increasing poverty (due to Covid)

“The most shocking thing I saw were young people lining up at the food bank. They were wearing their work uniform: an Uber food delivery vest.” A quote from someone I heard on the radio this week. The irony. Young people delivering food to others on scooters and bicycles, most always at night, but not having enough themselves to eat. A note to Uber Eats users? Tip generously.

Also this week: standing in a shopping mall buying myself a ham and cheese baguette sandwich, I heard a soft voice beside me – “Excusez-moi. Would you have one or two euros so that I could buy something to eat?” I turned my head to see a woman, well-dressed, in her fifties. She looked embarrassed at having to ask such a question. She was French.

Bien sûr“, I said. I bought a second ham and cheese baguette sandwich. Walking back to the office, I thought – That woman could be me. She could be YOU. She could be all of us. No job, not enough money to eat, no one or nothing to fall back on.

Last night after work, I stopped off at Marks & Spencer to stock up on food (for myself) for the weekend. I passed a young woman sitting on the floor with a small sign asking for food or money. Inside M&S, I bought a hot pizza and a drink and gave it to her as I walked past on my way to the metro. 

I no longer judge. I used to, but these are hard, hard times. “Unless you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, do not judge.”

It can happen fast. You lose your job through no fault of your own (redundancy. restructuring. Or a pandemic called COVID). Your unemployment benefits run out, you can no longer pay your rent or mortgage payments. Or you fall ill and can’t pay your medical bills. Or you’re a student and just have no money and you’re alone. Every homeless or hungry person has a valid story to tell (and it always begins with family.) Those from the Middle East? Their stories begin with war, displacement or persecution.

You have no family to help out, no loving parents whose home you can return to until you get back on your feet.

France has a generous safety net, but it’s being stretched to the limit. And benefits last for only so long. One of the reasons I live in France is because of that safety net. Because you see, I have no family. My loving parents died in the 1990s. Had they not died, I would’ve moved back to Toronto a long time ago to be close to them. I have an older sister – married, well-off – but we’re estranged. The last time I saw her was in a lawyer’s courtroom in Toronto in 2000.

There are so many wonderful, hardworking charities, associations and organizations the world over. For every Christmas or Hanukkah gift we buy this year, let’s donate to a charity as well!

La Fondation Abbé Pierre

Les Restos du Coeur

Le Secours catholique

La Croix rouge française collects clothes, toys, blankets.

The Secours Populaire Français (SPF), or the French Popular Relief, dedicated to fighting poverty and discrimination.


purrrfect new ad for Thalys train service in Europe. And a trip to Amsterdam.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the pleasures of having a blog is to be able to look back through the archives to see what you were doing 2, 3, 5 years ago. A blog is a digital time capsule of sorts. So on this mild November Saturday late afternoon in 2020 as I sit here relaxing with a glass of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil at my side and listening to In the Mood for Love soundtrack on my CD-DVD player, I scrolled all the way back to November 2014 (wow, have I had this blog that long?)

I still think this advertising campaign below, created by Rosa Park ad agency, is brilliant. It promotes Thalys, a consortium of companies (SNCF, SNCB and Deutsche Bahn) that manage high-speed train service between France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

On December 20, 2014, I took a Thalys train to Holland. Fancy a winter trip to Amsterdam? Click on this link here, I had such a good time.


what to do on a rainy lockdown day

Today I want to turn the world off.

I’m sick of hearing and reading about Trump, COVID, Brexit, the lockdown and all the other depressing news. (But ecstatic over Biden’s win.) It’s time to change the narrative and tune out all the background noise. Just for a day; a rainy day.

Wednesday November 11 is a national holiday here (Armistice Day), so I took the Monday and Tuesday off to make a long 5-day weekend. Back to work on Thursday. Earlier this afternoon I diligently filled out my Attestation form allowing me to leave my apartment for a brief period while staying within a one kilometer radius of my building. I had local errands to do. But when I stepped outside, it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella. I ended up in the convenience store at the foot of my street, the Attestation not needed.

I guess there are a lot of things to do on a rainy lockdown day depending on who you are and what kind of life you lead. But if you’re feeling lazy and hungry like I am, there are only two things to do: make a lemon drizzle cake and watch an old black and white movie.

Watching these old movies from the 1940s and 50s is one of my great pleasures (there’s a good selection on YouTube). I love the music, the dialogue, the clothes, the big cars, the interiors, the glamorous women. Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr was one of the most beautiful women in film.

In 1937, she fled from her husband, a wealthy Austrian ammunition manufacturer, and secretly moved to Paris and then onward to London. There she met Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood. But she wasn’t just a pretty face, she was also an inventor. During World War II she invented a radio-controlled torpedo and had it patented.

What I find surprising about some of these old movies is they’re not old at all, they’re remarkably modern. Take a look!

you’re fired!

Donald J. Trump: you are fired!

Bye-bye, you big blowhole. You never deserved the role of President. You and your grifter family members were utterly unqualified for the exalted positions that you cheapened and despoiled.

Now, dégage !  (bugger off!)

We don’t want to see you ever again, unless it’s from the inside of a jail cell.

Advisor to the President of the United States: focusing on “the education and economic empowerment of women and their families as well as job creation and economic growth through workforce development, skills training and entrepreneurship”.

First Lady of the United States of America:

total lockdown again, sort of

They’re calling it “lockdown light”, it starts Thursday night at midnight and it’s due to last until December 1st. Four weeks. We’ve just finished watching President Macron on the 8 o’clock TV news. It’ll be different from the March-April-May lockdown, a lot less severe. All schools will remain open as well as government offices and certain stores (but which ones?) Things aren’t clear yet. Until I get to my place of work tomorrow, I don’t know what my employer’s decision is. Will I stay home? Will I continue going to work?

One thing is sure: we have to fill out those damned “Attestation” certificates again every time we go outside; if not we risk a hefty fine. Last time, I was writing them out by hand because I don’t have a printer at home. Tomorrow, I’ll print out a bunch at the office.

For some strange reason, I have no recollection of the two months and 20 days I stayed at home during the severe lockdown from mid-March, April, May. All I remember is the weather: it was gorgeous, cold, sunny and dry (and we were confined to our homes in a form of house arrest.) I remember birdsong, total quiet, clean air, no street traffic. I cooked, ate and cleaned a lot. Listened to the radio a lot. Blogged and emailed with friends far and wide (and local.) Managed to advance enormously on my book project. Every day at 5 pm watched Hercule Poirot on TV. And every night just before 8 pm stood on the balcony to clap for the carers and medical staff. There. I’ve just remembered what I did.

How Donald Trump’s broken promises failed Ohio. France’s universal healthcare system.

France has universal healthcare that is mandatory for all citizens, whether they’re employed or not. Healthcare is managed by the Ministry of Health and administered through Social Security where 70% of services are covered for all typical health care needs, including general practitioners, hospitals, dentists, and pharmacy costs. 

On a personal note, for my comprehensive coverage that includes all dental, free prescription glasses every two years, doctor’s visits, pharmacy drug costs, scans, X-rays and even a health cure in the multitude of spas dotted around the country (mineral water or ocean therapy), I pay 34 euros a month. My employer pays the rest. If I had my own private plan and no employer, I’d pay anywhere from 30 to 90 euros (or more) a month depending on different factors. For women between the ages of 50 and 74, free mammograms are offered every two years.

If you want to call that ‘socialism’, then bring it on!

See The Guardian ten-minute documentary below – After winning the 2016 election, Donald Trump promised to deliver new jobs and economic prosperity to Youngstown, Ohio, a city suffering from decades of decline. But four years on those promises never manifested. Oliver Laughland and Tom Silverstone meet residents who lost their jobs.