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My predictions for 2014

Peering into the future and making predictions makes fools of us all.

(Well, fools of all of us who do it in public.) Looking forward over 12 months guarantees that the gods lie back on their fluffy clouds and laugh at the presumption, nay, impertinence, of mere mortals who try to do so.

"The magazine this week is about the future," emailed the editor. "Looking forward."

My heart sank. My body curved another ratchet over the machine that both nurtures and destroys me. My forehead hit the touchpad.

Being a superstitious, God-fearing woman of an increasing age, I don't do "looking forward".

Age actually has little to do with it. It never has, since realising paranoia is an inescapable truth of life and therefore one should only whisper plans/hopes after the age of nine and stop altogether at 40.

I'm incapable of buying an airline ticket cheaply six months ahead. Tempting fate. So pay through the nose happy to be still here, obviously only because I did not tempt fate.

And usually staying put, as sadly no longer able to afford the super-inflated day-before ticket - so end up going nowhere.

When friends say they'll visit several months away I reply: "Lovely, God willing…" and privately wonder at their audacity to believe they'll still even be alive.

How marvellous to trust in January that you'll still be sentient in August.

Admittedly I take this to extremes. Agreeing to go to dinner three days ahead is hedged with fingers crossed, all the "God willings," plus the added bonus of telling my potential hosts: "If I'm not there, call the sapeurs pompiers. I'll be dead."

However, however, with the arrogance and twisted logic of the columnist I'm prepared to take a squint at the year to come, as it is somewhat abstract and doesn't really involve moi. God willing.

So: the vile FN (Front National) will do extraordinarily well in both municipal and European elections.

The French, natural depressives, will vote such to show President Hollande that they care little for socialism when it hits their pockets and perverse national pride and belief in being a First Nation.

Intellectuals and philosophers of Paris's elite will appear nightly on French TV to rage and wail against the results yet still insist the French are the only people on earth who are neither racist nor materialistic.

And as we return to recession the normal almost-daily strikes will increase and, so the authorities have already warned, will come with a new aggressive dimension.

The word increasingly used as the only answer to France's problems is "revolution". Exactly what form that revolution should take is further subject for discussion, but historically France has moved forward by violence and overthrow of those in power.

Hollande is effectively caught in a trap.

The raft of extra taxation has seen the young and entrepreneurial flee in unprecedented numbers.

Many say they will return at some point, but only when hard work is rewarded and not penalised or strangled by punitive social charges.

Yet the government has, on the current path, seemingly little option but to raise money by putting the squeeze on not just the rich but the middle classes as well.

The worker, the one-man band, has been the whipping boy for every government and has responded by going on the black, further exacerbating the problems.

For the expats there are also testing times ahead. In just a few short years the country once seen as near perfect by francophiles has turned into a trap as inescapable as Hollande's.

Fixed income has been whittled away via currency rates and rising costs; the housing market has collapsed, with few buyers around to take those now at weepable prices, so desperate are many to go.

Meanwhile, even those with second homes are being hit with stealthy charges and hints of more to come. Judging by newspaper and forum reports, a lot of those will soon be also dumped on the estate agents' books.

A highly effective and respected estate agent I met at a Christmas party told me he had not sold one property during the year.

Without irony he admitted his own beautiful house would soon have to go, but how and when he hadn't a clue.

In the more rural areas it is dispiriting to see the shops empty one by one, the bars and the bistros putting up their shutters for good.

Where once I could have chosen three spots to eat or drink in Lavit's square, now there is only a table outside the tabac that runs a coffee machine for the betting shop in the back.

The younger expats who once made a good if often illegal living servicing the older ones' needs for gardeners, builders and handymen are also facing hard choices.

One told me last year was disastrous as there was no money around for renovation.

Reluctantly, he's thinking of moving back in the hope of more work in the UK.

So, in all, a pretty bleak look ahead, I'm afraid. In some ways it will be fascinating to witness the changing face of Europe.

In others, deeply troubling.

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