À LA MOD

Can be a dan­ger­ous thing, as Ian Moore has dis­cov­ered, es­pe­cially when ev­ery­one thinks you know a lot more than you ac­tu­ally do

Living France - - CONTENTS - Ian Moore is a co­me­dian, writer, chut­ney-maker and mod who lives with his fam­ily in the Loire Val­ley. His lat­est book is C’est (£8.99, Sum­mers­dale Pub­lish­ers). Mod­nifique!, ian­moore.info

Colum­nist Ian Moore re­veals why he is no ex­pert when it comes to ad­vice for ex­pats

My an­swer may sound au­thor­i­ta­tive but alarm bells are go­ing off in my head

It is one of the ben­e­fits of adult­hood that one can garner a num­ber of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; take credit and ac­claim for one’s achieve­ments up to that point, be ad­mired even, have one’s wis­dom sought out. It is also one of the ben­e­fits of adult­hood to leave such glory-mak­ing to those that de­serve it and though nom­i­nally, and cer­tainly ac­cord­ing to French law, I am ‘head of the house­hold’, this over-achiever – and I use the term lightly – can usu­ally be found work­ing away from home and shuf­fling around his ho­tel room in his py­ja­mas try­ing to work out where to plug the ket­tle in. I have been very lucky. At The France Show, held ev­ery Jan­uary at Lon­don Olympia, I met a great num­ber of ex­perts: fi­nan­cial, mov­ing, house buy­ing and sell­ing, cy­cling, wine­mak­ing, cheese mak­ing, left-hand-drive car sup­pli­ers and truf­fle seek­ers, lin­guists, hote­liers, moun­taineers and satel­lite dish in­stall­ers, to name a few.

If you were at The France Show and came armed with ques­tions, you al­most cer­tainly left with an­swers.

On the other hand, if you read my books on liv­ing in France and look for any in­sider tips or know­ing short­cuts I’m afraid you’ll be sorely dis­ap­pointed as I stum­ble from one ig­no­rance-in­spired in­ep­ti­tude to the next, be it goat hus­bandry or del­i­cate med­i­cal mat­ters, never learn­ing my lessons, never seek­ing the ad­vice of oth­ers and buf­feted about by French bu­reau­cracy like a pin­ball.

It has come as some­thing of a shock then, and cer­tainly con­trary to all the ev­i­dence, to dis­cover that I am now con­sid­ered some­thing of an ex­pert in all things ‘ex­pat in France’. The re­spon­si­bil­ity is frankly ter­ri­fy­ing, and not just be­cause the idea of re­spon­si­bil­ity brings me out in a cold sweat, but be­cause of the po­ten­tial havoc that could be wrought.

In the days be­fore bar­codes, I was once sacked from a job as a cashier at a large su­per­mar­ket chain be­cause I was in the habit of just guess­ing the price of things. Some peo­ple would have been over­charged cer­tainly, and by the same to­ken some would have got lucky, but ei­ther way my at­tempts to “game show things up a bit”, and en­liven a dull Satur­day job were con­sid­ered an­ar­chic and “not in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­ests”.

My point is, I haven’t re­ally moved on. ‘Mak­ing things up as I go along’ is some­thing of a life­long habit so when peo­ple ask me se­ri­ous ques­tions re­lat­ing to, say, taxe d’habi­ta­tion or con­ju­gat­ing the im­per­fect tense of the verb mé­con­naître, I will al­most cer­tainly look knowl­edge­able.

My an­swer may even sound au­thor­i­ta­tive but in­side my head there are prob­a­bly alarm bells go­ing off, or the open­ing bars to Daffy Duck’s theme tune and the brain node equiv­a­lent to mass hys­te­ria. As that su­per­mar­ket found out, I am not to be trusted.

A friend re­cently asked for my coun­sel on the safest way to trans­fer money abroad and when the deaf­en­ing laugh­ter of my bank, par­ents and wife had died down in re­sponse to me be­ing asked any sort of fi­nan­cial ad­vice, I could think of noth­ing more sen­si­ble than swal­low­ing bun­dles of cash and then swim­ming the Chan­nel. It seemed like a much more ex­cit­ing prospect than us­ing a re­spected, trust­wor­thy cur­rency house which the so-called ‘ex­perts’ are wont to rec­om­mend.

An­other friend asked me about the best way to ap­proach the labyrinthine, Kafkaesque night­mare that is French bu­reau­cracy, and when my re­sponse was to pre­pare for the kind of rope tor­ture that James Bond en­dured in Casino Royale, I was only partly jok­ing. I’m not sure any­one should prof­fer ad­vice on how to deal with les fonc­tion­naires.

Hap­pily though, within the pages of this magazine and at events like The France Show, there are gen­uine ex­perts; qual­i­fied, sen­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions there to help.

But se­ri­ously, if you want my ad­vice, don’t ask me.

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