France cuts growth forecast

Just weeks after being installed as the country’s new leader, French President, Francois Hollande has cut the nation’s growth outlook, with a slew of budget cuts set to follow.

After what Reuters described as a ‘grim assessment’ of public finances by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French economy is now forecast to grow by 0.3% in 2012, compared with the 0.7% forecast earlier.

Typically, the new socialist government blamed the move on an over-estimated growth forecast by the previous conservative government under Nicolas Sarkozy.

And now an amended 2012 budget is due to be presented to the Cabinet apparently without seeking to cut spending or resorting to widespread austerity.

Well, good luck with that.

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Wheeler at Waterstone’s

Top billing

It’s a warm and sunny evening in London and the Kensington High Street branch of Waterstone’s was the place to be for the signing of author Karen Wheeler’s latest installment of her life in France, Tout Soul.

As fans of Karen will now be aware, such events are marked by her insistence on standing everyone who comes along a deliciously ice cold coupe de Champagne – and make that quality bubbles too, Karen just doesn’t do cheap.

Karen Wheeler chats to fans at the signing of Tout Soul.

It was a great evening, made more enjoyable by the fact I finally got to meet some of her fans, who come from all walks of life, and who I reckon are as interesting as any of the characters in her books. Many came from quite far. I was very pleased to meet a distinguished chap, originally from Montreal, but who now lives in Berkshire, who also happens to enjoy a bit of PoitouTV now and then. I think he definitely has a book or two in him.

It was also a pleasure to meet a lovely Californian woman, who has also made the UK her home, and who told me she wants to take her daughters to France to expose them to the wonderful subtleties of another European culture. One of Karen’s keenest fans was a delightful lady who made the journey to Waterstone’s despite still brandishing the bruises of a serious fall down some stairs. Dedication indeed.

I was really proud that Karen’s books seem to be inspiring people from all walks of life in so many different ways. I don’t think there can be a better reward for a writer really. But of course the pressure’s now on for KW – as fans left, I could hear them promising each other: “‘See you next year at the launch of ‘Tout 4′”!

It’s l’economie, stupid!

With just hours to go before the French election gets underway, it’s all about the economy – of course.

Nicolas Sarkozy says he’s the man who’s steered Europe through the worst of it, while main rival Francois Hollande insists the dire state of the French economy is all Sarkozy’s fault.

It’s no secret that round the rural parts of France – where most Brits tend to buy their ‘dream’ maisons secondaire, Msr Sarkozy is not a popular man. But however France votes, it is now clear the economic future of the nation will be uppermost in peoples’ minds when they mark their ballot papers.

So will it be a case of better the devil you know, or let’s give someone else a chance to sort out ‘le mess’?

Typically, and agonisingly, the elections start Sunday, but won’t finish until the run-offs two weeks later!

What do you think? Should Brit expats be allowed to vote in the main event? We’d love to know all your views…

Expat French Favour Sarkozy

French expats living abroad are putting their faith in current President Nicolas Sarkozy to retain power, but then they ARE living abroad.

Latest readings from polling firm LV2 show that 37% of ‘Henri expat’ voters would keep Sarko in power. The survey covered 2,031 French expats, in total.

Only 27% said they would vote for Francois Hollande, the  Socialist candidate.

I say if it aint broke don’t fix it. The problem, though, is that it IS very broke.

Looks like the gap is narrowing folks, but who would you vote for?

 

Car-free Poitiers

Recently revamped centre of Poitiers

Poitiers has always been one of my favourite cities in France, and not just because I live nearby. It’s a university city, which means it’s full of energy and life; it’s situated on a mount and it has some great little streets, historical buildings and restaurants; and of course, it’s not too bad for shopping either.

Now, though, the city’s main square has had a fairly lengthy revamp and it’s now also car free. The picture shows the newly finished square, with a cleaned up Hotel de Ville too.

It really feels impressive to walk around it now. And I’m betting the waiters – who used to have to cross a busy road with meals on trays to get to the tables on the square – are relieved they no longer need to dodge drivers to serve their customers.

Sadly, all the trees that surrounded the square before have now gone, along with the well manicured floral arrangements, which has left it looking just a little bereft of greenery.