Image by Wisconsin Historical Images via FlickrSummer is over, and life returns to normal.
Families are storming the aisles of the supermarkets in search of school notebooks with pages divided into little squares...which I feel somehow accounts for the way the French think...firmly within the box with the lid nailed down.
Having returned from their holidays, the railway workers are going on strike shortly, but this might be preferable to what happened recently while they were still at work when some bright spark managed to mix up the front and the back of the train at Lyon station so that those going to Milan ended up in Zurich and those going to Zurich ended up in Milan.
Fans of Fawlty Towers will not be surprised to hear that the train came from Barcelona and that the driver knows nothing.
A person somewhat detached from reality drove into the courtyard of the President's residence, the Elysee Palace, at four in the morning...only it wasn't the usual person somewhat detached from reality who is still on holiday in the south of France taking a break from presidential duties.
Let no one blame the gendarme responsible....considering what he must see passing him on a daily basis - ministers, politicians, foreign dignitaries - a car with a flashing light must have appeared quite innocuous.
Even at four in the morning.
Gypsies of Roumanian origin are being returned to Roumania, whence they will return to France in due course, thanks to the open borders of the European Union and the services of Eurolines.
Gypsies not of Roumanian origin are being moved from noticeable encampments to less noticeable encampments so that they 'cannot be found' by tax inspectors reluctant to enter into dialogue with the owners of top of the range cars, caravans and chainsaws.
This must be part of the campaign to reduce government spending as I calculate that for every tax inspector entering a 'travelling people's' encampment - here - you would need to add the services of a platoon of riot police; the tear gas and rubber bullets associated with same; the services of ambulance, fire brigade and hospital personnel, the cost to the social security system of the resulting time off work of all those enumerated above and, last of all, the big expense - the fees of the spin doctors who will present the fiasco as a success for the law and order campaign.
Austerity is the watchword..not that any politician dares use it...but, as usual, it is more do as I say rather than do as I do.
Having announced big cuts in ministerial budgets and arranging to sell off quantities of government property to pre-selected bodies, the President still sees fit to maintain his official residence off the coast of the south of France even though he actually spends his summer hols with the in-laws at Cap Negre nearby.
However, he did use the fort to have a meeting with his Prime Minister and two other colleagues recently....either to justify hanging on to the place or because he was ashamed to have people visit a house with sewage disposal problems.
Out in the sticks, though, local government has been listening.
The big end of summer event locally is a fete with demonstrations of old farming machinery..... real 'Walter-Gabriel-falls-in-the-threshing-machine' stuff....and tractor agility competitions.
It attracts a lot of farmers, and anything that attracts a lot of farmers attracts a lot of local politicians, anxious to court their votes.
Wherever you have politicians you have speeches and this fete is no exception.
First up is the deputy....the member of parliament.
He belongs to the opposition so has no access to the gravy train. Thus his speech is full of promises about what he would do if he could.
Next up is the local member of the Conseil General...the county councillor.
He belongs to the majority political party, but the opposition controls the county council and the regional council, so his access to the gravy train is extremely limited too and his speech is thus a mirror image of that of the deputy.....just reverse everything.
Then we have the leader of the Pays.......a body which claims to represent the local communes. He wants to know what the first two speakers are going to do about all the things that they have carefully not mentioned in their speeches.
Finally we have the maire of the commune which houses the fete and we turn at last to serious matters.
'Who is going to pay for the vin d'honneur?'
Now, in rural France, people are willing to put up with the endless speeches. They are the tax you pay for access to the table full of glasses and the racks of bottles and casks behind......the vin d'honneur.
Normally, for this fete, the Conseil General provide the wherewithal, but, as the maire points out to the audience who are by now in a state between open revolt and cardiac arrest, this year, it has decided it cannot afford to do so.
After a great deal of extempore oratory from the floor the maire calls for order and announces that, exceptionally, the commune will pay.
Clearly he has prepared his coup well in advance as minions promptly appear with tables, paper covers and boxes of glasses while others push in trolleys with the casks and bottles and the usual rush of the gadarene swine begins, to the hum of approval for the maire's respect for rural tradition.
For once, the politicians do not circulate, but make a discreet departure, shaking hands with the beaming maire.
I am not so sure that the inhabitants of his commune will be so happy when they get their local tax demands next year, though.
The funding of local authorities has changed under the Sarkozy regime and the Taxe Professionelle - the tax on businesses - has been abolished. Unfortunately, this was one of the main resources of income for local government, so while business rejoices home owners tremble.
After all, when in search of revenue, the easiest thing is to go for assets which cannot be hidden....like property.....and it has been estimated that the average homeowner will be paying about 200 euros extra on their property tax bill next year to compensate for the loss of the Taxe Professionelle.
Not content with that, the local land registries have been geed up to make a re-evaluation of property values with a view to raising the tax base and, accordingly, I have received a form H1 with an annexe to form H1 which requires me to enumerate the number of shower trays and washbasins I possess and to venture out with a tape measure to confirm the extent of my outbuildings.
Among other things.
I have a source at the local Land Registry.
Deep Thirst tells me that the panic is on. Apparently, there hasn't been a re-evaluation for years with the result that old houses which had been given a minimum of wash basins and shower trays in the 1970s are taxed at a higher rate than houses which acquired their washbasins and shower trays later.
I know this to be true.
Despite reporting that I had converted a two bedroom house to a four bedroom house in the 1990s, I was still paying less property tax than did my neighbour with a two bedroom house which had been assessed in the 1970s. No one in that period was interested in the property tax...they had the Taxe Professionelle.
However, this being rural France, while the panic might be on, the panic is selective.
Deep Thirst informs me that while I have received an H1 and its' annexe, as have the Americans who bought the place at the other end of the commune, the notaire who managed to sell the Americans the house together with two fields which did not, as it happened, belong to it, and who is busy converting the stables and outbuildings of the chateau in the next commune, has not and will not be the happy recipient of an HI and annexe.
Neither will farmers.