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The winter of my discontent.


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France and other parts of 'Old Europe' are about to begin their own 'winter of discontent'. Disruption is likely to be a semi permanent feature of life in these parts for at least the foreseeable future.

The battle against the power of French institutions and trade unions is hotting up. Make no mistake this is a potential conflict of epic proportions, blood will be left on the floor. The mother of all bocage etc is arriving on a street near you.

Either the current French government will have the courage to stand up to the social conflict the much needed reforms are likely to cause. Or as usual they will eventually capitulate and crumble whenever things get difficult.

Difficult times are coming and I am betting now on capitulation and more of the same until France stagnates so far it will cease to matter. The EU will always continue to bale out countries with holes below the water line.

I have been hoping for reforms for twenty years, believing that France had the potential to be a great country in which to live. Things could not I told myself continue in the way they are. Well they have. I was wrong.

France still is a wonderful place to live if you are of independent means but even then the social and political system eventually defeats your spirits and makes grown men cry..... 

I have often wondered why French people seem defeated and possess a passive acceptance of their fate. Difficuties being the norm and just something to be carried. I realised the other day I had somehow gradually become the same.

Now I have lost my tolerance and patients with it all. I am selling up and going back to Britain. Not want you hopeful 'new life' folks want to hear I am sure.

Realism of any sort is never an easy pill to swallow. Britain at least may allow me somehow to set myself free.

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Good luck Logan. It will be interesting to see what you make of the UK.

I think you are right that French reforms are needed and the battle will commence this winter.

However I am slightly more optimistic than you in that Germany seems to have made the commitment to reform, and France will not lag too far behind (thus the "European motor" comments made in the last few days) but won't be able to hold Germany back.
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Only been here a year and a half so not quite time served, but not a newbie either. Not of independent means and working on being a fully paid up member of French society now that the holiday is over, but, would cut my right arm off before I returned to the UK.  I watched my daughter chasing butterflies round the garden today, in October, in shorts and T shirt.  I could go on but I would no doubt get shot down.

A French friend or ours said last week that the revolution commeth.  We laughingly called him wolfie (citizen Smith) but I suspect that he may not have been joking.


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After the 'revolution' will the same type of people will be in power and the social charges any less...?

Prehaps only if 'they' stop spending less, will 'they' need to take less and therefore may 'we' have to pay less, charge less...

Every-one wants a fat slice of the cake and no-one is prepared to be poor any-more...


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Nice Mr Brown has said that he has got it wrong and that taxes will have to go up - the problems are world wide - unless you live in one of the countries that is pulling money in, not pushing it out, the new centres of the world economy - India and China you are going to have a problem. Mr Brown will not want to deal with his problems until he has won the next election so the problems will build there as well.

Go back to the UK - not on your nelly. They allowed well known companies to steal our hard earned money that we stupidly put into pension funds - if we had lived and worked in France and paid our dues, our pensions - even if under review would have been in safer hands.

France has done something for me that the UK never did - cured a 30 year face ache - that is not a joke and the cost to me per month for the drugs is under €3. I will put up with a lot of strife and strikes and even if it came to it a three day week just for the pure ruddy pleasure of being able to eat a baguette without curling up in abomniable pain.

I look forward to the winter of my content. All the best to you but having lived in 3 continents I can only say that in my opinion it is very hard if not impossible to go back - which I why I keep going forward.
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What I have yet to understand is how France (with its inefficient, state dominated, basket case of an economy that tetters on the verge of collapse) and the UK (with ITS go-ahead, free enterprise, model-of-libiralisation economy that is, presumably, booming as a result) manage to have practically the same GDP - USD 1737 billion and USD 1782 billion (2004 estimates, culled from the very helpful CIA website) - from practically the same population. GDP must be important, I suppose, otherwise people would not be so concerned with growing it...anyone care to explain?

France has its problems - no denying it - but on balance I'd rather live in a country where people are prepared to take to the streets and protest about things than one sunk in apathy and take-away food packaging. Di - can you imagine the protests that would have occured here had the private pensions disaster occured in France? In the UK there were some half hearted articles in the papers and...nothing.
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Hi Logan

Sorry to read your story - I do wonder however how you will re-adjust to life in the UK - hopefully you have bags of cash to be able to afford a large pad in which to reside - property pricing is at stupid levels everywhere in the UK and the conversion rate is good for leaving but trying to get back in is expensive.

I have met many returnees that find getting a job hard as they are out of touch with the market as it is now.

I wish you luck -but I dont think you will find England anyless frustrating than France - just different things will annoy! You will however miss the space - the tranquility - the freedom and the clean air.

Bon Chance

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Thank you all for your good wishes.

I have been back to the UK twice this year and return again next week. After living in France for so long now I have noticed great changes in Britain. Vibrant economic activity, optimism among ordinary hard working people. There is hope and prospect in the air. A complete contrast to France where pessimism and gloom seem to be the norm. It was not always like that. The 1980's & 90's in France had a similar sort of optimism or perhaps it was just my own.

Reform to all the many vested interest groups in France is seen as threat. Not as a means to move forward and inprove. They will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world order of 21st century economics. That takes enormous political will. Looking around I see no sign of that, even among the current crop of younger men.

The involvement of the state in every aspect of your life here eventually frustrates your ambitions. The moment you feel you are getting slightly ahead the machinery of state knocks you back to whence you came. You plough on, work hard in all the hours imaginable.

Then a quagmire of beauracratic procedures and surly unaccountable functionaires with agreeable pension arrangements and a job for life do their level best to ruin you.

I realise life in the UK is not the holy grail. However when you have lost your faith in a place it's better to move on. Faith once lost is never recoverable.

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Clean air? Butterflies? Remarkable though it may seem to some, both can be found in parts of the UK known as the countryside. Not everyone lives in a metropolis. And French ones have air every bit as filthy, and probably as few butterflies, as British ones.

I moved from rural Britain to a French city (with my French husband), and I have replaced one set of contentments and irritations for another. The grass is never, or always, depending on your disposition, greener.

Good luck to you Logan. One half of me wishes I was doing the same, and the other half is happy about staying put. 

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Economically, despite being told how great the economy is (by those running it !!), UK is in breach of the Maastrich Growth and Stability Pact (and has been pulled-up by the EU about it), consumer borrowing is now in excess of £1 trillion (considered by many to be totally excessive), unemployment is rising, inflation is rising, future pensions black holes, etc. A lot of problems being “bottled-up” for the future. Whilst the UK is not alone with these problems, all is not “sweetness” as government PR is making out and there are problems on the horizon.

Maybe one difference between UK and France is that in France people say what they are unhappy about. They take to the streets to show their leaders that they seek an alternate route. The UK (as pointed out elsewhere in this thread) seems to blindly accept what it is told by the government and bad news and prospects are met with a shrug and acceptance and no real will to do something about it.

A lot is made about the failings in the French economy, yet as somebody else has pointed out the GDP is not dissimilar to the UK. One encouraging thing about the French economy is that there are solutions and people recognise that things need to be done. There will probably be a lot of discussion about how, what, where, when, etc. but at least people are taking an active interest which is somewhat more that in the UK.

I’m not for one moment saying that France is great and UK is rubbish, but rather that both countries have their problems and France is trying to address them somewhat more actively than the UK.

Not for one moment commenting of anybody’s decision to return. France is right for some and not for others and as with most things in life, things change.


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Can you tell me just how France have found the solutions ? And indeed what they are ? Recognising things to be done, as you say, is the easiest thing to do, we can all recognise problems, the art surely, is to not talk about it but to show hard facts to people and I don't see much of that at the moment.

PM de Villepin says he has used his first 100 days in office to introduce new measures to create jobs and adapt France's social model. Many folks are not impressed but to be fair, some people think his emphasise on putting unemployment at the top is working but again, I haven't seen proof of that around here. Some of the finance journalists say he is simply after a short term fix and that barely constitutes recovery.

I just see repeats of, changes are afoot, every now and again and nothing in between. Unemployment for example, has been pretty high for ages and speaking for our region, not a lot of hope can be seen in the future.

Why should the UK talk about it, at the moment they are doing OK, sure there are problems but at least a lot of people are hopeful in their outlook, unlike many young here (and some older folks who feel they may never work again !)The French are talking about the problems but so would anyone when there are problems and of course, so will the UK when it is their turn to suffer like the French.

Good luck Logan, you will be joining thousands and thousands of French who also find it less restrictive in the UK and more vibrant than staying in France.

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<<Maybe one difference between UK and France is that in France people say what they are unhappy about. They take to the streets to show their leaders that they seek an alternate route. The UK (as pointed out elsewhere in this thread) seems to blindly accept what it is told by the government and bad news and prospects are met with a shrug and acceptance and no real will to do something about it.>>

Maybe because of this?:

Protest is criminalised and the huffers and puffers say nothing

The police abuse terror and harassment laws to penalise dissent while we
insist civil liberties are our gift to the world

George Monbiot
Tuesday October 4, 2005
The Guardian

'We are trying to fight 21st-century crime - antisocial behaviour, drug
dealing, binge drinking, organised crime - with 19th-century methods, as if
we still lived in the time of Dickens." Tony Blair, September 27 2005.

"Down poured the wine like oil on blazing fire. And still the riot went on -
the debauchery gained its height - glasses were dashed upon the floor by
hands that could not carry them to lips, oaths were shouted out by lips
which could scarcely form the words to vent them in; drunken losers cursed
and roared; some mounted on the tables, waving bottles above their heads and
bidding defiance to the rest; some danced, some sang, some tore the cards
and raved. Tumult and frenzy reigned supreme ..." Nicholas Nickleby, by
Charles Dickens, 1839.

All politicians who seek to justify repressive legislation claim that they
are responding to an unprecedented threat to public order. And all
politicians who cite such a threat draft measures in response which can just
as easily be used against democratic protest. No act has been passed over
the past 20 years with the aim of preventing antisocial behaviour,
disorderly conduct, trespass, harassment and terrorism that has not also
been deployed to criminalise a peaceful public engagement in politics. When
Walter Wolfgang was briefly detained by the police after heckling the
foreign secretary last week, the public caught a glimpse of something that a
few of us have been vainly banging on about for years.

On Friday, six students and graduates of Lancaster University were convicted
of aggravated trespass. Their crime was to have entered a lecture theatre
and handed out leaflets to the audience. Staff at the university were
meeting people from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Shell, the Carlyle Group,
GlaxoSmithKline, DuPont, Unilever and Diageo, to learn how to "commercialise
university research". The students were hoping to persuade the researchers
not to sell their work. They were in the theatre for three minutes. As the
judge conceded, they tried neither to intimidate anyone nor to stop the
conference from proceeding.

They were prosecuted under the 1994 Criminal Justice Act, passed when
Michael Howard was the Conservative home secretary. But the university was
able to use it only because Labour amended the act in 2003 to ensure that it
could be applied anywhere, rather than just "in the open air".

Had Mr Wolfgang said "nonsense" twice during the foreign secretary's speech,
the police could have charged him under the Protection from Harassment Act
1997. Harassment, the act says, "must involve conduct on at least two
occasions ... conduct includes speech". Parliament was told that its purpose
was to protect women from stalkers, but the first people to be arrested were
three peaceful protesters. Since then it has been used by the arms
manufacturer EDO to keep demonstrators away from its factory gates, and by
Kent police to arrest a woman who sent an executive at a drugs company two
polite emails, begging him not to test his products on animals. In 2001 the
peace campaigners Lindis Percy and Anni Rainbow were prosecuted for causing
"harassment, alarm or distress" to American servicemen at the Menwith Hill
military intelligence base in Yorkshire, by standing at the gate holding the
Stars and Stripes and a placard reading "George W Bush? Oh dear!" In Hull a
protester was arrested under the act for "staring at a building".

Had Mr Wolfgang said "nonsense" to one of the goons who dragged him out of
the conference, he could have been charged under section 125 of the Serious
Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which came into force in August.
Section 125 added a new definition of harassment to the 1997 act, "a course
of conduct ... which involves harassment of two or more persons". What this
means is that you need only address someone once to be considered to be
harassing them, as long as you have also addressed someone else in the same
manner. This provision, in other words, can be used to criminalise any
protest anywhere. But when the bill passed through the Commons and the
Lords, no member contested or even noticed it.

Section 125 hasn't yet been exercised, but section 132 of the act is already
becoming an effective weapon against democracy. This bans people from
demonstrating in an area "designated" by the government. One of these areas
is the square kilometre around parliament. Since the act came into force,
democracy campaigners have been holding a picnic in Parliament Square every
Sunday afternoon (see www1.atwiki.com/picnic/). Seventeen people have been
arrested so far.

But the law that has proved most useful to the police is the one under which
Mr Wolfgang was held: section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This allows them
to stop and search people without the need to show that they have
"reasonable suspicion" that a criminal offence is being committed. They have
used it to put peaceful protesters through hell. At the beginning of 2003,
demonstrators against the impending war with Iraq set up a peace camp
outside the military base at Fairford in Gloucestershire, from which US B52s
would launch their bombing raids. Every day - sometimes several times a day
- the protesters were stopped and searched under section 44. The police,
according to a parliamentary answer, used the act 995 times, though they
knew that no one at the camp was a terrorist. The constant harassment and
detention pretty well broke the protesters' resolve. Since then the police
have used the same section to pin down demonstrators outside the bomb depot
at Welford in Berkshire, at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston,
at Menwith Hill and at the annual arms fair in London's Docklands.

The police are also rediscovering the benefits of some of our more venerable
instruments. On September 10, Keith Richardson, one of the six students
convicted of aggravated trespass on Friday, had his stall in Lancaster city
centre confiscated under the 1824 Vagrancy Act. "Every Person wandering
abroad and endeavouring by the Exposure of Wounds and Deformities to obtain
or gather Alms ... shall be deemed a Rogue and Vagabond... " The act was
intended to prevent the veterans of the Napoleonic wars from begging, but
the police decided that pictures of the wounds on this man's
anti-vivisection leaflets put him on the wrong side of the law. In two
recent cases, protesters have been arrested under the 1361 Justices of the
Peace Act. So much for Mr Blair's 21st century methods.

What is most remarkable is that until Mr Wolfgang was held, neither
parliamentarians nor the press were interested. The pressure group Liberty,
the Green party, a couple of alternative comedians, the Indymedia network
and the alternative magazine Schnews have been left to defend our civil
liberties almost unassisted. Even after "Wolfie" was th

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Yes, and  police and gendarmes have always had the right to stop us and check our papers.

Since I have been in France, so likely something that dates back to the war, french citizens have had to give their finger prints to get their ID cards.

And those two are just the everyday things in France. France has never felt free to me, ever! And in these changing times I am sure that France will adjust and  have rigourous laws to further curb the population.

In spite of the liberty, equality and fraternity thing, when was France ever about that. And saying that, better in France than many countries in the world. That does not make France 'good' though. The french government would never dare introduce liberty equality and fraternity and they never applied to us women anyway, it was always the droit de l'homme.

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what you really want logan is to find a country not run by gangsters and bullys,im 52 and can remember when the unions had a shout in the uk,and yes for 20 years the people in the uk had a voice,you all may disagree with me its yur right    for the time being   but i remember it as a time when working class folk could buy there own houses my son in the uk is having to buy a crap council house beacouse his wages about 800 pounds a week wont buy him any thing else,people in the uk need to stand up to the government again. the people here in france do to some extent and in my opinion are the better for it
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[quote]what you really want logan is to find a country not run by gangsters and bullys,im 52 and can remember when the unions had a shout in the uk,and yes for 20 years the people in the uk had a voice,you a...[/quote]

Stand up to the governmnt? Did you READ my post?


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I agree with all your sentiments regarding the ever oppressive state in both UK and France. Oppression stifles real debate and meaningful action by the people, exactly the intended purpose.

I do believe that the quality of life in France is being eroded by ever increasing regulation and the restriction of personal freedoms. It's been happening almost surreptitiously since Napoleon first drafted the Civil Code....

The EU continue the same rich vein of interference and intervention in our lives.

Yet when the French take to the barricades and blocage it is not to protest against state interference. It is to demand the retention of what they regard as the acceptable status quo. State subsidy, maintenance of vested interests, support of trade union power. In shorthand more of the social model against the principles of free market capitalisation.

In my view it is only through free markets that real and sustaining prosperity for the majority can be sustained.

I have flirted with the principals of socialism during my lifetime. They are admirable in principle but always fail in practice. It fails because it never takes into account the individual human spirit. The natural need to rise above the ordinary.

Thank you all for contributing to this debate. I have never felt the UK is a better place to live, just easier for my old age!


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Had to read £800 per week several times, took me 4 times to type it in correctly. We exist on less than that per month.

Surely the UK economy is in fairyland, and not substainable, something our french neighbours, one of which is a french bank manager have been saying for about the last six years!!!!


Lost in the Lot

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£800 x 52 = £41600 before or after tax...?  mulpitly this by 3.5 then you can borrow £145.600 which aint so bad and although its a long way from that stud farm in Sussex its still a good start after a fashion. That being 4 times the minimum wage in the U.K...

£145.600  or 203.000 euros would buy me a manoir with money to renovate it.

I earn the SMIC here and am happy enough with the cut of my cloth...

I have more freedom here in France than I ever had in the U.K and at least for the ordinary man I believe France has our best interests in mind.



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Quote (Miki): “Ian, Can you tell me just how France have found the solutions ?”

I wish I could but I don’t think they have necessarily found the solutions. My comment was that people in France recognise that things need to be done to address the problem here. They may not agree on what needs to be done but there does seem (from my experience) fairly wide spread agreement on what the problems are (e.g. public sector too expensive, social charges for employers too high, employment laws discouraging employers from taking on new employees, etc. etc.). I did comment that “France is trying to address them” (not that it had the answers).

For example, the new employment contracts that have been introduced. I have no idea if they will help or not but it is something that is being done. A couple of months ago it was reported that in the department where I live there were now 600 people employed (in this department) under these new contracts. The French have started making some changes to their health system (e.g. you need to register with a single doctor and can only claim back from consultations/treatments from that doctor). I’m sure these in themselves will not be solutions but at least people are starting to think about things are doing things (which is what I meant in my previous post).

In my opinion, UK is still “living on spin”. The last election campaign saw Labour bleating on about how well the economy, etc. was doing, yet it was within two weeks after the election that it was (quietly) announced that UK industry was now technically in recession (which I though was not particularly good news and did not quite fit with what New Labour had been presenting throughout their election campaign).

(By the may many lenders will go far above 3.5 times income these days).


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A couple of thoughts

If some one cannot live on £800 per week - they either have extraordinary aspirations or cannot manage their money! I was not earning that amount of money when I retired managed to bring up 2 sons now 25 and 28 had a house - holidays and time with friends in the local, and now manage very adequately on that weekly amount per month - no sympathy there - however as we all know getting jobs here is hard for the locals and especially in the rural areas and some do migrate to the UK but generally for higher paid jobs in the cities and they give up the benefits of rural life. I know a couple of french people through work who have very high powered and high earning jobs - they live in what they call boxes no garden and no space - they see these jobs as short term to gain experience and then move on.

As far as identity cards go - the police in the UK stop people when ever they feel like it - especially racial minorities and there are no ID cards to help prove who you are.

We all know the bureaucracy in France before we move - I am 50% Dutch and that is becoming a very bureaucratic country now - a reason many Dutch move to France.

Here at least we have the space to breath - space to enjoy life - no where on this planet is perfect and no where is untainted with bureaucracy - we have to find what suits us best - and if France is not the place for you then do as Logan is doing - move on - at least Logan is doing something other than moan - I personally disagree with the move but admire the choice that has been made and wish him well.


Bon Chance

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Apologies to Logan and everyone else who has been taking part in this interesting and worthwhile discussion.

I am just reeling still about the 800 quid a week thing.

'....my son in the uk is having to buy a crap council house beacouse his wages about 800 pounds a week ...' (Hardhat)

He doesn't have to buy, he is choosing to. Choosing to BUY a 'crap' house. 

I have to say when I saw that the first thing I thought was the guy is in debt and has not mentioned this pertinant fact to his parent/s. Second thought was where does he live, does the answer lie there?

I apologise again, this post adds nothing to the thread I am flabberghasted and sometimes it just spills out

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