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FRANCE’S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER December 2018 Issue 194
Photo: Pierre Rabhi@LAZIC
Fuel protests Act now to Facts and figures reduce tax behind the rises rate for 2019
INTERVIEW: Pierre Rabhi Living Simplify French your life to be happy
French law will protect Britons in Brexit chaos
My pain living far from my old mum in the UK
Draft deal ‘changes everything’ says ministry source
KEY rights for Britons living in France are protected under the draft EU Brexit deal but other factors affecting Britons abroad in the EU continue to be in doubt. One significant step forward is that the Senate has passed a bill giving the French government powers to make laws securing Britons’ residency rights, among other issues, in the case of a no-deal Brexit – although it requires the UK to treat French expats well. The bill stresses the need for emergency laws as the rights of Britons to live, work and claim benefits here would all be lost in the event of a no-deal. It is set to be debated by MPs on December 10 before becoming law. Olivier Cadic, senator for the French abroad, told colleagues: “Five million people [Britons in the EU and EU expats in UK] are living in great anxiety. This nightmare must cease. We must be flexible and pragmatic.” The draft deal covers the right to an annually-uprated UK pension and for Britain to continue to pay for pensioners’ healthcare. It
still faces the challenge of passing both the UK and EU parliaments. Omissions include local and EU election voting and the right to freely move to, or work in, other EU countries. 1,715 British people who work in France as fonctionnaires including teachers also face losing their jobs. A French Foreign Ministry source said the draft deal “changes everything”, adding: “The situation for British people here, and for the French in the UK, is sorted if we have this.” The UK has said it wants to continue funding expat pensioners’ healthcare and participating in the EHIC scheme in the case of a no-deal but it has not issued specific contingency no-deal notes to help expats as it has on other subjects. It stated in July in a white paper on the future UK/EU relationship that Turn to Page 4
Love it or hate it - motorway art is there by law Photo: David Ignaszewski-koboy
by OLIVER ROWLAND
I’m a feel-sad writer
Sarah’s Key author 3’:HIKMRA=VUYWU]:?k@b@j@o@a"; Tatiana de Rosnay M 02701 - 194 - F: 4,20 E - RD
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Can Macron replace Merkel as leader of Europe? P14
Brexit updates 4 Beware burglaries 5 New calls for hunt ban 7 Plea for tests for older drivers 9 News in Brief 10-11 Unique chateaux d’eau 12 Interview: Tatiana de Rosnay 13
Simon Heffer / Nabila Ramdani Living far from my old mum 15 Readers’ letters 16-17
Your questions Why so much motorway art? Schools for young talent How to save your money My operation in France
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French Living France’s place in the space race Keeping Monet’s vision alive Hideaway fit for French Queen DIRECTORY
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Anger at fuel prices: why the rise? AROUND 280,000 people, the selfnamed gilets jaunes (yellow vests), took to the roads across France on November 17 to protest at fuel price rises, although it widened into a general protest at taxes. They say sporadic blockades and demonstrations will continue until action is taken. Nurses vowed to join in. The protests were organised through social media and several were not declared, as legally required, to prefectures. A woman protestor was run over and killed by a driver trying to pass and First fuel protest on November 17 14 people were seriously injured on sive European country for petrol. Italy is the highest with a litre November 17. reaching €1.65. The UK is cheaper Below we analyse the fuel price rises. at €1.47. For diesel France is the fifth most How much have fuel prices increased? In mid-October when protestors began to expensive. Sweden is the highest voice anger, fuel prices were 19 cents per with an average price of €1.58. litre higher for petrol than in May 2017 when President Macron was elected Billions go into general budget (SP95 €1.37 to €1.56) and 31 cents higher The main fuel tax, the TICPE, raises for diesel (€1.21 to €1.52). The extra tax €34billion a year for France – 61% in this is 7 cents for diesel and there will goes to the state, 18% to the regions, be another 7 cents in 2019. The tax on 18% to departments and 3% finances transport infrastructure. Of the state’s petrol will also increase, by 4 cents. Photo: Dupont Lajoie-matricule 9279_ dupont_lajoie_Twitter
Is it all tax? For petrol, 34% of the rise is due to new tax and 37% for diesel. The rest is down to rises in the price of crude oil, which has tripled since February 2016. Although the price of crude oil in dollars is lower than five years ago, currency fluctuations mean euro-buyers are not benefiting from this fall. Why has diesel gone up more? France decided under the Hollande government to neutralise the tax advantage given to diesel cars so they are treated in the same way as petrol cars. President Macron has maintained this. Diesel cars burn fuel more efficiently than petrol ones and so emit less carbon dioxide, the gas blamed for most of the “greenhouse effect” responsible for global warming. But older diesels, especially those using mechanical injectors, emit more fine particles of pollutants which are small enough to enter the bloodstream via the lungs. Researchers have linked these particles to 48,000 deaths from pollution each year. In percentage terms, tax has dropped In percentage terms the amount of tax applied on fuel has not changed much since 2008 – in fact, it has fallen. In 2008 taxes made up 64% of the price of a litre of petrol. The percentage now is 61.4%. France is eighth highest in EU European Commission figures show that the average price of petrol in France on November 12 was €1.48 a litre, making it the eighth most expen-
share, €7.2bn is used directly for measures to protect and improve the environment, the rest entering the general budget (some of which is used for environmental initiatives). We are better off than 40 years ago Relatively high pay in France means petrol is cheaper in real terms than 40 years ago. An hour’s pay at today’s minimum wage buys six litres of petrol. It bought three litres in 1978. Will the protest change anything? The government says not. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says they will be sticking to their tax policies. He said that not to do so would be to be acting without taking into account the risks we face. Will there be more protests? Around 140 protests took place on November 18 and more were promised in the weeks to come. Get over it, drivers: Comment page 14
‘We just cannot afford to drive’ THE gilets jaunes movement was organised through social media and fuelled by YouTube videos so it is difficult to identify leaders or official spokespeople. One who did emerge was Thierry Paul Valette, founder of the Égalité Nationale movement which fights corruption in public life. “All we want is an immediate drop in taxes at the pumps,” he said. “The French feel they are being taxed and taxed and taxed, and when fuel prices shot up as tax rose, it was the drop which caused the vase to overflow.” Mr Valette said political parties, unions and other institutions were not included in the gilets jaunes movement “as they are part of the problem”. He said comparisons showing petrol was more expensive in real terms 40 years ago did not address the feeling of being over-taxed. Another leader to emerge was Jacline Mouraud, pictured, from Ploërmel, Morbihan, who says she earns around €1,000 a month as a hypnotherapist. She made an impassioned plea to President
Macron on YouTube against the rises. “I drive 25,000 km a year, almost all of which is work-related,” she said. All the taxes that we have to pay now make it impossible for people like me, and others who are worse off, to live decently. “For me, the fuel price rise was just too much and it is obvious that others feel the same. It is no good offering incentives to buy a new car when people struggle to put fuel in the one they have.” Many accused President Macron as being a ‘president of the rich.’ In spite of the antipathy towards politicians from the gilets jaunes, representatives of both the far right Rassemblement National and the far left France Insoumise attended the demonstrations. Les Républicains’ leader in Charente François Bonneau said leaders showed their backing for the protesters. He criticised the government for “punishing” owners of diesel vehicles, saying current measures were hitting rural areas particularly hard.
Social network Jacquerie? THE protest of November 17 mobilised almost 300,000 people but with a heavy human cost – one death, hundreds injured, 282 arrests.... the figures show its success and its danger. Some commentators compared it (with exaggeration) to France’s Jacquerie revolts of the Middle Ages when peasants facing taxes and seeing their fellow countrymen starving rose up – with the boost of social media for today’s version. But they add that the Jacqueries always ended badly (for them)... The protest is not centralised, it is random, sporadic and without leaders and thus there is no one with whom the powers-that-be can negotiate. The relative success of the social mix (retirees, farmers, bikers, employees, independent workers) was carried by the unifying feeling of anti-Macronism. The question is: will it be able to organise itself into a real political movement and, if so, will it echo the speeches of the far left or far right heard on November 17? B.L.
President’s driving cheque plan ‘idiotic’ PRESIDENT Macron’s proposal for a “car fuel cheque” for employees hit by the rises has been called “idiotic” by France’s main motoring organisation. President Macron said he was in favour of extending a system in place in Hautsde-France, where workers who drive more than 30km per day and earn less than twice the minimum wage (currently €1,498 per month before deductions), would receive a monthly bonus of €20. Pierre Chasseray, of the lobby group 40 Millions d’automobilistes, told Connexion: “It is completely idiotic. On the one hand they slap on taxes and then, instead of lowering the taxes when they become insupportable, they introduce a ‘payment’ as if it is a present. “If they give the credit to everyone who earns below €2,996 gross per month, there will be hardly anyone who does not get repaid. It would be simpler to just admit the mistake and lower taxes.” Mr Chasseray was dismissive of the November 17 protest. “It has no support from serious organisations,” he said. Elsewhere, President Macron said he was in favour of extending the current bonus to help buy cleaner vehicles, including second-hand ones.
Diesels face stricter CT tests in pollution crackdown OWNERS of diesel vehicles face stiffer new contrôle technique tests from January 1... the second major change to the French MOT in eight months and aimed at ridding streets of vehicles putting out black smoke. More than 15 million diesels will face extra tests targeting pollution, cutting emissions to almost the same level as when the vehicles were new. Only post-2005 vehicles – meeting Euro 4, 5 or 6 – are affected and cars need a test from four years old. Test centres expect a rush of owners trying to beat the test as a pass is valid
for two years. Petrol cars will also face tests on emissions of carbon monoxide and CO2, unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. The moves follow May’s change to bring France into line with EU road safety standards. Some diesel drivers could face bills of up to €4,000 for work – especially those with défapée cars with the particulate filter taken out. Renewing this or an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve is expensive, but the vast majority will gain a pass. Rémi Courant, quality control head at major CT chain Dekra, said: “The
aim is not to put cars off the road but to cut pollution by reducing emissions to near the level when the car was new. “If vehicles are well maintained, they should pass with no problem – and the test should cost only a few euros extra.” Vehicles doing only short runs in town can soot up emissions filters, but drivers could avoid this by doing longer journeys. Chemical treatments for the fuel tank are available but some garages offer a “green” décalaminage, where hydrogen is injected into the engine to “burn” soot. Elsewhere, garages offer a check
and clean-up décrassage for about €50. Fabrice Godefroy, of Diéséliste de France group, said tighter emissions rules should mean manufacturers change their servicing routines to do more to cut emissions. Some owners may also opt out and plump for a new car via the state prime à la conversion that gives up to €2,500 towards a low-polluting car, with manufacturers adding incentives of several thousand more. Diesels have much better fuel consumption than petrol but are better suited for high-mileage use.
France takes lead in call for a better and safer internet
Update tax office to avoid overpayment
An architect’s impression of the village which will feature a typical square and a concert hall and cafe
FRANCE was one of the first countries to sign up to World Wide Web inventor Tim BernersLee’s Contract for the Web pledge to protect online freedoms and rights. It comes as President Macron told big web companies to expect more regulation from France and Europe, saying he wants a middle way between a self-regulated, ungoverned “Californian” internet and a highly controlled “Chinese” one. Remembering the optimism of the early days of the web, Mr Berners-Lee proposed principles to be agreed by governments, firms and individuals to rebuild trust and end “online abuse, prejudice, bias, polarisation and fake news”. He said: “The web’s undeniable benefits seem to come with far too many unacceptable risks: to our privacy, our democracy, even our mental health.” France’s Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi was one of the first signatories to the contract, which Mr Berners-Lee likened to a Magna Carta “for a free, open and safe web that benefits everyone”. Google and Facebook also signed, along with Internet Sans Frontières (a French network defending freedom of expression) and individuals such as Richard Branson and Gordon Brown. Meanwhile, Mr Macron, speaking at the Internet Governance Forum at Unesco’s Paris headquarters, said there will be new rules on matters such as fair taxation, copyright, protection of private life, the “right to good quality information” and online security. He hoped to address the issues in cooperation with the big firms, on a voluntary basis and not just with laws. The state will work with Facebook to examine how to moderate hateful content on its site.
Test ‘Alzheimer Village’ prepares to greet residents WORK on France’s first “Alzheimer Village”, where people with dementia can live in a stimulating, non-medicalised environment, is progressing with the first residents expected in 2020. If a scientific evaluation of the ‘village,’ at Dax in the Landes, finds there are substantial benefits, it may become a model for other similar projects. The complex is inspired by one near Amsterdam and is based on a typical south-west France bastide village. The five-hectare site will include a central square cafe, a concert hall, store and hairdressers and staff will wear ordinary clothes. Project spokeswoman Mathilde Charon-Burnel said: “Being in a familiar environment has been shown to help Alzheimer’s patients feel comfortable.” There will be 120 residents, with an equal number of carers giving 24-hour-a-day cover, plus, it is hoped, a
‘Stingy’ Ryanair kept €678 from bailiffs A PUBLIC body running Angoulême airport has accused Ryanair of penny-pinching after it withheld a few hundred euros from a sum of more than half a million it owed to get bailiffs to release a plane blocked on the tarmac at Bordeaux. A dispute between the SMAC (Syndicat Mixte des Aéroports de Charente) and the low-cost airline ended with bailiffs boarding a jet at Bordeaux airport just as it was about to fly to London Stansted airport. They put seals on it and gave an order that it should not move until the money owing was paid. However Ryanair refused to pay €678 of the €525,585 total, saying interest charges on the sum should have stopped in September. SMAC president Didier Villat said: “We will not go to court over it but what meanness. We are a small airport but, by taking the action we did, we showed we stand up for what is right.” The 149 passengers spent five hours in Bordeaux waiting for another aircraft to arrive to fly them on. Ryanair paid the money owed the next day and the seized aircraft was released to fly away. The payment brings to an end one of the legal battles which have raged between Ryanair, the SMAC, and French civil air authority the DGAC.
Ryanair formerly ran a service to Angoulême airport until the Charente departmental council, part of the SMAC, baulked at the promotional sums the airline asked to be paid. Since then, European courts found the sums amounted to illegal state subsidies. A separate legal battle is continuing over the contracts in London, where SMAC was ordered by an arbitration panel to pay €400,000 for allegedly breaking the contract with Ryanair. Mr Villat said French courts had found that they did not have to pay and Ryanair has declined to appeal in the French courts. Ryanair did not respond to requests for comment from Connexion. Mr Villat said there was no hope of a renewed service to the UK from Angoulême, adding that the battle with Ryanair had been “very damaging”. Other airports in similar disputes with Ryanair include Montpellier, Nîmes and Pau, but they have not taken matters further so far. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has predicted a difficult winter for the airline industry, blaming strikes and rising oil prices. The firm reports that its net profits have dropped, though they were still €1.2billion in the six months to September this year.
similar number of local volunteers. There will also be 10 day-care places and arrangements for respite care to give home carers a break. It would especially suit people who had previously lived in similar villages and small towns, said Ms Charon-Burnel. The cost will be around €60 a day, equivalent to a state nursing home. There will be 16 homes of 300m2, with each building having seven to eight residents. There will also be vegetable gardens where residents can work and poultry and other animals for them to look after. With a budget of €28.8million, the project is much more expensive than a normal new-build nursing home but these are usually only for around 20-30 residents. Funding is coming from the department and regional and national health authorities, and running costs will be €6.7million a year.
IF YOUR family situation has changed recently, such as a new baby or marriage, you should tell your tax office so it can apply the correct rate under the at-source system which begins in January. If not, you may pay more and have to wait to be reimbursed in 2020. Tax at source will apply to any French salary or pension income you receive, starting next year. For many other kinds of regular income known to the tax office, such as a pension or salary from abroad or income from rents, an amount will be taken from your French bank account each month based on the previous year’s declaration. Under the new system, you still have to make an annual declaration. Direct debits for these “other incomes” will start on January 15, or February 15 if you pay quarterly. A tax service adviser said if your situation changed in 2018 you can make a modification - either in your online space or by going to the tax office in person - as of January 2. It is best to do it as soon as possible, though he said the change will not be processed for another two or three months. If you are due a refund because you paid too much at the start of 2019 because of this, he said this would come in 2020.
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See 1918 peace treaty THE CEASEFIRE treaty signed by the Allied and German leaders on November 11, 1918 is on display at the Château de Vincennes until January 22 as the centrepiece of an exhibition on the armistice. The document, usually kept in a safe at the service historique at the château, consists of 13 typed pages, which were bound in a book with other related documents such as maps and reports in the 1930s. It marked a truce and the war was then officially ended by the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
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France aims to preserve key rights Continued from Page 1
it wants to continue pension uprating and aggregation sytems as part of reciprocal agreements. The EU Commission has said with or without a deal it does not want tourist visas brought in for short stays (defined as 90 days in any 180 day period) for UK visitors. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the choice is between her agreed draft deal, no deal or no Brexit. European Council president Donald Tusk said: “The EU is prepared for a final deal with the UK in November. “We are also prepared for a no-deal but are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario.” The British in Europe (BiE) coalition of campaigners said the draft deal “fails to deliver the promise of a deal that would allow people to carry on living their lives in exactly the same manner as before”, notably because the continuing right to free movement to live and work across the EU is not protected as they had repeatedly requested. Although the deal protects ‘frontier workers’, who live in France but travel daily to work in a neighbouring country, BiE says the loss of free movement will affect those who need flexibility to work in different countries. An EU leaders’ summit is expected on November 25, at which the agreed draft deal would be formalised, if no states made major objections. A statement of aims for the UK/EU future relationship, to be attached to it, was being finalised. The French Foreign Ministry source said: “There must be final checks that the interests of companies and citizens are properly preserved. In parallel, we continue to prepare for all hypotheses.” Nothing is finalised about the formalities for Britons to benefit from the deal, the source said, but during the transition period until the end of 2020, “their rights would be fully preserved”, then “we’ll see when the time comes”. In the meantime, he said, it remains advisable for British residents to obtain a carte de séjour, to prove they are living here according to EU rules. “All the procedures that people can carry out now, in France, in advance, are a very good idea,” he said. Speaking to senators examining the bill to allow the government to make laws in the case of no-deal, Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said even “permanent residency” rights obtained by Britons living in France long-term would “disappear” in a no-deal. But she said France would take intelligent measures and that “it’s in our interest to keep British people on our territory… but let’s see first what measures the British take before revealing ours”. She also spoke of the 1,715 British fonctionnaires (civil servants), including school English teachers, saying non-EU citizens cannot be fonctionnaires. She said France would try to see how they could continue to work, such as by moving to different contracts. It was also possible and relatively simple for them to apply to be French, she said. It is likely in any event that they will be able to remain in their jobs during the transition period until 2021. The ministry source said that, if necessary, specific measures arising from the no-deal bill will be worked out from January or February.
Why my councillor role matters to me
THE 900 British people who hold positions as town councillors in France will be able to retain them until at least the next local elections in 2020, whatever the outcome of Brexit. This was confirmed by the French government during an examination of a French no-deal contingency planning law in the Senate. The news will be welcomed by many of the Britons sitting on councils, such as Karen Blakemore, from Saint-Merdde-Lapleau in Corrèze, who has been a local councillor since 2014. It means, though, that time is limited for those seeking to sit again after spring 2020 as they will need to obtain French nationality. Mrs Blakemore recently put in an application and is hoping it will be processed in time. “It would have been a very sad situation, had we not been allowed to continue,” she said. “I always planned to apply for nationality but it’s made me concen trate my efforts. We’ve both got 10-year cartes de séjour now.” For Mrs Blakemore, 57, a former university administrator, it was a case of “in at the deep end”, after she was asked if she would like to join the mairie council just a year after she and her husband Tim moved to France. The village of 173 residents has special traditions for elected councillors, including having a procession to “The aim of the bill is to preserve, more or less, the same rights that Britons have now – in a spirit of reciprocity and parallelism with what is done in the UK for the French.” He said: “It’s in the interest of the UK to give the best rights to Europeans and it’s in the best interests of France to give the best rights to the British.” Speaking about Mrs Loiseau’s statement that permanent residency rights would disappear in a no-deal, he said the issue arises because there are two types of permanent residency rights:
All the procedures that people can carry out now, in France, in advance, are a very good idea for EU citizens and non-EU citizens. Govern ment orders would permit France to sort out the status of British people who have been living in France for more than five years, and their families, he said. “They would in principle be eligible for a permanent residency card for a third-country resident.” As for those resident for shorter periods, it remains to be worked out. “But the objective is not to need visas,” he said. “The point would be to take measures to simplify everything and that everything should go well.” He added: “Both sides have given assurances of their good intentions [towards expatriate citizens], but first our aim is to arrive at a good deal.” munity Committee of British Com France chairman Chris t opher Chantrey said: “We’re relieved to have
Karen Blakemore with her councillor’s plaque and tree each new councillor’s home to plant a tree (see photo). “It’s to bring you good luck for your future role and elections,” she said. They also install a plaque with a French flag attached – she originally a deal rather than no-deal. It’s a safety net but it’s inadequate. It’s no better than what was announced a year ago and they’ve not plugged the holes we’ve been asking about. “Uncertainty continues as it will have to be approved by the UK parliament, the EU27 and the Euro pean Parliament. It could still fail and the UK government could fall. We’re keeping our options open regarding a People’s Vote [a referendum, including a Remain option] and trying still, through the European parliament, to see if they can amend the text. “We want to strengthen the provisions without undermining what’s been achieved so far. It has been underestimated in the UK as to the number of vulnerable people who are at risk, if there is no deal. Or indeed the professional people who are at risk if the deal is not improved.” The chairwoman of BiE, Jane Golding called the exclusion of free movement “unacceptable”, saying it is “a lifeline for many of us”. She said: “It is now up to the Euro pean Parliament to walk the talk on its red lines – free movement in our case – but also to put pressure on all sides to ring-fence the agreement on citizens’ rights so 4.6 million people can sleep at night, whatever happens on Brexit.” Senator for the French abroad Olivier Cadic, who lives in Kent, said it might be hard for Theresa May to win support and no-deal cannot be excluded. He is backing a referendum, in which he hopes EU citizens in the UK would be able to vote. He said: “The people created the original decision, they must have the final say, but only once everything’s clear. For the moment, things could still change.”
asked permission to add a St George’s flag but now has decided to have two French ones instead. The couple are the only residents of non-French origin. “We got as integrated as we could very early on,” she said. “In the first three years, my jobs included managing a 20-person gîte belonging to the commune. We’re on a popular hiking route and people come from all over France. “It was a challenge because I only had O-level French but I’m very enthusiastic about speaking it and am not afraid of making mistakes or being corrected. The added difficulty was getting used to the Corrèze accent and the patois the older generation use, like à demo for à demain (see you tomorrow) or mershi instead of merci.” In addition to around eight meetings a year, plus ceremonies on special occasions such as Remembrance Day, she now works on some of the larger projects at the mairie. “I have particularly enjoyed being involved in the project to name all of the roads in our commune and the allocation of house numbers prior to fibre being delivered to our area. “I also help deliver Christmas food parcels to the elderly and housebound and take part in a senior citizens’ meal each year and each July I help run a stand at the village brocante.”
UK acts to help with healthcare
BRITAIN has introduced a bill in which it offers to continue to pay for the healthcare of its state pensioners living abroad in the EU – including those moving after Brexit – and to keep funding EHICs for travellers. The pledge would apply regardless of a Brexit deal but Britain would expect it to involve reciprocal deals with the EU and/or individual member states. It came as the EU issued more contingency planning notes about a no-deal scenario, saying that EU states should take a “generous approach to the rights of UK citizens already resident in their territory”. It said, for example, that periods of legal residence as EU citizens in their adopted countries should count as legal residence periods under residency rules concerning non-EU nationals, helping them to secure long-term resident status in the case of a no-deal. The Commission also said it does not want British visitors to EU countries to have to have visitor visas in the case of a no-deal. The proposal has yet to be agreed by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament but would mean UK visitors could come to the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in total over any 180-day period, like other states that benefit from being on the visa-waiver list (all non-EU country visitors need a visa to stay more than three months). This is conditional on the UK also offering all EU visitors visa-free entry for short trips, which looks likely as the UK has already said it would not require visas from EU citizens coming on short tourist or business trips. The proposal would not, however, exempt British travellers from the stricter entry checks for non-EU visitors or from the fee-paying Etias online visitor permission scheme coming into force in 2021.
December 2018 In Brief n A WOMAN from the northwest who was refused a carte de séjour because her small business had a low, irregular turnover due to ill health, is fighting the decision with an appeal supported by ecas.org, a Brusselsbased rights organisation. An Interior Ministry source said the ministry favours “a maximum of flexibility for the British” on residency rules after Brexit but the prime minister will have the final say. Connexion spoke to a widow served an order to leave France due to her having lived on benefits (see November issue) and therefore having a carte de séjour refused. She has now returned to the UK. n THE BRITISH Embassy has Brexit outreach meetings at Annecy on December 3 (tinyurl. com/ycog48l6) and at Dijon on December 10 (tinyurl.com/ y7yuryn2). n FREEDOM of movement and its importance to Britons in the EU is the subject of a study by Brexit Brits Abroad, a British project looking at the impacts of Brexit on Britons across the EU. See tinyurl.com/ycnfjsn3. n MEMBERS of the British in Europe coalition joined the3million group for EU27 citizens in the UK for the Last Mile citizens’ lobby in Westminster and handed a letter to 10 Downing Street (tinyurl.com/y8uux2to) after forming a human chain from Parliament Square. UK MPs from all main parties spoke in support – as well as French Senator Olivier Cadic, who has asked the French to guarantee the citizens’ rights agreement for British people in France. n THE General Court of the EU was set to rule on Novem ber 26 on French barrister Julien Fouchet’s case on behalf of Britons in the EU, including veteran Harry Shindler. It calls into question the legality of the Brexit negotiations due to the exclusion of long-term expatriates from the referendum. There was also to be a hearing in the European Court of Justice on November 27 about whether the UK can withdraw unilaterally and unconditionally from the Brexit process. The UK government has sought leave to appeal this to the Supreme Court. Mr Fouchet has also been seeking to obtain the right for Britons to vote in the EU elections next year, and has written on this at tinyurl.com/ybvqnqw6. n A PRIVATE member’s bill to end the 15-year limit on Britons abroad voting has completed a period of in-depth ‘committee stage’ scrutiny by MPs. It goes to a report stage at the House of Commons on January 25. Dr Sue Collard of the Univer sity of Sussex’s politics department is launching a website, britonsvotingabroad.co.uk, about the bill and the 15-year rule.
Christmas and the New Year holidays are prime periods for burglaries, with the number of break-ins second only to summertime. Official statistics show the number of burglaries in France have been largely static since 2012, after a 12-year period which saw a 37% increase. The number of burglaries and attempted burglaries in 2017 rose 2% on the previous year, according to official statistics, but the crime rate has slowed. The final figure of 249,000 is lower than the historical peak of 2013. About 30,000 households were the victims of more than one break-in. Violent home intrusions, known as home-jackings, remain relatively rare, with 3,400 reported in 2017, a figure that has changed little in 12 years. July, August and December accounted for 27% of burglaries on main homes in 2017. Police and gendarmes started proceedings for burglary against 20,800 people, almost all of them young men, with a quarter under 18. More than half of targets were main homes (59%), with the rest being second homes,
News in brief
Still time to write your letter to Santa
THERE is still time to send those all-important lists to Father Christmas – but do not leave it too late. Letters simply addressed to Santa Claus, with or without a stamp, will be delivered by the elves at La Poste as long as they are posted by December 17, while emails can be sent via the pere-noel.laposte.fr website.
Prehistoric treasure found in city centre MORE than 200,000 objects dating back 14,000 years have been uncovered in the centre of Angoulême. The discovery, including 200,000 flints and 400 arrowheads, was made during a routine excavation prior to the construction of a business centre a few minutes from the station in the Charente city.
Schools to teach Highway Code THE Highway Code will be taught in schools as part of an attempt to slash the cost of learning to drive for young people, President Emmanuel Macron has said. Mr Macron said he “wants to help get the permit faster and cheaper”, and promises a “drastic” reduction in its cost. The measures will be introduced in a mobility law to be presented to MPs by the end of the year.
Burglary figures stable - but beware
Most burglaries are carried out on main homes by young men, with a quarter of the thieves under the age of 18 businesses or other buildings such as schools. Almost three-quarters (74%) of the burglars identified were French, 11% came from African countries and 11% from other European countries. Several involved gangs. In August 2017, a gang of four Albanian men were arrested, with investigators linking them to 120 burglaries in the Angoulême area between October 2016 and their arrest. A report in Le Figaro newspaper claims another gang of five Albanians arrested in October this year committed 98 burglaries in NouvelleAquitaine and Occitanie between November 2017 and
October 2018, with stolen goods totalling €423,000. Overall, most of the burglaries were in two main areas: Ile de France and the South East. Brittany and Corsica had the lowest rates, figures reveal. Money, jewels, hifi equipment and computers were the objects most often stolen. To reduce risks while you are away, police and insurance companies advise simple common sense. Lock the house well, and use an alarm if you have one. Having a radio and lights fitted to a timer to go off at random times is an effective deterrent. Ask trusted neighbours to keep an eye on your property.
Cities not interested in urban toll on cars FOUR of France’s major cities say they have no plans to bring in urban tolls from 2020, even if they are allowed to do so. Under the proposals, tolls – similar to London’s congestion charge – could be set at between €2.50 and €10 per vehicle. Green vehicles would face the lowest charges. When news leaked out, the mayors of Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Nice all said they were not interested. Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé said: “The Bordelaise are touchy on problems of urban mobility. There are already tensions between the town centre and external areas. If we imposed an urban toll, they would say we are barricading ourselves to keep them out.” He said tolls might eventually apply to lorries but “certainly not” for privately owned cars. Other mayors expressed similar views and, with municipal elections in 2020, it is likely to
be difficult to find local politicians who will say they are in favour of the tolls. Urban tolls would be “a social disaster”, says 40 Millions d’Automobilistes. The organisation’s Pierre Chasseray told Connexion: “What they say is that only the rich are welcome to move freely around cities. We have no wish to have the rich people in cars and everyone else in public transport, like in London.” Ecology minister François de Rugy said the new measure merely gives substance to existing laws, so cities can implement tolls if they want to. Senator Fabienne Keller said French cities should follow the example of Stockholm, where tolls have been in place since 2009 and have led to a 28% fall in traffic, with variable tolls highest at rush hours. The decree could be sent to parliament for approval in the spring.
Village flats-for-pupils plan CHEAP apartments are being offered to families by the mayor of a Var village to save the commune’s school from closure. The school at Ascros, 45 km northwest of Nice, has 11 pupils. A neighbouring village school has just 10. Both could be closed as they have fewer than the officially mandated 12 students. Authorities in the 160-resident village own two three-bedroom apartments and one two-bed property, which have been offered for rent at no more than €200 a month to attract more families.
The gendarmerie – and police if you live in a town of more than 10,000 people – operate a formal programme Opération Tranquillité Vacances during all school holiday periods. Residents and businesses can ask their local gendarmes to keep a watch over their properties. Gendarmes then visit at various times during the day or night, checking shutters, gates, and back gardens to make sure all is as it should be. The idea is that burglars often watch houses before breaking in and if they see a gendarmerie vehicle in the area, they are likely to be dissuaded. It is a free service. There are also 800 communes in France which have Voisins Vigilants organisations, based on the Neighbourhood Watch schemes in the UK. If your commune has one, letting the co-ordinators know you will be away will mean extra attention for your home. For the unlucky few who are burgled, it is likely that your household insurance will cover you for some of the loss. Exceptions – dependent on insurer – include if the house has been left empty for some time (90 days is common). Many contracts have a maxi-
mum value for repayment of stolen goods so if you have expensive items, check you are covered adequately. You will have to make a declaration of the burglary at the nearest gendarmerie or police station, and obtain a receipt. In rural areas, gendarmeries are often open to the public for only a couple of hours a week, but you can usually make an appointment to report burglaries by telephoning a local number. Your mairie will be able to give details. Then, within two days, you must make a claim with your insurance firm by letter. Examples in French are easily found on the internet. This must be followed, usually within a fortnight, by your estimate of the value of the goods stolen, supported by documentary evidence – sales receipts, photos, identity numbers if you have them for computer equipment. It is also important to keep any objects damaged by the burglars. The psychological shock of burglary can be significant. If you are affected, see your doctor, who in most areas can refer you to specialised services, paid for by the health system, to help you to cope.
News 5 Holiday home agencies unite against Airbnb TWO of France’s best-known holiday property organisations have joined forces to consolidate their position in the face of rising competition from rental websites such as Airbnb. Gîtes de France and Clévacances, after months of talks, are to create a joint venture, creating the largest marketing platform dedicated to certified self-catering accommodation in France from next year. Properties run by both groups will be centralised on one website, clevacances.com.
War memorial a first for Paris
THE first monument honouring all 94,415 of Paris’s victims of World War One was inaugurated on November 11. The 280m monument at the Père-Lachaise cemetery consists of 150 blue steel panels, engraved with the names of the city’s war dead in alphabetical order. There are many smaller monuments in the city but until now not one with all the names. It took eight years to identify all the names from lists in each of the city’s arrondissements.
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LANDLINE phone and network operator Orange faces fines of up to a billion euros over successive failures of its ADSL service. Orange admitted to MPs that 600,000 users across France had lost internet, TV and phone for hours and even days. Telecoms regulator Arcep saw a “significant growing degradation in service” and reminded Orange it had a duty to provide a quality national service. It could be fined up to 5% of its business – possibly €1billion – for missing seven of its 12 obligations, including quick set-up of new lines and prompt response to repairs and complaints. Orange blames weather and cable thefts but consumer groups noted a lack of spending on the copper network as it was replaced by a faster and more reliable optical service. Anyone with problems can ask Arcep (jalerte.arcep.fr) for action and compensation.
Car site helps buyer beware BUYERS of secondhand cars may be helped to avoid duds and frauds by a new official website containing background details on vehicles for sale. HistoVec is aimed at stopping cheating in personal sales or via small garages, where the kilometrage is wound back or a crash-damaged or written-off car is tarted up to look new. Consumer protection agency DGCCRF said “half of secondhand sales involved serious or minor fraud” in 2015. Last year 5.7million vehicles were sold on the véhicules d’occasion market. Investigators have broken up criminal rings that sold more than 6,000 dangerous vehicles in the past five years. The Interior Ministry wants buyers looking at adverts on sales sites to be able to access vehicle details supplied “in good faith” by the seller for HistoVec. A version of the site, at the histovec.interieur.gouv.fr/histovec/home address, is open as a test for buyers and sellers to see what is involved. Sellers can
€21m more for heritage Bonus-malus will apply to pick-up trucks from lottery
Photo: Renault Yannick BROSSARD
€1bn threat over ADSL line failures
Loophole for pick-ups closes with serious costs for buyers create a file on the site with information from the carte grise registration document, such as the first registration, list of previous owners, any accident damage or work done, plus the warranty and if it has been previously stolen. Buyers contact the seller to be sent a link to read the file. However, the site has flaws: it will not be fully working until
A LOOPHOLE allowing buyers of pick-up trucks to avoid certain taxes and anti-pollution bonusmalus payments will be closed on January 1. In 2019 buyers of trucks such as the No1 seller Ford Ranger or Renault Alaskan must pay the taxe sur les véhicules de société based on taxable engine power (from €750-€4,500) and, as they put out more than 200g/km of CO2, must also pay a malus of €10,500 on top of the price. It is estimated the malus will bring in €200million a year.
early 2019, it is not mandatory for sellers to upload details, and it covers only vehicles after 2009 with AA-123-ZZ plates. Critics have long maintained kilometrage should be noted at every contrôle technique (MOT) and updated to the carte grise, along with any repaired faults that previously prevented the vehicle passing its contrôle. Meanwhile, the year-long saga
of carte grise problems goes on, with delays of several weeks in getting vehicle documents. By April, 450,000 applications were delayed but industry sources say recent changes have improved response times. n Owners of electric bikes rated over 250W or faster than 25kph need a carte grise, as it is seen as a cyclomoteur électrique and also needs a number plate.
Macron joke site’s making crazy money for homeless Enlyseeboutique’s T-shirt reuses a Macron quote he used to criticise welfare spending, which he said cost ‘crazy money’ for little benefit
This official T-shirt has a phrase used by Mr Macron about rival election pledges, worth no more than snake oil T-SHIRTS making fun of the Elysée Palace souvenir shop have raised €30,000 for homeless and migrant charities as they parody some of President Macron’s outspoken comments. The €20 T-shirts, mugs and bags on the enlyseeboutique.fr site ape the boutique.elysee.fr site which sells watches at €149 and T-shirts at €55. Enlysée Boutique spokesman “Manu” said: “We could not believe the Elysée had set up a shop; we thought it was a joke...
so we decided to have some real fun and set up our own shop. “So far, it has exceeded hopes and we have set a new target of €50,000 to help the gens de la rue. We have had 5,000 orders and our new Christmas packs should help us on the way.” He said they would be delighted if Mr Macron could “speak out some more” to help sales. The parody site, based in Calais, handed €10,000 cheques to each of three migrant and homeless charities in November.
It is run by 15 volunteers and their festive season packs take aim at two government policies, with the €50 pack targeting the RSA poverty benefit and the €100 pack the ISF property wealth tax. Both offer a choice of T-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, mugs and beanie hats. However, their takings are dwarfed by the official Elysée shop, which sold €350,000 of products in three days after opening, with profits used to fund palace restoration work.
Runner’s giant GPS shark swallows Paris Photo: capture d’écran @Strava_Marine Leleu
IT LOOKS like a shark painted on to a Paris map but it took endurance athlete Marine Leleu two weeks to plan and 10 hours to walk more than 50km of the capital’s streets to “paint” the design using her GPS tracker. Marine started in the 8th arrondissement and continued along streets and across parks to the ChampsElysées, with a circuit of the Arc de Triomphe for the eye. It is not her biggest effort, as in September she became the first woman to complete the Enduroman race from London to Paris – running 140km to Dover, swimming across the Channel, then cycling 290km to Paris.
AN EXTRA €21million has been awarded for historical monument restoration after an outcry about the tax take from the Loto du Patrimoine lottery. Scratchcards and weekly draw sales raised €200million and there was anger as the state took €14million in tax, leaving just €20million for restoration. Finance minister Gérald Darmanin said the tax rate was reduced from normal and €144million of the money was returned as prizes, while Loto organiser FDJ got €22million. However, after the €20million was criticised by a leading heritage TV presenter as a “drop in the ocean”, he loosened the purse strings and announced the extra €21million.
Phones locked away for comedy shows
COMEDY fans will be forced to put mobile phones into a locking case if they go to a show by Florence Foresti, who wants to end the “pirating” of her routines on the internet People arriving to see her at Paradis Latin in Paris received a pouch for their phone that locked until the show’s end.
Banks’ good and bad results in stress tests FRENCH banks have passed the European Central Bank’s stress tests that assess whether they can cope with financial shocks such as the 2008 crash. Crédit Mutuel, BPCE and Crédit Agricole got good marks but BNP Paribas, Banque Postale, and Société Générale were below average. Barclays was bottom of 48 banks, just ahead of Lloyds.
Few pupils wearing new school uniforms ONLY about one in 10 pupils in primary schools in Provins, Seine-et-Marne, is wearing the uniforms the mairie suggested could help community spirit. This follows 62% of parents backing the uniforms, which cost an average €137.
Beehives to boost lemon production BEEHIVES have been set up in town gardens in Menton on the Côte d’Azur to help ensure production of citron de Menton. The mairie plans 30-40 hives after lemon growers said they helped boost fruit supply.
Diesel thieves rigged pumps to charge €0 SERVICE stations lost thousands of litres of diesel after thieves reset pumps using simple internet passwords to charge €0 per litre. One man in Oise was jailed for seven months.
ANIMAL cruelty campaigners are stepping up demands for a ban on hunting on Sundays after the deaths of five people already this season. France is the only country in Europe not to have a hunt-free day each week. The UK, for example, has had one since 1831. The deaths since the season opened in September include British offroad cyclist Marc Sutton in HauteSavoie and a beater in Meuse eight days later – the same day another cyclist was hit in the shoulder and two surfers were peppered with pellets by a hunter onshore. A 10-year-old girl has also been hit while enjoying a picnic with her parents in Limoges, a hunter in Cher shot his wife in the throat, and a window in a Bordeaux suburb was broken by a bullet fired 300m away. Two days after Mr Sutton was killed, an Aude MP called for an offroad cycling ban during hunts but the Haute-Savoie hunt federation suspended nine hunters and banned hunting for the rest of the season. Some communes elsewhere banned walkers in the forest, while others ordered them and mushroom pickers to wear hi-visibility clothing. In Alsace, hunters gave out hi-visi-
Photo: Torry Wiley
New calls for hunt ban Pets are not just for home after death toll grows
Hunters told of need for caution towards ‘other users of nature’ bility jackets but also asked members to use lead shot, not bullets. Lead will not kill at more than 100m whereas bullets travel miles. Now 76 groups including Fondation Bardot, SPA, Aspas, Peta, L214, 30 Millions d’Amis and the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux have written an open letter denouncing hunt cruelty and provocations. A petition by Aspas has 204,000 signatures. Aspas spokesman Marc Gir aud said: “Less than 2% of the population hunt and the government speaks to them... but does not talk to anyone from the many millions who enjoy nature and want to protect it.
“Hunters are getting fewer and fewer but more and more powerful.” Ecology minister François de Rugy met leaders of the Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs to demand better hunt safety and training but has failed to meet anti-hunt groups. Each year there are 100-200 hunting accidents with 10-20 deaths, although the hunting and wildlife agency ONCFS says the number of accidents has fallen, from 203 in 2013-14 to 113 last year. At the same time, the number of hunters has also fallen, from 1.3 million in 2002 to a million today. Willy Schraen, president of the Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs, told Connexion he will meet other nature-users to improve safety. “We will look at putting up more signs to warn there is a hunt taking place. We would also hope other users would dress in hi-vis clothing – as hunters do – to avoid accidents.” He reminded hunters “that communication and caution towards other users of nature must continue to be a golden rule of hunting”. Meanwhile, a petition calling on sports store Decathlon to stop selling hunt equipment as it ‘is not a sport’ has been signed by 92,000 people.
SantéVet office worker Erika Schaitl at her desk with her Shih Tzu Jetsan STAFF in an insurance office have found the ideal way to deal with stress at work... they bring their pets in with them. The 150 staff at animal insurance firm SantéVet in Lyon can take pets to work – but only four at a time, for safety reasons. Dogs are regular visitors, and a parrot, but no cats in case people are allergic. For
SantéVet boss Jérôme Salord, it is not a problem: “Having animals in the office is good for us all, it helps us relax.” Businesses that welcome animals are honoured in the Pet Friendly awards and this year the winners were Royal Canin France, Campings Sites et Paysages, Groupe Domitys and pet website Wamiz.
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Pesticide ban helps towns find ‘new’ ways to beat weeds After farmers using the common pesticide metam sodium had difficulty breathing, it was banned in France until February for tests. Similar fears on other pesticides prompted a national ban on councils using chemicals in parks and, as Brian McCulloch finds, encouraged other ways of working COMMUNES have had to find new methods of killing weeds since pesticides and herbicides were banned in public parks and gardens 18 months ago. That has meant blow-torches, hot water or even councils going back in time and getting their workers to hoe out weeds. Even before putting the ban in place, the government had been encouraging communes to go “zero-pesticide”. Since 2015, those doing so can use the label Terre Saine (healthy ground). So far, 317 communes have won the label, and another 4,200 are aiming for one. It means not using pesticides, including anti-moss preparations on roads and paths, for at least a year. One Terre Saine village is Blanzac in Charente, which meets all the criteria and was awarded the highest distinction, a four-butterfly symbol. Mayor Jean-Philippe Sallée
said their solution was simple. “Elbow grease! Our team in the parks and gardens uses gas blow torches at the start of the growing season, then mainly the hoe. “But what is important, too, is we ask the population to look after the weeds in front of their houses and businesses, and that means the workload on our staff remains reasonable. “Most do... but some say they pay their taxes for the town to do the work.” The town’s streets have a slightly shaggier look but the move has had support in spite of the extra cost, with an extra gardener hired. A sit-on strimmer was also bought, but did not cope well with the medieval streets’ narrow and uneven pavements. The cemetery is the biggest problem, with residents refusing to accept weeds in the paths and around graves. “We have put in Japanese-
Blanzac mayor Jean-Philippe Sallée shows the four-butterfly Terre Saine label, given to ‘zero-pesticide’ communes style stepping stones in what used to be gravel paths and it has made things look better, and calmed people down,” Mr Sallée said. “Using less pesticides is important for all sorts of reasons and we, as elected We ask residents to members, have to take a lead.” move against weedkillers look after the weeds in hasThealso encouraged the use of front of their houses. new machines in vineyards. For a long time, vignerons Most do... but some have sprayed weedkiller, usually say they pay their twice a year, along the foot of row of vines as yields are taxes for the town to each higher if there is no grass there. do the work Now powered hoes, driven
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Oeliatec machines use very hot water to kill weeds from a tractor drive, can clear weeds at the vine base – but vignerons say they are costly to buy and use and damage the vines. Brittany led France 10 years ago when it banned pesticides in public parks and gardens and that gave inventor Jean-Pierre Barre the push to manufacture an alternative weedkiller, using very hot water. Called Oeliatec, it is fed by a mobile boiler, fuelled by central heating oil, to heat and pressurise water to 120C. Using a lance, the operator squirts scalding water on to weeds, killing them quickly.
Shoppers force up food quality PRESSURE from shoppers for safer and better quality supermarket food is working – with price no longer the only selling point, an industry whistleblower believes. Christophe Brusset, who worked as a food buyer for 25 years said: “For the first time I have heard a supermarket ad on the radio using quality as the main argument and not price. “It is a sign that pressure from the public for better and safer food is finally getting through.” Mr Brusset has written two books exposing horrors he came across during his career. His first book, Vous êtes fous d’avaler ça (You’re mad to eat that) three years ago, exposed how chilli powder from India went on sale containing mouse droppings and dead mice. A widely-sold green tea was heavily contaminated with pesticides, and Chinese meat products included rat and fox. He said: “Price dominated everything. Supermarket annual negotiations were all about low prices and how much suppliers and manufacturers would pay to be in adverts or to contribute to new displays. “Suppliers then put price pressure on the producers and quality plummeted. It was evident. “When I worked with spices, some ended up little more than
coloured dust.” Manufacturers are equally to blame, boosting cheap ingredients with sugar and water, which then require thickeners and other additives. He said: “One interviewer brought the food she had served her young son for breakfast, Nestlé drinking chocolate in milk and cereal. “The chocolate powder was 80% sugar and the cereal 46%.” In his new book, Et maintenant on mange quoi? (What are we eating now?), he advises avoiding processed food or, if you cannot, choosing food with the shortest list of ingredients. Even organic food is suspect if it comes ready processed, with dishes having added water, gum and other strange ingredients. “Prepare food yourself if you able to,” he said. “It is far healthier, often tastier and in the end cheaper.” Mr Brusset called on shoppers to continue to question stores about what they sell so the message that people care about what they eat gets through. “A survey from the French research agency Insee this year showed that eating mainly biofood decreases the risk of getting certain cancers by 80%. “It is that sort of information which people must act on when they buy and they must pass on their concerns to the stores.”
Units cost €16,000-€78,000 and are bulky and heavy, needing batteries and electric motors to lug them around, which involves using a trailer. So far, 700 have sold, mainly to local councils, and one satisfied customer is Le Rheu garden city, outside Rennes, where the Oeliatec unit has been used daily for three years. Town general manager Damien Carlo said: “We are very happy with it. It is one method among others and it complements the manual methods, using hoes, which we use.” Its main drawback is the time it takes to manoeuvre, so it is slower than using a hoe – but more efficient at killing weeds in hard-to-reach corners. Despite the positive experience, he said the town still needs to use chemical weedkillers on paths which are not asphalted and on its sports fields. He said: “With the paths, they are not sealed, being chalk and gravel, so finding an alternative is difficult. “We do not want to have to asphalt over the pavements in order to reduce pesticide use, as the environmental damage will actually be greater if we do so, especially with increased runoff into the rivers.”
Ouigo TGV adds new destinations in south SNCF’s low-cost TGV service Ouigo is to offer more services from Paris to south-east France as it launches operations out of the Gare de Lyon. From December 9, services between the station and Antibes, Les Arcs-Draguignan, Cannes, Nice, Saint-Raphaël and Toulon will be available, with prices starting at around €19, as well as to Lille-Flanders in the north.
Restaurants ‘must offer doggy bags’ RESTAURANTS, cafés and bistros across France will be obliged to supply diners with “doggy-bags” if requested from July 2021, under a new law to reduce food waste. Some 10million tonnes of food, worth an estimated €16billion, is thrown away in France every year. The law says diners must have the chance to take home uneaten food.
MPs try again to ban smacking children A law which would make France the 55th country in the world, and the 23rd in the EU, to legally ban the smacking of children was due to be debated by MPs at the end of November. The latest anti-smacking proposal comes nearly two years after France’s Constitutional Council struck down the last attempt to outlaw physical punishment against children on technical grounds.
AN angry father has demanded a government rethink on medical tests for older drivers after his daughter lost a leg in an accident with a 92-year-old. Seven others were hurt in the crash that severely injured Bertrand Déroulède’s 27-yearold tennis teacher daughter. Mr Déroulède called for tests for over-75s to check their vision and driving aptitude, but the government rejected this. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he had no plans to make all over-60s pass tests. He said drivers and families should act responsibly – but Mr
Déroulède called on the government to reconsider. He said he was not targeting old drivers but that other major European countries had tests and he felt France should have the courage to do the same. Previous calls for change have failed as ‘“discriminatory” and for fear of pushing a person into dependence. In the UK a licence is valid to the age of 70 and then renewed every three years if the driver passes an eye test (photocard photos must be renewed every 10 years), but in France drivers have a licence for life.
Iron Age farmers’ saltmill found on Dune de Pilat IRON Age farmers lived on Europe’s highest sand dune, Dune de Pilat in Gironde, and heated seawater there to get salt, archaeologists have found. A dig at the site found traces of huts, a fire to heat seawater, and a saltmill on two sites a few metres from the shore. The team, led by archaeology volunteer Philippe Jacques from the Arcachon local history
group Shaapb, uncovered evidence that Iron Age people came with animals to the site in around 700BC, set up home and started farming. In all, 22 post holes were found, showing there had been a succession of small buildings. Mr Jacques has studied the dune for years and the latest dig comes after a funerary urn was uncovered by a storm in 2014.
Photos: IMA Solutions
Father calls again for 3D scan creates ‘new’ historic statue older driver medicals
The partly complete copy... carved by robot, then by hand
Cheers greeted the unveiling of the statue
A HIGH tech solution had to be found when Toulouse residents voted to move a statue to the city’s renovated Place Mage but the artwork was too fragile for the task. La Déesse, made in plaster by José Clara in 1909, is kept in the Musée des Augustins but is so severely damaged that it cannot be put on public display. The mairie did not want to disappoint the community, so it opted to make an exact copy without damaging the original. Toulouse firm IMA Solutions, which installs 3D interactive and multi-
media works worldwide, including in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Louvre in Lens, and London’s British Museum, was brought in and decided to make a detailed 3D scan, then carve a new statue with a robot sculptor. IMA Solutions director Benjamin Moreno said: “It wasn’t the first time we had scanned a statue, but it was the first time we had made a stone statue.” After the 3D scan, a 4.2-tonne block of Lavoux stone (a very finely grained white sandstone) was carved to rough shape by a
THE opening of a huge new bookshop in Paris recently made national press headlines due to its rarity and raised questions about the mixed fortunes of librairies around the world. Ici Librairie’s owners AnneLaure Vial and Delphine Boué tard are trade veterans who met while working at now-closed Virgin Megastore in Paris. They say that experience has given them three key strategies to succeed: a large floor area (500m2) with 40,000 books arranged in modular style with mobile furniture to make comfortable customer areas; an in-store speciality cafe; and regular author events to make it a centre of cultural life in the area around Boulevard Poissonnière. Ms Vial said she is “delighted and very excited that our dream is finally reality.” Between 2011 and 2014, however, Paris lost one in 10 of its bookshops. Across France they are often few and far between, with supermarkets such as Leclerc often the only booksellers – if the store has a “media” section. It is not all bad news. In Paris, La Hune – founded in 1949 and key to the “Left Bank spirit” – reopened in November following renovation after a fire. Brentano’s, opened in 1895
Lang’s Law has kept stores going PRICES of new books in France are governed by law, with the Loi Lang (named after 1980s culture minister Jack Lang) saying that publishers set the price and this cannot be discounted by more than 5%. Similar arrangements exist elsewhere and, until the 1990s, the UK had the Net Book Agreement. The Loi Lang is exceptional for the level of government involvement and it has survived many legal challenges in European courts. Initially seen as good for independent bookshops, as it stops aggressive pricing from large chains, it led to a large increase in the number and variety of publishers. But it is now criticised because publisher prices are too low and the average 6% profit margin is not enough when taxes and shop rents have shot up. near l’Opéra, specialises in English language books, usually from US publishers. It shut in 2009 before reopening with a smaller area for books. Manager Bruno Giambona said: “We have had to adapt and are no longer a pure bookshop. “Books occupy just 60m2 out of 200, and we only survive thanks to sales of stationery, cards, and souvenirs.” He admitted the accountants wanted to end book sales. “Here, in Paris on the main shopping streets, rents have shot up due to demand from groups and chain stores which you find everywhere in Europe,” he said. “There are few independent shops and the 6% margin on
books, if you are lucky, is not enough to sell on their own.” In Poitiers, similar pressures of high rents, increasing staff costs and online competition bear down on the town centre’s only remaining bookshop, La Belle Aventure. Owner Christine Drugmant set up a cooperative to try to ensure its future after she retires. She likes “the joining of clients, employees, publishers, suppliers and local associations and authorities around this love of solid paper books”. She said: “French people love books and created, thanks to laws from [1980s minister] Jack Lang over pricing, a system unique for the number and diversity of books published.
Photo: ©Studio Briand&Berthereau
Fresh hope for the librairie as huge shop opens in Paris
Ici Librairie has just opened But, unless something is done, a key part, the independent librairie, will be a thing of the past. We need to unite people around books.” Not all regional bookshops are at risk. A key factor is whether they own their premises – as is the case with Mollat in Bordeaux, which covers 2,700m2 over several stores in the city centre but also has a large and active online business. The Salle des Machines bookshop in Marseille is in a cooperative of associations working in an old tobacco factory site seeking to improve the area. Sitting above an upmarket cafe, it is now going strong and is a key part of the project.
The original La Déesse robot sculptor in steps of about 1cm, before being hand-finished. Mr Moreno said: “It took five weeks, and now we have a stone replica of how the statue would have looked when it was first carved, because apart from being cracked, the original has bits missing. We did it without touching the original and, now it has been scanned, it can be reproduced in any material, including plastic or wood.” The new statue has been well received. Mr Moreno said: “People are pleased. It’s what they voted for. It’s become quite a landmark.”
Stand up for historic forests... or face a degraded wasteland FORESTRY workers have taken to the streets to raise awareness of the “dangerous industrialisation” of woodland. France has 169,000km2 of forest – the fourth largest area in Europe – but workers from the Office National des Fôrets are concerned about ecological damage caused by exploitation. One march organiser, Philippe Berger, said: “What we are seeing with the forests now is similar to what happened with agriculture in the 1980s. “There is increasing industrialisation, with larger and more powerful machines, the buyingout of small forests by large groups, and a lack of concern about the ecological effects of exploitation.” Mr Berger and other workers organised marches to call for laws to simplify and limit forest exploitation and for more state officials to control them. Numbers of ONF agents have fallen from 14,000 in the 1980s to around 8,500 today, when the forestry resource is at its largest. The marches from the south and east, home to the biggest state forests, met in the centre of France at St Bonnet Tronçais, Allier, to plan a manifesto to call for elected officials to act to save the forests and limit the actions of private companies.
Until the last couple of years the amount of land classed as forest had been rising steadily, but Mr Berger said that has changed. “The increase was mainly due to farmers abandoning land where they could not use machines. Now they have used most of the flat land and are starting to look to expand into forested areas. “If France is to have forests with management close to the ground, the state has to put more resources into our work.” He said it was like Quebec, where control of forests was taken out of state hands and given to private companies: “There are whole swathes of what used to be well-managed forest which are now wastelands with very degraded soil. “We absolutely do not want a similar situation in France.” Concerns have also been raised about changes in the Landes forest, the largest continuous forest in Europe, which was created in the 19th century. “There used to be an 80 to 90year cycle to grow maritime pines, which has now been reduced to 35 years by clear stripping whole areas, replanting quickly and using very large amounts of fertiliser,” he said. “This is obviously changing the soil and alarming scientists.”
Pyrenees bears ‘in perfect health’
Lille is to introduce a “trial shop” system for budding entrepreneurs, allowing them to test business ideas in vacant units in the centre of town for up to a year. Business owners will get access to a prime location at a low rental price, and can receive a grant for costs, or an interest-free loan for the site. An initial six-month lease can be extended to a year.
Two brown bears released into the wild in the Pyrenees in early October are “in perfect health” on the French side of the mountains, according to the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage. The two females, which have GPS collars “moved around a lot” in their first few weeks in their new territories. A total 43 bears now live in the wild in the Pyrenees, officials said.
Public opinion shifts away from nuclear
Call for €1 tax on online shop delivery
More than 50% of the French public are against the country’s continuing reliance on nuclear power, according to a study. Five years ago, 67% of the population were in favour of nuclear power, but now – as renewable energy systems improve – 53% of those polled by Odoxa were against the continued use of nuclear reactors to generate electricity.
Mayors have called for a €1 tax on each parcel delivered to people’s doorsteps, with the money raised going to support local shops. The €1 tax – dubbed the fiscalité locale commerciale équitable – would apply to every online shopping parcel delivered to your door. More than 500 million parcels were delivered in France last year.
Record pay days for French bosses
E-scooter scheme halted after month
Bosses of large companies in France are taking home record levels of pay – an average of €3.8million a year. All forms of payment, including salary, annual bonus, tokens, perks, stock options, gifts related to their role and other forms of remuneration, were taken into account in a study by finance firm Proxinvest. Fixed salaries have risen by 3%, variable annual wages by 6%, and perks by 6%.
An electric scooter-share service in Bordeaux was suspended just one month after it was launched – and shortly after France banned electric foot scooters from pavements. Operator Lime said it had stopped its service and pulled its scooters off the streets to allow time for a consultation with city officials over a “sustainable framework” after it launched the service without prior arrangement.
MEPs vote against single-use plastics A DIRECTIVE that will ban the use of single-use plastic by 2021 has been voted in by the European Parliament. The directive, which is aimed at items such as cotton buds, straws, and disposable cutlery, was passed by 571 votes to 53, and has been welcomed as “an enormous step forward”.
Drivers warned of ‘€50 bill’ scam Drivers have been warned to watch out for a scam in which a fake €50 note is left on windscreens. When motorists get out to check it, leaving the motor running, thieves steal their car. Police advise drivers to check windscreens before they get in their vehicles – and never to leave a car unattended with its engine running.
Mechanical giants roam Toulouse
TOULOUSE was invaded for four days in November by a giant spider and a 46-tonne Minotaur – and visitors and locals loved it. An estimated 600,000 people flooded the centre of the Pink City to see the incredible beast perform the Gardien du Temple
Curfew imposed after car fires A curfew has been imposed on children in a town in Saône-et-Loire following a spate of car fires. Youths under 18 must be at home between 10pm and 6am, according to the curfew decree issued in Montceau-les-Mines. Police patrols have been supported by reserves from the CRS.
Soldiers buried 101 years after they died The bodies of two Australian First World War soldiers were buried at a military cemetery in Pas-de-Calais the day after the Armistice centenary – 101 years after they were killed in May 1917. Privates James L Rolls and
Hedley R. MacBeth, who were with the 24th Battalion (Australia), died when the underground bunker they were resting in after a day of fighting was hit by a shell. Their descendants attended the ceremony at Quéant war cemetery.
spectacular, all accompanied by live music. The event marked the grand opening of a cultural venue in the city, La Halle de La Machine. Officials said the tourist office was twice as busy as normal, while hotel occupancy rates were around 90% for the four days.
Photo: Tango7174 / CC BY-SA 4.0
Shop trials to stop city centre decline
connexionfrance.com Photo: James Harrington
10 News in brief
Time changes for warning siren tests The French have long been used to hearing warning sirens at noon on the first Wednesday of the month – but for a brief period there will be a change in the timings, according to the Ministry of the Interior. During an unspecified test period for the new software, warning sirens will sound at 11.45am in the northern band of the country, at noon in the central band, and at 12.15pm in the south.
Postie could not find chateau Letters and packages often go astray – but one parcel that was returned to sender due to an incomplete address was reposted with a waspish note. The redelivery note from the sender read: “The Château de Blois [pictured] has not moved since construction started in the 13th century. It is also one of the most well-known chateaux in France (except, clearly, for your delivery person).” Over the years, the chateau has been the residence of seven kings and 10 queens of France. It is hard to miss, with its 564 rooms, including 100 bedrooms. For the record, the full address is Château de Blois, 6 Place du Château, 41000 Blois, Loir-et-Cher.
‘Spiderman of Paris’ becomes French
News in brief 11
Balcony falls on building collapse protestors Photo: Google Maps
The Connexion The Malian man who climbed the outside of a building to save a four-year-old child dangling off a fourth-floor balcony has been made a French citizen. Mamoudou Gassama, dubbed “Spiderman” for his heroic act, was an illegal immigrant at the time. He received his naturalisation document at a ceremony at the prefecture of Seine-SaintDenis in Bobigny, just over a year after he arrived here. He will now complete an internship with the Paris fire service.
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The rundown buildings on rue d’Aubagne before they collapsed, killing eight people
On track for roll-out of hydrogen trains
Taxman to watch Google Maps plan to social media activity show camera sites
Hydrogen-powered trains will be tested on four lines in New Aquitaine, MP Michel Delpon has confirmed. The trains will operate on the Bordeaux-Soulac, Angoulême-Saintes-Royan, Bordeaux-Bergerac-Sarlat, and Bordeaux-PérigueuxLimoges lines. The trains will be operational by 2022.
Tax officials plan to monitor social media accounts in a crackdown on fraud, Public Accounts Minister Gérald Darmanin has revealed. The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés has yet to give the green light for the plan, but social networks are examined to build cases in criminal investigations.
Photo: François Le Berre / Accessible Pour Tous / Twitter
A DIGITAL image made up of thousands of photographs from World War One, revealing the “unknown face” of the conflict, will evolve as more pictures are added to the database that produced it. A computer algorithm was developed to create the composite (above), which was officially unveiled on the centenary Armistice Day by the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne, in the Somme.
The search was halted for 24 hours after neighbouring buildings showed signs of collapsing. Xavier Cachard – a member of the conseil regional – resigned after being identified as the owner of no 65 rue d’Aubagne. Prosecutors also searched offices in City Hall, and at the headquarters of Marseille Habitat, which owned one of the abandoned properties. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has ordered a citywide building-by-building audit.
Bus driver orders passengers off after they ignore wheelchair user A Parisian bus driver who took the unusual decision to order all of his passengers to leave the bus to allow a wheelchair user to get on has said he did it because “no one was moving”. Wheelchair-user François Le Berre (above), who has multiple sclerosis, could not get on the bus in the capital’s 17th arrondissement because none of the passengers would get out of the way. Buses in the capital usually have only one or two places where a wheelchair can go, and other passengers should give priority to them by moving and allowing a user to get on. The driver said “Terminus! Everyone off!”, and made all the passengers leave the vehicle. He then went to Mr Le Berre and said: “You can get on, and the others can wait for the next bus.” Mr Berre said: “No one wanted to move despite the access ramp. The RATP driver quickly intervened. He got up and said ‘Everyone off ’. Everyone did it, but some people did grumble a bit.” A tweet describing the incident from an account named “Accessible Pour Tous” – a disabled support network – has since been liked and retweeted thousands of times and has received almost 4,000 comments, most of which congratulate the driver. “I believe there is still a little justice for people in wheelchairs, even if it is rare in Ile-de-France,” Mr Le Berre said later. He said the driver told him that anyone on the bus might need a wheelchair one day. None of the driver’s family members is disabled but “it was just a matter of civic-mindedness”.
Speed cameras and real-time information on accidents could become alerts on Google Maps in France, helping drivers who use the online service to navigate the country’s roads. The roll-out of the service has yet to be released, but tech news service Android Police began reporting changes in the code of Google Maps in June.
Concern over birth deformity clusters in three departments The number of children confirmed as being born without arms in the Ain department has risen to 18. About 150 children a year are born with physical deformities in France, but the size of the cluster in the department, as well as two others in Brittany and Pays de la Loire has prompted a national investigation. The defect is known medically as transverse upper limb agenesis (agénésies transverses du membre supérieur, or ATMS, in French). This means the hands, and sometimes the forearm, have failed to develop properly while the foetus was developing in its mother’s womb. All the children identified so far in the eastern department were born between 2009 and 2014, and within a few kilometres of each other, according to local register, le Registre des Malformations en RhôneAlpes (Remera). According to Remera, the number of babies affected
by the deformities is 50 times higher than normal in such a small area, leading them to suspect an external, environmental problem as the cause. Elsewhere, parents in one town in Morbihan are taking part in a study after four babies were born without arms between 2011 and 2013. A third cluster, in Loire Atlantique, where a number of children were born with similar deformities between 2007 and 2008, is also being investigated. The cause of the deformities and why babies born with them have clustered in certain areas remains a mystery, officials have said, despite claims from a number of environmentalists that pesticides could be the origin. Authorities have insisted that, at this stage of the investigation, no evidence supports these claims. The inquiry aims to discover whether genetic, physical or environmental causes are to blame.
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What is the role of France’s riot police? Photo: Brigitte Breuillac/MSF
A balcony collapsed on Marseille residents as they marched in protest against the state of the city’s dilapidated buildings, leaving three people with minor injuries. The march was organised after eight people died when two rundown buildings collapsed on rue d’Aubagne in the Noailles district of the city. Marseille city council rehoused 100 residents from nearby buildings and said heavy rain might have contributed to the collapse.
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by NICK INMAN IT IS the name that’s so endearing. Chateau d’eau sounds so much more dignified than the common English term “water tower”. But it’s not just that. It’s the huge variety and versatility of these structures that characterise the French landscape. There are an estimated 16,000 of them, either still in use or serving purposes other than the storage and supply of water. Some have been converted into homes or holiday accommodation, exhibition spaces and tourist information offices. Wherever you are, there always seems to be one not far away, on a ridge, mound or hilltop. They are distinctive landmarks and some have even been adopted as icons of a particular town or city. They come in a bewildering number of shapes: cylinder, Martini glass, champagne cork, globe on a stalk, parabolic curves, hourglass, chanterelle mushroom and many others. Most are, by their nature, conspicuous but some are hidden from view on a wooded hillside and are noticed only when you hear the sound of flowing water. Many of them are starkly, unpretentiously modern but more than a dozen have been classified as ancient monuments. All form part of France’s industrial heritage. Even the oldest are relatively recent constructions, dating back to the 19th century, but all are testament to an ancient heritage. The Romans are credited with building the first domestic water systems, including reservoirs close to or just above ground level, as can be seen in many excavated villas and towns. In the middle ages, the skills of water management were preserved by the Islamic civilisation, still visible in southern Spain. It was only much later that Western Europe returned to the idea of creating collective systems to supply running water to homes. The expression chateau d’eau, a translation of the Latin castellum aquae, was first used in 1704 to describe a reservoir raised above the ground. However, it wasn’t until the building of the railways that water
More than a dozen have been classified as ancient monuments. All form part of France’s heritage
Many of the 16,000 landmark chateaux d’eau dotted around France have been turned into works of art
France’s most interesting water towers Fontaine du Chateau d’Eau, Montmartre, Paris Elegant octagonal structure built in 1835, now headquarters of a wine society.
Mauguio (Hérault) Round tower rising from the castle mound in the centre of the “post romantic” garden, the Jardin De La Motte. It now serves as a viewpoint.
Houdan (Yvelines) A medieval castle keep transformed into a water cistern in 1880.
Phare de la Méditerranée, Palavas-les-Flots (Hérault) Massive structure rising to 43m high which was turned into a business centre in the early years of the new millennium.
Issoudun (Indre) Brightly coloured rectangular water tower painted by an artist to look like a giant children’s toy. Lagraulet-du-Gers (Gers) A small water tower, brightly painted with murals and converted into a self-catering gite sleeping seven. Luçon (Vendée) Highly unusual late Art Nouveau water tower and electricity power station dating from 1912-13.
Peyrou, Montpellier (Hérault) Perhaps France’s most famous chateau d’eau which stands on the promenade of the same name. Built in 1768 and adorned with Corinthian columns. It is, or at least was, fed by an aqueduct.
Phalsbourg (Moselle) Now a self-catering gite sleeping two or three people 10m above ground, and reached by 53 steps. Philolaos, Valence (Drôme) A giant example of modern art named after the Greek sculptor who designed it. It consists of two white towers 52m and 57m high.
Photos: Pierre Selim / CC BY 3.0
tanks spread through France. Steam locomotives had an unquenchable thirst and many of the oldest chateaux d’eau stand along railway lines. Into the 20th century, most people in France were still fetching their water from the local river or spring, or pumping it out of wells. In 1930, 23% of communes had running water. In 1945, 70% of rural communes still lacked mains supply. From the 1950s onwards, there was a massive programme of building water towers. Today, many communes are proud of their chateaux d’eau. They are celebrated as distinguishing features, as well as being reminders of the benefits of modernity. Every chateau d’eau functions in the same way. When the consumer opens a tap down below, the pressure drop causes the water to flow. The tank is topped up by pump at the water collection or filtration station. Normally, a chateau d’eau will contain enough water to keep the supply constant for 12 or 24 hours, or to ensure there is a reserve in case of fire. Chateaux d’eau are not often found in the cities because the higher demand from a higher density of population is better served by pumping than by gravity. A relatively recent idea is to decorate what would otherwise be something dull or jarring with an original mural. Many chateaux d’eau, therefore, are painted with designs that refer to the local identity, act as welcome signs for the tourist office, or reflect some mainstay of the region’s economy. No wonder that the country’s chateaux d’eau have drawn bands of enthusiasts to catalogue and study them. Website chateau.deau.free.fr, created by Roger Iribarren, is a compendium of reports, pictures and research that answers almost every question on the subject. One good thing about chateaux d’eau is they are always conspicuous and accessible. And even if you can’t get to the top – most are closed to the public but a few have panoramic viewing platforms – you are guaranteed a good view from the bottom. Claude Miqueu, chairman of the board of regulation for the Comité National de l’Eau (National Water Commission) said: “France’s chateaux d’eau have evolved, along with the communes, and adapted to the contours of the territory. “Today, this inheritance has become a rich part of our heritage, still technologically relevant while new techniques of water distribution are developed. “They acquired new value as they are adapted for other uses, such as accommodation and tourism.”
December 2018 Photos: Nick Inman
Chateaux d’eau... from the plain simple to the castles in the air
Romorantin-Lanethenay (Loir-et-Cher) The cutest, if not the most frivolous, chateau d’eau in France, this faux Chinese pagoda is in a park. Sélestat (Alsace) Attractive tower, 50m high, topped by a tank containing 500 cubic metres of water. It was built in the middle of town in 1906 in a vaguely neo-Romanesque style using yellow and red bricks.
‘Franco-British’ novelist and journalist Tatiana de Rosnay talks to Samantha David about Brexit, Paris, her long, bumpy road to overnight success – and why writers have to take a stand SARAH’s Key author Tatiana de Rosnay says success did not come easily for her. And when it did come, it was a struggle. She attracted both fans and haters while also coping with teenage children who weren’t that keen on having a famous mum. She told Connexion: “I lead the life of an ordinary person, with my ups and downs, just like anybody else. The only difference is I have a lot of imagination.” There can be no doubt she has put that imagination to good use as a novelist, journalist and screenwriter. Sarah’s Key was made into a film with Kristin Scott Thomas, and her biography of Daphne du Maurier, Manderley Forever, resulted in all of du Maurier’s books being republished in France. But she said: “Don’t forget that my first success, Sarah’s Key, was the seventh or eighth book I’d had published. I was already 45, so it was a difficult struggle. I was a mum like anyone else and my job wasn’t very important to my kids. It wasn’t easy,
and nor was the huge success of Sarah’s Key. They didn’t like people talking about their mum. They were teenagers at that point and they found it difficult having teachers at school mentioning the book. “It took some adjustment, and I had to learn to draw the line between my private and my professional life. It’s a bit of the old French saying ‘pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés’ (to live happily, live hidden).” She said she was amazed at how many people wanted to meet her when her writing career took off. Many want to be writers, and asked her to read manuscripts. Others asked if she can include them in her books. “I also get people who want to tell me how much they hate me. It’s not frequent, but writers do get haters.” She is particularly outspoken about gay rights – her latest novel The Rain Watcher is about overcoming homophobia within a family when the lead character is coming out. “I can’t tell you the amount of hatemail I got for defending mariage pour tous. I even got handwritten hate letters, and that hit home. “But regardless of the hate, I think writers should make a stand. I don’t do feel-good books, I’m a feel-sad writer. I tackle dark, deep stuff.” Daphne du Maurier has always been a major influence, she said. “Bookworming my way through her books as a child was what made me want to write, and the obsession with the personalities of buildings and the dark family secrets within their walls comes directly from her.” Ms de
Rosnay, 57, was born in Paris, to a French father and an English mother. She grew up in France, Britain and the US, and thinks of herself as bicultural as well as bilingual. “I consider myself Franco-British, although my official nationality is French. “My mother believed because she was born in Rome, she could not pass her nationality on to her children. Now, with Brexit, I don’t want to try.” She described Brexit as depressing. “I didn’t believe for one minute Brexit was going to happen. We were all shocked, just like when Donald Trump was elected. I’m sad to see the mess the Brexit vote has caused. “Britain seems very divided and I think, increasingly, people are unhappy and want to vote again, but some are convinced Brexit is the answer – which is a disaster. It’s really ruined England’s image for me. “The killing of Jo Cox shocked me intensely.” She is even more sad as she loves Britain, she said. “When I was studying at the University of East Anglia in the mid-80s, you could walk around wearing anything and nobody would take any notice. “It was refreshing, being able to dress how you like, and the music was so fascinating and different. “Artists like The Cure and Bowie and Depeche Mode were so creative, they had what we call a ‘grain de folie’ (a grain of madness).” On the other hand, she said she has learned to be proud of being French. “Paris and the rest of France are different things. Paris is a country in
Photo: Charlotte Jolly-de Rosnay
I can see the Eiffel Tower from my window – it watches over me as I write
French Life 13
Author, journalist and screenwriter Tatiana de Rosnay beside the River Seine in Paris, which plays a key role in her new book, The Rain Watcher itself. I love living here because a whole new generation of creative people are emerging. “I can see the Eiffel Tower from my window and it’s like my friend. It watches over me.” The Rain Watcher is set in Paris during a fictitious period of massive flooding. “When I started writing the book, I didn’t realise how central nature would be to the plot. I was interested in the idea that if the Seine floods, nothing can prevent it. Nobody can prevent a storm, a hurricane, a flood. “For centuries Parisians have taken for granted they can control the Seine, but as I was writing the book, it
flooded badly and just as the book came out, it flooded again. We have to realise that the Seine will flood again, as badly as in 1910 and as in my book, which is sobering, especially as I live near the river. If Paris seriously floods, it will be like the Titanic going down. The city will have to be evacuated, which will be hell.” The US edition of The Rain Watcher has been published and is available online, while the UK edition comes out in March. Her coffee table book about artist Tamara de Lempicka (illustrated with photographs by daughter Charlotte Jolly de Rosnay) was published by Éditions Michel Lafon in October.
Art of water divining in France is local sourciery by BRIAN McCULLOCH
Diviner Laurent Cassé at work
WATER divining is an ancient art but the local sourcier is still in demand – and these days can often be found on the internet. Most towns and villages have one and there might also be a magnétiseur, or faith healer, who specialises in pain relief. They could be the same person. In the past, the only way to get to know who they were was by word of mouth. Now, with the internet, the search is easier. Sourcier Laurent Cassé, who lives and works in the Gers, has a website and videos on YouTube. He told Connexion he did not believe in water divining until he saw a sourcier at work, and tried himself. “I was surprised by the reaction of the baguettes (divining rods), which genuinely seemed to move by themselves,” he said. “I wanted to learn more and so started years of training to understand the movement of the baguettes and how to interpret what they mean. “In the old days, the sourcier would be called in to determine where the well should be dug before the house
was built – but also to ensure that, when the house was built, it was not over an underground current, which is bad for sleep patterns. Now it is the other way round. Houses are built anywhere, and afterwards people call in a sourcier to find out if there are underground currents. “Often just moving a bed a couple of metres so it no longer straddles a current is enough to let people sleep.” There are now training courses to learn how to become an effective sourcier but Mr Cassé said many of them try to explain in scientific terms the inexplicable. “I find the most effective sourciers are those who trained themselves,” he said. For finding water he says his success rate is 90%, similar to universitytrained hydrologists. “Borers and well diggers consult me before starting work,” he said. “I email my findings before they start work so everyone knows if I am right or wrong. “Even when I am wrong, I get repeat business because people know it is not an exact science.” He described the sensation of crossing water as an “ill feeling” similar to vertigo, and believes involuntary
muscle contractions make the rods move. “Everybody feels the slight illness but sourciers have trained themselves to interpret it. It is why people sleep badly if there is a water current under the bed.” There is no formal list of sourciers in France. Many are known locally, while a few, like Mr Cassé, have websites. He said he understands the sceptics who doubt sourciers’ ability to find water, as he thought it was trickery too, until his own experience. “I think the reason is found in some of the explanations you hear to explain the phenomena. If you try to use science to explain it, there is already a problem because there is nothing scientific about it. “Science relies on being able to reproduce experiments. But the techniques of a sourcier depend on much more than them and their techniques. The result is the fruit of a conjunction of many parameters which escape most people, including the sourcier.” He also does some work as a magnétiseur (specialising in easing pain by sensing a person’s vibrations and trying to change them) and as a coupeur de feu (helping the pain of
burns to go away, often using old prayers and spells) and says this came about as a result of his sourcier work. “It comes from the same source, working with the immaterial. I lay my hands on people and sense their vibrations. The difference with water is that working as a sourcier I just have to read the situation. To give people therapy you have to try to change the vibrations they give and you cannot just do anything. “It helps some people with the pains associated with radiotherapy and to cope with chemotherapy,” he said. Mr Cassé charges a fee and expenses to find water sources for boreholes. Prices vary between €50 and €200. He does not charge people disturbed by flowing water under their beds. Coupeurs de feu by rule do not take money – and he follows this tradition. While magnétiseurs operate outside the health system in France, he said the number of a coupeur de feu is always available in hospital burns units. “Some nurses in the units practise coupeur de feu techniques but do not talk about it. It is no longer part of our culture, but it might come back, as it has in Switzerland.”
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
Fuel militants have to change their ways because a green new world waits for no one A DEATH and multiple severe injuries were the horrific consequences of illegal road blockades by French car owners protesting at rising fuel prices. The nationwide toll during the main day of action – November 17 – was one run over and killed, up to 400 wounded and more than 282 arrested. Grassroots militants calling themselves the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), after the brightly-coloured safety tops all motorists are obliged to keep in their boots in France, were prepared to risk all on a Saturday when the country ground to a halt. Beyond gambling with their very existence on roundabouts and at other busy junctions, some fought running battles with riot police on streets including the Champs-Élysées itself. Serious trouble in Paris also threatened President Emmanuel Macron’s official home, the Élysée Palace, where a sizeable mob had to be held back by tear gas and batons. Yes, petrol has gone up by 15 per cent over the last year alone, and the figure is 23 per cent in the case of diesel. The cost for both at the pump is more than €1.50 a litre – among the highest in Europe. See page 2. And yes, the blockages have wide support too. Some polls commissioned by motoring organisations show up to 80 per cent are in favour of protests, while petitions against fuel tax hikes are garnering more than half-a-million signatures. Demonstrators argue that those living in the countryside, or in the suburbs of major cities, have no other choice but to use their cars because of the lack of reliable public transport links, and that they cannot afford expensive alternatives. But those who are presenting this campaign as a political struggle against an unfeeling ruling class that is immune to the suffering of the poor need to think again. President Macron’s principal motivation for placing extra tax on fuel was to open the road to the abolishment of all high-polluting cars. Expressing his abject lack of sympathy for those involved in the action, he said last month: “People complaining about rising fuel prices are the same ones who complain about pollution and how their children suffer.” The goal of 2040 has been set as the deadline for outlawing all petrol and diesel vehicles and to replace them with electrical ones, while big cities are being even more ambitious.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has pledged to get rid of all diesel cars by 2020, and she is also introducing some of the toughest anti-car legislation in the capital’s recent history. Last month saw her win a significant legal victory, as the Paris administrative court ruled that roads on the historic and UNESCO-protected Right Bank will be closed to traffic permanently. London Mayor Sadiq Khan is among many in Britain who have welcomed such French initiatives. Commenting on the 2040 time limit, he said: “This radical step shames the timid and insufficient response of our own government to the health threat posed by poor air quality”. Anybody It’s all part of a examining green offensive that Mr Macron Paris traffic describes as an jams at “ecological tranalmost any sition” for a country that cur- time of the rently depends day or night far too much on will see fossil fuels. Meeting global hundreds commitments of single mapped out by the Paris Climate occupant Change Accord cars, many of is also of parathem doing as mount importance. much to clog Clean energy of course comes up the streets at a price, but as the gilets there are proposjaunes als to provide grants for those who won’t be able to afford the new types of cars. Electric and hybrid vehicles are not the only suggested options for the future, either. As in so many other parts of the world, there are currently far too many French who rely on the internal combustion engine for the most basic journeys. Anybody examining Paris traffic jams at almost any time of the day or night will see hundreds of single occupant cars, many of them doing as much to clog up the streets as the gilets jaunes. The situation as it stands is unsustainable. Wholesale change is coming, and risking life and limb to oppose it is as shortsighted as it is extremely dangerous.
hey were touching pictures at the centenary of the Armistice, when Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel held hands in a gesture of reconciliation between the two former combatants. Mr Macron looked both respectful and a little proprietorial; respectful because he knows who calls the shots in Europe, but proprietorial because he is a young head of state with a future, whereas his German partner is a head of government with, by her own admission, mostly a past. Days before the Armistice commemorations, Mrs Merkel’s coalition suffered the latest of a series of reverses in local elections. That defeat prompted her to announce she would stand down from the leadership of her party, the CDU, this December, but that she planned to continue as Chancellor until the end of her term in 2021: though even colleagues think that an ambitious plan, and she may be gone before then. But, of course, Mrs Merkel is not merely the leader of Germany; she is the leader of the EU. That is because Germany is the most populous, and more to the point the richest, country of the 28 currently in the bloc. Does it, therefore, follow that whoever succeeds her, not necessarily as CDU leader but as Chancellor, will automatically assume the leadership of the EU – or could it be taken by Mr Macron, on behalf of France? After all, that leadership is not a constitutional office, it is leadership by perception: Mrs Merkel has it de facto rather than de jure. It falls upon the head of state or head of government within the European Union to whom all others naturally look to give a lead to the Commission and those other institutions that either run or are central to the European project – and that leader, for the last 13 years, has been Mrs Merkel. However, the sureness of touch that won her such widespread respect in the early years has been a little flawed in the last year or two. The main opposition in Germany is now Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a hard-right party whose lease of life appears to have been strengthened by Mrs Merkel herself. Her unilateral decision to give a million German (and, indeed, EU) passports to refugees from the war in Syria was widely criticised even by people not on the hard right; but AfD seized on it as an example of her habit of acting without consultation and without regard for the sensibilities of the German people. There was already concern about the way in which she had put the resources of Germany at the disposal of the EU for bailing out the indigent government in Greece. Aware of the difficulty this has caused, European officials, earlier this year, were keen to publicise a statistic that Germany had made a “profit” of €2.5billion on the loans it had made to Greece. “Profit” was another word for “interest”, and the sum is small compared with the estimated €47.5billion that the German taxpayer has poured into Greece during its bailout pro-
Macron may crave Merkel’s EU crown – but first he must ask if France can afford it
gramme, and which is yet to be repaid. Those figures are important, because if, when he meets Mrs Merkel, Mr Macron is eyeing up the future vacancy for the de facto leadership of the EU, he needs to be aware of what it takes – and what it costs – to fulfil that role. She has had this EU leadership not merely because for most of the 13 years she has served as Chancellor she had exhibited, for the most part, a safe pair of hands; she has had the leadership because she has controlled the purse strings of the EU. She has been, effectively, its lender of last resort. Before Mr Macron decides that he wishes to become the focal point of future European policy, he needs to ask whether France can afford it. France’s contribution to the European Financial Stability Fund has been in excess of €30billion, and it has had about €1.6billion in interest payments. However, the Greek bail out may not be the last the EU has to manage, and certainly not the last financial crisis it will have to deal with – events in Italy, whose budget the EU
Merkel has had the leadership because she has controlled the purse strings of the EU. She has been, effectively, its lender of last resort
has rejected, have without doubt yet to reach their worst. If France, where unemployment is far higher than in Germany, and where – unlike in Germany – the economy is not helped by a currency that is weak in relation to the nation’s domestic economic performance – wants to assume leadership of the bloc once Mrs Merkel goes, it may have to be prepared to put its hand in its pocket rather more deeply. What’s more, nobody believes the Greeks will ever pay back the money they owe – something Germany would find painful to absorb, but France could find deeply damaging. Like Mrs Merkel, Mr Macron has a hard right party as his main opponent too – the Rassemblement National would express outrage at any form of greater European integration, particularly an integration that sent French taxpayers’ money to other European nations where they signally fail to collect their own taxes. When Mrs Merkel finally leaves the Chancellery, Mr Macron will be the more experienced leader of the Franco-German couple, but his country will still not have the economic clout of Germany. For that reason Mrs Merkel’s successor – who, the way things are going for the CDU, might not even be from her party – will effortlessly assume the reins of EU leadership. Mr Macron would be wise to get to know Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – known in Germany as “miniMerkel”, and the Chancellor’s own preferred successor – and Jens Spahn, the health minister, who is highly conservative and was a vocal critic of Mrs Merkel over her passports handout. Either is more likely to lead Europe than he is: not because of any personal shortcomings, but because for reasons of culture and population, France still cannot match Germany’s ability to create wealth.
I’m there for you, whatever it takes
Moving to France brings many changes, not least to family relationships which will evolve with distance... but for some, such as Jill Foxley, the desire to help care for a loved one means long-range challenges
It is six years since my husband Simon and I upped sticks to rural south-west France. I always knew I would be returning to the UK reasonably often to help care for my ageing mother and my first trip back was four weeks after we moved. Thus began a relationship with airports I never expected, with more than 100 flights between Bergerac and Stansted. Like growing numbers of younger expats, we return on a very regular basis. There’s no doubt my mother is a lucky lady. Born in London suburb Hillingdon in 1917, she married my father during the Second World War and they moved to an Essex farmhouse. My two sisters were born 11 and eight years before me so I spent most of my early childhood running wild with my best friend nextdoor, soaking up her colourful Bohemian family life. My mother knows she’s lucky but it’s still not easy. She wants to remain in her home until carried out in a box. Her GP calls her Lazarus. She is in pretty good health, apart from being 101. Almost clapped out, she agrees. One sister is retired and lives across the road from her, the other is retired and lives next door. Yes, no need to ask. I feel guilty. Arguments start, tempers fray, relationships strain; ingrained behaviour forces itself through all our relationships. On a bad day it’s hard. So my commuting has become a way of life for us all. When I expected to be slowing down, I am working harder than ever, with regular Ryanair trips to give my sisters a break, plus fitting in a full-time job. My sisters bear the brunt of this daily. It’s very stressful, the relentless knowledge their days are dictated by caring for our mother for an unquantifiable number of weeks, months or, dare I say it, years. As bickering sisters, we are not pretty. It’s hard for us all, and so much better when we can all pull together. Perhaps, though, it’s hardest for my mother, who experiences frustrations, but cannot now always communicate them. Stepping into her house, my hectic life goes into slow motion. Toilet visits need
assistance and take 10 minutes at least. Meals, enjoyed one day, can be devil’s food the next. Every day is spent either in bed or sitting in an armchair in front of tennis on the TV, depending on how she feels, which is mostly exhausted and sad. Mummy has become thinner between my visits. It’s not something my sisters would notice as readily, as they see her more often. Changes in her behaviour become more frequent and more exaggerated, switching one minute to the next. Tears happen daily, like the often childlike manifestations. However, she’s not a child. She’s a fully grown woman and as her mind comes and goes, so does her physical ability. Some days, for some moments, she is able to walk a few steps with her two sticks. On a bad day, everything has to be done for her. And I mean everything. Often now, it’s 24-hour care, seven days a week. Today, during a new worrying spell, she was trying to recite the 12 times table while pulling at her sleeve for over an hour. There’s the head nodding, too, which goes on for hours. The Bitch Daughter From Hell in me just wants to scream “Don’t do the head thing!”, but of course I don’t and I won’t. Bowel movements assume monumental importance, as does denture fixative. Her frustration is immense; as is ours. Seeing gnarled, arthritic hands struggling with fiddly hearing aids and batteries, I want to step in and help. Sometimes I do,
but others, I feel I am eroding her failing independence even more. No doubt, she’s a tough old bird. There are urine and chest infections aplenty. It was on my visit prior to her 100th birthday celebrations when one of those reared its head. Amazingly, as her fever peaked, the frail and feeble centenarian found strength to start running round her bedroom like a five-year-old. A 100-year-old child. Her eloquent lucidity confirms her as an adult. Just today she was telling me of happy times when she was the only female civilian working at Bomber Command in Uxbridge. Times when everyone was kind to each other, as you never knew if it would be your or your colleague’s or neighbour’s last day. Yesteryear so vivid; yesterday a mystery. Her wish to get stronger increases with her inability to do so. We know it’s not going to end well but how much more does she have to go through? It’s the hardest thing in the world hearing her begging to be released from her life. Knowing you want it, too, floods guilt through every blood vessel. We hang on to the rarer and more precious times when she is the mother I recognise. Yet, despite her deepest wishes, life is hanging on to her. Perhaps packing her off into a care home would have seen her off years ago, but that’s not what she wanted. Perhaps lesser care would have seen her off earlier, but I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had done that. I do it because I love her without question and totally unconditionally. The stress and strain is enormous but I would do nothing else. One day the telephone call will come, or I will walk into her bedroom and find she has started The Big Sleep. Mummy will have breathed her last. Will I miss the ear-splitting TV volume? Not a bit. Will I feel guilty that I wanted to be doing something else on those days she needed me? Doubtless, but I hope I remember I was there when I could be. Will I yearn for just one more touch of her wrinkled hands? You bet. Will I cope? I presume I will have to. Will remaining relationships that have been tested to the limit and back restore themselves? Who can say? But I know one thing: life won’t be the same without her. Until then my commute continues, out of duty, responsibility and courtesy but most of all for love and to say thank you. Because now, Mummy, it’s my time to care for you as you did for me.
Are we making a mountain out of parental equality? As France debates extending paternity leave, Nick Inman ponders equality rights
“What do you mean there is no baby changing station in the Gents? What am I supposed to do if I am a man travelling alone with a baby? Use the Ladies? That’s discrimination.” We have to stop overcomplicating this man-woman, father-mother thing. We’re human beings and we need to treat each other with respect. Many people have a problem with the word “equality”. “How can we be equal?” they ask, “when we are not the same?” There are obvious biological
differences, but beyond those you have to contend with endless exceptions – because we are so varied. We must avoid generalisations such as “men have got it coming because of their bad behaviour”, or “women should be believed in court cases more than men” (assertions made recently in UK newspapers). Equal does not mean identical; it means “doing as you would be done by” and “each according to their needs”. As a man, I expect certain rights and opportunities. If I have them, who am I to deny them to women? Feminism is not just about liberating women. It must also be about liberating men from
burdens of expectation placed upon them. All this applies to parents. They should be free to choose how they divide up or share the duties associated with the raising of a child. Often – but not always – mothers and fathers provide complementary emotional functions in a family. If a woman is entitled to maternity leave as a new parent, the father should be eligible for the same. The Macron government is wrestling with the implications of this. It fears that giving fathers and mothers equal rights to time off work after a birth will stress the economy, but accountancy should never outweigh ethics. A father can be just as active a
parent as a mother and society should aid him, not stand in his way. We may never get things perfectly right but men and women should champion each other’s interests in solidarity. Whether each of us has a good or bad experience of being a mother or father depends on the attitudes of the individuals around us. All we can do is do our best. That means we need to develop interpersonal skills that are not gender-dictated: empathy, listening and the ability to know when and how to offer help. Only when we have halfway mastered these skills ourselves can we pass them on to our children who, we hope, will be less confused than we are.
Les Routiers – the dining concept that is uniquely French by ‘Ross Beef’ The point of a themed restaurant is that its concept is transferable and marketable. But in France there is one kind of dining experience that just wouldn’t travel – those small, independent roadside eateries, les routiers. Leave the autoroute and head into rural France and from 12 until 2pm you’ll find arrays of white vans, trucks and tractors parked up outside inauspicious restaurants. We’re in south Normandy – a largely agricultural area with small towns between fields of maize and grass pastures. Halfway between two towns, along a main road, there is an unbranded, two-pump service station with a couple of traditional stone houses either side. Across the forecourt, a building with a large window and glass door bears the sign Bar – Tabac – Restaurant. Lunch is in full swing and the restaurant is packed. Roofers, builders, road workers and electricians sit shoulder-toshoulder on spindly chairs at square tables arranged in rows of three or four. It’s la pause déjeuner in the unofficial staff canteen of the artisans, workers and drivers of the area. Behind the bar, opposite the entrance, a woman acknowledges our presence. “C’est pour manger,” I say, as she serves a beer, gives change to a cigarette customer and processes a credit card transaction. “Allez y,” comes the response, with gesticulation. “Installez-vous.” We find two places at the end of a row, and “install” ourselves among les ouvriers. We exchange nods as the waitress plonks a small bread basket and bottles of red wine, cider and water between us. “Pour l’entrée nous avons rillettes de porc, ou croissant au jambon, et pour le plat escalope à la normande, ou steak frites.” In this male-dominated arena, she seems to have everyone firmly under control with a finely honed combination of energetic efficiency, authority and charm. We opt for the savoury croissant, with ham, cheese and a white sauce, with the escalope for the main course. The starters arrive almost instantaneously and are soon devoured, being extremely good – accompanied by a couple of glasses of cloudy cider, which we have managed to keep within reach. Our knives and forks are
unceremoniously removed from our plates and placed on the paper table-cloth in readiness for the main course, as the waitress clears our plates. The escalope consists of a flattened turkey breast sautéed in butter, flambéed in calvados and cooked in cider with mushrooms and a reduced cream sauce. A glance along the table reveals similar escalopes and steak frites, as well as several other dishes – some fish with rice and a pork chop with pasta, both with similarly buttery appearances. Crusty bread is ripped apart and often being used to help food on to the fork and mop up sauce at the same time. “Pour dessert c’est mousse au chocolat ou crème brûlée.” Varying size groups are starting to leave le routier, often without paying for the meal. The last of each group signs a little book and receives a yellow copy of the page. Companies often pay for their employees’ lunch and have an account with the establishment, such is the importance accorded to the institutionalised French déjeuner. By this time the dining room is mostly empty. The observation of our co-diners at close quarters has slowed our own departure and the task of clearing the detritus of 50 workers’ lunches has begun around us. We opt for coffee. A stout espresso arrives, the only option being the number of sugar cubes one adds from the stainless steel receptacle placed on the table. And that’s the point. It’s unpretentious. You’ll not find a latte or macchiato here. The reality is le routier is not a concept restaurant at all. It fulfils a primordial function anchored in the French tradition of good simple food without embellishment. It’s not haute cuisine with chic decor, nor is it designed to be. It is an oasis between work and home with a community and network of diverse manual trades people sharing time in a convivial atmosphere. We pay the €24 bill, say our au revoirs and cross the forecourt. Most of the vans and trucks have gone, and with them the soul of the restaurant. It’s the clientele and their upholding of French culinary traditions that make the place what it is, and that’s why les routiers, dedicated to serving the transitory gastronomic requirements of the French, wouldn’t work anywhere else.
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January Janvier The view from Tour Montparnasse, a 210metre office skyscraper with a viewing platform on the top, is deemed by many as the best in Paris. The Eiffel Tower’s observation deck comes close, and draws seven million visitors a year – but, obviously, one cannot see the Eiffel Tower from it. Tour Montparnasse was completed in 1973 and was France’s tallest building until 2011, when its crown was taken by the Tour First in La Défense. Many noteworthy landmarks are clearly visible from the top, including the Dôme des Invalides. This gold-topped former church in the centre of the Les Invalides complex of military buildings stands 107metres high. Inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it houses the body of Napoleon. He died on May 5 1821, aged 51, but was not entombed here until April 2 1861.
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THE French Foreign legion’s official march is called ’Le Boudin’ – the name comes from the sausage-shape of their blanket when attached to their backpacks (left). Which Ardennes town is known for its boudin blanc? Answer on the Back Page
January 6 Epiphany
Sec janvier Heureux fermier Dry January Happy farmer
non-existent. The process for me has so far taken nine months and still no licence. The solution for my foreign travel problem is to apply for an international licence and to do this you need... your current licence. I would advise anyone wishing to change their licence to get an international drivers permit before they surrender their actual driving licence. Jon Lethbridge Maine-et-Loire
I SENT off my application in May this year and thanks to the email contacts you made available I got an email reply in September which confirmed that the recorded delivery of my application had arrived at the office in Nantes. Since then I have heard no more and am still waiting to be
processed. But with time rapidly running out for these driving licences to be processed, how do we obtain a British International Driving Permit (IDP) so that at least we are effectively still allowed to drive in France and the rest of Europe after Brexit? Can we get assurance from the French authorities that as long as our applications for exchange have been acknowledged we can carry on driving on our UK licence even after March 29, 2019? Anna Brunsdon By email Editor’s note: The prefecture at Nantes admits it has not yet been able to deal fully with the backlog but hopes to clear it ‘as soon as possible.’ It is prioritising demands where the licence is expiring. Officials previously
told us that if you have an attestation de dépôt, which lasts 12 months, you can drive while waiting for the new licence. It says gendarmes are aware of the delays and should be understanding if someone is driving on a recently-expired licence while waiting for an attestation. We are not aware this would change, even in the case of a no-deal Brexit, but the prefecture did not respond to request for clarifications on this. As for obtaining an IDP, a document which should usually accompany a non-EU/EEA licence in France, the UK does not issue them to people without a UK address. An alternative, should it become necessary, is a sworn translation of the licence. See page 18, about car insurance during a swap.
HERE is an update to your article on delays when exchanging a UK driving licence (Prefecture explains permis delays, September). My application was received in Nantes on January 11, 2018. I received a letter saying my application had been registered on August 7 and with a request to send in my licence. Nantes received my licence on August 14 by recorded letter. I now wait but contacted them (using the email you gave: firstname.lastname@example.org. fr) to try to speed the process up as I need a licence for travel outside of France. I have now been advised in an email that they are currently dealing with applications received in December 2017! So the improvement you report in your article is
Post-Christmas diets are put on hold until after the last Galette des Rois has been eaten. The cake marking epiphany is either flaky pastry with almond paste or a brioche-style loaf with candied fruit. Whoever gets a slice with a small porcelain figurine becomes King or Queen for the day.
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Mulch ado... In response to November’s Garden Diary, and following this summer’s drought, I concur with all recommended plants suggested and would like to add Nepeta Sp (catmint), which I have found thrives during dry conditions. I am now dividing my existing stock to put elsewhere in the garden. In addition, I only watered pots and not flowerbeds. All pruning and cutback of plants was directly returned to the ground as mulch in addition to the homemade compost. All plants have survived and I have found the soil in excellent order despite many weeks without rain. Jane Shaw Tarn et Garonne
Seeing reds I enjoyed your Around France in Wine feature in the November edition. However, I took exception to one phrase referring to “a few pale reds” to describe the Cabernet franc wines of Chinon, SaumurChampigny and so on. Worth more than that, surely? And the sweet wines of the Layon Valley south of Angers are world-class – indeed the qualities of chenin blanc are almost unique, not only for Bonnezeaux but also for the dry Savennières for example. Jon North, Hérault
Netflix and skills in Watch out English don’t add up at lights Re: teaching languages in France (November edition). Until last term my wife (a UK national) was an English teacher in state collège in the Gers. What Alex Taylor was advocating for children to learn English fluency seems ideal, however I heard daily from my wife about the admin reality. Her rectorate decided that Spanish would be taught in parallel with English, as an experiment. For example, when learning “a table” the kids would also see and learn “una messa”. Admirable, you think. Yes, it created more teaching posts for the Spanish teachers and put pressure on English, Latin and Occitane teachers who were fighting for their lost teaching hours. English was put on the back-burner because “it is easy”, the other language teachers would say, just give them a video and chill out. But we all know that English is only deceptively easy until one screws it up. The motivated children are overwhelmed as to what is expected from them and the unmotivated ones make the classroom hell. I don’t have a solution but here is my experience. I was a secondary mod guy who emigrated to work in
Bremen as a guest worker many moons ago. They gave me a two-year contract with a proviso that I take and pass a German exam after two years in order to have a full-time contract. They gave me a “one to one” teacher to help. My teacher quickly realised that I did not know, from a grammatical point of view, my own mother tongue. She made me dissect English literature and taught me English grammar in German. Once I mastered it, it was just a case of building up my vocabulary. I’m forever grateful to that teacher. The German company then seconded me to France. I found French orthography and pronunciation more difficult, but my German grammar lessons provided a basis to become relatively competent in writing and conversing. It’s obvious that Germanic speakers like the Dutch, Scandinavians and Germans grasp English faster due to similarities in structure and pop culture. Latin speakers master homologue languages faster than the northerners. What counts at any age is: motivation, basic grammar grounding and social insertion ... not Netfix. Jim Scott, by email
They said it …
RE: the Article regarding Traffic Radar Cameras (November issue), I would like to add the following. It is not just speed cameras – twice in a year I have been caught “infringing” a “red” traffic light. I do not believe I did but it is a situation where it is impossible to argue the contrary. The notice arrives 10 to 14 days after the offence, there are no witnesses you can call, and these cameras are not advertised in the same manner as most “speed trap cameras”. I now have eight points due to traffic light cameras, which I would dispute, and am scheduled for a course to recuperate some of them at a cost of €180. There appears to be no flexibility – there used to be a small percentage speedometerallowed error, but this appears now not to be the case, similarly with amber lights. A French acquaintance told me he had received points for the same offence and thought it was because he had stopped slightly ahead of the white line. In future, even if I consider it would be safer to carry on through an amber, I will stop and if someone behind cannot cope with it, then let us hope they are insured. Tony Lea, by email
We’re playing “50 shades of brown” in Europe
At Charlie Hebdo, everyone was waiting for me, even the dead
Current feminism is not for women but against men
Minister for European Affairs on the rise of far-right politics in Europe
The cartoonist, who was late for work when staff at the magazine were killed, in an interview with JDD
The broadcaster and actor discusses feminism during an interview with Le Point
The Connexion letters pages are
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Being French solves it all Many of your letters concern the administrative status of Britons resident in France. The answer is simple: take French nationality. It takes about a year and (as we are in France) is fairly bureaucratic. But once finished it makes life much simpler. My wife and I made the decision we much preferred life in France to that in the UK 35 years ago. Yes, we both speak fluent French and we wanted our children to have both nationalities. For those of your readers who speak good French, go for it, become French! And, unlike in the US, you can retain your UK nationality. Andrew Roberts by email
from all of us at Blevins Franks
British cannot cast Pôle Emploi phishing first language stone
I FOUND your article about how terrible the French are at teaching and speaking English a bit of a cheek (Solving a problem like teaching languages in France, November edition). As a French national who taught French in Britain for 40 years, I can tell you the Brits should keep quiet about others’ inability to learn languages. As to the way French teachers mark pupils’work, so-called “negative marking”, it beats having to give a mark to reward the pupil for having written their name on the paper. Furthermore they, and their parents, show no interest in languages because “everybody speaks English”. In France,
Added extras Letter on car import of the We live full-time in France and recently bought a new car in the UK to export here. It was first registered in June 2018, and ecotax was paid in the UK, but what really shook us was when we came to register the car in France, the cost of the carte grise was – with regional tax and malus (ecotax on CO2 emissions) – €7,268. The detailed breakdown is on the ANTS website where a simulator allows you to calculate the cost of registration. We were fortunate that we could afford an additional £6,600 on top of the purchase price – others may be less fortunate. There seems little on the internet to alert Britons to this substantial cost of registering a UK car in France. Jeremy Morton Deux-Sèvres
English is compulsory up to the age of 18 and most students study two languages. I now live in France and I am appalled by so-called “expats” not interested in learning French! I offer lessons in my area, which is full of retired Britons and have no students. Put your own house in order before you criticise others. Daniele Lebreton-Travis, Morbihan Editor’s note: The article referred to is an interview with one of the authors of a report on the future of language teaching in France, which was commissioned by the French Ministry of Education. It is available to read on the Connexion website, by searching for “Alex Taylor”
Daniele Lebreton-Travis 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 email@example.com
Humiliating faff for carte I have just finished applying for a carte de séjour, and feel angry that as a resident in France for 12 years, I should be subjected to such difficulty. I was asked to provide two copies of marriage certificate (translated), carte vitale, mutuelle, tax bill, photos, passport, attestation from the authorities, proof of house ownership and CPAM attestation. I also took bank statements and proof of ownership of a house in UK and rental statements. On arrival at the prefecture, we were told the papers were incomplete. They needed
You said it … Curfew imposed in French town after car fires “It should be put into place in all French towns and cities. Then there would be a lot less problems at night” K.F. “Why should young people in particular be targeted? The natural corollary is that no one should be allowed out after dark because that is when most burglaries and crimes of violence are committed” M.M. “Should be earlier – 9am would be better! And the same for the UK, then it might stop some of the vandalism” G.B. “It’s because teenagers are bored. There’s nothing for them to do after 8pm in a lot of towns” N.C.
income tax forms for the last FIVE years, again in duplicate. Finally, all papers were in order and our fingerprints checked. We will have to see if our application is accepted. Having not made any demands on the state in my 12 years of residency, I found the whole process unnecessarily complicated and designed to be as humiliating as possible. I see that Europeans in the UK have only to answer three questions online, submit a photo and will receive permission to remain in two weeks. Name and address withheld on request
Is anyone else having problems with Pôle Emploi? Recently I was told that I must put my details online so employers could see my profile and contact me directly. As soon as my profile went online, I was inundated with job offers (obviously spam and phishing). I sent them on to Pôle Emploi, who asked: “How do you know they are spam?” When the same person with different email addresses contacts you for different jobs, you know it’s wrong. I also received a job offer from Pôle Emploi which corresponded with my profile. If I didn’t apply for it, I would lose my benefits unless I had a good reason to turn it down. The job involved a 135km drive twice a week to give two-
hour English lessons. The rate was below the minimum wage! When I pointed out the pay to the agent, he told me I was mistaken. Having worked as a formateur for 30 years, I know the pay structure. I explained about conventions collectives (the rule book for any job in France) but was dismissed, presumably because I’m English My final beef with the Pôle Emploi is receiving minutes of meetings and/or telephone conversations I am supposed to have had with my conseilleur. Each month I am sent a compte rendu of these meetings, which have never happened – no doubt a box-ticking exercise which shows the agent has done their duty. Margaret Lawrence Dordogne
Brexit credit refusal?
Fees lost in translation I think “official translators” are ripping off people using their services. All UK marriage or birth certificates have standard field and column headers. Those parts of the translation document are almost always identical. The variables are dates, addresses and names, which in most cases cannot be translated so, apart from the “Official translator” stamp, we are paying for a copy of a previously translated certificate with the addition of appropriate UK addresses, names etc. Hardly heavy work, copying something that has been copied many times before! I have no objection to paying for these specialists for documents that don’t have such standard formats, but for birth and marriage certificates, charges appear excessive. Barry Moffat by email
I recently applied for an increase on my credit card limit with the Nationwide Building Society in the UK. I was declined and appealed. I have now been informed that my appeal was unsuccessful and the reason was that I “live abroad”. I have asked for confirmation in writing, which to date has not come. I have lived in France permanently since November 2012 and have obtained three increases on my limit in November 2014, February 2016 and February 2017. I am sure this is one of the Be aware, if you have private many consequences of a “No deal Brexit”. car number plates you wish to Mark Workman, by email sell and are about to move to France, make sure to sell them BEFORE the move. I had hoped to sell mine but was informed by the DVLA problems police have in trying that this was not possible as the In general, TV news on to control hooligans who insist car had been officially exported the France 2 channel offers on disrupting the peace. and needed to be “available for reasonable coverage of what is Yes, the UK has its problems, inspection”. going on in France and elsebut so does every other counTheir advice was to take the where in the world. try in Europe and the world. car back to the UK, re-register, But, whether it is Brexit or It’s time France 2 looked elseMOT the car and then the some other agenda, France 2 where other than the other side plates could be sold – highly seems to go to extraordinary of the English Channel. impractical! lengths to highlight UK’s gangKnives, drugs, and all manner Interestingly, the UK website land culture, with a new exposé of unsociable goings-on are not through which I had hoped to at least once a month. exclusive to Great Britain. sell seemed unaware of this. The day I write this we were Tony Lively Peter Hays presented with gangland’s “love Charente Maritime by email of knives” and the continuing
Problems of private plates
Knives out for the UK
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...
Macron defends rising fuel prices “Macron needs to explain why he is making these changes. At the moment he appears to be hurting those living outside big cities” J.H. “When you live a 15-minute drive from civilisation and there’s no public transport, you need a car” S.C. “I’m a frontalier and I live in a village but with a 40km commute each way to work, I have no choice but to use a car” K.H. “I paid €1.22 per litre for diesel in November 2017 and this month the price reached €1.48. That’s a 21% hike in price for the year. Does our pension increase by this amount or dare we charge our clients an extra 21%? No chance” N.C.
French town: Mushroom pickers must wear high-vis vests
“When will the authorities, including the mairies, realise that it is not the fault of the victims but the irresponsible (not accidental) fault of the hunters?” “It is likely that hunting accidents will continue to happen (although one can only hope that they become a very rare event). “But there are also accidents in other aspects of life. Should we ban driving, skiing, climbing, DIY .... simply because fatal accidents occur? I learned to hunt in England in an area where there was mixed use of the forest by cyclists and walkers as well as deer stalkers. There were no accidents.”
French mayors call for €1 tax on online shop delivery “People who live in rural areas already pay extra in travel and taxes etc and it is not always practicable for some to travel to their nearest town to shop” A.T. “I am really happy to support local businesses and even pay higher prices to support them, but it is not always possible.” S.A. “This delivery tax is an attempt at perpetuating high retail prices, trying to defy an inevitable change to 21st-century shopping habits” D.C. “I get things delivered as it’s cheaper than spending an hour in the car each way travelling to the nearest city” C.S.
Does household insurance pay to remove wasps’ nest?
Readers’ questions answered
Send your queries about life here to Oliver Rowland by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
call the pompiers but they will usually only come if they consider it is an emergency and they will bill you, towards the lower end of what a private pest control firm would charge. In certain areas of France the mairie, departmental council or intercommunal body will pay part of the cost of destroying a nest if you use an approved company, so check with your mairie to see if this applies. As for the possibility of the wasps coming back, ask the firm you use if the work is guaranteed in case you find the wasps return within a certain period of time. There is a specific rule regarding how the cost should be borne between a tenant or landlord in the case of a rental home. The part of the fee for the products used should be paid by the tenant and the labour by the landlord, but the tenant should obtain the landlord’s agreement first. If it is clear that the nest was there from before the start of the tenancy, then the full cost should be paid by the landlord.
Is insurance valid during licence swap? I APPLIED to change my UK driving licence to a French one [which now has to be done in writing to a centre at the Nantes prefecture] and have been waiting months for an attestation acknowledging my application. I am now driving on an expired licence and with no attestation. Is my car insurance still valid? H.F. THE PREFECTURE in Nantes previously assured us that it is speeding up processes for this after teething problems with new computer systems. However, it advises not to wait until your old licence is about to expire before applying to swap it and also not to send your British (or other EU country) licence
until you have received the attestation de dépôt letter that you can show to police in case of being stopped. Once received, this attestation lasts up to 12 months, the prefecture said. The prefecture told us that gendarmes are aware of the problems and will usually not be strict about an EU citizen driving on a recently-expired licence because they are waiting for the attestation to come. As for your car insurance, an adviser from AXA Agence International, which provides an Englishspeaking insurance service in France, said it is not a problem if your photocard licence has expired as long as your right to drive is still valid (if your right to drive is subject to a limit, this is
shown with a different date on the back of the card). In the case of British licences, the photocard expires after 10 years but the validity date of your right to drive is shown on the back (usually at age 70, after which the card needs to be renewed if you live in the UK. It is not possible to renew it without a UK address and you must swap to a French licence). The AXA adviser said: “In the case of a UK licence, if it’s only the photocard that’s expired, you’re still legally allowed to drive.” She said the same would apply on a trip back to the UK (although there could be issues with police or car hire firms if you cannot show a current licence). See also Letters, Page 16
You should never try to remove a wasps’ nest on your own Does household insurance cover having a wasps’ nest removed from my roof? What if the wasps come back? G.B. Unfortunately, the cost of removing a wasps’ nest is not usually covered by household insurance and you will have to pay yourself, in the region of €90-150. This also applies to any
damage caused to the roof or other parts of the home by the presence of the nest as insurance policies do not cover repairs of this type as standard (although it is worth double-checking). Removing a wasps’ nest should never be attempted on your own and you should call a local pest removal company (société de désinsectisation). You could also
Are French classes smaller? Can shops refuse Is my expensive new to take change? drug ‘free’ in France? I HAVE heard that class sizes in France are smaller than the UK. Is it true? J.B.
YES and no - class sizes are slightly smaller in France on average than in the UK in primary school, and much smaller in certain primary school classes, following a measure by the Macron government which started this rentrée. However, secondary school classes are on average smaller in the UK. A spokesman for the Unsa teaching union said the average size in primary schools is about 25. Since the rentrée, in certain less socially advantaged areas, called zones d’éducation prioritaire, classes at CP level (the first year of elementary school and first year of obligatory schooling – though this is planned to drop to age three next year) classes have been cut in two, so there are 12 pupils per class. This is known as dédoublement and has been welcomed in theory, though some schools are reportedly having difficulty in terms of where to teach the separate classes and questions were raised about the availability of teachers for the new posts. The smaller sizes will continue to apply in CP and also the following year, CE1. Unsa said teachers say children are learning better thanks to the smaller size. Primary teaching union SNUipp-FSU said the latest figures across the whole of primary school from age three to 10 were 23 per class, but too many were over 25 and in maternelle many have more than 30. They favour a general target of 20 in all classes in éducation prioritaire, rather than certain classes being restricted to 12. A spokesman said: “The new measures have allowed for smaller classes but as few teaching posts have been created for that, it
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CAN a shop refuse payment in small change? J.P.
Primary classes are smaller in France means staff have been taken away from some other classes – ‘extra teachers’ who had been helping with projects in schools, in maternelle, in rural areas…” Recent government figures for secondary show that there are also 25 pupils on average in collège (at this stage sizes are marginally higher on average in private as opposed to state schools – 24 and 26). In lycée they are 30 in state schools and 27 in private schools. Classes are reportedly often larger for science Bacs than literary ones, though there are plans aimed at evening this out. Recent UK government class size figures (state and private combined) show there are an average 27 pupils in a primary school class and 21 in secondary. There are set legal limits on infant school classes, which are deemed to be “large” if there are more than 30 (this is allowed only under certain exceptions).
Are there rules on how much spare diesel or petrol you can keep in the car?
NO, the law (R.642-3 of the Code penal) says it is an offence to refuse to accept payment in coins which are legal tender. However, an EU law (regulation CE no. 974-98 of the Council of May 1998) which was put into French law (Code monétaire et financier article R112-2) states that a shop may refuse this if there are more than 50 coins. The shop may also require another form of payment if they ask you to pay the exact price and you cannot. As a matter of interest, shops are also not allowed to refuse payment in notes, no matter how high the value (eg. if someone pays for shopping with a €500 note) and as long as the price to be paid is not more than €3,000. They are, however, within their rights to refuse payment by card, or below a certain level, as is common in small shops. Cards and cheques, unlike cash, do not have to be accepted as payment as a matter of law.
Is the CESU scheme for paying for workers in your French home available for non-residents
I READ with interest the response in the August edition to a question about 100% reimbursement for the arthritis treatment Adalimumab for someone moving to France. My situation is similar but I have been prescribed a newer drug, Cosentyx. Would this also be available to me? Also, as I am moving as a pensioner, I am worried that there would be a period during which I would not qualify as a resident for the purposes of medical treatment and that I may need to take out a private policy. Is that right? C.J. YES, this treatment, which is also fairly new in France, is reimbursable here, at the usual 65%, or 100% in the case of someone with a recognised affection de longue durée (ALD), which would be the case if you suffer from certain serious arthritic conditions such as the first reader. However, rheumatologist Charley Cohen from Paris said it is considered an exceptional treatment, to be used because other standard ones have not worked. To be prescribed it, you need to see a rheumatologist in
Do you need to change the speedometer to use a British motorbike in France?
a hospital. It costs around €600€1,200 per monthly injection. He said the treatment is a kind of biothérapie which stops the development of the illness. “It’s only used in severe cases, when we’ve tried other local injections or pills, and we need to act quickly.” Most people who move to France initially use cover from an EHIC form, aimed at treatment that becomes necessary during a visit to the country, and then move fully into the French system once they have settled in. If you are a UK state pensioner, make sure you have an S1 form from the DWP, which guarantees your right to join the system in France and which you can use to register with a local state health insurance body (Cpam). Only early retirees need a private policy. Brexit is creating uncertainty but if there is a deal, healthcare arrangements would be protected for pensioners coming before 2021. If there is no deal, it would depend on what measures the UK and France and/or the EU take to remedy this but those established before Brexit day are expected to be prioritised in terms of protection of their rights, including healthcare.
Is it true that ground subsidence is not covered by household insurance policies?
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Make sense of
French motorway art
Bob Elliott from telephone and broadband provider, UK Telecom, answers your queries
Image: Frédéric Bisson, flickr.com
GIANT boars, cockerels, horses and strange geometric shapes sprout from the roadsides of the motorway network. Why? Because of the 1% artistique, a law dating from 1951 which aims to support artistic creation and encourage the populace to appreciate modern French art. The law says that whenever a new public building goes up such as a school, police station, court or library – 1% of the cost of construction should be spent on one or more works of art to be integrated in the building or located near to it. The 1% is calculated on the total, pre-tax cost of the work minus architect’s fee, roadworks and furnishings. If the money is less than €30,000, it may be limited to buying a ready-made piece. If it is more than this, an artistic committee is set up to put the work out for tender and commission the
Image: Alacoolwiki, fr.wikipedia.org
Q. I am aware that France is in the middle of a major investment in its telecommunication network. How soon will this affect the average customer like me?
(left). Others leave you scratching your head, such as the 25m-tall Signe Infini (1994) to the north of Lyon – a version of the infinity symbol in steel – or the Vrilles Lumineuses (1995) at Rogerville in SeineMaritime, which is two big screw-shaped lit-up masts. Some art inspired by local culture is still not obvious at first glance: Sur la trace des Vikings (On the trail of the Vikings) on the Autoroute de Normandie at Tourville-laRivière, looks like a ball with arrows attached (bottom left). Les Chevaliers Cathares (1980) near Narbonne in the Aude (top right) has been described as resembling bunkers or burqas and is probably the only motorway art immortalised in chanson – Francis Cabrel wrote an unflattering song about them.
A. The first sign will be for those wanting to have a new line. Analogue line installations have ceased and a new service is offered. Most homes that already have a line will not be moved on to it until 2023. This is something those able to have a fast broadband service (2Mbps) already use. Known as VOIP, all their calls are carried by their broadband service, which has the benefit of no monthly line rental. It is possible these improvements will not reach all those in rural locations. They will be offered a connection to the national network using a 4G box but this will require a good 4G signal to be present. For those in urban areas, the Fibre To The Home service continues to expand. This is
much faster and generally more stable. It is perfect for those who enjoy gaming and downloading films, although it will come at a higher cost. For now, Orange and SFR are the only owners/operators of the fibre networks, with UKTelecom partnering with SFR to bring it to eligible customers. Many other companies will make similar arrangements so you may not have to change to sign up. There have been some other significant changes at SFR. They have been buying TV channels and have reached an agreement with Netflix (access to the French film library) to provide video on demand and they have exclusive broadcasting rights for major football competitions. Telecom companies that partner with SFR, as we do, will be able to offer subscriptions. There may be further changes as telecom firms move towards a broader entertainment service.
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
material. A boar is the Ardennes’ symbol so this one had an obvious local significance as does the Poulet de Bresse (1999) at Dommartinlès-Cuiseaux in Saône-et-Loire
Q: My husband and I have decided to bite the bullet and move to France now in case residency rules become more difficult. Our house in the UK is on the market and we are hunting in France. What is the best way to bring funds over? Image: Util5814 fr.wikipedia.org
schools and higher education – the next one will be March 30 to April 5 2019 – promoted by the education, culture and agriculture ministries, to celebrate the 1% art associated with educational buildings around France. It was extended to buildings associated with other ministries during the 1970s and finally autoroutes in the 1980s, although because of their very high cost it is technically 0.1% in their case. As a result, so-called art autoroutier has art, with advice from the flourished, a cousin of the art conseiller en arts plastiques (art giratoire that can be seen on adviser) from the regional many French roundabouts and directorate of cultural affairs which is funded by local (Drac). In theory, any branch authorities. As it is very visible, of art can be involved, whether it reaches people who would sculpture, painting, light or not go to art galleries. sound installations. The artist The artist benefits from a does not have to be French but “right to have their art respected”, and it Our main image cannot be moved or was drawn for changed without Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. their permission. Regional committees For more of and the private his work see motorway managewww.perrytaylor.fr ment companies are involved in commissioning the art for motorways. should be set up for tax and “Motorway art” ranges from a social charges in France. classical column broken into The 1% artistique concerns pieces between Saint-Etienne all central state constructions and in some cases local author- and Clermont-Ferrand (called ity ones. It also comes into play La Colonne Brisée, 1984), to a horse sculpture l’Archeval for major renovations of a site, (1997) at Vivy, Maine-et-Loire, if a change of use is involved. or Woinic (2008), a 50-tonne It is estimated that more piece at a service station at than 12,000 projects by 4,000 Saulces-Monclin in Ardennes artists have been involved in (pictured right) said to be the total since the law was passed. “world’s biggest boar”. The scheme was associated Woinic cost the Ardennes first with schools and was council no less than €650,000 championed by sculptor René and it has trademarked its Iché. Les Journées du 1% artisimage to use in promotional tique is held in some years in Image: BlueBreezeWiki . fr.wikipedia.org
As you drive around France you may see large-scale art on the sides of motorways – due to a typically French law, the 1% artistique
A: There are various ways in which you could transfer your funds to France but one of the most cost-effective methods is to use a specialist currency broker, avoiding the transfer fees charged by banks while also securing a more competitive exchange rate. As even a slight discrepancy in the exchange rate you secure can mean a difference of thousands on large transfers, achieving the best rate is essential if you want to get the maximum return. On top of this, leading currency brokers also offer a range of transfer options to help you make the most of positive rate movements and plan your transfers for the right time. One particular service that may be of interest to you is a forward contract. Any transaction involving property – whether you are buying or selling – can be fraught with delays and it can take time for everything to be finalised. The exchange rate could weaken, which in the era of Brexit is an all too real possibility. However, with a forward contract you can freeze a rate for up to a year. While this means you would miss out if the rate suddenly strengthened, it should provide you with time to hunt for your dream home, knowing exactly how much the proceeds from the sale of your UK one will be worth when transferred. You could also use a rate alert service to target a particular rate. Tell your provider what exchange rate you want to achieve and they will let you know if the market moves to that level. While Britain’s future outside of the EU remains unclear, the right currency provider can help you navigate these uncertain times and ensure you maximise the returns of your pounds to euro transfer. Email your currency queries to email@example.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
Educating future stars of sport, stage and art If youR child has an interest or gift in sport or the arts there are state schools where they can mix normal school work with additional lessons in their specialist subject. Some 2,000 secondary school collèges and a smaller number of lycées have a section sportive (you may also hear them called sport-études) and they cover about 90 sports. Many specialise in football – there are 615 across the country that focus on “the beautiful game”, followed by 281 in handball and 218 in rugby. Others teach swimming, tennis, gymnastics and skiing, while two schools are specialists in squash and one in boxing. Four schools have a sports section for disabled pupils. Pupils follow the same mainstream lessons as everyone else in the country but with an extra three to eight hours of sport a week, plus competitions at weekends or in the evenings. This is on top of EPS sports lessons written into the timetable for all pupils. It is difficult to get a place, however, as they are popular and accept only between 15 and 20 in each class. Students must have good overall marks to show they can cope with
My children said it was magical because they did not have to sit in a classroom all day and it kept them constantly challenged Parent Murielle Mahé
general lessons as well as their sport. They also have to show they have regularly taken part in a sport and belong to a club. Recruitment may be at local, regional or national level. Interested parents are advised to contact collèges at the beginning of the second term of CM2 at primary school or get in touch with potential lycées while children are in quatrième. It may be possible for children to board at the school if the nearest one is not within easy travelling distance or if the sport needs it, eg. a mountain location for skiing. There is a higher-level intensive sports education system for those who have already been spotted as potential national sportsmen or women. They are the Pôles Espoir (for those who hope to represent France) and Pôles France (international competition hopefuls). They can train for up to 20 hours a week and will either do their academic work in a school or by CNED (distance learning). Sport prodigy Romane Zillhardt, 14, is in her first year of lycée at Bordeaux in a Pôle Espoir, where she specialises in volleyball. She was spotted as a potential future national player at her club in Sarlat and, after a rigorous selection process, was picked to follow an education regime unlike regular lycées. Every day, she has four hours of academic lessons, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, and has to catch up on some lessons via distance learning. She also has to do four hours of training – two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon or evening. She has a further 90 minutes of personal study time for her homework in the evening. She will do the same bac as other students and has to keep up with her studies to ensure she does not miss out on a quality education and future career options after her sporting life has ended. Romane is one of a class of 18, who all do different sports and who have different timetables as the hours of
Photo: Jane Hanks
Options are available for children who show an aptitude for, or interest in, sport, music, art, dance or theatre, Jane Hanks learns
Promising volleyball player Romane Zillhardt trains for four hours a day as part of her daily school routine
sport they do depends on their speciality and their trainer. She studies in one school which has a sports section, boards at another and trains at the Centre de ressources, d’expertise et de performance sportive (CREPS), where many high-level sports people in the regions train. At weekends she plays at least one match with her club. Despite the heavy schedule, Romane says she is in paradise: “I have less school and more
sport; more autonomy as I board and have to look after myself. I have met lots of people who love sport as I do and because I am in a team sport, there is a really good atmosphere.” Her mother, AnneCécile, says such commitment requires support from the whole family: “The education is free, but it will cost us around €6,000 in boarding fees, plus €300 a month to CREPS, train fares to and from home, and we will have to find a family for her to stay with at weekends so she can go to her sports club as school boarding is closed and her club is far from home. There are some grants we are looking into.” Despite the high financial price, Mrs Zillhardt believes it is a wonderful opportunity for Romane: “She will have a good education and a good chance of playing in competitive sport for her career, which is what she wants to do, and the CREPS and the lycée take good care of their students.”
Music and the arts For pupils interested in the arts, there are special classes in certain primary schools and collèges where you can have music, dance, theatre or art lessons that are not available to other students in the school timetable. They are called classes à horaires aménagés (CHA) and are CHAM for music, CHAD for dance, CHAT for theatre and CHAAP for art (arts plastiques). The 120 conservatoires countrywide have to offer them as part of their
remit. Parents are free to apply for a collège or primary school which is not in their town, but there will be a selection test in the chosen field. Murielle Mahé, president of FUSE, an association which represents families with children studying the arts, said: “It gives an opportunity for children who might not otherwise have been able to learn an instrument, because it is free or very low cost and because parents do not have to find time to take their children to lessons outside school hours. “We’d like to see more. It is difficult to find out how many of these classes there are but most are in music, with some in theatre, dance and art.” She says there are other schemes: “Some primary schools and collèges have classes orchestres and classes chorales which you cannot apply for from outside the school, but you benefit if your child happens to be in a school with that facility. There will be music lessons for the whole class within their curriculum.” Mrs Mahé lives in Paris and her four children have all opted for a system that is so far only available in the capital. They go, or have been, to state schools linked with two conservatoires in Paris (music), the Opéra de Paris (dance) or la Maîtrise de Radio France (choir), where students have school in the morning and their specialist lessons all afternoon. They can start when they are in primary school. “My children said it was a magical opportunity,” says Mrs Mahé, “because they did not have to sit in a classroom all day and it kept them constantly challenged. “There is a lot of competition. At the Conservatoire de Paris there are up to 1,000 auditions a year for 200-300 places. It shows there is a demand and we would like to see more set up in other parts of France. “Funnily enough, there are a lot of Japanese children but not many British, so perhaps they don’t yet know about this scheme.”
Save your money like you do your food – larder, fridge and freezer Money Matters
Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains. www.kentingtons.com MANY of you who have read this column for the years we have been writing it have noted that we have never discussed saving or investing money. Instead we have focused on French tax and legislation affecting the lives of those moving to, or living in, France. What better time to discuss it than the festive season, when manic retail therapy and overindulgence makes finances go a little awry? When it comes to money, few people actually plan their futures beyond next week, let alone next month or decade. This is where the outside view, given by a professional, is useful. What we see is many people using UK-only investment and saving structures, saying they do not know the options in France. Let’s see if we can remedy both of these at once. Separate your money into different “pots”.
As a guideline I suggest three: short term, medium term and long term. Short term: this should be where you have immediate access, so instantly available. I generally suggest six months forward income, with three months being the absolute minimum. This can be a savings account, so we suggest the Livret A or Livret de Développement Durable (LDD) as these are income and social charge free. There are limits, but for a couple this amounts to around €70,000, which is good enough for many people. A useful hint: these accounts may lose up to 15 days’ interest when you take money out, so to stop this loss of interest, withdrawal is best after either the 15th or 30th of the month. It is not advisable to leave too much on a current account, for reasons of poor return and banking security. Medium term: this is where access is not immediate, maybe taking weeks. This may be a compte à terme (term deposit), or a long-notice account, where interest rates (insulting though they are these days) are higher than in instant access.
This can also be in an assurance vie, using the fonds en euros, which gives a better return than many deposit accounts. Such funds should never be deemed instant access, especially since they are not cash. The amount you place here is more a buffer for the next pot, and depends on your aversion to investment risk/volatility. Long term: this is investing, so should be money that you have no plans to touch for the next five to 10 years. In France, it is common to use an assurance vie for this purpose, but a PEA (plan d’épargne en actions) or a compte titres, akin to a stockbroking account, may also be used. These are generally stock market-related, investing in funds, stocks and bonds, so you need to be happy that values are volatile. A full analysis of your tolerance for volatility is vital before placing any money at all. For this critical pot to work properly, the other two pots are essential and need to be managed, or the long-term pot will end in catastrophe. It is easy to mix the medium and long-term pot with an assurance vie, as they can hold the fonds en euros and funds, known as unités de
compte. Note that an assurance vie is never suitable for short term. For those who plan to draw an income, it is a question of planning what is required for the next few years and keeping this in the fonds en euros, with the remainder (or what you are comfortable with) in market-based investments. Many years ago, I had a colleague who described saving as being like storing food. We have the larder, for things that will be eaten soon, the fridge for things we want to last a little longer, and the freezer for things we might keep for a while. Prior to the existence of microwaves, this was an accurate analogy, but it still paints a picture and serves as … well, food for thought! Long-term investing is often the pot people ignore the most, but it is more important than ever because of low to zero interest rates, and remains important no matter what the economic environment. Keeping things in the UK is rarely a good option for French residents, causing complications for currency, succession and inheritance as well as losing out on significant tax savings. Now I have made you feel bad about spending your money, Joyeux Noel!
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2 France in space
French Living I December 2018
Stellar journey: France’s place in the space race With a film about the moon landings and lunar anniversaries coming up, Samantha David examines France’s space-bound history and talks exclusively to its only female astronaut Photos: ESA
n this coming year people all over the world will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human to walk on the Moon. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 Mission astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landed the lunar module (codenamed ‘Eagle’) on the Moon’s surface and the next day Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. A biopic about Neil Armstrong (First Man) has already been released and throughout 2019 we will see a plethora of other space-exploration events commemorating the first moon walk. Officially, the US won the Space Race – but France’s contribution to space exploration has always been substantial. Exploring the universe through science, engineering and technology has been a French obsession for centuries; an item looking exactly like a rocket even features in a French tapestry dating back to 1664. Jules Verne wrote De la Terre à la Lune in 1865, George Méliès’ film Voyage dans la Lune was made in 1902, and throughout the 18th century Frenchmen including the Montgolfier brothers attempted to take to the skies. Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac managed to reach 7,016 metres above the earth in 1904. Between the wars, several French aerospace engineers were designing rockets and who knows what the outcome might have been, because of course the outbreak of the First World War effectively grounded their dreams. As soon as the First World War was over, however, the French love affair with space began again: the Laboratoire de Recherches Balistiques et Aérodynamiques (LRBA) was set up in 1946, and in 1961, Charles de Gaulle’s government created the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) to coordinate French space exploration efforts. It is based in Toulouse rather than Paris, in order to take advantage of the clearer skies. French researchers started developing Europe’s first carrier rocket, the Diamant, and by 1965 France was launching beta satellites. Space exploration is expensive, however, and success depends on international cooperation. It is pointless researching information which has already been discovered in another country; scientists and researchers need to work together. So in 1973, France was instrumental in setting up the European Space Agency (ESA), and the French contribution to its budget remains the largest amongst the agency’s member countries. In fact, at €2,438billion, (or €37 per year per inhabitant) the French space budget is the second largest in the world after the USA. It
is even larger than the Russian, Chinese and Japanese budgets respectively. ESA’s main spaceport is in Kourou in French Guiana (before which it was in Algeria) and it boasts the world’s most successful record of space launches. The French were amongst the collaborators on the Herschel Space Observatory, and the Planck Space Observatory as well as the Copernicus Programme (which monitors the earth’s biology). CNES has even provided cameras for an Indian mission to the moon which was launched in January 2018, and they collaborate with China too, notably on the France-China Oceanography Satellite which studies ocean surface winds and waves. France was also a major player in the 2018 InSight mission to Mars and is involved in multiple future projects. French space exploration has also launched a few slightly more frivolous quests. French chef Alain Ducasse worked with Hénaff to provide gourmet French cuisine on the ISS (International Space Station) and Mumm champagne hired Parisian design firm Spade to come up with a bottle and glass which would make it possible for space tourists to drink champagne in space. (Yes, it’s tricky, but tests in September 2018 showed it can be done.) And when young French astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent half of 2017 on the ISS, his social media posts from space ensured that he was a star in France even before his feet touched the earth again. France has produced ten astronauts (the UK has produced six), including their
Above and inset: Claudie Haigneré waves from inside the cramped Soyuz space capsule; Inset: Claudie today
I was just 12 in 1969 when the Americans landed on the moon. I longed to go into space like them Claudie Haigneré, Astronaut
only female astronaut, Claudie Haigneré. A qualified medical doctor and neuroscientist, she was an astronaut with the CNES from 1985-1999 and with ESA 1999-2002. She spent 16 days on the Mir Space Station in 1996 as part of a Russian/French mission and became the first European woman to work on the ISS, spending 10 days there in 2001. “Going into space was a fantastic experience,” she told Connexion. “I was just 12 in 1969 when the Americans landed on the moon, and I longed to go into space like them. I became a doctor, and then one day I saw an advert recruiting people to become astronauts with CNES and I jumped at the chance.” The selection process was extensive, she says. Candidates underwent tests to certify their medical fitness to go into space, as well as their psychological aptitude. “But I made it and had the honour of being selected. I was the only woman, but think it’s very important for women to take part in space missions, in all scientific projects actually. I was very pleased to see Donna Strickland win the Nobel Prize for physics, and Frances Arnold win the Nobel Prize for chemistry last October – it’s a step towards women’s achievements being recognised.”
The making of an astronaut
Astronauts need nerves of steel and a background in science, but they are also selected for their psychological qualities. They need to be adaptable, to find solutions to complex problems fast, and they need to be team players, neither too passive nor too active, able to find consensus in the group. “And astronauts have to be able to learn languages,” says Claudie Haigneré. “We all had to learn Russian because the training for the Mir Space Station was all done in Russian. We did part of our training in Russia in fact, so
it was very much a linguistic immersion, but also a cultural one. “You have to be able to learn how Russians think and interact... you need people who can operate efficiently in international teams. I love that. Learning Russian was really hard but I really enjoyed my time in Russia.” She says that the relationship between the French and Russian space agencies went back to the end of the Second World War, when De Gaulle was very keen for France to take a leading role in space exploration. “Relationships have evolved today, and now the scientific community cooperates across borders despite the politics of the day. The ISS is not only a fantastic scientific laboratory and a wonderful technological achievement, it is a magnificent diplomatic tool; it’s where an international community – who trust each other implicitly – work together.” She says being launched into space wasn’t frightening. “After so many years of training I was completely prepared and looking forward to it, but it was an extraordinary experience. The physical sensation of lift off, the acceleration, getting into orbit in just over 8 minutes... and then you experience micro-gravity and that’s an extraordinary freedom. The reality is more beautiful than you can imagine, because without gravity you use three dimensions, you have complete liberty of movement and from the window you see the earth, isolated in space but so beautiful; blue and white, stunning colours. You see its fragility, all alone in space, the vulnerability of the thin atmosphere which protects it.” She admits to a tiny tear in the corner of her eye, but says she had complete trust in herself and in her colleagues during the launch. “I was excited, focussed, vigilant, concentrated, and because
France in space 3 Photos: Samantha David
Photo: Cité de l’Espace/Manuel Huynh
December 2018 I French Living
How to be a space tourist...on terra firma
Keen to explore France’s long history of space exploration, intrepid Samantha David visits Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse
T everything went well, with no glitches, in some ways the real flights were easier than the training because in training you prepare for everything which could go wrong, so it’s more stressful. “The Soyuz capsule is very small, it’s an exceptional experience curling up in the seat, and the journey to the ISS takes 48 hours, which is quite a long time. It’s not very comfortable but when you look out of the window, it’s magic. I first saw the northern lights from space. “I had the impression of being in a science fiction film. Watching the space station get bigger and bigger as you arrive is amazing and when you get there, you have to learn to get around without gravity, so the first day is weird because you’re learning to control your movements, and adapt to being weightless. “But within 24 hours you feel like you’ve always lived in micro gravity. And then you have to start work. The ISS is basically a huge laboratory for researching micro-gravity.” She says sometimes astronauts amuse themselves by letting a ball of water float around the space station. “And if you clap your hands and smash it, little droplets of water fly everywhere.” If someone ever cried in space, their tears would float. “But I’ve never seen anyone really cry. Water is in short supply, and you have to be very careful about liquids, you can’t get things wet. Once a week you have to clean and tidy the station, wipe it down, clean it up.” Astronauts can take a few small items into space with them. “I took photos of my family, plus my daughter’s little teddy bear,” she says. “My husband [the astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré] took the same bear on his space missions. We shared him. I also took a few books and some music but you don’t really have personal time in space. You work quite a lot and
also you spend time sharing your feelings and sensations with the other astronauts on the station. “Of course, most are men, only 10% of astronauts are women, but female astronauts have held all available positions on board; engineer, scientist, pilot, and commander. We all return to earth very aware of what a marvel the earth is, how fragile and isolated. It doesn’t have infinite resources, and the cosmos is quite hostile, there are no protecting elements there, there is no way to live without our planet.” Claudie Haigneré still works at ESA, developing new ideas for future space exploration, one of which is a ‘Moon Village’ by which she means a concerted effort from national and international space agencies, academic communities, commercial space tourism companies, and other commercial ventures who might want to use the moon’s resources, increase knowledge of the moon, or establish commercial ventures there. “The idea of establishing an outpost on Mars is still very far off, it’s technically so complicated that it won’t happen any time soon. But it might be possible to establish a permanently inhabited base on the moon by 2030. The longest time a human has spent there is just 72 hours, but it could be possible to live up there for up to six months at a time.” It’s a wonderful adventure, she says, an amazing project, a partnership between government agencies and private companies. “Such a project would have to involve all countries. I hope we can all cooperate and do it together. It’s a peaceful, collaborative concept with a range of diverse partners. “And why not? So much the better if our work makes people dream, excites them, expands horizons and possibilities. We need dreams, we need aspirations. It makes us excel and surpass ourselves.”
Above: Educating and entertaining the next generation of space explorers at Toulouse’s Cité de l’Espace
he ‘Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse is not just another theme park. It aims to provide real education about space exploration in a way that is accessible and interesting to everyone from children to space geeks. The history of space exploration is described in detail, as are all the technical developments, and daily life in space. What is it really like spending Christmas Day on the ISS? Do they get Christmas dinner? (Yes, but if you hold your nose while you eat you’ll get an idea of how tasteless food is in space). How do you go to the loo in space, where everything (yes, everything) floats? (The answer is: with caution!) It is a fascinating trip through a completely different world. When I visited, the highlights were definitely the “walking on the moon” experience and curling up in a real, genuine Soyuz capsule (inset). On the ISS there is almost no gravity, but there is a little more on the moon. Astronauts walking on the moon weigh six times less than on our earth. To see what that is like, you are strapped into a seat attached to the ceiling by massive springs, which then allows you to walk on a replica of the moon’s surface. It’s a very bizarre experience, and hugely fun of course. You only need the slightest touch of your foot to send you bouncing high off the ‘moon’. You can also explore a Russian training replica of a Mir space station, exploring the controls and seeing the upright pods where astronauts sleep, but for me the highlight was curling up in the seat of a Soyuz capsule, ready for take-off. The Cité de l’Espace has a real capsule, which was constructed for training purposes, but which has never actually flown. A Soyuz rocket has three sections; an orbital module which provides accommodation for the crew during their mission, a service module containing instruments and engines, and a re-entry module which returns the crew to earth. Here,
astronauts lie on their backs in an almost foetal position in order to withstand the vibrations of take-off and landing. Each one is tailor-made for each astronaut, again in order to give maximum support and protection, so the Soyuz capsule which transports crew members to the ISS then stays there until the same people use it to return to the earth. The orbital and service modules are destroyed during re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere; only the re-entry module survives, but it is so heat-damaged that it cannot be used again. At the Cité de l’Espace you can climb into the Soyuz module and curl up in an astronaut’s seat. Imagine what it must be like to know that you’re about to be launched into space – it gave me a tantalising glimpse of the fear and excitement that astronauts must feel, however welltrained and prepared they are. Elsewhere in the Cité, there is an interactive exhibition explaining some of the skills astronauts learn, including doing dexterous tasks upside down, and catching a ball you can only see in a mirror. The Cité de l’Espace also keeps up with current events in space. Philippe Droneau, the Special Advisor to the CEO says, “We don’t aim to be a theme park or even a museum. We aim to provide a window giving a view of space exploration as it happens. For example, this autumn when the FrancoGerman robot MASCOT landed on an asteroid, we did an all-day live broadcast open to the public.” If you want to meet an astronaut, he suggests attending one of the evening events. “We often have talks where the public can ask questions. Last year we had 110 astronauts here for a conference.” For the 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the moon, the Cité de l’Espace is planning a series of special events and celebrations throughout the year, plus a major commemoration on July 20. Full details will be available at www.cite-espace.com nearer the time.
French Living I December 2018
‘You need to know about colour and form and each window is a creation’ Jane Hanks meets a window dresser whose job is to tempt you into shops this festive season One of the Christmas traditions is to admire the beautifully decorated shop windows in the big cities across the world. In Paris, the Galeries Lafayette’s vitrines are the ones to see. Dressing windows is an art and a job. Morgane Cordillot is a Décoratrice Merchandiser and she runs a busy agency working for brands and chains such as Etam and Optic 2000 and teaching her skills. How did your passion for creative work begin? I come from a family where my parents thought I should get a proper job, and so after I left school I began a university degree in literature. However, I did not enjoy it and found myself spending more and more time walking up and down the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and staring at the shop windows. One day I saw someone actually making up a window for Repetto. I plucked up my courage and asked if I could watch her and help her, to learn how she worked, even though I was not even sure that this could be a job for me. She was very kind and helped me a great deal. I signed up for the Ateliers du Louvre to learn about everything artistic and I loved it. I discovered that I was not an intellectual and that the world of art and making things with my hands was for me. I then applied for a place at the Ecole de la Fabrique, which is a Paris Chamber of Commerce school teaching Fashion and Decoration. However, I did not get a place because I did not yet have the right qualifications and background so I enrolled for a Mise à Niveau en Arts Appliqués, MANAA, which gives students who have not studied art at school the chance to catch up on their skills. After that I was able to get a place in the school, and ten years later, I teach the art of window dressing at the very same school, as well as working to create windows for shops myself. Are there many places where you can learn this job? There is just one public school in Paris, but several private ones throughout France. Many people may be surprised that you have to study to become a window dresser and perhaps think it is the shop’s sales staff who do the work. People do not realise it is a real art and requires several skills. You need to know a great deal about colour and form and each window is a creation. What is the importance of a well dressed window to a shop? My job is to attract people on the street to enter the shop, where they might then be tempted to make a purchase. 50% of clients in a shop are there for pleasure
not to make a specific purchase, so you have to tempt them in. It is a challenge because people no longer walk leisurely but walk fast and if they stop in front of a shop it will be for an average of just five seconds. Each shop window must tell a story, so that the person will want to go in. What elements do you consider when you create your window? You must make sure the products on display are at the ideal height of 1.60m – at the level of the passer by’s eyes. Colour is very important. One rule is not to use more than three colours unless it is for a carnival display or for children. Some colours give strong messages. Red attracts attention, yellow announces the sales, and green is associated with organic products, for example. The fewer the colours and the more neutral they are, the higher the quality and the more expensive the product or brand. The colour you use in the window does not have to be the one the customer is most likely to buy. In a clothes shop I might use an orange jumper to attract attention. Inside the shop a customer might choose the same style, but perhaps in a more sober colour. One method is to use the triangulation principle, as when objects are placed in a pyramid the eye travels to the top, then moves down to the right and back across to the left and this makes people really look at the goods in the window.
Above: An example of Morgane’s festive window dressing at Laura Ashley; Inset: Morgane at work
The colour you use in the window does not have to be the one the customer is most likely to buy Morgane Cordillot
How long before a window needs to be changed? Between one month and six weeks. Customers are always looking for new ideas and if you change your window frequently they will want to see what is new inside. It also depends on the type of product. In a pharmacy, for example a client will come back once a month to renew their prescription. Whilst in other shops, such as a patisserie, the theme will follow the seasons with the Christmas bûche, and perhaps a bell at Easter. Do fashions in presentation change? All the time. At present the fashion is linear with for example the same products lined up, in different colours, so you have to be aware of the trends. How long does it take to create a window? First you have to design it on a computer and send a proposal to a client who will choose which window dresser to employ. Then you have to create the décor, either yourself, or you will have to research it and buy it. The actual window itself can take between two hours and three days, but I would say about five hours on average. It is a very physical job because you are always on the move. I walk between nine and 10 km a day! Do you specialise in certain types of products? You have to be a bit like a doctor who is a General Practitioner and be prepared to work in every sector. However, there are areas I am happiest in which include
interior design, opticians and women’s clothes and I would prefer not to do a man’s clothing shop as I would not feel at home with it. When is your busiest time of year? September to December is very busy because there is a lot of demand for windows for the Rentrée and then, of course, there is Christmas. That starts at the beginning of November and lasts until mid-December. During that period I often do 2 windows a day, whereas the rest of the year it is more likely to be one a day. Christmas themed windows are essential, if not the shopkeeper looks as though he has made no effort at all and no-one will want to buy from him. It makes people happy to see a beautiful Christmas window. Is it difficult to come up with new ideas every year? In fact it is a period of the year when people prefer to keep with tradition, so innovation is not a must. There are different trends though. This year wood is really big. Pools of iridescent colour and gold and bronze are also popular. What do you like about your job? I love my job and I would not want to change, because it is different every day in every way. I meet different clients, work on a huge range of different products and I am in different places. I can be creative and earn a living at the same time and my parents have now come to terms with my job and are very supportive. It is worth finding what you really want to do. Above all, what I love is that this job gives me freedom to create.
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6 Gardens/Green news
French Living I December 2018
The man who makes Monet live on
Jane Hanks speaks to the new head gardener at the late, great artist’s wildly popular garden in Giverny, Normandy
Ice-free record at Pic du Midi The Pic du Midi de Bigorre (HautesPyrénées), the 2,877m high mountain peak and home to an astronomical observatory, was frost-free for a record 108 consecutive days from June 14 to the end of September. Météo France said this is the first time since 1882 – the year when temperature measurements began – that the unenviable milestone has been passed. The previous iceless record was 77 days, in 1999. Maximum temperatures in the Pyrenees could rise by up to 7.1 degrees by the end of the century, according to a scenario based on the current trend identified by by Climpy, a cross-border research project between France, Spain and Andorra.
The Le Clos Normand area, first planted by Monet with iris, narcissus and tulips; Inset: the pond and Jean-Marie Avisard ed an oriental theme by planting bamboos, maple trees, Japanese peonies, white lilies and weeping willows and then he planted the waterlilies. He did so, he said almost by chance: “I love water, but I also love flowers. That’s why, once the pond was filled with water, I thought of embellishing it with flowers. I just took a catalogue and chose at random, that’s all.” After his death, the property fell into disrepair until Monet’s family left it to the Académie des Beaux Arts in 1966. It was not until 1977 that enough money could be gathered together to start restoration work on the house and garden. Much of the money was given by rich American patrons and work was overseen by Gérald Van der Kemp, who had been involved in restoring Versailles. Using archive material, paintings and memories from people who knew the garden, the plants he used were found, whole areas were cleared to be replanted and the Japanese bridge, which had rotted was identically reconstructed. In Photo: Pascalou Petit
Photos: Fondation Claude Monet
alf a million visit Giverny in the Eure every year to see the garden created by Monet. It is unlike any other garden because it was designed like a painting, where colour is of supreme importance. To achieve the natural look of the garden, which requires thousands of plants to make it look so colourful, requires an immense amount of work from the gardening team who toil all year long, unseen for the most part by the public. Jean-Marie Avisard is head gardener. He has worked at Giverny since 1988 and took up his new responsibilities in April this year when the previous head gardener retired. He says this garden is so special it takes years of experience to understand it: “One of my challenges in taking up this role is to put together a new team of gardeners as many are nearing retirement age. It is not the kind of garden you learn about at horticultural college. You have to know about plants but also have an artistic streak. There is a great deal of creation involved. It is a garden with its own style, neither classic French or English.” Claude Monet lived at Giverny for over 40 years, until his death in 1926. When he first came to the house there was a one hectare garden with an apple orchard, a kitchen garden, a long alley and flowerbeds bordered with box. This area is now called the Clos Normand, and Monet immediately set to work to make it the garden of his dreams. He replaced the apple trees with cherry and apricot, got rid of the box and introduced the metallic frames which are still there. In a garden which continually evolved he planted daffodils, tulips, narcissus, iris, oriental poppies and peonies and many others. On the left side of the garden he created rectangular beds of single colours, which resemble the paints on an artist’s palette. He would continually experiment with new plants he discovered. The water garden with the famous lilies came later. In 1893, he bought a piece of land situated at the end of the Clos Normand and diverted water from the river Epte to create his pond, because he loved studying the play of light and reflections of cloud on water. He recreat-
Monet had eight gardeners but we need more as it has to be perfect every day for a huge number of visitors Jean-Marie Avisard, Head gardener at Giverny
Nice tops most polluted list Nice in Alpes-Maritimes has come bottom in a poll of the most polluted cities in mainland France, according to a study conducted by L’Express newspaper. For a year, from April 1 2017 to March 31, 2018, L’Express collected air quality data for the 100 largest French cities. Nice has ‘very mediocre air’ for a total of 67 days according to the ATMO index, which provides daily information on ambient air quality in major French cities. Other cities from the Region Sud just behind Nice are Avignon (60 days), Marseille (57 days) and Aix-en-Provence (54 days). “Pollution episodes are caused by high levels of ozone, linked to sunlight, or by high emissions of primary pollutants from industrial activity and road traffic,” explains Florence Péron, (air quality monitor) Airpaca’s manager in Nice.
1980, Giverny opened to the public. Mr Avisard has a team of 11 full time gardeners plus apprentices and others who are on internship. “Monet had eight gardeners, but we need more as it has to be perfect every day for a huge number of visitors, and we have less time as our main work has to be done when the visitors are not there. This means we have to start very early in the morning.” Next to the garden are greenhouses and polytunnels where 180,000 annuals, bi-annuals and perennials are grown from seed every year. “We do not buy plants from nurseries because we want to be sure we can get the varieties we want.” Throughout the season there are several time consuming daily jobs: “If you want continuous colour, you must take off the dead flowers, so the plant does not produce seed heads and stop flowering, so dead heading is one of our most important jobs. This year we also had to do a great deal of watering, because of the unusually dry summer.” The water lilies need cutting back. Plastic cutlery banned by 2020 Having already banned in June the use of plastic straws and twizzle sticks, the French government has now voted to outlaw the use of single-use plastic cutlery and containers – meaning no more disposable knives and forks for your picnic. “Let’s make sure we attack the next decade by moving away from this plastic dependency,” said MP François-Michel Lambert after the vote in the Assemblée Nationale. There will also be a ban on “food containers for cooking, heating and serving in plastic” by 2025. Sea tyre ‘reef’ is an environmental failure A ‘reef ’ made of 25,000 old tyres aimed at rejuvenating wildlife off the coast Antibes in the 1980s has been removed from the Mediterranean over pollution fears. The tyres were deposited with the agreement of local fisherman and regional
“Every day someone goes out in a boat to trim and tidy the lilies, so they keep on flowering and so they look as much like the paintings as possible.” The gardens are closed to the public from November to the end of March, which gives time for the gardeners to prepare for the next season: “From November 1 onwards it is a race against time. First we take out all the annuals and dig over the soil and at the same time we dig in manure. Then we plant the bulbs. First the tulips and then the smaller ones. We plant 15,000 every year and dig them up again after they have flowered. Even though this is labour intensive, we do this to make sure that we will have strong flowers every year and to enable us to change stock and variety.” The water lilies have all their leaves cut back and the rhizomes are left underwater in the pond. They will start to grow again once the temperature reaches 16°C. The roses and trees are pruned and the annuals are sown and other plants are potted up to be planted out later. Since Mr Avisard took over, he has stopped using any chemical products and uses auxiliary insects to kill any unwanted pests and makes up nettle, comfrey and other natural solutions to act as fertiliser. Giverny is a garden that is constantly changing with the seasons. In the spring there are pansies, blossom and many different bulbs. In early summer there are a multitude of poppies, irises and peonies. June is the month of the rose and the water lilies begin to flower. In July, there are snapdragons, begonias, geraniums and many more followed by dahlias and gladioli in August. In autumn, the Clos Normand area is covered in nasturtiums of different varieties and purple dahlias stand out. There are rudbeckias, cupheas and aster and the sages are purple and blue. This requires planning: “We always have to be looking ahead,” says Mr Avisard. “We have to order seed many months before the plant will be in the garden.” Mr Avisard says most visitors come in May and June, but that there is always something different to see in this most beautiful and unique garden. fondation-monet.com Open November every day except Thursday 14.00-18.00. authorities but by 2005 studies found that toxic heavy metals were being leaked into the sea. And local fish never took to their new home. “We hoped (back in the 1980s) that we could restore aquatic life there, but it didn’t work,” the deputy mayor of Antibes, Eric Duplay said. Périgueux crèches clean cleaner In the latest move towards eco-crèches in France, 15 crèches in the town of Périgueux, Dordogne, have opted to use only cleaning products that have no potentially corrosive, allergenic or carcinogenic properties. Instead, the 200 employees will use white vinegar and black soap as well as a detergent and a dishwashing product bearing the Ecocert label. The move is aimed at protecting the health of both employees and pupils.
December 2018 I French Living
Hellebore, a fine festive flower
Grower’s digest The woodcutter’s story Bûcherons (woodcutters) preparing for some dormant winter tree chopping or heavy branch pruning might need a new élagueur (pruner) or tronçonneuse électrique (electric chainsaw). A handy alternative for those trickier high branches is this telescopic pruner (Elagueuse sur perche) by Gardena (pictured above, model TCS 720/20, price €152.90 from www.gammvert.fr). Pruning of trees is not recommended in autumn unless branches are dead or hazardous. Also, in winter, branch structures are easier to spot.
Photos: DR/Zara Home
Create your own interior Eden Winter gardens were originally huge conservatories built by European nobility in the 17th to 19th centuries to house tropical and subtropical plants. The more modest domestic equivalent is, of course, a furnished conservatory (called a veranda in French) that also houses plants not hardy enough to weather the ravages of winter. The price you pay depends on build quality and spec, with places such as Leroy Merlin offering entry-level verandas in kit form with a 10-year guarantee. Do not forget to adhere to the correct planning protocols via your mairie. As for which plants to choose, passion flowers, lemon or orange trees and mimosa can lend some much-needed colour for those gloomy winter days.
They are picky but Christmas roses are great inside and out, says Cathy Thompson Insta-jardins
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 some autumn colours snapped at Parc de Sceaux by ml.c58. The house and gardens are just 30 minutes south of Paris and ideal for a day out from the capital.
French garden diary
o you know the story the little shepherdess called Madelon who met the three Magi on a hill above Bethlehem? At first excited, she then wept because she had no gift for baby Jesus. But hey presto, an angel turned her tears into the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger. It will soon be everywhere in the shops – so Madelon’s lack of gift has bloomed into our ideal present for someone who loves flowers in the home at Christmas. Better still, after it has finished flowering it can go into the garden. The reality is a little different, isn’t it? For a start, H. niger rarely blooms at Christmas. You can wriggle out of this small problem by pointing out that the Fête des Rois is January 6 – and the hellebore does often seem to make this calendar appointment. The next problem is that it does not always do so well in the open garden. This is a plant that comes from woodland edges in the mountains of southern Europe and it really does best in quite an alkaline, rich, loamy soil with good drainage. A wet spot, or one in full sun, is unlikely to suit. Due to its aversion to excess water around the neck, you must be sure not to set the collar of the plant below ground and ensure it gets plenty of water up until midsummer and a fair old bit of drought after that. Oh, and it does not like wind either. Do not lift and divide once in more than every eight years – it does not like being disturbed in the garden (do any of us?). If you really want to make more, do this in spring while the soil is still
moist and make sure your divisions are large enough – better still, you could try putting them in pots of potting compost until they are growing on strongly. If you save seed, sow it as soon as ripe in July or August. Put the pots of seed outside in a sheltered spot and keep them moist. No germination will occur until the following spring, since the seed needs winter cold to break dormancy. It takes plants 2-3 years to flower. The specific name ‘niger’, by the way, refers to the black roots. From the time of the ancient Greeks the Christmas rose has been included amongst the four classic poisons – the other three being nightshade, hemlock and aconite. Do not be afraid, however, the real plant is not as toxic as it sounds, although in the Middle Ages it was used to provide poison arrow tips. Nevertheless, it has been used by herbalists for centuries. John Parkinson wrote that the plant is ‘good for mad and furious men, for melancholy, dull and heavie persons, and briefly for all those with
It does not like being disturbed in the garden (do any of us?)
blacke choler, and molested with melancholy.’ Quite a claim, but does it work? There is a much more positive, centuries-old belief, however, that if you bring
the flowers of Christmas rose into a room they will banish an unpleasant atmosphere and promote peace and tranquillity. It all seems a little contradictory, does it not? And here we have our next problem – bringing them into a room if you have not bought them in a pot. My hellebores usually flower too late, the stems are often too short and the flowers are never the pristine white you want. Fortunately, there are solutions. This is perhaps a perfect plant for forcing in pots in a cold greenhouse. Alternatively, set glass bell jars or cloches over the plants when they begin to flower and use a slug/ snail deterrent. There’s nothing so awful as a flower that’s supposed to be pristine with half its face eaten away. Some recommend that you watch out for Helleborus niger ssp macranthus in order to guarantee long stems, but there is a modern alternative – a ‘new generation’ of Christmas rose that breeders have worked on for our delight. I’ve discovered two cultivars called ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jonah’, although it is hard to purchase them. Dutch nursery Kwekerij Verboom has bred a plant guaranteed to flower with decent stems at Christmas – ‘Verboom Beauty’ is available from those lovely hellebore people at Ashcroft nurseries in England – and they mail order to France. OVER TO YOU What’s your favourite Christmas plant and how do you look after it after it has flowered? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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8 Big interview
French Living I December 2018
‘In the end, the power of love is all’
As one of France’s most admired environmentalists, Pierre Rabhi advocates a simplified existence in order to live a sustainable, happy life. Jane Hanks falls under the sage’s spell in an exclusive interview
ierre Rabhi is a French farmer, writer, philosopher and environmentalist who is well known to the French as a man who has been promoting an alternative, simpler way of life for many years, long before it became fashionable. He is now 80, but retirement is not for him as he continues to strive to create what for him would be a better world, with less emphasis on making money and more on being happy with what we already have. Just recently a report from the government environment and energy management agency body Ademe quoted an Ipsos study which found that most households thought they had a total of 34 electronic pieces of equipment, but in fact the figure is closer to an astonishing 99 and that people buy three times more now than in 1960. One of Pierre Rabhi’s many books, Vers la Sobriété Heureuse, was translated into English last year, The Power of Restraint. What did he mean by this title? “We live in a world where there is part of it which is suffering from over consumption and throws too much away, and another part where there is still famine. We produce 40% more than we need. “One fifth of our world, of which I am a part, uses four fifths of the world’s resources. I cannot morally accept that situation. To change that we need to adopt more modest lifestyles. In our society we have more than enough to eat, but even then we are not happy. “There is no joie de vivre. People in the West are always worrying about what they do not have, rather than enjoying what they do have. If we were producing all these goods and people were satisfied, then maybe our civilisation would have been successful, but people are not happy, so we must change things.” Pierre Rabhi’s image is that of a benign ascetic man, who wears simple clothes; one of his trademarks is the check shirt, cord trousers and braces he nearly always wears. Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, Culture Minister, Françoise Nyssen and former Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, have all been quoted as saying they have been influenced by his work. Showbiz characters too, such as actress Marion Cotillard have said he has guided them for years. He has not avoided criticism and one journalist for Le Monde Diplomatique, Jean-Baptiste Malet, wrote an article pointing out that the agricultural methods he promotes have been marked as unscientific by some, that the success of his farms depend on unpaid volunteers who are there to learn the new techniques and that for someone who leads a simple life he rubs shoulders with rather too many millionaires. When you talk to him though, there is no doubt about his sincerity in the message he is trying to get across, despite the complexity any social theory confronts. He recognises that he is now one of the people in the world who has a comfortable income, and he agrees there are levels of poverty in the western world which are too low as money is necessary to provide basic needs. He is convinced of the virtue of the agricultural policies he is promoting. When I talked to him on the telephone I
was struck by the genuine tone of his voice and his willingness to give up time to talk at length to me, and in consequence Connexion readers about the urgency of his simple message that we must do something to change our society. Frugality was the norm He was born in Algeria, where his father was a blacksmith and he remembers those early days with pleasure as he saw his father working his forge and welcoming friends in front of his shop where they talked, drank tea, told jokes, laughed and also discovered serious issues. He remembers also the square in his town lined with shops and other artisans premises and that every day, songs wafted out of the workshops like small bits of serenity. He says frugality was the norm but the people living in extreme poverty lived also in a culture of hospitality and charity. He recognises that it was not perfect, but that it was better than the alternative when the French found coal mines and the local people went to work in them, including his father, who he says then became sad: “I was influenced by my childhood, where I saw people who lived a simple life and who helped each other and when they had enough to eat they were happy. There was a kind of joy in their simplicity.” His mother died when he was four years old and his father was worried about his
I do have faith in women in the future because they are not like us. I think it is women who will help bring about change
son’s education and sent him to live with a childless French couple in the north of Algeria. Later he went to Paris and found work in a factory, which he says made him realise he could not subscribe to a “model of society that clearly alienated the individuals within it.” He met his wife Michèle there and together they decided to get back to nature and in 1961 they moved to the Cévennes hills in Ardèche, where they have lived ever since. He could not, at first, get a loan to buy a farm without an agricultural qualification and so studied for a Brevet d’Aptitude Agricole (BAA, agricultural competency certificate) before launching into a life on the land. His aim was not to make a fortune from farming, but to provide enough to live on. They did not have mains water for seven years or electricity for thirteen years. This was at the period known as the Trente Glorieuses, when the French economy was booming and people were leaving the countryside for the towns while Pierre Rabhi was doing the exact opposite. Anyone who has come to live in France for the good life will know that
you quickly learn that living off the land is no bed of roses and Pierre Rabhi does admit there were difficult moments: “At the beginning when we started our farm it was hard. We had no money, but I had a brave wife and I was good with my hands and could get other work to make ends meet and we pulled through. My children helped too. We were always encouraged when people came to visit and who were appreciative of the way we had chosen to live.” We can’t get no satisfaction In The Power of Restraint, Pierre Rabhi talks about money not being able to fulfil every desire, the disaster of chemical agriculture and a disconnection between mankind and nature. In fact, for him a key to changing the way we live is for more and more of us to adopt a back to the land approach, where we grow as much of our food as we can, or at least buy locally, using, of course organic means to do so. He has developed a form of farming called agroecology and he says you can grow anything anywhere, even in the most inhospitable of climates using these methods: “With agreocology, you produce food in line with nature and not against it. I have set up many organisations, which
Big interview/Trending 9 Photo: Jane Hanks
December 2018 I French Living
Leaving home: coworkers reap benefits of office use experiment to get the most out of the earth. It is not just with permaculture, but uses many techniques. All of it uses zero pesticides. I do not believe in reasonable agriculture, where some chemicals are used sometimes; I think it is too ambiguous. “One of the most important books I have written, which was awarded a prize by the Ministry of Agriculture, is L’Offrande au Crépuscule [The Dusk Offering] published by L’Harmattan and describes how we used agreocology to produce food for local people in one of the most inhospitable areas, the Sahel region adjoining the Sahara Desert. “The ideal is to keep on experimenting and finding new ways of producing food in line with the laws of nature instead of allowing our agriculture to be dominated by the Petro-Chemical industry.” He says the food we eat in the western world is tainted: “At present what we produce is toxic with too many pesticides. Somebody said to me that when we eat we should not be saying “bon appétit” but good luck, because you don’t know what is in your food. It is why there are so many cancers and other diseases. If you pollute the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat, people will be ill. We are destroying our world everywhere.” He says that talking is not enough: “I think it is urgent that we do something to save our planet. I have written alot of books but you cannot just have the bla, bla, bla. You need action too. That is why I have set up so many associations which are out in the field trying to introduce new ways of providing food.” The associations he has set up are: Les Amanins, an agroecology study centre at La Roche-sur-Grâne in the Drôme; Colibri, a platform for meetings and exchanges; the Ferme des Enfants, a school using Montessori methods on a farm at Lablachère, Ardèche; the Solan Monastery, in the Gard, where fifteen nuns from seven different nationalities were among the first to adopt agroecology; and Terre et Humanisme, which practises and teaches agroecology. He has taught his agroecology in Mali, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon among others, to improve the food autonomy of local populations so that they need not depend on humanitarian aid. He has written a charter for the earth and humanity, with a subtitle: What kind of planet will we leave to our children? What kind of children will we leave to our planet?
He is particularly savage when he criticises the present education system. “Education is very important. I deplore the system of education when instead of teaching children to support and help each other, we teach them to be competitive and do better than the others.” And he is convinced that women will play an increasingly crucial role in ensuring the future of the planet, saying that the subordination of the feminine to an extreme and violent masculine world remains one of the major impediments to the positive evolution of mankind: “I do have faith in women in the future because they are not like us. They gave life and are less aggressive and are beginning to show their strengths and I think it is women who will help bring about change.” His view on our present lifestyle is bleak: “To move forward we need intelligent people who understand that something needs to be done. There is a huge imbalance between urban life where there are too many people and the countryside, where there are not enough to produce the food we need in a sane way. “I think at present there are both unintelligent people who are leading us in the wrong direction and intelligent people who can see the problems. I think there is some hope as there is more and more demand for a new way of life. My assistant has 600 requests a year for conferences where I talk about changing lifestyles, so a great many people want to think and hear about it.” So what can we do as individuals? He feels that if everyone changed just a little things could be different and that individual effort is worthwhile. One of his favourite fables is that of the humming bird who faces a forest fire. All the animals flee, but the humming-bird continues to take tiny beakfuls of water to the flames. “Are you mad?” cry the other animals. “You cannot put the fire out on your own. “I know,” says the hummingbird, “but I will have done my bit.” “But it has to be done with love and respect for humanity”, says Pierre Rabhi. “It is no good eating organic food and installing solar panelling, if you do not embrace the rest of mankind and share your experiences with them. In the end, the power of love is all.” For the moment he has no intention of stopping his work. “I cannot give up yet. As long as I have enough energy I will continue. Also, if I did stand down I am not sure who would replace me so I have to keep going.” www.pierrerabhi.org (French only)
Above: Pierre Rabhi visits Burkina Faso for an international agroecology meeting Opposite, bottom: Centre Amanins, an agroecology farm and school in Drôme
Every edition we assess an emerging aspect of French zeitgeist. This month: freelancers who share office space, by Jane Hanks
oworking is becoming an increasingly popular way to work, so that even if someone is self-employed they can leave home to go to the office where they can meet up with other people, both socially and for business contacts. They will rent a place in a shared office, instead of working from home or renting expensive premises. The concept and the word coworking was used for the first time in 1999, by Bernie de Koven, an American game designer and it quickly took off in AngloSaxon countries. Now it has also become an established alternative way to work in France, and the number of available spaces has multiplied by ten in the past five years. When the government asked for a study into coworking in France this year they thought there were 600 centres, but discovered there were 1,800, including just over 400 Fablabs which offer shared technical equipment, rather than just a desk. The author of the report, Patrick LevyWaitz told Le Figaro he had been surprised by the huge growth in this field: “What was also striking, was the extent to which the way people work is important to them. There is a significant desire to create something different.” As a result of this report into what official documents call tiers-lieux, the government has recognised it as a way to attract new businesses and workers in low employment areas and has promised to invest €110million over three years from 2019. The aim is to create 300 centres in small and medium sized towns, rural areas and deprived city suburbs. The report found that at present the vast majority are in Paris, with the NouvelleAquitaine in second place. A coworking space, Le 400 in Brive-laGaillarde, welcomes the new government investment: “We are happy! Happy for us, because we need support, but happy for all the places in France, which believe, like us, that there is another way to work.” Their slogan is “A place where you feel at home even though you are at the office.” Sabine Chouffour works designing heating systems in eco-housing and says she really appreciates Le 400. “I worked at home for eight years but then wanted to be in contact with other people again. Here it is affordable, so I come three days
a week and it is interesting to meet other people with different jobs and we talk about a whole range of subjects.” Micha Cziffra is a translator: “I have been able to get involved in new projects. When you want to work people respect that, but there is always someone to chat to when you have a break.” You can rent a desk with free access to WIFI for €9 a day, €125 for one month, or €100 a month if you agree to stay there for a year. bureauxapartager.com is a website which posts spaces to rent. It has studied 600 coworking spaces and found that coworkers are made up of freelancers, start-ups and small businesses. However, 20% of places are rented by big companies, who need to send an employee to another location, for a short period of time, for example. Reasons given for people to cowork were firstly to meet people and develop networks, secondly for the situation and to have access to good working conditions and thirdly the price. A real estate market research company JLL study says the coworking market has seen an 80% increase in operator activity in coworking between 2016 and 2017 and
It is interesting to meet other people with different jobs and we talk about a range of subjects Sabine Chouffour, Coworking space user
says there is no reason to think this trend is slowing down. The report points out that in the UK, there are now 3,300 centres, far more than in France, and the growth in independent workers will demand more and more coworking structures. Eurostat figures show the number of freelancers has grown from 700,000 four years ago to 830,000 in 2017 and that by 2030 independent workers will make up between 13 and 14% of the working population, many of whom might prefer to go out to work in a shared office space, rather than staying at home.
10 December What’s on
French Living I December 2018
Lights of Christmas blaze across France Fête des Lumières, Lyon, December 6 – 9
Photos: bord. Inset: Tilt © M Chaulet - Ville de Lyon
This weekend sees Lyon swell with visitors, making the hypnotic festival of lights the third most attended event in the world after Rio Carnival and Munich’s Oktoberfest. Rooted in the traditional celebration of the Virgin Mary on December 8, nowadays the enchanting spectacle spills across four days. Tea lights placed on window sills cast a golden glow over the city, where more than 50 installations captivate crowds in squares, parks, on bridges and across historic façades. The festival’s push on sustainability means that miraculously, only 0.1% of the annual energy consumption of the city’s urban lighting is used. Keep an eye out for installations at the newly restored Place des Terreaux, which will be transformed into an outdoor cinema with movies projected across the famous Lyonnaise landmark: the Hôtel de Ville. fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/en
More December events Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show, Paris, until December 29
The convention-defying designer, responsible for Madonna’s conical bra and the iconic bust-shaped perfume bottle, breaks the boundaries yet again with this show that takes on 50 years of popular culture. Through a combination of dance, cinema and circus, Gaultier revisits his inspirations in this 15-person performance with a soundtrack masterminded by Nile Rodgers. jpgfashionfreakshow.com/?lang=en Les Rencontres Trans Musicales, Rennes, December 5 – 9 Since 1979, Rennes’ eclectic musical festival has been reputed for putting some of the biggest names in music on the map: the likes of Björk, Nirvana and Daft Punk played here on their first European tours. Originally a rock festival, now the mixed-tape approach to programming incorporates rap, folk, hip hop, techno, jazz, world music and
electro. Expect a diverse array of music from international musicians in the Parc Expo, just outside the city centre. lestrans.com Critérium de la Première Neige, Val d’Isère, December 7 - 16 The major rendez-vous celebrating the first snows of the season sees ski champions descend on Val d’Isère, to compete in the World Cup men’s and women’s ski championships. Join in with the animated atmosphere as athletes fly down the pistes. worldcup-valdisere.com/en Les 24 Heures des Menuires, Les Menuires, December 8 - 9 From 9.00 to 10.30 the pistes of Les Menuires in The Three Valleys are open with an abundance of snowy activities for the opening of the ski season. The programme includes a ski slalom, cross-country race and the descent of the flaming torch, as well as concerts, fireworks and fondues. lesmenuires.com/hiver/activites/grandsevenements Habits de Lumières, Epernay, December 14 – 16 This sophisticated celebration of champagne is anything but humble. This year futuristic flying machines inspired by Jules Verne will parade down the Avenue de Champagne, where illuminated popup bars from the grand champagne houses sell flutes of bubbles. Fireworks, musical performances, video installations and art displays ramp up the festivities. Highlights include champagne-themed culinary performances from the region’s Michelin starred chefs, a Christmas-themed dessert competition and a vintage car procession. habitsdelumiere.epernay.fr/en Jazz au Fil de l’Oise, Val-d’Oise, until December 16 For 22 years, winter along the river Oise has been welcomed with the jazz festival that takes place in towns dotted along its
banks. A range of jazz and improvisation musicians play intimate concerts: highlights this year include flautist Joce Mienniel performing his ethereal melodies during an evening of music and gastronomy at the 13th century Abbaye de Royaumont and experimental jazz group GoGo Penguin in Cergy, December 1. jazzaufildeloise.fr/programme.html Christmas markets, Grenoble, until December 24 Grenoble’s diverse Christmas markets leave you spoilt for choice. Foodies should head to the Place Victor Hugo where fine food purveyors sell cheese, meats and hot cider. Try a tipple of Chartreuse, the local herbal liqueur brewed by monks. Then there is an artisan market, international craft stalls, music, circus performances and plenty of locally grown walnuts to snack on as you browse. marches-noel.org/marche-de-noel-agrenoble
Christmas in the capital, Paris, throughout December The lights of Christmas transform the French capital from the end of November until the New Year. The Champs-Elysées dazzles with grand lighting installations and all Paris’ districts from Place Vendôme to Saint-Germain-des-Prés have their annual lights-on celebrations. Ritzy department stores Printemps Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette and BVH Paris curate beautiful window displays and a 300-stall Christmas village comes to the esplanade of La Défense. A little outside the city, festivities of a gourmand nature take over the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, where gingerbread and candy canes adorn ceremonial rooms. en.parisinfo.com/what-to-do-in-paris
Romeo and Juliet Ballet, Versailles, December 28 – 30 The star-crossed story of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy is translated into dance, set in the sumptuous surrounds of the Palace of Versailles’ Opéra Royal. The Italian-inspired setting lends itself perfectly to the Veronese plot, the choreography for which Ballet Preljocaj was awarded a Victoires de la Musique in 1997. tinyurl.com/y9524gl2
Truffle markets, Richerenches, until March 10 Winter is the season of France’s favourite mushroom and sees a flurry of trufflerelated activity across Dordogne and Provence. Over 70% of the aristocratic fungi are grown in the Vaucluse region, grown most commonly around hazel and oak trees. In Provence, trufficulteurs descend on the Knights Templar village of Richerenches. The woody smell of truffles pervades the market, held in the l’Avenue de la Rabasse (truffle in Provençal) where connoisseurs sell, sniff and talk truffles. Tastings of omelette made with freshly dug-up truffles are a highlight. richerenches.fr/richerenches-in-english.html
Soleils d’hiver, Angers, until December 31 The seat of the Plantagenet family and home to the impressive Château d’Angers, Christmassy festivities take over the town in the form of fanfare parades, a glittering Ferris wheel, carousels, Santa’s grotto, an ice rink and wintery gift stalls. Shop for stocking fillers or simply enjoy the fairytale ambiance of Anjou’s medieval capital with a mug of steaming chocolat chaud. tinyurl.com/ybrwn6rt
Chinese Lantern Festival, Gaillac, until February 6 Gaillac is twinned with Zigong in Sichuan province, hence the town hosts the largest festival of Chinese culture in France. Among the 500 illuminated sculptures on display, a glowing bamboo forest lights up the night, there are performances of traditional Sichuan dance, a lit up ‘sky temple’ and a Franco-Chinese Christmas market, as well as a multitude of Chinese food vendors. festivaldeslanternes-gaillac.fr
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.
December 2018 I French Living
What’s on/Cultural digest 11 Big art and the voice of Johnny A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life
housed in a former warehouse. Its Gustav Klimt show has proven so popular it has been extended until January 6. The paintings are projected up to 10 metres high and enhanced by a bespoke soundtrack featuring Beethoven and Chopin, piped in through loud speakers. “I am convinced that the marriage of art and digital technology is the future of the dissemination of art among future generations,” said the museum’s director Michael Couzigou.
who still love each other, who decide to separate, but carry on living in conjoining apartments. Only their childrens’ rooms separate them – the ‘air lock’ they call it – and even the kids and the family dog play ‘versions’ of themselves. This family comedy is inspired by the amusing experiences the couple encountered during their own separation, and makes for an off-beat modern comedy, with the kids’ interests to the fore.
Christmas in a Castle, Loire Valley, until January 6 During the festive period, the magnificent chateaux of the Loire Valley transform into real-life fairytale castles. Famed for its double helix staircase and Renaissance architecture, the Château de Chambord is even more spellbinding when fires crackle in the hearths and a myriad of lights adorn its interiors. Renaissance theatre evenings, (December 15-16; December 22 through January 6) costumed characters and traditional games such as Louis XIV billiard and troll-madam all take place beneath the Christmas tree, at no extra cost. Expect illuminations in the impeccable French gardens and an elegant display of Christmas trees inside the château designed by prestigious French brands. Meanwhile, Château d’Amboise celebrates 500 years of royal festivities with a programme of musical events named “Christmas through the centuries.” The oldest Christmas market in Western France arrives in the grand salon of the Château de Brissac and local artisans set up shop in the feudal wine cellars of the Chateau de Brézé, offering tastings of the region’s fine wines. chambord.org/en/discovering/programming-and-events
Photos: ©Phillipe de Rexel
2. It’s a rap! The maxim ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ certainly rings true for one of France’s most popular rappers, Booba. Along with his entourage, this summer he was involved in a very public bust-up at Orly airport with rival rapper Kaaris. Footage of the unsavoury scenes, which saw fists and duty-frees flying, was widely shared on social media and resulted in the pair appearing before a judge. Both received 18-month suspended sentences and fines of €50,000. Booba’s fans, however, were less outraged – 32,000 of them were in raptures as the rapper, who has enjoyed a 20-year career, played a sell-out show at Paris La Défense Arena in October. His latest single ‘BB’ topped streaming platform charts in France.
Christmas markets, Strasbourg, until December 30 Take a trip to Strasbourg in December time and it is instantly clear why the Alsatian town has earned itself the moniker of ‘Capital of Christmas.’ This is Europe’s oldest Christmas market dating back to 1570. Previously the market was held on December 6 called a klausenmärik (Saint Nicolas market) but became a christkindelsmärik when Alsace became Protestant. Over 300 wooden chalets dotted about the twinkling town sell artisan gifts, stocking fillers and serve the hearty traditional fare of the Alsace region. Chandeliers and festoons of lights illuminate the streets of the Grand Île, which come alive with concerts, nativity scenes and the towering Christmas tree that sparkles in the Place Kléber. Get your skates on at the ice rink before warming up around a cup of hot Riesling (glühwein) and soaking up the cinnamony smell of Christmas with some homemade bredele biscuits. noel.strasbourg.eu/en
3. Art on the walls, not just canvases A new trend among museums and art galleries in France is to project artworks onto walls so that visitors can better appreciate the brushwork detail and skills of the artists. The idea is that the grandeur and funky layouts of spectacular displays lure those who do not normally visit galleries. Among the pioneers is Paris’ first digital art museum, the Atelier des Lumières,
Photo: © Twitter/Grand Palais/Sarah Kate Sinclair
4. Fashion life’s a beach Fashion house Chanel’s seasonal shows at the Grand Palais in Paris are not only eagerly awaited for their clothing trends – every spectacular transformation of the building itself is also much-anticipated. In the past, Karl Lagerfeld and his team have turned the vast space into a supermarket and a rocket ship. October’s Paris Fashion Week show, however, trumped the lot – it became an indoor ‘Paris Plage’ complete with tonnes of sand and even real waves lapping at models’ bare feet. Lagerfeld waved from a beach hut at the end of the show.
4 5. Hallyday’s record of love and rock The first (but not the last, can we presume?) posthumous album by Johnny Hallyday, who died in December 2017, broke the singer’s first-day sales record when it was released on October 19. Mon pays, c’est l’amour (Love is my country) sold 300,000 copies in one day. 100,000 copies had been ordered pre-release. 200 devoted fans of the rocker waited until midnight at the Fnac store on the Champs-Elysees, which was specially opened for the occasion. His previous biggest launch day seller was 1999’s Sang pour Sang, an album written by his son David which went on to be Hallyday’s career biggest seller. Photo: © Culture Espaces
Photos: Château de Chambord. Inset: © Léonard de Serres
Photo: Rezo Films
1. A family affair The directorial debut by actress Romane Bohringer is a contender for best ‘Life imitates art’ film of the year, with a subject matter exceedingly ‘close to home’. Amour Flou (Fuzzy Love), co-written and co-starring Bohringer’s real-life ex-husband Philippe Rebbot, tells the story of a couple, no longer ‘in love’ but
French Living I De
Apple man’s core belie Prime apple season is the perfect time to speak to the pastry chef Christophe Adam about his passion for baking with pommes
y the time he was sixteen years old, Christophe Adam knew that he would be a pastry chef. Born in Brittany, in the Cornouaille area, he received his basic training at the Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Le Grand in Quimper as soon as he had finished school. Two years later, he was in London, in the pastry kitchen of the triple-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche restaurant. He had set out on his quest to master his niche of refined gastronomy. Back in Paris, he worked at the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon with Christophe Felder, honing his art and becoming ever more demanding of himself. After a three-year stint with Laurent Jeannin, one of France’s most talented pastry chefs, he continued on to the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne to work as its pastry chef. In December 1996 Adam moved to Fauchon, the Paris food emporium. There, he began asserting his individual style, his energy and creativity taking him to the position of head pastry chef in 2001. He overhauled the classic éclair, transforming it in a multitude of shapes and flavours. When Fauchon opened its bakery in 2007, he was in the vanguard of the creation of le snacking chic: upmarket, easy-to-eat nibbles for people on the go. With Adam overseeing operations, Fauchon opened a string of stores in Monaco, Bordeaux, New York, Moscow, Beijing, Dubai, Tokyo, and Casablanca. After this fifteen-year adventure, Adam decided to embark on his own ambitious enterprise, focusing on new themes. Discreet yet determined, he worked on a boutique focusing on a single genre. L’Eclair de Génie (literally, “a stroke of genius”) was born, with his first boutique opening in the Marais district in Paris. Here, he worked on his concept that included éclairs of all types, chocolate bars, spreads, and chocolate candies. There are six Eclair de Génie boutiques in Paris and a number of others spread throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kyoto, as well as Hong Kong and Seoul. Adam has authored several books,
The apple is the basic fruit of every pastry chef, the one grandmothers turn to when they bake for loved ones
including Éclairs, Tartelettes, Very Important Pots, L’Éclair de Génie, Caramel, and Workshop l’Éclair. In collaboration with Christophe Michalak, another star on the French pastry scene, he founded the Club des Sucrés, a club that brings together chefs from the top echelons of French pastry-making so that they can exchange their savoir-faire. Adam is also a member of the jury of the weekly TV show, Qui Sera le Prochain Grand Pâtissier? (Who’ll be the Next Great Pastry Chef?) In addition, he is a commentator on Stéphane Bern’s weekly radio show, Comment Ca Va Bien!, where he reveals his chef ’s secrets. Why write a book about apples? Mr Adam explains: “This cookbook is all about apples, nothing but apples, in every form and shape imaginable. In my recipes, I put this fruit through every transformation a pastry chef – and food lover – can imagine. “Apples are the fruit most widely grown and consumed in the western world. The apple is also the basic fruit of every pastry chef, the one grandmothers and mothers turn to first when they bake for their loved ones. In fact, it’s the go-to fruit for most homemade tarts. Sad to say, the number of regional varieties has diminished, but there is still a wide range to choose from. “You can select from those apples generally available in mainstream stores and the heirloom varieties you might stumble upon at a farmers’
market or while on a walk in the country. “This book of apple recipes will open up new horizons to you for a familiar, appealing, easy-to-find, and easy-to-bake orchard fruit. We may think we know everything there is to know about apples, but there are surprises in store. The fascination grows when you learn that there are some twenty thousand varieties of apples around the world, each with its distinctive features and uses. “There are dessert apples, cooking apples, apples for hard cider. Apples have varying degrees of crispness, softness, firmness, and juiciness; they are sweet or sour, or both. Their palette of colours ranges from grey to red, with hues of green, yellow, and orange. The recipes here include a ll the textures that the art of pastrymaking can imbue: soft, crunchy, smooth, liquefied, or quite simply, crisp to the bite. “I have included classic recipes such as apple upside-down cake in its wellknown French version of Tarte Tatin, traditional apple pie, candy apples (pomme d’amour, “love apples” in French), apple cheesecake, and several types of tart, but I have extended the repertoire to create more unexpected recipes, both from home and abroad: a trompe l’oeil apple ice cube, peel tempura, apple gratin dauphinois, Hungarian apple soup. “A few of France’s finest pastry chefs, like Christelle Brua, Laurent Jeannin, and Cédric Grolet have entrusted me with some of their secrets to share with you.”
Roasted Apple in Chestnut Milk
Apples and chestnuts are not often paired, but they make a fine duo, with chestnut honey adding a note that is rustic yet refined. All of the Pippin varieties, the Chantecler, and heirloom apples may be used for this recipe. Serves 4 Ingredients 4 Pippin apples 2 eggs 100g chestnut honey, or other richly flavoured honey 125g almond flour 80g butter 10 fresh chestnuts 100ml whole milk 100ml whipping cream, 35% butterfat 200g chestnut spread (crème de marrons) Olive oil to taste
Extract and recipes from Apples by Christophe Adam, published by Rizzoli, 2018. Photographs by Laurent Fau
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Peel the apples and core them with a corer. 2. Whisk the eggs energetically with the honey to dissolve it completely. 3. Dip the apples into the egg-honey
mixtu almon 4. Place and do 5. Bake f on the need t to roa
For the c While th the oute a small k in boilin and drai When remove the ches (3-mm) ing shee Place in until nic
For the c Bring th and pou Whisk apple in Pour the with a lit the ches
Food notes 13
ure and then roll them in the nd flour to coat. the apples in an ovenproof dish ot with a few knobs of butter. for 30 to 40 minutes, depending e size, until softened. You will the oven at the same temperature ast the chestnut chips.
chestnut chips he apples are baking, remove er shells of the chestnuts with kitchen knife. Blanch them ng water for 2 to 3 minutes in. they are cool enough to handle, the skin with the knife tip. Cut stnuts into slices about 1⁄8-inch thick and place them on a baket lined with parchment paper. the oven for 15–20 minutes, cely browned, then remove.
chestnut milk he milk and cream to a boil ur over the chestnut spread. k until combined and place each the centre of a large bowl. e chestnut milk around, drizzle ittle olive oil, and garnish with stnut chips.
Baby brioche is true taste of a northern Christmas
In our new series providing a sideways look at French food, we examine the north’s doughy dedication to Jesus
ust as nothing says ‘Easter’ quite like a surfeit of chocolate eggs, few things evoke the miracle birth of baby Jesus quite like a sugar-coated brioche, washed down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Which is why in the north of France, usually from the beginning of December onwards – but as early as St Martin’s Day (11 November) in some places – boulangeries will be serving up their own particular version of a coquille or a cougnou: a pastry formed into baby shapes and sprinkled with sugar nibs. Made with flour, eggs, milk, yeast, raisins and sugar, a coquille is popular throughout the low countries, especially Belgium. The cooking and distribution of the cake is a tasty blend of ritual and symbolism, with some experts believing it even predates Christianity to Jewish Mishna
or Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter festival. Other historians believe that the shape of the baby has over time morphed from the original female adult form. Later the writer Jacques Thiroux, in his history of Lille published in 1730, wrote about the celebrations that took place in 1579, during which small shell-shaped cakes were thrown to the people below from the city’s huge belfry. As for its name, there are two possible origins. The word coquille (as used in coquille St Jacques, a scallop) is a diminutive of coque, meaning shell, the shape that this cake originally took. A second theory is that the word comes from the Flemish and Dutch word kocke, pronounced “couque”, and which means cake. Special moulds (inset) are available in good kitchen shops, should you wish to craft your own baby brioche this festive season. Aim for a golden crust, a yellowish interior and soft crumb.
Sweet! Precision cutter gives éclairs a perfect finish
Noël house party is not complete sans sweet treats
What do you buy the home cook who has everything? If they want to create the best possible patisserie, then what better gift than a bespoke oval mould for the chocolate glazing on top of their delicious éclairs – after all, it’s the detail that counts. Made by family-owned firm Matfer Bourgeat, the cutter includes a reinforcement belt to provide greater strength and precision in cutting. Matfer serves the catering trade but products can be found on many websites. €28.60, www.laboetgato.fr
As any self-respecting festive dinner host is aware, offering a selection of post-prandial, fine French chocolates is an easy way to melt the heart of any guest. Provençal confiseur François Doucet is well known for his candied fruits but other offerings are equally appealing. This Ecrin festif (€20 for 250g) includes grape seeds macerated in Marc de Champagne, dressed in marzipan and then coated with chocolate, as well as chocolate hazlenuts and pralines. Joyeux Noël! www.francois-doucet.com
A tart-tasting apple is ideal for this recipe: Belle de Boskoop, Reinette Grise du Canada, Granny Smith, or any tangy heirloom varieties you might be lucky to find – or just go ahead and use your favourite. Makes one 7 to 7½inch (18 to 20cm) cake for six (use a springform pan) Ingredients, 2 large apples 1 tablespoon lemon juice 30g butter 3 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy Batter 80g almond paste, 52% almonds 150g all-purpose flour 80g sugar 11g baking powder (if you are using French sachets, 1 sachet) 2 extra-large eggs 150ml milk 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 20g butter for the pan Topping 80g lightly salted butter, well softened 4 tablespoons light brown sugar ½ teaspoon cinnamon Method for the apples 1. Peel the apples and cut them into thick slices, then into small dice. 2. Drizzle them with the lemon juice, tossing them well, so that they do not brown. 3. Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the apple cubes for six minutes, until golden, stirring carefully from time to time. Pour in the Calvados and carefully flambé the contents of the skillet. Method for the batter 1. Cut the almond paste into small cubes. Sift the flour. 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the sifted flour, sugar, and baking powder and beat just to combine. Add the eggs, one by one, then 1 tablespoon (20 ml) of the milk. 3. When smooth, swap the paddle attachment for the whisk and pour in the remaining milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a scraper or flexible spatula to ensure that the milk is evenly incorporated. Whisk in the melted butter and stop when just combined. 4. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter the base and sides of the springform pan. Cut out a disk of parchment paper the same diameter, butter it, and place it, butter side up, at the base of the pan. 5. Pour the batter into the pan, then arrange the apple cubes evenly over it, without pushing them down. Bake for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on the colour. Method for the topping When the cake is almost baked, combine the salted butter with the light brown sugar and cinnamon. As soon as the cake is done, spread this mixture over the top.
14 Marrons glacés
French Living I December 2018
Marrons glacés: sweet taste of success Photos: Clement Faugier;
As we approach peak marron glacé season, Jane Hanks spoke to the original transformers of chestnuts into sweet treats: Clément Faugier
arrons glacés are a French speciality, eaten at Christmas. The first ever manufacturer was Clément Faugier, at Privas in the Ardèche and the company has been making them since 1882. 95% of their production is sold in a fifteen day period at the beginning of December. Jean-David Boiron, Managing Director of Clément Faugier says they are strongly linked with the festive season, firstly because chestnuts are in season during the winter, and secondly because it is a luxury food: “Marrons glacés are appreciated as a gift because they are expensive and this is because they are made by hand and involve several stages in their production, each one demanding a high level of skill and time.” First, he explains why they are called a marron glacé and not a châtaigne glacée. “We have two different names for the fruit from the chestnut tree. If you have ever picked chestnuts you may have noticed that some casings contain two or three small chestnuts, which are often flat on one side, and some have just one, which is rounder and fatter. “The latter are the ones we call marrons and which we use for our marrons glacés. There are fewer marrons than châtaignes and they are a better shape, though both taste the same. We use the châtaignes and any broken marrons for our Crème de Marrons.” Marrons glacés were first appreciated at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV
It is a very time-consuming process and there are no short cuts
and a recipe for them was included in a book about candied fruit, written by Pierre Gaultier de Varennes in 1667. In the late 19th century the thriving silk worm industry in the Ardèche was hit by disease and one man, Clément Faugier, came up with a new way of making money which could use both the now unemployed skilled workers from the textile industry and abundant harvests from the local chestnut trees. He developed a way to produce marrons glacés in quantity, and his methods are still used today. The first of the many tricky tasks, once
the nut is revealed from the prickly casing, is to remove its two skins. First incisions are made in each nut. Then they are either steamed or grilled at a very high temperature which explodes the outer skin and then the remains of the inner skin are removed with brushes. “Even then,” says Mr Boiron, “tiny bits of skin will be left and these have to be taken off, little by little by hand with a knife. It is a very time consuming procedure and there are no short cuts.” They then have to be boiled in big vats of boiling water for between three and six hours. Another step which requires a remarkable amount of care. “The marrons are extremely fragile and so they are sewn, by hand, four at a time, into tiny cotton bags, which are then placed side by side, against each other so they do not move in stainless steel containers which are then put into the water. “A confectioner needs years of experience to judge how long to cook the marrons, and length of time depends on the nature of each batch. Getting it right is essential to the success of the end product. This is because the principal of a marron glacé is to preserve it by exchanging its water content with sugar. If it is not cooked enough the sugar will not go to the heart of the fruit, if it is overcooked it will take on too much sugar.” After boiling, the marrons are placed in vats of syrup, and the glucose levels are increased over a two to three day period until the process is finished. This is another stage when the confectioner needs to use all his experience to know when enough is enough. “Every chestnut is different,” says Mr Boiron. “Their composition depends on many factors during their development on the tree, including the weather that year and their position on the tree. It is
Above: An original presentation box illustration from Faugier in Privas; Right and inset: Putting marrons in cotton bags before boiling; the final product ready for Christmas
a natural product and so variable and that has to be taken into account during the process.” Once “confit”, the marrons are left in buckets of syrup to mature “just like wine in oak barrels”, and then, finally they can be taken out of their little bags. Another time consuming procedure as they are quality controlled one by one and any broken pieces are rejected and used for other products. They are then ready for the last procedure before being packaged. This is a final very thin coating of sugar which is set during a brief passage in an oven and which was invented in the 1950s to prevent stickiness when handling and to give them a glossy appearance. However, Mr Boiron says they are very careful to avoid adding too much sugar: “Cheaper marrons glacés, which are often imported from Italy and Spain have a much higher ratio of sugar in them as sugar costs far less a kilo than chestnuts, but for me it makes them far too sweet. “What I love about our marrons glacés are that each one is unique and I love to see them before the final sugar layer when their different textures and shapes make them look like a sculpture.” Mr Boiron says it is increasingly difficult to get good quality marrons. He knows all about chestnuts as he comes from a family who has been in the business since 1807. His family worked closely together with the Faugier family from the very beginning and via the marriage
of one of his aunts, the enterprise, still called Clément Faugier, is run by the Boiron family. Whilst chestnuts were abundant in the 19th century, it is a different story now as chestnuts are yet another European species threatened by the introduction of pests from overseas. The Asian Chestnut Gall Wasp arrived in Italy 12 years ago and is now throughout Europe. There is no real antidote and Mr Boiron says they are having to learn to live with it. The long procedure and increasing rarity of the marrons is reflected in their price – around €100 a kilo, compared to €60-70 a kilo for mass produced ones. You can buy them via the internet from Clément Faugier whole or broken and in wooden, paper or tin boxes. You could pay just over €100 for a wooden box containing 84 individually wrapped whole chestnuts or 1kg of broken pieces in a plain paper box for €25 or just three perfect ones for €4,50. They keep for five weeks if kept in a cool place. They are a luxury for Christmas that Mr Boiron continues to appreciate: “I like to cut them in half first to see their slightly shiny texture. They melt in the mouth, though each one is different and some are firmer than others and you can enjoy the subtle chestnut taste.” The fruit itself is very good for you with plenty of vitamin C and fibres and no gluten. Marrons glacés are a friandise [sweet treat] to be eaten for pleasure, but not a guilty pleasure.
Wine and Cheese 15 Photos: Jonathan Hesford; Pixabay
December 2018 I French Living
rick Schreiber produces biodynamic champagne from his own 6.5 hectare vineyard in Champagne, 45km south of Troyes in the Vallée de la Seine. “I can’t explain why, but I always wanted to make wine. Ever since I was a kid, it was my dream, even though my family have nothing to do with wine production. So when I left school I trained at college, and in 1987 I planted my vines and set up my own production.” He now produces 35,000 bottles of Champagne Schreiber per year, most of it sold in France both to hospitality professionals and the general public, although he also exports extensively. He goes to several large wine fares as well every year in order to publicise his wines, which are ‘biodynamic’ – which is close but not exactly the same thing as being organic. ‘Biodynamic’ viticulture means cultivating wines according to principles laid out by Rudolf Steiner (who also set up Steiner Schools) – which treats soil fertility and plant growth as interrelated. Biodynamic viticulture focusses on the use of compost and manure instead of artificial chemicals. It works in harmony with the lunar calendar, and uses herbal and mineral additive for field sprays. Overall, the idea is to harness the forces of nature in a holistic way in order to produce the best, most natural crops whilst also taking care of the soil. The aim is to connect rich, bio-diverse soil to the light and the rain which fall from the sky. So far, so good, but some elements of the theory stray into spiritual, mystical and astrological territory, leading critics to scoff at the method. In blind tastings, however, biodynamic wines consistently outdo wines produced by more mainstream methods. “We went biodynamic in 1990, and it works for us,” says Erick Schreiber. “I don’t want to say biodynamic wines are better; they’re just different. More expressive, more drinkable.” His wines are Demeter certified biodynamic as well as organic, making them as natural as a wine can be. Erick Schreiber is proud of them, and also of his son Gaël who plans to take over the business. Many people drink Champagne at Christmas and New Year, but he says that it can be enjoyed all year round. “Champagne can be drunk at any occasion, from apéros right through to pudding,” he says. ‘And most of it can be drunk at any time of the day!’
Photo: Maison de la truffe
Meet the producers
Artisan cheese of the month: Brie truffé
When the cheeseboard comes out at a New Year party, the canniest of gourmands around the table will seek out the shining beacon of seasonal indulgence: Brie truffé. This luxurious blend of delicately creamy Brie de Meaux, which has been sliced horizontally and slathered with an unctuous blend of cream or mascarpone and chopped black truffle is an indulgent, if acquired taste and very rich. For an artisanal touch, try the truffled cheeses made by Gilles Cénéri at La Crèmerie Royale – the family has boasted a Master Cheesemaker for three generations. Their twist is the use of olive oil and a little white truffle.
Local speciality: Paupiettes de Veau
Paupiettes de veau are veal olives (rolled or stuffed veal fillets) that can be cooked and served in an array of sauces. A la Normande is the Normandy version – made with onion, tomato, herbs, butter and flour, cider (or wine) and cream from Isigny. Available to buy ready to reheat from www. bienmanger.com
Some of the fizzies that Jonathan keeps in his own wine cellar
Are cheaper bubble options any good? There are lower cost fizzy alternatives with plenty to offer says Jonathan Hesford A year in the vineyard
ast month I wrote about the way Champagne is made and what makes it special. This month I am going to talk about how those special things do make a difference to the taste and what alternative sparkling wines are on the market. When I buy a bottle of Champagne, I am hoping for several things. Firstly, I want to be able to smell a sort of biscuity aroma mingled with creamy, delicate fruit. I then want the wine to have vibrant, refreshing acidity, for it to taste dry without being drying and for the bubbles to give it a fine mousse, rather than a powerful fizz. The peculiar aroma of biscuits or cream crackers comes from autolysis. This is the process where the dead yeast, which was in the bottle during the secondary fermentation, breaks down and releases amino acids and other molecules into the wine. Champagne isn’t the only sparkling wine that is made by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Cava, made mainly in the Catalan region of Spain, uses the same method but with different grape varieties. Cava is made from Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello. The best Cavas,
While Champagne occupies the top rung of the ladder, there are some interesting Crémant alternatives from other regions
often from base wines aged in oak, are rich and textured. However, a lot of the cheaper, mass-produced versions are just fizzy wines which lack the crispness and freshness of Champagne. Limoux, in the Languedoc Pyrenees, claims to have invented the bottle-fermenting method of making sparkling wine decades before Champagne. Unfortunately it chose to use the Mauzac grape, which is rather bland and seems to give the wine a slightly stale apple aroma. In recent times, Chardonnay and Chenin blanc have been planted in Limoux to help improve the flavour and freshness of the wines. Today you can buy both the traditional Mauzac-dominated version, known as Blanquette de Limoux, or the Crémant de Limoux which has a majority of Chardonnay, supplemented by Chenin blanc and Mauzac . There is also a Limoux style called Méthode Ancestrale where the wine is not disgorged after bottle fermentation, leaving the yeast in the bottle and therefore potentially making the wine cloudy, just like in bottle-fermented beers. This gives a distinctly powerful aroma from the yeast autolysis after a period of time. Méthode Ancestrale has found a new lease of life outside Limoux in trendy “Pet-Nat” wines. This is short for Pétillant Naturel. They can be made by bottling partially-fermented wine or by adding juice or sugar to the bottle, resulting in wines that are cloudy, rustic and fun. The term “Crémant” is used to describe all forms of bottle-fermented sparkling French wines that are not Champagne. They are controlled by AOP rules and use local grape varieties. Therefore Crémant de Bourgogne uses Pinot noir and Chardonnay (just like Champagne), Crémant d’Alsace adds Riesling and Pinot gris. Crémant de Loire is based mainly on Chenin blanc with Chardonnay and Cabernet franc. Crémants are also made in Bordeaux, Savoie and Jura. They may be dry or
demi-sec, often annoyingly omitted from the label. Vouvray, along with neighbouring Montlouis, is another sparkling wine from the Loire which is uniquely Chenin blanc and made with the Champagne method. The Loire has other sparkling wines from Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. These wines use the term “Mousseux”, which means the bubbles are created not by the traditional Champagne method of bottle-fermentation. They are made using the Charmat method, where the wine is refermented in a large, pressurised tank and bottled directly. These wines therefore don’t benefit from any yeast autolysis and are therefore simpler in nature. They should also be cheaper because the process is so much quicker. Prosecco and Asti Spumante are also made in this way. Finally there are sparkling wines made without any secondary fermentation but by the same technique as fizzy water, by injecting carbon dioxide. These represent the bottom end of the market both in terms of price and taste. They can be made from virtually any base wine from anywhere in France. They are usually just labelled by their colour and level of sweetness. So while Champagne occupies the top rung of the ladder in both price and quality, there are interesting Crémant alternatives from other regions that often represent better value for money for a celebratory drink than the bigbrand Champagnes. While for those on a particularly tight budget there are carbonated wines that may be sufficient for a teenage party. 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.
French Living I December 2018
Converted mill has style and comfort Photos: Claire Richardson
Author Josephine Ryan explores a renovated rural home and finds plenty of inspiration for antique buys
a Fabrique is set deep in the French countryside in a lush, green valley, with a fast-flowing river running alongside. From the outside, the building looms up, large and imposing, giving no indication of the chic and whimsical family home inside. La Fabrique is enormous. The home (and antiques business) of Bernard and Maxime Cassagnes was originally a paper mill, hence its size. Bernard, a trained architect, bought the 1890s mill in its original state and moved there in 1981; Max, his bohemian wife, joined him in 1985. Using his architectural skills and unerring eye, Bernard has created a truly remarkable and unusual home. Famous in the trade as Le Baron, a term of affection given to him by his fellow architecture students, Bernard runs his antiques business from the mill. His speciality is art forain – fairground art – and there are plenty of examples in the shop, as well as in the living space, but he deals in all things large, strange and beautiful. The couple live in only a small section of the building, although the ghosts of the mill workers seem ever-present in the cave beneath the living accommodation. This huge vaulted cellar is where Bernard stores his restoration equipment, from piles of wood and crates of chair springs to sheets of mirror and antique glass panels. Small in stature but larger than life, Bernard is passionate about his collections and never throws anything away, believing that there’s a use for everything. The faded red front door with a Georgian fanlight opens onto a gargantuan hallway, where you are greeted by a giant-sized plaster theatre prop of St Marc Antoine. The ground floor is shop space, complete with a pou du ciel (flying flea) aeroplane and a church organ. A sweeping staircase with beautiful, aged wooden treads leads to a small door to the living space, with a discreet notice requesting incomers to Essuyez vos pieds (Wipe your feet). Although taking up only a fraction of the mill, the living space is vast. Absolutely immaculate, it is in contrast to those areas used as work, storage or shop space, and equally, if not more, beguiling. In the kitchen/ breakfast room/dining room, collections of stuffed reptiles cling to the back of the door, while the mix of wine and beautiful glass apothecary bottles displayed on a shelf beneath a stuffed fish is the lightest decorative touch. The main dining table is covered with a 19th-century yellow embroidered cloth from Morocco. The disguise is appropriate for more sensitive diners – the
Get the look table was originally an operating table – but for those with a hospital background, it is only partial, because the pedals are still visible. To complete the scene, there is an operating theatre light above. Outside the window is a long cord attached to a brass bell that Max pulls to summon Bernard to the phone or for dinner. Off this room, an enormous terrace overlooks the river where Max swims in the summer. The grand salon is, as its name might suggest, the biggest room of all, with a beautiful polished wood floor, which means that shoes are forbidden. It is dominated by a coffee table made from a roulette board of inlaid wood, covered with glass for protection. Even the humdrum is disguised to look attractive: the television is hidden behind tall double doors, and the heater on the window wall is covered by an ornate ironwork grille. This originally formed part of the Art Nouveau arch above the entrance to one of the Paris Metro stations, designed by Hector Guimard in 1900. All this is presided over by a 1930s life-size equestrian statue of Maréchal de Bassompierre, used as an advertising emblem for Vin tonique de la Durante. Climbing the creaky staircase to the next floor, one is greeted by two stuffed lions flanking a door.
Above: The main bedroom is calm and intimate. With low ceilings and panelling, there is little to distract from slumber bar a large painting Inset: The white-tiled kitchen has a clinical feel – utilitarian, practical and lowmaintenance
Extracted from Essentially French by Josephine Ryan with photography by Claire Richardson (published by Ryland, Peters and Small).
With their back halves missing, they look as if they’re emerging through the wall. As you go through the door, you feel as though you’re entering the world of Narnia. Eight rooms, including bedrooms, Max’s studio and a huge bathroom, lead off the long corridor. The magnificent slate-floored bathroom has a bank of four basins set in marble and lit by bare-bulb lights, creating the magical feel of a theatre dressing room. The claw-foot, cast-iron bath offers an unobstructed view of the river and countryside beyond – utterly romantic. If time is short, there’s also a walk-in shower with antique fittings and slate walls. The equally impressive bathroom on the ground floor has ochre-yellow walls and an enormous red, antique cast-iron slipper bath. The master bedroom has an intimate feel, with beautiful wide wood floorboards and subtle paintwork in cream and yellow. The conservatory off the room, a 1920s addition, is home to Max’s impressive collection of orchids and pelargoniums. The windowless guest room is illuminated by a huge, square skylight. An eccentric collection of antique musical instruments is displayed on one of the walls, beneath which there is a beautiful miniature carousel. Max’s studio is reached through two impressive Art Nouveau doors and by tripping across a seemingly enchanted doormat. One step on it and the lights go on; step on it again as you leave and the lights go out! Antiques dealers could be described as the last gypsies or consummate recyclers, and Bernard must be the ultimate example of both. Although a self-confessed hoarder, he has a sophisticated eye, which is immediately apparent as you step through from the business part of the mill to their elegant home.
With nifty French high street and online purchases, you can steal the stripped-back, simple style of La Fabrique. Prices and availability correct at time of going to press. Make light work The clinical feel of Bernard and Maxime’s kitchen is lent industrial cool by the use of a former surgeon’s lamp. As an alternative, try this €109 zinc suspension light, called ‘Hector’, from www.lumidora.com Get that sink king feeling Add to the modern utilitarian feel of La Fabrique’s kitchen with a simple white evier (sink). This one from Leroy Merlin is called ‘Trendy’ and costs €249.90. www.leroymerlin.fr Duvet dreams Uncomplicated layers of grey elegance complement stripped floorboards in the bedroom. This Scenario duvet cover (housse de couette) costs €27.99 from www.laredoute.fr
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French Living I December 2018
Bilingual cryptic crossword
by Parolles Answers are in French and English Across
1 The best part about the earliest of engines becoming obsolete in France (6) 4 Parolles taking in leading Parisian market (6) 8 Six sons going around Swiss town to find what Joan of Arc had (7) 9 Right to include time on the way back to meet volunteers for sporting event (7) 11 I’m to consider describing current fashion as extravagant (10) 12 Rubbish about imprisoning unionist in Saint-Jacque’s tower (4) 13 Fight to establish oddly ignored ethos (3-2) 14 Language lab created by an American in Split (8) 16 Bill returned leaflet covering a condition of the eye (8) 18 Free French leaders of Limoges insurgents backing resistance enthusiastically (5) 20 Go over rule with Marcel’s father (4) 21 Acknowledgement of reproduction of carcinogens right away (10) 23 Prost’s back with a posh car that’s extremely reliable (7) 24 Unexpected advantages attached to lining large passenger carrying vehicles (7) 25 Small slice left by fictional detective (6) 26 French butter and beer produced outside ancient town (6)
1 Answer framed by prudishly disapproving Trojan king (5) 2 Rex struggled by the sound of it to obtain first-class horseradish in Lille (7) 3 Nominate Dicky to tour South American state (9) 5 Hubert’s bitter about mother turning up with Earl (5) 6 Discipline fictional detective after loss of new gun (7) 7 A group of attendants on either side of the Channel (9) 10 The first couple in profit switching places to make more in Nantes (9) 13 Caught with odd musical instrument (5,4) 15 City fellows overwhelmed by steep-fronted wave (9) 17 Tale about the queen obtaining one from Poussin’s studio (7) 19 Hold up French artist say to a bit of ridicule (7) 21 Former US president runs off with de Gaulle’s map (5) 22 Hint of circumspection with reference to note showing duc de Bourgogne’s crest (5)
by John Foley Note all answers are words or names associated with France Across
1 Small quantity, just to give a taste (7)
1 Acronym for the salaire minimum (4)
3 Marque de politesse ou de respect (5)
2 Kitchen master (4)
6 What the mirror reflects (5)
8 Common street name (3) 9 Où le soleil se lève (3) 11 Paris-born composer Ferdinand ______, best known today for the ballet La fille mal gardée (6) 14 Spa city in North Rhine-Westphalia other wise known as Aix-la-Chapelle (6) 15 Cunning carnivore – au museau pointu et au pelage roux (6) 18 Title for une femme mariée (6) 19 Potent spirit absinthe once known as ‘la ___ verte’ (3) 20 One that is faux confuses English prune with French prune (3) 23 To clean or scrape out (5) 24 For some people, this is all you need (5) 25 Quantity of wood – wise to order an extra one for the winter (5) 26 Young artillery officer Alfred _______, whose trial and conviction for treason created a political scandal (7)
Q: The place on which the city hall sits was renamed in 1803. But what did it used to be called and what was its linguistic significance?
THE annual literary Prix Goncourt, is France’s most prestigious award for prose. Since 1903 it has been handed out by the Goncourt Academy, created by writer and publisher Edmond Louis Antoine Huot de Goncourt. Q: For which book did Marcel Proust win the prize in 1919?
4 Heavy or weighty (5) 5 Purée constituée d’olives, d’anchois, d’huile d’olive... (8) 7 Having a high opinion of oneself (4) 10 Pochette ouverte sur le haut (3) 12 Apple brandy from Normandy (8)
13 Armed police officer (8)
16 Area corresponding to cent mètres carrés (3) 17 Au gout désagréable (4) 18 Pain rond – relatively large in France, but smaller in Belgium and Switzerland (5) 21 Bloc de pierre – used for paving (4) 22 Colour between black and white (4)
Former burlesque dancer and model Dita Von Teese released her first, self-titled album in February 2018. Q: Which French singer, who represented his country at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest (pictured) – in a left-field move for the mainstream event – wrote and produced the record?
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Since 1357, Paris City Hall has been the seat of Parisian municipal power. The current neo-Renaissance-style building was rebuilt by architects Théodore Ballu and Edouard Deperthes on the site of the former Town Hall, which was burned down during the Paris Commune in 1871.
3 Teese-r singles
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1 Local authority
Photo: Ohcanadagail Gail J. Cohen
Fun French facts
Photo: Lynne Spaight
7 Wine appellation in Languedoc-Roussillon whose dominant vine variety is Carignan (5)
Abbreviated name of Riviera resort 100km west of Nice in the Var department (2,6)
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December 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: Mille ans de Martin
Test your knowledge of France with our Connexion quiz
6 Which Olympic hurdles gold medallist and former Minister for Youth and Sport was convicted of dishonest political dealings in 2005 but received a controversial pardon from Jacques Chirac? 7
The richest woman in history according to Forbes magazine in 2017, 95 year-old Liliane Bettencourt is the daughter of the founder of which French cosmetics company?
12 Completed in 1998, extended in 2007, and running between the Saint-Lazare and Olympiades stations, what is currently the highest numbered line on the Paris Métro? 13 What is the name of the French Academy of Magic which sends Fleur Delacour to compete in the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? 14 Anvers is the French name for which major port city situated in one of France’s neighbouring countries?
19 A medley of songs by which duo was played at the Bastille Day parade by a composite French military band as part of Donald Trump’s state visit to France in July 2017? 20 What was the surname of the defiantly nonconformist Canadian ice dance pair Paul and Isabelle who won an Olympic silver medal in 1992, after switching to their mother’s country, France?
What nine-letter French word used in English for a nickname, differs from a nom-de-plume in that it emphasises or mythologises identity, rather than disguising it?
18 Which elegant actress and model known professionally by a one-word name, was the only French cast member credited in the original Pink Panther film, in which she played Clouseau’s wife?
Guess the region Abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou in Pyrénées-Orientales, Occitanie. It was first consecrated in November 1009.
11 In 2011, in the first ever episode of the BBC TV show Fake or Fortune?, the Wildenstein Institute in Paris controversially refused to authenticate a 19th century painting by which artist?
17 Stretching from the Pyrenees as far north as Anjou, what is the name of the new administrative région of south-west France, now the country’s largest in area, whose préfecture is in Bordeaux?
Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette together with explorer Louis Jolliet are credited with being the first Europeans to visit and map the northern reaches of which major world river, in 1673?
10 What French six-letter word used in English to describe barely acceptable sexual suggestiveness – often in comedy - has none of the same connotation when used in French?
16 In a mutual display of cross-Channel respect through language, what is the equivalent English term for the unsanctioned act which the French call filer à l’anglaise?
Quiz 1 French horn, 2 Anaïs Nin, 3 École Normale Supérieure , 4 Mississippi, 5 Sobriquet, 6 Guy Drut, 7 L’Oréal, 8 Winds, 9 Eurotrash, 10 Risqué, 11 Claude Monet, 12 14, 13 Beauxbatons, 14 Antwerp, 15 Canal+, 16 Take French leave, 17 Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 18 Capucine, 19 Daft Punk, 20 Duchesnay.
What 1990s Channel 4 TV show presented by French duo Antoine de Caunes and Jean-Paul Gaultier, resurfaced briefly in June 2016 on the evening of the Brexit Referendum?
Often ranked as France’s top university (even though, technically, it’s not one), what is the full name of the educational establishment in Paris known familiarly as Normale sup?
15 Which French cable TV channel launched in 1984 used the memorable advertising slogan, ‘... et tellement + encore’ (‘...and so much + besides’)?
Bilingual cryptic crossword Across: 1 Périmé, 4 Marché, 8 Visions, 9 Regatta, 11 Immoderate, 12 Tour, 13 Set-to, 14 Albanian, 16 Cataract, 18 Libre, 20 Père, 21 Cognisance, 23 Arrière, 24 Bonuses, 25 Morsel, 26 Beurre.
Symbolising the four cardinal points of a traditional Provençal compass rose, what are the Tramontane, the Levant, the Marin and the Ponent?
Down: 1 Priam, 2 Raifort, 3 Minnesota, 5 Amère, 6 Chasten, 7 Entourage, 10 Davantage, 13 Snare drum, 15 Baltimore, 17 Atelier, 19 Braquer, 21 Carte, 22 Crête.
Which French-born writer whose relationship with Henry Miller was chronicled in her diaries, also had erotic short story collections such as Delta of Venus published after her death in 1977?
Take the first letter from the answers to the questions indicated below and rearrange the letters to spell out the name of a département of northern France. When a person is the answer, use the first letter of their surname. Questions 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 14, 17, 19
French-themed crossword Across: 1 soupçon, 3 salut, 6 image, 7 Fitou, 8 rue, 9 est, 11 Hérold, 14 Aachen, 15 renard, 18 madame, 19 fée, 20 ami, 23 curer, 24 amour, 25 stère, 26 Dreyfus.
Try our quiz
Down: 1 smic, 2 chef, 3 St Tropez, 4 lourd, 5 tapenade, 7 fier, 10 sac, 12 calvados, 13 gendarme, 16 are, 17 amer, 18 miche, 21 pavé, 22 gris.
What name would an English-speaking musician give to the orchestral instrument known in French as the cor d’harmonie?
Fun French facts 1 In the 17th century it was called Place de Grève, the word for gravel or fine shingle. Workers would head there to find work.. 2 À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (Within a Budding Grove) 3 Sébastien Tellier.
20 Reviews French films A critical eye on the latest ciné releases En Guerre (At War)
French Living I December 2018 The Queen’s Embroiderer, Joan DeJean, Bloomsbury Publishing, $30 ISBN: 978-1-63286-474-1 THIS UNUSUAL non-fiction book gives a unique insight into life in the 17th-18th centuries, from Versailles to Louisiana, via research into a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ tale the author came across by accident. Working in the national archives she found a letter appointing one Jean Magoulet as embroiderer to Louis XIV’s queen - and then saw a royal decree to lock up his daughter and send her to the colonies... The book details the lives of the Chevrots and Magoulets, who rose to riches in finance and embroidery, and in particular Louis and Louise who fell in love against their fathers’ wishes. Embroidery was a key way in which wealth was
displayed and the ‘Sun King’ himself ‘seemed garbed solely in gold and silver, reflecting light at every turn’. When ‘a taste for fabulous garments’ spread to the middle class too, the haute couture industry was born, but no modern fashion compares to the extravagance of outfits, which could include over 10 pounds of precious thread. Despite success the Magoulets and Chevrots got into trouble with risky stock market investments and were ruthless with disobedient family. This densely researched book is not a light read but is full of first-hand glimpses into what life was like in the days of the most famous of all royal courts.
Books – The 20 minute review
We read recent releases with a link to France. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time Stéphane Brizé; 113 mins Four years after making the emotionally gripping and socially charged unemployment drama La Loi du Marché, director Brizé again teams up with actor Vincent Lindon to bring another visceral tale of striking and job loss to the screen. A German-owned car parts factory in Agen with 1,100 staff is under new threat of closure, despite its management team having agreed only two years prior that that employees could stay on for five years if they agreed to wage cuts and waived bonuses. Now the firm is citing impossible market conditions and wants to pull the plug. Cue union anger. Union boss Laurent Amédéo is played with a brilliant sense of betrayal and later desperation, by the intense and macho Lindon, who must attack not only the bosses but also a slowly drifting sense of defeatism amongst his own colleagues. There is a lot of shouting at picket lines, and anger spills into violence (which further alienates the public and some unions members), making this a difficult film to watch at times. However, what it does achieve is to bring a human story to the often clichéd notion of ‘the French on strike again’, and to cast light on modern labour relations. Many of the actors playing supporting roles are amateurs or actual factory workers, bringing Loach-like authenticity.
Also out: La Mante (The Mantis)
This thrilling Netflix drama is also now out on DVD. So binge-watch as Carole Bouquet plays a terrifying killer behind bars whose crimes are being copied by a new serial killer. But maybe she can help...
Paris Echo, Sebastian Faulks, Hutchinson £13.99 ISBN: 978-1-78-633022-2
The Balcony, Jane Delury, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99 ISBN: 978-1473684652
BRITISH novelist Sebastian Faulks, known for historical novels set in France, has this time chosen a setting in the recent past. The book tells intertwining tales of a Moroc can man and an American woman in Paris, taking us to districts away from the tourist trail, with a gritty, realistic feel. Tariq hides on a freight ship to Marseille and hitches to Paris seeking opportunities and to see where his mother grew up. But his first experiences, of messy service station loos and tasteless plastic-wrapped sandwiches, are unglamorous. Post-doctoral history student Hannah, is back to meet survivors of the Nazi occupation after her last stay ended with an unnamed trauma a few years ago. She picks up the threads of her old life as she meets with a British friend now living over a brasserie in a northern district after splitting up with his wealthy French wife. Talk turns to literary eccentrics, like Gérard de Nerval, who was known for walking his pet lobster on a pink string. Creating an itinerary around the capital, each chapter is named after a Metro station in an area which features in it. The low-key and unromanticised start, with realistic and nuanced characters creates interest to find out more about how their lives develop in the capital and where (and why) they go next.
COINCIDENTALLY this book by American writer Jane Delury also starts with a young American woman coming to France, but this time to stay in a village outside Paris as an au pair (she dreams she will integrate, perfect her French and later become a Frenchwoman with a flat overlooking the Seine, with lovers and fresh croissants every day). The jacket blurb says she stays on a small estate – but rather than some tower block in a banlieue the story revolves around a country manor house with sprawling grounds and staff cottages. Delury is a prize-winning writer of short stories and while this is described as her first ‘novel’, in fact each chapter deals with different episodes in the history of the place and the stories of those who have lived here. The opening chapter sets the scene and gives hints and snippets from history of what is to come. The balcony of the title is clearly a focal point, being a distinctive feature from which one can look out across a pond and woods which we can tell – from chapter names – will feature again in future (or past) episodes. In one of the vivid descriptions which are a feature of Delury’s style, we are told it has an iron railing “which was supported by spindles that looped and twisted in a rusted web” and which had originally been designed to resemble silk thread by the first owner who made his money in silk. However in the opening story, in 1992, it is a place of faded glories, whose statues and valuable furniture were stolen after it was abandoned post-war when its then owners, Russian Jews, family of the current owners, were deported to a concentration camp. There are enjoyable details as the au pair, who finds herself attracted to her intellectual, alcoholic employer, discovers French life (learning to make home-made crêpes and mayonnaise...) and some ominous evocations of historic traumas (the society courtesan who leapt from the balcony; a tragedy associated with the lake…) which leave us interested to read on. However it seems the estate will be the main character, not the people – who will change from section to section, and after we leave the former au pair in a disillusioned middle age, still in France, one is left wondering if it will be enough to hold our attention to the end.
From Source to Sea, Valerie Thompson, Valerie-thompson. co.uk £14.99 ISBN: 978-0244-68951-3 YOU feel a little bombarded with French history when reading the opening chapter of this book – if going for French nationality it is ideal pre paration for a prefecture interview… This labour of love is based on notes made while exploring the Dordogne river, supplemented by reading of books by past travellers. The account opens with Ligurians from Italy, described as the first settlers to the south-west known to the history books, followed by waves of Celts and Germanic tribes. Interestingly, we learn that the river has two sources up adjacent Auvergne mountains, the Dore and Dogne, which mingle in the valley at the start of the river’s journey to the sea north of Bordeaux. The book is full of historical anecdotes from how Vercingetorix, who united the Gauls against Caesar, came from the area, the first skiers on the mountains there put cowskin on their skis to go uphill and patients at the spa at Mont Dore, one of the first settlements along the route, used to have to wear white outfits with felt boots and ‘pointed elf hats’ at all times. This ‘fluvial adventure’ would especially appeal to those who love the area and want to know more but also has enough to interest other readers who enjoy learning new facts about France. It is illustrated by the author’s own deft drawings.
Become practised in the fine art of receiving Language notes
is the season for giving (une période de partage) so in the festive spirit, here we share some handy phrases based on themes of generosity and gratitude. The first point is generic: how to be grateful (reconnaissant) when you benefit from un beau geste (a simple act of kindness or a nice gesture). Perhaps the most important lesson is similar to the English: ‘do not look a gift horse in the mouth’. In French, it is ‘à cheval donné on ne regarde pas les dents’ – which contains specific instructions to not look at said gift horse’s teeth! Want to say thanks? “Merci pour le cadeau!” is the obvious one while a ‘gift that keeps on giving’ might be translated as “le cadeau qui dure toute l’année” (the gift that lasts all year). A nice way to express hearty gratitude in an informal setting without
The French say ‘Do not look at a gift horse’s teeth’
using the stock ‘Merci beaucoup’ is to say ‘Mille fois merci’ (‘A thousand thanks’) or ‘Merci infiniment’ (‘Thanks a lot’), while more formal is “Avec tous mes remerciements” (‘With all my thanks’). How about phrases relating to those less generous of spirit? There is a popular saying that goes: “Donner c’est donner, reprendre c’est voler”, meaning “to give is to give, to take back is to steal”. Likewise, someone can take the idea of receiving a little too far: “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”, we would say – this is translated as: “Donnez-leur en long comme le doigt, ils en prendront long comme le bras” – meaning ‘give them a finger and they’ll take an arm’. We must leave the final word to the late, great and very generous Abbé Pierre, founder of Emmaüs: “On n’est jamais heureux que dans le bonheur qu’on donne. Donner, c’est recevoir.” ‘We are only ever happy in the happiness we give. Giving is receiving.’
Shopping/Did you know? 21
December 2018 I French Living
The Waldseemüller map from 1507 is known as the first map to use the name “America”
New products, designs and ideas from around France
Toulemonde bochart has been making rugs since 1946 and today works alongside renowned designers to create original, contemporary designs. Among these creative minds is Florence Bourel, whose dazzling Japanese-motifed Osaka rug (pictured) is crafted from New Zealand wool and silk. This is among the many high quality, Frenchmade products sold by La Camif, an online shop for decoration, furnishings and equipment for interior and exterior use. The website, which has over 8,000 ‘Made in France’ products, emphasizes quality, durability and a sense of environmental responsibility. Osaka rug from €1,150. www.camif.fr
When 13 is lucky for some THE RITUAL scoffing of 13 desserts following a Christmas feed in Provence has assumed legendary status, in both the gluttony and taste sensation stakes. Variations on the dishes’ content vary locally but usually they include dried fruit and nuts like figs and almonds (said to represent monks) as well as sweeter treats such as calissons d’Aix and candied fruit. Bringing this tradition to the table in a handy ‘coffret’ is notable purveyor of sweet treats Le Roy René. The box includes calissons, nougat, dried figs and apricots, dates, slices of candied orange and clementines, fruit pastes, almonds, hazelnuts and raisins. www.calisson.com
America got its name from a French town Did you know?
French TECH innovators are very good at finding simple solutions for everyday problems – none of which is more annoying or inconvenient than losing a purse, wallet or passport. An example of this ‘can-solve’ attitude is Wistiki Hopla!. This slim tracking device with aesthetic input from by Philippe Starck combines elegance with technology to ensure important items can always be found – just use an app on your smartphone to call it or vice-versa for a lost phone. At just €39.99, this is the ideal Christmas gift for travellers, absent-minded or not. www.wistiki.com
Welcome to the fold! Bernard the fox, Edward the panda, Gaston the raccoon – these are all popular members of the 3D animal family created by Agent Paper, an eco-friendly brand of stationery and creative leisure products enjoying great success after launching in Rennes, Brittany. The environmental angle is clever – the company uses unwanted paper stock from local supplier Micro Lynx and transforms it into postcards, notepads, diaries and calendars. Its most popular products, however, are the decorative 3D folded (by you!) animals which can be put on the wall – friendlier in so many ways than taxidermy versions! Fox, €35: 50cm tall, 40cm deep; build time around three hours. www.agentpaper.com
small town in the Vosges, not far from Strasbourg, is famous for having given America its name. In 1507 a map was printed in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges which was the first one to include a fourth continent in addition to Europe, Asia and Africa. The name America is written on this new piece of land. The map was the work of a German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller, who was one of a group of scholars called the Gymnasium Vosagense which met at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. A book explaining the map was published at the same time and was most likely written by another member of the group, German humanist, Matthias Ringmann. The map and book were based on documents and discoveries from the late fifteenth and the first years of the sixteenth centuries and included data gathered during the Italian Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501-1502 to the New World. When Christopher Columbus died in 1506, he still thought he had found a new way to reach Asia and so it is not he, but Amerigo Vespucci, who is recognised as the first man to have discov-
ered the existence of a fourth continent. In the book, written in Latin, a passage suggests this new landmass should be named after the man who discovered it and as the other three continents have feminine names Europa, Africa and Asia, Amerigo is changed to America. It was a huge leap forward in knowledge, describing a new continent and the Pacific as a separate ocean. At that time the accepted knowledge of the shape of the world was still based on the second century AD work of the Greek geographer, Claudius Ptolemy. It is thought that 1,000 copies of the map were made, but only one has survived and it is kept in the Library of Congress in Washington under its full title Universalis Cosmographia Secundum Ptholomaei Traditionem et Americi Vespucii Aliorum que lustrationes, St Dié, 1507. (A drawing of the whole earth following the tradition of Ptolemy and the travels of Amerigo Vespucci and others). The map is regarded as America’s birth certificate and in 2003 the library paid 10 million dollars to have it in its collection. At Saint-Dié-des-Vosges visitors to the library can see a copy of the map and one of the original books that went with it. Alexandre Jury, responsible for the town’s written heritage says it is not clear why the town was chosen for the publication of the document, though it was a known centre for intellectuals.
Map: Martin Waldseemüller/Library of Congress
QUOI DE NEUF?
French Living I December 2018
The aristocrat revolutionary turned angel of assassination Revolutionary figure Charlotte Corday is known for murdering a rival political figure in his bathtub. Samantha David looks at her extraordinary, if short, life and what motivated her ultimately fruitless act in Caen, she became a strong supporter of their faction. Initially, the Girondins had been pretty much in step with other groups including the Montagnards and Jacobins (who both took an extreme view about stamping out resistance to the Revolution) but gradually they were side-lined and in May 1793, the Montagnards, led by Robespierre, took control of the government and the Reign of Terror began. Their aim was to kill anyone who might oppose them, superficially in order to consolidate the Revolution, ward off any possible civil war, and to stamp out counter-Revolutionaries and their sympathisers. It is impossible not to note, however, that as a convenient side-effect it would also wipe out all political opposition and hand almost absolute power to the Jacobins. Charlotte Corday was horrified by this State-sanctioned violence, and felt that it was a step towards destroying the soul of France. In her mind, the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat, who had called for and approved of the killing of thousands of prisoners in the 1792 September Massacres, was directly responsible for cultivating and spreading these radical ideas. His publication, L’Ami du Peuple (The Friend of the People) was the Jacobin’s loudspeaker to the ‘sans-culottes’. A doctor, scientist and political theorist, Marat was then 50 years old and uncompromising in his views. His background was poor, his childhood education scant, but his drive, hard work, and ambition had elevated him through society. He had spent many years living in Britain, and returning to France in 1777, he got the job of physician to the bodyguard of King Louis XVI’s youngest brother. He used his handsome salary to pursue various scientific studies but fell foul of other scientific experts who did not always agree with his findings. He attempted to disprove Newton’s theory that refracted white light breaks down into seven colours, for example. On the eve of the Revolution, perhaps seeing it coming, he abandoned science and medicine to enter journalism and politics, becoming a powerful Jacobin voice and calling for the use of violence against the monarchy and the Girondins. The times were turbulent; during the upheaval and chaos of the Revolution, Marat was several times forced to hide in the sewers of Paris, and at one point he was arrested. But he did not care – throughout it all, he kept to his radical opinions. From Caen, his voice was so loud that it seemed as if he were the star of the show, rather than the leader of the claque.
Painting by Jean-Jacques Hauer/Allposters.com; Inset: Painting by Joseph Boze, Musée Carnavalet
as Charlotte Corday misguided? Insane? Politically naive? Or was she just a murderess, plain and simple? It’s undisputed in fact, that she did murder Jean-Paul Marat as he lounged in his bath. But what kind of woman kills a man she hardly knows because she disagrees with his politics? Much as we might dream of murdering certain politicians, it’s a fantasy not a plan. “Her actions have been interpreted differently by various people over the years,” says Alain Chevalier, the curator of the Musée de la Révolution Française in Vizille, just south of Grenoble. “She was provincial, a small-town aristocrat, well-educated and felt she was on a mission to save ‘The People’. I think she was vulnerable, fragile in her thinking, not really capable of following all the details of an argument. She thought that by killing the voice, you could kill the message.” Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont was born in Normandy in 1768, into a family of local aristocrats. After her mother’s death, she and her sister were packed off to a convent school in Caen, where she read her way through the library. So we can deduce that her childhood was probably not filled with close warmth and love. In 1791, two years after the French Revolution started, she left the convent and went to live with her cousin, Madame le Coustellier de BrettevilleGouville. She was 23 and like everyone in France at that time, followed news of the Revolution avidly. In the two years since the overthrow of the monarchy, radicalism had reared its ugly head, and different factions had emerged with varying ideas on which direction the Revolutionaries should take. The Girondins (so-called because many of the faction’s leading lights came from Gironde in south-west France) were for ending the monarchy, and for spreading the Revolution internationally via military action (against the Rhineland, Poland, Netherlands, Austria and eventually Britain, Spain and Italy) but against burning chateaux and against executing anyone suspected of being an ‘enemy’ of the Revolution. It is easy to see why this stance would appeal to Charlotte. She was a democrat and a republican, but her background, albeit not fabulously rich, was aristocratic, her education thoroughly classical, and she was in line to inherit her cousin’s estate. She had not approved of the execution of King Louis XVI and as she listened to the Girondins at their meetings
Above: the Normandyborn Revolutionary Charlotte Corday died aged just 24 by guillotine; inset: the Jacobin writer and politician Jean-Paul Marat, whom Corday killed in his bathtub
She never really had the chance to explain herself and it appears she did not really try. Perhaps she thought her actions would speak for themselves
To Charlotte Corday he seemed to be the head of the serpent. If he were eliminated, untold thousands of French lives would be spared and some of the choppy waters would be calmed. A more moderate and reasonable, Girondin, version of the Revolution would triumph. So on July 9 1793, Charlotte Corday travelled to Paris, where she bought a 6-inch kitchen knife and set about tracking Marat down. She had initially considered killing him in front of the National Convention in order to make an example of him, but he no longer attended meetings there. So she went to his home, claiming to have details of a Girondin plot in order to gain admittance. Marat had contracted a painful and debilitating skin condition, and in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms, spent much of him time in medicinal baths. It was not unusual for him to receive visitors whilst still in his bath. Charlotte stabbed him just once in the chest, and alerted by his screams, the room filled with people. Marat died almost immediately and Charlotte was arrested and taken to prison. Did she expect to be executed, or did she think she would be able to explain her actions and go free? It is impossible to say, as
Local history 23
December 2018 I French Living
Village’s long-lost legacy of mines and Médecys In the latest of her explorations of small French villages with secret histories, Jane Hanks visits Peyrusse-le-Roc in Aveyron
Secret history of buildings
W subsequent events moved very fast. She never really had the chance to explain herself and it appears she did not really try. Perhaps she thought her actions would speak for themselves. Perhaps she thought that she would be remembered as having martyred herself to save France. Whatever she thought, within four days she had been interrogated, had undergone a virginity examination to ascertain whether or not there was a lover somewhere in the plot (she was found to be a virgin), had had her portrait painted, and been guillotined. Charlotte Corday was executed in July 1893, but Marat had already done his work; Robespierre had already begun his Reign of Terror which officially continued until July 1794, when he fell from power, by which time 16,594 French citizens had been executed. For many years Charlotte Corday was forgotten, but her actions did have repercussions – many of them negative. “She discredited a lot of people, and made Marat a martyr,” says Alain Chevalier. “And because she killed him in his private chambers while he was in the bath, the affair always seems sordid, people always wonder if there wasn’t a sexual element.”
He notes that Charlotte Corday changed the role of women in the revolution, reminded the world that women could be fearless political actors rather than simply being fragile wives and mothers. She stirred up a misogynistic image of women as manipulative, deceptive and dangerous. Her murder of Marat may even have been a contributory factor in the execution of Marie-Antoinette a few months later in October. “She didn’t achieve anything positive. People who kill journalists and politicians never change anything. When we look at a tragic modern example, the killing of the Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, we draw the same conclusions. The personal effect on people who knew Jo Cox was enormous, but murder doesn’t change political ideas. Her death hasn’t silenced the conversation about EU membership. “Nor did Marat’s death change the direction of the French Revolution. Violence is the result of confrontational, binary, black-and-white thinking. Murder is an absolute impasse; it never leads to anything. Charlotte Corday simply didn’t understand that the only way to change ideas is to engage, discuss, persuade, explain and listen.”
Above: an imagined depiction of the grisly murder scene. Under the Second Empire, Marat was seen as a revolutionary monster and Corday as a true heroine of France, but more recent thinking questions her act
hen you arrive at the pretty hilltop village of Peyrusse-le-Roc in the Aveyron, you could be forgiven for missing its hidden history, which for the most part is out of sight on the densely wooded slopes leading down into the valley below. You might just have caught a glimpse, though, of the ruins of one of its chateaux with its two remaining towers perched perilously on the top of a rocky outcrop, which in days gone by was a strong and impenetrable defence against marauders. The village now has around 230 inhabitants, but at the height of its prosperity in the 13th century, 3,500 people lived there and it was an important town in the region from the 8th to the 18th century. Much of its wealth came from its silver and lead mines. At that period the people of Peyrusse-le-Roc lived on the slopes leading down into the valley; it was not until its decline that the population moved to its present situation on the top of the hill. Thus the ruins of the earlier settlement, including a church, covered market, a bell tower, a barbican tower, a hospital known as l’hôpital des Anglais (no doubt because of English occupation during various periods), a synagogue, a leper’s house, a bridge, and a carved stone tomb called the Tombeau du Roi (it is assumed the unknown buried person had connections with the king), can only be seen if you leave the centre and walk down the steep footpaths leading away from the contemporary village. The village began its rise in 767, when the armies of Pépin le Bref, the King of the Franks who was extending
his territories south managed to seize the château of Peyrusse. From then on its destiny was linked to the history of the County of Toulouse. For a short period, when Eleanor of Aquitaine divorced the French King, Louis VII and married King Henry II, the village came under English rule. However, this was not to the liking of the local population and the Médecy family, who may or may not have been linked with the Italian Medicis won back control for the French. The village was at its most prosperous in the 13th and 14th centuries when it became a bailiwick, the chief administrative centre in the region responsible for 109 parishes. It was home to around 40 noble families and other rich families settled there. There was an important Jewish community, hence the synagogue ruins. Its position and strong walls also attracted people because it protected the population from the constant wars in the country. It must have been a bustling place, unlike today’s sleepy village, with two markets a week and several fairs during the year. However, its fortunes began to wane with the Hundred Years War, the Religious Wars and the decline of the mines as the precious ore began to run out. In 1719, the village lost its bailiwicks right and its nobles and rich inhabitants began to leave. The artisans lost their clients and little by little the population went into decline and with it its buildings. In 1783, records show that the church roof and its separate bell tower were in danger of collapsing. It was not until the 20th century that the richness of its heritage began to come to light and now there are efforts to restore it. You can visit it for free but you are advised to wear hiking boots for the visit peyrusse-le-roc.ucom.fr
24 The big picture
French Living I December 2018
English hideaway fit for French Queen Photos: © Château de Versailles
The lovingly restored Queen’s House is now open to the public. By Samantha David
he Queen’s House at Versailles has been renovated and reopened thanks to financial support from Dior. Before the works were carried out, the interior was degraded and the structure was in such bad shape that it was not safe to open it to visitors. Now it has been restored to its former glory, and is open so that the public can enjoy the deliberately fabricated contrast between the bucolic, dreamy exterior and the glitzy luxurious salons occupied originally by Marie-Antoinette and then later by Empress Marie-Louise, the second wife of Napoleon I. Jérémie Benoît, the curator of Versailles, says the restoration was very much a discovery of the people who used it. “We have to put ourselves in the skin of the actors of the past. Our skill is to link the past and the present. We base our work on all the available documents, including archives, engravings and images.” It was not just a case of restoring the buildings. The furnishings had to be recreated too. “It was a major challenge. We had to research the items mentioned in various accounts, and with the decor recreate the atmosphere designed by Parisian cabinet-maker Jacob-Desmalter, who supplied much of the Empire-style furniture.” The hamlet was built in the grounds of Versailles, partly as an escape from the strains of court life, partly as a place where the royal children could learn about agriculture, and partly as a must-have accessory. The entire development was built in carefully landscaped countryside and gardens, following the English model which was the height of fashion when Marie-Antoinette commissioned its construction. The very formal French style of gardens, straight lines of gravel paths, closely clipped hedges, ornamental fountains etc, can be admired at Versailles,
but rolling hills, tumbling brooks, ‘natural’ planting schemes and elaborate follies were all the rage when the hamlet was built round a specially-constructed lake. In the same way, nobles of the time delighted in ‘surprise’ thatched cottages; from the outside they looked thoroughly pastoral and simple but inside they were richly decorated and equipped with all the latest luxuries. The house was designed to minimise all contact between its owners and their servants. The kitchens for example, are in a separate building called the ‘Warming House’, also now restored. The hamlet contained a farm and all its outbuildings, working dairy, a mill, a ‘boudoir’, a barn, a dovecot, a games house (containing a billiards table) and accommodation for the Queen’s guards. The
The Queen’s House, in its own hamlet on the Versailles grounds, provided an escape from the bustle of the royal court, and was based on the then fashionable image of English pastoralism
paths connecting the various houses were laid out to give the walker the best possible views of the lake, the hamlet and the surrounding landscapes. There were cottage gardens, vegetable patches, espaliered fruit trees, and pots of flowers everywhere. It was in this hamlet that news was brought to Marie-Antoinette: an armed mob was marching towards Versailles. She and her family were arrested awaiting execution and the hamlet was sequestered as part of the 1789 French Revolution. The furniture and fittings were auctioned off, and the hamlet rented out for festivals and parties, squatters moved into the cottages, and the Petit Trianon was turned into a hotel and restaurant. In 1810, when Napoleon 1 had divorced Josephine and married Marie-Louise, Marie-Antoinette’s great niece, he had the Petit Trianon and the hamlet completely refurbished for his second wife’s use. Some of the cottages were so dilapidated
they had to be demolished, but the rest were carefully restored, albeit with much simpler furnishings and interior design. This is the design which has now been recreated according to descriptions and notes left from the time. The rising damp has been treated, plasterwork renewed, stonework replaced, rotting woodwork replaced, and the whole building strengthened to make it safe for visitors. The gardens and landscaped areas have been replanted, the lake has been cleaned up. The furnishings, furniture and fittings are exquisite, so that the ‘surprise’ element has also been recreated. Because the contents of the house are so fragile and precious, the Maison de la Reine can only be visited in guided groups, and it is best to book ahead as all the tours have been full since the house opened to the public last May. “I think this shows just how interested the public are in the Maison de la Reine,” says Jérémie Benoît.
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ME AND MY OPERATION: Pituitary adenoma – Adénome hypophysaire
GP saved me from blindness with double-vision diagnosis The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey
Former engineer Alexander Prette, 71, moved to Mesnil Mauger in Seine-Maritime in April 2005 with his wife Toni, 71, a former lecturer and exam moderator. They chose Haute-Normandie to retire to as it is close to their former home in Kent. They had worked abroad – in Europe and beyond – for 25 years and both had a reasonable knowledge of French. Initial symptoms In 2016, I began to feel very unwell. I lost my appetite and experienced weight loss, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. My doctor sent me for various blood tests, which proved inconclusive and medications to alleviate the symptoms, including antibiotics and anti-nausea tablets, did not help. The GP continued to support me with my symptoms over the months that followed, but the cause remained a mystery. However, six months after my initial visit, I began to experience double-vision and alarm bells rang. The GP sent me for an immediate brain scan, which revealed I had a macro adénome hypophysaire (a tumour on the pituitary gland). This had grown rapidly and it was affecting major arteries and pressing on my optic nerve. At the hospital My scan took place just before Christmas 2016 so there was an initial delay in treatment starting. In early January, my doctor arranged an appointment with a neurosurgeon at Charles-Nicolle hospital in Rouen. After tests, the neurosurgeon set another appointment for the end of January but almost as I arrived home, the hospital called asking me to return within a few days to see the neurosurgery professor In the next two weeks, I made several visits to the endocrinology clinic affiliated with the hospital at Bois-Guillaume CHU plus full examinations with another MRI. I was put on medication to alleviate my symptoms, but told I needed an operation to stop the growth of the tumour, as it could eventually destroy my optic nerve. The operation The operation was carried out in February
FACTS ON Pituitary tumours
The Pituitary Foundation. Further information can be found in Surgery & Radiotherapy booklet
The operation The majority of pituitary gland operations are carried out through the nose, known as “transsphenoidal” surgery. The aim is to remove as much of the tumour as safely as possible, without damaging delicate nerves and blood vessels in the area. Surgery can, in some cases, remove all of small tumours but complete removal of large tumours can be difficult. The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic and takes several hours – although this will depend on the size and accessibility of the tumour. Patients are usually kept in hospital for about a week. Aftercare Regular blood tests will be carried out to ensure hormone levels haven’t been
Alexander Prette praises health service 2017, under general anaesthetic. The tumour was accessed via my nostril using micro-surgery. On the same day, I was on the phone to my wife by 2pm, but stayed in Intensive Care for 24 hours. There, I was required to lie flat on my back and was monitored constantly. I remained in hospital for six days and cannot fault the wonderful care I received. In fact, I became quite famous – on one occasion a nurse came in, spoke to me and, when I replied, she said with a big smile: “Ah, vous êtes l’homme avec le bel accent!”
adversely affected; if they have, medication may be required. Some patients may develop diabetes insipidus, but this can be temporary. After the operation, you are likely to have a painful nose, perhaps a headache or bruising of your face. You will be asked routine questions by the nurse, such as what day it is and where you are. They will also test your eyesight. Outlook Radiotherapy is sometimes used as part of the overall treatment for pituitary tumours (also called pituitary adenomas). The aim is to control the growth of the tumour and prevent it enlarging. In some cases, radiotherapy also results in shrinkage of the tumour, but this can take months or years.
Aftercare After discharge, I continued to experience a little bleeding from my nose, but no other ill-effects. However, at my follow-up appointment four months after surgery in July 2017, the neurosurgeon explained that although the operation had been a success, he hadn’t been able to remove the whole tumour because of its vulnerable position. So, every six-months, I go for a check at the endocrinology clinic, see the professor in charge once a year and see my neurosurgeon twice a year. I also have MRIs to check the tumour isn’t causing problems. So far, he is satisfied with my progress, and it’s a relief each time he tells my wife and I “all is good; see you in a year!” Because both my pituitary gland and thyroid are now not working, I am on medication for the rest of my life. However, I feel better than I have for years – with so much more energy. My wife tells me I’m a new man! I do not have the words to express my gratitude to our GP, neurosurgery at Charles-Nicolle, endocrinology at BoisGuillaume for not only the speed with which I was treated, but the care and efficiency of everyone involved. If my doctor had not diagnosed my condition so quickly, I may have eventually developed blindness.
France is a strongly Catholic country This is partly false France is regarded as a Catholic country, but the actual number of people who go to church every week is the lowest of any ‘Catholic country’, and surveys show religion is not part of life for most people. There are no government statistics for churchgoers as it is regarded as counter to freedom of choice to ask anyone about their religious beliefs. Any information that exists, therefore, comes from opinion polls.
In this column we look at the ‘truths’ everyone ‘knows’ about France In 2017 a survey for La Croix Catholic newspaper, showed 1.8% of the population went to Mass every Sunday. This is down from a similar 2009 study showing 4.5% went to Mass, while in 1952 some 27% were weekly churchgoers. In Spain by comparison, about 20% of the population go to Mass once a week.
Statistics from the Catholic church also reflect this downturn. The number of baptisms has decreased from nearly halfa-million in 1990 to just over a quarter-of-a-million in 2015. In the same period the number of confirmations has halved and church weddings have more than halved. Just after the Second World War an early Ifop poll found eight out of 10 people said they were Catholic. By 2016 this figure had dropped to 64%, mainly made up of people who iden-
tify with the church even if they were not regular practitioners. A Gallup poll in 2009, found 30% said the religion was an important part of their lives. It is thought that between seven and 10% of the population are Muslim in France and 2% are Protestant. In terms of the numbers who say they are Catholic, rather than the numbers who go to church, Catholicism remains the number one religion, but whether it is still a Catholic country is open to debate.
MPs vote down drugs plan MPs have rejected an MP’s proposal to allow pharmacists to dispense certain drugs for minor illnesses without a doctor’s prescription. The idea was an amendment to the projet de loi de financement de la Sécurité sociale 2019, put forward by LREM MP Delphine Bagarry. Under the plan, pharmacists would have been allowed to dispense particular drugs for certain illnesses such as cystitis, conjunctivitis or eczema in order to speed up treatment. Ms Bagarry said the aim was “to make it easier for the French to access the care they
need by drawing on everyone’s skills”. It followed a decision to allow pharmacists to perform vaccinations. Pharmacists supported the plan and it also received cautious approval in public consultations but MPs agreed with doctors who had voiced strong opposition. “This is a complete questioning of the contours of the profession: it amounts to giving the pharmacist responsibility for a medical diagnosis and the prescription of drugs usually prescribed by a doctor,” said Jean-Paul Ortiz, president of the CSMF doctors union.
Reduce your energy bills Energy bills are soaring with a 5.4% rise for gas last month, taxes on oil (fioul) due to go up in January and electricity rates at an all-time high. Consumer champion Que Choisir and independent energy mediation service at www. energie-info.fr have non-commercial price comparative sites for electricity and gas. It is worth taking time to study the details of each offer and though there are fewer savings to be had from electricity at present you could cut €100 off your gas bill. You can change supplier with no cancellation charge at any time and the new supplier must do the paperwork to terminate your previous contract. Que Choisir says there is no need to fear the smaller energy suppliers as they have the same controls as for EDF and Enedis, but to study the contracts carefully. They advise fixed-price contracts to avoid market fluctuations. Leading oil supplier fioulmarket.fr warns that 2019 tax increases will add €80 to a 2,000-litre oil delivery and that 42% of your bill will go
in taxes, so it is best to buy before the tax rise in January. You can follow market trends by looking at oil sites www.fioulmoinscher.fr, www.fioulmarket.fr and www.fioulreduc.com which indicate whether prices are rising or falling. Que Choisir has set up a group purchase scheme which negotiates a discount price from suppliers, and says it can save €50 on each order, including the €5 join up fee. www.choisirsonfioul.fr If you do decide to change from oil, the government is offering income-related grants of up to €3,000 to help you change to renewable energy methods. Log on to www.ecologique-solidaire. gouv.fr/coup-pouce-economiesdenergie-2018-2020 Tips from www.energie-info. fr include cutting consumption by 7% by lowering the temperature by 1°C, leaving shutters and curtains closed if you go out for the day, purging radiators regularly and having your boiler checked each year to make it last longer and operate efficiently.
No to carte grises for bikes
CYCLIsts will have to ensure their bicycles are correctly ‘marked with a unique code’ in a bid to cut down on crime, under new government plans. Up to 500,000 bicycles are stolen every year in France and fear of theft is often cited as a reason for people not wanting a bike. But Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said owners will not have to carry carte grise-style ownership certificates every time they ride their
bikes, as had been reported. Once a cycle is marked with a unique code, its owner will be given a certificate which they can present to police as proof of ownership if the bike is stolen, or if they want to sell it on. Bicycles produced from 2020 will have the code number marked as standard, while cycle-owners have until 2021 to get their bikes registered. To find a shop to mark your bike and the fee see bicycode.org.
ANYONE concerned about electromagnetic radiation levels can now have their home – or any public space – checked out for free. L’Agence nationale des fréquences (ANFR) began offering the service in June. Homeowners and tenants, with the approval of their landlord, should apply via form Cerfa n°15003*02 which is available from the website service-public.fr. The form must be countersigned by an authorised body, such as a local authority official and the survey will be carried out within a month. The results will be published at the government site cartoradio.fr which shows radio mast implantations throughout France.
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
P26 South West France Tel Code 05
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 email@example.com
The Connexion December 2018
ALL OF FRANCE
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 firstname.lastname@example.org www.enershop.eu
The eVolution 26 wood boiler stove is an impressive feature as well as providing heating and domestic hot water.
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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.
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The Connexion December 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
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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
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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. firstname.lastname@example.org Mr Muir added: “We will continue to www.furnitureforfrance.co.uk
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The Connexion December 2018
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
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Delivery in 3 - 4 working days
Wide choice of finish options.
The savvy expat’s favourite service!
Tel: 0044 1738 633220 www.pharosparcel.com
Full customisation possible. Bespoke Design service available. Delivery throughout France. www.lovefrenchinteriors.com
0044 (0) 20 3474 0092
Carpentry, masonry, plastering, kitchens, replacement windows and doors
www.mesnilrenovation.com Tel. 02 31 09 26 54 Siret 48423125300010
Premier Renovations 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 email@example.com
Siret 51442634500013 - Covering Depts 22, 35, 56
Pete's Roofing Covering the Gard
All types of roofs renewed / repaired Velux roof windows - Guttering
04 66 72 75 84
firstname.lastname@example.org Siret No: 50066265500017
Multi-Service - Builders
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
05 SOUTH west
The Connexion December 2018
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
AUDE & HERAULT 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: email@example.com
www.midibuilder.com Siret 4846 8735 500012
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.
THE DORDOGNE CATTERY
ELECTRICIAN Experienced & French Registered.
CONTACT PETER Maslen 05 53 31 95 88 / 06 86 94 85 78 firstname.lastname@example.org www.dordognecattery.com
Tel: 05 46 86 07 61 Email: email@example.com
PENSION POUR CHATS NEAR SARLAT, OPEN-AIR, INSULATED AND HEATED
Available for all types of electrical work. Insured and guaranteed. Areas: 16,17,24,47 Siret No. 49376573200015
Contact Lawrence or Peter at SwissLife for your healthcare insurance needs Tel: 05 56 28 94 64 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.swisslife-health-insurance.fr
Bob Freeman Satellite and aerial systems installed and repaired. UK boxes available. Senior Sky engineer 05 53 06 08 65 email@example.com www.digitalsatellites.fr 484 432 323 00018 - Regions Covered: 24, 47, 33
HEALTH AND COUNSELLING
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 Aude / Herault Gary Alderson
Electrician Friendly, Experienced, UK Qualified, French Registered Rewires, Installation, Fault Finding Tel 07 83 05 29 43 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Siret 81115002800017
design : parkes architecture SARL Architects & Designers Dossiers for Permis de Construire Déclarations Préalables Interior & Landscape Design
GARDEN SERVICES Creation, Garden Maintenance, Tree Surgery, Felling Property 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: email@example.com W: www.parkesarchitecture.com Depts: 16,19,24,33,87
04 68 26 61 22
All Gardening Work - Cutting Strimming - Hedge Trimming Clearance - Property Services Depts - 24,46,47 Tel: Bob & Tracy 06 42 82 44 96 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org siret : 48293447800017
DEMPSEY TREE SURGERY CONTRACTORS
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: email@example.com
Wrought Iron Work Handrails Gates Railings Pergolas Stairs l
Tel: 05 45 65 96 86 Mob: 06 61 90 04 92 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Qualified English Artisan
Plastering, Pointing, Crepi, Tiling, Plasterboard, Insulation, Painting Call: 05 65 10 76 90 Email: email@example.com
www.plasterthelot.com Siret: 53068838100017 Regions Covered: 46, 19
• Rural Broadband • UK & French TV Satellite & On-Demand
• CCTV & Alarms • WiFi Installation • Home Audio & Cinema
Tel 06 80 55 06 09 SW France firstname.lastname@example.org
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
ROBERT JONES ELECTRICITE Fully insured, registered electrician. Rewires, renovation, new builds, heating and A/C. Dépt. 47 Tél. 06 81 98 43 22 Email. email@example.com www.agenelec.com
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
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS SOUTH OF FRANCE Is Alcohol Costing You More Than Money?
Call Alcoholics Anonymous.0820 200 257
www.aa-riviera.org Siret : 49197537100015
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS South West France Have you a problem? www.aafrance.net Or Call Shepperd 06.74.95.19.66 Angela 05.49.87.79.09
PHOENIX ANIMAL RESCUE
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:
www.phoenixasso.com www.facebook.com/ PhoenixAssociationFrance
Inside & Outside l Made to Measure l Dept 46 Tel: 05 65 30 53 99 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ironwoodmotif.com
Plaster The Lot
Property Management Services
Les Amis Des Chats promotes sterilisation to improve the well-being of stray and pet cats in the rural villages of SW France.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS
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
ANGLICAN CHURCH IN THE TARN
* Property Check * Property Maintenance * Garden Services * Change Over * Design & Styling
Every Sunday: 11 am at BRENS CHURCH, GAILLAC
+ 33 (0)5 45 82 55 93 / + 33 (0)7 70 76 58 89 www.gapdm.com / email@example.com
Info: 05 63 33 12 76 www.churchinmidipa.org
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
The Connexion December 2018
Property Searching Takes off Every December It seems a bit of a mystery why every December sees an increase of interest in purchasing a property in France and this continues into the following spring. Bob Elliott, Commercial Director at UK Telecom, reviews what prospective buyers should firstly consider. One of the important changes for home hunters that want a telephone and broadband service is that the basic service of a telephone line with a broadband service running over, known as ‘degroupage partiel’, was withdrawn from the market on 15 November. Many will find this of concern as today’s world almost dictates that every
home must have access to the internet. Those most affected by this change will be house hunters looking for property in more rural areas where broadband speeds are generally slower as they are often further away from the local telephone exchange. Those that are closer can have the ‘degroupage total’ service where the broadband speed is at least 2Mbps. This service uses the broadband service to carry the telephone calls as well. This service does not require a line rental payment so whilst faster it is also cheaper. 90% of our new customers subscribe to the degroupage total service; the remainder have to consider alternatives. These 10% of properties being purchased which fall into the zone where they can no longer get the traditional broadband connection must review the other options. One of the most popular of which uses a mobile service with SFR’s offer called 4G. You do need a
For unique, French-themed gift ideas see our shop at connexionfrance.com
Community events Move fast to catch a secondhand clothes sale on Saturday, November 24, between 10am and 4pm, at Salle des Associations Claude Albinet, Mézin, on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières. For further information contact Lynne Johnstone 05 53 97 38 17, or email firstname.lastname@example.org A taste of Christmas, US-style is on the menu at the American Church in Paris at 65, Quai d’Orsay on December 1. Between 10am and 6pm, organisers have promised a ‘mind-blowing’ one-day rummage sale. Quality ‘pre-loved’ clothes, jewellery, handbags, accessories, English books, toys, children’s and baby clothes are all on sale – while the baked goods stand, offering fresh home-baked carrot cake, mouth-watering brownies and seasonal cookies is a must-visit. US-style holiday food is available at the snack bar, while the children can enter the ‘silly sweater party’ and take selfies with Santa: www.aaweparis. org/bazaar https://www.facebook.com/ events/309572326533028/ Homemade Christmas cakes, puddings, mince pies and crackers will be available at the Great Annual Christmas Market in Bertric Burée on December 1, between 10am and 3pm. Members of Dronne Valley Church are hosting the event, and say you are sure to find an ideal present or two
reasonably good mobile signal to use this, and if not you will have to look at alternatives such as satellite broadband. More than ever before those looking to buy property and requiring internet connection need to find out where the service is available and which service they would have to subscribe to. If they are in urban areas they may be able to subscribe to the new fibre services that give super-fast speeds, TV, pay per view sports events and access to Netflix and more. UK Telecom offers our prospective customers all the information about available services at the time they make an enquiry. This can be a general enquiry about broadband and mobile services in a commune, to the actual services which can be installed in a property they want to buy. This free service enables them to avoid buying a home in an ‘internet black hole’ – and could be a reason why the property’s sale
price is lower than expected if they cannot get connected. So if you are about to buy for the first time in France, or are looking to move, we can make sure that you get the best information on how to stay in touch. BOB ELLIOTT, UKTelecom www.uktelecom.net email@example.com +44 (0)1483 477100 Free from France: 0805 631632
Useful telephone numbers 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 lifethreatening situations u 15: Samu (for other urgent medical callouts) 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/ view-your-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.servicepublic.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 Englishlanguage groups see: www.alcoholicsanonymous.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 firstname.lastname@example.org u English Speaking Cancer Association
(Geneva-based): 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: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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) email@example.com 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 among the stalls selling arts and crafts, children’s books and toys, and lots more. Refreshments are available. For details contact Ann Knight on 05 45 98 22 17, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
TV’s Military Wives choir seeks help finding a place to perform in Normandy
Come along and join Cantabile, the ACFAA choir in Eymet, as they present Christmas carols and songs in Place Gambetta in the Dordogne town, on December 19 at 7pm. For further information contact Philippa Tillyer at email@example.com
The Chivenor Military Wives Choir, is hoping Connexion readers can help them find a choir to sing with for their planned tour of the Normandy Beaches next October, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. They performed in France and Belgium in each of the past two years, and in 2019 they feel a visit to Normandy would be special as the North Devon beaches near to where they live were used to train soldiers for the D-Day landings. The Chivenor Military Wives Choir is made up of wives, partners and girlfriends of British Military personnel and veterans. It was set up in 2011, when Gareth Malone visited RMB Chivenor to form a choir for the BBC TV programme, The Choir: Military Wives. It was such a success that the song they sang at the 2011 Festival of Remembrance, Wherever You Are, was released as a single and became the Christmas number one that year, raising more than £500,000 for the military charities SSAFA and The Royal British Legion. Since then the choir has released two number one albums, In My Dreams and
You are invited to a non-denominational traditional Service of Nine Lessons and Nine Carols, sung in French, English, Provençal and German in Vaucluse on December 22. Afterwards, vin chaud and mince pies will be served in the Cafe de la Poste, Goult. Proceeds go to the Fundraising Effort in support of the Pays d’Apt Hospital. Contact Michael Timperley firstname.lastname@example.org, 06 33 74 82 70, or Fran Goodwin frangow@ wanadoo.fr 04 90 72 29 83 for details. Start the New Year in style with an evening of popular Viennese music presented by Cantabile and guest singers at the Espace Culturel, Eymet, on January 5. Tickets are available from the Tourist Office in Eymet, or at the door on the night – €10 each, free to under 12s. Contact Philippa Tillyer at email@example.com for more information.
The choir at a performance in Ypres in 2018 Stronger Together and has been involved in national events including the Diamond Jubilee Concert. They continue to perform to raise money for charity, but tend to favour smaller venues now. As Treasurer and Overseas Visits Co-ordinator, Jane Batchelor says, their main concern is the welfare of the wives when the men are away: “None of us were in a choir before we started in 2011 and the experience has given many of us increased confidence. Jane Batchelor, says that because of the choir’s geographical and historical links with Normandy, they would like to sing there: “It is very relevant for our group because of where we live and the 75th anniversary timing.
“We would like to be able to pay our respects on behalf of all the military wives and the people of North Devon.” The choir has a repertoire ranging from Coldplay and Queen to classical and religious music, which they vary according to the type of concert and venue. They rehearse once a week with their musical director and more before a big performance. They intend to come for a weekend in October 2019, travelling on Thursday October 3, hopefully singing on Friday and Saturday and going home on the Sunday. Anybody who would like to link up with them can contact Jane Batchelor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Jones at email@example.com
The Connexion December 2018
Private property for sale company reports record year ARB French Property are pleased to say that they have had their busiest year ever. So much for Brexit! ARB French Property is based in the UK and was created by husband and wife team Adrian and Jacqueline Bunn, as a low cost private for sale property marketing platform. Adrian says “We take a pro-active approach to finding buyers for our sellers. We email our extensive database with regular property listings, we ensure every home is seen on leading third-party sites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, French Property Links, A Place in the Sun and
more. We find most our buyers from the UK, France, Holland and Belgium. Our buying clients will be mostly cash or cash subject to sale, over 50, retired or contemplating retirement and looking to buy a property to enjoy with friends, family and grand-children. “Many sellers often ask Is Brexit having an effect? The simple answer is YES – mostly positive. This year we have seen a marked increase in full time movers from the UK – leaving because of Brexit. We call it the Brexit Exit! There is no flood of sellers going back to the UK, just the usual numbers for the usual reasons, such as family and health. Brexit has seen us move from 50/50 holiday home and full-time enquiries to 90% full time. This has a very positive effect. When buyers are searching for a full-time home budgets increase, and timescales shorten, so sellers are reporting negotiation is down”
Jacqui continues “We now need more stock throughout all areas of France. Whether you are new to market, feel your current marketing has stalled, are frustrated and simply want your home to have the attention it deserves, contact us. Our Platinum Plus service is our best-selling plan. It includes a visit by us to photograph your property, an extensive description and a floorplan. There is no commission to pay, saving buyers and sellers thousands. Plus, buyers like the idea of dealing directly with the seller, after all you know your home better than anyone” Give your home the attention it deserves - Call us or visit our web site for more details. +44 (0)1803 469367 firstname.lastname@example.org www.arbfrenchproperty.com
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.
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 email@example.com or call us on 00 44 1635 48724.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take the wider view in the approach to sell your property The cloud of Brexit hangs over many people who are trying to sell their French property. Sue Adams, the founder of French Properties Direct, explains how property sales are being influenced by the current situation and what vendors can do about it.
“Clearly, Brexit has an impact on the property market, because it is a major political rupture within the EU”, said Sue, “but vendors who are concerned at the effect it is having should take a wider view. It is easy for a British vendor to forget that the majority of people who are looking to buy a French house are not British, so they are not going to be affected by Brexit to the same extent. Property is continuing to sell despite Brexit. “Most buyers of property in France will be French, followed by other EU nationals, such as Germans, Belgians and the Dutch. Furthermore, currently buyers are encouraged to seek out British vendors. They sense that those who want to move back to the UK will be prepared to negotiate because they are anxious to leave France and because of the financial benefits to the vendor of a weak pound. “What is important is that vendors
advertise their properties to as international a market as possible. Over half of our enquiries come from buyers who are French and we still have a high percentage of British buyers who are determined not to let Brexit cloud their dreams of owning property in France. We also have a significant stream of enquiries from other European nations and the rest of the world.” French Properties Direct markets property which is for sale privately, targeting as wide an international market as possible. They advertise on international property portals and social media, plus use e-mail campaigns and bespoke marketing packages. Advertisers are helped to create and manage their adverts and enquiries are forwarded to them after screening by the company. The company is on hand to help vendors throughout their period of advertising and any subsequent transaction as they work closely with trusted professional partners
such as solicitors, mortgage brokers and currency specialists. Fees are fixed and there is no subsequent sales commission payable to French Properties Direct by either buyer or seller. Furthermore, the company is currently running a Christmas promotion – anyone paying for a six or twelve month advertising package between now and December 21 will receive one months’ extra advertising free. So if you are concerned that your property will not sell because of Brexit, take heart, take advantage of this promotion and grasp the opportunity to market your French property to a wide pool of international buyers now. Contact Sue for more details on: email@example.com Tel: +33 (0)6 71 61 09 26 www.frenchpropertiesdirect.com
The Connexion December 2018
Maximise your house sale proceeds Pioneer France ensures sellers receive the best currency rates possible for the transfer of their house sale proceeds
“It is shame when house sellers who have tried so hard to achieve the best price for their house then relinquish an unnecessary chunk of these funds by using old fashioned, expensive banking methods to repatriate their money back into sterling, dollars or whatever”, says Harris Raphael, Managing partner of France-based Pioneer France. “The seller often relinquishes thousands which could have been so easily avoided
had they used a specialist Foreign exchange broker. Our historic data shows that the average loss is around €3,500”, comments Harris. Historic data shows that sellers are much less likely than buyers to use the services of such a specialist. Harris believes that this is primarily because the profile of a typical seller is usually older than that of a buyer, with sellers more likely to have traditionally used a bank for their transfers, while being reluctant about using ‘newer methods’. “I understand this completely, especially when it concerns one’s major asset!”, says Harris “However, Pioneer France’s foreign exchange brokerage has been operating for over 35 years, is one of the world’s largest, trading over €13billion on behalf of over 20,000 clients a year, in over 80 currencies. “ It is also one of the very few that is fully authorised and regulated by the FCA, with
the right of establishment in France”. “As such, our brokerage can provide our clients with security of funds and can give expert currency exchange guidance to aid our client’s decision making, which the banks are not licensed to do”, advises Harris. Pioneer France was recently voted number one for foreign exchange rates and service, so contact Harris and his team to find out more about saving thousands. 05 53 07 06 27 firstname.lastname@example.org www.pioneerfrance.com The Pioneer France FX team, from left: Harris, Simon, Tanya, Zoe, James and Steven
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: email@example.com www.gary-automobiles.com
Gary at his office near Lyon
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Inspirational athlete Franco-English Catholic-Anglican surprise Benefactor ATHLETE Valérie Hirschfield has a packed agenda for 2019, taking part in several charity sporting events, despite losing her left leg to a staphylococcus infection 13 years ago. The 54-year-old from La-Seyne-surMer who grew up in south Africa plans to take part in charity Tower Runs (running up the steps of all floors) at the Eiffel Tower and La Défense. In 2018, she took part in a similar event in Marseille, and in September she climbed 60 storeys of Paris’s Tour Montparnasse. Valérie also plays tennis, surfs and competes in a range of other sports. She took part in a ‘No Finish Line’ charity walk / run in Monaco in November, where entrants are sponsored for each kilometre they complete of a circuit that is open for eight days, day and night. She said: “I meet too many people who have a handicap and say they can’t do anything. I want to show them they can. It is an effort but that’s true of all sport.” See also facebook.com/val.hirschfield
Christopher Morgan has lived in the village of Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt, Vaucluse for 30 years. About 14 months ago, he and a friend, Duncan Goodwin decided to set up Church of England services in the Luberon area. Their efforts resulted in a successful bringing together of the Church of England and Catholic churches – but in a way they had not anticipated. First they negotiated with the Catholic Church and met twice with the Archbishop in Avignon. “He very generously gave us permission to hold Holy Communion once a month in Oppede, a pretty village at the base of the Luberon Mountains,” said Mr Morgan. They then decided to come under the Chaplaincy of Marseille. After about a year an incident happened which strengthened ties between the two Christian faiths. Mr Morgan said: “Sunday, September 9, was our slot in the RC Church in Oppede. “The Reverend John Smith, new to the Chaplaincy, was going to officiate, and celebrate the Church of England’s Holy Communion. “As we were getting prepared, into the church entered a rather worried verger the new RC priest for Oppede, Father Emmanuel, who had not been
who saved thousands honoured
From left: Verger Philippe Sabet, Père Emmanuel Kinda, and Father John Smith, with Christopher Morgan and Duncan Goodwin
informed of the situation. What was perhaps more disconcerting was that the church was filling up and had more than 80 Catholics and Anglicans sitting side-by-side waiting for a service. The two priests decided to hold a joint Mass which was possible as our service sheets are printed in both English and French. “The RC verger Philippe Sabet got together with our organist Duncan Goodwin and organised hymns in both French and English.
Join Britain’s only French regiment under Wellington VOLUNTEERS to take the King’s Shilling can join the Duke of Wellington’s army as a member of the Chasseurs Britanniques Regiment re-enactment group, the only France-based Napeoleonic living history group. Chairman Marc Middleton said the regiment was made up of Frenchmen who fought on the royalist side in the Revolutionary war then for the British army in the Napoleonic War against France. They fought for the British in Egypt, Italy, Portugal and France and the regiment was disbanded in 1814. By that time it had soldiers of all nationalities, including Germans, Italians, Spanish, Russians, Danes, Romanians and Americans. Mr Middleton, a historian who lives in Colmar, Alsace, has a French mother and a British father and lived in the UK until 2004. He said his group aims to help French groups to give more interest to reconstructed battles. So far there are six members in France plus others who have joined his Facebook group from all over the world, including two from Leeds who plan to come for events in France.
He said: “The re-enactment scene in France is vibrant. Groups are not very big, around 20 at a time, but there are several. “They mostly cover the Napoleonic wars and the Medieval Period and often members will take part in different groups for different events. We do re-enactments among ourselves for our own interest but also put on shows for the public. Communes are often keen for us to represent history in a realistic way at village celebrations. I also often go into schools dressed as a French soldier to bring history to life for pupils.” Mr Middleton says being in a re-enactment group is a different way of looking at the past he has read all about. It is also very sociable: “It is a fascinating hobby when for a while you can cut yourself off from the modern world, meet like-minded people and make friendships that last a lifetime. We would be happy to have more people join us and they can contact us via our Facebook page.” facebook.com/chasseursbritanniques/
Chasseurs Britanniques join in re-enactments with other French living history groups
“Both priests cooperated superbly and both shared in the distribution of the Host. Their homilies were inspired blending to acknowledge that there is only one God. “When all was explained to the two congregations there was instant applause and the singing matched the enthusiastic acceptance of what might have been an embarrassing non-event.” And, as it was such a success, they hope to hold more joint masses in the future – only this time planned!
Riviera run is unusual, but fun
No rushing for the Riviera Hash House Harriers while on a ‘run’ RIVIERA Hash House Harriers has celebrated its 30th anniversary, meaning 30 years of what has been called a “drinking club with a running problem.” There are thousands of hash clubs worldwide and the aim is to combine modest exercise with socialising and partying. The Riviera Hash meets every other Sunday year-round and most runs are within an hour of Antibes. There are both runners’ and walkers’ courses with a total distance of around 10-12km. The courses are challenging because a ‘hare’ sets the trail, most often with flour, and will set false leads. “We take it in turns to hare the trail”, says Peter Owen, known by his hash name, Perpetual Motion, and a member for 25 years. “Though it is a good form of exercise it is not necessarily for potential Olympians. It is above all a social thing and we tend to party quite a bit.” Two-thirds of the way round the
trail there is a beer stop, “though we do offer soft drinks as well”. “At the end we gather for a ceremony where ‘crimes’ such as competitive running or failing to refer to a hasher by their hash name, are punished by taking a drink. “We have a meal in a local restaurant or perhaps a picnic or BBQ at the home of a hasher, with about 25 meeting up at one time.” The Hash House Harriers began in Malaysia in 1938, when British expats started a hare and hounds group. It spread after the Second World War to Singapore, Indo nesia, Australia and New Zealand. Mr Owen said he knows of three other clubs in France, two in Paris and one in Gers. They always welcome new members: “Our activity is a little unusual as you don’t need experience or a qualification to join. We are a group of people from all sorts of backgrounds. And it is modestly priced”. facebook.com/pg/rivierahhh
THE British Charitable Fund has, in 2018, been celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of one of its most famous benefactors, Sir Richard Wallace, who gave both his money and time to help starving British men, women and children during the Prussian siege of Paris, between September 1870 to June 1871. He was chairman from 1870 until his death in 1890. The British Charitable Fund was founded in 1823 to help British residents living in hardship in France. It has no government or institutional funding but depends on donations, legacies and fundraising events. The charity gives top-up long or short-term monthly grants to help with outgoings such as rent, electricity, food and heating. They sometimes also pay for essential repairs, basic household equipment, clothing, medical expenses, education
See also Page 27 for Community events and training to help someone get back into the job market. In December, they will send out Christmas and heating grants. BCF chairman Julia Kett said: “Sir Richard was an extraordinary man, a great art collector and philanthropist whose commitment to the well-being of the poor in Paris should never be forgotten. At the BCF we aim to carry his spirit forward, addressing to the best of our ability the changing but ever-growing need within the British community in France.” The charity said applications have increased sharply since 2006. Now there is the added anxiety of Brexit and what it may bring. The Connexion supports the BCF by giving some of the proceeds of the sale of calendars to the charity. www.britishcharitable fundparis.org
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
To have your association/ group featured email details to
The Connexion December 2018
RESIDENTS in care homes may be used to having guide dogs around or seeing a “retired” dog taken in for companionship... but one home has gone further. Residents and staff are training a young guide dog. In what is thought to be a first, the Orpéa Mimosas Ehpad at Magagnosc in Alpes-Maritimes has worked with a guide dog training school to train Nestlé, a golden labrador. The initiative has since won a prize at the Silver Show 2018 in Paris. The idea to become a famille d’accueil came from residents who wanted a companion and to do something to help others. Working with events coordinator Célia Ghalem, home manager Alexia Pratensi contacted L’Ecole Méditerranéenne de Chiens Guides D’Aveugles in Biot a year ago. Residents and staff have helped to train Nestlé. Staff said people react happily to seeing her and give plenty of hugs and affection. Visiting children also love playing with her in the garden. She has helped patients in reviving family memories but also with their own memory as each remembers her name, breed and age, plus how to care for her. Visits to the vet and other training routines also boost residents’ esteem as they rediscover forgotten social habits and get enjoyment out of making a social contribution. A special day was being planned for Nestlé to meet her new visually-impaired owner, Pedro. See photos of Nestlé at our website.
Online medical records relaunch on phone app AN ONLINE medical records system which has had a low take-up has been relaunched with a phone app in the hope that 40 million patients will be using it in five years’ time. The DMP (dossier médical partagé) is now more user-friendly. Instead of asking a doctor to set it up, you do it yourself, though help is available from a pharmacist, doctor, or health authority (Cpam). Pharmacies are being given €1 per dossier that they help set up. Lack of enthusiasm from doctors, who found previous versions too time-consuming to use, was partly blamed for the low up-take. It was previously on offer only in certain trial regions, but the latest version has been made available nationwide via website www.dmp.fr. The DMP is free and optional, and only you and professionals to whom you give access may consult and add to it. You can hide items, track additions or changes and, if you wish, close it – or reactivate it. It can contain hospital and X-ray notes, doctors’ notes from consultations, blood tests, allergies, important medical procedures undertaken, and medicines prescribed and delivered. Cpams will add details of the last two years of reimbursements and patients can add to it with photos or any other documents about their health – for example, by scanning paper documents they would normally keep in a file at home. Patients who have a DMP can have a sticker on their carte vitale and they will be able to consult it via an app on phones. The app will also notify
Smiles all round as care home residents train a guide dog
Records can now be accessed via the app them when a document is added. Doctors will still be able to make personal notes but the DMP will make it simpler for key health details to be shared between professionals. This ties in with aims to make more use of “telemedicine” technology. Patients will be able to see the whole of their DMP, but the government says that medical professionals will only be able to see the parts relevant to them – for example, a doctor will see it all, but a dietician or optician would not. Administrative staff will not be able to see medical information, and work and insurance company doctors will not have access at all. The Puma system explained
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Women urged to join pension fight A CAMPAIGN for women born in the 1950s whose UK state pension ages were unexpectedly hiked is urging women in France to join its international group (facebook.com/groups/Francewaspi). Since 2015 Waspi has been seeking compensation due to pension ages being raised by up to six years. They say they had little prior notice, other than notices in newspapers that most did not see. Waspi International spokeswoman Lynda Armstrong lives in Ariège and has just started receiving her pension “four years late”. She said many members moved to France in expectation of drawing pensions, only to face years of having to pay for their healthcare and difficulties in finding employment or accessing benefits. The drop in the pound has also made it harder by lowering the value of sterling savings or other incomes. She said: “Some stories are horrendous and one member had to sell up and go back to the UK.” The international group hope the government will start to listen after they wrote to their UK MPs.
Home help wage rise
PEOPLE who pay workers for services in the home, such as a cleaner or gardener, can now use a simulator on the official Cesu website to check they have properly calculated a salary rise which should have been applied on October 1. The increase is proportional to a rise in the homeworkers’ minimum wage from €8.45 net to €8.55, factoring in 10% towards paid holidays. This came with the removal of a part of the employer’s social charges (towards unemployment benefit) and does not affect the amount of the gross (brut – before social charges) salary. The simulator is at tinyurl.com/ycxujwux.
life in france less taxing
France: 0810 23 84 23 - UK: 08451 23 84 23 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Money / Tax page
Practical: Money 33
Should we apply to bank mediator over missing sale funds? SINCE selling our French holiday home we have been unable to access the proceeds of the sale from the bank. Our notaire transferred the money to our account in February. Since then we have not returned to France and despite attempts to get a response from our account manager, we have not heard from him – recent requests, including for a new cheque book or to change the account to joint names, have also gone unanswered. Fearing we may have a problem, we referred the matter to the bank’s mediator. Have you heard of such problems before and have we done the right thing by going to the mediator? L.C. WE HAVE not heard of such a problem before and are not sure why you are unable to access the funds despite them being transferred to the bank by the notaire. There is no problem with going via the mediator but we also suggest you telephone the bank directly or visit in person to find out what is happening. Usually, before applying to the designated mediator for your bank, you should write an official réclamation (letter of complaint) to your branch (you could address it to your account manager (conseiller) or the branch manager (le directeur d’agence ). If the response is not satisfactory, you should usually write to the bank’s customer service team and only then, if the problem is still not resolved, should you apply to the mediator. An application to the mediator is also in writing and they must reply within three months. Details of the mediator can be found on a bank’s website (probably under Réclamations) or on bank statements.
What is secure way to receive cash? WHAT is the most secure way of receiving French house sale money? We wish to buy in the UK in the next couple of months. Is our French bank a better option to pay the house sale money into on completion day than a currency exchange company? We feel anxious about putting such a huge sum into a currency company for future exchange to sterling. Is it as secure as a French bank? D.R. NORMALLY the notaire should only transfer the sums to an account in your name, which is partly to avoid the possibility of eventual fraud. What you then do with the funds is up to you. So the issue is not so much what you wish to do but more what the notaire will be prepared to do. Same with the currency exchange company as their rules may require transfers to them to be made from private accounts, again – a general comment – to avoid the possibility of fraud and them being linked to such fraud in any way. It is in any case most usual to make use of currency transfer companies by making a transfer from your own bank account to the company, either for an immediate transfer or at a later date. We have not heard of any problems with sending large amounts via one of the reputable, regulated companies, if the service and rates they offer suit your needs. Check UK-based firms by a register search at tinyurl.com/y9toyxfy.
I bought via firm - what is tax position?
CAN YOU please tell me what a changement de domiciliation means? I received a bank statement which debited several hundred euros from my account under this heading. I live in England but have had a holiday home for 26 years and my mortgage, paid off now, was with this bank. A.M.
IN THE 1990s I retired in the UK, then was rehired as a contractor but had to set up a limited company. In 2001 we bought a French village house but the purchase was made through the company name. It is owned by myself, my wife, two sons and three grandchildren, with me now having a minority share. I am now in my 80s and if we need to sell the house and change to a bungalow, rather than having a lot of stairs, how do we stand for French tax? D.L.
THIS can refer to either transferring your account to another bank or moving it to another branch of the same bank. However, as you do not mention this happening, we cannot say what the charge may relate to if not this. We suggest you check directly with your bank – if you have online banking, you may be able to do it via an online message to your account manager.
ON ANY sale of the property, as a company asset, it would be taxed within the company, which may cause issues if the company no longer has any income and would not be able to pay the capital gains tax. The principal private residence exemption may not apply if the objects of the company have not been changed to accommodate the possibility of holding a
What is changement de domiciliation?
CFE business tax to be paid
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.
Send your financial queries to
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email@example.com private residence. However, the tax due would be different whether the company was liable to corporation tax or the business profits liable to income tax. In that case some abatements could apply but conditions would apply for these to be granted. As such, one would advise consulting a professional who can look at the totality of the facts.
Limits on Livret A account withdrawals I UNDERSTAND that with Livret A savings accounts there is a daily limit on cash dispenser withdrawals. Do you know, can you withdraw as much as you like if you go to a counter in the branch? Also is there any limit on how much you can transfer from the Livret A to another account with the same bank? B.S. YOU WOULD have to check with your own bank but there is often a standard limit of a maximum withdrawal of €800 from the bank counter per seven-day period, and a withdrawal maximum of €500 using a Livret A card at a machine, again in a seven-day period. This said, these limits can be varied by separate agreement with the bank. There would not usually be limits if making a transfer to your own current account with the same bank but there may be a limit or ban in the case of transfers to an “external” account, including, in banks which are organised regionally, to your own account with the same bank in another region. As a matter of interest, there are also minimum withdrawal amounts, set at €10 with all banks except the Banque Postale, which has a minimum of €1.50.
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.
BUSINESS tax Cotisation Foncière des Entreprises (CFE) for 2018 must be paid by midnight on December 17, unless you have been paying in instalments. The tax, which funds local councils, is payable by all businesses, including microentreprise sole traders. The calculation of the bill is a “base” multiplied by a percentage rate set by mairies or intercommunal bodies. The base is either the theoretical rental value (VLC) of the business premises or, if you work from home, a set minimum also fixed by the council. For example, it is €218-519 for a firm with an annual turnover less than €10,000 (see: tinyurl. com/ybqbmcds). Firms with a turnover of less than €5,000 are exempt. CFE is also not payable in the first year of business, then only 50% in the second year. For some exempt business types, see tinyurl.com/yd7kh7m5. You are not sent a postal bill but must create a personal space in the professional part of the website impots.gouv.fr, activated by a code sent in the post. It is too late to opt for instalments and the end of November is the deadline to choose payment by direct debit a few days after the deadline (prélèvement à l’échéance). Otherwise pay online by clicking on Payer.
Promises made on fuel money
PRESIDENT Macron has insisted he wants to help less well-off households with fuel bills despite standing his ground over higher taxes on vehicle fuel. He said he wants to roll out nationally a scheme in Hautsde-France giving €20/month to those earning less than twice the minimum wage who commute by car more than 30km/day. It also wants it to be made tax-exempt. The chèque énergie, which helps households on modest incomes pay heating bills, is also being boosted, rising from an average €150 to €200 next year and being given to 5.6million households up from 3.6m.
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
French taxation – what we can expect in 2019
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
Anyone who has been living in France for a while knows how frequently tax rules can change – and how significantly, too. In the last 10 years, we have seen wealth tax reformed to make it less of a burden, then that reform reversed, then a complete overhaul to create a new tax. We lost a fixed rate of tax on investment income, then a few years later a new one was introduced… All this can create headaches for effective tax planning. You need to carry out regular reviews to make sure your tax planning is up to date and you are taking advantage of the tax mitigation opportunities the French tax regime has to offer. 2019 draft budget A new President usually means tax reforms, and we had that with the 2018 finance bill. The 2019 budget, however, is one of those rare occasions where very little changes. The budget is not normally fully approved until the end of the year, but from a tax point of view we do not expect any significant announcements. There is one big change in 2019, which is the introduction of a pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system in France (as discussed later in this article), but that was part of the previous budget.
Income tax and social charges There are no changes to income tax rates, though the bands have increased very slightly with inflation. The 0% rate will cover income up to €9,964 and the highest 45% rate income over €156,244. Social charges remain the same as last year: 9.7% for employment income, 9.1% for pensions and 17.2% for investment (including rental) income. Investment income 2018 saw the introduction of the Prélèvement Forfaitaire Unique, or ‘flat tax’ as it is commonly known. This applies to interest, dividends and capital gains on the sale of shares and securities. It does not apply to rental income. The rate is 30%, which includes income tax and social charges. The draft 2019 budget does not change this rate. Lower income households can opt to use the scale rates of income tax instead (plus social charges), though this would have to apply to all your income.
Assurance-vie The draft 2019 budget does not include any changes to assurance-vie. This is great news for savers and investors who are looking for an arrangement that provides both tax-efficient income and estate planning advantages. The 30% flat tax applies to policies set up after 26th September 2017. Older ones can continue to opt for the previous flat tax system. The allowance for policies held for more than eight years stays in place for all policies (€4,600 for individuals and €9,200 for married/PACS couples).
Wealth tax 2018 also heralded a big reform for wealth tax. Instead of covering most of your worldwide assets, it now only applies to real estate assets. Savings and investments (including assurance-vie policies) are no longer subject to this tax. Again, no changes have been proposed for 2019. The current threshold of €1,300,000 remains in place. Tax rates start at 0.5% for assets between €800,000 and €1,300,000, rising progressively to 1.5% for assets over €10,000,000. This reform put property at a significant disadvantage to capital investments, particularly when you consider that rental income does not benefit from the 30% flat tax either. If you are wondering where to invest, weigh the tax considerations carefully. If you already own more than one property, it may be worth downsizing your property portfolio.
Succession tax No changes have been announced for the succession tax regime. If you have not reviewed your estate planning for a while, though, it is always worth doing so to ensure you are taking advantage of all the opportunities to lower this tax for your family and heirs – particularly where heirs will face the higher tax rates. PAYE finally comes to France After being in the pipeline for a number of years, the new PAYE system start next year. It means that from January 1, 2019, French tax residents will be subject to a monthly withholding tax on income. Note, however, that the French system is different from what you may be used to, for example in the UK. The amount of PAYE deducted each month in 2019 will be calculated on your 2017
income, as declared in May 2018. Any balance of tax must be settled by the end of year. Income subject to PAYE includes (but is not limited to) employment income, retirement income (pensions, lifetime annuities) including UK pensions, other overseas income which is taxable in France and rental income, including from French properties earned by UK residents. Investment income – interest, dividends, capital gains and gains from life insurance policies/ non-French assurance-vie – is excluded from PAYE. It also does not apply to non-French income that receives a tax credit in France under a double tax treaty (eg. UK rental income earned by a French resident). For French source income, monthly PAYE will be collected by the paying agent. For all your other income, you will need to set up monthly or quarterly direct debits to pay it yourself. No-one ever said French tax was easy. Last year’s reforms were welcome, and many people who have savings and investments will see a difference in their tax bills this year. But this does not lessen the need for a good understanding of the complex regime and considered tax planning. With different assets being taxed quite differently now, it is worth, with the help of a tax and wealth management adviser, reviewing your investment assets. As always, your tax planning arrangements should be structured around your specific family situation and your objectives. 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.
Selling your house in France? Advertise your property at the France Show Exhibition at Olympia, in January For £170+VAT, we will: •
Design and produce an A4 full colour leaflet
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Horses for courses... Holly’s route to a legal career by JAMES HARRINGTON HOLLY JESSOP is a Paris lawyer but could not speak any French when her family moved to rural Mayenne from Dorset nearly two decades ago. She was 11 at the time and went into cinquième year at a local school with what she described as “zero” French. “I think I got through my first year because I learnt everything by heart,” she said. “I didn’t understand a word. “This was rural France more than 15 years ago. The reaction was that I had to learn French and that there was nobody to help me.” She added: “I was good at languages which helped and it wasn’t too too bad for me. It was more difficult for my younger brother. He was two years younger and he’s not a language person like me so it took more time.” The move itself had been a big undertaking. The family was made up of Holly, her two brothers, her mother and stepfather – plus seven dogs and two horses. But they managed it in just two months. “You just go with the flow. We got here at the beginning of September. By the middle of September, I was in collège,” she said of the initial whirlwind that follows a big move. “I didn’t have much time to think about it. All that I wanted to ‘do’ was horses. “As long as we brought the horses with us, being in France rather than the UK didn’t make much difference.
Growing up in France... A six-month series of interviews with people who moved here as children 2: Lawyer Holly Jessop I’ve never really asked my parents why they decided to make the move, but I think it was the promise of selling a small house in England for a lot of money, buying a big house in France and having a better life.” That dream, initially, did not go to plan. The sale of the family’s Dorset home fell through shortly after they had crossed the Channel, and the cost of renovating their French property was rising rapidly – but the family stuck it out. Meanwhile, Holly’s love of horses would quietly mould later career decisions – though an early ambition to become a vet fell through because her maths and science marks were not high enough. “Being a lawyer was never something I wanted to be from a young age. I fell into it,” she said. “I had always wanted to work with horses professionally, but my mother wanted me to do something else with my life. She said it’s too dangerous,
Holly Jessop (second right) says she ‘fell into’ being a successful lawyer and told me to work and find a way to own a horse. I finished lycée and didn’t know what I was going to do with my life so I went into law – I had good enough marks. “I did my degree in Nantes, then I did my Masters in Paris because one of my law teachers said that if you ever do anything in the law, you have to have a Masters from a Paris university so I went to Nanterre and did
Gazelle is boldly going where no car-maker has gone before
Does your tax planning travel well?
by BRIAN McCULLOCH
The Gazelle prototype at the Bordeaux factory When those cars have been put together, the empty container can be detached and replaced with another one full of kits. Gazelle Tech is confident that it will sign an agreement with a partner in North Africa for the first micro-factory in early 2019. There is still some way to go: ground clearance, essential for less developed countries, is 4cm lower than planned due to a misunderstanding, and the fit and finish of the panels is a long way from what buyers will want from production models, though the interior looks excellent. The car has air conditioning and a sound system as standard. When Connexion visited the company’s premises in a “green” industry nursery near Bordeaux, a test car had a problem with its clutch cable, which meant only two usable gears, but that was still enough for Mr Lavaud to take us for a spin. Mechanics manager Emeric Bouteiller said: “We will be offering training packages, and we are able to tweak the design and the kits for each customer. That way, if a local supplier is able to find a source for a part locally, cheaper than we can provide, they can do so.”
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.
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A French start-up has a fresh idea – to design a lightweight and thus fuel-efficient car which can easily be converted into an electric version and then to sell complete factories to make the cars to countries with no motor factories. The Gazelle, just 800kg with a one-litre, 85hp, three-cylinder petrol engine, should use less than three litres of fuel per 100km - with the performance of a “normal” 170hp engine. Early indications predict fuel savings of 30%-40% compared to similar-sized cars. Around €1million has been invested in the car, which is designed so its petrol motor can be taken out and substituted with an electric one and a battery, adding just 110kg to the weight. The guide price for the Gazelle if it were to be built in France, is around €15,000, which is similar to a Dacia Duster. Gazelle Tech founder and chairman Gaël Lavaud said: “Our intention is not to build the cars but to sell micro-factories and the kits to be assembled in them, which we will make or have made ourselves. They will let a team of four people build around 200 cars a year.” The Gazelle, looking a little like a 1950s hotrod station wagon, is built out of patented sandwich composite material, which is mainly glass fibre. Parts are glued together, using techniques and materials similar to those used to build commercial aircraft such as Boeing’s Dreamliner. The Gazelle is expected to receive the go-ahead to make it legal on French roads next year. If all goes to plan, the company, which was founded in 2014, will sell micro-factories, which can be built on 100m2 of land, as well as receiving a licensing fee for each car sold. The factories will arrive in the form of three containers joined together for the factory space, and a fourth detachable one which contains kits for three or four cars.
business law. By the time I got to the end of my Masters, I still didn’t know what I was going to do but law school entrance exams were opening so I just put my name down. “I worked really hard all summer. I did two months non-stop studying while working at a McDonald’s. I did the exams and by January I was in law school.” Combining law and horses was not
as far-fetched as the idea might first appear. “As soon as I started working, I got back into horses,” Holly said. “Then at the end of 2015 I went to the races, and I saw all these horses around me and it just hit me. Why don’t I go into ‘horse law’? There’s litigation, contracts, sales – sometimes there’s a lot of money at stake. “I played around with the idea, and by early 2016 I had convinced myself that’s what I wanted to specialise in. Then I just went from there, networking and developing the concept.” Holly, now 29, has now spent more than half her lifetime in France, but she finds her “very English” name still marks her out. “Even after having a degree, Masters and going through French law school, I’d go to interviews and they’d ask me if my French was OK. “I’ve been here more than I’ve been in England, so I can’t compare the two countries any more. I’m so used to French ways, I don’t realise whether they’re weird or not. “It’s never easy, because there is a system in France – it starts when you’re in school and you have to be part of it. If you’re not, you get nowhere. You have to change yourself. You have to put yourself in the system. You can’t exist out of the system – I think that’s the most difficult part. Once you’re in it, life is pretty easy.” NEXT MONTH: Chef Adam Smith
Blevins Franks Financial Management Limited (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 Trustees Limited is authorised and regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority for the administration of trusts and companies. 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.
How self-employed can access training Can you outline the training changes that begin in 2019 – I am an English teacher (self-employed) and hope to benefit from them? AS YOU are aware, microentrepreneurs pay a professional training contribution as well as a small levy towards the expenses of the chambers of commerce and trades. Since January 2015, anyone who sets up as a self-employed artisan has been required to undertake a four or five-day business training course (stage de préalable à l’installation or SPI) organised by the Chambres de Métiers et de l’Artisanat. Similar courses are available to those setting up commercial and industrial businesses, though these are optional. But training available to the self-employed is not limited to this initial course – and any self-employed person can access continuing professional training of any kind whenever they want. For some – such as doctors or lawyers – it may be a legal requirement. It is also possible to receive
financial help with some or all of the costs of any training courses. Training funds are administered by different groups, depending on the business you operate in. Log on to the website https://www.service-public. fr/professionnels-entreprises/ vosdroits/F31148 for a list of options. To apply for financial help, submit a request to the appropriate body at least one month before the start of the training programme. Be aware that only teaching costs, including distance learning, are reimbursed. You cannot claim for meals, hotels and transport – and there is an annual training course ceiling of funding for every self-employed person. Organisations such as chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of trades and crafts, business schools, universities and vocational training organisations offer short, medium and long-term training courses. They may also be able to help with funding. Contact details can be found online.
Small business and tax advice Letting a home in France Q: I LIVE in the UK and have a holiday home in France, which I would like to let. How would the letting income be treated by France? How do I get a tax form and what must I complete? A: You can obtain the relevant forms by searching at impots. gouv.fr. In the first year declarations must be made in paper format and sent to: Service des impôts des particuliers non-résidents, 10 rue du Centre, TSA 10010, 93465 NOISY-LE-GRAND Cedex. The next year, once you have received a second declaration form and an assessment for the first year, you can declare online using reference numbers and codes found on these two forms. Income from furnished letting in France, if it is within certain thresholds, may be taxed under the micro system, with fixed abatements of 30% (unfurnished) or 50% (furnished) to cover expenses and it is declared on the 2042C PRO form (you can opt to declare under the réel system if you have a lot of expenses you wish to offset - but this option must be taken up for at least three years and it involves extra accounting formalities). French income of all non-residents is taxed at a flat rate of 20% (plus social charges) unless your French income is of a size to merit a higher French tax band. However, if you believe that France would give a lower percentage rate if it assessed and taxed your worldwide income you can apply for that rate instead. Q: IS IT possible to rent out my home in France for a few weeks to holidaymakers (when I am away) without any tax implications? A: THE RENTAL income of property, including for tourism, is declarable and the income may be taxed, usually after the application of an abatement for expenses. Whether this attracts income tax depends on the level of your other income. Part of your main home can occasionally be rented and the income is exempt from tax if it is less than €760. Determining a tax regime and/or bands can be complicated and as with any tax declarations you may wish to seek assistance from an appropriately qualified firm. This column is sponsored 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
Woodwind-makers need good hands - and real love of music CRAFTS
It is important to go and see your musicians face to face ... to spend time building relationships with the people who are going to play your instruments
by JANE HANKS RECORDER-maker Etienne Holmblat is self-taught but his high-end musical instruments are now sold all over Europe. Mr Holmblat, 62, learned the basic techniques when he studied mechanics and draughtsmanship at school and on an instrument repair course – then went on to develop much of his art by trial, error and persistence. He fell into the business as a young man when a flute he was learning to play needed expensive repairs and his teacher suggested he fix it himself. He went on to get a qualification to mend instruments and opened his shop in Pau, in the Pyrénées Atlantiques. His love of the recorder also came from his teacher. He said: “One day he gave me a disc of someone playing the recorder. It was a revelation. I instantly fell in love with this instrument.” So he started making them: “The first one was a simple, three-hole traditional flute. Fortunately, it played well. “From then on, I worked at it. When you make instruments, you have to remain humble because you can never learn all there is to know about making the perfect instrument. “To be an instrument-maker you do not have to be a musician, but you do have to have a real love of music. “You need to be good with your hands and have a good technical and mechanical knowledge to know how to put things together. You need to be meticulous.” Mr Holmblat’s recorders, made in the workshop at his home near Pau, cost from €200 to €1,870 depending on the materials, complexity and time needed to make them. He said: “I think it is important to go and see your musicians face to face, so that takes time away from the workshop, but it is important to spend time building relationships with
Recorder-maker Etienne Holmblat the people who are going to play your instruments.” Mr Holmblat makes about two instruments a month, and he has four on the go at any one time. Choice of wood is important. Most of his are made from boxwood from the Pyrénées, which has to be cut at the right time of the year and during the right phase of the moon. His preferred wood grows at altitude, which he says makes it denser than faster-growing boxwood found on the plains. One of his most extraordinary recorders, made in 2010, is in tortoise shell and ivory, which is a replica of an 18th century one he saw in a museum. He had to adhere to the strict regulations in force for these precious materials and had to learn how to work the tortoise shell, which few people in France know how to do. It is a remarkable, beautiful piece. His reward is hearing his recorders, each one of which is unique, played sympathetically by a musician who really understands and appreciates the instrument. “When I go to a concert where someone is playing one of my recorders I am always concerned that something will go wrong with the instrument. But when I hear it, it is an immense pleasure,” he said.
Etienne Holmblat at his workshop, creating his tortoise shell and ivory recorder
The tortoise shell and ivory recorder being made French wind instrumentmakers are regarded as among the best in the world. The Institut National des Métiers d’Art says that 90% of professional musicians play French instruments. The main competition is from Asia but as their makers concentrate on beginner and amateur instruments, France still dominates the high-end market. Three-quarters of woodwind instruments made in France – from bassoons and clarinets to recorders and oboes – are exported. There are a few semi-industrial manufacturers, such as Buffet Crampon, Rigoutat, Marigaux and Selmer, but most woodwind instrument-makers in France are sole-trader artisans, making, repairing, and restoring instruments. A maker must master several disciplines - from knowing the type of wood to use, how to season it and work with it to having the skills to produce each instrument’s distinctive shape, using precision tools. Making the borehole through the main body cylinder is important to achieve the sound required. Understanding the mechanics and the science of the instrument is vital to be able to make the finger holes the right size and the right distance apart. The maker must have musical knowledge to be able to fine-
tune the instrument. Finally, as many instrument-makers work on their own, they must be able to sell their finished result, which can include making contacts with musicians, creating websites and going to trade fairs. There are opportunities to learn the craft but available courses are designed more for repair and factory work than for being an independent maker. The basic qualification is a two-year Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle, CAP: Assistant technique en instruments de musique, option instruments à vent, which teaches repair techniques. This can be followed by a two-year Brevet des Métiers d’Art called BMA Technicien en facture instrumentale, option instruments à vent, which introduces more techniques but leads to work in a factory. After this there is a two-year DMA (Diplôme des Métiers d’Art), the equivalent of a BTS, called DMA de facteur d’instruments à vent. The Institut Technologique Européen des Métiers de la Musique at Le Mans is one of the best-known places to study. However, no one needs a qualification to make and sell instruments. Most instrumentmakers learn by getting in touch with a maker and by watching him or her at work.
Photos: Simon Hanks
The empty houses in Ménéham on north Finistère coast have been turned into a historic monument to 19th-century life
The corps de garde building between two huge boulders
The Maison Salou is named after the last family to live there
Remembrance of times past
The village of Ménéham on Brittany’s north Finistère coast has been restored to show visitors the typical lifestyle of peasant farmers and fishermen in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 14 houses, where around 80 people used to live but which were falling into ruin, were restored from 2004 to 2009 to showcase the traditional rustic architecture of the region. The last person to live in the villageturned-tourist attraction (meneham.bzh) moved out in 2001. Similar homes can be seen in villages and towns along the coast, though many have been knocked down and replaced by more modern housing. The first houses were built around 1840. Peasant farmers’ houses in many other parts of France were large and shared with animals during the winter – often including a barn to stock hay, crops and provisions – but these houses are noticeable for their small size. They were made up of one room on one storey and barns were built on either side of the dwelling place. Additional houses would be built on as the family grew. The building stone was the local granite and they were thatched. Jessica Marrec from the Office de Tourisme de la Côte des Légendes says that though the roofs look perfect today, they were not as pristine for the people living in them. “The reeds came from the local marshes and were not very strong and so they had to be repaired frequently. “One side would be patched up one year and the other side the next. When the cottages were restored, better quality reed was bought from other parts of France to make the thatch longer-lasting.” The Maison Salou, named after the last family to live there, was turned into a museum following the restoration of the village by the Communauté de Communes Pays de Lesneven et de la Côte des Légendes and the Finistère Conseil Général. It is a perfect example of this type of housing. Mrs Marrec says: “It is interesting to note where it was built. “It is behind some huge boulders, typical
Architecture of France... Coastal Brittany
By JANE HANKS
of the region to protect it from the strong prevailing coastal winds, and all the doors and windows face inland. On the coastal side there are no openings at all.” The windows are small, to keep out the weather and reduce window taxes, and they and the door are painted white around the opening. Mrs Marrec says this was deliberate to reflect any light from the outside into the dark interior. Inside the furnishing was rudimentary, with a fireplace at both ends of the room, a plain table and benches and box beds. “Often three generations would live in the same room, so to give some warmth and privacy there would be on average three box beds in a house: one for the grandparents, one for the parents and one for the children. “If there were several children, some would have to sleep out in the room.” Life was hard but they took care of what they owned and every Saturday all the furniture would be taken outside, the mud floor swept and everything else cleaned with white vinegar. Whenever they could, the family lived outdoors. They made their living from the land and the sea. Now the village is surrounded by green turf, but when people were living there, all available land was turned over to vegetable gardens near the houses and grain crops further away. The soil was poor and the weather unkind and they could not live from farming alone so they turned to fishing. “The women would use nets for fish and the men were in charge of catching crabs, lobsters and shellfish using baskets they made themselves. “They did not eat any of the fish, other than ones which people would not buy, as
they were too valuable. They also collected seaweed and were called paysans-pêcheursgoémoniers, from the word goémon, meaning seaweed collected for use by man. “First it was used to fertilise the land and then, when it was discovered that it was a natural source of iodine and sodium alginate, used in pharmaceuticals, food and textile printing.” Despite their harsh life, Mrs Marrec says people who are still alive and who lived there have good memories: “We have talked to the old villagers and they say that even though they worked hard, there was a good atmosphere and they were happy. “There were no shops. They made everything themselves and shared. There were three bread ovens and when a pig was killed, the meat would be handed around as without fridges they knew a family couldn’t keep it all for themselves. There was, of course the bistrot. No Brittany village was complete without a bar.” The first building on the site was an army look-out post built as part of the coastal defences during the 18th century. Called the corps de garde, it is famously built between two huge boulders and looks out to sea, across the Channel towards the British enemy at the time. It has an unusual roof, built out of flat slabs of rock. Legend has it that whenever the soldiers were away, locals would steal the wooden roof beams, as wood in that treeless landscape was rare, and so the army decided to thwart the robbers by using stone. They filled the building with sand and laid the stones, only emptying the building of sand once the mortar was set. First the soldiers lodged in nearby villages. Then a barracks was built, and it is recognisable as the only housing with windows looking seaward rather than landward. At the same time other housing was built for the farming families and little by little they were added to. During the second part of the 20th century the population waned. Now the village sees more people than ever before as the site attracts between 120,000 and 150,000 visitors a year.
Property Watch in
Pays de la Loire
REGIONAL CAPITAL: Nantes DEPARTMENTS: Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe, Vendée MAIN CITIES: Nantes, Châteaubriant, Saint-Nazaire, Angers, Cholet, Saumur, Segré, Laval, Château-Gontier, Mayenne, Le Mans, La Flèche, Mamers, La Roche-sur-Yon, Fontenay-le-Comte, Les Sables-d’Olonne The name may sound historic, but Pays de la Loire is a relatively new region of western France that overlooks the Bay of Biscay and encompasses part of the Loire Valley, famed for its vineyards and chateaux. It was created in the 1950s to serve as a zone of influence for its capital Nantes, the former capital of Brittany, and is one of a handful of so-called “balancing metropolises” (métropoles d’équilibre). It contains a 20% slice of historic Brittany and all of the former provinces of Anjou and Maine, as well as parts of Poitou, Perche and Touraine. It offers the best of most worlds. The wild and rugged Atlantic coast contrasts with the lush, green countryside and rivers of the Loire valley in the centre. There are vast rural areas plus large urban conurbations and economic centres. It enjoys a temperate climate, with generally mild winters and warm summers. It also boasts good transport links – Nantes airport has services to airports across the UK, while ferry ports at St Malo, Caen, Cherbourg and Le Havre are within straightforward travelling distance. Property prices range from highs of €2,210/m2 in the Loire-Atlantique department, with prices mainly driven by the attractiveness of Nantes – where prices rise to an average of 2,820/m2, and can soar well past the €3,000/m2 mark – to the much lower €1,120 in rural Mayenne.
What your money buys Under €100,000
Fantastic opportunity to purchase a pretty two-bed stone village house, complete with furniture! On the edge of a village with bar and with great kerb appeal, a goodsized garden, private parking and furnished, a great opportunity for you to own a holiday home in Carelles. €65,000 Ref: 90227AFE53
A delightful country house near the centre of the village of Saint-Quentin-les-Anges A very private setting with the chance to create something really special. At the end of a farm track surrounded by farmland, with 4000m² of land, this would be ideal as a smallholding. €99,000 Ref: P182988DSF
More than €200,000
Fabulous six-bed maison de maître with indoor heated swimming pool – superb B&B potential With its walled gardens, large plot, and huge separate annexe, this property is ready to be updated as the new owners see fit. Within walking distance of the centre of Pré-en-Pail. €240,750 Ref: 92028DWR53
Four-bed villa with private garden and pool set in a gated golf residence in L’Aiguillon-sur-Vie Here you will be able to enjoy all the benefits of the golf site, including the outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, restaurant and the course itself. Just 80km from Nantes airport. €318,000 Ref: 59640SG85
Properties available through Leggett Immobilier www.frenchestateagents.com Tel: 05 53 56 62 54
Next month: We look at Brittany
38 PRACTICAL: Property
LegalNotes Praise as clever ideas bring Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query
Q: My sister has gone through a divorce in the UK. The judge awarded their house in France to him. I read a post which said that French law takes precedence over English law in France and the judge cannot force her to sell. My sister’s ex-husband says that the house is now his and he can do what he wants with it – but would he still need my sister’s permission to sell? He is in the process of selling. P.H. A: I cannot comment on the specific UK court order which you say awarded ownership of the French house to your sister’s ex-husband. What I can say is that we often deal with transfers of ownership following a divorce where either the UK court orders the transfer of ownership from joint names into the name of one party, or where the parties agree in a Consent Order that one will transfer their half-share of a French property to the other as part of the overall settlement. A notaire in France will act on a UK Court Order or a Consent Order. If one party refuses to co-operate, it is possible to go back to the
UK court to force the reluctant joint owner to act. In your sister’s case, she could be forced to co-operate. If she has not yet signed any French document to transfer her share of the house to her ex-husband, the house is still jointly owned by the two of them. If her ex wishes to sell, your sister will either need to sign both a sale contract and the final sale deed, or will be asked to sign a Power of Attorney authorising one of the clerks of the notaire’s office in France to sign on her behalf. The notaire will need to see the Court Order and is likely to require a certified translation. In summary, if the property is jointly owned and she has not signed any French deed transferring ownership to him, he cannot sell without her involvement. If the property has been marketed via an estate agent, the agent should have obtained your sister’s consent as a joint owner before starting any marketing and your sister should have been asked to sign a sale mandate.
Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 www.heslop-platt.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I have been advised to only use renovation professionals who are ‘RGE’ registered – does this mean other workers are not legally registered? T.B. A: NON-RGE workers can be legally registered but there are several advantages to having work carried out by RGE artisans. For example, if you are applying for certain tax breaks or government assistance on materials to improve your home’s energy efficiency, the work must be carried out by correctly registered workers and this is guaranteed by the RGE label. Regardless of whether you are applying for aid, the RGE label, which stands for Reconnu Garant de l’Environnement, is a guarantee of professional, technical
and financial capacities for quality work. To be registered, professionals must comply with a range of administrative and legal obligations, including in terms of insurance with the 10-year guarantee. RGE-registered artisans are not difficult to find. There are nearly 60,000 currently working across the country. The label last four years before needing to be renewed and there are frequent checks. There is a caveat. RGE certification covers a range of specific jobs. For example, a professional may be certified to fit a heat pump but not necessarily a condensing boiler. An RGE-registered artisan will be able to show you what they are ‘qualified’ to work on.
Tel: 05 61 57 90 86 www.brightavocats.com email@example.com If you have a legal query send it to firstname.lastname@example.org We select questions for answer every edition
empty churches back to life THEY may not be the most obvious choice for a new home or business, but about 20 churches a year are being turned into hotels, restaurants, houses – and even a gym. There are about 90,000 édifices religieux in France, according to the Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux, and about 500 are at risk. Many are for sale after years of low maintenance have left them needing costly repairs and upgrades. They are often in key sites, have lots of space, inside and out, and beautiful features, and are available at a wide range of prices. One in Nantes caught the eye of businessman Benoît Boiteau who, after years in drinks distribution, was looking for a new career and recognised that a 630m2 church near both railway and tramway could be turned into something special. Now the old Chapelle de la Petite Sagesse has been turned into the four-star Sōzō Hotel, with 23 rooms and a suite, all built on different levels and
Stained glass gives the Sōzō Hotel in Nantes a very luxurious feel that seems worth its four stars... some of the rooms on the second floor have ceilings that are 5.5m high
Photo: Sōzō Hotel
Your questions answered
each having a close-up view of the church’s interior features under the 17m high roof. It is not alone. An old church in Angers is now a nightclub, one in Tavey, Franche-Comté, is a family home, another is a restaurant in Aix-en-Provence, one in Sarlat, Dordogne, is an indoor market, and the one in Courrières, Pas-de-Calais, has become a police station. The majority of churches are owned by the mairie but are
often much-loved buildings where the religious community will have a say in their future use. That is why a church in Tourcoing, Nord, was sold for €20,000 and turned into a community cultural centre and not the proposed chip shop. Churches are also selling off buildings as they become uneconomical – and especially expensive to heat. Eglise SaintJules in Longwy, near Nancy, is for sale at €190,000 as its
renovation would cost hundreds of thousands and annual heating bills for the 150m2 of space can hit €30,000. Tight finances in communes often mean unused religious buildings can quickly fall into disrepair and the Conférence des Evêques de France organised a nuit des églises to highlight the situation and push for crowdfunding to be used to keep such local features alive, rather than demolished.
We did it!
A home AND a concert venue? That’ll do nicely
American-British classical pianist Kit Armstrong has no particular religious attachment, but the practical possibilities of living in a church attracted him and his mother, May, when the idea was first put to them. “We were looking for properties and the estate agent suggested this church, so we went to have a look,” he said. “Once we were there, the possibilities opened up and we decided to buy it in 2012.” Although not a churchgoer, Kit is familiar with churches due to his work as a concert pianist. “They are often used as venues for concerts,” he said. “In smaller towns they are sometimes the only venue suitable for a concert. The acoustics in churches are usually very good for music because they were built with music in mind. And of course, over the years there has been a lot of music written for the church, which sounds best in churches.” Kit and May approached the town council in Hirson, Aisne, where the art deco, reinforced-concrete Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus church is an important building opposite the railway station. “The town council was keen for the building to be used for cultural purposes and when we first approached them with our idea for the main body of the church to be used as a concert venue, as well as my practice area, they gave us full-hearted support,” said Kit. “The help of the town has been invaluable in getting all the planning permissions and other administrative help.”
Concert pianist Kit Armstrong in the church he bought and converted into a concert venue and six-bed home The main body of the church has remained largely untouched. It is where Kit practises and where concerts are held. He and May live in what was the sacristy, which they have converted into a six-bedroom apartment. “We needed space to put up the visiting musicians and friends who we invite for concerts,” Kit said. Being of relatively modern construction and in the centre of town, the church was fully supplied with water and electricity. Work on the building had started in 1929 and it was designed and paid for by the inventor of reinforced concrete pipes, Aimé Bonna, who grew up in the town. Kit left most of the work to professionals, but did and does, some DIY projects. “When you own a building there are always things which come up,” he said. He and May spent €125,000 to buy the church in 2012, but the work has added to the bill ‘by several factors’. Grants from the town, department and cultural organisations have helped with the public part of the building, especially in meeting the standards for fire safety
and other public access requirements. They have also helped with the promotion of concerts held every year since 2014, which have been packed out. Kit formed an association to promote music in the town, which also provides help and support. His contacts in the music world have helped get some big names to Hirson, a small town of around 10,000 people, which was not previously known as a cultural centre. “Everyone who has come to play has been very enthusiastic. “It is a very nice town, and the countryside around it is wonderful.” While there is a lot of on-going maintenance, (and a roof which will need repair work in the future) the experience of living and working in the church has been overwhelmingly positive. “There are times when you get up in the morning and come out into this magnificent space which is our living room, and you are just conscious of how very special it is,” said Kit. “They are moments to live for.”
Some buyers fear renovation but others welcome it... our writer Nick Inman has a foot in both camps, as he tells in this first of a series of articles THERE is a vast difference between repairing a two-and-a-half-bed interwar terrace house in north London and renovating a farm in Gascony. But while it may be obvious to many, I only realised what I had let myself in for when I arrived 16 years ago, bridges burned and with grand visions of what I was going to do to the new place. Everything was unfamiliar – not least the language and the DIY shops – but there were two other major differences. One was the architecture: the materials of which the house was built and the traditional construction methods. The walls made of round river stones and the oak roof timbers held together with wooden pegs were exotic and alien. But the really big difference was the space I had acquired. I found myself with a lot more building to be maintained or transformed. The estate agent who sold us the house – now a friend – saw the daunted look on my face as we stood discussing what to do to realise the property’s potential and gave me a piece of good advice:
Plans to change the CITE tax credit for energy efficiency renovations into a grant have been delayed by a year, so residents must still apply for a credit. Ministers also said that while the CITE to swap single-glazed windows and doors for double glazing was ending the reduced 5.5% VAT rate continued for replacements and also for work such as plastering and painting.
Tenant owes landlord €46k in ‘Airbnb rent’ A TENANT who sublet her Paris property on rentals website Airbnb without proper consent has been ordered to pay her landlord all the money she received in illegal rents. The tenant was found to have breached a clause in her rental lease, and was ordered to pay €46,000 plus €1,000 damages. The court also ordered that she should be evicted.
Fraud alerts on rise – but not by enough AN increasing number of fraud and money-laundering alerts from property professionals have been logged by the Tracfin anti-corruption agency. Notaires signalled 1,400 sales in 2017, up 34% on 2016, mostly for international buyers and tax fraud. Although estate agent alerts were up 140%, this was too few given the market rise and all sizes of company were warned to be attentive.
When you don’t have a ...clou
“The first thing you need to do is get yourself to the Big Ladder Shop.” (He really did say it with capital letters.) My first DIY purchase therefore was an extending aluminium ladder long enough to reach the barn gutters but light enough to manhandle without aid. The ladder shop also made and sold something much more interesting: scaffolding. I was not at that moment the sort of person who owned scaffolding. It would be an expensive item and I wasn’t sure I would ever use it. But there was a lot to do to the house and much of it was a long way above ground level. Besides, I had plenty of storage space for such a bulky item... I had to fill the cowshed with something. I ummed and ahhed over buying the scaffolding but it was being sold at a discount during the local agricultural fair and I bought it on a whim, expecting it to be little more than an adult climbing frame. Looking back, it is the
best purchase I ever made. It’s constantly being assembled or disassembled and moved around the property. I use it inside sometimes – putting up plasterboard ceilings – but mainly outside where an elevated platform is a better place to stand while doing extended heavy duty jobs than a ladder. It has also proved useful for barter: I lend it to friends when asked and they give me help and advice when needed. I did not shop around and do not know how it compares with other models but I know my rig suits me. Extremely light and easy to put together in various combinations, it stores flat and fits piece by piece in a hatchback with the seats down. The design has been improved since I bought it but the company still makes extra components for the old model on demand. Working at height requires care but I have had only one nasty scare, caused by my own overconfidence. That was enough. For security, I wear a climbing harness bought in Decathlon and clip myself on to the building wherever I can, using climbing rope and carabiners. Back in London, only real workmen clamber around on scaffolding. Looks like now that I have moved to France, I have become one of their number. n The Big Ladder Shop [Neressy] can be found at echelles-neressy.fr
Scale of farm renovation was a shock... as were the techniques used
Rooftop gardens give fresh food and breath of fresh air PARIS is in the middle of a giant project to clear the city’s air by creating urban farms on rooftops and open spaces. With memories of this summer’s stifling heatwave still fresh, it is hoped that plans to plant 30 hectares of gardens will help cool parts of the city as vegetation cuts reflected and absorbed heat in buildings. It has the added advantage of providing fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables - and even hops for beer and grapevines for wine. Although about 30 hectares is a drop in the ocean in the 105km2 of Paris, the city has plenty of green spaces and wants more as it is also planning to plant 100ha of greenery on municipal building walls. The city’s Parisculteurs scheme has more than 60 projects in place or starting and more businesses are coming up with their own plans to help ease the “urban heat island” effect, where cities are warmer than the surrounding land, making for especially difficult conditions in summer. In the centre, a new batch of 33 projects has been approved and the scheme has so far given a total of 1km of walls covered in hops, a herb and hydroponic garden at the Bourse producing 12tonnes of cauliflower, cucumber, peppers and strawberries, plus a 2,500m2 market garden at Opéra Bastille that has hundreds of hop plants which will be used to make Paris beer in the cellars. The 33 new projects are intended to produce 1,000 tonnes of fruit and veg, one million cut flowers and 1.3 million plants. A new aquaponics farm at the Centre sportif Poissonniers will have fish tanks producing four tonnes of rainbow trout, with waste providing minerals for six
Photo: Very Happy Media
Green efficiency tax credit move delayed
Photo: Nick Inman
Mistakes and ladders... building a new life as a budding artisan
Bank’s rooftop garden keeps building cool and staff in supplies of fresh produce tonnes of vegetables and strawberries. On the outskirts, BNP Paribas has just opened an urban farm above its offices at Issy-lesMoulineaux and staff are already helping themselves to fresh produce. Two buildings have rooftop gardens: one is open to all staff to pick-their-own while the other is for workers who subscribe to a scheme to care for the garden and harvest tomatoes, raspberries and herbs. It is a pilot for further schemes in the city and further afield, working with the community farm group Peas&Love and gardening consultant Mugo, known for its inventive green projects in commercial centres, offices and supermarkets. Antoine Guibourgé of Mugo said: “We
develop expertise in urban farms; cultivating market garden sites as productive farms with a sustainable business model. “Projects contribute to reclaiming urban land by flora and fauna. Each recreates ecosystems – the biological machines with depolluting functions that serve the city and its inhabitants – and we want to transform towns into a living landscape.” Paris has also called on would-be gardeners to apply for a permis de végétaliser to create and maintain green space on street corners or other unused land. In return, it will give them a planting kit with seeds. Deputy mayor Pénélope Komitès said Paris would need “one and a half times the city area” to be totally self-sufficient.
Chateau owners lose fight to halt wind farm A WIND FARM must directly affect the use of a property – and not just be visible from it – in order for the property owners to object to its construction, a recent ruling by France’s highest administrative court has found. P&T Technologie applied for planning permission for a wind farm with five turbines at La Chapelle-Glain, in LoireAtlantique. Owners at nearby MotteGlain Château objected. They tried to get permission refused and then, when it was granted, overturned, as the 116m turbines would be visible from the second floor in the western part of the chateau. They won their case to overturn the permission, but P&T Technologie appealed to the Conseil d’Etat. Judges there ruled that, as the chateau was 2.5km from the wind farm, and given the building’s layout, the owners did not have significant reason to object. The ruling said: “The mere fact of being able to see wind turbines is not enough to challenge a building permit. “It is only when it affects the use of the property that they would have the right to object.”
The Back Page
A ‘little bit of artwork’ on every envelope by BRIAN McCULLOCH LA POSTE has a tradition of inviting artists to create stamps and one of the most popular ever produced commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2014. The €0.66 stamp, available for postal use and for collectors, was created by noted illustrator Nicolas Vial, one of 16 artists who have designed stamps in recent years for La Poste. Mr Vial says he designs stamps the same way he thinks of posters. “You have to think of the message you want to get across and how to do that with the maximum impact,” he told Connexion. He uses a large piece of paper to design his stamps but, as he works, imagines how it will look as a stamp on an envelope and of the graphic processes it will go through. “You have to be clean and precise for most stamps to work,” he said. His personal favourite is an €0.85 one which went on sale in May to mark the 50th anniversary of the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer. “It is very vertical and I think it works very well,” he said. Claude Désarménien, president of the Fédération Française des Associations Philatéliques (FFAP), said: “For most stamp collectors, the special issue artist stamps are not for their albums, but they can attract a lot of interest from the public. When the
Above, Nicolas Vial’s D-Day 70th anniversary stamp. From far left: Mr Vial’s favourite design; the ‘Marianne de Macron’; and ‘art’ stamps on sale now artists are at exhibitions, people line up to have the stamps signed by them. It is a way of having your own little bit of artwork.” Mr Désarménien said: “The passion is the same for collectors all over the
world and when I go to international events, the French collector is just like the British or Czech one. “Most French enthusiasts collect French stamps but one member has an award-winning collection of New
Zealand stamps.” The number of stamp collectors in France is falling. “In the 1970s we had 55,000 members, now we are down to 22,000 and most of us are elderly,” he said. “When you send most of your com-
munications by email or telephone messages, and do not have the simple pleasure of receiving a letter with a stamp from a foreign country, it is difficult to get bitten by the bug.” One of the traditions of La Poste is the continuing use of Marianne as a symbol of liberty, instead of a portrait of a politician or head of state. Over the last couple of decades, the features of Marianne have changed each time there is a new president. Emmanuel Macron unveiled the new Marianne at a ceremony at La Poste’s stamp printing works in Périgueux. Nicknamed the “Marianne de Macron”, the stamp was drawn by Franco-British street artist Yseult Digan and engraved by Elsa Catelin. This new Marianne has been described by experts as austere, despite her tangled hair. At the same time La Poste unveiled its latest limited edition of “artistic” stamps. One of the most striking is a €1.30 stamp celebrating the craft of ceramics. Renovation of the French postal museum in Paris is almost complete. The building has been shut since 2015 after work to make it more accessible turned into a major structural renovation. The building at 34 Boulevard de Vaugirard, opened in 1973, was one of the off-tourist trail gems of Paris.
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