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Posts Tagged ‘France’

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion

15/07/2016

Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya, Nice… and these are just a handful of the places to have suffered grave and unimaginable losses due to terrorism so far in 2016.

And we can shout “Terrorism has no religion!” until our throats are dry, but it is a lie.

Because all those lives have been lost not just to terrorism, but to ISLAMIC terrorism. I reiterate again, that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

Most of those Muslims carrying out attacks in the West were born and brought up in the countries they appear to hate so very much, by parents who (I imagine) moved here for a better life. In order to try and stem the advance of this carnage, and the divisive social and political disintegration it causes, we need to stop coming out with both excuses and blanket condemnations, and start concentrating our efforts on finding out why these people hate with such vehemence.

We need to find out how they could become so radicalised against the relatively mild background of democratic Western Europe.

Is it disaffected youth, whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters?

Is it the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions?

Is it the ease with which religion feeds into the innate and divisive human trait of seeking a righteous “us” versus an immoral “them”?

We need to find out whether their families, friends and communities simply fail to notice this radicalisation process taking place, whether their sense of kinship is stronger than their compassion for the innocent men women and children of their host countries, or whether the numbers of the complicit are higher than we dare imagine.

Most importantly , we must ensure that within our message of democratic freedom, a very clear emphasis is put on a secular Freedom of Religion. Not the freedom to do whatever you please in the name of religion, but the freedom for everyone to believe whatever they please and to live as they please, providing it is not detrimental to others and whilst understanding that religion is a personal choice, not a political or a moral framework.

And for all those who feel that the only trigger for these attacks is clumsy Western intervention in the Middle East, what about those Muslims who kill other Muslims for being the wrong sort of Muslim? What about those Muslims who kill ex-Muslims simply because they no longer believe in Allah? What about those Muslims who kill other Muslims simply because they have dared questioned some of the tenets of Islam?

I have no solutions to the sickness currently affecting Islam, but pretending it is not there is the height of stupidity.

Nice wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya and Nice, cry for them and mourn with them, just don’t pray for them, for more religion is the last thing they need.

Status Viatoris

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives…

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Au Revoir !

15/08/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No, not to you lot – despite the irregularity of my postings, Status Viatoris would have to be prised from my cold dead fingers before I abandoned it altogether…

No, the au revoir in this post is directed very much at my French apartment, which, after three and a half painfully long years has finally been sold. Admittedly for vastly less than if I had managed to shift it before the market nosedived, but at least I am no longer racking my brains for ways to pay the mortgage every month and staying awake night after night torturing myself with thoughts of the eventual maintenance costs incurred by an empty apartment in a damp medieval village.

The buyers were exactly the sort I had dreamt of – a young French couple who experienced a dramatic coup de coeur at first visit, and immediately set their hearts on obtaining it for their forever home.

(A huge improvement on the alternative cold-hearted Parisien or similarly detached foreigner in search of a holiday home to be used for a piddling fortnight a year, thus contributing to the ghost village phenomenon so prevalent in picturesque rural Europe.)

The price they offered me was in the region of what I had paid (purchase price plus the cost of major renovations) in 2004/2005 – investment, what investment? But desperation had my hands lassoed firmly behind my back, and after a small and purely symbolic haggle, the deal was done.

Then, having jumped once again through the burning hoops of incompetence proffered by Supercilious Turd, we were on the home straight; finally signing the Acte de Vente on the 8th of August, before departing our separate and varyingly happy ways – mine being the slightly less joyous path…

For although, after the agonies of the past three and a half years, I thought myself immune to further shock – and certainly felt the bad luck that had dogged every step of my French real estate journey couldn’t possibly find further ways to blight my life – I was wrong.

At the time I left France in 2008, I had been working for a number of months in a self-employed capacity – my boss at the time being keen to avoid the hefty taxes and social charges implied by having employees. He paid me a decent salary to compensate, so all well and good; but upon leaving both job and country, I then faced a two-year battle to convince French bureaucrats that they no longer had any right to my money.

Endless registered letters (Monsieur Le French bureaucrat’s most favouritist thing), normal letters, emails and phone calls whizzed their way, until the dreaded URSSAF finally backed down and let me be – the proverbial straw possibly being the bill for €52,000.00 in “social charges” that I sent back heavily defaced with red pen:

“IF YOU DON’T STOP HARASSING ME I SHALL REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE, YOU INCOMPETENT BASTARDS !”

En français, bien sûr…

The upshot being that the French authorities were left in no doubt that I was no longer a resident of La Belle France; which in turn meant that upon the sale of my French pad, they were going to be able to sting me for over 30% of the plus value (capital gains).

To complicate matters further, mine was not a straightforward property. Had I been in the possession of a cookie cutter apartment of the like so popular down on the coast, the profit calculation would have been simple: purchased for X and sold for Y.

But being a renovation project left me wide open to government interpretation of what expenditure they considered “necessary” improvements to render the property habitable, and what, in their most humble and objective opinion, was purely aesthetic.

Windows, apparently, serve no practical purpose. Plumbing for lavatories is nothing more than a luxury. Railings to stop people falling to their grisly deaths out of Juliet balconies or down stairwells are the trappings of the rich and spoilt, and electrical points to allow a property to be lit, heated or otherwise are nothing more than fancy pants accessories.

Thus it was decided – by unbiased and disinterested parties, I’m sure – that I was selling my house for over €50,000.00 more than I paid for it all those years ago, and of those 50 smackeroonies, the French government deserved €21,000.00 of them.

Just like that.

This is Status Viatoris, who has a sneaky feeling that property investment requires a wilier touch than hers, in Italy.

Return to French Notary Hell

23/05/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Wanting to avoid all possible risks of jinxing (yes, that scientifically proven law of physics) I had until now refrained from mentioning that tomorrow I have an appointment to sign the bilateral sales agreement that should at last set the wheels in motion for the sale of my French apartment.

A brand new and very un-French real estate agent – friendly, cheerful, polite and communicative – managed to find me a lovely young French couple who fell in love with the property at first visit, and after various tussles with their bank, were eventually able to make me an offer.

Admittedly it was an extremely low offer.

An entire €50,000 lower than the offer I accepted back in 2011 (which due to the combined efforts of Supercilious Turd French Notary and dear old Nicky Sarkozy never resulted in a sale).

But after three years of struggling every month to find the mortgage, and with the French real estate market a fly ridden carcass of its former self, I was happy to accept any offer at all.

So far, so good.

Until my cheery estate agent asked me to contact Supercilious Turd and request that he leave the deeds to my house for her to collect.

During an initial telephone call, I was asked to formulate my request in an email, which I did.

It remained answer-less.

So I sent another email.

Nothing.

And then another.

Nothing.

At which point my estate agent stepped in.

It took her an entire week to get any response at all from Supercilious Turd’s office, at which point she was informed that the Bill of Sale for my problem room had never been signed.

Meaning that the room was still not mine to sell.

But how could that be?

Way back in July 2011 the previous owner and I had met in front of Supercilious Turd, both signed a document and I had handed over a cheque. Up until that meeting, the ownership of that room had been the only thing standing between me and a sale, and the signing of that document was what permitted Supercilious Turd to laboriously plod his way to preparing the bilateral sales agreement for the sale that never went through.

I am speechless.

Even if I completed misunderstood, even if the document I signed in July 2011 was only a preliminary to the bill of sale, why on earth would a notary make no further attempt to contact a buyer who was already halfway through a sale?

It makes no sense.

Thus my overwhelming relief at having been informed that this second chance at a sale would be overseen by a different notary giving me no reason whatsoever to have contact with Supercilious Turd, has been wiped away on a tsunami of distress that this incompetent excuse for a public servant once again has the power to fuck up my life.

It is almost too ridiculous to believe that I am yet again at his mercy.

This is Status Viatoris, feeling guilty that all the horrors currently going on the world over are not embarrassing her into feel less sorry for herself, in Italy.

Apartment SOLD in Sainte Agnès (06)

24/07/2012

Yes, you’ve guessed it – my lovely French apartment is still for sale.

A Sainte Agnès chat enjoying the view…

No doubt the current financial climate is partly responsible, although I can’t help but feel that the resolute uselessness of my French estate agent (second only in ineptitude and arrogance to my French Notary – AKA Supercilious Turd) may also be playing an important role in the lack of interested parties.

So I turn, once again, to Status Viatoris readers in the hope that somebody somewhere may know someone who knows someone who may be dreaming of a new life in a simply spectacular little French mountain village.

Sainte Agnès – ProvenceAlpesCôte d’Azur

Sainte Agnès is perched on the flank of a mountain, 750m above the Mediterranean at its highest point. Although only 3 km from the coast as the crow flies, by car it is reached via a mountain road with spectacular panoramic views that winds its way up the 9km from Menton at the eastern end of the French Riviera. Due to its unique position, Sainte Agnès enjoys the title of ‘Highest Coastal Village in Europe’, in 1997 becoming a member of the association ‘Les plus beaux villages de France’ which includes 142 villages all chosen for the exceptional nature of their location, their cultural, historical, architectural or natural treasures exposed to the public in an attempt to highlight their importance and thus preserve them for future generations.

An ex-Sainte Agnès chien exhorting people to enjoy another sort of view…

The first record of the village was in 1185 as Sancta Agneta, and until 1258 was ruled by the Counts of Ventimille, when it fell under the power of the Counts of Provence. The most breathtaking views of the hills down to the Mediterranean and the surrounding coastline along to Italy to be found upon climbing to the 9th-century chateau, and its charming ‘Jardin Médiéval’ high above the village which by all accounts was built by the Saracen Prince Haroun, upon falling madly in love with a young Provençal girl.

Front door and stairs into my very typical atypical Sainte Agnès “maison de village”..

Although fully restored in 1502, the chateau is today in ruins. Some of the ancient walls remain, however, and their arrow slits evoke a strong feeling of what the extremely well placed defensive position may have been like in medieval times. Archaeological digs carried out on the site have unearthed at least 23 skeletons along with other artefacts, pointing to the area having be inhabited as far back at the Bronze Age and possibly even the Neolithic. The wonderful 360˚ vista was again brought into prominence in 1932 when the Fort Maginot de Sainte Agnès, was constructed as part of the Maginot Line. This contained an important concentration of artillery of which much is still in working order. The fort was never put to the test as the invaders decided to just go round it, although I have been told that a gun may once have been fired at the Italians.

The Sainte Agnès street onto which my front door opens!

Although the ‘commune’ of Sainte Agnès descends right into the Menton valley, the permanent population of the village itself is only about 90 people. Many of the village houses are 15th to 18th century, and have been divided and re-divided by family inheritance over many generations, making their layout rather hard to divine from the outside. The village offers three restaurants (two of which also double as bars) all with wonderful views over the hills and down to the coast. It also boasts three gift shops, and a very well stocked village ‘épicerie’.

Master Bedroom overlooking roofs to the hills beyond!

As well as the obvious charms offered by the close proximity of the Menton coast (9km); Italy (15km) Monaco (17km), Nice (25km) and the beautiful peaks of the Mercantour National Park are all within easy reach. The hiking route GR51, also known as the Balcony of the Cote D’Azur passes the village and can lead to you North East to the hamlet of Monti, East to the Italian border, South West to the village of Gorbio and West towards Nice. There are also a few quite hilly loop hikes from Sainte Agnes, including the glorious Mont Baudon, some using part of the GR51. Whilst walking these routes, you will no doubt notice the abundance of lavender, an integral part of one of the many village fêtes held during the summer months.

2nd Mezzanine bedroom

The apartment itself is about 80m², and was entirely renovated during 2005/6 having been uninhabited for at least a century. Built over two main levels, but with steps leading to and from most of the rooms, it comprises: 3 double bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 WC, 1 sitting room, 1 kitchen/dining room, 1 mezzanine storage area and a laundry room.

Sunny sitting room!

Due to the age and position of the property, it does not have any outside space – fairly typical of a medieval French village! – but the kitchen has large French windows opening onto a Juliet balcony, giving it a delightful alfresco feel.

Even sunnier kitchen/dining room!

So there we have it – a very special property in an even more special location that just needs to be united with that one special person who may not yet even know they are dreaming of it. In light of the current financial climate (and because I simply cannot afford to continue paying the mortgage indefinitely – the current rentee will soon be moving out) I am open to (reasonable) offers, especially those that come from somebody somewhere who knows someone who reads Status Viatoris…

(The property is currently advertised for 275,000€ but negotiation is extremely welcome and will certainly not be sniffed at…)

Typical Sainte Agnès “maison de village” stairs!

So please help me get this advert to go viral (whatever that means; I’m not up on the old techno-speak) in order to find a forever owner for the property I poured so much love into before circumstances changed the geographical direction of my wanderings…

Enquires to: statusviatoris77@gmail.com

Thank you.

ItaloFranculate

18/06/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

“The French are just bad-tempered Italians” said Jean Cocteau somewhere back in the mists of time, and the phrase was give a fresh airing this Friday when I was called upon to translate for a French couple venturing into the minefield of Italian real estate.

But in this instance at least, Cocteau’s utterance was certainly not applicable; possessing, as these two  did, natures sunny enough to rival the innate joviality of any Italian.

They remained unfazed throughout the predictably tedious and long-winded process of opening an Italian bank account:

“Sign here, and here, and here, and here. Initial here. Sign here. Initial here. Sign here and here. Initial here, here and here… Oh! Whoops. No, not there. Hold on a minute while I reprint everything so we can start all over again…”

They managed to keep their brilliant smiles whilst the notary explained all the issues involved with the property they are trying to buy:

– Due to issues of inheritance it was owned by six different people when the sale was set in motion.

– It is now owned by seven different people because one of the six died and that particular section was passed to two new beneficiaries.

– One of the beneficiaries is a Russian living in Russia (original beneficiary married his Russian carer before dying, she then inherited his section but  it passed to her brother upon her death) and has only just been tracked down.

– Each beneficiary owns a different percentage of a different section of the property.

– Each beneficiary will have to be paid separately by the buyers on completion.

– The property has been added to extensively over the period of about a century and no longer corresponds to any official plans.

Meanwhile I was busy coming to terms with the fact that  verbally translating  technical real estate Italian into technical real estate French at the speed of light  is not something I excel at…

Nevertheless, being paid for the privilege of assisting some of the nicest bad-tempered Italians I have ever had the fortune to meet is not something to be sniffed at, especially as they have promised me a barbecue in their new pad should this most convoluted of sales ever reach the desired conclusion.

Mercy buckets lay fronsay!

This is Status Viatoris, not convinced she can be called a linguist if she can’t actually get any of her four languages to work in tandem, in Italy.

Home from Home

19/04/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Goodness, can that really be the time?? Tempus doesn’t half fugit when you’re lounging about in a state of homecoming lethargy.

Contrary to appearances, the rest of my journey hasn’t actually taken a week; I’m ashamed to admit that only extreme idleness can be held accountable for the lack of recent blog posts.

In fact once I set off from the Formule 1 “hotel” – communal bathroom, no soap to be had for love nor money, only one channel on the television, but cheap as pig poo – last Wednesday morning; the run to Calais was, as always, delightful.

I was even accosted by some rather attractive customs cops whilst feeding pain au chocolat to Pooch at a service station, which improved my already sunny mood; especially as I had rien à déclarer except for the jaunty smile of one who would soon be supping a pint of PG Tips on board the Pride of Something or Other.

(My only complaint would have to be directed at those Nord Pas de Calais arable farmers who, since my last trog up the A26, appear to have ripped extensive tracts of hedgerow out and replaced them with fencing. Farming and ecology; a horse and carriage paring it most certainly ain’t.)

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal and checking in, Pooch and I were immediately waved straight onto an earlier vessel – the swanky new Spirit of France, which from a layman’s perspective certainly seemed a big improvement on some of the old tubs I have travelled on in the past; but which I was informed by a crew member suffers from an unpleasant and continual judder, making their working lives considerably more difficult.

Selfish to the very end; I declare myself more than happy to sacrifice the comfort of the crew for gorgeous bathrooms, comfy seats, a well-stocked duty-free shop and mega servings of hot beverages at Costa…

The run of good fortune continued when I was waylaid for a Dior makeover – no doubt wasted on a bedraggled and sweaty person travelling in her  dog-walking attire, but a freebie is a freebie, and my scruffy appearance tends to cause the mothership a little less distress when accompanied by the application of a smidgen of slap.

After a further four hours spent cursing British motorways and all who travel on them (except for me and Pooch, natch) I managed to stage my final coup de grâce at the bottom of Mother’s road, by ringing to tell her I was still in Calais and wouldn’t be making it home.

Dare I say it; it was actually marginally easier than taking sweets from a baby… 😉

So here I am in Northamptonshire, having once against travelled from the place I love to live, to spend some much-needed time in the place where I can simply be.

Two homes; a girl can’t get much luckier than that.

This is Status Viatoris, might even post some pictures soon if the rain should ever stop, in Northants.

I’d Take the Hedgehog Every Time…

10/04/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

…because contrary to most BMWs, it only has pricks on the outside.

I write with utter conviction on this point, having today been involved in a ridiculous motorway tussle with one.

A BMW, that is, not a hedgehog – I would like to say that hedgehogs  possess more road sense, but the little carcasses scattering our highways and byways would sadly give lie to that statement.

This particular BMW was being driven by a Frenchman who, in typical moron-with-ponce-mobile style, roared past before pulling abruptly into my lane and screeching into dawdle mode.

I gave him a minute or two, on the off chance that the decrease in speed was due to him scrabbling around the glove box for a Gitane and thus temporary, but when he continued to amble along I pulled out and started to overtake.

But he sped right back up again, leaving me racing alongside him, with not a hope in hell of passing.

So I pulled back in.

At which point he began to dawdle again, so I pulled out to overtake…

…and I think you can guess the rest.

This ridiculous performance went on for over 50km until I managed to squeak past him at a motorway bifurcation, leaving him trapped behind a lumbering lorry whilst hopefully choking to death on the excesses of his own stupid ego.

Nevertheless, as this was the only really negative point in today’s 1050km journey, I think I can count myself pretty lucky.

For Pooch and I rolled out of Our Little Italian Village this morning at 7h30, and by 18h30 were already hunkering down in a grotty-but-cheap Formule 1 hotel in Reims, having observed along the way that:

– the French countryside is as charmingly rustic and beautiful as ever.

– there can’t possibly be any people or vehicles left in Belgium at all.

– ditto Luxembourg.

– French service stations still have the annoying habit of putting the petrol forecourt at the front so you have to deal with the requirements of an empty tank before you can deal with the requirements of a full bladder; splashing shoes with diesel a nasty side effect of hopping up and down with crossed legs whilst clutching a dripping nozzle.

– there is no better way to spot birds of prey in ridiculous numbers than whilst racing along a French motorway.

– happily, French radio stations still share my love of 80s music.

– Central and Northern France are currently hogging all the torrential rain My Little Italian Village has been praying for – dirty road spray; gotta love it.

Thus our journey will continue tomorrow with a final Gallic leg up to Calais, a leisurely ferry ride on the Pride of Something or Other, a few hours battling the unavoidable grottinesses of overcrowded British roads; before hopefully concluding with a cup of tea and a joyous reunion with the Mothership…

This is Status Viatoris, who was meant to be posting about the finished house but that will have to wait until she gets back to Italy because the only photos she has taken showed it to look suspiciously and inexplicably (cough cough) like Tracy Emin’s bedroom.

Indubitably Intoxicatingly Inebriated

05/03/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

One of the many “issues” that recent British governments have attempted to resolve, is the culture of binge-drinking so prevalent in the UK.

I certainly do not speak from any dizzy moral heights on this topic; my “all or nothing” personality type lends itself almost perfectly to the excesses of binge-anything: drinking, eating, watching three dvd box sets of LOST back to back – overkill rules in the world of SV.

But living abroad for so long has, amongst other things, given me the opportunity to observe other nations’ attitudes to alcohol consumption; in turn leading me to wonder where on earth us Brits have gone so very wrong.

Arriving in Spain at 18, freshly plucked from the almost obligatory booziness of my British peer group, it took me some time to realise that when out with Spanish friends, I was the only one knocking back rum and cokes to the point of incoherence.

It took me even longer to notice that this behaviour was regarded with something other than amused indulgence.

But it was not until I got to France, eight years later, that I really grew-up as far as alcohol was concerned. Nights out with my new Gallic friends tended to consist of a civilised meal, with one bottle of wine shared between three or four of us, and then a drink or two at a local bar should the mood strike.

No stumbling, no slurring, no soulless sex, no sick, no shame and no regrets: it was a revelation, and I was chuffed to bits to finally be able to have an adult relationship with liquid refreshment.

But then I went to work in a Scottish pub for seven months, and was abruptly deposited back into the Danger Zone…

A zone where people from practically all age groups are only too happy to get absolutely lathered, pie-eyed, bolloxed, trollied and pished as veritable farts.

A zone where that is, in fact, the primary aim of many of their evening excursions.

A zone where there is little shame in drinking so much that you fall arse over tit, vomit copiously, pick fights, talk shite or jump the bones of complete strangers before falling into the dribbling snoring slumber of the soon to be deservedly hungover.

A zone where the following day’s amusement is the recounting of the previous night’s drunken humiliations.

Yes, it’s the Brit Zone, and yes; I have been there. Again. And again. And again.

So why are many of us seemingly wired up so very differently from our Continental cousins?

It’s not as if booze does not form a part of European life: in fact in all of the countries in which I have lived, alcohol figures very prominently in most social activities. But in Spain, France or Italy it is rare to see the extreme levels of inebriation that we are faced with in the UK.

Is alcohol treated with more “respect” in other countries?

Well yes it is, but I would not say that was a reason in and of itself. It appears to me to be more due to the fact that most Spaniards, French, Italians and others don’t “need” alcohol in the same way that we appear to.

They are confident enough to be able to converse, to laugh, to dance, to have a generally good time, without requiring to be a hat trick of sheets to the Mediterranean breeze in order to do so.

So what are we Brits so scared of?

This is Status Viatoris, would murder the box set of Homeland right now, in Italy.

Twinkletoes Twirls Again

03/12/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Quite the natural.

All us village lasses were simply thrilled when the kiddies’ ballet teacher started aerobics lessons up in the school gym.

A month down the line, and most of us are slightly less thrilled to have discovered just how truly uncoordinated we are. Freestyle bopping in the piazza when high on a euphoric cocktail of summer madness and a few glasses of vino, turns out to be not at all the same as being put through strict “Waka Waka” and “Candyman” paces in front of a horribly reflective mirror.

I suppose the fact that the teacher is a Russian ballet dancer should have been an indication that  star-jumps and sit-ups were unlikely to be the sole ingredients of our fitness regime, but I’m not sure any of us were truly prepared for the amount of rhythm she was going to ask us to force from recalcitrant limbs.

These feet were made for dancing…

Shoes not being allowed in the gym, the humiliation is completed by colourful socks with grippy bits on the bottom, or tweet ickle ballet shoes, much like the ones in the photos.

(My bunions are not keen on either of them, but have learnt to keep schtum and twirl on regardless.)

So for the princely sum of 30€ a month, twelve to fifteen girls and ladies sashay up the hill to school two evenings a week; hobbling sweatily back down again an hour later, egos in tatters.

…so that’s just what they’ll do. Sort of.

In Southern Spain I alternated between envy, admiration and a mixture of the two when observing how naturally people there moved to music, especially the female of the species. A culture of sevillanas, rumba or other dances learnt from childhood definitely breaks through the self-concious jerkiness that so many of us suffer from when confronted with the prospect of a dance floor.

And although it was a relief to get to France and discover that the French are no more gifted in that department than the Brits, it was also a little sad to realise that there was now zero chance a sense of rhythm was going to inadvertently rub off on me.

Italy differs from the previous two, in that although Italians do not have the natural dancing abilities of the Southern Spaniards, they do have a thriving culture of learning how to fake it.

Dance classes.

Pointylicious.

Nowhere is that more apparent than My Little Italian Village during the summer festas, when the instructed few strut confidently out into the middle of the piazza, and proceed to put the rest of us to shame.

And if the look of fierce concentration on their faces as they undulate round a bachata, spin off a salsa or unite the dance floor in a rousing Waka Waka, does not exactly convey an impression of enjoyment, they still look a heck of a lot better than me.

But as luck would have it, none of them has yet infiltrated our keep-fit sessions, so a surfeit of left feet wins the day.

At least I can still see my feet, which is a blessing I suppose.

This is Status Viatoris, whose cronky old knees are especially enjoying aerobics, in Italy.

Will the Property Poltroonery Ever End?

24/10/2011

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

As a small hiatus in my Iberian anecdotes – and in order to offset your certain envy at my thrillingly jet-settulate lifestyle – it is perhaps a good moment to confess to ongoing headaches in matters Real Estate.

Firstly and most frustratingly on my list of property woes, has been the spectacular collapse of the French sale (as previously ranted about here, here and here  – yes, you’ve guessed right; tediously long-winded would describe the situation perfectly).

Nearly eighteen months after Supercilious Turd (AKA le French Notary) first began work on apportioning ownership of the problem room, and ten months after a verbal offer was made and accepted by the daughter and son-in-law of my closest neighbours for the entire property, we were finally in a position to sign the documents.

Unfortunately, yet another cock-up by S.T meant that the buyers were unable to put pen to paper before heading off on their summer holiday. Thus giving me nearly four weeks during which to swallow my desire to commit notarycide, and cross my fingers that no damage had been done by the delay.

(It has since been noted that crossed digits are no guarantee of anything other than a certain tendency towards clumsiness…)

But as Sod’s Law would gleefully dictate, the buyers’ return coincided almost poetically with a change in French law.

A change in which future owners of second properties become one of Sarkozy’s sources of additional income to try and offset les Bad Times. Taxed to the hilt whilst buying, during ownership and then upon selling, it has rendered the prospect of owning a second home in France a rather unattractive one to many people. And as my buyers were looking to purchase for investment purposes: long-term rentals followed by a profitable sale; the acquisition no longer made financial sense.

So boo bloody hoo for me; I have had to put the place back on the market and resign myself to being not a step further forward than I was in March 2010.

I can no longer advertise it to holidaymakers because a) it means working too far in advance and could jeopardise a sale should one appear, and b) I have removed much of my furniture and other belongings in order to set up house here. How I am going to manage the mortgage and other overheads until a buyer in shining armour finally shows up to save the day, is a question I am trying not to dwell on too deeply at present.

Thus it is with head firmly in sand, and fingers firmly crossed that I am currently mincing my way down my chosen path; quietly confident that salvation will appear just when I start to lose hope.

Like it has a habit of doing in the films.

This is Status Viatoris, who has also got lots of fun anti-renovation stories to recount about Italy. But those, boys and girls, will have to wait for another time…


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