Living Magazine - Feb/March 2023

Page 1

FEB | MARCH 2023
Business Directory

Welcome to the first issue in 2023 - I am sure you will all join me in hoping that this year brings peace, health and happiness to all. After the past few years, I’m looking forward to getting back onto a more even keel which my inner optimist says is on its way - it must surely be just around the next corner by now!

We start this issue with a trip south to the vieux quartier of Marseille. Colourful streets, beautiful architecture, a dramatic history and the shimmering Mediterranean make this a fascinating place for a getaway at any time of year and, with off-season trains from Bordeaux being reasonably priced, you can let the train take the strain.

After the terrible fires last summer, the courageous work of the sapeurs-pompiers has never been more important. As the service looks for more volunteers to swell its ranks, Jessica Knipe talks to some who have already joined to see just what is involved and how to apply. Gillian Harvey, meanwhile, visits a wild swimming group and bravely takes the plunge on our behalf to discover if the benefits outweigh the challenges.

Heading northwards, Roger Moss reveals the history of one of France’s youngest heroines who shaped the country’s destiny over five centuries ago. It’s an amazing tale with a tragic ending, reflected in many monuments and artworks around the region.

And, there’s more! Along with all the latest news from around the region, we take a closer look at changing seasons with Rosie Neave, discover the secrets of the lizards around us with Roger Meek before settling down to an evening of wine-themed films selected by Caro Feely. The crossword by Mike Morris will have you scratching your head, while Nikki Legon’s saffron recipes will provide you with inspiration in your kitchen. Stig continues to amuse with the long-running Fowpars while Emma Lee rounds off this packed edition with a humourous descent into goblin mode.

Every issue is a team effort, so I’d like to start this year by thanking all our contributors, advertisers and subscribers without whom Living Magazine would not be the fun, unique magazine it is today!

A bientôt!


Read online at
to our February / March issue

EDITOR: Kathryn Dobson

SALES: Jon Dobson


REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS: Caro Feely, Jessica Knipe, Emma-Jane Lee, Nikki Legon, Mike Morris, Roger Moss, Rosie Neave and Stig Tomas.

THANKS TO: John and Gill Bowler

PHOTOGRAPHY: Roger Moss or Shutterstock unless indicated.

COVER IMAGE: Streets in Marseille © Pani Garmyder/Shutterstock

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Dépôt légal: A parution ISSUE: 88 ISSN: 2270-2709

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Articles and adverts in this issue do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.

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Local news from around the region 16

In Old Marseille

Roger Moss visits the historic quarter of France’s third-largest city and gateway to the Mediterranean 22

The Limousin Ladies’ Wild Swimming Group Gillian Harvey takes the plunge to discover if wild swimming in winter is invigorating or just a bit barmy...


Giving Back

Becoming a sapeur-pompier volontaire is a rewarding way to support your community as Jessica Knipe finds out 31

Iron Maiden Roger Moss reveals how an 18 year-old peasant girl helped shape the destiny of France 36

Practical Advice Your questions answered by our experts

26 Business Directory FEB MARCH 2023

Many of our advertisers have been with Living Magazine for years so you can be sure that they are dedicated to giving you the best service possible. And, by supporting our advertisers, you help ensure that Living Magazine can continue to bring you the best that the region has to offer - a winning formula all round!

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per month. GET IN TOUCH 40 16 32 38 Spring is in the Air Join Rosie Neave as she explores the beginnings of spring in the countryside 39 Puzzle Break Our unique crossword by Mike Morris 40 Nikki Legon’s Cuisine Locally grown saffron adds flavour to Nikki’s latest recipes 44 Wine-themed Movie Nights Enjoy a night in with films picked by wine expert Caro Feely 55-65 OUR BUSINESS DIRECTORY
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31 46 Living Property Pages We visit Benet in Vendée 50
Living among the Lizards Look around and you may see lizards basking in the sunshine. Roger Meek tells us more about these shy creatures
Early Spring Gardening It’s time to get planning and planting!
Pardon! Emma-Jane Lee’s regular foray into French



Zero Plastic

In the latest plenary session in Bordeaux, regional officials in Nouvelle-Aquitaine voted to adopt a Zéro Pollution Plastique plan. The region is responsible for 305,000 tonnes of waste each year of which 105,000 tonnes come from households (49kg per resident per year). Nationally, the 2020 waste law provides for the end of single-use plastic packaging by 2040, with milestones in terms of recycling (100% by 2025), packaging reuse (+10% by 2027) and collection rate (90% by 2029). Over the next 5 years, the region has committed to achieving additional milestones:

- zero single-use plastics through the development of new materials and solutions, - zero plastic in landfill by increased recycling, and - zero plastic in the environment through the prevention of leaks. Amended recycling practices are already being rolled out across the country with new yellow bins accepting all paper, plastic, metal and cardboard objects. The items no longer need to be cleaned out, just emptied of any contents but must not be stacked inside one another. By simplifying the rules nationally, the expectation is that more will be recycled with little being put into the grey/black bins. In addition, from 1 Jan, single-use plastic packaging has been banned for meals consumed on-site in fast-food venues that seat 20 or more people.

Tax for Trains

As part of the 2023 Finance Bill, the Senate adopted a measure allowing the creation of a regional surcharge to the tourist tax. This will be used to finance the improvement of rail infrastructure in the south west. A 34 per cent increase in 2024 in departments including Gironde, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne down to the PyrénéesOrientales would help to finance the Bordeaux-Toulouse and Montpellier-Perpignan lines, a move that tourism organisations are saying would unfairly penalise the tourism structures in the region.

Cold Calls

From 1 March, telephone canvassing will be banned on weekends and public holidays. According to a decree published in October in the Journal Officiel, commercial calls will only be allowed between the hours of 10am-1pm and 2-8pm from Monday to Friday. If a person asks not to be contacted again, the call centre must not contact them again for 60 days. Fines can be severe, up to 375,000 euros for companies found to be flouting the regulations.

Women for Women France

1 in 3 women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and it can happen to anyone. The abuse comes in many forms, not always physical, and the perpetrators often seem pleasant, generous and respectful to others. Women born outside of France are particularly vulnerable, especially to coercive control where they become socially isolated, creating administrative and financial dependence. Founded in 2018, Women for Women France offers an online resource centre in English to help anyone suffering domestic abuse. It details the steps to take and the help available as well as containing clear information on topics such as money, residency rights, protection orders and more. See

Mushroom Alert

If you are heading out on a fungal foray then take care. More than 90% of local mushroom species are toxic and in one month alone, Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s anti-poison centre received more calls than in the whole of the previous year. Often it is experienced mushroom pickers who are the victim as they think they recognise a mushroom but fail to notice the small differences between it and its toxic cousin. Experts recommend that you dig deep to ensure that you collect the foot of the mushroom as this is often where important differences can be spotted. The Death Cap, Amanita phalloides (right), is found across the region and is very similar to some species of edible mushrooms. The toxins are not reduced by cooking and as little as half a mushroom may be fatal. The first symptoms do not show until 24 to 48 hours after ingestion by which time the damage to vital organs is beyond repair. To recognise a Death Cap, it is important to check the volva which may be hidden by leaf matter as this is distinctive being swollen and ragged. Another recommendation is to use a basket for collecting the mushrooms. Plastic bags should not be used as they accelerate fermentation and the development of toxic bacteria. The anti-poison centre recommends that you always photograph your basket in case of later problems as it helps them quickly identify the different species. If needed, they can be reached on 05 56 96 40 80. You can also join a local club to learn more, see for more information.

Timbre Rouge


This year there are plenty of opportunities for 3-day weekends and 4-day ‘ponts’:

Lundi de Pâques: Mon 10 April

Fête du Travail: Mon 1 May

Victoire 1945: Mon 8 May

Ascension: Thu 18 May

Lundi de Pentecôte: Mon 29 May

Fête Nationale: Fri 14 July

Assomption: Tue 15 August

Toussaint: Wed 1 November

Armistice 1918: Sat 11 November

Noël: Mon 25 December

Jour de l’an 2024: Mon 1 January 4-day weekends can be formed over Ascension, Assomption and Toussaint.

Children at school in Zone A will break up on Fri 3 February for the winter holiday and return to school on Mon 20 February. In Zone B they break up on Fri 10 February and return on Mon 27 February

The red priority stamp offering one-day letter delivery has been withdrawn by La Poste and replaced with a new, digital-only service. Now, for an urgent letter, people need to buy the e-lettre rouge service online before 8pm for the letter to be delivered the next day. The basic service costs 1.49€, while a lettre suivi starts at 1.99€ and a lettre recommandée at 6.13€. On the La Poste website, you can upload your letter or scan it using their app. The letter will then be printed at a location close to the recipient and put in an envelope for next day delivery. Some 8 million people in France do not have internet at home or do not have the necessary equipment or skills to access this service so La Poste offices will also be able to scan letters. For anyone not able to get to a post office for health reasons, a home collection service is offered. Many are worried that post employees will be able to read private communications and La Poste has sought to reassure customers that this will not be the case as the printing and insertion will be done by machines. For anyone needing to send physical papers, there is a new stamp which costs 2.95€. La Poste insist that this is a necessary innovation with the continuing reduction in the volume of priority post being sent making the service no longer viable. There will be no change to the lettre verte service which takes 3 days to deliver and is now the most popular way to send letters.

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Green Energy Sources

With the increasing need for new energy sources comes local concerns about their impact on villages and homes. Wind farms have sprung up across the north of the region to the consternation of many residents, but now solar farms are beginning to upset neighbours. A new association ‘Préservons Mouthiers’ opposes the installation of 15 hectares of photovoltaic panels on the edge of Mouthiers-sur-Boëme (16). According to the plans produced by leading energy company TSE, the installation could border local homes whose owners, according to the association, would risk a 50 per cent drop in house values. TSE argue that the farmland is currently neglected so the park would, in fact, improve the situation. A public enquiry should begin in March. It is likely that more communities will be debating new energy installations when they find that they are planned in their backyard.

Election Annulled

In the 2022 elections, député Thomas Mesnier (Horizons) held the ‘1e circonsciption’ in Charente by just 24 votes. The area includes 22 communes in and around Angoulême where a total of 40,782 votes were cast in the second round of voting. The final count revealed 18,854 votes for Mesnier against 18,830 for his rival René Pilato (NUPES). Pilato quickly launched an appeal to invalidate the ballot on the grounds of fraud, and the appeal was upheld by Les Sages, a committee of local inhabitants. They found that 27 ballots contained irregularities. Given the narrow margin, the Constitutional Council has annulled the original vote and a new election was underway as LIVING went to press.

Bunkers Unearthed

New Owner, Finally

A buyer has been found for Château de Chancelée in La Vergne (17). Owned by Saint-Jean-d’Angély council, it has been on the market since 2017. The original price was set at over 600,000 euros for this 15-hectare estate but it was sold at auction two years later for just under 400,000 euros. Covid meant that the banks would not lend the required funds to the bidder, so it returned to the market. Now purchased for 250,000 euros, the new owner expects to invest over 2 million euros turning the it into houses and tourism accommodation to coincide with the opening of the thermes.

In preparation for development work on the RD 750 at Royan, the Charente-Maritime archaelogical team uncovered 5 German WWII bunkers which have remained buried for over 70 years. The bunkers were built between 1942 and 1945 with the whole site covering over 3 hectares. One particularly large bunker is atypical, consisting of two distinct spaces. A living space surrounded by reinforced concrete walls could accommodate 6 soldiers. The second space stored the armaments. The building was designed to withstand bombardments, while also being designed to withstand gas or smoke attacks. Given the importance of this find, the bunkers have been reburied to prevent degradation and the proposed development work rerouted.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION... Île de Oléron LA ROCHELLE Royan Marennes Rochefort Surgeres Île de Ré CHARENTE-MARITIME (17) Saintes Rouillac Ruffec Jarnac Cognac Barbezieux Aubeterresur-Dronne ANGOULEME CHARENTE (16) CONFOLENS

Château Renovation

Dating back to the 11th century, the Château de Montguyon (17) was given as a dowry to Guy II de La Rochefoucauld in 1404. It remained in the family through the Battle of Montguyon and was later visited by royalty including Louis XIII. In 1683 it was sold to the de Rohan family where it remained until the Révolution. Lightning caused a fire which gutted the château in 1793, and the ruin was sold to the State. It is now in urgent need of repair and so a project has begun to raise the 5 million euros needed. The project will renovate the town centre as well as safeguard and enhance the château, increasing the town’s tourism potential by creating a heritage trail leading to the church at Vassiac.

Arbre et Paysage

The Charente-Maritime council has announced a major new plan to plant and protect trees to complement the hedge-planting programme already in place. Ten commitments over ten years have been agreed with an accompanying budget of 417,000 euros annually. Recognising the importance of trees to both the health of the département as well as its attractiveness, the plan places vegetation at the heart of all projects. There will be a training programme put in place as well as a series of financial incentives.

Celebrated on different dates in different countries for historical reasons, don’t miss out on the one that is important to you and yours!

Sunday 19 March in the UK

Sunday 14 May in America

Sunday 4 June in France

Father’s Day is simpler being held on Sunday 18 June around the world. NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION...

Windfarm Arrival

With the increased focus on renewable energy, the former Aquitaine region is one of the few areas of France which has no windfarms. In Gironde, a project is under development, but Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne have none. It has been suggested that a lack of wind combined with the presence of military bases and forests may be the reason for this lack of proposed sites, but it is equally likely to be down to politics after the 2015 regional plan was stopped in the courts. To reach carbon neutrality by 2050, a significant acceleration of onshore wind power is necessary, even with the nuclear plans in place. So far the former Poitou-Charentes is bearing the brunt of wind energy production in Nouvelle-Aquitaine but opposition to additional sites is growing. New turbine technology is now available for areas with lower wind speeds and gradually the other obstacles are being overcome, so it looks as though windfarms will be back on the table for discussion across the former Aquitaine region.

Natural Burial

Niort (79) led the way when it opened a natural cemetery in Souché in 2014. The pioneering cemetery now has 262 occupants, some buried while others have their ashes scattered, and an extension is under consideration. Fittingly, it has been labelled an LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) refuge for biodiversity. Since then, other sites have opened, in Brest, Paris and recently Aytré (17) last September. Périgueux has now joined the ranks, setting aside a hectare of grassland lined with cypresses. Bodies buried cannot have undergone any conservation treatment, and clothes must be made of natural materials. As well as the clear benefit to the environment, natural burials are also less expensive with no tombstone and a more modest coffin.


Home to the renowned film festival which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, Sarlat has strong links with the world of cinema as does the Dordogne department which now welcomes between 100-150 days of national and international filming each year. To attract more prestigious productions like the recent Ridley Scott movie ‘The Last Duel’, a local film studio would be a significant advantage and so local organisations are joining together to develop part of the former premises of France Tabac in Sarlat (below) into 8 film studios with the necessary support areas by 2030. A plan has been submitted for funding under ‘The great image factory - France 2030’ project for which the CNC (National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image) has a budget of €300 million for the creation of 10 film studios across France.

Michelin Man

Following our recent feature on the Michelin brothers and their influence on France’s tourism industry, readers may be interested in an exhibition running this year at the Jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac. The original Michelin man artist Marius Rossillon, alias O’Galop after the speed at which he worked, was a poster artist, painter, cartoonist and pioneer of animated cinema.

Born in 1867, Rossillon was 31 years old when he first drew Bibendum and he moved to Beynac shortly afterwards where he painted many watercolours of the local area. As well as large works in the garden, the exhibition displays 25 of Rossillon’s original watercolours on loan from the artist’s great-grandson. The exhibition runs until the end of the year.

PÉRIGUEUX DORDOGNE (24) Nontron Sarlat-laMontignac Riberac Brantôme Bergerac
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Heritage Pass

Anyone who has lived in or visited the UK will remember the ease of visiting stately homes owned by the National Trust or English Heritage. An annual pass gives access to all their properties as often as one wishes, and the pass quickly pays for itself if you are a frequent visitor. Here in France, there are no central heritage organisations with many properties remaining in private hands or under the care of local associations, but one start-up is hoping to make finding and visiting properties simpler. Founded in 2016 by two young heritage enthusiasts, Patrivia has become the first online platform dedicated to le patrimoine. Over 650 monuments across France and Belgium including châteaux, museums, parks and abbeys offering over 1200 experiences can now be discovered on a single, clear website. Geolocation quickly locates nearby properties providing opening hours and key details, and entry tickets can be bought securely online. Recently, Patrivia has launched an annual Pass Patrimoine (le pass solo costs 99€, le pass duo 179€). Up to five tickets can be reserved in advance and holders can benefit from other advantages when visiting. See

Noirmoutier-en-l’île Success

After completing their application to become a ‘Petites cité de caractère’ in 2021, the council members of this Vendée town were surprised to hear that they had been successful via Facebook at the end of 2022. Created in the 1970s, the label reflects the quality of a town’s heritage and architectural style which centres around the 12th century château in Noirtmoutier. Built by the La Garnache family, the historical monument now houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the island’s history up to the 19th century. Given its strategic position, the island was invaded many times over the centuries and played an important role in La Guerre de Vendée. Visits finish with a trip to the dungeon with its unique view over the island. The label requires that the town preserves its historic character, something that the mayor, Yan Balat, explains means there will be no possibility of new buildings in the town centre. Major projects such as the greening of public spaces and the creation of town squares have already been undertaken. The island is already a popular holiday destination, and it is hoped that this wil attract new visitors throughout the year.


Château de Sigournais (85)

Château de SaintLoup-sur-Thouet (79)

Zoodyssée is 50!

There will be a busy agenda at the Chizé (79) animal park in 2023 as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Now home to over 90 animal species, large and small, the park plays an important role in education, research and conservation. At a time when climate change and man’s activities are threatening the habitat of many flora and fauna species in France, Zoodyssée offers an ideal setting that encourages animals to reproduce achieving more than 170 births each year. There are now about 800 animals at the park who are cared for by 26 permanent staff, including a vet and 12 animal carers. Last year the park welcomed over 63,000 visitors, a new record. Visitors can see a range of European mammals from bears and wolves to lynx and otters, as well as birds, reptiles and a mini-farm.
DEUX SEVRES (79) VENDÉE (85) Thouars St Jean de Monts de Noirmoutier St Gilles Croix de Vie Chantonnay Luçon La Tranche sur Mer Les Sables d’Olonne Les Herbiers Montalgu Bressuire NIORT LA ROCHE SUR-YON SévreNantaise St-MaixentL’école Melle Parthenay Sévre Niortaise

Vaincre ou Mourir

‘Win or Die’, the first film to be produced by Puy du Fou (85), is scheduled for release across cinemas in France from the end of January. It tells the story of Charette, a retired Royal Navy officer who went on to become one of the leaders of the rebel army during the violent and deadly Vendée War in 1793. Hugo Becker stars as Charette in the film directed by Vincent Mottez and Paul Mignot which is based on the show ‘Le Dernier Panache’ performed at the park.

Fuel Subsidy

The government removed the 10c per litre fuel discount at the beginning of the year and has replaced it with a more targeted system of aid. If you are a lower-income worker who uses your vehicle for work, then you may be one of the 10 million who are eligible for a 100€ cheque to help with your transport costs. To register for the cheque, you need to log on to To qualify, your household must have had an income per part below 14,700€ in 2021, and you will need to regularly use a vehicle for work (which can include travelling to and from). The deadline for applications is 28 February.


Film Restoration

There is a growing appetite for historical images of the region as the Cinémathèque de Nouvelle-Aquitaine, based in Limoges, is finding out. Originally the Cinémathèque du Limousin, it became the Cinémathèque de Nouvelle-Aquitaine in 2017, part of a network of studios that restore films and videos about the region. Last year, instead of the expected 70 films, it received over 110 to be restored and then uploaded for the public to view free-of-charge on the region’s Memoire Filmique site. The technicians first clean each film, then calibrate and restore the films before finally digitising them. Their current studio is now becoming cramped and so they hope to move to a new cultural centre in the former Jidé factory, a project supported by the region. The centre, expected to open in 2027, aims to bring together several art and cultural agencies with space for workshops alongside a projection room and education facilities. To watch the films restored to date, visit

Population Growth

The latest statistics from INSEE show that, in January 2020, the population of Nouvelle-Aquitaine grew to over 6 million residents with Charente-Maritime and Vienne showing growth over the previous census. Gironde, Landes and PyrénéesAtlantiques départements also attracted new residents, with the coastal regions and Bordeaux suburbs being the most dynamic. Nouvelle-Aquitaine is now home to 9.2% of France’s population and is the 3rd most populous region behind Île-deFrance and Auvergne-RhÔne-Alpes. Since 2014 the region’s population has grown by an average of 0.4% annually although the trend is beginning to slow down. While the population in Vienne has grown by 0.2% over this time, Haute-Vienne has fallen by the same amount.

Early Train

Following an outcry from passengers and businesses, in particular from the CEO of Legrand who threatened to leave Limoges and establish an HQ in Paris, an additional early morning train on the Paris - Orléans - Limoges - Toulouse line (POLT) has been reinstated. As well as the 5.29am train from Limoges, there is now a 6.26am train which arrives in Paris at 10.17am.

Hunting Reforms

After a series of hunting accidents, including 8 fatal ones in the 2021-22 season, some MPs had hoped that reforms promised by the government to improve the safety of la chasse would include a blanket ban on hunting on Sundays. But, without the support of President Macron this was unlikely and, given the popularity of the pastime, his support was not forthcoming. Instead, the recently unveiled 14-point plan includes proposals to develop an app, which will be available by the autumn, where hunters will need to declare their hunts. This way, residents can check where hunts are before they leave home. Within the same plan, an alcohol limit (expected to be equivalent to approximately 2 glasses of wine) will be introduced, hunting signs will be standardised, training for hunters and organisers will be improved, and there will be stiffer penalties for hunters who cause accidents.

THE POITIERS LIMOGES VIENNE (86) HAUTE-VIENNE (87) Montmorillon Bellac Le Dorat St-Mathieu Nieul St-Yriex-la-Perche Ambazac Charroux Civray Chatellerault Loudon Chauvigny Rochechouart


Grand Poitiers council is developing a project to add a new industrial sector to its portfolio. 250 hectares of hemp are being planted which will help support local farmers while the resulting products will be used in renovation, insulation and food production. The seeds and flour can be used to make cheese and bread which will be introduced to school cantines and nursing homes over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, building contractors and architects will receive training in how to use hemp fibres for insulation and a local school renovation will benefit from its construction properties. There is investment in machinery required to sort and package the crop, but little water is used in its growth. In fact, the crop helps to clean water catchment areas degraded by nitrates and pesticides. The hemp grown is specifically for industrial use, having a low concentration of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Doctor Shortage

France is suffering from a shortage of GPs with many retiring doctors struggling to find a replacement. This is particularly evident in rural communities where it is not unusual to see a billboard advertising for a doctor on the outskirts of a village. More than 11 per cent of Haute-Vienne residents have difficulty accessing a GP and, in 2020, 5.4 million French residents had no GP. While half of these are young and healthy, the other half are searching for a médecin traitant to take care of them. The health benefits of having a single attending doctor are clear, but financially you can be penalised if you don’t have a declared doctor, with only 30% of the fee being reimbursed as against 70% for your declared doctor. So what should you do if you cannot find a GP who can take you onto their list? The first step is to look on the website of your assurance-maladie to check that you have spoken to all the local doctors. If no success, you can have a virtual consultation or téléconsultation which is normally reimbursed at 70% (or 100% for an affection de longue durée). At the same time, you can write to your département’s mediator as well as complete a form to be sent to your assurance-maladie stating you cannot find a GP. Details are on the same website. The mediator will try to find a solution, although it is not expected that the situation will be improved before 2030.


Since 2016, the former industrial wasteland at l’îlot Tison in Poitiers has been redeveloped to provide a leisure area with open parkland and walking routes along the banks of the Clain. The final stage of the site’s renewal is to develop access to a 1.2m-deep natural swimming basin in the river itself and work is underway to enable bathing from 1 July. Open daily, entry will be from the old wooden boules area and the enclosed 75m2 pool will accommodate up to 70 swimmers.


In Old Marseille

We visit the historic quarter of France’s third-largest city, and gateway to the vast, shimmering Mediterranean.


The Vieux-Port de Marseille has provided an atmospheric setting for a long list of cinema classics – some edgy, like The French Connection, while others, including adaptations of Marcel Pagnol’s autobiographical novels, are altogether gentler. Sooner or later, then, you just have to go and discover the reality which inspired the conflicting imagery, and when you do you’ll soon discover a city so culturally diverse that whatever you’re expecting will actually be there somewhere.

The classic place to start exploring is, of course, on the Vieux-Port’s broad quaysides, which provided the setting

for Pagnol’s celebrated trilogy, Marius, Fanny and César. Come here in the morning and you’ll find the day’s catches on sale in a celebrated daily fish market, while the fishermen tend their nets nearby. The port is actually much bigger than it’s usually portrayed on screen, so two very different passenger ferries provide a quick and enjoyable service between the southern Quai de Rive Neuve and its northern counterpart the Quai du Port. ‘Le Ferry Boat’ is a modern, electrically powered catamaran bristling with solar panels, while its antique companion ‘César’, which has been making the crossing since 1952, offers a more nostalgic experience.

Further back in time both foot passengers and car drivers were hauled across the harbour entrance on the deck of a huge skeletal pont-transbordeur (just like the example preserved at Rochefort) which was destroyed by German forces in 1944.

Today road traffic crosses via a tunnel, unseen by the fishermen and leisure sailors whose movements unfold under the benevolent gaze of a huge gilded statue of the Virgin & Child. It crowns the bell tower of Notre-Damela-Garde, a neo-Byzantine basilica completed in 1864 on an elevated site which had been a place of pilgrimage since at least the early 13th century. In order to survive the site’s exposed situation the tough darker stone chosen for its striking polychrome effect was quarried near Florence, and the basilica’s massive foundations are actually the ramparts of a fortress built to defend the town by order of François 1er in 1536. The site’s spectacular panoramic views take in the city, the Mediterranean coastline and various offshore


Fort St Jean

The Basilique Notre-Dame-la-Garde Château d’If, located on the Frioul archipelago 17th century La Vieille Charité César has been crossing the port since 1952

islands, one of which is dominated by the Château d’If, another 16th century fortress and former prison described by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte-Cristo


Visible across the port on a site established by the Knights Hospitalier of Saint John of Jerusalem is the Fort Saint-Jean. Originally a point of departure during the Crusades, it was transformed into a military complex to strengthen the Vieux-Port’s defences, and was completed in 1365. Additional construction works included the creation of the prominent Tour du Fanal, which served as a navigation aid for mariners. Today the 30m high stone tower offers panoramic views of both old and new ports, the adjacent MuCEM (Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean) and beyond it the 19th century Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, which shares Notre-Dame-la-Garde’s Byzantine/Roman Revival polychrome architectural style, but on a truly monumental scale.

Having got your bearings from the heights of the city’s most-visited seaward viewpoints, it’s time to take a deep breath and immerse yourself in ‘old Marseille’. You’ll find it tucked away just behind the Quai du Port in a maze of narrow streets and steep alleyways – a legacy of the ancient Phocean walled settlement founded right here on a cluster of hillocks. Welcome to Le Panier, an area which

polarises reactions like no other. Look beyond the grafitti tags and fullon wall art, though, and you’ll find places which have escaped defilement, including peaceful, leafy squares whose elegant townhouses were once home to the Marseillaise bourgeoisie and have become highly desirable again, due in no small part by Le Panier having inspired France 3 TV’s hit series ‘Plus Belle la Vie’. There are also boutiques, bars, bistros and restaurants, whose vibrant painted shutters and ochre façades are more evocative of Naples, Corsica or the Maghreb, the

different street levels linked by rugged stone steps portrayed in The French Connection.

Le Panier’s biggest surprise, however, is a dazzling tour-de-force of neoClassical architecture. ‘La Vieille Charité’ was constructed as a hospice and workhouse during the 17th century by order of Louis XIV to care for the area’s many sick and destitute. It was styled by Marseillais architect, sculptor and Baroque painter Pierre Puget, who provided statuary for the Château de Versailles. Despite the Italianate elegance its loggia-style

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The site has been occupied for at least 26 centuries, and began welcoming strangers in 600BC when local Celto-Ligurian tribes were joined by Greek explorers from what is now Turkey. By the 4th century vessels from the port of Massilia (as they had christened the settlement) were visiting the coasts of Africa, the British Isles and even the Arctic Circle to establish trading links. The arrival of the Romans 49BC produced new overland routes and Massilia became the most important centre of trade in the Mediterranean, with an additional military role which required the port’s existing defences to be strengthened against the threat of seaward attack.

In 1666 Louis XIV ordered the construction of a new a naval base, defended by two fortresses: the northern Fort Saint-Jean (incorporating a 12th Century command post built by the Knights’ Templars) and the Fort Saint-Nicolas on the new southern development. After installing their seaward-facing artillery, the military engineers added an additional battery of cannons aimed in the opposite direction at the town, to dissuade the free-spirited Marseillais from questioning their loyalty to the monarchy.

Eventually the navy outgrew its facilities and transferred to nearby Toulon (where it remains), leaving Marseille to develop its commercial activities. So successful was it that by the mid-19th Century the volume of overseas trade forced a relocation of commercial maritime activity to the present purpose-built site at neighbouring La Jolitte, which possessed near-limitless expansion potential. With the pressure off, the vieux-port of Marseille once again assumed a new role, this time as the domain of local fishermen and leisure sailors.

arcades, rising through multiple storeys beneath a roof of Roman tiles, the complex had fallen into disrepair by the late-1940s and was scheduled for demolition. Its unlikely saviour was Swiss modernist architect Le Corbusier, who recognised its architectural importance and campaigned for it to be listed as an historic monument. Its subsequent epic restoration campaign lasted 25 years, and today the site houses two museums, several research institutions and a centre for contemporary poetry.

The city’s 16/17th century expansion behind the Vieux-Port produced an exodus of better-heeled families from Le Panier to altogether more desirable residential developments around an area in whose heart lies the broad, elegant boulevard of La Canebière. In time the process of urban gentrification spread to the Vieux-Port, which today has all the hallmarks of a flourishing Mediterranean tourist destination, including renowned restaurants and luxury hotels.

The city itself is vast, and takes time to really get to know, but for a glimpse of a very different aspect it’s well worth visiting one of its most startling architectural features. ‘La Cité Radieuse de Marseille’ (aka ‘l’Unité d’Habitation’) was created by Le Corbusier to address an urgent need to replace in one structure much of the family housing lost during WWII. The


Colourful street art adds to the character of Le Panier La Cité Radieuse (UNESCO)

Mediterranean colour in Le Panier Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure
“The architect’s radical solution, inaugurated in 1952, is a symphony of prestressed concrete”

architect’s radical solution, inaugurated in 1952, is a symphony of prestressed concrete – a vertical village, whose 337 duplex apartments, suiting everyone from singles to large families, would enjoy sensational views of either the surrounding parkland or across to the Mediterranean.

He also provided a shopping centre, a laundry and cleaning service, a pharmacy, hairdressers, a library and a post office, not to mention a crèche, hotel accommodation (now L’Hôtel Le Corbusier) and a restaurant, originally providing delivery services to apartment residents. Topping it all was a roof terrace with a solarium and children’s paddling pool (and since 2013 a contemporary arts centre). From the outset the pale grey of the exterior concrete was enlivened by vibrant colours, courtesy of English paint manufacturer Berger, applied to structural walls separating the individual balconies. Now the remarkable and much-loved structure is open to visitors, enjoys Monument Historique status and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Parting thoughts? In many ways Europe’s largest commercial port is a world unto itself, and defies you to remain indifferent. It’s Provence, but not as we know it.

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The Limousin Ladies’ Wild Swimming Group

Gillian Harvey bravely takes the plunge on our behalf...

Anyone who lives near a lake in France will have dipped a toe in the water from time to time. But while some may have a little swim in the summer, not many can claim to be all-yearrounders. Charlotte Van Rooyen (58), from Bujaleuf in Haute-Vienne, is seemingly made of stronger stuff. Since 2020, she’s hit the Limousin lakes twice a week, whatever the weather, with a group of friends.

So why did the group start in the first place? “I started getting interested in cold water therapy in November 2020,” says Charlotte. “It was the end of the first lockdown, my relationship had recently ended, and I was listening to a lot of podcasts including one featuring Wim Hof – the cold-water guru! I became interested in cold water therapy and started taking cold showers. Then I spoke to a couple of friends who’d tried swimming in the lake.”

“I bought myself a wetsuit and decided to give it a go. Without gloves or swim socks, I was freezing. But I absolutely loved it. Then I got the right kit and I started regularly swimming at Lac St Hélène in Bujaleuf and occasionally Sussac lake. The group has grown to 8 or 9 regulars of whom 3 or 4 swim without fail twice a week.”

As well as being a great physical experience, the feeling of comraderie within the group is part of what binds them together. “What goes on at the lake stays at the lake. It’s a great place for us to get rid of emotions, get rid of things that are annoying us,” says Charlotte.

The ladies have also had their share of memorable moments, such as having to break the ice at Sussac before swimming one January; singing ‘Bat out of Hell’ during a swim in memory of the recently deceased Meatloaf,

and the unfortunate moment when someone’s towel dropped unexpectedly when changing in the carpark – giving some passers-by a more scenic view than they bargained for.

As for the swimming itself: “I love the sensation. In the summer it’s the feeling of pure freedom and of being at one with nature. In the cold water, every single part of your body is tingling. But you feel alive, it’s incredible,” Charlotte explains.


Like most, my first reaction on discovering her chilly pastime was to ask: ‘why would anyone want to do that’? But, after reading up on the benefits of wild swimming I found myself agreeing to don a wetsuit to give it a go. After all, I decided, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Right?

As the day I’d agreed to meet with Charlotte grew closer, I began to regret my decision. Would I be able to wade into a freezing lake? Would I be able to tolerate the conditions? And, as someone who’s not a particularly strong swimmer, would I actually be able to keep myself afloat? A friend kindly lent me a wetsuit, with a ‘rather you than me’ and the consensus amongst friends and family was that I must have been completely and utterly mad to say I’d do it. I tended to agree.

On the day itself I arrived early, already kitted out in my wetsuit, ready to take the plunge. Charlotte and the other ladies – Dawn, Suzanne, Claire and Corrine – arrived shortly afterwards, and I was instantly reassured by their manner. Not only were they welcoming, they were at pains to make sure I would be OK – lending me gloves and swimming

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Group leader Charlotte wears the pink hat while Gillian is in the red hat

socks and even a woolly hat for good measure.

Then, the obligatory selfie was taken (it’s something they do before and after each swim) before we strode into the lake (I say strode but, for me, the movement was far less decisive). Within seconds my feet were red and, as I felt the slow trickle of waist high water creep inside my wetsuit, it was all I could do not to scream. I chatted with Charlotte, but my smile was fixed, my eyes glazed with panic.

Soon, there was nothing for it but to lean forward and begin a front crawl. Or my version of it, which is a doggy-paddle, front crawl hybrid – a mongrel stroke. As my wetsuit became clammier and I was immersed up to my neck, Charlotte kindly reminded me to breathe. It was good advice.

In the end, it was my poor swimming rather than the cold that had me calling it quits. I managed about ten minutes in the water and left the other ladies to their habitual half hour.

But here’s the surprise. If I’m honest, I went in order to experience something and write about it. But what actually happened was… I loved it! So much so, I’m off to buy flippers at the weekend along with something that floats so I can stick it out with the hardy ladies for longer.


Many reported benefits of wild swimming are anecdotal. There are plausible scientific theories supporting some of these but the mechanisms behind them are still being debated. There is also wide variation on people’s subjective experience of wild swimming.

The connection and interaction with blue and green spaces has widely reported benefits, and you can’t get much closer to nature than removing your clothing and immersing yourself in natural water. It just makes you feel good and at peace with the world.

Wild swimming forces you to be active and to pay attention to your surroundings, so helps support your fitness and wellbeing.

One theory suggests that repeated immersions in cool water triggers a controlled and manageable stress response that we adapt to and which helps us cope better with life’s other stresses.

Many swimmers report an immediate, short term (around 12 to 24 hours) boost to their mood following a wild swim, especially when the water is cold.

There are numerous accounts, including one case study published in a scientific journal, of people living with certain mental health conditions (such as depression and anxiety) whose symptoms have been alleviated by regular wild swimming.

Simon Griffiths authored ‘Swim Wild and Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 Days a Year’ and is the founder and publisher of ‘Outdoor Swimmer’ magazine.
We ask wild swimming author Simon Griffiths...
Gillian Harvey is a freelance writer and author living in the Limousin. Her latest novel ‘One French Summer’ will be published on 14 February with Boldwood Books.
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In France, anyone between the ages of 16 and 55 who would like to take a more active approach to serving their local community can sign up to become a “sapeur-pompier volontaire”, or volunteer firefighter. The role of a volunteer is not limited to fighting fires, however – there’s a whole range of activities covered by the “sapeurs-pompiers” that serve society at large. 26 | LIVING COMMUNITY

Whether you’ve been welcomed with arms flung open wide or your neighbours have let you in with a more discreet, slower approach, you might feel that it would be nice to give something back to say thanks. And what better way than to be available for them when they really need it most?

The idea of paying back his community for their kindness was certainly what appealed to Glyn Dawson, who moved from Scarborough to his home near Nontron (24) over 20 years ago. The light bulb moment came as he was digging out a pool for the local fire station chief, who suggested that he should sign up – he jumped in, head first. “I didn’t ever think I’d ever be

doing this,” says Glyn, “but I’m always up for trying new experiences (like moving to France for example!) and I wanted to give something back; we’ve had such a warm welcome here.”

For Katie Thompson, a 19-yearold medical student who moved to Aulnay-de-Saintonge (17) when she was still a child, the motivation came from watching firefighters saving people’s lives in the news. “I thought they were so heroic,” says Katie. “And as I looked into it a little more, I realised that you don’t have to be a professional, full-time firefighter to make a difference. I knew I wanted to be a volunteer immediately.”

Obviously, the first question on any English-speaker’s mind is: “Do I need fluent French?” The good news is that

speaking English is probably more of an advantage than a hindrance where the pompiers are concerned. With a growing population of anglophones in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, there are inevitably more accidents and emergencies that require pompier intervention in English. Someone who can remove the extra stress of the language barrier for a person in distress could only be an asset.

“Obviously you need a basic level of French,” admits Glyn. “Mine’s not too bad, but I did worry, as on the field not understanding a directive could mean the difference between life and death! You learn very quickly, though, thanks to the people at the caserne (station). If anything, it’s a great way to expand your vocabulary…”

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The next question that might pop up for aspiring volunteers is how physically fit they need to be. After a medical exam and some blood tests, volunteers are of course required to pass a few basic fitness tests, but tasks can be adapted to make room for everyone. “If you have asthma, you obviously won’t be sent in to fight a fire,” explains Glyn, “but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help out on other calls.” The idea is that the more volunteers there are, the less pressure there will be on the professionals and the other volunteers: “The more the merrier! The more sapeurs-pompiers volontaires there are signed up, the better we can share the roster.”

In effect, the roster is divided up between teams of volunteers and professionals, who are then on call nights and weekends for their designated weeks. Once a month the volunteers come in to be on call together at the caserne, and to practice their skills, too. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not: “All that it means is that you can’t travel to far from your caserne that week. But it’s so little, it’s no problem

at all, and you can easily tell your team if you’re not available at certain times,” explains Glyn. Volunteers are usually signed up for five years at a time, at which time they can step down from their functions or sign up for another five years.

The tasks covered by the sapeurspompiers volontaires are many and varied: chimney fires, forest fires, road accidents and general first aid and ambulance interventions. Volunteers can train to learn more specialised skills, but that also depends on the caserne they are attached to, and the equipment on hand. But before anyone thinks they’ll be thrown into a blazing fire on the first day, there is of course a good amount of training that happens before any sort of live action.

“My training lasted about two weeks,” explains Samuel Reed, a 17-year-old sapeur-pompier volontaire, originally from the UK, who has lived in Champagne-Mouton (16) since he was a toddler. “But that’s because I had already done three years as a ‘jeune sapeur pompier’ before that. I signed up when I was 14, and as well as the initial 28 | LIVING COMMUNITY
“The more the merrier! The more sapeurs-pompiers volontaires there are signed up, the better we can share the roster.”

training, I have been training as part of the process every Saturday, more or less.”

Those who have not been through the jeune sapeur-pompier training programme and haven’t passed their brevet exam need to undergo a longer training process. This is spread out over several weeks and includes some financial compensation for anyone taking time off work to complete it. All of the basics are covered during these sessions and drills, which take place in classrooms and at the station, including extensive first aid training, how to receive commands, how to take care of the equipment, how to tackle a fire and even how to cut someone out of a wrecked car. Drills also continue throughout the year to keep skills sharp and up to date.

As training progresses and experience is acquired, sapeurs-pompiers volontaires can receive promotions that will give them more responsibilities and increase the small financial indemnity that is provided for volunteers. A new sapeur will receive somewhere around €8.36/ hour, but then a caporal will get more, a sous-officier even more and an officier can hope for €12.58/hour.

“I’m not doing it for the money, or for the stripes, though,” says Glyn.

/ SDIS 17
PHOTOS TOP: Flavien Coutin Katie with her proud parents

In fact, what shines through more than anything when listening to him, as well as Katie and Samuel, is how it has strengthened their sense of belonging. “It’s a great feeling, helping those around me,” says Glyn, who is currently going through the French naturalisation process, and fully intends to be a volunteer until the age of retirement, at 55. “I have met so many great friends at the caserne.”

Samuel has also applied for French nationality, as he will need it to become a professional pompier. “This is definitely what I want to do as a career,” he says, enthusiastically. “What I really want is to pass the ‘concours’ to become part of the Pompiers de Paris, and I’ll need to be naturalised for that first. I would probably have done it anyway, as I’ve been here for 14 years and I’m probably more French than English, but this is an extra motivation.”

Although Katie doesn’t intend to

make firefighting her career, she has also found her community as a sapeur-pompier volontaire: “I love getting involved with helping people locally. A lot of the people we visit are elderly, and don’t have much human interaction. Not to mention that often, if we hadn’t been so close and been able to get to them so quickly, they might not have survived. We have a huge impact on people’s lives.”


To sign up as a sapeur-pompier volontaire, or find out more about the selection process and day-to-day requirements, get in touch with your local caserne or SDIS (Service Départemental d’Incendie et Secours).

PHOTO TOP LEFT: Jérôme Sempéré / SDIS 17

Iron Maiden

The name Jeanne d’Arc is today known the world over for the courage and conviction which enabled her to come to the aid of France during a time of crisis, when all seemed lost. Probably less wellknown, however, is how her heroic actions during her tragically short life would also prove to be pivotal in bringing together an often bitterly divided nation.

Throughout history the assortment of territories which today make up the great nation of France were anything but united under one banner. The process of finally establishing a unified France could be said to have begun with the Hundred Years War, triggered by the death of Charles IV, the last

of a dynasty of Capetian monarchs, in 1328. At the heart of the conflict were the vast disputed territories of the Duchy of Aquitaine, then ruled by King Edward III Plantagenet of England, whose claim to the French throne was based on his lineage from William the Conqueror and territories acquired from strategic marriages. Not surprisingly, this situation represented an intolerable threat to the Capetians’ successors, the French House of Valois, and could not be allowed to continue.

The ensuing series of bloody battles (not least at Agincourt in 1415) initially favoured the English forces but an unexpected turning point came during the Siege of Orléans, which began on 12 October, 1428. For both sides the

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We reveal how an 18 year-old peasant girl helped shape the destiny of France.

outcome would be hugely significant, since the Ducs d’Orléans headed a political faction known as les Armagnacs who rejected the Treaty of Troyes (by which King Henry V of England and his heirs would inherit the French throne upon the death of King Charles VI of France) and instead supported France’s uncrowned monarch, Dauphin Charles VII.

As one of the most northerly strongholds loyal to the French Monarchy, the city was of strategic and symbolic significance to both sides; if

Orléans fell, it was believed that the English would succeed in conquering all of France. However, just as the defenders’ spirits were at their lowest ebb after an agonising six months of siege, the hand of salvation was about to make an appearance, in the shape of Divine intervention.

Far away in the small village of Domrémy (88) a young peasant shepherdess named Jeanne (see factfile) had become accustomed to occasionally hearing voices from Saint Michel, Sainte Catherine and Sainte

Marguerite. While their personal messages seemed of little consequence, in early 1429 a more urgent voice instructed her to go to the Dauphin and help him reconquer his kingdom. After overcoming initial resistance, she was granted an audience which took place at the Royal Court in Chinon in late February 1429, when the 17 year-old confided that she had come to raise the siege of Orléans and would accompany him to his Coronation in the Cathedral of Reims. Their meeting impressed Charles, although

both he and his advisors sought more assurance, and sent Jeanne to be examined by a council of theologians in Poitiers. They found her to be of good character and a good Catholic and, while unable to pronounce on the source of Jeanne’s voices, agreed that sending her to Orléans might help the cause and would determine whether her inspiration was indeed Divine. Jeanne was then sent to Tours for physical examination overseen by Charles’ mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon, to confirm her virginity. Reassured by the results of these tests, Charles commissioned armour for her,

Jeanne, Jehanne...?

although she designed her own banner and carried a sword brought from beneath the church altar of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, south of Tours.

Before setting off for Orléans, Jeanne dictated a letter to the Duke of Bedford declaring that she was sent by God to drive the English from French soil, a warning which was clearly not taken seriously. Having set off at the head of a substantial body of troops, she and her relief party entered Orléans with little resistance from the enemy, who had already taken several of the city’s fortifications. Just eight

days later, however, the demoralised Armagnac forces had been revitalised, the occupying English forces had been routed and their siege abandoned.

Having convinced Charles VII that the moment would soon be at hand to fulfil his rightful destiny, Jeanne’s attention turned to liberating the string of English-held towns which lay between the Dauphin and his Coronation in Reims. Following a series of spectacular military successes, Jeanne accompanied Charles when he entered Reims and was at his side during the Coronation ceremony on 17 July, 1429.

TOP LEFT: The relief of Orléans

TOP CENTRE: Château de Chinon

Adding to the mystique surrounding her is the question of her true name, for contemporary references are far from consistent. Lacking any formal education, she was not taught to read and write, and would have had to dictate any written communications. When it came to signatures, however, she did at least seem to know how to form ‘Jehanne’ and even add ‘la Pucelle’ (meaning ‘the maiden’). A similar mystery surrounds her family name, which prior to the 16th century was often represented as ‘Darc’, ‘Tarc’, ‘Dart’ or even ‘Day’, while during her trial her father’s name was recorded as ‘Tart’. The confusion didn’t end there. When Charles VII granted her a coat of arms in 1429, his declaration referred to ‘Jeanne d’Ay de Domrémy’. As for ‘Jeanne d’Arc’, the first written reference is dated 1455, some 24 years after her death. Finally, in the 16th century, after leading the overthrow of the English siege of Orléans, she became known as ‘la pucelle d’Orléans’, or ‘the Maid of Orleans’. To English speakers she is, of course, Joan of Arc.

TOP RIGHT: Hôtel Groslot, Orléans

FAR LEFT: Cathédrale Saint-Croix, Orléans

LEFT: The church at Sainte-Catherinede-Fierbois

BELOW: Quincentenary plaque, Chinon

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PHOTO: © Peter Potrowl

Feeling that her own calling had been fulfilled, Jeanne now wished to return to her family in Domrémy, but was entreated to remain at the head of the French army. Her victories would continue until May 1430, when fortune finally deserted her. During a campaign in the Île de France to end the siege of Compiègne she was captured by Burgundian forces on 24 May and sold to the English. Despite the long period of her imprisonment at different locations, Charles appears to have done little or nothing to secure her release, and after months of imprisonment she was taken to Rouen to be tried for heresy. Presiding over the tribunal was the infamous bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais, who aspired to become an archbishop, with support from among the English.

Hopelessly unfamiliar with the complex technicalities of theology, Jeanne answered her interrogators with passion and disarming honesty, which inevitably resulted in her being trapped


Stained glass window, Chécy Golden statue on Place des Pyramides, Paris

Jeanne d’Arc chapel, Reims

Cathedral Hôtel Groslot, Orléans

Les Vigiles de Charles VII, manuscript by Martial d’Auvergne, 1484 (BNF)

1929 commemorative postage stamp

Illustration by Albert Lynch (1903, in Figaro Illustré magazine)
“Her victories would continue until May 1430, when fortune finally deserted her.”

into making what were considered damaging statements. Her view of the English occupation, for example, was unlikely to have helped her: “Of the love or hatred which God has for the English I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be driven from France, except those who die here”. When she refused to retract her calm assertion that it was the Saints whose voices had commanded her to carry out her actions she was found guilty of heresy, sorcery and adultery and condemned to death. She was nineteen years old when she was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431.

The Hundred Years War ended with the English retreat from a largely reunited France in 1453, and a few years later Jeanne was exonerated of all guilt. She was eventually canonised by Pope Benedict XV on 16 May, 1920.

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Writing a Business Plan

QMy daughter is applying for a visa to come and live in France but she needs to present a business plan. We have not written one beforewhere do we start?

AMany of us have friends or family who wish to turn their French dream into French reality. Often, this dream involves creating a business or working in a profession libérale here in France.

For British Nationals over the age of 18 years, the reality of the VLS-TS (entrepreneur/ profession libérale) visa application process is a long list of documentation requirements. Some of these can be ticked off with relative ease but others not so easily. Of all the requirements, the business plan is often viewed as the most challenging. This is understandable, given a poor business plan is likely to lead to rejection. It requires thought, time, and effort. Prepared

well, in addition to aiding a successful visa application, it can also help guide, build and grow your business on arrival. So, what is the official ask? France-Visas states that, for those who wish to create a business (craft, manufacturing, or retail) or work in a liberal profession in France, you must be able to demonstrate the economic viability of your project by way of a ‘written presentation of your project, your business plan and a multi annual budget.’

Business plans and budgets may come as second hand to some but not to everyone. If your first thought is ‘where on Earth do I start?’ you are not alone.

Official guidance is limited and, although a simple Google search can display numerous templates and layouts, often a heading or pre-designed format is not enough. Sometimes this just adds to the confusion.

When asked for top tips for

business plans, I believe in three fundamental factors: Keep it simple and in plain English – throughout. From describing your business idea to the final sentence. If not, you will simply lose the reader (in this case TLS on behalf of the French Consulate) and most likely be asked for additional information or face rejection.

Show that you have done your research – legal structure, marketplace, customers/clients (letters of intent are useful), the French environment in which you will be operating, is your profession considered ‘regulated’ and, if relevant, how your business will comply with public safety/specific health requirements. You need to show this is a real and a serious business creation.

Firm up the finances and be realistic – your plan needs to show viability and it needs to cover the minimum income requirement (since 1st August 2022 this is €1,678.95 per

month or €20,147.40 annually, per adult). When it comes to the multi annual budget, be clear and be rational. If it is a seasonal business, factor this in. For income and expenditure in 5 years’ time don’t include values to the nearest euro. To me, and no doubt to the French Consulate – this is not realistic!

Gillian Hay, a UK qualified accountant, working as a Business Consultant in South West France, has guided and advised many through the process of creating a business plan.

Contact Gillian by emailing gillian@gillianhayconsulting. com or visit


Forward Planning in Uncertain Times

QI am due to receive an inheritance from my late mother’s estate. She lived in England - will I pay French inheritance tax on this?

AIf your late mother was a UK tax resident and had not lived in France then there will be no liability to pay French inheritance tax. The only tax due will be UK inheritance tax.

You will need to declare that you have received this money from the UK to the French authorities. The simplest way to

do this is to pop along to your local tax office and they will help you complete the relevant form.

One thing I have found talking to clients is that if you know that you could receive an inheritance in the future, then it is always worth taking professional advice to see if it is beneficial for you to accept this money or to pass it on directly to your heirs. There are merits in both and a good financial adviser can help you decide which is the best option for your personal circumstances.

This is also interesting from

the UK Government website (

UK Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who’s died.

There’s normally no Inheritance Tax to pay if either:

• the value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold

• you leave everything above the £325,000 threshold to your spouse, civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club

You may still need to report the estate’s value even if it’s below

the threshold.

If you give away your home to your children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren your threshold can increase to £500,000.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth less than your threshold, any unused threshold can be added to your partner’s threshold when you die.

Amanda Johnson works as an Independent Financial Advisor with The Spectrum IFA Group.

T: 05 49 98 97 46 or 06 73 27 25 43;;

To register for their newsletter, attend a roadshow event or speak directly to Amanda, call or email her.

There is no charge for their financial planning reviews, reports or recommendations.

« The Spectrum IFA Group » is a registered trademark, exclusive rights to use in France granted to TSG Insurance Services S.A.R.L. Siège Social: 34 Bd des Italiens, 75009 « Société de Courtage d’assurances » R.C.S. Paris B 447 609 108 (2003B04384) Numéro d’immatriculation 07 025 332 - « Conseiller en investissements financiers, référence sous le numéro E002440 par ANACOFI-CIF, association agréée par l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers »

TSG Insurance Services S.A.R.L. | Siège Social: 34 Bd des Italiens, 75009 Paris | R.C.S. Paris B 447 609 108 (2003B04384) | « Société de Courtage d’assurances » Numéro d’immatriculation 07 025 332 – « Conseiller en investissements financiers », référencé sous le numéro E002440 par ANACOFI-CIF, association agréée par l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers »

Tel: 06 73 27 25 43 amanda johnson@spectrum-ifa com www spectrum-ifa com

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" H o w w i l l y o u r f a m i l y b e a f f e c t e d ? " W i t h C a r e Y o u P r o s p e r
L o o k i n g f o r a n s w e r s ?
A s k A m a n d a
I n h e r i t a n c e t a x a n d s u c c e s s i o n p l a n n i n g

Spring is in the Air

There is a moment in midFebruary when the start of spring arrives almost imperceptibly. For weeks there has been rain and mist. There have been days so cold that raindrops have frozen where they landed on the branches of trees, when the thought of a new season seems almost impossible. Then, one afternoon, only a week or so later, a nearly invisible shift occurs. On the face of it, little has changed but taking a moment to consciously observe some small details reveals a determined resurgence taking place just under the surface.

Walking alongside the Charente one afternoon, I was reminded how tuning into the seasons can sometimes be a very subtle process. We tend to think of seasons merging seamlessly from one into another but, in reality, the transition between one ending and another getting truly underway can take several weeks. Leaves don’t

just fall from trees to be immediately replaced: there’s a gradual change as the branches stand vulnerable to the elements before slowly sprouting their new cloaks of greenery. This is similar to how it can feel at the beginning of a new year - it takes time for us to settle into it before it really feels comfortable.

Halfway along my walk by the river, I paused on a bridge to look at the scene around me. The water level was high after ten days of heavy rain and the bank on the opposite side had burst to create a swollen flood plain in the adjoining field. On the face of it, winter was everywhere. However, as I began to look more closely, I noticed tiny buds promising to emerge from the trees overhanging the bridge. In the verge, delicate, diminutive wild violets were tentatively pushing their heads up through the earth. The colours around me were slowly changing too. Whilst the landscape

was still predominantly full of wintry hues with brown, bare trees silhouetted against the leaden sky, the rain had turned the grass a vibrant green. This contrasted with the crimson branches of the dogwoods and alder, whose dark purple catkins hung limply in the still air. A small copse of bright silver birch stood out grandly in the damp mist and from all sides came a vibrant harmony of birdsong. The birds were emerging victorious after their long winter battle for survival and singing with positivity and hope for the nesting season around the corner.

As I watched the water in the flood plain slowly ebb and flow and noticed how it moved along in time to the current of the river, I thought of the new beginnings that were all around me. The sun was higher in the sky than it had been just six weeks ago and it began to push through the grey clouds ready to cast its warm rays on the earth

for an extra hour. There would be a beautiful sunset later. The flood opposite would eventually subside and make its way to the sea, leaving behind a meadow where wildflowers will be abuzz with insects in the summer.

Walking in the early Spring feels incredibly rewarding after the long,

cold months. From its slow start in February, by mid-March it will be moving on apace; before we realise it, we’ll hear the cuckoo and hoopoes and watch for the return of the swallows. These few quiet weeks are full of hope and renewal if we take a moment to spot the signs in front of us. A secret whisper of things to come.

Rosie Neave is a nature coach who lives in Vienne. She will be hosting a series of gentle guided walks through January, February and March that will nurture a closer connection to nature. For more information go to her website at

Settle down and enjoy the challenge of our unique clues set by Mike Morris. If you need help, take a peek at page 42.


1. Offer a gift for now. (7) 5

Keen to be in middle-age range. (5) 8. Journalist and offspring lashed in knots? (5)

Drink fortified wine to get relief. (7) 10. Race is run in stretch of land. (4) 11. Fords maybe used for crossings? (8)

Sources of technical internet provision giving a word of advice. (3) 16. Material coming from lines in numberless tune. (5) 17. Taking umbrage about something to chew over? (3) 19. Wisdom of reforming under PE college leader. (8) 20. A quick look at French science article. (4) 23. Popular seed to plant an

idea. (7)

OU exchange gives pickme-up from uniform article. (5)

Discernment evident as tea is prepared. (5)

Volunteers at brief crucial stage after embargo are seen as lightweights? (7)



Breathe over finishing of jewellery item? (7) 2. Scared leaders holding back venerable member. (5) 3. F*** off poetry! Language! (4) 4. It’s an original way of saying it? (3) 5. Money paid for sex turning up around writers on drug. (8) 6. Horse getting round argument with current increasing? (7) 7. Ceremonies are our entitlements, at least we are told. (5) 12. Vicar perhaps losing his head disturbed holy remnant? (5) 13. Get a seer to organise a cheap way to sail? (8) 15. Dives in which breathing apparatus is brought into position,

easing situation initially. (7) 18. Experts to follow people posing threats. (6) 19. The whole idea is to put nothing in amount of liquid. (5)

21. Eel or reel? (5)

22. Completely amaze and turn heads? (4) 24. African, but Ian missing the point? (3)

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With the opportunity to buy locally grown saffron, Nikki shares some delicious recipes using this golden ingredient

Nikki Legon's


Creamy Saffron Orzo

800ml vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves, minced 150g orzo zest from ½ lemon pinch of saffron mixed with a little water

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley salt to taste


In a medium saucepan, add the stock, saffron and garlic. Bring to the boil over a high heat. Stir in the orzo. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally. Pour into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with zest and add the parsley. Mix well, taste and adjust seasonings.

Lentil and Sweet

Potato Curry

180 g red split lentils

2 tbs sunflower oil

1 large red onion or 2 small, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1 handful of coriander stalks, finely chopped (set aside the leaves)

3 tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped

2 sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks

240ml coconut milk juice of ½ a lime


1 tsp black mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

10 dried curry leaves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp turmeric ½ tsp cinnamon ½ tsp hot chilli powder

1/4 tsp ground cardamom a good pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp garam masala salt and pepper to taste


Rince the lentils several times until the water runs clean. Cook for about 10 minutes, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface during cooking. On a medium heat, heat the oil in a saucepan. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds - be careful they will start to pop. Add the cumin seeds and


dry curry leaves. Fry gently for a minute.Add the onions, sauté gently, stirring until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and coriander stalks, cooking for about 2 minutes, stirring. Reduce the heat to low and add all the spices except the garam masala. Stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and 240ml of water. Let everything come to a gentle boil.

Add the sweet potatoes, then simmer until the sweet potato is cooked (add more water if needed).

Add the coconut milk and cooked lentils. Cook for a further 5 minutes to allow the curry to thicken. Season with salt, garam masala and the lime juice, adjust seasoning and spices. Serve on boiled rice.

Celeriac Dauphinois with Saffron Cream

olive oil for the baking dish

540ml pouring cream

50ml milk

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 large celeriac, peeled, cut into quarters and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

1 handful of thyme leaves

2 pinches of saffron soaked in 2 tbsp hot water


Heat the oven to 160°C. Brush the baking dish with the oil. Whisk the cream, milk and mustard together, add the saffron.

Fish Beignets with Saffron Batter & a Spicy Rémoulade

50g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 tsp baking powder

2 pinches of saffron threads soaked in 2 tbsp hot water 75ml lager 75ml sparkling cold water 400g cod, haddock or hake


4 tbsp mayonnaise 1 tbsp chopped capers squeeze of lemon juice ½ tbsp sriracha sauce or to taste


Combine the flour, cornflour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add all the liquid ingredients and stir to form a smooth batter. Leave to rest for 1 hour.

To make the rémoulade, put the mayonnaise into a bowl adding the chopped capers, lemon juice, and sriracha sauce. Stir to combine. Heat the oil to 180°C. Dip the filets of fish into seasoned flour, then dip into batter. Fry for 5- 6 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with the remoulade.

Layer the celeriac slices in the baking dish, season and sprinkle a little thyme and garlic between each layer.

Pour over the cream mixture and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the celeriac is tender.

LIVING NIKKI LEGON’S CUISINE | 41 Do you Living Magazine? Subscribe today

Turnip Tartiflette

800g peeled and sliced turnips

25g butter

4 shallots, peeled and sliced

220g lardons

200ml crème fraîche

250g reblochon - chop into chunks with the skin intact


Heat the oven to 220°C. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the turnips and cook for 5-6 minutes until just tender, then drain. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onions for 5 minutes, add the lardons and cook for a further 8 minutes until the onions are golden.

Lightly butter a medium, ovenproof

Saffron Prawns & Asparagus Risotto


In a large saucepan over a medium heat, heat 25g butter. Add the shallots, stirring for 4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. Pour the wine over, add the saffron and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to reduce down a little.

Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously and allowing the stock to be absorbed. Let it reduce before adding another ladle of stock.

Add 2-3 chopped prawns to impart flavour and cook approximately 10 minutes before adding the rest of the chopped prawns and the sliced asparagus (keep the tips to one side).

Fry the scallops and prawns in a separate frying pan with 25g butter and a splash of oil. Add the asparagus tips, and season with salt and pepper.

Add the scallops mixture with all its juices to the risotto.

Let the risotto rest for 2 minutes before adding the final 25g of butter, the parsley and the lemon zest. Season to taste and stir to combine.

3 x 25g unsalted butter 390g risotto rice 4 shallots, chopped very finely 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 pinches of saffron threads soaked in 1 tbsp of hot water 120ml white wine 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock 8 large, peeled prawns 4 large prawns, chopped 8 scallops 16 asparagus spears, sliced
the layers.
For more cartoons by Stig see CROSSWORD ANSWERS ACROSS 1. Present 5. Eager 8. Nodes 9. Support 10. Acre 11. Transits 14. Tip 16. Tulle 17. Gum 19. Prudence 20. Scan 23. Ingrain 25. Tonic 26. Taste 27. Bantams DOWN 1. Pendant 2. Elder 3. Erse 4. Tis 5. Expenses 6. Growing 7. Rites 12. Relic 13. Steerage 15. Plunges 18. Menaces 19. Point 21. Conga 22. Stun 24. Nub
cheese, season, then repeat
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Saffron Dressing

bunch of broccoli florets and stems, cut at an angle

1 red pepper, seeded and sliced

1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced

1 courgette, sliced

1 carrot, peeled and cut into julienne strips

2 shallots, sliced thinly 1 packet of mangetout 1 tbsp sunflower oil


20ml balsamic vinegar

½ tsp Dijon mustard

pinch of saffron strands soaked in 2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp sugar 50ml olive oil


Heat a wok over medium heat, add the oil. Once hot, tip in all the vegetables.

Toss together for around 3 minutes. To make the dressing, whisk the vinegar, mustard, saffron and sugar with a pinch of salt until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the oil gradually.

Dress the vegetables and serve with rice or noodles.

Nikki Legon is the chef and owner of the Hotel Restaurant Karina in Les Métairies, just outside Jarnac in Charente. She and her husband Austin have transformed an old cognac distillery into a luxury 10-bedroom hotel and restaurant. For more information:

Poached Saffron Pears

4 peeled pears

10 cardamom pods, crushed 320g caster sugar

½ vanilla pod

2 pinches of saffron

1 small cinnamon stick


Place the pears into a small saucepan with 1 litre of water. Combine the remaining ingredients and add to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and gently poach the pears until tender.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight to steep. Before serving, remove the pears and set aside to bring to room temperature. Boil the syrup until reduced to a sticky glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the pears and serve with ice-cream or cream.

A warm welcome awaits you …….

Come and discover the Hotel Restaurant Karina, set in a haven of greenery, just 3km from Jarnac in the beautiful Charentaise countryside.

Enjoy dining by the open fire in winter or on the terrace in fine weather with a choice of à la carte or fixed menus.

In our bar, you will find the original copper alembic and here you can relax with an aperitif.

Join us for fish and chips on Fridays - lunch or dinner. We cater for special group occasions, call for more information See our menus on our website

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Wine-themed Movie Nights

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock tells the true story of Jim Barrett, a city professional who follows his passion to go wine farming, much like Sean and I did. While we chose France, he purchased a vineyard in Napa Valley, California, before it became famous.

During this quieter time of year when the evenings still draw in early and the fireside calls, movies offer some solace. I love to cosy up with a glass of my favourite wine and a film for respite from the cold outside. And what better movie theme than wine! Here’s my selection of entertaining wine movies and, in a future column, I’ll cover wine documentaries for the wine geeks among you.

A Good Year

The Provençal vineyard scenery alone makes this romantic comedy drama starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott, worth watching.

It was shot at Château La Canorgue, an organic vineyard near Bonnieux in the Luberon. I recommend stopping in to buy wine if you are in the area. You’ll see the tasting room/ wine shop but not the château. The owner told me he was forced to put large ‘private property’ signs around the château, which is his home, to stop fans of the film from barging in. Peter Mayle (author of the book ‘A Year in Provence’) found fans/ tourists in his private swimming pool in Provence when he was at the height of his fame.


Sideways is a wine lover’s cult classic that derides Merlot and deifies Pinot Noir. Watch it for a good story and a great laugh; and keep an eye out for the irony at the end. After lambasting Merlot throughout the film, the iconic bottle which the lead character keeps referring to, and drinks at the end, is a Cheval Blanc 1961. This is, in fact, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St Emilion.

A Paris-based wine shop owner (who later became a famous English wine journalist), the late Steven Spurrier (played by the late Alan Rickman), organises a competition between French and Californian wines to raise the prestige of his shop and his new line of international wines. Spurrier goes to Napa and meets Barrett, who wants nothing to do with the competition. Barrett’s son Bo slips Spurrier a few bottles of Chardonnay which Spurrier enters into his ‘Judgement of Paris’ competition.

When I asked the real Steven Spurrier what he thought of the film, he said ‘More bullshit, than Bottle Shock!’. The base story is true, but the film has a good sprinkling of Hollywood magic.


After the success of Sideways, sales of Merlot-based wines in the USA dropped (some articles suggested they decreased by a third) and Pinot Noir sales rose. But vineyards take years to grow. The world’s stock of Pinot Noir vineyards could not have changed overnight the way the consumption statistics did.

Around 18 million bottles sold as ‘Pinot Noir’ were not Pinot Noir. They were, ironically, a blend of Merlot and Shiraz (or Syrah, as Shiraz is called in France). French investigators became suspicious when they saw that the wine merchant concerned was buying Pinot Noir wine at 40 per cent less than the going rate, in quantities that exceeded the historical production level of the Languedoc Roussillon region. Twelve people were convicted.

For an insider version of events, read George Taber’s book ‘The Judgement of Paris’ - he was the only journalist who was in the room on the day.

French Kiss

A romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline and Jean Reno, three actors I love. It includes passion, unexpected twists, and a background wine story

I’ll finish with two more family favourites, not about wine, but about France and food: ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘The 100 Foot Journey’. So, here’s to fine wine, good entertainment, and a peaceful late winter season. Cheers!

A vineyard share or gift certifcate for a course or tour at Château Feely make great gifts for wine lovers and can be purchased online at along with Feely organic, biodynamic and no sulphite added wines. Read the story of the creation of the Feely vineyard in Caro’s book series - the 4th in the series will be out in 2023. Sign up to the newsletter or follow Caro on Instagram to find out more.
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Salle Polyvalente Gautier Capuçon Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier in Bottle Shock




Ref: A17061 - Delightful 3 bedroom cottage set within a shared gated enclosure. Close to village with amenities.

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.

Energy class: F Climate class: C



Ref: A16492 - Stunnng 4 bedroom property comprising a beautiful house, gîte, barn and pool, set on almost 10 acres.

5% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

DPE: In progress

Charente-Maritime €318,000

Ref: A12004 - Detached 4 bedroom house in excellent condition with swimming pool, apartment to renovate and garage.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: E Climate class: B

Vienne €172,800

Ref: 44052 - Detached former school house with 4 bedrooms, large living room and kitchen, surrounded by its own garden.

8% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

DPE: No data



Ref: A14271 - Spacious 4 bedroom village house with a lovely small garden, barn and extra plot of land, 5 minutes from Jarnac.

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: F Climate class: F

Haute-Vienne €77,000

Ref: A14593 - Old farmhouse with barn and hangar, hidden in a small hamlet within walking distance of the Lac de Sainte-Hélène.

10% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: G Climate class: G

Charente €139,999

Ref: A16614 - Pretty 2/3 bedroom cottage with an attached barn and land opposite, and an old stone building to convert.

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: F Climate class: B

Haute-Vienne €318,000

Ref: A16680 - Lovely 4 bedroom house with even lovelier views across the beautiful HauteVienne countryside.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: C Climate class: A

Charente-Maritime €252,000

Ref: A17039 - 5 Bedroom 19th century home with guest house and private walled garden, set on ½ acre of land.

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: D Climate class: B

Charente-Maritime €543,780

Ref: A10854 - Impressive 5 bedroom manor house with swimming pool and grounds, in a village close to Saint-Jean-d'Angély.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: D Climate class: D

Vienne €339,200

Ref: A16747 - Detached 5 bedroom property with large garage, double glazing and private garden, in a quiet location.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: D Climate class: D

Charente €145,000

Ref: 105712 - Spacious 5 bedroom house with secure, shared facilities, including a garden and swimming pool.

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: F Climate class: F

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Vienne €249,995

Ref: A10894 - Detached mill house to refresh, plus a renovated 2 bedroom cottage. Riverside location, with barns and 3 acres of land.

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

DPE: No data

Charente-Maritime €344,500

Ref: A15986 - Beautiful 4 bedroom stone property with garden and swimming pool, in a village with amenities.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: F Climate class: C

Deux-Sèvres €550,000

Ref: 115890 - 7 Bedroom logis in excellent condition, with guest house and 12 acres of private gardens, paddocks and forests.

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: D Climate class: E

Charente €315,650

Ref: 113760 - 4 Bedroom house with heated in-ground pool, in a little hamlet about 10 minutes from lively Chalais.

Agency fees paid by the seller.

DPE: No data

Charente-Maritime €147,900

Ref: A09693 - Perfect 2 bedroom lock up and leave property with a studio gîte offering extra accommodation for family and friends.

8% agency fees included paid by the buyer.

Energy class: F Climate class: C



Ref: A17346 - Beautiful 4 bedroom townhouse in Cognac, with garden and garage, close to a nursery, primary school and college.

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.



Energy class: F Climate class: C

In progress
4 bedroom village house with attached 3 bedroom house to finish, plus
and garage.
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the buyer.
Ref: A15765 - Renovated
Energy class: G Climate class: C Charente-Maritime
property with
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beautiful swimming pool and garden.
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ONCE A FAMILIAR SIGHT FOR anyone travelling between Nantes and Bordeaux via the A83 autoroute, Benet was spared much of its through traffic when the long-awaited section around Niort finally opened in back 2001, years later than planned. Behind the long delay was a bitter dispute between planners who had naturally mapped the shortest route, south of the city, and campaigners determined to protect the wetlands and wildlife of the Marais Poitevin from disturbance. Eventually the affair went before Jarnac-born President François Mitterand, who supported the longer, but far less environmentally damaging northern alternative.

Today the Marais has not only a Parc Naturel Régional status but is also a Grand Site de France, and Benet has doorstep access. It also sits right beside the boundary between Vendée and DeuxSèvres départements, just a few km from the city bustle of Niort. Add the fact that La Rochelle and the Île de Ré lie within an hour or so’s drive and you have quite an appealing location.

There’s history, too. The Battle of

BENET (85)

Poitiers (732) is said to have begun nearby, after which Benet passed through various hands, including the Templars, the English (during the Hundred Years War) and a succession of powerful family dynasties. Later it endured the turmoil of the Wars of Religion, one particularly savage battle in 1574 resulting in some 2000 casualties, all of whom were interred in a pit whose location was recalled in the innocent-sounding Chemin de la Grand’Fosse. Happily Benet emerged from the Révolution unscathed, and put itself on the map after welcoming Napoléon and Joséphine in 1808, witnessing the baptism of Henri de Bourbon, Duc de Bordeaux a few years later.

The town’s most visible link to past events is the 12-15th century Église Sainte-Eulalie. During the Révolution it became a temple of constitutional religion (it stands in Rue du Temple), but its wealth of sculpted decoration survived and contributed to it receiving Monument Historique listing in 1913. The village it once served is today a thriving town, home to a host of shops, bars, restaurants

We visit a town in Vendée with an upbeat promotional tag-line: ‘Petite Ville de Demain’

and services, plus no fewer than three economic activity parks created by the Communauté de Communes Vendée Sèvre Autise (VSA). The social calendar combines popular annual events like the Foire Aux Alouettes with celebrations of a proud past, including the Fête du Cheval et des Vieux Métiers (August) and a Marché aux Truffes (December).



85020 BENET:

Niort: 14 km/18 min

Fontenay-le-Comte: 21 km/23 min

Surgères: 36 km/35 min

La Rochelle: 61 km/1 hr

Poitiers: 88 km/1 hr 8 min

Saintes: 89 km/1 hr 2 min

Angoulême: 130 km/1 hr 55 min

Bordeaux: 200 km/2 hr 7 min


La Gare SNCF de Prin-Deyrançon (20km) is served by TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine Ligne Régionale 14 services between La Rochelle, Niort & Poitiers for connections (including TGV) to Limoges, Angoulême, Bayonne, Toulouse, Tours, Paris, etc.

(10 000€ + 10% fee payable by buyer) CONFOLENS (16): Near town centre, 1969 bungalow requiring modernisation. 2-bed, kitchen, living room, oil heating. Set on 653m2 Classe Energie F Classe Climate F 3, place de la Liberté, 16500 Confolens Tel: 05 45 85 45 65 Ref. 34441 99 000€ HAI (100 000€ + 8% fee payable by buyer) CONFOLENS (16). Ideally located near centre, 3-bed charming semi-detached house. Gas heating, garden, set on 900m2 Classe Energie en cours Classe Climate en cours Ref. 34446 108 000€ HAI (60 000€ + 10% fee payable by buyer) ETAGNAC (16). Nice area, wooded and hilly, out of sight. Easy access to 9755m2 leisure lake fed by springs. Total 6.14 acres. Classe Energie n/a Classe Climate n/a Ref. 34434 66 000€ HAI (58 000€ +10% fee payable by buyer) ABZAC (16). In a hamlet, 3km from village, semi-detached stone house. 2 bedrooms, land opposite with outbuilding 713m2 Classe Energie vierge Classe Climate vierge Ref. 34423 63 800€ HAI (95,000€ + 10% fee payable by buyer) CONFOLENS (16). 1967 2-bed bungalow with basement, close to all amenities. Set on 317m2 with shared driveway and wooden hangar. Classe Energie D Classe Climate D Ref. 34436 93 500€ HAI (35 000€ + 10% fee payable by buyer) BRILLAC (16): Pretty 1-bed renovated semidetached house close to river in countryside. Adjoining garden, set on 160m2 Classe Energie G Classe Climate C Ref. 34442 38 500€ HAI S O V M O Votre Agence Immobilière Familiale de Proximité S O V M O Votre Agence Immobilière Familiale de Proximité EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE OFFICE + 33 (0)5 45 21 78 38 La Foncière Charentaise THE FRIENDLY FACE OF PROPERTIES IN S/W FRANCE Prix 299,250 € (Fees paid by buyer incl.) Beautiful 5-bed village property in excellent condition with character and comfortable living space. Many light and airy rooms. Garden of 1800m² with barn. Ref: 9709 DPE: C Prix 55,000 € (Fees paid by buyer incl.) Pretty, stone semi-detached farmhouse to restore although habitable as it is, with walled south-facing garden of around 200m². Garage, 1 bedroom + convertable attic. Réf: 9708 DPE: En cours + 33 (0)6 82 85 36 32 Cecile email: ............ ............
265,000 € (Fees paid by buyer incl.) Charentaise property in private position, close to amenities. 5 bedrooms, one on ground floor with WC & bathroom. Fitted kitchen, Beautiful garden of 1100m². Ref: 9668 DPE: En cours “We are always looking for new quality properties! Please get in touch. “
Eleonor Estate Agency 36-38 rue du Temple,
EYMET T: 05 53 27 83 45
Ref: 10302-MO - Location: Monpazier - Price: 235,400€
Beautiful country house set in the middle of ¾ acre garden. Offering a large dining/living room with open fireplace and separate kitchen opening onto the terrace. Upstairs offers three bedrooms including one with an ensuite, a shared bathroom, office and a dormitory. The basement has a laundry area and parking.
inclus à
40,000€ (4.71%) inclus à la charge de l’acquéreur. Classe Energie: B. Classe Climat: A Ref: 10449-VI - Location: Beaumont - Price: 256,800€ On the outskirts of a bastide town, this lovely character stone house is set over one level offering a living-room / dining-room with open plan kitchen, 4 bedrooms and 2 shower-rooms, plus a large attic on 1st floor. Set on just under 2 acres, with a swimming pool and a large barn. Taux d’honoraires 16,800€ (7%) inclus à la charge de l’acquéreur. Classe Energie: G. Classe Climat: C Character Properties in France Saint Sornin la Marche, Haute Vienne €394,000* With 5 hectares, 4 double bedrooms, fully renovated, 5 stables, barns, above-ground pool, pond. DPE: D Moussac, Vienne €196,000* Stone house with 3 bedrooms, beautiful renovation by artisan, well-insulated, aboveground pool, garage. DPE: E Availles-Limouzine, Vienne €94,000* Two-bedroom with beautiful views from the large balcony, garden front back and side, garage, mains drains. DPE: F Please contact us if you have a character property to sell, we have a devoted team located throughout the area. *agency fees charged to the seller Tel: 05 65 70 10 49 Email: Visit our new agency: 20, rue du Maquis Foch, 16500 Confolens Rochechouart, Haute Vienne €179,000* Lovely renovation, two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, 5300m2 of lawn and woods, walk into town. DPE: D
Taux d’honoraires
la charge de l’acquéreur. Classe Energie: F. Classe Climat: B
Monpazier, Bergerac, Issigeac and Miramont de Guyenne Ref: 6435-EY - Location: Coulx - Price: 890,000€ Fabulous 360° panoramic views from this luxurious Manor House. The property offers a lovely 6-bed main house, a studio and separate 2-bed guest accommodation. In addition, the property has a large barn and a windmill. All set in just over 11 acres of land, including some woodland. Taux d’honoraires Female (L) and male (R) wall lizards Gravid (pregnant) female green lizard in May just before egg deposition Male green lizard


Living among the


Look around during spring or summer and you will see large numbers of lizards basking in the sunshine. We asked lizard expert and Vendée resident Roger Meek to tell us more about these shy creatures…

Here in western France, the species we see most frequently are the wall lizard, Podarcis muralis, and the western green lizard, Lacerta bilineata. Both are members of the Lacertidae, a large family of lizards with more than 300 species across Europe, Africa and Asia. Lacertidae are sometimes referred to as ‘true lizards’ due to their generalised lizard shape and their lack of elaborate frills or crests.

Of the two, the most common species is the wall lizard which you can find in many different types of habitats including suburban areas and woodland

edges. They have a foraging lifestyle, actively searching for small bugs including grasshoppers and spiders, but they may also consume berries and fallen fruit. Reaching a length of around 70mm (not including their tail), as their name suggests, they are often seen basking in the sun on walls or rocks. Wall lizards show substantial colour variation and patterns, but the females are usually grey or brown while males are generally more colourful and often have a mottled pattern.

Females in this area of France produce two clutches of eggs each year, the first during spring followed by a second in mid-summer, while in

southern Europe three annual clutches are the norm. In Vendée, we typically see around 5 eggs per clutch.

Wall lizards are mainly active during the warmer months, particularly in spring. They normally enter a winter dormant period in October or November appearing again in February, although during the winter of 2021/22 activity was recorded on sunny days throughout the winter months in Vendée. Some internet sources indicate they are a solitary species but during spring and autumn they are highly social and can be seen communally sun-basking in groups including a single male and several

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Male wall lizard


Over 7,000 species of lizards are found worldwide. They are frequently referred to as the ‘windows of evolution’ or the ‘model organism’ due to their great diversity in form and size and variety of lifestyles and adaptations to different environments, bestowing on science key insights into the complexity of evolutionary processes. For instance, although most lizards generally reproduce by normal heterosexual means some species operate environmental sex determination, where temperatures during embryonic development determine the sex of the individual. Females of other species can store sperm for many years, although the number of offspring produced declines over time. 39 species are known to reproduce by parthenogenesis (virgin birth) where all-female populations produce what are effectively female clones. These include several species of lacertid lizards, although as far as is known, green and wall lizard populations are heterosexual.

females. However, alpha males do not tolerate other males and will patrol and defend a territory, although beta (lower ranking) males will often live close by and occupy the ‘optimum’ territory should it be apparent that the alpha male is no longer present.

Green lizards are less commonly seen. Lacerta bilineata is one of several species in the green lizard group including the eastern European form Lacerta viridis, which is very similar

to the western species. There is also a giant form, Lacerta trilineata, that occurs in the Balkans. The western green lizard reaches a body length of around 120mm, not including its tail, and is one of the world’s most beautiful lizards.

In fragmented landscapes as we have locally, green lizards are mostly found in hedgerows and sometimes in light urban areas. They operate as ambush predators, remaining motionless

while waiting for the prey to come into range, then quickly pouncing. They emerge later from hibernation than wall lizards, usually in late March or early April, and also enter their winter dens earlier, usually during October. They are highly territorial and normally only make contact with other green lizards during the spring breeding season; at other times of the year, they are intolerant and aggressive with each other. To avoid contact with adults, juveniles usually select different micro-habitats. This behaviour is likely driven by the possibility that green lizard populations are regulated by mechanisms dependent on population density, where competition for living space leads to high predation on the juveniles by adults and often fatal attacks on females by large males. The outcome of this is that adult numbers STUMP GRINDING Grind away tree & hedge stumps leaving no trace! Specialist equipment and know-how to cleanly remove stumps Fully insured and registered Call me today on 05 17 34 14 37 / 06 02 30 66 69 FB: davidcropperstumpgrindingservices ALL AREAS COVERED Dessouchage David Cropper Siren: 452 821 101 Looking for old DEUTZ tractors F1M 414, F1L 514 1936-1959 Call Jon on 05 49 87 29 71 E: in any condition dans n’importe quel état
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Male (top) and female (bottom) green lizards during courtship

drop, enabling juveniles to prosper and the population to eventually recover. Recent research by herpetologists in the south of France has also indicated similar density-dependent effects in the related Lacertid lizard (Zootoca vivipara). However, populations can be impacted by other factors including, among other things, annual changes in climate or high levels of predation.

Predators of both wall and green lizards include birds and small mammals, and the western whip snake Hierophis viridiflavus is a major predator. Laboratory studies have shown that lacertid lizards are able to detect the presence of this lizardeating snake which is supported by observations of wall lizards in Vendée. Here, they have been seen to leave hedgerows and move onto more open ground when a foraging whip snake is present. This escape tactic exploits the reluctance of whip snakes to enter open ground due to the risk from predatory birds, especially buzzards. Many individual lizards show examples of previous tail loss, which suggests high predation attempts but this can also occur during aggressive interactions between individual lizards.

The high adaptability of lizards along with climate warming has enabled green and wall lizards to colonise areas far outside their natural ranges. For example, wall lizards have colonised parts of the USA and Canada and continue to expand their range there, including by means of expansion along railway lines enabling the colonising of new areas and towns. Both wall and green lizards are now present and widespread in the UK and other areas of northern Europe where they have adapted to new and often colder environments. It is believed many of these new UK populations originated

from individuals which escaped from pet shops or the houses of pet keepers

released. Recent research at Oxford University showed that female wall lizards have adapted to the cooler climate in England by evolving faster embryo development at lower temper atures. This enables the hatchings

to emerge earlier in the season than would be normal thus enhancing their

So, as the warmer days arrive and you start to see lizards scuttle away as you approach, take a moment to reflect upon how privileged we are to live so close to such fascinating

Roger Meek lives in Vendée and is a researcher at the Institute for Development, Ecology and Cooperation in Rome and a fellow of the British Herpetological Society. He has published papers on lizards and other reptiles which can be read at

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Garden waste, barns etc. cleared Unoccupied holiday homes checked For enquiries & rates tel: 07 72 38 84 60 09 63 68 12 49 Charente, Vienne, Deux Sèvres Siret no 853 531 838 2 Ladies & a Van HOMME VERT All aspects of tree care from planting and pruning to reductions and removals. Hedge cutting, ground clearance and maintenance. Fully insured & registered. 27 years’ experience. ARBORIST DOMINIC L UNN 05 45 30 61 41 / 06 45 90 30 67 | Facebook: @hommeverttreesurgery GARDEN SERVICES | Gardening | Pool Care | Home Maintenance Offering a full range of
of a giant Lacerta trilineata found in the
beside its smaller cousin

Early Spring Gardening

We look forward to returning to the garden as the weather improves...

As the garden starts to stir with snowdrops and primroses coming into bloom, it’s time to start pondering the year ahead. February can still be the coldest month of the year, as well as the wettest, so check the soil before sowing. Not only could the seeds rot, but sowing in cold, waterlogged soils ruins the soil structure so it is best to wait until the conditions are more favourable. Here are just a few ideas of what can be done in February and March...


�� Sow broad beans and early peas in February and March for a May and June harvest.

�� Sow early Brussels sprouts in March for picking in August and September.

�� Onion and shallot sets can be sown in March if the soil is fairly dry and warm. Onion seeds can also be sown in March.

�� Chit early seed potatoes ready for planting in mid-March.

�� Sow sweet peppers, chillies and aubergines in late March under cloches.

Chillies especially need a long hot growing season and placing plastic bell cloches over them works wonders.

�� Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be planted in March and it is a good time to establish an asparagus bed when starting from crowns.

�� Parsnips are better sown in March when conditions are improving, rather than being placed in cold wet soil in February.

�� Sow early varieties of turnips from March to June.

�� Sow spinach every few weeks from mid-March onwards and sow a short row of lettuce every couple of weeks from late March to ensure continual cropping.

�� Summer cabbage can be sown under cloches in multi-cell trays from late February until early May.


�� Gladioli corms can be planted and now is a good time to plant pot grown carnations and pinks.

�� Lift and divide snowdrop and aconite bulbs.

�� Lily bulbs can be planted during mild weather.

�� Remove flower heads from daffodils and other spring bulbs as they fade but leave daffodil foliage intact for at least six weeks for bulb regeneration.

�� Sweet peas can be sown outdoors, half-hardy annuals can be sown under glass and primulas and polyanthus are planted now.

�� Flowering shrub and rose planting should be completed provided that the ground is not wet.

�� Prune back hydrangea shoots. Prune forsythia and flowering currants during late March once the flowers fade.

�� Trim back old shoots of perennials taking care not to damage emerging new growth.

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Le CaféCivray 24 rue du commerce, 86400 Civray 05 49 87 68 97 www lecafecivray com Full English, Pies, Pasties, & Sweet Treats Open Tues/Thurs/Fri 9am-2pm Sign up for a Wednesday Baking Class New! French Conversation classes on Mondays Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated! SIRET 820 301 299 La Brousse, 16700 Londigny tel; 05 45 29 05 07 FB: @aubergedunoyer All Day Friday: fish & chips, scampi too - 10€ (full menu also available) Mon-Sat 12-3, 6-11pm | Roast every Sunday: 12-4pm | Chambre d’hôtes Tue 14: Valentine’s Night Wed 15: QUIZ NIGHT (€10 includes food - €5 goes to charity) F E B PLEASE CHECK OUR FB PAGE & WEBSITE FOR THE LATEST INFO M A R C H Wed 15: QUIZ NIGHT (€10 includes food - €5 goes to charity) Sat 18: St Patrick’s Day with live entertainment Sun 19: Mother’s Day Sunday Lunch Caf�s, Bars & Restaurants Bars, Shops, Associations


These local businesses are waiting for your call! Pianos, Finance, Insurance Well-being, Shops ALL OUR MEATS ARE LOCALLY SOURCED & OUR SAUSAGES ARE GLUTEN FREE Homemade Pâtés English sausages Bacon & Gammon 28-day hung Limousin beef Handmade pies & sausage rolls We’re regularly at local markets: Tue/Fri: Civray Wed/Sat: Ru ec Thu: Sauzé-Vaussais Sunday: Verteuil Boucherie Calluaud SAMANTHA CALLUAUD - 06 50 04 37 30 ROUTE DE CHAMPAGNE-MOUTON - 16450 SAINT CLAUD | FACEBOOK: BUTCHER CALLUAUD English Speaking Ask for Corinne For all your insurance needs in France Special discount for new owners - 50% o the rst year Fully comprehensive covers at competitive prices and all explained in ENGLISH. We respond quickly to enquiries and in the case of accidents or claims, we are here to help. O ces at Champdeniers and St Pardoux (79). Come and visit us. Agence Michallon Tel: Orias: 07007057 Hot Tubs in France the home of Wood-fired Cotswold Eco Tubs For more information, please contact Nicola or Tim: E: T: 07 49 19 46 84 RELAX. REPLENISH. REWIND. Easy to install in even the most remote locations of the quietest air bubble/Hydro systems on the market Efficient wood-fired boiler - minimal electricity used for bubbles and LED lighting Robust wood and fibreglass construction means years of weather-resistant service Thoughtful design ensures they are hygienic and easy-to-clean Comfortable seating allows users to immerse their shoulders, perfect all year round Bespoke range of options and colour combinations NEW Wood-fired saunas available siret: 879 912 855 2, 6 and 8 person available Facebook: HotTubsinFrance | Google business: | LinkedIn: hot-tubs-in-france 26 rue du Commerce, 86400 CIVRAY Renaissance - hair, beauty, nails Tel: 05 49 87 16 33 RENAISSANCE - hair, beauty, nails Siret: 509 861 902 00013 * SOCIAL DISTANCING IN PLACE * Our bi-lingual team are waiting to pamper you. CACI trained and registered to perform non-surgical facelifts and more. Ring now to book your appointment. ~ PLUS! Wedding hair & make-up team ~ Visit Alison, Julie, Stephanie & Laura at... Large selection of home fabrics, made-to-measure curtains, bedlinen, wallpaper & paint. Friendly English-speaking staff in a cosy atmosphere! 14, rue de l’hôtel de ville, 17400 Saint-Jean d’Angély Beside the market square. Phone: 09-83-72-34-90 Tues to Fri 9h-12h30 & 14h-18h30 Sat 9h-12h30 &14h-18h comptoirdecodangely Custom framing for arts, crafts & memorabilia E: Tel: 09 77 00 66 38 Encadrement D’Art EI 87150 Oradour sur Vayres Siret : 892 358 342 00012 16, 17, 79 and west Vienne Tel: 05 45 21 16 13 E: SIRET: 51031234100017
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There’s really only one way to choose a carpet - that’s to see it and touch it! - the way it feels plays a very important part when you’re selecting what suits you. While we still make free home visits (over 200 during 2022) with plenty of samples, you can come to our showroom and see the thousands of options we offer, whether you’re looking for carpets, vinyl, LVT ...... or anything flooring! As we go into this new year, why not come and see us at our showroom in Treignac (19260) - there’s a couple of decent restaurants nearby or at the very least come in and have a coffee with us! Obviously things have changed over the past few years and since Brexit we source a large part of our ranges directly from European manufacturers, which negates

any import or customs duties. In fact many Belgian companies, for example, send half their manufacturing output to the UK so they are the type and style we are used to seeing. This doesn’t mean we don’t still import from the UK - some of the best carpets in the world are manufactured in Britain, especially good quality wool materials - and we still have direct accounts with many of the more important UK suppliers.

So, we can offer the best that both the UK and European manufacturers offer with a huge range of samples here for you to see and feel!

As we are a small family business, please let us know if you are making a special journey to see us - we’d hate to miss you!

For all your flooring needs

• We supply and fit a range of carpets to suit all budgets

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• Over 25 years experience, 100% customer satisfaction

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Thank you to our Advertisers for helping to keep Living free Building services, Artisans Building services, Artisans T: 05 45 95 44 34 or 06 98 29 76 45 E: Graham Medhurst Renovations Established reputable builder in Charente From basic changes to complete renovations, bathrooms, kitchens, floor and wall tiling, dry-lining & more Guaranteed customer satisfaction Contact me for a free no-obligation quotation Based near La Rochefoucauld, covering areas 16, 86 & 79 A1SL COUVERTURE is a new French based company serving dept. 79, 86, 16, 17, 87, 85, 24 & 33 with well-established roofing experience previously based in the UK. We pride ourselves on top quality workmanship and excellent customer service. We have built a solid reputation over 25 years in the UK and receive most of our work from customer recommendations. Shaun B LLOYD A1SL COUVERTURE (ROOFING SERVICES) WE COVER ALL ASPECTS OF ROOFING WORK FROM SMALL DOMESTIC REPAIRS, ROOF CLEANING AND LARGE NEW ROOF PROJECTS UTILIZING CLAY TILES AND SLATE; SPECIALIST IN LEAD WORK. Registered with the Repertoire des Métiers, siren: 877 636 050 Mobile: + 33.(0). Email: All work is fully guaranteed and we are fully insured. Our services are available 6 days a week, no-obligation free estimate and no call-out fee up to 70km. ANDY MS Multi Services Plumbing Electricity Plasterboarding Tiling Satellite dishes and Systems for the reception of UK and French TV No Job too Small Dept. 16,17 05 46 49 78 30 / 06 70 40 66 01 website: email: siret:50263448800014 Siren: 478 608 185 00011 Javarzay, 79110 Chef-Boutonne Tel 05 17 30 18 35 Mobile 06 33 85 65 66 PAINTER & DECORATOR Interior and exterior painting Paper hanging, tiling, flooring & dry lining Areas 16, 17, 24, 33, 79, 86 ADAM BLACKABY Artisan Peintre T: 05 45 98 07 25 M: 06 23 18 30 95 Siret: 441 490 992 00027

Pard on?

The New Year always brings new challenges for linguists, as new words enter the dictionary and others are dropped to make space in a constant turnover of fad and fashion. What makes it worse is that the virtual world is open to all, and somewhere, some poor translator is trying their best to find ways to translate words that don’t even exist yet in their target language.

In 2022, Oxford Languages threw open their Word of the Year selection to the public. ‘Metaverse’ was widely touted to be the favourite. The word has been around since the 1990s, somewhat unbelievably. Describing a virtual reality space in which users can interact with a digital environment as well as with other users, it took on new significance for many as Mark Zuckerberg rebranded his Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram empire as ‘Meta’ in 2021. Despite trying their best to make something of the Le Métavers, the public went a different route in their voting. 2022’s Word of the Year ended up being a phrase: goblin mode.

As to the meaning of goblin mode, which I confess to never having heard before March 2022, it simply means a frame of mind in which you celebrate the slobby, the grungy and the unpleasant. Think of it as the anti-Insta life. Wandering around in dirty pyjamas eating stale cereal out of yesterday’s breakfast bowl, slobbing out on the couch watching nothing in particular with unwashed hair and grubby fingers is perhaps the epitome of goblin mode. Le Mode Gobelin exists in French too of course. Ouest France described it as une tendance au laisser-aller voire au négligé. If you naturally tend towards wallowing in your grotte like un gobelin, then goblin-mode is à la mode for 2023.

Unlike the Danish import hygge which has taken over Instagram (and life?) in the last ten years or so, usually defined in French as cocooning, goblin mode is not a land of clean jimjams, chocolat chaud, le confort douillet and les moments partagés avec ses proches. It is nothing so glamorous.

Other translations just make a tacit nod to Frenchifying them. The inexplicable rise of ‘woke’ as a derogatory adjective to describe people alert to discrimination has made its way over the Channel. Le Wokisme has the same derogatory tones as it does in British or US English, kind of surprising for the nation of liberté, égalité, fraternité. Le Robert, one of France’s major dictionaries, remarks that it is a US trend. Le Robert made its own statement by adding la grossophobie and la glottophobie to its pages, for fat- or obesity-phobic behaviour and accent-related discrimination, respectively.

Many dictionaries are simply a reflection of the times: instead of dictating use, they reflect the evolution of language. The Académie Française, happily deciding what is acceptable or not in

February is the perfect time for goblin mode...

French language use, is not so quick to include new words in its catalogue. In particular, it often cautions against les anglicismes. In many ways, this can be just as insightful as the list of new words added to other dictionaries: it tells you which things the Académie finds most gênant. Using ‘start’ and ‘finish’ instead of le départ and l’arrivée were two such anglicisms that got on their last nerve this year.

Where un brouteur has entered into French dictionaries for someone who commits internet fraud, this may be a little confusing for some. The verb brouter means ‘to graze’, like a cow or a sheep, so un brouteur gives us the image of grazing animals rather than someone preying on people online. We might say a scammer, I think, in English. Of course, lots of popular terms for internet fraud, such as un trojan or le phishing, are anglicisms that the Académie does not like much. Instead of un cheval de troie for a Trojan Horse, they recommend le logiciel malveillant or malicious software. Not much different from malware, I guess. For phishing, they prefer l’hameçonnage. L’hameçon is a fishhook, so it has the same sense, even if le phishing is also used.

In any case, it remains to be seen what words will enter into the dictionaries over the course of 2023. The last few years have been dominated by health concerns or viruses, be they of the internet kind or the biological kind. It’d be nice to have a bunch of words related to joyful things instead! No wonder it all seems like a rapid descent into le mode gobelin!

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