Rapport d’étape #2

A dream home?2020 has been a year unlike any in memory.  Across the globe people’s best laid plans have run headlong into the walls of COVID-19, or in Europe, Brexit.   Our move to Normandy (or another département) has been delayed as well.

To some degree we have also been asking if this is still possible.  Travel is far more risky than we prefer, and we would love to avoid a two-week quarantine when returning.  Still, when we look at Vancouver real-estate prices it is obvious that remaining here is pretty much impossible unless we plan to work ourselves into early graves.

So we’re still scouring the French real estate listings, and watching somewhat dated TV programs about moving to France, and updating the house for sale.

Rapport d’étape

Map Of France, French Flag, Png, TricolorIt is now the end of February and Britain is diving headlong into Brexit.  It’s still anyone’s guess just what that will mean, but at a minimum we’re assuming that the transition period will end on December 31st.  The question becomes whether we should go full speed ahead and establish a home in France while Susan can still take advantage of easy EU rules, or wait until next year and deal with a somewhat more complex immigration regime.  By all reports that mostly will involve meeting income requirements, but that looks like it will be about 1000€ a month, so it’s not difficult.

We’ve also been looking more closely at costs of living for France, and that too looks reasonable, at least for the basics of life.  Everyone, everywhere complains that it costs too much to live where they are, but all things considered France looks about on par with Vancouver.

I am though excited that our monthly health insurance would actually include dental coverage!

The big excitement this month has actually been the publication of a column at the Huffington Post titled “It’s Too Late For Us To Fight Climate Change. Instead, Here’s How We’ll Spend Our Lives“.  It talks about how we feel about the impending climate crisis, and about the life that we hope to find in France.  The response has been overwhelming.

From people our age I hear over and over how they share our own sense of doom, and how they too feel that itś likely to be too late to halt the damage.  We’ve been getting invitations to live in various semi-remote parts of the US – what is it about North Carolina? – and have heard from any number of Americans who want to move to Canada.

From people much younger than us the overwhelming response has been an angry “OK Boomer!”   The suggestion being repeated is that we are abandoning all of the people younger than ourselves, that obviously we don’t have children or grand-children (not true) and that we, personally, are responsible for climate change.  The decision to leave Canada for France is equated with Privilege.

I actually understand and even share that anger. The world is in a terrible mess, and every day leaves me feeling more and more that it may be too late to fix it. Or, to be specific, it feels as if the people who could actually make the large scale changes to stop fossil fuel use will never do that.

Image result for dodge charger 1969
1969 Dodge Charger

What frustrates people of our age is that we’ve spent decades building an environmental movement, and until quite recently could point to steady progress in reducing or eliminating all manner of environmentally damaging practices and substances. I come out of an age when big, heavy family cars with no emission controls burning leaded gasoline got less than ten miles to a gallon of gas. Kids today have no idea what progress was made in the 70s and 80s.

I will state proudly that I’ve done my time on protests, and letter writing, and lobbying and in any other way possible to make this a cleaner, safer world. Even though I don’t expect to stop doing these things I do feel that I’ve earned the right to slow down and enjoy life.

In any event, we’re also taking French lessons at Alliance Française de Vancouver. That, as it happens, is fun!

And we’re now also looking at houses in Midi-Pyrénées.

We have a deadline

Thanks Boris, and thanks to the 13,966,565 Britons who voted to make him Prime Minister.  Up til now our plan to escape to France has been somewhat open ended, predicated as it was on my wife being a UK citizen who could move freely within the European Union.  Over the last three years of high Brexit drama we’ve watched as plans were drafted, then abandoned, then drafted again, and as one deadline after another came and went.

I still feel sorry for Theresa May.

Now Boris has the power to force through his Brexit “deal.”   That isn’t actually even remotely close to a real agreement in how to disentangle then restore a working relationship with the EU; it’s just the first step when the UK government says “OK, we’re out of here!”

Following that is what will likely be years of negotiations with the EU, and with all of the trading partners who up til now were included in EU trade deals. All of that has been thrown out the window and everything is up for grabs.  If recent history is any indication I’d expect that the US will rape and pillage the UK economy, after which other countries will pick from the scraps left behind.

It’s a good time to not be living in the UK.

Our move to France now has a somewhat fixed deadline: December 31, 2020.  In the current withdrawal agreement that Boris is about to present to his Parliament that is the end of the “transition period.”  In theory at the end of those twelve months all UK/EU negotiations will have been completed, and Brexit will be a done deal.  I’m highly sceptical, but for now that’s the point when we move from being “EU resident moving from Britain to France” to “Foreigner moving to France.”

Thank heaven for the excellent FranceRights.org site for an excellent explainer that told me exactly what the state of affairs is at the moment.

If you are ‘legally resident’ on transition day (31 December 2020) you can stay. This is known as the ‘effective date’. This includes people who have moved to the EU27 up to the end of transition on 31 December 2020, who will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement on the same terms as those present before Brexit day itself.
The current conditions for legal residence under EU law will apply. After 3 months you have to be working/self-employed, self-sufficient, a student or a family member of any such person.

In practical terms the goal is now to purchase property in France by next summer, and be living there by the fall.   Now the real work begins.

Ce Blog est en Français partir d’aujourd’hui

1969 Dodge ChargerHier soir notre professeur de Français dit, “Le Français est un langue écrite.  Si ne pouvez pas l’écrire, vous ne pourrez pas le parler.”   Le même soir, j’ai fait ma première présentation orale.

J’étais vraiment très fier!


Quand j’avais seize ans je travaillais dans un cinéma. J’êtais un caissier. J’acceptais le paiement pour les billets et inspectais l’identification pour les filmes réservé aux personnes de 18 ans.

De plus grande importance il y avais les plaisirs que j’êtait apprendrait de mes amis. J’apprenais pour fumer de la cigarette, pour boire de la biére et de la vin, et j’ai rencontre ma premiere petite amie. Elle s’appelle Sandy, and aujour’dui elle est une infirmière a Kelowna.

Le cinema me payait trois dollars par huere, et j’croyais que j’était trés riche. J’ai âcheté un stéréo pour ma maison, et un stéréo huit-pistes pour ma voiture.

Ma voiture etais un mille neuf cent soixante-neuf Dodge Charger. C’etait trés vite, trés fort, et trés rouge. J’êtais rassemblé plusiers des contravention pour excès de vitesse.

Aujourd’hui je ne fume plus, je conduis plus lentement, et je suis marié, mais j’aime encore la vin.

Français vs 官话

Just a quick update.  To some degree our planning for the move to France has been derailed by an invitation to travel to China this summer.  Specifically we’ll be staying in Chengdu, with a side trip to Beijing.

All of which explains why I am simultaneously talking classes in French and Mandarin.  Or, more interestingly, I am finding that Mandarin is actually easier than French. (For me; your mileage may vary).

Borrowed from chinesepod.com

Probably the biggest difference is that Mandarin is pretty much free of irregular verbs – that bane of every French student’s life.  All in all, thus far, it seems to be a sensible and reliable language with few surprises – except for being tonal. I won’t go into all of the fine points, but it helps a lot if you hold your mouth in a “Chinese” fashion while speaking.

French on the other hand requires you to hold your mouth like you’re sucking a lemon, and as far as I can tell there are exactly three verbs that are actually “regular.”   Still it’s going reasonably well both because I studied French in college forty+ years ago, and because I have a wife who is a dedicated and brutal study partner.

I’ll add to this later – after I’ve written my oral presentation for tomorrow’s class.

As for Mandarin, admittedly I’m still working with Pinyin and spoken versions. I am quickly realizing that I will need to learn at least a some characters to really know what I’m doing.



France vs Fake News

We all know that all politicians are terribly concerned about Fake News® and interference with elections.  Really, they tell us all of the time.  If you’re interested the Poynter Institute is now monitoring what various countries are doing to deal with the problem.

In Canada that means :

… a multi-pronged effort to combat misinformation ahead of elections in the fall.

… the government created a “Critical Election Incident Public Protocol” that will monitor and notify other agencies and the public about disinformation attempts. That task force will be led by five non-political officials and is an addition to a “rapid response mechanism” housed within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Second, the government called on social media platforms to do more to combat disinformation ahead of the election. The move comes in tandem with Bill C-76, legislation that aims to compel tech companies to be more transparent about their anti-disinformation and advertising policies.

Third, Canada announced it was giving $7 million to projects aimed at increasing public awareness of misinformation online.”

If you translate that from political-speak it basically adds up to a) we’ll watch really, really closely and b) and ask Facebook really, really nicely to do something.  I think we all know how well that will work.  Even with a robust “public awareness” campaign, or as it is also known “blame the end user for not being clever enough to tell “real” news from “fake” news.”

Meanwhile in France:

The law, which passed in November, provides a definition of “fake news”: “Inexact allegations or imputations, or news that falsely report facts, with the aim of changing the sincerity of a vote.” It’s designed to enact strict rules on the media during electoral campaigns and, more specifically, in the three months preceding any vote.

The legislation gives authorities the power to remove fake content spread via social media and even block the sites that publish it, as well as enforce more financial transparency for sponsored content, in the three months before election periods. That builds upon an 1881 law that outlaws the dissemination of “false news.”

The law contains three major provisions. First, a judge is authorized to act “proportionally” but “with any means” to halt the dissemination of misinformation before elections. For the judge to act, a specific request must be filed by political groups, public authorities or individuals. The judge “acts within a delay of 48 hours from the notification.”

Second, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be required to publish who has purchased sponsored content or campaign ads and for what price. That component takes a page from the United States’ Honest Ads legislation, which applies existing standards for TV and radio stations to social media.

And finally, the law grants the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA), the broadcasting regulator, new administrative and executive powers to ensure that platforms abide by the law. It will “publish a regular report” regarding the effectiveness of measures enacted by platforms. Additionally, the CSA can now “unilaterally” revoke the broadcast rights of TV and radio outlets operating on French territory who are found to work “under the control or influence of a foreign state” and “disseminate misinformation.”

Now let’s get this clear.  In France, right now, you can file a complaint about mis-information and a judge will decide on it within 48 hours.   And the broadcast regulator can shut down radio and TV stations that are controlled by foreign governments and spreading fake news.  I cannot conceive of that ever happening in Canada. Ever.

All of this speaks to a governmental culture that still see a role in making society better instead of just rolling over when any large corporation claims that regulation will hurt their bottom-line.

2019. We’re still planning the move

why-u-haul-orange-old-lv-trailerI see now that it’s been a number of months since this blog was updated – August in fact.  That’s not because we’ve stopped looking at France, but because life has suddenly become a little bit crazy.  In the course of a few months we had a dog pass away, a grandchild born, another dog pass away, and now find that our cat needs radio-isotope treatment for thyroid issues.  And I had cataract surgery.  And am having some success at building a paid writing career.

On top of that we’re closely watching the madness that is Brexit, the Gilets jaunes (or the Russian provocateurs behind them), the relative rates for the Canadian dollar, the Euro, and the Pound, property prices in Vancouver (dropping) , and of course Trump.

How do you plan when you’re living in end of empire chaos?

Still, it remains the case that nice houses in Normandy are a bargain, and France still retains strong unions, good healthcare, a dramatic sense of its national identity, and robust funding for the Arts.  Our second choice for a move, Britain, looks like it’s heading into some kind of self-propelled disaster, with no-one willing to admit that it is inconceivable that Brexit could be anything less that a horrible catastrophe.

So watch this space, or even better, become our first ever Patreon subscriber!

A Canadian to head Air France? Mais non!

Word is in that a former head of Air Canada has been hired to run Air France, whose previous CEO resigned after the airline’s unionized workers rejected an offer of a 1% pay rise after having compensation frozen for seven years.

Air France-KLM has been locked in a bitter dispute with unions over pay and working conditions since 2014. In autumn of 2015, the airline unveiled plans to slash 2,900 jobs as part of a restructuring programme, including some 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots, sources said at the time.

The stand-off quickly reached a fever pitch with the infamous shirt-ripping incident in October that year, when around 100 employees angry over job cuts stormed a meeting, causing Air France executives to flee. Two had their shirts torn to shreds and were forced to scale a fence to escape the mob, photos of which went viral.

Air France boss without shirt

All of this is amazing from a Canadian perspective.  First there is the idea that unions are strong enough, and militant enough, to force the resignation of the big boss.  Second is the suggestion that they also don’t feel a great need to compromise with the employer.

Third is the remarkable story of union members crashing a board meeting and causing enough of a ruckus to actually frighten the managers into running away.

Even more amazing, “In a joint statement, nine unions objected to the appointment of a foreigner, citing the need for a CEO that will pursue “our national airline’s interests“.

Union fears were exacerbated by French media reports that Smith was seeking a remuneration package worth €4.25 million ($4.8 million), or three times that of his predecessor.

Yes, there is actually a suggestion that executive pay should reflect some reasonable amount, not just “how much do you have?”

Beyond that, does Air France really want to sink to the level of Air Canada?  To be the airline of last resort?  To be the airline that all of France chooses only if there isn’t a foreign competitor?   It’s all very sad, especially when you consider that this is an airline that once flew the Concorde.