French move is hardly plain sailing

MOVE to France I said to myself.

James Marston

MOVE to France I said to myself.

It's a civilised country I'll be fine, I said. It's Western Europe, I said. Other people do it I 'm sure I can too, I said. It will be easy, I said.

Well, dear readers, let me tell you none of the above is true - well apart from the Western Europe bit.

Naturally finding a place to live is a bit of a hurdle. But you'd think in a country like France it cannot be an insurmountable task.

I only want to fit a few criteria:

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- A kitchen - easier said than done in the land of haute cuisine with most flats containing little more than a sink.

- A bathroom which a good dose of Vim won't fix.

- A bedroom

- And handy for an off-licence.

Now is that too much to ask? It appears so.

I am not bothered about furniture and I can live without a television.

I do not require a parking place - a benefit, I have since discovered, which is held in high regard.

My wants are surely simple.

I have, in fact, found a place I think I could make my French home and I have been told by my chain smoking estate agent Myriam - a young lady whom I have got to know well and who comes from Provence where apparently everything is better than here in Toulouse and have I considered that area of France where her father is a farmer? - that everything will be fine, everything is simple, these things take time and it will be sorted out on Tuesday, no on Friday, maybe Monday, perhaps next Friday, definitely Monday again.

The paperwork required beggars belief and once you've handed over your passport, employment contract, bank statements, several bills, French bank account details while thinking what else could they possibly need it is not unusual to be met with a Gallic shrug and words such as “Ah but have you got your certificate of insurance/payslips/driving licence/dental records. Without these we simply cannot go on.”

Tempted though I was to smack her teeth in and give her some dental records of her own I have remained patient and calm, resilient and hopeful.

I am sure this Odyssean odyssey is a dinner party anecdote in the making - it just doesn't feel like that at the moment.

I still have nowhere I can call my own to rest my weary head but I have learnt lesson number two - vodka goes quite well with Orangina in times of almost homelessness.

I hear that the world's fattest man could be living in Ipswich.

And at 70 stone Paul Mason must be at least in the running for the accolade.

But Mr Mason is not to be mocked or pilloried. He should have our sympathy and understanding.

Let's wish him well.

Can anyone remember a time before you could shop on a Sunday? I vaguely recall shops used to shut in my youth but it is a distant memory.

A distant memory which is brought back to stark realism here in France. So much so that I have found myself having to stock up on things in advance, Sundays require planning.

Slightly frustrating though it is, and rather odd to British eyes, there is something nice about it.

My Felixstowe playwright friend Susan has written a new play.

Indeed, she had asked me to take part but then I emigrated and that was that.

Anyway it's called An Evening In Harry's Bar and is described as a seasonal soiree of poetry, prose, music and musings with a twist of drama.

The show opens at the Elizabeth Orwell Hotel on November 18 before moving to the St Nicholas Centre in Ipswich on November 19 and 20. Tickets are �8 and are available from 01394 279613.

White wine's bad for the teeth? Yet another headline telling us what we shouldn't be doing. I think a life without all the things that make existence bearable - chocolate, wine, beer, the list is endless - is surely just as bad for your well being.

As Bernard Manning once said to me many years ago in his one man show - seize every moment, it is not a dress rehearsal. If you want to have a drink, have a drink. He may have been a bit of a dinosaur but he was probably right.

Everyone's favourite duchess has been tripping the light fantastic.

Camilla, and isn't she marvellous, has been doing a little cha cha cha with him off Strictly Come Dancing.

Game for anything isn't she? And I bet she's light on her feet.

Postal strike is there?

That's nothing.

So far, and bearing in mind I've only clocked up three weeks, Toulouse has been barricaded by angry farmers, the binmen have been on strike leaving the streets strewn with rubbish and the train drivers have downed tools forcing me to go to work in a most uncomfortable minibus driven by a mad Frenchman who simultaneously made phone calls while he negotiated the Toulousain rush hour.

Since I've been in France I have discovered that strikes are so common you could almost think you were back in pre-Thatcherite Britain when an orange juice was considered a sophisticated starter and I was a babe in arms.

So, I hear, there maybe a shortage of turkeys this Christmas.

I've never been one for turkey, mostly because someone once told me it reminded them of chipboard and I haven't been able to get the image out of my mind.

I'm hoping for beef this year, or a nice chicken.

Apparently, so my sources tell me, Ipswich already has a Christmas tree.

I can hardly believe it, the moment I turn my back everyone goes festive.

But isn't October a soupcon previous? Can anyone really bear to think about Christmas yet? Surely not.