The French boulangerie is at the heart of the village, the source of all things nourishing. You get your daily bread here, but also a serving of gossip or news, local knowledge, the weather report, or directions if you’re passing through town.
But back to that in a minute. First I want to tell you about French banks. Which, compared with what we are used to, are completely bizarre. We call them The Banks with No Money.
We first learned of this when we went to our own bank to get a check cashed. “Oh no, Madame, we don’t cash checks here.” Hmm. What to do? In the end we had to deposit it in the ATM, then get some cash back, in several withdrawals. Well, OK, that works (as long as the pesky ATM is working).
Then we had friends who went in to deposit some cash in a friend’s account, as a favor to them. The bank wouldn’t deposit it. “But it’s cash!" they said. "We’re not asking for money. We’re giving you cash!” Nope, they wouldn’t take it. Our friends ended up depositing it into their own account, then writing a check to the bank for the same amount. That, it seemed, was OK.
Try to get a loan, and it gets even more more strange. When the bank look at your portfolio, they won’t count your stock holdings as assets. No, those are too unreliable, you must have a guaranteed income large enough to justify the loan. As Ron likes to say, Warren Buffet couldn’t get a loan approved in France (let it be said here that the US could learn something from this conservative stance---we seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum, and it has not been a success).
We had friends in the above situation, plenty of assets but not full guaranteed, who tried to borrow 100,000€. They had much difficulty but the bank finally agreed. “We will give loan you 100,000€” they finally said. “But you must give us 85,000€ to hold in escrow for the life of the loan”. Note to bank: it's called a LOAN, which means you give the customer the money up front, not vice versa.
I was chatting with a French antique dealer one day and he explained it to me this way: “French bankers are thieves,” he said. “You can’t trust them at all.” Cynical for sure, but we began to wonder when our checks were suddenly all blocked, and people started calling us because our checks had been returned. We quickly call the banker. “Ah oui, Madame, we blocked your account because you lost your checkbook."
“But we haven’t lost our checkbook,” we told them.
“Ah yes, Madame, of course you have, that’s why we’ve blocked your account.”
“But we have our checkbook right here, it's sitting on the desk!"
“No madame, it’s lost.”
“Mais non, Madame. But we are sure your checkbook is lost.” Needless to say, it took a while to get this sorted.
But here is the most curious aspect of French banking. One day I was in Macon, a good sized city, and I needed change for a 50€ bill, so I stopped into a bank.
“Madame, “ the teller sniffed, “we do not keep MONEY here.”
“But it’s a BANK," I said. "Surely you have 50€? And if not, where would I go to get change?”
“To get change” she said, “you should go to the boulangerie”.
Favorite Reads: I just finished Me Before You , by Jojo Moyes. I suppose I'm the last person around to read it, but I really enjoyed it. I wish I was in the States, so I could catch the movie!
Department of Miscellany: I had to share this photo. Look at what our friend Gerard made, after the lid of a teapot broke. The birds can nest inside, and you can fill the cup with food. Clever, n'est pas?
In a final note, our hearts go out to our friends in Orlando. Might we do like they do in France, and in Europe? Almost no one has guns (and you certainly couldn't buy an assault weapon legally if you were on a terrorist list), and there are almost no domestic shootings, gun accidents with children, or mass shootings, especially with legally purchased guns. As a result the murder rate is a fraction of what it is in the states. If only we could learn from them!