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FRANCE’S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER January/February 2019 Issue 195
What’s new in France for 2019
Blind LoRd Lawson Eurovision singer now Why I’m going mum of 7 in Lorraine Free glasses, tax at source... P8-9 back to the UK
Brexit: ‘Britons just as welcome’ Minister pledges support, teacher jobs safeguarded by OLIVER ROWLAND FRANCE has reassured British residents that they are still welcome here and official guidelines have been issued in the run-up to Brexit. The guidelines – in six sections: driving licences, integration, travel, residency, nationality and elections – cover both a deal and no-deal. They confirm that residency cards will be obligatory. We can provide a translation (see page 4). This comes as French MPs passed a special law enabling measures to be brought in quickly to cope with a no-deal including for ports, flights, Eurostar travel and Britons whose residency rights would, in theory, be lost overnight. France’s Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said: “I want to tell British people living here
that they will be welcome tomorrow as they are today. Many of them could not take part in the referendum that led to Brexit. They must not become hostages of a no-deal... “We commit ourselves without ambiguity to do everything to ensure a situation comparable to that which they would have benefited from in the context of the deal.” Mrs Loiseau also said British teachers and other fonctionnaires could keep their status. Full Brexit updates: Pages 4-5
LOUIS The village PASTEUR with 800
Senator for French abroad
Macron tried to do the impossible
Amazing scientist but also media genius
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2 Gilets jaunes protests HIGHLIGHTS News
Hamlet’s identity crisis 3 Brexit and Britons in France 4-5 Organic food new research 7 What’s new in 2019 8-9 News in Brief 10-11 Grassroot mayors 12 Interview: Singer Maria Doyle 13
Simon Heffer / Nabila Ramdani Senator for French abroad 15 Readers’ letters 16-17
Your questions CRS riot police Civic service ‘France a tax haven’ My operation in France
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French Living What else to do on ski holidays The war zone doctor France’s first media scientist DIRECTORY
Money / Work Property 32-39 The Back Page 40 Fear of vaccination
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Will gilets jaunes form a political party?
COULD the gilets jaunes form a political party to contest this year’s European elections? They have so far been associated mostly with road blockages and street protests, but Hayk Shahinyan, a prominent figure in the movement in the Seine-Maritime area, has announced: “We’re getting organised – we’re going to present a list in the European elections.” If they did, they could win as much as 12% of the vote, behind an En Marche/ MoDem list with 21%, according to an Ipsos poll for Le Journal du Dimanche. That could put them in the running for second place. In comparison, green party EELV won 9% and six seats in 2014; the Socialists won 14% and 13 seats. Commentators say they could become a French version of Italy’s 5 Star Movement but many point to the lack of clear leadership and a defined list of demands. After concessions and four weekends of disruption, 66% of the French still said they supported the protests. At the same time, 49% found the president’s response “convincing” and 54% thought the movement should stop, according to an OpinionWay poll. A ‘fifth act’ of protests went ahead with 66,000 – half as many as the Saturday before – joining in, said the Interior Ministry. Their demands are varied, with a
‘Red scarves’ grow to claim 30,000 supporters THE foulards rouges (red scarves) – a movement opposed to the methods of the gilets jaunes – now claim to have more than 30,000 supporters. Spokesman “Loïc” (he withheld his surname, saying members had received threats) said: “Everyone in the group has their own opinion on the root cause of the gilets jaunes. “Some agree there are too many taxes, others say people shouldn’t complain about them. We’re not aiming to enter that debate – we are only against the way the gilets jaunes are expressing themselves. We condemn the violence, and lots of people started joining us
after the street riots in Paris”. He says that although the gilets jaunes have been infiltrated by extremists from far left and far right groups, some are themselves pro-violence. “That’s our first point: we are antiviolence. Our second is that we want the freedom to circulate, as written in article 13 of Declaration of Human Rights. We are against the fact that many small businesses are losing
money through this.” He doubts the concessions will be enough. “It won’t stop because the gilets jaunes are not all asking for the same things. Some want a referendum, even though they don’t have a question to ask, some want to topple the government.” The group is run through Facebook and, as an IT professional, Loïc says its influence is huge. “Now Facebook promotes content from groups over content in pages, so you see more of what you like, meaning you consume more Facebook. It’s a business, after all, but it means you get into your bubble where you think everyone agrees with you.”
significant number seeking to see President Macron removed from office. They include “citizens’ initiative referendums” – the right for the people to create or modify a law without going via parliament or government if it is supported by 700,000 signatures – ending homelessness, raising disability benefits and new caps on rents. After a month of blockages on roundabouts and péages and – sometimes violent – street protests, the president
announced concessions, including €100 more a month for those on the minimum wage, axing a planned rise in tax on diesel, suspending a new tougher contrôle technique on diesel cars for six months, ending tax on overtime, and axing higher social charges on pensions for those with income under €2,000 a month. One of the unwitting founders of the movement, Jacline Mouraud, who made a passionate video against the fuel tax but has since been disowned by
many hardliners, has called for an end to the blockages. She told Connexion: “The changes made by the president are in the right direction, even if they do not go far enough. His tone was serious and marked with humility. We must now transform the movement to limit the impact on the economy.” She said the government planned to organise ‘citizens’ rendez-vous’ meetings and people should take part, so problems are heard, and “build, not destroy”.
People need to feel tax justice Social media is the IT DID not go unnoticed by protesters that on the same day President Macron spoke to the nation with concessions, the Senate voted through changes to the Exit Tax. Currently, rich businesspeople who leave France must pay a tax on the ‘latent capital gains’ of their business shares of 30% if they sell them within 15 years – this was reduced to two to five years. We spoke to two tax experts about tax justice. Tax justice and tax equality are vital to France, says Robert Matthieu, former tax inspector and author of Payer Moins d’Impôts pour les Nuls (Paying Less Tax for Dummies) – but achieving them is not easy. The ISF (Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune) was designed to reallocate wealth from the richest to the poorest and close the gap between the two. President Macron, as promised in his manifesto, relaunched the tax as the Impôt sur la fortune immobilière, limiting it to property. Shares and trust funds are now exempt. The effect has been less tax in percentage terms for the richest 1% while the burden on the least prosperous 10-15% has grown. Lucas Chancel, co-director of the World Inequality Lab at the Paris School of Economics, says tax injustice grates on most people, with 75% in favour of re-establishing ISF. He said: “There is always talk that the rich will leave the country if they are taxed too much but studies show that this is not the case. Figures also show that taxing them less does not have a trickle-down effect. It does not kick-start the economy.” He said the most unpopular taxes on fossil fuels are needed. “Taxing fossil fuels drives people to change their heating methods, and their transport to cleaner, less polluting methods. We have to reduce consump-
tion in order to reduce pollution but changing consuming means spending money, to change cars, to change heating boilers etc. “So I think we should re-establish the ISF, which would generate around €5billion a year, and spend that on helping people change.” ISF, he said, was always about tax justice and establishing equality. “It’s true that 58% of the population don’t pay income tax but that’s a tiny part of taxes levied. There are social security contributions, VAT and taxes on so many other things. The working poor pay around 48% in indirect taxes, which is approximately the same as the rich. That’s the injustice.” He said the tax system is so complex that nobody really understands it and only the rich can work it to their advantage. To give it more sense, people should pay less indirect tax and more income tax. “They need to feel they’re directly contributing to the project in France, that they are stakeholders. Paying income tax would help.” Mr Matthieu agrees. He said: “Getting tax rebates or credits makes people feel like they are getting a favour from the state. “It’s complicated because no government wants to announce a tax for everyone. We need a completely overhauled, simplified system but governments
just tweak. For example, the new prélèvement à la source [pay as you earn] is not a new tax, just a new way of collecting it.” He said French people have been allergic to paying tax since the Revolution. “But everyone should pay at least €20 because that makes them equal citizens, and they would appreciate more what their taxes provide, in terms of public infrastructure. “It might also be good to have different bands of TVA so people pay less for necessities, more for luxuries.” Mr Matthieu believes the main problem is that society is undergoing a profound transformation. “Now people want instant access to everything, they want three televisions, three cars, phones, a cruise for the whole family. The rich have these things, so why shouldn’t they? “In this new society everyone has everything, but it’s hard to manage that. And meanwhile the real poor can’t buy food. “We have to distinguish the real poor from the aspirational want-mores. We can’t satisfy them, but we can help those at the absolute bottom end.” The tax system, and the philosophy of paying tax, should be explained in schools, he added. “We also need to achieve tax justice so tax is to pay for communal things like roads and to redistribute wealth.” It is a matter of national unity, he said. People must feel they are paying to finance a common project, a common view of the country, of what they want France to become in the future. “That’s the bottom line. We need a clearly defined national project that everyone agrees on. National unity is important.”
new force in politics THE gilets jaunes protests have been organised through Facebook and commentators question how healthy this is. Many feel Facebook has been hijacked by extremists, noting the part it played in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump and several other populist leaders. Social media techniques are not hard. Loïc, a spokesman for the foulards rouges Facebook group (article above) said it was easy to harness the site’s algorithms. “They used to prioritise pages over local groups, but now it is the opposite. It’s easy to build a presence in a few days.” He says IT professionals will always adapt to play the game. But several deaths, many serious injuries and the impact on the economy show that it is not a game. Olivier Costa, research professor at the CNRS in Bordeaux, says the danger is that Facebook amplifies emotions: “People who have never learned the rules of formal debate start discussing complex issues and it becomes heated. “Soon there’s no debate, no negotiation, just a lot of people stating their opinions.” He says that as a result the demands put forward by the gilets jaunes were not logical, coherent, or sometimes even practical. “Social media amplifies and simplifies complex issues. The gilets jaunes went from chatting on Facebook to extreme action without talking to the
authorities and that’s new to politics. The government was caught off guard.” He says it is a principle that leaders do not negotiate in the face of violence and threats. “So Macron refused to speak on the subject, and on the other side, the gilets jaunes felt their emotions were important and had to be expressed.” The situation revealed a paradox: people might be asking whether the violence was needed to persuade President Macron to abandon unpopular tax hikes and to raise the minimum wage, but the government was cornered. There was little else they could do. “The government didn’t see it coming. “They ignored the rumbling discontent about the 80km speed limit, the drop in ISF. “There was a lack of political experience, and Macron didn’t want to be seen as weak like Hollande. He wanted to just get on and impose his programme from the start. “He threw away much of his social capital, so he came over as arrogant instead of intelligent and thoughtful. He came across as a snob.” Mr Costa says politicians will have to adapt: “Social media is a new power, it is a louder noise from the crowd. Politicians will have to pay more attention to public opinion. “This could be the beginning of a transformation. People could get more involved in politics and civil life, and politicians could begin to listen more.”
Higher fees for overseas students
STUDENTS from outside the EU will pay higher university fees as of 2019-2020. Britons coming to study after Brexit are likely to be affected (not those who live in France). An annual undergraduate fee will rise from €170 to €2,770 (but still seven times less than UK overseas student fees and, the government says, a third of the actual, unsubsidised, cost).
600 speed cameras are out of order SIX hundred speed cameras, out of a total 4,500, were listed as out of order after the weeks of gilets jaunes action by the website radars-auto.com. More than 130 had been burnt out.
Eight new cases of babies without arms EIGHT new cases of babies born with malformed arms have been identified in Morbihan, Brittany, and added to a national inquiry into villages with high numbers. One village, Guidel, had four cases from 2011 to 2013. There are 150 a year nationally. Possible causes include genetics or toxic substances in diet, medicines or the environment.
My house is in one region, my garden in another YOU can only imagine the administrative headaches for the hamlet of La Lamberdais – its eight homes are split between two communes, two departments and even two regions. But the good news for residents is that, from January 1, all their homes in north-east France have been “moved” into one commune in Brittany. For decades, some residents have belonged to the commune of Grand-Fougeray in Ille-etVilaine in Brittany while others to Mouais commune in LoireAtlantique, Pays de la Loire. It meant the Mouais postman had to cover an extra 4.5km to deliver mail to two people, and one traditional longère received two taxe foncière bills each year because the long low home is half in one region and half in the other. Local farmer François Ruanlt said: “At one point La Poste got mixed up and wanted me to have two letterboxes. Their computer couldn’t understand it. “I grew up in my parents’ home on the Grand-Fougeray side of the border but when I built a house just down the lane, I changed department and region. “We had to be very careful measuring out the land and now there is just a metre between my house and the border, so the house and the
At one point La Poste wanted farmer François Ruanlt to have two different letterboxes garden are not in the same region.” The main road to the hamlet passes by Grand-Fougeray and Mr Ruanlt said everyone is happy with the move to incorporate all the commune there. Rubbish collection will also improve – at the moment dustmen from the two departments
Secret illegal clock restorer gets the job
by BRIAN MCCULLOCH
ONE of the men involved in a clandestine restoration of the clock at the Panthéon in Paris has been appointed its official restorer – more than a decade after being taken to court. “It’s a lovely story,” said a Panthéon spokeswoman. “The circle has been completed.” The clock stopped working in 1965 and this was noticed by Untergunther, the “restoration wing” of UX, a “positive and apolitical” group which infiltrates and improves neglected public places and stages events. Clock resto rer Jean-Baptiste Viot was a member, and he and friends found ways to enter the Panthéon after hours in 2005 and 2006. Methods included not leaving at closing time and copying keys left hanging on a hook by the door by guards. They even set up a “lounge” with sofas, a hot plate and dining table in a space between the dome and the wall, with a stunning view of Paris. They did the work, spending €4,000 on parts. But when they told the administrator what they had done (“so he could keep it wound up,” one of the group, Lazar Kunstmann, told Connexion in 2007), they were taken to court. Authorities from
Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN) failed in attempts to prosecute because the concept of breaking into a public monument did not exist. Lawyers argued it was, by definition, open to the public. What is more, “you can’t be prosecuted for improving something”, Mr Kunstmann said at the time. CMN eventually got them in court in 2007, demanding €48,300 in damages and costs after they were caught sawing through a padlock.
He knew the mechanism better than anyone else
The group was let off but with a warning about the consequences of a criminal conviction, especially for a member who worked as a nurse. Untergunther then moved out of the spotlight and the clock was neglected and stopped working again – until this year when a budget was allocated for restoration. Mr Viot, now a respected clock restorer and watch maker,
won the tender. Mr Kunstmann said that when Mr Viot applied, he did not hide that he was the clockmaker taken to court. “It was a strong argument in his favour,” he said. “Through the work he had done, he knew the mechanism better than anyone else and had a good idea of what needed doing. “Without the work we did, this would not have been possible. We saved original parts from rusting beyond repair.” The clock is in three parts: the face, which was not touched in the clandestine restoration because it would have needed scaffolding; the mechanism in a room above it, restored in 20052006 by Mr Viot; and bells, situated above the mechanism. All three parts have now been restored. Asked what is special about the mid-19th century clock, Mr Kunstmann said: “It was very well made by Wagner, who used to be royal clockmakers, with ingenious mechanics, designed to last centuries if looked after. “To neglect it, or replace it with a digital unit which will last 10 years before being thrown away, would be shameful.” Untergunther’s theory is that the clock was sabotaged in the 1960s by an employee bored with winding it, then neglected.
arrive on different days to empty different bins in the hamlet, often having to cross over the border several times. “The borders might have made sense at the time of the Revolution [when France was divided into departments] but they do not always do so now,” Mr Ruanlt said. “Unfortunately,
for us the change will not lead to any reduction in taxes.” The consolidation of the commune into Grand-Fougeray had to be agreed at national government level and involved a land swap of 2,000m2 of communal land outside the hamlet so that Mouais would not lose out.
New drivers swear to be responsible PEOPLE who pass their driving tests are now required to sign a “Charter of the responsible driver” online before they are issued with a certificate allowing them to take to the roads. Candidates will be asked to read safety advice and to watch a YouTube video (tinyurl.com/ y743tclf) which includes a reminder that drivers are three times more likely to die in a road accident in their first two years. It also recommends downloading a Mode Conduite app which puts your phone out of action and responds for you to people who text or call. The latest accident statistics show a year-on-year drop in deaths (down 44 in October, 2018, compared to 2017), possibly linked to the lowering of the speed limit on secondary roads. However, the total number of accidents was up 5.5%, as was the number of pedestrian deaths. The government hopes these will be reduced by measures including the possibility of drivers being fined if they are seen on camera not respecting pedestrians’ right to cross the road. In theory, pedestrians always have the right of way.
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Brexit 4 News
France and UK clear up confusion for Britons living abroad
France has taken action to protect the rights of Britons living here in the event of no deal with a new law allowing it to bring in safeguard measures quickly. It comes as the UK – finally – issues no-deal planning advice for Britons living in the EU. France’s Ministry of the Interior has also created advice pages for British residents, with information relating to both a deal and a no-deal. This is in six sections: residency, travel, integration, driving licences, elections, and applying for French nationality. Connexion has translated the sections, with verification by the British Community Committee of France. The translations are on our website, or email news@connexion france.com to have the links sent to you. The British no-deal planning paper states that, in that event, the UK wishes to continue to pay an uprated state pension to eligible Britons living in the EU. This and other matters which the UK has control over would be subject to reciprocity
(ie. EU pensioners would need to continue to receive their full pensions in the UK). The UK also says that, as previously stated, it would aim for healthcare arrangements for its state pensioners in the EU to continue to operate via reciprocal agreements, whether with the EU as a whole or individual member states. The same would apply to other ‘social security coordination’ matters, such as the right to claim ‘exported’ disability benefits in France or benefit from pension aggregation. In a no-deal, Britain would continue to seek agreements with EU states to give Britons the right to vote and stand in local elections, as it will also do in the case of a deal. EU citizens in the UK will be able to do so, it says. Also relevant – as France has previously stated it will look closely at how its citizens are treated – is that the paper confirms that the UK would wish to maintain most of the benefits of the draft withdrawal agreement for EU citizens settled in Britain before Brexit day. “They will be
able to stay and carry on with their lives broadly as now,” it says. “They will continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after we exit the EU.” Rights would, however, be subject to any future UK legal changes also affecting Britons. This means the same rules and application process for qualifying to stay will apply as in the case of the withdrawal agreement going ahead. EU citizens would be allowed to leave the UK for up to five years without losing the status – the same as under the deal. There are differences: in the event of no-deal, there would be no transition period and those living in the UK before Brexit would have to apply for ‘settled status’ by the end of 2020 (in the event of a deal, there would be a grace period until the end of June 2021). There are also more restrictions than under the deal regarding EU citizens bringing family to the UK (see the full UK paper: tinyurl.com/y93optje). The French Interior Ministry’s new site for
British teachers and hospital workers can keep their jobs THERE is good news for British teachers and others who are fonctionnaires in France as the government and MPs have backed an amendment to the new Brexit law to allow them to keep this special status afterwards. This status is normally – by a law called the Loi le Pors – reserved for French and EU/EEA citizens. When we speak of a fonctionnaire, technically this refers to a fonctionnaire titulaire – a person who works in la fonction publique (public service), with a special civil servant status. It applies to 1,715 Britons out of a total 5,115 working for the national state, local government or public hospitals. Many of them teach English in state schools and private ones under contract. Britons in hundreds of other professions, such as nurses, psychologists and hospital managers, are potentially affected by the loss of the status too. A titulaire has high job security and a clearly-defined pay structure based on seniority and time in the post. Other public sector workers are contractuels, on less secure work contracts with a salary which is, in theory, negotiated with the employer, who is meant to consider qualifications and experience. In practice, it is often “take it or leave it”. They sometimes take exams to ‘titularise’. The French Brexit law gives the government powers to sort out problems that would arise if there is no-deal, but a Foreign Affairs Ministry source said the same would apply if there is a deal. tons It would not apply to Bri coming to France in future, but the law says it would cover those already working as fonctionnaires, plus stagiaires in a first year after taking fonctionnaire exams. The Brexit law says the government should aim to take measures to maintain the ‘“conditions of status and employment they have
maintain the status of French fonctionnaires.” An Interior Ministry spokesman said the expected effect is protection for those w it h the status before Brexit, in the case of no-deal, or before the end of the transition period if there is a deal.It had previously been feared that, due to France’s strict rules, the fonctionnaires might lose the status, with or without a deal. On the other side of the Channel the issue is less significant as there are few comparable posts that can be held Lecturer Melanie Hills welcomed only by a British or the government’s new policy EU citizen. Melanie Hills, a now” and “without any barriers single mother of two who teaches linked to nationality”. Europe Minister Nathalie English in a higher education Loiseau previously said British engineering school in Hautetitulaires would not be able to Pyrénées said: “This is really remain so “by definition” and it good news. Fingers crossed it had been thought they would goes through. “Nobody would accept moving have to move – where possible – to be a contractuel. to contractuel contracts. “To work very hard to have this These are often temporary, but even where they are not, they are status and then have it taken away considered less secure. Some would be a disaster – hopefully, senior public sector posts may now it won’t come to that.” She has been trying to apply for not be held by contractuels. The law has now been voted French nationality but it is through by MPs before going to a proving difficult. She is also mixed senators’ and MPs’ com- concerned it may be too late mittee for final review. No signif- before Brexit or the end of the transition period. icant changes were expected. Ms Hills, 51, said she worked as Germany has also passed a law a contractuel before passing a to protect its equivalent workers. The Foreign Affairs Ministry CAPES French teaching qualificasource said: “The take-home on tion, a masters degree, and written this is that the government’s and oral exams to become a stagiposition has evolved and it aire, then the one year’s experisupports Britons being able to ence to ‘titularise’. “You can
imagine how it felt to be told ‘you can be a contractuel’ – you work all these years and think you have a job for life, then have to go back to square one.” She said job insecurity is part of the problem. “I live in a rural area and there are a lot of contractuel teachers. I’d probably have been like them, running round looking for bits of work. “There are very few who have a CDI [permanent contract]. Plus my salary would go down – in theory, a contractuel salary is negotiable, but in reality you get what you get, and if you’re not happy, there are plenty of others looking for work.” One kind of public service work that cannot be done by a contractuel is being agrégé, a highly-qualified subject teacher. One reader, who asked to be anonymous, said her son had just passed the exam for this. “What a nightmare if, after seven years of study, he is told he can’t take up the job he’s worked so hard for,” she said. Another reader, working in an allied health profession in a hospital, said she had been planning to ‘titularise’ but Brexit might take away the possibility. She said: “As a contractuel, the pension is slightly less generous but also the big thing is that for titulaires, if their job disappears, they’re offered another elsewhere, and if they move to another area they are prioritised for vacancies. Whereas if I had to move, I would have to compete for a job. “For the titulaires, a lot of job progression happens via internal competitions and even someone without the baccalauréat can do well – but if they lost the status, they could then find themselves a contractuel with no transferable qualifications.” Another reader said he feared changing status could have halved his salary. “There is no way I would accept the humiliation. I would walk away,” he said.
Britons is at tinyurl.com/MinistryPrepares. By and large, it contains no surprises compared to what we have reported in recent editions. One point of uncertainty is that it states in the section about Séjour (residency rights) that where Britons hold a carte de séjour obtained as EU citizens before Brexit day, they will need to replace this with a different card (as yet not defined) after the end of the transition period if a deal is reached (with a grace period until at least July 2021). An Interior Ministry source said: “Contacts in the minister’s office confirm it is worth getting a carte now because it will simplify the process for obtaining a new card.” In the case of no-deal, the site says cards obtained before Brexit would have to be exchanged afterwards, according to a calendar that would be clarified in due course. The site also contains tips on applying for French nationality, including clarifications for situations such as people who work cross-border in Monaco or Switzerland.
Consular service gears up to give carte help STAFFING levels have been “significantly” increased at the British consular service to give extra help to Britons living in France during the Brexit process. It expects to spend more time helping with carte de séjour application issues as these become obligatory. This means more focus on residents rather than visitors and comes after years of the consular service being slimmed down in Europe, with investment further afield. Olaf Henricson-Bell, head of politics and communication at the British Embassy Paris, said: “We are expecting an increase in inquiries and requests for assistance and in the complexity of some of our consular cases, due to Brexit, so we are increasing capacity. “That includes both our
core consular capacity and call-handling and people working on policy areas related to British citizens.” The embassy has also been working to improve the ways it keeps Britons informed, he said, including working with mairies. The ambassador recently spoke at a conference of mayors. It is also working with the French government to help it communicate clearly to the British community, he said. Outreach meetings will continue next year (see tinyurl.com/yb22ay3u) and it will hold regular discussions with representatives of British in Europe groups. The UK advises checking for Brexit updates at tinyurl. com/travellingAndLiving tinyurl.com/LivingFrance and tinyurl.com/ FranceTravelAdvice.
or loan, or was sacked or not allowed to register to vote, due to being British. Ideally, you should have proof in writing. If this applies to you, let us know at news@ connexionfrance.com.
More Brexit updates
FRENCH barrister Julien Fouchet has appealed against the dismissal of his case for 13 Britons in the EU, including veteran Harry Shindler. He argues that Britons are already impacted by Brexit, contrary to the view of General Court of the EU judges in rejecting his case. He had argued that the Britons, including Mr Shindler, 97, are badly affected by the referendum decision in which they had no vote because they had been outside the UK over15 years. The court said the case was inadmissible as Brexit has not happened yet and the mere opening of Brexit negotiations had not affected their rights. Mr Fouchet is appealing to the European Court of Justice and is interested in gathering more evidence to bolster his case – for example, anyone who has been refused a job, home rental
Register to vote ANOTHER referendum or snap general election is possible so you should check you are registered to vote in the UK if you wish to do so. Britons who have been living outside the UK less than 15 years may register at gov.uk/register-to-vote. You can send a scanned copy of the form by email as long as all parts are visible and the signature is clear. If you have previously registered from abroad, you must renew annually to remain registered. You need to make a separate application, opting for a choice of a postal or proxy vote, unless you can vote in person in the UK.
Ring-fence our rights now, say campaigners CAMPAIGNING group British in Europe has renewed calls for ring-fencing of the citizens’ rights part of the draft withdrawal agreement as political chaos in the UK gave rise to renewed uncertainty. With British MPs unlikely to vote in favour of the negotiated deal and the vote being put off by Prime Minister Theresa May, and with the EU saying no other deal is available, it is looking more likely than ever that we will see either Britain crashing out with no deal or, alternatively, no Brexit at all. This comes as the European Court of Justice said that Britain may, until Brexit day, cancel Brexit if it decides to do so, according to its own constitutional procedures (eg. an MPs’ vote or another referendum, also known as a “People’s Vote”). In another twist, an amendment was passed by the UK parliament giving MPs the right to a final say on how the UK should proceed if the Brexit deal is voted down. No-Brexit would retain the status quo for Britons in France and ensure future generations could continue to come to the country freely to work or retire, as they have for the last 26 years since the full EU single market came into force. No-deal would mean British people in EU countries become technically illegal immigrants on March 30 unless emergency laws are put into place by the countries where they live. France and Germany are so far said to be the only countries to have created legislation to deal with this. Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau’s new Brexit law is currently going through final stages. A source in the Europe Ministry confirmed to Connexion that Mrs Loiseau aims to be “very protective” of Britons’ rights in the case of no-deal and she “has a strong will to protect Britons in France”. Even so, British in Europe points out that
the draft deal, while imperfect, is better for British expatriates than having to fall back on such help, not least because it contains clear guarantees of the rights continuing for life. What is more, it covers a raft of areas in its 600 pages, and individual countries seeking to replicate it would be time-consuming. For Britons here, it would require laws to be passed both in the UK and France, plus bilateral deals being agreed between the UK and France, or the UK and EU, on matters such as pension up-rating and aggregation, healthcare and social security. If the draft deal is accepted by UK MPs, the final hurdle would be a debate and vote by the European Parliament which is not now expected before February or March due to formalities required to present it to the parliament, including translation into different languages. However, it is thought the MEPs would not, at this stage, object to the deal, despite the fact that it falls short of their previously expressed wishes, including full continuing free movement rights to live and work across the EU and voting rights. The parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt told Connexion: “The withdrawal agreement and political declaration [on the future UK/EU relationship] are the only and best agreements possible, considering the positions of the UK government and the Good Friday Agreement. “I believe this framework provides for the possibility to establish in the future a really close relationship between the EU and the UK. “The basis of this would be an ‘association agreement’, as the European Parliament has proposed from day one.”
Lord Lawson leaving France FORMER Vote Leave chairman Lord Lawson is selling up in France to move back to the UK, six months after revealing to Connexion he was applying for a carte de séjour – a card which proves you are a legal and stable resident of France. Lord Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, bought and renovated a 19th century country mansion in the Gers in the south-west in 2001. He lives there and travels back for House of Lords debates. But he recently told a BBC Radio 5 interviewer that he was returning to live in the UK. When Connexion contacted him to ask why, he said: “My house is on the market. It’s well known that I live here and when I’ve sold it I’ll be moving back to where my children and grandchildren live.” Asked what had changed since spring when he was applying for a residency card, he said: “That was not with a view to staying but to make sure I have medical coverage while I’m here. “French bureaucracy is pretty slow so it [the card] hasn’t come through yet.” Under British law, members of the House of Lords must be UK tax-domiciled. When Connexion asked him if this was a factor in his decision to return to the UK, Lord Lawson said: “I am tax resident in the UK.” Had this caused
‘Brexit is currently a complete mess’ Lord Lawson
problems with his French residency application? “No, not at all,” he said. Lord Lawson, 86, added that he considers Brexit is currently “a complete mess”, with the exit deal on the table “disastrous”. A French Interior Ministry source said that tax residency abroad would usually block someone from being considered an habitual resident of France, which is necessary for obtaining a carte de séjour. One tax specialist working with Britons in France said the French do not separate the concepts of residence and domicile, as the UK does, and Lord Lawson probably meets French residency criteria through having his main home here. However, he said there are dispensations which British statesmen can use so they are still deemed by the UK to be domiciled there for tax. “Having your cake and eating it is one of the great joys of being a politician,” he said. The prefecture of the Gers said it had no record of an application for a residency card
from Lord Lawson. British residents at the time of Brexit will need to meet the same stable and legal residency criteria required for an EU citizen permanent residency carte de séjour to stay living here under the terms of the draft agreement. The card is expected to simplify proving the right to benefit from the agreement. After Brexit, Britons would either have to apply for visas and non-EU citizen residency cards to move here or be restricted to staying for no more than 90 days out of every 180 days as visitors. The draft Brexit agreement includes the right for British state pensioners living in France to continue having French healthcare paid for by the UK as now via the EU’s S1 form scheme. A permanent residency card (which EU citizens may apply for if they can prove five years’ continuous, legal, residency) also guarantees the right to be covered under the French Puma health system for those who do not qualify in other ways such as by work or holding an S1 form. Occasional visitors, such as holiday home-owners, currently use a European Ehic card for healthcare they need in France. Under the draft deal this will continue during any transition period but will be subject to separate negotiations about the ongoing relationship yet to start.
‘Sausage Street’ may Pay-out of change name - but €1,000 as not to please vegans licence is RUE de la Saucisse may be changing its name but it is not because vegans demanded it. Animal rights group Peta had written demanding the street in Issigeac in the Dordogne be renamed Rue Soy-cisse, a reference to soya beans and a vegetarian sausage brand. But mayor Jean-Claude Castagner said: “The name is relatively modern and came about because in this 15m-long alley, there used to live a slightly eccentric old lady, who looked like a sausage, being tall and round and having a stoop. “She looked after her mother in often difficult circumstances and was a real character. “She liked her nickname La Saucisse but I felt it’s demeaning and I want the street to reflect her real name, Suzanne Tessier.” She died in the 1960s. Peta has
also called for Rue aux Fromages in Caen to be changed to Rue aux Faux Mages, and for Rue de la Boucherie in Limoges’s old quarter to become Rue de la Bouche qui crie. Peta spokeswoman Anissa Putois said: “We send out many messages and videos showing the horrible treatment of animals used for meat or dairy production, and people do not like watching them. “By mixing them with lighter items like this, we hope people will think about how we treat animals and act on it.” To change the name of a street, a formal letter to the mairie will get the request on the council’s agenda. If the council agrees, the request is sent to the prefecture. Residents then have to notify their contacts of their change of address.
Déja vu as Puma bills arrive...
CONNEXION is again hearing of isolated cases of state pensioners who are due “free” healthcare in France under the European S1 scheme being sent Cotisation subsidiaire maladie (Puma) bills by Urssaf. This is likely to be because you are not known to them as having a French salary or pension. You should show them a copy of your S1 form.
A MAN whose driving licence was suspended for drink-driving has won €1,000 damages plus €50 per day of further delay after he had waited six months for a new one to be issued. The Parisian hired an avocat and won a case in the tribunal administratif. The lawyer said slow delivery of a new licence from the national ANTS agency meant his client had risked fines for driving without a licence, even though he was entitled to drive. Peter Adams from Léran, Ariège, who – like many other readers – has been waiting for a French licence from Nantes prefecture, flagged this up. In his case, the delay is (so far) four months. He said he is looking to sue too, especially as it is now possible to apply to the administrative courts without a lawyer via citoyens.telerecours.fr. Like the Parisian, he lost his UK licence due to a (two-month) suspension and applied for a French licence but has not even received an acknowledgement.
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A DAMNING report on the privatisation of ToulouseBlagnac Airport has criticised the Chinese-led board for draining reserves by demanding a €40million payout from €10million profits. The Cour des Comptes state auditors said the site – which Occitanie region claims is strategically vital because of its links to Airbus – has been left in the hands of an “unstable” board with links to the Chinese state. It called for reforms in foreign investments, which has happened with privatisations at other airports such as Nice. A spokesman for Toulouse airport, which has UK flights with Easy Jet, Ryanair, British Airways and Flybe, said: “We have absolutely no comment to make.” Attempts to speak to representatives of the Chinese shareholders also failed – not surprisingly, as even the Cour des Comptes was unable to find any physical trace of their holding company in France. The French state sold a 49.9% stake in the airport to the Chinese consortium Casil Europe, which had bid €308mil-
Photo: Benjamin Pasquier CC BY-SA 4.0
Chinese criticised over €40m claim on €10m airport profit
Occitanie’s Carole Delga said Toulouse was unique lion. It is made up of Shandong Hi-Speed, owned by the Chinese state, and British Virgin Islands firm Friedmann Pacific AG, which is owned and operated by a Hong Kong businessman. The consortium committed to an option to buy the state’s last 10% of shares by April 2019, and joined it in a confidential shareholders’ pact. However, local representatives on the 15-seat board were upset and wrote to the prime minister, asking the state not to sell its remaining shares. Last February
the government cancelled the sale option and maintained a state interest in the airport, although details of the deal with Casil Europe remained secret. The Cour des Comptes condemned this arrangement, saying governance was “unstable and ambiguous”. The board has six Chinese members, two from the French state, four from Toulouse Chambre de Commerce (CCI), and one each from Toulouse Métropole, Haute-Garonne and Occitanie local authorities. The councils and Toulouse CCI hold the remaining shares. Difficulties started at the board’s first meeting as some Chinese directors did not speak French or English and the need for translation slowed progress. But what most upset local representatives were the Chinese demands, backed by the French state, for big dividends, even if it meant raiding reserves. In 2016 the Chinese wanted €40million in dividends from a net profit of around €10million. After a boardroom battle, they accepted a €20million dividend, with €15million coming from reserves. In 2017 a similar
battle resulted in a €7.8million dividend, with €1.5million from reserves. Occitanie region president Carole Delga replied to questions with a statement emphasising the unique nature of Toulouse-Blagnac. She wrote: “It is used by Airbus, especially for all its test flights. “It is thus a question of national sovereignty, and these are words not used lightly. “It is not just a simple commercial airport like Nice. That is why it is essential that the state remains a shareholder in this airport, because there is a national dimension. “Public shareholders must remain in the majority.” Despite their criticism, the auditors recognised that revenue, profits and passenger numbers at the airport have soared as Casil Europe targeted more long-haul flights The number of passengers has risen from 7.4million in 2014 to 9.2million in 2017, a 23% rise when overall French provincial air passenger numbers rose 15.9%. Overall sales figures are also up 10.5% to €142.3million in 2017.
EasyJet and Ryanair expand in France
RYANAIR and EasyJet are opening new French bases and routes, including to Dublin and Manchester, creating hundreds of jobs. The new base at Nantes will be EasyJet’s seventh in France, which the airline says is its second largest market after the UK. Ryanair said its new sites at Bordeaux and Marseille are the “first phase of developments” after earlier saying it was “in talks with several regional airports”. Ryanair’s decision follows its win in the French appeal court over claims it broke employment law by employing 127 staff at Marseille on Irish labour contracts – and its decision to pay the French government €525,000 to free a plane impounded at Bordeaux over illegal subsidies. Employees at Bordeaux and Marseille will be on French contracts and it is investing €200million in each, with two Boeing
737-800 jets apiece, and 16 routes from Bordeaux and 11 from Marseille. Both have twice-a-week Manchester flights. Ryanair chief commercial officer David O’Brien said: “Our growth will create 120 jobs and deliver 1.1million customers a year at Bordeaux and 2.4million at Marseille.” For EasyJet, its decision to base three A320 aircraft at Nantes will create 100 jobs on French contracts and open up new routes to Bastia, Bilbao, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Rome, Granada, Marrakech
and Tenerife this summer. A spokesman said: “We’ve had a long relationship with Nantes, starting 10 years ago, and by opening the base we will reinforce our local presence and accelerate development, which means more flights at better times – and 400,000 extra passengers in 2019.” EasyJet said France was its second largest market after the UK despite low-cost carriers having only 30% of the market, compared to 47% for the rest of Europe. On-going train strikes in 2018 and the disputes at Air France boosted EasyJet’s French income by €20million. Asked about a no-deal Brexit, the airline said it was confident flights would continue as the UK and EU had said an agreement would be signed. “We have taken steps already, with HQs in Austria, Switzerland and the UK,” it said.
Sports certificates might end
Check your winter route
Polluting cruise liner fined
SPORTS medical certificates which are needed to join clubs and associations may be ended after an MP said in a report that they do not prevent heart attacks and cuts could save €100million a year. Perrine Goulet (Nièvre) said a certificat de non contre-indication à la pratique sportive should only be for high-intensity sports.
DRIVERS can find out more about road conditions on their journey this winter as the traffic agency Bison Futé is creating up-to-the-minute road-weather maps. Www.bison-fute.gouv.fr has a Routes en Hiver section with zoomable maps of France and main winter black spots, giving green, amber, red and black warnings.
A CRUISE liner captain and his bosses have been fined €100,000 for polluting the air in Marseille by using heavy-sulphur oil. The fine on the skipper of the Azura and US owner Carnival is the first such court case in France. It comes after heavy local criticism of poor air quality with plumes of black smoke seen over the port area.
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Herbalists could be brought back into health system
herbalists who treat health problems with plants have been banned as a profession in France since 1942 but may soon regain official status. This follows months of consultations into the role of herboristes at the Sénat, leading to senators making 39 recommendations in a report, including calls for law changes. A further consultation period has started. Among the justifications for working to bring herboristes into the modern health system is the agricultural potential of growing plants for health purposes and the boost it could bring to rural areas. The Vichy regime banned herboristes in 1942 under pressure from pharmacists, who wanted to get rid of competitors who used what they saw as unscientific charlatan practices. Despite the ban, many rural areas continued to have “wise women” to whom locals would turn for remedies made from plants. In 2004 the law was amended to allow the few stores still selling herbs, often under the guise of being tisane shops, to again promote the health benefits, as long as it was done under the guidance of a pharmacist. Even before then, herboristes were getting round the law. The private Ecole Lyonnaise de Plantes Médicinales et des Savoirs Naturels was founded 40 years ago, with faculty staff including doctors, botanists and pharmacists. The school
has had record numbers of students in the past few years and is highly selective, with student fees of €1,800 a year, or €2,268 if financed by training groups or companies. Students are a mix of people with farming projects, health professionals, cooks, and those seeking work with organic food. Deputy director Françoise Pillet said: “We do not, and have not ever, issued formal diplomas. That is how we have managed to exist legally, but it is the quality of the work we do which is why we have survived.” There are 1,200 students, with 600 doing three-year distancelearning courses. Students also meet in local groups for lessons and practical demos. Founder and director Patrice de Bonneval had mixed feelings about bringing herboristes back into the legal framework. “On one level it is good, especially if it improves job prospects. “But when you look at the work we and others are doing, it is miles away from a university science course, such as ones pharmacists follow. “Herboristes know plants, their virtues and dangers, but they also trained from the start to marry that with the people they give the plants to, and that sharing outlook is a completely different spirit to what you get with a university course.” He said it was gratifying to see renewed interest in plant medicine, driven partly by people’s wish to be more éco but also by a more open philosophy of life.
Car premiums rise to cover uninsured
MOTORISTS face rises in insurance premiums as MPs say they need to pay more to cover the rising costs of treating victims of uninsured and hit-and-run drivers. They want insurers’ contributions to the Fonds de garantie des assurances obligatoires de dommages to increase from 12% to 25%, which could amount to an extra €10 on policies. Rising care costs for victims are part of the reason for the call for extra cash but a large part of the problem is the increasing number of uninsured cars on the road. It coincides with the launch of the fichier des véhicules assurés motor insurance register this month, which gives police details of whether a car is insured or not. Uninsured drivers face fines of up to €3,750. Drivers who want to keep costs down can use the loi Hamon that allows them to cancel insurance at any point after the first year and sign up for new cheaper cover elsewhere.
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Eating organic means reduced exposure to pesticide residues cides – and a 34% reduction for post-menopausal breast cancer. There are limits on the work by Emmanuelle Kesse and the team at Université Paris 13 and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm). It does not show organic food is the direct cause of the reduced risk as it is accepted that people who eat more organic food have healthier overall lifestyles and eating habits. The findings on lymphoma were also a small part of the overall result, so may not be statistically significant. Dr Kesse said the “likeliest explanation” for finding a 25% reduction in overall cancer risk for organic food-eaters was “the
presence of synthetic pesticide residues, more common and at higher doses in foods from conventional agriculture”. Research agency Inra said the results suggested a diet rich in organic foods could limit cancers – but said it was not possible to identify cause and effect from a single study. It said other explanations included potentially higher levels of micronutrients in organic foods. Dr Kesse study ran from May 2009 to November 2016 with 69,000 volunteers – average age 44, with 78% women – listed on the NutriNet-Santé website as ready to do food research. A total of 1,340 cancers appeared, including breast cancer (34%), prostate cancer (13%), skin cancer (10%) and bowel cancer (7%). There were fewer cases in people who ate mainly organic food – 269 against 360 in those eating the least organic food. The numbers involved in the lymphoma findings were small. Fifteen people who ate the least organic food had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, against two among the high-organic eaters.
Blind rider’s double Olympic dream Photo: Verity Smith
Photo: Ken Seaton
Organic food linked to 25% drop in cancer risk PUBLIC health advice is to be updated to make consumers aware of the advantages of local seasonal foods – and push the organic message. The new advice comes after a well-publicised French study suggested people who eat mainly organic food have a lower risk of cancer than those who eat little bio. Raphaëlle Ancellin, prevention project manager at the Institut National du Cancer, said: “We cannot make recommendations based on this study alone, we need more research. “However, the Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique is amending its diet guidance in 2019, expanding the present ‘eat more fruit and veg and cut processed food, red meat and charcuterie’ to a more complete message: eat more fruit, veg and whole grains, be environmentally aware and buy local, buy seasonal and possibly organic.” The study, of nearly 70,000 people, found a 76% reduction in lymphoma blood cancer risk – one of the most common cancers in farm workers who have a higher exposure to pesti-
Verity and her beloved horse Szekit before it fell ill
BLIND dressage rider Verity Smith’s dreams of becoming the first rider to compete at both the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2020 have been revived after being dashed when her beloved horse fell ill. Despite being blind, Nîmes-based Verity, 45, is ranked 12th in France at Elite Able-Bodied level. Her only concession is the use of a team of nine “Scoobies”, who call out the letters positioned around the arena. In 2017, Verity and her horse Szekit were selected for the French dressage Paralympic squad and had a realistic prospect of competing in both games in Tokyo, but those hopes seemed over when the horse fell seriously ill. Verity, who is British but has lived most of her
life in France after moving here as a teenager, has spent many months by Szekit’s side at a clinic in St Etienne. Due to their bond, Verity felt her career as a rider was finished. Then her trainer said she had found a new horse: a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare called Daizy. Former Team GB rider Verity said: “At first I didn’t want to think about it because it felt like being married to someone and taking a boyfriend.” Valuable training time has been lost so they must work hard to be selected for the national team on February 4, but Daizy is already competing at Grand Prix level and Verity is confident. The only obstacle left is finance – to buy Daizy, Verity needs to raise €200,000 by the end of this month. To support her, visit bit.ly/2TYDqJf.
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8 What’s new?
Deal, no deal, no Brexit? 2019 will be a big year for politics, tax and free glasses This will be a significant year for Britons in France – from the start of a new tax system to (it is hoped) the long-awaited end of the 15-year voting rule for British elections, and a fast-approaching Brexit day (assuming it is not all called off). We look at some of the changes in store for France this year Some items, such as certain health and finance matters, were subject to a vote on 2019 budget laws on going to press, but are unlikely to change significantly.
Health full reimbursement of a range of quality glasses, hearing aids and dental prosthetics (crowns/bridges) will be phased in from 2019 to 2021. Carried out via state funding and top-up insurance, it is called 100% santé and is open to all residents. LOWER earners will see the end of the Aide au Paiement d’une Complé mentaire Santé (ACS) that helps them pay for a top-up health policy. From November 1, those qualifying will move to the CMU-C, which offers ‘free’ healthcare to low earners. Depending on age and means, they will have to pay a monthly contribution of no more than €30.
ed to support GPs and specialists in areas with a shortage of doctors. They will assist by welcoming patients, taking blood pressure, making appoint ments with specialists, billing etc. A THREE-YEAR experiment starts in which some A&Es will be paid for sending patients who are not emergency cases to see a GP instead. TRIALS of flu jabs in pharmacies are being extended to two further regions in winter 2018-2019 (Hauts-deFrance and Occitanie) with a view to the measure being rolled out everywhere in winter 2019-2020. PRICES for a cigarette pack rise by 50 centimes in March and then again in November.
Education and training SCHOOLING will become obligatory for all from the age of three from the 2019 rentrée in September. CONTINUOUS training credits in the Compte personnel de formation (CPF) that employees, jobseekers and self-employed people now build up will this year consist of a value in euros rather than an amount of hours. During the second half of the year, an app will be launched that will allow credit-holders to manage purchases of training, which can include online learning but must consist of approved courses leading to a certificate.
Sport THE TOUR de France starts from Brussels, the capital of Belgium (and the EU). The Grand Départ will be on Saturday July 6 and the route will cross north-eastern France before heading south-west to the Pyrénées. The closing stages will be in the Alps before the riders fly to the Ile-de-France for the traditional finale along the ChampsElysées in Paris on July 28. PRICES of a national hunting licence are set to drop – though on going to press there was debate about the final fee. President Macron had spoken of halving it from around €400 to €200, but it might end up at €210 to €240, some sources said. Most hunters do not have this type of licence but rather hunt under a departmental licence.
DAILY accommodation fees in the Forfait journalier hospitalier that helps cover the cost of a hospital stay rise from €18 to €20.
EARLY diagnosis, monitoring and care of children who may be autistic or have other developmental issues is to be set up and reimbursed. PLANS to offer medically-assisted conception to all women, including same-sex couples, will be debated this year as part of a bioethics law.
THE FIRST posts will be created for assistants médicaux, who will be fund-
GOLFERS face a new set of competition rules as new international modifications are brought in. Details can be found at tinyurl. com/y8dkeeqs (French) or tinyurl.com/yawye5tw (R&A, English). They set a new time restriction for searching for a lost ball, down from five to three minutes, and a player dropping a ball after it lands in an unplayable place (dropper la balle) should let it fall from knee height instead of the shoulder.
Tour de France will start from Brussels and have three finishes above 2,000m
THE FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held in nine cities from June 7 to July 7. It opens in Paris and the final is at the Stade des Lumières in Lyon suburb Décines-Charpieu.
Home and daily life THE tax credit scheme for eco-friendly home improvements will now include 50% against the cost of removing an oil-fired boiler and a credit of 30% towards the cost of the labour (including VAT) for putting in alternatives, such as a wood-burner or heat pump. AID for low-income families to pay energy bills sees the cheque énergie rise from an average €150 to an average €200 (the amount depends on income, family size and energy use). Minimum and maximum amounts are also rising, from €48 to €76 and from €227 to €277. Those eligible should be sent a cheque in the post. NEW ‘one-stop shops’ will help those who employ a home worker, such as a cleaner or gardener, with social security fund Urssaf managing payments. From March parents who pay childminders can use pajemploi.urssaf.fr and others can use cesu-urssaf.fr from June, to opt not only to have social charges paid out of their bank account but also the salary. At-source tax for workers in the home is deferred a year to 2020 when the levies can then also be taken automatically via these sites. A NEW law will be passed to allow faster removal of offensive (racist, sexist, homophobic…) material from social media. families with a disabled child with the AEEH education benefit will see the Complément mode de garde rise by 30%; a gain of up to €140 for families employing childcare workers. PRICES of red stamps rise 10 centimes to €1.05, while the green stamp rises eight centimes to 88 centimes. La Poste says it needs to compensate for declining volumes (a red stamp was 55 centimes in 2009). There will now be three centimes off for those who print stamps at home via La Poste’s website. A 20g letter in the EU is also rising by 10 centimes to €1.30 and there will no longer be a different price for the rest
of the world, just a single international rate – meaning the price for the UK should not rise after Brexit. AN EU regulation on matrimonial regimes comes into force on January 29, 2019. It will no longer be possible for a British person in France to change their regime only for property in France. It will now have to apply to their worldwide estate. The change is not retrospective. UNDER an EU proposal, countries may be asked to decide by March 31 if they wish to retain their winter time all year round – in which case they would change clocks for the last time in October – or summer time (the last change would be in March).
Transport PLANS to raise fuel prices on January 1 by 3 centimes/litre on diesel and 6 centimes/litre on petrol – targets of the gilets jaunes protests – have been cancelled by the prime minister. A temporary cap has also been set on electricity and gas prices. SIMILARLY, new stricter emissions rules in the Contrôle technique (MOT) have been suspended for six months. A NEW law on transport will be debated in the spring. One measure sets stricter rules on car-sharing payments: if a fee is set for a single passenger then a set reduction will apply for each extra passenger Another plan would remove péage barriers in favour of number plate recognition ,with drivers billed by direct debit. Tests are under way on the A4 Paris-Strasbourg motorway. Employers are already encouraged to help staff who come to work by car or public transport. In the new law they will be urged to offer up to €400/year to those using car-share or bicycle. It may also allow lone women travellers to ask bus drivers to request a halt between stops for better safety. FROM January prime à la conversion
January 2019 Work / Employment SMALL businesses with turnover of less than €5,000 will not have to pay the CFE business tax from this year. In addition, micro-entreprises with a turnover of under €5,000 will no longer need to have a dedicated bank account – unless they exceed this threshold two years in a row.
connexionfrance.com UNLESS there is a last-minute change due to a snap general election, an MPs’ vote or another referendum, the UK will leave the European Union on Friday, March 29, at midnight French time. If the Brexit deal was agreed by British MPs in December, the last hurdle will be a vote by MEPs in February or March. If a withdrawal agreement is in place, a transition period will last until the end of 2020, when nothing should change in terms of rights of Britons in France. Britons would have until July 2021 to apply for a card proving their right to benefit from it. Those with EU citizen cartes de séjour may be required to exchange them. If a no-deal scenario looks likely, the French government is
INCLUDED in the 2019 Finance Law, being finalised on going to press, is a measure replacing two income tax credits, CICE and CITS, with a permanent six percentage point cut in the health social charges on salaries up to 2.5 times the Smic minimum wage. ANOTHER measure is halting social charges on overtime from September 1, estimated to give an average €200 per year per worker (as more pay goes into their pocket). President Macron told gilet jaunes protestersthis will also apply to income tax.
for scrapping an old car and buying a greener one is doubled for the 20% lowest-income families and for workers who drive at least 60km/day to go to work. It is up to €4,000 for buying a low-emission diesel or petrol car, either new or second hand (the prime is €2,000 for other families who do not pay tax, or €1,000 for those who do). Amounts are higher for electric or (new this year) hybrid cars. THE MALUS (financial penalty) applied to polluting cars will also now apply to pick-ups, apart from ones used by artisans for their work. FROM winter 2019/2020, drivers in some mountain areas may be obliged by law to use winter tyres. Prefects will list the communes affected. 4G INTERNET reception will be available in the Lyon metro this year. Both Easyjet and Ryanair are opening new bases in France. See page 6.
Culture and events ELTON John will play four French dates in Lille, Paris, Bordeaux and Nîmes for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. The Lille event is June 18, with Paris on June 20, Bordeaux June 22, and Nîmes on June 23 THIS year is the 350th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris since it was created as the Académie Royale de Musique by Louis XIV.
THE ACCRE scheme, which gives reduced social charges to those starting or taking over a business under conditions linked to age or claiming unemployment or other welfare benefits, is to be opened to all with a sole criteria of means (net annual income of less than €40,000). Renamed exonération de début d’activité, it will be for the first year only or for micro-entrepreneurs it may be extended to three. As now, it will be an exemption if your income is under a certain level (€30,393), or otherwise a reduction above that. AS THE Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI) was abolished (with transitional arrangements) in 2018, self-employed people who start a new business this year will be covered by the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie for sickness insurance, as for employees. This has no effect on social charges or their health cover. THE LIST of types of self-employed work requiring affiliation to Cipav for pension cotisations is much reduced for new businesses. Remaining sectors include architects, ski instructors and osteopaths. The others should join the Sécurité Sociale des Indépendants (which has replaced RSI).
PRIME d’activité, a top-up for low-earning workers, is being increased for those with work-related incomes of 0.5-1.2 x the Smic minimum wage. There will be up to a maximum €30 a month extra by June for a single person on the Smic. FOLLOWING gilets jaunes protests President Macron promised workers on the Smic they would get an extra €100/month though the precise means of doing this was not confirmed. SENATORS will discuss the PACTE Law in January. It includes simpler patents procedures; creating a vetting system and whitelist and legal framework for ICOs (‘initial coin offerings’ where people can invest in something via a new cryptocurrency); rules for more self-driving car experiments; and a plan to pool public and private expertise to advance this technology. THE RIGHT to paid maternity leave for self-employed women is extended to give equality with employees, ie. a total of four months, or 16 weeks, up from 10. Maternity pay is around €54/day. Those taking paid maternity leave must stop work for at least 56 days, up from 44. THE ARPE, a benefit for certain people aged under 28 seeking a first job, has been abolished. BUSINESSES with a CSE committee representing the employees (which from 2020 will include all those with at least 11 employees) should now designate one member to have responsibility for combating sexual
A STAGE show in honour of Johnny Hallyday is to open in Paris by the end of the year at the Casino de Paris music hall in the 9th arrondissement. REPLICA 18th Century frigate the Hermione will voyage around the north from April to July, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. She will take part in nautical festivals from May 23-27 at Saint-Nazaire and Nantes and in Rouen on June 7.
harassment and sexism. Employers must also post up a text regarding the laws on sexual harassment and refer to these in recruitment and training. CEILINGS for micro-entrepreneurs will not change this year. Micro-entrepreneurs who use the simplified tax system, paying monthly or three-monthly based on turnover, are not affected by the new at-source taxation but those declaring annually will pay instalments by direct debit based on 2017 income declared in 2018. Instalments will be readjusted in September after the spring declaration of 2018’s income. Those who start businesses during the year can either volunteer to start paying instalments, or wait for the adjustment in September 2020. SET-UP courses for people starting an artisan business will now be optional, with the cost falling from an average €250 for a week’s course to €194. SELF-EMPLOYED people who have to close a business due to going into receivership or bankruptcy will be able to claim unemployment benefit. Under certain conditions (including having been in the job five years) people who resign to retrain or to start or take over a business will also be able to claim benefit (called allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi projet). See also page 33 for more new tax and money items, including the start of the at-source tax system in France
Tax and money A TAX on borrower’s insurance that people take out when taking a loan to buy a property will be extended from January 1 on new policies. This tax, at 9%, was already applied to the guarantees for loss of job or disability and will now also be applied to the death insurance portion, increasing the overall cost by around €2-3/month. It will go towards social housing and helps compensate for a loss of revenue from a business tax that now applies only to those with 50 or more employees, compared to 20 before.
Photo: Gabbot Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
The FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held this year with the final in Lyon
AN OPTION for firms to pay impôt sur les sociétés (corporation tax) instead of income tax will no longer be irreversible. A lowering of the rates of impôt sur les sociétés under way since 2017 will continue, with the rates being 28% for the first €500,000 of profit and then 31%.
What’s new? 9
Politics... and Brexit
Photo: Duncan Hull - CC BY 2.0 / Banksy
Farewell, not Goodbye, as Elton John plays his last concerts in France
THE EXIT tax on latent capital gains of wealthy business owners leaving France, formerly payable up to 15 years after a person left France if they then sold shares in a French business, will now only be payable for two to five years (for the wealthiest). MPs
expected to pass laws to deal with this before Brexit day, including ones helping secure the right of existing British residents to continue to live and work in France. EUROPEAN elections will be held on May 23-26. British people will not be able to take part. A REFERENDUM could take place on whether or not the department of Loire-Atlantique should join Brittany. A BILL to end the 15-year limit on Britons voting from abroad may finally be passed by the UK Parliament early this year. British MP Sir Roger Gale has proposed it be known as Shindler’s Law, for campaigner Harry Shindler who will be 98 in July. raised this after the government proposed two years for all. IN JANUARY complementary pension regimes for management and other workers will merge – to be called Agirc-Arrco. Rights obtained before this will be unchanged and pension ‘point’ values will be aligned with the Arrco ones. For most workers it will mean a small increase in charges with no increase in pension. A new bonus-malus will encourage people to continue to work after they can retire on a full pension. Those retiring immediately receive 10% less “complementary pension” in the first three years (5% for those on small pensions), up to age 67 at the most, while those working on for two or more years obtain 10-30% extra, payable only in the first year. The fusion will benefit managers’ widow/ers as a non-means-tested pension de réversion will be available from age 55, whereas it was 60 for Agirc. CERTAIN tabacs are to offer bitcoin and ethereum cryptocurrencies. BASIC salaries of fonctionnaires are to be frozen this year (though rises based on service will remain). LEGAL changes will affect rights of people living in copropriété flats, including possible fines for syndics who delay sending residents documents such as contracts and invoices, and a postal vote option for people who cannot get to a residents’ AGM.
Property ZERO interest eco-loans will be prolonged and opened up to more projects, with people no longer needing to do multiple kinds of renovation. The repayment period is extended to 15 years, no matter how many works were done and it will be for homes at least two years old, while previously it was for those built before 1990. HOUSING benefits APL, ALF and ALS will rise less than inflation. Also, as of April, officials will use the last 12 months of income to calculate eligibility and not income two years before based on the income tax declaration.
GALERIES Lafayette is opening a new store on the Champs-Elysées in spring on the former Virgin Megastore site. Some 300 ‘personal stylists’ are being trained to help customers.
More French trying to quit smoking THE number of smokers trying to kick the habit is expected to soar this year as all anti-smoking aids became reimbursable from January 1. Numbers had already jumped by more than 300,000 towards the end of last year after the State agreed to cover up to €150 of an individual’s cost on just under half the aids on the market. The cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes is set to rise to €10 early this year.
EU-wide helpline for victims of rape A Europe-wide helpline that offers victims of assault and rape direct access to professional support launched in December. The number – 116 006 – is free to call, anonymous, and is open seven days a week from 9h to 19h. It connects victims to more than 130 professional support associations.
Vital cash aid for drought-hit farmers Livestock farmers in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes are to receive up to €2,000 in aid to help them feed their animals over winter after the long summer drought wrecked fodder supplies. The drought, which has been described as the worst since 2003, has seen farmers in large swathes of the region draw on their winter food supplies since late summer, say reports.
4,000 tabacs now able to sell Bitcoin UP TO 4,000 of France’s 27,000 tabacs have been equipped with software that allows customers to buy either Bitcoin or Ethereum cryptocurrencies from January 1. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to all tabacs, but the Banque de France has rejected claims that it has given the plan its backing.
Normandy bakers accused in court of working too much Two bakers from Calvados in Normandy have been summoned before their local courts, accused of illegally selling bread seven days per week. Isabelle and Xavier Perret, owners of La Boulaga bakery in the 3,800population town of Troarn, stand accused of the “uninterrupted sale of bread” after opening their shop every day of the week for the past year. The department bakers’ union (le syndicat départemental des boulangers du Calvados) has accused the couple of breaching a century-old law on bread selling. The couple have now appeared at the TGI (tribunal de grande instance) de Caen, accused of “disloyal competition” for opening their shop every day, as the union claims - “other small artisans do not have the means to do this”. Mr Perret said: “It’s strange for me to think that I’m having to go to court because I’m working! “I have 12 staff members, and I respect their time off. We do shifts, and I respect their right to work. “It’s shocking to have [a court case] when you hear President [Macron] saying things like ‘You only have to cross the street to find work’.” According to
Hospital in call for unusual donations A hospital in Paris is willing to pay €50 to anyone who can provide it with some very particular donations. Doctors at Saint-Antoine hospital are conducting a study into the bowel disease hemorrhagic rectocolitis – and need stool samples to assist in their research.
Five arrested over driving licence fraud Police have broken up a criminal gang they believe is responsible for helping as many as 600 motorists in and around Marseille get their driving licences without passing a key part of their tests. The group were arrested after a scam was uncovered in which
Keep out of it, Trump is warned after gilets tweets
Photo: La Boulaga / Facebook
10 News in brief
the couple, being forced to close one day a week would completely disrupt the shop’s functioning and lead to the loss of two jobs. They have now started a petition to help gather support for their case. The laws on selling bread every day date back to 1919. As a result, most departments in France forbid shops, stands and stalls selling loaves – such as baguettes – every day, and demand that shops have at least one day off a week. The Perret bakery is not the first to fall foul of such laws in recent years.
people falsely posing as candidates took the theoretical part of the driving test.
State will now pay cost of condoms A BRAND of condom – the French-made Eden – can now be reimbursed on prescription by social security as part of a national effort to combat sexually transmitted infections. At present, the cost of treating STIs is €2billion per year, including €1.6billion for HIV alone. About 6,000 new cases of HIV infections are discovered every year, according to the Ministry of Health.
Official warning over carte vitale scam The public are being warned against an email scam
Last July, Servane and Emmanuel Deuval – who run the la Feuillette bakery in Mondeville (BasseNormandie) – were forbidden by a court to sell bread on Tuesdays. They now continue to make legal sales seven days a week due to two loopholes in the law. They sell sandwiches and cakes, but not simple loaves of bread, on Tuesdays, and have installed an automatic vending machine in their car park, which dispenses bread 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
inviting people to update their carte vitale insurance card by “filling in an online form”, medical insurance agency l’Assurance Maladie has said. The scam is particularly “well done”, the agency said, but is completely false, and the email should be deleted immediately if you receive a version.
Price-fixing brands are fined €189m Six major white goods brands have been fined €189million by the French consumer agency DGCCRF for their role in a secret price-fixing agreement. BSH (Bosch, Siemens, Viva, Neff), Candy Hoover; Eberhardt Frères (Liebherr); Electrolux (AEG, Arthur Martin); Indesit (Ariston, Scholtès); and Whirlpool joined together to increase
their minimum selling prices to distributors, the investigation found. The policies were found to have been agreed “at the highest levels of the companies during secret meetings”.
Louvre reaches 10m visitor mark The LOUVRE is seeking to widen its appeal to Chinese visitors as it celebrates a record-breaking 10 million tourist visits in 2018 – confirming its status as the world’s most-visited museum. Its president Jean-Luc Martinez said it is becoming even more important for the site to widen its appeal to foreigners - especially the Chinese, who make up an ever-greater proportion of visitors. It is looking to include more exhibitions of Asian art.
FRANCE has asked President Donald Trump to stop interfering in its national politics after his repeated tweets on the gilets jaunes protests. The US president, who alleged that the Paris Agreement on climate change was at fault, has also been criticised for not commenting on a march against climate change (La Marche Pour Le Climat), which took place across France. At least 20,000 people marched in Paris on the same weekend as the fourth round of gilets jaunes protests . Foreign Affairs Minister JeanYves Le Drian said: “I say to Donald Trump – and the President of the Republic also says – we do not take part in American debates, so let us live our own national life. “We do not try to interfere in internal American politics, and we would like this consideration to be reciprocated.” After the first protests in Paris, Mr Trump said it had been a “very sad day and night” and a solution would be “to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money to the people in the form of lower taxes”. He had previously tweeted: “The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France.” He claimed French protesters had chanted “We Want Trump”, but Mr Le Drian said: “As far as I know, the gilets jaunes did not protest in English, and videos that appeared in the US in which you hear ‘We want Trump’ were from London, and filmed during Mr Trump’s visit.” Mr Trump announced his intention to take the United States out of the Paris Agree ment, which aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and limit temperature rises, in 2017.
News in brief 11
Dordogne named one of world’s most exciting places to visit
FRANCE’S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER
Your practical Q&A
The stunning Benedictine Abbey of Brantôme (above), on the banks of the Dronne in the Dordogne was one of the attractions mentioned in the National Geographic article. The abbey was founded in 769 by Charlemagne. According to legend, he donated relics of Saint Sicarius to the abbey. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times in the centuries that followed. Its Romanesque bell-tower is a competitor for the title ‘oldest in France’.
Exciting? Not really but many, many other reasons to love living here Connexion reporter Jane Hanks puts her long-held love of Dordogne into words I have lived in the Dordogne for 27 years and I love it. There are many beautiful places in France. Some are more spectacular, like the Alps. Others are more culturally vibrant, like nearby Bordeaux and Toulouse, or with more sun, but it is always good to get back to the Périgord. The combination of the rural landscape and the consistently beautiful architecture with its warm ochre stone makes
it a wonderful place to be. It is part of a Unesco biosphere reserve; chosen because there is no major industry or vast city to pollute the beauty of the department. National Geographic says it is one of the most “exciting” places to visit in the world. It is not the word I would use; no mind-blowing thrills here, rather an appreciation of the best things in life and a closeness to nature and history. Here are the famous painted prehistoric caves like Lascaux, the valley of the five chateaux, the medieval town of Sarlat and the river Dordogne at its most majestic. I never cease to enjoy the beauty of it each
time I have to drive anywhere, even for the most banal administrative appointment. I also love my Dordogne, which is the woodland just outside my back door. Trees cover 45% of the department and most of it is unmanaged and wild. It is a privilege to have such easy access to nature. Often, while out walking, I am rewarded by the site of deer feeding on grass. One bleak winter day, a magnificent stag walked across the track in front of me. Two days ago, a wild boar hurtled out of hiding. My family have always appreciated the river. Every summer we spend hours
either in, on or by it. The children learned to swim in its unpolluted waters and we have enjoyed many a barbecue on the beach. The Château de Commarque sums up the best of the Dordogne for me (see page 37) – centuries of human history hiding in the undergrowth to be revealed by the hard toil of a typically warm-hearted and generous local man. The Dordogne has a special rustic, earthy beauty. Black winter trees silhouetted against the sky. The richness of the greens in the summer. Underlying history everywhere. A mixture of stone and tree and earth.
Levothyrox hearing moves to hall to fit in huge crowd of witnesses
Google honours French ‘father of deaf’ who worked to stop prejudice
Photo: Unknown / Public domain
GOOGLE has paid homage to CharlesMichel de l’Epée (right), who founded the first school for deaf children in Paris in 1760 and is seen as leading the way in deaf education. His methods spread throughout the world. A Google Doodle on its home page (above) featured an animation of children using sign language to spell “Google” to mark what would have been Abbé l’Epée’s 306th birthday. Born near Versailles in 1712, Abbé l’Épée (he trained as a priest) helped dispel the myth
that deaf people were incapable of learning. His work allowed deaf people to have an education and to defend themselves in court. Sign language existed among deaf people but he was the first French hearing person to take an interest in it and helped standardise French sign language by categorising the signs people used. He developed a visually-based educational system used in his free school, which after his death became a state institution, now the Institut national de jeunes sourds de Paris.
A COURT hearing in the case of controversial thyroid medication Levothyrox has opened in a concert hall as the Lyon Palais de Justice was too small for the 4,113 plaintiffs. The hearing began last month, with plaintiffs suing the drug manufacturer, German laboratory Merck, over a “lack of information about the medication’s controversial new formula”, which was introduced in France in spring 2017. It had to decamp to the Double Mixte concert hall in Villeurbanne. The new formula caused a scandal, with patients claiming the medicine no longer works. Around three million people take the formula in France and around 30,000 have reported side-effects. Reports of problems emerged in August 2017. Health Minister Agnès Buzyn then made the old formula of Levothyrox available, with almost half the 130,000 boxes selling out in two days. Further tests of the new one – including by French medical
safety body ANSM – found it to be of “good quality”, and it is still used. One ANSM study found side-effects were similar to those of the old formula but unexpectedly frequent. The new one was introduced on request from ANSM. It replaced inactive ingredient lactose, thought to have made the pills less effective over time, with another additive. However, some patients say it caused side-effects or the return of their thyroid problems, with symptoms such as depression, fatigue, coldness, hair loss, shaking, headaches, vertigo, and even cancers. Victims’ association l’Association Française des Malades de la Thyroïde (AFMT) says its own tests found “anomalies in the composition” of the drug. Merck plans to roll the formula out across 21 Euro pean countries this year. Some opponents allege its enthusiasm for it is linked to a much longer patent period, because the old one expires this year.
between a diététicien n Can I call emergency services in France from the and nutritionniste? UK (for a relative here)? n Is it law that officials must accept documents in n My tree’s branches fell into next door’s property – all EU languages now? do they still belong to me? n What charges are due on assurance vie withdrawals? n What is the difference
Equity release in France
‘I want to do it but it’s a bad deal’
PLUS...What does a PACS partnership offer? ‘The book is seen as very important here’ Photo: Bloomsbury
Photo: Monster1000 / CC BY-SA 3.0
The Dordogne has been named as one of National Geographic’s top five world’s most exciting destinations to visit this year because of its “picturesque and historic” attractions and culture. It appeared at five on a list of 28 destinations for 2019 and was dubbed “worth a trip” for its “defining beauty and wonder in south-western France”. National Geographic’s reporter Kimberley Lovato wrote: “I am crazily in love with everything about it: the prehistoric caves, the fairy-tale castles and the resilient locals.” Ms Lovato also cited good food, the mix of languages, and dialects such as Occitan. She gave a special mention to the traditional Félibrée festival, which celebrates the culture, music and history of the Occitanie, Périgord, and Langue d’Oc regions. This year it will take place in Périgueux.
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12 Village life
Cédric Szabo, right, is head of the Association des Maires Ruraux de France, a group representing 10,000 mayors of small rural communes. He tells Samantha David their work deserves to be better recognised.
SMALL-TOWN maires have launched a charm offensive to highlight their work and fight back against what they see as efforts to force them out of office permanently. They argue that maintaining these tiny administrative units is important to life in the countryside. Cédric Szabo, head of the Association des Maires Ruraux de France (AMRF), which represents around 10,000 maires in charge of communes with fewer than 3,500 residents, says mayors of small rural communes are an essential expression of democracy. “It is vital to maintain this system because it means people know exactly who to turn to for assistance with everything, even disputes with neighbours,” he said. “People in small rural communes know that someone is looking after them.” There are 35,228 communes in mainland France, and each has a mairie, a maire, a secretary and a full set of councillors. About 34,600 communes are home to fewer than 5,000 people and, of those, 31,500 have populations under 2,000. There are around 20,000 communes in France with populations of fewer than 500. Some are home to just a few dozen individuals. Mayors receive expenses for their work on a sliding scale related to the number of residents. For example, a mayor of a commune of between 1,000 and 3,499 residents receives €1,635 a month. The number of
Photo: Musee Jardins-Sabourdy
We must protect endangered rural mayors
The work of the mayor of Vicq-sur-Breuilh in Haute Vienne, who renovated the former presbytery and reopened it as an art museum that attracts thousands of visitors a year, has been hailed as a ‘little miracle’ by Cédric Szabo maires stepping down from their positions has risen 55% since 2014, according to figures reported by Agence France Press. But this is not accurate, says Mr Szabo. “Most maires are staying,” he said. “But it’s true that the pressure is mounting.” One source of discontent is being forced to work with the maires of other communes. Successive governments have moved towards amalgamating smaller communes to save money and increase efficiency. Mr Szabo said: “Rural maires have always had to do this on some issues because it’s impossible for a small commune to do everything alone. School buses, for example, are best organised inter-communally. “So intercommunalité has always existed but now it is being forced on communes, and working in a way you haven’t chosen, with people you haven’t chosen to work with ... that doesn’t always come easily.” La Dépêche du Midi daily newspaper
in the Midi-Pyrénées has given the phenomenon a name: le blues des maires. Causes cited include decreasing budgets and power, and the increased role now given to ‘intercommunalités’ – which have in some places regrouped up to 50 maires. Stuck in meetings with dozens of other maires, many feel they do not have a genuine voice. “The 2015 ‘Loi NOTRe’ gave more power and more money to intercommunalités. That was a big change imposed from Paris that came on top of a whole raft of other legislation decreasing the power of small maires,” Mr Szabo said. “We’ve also seen the formal creation of ‘métropoles’ and the enlargement of the ‘régions’ which has further centralised decision-making. “Small mairies can manage the specific affairs of small communes in a way that doesn’t happen when administration is centralised.” He is also in favour of mayors being elected multiple times. Currently, they
serve six years and can be re-elected without limit, but proposals to limit their mandat to three consecutive terms in communes of more than 3,500 residents are under review. “Only being able to serve one or two mandates would not allow maires to get anything done. Large projects take longer.” He points to the village of Vicq-surBreuilh in Haute Vienne, where Christine de Neuville is maire. “I visited recently and what she has done is nothing short of a little miracle. “The village was dying, but since being elected in 2001, she has set up a shop, a restaurant, and a creche. “She’s also renovated the old presbytery, and reopened it as an art museum which now attracts around 10,000 visitors a year. There are floral decorations, and more businesses are opening. It’s a success, a little miracle.” This is why maires being able to run for office multiple times is not anti-democratic, he says. “Residents can vote a maire out if they prefer
someone else. That is real democracy. Voter turnout for municipal elections in the larger cities is around 55% but in rural communes it is typically very high, up to 90%, which means rural maires have great legitimacy. “Anyone can challenge a maire and run against them at the elections. “The fact that so few people do is a reflection of how few people want to take the job on. There are maires who have been elected for 40 years and can’t find anyone to replace them.” Mr Szabo is not a maire himself. “I do not have that honour. Our role at the federation is to defend rural communes in their current form. “This move to centralise power must be resisted, as must the obsession with reducing the number of communes. “Mayors of rural communes manage 92% of French territory but do not get enough money to do it properly. “Technocrats want to reduce the number of fonctionnaires all over France, but they represent rural development through democracy. “The president says he supports start-ups, and communes are just like start-ups, so why doesn’t he like them more? Because they’re independent of government, that’s why.” Several rural mayors are worried about Brexit because many smaller communes have been re-dynamised by incomers from the UK and from all over the EU. “Mayors are also concerned that Brexit will increase their administrative burden and that if UK nationals lose the right to run in municipal elections, there will be a shortfall of elected councillors,” he added. Currently, 900 British people are local councillors in France. They have been allowed to continue in the positions until the next local elections in 2020. “Many Britons living in rural France play a healthy role in their local mairies. We get a lot of letters from maires about this issue. It’s just another problem facing maires in rural France,” said Mr Szabo.
The village where everyone has been le maire since 1971
Residents of Vandoncourt are encouraged to organise events under a long-standing participative democracy project
VANDONCOURT has been called “the village with 600 mayors”... only now there are more like 800 of them. The village, in the Franche-Comté, got everyone involved when it started its own system of “participative democracy” in 1971. The scheme is still running today and its fall in population has reversed. When the project was launched, there were 700 people living there and the population was falling. Now there are 860 residents and the village has no fewer than 28 active associations. The associations form one of the pillars of the participative democracy project, along with eight commissions, open to the public, which hold quarterly public meetings on all topics affecting local life. There is also an elected council and a strong policy of holding regular communal events, in which everyone is urged to participate. Mayor Patrice Vernier told Connexion: “These range from the village fêtes and meals, to building projects to conserve the heritage of our buildings, to communal litter picking and tidying up.” When the originator of the scheme, former mayor Jean-Pierre Maillard-Salin, introduced it, it made national news.
Headlines proclaimed Vandoncourt to be “The Village With 600 Mayors”, or even l’Irréductible Village Gaulois (after the Astérix comic strips). Mr Vernier was elected mayor after Mr Maillard-Salin’s death in 1993 and has continued the policies. “It is a measure of how well thought-out they were that they continue, long after the initial buzz has worn out,” he said. “At their centre is a dynamic spirit, a wish to take the initiative, of conviviality and civic pride. “From the mayor’s point of view, it is important that people are given the space to express themselves in public meetings or through the associations, and secondly that they are listened to, and their views discussed seriously and taken into account. “Ultimately, it is down to the population of the village to make it work. “Modestly, I can say that our population is growing while that of many other small towns and villages is falling, so we must be doing something right.” He said that although there was a lot of interest in the participative democracy project from other communes in France, he had no lessons to give. “I cannot give advice to others because I do not live there
and do not know their circumstances. It is no good someone coming and looking at what we are doing and trying to copy and paste it because it will not work unless there is a real community spirit attached to it,” he said. The eight commissions cover teaching and children; technical matters, communal buildings and roads; finance and budgeting; social and family affairs; civic life, including planning permissions, drains, and flower displays; culture and ceremonies; surrounding areas, including environmental matters, forests, orchards and the cemetery; and finally work, youth and economic solidarity matters. Every resident is encouraged to join one or more commissions, take part in their meetings and volunteer in projects. Each has two or three designated organisers, who may also be on the municipal council. Members are also responsible for specific sectors or streets. Mr Vernier said he put a lot of emphasis on the organisation of festive events. “They bring people together in an informal way, and you get to know people. “So even though we are the size of a small town, the spirit is that of a village.”
Maria Doyle Cuche sang in the Eurovision Song Contest, toured the US and raised seven children in France – all despite being blind. Her autobiography On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur [You can only see clearly with the heart] is out... she tells Claire McQue her remarkable story Maria DOYLE CUCHE’S voice bursts through the phone from her home in rural France. She is singing You Raise Me Up in flawless, clear tones as her way of explaining who Brendan Graham is. Graham, one of Ireland’s most prolific songwriters, wrote Wait until the Weekend Comes. In 1985 the teenage Maria (singing as Maria Christian) opened the Eurovision Song Contest by singing that song. Maria, now 53, is a force of nature. Born into poverty in the Irish border town of Dundalk in 1965, she became blind at the age of nine through a rare genetic illness but went on to tour America at the age of 13 and then win the hearts of the public in the Eurovision Song Contest. A few years later she married a Frenchman she had met just six weeks earlier and then moved to Chanteheux in Lorraine, north-east France, where they have raised seven children. She remembers her life vividly, recounting details as if she were watching a film in her head. “I knew I was born to sing,” she says. She remembers winning a local song contest aged five, singing Frankie Avalon’s Why. “I’ll never let you go, I think you’re awfully sweet” were lyrics her mother sang to her as a child and the words Maria sang to her own brothers and sisters in Dundalk. The first four months of Maria’s life were spent inside an Irish Magdalene Laundry, one of the institutions run by nuns where “fallen” women notoriously suffered horrific mistreatment. Her mother Eileen had refused to give her baby up for adoption and managed to leave the laundry after 11 months. She married a man named Patsy McCabe and started a new life. “I became a McCabe at 18 months,” Maria says. Her family fell on tough times, struggling to pay the bills. “One time, when we had an electricity meter installed, my mammy broke it to recuperate the 50p coins she had fed into it so we could buy bread and milk.” For Maria, singing has always been a tool of empowerment. When one of her sisters died aged 2, Maria’s father turned to alcohol and her mother to valium.
‘Anything is possible if you want it enough... I am living proof of that’ Blind Irish Eurovision Song Contest singer Maria Doyle Cuche, who lives in France
“I used to sing to keep the atmosphere light at home,” she said. “I knew my voice would help me through.” Then, aged nine, her eyesight started to fail due to a rare genetic condition known as Stargardt disease. Maria recalls her mother’s words: “He closed your eyes, but he gave you a voice. That will open doors.” “And mammy was right,” Maria says. “Who I am today is because I was blind. If I went on Eurovision and toured America and had seven kids, it is because I am blind. I want to show to everybody that, if I could do that blind, what can somebody normal do? You can do even more.” Aged 13, she escaped from a residential school for the blind in Dublin that she hated. Despite her lack of eyesight, she travelled the 50 miles back to her family home in Dundalk. “I knew the way because me and mammy used to take the bus when I was younger. I had a sixth sense. By the time I got home, everybody thought I was dead. The blindness gave me a great strength, the will to fight. “I used to love looking at the stars. I said to myself ‘Imagine that your blindness is the sky at night and you are the little star that’s there shining in the corner. That’s what you’re going to be like, one of those stars, up there for the world to see. For over 40 years I’ve been fighting so that this blindness doesn’t put that little light out.” With the news of her impending blindness came the realisation that Patsy McCabe was not her biological
I want to show to everybody that, if I could do this blind, what can somebody normal do? You can do even more
Maria with her husband and seven children. Music runs in the family, she says father. Her real father was a Spaniard, who unknowingly carried the recessive gene for the disease. To this day, he is unaware that Maria is his child. She hopes he will hear about her book and make contact. At the time, nine-year-old Maria said to herself: “I’m special. Maybe my Daddy is Zorro. It doesn’t matter if I’m going blind, I’m alive, I know what it is to see. I have working legs and working ears and I want to be a singer. You don’t need eyes to sing.” Maria’s dreams became reality when a group of Americans saw her singing, aged 13, at a festival and made the decision to take her to America. “That’s when my life changed,” she said. She went on tour, and won the hearts of the American people, who even set up a Maria McCabe fund for her, in the hope of finding a cure for her blindness. In 1985, songwriter Brendan Graham picked her to do a demo of the ballad Wait until the Weekend Comes and suddenly she found herself opening the Eurovision Song Contest in Gothenburg, aged 19. Maria described that week as being like a Cinderella ball. “I didn’t win but I didn’t care. It was stunning just to be
a part of it. I didn’t talk at all about my blindness. I just said I had a problem with my eyes and needed glasses.” A romance with Richard Herrey, the Swedish winner of the previous year’s song contest, was lapped up by the press, but they split due to religious differences. “He was a Mormon and I wanted to stay Catholic.” A few years later she met the man who did become her husband: ironically, a Mormon missionary on a trip to Ireland from France. Within six weeks they were married and expecting their first child. Turning down an offer of a record contract from a company in London, Maria and her husband moved to France in 1992 when jobs were scarce in Ireland due to recession. Maria says moving to rural France was one of the hardest things she has ever done. “I didn’t know anybody, I had no family, no friends and I couldn’t speak French. I was very homesick.” While Maria’s husband worked in a local DIY shop, she raised their seven children, now aged between 12 and 26. Unable to drive due to her blindness, this was a struggle.
“Nothing in the village was adapted for blind people. We would walk up and down the steps to the school and the village with the pram, soaked to the bone in the rain. It was awkward and hard to get around but I was used to it. I just had to get on with it. The kids were my help. “Nobody offered us a lift. People just thought I was a stranger who couldn’t speak French with a gang of kids. Many didn’t even realise I am blind until recently.” Only six months ago, a wheelchair accessible paved slope was built alongside the steps leading up to the village that Maria has had to climb for the last 26 years. “I did make France my home in the end but it wasn’t easy. Now I have my own clan with loads of friends in the village and everybody knows me.” Music runs in the family. “I have a pianist, violinist, cellist, flautist and guitarist,” she said. “The dream would be to record an album with all of us or to represent France in the Eurovision Song Contest.” Last year, the French publishing house Plon offered Maria a book deal following an inspirational TEDx talk she delivered in Strasbourg. The title of her autobiography On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur is drawn from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel Le Petit Prince. The full quotation translates as “It is only with the heart that one can rightly see; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” When her husband read her book aloud for the first time, Maria said it felt “better than a story”. Maria ascribes her outlook to her undeterred belief in a higher force that gives purpose to her life. “I want to give the strength and courage to those that have found out their child is blind, or somebody recently diagnosed with breast cancer, or any bad news. Anything is possible if you want it enough. If you have the vision to live, resist and fight it, you can put your mind to it. I am living proof of that.”
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
Why French food is now at the bottom of the List
IF people consider that you have some kind of expertise about France, then there is a subject that you will never fail to get questioned about. Forget the increasingly chaotic nature of the Fifth Republic or related political, economic or social subjects – what people really want to know is where they can enjoy exquisite Gallic cuisine. I get messages all the time asking me to name the latest ‘in’ restaurant in cities such as Paris or Marseille. Most requests are for a Top Three, while others aspire to details of at least 10, to include a breakdown of best hors d’oeuvres through to what’s new on the cheese course. In recent years, such advice has been harder and harder to deliver. Not because of cynicism or apathy, but because much of the food you come across in France nowadays is ordinary to bad. That sounds like a terrible admission from someone who should display at least a modicum of food patriotism, especially to my home city of Paris, but the situation really is pretty dire. La Liste – a highly respected compilation of 1,000 global restaurants approved by France’s Foreign Ministry and Tourist Board – confirms this. The latest Liste points to a dearth of decent bistros – the kind that used to be available everywhere, including British cities such as London – and even says that what is available in sensibly priced restaurants can be “lamentable”. Yes, the restaurant Guy Savoy, situated on the Left Bank of Paris, is top of La Liste, but that will hardly help it get on one of my lists. Michelin currently puts it in the price range of €234 to €415 for a meal without drinks. Artichoke soup with black truffles may be on the menu, but generally it reads like a glorified list of staples – salmon served with lemons, saddle and rack of lamb, ice cream and biscuits. It would not be too difficult to offer all of this for at least a fifth of the price, while still making a decent profit. Bill inflation is now quite absurd across the whole range of places to eat. Many Paris bistros, even those with nothing like the prestige of Guy Savoy, think nothing of asking €40 plus for a steak, and €25 for a bowl of pasta.
As in provincial France, you can enjoy a passably satisfying meal, but very little that tastes exceptional. Worse still, the dreaded microwaves whirr and beep away in most kitchens, before pre-assembled dishes are topped with a sprinkling of ageing parsley to dishonestly create the impression of fait maison (home made). There have been attempts to market select restaurants with fait maison labels, but this is hardly encouraging. It simply proves that homemade food is the exception, and not the rule. Institutional reasons are behind many of the problems. Business rates and other high taxes, combined with spiralling employment costs, make it very difficult for restaurateurs to hire proper cooks. The inherent conservatism of the French means they do not experiment with the kind of exotic food you find all over cities such as London nowadays. Arab couscous is one Among those of the most pop- restaurants ular dishes in that are France for hissurviving torical and cultural reasons economically, (mainly to do there is a huge with colonisation and associ- reliance on ated North tourists who African immigrawill only visit tion), but there are very few once. So there offers of any is no emphasis more exciting plats. on building up Among those a loyal local restaurants that clientele who are surviving economically, would expect there is a huge reliance on tour- high standards ists who will only visit once. In this sense, there is no emphasis on building up a loyal local clientele who would expect high standards. Most of the in-and-outers will be foreigners who will be disinclined to complain about establishments they will never go back to. My message to them is the same as it is to those of you who will continue to send me restaurant list requests in 2019: don’t say I didn’t warn you!
mmanuel Macron must find it incomprehensible. A few weeks ago, as this column observed, he considered himself the next emperor of Europe, awaiting Angela Merkel’s withdrawal from the Ger man chancellorship before ascending his apparently inevitable throne. Now he is humbled, humiliated, forced into a craven surrender to a traditional French mob chucking cobblestones and Molotov cocktails. Le Figaro, during the mid-December EU summit, put it appropriately: ‘Macron affaibli sur la scène européenne’, splashed on its front page across a pho tograph of the president, his gaze fixed to the ground ahead of him, walking into the meeting alone and manifestly without his usual swagger. That he had to apologise for that swagger – his arrogance, which seemed to mark him out as a self-conscious Brahmin or elitist – as part of his appeasement of the gilets jaunes was but a part of his selfabasement before a group who chose civil disobedience rather than consti tutional methods to show their dis satisfaction with the Macron régime. How did they hobble him so quick ly? Perhaps the first reason lay in a central paradox of French life: that for a country which, since 1789, has prided itself on equality, it has through its system of grandes écoles created a ruling elite of which M. Macron is a poor advertisement. It is an elite that betrays little con nection with the average French man or woman, and the gulf between the two was responsible for M. Macron’s inability to damp down the feelings of the protesters. He simply did not know where to start and was being bombarded on a number of fronts. That was a further problem. The gilets jaunes were a barely coherent force: they had no leader, or any unanimously-agreed manifesto of objections to the Macron programme. Once M. Macron settled what had appeared to be the main problem – the rise in taxation of diesel and petrol that especially disadvantaged those living in the French countryside – others, such as purchasing power and the size of disposable income – came out of the metaphorical trees and started to attack him. The president went on television to offer his list of bribes and induce ments to his disaffected people, including a rise in the minimum wage, but seemed to have had the stuffing knocked out of him aware his forthrightness in the past had done him no favours, M. Macron now seemed positively sheepish. Having been perceived as aggressive, he was now perceived as weak. The British statesman R. A. Butler, one of the cleverest men to have held office in the United Kingdom in the last century and, largely for that reason, twice cheated of the job of prime minister, called politics “the art of the possible”. M. Macron would have done well to bear that in mind,
Macron’s error was trying to do the impossible. Politics is the art of the possible
because if you design policies to assist a minority at the expense of the many you are asking for trouble. His fuel tax increases aimed to com bat global warming, something dear to the hearts of metropolitan liberals in Paris as in smart cities the world over. If it occurred to M. Macron the required sacrifice might not play so well in the Dordogne, the Auvergne or the economically-deprived villages of Hauts-de-France, he did not allow it to affect his policy. By trying to do what was impossible, he has badly weakened himself. He has more than three years of his mandate left; he also has pitifully weak organised political opposition, another, and under-appreciated, rea son for the rise of the gilets jaunes, who were merely doing what a seri ous Opposition ought to do. Also, France is rich enough, in global terms, to rub along issuing the odd bribe and inducement to calm down the people without causing immedi ate economic collapse. But M. Macron does not have a coherent party of his own; La République en Marche, the vehicle that got him to the Élysée Palace in 2019, started to decompose almost as soon as its job
His main hope must be that the gilets jaunes form a party and stand in the European elections in the spring and take votes from his rivals
was done. M. Macron was elected because he was not Marine Le Pen; he will need a more compelling argu ment if he is to have a second term. What seemed his main intention when assuming power – to restruc ture the French economy – was right. France is an uncompetitive nation that, and as a result (and because of being trapped in a currency union that overvalues its currency, a project M. Macron actively supports) has depressingly high unemployment and too many on low earnings. Despite one or two victories against them – notably against the rail work ers earlier this year – it remains a country in which syndicalists wield disproportionate power. Despite, also, M. Macron having begun to address the problem of the Code du travail, the massive rulebook by which relations between employers and their staff are regulated, France remains a profoundly over-regulated economy. After his surrender to the gilets jaunes – a surrender made all the more embarrassing after the mas sive displays of force, with hundreds of arrests, that preceded it – it defies belief that the president can achieve the sort of widespread reforms that France so badly needs. He should have engaged the public – and not just his fellow elitists – in a proper conversation about how he needed their co-operation to change France in a way that equipped it to deal with the modern world. His main hope must be that the gilets jaunes form a party and stand in the European elections in the spring, and take votes from his rivals – though they might just take votes from LREM, itself a protest move ment. As it is, France remains trapped in the mindset of the Fourth Republic, the consensual ideas advanced after 1946 to unite a France riven by the occupation. France must, it seems, await yet another president to lead this change of mind and to take the country into the 21st century.
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‘I find it natural to speak for Britons’ OLIVIER CADIC, senator for the French abroad, tells Oliver Rowland why he has also been helping the British in France – and how he is surprised that Britons abroad have no such dedicated representation
Unlike the MPs for the French abroad you don’t represent a part of the world? No, I’ve just come back from Madagascar, where I was working on cases of French people being kidnapped and murdered there – this year alone eight kidnappings and four murders. I met the prime minister and we set the objective that they will name a judge to be in charge of these cases, so we have a contact point for our judge who is following these dossiers. It’s one example. I think of the British academic doing political research who recently was condemned to life imprisonment in the UAE on accusations of spying. It’s the kind of case a British counterpart might have helped with – if they existed. Another example happened in the Dominican Republic, where French pilots had been arrested, supposedly with drugs in the plane. I went to the trial and helped the families. Diplomats are there to avoid disputes with the local authorities and have limits, whereas a politician, will generally be listened to and can do something extra. So it is very hands-on? Absolutely, and we see at the moment the difference with the British – they just have to cope on their own. Apart from being a senator, you are an entrepreneur?
commerce, for example a FranceMozambique one; I support creating French schools and Alliances Françaises abroad and worked to support the transfer of a French medical centre to Vietnam. I helped find a solution for retirees in America whose French banks didn’t want problems with the American authorities so stopped sending their pensions.
FRANCE has 12 senators for the French abroad and 11 dedicated MPs. One of its senators Olivier Cadic, who lives in Kent, recently spoke at both the French Senate and at the British Houses of Parliament to support maintaining the rights of Britons in the EU. Mr Cadic was formerly a councillor on the Assembly of the French Abroad, a consultative body which has one or more elected representatives for each French consulate (including nine in London), elected by French people registered with that consulate. It meets twice a year in Paris and he sat on it from 2006-2014. “It is these representatives who together elect the senators for the French abroad,” he said. “Now I sit in the Senate and I represent the French across the whole world.
Senator Olivier Cadic
I used to have a business in electronics and the internet, but I sold up. Now I have a publishing business called Cinebook – for example, Lucky Luke comic books in English, that’s me. I’m the world’s biggest buyer of rights of cartoon books, which I translate to English and sell worldwide. How do you divide up your time? It’s not complicated – 40% of my time, four nights out of ten, I’m in Paris at the Senate, three nights I’m in England, and three in the rest of the world; last week I was in Mauritius and Madagascar. Next I’ll be in Lithuania and then Washington. Why did you want the job? I was asked to go for it. I’d given a lot of support to French businesspeople in the UK, and a senator told me I would make a good politician. How does the role differ from the MPs’? Well for a start we sit in different houses, and the fact we have both makes sure the French abroad are represented at all stages of a law. There are as many French people abroad as in the DOM-TOMs and they have specific concerns. It helps them to stay in touch with French politics, to be involved and have their rights defended and to make sure their issues are taken into account, whether on tax, social security etc. Can you give examples of issues? Senators for the French abroad managed to remove the social charges on property incomes of the French abroad in the EU. We also gained a lot for the organisation of French education abroad and we obtained a special social security caisse for expatriates. I work to create chambers of
Do you see speaking out for the British in France as an extension of this? Yes. I realised when Brexit happened and I started doing talks to EU citizens abroad in the UK that all the other nationalities didn’t have such representatives and in a way I was representing everyone. And I consider that defending the British of France is in a way an extension of defending the French of the UK. It’s the other side of the coin. It doesn’t seem right to me not to also think about them. Their fates are linked and I found it natural to speak for both. Whatever decisions the British take with regard to the French in the UK, even if they were to be very tough on them, I will ask that there are better conditions for Britons in France. They weren’t responsible for the situation and are victims of it like us and it’s not fair to treat them poorly. It would honour us to maintain all their rights. The idea of dedicated MPs for Britons abroad is supported by the Lib Dems, but the government thinks expatriates should maintain a link with their old constituencies. But those MPs do not necessarily understand their issues... No they don’t know what they are at all. What it means is that for the government you don’t exist, as British expatriates. But they are conservatives with a small C, and I think the current Labour Party is as well. To me it’s a real source of pride to have this representative role because other countries see us as an example. In the Tunisian assembly now they have MPs representing Tunisians in France. But there’s really no representation at all for British people abroad, which I find incredible. The British have an insular view and if you’re not on the island anymore it’s over. There’s not even any representation of expatriates at the embassy in France; I find it unbelievable. It’s as if they just lose their rights - which they do in fact, since after 15 years they don’t even have a right to vote. It’s extraordinary. Note: There are around 2 million French people living outside of France. Around 5 million British people live out of the UK (2 million of whom live in EU countries).
Zone blanche solution to teenage phone addiction by SAMANTHA DAVID IT IS now illegal for pupils to use mobile phones, tablets, smart watches or other connected items in écoles and collèges. Mobiles prevent children concentrating, are a tool for online bullying as well as a temptation to thieves, and prevent pupils making friends in real life, according to the authorities. It is not against the law to take a mobile to school but on the premises they have to be switched off and put away. Special phone lockers might be an interesting way forward, suggests the government website. It is also illegal for pupils to use their tech devices on school trips. The website says punishments can include confiscating the phone for the rest of the day, extra homework and detention.
But how is all this going to work? Are staff going to prowl the grounds seeking out the Candy Crush kids? One hopes not. The law should be just a backup for what ought to be self-evident: you don’t fiddle with your phone when someone is speaking to you or when you are supposed to be working. And now a law backs it up, there can be no argument when teachers insist on phones being turned off. I bet there will be, though. It’s hard enough stopping children sneaking phones into their beds, let alone persuading them to stop using them during the day. Excessive mobile use is a problem. The endless body-perfect images, the competition to have the best Insta pix, the coolest Facebook page, the most likes, the most retweets... It all piles on the pressure.
It also eats time that could be spent making friends, learning instruments, playing sport and other old-fashioned stuff. And from a parent’s point of view, it’s no fun living with a teenager who is physically present but mentally awol. Perhaps people living in the so-called zones blanches – those patches of rural France where there is still no network, internet or wifi – are rather lucky. Instead of complaining and asking the authorities to get them connected as soon as possible, maybe they could sell their properties to families with ados? In fact, once more people realise the benefits of living in a zone blanche – your kids look up when you speak to them, no more battles to limit screen time – perhaps house prices in these areas will rise.
When Citroën meant style and innovation
by ‘Ross Beef’ French car-makers traditionally reveal new models and concept-car technology in the autumn and the Citroën DS was no exception. Launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955, it revolutionised motoring and remains an undisputable icon of French design. Before mondialisation – the globalisation of car markets and manufacturers, during which time cars have become blandly similar – each country had a recognisable automobile style. Certainly France did, and none more so than Citroën.
It combined technological prowess and audacious design innovation which defined it as a symbol of Les Trente Glorieuses There are few things more thoroughly French than a 2CV – apart from the Eiffel Tower, baguettes, berets… well, you get the point. Like the 2CV, the DS is the essence of Frenchness – even though its original designer was Italian. Its name is a play on words – DS with a French pronunciation gives déesse, the goddess – and it harks back to a period of forward-looking optimism, social change and industrial growth. The car was ahead of its time – and an instant success, with nearly 1.5 million cars produced over a 20-year period until 1975. It combined technological prowess and audacious design innovation which defined it as a symbol of the Trente Glorieuses period, from post-war reconstruction to the 1970s oil crisis. The extended
bonnet with integrated headlights, the curved windscreen and streamlined roof, the long tail and sweeping rear wing, half enveloping the back wheels, gave the DS its avant-garde style. The look was enhanced by the big chrome hubcaps, roof-mounted cylindrical indicators and extensive colour schemes, often with a differentcolour body and roof. The DS was packed with innovative technology. It was the first European car to have independent brakes equipped with discs at the front. It had power-assisted steering, a 1900cc engine, and a semiautomatic gear change. But it is the variable-height hydro-pneumatic suspension that most people associate with the double-chevron brand. Select the ride height, and with the pressurised system allowing trajectory correction, you could experience magic carpet comfort when out on the road. Famously, the suspension also allowed the DS to drive on three wheels if required, in case of a puncture or damage. Inside, the futuristic dashboard was like nothing before. In front of the single-branch steering wheel, you used the stick shifter to start the motor as well as change gear. Aeronautical-style instruments and switches were visible and accessible behind. The large seats, thick arm rests and padded carpeting made for a comfortable driving environment and set the DS apart from its competitors, in classic French style. The DS was popular with the middle class and with the stars of the time, as well being the presidential vehicle par excellence. General de Gaulle survived an assassination attempt in 1962, thanks to the road-holding ability of the car. Occasionally you pass one, often restored, cutting a dash through the town or country. It is an indication of the significance of the car that, even today, it attracts attention. Its appeal goes beyond automotive passion, evoking a bygone era... proof that even in motoring, style never goes out of fashion.
Photo: Mic / CC BY 2.0
EU needs us more
They said it … He is a king. Unfortunately, he’s going to end up like Louis XVI. An unnamed gilets jaunes protester A member of the grassroots movement’s view of President Macron
Politics is the showbusiness of ugly people William Boyd
The novelist holds little back in a piece for L’Obs
I am just a loser who got very lucky Jean-Louis Trintignant Photo: Antoine Lamielle _ CC BY-SA 4.0_ wikimedia
The veteran actor on his long career
We have arrived at a dangerous time for our country Jean Lassalle
The MP explains why he broke National Assembly dress code rules and donned a gilet jaune jacket in the chamber
The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” President Donald Trump
The US President falsely claims gilets jaunes chanted his name during violent protests on the Champs-Elysees that had nothing to do with the Paris Climate Agreement See page 10 for France’s reaction
What motivates fraudulent bosses is the game Eva Joly
The former financial judge in L’Obs on Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn who is charged with financial misconduct re his personal tax declarations
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I WRITE in reply to your web article from Nick Inman about the EU bringing peace (EU membership a small price to pay for peace). Both world wars were not started by a “clash of nation states” but by the ambition of Germany to dominate Europe. In Hitler’s case, to unify what he saw as the Germanic people and create what he referred to as Germania. Prior to that, it was the Kaiser. Earlier, Napoleon aimed to spread French influence across Europe. I viewed the creation of the Common Market as a realistic and welcome move towards co-operation and free trade in Europe. The Maastricht Treaty, however, was a cynical hijacking by a power-hungry bureaucracy to turn it into a vast federation. Mr Inman’s own expressions of “self-serving Eurocrats of Brussels” and “flawed and bumbling institutions of the EU” acknowledge the potential. Germany pulls the strings of the EU and the current man-
Nothing humiliating about cartes
oeuvring of Macron as Merkel loses influence should give pause to any notion it is the EU that is preventing another war. With some reservation, I supported Brexit (I didn’t get a vote). But given the recent attitude of those Eurocrats to the UK vote to leave, the fixation that they must prevail against the democratic choice of the Brits, I am now firmly for Brexit and, adding in other current stresses, suggest the disintegration of the EU may not be long delayed. I am reminded of a conversation I had recently with a French neighbour. Discussing Brexit, he said at one point “don’t leave us”. I initially assumed he meant “don’t Brexit”. Further discussion clarified he meant “be around when the EU goes pear-shaped”. Our government has made a total mess of negotiations. The EU have ensured they would prevail. We are just at the beginning of an emotive and difficult period, however this plays out. David Homewood by email
Papers piling up
It would be easier to accept the French government’s professed concern for the environment if there were evidence that it designed its administrative procedures with the health of the planet in mind. I make this observation because I am currently involved in the process of assembling the paperwork for an application for a carte de séjour and so far have amassed around half a kilogramme of paper – I accept some of this paper mountain is “just in case”, but even so! Additionally, it seems I must make at least two trips to the prefecture, which is more than 100km from where I live. Overall, not exactly an environmentally friendly process. Accepting the conditions that one must have lived in France for at least five years and have sufficient income not to be a burden on the French state, surely all the evidence required to prove these facts is contained in one’s French income tax returns for those five years: a communication between the Fisc and the prefecture could verify this. And all the bills etc said to prove residence in France without periods of absence of more than two weeks or so at a time in fact do nothing of the sort! As for the fingerprint requirement, that could be done at a local gendarmerie. Just my pennyworth to help save the planet, reduce the workload at the prefecture and last, but not least, save me a lot of time and expense. Malcolm EVANS Haute-Garonne
Re: Humiliating faff for carte Letters, December edition. One of the tenets of the European Union is freedom of movement, thanks to which British people have been able to reside in France with the minimum bureaucracy, and likewise EU citizens’ ability to reside in the UK. Each member country has, however, been at liberty to implement their own immigration policies and procedures. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of UK immigrants into the EU never even bothered to apply for cartes de séjour until the events of June 2016 put this freedom in jeopardy, and have now done so in the hope the carte will stand us in good stead
whatever the outcome of Brexit. I fail to see any “humiliation” in providing documents which the French government decided long ago were necessary to prove residency, financial means, etc. Contrast your letter headline of the same issue “French law will protect Britons in Brexit chaos” (sadly not as straightforward as it reads, I’m afraid!) with May’s disgraceful comments about EU citizens “queue jumping”. And perhaps your respondent should ponder on the true meaning of humiliation, such as that visited on some of the “Windrush’” generations by the UK government. Julia Higginbotham Lot-et-Garonne
Why the gilets annoy me
THERE is one aspect of the gilets jaunes I find intensely annoying. If you need a tunic to be seen in the dark on a bike, you have to buy a yellow one. I wear mine a lot. A turning point came when I was cheered by lycéens as I sped past their school in a balaclava for the cold. I’m not a militant, I just don’t want to be run over by a car. I found other colours online but orange suggests a council worker; green, eco-activism... finally I found and ordered a royal blue. Miles CLERY-FOX, by email
GDP protects the rich
The use by Eurostat of taxation as a percentage of GDP is as false a measure as is GDP. Gross Domestic Product ignores all collateral and consequential damage (eg pollution/global warming costs). It is a broad brush that reveals nothing useful to most. Up to now, the better social services in France make sense out of paying taxes, which are essential to any sane society, especially if well used by its government. Sadly, the tendency to privatise essential social services puts France on the same course we have seen in the UK since Thatcherism. In short, privatisation of social services which uses our taxes to enrich private faceless shareholders. It may be more useful, in this gilets jaunes age, to have tax levels broken down as a percentage of income and wealth by groupings (such as the 5% highest total incomes as a percentage of gross worldwide wealth, going down by
5% or 10% steps to the lowest 5%-unemployed). Last year, the “patrons” of CAC40 gave themselves 14% annual increases on huge figures. City of London Stock market bosses did better, at 25%. Then, instead of expressing our sense of injustice by inconveniencing fellow gilets jaunes, we can all be gilets jaunes targeting the real villains in our increasingly divided free market capitalist societies. I have always gladly declared and paid all my taxes both in the UK (from 1954, age 18), and now in France since 2000 where I live as a French citizen. I enjoy an adequate pension and comfortable life here but feel that the pursuit of never-ending economic growth is being outpaced by the increasing need for more and more charities to deal with the victims of the greedy few and their political allies. Brian Hurley, Dordogne
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Banking at a snail’s pace Has anyone else felt that the French banking system is excruciatingly slow and inefficient? In 11 years, we are now on our third bank. First CIC, then Barclays/Milleis, and now Crédit Agricole. All suffer the same fate, taking ages to implement instructions and never responding to correspondence, or requiring your life history in paperwork. Latterly, it took Milleis 21 days to close a Livret A after two letters, five emails and two phone calls. Similarly, CA have taken nearly three months to offer a small loan to repair a barn roof, with double the loan cost secured by an assurance vie, and required reams of personal documentation, far more than for a carte de séjour! What a shambles. Name and address withheld on request
Tax matters Nabila Ramdani’s criticism of the Gilet Jaunes (December Connexion) seems a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. The fundamental decisions about what is produced and how are made in the interests of a small global elite. This elite loves flat taxes on essentials such as fuel duty because the major impact is on the lives of poor people. The very wealthy are highly skilled at protecting their money and making sure that the costs of their choices are dumped on those who have no choice. At the same time, they can pose as defenders of the planet. To ignore this is to provide ammunition to climate-change deniers who appear champions of the average person while encouraging business as usual. Steve Gelfer Châtellerault
w w w. b l e v i n s f r a n k s . c o m
Don’t fall for gilets’ Who pays for anarchy? Only a fool breaks two populist propaganda second rule
Re: the gilets jaunes – as a French citizen who lived in Britain for decades and now living in France with my British husband, I am appalled by this anarchic and nihilistic leaderless movement which has taken hold of the country and has won the approval of most of the press, left and right, duped into believing their populist propaganda. To the cry of “ras-le-bol fiscal” (down with taxes) I say “ras-le-bol des râleurs” (down with the moaners). Moaning about everything and anything has now reached hysterical proportions. That, in a country with one of the highest levels of social protection in Europe, with a myriad of benefits and tax breaks for the low paid, the highest state pensions as well as the lowest pension age in Europe, the lowest level of poverty in Europe, the best health service in the world and
Letter of the month
the same standard of living as Germany… I could go on. (information from Eurostat). But in France, people are no longer prepared to pay for any of it and scream blue murder if any benefits or public services are taken away from them. The country has become, in effect, ungovernable. The idea that Macron is arrogant and therefore should resign is ludicrous. No president can win. Hollande was accused of being not presidential enough. The “cause” of the gilets jaunes is groundless. There is no road tax to pay and the price of petrol in France is average for Europe, in line with the cost of living and by no means excessive. After the Paris riots, there is no doubt the aim is the destabilisation of the Macron government. We live in dangerous times, in France and in Brexit Britain. Daniele Lebreton-Travis, address supplied
Mrs 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
Clue in the constitution
Your article “Mythbuster: France is a Catholic country” (December Connexion) misses the most important point of all. The opening words of the French Constitution are clear: “France is a republic, secular and indivisible.” So, to claim France is a Catholic country is arguing with the foundation on which the state is based. By contrast, the UK is a monarchy in which the Church of England and the state are intricately intertwined. The Church of England is the second biggest landowner (after the House of Windsor) and enjoys huge tax advantages denied both to adherents of other faiths and those of no faith. In the context of a multicultural society, such privilege is indefensible. France has set an example from which the UK could learn a great deal. Stephen D Morgan, Finistère
You said it … France introduces fixed fines for drug use “When are the powers that be going to grow up and realise just how much good cannabis can and does do.” N.D. “Make them do it away from people who want nothing to do with smoking, so the smoke does no harm to anyone but the smokers.” H.I. “Big pharma has invested so much hiding the facts, it will take someone famous being saved from cancer to shift the thought process.” T.G. “I believe if in control of a vehicle, then yes, but as with alcohol, some guy sat in his garden chilling just let them be.” B.H. “Legalise it, already.” C.M.
I am 75 and have lived in France for over 30 years. I weep when I see a country tearing itself apart as a disbelieving world watches it descending into anarchy. A government that appears unable or unwilling to take decisive action. At this time of the year I usually travel by car to England to share Christmas and New Year with my family. This year it is impossible. I am told that the gilets jaunes have legitimate grievances. That may be so but the method of securing a resolution cannot be right. Ordinary people are being prevented from going about their lawful lives. People are being prevented from keeping medical appointments. Businesses unable to trade. The rest of the world is seeing a capital trashed; the Arc de Triomphe desecrated and that must grieve many war veterans.
As a former senior police officer of over 30 years I suspect genuine ranks of the gilets jaunes have been infiltrated by criminal elements for their own ends – those who are seen to be wearing masks. The genuine gilets jaunes are willing to be seen and be interviewed. When this situation is finally over, there will be a price to pay. France has to recover and there is the cost of policing the protests, clearing debris, rebuilding properties, businesses to recover from lost trade. To rebuild confidence that France is a country to visit and trade with. The government will pay in the first instance but the money has to come from somewhere and that place is the people, whether by direct or indirect taxes, and those taxes will continue for years. Name and address withheld on request
President Macron eloquently denounced the French violence on the one hand, but then basically gave in to the protesters’ demands, reflecting all that is wrong with today’s “leadership.” In short, he caved and rewarded bad behaviour. What’s the real message then? Riot more to get what you want. It works well, after all, so expect more. William Choslovsky Chicago, US
Problems in UK are real
Tony LIVELY (Knives out for the UK – December) complains about TV coverage of British problems. Maybe when he lived in the UK he did not notice the continual digs and abuse of France and the French in the press, on TV, from comedians, and in everyday conversation. We noticed it because my French wife had to put up with it almost every day, sometimes to her face. It was as if people did not notice they were being Francophobic, so embedded is this kind of unpleasantness. She was relieved to come to live in her country, where we have not noticed much negative feeling towards the UK, more a kind of respect for things British. Anyway, gangs and use of knives is on British TV and in the press almost every day now, so it is hardly surprising it has been picked up by foreign media. True, “unsociable goings-on” are not exclusive to Britain, but post-referendum and austerity it has got a lot worse, and will probably get worse still when Brexit actually happens. Christopher O’Hagan, Sarthe
According to World Health Organisation statistics, there were 1,792 road accident fatalities in the UK in 2016 compared to 3,477 in France. Another comparison shows 27 road deaths per million of population in the UK in 2017 compared with 53 per million in France. France is five times larger than the UK with approximately the same population. UK roads are more congested and road surfaces are superior in France. UK minor roads are well worn with lumps and potholes. Why then has France nearly twice as many road deaths? The answer is simple – French motorists drive too close to the car in front. French drivers ignore the rules at roundabouts and jump in front of cars already on the roundabout. Anybody in the UK who has been on an advanced driving course (or on a course to avoid speeding points) has had this rhyme hammered in to them by the police instructors: Only a fool breaks the two-second rule. When driving, you observe the car in front as it passes a fixed object (tree, road sign etc) and count two seconds. You should then be passing the fixed point yourself. The rule works at any speed to make sure you leave a safe gap. On wet or greasy roads you should double this distance. If you leave a two-second gap in France, you will soon find a French driver rear-pushing to shift you out of the way. So how can these statistics be rectified? It will need a massive re-educational programme and higher penalties for tailgating. I doubt it can ever happen. David Hardy by email
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...
Smacking should be banned in France, says law chief
“I find the behaviour of children in France quite outstanding. Please don’t follow the UK in this as it’s a slippery slope. Discipline is fine, respect will be earned.” B.H. “Good. It is entirely possible to discipline a child without shouting, smacking, or any other form of abuse.” S.D. “If you have to hit a child to change their behaviour, it is you who has failed.” S.K. “You can raise a child without smacking them. You are not allowed to smack, for example, your workmate – so why a little child? Smacking just creates hate and fear.” E.W.
No congestion charges in France “The country will collapse if the people don’t realise they cannot spend what they haven’t got. They’ll go the way of Greece.” L.H. “So the people in the towns avoid congestion charges, which are a fair and accepted method of diminishing pollution. They simply don’t get it.” J.S. “And people ask why the French protest. M. son Majesté Impérial L’Empereur Macroparte appears to have no clothes..” D.S. “But the French have it easy. I get €350 a month for my two kids, plus my childminder is €100 a month. When the kids were born, the state gave me €1,000 each one. I wouldn’t have had children, or a house, if I were in the UK.” H.T.
Your views on the gilets jaunes “The French get out and make their feelings known. The French government listens. The UK could learn from both lessons.” A.P. “Macron gave a mere peace offering to calm the violence. It will not affect the longterm goal.” R.M. “They have to stop now. Enough is enough. They are like yellow militia.” M.S. “It wouldn’t matter who was president of France the French hate any type of reform to make France prosperous and will fight against it.” K.C. “Not all French have money. Not all expats have money. As with a lot of government measures, the poor are hit the hardest.” N.B.
Readers’ questions answered
Send your queries about life here to Oliver Rowland by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I had to change my motorbike’s speedo I BROUGHT my Triumph motorbike to France and was required to change the speedometer, which showed mph and kph, to one showing only kph. This seems petty. D.K. IF a vehicle is recent and made in the EU and thus has an EU certificate of conformity from the manufacturer, then it should be accepted and does not have to undergo inspection for homologation in order to carry French number plates. You can apply directly online for a French registration document in this case. A car would also need to pass a French MOT test (contrôle technique), including a check on the speed-
ometer, but this should be limited to checking it works. In other cases you need to apply for the vehicle to be inspected by the Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement (Dreal). Each region has its own. Created in 2013, these bodies absorbed the functions of the old inspectors of mines. The link is that the first regulated vehicles were mine trains. The law is officially the same for all but in practice interpretations can vary from inspector to inspector and from Dreal to Dreal across the country, so the interpretation you experienced might not be the same as that experienced by
someone else. Triumph France said it is not usual to have to change the speedometer. The legal requirement is that it be clearly marked in kph and that the kph divisions are numbered in divisions of 10. Therefore a speedometer numbered 10kph, 20kph, 30kph, or one numbered 20kph, 40kph, 60kph, should be OK. If it was numbered in 5kph sections, then it would have to be changed. There could have been a problem with the legibility of the kph scale in the eye of the inspector, who might have thought the mix of numbers was too confusing, or there might have been another aspect of the original which they did not like.
Am I insured for subsidence? IS SUBSIDENCE covered by household insurance? G.V. SUBSIDENCE (affaissement) is covered by most multirisques habitation household contracts but usually under the cover for catastrophes naturelles (natural disasters), related to drought, flood, earthquakes etc. Claims can be met only if you have relevant insurance and if the government has published a decree in the Journal Officiel declaring a state of natural disaster covering the area where you have your home. Usually this will cover a whole commune but sometimes it is limited to only part of it. Once the decree has been published, the way is open for insurance companies to pay out quickly – they are partly compensated through a special fund. Claims have to be lodged within 10 days. The first stop is to ask at the mairie to see if a decree has been issued. If there is no decree, you can ask the mairie to get one from the Ministère de la Cohésion des territoires. You may have to pay for a survey,
although it might be covered by a protection juridique clause as part of your home insurance. As well as the mayor, you could contact your MP, senator and departmental or regional councillors and anyone else you believe might have some influence. If you are successful, you will still have to contribute a franchise légale of €1,520 if the damage the claim relates to has been caused by drought, or the re-hydration of the soil. If you find cracks in the home due to subsidence and your home was built in the last 10 years, you can make use of the garantie décennale, the 10-year builder’s guarantee. This should cover problems relating to the solidity of your home in this period. Also if you discover subsidence after a purchase, you might be able to make a claim against the seller for a vice caché (a hidden defect), but this can be difficult. The problem needs to have existed before you purchased it but not have been obviously apparent to you at the time. Finally, if the subsidence is due to actions of a neighbour or the council, then you can sue them.
What’s the law on petrol cans? CAN I legally transport spare diesel or petrol in a can in my car and does the law change on this when you cross the border to another EU country? K.R.
YES, the law in France allows you to transport jerry cans of petrol or diesel and the legal maximum is too high to pose a problem. The key requirement is that the cans are homologué, ie. made for the purpose and with a mark showing they follow the UN regulations (ONU in French) for transporting dangerous substances. Les jerricans in sizes of 5l, 10l and 20l are commonly sold. Note that you should also
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have two fire extinguishers in the car, according to the letter of the law. The main regulations on this were ratified by 48 countries but, according to car hire firm Sixt, the carrying of jerry cans is not legal in Portugal, so there may be additional restrictions in some countries. The RAC states people should not carry more than 10l in the car when entering France from another country. There are also restrictions imposed by some transport companies, eg. Brittany Ferries, which runs services between the UK and France and Spain, allows passengers to have only 5l containers on board (a small jerry can).
Can I call French emergency services from the UK (for a relative here)?
Can I become French if my job income is from abroad? I AM a British person living in France who works across the border in Belgium. I want to apply for French nationality but have heard that if your main income comes from outside France it can be a problem. Is this true? S.W. A FRENCH Interior Ministry official said that it is true that part of the notion of “residence” in France, for purposes of requesting a change of nationality, is that you should have your “centre of material interest” in France, which includes financial autonomy and having French-source income. Having income from abroad may indicate a “context of dependency on and/or allegiance to the other state”, she said. Having income from abroad does not in itself bar you if you are not dependent on it for your basic needs. In other words, at least part of your income should come from France. But the official added: “The case of frontier workers is always complex and is looked at as a whole. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The fact that someone works abroad is a negative point but if it is not in the country of origin, then the “dependency/ allegiance” issue is reduced. We also look at family links, whether the person owns property here, whether they pay their taxes in France, etc.” My older son was not born in France but his younger brother was and will be eligible for French nationality when he reaches 13. I understand my older son will then be able to apply, due to being the sibling of a French person. The
Can undeclared driver use a car? ONCE in a while I drive the family car even though I am not declared to the insurer as either a main or secondary driver. If I have an accident, will I still be covered by the insurance? M.M. THE ISSUE here is whether or not you genuinely only drive the car on an occasional basis. According to insurance rules, everyone who drives the car on any kind of regular basis should be known to the insurer so they can adjust the premiums depending on the way the car is used. If someone other than the main declared driver or drivers uses the car frequently, it changes the risks involved in the use of it. If other people drive it, this should only be exceptional, with typical examples being because the main driver had been drinking or did not have their glasses. If you declare an accident and say you were driving it only on an exceptional basis, the insurer might carry out investigations if there is a large pay-out involved and/or they have doubts about the truth of the situation. They have investigators, often retired police officers or gendarmes, on their books who may visit and ask questions of neighbours, for example.
What is the difference between a diététicien and nutritionniste?
Image: JLPC Wikimedia Commons
rules say this applies if he has lived in France since the age of six but does that mean he has to have had his sixth birthday here or is it all right if he moved here when he was already six, as is our case? I have also heard that a parent of a French person has the right to French nationality 25 years after the child gained French nationality – is that correct and is it only if the child was born in France? D.A. THE first rule applies as long as the person came before their seventh birthday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Other conditions apply too, such as residency in France, being aged over 18 and having been to school in France. As for the 25-year rule, this is correct and it applies to parents of French people regardless of how they gained French nationality. The only difficulty may be in proving the 25-year residency if you are from another EU state. This is because EU nationals generally have not had cartes de séjour, so you will need paperwork demonstrating that you have been living here all that time (owning property is not enough).
If we move back to UK will our different-sex Pacs be valid? WE ARE in a differentgender Pacs [a French form of civil partnership open to same and opposite sex couples, often entered into for property purchases] and are considering returning to the UK. Will our Pacs be recognised there? B.F. UNFORTUNATELY, no it will not, although this may change in the near future. Lauren Evans, an associate with the London-based international law firm Kingsley Napley, said the UK’s Civil Partnership Act 2004 recognises the French Pacs, but only for same-sex couples, which it considers comparable to the current UK civil partnership. So a heterosexual Pacs is not recognised. However, legislation is going through the UK parliament (in the form of a private member’s bill) to allow heterosexual couples
My tree’s branches fell into a neighbour’s property – do they still belong to me?
to enter into British civil partnerships. Ms Evans said the current version of the British bill does not mention the recognition of overseas relationships, but it requires additional regulations to be made amending the 2004 act. At that point the section on “overseas relationships treated as civil partnerships” could be amended. She added that there is, as yet, no guarantee that such recognition would be retrospective to include an opposite sex Pacs entered into before the change in the UK law, although it is possible. At present therefore, the only sure option would be to get married – or to wait and see if the law changes. Ms Evans said she will take the issue up with the MP who put forward the private member’s bill.
Is there a law that officials must now accept documents in all EU languages?
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CRS riot police
Bob Elliott from telephone and broadband provider, UK Telecom, answers your queries
Q: I reported a fault on my line and was told if the fault was inside my property, then I would be charged €69. I never saw a technician outside my property, let alone inside my house, so queried it when I was charged all the same. I was told that the charge was regardless of whether or not the fault was inside my property. They agreed to credit me the €69, but how can we be responsible for faulty Orange infrastructure? They told me the law changed recently. T.R.
You may have seen CRS companies out in force – and in action – during the gilets jaunes protests. EVENTS were tense during the recent gilets jaunes protests against fuel prices and general tax rises. On the ChampsElysées in Paris, CRS riot officers used tear gas to push back protesters attempting to breach police lines. They also had water cannons ready and grenades assourdissantes (stun grenades that flash and bang and are thrown into the air) were used. One CRS member told BFM TV it was the worst situation he had seen in 19 years in the job. “At one point they were throwing things at us and we were saying to ourselves ‘we mustn’t get to the point where we have to use our weapons in selfdefence’,” he said. The TV station reported that – in scenes reminiscent of the May 1968 student and worker protests – bottles and paving stones were thrown. Makeshift barricades were created by protesters out of planks, building site barriers, plastic bins and other street furniture. The CRS officer said: “People don’t realise we’re human too and the uniform we wear doesn’t protect us from death.” According to left-leaning newspaper Le Monde, the CRS was heavy-handed at times on the last weekend in November, with barrages of officers equip ped with reinforced trucks at the end of the Champs-Elysées nearest the presidential palace. This came after they were caught out the weekend before when protesters came near the
Elysée. Le Monde said: “On Saturday morning they straight away started using tear gas against little disparate groups which until then had been perfectly non-violent.” Elsewhere around France there was a CRS presence at locations where the gilets jaunes protesters were active, on roads and roundabouts and at motorway péages. A reassuring presence helping to keep the peace and public safety – or an oppressive tool of the capitalist state? It depends on your politics. CRS forces are generally recognisable from their heavy protective gear, often with riot shields and helmets, and the red and white logo on the uniform showing a flaming torch and an oak leaf wreath. The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) were created in 1944 to fill a gap after the dissolution of Vichy regime paramilitary groups. They were established on a permanent national footing after the government considered they conducted themselves well during strikes in 1947. Their role is maintaining and re-establishing public order – essentially riot and crowd control – including dealing with terror attacks. Officially the CRS are “com-
panies” of the police, and une CRS usually refers to one of the companies, whereas, informally, un CRS means a CRS officer. Their motto is “To serve” and their logo, known as the CRS flame, was designed by a French painter from Versailles. In the past the CRS were especially present at flashpoints of unrest, such as May 1968 in Paris or the 1995 fishermen’s protest in Rennes, when the 17th century Brittany parliament building was set alight. They were also involved in the Algerian war. Thousands were sent over in the period 1952-1962 and many were killed or wounded. Unlike the officers, who undeniably have a challenging job, those involved in such protests see the clashes differently. Take singer-songwriter Maxime le Forestier’s 1972 song, Mon
Our main image was drawn for Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr Frère, about things he would have liked to have done with his imaginary brother, in which he tenderly sang that: “If life had been kinder, she would have divided into two, the pairs of gloves, the pairs of smacks; she would surely have shared out the words of love, and the paving stones, girls and baton blows.” The officers have chosen this specialism and receive appropriate training. As well as 60 general CRS companies, there are nine for motorways, two for mountain rescue and six motor-
cycle units. There is also one specialising in escorting celebrities, notably the president of the Republic, called CRS no.1 (la Musique de la Police Nationale, a professional fanfare band and orchestra, is part of it). Another role, since 1958, is acting as beach lifeguards (who also carry a gun in case of a terror attack), though this could stop next year after a state finance watchdog said it was costly. The government thinks they should focus on their main work instead. They often work in partnership with mobile gendarmerie units (known as la jaune from their gold insignia), who are technically soldiers while the CRS are fonctionnaires. Since 2009, both come under the authority of the Interior Ministry. Below this, the hierarchy is the director general of the Police Nationale and the Direction Centrale des CRS (DCCRS). There are seven zone headquarters, in Vélizy (Yvelines), Lille, Rennes, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and Metz. The CRS tend to work mostly in or near cities and are often present at strikes and protests. The role includes protecting people and buildings from violence, including watching places of worship or ceremonies and festivities if there is potential for violent protest or opposition. They also aim to stop related crimes such as looting. The CRS have a support role at borders, aimed at preventing illegal immigration, especially of dangerous individuals. To enter the service, people must be aged 17-34, have a driving licence, a clean criminal record, be in “perfect physical condition” and at least 168cm tall for men or 160cm for women.
A: You pay a monthly line rental and rightly expect that Orange will comply with its contractual responsibility to maintain a working service to your property. The point at which your responsibilities start is from the Dispositif de Terminaison Intérieur box on the inside of your property, just where the line enters; not the first phone socket, as is commonly believed. All internal wiring is, as you say, your responsibility.
This situation even applies to older installations where the telephone line is carried from the nearest telephone pole overhead to the home. Should the line be damaged by trees, you would be expected to have the branches cut back, but the repair of the line remains Orange’s responsibility. New line installations require the property owner to bury the line underground from the boundary to the point of entry to the house and drill a hole in the external wall to enable the cable to pass. Anything different would leave subscribers exposed to high potential costs. Should you have to pay to replace a telephone pole that had rotted, or to replace components in the local exchange? In the 15 years we have provided these services to customers in France, we have never passed on such a charge and have from time to time challenged charges. We are not aware of any recent change of law. If it happens again, you could request that the regulator Arcep investigate and adjudicate (arcep.fr).
See uktelecom.net for more information on services in France. T: UK +44 1483 477 100 T: from France 0805 631 632
Euro Sense Shaun Dash, from Currencies Direct, answers a reader question on currency exchange Q: My son lives in France and I want to transfer him around £30,000. Is it best to make the transfer in one go or to do it in several smaller amounts? R.S. A: Breaking the transfer down into smaller payments may not be the right move. Generally speaking, currency providers will offer you a more competitive exchange rate on larger amounts. The only reason you might want to break your transfer down is if you believe the exchange rate may strengthen in the future but you want to hedge your bets against a possible drop by moving some of the money earlier. If you are not sure how exchange rates are likely to move, get in touch with a leading currency transfer provider and ask them to keep you updated with the latest rate fluctuations. While there can be restrictions on the amount that can be moved between certain countries (South Africa, for example) there are currently no restrictions regarding size of transfers to and from Europe. While the UK’s exit from the EU might have an impact in the future, so far nothing definitive has been mentioned regarding personal transfers. It is also hoped that the eventual Brexit deal will involve the maintenance of close financial ties. However, there is really no telling what impact a no-deal Brexit could have on currency transfers between the UK and EU and it will likely depend on whether the UK government seeks to remain in the European Economic Area and maintain regulatory alignment. If you are worried about the potential ramifications of Brexit, it is a good idea to talk through your requirements with a currency specialist as soon as possible. While Britain’s future outside of the EU and the impact on transfers remains unclear, with the support of the right currency provider you can maximise your returns and make sure your son gets more euros for your pounds. 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
Civic service: it’s volunteering but with benefits should sign on at service-civique. gouv.fr and look for a mission which interests them in the location of their choice. Some of the missions are overseas. They can then apply online. Educational qualifications are not taken into account but they have to write a motivation letter. Some organisations answer quickly but applicants might have to be patient for a reply from others. Service Civique is popular, so it is best to apply for several to have the best chance of being selected. It is open to French nationals and to members of the European Union, as well as to those of other nationalities who are legally resident. A Service Civique spokesperson told Connexion that young Britons in France will be accepted on to the scheme until at least December 31, 2020, assuming a deal on Brexit is agreed. n The government wants to go further and introduce a Service National Universel, following calls for either a return to obligatory military service or mandatory Service Civique placements. A trial could begin this year. The scheme would be introduced in two phases. The first would be an obligatory period in school at age 16. It would last for up to a month and would include a short period with pupils living together and a community project. This could be in a charity, a public body or the army, police or sapeurs pompiers. A second phase, to be introduced later, would last one to three months. Young people would be engaged in a public-interest pursuit such as heritage or helping others, or a spell in the military. A recent government study of 45,000 teenagers found 75% were in favour, despite a lycée student strike in early December in protest at education reforms, including compulsory civic service.
Homeless charity work made me rethink career CASE STUDY: Tài NGO is 19 and, like many young people, he started a post-bac course but soon realised it was not for him. Instead of biology, he decided he wanted to do social work and opted for a Service Civique to find out more about what it involves. He is in Paris working in a charity called Les Enfants du Canal, which assists people living on the streets. He started last June and will finish later this month. “Every day I go to three different places and meet homeless people,” he said. “We talk and sometimes organise trips to museums or art galleries to offer them something cultural. The eventual aim is for them move off the streets.” He says the experience has been a real education: “I had preconceived ideas, thinking homeless people were all alcoholics, dirty and unpleasant, but I have found this is not true. “We are always welcomed with a smile, and I think what we do is useful and helpful. “I have learnt to interact with homeless people and to be independent because you are often faced with situations where you have to make a decision quickly. “It has put me directly in contact with real-life prob-
Tài Ngo (right), pictured with colleague Etienne Garçon, swapped a biology course for a social work career after starting a Service Civique programme lems and it makes you understand things differently.” It will also help him in his future career: “I know now what I want to do and this experience should help me to get a place to study social work as, in an interview, I will be able to show that I understand more what this job is about.”
I wanted to do some good following Paris attacks CASE STUDY: When Lavan Natkunam (right) was 22, he did not know what to do with his life, having become disenchanted with his post-bac studies. He wasted much of his time getting up late, spending hours on his computer and feeling lost. It was the Paris terror attacks which made him change. “It acted as a spark. There was so much unhappiness around. I wanted to do some good in the world and so I signed up for a Service Civique,” he said. He was the first one to be taken on by Caf, the state family allowance organisation which runs two social centres in Paris. His job was to find a way of giv-
ing the public access to computers and to help them to use them: “It was a new idea so I had to decide how to do it. I was able to set up a space where people could come to use computers and then I gave lessons on how to access and use sites like the Caf, Pôle Emploi and Assurance Maladie. I had not realised that so many people needed help in this way.” He enjoyed his
Photo: Service Civique
SERVICE Civique gives young people the chance to do voluntary work for between six months and a year. They receive a net payment of €580 a month to help with living costs. The scheme was introduced in 2010, and it aims to encourage social cohesion by giving young adults the chance to meet people and experience situations they would not otherwise come across. It can also teach skills volunteers might not have learned at school and give them ideas for future careers. The scheme has grown steadily. In the first year, some 6,000 took part, rising to 140,000 in 2018. More than 11,000 associations, organisations and public bodies are authorised to take on Service Civique volunteers but there is still far more demand from young people than available places. The current aim is to have 150,000 placements a year. The scheme is open to anyone aged 16 to 25 – extended to 30 for people with disabilities – and it attracts the same number of men and women. The average age is 21 and around 40% enter the programme after getting their bac. Another 33% do so after higher studies, and around 24% after leaving school without the bac. It can be taken like a gap year and university students get authorisation to take a break in their studies to do a Service Civique placement. It is also attractive to people who have dropped out of education, as it can help them find something to do while they consider their future. Reasons for taking part, according to a survey, included professional experience, getting involved in social work, and being useful to others. There are different types of mission, ranging from helping in a school or giving information on cutting energy costs in the home to wildlife projects, visiting the elderly who are alone at home, getting involved in sports associations, and organising cultural activities. Anyone who wants to apply
time in the centres so much that he went every day, and got involved in other activities such as helping children with their homework. “It really made me get off my sofa and gave me a new purpose in life.” He went on to get a short-term contract helping people to use computers and is now a student at a renowned computer training school. “Before, I thought you could only be a software designer if you worked in computers. Now, I know there are other openings.” He said Service Civique set him back on track and gave him confidence because he could be useful to others: “It was a boost to be thanked for the work you did.”
Happy New Year to everyone living in ‘tax haven’ France Money Matters
Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains. www.kentingtons.com “France as a tax haven” – a few years ago, we ran a series of seminars with this very heading and they were all well attended, even if only by people wanting to poke fun at the notion (but who actually left confounded). Many people have an incorrect definition of a tax haven in their minds. They think it is a place or country with no tax. Not so – the extended English Collins dictionary states: “A tax haven is a country or place that has a low rate of tax so that people choose to live there or register companies there in order to avoid paying higher tax in their own countries.” Using this definition, it is easy to prove that, for many, simply moving to France made them better off. This is in spite of the recent news that France has again topped the EU tax burden list (this is distorted as it takes into account tax on businesses) or the gilets jaunes protests against rising taxes, particularly on fuel. Is this the case for everybody? Indeed not, but the point being made is that France is not the
high-tax country that everyone thinks it is. The issue with French tax is its complexity. What makses France tax-friendly? The parts system: This essentially shares allowances and thresholds between household members. The more people in the household, the more sharing takes place. In the UK, for example, self-employed people employing their spouses to take advantage of allowances is common. This is not required in France. Even for a small household, this works well. If we take a married couple, Mr and Mrs Smith, of UK state retirement age, where one is receiving pensions of the equivalent of €50,000 per year. UK tax would be around €7,400 (depending on the exchange rate used). The mere act of moving to France means that Mr and Mrs Smith’s tax bill reduces to around €3,730 … pretty much half! One of the confusing things about the French system is the plethora of rules. It can be mind-boggling. People simply look at the tax bands, drawing quick conclusions, and so dramatically miscalculate. What about wealth tax? This tax has been a stumbling block for some, though it does not apply to many people, ie. only to those with a worldwide estate above
€1.3million. The good news is that, as from last year, this is now just a property tax, and so will only be applied to property (and funds investing in property). The government plans to reassess this in 2019 and continue or amend depending on the results. There are allowances to consider, such as 30% on the main home and offsetting all taxation, debt etc. This means that owning a house (maybe a nice chateau) valued at €1.8million and €10million in the bank, gives rise to a wealth tax bill of €0. What about local taxes? We have seen taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière rise significantly over the last few years, but taxe d’habitation, for many people, will be reduced dramatically to zero. Even people with relatively high levels of income (for example, couples with tax-referenced income up to €45,000 per year), will not have to pay this tax by 2020. The new “flat tax” on savings The new tax is 30%. Thankfully, it includes social charges, which are now 17.2%, so actually the flat “tax” is just 12.8%. This does have an impact on assurance vie investments after eight years, which could be taxed at 7.5%, so this adds 5.3%. In the early years, however, the tax-atsource rate starts at 35% + 17.2%. Therefore, the new tax is a huge improvement. With good
financial planning, it is possible to make significant savings being assessed via the declaration, since much of the income from an assurance vie is not even deemed “taxable”. To illustrate that this tax is hardly an issue: If Mr and Mrs Smith (our friends from earlier) were drawing their €50,000 from an assurance vie instead of a pension, their income tax bill would be a huge €0. Even happier New Year! All great but what about the cloud of Brexit? Indeed, we can be as miserable as we like about the politics, but we can be overjoyed that we are here (or looking to move as soon as possible). People are worried about their right to remain, the unknowns on tax and health. If you want to live in France, none of these are issues. Non-EU citizens move to France all the time, with no problems, and tax is covered by tax treaties, which are bilateral agreements, so nothing to do with the EU. There are solutions for health, even if Brexit ends in total disaster. I would reason that if anyone is blaming Brexit for putting off a move to France, their hearts simply are not in it. In conclusion, France is one of the most wonderful countries in the world to live and, what is more, it can be a tax haven and it could be for you. Happy New Year!
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2 Ski France
French Living I January 2019
Planning a skiing holiday? Think beyond just being out on the slopes all day Whether you are looking for a non-stop party or a family friendly atmosphere, France has the perfect winter resort for you. Samantha David lists the differences to look out for
Photos OT St-Lary; inset: Propaganda73
eciding to go skiing is one thing. Actually finding a resort that is perfect for your needs is infinitely trickier: all promise endless snow, mulled wine and blue skies; all of them have ski schools and lifts. How are you supposed to tell the difference? In France, one of the first decisions is: Alps or Pyrenees? Obviously, living closer to one than the other will count, but if both are equally accessible to you, what are the differences? Generally speaking, skiing in the Alps is fast and furious, fashionable and fun. The Pyrenees is more chilled, more family-orientated, more authentic and less self-conscious. Many resorts in the Alps are connected by ski lifts and cable cars so you can ski over several hundred kilometres of mountain. For beginners and intermediates, the number of ski runs available in the resort will not matter as much as it does for experienced skiers who are always seeking a new challenge. Resorts in the Pyrenees have plenty of skiing but slopes are often less crowded, so beginners can learn at their own pace without fearing imminent physical contact with an adrenaline junkie. For most skiers, what is often more important is the overall atmosphere. Frenetic or chilled? Trendy or come-asyou-are? Resorts that offer challenging snow parks attract a more energetic, adrenaline-fuelled crowd than resorts with land art and beginner trails. Nightlife is also another clue. Not everyone goes skiing to ski. Increasing numbers of people go to party. The ‘La Folie Douce’ chain, for example, has venues in Avoriaz, Méribel, Alpe d’Huez, Val Thorens, and Val d’Isère. Each is built on the slopes, usually just beside the cable car, and contains a high-end restaurant, and a cheaper canteen, plus bars and an all-day club atmosphere – with sun-bathing, drinking, music and dancing on a terrace overlooking the slopes. Many people take a cable car to the club for lunch, party all afternoon and take the last cable car down to the resort – to plunge into a vibrant après-ski scene. Not all resorts in the Alps are party central, however; there are quieter, more family-friendly places (Les Saisies, Ardent, and Reberty 2000, for example) but as a rule the Pyrenees offers smaller, more relaxing, resorts with quieter bars and restaurants.
By the numbers
Pay attention to those numbers tacked onto the end of resort names. ‘Les Arcs’ in the Savoie might sound like one resort, but it is actually five separate places. ‘Arc 1600’ was the first ski resort constructed in 1968 above the market town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice and connected directly to the town’s railway station by a funicular railway. The architecture is very Sixties and prices are realistic (because it is so easy to take the funicular down to BourgSaint-Maurice). ‘Arc 1800’ was built in 1974 and is the biggest of the ‘Les Arcs’ resorts. ‘Arc 2000’ was built in 1979 and optimistically named for the turn of the millennium. It is small, quiet and compact, perfect for experienced skiers wanting direct access to the slopes. It can, however, be closed during bad weather, a problem less likely to afflict west-facing ‘Arcs 1800’. (Incidentally, the higher resorts are ski in/ski out, meaning you can put your skis on at the door of your accommodation and ski down to a lift, and ski back down to your door when it’s time to go home.) The newest development (finished in 2008) is ‘Arcs 1950’ which is set around a high street designed to reference a waterfall, tumbling downhill in a series of twists and turns. The architecture of ‘Arcs 1950’ referenc-
Family friendly resorts such as St-Lary, above, have a very different atmosphere to the all-day parties in found some Alpine locations
Resorts that offer challenging snow parks attract a more energetic adrenaline-fuelled crowd than resorts with land art and beginner trails
es traditional low-rise chalets, and even the pedestrianised village centre – which you can ski down – is designed to look as if it grew organically. The shops, bars and restaurants in ‘Arcs 1950’ are beautiful but prices are higher than in stations at lower altitudes. All ‘Les Arcs’ resorts are linked by the Vanoise Express to the 425km Paradiski area, which includes La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry. The same valley is also home to the ‘Espace Killy’ (Val d’Isère and Tignes) as well as ‘Les Trois Vallées’ (including Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens, etc), making it one of the most densely skied valleys in the world.
Cut accommodation costs
Skiing can be an expensive holiday, but one way of bringing costs down is booking your own travel and opting for hostel-style accommodation, available in many resorts. Modern hostels offer family rooms, washing machines, restaurants, and wifi as well as communal kitchens and dormitories, and breakfast is usually included. The International Youth Hostelling Association (fuaj.org) has properties in ski resorts. The Auberge de Jeunesse Chamonix Mont-Blanc offers bed and breakfast plus free shuttle rides to the slopes starting at €23 per night (minimum of two nights). They offer two-day packages from around €60 including one night in the hostel and a ski pass. There are hostels in Chamonix, as well as Chamrousse, La Clusaz and Les Deux Alpes. The-backpacking-site.com has useful
The Pyrenees has its own charms. More resorts are real towns, and because they are smaller, the welcome is personal. A personal favourite is La Mongie, a small resort at 1800m which offers skiing and lounging about in the sun. There is no ice rink, no swimming pool, no prestigious spa. There are two mini-marts, a handful of gift shops, some bars and restaurants and a selection of ski hire places. No nightclub, no disco, no party vibe. This is the place where children can either learn to ski or just play in the snow. Adults can stretch their legs in the sunshine while contemplating the slopes, and lists, while French association UCPA organises cheap sports holidays for people aged from six to 55 years-old. The website ucpa.com offers a week’s skiing from €730 per person including accommodation, ski pass, equipment, lessons, and leisure activities.
More companies are offering skiing holidays for solo travellers. These are not romantic ‘singles holidays’, but holidays for people whose nearest and dearest do not like snow sports. French website copinesdevoyage.com organises ski trips for women travelling solo. Travellers book to go on a planned trip which becomes definite once enough people have signed up. UK sites include solosholidays.co.uk, friendshiptravel.com and solotravel.org but many mainstream travel companies also offer ski holidays for solos.
Learning to ski 3
Confessions of a late convert to winter sports
Photo: Jo Pendered
Photo: Agence Urope
Photo: P Compere
January 2019 I French Living
Connexion reader Jo Pendered (above) started skiing nine years ago, when she was 46. “My husband, Steve, is a really keen skier and I’d always wanted to try it, but never had the chance. “So he took me to Val d’Isère for a week, and taught me – mainly by putting me on a couple of black runs fairly early on!” She admitted that she got stuck, but took courage from seeing a crocodile of five year olds skiing past and decided to copy them. “Skiing is all in your head, it’s about believing you can do it. So for me, seeing those children go past was a trigger,
thinking that if they can do it, so can I.” A keen runner and cycler, Jo said she has always been quite healthy but learning to ski made her feel able to tackle new adventures. “I’m 54 and we’re both retired but I have every intention of skiing for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s fun, the weather is often stunning and the mountains are beautiful. “I would definitely encourage anyone to take it up at any age. But I would encourage everyone to wear a helmet, too many people come a cropper without them. You wouldn’t go on a motorbike without a helmet on, would you?”
Your resort of choice will depend on if you want to head to an après-ski party, stare at the heavens on a clear night (Pic du Midi, top), or relax in a spa (Cauterets, below) after a day on the slopes Photo: Arnaud Spari
once you do get round to strapping a pair of planks to your feet, you’ve got over 100kms of pistes to explore. On a good day, you can see the Spanish border. If you really cannot stand the easy life any more, you could always take the cable car up to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre on the summit above the resort. NASA had a telescope installed there in 1963 to take photographs of the moon in preparation for the Apollo missions. Failing that, a short drive will get you to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, where there are supermarkets, a casino, an 18-hole golf course, and a spa. For a Pyrenean resort which offers yet another spa, and is directly accessible by train, try Cauterets. A real market town, it has access to the ski slopes via a fast cable car, and you can rent a locker and leave your equipment up on the slopes, meaning you do not have to tote it all up and down the mountain every day. For families, St-Lary is hard to beat. It has 100km of ski runs including the challenging 3.6km Mirabelle run, but is also well-equipped for children, with a snow kindergarten, a special park for six to 12-year olds, a toboggan run and a recently refurbished area for beginners. So when choosing a resort, rather than looking at pistes and snow, try considering either a) a purpose-built resort or real village/town; or b) party central or chill zone. But don’t forget to check out offpiste activities and amusements. And if you are opting for self-catering, remember that unless there’s a large hypermarket nearby, you will pay a fortune for groceries.
Photo: Cathy Breyton
Tai Chi and the art of older skiing
Ski instructor Cathy Breyton (above, middle) is 63 and says it’s entirely possible to learn at any age. She uses a method which she calls Tai Ski, which uses elements from martial art Tai Chi, especially finding your balance and shifting your weight, which are key skills in skiing. “Beginners tend to lean backwards, meaning their weight is on the wrong part of the ski and they have trouble controlling the movement. All learners, but especially people over 50, need to transform their fear into a desire to learn, a desire to have fun, a desire to slide. Once that switch has happened and fear has gone, learning becomes easy.” She recommends The Centered Skier by Denise McCluggage. “I took lessons from Denise and she taught me to ski so well that I set the women’s speed skiing records in 1978 and 1980. “Her book is a good place to start the
psychological journey towards enjoying the sensation of sliding.” She says that she doesn’t consider skiing a dangerous sport. “You ski for pleasure, for fun. Tai Ski makes it like dancing on snow. But for complete beginners it’s a good idea to do some exercise before arriving on the ski slopes because falling over isn’t the problem. Standing up again is more often the problem.” The Tai Ski method is particularly good for beginners, nervous skiers and intermediates wanting to ski more effortlessly. She will run group courses and give private lessons at Grand Tourmalet/La Mongie February 3 to 8 and March 9 to 16 2019, and will be in Val Thorens at the end of March. Nine hours of lessons (in English, Spanish or French) over three days in a group of four to six people costs €164 per person. Cathy’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org
French Living I January 2019
Don’t call me an illustrator – I am an artist who creates books for children Photo: D. Desmard
Jane Hanks discovers a few of the secrets of an award-winning author of children’s books
auline Kalioujny writes and illustrates children’s books. She has won two awards in 2018 for her book Promenons Nous Dans Les Bois – the Prix Pitchou at the Fête du Livre de Jeunesse at Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Drôme, and the Grand Prix de l’Illustration awarded at the Museum of Children’s Illustrations at Moulins, Alliers. She is an established author/illustrator and publishes books regularly. Baba Yaga came out in October, and she has another book due for release for the Spring. However, as she explained, it is a long road from loving to draw as a child to having a book published with your name on the cover: What attracted you to writing and illustrating? All children love drawing and being imaginative but most stop when they are older. Artists like me, decide they will not stop being like that. I grew up in a family where my mother and grandmother were both interested in children’s literature and we had a house full of books. I didn’t want to create books when I was young. As a teenager I wanted to be a painter, but I didn’t get a place at Les Beaux Arts and I was devastated. Instead, I went to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. At first I wasn’t keen, but I then found it interesting to learn all sorts of different methods, such as graphic arts, photography and video and to learn how to create an image which will be shared. The wonderful thing about creating a children’s book is that it will be enjoyed all round the country by adults and children. You write as well as draw and paint, so how do you like to describe yourself? I do not like the term illustrator because it is not just about drawing. I prefer to be called an artist who creates books for children. I like to create an artistic adventure from words and images. It gives a great freedom of expression and creativity. I think our work is often undervalued and that the work we do is an art form. I also think it has an important role, as surrounding children with beautiful books is vital to their development and children should have access to art just as adults do. Art helps you understand the world around you. How do you go about creating a book? It takes a very long time. I have masses of ideas, all the time, and they develop slowly into what may or may not eventually become a complete book. I have a sketch
book and little by little a character might emerge. Some ideas have to be discarded along the way and others might suddenly grow when I see or hear something which adds to it, or observe a child who acts in the way I think my character would act. It is a very long process. For example, I am obsessed by flowers, and the way they are constructed and I draw them all the time. For several years, I have wanted to include them as a theme for a book, and now I have eventually come up with an idea that a publisher has accepted, about a young person who goes into a garden and is confronted by the different characters of the flowers and what they represent. Now I am doing the illustrations and it should come out in April. Doing the drawings is really the last step, and, because I have years of practice now, it is the easiest and quickest part, though it may still take some months. However the birth of the book has begun! What are your inspirations? I like to explore the link between man and nature. I think ecological issues are very important and in Promenons Nous Dans Les Bois the wolf is not the big bad enemy as it is in this classic French song, but comes to the aid of the characters in the book and at the end the little girl and
Pauline Kalioujny’s version of the perennial classic children’s story, Promenons Nous Dans Les Bois draws heavily on the influences of stories she heard from her Ukrainian father
When you grow up with two cultures in one country, you often do not understand why you don’t quite fit in
the wolf are merged in the same image. I do not want them just to be for children, but also for the adults who are reading them to their children so that they work on different levels. I am also definitely influenced by the fact that my father was Ukrainian and my mother was French. I was brought up with the fabulous illustrations from Russian books in the thirties and my characters are often pictured in the winter, wrapped up snugly in hoods and soft scarves. The colours I use are often red, black and white. It was just not possible for me to remain indifferent to the legends and the songs of my paternal background. However, I did not go to Russia until I was grownup, but then it made a lot of things fall into place. When you grow up with two cultures in one country, you often do not understand why you don’t quite fit in, until you visit that other country and recognise things in it that are in you, and that are not in the country you grew up in. It can be hard growing up like that, but in the end you appreciate it for the richness it adds to your life. Is France a good place for children’s books? It is one of the best places in the world for illustrated children’s books. There are several publishers and they are very popular. I know Italians who come to work in France because this culture just does not exist in Italy. Why it should be so strong in France, I just do not know.
Can you describe a working day? Today, I am lucky enough to have enough work to concentrate just on my books. For a long time I had to do other jobs to make ends meet. But now I live above my workshop and go into it in the morning. It is a bit like being a craftsperson. I have all the tools of my trade around me and I get to work. I draw and paint. I write and there is a lot of administrative work to do as well; drawing up quotes, answering emails and so on. It is solitary and you have to be disciplined as there is nobody with you to encourage you. Being in my workshop is like being in my brain and so I do also need to go out and have a break. I meet with my editor and my art advisor and I like to work with them in a team. Sometimes I go for a drink in a café for a change of scene and I also like to go to exhibitions and have a rich cultural life I can draw on to add to my books. It is great to live in Paris, to have all that around me. I am often invited to schools and to book fairs so my week in the workshop may well be broken up by a trip. What is it like when you see your work published? It gives me a feeling of great joy. It is a huge struggle to get to that point, but it is worth it. I am happy to be doing what I do. When children ask me questions about the characters in the book and I feel they have entered into the universe I have created, I forget how difficult it all was and it is pure magic. www.paulinekalioujny.com
6 Gardens/Green news
French Living I January 2019
Green-fingered generosity in 2018
he year 2018 has been another success for Open Gardens/ Jardins Ouverts, which has donated €25,000 to charity, €1,500 more than last year. It means that since it was created in 2013, the association has been able to hand out €75,550 in total. It began when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to see if they could raise money for charity and the idea quickly caught on. There are now 151 gardens signed up and the scheme is present in 35 departments and it encourages gardeners of all nationalities to open up their gardens, big and small to the public. Visitors buy a €10 membership card which gives them access to any of the gardens for one year or pay €5 for a Day Pass which allows access to any of the gardens on the day of purchase. There is also the €35 Partner Gardens card, which gives access to privately owned gardens as well as a growing list of prestigious French gardens, which are offering Open Garden members free entry. 40% of gardens are French owned and it has been welcomed with open arms by one of France’s most prestigious gardening shows, the bi-annual Journées des Plantes de Chantilly, held in the grounds of the château de Chantilly, north-west of Paris. During the show in October, there was a ceremony to hand over the money raised to two of this years fifteen charities, A Chacun son Everest and Quelque Chose en Plus. The main beneficiary from the start has been, A Chacun son Everest which runs courses in the Alps to help children and women who are in remission from cancer but need help restoring their confidence after treatment. It received €15,000. Among the other fourteen charities is Dauphin Corse, which received €1,000. It gives financial help towards the treatment of individuals who have an illness or a handicap and in particular to fund unforeseen costs, such as an expensive cure only available in a foreign country. It is run by an extraordinary man, who has overcome his own handicap and now wishes to help others do the same. Thierry Corbalan, from Ajaccio,
Time to clean your car? The Assemblée Nationale has voted to tighten penalties for polluting motor vehicles, a measure which aims to encourage the acquisition of so-called “clean” vehicles. The car penalty “defines a tax additional to the tax on vehicle registration certificates on the basis of their carbon dioxide emissions”, according to the finance bill for 2019. A key amendment was the lowering of the threshold for the application of the penalty to 117g of carbon dioxide per km, from the current 120g. The government says it hopes to generate additional revenue of €31 million, which it says will to help finance, and potentially increase, the buyer’s ‘conver-
Mick Moat, centre, at the Chantilly cheque-giving ceremony; Inset and below: Dauphin Corse’s Thierry Corbalan, and with Chloé Verbauwe
Corsica, used to work for the police, but lost both his arms and a toe after a fishing expedition, when his carbon rod touched an electricity line as he crossed a bridge over a railway line. He had always loved sport and was three times vice-judo champion for France Police. So just months after his accident he started running, and then turned to swimming with a mono-flipper and set himself astonishing challenges. In 2017 he swam 80km non-stop between Montecristo in Italy and Bastia in Corsica, which took him 26 hours. This year he was one of a team of four who swam around Corsica. He used to raise money through his challenges for other charities, but in 2012 he decided to set up his own. “I will help anyone who has a story which touches me and where I think I can help. Recently it was for a man in his sixties who has gallbladder cancer and the only treatment available was in Germany where he had to fund the operation himself. A lady from Guadeloupe Photo: Pixabay
Photos: Fondation Claude Monet
Jane Hanks speaks to the founder of Open Gardens about another successful year and meets a remarkable beneficiary
I have found that there are many, many people who are willing to give up their time for nothing Mick Moat, Open Gardens founder
sion bonus’. It has also called on manufacturers to help with some of the costs. You can see details of current levels of ‘bonus’ – including up to €2,500 for the purchase of an electric car – at www.primealaconversion.gouv.fr New eco post for airport politician Nicole Klein, Prefect of Loire-Atlantique and the Pays-de-la-Loire region, was due to retire at the end of November. But instead, at the age of 66, she became the new Chief of Staff of Nantes-born François de Rugy, who was appointed Minister of Ecological Transition last September, replacing Nicolas Hulot. Mrs Klein had previously impressed ministers with how she handled the shelving of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes new airport plan, and she will now be dealing with equally thorny subjects as conflicts with France’s powerful hunting
who has a rare tumour needed to come to Marseille and we paid to enable her husband to accompany her. For some years we have supported a young girl, Chloé Verbauwe, who is unable to walk and her family cannot pay for all the costly materials she needs.” In 2019 he will be sixty and plans to swim 60km in Lac Léman. He trains by swimming every day of the year in the sea as the majority of the money given out by the association is raised by Thierry Corbalan himself. However he also has partners like Open Gardens and he says he is very grateful for the support he has had since Mick Moat first contacted him. The other charities that Open Gardens supports are Quelque chose en Plus, €1,500, a centre for young people with disabilities; Réseau Bulle, €1,000, a network of assistance and mutual support for families and individuals affected by autism; Costello Syndrome, €1,000, gives help for those with a rare disease which manifests itself in the first months of life and results lobby, the limitation of pesticides in agriculture, the future of the French nuclear fleet and the conversion of coal-fired power plants. ‘Funnel’ lake dries up due to drought A lake in the Doubs department of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté has completely dried up due to the ongoing drought affecting parts of France, resulting in thousands of dead fish. Due to mud hazards (a walker recently got stuck), visitors are no longer permitted at Lake Bouverans, which is also known as ‘The Funnel’. The surface area and water levels of the lake already change frequently throughout the year, due to the underground drainage network on which it is located. The region has been particularly affected by the lack of rainfall this year, with 35 municipalities getting their supply by
in growth and mental retardation; Bouée d’Espoir, €1,000, eases the difficulties and despair of those at increasing risk of marginalisation by helping to set them back on a positive path in life. A Bras Ouverts, €1,000, organises holidays for young people and children with disabilities; Chiens Guides €500, trains and allocates guide dogs for blind and partially sighted people; Marfan Syndrome, €500, helps those with a genetic disorder which affects heart, lungs, skin, blood vessels, bones, joints and eyes and can be life-threatening; Rigolopito, €500, clowns put a smile on the faces of children in hospital; and the following are new this year; Dessine moi un mouton, €500, for families and children with serious illnesses; Rayon de Soleil, €500, to help with financial costs for families with children with serious illnesses such as cancer; MS, Sclérose en Plaques, €500, multiple sclerosis; Les P’tits Doudous d’Aliénor, €500, support for children at Le Mans hospital and APTED, €500, support group for people with neuroendocrine tumours. Next year will see a change as founding member and President, Mick Moat is leaving France, as his wife wishes to live nearer family in the UK. A new President will be chosen at the AGM in February and Mr Moat says he is very sad to leave, but supremely confident that the people taking over will do a good job. He says it has been a wonderful experience: “Doing something like this renews your faith in humanity. I have found out that there are many, many people who are willing to give up their time for nothing and help those less fortunate than themselves.” He says he is proud that nearly 50% of their gardens are now French owned: “It is a tribute to the British that they have introduced something new to the French culture, and a tribute to the French that they have received this new idea with open arms.” He says he hopes more gardeners will join the scheme: “Our target for next year is 200 gardens. We are always looking for more gardeners so welcome anyone who wants to join. More open gardens means more money for charity.” opengardens.eu mobile water tank. Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume has said that an agricultural disaster plan will be put in place for all departments affected by the drought. Swimmer swam in ‘plastic soup’ A long-distance swimmer who completed a tour of France, has said that he swam in ‘plastic soups’ in some areas. Rémi Camus told the France 5 programme C politique, la suite, that two places were particularly bad, both of them in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques: the entrance to the port of Bayonne, and Hendaye, right next to the border with Spain. He said that about “700-800 metres” from the coast, there is plastic in the water three metres thick and 40 kilometres long. “There was an open dump on the Spanish coast that would be used when sea conditions were favourable.”
Photos: Cathy Thompson
January 2019 I French Living
Layered benefits of lasagne bed
Grower’s digest Recycle your Christmas tree To recycle your sapin (Christmas tree) quickly and easily for compost, you need a broyeur végétaux (plant shredder), a wide variety of which are available to buy in stores such as Gamm’ Vert, Castorama and Leroy Merlin. There are three main types to choose from: le broyeur à disque porte-lames (a blade-disc – fast, ideal for small gardens), le broyeur à rotor (rotor crusher, which compresses the branches first) or le broyeur à turbine (turbine mill, ideal for very hard wood). Model shown: Bosch AXT 2550 TC, €419.90; www.castorama.fr. The woodcutter’s story An innovative couple of horticulturalists from Fréjus in the Var have developed a round-the-clock plant watering system that could be ideal for people with plants who are going away on holiday. The Capill ’O feeds a plant 24 hours a day by capillary, via a polypropylene wick immersed in a water reserve. The whole thing is propped up by a frame and plants do not spoil from direct contact with water. The innovation won a prize at last year’s Lépine inventions competition is currently in production by a Dijon firm. Prices will vary from €15 to €25. Under wraps Keep outdoor potted plants and shrubs warm this winter with a breathable white housse. Made of 50 g/ m2 non-woven polypropylene with UV protection, it measures 200cm high and costs €9.95. Permeable and resistant, it lets air, water and light through to keep your plants healthy. www.truffaut.com
This raised bed technique is ideal for growing veggies, says Cathy Thompson
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 a detail of French leafy, wintery glory, as captured by dalpul.
French garden diary
t was clear to me from the pleasing trickle of readers’ courgette and haricot recipes we received that more than a few of you are quite dedicated to your potager. I increasingly share your passion for growing my own and imagine that the influence of my French neighbours – foodies to a man or woman – has something to do with this. But have you noticed that there is, in France, a kind of ‘permaculture’ style that was probably typical decades before the Englishspeaking world discovered it? The garden as a kitchen resource – with the gardener as ‘gatherer’ in season, whether it’s a supply of nuts, fruits, or a few perennial, leafy crops. There are many cultivars of perennial vegetable still popular in France: Chou perpetual Daubenton (a cabbage that doesn’t make heads, but is grown for the young leaves), cardoon, Good King Henry (a spinach substitute), onions for many purposes, and lovage or ‘poor man’s celery’. If I had any flat land, I’d try growing vegetables in lasagne beds. I’ll never forget a friend presenting me with the most superb butterhead lettuces direct from his lasagne bed – right in the middle of a drought. These beds are ideally situated right near the kitchen door, where they can be watered every day. Start by creating raised beds in any shape you fancy – the walls can be of wood, old brick, roof tiles, even tyres (with the added advantage of providing good insulation early in the season). It’s the produce that counts, rather than the shape or look of the beds. You don’t have to lift the turf at the base, but should cut
Attract more wildlife to your garden with high quality food, feeders, nest boxes, plants and more!
the grass and remove any really evil weeds before you start. Lay a cardboard base and get cracking on the growing medium for the bed, alternating layers of woody/carbon-rich material with layers high in nitrogen. The first, high-nitrogen, layer is composed of grass cuttings, weeds, green kitchen waste, chicken manure, coffee grinds, etc. Then a carbon layer: shredded woody prunings, fallen leaves, shredded paper, dead plant material such as the chopped stems of your herbaceous plants after the autumn/winter tidy. Continue to build these two layers up to as much as 45-60cm in height, and water each layer before you add the next. Cover the bed with permeable landscaping fabric and leave to bake! Ideally the bed should be left to mature for a year, but if you want a start this season, you can lay an 8-10cm layer of finished compost/good garden topsoil and plant into that. A quick-fix method for creating vegetable beds that are not raised (and are less water-retentive than lasagne
If I had any flat land, I’d try growing in lasagne beds
beds) is to lay sheets of cardboard onto the ground and then to build up a growing medium by adding a very thick layer of mushroom compost or a soil/manure mix on top of the cardboard. This is very much a no-dig, permaculture type
approach to growing vegetables – they root into the soil below the cardboard – and it works impressively well. Not only does ‘no-dig’ save your back, it also saves the crucial earthworms. For those who garden on sloping land and want to create flat terraces for growing vegetables (again, conserving moisture and making watering easier) you can do this without the expense of actually building raised walls. Try roughly terracing (with a good old spade!) the site into different flat areas and lay landscaping fabric on the steep slopes between each of your ‘flats’. Through slits in the landscaping fabric you can plant evergreen shrubs to create a green ‘wall’ on each slope. Favour bee plants, such as santolina, lavender, hyssop, thyme, marjoram … whatever you fancy. Then, at the top of each slope create a low hedge to retain the soil on your planting terrace. I used box cuttings, directly stuck in in autumn from my own plants, but if you’ve been plagued by the box tree moth caterpillar, try substitutes such as hebe, Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’, Lonicera nitida, Ilex crenata, or rosemary. TIPS FOR THE MONTH Don’t forget to sow onions as early as possible (under cover, in cell trays in colder areas). Check newly planted trees and their stakes to ensure that roots are safe against any rocking by winter winds and that the tree trunks are not being damaged. Damage to the top layer of bark in very young trees can curtail uptake of water and nutrients in spring.
8 The big interview
or the past nine years, retired surgeon Dr Bernard Leménager has willingly flown to war-torn regions around the world to offer his medical expertise as a doctor with arguably the best-known French charitable organisation, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). “I am 69 now. I used to work in a public hospital in France,” he said. “I decided to retire when I was 61 so I could work for Médecins sans Frontières. “For the past nine years I have taken part in five or six missions a year. Half have been in Africa, and half in the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.” Dr Leménager has recently returned from seven weeks operating and saving lives in Yemen, where civil war has raged since 2014 when Houthi rebels, a group of Shi’ite Muslims from the north, overran the capital and forced President Hadi to flee. The President had been supported by Saudi Arabia, which set up a coalition and began air strikes. The conflict, which has become known as the Forgotten War as it has had little media coverage in the west, has left the country’s infrastructure in tatters. MSF calculates that half its medical structures have been destroyed. In 2017, the United Nations estimated that – out of a population of around 27million – more than 20million were in need of humanitarian aid. In October 2018, the UN said the country was about to face one of the biggest famines for 100 years, with 13million on the verge of starvation. MSF has since said that, though there are huge problems in Yemen, the disaster is not on that scale. They point out that it is difficult for journalists to access the country and for facts to be verified and there are many no go zones because of continuous bombing. The medical charity is one of the few to have been able to gain access to the country. It has centres in Houthi territory to the north, as well as the Saudi coalition-controlled south. Between March 2015 and May 2018, MSF treated 81,633 war casualties and 835,333 people in its casualty departments in Yemen, and carried out 64,659 surgical interventions. Another 108,032 were admitted to Cholera Treatment Centres. That is just a fraction of the work it does. In 2018, MSF France undertook operations in, among others, Gaza, Central African Republic, Syria, Libya, Chad, Uganda, and Iraq. It helped the ship Aquarius save refugees in the Mediterranean and cared for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Doctors treated a new Ebola outbreak in Congo. In total, it dealt with 10.6million out-patient consultations and admitted 749,700 patients for treatment. Dr Leménager has been to Yemen several times and described the hospital he worked in the last time he was there: “I was in an MSF hospital constructed out of tents in Mocha, a small town on
‘We operated on a man who was 110, and a 7-month-old baby who had been shot in the stomach’ the Red Sea coast which gave its name to the coffee it used to export from its port up to the 18th century. “It is about four hours from the main city of Aden in the south and this is the nearest hospital to the front line of the war, about two hours to the north. It was opened in August with an operating theatre, a casualty service, an intensive care unit and three wards, two for men and one for women and children. “In all there are 35 beds and, once treated, patients either stay with us or are transferred to the bigger 100-bed MSF hospital in Aden. Though it is under canvas, conditions are good; there is air conditioning and it is well equipped. “Two surgeons and two anaesthetists share the work, and though we can be called on at any time, night or day, we do have time to relax, which is important so that when we do work, we can do it well.” Not all the hospital’s patients are a direct result of the conflict: “We look after both military and civil casualties, as there is no longer any other hospital in the region with facilities for surgery. “Some patients are war wounded, either by bullets, shrapnel or by mines, as there are several of these around. We have operated on a man for bullet and shrapnel wounds who was 110, and a seven-month-old baby who had been shot in the stomach. “One young boy arrived with a tourniquet around his leg, following a shrapnel wound. We were able to save his leg and afterwards he was able to return to his home. We have Yemen staff and there was a wonderful physiotherapist, Farouk, who took great care of him. We also do other, ‘classic’ surgery for the local population, such as removing appendix and caesareans so the work is varied.” Despite the constant threat of violence, Dr Leménager said he rarely felt in any danger while working in the war-torn nation: “There are never too many dangerous situations, though when you go into
The hospital was right in the middle of the two front lines. We received a hundred wounded a day
the town there are two problems. One is crossing the road, because the way they drive is hair-raising and the other from the fact that they say that in Yemen there are more Kalashnikovs than there are homes. Every family owns at least two or three and the men walk about with their guns and fire into the air at random, for fun, which causes lots of accidents. It is a tradition to do so at weddings and once, three bullets pierced our tents from one such occasion. Luckily no-one was hurt.” In 2015 Dr Leménager was in Aden during a battle in the city which lasted three months: “The hospital was right in the middle of the two front lines. “We received a hundred wounded a day. “I was also in Mosul, Iraq, just after it had been liberated from Daesh (ISIS). We were just six or seven kilometres from the fighting. We took in a great number of wounded and it was pretty risky. “On another occasion I was in Syria, but we did not stay very long, because it was very dangerous. The problem with ISIS / Daesh is that we, as doctors could be a potential target and there is a real possibility of being kidnapped. “When you are in places like this there is always a risk. We leave it to the MSF organisers who know what is happening on the ground to assess the situation and they make sure we are never in too much danger. We are there to cure, not to fight.” Dr Leménager may have made light of the dangers, but it only takes one look at the facts to realise the risks he and his colleagues take. In 2016, four medical units supported by MSF were attacked in Yemen. One, a hospital in Abs, in the
Photos on this page: Mathieu Fortoul / MSFG and Rémi Decoster
Dr Bernard Leménager recently returned from seven weeks in Yemen, where he worked – again – with Médecins Sans Frontières. He tells Jane Hanks about the fearless charity’s work
French Living I January 2019
north-west, was hit by an air attack which left 19 dead and 124wounded. One of those who died was an MSF employee. He agrees that not many people in France know about the extent of the conflict in Yemen. “There has been very little about it in the media. Not about the war, nor about the repercussions. “The health system has been completely disrupted so that there is very little access to health care. “There is immense malnutrition and cholera epidemics. I think it is a crisis which is getting more and more dramatic.” And he said the work of MSF was making an incalculable difference to the lives of people in Yemen: “If the hospital in Mocha was not there, there would be no surgery, no help for the wounded, no caesareans. There would be more deaths. “The people in Yemen are really kind and adorable. They do everything they can to make us welcome. And, when I was in Iraq, just after the towns had been freed, they thanked us everywhere we went.” Médecins sans Frontières is arguably the best-known French international charity. It was founded in 1971 in Paris and for more than 40 years it has been giving medical aid to people whose life and health is threatened, mostly by war, but also by epidemics, natural disasters and lack of health care. It operates in 72 countries and prides itself on being independent as it is funded by private rather than government money. “I did not sign up just to help people,” Dr Leménager said. “If I had only wanted to do good works, I could have stayed in
January 2019 I French Living Charlotte Cady from online brocante business Selency
Flea markets move online – and go upmarket, too... Jane Hanks talks to the young entrepreneur credited with giving the traditional French brocante a thoroughly modern new look
F on hand so the charity can react rapidly to any new crisis and stay neutral. It always tries to have medical centres in areas supported by both sides of a conflict. It does not have to waste time persuading public bodies to hand over cash. “Amongst the medical staff there are a great number of young retired but also working doctors who take time out of their annual leave to work for MSF. “When we do a mission all our expenses are paid, including air fares, board and lodgings, and we are given a small sum to cover extra expenses. MSF also employs local people, so that in Mocha we had 150 staff, including medical and administrative workers, and only 10% of us came from outside Yemen.” He is 69, so surely it is a huge commitment and physically exhausting? “I will not be able to keep on doing it for ever, but while I can, I will.”
Top left, Dr Leménager operates on a gunshot victim in Central African Republic. Above, with the boy whose leg he saved in Yemen. Below, carrying out a consultation at a hospital in Ivory Coast shortly after fighting broke out
Photo: Brigitte Breuillac / MSF
France because there is plenty of misery here that needs addressing. “Working for MSF is interesting on a professional, personal and humanitarian level. As a doctor you extend your skills because you see different kinds of pathologies, and for me it is interesting because you meet people from all over the world with different experiences. “There are MSF staff from the UK, Armenia, Pakistan, Australia, the United States and though we are not tourists in the usual sense it is fascinating to get to know about people’s way of life in the different countries we work in.” Charities are often criticised for the way they spend their money, but Dr Leménager feels the MSF does its best: “It is a huge organisation, but it keeps its administrative costs to a minimum. “The fact that 97% of its money comes from private donors means the money is
ans of vide greniers, flea markets and brocantes are buying more and more of their second hand furniture and antiques on line. Rather than getting up early at weekends to stroll around stalls and shops, they are looking at beautifully presented objects from the comfort of home, where they can imagine just where to put this or that object. There are a range of sites, with their own specialities. For example, Luckyfind, for vintage and quality second-hand; Atelier du Petit Parc for Fifties and Sixties objects from France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark; Design Market for highend pieces, and for those searching antiques there is Antiquités en France. ‘Label Emmaüs’ was launched by the charity of the same name in December 2016, and has attracted a new public to those who already know their second-hand stores (where money from sales goes to their charity). Organisers say in the first year they sold 10,000 items and 25% of buyers had never bought from Emmaüs before. One of the first sites – and now one of the most successful – was Selency. It was launched by two young entrepreneurs in 2014, Maxime Brousse, passionate about start-ups and Charlotte Cadé (pictured above), who has always adored brocantes and decoration: “I found I wasted a lot of time going to brocantes and searching on Ebay, so I set up a site to make it easier to find what you want,” Ms Cadé told Connexion. “It has been a pleasant surprise to see how popular it has become. We now have 100,000 objects on line, employ 30 people, sell 100 items a day and it is still growing. We are en plein boom.” She believes she has introduced a new approach to buying second hand: “The emphasis is on decoration, rather than brocante and we take photos to give ideas and show what a room could look like. Our launch coincided with an increasingly eco-responsible public who think that buying old is better than buying new.” The site sells a wide range of styles, with prices ranging from €10-€25,000. Most sellers are professionals and
Selency takes a commission of 25% but private individuals can also sell on the site for a 15% fee. Buyers cover the cost of delivery. She agrees it is not the same as finding the objects yourself and touching them: “Ten years ago no-one would have thought it possible to buy online, but this is another way of buying where you don’t get dusty, and you can take your time to decide whether to purchase or not.” Armel Labbé is a third generation antiques seller, at La-Chartre-sur-le-Loir, Sarthe, with a shop that has been in existence since 1925. Not all dealers welcome the idea of selling on the web, but he says it has brought a breath of fresh air to the business: “The Selency story attracted my attention straight away because I think Charlotte Cadé has given a new image to brocante, modernised the job and brought in a new generation interested in antiques.” He puts his finds on her site, his own and on others and around 50% of his sales are via the internet.
Ten years ago no-one would have thought it possible to buy online, but this is another way of buying
“It has been a massive amount of work. You now have to photograph your items, spend time checking the sites and emails and I now have three rooms dedicated to packing materials. “I like to say that a shop is no longer enough, but that internet is not enough either, so you need both.” He says he uses all social media : “My latest discovery is Instagram. I have posted a photo and found customers outside my door the next day to buy the item! “I am thinking of expanding to use overseas sites, as 2018 has been a difficult year for everyone. It means I will have to spend more evenings working up until midnight, but the internet opens up huge possibilities for both sellers and buyers.”
10 January What’s on
French Living I January 2019
French new year gets off to a flying start La Grande Odyssée, Savoie Mont Blanc January 12–23
Photos: Jiri Vondrak; Inset: Vincent Piccerelle
The Alps’ breathtaking scenery forms the backdrop to this high altitude dog sled race which sees the best mushers in the world go neck-to-neck over the course of 12 days. Plunging through more than 700kilometres of thick snow, the exhilarating race weaves through France’s Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions, taking in 22 different ski resorts before finishing in the Savoie gem of Val Cenis Lanslebourg. La Grande Odyssée is classed as one of the most challenging races of its kind, both for the tough conditions and the different speed challenges for each leg of the journey. After a firework display, the race gets underway at Samoëns passing through the Col du Mont Cenis Base Polaire at 2000 metres, Megève and Les Gets on 15 January. At each village, spectators can feast on giant tartiflettes and mulled wine cooked up by local restaurants, while watching the 14 dog-strong sleds fly by in a flurry of snow. Snowshoeing and wintery walks are on offer or snuggle up with the pups at the end of their long day of racing. grandeodyssee.com/en
More January events Festival Flamenco, Nîmes January 11 – 19
The fire of the Andalusian dance pulls Nîmes out of its wintery hibernation, bringing flamenco’s evocative music and impassioned dancing to the Théâtre de Nîmes and other venues. The city has been showcasing musicians, dancers and singers for over 20 years, featuring both emerging and established artists such as Arcángel (above). Arrive with castanets and a volley of “Olé” because this is one not to miss. theatredenimes.com/festival-flamenco La La Land ciné-concert, Floirac January 5 Justin Hurwitz’ jazzy soundtrack is brought to life by a 75 person-strong big band playing live as blockbuster La La Land shows on the big screen. The Yellow Socks Orchestra accompany the six time Oscar winning film – including one for the best original soundtrack. Sit back and be transported to the land
of showbiz as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap-dance their hearts out on the silver screen. arkeaarena.com/event/la-la-land-cineconcert-billetterie-bordeaux Carte Blanche to Tomás Saraceno: On Air, Palais de Tokyo until January 6 Saraceno’s visionary installations are closer to science than they are art. In this immersive, multidisciplinary exhibition, he continues to examine humanity’s relationship with airborne ecosystems – carbon dioxide, cosmic particles – and ethically reconfigure our interaction with the planet. Step inside the silver bubbles, spidery cobwebs and geometric shapes of this eco-art project, where workshops, concerts and public talks transform the dream-like space into a “cosmic jam session.” palaisdetokyo.com/en/event/carte-blanchetomas-saraceno Foire aux Miel, Lyon, January 12 – 13 Become a veritable bee connoisseur at this fair, dedicated to the joys of honey. Organised by the Rhône Bee-keeping Union, the show covers everything you could ever need to know about the sweet sticky stuff, including tastings, demonstrations and presentations on the world of apiculture. rhone.planetekiosque.com/163-513839-5foire-miel.html Teh Dar Vietnamese Circus, Brest January 16 – 19 From the highlands of south-west Vietnam, an impressive performance of dance, gymnastics and traditional culture comes to Le Quartz stage. Vietnamese tribal tales of animal hunts, the jungle and reincarnation are told through elegant aerial acrobatics, where dancers weave hypnotically through bamboo poles wearing exotic costumes, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful Vietnamese flute music. lequartz.com/Teh-Dar.html
La Semaine Vigneronne, Samoëns January 17 – 21 Nothing says winter in France like days spent racing down pistes then fireside nights with a fine bottle of red. Combining the best of skiing and oenology, every evening of winegrower’s week promises an abundance of good food, wine and company. As well as the art of the bottle, there’s visual art too and winegrowers are more than happy to share their sommelier knowledge. winter.samoens.com/event/1/127685winegrowers-week.html Truffle Festival, Sarlat January 20 – 21 In the heart of the Périgord, spend a weekend in celebration of two prized French delicacies: the black truffle and foie gras. Wander around the market, pausing to notice subtle differences in truffle varieties (usually by their aroma) and watch the fungus sell for eye-wateringly high prices. Cooking workshops reveal the secret to concocting truffle-flavoured dishes and demonstrations explain how specially trained dogs hunt for them, known as the ‘cavage.’ French cuisine does not get more rich and flavoursome than foie gras, so expect to return home well satisfied. sarlat-tourisme.com/fete-de-la-truffe-sarlat Le Festival International de la Bande Dessinée, Angoulême January 24 – 27 Since 1974, visitors have been flocking to Angoulême in celebration of France’s 9th art. From satirical comics for adults to children’s educational fiction (a copy of Astérix and Obélix can be found in every French home) the ‘BD’ as they are known, have a cult following both in France and in many countries around the world. Inside huge festival tents, there are comic book signings, debates, workshops, conferences and artists unveiling their latest projects while illustrated concerts are dotted around the city. bdangouleme.com
La Saint-Vincent Tournante, Vézelay January 26 – 27 Each year this travelling festival is held in a different village in Burgundy, hence the name ‘tournante.’ The festival of wine dates back to the Medieval era and this year, Burgundy’s winegrowers will unite in the idyllic village of Vézelay, to thank the patron saint of the wine harvest. Burgundy’s heavy-hitters: Nuits Saint Georges, Chablis and Mercurey are honoured during dinners, processions and tastings. It is a great chance to discover some of the region’s lesser known – but equally good – vintages. vezelay2019.fr Le Festival International du Film Fantastique, Gérardmer January 30 – February 3 The ski resort of Gérardmer in Vosges turns into an unexpected cultural hub when 100 showings of fantasy films are projected across the big screens of four movie theatres. European and Asian films are shown in their original versions with subtitles and it is a good opportunity to catch new material pre-release. There are also sculptures, literature, theatre and fantastical street performances, as well as video gaming and speciality make-up booths. festival-gerardmer.com Chagall, Du noir et blanc à la couleur, Aix-en-Provence, until 24 March Picasso said “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is” and his colourful paintings provide the perfect break from wintery weather. Chagall was part of many artistic movements, from Cubism to Fauvism and Expressionism, working with an astounding diversity of techniques. Inside the magnificent 18th century Hôtel de Caumont, 130 works of art from the second half of Chagall’s life explore his oscillations between intense colour and monochrome etchings. caumont-centredart.com/node/1530
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.
What’s on/Cultural digest 11
January 2019 I French Living
Dressing up, quietening down
A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life
4. The silent treatment Sharp-witted satirist Florence Foresti became the first French performer to ban the use of mobile phones at concert venues when she played two soldout Paris show in December. Patrons were invited to leave their mobile phones in a special area containing individual electronically sealable ‘Yondr’ pouches – and were not able to access them until after the show or, exceptionally, in case of emergency. The aim, said a statement on her website, was “to avoid pirate recordings and ensure a link with the audience”. US rocker Jack White used the same system when he played the city’s Olympia in July 2018.
Photo: Mucem/Lisa Ricciotti
2. Small screen, bigger future Ile-de-France’s smallest cinema – housed in a former barn – which was under threat of closure due to lack of funding, has been saved thanks to new subsidies. The 50-seat art-house cinema in Monsen-Montois, a small village in Seine-etMarne with less than 500 inhabitants, was opened in 2002 by Michel Le Clerc, a former documentary director. Part of the deal, agreed with the local Pôle Emploi, will see the cinema’s projectionist retained for six months on a salary of €800 for a 26-hour week, with 70% of it covered by the State. On average, 175 local film goers attend screenings at the picture house each week. Donations can be made via www. cinemons.fr and are 66% tax deductible.
On danse? Mucem Marseille 23 January – 20 May “Alors on danse,” says Stromae, one of France’s favourite singers. In the spirit of Stromae, Marseille’s newest cultural institution le Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée unveils ‘On danse?’ Inside the iconic waterfront building, the plethora of ways in which the human body can move are explored through film, documentary, sound tracks, ethnographic clips and sculptures (left). It is a relaxing experience: stand up, lie down or sit down in the immersive exhibition space. Dance is traditionally practiced in world cultures, employed in contemporary parties and is a natural part of human movement and social exchange. It is as prevalent in the every day as it is in raves, formalised choreography and carefully rehearsed performances. The exhibition takes the three pillars of space, time and body to ask the question ‘how do we dance?’ www.mucem.org/en
3. Le Bataclan is back Le Bataclan rock venue, which was the scene of a deadly terrorist attack in 2015, began a new chapter in its history in November with new owners (the Lagardère group) and a new woman at its helm – Florence Jeux, former director of the annual Francofolies music festival in La Rochelle. The concert hall in the 11th arrondissement, which was completely renovated in the months after the tragedy of
Photo: © Wikipedia/Georges Biard
Christie’s auction house in Paris is in charge of the sale of coats, dresses and accessories, with half of them being sold online and the other half in its salons. The actress was styled by YSL both off and on screen, notably when she played the secret call-girl in 1967’s Belle de Jour. “These are the creations of such a talented man who only created to make women more beautiful,” said the 75-yearold, who first met the designer aged 22.
4 5. Pictures tell a thousand words Photography is the preferred medium of many art fans and often an entry point for those beginning a collection. However, new figures reveal that the sale of photographs only accounts for 1.1% of the world’s art auction revenues. A report by art market analysts Artprice, to coincide with November’s huge Paris Photo fair, found that the prices of photographs remain largely limited. One of the main reasons, it said, is the ever-increasing ease with which images can be copied and distributed thanks to digital formats. Paris Photo, which showcased and sold images from 168 galleries (see below) in 30 countries, confirmed the medium’s popularity with a 6.7% year-on-year rise in visitor figures, and an increase in foreign visitors of 40%. Photo: © Le Laveur de carreaux, Anna Malagrida; RX Galerie
Photos: Château de Chambord. Inset: © Léonard de Serres
1 La Folle Journée, Nantes, 30 January until February 3 Nantes hums with the sound of classical music during La Folle Journée, which sees nearly 250 classical music concerts unfold over the course of five days. Short, bite-sized performances of 45 minutes come with a very reasonable price tag while for enthusiasts or for budding enthusiasts, there are plenty of opportunities to chat with composers and musicians. The festival also pledges to support emerging musicians. Since it started in 1995, La Folle Journée aims to make classical music accessible to the widest possible audience. This year’s edition is dedicated to musical creations born during travelling, modelled on Mozart’s symphonies that were inspired by his voyages across Europe, in particular to Prague and Paris. In addition to Nantes, this year the music can be heard in concert halls across 11 towns in the Pays de Loire, from January 25 to 27. La Folle Journée has also taken place in Spain, Poland and Japan. follejournee.fr/en
Photos: Tomoaki Suzuki, Hikage, 2017; Corvi-Mora, London; Marcus Leith
November 13 2015, symbolically reopened with a concert by Sting on the day before the first anniversary of the attacks. 90 concert goers were killed by gunmen while watching a gig by US group Eagles of Death Metal.
Photo: Still from Belle de Jour
1.Frocks for the memories French actress Catherine Deneuve will have plenty of wardrobe space at the end of this month, as around 300 items of her clothing, all made by Yves St Laurent, will be auctioned off. Many of the pieces being sold are bespoke creations by the bespectacled haute couture icon, who died in 2008.
French Living I
When Ritz met Escoffie Jean-François Mesplède on the unique chemistry between two giants of the hotel and culinary worlds that combined to luxurious effect
he partnership between César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, sealed in Monte Carlo, was one of the most fortunate events in their lives,” said Ritz’s wife Marie-Louise. She goes on to say that although Ritz had fully grasped the importance of exceptional cuisine during his years at the Grand Hôtel de Lucerne, he constantly ran up against obstacles when attempting to put the theory into practice. As for Escoffier, his lack of understanding prevented him from fully exercising his considerable talents. From the moment they met, their compatibility worked its chemistry. So while César Ritz knew exactly how to taste a new sauce and give useful advice on making it, Auguste Escoffier could advise him on the size of dishes and bowls. Both innovators, Ritz was brimming over with ideas on building and furnishing hotels, the choice of staff uniforms down to the smallest details, and Escoffier was already reflecting on the indispensible reorganisation of the kitchens, an operation he carried out a few years later. To quote Marie-Louise Ritz again: “they both adored simplicity.” With one man intent on getting rid of ridiculous baubles and faded fabrics, the other was eliminating indigestible garnishes that enhanced nothing, simplifying the menus, going so far as to turn his back on some of Antonin Carême’s edicts from the previous century that he now considered obsolete. While César was studying the hygienic measures to establish in hotels, Auguste was reflecting on the digestive and nutritional aspects of the food he would serve to his clients. A veritable revolution was taking place in the hotel and restaurant businesses, with the two men who welcomed the most illustrious personalities to their establishment taking the lead. In the Guide culinaire, subtitled Aide-mémoire de cuisine pratique, begun in 1898 and finally prefaced on November 1, 1902, Auguste Escoffier gave a wealth of know-how and recipes to cooks. He stressed the importance of simplifying the outward trappings of cuisine. This would not
The tables were returned to the workshop to have their legs shortened by barely an inch
with just a hint of irony, said, “Why not call it ‘Grand Marnier’?” Lapostolle agreed enthusiastically. Many years later, the liqueur was earning him a fortune. So when Ritz, Lapostolle’s good angel, asked him for help, the rich man readily advanced him the money he needed to finance the eight-day option. César Ritz then resigned from the Savoy, retaining Partners César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier the right to found hotels anywhere he pleased, on either side mean that it would be devalued – of the Atlantic. For the moment, he quite the contrary. Since tastes are was starting in Paris. Escoffier was of perpetually becoming more refined, course embarking on the adventure cooking must become more refined with him. He still had to find a good to satisfy them. architect. Ritz knew precisely what And now to the Ritz we must go. At was required to fit out a hotel with the Savoy, Ritz and Escoffier introthe greatest elegance, but he admitted duced the English to the art of fine that he had no idea where to begin. dining. Gourmets flocked to the stylBy chance, Charles Mewès crossed ish dining room. Benoît-Constant his path. He was just the right man. Coquelin and Bernhardt, the wellRitz explained to him that he wanted known actors, made a point of his hotel to be the ultimate in elepatronizing the restaurant whenever gance, the first truly modern hotel in they were in London. “Boni” de Paris: “My hotel must be the last word Castellane, politician, writer, dandy, in modernity. Mine will be the first and esthete, had his usual table there. modern hotel in Paris, and it must be It was said that thanks to its very hygienic, efficient, and beautiful.” capable management and excellent Ritz did not want the establishment kitchens, the Savoy was pushing the to resemble a grand hotel; rather, it borders of France as far as London. should have the atmosphere of an There, Escoffier created the filets de aristocratic home, one where several sole Coquelin, homard aux feux étergenerations had been living happily. nels, la volaille à le Derby, and les cuiThe smallest details that would prosses de nymphes à l’aurore, which had vide comfort were given close attenthe Prince of Wales himself tasting tion; the kitchens were equally imporfrogs’ legs. It was there, too, that he tant. Escoffier provided his wealth of created the famous Peach Melba that experience, and Ritz took a close would appear on the Ritz menu. interest in the ovens and iceboxes, Yes, the Ritz. For many years, César asking the technician who was installRitz thought longingly of Paris, a city ing the appliances endless questions. he had fallen in love with at a young The main dining room, called the age. It was his hope to create the perRégence, which opened onto a large fect hotel there, one that would be difgarden, also involved lengthy discusferent from all those he had managed sion between Marie-Louise Ritz and until then. At place Vendôme, the the two men. They were well aware building adjacent to the Ministry of that the surroundings in which the Justice had just been put up for sale. cuisine would be served were nearly What Ritz wanted was to establish his as important as the cuisine itself. hotel there. It would be the ne plus On June 1, 1898, every detail was ultra of elegance, combining every ready for a memorable inauguration. refined amenity that a prince could Up until the last minute, César Ritz dream of having in his own abode. bustled about, rectifying details here This was a fine idea but one on and there. He realised that if half the which the partners of the Ritz Hotel chairs were transformed into armCompany were not too keen. The chairs, guests would linger longer at price for the “small building” was too the table, so he returned them to the high for what they wanted. Ritz did cabinetmaker to add armrests and not give up, and in the end, the day upholster them with the right fabric. was saved by nothing other than a The tables were judged to be too liqueur. It is a story worth telling... high and uncomfortable. They were When he was at the Savoy, an indusreturned to the workshop to have trialist by the name of Marnier their legs shortened by barely an inch Lapostolle introduced himself to César Ritz one day. He had just creat- and delivered in the nick of time to be installed in the dining room, ed a liqueur, which he wanted his where they were hastily covered opinion on. Ritz approved heartily with Damascus linen and laden with of the drink, complimenting the man shining silver and delicately engraved who, pleased with himself, asked him crystal, certain to satisfy the crowd of if he could suggest a name for it. eminent personalities gathered for César Ritz eyed Marnier Lapostolle, this prestigious event. a short, pretentious gentleman, and,
Beef chuck in red wine beneath a Comté veil Serves 4 Ingredients 1.6kg beef chuck 50ml peanut oil 200g onions 200g carrots, peeled and cut into pieces 1 stalk celery 1 clove garlic 750ml red wine 1.5l beef consommé 1 bunch mixed herbs (chervil, coriander, and tarragon), a few sprigs each 1 truffle (20g), sliced 8 thin slices Comté cheese 16 green asparagus 80g butter 6 artichokes Juice of 1 lemon 50ml olive oil Salt and pepper Beef consommé ingredients (3 litres) 1.5kg beef chuck and blade 1 oxtail, cut into pieces 1.5kg beef bones 6l water 2 large onions, cut into halves Cloves, 2 carrots, 1 stalk celery 2 large leeks, 1 bouquet garni Black peppercorns and salt
Extract and recipes from Ritz Paris, published by Flammarion. Recipe photographs by Grant Symon
For the consommé: Place all the meat and bones in a large stockpot. Pour in the cold water, and bring to a boil. Skim well. Leave to simmer, skimming fre-
quently, halves o stud one Peel and Chop t the leeks aromatic exceptio 4-to-5 h hour of c and fat o strain th
1. Brown the pe garnis garlic) conso gently 2. Remo liquid is thic 3. Cut th arrang slices Cook Cook water then s 4. Peel th water them should with s 5. To pla with t Arran artich the sa
Food notes 13
I January 2019
for 10 minutes. Char the onion on the burner until black, and e half-onion with cloves. d wash all the other vegetables. the carrots and celery, and tie s into a bundle. Add all the c garnish to the pot, with the on of the salt. Simmer gently for hours. Season with salt after 1 cooking time. Skim the scum off regularly. Finally, carefully he broth.
n the beef chuck in a pot with eanut oil. Add the aromatic sh (onions, carrots, celery, and ). Pour in the red wine and beef ommé. Add the herbs. Simmer y, with the lid on, for 3 hours. ove the beef chuck. Strain the d, and reduce the sauce until it ck and tasty. he beef into thick slices, and ge the truffle and Comté cheese on top of each piece of meat. under the grill for a few seconds. the asparagus in salted boiling for a few seconds. Refresh them; sauté them in the butter in a pan. he artichokes, and dip them in with the juice of 1 lemon. Cook in a pan with the olive oil. They d retain their crunch. Season salt and pepper. ate: Place a serving of beef the melted cheese on each plate. nge the asparagus and sautéed hokes on the side. Add a pool of auce.
The carnivore’s classic that evokes raw emotions In our series providing a sideways look at French food, we examine the ever-divisive, uncooked steak tartare
iven the inexorable spread of veganism and vegetarianism (France, perhaps surprisingly, is included in this unstoppable rise), it is likely that one day – perhaps sooner than we all think – meat-eaters will be in the minority. And when that comes to pass, one of the off-menu, naughty, morally dubious, seemingly rank, or plain odd-yet-delicious dishes that any self-respecting carnivore might seek out, is steak tartare. Its concept, with origins in Eastern Europe and later the USA, is certainly wacky, if straightforward. Like a deconstructed hamburger, it is a mix of seasoned and chopped steak with a few flavour-giving trimmings such as capers, Worcestershire sauce and onion mixed in, and topped with a raw egg yolk to be stirred through at the last minute, for added goo and goodness.
When the dish first appeared in the French foodie bible, Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire, in 1921 it was called steack à l’Americaine and served sans egg yolk. Its name referred to the tartar sauce (a gherkin mayonnaise) it was served with. By 1938’s edition this had morphed into the dish we know today, but ‘tartar’ stuck. Some people worry about steak tartare’s associated health risks and while properly kept raw meat is fine, those with weak immunity might want to steer clear. The advice is: if making your own, always try to buy the very freshest, high quality meat. Be it a moral or animal welfare stance that drives a vegetarian switch, or other environmental concerns about the impact of epic-scale cattle rearing, meat-free living is here to stay. Steak tartare, like the edible, Armagnac-soaked finch ortolan (illegal, of course) and foie gras (clinging to legality but still widely enjoyed in France) will become even dirtier words. What odds on Paris being home to blacked-out, sidestreet speak-easys for steak tartare aficionados in the year 2070?
Warm the heart with a raclette... by candlelight
Ale and hearty: new beer range suits British taste
In ski chalets across France, weary skiers are tucking into cheesy raclette suppers this winter, to replenish energy levels. But why not give the soirée a modern twist with this stylish, foldable ‘Yeti’ set from Cookut, a Lyon company founded by three young innovators. It uses tea lights to heat a small tray full of unctuous cheese – wait for it to melt then spoon over your meat and potatoes! Also available in baby blue and pink. €14.95 per tray from www.cookut.com.
The penchant for craft ales is booming in France (see Trending in our October edition), so much so that Casino supermarkets now have their own ‘cave à bières’ (beer cellar) instore. The firm has worked with two breweries and a ‘bièrologue’ to launch a range of artisanal beers (€2 for 33cl) called La Collective du Houblon. Featuring hoppy tipples which will be familiar to British beer drinkers, they even have English names, such as Amber Ale, IPA and Golden Ale.
Vanilla Mille-Feuille, Ritz-Style Ingredients For the puff pastry: 100g plain flour 350g butter 100ml cold water 7g sel de Guérande 200g stoneground organic flour 25g melted butter Icing sugar
For the pastry cream: ½ vanilla bean, 100ml milk 10g butter, 1 egg yolk 20g granulated sugar 10g cornstarch 10g cake flour 10g gelatine 120ml whipping cream
Method for the puff pastry 1. A day ahead, prepare a beurre manié: use the dough hook of your mixer to combine the cake flour and the butter. Spread out the beurre manié to form a square. Cover with waxed paper, and chill. 2. To make the détrempe (the dough before the butter is incorporated): still using the dough hook, combine the water and salt, and then the stoneground flour with the melted butter. Do not overmix. Cover in plastic wrap, and chill. 3. The next day, envelope the détrempe (the second mixture) within the first (the beurre manié). Roll out, and fold over twice. Leave to rest. An hour and a half later, roll and fold two more times. An hour and a half later, repeat. An hour and a half later, roll out the dough to make an even sheet of puff pastry (less than 2mm thick). 4. Place this sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of waxed paper on a baking sheet. Set a wire rack over it, and bake at 175°C for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden colour. 5. When done, cut out 12 rectangles, 15 x 3.5cm). Sprinkle with icing sugar through a small strainer, and bake at 240 °C for 2-to-3 minutes to caramelize the pastry. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on a wire rack. Method for the pastry cream 1. Scrape out the vanilla seeds into the milk, and bring the milk and butter, with the vanilla seeds and bean, to a boil. Whip the egg yolk with the sugar until pale and thick. Add the cornstarch and flour. Mix again until smooth. Pour the boiling milk over the egg mixture; then return mixture to the saucepan, and cook for three minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and add the gelatine, whisking so that no lumps form. 2. Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry dish. Cover with plastic wrap flush with the surface, removing any air bubbles, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. When the pastry cream is cool, transfer it to a bowl, and whip again until perfectly smooth. 3. Beat the whipping cream, and carefully fold it into the vanilla pastry cream. Chill until needed. To assemble the mille-feuille Spoon the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 12mm tip, and pipe out two lines onto a rectangle of caramelized pastry. Repeat the procedure a second time, and sandwich four layers together. Top with a layer of puff pastry.
14 Olive oil
French Living I January 2019
Fruits of the indestructible olive tree Photos: Jérôme Jouve,Oliu di Corsica
High-end olive oil is all the rage in France. Jane Hanks visits a producer in Corsica and learns about the pressing process
he very first olives in France are harvested in October, but the main period is from November to January, with some picked right up to May. The timing depends on the variety of tree, method of harvesting and the local climatic conditions. It is very unlikely, however. that the olive oil you buy will come from France as the country produces just 0.16% of the world’s olive oil, and just 4% of the oil consumed in France. Most of it comes from Spain. Overall olive oil prices are going up and due to climatic problems 2016/2017 was disastrous with just 3,000 tonnes produced compared to 6,000 tonnes in 2015/2016. It is thought this year’s harvest will be better. In France, concentration is mainly on oils of quality and 27% of oils have an AOP label. There are four regions: 66% is produced in PACA, 20% in Occitanie, 10% in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and 4% in Corsica. Though production is small in Corsica, it is an area where the production of olive oil is on the increase and where olive oil of a very high quality is being produced after years of abandon. Trees over a thousand years old are still producing fruit and new varieties, specific to the island have been developed by agricultural researchers and from 2017 have been planted for future crops. Up until the 1980s the production of oil on the island had dwindled to almost
Olive producers say there are at least as many types of oil as there are wines
zero from a flourishing commerce at the beginning of the twentieth century due to the two World Wars, the rural exodus and the economic depression. Now it has an AOP label, with 176 producers selling 127,000 litres a year at an average price of €20 a litre. Daniel Cartayrade was one of the first Corsicans to see the potential of the island’s thousands of neglected olive trees: “The extraordinary virtue of the olive tree is that it hardly ever dies”, he says, “so with a little pruning and clearing away of the undergrowth the trees were still there to give us their
olives. Some of the trees I look after are 700, 800 or even 1,000 years old.” There are two ways of harvesting olives in Corsica, and bottles are labelled according to the method used; either Recolte sur l’arbre or Recolte à l’ancienne. Mr Cartayrade inherited his passion for olives from his grandmother and sticks to the old ways, and was one of only six producers to do so in 2017. “In February, where I live at Zilia up in the mountains of the Balagna region in the North east, the olives start to ripen up. I put nets around the trees and let the olives fall naturally when they are ripe. Every evening I check the nets and nearly every day I have enough to take to the mill.” Because all the olives are ripe when they are collected the resulting oil is soft and rounded with hints of the flavours of the surrounding aromatic plants which the fruit readily absorbs. The disadvantage is that it is labour intensive and as the tree is left to its natural life cycle it only produces fruit every two years. “For me it is a positive decision to let the trees continue to live at their own rhythm”, says Mr Cartayrade. “I do not water them or add fertiliser, though I have to treat them against the olive fruit fly, but only when absolutely necessary. I think it gives a better oil, less bitter and more in line with tradition.” From 60 trees, he produces between 1,500 and 2,000 litres, which sells quickly because of its quality, but he cannot make a living wage from it and has a daytime job.
From one oil to another
The President of the Syndicate for olive producers in Corsica is Sandrine Marfisi. She originally worked in marketing for an international oil company but gave it up when she married a Corsican. For the past fifteen years her workplace has been in the most beautiful of sites imaginable, an olive grove by the Mediterranean, the silvery leaves of the trees reflecting
Above: Olives that fall naturally are ripe and produce a soft and rounded oil, while some are sharper using the modern method of shaking the olives off using a machine (right); Inset: Sandrine Marfisi, President of Corsica’s olive oil producers’ syndicate
against the deep blue of the sea beyond. She has older existing trees but has also planted new trees and grafted new plants on old trunks. She produces 3,000 litres a year from six hectares and her oil has won many prizes, including gold from the prestigious Paris International Agricultural Show. She needs on average 5kg of olives to produce one litre of oil. She harvests her olives using a hand held machine which both vibrates the branches and combs the fruit off into the nets below, so all the olives from one tree are collected at the same time. Though still extremely physical work, with seven hour days going from one tree to another, it is more economically viable than the older method, and the one used the most widely. Because all the olives are harvested in one go, fertilisers are used and high producing varieties chosen, the tree will produce olives every year. Some pesticides are used against the olive fruit fly. Not all the olives are ripe when picked which means the resulting oil is sharper. As you taste it, the oil has a smooth flavour at the front of the mouth, with a spicy kick as it reaches the back of the palate. Olive producers say that there are at least as many tastes and types of oil as there are wines. Mrs Marfisi has her own mill, which is unusual, but as she has a favourable position on the coast her olives are the first to ripen in October and the 28 AOP approved mills on the island are not yet in full production. Old traditional mills with stone wheels have now been replaced by modern aluminium ones, which do the same job but reach European standards. “The olives are milled on the same day they
are picked,” says Mrs Marfisi. “This is important as they quickly lose their health and taste benefits. First they are washed and all the leaves, dust and twigs removed. They are ground into a pulp and then pass into a chamber with a bain-marie where the water is heated to a maximum allowed temperature for AOP olive oil of 27°C. The pulp is churned in this chamber for 30 minutes. It then goes into a turbine where the oil is separated and siphoned off into tanks. Later on I will blend the oils to make up what will be that year’s oil, which is then filtered before bottling. Every year it will be different.” She also explained that the terms Virgin and Extra Virgin olive oil are strictly regulated by European law which relate to the composition of the oil. The faster the olive is turned into oil, the lower the acidity level and the greater benefits for health and flavour. Extra Virgin must have an acidity level less or equal to 0.8% and Virgin must have an acidity level less or equal to 2%. She also explained that the term ‘cold pressed oil’ is no longer relevant as modern mills are so efficient that they can extract nearly all the oil from the olives in the first pressing. In the old mills the producers would reheat the pulp after the first extraction and then press it a second time to get higher yields, and the superior oil came from the first, cold pressing.
Conservation advice: Keep oil away from direct light and heat. Close the bottle well after each use. Avoid changes in temperature. It is best to eat Extra Virign oil within 18 months of bottling and Virgin Oil within 12 months. Corsican olive oil is best eaten uncooked on salads and as a dressing on fish or poultry dishes.
Photo: Chocolatrium Atelier
arc Cluizel and his sisters Sylvie and Catherine are the third generation to run Manufacture Cluizel, the family choc-
olate business. “My grandparents created the company, my grandfather was a pâtissier from Lyon,” says Marc. “His wife Marcelle ran a sweet shop, and together they set up a combined pâtisserie, chocolaterie and delicatessen in Rambouillet. “After the First World War, they moved to Paris but in the currency crash and subsequent inflation, they lost most of their money. Then suddenly my grandmother inherited a house in Damville, in Normandy. So he decided to make his filled chocolates there, and supply them wholesale to other shops. Gradually, the business grew and by 1964 the company had 50 employees.” The company was eventually taken over by Marc’s father, and in time by Marc and his sisters and today, fulfilling their grandparents’ dream, they have five shops in Paris. “We own the company together. We all live in the shops and own them. Sylvie does the finance, Catherine manages the shops in Paris, I deal with the manufacturing side.” The family have established two ‘chocolatriums’; one in Damville and one in Berlin, USA (just south of New York). “They are like a cross between a museum and a workshop where people can come and learn about chocolate tasting and about the difference between the chocolates we make and others. We explain the difference between Cluizel chocolate and other chocolate.” One of the company’s particularities is that Marc Cluizel buys directly from the cocoa farmers, cutting out the middlemen. “Cocoa growers get around €1-2 per kilo from a negotiator, but I buy direct and pay them around €5-7 per kilo. I pay a fair price because I know the work involved. And, of course, it means we use sustainably farmed beans and I can demand the best quality. We’re the only family company in the world which makes chocolate from beans bought direct from planters selected by word of mouth, and sealed by a handshake.” Cluizel’s chocolatrium and boutique in Damville, Eure, is open all year round (Tuesday-Saturday) and makes a fascinating visit for all the family. See www.cluizel.com for addresses and opening hours of their Paris shops.
Artisan cheese of the month: Chevrotin Photo: www.chevrotin-aop.fr
Meet the producers
Many factors contribute to a wine’s final sale price, and not just for top end bottles such as Mouton Rothschild and Margaux (inset)
Wine and Cheese 15
January 2019 I French Living
With production techniques dating back to the 17th century, this goat’s cheese from the Alps is made from the milk produced by a single herd of goats, 80% of which must be from the same breed of alpine chèvre. It is formed into a convex disk shape not dissimilar to its more famous winter counterpart Reblochon – the staple of skier’s favourite tartiflette made with cow’s milk. Unusually for a goat’s cheese, Chevrotin is an uncooked, pressed cheese. It is designated an AOP – Appellation d’Origine Protégée. You can buy in situ throughout Savoie, such as from husband and wife producers Gérard et Caroline Cruz-Mermy at La Chèvrerie des Thoules.
Local speciality: Rillons confits
Rillons confits from Vouvray in the Loire are made from deboned pork shoulder which is cooked low and slow, resulting in melt-in-themouth tenderness. Two added twists: the meat is given yet more flavour from the caramelised cooking juices and further enhanced by the addition of local wine. To serve, it can be gently reheated in a bain-marie and eaten with mashed potatoes. Available in 450g jars from www.bienmanger.com
How much should a bottle of wine cost? Jonathan Hesford reveals the hidden costs that dictate a bottle’s final price tag A year in the vineyard
often get asked, both by visitors to my winery and by friends outside the wine world, “How come some wines cost so much more than others? Can they really be worth that much money?” It is often a difficult question to answer because it becomes a personal issue based on wealth and how much they know and love about wine. Some people try to work out how much a bottle of wine should cost based on how much it costs to make. Some by trying to find an objective level of its quality. For lower-priced wines, this can be done to some extent but once we get into higher-priced wines, desirability and rarity take over. This month we will look at the costs of producing a bottle of wine. Next month we will look at why the price asked for that wine may have little to do with the cost of production. Looking at basic level wines – the kind 99% of people buy and drink – we can use production costs to work out the lowest price it could be sold for and see how additional costs add to the price. We can add up the costs of all the work in the vineyard, from pruning through to harvest, and divide that by the yield. Those costs will differ depending on the amount of care or the difficulty of the growing conditions. A meticulously tended organic vineyard on a steep slope costs twice as much to run than a mechanised one on flat land. Yields can vary
The value of a bottle of wine is not how much it costs but how much people are prepared to pay for it
from as low as 15hl/ha for old vines in dry, stony soils to over 100hl/ha for productive vines in fertile soils. So the yield is more important than the methods of farming. So the cost of producing the grape juice could be anything from €0.20 to €3.60 per bottle. Winemaking costs are perhaps more standardised but making vast quantities is cheaper than working with small volumes. Winemaking equipment is expensive but it’s a long term-investment so difficult to cost the production of a bottle but it is probably somewhere between 5c and 25c. Ageing in new oak barrels is the most expensive extra cost. A new barrel adds about €2.50 to the cost of a bottle. Hiring a top consultant oenologist can also add significantly to the expenses. Bottling costs are also volume dependent and types of bottle, label and cork can increase the cost but we are still talking about relatively small differences. At the bottom end, with millions of similar bottles, plastic corks and cheap labels it probably costs about 30c per bottle. For a small run with heavy-weight, custom bottles and the most expensive corks and labels, we could be reaching €4.50. So we can work out that making a basic wine from the highest-yielding, mechanised vineyard and cutting as many costs as possible in the winery and packaging, we arrive at a figure around €0.55. Meanwhile a low-yielding, meticulously hand-tended vineyard whose fruit is handled in small volumes with ageing in new barrels and packaged in the most luxurious fashion could cost as much as €12 to produce. So that gives us some idea of how the cost of producing a wine can vary. Yet it does not explain why some wines cost considerably more than €12 to buy. That is because we have not included any capital costs for the purchase of the vineyard land, the winery or any of the administrative and financial overheads. We have not included any profit for the producer. Nor have we looked at getting that wine to the consumer and encouraging them to buy it.
A hectare of vines can cost as little as €8,000 in the Languedoc to around a million in regions like Burgundy, Northern Rhône, Pauillac and St-Emilion. Investments in land are often ignored when costing wine but it stands to reason that wine from a hugely expensive piece of land would cost a lot more than one from a cheap, readily available plot. Shipping wine, even half way around the globe, is relatively cheap. Probably no more than 75c per bottle if done in large volumes. However, getting that wine into a shop may involve it passing through several hands, each of which takes a cut, adding between 10% and 120% to the cost. France has a low level of duty on wine, only about 3c per bottle. But the UK and Ireland tax wine often many times its cost. The duty on wine in Britain is £2.16 a bottle and VAT is applied to that and all the other costs. Getting people to buy the wine does not come for free either. Wineries work on giving away between 10 and 15% of their production in samples of some kind. Entering competitions, entertaining critics and potential customers, attending wine fairs and employing sales and marketing staff adds to the cost of the wine. Add in advertising and we can be talking several Euros per bottle. Getting people to pay more money costs more money. I once saw costings for a $100 Napa Valley Cabernet where the majority of the costs were the salaries of the consultant winemaker and the salesman. When you consider all those factors, it is easy to see how a wine can easily triple in cost before it reaches the consumer. However, the value of a bottle of wine is not how much it costs, it is how much people are prepared to pay for it. Next month I will talk about how that value can be distorted and what good value actually means in the world of wine. Jonathan Hesford has a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology and is the winemaker of Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon – www.domainetreloar.com. If you have questions on this column, email him at email@example.com
French Living I January 2019
Couture chic of Dior’s country retreat
Photos: André Svetchine/Collection Luc Svetchine; Roger-Viollet; Vendome Press
Maureen Footer reveals how the Provençal hideaway of fashion designer Christian Dior inspired his work
t physical remove from Paris and light-years from the action on the Côte d’Azur, the nineteenth-century bastide La Colle Noire, near Grasse, emanates the spirit of Dior. Its vineyards, olive groves, Renaissance stone lions, and shaded Italian garden mingle past with present. Cool tiled hallways, glimpses of linen velvet, and Emilio Terry influences add calm and charm. If his house in Passy was a civilized nest amid the demands of Paris and Le Moulin du Coudret represented an escape from the city, La Colle Noire, with its solid dignity, was Dior’s chosen home. Purchased in 1950, the coaching inn turned manor house was Dior’s final domestic creation, and still a work in progress at the time of his death in 1957. Just as another of his last creations – the 1957 city dress “Palais de Glace,” with tidy bodice, slender sleeves, and meticulously gathered skirt – signalled in its sobriety, beauty, and understatement a return to the vision of 1947, the stone house represented permanence. Its atmosphere of storied family house, mixing antiques with the occasional surprise, was gracious and unaffected. Dior, who planned to retire to La Colle Noire, was so dedicated to the house that he eventually sold the mill at Milly to underwrite the renovations, the cost of which, as typically happens, exceeded expectations. Approached through an allée of cypress trees, the house sat on more than a hundred acres of pleasure garden and working land, accompanied by gravelled terraces, a private chapel, and views across the valley. Dior installed a 150-foot reflecting pool that ran the length of the house. For parties, he illuminated the pool with fifty candled hurricanes around its perimeter. André Svetchine, the Nice-based architect who had designed Raymonde Zehnacker’s nearby country house, provided Dior with plenty of rein to play gentleman architect. In fact, Dior conceived much of the house on his own, often relying on Svetchine and interior decorator MichelJacques Marsan more for execution than conception. For construction, as for couture, Dior was a curator of time-honoured craftsmanship. He required the use of old materials or, at least, materials made in the old-fashioned manner, whenever possible. Fortunately, Svetchine proved adept at sourcing local and antique elements that reinforced the ambience of an old manor house. Glazed Anduze planters flanked the door, and a new gravel forecourt greeted arrivals. Throughout the house, white walls, grey
panelling, and terracotta or white stone floors, or some combination thereof, weave simplicity and continuity into the décor. Following the notion of a provincial manor that has evolved over the years, formulas were relaxed, never strictly enforced. Periods, styles, colours, and types of rugs varied; the only cardinal rule was that the ambience remain polished but unpretentious. Decoration proceeded slowly, in part determined by the renovation schedule. Because of a delay in the electrical hookup, only two rooms were habitable as of 1956. With such a leisurely pace, the loose accumulation of furniture gave the impression of having been amassed over generations. Except for one chair by Séné, the furniture was warm and burnished but far from museum quality, generally eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French, with the occasional Biedermeier chair or Continental piece for variety. With its waxed tiles and patinated furniture, La Colle Noire conveys Dior’s response to postwar reality. Instead of falling back into familiar routines after the war, the world had rushed forward into uncharted territory. Europe integrated warily, colonies sought independence, the Soviet Union loomed as the new world menace, and the economy transitioned to industrial production. In this mid-century flux, as patterns changed and the pace picked up, Dior was a conservator of enduring custom. A fashion genius coupled with conscientious businessman, Dior worked
From top: driveway at La Colle Noire; the designer in the countryside; bedroom detail with its vivid ‘retour d’Egypte’ wallpaper
Extracted from Dior and His Decorators: Victor Grandpierre, Georges Geffroy, and The New Look by Maureen Footer, published by Vendome Press. Available in all good bookstores and online.
incessantly in this new economic climate, designing collections, developing perfume, and licensing new global products, leaving him less time to pursue the friendships, gardening, antiquing, music, and quiet he craved. Others found themselves with less wherewithal, and even less inclination, to observe the niceties of the past. Even Maison et Jardin, the glossy broadcaster of aspirational decoration, vaunted a plastic tablecloth that could be cleaned with the swipe of a dishcloth. Jewels, hats, and gloves, those precious accoutrements perfected by centuries of patronage, with techniques conserved from generation to generation, were called into question. Emblematically, the actress Grace Kelly, a Dior client, though engaged to a prince, was photographed for Vogue without adornment, just bare shoulders, blonde hair, and American fraîcheur. Quality, time, and heritage, those hallmarks of Dior, were the new luxuries. Now, interiors and clothes that were in sync with the time were comfortable and timeless, without gimmick or artifice. Frivolity, Dior determined, was passé, and as an artist, he reflected his time. His pet model changed from the aloof Renée to the accessible Victoire. He streamlined his 1954 collection into the quiet H-Line. Dior was – both as a professional couturier and as an individual – a believer in the accomplishments of French civilization. The hand sewing, beading, embroidery, solid construction, and line of a Dior dress were rooted in French history. So, too, were Dior’s courtesy, table, and interests in art, music, and antiques. La Colle Noire, indifferent to fad, drew on French crafts in its construction, history in its furnishings, and tradition in its seasonal rhythms. While timelessness emanated from the time-worn stone of Dior’s last house, its modernity was in its ease, adaptability to contemporary life, loose appropriation of the past, and embrace of its time. Its appeal, like that of the New Look dress, was that it fulfilled a need for romance.
Get the look With clever French high street and online purchases, you can effortlessly pinch some Dior country panache... Prices and availability correct at time of going to press. Doorway delight Anduze pots represent the ultimate in terracotta elegance for that Provençal garden look. Enamel flamed model shown, weighing 15kg and measuring 47cm high, costs €158 from www.truffaut.com If walls could talk Evoke the seasoned voyager’s bedchamber with a 4m long Palazzo wallpaper panneau by Coordonné, evoking the bucolic scene at Lake Como. Price €569 from www.etoffe.com Bedside manner Dig around brocantes or vide-greniers or a polished-up bedside table (chevet) or go for a modern/ vintage take, such as this walnut ‘Berkeley’ model with criss-cross metal legs. Price €150 from www.maisonsdumonde.com
French Living I January 2019
Bilingual cryptic crossword
by Parolles Answers are in French and English Across
1 Richelieu’s to move troublesome pedlar outside church (8)
1 Clemence’s desperate to get drugs after angry pastor sees red (10)
5 Something difficult to understand perhaps in game (6)
2 Norm gets by in Nice (3)
8 Section on tidier grass cutter (8)
3 Anger after weapon is found on opening a cupboard in Marseille (7)
9 Keen resentment after unionist politician becomes rules enforcer at Wimbledon (6)
4 Fair to have flag over top of artisan’s stall in Lille (9)
11 Having refined tastes Dicky ditches patois (13)
6 Came across one looking into horse’s means of identification (4,3)
14 Extremely likable novelist seen in front of Parisian school (5)
7 Information on a French town (4)
15 Type of soldier to become disorderly (9)
10 Laziness on either side of the Channel (9)
17 The first lady, an environmentalist, going after right kind of tree (9)
12 Walk in the Tuileries prior to entertaining old soldiers today (9)
19 Fellow in charge is frantically busy (5)
13 Follow with result of the 100m sprint for instance (5,5)
20 A veteran rep failing to catch first half of film’s preview in Cannes (5-8) 22 A Pole running wild around Portugal’s capital city (6)
16 French fox cub surprisingly reared with an uakari at first (9) 18 Get to grips with Greek tech company (7)
23 Longs to house oddly neglected gecko with English dogs (8)
19 What Pierre remembers of me getting further without one (7)
25 Name a mountain with snow in France (6)
21 Queen leaves child in bath in Versailles (4)
26 Henri’s toothpick contributing to insecure dentures (4-4)
24 Peter strips off in summer in Nantes (3)
by John Foley Note all answers are words or names associated with France Across
2 Edible mollusque marin céphalopode (6)
1 Area and former region comprising the departments of Haute Vienne, Creuse and Corrèze (8)
6 Nutritious food produced by les abeilles (4) 7 Flatfish known in English as a flounder (4) 8 Feathered vertebrate (6) 10 Famed fashion designer whose first collection became known by the phrase ‘New Look” (4) 11 Place to keep – and forget – a prisoner (9) 13 What to shout for an encore (3) 14 Reference book such as a dictionary (5) 16 Area corresponding to cent mètres carrés (3) 20 Flying sport in which the pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing (9)
Q: Eric Rohmer was a New Wave director. But he was formerly the editor of which influential cinema magazine?
9 Celestial body (5) 12 North-western region whose culinary specialities include chouchen, kig ha farz and kouign-amann (8) 15 Arena – pour la pratique du sport (5)
24 Upper limb from shoulder to hand (4)
18 Braised beef stew: boeuf en _____ (5)
25 Position dans une hiérarchie (4)
19 Graine de laquelle on fait le chocolat (5)
26 In a festive or celebratory mood (2,4)
21 Seemingly bottomless chasm (5)
3 A flash in the pan?
Skin deep A performance artist from Luxembourg, Deborah De Robertis, caused outrage at the Musée d’Orsay in 2014 when she posed naked from the waist down in front of which work depicting a close-up of female model’s genitals, believed to be of the artist’s favourite muses, Joanna Hiffernan.
5 Rideau souple – for lowering on sunny days, even in winter (5)
WITH his 1917 urinal installation entitled Fountain, Normandy-born artist Marcel Duchamp was making an anti-art statement in the Dadaist style. The only image in existence of it was taken by Alfred Stieglitz, an art promoter and photographer, who is said to have then chucked it into a skip, forever lost. Duchamp’s loo remains the most iconic piece of ‘ready made’ conceptual art in history. Q: Which French city is known as the “City of a thousand fountains”?
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Claire’s Knee is a 1971 Eric Rohmer film about the moral crisis and suppression of temptation when a mid-thirties diplomat develops an obsession for a young girl whilst on holiday. As with all Rohmer films, it serves on other levels to touch on broader subjects and ethical questions.
4 Capital of the Loir-et-Cher department on the banks of the Loire (5)
23 Occupation or profession (6)
Photo: Alfred Stieglitz
1 Tibial pursuit
3 Could be smooth – as in skin (5)
17 National shortage of this dairy product in 2017 due to a combination of factors including poor weather (6)
22 A pile or heap of something (4)
Fun French facts
2 Nickname of pop singer Claude François (6)
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January 2019 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: It’ll be all white on the night...
13 The dominant poetic metre in French literature from the 17th Century onwards was the “alexandrin”; each line is composed of two hemistichs (half-lines) divided by a caesura. How many syllables are there in an “alexandrin”?
15 How do you spell “diamond” in French? 16 Which city do denim jeans come from? 17 “Un archipel” ou “une archipel”? 18 What does “CEDEX” stand for?
14 When did the Fifth Republic start?
Can you attribute this quote to one of France’s religious figures? “Un sourire coûte moins cher que l’électricité, mais donne autant de lumière.” (“A smile is cheaper than electricity but provides as much light.”)
Guess the region Camping on the Pointe d’Ireuse, a mountain in the Chablais Alps in the commune of Bellevaux, Haute-Savoie. This is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. In the background is Mont Blanc (White Mountain).
12 Until the abolition of the death penalty in 1981, the guillotine was the standard method for capital punishment. When was the guillotine last used in France?
Photo: Christian Martelet/AuvergneRhône-Alpes Tourisme
7 Which is Paris’ second most visited religious monument after the Notre Dame cathedral?
11 Alsace Moselle has two more bank holidays than other French regions; which days do they fall on?
Quiz 1 Croissant, 2 The Palais de l’Elysée , 3 Richard the Lionheart, 4 Lyon, 5 Oise, 6 “L’épiphanie”, 7 The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, known as the Sacré-Coeur, 8 Abbé Pierre, 9 Charles Aznavour, 10 58, 11 26th December and Good Friday, 12 1977, 13 12, 14 4th October 1958, 15 “diamant”, 16 Nîmes, 17 Un archipel, 18 “Courrier d’Entreprise à Distribution Exceptionnelle”, 19 Lozère, 20 Marseille.
January 6 is marked by eating “galette des rois” or “gâteau des rois”, depending on what region you are in. What is this day called?
10 Up to 75% of French electricity is derived from nuclear power. Do you know how many reactors France has?
20 Which city is known for its Pastis?
Bilingual cryptic crossword Across: 1 Déplacer, 5 Enigma, 8 Strimmer, 9 Umpire, 11 Sophisticated, 14 École, 15 Irregular, 17 Evergreen, 19 Manic, 20 Avant-première, 22 Aleppo, 23 Pekinese, 25 Neiger, 26 Cure-dent.
5 The Astérix et Obélix comic books are a deep rooted part of French culture. In which department is the Parc Astérix theme park located?
19 With less than 80 000 people living there, which is the least populated department?
Down: 1 Desesperee, 2 Par, 3 Armoire, 4 Éventaire, 6 Name tag, 7 Agen, 10 Indolence, 12 Promenade, 13 Track event, 16 Renardeau, 18 Grapple, 19 Mémoire, 21 Bain, 24 Été.
Which city’s airport is named after author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?
Which musician died on October 1 2018 and wrote the following lyrics: “Il me semble que la misère serait moins pénible au soleil.” ?
French-themed crossword 10 Dior, 11 oubliette, 13 bis, 14 usuel, 16 are, 20 parapente; 22 amas, 23 métier, 24 bras, 25 rang, 26 en fête.
Down: 1 Limousin, 2 Cloclo, 3 lisse, 4 Blois, 5 store, 9 astre, 12 Bretagne, 15 stade, 17 beurre, 18 daube, 19 cacao, 21 abîme.
3 Rouen is known as the capital of Normandy. Whose heart lies within it’s cathedral?
Fun French facts
Use the first letters of the answers to questions 1, 5, 8, 16, and 20, and the first letter of the both words in the answer to question 9 to spell out the name of a delicate meringue based biscuit in French.
2 What is the official residence of French presidents?
1 Les Cahiers du Cinéma. 2 Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting L’Origine du monde
Try our quiz
1 What word is used to describe a breakfast food and the moon?
Test your knowledge of France with our Connexion quiz
20 Reviews French films A critical eye on the latest ciné releases An Impossible Love
French Living I January 2019 Are you the foie gras correspondent? Chris Bockman, Matador, £13.99 ISBN: 978-1788034-654 THERE are plenty of books about Britons who have moved to France and done up a rural property – but while this one seems to be another one at first, it gives quite a different take. Bockman moved to set up a press agency in Toulouse, despite warnings that there would not be enough to write about. This is a memoir of a working life through the lens of quirky or dramatic tales that proved the naysayers wrong. He first thought there might be more to the area than met the eye when a visit to a local gendarmerie showed a ‘double homi-
cide’ on a map of recent crimes (though the duty officer ‘couldn’t remember’ if they had caught the killer). Many jobs ended up more ‘frivolous’, such as tracking down the holiday home of former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten to find his dogs which had become famous after he could not bring them back to the UK due to quarantine. Rugby and its links to local politics was also a fund of stories and we learn there is a Notre Dame de Rugby church in the Landes which features a stained glass window of the baby Jesus holding a rugby ball.
Other topics range from the ‘risky PR stunt’ of wine growers who dubbed their wine vin de merde, to shadowing the pretender to the throne or going to a remote farmhouse to interview a Briton released from jail for murdering his wife, whom the author photographed chopping food with a large knife – part of a chapter where he warns that the rural good life in isolated areas is not always what Britons expect. Interesting to dip into, though frequent jumping between personal memoir and verbatim reports from the time jars at first.
Books – The 20 minute review
We read recent releases with a link to France. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time
Catherine Corsini; 135 mins
The latest film from director Corsini is bigger in scope and ambition than anything she has made before and follows three generations of a family’s story from loved-up young mum to a grandmother. The story is based on the 2015 novel by Christine Angot, who also wrote Claire Denis’ superb Let the Sunshine In, and is often seen on TV chat shows being something of a controversial provocatrice. It begins in 1958, in Châteauroux, Indre where mid-twenties typist Rachel – a superb performance by Virginie Efira (normally a comic performer but whose serious acting skills get better with each film) falls for a dashing and intellectual young man, Philippe (Niels Schneider) that she meets in the work canteen. She falls pregnant and a daughter, Chantal (Estelle Lescure), is born. However, Philippe will not marry Rachel or allow Chantal to take his surname, which for the times is unsettling and bodes badly. Over time, despite his manipulative nature, narcissism and absence, Rachel still holds a torch for him, while the now teenage Chantal gets ever closer to her father. Yet his increasingly dubious behaviour is never far from the surface. A word of praise for the superbly naturalistic ageing make-up work on both Rachel and Philippe – they look very convincing as grandparents.
Also out: Sink or Swim
A disparate (and sometimes desperate) gaggle of 30-50-something men make a life change for the unexpected – by joining a synchronised swimming team. Cue a blend of farce and philosophy à la piscine!
Conflicts of Interest Terry Stiastny, John Murray £8.99 ISBN: 978-1-444-79439-7 THIS novel by a former BBC news journalist is – at least partly – set in rural southern France, where the main character, a has-been TV journalist has moved after his marriage and career ended. His life is turned upside down by the arrival of an old friend on a cycling tour, a PR man who moves in Westminster circles and is on the verge of a peerage, whose seemingly perfect life seems to contrast with his. The opening sets the scene in a sleepy village before the aging former war correspondent finds himself hiding under his café table at the sound of guns being fired – but it is just hunters firing into the air as part of a traditional festival. The descriptions of the setting in Provence are well-observed and evocative and French references and characters pepper the book. But it is just the start of a story that is going to become much more complicated and eventually drag Lawrence back towards his old life. At a house party Lawrence meets Martin’s mistress, a doctor involved in a charity in Africa, and he ends up being persuaded to go back to the Congo, a place that holds bad memories for him, to film for the charity. Ably-written, the plot twists and turns, revealing past traumas and new ones, themes of media and politics and the titular ‘conflicts of interest’.
A Taste of Paris, David Downie, St. Martin’s Press, $26.99 ISBN: 978-1-250-08293-0 FROM the opening lines it is clear we are in the hands of someone who knows his subject and loves it as he describes how his ‘treasure hunt’ through Parisian gastronomy started in the 1980s as he moved into a chambre de bonne on the seventh floor (with no lift) near the Arc de Triomphe and sought to understand the city’s ‘gastronomic topography’ and how dining there had evolved over the centuries since Roman times. To his younger self the place “exuded an attainable past, a flavourful, redolent history to be studied and consumed”. The fruit of these decades is the topic of this fascinating book, written by an American writer who has lived in the city ever since. His enthusiasm and meaty prose make you want to gobble up the book with its titbits of foodie facts as it goes beneath the surface with plenty of tales about its eateries, food shops and inhabitants’ dining habits. You will learn how, for example, the Romans of Paris loved foie gras from geese fattened with figs (the word foie came from the Latin for ‘fig’, Downie says) or how the first French gastronomic critic, Grimod de la Reynière, used to offer his guests 52 courses with 15 wines, three coffees and 17 liqueurs. Every page has surprising information, such as the fact that, according to 17th century socialite Mme de Sévigné, the royals at Versailles were obsessed with eating peas, then a novelty. She wrote: “The impatience felt waiting to eat them, to have eaten them, and the pleasure of eating them are the three topics on our princes’ tongues.” This is not a conventional guide to eating out – in fact only the last pages specifically concern the modern city, but throughout there are references to famous institutions which still exist, or links made between fashionable food Meccas of the past and modern ones. However, despite fears of restaurants heating up ready-meals (he notes that the fait maison logo is not well-policed and is best used as an ‘icebreaker’ to discuss the cooking with the waiter or chef) he concludes that reports of the death of French cuisine have been greatly exaggerated – you just need to know where to shop and eat, he says.
Maigret’s Anger, Georges Simenon / William Hobson Penguin Classics £7.99 ISBN: 978-0-241-30401-3
LIKE Hergé, Brel, or Poirot, Simenon was a francophone Belgian often wrongly assumed to have been French. However, his creation le commissaire Jules Maigret, one of the great literary detectives, is French, a senior officer in Paris’s police judiciaire which investigates complex or organised crime. This episode, originally from 1963, is part of a plan to produce new translations of all 75 novels about the character. Maigret, a bon vivant known for his pipe smoking, is often found following up leads in the city’s bistrots and brasseries, which is where we find him at the start of this book. Simenon fans love his simple language and attention to detail and the story of this book, which opens with an investigation into a murder, in mysterious circumstances, of a strip club owner from the seedy Pigalle entertainment district, gets straight to the point without literary flourishes. The anger of the title comes after a lack of clues and progress which puts Maigret’s reputation on the line. Worth checking out if you enjoy well put-together police mysteries though the dialogue-led, plot-focused style also means the book is not very introspective or psychological, so you may sometimes feel a little detached from the character.
The enduring linguistic legacy of the Gauls Language notes
iven that the losers never get to write history, it is hardly surprising that there are so few words still used in the French language with origins dating back to the vanquished Gauls. Add to this the fact that the Druids of the time preferred the spoken to written word, and the clutch of 150 or so words in use is small, if perfectly formed. Within 400 years the language was largely redundant. But to which commonly used words do we owe the Gauls a tip of the hat? Naturebased words have stood the test of time... The oak tree and its evergreen lodger mistletoe were sacred to the Druids, and the word chêne is derived from casnus then cassanos, which means twisted or gnarled. (The word Druid itself has origins in the Greek word for oak – dru.)
Naturebased words have stood the test of time
The French word for little stones or pebbles (as used to describe beaches, for instance) is cailloux, which stems from the Gaulois word caljo meaning stone. As do galets (also pebbles) from the Gaulois gallos. The French word for sheep – mouton – resisted the Roman incarnation of the species ovis to survive until today. It comes from the Gaulois word multo. A very pretty sounding Gaulois remnant, so memorably heard in song, is alouette (lark) from alauda. Caesar is said to have recruited some Alpine Gaulois soldiers in 50BC and gave their legion the name ‘Alauda’, which prolonged the word’s resistance to any Latin successor. Finally, a few dirty words – literally. La boue in French means mud, and it can be traced to the Gaulois bawa, which itself stemmed from baw, meaning dirt. Glaise, meaning clay, comes from the Celtic gliso, while suie (soot) has its origins in the Gallo-Roman word suda.
Shopping/Did you know? 21
January 2019 I French Living
Photo: Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam_Michèle Favareille
QUOI DE NEUF?
New products, designs and ideas from around France
Point your Pixter
From holiday selfies to foodie shots and architectural compositions of our favourite French scenes, we all love taking photos on our smartphones. But to give an extra creative edge and a new dimension in the mobile photography experience, French company Pixter has developed a range of premium add-on lenses. The company was founded in 2015 by Tristan Monod, Clément Chahmana and Alexis Pasquesoone, three passionate photographers and technology enthusiasts, who wanted to create simple to use and easy to transport photo lenses to boost creative photography. There is a lens to suit every budget and level of photography expertise – with prices ranging from €29.90 for a starter lens (macro, fisheye and wide angle) to €159.90 for the Pro Pack for more experienced users (lenses include telephoto, polariser and super fisheye and macro pro). Pixter lenses adapt to every smartphone model thanks to the universal mounting system and the company, which has had the ‘Made in Tech France’ label since 2015, also offers accessories such as tripods and Bluetooth remote control. www.pixter.co/en
Biological path to beauty
Socking it to them AS SOCK production goes, the detailed, hands-on human endeavour that goes into making ‘Made in France’ Archiduchesse chaussettes (see the video on their website) is something to behold. Especially considering the reasonable price of around €7 per pair. Avoid lost-sock trauma with the SaintEtienne firm’s fresh and fun ‘Semainiers’ Happy Colours packs – €45 for seven pairs. www.archiduchesse.com
DEFYING the ageing process – at least when it comes to skincare – is not an entirely lost cause thanks to French companies such as Phyt’s, an independent business based near Cahors, Lot. The firm has been researching and developing natural, biological cosmetics – without gelling agents and stabilisers – since 1972, and takes careful measures to minimise the impact that its ‘chemistry’ has on the environment. Panacée, one of its latest premium products, is an anti-ageing cream for mature skin types that ‘reduces wrinkles significantly’. RRP €90, see website for outlets. en.phyts.com
Bringing art to life at home We all have a favourite work of art. But what if you could have a painting transposed onto a cushion, headboard, lampshade or even curtains? French company Muséo, founded in Paris twelve years ago, has a three-step approach to creating tailored artwork to adorn your home. First, their rights and design department searches for the work in their imagebank and prepares the item; next, the workshop looks after the printing process; and finally the finishing touches are made by its team of skilled craftsmen. The company works with major hotels in France to craft in situ artworks and has also collaborated with Philippe Starck. Artwork shown Jeune Fille by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin: lampshade from €180. en.muzeo.com
Replicas of the 1799 metre (in original case) and kilogram measures
A weighty issue: France invented metric system Did you know?
he metric system, which is used the world over, apart from the USA, Burma and Liberia, was invented in France and was a direct result of the Revolution. France remains the world centre for deciding just how we work out how long and how heavy everything is, as the International Bureau for Weights and Measurements is in Paris. Before the Revolution, weights and measures varied not only between countries but within nations, and could be different from one town to another. The new leaders in France wanted to unify the country and one way was to introduce a national measurement system. They opted for a decimal system which would be interrelated and it is no accident that a litre of pure water weighs a kilogram. However, the basis of the system, which was to be the metre, had yet to be invented. The scientific greats of the time decided to use a natural phenomenon and so the metre was to be equal to one ten millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator. But first this had to be measured. In 1791, two astronomers, Joseph Delambre and Pierre Méchain, set out to do this by accurately measuring a quarter of the meridian from Dunkirk
to Barcelona. Delambre went north and Méchain went south and they were to meet in the middle. They thought it might take them two years, using a triangulation system and the latest in equipment, the Borda repeating circle. However, the unrest following the revolution and war between France and Spain hampered their progress and they had many adventures on the way. They were often mistaken for royalist supporters with their strange instruments and had to avoid arrest and decapitation. Eventually in 1799, their thousands of calculations resulted in the metre, which was gradually used by countries all over the world. Up until May 2019, the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris is holding an exhibition dedicated to the seven international units of measurement and the way we use them every day. Laurent Vavasseur is the science curator for the museum: “Measurement is all around us but we tend to take it for granted. The different units are constantly evolving to become more and more precise. “The metre is now defined in reference to the speed of light and at the last conference of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in November 2018, four of the seven base units were redefined, including the kilogram, which was the last unit to be dematerialised. Work to produce an accurate universal measurement system continues and this concept was created in France.” www.arts-et-metiers.net
French Living I January 2019
France’s first media scientist, who fought disease – and won
ouis Pasteur (1822-1895) remains one of France’s most famous scientists. Among his numerous achievements, he created the first vaccines for anthrax and rabies, invented a way of killing bacteria in milk and wine (pasteurisation), reduced deaths from puerperal fever, and was instrumental in establishing the germ theory of disease. He was also an early “media giant”, promoting himself and popularising science. His Pasteur Institute remains a pioneering hub of scientific research. Pasteur was born in Dole, Jura, into a poor family. His father was a tanner and he did not start school until 1831 when he was almost nine years old. Initially, he was not an outstanding pupil, preferring to spend his time fishing, and sketching portraits of his family and friends. He finally passed his Bac S (baccalauréat scientifique) in 1842 and went to the Ecole Normale Supérieure where he got a degree in science (1845) and then worked as a lab assistant while researching theses in chemistry and physics. In 1848, he got a job teaching chemistry at the University of Strasbourg, where he met and married Marie Laurent in 1849. They had five children together, three of whom died of typhoid in infancy. In 1854, he became dean of the science faculty at Lille University, where he began studying the process of fermentation. It was not newly discovered; everyone knew how to use it to make beer, wine and bread. But at that time no one had a scientific explanation for how fermentation worked, what mechanism caused it. (The answer is yeast, by the way.) Pasteur was by then a long way from the boy who had enjoyed sketching and fishing. He had developed into a workaholic who kept punishing hours (getting up at 5am and going to bed at 9.30pm), and whose research and studies were rigorously disciplined. When he got a promotion, becoming director of scientific studies back at his alma mater in Paris, he introduced a whole series of strict reforms in an attempt to raise academic standards. Exams were tougher, students were threatened with expulsion for smoking and were required to eat a universally disliked mutton stew once a week. In 1887, he established the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and became its director until his death in 1895. One of Pasteur’s greatest strengths was his interest in proving or disproving other scientists’ theories. He showed, for example, that germs could not spontaneously develop in sterile liquids. They would only grow in contaminated liquids. The logical con-
clusion, using pasteurisation – ie. heating beer, wine and milk to between 60 and 100 degrees centigrade to kill most germs and keep those drinks fresh for longer – is still used today. As is the practice of storing heat-treated, uncontaminated food in sealed, sterile containers. Having established that decomposition of foodstuffs was due to external micro-organisms which could be killed by heat, rather than to spontaneous organisms integral to food, he turned his attention to the human body and showed that many diseases were also caused by micro-organisms entering the body and causing infections. As part of his investigations into chicken cholera, he isolated the bacteria which caused the disease and discovered how to deliberately infect chickens with it. One dose, however, turned out not to work. Although the chickens became slightly ill, they recovered. On investigation, the dose was discovered to be weaker than normal. Deeming the experiment a failure, he re-infected the same chickens, but none became ill and he realised that they were immune to the bacteria. Giving them a very weak dose of it had effectively vaccinated them against the disease. This type of vaccine is called “live” as it contains live bacteria. Later on, scientists realised that it was not always necessary to use whole, live bacteria in vaccines and that the same results could be obtained using just the dead, outside part of the cells. These are called “dead” or inactivated vaccines. This research has saved countless lives, and led to the global eradication of smallpox in 1977, which Unicef estimates has saved around five million lives every year. Other diseases, such as polio, are almost eradicated because 80% of the world’s children have been immunised against it. This percentage is sufficient to stop the disease spreading. Vaccines have brought many other previously life-threatening diseases under control, including diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella. Louis Pasteur also did a vast amount of work on developing a vaccine to immunise humans against rabies. He did not invent vaccinations, but built on the work of previous researchers and doctors, including Edward Jenner, who discovered (around 1798) how to use cowpox bacteria to inoculate people against smallpox. But that was part of his genius, according to Sylvie Morel, director of the museum in Dole, established in the house where Pasteur was born. “He was a very black and white character, very self-disciplined, implacable towards his enemies, ultra-loyal with friends and family. His detractors say he borrowed
Photo: La Maison de Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur worked hard to secure his legacy, while saving millions, writes Samantha David
Louis Pasteur, pictured with his family and wife (top and inset). Bottom: some of the tools of his scientific trade on display at the Maison de Louis Pasteur
Pasteur was an excellent researcher. He didn’t pull genies out of the hat, he worked on other people’s research to advance their discoveries Sylvie Morel, director of Maison de Louis Pasteur
other people’s discoveries and even his discovery of pasteurisation wasn’t entirely his own. Other people had already discovered that you could preserve garden peas by keeping them in heat-treated jars, for example. But he found out why. “His contribution was explaining the scientific mechanisms behind processes, including vaccination, pasteurisation, sterilisation, and decomposition. Jenner knew that his vaccinations against smallpox worked, but throughout his life was ridiculed by doubters because he couldn’t scientifically prove how and why.” She says that he was also one of the first scientists to understand that research could only progress as a team effort. For example, his colleague Pierre Roux, who was a co-founder of the Pasteur Institute, developed a cure for diphtheria and discovered that dead vaccines could work. “Pasteur was an excellent researcher. He didn’t pull genies out of the hat, he worked on other people’s research to advance their discoveries. He also understood that to carry out scientific research you need money. But, of course, money for medical research has always been lacking, so he realised that he would have to sell himself, sell the work, and popularise science. He was probably the first
Local history 23
January 2019 I French Living Photo: Wikipedia/Paul Nadar
Unique homes in an Alpine village 2km above sea level Europe’s highest village, in the southern Alps, has an architecture all its own. Jane Hanks finds out why from one of its residents Secret history of buildings
scientist to realise that he needed to increase his stature, his media profile and his visibility in order to get funding and facilities. He was a media giant, and relentlessly corrected press articles, and explained himself and the science he did. He vaccinated animals in public to raise his profile, and entered for prizes and awards in order to continue his work.” Pasteur was awarded medals, titles, grants and honours from countries around the globe. In France, among other honours, he was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1853 and promoted to officer, commander, grand officer and finally given the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1881. During Pasteur’s lifetime there were sections of the public who did not understand the theory of bacteria causing infections, and could not understand the workings of the human immune system, so they doubted the effectiveness of vaccinations. In the 21st century it might seem odd that there are still some people who doubt that vaccines work (see our Back Page), but Ms Morel puts it down to their success. “Due to immunisation programmes, today in Western Europe no one sees people dying of diseases like TB,
diphtheria or smallpox so there is a tendency to believe that being in good health is the natural state of things. But in fact that’s not the case. We are healthier and live longer than at any time in history because we eat uncontaminated food, drink clean water, live in clean houses and in towns with efficient sewerage systems. “Public health depends on a majority of people being vaccinated in order to protect the few who are not. But today we live in a culture of increasing individualism, where there is less concern for group welfare than for individual choice. But if you go to developing countries, in Africa for example, you quickly see that public health without vaccinations, clean water etc is not at the same level.” She is proud of the museum’s interactive displays, allowing children as well as adults to re-enact some of Pasteur’s experiments, as well as exploring the effect that vaccination has on public health: “The display shows visitors the mathematical calculations. How many people will die of a given disease if you vaccinate 50% of a population (it’s quite a lot) or 70% or 90%? “We hope it helps people understand Pasteur’s work - and especially the importance of vaccination.”
Pasteur realised he needed to raise his media profile in order to secure additional funding and facilities for his research
Saint Véran is the highest village in Europe at 2,042 metres above sea level and is one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. It is in the Southern Alps, in the Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras, not far from Briançon, the highest town in France at 1,326 metres. Legend has it that the village was formed when a sixth-century bishop freed the lowlands from a dragon, which rose into the air and died in the mountains. Local people marked this miracle by building a settlement where the dragon landed and named it after the bishop, Saint Véran. Jacqueline Turina, who has lived in the village all her life and who gives guided tours to visitors, thinks the real story is rather more prosaic: that the bishop discovered the place on his travels to Rome and recognised the richness of the pastureland in the area. Though high in the mountains, and covered in snow for seven months of the year, Mrs Turina says Saint Véran is a wonderful place to live: “We face south with marvellous views and plenty of sunshine and the rich grass grows for a far longer period than further south. “Transhumance has meant that sheep and cows have been brought up here from Provence for centuries, and this continues today. “At first people only lived here in summer, but perhaps, one winter, the snow came earlier than expected and so people had to stay, and having done so once continued to do so.” Another attraction to settlers were the copper mines which are even higher up
and were mined as long ago as 2,000BC, right up until 1956. Historians believe the metal was originally mined by some Italian settlers. To survive the long winters, the inhabitants built houses which are unique to the village, as their first floor, called a fuste and built of wood, is far bigger than in other areas because they had to store food and fodder there to last the long winter. The ground floor has thick stone walls and families lived with no other heating than from the animals who lived in the same space. Wood was precious and was kept for cooking and for building. Next to the house was a small stone building called a caset. “This was built to shelter the family during one of the very frequent fires,” explained Mrs Turina. “There was so much wood that a cooking fire could easily get out of hand. “In the 16th century, the whole village was burnt down, and when it was rebuilt it was separated into five sections, each separated by a no-build zone which acted as a fire break. “Each quartier was like its own small village, with a communal bread oven and a water fountain, also built in wood, with a lavoir attached. “Wood is everywhere in our village.” Two traditional houses can be visited in the village. The oldest dates from 1641 and is run as a museum by the Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras. In the second, visitors are greeted by the nephew of owners who lived there in the traditional way with animals to keep them warm in the winter until 1976. For details of guided tours of Saint-Véran, contact Queyras tourist office: queyras-montagne.com
24 The big picture
French Living I January 2019
Heritage headquarters is 60 years old Photos: Unesco
Samantha David marks the 60th anniversary of Unesco’s distinctive Paris HQ by exploring the cultural organisation’s work
he distinctive Unesco headquarters at 7 place de Fontenoy in Paris was 60 years old last November. It was commissioned by Unesco (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as a symbol of the organisation as well as a home. The three architects, Bernard Zehrfuss, Marcel Breuer and Pier Luigi Nervi came up with a seven-story building in a threearmed star shape along with a building commonly called the ‘accordion’ and a third building in the shape of a cube. The three pointed star is the most iconic. The land it is built on still belongs to the French state, which has given Unesco a renewable 99-year lease costing a nominal 1,000 French francs (€152) per year. The official, laudable, purpose of Unesco (created in 1945) is to “contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” The Paris headquarters is surrounded by beautiful gardens, contains a large international art collection, and hosts free cultural events which are open to the public, although the building is currently closed to sightseeing visits due to security concerns. One of the best ways to visit the building and see the art collection has been during the Nuit européenne des Musées which will be on May 18 this year, although at the time of going to print Unesco’s participation in 2019 had not been confirmed. It is also possible to visit as a group, if you make the request at least 10 weeks in advance. There are 44 Unesco heritage sites in France, most of them cultural, but four
are natural: the Gulf of Porto off the coast of Corsica; the Lagoons of New Caledonia (in the Pacific Ocean); and the ‘Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of Réunion island’ (in the Caribbean); and the Chaîne des Puys-Limagne in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. One site is both natural and cultural: the Pyrénées-Mont Perdu. The cultural sites include specific buildings like the cathedrals in Amiens, Bourges, Chartres and Reims, but others cover entire areas within cities, like the Roman monuments and buildings in Arles, the Port of the Moon in Bordeaux, the historical centre of Avignon, the Santiago de Compostela walking routes in France, the Episcopal City of Albi, Mont-StMichel and the bay, and the palace and gardens of Versailles. Getting Unesco heritage status is obviously important. It protects sites for future generations, but also opens the
The Unesco building, alongside the cube and the so-called ‘accordeon’ in Paris; European Museum Night is currently the only chance to explore inside
doors to funding, and can increase visitor numbers and therefore revenue generated directly and indirectly. So it is no surprise to discover that there is a long list of sites in France currently up for consideration. Some, like the centre of Rouen, the Camargue, and Mont Blanc, are to be expected. Others like the Brittany village of Carnac (home to more than 10,000 Neolithic standing stones) are less well-known. Jean-Baptiste Goulard is directing efforts to have Carnac’s menhirs and dolmens heritage listed by Unesco. “It’s a long process because this is France,” he says. “First you have to compile a far-ranging dossier and submit it to the French Ministry of Culture and then another committee decides which dossier to put forward to Unesco each year. Member States can only put one project forward each year, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that Unesco will accept it. The city of Nîmes had their dossier rejected.” The process can take decades but it is worth it because it literally puts a site on the global tourist map. Brittany is already
a tourist destination but currently has no Unesco listed sites. Getting Carnac listed would increase visits from American, Chinese and Japanese visitors because tour operators design trips around Unesco heritage sites. “Visits to the site aren’t profitable economically, but the economic advantage to the area is considerable in terms of visitors also paying for accommodation, entertainment, transport, shopping, and visits to other attractions.” It is not only about money, however. “Being Unesco listed means there is more money available for maintaining and protecting sites and ensuring people respect them. Unesco status isn’t guaranteed for life, it can be taken away if the site no longer conforms to their requirements of a World Heritage Site. “In order to ensure the site is correctly maintained, having Unesco status means being inspected annually, and having a formal administrative structure put in place to oversee management, all of which helps ensure that the standing stones will be there for future generations.”
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ME AND MY OPERATION: Inguinal hernia repair
Your right to err - once
The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey
EVERYONE living in France has had the right since last summer to make a mistake – once – in their dealings with authorities and bureaucracy. Known as the “droit à l’erreur”, it is the equivalent of a one-time-only “get out of jail free” card but only if the error was made in good faith. Repeated errors of the same kind are considered to be deliberate and therefore do not qualify. The law was a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron. It means that anyone who has breached a rule for the first time, or “made a material error”, cannot be punished if they have corrected the situation on their own initiative or
Hernia meant that singing left me in excruciating pain Musician and singing teacher Peter Evans, 58, moved to France in 2013 with wife Ema. The pair run meditation and singing retreats near Lac de Vassivière. Initial symptoms In April 2018, I noticed a swelling on the left side of my groin. I recognised it instantly, as I’d had two hernias in the past – the first aged 18, and the second when I was 38. If I lay on my back, it was possible to push the swelling back in, but when I coughed it would pop straight out again. It was a little tender but not painful. I might have over-exerted myself when digging up a rose bush in the garden the day before. I went to see my local GP, who confirmed the diagnosis. He asked whether I wanted to have the hernia operated on. As they don’t heal themselves and are likely to get worse if left untreated, I said that I did, but wanted to wait until autumn as summer can be busy as I run singing groups and am also a keen cyclist. However, the next month, whilst running singing classes, which can put strain on the abdominal muscles, I got the first of three episodes of excruciating pain. A hernia is caused by part of the intestines poking out through a weak section of the abdominal wall; if it gets trapped, it can cause agonising pain and unless you can get it to go back in, it can become “strangulated” and you need emergency surgery. Luckily, I managed to get it to pop back in by lying down and massaging the area, so hospital was not needed. However, I made an urgent appointment with my GP, who referred me to the Clinique François Chénieux in Limoges for the following week. Amazingly, I still managed to complete the rest of the singing workshop and also take part in a fourand-a-half-hour cycling event in the intervening week. At the hospital The check-up at the hospital was just to confirm the diagnosis and to arrange a date for surgery, which was set for September. I could have had an earlier
FACTS ON inguinal hernia
Dr Renaud Chiche, chirurgien digestif at the Clinique Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed? An inguinal (groin) hernia appears as a swelling in the groin, which corresponds with the passage of the intestines through the inguinal canal. It is usually painless and often disappears when the patient stretches, or presses on the swelling. A inguinal hernia may remain asymptomatic for years but it will only grow and cannot heal spontaneously. The most serious complication is strangulation: the intestines stuck in the hernia can lose blood supply (necrosis); in this case, emergency surgery is required. How long does the operation take? Two types of surgery are possible: by an incision of the groin (which can be done under local anaesthesia) or by
laparoscopy (under general anaesthesia). The laparoscopy is minimally invasive and is less painful for the patient. Could you briefly describe what is done to rectify the hernia? In almost all cases, a parietal reinforcement (mesh) is put in place to prevent recurrence. Surgery usually lasts about 30 minutes and is carried out on a day-patient basis. What is the prognosis for patients after the operation? The risk of complications after surgery are very low (haematomas, after-pain and, in exceptional cases, infection may occur). The use of prosthetics means that the chance of recurrence is less than 2%.
NEXT MONTH: Cataracts
Peter Evans was in hospital for less than 12 hours to have hernia repaired appointment, but wanted to wait until after the summer. Two weeks prior to the operation, I had an appointment with the anaesthetist to talk about my medication and check my blood pressure. I was offered the choice between a spinal anaesthesia and general. I opted for the general because I’d never had any problem with them in the past, and didn’t like the idea of being temporarily paralysed. The operation I checked in for the operation on the day
itself at 7.30am. As I was first on the list for theatre, I was taken to surgery at around 9am. The procedure takes around 45 minutes, and I was fully awake in my room by around lunchtime. After a few checks by nurses and the surgeon, a sandwich and a couple of cups of coffee, my head had cleared sufficiently for me to head home in the ambulance taxi by 7pm. You are allowed to go home the same day if you have a responsible adult waiting for you. The staff at the hospital were great and spoke “lentement, clairement et simplement” for me, and both the ambulance taxi drivers were lovely as well – though I did have to ask the guy on the way home to take it a bit easier around the corners of the Lac-side roads! Aftercare Once I was home, the local nurses came daily to check the wound and change the dressings for the first week. After seven days, with the incision sufficiently healed, they removed the outer stitches (there were two more layers of self-dissolving sutures under the skin). Around a month after the procedure, I had another appointment with the surgeon so that I could be given the all-clear to gradually resume my usual activities.
High-altitude French ski resorts are eyesores This is partly false When it comes to high-altitude French ski resorts, the aesthetic is often not pretty. Concrete tower blocks from the 60s and 70s jostle with purpose-built squares to supply huge demand in Tignes (2,100m), Avoriaz (1,800m) and Les Arcs (2,100m). The appeal of these Brit-crowded resorts can quickly wear thin... at which point it is time to move towards prettier Alpine
In this column we look at claims often made about France and whether they are actually true pastures. The picturesque Savoyard village of Samoëns, perched at 1,600m, is attached to 265km of pistes belonging to the Grand Massif ski area. The ancient village is classed as a monument historique and in the quaint mountain eateries you will find that the majority of the customers are
French. The old cheesemaking village of St Martin-deBelleville is lower than the neighbouring Trois Vallées resorts of Méribel and Val Thorens but speedy lifts get you up the mountain in a flash. Take the lift over Col de Rosael from Val Thorens to get to Orelle, a cluster of 10 hamlets in the Maurienne valley. You have the best of both worlds here: access to the Trois Vallées slopes but far enough away for some peace and quiet. Traditional architecture
abounds at Les Saisies. Nestled in the Beaufortain valley, the village boasts stunning views of Mont Blanc. Known as a cross-country resort, its gentle inclines are ideal for families and beginners. If you enjoy a hearty meal after a day on the slopes, try Serre Chevalier in the Ecrins national park. With 250km of ski slopes and a dozen idyllic villages, this is where to find roaring log fires and a typically cosy mountain atmosphere.
after being invited to do so by the administration. During his campaign, President Macron gave two examples to illustrate how this works. “Today, an employer who forgets to declare to URSSAF the Christmas bonus he paid to his employees is fined. He will be able to assert his right to make a mistake tomorrow,” he said. “Today, grandparents who are giving accommodation to their granddaughter because she has just found a job near them must report this to CAF or risk losing part of their housing benefits and paying penalties. “Tomorrow, they will be able to exercise their right to make mistakes and will not have to pay the penalty.”
Cashback sites on the rise Cashback websites which give you money when you make a purchase from a partner internet site are on the rise in France. Shoppers who buy an item on a partner site receive a percentage of the money they spend back from the site. Christian Goaziou, founder of the largest such site in France iGraal, said it works because it is based on a classic economic model: “All retail companies, large or small, are always on the lookout for two things: one, to increase their sales, and two, to attract more customers. “For that they will spend a fortune on advertising. “With us they get cheap publicity as people are encouraged to buy as they get money back. “We negotiate a deal with the seller. They might give us 10% of the purchase price of any sale through our site and we will pass on a percentage of that to the customer.” More than four million
people are signed up to iGraal. When a customer wants to buy a lawn mower, for example, they go on the site, look up the partner sites selling them, and buy. A percentage of what they pay then comes back to them via their iGraal account. Customers can “earn” €100 to €150 a year. There are more than 50 similar sites in France, including eBuyClub, with 2.5million members. Cashback in France is not as developed as in the US or the UK, but a survey in 2016 showed a 20% increase every year since 2012. As always, you must look at the small print to know what you are signing up for. There are often bigger cashbacks for a first purchase, for example. Consumer websites give one warning; sign up with free cashback sites, as pay-to-join sites have attracted complaints and sites should make their money from retailers.
GPS turns off police checks MOTORISTS who use Waze or Coyote GPS applications may soon lose advance warning of certain police checks. A bill that would force the apps to conceal specific types of police presence has the support of the companies behind the apps, as well as motoring and road safety groups. Speed camera operations would not be affected by the draft law but alcohol stops would be removed, as would police checks in case of terrorist or criminal activity. Road safety minister Emmanuel Barbe said: “The principle [of this bill] is that a criminal who has kidnapped someone, perpetrated a terrorist act or who is drunk while driving cannot avoid a police check just because another driver has reported it via an application”. The bill will be presented for vote early this year.
Gluten-free sweet deliveries SWEET news for anyone who is gluten-intolerant: a pâtisserie in Lyon that sells only gluten-free products now delivers its gateaux nationwide. Les Gasteliers’ pastries can be ordered online (lesgasteliers.fr), and will arrive on your doorstep within 48 hours. The
pâtisserie opened in 2017 with a mission to create original recipes that are 100% gluten-free and made using ingredients from organic or sustainable sources, supplied directly by producers. They also have a lactose-free range for dairy-intolerant customers.
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The language is a castle for exploring, not for attacking !! “And one-to-one courses are an excellent method to try.” So says Claire Campbell, a professional teacher with an Oxford degree and years of experience in language teaching. The castle idea is suggested by the fortress of Quéribus, which looks down on the picturesque village of Cucugnan, where she welcomes students of all ages to take language courses of a week or two, for one person or two, as required. Leafing through her Visitors Book gives an excellent impression of what people have gained from her courses. The latest page includes the following: “It was with great trepidation that I e-mailed Claire re booking this course. I had tried so many other methods. In a class situation I had been reluctant to speak out and consequently so much passed over my head. “Claire was inspirational. She seemed to sense my level of competence and stretched me while at the same time she put me at my
ease and gave me space to make mistakes without judgment or embarrassment, and all the while making it fun. Claire’s enthusiasm and knowledge is catching, so I have been inspired to continue working at home through the stories and the exercises suggested by her . “I loved my little apartment on the top floor and made it my home. Cucugnan is a delight, even in winter, and my hike up to Quéribus was brilliant. “I am sure my French has improved during this week. Rules which were foggy now
become clearer and I feel so much more confident. It has been a wonderful enlivening experience.” Other reviews, to be found on Tripadvisor or on her own website, also mention increasing confidence. According to Claire, confidence is the key. So many people have had discouraging experiences, either at school or at classes in France. Too many learners have come away convinced that French is too difficult, and that they are incompetent . “Well, it isn’t and they aren’t !!!” “If the language is a castle, then the long walk up should be enjoyable, with new vistas opening up as you go, and a wonderful view from the top,” she says. The little apartment referred to is the accommodation included in the course-price. It has a kitchen , but the village also has three restaurants, a famous bakery, and excellent local wineries. Altogether, a week with Claire is a pleasant holiday as well as language course.
Claire Campbell runs French language courses in scenic Cucugnan www.cours-a-cucugnan.com
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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.” Christine Haworth-Staines UK Chartered Psychologist
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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 no 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
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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
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Five Day Mindful Meditation and Yoga Retreat in Normandy In an increasingly frantic world it is essential to have compassion for ourselves and to invest in our inner peace. Theresa and Simon Powell run Riboudin Retreats which offers residential retreats to help you renew, rebalance and reconnect with what really matters in life and specialises in mindfulnessbased meditation and yoga to help address the causes of stress. “Our Norman long house is a 10 acre pocket of calm, just 3km from the famous
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cliffs of Étretat, an area that has provided inspiration and sanctuary for many famous artists over the years. With a bluebell forest and extensive garden, we are immersed in nature.” says Theresa. “Each retreat day features guided meditations, morning and evening yoga, rural or coastal walks. There is also the opportunity to have a massage or reiki session to promote stress reduction.” Theresa is a qualified Meditation teacher, having studied extensively in France and the UK. Riboudin Retreats offers Meditation of Breath, Meditation of Loving Kindness, Gratitude Meditations and Visualization Meditations with Rose Quartz; you will also be guided and experience deep levels of relaxation with your meditations. If the weather is co-operating, the yoga and meditation classes are held in the open air, including on the amazing cliffs of Étretat. Simon continues, “Our experienced yoga
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teacher predominately teaches Vinyasa Yoga, with relaxing Savasana, but enjoys teaching Power Yoga for strength and welcomes participants of all levels. Whether you are new to yoga and meditation or wish to deepen your practice, we welcome you. “Each day includes time for everyone to pursue their own activities, Wednesday mornings we take a visit to the local market to buy fresh provisions, including some delicious French cheeses. Evenings can be enjoyed sitting by the fire pit.” Theresa concludes, “Riboudin is the French name for the tiny Winter Wren Troglodytes Troglodytes which symbolise resilience and a renewal of energy. Our retreats are designed to nourish you from the inside out, and guests enjoy homemade, nutritious vegetarian meals and desserts featuring local produce including honey, eggs and vegetables from our garden, when they are available.”
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Ash Grove Stoves Supplier of Hunter - Parkway
For all your Courier & Transport Needs
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1 CUBIC METRE TO FULL TRAILER LOADS
The savvy expat’s favourite service!
Visit www.riboudin.com to book for a 2019 retreat or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hundreds of practical questions are answered in Connexion helpguides
Guests normally arrive Monday morning and depart Friday afternoon, bed & breakfast extensions are available. Visitor comments include, ‘We were lucky to fall into a piece of heaven’ and ‘I will treasure the kindness and compassion of the teachers’.
SPAIN - UK - FRANCE SERVICE
Tel: +44 (0) 1304 822 844
Please see Theresa’s blog or instagram for some retreat food bites. https://www.riboudin.com/blog / https://www.instagram.com/riboudin.retreats/
Clean Burn - Fire Visible Boiler versions available Deliveries all over France Prices on our website Lowest Prices Guaranteed Tel: 00 44 (0) 1392 861579 www.ashgrovestoves.com email@example.com
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Meditation and Yoga Retreat in Normandy Experienced teachers, beautiful location and fine vegetarian food www.riboudin.com Tel: 0970 90 19 66 Email: email@example.com
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Carpentry, masonry, plastering, kitchens, replacement windows and doors
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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
Love French Interiors French Reproduction Furniture. Hand crafted from Mahogany. Wide choice of finish options. Full customisation possible. Bespoke Design service available. Delivery throughout France. www.lovefrenchinteriors.com
0044 (0) 20 3474 0092
English TV in your French Home Professional installations in Brittany & Normandy Mail-order throughout France Free, friendly, helpful advice
02 97 27 58 50 www.tvbrittany.com
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05 SOUTH west
The Connexion January 2019
Retirement offers an opportunity to purchase and run a successful French business The English Institute Toulon is looking for new owners due to the anticipated retirement of current owners Peter and Tracey Waite. The school is an English Language training centre and has operated in the same rented premises since 1990. It is on the second floor of a traditional French Hausmann style building with a lift, right in the middle of Toulon with five training rooms, computer room, reception, library, kitchen etc. In all about 170m2. Peter explains, “The English Institute teaches English to French adults and older teenagers. The lessons are mainly on an individual, one to one basis although we
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
do teach some groups of people within the same company. Around 50% of our business comes from businesses in the area for their employees. The other 50% is from individuals doing their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training. In France there is now a system where employees have a personal budget to use for CPD and they can use it how they want. English is very much key for all CPD so it is a popular use of these budgets. “We have 4 self-employed teachers and a full-time office manager/PA. The business turns over, on average, €200,000 per annum. The owners’ net remuneration is around 20-30% of turnover. Much is dependent on how much teaching the owners do and this figure is therefore flexible. The lease is around 5,000 € per quarter and is renewable every nine years. The next lease renewal is in June 2020. “We will be staying in the area and will
be available for an extensive handover (3-6 months) and for ongoing support.” Tracey details the purchaser profile; “The figures given above assume that the owners do some teaching, it would be highly beneficial therefore to have experience in teaching English as a second language (TESL, CELTA), to have general business background and to speak French. The office manager is French and is practically autonomous but will need day to day guidance on business decisions. She speaks a strong intermediate level of English and most of the teachers are bi-lingual - all are native English speakers. “We understand that with BREXIT on the horizon British people interested in this opportunity will have a number of questions regarding the feasibility of living and running a business in France. This is something potential purchasers should inform themselves of, however Connexion
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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
All Gardening Work - Cutting Strimming - Hedge Trimming Clearance - Property Services Depts - 24,46,47 Tel: Bob & Tracy 06 42 82 44 96 Email: email@example.com
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ANGLICAN CHURCH IN MIDI-PYRENEES & AUDE Every Sunday at: ALET-LES-BAINS: 10.30 am CAHORS: 10.00 am GAILLAC-BRENS: 11.00 am TOULOUSE: 10.30 am ALSO at: CAYLUS VALENCE d’AGEN & VAYRAC TIMES VARY - PLEASE ENQUIRE
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Chats du Quercy
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For Daily updates see
Siret No.520 980 269 00010
Tel 06 80 55 06 09 SW France firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter and Tracey Waite, owners of the English Institute, founded in 1990
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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
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siret : 48293447800017
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PENSION POUR CHATS NEAR SARLAT, OPEN-AIR, INSULATED AND HEATED CONTACT PETER Maslen 05 53 31 95 88 / 06 86 94 85 78 firstname.lastname@example.org www.dordognecattery.com
is an excellent information source regarding all things BREXIT. “Property prices in Toulon are very reasonable in comparison with some of the other areas along the South coast, see Le Bon Coin or SeLoger.com websites.” If you are interested, in the first instance please contact Peter and Tracey with a landline telephone number and they will call you to discuss further and answer any initial questions you may have. They require offers in the region of €150,000.
ELECTRICIAN Experienced & French Registered.
French lessons Salies de Béarn Karine Flandé Piché Basic french and conversations for adults French tutor 6eme à 3eme
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Property Management Services
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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
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
Consultus Care and Nursing Short term positions available for live in carers in the UK
Make a difference to an elderly or vulnerable person’s life Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.consultuscare.com
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
The Connexion January 2019
It’s not all about the sale, a good long-term relationship counts most December saw a major problem in the UK with mobile carrier O2 where customers lost internet access for a few hours notes Bob Elliott, Commercial Director of UKTelecom. However the customer reaction was huge. This simply reflects the importance we all now place on reliable access to the internet. Of course there is a lot of equipment that sits behind any telecom service and the hardware is constantly being replaced by improved designs that are more reliable and additional services. The same is true of your home internet service. Long gone are the days of ‘dial-up’ where it took longer to download a simple photo or attachment than to make a cup of tea. As speed and reliability has improved beyond all recognition over the last 10 or so years the acceptance of loss of service has diminished. This is reflected in the forums where the most disgruntled let of steam about the latest loss of their broadband and the length of
time it took to get it restored. There is a clear pattern between price and response. In fact changing broadband supplier is as likely as changing your utility company or bank – so we tend to put up with quite a lot before we overcome the inertia and find a new telecom company. This suggests that it is best to look carefully at all providers before committing to a contract. As they say, ‘the sweetness of the cheapest deal is soon forgotten when
problems take too long to fix’. Here at UKTelecom we have taken this to heart. What makes’ the following: our broadband and its many add-ons different? Well firstly we never knowingly miss sell any of our services. We always check customers’ locations to make sure we offer the best service that their line can carry. Once they are live we make sure we look after them whether it is helping getting set up, changing passwords, getting the best wifi speed and many more matters; this is all done in English or French as they prefer. But what happens if something stops working? This is where we take ownership of the problem and use our experience to get Orange engineers who look after the telephone line network to investigate and repair. This saves customers with little technical French having to struggle to describe the problem and understand what they may need to do. From initiating the remote repairs to arranging engineer visits to
our customers and translating between them, everything is included in the monthly charge. Updates by phone and email are speedy and detailed. This high level of customer care is reflected in the many other things we do. From accepting payment in £s or €s, allowing broadband to be suspended when away and other unique services; the choices really reflect what customers regard as most important. The last 5 years of continued growth has allowed UKTelecom to improve what we do and there will shortly be announcements of new deals. So if you think we can offer you better than you currently receive call us for good honest and knowledgeable advice before making your next move. After all it is free and there is nothing to lose! UKTelecom email@example.com 0805 631632 (free from France) or 44+ (0)1483477100
Client à la Carte: 1034 (+33 668 634 634) u UKTelecom, www.uktelecom.net. Tel: free from France: 0805631632, UK +44 (0) 1483477100 Line installation management and unlimited free technical support. 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 u Irish, Paris: 01 44 17 67 00 u US, Paris: 01 43 12 22 22 u Canadian, Paris: 01 44 43 29 00 u Australian, Paris: 01 40 59 33 00 u NZ, Paris: 01 45 01 43 43 u South 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
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)
2019 CHARITY WALL CALENDAR
Alfred Stieglitz is rightly remembered as one of the first people to have recognised the artistic potentials of photography. Famous for his portraits, in particular of Georgia O’Keeffe, and his uncompromising views of New York’s modernity, he also gathered around him young artists known as “precisionists” whose careers he relentlessly promoted. This lecture by Christian Monjou, at the Théâtre du Ranelagh central Paris, on January 10, costs €15 for non-members. Log on to www.padfas.fr for more details. Sunday Mass in English in the Chapelle St Patrick CCI Rue des Irlandais, Paris, followed by coffee and chat every Sunday at 11.30am. firstname.lastname@example.org
Order at our shop at connexionfrance.com or call Nathalie on 06 40 55 71 63
19th Annual Conference on Nephrology (kidney disease) invites all Nephrology and other related professionals to gather for the grand meet up at London, UK on May 2223, 2019. https://nephrology.cmesociety.com
You can see more events and post your own at connexionfrance.com/community/events
Oh, yes it is ... a bilingual pantomime featuring 6ft dwarfs Photo: La Troupe d’Acteurs du Quercy / Facebook
THE CONNEXION’S FRANCE
If you love waltzes and the music of Strauss and Schubert – even Mozart and Beethoven, you are invited to an evening of popular Viennese music presented by Cantabile and guest singers. Tickets for the event on January 5 at the Espace Culturel, Eymet, are available from the town’s tourist office, or at the door on the night – €10 each, free to under 12s. Email Philippa Tillyer at email@example.com for more information.
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
Scenes from last year’s successful pantomime, Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is this year’s chosen pantomime to be performed by La Troupe d’Acteurs du Quercy at the Salle des Fêtes in Montaigu-de-Quercy on Saturday, January 26, at 8pm and Sunday, January 27, at 4pm. There will be a few twists, of course. The dwarfs are all 6ft, having all grown up near nuclear power stations. The theatre group was formed in 2002 by four expat couples who had been involved in amateur dramatics in the UK. Their first pantomime was Cinderella in
2003, which was performed in a village hall. Now they have grown to over 80 members, and they put on three annual productions, one of which is always a pantomime at the end of January. The group works hard to make the shows accessible to a French audience and have developed a method in which alternate lines are in French and English. President John Blaus said: “The different lines refer to each other so that the script can be understood in both languages. For example, one actor may say “Oh yes, I’m
going to the Post Office”, in one language and the next actor will say “Have you been to the Post Office?”, in the other language. “Half of the characters speak French and half English. This also makes the shows popular with schools and there will be two free additional performances, for around 300 local primary school children. Ticket prices for the January 26 show are adults €8, children €4. For January 27 adults €5, children €3. Reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 07 87 65 07 98
The Connexion January 2019
Private for sale property company looking for homes throughout France Selling property privately in France has long been popular with French buyers and sellers. ARB French Property run by Adrian and Jacqui Bunn, have developed an innovative way for English speaking sellers to take advantage of the private for sale market, attracting buyers from UK, France, Belgium and Holland, all keen to save money and to deal direct. As Adrian explains. “Feedback from our sellers has highlighted three areas of concern. Firstly, the lack of a pro-active approach to marketing a home, secondly
the quality of some of those clients sent to view and thirdly a lack of feedback following a visit. These are three concerns that ARB have set out to answer.” Jacqui continues, “We ensure that every home receives the same high level of attention with individually designed property particulars containing an extensive description, up to 30 photos, and a free floor plan. Additionally, we mailshot our 5000-strong database targeting by specific postcodes such as London and also specific occupations including the armed services, police and teachers. “A typical ARB purchaser is undoubtedly a serious buyer, has cash available, is probably semi-retired or retired and may well be considering a fulltime move, with many looking to enjoy the home with family and grand-children. We are seeing an increasing number
taking advantage of their pension fund arrangements or cashing in on UK house prices to purchase in France.” Adrian adds, “To help sellers further we introduced our Platinum Plus service which is proving very popular with sellers. The scheme has a one-off fee which includes a visit to photograph, floorplan plus advice on home dressing ready for viewings. There is no commission or balance payment due, saving thousands.“ After a highly successful 2018 ARB now need homes for sale throughout all areas of France. If you think your home will appeal to buyers from the UK, France and beyond, if you want a pro-active approach and the attention your home deserves, please call or email ARB French Property. +44 (0)1803 469367 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 00 44 1635 48724.
Transportation company delivers “anything legal” Possessions getting “lost” en route – this is a removal horror story heard time and time again. However reliability, trustworthiness and respect are qualities and the cornerstones of the service that George White European provides to its customers.
“At George White European we pride ourselves on our old-fashioned values,” said George. “We really look after all our clients. We offer a bespoke service to each and every one, and always ensure that goods and belongings are delivered on time, safely and without any problems.” Having started driving over 30 years ago George has obtained an award from the European Road Transport Union for three million kilometres of safe driving. George Steve and Mick are highly knowledgeable about French and British roads and have been specialising in southwest France for more than 15 years,
always delivering and picking up when expected, at the agreed price. Over the years the company has evolved into a trusted network of like-minded ownerdrivers and are able to cope with up to 80 pallets a week from their warehouse and storage facility near Nottingham. The team consists of Mick, David, (the warehouse manager) Steve, and of course George. Also Ray who has panel vans and Lee who drives a large low loader. It is not just removals that George White European team transport to and from France, the company delivers anything from bathrooms, furniture, kitchens, cars,
fencing, horse feed, doors, windows and building materials to tractors, diggers, dumpers, trailers and anything else what will go legally into a trailer. All customers need to do is email email@example.com for a quote and then arrange for their goods to be delivered to the warehouse near Nottingham. The company can act as a bespoke local haulage service to collect your goods. There are Travis Perkins and a B&Q depots close to the warehouse which will deliver larger building materials direct to the warehouse for you. “Customers just get in contact with the Builders Merchants, email us that the goods are on their way and they come straight to our warehouse,“ said George, “And, as a special bonus, any customer having goods delivered from our depot can also order a small supermarket shop as an added extra.” Depending on the areas being collected
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
Using large multipurpose vehicles allows George White European to cut charges to customers from and delivered to, the minimum load could be as little as 1 pallet size of trailer floor space, 1200mm x1000mm. A linear metre of removals, ex our warehouse (which is 2.6m tall and 2.4m wide and 1.0m long), with prices from as little as £240 + VAT. At the other end of the scale, a full 13.6m-long load (max 24 tonnes) of domestic removals can be handled for around £2,800 + VAT, depending on the locations involved. As the team typically operate a weekly service along routes from Dieppe or Le
Havre to the southwest of France, the costs are kept low as the vehicles can be filled with other goods for much of the journey. “George White European gives great service at a great price,” said a recent customer. “Do not be fooled into thinking that they are too cheap – they are just honest.” +33 (0)6 23 03 85 59 +44 (0)7768 867360 firstname.lastname@example.org www.georgewhiteeuropean.co.uk
The Connexion January 2019
The best way to furnish your property in France Furniture for France has many years’ experience of supplying high quality furniture to its customers FURNITURE for France is now in its fifteenth year of supplying quality furniture to properties in France.
New French inspired oak furniture designs being introduced for 2018
The company specialises in providing clients with a customised service that offers good quality UK-sourced furniture without the hassle of arranging delivery and ordering furniture in the UK. Furniture for France works with its customers all the way from the initial enquiry through to installing the furniture in their homes. Offering advice on all aspects of a customer’s order, such as sofa coverings, wood finishes and delivery schedules, ensures they are kept informed every step of the way. “With 15 years’ experience and thousands of deliveries under our belts throughout France, we have encountered almost everything and put that to good use when advising and helping customers find the right furniture for their property in France,” said the company’s managing director Brian Muir. The delivery service offered includes room
by room installation of all furniture ordered, this includes assembly of all oak beds and wardrobes as these come in sections for ease of access to difficult staircases. All other items are solid, no assembly pieces. Our deliveries are timed to the hour on the agreed date of delivery. The Furniture for France face book page will keep you up to date with all the latest news. Six new ranges of oak have recently been introduced, including traditional styles in a rustic finish. With competitively priced solid oak furniture it is no wonder Furniture for France had its best ever year in 2017. In addition to the new oak furniture a choice of 12 different paint colours are now available on all pine furniture. Wood samples can also be sent out to customers if required. “With delivery costs starting at just £59 for any quantity of furniture, there really isn’t a better or easier way to furnish a property in
France,” said Mr Muir. Throughout 2017 sofas continued to be the best-selling individual item for the company. Loose-covered designs are always top of the list with the introduction of more complex fabric patterns and colours allowing customers to custom cover the sofa of their choice. “This process can take some Stylish Highcleare fixed cover sofa design time to work through, but as the product has a life expectancy of introduce great ranges of furniture for over 15 years, it pays to get it right,” said Mr delivery to our customers in France without Muir. Furniture for France makes deliveries compromising on quality or service.” as far afield as Geneva and Nice, as well as locally to customers in the Dordogne, the 06 46 49 73 45 Lot, Charente and Limousin. email@example.com Mr Muir added: “We will continue to www.furnitureforfrance.co.uk
Complete solution to fosse septique problems There’s little worse than a smelly or blocked fosse septique, but there is a simple, ecological and costeffective treatment, say Eco-tabs Europe founders Shelly and Tim Burns-O’Regan WITH costly emptying charges and the potential to smell or get blocked, fosse septiques can be a homeowner’s nightmare. But an innovative product now exists which not only takes away the need to empty your fosse, but also removes odours and reduces blockages. Eco-tabs are purely bacterial-based, not a combination of enzymes like many competitive products. They help to increase overall system efficiency, reduce costly maintenance and eliminate the need for
toxic chemicals and special handling procedures. The tablets work by oxygenating the water in the fosse, removing hydrogen sulfide odours, preventing corrosion, and initiating aerobic biological breakdown of organic sludge, including oils and grease. Store bought products that are enzyme based liquify the solids for them to reform later. So you will still need to pump out your tank. Eco-tabs degrade the solids and remove those pesky odours. Company founders Shelly and Tim BurnsO’Regan say: “Our company is founded on the core belief that eco-friendly, non-toxic waste treatment products have become a necessity in today’s environmentally sensitive and fragile ecosystem. We also provide excellent customer service and follow up as fed back from our customers.” An eco-tabs Clean out Pack starts at 66€ ( exc TVA, p+p) for a standard 3000 litre
tank compared to the cost of a pump out truck ranging from 125€ up to 400€, this is a no-brainer. “Simply flush a tablet down the toilet each month to maintain a healthy fosse septique. Or, as an alternative to pumping out, use two tabs and one bag of our Shock powder and watch the magic. “Not only do the tabs oxygenate the water, which removes the odours, the sludge is eaten away by the bacteria. The result: a clean fosse which does not need to be pumped out… all that remains is water.” Eco-tabs are compatible for old septic tanks right through to the new microstation systems. To ensure that you are only buying the products necessary for your tank, we offer a Personalised Treatment Plan which will recommend the ideal products for you. Visit: www.eco-tabs.biz and click on the link for a Personalised Treatment Plan.
Eco-tabs are 100% ecological and mean you don’t need to pump out your fosse For more information, visit the website or contact Tim on +33 (0)6 35 96 95 12 www.eco-tabs.biz firstname.lastname@example.org
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Gilets oranges feed the world all year round
connexionfrance.com See also Page 27 for Community events
WE HAVE heard a lot recently about the gilets jaunes – but it’s good to hear too about the gilets oranges. They work for a little-known but vital charity that collects food from supermarkets and farmers, then distributes it to the needy in a co-ordinated network across the country. This is the Banques Alimentaires, which provides half the food given out for free in the country every year. It ensures that two million people get decent meals they would not otherwise be able to afford. With around 100 warehouses across the country, it relies heavily on its 6,000 volunteers, the gilets oranges, who make up 90% of its workforce. The organisation, the first food bank in Europe, was set up in 1984 and modelled itself on initiatives in Canada and the US. Sister Cécile Bigo issued an appeal in the newspaper La Croix: “Man has invented ways
of going to the moon. Cannot his heart invent a way to put an end to food waste and feed all of humanity?” President Jacques Bailet, himself a volunteer, says that not many people realise the huge logistical effort behind fetching and sorting the food: “The aim of our organisation is to fight both against food waste and lack of food for some people. “Unlike other organisations, such as Restos du Cœur, we do not buy any of our food. We collect 113,000 tonnes every year, of which 73,000 tonnes would otherwise be destroyed. “For example, a supermarket cannot sell a bag of clementines if one of them is rotten. But we can open the bag and use the good ones. “Supermarkets place orders for ready-made sandwiches every morning, but the sandwich makers cannot know what the order will be in advance and so they make more than necessary.
Above and right, volunteers sort fruit and vegetables at a Banques Alimentaires store Sometimes we can pick up as many as 4,000 sandwiches which would otherwise be thrown away. We also get food when the public donate during national collection days.” Mr Bailet says the work of the association saves a needy household €92 a month on average, which is vital to help the poorest people meet their bills at the end of the month. He says being a volunteer with the Banques Alimentaires is rewarding: “I find I meet people I would never have met otherwise and it is something that we enjoy, as well as helping others. We welcome all
kinds of skills, from driving lorries, working with computers, logistics, sorting food or going to companies to persuade them to hand over their food waste to us. A centre may be processing 4,000 to
5,000 tonnes of food a day so we always need help. “You can come for half a day a week or every day... just whatever suits you.” You can sign up to volunteer at giletsorange.fr.
Volunteer sapeur pompier’s lot is surprisingly happy one The Bordeaux Women’s Club is seeking new members
Old US wives’ club now embraces every woman Bordeaux Women’s Club (bordeauxwomensclub.org) aims to help international English-speaking women meet and adapt comfortably into French life and culture. President Margo Durand said it is harder than people think for women arriving in Bordeaux from all over the world to settle in. She said: “It can almost be even more difficult for French women coming back from a period abroad, because everybody expects they will have a life waiting for them here, but it is not often the case. “We have members from 25 different countries. It is super and makes it very international and interesting.” She says that members have to speak English fluently: “The more comfort and reassurance you have within one group, the more confidence you then have to join French activities.” The club was founded in
1951 and was originally a US officers’ wives club, but Mrs Durand says they are proud that the club still exists even though the American army has left Bordeaux: “The club adapted when the few American women left decided they wanted to continue.” It is strictly female-only: “This is for historical reasons but we have decided to keep it this way. It is good to have one club just for women because together they support, empower and understand each other.” Members can join in a range of activities including a cinema group, book clubs, local visits, wine tasting, a walk-and-talk group, and one for women to practise their French. Neighbourhood groups have developed for people who live outside the city, to make it easier for them to meet up. Membership costs €30 a year and Mrs Durand said new members are always welcome.
FRANCE’S sapeurs pompiers fire service would love to attract more volunteer recruits. Volunteers can be of any nationality as long as they live in France, and the organisation is keen to point out that they do not have to be young, muscly supermen – just people in basic good health. Marie-Françoise Woodward has both French and British nationality and joined four years ago when she was 47. She says being a volunteer firefighter is an amazing thing to do: “I love it more than I could have imagined. “You cannot deny the basic usefulness of it and you feel you are doing something completely significant. “It is a great way of becoming integrated, because you are part of a team and you help people in your community.” She joined when she realised she needed to learn more about first aid. “It is remote, where I live in the Lot, and when my daughter was ill and had difficulty breathing one night, I had to wait for two hours for the doctor. The nearest hospital was half an hour away. “A friend said a lot of sapeur pompier work is first aid-based and persuaded me to join.” Some 73% of sapeur pompier work is as an emergency ambulance service. Only 6% is for fires, 6% for road accidents
The forgotten story of brave Ulster nurses in Great War
THE remarkable story of a group of nurses from Ulster who set up a hospital in France to look after soldiers during World War One has been turned into a book. Author Claire McElhinney (above) was inspired to write after discovering her grandmother was among the group. She wanted to highlight women’s roles in the war as she says most of the stories from the time focused on fighting men. She said: “I hope my book will help redress the balance, shedding new light on the story of pioneering women from Ulster and letting my grandmother Edith and her fellow volunteers have their voices heard 100 years on.” Many young women in Ulster were already trained in first aid because they feared civil war. They volunteered as soon as the Great War broke out. The UK declined their offer of help as it thought the war would soon be over. However, one of the women had contacts in France so, not wanting to give up, they applied to the French, who were short of nurses and said yes. Their first 80-bed Ulster Volunteer Hospital was in Pau. The women also cared for German soldiers at a nearby PoW camp. In 1916, they were moved to Lyon and looked after French soldiers returning from the battle of Verdun. The hospital was funded by donations from Ulster but in 1917 it had to be disbanded. Claire said of her grandmother: “She died when I was two, and none of her family ever asked her about her time in France. She came back to be a farmer’s wife and had eight children. My uncle did tell me French homework was always easy because his mother helped him, but he never asked why she knew the language.” Tell Them of Us was funded by the Ulster-Scots Agency. For a free copy (just pay p&p) call 00 44 28 90 436710/email info@ ulster-scots.com.
Marie-Françoise Woodward became a volunteer at the age of 47 Colonel Yves Marcoux is and 15% for other activities, responsible for volunteer firesuch as responding to natural fighters in the Lot and says 930 disasters. out of 1,000 people working for New recruits face 35 days of training. After the first 10 days, the sapeurs pompiers in his department are volunteers. which focuses on first aid, vol“The country could not unteers can go on-call. afford to have round-the-clock Mrs Woodward said: “We professionals on duty for many carry a pager with us, which stations. We are always looking tells the station whether we are available or not. For example, if for new members.” Volunteers must be on call I am alone at home with my children I will not be called up. for one weekend and a few nights every month. You need “If I am free, as soon as I get to live within 10km of a fire the call, I drop everything, get station and speak French well. in the car, go to the station, change, find out what the mission is and we’re off. “We are usually a team of The Connexion regularly features news and events from four with an experienced chief community groups all over France. We would be pleased to and when we get to the scene publicise your association (non-commercial) – it’s a great way we have to make a medical to bring in new members and it is free! You can submit events assessment, give first aid and via connexionfrance.com/Community To have your association/ decide whether to take the group featured, email details to email@example.com person to hospital or not.”
Have your group featured
A ToWn in the Gironde has gone back to nature in search of a costeffective way to solve its growing mosquito problem. Bats are natural predators for the insects and eat up to 2,000 each a day. So Bègles, just south of Bordeaux, has installed bat and swallow nesting boxes. By the end of 2018, some 100 boxes were in place on public buildings across the town – and the mairie is offering 100 householders a €10 refund if they buy and install a box themselves. The boxes are seen as a cheap, effective and permanent solution to the increasing numbers of mosquitoes in the town every year. Mosquitoes, including tiger mosquitoes which have spread to 62 departments in France including the Gironde, are known to carry a number of viruses, including dengue fever, the zika virus and the chikungunya virus. Symptoms of dengue and chikungunya include severe joint pain, fever, headaches, weeping eyes and a rash. Every year, from May to November, health authorities in France are on high alert for the possible spread of diseases carried by mosquitoes. It is not the only step that authorities in the town have taken. Bègles is one of an increasing number of communes in France to turn off their street lights for a portion of the night. As well as cutting costs and reducing light pollution, the move helps the local bat population, said mayor Clément Rossignol Puech.
Notaires ‘must modernise and go high-tech’ NOTAIRES must be ready to reform and modernise – and that means embracing technology, their new president has said. Jean-François Humbert said notaires have to gear up to provide the service people will expect in 10 years’ time. He told Connexion: “We need to make progress with integrating technology, IT, artificial intelligence and, especially, video-conferencing so we can mediate and work with people, wherever they are geographically. At the moment, people can use a procuration, which means legally giving someone else the power to sign a document for them, but how much more personal it would be if they could be present via a video-link and sign electronically. When someone buys a house, it’s nice for them to be present.” Mr Humbert would like to contribute to developing new services and diversifying activities. He said: “I’d like to see notaires providing more mediation, especially when it comes to international affairs, in Europe and the United States, for example. I’d like French notaires to be able to help clients even when they move to, say Wash ington, on all subjects, including international taxation. So many people are on the move now. “Someone who owns a flat in Paris might be working in Rome but want to rent the flat to someone who is currently in Amsterdam. Notaires need to be able to help in these complicated international situations.” Mr Humbert, 61, president of the Conseil Supérieur du Notariat (CSN), who has had a long career as a notaire in Paris, says he wants to ensure the profession maintains its character across the nation, meaning people get the same service in the countryside as in the city.
Photo: Romuald Meigneux
Batty solution to mosquito problem
The Connexion January 2019
A notaire is both a professional and a public servant who represents the state when legal documents are drawn up, often in relation to big steps of life: recording a will, sorting out inheritance, formal gifts, creating a mortgage, buying and selling property, drawing up marriage contracts, and assigning power of attorney. Contracts drawn up by a notaire cannot be legally challenged, says Mr Humbert. “This means, for example, that if a tenancy agreement is drawn up privately and the tenant then falls behind with the rent, the owner would have to seek redress through the courts. But if that tenancy agreement was drawn up by a notaire, the owner could go straight to the bailiffs as the order to pay has already been made.” Part of the job is finding agreement between parties signing a contract, he says. “Humans actually prefer to find agreement than get into disputes and that’s what attracted me to the profession: finding agreement between people.” The only downside about the job is that sometimes the law can be too rigid, he says. “But we have to apply the law. That’s our job.” The 2015 ‘Loi Macron’ made it easier for notaires to set up new offices, which he says was a change that surprised some in the profession, though people have now got used to it. Prior to this, notaires had to buy an existing practice at a high cost, or enter a competitive exam to obtain one of a few rare vacant or new places (60 were created from 2005 to 2013). The law aimed to allow qualified people to apply to open one of around 1,000 new offices across France, with a certain number on offer in each of 247 “free set-up zones”. [On going to press the Conseil supérieur du notariat (CSN) issued a statement ‘deploring’ a ‘second wave’ creating 479 extra offices on top of 1,600 which it said had set up
since summer 2017. It said it was too soon and more time was needed for the existing new notaires to settle into their jobs. It was considering legal action in opposition to this]. Mr Humbert notes that because notaires represent the state, the state has a larger role in the French legal system than in the UK and the US – countries which consider that democracy is served by making the legal system independent. “In the US, the legal system was set up by people fleeing state authority, so of course they made an independent legal system. In France, our history is different,” he says. All notaires belong to the CSN, which exists to represent them in dealings with the state, and to regulate the profession: how they become qualified, are co-ordinated and are disciplined. Many people’s first dealings with a notaire are when they buy a property. “It’s one of the most important things people do in their lives, and usually the most valuable purchase they make. “The money paid to the notaire is made up of taxes which go straight to the state, expenses, and of course his or her fees. They are around 8% of the value of the property [and around 13% of that fee goes to the notaire]. A buyer should be informed what the notaire’s fees will be before they buy, to avoid nasty surprises.” In the past a large majority of notaires used to be male, as in many professions, but Mr Humbert says that has changed. “Today around 45% are women, and among under-35s about 60% are women. This is in line with the student intake at French law schools.” The government fixes fees for some kinds of work but others can be set freely. Many, but not all, notaires offer some free advice, including at Conseil du Coin sessions in cafés on the first Saturday of the month (conseilducoin.fr).
life in france less taxing
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Money / Tax page
Is the Cesu system only for residents? IS IT true that the Cesu system which simplifies employing a person in the home, such as a cleaner, is only for residents and not open to holiday home owners? N.L. YES.... and no. A spokeswoman for Acoss, the body in charge of the national Urssaf network, said it is correct that nonresidents should not use the standard Cesu system – but there is a similar scheme specifically for them, called Tpee. People can sign up for this at www.tpee.urssaf.fr and it is for anyone who employs workers in the home for personal services, such as gardening or cleaning, during their stays in France. It helps people make sure they are meeting their responsibilities in terms of social charge contributions for the employee. To join the scheme, you click adhérer under Identification. The site has an English option.
Is a council pension a ‘government’ one? MY WIFE is due to start her UK local government pension soon. We are permanently living in France and have lived here for 12 years. We pay French tax. Is the pension taxable in France or does it come under the type of UK government pension scheme that is taxed in the UK? D.S. Yes, a local authority pension is usually a “government” one. The easiest way of knowing this is whether the pension is paid by the Paymaster General or not. If so, then yes it is a government pension, and if not, then
Money and tax changes in 2019
Send your financial queries to
Hugh MacDonald at
email@example.com no. Otherwise, the pension generally qualifies as a government pension if it is paid by a government agency. To see which pensions qualify, you can also check the list at this site: tinyurl.com/y9w8n7by.
Is there a double tax treaty with Germany? I know a tax agreement exists between the UK and France but does the same apply between Germany and France? If tax is deducted at source in Germany, can it be taxed again in France? C.C. THE GENERAL principle of double tax treaties is to ensure it is clear which country has what rights to tax what income – and one does exist between France and Germany. So, in general, if income is taxed in Germany then that same income should not also be taxed in France. This said, it is not because the income is taxed in Germany that France has no right to tax it since, per the double tax treaties, it may be a kind of income that France has the right to tax and not Germany. In such a case you would have to confirm to the German tax authorities that you were resident in France, and not in Ger many, so that Germany can stop taxing the income. It should also be noted that some sources of income, such as rental income and government pension income (for
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.
Practical: Money 33
example, from diplomatic service, military, civil servants) are only taxable in the country from which they come. These incomes are not taxed in the country of residence but are “taken into account” in the French tax calculations. This is to ensure someone does not benefit twice from each country’s personal allowances and increasing tax bands. While the amount of tax paid in the foreign country, if any, is ignored, the effect may be to place any French taxable income into a higher tax band.
Can I work for foreign firm from France? IF I relocate from the UK to France but continue to be paid in GBP in the UK for the company that I work for (I am a homeworker so can work from anywhere), what do I need to do to be a legal resident in France? R.N. THESE issues are complicated, partly due to the application of VAT laws, although this applies to most countries, not just France. While you may be paid by a foreign company, you will physically be working in France and, technically, the product of that work is liable to French VAT, irrespective of whether or not this work were to be exempt from VAT, or chargeable at 0%, or below any threshold. As a result, the foreign
company that is paying you will be seen by the French tax authorities as having a theoretical office here in France, called a succursale, and it is this office that will be seen to be employing you, not your current employer in the UK. So any employer and employee social security contributions will be due in France on what would be seen to be your French salary, as will any VAT, corporation tax on the profit the succursale makes, and other company taxes. The bottom line is that you cannot work in France for a foreign company and be remunerated by that foreign company since, were you to do so, you would be causing major problems for your employer. The exception to this is if your employer has a French company to which you can be seconded, as the rules relating to secondments are different. Accordingly, the best solution for you would be to see if you could work as a contractor, but this would entail working for other people or companies as well in order, pursuant to French employment laws, to avoid your being nonetheless still considered as an employee of your contracting company. This is an area that you would need to discuss with your employer as it affects them as well as you, and would cause them more problems than you. Likewise, it is an area that would need consultation with a specialised professional.
The information on these pages is of a general nature. You should not act or refrain from acting on it without taking professional advice on the specific facts of your case. No liability is accepted in respect of these articles. These articles are intended only as a general guide. Nothing herein constitutes actual financial advice.
A NEW at-source tax system starts for all on January 1, 2019. Online/paper declarations will still however need to be completed every spring. French salaries and pensions will be paid with tax deducted, based on a rate established from your last declaration and noted on your last avis d’imposition (or based on the level of the income alone, if you requested this). Possible refunds or extra tax will apply next year once you have declared your actual 2019 income in May/June 2020. If you have regular rental income or foreign income, instalments will be deducted from your French bank account either monthly or quarterly, based on previous declarations. If you previously benefited from certain tax credits or reductions (but not the CITE for eco-friendly work in the home) you should receive a 60% advance into your bank account from January 15, based on the declaration made for 2017 income in May/June 2018. THE LOWERING of the taxe d’habitation for 80% of households continues this year with 65% off 2019’s bill for those eligible. Full exemption will follow in 2020. In some cases the promised 30% off in 2018 proved less significant than hoped for due to rises in the rate applied by mairies and intercommunal bodies. INCOME tax bands for 2019 have risen by 1.6% linked to inflation. They are therefore: 0 - €9,964 = tax-free €9,964 - €27,519 = 14% €27,519 - €73,779 = 30% €73,779 - €156,244 = 41% €156,244 and above = 45%
IT WAS announced that banks agreed with President Macron not to raise fees in 2019. However commentators said in reality it will make no difference as hardly any rises were planned. AROUND 3.5million pensioners with net earnings of less than €2,000/month will go back to the 2017 rate of
CSG social charge on pensions (6.6% instead of 8.3%), it was announced in response to the gilets jaunes protests. It comes on top of plans in the 2019 Finance Law to allow an extra 300,000 retirees on moderate pensions to benefit from the means-tested reduced rate of CSG charge on their pensions (3.8% instead of 8.3%). In 2019 the higher rate will only apply to households which have been over the threshold for two consecutive years, meaning those that went into the higher rate for the first time in 2018 will not be included. Residents who do not receive a French pension but receive a state pension from another EU state do not pay social charges on pension income. THE AAH benefit for disabled adults and the Aspa pension top-up are both being increased by more than the usual amount. AAH will be boosted by €40/ month for its 1.1 million recipients. Aspa, claimed by 1.3million people, increases by €35/month as of January. AROUND 20 “little taxes” which do not bring in much money for the state are being abolished. They include tax levies on flour, semolina and wheat gruel; on the addition of sugar to the grape harvest; and a “contribution on hole punching and precious metal tests”. Also on the list is the annual tax on mobile residences, payable by those living permanently in a caravan or mobile home. THE TV licence fee stays at €139. ALL foreign bank accounts must be declared as part of your income tax declaration this year, even if they have not been used. ONLINE platforms such as Airbnb are now meant to notify the tax authorities of your annual earnings if they exceed €3,000. This will not exempt you from also declaring the income, whatever the amount, with exceptions such as occasionally selling your own belongings or carsharing if expenses alone are involved.
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34 Practical: Money
Four rules to follow for a secure financial future... 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 January is a time when many people reflect on the previous 12 months and look ahead to what the coming year will bring. You may set goals for the year, such as exercising more, taking up a new hobby or planning a dream holiday. When it comes to financial planning, however, focusing on one year is not nearly enough, you need to plan ahead for the future. While you should always consider current developments that could impact your finances, good wealth management is all about establishing your goals, both short and long-term, then setting up a strategic plan to achieve them. Planning for a financially secure retirement For many of us, the ultimate goal is to be able to enjoy our dream retirement. Since you are reading Connexion, that is likely to involve living in France or at least spending a lot of time here, and you will want to make the most of what it has to offer. And the good news is that life expectancy in France is a year longer than the UK! Not only are people living longer, they are also enjoying a lifestyle that is more active (and arguably more expensive) than previous generations. While this is welcome, we need to ensure our money comfortably lasts as long as we do. Many retirees favour low-risk, ‘safer’ invest-
ments like bank deposits. But, you have potentially 30 years to fund in retirement, which means this is actually a risky option. Slowly but surely the cost of living increases every year. Even lower inflation rates can erode the spending power of your savings over the longer term, so you need them to at least earn enough to keep up with inflation (and ideally beat it), but with today’s low interest rates this is a struggle. Britons in France who keep savings in sterling also need to factor in exchange rate risk, as currency movements can make a noticeable difference to the amount of income you receive. Start by establishing what your goals are (what income and capital growth you need, etc), and obtain an objective analysis of your risk profile. Working with an experienced and regulated adviser, you can then build a portfolio, with a careful spread of investments across asset classes, regions, market sectors, companies, currencies etc, designed to achieve your goals within your risk tolerance. The key is to find the right balance of risk and return for your peace of mind.
Planning to protect your wealth from tax I mentioned inflation above, but when considering your income needs you also need to factor in taxation. You should ideally review your tax planning once a year to take account of any tax reforms – and here in France they happen often and can be quite substantial! That said, there is only one significant tax change in France in 2019, and that is the introduction of PAYE. But if you have not reviewed your tax planning after the key 2018 reforms, you should do so now.
Planning for the inevitable Life expectancy may be increasing, but don’t use this as an excuse to put off estate planning – or you risk leaving it too late. Again, start by defining your goals. Who you want to inherit your estate and in what amounts? Do you want to plan how and when they receive their inheritance? You then need to research the succession laws and inheritance taxes in France and anywhere else you have assets and heirs. You need to understand the EU succession regulation ‘Brussels IV’ and the pros and cons of using this for your cross-border estate planning. Then take advice on how to achieve your wishes for your heirs and to make the process as straightforward as possible for them. At the same time, you should consider the tax implications of your options, to find the optimum solution for you. Planning for Brexit We cannot talk about planning for 2019 without mentioning Brexit. Negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement were ongoing as I wrote this, so I cannot comment on what the final agreement may be, but this is a good time to consider whether you need to adjust your financial planning. If you are living in France, your financial planning should be set up for France. Do you own too many UK investments? Are all your savings in sterling, putting you at mercy of exchange rate swings? Are you hoping to transfer your pension out of the UK in the future? Be aware that many speculate the UK could widen the 25% ‘overseas transfer charge’ after Brexit, so that transfers within the EU are also taxed.
When it comes to the taxation, your treatment as an expatriate is determined by the UK/ France tax treaty that exists independently of the EU. There are, however, some circumstances where taxation may be affected. For example, if you hold UK bonds, you may lose beneficial tax treatment in France once the UK leaves the EU and EEA. In this case you may want to consider moving to arrangements which provide full tax benefits in France. Interestingly, we are now coming across more people in the UK who are looking beyond Brexit to what will happen next. They are concerned that a change of government could impose a new taxation policy which would impact the wealth they have worked hard to build up in preparation for their retirement. Even if there is no change at No. 10, are tax rises on the middle classes still a possibility? If you dream of living in France and are worried about what may happen in the UK, perhaps now is the time to start exploring your options for a tax-efficient move to France. Even if you cannot leave the UK yet, it would be good to have a plan in place, especially if it is one that could help you move sooner rather than later. Speaking to an advisory firm experienced at helping UK residents move to France should provide a wealth of useful information and advice. Very best wishes to all Connexion readers for 2019 and beyond. n Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.
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Rural French origins of three-star culinary career by JANE HANKS CHEF Adam Smith moved to France before his 13th birthday with his parents and three younger brothers. Dad Keith and mum Sharon had wanted a change of lifestyle and the opportunity for the four children to grow up in the countryside away from urban life in Stockport. They bought a watermill at Borrèze in the Dordogne which they ran as a chambres d’hôtes. Adam remembers his first days at collège were difficult: “We arrived in the summer and had a great time for six weeks playing in the woods and swimming in the pool. Then it was time to go to school and I couldn’t speak any French. “It was not like an English school where the walls were decorated. Here the classrooms were sterile and you had to sit at a desk all day. “In England we had been able to do cooking, sewing and woodwork and move around, so it was definitely a challenge losing that. However, when you are listening to French all day, you soon pick up the language.” Exams were difficult, he said, so his brevet did not go well. One option afterwards was the Lycée Hôtelier catering college in nearby Souillac in the Lot, which has the reputation of being one of the best in France. “I remembered enjoying cooking and being good at it in school in the UK and my mum was always
Growing up in France... A six-month series of interviews with people who moved here as children 3: Chef Adam Smith cooking at home so this was a chance for me. I still found the school atmosphere sterile, even if there was something practical to do. “One day, a chef came to give career advice and he said the best place with the most opportunities was London. “So when I had got my bac and done a further year specialising in pâtisserie, I decided to go to London where some of my French friends had already gone. “I had always thought of going back to the UK once I had my diplomas and knew I did not want to stay in the Dordogne, which is a bit too quiet.” In London he worked in several restaurants. Then he got a job at the prestigious three-star Waterside Inn restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, run by Alain Roux, son of Michel Roux, one of the two famous brothers. “My French training definitely helped me get the job as it was the language spoken in the kitchens and
Adam Smith outside the Jaunty Goat in Chester, where he now works was based on French cuisine, and studying in France has a good reputation. I stayed there for about a year. It was tough. There were a lot of us in the kitchen, all trying to impress the top chef and I think you have to be quite aggressive to succeed. “I learnt a massive amount and made a lot of friends who I am still in touch with. When I finished, I went back to France for a short break.” Back in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, he
found work in local restaurants but it was too tranquil so he returned to London and signed up for an agency. There he gained a lot of experience doing all sorts of different work, including catering for the Queen’s 90th birthday dinner at the Guildhall. For a year he had another full-time job in a restaurant not far from London Bridge. “Eventually, I decided I wanted to move on from London, which is
hectic after the French countryside. I moved to Chester, near to where I had lived as a child, and there was a coffee house looking for chefs. “It has been a great challenge and very enjoyable to transform the menu and now you can get varied brunches at the Jaunty Goat. “The atmosphere in the café is really good and I can use all the skills I have learned without it being as stressful as the Waterside Inn. “The Jaunty Goat is very popular in Chester and we have won two awards, including one for the best café in Cheshire.” His parents still live in France and he goes back to visit as often as he can. Another of his brothers lives and works near him in the UK and the other two are studying in Toulouse and Cahors. Adam is now 26 and, looking back, he says living in France definitely helped him become the person he is today: “It was a great experience and I do not think it is a bad thing to experience another culture and learn another language. “It shaped me as a person and I have probably got more to offer as a chef than if I had just trained in the UK. I have always been able to find work and it definitely led to openings that I would not otherwise have had.” NEXT MONTH:
Elise Jarasse who runs a farm in Corrèze
Ex-surfer turns hemp farmer
the interest for organic farmers in growing hemp is that it enriches the soil, fixing nitrogen like peas and beans. Mr Lartizien used savings from his days as a professional surfer and investment from a surf equipment manufacturer to build a factory at SaintGeours-de-Maremne, near Hossegor in the Landes, to process hemp. “The banks were not interested in lending to a surfer who wanted to grow cannabis,” he said. The factory, initially equipped with machines to husk, crush and press the seeds for oil, is due to be extended next year to include an area where the stalks can also be processed for fibre. It sells organic - bio - Made in France hemp oil to be used cold as a salad dressing, both husked and unhusked seeds, and a meal made from the seeds. “They are wonderfully tasty sprinkled over salads or added to breads,” he said. “Above all, they are very
nutritious, full of omega 3 and 6, essential oils, protein, rare fatty acids and trace elements.” Mr Lartizien urged people to grow a patch of hemp in their vegetable gardens. Seeds can be sourced from growers in Finland or Italy. The only French seed producer sells hybrid seeds, which he does not recommend. “For a garden the benefits are the same as for organic farmers – you get the soil improved and you can eat the seeds. “Plus, if you are building and renovating, you can use the stalks to make insulation material.” His inspiration to relaunch the hemp industry came directly from his days as a surfer. “I lived for 18 years in Hawaii and travelled the world, and everywhere I heard people talking of the virtues of the plant,” he said. “I realised it was a way to make an effort to promote it in a way which is good for the planet and for people.” Previously, hemp was important for the rope-making and paper industries in France. About 10 years ago, a large building materials company tried to launch it as a crop grown for insulation, which did not work. “This time I am confident we are on the right track,” said Mr Lartizien. “The seeds are the most valuable part of the plant, which is why I started with them.”
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RETIRED professional surfer Vincent Lartizien has relaunched professional hemp growing in France. He now has 40 bio-farmers producing the crop while he develops factories to process it. Hemp, also known as industrial cannabis, is a version of the plant where the active ingredient THC, which gives the “high” in smoked cannabis, is below 0.2%. Mr Lartizien produces it for its seeds, which are edible and nutritious. Hemp looks identical to the cannabis grown as a recreational drug but it is legal to grow it in France. Mr Lartizien, pictured, said: “Hemp seeds are all certified by the European Union and growers receive receipts for the seeds they order. “There is a mechanism where local authorities are meant to be told by the European Union when hemp is grown but it does not work well, so growers often go to the gendarmes with the documents themselves to avoid problems.” Hemp, planted in May and harvested for seeds in September, is now one of the most profitable crops for organic farmers to grow, with most getting between €3,000 and €4,000 profit per hectare. It requires rich soil on a long rotation cycle but, once planted, does not need weeding or other treatment and is heat and drought-resistant. Apart from being profitable,
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 Distribution 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.
Many jobs unfilled due to lack of skills MANY sectors are struggling to recruit even though 3.4million are unemployed in France. Lack of qualifications, low pay or tough working conditions are often cited as reasons. IT is one sector in which jobs are often not filled because of a lack of skilled applicants. Other struggling sectors include industry, building, sales, services to businesses and in the home, and farming work such as grape-picking and harvesting. Up to 300,000 jobs went unfilled during 2017, the last year for which full figures are available from Pôle Emploi. The main problem was lack of candidates with the right, or sufficiently up-to-date and specialised, training. Jobs requiring technical knowledge, such as manufacturing industrial equipment, are among those where firms have great recruitment difficulties. Under-qualification is also a problem: half of French jobseekers have not completed any post-baccalauréat training. The problem is compounded by the fact that some seemingly straightforward jobs are becoming more technical – a refuse lorry driver, for example,
now needs IT skills to operate the onboard computer used to organise the rounds. Partly to blame is a lack of good continuing training, according to the OECD group of advanced economies. Chief economist of Natixis Bank Patrick Artus says lack of skills is also holding back the use of advanced robotics technology. He said, in Le Monde, it mostly explains why France has more unemployment than Germany. Another issue in some sectors, such as hospitality, is that salaries and working conditions can be off-putting. Figures from Insee and Pôle Emploi show specific jobs which are hardest to fill include dentists, technical draftspeople, panel beaters, pipe fitters, aircraft crew, roofers, carpenters, home help, machine regulators (who check settings), boilermakers and metalworkers. Sectors where lack of skills is most cited as a problem include building, such as bricklayers (as well as secondary trades including electricians, plumbers and insulators), the motor industry and road haulage.
Small business and tax advice Is micro-foncier ceiling doubled for a couple? Q: WE ARE resident in France and so pay tax here. We own a second property we wish to rent out. The income may exceed the €15,000 limit to access the micro-foncier. Is this doubled to €30,000 if the property is jointly owned? What allowances are available to offset the cost of owning a rental property? A: FIRSTLY, the €15,000 limit to access the simple micro-foncier system for declaring (unfurnished) rental income is per household (foyer fiscal) so this includes married or civil partners and dependants who live with them. The micro-foncier system has a set abatement of 30% of the income to account for expenses relating to the rental of the property so you cannot offset any other specific expenses. If rental income falls outside the micro-foncier threshold, or you do not want to make use of it, then you are required to declare it under the réel system, on form 2044, deducting real expenses (keep proof – receipts etc – of these in case you are checked). There are higher thresholds and allowances under the micro-BIC but this system applies to income from furnished lettings, including chambres d’hôtes and gîtes, and not unfurnished rental. Note that those with regular income from renting out a property will as of this year be subject to monthly or three-monthly direct debits from their bank accounts as estimated tax instalments (with possible repayments or extra tax later once the full income or, for the réel, profit, is known and declared in 2020). People who start having rental income in 2019 are subject to this immediately and will be required to update their tax details in their online space at impots.gouv.fr so the income is taken into account. Email your tax questions to email@example.com 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
Hard work leads to success for soft furnishings expert CRAFTS in focus by JANE HANKS HANDS-ON experience is the key to success in upholstery, says experienced tapisseur décorateur Sébastien Eloy. He runs his own business in Brive-la-Gaillarde, in the Corrèze, and is one of five upholsterers in a town of 45,000 people – proving there is work to be had. He restores and creates chairs, armchairs and sofas. He likes working with antiques but also with contemporary furniture, and his shop is full of colour, from the bright and cheerful materials he favours. “I became an upholsterer because it was my father’s job,” he said. “When I was young, I loved watching him work and knew I wanted to do that when I grew up. “I learned everything from him. I only studied for one qualification, a CAP in sewing, because I wanted to create my own modern furniture, where you often have to sew, as well as tack material on to a frame.” Many people have quality pieces of furniture in their homes that they want to restore rather than throw away. A lot of his work comes from word of mouth and he says it is always a pleasure to hand over a chair he has worked on which now looks like new. He said: “The client has to have confidence in you because he is handing over a part of his family history and when you have done a good job, it is satisfying because the client is happy with the result, because something precious to him or her can continue to be used for many more years.” He says people worry about cost, but taking a chair to an upholsterer is around the same price as buying new from a quality furniture store. So you pay the same and get, in effect, a new piece of furniture, but you have something more valuable because it already has its own history. On average, a chair will take him two days to upholster. “You need a lot of patience and to work slowly and carefully. I would not say I am an artist but a craftsman who knows how to use his hands. “You can go to college and learn how to do it, but really the only way is to get as much practical experience as you can. I love the work because it is so varied. No two chairs are the same. I may upholster several Voltaire chairs in a year, but they are
Above, Sébastien Eloy restores a family’s favourite chair. Below, some of his brightly coloured original creations
I would not say I am an artist but a craftsman who knows how to use his hands
Upholsterer Sébastien Eloy
always slightly different in style and materials.” The term tapissier décorateur, or tapissier d’ameublement, is not restricted to chairs and sofas but applies to curtains, cushions and wall-hangings. Although most of the work is with furniture, the definition given by the Institut National des Métiers d’Art is “working with materials to create interior textile decorations”. In 2015 there were 4,400 artisanal upholstery businesses in France – far fewer than in 2005, when there were 6,550. Nearly half of their work (40%) is restoration and the rest is working on new furniture. They work mostly for private clients. Most tapissier décorateurs (68%) work for themselves. If not, their businesses are small with up to three employees. It is a job which attracts women and men in equal proportions. You need an artistic flair and a sense of colour, and you must
be good with your hands. As it often involves restoration, you need to know about the history and the different styles of furniture – the difference between a Louis XV and a Voltaire chair, for example. You need patience and dexterity and there is a great deal of technique to learn – using hammers, tacks, needles, various threads, scissors, different materials from leather to fine silks, and a sewing machine. It is a manual job and uses very little machinery. The upholsterer often has his own workshop, which can include a shop where he sells what he has made or restored direct to the public. Often, he is called to someone’s home to look at a piece of family furniture which needs restoring to give a quotation. If your first job is working for someone else, you will start on the smic, the minimum wage. You do not need to have any
formal training to set up as an upholsterer, but there are plenty of specific training courses. You can do a CAP tapissier lasting one to three years after the brevet and can choose between tapissier d’ameublement en décor or tapissier d’ameublement en siège. There are four possibilities at Bac level: a BAC PRO artisanat et métiers d’art with an option tapissier d’ameublement (two years); a brevet professionnel ameublement option tapisserie decoration (two years); a formation métiers d’art spécialité tapisserie (three years); or a brevet technique des métiers, tapissier décorateur (two years). Further studies are for a diplôme des métiers d’art, and the highest qualification is to become an Artisan Tapissier de France, which is awarded by a jury to someone who is highly qualified and shows he or she has produced work of a very high standard during his or her career.
Property Watch in
A brief history of humanity at site of renovated chateau
AS RECENTLY as 50 years ago, all you could see of the Château de Commarque was part of the castle’s keep and the cross on top of the chapel, just visible among the trees on a densely wooded hillside. Now the treasures of the site have been revealed after decades of painstaking archaeological and historical research, a massive – and continuing – clearing operation and major works to reinforce and restore crumbling walls. The chateau, between Sarlat and Les Eyzies in the Dordogne, has been open to the public since 2000. Last year it was awarded the Grand Trophée de la Plus Belle Restauration by the Fondation pour les Monuments Historiques and Le Figaro Magazine. Owner Hubert de Commarque said: “The site is unique because it was lived in from prehistoric times up to the 16th century. After that, it was deserted and so we have an open history book we can read, from the caves lived in by early man at the bottom of the cliffs up to the homes built further up the hillside for the lords who ruled over this territory. “Here there is everything man needed. A spring, plenty of wild animals and stone cliffs, first to shelter in and then to provide building materials. This was an important route between the two towns of Montignac and Sarlat. Later, the seats of power changed and the inhabitants moved on.” Visitors get a hint of what our ancestors saw – cars are parked out of sight and the castle is a short walk down a lane into the grassy valley of the Beaune, where there is no evidence of modern life. No telephone wires, no tarmac... the only building opposite is a 14th century private castle. At every turn, the stones and cliffs show the marks that tell the story of Commarque. On the hillside, the visitor discovers a medieval castle with the remains of surrounding houses, a chapel and a paved street. The imposing keep has two halves. A 12th-century section with thick walls has stone trapdoors in the ceilings, through which noble families would climb using ladders they would haul up after them to make sure they were safe from attack. An elegant window with columns high up in the tower shows it was for people of importance. Added on is the 13th-century half, with slimmer walls and larger living spaces. When restoration work started, the
Architecture of France... Château de Commarque
By JANE HANKS
tower was an empty shell; now floors and stone stairs have been added, so visitors can get a feel of what it was like. The latest project was the 14th-century corps de logis, or living quarters, which juxtapose the keep – and here too a spiral staircase and floors have been added and fireplaces restored. Scaffolding was erected up the sheer walls and expert masons refaced the stone, which was crumbling. Records show that the complex was inhabited by different noble families at the same time, each with their own tower. They did not necessarily live harmoniously as records also show there were several court cases. Down on the valley floor are the entrances to caves, which were inhabited from the Paleolithic period. Sadly, impressive prehistoric carvings cannot be seen by the public as the entrances are narrow and access is difficult. The valley in which Commarque is situated has the largest concentration of engraved Paleolithic caves in the world. All along the cliffs below the castle are the tell-tale square indentations where wooden beams were once fixed for the houses built against the rock face. “These would have been for the roof timbers,” said Mr Commarque. “The rest of the building would have been below the ground we are standing on. “Since man first lived here, there has been a build-up of about 15 metres of peat. This is something we now want to explore, to find what is hidden below us. Everything we uncover, every detail in the stone, gives us yet more clues as to the way life was lived here in the past. “If you look at these stairs carved in the rock and then look just next to it, you can see a cruder, narrower set which were made earlier, when tools were less developed. Everything tells a story.” Though Hubert de Commarque is the present owner and, as his name indicates,
his ancestors also lived here, he had to buy the site in 1968 before he could start work. In the early 20th century, the site was bought by a German prince who had acquired a nearby chateau. For five years he pillaged Commarque for building stone. “He demolished at least four towers and a house,” said Mr Commarque. He says he bought it because he knew the whole place would fall into irreparable ruin if he did not act. He had already inherited other chateaux in the region, which he had restored, and he has always been passionate about heritage and the environment so it was a natural step to tackle Commarque. “I never imagined that I would open it to the public, though,” he said. “I thought it would be too difficult. I just wanted to preserve the site.” It has been a long struggle. He could not fund it alone and has had to battle to find finance, comply with regulations and convince local people that it should open. He received financial help from the state and from American sponsors who helped fund the costly annual archaeological digs and research for more than 25 years. Then, when he wanted to open it to the public, an association was set up to fight the plan. He is not sure that a National Trust-like organisation would have helped as he would not have liked to give control to someone else who might not have shared his vision. He is also not the sort of man to direct everything from the end of a telephone – he is very hands-on. Now in his seventies and recovering from a stroke, he was recently shifting trees and more earth to reveal the walls of yet another lord’s house. He runs Commarque with his wife Christine and children, Aude and Jean, and he clearly loves the place. He took me to see every nook and cranny, involving quite a climb from bottom to top. He said: “We have tried to keep restoration minimalist so as to keep the magic of the place alive. After all these years and the struggle it has been, I find it a great satisfaction when visitors show their enthusiasm and you can see the stars in their eyes as they discover a miraculous place and they thank us with emotion.” Open April to November. Workshops for children. www.commarque.com More photos can be found with this article online at connexionfrance.com
REGIONAL CAPITAL: Rennes DEPARTMENTS: Côtes-d’Armor, Finistère, Ille-etVilaine, Morbihan MAIN CITIES: Brest, Quimper, Lorient, Vannes, Saint-Malo, Saint-Brieuc, Lanester, Fougères, Concarneau, Lannion, Morlaix A PETITION of 100,000 signatures was handed in to officials of Loire-Atlantique at the end of November 2018 demanding that the department return to its historic region of Brittany. The petition had enough signatures to trigger a legal mechanism that has prompted a debate and possible vote which could – possibly – see four departments become five in future, and historic Brittany be restored for the first time since 1940. For now, however, modern Brittany remains made up of four departments looking out into the Atlantic from the north-west coast of France – Côtes-d’Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan –in an ancient land of myth, mystery, and proud tradition. Maybe that is what makes the region so attractive: that sense of being forever undiscovered beyond the well-known delights of Saint-Malo, Dinard or Dinan. Whatever the reason, Brittany remains perennially popular with Britons looking to move to France, but – despite that – it is still highly affordable. A typical house in Brest, for example, will cost about €172,000, according to latest available figures from Notaires de France, which remains firmly in the price range of many prospective buyers, despite a 7.2% yearon-year increase, well above the national average. Prices across the region range from highs of about €2,180/ m2 to €1,100/m2, Notaires de France figures show.
What your money buys Under €55,000
Fantastic opportunity to purchase a cute one-bedroom cottage with garden and summer house. This house has a wood-burning stove and is within walking distance of the boulangerie and other amenities. The perfect easy-to-maintain holiday home, near to Plounévez-Quintin. €31,500 Ref: 79378GLO22
Charming detached stone house. This is is the perfect lock-up-andleave holiday home! Situated in the countryside, a short drive from Callac with all its amenities. This perfect two-bedroom stone house would be the ideal lowmaintenance holiday home. €52,000 Ref: 73319LRE22
More than €75,000
Excellent price for this large threebedroom home close to village centre - 20km from the beaches! In a village with bakery, restaurant and welcoming community. A short drive from the beautiful coastline and stunning beaches, with easy access to Lannion and Guingamp. €77,000 Ref: 89373LRE22
Looking for something a little different? Two one-bed houses, full of character at end of a lane. A great investment property at the edge of Jugon-les-Lacs. Within 500m of the town centre, benefiting from the peace and quiet of the countryside with all the amenities to hand. €99,550 Ref: 94869SAB22
Properties available through Leggett Immobilier www.frenchestateagents.com Tel: 05 53 56 62 54
Next month: We look at Normandy
38 PRACTICAL: Property
LegalNotes Rebel Ferré and his chimp’s Your questions answered
Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query
Q: I plan to buy a house in France where I will live with my partner. If I should die first, I would like my partner to continue living in the home for as long as he wants although ownership will pass to my two sons in England. I thought a usufruit would do this but now I learn my partner would pay 60% tax upon my death. Would a PACS avoid this? T.G. A: A PACS (pacte civil de solidarité) is a form of civil partnership agreement. It can be between same or different-sex couples and non-French nationals must live in France before becoming PACS partners. A PACS does not create an entitlement for the surviving partner to inherit on the death of the first of you. However, it allows the same tax treatment as a married couple and would therefore ensure that any asset passing to the surviving partner would be free from inheritance tax. You could become PACS partners and make a French will giving your partner a life interest (usu-
fruit) entitling him to remain in the house for the rest of his life. Your sons will inherit the bare interest (nue-propriété), which is legal title subject only to the life interest. If you die first, your partner will be exempt from paying inheritance tax. On his death, his life interest ends and your sons own the property outright in equal shares. Some additional points: A bequest on death to a PACS partner must not impinge on the reserved entitlement of any children of the deceased. As you have two sons, they are each entitled to 1/3 of your estate. Through a will, you can leave your partner the remaining 1/3 or a life interest in the estate. In order to ensure your partner receives the life interest, your will must include a reference to article 917 of the Civil Code. Discuss this with your notaire. PACS couples. like married couples, are assessed jointly for income tax.
Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 www.heslop-platt.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Our house heating comes from an old oil boiler and, as pensioners, the slump in the exchange rate, plus price rises. means it is harder to pay for oil to keep us warm. I have seen there is extra new aid becoming available from EDF that could help us get away from oil altogether – can you explain what it involves? J.S. A: There is, indeed, help available if you want to opt for a greener and more fuel-efficient heating system and the aid involved is significant, given the high cost of a new system. At present, aid from the state ranges from €2,000 to €3,000 for people on lower incomes who can benefit from the Coup de pouce économies d’énergie. As a couple, the maximum
earning level if you are judged to be of moderately low income (ménages modestes) is €27,200 to get a €2,000 grant and for very low incomes (ménages très modestes) €21,217 for a €3,000 grant. However, as you point out, EDF has recently said it is keen to help people who are tied to an old oil boiler and has announced extra aid to help them move on to new cleaner, greener energy. In this case, EDF is offering to increase the grant aid by 50% for people who opt to switch to a heat pump (pompe à chaleur), giving €4,500 for those on very low incomes and €3,000 for low incomes. However, it must be noted that the average price of a heat pump is €11,000.
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
chateau for sale... at €4.7m by CLAIRE McQUE
The former Lot home of composer, poet and author Léo Ferré and his chimpanzee is on the market for €4,770,000. The 14th-century Château de Pechrigal – where Ferré lived from1963 until 1968 – stands three kilometres outside the village of Gourdon. Pech-Rigal means royal hill in old local French dialect, befitting its hilltop position. The 67-hectare plot includes meadows, tennis courts, a pool and half a hectare of Merlot vineyards, giving 4,000 bottles of wine a year. The chateau, a grand affair of 17 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, guard house, pigeonnier, wine cellar, restored farmhouse and two outhouses, was bought and renovated by a Frenchman in 1998. He transformed the crumbling property into a luxurious second home, occasionally used for private events and weddings. It had fallen into disrepair after rebel composer Ferré left it unlived-in for 25 years. Ferré, born to bourgeois parents in Monaco, escaped his strict Christian upbringing to live in Rome and then Paris, where he fell into intellectual life and composing music. In Paris, he hung out with the likes of André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Jacques Prévert and Juliette Gréco, whose all-black clothing was inspired by Ferré’s anarchist’s black shirt and trousers. Jolie Môme and Paris
Léo Ferré and Pépée were a fixture at Pechrigal, where the chimp helped speed the damage by throwing tiles off the roof Canaille were two of Ferré’s songs made famous by Gréco. The artist’s ardent support of the anarchists during the Spanish Civil War fed much of his creative output. His contempt for society, the church, the army and the government translated into his mixture of classic chansons, surrealist poetry and writing. Known also for the songs Avec le Temps and La Chanson du Scaphandrier (The Deep sea Diver’s Song), his lyrics were
inspired by the poets Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Apollinaire. The period Ferré spent at Pechrigal with his second wife Madeleine Rabereau and her daughter Annie was prolific. It was there he composed the album Verlaine et Rimbaud. He also wrote C’est le Printemps, recorded the album Ferré 64, and wrote the controversial Franco la Muerte. He even set up a printing press in one of the wings. Most famous-
ly, Ferré lived there with Pépée, a female chimpanzee. A 1966 documentary showed the chimp drinking soup at the dinner table and smoking a cigarette. Pépée even stripped tiles from the roof and threw them at people. Ferré considered the chimp his child and when Pépée died, he moved to Tuscany with third wife Marie-Christine, and the chateau lay unused. Kirsten Pollard of MaxwellBaynes, the estate agent managing the sale (maxwellbaynes.com), said its rich history and recent artistic links had not added any financial value to the property but “give a sense of interest and cultural value. People are interested in the story of a place”. She said Pechrigal was getting many inquiries: “It would make a great second home. It is in a beautiful, low-key area where you can live normally and escape the crowds.”
Shorter-term rental Lightning reaction a help for workers from Météo-France A NEW type of short-term, simplified and flexible contract has been created that could give home-owners the option to rent out for longer periods and avoid any negative effects of Airbnb holiday rentals. The lease, known as a bail mobilité, has been set up for people who need furnished accommodation for periods of between one and 10 months. After a maximum of 10 months, the tenant must move out, though shorter agreements may be extended up to the maximum period. Previously, traditional leases lasted a minimum of one year. The bail mobilité would be suitable for temporary workers, students, anyone in vocational training or on apprenticeship contracts, who might otherwise have had to refuse a job offer or internship, for example, because the traditional
process of finding accommodation was a problem. The lease does not require the usual two-month security deposit for a furnished property, which cuts costs for tenants with limited means. Landlords are still protected as the lease is covered by a public and free guarantee offered by Action Logement, known as the Visale. The Visale usually protects landlords for unpaid rents, but for a bail mobilité, it also guarantees to cover any damage caused by the tenant at the end of the lease. Tenants may terminate the lease at any time, by giving a minimum of one month’s notice. Landlords do not have the same right, except in the event of a breach by the tenant. They can then bring court action to end the lease.
PROVING that an accident or damage to your property was caused by a lightning storm is easier than you might think. A lightning strike certificate supplied by the national forecaster Météo-France is an official document and is recognised by all insurance companies in France. The attestation de foudroiement accurately details storms (and associated aspects such as lightning) that occurred on a specific day in a particular area which could have caused material damage to a property or led to an accident. It provides evidence that a storm was going on at the time of an incident for which a claim has been submitted, and will confirm – or not – that lightning strikes were recorded in the area where an insurance claim has been submitted. Lightning strike data is collat-
ed by numerous sensors across France, which is then relayed to a central processor in Pau. It analyses and processes the information in real time to determine the location and characteristics of all detected strikes across France. It can be ordered at tinyurl. com/y8natxw9 and costs €61 plus taxes. Normally, you will receive the certificate within a week of applying for it – and it gives details of strikes within 20km of your home. You can choose to receive the attestation through the post or by email. For damage or accidents caused by other weather events (for example, strong wind, heavy rain, or very low temperatures), Météo-France recommends applying for its €62.50 weather certificate, le certificat d’intempérie.
How to decide if you should do it yourself THINKING about having work done on your home? The first, most crucial, question is: can you do it yourself? The second question is: should you, or would it be wiser to call a professional? It depends. I have not come across any home improvement task that I cannot theoretically do myself. In the last 16 years I have tackled jobs that I would have previously thought beyond my abilities, but some I have happily handed over to contractors. How do I decide who does which kind of job? Some DIYers I know draw a line across a personal no-go area: they will do anything except touch electricity or plumbing, because the consequences of a mistake seem to be irreversible. I do not think like that. The key calculation is: do I have the means to undertake that which I am about to undertake? That means, as a minimum, sufficient knowledge and the necessary equipment. There is no shortage of advice around (mostly in French, of course) and often it comes down to whether I
Brittany offers best value on insurance PROPERTY owners in Brittany pay as much as €52 less for their home insurance than someone living in a similar property on the Côte d’Azur. The average annual cost of home insurance in France is €180, but residents pay a premium in Paca, while those in northwest France pay just €142.
Form and function, style and warmth...
ANYONE who likes warm towels after a shower will love this radiator from Vasco. It has 32.5cm shelving behind it, creating both warmth and handy storage in a tight space. The Niva Bain has a hanging rail and three steel shelves with power from 406-1,023W. The 934W model shown costs €836.
Pledge to cut student housing shortage THE government has promised to create 60,000 affordable properties for students by 2022 – on top of the 40,000 it has created in the past five years. The plan to cut the shortage of affordable accommodation for students will target key areas of the country.
Photo: Nick Inman
Some buyers fear renovation but others welcome it... our writer Nick Inman has a foot in both camps, as he tells in this ongoing series of articles
When you don’t have a ...clou
have adequate tools, or can buy or hire them for a reasonable price. I also consider whether I have enough time (and, for outdoor jobs, whether the good weather will hold). It may require a continuous stretch without interruption, rather than half an hour every other weekend. Another self-assessment question is: can I do it myself in a literal sense? Do I have the strength and stamina? Will I need assistance at some point? Sometimes the decision is also a matter of courage and commitment. Start cutting a hole in an almost-new roof to fit a skylight and you cannot stop until the thing is watertight again. Commitment also means resolving not to panic when the unexpected problem occurs – which it will. Even if I can do the job myself, that still leaves “Should I do it?”. Apart from saving the cost of paying a professional, there are two major considerations. One is that if someone else does it, I lose control. I have effectively had four electricians involved in the wiring of a new
DIY tile work may be uneven but gives a feeling of autonomy and satisfaction guest room. The third undid the work of the second then retired, leaving me with a junction box which might have been a work of art but took me a year to figure out so that I could finish the job. It might have been quicker, overall, to have done it myself to begin with. There are two really big differences between a DIY and a professional job. The first and most evident is the finish. My house is definitively rustic in style – and that includes all the modern additions. The joints of the plasterboard are rough, some of my tile work is uneven, and there are splashes of paint where there should not be. I work to the best of my abilities but I am far from perfect. Mostly, I can live with my own imperfections but where it needs to look
good, I would be tempted to get in someone who can do it properly. The clincher difference, however, is emotional. Tradesmen (or tradeswomen) will do the job much better in a fraction of the time... but that brings me no personal satisfaction. I do DIY partly to save money but mostly to learn new techniques and know how my house “works”. Do it yourself and you have a minor sense of autonomy, of being in control of your own living space. It is an illusion, of course, because in an old French farmhouse nothing ever stays straight or immaculate for long. The house tells you how things are going to be, not the other way around.
Estate agent wins fee case ESTATE agents are entitled to their fees once a sale agreement is signed, a court has ruled. The Cour de Cassation overturned an earlier ruling when it said a purchaser’s decision not to go ahead with the deal after the 10-day withdrawal period should have no bearing on whether the agent, through which the initial agreement was signed, should be paid. The buyer had argued that the agent should not be paid as the sale was not concluded.
Trêve is lost
for squatters SQUATTERS no longer have the protection of the winter truce on evictions. The Elan law contains an amendment that specifically excludes them from the trêve hivernale, which stops landlords evicting tenants who are behind with their rent between November 1 and March 31. Previously, although they were not directly protected, the trêve was often invoked in an attempt to prevent landlords evicting squatters.
Unauthorised work can be approved
THOSE long-ago home improvements could come back to bite you when you decide to sell if you did not get planning permission. Extensions, conservatories, garages, conversions of existing garages into new rooms and some swimming pools, fences and entrances are among improvements that can need planning consent. Generally only very small construction work of a few square metres requires no formalities. Above that, typically works of up to 20m2 require a simple déclaration préalable to your mairie. Above 20m2, work needs planning permission. The local administration has the option to refuse the work within one month of receipt of a déclaration (see column right). Even simple work such as installing a roof-light window requires a déclaration because it is regarded as an change to the appearance of the building’s exterior. If that new window is part of the construction of a new room that is greater than 20m2 you need planning permission. The rules are, naturally, stricter for properties in conservation areas, or for listed buildings. In such cases, before starting any work you should discuss your plans with the local council. Not obtaining the required consent for home improvement work could lead to later applications for permission for other works being turned down.
Building a garden shed requires permission if over 20m2 However, work that did not quite meet planning approval requirements (for example, building a 25m2 extension rather than a 22m2 one that was subject to permissions received) is unlikely to face mairie opposition after 10 years of completion In serious cases, not getting the appropriate approval can lead to sizeable fines – a film director was fined €5million in 2010 for carrying out significant unauthorised work on a chateau near Nice.
But do not panic if you have had work done that you later realise should have required permission. It is possible to submit a planning application and obtain consent retrospectively, provided the work complies with local and national regulations. If not, authorities can require you to return the property to its original condition. The process for obtaining ‘regularisation’ (effectively, formal recognition) of previously unapproved property
work is similar to the process for applying for appropriate permission in the first place. A standard planning application needs to be made, with all the usual attachments – plans, ‘before and after’ drawings, and photographs. It must show that the work has already been carried out, and that the application is to formally recognise this fact, and request approval. If a buyer, or notaire acting on behalf of a buyer, discovers work has been carried out without the necessary approvals, they may pull out of the deal – or demand that planning permission is obtained before continuing. Be warned: the wheels of French bureaucracy grind slowly with applications for post-work approval, so expect a wait after the file has been submitted. If you are unsure whether your work should have had planning permission, the service technique in your mairie should be able to advise you. Most mairies will have a PLU (plan local d’urbanisme) and a POS (plan d’occupation des sols) which will include details of any rules, such as maximum heights of building and facade colours. In the absence of these, the national code de l’urbanisme sets the standard. Note that any increase in the size or upgrade to your home, such as a swimming pool, is likely to impact the level of your local property taxes.
Declaration or permit?
NOT all building work on your property requires planning permission – some work simply requires you to declare it to your mairie to ensure it complies with local planning regulations. The mairie has 30 days to reply if they have an objection – or to ask more information. After that you must put up a copy of the déclaration showing a stamp from the mairie outside your property. Neighbours then have two months in which to object. It is recommended to have a huissier note that the notice is on show to avoid possible issues later. The rule particularly applies to building work that creates a structure of between 5m² and 20m². The declaration - a déclaration préalable de travaux – is made on a simplified form (cerfa 13703*06). Examples of when this can be used include: l A conservatory or greenhouse if the height is more than 1.8m but less than 4m high and if the surface area does not exceed 2,000m2 l Installation of in-ground swimming pool of between 10m2 and 100m2 with a cover which is either fixed or moveable but less than 1.8m high.
The Back Page
France’s mistrust of vaccination ‘is putting us at risk’
ABOUT half of French people either disagree or do not know in response to the statement “Overall, I think vaccines are safe”, an article in the medical journal The Lancet revealed in November. This is a bad situation, says Françoise Salvadori, biologist and immunologist at the Université de Bourgogne. To put the figure into context it is 16% in China and the UK and 13%, for example, in Germany. Dr Salvadori said: “Falling vaccination levels are affecting ‘herd immunity’. Tetanus is reappearing in France, as is diphtheria across Europe. “The eradication of polio is slowing and only 20% of French nurses have taken up the offer of a free flu jab.” The Lancet’s report followed a study of 65,819 people across 67 countries carried out by Dr Heidi Larson, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also said in November that the most recent out-
break of measles in the EU had led to 33 deaths. Measles and rubella are increasingly common in France. “This was why the law was changed from January 2018 to make 11 vaccinations obligatory between a child’s birth and second birthday,” said Dr Salvadori. “We’ve seen improved uptake but I doubt we’ll see the results for another two years until children start school at the age of three.” The public has been suspicious of vaccinations since they were introduced in the 18th century – a time when the mistrust was justified. “Vaccinations did save lives, but they were much more dangerous because there was no idea that needles should be sterilised, and patients were often injected with pus from an ill person.” Today, she said, many vaccines do not contain living cells which could cause a medical reaction, let alone an illness. Where live vaccines are still used, they often use only parts of cells so they cannot cause the actual disease – though they can, rarely, lead to a slight reaction. She says: “The problem is if someone catches a cold while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room waiting to be vaccinated, they might blame the vaccination – which is medically impossible – rather than connect it to having sat near someone who is ill.” Dr Salvadori, who has worked on cancer and AIDS research, is now investigating how the public understands scientific advances. She has
Photo: Touche pas à mon gosse 2 / Facebook
France’s recent record on vaccination is poor. Biologist and immunologist Françoise Salvadori (pictured) explains some of the reasons why
‘Anti-vax’ videos, like this, have been viewed millions of times on social media. Dr Salvadori says people believe them without question published a book on the subject, Antivax: Histoire de la Résistance aux Vaccins du XVIIIe Siècle à Nos Jours, co-written with science historian Laurent-Henri Vignaud. She says reasons for avoiding vaccinations include: misinformation spread via social media; a general mistrust of the state as well as “big pharma”; a belief that nature is better than chemicals; a refusal to accept that diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella can have serious lifelong consequences; and even in certain circles a belief that getting ill in some way strengthens and helps children. “The French authorities haven’t helped,” she said. “There have been so many medical scandals. The disclosure that HIV-contaminated blood
had been given to patients even after the authorities knew it was contaminated did huge damage to public trust. “The government’s insistence that the Chernobyl fallout cloud stopped at the border was also ill-judged. “Another strange thing is that some GPs prescribe homeopathic remedies even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that homeopathy works. Doctors must know they are ineffective, but perhaps they think patients expect these prescriptions – or perhaps they rely on the placebo effect. “There is also an excessive trust in nature. People think that natural remedies can’t harm them. People forget that before modern medicine, when everyone relied on ‘natural remedies’, many people died at 40. “But the social movement towards organic products, natural fabrics, the turning away from plastics and industrially-prepared food means people also turn away from ‘big pharma’. “All sorts of misinformation circulates online and because much of it chimes with what we already believe, and because we feel no one has anything to gain financially by informing us via the web, people tend to believe it without question. It’s a problem.” She says the truth about vaccinations is that they work, they save lives, and they are the safest, most-tested drugs currently used in medicine – and they do not cause autism or auto-immune diseases. Due to vaccination, the last known case of
smallpox was seen in 1977, and it was declared eradicated in 1980. Vaccinations carry fewer risks than paracetamol or ibuprofen. “But people can feel an immediate benefit when they take paracetamol, so they accept the small risk. Often, they think their children won’t come into contact with a serious disease, so why bother vaccinating them?” But she issued a note of warning: “Not all diseases can be wiped out. It will be possible to eradicate polio and measles, for example, because they are only carried by humans, but tetanus will never be eradicated because it’s present in all soil, and you can’t vaccinate all the soil in the world. “It will be difficult to eradicate rabies, too, as it’s carried by wild animals as well as humans, so with diseases like that we have to protect everyone individually.” She particularly recommends influenza vaccination. “The truth is that it is 70% effective in under-fives and only 50% effective in people over 65 because the virus mutates. “But true influenza, as opposed to a heavy cold, can be fatal, and can lead to fatal secondary infections. “It is 100% impossible to get flu or even a cold from the vaccination because it is a dead vaccine so there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from being vaccinated.” l We profile ‘father’ of vaccines Louis Pasteur in this month’s French Living
New year. Key areas to review. Talk to the people who know
The big event for 2019 is, of course, Brexit – now is the time to review your financial planning to ensure you are as ready as you can be. Cross-border tax and estate planning only gets more complex as the years go by. Pensions can be a minefield for expatriates. And it is more important than ever to have a carefully planned investment portfolio. Blevins Franks can review your strategy for 2019 and beyond to help you protect your wealth.
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