Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It was all Greek to me...until I read this...

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering how Greece got to be such an economic basket case, other than the fact they're probably even more dishonest and corrupt than the Italians and the French, for example. I'd read that their Civil Service was pretty atrophied and that nothing moved much, but hadn't seen any evidence of it until the following job advert caught my eye. As a little preamble: when you advertise an advanced sitvac, you assume any applicants are going to have a pretty good idea as to what's involved, so you write : "Blahblah invites suitably-qualified candidates for the following position: Director/Head of/etc". The Greek National Opera is currently looking for a new Chorus Master. If there was any doubt in your mind about how flexible and mindful of innovation this particular government body was, then have a read of this:

The Greek National Opera announces a call for expressions of interest for the position of Choirmaster. We are looking
for a figure from the artistic community with a broad-ranging musical and general background, excellent knowledge of
the opera repertoire and various styles of choral music, and the ability of manage ensembles.
Candidates with the following qualifications will be viewed in a particularly positive light:
1. Diploma in conducting skills for choirs or orchestras:
a) issued by schools offering qualifications in conducting (at university music degree level) or Greek higher
schools offering music qualifications.
b) issued by schools offering qualifications in conducting (at university music degree level) or higher schools
offering music qualifications in a Member State of the European Union, whose qualifications are recognised
by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (DOATAP, formerly the Greek Inter-University
Centre for the Recognition of Foreign Degrees (DIKATSA).
c) issued by a university outside the European Union (university music degree), recognised by DOATAP
(formerly DIKATSA).
d) issued by the Thessaloniki State Conservatoire or other conservatoires recognised by the Ministry of
Culture & Tourism, which operate schools teaching orchestra or choir conducting skills.
2. A degree or diploma in piano or recognised symphonic orchestra instrument, with parallel studies to at least
the level of grade one at a higher piano academy. For holders of qualifications in symphonic orchestra string
or wind instruments, studies at a middle piano academy are sufficient.
3. A qualification in counterpoint from the Thessaloniki State Conservatoire or other conservatoire recognised
by the state. By way of exception, no qualification in counterpoint is required for holders of qualifications
from choir conducting schools.
4. Knowledge of voice training (soloist studies will be viewed in a positive light).
5. Excellent knowledge of the Greek language and good knowledge of at least 2 foreign languages (mainly
Italian and secondarily French, German or English), demonstrated by submitting the relevant certificates.
6. Recognised professional past experience in directing and teaching choirs or musical ensembles.
The Choirmaster’s monthly pay shall be set in accordance with Law 3988/2010.
Each of the top three candidates during the first selection phase will undergo a minimum 3-month trial period during
the artistic period 2011-2012. The final candidate will be selected by the end of the artistic period 2011-2012. The
contract for the G.N.O Choirmaster who is selected will be 2 years.
Greeks or foreigners interested in applying for the position should submit an application by 14:00 hours on 1
September 2011 to the offices of the Greek National Opera. In particular applications should be lodged with the
G.N.O’s Protocol Office in the administration building (39 Panepistimiou St., 3rd floor, Athens GR-10564) from 08:00 to
14:00 hours from Monday to Friday (tel. 210 3711200).
In addition to their application form, which can be obtained from the G.N.O’s Protocol Office or online from the
website www.nationalopera.gr, interested parties should also the following:
1. A detailed CV with photograph.
2. Qualifications (original documents or copies attested by the competent authority).
3. Proof of employment with operas, musical ensembles, etc.
4. Proof of the candidate’s artistic activities such as programmes from performances, sound and image
documentation, reviews, etc.

Click here for Application form

Well, what are waiting for?

Rant de la rentrée

I just wrote a mail to a friend, saying that, but a few short days ago, I looked in the mirror in Bayreuth and saw a smiling, healthy, cheerful man. I looked in the mirror this morning in Toulouse and noted the rings and bags under my eyes with disgust. In four days, I'd aged ten years, and I feel this way every time I come back to the south after a summer in a country and a town which works. It's been exacerbated this year by the necessity to register my German-bought Audi in France. Exchanging ownership papers and registering in Bayreuth took twenty minutes from start to finish. Here in France, I started at 10am today and won't finish - if I'm lucky - before September 14th. Here's why:

For some obscure reason, the French require a Certificate of Conformity to 'prove' that the car you wish to register is known to the authorities. In a sane world, you would imagine that an Audi A3, now on its third owner and possessing a full service history (I bought it in Germany, after all), would not cause Jacques & Co. to have a seizure. Wrong. I was informed it was 'essential' and that 'nothing could be done' until they were in possession of this particular little sesame. 'So', I asked; 'how do I get one? The Germans didn't see the need, seeing as the car was first put on the road in 2000'. 'You get it from the manufacturer'. Great help. This was after being informed I needed another piece of paper from the tax office (don't ask) to prove something or other. It was free, but it just seems to be there to keep people busy. And frustrated. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, I (finally) found the number of Audi France and they prodded me in the right direction. With any luck, I should receive the thing through the post in about a week.

What drives me insane is that no two people in authority in this country will tell you the same thing. For neophyte car importers, that's a pretty big issue. Why the hell they insist on this CoC (exactly) is beyond me, seeing as their own cars are such shit they fall apart after five years of sink estate handbrake turns and bump-bump parking manoeuvres. In addition, they're so pathologically corrupt they need a piece of paper from a German company before they'll recognise obscure brands and models such as the Audi A3. Once I've finally registered the bloody thing and providing I haven't gone postal by then, it'll have cost me around €300. The price I paid in Germany? €59. One employee of Audi Toulouse even told me I'd have to have a new MOT done here in France, even though the car went through the TÜV in Germany on August 15th. I suggested that might be sufficient, would it not? He replied that 'We were in France', as if they could do a better job than the people who built the bloody car in the first place. Makes you want to puke.

There has to be a victim in all of this, and there was one, I'm afraid. Something else I needed to do today was print off an invoice to send to a company near Stuttgart. The printer, which has seldom given me much hassle, decided its black ink wasn't going to work. I tried printing the bill; no dice. I cleaned the heads. No dice. I tried again. And again. And again. Eventually, it decided the other colours all needed replacing and wouldn't budge an inch until I'd spent f*** knows how much replacing half-full cartridges, just to see the test paper refuse to show any evidence of black whatsoever. After half an hour of kärchering the heads to no avail and having used up my stock of spare ink cartridges I finally lost it and pummeled the printer into oblivion, smashing my fist down repeatedly on its cover, shattering the photocopier and scanner glass, unfortunately under the watchful eye of Fingernail II, who wandered off to Mrs. F and said "Daddy's killed the printer". I tried to explain my way out of it as best I could, the fact it was the result of red mist that had slowly been descending ever since my first contact with the civil service after my arrival from Germany; the fact that the size of our flat is driving me crazy; the smell of the streets; the incivility; the lack of room anywhere and just the fact that I didn't deal with a frustrating situation as well as I could have. In the end, I said, it was all due to a lack of self-control and no excuse I could make will ever divert attention from that truth. There are worse things in life. I can't wait to sell this place and get the hell out. Seriously, it's getting critical. I've just spent three months in places that work, then I come back to one of the world's richest countries and encounter nothing but bullshit and indifference. Stupid, spoiled f*******; do they know how good they've got it? I'd better stop. It's curious: I'm the happiest I've been for months, now that I'm back with my little family, yet my nerves are currently jangling for no more reason than I have to go about my everyday life with people who are obstructive and unhelpful. Life never gets easier, it just gets more familiar.

Monday, 22 August 2011

End of summer blues

I wish I had something thrilling and titillating to tell you, but I don't. I could file for intellectual bankruptcy (Wouldn't that be a first, eh?) and just post a picture of a porn star (Actually not such a bad idea - note to self) but will probably just plunk for typing randomly-assembled words to fill up a few minutes before I despair at my own stupidity and vacuity and go to bed, accompanied by - I'm serious, I kid you not - an experimental didgeridoo concert on Bavarian Radio. The fact of the matter is that my line of work interests only those already in the business whom I have, as a matter of precaution,  pre-drugged, gagged and tethered to chairs or radiators and seeing as that's all I've indulged in since buying that Audi A3 (well, almost all) I basically have nothing to tell you. I'm still not back in France, I'm still not getting irritated with noisy neighbours, I'm still not drinking the wine regions of Gaillac and Fronton dry, but I am playing lots of Wagner and Verdi, sitting on my terrace in a gorgeously-hot northern Bavaria and having more than the occasional Weissbier, but frankly, do any of you give one? No, and nor should you; most of you visited this blog in the hope of finding some pearls of wisdom related to life in southern France and virtually all posts since May 22nd must have disappointed you (except that one of Pamela Anderson, come on...).

'Come on,' I hear you cry; 'You say your line of work won't interest us, but try us! We're adult, we have our BCGs'. OK, here goes: It probably won't be Frank Castorf; it'll be a collaboration between Hans Neuenfels, Stefan Herheim and Katharina Wagner. Satisfied? OK, where's that picture of a porn star...

See you in France.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Audi A3 Sportback - our passport to freedom.

In my original profile I mentioned the fact that Mrs. Fingers and I didn't own a car. Well, now we do. 'Ooh Gah!' I hear you cry; 'He's finally done what virtually every other adult on the planet did ages ago, and got himself a car'. I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake with all these things but I have been a car owner before: I had a couple of BMW 520i's in Hamburg, back in the late eighties to mid-nineties but gave them away when I moved back to London as I didn't need them anymore. It's a shame you can't get rental car 'miles' which ultimately get you a discount on car insurance when you go back to owning a vehicule, as that would probably have made quite a difference to what I'm going to have to shell out for this one, now. It's also the reason I picked something pretty small and not too powerful: as far as the insurance companies are concerned I am - despite having had my driving licence over thirty years - a new driver; the No Claims Bonus I acquired in Germany expired in 2002 and France was never going to go that extra mile to start me on that percentage. Nor should they, either.

The real reason for getting the car is that we're now equipped to go house-hunting in areas which don't necessarily have a highly-developed public transport system i.e. anywhere in and around Toulouse. It also means we can just pop off somewhere for a day or an afternoon instead of having to stick it out in the centre of town. If you want to get out into deep countryside here, you need a car; it's as simple as that.

Here's a little piccy of the model I bought:

Now there's just the small matter of driving 1600km back to Toulouse in just over a week's time...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Chilean MILF politicians - an artist's retrospective

I'm pleased that certain surfers have - probably much to their enormous disappointment - been directed to my Chilean MILF page, but regret that the full comparative horror - seeing pictures of Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith and Estelle Morris - has not been experienced. In fact, I get the impression that the Chilean MILF politicians v. Blair's 'Babes' page is probably the least visited page of the entire blog. This does, however, indicate that there is a benevolent God; one who, even in the pornographically liberal environment of the World Wide Web, still spares innocent (well, OK...) internauts the sight of three of the most appalling human execrescences ever let loose on our fair soil. I was just back in England for a week and, hell, it is a gorgeous country; noting that Blair's autobiography is part of a 3 for 2 deal at W.H. Smith's does jab a matchstick at the corner of my mouth, but it's not enough. Not until NuLab and its subversions have been eradicated from the collective conscience can life really improve. I realise this may not make me popular with a large percentage of the population, but, you know: I don't give an airborne reproductive act; that's the beauty of getting older: you care less about what people think and say. It's also why people label us cantankerous old buggers. Can't believe I'm banging on the door of the local Darby and Joan Club when I'm still regularly called 'Young Man', 'Jeune Homme' and 'Junger Mann' (at least in Europe) by people, often younger than I, who then don't expect to be corrected. Bizarre. Age is in the mind, seriously. When you get older, you become more of what you always have been.

This is getting off the point, of course; The point being that Chile - great country, fab miners - has hot female politicians and Great Britain - great country, fab er, scenery - has not. Notwithstanding, I still maintain it is easier to get into a conversation with a Brit than with practically any other national, anywhere. Try it out - at home, if needs be - and let me know. We may be a spent force, an ex-empirical power, an easy touch for Third World benefit scroungers, but hell, can we chat! Seriously, you can start a conversation with a Brit for nothing and about nothing and your life will be richer for it, providing you have a sense of humour and a capacity to give as good as you get. Try it this summer - wherever you are - and watch our population increase even more than it did under New Labour. But naturally, this time. Countries with a good sense of humour tend to have a higher birth rate than stick-in-the-mud nations. Dubious? Check the statistics.

That's enough late-night bollocks. Sleep well. Preferably with one of us.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Delay, Delay, Delay.

 Just back from the inside of a week in England; a wonderful meeting-up with Mrs. F and the Fingernails after six weeks' absence. England was a joy: great weather and no traffic jams, but I realise I just got lucky there, nothing more. It was interesting to see signs in Russian up in Wisbech, a sleepy Georgian market town and epicentre of the local agricultural picking and packing trade and now host to many Eastern European labourers who have done nothing but win friends since their arrival a few years ago. Many return home once the season's over, others stay on and pick up other work. They're also buying businesses and houses, so they're definitely there to stay.

The only downside of the trip was the experience with Swiss Airlines, or whatever they're called this week. Every flight I took was delayed, one connection (same company) was missed and even the Nuremberg flight I was re-booked on after a three-hour hang around took off late. If you're flying via Zurich, as I was, you have to go through passport control and security before picking up your connecting flight, yet there appears to be no airport coordination between a late-arriving Swiss flight and its subsequent connections. There's certainly no fast track for short connections; everyone stands in line as the few border guards there are peer at every passport as if it's the first time they've seen a travel document. They're not going anywhere, so they're not in a hurry. You either make your connecting flight or you do not, there appears to be no kind of policy and everyone you speak to has a dim, glazed-over expression on their face as if mildly surprised you wish to reach your destination as planned. The route Nuremberg-Zurich-Manchester was stressful but the return trip turned out to be less so as we got so late they just informed us we'd all miss our connections and that we should go to the Transfers Desk to pick up our new boarding passes for later flights. They came accompanied with a voucher for CHF 10 which will get you a beer and a pretzel, at least it will if you get up and remind the dozy waitress of your order after waiting for fifteen minutes. I can safely say I have never encountered such a dozy, thick, initiative-free and gormless group of people as I met flying Swiss this last week. God only knows how the country got so rich if this is the mentality. The only part of the trip which worked was when the plane was in the air, but even Air France gets that bit right. Getting to the plane and getting it in the air was the big challenge, and here they failed dismally. A trip which should have taken twelve hours door-to-door ended up taking 18. Never again if I have the choice.