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Everything posted by vivienz

  1. [quote user="AnOther"][quote user="vivienz"]In doing my utility research, I've come across the following page on the EDF site that lists dedicated English-speaking phone numbers for the various departments in France. http://residential.edf.com/customer-services/contact/contact-us-by-phone-208807.html [/quote]Not here it doesn't, it brings up a Erreur 404 Page non trouvée and even if you click on the France Metropolitiane tab then Help and Contact then Contact EDF by phone all you get is the one catch all number: +33 (0)9 69 36 63 83If you've really found actual departmental numbers (which I doubt as I can't believe EDF have English help lines in every department) maybe better you just publish them. [/quote] Well, I'm so terribly sorry that a post that I made nearly two years ago (from the date of your post) contains a link that is now out of date.  I shall be more careful when trying to be helpful in the future.
  2. We have a daphne shrub in a large trough next to the front door and it's coming into bloom.  The most gorgeous, delicious fragrance every time I enter and exit the house.  In the back garden, it's a heady combination of mahonia, daphne and winter honeysuckle. The winter troughs are turning into spring troughs as all the underplanted tete-a-tete bulbs are bursting out with plump buds; the winter flowering heathers will be out-shone very soon. As much as I enjoy all the seasons, I wish I could bottle the fragrance of those winter flowering shrubs.
  3. Bournemouth is no more of a dump than any other coastal town that has spread to become a sprawling conurbation and suffers the malaise of most other British towns with declining high street/town centre shopping. As to whether it has gone downhill, that very much depends on your income/social bracket, I think.  The new money tends to go to the blingy Sandbanks end of things (actually Poole, not Bournemouth), older money stays over Christchurch/Highcliffe way and Bournemouth is somewhere in between with a large mixture that includes an enormous number of foreign language students.  Generally, the older and richer people whinge about the inconvenience of all the foreigners and less well off as much as they ever would.  The fact that without them, they would have no one to take their order for their skinny decaf lates when they are out and about seems to escape them. The press always make a big thing out of the price of property at Sandbanks and, much to the chagrin of Poole Council, often refer to it as being in Sandbanks.  In any case, these separations will become less and less relevant over time - it has just been agreed that Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole councils will merge and, I daresay, the geographical distinctions will largely go the same way.  You would currently be pressed to tell when you cross from one borough to another.
  4. I always have a version of the specsavers advert kicking around in my head J'aurais du aller a Specsavers.
  5. I'm stocking up my freezer with some of my own 'ready meals'.  OH has cut down on meat since the start of the year but I remain a staunch carnivore and so I find it easier to continue to make about 4 portions of everything but then box it up and freeze it.  Last week I made lambs liver, bacon and onions in gravy with mashed potato and savoy cabbage.  I'd forgotten how delicious it was!  I don't think that my remaining 3 portions will last for very long. Leek, potato and fennel soup is on the cards for tonight, along with some home-made walnut bread, then apple sponge.  We scrumped the apples yesterday evening whilst out for a walk by the river - there are a couple of bountiful apple trees there and the ground is covered with rotting apples, so we gave them a good shake and returned home with about 3kg.  I've been contemplating the joys of a fish pie for later this week, too.  Yum.  I may even use condensed, no, EVAPORATED milk in the sauce!
  6. In a few weeks I'll be heading off over to Brittany for a break and I was thinking about when I was last there in September. I went for a walk with my lovely neighbour and her toutou, taking a tour of the village.  As we walked, her little dog stopped to answer a call of nature and I was really surprised when, with a great flourish, she pulled a dog poo bag from her pocket and picked up the deposit.  I said nothing and we carried on walking up the road, chatting away, as she merrily twirled the bag in her free hand.  After a brief moment, she caught herself twirling the bag and in the nonchalant way that the French seem to specialise in, flung it into the hedge of a house along side the road, clearly quite satisfied with her aim.  There was no bin nearby, so it wasn't a bad shot.  We continued on, she clearly thinking that she had done her civic duty and me utterly bemused. I reflect frequently on this but I don't try to fathom any logic in it, just have a good chuckle and look forward to the next surprise.
  7. Anyone who has an Irish parent is automatically an Irish citizen and so your husband will also qualify as he is married to you.  If you wish, you can apply for Irish passports - you will need some proof of your parent's citizenship status, e.g. birth certificates.  There is quite a backlog at the moment for passports, though, so you may want to leave it a little while before applying.
  8. The price of a modest brunch for two at tea rooms just outside Christchurch.  Last weekend OH and I went for a little 6 mile round trip on our bikes for just such a thing.  It made me very happy indeed as it was the first bike ride OH has been able to manage since smashing his foot to bits in January.  It was a sunny day, a lovely ride and it made me very happy, indeed.
  9. Many cocktail recipes use elderflower liqueur rather than the cordial.  A few months ago a friend and I took a cocktail masterclass and tour around the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery in Hampshire, and they used the liqueur in some of their recipes. The best known brand is 'St-Germain' and is, in fact, French.  You may find it easier to track down the liqueur rather than the cordial.  Incidentally, on the St Germain website, they call it 'delice de sureau'.
  10. All this talk of onions and spuds had an influence - I've just returned from getting my weekly shopping at Aldi and I felt compelled to buy 4 lovely looking Spanish onions.  They're called large mild onions but they do, indeed, come from Spain.  Onion tart for us tomorrow night!  I should add that it was 69p for 4, making for an excellent value dinner.
  11. I always buy British potatoes and, in the main, British onions although I do have a soft spot for a cheese and onion tart made with those enormous onions (can we still call them Spanish onions?).  I also buy most of my fruit and veg at a greengrocer's stall in the market, so I don't think that this particular price difference is attributable to the large supermarkets.  Granted, out of season onions do need to come from further afield, but I've noticed the differential all year round. I usually buy shallots rather than onions in a French shop as these are much better value than onions. Idun - I saw new potatoes with skins on  (they looked an awful lot like Jersey royals/international kidney spuds) in the small local market near our place in Brittany.  Outrageously expensive, mind, but they were there. Sunday's potatoes were Cornish new potatoes - just lightly scrubbed of their skins.  Larger than new, new spuds but still with that lovely waxy texture.
  12. Or is it just my imagination? I'll be getting some lovely Cornish new potatoes in the market (England) tomorrow morning and it put me in mind of recent grumbes to hubby whenever I go to the supermarket in France about the price of spuds and onions.  They do seem to be much more expensive in Brittany, either supermarket or market, than in blighty. Incidentally, I cooked Sunday lunch for the family last weekend and we had new potatoes with it.  Sister in law is a chef and as the potatoes were going on to cook, added in a very generous scoop of butter and a large sprig of mint.  I tried them before they were buttered and minted again for serving and it did make a very delicious difference.  The butter in the cooking water seemed to make them more.....umm....can't find the word, but the texture had changed somehow, for the better.
  13. It depends on what type of pension you are transferring from, HSD.  If it's a final salary scheme, think long and hard about the guarantees you are giving up and what you will get in exchange if you transfer elsewhere.  As a rule of thumb, take a look at current annuity rates and see how much capital it would cost you to purchase the income that a final salary scheme provides.  If it is significantly more than the transfer value you are being offered, then think long and hard about it.  Otherwise, there are 2 different sides to pensions - one is the structure of the pension itself and the other is the investments within it.  The investments that can be used within a UK scheme are very wide ranging these days with only a few notable exceptions, primarily individual shares and residential property.  The pension owner can manage their own investments in a self invested type of arrangement or have someone else manage the money for them.  If the investments are managed on your behalf, there will often be an up front fee for investing/making recommendations and then an ongoing management fee.  Watch out for any up front costs as they can put a hefty dent in your money which it then has to recover from.  You get just the same mix of good, bad and indifferent performance from UK investments as from mainland European ones - it depends which you choose and how closely you monitor them until you need them. Re. the structure of the scheme, if this is what you are concerned about, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve by transferring - is it access at an earlier age than your current scheme will allow?  Is it greater investment freedom? Etc.  It may have changed in recent years but QROPS usually only allowed transfers to schemes that offered broadly similar benefits to UK schemes in terms of the amount of tax free cash and level of income in retirement.  Many of the more far-flung schemes were closed down to prevent abusive transfers and, in any event, these were often very expensive for the customer and dealt with larger fund values, as Andy says. Also, don't forget that whilst you may transfer to escape one pension regime, there is no guarantee that the one you move to will stay the same and no adviser can or should give you guarantees that it will.  The clearer that you can be about what your objectives are for this pot of money, the clearer the solution will be.
  14. I've been sitting on the fence since all of this kicked off and, to tell the truth, I'm still sitting there but I can feel my centre of gravity moving towards the remain side. I've listened to and read endless comment on the arguments for both sides and have come to a few firm conclusions.  The first is that I'm no economist and never will be, and so I have a far greater chance of winning the lottery than accurately predicting the future 10 years hence, whichever way the vote goes.  I think this is equally true of politicians, leaders of companies and bureaucrats, too.  I am confident, though, that if the vote is to leave, things will be chaotic for anything up to 10 years.  Together with my husband, we run a very small (micro) manufacturing company and over 90% of our goods are exported to Europe.  We are also in the last 10 year run up to retirement.  I could vote for noble principles of the independence of the UK, but I reckon that we will still be governed by a bunch of elite bureaucrats and politicians and my individual voice will count for little.  On the other hand, I can vote to remain in the hope that I can have some certainty over the last decade of my working life and a hard-earned retirement, or as much certainty one can have in UK manufacturing.  Immigration and the finances of the country and Europe as a whole are rather like abstract ideas for me - I can appreciate the arguments but can't change much.  So, I'm going with the completely selfish choice.  I don't think that the principle of this is any different to what all the other self-serving public voices are doing in the end, though.
  15. Thank you, Norman, for the further enlightenment.  Whatever the arguments for and against the various law and labour reforms that are proposed in France, I always feel very sad about the prospects of young people faced with that high a level of youth unemployment - a crushing blow to anyone's aspirations for the future. By stark contrast, I struggle terribly to get staff for our small manufacturing firm and our search for an apprentice to start with us in the autumn (a proper, old fashioned type, not an apprenticeship in how to stack shelves) is coming to nought so far.  Maybe I should advertise the vacancies in French or an eastern European language!
  16. Certainly, it's a thought, but I'll keep it as that for the time being and stick to audio books and written books for the time being.  Even cheaper!
  17. I'm not sure that getting a lover would be cheaper, particularly if my husband found out! 
  18. Thank you, Wooly, for a very informative explanation.  I am enlightened as to what the movement is, but remain in the dark as far as being able to sympathise in the slightest with their cause. You say 'as the Bas is approaching' - what do you mean by this?  Again, it's one of those cases where I understand the language, but not the sense.  Plenty more of those where this one comes from!
  19. I get a weekly French current affairs magazine, L'Obs, and a recent major article is all about 'Nuit debout'.  I can understand the thrust of the article but I don't know the background to this movement and what it is seeking to do.  Can anyone enlighten me?
  20. I'm just coming to the end of a year of study with the OU and thought I'd post my experience here for anyone else who may be considering this route. For just over 2 years now I have been improving my French and I started off by going to an evening conversation class and supplementing this with some private study using grammar books, etc.  Prior to this, I had only completed O level French many, many years ago and used a little tourist French. About a year into the conversation class I decided that I wanted to progress more rapidly and in a more structured way and the best thing I could find at the time was the OU so I signed up for a language studies degree in French and English (they don't offer French on its own).  I have now almost completed this and have 2 final essays for the English side of things to submit, but the French course is completed.  I went in at the intermediate level. The course materials (talking now just about French) were a curate's egg.  The quality of their presentation and the depth in which the areas of grammar and culture were studied were, I thought, excellent.  The downside was that many of the subject areas appeared irrelevant and could have been better chosen.  For instance, in order to introduce the topic of talking about daily routines, times and so on, the OU used the example of the way of life in a monastery.  Another example for a different area was that of boarding school.  Hmmm. My biggest complaint about the course is the lack of oral content and, in particular, conversation.  Assessment for the course is in 2 parts - 4 tutor marked assignments (TMAs) spread over the course, and then the final examinable marked assignment (EMA) at the end.  Of the TMAs only one of these is oral and this is talking about a particular topic for 4 minutes which you record and then submit as the assignment.  In other words, you write an essay and read it out.  The EMA is a slightly different format - the student prepares a 2 minute presentation of each of 3 different topics.  At the time of their EMA slot (which takes place in a virtual, online classroom) the student is told which topic they will present on.  They read their presentation and then the examiner asks them questions about it for 4 minutes.  This is the only time in the entire course when a student's ability to converse in French is tested. I've decided not to continue with the OU for further studies as my primary objective is to become fluent in French.  I'm not concerned about pursuing any studies in English right now, particularly as much of what I've done this year whilst interesting has had a strong element of academic navel gazing about it and I don't have the temperament for this kind of thing (especially when I'm paying for it!).  My plan for future studies is to try the online courses offered by the Institut Francais and supplement with some private classes.  I will probably continue with the conversation class, too, although I find it frustrating at times. The next stage in French with the OU would include more oral work but not as much as I can have via the Institut Francais, so it's the latter for me as I want to focus on this.  Also, the next stage up is incredibly expensive - by the time a week's residential school in France is added in, the cost comes to over £3,000 and I'm not convinced that it represents value for money for me as I don't need to obtain a degree - I'm doing this for pleasure and my own purposes.  My current estimates are that I can get to the same level using the IF and private lessons for about one third of that price. In summary, the OU course is fine if you need/want to get a degree.  But if you want to learn to write and speak a language fluently and that's all you want, it isn't the cheapest and certainly not the most focussed way available.
  21. I was at French conversation class yesterday evening and the correct word order using 'propre' came up.  I had the perfect example that also summed me up - j'ai ma propre maison, mais pas une maison propre.  Yup, that's me.
  22. Re. the shower cleaning, mint, I live in a (very) hard water area, too.  I find that giving the shower a wipe down with one of those microfibre glass cleaning cloths after use keeps it sparkly clean - no need for vinegar or much elbow grease.  I loathe housework and anything that saves a horrible task like this is a winner in my book! It's been a lovely day here in blighty - we visited a garden and are now contemplating a very French hydrangea border for our garden.
  23. Sadly, it's not just the youngsters.  Hubby and I usually eat out once a week, on a week day, as it means that we get the chance to talk to each other for a few hours rather than nodding off in front of the telly/whilst reading of an evening.  Whilst we were out last week, an early-retired looking couple were sitting near us and barely exchanged a word to each other for the whole time we were there.  They each sat messing with their phones, occasionally showing each other something on their phone, but I think that the most complex bit of conversation they had was when they decided to get the bill.  Terribly sad.
  24. Hello there, mint.  Our circumstances are rather different as our French place is only a holiday home rather than a permanent residence.  However, when there, we only heat the tank of water as and when we want it.  Generally, there is enough hot water for washing up and showers after about 3 hours. The logical approach would be to find out how much a replacement tank (fitted would cost) and what the anticipated life span.  Compare this to the additional electricity cost of keeping the tank permanently heated over this period of time, and that should give you your answer.  Given the price of electricity in France, I would be surprised if it is cheaper to keep the tank permanently on than pay for a replacement every 10 years or so (pure guess!).
  25. I recently started a French language course to improve my somewhat exuberant but inaccurate French and my first assignment was a spoken one.  Inevitably, I ummed and ahhed a few times, so my tutor suggested the following to increase my 'umming and ahhing' vocabulary: alors, bon, ben, voilà, donc I haven't used them in that way a great deal yet, as I'm still trying to work out how I can include a very expressive 'oh la vache' in the next one.  Favourite phrase of the moment.
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