Employment is hard

Completely related to the actual content of the work, I mean. It's fucking tiring, getting up at stupid o'clock and doing things all day. I'm constitutionally unsuited to employment, it seems. Luckily it's only a temp thing. But still. Knackered.


Eurovision 2010

Eurovision was great, even without alcohol. (Trust me, no one was as surprised as I was to find this to be true!) Moldova, as usual, were the entry par excellence, with elves and a neon blue violin, and space aliens. The (Armenian?) song about an apricot stone, complete with giant apricot stone in the background, was awesome too. Much better than the German song that won about painting toenails. I mean, really. Not only was the girl functionally incapable of communicating, she also sang a terrible song about toenails. Europe, you should be ashamed of yourself.

And I was thrilled to see poor, neglected Belarus leap ahead of the UK's appalling entry. If you take that show and imagine it as the setting to a Bond song, though, it was passable. The public school boy who sang it would have to be Bond, and pull out a gun and shoot someone at the end (the German girl, if at all possible...) - it so nearly works.

The one I did like for actual musical talent - and leather trousers - was the Romanian entry. I think it was them, anyway; with the see-through double piano. And the fire.

I'd link to all these things on YouTube, but that's effort. So I won't do it yet. Maybe in slow, stealthy edits, I'll add in links and see if anyone notices...

What, oh captive audience, were your favourites? (Americans, you can play too - go to http://eurovision.tv and I suspect you'll be able to watch the entire mess. If you pick a crap choice, though, I might excommunicate you. Or whatever the blog equivalent is.)


Skin cancer check up

The Ministry of Health (I think) were offering free skin cancer screenings for anyone who wanted one in France today. Since I had nothing better to do, and I have skin that freckles if you look at it harshly, I thought I would take them up on it.

Having forgotten there was another strike today, I waited ages for a bus. Then I walked across Nice. (There were no trams in Nice, and the trains weren't running properly.) Then I sat in a waiting room for ages, proud of myself for working out how to get in the door and where to go once I managed it. Some signage wouldn't have gone amiss...

Once it was finally my turn, it took about 2 minutes of a man - I assume a doctor - checking me with a magnifying glass, and I was pronounced unlikely to develop skin cancer anytime soon, please come back next year and avoid sunburn. (Nothing dehumanises you quicker than having someone who is clearly bored examine you with a magnifying glass, I'm telling you.) Still, despite his total lack of enthusiasm, it's probably better than nothing. And it was free. So that's all good then! Now off to the beach...


Chickpea bread

You know, surprising even myself, it seems to have worked...

From the mess in the last picture, I kneaded it again and left it to rise again (because I only have a very vague grasp of the basics of breadmaking) and it looked like this, which looked almost bread like:


Then I put it in the oven at 170ish degrees and left it til I could smell it (about 15 mins), and it came out looking like this:

Sliced, it looks like:

It's never going to win bread of the year - it's very dry and tastes a lot like you'd expect chickpea bread to taste like. But it's certainly edible, albeit mostly as an accompaniment to savory things. It's definitely got a chickpea taste to it. I don't think you can make chickpea sweets, though I suppose you might be able to make a baklava type thing. Maybe I'll give that a shot next... This bread might go fairly well with honey, now I think of it.

Anyway, I'm calling this a success. It's certainly better than nothing!


Sunshine and bank holiday weekends

Sun and bank holidays have combined forces and ensured that I've been utterly incapable of posting anything here. Having friends over has meant we had to tidy - our house is spotless, and I've even mopped. Me, with a mop. I can hardly believe it myself.

My experiments into wheat-free cooking continue - I'm trying to make bread out of chickpea flour today.

The dough:


The dough sitting in the warm sun to raise:

I have my doubts, but we shall see what happens - it might work... I shall be sure to take photos of the finished product for you.

While we're looking at photos, this is the best view in the world. It's from the bar I drink coffee at in the afternoons.


You can also have some pretty pictures of flowers - the roses are out in bloom here, and I liked what Beaulieu have done with their roses around the big trees in the park. (We walk through it to go to the supermarket sometimes.)






And one of the large red flowers that grows in the street between here and the bakery:

(All photos taken with my mobile phone, so apologies for any quality issues...)


Social security and autoentrepreneurs

I'm one step closer to getting a proper secu sociale number - the one they sent me previously was a temporary one, but I can apparently still use this to claim back my healthcare costs. I now need to send the RSI a copy of my full birth certificate and a certified translation, and they'll start the process of allocating me a proper one. They didn't, of course, tell me this until I went in there this morning to query my odd secu number. But they did tell me in the end, so success! We've got to get the birth certificates translated for the wedding, anyway, so it's not even an extra cost.

I haven't, though, seen anything that sets out how the autoentrepreneur and social security system work for foreigners. So I thought I might write down for future reference and Google indexing the steps I've gone through. (Please do comment if your path differs, it would be interesting to see how much this varies by location in France!)

This assumes you are an EU citizen living in France, that you're not otherwise covered by a secu sociale system and that you're not otherwise employed.

1. Register as an auto-entrepreneur at http://www.lautoentrepreneur.fr/. From the date you register, you are entitled to full social security cover (and are also liable for social security contributions, depending on your income.)

2. Wait a while. The RSI should send you a Certificat d'Inscription au Repertoire des Entreprises et des Etablissements (SIRENE) . This will have your SIRET number on it, which is proof that you are a properly registered company for places that require such proof. It took them about a week to send me mine, I was pleasantly surprised.

3. Wait some more time. Eventually, they will send you a request for information on how much you've earnt, and thus how much you owe in social security contributions. This letter should contain your numero de securite sociale. Congratulations! However, note that this number is probably filled with 000s. This indicates that the number is only temporary. To get a permanent one, you apparently have to send a copy of your full birth certificate, plus a copy of a certified translation to your local RSI offices. They will forward these to INSEE in Nantes for you, who will allocate you a permenant secu sociale number that remains with you until you die. (Or possibly until you leave France. Who knows?)

4. You should, at this point, also receive a letter from the mutuelle that you chose as part of the auto-entrepreneur sign-up process. This will have a numero de immatriculation on it, which should match the temporary social security number you have been given. It is to these people that you will send any feuilles de soins you are issued (along with a RIB, so they can repay you), until they give you a carte vitale. You also send them the completed declaration de choix de medecin traitant. The mutuelle you chose during the sign-up process is not (necessarily) the same as the mutuelle you have for your normal health insurance (which is optional). For auo-entrepreneurs, the RSI has sub-contracted, essentially, the admin work for processing healthcare repayments to a series of mutuelles - you choose one you'd like to work with, and they replace the CPAM for auto-entrepreneurs.

Simple, really, isn't it? Of course, it's taken 5 months to get to this point. And god only knows how long it will take to get the reimbursements and the proper social security number. But at least I have clear instructions and contact addresses, and the direct phone number of a very helpful RSI employee, who is clearly new and thus hasn't become utterly jaded and hating-of-humanity yet. I give her a week, but I'm glad I caught her early on!


Pictures with imaginative titles

This is what I do when I get bored. The pens smell nice.








A vegan day

Today, I managed a whole day of meals that were completely vegan. And wheat free. I'm clearly adjusting to my new range of dietary restrictions...

For breakfast I had a melon - one of those little ones with green skin and orange insides. It was lovely.

For lunch, I had a (homemade) white bean, sun-dried tomato and peanut butter dip, with carrots. (It was nicer than it sounds.)

For dinner, I had sweet potato and chickpea curry with brown rice. (Much better than I expected, given that I was making it up as I went along...)

Aren't you all stunned and amazed by my healthiness? Go on, lie to me if need be...


Sanremo, Italy

At the beginning of this week, we went to Sanremo in Italy for lunch. It's a little bit further along the coast from Ventimiglia, and so, so much nicer. Ventimiglia (Ventimille in French) is, frankly, ugly. Its sole redeeming feature is the Friday market, where you can buy clothes, shoes and handbags at less extortionate prices than the shops in Nice charge, but where you run the risk of having your handbag stolen. Swings and roundabouts...

Anyway, this is about Sanremo, which is much nicer. It's another town that people clearly actually live in, the sun was shining, and we had lunch by the port where a friendly waitress compensated for my dismal Italian by speaking good French. That close to the border, I suppose it's a useful skill!

We walked around the old town - one of the few places that I've seen where tourists are encouraged to go, but which looks actively dodgy. They have sort of done the old town up, and put tourist signs up in 3 languages explaining what we're looking at, but the area is still obviously a poor one. Still, a pretty town overall, and one I'd happily consider if we're still around here next August when we're evicted for our annual month of landlady's summer holidays.

Photos from the day...

Sanremo - every day is a special day. (Such relentless positivity is luckily not widespread.)

Sanremo, Italy

An extremely narrow building, even for round here!
Sanremo, Italy

A fountain in one of the courtyards by the old Palais de Justice (I think!)
Sanremo, Italy

Pretty streets in the old town:
Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Religious fresco, randomly dotted above a doorway in the old town:
Sanremo, Italy

Giant tree in a park at the bottom of the hill leading to the cathedral. Originally covered in more houses, they were destroyed in an earthquake (followed by a Genovese attack) in the 18th century, and no rebuilding was allowed because it was deemed an unsafe site. Replaced by this lovely park, beloved of the wife of the first King of Italy.
Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Another fountain, near the cathedral
Sanremo, Italy

Cathedral photos:
Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Interior of the cathedral:
Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Views from the cathedral steps:
Sanremo, Italy

Sanremo, Italy

Remnants of defense tower built in the 1500s:
Sanremo, Italy

Another pretty street:
Sanremo, Italy

Sunshine in the port:
Sanremo, Italy

I want to own this house:
Sanremo, Italy


The barter system is alive and well on the internet....

(Cross-posted from my jewellery blog.)

Nicole from Ultimate Organic Soaps contacted me recently to ask if I would be interested in a trade, swapping some of her handmade French milled organic soap for my jewellery. I was, since I've long been interested in handmade soap - and today my package arrived from Norway.



It smells just wonderful, and my new soaps are:

Winter Spice soap:
100_5740 100_5743 100_5744

Poppy Seed and Orange Zest soap:
100_5742 100_5754 100_5755

Nutmeg and Sandalwood soap:
100_5741 100_5750 100_5752

Honey and Oatmeal soap
100_5737 100_5748 100_5746

Nicole very kindly included a couple of bars she hasn't yet listed in her Etsy shop, with strict instructions to leave them alone for a couple of weeks. So I also have Lemon Lime and Coconut soap:

And Green Tea and Mint soap:

I can't share photos of the inside of these just yet, though, since they're still finishing setting.

Thank you so much Nicole - I hope you're as happy with your side of the swap! I'm thrilled!

If you make things that you'd be interested in trading for my jewellery, please do get in touch. I'm not always going to say yes - and sometimes I just need the money, regardless of how much I love your products - but I'll always consider offers!

Nicole's Etsy shop is at Ultimate Organic Soap on Etsy and she also has a blog.


Copyright Nicole Hill, 2009-2010

All photos and text are mine - ask me *before* you use them elsewhere. Don't just copy them and hope I won't notice, it's theft.

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