a challenge for any of the others to change that. Will they start to move in greater numbers towards one rather than the other. Watch this space...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Something about the number 7

This is the first posting of 2007 and this blog has been hit over 700 times. Max and I celebrate 7 years together this year and the digits of the number of our house add up to, you guessed it, 7. OK all a bit tenous perhaps but then again believing in luck or, more precisely, good luck, is one way of being open to it and to enjoying it. Count your lucky stars they say. You might not even be aware of their existence nor what or who they represent if you did not...

Anyway, this post is a bit of a catch up and a little look forward too. I recently told a good friend that she should counter every negative thought with at least two positive ones: one to neutralise the negativity and one to move forward with. That is what I am going to try to do as well.

We have a tendency to see the negative first and are almost programmed to be negative, more especially when it comes to thinking about ourselves and our talents, abilities and potential. We are not this we are not that, we are so self limiting. We make endless, unrealistic and certainly unrepresentative comparisons.

So what were the highlights of 2007 in no particular order?
  • Moving into our new house and having various works done to it
  • Welcoming our friends and family to spend time with us there
  • The summer
  • Max getting a part-time job which then became full-time
  • Having a functioning shower-room on the 2nd floor
  • My niece being born and going to see her
  • Our long weekend in Paris
  • The kindness of our neighbours
  • Our French Christmas guest needing a training session in what to do with Christmas crackers!

There may be more and for most there is certainly a counterpoint or two (and when it comes to having works done, many many more!) that I have actively avoided! If I had to chose one as the most important or perhaps most satisfying it would probably be welcoming frends and family as one of the reasons for acquiring all this space was not to use it just for us but to throw it open to our extended family.

The new year has started well. Though Max might say it was pants (you had to be there). Our new windows are going in as I type and we will benefit from their insulation qualities both heat and noise though it is not really noisy here as our guests would confirm and I have become used to the sound of the street. On the garden side we are protected from most sounds by a natural barrier of gardens. The weirdly mild temperatures persist during the installation of the windows which, of course, is a huge relief for he who is at home and experiencing temporary lack of protection from the elements!

I shall be in London shortly in connection with some work - yes paid! - I will be carrying out throughout the rest of January and possibly into March. The only downside to that is we never can get to see everyone we would like to.

I am getting to grips with the complexities of being self-employed in France and am almost certain that - having thought the contrary - I am entitled to be taxed under the simplest micro-entreprise regime.

We already have one definite visitor arranged, others pencilled in and, we hope, both return visits and new visits throughout the year.

Oh! Almost forgot. Our television service provider has suddenly made TF1 available to us. Despite the overall quality or otherwise of French TV, not having TF1 has been a little like not having ITV! Perhaps that is not a bad thing but then again it is always nice to have the choice.