Thursday, April 1, 2010

A new addition to the family and other tails

I wish to apologize in advance. This post doesn't have just one topic but more than one. And they are absolutely not linked in anyway. Well maybe a little.

First I am very proud to announce that we have a new addition to the family. No I'm not pregnant. We just took in a poor stray cat. We had noticed a cat roaming around our back garden for the past few days. The day before yesterday, we realized that the poor cat was living in our shed. We assumed that it belonged to one of our neighbours. Yesterday morning I was woken up by the cat meowing at the door. I took pity on it and gave him something to eat. Marie came along and started pointing out that the poor cat was shivering. It was bitter outside indeed. Then, the cat proceeded to follow me around the house from outside. Like some kind of stalker. I went for a shower, the cat was at the bathroom window. I went to wash the dishes, the cat was at the kitchen window. I went to the girls bedroom, the cat was at the window. Quite spooky I must admit. So I placed a phone call to Mr Foodie and told him that the poor cat was cold and hungry. Now, Mr Foodie is not a lover of cats, he'd rather take a dog in anytime. But he agreed to let the cat in. That cat is the most placid cat I ever came across. I let the cat into the kitchen. And convinced Mr Foodie to keep her. And off I went to get cat essentials, litter box, food, collar, flea treatment etc...The cat roamed around the kitchen and sitting room. I kept a close eye on it with Noelie, not sure how she or the cat would react. Noelie got very excited. She tugged on the poor cat's tail, its ears and whiskers. The cat never blinked, or turned on her. All it wanted to do was get away. Marie, too, is delighted. She can't wait to go back to school and tell her teacher about he new cat. Now, I can only picture her teacher's face when she tells her the cat's name. The only condition Mr Foodie put on keeping the cat (apart from making sure it's not diseased, or aggressive etc of course) was to pick the name. So I hereby introduce the new addition to the family: Nama. I can hear the Irish grinding their teeth from here. For all the non Irish readers, you might not know what Nama is. Nama stands for National Assets Management Agency. In other words, it's the agency put in place this week that is going to allow the bankers to get out of the mess they created scoff free. Nama is going to pump billions of taxpayers money into the banks. You can read more about it on Irish Mammy on the run wonderful post. And as my mum said, Mr Foodie has quite a warped sense of humour, I know.

Talking about Mr Foodie, SuperFoodie has come out of his SuperFoodie cave once more. He has now decided to take on a big enemy: The Department of Social and Family affairs no less. I seem to be receiving every 3 to 4 months letters from the above asking me to confirm my children's school and doctor details. Failure to do so would result in my Children's Benefit being cut off. I duly send back the form every few months. After a while though, I talked about it with Mr Foodie's sister in law and other people. And it turns out that they don't receive such a form. Today, I received my 2nd form this year. And it just bugged me. So I decided to give them a call. One of my many disguises as FoodieGirl is that of an Irish woman. I sound like one. I don't have a French accent (to the disappointment of some people, to the amazement of others). Sometimes to the point when I'm asked to prove I'm French, usually in the form of 'Oh, Whereabouts in France do you come from? And I answer the question in my most pronounced French accent. So I called the Department of Social and Family affairs with my best Irish accent. I was happily surprised to wait only a few minutes. And I asked my question:
-' Why do I get that form every few months?'
-' Oh, everybody gets it.' was the answer.
-' None of my friends do.'
-' Well everybody will get it soon.'
And there I took my opponent by surprise:
-' Is it because I'm French?' and the answer was a plain Yes. Got her! Then she started muttering something along the lines of 'Well, I mean, you entered the country.' Which I did, more than 10 years ago!!! I thanked her for her help and hung up.
I then called the SuperFoodie phone, and told him all about it. SuperFoodie took the fight on from there, he called the Ministry of Social and family affairs and tore their argument of fraud avoidance to shreds. After all, Noelie is Irish. Marie is Irish. He is Irish. And the fact that it amounts to racial profiling really and is completely inefficient. If you're foreign and want to cheat the system, you can easily give somebody else's address and get them to fill it in and return it. And if you're Irish, well you don't have much to worry about since you don't get the form. So you could have left the country in search of greener pastures and still get Children's Benefit here. And if I'm not mistaken, that's fraud too, isn't it? Now SuperFoodie would like me to contact a solicitor, it might be worth a shot, what do you think?

Finally, I experienced the most humiliating experience this week. I went to collect my first unemployment benefit. See, again, in order to avoid frauds, you do not get that payment in the bank. Instead, you have to go and collect it at the Post Office. So, kids in tow, I went in. I can only describe it as confidence crushing, humiliating and I felt like crying. Once again, it could be because my name is not Irish, or it could just be me. The lady behind the counter was not particularly nasty, she didn't look like a witch or anything, she was just doing her job. I gave my card, I got the receipt and then she went on to count the money. Loud enough so I could hear. Loud enough so that anybody within earshot in the tiny post office could hear. And everybody knows what that amount means. And you walk away from the counter, and you might as well be wearing a big red arrow pointing down on your head, with the words Foreigner claiming Benefit here. Because I speak French to the girls you see, so people knew I was not Irish. I hated every single minute of it. It's probably all in my head. But having been self sufficient for years, it was quite a blow. It felt like taking somebody else's money. I was told to consider it like getting a small bit of the tax I have paid into this country back, and that with time it does get better. I hope so because I don't want to feel like this every week. As much as I am delighted to spend time with my girls and doing a good job at it, something in my head made me feel like a bit of a failure. And it's not a nice feeling.

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