You will be pleased to hear that Yoga has solved the back problem. It is clear that my practice of the relevant yoga poses have caused my back pain to go away. I suppose I should add that the three “asanas” that I have managed to grasp involve in two cases standing with my back to the wall. One of which also involves the amazingly complicated task of putting my arms out straight and then lifting them over my head all at the same time as tightening my calves, clenching my buttocks, pulling in the abdomen and lifting the chest at the same time keeping my head still (and touching the wall) while staring at some object in the distance. You then have to hold this position for at least 30 seconds!! I collapse into the corpse pose which at least involves lying on the floor.

Anyway, my back is much improved and I now have no desire to attempt the lotus position or indeed any of the other impossible poses. Quit while you are winning is the watch word here I think. Helpfully my American friend Shuriu has sent me some pictures to encourage me by comparing Indian Yoga with that experienced on her side of the Atlantic!

Indian Yoga

Yoga from across the Atlantic

The French are however far more sophisticated as you might expect and have managed to integrate wine drinking into their Yoga Asanas as a perfect way to relax! try this link to see how we do Yoga in France! To access the link hold the Ctrl key and click.

We have had a bit of a French experience over the past week. A key feature of French life is filling in forms. When we first came to France we were able to get access to the French healthcare system as a result of paying National Insurance in Britain. This however only lasts for about 18 months and unless you are at retirement pension age the UK Government will not cover the cost of accessing the French system. As the retirement age has been pushed back for women Mrs. Parish has to wait until May 2015 to get her pension. Then we will have automatic access to French Healthcare. In the meantime we have to apply for cover at the base level. This involves filling in great big forms and producing documents showing our income, proving we live in France etc. After a couple of months we eventually got confirmation that we were covered at the beginning of last week. However that only covered us to the 30th September, so they sent us another set of forms to fill in to get cover from 1st October. The forms require us to prove all the things that they have just accepted (marriage certificate, prove that we live in France etc). The fact that they have just seen all this is irrelevant. That was last year and we have to reapply with every bit of paperwork and proof of income. 

The income should be easy we think as we have just paid our French tax which is based upon all our income as we have opted to be taxed in France. The form accepted by the taxman is not good enough for the Healthcare system apparently and we have to produce bank statements and P60’s etc. We went again to see the nice lady at the Health office in Mayenne and were pleased to find out that this time round we had all the necessary forms and documents! Now we have to wait again to see if we are covered. The base level in France is aimed at people who are not working and if your income is over a certain level you have to pay towards the basic level. You also need health insurance to top up the basic system as at base level it does not cover all the costs. So until May next year we will have to pay around 100 Euros a month to be able to get healthcare (in addition to 150 Euros a month insurance). All my English friends I implore you yet again, look after the NHS.

On Wednesday we went to the weekly French market in nearby St. Hilaire du Harcouet. This is a typical French market that sells virtually everything from street stalls, from live chickens to double beds. It has a great atmosphere as there are lots of stalls and lots people so it is really noisy and lively. From French stallholders shouting to attract attention and convince passersby to buy, to groups of Frenchmen and women standing around talking or sat in the bars having a coffee or aperitif. There are lots of stalls selling hot and cold food so the smells are amazing and there are at least 8 fruit and vegetable stalls so you are spoilt for choice. There is even one stall that just sells onions and one that only sells apples. It is a fantastic and typically French experience. Of course in typical French fashion the market ends at around 12 noon and the stallholders pack up ready for their lunch and by the afternoon it has all gone!

This week is the “Foire au Vin” or wine fair at our local supermarket. To coincide with the grape harvest there is a celebration of wine and the supermarkets get in extra wines and there is usually a huge display with plenty of special offers as well as a range of more expensive wines. It is a chance to stock up the wine cave ready for the long winter. Mrs. Parish explains that the supermarkets will be open and selling wine throughout the winter. Ah but what if it snows and we can get out to go to the supermarket to get the wine! So this week I have been pouring over the wine catalogue and selecting some useful investments. The catalogue is 95 pages long and around 70 of the pages cover red wine which in France is clearly the most important colour and most Frenchmen prefer red wine. There are around 24 pages which cover white, pink, dessert and effervescent wines and then one page involving wine for other countries. This year for some reason there are about half a dozen Argentinean wines for sale but no others!!

To end our French week we attended the Annual General Meeting of the Euro Mayenne association. This is a Regionally supported organisation which aims to help integrate English and other European people coming to live in Mayenne with the local community. It is made up of local French people and those coming to settle here. The French mostly welcome us immigrants and recognise the contribution we make. There are lots of joint activities run by the association as well as language classes. We are part of the Camera Group and we felt we should attend the AGM. Our joint experience of annual meetings in Britain is of terminal boredom and very few people in attendance. There are 300 members of the Euro Mayenne Association and 56 were in attendance. The meeting was scheduled to start at 10am and go on till 1230 when there would be a buffet lunch. We wondered how they would stretch out the meeting for 2.5 hours and looked forward to lengthy speeches. It turned out to be great fun. The first half of the meeting was going through the annual report and the very nice French President of the association moved from French to English with amazing ease to deliver the report in two languages. She spoke so clearly that it was quite easy to follow her in French. 

When we got to the finance report things got a bit heated as someone wanted more details of the accounts (sadly an Englishman). He went on to demand that detailed accounts should be emailed to all members. The treasurer said they could be sent but she was not going to translate them into English. Most of us said no thanks we don’t want the details. The organisation makes a healthy surplus and the total subscription income s only about 4,000 Euros!
We then moved on to electing some new executive committee members. There were 4 seats and unusually 5 candidates so there would actually be an election. Great excitement. Then someone challenged the proxy votes. These were forms filled in by some not able to attend giving authority to vote on their behalf. Apparently these were not set out in a format that complied with French good practice and a great debate ensued before a proposal was put to disallow all proxy votes. In the end the proposal was carried overwhelmingly and a secret ballot of those present was undertaken. In great French style the president suggested we had a break while the votes were counted and that aperitifs would be served. Wow, why did we never think of that? Then the result was announced. Out of 56 people 55 votes were cast. There were 6 spoilt papers as some people had voted for all five candidates! The result was declared and we then resumed the meeting in time for the President to announce that lunch accompanied by lots of wine would be served. 

We had a great lunch and sat and practiced our French on  a couple of French families, while trying to ignore a rather loud English couple who spent a lot of time telling other people why they couldn’t speak any French despite having lived here for over 3 years. Sometimes it is quite embarrassing being English!

All in all an exciting week, so much so that I think I deserve an aperitif to celebrate.

Vive la France