Of Poops and Pensions

The joys of being 50 – realising that you have more behind and less in front (talking in temporal rather than bodily terms). No, I don’t want to be pessimistic, I still hope to live many long and happy years. The other day, I started putting the guest list together for my 100th birthday party, so you see, I reckon to be around a long time yet.

In this morning’s mail – a rather official looking « blue » envelope – redolent of medical test results or hospital appointments. Strange, I haven’t had any tests, I haven’t been to hospital, though I had better think seriously about doing my poop in a tube test for colorectal cancer – That must be a strange job, analysing the poo of complete strangers, had I to perform this faecal function everyday, I’d at least want to meet the owner of the minscule stool before analysing it. I wonder if poo analysts try to visualise the owner of the sample. Come to think of it, faeces is by far the best way to get the low down on someone’s life. Archeologists and anthropoligists just love it when they get a huge pile of poo – sifting though a stool, you can work out someone’s diet and by knowing what they ate, work out their social status – a noble poo isn’t the same as a peasant poo.

Here’s a thought, why not leave a few « biofacts » for anthropologists of the future. Next time you feel the call of nature, scoop up some of your doings, shove them in a Tupperware bow, and bury it in the garden – you’ve just left a very valuable time capsule for those who might be digging us up in a few hundred years.

Let’s get back to that blue envelope, that I am now ripping open with a mix of trepidation and curiosity . It turns out to be a record of my entire working life from those people who look after retirements and pensions (not quite sure of their official title.) – Now, I was warned that this would be coming when I hit 50 , and obviously I had completely forgotten – inside the blue envelope, five pages listing all those places I have ever worked, how long I worked there, how much I earned, and more important, how all this will contribute to my pension when I retire, and also when I can retire.

Under current French legislation on work and pensions, employees in both the public and private sector need to have worked 42 full years to get a full state pension. It would be too simple to actually measure years as years, sot hey are measured as « terms » – there are four terms in a year, but for some reason, in France you need to have worked 5 terms for a year to qualify as a year (Can’t work that out, I just think the work and pensions people are trying to diddle us). I was born in 1965. According to the figures on the Work and Pensions Department website, I will ned to work 169 terms to qualify for a full state pension. So far I have worked 90, and working this out I have worked out that I will retire when I am 68. The average lifespan for a male in France is 75 years, therefore  I will have 7 years of retirement.

If I want a longer retirement, I have several options.

I could legally retire at 60, in doing so however my pension would be a pittance.

I could try and get a sex change. The average lifespan for a French fémale of the species is 85, therefore, if I had my wedding tackle converted and underwent some serious hormone treatment, I could get 17 years of retirement rather than 7 were I too retire at 68. If however I did get a sex change and then retired at 60, I’d get 25

years to annoy younger members of the human race by telling them that things were better before, or doing at the weekend all the stuff that I had all week to do.

Yes, I just hate that – all you retirées, you have had all week to do your shopping, but come Saturday, it is YOU who are clogging up the aisles in the supermarket – gangs of you with your trolleys all parked up in the middle of the aisle as you stand aroun gossipping, and then, when I get to the checkout, it is nothing but oldies – WELL, I want to do this too when I retire. Unless of course, I buy a baseball cap, join some kind of local oldies club and start organising other peoples’ lives.

Looking down the long list of those places I have laboured to keep body and soul together, there are salary figures quoted in Euros and good old French Francs. I come across a few surprises – 1994, 900 Francs from a film company for a walk on part I got in a French TV film – and it did get aired on TV and in the days following a couple of strangers came up to me in the street saying those immortal words « Didn’t I see you on TV the other night ? » Ah, to be world famous for five minutes in your local town.

What’s this ? 1987 ? They’ve even put in a job I had as a language teaching assistant in a French school. Back when people still did language degrees, as part of your studies, you’d get packed off to France for a year to teach English in French secondary schools. I ended up in a school in a defunct mining town in the Pas de Calais in the north of France, teaching English to kids who had never been to England, despite its proximity, come to think of it, most kids had never even been to the nearest local big town because – in their words – « What do I want to go there for ? » I suppose I never thought about i tat the time, but as a teaching assistant, I was a fully paid up member of the French teaching profession. This one year all those years ago counts towards my retirement – of course I never knew at the time that I was going to come and live in France –

Here I am then – 90 terms down and 79 to go. What happens though, if I go back to live and work in the UK ? What happens to all these hard years of sweat and toil ? Will I be able to reap the benefits on the other side of the Channel ?

Guess I need some pensions advice and if the adviser is good, I might invite him to my 100th birthday party.