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Benefits rethink in €8bn fight on poverty


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Buskers audition to play in Métro

Broad welcome for plans but ‘they need to go further’


AN ANTI-POVERTY plan to better educate the young and get more into work has been unveiled by President Macron as he seeks to ditch the ‘president of the rich’ tag and match his election claim as ‘neither left nor right’. With nine million people – one-third of them children – living in poverty, the plan centres on a social benefits rethink to create a ‘universal activity income’ linked to work. It also promises extra crèche places so parents can work; compulsory school or training until age 18, and free breakfasts and €1 lunch meals for primary children in poorer areas. But, despite being welcomed as a step forward, the €8billion four-year plan was quickly contrasted to his replacement of the wealth tax and its €20bn ‘cadeau fiscal’ for the rich. France Insoumise MP Alexis Corbière said:

“You are one of the 100-plus richest in France? Macron gives you €1.5million each. Among the nine million poor? He scrapes up €200 a year to get you out of poverty.” Condemned earlier this year for complai ing France spent ‘crazy amounts of money’ to help the poor but failed to help them out of poverty, Mr Macron said his policies would “never forget anyone again”. He said work was the way to “rediscover dignity” and people’s place in society, adding: “I don’t want a plan to help poor people to live better in poverty. I want us to give them Turn to Page 2

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2CV and Méhari mark big birthdays 4 Water prices will rise to pay for leaks 5 Brexit updates 6 €200 bank charge limit is ‘too high’ 7 News in Brief 10-11 Kiwis taught me my passion for cheese 12 At my B&B guests sleep in Orient Express carriages 13 Simon Heffer / Nabila Ramdani 14 ‘Hyperloop’ train is a pipe dream at best 15 Readers’ letters 16-17


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The Connexion

October 2018

GP ‘assistants’ part of 54 healthcare reforms

WIDE-ranging health reforms have been announced which include the creation of 400 posts for salaried doctors to help in ‘medical deserts’ – areas lacking in health facilities – and 4,000 healthcare assistant jobs to ease doctors’ workloads. Health Minister and former hospital doctor Agnès Buzyn will also end the controversial numerus clausus, a convention which limits the number of second-year students wanting to be doctors, midwives, dentists or pharmacists. In all, there are 54 measures attracting €400million of new funding. The Elysée said it was a “systematic overhaul” hastened by severe problems in areas such as casualty, psychiatry and medical studies. President Macron said there would be “no economies hitting hospitals in my term.” Ms Buzyn said the ‘Ma Santé 2022’ plan had a €3.4billion budget over that period – €1.6bn to revamp regional care, €920m for hospital investment, €500m for digital upgrades and €420m for training. That is 2.5% extra spending a year and the ministry will create “room to move” by cutting “useless” procedures that add up to €20bn.

Leading GP union MG France hailed the plan for assistants, with president Jacques Battis­ toni calling it “good sense”. He said they had long sought it to “make it easier to cope with lower doctor numbers by allowing GPs to devote to the main tasks; but it needs funding.” The CSMF union said it was a “long-awaited step forward” adding that “ending the priority for hospitals was much needed”. One key change for the future is a new selection process from 2020. It will open medicine to people with profiles away from the classic maths/science and also let students switch courses. Of more immediate effect is the creation of 400 salaried doctors to work through local hospitals or health centres in areas with few health professionals to hasten access to healthcare. It matches doctors’ wishes as two-thirds of new doctors say they would prefer to be salaried rather than médecin libérale. A similar plan in Saône-et-Loire saw 30 doctors hired on 35-houra-week contracts to ease delays. Doctors and health centres will be helped by 4,000 assistants – a job between nurse and medical secretary – to prepare people for consultations by taking blood or other tests etc.

Benefits rethink in €8bn poverty fight ÎÎ From

Page 1 choices, and possibilities, because they do not want to be poor anymore – and not to feel they are dependent on support.” A continuing theme was to prevent not treat poverty; fighting ‘social determinism’ so poverty was “no longer passed on as an inheritance”. With his targeting of aid at the poorest he was moving away from the social welfare model that has been in place since the war; that of helping everyone. Mr Macron said he had “never believed in a universal income without conditions” and opted to merge benefits for a revenu universel d’activité tying rec­ip­ ients into ‘rights and duties’ and linked to working. • being Hotspots • TV A full review of benefits would create a new safety net by merging “the greatest num­ ber of benefits” as they baffled people and stopped them applying. François Soulage, of AlerteExclusions and ex-president of Secours Catholique, said: “It has interesting measures but not for all sectors. Only concrete measures to ensure access for all to the rights of all can reach the poorest and fight inequalities.” He also highlighted that the plan forgot the elderly, a large number of whom are poor; the disabled and mig­rants.

“Some of the measures meet our aims, especially those to stop predestined failure and compulsory training until 18, but can only succeed if additional means are announced. “But, they are insufficient to correct the corrosive effects of previous political choices.” Antoine Dulin, of the CESE social assembly, said it was “an advance but needed to go much further”, especially for 18-25s who “had little welfare cover”. “France is one of the rare European states with no minimum revenue for over-18s – it treats young people as social minors until 25 but civil majors from 18. They can vote but cannot have a minimum to live on. “It is not clear what the revenu universel d’activité will involve but as it is linked to work it will not help people out of work.” Raihere Maruhi, of Mouve­ ment Français pour un Revenu de Base, said: “This does nothing to meet what we want, a minimum income with no fixed conditions that allows a person to choose the job that best suits them and not on what it pays. “It also does little to recognise how the work world is changing ...as seen in Mr Macron’s comments [that a jobless gardener just needed to ‘cross the road’ to find a job in a restaurant].”

Used in emergency centres they free 25% of a doctor’s time. They will work with GPs or specialists and may work with several doctors or as job-share to cut the €50,000 annual cost. Mr Macron wants doctors to create joint practices and no longer have half of doctors working alone. This would allow a spread of shared services such as out-of-hours garde services in evenings. Doctors will not be coerced into change but will get heavy incentives to help cut the load that falls on emergency units. A new hospital funding method is being created to end the tarification à l’activité based on numbers of procedures and not effectiveness or patients’ views. Creating more standard tariffs, it will start with treatments for chronic illnesses like diabetes or renal failure. It will also recognise quality care with extra funding and push hospitals towards working with neighbours to share skills. Three categories of hospitals will give ‘local general, specialised and very specialised care’ and while none will close, the 600 smallest will be reoriented to priority needs such as geriatric, rehabilitation, telemedicine or scanning.

One-track plan for rail LITTLE-used rail lines could be made single-track in proposals put to local authorities by SNCF in a bid to cut running costs. Moving to a single line would reduce maintenance while having one train doing shuttle runs would need no signals. This is one of about 50 measures put to councillors that include using bitumen-gravel instead of ballast for the track base. It comes after parliament rejected plans to close 9,000km of small lines, most in a bad state, which make up 2% of traffic but a third of the track.

Bid to raise pet penalties A GROUP of MPs have called for more severe punishments for people who abandon pets, as 12 pets are dumped every hour, or 100,000 a year. Nord MP Béatrice Descamps said summer had seen the highest number of abandons and cruelty penalties should double from two years’ jail with €30,000 fine and reach 10 years and €80,000 if a pet was caged. Another proposal is for a tax deduction for anyone adopting a cat or dog from a home. The bill will be debated in December.

ABOLITION of the UK’s Class 2 National Insurance Contri­ butions – paid by working expatriates to top up their UK state pensions – has been put off again. The government now says the move, planned for April 2018 then put off to 2019, will not happen ‘in this Parliament’ (ie. before spring 2022). It says the move would be too hard on very low-ear­ning self-employed people as they would move from Class 2 (£2.95/week) to Class 3 (£14.65) – the same applies to working expats but they were not cited as part of the reasoning. The government says it will keep the issue under review. The news was reported by some media as a ‘tax cut’ being ‘scrapped’ as certain UK-based self-employed people (not the lowest-earners) would have paid less due to it.

News in brief Road toll falls 15.5% with 46 fewer deaths ROAD deaths fell 15.5% in August with 251 people killed against the 297 in August 2017. August saw the toll fall for the fourth month: -8.4% in May, -9.3% June and -5.5% in July when the 80kph limit started. However, 24 cyclists died, the worst toll in five years.

BUSES are now completely free to use in Dunkirk and surrounding communes, making it France’s 30th local authority and the first city in Europe with free public trans­port for 200,000 residents. Along with getting rid of tickets, the city and transport firm Transdev expanded the service from two lines to five and bought Wifi-equipped buses running on natural gas instead of diesel... fitting for a city with one of Europe’s largest natural gas handling harbours. It follows two years of roadworks for bus lanes and bus stations and €65million from Dun­­kerque urban area, CUD. Public transport costs €45million a year and lost ticket sales adds €7.5million, largely financed by an established 1.55% payroll tax on business. Mayor Patrice Vergriete said the decision to go free was made to help purchasing power, mobility and the environment. “Dunkirk has been through hard times economically and we were elected because we said we would try to boost citizens’ purchasing power. Rather than

Dunkirk sees major benefits in free buses

do so with tax cuts, in a city where only the relatively welloff pay taxes, we decided to do it through free transport, to benefit everyone. “A single person using the bus for work will be €400 a year better off, while one who opts not to drive won’t be paying fuel.” People with restricted mobility can also now travel for work, administrative or other reasons. As for the environment, he said: “The city was destroyed in the war and rebuilt as a city for cars; now at least 75% of travel in the city is by car and it is too much. “Making buses free is a strong gesture and we hope it will lead to fellow citizens thinking about

how they use their cars and leave them in the garage more.” Châteauroux in Indre was the first major town to opt for free buses, in 2001, and mayor Gil Avérous said it was now “probably irreversible”. “My predecessor owned a garage concession so the idea was certainly not to reduce the number of cars, but rather to use public resources better. “And it worked, the number of people using the buses has gone up three and a half times.” New routes helped open up work for the jobless and while the costs are high it has meant a significant rise in people in the town centre, boosting business.

FRANCE is to invest €350million in a plan to triple the number of cycling commuters by building more bike lanes, giving cyclists a tax break and increasing safe bike parking. Prime Minister Edouard Phil­ ippe said France was known globally for the Tour de France but trailed northern European neighbours as cycling had just a 3% share of public transport, less than half the European average. Mr Philippe said cycling was seen as a sport and not a means of transport for shopping or work – and that had to change. He wants to “triple the share of cycling to 9% by 2024, when we host the Olympics”. This would boost air quality and cut pollution in built-up areas, improving health and boosting towns’ attractiveness with improved quality of life. As part of the Plan Vélo, local authorities are asked to propose projects by December with the €350million to be spent over seven years on infrastructure. This would create bike lanes on major roads – including separate lanes on those with a speed limit up to 50kph – plus

better road markings and a special bike zone at traffic lights. The Code de la Route will be updated to better recognise cycling after a bike users’ survey showed 90% of cyclists felt roads were unsafe for children and older people. School bike lessons will be brought in by 2022 so all children can ride by the age of 12. The plan also wants better bike security with more secure bike parks to stop the 300,000 thefts a year. New bikes must have an immatriculation number on the frame and this will be extended later to old bikes. Moves to encourage cycling include a tax-free €200 instead of kilometrage allowance for nearly all public workers by 2020 while firms can pay up to €400. As car use costs about 40centimes/km with public transport 45centimes/km, cheaper innovations such as electric bikes could open up commutes from outside the optimum 5km distance and ease exertion on hills. Meanwhile, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and her Brussels counterpart have called for an annual Euro­pean Day Without Cars to cut inner-city pollution.

Snooze off motorway blues with robot driver environmental efficiency and free time of rail travel without the disadvantages of city centre stations, lack of car, less luggage and a fixed timetable. The idea came after the four friends returned to Dijon from Marseille and faced a six-hour journey with fatigue, stress and a car breakdown. Vinci Autoroutes has shown in­terest and Projet Symone will develop the idea before working with auto-builders in the runup to autonomous cars becoming widespread in a decade.

NEW €100 and €200 notes will be brought in from May 2019 in the first redesign since the creation of the euro in 2002. As with the previous new €5, €10, €20 and €50 notes, they are full of anti-forgery features and are smaller to fit wallets better.

Mumm’s the word for bubbly in space

Probe into electrical giants

CHAMPAGNE Mumm has made bubbly for the first space tourists. Liquid does not pour in space and astronauts use a straw, so a new Grand Cordon Stellar Champagne bottle has a valve to eject a wine froth to catch in special glasses. Photo: Palais de l’Elysée

Free buses are just the €350m for bike ticket to open up city commuter plan

DREARY hours of motorway driving could be a thing of the past once autonomous vehicles start to be widely used but a group of friends are developing a solution for before that – with a robot car transporter. The idea of Projet Symone is to have individual autonomous transporters at motorway aires to let drivers drive their car on to the low-loader and then relax while being carried to the next rest area to continue their trip. Developed by a Dijon group, Symone combines the safety,

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ELECTRICAL supplies manufacturers Schneider Electric and Legrand plus distributors Rexel and Sonepar are being investigated by monopolies authorities over price-fixing and corruption. The companies are world leaders in their markets and an inquiry started in April after a tip-off to competition and anti-corruption agencies following an article on the French news investigation website Mediapart. They could face high fines in the wake of last year’s ‘lino cartel’ where three companies were fined €305million.

Elysée mementos are a hit A SHOP in the Elysée Palace courtyard and online has started selling a range of presidency-inspired souvenirs with Président and Première dame shopping bags snapped up alongside mugs and key rings. Of 56 products on sale, 30 of them cost less than €15 but the bestseller in the first weekend was a €169 Lip Dauphine watch with chic blue, white

and red strap... as seen on President Macron’s wrist during recent appearances. The first weekend’s sales totalled €347,000 with 12% going to fund restoration work at the palace. De Gaulle used to wear a Lip watch and he gave one to Churchill as a thank you for services to France. After troubled decades the brand is once again being made in Besançon

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Cult 2CV and fun Méhari mark big birthdays

Photo: Brian McCULLOCH

THE design brief for the first 2CV in the late 1930s, was refreshingly rural: it had to be able to carry two 50kg sacks and cross a field with a basket of eggs with­ out breaking any. By contrast, the designer of the 1968 Méhari, which shared 2CV engines and chassis, was told the aim was to have fun. When the 2CV was being designed in the late 1930s people were starting to realise cars were not just playthings for the rich. Especially in rural areas, they were becoming essential. Rural vets and farmers were among the first ‘ordinary’ people to own cars, and Michelin, which had just bought Cit­ röen, was keen for them to buy. Early prototypes were hidden from the Germans during the Second World War then dug out and dusted off to go on sale 70 years ago at the Paris auto show, Mondial de l’Auto, in October 1948. Press reaction was mixed and even in 1948 the 2CV’s rustic round lines were unusual, if not old fashioned. Jokers said a can-opener was offered as an extra. At the time, newly nationalised Renault had most of the ration for steel, and only four 2CVs a day were produced in 1949. There was a three to five-year waiting list and only priests, doctors and longstanding customers jumped the list. By the time production stopped in 1990, more than five million had been sold. People have fond memories of the basic, slow but comfortable 2CV or la

Photo: Citroën Communication


Taking farm lanes and fields in its stride, the 2CV was an instant hit when it was launched in 1948 and is still muchloved, especially with restorations such as Patrick Roux’s Méhari, left

Deuche and about 100,000 are still in use – with 1950s examples fetching up to €20,000 and one, a 1961 Sahara, selling for an eye-popping €172,800 in 2016. Retired garage owner Patrick Roux never got tired of working on them, but his special love is for the Méhari. Often seen in Charente in summer in

his yellow Méhari, his fourth restoration, he said: “I loved the Méhari from the first time I saw it as an apprentice. “The occasion was special, my boss took me, the apprentice with just two years’ experience, up to Paris in 1968 to bring back a Méhari ordered by a client. “It took all day to drive the 500km

back. I knew then it was a special car.” Powered by a two cylinder 29hp engine sipping fuel at 6litres/100km (47mpg), it has a top speed of just under 100kph. The Méhari’s ABS plastic bodywork sof­ tens with acetone so it is easy to repair. In its 1970s heyday in St Tropez, the Méhari was the car to be seen in but, today in Charente, that has changed. Mr Roux said: “It is light, practical and fun, and the ideal vehicle to take into the vines. Today many buyers of restored Méharis are rich vineyard owners who take visitors and buyers out in them.” Citroën is preparing for its centenary next year but starts celebrations at the Mondial de l’Auto from October 4-14 at Porte de Versailles. The show runs only every two years so Citroën will take the chance to mark its long history... but fellow PSA brand Peugeot aims to take some of the limelight with an “excep­ tional and radical” concept car. This year is also the 120th anniversary of the show and a parade of old vehicles was set to go from Concorde to Invalides and the Champs-Elysées on September 30. While it may have lost some shine in recent times as some sports and luxury brands snubbed it, the Mondial has never ceased to innovate and this year for the first time has a pavilion dedicated to Mobilité, meaning new tech and alter­ natives to cars being developed. This will include self-driving vehicles, new taxi services, smartphone apps for everything from insurance to finding parking and free public transport.

New-(ish) owner takes over La Poste No change for the posties, but deep and lasting change ahead for La Poste which could see a secure future thanks to its banking arm

the insurer recently lost a distri­ bution agreement with Groupe BPCE banks, so the arrange­ ment gives support both ways. CDC already owns 26% of La Poste and will see this rise above 50% with the transfer of government shares. The move is contained in the Loi Pacte on growth and eco­ nomic transformation and will not be complete until late 2019. CDC managing director Eric Lombard said the aim was to keep La Poste’s autonomy with­

in CDC, but to encourage syn­ ergies, especially with the new Banque des Territoires that CDC is setting up to oversee its funding operations with local authorities. The move has thrown a light on CDC: a particularly French institution that was established after the fall of Napoleon I. Both semi-autonomous and government controlled, it has several jobs, including manag­ ing Livret A and other regulat­ ed savings accounts, taking 80%

of the deposits to finance sec­ tors like social housing; holding ‘forgotten’ bank accounts, and looking after the financial inter­ ests of child actors. Its new arm, the Bpifrance bank, was set up specifically to finance start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses PME. It has quickly become the main contributor to CDC’s finances, but will probably be kept away from La Banque Postale for fear of it becoming less efficient. CDC has not always had smooth relations with the gov­ ernment and it was partly for this reason that a separate structure, L’Agence des Participations de l’Etat (APE) was set up in 2004. It took management of shares owned by the government from CDC and holds shares in the likes of Renault, Air France, Orange, Thales, EDF and more. In total, APE holds shares worth €100billion, and sent dividends worth €3.5bn to the government in 2016.

Important mortgage bank is to shut down ONE of France’s oldest banks, Crédit Foncier, established in 1852 and an important player in home loans to British and American buyers, is to close. Last year it made profit of just €33million on net income of €555m and owner Groupe BPCE, which has the high-street banks Caisses d’Epargne and Banques Popul­aires, is likely to redeploy many of the 2,200 staff. It said existing customers would not see any change in service and some staff will remain to manage about €85bil­ lion in outstanding loans, main­ ly to homeowners. Some of those loans are to UK and US borrowers as Crédit Fon­cier was sometimes seen by brokers as the best option for loans and mortgages for people who did not fit in to the lending models of other French banks. “Crédit Foncier was some­ times able to help people with

profiles where other banks were not able to,” broker John Busby, of French Private Finance, told Connexion. “We have done a lot of business with them, especial­ ly with non-residents, where Crédit Foncier was able to lend to 80% of property value. “With them going it might be more difficult to buy in France, especially for Americans. “I expect other banks will step in but they will probably want a closer relationship, such as cli­ ents having a savings account.” Other brokers said they had used Crédit Foncier less recent­ ly as it had a reputation of being slow, and other banks had become more open to lending to people with unusual profiles. Crédit Foncier was bought by Caisses d’Epargne in 1999 and the mutual bank, often called l’écureuil, (the squirrel), from its logo, started expanding until the 2007 finance crisis when it and Banques Populaires merged to form Groupe BPCE. BPCE said its high-street banks would take up the slack left by Crédit Foncier and make a special effort to offer loans to first-time buyers.

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finding it hard to make profits in the European Central Bank’s low interest-rate environment. While other banks are parts of large banking groups with insurance companies and investment banks, La Banque Postale has a low profile as it does not have an investment bank or international presence. Having CNP Assurances will give it a broader base meaning it should make larger profits to help support La Poste which has been struggling since the arrival of email and smart­ phones, meaning less mail is sent each year (volume is falling at a rate of 6% a year). Despite cash-raising moves such as increasing stamp prices – the priority timbre rouge rose 11.8% to €0.95 this year and hits €1.05 in 2019 – and retrain­ ing postal staff to do jobs such as helping old people and over­ seeing driving tests it still needs a profit centre to survive. La Banque Postale is already France’s largest distributor of CNP Assurances policies and

Photo: André Tudela – Photographe Le Groupe La Poste

THE JOLLY yellow vans and bicycles which fan out across France each day will not change but La Poste will have a new owner next year. At present a state-controlled business, La Poste is to be trans­ ferred into the ownership of the Caisse des Dépôts et Con­sign­ ations (CDC), a public banking group known as the “deep pocket” of the state, in a bid to broaden its base and profitabil­ ity while opening new services. Speaking of the move, econo­ my minister Bruno Le Maire said: “We want to create a large public financial business work­ ing for our territories. La Poste will remain a public group, there will be no privatisation, no intention of privatisation”. One of the first steps will give La Banque Postale – the bank set up in 2006 as part of La Poste – an opening into bank insurance by giving it CDC’s 55% stake in CNP Assurances. La Banque Postale is France’s third biggest retail bank but it, like other retail banks, has been

October 2018


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The Connexion

News in brief

Law seeks to ban police check alerts

ONLINE mapping apps such as Waze and Coyote may be banned from alerting drivers to police operations, including checks for drink driving, terrorism or kidnapping. Allowing temporary bans covering set geographic areas may be included in a forthcoming law. It is not expected to include checks on speed.

Airport to close for runway resurfacing BIARRITZ Airport is to close for a month for the runway to be relaid. It is planned for a quiet period from February 3 to March 4 and is part of improvements at the airport, which handled 1.2million passengers in 2017.

Drone amateurs must take test to fly AMATEURS keen to fly drones weighing more than 800g must do free online training for a permis de télépilote de loisir. The AlphaTango course app and Monespacealpha site cover safety and privacy concerns. Candid­ates have two months to pass all 20 questions or restart.

Photo: Peter MORTIMER CC0

Kouign-amann in US top 40 recipes

BRITTANY’s classic Kouignamann gâteau has been named in the US magazine Food and Wine all-time top 40 recipes, along with mousse au chocolat and Grand Marnier soufflé. It comes as a survey found 20% of French restaurant meals had dessert, twice as many as in other European countries. The average bill was €12.80 with dessert, €9.80 without.

28 breeding pairs of rare tortoise stolen THIEVES have stolen 56 tortue d’Hermann tortoises - 28 breeding pairs - from a Corsica zoo but it is not known if they will be trafficked or freed. With its black and yellow shell, it is France’s only land tortoise. It is now found only in Var and Corsica and is on the red list of vulnerable species.

SNCF plans driverless train tests by 2023 PROTOTYPE driverless trains could start tests in France by 2023 as SNCF works with train builders and technology firms on designs for both freight and passengers. The project has a €57million budget and experience with driverless Métro trains already shows improved punctuality.

October 2018

‘Armed hunter militia’ claim fake news, says gendarmerie GENDARMES have defended the Chasseurs Vigilants project which has trained 161 hunters to help fight crime but has been denounced by animal and human rights charities as an “armed militia”. Oise commander Colonel François Brémond said stories about armed brigades were “fake news” as the hunters will not be out in special groups but just asked to keep an eye out during normal activities He told gendarmerie journal L’Essor that hunters can observe things that might seem suspicious but they have been told never to intervene. “We teach them to preserve a crime scene and to touch nothing, so we can collect prints and DNA,” he said. If they witness a situation needing urgent action, they simply call the usual public number, 17, but they can also pass on other concerns to local contacts, he said. The row comes as the government is being accused by animal rights activists of favouring the hunting community, notably with the announcement that a national hunting permit is being slashed from €447 to €200. The issue came to a head recently when then-ecology minister and celebrity environmentalist Nicolas Hulot resigned. He said the presence of Thierry Coste, a wellknown lobbyist for the hunters, at an Elysée meeting about hunting was the last straw. Commentators believe Mr Macron has an

Hunters have been trained to watch for signs of crime

have no doubt that is due to the promises he made in favour of hunting and defending rural areas.” Wild animal charity Aspas told Connexion that it is not very hopeful of being listened to about its long-running campaign to ban hunting on Sundays, which has collected hun­ dreds of thousands of signatures. Its latest petition is at tinyurl.com/y75kehqz. It considers hunting a danger to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Aspas can help people ban hunting on their land by designating it a “refuge” (see tinyurl.com/yd9w3783). It says it helps with administrative procedures which can be complex if you undertake them alone.

eye on next year’s EU elections, as the hunting community is said to number more than a million and is traditionally Eurosceptic. Mr Coste, who advised Mr Macron on hunting policy during the presidential election campaign, told Connexion his recent moves were in line with the policies outlined during the campaign. He said: “Unlike the last two presidents, Mr Macron has started, through his recent actions, to put into action the promises he made as a candidate. “It is not surprising, when you look at the presidential vote in the rural areas. “It was overwhelmingly in favour of Macron, to the astonishment of many. And I

Water prices will rise to pay costs of repairing leaks WATER prices are set to rise after the government called on authorities to upgrade and repair networks as “one litre of water in five is lost to leaks”. The network needs up to €2billion a year extra spending on it, with a cost to households of about 10% extra – or €3.30 per month for the average family, the Fédération des Entre­prises de l’Eau said With 700billion litres of water lost before reaching consumers, Prime Minister Edouard Phil­ippe has offered special aid of €100million to help small communes fund work. Hénon (Côtes-d’Armor) faces work on 90km of pipes for just 1,000 households. Replacing 3km of pipes costs €800,000. After a year-long consultation in the Assises de l’Eau, Mr Phil­ippe said more investment was vital and setting social

News 5


tariffs via a chèque eau for less well-off households had shown it could increase funding. This will be funded by local water authorities but will be compensated by a reduction in the numbers of non-payers. Local authorities have shied away from raising water prices but this led to just 0.6% of pipes being replaced each year, which means work would take more than 100 years - and pipework has a 60-year lifespan. An extra €5billion will be invested over five years to double mains renewals rates while €2billion in low-cost loans will be offered at the Caisse des Dépôts. The Assises de l’Eau said 99.4% of people had a quality water supply 95% of the time with a cost on average of €4.07/m3. Prices range from €4.72/m3 in Brit­tany to €3.52/m3 in Paca.

Owners can shut out Linky POWER network firm Enedis cannot go into homes to fit Linky smart meters without the owners’ consent. After a challenge by the Haute-Garonne prefect, a Toulouse court struck out a by-law banning Enedis by the mayor of Blagnac but retained a section on residents’ common-law right to refuse entry. All 28 residents in Gez-ez-Angles, Hautes-Pyrénées, voted to bar Enedis fitting Linky, while in Ain, a woman literally barred the firm, padlocking her meter cupboard. Readers react: Page 17


This may be last time you put the clock back OCTOBER 28 could be the last time we change clocks to winter-time after a call by the EU Commission to stick with summer-time all year. Clocks will be put back an hour this month but, if agreed by all 28 EU countries, the plan could mean that when we move clocks forward on March 31 next year, it will be for the last time ever. Commission president JeanClaude Juncker revealed the plan after a Europe-wide survey of 4.6 million people revealed that 84% wanted an end of daylight saving time. There have been calls to end daylight saving time for years, with campaigners citing health problems and, in France, a 47% rise in pedestrian accidents. Mr Juncker said states would decide themselves whether to stay with summer or winter hours but neither France nor the UK have given a view. In France, all-year summer next year would mean the sun would rise on December 21 at 9.41 and then set at 17.55.

one who knows France

Mont St Michel, Normandy

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NL173 Connexion 129x170mm - June 2018

6 Brexit


The Connexion

Take action now in case of no deal

THIS autumn is crunch time for Brexit and the risk of a no-deal with its associated uncertainty and insecurity for Britons living in France has never been greater. On October 18-19 there will be an EU summit which has long been seen as the deadline for a deal but this is now unlikely to be met. If leaders think it useful there may be an extra summit in mid-November to allow extra time. With talk of a snap UK general election and increasing calls for another referendum it is important to check that you are ready to vote, if eligible. You are, however, still banned from voting if you have lived outside of the UK for 15 years or more. The campaign group British in Europe (BiE) has hit out at the UK Prime Minister in an open letter, following her unsuccessful visit to an informal EU summit. The letter reads: “We heard we are now at an impasse in the negotiations with a very real threat of no-deal. “What we did not hear was one single word about the future of 1.2 million EU nationals in the EU27. “You appear willing to take the UK out of the EU with a no deal and with no thought for your own nationals. This was... disgraceful and unacceptable.” BiE will be joining a march on October 20 in London for a ‘People’s Vote’ and is also lobbying in West­ minster on November 5, with an ‘e-lobby’ for those unable to attend. It urges people to write to their MPs demanding that, as a minimum, the rights agreed for expats so far are ‘ringfenced’ (see britishineurope.org). Campaigner Gina Miller meanwhile set up an information site (endthechaos.co. uk) after it emerged many people are still ignorant about Brexit including believing that a ‘no deal’ means staying in the EU. The UK has released a further batch of ‘no deal’ planning papers but nothing clarifying important matters for expatriates such as pensioners’ healthcare and uprating of state pensions. Connexion previously identified that France and the UK had a social security agreement including uprating before the UK entered the EEC – so should uprating cease it would be a regression to 1954. French ministries have also been told to prepare contingency plans for a ‘no deal’ scenario and draft legislation is expected soon. Nothing official has been announced publicly but inside sources told Con­nexion that the Interior Ministry is keen to keep the status quo for Britons already established in France and who have cartes de séjour or who can provide the same evidence of legal, stable residency. If this is confirmed, there will still need to be clarity as to card requirements and Britons’ precise status. There could be every­day difficulties if they cannot easily prove their rights to local officials such as at Caf offices or when applying for jobs. Ordinary ‘third country nationals’ have lesser rights in some matters than EU citizens, tougher criteria for residency cards and must have visas and/or work permits. A British embassy spokeswoman said the government “does not want or expect” a ‘no-deal’ and France “also wants to reach a deal by the end of the year”. The embassy is working with the French to clarify how the deal should be implemented but it is likely that after Brexit there will be a new form of carte de séjour. In the meantime the embassy notes the French advise obtaining a carte now under current rules. It recommends signing up for email updates at gov.uk/guidance/living-in-france and gov.uk/world/brexit-ireland (for its next outreach meetings about Brexit see tinyurl.com/yalrqfv9).

Dordogne applications will take 8 years A Dordogne resident is running carte de séjour coffee mornings to help fellow Britons as problems continue with appointments at the prefecture. Retired engineer and teacher Brenda Henderson, 72 (brenda.henderson@ orange.fr) who has obtained a permanent residency card, said of around ten people at her first carte session at the end of June, five now have cards. Dordogne was one of the first areas to adopt online appointment bookings for ‘Europeans’ (in practice, Britons). This is recommended by the Interior Ministry but some prefectures do not have one meaning people having to join a general, often long, queue of third country citizens. Slots were rapidly filled until the end of October after the Dordogne service opened this summer, with the prefecture saying it would open a further three months this month (Connexion has heard of other areas which are also fully booked or are offering appointments up to a year away). The British Com­munity Committee of France (BCC), which is in contact with the prefecture, says that at first there were only seven slots a week but that this has now increased to 14. The body reports that officials have assumed there to be 7,500 Britons in the Dor­dogne, based on Insee figures. However the figures exclude communes of under 2,000 and these include many British residents. The BCC says only 30 of 550 Dor­ dogne communes have 2,000 or more and they estimate the real number of Britons, factoring in data such as passengers at Bergerac airport, to be up

Brenda Henderson to nine times as many as the prefecture estimate. Connexion notes however that the prefecture figure is correct and assuming a quarter to be minors who do not need a carte, it would take at least eight years for all Britons to apply for cards at a rate of 14 a week. Meanwhile people have been logging onto the website daily in hope of finding new spaces freed up but BCC says a new batch of later dates (after October) will now only be released on Novem­ber 16. The prefecture did not confirm this to Connexion. Ms Henderson said: “There are lots of good organisations online but I wanted to give people a chance to meet face to face and share knowledge.

“There are some strong emotions and very hurt people, feeling betrayed. The practicalities are difficult to fulfil especially as people can’t get appointments.” Practicalities they have been looking at include people being asked to supply documents proving entitlement to UK pensions (such as a letter from a private pension body or an annual pension statement from the DWP) and to pay for translation by a ‘sworn’ translator. Ms Hen­derson said people’s own translations have been accepted in some cases. She said officials are asking to see French tax statements and some people who had, mistakenly, not declared in France due to having only UK income, have solved this by talking to the tax office to do so retrospectively. It is also proving useful to ob­tain a mairie letter attesting how long you have lived in the area (especially useful in small communes where you are personally known to them). Ms Henderson said the appointments problem is compounded by the fact that people’s experiences vary from visit to visit or the mood of the official. “Its hard for them too – they have to make sure people don’t get what they’re not entitled to, and they lack resources – the government is trying to cut down on fonctionnaires and we’re creating new work. “Maybe the French are irritated with us and with Brexit, but so are we. “This is causing us to be a ‘problem’, whereas we weren’t one before. People have had the rug pulled from under their feet, it’s not what we expected and we want to remain EU citizens.”

What to do to get ready for Brexit THERE are many areas of life that could be affected by a no-deal and various ways to prepare. There is in-depth information on this in our Brexit and Britons in France helpguide – you can order a copy at the helpguide section of our website or by calling +33 (0)6 40 55 71 63. Other sources of help include the Brexit section of connexionfrance.com, campaigners’ website britishineurope.org and sites of their individual groups such as remaininfrance.org and brexpatshov.com We recommend anyone eligible to vote in UK general elections ensures their voter registration is up to date and that they have made known their choice of voting option, which includes postal or proxy. This will be important if there is another snap general election or referendum. If in doubt get in touch with the elections service at the British constituency where you were last registered. You can register at gov.uk/register-to-vote Other key points to prepare include: n Make sure you have been filing your annual tax returns with the tax office if you are a full-time resident of France. If not, as stated in the tint box above, many Britons have found their tax office to be understanding if people explain they have made a genuine mistake. n If you have not applied for a carte de séjour yet, do so. Some people report smooth, painless experiences, others

report difficulties and delays. If your experience is of the latter kind, do not give up but make use of the various avenues available (see also letters, page 16). A carte is the best way to prove your right to stay, whether or not there is a deal (unless you have French or another EU nationality). Also tell the embassy of problems by emailing france.enquiries@fco.gov.uk If you are disabled or elderly and live in an area with a queuing system call your prefecture and explain the problem and ask for them to make an exception and see you at a set time. We recently gave this advice to a reader and it worked. n If you drive in France with a UK licence, apply to change it for a French one. Delays are reported (see our September edition) but officials say they are working to cut waiting to three or four months. If there is no deal a British licence would be invalid in France without a British international driving licence (for which you need a UK address) or a sworn translation. It would also be valid for a maximum of a year, apart from for holiday visitors. The UK says French licences would still be valid to use in the UK. n If you have a UK passport coming up for renewal, renew it quickly. Britons travelling in the EU on a passport with less than six months to run could be stopped at the border after a no-deal, whereas they would previously have been let through. The UK

now no longer allows people to renew up to nine months early without losing months off the new passport, so your new one will not last a full 10 years. UK passports printed between March 30, 2019 and the launch of blue passports (possibly later in 2019) will look similar but will not say ‘European Union’. n Take legal advice if you are involved in cross-border disputes between the UK and France (child custody for example). The UK confirms that many rules on mutual recognition of court judgements and judicial cooperation would no longer apply in a ‘no deal’. It says it will seek to give certainty to firms, families and individuals involved in cases on Brexit day and broadly-speaking, as far as the UK is concerned, current rules will apply to those cases. However it cannot guaranteed that EU courts will follow this or that they will recognise resulting judgements. n If you receive income in sterling, consider taking financial advice as to any ways to ‘Brexit proof ’ it as much as possible against possible currency swings. n If you are not in the French health system consider applying to join Puma on residency grounds. n If you have British qualifications that you rely on for the work you do in France, seek official recognition of your certificate before the UK leaves the EU.

October 2018


n Scotland’s highest court has agreed to refer a question to the European Court of Justice as to whether the UK has the right to cancel article 50 unilaterally. Barrister Jolyon Maug­ham says this is important because if the UK cannot do so any decision to withdraw would require agreement of the other states, who might impose conditions such as giving up opt-outs and the UK rebate. If the UK does not cancel, and the talks are not extended (which the UK has not asked for and which requires unanimous agreement) a deal must be agreed or UK will exit without one on March 29, 2019. Meanwhile French barrister Julien Fouchet expects this month to hear from the EU’s General Court if his case for Britons, including Second World War veteran Harry Shin­ dler, will get a full hearing. He is challenging the negotiations’ legality, based on the impact on UK expats, many of whom were excluded from the referendum due to the ‘15-year rule’. He has submitted new impact evidence showing some Britons are being barred from registering to vote in the EU elections next year. He has also launched a social media campaign seeking European solidarity against Brexit (tinyurl.com/ya5h5ykh). n A European citizens’ initiative seeking signatures to support EU citizenship as a right for life is gaining traction. A protest list has been set up for Britons in France, who are excluded from it (tinyurl.com/ybal49nt). n CIVIL rights group New Europeans hopes winning the Schwarzkopf Europe Award 2019, for promoting European understanding, will boost its ‘European green card’ idea. The proposal, which has support from MEPs, would involve the EU issuing a card to expats who have obtained an EU right of permanent residency in the country where they live, guaranteeing their ongoing free movement rights in Europe regardless of whether their state of nationality is still an EU member. They propose the cards would also be issued to Europeans in the UK with ‘settled status’. The group now has prototype cards. For more see tinyurl.com/ne-greencard n RECOGNITION of EU food pro­tection labels (such as Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is one of the areas remaining to be finalised in the Brexit talks. It includes 15% of EU exports and 3,000 items, ranging across French wines, cheeses and meats as well as British produce like Jersey Royal potatoes and Stilton cheese. It means for example, ‘Cornish pasties’ must be made in Cornwall and Champagne in Champagne. Negotiator Michel Barnier says the EU does not want protections to be lost allowing the UK to claim regional specialities which did not originate there.

October 2018

Doyen des poilus went off to First World War at 76 THE statue in Auxerre town centre honours a simple soldat but an unusual man – Charles Surugue, the oldest French soldier in the First World War. He signed up at the age of 76, making him the doyen des poilus - or oldest of the hairy men, as the troops were known. As commemorations mark the centenary of the end of the war, few outside the Burgundy town will know of its ex-mayor, a civil engineer who joined the army in March 1915. He had fought in the FrancoPrussian War in 1870, reaching captain, and as a sapeur in 1915 demanded to go to the Front. Joining sappers at Ar­tois, the Somme and Verdun, he dug trenches and rebuilt roads and bridges, often under fire. He was cited for bravery three times and awarded the Croix de Guerre after Verdun. He refused tasks suited to his age and was reported to be “constantly giving those in whose midst he lived the most beautiful example of military

virtues”. The municipal archives in Auxerre have a front-line interview with Mr Sur­ u­ gue, who said: “I was surprised at the Croix de Guerre as I did nothing for it, less than my comrades. They are just honouring my age!” He added: “The only benefit of age is to have better moral support than the younger ones. I can speak of how I felt in 1870 when we halted a superior army that was formidably organised.” Auxerre will honour him on November 10 with anciens combattants laying a wreath at his statue. Mayor Guy Férez said: “Charles Surugue had an extraordinary life. “Fiercely anti-church, he was a visionary mayor, building the market hall, schools, theatres and barracks: he changed the town’s image. His war service was no less extraordinary so he was re-elected mayor in 1919. “We are going to renovate Place Charles Surugue in the town centre with a plaque to let people know of his service.”

connexionfrance.com Photo: Archives municipales d’Auxerre / Section photographique de l’armée

The Connexion

White-bearded in the image of the poilus, Charles Surugue in a trench he was digging on the front line at Toul, Lorraine

News 7

€200 bank charge limit is ‘too high’ PLANS for a €200 annual limit on bank penalty charges for the poorest clients have been criticised by consumer groups as doing too little and aiming at the wrong people. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said: “Today, the poorest people are most vulnerable to bank charges. Some on low incomes might pay up to €400, €500 or €600 per year in bank charges. It is unacceptable.” But with the Banque de France saying 3.6million people are in financial difficulties, consumer groups UFC-Que Choisir and 60 Millions de Con­sommateurs said he was targeting too few. The limit applies only to the 351,000 clients on €3-a-month basic Offre client fragile (OCF) accounts but does not help the 2.4million eligible for the OCF who do not have one but pay an average €360 a year in charges. Que Choisir said the limit was too high as average penalties for OCF clients are €190. The groups said one in four of all customers pay penalties, for example for bounced cheques, making banks €6.7billion – nearly 40% of their daily banking activity – at a profit margin

of 86%. They said limits should apply to all bank customers and be set in law as banks failed to self-regulate on fees in the past. Launching his proposal, Mr Le Maire said: “We are betting on banks’ cooperation. I hope they play the game. If our ideas are not working in six months, we will take other measures.” The FBF banking federation replied that banks would set a limit but based on “their own costs and inclusion policy”. The moves are proposed in the Loi Pacte plan for growth which is before parliament. It also includes a move to extend the OCF to more clients. But 60 Millions de Con­ sommateurs said MPs should protect the 25% of people who run out of cash regularly rather than follow banks’ wishes and set limits only for OCF clients. Banks would then clear them off into a special Banque de France social banking package. Ordinary banking fees (before penalties) vary from €31-€50 a year with online-only banks to €300-plus for high street banks. Check bank costs at the government comparison site at tarifs-bancaires.gouv.fr.

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8 News


The Connexion

October 2018

‘I have set a date to die, I don’t want to live a tedious old age’

‘At source’ tax to go ahead including on foreign income

PEOPLE should be allowed to ‘opt out’ of the ‘tedious’ years of old age, according to a prominent French right-to-die activist, who claims to have set a date for her own death. “Life is a right, not an obligation”, said Jacqueline Jencquel, 74. She caused a storm when she admitted in a video on the pop culture site Konbini that, despite being in good health, she had decided to end her life at a Swiss clinic in January 2020. She said “you have got to fix a date if you want to leave in the way you want”. Ms Jencquel told Connexion her decision followed years of activism against French laws on the end of life. She is a former vice-president of Associ­ation pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignité (ADMD), which argues those with serious, incurable illness and constant pain should be allowed euthanasia (as in Belgium or the Netherlands) or assisted suicide (as in Switzerland). Both are illegal in France, but people can write a ‘living will’ to say they do not want to be kept alive at all costs. A law that allows terminally ill patients to be put into a state of ‘deep and continuous sedation’ until they die was passed in early 2016. Born in China to a French father and Russian mother, Ms Jencquel spent part of her childhood in France and part at an English boarding school. “My parents fled from China, then Indochina and then lived in dodgy Paris suburbs, which I hated. I left as soon as I had my Bac,” she said. The twice-married activist has three sons and has been married to her second husband for 45 years. They lived for a long time in Venezuela. She said she loves her husband but their marriage is ‘unconventional’. He spends his time in Switzerland with his girlfriend while she lives mostly in Paris. Ms Jencquel said she has “thought about death”, since her lycée days. “We used to study philosophy, and suicide was an essential philosophical question. “I know Richard Dawkins and agree we’re programmed to reproduce but after that we must find some other meaning to our life. “The universe doesn’t owe us an explanation for us being here. I battled with this once my children grew up and left. “I got involved in the right to die 12 years ago when I picked up a book on euthanasia. I found the author and we decided to create

‘AT SOURCE’ taxation WILL go ahead from January 1 2019, as planned, the government says – and those with certain incomes from abroad are also now expected to be affected as well as those with incomes from sources in France. It comes after doubts had been raised over whether or not the planned move to a prélèvement à la source (PAS) tax system, which have already been delayed a year, would be delayed again – or even cancelled. Newspaper Le Parisien had claimed seeing a Finance Ministry report which revealed that trials had shown the new systems to be full of technical bugs. The paper quoted a ‘high official’ saying that going ahead in January would be like “playing Russian roulette”. President Macron demanded clarifications from the Public Accounts Minister Gérald Darmanin, who met with him and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, however they have now confirmed that the changes will go ahead. Mr Philippe said on TF1 television news that while the changes would be “technically complex”, “we have the guarantee, the certainty and the conviction that this reform will be put in place in a good condition”. He added the president was being “exacting” but was not “hesitating” about the reform. The way certain kinds of income will be dealt with under the PAS system has been subject to various modifications and clarifications – for example, see page 36 for the latest information for small businesses and those who employ help at home. It has also been announced that those who have previously benefited from tax credits such as for paying people for services in the home or donations to charity will now get a 60% advance on January 15, based on the credit obtained in the previous year (this was previously announced as 30%). There will then be a readjustment (with a balancing payment if appropriate) in summer 2019. Those who normally pay French tax should by now have received their avis d’imposition statements for their declarations of 2017’s income, which will include on them the rates which are expected to be used for any ‘at source’ tax payments next year. These will be transmitted to employers and pension bodies for those with French jobs and pensions. From January, ‘at source’ tax will be taken off where appropriate. There will be no tax on 2018 incomes (at least not on ones that you ‘habitually’ receive, as


‘You have to fix a date if you want to leave in the way you want’ Jacqueline Jencquel

a Venezuelan right-to-die movement. Later, at a world congress, I met the president of ADMD, who said I should campaign in Europe because I speak several languages. “So I had my excuse to leave Venezuela, where I was depressed, living a comfortable life, with staff, but never leaving the house because there was a lot of insecurity. “I was thinking ‘what’s the point of going on’, but for the last 10 years I’ve found my meaning for life in campaigning for death.” However, she has reached a point where she is starting to “let go of things” and no longer has an official role at ADMD. She says the group is modest in its demands because in France “we don’t even have the right to choose when we are incurably ill”. “Practically, things are difficult; the doctors are now allowed to give ‘deep and

continuous sedation to death’, but only if the prognosis is fatal at very short term.” Many people are ‘indignant’ about her decision to die, Ms Jencquel said, but she said no one is in perfect health at her age, although she prefers not to talk about her health issues, because ‘it’s not dignified’. What “terrifies” her, in particular, is being unable to die in Switzerland, because they require people to take a lucid decision. She said her memory is ‘unreliable’ and added that she does not want to end up like her father, who had Alzheimer’s. She favours a choice for those with incurable serious illnesses, or over-75s, but says there should be checks to ensure a person chooses freely. In Switzerland, patients are filmed expressing their wishes. “If you’re not completely lucid and determined the police will arrest the doctor”. Many are really just “asking for help” and need counselling instead, she said. Euthanasia is unsuitable for someone who is just upset over a lost job or a break-up, however such people should be listened to, to avoid them trying to take their own lives – which she said often leaves people with disabilities from botched attempts. Her decision developed over time and in discussion with loved ones. “It’s not spurof-the-moment or a cry for help.” Ms Jencquel said she never expected so much media interest in her story – it came after a journalist read her blog (blogs. letemps.ch/jacqueline-jencquel) – but decided to “battle for the cause as best I can”. However, some inaccurate things have been said, such as she wants to “die beautiful” (“it’s ridiculous, I’m 74; I don’t think I’m beautiful”). Another reportedly claimed she thinks dependent elderly people in care homes should be euthanised. She added: “Think of four seasons: spring till you are 25, summer till you are 50 and autumn till you are 75. Then comes winter. Some like it, others don’t. Why force anybody to freeze if they hate it? Living past 75 is fine for some people and tedious for others. I am just asking for a choice.” Connexion approached the Conférence des Evêques de France for a comment but it said it would not be appropriate. The church has previously stated its opposition to euthanasia saying the “freedom to decide is illusory and locked up a person in the solitude of their decision”.

opposed to any exceptional, one-off sums), so that people are not having to pay double amounts of tax in 2019. Self-employed people and those with property incomes will pay instalments by direct debit from their bank accounts that will be based on 2017’s income in the first part of the year and then based on 2018 income from September. These will be paid on a monthly basis by the 15th of each month, or every threemonths for those who have notified their tax office of their preference for this. Régula­ risation adjustments (extra charges or refunds) will be applied in August or September 2019. When it comes to incomes from abroad, the government says it is not concerned if they are those that are subject to a tax credit for French tax, eg. ‘government’ pensions (for retired teachers, civil servants etc) and UK rental and letting income. However, other kinds of regular income from abroad are to be subject to instalments, as described above for French self-employment and property incomes. This could include, for example, foreign pensions or the salaries of frontier workers who live in France and work abroad. Non-residents are concerned by PAS if they have regular French source incomes such as from French work, pensions or rental income. Note that according to the Fédération des Auto-Entre­ preneurs, those micro-entrepre­ neurs who already pay income tax on a system of regular (monthly or three-monthly) payments during the year are not concerned by PAS, as they already pay their income tax ‘in real time’. To help those seeking information about the new system a helpline has been put in place (in French) on 08 11 36 83 68 and this line will be free from January. At present it is six centimes a minute (plus the usual cost of a local call, if applicable).

The Connexion

October 2018


Photo: © Commune de Marie

‘Maries’ of France rally to save small Marie church

by CLAIRE McQUE A MEDIEVAL church has been saved after an ingenious fundraiser that won support from round the world ... mostly from people linked to the name ‘Marie’. In all, €36,000 was raised when Gérard Steppel, mayor of the Alpes-Maritimes commune of Marie, played on the village’s name for support to finance renovation of the Eglise Saint Pons. With just 112 inhabitants, Marie is the smallest commune in the Nice arrière-pays and could not afford the €149,000 needed after the church was damaged by fire. But it is the only village with the name in all France, so Mr Steppel thought to appeal

to people with the name ‘Marie’ to donate one euro to help finance the work. He received an unprecedented response, with more than 800 people donating money, for a total of just over €36,000. More than half the donors were either named Marie, had Marie as one of their first names or had a relation called Marie. Mr Steppel said: “It was a little miracle as we received money from France but also Spain, the UK, Australia and Panama and they came with both heart-wrenching and heart-warming tales. “One woman said it was in memory of her daughter, Marie, who would now have been in her 30s. Another 91-year-old said her mother was called Marie and gave €5 as she

had only a small pension. They were wonderful gestures.” Dating back to 1066, the church has two 17th century paintings by Giovanni Rocca and a colourful olive wood statue of the Virgin Mary, but it suffered after a fire in 2010 which destroyed part of the roof. Part of the cost of the planned works will be met by the department and region but a partnership with the Fon­dation du Patri­ moine gives donors a tax benefit in France of 66% of the donation. Money is still being raised on the Fondation site (tinyurl.com/y7mvfp7w) and allows extra work: restoring two chapels, tiling the entrance, fixing the lighting, as well as €2,000 to replace an angel statue.

News 9

Get out into nature for a cheap and fulfilling adventure A NEW French project inspired by a British adventurer aims to provide inspiration and suggestions for nature-based activities which do not involve travelling far from home or paying much. ‘Micro-adventures’ in Paris, for example, include listening to the rutting cry of stags in Rambouillet forest, enjoying stand-up paddle surfing, or going longboarding (a kind of large skateboard) by a river. The project is run through a website, called Chilowé to evoke ‘chill away [from home],’ and was co-founded by former lawyer Thibaut Labey, 32, after a four-month €30,000 trip by tuktuk motorised rickshaw through 17 countries from Cam­­bodia to Paris with two friends… “Back in Paris I thought I’d be bored and never have such a sensational time again.” However, he then went on a long bike ride through France that “took three hours’ planning and cost a few hundred euros” and was equally satisfying. “When I heard about micro­ adventures – a term invented by

Fears as vaccines and drugs in short supply PHARMACIST trade bodies in France are sounding the alarm on recurrent vaccine shortages. A Senate inquiry heard criticism on a lack of information and transparency from manufacturers – while manufacturers complained of increased regulation, varying demand, logistical problems of keeping vaccines cool, and a lack of understanding of the long lead time, sometimes three years, needed to make some vaccines. Medicines, too, have been affected with supplies of high blood pressure drug Val­sartan suddenly cut to 600,000 people after an impurity was found at a Chinese manufacturer. The Académie de Pharmacie said more than 500 drugs had been in short supply last year – an increase of 30% on 2016 – with cancer drugs, antibiotics and vaccines the hardest hit.

It puts local chemists under pressure. In Barbezieux, Char­ ente, pharmacists said Pneumo­ vax, which protects against chest infection and is prescribed for those with weakened immune systems and/or receiving heavy cancer treatments, was often out of stock. One had just two doses in stock but had run out previously. “We try to get new supplies quickly or to help each other in the town, but usually everyone has problems at the same time.” Calls to wholesalers and manufacturers had produced no answer leaving chemists “frustrated at being in the dark”. Pneumovax manufacturers MSD Vaccins, part of the Merck group, could not speak to Connexion about the shortages. France’s main vaccine maker, Sanofi, told the Senate inquiry it was working to communicate

better with pharmacies and to anticipate demand. Both Senate and the Académie de Pharmacie sounded the alarm but noted that other European countries were also seeing a degradation of service. The situation was made worse in France due to its pricing system for drugs, which meant companies sent scarce stocks to countries that paid more. Shortages of vaccines come as a rise in people refusing vaccinations has seen the return of diseases such as measles, scabies and syphilis. With 41,000 cases of measles in the first half of 2018 this is seven times the number in 2016. Doctors said an infected person could infect up to 18 other people and that it needed 90% vaccination coverage to stop the spread, but today only 80% were being vaccinated.

France to support Algerian war soldiers NEARLY 60 years after the end of the Algerian war the government is to honour President Macron’s election pledge and give help to the harkis, Muslim Algerian troops who supported France. The French army had recruited 150,000 Algerians to fight in the 1958-62 war of independence but when it pulled out it is thought up to 75,000 men plus their families were left in Algeria to face bloody reprisals.

Up to 90,000 troops were repatriated to France but shunted into insanitary camps or tented villages before being housed in large urban estates without any real integration. It was 1974 before they were recognised as anciens combattants with welfare rights, 1983 that the war started to be taught in schools and 1999 that it was ratified as a war. Now reparations and an official recognition are expected.

Briton Alastair Humphreys – it tied in. You can have amazing experiences, outside in nature, with discoveries and pushing your boundaries, with a minimum of time and organisation and not far from home. It’s about living better with less.” Chilowé was created with fellow outdoors enthusiast Fer­d­in­ and Martinet and they have 15,000 subscribers to a Francewide activities newsletter plus Facebook groups in 10 cities. They release a Paris guide this month with others planned for Nantes, Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux after a crowdfunding campaign for the Paris book raised more than €33,000, four times more than the target. “We raised our target in under five hours, which showed there’s a real need out there – people need to get out into nature and in Paris they don’t know where to go,” Mr Labey said. People who join can try outings such as canoeing the Loire or a Vercors snow­shoe trek or even a challenge such as a bike ride to find a regional speciality.

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Firefighters still pay tolls on motorway

Dolphin protesters disrupt public show

POLICE and firefighters still pay to use motorways while on emergency calls, despite being exempted from tolls in 2017. The law changed but it is still not in place as talks had “fallen a little behind because concession companies’ contracts provide they be compensated for the loss of earnings”, the transport ministry said.

Animal rights activists mounted a protest against keeping dolphins in captivity by disrupting a public show at the Parc Astérix, in Oise. The silent protest from the One Voice group saw activists line up in front of spectators, holding banners with “Pour Femke” (a park dolphin).

Wedding postponed due to rowdy party a couple whose wedding entourage was deemed to have broken public “good behaviour” rules have seen their marriage postponed. The mayor of Nice ordered the two-day halt after guests flouted a “good behaviour charter” that all couples must sign before they can marry at the city’s Hôtel de Ville.

Intermarché opens up to older people OLDER shoppers are targeted by a new concept supermarket from Intermarché that is planned in Normandy. The Bien Chez Moi concept includes a range of services and products aimed to appeal to and help seniors. The shop will also offer tips on healthy eating, help with admin tasks, and even advise on home furnishing and design.

October 2018

100,000 join climate protest marches across France

Paris ‘to halve waste in landfill by 2030’ Paris has joined 22 other cities and regions in pledging to reduce its waste by half by 2030, as part of a global project named Coalition C40 Cities. The measure aims to cut waste by 87million tonnes per year. This, in turn, will reduce greenhouse gases that would otherwise be produced through burning of the rubbish.

Homeopathy course hit by national row Lille University’s Faculty of Medicine has suspended its diploma in homeopathy for the academic year 2018-19 amid a national row over the efficacy of “alternative medicines”. The university said it was, “waiting to know the position of [health authority] the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) and national debates on the position of this subject and its teaching”.

MORE than 100,000 people marched in climate change protests across the country, with marches in Paris and major cities in what protest organiser 350.org called “the biggest demonstration for climate ever organised in France”. Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris alone, from Place de l’Hôtel-deVille to la Place de la République, with 18,500 police maintaining security. Organisers said the Paris event drew more than 50,000 people but police

Parents vote for school uniforms

estimated it as 18,500. Lyon saw 10,000 people – according to police and organisers – while Toulouse had 8,000-12,000 (police est 3,500); Lille 4,600 (police: 4,000); Rennes 3,000-5,000; Strasbourg 3,800; Marseille 2,500 (police: 700) and Nantes 1,200. In Bordeaux, thousands walked 3km to the site of the Climax eco-friendly festival. Marches were also seen in Rouen, Caen, and Le Havre. The events were prompted after a

dressed in uniforms, following a vote by parents. The decision was made by public ballot following a consultation with parents in early June. A total of 62% voted in favour of uniforms, which will be compulsory in all schools in Provins from November.

PUPILS in one Seine-et-Marne commune will return to school after the Toussaint holidays

Photo: Sun Trip / Mélissa Tremblay / Agence Zeppelin / Facebook

Frenchman cycles to China in solar bike race

LILLE cyclist Romain Neauport has completed a 12,000km race from Lyon to Canton in China, using an electric bike powered by solar energy. He travelled via Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan to China in the race where he finished 8th out of 60. He said: “The aim is to show we can be energy independent when using an electric bike, thanks to solar panels. Many do this race with prototypes, but we did it with one of our [usual] electric VTT models.”

The Connexion

connexionfrance.com Photo: luciferal / Twitter

10 News in brief

Halogen lights go out in France and EU Halogen lightbulbs’ days are numbered after a change in EU regulations to stop new sales after current stocks in shops in France and other member states have run out. Energy agency Ademe said just 7% of the energy used to power a halogen gave light, the rest was heat. Almost twothirds (63%) of the bulbs sold in 2016 were LEDs, which use a fifth of the energy of halogen.

Facebook post from 27-year-old Maxime Lelong after ecology minister Nicolas Hulot resigned. Mr Lelong wrote: “I am about to become a father, and I would like my son to have a livable planet.” The marches went ahead on the back of an international action campaign, called Rise for Climate, which prompted many other marches for action on the climate around the world, including in San Francisco, Sydney, and Lima.

MPs’ salt tax call targets ready meals A salt tax may be introduced in France after a group of MPs looking into food production said industry efforts to cut down have not done enough. In 2010, Fleury-Michon, Fin­dus and Maggi were among 19 food producers that committed to reducing salt levels. In 2015, industrial producers of charcuterie pledged to cut the amount of salt and fat in 12 new products by 5%.

Skydivers can now jump from 7,700m DAREDEVILS can now skydive from 7,700m after a firm started jumps from nearly double the normal 4,000m. A Vendée company is offering jumps which give two

minutes of free fall... but will also mean the participant must wear an oxygen mask. Tandem jumps – where the participant is attached to an experienced instructor – require a doctor’s certificate, and cost €970 per person.

Second city offers métro 4G internet Lille has become the second city after Toulouse to offer 4G mobile internet connection on its métro transport system and will connect its entire network by the end of 2019. Line 1 of the MEL (Métropole Européenne de Lille) offers internet across its 18 stations, with early reports suggesting it was working well so far. The system was installed by Orange in collaboration with Free, Bouygues, and SFR.

Barefoot for 57km in mountain trek Two founders of France’s first barefoot parks have walked 57km without shoes across Vosges (Grand Est) to celebrate their hobby, businesses and minimalist lifestyles. Denis Duchêne and Cédric Bolmont covered the entire journey between their two parks barefoot in two days on a route that included an overnight stay in St-Martin caves.

October 2018


Photo: Pocket Savage Lpe / Twitter

The Connexion


November Your practical Q&A

Supermarkets first to offer cashback Shoppers can ask for cashback from their supermarket cashier for the first time, as the Casino group prepares to roll the scheme out nationwide. More than 200 Casino Géant supermarkets allow shoppers a retrait gratuit d’argent en caisse to take out between €10 and €50 in cash, but they must be paying for other goods at the same time.

Meat consumption falls 12% in decade MEAT is being dropped from people’s diets as a study shows consumption has dropped 12% in 10 years. Reports put rising prices as a factor along with busy people buying processed convenience food in the week and meat only at weekends. Paris nutritionist Dr Arnaud Cocaul said people had to go further and reduce from today’s 945g a week to 500g (limiting charcuterie to 150g).

Summer 2018 was second hottest ever France baked in the second hottest summer on record this year, with temperatures in July and August 2C higher than normal, Météo France said. Only the summer of 2003 – when temperatures rose 3.2C above seasonal norms – was hotter for the period July 1 to August 31, in records which date back to 1959.

Pregnancy alcohol warning is too small Health minister Agnès Buzyn says “no alcohol when pregnant” warning logos should be larger. Ms Buzyn said one child a day in France is born with health issues because the mother drank while pregnant

News in brief 11

n Does France offer deals n Does my dog need to for ‘seniors’ and, if so, are be muzzled on the train? they just for French people? n Car insurer wants n Why do some prefecpayment up to annual tures require fingerprints renewal date despite sale for a carte de séjour? of car – is that allowed?

Vandals cut chateau’s trees into penis shapes MYSTERY overnight visitors have upset the local mayor by cutting trees in front of a chateau into penis shapes. The vandal “landscape gardeners” left their cuttings in front of the historic Château

but her call for larger “no alcohol” warnings were criticised by wine producers who said it gave a bad impression of their products.

CCTV street slap trial postponed The trial of a man accused of a street attack on a woman in Paris has been postponed for a psychiatric evaluation. CCTV caught the incident at a café and the trial of the 25-year-old suspected of slapping engineer Marie Laguerre, 22, is set for October 4.

Fight to keep key McDonald’s open Residents and employees in north Marseille are fighting to keep a McDonald’s restaurant open after plans to sell it. With 77 members of staff, the site, which the burger giant says has lost €3million in 10 years, is the second-largest employer in an area with youth unemployment of 40%.

Cheaper fast trains to run Paris to south LOW-COST TGV service Ouigo is to run trains from the Gare de Lyon in Paris to Marseille and the Côte d’Azur from December. There will be three return trips per day to Marseille and two more services to Nice, stopping at Toulon, Cannes and Antibes. Tickets go on sale from October 11.

d’Hauterives in the Drôme, along with a pile of empty beer cans. The trees were installed as part of a photography exhibition and had previously been cut into oval shapes.

Bee-killer insecticides are banned FRANCE has banned seven neonicotinoid pesticides in an attempt to halt bee colony collapse and possible resulting crop failure. Available since the mid1990s, neonicotinoids have been used to get rid of poisonous caterpillars, cochineal bugs, aphids, and woodlice, and are among the world’s most commonly used insecticides. They have been blamed for declining bee numbers. Beekeepers have noted a significant decline in hive activity, and a rise in bee death rates since the pesticides were introduced. Their use has been limited by the EU since 2013 and some environmental groups want the French government to go further and ban so-called “new generation neonicotinoids”. Officials agreed the impact on farming was “hard to anticipate” but the food security agency said chemical and non- chemical alternatives such as pest management, crop rotation and even safety nets to protect crops were “sufficiently effective and operational”.

BRITISH fishermen agreed to withdraw from scallop fishing in the Baie de Seine until November as part of a deal with French fishermen, who are banned by law from fishing there in a bid to save stocks. The ‘scallop wars’ had seen skirmishes at sea with stones and smoke bombs thrown.


Virtual assistants ‘a friend for the lonely’ VIRTUAL assistants could help the 25% of French people under 35 who are lonely, by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to become their friend. A retail study of shopping trends found people saw AI as someone to talk to at all times, offer constant company, learn the speaker’s habits and likes, and would not judge them.

INTERVIEW: One of the designers bringing lighting to Lyon’s famous Fête des Lumières + History: Eleanor of Aquitaine + A charcuterie masterclass + Patricia Atkinson in Dordogne, 25 years after A French Affair

Stolen Nazi Renoir is returned to family A RENOIR stolen by the Nazis 77 years ago has been returned to the owner’s grand-daughter in France after the FBI was called in by Christie’s auctions. Sylvie Sulitzer, who lives in Bouches-du-Rhône, was presented with the painting, Deux femmes dans un jardin in New York. However, she said she would have to sell it to repay war victim compensation she had received from both France and Germany.

explore rural france:

Wine tasting tours Photo: Cyril Bez CC BY 2.0

using a bear footprint as a logo. One, Elise Thébault, a shepherd at Salistre, told France Info in her region sheep were kept for milk and gathered in each evening to be milked, so there was less danger. In other regions sheep were raised for meat and left out at night. The release was being kept secret until it happened as Béarn is where, in 2004, the last pure Pyr­é­nées stock bear was shot by a hunter. Today, many hunters support the release as shepherds get state help for lost stock and it brings tourists.

The history and use of the French bidet!

Deal ends scallop wars in Channel

Shepherds welcome bear release SHEPHERDS in the Pyrénées have supported the planned release of two brown bears which are to freed into the wild in Béarn. Previous releases have been marked by demonstrations by sheep farmers, hunters, and other residents, who say bears have always been a danger in the mountains with farmers regularly losing sheep to their attacks. However, a significant number of shepherds have spoken out in favour of the bears, and formed a co-operative to sell their cheese

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The Connexion

October 2018

Kiwis taught me my passion for cheese Photos: Oliver Rowland

OCTOBER is a great time to eat fresh goats’ cheese (as well as spring) and cheese expert Thomas Métin, who discovered his love for French cheese in New Zealand, passes on some tips... such as why you should not keep cheese on the fridge top shelf by OLIVER ROWLAND A FORMER basketball player who fell in love with cheese has set up what he says is now the only cheese maturing cellar on the Riviera, which enables him to sell his cheeses in the best condition and maturity. Thomas Métin, 39, picked his cheese shop premises in narrow, bustling Rue du Marché in Vence’s old town, partly because it had a lower floor ideallysuited to installing a cave d’affinage. It took some time to set up his cellar, to the right hygienic norms and temperature and humidity, he said. “Finding the best way to mature a cheese, from young to old, is a science. I’m still learning a lot, even now. “For example you don’t mature a cows’ milk cheese in the same way as a goats’ milk one, and you don’t treat a cooked, pressed cheese like Comté or Gruyère like you treat a goats’ cheese or Camembert.” The right humidity is essential to keep the cheese moist and to develop the mould in the blue varieties, he said; for example at least 90% humidity for harder cows’ milk cheeses and 80% for the soft goats’ cheese. He keeps his cheeses between 8-10C, comparable to a fridge’s vegetable drawer – which is why you should keep cheeses there, not at the top where it is colder (“if it’s too cold it stops the fermentation; too warm and it develops too fast”). The shop’s location especially appealed to him, he said. “I saw its potential. It’s a market street with many food stalls. In the morning it’s packed with people. There’s a vegetable store opposite and a busy butcher next door, there’s a fishmonger – plus there was the cellar beneath.” Mr Métin said there had been a famous cheese shop with a maturing cellar in nearby Cannes, but the owner had died and his heir had sold off the cellar. He said his is now the last in the Alpes-Maritimes and in demand both from ordinary cheese lovers – who he enjoys taking time

The Kiwis were fascinated ... I wasn’t only talking about the product but about my culture and terroir... it was what I had always wanted to do Thomas Métin

Thomas Métin shows a Corsican cheese with (top) Gaperon, herb-topped goats’ cheese and (below) mozzarella

with, finding just the right cheese for them – and from restaurants. However he does not want to expand too fast and would rather stay ‘niche’. His business Fromagerie Métin (fromageriemetin.fr) moved into the shop in summer 2016, but the maturing cave was completed only recently. “I specialise in products from my region,” Mr Métin said. “I’m from Cagnes-sur-Mer [near Nice] and I have a cheese from the Plateau de Caussols above Grasse, one from Tende and one from Saint-Jeannet, one from Manosque in Provence, and ones from Annot and Dignes in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It’s all part of our Midi [south of France]. “I spoke to the chefs of, for example the [luxury hotels] Chèvre d’Or in Eze, or Martinez in Cannes and Marcel Ravin from the Monte Carlo Bay and all the time they said ‘we want products from here’. Today we need to reduce our carbon footprint. So I decided to go that way.” Mr Métin also has cheese from Corsica. “A lot of chefs want that, but the good stuff. There’s a lot of bad produce from Corsica as there’s not enough milk there so they import milk from Sardinia and stamp it made in Corsica.”

He showed Connexion a Corsican speciality thick with hairy white and green mould. “It looks disgusting but it’s brilliant, and I need it in the selections I offer to the chefs. We need some colour on the platter! It doesn’t look like anything else!” He also pointed out a distinctive, parcel-shaped cheese – Gaperon. “It’s from Auvergne and is made with garlic and black pepper. “It’s strong but wonderful; that’s why people come here – to find something special. I can’t be competitive if I just do the same as everyone else.” On the day we visited he had also had a delivery of fresh, juicy mozzarella from Italy: “Very rare to find – the real thing, pure buffalo mozza­rella,” he said. Getting to know each producer is important, Mr Métin said. “I’ve been doing it 15 years now, so it’s been a long process. Sourcing is all part of the richness of the fromager’s job. They’ve got to trust in you. It’s a real passion for me. I love it.” His route towards cheese mastery was atypical. He earned money playing high-level basketball between age 10 to 26, with other jobs on the side, including working in sport for the

council. A painful knee injury made him reconsider. “When you’re a sport player and you’re not bad, you’ve got clubs calling and giving you jobs, offering apartments… They make your life easy but it stops and then who are you? You need to find yourself. I decided to quit everything and go to New Zealand on a one-way trip.” He found work in a French cheese shop in Auckland, he said. “The owner was from Tours and he had cheese on the ground floor and wine above. That was the beginning – I discovered French cheese at the opposite end of the world. “Then we opened second and third shops in other neighbourhoods. Everyone liked French cheese – it was exotic for them. “The Kiwis were fascinated by French culture in general and when I realised that, I felt that I had found my way. I wasn’t only talking about the product but about my culture and the terroir, and deep inside it was what I always wanted to do.” After meeting a French girl who wanted to go back to Europe, Mr Métin worked at Harrods cheese department in London. “In the interview I had to role-play how to sell

Brie. I just did what I’d been doing in Auckland every day, and they said: ‘you really know cheese’. “In Auckland it was more friendly and casual, but it was a great experience at Harrods because maybe I’d been too laid-back. It was strict and disciplined and the client was king. There were 300 cheeses and I had to talk in my most proper English, instead of a mix of Kiwi and French.” He added: “I also learned about English cheeses – it was incredible, they had a massive variety with so many flavours. I was very surprised. “It’s a really cheesy country, though there are fewer techniques – a lot of English cheeses are the pressed, cooked kind like cheddar, and there are a lot of blues.” Montgomery’s Cheddar, from Somerset, is one of his favourite cheeses, along with Lincolnshire Poacher and Stinking Bishop. He then moved back to France where he worked in small cheese shops in Paris before being responsible for cheese sections in Galéries Lafayette – one of the largest cheese shops in France – and then in their branch in Nice. Now he is enjoying the challenge of creating his own business in his native south, he said. “Since the beginning it was my dream. I could have done it in Paris, but what was the point staying in a city I didn’t love? There’s a real ambience here and my quality of life is as important as the business side. “More and more people want good food and want to know what they have in their plate and be closer to the artisan. Artisanship is important in France but it had started to be lost. “Now they ask where has it come from? How was it made? I can feel a change in society.” Mr Métin said the Alpes-Maritimes is known for goats’ cheese because the animals do not need a lot of green pasture. It is a dry area, and the goats also help keep down vegetation in the summer, avoiding fires. They especially love aromatic plants, he said, and that gives extra floral notes to the cheese. “We use alpines chamoisées, goats that climb into trees to eat the leaves.” In PACA there is a stress on milk quality and seasonality, he added. “If we respect the season, there’s no goats’ cheese between October and March, but today lighting and breeding techniques may be used to have milk later. “But the best milk is the first milking in the spring; fresh goats’ cheese is beautiful then. “Then there is also what we call regain – regrowth in September and October after the grass is cut for silage in August. It’s rich in nutrients so we have very good quality cheese at the start of the season and then at the end. I buy as much as possible made with this regain milk, rather than winter milk.” Mr Métin advised that readers should choose several types of milk for a cheese platter, with sheep’s, goats’ and cows’ and different shapes and colours – and always an odd number which makes for a more interesting, less regular display. Ask the cheese­ monger where the cheese is from and which kinds are at their best.

The Connexion

October 2018

French Life 13


B&B mattresses are sumptuous luxury

Greg Marshall refurbished a number of luxury rail sleeper cars and even breakfast (right) is an Orient Express-style experience

I live in a station and B&B guests sleep in Orient Express carriages by SAMANTHA DAVID Greg Marshall is happy to have found a way to offer people the chance to stay in an Orient Express sleeper car for only €60 a night. “It’s fun, such a different experience; it’s a real vintage Orient Express carriage, the only difference is that it isn’t rolling and the mattresses are better! Everything else is absolutely authentic.” In 2016, he bought the abandoned station at Dracy-Saint-Loup, Saôneet-Loire, to save it from demolition. The ground floor has been refurbished exactly as it would have been when it was originally built in 1882, and the first floor is decorated and furnished in 1940s style. “Except for the bathrooms; they are absolutely modern, luxurious and each one has a spa-bath big enough for two!” But Mr Marshall isn’t the kind of man to content himself with running a B&B. A former US Marines platoon commander, and police officer in California, he enjoys dabbling in electronics, riding motorbikes, skiing, photography, 2CVs, parachuting, and flying planes. He is also passionate about history, having bought the last home of aviator Charles Lindbergh in Hawaii, where he also lived for many years, and he has been involved in the pres-

ervation of railway lines and historic railway stations since 2011. “When I bought this place, people kept coming along, getting enthusiastic and offering me rolling stock. “Museums like the one in Versailles have more stock than they can maintain, so they literally gave me a couple of vintage carriages.” So now, as well as sleeping in the B&B, guests can sleep in a selection of vintage sleeper cars. They have all been refurbished with love and care to be as authentic as possible. “In many cases, the soft furnishings are actually original, and we don’t want to see them damaged, which is why we don’t allow undereights to sleep in them.” His enthusiasm for the station is

Museums like the one in Versailles have more stock than they can maintain, so they gave me a couple of vintage carriages Greg Marshall

The railway station-turned-B&B was built in 1882 to serve the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée line to the south-east matched by his enthusiasm about France. “Look, why do Americans move to France?” he asked. “Love! I fell in love with a fellow pilot in 2003. “We’d known each other, competed against each other for years, and she was French so I flew my plane over to France and we got married. That’s how I moved to France.” Sadly, his wife died four years later of a brain tumour but he decided to stay on this side of the Atlantic. “Some days I don’t know whether I’m alive or dead, because heaven can’t be better than living in France,” he said. “I just love the place and never plan to leave.” In the US he was president of the Make-a-Wish Foundation for chronically and terminally ill children, and he has also served as president of the American Cancer Society. “We aim to continue that work by using our profits at the station to offer disabled people, Second World War vets, and chronically ill or disadvantaged children free holidays here. “We can give them free accommoda-

tion and meals and, if we run out of money, we can at least offer them a 50% discount.” This is why the station now also has a museum, housed in a Second World War 8/40 railway wagon (so called because it held either eight horses or 40 soldiers.) “When we were doing the original renovation, we dug up a World War Two British sten gun, which we have on display now. There’s a lot to do here, this is like a self-contained

A vintage rail carriage is delivered to the B&B

mini-resort. We have a lot of activities, including a few hand and foot operated trolleys like the ones you see in Charlie Chaplin movies, which children can roll up and down a short length of track. “People can also climb onto and explore our locomotives. “We’re talking to the SNCF about getting more track, but we shall see. We also have a vintage-style café/bar.” No wonder he calls his B&B ‘Le Train des Rêves’.

14 Comment

October 2018

Simon Heffer, the renowned political commentator and historian, turns his gaze to French politics

Nabila Ramdani is an award-winning

French-Algerian journalist who specialises in French politics and the Arab world. Her articles feature in the French national press as well as internationally. She is a regular columnist in The Connexion.

Simon Heffer is also a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs

Success of Channel Tunnel shows need for real-world thinking ARGUABLY the greatest AngloFrench achievement in history is the Channel Tunnel. The incredible link was opened by the Queen and President François Mitterrand in 1994 as a symbol of growing ties between two of Europe’s most powerful countries, and has largely fulfilled all expectations. Not only do undersea trains now transport more than 10 million passengers a year, but huge quantities of rail freight add to the equally massive tonnage of goods moved more conventionally on Calais-Dover ferries. Remember that this small stretch of the English Channel is a natural barrier to invasion – one that has protected Britain for centuries – meaning it has to be policed as a closed border, while also remaining open for business round the clock. This strange contradiction furthers the Tunnel’s status as a modern marvel, but such a reputation is set to be challenged significantly as we approach Brexit. While spectacular engineering underpinned the Tunnel’s creation, something far more innovative will be required to keep everything running as smoothly as it does today. The worrying dichotomy is between Britain quitting the European Union single market and the customs union, while wishing to carry on as before. Optimists believe goods can still pour backwards and forwards between the UK and the Continent. The continuation of this frictionless trade is certainly a priority for Prime Minister Theresa May. She is confident it can be maintained by adhering to the EU’s ‘common rule book’ that harmonises standards and regulations among all member states. This aspect of Mrs May’s Chequers Plan sounds simple enough, except that it is thoroughly illogical: how can Britain leave the EU while effectively remaining in it? ‘Having your cake and eating it’ best translates into ‘avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre’ [to have the butter and the money from the butter] and it is a phrase that is becoming increasingly common among French technocrats struggling with the Brexit conundrum. At the moment the EU is Britain’s biggest trading partner. France is just a 31-mile sprint

The Connexion


through the Channel Tunnel, yet the UK’s prime ambition is to negotiate new free trade agreements in other parts of the world. All well and good, but this will make the brilliantly functional Tunnel far less important, as Dover-Calais becomes a troublesome route wracked by delays and worse. As things stand, lorries do not have to fill out paperwork, or even be checked, if they are coming from other parts of the EU. All that will immediately change with a hard border, with pessimists predicting not only gridlock and unavoidable stoppages, but food shortages in an isolated, bureaucracyobsessed Britain too. As in the late 20th century, when the Tunnel The sooner was built, technology is the British once again government mooted as a possible starts solution – not offering only for the Dover-Calais Channel border, but the Tunnel-style potentially far more divisive solutions, one between rather than the Republic of Ireland and magical Northern possibilities, Ireland. It is claimed the better that everything from border checks and freight traffic can be handed over to state-of-the-art computer and camera systems, alleviating all encroaching problems. Musings about ‘the latest technology’ and a ‘revised border concept’ are bandied about by British ministers, but we have yet to be told exactly what all this means. France is particularly sceptical. Hundreds of extra customs officers are being drafted in to ports such as Calais, because there is simply no proof that the “whole load of new technology” boasted about by the last UK Brexit Secretary, David Davis, who resigned in July, even exists. It is in everybody’s interest for crucial border issues to be solved, and the sooner the British government starts offering Channel Tunnel-style solutions, rather than magical possibilities, the better.


ven before the really bad things started happening, Le Figaro termed the resumption of President Macron’s political activity after the summer holidays “une rentrée calamiteuse”. One now seeks more desperate adjectives. The president has lost two senior colleagues. Nicolas Hulot, his environment minister, chose on August 28 to present his resignation not in the traditional form of a letter following a private conversation, but on live radio, saying he had endured a series of “disappointments” in trying to secure policies to respond to climate change; claiming he felt isolated. The last straw appears to have been an announcement that the government was easing restrictions on hunting, which suggests muddled thinking by M Hulot. Countries that allow hunting and shooting paradoxically encourage the spread of wildlife, because hunters need to conserve things to hunt. However, M Hulot said the change has made him grasp the power of lobbyists. Since he used, as a green activist, to be one himself, he should have worked that out before. However petulant, self-righteous and ill-mannered his means of leaving the government might seem, it appears to have convinced environmentalists in France and around Europe that the Macron régime does not really believe in green policies. Then Gérard Collomb, who as minister of the interior might have been thought to hold one of the best jobs in French politics, announced he would be quitting the government next year to concentrate on regaining his old job as mayor of Lyon. This prompted not merely accusations that he was now a lame duck minister, but of his putting his political career before the security of the French people: M Collomb superintends the fight against terrorism, which few French in any case thought was being prosecuted with the intensity it merits.


e announced his intentions the day after an LREM député (MP), Frédérique Dumas, said she was leaving the Macronist party because she felt as though she were on the Titanic. M Collomb at least tried to put a positive gloss on what the government was seeking to do, comparing the programme of reforms it has announced to ketchup stuck in the neck of a bottle: a few more thumps on the base and the sauce will suddenly come out. It is an interesting analogy, but one that has some justification. Having been in power for the best part of 18 months, M Macron has instituted tax and welfare reforms that have yet to work through the economy and stimulate growth in the way he hopes. Yet economic history suggests he is on the right lines: Margaret Thatcher, taking over a similarly sclerotic socialist state in Britain in 1979, had

Calamity upon calamity as all the president’s men begin to see time running out to wait six or seven years before her reforms visibly created wealth and started to reduce unemployment. Restructurings are painful and their effects do not become visible overnight; and M Macron has difficulties because while he has had to rein in France’s generous welfare benefits, and put up taxes on pensions (though that policy has, after massive complaints, been diluted), he has removed a wealth tax and cut corporation tax.


he French will find, if they are patient, that reducing debt will reap long-term benefits, and the tax cuts will attract the creators of wealth and, therefore, the creation of jobs that will bring down France’s unacceptably high levels of unemployment. To try and placate his critics, M Macron has also announced health reforms that ought to provide a better service to those who need it most: the departing M Collomb admitted, to M Macron’s fury, that the administration often showed a lack of humanity. This brings us to the main reason why not just the rentrée, but the whole administration, seems calamiteuse, and that is M Macron’s insufferable grandeur

To be fair to M. Macron, the benefits of change do take time to become apparent; and successive presidents – even those who boasted they would embrace reform, such as Nicolas Sarkozy – have run away from making those changes

and arrogance, which have aggrieved so many of his fellow French. It was bad enough when he foolishly engaged with a lout who, he thought, had been cheeky to him. But then he rounded on an unemployed gardener and told him he would get a job if he tried harder, which sent his opinion poll ratings plunging to 19%, the lowest ever recorded for a president at his stage in an administration. With the European elections less than eight months away, he is behind Marine Le Pen, and if he is not careful will suffer a painful humiliation. Hence the Titanic simile, which is also being used by some of his opponents. Accusations that he is cut off from the French public are no doubt true – very few of them supported him in the first round of the 2017 election, which he eventually won because of the electorate’s determination not to support Mme Le Pen, not because he had an electrifying programme.


ut to be fair to him, the benefits of change do take time to become apparent; and successive presidents – even ones who boasted they would embrace reform, such as Nicolas Sarkozy – have run away from making those changes ever since the foundation of the Fourth Republic after the Second World War. They feared provoking a France that is deeply syndicaliste and has come to depend on the generosity of a state ruthlessly redistributing wealth from the few to the many. Marianne has splashed on its front cover Panique à L’Elysée to sum up the mood around the president as his problems multiply. Panic is not, however, the answer. M Macron needs to explain himself and to persuade. He may not have the six or seven years it took Mrs Thatcher to change the consensus in Britain: he may have just three and a half more. He has further damage to limit in the saga of his former henchman Alexandre Benalla, being tried for impersonating a police officer. He needs to sort out his public relations rapidly: and, perhaps most of all, to stop being so impossibly grand.

The Connexion

October 2018

Super-fast ‘Hyperloop’ train is a pipe dream at best, a con at worst Transpod has set up a test track for its Hyperloop project in Limousin. But Yves Crozet, of Sciences Po Lyon’s LAET Transport, Urban Planning and Economics Laboratory, says speed-of-sound ‘train’ travel is a long way from reality. The Transpod can carry only 50 passengers at a time

Image: Transpod

HYPERLOOP is supposed to revolutionise the future of transport, promising aircraft speeds and Métro frequency - but will it ever happen? Tesla boss Elon Musk first promised that Hyperloop shuttles, flying in a vacuum, could reach 1,200kph, the speed of sound. Now that estimate has been halved, and there are doubts about whether it is even viable. Canadian company Transpod announced in August that it was to start construction at Droux, Limousin. It will become the second French site, after Toulouse in April, to prepare test tracks to catapult shuttles to 1,000kph inside long tubes built on pylons. But Yves Crozet, of Sciences Po Lyon’s Transport, Urban Planning and Economics Laboratory, says commuters face a long wait before they can travel across France at the speed of sound … if it ever happens. Transpod forecasts its first commercial Hyperloop routes wil be running by 2030. Competitor Hyperloop One aims to inaugurate its first line in 2020 at the Dubai World Expo. These forecasts are extremely optimistic. Current tests are being carried out over distances of barely one kilometre and there are many technical obstacles to overcome, such as ensuring tubes are airtight. Ten years ago, technical failures forced Swiss engineers to abandon an earlier magnetic levitation train project. And the

infrastructure question is a giant unknown: how can the pylons and tubes be built in such a short time? It took seven years to build the ToursBordeaux TGV line – and that just involved laying ballast and rails. In the longer term, is Hyperloop an attractive investment in France? Originally, Musk suggested the Hyperloop idea as a rival to a high-speed line in California that was estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars. Musk reckoned that project was far too expensive and delusional, so he proposed an alternative: a tenth of the price and three times faster. Obviously it was an intriguing and attractive option. Today in France we are not talking in the same terms, either in speed or costs. A paper was presented to the National Assembly on the subject, and it spoke of a speed of 600kph – far from Musk’s initial project, which promised nothing less than the speed of sound, 1,200kph. To give an example, a hypothetical ParisLyon trip at 600kph would gain barely an hour on today’s two-hour trip. It has been said that Hyperloop is, at best, a pipe dream – and, at worst, a scam. Even at half

speed, Hyperloop’s speed is still meaningful… but if it is to make a difference in mobility, it must be accessible to as many people as possible, like the car or the TGV. If a mode of transport cannot be made classless, it has no chance of working. We have seen that already in projects in France: look at the aérotrain, abandoned even before it got into service, or Concorde, that flew for only a few years. The two were similar in beating speed records, but only with a very limited number of passengers onboard. While a TGV can carry 1,000 passengers, a Hyperloop shuttle holds a maximum of about 50. What counts for most people is not speed but passenger throughput. Could we not increase the number of Hyperloop departures to carry an equivalent number of passengers? TGV trains can run every three or four minutes. It’s a safety issue: if there’s a problem, the following train needs time to stop. It needs platforms where passengers can disembark. Even by cutting the interval to 10 seconds, Hyperloop shuttles would have fewer passengers than TGVs. This article first appeared in the Journal du Dimanche. Translation by Ken Seaton

migrants were joined by an influx of refugees from the civil war in Spain. They were viewed differently by the authorities and, unless they were lucky, were likely to land up for months in concentration camps built on beaches in the Perpignan region, until the authorities checked there were no dangerous radicals. Bordeaux comic strip author Marion Duclos published a book based on the experiences of Spanish refugees. “Many of them settled in the Bordeaux region and I remember hearing the stories as I had friends whose families had originated in Spain and moved to France in that period,” she said. “My friend’s family were lucky as they knew people who had already arrived and settled and so they were able to avoid the camps.” Mr Combres said Italian and Spanish communities, both working mainly in agriculture and building, lived apart from their French neighbours, and it took a generation or two before they mixed into South West French culture. Later waves of migrants included Portuguese people fleeing dictatorship and hard times, and Harkis, Algerian Muslims who fought for the French in the Algerian war and who arrived in France to escape massacres after independence. Then there are the British, with estimates

of 50,000 to 100,000 living in the South West. Mr Combres said one group of British people could be classified as “migrants solaires”, who moved into the area to retire, attracted by the climate. A second, smaller group were younger, citing lower property prices and a desire for country living for their move. They are active economically, mainly as artisans or in other independent jobs. He classifies a third group as political migrants, unhappy with politics at home and happy to live elsewhere - a group which he said might grow as a result of Brexit. The impact of the British in some areas has been notable. “When you look at the Dronne valley, for example, which was a poor area and was suffering from severe depopulation, the impact of British people coming in and doing up the houses and settling has been considerable,” he said. He added that the impact of the waves of recent immigrants, added to those who had come into the area in historical times, was positive. “The South West has benefited considerably from the mixing of ideas and cultures migrants have brought and we should never forget that,” he said. Joël Combres was speaking at a conference held as part of the Festival international de journalisme, at Couthures-sur-Garonne near Marmande this summer.

South West boosted by newcomers The Ancrage Association seeks to document the histories of migrants – including the British – to South West France. Brian McCulloch listens to a talk by its founder Joël Combres (pictured)

SOUTH West France’s recent history as a land of welcome to migrants has accommodated waves of Italian and Spanish workers and refugees. And, of course, lots of British people. At least 35,000 Italians were encouraged by French governments to move to the region after the First World War to restore production to abandoned farms where the men had been killed or had left the land. It was only following another wave of migration after the Second World War that the government stopped actively seeking immigrants from Italy. “There is no doubt that they played an essential role in keeping agriculture viable,” said Joël Combres, founder of the ‘Ancrage en Partage’ association, which seeks to document the histories of the migrants. In the mid to late 1930s, Italian

Comment 15


Growing trend is for a simple life in the country MANY people move to France in search of a slower “less-ismore” lifestyle with consumerism taking a backseat to family and reduced stress. Now this is becoming the target of more and more French people. Marc Halévy’s book, Simplicité Et Minimalisme, looks at this trend in detail. He says early adopters tend to be between 30 and 50, middleclass and well-educated. and living in rural areas, but the lifestyle has been adopted by people of all ages, from teenagers to the retired. They avoid processed foods, preferring to buy seasonal goods from local producers, are keen recyclers who make and mend rather than replace, and they make their own cleaning and personal hygiene products. They also tend to prefer public transport. “I would estimate that in Europe around 20-25% of households are changing in some way their approach to life, aiming to live more simply, more peacefully, and definitely aiming to reduce their consumer purchasing,” he said. “We have no choice but to change our way of living, because if we continue as we are, endlessly consuming more and more, we will kill the planet. “It’s ironic that the more people earn, the less they buy, and the less they earn, the more they spend on consumer goodies – electronics and white goods.” He notes three main approaches to living a simpler life. “There are people who reject mindless consumerism in favour of making and mending; others who reject wasting their energy on earning ever more money; and a third group who reject an overdose of technology and are choosing to live without social media, mobile phones or television etc. “The three populations can overlap. We see more and more well-educated, professionally successful people leaving big cities to live more simply in the countryside.” He lives a simple life in Bourgogne. “With my adored wife, we live like two bears. We don’t go out a lot and we don’t take exotic holidays. “We have a vegetable garden; we keep chickens and rabbits; cut our own wood to heat the house. We don’t watch TV and I don’t have a mobile phone. “There are lots of similar minds around here. French people, obviously, but also Dutch and British. “We use computers for work but not for our social life or amusement. We have some links with neighbours but we tend to stay at home.” The people who give up materialism find life less stressful, he says, but he admits that it would not be possible to

Get frugal “Frugalisme” is a growing trend in France among fortysomethings who have given up successful careers in favour of less clutter and reduced stress, according to Le Figaro. It reflects a move away from materialism and the drive to own more things as evidenced in the trend towards long-term leasing, rather than buying, of consumer goods. Nantes, for example, has seen the recent launch of Mon Bicloo, France’s first long-term bike hire scheme. Hirers can keep the bikes for as long as they are needed - and then return them. Anthropologist Fanny Parisse told Le Figaro that frugalisme is essentially a middle-class trend, and symptomatic of the evolution of a society in which social success is no longer defined just in terms of professional achievement. The idea of frugalisme is to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Advocates live permanently below their means until they reach a point at which they are financially independent and able to stop work in favour of a less stressful life. Many of those who choose the lifestyle take up volunteer work to keep busy. Le Figaro spoke to one couple taking up frugalisme, which has its roots in America. Both took early retirement aged 40 following the birth of their son to live off the savings they put away while in well-paid jobs. “We had a son, new priorities and different desires,” they said. force people to change. Though, he argues, in the end there will be no choice. “As yet, people aren’t really suffering from the looming energy and climate change crises but, once it does start to hit, we will see gradual changes.” To prove his point he cites the cost of crude oil 10 years ago, when it rose to around $200 per barrel. “That was when people first started changing.” Minimalist lifestyles are not uncomfortable or lacking in anything, he says. “It’s a change of attitude and behaviour which will become widespread. It’s not worse, it’s just different.”

Tell your story

We know many readers opt for a simpler life in France – but are you happier? Share your experiences via news@connexionfrance.com

16 Letters

They said it … An electronic cigarette is not a drug, so adverse reactions are not recorded Dr Anne-Laurence Le Faou

The medical expert explains why a lack of scientific data makes it difficult to say whether electronic cigarettes offer an effective way to stop smoking

A day without a car, but a day with space, cleaner air, less noise, cyclists, pedestrians, fun & smiles! The streets are ours Anne Hidalgo

The Mayor of Paris takes to Twitter on the capital’s car-free day in midSeptember

There will be no more students [per class]. We are maintaining the pupil-teacher ratios Jean-Michel Blanquer

The Education Minister insists 1,800 job cuts across the country will not affect class sizes

Macron is dazzling. Like football. Macron is even better than Mbappé, he’s Zlatan Christophe Castaner

The Executive Officer of La République En Marche! explains his ‘love dimension’ for President Emmanuel Macron

This is one of the best launches we have ever seen Pascal Chaffard

The directeur général adjoint of loto organisers Française des Jeux welcomes the success of the new Heritage Lottery draw

I have no respect for them Alexandre Benalla

President Macron’s former aide reveals his opinion of France’s senators ahead of an official Senate commission hearing into his role after claims he beat protestors. He later said he regretted the remarks

Hotels, cafés, restaurants, I will cross the street and find you some! They just want people who are ready to work Emmanuel Macron

The President’s response to a job-seeker who was speaking of his problems finding work has been widely criticised

Football players, we were the kings of morons Michel Platini

The former Uefa boss does not hold back on his opinion of his contemporaries in ‘the beautiful game’ during the 1980s

You’ll forgive me for not being a woman Richard Ferrand

LREM’s nominee for President of the National Assembly sparked outrage with this comment to a journalist who asked why MPs had not nominated a woman for the position


The Connexion

October 2018

Reader cartes de séjour experiences Recently, Connexion published a list of documents needed to apply for a carte de séjour, which the French Interior Ministry said was a definitive list valid in every French department. The list did not mention needing to produce a birth certificate – however, in the Alpes-Maritimes where I live, they seem to require this. Sue Rothwell Alpes-Maritimes

A ministry spokesman said the list (tinyurl.com/ybly4rya) itself has no legal force but is based on immigration law so prefectures are not supposed to ask for other documents. If an official says another document is required you could ask to see their superior (the chef de service) and / or write to the prefect, heading the letter ‘recours gracieux’. WE SEE repeated articles saying expats in France are entitled to a carte de séjour. I have applied but the prefecture

Health rights will remain

The Connexion article Pensioners told healthcare rights run out on Brexit Day (September edition) contains inaccuracies. Last year, there was a crisis when Urssaf wrote to many UK citizens who had S1 forms telling them they would have to pay for healthcare. The reason was that, under the 2016 healthcare reform and the change to Puma, anyone permanently resident in France is automatically in the French healthcare system and Urssaf wrote to people not knowing they had S1 forms. After Brexit, these rules will not change. Anyone permanently resident in France will be automatically in Puma – though there may be administrative work required to ensure existing cartes vitales continue to work or they may need to be exchanged for new cards. Furthermore, those not well off will have nothing to pay unless their income from capital is more than €9,654pa. It is the S1 cover that will end if there is no withdrawal deal – the right for residents to remain in Puma is guaranteed. Nick LEAPMAN, Charente Connexion replies: Hopefully you are right, and we made a similar point in the article, saying that, logically, anyone in France after Brexit who can prove legal residency status will be able to join Puma, at a fee for those with income from capital above a certain level (€9,933 for 2018 income). However, the French authorities did not confirm this explicitly, despite our questioning. The headline you quote “Pensioners told healthcare rights run out on Brexit Day” is accurate.

in Bordeaux says that, as Britain is still in Europe, nothing can be actioned until March next year. I know other Britons in different areas of France have been given cards. J Cunningham Gironde It is your right as an EU citizen and, in the case of those entitled to ‘permanent residency’ ones, EU law says cards should be issued ‘as soon as possible’ (art. 19 at tinyurl.com/yb69mf7d). See previous reply. If necessary, apply to ec.europa.eu/solvit/ WE had a meeting with the deputy mayor regarding our cartes de séjour recently. After some time researching information on the Vannes prefecture website, we were informed that it is not necessary to apply for a carte at least until December 2020. Colin Owen Morbihan It is not a legal obligation’ yet

but it is highly recommended. Leaving it to that later date assumes there will be a deal and transition period, which is unsure, but even in that case there is no reason to leave it so long as the process usually takes several months at least and prefectures are under pressure. YOUR recent article on cartes de séjour is useful but it does not mention the problems of applying for one. I have applied to my prefecture and received the reply that there are so many Britons applying that they cannot make any appointments. One Briton I asked said they had an appointment for May 2019, two months after Brexit. Does the government care? Clive CHARLTON by email

We have passed on these concerns to central government. They are aware, but the situation in many areas is unsatisfactory (see page 6). You could also tell the British embassy at france.enquiries@fco.gov.uk

Are there really any benefits of video GPs? Your article Thousands to benefit from video GP sessions (September edition) left me perplexed. Who wants them? I cannot imagine anybody choosing them instead of a face-to-face consultation and I certainly cannot imagine country people accepting being treated this way. Two questions come to mind: How will they save the doctor’s time? And what are their benefits? The doctor still has to spend time with the patient so the time argument is nonsense. Who is to gain from this misuse of technology? Let me guess: some private company organising this scam under the pretence of “improving healthcare”. What a joke.

I live in the heart of the Breton countryside. We are far from being in a so-called “medical desert”. I phone for an appointment in the morning and I see my doctor in the afternoon. She always takes my blood pressure and examines me thoroughly each time. How is she going to do that through a video link? Meanwhile on page 4, you tell us that Cpam has started threatening pensioners with withdrawing their carte vitale as the British government is making no certain arrangements for this for after Brexit. That should have been frontpage. That is not going to improve our healthcare. Michael Travis Brittany

MY WIFE and I have just attended our rendezvous in La Rochelle to submit our dossiers for our cartes de séjour. They were accepted by an efficient official who read them cover to cover and receipts were issued. We were informed that there was never a block enforced on British applications and all would be treated properly, our cartes de séjour will be ready to collect by October 15. John-David THORBURN Charente-Maritime In the course of applying for a carte I have had to have several English-language documents translated. Do you think I could bill Johnson or Gove? Brian Cloughley by email We cover cartes de séjour applications in depth in our ‘Brexit and Britons in France’ helpguide, available at our website or by calling 06 40 55 71 63

Official website woes multiplied Registering a UK car here can only be done online via the ANTS site. Finding the correct place on the site is fairly easy. However, when one tries to upload requested documents – such as the C5, proof of ownership – one receives a message that the document exceeds 1MB and attempts to minimise the size of the documents are refused as they are “dangerous”. I spent hours trying to find a solution but decided to pass the task to one of the agencies that advertises this service and claims a 15-minute result. I have had several such experiences with French government websites which leads me to feel that they do not test them properly before opening them to the public. Keith Greenhead, by email

Chauvinism isn’t half of it... What a curious article by Nick Inman in your September issue (The joke is on everyone who takes pride in their chauvinist views). The notion of “extreme nationalism” misses the point of the current upsurge of emotions with regard to nationalism. His piece seems to merge the idea of being a patriot when asked to go to war for your country with supporting your national team in the annual Six Nations. He has missed the simple, altruistic love of one’s country where decent ordinary citizens give their time and taxes to the joint objective of creating a peaceful community with community values which have evolved over centuries. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”

appears over the door of French town halls to remind us all of the relationship between the three components of citizenship. Liberty to do as you would like, so long as you recognise the equality of others to do the same and most significant of all, the brotherhood of respect and sharing of the effort required in order to enjoy the benefits of the first two objectives. The rise of the National Front as a concept is not about being an extreme nationalist, it is about the need to recognise the local resident’s contribution to the community as opposed to the open-door policy which allows all and sundry to parachute into an existing society with the expectation to

enjoy the same privilege as those who worked to create it. Immigration is not the problem: it is the apparent willingness to afford hard-won largesse to anyone who comes to the door. The much-valued notions of Liberty and Equality can never work without the Fraternity to support them. Brian Doswell, by email Nick Inman replies: Many integrate successfully into French society every year. They adopt the values of the French republic and make inestimable contributions to their local communities. French society would be poorer without them. Surely fraternity must extend to them as well?

The Connexion

October 2018

The Connexion letters pages are

sponsored by

Licence to live in France My wife and I obtained French Permis de Conduire in December 2012. In order to obtain these licences we had to be known as being French residents. In our view, we have proof that we are French residents and have been for over the five-year period that has been set as proof of uninterrupted stay in France with regard to obtaining a cartes de séjour. We have lived in France since August 2002, and given that the Permis de Conduire is proof of our status surely this fact would be supported by the European Court of Human Rights ensuring provision of all the services, including medical, that we have been entitled to have since 2002. Melvin GODDARD by email

Liquid rules make sense

Bob SEWARD (letters, September) seems to have made a valid point about liquid limits at airports – but there is method to the madness, as was explained to me a while ago. The average air traveller carries several types of liquid, the overall amount of which is multiplied when she/he travels with companions. It is obviously impossible for each liquid to be analysed as we pass through security. Combinations of certain liquids produce explosives; and a large, mostly-empty bottle provides an ideal mixingvessel. Or bomb. It would be helpful if all airport authorities made clear that little drops must be decanted into little bottles. Trish Miller by email

Letters 17


Navigating the minefield of financial planning in France more details on back page..

Summer stress of life Who lets their dogs out? next to a holiday home We all winced when holiday visitors demanded that church bells be silenced. But this is just the tip of an iceberg. A new house next to us is a holiday let. It is advertised online with photographs cropped to avoid showing our house. So holidaymakers, expecting an isolated house with a private pool on the edge of a village, find it has neighbours in close proximity. Some tell us we shouldn’t travel up and down our drive, as it infringes the privacy of their pool; that we shouldn’t be working in our garden when they are trying to relax. They have paid for this holiday house and we are spoiling it, they say, and ask: Why did we build our house so close to their holiday home? (We’ve been there since 2006, their house was built in 2015). We have suffered late-night pool parties, drunken rowdiness, cigarette smoke and mégots tossed into our garden, music loud enough to be heard inside our house. “It’s only because it’s our last night” but we, of course, suffer several “last nights” in summer. Happily, such holidaymakers are in a minority. Most are very friendly and pleasant families, and often bring presents before they leave, to thank us for the help and advice. But it makes Saturday stressful as we anticipate the next cohort of vacanciers. Liz Jackson, Hérault

Letter of the month

Liz Jackson wins the Connexion letter of the month and a copy of the Connexion Puzzle Book. Please include your name and address in any correspondence; we can withhold it on request. The Editor’s decision is final. Write to: The Connexion, Patio Palace, 41 avenue Hector Otto, 98000 Monaco or email news@connexionfrance.com

Think again on herbicide RE: THE letter from Rex Barron in the September issue (Glyphosate herbicide is no danger to humans). His assertion that “a herbicide … is not dangerous to the human metabolism” is simply not true. All use of 2,4,5-T (one of the Agent Orange ingredients) has been banned in the USA and Canada since 1985 and restricted by the 75 signatory nations of the Rotterdam Convention since 1998. There have been numerous scientific studies of chronic health problems and birth defects caused by herbicide use in Vietnam where as many as 2.8 million US service personnel and 4.5 million Vietnamese civilians may have been exposed. The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that “up to three million Vietnamese have suffered health effects … of whom at least 150,000 are children with birth defects”, and the US government provides healthcare and compensation to 1.4 million US veterans suffering from illnesses associated with Vietnam service (www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/agent-orange-in-vietnam-program/health-effects) With such evidence of death and suffering on a huge scale, Mr Barron’s jolly tale of Air Commando pilots enjoying shots of Agent Orange is both inappropriate and offensive. Richard Conn, Vaucluse

You said it …

My wife and I have lived happily in rural France for the past 14 years, but the only thing that has detracted from our enjoyment is dogs, or to be more precise, owners of dogs who allow their animals to roam freely, including on the public highway. We are keen cyclists and walkers, but have both been attacked by such dogs while out walking and riding on the roads in the countryside. We are now apprehensive

when approaching certain houses, as these dogs come charging out into the road in an intimidating manner. I do not understand why people keep dogs like this, as they appear to me to be neither working animals nor pets. I thought there was a law requiring dog owners to keep animals under control in public areas, but this appears to be flouted in rural parts. John HALL Brittany

What did lord do wrong? Reading the letters sent in to Connexion criticising Nigel Lawson because of his comments concerning obtaining a carte de séjour made me feel ashamed to be British! Lord Lawson had simply commented on obtaining a carte de séjour. His comments were perfectly valid and accurate. Everything he stated was of his opinion, he made that clear. I have just obtained a carte and found the process a little bureaucratic, but it went smoothly and took two visits to the sous-préfecture. Judging by the vitriol aimed at the man, one could be forgiven for thinking he had committed some sort of vile crime. As for voting to stop Europeans from living and working in Britain, what utter nonsense; there was no such vote, pure fantasy given as fact! The head of the CBI was “quoted” as having said “there is zero evidence of the wonderful trading opportunities for Britain to explore”. Really? What about the Australian trade commissioner saying “agreements are on the table waiting to be signed”, or Trump’s comments on trade with Britain post-Brexit? Still, let not accuracy and truth stand in the way of anything! Kenneth Wheatley, Pyrénées-Atlantiques

La Poste scam warning I was called by someone claiming to be from the La Banque Postale Information Department. She said there was a recorded delivery letter for me that was being held in their depot. She told me to call her manager who would give me further information. I rang the number given and was told they needed some information before the letter could be delivered. She said the letter was from

some company in Bordeaux dated 17 April. She kept saying her computer was slow and that was the reason she was keeping me on the phone so long. In the end I put down the phone because I began to suspect it might be a fraud. I checked with my telephone company and I have been charged nearly €10 for an 11-minute call. Mrs M Basmadjian by email

Tax at source and pensions How will taxation at source work for those of us receiving pensions from the UK? I am lucky enough to receive a state pension and an army widow’s pension. I know the state pension, not taxed in UK, is subject to tax here in France, and my army pension is taxed “at source”. I cannot imagine Newcastle taking on the task, and although I read the local newspaper (how often they mention Brexit!), and I have received the letter from the tax office, no mention of how expat pensions will be affected. I have also read that it might not happen after all! Linda Price Vendée

Bank won’t release cash Since selling our holiday home of 30 years, we have been unable to access the proceeds of the sale from a branch of Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne. Our notaire transferred the money to our account in February. Despite multiple attempts to get a response from our account manager, we have not heard from him. We have not returned to Brittany since the sale of the house and our French is limited. We have a French friend who has helped us with various phone calls, emails and letters. Fearing that we may have a problem, we referred the matter to the mediator of Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne based in Brest, who confirmed that our file is supported by them and they will revert to us with a proposal for a settlement within 90 days. Lyn Churcher address supplied

You can debate and comment on articles either at our website: www.connexionfrance.com or via our facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheConnexion Here is a selection of recent popular subjects and readers’ comments...

French Assembly rejects glyphosate ban for second time

French schools to offer vegetarian menu once a week

What’s the point of carte if it says ‘EU citizen’?

Another French commune rules against Linky meters

“Good, because there is NO evidence that glyphosate is anything but an efficient herbicide.” T.D. “I had really hoped that France would lead the way in Europe and stand up to be counted on this issue.” R.S. “There is zero evidence it is an issue. Compare it to alachlor, rotenone, cyanazine, fluazifop, metolachlor, and metribuzin and it looks pretty mild.” S.H. “Chemical residuals at any level should be avoided. I smile at the argument that Agent Orange is slightly safer than some other alternatives.” S.M.

“French chefs need to take time to understand what is meant by vegetarians. A balanced meal. Not just a plate with meat missing.” M.B. “Just because you are vegetarian does not mean you escape agricultural toxins. They are everywhere unless you can source properly regulated organic.” R.A-R. “The French are around 30 years behind in catering for vegetarians.” P.G. “Why be a part-time veggie? Is it not a commitment to a healthier food regime, or a choice not to eat meat? There should be the alternative every day.” B.W.

“One would think it was not beyond the wit of the French bureaucracy to get a calendar-based online appointment booking system in place. We have one in place for our chambres d’hôtes until the end of 2019.” Coquine. “The French ‘bureaucracy’ has a mammoth and no doubt costly task, not of its own making. That was down to a UK PM who is noticeable by his absence. It should not be beyond the wit of UK expats who have left things to the last minute ‘waiting to see what happened’ that with the numbers involved, there would surely be a delay/backlog. The ‘problem’ is complacent Brits.” David

“What’s the problem? I’ve had one of these in my living room for about four years with no damage to health, data or wallet.” M.G. “We’ve had ours for a few months. Better than the wildly inaccurate estimates we had before. The way we glow green in the dark also helps to reduce our electricity bills.” A.W. “I am sensitive to electronics waves. Wifi in particular makes me irritable/agitated. Linky meters apparently have the same affect.” J.B. “A friend had one catch fire in her rental flat. Quite possibly due to faulty installation as Enedis/EDF have very roughly trained installers.” P.C.

18 Practical

Q& A

The Connexion


Has Paca region changed name to be Region Sud?

Readers’ questions answered

Send your queries about life here to Oliver Rowland by email to news@connexionfrance.com

its logo. It has also changed the names of its social media accounts (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook...). A celebrity publicity campaign and film have also been launched called Ici c’est le Sud. Even so, it is essentially a marketing or ‘branding’ exercise and will be used especially to promote the area internationally, as ‘the south (of France)’ is more meaningful to other nationalities than ‘Paca’, which is little known outside of France. This was clarified in the summer after the RN (former FN) opposition in the council protested against the use of the Région Sud name in official documents including minutes of council meetings. It was agreed that the new name would not be used in such contexts. The RN councillors said they would remain vigilant. A local councillor in Aix-enProvence for the regional party le Partit Occitan, Hervé Guerrera, is running a petition which has 32,000 signatures, calling for the region to be called Provence (https://tinyurl.com/y74rxozr). He argues that it is an old name which is known worldwide whereas the meaning of ‘The South’ is less clear.

Changing carte de séjour address I RECEIVED my carte de séjour (residency card) in 2016, valid for five years, and had no problems gaining this with the prefecture in Avignon. Connexion has provided a lot of information about applying for a card but can you explain about changing address when you move? B.M. A CARTE de séjour has the holder’s address on the back of it and in the case of third country (non-EU) nationals there is a requirement to update the card if your address changes. Procedures for this vary – for example the AlpesMaritimes prefecture says people have just eight days from the move to visit and

apply for an updated card while the prefecture of the Hauts-de-Seine requires people to book an appointment through its website. However a spokesman for the section of the Interior Ministry which deals with foreigners’ residency, the DGEF, said that informing the prefecture about a change of address is not required for EU citizens who hold a carte de séjour. In this case, he said you only have to notify the prefecture of your new address when the card comes up for renewal. But, he said, that if you wish to have the card changed to show your new address you should make an appointment with your prefecture (or visit during

the appropriate hours if your local office does not operate via appointments). For a change of address on the card you will need your passport, the card and proof of the new address dating from the last three months. This could be a utility bill, for example, or a rent receipt slip. Those who live free of charge with someone else should bring an attestation d’hébergement (signed statement from the host), a copy of the host’s passport or ID card or carte de séjour, and a copy of proof of his or her address (such as a recent utility bill). A model of an attestation d’hébergement can be found at service-public.fr/particuliers/ vosdroits/R39697.

Can we keep stray dog I found? WE FOUND a stray dog with no ID chip/tattoo, can we keep it? I.G. UNFORTUNATELY not (or not immediately). It is illegal just to keep it even if the dog has no collar tag, chip or tattoo. Should the owner come to light you could be accused of theft! You should take the stray dog to the animal pound (fourrière) for your commune or to the local mairie, police station or gendarmerie who will take it there. The pound is required to try to identify the owner but if they have not been found and have not tried to

retrieve the dog within eight days it is considered abandoned and the property of the pound. After being chipped, the it is then given to an animal charity equipped with shelter facilities – and at that point you could adopt it and become the owner on

payment of costs (the SPA charges €250). Where a dog does have a tattoo or chip number, you can report finding it at the following official site filalapat.fr/trouve-animal. A tattoo, if there is one, is often on the right ear. As for checking whether the animal has a chip, you can take it to a vet and they will check free of charge. Police stations and animal shelters are also equipped to check. If you cannot identify the owner you could also put an announcement on the site petalert.fr or join the community for the application Buzz My Pet.

Can firm insist that I work a bank holiday? My employer told me to work November 1, a bank holiday. Is this legal? F.F.

YES, this is legal. The only bank holiday which must be given as a day off is May 1, paradoxically known as la Fête du Travail (Labour Day). It celebrates achievements in worker rights over the years, such as maximum weekly hours or paid holidays and is obligatoirement chômé (taken off, as a matter of obligation). Other French bank holidays, including November 1

(All Saints’ Day) are considered ‘ordinary’ holidays, which are usually taken off, but do not have to be. When a bank holiday is worked, there is no legal requirement for extra pay or a day in lieu, although in some cases a work contract or convention collective (working conditions regulations for the sector of work) may stipulate otherwise – for example the regulations for people who work in clothing shops state they should get double pay if they work a bank holiday.


The regulations may also stipulate a set number of bank holidays that must be given off per year, at the employer’s discretion to decide which, or they may limit the number of bank holidays which may be worked in a given year. The main exception to the general rule is in three departments of the Grand Est, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Moselle, where bank holidays must be given off apart from in certain sectors, such as hotel and restaurant work.

I was told my dog needed to be muzzled to take him on the train, is that right?

October 2018

The Paca region’s logo now includes the name ‘Région Sud’ HAS the region Provence-AlpesCôte d’Azur – known as ‘Paca’ – changed name to be ‘Région Sud’? It seems unclear. G.B. IT IS understandable if you feel confused. Officially, the name remained unchanged in the reorganisation of the French regions which saw them reduced from 27 to 18 on January 1, 2016. At that time some regions fused together and received new names such as Grand Est, Hauts-de-France and Nouvelle-Aquitaine. However, at the end of last year the Paca regional council, based in Marseille, announced it was going

to use the name Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, or just ‘Région Sud’ for short. The president of the council, Renaud Muselier (LREM) said it had been a ‘mistake’ to call the region Paca, which he said is “not pleasant to write and hear” and the region – which ranges from the lavender fields and hilltop villages of rural Provence to historic cities like Marseille and Aix and and stylish Riviera resorts – “deserves more than an acronym”. Concrete effects of this decision include the fact the region has a new website called maregionsud.fr and has swapped the wording on

Green bonus for May motorbikes ‘weave second-hand car in and out’ of traffic?

I READ in Connexion about the discount ‘bonus’ given for buying a new Zoe electric car. Is this also available if you buy second-hand and how does it work in such a case? L.F.

Unfortunately no, the bonus écologique is not available when you buy a second-hand car; it is only for new cars, with CO2 emissions of 0 to 20g/km. In this case it can give up to €6,000 off the price, limited to 27% of the full cost. However there is some good news – as of this year those buying a non-polluting car, whether second-hand or new, may be eligible for Prime à la conversion, a sum of money for those giving up an old, more polluting car for a greener one. In the case of buying a second-hand car, either electric or a conventional one producing less than 130g/km of CO2 and eligible for a Crit’air rating of 1 or 2, you may obtain €1,000 if you are in a household paying income tax or €2,000 if you do not pay income tax (due to a lower income). Note that the technical term for a non-electric car in French is now voiture thermique (ones using a mix of the two technologies are known as voiture hybride). The old car should be (for a taxable household) a diesel car registered before 2001 or petrol one registered before 1997, or (non-taxable) respectively ones registered in 2006 and 1997. The old car needs to be left with an accredited centre for VHU (véhicules hors usage), which will recycle it.

Car insurer wants payment up to annual renewal date despite sale of car - is that allowed?

IS IT legal for motorbikes or scooters to weave in and out of traffic? I am told it is only ‘tolerated’ and in the case of an accident the insurance firm may not pay out. I.S.

WHAT you have heard is correct, although there is an on-going experiment into full legalisation of the practice known as remonter les files (riding between lanes of slow-moving traffic) in several departments. See the facing page about owning a scooter for more on this rule, which is limited to riding on roads with a central reservation and speed limit of 70kph or more. Otherwise, it is not strictly legal and it is possible for an insurer not to pay out, according to sources including the French insurance brokers Euro-Assurance. Insurance non-payment is not automatic and insurers consider the circumstances and your overall conduct and that of other road-users. However riding between lanes could lead to them concluding that you were fully (or partly) responsible for the accident. Also while police usually tolerate the practice if carried out

Does France generally offer reductions to ‘seniors’? Are they limited to French nationals?

prudently, they occasionally fine a two-wheeler rider for it. The most common basis for this is ‘overtaking on the right’, which can be subject to a €135 fine (€90 if paid promptly) and the loss of three points. However the motorcyclists’ lobby group FFMC encourages people to contest such fines and says it can advise on this. Despite this almost all twowheel riders do it and FFMC argues that in a jam it is actually safer as if there is a pile-up then scooter and motorbike riders could otherwise end up “like the meat in a sandwich”. The usual advice is to do it with care, at no more than 20-30kph faster than the traffic (50kph maximum), leaving around 10 metres between your two-wheeler and the next (you should never overtake another two-wheeler travelling between lanes). Only go between lanes when all lanes on your side of the road are jammed and do it between lanes furthest to the left if there are more than two. Of course, you should also respect the usual road rules such as the overall speed limit and not crossing a continuous white line.

Why do some prefectures require fingerprints for a carte de séjour?

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The Connexion

October 2018

Make sense of

Talking Point

Riding a scooter

Bob Elliott from telephone and broadband provider, UK Telecom, answers your queries

Q. As worse weather approaches, are there any steps we should take to avoid problems with our broadband internet? J.I.

Image: perrytaylor.fr

Running a scooter can be an ideal way to be mobile – especially if you live in a city NOT to be confused with the kind you push along (a ‘kick’ or ‘push’ scooter) scooters can be a handy and stylish way to get around – and if you already have a car licence it is simple to obtain the right to ride one. The outlay to buy a scooter is of course much lower than for a car – from around €2,000+ for a new scooter or €1,000+ for a second-hand one. Strictly-speaking a scooter can be distinguished from a moped by the fact that your feet rest on a flat platform, not pedals; typically also a moped refers to low-powered two-wheelers up to 50cc, whereas scooters are often 125cc or even more. Unlike a moped, which can be ridden from age 14 after a seven-hour course known as the Brevet de Sécurité Routière (leading to issue of a permis AM), to ride a 125cc you need a proper permis à points (driving licence with the French points system). A 125cc can reach speeds of 100kph and can be used on motorways. You need either: n Permis A1 – a light motorbike licence, for ages 16+. It requires a theory and practical test and those taking it must first have a road safety certificate (ASR or ASSR) which are organised locally by the education authorities. n Permis A2 – a licence for a medium-powered motorbike n Permis B – a car driver’s licence, held for two years. If you have already passed your car licence there is a further step of a one-day course.

day riding. The action of the right (front) is powerful and is important in an emergency stop but you should not use it alone. Insurance for a scooter is around €20-60/month depending on options and whether you have had car insurance with a no-claims bonus etc. The insurer sends a green vignette that should be stuck to the scooter with plastic film. When riding you should also carry passport/ ID card, insurance document, carte grise (registration document) and the seven-hour training card. You and any passenger will also need a good quality helmet (around €150+) and heavy-duty gloves (€30+). They should meet French and/or EU norms (with the NF or CE mark). This is a legal requirement and you may be fined by police or gendarmes for not wearing gloves. Our main image If you will be travwas drawn for elling on fast roads Connexion by you may also want to artist Perry Taylor. invest in a biker’s For more of jacket and/or trouhis work see sers. Either way, it is www.perrytaylor.fr recommended to wear long trousers and sleeves, as minor accidents due to slippage are riding a two-wheeler you may not uncommon (some scooters wish to enquire about the posnow come equipped with antisibility of an off-road practice lock brakes to minimise this session beforehand. risk – the English acronym It is not advisable to ride a ABS is used in French). scooter if you are not at least Scooter riders need to take care familiar with riding a bike as a in wet weather when roads are similar sense of balance is more slippery and especially involved. Otherwise, the conon painted crossing areas. trols are simple: you accelerate A ‘top case’ for storage on the with the right hand and brake back costs €50+ and can be with both. It is recommended used for your helmet. Scooters you brake a fraction of a secalso come with under-seat storond earlier on the left (back) age usually large enough for a brake, which stabilises the simple helmet, but not necesscooter, and make most use of sarily a full-face, under jaw one. this brake generally for everyYou are dispensed if you were previously insured for a scooter in 2006-2010, before this training requirement came in. A formation 125 / formation 7h to allow a car driver to ride a 125cc takes seven hours and costs €200-€300. It includes a road safety theory session, practice off-road to familiarise yourself with the scooter, then a session on the roads in conditions such as city traffic, rural lanes and dual carriageways or motorways. On completion the provider issues a card attesting to you having done the seven hours of training (it is possible they could refuse if they consider you are unsafe). Training is usually in a group and during the road riding part the trainer may use radio communication. If you have no experience of

Practical 19


Officially, scooter riders should also carry a yellow vest to use in the event of an accident and (not required for a 50cc moped) a breath-test kit, although fines are not imposed if you do not have one so few riders do (as with cars). An advantage of a scooter is the ability to overtake easily and ride between the lanes of stationary or slow-moving traffic (remonter les files). Technically this is only ‘tolerated’ rather than permitted so is a legal grey area (see facing page) although associations for motorbike and scooter riders protest because ‘everyone’ does it. One exception is in Ile-deFrance, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gironde and Rhône where an experiment is running until 2020 into full legality, limited to roads with a central reservation and at a top speed of 50kph. Experts advise those doing it to ride between the lanes furthest to the left and to gauge your speed to the traffic – do not go a lot faster than the cars. You may wish to put on your hazard warning lights. If a driver shows consideration to you, riders often extend the right leg to say thanks. If you want to try out a scooter you could start with a 50cc one which can be ridden by anyone born before 1988 (if you were born from January 1988 you need at least the BSR/ permis AM). Nice and Paris recently introduced electric scooters for hire on the streets (cityscoot.eu). There is some debate as to whether scooter riders qualify as motards (bikers), with some motorcyclists being more purist than others on this point. An alternative new term for a scooter rider is scootard.

A. Mostly problems fall into one of two categories. The first relates to storm damage which can disable your modem. You can reduce the risk with a surge protector which limits power spikes that can destroy the modem. If you are at home during a bad storm or if you plan to be away for a long time you should disconnect the modem. If you have a problem, before contacting your telecom company, reboot the modem by switching off the power to it for 10 minutes as this might suffice. Modern modems enable your provider to carry out remote tests on your broadband while you are on the phone so they can quickly identify the likely cause and offer help to get the service active again. You may be asked to reset your modem and if so it can take up to 30 minutes for your telephone service to come back if calls go over your broadband.

The second source of loss of service is when lines between your home and the local exchange are damaged, often by trees or corrosion, or when equipment in the exchange fails. In this case several customers will probably be affected and thus the repair should be given higher priority. As a property owner and if your line is underground you will be responsible for ensuring that the telephone line from your boundary to your home is not damaged. If it is overhead carried by a pole then Orange is responsible. The national network is owned and maintained by Orange or its subcontractors. Other companies using the network have equal access to the engineers and whoever you buy your services from the same team will be allocated to the repair. The first tests are undertaken remotely and frequently allow a repair. However if an engineer needs to investigate it may take several days for one to be assigned and to check equipment at your local exchange and the line from it to your property.

See uktelecom.net for more information on services in France. T: UK +44 1483 477 100  T: from France 0805 631 632

Euro Sense Shaun Dash from Currencies Direct answers a reader question on currency exchange Q: I have holidayed in France for years and want to settle down there once I finally end the ‘day job’. How easily can I transfer my UK pension and savings to a French bank account? T.M. A: If you are making the move, sending money to France is simple when you have the right support. Using your bank to transfer pension and savings from a UK bank to an account in France is one option – but not the easiest or most cost-effective. Arranging transfers can be time-consuming and most banks charge transfer fees on every transaction (these can be at a fixed rate or proportional to the size of the transfer but no matter how much they are they can add up over a year). If you are looking for a fast, free way to move your pension payments to France, a good currency broker is what you need, offering excellent exchange rates, eliminating transfer fees and providing a personal level of customer care. Exchange rates are volatile and it is important to time your transfer effectively if you want to get the best return. Currency specialists can help with this as they can keep you updated with the latest market movements and offer expert insight. And if the rate moves in your favour you can opt to fix it for up to a year. You can even fix it on automated monthly payments so you will know exactly how much your pension is worth in euros and budget effectively. Options to transfer over the phone, online or with a mobile phone app give you the power to move your money as and when you want to so you can concentrate on the important things in life, like enjoying your time in France to the full. Some pension providers will agree to pay directly into your French bank account, which may also help to avoid fees, depending on the banks. Concerns have been raised that some private pension providers, notably, may no longer be able to do this after Brexit.  Email your currency queries to news@connexionfrance.com

For more information about making international money transfers with Currencies Direct visit the website www.currenciesdirect.com/france or call +33 (0)4 22 32 62 40

20 Practical


The Connexion


IT IS not uncommon to hear the phrase “I don’t want to go to school today” at breakfast and, usually, the sentiment passes quickly, but a parents’ group says there are a growing number of children of all ages finding themselves simply unable to face going into the classroom. Luc Mathis is president of the Assoc­ iation Phobie Scolaire (phobiescolaire. org) which was formed in 2008 to help parents and children, and said “research suggested that 28% of children were affected at some point”. “There are very few statistics and the best studies have been carried out in the US into what is often called in English school refusal or school anxiety rather than school phobia. “This research suggests children are affected during their education to a greater or lesser degree for a short or a long period. At any moment we esti­ mate between 1% and 3% of children are not at school because of this. “In any sizeable collège the principal is likely to tell you there are between five and 10 students who haven’t made it in that day for this reason.” The association defines ‘la phobie scolaire’ as a situation where a young per­ son cannot face going to school and this can manifest itself in the form of anxie­ ty attacks, stomach aches, sickness, diarrhoea, migraines, cold sweats and a faster heartbeat. Mr Mathis, whose daughter had a school phobia when she was 14, said it was not classified as an illness as such, but there was no doubt the child suf­ fered. “It is comparable to the situation when a horse refuses a jump.” He added: “As a parent you have to look out for the signs. When one of my daughters said she did not want to go to school but ate her breakfast, I was not worried. When another daughter said she had stomach pains, headaches, felt sick and no longer ate breakfast, there was real cause for concern.” “It is a lonely time for parents and a very difficult period. It lasted three to four years for my daughter, but it is

Photo: rubberduck1951 / Pixabay / CC0

Act quickly to ease school phobia

Parents may feel a child is just lazy, but school phobia can cause real suffering important for families to know this is nearly always a transitory phase. My daughter is 20 now, and well. “It is also important to underline that the child is not against school in itself, and would rather be well and be there, than at home.” Reasons can be numerous and not necessarily obvious. They can come from bullying; the fact a child is gifted and bored; learning conditions like dyslexia when the child does not reach expected academic results and is frustrated because efforts to succeed fail; undiagnosed autism or Aspergers or attention deficit hyperac­ tivity disorder (ADHD), or from more personal problems stemming from home, which can include the death of someone close or a divorce. The causal events may have happened some time before and there are often several factors leading to the day when going to school becomes impossible. It can happen at all ages, but is most

common in teenagers and can affect all social backgrounds and school abilities. Mr Mathis believes it has increased in the West since 2000: “A number of rea­ sons have been cited, including break­ down in family structures; loneliness in front of a screen and social media pres­ sures; problems related to nutrition and gut microbiome disorders that lead not only to obesity but also to anxiety. “It seems to be a reflection of the con­ dition of society as a whole where there are increasing levels of anxiety for everyone.” So, what should a parent do? First, they should not feel guilty, but should act as soon as the first serious indications arise. It is normal to think at first the child is perhaps lazy or messing around, but there comes a time when it is obvious it is more serious. The association advises against forcing the child to go to school. Instead, go to the GP and ask for a medical certificate

so the child can stay at home for at least three weeks, giving time to de-drama­ tise the situation, reduce the daily pres­ sure of deciding to go or not and give time to make health appointments. The GP will probably advise seeing a child psychiatrist or psychologist to try to find the cause of the anxiety, but dur­ ing the period at home you can do things your child enjoys and allow them to continue outside school activities, if they wish. Mr Mathis said it was useful to fix an interview with the school, to work together to find the best solution to help a return to the classroom. However, home schooling was not necessarily the answer: “I decided not to go down that road because when my daughter was not well, she was not in a fit state to study. “Many people do use long distance learning from the Centre National d’Enseignement à Distance CNED, at least for a short period, but in the long term it will not help children get over their anxiety. “Eventually it is best to work towards getting them back to school, as it is very difficult to pass your life outside the system.” The association has produced a book with advice and pages outlining differ­ ent people’s experiences. Meeting places and conferences are organised for parents and young people facing this situation in most major cities and there is a Facebook page with more than 4,500 members who can discuss problems online. Some members speak English and Mr Mathis thought if any­ one asked to speak to someone in English there would be a response. The first research in France is due to start soon after securing funding. Psychiatrist Dr Laelia Benoit is to carry out a study for the French health research centre, Inserm, looking into school refusal to better understand the condition and how to treat it. She is analysing questionnaires filled in by 1,400 parents with children who have or have had a school phobia, many of them from the association.

October 2018

Teach maths in English to improve l’anglais

USING foreign languages for everyday teaching of school subjects such as maths, history and science would “offer a bet­ ter mastering of foreign living languages” says a report to the education minister. The report by schools inspec­ torate head Chantal Manes and British journalist and former English teacher Alex Taylor, looked at ways to revive lan­ guage teaching in schools. It said teaching languages only in language classes was not enough, especially as class times had been reduced, and it should be spread into other classes if the teacher was com­ fortable with doing so. Education Minister JeanMichel Blanquer is looking at the proposals for his upcoming lycée reform bill. We have an interview with report co-author Alex Taylor in November’s Connexion

Uniform first for pupils

PUPILS at six schools in the Paris suburb of Provins restart school after the November hol­ idays wearing uniform after a majority of parents (376 out of 609) supported the change. The uniforms are not obliga­ tory and, so far, 330 sets have been sold for primary children who return on November 5. Mayor Olivier Lavenka said uniforms “give a good image”. Priced at €145 for 10 items, they have not been made in France and the mairie covered part of the €100,000 total cost.

French law can help you enjoy the fruits of your hard work Money Matters

Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains. www.kentingtons.com MANY people have complicated family situa­ tions (children from former marriages etc.) and there are many solutions for achieving their inheritance wishes, whether via the EU Succession Regulation or other solutions, but what if we ask: “What do the French do?” First, it is important to accept that there is a cultural difference between the British and the French that may make it harder to get your notaire to understand what you want to achieve. Simply put, some solutions for dealing with complex family situations may privilege the spouse and disadvantage the children, which is not, traditionally, the French way. Britons tend to want their children to have as much of their estate as possible after their death, but, crucially, this should happen after both mem­ bers of the couple have died and not before. French people feel your life’s work is not for your benefit but for your children’s, and the sur­ viving spouse must depend on their children.

French law may oblige children to support par­ ents in old age, but this may not carry much weight if those children live in another country, like the UK. Children may also feel little obliga­ tion to a step-parent, so the survivor may be on their own and must be able to keep themselves. However, a step-parent owning all the assets creates issues, as tax on gifts to stepchildren means 60% inheritance tax and little allowance. So, how to ensure the survivor keeps the asset, may use it as they wish (keeping you happy) and then leaves it to the stepchildren without any punitive tax so the kids (and notaire) are happy? This is where usufruit comes in (one longstanding client does not like that name and tells everyone she has a ‘juicy-fruit’!) It literally means the use of the fruits, so the life interest. It is widely used in France, but also exists in the UK, called a usufruct, so the same word but in Latin. Either word is prettier than the other French legal term démembrement, which means to dismember. So, what does it do and where can you use it? The point is it separates ownership into two; the usufruit usage and the nue-propriété (bare ownership). It means when a spouse dies the asset is not legally owned by the survivor, but they may, in almost every way, treat it as though

it is. The children own the bare ownership but will get no immediate benefit. The usufruit may be applied to almost any asset, including money. All benefits of use, including income and all tax go to the usufruitier (life interest holder). The spouse gets to keep the asset and can use it as they wish, receive any income from it, essen­ tially carrying on as if they were the owner. When they die, the assets pass to the stepchil­ dren as though it had come from their natural parent, avoiding punitive inheritance tax. It sounds wonderful, the best of both worlds, but there is one issue, which may be problematic if the survivor wishes to sell the asset, such as the home. A sale means the shareholders (which is essentially what the children are) stand to lose their rights and must agree to a sale and have a right to take their ‘share’ at this point. People who have lived in France before tend to like the usufruit option more than those who are very new to France but it could be problematic for expats who might not wish to remain in France on their own. The other point is that the usufruitier is legally obliged to maintain the value of the assets to the best of their ability. This is no issue for property, but can be problematic for money as a usufruit may also be used for money – and can get com­ plicated, needing other solutions.

For most property, a usufruit is put in place by a simple French will. One important point to note is that the life interest / bare ownership is not inheritance tax free. Like the asset, it is split into two parts, with the split depending on the age of the usufruitier. The value that it is taxed is lower than receiving full ownership. So, someone liable to inheritance tax (not a married or PACSed couple, as there is no inher­ itance tax) inheriting the usufruit at 81 years old may be assessed on 20% of the value of the assets they receive. In practice, tax is rarely applied until the full ownership is received. I said money and the usufruit could get com­ plicated – twice, as it is important! – causing rows and court cases from children contesting how money was invested / maintained. A common investment route in France is via an assurance vie and this can have a beneficiary clause known as a quasi-usufruit which places no obligation on the survivor to maintain the capital. Yes, the usufruitier could gamble it away but it creates a debt on the estate, meaning sur­ viving assets are sold on their death to cover it. So the usufruitier can invest and spend money how they please, which makes it useful. Succession planning is complex, everyone is different, so I recommend professional advice.

French living Food Wine Homes Gardens Interviews Events

Bistro recipes by Ducasse Doisneau’s Dordogne Underground France

MUSKETEER maestro The amazing Alexandre Dumas and his unique family history


2 Underground France

French Living I October 2018

What lies beneath: visit these subterranean sites Away from the prehistoric caves that lure visitors in their droves, France has plenty of lesser-known underground sites to explore. Samantha David selects some of her favourites Photos: JS. Evrard; JC.Lemée-SESdePadirac; P Brunet


rance has some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, but is equally beautiful under the surface. Some underground spaces are natural, others manmade, and they are used for an unexpectedly wide variety of activities. The largest and best known is perhaps the Lascaux caves in Dordogne, which are visited by upwards of 250,000 people per year. But the biggest and most-visited is the Grotte Chauvet (Caverne du Pont d’Arc) in the Ardèche, which gets nearly 600,000 visitors per year. The Catacombs in Paris are also popular, but there are many other underground attractions in France. The massive ‘Gouffre de Padirac’ cave in the Dordogne Valley in the Lot, is a natural cavity 75 metres deep and 33 metres diameter. You get to it via a massive vertical hole in the ground which you can either walk down 543 steps or take the lift. The visit covers 2.2kms, but what makes it extra fun is that around 1km of that is travelled by boat. The river at the bottom of the caves flows through a series of caves, allowing up to 8,000 people per day to marvel at the rock formations. Various activities which are periodically organised inside the caves including classical music concerts and music for the Fête de la Musique. You can also join a guided visit conducted entirely by the light of old fashioned oil lamps, just as Edouard-Alfred Martel discovered them back in 1889. He subsequently explored the caves with colleague George Beamish, whose great grand-daughter manages the caves today. The Gouffre closes on November 4 for the winter, but October is uncrowded (around 480,000 people visited last year) and a great time to visit for those who just want to see the caves in all their natural glory. See www.gouffre-de-padirac.com. The Grotte des Demoiselles, a massive series of limestone caves in Hérault, is accessed by an underground funicular railway. It is particularly known for a massive cave called la cathédrale which is around 120 metres long and 52 metres high. Traces of human occupation have been found here dating back to all eras; it was particularly known as a Huguenot refuge during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. The name ‘Demoiselles’ comes from an old tale about a shepherd in the Middle Ages who climbed down into the caves to rescue a ewe, started exploring, fell 50 metres, and lost consciousness. Once safely back out with the ewe, he told everyone he had seen hundreds of fairies dancing in a circle, led by a lady in white. In the local dialect at that time, ‘fairies’

was damaïselas’, which isn’t very different from ‘demoiselles’ in French. The visit is not for the faint-hearted; visitors enter the cathédrale on a small balcony 70 metres above the floor of the cave, and continue over a suspension bridge spanning a steep drop. A hugely popular Midnight Mass used to be held in the cathédrale every Christmas Eve, but that has been abandoned now. However, the Grotte being open all year round, it is possible there will be a Festive Concert in December 2018. See www.demoiselles.com.

Above, left to right: visitors enjoy a tour of the Wellington Quarry at Arras, excavated and used as shelter during the First World War; Inset: Touring the Loire’s troglodyte sites by bike

Unusual spaces

Not all underground sites in France are filled with prehistoric artworks (like Lascaux and Grotte Chauvet) or underground water and extraordinary rock formations like the Gouffre de Padirac and the Grotte des Demoiselles. The Grottes de Bétharram (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) has amazing rocks, an underground river, and the guided tour includes a ride on a vessel shaped like a Viking longboat, as well as a ride on a miniature steam train. See www.betharram.com And if all that sounds like a lot of walking, the Grotte du Mas d’Azil (Ariège) has such an enormous entrance that you can drive into it on a tarmac road. Prehistoric people lived in these caves, Huguenots took refuge in them, and the remains of

The Gouffre visit covers 2.2kms, but what makes it extra fun is that around 1km is travelled by boat

rhinos, bears and mammoths have been found in them. Click through www.sites-touristiques-ariege.fr for more information. Underground spaces in France have been used for all sorts of things and some have been excavated by human beings. The caves in Roquefort are used to refine and mature the famous Roquefort cheese, and you can take a free guided tour around them to discover how the cheeses are made, how the temperature (8-10°C) and humidity are maintained, and, of course, then enjoy a tasting before leaving via the boutique. The Boves d’Arras in Pas de Calais, are 22kms of galleries excavated from the limestone under the city of Arras. It is estimated that tunnelling began on the ‘Boves’, which are just 20 metres below the pavements of the city, during the 10th century, originally in order to mine chalk. Since then they have been constantly extended, and at various periods have been used to store wine, beer, vegetables and cereals. You can also visit a more recent extension, the ‘Carrière Wellington’, which was excavated in just five months during the winter and spring of 1916/1917 by the New Zealand Tunnelling company during the First World War (which is why it is named after the capital of New Zealand). It is now a memorial to the Battle of Arras which began in April 9th, 1917. The carrières (quarries) were used to shelter the civilian population, as well as 24,500 soldiers and were equipped with gas-proof doors, electricity, phone lines, kitchens, latrines and even a hospital. On the walls, visitors can still see the doo-

dles, drawings and graffiti left by the troops. For more see www.ot-arras.fr or www.carrierewellington.com ‘La Mine Wendel’ in Moselle is a coal mine which was exploited from 18561986 and has been entirely preserved. (Since the La Houve mine closed in 2004 there are no working coalmines in France and most of the other abandoned ones have been dismantled and the entrances permanently sealed off.) The guides are ex-coalminers and the visit starts by taking a cage lift down into the pit, which gives a real idea of what coalmining was like. Visitors see the veins of coal in the rock walls, walk through the galleries, and inspect the massive machines which were used by the end of the mine’s productive life. The visit takes two hours, and you need solid shoes. It ends with a film documenting a day in the life of a Wendel miner. Make time to visit the Carreau Wendel Museum first (within the same ‘Parc Explore Wendel’ complex.) It is housed in the ex-administration building of the mine, where miners also changed, left their clothes and showered after each shift. It documents the history of mining in general as well as the history of Wendel, and in doing so the history of Lorraine, so often fought over by France and Germany and so often at the heart of European industrial progress. There are ex-miners on hand to give first-hand accounts of what it was like being a miner – not just at work but at home too. Permanent and visiting art exhibitions expand the theme to industry generally, and the whole museum is curated in French, English and German. More infor-

Underwater France 3 Photos: Egiategia

October 2018 I French Living

In the drink: a cool salty cellar for wines of note Discovering well-preserved bottles in ancient underwater wrecks is one thing, but placing wine to mature under the sea is now a boom business in France, writes Samantha David

F mation on visiting is available at www. musee-les-mineurs.fr The region around the city of Saumur in Maine-et-Loire abounds with troglodyte sites, including houses, restaurants and mushroom farms built into natural caves. One of France’s lesser-known attractions, the local tourist office is launching a major campaign to attract more visitors, constructing a cycle tour around all the sites. Troglodyte sites were hewn out of the tufa stone of the slopes and cliffs of the Loire Valley. The stone was sold as a building material, and the resulting shallow spaces were used as dwellings, workshops and storage spaces. Sheltered from the elements, troglodyte spaces have the same temperature, 12°C, all year round, making them ideal as wine cellars. The Perrières caves are massive and today house an illuminated, animated show called Le Mystère des Faluns, which you walk through. It’s set in the caves as if they were underwater, as they would have been 10 million years ago. If food is more your thing, the caves in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent house a mushroom farm which produces 12 tonnes of mushrooms a year. (Closed from November 11 2018 to February 10 2019.) Le Puy-Notre-Dame also has a mushroom producer in a troglodyte cave who offers visits to find out more about cultivating mushrooms but it is now closed until March 3, 2019. La Grande Vignolle at Turquant features extraordinarily beautiful mansions built into the rocks, and there are more of them in Souzay. The village of LouresseRochemenier is well worth a visit too,

as the museum there has preserved part of the original troglodyte village complete with farms and farm buildings carved out of the rock, an underground chapel and a modernised home. There is also a collection of agricultural implements, old photographs from the area and a chicken run. Other sites offer sculpture, ceramics workshops and shops, cafés, painters and their paintings, even a snail farm. If you have a yen to stay in a troglodyte B&B, or eat in a troglodyte restaurant, consult the tourist office in Saumur. The Grottes de Naours in Picardie form almost an entire city beneath the city. Originally 3rd century stone mines, as they were worked out, the resulting spaces were used as hiding places during the invasions and counter-invasions which have swept to and fro across the region. Local people stored their valuables and crops in them, and took refuge there with their livestock. They were used by the French during the First World War and the Germans during the Second World War. An interesting feature is the heating arrangements, as the temperature in the caves is around 9°C. Obviously in order to spend any amount of time in the caves they have to be heated, so chimneys were built which conducted the smoke away from the chimneys and into the chimneys of nearby dwellings, so that no-one could see smoke coming out of the caves. The graffiti left over from the First World War forms a poignant collective souvenir of how the soldiers felt as they waited to go into action. For more information see www.grottesdenaours.com

Above: The ‘pile of plates’ room at the Gouffre de Padirac cave in the Lot

inding innovative things to do with underground spaces doesn’t end on land. Maturing wine under the sea is becoming something of a trend in France and various companies in the Basque country and Brittany are offering wine-makers this service. The trend had a boost back in 2010 when a shipwrecked trade schooner was discovered in the Baltic Sea, just off the coast of Finland. It contained 168 bottles of champagne. They had been resting 50 metres under the sea for 170 years, and yet it had not deteriorated. A team of scientists at the University of Reims analysed the wine, and were able to deduce a lot about winemaking techniques of the era. (The inscriptions on the corks also provided clues as to their origins, the labels having completely disappeared.) Once the wine was oxygenated, in tastings, wine experts said the taste was said to be “toasted, spicy, leathery and smoky”. Eventually, some of the bottles were auctioned off, achieving prices of up to €100,000 for single bottles. The conclusion in winemaking circles was that wines like being kept under the sea. Emmanuel Poirmeur matures his wine under the sea just off the coast of SaintJean-de Luz in the PyrénéesAtlantiques. “I like to do the unexpected, I like to appear in strange places, and making wine for me is a way of expressing myself, so of course I have to do it in an unusual way!” He says he has always been passionate about wine, which is why he specialised in the subject when very young. He travelled widely through the wine-making world, in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Italy and the wine-making regions in France. He returned to the Basque country and founded Egiategia l’Atelier in 2007. “Truly, from growing the vines right through to selling the finished product, making wine is creative, expressive and to appreciate it fully, you have to understand the entire process.” It was when he was working for

Chandon in Argentina 2001 that he realised the parameters required for a perfect second fermentation were naturally fulfilled under the sea, so when he founded his own company naturally the first thing he did was protect his idea. “It’s dark under the sea, the temperature and pressure is constant, and the sea is constantly moving. What could be better?” So since 2008, Egiategia has fermented their wines 15 metres under the sea in the bay of Saint Jean-de-Luz. (Wines are fermented twice, and the first fermentation is carried out on land, at the domaine.) “During fermentation, yes the sugars are turned into alcohol but the second fermentation is also the stage when secondary flavours are developed, and due to conditions under the sea, the flavours released are unique.” That is why, says Mr Poirmeur, his wine has a truly distinctive taste. It is not just matured under the sea once it has been bottled, part of the process of producing it is actually carried out under the waves. Not only that, but he has his own vineyards on the cliff-tops where the salt wind blows. “I have two hectares of classic chardonnay vines, and we work the vineyard by hand, using the least possible chemicals, and the most environmentally friendly methods possible.” He also buys in grapes from other local vineyards. It is possible to visit Emmanuel Poirmeur’s caves in Ciboure by appointment, for a guided tour and explanation of his wine-making methods, and/or for a tasting. Emerging from the cool darkness of the cellars with their rows of wooden barrels, you stand in the sun on the roof-top terrace to taste his wines, where you can smell the faint aroma of salt in the sea breeze coming off the Atlantic. He produces fresh, drinkable Dena Dela white, rosé and red wines. As a non-expert, however, the one which seemed most unusual to me was his Artha perlant. It’s a slightly sparking (pétillant) very fruity red wine. Perfect to accompany the strong tastes of Basque cuisine.

4 Rencontre

French Living I October 2018

‘Some farms remember me helping pack away wool when I was about five’ Jane Hanks speaks to a top sheep shearer about the challenges of making a living in the trade and the thrill of competition

There are three criteria. Firstly, we are judged on how we cut the fleece. We must do it in one go. If we re-pass it means we have cut the wool in two which is not good. The second is the final look of the ewe. The judges check that the cut is regular, that the animal is not injured and that there is no wool left on the animal. The third is the timing. A complicated mathematical formula takes into account all three points to come up with the final score. For the final of the French Championship there were 20 ewes and I sheared them in 14 minutes 40 seconds. But what you must understand it is not just a question of speed. I was not the fastest. Someone else did it in 14 minutes 10 seconds but I had the best mark for the quality of my work and so I won the competition. You have to balance speed with the way in which you shear. I train for the competition and do that often with my brother. It is good to work together to help each other improve our technique.


oïc Leygonie from Cuzance near Souillac, Lot, is the French sheep shearing champion 2018 and part of the France team which won the 6 Nations Sheep Shearing competition held this year at Mayrac, Lot. The competition, like its rugby equivalent, is held every year between France, Scotland, Wales, England, Northern and Southern Ireland. Most often Scotland and Wales are the champions but this year Loïc Leygonie was thrilled that his country won, proof, he says, that they are improving. The 26-year-old earns his living as a professional sheep shearer, a job he is passionate about and he explained why, in this day and age, when very few sheep are raised for their wool in France, his job is still important: It is really for the well-being of the reproductive ewes, which are bred for the lambs raised for meat and kept for several years. They have to be sheared once a year in a season which can stretch from January to August because of the heat in summer and the parasites which could get into the wool. If we didn’t cut off their fleeces their wool would continue to grow and it would be dangerous for them. It is an essential part of sheep farming. How did you become a sheep shearer? My father is one so it is in the family. I watched him from when I was little. Some farms I go to now, remember me helping pack away the wool when I was about five years old. I always liked it and it seemed an obvious choice to continue. My father started when he was 18 years old to earn a bit of pocket money but then there were shearers who retired and so it turned into a job. My father worked with my uncle who lives opposite. His son, my cousin, has taken it up, myself and my little brother too, so it is really a family affair. I make my living solely from shearing. There are about a hundred of us like me in France and another 200 who combine the profession with other jobs. How did you learn? I learnt from my father but there is also an Association des Tondeurs de Moutons which puts on training courses and refresher courses so I learnt a lot of technique there.

How do you shear a sheep? I think the most difficult thing to learn is how to hold a sheep, so that it does not move, it does not fight to get free, and it is not hurt. We block the animal just with our legs, it is not tied up, it is free. After that, manipulating the electric shears is not difficult. You have to learn how to use the shears, which are sharp, but if you hold the sheep correctly you will not hurt it. The sheep must be well balanced between your legs so that the shoulder, the back and the thighs will lie flat and the shears will not run along a fold in the skin and cut it. The fleece comes off in one piece, so how do you know where to cut so as to achieve that? The wool grows like our hair. The difference is that the wool is much thicker and as it grows it becomes tangled and so if we cut it off near to the skin it will hold together. If we come back to a ewe just a few weeks after it has been shorn the wool will have just begun to grow again and it will be just like us with very short hair. But as the wool grows longer, the fibres become intertwined. We move the electric shears along the skin of the animal and the cutting combs are set so as to cut the wool at the correct distance from the skin.

What do you like about this job? Many things. As well as enjoying the act of shearing there is the contact you have with the farmers. I work in the Lot, the Dordogne and the Corrèze and every day we change farm so I travel around my region and I like that. That is from spring to the end of summer when we work six days out of seven, and often leave home at 7am and get back at 8pm. Then the autumn is calmer and we can go on holiday. In the winter, from the beginning of December to mid-February I often go to New Zealand to work. They have the best shearers and introduced the technique I use so I learn a great deal from them. It is very different because they have huge farms with five or six thousand sheep and so we stay several days on one farm. This year going to New Zealand will help me prepare for the World Championships which will be held in France in 2019.

Above and inset: Loïc in action whilst competing at the 6 nations shearing championships, which he won – he is pictured, right, with the trophy and his girlfriend, Camille

It is a passion. I love the daily job, and can combine it with my love of sport Loïc Leygonie

What characteristics do you need to be a good shearer? I imagine you need to be strong. Yes, but it does not depend on being really strong. You do though have to be physically healthy and you need to be supple as you have to bend over a lot and you need endurance. You need experience in the job to do it well. How many sheep do you shear in a day? We estimate 250 per person per day. We shear about 40 in an hour. That is just an average, because it depends on the type of sheep and the amount of wool. We might do 50 in an hour when it is easy and 25 when it is difficult. What do the judges look for in the competitions?

What happens to the wool? It is a bit sad. There are no major treatment centres any more in France, so that 80% of the wool goes to China where it is washed and treated. It is cheaper there and chemicals are used which are forbidden here. Who knows, perhaps some of the treated wool comes back to France. Here, the quality of the wool is not very high as the sheep are bred for their meat, but it still has a certain value. Some years ago the farmer was able to use the money from selling wool to pay the shearer, but the wool price has gone down so that is no longer the case. We hope one day the price will go up again. Do you think the profession has a future? As long as sheep are kept for meat, farmers will have to employ shearers to shear their ewes so I believe there will always be work. It is a passion. I love the daily job, and I can combine it with my love of sport by taking part in competitions. I can travel and there are always daily challenges.

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6 Gardens/Green news

French Living I October 2018

Dordogne gem is always box fresh Jane Hanks visits a Salignac-Eyvigues garden with 50,000 boxes trimmed and shaped to aesthetic perfection


Photos: Eric Sander/Skyme

yrignac et ses Jardins, at Salignac-Eyvigues, Dordogne, was one of the first gardens to open to the public, in 1987, at a time when there were very few to visit in France. It has now been open for 31 years and welcomes 81,000 visitors a year to its 10 hectares of garden which is best known for its topiary and Jardin à la Française. There are 50,000 box, yew and hornbeams as well as cypresses and trained ivy, sculpted and tended to create a garden, dominated by shades of green, where everything down to the last detail, has been designed to create a carefully crafted aesthetic impact. This is no surprise as the garden was designed by a man who knew very little about gardening, but a great deal about style. Gilles Sermadiras, who drew up the plans for the garden, founded the lifestyle magazine Maison et Jardin and was a pioneer of garden furniture. He inherited Eyrignac, which had belonged to his family for 500 years. Its first garden in the 18th century was in the French formal style but this was converted into an English romantic garden, fashionable in the 19th century. It was then abandoned until Gilles Sermadiras came back to the property in 1965 and his dream was to restore the 18th century garden. He searched for clues as to the original layout, but found very little, other than a few vestiges, such as a monumental vase which is still in place. So he came up with his own ideas. It was a purely personal project. He had no thought of creating a garden which would one day be open to the public. He did, however, ask his son Patrick to work on it with him. Neither had any horticultural knowledge. Little by little they staked the alleys, planted, transplanted and arranged the plants in rows. Patrick Sermadiras says that eventually the only way he could see to realise his father’s dream, was to open it to visitors: “At first we thought I would be able to do it all on my own, mowing the lawns and looking after the plants. But as the years went by we realised that it takes a great deal of time and money to maintain and nurture such a garden. We now have six full time gardeners and six other staff, rising to 15 in the summer, and even though we have so many visitors, we still do not make any money from it.” He is proud of their achievement: “I

Six full-time gardeners tend the trees and lawns at Eyrignac in order to maintain its neat and tidy look would like to think that I was one of the first to make the French style of garden popular again. I describe this type of garden as a man’s garden, where there is order and it looks as if it has been designed by an architect and like a line of soldiers, nothing is allowed to be out of place.” At first there were very few flowers, but “my wife likes flowers, visitors like flowers and though they take a great deal more looking after, we have now introduced areas with flowers,” he says. Looking after the garden The six gardeners are always busy and there are even periods when extra hands are hired. As Gilles and Patrick Sermadiras quickly found out, keeping a garden like this is a massive undertaking. The most famous avenue, which Patrick Sermadiras calls ‘the Dordogne’s ChampsElysées’, is formed by a double row of columns of yew trees, interlaced with garlands of hornbeams, in the form of spiralling buttresses and which is a unique design. It is the most difficult to trim. The hornbeam grows fast, about 80 centimetres a year and has to be handtrimmed four or five times from May to September. The first cut in May takes

I would like to think that I was one of the first to make the French style of garden popular again Patrick Sermadiras

ceinfo TV said that the sale of cut fruit and vegetables is “a consumer trend”, and that “this product has been offered for sale on the store’s own initiative, in isolation.”

Photo: Cemil Sanli/Twitter

Green news Plastic-wrapped produce storm A photograph of three tomatoes, cut in half, wrapped in plastic and sold for €3.20 euros (€6.90 euros per kilo) in a Géant store in Annemasse (Haute-Savoie), has highlighted the issue of over-packaging. Twitter user Cemil Sanli, affiliated with the France Insoumise political party, photographed the store’s section of fruit and vegetables cut and wrapped in [non-recyclable] cellophane. The photograph was shared more than 2,300 times. Sanli returned to the shop two weeks later and noted that the two aisles with pre-packed fruit were almost empty. “Géant seems to have buckled under our indignation,” he wrote. A spokesperson for Casino told fran-

Pine roads are taking root Bitumen on Hérault (Occitanie) roads may soon be replaced by a binder made using pine residue from the manufacture of cardboard. Construction firm Eiffage is currently conducting an experiment financed by the Hérault department on a 2.5km stretch of the D26, using a machine that blends old bitumen and the plant residue on site. It removes the need for trucks to enter and leave the roadworks, or to bring in new materials from outside. The new surface will be will be monitored for three years and if the road does not degrade, the process will be expanded to all departmental and national roads.

eight days, just for the Hornbeam Alley. Three types of box are used. The most abundant is the common box, Buxus sempervirens, which grows locally in the wild; dwarf box, Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’, used for low hedges, and Buxus sempervirens ‘Rotundifolia’ which has bigger and rounder leaves. It is used throughout the garden, and now the greatest challenge is to prevent it from being destroyed by either the Volutella Buxi fungus or the Pyrale du buis caterpillar. Sarah Aït-Ali, who assists Patrick Sermadiras and his wife Capucine in running the gardens, says that it is difficult to know which is worse: “We can treat the caterpillar using an organic treatment which works well and has prevented any problems, but if the fungal disease arrives we can only get rid of it by using fungicides. So far we have managed to avoid any damage.” The yew is hardier and because it is very slow growing, about 20cm a year, it only needs to be trimmed once a year. The experiment follows an initial test in Gironde at the beginning of July, which won the “Innovation routes et rues” prize.

Bonus-malus on plastic recycling The government will introduce a bonus-malus (rewards and penalties) system from 2019 to encourage consumers to use recycled plastic. The move is part of its goal of 100% plastic recycling by 2025. “We are going to deploy a bonus-malus system of up to 10% of the price of products,” the Secretary of State for Ecological Transition, Brune Poirson, told Journal du Dimanche. “In future, when there will be a choice between two bottles, one made of recycled plastic and the other not. The first will be cheaper,” she said. The plan will also include a reduction of VAT on recycling and an increase of the TGAP (general tax on polluting activities) on landfill, and a ban of plastic straws.

Because it has a very dense foliage it can be trimmed into any shape. The other huge task is to look after the acres of lawn, which were chosen to line the alleys to provide a more aesthetic green background to the topiary, rather than gravel paths. It was never designed for visitors or to bear the passage of thousands of footsteps and so many of the grassy avenues are out of bounds. A huge amount of care goes into the maintenance of the grass which is made up of a mixture of English Ray-grass, fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. The supply of water and nutritive elements is calculated for each different area, according to the richness of soil. In the autumn the grass is scarified, then aerated by making holes in the lawn and compacted areas are loosened. Reseeding takes place every year and throughout the year there are soil enrichment operations and regular, manual weeding. The grass is cut every few days. The lawns are constantly watered and one of the great assets of Eyrignac is its seven natural springs which enables it to have an irrigation system with more than 500 sprinklers buried beneath the soil. Finally, in a garden whose beauty comes from well-defined lines, the edges have to be trimmed. At the beginning of the year they are straightened with an edge-cutter and then trimmed into shape with scissors once a month. It is a long job as they measure up to a total length of 7kms. As well as the formal French gardens there is a kitchen garden, a flower garden, flower meadows, a farmyard topiary area with chickens, rabbits, peacocks and a sheep, plus a tree nursery and a pagoda, to echo the period theme as they were a popular feature in the 18th century. One of the favourites is a white garden, where the dark green of the low box borders is softened with flowers such as hardy common roses which are cut low and bloom all summer, petunia surfinias, impatiens and bulbs in the spring, and where popular evening picnics are held in the summer, when guests are encouraged to dress in white. The gardens are open every day, all year and tours in English are possible for groups of at least 15 by reserving in advance. www.eyrignac.com Lavender needs a lifeline Lavender production is under threat in France due to climate change, and producers are urging the European Union to take action. One producer, Maurice Feschet, told Europe 1 that rising temperatures and periods of drought are to blame. “This is catastrophic. Last year, there were six months without rain, with three weeks above 30°C in May. Lavender is not a cactus,” he said. His family has joined up with a dozen families from Europe and beyond, to sue the European Union for “climate inaction” and “human rights violations”, claiming climate change is impacting their jobs and daily lives and will lead to ‘environmentally displaced people’. The Court of Justice of the European Union says their action is admissible and has two months to respond.

Gardening 7

Photos: Cathy Thompson

October 2018 I French Living

Grower’s digest A sucker for a gadget As trees shed their leaves, so the annual battle to keep lawns and driveways feuille-free begins. Apart from the manual option of a rateau (rake) or balai à feuilles (leaf sweeper) there are plenty of mechanical leaf-blowers and collectors available in French garden centres, for hard surfaces as well as grassed areas. For the ultimate all-in-one gadget, look for a souffleur-aspirateur-broyeur, which blows, sucks, collects and even crushes your leaves, ready for composting. Model shown is a 3,000Watt Black and Decker, priced €119.90 from Leroy Merlin. Howea the lads When a certain Swedish homewares behemoth declares that a combination of ‘millennial pink’ and house plants is still about de rigueur, then we must listen. So why not contrast your pale pink sofa, throw, rug or curtains with a deep green and handsome Howea, an indoor palm tree from palm family Arecaeae. It can survive its owner’s forgetfulness when it comes to excessive heating or lack of watering. Available from GammVert for €33.95. Succulents in the city Living in a town or city with only a small window box is no excuse to not enjoy plants and flowers. Fleur En Ville, a company owned by Truffaut, allows you to purchase a high quality Lechuza pot (complete with built-in water reserve) and plants online and have your chosen mini garden installed by an expert. The plants are specially selected to suit urban living and French-grown ones are prioritised. See https://fleurenville.com

Paint a floral picture in October

With autumn upon us, Cathy Thompson reveals her enduring passion for asters


Social media app Instagram is a brilliant way to enjoy other people’s gardens in France, with everyone from chateau visitors to chambre d’hôtes owners posting seasonal snaps of their gardens (users can search using the hashtag #jardins). This month’s pick features Château de Chamerolles in Loiret, Centre-Val-de-Loire by enroute_marcelle

French garden diary


ctober and November are perfect times for repainting the picture in your garden, since these are months when you can lift and divide herbaceous perennials with ease. There isn’t a region in France that won’t experience the blessing of cooler days and reasonable rainfall at this time, and with those two welcome factors come the bonus of a soil that is still warm and encouraging for young plant roots. It is definitely time to get out the spade and fork for a spell of lifting and dividing in October. For instance, about five years ago I planted a small shrub of Cornus mas (cornelian cherry) in an area that I had designated as future ‘woodland’. At that time the little spot was open to bright sunlight, the cornus was tiny, and I bought plants (only one each) of Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’, Helenium ‘Moerheim’, Sedum ‘Munstead Dark Red’ and Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’. What a lift to the spirits the oranges, reds and blues gave in October for about three years. Aster ‘Monch’ is one of my top five herbaceous perennials – in the past I used to rank it in the top three with blood-red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and Alan Bloom’s gloriously silver-leaved, light yellow-flowered Achillea ‘Moonshine’. ‘Moonshine’ looks heavenly cool and ethereal in summer borders, but sadly it flowers earlier than the aster for whose lilac blue it would be a perfect match. Clear violet-blue, yellow-eyed ‘Monch’ does succeed, however. The X frikartii series were bred many years ago in Germany from A. amellus (the so-called ‘Italian’ aster) and A. thomsonii and are special due to their mildew-resistance

and ability to support themselves on fairly stout stems: they grow to about 80cm only. ‘Wunder von Stafa’ and ‘Jungfrau’ (both also in violet-blue, with an orange or yellow eye) are well worth trying too and I should really add them to compare with ‘Monch’. Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis (to 60cm) and A. cordifolius cultivars such as ‘Blue Heaven’ are not as well-known as they ought to be. The first is much-loved by florists: it makes more of a dome of branches, almost pretending to be a shrub, and throws out stiff flowering stems studded with little white, pinkeyed flowers. A. cordifolius ‘Blue Heaven’ (to 90cm) has a similar flower colour to ‘Monch’, but the little wiry stems are rather a striking black. The aster season is so long: the x Frikartii types will have started blooming in late July/August and by October they are joined by the better known A. novae-belgii cultivars. On sunny autumn days they are a cloud of butterflies, bees and hoverflies, so any gardener who wants to offer a late season

On sunny days they are a cloud of butterflies, bees and hoverflies

meal to their favourite resident insects should plant them – and in quantity. Luckily October is also an ideal month to buy young plants and get them in the

ground. A good selection of different cultivars is available from LePage Vivaces (www.lepage-vivaces.com) or Promesse de Fleurs (www.promessedefleurs.com). In addition to those above, I’d recommend the traditional Michaelmas daisy cultivars ‘White Ladies’ (white, double, to 120cm), ‘Fellowship’ (pink, semi-double to 90cm), ‘Jenny’ (reddish purple, semi-double, to 30 cm), ‘Red Robin’ (dark red, double, to 60cm), ‘Coombe Violet’ (lilac-blue, semi-double, to 1.2m), ‘Blauglut’, (light violet, semi-double, to 80cm,) ‘Algar’s Pride’ (lavender blue, single, to 1.5m) and ‘Purple Dome’ (purple, semi-double, to 90cm). Asters are terrifically accented by grasses such as stipas and deschampsias – but beware that the best time to plant grasses is in the spring, not when you are putting your asters to bed. MONTHLY TIPS If you leave the tall, spent stems and seed heads of the more architectural herbaceous plants in situ now, to enjoy over the winter, you’ll find that your garden clear-up in February will be a quarter the effort of an autumn tidy: lighter, easier to handle and less mess. Plant some little Iris reticulata in pots. Bring them into the house in February where they can scent a whole room. In the open garden they are often battered and beaten by the late winter weather. OVER TO YOU What’s your favourite late-flowering bee or butterfly plant in the garden? You can send me an email at: editorial@connexionfrance.com

Attract more wildlife to your garden with high quality food, feeders, nest boxes, plants and more!

visit www.vivara.fr

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8 Big interview Jazz musician Vinx has played with some musical superstars. He tells Jane Hanks about life in the Aude village that he now calls home

French Living I October 2018

The jazz man cometh... to Aude


inx is a virtuoso American jazz musician who has played and toured the world with Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and Sting, but now in his sixties, he has left the United States to make his home in Chalabre, a small French village in the Aude. He has brought the international music scene to the village and the villagers have responded with an overwhelming welcome to the American star who has shown that you don’t have to live in New York or Paris to experience great art. Jane Hanks chatted to him about his new life in a village he says he is sure no other American has ever heard of. Vinx, short for Vincent De’Jon Parrette, is a singer and percussionist. He plays both solo and in bands and says he was the first drummer singer. His music ranges from jazz to funk, bossa nova to blues and is influenced by his travels. You might not have heard of him but he has played with and been appreciated by an impressively long list of the great musicians of our time: Taj Mahal, Sting, Tom Jones, Herbie Hancock, Stewart Copeland, Ricki Lee Jones, Cher, Sheryl Crow, Cassandra Wilson... Stevie Wonder said about him: “Vinx is the gift you give to someone you really care about”. He was born in December 1957 and grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. He came from a musical background, and his French name comes from his family’s origins in Martinique. At first it seemed he was destined for a career in sport. When he was at school he became National Champion in multiple track events and went on to do an athletics scholarship and recorded the second longest triple jump in the world. He was due to take part in the 1980 Moscow Olympics but the US boycotted the games. It was then he decided to dedicate his career to music which was already part of his life: “My father was a great singer, crooner. My aunt was one of the singers in the Marvelettes, the Motown ladies group and my family is musical. I had a choice of music and athletics and I chose both and they motivated each other. “I was doing music at the same time I was doing athletics. When America boycotted Moscow in 1980 I turned all my attention to music.” He was awarded his first recording session in 1987 and wrote for Tom Jones. He toured with Rickie Lee Jones, Herbie Hancock and other big names in the jazz world. In 1990, Sting heard him and signed him up as the solo opening act and percussionist/ background vocalist for his “Soul Cages” world tour. Sting said: “His baritone voice swooping and soaring through melodies had me open mouthed, gaping in that telling combination of wonder and envy that great artists sometimes provoke.” He continued to perform, tour, write and record from his home in the States. He became a teacher in one of the largest contemporary music schools in the USA, the Berklee College of Music in Boston and in 2014 a documentary film maker, Ivar Iding made “Memoirs of a Hip ‘Ole

Black Man” about his life, which won the Best Documentary in Music at the World Music International Film Festival in Washington DC in 2016 and the Best Documentary Based on a Jazz Musician at the New York Jazz Film Festival, 2016. But fame has never been his goal and his aim has been to create his own kind of music, true to himself: “My music sounds like me. It contains my own spice. It is not pepper, it is not curry, it is me. I’m kind of a musician’s musician. I have found my own way and didn’t bow down to the demands of celebrities. I have written songs for Cher and Tom Jones and my voice is in the Lion King soundtrack. “I have travelled the world and have a great fan base and I service them and don’t worry about people who don’t get me. I service the ones that do. I don’t worry about the rest of the world.” The act of individual creation is very important to him: “We each have our own fingerprints and we must not be afraid to expose our library of experiences and our particular take on issues. We’ve all had a first kiss but each one is different if we remember it correctly. It is not just the notes. It is what is between the notes. I treat music like a language. The language is not important if you don’t have anything to say.”

A new life in the Aude

In 2016, he left the States for good and in 2017 he recorded his first album in Europe, Groove Heroes: “Leaving America was an easy choice because most of my work was in Europe and for a black American it was a difficult place with Trump. I am not alone in this situation.” He had already been on the lookout for somewhere in France: “I travel and while I was travelling I looked for places to call home. When I was a young boy my father was in the airforce in Châteauroux and so I knew France though I never learnt French unfortunately. “So to find a medieval town like

I love to be able to say with pride I am part of the troubadours. I’m proud and happy to be here, and grateful Vinx

Chalabre was great and I felt comfortable with it. It made me feel quite at home. Before I had looked at some places along the border with Switzerland and Germany so I could do my shows there as well, but it was a little too cold for me and the Alps are far more expensive so I found myself looking for a reasonably affordable place. “I am near to the airport in Toulouse so I can get anywhere I need to. It is going to take you an hour to get to the airport, so it seems remote but it is actually convenient. I learnt that by moving around I could live anywhere and still create and link with another musician. “It is very friendly and it is a small size and so it is bisou, bisou to everyone and we have found ways to form relationships and talk and it’s a great place to come to.” In 2017, after marrying his wife Jennifer in the States, he chose to celebrate his wedding in Chalabre by asking around 20 singers from all over the world to serenade the village as a thank you to the welcome they had given him. The resulting concert had such a positive reception from the local people that the idea to create a festival was born and this August saw the first Chalabre en Sérénade. The idea was to continue the tradition of the singing troubadours who started in this area in the 12th century and spread through much of medieval Europe. The theme is love songs and pays homage to the Dame Blanche, the lady in white who fell in love with a troubadour from Chalabre who drove her mad with passion. She ordered her servants to lower the water level so he could see her better.

Unfortunately, by doing so they made a mistake and caused a breach in a dam which unleashed a flood which wiped out an entire valley from Puivert to Mirepoix. The festival celebrates the awesome power of love. Artists and friends came from far and wide to perform. The opening was something the local people will never forget. The public walked around the village and as they did so the singers would appear at different balconies, one by one and sing, acapela, to the crowd below. Joliette Coste, Maire-Adjointe of Chalabre, says it was an experience charged with emotion: “We were so impressed by the quality of the music. It was extraordinary. On the last day, there were at least 500 people at the final concert in the market place and we have never had so many people in Chalabre. There was a solidarity and an emotional response which was incredibly strong. To have blues and soul music which originates from so far away in our village was amazing.” She says Chalabre is extremely happy to have Vinx and Jennifer living amongst them: “There are about 1,100 people living here. The commune is a bastide town and was a wealthy place once which lived from textiles and provided shoes for the army, but then went into decline. In recent years, it has begun to pick up again and so to have someone like Vinx with so much to offer is a wonderful chance for us. This year’s festival was extremely good for our shopkeepers, gîtes and hotels who had never had so much work in such a short space of time.” Joliette Coste says the couple are not only welcome for the economic boost they can give to the commune: “In the spirit of the troubadours many of the art-

Big interview/Trending 9

October 2018 I French Living

from travelling. “Sometimes being an artist is doing what is necessary to get your steady payment, and sometimes we limit ourselves to doing weddings and karaoke’s and we don’t take the chance to create – because it is so difficult to use your own music. “I know that and by being here, I can stir up that talent and give some of my experience. It is what I have to give, you know. Some great teachers came to share their information in the masterclasses which were just before the festival. In this age of technology where you can send something on the computer you no longer have to live in the centre of New York or London or Paris to get your message across. You don’t have to leave your little village to chase a dream which is not always available to everyone.” In January, Vinx suffered from a serious infection which needed brain surgery. He was rushed to Toulouse CHU, which has just been ranked the top hospital in 2018 by an independent survey published in Le Point, and which the couple from America wholeheartedly back: “He had emergency surgery and it was truly, truly extraordinary,” says Jennifer. “The entire village knew and they were so active in their support for Vinx and with their hopes and their good wishes, and so when we came home and said yes, we are doing the festival, the town kicked into touch and really made it happen and we really put it together from the middle of May to August.” Vinx is now looking forward to organising next year’s festival: “I love the troubadour connection with Chalabre – it’s a very important place for me historically and I love to be able to say with pride I am part of the troubadours. I’m proud and happy to be here and grateful.” www.vinx.com

Above and opposite: Vinx performs Below: the singer serenaded the crowd from a balcony at this year’s Chalabre troubadour festival

Every edition we assess an aspect of the French zeitgeist. This month: what’s brewing in France’s beer scene, by Jane Hanks



Photo: Chalabre en Sérénade

ists at the festival were lodged in local people’s homes, which created a strong link between the performers and the inhabitants. We also appreciate Vinx and Jennifer for themselves and they have completely integrated into the French way of life. There are many Anglophones in the area who are very polite and charming, but are discreet and have their own clubs and restaurants. That is not the case with Vinx and Jennifer. Anyone who makes the effort to integrate immediately wins the love of the French in return as they have.” Vinx says the festival was very rewarding. “All the great musicians and artists who took part were questioning if it would be possible to turn up a high level of energy in such a small place, but we did, and it was very successful in that sense. “It was more personal for artists used to playing in big cities. The tour of the balconies in Chalabre was very successful. It was great and because it was the first time it ever happened in the world it set the energy and the tempo for the rest of the week. “As the public walked around a singer would pop out at a balcony and then another and they all sang to a travelling hoard of people. It was amazing. It is our calling card now.” He said his aim was to give a boost to performers: “I am an activist for artists in general. So the aim was to create something that will help artists from all over the world come to France. And the great musicians that are French need to have the chance to collaborate with other artists in the world and give them the chance to up their game and give them the sense of what the world has out there, and I was happy and proud to share some of the experience I have

Let’s go to the hops: the rise of French craft beers

eer will probably never replace wine as the number one preferred alcoholic beverage in France, but there is no doubt that there is an increasing interest in a drink which has seen an explosion in the number of different varieties on offer and the number of new breweries in recent years. You can now buy walnut, cherry or rosé beers, shop from a growing number of caves à bières instead of caves à vin, drink in bars à bière, opt for one of the increasing number of non-alcoholic beers if you are driving, and drink beers brewed by an increasing number of micro-breweries. The figures from Brasseurs de France, which represents breweries, back this growing trend for drinks based on grain rather than grape. “The number of breweries has doubled in the past five years”, says spokesperson, Elise Sequalino. “There are now 4,000 different types of beer produced on 1,200 sites, putting France in third place for the number of breweries in Europe. In 2017, around a hundred new breweries were created.” Even with the increase in production sites, France is still low down the list of consumers at 27th place in Europe out of 28 countries, with people drinking on average 32 litres a year per inhabitant. This compares to 104 litres per year per person in Germany, at the head of the list and 67 litres/year/person for the British behind Holland and Belgium at 69 and 68 litres/year/person respectively. However, the growing variety of beers is attracting more drinkers: “The fruity flavours have attracted new female drinkers,” says Mrs Sequalino. “In supermarkets, 50% of sales are in speciality beers including bitter and India Pale Ale which have increased in popularity. Non-alcohol beers are also selling well and their sales went up by 21% in 2017. It is also true that artisanal beers are on the increase and now make up 5-6% of the market.” Many beers are made by small-scale breweries which sell limited ranges and numbers. They offer new and specialist tastes which makes tasting from different producers all the more interesting. Martin and Samuel Vanlerberghe are twins who opened their brewery on their

family farm just three years ago at Montagny-Sainte-Félicité, in the Oise. They call themselves Brasserie Félicité after the name of the church in their village and for the moment produce three beers; Ambrée, Blonde and Blanche. Samuel Vanlerberghe says they chose beer because they needed to diversify production on the family farm: “We already produce barley, but cannot make our living from that alone. So after studying at agricultural college we came back to our farm and converted the old barn into a modern brewery. Last year we produced 35,000 litres and our aim is eventually to produce 100,000 litres.” He says their beers are light, with a hint of bitterness and spice and highlighted with the taste of the cereals they are made from. Their blonde beer is 6% in strength, which is more than industrial beer, but they say, not strong for an artisanal beer. “Drinking beer is popular and in particular young working people enjoy drinking beers like ours which are thirst quenching and not too alcoholic.”

In particular young working people enjoy drinking beers like ours which are thirst quenching Samuel Vanlerberghe, beer brewer

The twins sell locally and in Paris and say they are confident they can find clients even though there are so many new producers. For them the hardest task is to make it in quantity as Samuel Vanlerberghe says it is very hard work: “It involves a great deal of man hours. Each batch of beer takes two months with several different stages before it can be bottled. Then we have to label them, package them up and market them, a lot of work for two people. But yes, we love what we produce, of course.” brasserie-felicite.fr

10 October What’s on

French Living I October 2018

Jumpin’ Jack Flash at the Crillon Stars at the Crillon, Paris until November 25

Photos: Emanuele Scorcelletti/Courtesy Polka Galerie

To mark the first anniversary of its grand reopening after a multi-million euro renovation, the historic Hôtel de Crillon on Place de la Concorde is putting on a free photo exhibition featuring nine imagined scenarios with noted former guests. These are not living, breathing former guests, however, but waxwork versions from the city’s Musée Grévin, photographed by Emanuele Scorcelletti in a project run by the Polka Gallery. In one picture, imagine Edith Piaf singing La Vie en rose in the hotel’s former bistro, with Aznavour and Hemingway admiring her while Mick Jagger struts his stuff atop a piano. In another, see President De Gaulle outside standing next to his presidential Citroën... www.crillon.com

More October events Salon d’Automne, 2 Pavillons, Paris, October 25-28

ranging from Michelin-starred venues to cosy bistros and local brasseries. The initiative was the brainchild of Alain Ducasse (see page 12 for some of his favourite recipes from his new book, Bistro). All bookings must be made through the website: www.tousaurestaurant.com Miró at the Grand Palais, Paris, October 3 – February 4 2019 “For me, a painting should be like sparks. It should dazzle you like the beauty of a woman or a poem,” said Catalan artist Joan Miró, who is the subject of one of the major exhibitions to hit Paris this autumn. More than 150 of his works, gathered from the greatest European and American museums, as well as from private collections, feature in a retrospective moving from Fauvism through to Surrealism. www.grandpalais.fr/en

For its 115th edition, the Salon d’Automne at 2 Pavillons on the ChampsElysées in Paris will exhibit around 900 artists, from 45 different countries. The event brings together not only artists with art world professionals but also it places art closer to its potential buying audience. A cultural programme, including concerts, conferences, roundtable discussions, readings, performances and a fashion show, enriches the exhibition over these four days. Meanwhile art from all disciplines is on display, from engraving, to sculpture, photography to digital art. www.salon-automne.com/en Tous au restaurant, across France, October 1-14 ‘Everyone at the restaurant’ is, for foodies, the must-attend event of the autumn. It provides a unique opportunity to discover or rediscover the diversity, vitality and creativity of French restaurants by enjoying a ‘buy one, get one free’ meal at eateries

La Rochelle jazz festival, October 3-6 Subtitled ‘Entre les deux tours’ (Between the two towers) which refers to its tower-flanked portside location, this year’s jazz fest will be dedicated to its late artistic director, Didier Lockwood, the violist who died suddenly in February. The festival will celebrate his life with his musician friends like Biréli Lagrène, Benoît Sourisse, Diego Imbert, Olivier Hutman and violinist Fiona Monbet, as well as his brother, Francis Lockwood. www.jazzentrelesdeuxtours.fr Bordeaux International Arts Festival, October 5-24 This multi-disciplinary arts festival, now in its third year (it is the result of the merger of two former festivals), sees the Nouvelle Aquitaine city come alive with theatre, dance, circus, music and visual arts in public spaces and venues, with the theme of this year’s being ‘paradise’. The festival is keen to be socially pertinent and looks also to promote and support local talent, with great emphasis being placed on artists from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. www.fab.festivalbordeaux.com

Les Francophonies en Limousin, until October 6 The 35th running of the Limousin Francophone festival in and around the capital city of Limoges, as well as Vicqsur-Breuilh, La Souterraine and Tulle, is the place to enjoy artistic expressions of the French language. The eclectic line-up will feature dance shows, reggae, jazz or traditional music concerts, theatre, book readings and meetings with authors. www.lesfrancophonies.fr Nuit Blanche, Paris, October 6 The French capital will light up for a Saturday night to remember, with the return of the city’s ‘White Night’. Art lovers can enjoy installations around town or join in one of three tours, all related to the capital’s emblematic sights, running from 19.00. to 07.00. ÎDF Mobilités, formerly STIF – the transport organization authority controlling the capital’s public transport – provides transport free of charge throughout the night and several restaurants will stay open all night long. www.paris.fr/nuitblanche Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Paris, October 6-7 Every year, the first weekend of October sees the cream of the racing world and attendant equestrian fans flock to the illustrious surroundings of Hippodrome de Paris Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne. The flat race returns to a renovated Longchamp in 2018 after two years at Chantilly, with the main race for horses of at least three years old. During the race weekend, jockeys and owners will compete for prize money approaching €10million. www.parislongchamp.com La Semaine du Goût, around France, October 8-14 Since its creation in 1990, this ‘Week of Taste’ educational event has been conveying the pleasures of taste to all gourmet audiences. It brings together

200,000 children, as well as professionals from ‘the land to the plate’ (producers, local authorities and restaurateurs). One aim is to make children aware of the concepts of terroir, seasonality of products and a varied, balanced diet. A focus on seeds and plants will be on the menu this year and also there will be be low-cost menus laid on around France. www.legout.com Chantilly Plant Day, October 19-21 For the eighth year, the sublime grounds of Château de Chantilly, Oise, welcome green-fingered visitors seeking shrubs and plants. Over 200 growers specially selected by a committee will be supplying the greenery – from collection plants to the great classics –while there will also be tool and furniture suppliers on hand displaying wares to ease the gardener’s life. www.domainedechantilly.com/en Picasso, The Vallauris Years, Vallauris, until October 22 In 1947, Pablo Picasso went to live in Vallauris on the French Riviera, and stayed until 1955. During this time, he created many sculptures and paintings including War and Peace, which was one of the major artworks of the period. As a freeman of the town, Picasso greatly contributed to the renaissance of the Vallauris pottery industry in the 1950s, as a new exhibition at the town’s museum dedicated to him reveals. www.vallauris-golfe-juan.fr Descharnes’ Dalí, Azay-le-Rideau, until November 4 La Salles des Halles in Azay-le-Rideau (Indre-et-Loire), pays tribute to Spanish artist Salvador Dalí through a hundred photographs taken by Robert Descharnes, his secretary and photographic chronicler. The images reveal the surrealist’s creative process and a deep friendship between the two men, and intertwine intimate moments from 1950 to his death in 1989 with sculptures, prints and sketches from the artist’s collections. www.expo-azaylerideau.com

The Connexion works with local tourist offices for the information on this page. Due to possible last-minute changes to programmes and event timing we recommend that you always check with individual organisers before making a trip.

October 2018 I French Living

What’s on/Cultural digest 11 Long limbs and old school chills A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life 1. Norman wisdom The Normandy Tourist Board has created a handy new application for web and smartphones aimed at visitors already in situ to discover ‘secret’ places to visit. Normandy Secrets features local Norman tourism professionals revealing the best places to visit and top tips on great deals for accommodation.

1 Photos: © Mairie de Conches-en-Ouches

For example, Christophe tips you off about boat travel on the Seine for the best views while Carole knows where you can see traditional lace being made. Your location dictates the cultural, culinary and other themed recommendations. www.normandysecrets.com

Fête de la Pomme, du Cidre et du Fromage, Conches, Eure (Normandy), October 28 With both seafood and farm produce aplenty, few regions come alive with autumn food festivals quite like Normandy. And given that this is prime cider country, apples (with some cheese for good measure) take pride of place at Conches-en-Ouches’ annual jolly. Set in a lovely arboretum, this major event will promote for the tenth year running the region’s traditions, with a market of local producers and craftsmen, gastronomic tastings, demonstrations of know-how, exhibitions of farm animals and folklore groups. Visitors can also enjoy the fruits of regional competitions for cider, honey and gingerbread, join in some fun and educational walks as well as traditional Norman games. Local culinary specialities will feature prominently on the catering front... www.conches-en-ouche.fr

2. Mean-spirited Mitchell Veteran French rock and roll copyist, actor and close chum of the late Johnny Hallyday, Eddy Mitchell, did little to enhance his reputation as a showbiz charmer during a recent interview published in Le Journal du Dimanche, with several targets in his crosshairs. Talking about musical films, the 76-year-old described La La Land, the Oscar-scooping sensation directed by Damien ChazElle, in less than glowing terms. Of its co-stars, he said Emma Stone was ‘moche comme un pou’ (‘as ugly as a louse’) and said Ryan Gosling was ‘flat-footed’. ‘I hope they never have children together,’ he said. In a wide-ranging interview, Mitchell called Hallyday’s acting style ‘laborious’, Jean-Luc Godard ‘over-rated’ and recalled two days’ work directing a Haribo sweets commercial in 1987, for which he was better paid than for acting in a feature film.

4. Old school thrills Literary tomes that win prestigious prizes in France may keep the Parisian chattering classes in conversation, but when it comes to an everyman holiday read, the French like nothing more than a good old home-spun thriller. This is why best-selling writer Guillaume Musso (pictured below) is such a phenomenal unit-shifter in FNACs up and down the land. His latest book, La Jeune Fille et la Nuit, about three friends attending a school reunion in [Musso’s home town] Antibes, thirty years after they committed a terrible crime (this is not a spoiler) sold more than 550,000 copies from publication in April to August.

4 The book, which Musso describes as ‘Twin Peaks in Pagnol country’, will not, however, be translated into English (and entitled Night and the Maiden) until at least Spring 2019. 5. Chansons d’amour Charlotte Gainsbourg has revealed some details of her teenage obsession with the singer Charles Aznavour. However, speaking to RTL, she said her love of the crooner sparked fury in her father, Serge. “I must have been 15 or 16. I listened to Charles Aznavour over and over, which drove my father crazy with jealousy.” Charlotte previously told Vanity Fair that after Serge died in 1991, she could not cope with hearing her father’s songs being played in cafés and taxis. “I knew all the intros and asked the driver to turn off the radio from the first bars. I was lost. It was complicated to manage my father’s voice, his breathing, his laughter.” Photo: © Henry Moore archive

3. A love of elongated limbs “I do not hide my pleasure in being able to exhibit in the great hall of the Capucins this major English sculptor, whose work shines all over the world though still little known in France.” So says Michel-Edouard Leclerc, President of Fonds Hélène et Edouard Leclerc, of the major Henry Moore retrospective he has curated in Landerneau, Brittany, running until November 4.

The life and career of the Yorkshireborn, post-War modernist sculptor is chronologically traced through a selection of emblematic works, most of them on loan from the collection of the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green, where he lived and worked.

Espelette Red Pepper Festival, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, October 27-28 Organised by the Confrerie du Piment et du Axoa de Veau d’Espelette, the festival began in the 1960s to celebrate the end of the harvest and takes place every year during the last week of October. There are 200 stands with Piment d’Espelette, other regional products and artisanal goods for sale. It is lively and colourful with plenty of Basque music from the Bandas who perform in the

streets, houses decorated with cords of chillies, a traditional Basque dance show and a Pelote game. On the Sunday, members of local Confréries (brotherhoods) form a procession in their different costumes after a Mass to bless the Piment and there then follows a ceremony in which new members are sworn in – they might be honorary guests such as chefs, local people or Basque sportsmen and women. www.espelette.fr


12 Recipes

French Living I

Bistro classics made ea Acclaimed French chef Alain Ducasse is usually associated with Michelin-friendly fare. But he also keeps bistro traditions alive...


lain Ducasse is one of the most renowned chefs of his generation. He is also a restaurant designer, hotelier, and teacher of the culinary arts. He is the first chef whose restaurants have been awarded three Michelin stars in two different cities. He is the author of numerous best-selling cookbooks. In his latest, Bistro: Classic French Comfort Food, Ducasse has carefully selected the most popular recipes from his roster of critically acclaimed bistro-style restaurants: Aux Lyonnais (in Paris), Benoit (in Paris, New York, and Tokyo), and Allard (in Paris). Aimed at anyone who has aspired to haute cuisine but has been scared off by its technical intricacies and reputation for heaviness, the recipes are based on traditional, regional French dishes inspired by local agriculture and terroir, but with Ducasse’s signature treatment bringing them up-to-date with contemporary twists and an eye toward healthier eating. The recipes demonstrate that simple ingredients, simply prepared, can give a result as good as using ingredients that are heavier or more expensive. Soulful classics, they are perfect for cosy dinners with family and friends, as well as entertaining for special occasions. Keeping bistrots alive A traditional eatery founded in 1890, Aux Lyonnais was taken over in 2002 by Ducasse, who has kept its character intact. Behind the famous red facade, the atmosphere is warm and authentic and the restaurant captures the ambiance of the traditional bouchons of Lyon. “While respecting tradition and preserving flavour combinations, we wish to reinterpret Lyon cuisine by adding a hint of modernity to make it lighter, more accessible, and even more flavoursome,” explains chef Francis Fauvel. Cervelle des canuts, quenelles with crayfish, and Lyon-style rabbit leg confit pay tribute to the cuisine created by the legendary female chefs of that city, the Mères Lyonnaises. Opened in Paris in 1912, a stone’s throw from the Hôtel de Ville, Benoit has been welcoming lovers of fine traditional French cuisine for more than a century. Alain Ducasse took over from Michel Petit in 2005 and

Behind the famous red facade, the atmosphere is warm and authentic

continues to delight gourmets from all over the world. The leg of lamb, tournedos Rossini, and pot-roasted pork chops interpreted by chef Fabienne Eymard continue to reflect the restaurant’s motto: Chez toi Benoit, on boit, on festoie en rois (“Come over to Benoit, where you’ll drink and feast like a king”). When you sit on the red velvet chairs, at the bar or facing the mirrors, you’ll experience the warmth and friendliness that reigns supreme at Benoit. With a history spanning more than eighty years, Allard is one of the finest eateries in Paris. Located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, it is one of the last authentic bistros in the French capital. Alain Ducasse took over management in 2013, and insisted on preserving Allard’s authenticity. Frog’s legs, roasted Challans duck with olives, pâté en croûte, and rum baba lavishly perpetuate this tradition. Chef Laëtitia Rouabah now continues with the sincere and generous cuisine de terroir initiated by the Allard Family.

Duck confit with Sarlat potatoes serves 4 Ingredients DUCK CONFIT 4 duck legs 200g coarse salt Black peppercorns 4 sprigs thyme 2 bay leaves 1kg duck fat SARLAT POTATOES 1kg Agria or other yellow-fleshed, floury potatoes 100ml duck fat Salt Freshly ground pepper 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley 4 cloves garlic

Extract and recipes from Bistro Classic French Comfort Food by Alain Ducasse, published by Rizzoli New York, 2018. Photographs by Pierre Monetta

Method 1. Place the duck legs on a tray and season with the salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the tray with plastic wrap (cling film) and refrigerate for 6 hours. Remove the legs from the tray and wipe carefully with a cloth. Melt the duck

fat in casser for ab drain throug into a

2. Peel a off the peeler 1/4 in Imme unifor disks. slices in a sk the po cooke season

3. Pluck garlic parsle legs to side d mediu until t duck l with t Sprink and ga

Food notes 13


Sautéed porcini (ceps) serves 4 Ingredients 20 young porcini (ceps) 1 clove garlic Leaves from several sprigs flat-leaf parsley 30g butter 30ml olive oil 3 sprigs thyme 10ml dry white wine 50ml chicken stock Salt Freshly ground pepper Fleur de sel Olive oil Method 1. Use a knife tip to remove the earth-encrusted parts of the mushroom stems. Use a dry brush to remove any impurities. Set aside two mushrooms for finishing. Halve the mushrooms to check that they are not worm-eaten. Peel the garlic and finely chop with the parsley. Melt the butter with the oil in a Dutch oven (cast-iron casserole). 2. Add the mushrooms, cut side down, and brown them. When the cut side is golden, turn the mushrooms over, add the thyme, and cook for a few more minutes before deglazing with the white wine. Reduce the liquid until it becomes thicker, then deglaze again with the chicken stock and cover for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. 3. Arrange the mushrooms on a plate and season with a pinch of fleur de sel and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

a Dutch oven (cast-iron role) and add the legs. Simmer bout 2 hours. When cooked, the legs well and filter the fat gh a fine strainer (sieve) a container.

and wash the potatoes and cut e ends. Use a vegetable r to trim them into 3cm- – 1 nch-diameter cylinders. ediately cut the cylinders into rm 3mm- – 1/8 inch-thick Rinse, drain, and dry the with a cloth. Heat the duck fat killet or frying pan and sauté otatoes for 15 minutes. When ed and golden, drain them and n with salt and pepper.

the parsley leaves. Peel the cloves. Chop the garlic and ey; set aside*. Return the duck o a skillet or frying pan, skin down. Brown them over um heat for about 10 minutes, the skin is crisp. Arrange the legs in the centre of a platter the potatoes around them. kle with the chopped parsley arlic.

Photo: Fotolia

I October 2018

So wrong it’s right: why are tarte Tatins upside down?

In the first of a new series answering quirky questions on French food and drink, we focus on this apple classic

ike some other French dishes of note (including pomme de terre à la boulangère), the creation of tarte Tatin owes more to pure chance and necessity than creative intent. Picture the scene. We are in rural Loiret-Cher, Centre-Val de Loire, in the 1880s. The location is the family-run Hotel Tatin in the small village of Lamotte-Beuvron where, one lunchtime, Stéphanie Tatin, who runs the hotel with her sister Caroline, is cooking lunch for her guests. Momentarily distracted, Stéphanie loses sight of the burning apples in sugar and butter that she is cooking for a pie. Instead of panicking, the quick-thinking cook rescues the situation by placing her prepared pastry base over the top of the pan and placing the whole thing directly into the oven. Upon removing the pie and flipping

it onto a serving dish, she discovers the oozy, caramelised fruit to be truly delicious and it soon becomes a staple on the hotel menu (and it still is – you can eat it all day long; see www.hotel-tatin.fr). What happened next in the dish’s evolution is open to debate. The Tatin sisters did not formally publish the recipe or write a cookbook, nor did they even name the dish after themselves – this is said to have been done later, by food writer and epicure Maurice Edmond Sailland, aka Curnonsky. Some food historians believe they were simply serving a version of a local Sologne dish called tarte solognote. They would have used locally grown apple varieties Reine des Reinettes (Queen of the Pippins) and Calville, but today Granny Smiths or Golden delicious will do the job. The key is that they are firm enough to retain solidity during cooking. An alternative to the traditional tarte Tatin can be enjoyed by replacing the apple with pineapple, apple or peach. For a seasonal cheese, see page 15

Gadget inspector

Now available

Off with its head! Saucisson for the chop at apéro time

Producer of healthy food looks to set pulses racing

Among the fiddly jobs come apéro time is slicing up the saucisson you bought at market. Thankfully, in the land where the guillotine was invented (by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin), so too can the saucisson now be ceremonially cut in front of an audience! Made in France by So Apéro, the fast slicing guillotine costs €49.50 and is crafted in untreated, non-stained solid wood. Also available for left-handers! www.guillotine-saucisson.fr

As menu planning thoughts turn to warming dishes for autumn evenings, fibre and protein-rich chick peas and split peas represent healthy, tasty alternatives to the usual potatoes, rice or pasta. Vivien Paille’s chickpeas come from Occitanie, and split peas from the Centre-Aquitaine areas, and are on sale in major supermarkets now. Their cultivation method requires neither nitrogen fertilisers nor irrigation. www.vivienpaille.fr

Food notes


Chocolate mousse serves 4

Ingredients 250g dark chocolate (70% cacao) 125g butter 60g egg yolks (about 3–4 large) 300g egg whites (about 10 large) 65g sugar For topping: 50g dark chocolate (70% cacao) Method 1. Finely chop the chocolate and melt it over a bain-marie together with the butter. When melted, remove from the heat and add the egg yolks, one by one, beating until the mixture is smooth. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add the sugar while beating to stiff peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the choc late mixture. 2. Transfer the mousse to a large bowl or individual ramekins, and refrigerate for 5 hours. 3. Make shavings by scraping the chocolate with a knife. Take the mousse out of the refrigerator 1 hour before serving and sprinkle with the chocolate shavings.

14 Oysters

French Living I October 2018

Waiting game for ‘vignerons of the sea’


yster farmers should know by the end of October how their shellfish are doing during their autumn growth period and be able to give indications of quantity and quality for the key Christmas and New Year market. Signs are promising this year after a good spring, but nothing is certain until the second autumn growth is complete. With consumption in France peaking over the Christmas and New Year festivities, it is vital that production peaks in time. Oysters are marketed in five grades, with the biggest being number one, and the smallest number five. “By far the biggest market is for number three sized oysters, and we try to get as many of those for the December season as possible,” Laurent Chiron, the president of the Groupement Qualité Huîtres Marennes-Oléron, who has his own business at L’Eguille-sur-Seudre, not far from Royan, told The Connexion. “So far we have had a good growth period in the spring, where the rain and the temperature helped to produce lots of plankton, but we will only really know where we stand at the end of October.” Marennes-Oléron is the largest of France’s seven producing areas, of Normandy, North Brittany, South Brittany, West-Central, Marennes-Oléron, Arcachon, and the Mediterranean. It produces 20 million tonnes of France’s annual crop of 100 million tonnes.

Marennes-Oléron produces 20 million tonnes of France’s annual crop of 100 million

Of the seven it is the only one to finish off the oysters in claires, shallow baths dug out of clay, initially used to produce salt. The oysters are moved there from the sea for minimum periods of between 14 and 28 days, with the density of the shellfish per metre squared also varying from one kilogramme per metre square to three kilogrammes per metre square. As the sea water in most claires is renewed during the highest tides of the month only, the level of salt in the water is normally lower than in the sea and estuaries as the seawater is diluted by rainwater. This also promotes the rapid

Tiger (prawn) economy too


growth of algae and plankton not found in the sea, including green algae which gives some Marennes-Oléron oysters their unique jade green colour. “Our oysters are usually not as salty tasting as others, with sweeter, nutty flavours coming to the fore,” said Laurent Chiron. “It was realising that we have such special circumstances here, a terroir, which pushed us to get official recognition.” As well as being the only oysters with Indication Géographique Protégée status, granted by the European Union and covering oysters produced over 3,000 hectares, some of the oysters have French Label Rouge quality labels as well. These are given to oysters following strict rules during their growth. One Label Rouge is given to the Huître Fine de Claire Vert which has jade green gills from the algae and plankton in the claires, a fair amount of flesh with a soft to firm consistency, and a salty then sweet taste with a medium finish. The other is for the most expensive Pousse en Claire, where the minimum period in the claires is four months with a maximum density of five oysters per metre square. Originally grown not for the market but as curiosities for the family and friends, Pousse en Claire have a very firm, nearly crisp flesh, a pronounced “marshy” flavour, which is sweet over salt, and a long finish in the mouth. Other oysters from the region are the Fine de Claire which do not have much flesh, have a soft consistency and a delicate taste with a short finish, and the Speciale de Claire where the oysters are selected for a curved shell giving a lot of flesh, with a sweet taste and a long finish. Oyster growers all over France had a bad scare in 2010, when there was an episode of extremely high mortality among one yearold oysters – oysters reach market usually after two-and-a-half or threeand-a-half years. This led to big price rises for 2012, 2013 and 2014, but since then prices have stabilised. “I expect that the prices this year will be stable, or even a bit lower than last year,”

Clockwise, from above: Loading one year old oysters into sacks at the L’Eguillesur-Seudre oyster farm; owner Laurent Chiron showing the Marennes Oléron IGP area; number 4 oysters on sale

said Mr Chiron. “This year I know some of our producers, especially with their beds out to sea, had episodes of die-off but it was very selective, touching some people and not their neighbours.” Scientists investigating the phenomenon suspect bacteria living in the mud of the estuary to be behind it, but do not know why it suddenly proliferated or why some oysters seem more resistant to it than others. The bacteria does not harm humans. “The thinking now is that oysters which have recently been moved are more susceptible and it is chance, whether they have been moved when the bacteria is growing or not,” he said. “At the moment we do not think we have to change the type of oyster which is what some people were proposing. There is no way we can give our oysters antibiotics, it is the one animal raised by humans which cannot be treated by antibiotics at all.” Marennes-Oléron is also unique in France in that all its natural oysters are “captured” at sea, on special tubes looking like insulators used on high-voltage lines. Other regions get most of their oysters from specialist breeders, who also supply some growers in MarennesOléron with the triploid oysters, which have been on the markets in summer for 20 years. Bred to have three chromosomes, using complicated methods in hatcheries they do not turn “milky” during the summer breeding season. They are also quick growing but the advantages have to be weighed against the price of buying them in. France consumes most of the 100 million tonnes of oysters it produces. Around 20 million tonnes are exported, mainly to Asia, and at the same time around 20 million tonnes are imported, mainly from Ireland, Spain and Portugal. Often called the vignerons (grape

round 20 producers in Marennes Oléron have started raising Asian tiger prawns as part of their business. The claires have to be maintained and sometimes stay empty between batches of oysters. “During this time there is a huge growth of algae and plankton, which has to be cleaned away before the oysters come in. “As an experiment we tried putting the prawns in and they thrived, as well as keeping the claires clean. The prawns are put in the claires as babies, smaller than a finger nail in the Spring and grow up to 20 cm by August. Any which are not harvested die off as soon as the first autumn cold spell arrives. “I find them delicious and they do bring in extra revenue in the summer,” said Mr Chiron. The producers are divided between the “ranchers” like Mr Chiron, who do not stock densely and leave the prawns to find their own food, and the “farmers” who stock more densely and feed the prawns with bio-granules, specially prepared by a Brittany firm. growers) of the sea, oyster farmers are usually from families who have been in the business for generations. Like grape growing, the work is a mixture between manual labour and specialist knowledge. Work includes picking off tiny oysters, putting them in sacks, taking the sacks out to sea at low tide, lifting checking and moving the sacks to different areas, and then harvesting when they have grown. And, again like wine, marketing the end product can make the difference between success and failure. Many growers in Marennes-Oléron now have their own “cabanes” the name originally given to the huts used to store equipment, but now converted into basic restaurants where clients can eat just harvested oysters. They have proved to be so successful that restaurant owners are now crying foul, saying too many of their clients are going to the “cabanes” which they claim do not have to meet the same standard as the restaurants. Mr Chiron disputes this: “We are inspected every week by the prefecture, to make sure our oysters are safe. You do not see restaurants checked every week.”

Photos: Jérôme Jouve,Oliu di Corsica

Photos: Brian McCulloch

Christmas and New Year are France’s big oyster eating periods. Brian McCulloch visits a farm to check progress on this year’s batch

Wine and Cheese 15 Photos: Fotolia; Pixabay

October 2018 I French Living

Meet the producers


n his fruit farm near Montde-Marsan in Landes, François Lafitte grows Nergis – small, smoothskinned kiwis sometimes called kiwiberries. “They are sweeter than a normal kiwi,” he says, “and the flavour is something between raspberries and kiwi.” He has been growing kiwis since 1979, but planted his first Nergis in 2009, and he now has 24 hectares of Nergi vines. “I was attracted to it because it was a novelty, and also because it’s a vine, you train it over a tunnel. I chose to grow it because it’s strange, it’s interesting - it’s a little fruit which you can just pop in your mouth like a cherry, so it’s fun. And from the farming point of view, it’s hardy, it doesn’t mind frost, and resists disease very well, so it’s easy to grow without too many chemicals.” Nergis are, however, labour intensive. The vines have to be pruned, and trained along the supports, the leaves have to be cut away from the fruit, and all this as well as the harvest, has to be done by hand. “It’s a very natural product,” says François Lafitte, “and it’s beginning to be known by the general public. We are stocked by major supermarkets in the big cities. In France we produce 5 million packs of Nergis a year. But around 80% is exported.” He says that nearly half the production goes to Germany, where people are quicker to adopt new things, more preoccupied with eating vitamins and more likely to eat a packed lunch. They are also apparently bigger consumers of ‘small fruits’ like cherries, raspberries and other soft fruits. “The French are very traditional when it comes to food, and change their habits much more slowly.” The Nergi isn’t a new species, it’s a very old fruit which has been known in northern Asia for centuries. But this new generation of nergi vines have been bred to produce more fruit which keeps very very well. “Nergis have a shelf life of up to 2-3 months.” Nergis can be eaten as a snack, or combined in fruit salads or used to make ‘fruit kebabs’. They can also be used in salads, or served with Palma ham or soft cheeses, making them a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen.

Artisan cheese of the month: Fourme d’Ambert French government grants to winemakers can include help with wine tourism and tasting facilities

One of France’s oldest known cheeses – it dates back to Roman times – Fourme d’Ambert is a semi-hard, AOP blue cheese made from raw cow’s milk in the Auvergne. Its blue veins come from the Penicillium roqueforti spores with which it is inoculated and while it resembles Roquefort, in texture it is denser and less crumbly and in taste less poky, albeit with an earthy, mushroomy mouthfeel. To buy in situ, visit the artisan producer la Ferme des Supeyres – closed on Thursdays, the day they head to Ambert market. www.supeyres.fr/acces

Local speciality: La pouteille

This tasty regional dish from the village of La Canourgue in Lozère (Occitanie) resembles other wine-based, braised beef stews but with one key difference – the addition of pigs’ feet to lend extra gelatinous, unctuous silkiness and flavour. Slow-cooked for four hours, la pouteille is best served with boiled potatoes. Available, ready to reheat from www.bienmanger.com, €25.75 for a 900g jar.

Structural benefits of vigneron grants Forward-facing winemakers can benefit from official help, says Jonathan Hesford A year in the vineyard


ast month, I wrote about the grants and subsidies that were available to vignerons for planting, converting to organics or improving their vineyards. This month, I will look at grants available for improving the winery and increasing sales. This year I have bitten the bullet myself and put forward a renovation and improvement project that qualified for a subsidy, so the article has some personal experiences. Government grants are awarded for projects which are deemed to improve the quality of wine production or increase wine tourism. They take the form of a percentage payment for new equipment or the construction of dedicated tasting and sales facilities. As usual, large amounts of paperwork need to be prepared and the complex rules strictly followed. Because the producer needs to fund the majority of the project and the administration is complex, they tend to benefit the larger producers with access to capital. The grants also benefit the wider wine industry because manufacturers of winery equipment, winery construction companies and consultants are the end beneficiaries of the grants.

Unless there is an overall increase in wine visitors to a region, the wineries are simply fighting for the same custom

The list of items that qualify for grants is pretty large. It includes the latest, most energy- and resource-efficient presses, pumps, refrigeration systems, destemmers and tanks. Improvements such as drainage, safety-equipment and hygienic flooring are also included. Each item comes with a list of specifications that must be met, so finding suppliers who understand the rules is highly important. The document that requests the grant is also pretty complicated and requires the producer to provide details of current production levels and economic performance. Often wineries will employ a consultant to prepare the application, who may charge a fixed fee or a percentage, normally 10%, of the grant. Once the grant has been approved, and not a day earlier, work may commence on buying equipment or making improvements. All the costs need to be met by the producer, including the TVA, so generally a loan will need to be agreed with the bank for the whole of the investment, with an option to repay the portion that is covered by the grant once it has been checked and awarded, which normally takes 18 months. Therefore not only does the applicant need to convince the state; they also need to convince their bank of their financial stability. Because the grants are approved in the spring, it leaves little time to complete the projects before harvest in autumn. So having workmen, contractors, consultants and suppliers lined up to leap into action is like a military operation. For those without the capital, access to borrowing or prepared plans, there is an alternative. Once the wineries get their grants and new equipment, they will want to sell their old equipment, often at pretty attractive prices. So the grant system benefits those who don’t apply as well as those who do. Wine tourism has been given a boost

by attractive grants to build tasting rooms, event facilities, even on-site restaurants. However, there are lots of conditions such as handicapped access, health and safety and the attaining of licences to serve food and wine to visitors. One of the downsides of offering grants for tourism is that it has benefitted those who previously offered nothing against those who had created interesting visits before the grants were available. It has led to competition between neighbouring wineries trying to attract the same limited number of visitors. Unless there is an overall increase in wine visitors to a region, the wineries are simply fighting for the same custom. The third area which is aided by the state is the marketing of wine outside the EU. This may involve prospective missions, wine trade fairs or promotions in foreign shops and restaurants. The amounts are relatively small and again form only a percentage of the costs to the producer. However, for those who have made the effort to research and explore the Asian market, the grants have proved invaluable in developing markets that previously didn’t exist. Compared to handing out subsidies just to make wine, these grants for wine-making improvements, energyefficiency, wine tourism and export markets are all beginning to provide benefits to the whole French wine industry, particularly those most willing and able to improve and take risks. A very positive story compared to the one about militant vignerons sabotaging cheap, subsidised wine imported from Spain. Jonathan Hesford has a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University, New Zealand and is the owner, vigneron and winemaker of Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon – visit www.domainetreloar.com.

16 Interiors

French Living I October 2018

Steal the style of capital’s creatives Inès de la Fressange and Marin Montagut open their own and fellow Parisians’ doors to discover interiors chic 1. Chez Inès, Val-de-Grâce district, Paris 5e, by Marin


he first time you visit Inès de la Fressange’s Parisian home (pictured top right) it’s like taking a trip to the countryside – her house near the Panthéon has a garden and is “a bit ramshackle but in a charming way.” Inès has a gift for creating an environment that’s completely in her own image: cheerful, upbeat, and unaffected. Quite simply, she collects objects and gives them a soul. Instead of pursuing a particular style, she creates stories that she applies to the interior. Formerly a hotel, the house inspired her to imagine the realm of a family boarding house with a wooden reception desk complete with a bell – and she’s pulled it off perfectly. The aroma of hot coffee makes you want to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen. Oversized sofas accommodate Inès’s countless friends who come to visit. Around the extendable table, guests sit on multicoloured chairs for leisurely Sunday lunches of roast chicken. Her interiors include everything we love about vacation homes – a constant stream of visitors, straw hats, old lamps with silk shades, washed linen, and a riot of colour. Inès loves pink because it casts an attractive glow that is flattering for all complexions. She is also a fan of pale green antique furniture and cream hemp fabrics. The scent of clean linen floats through the house, evoking the comforting memory of childhood homes. Bouquets of flowers are testament to how much Inès is loved by the friends and family she entertains so wonderfully. The little details do the rest: the fire is always blazing in winter and dozens of colourful candles light up the room. Whether it’s thanks to a trip to IKEA, frenzied online shopping, or love at first sight in the Saint-Ouen flea market, Inès snaps up furniture and objects with an almost childlike enthusiasm. If I were asked to draw the happiest of homes, I would draw hers.

2. Chez Ariane, Auteuil district, Paris 16e

A broad palette of green tones brings the great outdoors into the interior of this apartment (main photo) belonging to Ariane Dalle, artistic director of prestigious fabric brands Manuel Canovas and Larsen, who was inspired by happy childhood memories of Provençal landscapes. A sense of nature pervades the artfully displayed items in this 80m2 space, which has been converted into three rooms, with curved windows and an original kitchen. Ariane’s personality shines through in the recurring themes, skilful arrangements, and emotive collections, all infused with a 1920s vibe. An avid collector of random items from her travels in India and elsewhere in Asia or picked up at flea markets and antiques fairs from New York to Paris, Ariane liberates them from their original use, calling their past a “mysteri-

Get the look With crafty French high street and online purchases, you can recreate elements of these Parisian homes chez vous. Prices and availability correct at time of going to press.

ous skein that weaves us together.” These eclectic tendencies inspired her to create this bohemian space in Paris’s otherwise rather conventional sixteenth arrondissement. The patina of vintage, utilitarian furniture instils a warm atmosphere and a unique character, while wood, stoneware, and glass exude a classical beauty. Fabrics become a source of inspiration: drapes made from dhoti fabric (lengths of white cotton traditionally worn by South Asian men), cushions covered with jute (as used in the American West to make flour sacks), and a Miao bedspread from the Yunnan region of China weave their own tales. Ariane escapes from the grey of Paris and dreams of the South of France by planning her next purchase: a table lamp by Roger Capron, the famous ceramicist based in Vallauris on the French Riviera.

3. Chez Sophie, Saint-GermainL’Auxerrois district, Paris 1er

If you want spectacular views of Paris, check out Leos Carax’s movie The Lovers on the Bridge, or just gaze out of a window in the apartment of Sophie Duruflé, managing director of the Isabel Marant fashion label. From sunrise to sunset, views of the bateaux-mouches tourist boats on the Seine, the towers of the Conciergerie, and the Pont au Change delight this incura-

Extracted from Maison, Parisian Chic at Home by Inès de la Fressange and Marin Montagut, with photography by Claire Cocano (published by Flammarion).

ble aesthete. One of Marant’s childhood friends, Sophie divides her life between travelling, her daughter Héléna, her two cats, and her beautiful home. White walls create a soothing atmosphere and, most importantly, lend themselves to all Sophie’s decorative ideas. Throughout 210 m2 filled with mouldings and exposed woodwork, her dreams run wild. Along recessed wall shelving, Sophie exhibits her collections of unglazed earthenware, glasses, apothecary jars, globes (pictured, above right), and vases, which she festoons with flowers. In each of the seven rooms, bouquets and plants intermingle everywhere, bringing a splash of colour (white and green are favourites). The scene pays tribute to nature, symbolized by the presence of birds and butterflies. Whether stuffed, ceramic, or framed, they represent a bucolic world that Sophie loves as a way of escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Although she is a fan of the classic style, Sophie is not afraid to make her mark with inventions of her own, renovating old wooden furniture, stools with flaking paintwork, or ex-army cots. Displaying her favourite things discovered by chance or foraged at flea markets, Sophie’s quirky tastes shine through, illuminated at night by glimmering candlelight.

A global viewpoint The world need not cost the earth – this elegant, 41cm high, antique-look globe with wooden base costs just €39.10 from online retailer www. cdiscount.com Comfort and cool This beige Dakota armchair from Conforama offers contemporary Scandinavian lines – add a pea green cushion to mimic Ariane’s pale palette. Price €179.90. www.conforama.fr Light of your life Dark standard lamps contrast nicely with the beige and green, adding an industrial edge to the cosiness. This ‘black sphere’ lamp from Maisons du Monde is 195cm tall. Price €109. www. maisonsdumonde.com

The Funny Side of life in France ISBN : 978-2-9548552-2-6 - Les Editions Anglo-Gascon


‘Le Selle Gascon’

Perry Taylor’s third book of humorous drawings is now on sale at www.perrytaylor.fr and bookshops throughout SW France


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18 Puzzles

French Living I October 2018

Bilingual cryptic crossword

by Parolles Answers are in French and English Across 7 Taxi soon finding Arnaud’s cottage (7) 8 Watch over French queen seen beyond lake in disguise (7) 10 Odette’s third row with Cleo oddly (6) 11 Happened again right after dog is found in long grass (8) 12 French people and Poles for example sent back earlier (4) 13 Fabien’s to search for her in city church after resistance but Henri’s oddly ignored (10)

Down 1 Monique’s to live for a short time in the centre of Athens with Rex (7) 2 The French getting bad-tempered before European game (8) 3 Starts to review extremely evocative rubbish about bullfight in Arles (6) 4 Wednesday in Paris finds revolutionary involved in crime spree (8) 5 Vicar maybe forming knitting circle (6) 6 Etienne’s to reveal broken lever found by engineers (7)

14 Gain sudden understanding into capricious rage at first (3,3,5)

9 Follow the progress of things happening in hurdles and relay races for instance (5,6)

19 Spice girl marginally brighter without drugs or drink (6,4)

15 Direct one’s attention to film of deserter (8)

22 People of fashion eating hot tuna in Cannes (4) 23 Understood to be lawful by Independent politician (8)

16 Spooner’s pal to acknowledge letters containing death threats possibly (4,4) 17 Marie Antoinette’s diamond amulet’s first to be pocketed by obscure soldier (7)


24 Gael’s account of prime minister from the east discovered in bed with earl (6)

18 Show French books about occupying soldiers on Malta (7)

25 Ask earnestly, in French, to have free entertainment (7)

20 Lots of blood shed capturing Capone (6)

26 Elodie’s to encourage trendy rector to stand by quote (7)

21 Withdraw former statement concerning pious platitudes (6)

French-themed crossword



by John Foley Apart from 26 across answers are words or names associated with France Across


1 French Fall (7)

1 Pièce de vaisselle - useful with a couteau, fourchette and/or cuillère (8)

4 Traditional close-fitting brimless headwear (5) 7 To suffer (5) 9 Currency originally introduced in the mid-14th century by ‘Jean le Bon’ (5) 10 Glitch or snag (3)

3 ______ terrible – old-fashioned term for one who causes shock by ill-considered speech or behaviour (6)

11 According to Montaigne: “Le pire ____ de l’homme, c’est quand il perd la connaissance et gouvernement de soi” (4)

4 Seaside town close to the Spanish border – first made fashionable by Empress Eugénie who built a palace on the beach (8)

12 Main course in England, but served before it in France (6)

5 Clair comme de l’eau de _____ – very easy to understand (5)

15 Stake or support for a plant (6)

6 Informally, un mot qui sert à désigner une chose sans la nommer (4)

16 Position of a person or type of person in a system (6) 19 Department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine region whose largest city is Guéret (6) 20 Best to keep one spare when driving (4) 21 Croire ___ comme fer à quelque chose – be firmly convinced of something (3) 23 A sour or bitter word (5) 24 Delicious meat in bourguignon (5) 25 In music this sign augmente la note qu’il précède d’un demi-ton (5) 26 English equivalent of a gourmet or bon vivant, named after an ancient Greek philosopher (7)

Fun French facts 1 Conspiracy theory

8 Manon des Sources actrice, Emmanuelle _____ (5) 13 Region until 2016 comprising the departments of Allier, Cantal, Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dome (8) 14 À l’________ – said of steamed food (8) 17 Unit of weight – valant 1000 kilogrammes (5) 18 Person who abstains from worldly comforts and leads a life of austere self-discipline (6) 19 Crustacé marin comestible – a sidewalker! (5) 21 Aiguillon chez certains insectes comme la guêpe (4) 22 Place giving protection from wind, rain, etc. (4)

3 Roundabout way of thinking

Q: THE Nobel Prize-winning author of L’Immoraliste once said: “A work of art is an idea that someone exaggerates.”

THE concept of roundabouts may seem alien to some French motorists – but, in fact, there are more roundabouts in France than anywhere else in the world... even Milton Keynes. At the last count, there were more than 30,000 of them – and the first roundabouts in Europe were put in place by a French architect to alleviate growing traffic congestion in Paris.

Can you name him?

Q: Can you name the architect?

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Puzzles 19

October 2018 I French Living

Guess the region...

France has 13 regions, some recently formed by combining previous ones. Every issue we pick a spot, all you need to do is work out which region it is in...

Clue: Autumn in the pink...

Test your knowledge of France with our Connexion quiz


What kind of insect, a traditional symbol of resurrection and immortality, appeared on French flags and emblems of the First (1804-15) and Second (1851-71) Empires?

11 Exiled actress Fadwa Suleiman, who died of cancer in Paris aged 47 in August 2017, was best known as a leading voice against the regime in which country, her homeland?

Photo: CC0_Hermann_pixabay

Probably the least common of the five letter accents used in French grammar, what word of German origin are the British most likely to use for the ‘tréma’?

10 Actress Madeleine Lebeau, who died in 2016, played a prominent role in the singing of a defiant on-screen version of the Marseillaise in which film, 74 years earlier?

12 What French word meaning relaxa tion was used to characterise diplo matic efforts made during the 1970s to ease Cold War tensions between America and the Soviet Union? 13 In rugby union, which unyielding Basque No.8 forward capped 82 times by France between 2002-2012, had a surname that gave British TV and radio commentators sleepless nights? 14 In 1991 representing France, Tunisian-born Amina Annabi was somewhat controversially defeated by the narrowest margin in the history of which competition?

17 Originally that of a British mobile phone operating company founded in 1994 and acquired by the French six years later, under what name was France Telécom rebranded in 2013? 18 Which lady in the title of a UK Top 10 chart hit from 1968, is asked towards the end of the song, “Qu’est ce que tu fais, Jenny, mon amour?”? 19 What small but spectacular town built into a cliff face overhanging the river Dordogne and famous for its goat’s cheese, has been a site of religious pilgrimage since the 12th century? 20 A garish shade of which primary colour is most associated with – and named after French judoka and exponent of minimalist art Yves Klein, who died in 1962 at the early age of 34?





16 Which Englishman born 315 years earlier was, in 1957, the only Briton (so far!) to be commemorated on a French postage stamp?

Guess the region The Canal du Midi near Toulouse, Occitanie. The regional capital is known as the pink city due to the coloured brick used to construct many of its buildings. Image credit: Pixabay

Which thoroughfare named for a certain category of 19th century visitor, stretches seven kilometres from Nice Côte d’Azur airport to the Quai des États-Unis within the city of Nice itself?

What small Wisconsin city on the shore of Lake Michigan, actually takes its literary-sounding French name from the fact that it stands near the mouth of the Root River?

Quiz 1 Dieppe, 2 Suzanne Lenglen, 3 Emerald, 4 Charles, 5 Promenade des Anglais, 6 Umlaut, 7 Bee, 8 Infernal, 9 Racine, 10 Casablanca, 11 Syria, 12 Détente, 13 Imanol Harinordoquy, 14 Eurovision Song Contest, 15 Norman, 16 Isaac Newton, 17 Orange S.A., 18 Jennifer Juniper (Donovan), 19 Rocamadour, 20 (International Klein) Blue.



Anagram: (Juliette) Binoche

After Louis, what is the second most common name of the kings of France? There were ten of them between the 8th century and 1830.

15 Cauchois, Cotentinais and Guernésiais are three of the more thriving varieties of what French language dialect, which dates back over 1,000 years?

Bilingual cryptic crossword Across: 7 Cabanon, 8 Veiller, 10 Tierce, 11 Recurred, 12 Gens, 13 Rechercher, 14 See the light, 19 Ginger beer, 22 Thon, 23 Implicit, 24 Compte, 25 Entreat, 26 Inciter.


What adjective, meaning hellish did Jacques Offenbach use to describe the ‘galop’ in his opera Orpheus in the Underworld, a tune familiar to all aficionados of the can-can?

Down: 1 Habiter, 2 Lacrosse, 3 Toréer, 4 Mercredi, 5 Cleric, 6 Révéler, 9 Track events, 15 Turncoat, 16 Hate mail, 17 Diamant, 18 Montrer, 20 Galore, 21 Recant.

3 What colour, also associated with Sardinia and Ireland, is used by the local tourist industry to describe the northern coast of Brittany, west of St.Malo?

Take the first letter from the answers to the questions indicated below and rearrange the letters to spell out the name of a French actress. When a person is the answer, use the first letter of their surname. Questions 3, 8, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20


French-themed crossword Across: 1 automne, 4 béret, 7 subir, 9 franc, 10 hic, 11 état, 12 entrée, 15 tuteur, 16 statut, 19 Creuse, 20 pneu, 21 dur, 23 aigre, 24 boeuf, 25 dièse, 26 épicure.

2 The equivalent of Wimbledon’s Court No.1, after whom is the second largest court at Stade Roland Garros, venue of the French Open tennis tournament, named?

Try our quiz

Down: 1 assiette, 2 marc, 3 enfant, 4 Biarritz, 5 roche, 6 truc, 8 Béart, 13 Auvergne, 14 étouffée, 17 tonne, 18 ascète, 19 crabe, 21 dard, 22 abri.

A disastrous large-scale Anglo Canadian raid on which French port in August 1942 nevertheless taught the Allies valuable lessons in planning for D-Day, two years later?

Fun French facts 1 Rennes-le-Château. 2 André Gide 3 Eugène Hénard (1849-1923).


20 Reviews French films

A critical eye on the latest ciné releases The Guardians

French Living I October 2018 Love is Blind, William Boyd, Viking, £12.99 ISBN: 978-0-241-29594-6 THE inner workings of a piano are a surprising way to start a love story but we learn a lot about what makes a piano tinkle as we meet Brodie Moncur in an Edinburgh piano manufacturer’s. Perhaps more than most would want to, but Brodie has an excellent ear, making him a fine piano tuner and, as it happens, the perfect man to fine-tune both pianos and sales in the company’s Paris saleroom. Instantly likeable, Brodie is the opposite of his tyrannical clergyman father and there is a sourness in their relationship that makes it easy to see why Brodie is so keen to get away. Once he reaches France he makes an immediate

impression on sales... and another man’s mistress makes an immediate impression on him. Beautiful but seemingly unattainable, Lika is a Russian soprano and the mistress of piano virtuoso John Kilbarron. They are thrown together as Kilbarron takes them on a concert tour; one to tune the pianos and the other to tune the maestro. Soon they are together; clandestine unions follow as Kilbarron tours from Paris to Geneva, Nice and pre-revolution St Petersburg before the lovers flee and are pursued by Kilbarron’s vengeful brother. But where will their passion lead...?

Editor’s choice

Books – The 20 minute review

We read recent releases with a link to France. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time

Xavier Beauvois; 138 mins

This tale of rural Limousin and the struggles of womenfolk left to farm its land during the First World War, is perfectly suited to a cool autumn evening by the fire with a glass of something French and strong in hand. Director Beauvois brought us the magnificent Cistercian monk drama Of Gods and Men in 2010, and a similar sense of the characters’ isolation prevails here. The film opens with Nathalie Baye’s matriarch Hortense trudging through the soil alongside a horse-drawn plough. She runs the farm with daughter Solange (Baye’s real-life daughter with Johnny Hallyday) but they need help, so hire a young farmhand, Francine (Iris Bry). The new arrival soon gets the glad eye from Hortense’s son, home from the front, which throws the dynamics of the farm. Elsewhere, shadows of war loom ever larger, and tragedy visits. Pace-wise, the film reflects both the epoch and farm life so it really is slowgoing (the story spans six years), but it is all the better for it. Splendid art work (cinematographer Caroline Champetier excels) makes it a visual treat, adding period detail to the pathos. The Great War is so often defined by the loss and legacy of the era’s menfolk, so a focus on France’s own Land Girls is both rare and welcome.

Also out: Bonhomme Melodrama about a man learning to live with brain injury received in a car crash, with the love and support of his wife.

Inhuman Resources, Pierre Lemaitre, Maclehose, £16.99 ISBN: 978-0-85705-356-5

PIERRE Lemaitre has a dangerous habit of lulling readers into a false sense of security and this feels as if it will go the same way from the first few pages. Alain Delambre is a 57-year-old former HR executive, who has had no proper work for four years since being laid off. Depressed, demoralised and desperate, he also has a sore head after retaliating against a (real) boot in the backside at one of the minor jobs he has found. As always, he applies for any jobs he finds; as always, he is rejected... but not this time. He is bowled over when a major company invites him for interview. It seems so unlikely that he will succeed but as events – and Alain – spiral out of control his sense of desperation takes over from his common sense. Why else would he still be involved with a company that was planning a test that involved hostage taking? If your own situation or feelings are in any way similar to Alain’s then this may perhaps not be the book for you. Corporate shenanigans, role-playing and the chase for profit no matter the consequences are not good bedfellows for any kind of social conscience... and once the company has Alain where it wants him it, naturally, pushes too far. The aftermath is bloody.

Telling Tales, the fabulous lives of Anita Leslie, Penny Perrick, Bloomsbury, £9.99 ISBN: 97814882-1721-2

GIVEN that this is a book about a woman who won both Croix de Guerre (twice) and Africa Star – the only woman to do so – it seems strange that one reads more about Anita Leslie’s social life and contacts than her wartime exploits. Perhaps she wrote enough about it herself, in her Train to Nowhere, but where the intro tells of a woman proud of what she had done as an ambulancière in the French army and who wanted her medals included in a portrait... it also mentions her fascination with fascism and of her commanding officer’s order to “always wear lipstick”. Much about the biographer of Jennie Churchill, sculptor Rodin and Madame Tussaud seems contradictory but there is little clarity here in the tangle of her love affairs. It reveals her darker side but the woman who saw action on the battlefields of Egypt, Syria, Italy and France was a complicated woman from a bygone age.

Columbus in Space, Julien Harrod/European Space Agency, Century, £8.99 ISBN: 9781780899-312

CIRCLING 400km above our heads for the past 10 years, the Columbus science laboratory on the International Space Station is Europe’s most advanced space laboratory and the only place scientists can perform ‘out of this world’ experiments. This fully-illustrated paperback is the ‘inside story’ on a mission that started on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and continues today with fundamental research on everything from cold plasma technology to destroy unwanted odours, enzymes to slow ageing and ways to grow plants in micro-gravity for future space missions. Detailed but easily understood, this is the full story of Columbus.

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, Raphaëlle Giordano, Bantam £12.99 ISBN: 978-0-59307-984-3 THIS has ‘feel good’ book plastered all over it and, aimed at readers stuck in a rut, promises to show them how to fall back in love with life. Published in France in 2015, it grew steadily by word-of-mouth to become a top ten seller and it is easy to see why. Camille has had a puncture, in the pouring rain, in the middle of nowhere. She walks to find help and chances upon a mansion where she rings the bell. Miracle of miracles: someone answers and opens the gate. He is Claude and looks like a Gallic Sean Connery. He may not be an angel, but he is the nearest thing as Camille dissolves in tears at all the frustrations in work, family life and the rain. Claude told her he felt he knew what was wrong: Acute routinitis. “It’s a sickness of the soul that affects more and more people in the world... the symptoms are a lack of motivations; chronic dissatisfaction; feelings you’ve lost your bearings.” Now, some people will immediately launch this book right into the bin; they cannot suspend disbelief for long enough to take the chance. For the rest, this could be a chance of a better life.

Dont be too snob, English words can be handy Language notes


ne hears grumblings amongst certain aggrieved natives that there are far too many Anglicisms (or Americanisms) infiltrating the French language. But is this protest a case of pure snobisme (this is an actual word by the way)? Actually, no. This is a clear case of le fake news, because statistics recently quoted by Le Figaro tell the contrary: according, it said, to the Académie Française – the esteemed guardians of correct communication in the French language – the threat of a linguistic invasion from Blighty is mere myth. Viz: the percentage of English words in its official dictionary has dropped from 2.5% in 1990 to 1.76% today, with many of these infiltrators being niche words in specialised fields such as science. This is not to say, even if it does annoy

Some verbs are odder to hear as they sound a little forced

purists, that you should not be armed with a handy sprinkling of acceptably incorporated English words, even if you need to pronounce them in what might seem an unnatural accent. Some commonly heard nouns, such as le weekend, le business, le marketing and le smartphone are fair game and do not jar to an English ear. Some verbs are odder to hear, especially as when conjugated they sound a little forced: ie. chatter (to chat) and liker (to like, on social media posts). The latest is spoiler, to give spoilers about a film plot. Look out for other words in French using English stems, even if they make no sense: relooking (makeover), lifting (facelift), un pull (sweater) and le basket (basketball or trainers (footwear)). Finally, before we all get too snob about the number of English words in use in French, it is worth noting that, according to some estimates, up to 45% of English words have a French origin. Touché!

Shopping/Did you know? 21

October 2018 I French Living

Photo: Bibliothèque de France


New products, designs and ideas from around France

The Russian art of drinking fine wine Andrey Filatov, a Russian entrepreneur who has owned one of Bordeaux’s winemaking chateaux since 2014, hit the headlines this summer when he offered members of France’s World Cup winning football team a case of fine wine each, after the final in Moscow. Visually, Art Russe’s St-Emilion Grand Cru wine – made at Château La Grâce Dieu Des Prieurs (built in 1885) – is also unusual and headline-grabbing, featuring as it does reproductions of prominent Russian art works owned by Mr Filatov. His Art Russe foundation is aimed at bringing Russian art to a wider audience.“It is a very personal project for me. It represents love of the lost Motherland,” he said of the former Soviet Union. Each year 35,000 bottles of the wine are crafted by winemaker Louis Mitjavile from the domaine’s 60,000 vines, of which 90% are Merlot and the other 10% Cabernet Franc. Price from €180. lagracedieudesprieurs.com/en

Time to belt up

Raise a glass to 70 years In 1948, Jacques Durand founded a company in Arques, Pas-deCalais, to provide his customers around the world with the best win tableware at affordable prices. Today, the Luminarc brand still honours this founding principle by making simple, trendy and practical items for the kitchen and dinner table. To mark the company’s 70th anniversary, it has launched this playful and colourful limited edition Theo Iconic range of glasses. The four collectible 30cl tumblers, which measure 11.5cm high, are embossed with the anniversary dates, and cost just €1.75 each. Dishwasher safe, they are made from Purity Certified Glass, guaranteeing perfect transparency. www.latabledarc.com

French artisan belt making firm Belt 52 was created in 2013 by the people behind AutrePairedeManches.fr, a popular website which specialized in cufflinks. The company’s vibrant and stylish braided belts are manufactured in Loir-et-Cher, by a workshop which works for the biggest French brands of leather goods. The label “Made in France”, they say, makes it possible to obtain exceptional finishes and irreproachable quality. Model shown: Chambord – white, navy and red elastic waistband, one size fits all (95 cm/ size 36-46), width 35mm. www.belt52.com

Making scents in Provence Beauty products company Jeanne en Provence was established in Grasse in 1978 and draws inspiration from Provençal nature, its scented hills, flowered fields and orchards, to offer you authentic and natural products. One key development in recent years has been a policy to ensure that every one of their products is formulated with 95% of ingredients of natural origin – with all manufacturing done in Grasse. Beside the Jasmine Secret (above), Lavender and Verveine Agrumes ranges of soaps, body lotions, perfumes and shower gels, a highlight for autumn is its nourishing ‘Karité et miel’ (shea butter and honey) range (pictured left), made using honey from Provence which is said to have energising and antiseptic properties. The shower oil from this range also contains Organic PDO Olive Oil from Haute Provence and costs €3.58 for 250cl. See website for more. www.jeanne-en-provence.com

Front page of Le Figaro, August 4 1914

Le Figaro newspaper is named after opera man Did you know?


he names of most newspapers relate to a geographical region, a time of day or have some relevance to giving out the news of the moment. An exception is France’s oldest national daily and one of the top selling papers, Le Figaro, which takes its name from literature. It is called after the leading character in The Marriage of Figaro, a play written by Pierre Beaumarchais and first performed in 1784 and then turned into an opera with music by Mozart in 1786. It was a sequel to a first play, which also featured Figaro, The Barber of Seville. Beaumarchais was a fierce critic of the Ancien Régime and his play denounces aristocratic privilege, particularly when Figaro, a servant, tells a count who he fears is going to take his wife as a lover, that his life is much harder than his and that “I, lost among the obscure crowd, have had to deploy more knowledge, more calculation and skill merely to survive than has sufficed to rule all the provinces of Spain for a century!” The play was originally set in France, but Beaumarchais changed it to Spain to please King Louis XVI who had

been so shocked by a first reading that he at first refused to allow it to be staged. It was this spirit of rebellion, shortly before the French Revolution that attracted two young men, Etienne Arago and Maurice Alhoy to use the name Le Figaro for their new, weekly, satirical newspaper. They also took as their motto a quotation from the Marriage of Figaro: “Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur” (“Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise”, which still appears on the front page of the paper. The newspaper was founded in 1826 and its political and literary leanings meant that its beginnings were chaotic and it changed owners several times; three times in the first eighteen months. But in 1866 it became a daily paper and its contributors were some of France’s greatest writers, including Alphonse Daudet and Emile Zola. By the beginning of the Second World War, the Figaro had become France’s leading newspaper. It still sells slightly more than the other serious national newspaper, Le Monde. In 2017 its circulation was just above 300,000 whilst Le Monde was just under that figure. Le Figaro is regarded as a centreright paper appealing to well paid, educated readers, and Le Monde as leaning to the left and the newspaper which is most read outside of France.

22 History

French Living I October 2018

Two generations of Dumas, each a compelling character


ou would be forgiven for thinking Alexandre Dumas was a famous French writer, but, in fact, there are two of them: Alexandre Dumas père (who wrote The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo) and Alexandre Dumas fils, (who wrote La Dame Aux Camélias which was adapted in the opera La Traviata). To be clear, let’s call them ‘Dumas père’ and ‘Dumas fils’. Dumas père (1802-1870) was born in Aisne in Picardy. His own father, born in Haiti, was mixed race, the illegitimate result of a liaison between the Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie and Marie-Cessette Dumas, a slave of Afro-Caribbean descent, making Dumas père mixed race too. Dumas père’s father arrived in France at the age of 13 and having attended a military training academy, he joined the French army. Having fallen out with his father, he adopted his mother’s name, Dumas, and by the age of 31 he was the first mixed-race man to be promoted to the rank of general. He married an innkeeper’s daughter, but died of cancer in 1806 when Dumas père was only four years old, leaving his widow in dire poverty. Dumas père did not receive much of a formal education, but he was an avid reader and the family used their late father’s distinguished career and aristocratic connections to get ahead. In 1822, after the restoration of the monarchy, Dumas père moved to Paris and got a job at the Palais Royal in the service of the Duke of Orléans (who was king of France from 1830-1848). He began writing articles and plays, and by the time his employer ascended to the throne, he was able to give up his job and write full-time. A smart operator, he quickly realised that with press freedom restored there was a huge appetite for serialised fiction. In 1838, he re-wrote one of his plays as a serial novel, Le Capitaine Paul, and subsequently set up a production studio staffed with ghost writers turning out hundreds of stories which he directed and edited. A series of true crime stories sold well, as did a collaboration with his fencing teacher, The Fencing Master, which was an account of the December Revolt in Russia. In 1840, he married the actress Ida Ferrier (1811-1859) but did not settle down. He had as many as 40 extramarital affairs and at least four illegitimate children including Alexandre Dumas fils (1824-1895) who was the son of a dressmaker. In 1931, when his son was just

seven years old, Dumas père legally recognised him and enrolled him in a prestigious boarding school. A sensitive, creative, gentle, academic boy, Dumas fils did well but was bullied for being illegitimate, and by 1944 he was living permanently with his father. Dumas fils was, however, well aware of his mother’s pain at effectively losing her son, and it is probably no accident that most of his work deals with tragic female figures and illegitimate offspring. During his lifetime he eclipsed his father’s fame, producing numerous novels and plays, although today he is primarily remembered for La Dame aux Camélias. He was admitted to the Académie Française in 1874 and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1894. He died in 1895 and was buried in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. Having annexed his son and moved on to a new collection of mistresses, Dumas père carried on writing. He started his Three Musketeers series of novels in 1844, wrote The Count of Monte-Cristo between 1844-1846, and launched into his Marguerite de Valois series in 1845, by which time he was earning enough money to build the massive Château de Monte-Cristo just outside Paris, where he lavishly entertained almost anyone who turned up. Generous, hedonistic, sociable, theatrical, Dumas père was a party animal and a popular raconteur. He was not a drinker, but he loved to womanise, socialise and eat, and financial probity was a foreign concept to him. If he had money, he spent it. If he didn’t, he earned more. Needless to say, two years after the chateau was completed, he was broke and had to sell it off. His output was prodigious. Travel books about his journeys to Spain, Italy, Germany, England and French Algeria, autobiographies, short stories, serial novels, adventures, history, romance... Dumas père turned his talented, inky hand to everything. All his experiences were grist to the mill, as was public life and contemporary politics, which didn’t always make him popular. Czar Nicholas I banned him from Russia for publishing The Fencing Master; and after King Louis-Philippe was ousted by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Dumas fled to Brussels to escape a disapproving new administration, as well as his multiple creditors. In 1859 (after the death of Czar Nicholas I) he moved to Russia, where he was massively popular, and when in 1861 Victor Emmanuel II proclaimed the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, he moved there and joined the movement

Photos: Musée Alexandre Dumas/ Bruno ArrigonI; Inset: Eugène Pirou/Tucker Collection

The Dumas clan epitomised French derring-do and prolific creativity, writes Samantha David

Inset: Alexandre Dumas fils initially resented his own illegitimacy but later became a close companion of his father

Dumas fils hated being illegitimate and disliked his father’s endless string of women

for Italian reunification. During all these wanderings, he never stopped writing, producing so many novels, travelogues, articles and other works, that unknown ones are still being discovered today. He only moved back to France in 1864, six years before his death of unknown causes. Despite his aristocratic background, his wealth, fame and talent, he faced racism throughout his life, and his response to one racist remark has become a classic: ‘My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see sir, my family starts where yours ends.’ Dumas père was initially buried at his birthplace in Aisne, and his style of writing went out of fashion for a time. But his legacy was reappraised during the second half of the 20th century, says leading Dumas expert, Claude Schopp, and in 1970 a Paris métro station was named after him. The Château de Monte-Cristo was refurbished and opened as a museum dedicated to the writer, and finally, in 2002, his remains were re-interred in the Panthéon in Paris. The relationship between Dumas père et fils was strained at the beginning. Dumas fils hated being illegitimate, disliked his father’s endless string of women, and believed that men should be forced to marry the mothers of their offspring. But later, says Claude Schopp, their relation-

Local history 23 Photos: Flandria Illustrata; Nord Tourisme

Photo: Nadar/Google Art Project

October 2018 I French Living

Cassel as depicted in the 1641 century Flandria Illustrata

Strategic importance of France’s favourite village A small northern village topped a recent popularity poll. Jane Hanks looks at the long, fascinating history of Cassel Secret history of buildings

C ship improved. “As adults they were life companions, and Dumas fils joined in his father’s lifestyle to a certain extent. But once he became famous, in 1952, Dumas fils became the “father” of his father, trying to sort his finances and his love life. After the father’s death his son always spoke very positively about him and his achievements. Dumas fils also stayed in touch with his mother, with whom he had a good relationship.” It is impossible to tell what his many ghost writers added in terms of content (plots, characters, themes) to Dumas père’s output. The fact that he employed them at all demonstrates his ambition, but also perhaps a pragmatic attitude to achieving his ends. Want something done? Hire someone to do it! But no original handwritten manuscripts have survived. Claude Schopp, however, discovered an unfinished novel in the archives: The Knight of Sainte-Hermine. (The English title is The Last Cavalier.) “It was extraordinary, the last few chapters were all plotted out, the notes were all there with the rest of the book. So I became his very last ghost writer and finished the book for him.” He says it is clear that Dumas père set

out to be a success, and was determined to overcome his childhood poverty, despite the racism and snobbism he encountered. “In public at least, he laughed at racists, he wasn’t particularly vulnerable. ‘I worked like a black, which isn’t surprising given my origins,’ he once said. But it also has to be noted that Dumas père was a physically imposing man and people wouldn’t have dared push him too far.” For his most recent book, Les Dumas, Bâtards Magnifiques, Claude Schopp collaborated with Sylvain Ledda to look at the life of Marie-Alexandrine Dumas, (Dumas père’s daughter). “He also legally recognised her and looked after her all her life. So I followed her life and looked at what she brought to his life, and I also looked at the memoirs of General Dumas which had never been published.” He says that Dumas père was quite a modern person. “His way of bringing up his kids, his relationships with women, would be mainstream today. But he really followed his own path. And yes, he was scandalous, but he was so good natured that in the end he was always pardoned.”

Above: Alexandre Dumas père, alongside his own father, Thomas Alexandre Dumas who was a general in Revolutionary France, was the highest-ranking man of mixed African descent ever in a European army

assel in the Nord, 30km south of Dunkirk is this year’s choice of favourite French village by viewers of the France 2 television programme Le Village Préféré des Français. It was chosen for its charm, particularly appreciated in its Grand Place which still has some medieval buildings, the Musée de Flandre and restaurants, called locally Estaminets, where you can eat traditional food and drink the beer for which the Flanders region is famous. The village is also well known for its carnival with its two giants, Reuze Papa and Reuze Maman which are paraded through the streets and which are part of the local culture and recognised in Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Throughout history, Cassel has always been important in the area because of its hill, the Mont Cassel which at 176 metres dominates the surrounding, flat landscape. People chose to live there originally to escape the marshland below and to have a first sighting of any enemy from afar. Habitation was also possible because there are several springs, right to the top of the hill. Archaeological finds show that it was inhabited as early as the iron age and was then taken over by the Menapii Celts from central Europe who called it Kasteel, meaning fortress, and ruled the region from the town. The area was renowned for the quality of its sea salt which was brought to Cassel and exported from there as far away as Rome. The Romans then occupied the town for nearly five centuries from 56BC onwards. It was of strategic importance

and the epicentre of seven Roman paved roads fanning out from the city. The village later became part of Flanders and was prosperous, though it was also the scene of many battles as the Kings of France attempted to enlarge their territory. It eventually became French in 1667, but that was not the end of the many conflicts which had successfully seen the destruction of many of its buildings. In 1940, Cassel played an important role in the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo. The British troops based at Cassel were ordered to stay there for three days to cover for the soldiers making their way to Dunkirk. They held out for eight days, during which the town was bombed night and day. 245 houses were completely destroyed, including the Town Hall and another 455 partially damaged. The strategic position of the town and its frequent battles has meant there are few original buildings left standing and no Roman remains. However, Céline Salome from the town’s tourist office says the town has always managed to rebuild and maintains its medieval style and Flanders character. “The oldest house still standing is dated 1631 but has older foundations. There are always visitors here who are seduced by the town’s charm and from the day of its election as France’s favourite village there has been a massive increase in visitors. It has been crazy and Cassel is a very lively place at present, but oh, yes, the tourists are very welcome. We have devised a 3km circuit where they can visit the Grand Place, see the remnants of the old fortifications with the remains of three of the ancient entrances into the village and climb to the highest point for a panoramic view.”

24 The big picture

French Living I October 2018

Lazy days of Doisneau in the Dordogne Photo: Atelier Doisneau Montrouge

Legendary lensman Robert Doisneau loved visiting the Dordogne on holiday, camera in hand. A new exhibition of images taken there impresses Jane Hanks


he only permanent exhibition dedicated to the works of French photographer, Robert Doisneau has been opened in a restored old railway station in the small, rural village of Carlux, Dordogne. Entry is free and the centre is run by the local Communauté de Communes, Pays de Fénelon which has turned the old building which had been deserted for years, into a structure with a tourist office, temporary exhibition centre and two rooms dedicated to Doisneau. Robert Doisneau, 1912-1994 is known world-wide for his black and white photographs which captured everyday life, often on the street. One of his most famous photos, taken in 1950 is Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville of a couple kissing in a busy Paris street which came to represent the romance of the French capital. The Dordogne was one of his favourite holiday destinations and after a first trip in 1937 he returned year after year. He took many photos, and it is a selection of these which are now on permanent display. One room is dedicated to his holidays, often featuring canoe trips down the Dordogne River. His first visit in 1937, when he was just 25, was at the very beginning of tourism when paid holidays from work had just been introduced by law. Up to then he had been working as a photographer for Renault, but he had hated taking photographs to rule and had just been sacked for repeatedly turning up late to work. He was still allowed his paid holiday and at last had the freedom to take the photos he wanted to. Many are photos of his wife

Pierrette and their friends on pre-war carefree camping holidays, and others of return trips after the Second World War. The second exhibition room shows portraits of local people in traditional pursuits; selling geese at the market, weighing truffles, two women in a café knitting and chatting and a man about to delight in a plate of foie gras. He had an eye for that little detail that made the ordinary, extraordinary and his photographs are full of the vitality of everyday life, and peopled with animated characters. In an age when you could not simply hit the button and take a realm of images and choose the best later, he must have had immense patience and skill to cap-

Clockwise, from left: Pierrette Doisneau and friends waiting for the train at Carlux station, 1937; Pierrette canoeing on the Dordogne, 1939; gossiping on market day; Robert Doisneau

ture the right moment. You understand he meant what he said in his quotation: “There are days when you feel that just the simple act of seeing is real happiness.” When the project to convert the old station at Carlux began, the President, Patrick Bonnefon and the vice-President, Vincent Flaquière of the Communauté de Communes knew that there was a photo of the station taken by Robert Doisneau in 1937, when it was still a busy train line. Through a family friend they were then able to meet the photographer’s daughters, Annette Doisneau and Francine Deroudille who now run his old studio at Montrouge in Paris. They are custodians of the 450,000 negatives he left when he died and they manage their use in exhibitions and reproductions. The Carlux project appealed to them as they knew just how much their father had

appreciated his time in the Dordogne and neighbouring Lot which he described as having “the most beautiful landscapes in the world.” They lent the commune 150 negatives, which were printed by the workshop used by the Doisneau daughters. Julie Fouillade who is a guide at La Gare Robert Doisneau, says the exhibition has been well received by tourists and local inhabitants: “A lot of older people have been really fascinated to see photos of an era when they were children and they have recognised people in the shots. One man was delighted to find a photo of his mother who worked for the local Rougié foie gras farm on display. “Others have spotted well known characters from the local markets. It is a portrait of how life was in the early 20th century.” For information on the exhibition: www.facebook.com/lagarerobertdoisneau

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October 2018

ME AND MY OPERATION: Bladder polyp removal

Urologist is my favourite man after seven operations The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey

Former cake decorator Anne Pollard, 71, retired to Charente-Maritime in 2008 with husband Paul, but he died that same year. Anne was in good health, until she experienced unexplained bleeding in 2015. Initial symptoms I experienced intermittent bleeding from my urethra, and went to my GP. He suggested I went to see a gynaecologist, but I was not convinced, as I was certain the bleeding was coming from my bladder. When I did see the gynaecologist he told me that although I had a few fibroids, they were not large enough to cause bleeding. My GP sent me for an ultrasound where a large polyp was discovered in my bladder. Although my GP wanted to refer me to the gynaecologist again, I convinced him to also make an appointment with a urologist at the hospital in Saintes. The urologist finally confirmed that, as I had suspected, the bleeding was coming from the polyp, and I was booked in to have the polyp removed. The operation I arrived at the hospital the night before the operation, and was taken to the surgical wing the next morning. The operation was performed under epidural and took just over an hour. I was back in my room by the afternoon and discharged two days later. Unfortunately, polyps have continued to return to my bladder and I have now had the procedure a further six times over the last three years. The doctor believes much of the problem is caused by the fact I used to smoke, although I gave up five years ago. Apparently chemicals can be absorbed into the blood and filtered by the kidney before entering the bladder in urine. Now, if I need to have a polyp removed, I arrive in the morning rather than the night before. For my last operation in June 2018, I arrived at 7.00, was in theatre by 9.00 and back in my room by 14.00 the same day. For all but the latest operation (in which the surgeon wanted to check my kidney) I have had an epidural, and have been able

FACTS ON Bladder polyps

Dr Christian Castagnola – vice president Association Française d’Urologie (AFU) www.urologie-sante.fr

What causes bladder polyps? In France, 12,000 people a year develop bladder tumours or polyps, most commonly in over-60s men. The main cause is smoking or exposure to toxic matter such as grade tar or solvents. How do surgeons remove polyps? The operation is done under local or general anaesthetic. An antibiotic may be given with a urine test for infection. Using an endoscope via the urethra, removal is done under video control. The whole bladder is checked. The ‘resector’ removes the lesion and coagulates vessels likely to bleed. How long does it usually take? The duration depends on the number

of polyps and their size, but usually between 30 minutes and an hour. How long are patients in hospital? This varies, decided by your surgeon and depending on the surgery, general health and the type and severity of lesion. It is normally one to three days. What is the normal prognosis? Prognosis depends on whether the polyp invaded the bladder wall muscle and the level of cellular aggression. Survival rate for tumours that did not invade the muscle is 80-90% at five years, with a 50% risk of recurrence of the polyp and 15% risk of progression (invading the muscle). Patients must have regular cystoscopy monitoring.

NEXT MONTH: Grommets in the ear my urine output, as the chemicals they had used were stronger.

Anne Pollard feels fitter and healthier than she has for the last three years to watch the procedure on a screen to see exactly what they were doing. I have also attended the hospital several times to have an ‘instillation’ into my bladder with the aim of ridding my body of the harmful bacteria. A catheter is inserted into the bladder and a solution is inserted. I then have to hold the solution in my bladder for as long as possible – ideally two hours. Usually I am allowed to go home, but for the latest instillation I had to remain in hospital for the day while they monitored

Aftercare As I am on blood-thinning medication, which I have to stop taking a week before each operation, I am visited by a nurse after discharge who gives me an injection of an anti-coagulant. This tends to cause a lot of bruising! A month after each procedure, I have a follow-up appointment with my urologist, who performs an endoscopy where a camera is inserted into the bladder to check the healing and whether there are any new polyps forming. If there are, I am then booked in so that they can deal with them as quickly as they can. I am positive that the latest instillation has been successful. I certainly feel fitter and healthier than I have for the past three years. Throughout, the care has been marvellous. I cannot fault the French healthcare system and particularly the hospital at Saintes and the doctors who have cared for me there. In fact, I recently described Dr Yassine, my urologist, as “my favourite man!” This caused the nurses to giggle, but it’s absolutely true – he’s the only man I’ve seen regularly for the past three years.


French farmers gain most from EU policy This is wrong

PROBLEMS over the European Union Common Agricultural Policy featured large in the run-up to the Brexit referendum but, despite claims that French farmers benefited the most, figures show that British farmers get more per head than French farmers do. An average of €21,654 each was paid out to British farmers in 2017 while French farmers received an average of €21,198. The European Union says it

In this column we look at the ‘truths’ everyone ‘knows’ about France supports farmers with 38% of its budget, but it makes up only 1% of all public expenditure in the EU, less than 30 centimes a day for each EU citizen. Its CAP fact sheets for 2017 show a total of €58.89billion was paid out in agricultural subsidies across the EU as a whole. Of this, France got €9.67bn –

Practical 21


and no other country came close; Spain was second with €6.80bn, Ger­many third with €6.45bn. The UK got €3.92bn. Under the heading “direct aid to producers” the French sum falls to €7.36bn, with this being paid to 347,410 producers, giving an average of €21,198 per farmer. Direct aid to producers in Spain was €5.06bn and this was paid to 729,600 farmers, giving an average of €6,940 per head while in Germany direct aid to producers was €4.85bn with an

average of €15,260 for the 317,590 producers. By comparison, UK farmers received direct aid of €3.085bn going to 142,470 recipients for an average of €21,654 per head. So overall France receives more Common Agricultural Policy aid than any other EU country, but British farmers claiming aid, averaged more than their French counterparts. Direct aid to producers across the EU totalled €41.6bn with 6,538,000 farmers getting an average of €6,536.

Orange pulls plug on copper phone system TELECOMS firm Orange is to switch users from the analogue copper wire telephone network – réseau téléphonique commuté (RTC) – and turn to an alldigital system to update and improve the telecoms network. From November 15 this year new customers for a ligne fixe landline-only service will not be able to plug a phone directly into the T-shaped phone wall socket but will be given a ‘box’ to do so and convert the new All-IP signal, which will become the norm from 2023. Orange said: “This is not the end of ligne fixe or the copper network, but it is decades old, fragile and costly to maintain. “Internet protocol IP technology underpins the internet and using this for our telecoms will give better service.

“It does not mean customers must take an internet forfait to make it work – but most people already use All-IP for TV, internet and phone packages.” Orange and other operators are fitting fibre optic cabling across France and from 2023 to 2030 communes will swap to the digital All-IP system in an area-by-area programme. About six million homes with a ligne fixe will be offered a box to give “equivalent” service but, like the bulk of phones, it needs separate power so will not work in a power cut. The change will not affect people using ADSL to connect via the copper network but they should already have seen improvements with the government’s plan for full fibre-based high-speed broadband by 2022.


DIY repairs... if you dare

Photo: Repair Café France

The Connexion

PEOPLE often think it is cheaper to throw away broken appliances and gadgets and buy replacements rather than pay for missing parts or repair. But appliances, furniture, toys, clocks, watches and other items can often be fixed and there are a growing number of Repair Cafés run by DIY volunteers to show how to do the work and offer tools to do it yourself. All for free. The cafés say 60% of objects brought in are repaired, so it is worth a go if you find one. France has 150 repair cafés in a Europe-wide movement that was started by a Dutch journalist in 2009. In 2017 it

Repair Cafés say that 60% of objects brought in to them for work are repaired

saved 300,000 objects from the dump with 50,000 people visiting and being helped by 21,000 volunteers. There are also other, independent, cafés. Repair Café France treasurer David Bourguignon started a café in Marseille and says they are sociable places: “The group of volunteers make up a sort of family and it is very human as people enjoy using skills to help others. “Repairs save both money and the environment.” Groups run in different ways, opening once or several times a month with, generally, no booking. Find your nearest café at repaircafe.org/fr

Regular heater checks can save lives and cash MAKING sure your heating boiler is working properly is an important task before winter – being both a legal obligation and vital for your family’s safety. Heaters using gas, heating oil, wood or coal, all need regular maintenance – as do chimneys. Poor heater maintenance can lead to poor fuel combustion, which is a leading cause of winter deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, with 100 people a year killed and more than 3,000 affected by nausea, headaches and dizziness. Boiler maintenance contracts

will include an annual checkup and repair for a cost of about €90 on average. Getting the work done is the responsibility of the property owner or, if rented, the tenant unless specified in the lease. There is no legal penalty for failure to do so but an insurer may refuse to pay out in the case of an accident and will demand to see both boiler maintenance and chimney cleaning records. Once work is done, the boiler will work properly, use fuel more efficiently and cost less.


Use these pages to find English-speaking tradespeople and firms across France. For your security, we check that all French businesses listed in this section are registered. The listings are arranged geographically by the 5 landline telephone zones of France. P23 All of France All Tel Codes

P25 North France

Tel Codes 01 - 03

P25 South East France Tel Code 04

HARS help up-and-coming athlete The Hearing Aid Repair Shop (HARS) helps people of all ages, by expertly repairing their hearing aids. The day after Boxing Day we helped a young athlete by repairing her hearing aid so she could study for an important German GCSE mock exam at the start of the spring term. A member of Berkshire’s Newbury Athletic Club, Charlotte Payne has earned numerous accolades for her sporting achievements and was runner up at the Young Deaf Sports Personality of the Year in November 2016. Charlotte’s mum, Denise, said, “We turned up in the snow with my daughter’s hearing aid which had died over Christmas. We were met with a smile by the wonderful

team at HARS who helped us out on the spot. We were overwhelmed by their kindness and won’t go anywhere else from now on.” Charlotte competes in the throwing events – discus and hammer. In 2016, Charlotte was UK National Champion and UK No. 1 in Under 15 Discus and UK No. 3 in Under 15 Hammer. Last year Charlotte moved into Under 17 category and became UK No. 1 in Under 17 Hammer 4kg, UK No. 3 in Under 17 Discus, South England Under 17 Hammer Champion and championship record holder. She was also a silver medallist in hammer at the School Games and a bronze medallist in Under 17 Discus at the English Schools Championships.

P26 South West France Tel Code 05

P26 Classifieds


As well as all that, Charlotte has been the best UK deaf female thrower in hammer, discus and shot put, for all age groups, for the past 2 years. Denise said, “Charlotte is now the youngest in her age group and has yet another year at this level to improve on her amazing achievements.” This year Charlotte has set her sights on being No. 1 in the UK in hammer and discus, representing the UK in the Under 18 European Championships in Hungary in August and competing in the School Games and Schools Track & Field International. Denise said, “Hopefully Charlotte will have a busy summer, competing in various national and international events, if she can

successfully win all the necessary qualifying events beforehand. She’s capable, so it’s definitely on the cards. Fingers crossed! You rarely find a thrower who does both hammer and discus to a high standard, so Charlotte will probably have to decide between them. It’s going to be a tough choice to pick which one.” The HARS team wish Charlotte all the best with her studies and athletic aspirations over the coming years. We hope to be watching her compete at major championships in the future. If, like Charlotte, you need your hearing aids repaired you can send them to us for a free, no obligation quote. For more details go to www.hars.co.uk, email info@hars.co.uk or call us on 00 44 1635 48724.

P27 Community

The Connexion October 2018



Directory 23


Sellers appreciate high standard of marketing for their property Adrian and Jacqui Bunn run ARB French Property, a website which specialises in the marketing of private for sale homes. To help sellers find UK and International buyers, ARB French Property employ an array of proactive methods. As well as a presence on the ARB site, their marketing strategy makes sure every property appears non-stop on leading web sites such as Rightmove. As Adrian explains “At ARB it has been our philosophy right from the start to offer the same high standard of marketing for all properties, all year round. This is why all homes for sale on our site benefit from up to 30 photos, an extensive description and free floor plan. What’s more, our most popular

scheme, Platinum Plus, includes a visit to photograph, floorplan and provide advice on how best to present the home. “This year has been the busiest so far for sales. The biggest increase has been in the number of British buyers, many believing they now only have 2 years to make a move to France before Brexit. Our marketing also finds Dutch, Belgian and French buyers. This success means that we now need more stock in every region throughout France.” Jacqui continues, “Our clients tell us they find our approach works. They prefer it to the route taken by many other private advert sites who simply leave sellers to fill in blank boxes on a website with no guidance or input. We want all our clients’ homes to look as good as they can and attract as much interest as possible from the potential buyers. We are always pleased when we get such positive feedback.” A recent advertiser commented ‘Great advert, brilliant photos,

I may even buy it myself!’ while a buyer praised our methods with ‘We love the savings and transparency of your service’” ARB specialise in finding English speaking buyers for English speaking sellers helping them to buy and sell privately. “The idea of a private sale is one the French have long taken advantage of, knowing how much money it can save both parties,” says Adrian. “What we strive to do is not only make this cost saving possible for our clients, but to do so without compromising on the quantity and quality of the marketing of their home. “If your home will appeal to an English buyer, if you have struggled to find a buyer, if you want the extensive marketing and coverage your home deserves, call us at ARB French Property.” +44 (0)1803 469367 info@arbfrenchproperty.com www.arbfrenchproperty.com Christine Haworth-Staines UK Chartered Psychologist

Psychology & Counselling From private practice in Toulouse & Mielan Or via Skype

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A totally professional website for your gite business for only £395

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Friendly individual French tuition with English speaking French lady

www.french-tuition-online.com lucie@french-tuition-online.com 04 68 58 33 42 / 06 24 52 00 37


All are qualified, work with a professional code of ethics and assure confidentiality.


Sworn Translations


Help with the French System


l l

Paperwork, Phone calls Translation, Interpreting

No estate agency fees to pay us by either buyer or seller and a friendly and professional service

HOUSES ON INTERNET Sell your property to a worldwide audience using our global network. Our fees are the lowest in France, our results are the best. WWW. HOUSESONINTERNET.COM

Tel: +31 (0)6 41 20 73 69

Please contact Hilary Decaumont 00 33 (0) 2 33 59 17 07 Email: info@leapfrogservices.net


Tel: 01 48 62 87 25 CDG Paris Tel: 02 33 38 41 32 Normandy www.goldenwaypets.com

ARBFRENCHPROPERTY.COM The new way to buy & sell property in France

Siret: 397549551


International pet Animal transport


Tel; +44 (0)1952 460607 Mobile; +44 (0)7802 355795 www.horsetransport.uk.net Deliveries all France

Chartered Institute of Linguists Associate (not sworn translator)

Friendly, experienced, reliable - Competitive rates

+33 645 587 956 | nc-languages@orange.fr www.nc-languages.com

Join Us Today

Free floor plan included

www.arbfrenchproperty.com info@arbfrenchproperty.com TEL: 0044 (0) 1803 469367


Cedric Mitchell Architecte Bilingual French registered architect offers full or partial architectural service, Permis de Construire applications undertaken.

Tel: 00377 93 25 42 68 France Tel: 0044(0) 1243 773166 UK Mobile: 07703 525050 cedricm@about-architects.com www.about-architects.com R.I.B.A. / ORDRE DES ARCHITECTES (Provence - Alpes - Cote d’Azur)

For French-themed gift ideas

see our shop at connexionfrance.com


French without Fear Language in Languedoc

One-to-one tuition, professional teacher, Oxford degree, self-catering accommodation

campbellclaire53@yahoo.fr www.cours-a-cucugnan.com Tel: 06 78 15 19 29

Certified translations as required by Are you grieving for a loved one and needing to talk? We support the bereaved and terminally ill, face to face in the Var, and by telephone elsewhere in France.

www.bsnvar.org info@bsnvar.org 04 94 84 64 89 between 07:00 and 23:00 06 32 35 31 24

CAF, Prefecture, Courts, Notaires (Births, Adoptions, Marriages, Deaths – Divorces – Wills – Companies House documents…)

Contact: 06 88 59 91 90 elisabeth.clavier474@orange.fr


Friendly Sorbonne Teacher, specialised beginners

Fun caring efficient - Mediterranean village myfrenchschool@gmail.com www.myfrenchschool.net Tel: 06 85 14 04 65

French Properties Direct Buy, sell or rent your French property privately

Therapy and coaching in English Face-to-face, webcam, online, telephone, workshops, self-help, courses, residential retreats.


No. 61195004 – 61195001 Offices CDG Airport Paris Offices and Kennels Normandy


BEAUX VILLAGES IMMOBILIER If you are selling your French home our knowledgeable local team would be delighted to meet you as soon as possible.

n Free estimation A dedicated contact working as part of a team n Award-winning marketing n Thousands of registered buyers Freephone from France: 08 05 69 23 23 enquiries@beauxvillages.com www.beauxvillages.com n

Tel: +33 (0)6 71 61 09 26 www.frenchpropertiesdirect.com info@frenchpropertiesdirect.com

Claim confusion? Have you had difficulty understanding assessors? Our Lloyd’s household insurance claims are handled entirely in English and can even be settled in £ Sterling. Penny at GSAR Insurance Brokers

pennym.gsar@orange.fr 05 53 40 15 71

SwissLife Ins urance British staff only Since 1898, we have specialised in top-up health, home, car insurance and private banking. Please call Peter and Lawrence On: 05 56 28 94 64 Web: swisslife-health-insurance.fr agence.bordeaux.theatre@swisslife.fr






PIONEER FRANCE Hundreds of practical questions are answered in Connexion helpguides Order downloads at


24 Directory



The Connexion October 2018


Broadband and Telephone Services Designed for Expats Living in France Are you feeling overwhelmed by the many things you have to do when setting up a new home? Why not let UK Telecom get you connected whilst you concentrate on the other multiple pressing tasks. Director Bob Elliott explains. It all starts with knowledgeable honest advice, and with more than 15 years’ experience, helping customers who are moving to rural French locations, city living, ski chalets or apartments and setting up holiday homes where extra assistance is needed, we are sure to be able to help you. Setting up Broadband and a phone in France is completely different to in England, while some installations can be seamless

others involve guiding the technicians through your village to your house, digging trenches, setting up new poles, arranging cherry pickers and much more. There are many problems our staff can help you with and because they are bilingual they will guide you through every aspect including advising you on the best value products for your needs. There are plenty of extras that we offer too, low cost calls from the UK to you to suspending your broadband (we’re the only company who still do this - ideal if you’re not in France 100% of the time). Also we are the only company that lets you choose to pay in £s or €s, with about 45% of customers opting for the convenience of paying in £s. For those of you who rent your property or have guests we also provide a unique service for your visitors who can contact us directly if they have any problem accessing

the broadband facility, so you don’t even have to be present. From simple things like helping to get equipment connected to dealing with complex technical issues it is all done directly by our team. All this is set out in a free information pack that is personalised to the property ready for inclusion with other guest information. So if you are house hunting and don’t want to find yourself living in an ‘internet black hole’, want a big range of unique services such as free catch up UKTV and much more simply not available anywhere else call our team for hassle free advice. We know that your needs are not just about setting up your services correctly and we are focused on building a long term relationship with you.

www.uktelecom.net enquiries@uktelecom.net +44 (0)1483 477100 Free from France: 0805 631632

Heslop & Platt


Agence International

Solicitors & French

Tel: 05 63 94 08 91 Mobile: 06 83 32 65 15

Dedicated English speaking agency staffed by native English speakers

Law specialists


• • • • • •

Insurance Health insurance Pensions & Investments Life assurance Banking & lending Business insurance

Tel: 05 61 07 16 84 agence.international@axa.fr www.axa-in-france.fr

For Daily updates see



Regulated Insurance Broker Independent not tied to one company, best price & quality We can meet all your insurance needs Health (top up or private), House, Car, Business / Commercial Email: nchubb@asttral.com Tel: 04 68 32 41 20 Web: www.asttral.com Siret No: 411 673 106 00018

French & UK Mortgages

House Purchases, Capital Raising, BTL, Renovations, Remortgages, Bridging Loans. +44 (0)1189076586 +33 (0)7 80 00 62 97 +44 (0)7990934612 bluebaymortgages.co.uk



Accountants and Tax Advisors Paris & London offices Services offered in France and UK Tax Returns n Accounts n Business setup n Payroll n VAT

Paris Tel: +33 142931842 London Tel: +44 845 680 1638 Email: info@nle-accounting.com

Providing quality, professional and efficient French legal advice in English Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930

Stop cleaning your pool yourself PoolGobbler Pro automatically removes all flies, wasps and leaves from your pool surface.


or call 0565 319623



INDEPENDENT BROKERS Working with selected insurers to find the best policy for your needs at competitive rates MOTOR, HOUSE, MEDICAL

Exclusive Healthcare Your Helping Hand to the French Health System


+33 (0) 4 94 40 31 45

For information and quotes in English contact Penny at G.S.A.R. 05 53 40 15 71





HOME - CAR - HEALTH We insure UK registered cars for up to 12 months


(call Angeline) - 02 33 49 12 34 agence.lecomte@axa.fr

New! Brexit and Britons in France helpguide What’s next and what to expect with interviews, analysis, reader stories and an overview of the practical issues.

Order at connexionfrance.com


Advice on all aspects of living in France, buying/selling, French administration, income tax, etc... Competent, experienced. Contact me now for your free consultation.

Rachel THOMAS-BONNET LLB Hons +33 (0)6 62 78 39 77 perfidealbion@bbox.fr Visit me at

or sue.davage@wanadoo.fr 82120 Marsac


Bespoke renewable energy heating systems including solar, wood /pellet , ASHP, UFH ... More information on our website.

Tel : 07 67 04 07 53 info@enershop.eu



Specialists in supplying quality New and Pre-owned French registered vehicles We buy LHD/RHD vehicles Part-exchanges welcome Unlike UK LHD specialists we handle all the paperwork and re-register the vehicle in your name at our premises! French registered, English owned company

Tel 0033 (0)4 74 43 89 51 or 0033 (0)6 84 85 04 61 gary.automobiles@wanadoo.fr


Cars, motorhomes and vans wanted Both LHD and RHD.

Also part-exchange. Collection in the UK or France. Polite service. Please email, text or telephone and we will call you back.

sunnyskycars@gmail.com or Tel +33 (0) 6 88 07 20 36 +44 (0) 7473 293494

Fuel saving, efficient, wi-fi connected INSTALLERS also wanted Full training, support www.ecopowereurope.com paul@ecopowereurope.com

Just Kitchens A complete service from planning to installation

Suppliers of German kitchens by Häcker And English Kitchens and furniture by Neptune Plus a range of work surfaces and appliances Visit our website: www.justkitchens.fr Or call for a chat: All of France with showrooms in the South West

FOSSE SEPTIQUE TREATMENT An ecological alternative to a pump out www.eco-tabs.biz


SSAFA FRANCE The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association

Help available for ex-servicemen and their families living in France Email: France@ssafa.org.uk France-wide answer service Tel: 05 53 24 92 38 The national charity helping serving and ex-Service men, women and their families, in need Registered Charity No. 210760. Est 1885

Electric Underfloor Heating Kits Extensions and New Build Tiles, Wood/Laminate Floors Insulation Boards Contact for Quotation info@chaleurosol.fr www.chaleurosol.fr

CRANBURYS Movers - Shippers - Storers

Full and Part Loads throughout Europe Tel +44 (0)23 8065 2630 Email moving@cranburys.co.uk www.cranburys.co.uk

Tel: 06 27 66 33 74

Regions: All France - Siret: 502962772

SkyInFrance Latest Sky & Freesat decoders supplied & installed Sky subscriptions available without UK address.

Office: 05 63 59 85 16 www.skyinfrance.com Siret - 48003796900015

FRANCE & UK COLLECTION Delivery and Removals Full or Part Loads

REALISTIC PRICES Call Steve: 05 49 97 11 25 stephen.short@wanadoo.fr Siret: 50323244900010A

The Connexion October 2018




Directory 25

Transportation company delivers “anything legal” Possessions getting “lost” en route – this is a removal horror story heard time and time again. However reliability, trustworthiness and respect are qualities and the cornerstones of the service that George White European provides to its customers.

“At George White European we pride ourselves on our old-fashioned values,” said George. “We really look after all our clients. We offer a bespoke service to each and every one, and always ensure that goods and belongings are delivered on time, safely and without any problems.” Having started driving over 30 years ago George has obtained an award from the European Road Transport Union for three million kilometres of safe driving. George Steve and Mick are highly knowledgeable about French and British roads and have been specialising in southwest France for more than 15 years,


Light Haulage Ltd. UK-France-UK Man with a van service  Reliable, ex-police  Fully insured, competitive rates 

For further information please call Mick or Helen on Tel: UK 0333 022 0359 Fr: 07 68 64 22 54 www.milenlighthaulage.co.uk info@milenlighthaulage.co.uk


REMOVALS UK - FRANCE - UK • Weekly Service • Full & Part Loads • Container Storage • BAR Members • On-line Quotation • Estimates in France

00 44 1722 414350 info@reflexmoodys.com www.reflexmoodys.com Company Regn No: UK 5186435 TVA / VAT No: UK 864 7217 04

George White European Transport Special rates to S/W France 13.6m/45ft trailer - Full/Part loads Removals/ materials/vehicles Owner driver. RHA member

Tel: +44 (0)7768 867 360 Fax: +44 (0)1773 570 090 Fr Mobile: +33 (0)6 23 03 85 59 www.georgewhiteeuropean.co.uk

CHEAP PARCELS TO FRANCE One simple price up to 25Kg Delivery in 3 - 4 working days The savvy expat’s favourite service!

Tel: 0044 1738 633220 www.pharosparcel.com

Need Urgent Documents Delivered? Need a Full/Part Load? For all your Courier & Transport Needs


Gateway International for more information

+33 (0)6 77 75 97 14 or +44 (0) 1483 808686 info@gatewayinternational.co.uk www.gatewayinternational.co.uk

always delivering and picking up when expected, at the agreed price. Over the years the company has evolved into a trusted network of like-minded ownerdrivers and are able to cope with up to 80 pallets a week from their warehouse and storage facility near Nottingham. The team consists of Mick, David, (the warehouse manager) Steve, and of course George. Also Ray who has panel vans and Lee who drives a large low loader. It is not just removals that George White European team transport to and from France, the company delivers anything from bathrooms, furniture, kitchens, cars,

fencing, horse feed, doors, windows and building materials to tractors, diggers, dumpers, trailers and anything else what will go legally into a trailer. All customers need to do is email enquiresgwe@gmail.com for a quote and then arrange for their goods to be delivered to the warehouse near Nottingham. The company can act as a bespoke local haulage service to collect your goods. There are Travis Perkins and a B&Q depots close to the warehouse which will deliver larger building materials direct to the warehouse for you. “Customers just get in contact with the Builders Merchants, email us that the goods are on their way and they come straight to our warehouse,“ said George, “And, as a special bonus, any customer having goods delivered from our depot can also order a small supermarket shop as an added extra.” Depending on the areas being collected



Moving to or from France?

A wide range of quality indoor furniture and sofas supplied and delivered direct to your French property saving you time and money. Full installation of all furniture Delivery from just £99 Tel 06 46 49 73 45 info@furnitureforfrance.co.uk www.furnitureforfrance.co.uk

Love French Interiors

Bar Member Contact: Anglo French Removals Tel: +44 (0) 1622 690 653


Full customisation possible. Bespoke Design service available. Delivery throughout France. www.lovefrenchinteriors.com

0044 (0) 20 3474 0092

WOODBURNERS Ash Grove Stoves Supplier of Hunter - Parkway


English Run

5 Star accommodation for Dogs/Cats l l l l l

Underfloor heated kennels Qualified staff Top Quality food and exercise Only 45 minutes south of Caen Convenient Ferry Access

www.goldenwaypets.com Telephone 02 33 37 49 19 Emergency 02 33 38 41 32 Fax 02 33 38 44 16

Sure Sweeps Formally HETAS, & NACS registered Fully Insured - No Mess Competitive Rates 02 14 15 58 52 suresweeps@legrandcamelia.com

Steve Hayward Carpentry, masonry, plastering, kitchens, replacement windows and doors

www.mesnilrenovation.com Tel. 02 31 09 26 54 Siret 48423125300010

Loft conversations / installation. Plaster-boarding. Brick & blockwork. Lime & traditional pointing. Rendering. Tiling & wood treatments Tel: 02 96 83 97 49 / Mob: 06 58 04 51 46 adrian.lenabaker@hotmail.fr

Siret 51442634500013 - Covering Depts 22, 35, 56

Tel: 00 44 (0) 1392 861579 www.ashgrovestoves.com sales@ashgrovestoves.com

Greetings Cards

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Special Occasion, Christmas, Hand-made and Open - From €1.00 Hand Written Service Available

Tel: 02 97 60 27 21 enquiries@englishcardsinfrance.net

www.englishcardsinfrance.net Siret: 538 583 60000019

Pete's Roofing Covering the Gard

All types of roofs renewed / repaired Velux roof windows - Guttering

04 66 72 75 84


Clean Burn - Fire Visible Boiler versions available Deliveries all over France Prices on our website Lowest Prices Guaranteed

All France

see our shop at connexionfrance.com

Chenil Les Mille Calins

Premier Renovations


For unique and Frenchthemed gift ideas

1800 British clients trust us 02 96 87 21 21 contact@angloagence.com Dinan, Brittany

Wide choice of finish options.


Tel: +44 (0) 1304 822 844

English registered cars House insurance - Health cover

Hand crafted from Mahogany.

Email: info@anglofrenchmail.com www.anglofrenchremovals.co.uk

Convenient, Flexible, Secure Working with your Movers 24/7 Access

+33 (0)6 23 03 85 59 +44 (0)7768 867360 enquiriesgwe@gmail.com www.georgewhiteeuropean.co.uk

French Reproduction Furniture.

Weekly services to & from France

Full or part loads, 4 wks free storage, 35 Years experience

Havre to the southwest of France, the costs are kept low as the vehicles can be filled with other goods for much of the journey. “George White European gives great service at a great price,” said a recent customer. “Do not be fooled into thinking that they are too cheap – they are just honest.”


Furniture for France



Using large multipurpose vehicles allows George White European to cut charges to customers from and delivered to, the minimum load could be as little as 1 pallet size of trailer floor space, 1200mm x1000mm. A linear metre of removals, ex our warehouse (which is 2.6m tall and 2.4m wide and 1.0m long), with prices from as little as £240 + VAT. At the other end of the scale, a full 13.6m-long load (max 24 tonnes) of domestic removals can be handled for around £2,800 + VAT, depending on the locations involved. As the team typically operate a weekly service along routes from Dieppe or Le

Siret No: 50066265500017

Multi-Service - Builders

English TV in your French Home

Everything from repairs and maintenance to complete A-Z renovation and decoration. References – Professional – Reliable

Karl - 06 04 45 63 57 / Paul - 06 34 95 19 71

Professional installations in Brittany & Normandy

longden888@lycos.com www.roofingbuildingservices.com

Mail-order throughout France Free, friendly, helpful advice



02 97 27 58 50 www.tvbrittany.com

Need someone to help with property maintenance problems, home improvements, renovations, Exteriors, Gardens & Pools.

Contact Anthony Main 0033 (0)4 30 34 17 90 email: anthonymain.fr@gmail.com

www.midibuilder.com Siret 4846 8735 500012

26 Directory

05 SOUTH west


The Connexion October 2018


Taking the paperwork and pain out of a left-hand drive vehicle purchase At Gary Automobiles near Lyon, convenience and quality are assured for customers buying a left-hand drive car ARE YOU looking to buy a left-hand drive vehicle for your new life in France? Gary Automobiles is an English-owned motor dealer based just outside of Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes, specialising in the supply of quality new and pre-owned, left-hand drive, French registered vehicles to expats moving to France. The company has been operating in France since July 1 2003 and customers only ever deal with Gary personally. Convenience for the customer is a key element in the company’s ethos, which is why Gary Automobiles now has the facility to register your vehicle in your name at

their premises – meaning there is need to worry about translation and paperwork issues. Gary will issue your new carte grise directly from his office and can even arrange your French motor insurance and transfer your no claims bonus. “I remember how hard it was to understand the French paperwork and red tape when I made the move over to France in 2001. I am happy to assist fellow expats and take that burden away,” says Gary. Reassuringly, they are fully French registered company with Siret / Siren / and TVA numbers and only supply vehicles with European specifications. For customers wishing to stay over and

visit the area (easyJet and Ryanair fly into nearby airports), Gary can come to collect you from the airport or train station, as well as arrange reservations or advise on local Lyonnais hotels. Another part of the service offered by Gary Automobiles is that they do not put people under pressure to make a purchase. They understand the logistics of moving abroad, so if they have a suitable vehicle in stock they we will keep it until you are ready to collect – with no time limitations. Part exchange with your right hand drive vehicle is also available, while the company

also provides a car sourcing service – meaning if they do not have the vehicle you want in stock, they will find it for you. For further recommendation, here are some previous customer comments: “Gary Automobiles made the whole process as painless as possible.” Colin Edwards “I have used Gary Automobiles to source and deliver a new car in France. Since I don’t speak French it was a delight to deal with Gary himself.” Tom Wall “Gary’s personal and English-speaking service has been really helpful and taken the hassle out of buying and keeping a car in France.” James Greig Gary Automobiles EURL Telephone: 0033 4 74 43 89 51 Mobile: 0033 6 84 85 04 61 Email: gary.automobiles@wanadoo.fr www.gary-automobiles.com

Plaster The Lot

Les Amis Des Chats promotes sterilisation to improve the well-being of stray and pet cats in the rural villages of SW France.

Qualified English Artisan

Plastering, Pointing, Crepi, Tiling, Plasterboard, Insulation, Painting Call: 05 65 10 76 90 Email: plasterthelot@yahoo.com

Aude / Herault Gary Alderson


Electrician Friendly, Experienced, UK Qualified, French Registered Rewires, Installation, Fault Finding Tel 07 83 05 29 43 Email alderson.gary@orange.fr

Hundreds of practical questions answered in Connexion helpguides Hors serie

* Property Check * Property Maintenance * Garden Services * Change Over * Design & Styling + 33 (0)5 45 82 55 93 / + 33 (0)7 70 76 58 89 www.gapdm.com / jcs@gapdm.com



Issue 8

Macron is bringing in


Photo: Wikipedia


Hors serie No 23/special publication from

What changes for Britons in France and those on way l Buying a home l Aid for renovation l Working l Tax l Pensions l Healthcare

What you need


l What to consider ƒƒwhen buying property Important ƒƒ l Providing for changes stepchildren ƒƒfrom this year l Lifetime gifts

EU pension

l The usufruit

Planning ahead to make the right decisions

Photo: Fotolia

(Impôt sur la fortune immobilière - IFI) Photo: jiva Flickr Sarlat

French Inheritance law

property wealth tax 2018

What must be included and what is exempt


Dependency and care homes

France's new

Who has knowto ! to pay

+ Inspirational real life stories


ƒƒ l Taxation ƒƒWills l

Hors serie / special publication from

We are! Here’s why...

M 02697 - 20H - F: 14,50 E - RD

French pension


Would you become French?


Why UK Brexit ƒƒ should not pension affect wills ƒƒ Formalities ƒƒ after a death

Moving to and Living in France



The Cats Inn Luxury Cattery - Cales near Lalinde - Very Spacious - Lots of Love and Attention Tel: Paula 05 53 24 14 42 www.thecatsinncattery.com paulaL24150@aol.com Siret No.520 980 269 00010


Ideas new


How to declare

M 02697 - 23H - F: 9,90 E - RD


PLUS 4 pages on

Property Management Services

Siret: 53068838100017 Regions Covered: 46, 19

Siret 81115002800017


PENSION POUR CHATS NEAR SARLAT, OPEN-AIR, INSULATED AND HEATED CONTACT PETER Maslen 05 53 31 95 88 / 06 86 94 85 78 peter.maslen@wanadoo.fr www.dordognecattery.com

Fully insured, registered electrician. Rewires, renovation, new builds, heating and A/C. Dépt. 47 Tél. 06 81 98 43 22 Email. info@agenelec.com www.agenelec.com

ELECTRICIAN Experienced & French Registered. Available for all types of electrical work. Insured and guaranteed. Areas: 16,17,24,47

Tel: 05 46 86 07 61 Email: trevor.miell@btopenworld.com

Gary at his office near Lyon

Satellite and aerial systems installed and repaired. UK boxes available. Senior Sky engineer 05 53 06 08 65 bobfreeman@orange.fr www.digitalsatellites.fr 484 432 323 00018 - Regions Covered: 24, 47, 33


Satellite Internet - Sonos Audio (systems) BBC iPlayer - Netflix - IPTV - VPN T: 06 80 55 06 09 E: mail@euroinstallations.com W: Euroinstallations.com Region: South West Siret: 4526 2188 1000 39

Siret No. 49376573200015


to help run our charity shops and events. Donations are also gratefully received at Les amis des chats, 82150 Roquecor. See how you can support us by visiting www-les-amis-des-chats.com Registered charity no: W821000447

For unique, French-themed gift ideas see our shop at connexionfrance.com CHURCHES


making a will in France


Every Sunday: 11 am at BRENS CHURCH, GAILLAC

Deadlines The forms

Info: 05 63 33 12 76 www.churchinmidipa.org

Ways to lower your bill

Sponsored by

Photo: Chris Hellier/Alamy Stock

How to value your property


e9.50 e9.50

Order print / downloads at connexionfrance.com

design : parkes architecture SARL Architects & Designers Dossiers for Permis de Construire Déclarations Préalables Interior & Landscape Design

GARDEN SERVICES Tel. 05 65 34 09 91

Working dept: south 19, 46


Ordre des Architectes No. 1867

Swimming Pool Leak Detection and Repair www.fuitedetection.fr

Tel: 05 53 09 33 45 Fax : 05 53 09 36 12


E: mail@parkesarchitecture.com W: www.parkesarchitecture.com Depts: 16,19,24,33,87

All Gardening Work - Cutting Strimming - Hedge Trimming Clearance - Property Services

04 68 26 61 22

Depts - 24,46,47 Tel: Bob & Tracy 06 42 82 44 96 Email: bob.groundwork@gmail.com siret : 48293447800017


Sky In France

Sky, Freesat & French TV

Supplied & Fully Installed

Office: 05 63 59 85 16 www.skyinfrance.co.uk Please see our main advert in the Connexion

British trained & qualified tree surgeon All tree work undertaken.

Paul the Plasterer City & Guilds Qualified

Plastering, boarding, external pointing, painting and decoration Tel: 06 48 56 22 83 Email: pabroadley@yahoo.co.uk

Ironwood Motif

Wrought Iron Work Handrails Gates Railings Pergolas Stairs l





Inside & Outside l Made to Measure l Dept 46 Tel: 05 65 30 53 99 Email: info@ironwoodmotif.com Web: www.ironwoodmotif.com Siret 48119863800019


Creation, Garden Maintenance, Tree Surgery, Felling Property Services

Tel: 05 45 65 96 86 Mob: 06 61 90 04 92 enquiries@dempseytreesurgery.com www.dempseytreesurgery.com Working in dept: 16, 17, 24, 87 Siret: 48930027700014

Jardins du Périgord - Design - Creation - Garden management

High quality work by qualified gardeners



Chats du Quercy Cat rescue and Rehoming Charity

Where each cat recieves the best possible care and attention from the day it is admitted to the moment of its adoption. Please call to make an appointment on

05 63 94 73 97 www.chatsduquercy.fr


Consultus Care and Nursing Short term positions available for live in carers in the UK

Make a difference to an elderly or vulnerable person’s life Email: s.coyne@consultuscare.com www.consultuscare.com


Call Alcoholics Anonymous.0820 200 257

www.aa-riviera.org Siret : 49197537100015

If you are thinking of giving an animal a home, please consider adopting. We have many cats and dogs looking for loving homes. Please visit us at:

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS South West France Have you a problem?

www.facebook.com/ PhoenixAssociationFrance

www.aafrance.net Or Call Shepperd Angela


The Connexion October 2018



Preferable central France.



for sale


OPEN TO OFFERS! Tel: 05 53 73 89 18

Test your knowledge of all things French with our puzzle books

Introducing a new collection of miniatures from historic Quercy

Order at connexionfrance.com


Community events There are monthly Anglo-French lodge meetings for freemasons in Agen. All enquiries to Mike Dowsett, Tel: 05 63 94 52 25 or email lmdowsett@gmail.com Practical advice for Brittany residents will be offered on Wednesday October 3 at a conference about the Titre de Séjour by Maggie from The AIKB (Association Intégration Kreiz Breizh). Maggie will outline the steps to take to obtain proof of permanent residence and will invite members already in possession of a Titre de Séjour to contribute to or take part in the presentation. If this includes you, please contact her: info@aikb.fr. Much interest has been shown for this topic and there is already a waiting list from the previous talk, so please reserve. Salle Polyvalente, 22570 Gouarec (Côtesd’Armor), 10:30–12:00. Price: members €2, guests €5. www.aikb.fr/whats-on.html CSF (Cancer Support France) Provence Gard, the charitable association providing help and support to any Anglophone person touched by cancer, is organising a “Treasure Hunt” by car as a fundraising event on October 4. They foresee three or four participants per car, who will be given written clues to allow them to discover various pieces of information about places along a “route touristique”. They ask that players meet in the car park of the Vallée de l’Eure, off the Uzès to St. Siffret road. The hunt will finish in the Salle Polyvalente in the village of Foissac, where a simple lunch and drinks will be provided. On an adjoining piece of land there will be easy tests of each nominated driver’s manoeuvring skills. No fast driving is involved. Points from these tests will be added to the score from the treasure hunt to determine the winner(s). The event should finish around 15:00. The price per participant is € 25, including lunch and drinks, with all profits going to CSF Provence Gard. While you may show up on the day, it is recommended you register beforehand to avoid disappoint-

Directory 27

Useful telephone numbers

Looking for English speaking ASTRONOMERS

for sale (boxed)


EMERGENCY NUMBERS u 18: Emergencies: This number connects to the fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) but they deal with medical emergencies and should be the first port of call in life-threatening situations u 15: Samu (for other urgent medical call-outs) u 17: Police / Gendarmes u 112: Universal European Emergency Services number - from all phones including mobiles u 114: Emergency calls (hearing assisted) u 115: Emergency Shelter u 119: Reporting child abuse u 196: Sea and lake rescue u 197: Terror/kidnapping hotline u 01 40 05 48 48: Anti-poison centre u 09 726 750 + your department number e.g. 24 for the Dordogne): Gas & electricity emergencies u 3237: (0.35/min) Outside hours GP and pharmacy information (also available on www.3237.fr) TELECOMS u ORANGE Website in English: www.orange. com/en/home. To report a fault online: www.1013.fr English-speaking helpline: 09 69 36 39 00 u SFR: 1023 (+ 33 6 10 00 10 23 from outside France) u FREE: 1044 u BOUYGUES: New client: 3106 Forfait & Bbox: 1064 (+33 660 614 614) Forfait bloqué: 1022 (+33 664 00 20 20) Client à la Carte: 1034 (+33 668 634 634) Gas & electricity emergencies u EDF: 24 hour breakdown line: 09 726 750 + your department number (eg 24 for the Dordogne) Helpline in English: 09 69 36 63 83 (those calling from abroad may use 00 33 9 69 36 63 83) Use this link to send an email: https://particulier.edf.fr/en/home/billing/viewyour-bill.html

GAS u Gas leaks: 01 43 35 40 87 WATER u Generale des Eaux Web: www.service-client.veoliaeau.fr Online form links users to the office dealing with their area u Ondeo Suez-Environnement Web: www.suez-environnement.com/en/ homepage Tel: 01 58 18 50 00 EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES uBritish Embassy (Paris): 01 44 51 31 00 uBordeaux consulate: 05 57 22 21 10 uMarseille consulate: 04 91 15 72 10 uUK passport advice + 44 (0) 300 222 0000 (calls cost up to 12p/min from a UK landline see French operators for exact cost) Mon - Fri: 8:00 - 20:00, Weekends: 9:00 - 17:30 OTHER EMBASSIES uIrish, Paris: 01 44 17 67 00 uUS, Paris: 01 43 12 22 22 uCanadian, Paris: 01 44 43 29 00 uAustralian, Paris: 01 40 59 33 00 uNZ, Paris: 01 45 01 43 43 uSouth African, Paris: 01 53 59 23 23 OFFICIAL AGENCIES u 3939 ALLO SERVICE PUBLIC: 3939 (+33 1 73 60 39 39 from outside France). Calling hours: 8:30 - 18:00 www.service-public.fr/ u CAF: www.caf.fr; Tel: 08 10 25 14 10 u CPAM (state healthcare): www.ameli.fr English-speaking helpline: 08 11 36 36 46 Calling hours: Mon - Fri: 8:30 - 17:30 u URSSAF: 3957 + department number u CLEISS: Social security advice when moving between countries: 01 45 26 33 41. Mon, Wed & Friday : 9:00 -12:30, Tues & Thurs : 14:00 -17:00, Some advisers speak English. OTHER HELP IN ENGLISH u Counselling in France: for a qualified therapist near you or counselling over the telephone; www.counsellinginfrance.com

u Alcoholics Anonymous: regular meetings are held (some are in English) across the country. For a list of local English-language groups see: www.alcoholics-anonymous.eu u SOS Help: similar to the Samaritans, listeners who are professionally trained; Tel 01 46 21 46 46 (open 3:00-23:00 daily); www.soshelpline.org u Cancer Support France: for advice and someone to talk to. Tel: 0800 240 200 or email helpline@cancersupportfrance.org u English Speaking Cancer Association (Genevabased): offering cancer support in Geneva, Vaud and French border areas. Tel: +41 (0) 22 791 63 05 or email info cancersupport.ch or www.cancersupport.ch u Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association Forces (SSAFA): Tel: 0800 731 4880. Email: france@ssafa.org.uk u BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT NETWORK: for those grieving for a loved one and needing to talk Tel: 04 94 84 64 89 / 06 32 35 31 24 or email info@bsnvar.org (7:00 - 23:00) u THE BRITISH CHARITABLE FUND: provides financial help to British residents in France. Tel: 01 47 59 07 69 (10:00 - 17:00) britishcharitablefund@orange.fr u Alzheimer: English help group at France Alzheimer: 0800 97 20 97 www.francealzheimer.org OTHER INFO u AFIF (funerals info): 01 45 44 90 03 u Speaking clock: 3669. u Weather: 08 92 68 02 + dept. u Last incoming call: 3131, then ‘5’ if you wish to connect. u MasterCard Loss/Theft of card Calling from France: 09 69 39 92 91 / Calling from Abroad: +33 96 93 99 291 u Loss/Theft of chequebook Calling from France: 08 92 68 32 08 / Calling from Abroad: +33 89 26 83 208

You can see more events and post your own at connexionfrance.com/community/events

ment: contact Roger Ordish, Tel: 04 66 75 63 69 or email rordish@aol.com The West Coast Jazz Quarter will play La Salle des Fêtes in Montcuq, Lot on October 6. Revisit the cool jazz born in California in the 50s and 60s with new arrangements of the music of Paul Desmond, Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery. Doors open at 19:30, cold plates of Italian specialities on offer at €10, as well as drinks at the bar. The music starts at about 20:30 with Sextet en l’Air, mainly French songs with a Latin feel, followed by an interval when coffee will be offered by l’Association Le Nombre d’Or. Entry is €10 and there is plenty of free parking. More info/bookings at infoconcert@orange.fr. Calling all bookworms in Paris! SOS Help invites you to its autumn book sale on October 14 from 12:00 to 16:00. This event will take place in a new location: The American Cathedral, 23 Avenue George V, 75008 Paris. Donated Books in English cost €2 and there will be a Bake Sale too. SOSHelp is an English language emotional support phone line which has been operating in Paris 365 days a year since 1979. The funds raised keep the charity’s listeners listening and the line open. For more information on how you can get involved in SOS Help, please contact Elizabeth Rand at missionoutreach@acp.org The Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (PICT) is inviting inquisitive minds to join its new six-week, eighteen-hour course called Existentialism: Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling on October 15 at 18.30. It is the most famous work of Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher who inspired several generations of philosophers, including French intellectuals such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida. The PICT is a non-profit organization founded in 2018 and based in Paris. Its main aim is to offer university-quality

courses in the humanities and social sciences to participants outside the university. For enrolment to the €415 course, visit: https://parisinstitute.org/ An Anglo-French literary festival will be held in the small village of Parisot in the Tarn-et-Garonne, with French and English authors invited for three days of events on October 19, 20 and 21. Launched in 2013, the festival boasts two unique angles for visitors. On the book side: meetings with the authors and sale of second-hand books in both languages... and then food, with buffets, local restaurants and a grand dinner with the authors. Among the authors in attendance will be Mary Lynn Bracht and Nick Hayes. www.festilitt.com The Beaumont church in Eymet, Dordogne, is host to a performance of Cantabile by the ACFAA choir on October 21 at 17:00. Future concerts are also planned: Wednesday December 19 – Christmas carols in Eymet Square starting at 19:00; Saturday January 5 – New Year’s Concert in Espace Culturel in Eymet featuring popular Viennese music, with guests including Alison Hudson (mezzo-soprano) and Ishani Bhoola (violinist). The show starts at 20:00. EuroMayenne is looking for amateur artists and craftspeople to exhibit their creations at their 24th annual Craft Fair, to be held on Sunday, October 28, 2018, 10.00 to 18.00, at Mayenne Exhibition Hall. 2017 saw 90 exhibitors and over 3,000 visitors. For further details and booking forms, email clotilde.sedouga@euromayenne.org or call 06 73 71 96 52; www.euromayenne.org/salon Animal lovers can do their bit for charity by attending the Elephant Haven’s Halloween weekend on October 27 and 28 (10:00 to 17:00) in Haute-Vienne, Limousin. While the haven still does not have any elephants (the construction of the elephant barn and fence is in progress), the weekend features stands, cakes, soup and music!

Location: Elephant Haven 5, Rétabout, St Nicolas Courbefy, 87230 Bussière-Galant. www.elephanthaven.org Runners wishing to do their bit in the fight against cancer are invited to run all or part of the 11th Nice-Cannes marathon for charity on November 4. You can run alongside the team from Mimosa, which was set up as a “kitchentable charity” on the Riviera three years ago by a team of nine women. Mimosa will support you every step of the way – from training to motivation and they even do all the marathon admin for you too. Their aim this year is to double their presence and most importantly their fundraising to allow them to help even more people. You can choose to do the whole marathon, half or run as part of a relay team with sections available of less than 3kms. Register to run at www.mimosamatters. org and if you are unable to run but would like to make a donation, visit www.alvarum.com/mimosarunners2018

Concerts to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War will be held on Saturday November 3 at 15:00 at the Salle Municipale, Saint-Mayeux, Côtes-d’Armor. La Chorale de St Mayeux (with some members of La Fanfare de Corlay), together with AIKB’s La Troupe Arlequin (Association Intégration Kreiz Breizh), will present a concert of music, poetry and readings from the First World War. Tea and cakes will be served in the interval. Entry fee is €2 with a voluntary contribution on leaving – all profits will go to charity. www.aikb.fr/whats-on.html Calling all singers! The Variations Choir rehearses on Wednesday evenings at the Palais de Justice in Ribérac, Dordogne from 19:15 to 21:45. Their programme includes a concert ‘Magic Moments’ to be performed on 30th November in Villetoureix and they will start preparing for an Easter concert in April 2019; the Brahms Requiem, to be sung in English. Contact Janetta on 09 65 23 29 30 or variationsfrance@outlook.com for more information.

28 Directory



The Connexion October 2018


The best way to furnish your property in France Furniture for France has many years’ experience of supplying high quality furniture to its customers FURNITURE for France is now in its fifteenth year of supplying quality furniture to properties in France.

New French inspired oak furniture designs being introduced for 2018

The company specialises in providing clients with a customised service that offers good quality UK-sourced furniture without the hassle of arranging delivery and ordering furniture in the UK. Furniture for France works with its customers all the way from the initial enquiry through to installing the furniture in their homes. Offering advice on all aspects of a customer’s order, such as sofa coverings, wood finishes and delivery schedules, ensures they are kept informed every step of the way. “With 15 years’ experience and thousands of deliveries under our belts throughout France, we have encountered almost everything and put that to good use when advising and helping customers find the right furniture for their property in France,” said the company’s managing director Brian Muir. The delivery service offered includes room

by room installation of all furniture ordered, this includes assembly of all oak beds and wardrobes as these come in sections for ease of access to difficult staircases. All other items are solid, no assembly pieces. Our deliveries are timed to the hour on the agreed date of delivery. The Furniture for France face book page will keep you up to date with all the latest news. Six new ranges of oak have recently been introduced, including traditional styles in a rustic finish. With competitively priced solid oak furniture it is no wonder Furniture for France had its best ever year in 2017. In addition to the new oak furniture a choice of 12 different paint colours are now available on all pine furniture. Wood samples can also be sent out to customers if required. “With delivery costs starting at just £59 for any quantity of furniture, there really isn’t a better or easier way to furnish a property in

France,” said Mr Muir. Throughout 2017 sofas continued to be the best-selling individual item for the company. Loose-covered designs are always top of the list with the introduction of more complex fabric patterns and colours allowing customers to custom cover the sofa of their choice. “This process can take some Stylish Highcleare fixed cover sofa design time to work through, but as the product has a life expectancy of introduce great ranges of furniture for over 15 years, it pays to get it right,” said Mr delivery to our customers in France without Muir. Furniture for France makes deliveries compromising on quality or service.” as far afield as Geneva and Nice, as well as locally to customers in the Dordogne, the 06 46 49 73 45 Lot, Charente and Limousin. info@furnitureforfrance.co.uk Mr Muir added: “We will continue to www.furnitureforfrance.co.uk

Top tractor and machinery deals delivered to France Cowling Agriculture prides itself on friendly advice and excellent aftersales service – and all at competitive prices With 20 years of experience, Cowling Agriculture supplies tractors and machinery to smallholders and farmers in the UK and Europe. The company keeps 80 to 100 tractors in stock, both new and used, along with a comprehensive range of machinery. It also has a well-equipped workshop and proficient staff who service and repair used tractors and machinery. It specialises in putting together tractor and machinery packages for first-time tractor owners. Kim Cowling from the company said: “We take the time to listen to customers’ requirements so that we can supply a

competitively priced and suitable package. We are often able to supply tractors and machinery to customers in France for a much lower price than they could source them locally. We pride ourselves on our friendly advice and excellent aftersales service.” Cowling Agriculture has been a dealer for the Landlegend range of tractors – which Kim says are the best value and most popular compact tractor on the market – for more than 10 years. “The Landlegend 25hp tractor provides a very good spec for a very good price,” she said. “It is £5,395. It can easily be fitted with a 4in1 loader and backhoe, making it ideal for farmers, smallholders, self-builders and equestrian yards. Our second-hand tractors start from around £2,500 and come fully serviced, checked over and with a minimum of six months warranty. We can team these up with toppers, chain harrows, logsplitters or

rotovators etc.” For customers in France wanting to see the tractors and machinery in action, the company can put them in touch with one of its many existing tractor owners. Kim said: “We have 50-plus Landlegend tractors working in France, plus many other used tractors and individual machinery items. We have many customers who come back to us to add new machinery.” The company regularly has deliveries covering the UK, Ireland and France and the driver is able to fully demonstrate the tractors and machinery on arrival. It keeps machinery for all seasons and often runs special seasonal offers. The stock list can be viewed on the website. www.cowlingagri.com www.landlegend.co.uk + 44 1458 269210

Is your Top Up health insurance up for renewal? Prior to your health insurance contract in France renewing for a further year always take the time to compare prices and to look for better cover. Top up health insurance contracts run for one year and are automatically renewed each year. There are two options to cancel a top up health insurance contract. The first is to send a letter of cancellation, by recorded delivery, which must be sent two months before the anniversary date of your contract. SwissLife’s Peter Musto explains the other means of cancelling. “The second option is by “loi Chatel”. Every year when it gets close to your anniversary date, your insurance company will send you a letter or an email

called “Appel de Cotisation”. This is the renewal information about your health insurance contract. On the envelope you will have a date stamped by the post office; if it is by email the date will be on it. You have 20 days only from that date to cancel your contract. “A letter must be sent by recorded delivery in which you must mention that you wish to cancel your contract by loi chattel. Peter continues, “But don’t worry, we will do this for you and we will also pay for the recorded delivery”. Specialists in personal insurance, SwissLife is a leading provider of Top Up health insurance, home and car insurance, investments and private banking for expats living in France. Their experience and professionalism constitutes the foundation for their leading position in the market and over 2 million customers place their trust in SwissLife’s products and services. Based

in Bordeaux, Peter and colleague Lawrence are members of the only SwissLife agency in France to work with English speaking clients offering a wide range of Healthcare Insurance and General Insurance solutions backed by one of Europe’s leading Insurance providers. Peter says, “Our British staff pledges to work very hard to provide you with quality insurance and excellent service. We offer a fully flexible menu of healthcare insurance options so clients can use health insurance to their advantage. “Customers choose what suits them best. For example you can choose to have a higher level of cover for hospitalisation and less for dentistry, or the opposite. In addition there are no medical questionnaires, no age limits and the guaranties are effective immediately so why not check what we have to offer”. For more information contact either Peter or Lawrence; they will be delighted to help.

Contact Lawrence or Peter at SwissLife for your healthcare insurance needs Tel: 05 56 28 94 64 Email: agence.bordeaux.theatre@swisslife.fr Web: www.swisslife-health-insurance.fr

Choose the right heating system for your home

Installing a wood fired heating system can reduce your annual fuel bills considerably says Michael Swan of Enershop which specialises in bespoke renewable energy heating systems

Due to the ever-increasing costs of fossil fuels, people are now looking for more energy-efficient and cost-effective methods of heating their homes. A wood-fired system is the obvious choice, either as a stand-alone system or in combination with other heat sources. There are many different types of woodfired systems available and Enershop discusses each client’s needs to ensure they have made the right choice for their property and lifestyle. Whether a log or

pellet-fired boiler, there is a model to suit every property. Boiler stoves are aesthetically pleasing and are usually located in the main living area. Whether a traditional or contemporary style, all the boiler stoves supplied by Enershop incorporate the latest stove technology. Log gasification and pellet boilers must be housed in an outbuilding or uninhabited, well-ventilated room. Michael said: “Gasification boilers produce large amounts of heat at high efficiencies, which is stored in an accumulation tank. They have a burn cycle of between four to six hours depending upon the wood, so are easily managed. “Pellet boilers are programmable and are easy to use and control with automatic fuel feeding and ignition.” Enershop also has a range of combination boilers which can use both logs and pellets – offering the best of both worlds.

Wood-fired systems can source domestic hot water, central and underfloor heating and can also heat a swimming pool. Michael said: “We have a demonstration system at our property comprising of a log gasification boiler with solar thermal panels linked to an accumulation tank. Both the gasification boiler and solar thermal panels work effectively at different times of the year, so complement each other perfectly.” Enershop holds the QualiBois and QualiSol accreditation so its systems are eligible for credit d’impots. For more information, contact Enershop or visit the website, where there is a link to the company’s Facebook page which is updated regularly. 07 67 04 07 53 info@enershop.eu www.enershop.eu

The eVolution 26 wood boiler stove is an impressive feature as well as providing heating and domestic hot water.

The Connexion October 2018



Directory 29


Box clever and even arrange for UK purchases to be delivered to you Watson European are expanding their current service of removals and storage to include the delivery of packing materials to your door. Andrea Watson, the proprietor of Watson European, explains. “Many customers find it difficult to locate suitable packaging material for their removals. Being based in the UK means that Watson European are able to source a wide variety of boxes in quantities to suit a client’s individual needs.” From full home removals to the individual pieces of furniture, Andrea’s team have the trade contacts to supply boxes, wrapping material and tape to ensure your belongings can be transported in perfect condition. With weekly services to France the Watson

European team can deliver the packaging to your door and collect the filled packages at a time to suit you ready for direct delivery to the UK. Andrea continues: “We also cater for those not in any particular hurry to move into their new home in France or who want to put affairs in order first by offering up to 60 days’ free UK based storage. Many clients take advantage of this offer. “Also due to the increased demand we have been experiencing, Watson European has invested in yet more specialised equipment to transport vehicles, home removals and even plant and machinery. With Brexit looming ever closer people are taking advantage of our services, both those establishing themselves in France or returning to the UK. “We also offer a delivery service to our regular customers in France when they wish to make purchases in the UK. Where

our customers order online from different suppliers in the UK we take delivery of the items and can store them for up to 60 days without charge. Once all the different orders / packages have arrived, our team delivers to the customer’s door in France.” With Watson European, you can rest assured that your belongings – and your stress levels – will be looked after. Andrea concludes: “For us it’s the small things that make the big difference. Moving home is often a stressful experience where the best-laid plans can go astray. Many of our clients remark on how having our friendly staff available at the end of phone is one of the most reassuring aspects of our service. Being there to deal with the smallest of detail is what our job is all about, whether you require relocation services, partial house removals of pre-packed items or a complete packing and delivery service of a full home.”

Watson European can deliver items safely to your door with great service www.watsoneuropean.co.uk Tel: Andy +44 (0) 7876 504 547 Dave +44 (0) 7515 722 772 Email: enquiry@watsoneuropean.co.uk

Complete solution to fosse septique problems There’s little worse than a smelly or blocked fosse septique, but there is a simple, ecological and costeffective treatment, say Eco-tabs Europe founders Shelly and Tim Burns-O’Regan WITH costly emptying charges and the potential to smell or get blocked, fosse septiques can be a homeowner’s nightmare. But an innovative product now exists which not only takes away the need to empty your fosse, but also removes odours and reduces blockages. Eco-tabs are purely bacterial-based, not a combination of enzymes like many competitive products. They help to increase overall system efficiency, reduce costly maintenance and eliminate the need for

toxic chemicals and special handling procedures. The tablets work by oxygenating the water in the fosse, removing hydrogen sulfide odours, preventing corrosion, and initiating aerobic biological breakdown of organic sludge, including oils and grease. Store bought products that are enzyme based liquify the solids for them to reform later. So you will still need to pump out your tank. Eco-tabs degrade the solids and remove those pesky odours. Company founders Shelly and Tim BurnsO’Regan say: “Our company is founded on the core belief that eco-friendly, non-toxic waste treatment products have become a necessity in today’s environmentally sensitive and fragile ecosystem. We also provide excellent customer service and follow up as fed back from our customers.” An eco-tabs Clean out Pack starts at 66€ ( exc TVA, p+p) for a standard 3000 litre

tank compared to the cost of a pump out truck ranging from 125€ up to 400€, this is a no-brainer. “Simply flush a tablet down the toilet each month to maintain a healthy fosse septique. Or, as an alternative to pumping out, use two tabs and one bag of our Shock powder and watch the magic. “Not only do the tabs oxygenate the water, which removes the odours, the sludge is eaten away by the bacteria. The result: a clean fosse which does not need to be pumped out… all that remains is water.” Eco-tabs are compatible for old septic tanks right through to the new microstation systems. To ensure that you are only buying the products necessary for your tank, we offer a Personalised Treatment Plan which will recommend the ideal products for you. Visit: www.eco-tabs.biz and click on the link for a Personalised Treatment Plan.

Eco-tabs are 100% ecological and mean you don’t need to pump out your fosse For more information, visit the website or contact Tim on +33 (0)6 35 96 95 12 www.eco-tabs.biz info@eco-tabs.biz

Join Bel Air Homes - 80 % Commission Paid Bel Air Homes is a fully French registered and insured LOW COST estate agency. We are a member of FNAIM ( Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier ), the national association of estate agents, and we offer our clients a full bilingual estate agency service in English, or French. We are regularly ask by vendors in many parts of France if Bel Air Homes can market their properties for them, because our sales commission is just 2.5 % including VAT, which is perceived to be a real advantage given that other agencies charge much higher rates of commission, typically between 5% and 10 %, with an average of 8% being added to the asking price. Though vendors will not have to pay the agency commission, it comes out of the buyer’s budget, which could reduce the size of the offer that the buyer is able to make on their property, and therefore the amount that they receive from a sale ‘net vendeur’. Potential buyers from the UK, France, other countries in Europe and across the globe also ask us if we have properties for sale in other regions of France. They too appreciate the good value that a LOW COST estate agency can offer them. We therefore believe that the opportunity now exists to expand Bel Air Homes with the help of experienced property professionals who can help us develop a network of independent agents to meet the demand from vendors and buyers seeking to take advantage of our low rate of of sales commission, and our high level of customer service.

Visit the Bel Air Homes website for more information concerning this exciting opportunity




ANDY: 0044 (0) 7876 504 547 DAVE: 0044 (0) 7515 722 772




See also Page 27 for Community events Topics in autumn are Women Authors of Surrealism, Politics and Cinema: The Republic of Turkey, Philo­sophy of Art: Merleau-Ponty’s Cézanne, Existential­ism: Kierke­gaard’s Fear and Trembling and Gender in the Middle East. Occasional workshops will also be held. “Make-up artists flying in for Paris Fashion Week in October will teach a two-day course on Make-Up Through the Decades. “It may not sound academic but they will talk about the social background and history as well as teaching participants how to recreate styles at home. You can apply critical thinking to many different subjects.” Courses are around €400 with scholarships available. In all, 70% of fees go to the teachers and the rest in costs in a bid to attract young enthusiastic academics who are low-paid. As universities aim to give qualifications for future careers “there is an interest in intellectual stimulation and critical thinking and we want to offer something that is not quantitative or utilitarian.”

Charity shop is lifeline

Charity shops are not often part of town or village life in France, but the one in Beauville, Lot-et-Garonne has celebrated giving away more than €50,000 in five years. Run by the Bon Coeur Association, which is made up mostly of British volunteers, its president, Charles Miskin, said they split money raised about 50/50 between human and animal good causes, mostly local. “Among about 30 others, we have given to Cancer Support France, a refuge for battered women near Agen, a donkey refuge, an association training guide dogs for the blind and we have recently given €500 to our mairie towards a water fountain.” Open five days a week in a village with just 580 inhabitants, it is welcomed as part of a small group of shops which help to keep the community alive. The shop owners offer it

rent free as they are happy to have it used year-round for charity. Manned by volunteers, it sells books, 90% of which are in English, clothes, jewellery and household items. Mr Miskin said: “We try to keep open all year round and there is a constant flow of customers. The donations we receive help us keep a good turnover of goods, and we try to pass on excess to other good causes.” Bon Coeur (boncoeur47.fr) also organises three big events a year: a 10,000+ book sale on May 1, a Franco-British Pétanque match on July 14 and they run a bar and sell picnics for an annual Shakespeare play by a touring London theatre company. Volunteers also help at other events and Mr Miskin said he was keen to help groups across France as the idea works anywhere.

Volunteers man the Bon Coeur shop which sells a lot of English books

Pedal to Paris participants celebrate at the Arc de Triomphe

Morpurgo visit brings Paris Legion up to date

NEARLY 100 years after it was created in 1921, the Royal British Legion Paris Branch is still very active and is involved in commemorative events and opening up new ones. One is a talk by children’s author Michael Morpurgo on October 3 about his book Poppy Field, which tells the story of the poppy emblem. It is a new step by the branch (rblfrance.org/index_paris.htm) which was created about a fortnight before the UK British Legion was itself founded. It helped ex-servicemen still in France after the First World War as many hit hard times. Today’s branch chairman, David Bean, said Paris, as in all branches, aims “to help ex- service people and their families when they are wounded or die, or for any other difficulty they may face, such as financial hardship; but also to take part in commemorative events.” Every August 4 members are present at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe for the ceremony of the rekindling of the flame;

Have your group featured

The Connexion regularly features news and events from community groups all over France. We would be pleased to publicise your association (non-commercial) – it’s a great way to bring in new members and it is free! You can submit events via connexionfrance.com/Community To have your association/ group featured email details to news@connexionfrance.com

Commemorations are important for both French and British In September they welcomed 250 cyclists who raised money for the RBL in the Pedal to Paris Poppy Appeal event; A mini-commemorative festival of Remembrance for children in November has plenty of poppies and readings of the poems some have written; The British and Com­mon­ wealth Memorial Service on November 11 at Notre Dame will be poignant as it marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. Five Chelsea Pensioners will be present. Mr Bean said the British presence at memorials was important in France: “Both nations were involved and the French remember it perhaps more than we do. They like and appreciate it when the British get involved.”

Community 31

The poppy appeal is the main fundraiser including the coffee morning at the Paris residence of the British Ambassador and the sale of the Paris Book of forces members’ experiences. But membership is falling: “We are now about 100 with 30 core active members, whereas in the 1950s, for example, there were 600-700. We would really welcome new people to join.” Publicity officer Caroline Clopet is working to involve younger people and children: “A school project will educate pupils of all ages about the two World Wars. First it was aimed at International Schools but other French schools have been using our material. “Michael Morpurgo’s visit will help get young people involved and to modernise our image.”

Volunteer actions help target older people’s loneliness If YOU are offered a flower on October 1, the UN International Day of Older Persons, it is likely to be from the charity Les Petits Frères des Pauvres (petitsfreresdespauvres.fr) who will be suggesting that you pass it on, with a smile and a few kind words, to an elderly person, who may be living alone and lonely. Les Petits Frères des Pauvres was founded in 1946 to support an elderly population which felt abandoned after the ravages of war. Today the need for it is just as great with an ageing population and an economic crisis which has left many older people with few resources and often alone. The charity helps by setting up teams of volunteers who visit people in their home. Chantal Saint Marc, is a volunteer from Langon, Sud Gironde who visits two people in their homes regularly and talks to another by phone. Volunteers can help on a regular A retired nurse who basis or just once or twice a year worked with the elderly, she did not want to lose contact with this generation. “It is terrible the number of people who do not speak to anyone in a day. On a first visit we ask the person about their life to get used to talking again. “Later, we talk about other interests to revive their enthusiasm in doing things, so they become less introverted. “Elderly people feel they no longer have a place in society and it is important to show them they have a lot to offer.” Mrs Saint Marc says being a visitor is a longterm commitment but the hours are flexible. “There is more than one volunteer assigned to each person, so no-one becomes too involved in a one-to-one relationship.” Spokeswoman Isabelle Sénécal said the 12,000 volunteers were crucial with actions such as Christmas meals and holidays, where someone can have a first holiday in years in one of the 16 holiday homes. Last year it helped 37,200 people with 13,600 getting visits. The charity would welcome English-speaking volunteers. They need some French to communicate but Mrs Sénécal says their input would be positive: “Many of the people we work with show a great curiosity, and I am sure some would appreciate a few basic lessons in English and hearing about a different way of life.”

Photo: Amaury_Cibot

A new form of English study starts in Paris in October offering courses to anyone interested in culture and critical thinking where the emphasis is on learning for learning’s sake and not on gaining a diploma. Set up by international university scholars as a non-profit association, it is called PICT, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (parisinstitute.org). Public relations and research co-ordinator David Selim Sayers, a Sorbonne professor, said: “Paris is hard to beat for its cultural and intellectual vibrancy and I am really quite jealous of all that is on offer for fluent French-speakers, but there is not much that is very challenging in English. “So we want to offer courses for the huge English-speaking population and for French speakers with a high level of English who do not want yet another language class.” Courses will have 20 students maximum to encourage interaction and will be in a variety of formats, with a basic structure of 18-20 hours of instruction over four to six weeks.


Photo: Amaury_Cibot

Studying for the sake of learning, not degrees

October 2018

Photo: urélie_Gélibert

The Connexion

32 Practical

The Connexion October 2018


Future’s bright for the hotel soap we once threw away

YOU expect to find fresh soap in the bathroom when you stay in a hotel but what happens to that partly-used bar after you leave? Usually, it would get thrown away – piling up 949million bars each year – but one fast-growing French non-profit organisation is working to change that and create jobs for disabled people. Lyon-based Unisoap was created in 2017 and it collects partially-used soap from hotel chains such as Novotel, Radisson and Sofitel and recycles them into new bars, which it then donates to local and international groups to promote hygiene and help the underprivileged. It is the brainchild of Lyon businessman Ludovic Loffreda, who was working in Dubai and realised how much hotel soap was wasted. He set up operations in Lyon and Dubai to recycle the soap, create jobs for the disabled and help save lives. Globally, 2.2million children die every year from hygiene-related diseases but simple hand-washing gets rid of 92% of bacteria and can cut illness such as flu and dysentery by 50%. Unisoap works with big-name hotels in France and the United Arab Emirates and the amount saved is impressive. This year, in a few months, it recycled 184kg of soap from Hôtel Lyon Métropole and 74kg at Lyon Radisson Bleu. It is collected from the hotels – who pay for the recycling – then is processed and repacked for distribution to charities, schools and hospitals.

Non-recycled plastic will cost 10% extra in shops

FRANCE is making plastic waste its Public Enemy No 1 with a plan to convert to 100% recycled by 2025 - starting early next year with a bonus-malus system of penalties. Shoppers could find themselves paying up to 10% more for items in unrecycled packaging, while products in recycled plastic could cost them up to 10% less. The new move, launched by junior ecology minister Brune Poirson, would mean a lifestyle change for people in France. Just 26% of plastic packaging was recycled in 2016 - or just 3% if plastic bottles were excluded from the total. Annual use of throwaway plastic adds up to an average of 96 bottles, 40 coffee cups, 996 cigarette ends, 49 straws and five takeaway boxes per person... and it takes the lives of 100,000 sea creatures killed by pollution. Zero Waste France, which provided the figures, said the bonus-malus plan was a good idea as it was a first in Europe but it was “not just a question of recycling, but also of reducing and limiting plastic usage, as that is key”. Laura Châtel, who heads the group’s campaign against plastic, said: “It is a small step as it targets PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottles, where recycling is already strong, but if it is carried out at all stages of production could seriously affect product prices. It helps thinking to evolve towards non-usage.” Drinks firms such as Coca-Cola, Vittel and Oran­gina have already joined in a campaign to encourage recycling, saying PET bottles are 100% recyclable and can make new ones. Ms Châtel also welcomed moves by shoppers to

Vous triez, nous recyclons. Packaging mix-up shows plastic bottles can be made into new bottles... even a rival’s take their own action. The Plastic Attack group have been shopping in supermarkets, stripping off excess packaging and leaving it at the shop. But stores are taking action too. E.Leclerc supermarkets are running down stocks of plastic cups, straws and picnicware, aiming to offer only reusable items next spring. Chief executive Michel Edouard Leclerc said they are in talks to vastly reduce packaging, although this will take 18 months. Their shops in Haut-de-France are testing machines to give loyalty card-holders credits for returning plastic and glass bottles, like the old consignes. MPs have voted to extend the ban on plastic straws and drink mixers to include throwaway plastic cutlery and containers by 2020. Elsewhere, organic shops have popularised the idea of buying products en vrac, where clients avoid packaging by reusing containers, but supermarket Auchan has been doing the same for its “hard discount” items since 2005.

Police set to catch insurance dodgers POLICE will be able to track drivers who are on the road without insurance from the beginning of next year thanks to a new database of insured vehicles being created as a safety measure. Official figures say 700,000 people are driving with no insurance and the new fichier will keep details of number plate, name of insurer and the period insured, allowing officers to identify uninsured vehicles. Drivers face a €3,750 fine – reduced to €500 for a first offence. Rising use of number plate recognition means offenders can be caught in ordinary traffic and even if not stopped for another offence.

Winter tyre time?

DRIVERS in mountain areas are ready to fit winter tyres – which give extra grip in the cold – but they are mandatory only on certain roads where cold weather equipment is required. Even though the tyres are not obligatory, insurers might refuse to pay out for accidents in mountain zones if a vehicle is not properly equipped. They will do the same if the winter tyres/snowchains are not on the driving wheels. Tyres marked 3PMSF or M+S are for winter and should be fitted once temperatures fall below 7C, when ordinary tyres lose efficiency.

Orange tariff up €2

TELECOMS firm Orange is raising Zen mobile tariffs by €2/month from October 1 but has been criticised for disguising the rise as a download quota increase from 2Gb to 10Gb. Users will pay €26.99/month but can refuse the change and keep the old tariff or cancel within four months.

Making your

life in france less taxing


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The Connexion

October 2018

The Connexion

Money / Tax page


Practical: Money 33


Is ‘equity release’ possible?

What is cost of a nursing home?

WE LIVE in France and own our house mortgage-free. We are 75 and 80 – can we release equity from our home? D.B.

This is an edited extract from our 2018-2019 French Inheritance Law helpguide, which has a chapter on dependency issues in older age. The guide costs €9.90 (plus P&P) and is available (print or PDF version) from our website, by calling 06 40 55 71 63 or via selected newsagents.

YES it is possible and the form that would suit you is called a prêt viager hypothécaire. It is a loan secured by a mortgage against your home and which (capital and interest) is only repayable from your estate after you die. Other forms of ‘equity release’ loan exist in France but involve repayment within a set time-frame. The loan is offered by Crédit Foncier bank (https://agences.creditfoncier.fr) and is aimed at older people who own their home but have modest incomes. The bank revamped the loan in 2017 under the brand name Foncier Réversimmo and made it available to people aged 60 or over (previously 65) at a fixed rate of 4.8%. It has now been announced (see page 4) that Crédit Foncier will cease new operations in early 2019. However, the parent group BPCE say nothing will change for those who have an existing loan and it expects the product to be taken up by another bank or banks for new customers. The money is usually given as a lump sum with a deduction of an amount for set-up fees. The loan is for life, though it can conclude before if you pay it back early or sell the property. You should consider possible consequences for inheritance matters. If the debt to the bank on your death is more than the value of the property the difference is taken onboard by the bank, whereas if there is money left over, it goes to your heirs. There is no requirement for a health questionnaire or to take out death or incapacity insurance. The amount released will be a set percentage of the home’s value (typically 15-75%), based on your personal circumstances. In 2016 the average amount released was €100,000 and most borrowers lived in the Ile-de-France or Paca. An alternative is vente en viager. This means selling to a buyer who pays a lump sum (below market value) plus a ‘rent’ for your lifetime. The property passes to the buyer on your deaths.

Who pays estate agent’s fees? IS IT the buyer or the seller who pays estate agency fees and what is a reasonable commission for a €2million house? Can you bargain to improve the rate? A.V. IT IS usually the seller and they are also included in the sale price as quoted to the buyer and written in the sale deeds. However the estate agency will generally quote the seller the sum which he or she should expect to receive on sale. When the two parties are at the notaire’s office

Send your financial queries to

Hugh MacDonald at

news@connexionfrance.com to sign the acte de vente the buyer pays over the full amount. The seller signs a document allowing the notaire to give part of it to the agency and receives the rest (minus the ‘notaire’s fees’). Vice president of estate agency group Fnaim Loîc Cantin said technically who pays depends what it says in the mandat de vente signed by the seller and agency when the home is put on the market, but it is generally “simpler and more logical” for it to be the seller as he or she engages the agency. If it is the buyer, adverts will state the breakdown between the sale price and agency fees and it is just the sale price that goes into the acte de vente. The buyer pays the price for the property and is given a separate agency fees bill. The percentage of the agency fee is agreed between agency and seller and depends on what actions the agent will take to sell the property. It is not regulated by law, unlike notarial fees, but the usual range of rates do have to be displayed in the estate agency with VAT included, so TTC (toute taxe comprise). Amounts vary according to service provided, region and individual agency but rates of between 5-10% are common. Generally the percentage fee is lower if the value of the property is high and yes there is some room to negotiate.

Should you use a notaire for gifts? IN A recent edition you mention how a notaire is required when you make a gift of a property (bricks and mortar). Is a notaire also needed for other kinds of gift? P.W. IT IS a good idea for all significant gifts (money, shares, valuables etc...) to be recorded through a notaire as the gifts will then be registered and validated for tax and succession purposes, which can avoid confusion/arguments later on death. If a foreign-based beneficiary cannot come to France it is possible for another person to be granted power of attorney to sign for them. Since it is the event of the donor making the gift that creates a potential tax charge it does not matter whether the beneficiary is resident in France or not. Foreign beneficiaries who suffer French gift tax and would not have suffered this tax in their own country cannot reclaim a refund. There is a temptation to do what is called a don manuel, a non-notarised gift, to avoid inher-

The Connexion welcomes queries and publishes a selection with answers every edition. However, please note that we cannot enter into correspondence on money topics. Queries may be edited for length and style. Due to the sensitive nature of topics we do not publish full names or addresses on these pages.

itance tax. However tax offices generally eventually find out, especially in the event of transfers of money – otherwise on death the gift is sometimes revealed and then either the error of certain beneficiaries not inheriting what they should or not having paid past taxes will need to be sorted out. Property gifts always go through a notaire because of the stamp duty that must be paid and changes to the land registry. Other gifts do not strictly-speaking have to be done through a notaire as long as you ensure succession records and appropriate taxes are filed and paid (allowances may apply before tax is payable, depending on the relationship with the recipient). It is the recipients’ responsibility to declare the gift (eg. to the non-residents’ tax office for non French residents) and pay any tax, but should the donor pay the tax this is not itself seen as part of the gift for tax purposes. There are no formalities for présents d’usage which are gifts given on a family occasion and proportionate to the means of the giver.

How can I pay a gardener? IS THERE a simple way to make payments to a gardener that covers the requirements in terms of social charges? S.M. THE SYSTEM is called Chèque Emploi Service Universel (Cesu). You register for the scheme and prepare and sign an employment contract with the employee. When you pay your gardener you also make an online declaration and in addition to the cheque that you pay them for their net salary, the government makes a direct debit charge for the social charges that you are deemed to have deducted from his or her salary, plus the employer’s social charge contributions. At the end of the tax year, the Cesu organisation sends you a statement of the payments you have made to people in the year, and you declare this total sum (net salaries and employees’ and your employer’s charges). In calculating your income tax liability, the tax office deducts 50% of the total that you have paid from tax you owe. If you do not pay tax you receive money back instead. See cesu.urssaf.fr/info/accueil.html (French only) for more information. It has a calculator to work out your total cost including all charges.

The information on these pages is of a general nature. You should not act or refrain from acting on it without taking professional advice on the specific facts of your case. No liability is accepted in respect of these articles. These articles are intended only as a general guide. Nothing herein constitutes actual financial advice.

A NURSING home for elderly people with ongoing medical needs is known as an EHPAD and can be either state run and thus under the responsibility of the council / public hospitals or private. Private homes cost up to 50% more than state ones and have shorter waiting lists. Price factors include staff-to-patient ratio, services and location (rural ones are cheaper) and the cost is between €1,500 to €4,000/month. Costs fall into three parts. The first is accommodation, including board and lodging and leisure. This is at a rate fixed by the departmental council if it is a public sector home accredited to accept people who are eligible for means-tested state aid – otherwise it can be set freely but annual increases are subject to set limits. It is €47 to €108 per day according to a recent analysis by Cnsa, a body involved in aid to the elderly, and includes meals, utilities, cleaning and laundry. The social security system (Cpam) covers medical costs, the second part of fees. Finally there is dependency care (€4.30 to €26 per day) for day-to-day non-medical assistance and special equipment and adaptations, depending on a person’s needs. This includes, for example, help with washing and getting around. It rises depending on how major the needs are from a set classification of six (the least serious) to one (the most serious). The first part will usually be paid by the resident from income such as a pension but can in part be paid via various benefits and state aid. You can compare costs of nursing homes in a given area at pour-les-personnes-agees.gouv.fr. You need to click at the top right on Comparer les prix et les restes à charge en EHPAD. Depending on your means, housing benefit can help with the accommodation part of the fees, either (or both) from the Caf or departmental council. However, in French law descendants have an obligation towards needy parents and grandparents to help with their essential needs and the council can request they contribute. Recipients of council help must spend 90% of their own incomes on the fees and council benefit can be recuperated from a person’s estate after they die. The APA benefit is available from departmental councils to help with dependency fees. It is for anyone with dependency needs rated one to four but the amount is means-tested. If you own your home it is not included in means calculations and you are not expected to sell it. Those who pay income tax may also benefit from a tax reduction of up to €2,500/year. For more on this topic order the guide above.

Making your life in france less taxing * The Kentingtons service is exclusive to individuals with a minimum of €250,000 in financial assets. Kentingtons SARL, RCS 500 163 282 DRAGUIGNAN, Conseil en Investissement Financier (CIF) –Conseil en Gestion de Patrimoine Certifié (CGPC), Catégorie B, référence sous le numéro F000116, association agréée par l’Autorité des marchés Financiers, conforme article L.541-4 du Code Monétaire et Financier, Assurance Responsabilité Civile et professionnelle conforme à l’article L.541-3 du Code Monétaire et Financier. ORIAS 08038951 Garantie Financière et Assurance Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle conformes aux articles L 512-6 et 512-7 du Code des Assurances. Head Office: Z.A. les Esparrus, 83690, VILLECROZE

34 Practical: Money


The Connexion

October 2018

Financial planning for expat retirees should be holistic This column is by Bill Blevins of Blevins Franks financial advice group (www.blevinsfranks.com). He has decades of experience advising expatriates in France and co-authored the Blevins Franks Guide to Living in France If you have recently retired, you are entering a new and exciting phase in your life. While some people worry that retirement will be boring, I know plenty who embrace the freedom it gives. And I’m willing to bet that, if you’ve chosen to retire in France, you fall into the latter category. France offers a beneficial way of life for retired expatriates, but peace of mind goes a long way to helping you enjoy your retirement years. Long-term financial security is key to this, and to achieve it you need to take a good look at your finances and the way you hold your assets. Your situation is totally different now from your working days in the UK and it is likely you need to make adjustments. Savings and investments You may have built up a successful portfolio of savings and investments, but your circumstances and objectives were different then. With a regular salary coming in you could perhaps afford to take more risk when choosing investments and may have been focused on investment growth. Many retirees, though, are looking for income, whether it is receiving regular payments or taking ad hoc withdrawals. Besides planning for that, you need to protect

the capital that generates the income, and so have to be careful about managing risk. At the same time, aim to earn at least enough capital growth to keep pace with inflation over time to help you maintain your spending power through retirement. It is a fine balance and the starting point is to obtain an objective (and scientific where possible) assessment of your risk tolerance. Together with a good understanding of your aims, circumstances, needs and likely time horizon, this is key to ensuring your portfolio is designed specifically for you. This needs to involve risk management strategies, like a good mix of assets coupled with diversification across companies, sectors, geographical areas etc. Pensions You now get to benefit from those many years spent contributing to your pension pot. Instead of paying money in each month, you can start to take it out. Depending on the type of pension, you may even be able to withdraw the whole pot as one lump sum, potentially paying just 7.5% (or 16.6% with social charges) in France compared to up to 45% in the UK. But, with so many options for your pension funds these days, it is essential that you research all your options and fully understand the various implications of each one – and ensure you do not risk your long-term financial security. My September article in The Connexion was dedicated to pensions so I won’t go into detail now, but you do need a careful review of your pensions as you start retirement, and professional advice from a regulated firm is important.

Taxation All that free time in retirement can cost money! So, if you can take steps to maximise your income, all the better – and tax planning can help. Tax mitigation opportunities are limited when paying PAYE on your salary, but the way you hold your savings and investments can make a difference to your retirement income. First of all, be aware that your UK tax planning is unlikely to be effective in France. For example, ISAs are fully taxable in the hands of French residents, as are any winnings from premium bonds. In France, all investment income is now taxed at a flat rate of 30% (including social charges). Those on lower incomes can opt to use the scale rates of income tax instead. Be aware that this 30% tax does not apply to rental income, and property is also liable to wealth tax (in cases where your household’s total real estate exceeds to €1.3m). So, if you are thinking of buying property as an investment, you should weigh up all the tax considerations first. Many French nationals use assurance-vie as a savings vehicle and expatriate retirees have also found them to be very useful. They allow you to combine your investment, tax and estate planning in one exercise, group different investments together in one easier to manage policy, and can provide considerable tax benefits. Be aware though that there are many different types of assurance-vie. They can be based in different jurisdictions and both the type of product and jurisdiction can make a difference to the advantages they offer, and French-based ones are not right for everyone – so be careful when choosing a policy

and check that it will deliver the benefits you are expecting. Note that when your policy passes onto your beneficiaries on death, they receive a sizable succession tax allowance for the premiums you paid before age 70. There are still some succession tax benefits after 70, but pay in before where you can. Estate planning This brings me on to estate planning. None of us like to think about our departure from this world, but there is no denying that reaching retirement age does bring it closer – though hopefully you have decades ahead of you yet! The key message here is not to risk leaving it too late. Decide who you want to leave your assets to, how much and when, and then research the most effective way to achieve this, in the most tax-efficient way, taking both the French and UK rules into account. But don’t ignore your own needs in the process, use arrangements which can provide tax-efficiency for you now as well as your heirs in future. My final piece of advice is that integrated financial planning usually works better than just focusing on one element at a time. For example, the way you hold your investments and pensions can affect how much tax you and your heirs pay and how the assets are passed to heirs. So, take advice from a specialist advisory firm that provides holistic advice. n Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

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The Connexion

October 2018


Meet the bin that treats its own rubbish by JANE HANKS

A ROBOT, intelligent rubbish bin that sorts and crushes cans, bottles and throwaway cups could help businesses and cafeterias clean up after customers – and boost recycling. Start-up Green Creative, based at Sucy-en-Brie, on the outskirts of Paris, is starting to make a name for its Made in France products that find new ways to encourage recycling and cutting waste. Its R3D3 rubbish bin is named in recognition of the Star Wars robot R2D2 but also stands for recyclage de 3 déchets as it only accepts and treats three types of rubbish – aluminium cans, plastic bottles or plastic and cardboard cups. When an item is put in the bin it is rejected if it is not one of these drinks packaging. Waste is then sorted into one of its three categories and then compressed so each bin can hold 100 50cl plastic bottles, 300 50cl cans and 400 cups – this is 10 times more than an ordinary bin. The R3D3 bin is also ‘connected’ so it will tell its owner when it is full and how many items it has collected. Companies like Bank BPI France have tested the bin and find it a plus to be able to tell

The glam R3D3 is the shiny side of recycling while Flexidry is an industrial workhorse giving clean biomass for compost or animal feed their employees that they have successfully recycled so many kilos of aluminium, plastic or cardboard. They have bins in 20 of their offices. Now Green Creative hopes to get worldwide interest in the bin aiming it at airports, businesses and cafeterias to end unsightly, overflowing rubbish in public places, cut down on cleaners’ bills and, above all, encourage recycling. Marketing manager Aman­dine Clémençon said it would encourage recycling: “It is attractive and fun as it lights up when you put something in

it, so people will want to use it. “It is practical as when it is full cleaners know they have to go and empty it, whereas before they may have had to check the bins every two hours in a busy place like an airport. “This will save money for a business, as even though a bin costs €295 a month to hire, it means they will save money on cleaners’ wages. Above all it is environmental.” Green Creative was founded in 2010 by young engineers, Lucile Noury and Rémi Gomez who were interested in processing rubbish. They are now joined by

23 other employees. The company has so far sold 70 of the R3D3 bins, half in France and half in Switzerland. Ms Clémençon said: “This is just the beginning as we have only just gone into production. The final version was just completed at the end of 2017.” Another of their products, called Flexidry is a machine that recovers organic contents from food packaging so both contents and packaging can be composted or recycled. The machine perforates the packs then squashes them so the organic contents drain into a

Treasured knives contain meteorite, gold and... dung

Roland Lannier’s Punk tartan knife is a contrast with Perceval’s meteorite

minerai de fer to create just exactly the metal they want. Handles are made of exotic woods such as ironwood, bamboo or rosewood, metals such as titanium or aluminium chips and even boar bone, fossil mammoth bone, many different kinds of stone and even, at coutelier Perceval, meteorite. In Thiers, coutelier Roland Lannier is a 21-years artisan, who worked for a company until 2014 then decided to go it alone “to find something different”. He said: “We are lucky here where a knife is still part of everyday life, used to cut some

Robert Beillonet’s ‘dung’ knife handle has a delicate design

sausage but I love the aesthetic side, where I can stimulate my creativity to do new things.” That means using old LPs or Michelin tyres or tartan material to make his pocket knife designs, while his table knives, are in some top restaurants. “I make the whole knife from the steel for the blade to working the handle material. I started with my ‘Punk’ design using tartan material, which was just adapting what was common, as we previously used plain textile for the base layer. “Making a handle from LPs was a step further and the Michelin knife was a joke on chefs who chase Michelin stars but having said that, if the tyre does 35,000km on the road it will easily last in a kitchen!

Boost ahead for small businesses PROPOSALS in the new Loi Pacte aim to simplify procedures and open up businesses for growth and improved competitivity and should give new and small businesses a boost by removing some restrictions. Two changes in the law, which has still to be passed, would see micro-entrepreneurs who earn less than €5,000 no longer required to hold a separate bank account for earnings and would sweep away the need for artisans to pay for and attend a 30-hour ‘preparatory’ course in business life. However, Grégoire Leclercq, leader of the Fédération des Auto-entrepreneurs, called the changes an over-reaction. He told L’Express newspaper the problem was not in holding a second bank account but in banks demanding that that account be a business account, with extra charges. While the federation had long said the preparatory ‘stage’ was too long and costly; it still gave some useful information for start-ups and it would have been better if wasteful detail had been cut and a shorter, more useful course retained.

Does your tax planning travel well? The tax planning vehicles you used in the UK are unlikely to be effective in France; ISAs are fully taxable here, for example. You need to set up new arrangements to make France a tax-efficient place to live. Likewise, French tax planning may not work if you return to the UK. Blevins Franks specialises in cross-border tax planning and can provide solutions for both countries.

Talk to the people who know

0 805 112 163 (N0 Vert) france@blevinsfranks.com www.blevinsfranks.com



FOR many, a Swiss Army knife – with corkscrew – is more than ample for everyday life... but many French people feel a pocket knife is more than just a tool to cut off a hunk of sausage and is, often, also a precious object to treasure. Surprising, then, that some knife-makers use cow dung to make their knives a cut above. New techniques and designs are being created in the key centres of the coutellerie craft like Thiers in Puy-de-Dôme, along with Laguiole in Aveyron and Nontron in Dordogne where knife-making is a living heritage business (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant). Couteliers always seek to innovate and Robert Beillonnet, a two-time Meilleur Ouvrier de France, was the first to use dung... as a protest against the ban on using ivory, one of his favourite handle materials. The dung is dried, worked in resin to stabilise it and has gold decoration. It does not smell. Now it has been taken up by other artisans, such as Pome Castanier of Lozère’s Mercorne, who said it “looked like lace”. Innovation in blades means some hunt their own iron ore

collector to be turned into compost or animal feed or used for bio-gas production. It has been bought by council dechetteries, recycling sites and other businesses and has won praise as it gives clean organic waste with no plastic contaminant while still being economical and using very little energy and water. Green Creative is looking for UK and other European distributors for the products but is also eyeing markets in Japan, South Korea and the US – and all the time looking for skilled workers in fabrication.

Business 35

Blevins Franks Group is represented in France by the following companies: Blevins Franks Financial Management Limited (BFFM) and Blevins Franks France SASU (BFF). BFFM is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, reference number 179731. Where advice is provided outside the UK, via the Insurance Mediation Directive or the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II, the applicable regulatory system differs in some respects from that of the UK. Blevins Franks France SASU (BFF), is registered with ORIAS, registered number 07 027 475, and authorised as “Conseil en Investissements Financiers” and “Courtiers d’Assurance” Category B (register can be consulted on www.orias.fr). Member of ANACOFI-CIF. BFF’s registered office: 1 rue Pablo Neruda, 33140 Villenave d’Ornon – RCS BX 498 800 465 APE 6622Z. Garantie Financière et Assurance de Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle conformes aux articles L 541-3 du Code Monétaire et Financier and L512-6 and 512-7 du Code des Assurances (assureur MMA). Blevins Franks Tax Limited provides taxation advice; its advisers are fully qualified tax specialists. This promotion has been approved and issued by BFFM.


Smaller firms can leave tax to Urssaf SMALL businesses will be able to benefit from help with organising their employees’ “at source” tax payments, the government has clarified. Firms with fewer than 20 employees will be able to use, free of charge, the Titre Emploi Service Entreprise (Tese) system which is already used for employees’ social charges. Using the online platform at letese.urssaf.fr, small firms will be able to leave it to Urssaf to calculate the declaration and payment of the employees’ income tax from January. The TESE centre will use information received from the tax offices to work out the amounts due on each salary and will tell employers how much net salary to give an employee (after tax). Tax will then be levied from the employer by Urssaf at the same time as the social charge amounts that are due. Business people can find out more at prelevementalasource. gouv.fr or call a dedicated “at source tax” helpline on 0811 368 368 (six centimes/minute + normal price of the call). Note that it is planned that

nothing will change in 2019 for members of the public who employ staff providing personal services in their homes. This exception for particuliers employeurs would include those who pay gardeners, nannies or cleaners etc, usually via the Cesu scheme. This will change by 2020, but the tax issues will then be dealt with by the Cesu centre that employers are used to dealing with for social charges. There will be an option to leave everything to the centre, including paying the employee, or there will be a system as for the small businesses mentioned above. To avoid double tax in 2020, employees will pay a tax instalment for 2019 at the end of the year, based on 2018 income, with regularisation in 2020. There are also new arrangements for the tax credit obtainable for paying workers in the home. If you previously had such a credit in 2018, based on 2017 income, you will obtain 60% of it in January 2019, then the rest will be regularised in August 2019 once income for 2018 is known.

Small business and tax advice Brexit, tax and Britons in France How will Brexit affect my income tax situation as a British resident of France? It will not affect it as the UK-France double tax treaty has no relation to the EU. The EU single market’s four freedoms that give EU citizens the right to live in and operate a business in France may be significantly changed by Brexit, depending on the outcome of the negotiations – but not their tax position. The first element to consider is the right to reside in France which may have ‘before and after’ rules. This means that conditions and rights that are currently in place for Britons living in France before Brexit (and possibly up to the end of a transition period) may continue while new rules will apply to those who move over afterwards. Neither side in the negotiations wants a situation where hundreds of thousands of settled expats find their rights suddenly revoked and with retrospective effect, obliging them to sell up and return to their original country. If the deal currently on the table goes ahead, that should largely be avoided, although there are concerns that some issues are not entirely ironed out (such as potential complications over recognition of UK work qualifications and, especially, continuing EU free movement rights in countries other than that of residence, an issue likely to affect those whose businesses rely on this). With regards to taxing rights however, Brexit does not call into question other treaties that the UK has with its EU partners. This means that the current double taxation agreement between France and the UK will continue, as it does not form part of the EU treaty. Therefore the current rules for the elimination of double taxation for businesses and individuals will continue unchanged. This column was written by Olaf Muscat Baron who is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Accountants UK, a French expert comptable and an International tax advisor. He is the principal accountant of Fiscaly, an accountancy firm based in the Dordogne which serves individuals and businesses in or out of France. See www.fiscaly.fr or call 09 81 09 00 15


The happy few who help keep basket-making alive in France CRAFTS

The Connexion

October 2018

There are about 200 craft basket makers in France today

in focus

Basket-weaving is an ancient craft, but why are makers so few and far between in France? La Vannerie, or basketmaking in English, is an ancient craft that dates back to 8,600BC. For centuries, before plastic, it was essential to everyday life: a way to carry and store goods. Now, a handwoven basket is a luxury item. The craft is also used for garden furniture and, increasingly, sculptures. There are an estimated 200 vanniers in the country today and only 2% of goods on the French market are “Made in France”. Very few tools are needed: an awl, a pruning knife, a packing tool, secateurs and a ruler. However, the techniques can be difficult to master and artisans need to know the different qualities of plants. Most basket-making activity in France occurs in two regions, where willow, the most popular material, is cultivated. A co-operative of 50 basketmakers and 25 osiériculteurs, who grow willow, has been set up in Villaines-les-Rochers, Indre-et-Loire. As well as the traditional baskets, they make cradles and other furniture, paniers for bakers and restaurants, and creative pieces for gardens or public places. Fayl-Billot, Haute-Marne, is the capital of basket-making in France, with around 40 craftsmen and women in the region making their living from it. The town also has one of only three specialist schools in Europe, the Ecole Nationale

For basket-maker Annick Rony, the pleasure of her life outweighs monetary concerns d’Osiériculture et de Vannerie, which offers year-long CAP and BEP courses in basketmaking and willow farming. Elsewhere, a handful of lycées in France teach these subjects, and courses for basket-making exist across the country, including courses at the school in Fayl Billot (lpahorticole.fayl billot.educagri.fr) and at the Villaines-les-Rochers co-operative (vannerie.com). The latter two’s courses do not lead to a professional qualification. Annick Rony makes and sells baskets from her house in Calenzana, a village near Calvi, Corsica, and on the internet. She used to be a jewellery-

Annick Rony collects most of the materials she needs from the Corsican countryside

maker in Burgundy before she fell in love with a Corsican and moved to the island. She found it difficult to land work, so when an elderly shepherd offered to pass on skills he had learnt as a boy, she jumped at the chance to learn a new craft. She learnt how to choose the different woods and how and when to cut them from the nearby scrubland, or maquis as it is called on the island. She uses stems from three local shrubs and trees: olive, Phillyrea and the local variety of myrtle, myrte. “I cut the stems in winter and learnt that each one has to be picked at specific phases of the moon, because this affects whether the sap is rising. “When the moon is not right for harvesting, I spend my time taking the leaves off the stems and putting them out to dry, which takes about three months. I also use willow which I buy ready-prepared from a Corsica grower.” Before she starts on a new basket, the stems have to be soaked for up to a week, to make them supple. “It is difficult to begin with and your first attempt is unlikely to be the shape you want. I learnt everything from observing the shepherd. I have also looked in

books and discovered the terms to describe what I had learnt from watching. “Now I can make about two baskets in a day and over a year I make about 600, varying in size from a bread basket to one for shopping. I have plenty of ideas but not always the time to create them.” She said it is difficult to make a living from basket-making: “Five years ago I sold out before the end of the season. But things have changed now and tourists have less money. “At around €45 for a big basket, I do not make much money. People do not realise how much time it takes. “A shop which specialises in selling regional products offered me what at first seemed an interesting proposal. “They wanted me to provide them with 300 baskets, and would pay me €12 a basket. But at that price the maths did not work out and it was impossible for me to accept.” But Annick loves her lifestyle: “There is no point counting your hours. Instead I think what a great office I have to work in. I love going out and collecting the natural materials, weaving them and then seeing them leave here to go all over the world.”

The Connexion

October 2018

Photo: Thierry Bézecourt, wikipedia

Haussmann’s Paris was an enormous building site

The centre of Paris is world-famous for the uniformity and the elegance of its buildings. Today, however, we are unaware of the extraordinary story behind the Paris we know today: for nearly 20 years the city became a building site as the old was demolished to make way for the new. Between 1853 and 1870, some 24,000 houses were razed, as more than half the city was transformed under the direction of Georges Eugène Haussmann, with whose name Paris is now synonymous. He was not an architect but an administrator who knew how to get things done. He was appointed as préfet for the Seine by Emperor Napoleon III, who had a vision for a new Paris, based on the wide open spaces, avenues and parks he had seen on his travels to London and New York. Napoleon III had already sacked one préfet, Jean-Jacques Berger, because he felt he was not bold enough. Instead he nominated Haussmann, who had already proved himself efficient in Bordeaux. In the first half of the 19th century, Paris was full of narrow, dark, unhealthy streets and there were no direct routes for moving from one side of the city to another. An 1832 cholera epidemic was made worse by the unsanitary conditions of the buildings. Paris had not really evolved since the Middle Ages. Napoleon III lived in London from 1846-1848 and was impressed by the way it had been rebuilt after the fire of 1666. He wanted his city to be cleaned up and the slogan for change was “Paris embellie, Paris agrandie, Paris assainie” - a more beautiful Paris, a bigger Paris, a healthier Paris. The project touched all aspects of city life: private housing, public buildings, parks, roads, water and sewer systems. It was an early new town and Haussmann was one of the first modern urban developers. In 2017, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal staged an exhibition in Paris about the effect Haussmann had on the city. Benoît Jallon, Umberto Napolitano and Franck Boutté, the architects involved in the exhibition, wrote in their introduction that it would be difficult to find any civil servant who invested as much in popular

Architecture of France... JANE Haussmann’s ByHANKS Paris culture as Haussmann. “In 17 years, he oversaw the works to construct 600km of drains and 175km of roads, build mairies and schools, create squares, parks and woods, stimulate private investment, rebuild the centre and design the outskirts. It is a town where the infrastructures and the superstructures work with a remarkable efficiency.” There were strict rules to make sure the new buildings looked alike but, though Haussmann’s buildings resemble each other, they have a flexibility in the way they can be used. The ground floors and basements can be adapted for offices, shops, hotels or living accommodation, while the upper floors can easily be transformed from living space to offices. This is why, they said, the buildings have endured. Nearly the whole of 19th century Paris is made from the same stone – a limestone from the Saint-Maximin quarries in the Oise, about 50 kilometres north of the capital, which could be reached by the railway created between Paris and Creil. The quarries still provide stone to restore the original Haussmann buildings. Haussmann architecture is recognised by its use of industrially-produced ironwork, which made mass identical quantities available for the first time. They were used for public buildings such as hospitals, churches, town halls, lycées and prisons so their ironwork, from door handles to railings, is often identical, adding to the uniformity of the architecture in Paris. To finance the project, Haussmann attracted investors for individual buildings or large-scale areas, who would earn back their money by renting out the properties. It was not a new system of public-private finance, but it did develop quickly in Paris at the time. This led to an increase in rents

Property 37


- and the social make-up of Paris was changed forever. Up to then there had been a social mix in the city, but now poorer people were driven away from the centre. It became a town for the rich and for pleasure, with its cafés, theatres and walks along the boulevards. The centre was also enlarged. Paris annexed Montmartre and Belleville, and created eight new arrondissements. The surface area and population of the capital doubled under the reign of Napoleon III. Criticism of the scheme came to a head in 1867, when politician Jules Ferry ridiculed the cost of the project in Les Comptes Fantastiques d’Haussmann. In 1870, as opposition to Haussmann grew, Napoleon asked his administrator to resign. He refused and was dismissed. Years later, in his memoirs, Haussmann said: “In the eyes of the Parisians, who like routine in things but are changeable when it comes to people, I committed two great wrongs: over the course of 17 years, I disturbed their daily habits by turning Paris upside down, and they had to look at the same face of the Prefect in the Hotel de Ville. These were unforgivable complaints.”

Property Watch in

Midi-Pyrénées North 12, 46, 81, 82

DEPARTMENTS: Aveyron, Tarn-et-Garonne, Tarn, Lot MAIN CITIES: Rodez, Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Cahors, Figeac, Gourdon, Albi, Castres, Montauban, Castelsarrasin THERE are quieter, more rural areas of France than the northern end of the former Midi-Pyrénées region, which has now been subsumed into the larger Occitanie ... but not many. The 58,000-population Montauban, capital of Tarn-etGaronne, is the largest town in the four departments, which boast a total area that is a little larger than Wales and has a combined population about that of Birmingham. The landscape veers from the sheer drama of the Causse du Larzac moonscape in the Aveyron, to the rolling, easyon-the-eye green hills, winding rivers, vineyard-dotted countryside and shamelessly pretty villages of the Tarn that have prompted some to dub the department “The Tuscany of France”. The area has reasonable transport links. The roads are generally well maintained, while Rodez has an airport with flights to the UK, and the European hub of Toulouse is within easy travelling distance. It is about to get easier still. After more than 20 years, approval has finally been given for a motorway connecting Castres to Toulouse, making the Tarn town even more attractive to property buyers wanting an easy commute to the Pink City while avoiding the price tag of actually living there. The advice, then, is to get in quick, as property prices look set to rise in the years to come from their current Notaires de France averages of €1,270/m2 in the Tarn; €1,060 in the Aveyron; €1,300 in Tarn-et-Garonne; and €1,200 in Lot to more closely match the €2,250/m2 average in the Toulousain department of Haute-Garonne.

What your money buys Under €90,000

Perfect two-bedroom family home with its own garden, or a holiday hideaway in a lovely village. With accommodation on two levels, this house has an open-plan lounge/ diner and kitchen, recently refitted, and the lounge has a wood-burning stove. Located in Vailhourles. €85,000 Ref: 86300DSM12

This is a lovely two-bedroom house on a chateau estate with shared pool and facilities. A great lock-up-and-leave holiday home with a wealth of original features and shaded terrace, in an impressive domain in a beautiful setting near Montredon-Labessonnié. €89,980 Ref: 69019CFO81

More than €150,000

Typical Haussmann features Height restrictions meant that buildings would not usually exceed six floors. The ground floor is typically high so that it can accommodate shops, with a first or mezzanine floor which could be used for storage or housing. The second floor is “noble”, with a balcony running the length of the building. It has been suggested that this meant richer people avoided climbing many stairs. The third and fourth floors are in the same style – with or without balconies, but the fifth typically has a balcony which runs the length of the building and matches the first floor for aesthetic purposes. The top floor has attic rooms, for lowerincome tenants and servants. The façades are above all characterised by uninterrupted horizontal lines. Uniformity and harmony are the overriding feature.

Périgordian-style three-bedroom, two-bath house with pigeonnier in the north of the Lot near the Dordogne border. This is an architectdesigned house close to the town of Gourdon and the village of Le Vigan. The house sits on a plot of 1.5 acres and is surrounded by trees and shrubs. €160,000 Ref: 78004LRB46

In a stunning location, with its own private parkland, this former corps de ferme needs to be internally renovated. Close to the medieval town of Caylus with its facilities, in a quiet and private hilltop position with lovely views and a tennis court. This former farmhouse is fully habitable. €333,000 Ref: 89414DSM82

Properties available through Leggett Immobilier www.frenchestateagents.com Tel: 05 53 56 62 54

Next month: We look at the Midi-Pyrénées South

38 PRACTICAL: Property


Your questions answered

The Connexion


Tax shock as residents see bill rise by 24.56%

Brest mairie is keen that the colours used stand out from each other

Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query

Q: Last week I received notification that my wife and I are now both dual nationals, not just British but newly French. We have been living in France for over 30 years. Some time ago we opted for our wills to be considered under the English system; can you say if acquiring French nationality means this option is no longer applicable – and should we make new wills? P.B. A: Congratulations on becoming French citizens! The general rule is that, as French residents – provided you and/or your wife die while still residing in France – the notaire will apply French law (the law of your habitual residence) to your succession as a whole. You can also, as you have done, use the EU Succession Regulation to elect the law of your nationality to govern your succession. As France has ratified the Regulation, this is available to all British nationals who live or own a property in France – regardless of the UK’s Brexit from the EU. Choosing English law is an effective estate planning

tool for Britons who want to avoid France’s reserved heirship rule that cannot be overridden by will. If you have more than one nationality, you may choose the law of any of them. As you retained British citizenship you are entitled to choose English law to govern your succession – even if you have since acquired another nationality. The election of your chosen national law must take the form of an express declaration in your wills. A general provision referring to ‘the law of your nationality’ or ‘the law of the state of which you will be a national at the time of your death’ could invalidate your choice of law, as your dual nationality creates uncertainty as to whether French or English law should apply. As such, you must ensure your wills are drafted to make an express election of law and country. You opted for your wills to be considered ‘under the English system’ but should check there is no ambiguity. If there is doubt, you should make new wills.

Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930  www.heslop-platt.co.uk contact@heslop-platt.co.uk

Q: Is there any form of legal aid available in France to help bring a law case? F.B. A: Yes, France has a similar system called aide juridictionnelle for people with low incomes, where the state pays the costs of justice officials such as lawyer, bailiff, expert and / or notaire and legal expenses (like expertise, social welfare report or family mediation). It is available to people facing criminal charges as well as those in civil cases and, depending on resources, the state will take on the whole costs aide totale or a portion aide partielle. Earnings levels (barèmes de l’aide juridictionnelle) are set each year but are applicable only to the earnings of the person involved and not

the household. In addition, many welfare benefits payments are not included in calculating monthly income. Levels for 2018 are: Aide totale average monthly income of €1,017 or less; Aid of between 55% and 25% of the total is open to claimant with income of from €1,525 to €1,017. Anyone with income of more than €1,525/month is refused aid (but average earnings are also linked to the number of dependants). No aid is paid if you have legal cover in your household insurance or similar. Lodging a request for l’aide juridictionnelle depends on the court dealing with the action. If the person has no lawyer the bâtonnier, President of the Bar, will provide one.

Tel: 05 61 57 90 86  www.brightavocats.com contact@brightavocats.com If you have a legal query send it to news@connexionfrance.com We select questions for answer every edition

€700 to add colour to Brest RESIDENTS in Brest have taken up the chance to brighten up the town after the mairie announced it would pay them for giving their houses or facades a coat of paint – as long as it was bright. It can mean sums from €700 to €1,400 or more if residents persuade others to join in. Largely destroyed in the Second World War by U.S. bombing, the Finistère town was rebuilt just afterwards but, despite repeated mairie campaigns to cheer it up, has long been known for its grey skies and grey buildings. Now it is targeting buildings in the main streets to revitalise the centre while also supporting residents’ joint initiatives in other streets. The aim is to get residents and visitors to see the town differently and give a new vitality while showing off some of the architecture. Residents can receive €100 if they paint a

house or parts of it themselves, such as shutters, €700 if they use a firm to do it and €1,400 for a building where there are two or more properties. There is also a €100 bonus for anyone persuading their immediate neighbour to join in. A €35,000 fund has been set aside and it is aimed so groups of neighbours in a street will agree to have enough work done to give a new look. The fund is open until January 2020 with the bulk of the painting done this year and next. Residents can get both technical and financial advice on what needs to be done both for the colours to be used – which ones work well together – as well as how to fund the work. It is no longer necessary to make a déclaration préalable for the work in many towns but in Brest residents need permission via une demande d’autorisation d’urbanisme.

Holiday homes face extra ‘empty’ surtax MOVES to combat Airbnb-type tourist rentals of second homes have seen some communes agree to impose a surtaxe de la taxe d’habitation which can amount to an extra 60% on part of the tax. It is a way of targeting empty holiday homes to bring more properties into the year-round rental market and ease housing shortages – as well as helping to make up for shortfalls from the ending of the taxe d’habitation on 80% of main homes. The law allows communes facing housing pressures to increase their share of the taxe d’habitation on unoccupied furnished properties – holiday homes, seaside flats and mountain chalets. Communes of over 50,000 residents can apply an annual surtax of between 5% and 60% if they are in zones where there is a housing imbalance with more people looking for homes than homes available. This concerns 28 urban agglomérations and a total of 1,151 communes but a study by the website Toutsurmesfinances. com found that only 207 towns and villages had actually applied it, affecting 500,000 properties. Its full list is at tinyurl.com/ yd4fp25j and gives the percent-

October 2018

age of surtax to be applied but you should check with your mairie for details. The share of taxe d’habitation that goes to the commune is given on the avis de taxe d’habitation. A little over a dozen communes have already opted to charge the full 60% surtax but others say they will stiffen the measures they already have in place, most often a 20% charge. You should check the situation with your council as it had to decide on the charging level before October 1 if it was to be applicable in 2019. Paris has 30% of properties unlived-in in the centre of the capital with 215,000 homes vacant and has applied the 60% surtax since 2017 – but says it is not enough. Jacques Baudrier, a councillor with responsibility for housing,

said it brings in an average of just €600 per property and needs to be at least four times higher to persuade someone using it for just a few weeks a year to opt instead for a hotel. Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé has said he wants the 20% applied there to rise to 50% while Nice on the Riviera has voted to charge 60% in 2019. Owners of furnished properties do not pay the extra tax if they are forced to live away from their main home due to work, if they live in a care home, or if they cannot use the property for a specified reason (perhaps uninhabitable or scheduled for demolition). If this is your situation, you should lodge a réclamation via the Impots.gouv.fr website, by letter or at your Centre des finances publiques. This should be done before the end of 2019 and it is best to pay the surtax demanded in case your claim is refused – as you face paying a penalty on the unpaid surtax. Unfurnished properties are exempt from taxe d’habitation and the surtaxe but may still be taxed under the taxe annuelle sur les logements vacants if they are habitable (have water, electricity and toilet facilities).

MOST departments decided against large rises in taxe foncière for property owners this year but four stood out, with Hautes-Alpes raising its bill by 24.56%, Lot-et-Garonne 20.8%, Lozère 16% and Deux-Sèvres by 11%. The vast majority of councils left levels unchanged but there are smaller rises in Corse-duSud 6.5%, Ille-et-Vilaine 5.3%, Val-de-Marne 3%, Tarn and Dordogne 1.5%, Ardennes 1%. Just three councils cut the tax, Nord by 10.1%, Haute-Corse by 6.5% and Morbihan by 3%. Bills must be paid by October 15 for those paying by post or in person, the 20th for internet payments and 25th for those on monthly instalments. Departmental councils decide the tax level – which is charged by multiplying the putative property rental value (val­eur locative) by the tax level agreed. Gers department, which kept tax stable this year, charges the highest rate of taxe foncière in mainland France with a rate of 33.85%, followed by Aisne on 31.72% and Aude on 30.69%. Paris property owners pay the lowest rate, 5.13%, with suburban Hauts-de-Seine charging 7.08%. Savoie and Rhône are next lowest on 11.03% then Lyon metropolis on 11.58%|

Compromis is not always a final step

WHEN selling or buying a house the compromis de vente is often seen as a contract that binds both parties, with penalties for any breach. In reality, a compromis has get-out clauses. A compromis is a pre-contract that is signed before the acte de vente définitif but recognises there are several reasons why a sale can fall through and leaves room for either side to exit. The first way is via the 10-day délai de rétractation reflection period for buyers where they can stop the sale without giving a reason by sending a registered letter lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception. Clauses suspensives (‘get-out clauses’) can be written in by either side to halt a sale such as if the buyer fails to find a mortgage within a set time (notaires can request proof of refusal). If circumstances regarding the property have changed from when a compromis was signed – such as a ‘quiet’ neighbourhood has become noisy – this can also be reason to pull out as correct information was not given, the devoir d’information.

The Connexion

October 2018


Property 39

The Sensations project beside the Rhine in Strasbourg gives housing and shops to open up a vibrant new zone

Sitting above the Périphérique, the Porte Brancion plan provides 270 rooms

New shops for Champs-Elysées DEPARTMENT store Galéries Lafayette will open a new ‘shop window’ on the Champs-Elysées in early 2019 as more shops move in to lure visitors from nearby Rue du Faubourg St Honoré. At No52, it has Tiffany’s next door and Nike across at No79 in its largest store in Europe. This will include a basketball court but the So Sofitel hotel at No150 will have a 25m rooftop pool, with a view on the Arc de Triomphe. Lord Foster is designing Apple’s €50million shop at No114.

for the heating and the air quality.” Many innovative developers are turning to wood as it is a modernday construction ‘standard’ that fits with environmental principles and corporate social responsibility and is already disrupting conventional building practices. It can be used in many forms with wooden joists replacing concrete ones and laminated panels made into any shape, computer cut into exactly the right size at the factory and delivered ready to be fitted – unlike concrete, which uses standardised moulds and needs lots of space while also being noisy and messy. Woodeum says wood has a low carbon cost in fabrication and transport and, as a natural renewable carbon store – it has been stocking carbon and giving out oxygen all its life – is a natural and warm material that “gives rooms where sound and warmth diffuse differently, giving a feeling of well-being, harmony and security”. It is an important renewable resource for France which has 170,000km2 of forests and the Fédération Forestiers Privés de France says daily growth is enough to build a 200m2 house every 10 seconds. The Porte Brancion plan in the Paris 15th arrondissement by Hardel Le Bihan architects will open up the rather sad site above the Boulevard Périphérique with the bright wooden buildings having large glassed areas. The expressway runs underneath

one of the two much-needed residential buildings along with a multisports hall with five-a-side pitches, gym and a sports bar, while the other residence with 157 rooms will be built on the Vanves side and have a productive garden on the roof. The project was a winner in the Paris ‘Invent the Métropole’ project last autumn so no building work has started and there is no finishing date. Mathurin Hardel of the architects said: “The three buildings give a visual breathing space reintroducing nature into the road site. The permitted load on the slab naturally made us

Residents wanted a beacon for Le Havre’s urban renewal area at the port

Owners lose out in erosion battle OWNERS of flats in the erosion-threatened Signal building on the Atlantic coast have lost a long-running court battle to be compensated for their properties being declared uninhabitable due to the danger of collapse. Although only a few of the 75 owners lived year round in the block at Soulac-sur-Mer (Gironde), all were ordered out by the prefecture in 2014 after heavy seas eroded the 200m of land protecting them from the ocean. Built in 1967, the block is now just a few metres above the waves. The owners had demanded compensation but the top court of law, the Conseil d’Etat, ruled compensation was only due if there was immediate danger – and that did not apply with coastal erosion. The government has said it is in talks with the owners on a partial payment.

turn to wood because of its weight and the site causes less disruption.” Although the Strasbourg project will be the tallest in France it will be outdone when the Tour Signal gets off the ground in Le Havre as the plan there is for a 14-floor ‘lighthouse’ to open up the Dumont d’Urville area in the urban renewal zone by the port. Architect Marie Schweitzer says the 40m tower with raised terraced garden and 52 flats has been largely inspired by local residents. She adds: “This tower is more than a signal. It represents the emblem of the industry of the future (wood) carried by the city of Le Havre. “That is why we wanted it to emerge from its own source: vegetation and to detach itself from it by floating above this base which gave birth to it and to give it back its freedom. “The trees of the garden allow, as in Japan, to measure the size of the building and to assert its greatness while recalling the human scale.” In the south Nice will have the largest wooden office building in France when the Palazzo Méridia opens in October 2019 as a nine-floor positiveenergy building at the new Nice EcoVallée district. Built with 900 tonnes of wood, the building by Nexity-Ywood and Architecture-Studio will have 500m2 of solar panels on the roof as well as hot and cold water supplied from the Eco-Vallée geothermal supply. It succeeds the Perspective office block in Bordeaux which has seven floors... but that will soon be dwarfed by its near neighbour, the just-started 17-floor 57m Hyperion tower beside Saint-Jean rail station which will have 98 homes when finished in 2020.

Image: Marie Schweitzer Atelier

due to finish in February 2019. The 11-floor tower was erected exceptionally quickly, in eight weeks which is half the time of a concrete building. Costing Bouygues Immobilier €14million, it will provide housing and shops and aims to bring “life to a new quarter with welcoming architecture that gives a desirable place to live”. Many of the fully-equipped flats will open south on to the gardens. Christophe Ouhayoun, of Paris architects Koz, said: “The flats will have an exceptional quality of life and many technical innovations, especially

Image: Hardel Le Bihan

BUILDERS are using cross-lamin­ated timber (CLT) to replace concrete as the key material in modern construction with wooden buildings rising across the country, from Stras­bourg to Paris, Le Havre, Nice and Bordeaux. Three wood-framed apartment blocks nearing completion in Strasbourg will be the highest wooden buildings in France with one at 11 floors and two others at eight. In total, they will provide 146 homes. Using wood costs 20% more than concrete and demands a larger workforce to handle it, but it can be used in many different forms to give a lowpollution building site where 16m by 3m panels can be quickly built. In addition, much of the work on the panels is done in a factory so the site needs less storage space. Cross-laminated wood is also used as a light and strong replacement for massively-polluting and heavy reinforced concrete beams that support many large structures. This was vital in the upcoming Porte Brancion project in Paris where three buildings with student and young workers’ residences plus a sports hall will be built on top of and beside the Périphérique, giving 270 rooms. Developer Woodeum said wood panels and beams are 99% natural (the other 1% being non-formaldehyde glue) and gave a robust, durable, airtight, sound and heat insulated, light-weight and fire-safe building. They are also energy-efficient, as the firm said heat went to warm the residents, not the concrete walls, meaning considerable savings on energy bills. In Strasbourg Deux-Rives, the Sen­ sations project started in 2017 and is

Photo: Patrick Janicek CC BY 2.0


Photo: KOZ architectes

Wood: the growing building material of the future

Signal building now lies just a few metres from sea

Batteries give new life to sun energy ENERGY giant Engie is linking up with battery manufacturer Sonnen to offer customers a package of solar panels and storage battery so they can use the electricity produced from the sun even when the weather is bad. A deal comprising six panels of 300W capacity plus a 2.5kWh battery can be installed in Engie’s My Power deal for €11,300 and, as it is a modular kit, can be expanded. Finance over 10 years costs from €70/month without a battery or €109 with a battery.

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Forget The X Factor... In Paris, musicians have to pass an audition to busk in the métro and it can help them find that big break, reports JANE HANKS

Music echoing along the corridors as commuters hurry for their train is all part of the experience of catching the metro in any big city. In Paris, however, busking in the Métro can be a genuine stepping-stone to fame as artists are carefully selected by the Paris Transport Authority, the RATP, which has links with festivals and record labels. As the authority’s artistic director, Antoine Naso, points out - the Métro is the biggest stage in Paris, with more than five million passengers a day. Big names that have started their career there, including singer-songwriter Keziah Jones and the winner of the French version of The Voice, in 2016, Clémént Verzy. This month (October) about a thousand hopefuls will perform in front of a jury which will allocate a licence to 300 artists. The licence gives them the right to play at any time, in any place, for as long as they wish, for no charge – and they can leave a cap or bucket in front of them to collect money.

Another set of similar auditions will take place next spring. Some buskers will keep their licence while some will be replaced. Mr Naso started the scheme 21 years ago. He said: “There have been buskers in the Métro since it was built but at first they were illegal and a nuisance. So we created this scheme to improve quality.” Auditions are open to any musician. The jury looks for technical ability, originality, and tries to represent a variety of music from rock to classical. “I am impressed by the standard of the musicians,” said Mr Naso. “They are mostly but not exclusively, young, between 22 and 30. “And although most are French, we attract musicians from all over the world as they pass through Paris. “Above all, we are looking for something that will please passengers as, first and foremost, we are a transport authority.” He said buskers would not usually make enough money to live on but it gives them an opportunity to improve their skills: “It is harder to play on the Métro than on a stage where you have a static audience. “Artists have to really work at attracting the attention of the public, who are often in a hurry to catch their train. The experience allows them to find out which of their songs work with the public. “The passengers appreciate the

music – every day we have emails asking to be put in touch with one of the musicians to play at their wedding or another event.” Musiciens du Métro (musiciensdumetro.ratp.fr) works with big Paris festivals such as Rock en Seine and Solidays and last year celebrated its 20th anniversary with a concert at the prestigious Olympia venue. Hugo Barriol, 29, has been called the Cinderalla of the music world, with his rise from obscurity to a career in music via the Métro. In 2016, he won the Metro Music Award, in which passengers vote for their favourite underground busker. He has since shared concerts with French singer Alain Chamfort and released his first e-album with record label Naïve after their director, Marie Audigier spotted him playing his guitar and singing his new-style folk music in the Métro. Now he is recording his first album in London. The record, in English, is due for release in early 2019. He told Connexion that he decided to play in the Métro because he thought it would be the best way for an unknown musician to make contacts with music professionals: “I had been travelling in Australia to improve my English and played the metro there. “When I came back I decided to make my career in music and thought this would be the best way. For two-

Photo: RATP / Jean-François Mauboussin

Music, Metro, please...

Visitors take time out to listen to the Orchestre Bastille on the Métro and-a-half years I played for four hours a day, five days a week. “First I also worked as a waiter, but then opposite my restaurant was British musician, Benjamin Clementine, and I could see him at his window, playing all day long. So, I decided the best way to progress was to spend all my time playing.” He said it was strange at first: “You play, but most people hurry past and

it is only occasionally that someone stops. You get used to it, though. “There are good acoustics and you really work at your music and discover what pleases people. My favourite spot was Pigalle and I spent a lot of time there. “Then the Naïve record director heard me on her way to and from work and now my career has started for real.”

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Profile for English Language Media Sarl

The Connexion 192 - October 2018  

France's English-Language Newspaper

The Connexion 192 - October 2018  

France's English-Language Newspaper