Facebook keeps me in touch with Blighty

SINCE my upsticking to France I have found the Evening Star's website a most valuable tool for keeping abreast of all the things that are happening in the county of my birth and the Edwardian spa town of Felixstowe where I have a small flat with sea views (distant).

James Marston

SINCE my upsticking to France I have found the Evening Star's website a most valuable tool for keeping abreast of all the things that are happening in the county of my birth and the Edwardian spa town of Felixstowe where I have a small flat with sea views (distant).

Bu this isn't the only website that's handy for we expatriots.

In order to keep in touch with my plain speaking photographer friend Lucy, my tall and glamorous and surprisingly single friend Lucia, my sister Claire who wants to marry a farmer and all the other members of the James Marston set who knew me before, and after, I was famous on the Felixstowe peninsula, I have found the use of Facebook fairly handy.

But with this website I have a little bit of a love hate relationship. I love to nose into the lives of other people, I am not so keen on being spied upon by myself.

Nevertheless, for those who like to tell people what they are up to and, unike me, don't have the luxurious catharsis of a weekly newspaper column, it is a great boon.

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I haven't spoken to my friend Julian, for example, since I left the UK but yesterday I knew that he was stuffed by a Cumberland sausage, he had ironed 12 shirts, he was singing along to Celine Dion's new album, he had been to the theatre and had "likes" the fact that someone else he knew was off to a party. It is a wonder Julian, who is also busy with rehearsals with the Ipswich most Operatic and terribly Dramatic Society, has time to let the world wide web know what he is up to in the first place.

Since I moved to France I have also found out that my friend Mary, who's very big in east Suffolk's amateur theatrical circles, is verging on the obsessed with her virtual farm and recently found a fairy in Fairyville - which must be somewhere in Norfolk becuase I've never heard of it.

Today, my spin doctor friend Liz, rather amusingly, "has come back from the hairdressers with the same hair style again after the hairdresser actually refused to cut it how I wanted. And I gave her a tip for her trouble. That surely isn't right."

Indeed, as we speak, dear readers, I have been invited to take part in something called mafia wars - something I am reluctant to do because I went to Sicilly once and it was dirty.

And tomorrow I know they'll be a deluge of details from people bored on a Sunday afternoon complaining about their hangovers and dreading Monday morning as well as an update from Julian on his ironing situation.

But what do we expatriots do?

As regular readers will know, I tried the old fashioned pen and ink and posting letter approach to keeping in touch but no one bothered to reply, calling people isn't cheap and neither is texting so the strange thing is, dear readers, that if it weren't for Facebook I would be bereft of knowledge.

Strange this is though that I know more about people now than I ever did when I lived in Suffolk.

Now, dear readers, much to the amusement of my Suffolk-based sister Claire, who loves Christmas, I have bought a television.

"What?" she said when I happened to mention it the other evening "And you went on and on about how awful X Factor is and how you don't like soap operas and how you can manage without a television and blah blah blah."

I informed her that the reason for the purchase was nothing to do with relaxation on a winter's evening but merely a useful language tool.

She laughed her head off.

Anway, it's up and running and, after two trips to the electrical shop to get leads and plugs and batteries and all the essential things the television wasn't sold with and no one tells you about it is tuned in.

They've got X Factor here as well.

They've finally turned the Christmas lights on here in Toulouse and last night I spied a Christmas tree complete with the Occitan Cross, a regional symbol, perched on the top.

I was beginnig to wonder of Toulouse would ever really get going with the run up and it seems the French do it all with a little bit more understatement.

The Christmas market in the city centre is also doing a brisque trade and I've been mooching around looking at gorgeous French things.

So far I have discovered some most unsual possible gifts and chatted to a number of stall holders.

Vanessa, who comes all the way from Barcelona, sells what can best be described as mosaic bulls.

Stephanie is doing well with her selection of un unusual shaped delicacies which include minuature bananas, oranges and even, I noticed, miniature croisssants, all made from marzipan. When I happened to mention I liked her petit fours, however, she gave me a blank look - petit fours obviously doesn't translate.

Emille, whose gone down the traditional sausage route made from body parts best left unmentioned, was just keen to have his photo taken.

Anyway, if you know anyone who needs a mosaic bull do let me know, I know just where to go.

So is there a rift between Mr Brown and Sarko as they call President Sarkozy here?

Apparently talks have been cancellled and things are a bit tricky after Sarko said something about Britian being a "big loser" when a frenchman was appointed to sort out the european banking industry.

Both men said they were far too busy and cancelled plans to chat. Mr Sarko is rather unpopular here in France from what I can gather so when they do meet at least they'll have something in common.

Now, dear readers, talking on the phone is quite tricky in a foreign language but I have had, this week, a little success.

A plumber is coming round to fix a tap that I temporarily fixed with tape.

This might sound like a small and inconsequential piece of news I suspect I would have struggled to hold such a technical conversation as that when I first arrived here.

Now I can and in case you're wondering what the French for tape is I can tell you it is "Scotch".

So a fish and chip shop in Bury St Edmunds has been named best in the region.

I have to admit I had a little pang for such an English dish when I read about that - there's so much Roquefort you can eat you know.

Congratulations to them both.

Richard Spring MP is a journalist's favourite - he always has a decent quote at his fingertips.

Now I have no massive political ambition but I wouldn't mind heading to parliament - the great talking shop of the United Kingdom - to represent the people of West Suffolk.

Apparently they are searching for his successor. I'm waiting for the call.