I suppose with my brother's sudden illness and death, getting into some kind of routine in retirement was naturally pushed back a bit but I feel like I am slowly starting to get there, although maybe not yet an optimum routine! I find myself going to bed pretty late - anywhere between midnight and 1 a.m. (or 1.30 last night!), and then getting up around 8.30. I have always been a "late" bird but, ideally, I would like to get that down to getting up a bit earlier. I suppose, though, since it's still officially winter why would I want to get up earlier in the dark and cold right? That being said, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here, with temperatures around 14°C, or in the 50s F, so if I can get my act together I will aim to start going to bed by midnight and up by around 7-7.30! We'll see how that pans out though won't we!
What I have been putting off, however, is looking into what I need to do for residency after Brexit, so yesterday, after taking myself off for an hour's walk in the sunshine, I decided I would get online and have a look at the kind of paperwork I will need to stump up in order to get my resident's papers (carte de séjour in French). A friend sent me a link to what turned out to be a fairly efficient UK Government website which has been set up to help Brits in Europe. After signing up I must have received 50 emails immediately on "living in Germany after Brexit", "living in Greece after Brexit", "living in …." you get the idea. But in addition to those emails there were also emails entitled "IP (intellectual property) issues after Brexit", "import and export procedures after Brexit", and so on. Anyway, I clicked on the "French" link and got some fairly standard info there. The French, though, have also set up a website for Brits living in France but the big problem is that they have to keep keep referring to "in the event of a deal", you will need to provide this, but "in the event of no deal" you will need to provide that. Basically nobody knows! So it's all still as clear as mud you see! The positives, as far as I can see, is that deals are being negotiated (and hopefully pushed through) on the issue of medical coverage for Brits in various EU countries and pension security. It's by no means sorted but at least it is moving forward, and frankly it is in nobody's interests for this to be screwed up. Seeing all the pages and pages of information I have to wade through, though, does make me wonder what those Brits will do (many in Spain as far as I can see) who never bothered to learn the language! I would not like to be trying to trudge through this stuff if I didn't speak French, I can tell you and, most likely, there will be a French language proficiency test thrown in for good measure! But then why not - we live in the bloody country don't we! On the issue of medical insurance and pensions I will be ok as I have private medical insurance for life through my former employer and a private pension, again through my former employer and not dependent on Britain. My youngest son - the one still living in France - is employed and has medical insurance through his employer and will be married to a French girl by the time it goes through. Ditto my oldest son, although he is in Switzerland and married to a Swiss. So there you have it, despite my best intentions and sitting down to "really go through this stuff", I am no further forward than I was a couple of days ago, so I guess I will just wait until April and take it from there. The good news is that we will have at least until July 2020 to prepare our files, as opposed to the three months my husband and I had in 1990 to submit our requests for cartes de séjour.
Then to add to the paperwork, up until this year the French have always received full, untaxed salaries and, at the end of each tax year, they file taxes and pay what is owed to the State. Since 1 January 2019 they have instituted a PAYE (pay as you earn) system so everyone should now be having taxes deducted at source by their employers. Except for people like me, though, because I have a foreign (non-French) pension which they cannot touch so I have to set it up myself to allow them to direct debit my monthly taxes from my bank account. The problem with that, though, is (a) I don't actually know if I have to wait until the end of 2019 for them to estimate my taxes (as was usually done up until now since this is my first year as a pensioner), or if I should be paying in already! No idea! I am of course putting the money aside so I can pay it immediately once it gets sorted but I still have to correct the issue of the bad information provided to me by my "tax advisor" regarding the amount of tax I have to pay on the lump sum! So, really, I can't do anything until I get that sorted! I am, therefore, going to make an appointment with a real tax expert for when I come back from Sri Lanka and hopefully get that sorted pretty quickly.
And talking of Sri Lanka (I was wasn't I), I'm off there on Saturday! Yay me. I'm flying from Zurich and will arrive a day before my tour starts so I have booked into what I hope is a nice hotel in Colombo for the first night, allowing me to recuperate from jet lag a little before we set off on our tour. Same for when I get back too, as my flight arrives in Zurich around 9 p.m. and I don't want to then set off on a three hour train journey to get in to Geneva probably around 1 a.m. Sooo, I have booked myself into what looks to be a rather nice hotel at Zurich airport on the way back.
As luck would have it, this evening I saw that Top Gear was on tonight and just happened to catch that they would be having a race from Colombo to northern Sri Lanka in two tuk-tuks to try to make it over "Adam's Bridge" (hint, it's not a real bridge) to India! So I got to see the kind of scenery that awaits me and it looks beautiful. I'm not much of a Top Gear fan to be honest (particularly since Clarkson left) but it was lovely to see all that lush scenery and the beautiful beaches. Kinda exciting!
Then to add more flavour to the mix, my son and his fiancée are getting married on the Saturday after I get back. It is the mairie wedding (the legal wedding), which will last about 30 minutes and then we are all going back to the bride's mom's place for lunch. They are making "tartiflette" (my favourite meal in the whole world I think) and have asked me to make desert for 20-25. Since tartiflette is pretty heavy we have agreed that I will make a fruit salad with rum and a cardamom sauce, millionaire's shortbread, and I think I will also make a heart-shaped chocolate cake, which is one of Jordan's favourites. My friend is making her "to die for" chocolate chip cookies so I don't suppose we will starve. I just hope this glorious weather holds out for them. My other son got married two years ago on 17 March in beautiful weather and Jordan and Jen are getting married on 16 March, so fingers crossed.
Other than that, there's not much going on. I took myself off to the Bénite Fontaine (the Church of the Blessed Fountain), in order to get a walk in but ostensibly to fill up my water bottles from the mountain spring water that runs through there (a bit like bottling your own Evian water - which you can also do for free). I noticed the farmer in the distance on the way back tending to his horses but other than that haven't seen him since. So all's good here. Packing almost done, and I haven't forgotten the mozzie repellent so Sri Lanka here I come!