At the End of the Day

We’re having one of the driest and most chilly Springs for some time here in South West France. Josef Kowatsch and Stefan Kämpfe at the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) write that spring in Central Europe has been cooling for almost 30 years now – and not warming – and it’s been arriving later and later.

And no, I don’t want another tiresome thread debate about who is right or wrong about all of this: the answer is (empirically) we are having cooler Springs here, and nobody knows why warming and cooling appear to be happening at the same time in different parts of the globe.

I merely use my eyes, hands, and skin to report that all my veg is behind for late May, and the ground is drier than one normally finds in July.

Apart from that, everything else is disturbingly normal. For the fourth time in six weeks I bought a piece of hitech kit devoid of any accessible explanation about how to use it, but with 90% of the manual telling me how (a) it had passed every rigorous safety, ecological and efficacy test set by the European Bunion (b) I shouldn’t chuck it in the bath-water (c) if I came out in a rash I should seek medical help quickly and (d) it was not a toy. So there you go.

Millimetre by grudging millimetre, I am being accepted into the French welfare and health service. It is in the nature of bureaucrats that they (1) will cut any cost up to but not including their jobs and (2) the concept of client continuity is clearly the Devil’s brew – and thus to be avoided at all costs.

The system here – run by CPAM (the Assurance Maladie) – doesn’t liaise at all with the British social health system (the NHS). So what the NHS tells Brits to provide as ID evidence is woefully misguided; but as each CPAM functionary has his or her own personal idea on what you need to provide, the applicant is left in a no-man’s-land reminiscent of Kafka’s The Trial anyway. And things are not helped by CPAM’s belief that the best way to introduce eurozone austerity is to ban the use of photocopiers.

This is, let’s get real here, the equivalent of cutting armed forces costs by rationing the petrol available to naval aircraft carriers. Which is, as we know, precisely what the UK has done in its own surreal drive to save money (and the world) at one and the same time.

Anyway, so long as I can stay healthy for the next six weeks, as a loyal EU member State, France will from then on save me from illness. My chosen route is to increase the level of vitamin C in my body. I am therefore doubling the amount of lemon slices in my evening Gin & Tonic. And if that sounds as pointless as George Osborne’s “austerity to repay national debt” strategy, congratulations…this is the right website for you.

I do find it possibly significant, by the way, that the French call their system Illness insurance….whereas we call the UK one a health service. There is a radical difference in the expectations generated there, and I have to say I think the French have called it right – as they invariably do. One thing they have invented which is spot on the money is the belt that no longer needs adjustable fastening holes.

The problem with belts is that overuse of the holes (most of us only ever use two) means the “leather” haha falls apart after a year or so at best. But there is now an elasticated belt on sale here in a range of stylish designs whereby woven elastic allows the fastening blade to pass through the weave without damage to the structure. Not only do you get a belt that keeps on working, the blade goes in at exactly the right place to contain one’s self-inflating spare tyre. Its simplicity is its genius.

But that’s the way with the French: when they get it right, nobody can touch them for miraculous innovation. And when they get it wrong – mon Dieu! It is more wrong than a phone directory full of wrong numbers.

However, let me close with the final and incontrovertible proof that everything is disturbingly normal: within the last half-hour, Alexis Tsipras has issued a press release saying that agreement with Greece’s creditors is “very close”.