Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September starts well

Munson at the bank

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone around Les Comminges but more than a few significant developments.

First: the big news is that we may be moving onto the Gers farm as early as next week. There’s a complication that the house I’ll be in will not be vacated by the current tenants for some weeks after that. My container of furniture from Australia has arrived in Marseilles, and the best course of action seems to be to have it delivered to the farm ASAP, extract bedding and other short term needs, and then transfer it all over to the other house later. Moving the piano will be the biggest headache, as it’s crated and will have to be moved a few hundred metres and then up some stairs.

After a month of gathering new paperwork, and exploring alternates, I have finally opened a bank account. One of the national banks has an English speaking regional service who are happy to liaise between customer and branch to open accounts and help with other services. Some of the other banks with such services are only for the benefit of British and Irish residents in France, so of no use to we poor colonials. It was also important for me to get a bank who would accept my current temporary address to open an account, and then allow a simple address transfer later. The last bank I tried would have required me to re-apply for an account when I moved to a new department (Haute-Garonne to Gers) less than 100km away.

This week, I was able to pre-arrange the paperwork needed and have an appointment booked at a convenient branch close to the farm in the Gers, so that my English-speaking liaison could be contactable by phone to iron out any confusion. As it was, I arrived to find that a short letter in English had been prepared setting out the bank’s offer and various options to check off. I was able to proceed with the very friendly local officer without any language issues arising during the meeting.

I’ve no doubt also that today’s success was helped by having Munson present during the meeting as lucky charm. Every other business or official transaction I’ve tried here has only worked when he has been present. After a few minutes sitting by my side, he decided that he would prefer sitting under my conseiller’s chair. So he padded around and made himself quite comfortable stretched out on the other side of the desk. Through the meeting, other bank staff peered through our office window to see where le gros chien had parked himself.

With a French bank account I’ll be able to establish accounts for local utilities, and get a phone contract. French mobile internet access rates are among the highest in the world, moreso if you’re on a PAYG SIM. Two SMS messages and a few minutes of WAP access ran my phone account to nil in under 24 hours, for about the same cost as a month of unlimited usage in the UK! The other ability I get with a local credit/debit card is to buy petrol at unattended pumps throughout Europe. Needing fuel on a Sunday, during a lunch-hour or at other out-of-hours times nearly left me stranded on a few occasions during my European travels with Bondi.

As the last week of school-holidays drew to a close, the adult members of our group have been putting our heads together to work on pressing issues in the French language. Recognising the important role of gender, I wondered if a tribute to a (male) person was an hommage,  then does this mean that the French word for drag act is femmage? Should one then say that American products like Cheez Whiz or Easy Cheese are a frommage?

In other dairy mysteries, I’m trying to find a local yoghurt with the consistency and flavour of Australian yoghurts. I’ve tried a number of local varieties, which tend to be very thin or just have the buttery blandness of most international brands. Fromage frais (also available in Australia) is close in consistency – and given that it’s not actually made from cheese could be said to be a local frommage – but it’s not really the same. I laughed when I saw some dairy products here billed as onctueux as the English unctuous is normally reserved for a smooth, oily manner in a person. My quest continues.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe Munson is your lucky charm because people think he might sit on them and squish them if they say no. Regardless, if it works, keep taking him!!

    Congrats on the farm! Hopefully the move goes smooth!

    Oh, and cheez whiz is gross! Not why we even consider it cheese!! Ick!

    I bet the frommage there is much better!