A new year, a new start

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2009 looks like it’s going to be trouble for all of us – the trick will be to keep feeling positive until the upturn arrives.

Happy New Year folks, and I hope you’re all well.

This is my first blog for a while, having been vegging out over the Christmas period watching daft films on telly and eating too much chocolate (thank you sister and MIL). 

Christmas is always an odd time for an unbeliever, especially one married to such a rampant atheist as the DH. He usually gets into a strop about all the religious stuff and stomps off to the office to write to The Times or somesuch. Me, I’d go carol-singing, if the French did it, even though I don’t believe a word of it – tradition can be a wam and fuzzy thing. 

We didn’t have a proper Christmas meal this year. Instead I cooked a chicken Indian style and we took it to the coast on Christmas Eve as a picnic. It was a glacial, sunny day and we ran the dog ragged, ate in the car and wandered home through the sunset. On the day itself, we split a raclette – a sort of Swiss tabletop grill thing – which is a lot of fun and very little washing up. The cats got turkey Whiskas and the dog got turkey Friskies, and a good time was had by all. 

However, it was definitely an austerity Christmas this year and the truth is, the whole neighbourhood is crippled with apprehension. One friend is on a two-day week now, which is hard when she has three children and a disabled husband. Just before it, at a get-together, another friend burst into tears as it looked like she was going to have to declare bankruptcy due to the economic downturn. Luckily, the bank have not foreclosed and they live to fight another day, but just after Christmas, yet another friend closed up his business and has signed on for work, unable to meet the ridiculously high charges we all pay here in France. 

It can be hard. I recently calculated that we have 7,500 euros compulsory payments to pay out this year before we even earn a penny, much less make a profit. They include payments for poor rural families, compulsory pension, healthcare, ‘professional tax’, and accountancy fees. Meanwhile, our earnings are down by a third because of the drop in the value of sterling (a constant problem when you earn money in one currency and spend it in another), and work is getting very tight, with journalists being laid off, embargoes on freelancers and pagination dropping. In many ways, we would be better off if we stopped working. 

What is one to do?  Keep one’s head up, I suppose. And so I am starting up a downshifting blog, which will talk about measures one can take to stay afloat in a tanking economy, from making your own toiletries to creating meals for a euro a head. I’ll keep it separate from Second Cherry, and it won’t be as frequent, but I’ll let you know when it’s up and running. Watch this space.


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