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FRENCH NEWS IN ENGLISH SINCE 2002 connexionfrance.com November 2019

Issue 205 €4.20

Saving Free glasses Dame Vera Lynn birds and crowns ‘No surprise my of prey - the rules songs still sung’ P12

French Living

France let me keep baby UK would take


Jodie Foster inspired Protect all by French film pioneer Britons in

EU better, PM is told

by SELMA DADDI A British woman has told how she was allowed to keep her son in France after she fled the UK to stop him being taken away at birth under the Children Act. Former health worker Sarah-Jane Poole, 33, has been investigated by French social services and deemed to pose no risk to her son, now two. This happens to several hundred British women every year. A baby can be removed at birth under UK law and put into foster care or up for adoption, without parental consent, if the parents are deemed to be potentially dangerous to their child in the future. It is a prediction and not based on proof. The decision is taken in a family court, with judges hearing reports from social workers. The reasons are varied: for example, a previous violent relationship. Other countries remove children only if abuse is happening. Ms Poole and her partner became subject to UK checks because she had suffered depression as a teenager and takes antidepressants. Mr James Howard, 32, who ran a FRENCH NEWS IN ENGLISH SINCE 2002



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window cleaning business, had a criminal record for possession of cannabis and stealing a car in his teenage years and had also undergone therapy in a psychiatric hospital. He committed suicide nine months after their son was born in France. Ms Poole says it was the stress of the move and UK investigation. “He could not deal with the fact they took everything from us and we were powerless. “In a matter of one day we went from having a house, friends, family, to nothing. We were in a country where we could not speak the language, we did not know where to go, we had no friends. “It was the worst time of my life... I lost the love of my life.” Campaigners want the law changed so children can only be removed if a crime is committed. They say suicide among such parents is not rare and often social workers è Turn to back Page

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Hundreds flee to escape ‘forced adoption’ every year

NEW pledges of better protection for Britons living in the EU after Brexit are close, a Conservative MP has claimed after what he describes as a “hard battle” with the UK prime minister and his cabinet. Sir Roger Gale, in letters to Boris Johnson and in parliamentary questions, has insisted the government can – and should – take stronger action to protect Britons’ rights, especially in a no-deal. This would include a lifetime right to uprated state pensions, exported disability benefits, and pensioners’ healthcare paid for by the UK – all issues the UK can guarantee now if it wants to. Sir Roger said: “It’s been a hard battle and I’ve had to hold their feet to the fire but matters are moving in the right direction.” He is now awaiting written confirmation of improvements from the prime minister. It comes as deputy chairman of the British in Europe campaign group and retired barrister Jeremy Morgan QC told the House of Lords that the UK should do more for Britons in the EU. Mr Johnson recently wrote to Sir Roger repeating the government’s pledges so far, such as uprating until 2022 in a no-deal and an intention to negotiate new arrangements for this to continue. He said the government is seeking agreements with individual states to continue the status quo on healthcare until the end of next year, which, he said, had been achieved with Spain. It has also pledged, if necessary, to pay for any healthcare for six months while people organise alternative arrangements. Mr Johnson wrote: “Despite our continued efforts, I do recognise that healthcare arrangements may not be straightforward and people may experience some difficulties.” However, Sir Roger replied, saying è Turn to Page 4

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Family keepsake kept near kitchen sells for €24m



Fostering proves popular alternative to homes for elderly 3 Brexit updates for Britons in France 4-5 Jodie Foster inspired by early French woman filmmaker 7 France is the European country with most hunters 9 Interview: Dame Vera Lynn 12 13 How lacemakers in Calais ended up Down Under

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Simon Heffer/Nabila Ramdani 14 Long-standing campaign to bring back night trains 15 16-17 Readers’ letters



Your questions 18 We visit first state school with 100% organic meals 20 Good news on glasses, crowns and hearing aids 21



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A STANDARD auctioneer’s house clearance turned up a surprise treasure – a painting which has sold at auction for €24million (sale fees included). The painting by Cimabue, a 13th century painter from Florence, shows a biblical scene of Christ being mocked. It is small, at just 28cm by 20cm, with paint made of egg yolk and gold leaf, and painted on poplar. It was spotted hanging on the wall between the elderly resident’s kitchen and dining area. Auctioneer Philomène Wolf, 32, who works in Compiègne (Oise) said: “The house owner is in her nineties and contacted me to do a house clearance as she is moving into assisted

The Connexion November 2019

The 800-year-old painting shows Christ being mocked accommodation. She did not mention the painting. It was a straight-forward job and after going through the house, just about the last thing I saw was

the painting, and I immediately thought it was old, and maybe something very special.” She took it to be valued and was told it was almost certainly a Cimabue and worth millions. “My client was delighted,” said Ms Wolf. “She told me she had inherited the painting from her mother, who, in turn, had inherited it from her mother. “None of them knew the history of the painting, and my client just kept it as a keepsake of her mother and family.” Cimabue was one of the first painters to move away from the strict icons of the medieval age and to start painting figures and faces showing emotions and expressions. It is thought the painting was

Eurostar Headlinemerger ‘to create high-speed green network’ A planned merger between Eurostar and Thalys could see a Europe-wide super rail service boasting 30million passengers a year by 2030. France’s state rail firm SNCF has majority stakes in both companies, which currently carry 18.5million people a year. Bringing the two together would see high-speed routes between France, the UK, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands being run by the same company. Passengers would be able to buy one ticket to reach all destinations but would still have to change between Eurostar and Thalys trains. Thalys has services between Paris, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and the firms share international platforms at Paris Gare du Nord. Technical differences mean that Thalys trains cannot run on British tracks, nor Eurostar ones on German lines. SNCF owns 55% of Eurostar and 60% of Thalys. The merger would also see the yellow and blue Eurostar trains and the burgundy Thalys livery getting a greenwash. SNCF claims the environment will benefit from the project, called Greenspeed, by making rail travel more attractive than road and air options and because renewable energy

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Eurostar trains cannot run on German rail tracks would be used for traction. Head of SNCF Guillaume Pepy said: “This would deliver a compelling alternative to road and air travel and would herald a new era in the development of European rail services.” The merger might fall foul of the European Commission’s long-standing policy of promoting competition on Europe’s rail networks. However, if SNCF decides the merger will involve Eurostar and Thalys and not the finances of SNCF as a whole, EU notification might not be necessary for financial parts of the deal, as the smaller units have combined revenues below guidelines. The move has been criticised by anonymous union sources, who told Le Monde newspaper that they feared its main motivation is to cut jobs. Mr Pepy claimed the new company would be hiring, thanks to a projected 60%

TRAVELLERS are opting not to fly for environmental reasons, a survey by UBS bank has found. It predicts that growth in global air travel could be slower than previously thought. Have you chosen the train over the plane to reduce your carbon footprint? Tell us about it at news@connexionfrance.com. growth in passengers expected within six years. British interest in Eurostar is limited, with SNCF having a majority stake, and the rest divided between Belgium’s SNCB state-owned railway company and a holding company called Patina Rail. Eurostar has headquarters in London, has 1,650 workers, and it handles about 11million passengers a year. Thalys, which has its headquarters in Brussels, has 641 workers and about 7.5 million passengers. The name of the new company, its branding, headquarters location and division of capital are yet to be decided. No timetable for the merger has been given, but Mr Pepy said he hoped it would be completed “in one year, a yearand-a-half, or two years”. Long-standing campaign to bring back night trains: Page 15

New law seeks ban on ‘gay cures’ Two French MPs are working on a law to ban socalled “conversion therapies” in which gay people go through “a treatment” to become straight. The Refuge association, which helps gay people in distress, says it has received 350 calls on the therapies this year. It says there are three types: societal, when society pushes homosexuals to be in the “norm”; medical, when therapists and doctors want to “heal” them; and spiritual, when religious people believe gays are possessed by the devil and try to have them exorcised. One witness, who asked to be anonymous, said: “My parents booked an exorcist for me. I’ve been

going through hell since I came out. They think demons have entered me.” MPs Bastien Lachaud and Laurence Vanceunebrock-Mialon plan to introduce a law, which will be debated in spring, to sentence anyone offering “conversion therapies” to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €30,000. Two associations, Courage and Torrent de Vie, are accused of practising such therapies and should be banned, said the MPs. Courage told Connexion: “We do not practise therapy. We are a Catholic association which helps these people to find their place in the religion. We offer support.”

part of an eight-panel altarpiece, probably painted in 1280. There are two known panels from the work in public collections: one representing the flogging of Christ in the Frick Collection in New York, and another of the Virgin and child with two angels in the National Gallery in London. Actéon auction house in Senlis, also in Oise, which sold the painting did not reveal the identity of the buyer but said a foreign museum had been among the bidders. Ms Wolf said she had set up on her own as a commissairepriseur (auctioneer) only last year. “It is a wonderful thing to have happened so early in my career,” she told Connexion.

Flu jabs at pharmacies The flu season is approaching and letters have been sent to vulnerable groups inviting them for a free vaccination. Specially trained pharmacies across France will be able to give vaccinations if presented with the voucher in the letter without the need for a doctor’s prescription, following a successful trial in four regions last year. Their services will be advertised in the pharmacy. Jabs are recommended for: n Those aged 65 and over; n Adults with chronic disease (cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, renal, hepatic, diabetes 1 and 2), immuno-compromised or sickle cell disease; n Obese people; n Pregnant women; n Family and friends of babies with risk factors. If you want a flu jab and did not receive the letter, talk to your doctor or midwife. Last year, 9,900 people died as a result of flu in France.

Train strike to include SNCF AN “unlimited strike” from December 5 has been called by the CGT union at the Paris transport network RATP, which runs the metro and Paris buses, in protest at pension reforms. The SNCF is also set to strike from the same date, so TGVs, Ouigo, Intercités and TER service will also be affected.

Solar lake power France’s first large-scale floating solar power plant, the most powerful in Europe, has begun operation. The O’Mega1 plant features 47,000 floating panels, covering 17 hectares of an artificial lake in a former quarry near Piolenc, Vaucluse. The water cools the panels and boosts production by up to 10%. The panels can produce 17 megawatts of completely renewable energy which is enough to supply power to 4,700 homes.

The Connexion November 2019

News 3


Cameras Fostering is popular alternative to care homes for elderly flush out uninsured vehicles Road users who drive without insurance can now be tracked by speed cameras – and risk fines of up to €7,500. When a vehicle is “flashed” by a camera for committing an offence, such as speeding or running through a red light, the registration number will be cross-checked on the national database for insured vehicles. It will take into account the possibility that the driver in question might have taken insurance out recently. Insurers are allowed three days to confirm new policies. Any driver who is found without insurance after this delay will face significant fines. Drivers on their first offence will be fined €500. Those who are on their second offence and beyond can incur fines of up to €7,500, and repeat offenders risk losing their vehicle and/or licence. Insurance is mandatory in France, but road safety agency l’Observatoire National Interministériel de la Sécurité Routière estimates that 700,000 people are still driving on roads without it. Uninsured drivers caused 175 deaths in France last year.

Start-up offers one-sock deals A start-up firm claims to have solved the problem of socks vanishing in the wash... by selling them singly. Lille-based Monsieur Lucette designs and makes socks from recycled materials and sells them at €7 a piece, so customers can simply reorder another after one has disappeared. Designs will be maintained permanently, the company said.

Foster families for the elderly are proving a popular alternative to retirement homes, with 10,000 families now registered for this care in France. Christophe and Séverine Legras and their two children are one such family. The couple started fostering children during the day but when Séverine lost her grandparents and Christophe his mother, they decided to care for the elderly. They obtained the necessary paperwork and had their house renovated to take in permanent foster placements. Séverine said: “The benefits for the elderly we foster are that they continue to live in a family home and share our daily life. We care for them, take them out and prepare their meals. “They are never alone. We always stay with them, working full-time.” Foster families have to be approved by their departmental council before being

Members of the Legras family, and the elderly people they have welcomed into their home as foster carers

allowed to welcome up to three people into their home. A foster home can be a temporary or permanent placement and the care can be part-time or full-time. Another plus is that it is a more affordable option, costing 30% less on average than a retirement home. A day’s fostering care costs around €35, depending on levels of independence. It can also provide access to various types of assistance, such as a personal-

ised autonomy allowance and disability benefits. Foster families must provide a room for the person they are housing, integrate them into family life and ensure medical and social needs are met. CetteFamille was the first company to provide assistance with this kind of care and now supports about 2,000 people in fostering. It can perform all the financial and administrative work required for the placement and puts families in touch

n The median price for a single room in a state care home in France with some medical care was €1,953 a month in 2017, the latest official figures available.

Village finally gets mains water century after post-war promise

Residents of a village in northern France are preparing for their first taste of fresh piped drinking water – 100 years after they were promised a connection to the mains network at the end of World War One. The 350 residents of Sains-lès-Marquion, Pas-de-Calais, are the last in the ArtoisPicardy basin to be hooked up to a mains supply. Between 1918 and 1927, most municipalities in the area received grants to build a distribution network via a water tower, but Sains-les-Marquion was not among them. Instead, some 20 wells were dug and residents were promised that work to connect the village to mains water would start later. A century on, the village remained unconnected as there is a good water source beneath the village so residents have pumped and filtered their own supply. Guy

de Saint-Aubert, who was born in the village and has been mayor since 1995, following his father who was mayor for 40 years before him, is relieved that work can start at last. He said: “I have done this for future generations so they can be assured of a clean water supply.” However, he says this is in many ways a step backwards, not forwards. “Villagers have looked after their own supply and there have never been any health problems. “It is only an issue now as the general quality in the water table declines, due to pollution and lowering levels. “Up to 20 years ago, we did not have this problem. I remember a time when the local river was full of pike and other fish and the water was clean. Now I cannot guarantee a good quality of water from our own wells.” He said he did not want people to think

his village is backwards because it has depended on its own supplies until now. “In other countries it is much more acceptable. We buy our pumps and filters in nearby Belgium because there they are easily available in the DIY stores,” he said. “It is a sign of a healthy environment to be able to use your own water.” The mayor finally asked for the village to be connected about 20 years ago but it was only this year that the €1million needed was made available. Work is scheduled to end in spring although it remains to be seen whether the 158 homes will all be connected, as it is not mandatory and paying a water bill could be a “culture shock”, he said. The site manager said: “For the moment, everyone is telling us they want to connect. We’ll celebrate the first glass of water.”

Giant Paris youth hostel opens Zoo is first to unveil mystery ‘blob’ A youth hostel featuring 249 bedrooms and 946 beds has opened in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, next to the city’s notorious Périphérique ring road. Prices vary but customers should expect to pay about €35 for a bed and €95 a room. The building is ecological, being made of wood and with a terrace which is adorned with vegetation.

Paris zoo has welcomed a new resident: a brainless yellow single-celled organism dubbed “blob” that can eat, move and double in size every 24 hours. It is neither animal, fungus nor vegetable and can grow to several square metres – and it is expanding fast at the zoo on a diet of raw oats. Officially Physarum polycephalum, it is found all over the world, often on the underside of leaves. This is the first time it has been on show in a zoo.

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with others in the region. It was founded by Paul-Alexis Racine-Jourdren after his neighbour Jean-Paul knocked on his door in 2016 to ask for help in his search for a retirement home. Jean-Paul could no longer live on his own, and felt lost in front of a computer trying to find somewhere to live by himself. He equally did not like the idea of living in a residential home. Mr Racine-Jourdren said: “We didn’t think it would take off so quickly but we knew it was a solution that met the needs of a lot of people. Everyone wants to hold on to family values and fostering is less expensive than a care home, so it’s natural that the idea flourished.”

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The logo for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been widely praised for its clever three-level image. The logo is in the shape of a gold circle, representing a medal, with a stylised flame in the middle, representing the famous Olympic flame. The small “lips” suggest the face of a woman, which could be Marianne, the symbol of France – or, due to the hair, a 1920s “flapper” in reference to the last time Paris held the games, 100 years before. The words follow this theme up in Art Deco style.

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New no-deal carte website works well but what if there IS a deal? THE French government, as promised, has launched a website for British residents to apply online for the cards they will be obliged to obtain in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The site can be found at inv ite.contacts-demarches. interieur.gouv.fr. Click the Brexit option, then the link in French. There is an English option at the bottom of the page. Jeremy Mor­ gan QC, deputy chairman of the British in Europe coalition, said the sense of urgency is due to the fact that France is the only EU country – apart from the UK – where EU citizens are not required to undertake official registration. Speaking to the House of Lords (see below), he said France had to act quickly “to get the ball rolling”. Readers who have used the site report few problems, saying it takes about 10 minutes to complete the online form. The site is nationwide and not a trial but the Interior Ministry said dossiers would only be forwarded to local prefectures for processing if a no-deal happens. Prefectures would then contact applicants to arrange for them to visit and pay a €119 fee – applicable to all, even those swapping cards, but half the usual fee of non-EU cards – give photos and have fingerprints taken. In the case of Brexit with a deal, the ministry has not said if




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For more about the new website, see our updated Brexit and Britons in France helpguide, on sale at connexionfrance.com and our online dedicated Brexit section dossiers would be converted into applications for the new cards that Britons would need. Requirements would vary from those for no-deal cards but are expected to be even simpler, said the ministry. The card in this case would be free. Connexion understands that the site will continue to operate as now in the event of a short extension, of just weeks, being granted but may be “paused” if the delay is longer. In the event of no-deal, Britons will have six months to apply for a non-EU citizen’s card and a further six months to obtain the card – during which their residency and working rights would be as now. Mr Morgan said all

EU countries have planned for grace periods, ranging from three months in Austria to three years in Hungary. It is important to note that the new website is only for applications for non-EU citizens’ cards – there are different types dependent on people’s circumstances – which Britons would be required to have in the case of a no-deal Brexit. It is not for applying for an EU citizen card. The site can, however, also be used to apply to swap an existing carte de séjour – séjour permanent as an EU citizen (also referred to as a 10-year card) for a non-EU card. A later prefecture visit would still be required. In the case of those with shortterm EU citizen cards, the application is similar to those without a card but they are asked to scan in the card as proof of when they moved to France instead of attaching, for example, a rental contract or utility bill. The issue date on an existing residency card is not taken as the date you moved to France but officials can use the card to trace the date you originally gave. A ministry spokesman said: “We can’t issue a third-country carte in the name of someone from a country which is still in the EU, so nothing will be done unless there is a no-deal.” The aim of the site is to cen-

tralise and simplify the application process. The spokesman added: “We want to reassure British citizens that we’re ready and we’re going to do all we can so they can maintain their rights and we have services ready for them.” Britons should note that when leaving France, and the wider Schengen zone, after a no-deal Brexit, they are advised to carry evidence of residency in France to avoid being treated at the border as a non-EU visitor. This is because so-called third-country visitors’ passports are stamped on entering and leaving to ensure the holder does not spend more than 90 days in the zone in any 180day period. A residency card would be ideal to prove this. Otherwise, a receipt showing you have applied for one – the new website can generate one – is expected to suffice. Obtaining a certificat de résidence from your mairie is another option. The British government recently stated in an update on its Living in France web page that “the French authorities are preparing to streamline border crossings for UK nationals resident in France who will not have residence permits until the end of the one-year grace period”. Neither the ministry nor embassy could clarify what this “streamlining” would involve.

The Connexion November 2019

Last push to save citizenship A FRENCH barrister is waiting for a hearing which he hopes could save EU citizenship and its associated rights for Britons who have well-established lives in other states on Brexit day. Julien Fouchet is representing campaigner Harry Shindler, 98, from Italy and five Britons in France. He is challenging an EU regulation from April exempting Britons from Schengen visas in the case of a no-deal Brexit, on the grounds that it treats Britons as non-EU citizens after Brexit. He refers to the Tjebbes case in March in which the European

Court of Justice stated that EU citizenship should not be removed without taking into consideration disproportionate impact on a person’s private, family and professional life. Mr Fouchet has asked the Gene­ ral Court of the EU in Luxembourg to rule on Britons who are well-established in other states. Some also had no say in the Brexit referendum as they lost their right to vote because of the UK’s 15-year rule. The commission told the court that after Brexit “there will be no more British EU citizens”.

Be ready to vote in the election Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a general election on December 12 – so Britons in France who want to take part and have a right to vote need to get registered and/or ensure they have requested a postal or proxy vote. The UK’s Electoral Commission advises doing the latter if possible as it is the most secure method. For more information see gov.uk/register-to-vote

Nationality hopes for councillor A BRITISH woman who is a local councillor in France and told Connexion last year about her dismay over potentially losing her seat has now had a French citizenship interview. Karen Blakemore, from SaintMerd-de-Lapleau, Corrèze, applied for French nationality in October 2018 but feared it might not come through in time for municipal elections next March. After Brexit France’s 900 British councillors will no longer be able to stand if they have only UK nationality. Mrs Blakemore said: “I’m thrilled. I and my husband Tim have had our interviews with the gendarmerie and our final

The village put up a sign and planted a tree after Mrs Blakemore was elected interviews at the prefecture.” Her interview included questions on her councillor role and on the French regions and departments. “The official was briefed that I wanted to continue as a councillor and jolly well made sure I wanted to!” she said. Mrs Blakemore hopes for a decision by the end of the year.

UK ‘prioritises EU residents above Britons living in EU’ Continued from page 1 that the current pledges “offer no comfort whatsoever” to British citizens in countries such as France. In Parliament he told cabinet minister Michael Gove “there is woefully inadequate provision for the healthcare and pensions of expat UK citizens”. He said the prime minister had now pledged to take his concerns seriously. “We met and he gave undertakings that are to be confirmed in a letter. “I am also meeting with the health and pensions ministers so we have a coordinated approach. I will wait to see the letter and want to know things are right before I say everything is OK, but we are moving in the right direction.” He said the government has focussed more on helping EU citizens who live abroad in the UK but not yet done enough for its own citizens overseas. “My view is we should take responsibility for, and pay for, all of those who are, at the point of our departure, resident in another EU country, even though it excludes people like me.” Sir Roger has a French second home and has considered spending several months a year here in retirement. “Given they’ve already taken a hit in the exchange rate, and they’ve taken their decisions on the basis that we would be part of the EU and they would receive full pension and healthcare and exportable benefits, to change

the rules in the middle of the game is not the proper way to treat UK citizens who in most cases have worked most of their life in the UK.” As things stand, he said, unless it is possible to negotiate new arrangements bilaterally, healthcare will in future also be difficult for second home-owners who, like himself, cannot obtain private insurance due to pre-existing conditions but stand to lose the Ehic card. “People like me may, perhaps, have to rethink our plans but at the very least we must protect residents in France, who made their choice on the basis of one set of circumstances and can’t move back.” Retired barrister Mr Morgan, who lives in Italy, also spoke out on uprating. Speaking to the House of Lords EU Committee with fellow barrister Adrian Berry, he compared it to other matters in the UK’s gift, such as immigration rights. Campaigners for Britons abroad are concerned that, with or without a deal, no protection is in place for British people who may wish to move back to the UK with family members who are not British citizens. After a no-deal, or after any deal transition period, they would have to meet ordinary British immigration criteria, including means thresholds. Rules could become even more restrictive if

NEW CAMPAIGN: A British woman living in Normandy has launched a campaign called ‘British Pensioners for Justice’ demanding pension uprating and healthcare rights for life. Writer and retired journalist Christine Esteve gathered support at an anti-Brexit protest and is setting up a website and social media. For details email: campaign@ britishpensionersforjustice.uk She said: “I’m angry. I contacted the DWP before I moved and asked if my pension would be secure and guaranteed if I retired abroad in the EU, and they said ‘yes’.” the UK proceeds with plans for an Australian-style points system prioritising young, highly-qualified workers. Mr Morgan told the peers: “If there’s one message I would hope this committee would pass on, it’s this. “There is a British policy of not uprating pensions of its pensioners who live in another country unless there’s a reciprocal agreement with that country. Within the EU it had to uprate because there is an anti-discrimination provision in the EU treaties. “There was a British woman who went to live in South Africa as a pensioner and brought action against the government to secure equality with British pensioners in the UK and in countries with reciprocal agreements.

“She failed, including in the House of Lords and European Court of Human Rights. The comparison she attempted to draw was held not to be fair. “One of the messages the British government seems to have been given is that ‘if we give you a guarantee that we’ll uprate your pensions for life or that you can have the right to bring foreign spouses back if you are a Briton living in the EU now and want to come back in five years’ time to look after an ageing parent… if we give you any of those things, someone will sue us and claim discrimination’. “I urge this committee to reject that. Our view is simply this: to bring a successful claim of that sort against the government, you would have to show they were not treating like as like. “The simple answer is that when British citizens moved to Europe they had a set of rights, like lifelong pension increases, which is being taken away. “Surely, if someone has moved, living basically on the state pension and little else, which has depreciated due to the fall in sterling, and which is very low compared to other countries, surely that person who planned their lives on the basis that they would get increases for life, is entitled to do so. “And if the British government says ‘we accept that distinction – that we should continue to do what EU regulations required us to do’, then no claim

by a person who had moved to a country where there were no such rights would be likely to succeed. So the government needs to come up with much better reasons if it’s not going to pay pension increases and, frankly, we don’t think there are any.” He added that many Britons in the EU live in “real hardship”. “There’s an impression given by the tabloids that they are all supping prosecco on a terrace in Tuscany. But there are huge numbers who made a very rational decision to move because their pension would go further in places like rural France or Spain and are in desperate straits as a result of this.” EU Committee chairman Lord Morris said: “We are touching on issues about people making lifelong decisions. Anyone who has spoken to Britons abroad knows at first hand their concerns. We will study your observations very carefully.” Mr Morgan also addressed the UK government’s offer to individual EU states to keep the status quo on healthcare until the end of next year in a no-deal. However, he said that the EU “frowns upon” any states doing “mini deals” with the UK while they are trying to obtain an overall Brexit deal. “There has been an ‘agreement’, in inverted commas, with Spain, but I believe it’s just a mutual understanding to do the same thing,” he said.

The Connexion November 2019

Brexit News 5


‘My hopes for UK-French We beat the deadline to move relationship after Brexit’ WE MUST remain hopeful for a good future Franco-British relationship despite current uncertainties, says the co-editor of a new book featuring testimonies from professionals and academics who have insight into the ties between the two countries. Elizabeth Gib­son-Morgan, law lecturer at Bordeaux and Tours universities, said: “The idea was to feature people who could use their personal testimonies and experience to talk about the relationship from a very pragmatic point of view. “We have tried to give a positive message because nowadays there are many fears and uncertainties about the countries, but there is hope beyond Brexit that the relationship will last. “The UK and France have more in common and more to gain in remaining friends beyond Brexit.” UK and France: Friends or Foes? places Brexit in the context of Franco-British relations. The writers range from an admiral who works with the French embassy in London to Welsh author, historian and Labour peer Lord Morgan and the former chairman of the bar of England and Wales. Subjects covered include the entente cordiale in 1904 as well

as Churchill’s relations with De Gaulle and the potential Brexit impacts on such diverse issues as defence and security cooperation and Erasmus. Good relations today are to a large extent thanks to the rapport between Edward Heath and Georges Pompidou in the 1970s, said Dr Gib­son-Morgan. “That did a lot to bring our countries closer. And it is interesting that our current president was eager to develop a good relationship with the UK. “He has appeared to be very firm over Brexit but he has tried to encourage the UK to stay in the EU, and it was significant that before being elected he went to Britain and met Theresa May.” Differences in outlook between Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have created difficulties, she said. “But whatever happens, we need to work to rebuild a strong relationship,” including on military cooperation and sharing intelligence. New bilateral agreements will be vital, she said. It is also important to consider also the bonds between the UK’s individual nations and France. “We tend to focus on England but what is also interesting is

moves not only on behalf of Scotland but also Wales, to develop a good relationship with the European Union,” she added. “Scotland has set up a Scottish hub in Paris to have their own relationship and in Wales there are interesting deve­lopments. “The relationship with Wales goes right back to the Pennal Let­ter [when Owain Glyndŵr, a 15th century Welsh rebel against the English, wrote to the French king about his plan for an independent Wales].” Dr Gibson-Morgan is ScottishSwiss and describes herself as a natural European. She sees Brexit as “a move backwards”. “I’ll go on to the end hoping there is a will to get out of this,” she said. “But whatever happens, strong efforts must be made to reconcile communities, families and the nations for­ming the UK. “As an academic, I believe espe­ cially in the young. The great ma­­jo­­rity of young Bri­tons are pro-EU,” she said. UK and France: Friends or Foes?, priced at €31.90, is published by Hachette Livre. It is in English.

‘Undocumented’ lives revealed

BREXIT has shone a light on the fact that some Britons have been living in France “undocumented”, says a university lecturer in the UK who is leading a project about its impact on British people living in EU countries. Examples in France include British residents who have not joined a state Cpam health body [Editor’s note: or obtained private health insurance] and have, incorrectly, been using British Ehics in France long-term instead. Dr Michaela Benson, of Goldsmiths, University of London, has been studying Britons in south west France in particular. She said: “The twists and turns of Brexit have been extraordinary and there is still a risk of no-deal at some stage. “My concern is to look at the range of things happening to British people. “Some have been well-positioned to mitigate against uncertainties and some have not. “It’s an important part of the story that is not being well-told in the UK press, although Connexion has covered it. “There are also those living on very little who may struggle to demonstrate that they are here legally as EU citizens or those whose circumstances are not good due to unemployment to demonstrate their right to be here. “There is also the problem of people trying to change or obtain jobs because in the minds of some employers and local bureaucrats Britons are no longer EU citizens and some are turned down. Brexit has impacts, whether it happens or not.” She said another issue is people whose longest record of social security payments, including voluntary contributions, is in the UK but who also worked in another third-party EU state, and are now asking if they can obtain an S1 from that state instead if the UK S1s stop. “Brexit has highlighted how, in reality, EU freedom of movement was conditional and we’re starting to see some fractures that you wouldn’t

have seen before, because Britons were very rarely questioned over their right to be in France.” That includes such anomalies as the fact that Britons were given France’s Aspa pension top-up despite EU rules saying newcomers should be able to support themselves. She added that even where people are able to obtain citizenship, Brexit is still affecting them, especially if they rely on UK income. The fact that France has created a user-friendly cartes website (see page 4) is positive, she said. “It’s a giant leap for France. There have been moments of reassurance, like this. It has not all been doom and gloom and despair.” The project has launched a new website at brexitbritsabroad.org which includes a timeline, Brexit myth-busters and testimonies.

n French economist Vincent Lagarde of Limoges University is also studying the effect of Brexit in southwest France. He said there has been good news for estate agents as Britons looked to buy in Dordogne and Creuse before Brexit in case it is more complicated afterwards, or to establish residency. Several Britons have moved to live with families here, fearing it might be harder later on. This year, British tourists were less numerous, mostly due to the pound. But they were compensated by other English-speaking tourists, so British-run tourism businesses did not suffer. “However, I am coming across British freelancers who have lost contracts and markets because would-be European clients are worried they will not be able to deal with them in a no-deal.” He said he was heartened by a letter, in the local Living Magazine, in which Nouvelle-Aquitaine president Alain Rousset told Britons that people are “used to your colourful presence”, with “our cultures intertwining for the best” and “I cherish what we have built together”. He added: “Your region will always lend you a helpful hand.”

A YOUNG couple from Yorkshire have realised their dream of buying a barn to convert – completing the purchase in France just a month before the October 31 Brexit deadline. First-time buyers Robert and Jennifer Linden, 26 and 27, had weighed up value for money between an unconverted barn – or a small cottage – in the Yorkshire Dales or a project near Jennifer’s parents and grandparents, who live in the Lot. They had a maximum budget of £150,000 and had ruled out buying a tiny flat with the money in south east England, near to where Jennifer was in the army and Robert worked in building project management and design. The estate agent who sold her parents their home then happened to call them with news of a barn conversion just a couple of kilometres from them. “When we looked at it, it was perfect for us,” said Jennifer. She said a barn to convert in the Dales is rare and would cost all of the £150,000 before conversion. They managed to negotiate the Lot barn for €30,000. Robert then drew up plans to create a three-bedroom 160m² home for a budget of €50,000, plus €10,000 for fittings and they obtained a loan from a French bank. Jennifer’s mother, a former solicitor, urged them to get the deal done before Brexit. Jennifer said: “Everyone we have dealt with in France has been very helpful. It has made us think we have made the right choice.” The project will take 18 months to complete and the couple will be busy – with a baby also due in February. n Emigration from Britain to the EU is at a 10-year high, with 84,000 Britons leaving so far in 2019, compared to 43,000 in 2010, a study by academics from Oxford and Berlin has found.

First-time buyers Jennifer and Robert Linden

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The Connexion November 2019

Jodie Foster: I feel inspired by cinema’s first woman director Photo: Oliver Rowland


FRANCOPHILE Hollywood star Jodie Foster had never heard of pioneering film director Alice Guy-Blaché when she was asked to narrate a film about her, even though she has worked in cinema since she was seven. Ms Foster, 56, said: “It’s kind of extraordinary as I’ve been in the movie business a long time – yet had never heard of possibly the first filmmaker that ever existed.” The Oscar-winning actress, director and producer added: “The director [Pamela B. Green] told me the story. I was blown away by her and totally inspired. “I grew up never having met another female filmmaker. “There were very few that I knew of and most of them were European. So I wanted to hear the story as much as anyone else and it took many years to make that happen.” She said she thought GuyBlaché, who began making films 123 years ago just after the Lumière brothers’ first film projection, was “rendered invisible” in film history because she was a woman and because “she didn’t

Jodie Foster and pioneering film director Alice Guy-Blaché fight back. She was a gentle woman, who admired her boss Léon Gaumont, who did acknowledge her privately, but didn’t seem to think it was important that he remember her contribution. “But mostly, and I’ve seen this in my own life, I don’t think it was a great conspiracy, people just forgot that women existed. They were an afterthought.” Ms Foster, who was speaking at a screening of Be Natural for the breast cancer charity Pink Ribbon Monaco (pinkribbon. mc), said it is not necessary to rewrite film history, so much as to “add to it”. “Gaumont was very important to film history. He was the first person, in France, after the

News 7


Lumière brothers who acknowledged what cinema could be – but it never occurred to him to think about narrative films. “History revises itself as truth appears, as time goes on, and this is a great addition.” Ms Foster, asked how GuyBlaché had succeeded despite the prejudices of the day, said: “Her boss was an amazing man who appreciated her, though not enough to remember her when the time came to attribute things. He understood what she had to bring and she rose to the top entirely due to her own tenacity and talent. “She had so many firsts, including the first all-AfricanAmerican cast, a movie on planned parenthood, a movie

where men and women changed places in society – very forward-thinking. “Also she started this idea of naturalism [hence the film’s title Be Natural]. At the time they were more interested in theatricality – big broad strokes and the magic of filmmaking. She was interested in daily life and smaller details.” The film is available for purchase at tinyurl.com/y2xgzp3l. Ms Foster attended the Lycée Français de Los Angeles and has done French-language dubs for her own films. Aged 13, she impressed journalists by interpreting at the press conference for Taxi Driver when it won the Palme d’Or in 1976. She then spent nine months in France and starred in Moi, Fleur Bleue. She told Connexion: “My mom was just taken by the French language and culture. “She never travelled until she was about 45 and then she went to France and fell in love with it. “She said ‘we’re going to move there and you’re going to speak French and maybe make French movies’. She put me in a French school and that was that.”

Guy-Blaché was pioneer of story-telling movies ALICE Guy-Blaché was not only one of the first women filmmakers, but one of the first, full stop. She might have been the first person to realise that cinema could tell stories, not just show real life. As a secretary for Léon Gaumont, who sold cameras and film at the time, she attended with him the first demonstration of film projection by the Lumière brothers, showing workers leaving their factory, in 1895. Realising that film could be used for fiction, she convinced Gaumont to let her try – and her first film was la Fée aux choux (The Cabbage Fairy) in 1896 (pictured). Film buffs argue over whether it, or the Lumières’ l’Arroseur arrosé which came out around the same time, was the first narrative film in history. Lasting one minute, her film depicted a fairy finding babies under giant cabbages, the traditional explanation given to French children as to where babies come from. You can see her 1900 remake at: tinyurl.com/y3buovu4. Guy-Blaché became head of production at Gaumont and later moved to America with husband Herbert Blaché, with whom she set up Solax Studios in Queens, New York, then across the Hudson River in Fort Lee, before Hollywood took off. Her films ranged from a drama of the life of Christ and an adaptation of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame to westerns. She experimented with colour and sound and is said to have invented several conventions such as the “making of ” documentary. She is estimated to have written, directed or produced 1,000 films. The phrase “be natural” was posted on signboards at Solax Studios to remind actors not to exaggerate. In later life, she wrote an autobiography in which she said she felt her role in cinema history had been overlooked. She wrote, ironically: “Surely if I had been the only woman film director in the whole world for 17 years I would be known, I would be famous and celebrated? I would be recognised?”

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The Connexion November 2019

News 9


France is the European country with most hunters ABOUT 290,000 national hunting licences were requested this year in the run-up to the start of the new season in August. It follows President Macron’s decision to halve the fee for national licences from €400 to €200. The president has openly supported hunters, notably by allowing more flexibility on hunting dates and quotas of animals killed. He has also spoken in favour of reviving the defunct “presidential hunts”, to which business and political leaders and foreign heads of state used to be invited About three million people have a licence in France, and around one million hunt every year. Environmental associations often complain about the methods used, both on ethical and ecological grounds. Several environmental associations, including the national organisations LPO and Aspas, also deplore that endangered species are hunted. But for hunters it is a tradition and a passion. Here we speak to two people involved.


Thierry Coste, political adviser for the Fédération nationale des chasseurs FRANCE is the European country with the most hunters. About three million people have a hunting licence and every year there are about 1.1million licence validations. To hunt, you must have a licence, for which you have passed an exam. This licence is valid for life but you have to validate it every year to be able to continue to hunt. We have two licences – national and departmental – and the president has lowered the price of the national licence by half. It means almost one hunter in two now opts for the national licence. But it does not increase the number of hunters, it just allows hunters to go hunting in other departments. Hunting is a popular activity, the third most popular leisure activity in France. It is a very rural activity and France is a very rural country, so this explains why we have so many hunters. In terms of wildlife, because we have a rich country with a geographical diversity, there are more species hunted in France than anywhere else. Farmers

and foresters often criticise hunters for not killing enough animals. They are the ones who ask for hunting periods to be extended so we can hunt wild boar and deer, because they damage their agriculture and forest areas. When there are low numbers of animals, we do not hunt. There may be periods of one to five years when we will not hunt hare, for example, so numbers can rise again. Another example: the grouse is an endangered species in the Alps and Vosges, and it is forbidden to hunt it there. But grouse are also in the Pyrenees, where we continue to hunt it. The people who ask for a ban on hunting on Sundays are not in favour of a better sharing of the space but are against hunting in general. It is absolutely normal that people want to go for a walk in the forest at the weekend but when we hunt it is sometimes on private land*, so the hunter is at home. In this case, we only hunt in 25% of the territory of a commune so the rest is still accessible to everyone. The rule is also to inform people of where hunting takes place. Some departments have apps where you can see maps of the hunting areas. There are also signs for hikers and anyone passing by. Safety is the priority.


Yves Vérilhac, director of the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux Hunting, like fishing, has long been a subsistence activity and so people used to help themselves in nature and it had its purpose. Today, for the majority of people, it is a hobby, just like football. It is not necessary for the environment as the pro-hunt lobby is trying to make us believe. Nature does not need hunting. Species have diversified over time without humans. Hunting today produces more undesirable effects than benefits, notably pollution, lead pollution, and disturbance. Often we use disease as an excuse to destroy a million foxes each year. This is huge and all under the pretext that it is necessary to balance nature. Excessive culling is actually one of the causes of the scarcity of species, as well as pollution and artificial environments. France hunts more species than any other European countries. For example, 64 bird species, twice as many as the European average. And of those 64, 20 are endangered. It is incomprehensible that we continue to shoot endangered species. It is not normal that every time we try to create a protected natural area for some species, hunters oppose it. Hunters use the

caller method, which consists of using an animal to attract others and shoot them. These animals are put in small cages, where they stay for hours in horrible conditions. There are animals that are tied by their tails and pulled to make them scream. There are strangled animals, animals crushed under stones, under the pretext of traditional hunting. People are not taking hunting in the right direction. If the rules were applied properly, it would be a good first step. We have a Ministry of Hunting, not Ecology. The lobbies are so powerful and Macron sent positive signals to the hunters by giving them huge gifts. Hunting dates vary but the hunting period is often extended by prefects on request under the pretext of species regulation. For game, it starts on August 1 and must end on January 31 but it is often extended to eight months. At this rate, it will soon be all year round. We should at least have no hunting on Sundays. We want to be able to go for a walk, pick mushrooms, etc. We need to learn to share space, and accept that one day in the week there is no hunting. *If you do not want the hunt to come into your garden/land you are advised to write a letter to the local hunting federation. We have a model for this (with a translation) for subscribers on our website. Search “hunt ban”.

Not even World War Two halted 700-year-old market Vandalism MARKETS are a common sight in towns and villages across France – but some have a much longer heritage than others. One Dordogne town celebrated the 700th anniversary of its market this month. The market has been held every Tuesday since 1319, and not even World War Two shut it down. The weekly market in Le Bugue continues to flourish, showing that markets still have an important place in towns, despite competition from supermarkets. It is one of the most popular and busiest markets in the region, with stallholders coming from far and wide to benefit from the crowds who flock there, particularly in summer. Visitors can buy almost anything: fruit and vegetables, local produce, exotic fare, plants, jewellery, clothes, and more practical hardware including knives and kitchen goods. The market was established by royal decree because a local lord, Pierre de Galard, was friends with Philippe V. There is a reproduction of the decree in the marketplace. It says the market had been previously held “irregularly, sometimes one day, and sometimes another”, and that now this would be “fixed and stable”. Gérard Fayolle, local historian, previous mayor of Le Bugue and former senator, said that until then the organisation of markets was haphazard. He said: “Because there were no rules, nobody knew when the markets were being held and it led to quarrels and legal proceedings between towns. “The new towns of the period,

Cobbler Maurice Clavière, above, is still working at the age of 96. Top right, the organic stall run by relative newcomer Hughes Picard in the market at Le Bugue, bottom right which were the fortified bastide towns, like Domme and Monpazier, were created with market regulations, but older towns often had to wait and not all managed to get a royal decree. “All towns eventually regulated their markets, but it is very rare to find one that has had the same market day throughout the centuries.” A total of 300 stands are signed up to operate during the summer in le Bugue and many stallholders have been coming for decades. Eric Castang, who grows fruit and vegetables at nearby Mauzens-et-Miremont, has been coming for 35 years. He said: “Before that, my mother used to come. It is worthwhile and we always sell well. I go to another market too, but this is the biggest. The type of buyer has changed. It used to be local people coming to do

their weekly shop. Now there are far more who come to visit the market as an attraction, particularly in summer. “The amount we sell every Tuesday has remained constant, but the market-goers have changed.” Martine Auzy has a farm at Thenon, which has its own market 40 minutes’ drive away. She said: “I prefer to come here because it is much bigger than the one in my town and it has a very friendly atmosphere. “I sell what is in season, which might be mushrooms, truffles, walnuts, duck, jam and the local speciality fritter, the oreillette beignet, which always sells well. “I have always had the same spot, in Les Halles, pleasant in summer, but very, very cold in winter as you always catch the wind blowing through – but it is worth it. “I like the personal contact

with the people who buy and it allows me to explain my products to them.” Markets are also welcomed by the new generation of organic growers. Hughes Picard has recently started an organic market garden at Saint-Geyrac, Dordogne, and this was his first season at Le Bugue He said: “I also sell to local organic shops, sell from my farm and to a restaurant, but my best outlet is here. “Markets are very important for young producers like me. “I enjoy it, too, as it is my weekly day out. The rest of the time I am alone working with the crops.” Christianne Pieters drives nearly two hours to bring her fruit and vegetables from her farm in the Gers. She said: “I have been coming for 10 years, and though it is a long way, I come because it is such a good atmosphere and I

get good sales here.” The man who has seen the most changes in the market is 96-year-old Maurice Clavière, still working in his cobbler’s shop, which overlooks the street where there are the most stalls. He said: “This market kept going even during the war. “At that time people were pleased to be able to buy anything when supplies were scarce. They came with their horses, which they left in stables set up for market-goers.” He said entire families would arrive in the morning, but at midday the women would go home and the men would stay to eat together in a restaurant. “They paid with the money they had earned that day,” laughed Mr Clavière. “Times have changed and it would never happen now!” Maryvonne Piques, local councillor responsible for culture, said: “I know nearly everyone here and market day is a day for people to socialise. “The market brings people in, who also spend in the local shops, cafés and restaurants. “It is also good for local producers who can sell their wares here. I have lived here since 1983 and it has always been vibrant and bustling. “There are perhaps fewer farmers now and more trinkets for the tourists. But it is as important and as lively as ever.” n The market is a favourite haunt of Bruno Courrèges, the fictional police chief in crime novels of author Martin Walker, who lives in Le Bugue. The fictional St Denis, where the books are set, is based on the town.

blamed for huge fall in speed cash

Revenue from speed cameras is set to plummet this year and an “unprecedented wave of vandalism” is partly to blame. The vandalism of cameras, which peaked during the gilets jaunes protests, means revenues will be more than €400million below previous estimates.. New official data put the projected windfall from roadside radars at €500-€600million – down from the high of €824.7million recouped in 2017 and much lower than previous estimates for this year of €1.04billion. Vandalism has meant that the availability rate of useable cameras fell from 93% in 2017 to 75% in 2019. The government says it hopes for a return to 93% availability next year. Cash from speeding fines is predicted to rise to almost €730million in 2020, but again lower than previously expected. However, road safety officials say that official figures show the average speed of drivers has fallen slightly on secondary roads, from 80.8kph in 2017 to 79.6kph in 2018. The government has suggested that fewer fines have been issued due to fewer offences. This year 400 multifunction “radar turrets” were due to be installed, among decoy versions. These can identify a list of offences, including driver phone use, and monitor 100-plus cars in several lanes at the same time.

What’s changing in France

1: Gas prices

REGULATED Engie gas prices dropped by an average of 2.4% in October. Specifically, the drop is 0.6% for households using gas for cooking, 2.5% for those using it for heating and 1.4% for those who use it for both and for hot water. The levels were set by the state at the end of June.

2: Billing address FrOm October 1, all bills issued – as well as carrying the addresses of both parties – must list the billing address if different to the delivery address. They must also show an order number (numéro de bon de commande) if one was supplied by the buyer. In theory, firms failing to make out bills properly can face very large fines. They were hardly ever levied but have now been changed to an “administrative” category rather than “criminal”, making them easier to levy - so care needs to be taken. The change is aimed at speeding up debt recovery.

3: Elevator going up

New shared buildings must now feature a lift, by law, if they are three or more storeys high. This aims at improving access for those with reduced mobility.

4: Pension changes

October saw the launch of new kinds of private pension, intended to make retirement saving simpler. As part of business growth plan la Loi Pacte, firms are now limited to three products (all forms of the Plan Epargne Retraite) to replace an array of offers (Perp, Perco, Loi Madelin policies...) said to have had complex, inconsistent rules.

5: Drink-driving MOTORISTS convicted of drink-driving but allowed to remain on the roads as long as they use an in-car breathalyser before they drive face strict new rules. The maximum permitted

alcohol limit in cars with the devices has been cut to 0.1 mg/l on breath (less than one small glass of wine). For other drivers it is 0.25.

6: Lending rates GOOD news for property hunters: the maximum lending rate for mortgages has been lowered from 5.92% to 5.75%. This figure is known as the taux d’usure and is based on not exceeding by more than a third the average rate for the preceding three months. It is set quarterly.

7: Two systems that help those on low incomes with healthcare costs – CMU-C and ACS – have merged into the Complé­men­ taire santé solidaire. Essentially, the ACS, a benefit that helped people pay for a top-up healthcare insurance policy, has been abolished and the CMU-C, a “free topup” created in 1999, has been renamed and extended. Those in the slightly higher ACS income band now also benefit from it but do not get it totally free. They pay a monthly fee from €8 for under-30s to €30 for over-70s. Earning levels have not changed. They are based on all income over the previous 12 months, minus a few exemptions (eg. certain benefits). For the free version, they are up to €8,951 (€13,426 for a couple, or higher for those with dependent children) and up to €12,084 (€18,126 for a couple) for the paid-for one. As with CMU-C, this is available to all people living legally and stably in France (in most cases, for at least three months). It is applied per household via the ameli.fr website or your Cpam. It is renewable with a new application each year. Those on the system have no upfront charges and cannot be charged dépassements (fees above the standard state ones). They obtain subsidised glasses, hearing aids, dental prostheses and wheelchairs. See more at tinyurl.com/y4nkhej4.

Dates for your diary November 1 – All Saints’ Day All Saints’ Day is a public holiday. It is the day that flowers are placed at graves, notably chrysanthemums (this is why it is not usual to offer these flowers as a gift). Strictly speaking November 2 is La fête des morts in honour of deceased relatives, but it is not a bank holiday. November 11 – Armistice Day Services and parades take place at war memorials and the president lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris to honour those who died in wars, especially World War One. November 15 - tax deadline The deadline for most households to pay the taxe d’habita­ tion by cheque or direct debit (it is November 20 for paying online). Some homes, usually second homes have a December deadline. November 21 – Beaujolais Day The third Thursday in November marks the first sales of Beaujolais Nouveau wines, amid festivity in the wine region.

The Connexion November 2019


‘Crazy’ Meribel climb features in 2020 Tour de France

The 2020 Tour de France route has been revealed and for the first time in decades it includes a “crazy gradient’” summit ride to Méribel station in Savoie. The race will start in Nice on June 27 and include six gruelling summits – the most notable being the Méribel climb in the third week. The Tour has not stopped in Méribel for 47 years, and a tarmac road did not exist there until recently. Nice will €3.55million in two instalments for the privilege of hosting the Grand Depart, but is expected to enjoy an economic bounce of up to €30million from the race. Thierry Gouvenou, director of the race route, said: “We are going to see [gradient] percentages of 15-20%. “For the riders, it will be tough, they will not be able to keep a regular rhythm. They will have to beat the slope as well as opponents.” Before Méribel, the route will include the Jura mountain range, and one stage finishes at the summit of the

Grand Colombier on July 12 – just one week before the final stage ends in traditional style on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Following Méribel, there will be another 14 kilometres of climbing, towards the Col de la Loze summit via the Col de la Madeleine, accessed this year via Montgellafrey for the first time. Race director Christian Prudhomme

The 21 stages of the 2020 Tour de France June 27: Nice Moyen Pays>Nice. 156km. Flat June 28: Nice Haut Pays>Nice. 187km. Mountain June 29: Nice>Sisteron. 198km. Flat June 30: Sisteron>Orcières-Merlette. 157km. Hilly July 1: Gap>Privas. 183km. Flat July 2: Le Teil>Mont Aigoual. 191km. Hilly July 3: Millau>Lavaur. 168km. Flat July 4: Cazères-sur-Garonne> Loudenvielle. 140km. Mountain July 5: Pau>Laruns. 154km. Mountain July 6: REST in Charente-Maritime July 7: Ile d’Oléron Le Château-d’Oléron>Ile de Ré Saint-Martin-de-Ré. 170km. Flat July 8: Châtelaillon-Plage>Poitiers. 167km. Flat July 9: Chauvigny>Sarran Corrèze. 218km. Hill July 10: Châtel-Guyon>Puy Mary Cantal. 191km. Mountain July 11: Clermont-Ferrand>Lyon. 197km. Flat defended the route from criti- July 12: Lyon>Grand Colombier. 175km Mountain. REST in Isère cism that it focuses unfairly on July 14: La Tour-du-Pin>Villard-de-Lans the south. 164km. Mountain He said: “In the last five July 15: Grenoble>Méribel Col de la Loze. years, we have been every 168km. Mountain where. Today, with 3,500km of July 16: Méribel>La Roche-sur-Foron. race, we cannot pass by every- 168km. Mountain where... In 107 races, [next July 17: Bourg-en-Bresse>Champagnole. year] will be only the seventh 160km. Flat time that the Tour is starting July 18: Lure>La Planche des Belles Filles. in the south, and that allows 36km. Individual time-trial it to be in the mountains July 19: Mantes-la-Jolie>Paris Champs Elysées. 122km. Flat quickly.”

Vineyards can offer vendange holidays

Drug users in French city face €450 fine

Winegrowers can offer tourists the chance to help bring in the harvest without the risk of flirting with France’s strict employment laws. The government has changed the regulatory framework so tourists can help harvest a parcel of a vineyard or estate without their activity being considered work by an employee.

ANYONE caught smoking cannabis or taking other illegal drugs in Rennes will soon be faced with a €200 fine, rising to €450 in some cases, in a trial to “attack demand”. The rule will also apply in Reims and Créteil for several months.

Carehome residents hit surf in Channel

Two ‘native’ cases of dengue fever

Louvre can show Leonardo sketch

A SEConD case of native dengue fever in France has been confirmed in the AuvergneRhône-Alpes, a month after the first was reported. A health alert in the region has been lifted after both patients, who live in Caluireet-Cuire, in the Rhône department recovered. Neither have travelled abroad recently.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man sketch has gone display at the Louvre, after an Italian court overruled an earlier decision. The court finally rejected a claim by a culture and heritage group that the sketch could be damaged at the exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death in France.

‘Reassuring’ tests on farms after chemical plant blaze

AN OAP home in Ille-etVilaine, Brittany, is encouraging residents to remain active by offering surfing lessons in the English Channel. MarieAnne, 83, said: “I told my grandchildren I was going surfing. They asked ‘Are you joking, grandma?’”

MPs plan one-off ‘tax’ on heavy cars A group of MPs has proposed a one-off tax on new

vehicles based on their weight in what is being seen as a move against 4x4s and SUVs. The Sustainable Development Committee tabled an amendment to the budget review to introduce the tax on vehicles weighing more than 1,300kg.

Air France installs taller bag lockers Old style New style Air France is to install new overhead lockers with 60% more luggage space in two models of its fleet to speed up passenger boarding. The new lockers are taller (see comparison on image) and enable bags to be stored on their sides, rather than flat, meaning 166 bags can be stowed on an Airbus 320, compared to 113 currently. Photo: LucasGlrd7 / Twitter

10 News in brief

MILK began to be collected again from dairy farms near the fire-ravaged Lubrizol chemical factory in Rouen in mid-October after tests confirmed initial “reassuring” results. Restrictions were lifted on dairy products and cows allowed to graze pastures again after no dangerous levels of contamination were found. Heightened safety surveillance procedures remain in place. The go-ahead is still awaited to resume consumption of local honey, eggs, fish, and fruit and vegetables. Health Minister Agnès Buzyn has said that early analyses were positive. Regional authorities banned the sale of food from farms in 112 communes, saying harmful substances could “present a public health risk”. Schools were closed in Rouen and residents were warned to stay indoors following the explosion and fire in the early hours of September 26. Some 200 firefighters fought the blaze in a storage facility at the plant, which manufactures toxic Smoke from the Lubrizol chemical plant blaze was visible over large distances chemicals. The cause is still being investigated.

The Connexion November 2019

A group of NGOs has called for a moratorium on the roll-out of new superfast mobile phone cellular network 5G in France, saying it could cause “out of control” consequences for society. NGOs, including Agir Pour l’Environnement and PriartemElectrosensibles de France, saythe new technology will lead to physical and mental health problems and environment issues, and could have a negative impact on social freedom. It has been suggested that 5G, which will allow very large amounts of data to be sent and accessed using mobile devices, will be “revolutionary”, opening the door to new technology such as driverless cars. In a statement, the NGOs said introducing the technology could “push the planet and our society into a world with out-ofcontrol consequences”. It said: “Digital wireless communication technology has already had impacts that are not virtual: risks for our physical and mental health; hyperconnection with the world of work and among young people; impact on the soil, landscapes and ecosystems; a growing energy bill; wasting resources; risks from big data on our freedoms; lobbying weight on science and public politics…”

Abandoning animals ‘must be punished’ Pet owners who abandon their animals could soon be punished by law more often after a minister called for a crackdown. Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said: “We don’t get a pet to have fun, and then when we go on holiday, abandon it. “I don’t want to stigmatise the huge majority of people who have pets who treat them well and love them.” Every year, 100,000 pets are abandoned – around 60,000 of them in the summer. Abandoning animals is already punishable by law as it is considered an act of cruelty and mistreatment. It can be punished by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000. However, it is difficult to catch people “red handed”, so the existing law has historically been difficult to enforce. In June, 240 MPs announced that they would be submitting a proposal for a new law that would “end wide-scale abandonments”. They would like to make sterilisation for cats obligatory, and to work with children in schools on the responsibility of having a pet. They are also working on the morality of pet trading, as it remains easy to buy a pet just like any other item in a shop.

News in brief 11

Scientists help paralysed man walk Photos: J Treillet / FDD Clinatec / Twitter

NGOs call for a halt to ‘out of control’ 5G

connexionfrance.com A tetraplegic man has become the first ever to walk again using a new kind of brain-controlled “exoskeleton” created by French scientists. The patient Thibault, 30, was paralysed after a fall in a nightclub four years ago and cannot use his arms or legs unaided. Now, thanks to the exoskeleton developed by scientists, he can control his hands, shoulders, legs and feet. He said: “It is like being the first man on the moon.” The exoskeleton works with two small electronic implants embedded in the two sides of his brain. These “capture” brain waves and transform them into motor signals, so that when Thibault thinks about moving, the exoskeleton responds. Scientists started to work on the project in 2008, and it took Thibault two years of training on the exoskeleton and in virtual simulations to be able to use it. While the movement is not yet as fluid as researchers would like, the trial at the CEA biomedical research centre Clinatec near Grenoble (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), has received approval from health authorities, allowing work to continue.


Your practical Q&A

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n What tips for keeping a French second home safe n Our village has been while left empty? connected to mains n Why has my UK bank drainage. Our home is told me I can’t open a not yet connected but savings account? already we have a bill for n Can you set up a treatment - is this right?

property auctions how do they work? 20 ways to save money in everyday life in France

Owners warned of ‘lost pets’ scam

Cancer fears over super-strong beer

Killer had police data at home

OWNERS of lost pets are being warned against a new scam that asks them to pay a “ransom to reclaim” their beloved animal, only to find they are still lost. Scammers have reportedly contacted people who have lost a cat or dog, through details on the owner’s “lost pet” poster or social media post.

AN anti-cancer campaign organisation is calling for stricter laws and higher taxes on high-alcohol beer to raise awareness of drinking’s link to the disease. La Ligue Contre le Cancer accused authorities of “negligence” over the sale of certain ultra-strong beer-type drinks, some of which have an alcohol content of 14-17%.

USB sticks of data on dozens of police co-workers were found at the home of the IT specialist who fatally stabbed four colleagues at Paris’s prefecture de police before being shot dead. Data storage devices found at the home of married Mickaël Harpon, 45, also contained propaganda videos from the so-called ‘Islamic State’. Police have established links between Harpon and individuals who appear to belong to the Salafist Islamic movement, said anti-terrorist prosecutor JeanFrançois Ricard. The fatal attacks were made with a newly-bought 30cm kitchen knife when Harpon returned from lunch. He had worked in IT at the police department since 2003 and had high-level security clearance. He was born on the French island of Martinique, and converted to Islam more than 10 years ago. Contrary to early reports, he was said to have shown signs of radicalisation, including changing his style of dress, sometimes showing reluctance to interact with women and openly praising the 2015 terrorist attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Harpon’s four victims have received the Légion d’Honneur posthumously. The police officer who shot Harpon dead was also given the award.

Painkiller sales face new restrictions Customers would no longer be able to pick up common painkillers and anti-inflammatories from pharmacy shelves under health watchdog plans. The Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament wants medicines, including paracetamol and ibuprofen products, to always be behind the counter as soon as January. Many pharmacies place them behind the counter currently but not all.

Budget high-speed rail link to fifth city Lyon is to become the fifth city to be connected directly to Paris via the low-cost TGV service Ouigo, with the route set to open on June 1, 2020. There will be three return journeys a day, with tickets starting at €16 for adults and €8 for children. The schedule will avoid rush-hour times.

Date set for nuclear plant shutdown France’s oldest nuclear power plant will finally shut down earlier than planned, EDF has announced. The first reactor at the Fessenheim plant will permanently close on February 22, 2020, EDF said in a press release, and the second reactor will shut down for good on June 30.

Bordeaux postpones underground plans Plans to build a metro in Bordeaux have been shelved for the foreseeable future, as there are “more urgent” things to do, authorities have said. Patrick Bobet, president of the Bordeaux Métropole, said the city “was not ready”, and other issues – such as developing the motorway – were a higher priority.

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Amiens cathedral

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12 Interviews


Monuments man caring for France’s national treasures


Giant statues similar to earlier works by artist Sir Antony Gormley could stare across the Channel towards Britain from islands off the Brittany coast, if plans go ahead

Photo: wikipedia

British sculptor Sir Antony Gormley, best known in the UK for his Angel of the North statue, hopes to build four giant sculptures that would sit on the coast of northern France and look towards Britain. President Emmanuel Macron supports the project, which was born after Sir Antony was invited to France by Philippe Bélaval, chairman of France’s national heritage group the Centre des Monuments Nationaux - see panel right. Sir Antony revealed the plans on the arts podcast These Three. If approved, the sculptures will sit on an archipelago of small islands in the Baie de Morlaix, looking towards Britain on the other side of the Channel. Many have said that the sculptures may be a statement against Brexit as they will face towards the UK in a “kind of farewell to the island from a country that is still part of the European Union”. But Mr Bélaval said they are actually inspired by the Cairn of Barnenez, a Neolithic monument located in the bay, which contains 11 burial chambers and dates from 4,500BC. It is thought to be one of the world’s oldest man-made structures. Mr Bélaval told Connexion how the project began: “Sir Antony is an artist I admire a lot and for a long time I was thinking about how I could bring contemporary art to megaliths in the same way that it’s now quite common to have contemporary art shows in historic buildings. “I knew about Sir Antony’s projects and work in Britain along the coasts and I had the opportunity of meeting him at his exhibition at the Ropac gallery in Paris. “I invited him to Brittany and we visited various places. He loved the Baie de Morlaix and thought the site was very interesting and promising. Since that time, we’ve been working on a project planned for 2021. “The Baie de Morlaix is a place filled with very strong cosmic energy and he perceives

Sir Antony’s well-known Angel of the North UK statue and the Cairn of Barnenez that and is able to make something out of it.” In an interview with The Observer, Sir Antony said the sculptures would be created from up to 30 slabs of iron, balanced in a humanoid shape on top of each other – similar to previous works by him. The final piece would stand up to seven kilometres out to sea. He said: “They are sort of massive houses of cards, but made out of blocks that do actually cohere. “They are an attempt to say something about the human condition – that we are all of us provisional. “We stand up, but we are always in danger

of falling over.” Although not Brexit-inspired as first thought, the sculptures will foster a feeling of amity between France and the UK. Mr Bélaval said: “I know that President Macron feels strongly about British artists being made to feel at home in France, even after Brexit, and we are doing our best to implement that with this project. “I think that the ability for British artists to be able to work in mainland Europe, and vice versa, shows that there is a common belonging, a common culture, and a common civilisation between us. “This sense of belonging cannot be affected by the changes that Brexit will bring.”

Photo: Benjamin Gavaudo

English knight’s iron giants may guard Brittany’s shores

The Connexion November 2019

THE Brittany coastal sculptures project is one of many Philippe Bélaval is coordinating in his role as chairman of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, a position he has held since 2012. Connexion spoke to him about his work. The centre is in charge of 100 monuments across France, including the Arc de Triomphe, the Panthéon and the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Many historic buildings in France fall into disrepair because they are not all publicly owned and there are not enough funds to renovate and maintain all of them. The National Trust provides a solution to this for some buildings in the UK by charging an entrance fee or an annual membership. The money goes towards renovation and upkeep of the sites. Asked if a similar organisation could help France, Mr Bélaval said: “The main role of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux is to manage monuments or sites belonging to the state or public agencies, but I think we now have the experience and the capability to be a kind of equivalent to the National Trust. “However, I do think that France and Britain cannot be exactly compared because the relationship between a nation and its heritage is different in every country. “The heritage of a country reflects so much of its identity that, of course, the same solutions cannot be used in different countries and places. “Even within countries, there is such a wide range of different factors which affect this issue and so I don’t think that there is a single financial answer to solve all of the problems at once. “But we are widening the range of responses we have been coming up with to meet this challenge.” He said he first became interested in France’s national heritage sites as a child, when he would accompany his parents to historic buildings and sites for days out. He said: “I found those visits entertaining and I never lost interest in the subject, even when I was working in very different fields to what I do now. “The problem now is creating interest in the younger generations. I admire people like [historian and heritage lottery organiser] Stéphane Bern and others who try to do this. We are a good team, as we are all very strongly committed to doing something for the nation.”

Music is a universal language, it unites people, says Dame Vera

Dame Vera Lynn: “We will always have close ties with the rest of Europe”

Photo: Liz Mills

by BRIAN McCULLOCH DAME Vera Lynn became a star when her songs of wistful love and patriotism became popular in Britain during World War Two. She is now 102 and, as a Connexion reader, was moved to see our report of a concert in Saint-Sever-Calvados, in Normandy, by New Zealand singer Vicky Lee. It featured her songs and she had given it her backing. The village had organised a memorial to seven allied airmen who died nearby in three separate crashes and fights against the Germans. Her daughter Virginia contacted Connexion to pass on her appreciation. Dame Vera, who is now hard of hearing, told Connexion by email that she thought such local initiatives were very important. “They are important because we have always had close links with our friends across the Channel,” she said. “Music has a way of bringing people together and I understand all the audience joined in and had a good time.” She also supports the building of a memorial to the British and Commonwealth troops who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy near the site of the Gold Beach landing. The British government has pledged

Anything that honours those who fought for our freedom has to be good for everyone’s morale

£7million towards it. “Anything that honours those who fought for our freedom has to be good for everyone’s morale,” she said. Is she surprised that her wartime songs still have the power to touch many people? “Whatever happens in the future, we will always have close ties with the rest of Europe, as we have done for decades. “I’m not surprised these patriotic songs have endured... the sentiment is the same as it always was.” The idea that music could be used to calm things down and unite people in the UK is one which appeals to her. “Music is a universal language and it will always be something that unites people,” she said. “It brings together people of all ages and backgrounds and has the ability to soothe, comfort and give hope.” Talking about France, she said the main driving force behind the idea of buying a holiday

flat at Golfe Juan on the Riviera 45 years ago was the weather. “It is lovely where our flat is, and we have lots of British and French friends,” she said. “It is a home from home.” She said she has always been fond of French music and continues to listen to it. “I did not have the privilege of singing with Edith Piaf. However, I was fortunate to see her perform live.” Dame Vera is known to many younger people through references to her in the Pink Floyd album and film The Wall but she said she never met the band. Roger Waters was inspired by Dame Vera’s song We’ll Meet Again and his own father, who did not return from the war. And the secret for a long life? “I’m not sure I have the secret. I think it is important to try to remain young at heart by keeping up with current affairs and enjoying small pleasures. “It’s always important to count your blessings, and I am always mindful that I have a lot to be grateful for. “I very much enjoy spending time with my family and close friends these days, and I also enjoy watching television, reading crime novels and looking out on the nature in my garden. I just take each day as it comes.”

The Connexion November 2019

History 13


Over several decades, waves of British citizens have moved to France for a better life. But when the political winds of Europe suddenly change, they find themselves marooned with nowhere to go. Sounds familiar? Perhaps, but this was 1848, as Michael Delahaye discovers…

A vintage postcard of the church of Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais, where lacemakers held a meeting and decided to petition the British government for help with emigration to Australia resentment among the French seemed to evaporate as the English factory owners recruited local workers. Intermarriage followed and, Paris being the world centre of fashion, business flourished. By the 1840s, the Calais region was the Dordogne of its day, home to some 3,000 British expats with their own church and an English-language newspaper, The Calais Messenger. But in 1848 the French, having had one revolution in 1789, launched a second, albeit less bloody. After three years of poor harvests, the economy

Photo: Paul Kloeden

Foreigners were seen as job-takers or, if unemployed, as a drain

Historian Gillian Kelly on the dockside at Port Adelaide, where lacemaking migrants landed in Australia in 1848

had crumbled. Banks froze, markets collapsed, factories closed and an ugly nationalism reared its head. Foreigners were seen as job-takers or, if unemployed, a drain on the public purse. There were cries of “A bas les Anglais!”, although in Calais the locals were generally supportive of their English neighbours who were, in many cases, also relatives. The factory-owners scuttled back to Nottingham and, left behind, their destitute workers found themselves no longer wanted in France and facing the prospect of the workhouse in England. Into this bleak scenario stepped two men: Edward Lander, a machine-owner nominated as the lacemakers’ emergency leader, and Edward Bonham, the British consul in Calais. The heads of 50 or so lacemaking families met in the local English church and hatched an audacious strategy: to emigrate, not just to another country but another continent. They sent a petition to the British foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, offering a deal – “We won’t return to be a burden on the British state if you can provide us with the means of free emigration to Australia.” The combination of cheek, veiled blackmail and consul Bonham’s energetic support paid off, as the government launched a public appeal in London and Nottingham, which it agreed to match. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set an example by chipping in £200. The upshot was that 700 lacemakers were evacuated by steamer from Calais to the English coast, boarding ships bound for Australia. By 1848

the Great Southern Continent was seen less as a dumping ground for convicts than as a destination where those with initiative could escape from poverty. The voyage took four months with some heading for Sydney, others to Adelaide, the capital of the new “free colony” of South Australia, founded just 12 years earlier. Those who were Adelaide-bound spent 113 days at sea. Much of that was below deck – often in raging storms – in claustrophobic quarters, with many children and crude box-bunks for beds. However, a greater challenge came with their arrival in Australia: finding work. These were skilled machine operators, typically middleaged with large families, not the young, strapping immigrants that Australia was crying out for. Worse, the government had made it a condition of their resettlement that they give up their traditional trade lest it undermine the lace industry in Britain. Gillian Kelly is the historian for the Australian Society of the Lacemakers of Calais, and is a descendent of a lacemaker. Sitting in Port Adelaide, where the immigrants came ashore through the mangrove swamps, she says they had to take whatever was on offer. “Farmhands, labouring, and lots of them went into service as house servants. Among the single women, there were a great many marriages within just months of arrival. “But there was also an entrepreneurial spirit.” As an example, she cites her great-great-grandfather William, who landed in Sydney and invested in real estate when the government started selling off land in the 1860s. “People were able to buy a plot virtually at the cost of putting improvements into it,” said Ms Kelly. “On the 1871 census, where it said ‘occupation’, William – an English lacemaker, not from a moneyed family – was able to write ‘gentleman’.” Edward Lander, chairman of the appeal committee, arrived at Port Adelaide with his wife Mary Ann and six children. The last child, appropriately

Photos: Lander family collection

A statue of immigrants at the Migration Museum, Adelaide, housed in what was the Destitute Asylum, where Eugénie Goldfinch spent several months after arriving from Calais

Edward and Mary Ann Lander

Among the single women there were a great many marriages within months of arrival Gillian Kelly

named Adelaide, had been born on the first day of the voyage but died of whooping cough a year later. Within six months of arrival, Edward joined the Adelaide police force. After a three-year stint, he moved to Victoria and then New South Wales, accumulating land and status. Appointed a magistrate, he became a pillar of society. In their 80s, Edward and Mary Ann retired to Port Adelaide. By contrast, the story of the Goldfinch family, researched by sixth-generation descendant and social historian Cheryl Williss, is probably more typical of immigrants’ experience. English-born Richard Goldfinch had married a Calais French laceworker, Eugénie Desombre. They were in their early 20s and by the time of the 1848 evacuation, nearly a decade later, had four

children. Leaving France must have been particularly hard for Eugénie, pregnant with a fifth child and knowing she would never see her parents, relatives or friends again. Arriving in Adelaide, Richard found work, probably as a labourer, but tragedy struck two years later when their nine-year old son George drowned in a river. Around this time, gold was discovered in neighbouring Victoria. Richard spent the next few years going back and forth, while Eugénie kept the family together as a cleaner. Richard’s prospecting was moderately successful but not enough to prevent Eugénie, pregnant again, having to admit herself and her brood to the grimly named Destitute Asylum for several months. Ms Williss completes the story: “Richard died at 62 of tuberculosis. Eugénie – having borne eight children – was able to buy a cottage and lived on for another two decades. When she and Richard had married in 1840, she had marked the certificate with an ‘X’ because she couldn’t read or write. “Over half a century later, on the other side of the world and now in her 70s, she signed her name to a petition that in 1894 would give the women of South Australia the right to vote – 50 years before her native France followed suit.” For Ms Williss herself, the French connection remains a source of pride: “A person once said to me that after so many generations we’re all diluted. “But I prefer another quote, from a Quaker: ‘Is it not a great blessing that we are the sum of all our ancestors?’”

Photo: Paul Kloeden

In the early 1800s, at the height of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, Nottingham was to lace what Bordeaux was to wine. Thanks to John Heathcoat’s Bobbinet lacemaking machine, production was at an all-time high. There were just two problems. At home, the Luddites were smashing the machines to protect their jobs while, abroad, the French were imposing crippling tariffs to protect their own lace industry. So, on the principle “if you can’t beat them…”, a group of Nottingham lace manufacturers moved to the continent, taking their workers with them and smuggling in machinery. The chosen site for this industrial bridgehead was Saint-Pierre, just south of Calais. England and France had only just declared peace after the Napoleonic Wars but

Photo: Michael Delahaye

How lacemakers in Calais ended up Down Under

Cheryl Williss in the South Australian Maritime Museum, in a re-creation of life below decks of a migrant sailing ship

14 Comment

The Connexion November 2019


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.

Gilets jaunes and Brexit deny France its 100m tourist crown

IT is easy to back up weak claims with unlikely figures but there has never been much doubt about those suggesting France is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Last year was yet another record for the number of foreigners enjoying a country associated with everything from spectacular beaches and snow-capped mountains to high-culture and a fascinating history. Close to 80% of France is countryside and cities such as Paris and Nice are romanticised everywhere. America – with a population of more than 300 million – is one of those places where almost everybody is intrigued by the City of Light and wants to go there at some point. Methods of counting visitor numbers are often disputed – they range from algorithms calculating nights spent in hotels and hostels, to those pouring in at airports, and railway and coach stations. But France’s figures are seldom challenged, because it is so obviously a must-see. You would think Britain would win hands down as a Royalty destination, for example, yet more people are attracted to treasures such as the Palace of Versailles – the ancient home of the Kings and Queens of France west of Paris – than they are to residences in the UK still used by a living monarch and her sizeable family. France is lucky in that it generally avoids the ‘wrong kind of tourists’, too. The high price of alcohol in the capital and on the Riviera certainly keeps away the kind of rowdy boozers who have despoiled large parts of southern Spain. Despite all this, the French government has just announced that a bid to attract 100 million visitors a year The to the country by 2020 is set to fail. The ambitious target was first announced five years ago golden by the then-President François Hollande, with everybody 100 believing it was easily obtainable. million What they did not count on were two highly significant developments on both sides of the English Channel – the figure success of the gilets jaunes in France and Britain voting may well for Brexit. The damage the gilets jaunes have done is self-evident. be The political movement was set up at the end of 2018 to campaign for lower petrol prices and was almost reached immediately successful. Anybody could pick up a bright by the fluorescent jacket – the kind sold in DIY stores for those who want to be seen by the side of a road – and start time calling for the government to resign. of the The gilets jaunes riots in Paris that followed were astonishing – millions of pounds of destruction was Olympic caused on the Champs-Elysées and surrounding streets, as other prime tourist attractions such as the Arc de Games in Triomphe were ransacked. Paris in Beyond the cost of repairs, the optics were quite terrifying: flames and thick black smoke swirling 2024, but skywards next to the Eiffel Tower summed up the disaster. So did the mass use of tear gas, a chemical popularity weapon that was deployed indiscriminately on anyone is not caught up in the violence. In turn, the prospect of Brexit appears to have spooked eternal the British – the biggest visitor group to Paris, as well as departments such as the Dordogne. More than three years of torturous negotiations have meant a falling pound, a fear about further economic instability, and a general feeling that France might not be such a welcoming place anymore for those who want to quit the European Union and go it alone. Yes, around 90 million people a year are still travelling to France, and the golden 100 million figure may well be reached by the time of the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, but popularity is not eternal. It is certainly not guaranteed. There were just under 38 million foreign visitors to the UK in 2018, but with more street mayhem in France, and an end to the Brexit impasse, who knows: perhaps Britain will be picking up the tourist gold medal itself one day?

Simon Heffer, the renowned political commentator and historian, turns his gaze to French politics Simon Heffer is also a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs


hen, on October 13, Christian Jacob, a farmer who served as civil service minister in the second Chirac administration, was elected leader of the benighted Républicains, hardly a ripple was noted on the pond in France, and still less of one outside the Hexagon. Following the party’s pitiful performance in the European elections last Spring, when they recorded less than 8.5% of the vote, Mr Jacob must lick them into shape for the municipal elections, due in March. It will be an almighty job: the party’s membership has dropped from 235,000 to around 130,000 since 2017, and one can almost hear the squeals as it is crushed between the centrist touchy-feeliness of President Macron’s La République en Marche and the still-rejuvenating pungency of the Rassemblement National, the party formerly known as the Front National, under Marine Le Pen. The centre-right in France has had a particularly bad run. The pincer movement against it started before the 2017 election and was accelerated by the events surrounding the imploding candidacy that year of François Fillon, who had used state funds improperly in putting much of his family on his payroll. Fillon had been a capable prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, unusually lasting the whole of his presidency – French presidents usually change their prime ministers in the way most people change their underwear – and being almost the only aspect of that regime that, in the end, gave it credibility. When his irregularities were rumbled the party, already losing popularity under Sarkozy’s often capricious, arrogant and bling-infested rule, nosedived. That dive was not arrested by Laurent Wauquiez, the charmless operator who led them until the Euro-debacle. Les Républicains found they had nothing new or compelling to say that could rival the message of either of their main opponents; but that was the inevitable culmination of a long process of political lassitude. Sarkozy himself came into power in 2007 promising massive reforms that never happened, and quickly established himself as a time-server for whom the ultimate position in the French nation was one he relished for its status and not for how he could use it to change France for the better. In that he followed the example of his former mentor, Jacques Chirac, who died just over a fortnight before Mr Jacob, who had served him unspectacularly but well, picked up the poisoned chalice. Chirac’s obituaries in France were mainly reverential, hypocritically so when it came to media outlets that had spent his political lifetime abominating him. Those overseas, particularly in the Anglosphere, were less obliging. Chirac’s great advantage was that he

Farmer handed poisoned chalice of leading France’s pitiful centre-right should look to past incarnated an image of the French presidency that his people felt fulfilled their expectations of the incumbent of the post: his film-star looks (the sublime Jean Dujardin must, one thinks, be lined up already to play him in the biopic), his legendary charm and supposed power over women, but above all his grandeur, which enabled him, at least for most of his career, to cut corners and get away with it. But what Chirac eventually learned (and this should be a lesson for Boris Johnson now he holds high political office in Britain, and acts in a comparably irregular way) is that there is always a man at the top of the escalator waiting to collect your ticket. In Chirac’s case, this meant his conviction for corruption in 2011, four

To those who studied Chirac’s career closely, it was astonishing that he had got away with it that long.

years after he had left office. To those who had studied Chirac’s career closely, during 18 years as Mayor of Paris and two terms as prime minister before he got into the Elysée Palace, it was astonishing that he had got away with it that long. For Chirac, politics – with the odd notable moment of grace, such as when he apologised for France’s role is assisting the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews – was about the cynical and pleasurable exercise of power, the acquisition of status that goes with it, and the potential for the enrichment of self and of one’s cronies. When it came to using power to transform France – to break it out of a stultifying post-war consensus that

had caused near paralysis under his predecessor, François Mitterrand – Chirac was hopeless. When he managed to take a decision he would often, as Mitterrand himself found when he had to endure a period of cohabitation with Chirac as his prime minister, rapidly contradict himself. The economic problems of France and particularly the loss of international competitiveness were only made worse by Chirac’s refusal to have the type of deregulatory upheaval that had rescued Britain from the financial knacker’s yard under Margaret Thatcher. During his first term, unemployment, which Chirac had sworn he would cut, rose, and all that was cut were the social security benefits paid to those who were out of work. In 1997, he recklessly called an election and ended up with his sworn adversary, Lionel Jospin, as his prime minister in a paralytic period of cohabitation. He only managed re-election himself as president because expected rival Lionel Jospin’s own ineptitude let Jean-Marie Le Pen into the final round against Chirac. Because of Chirac’s own intellectual and political insecurities, and his determination to keep treating the French as though it was still the late 1940s, and wounds had to be healed after the Occupation, his second term was as stagnant and as unimaginative as his first. He, like Sarkozy after him, never sought to confront the French people with the need for radical change, the need for incentives and for the state to withdraw and to allow the operation of a low-tax, low-spend free-market economy. That remains his legacy to the centre-right, which under M Wauquiez certainly showed it had learned nothing about the need for change and an end to jobbery. Perhaps Mr Jacob will take that lesson, as he reflects on the failure of his late political chief.

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The Connexion November 2019

Why the return of the night train is a big issue in France THE relaunch of the Paris-Berlin night train is being called for by a number of European MPs as interest in overnight rail is renewed. A transport law (the loi d’orientation des mobilités) is currently under review by French MPs, who are due to take a decision on launching new night train lines and modernising existing structures by next June. Former transport minister Elisabeth Borne, who is now Ecological Transition Minister, has expressed support for the plans. She wrote on Twitter: “Yes, night trains have a future!” Night trains were abandoned by the cash-strapped SNCF in 2016 for financial reasons. There are only two night lines now running in France – Paris-Briançon and ParisRodez-Toulouse-Portbou – compared to about 60 lines before. International lines which cross France are maintained by foreign

Under pressure from ecologists, France is starting to understand that it is not normal to have planes subsidised by the state and not the railways

Pascal Dauboin Night train campaigner

Pascal Dauboin, of the group Oui au train de nuit, discusses the economic and environmental arguments behind renewed interest in overnight rail travel in a Connexion interview with Selma Daddi companies, such as Italy’s Thello or the Russian Moscow Express. Austria has also become an example of how night trains can work, with the company ÖBB attracting 1.4million passengers a year, representing 4% of total passengers but 17% of revenue. Night trains are promoted by environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg, and many people want them to come back. They are 14 to 40 times less polluting than planes, the association Réseau Action Climat claims. They are also comfortable and practical for the 162,457 people who have signed the petition “Oui au train de nuit” launched by the group of the same name, which has been asking for more night train routes since 2015. The group would like France to create 30 lines by 2030. Spokesman Pascal Dauboin told Connexion: “They have many advantages: more choice, attractive prices, comfort, the practicality to connect medium-sized cities in one night, to avoid Paris, and to arrive very early in a big city. “It can also save the expense of a night at the hotel. “Night trains make it possible to

Comment 15


The gilets jaunes changed my shopping forever... by SAMANTHA DAVID The gilets jaunes have had an unexpected effect – they have forced me to reduce my shopping and it’s turned out to be a good thing. It started a year ago when the roadblocks began in the lead-up to Christmas and I couldn’t get to our local “shopping village”. The roads were jammed and, after 45 minutes in a stationary line, I turned round and went home without the wrapping paper, Brussels sprouts and the double cream that were on my list. These items weren’t available in the local shops so I never managed to buy them at all. Several other shopping trips were also cancelled but – surprise, surprise – no one cared! No one noticed any missing items. Our celebrations were perfectly festive with green beans, Greek yoghurt and last year’s wrapping paper. We didn’t actually need the items on my list. It was a revelation and when I calculated the savings we’d made, it got me thinking about other things I might not bother buying. Minister Elisabeth Borne is “convinced” that night trains have a future The list was long! Now, as the year rolls into private companies that will create reach large cities in more remote autumn/winter, I’m enjoying drying my own competition, but SNCF must pres- vegetable seeds, knitting my own scarf, hanging regions. You can also stop where ent real figures, with the real train TGVs do not usually stop. on to last year’s winter coat and doing without occupancy rate and real accounting. greaseproof paper, heavy-duty cleaning products “There are areas that are not “Europe is also beginning to served by air travel, and planes and cotton buds, to name a few things I’ve given rethink night trains, and the produce more CO2 than trains. up buying. So much for going to real shops. Austrian company ÖBB has shown “Under pressure from ecologists, However, I confess to still shopping online. It that, by taking over abandoned lines saves litres of petrol, as well as wear and tear on the state is beginning to understand and creating a network between that it is not normal to have planes the car, parking charges and all the rest. But it Switzerland, Italy, Austria and subsidised by the state and not the also means I can leave items in my virtual basket Germany, you can successfully railways. The eco-tax will increase overnight, just to see if I really do still need relaunch night trains in one year. airfare prices. Things are changing.” them in the morning. Often I find I delete them “The argument that night trains From next year, passengers will before breakfast. I know the logic that online are not profitable is false. If we pay an eco-tax of €1.50 to €18 on shopping is selfish because it forces small local follow what ÖBB is doing by every flight departing from France. shops to close down, but the local shops near us proposing several categories of “SNCF used to have these trains, don’t sell the English books and films I love. tickets, from the seat tilts to the and instead of starting more Besides, I discovered local swap-shops and wagon with cabins, we can show long-distance coach lines, they charity shops sell them second-hand. that economically it is viable. There should put them back. The upshot is that I’m shopping less often and is already demand in France and, “All trains are in a budget deficit, buying less when I do venture out. with different levels of comfort, not just night trains. It is how Do I really need another T-shirt or can I just there will be more customers. public transport works. In fact, if wear one of the many already in my wardrobe? “We should aim for simple pricing Shall I invest in new bathroom taps, or just we look back at the number of aligned on carpooling: around €7 kilometres travelled, night trains change the washers on the existing ones? per 100km and passenger.” are the least loss-making trains for And I doubt I am the only one. Sales figures In June, several MPs proposed a long-distance travel. across France for the summer were down on last ban on internal flights where viable year so perhaps others too have changed their “France is well situated between train alternatives exist. Spain and Germany. We could have shopping habits thanks to the gilets jaunes. The plan was rejected, with the lines such as Frankfurt-Barcelona, And, if we all consume a little less, throw less Ecology Minister saying there was Dusseldorf-Lisbon, which pass away, in the long run wouldn’t it be better for the no need for a ban. through France. There may also be environment and therefore not so selfish after all?

From defence to art, we’re working to strengthen Franco-British ties Every month the British Ambassador to France, Ed Llewellyn, shares an insight into his role.

At the time I write this column it’s not yet clear what the next steps will be in the Brexit journey – one which has seen many twists and turns over the last three years. What is clear is that, at the embassy, my team and I are continuing to prepare for every eventuality. Above all, we have continued to focus – both publicly and privately – on protecting the rights of British citizens here in France after Brexit. We will continue to do so. In late September, for example, I spoke at the Assemblée Nationale – pressing French MPs to help ensure that France’s offer to British citizens matches what the UK has announced will be the case for EU citizens in the UK –

deal or no deal. I also held a meeting with French MPs at the Embassy in Paris, making the same points – which I, and British Ministers, raise regularly with French Ministers and officials. We have continued our programme of outreach meetings for British citizens across France – we have held nearly 100 meetings now – and will continue to do so. The embassy will be following events closely and communicating key updates to help you stay informed… Beyond Brexit, we continue to work to maintain and strengthen the ties between the UK and France in the numerous different fields in which our countries work closely together – as allies, neighbours and friends. Nowhere is that more true than in the field of defence. Exercise Griffin

Beyond Brexit, we continue to work to strengthen the ties between the UK and France in the different fields in which our countries work closely together – as allies, neighbours and friends British Ambassador, Ed Llewellyn

Strike, a formidable effort involving British and French maritime forces, took place off the blustery coast of Scotland in October. A Royal Navy Admiral led the maritime element of a new UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force from the FS Tonnerre, a French helicopter carrier. This was the first of a series of six final exercises which will take place leading to the achievement of the force’s Full Operational Capability next summer – a powerful and practical example of the cooperation between our nations. But that cooperation extends much more broadly. This autumn we celebrated the twinning of Gare de Bordeaux SaintJean and St Pancras in London, and the direct rail service that we hope will link the two cities in the next few

years. At the embassy, we were honoured to host an evening celebrating the work of JRR Tolkien with an intricate Aubusson tapestry. You can see the tapestry and other works at the Tolkien exhibition now open at the BNF Paris until January 2020. In fact British culture is very much flavour of the month, with a Bacon exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, Hepworth sculptures coming to Musée Rodin, the ‘Golden Age of British Painting’ at the Musée du Luxembourg with the Tate, and a “so British – Collection Pinault” exhibition in Rouen. As the campaign says, British culture truly is great – indeed it is one of our best exports! We also hosted two screenings of the Downton Abbey film with leaders from the creative industries in the UK and France joining a panel discussion afterwards. Don’t worry, I won’t give any plot spoilers away… www.gov.uk/livinginfrance

16 Letters

They said it ‌ We do not bring up our children with our genitals Marie Labory

Lesbian journalist reacting to campaigners against controversial bill currently under debate which would extend assisted conception to all women

We cannot put a rubbish collector behind every Parisian. It’s a question of education Anne Hidalgo

Mayor of Paris reacting to a Guardian newspaper article which labelled Paris ‘the dirty man of Europe’

Marching every Friday to say the planet is burning up is very nice, but it does not solve the problem President Macron

Speaking to journalists on his way to the United Nations Climate Change Conference

Every time it happened to me, I wanted to laugh. I was lucky to have an upbringing where we tried to laugh and find solutions Yannick Noah

Former tennis player, talking on Europe 1 about his experiences of racism

I was shaking from head to toe Fatima E

A Muslim mother, who was accosted and told to leave by an elected official for the far-right RN party for wearing a headscarf while accompanying her son on a school trip to the regional council offices, discusses her ordeal

When I tried to bring in pension reforms, I had 2.5million people out on the street. Macron is a small player compared to this! François Fillon

The former prime minister compares gilets jaunes protests to demonstrations against pension reform when he was in office

A collection of Japanese prints hiding behind a copy of Playboy, that was Chirac Member of the public, Caroline


To LibĂŠration newspaper as she joined a queue to pay her respects after the death of former president Jacques Chirac, known for his love of Japanese culture



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The Connexion November 2019


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Beware rogue house-sitters

I was interested in the article (Connexion, September edition) about Nomador, a website that links homeowners and house-sitters. We’d like to put forward a word of warning. We joined a different house-sitting site in 2016, and for three years welcomed lovely people to housesit our rural home and cats. This year things have changed. Our sitters in May looked after the cats – no complaints there – but we found, when they’d left, urine stains on a new mattress and stained linen hidden in a cupboard. There were also several breakages, which we weren’t told about. The sitter in September was worse. A self-professed gardener, she wasn’t at all interested in our plants, and most of our pot plants were left to dry out over two hot weeks. She had no intention of staying in and around our home while she

was here – she wanted free accommodation so that she could join friends holidaying in the next village. She allowed the cats to stay out at night, something that we stress we don’t allow because of the dangers of attack from nocturnal animals – a neighbour’s cat was found torn limb from limb a month beforehand. This was explained to her. She maintained that it’s cruel to keep a cat indoors. She told us not to contact her and refused to answer our house phone (she wasn’t there, we found later). We came home to find glass all over the kitchen – the oven door had exploded. The repair man said he’d never seen it before, and it must have been due to misuse. The shower room was flooded, towels saturated on the floor. The plug hole was packed with hair and hair dye. The website refuses to allow

unhappy householders to write anything negative about their sitters, so that we have no mechanism for warning about an unsatisfactory sitter. We have previously suggested an open forum on their website, where house owners and sitters could exchange concerns and suggest ways to avoid problems, to no avail. Liz and Mike Jackson, by email Editor’s note: A spokesperson for Nomador said, in its case, homeowners and sitters leave recommendations after each house-sitting as part of a ‘mutual review’ system. In cases where one party may choose not to do so, that is also noted on the profile page of the sitter or homeowner. It also reserves the right to exclude members in more serious cases and say that is often more effective than a bad review.

Fighting back against turbines Thanks for the interview with Mr ButrĂŠ of the FĂŠdĂŠration Environnement Durable earlier this year about wind turbines. The struggle goes on to defend territories from implantation of these machines and you can air your views by writing to the public consultations on them on departmental sites. These consultations last a few weeks and then disappear. An official can be met at mairies and then the prefect decides on the project. Unfortunately, this civil servant does not have the last word when he/she refuses as the wind industry can appeal to the courts. This is an unbelievable capitulation by the French state, which has given in to foreign interference. If you do nothing, the machines may be built possibly 500m from your house and risk damaging your health. Why? If you read the eminent acoustician Steven Cooper,

from Australia, who is intervening vigorously in his country and was in Germany last month to defend his view, based on measures on the wind turbine sites and lab experiments, the blades emit all sorts of low frequencies and infrasounds when they gyrate and these carry for at least 20km. As the human body’s organs have their own frequencies, it alters their function for the worst and the principle of resonance occurs. This bizarre event comes to the brain and alpha waves fall from 10Hz to 8Hz. The stress hormone cortisol rises and this opens the door to ovarian cancer and other dysfunctions. Professor Salt of St Louis, US, has discovered endolymphatic hydrops [an inner ear condition] in patients who are exposed to low frequencies and amplitude modulations. All the international research is here but the French agency

for food, environmental and occupational health and safety (Anses) seems to shut the door to specialists such as Professor Alves-Pereira from Portugal, Dr Rapley, Steven Cooper and Professor Salt. They do, however, admit Simon Chapman and others who deny the impact. Worst affected are the north region, Hauts de France around Calais, and there are projects in Dordogne, where people have been in the streets to protest. If you live in the French countryside, your house is at risk as the wind industry has the right to prospect and build anywhere. Your medieval castle or your B&B business won’t stop them. Times are changing in France since the new incumbent at the ÉlysÊe was voted in. Do not stay silent and wait for the machines to be built. Your health and your house value are at stake. Claudia Bawden, by email

Lloyds leave us standing

We thought other readers should know that Lloyds Bank has written to inform us that it is ceasing overseas standing order money transfer to France from November. We have used this for transferring money from the UK to our French bank account (Credit Agricole) for 25 years. There was no explanation in the letter as to why the service was being stopped and a visit to our local Lloyds branch and various telephone calls to its customer services department and overseas money transfer division failed to provide an explanation for this sudden and unannounced decision. N. and G. Annells, Hampshire and Mayenne

Editor’s note: We contacted the bank and a spokesman said the service actually stopped in 2005 but 1,000 existing customers had been allowed to continue with it. The bank has now informed them it is stopping, apologising for the inconvenience. He did not specify the reason. Inter­national payments at £9.50, not including any receiving fees from the French bank, can be used instead and, while the UK is in the EU/transition period, SEPA direct debits can be used to pay firms in France.

NHS amusement I have lived in France for 12 years and am amused to see how people miss the UK health service. While I was living in the UK, l had back pain for four months, then was sent back and forth between a doctor and physio, then offered blanket paracetamol. The only way to cure it was to go privately for two spinal injections at a cost of £2,500 each. I am sorry to admit that the health service in France is far superior to the UK as my wife worked in the NHS as a trained nurse all her life. Brian Edwards, by email

Dans le passÊ – 10, 50 and 100 years ago NOVEMBER 2009



Slow to switch on

Big kick-off for women

Brass-necked gold haul

The government announced ambitious plans for two million people to be driving electric cars in France by 2020. However, by 2018 there were only 32,203 all-electric cars registered. Including all-electric vans and plug-in hybrids, the total of electric vehicles registered in France in 2018 still only reached 53,745. THE Ministry of Health announced plans to employ shocking pictures, highlighting health damage caused by smoking, on cigarette packets in France. This was eight years after Canada became the first country to use the technique in 2001. The UK started the images in 2008 and was one of the first European countries to introduce them.

The city of Reims saw the birth of women’s football in France and the country’s first female club, Le Football Club FÊminin RÊmois, played its debut match. The game was also the first women’s football match to be held in Paris, at the Jean-Bouin Stadium. Later the same month, the club was absorbed into the Stade de Reims as its women’s section, which still exists today. Le Football Club FÊminin RÊmois came about after an advert was published requesting a women’s football team to play a match at the annual fair in Reims. The players enjoyed themselves so much that they asked their coach to make the team permanent. From its creation, the team did not lose a game in France until 1975.

guards patrolling the Louvre discovered that an oriental antiquities display case had been smashed and a 2,000-year- old gold necklace taken. The theft perplexed police as the necklace was not particularly valuable and priceless pieces were untouched nearby. Days later, the piece was returned by the young thief ’s father. No reason for the theft was given. Eight years before, former Louvre worker Vincenzo Peruggia (pictured) stole the Mona Lisa after disguising himself as a museum employee. He was caught after contacting a Florence gallery two years later. He said he did it as a patriotic act as he was Italian, but the painting was a gift from the artist to French king Francois 1.

The Connexion November 2019 The Connexion letters pages are

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Name game is to blame I obtained my French driving licence five years ago and was shocked to see my maiden name. I refused to accept it and set about trying to change to my legal name of 40 years. The gentleman who spoke to me at the ministry of the interior agreed that the licence must be changed but said nothing could be done. I asked how I was going to be able to rent a car with a passport and credit card in one name and a licence in another. The receptionist suggested that my husband could rent it. My reply is unprintable! I have now renewed my UK passport and requested both names to be visible. Maureen Braithwaite, Ardèche

Glyphosate conundrum

Glyphosate has become a political football and even scientists cannot agree over it. The EU and the Environmental Protection Agency have declared it to be non-carcinogenic but the World Health Organization has declared it to be a carcinogen. The efficacy of glyphosate has made it the most widely used herbicide in the world. The pesticide industry and farming associations should have stopped spraying within a certain distance of houses but a blanket ban introduced by French mayors, no matter how well intentioned, is not the way go. It is arbitrary, fails to take consequence of environmental conditions such as wind and the toxicity of the spray. It also, importantly, overrules the law of the land. David Bracey, Haute-Savoie

Letters 17


Pension specialists for expatriates, including QROPS.

w w w. b l e v i n s f r a n k s . c o m

Penalty should fit Service so deplorable the crime – for all According to news reports, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy risks one year of imprisonment and a fine of €3,750 if convicted of illegal campaign funding. The alleged crimes date from 2012 and if he is found guilty it is far too late to hold a re-election. Investigations of electoral fraud or illegal funding are of limited use if they take place so long after the events. Ideally it should be possible to detect the crime in time to annul the election and hold another. Electoral campaign funding should be more tightly controlled. Elections are an expensive business, so fines should be large enough to contribute significantly to the costs of holding another. The fine Mr Sarkozy would face is a token

Letter of the month

one and would be far exceeded by the cost of detaining him in prison for a year. As no one is suggesting that he is a danger to the public, what purpose would be served by holding him behind bars? Vengeance? Salving of the national conscience? A deterrent, perhaps? French prisons are overcrowded as it is. The prison sentence serves little purpose and the fine is derisory, for someone of Mr Sarkozy’s means. A far heftier fine, possibly in combination with community service, would be a far more appropriate punishment. In some countries (France is not alone), the relationship between crime and punishment needs a great deal of fresh thinking. James Chater, Yonne

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

Aghast at vitriol in UK My wife and I arrived in France in 2003 on a three-year work posting and fell in love with the people, the language and the culture. When retirement time arrived some 10 years later, it seemed natural to want to spend our autumn years in a country where we felt a sense of peace and at home. Since making that move, the UK has changed almost beyond recognition. The levels of political vandalism and viciousness have reached levels we would never have thought

You said it …

possible and we are aghast at the vitriol inside and outside Westminster. As I approach my 68th birthday, I have a distinct sense of unease at the thought of being forced to return to a violent and polarised country, whose values I no longer share, whose aims I no longer support and whose people I no longer understand. Will I, an ex-serviceman, be forced to ask for refugee or asylum status in France? Bob CRASKE, St-Martin-De-Cenilly

I was interested to read your article about SNCF (Connexion online) and its new platform policies. Here are a couple of my own experiences, which demonstrate how passengers are constantly penalised: E-ticket – Sète/Montpellier – on TER. Price with carte senior €3.20. The e-ticket did not attach to my iPhone, due to an error of SNCF, and so I bought a ticket at the station and asked for a refund for the same journey on the TER. More than a month and innumerable emails later, the refund I received was only valid on the TGV or Intercité – meaning for the same trip I would have to pay extra. I eventually received an email to say they were sending a refund by post exceptionnellement for use on the TER. Exceptionnellement? This should be standard procedure. Computers not working, ticket offices closed at stations and being impossible to buy a

ticket normally priced at around €13. When I explained to the controller, he demanded €60 – which is scandalous. I was told I should have bought the ticket on my computer at home, or used my iPhone at the station. Does SNCF not understand that many people – especially elderly passengers – do not have a computer or iPhone? Does this mean they must come back to the station every day until it is possible to buy a ticket? I do have an iPhone but Apple does not connect to unsecured networks, like in the stations, and there was no network in any case. One does not always know the precise train before leaving home because of unforeseen delays, etc. When I arrived in France nine years ago, the service was excellent. Now it is deplorable, with daily delays due to infrastructure failure. It’s a disgrace. Patricia Ford, by email

An unlawful ‘black hole’ My wife and I bought our house in France in 2001 with the aim of spending our retirement here. Since moving here, severing all UK connections, we have tried to do everything correctly. We signed into the French health service and registered to be tax residents. All went well until we tried to change our driving licences to French ones as they were due to expire, as well as our applications for cartes de séjour. My wife received her new licence in good time. I, on the other hand, have not received mine. It is 18 months since I first applied and I have since made a second request. My British licence has expired and, as I have no UK address, I can’t apply to have

that renewed. The same thing seems to be happening with applications for the cartes de séjour. Once applied for, they disappear down a black hole, never to be seen again. Many people believe they have been told not to process these items until after Brexit. If this is the case, I would like to point out to the departments in question that until Brexit happens, officially I/we are still European citizens and to discriminate against us in this way is a breach of the law. Michael J. Jones, by email Editor’s note: Eighteen months is long and coupled with the fact that your wife has received her licence, we suggest you contact Nantes via this link: tinyurl.com/y24l527s.

Authority is jumping gun A letter sent from NHS Business Services Authority states that the UK is leaving the European Union on October 31. This statement is totally unqualified anywhere in the letter. I have written to the chief executive in strong terms saying that this is not, as yet, correct, but is just an aspiration of the Prime Minister – asking why such wording has been used, and without qualification. A letter from the UK Ambassador mentions “the Prime Minister is committed to leaving the EU on October 31”. I really do think we should congratulate him on such a personal sacrifice and commitment on behalf of the country, and I would gladly chip in to a fund to give him a deal, so he can get as far away as possible from his hated Europe. Nicolas Bell, Combrit

Live for today AS another 70-plus retiree, I was interested in Christopher Vanier’s article (Connexion, October edition). I disagreed with his conclusion that we should reflect on the past. Should we not concentrate on the present? We can’t do anything about the past and, save for trying to keep reasonably healthy, can’t control the future. However, the pleasure we can take from the present is in our control. For some this can mean travel and for others simple things in their neighbourhood. It should, being France, include food. While Christopher talked of things he had cut out of his diet, my wife was advised by her oncologist to use good quality products and eat the things that gave her pleasure. Jonathan Barclay, Hautes-Pyrénées

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

France sued by young activists for climate ‘inaction’

Authorities in Paris plan to introduce anti-noise radars to quieten bikers

Drivers risk fines of up to €7,500 as cameras track uninsured vehicles

“They’re all spoiled entitled brats that have no idea what they’re talking about. These kids couldn’t last a day without their phones.” S.C. “She (Greta Thunberg) has bigger balls than any of her detractors and I don’t suppose she’d care much for any of the petty, spiteful remarks some adults here have levelled at her.” S.B. “Isn’t it utterly shameful that a child has to be the one to speak out like this?” N.B. “Upset about these kids being brainwashed into the climate cult creating a massive rise in anxiety disorders.” S.C. “Children are our future and they want climate change, preferably on a school day…” P.M.

“I have nothing against large ‘real’ motorbikes, but the smaller, noisier, moped things that rush around towns do my head in.” W.S. “Our neighbours have complained about this to the mayor who says nothing can be done.” M.L. “There is a difference between a biker and an idiot on two wheels. Please don’t confuse.” Z.B. “Maybe the day will come when they all have to be electric. Great for noise control.” W.S. “What about all the cars with their souped-up exhausts?” K.S. “Noisy motorcycles remind me of being young and I can’t help smiling as some young guy or girl passes by.” F.C.

“I pay for insurance on seven vehicles but can only drive one at a time. They are a bunch of commission-taking rogues, another pest that actually we could do without.” I.P. “One good aspect of the cash-cow cameras – nobody should ever be behind the wheel of a car without insurance.” P.G. “About time. Needs strong policing, though.” S.F. “This should help to reduce insurance premiums, I expect.” R.K. “What cameras?” L.G. “The grey ones. Keep your eyes peeled.” P.H. “They have started replacing the burnt ones, I assume?” L.G

Extinction Rebellion climate protesters block Paris streets “It would be better to plant trees than to demonstrate.” M.S. “Huge declines in wildlife, from insects to birds and mammals already happening. We have really noticed the change, even though we live in a fairly remote corner of rural France.” A.F. “Make Extinction Rebellion extinct.” S.J.M. “Thank goodness some people care enough to put themselves out.” N.B. “Why not focus on the number one polluter in world, China? Waste of time until they clean up their act.” D.A.J. “The hot air they are emitting is a serious threat to the climate.” A.K.

18 Your Questions

Q& A

As a foreigner, I cannot vote but can I join a political party?

Readers’ questions answered

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

Damp and woodworm – what rights? WE BOUGHT a house in June. Prior to seeing it, I asked the owner and estate agent if there was damp or woodworm. They denied it and I have an email confirming it. They also denied any problem during visits. We had a survey done, which found woodworm in both lofts and a damp/condensation problem through poor ventilation. Had we known, we would not have bought the house. The owner failed to do a parasite survey as part of the diagnostics. The agent and notaire failed to mention this and said there was no need for a termite report in this area. I understand now that this particular diagnostic is a requirement. I am now considering going to an independent notaire. S.W. Based on what you say, including the fact that you have an email where the agent and/or owner say there are no termites or damp and, notably, that no termite diagnostic was supplied when the home is in an area where this is required, we consider that you have legal grounds for court action against the seller on grounds of vices cachés (hidden defects). You could choose either to ask for financial compensation or for the sale to be annulled. For such action to succeed, the defect should be of a serious nature – which is probably fulfilled, as you say you would not have purchased the house if you had been aware – and it should have exist-

The Connexion November 2019


ed before the purchase. However, it should not have been such that you could have been reasonably expected to have seen it with a normal inspection of the property. In the case of damp, aggravating circumstances could include where an owner has tried to cover the problem up by painting over damp patches as a temporary fix. Particularly in the case of the termites, a seller is deemed legally responsible in the case of the discovery of a vice that would have been revealed by a diagnostic report that was not supplied. An independent notaire may, as you say, be able to advise. However, in contentious cases like this, it would probably be more effective to go to an avocat (barrister). Notaire François Trémosa of the Groupe Monassier in Toulouse said if the termites diagnostic was compulsory, then the notaire may be implicated as well as the seller, although he said it would be “extremely odd” for a notaire to forget a required diagnostic or to state it was not necessary when it was. He said it is also worth considering the price paid, ie. if the price paid for the home was low, then the court may be less likely to award compensation or may award a lesser amount. “If so, it should have rung a bell on the buyer’s side,” he said.

I AM American and I live in France. Can I join a French political party, even though I cannot vote? As a matter of interest, what are the numbers of members of the main ones? T.W. YES, there is nothing stopping you joining a political party whether or not you are able to vote. Membership figures are often indicated on parties’ websites but may not be obvious to locate. Furthermore, caution is required in interpreting them as it can be hard to compare like with like. As for asking parties directly, in Connexion’s experience it can be hard to extract definitive figures. Claims are cited from time to time by party leaders in French press articles, though they can sound inflated and it is unclear if they are really all paid-up members. To start with, if you want to join La République en Marche! (LREM), the party of President Macron, you can do so by clicking adhérer on its website’s homepage which takes you to en-marche.fr/adhesion. Here it is stated that there are 418,422 adhérents. This impressive number should be tempered by the fact that LREM does not charge a fee to join. You merely provide some basic personal details and click to confirm you agree with a charter of values. The number has been growing only gradually, as a Le Monde report in November 2017 referred to “more than 380,000” at the end of that year. It is harder to find figures on the site of hard-right Rassemblement National (former FN), though some are given if you click organisation (how it is organised), then les instances (bodies or groupings that make up the party), then les adhérents. The rassemblementnational.fr/les-adherents page claims 83,000 adhérents et sympathisants (members and supporters). To be an adhérent (member) involves a fee of €15 to €250, depending on category

(from youth member to “prestige”). The standard fee is €30 for those on “modest” incomes, or otherwise €50, or €80 for a couple. In May, FranceInfo quoted an RN official saying there were 25,000 paid-up members. In 2017, Libération quoted a source at the then-Front National citing 63,000 members before the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections, suggesting a significant fall-off recently. The RN website is unclear about what it counts as sympathisants but it suggests a number of ways to offer help (by clicking Militez), from giving money to signing petitions or handing out leaflets. Connexion found no membership information on the website of hard-left party La France Insoumise, but leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon recently tweeted about a database of half a million names. However, it appears even easier to ‘join’ than LREM, as its site suggests you only need give an email and postcode. The Parti Socialiste has no figures on its site but an official was cited by BFMTV last year referring to around 20,000 active members (militants). It charges a €20 cotisation. Les Républicains claimed just over 130,000 militants in the recent leadership vote, a steep drop in recent years. It charges €30 for membership. No figures could be found on the site of Europe Ecologie Les Verts, but it has a different model again – it asks for a membership fee but leaves it to people to choose how much. It says people choose on average to pay more than €100 to join.

How much of my local tax bill goes to fund state schools?

How do I take action when a Can we legally be charged for parcel is delivered damaged? a drains service we can’t use?

How are schools funded in France? Is a portion of local property taxes spent on the local schools or are they fully funded by central government? G.K.

I’VE HAD several bad experiences of mail-order goods delivered damaged. I believe the items left the vendor in perfect order but in transit, or possibly at the depot waiting for delivery, they have been dragged across the floor and soiled by black tyres and other dirt. I do not like blaming the vendor of the product but how can logistics companies be called to account? M.M.


YOU may not like doing it, but when you order an item at a distance – by phone or online – and it arrives damaged, the firm that supplied it is deemed legally responsible, says the official consumer rights agency, the Institut National de la Consommation. If the item arrives damaged, then the supplier should replace it, at their own cost, or reimburse you. It is up to the sender, in turn, to take action against the transporters. As proof, it is recommended that you do not simply sign off the bon de livraison form that the transporter asks you to

When exactly are you deemed to have moved to France for the 15-year UK voting limit?

Our village has been connected to mains drainage. We have not yet been able to have the work done for our home to be connected to it but have received a bill from Suez Eau France charging us €396.55 for “Collecte et Traitement des Eaux Usées” [collection and treatment of waste water]. Surely it is illegal to charge for something that is not being done? S.D.

Photo: Paul Sullivan / flickr.com

Funding of schools partly depends on which level of school you are talking about, but the answer at all levels is that it is partly local authority and partly national. When it comes to local authorities, there is funding at primary level from the commune (mairie), departmental council at collège (first stage of secondary school) and regional council at lycée (similar to sixth-form in the UK). Part of your taxe d’habitation goes towards funding local primary schools and part of the taxe foncière goes towards collèges. No local property tax is collected by regional councils. Their funding includes part of professional taxes on businesses, central state grants and some other taxes, such as some money from cartes grises. Local councils are responsible for building, maintenance and

general running of schools, including salaries of non-teaching staff. Central government pays teachers’ salaries. Other funding may come from parents for certain non-obligatory activities, such as trips outside school time or from a coopérative scolaire. The latter exists in many schools and consists of an association of the pupils, supported by their parents, which allows for fundraising activities to help pay for school trips or improvements, such as better sports or educational materials. Its funding is from its own fundraisers and from other sources such as gifts. A contribution from parents is a more significant element in private schools, but in most of them it is low due to the fact that teachers are still state-paid and there is still a local authority contribution, as long as the school follows the national curriculum. Fees are higher in hors contrat schools, such as international schools, which do not follow the usual state curriculum.

sign but that you refuse the damaged goods and write on the form the reason, such as je refuse d’accepter la livraison – colis endommagé (I refuse to accept delivery – damaged parcel). You should not have to pay any additional delivery costs linked to this. It is recommended that, as soon as possible, you send the supplier a recorded delivery letter (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception) putting the firm on notice to supply an undamaged item, with wording including the phrase je vous mets en demeure de…. (I put you on legal notice to…).

There are street lights attached to my French house - should the commune be paying me rent?

The issue is not whether your home is connected to mains drainage (raccordé) but whether it could be connected (raccordable). The public drains system should run down the public highway and your home should have access to it, including via private roads, and your home should be in a zone designated as being eligible for being connected. If this is the case, you must be connected within two years and the water service is permitted to start charging a fee. Having an existing septic tank in this case does

Are there any handy services online to set up a funding site to raise money for a charity?

not exempt you from this obligation, although a regulation dating from 1960 defines an exception for immeubles difficilement raccordables, ie. buildings which are hard to connect. For example, if they are far from the mains drainage system, up or downhill from it, or the ground is stony. It may be necessary to go to court for a judge’s ruling. France’s top administrative court found that a campsite toilet block that was 200m from the main road and downhill from it did not have to be connected. If your home is raccordable and you do not connect within two years, the mairie may oblige you to do it, and a fine may be imposed. The law which gives the right to the commune – or an operator delegated by the commune to run the waste water treatment service – to levy a charge even though a home is not yet connected is article L1331-1 of the Code de la santé publique.

Do I have to create a dossier médical partagé for my children or is this just optional?

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The Connexion November 2019

Make sense of

Practical 19


Alternative funerals

Talking Point

Sarah Fletcher from telephone and broadband provider, UK Telecom, answers your queries

Image: perrytaylor.fr

Q: I miss English TV. How can I access this from my home in France?

Alternative choices for funerals in France are possible – from different types of service to choice of coffin, urn and place of rest. Jane Hanks explains more... An increasing number of people are turning towards civil funeral ceremonies. Religious ceremonies are still the most popular choice but 38% of people – according to a study of 15,000 people who used comparative website Meilleures Pompes Funèbres this year – would prefer a civil service. In France, burial or cremation must take place within six working days of death unless there are exceptional circumstances, so it is worth knowing the options in advance. Families can create their own ceremony, ask the funeral parlour to help, or call on one of the few English-speaking ‘celebrants’ in France. The ceremony can take place at your home, the cemetery, the crematorium or the funeral parlour. Leslie Mitchell (lesliehumanist.com) is a registered celebrant of the Humanist Society Scotland who lives at SaintPardoux, Haute-Vienne. He said that, after talking to the deceased’s family and friends, he can create a sympathetic ceremony with two to three days’ notice. He aims “to give a recognisable portrait of the deceased, and to provide a ceremony which is dignified, warm and memorable”. He charges €200, plus travel expenses, and will consider anywhere in France or give contact details of other celebrants if more appropriate. He

will speak in English or French, or both, as requested. Elicci (elicci.fr) was created in 2014 to provide musicians and singers to play classical, jazz or gospel music, either from their own repertoire or music of your choice. Amateur violinist Aliette Frangi came up with the idea after being asked to play at a funeral. She has developed a network of nearly 250 professional musicians across France. She said: “We can help families create something beautiful for their ceremony and we can work at very short notice. It is a new idea in France but is gaining popularity.” It costs €360 for one musician who will play three or four pieces of music. Prices increase with the numbers of musicians. Britons wanting a Church of England service can contact the Anglican church in France. Often, an Anglican funeral service will not take place in an Anglican church, as there are not many, but a priest will travel to hold a service at a crematorium chapel or local Catholic church. Burial places Under normal circumstances, a coffin must be buried in the commune-owned cemetery where the deceased lived, died or where there is a family tomb. It is possible to arrange burial in another commune, with the consent of the mayor there. A 2018 Ipsos study found 68% would opt for cremation, compared to 53% in 2008. As cremations began to grow in popularity, a 2008 law introduced stricter regulations for the disposal of ashes. You cannot keep an urn with ashes in your home, or bury it

on private property, without permission from the mairie. You cannot scatter ashes in your garden or a public garden, or on a public road. You can scatter ashes at sea or in an open, natural space. In this case you should notify the commune where the deceased was born, so they can record where the ashes have been scattered. This would seem difficult for someone not born in France, so if you want to be sure, ask your mairie. Most cemeteries have burial areas for urns, columbariums or places to scatter ashes. There are a few ‘natural’ cemeteries. Niort mairie opened the first one in 2014. Instead of rows of stone and marble graves and tombs, there is a garden with trees and grass. You can scatter the ashes, or bury a biodegradable urn or coffin. Only natural flowers are allowed on the site. The cemetery was awarded Best Local Initiative by the Senate, so maybe other communes will be

Our main image was drawn for Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr tempted to follow in the future. There are two privatelyowned cemeteries where biodegradable urns are placed at the foot of a tree, which were created before the 2008 law made it illegal for new ones to open. The Jardins de Mémoire, at Bono, Morbihan, are full but owner Lionel Le Maguer says families call him daily, asking for space. He is planning a new garden for next Easter. Families

will not be able to bring their ashes but can have a tree dedicated to their loved one. Arbres de Mémoire (arbresde-memoire.fr), near Angers, Maine-et-Loire, still has room and can accept urns. Director Réginald Freuchet said it is a shame that France no longer allows similar privately-owned cemeteries to open, unlike many other European countries. His site is available for people from all over France, and he says he has British clients. Some funeral firms offer biodegradable coffins or urns. Martine Saussol from Alès, Gard, was a pioneer in 2015 and sells cardboard coffins for €390 including transport costs. They can be ordered directly from her website (eco-cerc.fr) or via an undertaker. She said: “Not all undertakers are willing to sell eco-coffins yet, but more and more people are looking for this for ecological reasons. “There are 540,000 deaths a year in France and one tree of at least 60 years old is needed to make five coffins.” She also sells biodegradeable urns. You can have a landscaped garden tomb, and many companies offer this service. Find them by searching online for sépultures végétales. Some French lifeboat stations will make a special journey to take ashes to be scattered out to sea, and you can make a request directly to one of the SNSM branches. There is no charge but in most cases a donation is given in return for the service. Spokeswoman Annick Avierinos said lifeboat teams will be happy to help. As it is likely to be for someone who lives locally to them, they may feel personally involved in the ceremony.

A: There are several options if you want access to TV in English in France – for example, a subscription to Sky, Amazon Prime, or Netflix mean you can watch a range of English-language TV at varying costs. If you are looking for UK terrestrial channels (BBC, ITV or Channel 4), you can access these through a Smart TV, tablet, PC or mobile device so long as you have a UK TV licence. You will be asked to input your UK TV licence number when accessing BBC iPlayer for the first time, then the service is free (though you will need to download via your wifi connection). The key to accessing UK TV abroad is broadband connectivity, and many providers offer special deals for their customers, providing access

to their favourite UK TV. UK Telecom, for example, offers up to 15Gb of access from as little as €1/month, which is plenty to download a couple of films, or a box set. As with many providers, there are larger options but it is best to start small and see how much you use. Set-up is simple these days, with just about every option being plug and play. Smart TVs either have every­ thing installed or it is simply an HDMI cable and on-screen set-up, which is easily navigated for a Sky box, or a Fire stick is easy too – just plug this into the HDMI port and choose the AV screen for that device. People wonder if they need a UK TV licence to access BBC iPlayer in France, the answer is yes and the responsibility of having a UK TV licence sits with the householder. If you are with a good provider, they should provide help by telephone.

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

Owning a second home in France CC0_pixabay_bonnejourneephotography

Q: Is it possible to rent a car by the month, or longer, in France? A: YES, and, generally speaking, the longer the rental, the lower the daily rate. For example, supermarket SuperU advertises rentals for six months from €5 a day. Europcar and Avis are among many firms with such deals. Comparison sites such as rentalcars.com and rentacar.fr can be helpful to track down a bargain. Watch out for hidden extras, though, such as usage allowance and insurance conditions. Insurance will cover third-party damage but the excess may leave you liable for as much as €1,000 of damage to the vehicle. Q: DOES the UK share driver details with France if a British-registered car is flashed for speeding in France? A: AN EU directive is in force which does allow for such information-sharing between EU states. French and EU sources say the UK is integrated into an electronic information sharing system. It means France can obtain the UK address of registered owners of British cars to send fines in the post. Whether this continues after a Brexit depends on future negotiations. A spokesman for the French Interior Ministry’s road safety section said people who receive fines must pay them or risk having to pay later at an increased rate, which would apply if they are ever stopped again by police in France and checks are made. Increasingly sophisticated methods are also in place to chase people up for fines in their home country. This includes the possibility of home country officials collecting fine money.

This edited Q&A is taken from our helpguide Order at the helpguide section of connexionfrance.com or call Nathalie on 06 40 55 71 63

20 Family / Personal finance


The Connexion November 2019

We visit first state school with 100% organic meals School menus are changing in France, with meat-free options now mandatory at least once a week. Jane Hanks heads to one school where they have taken things further still... School is a good place for children to eat and meals are improving all the time, according to an official report. What’s more, school canteens help children discover a varied and healthy way to eat in a social context, and pupils may even take home important culinary lessons to their family, the Institut National de la Consommation concluded in its study. At least half of all children eat in the school canteen. Rather than coming home with tales of “yukky school dinners”, that many of us might remember, most children look forward to lunchtime. From November 1, all schools must serve one fully vegetarian meal a week as part of a twoyear experiment to see what impact it will have on food waste, cost and take-up of school meals. This measure was introduced in the October 2018 EGalim law on agriculture and food, which gave public authorities a year to introduce the change. In Rouen, Normandy, all primary schools have offered a daily “meal without meat” since the beginning of this school year following an experimental period last year in seven schools. Officials say changes in society mean many children eat less meat at home and choose to do the same at school, meaning that meat they are served ends up in the bin. The meals are not vegetarian because fish will sometimes replace meat, alongside eggs, cheese and pulses. Rouen is exceptional, however, and the school parents’ association, FCPE, together with Greenpeace and Végécantines, which campaigns for vegetarian meals in canteens, are concerned the new law

does not have the backing of all local authorities and will not be introduced nationwide. They have asked the government for adequate canteen staff training and say it is what parents want, particularly as climate change demands we eat less meat. By January 1, 2022, organic produce should make up 20% of school food, the government has said. In the Dordogne, one school is ahead of the game, having become 100% bio already – and the cost of meals for parents has not changed. Collège Pierre-Fanlac at Belvès has been awarded an Ecocert label, guaranteeing 100% organic food, excellent quality, local produce as far as possible, low food waste and non-polluting cleaning products in the kitchens and school. On the day I visited,

You need a lot of imagination to get children to eat Swiss chard

Dordogne president Germinal Peiro pupils were eating locally grown melon, roast beef from a local farmer served with creamed spinach or peas, and a choice of chocolate mousse or clafoutis with local plums for pudding. Eva Geoffrey and Manon Piquot, both 12, told me the new menus tasted better than before and Raphaël BrouquiFlorenty, 11, said the food he eats at home now tastes “artificial”. “Here, it is much better.”

Pupils eating in the canteen at the Collège Pierre-Fanlac at Belvès, Dordogne, where all the food served is 100% organic It has been a team effort involving backing from the Dordogne department – for whom providing local, organic food, available for everyone and not just the better-off, is one of its political aims – willingness from the chefs to learn new ways of cooking, and the support of the headmaster. Chefs now cook only with fresh, seasonal produce – and less meat to help cut costs. They have had to try out new recipes to learn how to incorporate more pulses into their menus and to encourage children to eat food they might otherwise reject. As department president Germinal Peiro said, when praising the kitchen staff for their efforts: “You need a lot of imagination to get children to eat Swiss chard.” They have introduced techniques such as cooking at low temperatures to preserve nutritional values and the school has purchased a juice extractor, to turn less attractive-looking fruits into delicious drinks. Head chef Alain Desseix, who has been in the job for 25 years, said it gives him much more satisfaction to work in this way. Headmaster Jérôme Péméja said the challenge was always going to be cost, but they have managed to reduce the initial

price of €2.40 per organic meal to €1.90, which makes the cost only 10 centimes more than a non-organic school meal. This year the department has given them €10,000 to subsidise this difference, and Mr Péméja says he hopes that they will be able to reduce costs further so a subsidy will not be necessary next year. It is a small school in a rural area, with around 350 pupils near established organic farmers, making it easier for this collège than for others. Mr Peiro said he hopes eventually to be able to offer meals like this to all pupils in the department. Another collège, at Montpon in the same department, which serves 1,000 meals a day, is close to becoming the second 100% organic school in France. While not all schools can boast the same quality, school dinners in France have always had a good reputation, as eating well is an established part of the culture. It still has one of the longest meal breaks. In his film Where to Invade Next, US documentary-maker Michael Moore toured Europe to take back the best elements of his country to the US, and school dinners were his choice in France. He was amazed that in the school he visited in Normandy,

chips were only on the menu a few times a year, there were four courses, dozens of types of cheese were in the chef ’s fridge, and the school cooks regularly get together with a dietician and the local mairie to plan meals. As he said: “Lunchtime isn’t just 20 minutes where you have to stuff your face as fast as you can. They consider lunch a class, a full hour where you learn how to eat in a civilised manner, enjoy healthy food and, yes, drink lots of water.” Although food is getting the thumbs-up in schools, it is still better-off families that are benefiting the most. A 2017 report by the official education watchdog Cnesco found that in priority education areas, fewer families sign up for the canteen. For collège, they said 41% of pupils ate in school, compared to 71% in other areas. They say this is a problem because studies show that a good lunch improves performance in class and well-balanced meals in the canteen reduce the risk of obesity. Meal prices are set by local authorities and vary across the country. Communes are responsible in primary schools, departments for collèges, and regions for lycées. In the Dordogne, for example, collège

meals cost the parents €2.40 – €1.80 of which covers the cost of the food and the rest is a contribution towards paying canteen staff and running the kitchens. However, the Cnesco report found that, in 2017, the average price for a meal was €3.30 in collèges and lycées, and often there were no lower tariffs for poor families. For children with allergies, a PAI – projet d’accueil individualisé – can be set up at the request of the parents or on the initiative of the school, with the agreement of parents. A protocol will be set up to deal with each child’s needs by the school doctor or nurse, the child’s doctor and the school. In the canteen, it could mean that an alternative meal will be offered, if required, or the parents might be given permission to send their child to school with their own meal. If necessary, it will give staff the right to use an adrenaline pen if there is an allergic reaction, when normally teachers are not allowed to give medicine. If the allergy is very serious and can be provoked by odours alone, the advice may be to avoid the canteen. Government figures show that asthma and allergies form 63% of PAIs, followed by diabetes and epilepsy.

What we know, don’t know, and can’t know about Brexit Money Matters

Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains. www.kentingtons.com BREXIT: With the current situation as it stands, you can imagine that my conversations tend to follow a common theme. I am starting to sound like a politician. “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. “But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” That is not me, but Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary in 2002. So why am I repeating a 17-year-old quote? As

much as we all laughed at these words of “wisdom” at the time, they do a great deal to explain the situation with Brexit for those moving to or living in France who are struggling to make plans. We can use Mr Rumsfeld’s words to separate the fact from the fiction. The known knowns We know the rules on French residency for a non-EU citizen. Non-EU citizens move to France all the time. Essentially, the most important rule is not to be a liability to the state, either fiscally or in any other way. Most people thinking of moving to France are looking to do so under their own steam, with no plan to take any money from their new hosts. Many have rushed out to get an EU passport but, logically, it is unlikely that there will be a new rule aimed at British citizens and another aimed at those from anywhere else in the world. The ability to move freely across borders may disappear, but the ability to move to and live in

France is a known quantity. The rules are not likely to change from what they are currently for non-EU citizens. Regarding taxation, there is a tax treaty between the UK and France. It existed long before the EU, or even the EEC. It is a bilateral agreement between the UK and France, so completely unrelated to the EU. This means that we know everything there is to know about tax after Brexit, no matter what the shape of it. There is also a succession treaty, so none of the rules change here, either. The known unknowns We are then left with the problems that we know about but about which we can draw no firm conclusions. We have no idea what will happen with access to healthcare for retirees: either there is access via the S1 or there is not. My advice is to accept that it is gone and plan accordingly. What we do know is that EU law means that the French cannot prohibit any nationality from

joining the health system. Beyond the S1, this may mean either paying into the system in the form of the CMU or working. What will happen with the currency? We are left with conjecture. We can assume that if there is a deal or a cancellation, sterling will strengthen. If not, then it may weaken further. The unknown unknowns These are difficult to deal with, without really sounding like you have lost the plot entirely. Will France bring out rules that are just for UK nationals, so one rule for the world and another for Britons? Who knows, but it seems very unlikely. But they may, in theory, ditch the tax treaty, make English illegal and impose a death sentence on anyone caught playing cricket on French soil. If a deal gets done, what does that mean? The start of trade negotiations – and who knows how they will go. Back to you, Mr Rumsfeld!

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‘My heroines dare to be different’

How to join in French cosplay Ferrandi’s chocolate recipes Coluche: comedy and kindness

Photo: Simoné Eusebio

Meet award-winning comic book writer Pénélope Bagieu

2 Role-playing games

French Living I November 2019

Reality check: France’s growing band of weekend warriors with a difference “Usually we establish two campsites, a modern one where the cars are parked and a historical one within the game. “So when people arrive, they set up camp and collect any props or other elements they’ll be using during the game, then they dress as their characters, we eat together and have a meeting just to go over the rules and safety procedures and then the game begins. “We know that we will stage a scene at this time or another to re-energise the game but that’s all. We also have actors who aren’t players; they enact scenes we have written. Like a king who gets assassinated, for example.” In conflict-based GNs there are very often battles but players usually use foam rubber swords, so no-one gets hurt. “We organise games suitable for beginners, and security is very important, especially as rumours run through the game of sects and attacks and threats, so it’s important to keep everyone safe. Timings are variable. GNs tend to end when they end, or when people have to leave, but usually we stage an event that finishes the game.” Benoît said the atmosphere changes from one GN to another. Some are very light-hearted and others are more serious. One thing they all have in common is that historical accuracy is not important. They are games, not re-enactments. “In Erenthyrm, we stay in character. If someone leaves the arena, goes to the toilet, or returns to their car, it is accepted that they aren’t playing. And we have rules about entering people’s tents after, say, 2am. Each GN has different rules.” Although there are a few professional companies springing up, most GNs are organised by not-for-profit associations. “It’s a lot of work but we try to find free locations to keep the costs down, and we organise the catering ourselves, too. It’s pretty seasonal. Most people don’t get much time off in the winter, and it’s just not practical in very bad weather.” Kandorya (www.kandorya.net) is one of the largest GNs in France, and offers halfday events for beginners who would like to test the waters and see what it’s like. Some GNs raise the price the closer it gets to the date of the game, but Benoît charges a flat rate of around €60 for two nights’ accommodation, insurance, catering and the GN organisation.

Photo: Benoit Pouzet


ubbling away out of sight of mainstream French life is a rich seam of fantasy, imagination and make-believe. Whether it is Murder Weekends, Escape Rooms, Cosplay, or Jeux Grand Nature (LARP in English – Live Action Role Play) people are spending their leisure time inventing alternative personas, and living in alternative worlds with alternative rules. The most complex fantasies of all are ‘les jeux de rôle grandeur nature’ which are usually just called ‘GN’ for short. French teacher Benoît Pouzet organises GN games in a world called ‘Erenthyrm’, which he and his brother Jean-Loup created as teenagers. “We have both been hooked on GN since we first played one in Périgueux. I was about 16, and had got in to role play on an internet forum. “I loved it because with GN you enter a world alongside strangers from all professions all over France and you don’t even ask who they are or where they are from. “You just take them at face value with no judgements and no prejudices. I think that’s important in life in general.” He and Jean-Loup started organising GNs in a wood near where they lived just south of Châteauroux. In 2006, they set up www.ebenaum.fr, a portal into the secret world of Erenthyrm, along with Benoît’s primary school teacher wife Maud, to formalise the activity. GNs are often organised in worlds invented by the organiser but some are in worlds created in manga, or books or films, including The Three Musketeers, Star Wars, or Westerns. Drakerys (www.drakerys.org), meanwhile, is based on the board game. Before he announces a GN via social media, Benoît works out the broad outlines of the plot: in the peaceful land of Erenthyrm, the king has lost his sword and it must be found, there are invaders on the horizon, etc. As players sign up, they receive the rules of the game along with instructions on how to prepare, how to build their characters, make costumes, and what equipment to bring. “There have to be rules otherwise it’s anarchy and no-one is in the same world,” he said. “So we explain how to create your character, your back story and your purpose. Sometimes we can give people a character but most people create their own. We have written the broad outlines of the plot by that stage, but we don’t divulge it.” Benoît’s GNs are usually for between 50 to 120 players, but he said the French GN Federation, FédéGN, lists events for up to 2,000 people. Some GN organisations offer games suitable for children, but many are not and the same goes for beginners. Some associations have even bought their own land, and others use ‘Airsoft’ weapons – which use gas to ‘shoot’ various missiles. The variety is extraordinary. Not all GNs focus on battles and conflict, some focus on experiencing a range of emotions, others on collaborative experiences.

Photo: Benoit Pouzet

Samantha David learns more about the part-time world of live-action role playing games that give thousands of players a brief pause from day-to-day life

Above and left: People taking part in one of the Ebenaum fantasy games

First-time fantasy gamer’s


onnexion reader Lena Roche spent an entire weekend – from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon – playing a ‘Jeu GN’ last year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “It cost about €50, which covered accommodation, food and the organisation of the GN. “It was held in the grounds of a moreor-less ruined castle outside Lyon. Parts of the building were usable and some players slept in it; there was a rudimentary kitchen where the organisers cooked for everyone and there were toilets, but no bathrooms or showers. “The rest of us slept outside in a kind of cave. There were 50 to 60 players, six to 10 organisers and their helpers, but no children.” The organisation of the GN took months. “We met the guy who thought up the various storylines and discussed who we could embody – as it was my

first GN I was a bit apprehensive. “It was set in a fantasy quasi-medieval world where magic exists so I decided to be an alchemist, meaning I had to choose my special powers, strengths and weaknesses in accordance with that.” Having chosen their characters and found their costumes, the players travelled to the castle, still without knowing the details of the game. “We drove there in costume, so once we left the car we put our stuff in the cave (a yoga mat, sleeping bag and a torch but that was about it) and then we all met with the queen. “There were all kinds of characters; aristocrats, lowlife, cooks, priests, monks, a bit of everything. “All of us had our own quests: to get money or discover a new potion, find the treasure, or whatever... and to achieve your quest you had to solve riddles, follow treasure hunts, find clues,

Role-playing games 3

November 2019 I French Living

Murder, most entertaining!

Find an escape back into reality


scape games began as computer games in which players were imprisoned in a room on their computer screen with various items of furniture and had to use their keyboard to move around clicking until they discovered clues – which would lead to more clues, which would eventually allow them to ‘escape’. Today, those games are quirky relics of the past, and many people now go with a group of friends to an escape room centre (which often has a selection of differently themed escape rooms), pay to be locked into a real room and set about solving puzzles, finding clues and figuring

out how to escape. Escape rooms are camera controlled so that if someone gets ill, or wants to leave, or the players get stuck and want to ask for a clue, an operator can intervene. Some centres offer to put single players into groups, if they want to go along alone. Operators vie to offer new and original decors and more difficult clues, and some escape games can be played at levels varying from easy to fiendishly difficult. Almost every town in France has at least one escape game centre and most large cities have multiple offers. Prices start at around €20 per person per game. Find one near you with an internet search for “escape game”.

one regret: not having her own sword

You forget real life, you forget your job, you get into the fantasy world and want to figure out what’s happening and why

earn money by interacting with other players and, of course, unexpected things kept happening. “That’s the point of it. It’s an adventure. You forget real life, you forget your job, you get into the fantasy world and want to figure out what’s happening and why.” The organisers are also in character, but they have a script of how the game goes. “They tell you rumours, so you find the right clues, and they know the outline of what’s going to happen, like when we were attacked in the middle of the night while we were sleeping.” “The swords are soft plastic but they are quite well made, they look realistic – and there was a room in the castle that was done up as a tavern, and it was really convincing, with all the goblets and stuff. “When we got attacked I really regretted not having a sword! “When preparing I’d decided weapons

wouldn’t be necessary, but in the end I used someone else’s sword. “Next time, I’ll definitely be a fighter with a sword! “It’s completely absorbing. Night fell and suddenly we all had to go to a certain meeting point and there were weird bats and other strange animals (impersonated by other players). “We had to find the priest and get an enchantment to keep the bats at bay, and at one point I got called to help the queen, who had been poisoned. “I really needed to cure her in order to earn enough money to buy the magic potion that was my quest, but didn’t have enough potions. “But then I remembered a bit of Harry Potter, and chucked a Bezoar down her throat. And that worked!” Lena said she had got so involved in the game she did not have time to get any photographs. “I suppose we’ll just have to go again!”

Photos: Benoit Rugraff


urder parties are also increasingly popular. Often based on the board game Cluedo or themed on detective novels, people spend anything from a hour to an entire weekend solving a murder mystery. The accent is definitely on fun. Professional actor Leslie Stern and his wife Dale run a 1901 not-for-profit association ‘Murder By Arrangement’ simply because they love it. “We are only paid travel and expenses, but audiences love it as much as we do, which makes it all worthwhile.” For events close to home (north-east of Nantes) he and Dale work with a small team of actors, but for events further away they co-opt members of the audience into playing various roles. “We always know who is the murderer and their motive, but we don’t tell the people who agree to play characters in the murder mystery. They are as much in the dark as everyone else. It makes it more fun that way!” He and Dale have a selection of storylines (think Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Inspector Clouseau and Lord Peter Wimsey) which can fit anything from an after-dinner entertainment to a whole weekend. “We can do murder parties in French or English, and with a bit of notice, even in Spanish!” Once the murder has taken place (very often in the dark) or the unfortunate victim has been discovered, the ‘corpse’ is ceremoniously removed, and the detective summoned. The suspects are then interrogated by the detective and other players. Every suspect has a motive for committing the crime. “Of course, we have a limited number of suspects and everyone knows that the murderer is among them, so around 10% of the audience will always guess the answer, Actor Leslie Stern in character for one of the murder but if more people guess right, we change the ending to mystery events he organises with his wife, Dale something none of them have guessed,” said Leslie.

One of the finalists in the Cosplay Coupe de France in September

And now for something completely different... Nationwide competition takes Cosplay to a whole new level


osplay (a mash-up of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’) involves people dressing up as characters from cartoons, anime, comic books, manga, feature film, TV series and video games. Players cannot invent their own characters, and they have to make their costumes and props entirely themselves, as buying ready-made items is frowned on. They then enter competitions in which each person appears on stage in costume and acts out their character for a minute or two. The aim is to look, move and sound as much like the original as possible. Anthony Michel (32) founded the Cosplay Coupe de France three years ago. “I discovered Cosplay when I was 12,” he said. “I think I saw an event advertised in a newspaper… anyway I went along and got hooked.” He does not play himself, but enjoys watching Cosplay competitions and has big hopes for the Coupe de France. “Twenty years ago, people were making armour out of cardboard boxes covered in tin foil but now it’s craft foam, which looks exactly like the real thing.” The 2019 Coupe

de France in September attracted 32 finalists from all over the country. Entries are limited to three entrants from each region and players can only represent the region in which they were born, or in which they live. “We get funding from five different regions: Occitanie, Normandie, Bretagne, Sud-PACA, and Centre-Val de Loire, which means we can pay travel expenses for competitors. “For some reason, there are no Cosplay events in Corsica, and we’d also like to get more entrants from overseas départements.” Players do not always dress as the same character. Once they have been to an event wearing one outfit, they start making another one. “The joy is in fabricating the costumes and solving problems, like when you want to dress as a character which doesn’t have a waist, or doesn’t have shoulders. “Or a costume requiring electronics, or lights. How do you overcome that?” The Coupe de France is for solo players only but some Cosplayers form groups and perform in tableaux. Find Cosplayers in your area by googling “cosplay” plus the number of your department.

4 Rencontre

French Living I November 2019

Raphaël Arnaud looks back on a lifetime of protecting the world’s most endangered birds


aphaël Arnaud has made it his life’s mission to save the peregrine falcon and other birds of prey from extinction. He founded the Rocher des Aigles 42 years ago at Rocamadour, Lot, where the public can see birds of prey, parrots and owls flying from the cliff-top site over the deep valley below. The shows are designed to be entertaining and instructive, as the first mission of this site is not to amuse tourists but to be a conservation centre. Behind the scenes, an internationally renowned reproduction programme has bred 1,500 young birds from 35 species, allowing populations of birds in danger to be maintained and restored. Last year, Mr Arnaud (77) was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by then-Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, for a lifetime’s work dedicated to a bird zoo. What prompted your lifelong obsession with birds? When I was a boy living on the Normandy coast in the 1950s, I loved seeing these magnificent birds in the wild. At that time, you could find peregrine falcons nesting on the cliffs every two kilometres. I even wrote to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris to find out where I could get more information and joined a falconry club. I later trained to be a chemist working in a petro-chemical company, but became more and more horrified as the introduction of pesticides led to a drastic reduction in bird of prey populations. In 1970, there was just one pair of peregrine falcons left in Normandy, and a hundred left in France. Their population had diminished by 90%. So I left my job and became a confirmed ecologist, working for an association which monitored bird of prey populations across France. This took me to the Lot, where there were just 14 pairs of

peregrine falcon left. I am proud that, due to my work and that of other associations, there are now 50 pairs in the Lot and this species is off the danger list. Why did you choose to keep birds in captivity, which are surely better off in the wild? In 1977, I was already caring for 30 birds which had been given to me because they had been wounded or had been seized by the authorities and passed on to me. I was one of the first to consider reproduction in captivity, to build up numbers of birds in danger of extinction. But to do that I had to have money, and I thought the answer would be to put on a show for the public and use the proceeds for the centre. Surely, these great birds do not like to be confined? In the wild a bird of prey only flies when it is looking for food. You may think they are flying for fun when you see them wheeling in great circles in the air, but that is an anthropomorphic approach. The birds are in a state of constant stress when out flying, because they are looking for the food which will keep them alive, and at the same time they are constantly on the lookout for any potential danger. When a vulture has had its fill, it will spend hours motionless, without any desire to fly.

Photos: Rocher des Aigles – A Maylin

The man who saved the peregrine falcon Above: Raphaël Arnaud with one of the peregrines at Rocher des Aigles. Below, Mr Arnaud during a visit to Mexico, where the bird park owns land

I have done all that I could do and I am proud of that, but I am very pessimistic for the future Raphaël Arnaud

Should these majestic birds be tamed by man? We are very careful to build up a relationship with each bird when training it and we make sure that food rewards are not the only reason they will fly for us. The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique has studied our birds and found that when they fly away as part of the show and stay out for as long as half an hour, rising to heights of 2,000m and going as far as 15km, they are in a state of liberty and come back because here is home. In 2017 we had a phone call from Clermont Ferrand, 160kms away. A man had seen a Himalayan Vulture on his rooftop and asked if it was ours, which indeed it was. Ten days later there was no news, until someone in Brive-la-Gaillarde, some 40kms away saw our vulture. That afternoon, he arrived back here. Isn’t that just a wonderful story? How successful is your breeding programme? We have had quite a few world firsts, such as the birth of an African Bateleur eagle, known to be very difficult to reproduce in captivity and similarly the birth of an Andean condor. In the past five years, we have been the only zoo to have second generation birds born into captivity, in particular 10 young condors. I think we have been successful because we constantly observe the birds, rather than follow advice from scientists. It is not easy when many of the birds do not naturally live in couples, but only come together to mate. Now that many birds are off the danger list, we have slowed the programme. People come from all over the world to look at our methods and ask for advice. Has it been easy to run the bird park? It has been a constant struggle. We have never had any financial support and I have felt we have had constant opposition from local authorities, perhaps because this is still a land of farmers and hunters who are suspicious of what goes on here. Ours is one of the only attractions in Rocamadour which only has three sign posts when you arrive in the town. Others have several much further away. But we manage to keep going and have more than 80,000 visitors a year.

We have good comments on Trip Advisor, and when I see someone write that they not only enjoyed the show but learnt something from it, that is when I am the most satisfied. Education is the most important part of our work. The Rocher des Aigles also owns land in Mexico. What is a French bird park doing there? In 1989, during a study trip to Mexico for the International Raptor Congress, I met Carlos Elias Rodriguez who had sold his ranch to found an eco-tourist centre in the forest. Some years later a five-hectare stretch of forest bordering the park was put up for sale and as Carlos could not afford to buy it, I did so with a friend, to prevent it being bought and cut down for tobacco or cattle. Since then we have worked with universities and institutions and have successfully re-introduced howler monkeys which had disappeared in the region. You can hear their cries now. We have also introduced two types of parrot back into the forest, which had not been since there since 1970. Last year two young Military macaws were born in the hollow of a tree. Fabulous! Are you optimistic for the future with environmental successes like yours taking place? No. It is sad, but I think we are doomed. When I was young I believed in the future. Now people are nervous and anxious and there is a lot of mediocrity, and I do not think we are doing enough to save the planet. I have done all that I could do and I am proud of that, but I am very pessimistic for the future. Do you still love the birds of prey as much as you did when you were a boy? Yes. It was very cold this winter and a pair of birds from Africa put their wings together to protect their eggs from the cold and I thought, they do not really need us, they find their own solutions to survive. If Le Rocher des Aigles no longer exists in a few years, it will not matter, because it will have done the work that was necessary at a time when birds of prey in France were really under threat.

6 Gardens/Green news

French Living I November 2019

Hedge fund’s renewable success

Jane Hanks visits the head gardener at Hautefort, and learns of the challenges of sustainable garden management

Mussel shells recycled into tiles For the second year running, recycling firm EtNISI has collected millions of empty mussel shells from the Lille braderie, in order to transform them into tiles. The shells are left in huge piles outside restaurants after moules-frites are eaten at the city’s famous antiques weekend. Last year four tonnes of shells were harvested, and the company was able to produce 400m² of tiles. A key to making the tiles is that they have no odour. “It’s quite funny, everyone has the reflex to smell them, to ask if it’s going to smell like waste, which is not the case at all,” said EtNISI founder Espérance Fenzy. Other measures to improve the event’s

It is made up of copper sulphate, but at a weaker solution than is used on tomatoes; a general tonic to boost growth made from plants and another one to promote leaf growth which is based on beetroot. “It seems to work,” he says. The other pest is the Box Tree Caterpillar, pyrale du buis, “but this causes us fewer problems and every year we see fewer caterpillars. We use organic treatments and have also placed pheromone traps, which attract the male moth into thinking there are females in the area and kills them. Marqueyssac and Jardins d’Eyrignac, the two other French formal gardens in the region have said they have caught up to 400 moths in their traps, but we only found one or two in 2018 and many of the 20 traps were empty. “The number of hours we devote to the caterpillar is reducing. In 2017, treatment took 250 hours, in 2018, 125 hours, and less this year. We think this is because we have a huge bat population which is eating them, and we think the birds, which originally found them poisonous have adapted so they too can eat them.” Other changes have been made to the box gardens. Mulch made from the leaves that fall from the trees in the English park is spread on the beds to prevent Photo: Pixabay

Green news

Perennials at Hautefort with box border and the view beyond; Inset: gardener David Chabassier

All their plants are grown in their own nursery where there are 10,000 small box plants on standby

ecological footprint for this year included the installation of water fountains on 80kms of streets used for the braderie, in order to discourage the use of single-use plastic bottles. Official figures from last year’s event revealed that 361 tonnes of rubbish (including plastic frite containers and soda drinks cans) were collected. The end of diesel trains in 15 years The boss of the French railways, Guillaume Pépy, has said that he wants to remove all diesel trains from service within 15 years. The move comes as SNCF announced that it hopes to place an order for 15 hydrogen-powered trains with French rail transport firm Alstom. Currently only 15,000 kilometres, or about half of the rail network, are electrified, but they handle 80% of rail traffic.

Photos: Jane Hanks


hâteau de Hautefort, Dordogne was the first ecolabelled chateau in France. It was awarded the “NF Environnement-sites de visite écolabel” in 2016 for its use of renewable energy sources, energy and water savings, responsible purchasing, reduction of waste generation, local environmental improvement and integration of other criteria related to sustainable development. Much of the work to win the award was carried out in the gardens, because Head Gardener, David Chabassier, who has worked there for twenty years, really wanted to change the way he did things. Château de Hautefort is a largely 17th century building, built on a promontory that dominates the surrounding countryside. It is well known for its formal gardens which are made up of more than three hectares of boxwood framed gardens and hedges, and create a green envelope around the building. In the more open area to the west there is an English style country park garden. The real challenge has been to manage the formal gardens in a more ecological way, said Mr Chabassier: “In the 17th century gardeners like Le Nôtre wanted to control and tame nature to create geometric designs, but they did not face the same problems with disease and lack of manpower that we have today, so we are constantly having to work out ways to manage the gardens without use of chemicals or over watering. “A French garden depends on a monoculture, and that is always going to be difficult. Finding solutions is worth it though, because le jardin à la française is part of our culture and it would be criminal to uproot plants that have been there for over a hundred years.” Disease has, of course, been one of the main issues. “We have three kinds of boxwood here. 80% is Suffruticosa, which is slow growing and good for low border hedges. We also have Sempervirens and Green Velvet Box, which grow faster and need pruning one to three times a year. Suffruticosa only needs pruning once a year, which is an advantage, but even so pruning, which we do entirely by hand, takes up 35% of our time.” The disadvantage with the Suffruticosa is that it is the variety which is the most susceptible to the Cylindrocladium box blight the gardens have been plagued with for the last fifteen years. Mr Chabassier has created his own solution.

weeds from growing, encourage insects and to maintain moisture in the soil as box is thirsty: “For the past fifty years the box has been watered everyday on a little-and-often basis and it has got used to turning its roots upwards to benefit from the surface water. “It would have been so much better to have thoroughly soaked the ground less often so that the roots would have had to grow deep to get their water supply. Sadly, the older plants will not change their habits now. We have one new border where we have changed our way of doing things and we hardly ever have to water. “Drip watering would be ideal but would need kilometres of hosing which would be unsightly and would quickly block as we have a great deal of limestone in the water. Instead we water from high points around the beds which mostly go on the leaves and takes time to trickle through the dense foliage, which is not ideal as it also encourages disease.” Despite the problems caused by managDrought-resistant trees for the future A 13,000hectare forest in Munchhouse (Haut-Rhin) in Alsace is set to be planted with more drought-resistant tree species in order to combat the effects of climate change on the region’s native oaks. The French forestry office (ONF) noticed that the oak trees – even older ones with deeper roots – were dying of thirst following the worst drought in 50 years in 2018. Experts believe that more sparse planting is a solution, especially of certain species of trees that are hardy in dry soil. Thirty years ago, Atlas cedar trees were planted in the forest as an experiment and they have thrived despite a lack of rain. Plastic cup ban in Aubusson The Creuse town of Aubusson has introduced a ban of single-use plastic cups on all communal premises, such as associa-

ing box ecologically, Hautefort’s head gardener says there is no suitable alternative: “Box is the only plant which has shown its ability to be pruned into shape over the years. Fifty years ago a 70-metre-long green tunnel was grown out of Thuja, a kind of cypress, but you can already see that it is not as attractive as it was and it cannot be successfully pruned back again and again over the years.” The flowers grown in the borders have changed: “Before it was mostly brightly coloured annuals, but they too like a great deal of water and so we have replaced them with perennials like roses, dahlias, hostas, sage and astilbe. They do not look the same as they are less controlled in appearance, but can be managed better ecologically. We also grow old varieties of vegetables, and many of these are in the box bordered beds to show that tomatoes, for example don’t all have to be red and regular in size.” All their plants are grown in their own nursery where there are 10,000 small box plants, on standby to replace any areas which are no longer attractive due to old age or disease. Other actions which won them the eco-label are use of an electric vehicle and workshops for children to show them gardening tips. Ten years ago they introduced a very successful ladybird population, which is self-sustaining and deals effectively with the aphids. All this work is carried out by a total of four gardeners, fewer than twenty years ago when Mr Chabassier started and money was more plentiful and there were six to tackle the many, never ending tasks a formal French garden requires. The staff at Hautefort are enthusiastic though about the changes and they are learning more about the riches of the wildlife around them. The Société Française d’Orchidophilie has found 26 varieties of orchid, three of which are rare. The Conservatoire d’Espaces Naturels has made a recent visit and is excited by the six species of bats. The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux is thrilled, along, with the gardeners that a pair of kestrels has nested in the walls of the chateau and produced young. Hautefort is the only chateau in the Dordogne to boast such prestigious visitors. tions and including the clubhouse at the town’s football club. Next, Aubusson’s mayor wants to make the high street a cigarette butt free zone, by installing ashtrays. “If a cigarette butt falls into a manhole, it goes straight into the Creuse and pollutes the environment”, said Michel Moine. Protest to save 120-year-old plane trees A man slept at the top of a tree in front of the Ministry for Ecological and Solidarity Transition in Paris, in protest at the proposed felling of 25 120-year-old plane trees in Condom (Gers). Activist Thomas Brail has previously saved under-threat trees, including one in Mazamet (Tarn) last May, thanks to his peaceful occupational protests. “Mayors do not own the trees located in their commune,” the activist told franceinfo.

Gardening 7

Phoos: Cathy Thompson; Inset: Pixabay

Photo: Gamm Vert

November 2019 I French Living

Green (and gold) grasses of home

Grower’s digest Something in the woodshed Ready to stock up on logs (bûches) for the French winter ahead? You need a place to keep your wood discretely and tidily – and luckily all major garden centres stock a range of ‘bûchers’ (woodsheds). They are usually treated to protect against wood-eating insects and fungi, have a sloping, waterproof roof and are simple to put together. Model shown is Olbia, available from Gamm Vert for €149. Fruity pick-me-up A reminder to those who have fruit trees bearing goodies this autumn, that there are plenty of ingenious options for collecting fallen apples, pears, walnuts etc. Look out for the word ‘ramasse-fruits’ – brands such as Gardena have roller-style machines to save straining your back. Another job for autumn is to strip, clean and grease any tools that you are not likely to use again until spring, such as loppers and pruning saws.

Photo: Pixabay

Dried and tested What goes around comes around, and bouquets of dried flowers that your Granny used to place around the house have become a veritable tendance (trend) in France this year. Placed craftily in a vase, attached to a mirror with ribbon, or elegantly presented pot pourri-style in a bowl, they add a vintage feel to your home, and offer a happy reminder of summer. For inspiration, search Instagram using the hashgag #fleurssechees.

This month, Cathy Thompson is plotting her own French prairie transformation Insta-jardins

Social media app Instagram is a brilliant way to enjoy other people’s gardens in France, with everyone from chateau visitors to chambre d’hôtes owners posting seasonal snaps and quirky updates from their gardens (users can search using the hashtag #jardins or #jardinage). This month’s image, which may spark property envy as well as garden inspiration, is from Le Mas des Poiriers, a renovated 18th century farmhouse in Provence. provencepoiriers

French garden diary


his month I have to order new plants and seeds quickly. I will not be sowing or planting until the spring, but I discovered in 2019 that what I really, really wanted had already flown off the shelves in March. I am changing the habit of a gardening lifetime and these new plants are part of my revamp. For years I have refused to let go of my signature ‘English herbaceous border’ look. The devastation in my garden over the last four years has forced me to sit up and realise that this garden will always be extremely hot and dry in summer, even leaving Climate Change aside. Examining the ugliest corner of the garden, I realised that what I had were conditions most closely resembling the short-grass prairies of North America: a tendency to be extremely cold (down to -20°C) and very wet in winter and viciously arid in summer. The first step was clearly internet research, but I also put a plea out on my blog for ideas. They came in thick and fast, mostly from American bloggers who know the score. So now I have my (long) list of desires and am keen to implement the change. The ‘prairies’ of North America were named by the French settlers who began to explore these immense grasslands – they simply applied their own word for grazing land. They also noticed that one kind of prairie was composed largely of short grasses and perennials, whereas another, also with a much moister soil, produced taller grasses and different herbaceous plants. For the gardener in an arid spot, the focus has to logically be on the plants of the short-grass prairie. Perennial prairie plants are able to survive heavy grazing, drought and fire thanks to a variety of adaptations: the growing point is underground, where it can regrow after extreme heat or other damage; leaves are narrow, to avoid excessive water loss; roots are often tap-

roots, extending downwards for metres; and flowers are frequently very brightly coloured, so visible to pollinators amidst huge swathes of dun-coloured grasses. I realised with excitement that my favourite ‘doers’ had their origin in prairie or similar habitats: Veronicastrum virginicum, cultivars of Monarda fistulosa, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, and Aster lateriflorus. Unfortunately the most successful plant (from grassland and light woodland in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and parts of Romania) was also what you would call a ‘bully’. Knautia macedonica is absolutely charming with its floating clouds of little maroon pincushions over grey foliage (always a sign of drought-tolerance), but it has the infuriating habit of seeding itself into clumps of more precious plants and drowning them when your back is turned. So luckily this November I already have a few stalwarts in my prairie garden, but there are a few ‘new-to-me’ plants I’m desperate to order and try out. Yucca glauca is otherwise known as the ‘Great Plains Yucca’; we all know what yuccas do, but this is rather special in that it is very cold-tolerant down to -26°C. I want to plant, say, two or three, to rise out of the grasses in the central (path) area of the planting. It’s also known as the ‘soap weed yucca’ because

The ‘prairies’ of North America were named by the French settlers who began to explore these immense grasslands

Native Americans used to pound the roots, mix them with water and use the concoction as a shampoo against dandruff and minor skin irritations. Amsonia hubrichtii has leaves like those of an asparagus fern, but soft and silky to the touch. The pièce de résistance comes late in the year when the clumps form a golden cloud of autumn colour. And there will be soft blue flowers in May and June. Apparently easy from seed – but all sold out by the time I was shopping this year, so get in fast. Asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly weed, is one of those plants that produce incredibly bright flowers (orange in this case) to attract pollinators to its copious nectar. It is said also to be very easy from seed, although difficult to transplant due to the taproot. This could be one for direct sowing, although I am never very successful on my soil, which quickly forms a germination-resistant crust. Finally there is Eryngium agavifolium. Not quite as showy as some of the eryngiums, but said to be super, super tough. They call it ‘Rattlesnake Master’ which makes me tremble a little, when coupled with its slightly threatening appearance. But no, the name comes again from the Native Americans who ground up the roots and used them as a poultice against rattlesnake venom. And the tiny creamy-white flowers, gathered into many ball-like structures on tall stems, should be fairly architectural (complimenting the yuccas perhaps?). There are others too numerous to list, but these will be my starter plants – all to come from seed I think, apart from the yuccas. The grasses are another story, for another day. over to you What are your favourite super-hardy perennials for drought-tolerance? Get in touch with Cathy by emailing editorial@connexionfrance.com

8 Interview

French Living I November 2019

Comic books are a way of life for award-winner Pénélope Bagieu – here, she tells Jane Hanks about her numerous career highlights


énélope Bagieu is a comic book writer who was recently awarded the prestigious Comic-Con International Eisner Award for the best foreign book at the San Diego convention, 2019. It is the comic book world’s Academy Award, voted for by professionals in the trade, and Ms Bagieu is the only French person to have won this distinction. She was honoured for her books, Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World 1 and 2 – an English translation of the French titles Les Culottées 1 and 2. She is now working on the first comic book version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which is to be published in early 2020, in both English and French. “It was just crazy and I was very surprised to win,” she said of her award. “It is the most prestigious prize I could wish to be awarded.” Pénélope Bagieu is 37. She studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and then for a short time at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London. In 2007, she created a popular blog called Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante in which she recounted her daily life laced with humour. She drew for the press and advertising and in 2010 published her first long comic book, Cadavre exquis. In 2016 and 2017, she published the two Culottées books, which tell the stories of 30 women throughout history who went against the social conventions of their time to become heroines, but who have often been ignored up to now. She said she chose this theme because she had

always been attracted by women who dared to be different: “They are women who inspire me and I wanted to share them with as many people as possible. “I chose the stories I liked best. Some I knew already, some I discovered later. “I wanted them to be the ones which affected me the most. These were not the women who necessarily did the most amazing things, but those who acted with what they had at their disposal and showed courage and determination.” They include Clémentine Delait, a bearded lady; Katia Krafft, who explored volcanoes with her husband, but whose name is much less well-known than his; and Agnodice, an ancient Greek, believed to be the first female doctor, and who disguised herself as a man. The story goes that she was sentenced to death for illegally practising medicine, but acquitted by popular demand; Tove Jansson who created the Moomin books and had a long lesbian relationship in secret; Giorgina Reid, who saved a lighthouse from falling into the sea, and the dancer Josephine Baker who was also a French Resistance agent and adopted a family of multi-national children. It took Ms Bagieu a long time to choose her heroines: “It was the part which took the most time, doing the research. I really enjoyed it, plunging into fascinating biographies. “The challenge was to transform the stories into a comic strip, and to make sure it was not just facts and dates, but stories people wanted to read. “When I develop an historic personality, I try to make them as human and realistic as possible and to do this I imagine I know them well and am then talking about them to a friend of mine.” 97 It is an advantage to work both in drawings and text: “I can use the drawings for the descriptive part, the part you would have to write at length in a novel, and the words for the dialogue, which helps to give the psychology of a character. For me a cartoon strip is a way of telling a story in the same way as a film maker, where you create a series of scenes, except that it

Photo: Simoné Eusebio

Inspiring women and Roald Dahl’s witches: it’s all in a day’s work for top BD writer

Above, France’s award-winning comicbook writer Pénélope Bagieu. Left, part of the story of Agnodice, an ancient Greek, believed to be the first female doctor, and who disguised herself as a man.

does not cost anything. You don’t need to worry about budgets. You can make an explosion with the stroke of a pen. “I think the nearest job to being a comic book writer is not a novelist or an artist, but a film director. You have to give a rhythm to scenes you create to make the reader want to turn the pages. “My stories of heroic women were first published in a weekly blog by Le Monde. This helped me learn to be economical in the use of colour and story. I had to be selective as I could not go into great detail but had to focus on key elements which would characterise their story.” Les Culottées were translated into English to become Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. But there was one key difference between French and English versions. “In the French version there are 30 stories, but in the English version there are 29, because the American publishers were targeting younger readers and felt it best to leave out one of the characters, who was one who impressed me the most and who was the most difficult to write and took the longest to do. “It was the tale of Phoolan Devi who was abused as a child and eventually became a member of Parliament in India and a champion for the poor women, before being assassinated at the age of 38. “It was very difficult to write because

she was confronted with truly horrific sexual abuse that it took a long time to work out how I should present her story. It was the one I found most difficult to write. However, I understand it was necessary to cut this story, because I would not want 10-year-old readers to have to confront this kind of tale.” She said she was surprised the Englishlanguage books were aimed at younger readers. “Because of the way it is written and the themes it covers I was creating it primarily for adults. But it did attract new readers, who were younger than those who had read my previous books. “I am really happy it is being read by young people. It is not just read by girls but also by boys because they don’t often find stories about heroic women. They do not see the difference between a woman and a man, they just find a story about someone who they can admire.” She said she became a comic book writer because she always drew when she was a child, and never wanted to stop: “When I was little, I loved making up stories and drawing, and was lucky enough to turn that into a job. It was always what I wanted to do – draw and write.” She chose to study at art school: “It is not something you have to do to be able to create comic books and many are selftaught. It depends on your personality.

Trending 9

November 2019 I French Living

Photo: FFB

Left, the cover of Les Culottées 2, for which Pénélope Bagieu has won a prestigious ComicCon International Eisner Award.

Bridge comes up trumps in bid to attract young players Our zeitgeist column examines how the Fédération Française de Bridge is working to bring the card game to a new generation


“It was reassuring to study. I loved spending five years learning to draw. It was a multi-disciplinary school and as well as learning to draw, I was taught to open my eyes to a broad culture of design, going to exhibitions, questioning art, and I learned a great deal.” Transforming Roald Dahl’s beloved story The Witches into a comic book is a project close to her heart. The original story was published in 1983, and she says she grew up with it. It tells the story of a young boy and his grandmother as they battle witches. “The Roald Dahl Story Company wanted one of his books to be turned into a comic strip and they approached a French publisher, because France is known as the country of bande-dessinées. “They talked to my publisher, Gallimard, to ask them if they knew of anyone who would be suitable and who would want to do it. I was lucky enough to be asked. It is a really great honour and a great challenge because Quentin Blake, who did the original drawings has always been one of my heroes. “They let me choose which book I wanted to do, and The Witches was the obvious choice because it was the most important book in my childhood. “It made me want to read more books, and I think it is Dahl’s best story. It is not like the others, this one. It does make children frightened – it terrorised me when I was little. “But I find it treats children like adults and it is up to them to save the world and in fact the witches are just super cool. I adore the character of the grandma who is central and incredible and really strong in the story.” She has been allowed to take the story and make it her own: “When you create a comic strip you have to have a completely different approach. “It is a book I know by heart and so it has been a pleasure but it is a huge amount of work. I have to tell it in my own personal way, so I have changed the period to bring it up to date, made alter-

ations to some characters and added others I felt were missing in the original. “But it is still Roald Dahl’s story and it has all been done with Roald Dahl’s Estate’s agreement, which is attentive to the way his works are reproduced.” Luke Kelly, Roald Dahl’s grandson and managing director of the Roald Dahl Story Company said: “It is wonderful to see a new vision of such iconic characters as the Grandmother and the Grand High Witch. It is a brilliant demonstration of the richness and modernity of this deliciously black tale. The publication of the comic book will complement the film of the book, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Anne Hathaway.” The Witches in comic book form will be released in both French and English, because Ms Bagieu has lived in New York and is bi-lingual. When I spoke to her in the summer, the book was not yet finished and she still had a lot of work to do: “It has taken me six months to write and will take me around a year to draw. It is a big book so it takes time. “It was not too hard for me to know what the characters would look like though. Of course, the drawings of Quentin Blake gave me ideas but I had my own really vivid picture of the characters as a child and so it was not too difficult to put that on to paper. The images were already there in my head.” She said Dahl is a writer who is massively appreciated in France. “I think France is the country which is his greatest fan. His books are found in every child’s bookcase. The children of my generation all read Dahl. He is a classic of children’s literature in France.” She does not think her book will replace the novel as an easier read: “I think you will have to read both, because they are two different visions. “I have made it into a very contemporary story and tried to make it relevant for the children of today. The novel and the comic book will be complementary. For me, it is a real treat to work on this book.”


You don’t need to worry about budgets. You can make an explosion with the stroke of a pen

total 1.5million people in France are signed-up to a bridge club – making the country second only to the USA in terms of the card game’s popularity. There are 1,150 clubs across France, so there is probably one not far from where you live. France is also up there among the major players in the international world of competitions, and the Women’s team has been crowned world champion three times in 2005, 2011 and 2015. It is a game often associated with older players, but in France an increasing number of young people are learning the game. It has even become part of the curriculum in some schools, as it is seen as a way of developing concentration, analysis, memory and initiative. It is classified as a Mind Sport, a game of skill where competition is based on intellectual ability, as opposed to physical exercise. In 2012, the Minister of Education signed a convention with the Fédération Française de Bridge (FFB) to include the game in lessons or in After School Clubs. Some 1,500 teachers have now been trained to incorporate the game in to the curriculum. It is particularly relevant for maths from the last two years of Primary school onwards. Arithmetic, geometry, probability, statistics and at lycée, algorithms, are all maths procedures you can learn while playing. Two schools even organised an exchange this year. One was a collège at Alby-sur-Chéran, Haute Savoie, and the other at Parthenay, Deux-Sèvres. Ten pupils from each school corresponded via social media and then met up twice, played bridge and discovered a new part of France at the same time. To meet a growing demand for youngsters who get the bridge bug, there are even bridge holiday camps every summer, for nine year olds and above, just as there are for sports like football and sailing. There is even a simplified game, developed for children from the age of six. This autumn, the FFB (www.ffbridge.fr) launched a publicity campaign with radio ads to attract new members, as despite a

growing number of younger players, most members are older and the Federation wants to regenerate the game. They have developed Une Box. It costs €39.90: “In it, there is a pack of cards and simplified rules, to help you learn the basics in 10 minutes and then learn more as you play,” said Lucas Veron from the sports publicity agency Agence 15Love, which was taken on to promote the game. “It also gives you three months’ free access to an online bridge game, Funbridge and 10 lessons at an FFB club. You can even do this in London, as there is the London Bridge FFB club for French people living in the UK capital.”

Bridge is a sport, just like football, and it is magic, just like football

The Federation stresses that it is a game for everyone. Thomas Bessis, 34, was World Vice-champion in 2017 and he has two passions: bridge and the PSG Ligue Un football team. He said bridge is not an elitist game, as some people think it is: “If you come to my club, you will see that there are all sorts of people there. Bridge is a sport, just like football, and it is magical, just like football.” A total 55% of the players registered with the FFB are women. Vanessa Réess, 45, was world champion in 2005 and 2015 and is now ranked the third best female player in France. She says it is not dissimilar from her other passion, playing video games: “You need the same level of concentration and it is just as exciting.” Lucas Veron says the social side of the game is also important: “It is the only mind sport where you have to play with a partner, which means you build up close relationships. “It is also inter-generational, so young and old can play together. Clubs are open every day all year round.”

10 November What’s on

French Living I November 2019

Dijon exchanges mustard for curry International Gastronomy Fair, Dijon, October 31 - November 11

Photos: © Dijon Congrexpo

This fair brings together nearly 600 exhibitors with stalls spanning over 15 different sectors, from food and drink to furniture and handicrafts. Each year the fair focuses on the products of a particular country, with this year’s choice being India. In a beautifully decorated pavilion you can discover traditional Indian artistry such as silk carpets from Kashmir, Pashmina shawls, statues in bronze, wood and marble and silk paintings. As for the food, a whole array of teas, spices, beers, wines and rum will be on display, as well as a possibility to sample some of the culinary specialities of India such as curries, rice and naan bread. There will be traditional Bollywood dancing performances and in the afternoon you can enjoy drinks and pastries in the Lakshmi tea room. www.foirededijon.com

More November events Salon du Chocolat, Paris, October 30 - November 3

Salon du Chocolat is the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate and cocoa. It brings together over 500 participants from around the globe, with the biggest names in chocolate and pastry all under one roof for five days. It boasts events for the whole family. It will feature a demo stage with a lineup of top-class chefs, a chocolate fashion show, prestigious competitions, exhibits and chocolate sculptures, live performances, pastry workshops, tastings, and a children’s play area to name just a few. www.salon-du-chocolat.com Jazz sur la Ville, Marseille, November 5 - December 7 This jazz festival features 60 events taking place in 35 different venues throughout Marseille and its surroundings. Over 200 musicians take part in the festival, including young performers new to jazz, as well as musicians who have considerablymore experience.

In addition to the concerts, there will be jazz exhibitions, conferences and masterclasses. jazzsurlaville.fr Salon des Vins et des Produits de Terroir, Sévrier, November 8 - 10 Since 1998, Annecy Lake Lions Club has organised an annual wine and produce fair in Sévrier, Haute-Savoie. Stallholders come from everywhere to present their best wine and food. More than 4,000 visitors come to see the fair and you can rest assured that you will find something to satisfy your taste buds, with 98 eclectic stalls to browse. The fair was created to help the community, with the club’s proceeds going towards a variety of different causes from local youth clubs, theatre competitions and disability-adapted sports equipment to helping an orphanage and school for the blind in Lithuania or homeless children in Rwanda. www.salondesvins.org Le Goût du Large, Port-en-BessinHuppain, November 9 - 10 The first-ranking fishing port in BasseNormandie for scallops, Port-en-BessinHuppain organises a festival every year to proudly celebrate the industry. The event attracts nearly 50,000 visitors over two days, with the whole town getting involved: fishermen’s wives create delicious scallop and seafood recipes to sample, fishing net menders demonstrate their craft and guides give talks on how to fish for scallops. Especially for the occasion, the professional fish market is open to the public. European maritime songs, street performances, special menus in restaurants and old sailing boats in the harbour are also on the wide-ranging programme. tinyurl.com/y4ebkelh Fête du Cidre, Sap-en-Auge, Orne, November 9 - 11 Located at a cider museum, this festival brings the history of the drink to life. Because the museum was a former cider

production site, many of the old-fashioned production items have been preserved and are used at the festival today. There is a demonstration of how cider is distilled and other events on the programme include a market of local produce, demonstrations from craftsmen, exhibitions, performances and activities specially for children such as pony rides and cow milking. tinyurl.com/yxgspxck International Festival of Animal and Nature Photography, Montier-en-Der, Haute-Marne, November 14 - 17 The Festival of Animal and Nature Photography started over 21 years ago when a group of friends combined their passion for photography and wildlife by organising an exhibition showcasing the BBC Wildlife Magazine “Wildlife Photographer of the Year”. One year later the exhibition turned into a festival celebrating all nature and animal photography. It has quickly become a must-attend event for both amateur and professional snappers as well as nature lovers and the general public. www.photo-montier.org Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction, Beaune, November 15 - 17 The Hospices de Beaune wine auction is one of the most famous charity auctions in the world, with a history dating back more than 500 years. The wine made from local vines, which today span 60 hectares, has been annually auctioned off on the third Sunday of November since 1859. Proceeds from the auction are donated to the year’s charity of choice as well as to preserve the original Hospices de Beaune building, one of the finest examples of 15th century architecture in France. As well as the wine tastings and the auction, some of the activities on offer include street performances, a folklore parade and a half-marathon through the streets and vineyards of Beaune. tinyurl.com/y63neysq

This is England, Rouen, November 20 - 24 Through a selection of short films, the festival offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the richness of British cinema. The programme aims to present both promising first films and the latest works by well-known filmmakers. With a unique and competitive selection, This is England entrusts a jury of professionals with the task of rewarding the best films among an eclectic group of fiction, animation and documentary films. There are also concert evenings, daily screenings dedicated to showing films made by school students from all over the region and numerous meetings between filmmakers and audiences. www.thisisengland-festival.com Les Sarmentelles de Beaujeu, Beaujeu, November 20 - 24 Every year at midnight on the third Thursday of November the famous red wine Beaujolais Nouveau is released, just weeks after the grapes have been harvested. Known across France as ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’, parties are held to celebrate the first wine of the season. There are over 120 related festivals in the Beaujolais region alone, but the most famous is Les Sarmentelles in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. The festival features wine tasting, live music and dancing, a torch-lit parade, fireworks and a tasting competition featuring all 12 Beaujolais wine varieties. www.sarmentelles.com C’est Pas Classique, Nice, November 29 - December 1 In a classical music festival with a twist, this autumn series of concerts features some of the most modern classical music artists. Free to members of the public, the concerts will be hosted in the Acropolis in Nice city centre. Big names in classical and world music, young talents and many other classical music ensembles will play across the weekend in more than 60 concerts. tinyurl.com/y2mracry

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.

November 2019 I French Living

What’s on/Cultural digest 11 Cloclo and a photo shop closure A round up of the arts and culture stories creating a buzz in France

3. Shutters down at photo shop The last surviving shop in Paris dedicated solely to traditional film photography has closed its shutters for the final time, with an on-site auction of all remaining stock.

4. Country drama scoops prize France’s literary prize-giving season is under way, and among the first winners is the new novel by much-lauded young author Cécile Coulon. The 29-year-old from ClermontFerrand already has seven novels under her belt and the latest, Une bête au paradis (A beast in paradise), scooped newspaper Le Monde’s prize for book of the year. Coulon previously won the Le Prix des libraires (in 2017) and Le Prix Guillaume-Apollinaire (2018). The titular ‘paradise’ is an isolated farm where a woman is bringing up her two young grandchildren following their parent’s death in a road-crash. Photo: Wikimedia/ FrimousseRoche

2. Ballet fundraiser is on-point Driven by a decline in public arts funding, the prestigious Opéra de Paris ballet company has taken the surprising measure of introducing crowdfunding in order to help pay for its performers’ shoes or other essentials. The Outreach Association for the Paris Opéra (arop.operadeparis.fr) has launched its “En pointe!” campaign, which sees donations, depending on size, rewarded with a costume workshop visit or the chance to attend a ballet rehearsal. Arop director Jean-Yves Kaced said: “It costs €400,000 a year for shoes,” adding that a star dancer can use up to three pairs during a performance of Swan Lake. Donations range from €60 for a pair of pointe shoes to €15,000 to pay for all shoes for 2020’s Giselle production.

Photo-Ciné, located near Place d’Italie on Avenue Gobelins in the 13th arrondissement, had been in the same family for 41 years but refused to make a switch to supplying digital photographic equipment despite changing consumer trends. The closure comes following the death last August of owner Dinh Hanh Vu. “My husband was crazy about photo equipment, he kept buying it, that’s why we have so many things,” said his wife Minh Nguyot Vu. 10,000 items including filters, flashes, cameras and tripods were sold at the 14m2 shop.

3 5. Young Maid returns After his well received mini-series P’tit Quinquin (2014) and macabre comedy Slack Bay (2016), Bruno Dumont turned his creativity to a wacky musical take on the early years of The Maid of Orléans. Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc hardly set critics on fire but despite this, a follow-up arrives this autumn. 12-year-old actress Lise Leplat Prudhomme reprises the lead role of Joan as she is captured by Burgundians and put on trial for heresy – a typically eccentric casting choice given that Joan was 19 at the time of the trial. Photo: © Les Films du Losange

Fête du Hareng Roi, Etaples, November 9 - 10 The king herring festival takes place in Etaples in Pas-de-Calais. Etaples is an important fishing port and the festival celebrates the time when men arrived home from long fishing trips. The town is well-known for its herrings which have fed generations of fishermen and residents, and have always been part of its economy and traditions. Grilled, marinated or smoked herring can, of course, be enjoyed at the festival, with more than 3 tonnes – around 18,000 pieces – of herring to be tasted over the weekend alone. Another essential part of the festivities are the performances that take place during each meal, with a host of different folk bands performing sea shanties. This friendly fishing festival is associated with a festive village where traditional games, old and new crafts, gastronomy, maritime culture and heritage are celebrated. Simultaneously, museums such as the marine museum and the sea fishing discovery centre hold their open days on the same weekend. Many other exhibitions also take place everywhere around the town. For the youngest, there will be some storytelling sessions and several shows on the theme of the sea. Every year the event attracts around 10,000 to 15,000 people. tinyurl.com/yyo2pz2t


concentrate on his day job, notably a passion for fixing up old tractors. The singer was spotted performing at a karaoke aged 12, and was later encouraged by friends to create a full spectacle to perform as Cloclo at weddings, local association parties and nightclubs. His show included four Franche-Comté-born copycat ‘Claudettes’ – Cloclo’s famously glamorous backing dancers. Claude François sold over 70 million records and co-wrote the lyrics of Comme d’habitude, the original version of My Way. He died from electrocution in his bathroom in 1978.

Rassemblement international de montgolfières, Le-Puy-en-Velay, November 8 - 10 In November 1783, Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes took off on the world’s first manned hot air balloon flight. Since the bicentenary of this flight, Le-Puy-en-Velay has celebrated by holding an international hot air balloon festival. On the second weekend of November, the sky will be filled with colours as crews come from all over the world to fly their hot air balloons. You can watch the balloons fly as well as purchase a ticket to fly in one yourself. The event is organised by the association Montgolfière en Velay which is the one to determine the best places to take off according to the weather one hour before departure. The trip in the air lasts approximately 45 minutes to one hour. www.montgolfiere-en-velay.fr

Photos: © Service Evénementiel - Communication de la Ville d’Etaples Sur Mer

Photos: © Alain Roqueplan

Photo: Facebook/GautierAllartCloclo

1. Lookalike hangs up microphone A popular tribute act to the successful 1970s French singer Claude François (known by his fans as Cloclo) has called time on his performing career. Gautier Allart, a mechanic in the Jura village of Chissey-sur-Loue, who transformed into an all-singing and dancing sosie (doppelganger), says he wants to


12 Recipes

French Living

How to make a perfect pâ Experts in charcuterie, US-based chef Brian Polcyn and author Michael Ruhlman have created a sumptuous collection of recipes that make the best of cheaper cuts and traditional methods to create pâtés, rillettes and confits. Try three of their simple recipes at home


beautifully made pâté is a wonder – and not only for the pleasure of eating it. A great pâté is a representation of the heights of culinary craftsmanship and excellence. Yet this simple mixture of meat, fat, salt, and spices is also a preparation born of economy and thriftiness, a way to put scraps to use, a method likely thousands of years old. But that is what true cooking is all about: taking scraps and, with knowledge and care, transforming them into delicious nourishment, both noble and humble, that is a delight to behold and a pleasure to eat, nourishing on every level. Yet the pâté is not always thus. Since we first published our book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, a book that contains a chapter on the pâté en terrine, we have eaten countless pâtés. At home in suburban Detroit, Brian teaches the craft to students. And he travels the country teaching the craft to chefs, always making pâté after breaking down a whole hog to make use of the abundant trim and fat. We have gone to restaurants where chefs send us charcuterie boards with their own creations. We have travelled to Paris and Lyon to taste the work of Gilles Vérot, perhaps the finest maker of pâté in the country, even the world. And we have driven an hour south of Lyon, to the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage, to attend the pâté world championship. In short, over the course of more than a decade, we’ve eaten all manner of pâté. And they’re not all the wonder described above. They are often dry. Or they crumble on the palate, a textural disaster. Or they have no flavour. At many American restaurants, where the chef is otherwise accomplished, we’ve been served mediocre pâté. Even in France, the world’s pâté epi-

They represent the most authentic, honourable, and exciting form of cooking we have: transforming lowly scraps into the ethereal

centre, we have eaten ho-hum pâté. Some recent books on the subject offer photos of overcooked terrines and shoddy technique and recipes that don’t work. Why? Because pâté can be made well or it can be made poorly. The cook can choose excellent ingredients or cheap ingredients. The cook has the knowledge of what makes a pâté great or the cook does not. Brian likens the situation to the liver and onions his grandmother cooked and the liver and onions he learned to prepare under a master chef. His grandmother used liver that had been frozen. She cut it unevenly and cooked it to death even as she undercooked the onions. But under renowned Michigan chef Milos Cihelka, Brian learned how to prepare fresh calf ’s liver, carefully removing the veins and slicing it one centimetre thick, which makes it very easy to cook to medium-rare. He dusts pieces with flour, then sautés them in hot oil till they’re nicely browned but still rare. He then splashes brandy into the pan, flames it, and removes the liver. Next he sautés the onions until they are lightly caramelized, then returns the liver to the pan, warms the slices with the onions, and brings them to medium-rare. That is a delicious way to prepare liver and onions. All these small steps build upon each other for the final result. Bad decisions likewise build toward the opposite effect. No cooking is particularly difficult. It’s simply a matter of knowing what the steps are and paying attention as you work your way through them. This is especially true of pâtés, and the reason for writing this book: We love pâtés and hoped to explore how to perfect them, how to make them great. Over the past decade, interest in

charcuterie has exploded. Charcuterie is a broad term for all those preparations that were created in order to extend and preserve meat – whether taking raw scraps of meat and offal and creating a pâté en terrine, grinding and stuffing sausage, or curing a ham. Charcuterie boards in restaurants have become commonplace. Chefs across the country are dry-curing their own saucisson. Reflecting a trend for charcuterie Our book was a factor in this resurgence, but the main reason for it, we believe, is that once American chefs and cooks discovered the centuriesold practice of charcuterie, they found its virtues so clear that they embraced it on a national scale. This is not a fad – these techniques have been around for centuries. Our goal in writing Pâté, Confit, Rillette is to continue to elevate this ancient and sublime craft, to make it accessible to as many people as possible, and to feed those who hunger for more. Pâtés are a form of charcuterie (the word comes from the Middle French chair for “flesh” and cuite for “cooked”). Confit, meat poached in fat so that it will remain preserved in that fat for one, two, or three years, is another branch of the craft. And rillettes are a kind of combination of the two. Of all charcuterie preparations, pâtés, confits, and rillettes are perhaps the most accessible to the home cook, and ones that, with care, can be elevated by chefs and ambitious home cooks to extraordinary levels of elegance. They represent the most authentic, honourable, and exciting form of cooking we have: transforming lowly scraps into the ethereal, which is the cook’s highest calling and most thrilling achievement.

Chicken Liver Terrine Ingredients, makes 8 appetiser portions 450g chicken livers, veins and connective tissue removed 4 large eggs 180ml Madeira wine 2 tablespoons grated orange zest Pinch of sugar Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 480ml double cream

Pâté, Confit, Rillette – Recipes from the Craft of Charcuterie by Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman is published by W.W.Norton and Company, £25.00, www.wwnorton.co.uk

Method 1. Prepare a water bath in a 150°C oven. 2. Combine the livers, eggs, wine, zest, sugar, and salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth. With the motor running, slowly

pour i stream incorp

3. Pass th fine-m

4. Line a plastic mixtu plastic

5. Cover and co intern 60 mi the wa enoug and re chilled

Food notes 13

I November 2019

in the cream in a steady m until all the cream has been porated into the mixture.

he liver mixture through a mesh strainer.

a 1-litre terrine mould with c wrap and pour the liver ure into the mould. Fold the c wrap over the top.

r with a lid or aluminium foil ook in the water bath to an nal temperature of 63°C, 45 to inutes. Remove the terrine from ater bath. When it’s cool gh to handle, weight the terrine efrigerate until thoroughly d. Unmould, slice, and serve.

Main photo: Flickr/hugovk; inset: Pixabay


Ham and Parsley en Gelée Ingredients, makes 8 appetiser portions 180ml cold water 1½ tbsp powdered gelatin 720ml rich chicken or pork broth (preferably clarified – whisk in three egg whites, simmer, remove then strain) 30g kosher salt 1kg ham, cut into 1cm dice 90g chopped flat-leaf parsley Method 1. Pour the cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes to bloom (that is, absorb the water without forming clumps). 2. Bring the broth to a low simmer in a saucepan. Add the salt, then stir in the bloomed gelatin and water. Taste the broth and add more salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the ham and parsley 3. Line a 1.5l terrine mould with plastic wrap. Pour the ham and parsley mixture into the mould. Fold the plastic wrap over the top. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and the gelatin has set. Unmould, slice, and serve.

Gratin of Rabbit with Apricots and Armagnac Ingredients, for 15 appetiser portions 110g dried apricots 240ml Armagnac or brandy 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 140g bacon 140 g pork shoulder 340g lean rabbit leg meat 170g pork back fat (cut all the meat into 2.5cm dice) 2 large egg whites 2 tablespoons minced shallot 1 tablespoon/15 g kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1½ teaspoons All-Purpose Spice Mix for Meat Pâtés. For the spice mix: 30g white peppercorns, 14g sweet Hungarian paprika, 14 g ground bay leaves and 7g each of dried marjoram, dried thyme, ground nutmeg, ground mace, ground ginger and ground cloves Spice mix method Toast the peppercorns in a dry sauté pan. Transfer to a spice or coffee grinder. Add the remaining ingredients and pulverize into a powder. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to two months. Pâté method 1. Marinate the apricots in the brandy overnight at room temperature. Strain the apricots, reserving the brandy.

Spiritual significance of a truly heavenly delicacy

In our series providing a sideways look at French food, we examine why scallop shells are so iconic to pilgrims

rom mid-October to early December, Normandy’s fishing ports are awash with foodie fans – port-bound gourmands dedicated to that most delicate, delicious saltwater bivalve, the scallop. From Le goût du large in Port-en-Bessin to Dieppe’s Herring and Scallop festival (with plenty of hearty sea shanties thrown in), crowds flock to celebrate its importance to local fishing culture and to enjoy recipes new and old. However, beyond the gustatory allure of its firm, juicy flesh – usually pan-fried and often served in a light cream sauce – lies an altogether more spiritual agenda, which is of significance to many in France. The shell which houses the edible white disc has come to symbolise the work of the fisherman apostle St-James The Great (called St-Jacques in French; Santiago in Spanish) and is used to refer to, and guide,

pilgrims who make their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain – the ‘Route de St-Jacques de Compostelle’ in French. The scallop had previous links back to the Janus path in Roman times, but here the concave side of the shell (Venus emerging from the sea), was the reference. As for St James, the supposed origins of the connotation vary: that he once rescued a knight covered in scallops; that he would take a half scallop shell on his travels, and any food or drink sustenance offered to him on his travels had to fit within; or that, while his remains were being transported to Compostela from Jerusalem, the knight’s horse stumbled into the water, and emerged covered in the shells. In the Middle Ages, Christians who made the journey to Compostela would collect a scallop shell as evidence of having completed the journey. Today, hiking pilgrims who make their way there – stopping at religious waypoints in France – carry a shell on their backpack, its many grooves representing all points leading to one destination.

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One of the rare instances where burning a French dish is a good thing, is when it comes to crème brûlée – the order to singe it comes in the name itself: burnt cream. Preparing this sweet delight at home is straightforward, but you need the right equipment, which includes shallow ceramic ramekins and a blow torch. Burgundy firm Emile Henry has been making cookware since 1850 and makes a coffret of four ramekins with blowtorch for €49.90. Available from www.amazon.fr

Under the watchful eye of a Cognac expert who uses a traditional Charentais still, the Domaine de Cantarelle in the heart of Provence at Brue-Auriac, Var, has crafted its first ever gin. Made with local grapes, juniper berries, linden, grapefruit, bitter orange peel and coriander, Gin de Provence comes in an elegant bottle and can be used for G&Ts and an array of gin cocktails. Available in supermarkets, priced from €23 for 50cl. www.cantarelle.net/?lang=en

Food notes


2. Prepare a water bath in a 300°F/150°C oven. 3. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Brown the bacon and pork shoulder on all sides, leaving the centres raw. Transfer the meat to a plate, cover, and refrigerate. Add the shallot to the same pan and cook until softened. Deglaze the pan with the reserved brandy. Reduce the liquid to a syrup, transfer to a ramekin, and refrigerate. 4. Grind the rabbit, back fat, bacon and pork shoulder through a 3ml die into a metal bowl set in an ice bath. Transfer the ground meat to a food processor and add the egg whites, chilled shallot reduction, spice mix, salt, and pepper. Puree until smooth. 5. Do a quenelle test and adjust the seasoning if necessary, remembering that cooked food served cold requires extra attention. 6. Cut the apricots into 6ml dice and fold into the forcemeat. 7. Line a 1.5l terrine mould with plastic wrap and fill it with the pâté. Fold the plastic wrap over the top. 8.

Cover with a lid or aluminium foil and cook in the water bath to an internal temperature of 135°F/57°C, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the terrine from the water bath. When it’s cool enough to handle, weight the terrine and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Unmould, slice, and serve.

14 Lentils

French Living I November 2019

Popularity of healthy pulses is racing Main photo: Flickr/Jessica Spengler; Others: ODG-L.Olivier

Health-giving and versatile, lentils are increasingly popular in France. Jane Hanks talks to a Puy producer


he production of lentils has doubled in France over the past three years, reflecting an increase in the numbers of vegetarians and vegans. This is allied to advice from public bodies at national and international level that we should all eat less meat and more pulses if the world is going to be able to feed its ever growing population in future. The famous Puy lentils, grown around Puy-en-Velay, Haute Loire, also got a boost in sales two years ago after a newspaper article revealed it was a regular on the menu at Prince George’s private school. However, lentils are not easy to grow according to Franck Rocher, President of the Association Nationale Interprofessionnelle des Légumes Secs, ANILS, and he thinks it will be difficult to produce more than present levels, without increased funding into research and development to help farmers find improved growing methods. Lentils were one of the earliest domesticated crops. The name comes from the Latin lens and the optic lens took its name from the shape of the edible lentil. The plant is thought to have originated in the Middle East, from where it spread to the Mediterranean. Archaeological finds have shown lentils were eaten by the Pharaohs in Egypt and were present in the hanging gardens of Babylon. They are part of the legume family, also including beans, peas, clover and peanuts, and the lentil seeds grow in pods, with between one and two lentils per pod, of which there are up to around 60

It is a beautiful product. I am passionate about finding the best way to grow Puy lentils Franck Rocher lentil producer

on each plant. Most lentils grown in France are the green variety, la lentille verte. The most well-known are Puy lentils (sometimes known as “poor man’s caviar”), reputed to have the best taste and which carry the prestigious Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) label. Before the label was awarded in 1996, their reputation was so good that other countries called their lentils “puy” to improve sales. Green lentils are also grown in the

Berry region in central France, in the Indre and Cher, where they carry an Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) label. They can also be found in the Eureet-Loir, Yonne and Aube. There are a handful of producers in France who are experimenting with red, white and black lentils. Pioneer producer One farmer in Normandy is trying red coral lentils, but their production is more complicated because they have to be shelled before they can be sold. Franck Rocher, has his farm at Siaugues-Sainte-Marie, Haute-Loire in the heart of the AOP Puy lentil region. They owe their good reputation to the local micro-climate. In summer the hot and dry weather means that the skin of the lentil is finer than on those from other areas, which helps it cook faster. The growing conditions also mean it is less rich in starch so it is less-floury in composition and has a delicate taste. The Puy lentil’s blue tinge comes from the presence of anthocyanins, the same pigments found in blueberries, blackberries and black grapes. Mr Rocher grows wheat and maize as well as lentils, and explains that though he is passionate about growing lentils, they are more difficult than classic cereal crops: “The plant is small, about 25 -30cm tall and has a very short season. It is planted in the spring and harvested in the summer, unlike wheat, which is sown in the autumn and harvested in the summer. This means that if there is a weather problem, which could be heavy frosts, drought or excessive rain, the crop does not have time to recover. “Our lentils are grown at altitude, 1,000 metres above sea level, which means that

Clockwise, from above: Lentils were one of the earliest domesticated crops but now those from Puy enjoy a prestigious AOP label; French lentil growers are not allowed to use many chemical products; There are usually two lentils per pod

there is more chance of cold periods and storms than in other lentil growing areas. However, these conditions give the Puy lentil its charm and make it more delicious than others.” Weeds and insects are also a threat to this delicate plant: “We are allowed to use very few chemical products. The irony is, that we import tonnes and tonnes of lentils, which are grown in countries which use huge amounts of chemicals, and so it is very difficult for us to compete. This is why we would like to see more research and development into this crop to develop new cultivation methods.” From November to February, the farmers look after their soil. Lentils prefer a weed-free environment which is ploughed deep, is fine on the surface and dry. The seeds are planted when the temperature of the soil reaches 5°C, in March or April. Traditionally, planting is done in the last quarter of the moon à la lune vielle, which favours the production of the seed pods. It is harvested from July 20 to September 15. The harvested pods are collected by co-operatives or private companies which sort the lentils and remove any small stones. Mr Franck says advice given in recipes to pick over and wash lentils before use as they may contain small stones should no longer be necessary, as sorting machines have been much improved and the lentils pass through ten sorting machines before they are packed. Puy lentils are popular and Mr Franck says they can never produce enough to meet demand. In general, French green lentils are darker in colour and smaller in size than green lentils from other

countries and hold their shape. They need longer cooking times than other varieties, around 25 minutes, or less if you like them harder. They have a distinctive nutty, peppery and earthy flavour, which is even more pronounced in the Puy region lentils. You are advised not to add salt during cooking, because that makes them harder. They are full of protein, fibre, magnesium, and iron and do not contain fat, sugar or gluten, and so are highly recommended for healthy eating. Mr Franck says, despite all the difficulties in growing lentils it is a crop he loves: “It is a beautiful product. Its appeal is that it is not stable. Every year is different. I am passionate about finding the best ways to grow Puy lentils.” France is the biggest producer of pulses in Europe, and the production of chick peas has also doubled in the past three years. They are mostly found in the Lauragais area in the Midi Pyrénées between Toulouse and Carcassonne, but also in the South East, notably in the Drôme, Gard, Vaucluse, Var and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Different types of bean are found throughout France. Flageolets grow in the Essonne, Eure-et-Loir and Brittany. White Mogette beans are grown in the Vendée, as well as lingot and coco beans which are also found in the Nord and Pas-de-Calais. Broad beans are cultivated in Aquitaine and split peas have been grown in the Languedoc for 7,000 years and are also found in the Rhône Valley. However, the amount of pulses grown compared to the rest of the world remains small. Between 2008 and 2012, world production of pulses was estimated to be 72.5m tonnes per year, of which Europe produced 4m tonnes.

Photos: Chateau de la Bière


onatien et Pascale Lesellier founded the Château de la Bière in Orne, Normandy, in 2014. “We built it ourselves, just us two,” says Pascale. “We started the business in the garage but we wanted to work in nice surroundings, so that’s why we built ourselves a chateau!” (In fact, stretching out behind the wooden fort is a conventional brick construction, but it would be mean to quibble!) “We make real, living beer not dead, industrial beer. We make the real stuff. We respect the ecology, the economy, we grow our own hops, although we buy in other ingredients. We make 10 beers in all, but not simultaneously because we have seasonal beers for Christmas, for spring, and autumn.” They produce 25,000 litres of beer annually and their order book is full. Many of the surrounding bars, campsites, supermarkets and hotels stock beers from ‘the Château’ and there are even stockists in Northampton the UK. “We would like to increase production to 30,000 litres per year, but that would be the limit,” says Pascale. The demand is increasingly for kegs of beer. “Our beer is a soft-flavoured Belgian style, with very little bitterness, which complements a wide range of dishes, and we can’t keep up with demand.” This is why visits to the brewery and direct sales to the public are by arrangement only. The brewery is working flat out filling orders. “Cafés often run out, in fact, and we’re working on that.” Sadly for drinkers outside Normandy, the Château de la Bière does not offer a postal service. “It’s too heavy and we can’t control the delivery process to guarantee that the beer would reach our customers in peak condition.” Donatien Lesellier comes from a family who have run bars for generations, but he and Pascale used to run a driving school so founding the Château de la Bière is a step change for them, but one they are really glad they made. They have put their teaching skills to good use, however, and now offer week-long courses to people teaching them how to brew beer and even how to set up their own micro-brewery. “We’ve been running courses since 2017 and so far we’ve trained 46 people. We teach all the theory, techniques and practice of making beer as well as the business side of running a business; accounting, finance, marketing strategy, etc.”

Before buying wine for your cheese platter, assess the acidity and saltiness of the fromages being served

Artisan cheese of the month: La Rigotte de Condrieu Benoît Prieur/Wikimedia Commons

Meet the producers

Photos: Pixabay

Wine and Cheese 15

November 2019 I French Living

This lesser-known cheese is made from raw goat’s milk in the Lyon area (the Pilat Regional Natural Park to be precise). Moulded into small (5cm) ivory-coloured discs with a hint of blue outside, its texture is firm, yet melt-in-the-mouth. On the nose it has subtle aromas of hazelnut. It was awarded the all-important Appellation d’Origine Protégée in 2013, and it can be bought in varying degrees of maturity. Serve as a apéritif (take it out of the fridge an hour before serving), or melted on toasts. Buy in situ from the Chataignons at Gaec du Moulin des Chartreux: http://ferme-chartreux.fr

Local speciality: Choux farcis

Whilst stuffing blanched cabbage leaves has Byzantine origins, the French version – choux farcis – is a winter staple, with several regional variations. In Poitou-Charente they incorporate a drizzle of Cognac, while in the Massif Central, for example in Averyon, the speciality is with added blettes (chard). Pork belly, ham and beef shin are bound with egg, flour and stock. Serve with potatoes. Available ready to heat from www.bienmanger.com

The basics of food and wine matching

Unsure of what goes with what? Jonathan Hesford offers a beginner’s buying guide

A year in the vineyard


ine is the drink that we associate most with food and mealtimes. While some wines are nice to drink on their own, the vast majority of wines, particularly French, provide even more pleasure when accompanying an appropriate food. Many French people would only consider drinking wine when they are eating. The only types of wine that are commonly served without food are sparkling wines, like Champagne, and sweet wines, such as a fortified Muscat. Even then, some sort of nibble is often available, or a bottle of fizz is opened with dessert. The key to matching wine with food is understanding how the acidity, tannin and concentration of the wine will combine with the flavours and textures of the food. There are a few rules of thumb that usually help achieve a nice match. Starting with white wine, acidity is the most important factor. Whites with high acidity, like those from the Loire, Bordeaux and Alsace, will go well with food that is fatty, oily and lacking in acidity of its own. Crisp whites also

Cheese has varying degrees of acidity (sharpness) and saltiness. It is worth thinking about those factors before choosing a wine for the cheese platter

contrast with creamy sauces to create balance and stop the food feeling too rich and heavy. On the other hand, a meal with its own acidity, perhaps provided by citrus juice, will want a richer, less acidic white wine such as a Viognier, Marsanne or Grenache blanc from the southern Rhône or Languedoc-Roussillon. Otherwise the combination will just feel too sharp on the palate and the stomach. The second consideration is trying to match the strength of flavours. You do not want the food to overpower the wine or vice versa. That is why something relatively bland like Muscadet or Picpoul de Pinet is a good match for delicately flavoured seafood. An oaky Chardonnay from Burgundy can stand up well to stronger flavoured fish or tasty chicken dishes without a rich sauce. With red wine, concentration and acidity are also important but now tannin comes into play too. Lighter, low-tannin reds such as Beaujolais and lesser Burgundies, served slightly chilled, go well with delicate meat dishes like blanquette de veau or a roasted filet mignon of pork. They can also be a good match with patés and terrines. At the other end of the scale, a hearty beef stew or cassoulet will suit a more full-bodied red like those of the Rhône and the south-west. Tannin is the perfect counterbalance to protein-rich foods. Syrah from the Rhône and Cabernet from Bordeaux both go well with steak. The tannin in these red wines seems to break down the protein in meat and cheeses to make them more palatable, at the same time as softening the tannins and taking away any sense of dryness in the mouth. However, many cheeses, especially creamier ones, go better with white wine than they do with red. Cheese has varying degrees of acidity (sharpness) and saltiness. It is worth thinking about those factors before choosing a wine for the cheese platter. You do not really want a high-acid white wine with a sharp cheese. It would

be better with something smoother such as Camembert or Chaumes. Sweet wines, especially white ones like Sauternes and Coteaux du Layon, are particularly nice with sharper, saltier cheeses, including blue ones. Aged hard cheeses like Comté and Cantal have enough saltiness and richness to go with red wines as well as richer whites. Tasting a handful of cheeses with two or three different wines is a fun way to discover what works and what doesn’t. Many famous regional dishes are well suited to the wines produced in those regions. This is not a coincidence. In the past, food was much more regional and seasonal than today. Innkeepers and wealthy families would choose the local wines which suited their dishes. Therefore local winemakers would strive to make wines which were selected by those establishments because they would make more profit. Over time, the grape varieties grown and the style of wine made in a region became adapted to the kind of dishes served to wealthy residents and travellers. This forms the historical context of the Appellation d’Origine labelling for the best wines of a region – while the rest were referred to as Vin de Pays or Vin de Table, meaning for the poorer people of the region. Today we have the luxury of eating food and drinking wines from many different regions and countries and almost everyone can afford to eat dishes once reserved for the privileged. Faced with so much choice it is difficult and confusing to match the right wine with a meal. Going back to traditional regional paring is one good way to succeed but experimentation across cultures and regions can provide interesting combinations. In any case, what we should be aiming for is synergy, where the combination of the wine and the food is better, or more interesting, than each on its own. Jonathan Hesford has a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology and is the winemaker of Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon – www.domainetreloar.com

16 Homes

French Living I November 2019

Fashion historian’s no-fuss interiors Catherine Synave visits the Paris home of fashion historian Olivier Saillard, where she discovers his taste for a simple colour palette and a love of bespoke oak furniture


hristian Lacroix and Azzedine Alaïa are two names that are close to Olivier Saillard’s heart. Both of them are/were generous and incisive observers of his work as a curator and historian, and of his poetic approach to fashion. While still a student at the Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier, Saillard sent a letter and sketches to Lacroix, who replied: “Your drawings are what they are, your knowledge is what it is, and what will happen for you will happen. . . .” After a few missed meetings, an exhibition on Lacroix, and the theatre in Marseille and then Paris, they finally met up and became friends, sharing a love of books. Alaïa liked to cook meals for a cosmopolitan crowd of artists, including Saillard, who saw in him there a freedom of spirit, a witty and affectionate character, and an unapologetic zest for life that he found irresistible. When Saillard became director of the Palais Galliera, the museum dedicated to fashion in Paris’s chic 8th arrondissement, the retrospective exhibition that he curated of Alaïa’s work attracted the most distinguished names from the art and fashion worlds in Paris and beyond.

Saillard lives in the mixed and vibrant 1st arrondissement of Paris, with its smart addresses and social rituals, and the Louvre and Place Vendôme at its heart. People say that the apartments he chooses are all similar, with interiors that avoid anything remotely formulaic, which

Above: Olivier Saillard sketches designs for oak furniture and employs a joiner Left: On the bedroom wall, Francis Picabia’s customer record card at Louis Vuitton, created by Katerina Jebb after a scan of archive documents.

Extract from Tastemakers at Home: Parisian Interiors by Catherine Synave, with photography by Guillaume de Laubier and, left, Katerina Jebb. Published by Flammarion

would be so out of character for him. The furniture is invariably a strongly defined presence, forming settings or backdrops to daily life that are constant, with an unchanging vocabulary and a simple and slightly surprising artisanal or “impoverished” quality, as in Arte Povera. The palette is also a constant, in shades of brown, beige, and wood tones. He has always loved wood for the way it ages, like leather, for its patina and its bumps and dents, which only add to its beauty (is it a coincidence that he once lived on rue de l’Arbre-Sec, literally “Dry Tree Street”?). There are tables everywhere, to the point of obsessiveness. According to their proportions, he uses them as dining tables, high storage for books, stands, shelves, a bed, and a seat. He sketches the designs for them and gives the dimensions to a joiner who makes them for him in dark oak: “I wanted things that were mine, made for me and created by me.” When he talks about art, he often refers to Arte Povera. He loves the beauty found in everyday objects, in simple means: a little knotted rope pinned to a length of raw canvas stretched between a couple of nails; lamps clipped to the corners of pieces of furniture; feathers found in a box where some eighteenth-century gowns had been stored away; placeholders imprinted with the lipstick kisses of guests including Catherine Deneuve, Tilda Swinton, and Charlotte Rampling. Books have always been a presence, all of them covered in once-white paper that the light, with age, has turned shades of yellow or gray: “I dislike the look of all the different-coloured spines in a bookcase,” he says. He covers them with the care of a florist wrapping delicate blooms, writing the titles on labels that he cuts out like lace. “How do you manage to find the one you want?” people ask. When he is looking for a book but finds another one that seems even better, he takes this as a sign, he replies, or a delightful surprise.

Get the look Browse the French high street and online options to mimic the simple interiors of the historian’s Paris apartment... Prices and availability correct at time of going to press. Cover me Get yourself winter-ready with a cosy couvre-lit (bed throw) or a couverture (blanket) in laine (wool). This LIMA merino wool one from Blanc des Vosges costs €375. shop.blancdesvosges.fr Jaune et jeune Olivier Saillard lends a splash of yellow to bring vibrancy to the mainly muted tones of his home. Do the same with this bedside lamp from Maisons du Monde, which costs just €17.45. www.maisonsdumonde.com Pining for a kitchen table Bespoke oak furniture is not within everyone’s budget, which is why suppliers such as La Redoute are a great option. This Lunja table in solid pine seats up to eight and costs €379. www.laredoute.fr

Hidden histories 17

November 2019 I French Living

Millennium of miracles, faith and tourism


t does not take a genius to understand why Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most iconic tourist destinations, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors every year. This island off the coast of Normandy, with its gravity-defying abbey, manages to be both ridiculously romantic and to exude the mystical spirituality of its past. A site of miracles and a pilgrim destination for more than 1,000 years, like Notre-Dame in Paris, Mont-Saint-Michel is part of France’s cultural DNA. But why is it named after St Michael? A 10th-century text describes how, in 708, the archangel Michael told Aubert, bishop of Avranches, to build him an oratory on a tiny island inhabited by hermits called Mount Tombe. Aubert ignored his request, so St Michael returned and burned a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger. This persuaded Aubert to go ahead and build a shrine on Mount Tombe, which he then sensibly dedicated to St Michael, on 16 October, 708. The bishop then received miraculous assistance from a child, who rolled enormous stones to the site simply by touching them with his foot. Bishop Aubert sanctified the altar of the new shrine with two relics, brought to him by messengers from the Italian monastery of Monte Gargano, Apulia, where the archangel had appeared in 492: a piece of St Michael’s red garment, and a fragment of the stone on which the saint had placed his foot. Twelve holy men guarded the sanctuary, proving the powerful spiritual aura of these relics to 8th-century Christians. The oratory was replaced by an abbey, which burned down in 922 according to a 12th-century manuscript created by a young monk of Mont-Saint-Michel. A later version of the manuscript, held

at The British Library, includes a dramatic illustration of this event, with the abbey engulfed in flames. In 966, Richard, Duke of Normandy, established an order of Benedictine monks there, who set about reconstructing the stricken church and establishing a scriptorium, where they copied and illustrated manuscripts by hand. The new abbey was finished in 1080, and it is from this point that Mont-Saint-Michel began to attract pilgrims in serious numbers. Pilgrims often travelled substantial distances to worship at the altar of St Michel and, just like modern visitors, wanted to take a little something home to remind them of the spectacular spiritual site. Badges were the number-one pilgrim souvenir, and Mont-Saint-Michel boasted a thriving badge-making industry throughout the middle ages. We know this, because in 2007 archaeologists discovered at the entrance to the abbey a cache of pilgrim-badge moulds that have been dated to workshops from the 14th and 15th centuries. These moulds were undoubtedly used to make thousands of badges, and depict subjects ranging from images of the archangel Michael to pilgrim symbols like the scallop shells of St James. The journey to worship the relics of the archangel Michael was not without risk. Standing tall above a 12-mile stretch of tideland between Normandy and Brittany, the abbey was cut off from the mainland twice a day. Until the modern causeway was built, Mont-Saint-Michel claimed the lives of many pilgrims crossing the sandbanks. Trapped by the rising tide, countless pious travellers drowned before reaching their destination. Not for nothing was it also known as Saint-Michelau-Péril-de-la-Mer. By the 11th century MontSaint-Michel’s fame was so great, it even showed up in the Bayeux Tapestry. The island abbey appears in scene 17, which depicts the Anglo-Saxon king Harold crossing the river Couesnon near Mont-Saint-Michel, and leading his men, some on horseback, through and out of the dangerous quicksand. Visitors to the sacred mount today do not need to fear for their safety. A causeway elevated above the treacherous sands leads to the island, where travellers can climb the lung-busting ascent to the abbey perched atop the rock. You may not be able to bring back a genuine medieval pilgrim badge, but you won’t come home empty-handed. The commerce of spiritual souvenirs is alive and well in Mont-Saint-Michel!


Photo: L. Leloup Normandy Tourism

In her series revealing the hidden histories of France’s cultural hotspots, art historian Julia Faiers turns the spotlight on Mont-Saint-Michel

Want to know more? Read this: Mont Saint Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams (Penguin Classics, 1986) The Four Roads to Heaven: France and the Santiago Pilgrimage by Edwin Mullins (Signal Books, 2017) Online: Find out events happening, and the times of the tides, at: ot-montsaintmichel.com Even more history – in English – at www.abbaye-mont-saint-michel.fr/en/Explore/L-histoire-de-l-abbaye-du-MontSaint-Michel


2. The Bayeux Tapestry, scene 17, showing Harold’s soldiers and horses crossing the quicksand in front of Mont-Saint-Michel (visible near the top of the scene).


3. The abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, with its impressive Gothic rib vault springing from pillars topped with carved capitals. Photo: V. Joannon, Normandy Tourism

Photo: Bayeux Tapestry © Bayeux Museum

1. Mont-Saint-Michel, seen at high tide, from the mainland.

18 Puzzles

French Living I November 2019

Bilingual cryptic crossword

by Parolles Answers are in French and English Across 1 Conservative to invite scorn (8) 5 Gisele’s to catch most of musical drama after church (6) 9 Make more interesting when appearing for trial with a Spice Girl (6,2) 10 Follows the trail of sharp pointed objects without resistance (6) 11 Not required in section on sewing instruments (8) 12 Cousteau’s to refine earliest of plans to go by river through the heart of Cameroon (6) 14 Criminal’s assistant gets head of Metz police to change account earlier (10) 18 Angry voice describing fellow sick of the US presidency (4,6) 22 Benoit’s to bore a hole in rough outer cover eventually (6) 23 Those with principal roles in a spacecraft (8) 24 Grants to provide top class hospital accommodation (6)

Down 1 Information on blood type introduced to court is compelling (6) 2 New article on collection returning to this French city (6) 3 Regularly found in flat on the outskirts of Llanelly (6) 4 Model seen outside American restaurant having French liqueur (6-4) 6 Old American performer Lena reportedly gets to sing and dance (8) 7 Good to have warm clothing in this region of France (8) 8 Book in French about priest’s assistant during Mass (8) 13 Rene’s refusal to have dealings with former English cricketer over time (10) 15 Acrobat performing before start of Egyptian rowing competition (4-4) 16 An all round view from either side of the Channel (8) 17 Extremely lazy noble failed to accommodate Muslim festival (4-4)

25 Chatter in Nice about liberal bishop (8) 26 Leontine’s to amaze father with first of excuses (6) 27 Noemie’s to clean fabric on toy zebra regularly (8)

19 It’s unusual in paintings by Degas for instance (6) 20 Unfriendly country by the sound of it (6) 21 Levasseur’s to operate on pastor before being arrested by soldiers (6)

French-themed crossword

by John Foley Note all answers are words or names associated with France Across


1 Television police and legal drama series set in Paris starring Caroline Proust and Grégory Fitoussi (10)

2 Amas de gouttelettes d’eau en suspension dans l’air (5)

9 Nuts used in the production of marzipan (7) 10 Stupified or dazed (5) 11 ‘Le ____ révolutionnaire est un ____ moral’ – Victor Hugo (4) 12 Department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region known for its sweet chestnuts (7) 14 Masculine adults (6) 16 Petit cahier pour écrire des notes (6) 19 Mélange de salades (7) 21 A disappointed or disillusioned person (4) 24 In love with someone or something (5) 25 Old-fashioned armless eyewear (7) 26 Seaport on the Golfe de Gascogne and capital of the Charente-Maritime department (2,8)


1 More in Morbihan

I AM a perched village in the Côte d’Or, Burgundy, and I am classed a Plus Beaux Village. Caesar probably had a camp nearby during the Battle of Alesia. I developed around a Benedictine abbey with origins back in the 8th century, which is still noted for the production of aniseed-flavoured sweets...

4 Nasal cavity opening (6) 5 Fruit du chêne (5) 6 A very small amount – just to give a taste (7) 7 Similarly, a small amount – the size of a hazelnut? (8) 8 Country house – particularly in Provence (3) 13 Historic town in the Savoie department whose attractions include the Fountain of the Elephants, or ‘Quatre sans-cul’ – as the elephants lack their backsides (8) 15 Strong, cold, dry wind – common in winter and spring in the south (7) 17 Principality in the eastern Pyrenees bordered by France and Spain (7) 18 Completely – as for example in ‘to deny everything’: nier __ ____ (2,4) 20 Device – émettant une lumière très puissante (5)


3 Getting crafty in Jura

22 Voie artificielle – such as that constructed by Paul Riquet in the Midi (5) 23 Long-eared mammal of the horse family (3)

THE Jura mountains are known for ski resorts, great hiking, cheesemaking and green expanses of stunning wilderness. It is also a hotbed of creativity and traditional crafts.. Q: Can you match these towns with their respective noteworthy products 1. Oyonnax A. Pipes 2. Morez B. Glasses 3. Saint-Claude C. Toys 4. Moirans D. Combs

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MORBIHAN is the department in southern Brittany known for its Carnac megalithic stones, golf courses, seaside resorts (such as Locmariaquer, pictured), spa resorts and festivals such as the Lorient Festival Interceltique. It also happens to be the only department whose name is in a regional dialect.. Q: But what does Morbihan mean in Breton?

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Photo: Wikimedia/Tom Corser

Fun French facts


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Puzzles 19

November 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: A gateway that survived despite friendly fire...

Test your knowledge of France with our Connexion quiz

13 On what side do French trains run?


14 When German forces occupied France, they changed the time so that Paris and Germany would be in the same time zone. This meant that trains going from occupied territory into unoccupied territory had to wait for 1 hour at the border in order to arrive on time in unoccupied France. In what year was the time made the same all over France to avoid these complications?

Which satirical left wing newspaper started during the First World War, features investigative journalism, cartoons and jokes, was a victim of censorship, and does not accept any form of advertisement within its pages?

6 Which French currency stopped being used after the beheading of King Louis the XVI in 1792? 7 Which classic French dessert combines egg whites and “crème anglaise” (custard)? Which ancient Unesco heritage monument started as an aqueduct, then became a tollgate in the Middle Ages and finally a road bridge from the 18th to 20th century?

Photo: Andy Hay


15 How many villages near Verdun were flattened during the First World War, remain uninhabited, but also still have a mayor? 16 Can you name the French navy ship dedicated to tracking and measuring rocket trajectories with the most powerful radars in Europe? 17 Which King of France only ruled for 20 minutes?


4 What is French toast called in French?

Guess the region This is Sisteron in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Spanning the Durance river, it is known as the gateway to Provence. In the Second World War, Allied bombers accidentally dropped bombs on the citadel, killing 100 and destroying buildings. Photo: Pixabay

12 How many libraries are there in Paris?

20 How many French cities have a population of over 1 million people?

Quiz 1 Beaujolais Nouveau, 2 “minou”, 3 “un carpaccio”, 4 “pain perdu”, 5 Le Canard Enchaîné, 6 Le Louis d’or, 7 Ile Flottante , 8 Le Pont du Gard , 9 2006, 10 French Guiana, 11 1920, 12 830, 13 the left, 14 1941, 15 6, 16 Monge, 17 Louis XIX, 18 Mont Saint-Michel, 19 2016, 20 1.

3 What would you order if you wished to eat very thinly sliced raw steak or fish?

11 The French Communist Party (PCF) has made French culture what it is today; when was it started?

19 When did France ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food?

Anagram: BCP is short for beaucoup

10 Which is the only DOM-ROM (Overseas Departments and Regions) that is not an island or archipelago?

Bilingual cryptic crossword Across: 1 Contempt, 5 Choper, 9 Ginger up, 10 Tracks, 11 Needless, 12 Epurer, 14 Accomplice, 18 Oval Office, 22 Trouer, 23 Starship, 24 Awards, 25 Babiller, 26 Epater, 27 Nettoyer.

Use the first letter from the first word (excluding pronouns) from answers 1, 3 and 8 to write an abbreviation used in texts and emails.

18 Which UNESCO world heritage site is situated 1km from the coast of Normandy?

Down: 1 Cogent, 2 Nantes, 3 Evenly, 4 Pousse-café, 6 Hornpipe, 7 Picardie, 8 Réserver, 13 Boycottage, 15 Boat-race, 16 Panorama, 17 Bone-idle, 19 Artist, 20 Chilly, 21 Opérer.

9 In what year did France ban smoking in indoor public places?

French-themed crossword Across: 1 Engrenages, 9 amandes, 10 ahuri, 11 sens, 12 Ardèche, 14 hommes, 16 carnet, 19 mesclun, 21 déçu, 24 épris, 25 lorgnon, 26 La Rochelle.

2 Which word is used as an endearment to a boyfriend or husband and is also the French baby talk for “cat”?

Try our quiz

Down: 2 nuage, 3 rudesse, 4 naseau, 5 gland, 6 soupçon, 7 noisette, 8 mas, 13 Chambéry, 15 mistral, 17 Andorre, 18 en bloc, 20 laser, 22 canal, 23 âne.

Which are the only vineyards, apart from Champagne, in which hand harvesting is mandatory? Hint: ⅓ of the wine produced there is famed for being released every year on the third Thursday of November.

Fun French facts 1 Morbihan means ‘petite mer’ in Breton (little sea). 2 Flavigny-sur-Ozerain 3 1D; 2B; 3A; 4C.


20 Reviews French films

French Living I November 2019 The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris Ruby Boukabou, White Owl, £14.99 ISBN: 978-1526733658 This book is excellent for anyone who is planning a trip to Paris but even more suitable for those living there. It is a guide full of information, history and tips on everything related to art, culture and architecture. The book is divided into different sections and themes which make it easier to find what you could be looking for or what interests you.

A critical eye on the latest ciné releases Dilili in Paris

It traces the history of the arts in Paris and the author does not overlook the essentials and the capital’s bestknown museums, such as Le Louvre, Musée d’Orsay or Quai Branly. However, if you already know about these there is much more to discover as you can also learn about smaller galleries, the best public places to see street art, nice cafés

and restaurants, and how to attend an art auction and buy a piece. There are great tips on how to participate in art workshops and also a reminder of all the annual events and other art fairs in Paris. The little extra thing is that readers can also get to know more about Paris’ architecture and find the best viewpoints in the city as well as nice loca-

tions to take memorable photographs. The only thing missing may be the prices of museums, but the author always mentions when entrance is free. The author also gives advice on some cultural day trips, not too far away from Paris if you are looking for another art getaway. Chantilly and Fontainebleau are notably on the list.

Books – The 20 minute review

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

Michel Ocelot; 95 mins THE 75-year-old director of this charming film set in Belle Epoque Paris is perhaps France’s best known animator, and his latest effort won the César for animated feature at the 2019 awards. Accepting the prize, he declared: “Long live women, long live girls”, a reference to the feminist, pedagogical narrative that follows the titular Dilili, a native Kanak (from French Caledonia). The young stowaway, a polite and bright girl, arrives in a Paris at the height of the City of Light’s creative powers, and teams up with a delivery boy called Orel to investigate the mysterious kidnapping of young girls by a group called ‘The Master Men’. Orel seems to be on first name terms with all the major artistic and scientific figures, so their sleuthing takes in impromptu, clue-seeking meetings with the likes of Rodin, ToulouseLautrec, Marie Curie, Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Pasteur and Gustave Eiffel. 2D animations are superimposed over modern day photographs – taken by the director – of locations such as Opéra Garnier, Moulin Rouge and Montmartre, which lend a stunning aesthetic. An insightful, fun treat for kids and an enjoyable romp for adults too!

Also out: La vie scolaire (School life)

A gritty, realistic and humour-laden tale of a young teacher from Ardèche who is thrown in at the deep end when she arrives to teach teenagers at a tough Paris school.

Lullaby Leïla Slimani, Faber & Faber, £12.99 ISBN: 978-0-571-33753-8 This novel is often described as the ‘French Gone Girl’. A successful couple, Myriam and Paul, have everything they could wish for: a beautiful apartment in Paris and two children that Myriam does not want to leave and continues to look after, even if she could have returned to work. But their perfect life is going to be turned upside down when Myriam finally decides to work again. As a lawyer, she finds herself fully committed to her job, although she always feels a bit guilty not to be with her children. She and her husband hire a nanny in her forties, Louise, who looks like the perfect second mother of the children. She quickly creates a close relationship with them and becomes a vital addition to the family, relied upon her for cleaning, cooking and taking care of the children. However, as we know from the first very page, the nanny is going to kill the children. The more we read the more we discover about her – she has a lot to hide. The gripping story was inspired by a real case that happened in Manhattan a few years ago.

Editor’s choice

The Kommandant’s House Marian Rowan, Crux Publishing, £8.99 ISBN: 978-1-909979-83-3

A Nice Cup of Tea Celia Imrie, Bloomsbury, £12.99 ISBN: 978-1-4088-8326-6

From war to love, loyalty to family, this novel deals with several themes mixed together. It all starts when the Nazi army arrives in a village in Haute-Marne, in July 1940. Nobody knows how long they are going to stay and most of the French villagers remain defiant during the occupation although it is seen as a way to keep peace for the Kommandant and his soldiers. The Kommandant, the chief of the army, has settled into the house belonging to Marguerite and her mother, but the mother – who is raising her children alone – would have preferred to avoid having a German in her house and is being quite rude to him. She first refuses to cook for him – despite promises made by her daughter – as they need to save money since the departure of her father. As the mother continues to hate Germans, Marguerite, who has two brothers, finds a father figure in the Kommandant, to whom she becomes really close during this hard time for the chief. He, too, sees in Marguerite a copy of his own daughter and her baby brother reminds him of his own son. At the beginning, we learn plenty about him and his feelings as he writes some letters to his wife. He then gives up writing letters to write a diary which he thinks he will be able to give to his wife when he is back in Germany in a few months. On the other hand, Marguerite always makes her mother angry and she ends up living a secret life when she falls in love with a young German soldier. The 14-year-old teenager benefits from the help of the Kommandant, who has seen her hiding her secrets from her mother and suspects her romance with his soldier. He offers her a diary so she can confide and write about her secrets. The Kommandant and Marguerite are the two main characters but it is interesting to see their two different perceptions of life during the occupation. The innocent Marguerite is trying to live her teenage years while the Kommandant is trying to do his job. Although he cannot wait to be back in Germany with his wife and children, he has to be brave to continue managing his soldiers while the Resistance is secretly becoming stronger in the village.

This book is the third of a series about five retired expats living on the French Riviera, between Monaco and Cannes. They have united their efforts and funds to launch their own restaurant, La Mosaïque, in the village of Bellevue-sur-Mer, but the restaurant is not working that well and they decide to sell it via an auction. If everything seems to work according to plan at the beginning, there is trouble in paradise when they learn that a painting by Picasso in the restaurant will prevent them from getting the profits of the auction. At this point, everything goes wrong and the group of friends need to find a solution to survive. They come up with another idea: they are going to deliver food with a van. Not everyone is enthusiastic about this idea, especially Sally, a former actress who keeps on thinking about her acting days. Moreover, personal problems add up and it is not going to be easy to manage a business and their personal life. This story might be easier to understand and follow for those who have read the first novels of Celia Imrie, Not Quite Nice and Nice Work (If You Can Get It). Mrs Imrie writes light stories and this book remains easy to read if you are looking for a little break or if you are on holiday.

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here are certain French words which, despite having origins in local dialects, are used in everyday conversation all around the country – and many have charming etymological backstories. Here we reveal the diverse and disputed provenance of a Connexion favourite. Baragouiner is a much-loved verb with Breton origins that is used to describe the act of babbling, talking incomprehensibly, or gibberish, often in reference to how badly someone speaks a foreign language. For example, if you want to tell someone you do not speak much French, say: “Je baragouine quelques mots de français” (“I can only say a few basic words in French”). Ironically, your vocabulary will impress! There are several disputed sources of the word’s creation. A popular belief is that the

It is a much-loved verb use to describe the act of babbling

word emerged in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when soldiers from around France mixed but could not communicate with each other very well, due to their diverse vocabularies or accents. Baragouiner may come from one of two composites of Breton words: first, bara (bread) and gwin (wine) – muttered by ravenous soldiers much to the confusion of colleagues from elsewhere in France. Secondly, bara and gwenn (white) – may have been conjoined when soldiers, unused to such refinement, were given white bread for the first time when housed with bourgeois families. However, etymologists believe it goes much further back, dating perhaps from 1580 when Montaigne used it, or historian Du Cange’s 17th century use of barragouyn to infer crude or barbaric behaviour (from the Latin barbarus). We prefer the bread and wine version, even if it is a little disparaging to the communication skills of our Breton friends!

Shopping/Did you know? 21

November 2019 I French Living

Main photo: Danielclauzier/Wikimedia; Inset: Wikimedia/Piublic domain


New products, designs and ideas from around France

Be cool, stay warm!

Tobacco was formerly sold in carrot-shaped rolls, now the vegetable sign is obligatory

Roll up, roll up! Here’s why tabac sign is carrot-shaped WHETHER you are an amateur skier, a downhill expert or just looking to fend off the cold this winter, Skidress has a stylish, high quality range of garments. The company dates from 1930 in Strasbourg, and one of its founders, Alsatian industrialist Charles Diebold,

helped to found Val D’Isère as a ski resort, as well as launching the first Ecole Française de Ski. The eclectic clothing and accessories ranges for men and women include a gilet (main photo) from €149. https://skidress.fr/en

Time for festive flamboyance

A sweet countdown

ESTABLISHED in 1862, cognac house Meukow was founded by Auguste-Christophe and Gustav Meukow, two brothers from Silesia, who were sent to France by Tsar Alexander II of Russia with orders to secure the supply of cognac for the Court. Today the brand’s range – notable for the panther logo created in 1993 – is overseen by cellar master Anne Sarteaux, who rigorously monitors the blending and ageing process. To maintain the Meukow style, she mainly uses Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne Cognacs, notable for the rich complexity of their floral notes. For Christmas, Meukow has launched two gift items: a ‘coffret’ featuring a bottle of Meukow VS (notes of almond, confit orange and licorice) and two Melodia glasses (€35.90); and a festively flamboyant red bottle, priced €38.50 for 70cl. www.meukowcognac.com/en

WHO doesn’t love an advent calendar? Indulge your inner child in the run-up to Christmas with an exciting daily treat from Bonne Maman. The French jam and biscuit maker has launched its 2019 Calendrier de l’Avent with 24 sweet surprises, ranging from small pots of jam to pâtes de fruits and sablé biscuits. How will you resist opening just one window a day? The calendar is priced €29.99, and available exclusively in shops. www.bonne-maman.com

Gifted jewellers PARIS concept store Empreintes, located at 5 rue de Picardie in the Haut-Marais, specialises in Made in France artisan craft pieces, with a huge range of products encompassing everything from furniture and leather goods to tableware, glass or crystalware, and from soft furnishings to one-off jewellery pieces. As well as the in-store buying option, it also has a website packed with gift ideas and producer profiles, while for latest additions to the range you can visit the company’s Instagram page. Among the Christmas present ideas offered as we go to press are, clockwise from top right: an ethnic sapphire ring by Andréa Chereau (€58); the Ventome ring by Marthe Cresson (approx €115); Salomé Charly’s D Vernon necklace, handcut from cherry wood (€175); and, inset, Amandine Jannin’s Ciel ring (18K white gold, blue topaz and paving with precious stones), priced €5,900. www.empreintes-paris.com/en

Did you know?


he symbol for a Bureau de Tabac is called a carotte rouge (red carrot) and has been the obligatory sign for these specialist shops selling cigarettes and tobacco since 1906. Modern signs are more in the shape of an elongated diamond, but they have always been linked to a carrot. One common reason given to explain the shape and name of this iconic French shop sign is the old practise of using carrots to keep tobacco moist. However, the more likely explanation is that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries chewing tobacco was sold in rolls of compressed leaves in a shape similar to that of a carrot. The user then had to grate the tobacco. The signs have never been coloured orange though. They were originally brown or red, but now they are always red. In 2015, buralistes, angry at the change in the law which introduced neutral cigarette packets dumped tons of carrots in front of prefectures and government buildings, showing that they see the carrot as their symbol. The first Bureaux de Tabacs opened in 1716, shortly after the arrival of tobacco in France in the mid-16th century. It was introduced by the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, who grew tobacco in his garden. He gave it in powder form to Catherine de’ Medici to give to her son, François II to cure his migraines. It was often

called l’herbe à la reine or l’herbe à Nicot and it was regarded as a medicinal herb and drunk as a tisane. France quickly understood the tax benefits of this new plant and in 1674, King Louis XIV’s astute Finance Minister, Colbert, made tobacco sales and its manufacture a state monopoly. Tobacco was now grown in France, it was very popular, and good for the government’s coffers. From the very start Bureaux de Tabacs were controlled by the State. The monopoly was abolished by the Revolution, but Napoleon quickly re-instated it in 1810. In 1809, the chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (pictured, inset) discovered tobacco’s active ingredient, nicotine, and he suspected it to be a poison. In the 1830s, the cigarette arrived and it was cheap and accessible to everyone. By the mid-19th century doctors were already worrying about the health risks and the Association Française Contre l’Abus du Tabac was created in 1868. Bureaux de Tabac are still controlled by the state and anyone wishing to open one has to apply to the Customs Department. However, there are very few new applications and an increasing number of bureaux are closing as prices go up and the number of smokers goes down. In 1970 there were nearly 49,000 bureaux in France. Today, there are around 28,000. Earlier this year an agreement was drawn up to allow buralistes who run the Bureaux de Tabacs to apply for grants and advice to diversify and keep alive the tradition of the bureaux de tabac – found all over France with their symbolic carrot sign.

22 History

French Living I November 2019

‘I have a little idea’ ... five words that began a charity revolution in France

Photo: Aimelaime / Wikipedia

castic, his targets were society’s moral and political values, and he did not pull his punches, although he was never merely vulgar for the sake of it. Nowadays, many comedians use the same techniques, but at that time he was breaking new ground. In 1980, he announced that he was running for president, and polls showed that around 16% of voters supported him. Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo organised a campaign, proclaiming that he was the only candidate with no reason to lie. He withdrew from the race, however, after pressure from the main parties. In 1981, he and Véronique divorced, after just six years of marriage. It was the start of a particularly chaotic period in Coluche’s life, marked by excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs. He posed for a magazine cover carrying a .22 rifle that he then gave to his friend Patrick Dewaere. Living in Guadeloupe, he persuaded Patrick’s wife to leave her husband and join him there. Patrick subsequently used the .22 rifle to take his own life. In 1983, he starred in the gritty drama Tchao Pantin and won a César for Best Actor, which accelerated his film career. Alongside filming, he became increasingly engaged in charity work. “Je ne suis pas un nouveau riche, je suis un ancien pauvre” (“I’m not new rich, I’m old poor”), he declared. He lobbied extensively for the Loi Coluche (1988) which allows private individuals or businesses to deduct 75% of their donations to certain charities from their income tax. In response to the famine in Ethiopia in 1984, he sang on SOS Ethiopie and took part in the SOS Racisme concert. In 1985, he launched the Restos du Coeur association to provide homeless people with meals during the winter. He made the announcement on the radio in a famous speech that began “I have a little idea...” The same month that he announced the foundation of his charity, he also set a world speed record (252kph) on his 750cc motorcycle. Less than a year later, aged 41, he died when his Honda 1100 was involved in a collision with a truck on a winding road near Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes). His funeral was conducted by Abbé Pierre. While France, as a nation, went into mourning, conspiracy theories surrounding his death abounded, a record Putain de Camion (Damned Truck) was recorded and a book was written.

Photo: couscouschocolat / Flickr


omedian and actor Michel Colucci (1944-1986) – better known as Coluche – was famous for his trademark hairstyle, and his irreverent and often profane sense of humour. But his lasting legacy is the Restos du Coeur homelessness charity. Born in Paris, he and his sister were brought up by his widowed mother on her meagre wages as a florist. Young Michel was not particularly motivated at school, acting as the class clown and making fun of the teacher. Having left school in 1958 (aged 14) he drifted in and out trouble with the police, and tried various jobs – including waiter, delivery boy, apprentice photographer, assistant in a pharmacy, greengrocer, and florist – until in 1964 he joined the army at the age of 20. His mother gave him a guitar for his 21st birthday, which he taught himself to play. He quickly found that music was more to his taste than life in the army, where he was – almost predictably – jailed for insubordination. Back in civvy street, he worked in his mother’s shop as a florist but walked out, leading to a long-lasting rift between them. He tried his luck playing guitar and singing in cafés and managed to make something approaching a living. More importantly, he also made a network of contacts in the entertainment business, and finally he turned to comedy, becoming a founder member of Paris’s most famous fringe theatre the ‘Café de la Gare’. Many of the other founders also went on to become famous, but because of a drinking habit, Coluche did not work there long. During the 70s he began making appearances on radio and television, and in minor film roles, and then founded another group called ‘Le Vrai Chic Parisien’, but again his addictions led to him leaving the group. In 1975 he married Véronique Kantor. They had two sons together, Marius and Romain. But his addictions and difficult behaviour meant he was once again working solo. It was at this point that he developed his trademark look of white tennis shoes, stripy blue dungarees and yellow t-shirt, and became famous with a parody of a TV game show. He was still a rebel, however, and still risked getting the sack for going too far. His sense of humour was acidic and sar-

Photo: LNA

Much-loved comedian Coluche struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, won a César for his role in gritty drama Tchao Pantin, ran for President, founded Restos du Coeur, and died in a motorbike crash, writes Samantha David

Top left: a statue in Paris honouring the actor and comedian’s individual dress sense. Top right: Coluche unveils his plans for Restos du Coeur on TV in 1985. Bottom, a shrine at the scene of the crash, near Grasse, in which Coluche was killed, less than a year after he launched the famous charity

Je ne suis pas un nouveau riche, je suis un ancien pauvre Coluche

An annual fundraiser was established that still runs today. It is staged every January, and the stars of which call themselves Les Enfoirés – which is not a polite word! The event – and linked annual charity single – raises about €10million annually for the Restos du Coeur which has now grown into a massive organisation, almost totally run by volunteers. “We don’t just provide free meals, that’s more or less just an entry point via which people find us,” said Sophie Ladegaillerie, who volunteers with them. “We work all year round, and when people come to a centre, we talk to them and try to uncover the problem so we can give legal assistance, or help them get benefits, or healthcare or whatever. “Administration is so difficult in France, people get depressed, overwhelmed and don’t even apply for benefits.” They organise French lessons, English

Local history 23 Photo: Nitot / Wikimedia

November 2019 I French Living

The picturesque coastal village of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in La Manche

France’s favourite village an ancient English landing site Jane Hanks looks back at the war-trodden history of picturesque coastal town Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, not far from Cherbourg Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue

holiday, access culture and leisure activities, have days out. “When you’re poor you don’t do anything the same as everyone else. You don’t buy new clothes, you don’t go to the hairdresser, you don’t see a film or have a picnic and so you have less to say, you are more excluded – you lose confidence and down you go.” “The stuff that we all find hard is even harder if that’s all you have in your life. Doing that demands energy and courage that most people don’t have, so we support them, help to give them a reason to continue. “French society is hard that way, once people are excluded they are excluded.” Restos du Coeur has 72,000 volunteers who work in 2,000 centres all over France, but the association is always looking for more people to help, especially in the run-up to Christmas when they need people to wrap presents in supermarkets in exchange for donations. “We need everyone, some people come and chat and help with meals, others have specific skills, like teaching, cooking, gardening or accounting. “We will always find a place for volunteers, and we especially need Englishspeaking ones.” To become a volunteer, go to the Restos du Coeur website, www.restosducoeur.org, and contact the Restos du Coeur Association in your department. Being able to volunteer regularly over a long period of time is the ideal, but in March they need volunteers just for a few days to organise grocery collections in supermarkets.

Coluche in Césarwinning form in the gritty drama Tchao Pantin

Photo: Diplopie Cotentin Unique par Nature

lessons, give support with children’s schoolwork, and provide emergency accommodation. “I volunteer at a canal boat in Paris where 70 people sleep every night, for example. “We also have flats all over France that we rent to people in difficulty. We also help them find training, learn how to present themselves properly, write a CV, do an interview, and we have partners who give people short-term employment contracts to ease them back into the world of work.” The basic thing, she says, is listening and caring about what people say. “We try to build trust so we can understand and help. “All sorts of people come to us: students who can’t finish the month, retired people, workers in badly-paid, insecure jobs, workers with large families – and outsiders, people who for one reason or another don’t fit in. “Some have mild psychiatric disorders, people who grew up in children’s home, violent people, people who get divorced, or sacked or they get ill. “Once people lose their footing, it can be hard to get back into the race.” She says living on the street inflicts such damage on people that they often struggle to fit back into mainstream society afterwards. “A lot of single women with babies come to us. We even have Restos Bébés where we give out nappies and formula. “One of the other important things we do is arrange holidays, because it’s very important to do normal things, go on

The rich history of Saint-Vaast-laHougue, near Cherbourg in the Manche, is one feature that attracted France 3 television viewers to elect it as the Village Préféré des Français 2019. Its unusual name, pronounced without the –st at the end of Vaast, owes its origins to the Norman name for Saint Vedast and to the Viking word for hill, haugr, which was introduced when the Vikings invaded Normandy in the eighth century. The history of the village is dominated by its strategic position not far from the British Isles and its long, sandy bay which is made into a natural harbour by Ile Tatihou, which is close to the shore and provides a protective arm for the bay. This made it the starting point for the Hundred Years War, as it was here, on July 12, 1346, that King Edward III of England landed with his flotilla of 30,000 men and horses to begin his invasion of France. In this first attack his cavalry proceeded across Normandy, sacking and looting some of the richest lands in France, got close to Paris, and then turned north and won his first victory at Crécy. It was also at a ceremony in the church of Quettehou, near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, that Edward III named his son the Black Prince. England was the enemy once again in the 17th century and was victorious in 1692 at the naval Battle of La Hougue. As a result, Louis XIV ordered his naval architect, Vauban, to build two fortified

towers to defend the bay. Work began in 1694 and the towers were finished five years later. They are now one of twelve sites listed as the Fortifications of Vauban, Unesco World Heritage Site. Historian Annick Perrot, who lives in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, was responsible for drawing up the dossier for Unesco: “The towers, with their cannons ready to fire from their platforms over the bay, worked so well that the English did not land there again until 1944, when of course it was a different story.” For centuries the English were despised by the people of Normandy: “I can remember my Grandmother referring to the English as the cursed godons. This is what the local people heard when the invading soldiers would repeatedly swear “God damn”. It has become a local surname. Whether the original families were English settlers, or French who sided with the English, nobody knows.” One of the Vauban towers, on Ile Tatihou, can be visited by amphibious vehicle. After the last Great Plague in 1720, ships were made to stop at the island which became a quarantine centre. Ms Perrot says when people first arrive at her village they do not expect to find such a remarkable place. From the hill above there is a spectacular view of its sandy bay, the two towers and the harbour which is now used for fishing and pleasure boats. She said Vauban called it the “most beautiful harbour in France”. He was referring to its military virtues, but for me it is almost the most aesthetically beautiful.”

One of the Vauban towers of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue

24 The big picture

French Living I November 2019

Picasso show illustrates many talents Photos: © Succession Picasso 2019

Samantha David advises you hurry to see a different side of the Spanish master at a museum near Lille


atch it while it lasts, because the Picasso exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts (aka ‘Le MUba Eugène Leroy’) in Tourcoing (just outside Lille) which opened on October 19, only runs until January 13. Getting there is easy as Ouigo trains to Lille actually terminate at Tourcoing. Rather than the usual collections focussing on Picasso’s portraits, or his war paintings or his blue period, this exhibition looks at his work as an illustrator and includes 200 works as well as a guide especially for children, making it an ideal introduction to Picasso’s work for all the family. “We wanted to look at a lesser known aspect of one of the 20th century’s major artists,” says co-director Christelle Manfredi. “People don’t necessarily connect him with illustrating, but it is a thread that runs through his life story, illustrating his friendships and relationships with writers. He had a real interest in text, in theatre, in all sorts of other art forms, and creativity in general. His book illustrations demonstrate his evolution as a person, as well as an artist.” Over his lifetime, Picasso illustrated five books, the first in 1905, the last in 1973. He used a wide variety of techniques in his illustrations, which often move the text along, complete it, extend it, even sometimes overtake it, adding a whole new dimension. The works displayed are small scale compared to some of Picasso’s more famous works like Guernica which measures 3.49m x 7.77m. “Some of his illustrations are very minimal, and others are more complex with lots of movement and strength. It makes this a very intimate show.”

The exhibition also includes archive documents, films, multimedia animations, and sound recordings as a way of deciphering how Picasso interpreted illustration. The museum has made big efforts to be as accessible as possible to people with sight-impairments, restricted mobility etc. It is arranged in rough chronological order, around the books he illustrated, but focussing on other periods too. The classically-inspired drawings he made from 1915 to 1924 are especially interesting, being a far cry in stylistic terms from his more well-known works.

Above: included in the exhibition is a photograph of Pablo Picasso at work in his studio, drawing doves for his ‘Temple of Peace’ at Château de Vallauris in 1953 Left: Le Poussin, May 1907

The museum offers a range of guided tours, open evenings and workshops for all ages as well as special activities. “We try to be an ‘école de regard’; we teach people how to see art, how to look at it. We try to teach them to notice hidden motifs and messages, for example. “We receive a lot of schools groups and doing workshops with them makes exhibitions more interactive, interesting and personal. Workshops are run by mediators and artists with both theoretical and practical knowledge, who explain but also encourage people to have a go. We also work with community centres where people write texts and we help them lay them out on the page with illustrations.” All materials are supplied for adult

workshops where people can experiment with techniques including lino printing, sketching, and watercolours. It is best to reserve in advance for adult workshops as they are limited to 12 people. Around 30-40,000 people a year visit ‘Le MUba Eugène Leroy’ and up to 30,000 people are expected to visit the Picasso exhibition, meaning it is best to buy tickets online, not only in order to ensure entrance, but to skip the line. And while you are in the Lille area, why not visit the city’s three other major art museums; the LaM (Lille Métropole Musée d’Art Moderne, the pba (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille) and the fascinating ‘La Piscine’ (Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent de Roubaix).

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The Connexion November 2019

Important changes to laws regulating top-up health insurance are being introduced, so many items will soon be absolutely free A RANGE of glasses and dental prostheses will be absolutely free for patients from next year. Top-up health insurance providers will be obliged to pay the difference between state reimbursement and the actual cost of the items. Hearing aids will be included from 2021. The “reste à charge zéro” plan will not cover all products but there will be a wide range. It affects the majority of topup contracts – those labelled responsable, meaning they adhere to a set of regulations drawn up by the government to ensure limited prices and obligatory levels of cover. Opticians will be obliged to have two sets of glasses on sale. In the range available at no cost, lenses should cover all general sight problems and be slim, anti-glare and antiscratch. There must be 17 adult frames on offer, with a choice of two colours for each, and 10 different frames for children, also with a choice of two colours. Frames, which must respect European standards, must cost a maximum €30. In the second set are all other products, such as designer frames, where health insurance companies will cover up to

€100 of the cost, but no more. The measures will begin on January 1, 2020. Changes to dentistry appliances mean there will be three choices but this will not include treatment from the orthodontist, so braces that many teenagers are advised to wear will not be included. Total cover will be available for crowns, bridges and inlays, and ceramic rather than metal crowns will be on offer for visible front teeth. The second offer includes items where the client contributes but prices are controlled so as not to be excessive. The third allows clients to choose whatever appliance they wish at their own cost, which might include new methods not yet included in the 100% offer. Crowns and bridges will be on offer at 100% from January 1, 2020, and other items will be introduced from January 2021. There are also changes coming for the reimbursement of hearing aids as government figures show that only 35% of people with hearing problems are equipped and many are deterred by high prices. Full cover for hearing aids will be introduced gradually and there will be no aids avail-

International télépéage MOTORISTS who regularly drive in several European countries can still take advantage of automatic toll payment badges. Bip&Go launched an electronic toll badge in 2016 that could be used in France and Spain. It is now creating a “European Badge” valid for use on the motorways of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, as well as some ferry services and car parks. The badge for the four countries costs €14 (plus €6 delivery charge). A number of subscriptions are available, with prices varying according to the countries chosen for travel. The website bipandgo.com has an English option for details.

Photo: East Midtown / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good news on glasses, crowns and hearing aids

Supermarkets enter glasses market: Prices of glasses in general are expected to fall as supermarkets start selling them. Auchan, Leclerc, Carrefour and Casino have already opened their own-brand opticians in a limited number of stores, proposing what they describe as quality, cheap spectacles, and they plan to expand. Supermarket Optique centres have qualified opticians where you can buy glasses with a prescription, which you get in advance from an ophthalmologist. They too will have to adhere to the new zero-cost rules but aim to attract clients by making life easy with, for example, a fast service so that in certain cases glasses can be prepared while people shop. Casino also owns C’Discount which offers an online glasses service in partnership with the German optician Sym’Optic. You still need a prescription to order. Many supermarkets/chemists already sell cheap, off-the-peg glasses for basic sight problems with no prescription needed. able for zero euros until 2021. The delay is said to be to allow insurance firms to adjust to what is likely to result in an extra €50million cost to them. Cover will eventually be for up to €1,700 for each ear. There has already been an obligatory increase in top-up reimbursement for aids this year and this will rise in 2020, when the client will pay €400 towards an aid, decreasing to €0 in 2021. It will cover a wide choice of aids but clients can pay extra for more expensive models. From November 1 this year, help for those with very low incomes to have top-up health insurance is organised under the Complémentaire Santé

Solidaire, an amalgamation of two existing systems. Cover will be free for those on very low incomes – a single person earning less than €746 a month – and a contribution will be paid by anyone earning between €746 and €1,007. On average, it will be €8 a month for anyone under 29, rising to €30 for over-70s. From December 1, 2020, the law will allow anyone to change health insurance at any time after the first 12 months. Currently you can only change on the anniversary of signing up, often moved to be January 1, unlike other insurances which you are now free to change when you wish, with notice, after the first year.

But you should still shop around for right cover Top-up health insurance is not obligatory but 95% of people in France have some form of cover. There are more than 80 leading providers, which fall into three categories: n Half of the market is covered by mutuelles, which are non-profit-making and special ise in top-up healthcare. Often, the word mutuelle is used as a catch-all term for the whole range of such insurance firms; n General insurance companies, which are profit-making and offer health insurance alongside their other services; n Institutions de prévoyance, provident funds, which are non-profit-making and are generally responsible for collective workplace schemes. Prices depend on a range of variables: the company you sign up with, the level of cover, income, age, whether you work or not, and where you live. Families are often covered by workplace schemes. Since 2016, employers in France have had to offer basic health insurance cover to employees and fund half the cost. These are often obligatory but even if they are not, workers are unlikely to find a better deal elsewhere, and other family members can be included in the insurance. The self-employed can deduct insurance payments from taxable profits under the Madelin plan - an accountant can advise. Temporary workers can have at least €15 a month towards their health insurance paid by a chèque santé from their employer and

Practical 21


there is help for those on very low incomes. Retired people are most likely to have to work hard to find a good-value policy as they are more likely to need healthcare and prices are often higher. Marianne Bye, of the Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française, said companies spread costs across the generations to offer cheaper contracts to older people. Grégory Caret, who helped set up the free online service to help people find the best-value health insurance for consumer magazine UFC-Que Choisir (Quechoisir. org), says a 62-year-old single retiree could pay from €19 to €300 a month. Both say it is essential to research options to find a policy to suit your needs. The introduction of the “reste à charge zéro” range (see article above) means consumers will probably no longer have to make glasses, hearing aids and dentists a priority when looking for cover. Both Mrs Bye and Mr Caret agree products chosen by the government are good quality and should suit the majority of cases. However, if you have particular needs, you will have to look at these categories. Insurance firms have not yet adapted their policies to the changes, and there are concerns that premiums will go up as a result. If you are likely to need specialist treatment, it is important to know your top-up covers Secteur 2 doctor’s fees charged by some specialists, particularly in private clinics. These are the rates which are above

the Secteur 1 fees fixed by government – currently €25 a consultation, of which €16.50 is reimbursed by the social security, and most of the rest by top-up insurance. Not all top-ups cover Secteur 2 doctors, where there is some regulation on the extra fees they can charge, or the third category of non-conventionné doctors. Social security covers 80% of stays in public hospitals or private clinics, with 100% cover in cases such as pregnancy or long-term illnesses. Top-up insurance will nearly always pay the rest. You need to check which of the five categories of medicine are included, as only those considered irreplaceable for serious illnesses are reimbursed at 100% by the social security. Medicines are given an efficiency rating, called the SMR. Those classified as important are reimbursed at 65%, moderate at 30%, low at 15% and the rest at zero. Different insurances give different top-ups for medicines. If you want to go regularly to a medical practitioner whose services are not reimbursed by the social security, such as an osteopath, you might want to choose a topup insurance that pays out for this. When you sign up, you should check when cover will start. For some services you may have to wait for a period before being reimbursed – for example, a contract might make you wait six months before you get the payment for dental work.

Faulty electricals alert ELECTRICITY grid operator Enedis has written to a number of customers, urging them to check their circuit breakers for the manufacturing number due to a potentially dangerous fault. It follows the discovery that up to 15% of circuit breakers manufactured between May 2017 and June 2018 may be defective. The relevant manu-

facturing numbers are listed in the letter. Around 200,000 faulty devices have been replaced nationwide. Enedis has stated that it will replace the defective circuitbreakers free of charge. Clients who refuse a change will be asked to sign a form, relieving Enedis of responsibility in the event of a problem.


Cross-border banking More people are turning to mobile phone apps to manage their finances and save money by spending more wisely. Each app was originally linked to just one bank, but there are a growing number which will include accounts from different banks and building societies in various countries. This could be helpful for second home-owners, or people who move to France but who maintain an account in the country they moved from. The most widely used app is Bankin’ (bankin.com), which was created in France in 2011. It boasts 3.2 million users in France, England, Spain and Germany, with more than 300 banks signed up. They include all the major banks in France, as well as Barclays, Bank of Scotland, Bank of Ireland, First Direct, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds, Nationwide, Natwest, TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland. The Bankin’ app is free and, once you have downloaded it, you connect in your accounts. Its algorithms then look at your accounts and produce graphs to show how much you are spending on, for example, insurance, energy, internet, food and phone subscriptions. If it detects that you are spending more than average, it will alert you to the fact, and give advice to look for a better deal. It will also warn you if you are about to go overdrawn, and predict how much money

you will have left at the end of the month. Advice is sent by the app’s artificial intelligence, but you can opt to communicate with a human “finance coach” if you wish. You can also use the app to move money from one bank to another, though at present this is limited to within France. Marketing director Sophie Halliot said not many people want to spend time managing their financial affairs. She says it is a secure system: “The app is regulated by the Banque de France. We use the strongest encryption algorithms available and you are protected by European and French laws. We, the employees at Bankin’, cannot look at your accounts ourselves. “It is the app which works out the information you see on your screen.” The company claims that thanks to its smart algorithms and coach team, it will help you discover unique opportunities to save. Financial company Deloitte says most bank clients in France prefer to talk to a person but app use has risen from 9% in 2018 to 14% this year. Most (66%) use their own bank’s app but more are turning to new multi-account, multi-bank apps such as Bankin’. Others include Linxo, Gérer mes comptes (formerly Iswigo), Budget Insight and Max, created by Crédit Mutuel Arkéa as a ‘personal assistant’ for clients.

Izi way to find a handyman THE long and boring search for someone to fix a boiler or install a radiator looks set to be a thing of the past after EDF launched its Izi online directory of available workers. Izi (izi-by-edf.fr) – available in Nantes, Rennes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Paris, Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Lille – hopes to roll out across 10 other medium-sized cities by the end of the year. Individuals and small businesses will be able to arrange work and callouts from accredited businesses on the site, and will also be able to get remote estimates for jobs, via site-hosted video calls. The site also offers a “well-done or redone” guarantee for work carried out and promises that all jobs will come with “the assurance of paying the right price”.

Business Directory

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

Are you a business searching for new clients? Advertise with us - prices start from just €165 HT for 1 year!

To book a space email: sales@connexionfrance.com or place your advert online at the Directory section of connexionfrance.com

P23 All of France All Tel Codes

P25 North France

Tel Codes 01 - 03

P25 South East France Tel Code 04

P25 South West France Tel Code 05

P26 Classifieds


Having a good level of French is more important than ever Those looking to improve their French and enjoy themselves at the same time should try “Courses in Cucugnan”, says Claire Campbell who provides oneon-one classes from the Corbieres hill in LanguedocRoussillion.

Are you staying in France in spite of Brexit? Then the need for a good level of French is greater than ever in an atmosphere made as unfriendly as possible by the antics of the brexiteers. Those of us who do not utterly despise French language and culture can show our respect if we have taken the trouble to improve our French. And it does not have to be a bore. This is the opinion of Claire Campbell whose French language courses in Cucugnan have been widely appreciated for the past ten years. One to one courses can be far more effective than classroom learning: explanations are in English; you can move on as fast or as slowly as suits you, and Claire takes care to ensure that you know how to continue to progress when you return home. “A week ‘s course cannot make you

fluent,” she says, “But it can improve your confidence enormously and that is vital. Too many people give up after a discouraging experience in a class. We are not all natural linguists but 99% of us can reach an acceptable level for conversation.” Claire has taught languages for over twenty years, and, having travelled herself, she has not forgotten what it is like to be a beginner in a foreign language. When people book a course with Claire they learn at their own speed and understand everything that is explained. Besides, Cucugnan is a lovely village set between two Cathar Castles in the hills between Carcassonne and Perpignan. With three restaurants, wonderful walks, and excellent wines to choose from, your French course is also the excuse for an extra holiday. A week or a fortnight away from all the concerns of life at home gives you the

chance to concentrate fully on learning . A trained teacher with an Oxford degree in history, Claire combines professionalism with a sense of fun, and believes that people learn best if they are both interested and confident. Her visitors’ book teems with comments like: “Enjoyed every minute!” “A breakthrough “, “A source of inspiration “ and “We are returning home with renewed confidence. “

Claire Campbell runs French language courses in scenic Cucugnan www.cours-a-cucugnan.com

P28 Community

The Connexion November 2019




Directory 23

Property marketing company sees increased sales and demand Houses on Internet – Global Property Services (hereafter referred to as “HOI-GPS”) is the internet / marketing company that helps people sell their French property to buyers worldwide. Richard Kroon, founder and director of the company says: “In spite of all the Brexit issues, this year has been extremely good. The number of sales are 42% higher than last year. We still see British buyers, but also many other nationalities, which is why our worldwide advertising is so important. Our marketing efforts are definitely paying off and guarantee a worldwide exposure of your property to buyers wherever they live.” So far this year HOI-GPS has sold to people from 14 different countries, like

France, Australia, Belgium, Holland, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and South Africa. “The actual work all starts with the presentation of a property,” says Richard. “If that is not good enough, all other marketing efforts are useless. Our photographers usually take 150 to 200 photos of a house and in addition copy any good (summer) photos our clients may have themselves. “Around 50 to 60 of those photos are selected, enhanced and presented on a dedicated website we create for each property in English, French and Dutch. The texts don’t just describe the house, garden and outbuildings, but information about shopping, schools, airports and leisure is given too. “When the website for the house is online, we first connect it to our main HOI-GPS websites which attract over 135,000 visitors from 35+ countries each month. Most of these

people find us through Google and additional Google advertising. “To reach an even larger audience, a summary of the presentation of the house is also placed on several other leading property websites. These adverts are also connected to the dedicated website of the house, making it all one big global property network. Richard concludes, “As the property market has become a global one, a prospective buyer can be at the other end of the world while the property owner is in bed sleeping. With our approach a buyer does not have to wait, they can see the entire property whenever they want, so at the precise moment they are interested in it.” For more information on HOI-GPS or to market your property through them, visit their website. Houses on Internet – Global Property Services 00 31 (0)6 41 20 73 69 www.housesoninternet.com

COUNSELLING IN FRANCE A totally professional website for your gite business for only £395

Therapy and coaching in English Face-to-face, webcam, online, telephone, workshops, self-help, courses, residential retreats. All are qualified, work with a professional code of ethics and assure confidentiality.




Help with the French System Paperwork, Phone calls l Translation, Interpreting l

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

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


French without Fear Language in Languedoc

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

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

Siret: 397549551


International pet Animal transport


For French-themed gift ideas

see our shop at connexionfrance.com

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

www.bsnvar.org info@bsnvar.org 04 94 84 64 89 between 07:00 and 23:00 06 32 35 31 24 Christine Haworth-Staines UK Chartered Psychologist

Psychology & Counselling From private practice in Toulouse & Mielan Or via Skype Contact: or psych32@gmail.com www.counsellorandpsychologist.com

Free floor plan included

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

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

Certified translations as required by

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

CAF, Courts, Notaires, Prefecture, (Births, Adoptions, Marriages, Deaths – Divorces - Pensions – Wills – Family Law…)

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

Friendly individual French tuition with English speaking French lady

(Provence - Alpes - Cote d’Azur)

Join Us Today

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


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

The new way to buy & sell property in France


World Wide Pet Relocator Ministry approved

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

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

Sworn Translations


Cedric Mitchell Architecte

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




Email: veeshilton@gmail.com Mobile: +44 (0)7802 355795 www.horsetransport.uk.net Deliveries all France


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

Learn French from the comfort of your home with one-on-one French lessons on Skype www.learnfrenchathome.com +33 (0) 8 70 40 81 17

Private Property Sellers Ltd

Leaders in international French property marketing for the private seller. www.privatepropertysellers.com


French Properties Direct

Buy or sell your French property privately • • • •

No estate agency fees to pay International advertising Friendly, professional service Contact us for help today

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

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








Agence International Dedicated English speaking agency staffed by native English speakers • • • • • •

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

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


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

24 Directory



The Connexion November 2019


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

The insurance one-stop shop

for English speakers throughout France

Savings and Investments specialists

Phone: 05 53 73 97 29 Mail: monpazier@agence.generali.fr Website: www.sudouest-assurances.com

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

TOP PRICE FOR VINYL RECORDS Mobile: 06 83 32 65 15

or sue.davage@wanadoo.fr 82120 Marsac



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

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

Heslop & Platt Solicitors & French Law specialists Providing quality, professional and efficient French legal advice in English Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 contact@heslop-platt.co.uk


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

For information and quotes in English contact Penny at G.S.A.R. 05 53 40 15 71 pennym.gsar@wanadoo.fr

Gary Automobiles EURL Telephone: 0033 4 74 43 89 51 Mobile: 0033 6 84 85 04 61 Email: gary.automobiles@wanadoo.fr www.gary-automobiles.com

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

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

Touraine Property Services


Caretaking - Cleaning - Key holding Liaising with Artisans - Gite changeover Depts. 36, 37 & 41 asophieedwards@gmail.com 07 71 78 75 17

We insure UK registered cars for up to 12 months

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

also provides a car sourcing service – meaning if they do not have the vehicle you want in stock, they will find it for you. For further recommendation, here are some previous customer comments: “Gary Automobiles made the whole process as painless as possible.” Colin Edwards “I have used Gary Automobiles to source and deliver a new car in France. Since I don’t speak French it was a delight to deal with Gary himself.” Tom Wall “Gary’s personal and English-speaking service has been really helpful and taken the hassle out of buying and keeping a car in France.” James Greig

Compass Pools 1 week install, 40 year guarantee, self-cleaning, self-managing stunning pools!

Email: info@compasspools.fr Web: www.compasspools.eu Tel(UK): +44 (0) 7983806244 Tel(Fr): +33 (0) 777231116

Concrete pool kits

for easy DIY installation semi or fully inground or let us install for you anywhere in France.

10 year guarantee.

www.naturalis pools.com Telephone 06 31 17 25 60

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



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

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


Cars, motorhomes and vans wanted Both LHD and RHD.

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

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

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


Just Kitchens A complete service from planning to installation

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

see our shop at


Movers - Shippers - Storers

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

Moving to or from France?

Weekly services to & from France

Full or part loads, 4 wks free storage, 35 Years experience Bar Member Contact: Anglo French Removals Tel: +44 (0) 01622 690653 +44 (0) 1237 239255

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


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

00 44 1722 414350


info@reflexmoodys.com www.reflexmoodys.com


Company Regn No: UK 5186435


TVA / VAT No: UK 864 7217 04




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


• Container Storage

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

or call 0565 319623


Advertise in this space for just €165 HT for the year

Gary at his office near Lyon


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

Tel: +44 (0) 1304 822 844 doverinfo@aandsselfstorage.co.uk

www.doverstorage.co.uk All France

The Connexion November 2019




Directory 25

Brexit having a positive effect on property sales ARB French Property’s range of marketing packages including their new low-cost GOLD scheme, means more property owners than ever are choosing to sell their homes privately. Founders Adrian and Jacqui Bunn explain. “The French property market can be complex,” says Adrian, “and many sellers have experienced finding buyers in recent times difficult. With for sale prices under constant pressure, the savings a private sale offers can make a huge difference to both sellers and buyers. “We specialise in finding ready to proceed buyers who want to deal direct. As well as our own website, every home

will be seen on leading third-party web sites to attract British, French and International buyers. We have extended this coverage to include Huisenaanbod a leading Dutch buyer’s site. Our Platinum schemes include a visit to photograph, floorplan, discuss market trends and price. That helps us work with sellers to create a great looking advert with 30 high quality photos, plus the all- important floor plan that buyers especially appreciate.” Jacqui continues, “Our service is designed to save buyer and seller money. By dealing direct, no matter what your view on who pays the estate agent fees in France, a private sale will save one of you up to 10%. Sellers come to us concerned this extra amount, as well as notaire fees and taxes can add 15% or more to the cost of their home, making it hard to sell. Property owners who have been on the market some time could especially benefit.

In the current market, the days of sitting and waiting for a buyer to come to you are gone. A proactive approach is a must.” ARB French Property offer three marketing schemes, Platinum Plus is the most popular, and includes a site visit to photo, measure and floorplan. There are NO commissions, NO end payments – just great value. The new GOLD service starts from just £120 for year-long advertising – that is just £10 per month! “Many sellers often ask us is Brexit having an effect,” says Adrian. “The simple answer is YES – mostly positive. This year we have seen a marked increase in full time movers from the UK – leaving because of Brexit, so much so, we call it the Brexit Exit. There is no flood of sellers going back to the UK, just the usual numbers for the usual reasons, such as family and health. Brexit has seen us move from being split 50/50 holiday home and

full-time enquiries to 90% full time. This has a very positive effect.” ARB’s success means they have buyers waiting, so they are looking for new stock throughout all areas of France. If you think your home will appeal to a private buyer, if you want your home to have year-round attention and a pro-active marketing approach, now is the time to contact them.

+44 (0)1803 469367 info@arbfrenchproperty.com www.arbfrenchproperty.com


George White European Transport

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


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

English registered cars House insurance - Health cover

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

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

www.midibuilder.com Siret 4846 8735 500012

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

Greetings Cards

Ordre des Architectes No. 1867

Qualified Tree Surgeons


Chenil Les Mille Calins


5 Star accommodation for Dogs/Cats

Siret: 538 583 60000019

Ash Grove Stoves Supplier of Hunter - Parkway


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 sales@ashgrovestoves.com

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

Love French Interiors French Reproduction Furniture. Hand crafted from Mahogany. Wide choice of finish options.

English Run

l l l l l

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

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

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

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

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

Siret 81115002800017

Brittany-Normandy-Loire Up to 100kms from Rennes

Paul the Plasterer City & Guilds Qualified

Meditation and Yoga Retreat in Normandy Experienced teachers, beautiful location and fine vegetarian food www.riboudin.com Tel: 0970 90 19 66 Email: retreats@riboudin.com

Christ Church Brittany Regular Worship in English Fun Social events

Redon - Ploërmel - Rostrenen - Huelgoat


Sky In France

Sky, Freesat & French TV

Supplied & Fully Installed

Office: 05 63 59 85 16

Plastering, boarding, external pointing, painting and decoration Areas: 46, 47 Tel: 06 48 56 22 83 Email: pabroadley@yahoo.co.uk

Ironwood Motif

Wrought Iron Work Handrails Gates Railings Pergolas Stairs l





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

www.skyinfrance.co.uk Please see our main advert in the Connexion Available for all types of electrical work. Insured and guaranteed. Areas: 16,17,24,47

English TV in your French Home

Tel: 05 46 86 07 61 Email: trevor.miell@btopenworld.com Siret No. 49376573200015

Professional installations in Brittany & Normandy Mail-order throughout France Free, friendly, helpful advice


02 97 27 58 50 www.tvbrittany.com


Sign up at

0044 (0) 20 3474 0092

www.franglaiselagage.com Mob: 0786536726

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

ELECTRICIAN Experienced & French Registered.

Delivery throughout France.

Full customisation possible.


Siret 51442634500013 - Covering Depts 22, 35, 56

34,000 readers receive Connexion’s twice weekly free e-newsletters. Do you?

Bespoke Design service available.

Architects & Designers Dossiers for Permis de Construire Déclarations Préalables Interior & Landscape Design

Aude / Herault Gary Alderson

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

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

design : parkes architecture SARL


Pete's Roofing

GARDEN SERVICES Creation, Garden Maintenance, Tree Surgery, Felling Property Services

Covering the Gard

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

Tel. 05 65 34 09 91

04 66 72 75 84

Working dept: south 19, 46



Siret No: 50066265500017

Multi-Service - Builders

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

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

longden888@lycos.com www.roofingbuildingservices.com


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


All Gardening Work - Cutting Strimming - Hedge Trimming Clearance - Property Services Depts - 24,46,47 Tel: Bob & Tracy 06 42 82 44 96 Email: bob.groundwork@gmail.com siret : 48293447800017

26 Directory

05 SOUTH west


The Connexion November 2019


Sud-Ouest Assurances offer financial peace of mind Anne Gardini at Sud-Ouest Assurances explains options available to you if you live in France and are looking for financial peace of mind.

- -

The protection of a family member, such as a disabled child for instance ...and last but not least a means to achieve an above average return on your capital.”

“Benefits offered by an Assurance Vie include - The ability to shelter capital, and yet have it available to draw from at any time with vastly reduced income tax - A means of passing on your estate in a tax efficient manner - A way to both complement your pension and optimise (reduce) your income tax

Any bank or insurer can sell you an Assurance Vie but check first, there are a number of things you need to look for - The security and scope of a leading international financial institution. The Generali Group has been a leader in the field of money management and pension funds since 1831. - A reliable adviser. After 15 years working in Asia as a financial analyst, Anne GARDINI under the Generali banner now advises both French nationals and expatriates living in France on savings, tax and retirement issues. Her expertise in these fields has led her to be appointed as an expert witness with the Bordeaux Court Of Appeal.



“Many people will have heard of ‘ASSURANCE VIE’, says Anne, “but may not realise it is France’s must-have tax-wrapper as it is the financial tool which redeems France from its taxpayer’s nightmare reputation.”

British trained & qualified tree surgeon All tree work undertaken.

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

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:


French lessons Salies de Béarn Karine Flandé Piché Basic french and conversations for adults French tutor 6eme à 3eme

karine.flande@gmail.com Tel. 09 80 38 59 43

www.facebook.com/ PhoenixAssociationFrance

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


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

- Choice and quality of the financial products. “Because money management should never be anything other than tailor-made we will give you access to the best asset management companies worldwide when considering what to put into your Assurance Vie,” says Anne. “Whether you seek to diversify your investments through asset types such as north European property, water resources or just vanilla high-dividend paying ‘blue chip’ stocks, we work with the best in their area: Rothschild, Fidelity, Templeton to name but a few. These are the quality of top-end investment names Sud-Ouest Assurances give you access to when you work with us.” To find out more, contact Anne or Sophia at Sud-Ouest Assurances. Phone: 05 53 73 97 29 Mail: monpazier@agence.generali.fr Website: www.sudouest-assurances.com



Information: 06 86 92 07 07 www.churchinmidipa.org

Registered charity no: W821000447

online french lessons


• Rural Broadband • UK & French TV Satellite & On-Demand

• CCTV & Alarms • WiFi Installation • Home Audio & Cinema

Tel 06 80 55 06 09 SW France mail@euroinstallations.com

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



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 Angela

ONLINE FRENCH CLASS with qualified and experienced teacher 2 options: • Class courses from 4 people • One-on-one lessons 3 different programs: • Academic from A1 to C1 (Alliance Francaise learning method) • Conversational workshop • FOS (French with a Specific Objective) Email/WhatsApp to book a free trial course and a placement test Email: flexifrench@gmail.com


Chats du Quercy Cat rescue and Rehoming Charity

Where each cat recieves the best possible care and attention from the day it is admitted to the moment of its adoption.

Please call to make an appointment on

05 63 94 73 97 www.chatsduquercy.fr

Phone/WhatsApp: +381638982339

New! Brexit and Britons in France helpguide Deal / No deal / Your questions / Second home issues Only available as a PDF Price €12.50 Order at the helpguide section of connexionfrance.com or call Nathalie on 06 40 55 71 63

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 life-threatening situations u 15: Samu (for other urgent medical call-outs) u 17: Police / Gendarmes u 112: Universal European Emergency Services number - from all phones including mobiles u 114: Emergency calls (hearing assisted) u 115: Emergency Shelter u 119: Reporting child abuse u 196: Sea and lake rescue u 197: Terror/kidnapping hotline u 01 40 05 48 48: Anti-poison centre u 09 726 750 + your department number e.g. 24 for the Dordogne): Gas & electricity emergencies u 3237: (0.35/min) Outside hours GP and pharmacy information (www.3237.fr) TELECOMS u ORANGE Website in English: www.orange. com/en/home To report a fault online: www.1013.fr English-speaking helpline: 09 69 36 39 00 u SFR: 1023 (+ 33 6 10 00 10 23 from outside France) u FREE: 1044 u BOUYGUES: New client: 3106 Forfait & Bbox: 1064 (+33 660 614 614) Forfait bloqué: 1022 (+33 664 00 20 20) Client à la Carte: 1034 (+33 668 634 634) 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.service-public.fr/ u CAF: www.caf.fr; Tel: 08 10 25 14 10 u CPAM (state healthcare): www.ameli.fr English-speaking helpline: 08 11 36 36 46 Calling hours: Mon - Fri: 8:30 - 17:30 u URSSAF: 3957 + department number u CLEISS: Social security advice when moving between countries: 01 45 26 33 41. Mon, Wed & Friday : 9:00 -12:30, Tues & Thurs : 14:00 -17:00, Some advisers speak English. OTHER HELP IN ENGLISH u Counselling in France: for a qualified therapist near you or counselling over the telephone; www.counsellinginfrance.com u Alcoholics Anonymous: regular meetings are held (some are in English) across the country. For a list of local English-language groups see: www.alcoholics-anonymous.eu u SOS Help: similar to the Samaritans, listeners who are professionally trained; Tel 01 46 21 46 46 (open 3:00-23:00 daily); www.soshelpline.org u Cancer Support France: for advice and someone to talk to. Tel: 0800 240 200 or email helpline@cancersupportfrance.org u English Speaking Cancer Association (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: france@ssafa.org.uk u BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT NETWORK: for those grieving for a loved one and needing to talk Tel: 04 94 84 64 89 / 06 32 35 31 24 or email info@bsnvar.org (7:00 - 23:00) u THE BRITISH CHARITABLE FUND: provides financial help to British residents in France. Tel: 01 47 59 07 69 (10:00 - 17:00) britishcharitablefund@orange.fr u Alzheimer: English help group at France Alzheimer: 0800 97 20 97 www.francealzheimer.org OTHER INFO u AFIF (funerals info): 01 45 44 90 03 u Speaking clock: 3669. u Weather: 08 92 68 02 + dept. u Last incoming call: 3131, then ‘5’ if you wish to connect. MasterCard Loss/Theft of card u Calling from France: 09 69 39 92 91 / Calling from Abroad: +33 96 93 99 291 u Loss/Theft of chequebook Calling from France: 08 92 68 32 08 / Calling from Abroad: +33 89 26 83 208

The Connexion November 2019




Directory 27

Complete solution to fosse septique problems There’s little worse than a smelly or blocked fosse septique, but there is a simple, ecological and cost effective treatment, says Shelly Burns-O’Regan, Eco-tabs founder in France. 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 founder Shelly Burns-O’Regan says: “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 Shelly on +33 (0)6 35 95 45 93 www.eco-tabs.biz info@eco-tabs.biz

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

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

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

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

Removal company has over 20 years’ experience and can even deliver your UK shopping Removals to and from France is Watson European’s speciality, they have been arranging removals for over 20 years. Andrea Watson, the proprietor of Watson European, explains. “We understand that moving isn’t just about moving your home and possessions, most people will want to bring any cars, motorcycles and other vehicles they own with them. Using our vehicle removal service means that we can handle moving your car or motorcycle to or from France as efficiently as the rest of any home contents. “Also we understand that in France it can be difficult for clients to locate suitable packaging

material for their removal. 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 part loads, Andrea’s team have the trade contacts to supply boxes, wrapping material and tape to ensure your belongings can be transported in perfect condition. Not only can we supply packing materials, we will buy back any unused boxes at the same price if you complete your move with us. 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. Further to the free storage our extensive facilities can cope with additional storage requirements. “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 the order is consolidated, 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

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

or a complete packing and delivery service of a full home.” It does not matter the stage at which your move is, whether you have most things planned out or if you are just beginning, Watson European would be pleased to discuss the move with you.

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

28 Directory



The Connexion November 2019


Hearing Aids: Company offers fast and efficient repairs At the Hearing Aid Repair Shop (HARS) we pride ourselves on repairing any make and model of hearing aid. We’re a joint venture company, which is owned by Mary Hare School for deaf children and a large multi-national hearing aid company. We started out in 2002 and we’ve been providing a fast and efficient repairs service to our customers ever since. 50% of our profits go to Mary Hare School, so by having your hearing aid repaired with us you’re actively supporting the education of hundreds of deaf children and young people. Our highly trained technicians have many years of experience in repairing all brands of hearing aids including; Starkey, Widex, Phonak, Oticon, Unitron, ReSound,

Siemens (now Sivantos). So there’s no need to worry if your hearing aid is out of warranty with the manufacturer – we can help. You can send us your hearing aid for a free, no obligation quote. And if you decide not to go ahead with the repair, we’ll return it to you at no extra cost. We offer a very clear pricing structure with no hidden extras. So if a repair is going to cost more than our standard charge we won’t proceed until you’ve given us the go ahead. Our standard repair comes with a 6 month warranty against component failure; excluding amplifiers, case and RIC units (unless the amplifier, case or RIC was repaired/replaced as part of your original

Community events Can you help with WWII General’s US honour bid? Retired military officers and historians are urging the US Congress to award D-Day General Norman Daniel ‘Dutch’ Cota with the Congressional Medal of Honor – and have called on Connexion readers for help gathering evidence. Many military experts believe the general’s gallantry and heroism in history’s largest and most complex amphibious assault deserves the US’s highest military honour. Anyone with information about General Cota’s actions on D-Day can contact Maj. Gen. Carroll Childers on the Team Cota Facebook page – www.facebook.com/CotaMOH – and help discover additional new, substantive, and relevant material evidence that may help. Such evidence may be in the form of letters home from soldiers, extracts from notable literary sources, or simply identifying a surviving soldier from the 116th Infantry of the 29 ID, attached units such as Armor or Engineers, the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, or in some instances the 2nd RIB.

repair), to give you complete peace of mind. We understand how important it is for you to receive your hearing aid back quickly and working to its full potential. We use original parts, unless they’re discontinued due to the age of the hearing aid, and the turnaround time for most repairs is 2 - 3 working days. If your hearing aid isn’t working don’t replace it – repair it. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what one of our recent satisfied customers said: “I received my hearing aid back from you today, it’s great to be able to hear clearly again. Just wanted to say thank you very much for your prompt and reliable service.” J McLeod

For more details about our service please go to www.hars.co.uk You can contact us by email at info@hars.co.uk or call us on 00 44 1635 48724.

You can see more events and post your own at connexionfrance.com/community/events Theatre run ‘Mad Moments’ – described as a funpacked revue with sketches, songs, musical theatre and melodrama is set for a four-date run in southwest France, on November 9 (Boudrac), 10 (Marciac), 16 (Lectoure) and 17 (Sainte-Dode). The show will be followed by a two-course lunch of beef bourguignon with mashed potato and apple pie and ice cream. Vegetarian option available. There will be a pay bar before the show and during the meal. Tickets are €20 each. Email the box office at etcmadmoments@gmail.com or telephone 05 62 06 37 14 to book your places. For more details see englishtheatrecompany32.fr Bretagne history brought to life Brittany’s long coastline has been the base for maritime commerce for millennia. Less well known is the history and impact of the extensive linen industry that flourished inland from the 1600s to the 1800s. Retired history professor Jane Crisler will give a talk tracing the evolution of this pre-industrial production that enriched the region and left its traces in grand homes and many local names.

The Side The Funny Funny Side The Funny Side of life in France of life France of life in France ‘Le Selfie Gascon’ ‘Le Selfie Gascon’

Come visit Perry visit Perry at Come his ‘pop-up’ gallery atJazz hisaffordable, ‘pop-up’ gallery atFun, in Marciac, Gers ne art prints, books at28 Jazz in Marciac, Gers July 13 Aug 2017 and cards about all things “French” Fun, affordable ne art prints, books 28by July - 13 Augartist 2017 renowned Perry Taylor

andwww.perrytaylor.fr cards about all things “French” www.perrytaylor.fr by www.perrytaylor.fr renowned artist Perry Taylor

humorous prints, books & greeting cards about all things ‘French’

Salle Polyvalente, 22570 Gouarec. 2.30pm. 5€ for AIKB members, guests €8. Limited numbers, so it is advisable to book in advance at info@aikb.fr Charity fundraiser A two-day annual event on November 17 and 18 at the American Cathedral in Paris (avenue George V) is being organised to raise funds for charities benefiting women and children in need. Each category has quality items and the Silent Auction offers elegant meals at some of Paris’s best restaurants, art works, silk designer scarves. All baked goods are homemade by members and friends. Many books are new, donated by one of Paris’s best-known libraries, others of good quality in both English and France in many categories. There will also be greeting cards, Christmas decorations and toys. Bric-a-brac will feature kitchen and other household items and accessories. Contact: memesalisbury@gmail.com Visiting choir The Chiltern Chamber Choir, based in Berkhamsted, Herts, is giving a concert at the

Basilique de Saint-Martin d’Ainay, Lyon, on Saturday November 23, featuring works by Mozart and Zelenka. Tickets €20, or €15 for concessions, are available by at helloasso.com Save energy A talk to give information on grants available to help homeowners install energy-saving material and equipment in their homes. It will include the €1 insulation scheme that many people have heard about and the pitfalls to watch out for. Salle Polyvalente, 22570 Gouarec. 11h. 2€ AIKB members, €5 guests. Reserve places by emailing info@aikb.fr It’s in front of you! Les Troubadours Britannique de Limoux are deep in rehearsal for their pantomime, of King Arthur and the Dragon. There will be four shows at Le Théâtre dans les Vignes, Couffoulens: Friday, December 6, at 20:00; Saturday, December 7, at14:30 and 20:00 and Sunday, December 8, at 17:00. Tickets are €16 for adults or €9 for children. Call: 04 68 69 41 45 Email: tblticketsales@gmail.com



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ASTTRAL International Insurance Brokers Concerned about post-Brexit healthcare? Whatever the outcome of Brexit you can rely on us for impartial advice and the appropriate health cover Founded over 20 years ago in France, ASTTRAL is an English speaking Insurance Broker in France. We pride ourselves on our personalised approach.

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Call Nick Chubb: + 33 (0)4 68 32 41 20 email: nchubb@asttral.com Web: www.asttral.com

30 Animals


The Connexion November 2019

Zoo hits heights with giraffe programme

Giraffes are being seen as a blessing rather than a pest “The giraffe population had declined because, during the dry season, giraffes would approach the villages looking for food, and be killed by villagers protecting their crops. “We set up a micro-loan scheme to enable people to improve local agriculture and irrigation systems. We have also trained local people to be ecoguides and naturalists. Ecotourism is profitable and means that local people now see the

Photo: Bioparc

A tall story about giraffes has turned heads in animal conservation circles, thanks to the efforts of a French zoo. The Bioparc de Doué la Fontaine hit the headlines in summer when a young black rhinoceros arrived but that has been trumped with news of huge success with its giraffe preservation programme in Niger. François Gay, director of the park, which is 40km south-east of Angers (Pays de la Loire), said: “When we took over the project at the end of the 1990s, there were only 50 wild giraffes left in Niger, and now there are more than 600. “The programme has been a total success.” Like the vast majority of European zoos, the park has three missions: to raise awareness of the problems facing wildlife, which are making species extinct; conservation via projects in indigenous countries, plus cap-tive breeding schemes; and scientific research. “We have to enable the local human population to live decently without killing wildlife,” said Mr Gay.

Photo: Bioparc P. Chabot

The arrival of a young rhinoceros at a zoo near Angers caused a stir earlier this summer but the animal park has even more exciting news to reveal, as Samantha David discovers

Giraffes are making a strong comeback in Niger, thanks to the efforts of a French zoo giraffes as a blessing rather than a nuisance. As a result, their numbers have increased naturally through breeding.” Back in France, the zoo is working on

40 projects to save various species, alongside multiple partners, including the LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux). “The bioparc is a

source of revenue for our work in Niger and inter-nationally but it also allows us to study and research animal behaviour,” said Mr Gay. “We not only Photo: Bioparc Joffrion Moy

Photo: JulieBioparc

The Bioparc de Doué la Fontaine’s new arrival, left, is settling in and enjoying a ‘natural’ habitat like the giraffes, which live in groups as they do in the wild

Monkeys have a regional accent methods used by monkeys to communicate are being studied to solve the puzzle of how human language evolved. French-born ethologist Alban Lemasson, who is at the heart of the research, is a specialist in decoding animal languages. Animals do not have formalised languages like humans, he said, but monkeys can encode a complicated set of messages about their individual identity, sexual/breeding status, age, social affinity, position in the hierarchy, motivations and emotions, and about their environment. Mr Lemasson spent most of his childhood in Cameroon and Ivory Coast, surrounded by wild animals. He returned to France in 1993 to complete his education and got a job at Rennes University, researching communication among the institution’s colony of Campbell’s monkeys. He went on to work with colonies in the wild in Africa, Japan and Mexico. He said: “It’s really interesting to

compare the behaviour of different colonies in different locations, with different habitats and lifestyles, to discover what is universal,” he said. “If humans didn’t always speak, how did they communicate? We can’t tell from fossils whether or not they spoke, so we construct hypotheses about the evolution of human languages by studying animals. Monkeys don’t use

Monkeys have regional dialects and their communication adapts to new situations Alban Lemasson

provide our animals with habitats as close to their native ones as possible, but social structures too. Giraffes, for example, live in groups of one male and a harem of females and young. “That’s what we have here. Other parks just keep herds of bachelor males.” Meanwhile, the newly-arrived four-year-old black rhino – a critically endangered species – has settled in well after arriving from a zoo in the Czech Republic. “He is comfortable and gradually getting accustomed to having a female in the vicinity,” said Mr Gay. “This is a long-term effort. He won’t reach sexual maturity until seven or eight years old. “But we hope that he will remain with us as the stud male in a pan-EU breeding programme.”

formalised languages but they communicate by encoding messages as combinations of sounds and learn social rules of communication. “They respect conversational structures and, from my research, I am convinced  that some elements of language exist in monkeys.” Humans have a huge vocabulary and complex grammatical structures, he explained, which monkeys simply do not have. “They cannot communicate about the past or the future but they  do learn communication skills from each other. “If a monkey is introduced to a foreign colony, it can alter  its vowel sounds in order to integrate better. “So yes, monkeys have regional dialects and their communication adapts to new situations. “There are more than 260 species of monkeys and each has its own vocal repertoire but if they live together, they  learn to decode and use each Alban Lemasson learns how to communicate with a monkey in Kenya other’s ‘language’.”

The Connexion November 2019

Community 31


Remember... where to get your poppies Large areas of France are covered by the Royal British Legion, raising significant sums of money for the Poppy Appeal. There are eight branches, with several locations in each area where you can obtain a poppy to remember the fallen. Branches cover Paris, Bordeaux and the south west, Brittany, Linazay-PoitouCharentes, Lyon, Nice-Monaco, Nord/Pas de Calais, and Somme, with many organising fundraising events. You can find details at rblfrance.org, In Brittany, there will be a raffle at the branch’s monthly meeting on November 5 and branch president Catherine Curtis held a coffee morning in October. Last year, the branch raised about €14,500. A coffee morning is being held at the Embassy Residence in Paris on November 6. Reserve a place by emailing the branch secretary at janetwarby@yahoo.com. It is a free event with items for sale and a raffle. Poppies can be obtained from British churches in Paris, plus WH Smith and some Marks&Spencer outlets or by contacting Ms Warby by email, or the Poppy Appeal organiser Richard Neave at richard.

neave05@gmail.com. Last year, they collected just over €20,000 in the Paris and Ile de France region. There will be various events organised by collectors in the Bordeaux and south west France branch areas, said poppy appeal organiser Brenda Vockings who added that people can contact her by email to find out the location of their nearest poppy collector. She will post poppies anywhere and said: “In addition to traditional paper poppies, I also have poppy pins, car poppies and wreaths. I also put poppies on eBay. With lots of charities competing for money, it is important to be inventive and I have some plans for the 2021 centenary of the Legion. “I am beginning to compile a little book of memories. If any Connexion readers would like to contribute, I’d be delighted if they would email me. “Contributions will range from personal memories, food and recipes, artwork, poetry, photographs, resistance stories – anything that people today would want to know about. “I plan to do a historical

review from 1921 to date, taking into account all conflicts. “The more people who get involved, the better, to get a broad range of interest.” Details of the branches can be found at rblfrance.org or email Mrs Curtis at kissmekate1@ orange.fr, Brenda Vockings at bivockings@gmail.com or Commander Michael Healy at mhealy@orange.fr for poppies by post across France. n The French equivalent to the poppy is the cornflower Bleuet de France and volunteers will be selling them in many town and city centres up to November 11. Onac-vg.fr also sells them. Money collected is given to the Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre which takes care of war and terrorist victims and organises war memorial events. It was chosen as a symbol at the end of WWI because of the blue uniforms of the young soldiers who were nicknamed the bleuets by the older poilus. Jacques Chirac reinstated the practise of wearing a bleuet at May 8 and November 11 commemoration services when president, a tradition continued today by President Macron.

Charity fair at the cathedral Charities will benefit when the Junior Guild of the American Cathedral holds its annual Christmas fair on Sunday, November 17. The American Cathedral is one of the oldest Englishspeaking churches in Paris and has provided a community for more than 125 years. It is home to the Paris Choral Society choir but hosts many other activities, including the Junior Guild. The guild raises money for charities that benefit mothers and children and has members from both the cathedral and the wider Paris community. It holds monthly luncheons and fundraising events, such as the Christmas fair, plus spring book and flower sales. Charities supported include Les Enfants du Monde, which helps young people who arrive in Paris from all over the world without their parents. The charity gives them food, French lessons and helps them find work. It also supports a school in Jerusalem and a charity that supplies milk for babies on the Ivory Coast. The Junior Guild was set up in 1920 to help refugees in Paris following World War One. At that time, it was women-only membership and got its name because it was junior to the Altar Guild,

Junior Guild members helping at last year’s Christmas Fair which had been set up during the war to give women the chance to help in the church – although the only job the dean allowed them to do was to wash the altar cloths. In its heyday, Junior Guild events attracted celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. BritishAmerican-French actress Olivia de Havilland went to the gala in 2010 to celebrate the Guild’s 90th anniversary. Next October is the guild’s centenary and president, Harriet Rivière hopes to increase membership from 60 to around 100. Anybody can join, both men and women, and you do not have to be a member of the church. She said: “It appeals to people who want to do something to help others and it is a

good social group as well. We try to give help in as many different situations as possible, where we feel we can make a difference. For example, we recently gave money to a charity in Pakistan to help them buy sewing machines so a group could learn to sew.” The Christmas fair will be held in the cathedral and there will be books on sale; a silent auction, where you can win meals at top Paris restaurants, silk designer scarves and artwork; and a brocante with good quality objects, Christmas cards, decorations, small toys and flowering plants. For more details contact president – harriet.bob.riviere2@ orange.fr – or treasurer Meredith Salisbury – memesalisbury@gmail.com.

Les Troubadours Britanniques de Limoux in the Aude are putting on their fifth pantomime

Panto is now twice the fun

A theatre group is doubling up for this year’s pantomime and says you will enjoy it… “oh yes, you will”. Les Troubadours Britanniques de Limoux in the Aude are in rehearsal for their production of King Arthur and the Dragon, their fifth panto. Every year they get bigger audiences, so there will be four performances this year, rather than the usual two – from December 6-8. The idea for the theatre group started in 2012 when a group of friends who sang in a choir decided they wanted to do something fun. They formed an association and in 18 months managed to raise €5,000. Secretary and pantomime dame Paul Hughes said: “French people asked why didn’t we simply apply to the mairie for a grant? This shows a cultural difference in our approach. We did not want to depend on the local authority. “As word got around, people with a whole different set of skills began to come forward. “Most had never done pantomime before but wanted to join in. Our sound man travelled the world with rock bands, our set designer was at the Central School of Art and Design, our costume designer went to the Ruskin School of Fine Art and worked in fashion and we now have a scriptwriter and director who has always

been keen on amateur dramatics and taught English and drama. We have grown to a group of more than 40, with nationalities including French, Dutch, Belgian, American, Swedish and British.” Their French audiences are growing and Mr Hughes said: “A lot of French people still have an outdated view of the Brits, so it is a way for them to see another side of us.” Performances are held at Théâtre dans Les Vignes at Cornèze, between Limoux, where Les Troubadours Britanniques are based, and Carcassonne. Tickets are €16 for adults and €9 for children, from tblticketsales@gmail.com or telephone 0468694145. For more details, visit the lestroubadoursbrit.wixsite.com/lesite website.

Have your group featured

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

Network volunteers step in Newcomers to France, as well as longstanding residents, can take advantage of a group aimed at helping them set up home or a business. The Franco British Network in the Dordogne replaces the Dordogne Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which closed this year when government funding was withdrawn. The members and organisers decided to continue and set up a non-profit association run by volunteers. It now has to be self-financing, meaning members pay a €95 annual fee, with an introductory offer of €49, which lasts until the end of 2020. For that, president Roger Haigh said members will get assistance, support, guidance, networking and social events. Payment is required for some specialist help. Volunteers have extensive experience of living and working in France, with a wide range of specialist knowledge. Mr Haigh has been in the department for 26 years and was head of a catering and management school. He said that, despite Brexit, many people were still coming

The Franco British Network held a cream tea garden party to settle from the UK, with many setting up businesses. He said experience had shown that individuals were most concerned about obtaining French residency, healthcare and paying their French taxes. Businesses were mostly concerned with registering, paying French business taxes, managing accounts and adhering to business regulations. He said the network is not just about getting the paperwork sorted out but there is also a social aspect, where people can meet, network and share business and personal experiences of life in France. At present, there are 40 mem-

bers and the network is encouraging as many people to join as possible. A cream tea garden party was held in September for the network’s avant-première launch at the home of Air Commodore Paul Lyall in Lusignac in the presence of the British Consul, Bordeaux, Dominique Olley. Although it has not had its official launch yet, it is up and running and anyone can apply to join now via its website francobritishnetwork.fr.

See also Page 27 for Community events

32 Practical

Trainers made of sea-dumped plastic

Two friends, shocked at the amount of plastic dumped in the Mediterranean off Marseille, have set up a business – turning bottles into trainers. Parisians Paul Guedj, 30 and Alexis Troccaz, 28, came up with the idea for their shoe brand, Corail, after noticing how many plastic bottles were in the sea. Mr Troccaz said: “Making these trainers is a way of allowing thousands of people to have a real impact.” They teamed up with local fishermen to collect plastic bottles from the sea around Marseille. The bottles are sorted, washed and chopped into small pieces. A machine then reduces them into a fibre which is transformed into yarn, woven in France. There are five models of trainer available, with colour options of red, blue, pink and green. Each shoe is handmade in Portugal, with the laces, soles, lining and fabric all made from plastic bottles. Prices start at €99, and each pair can recycle up to eight bottles. The firm also runs its own shoe recycling scheme. Owners can return well-worn shoes, which will be recycled to create new shoes and other objects. The trainers are proving popular, with more than 2,690 pairs already sold – the partners’ original goal was to sell 300. For more information, see ulule.com/ basket-corail.


The Connexion November 2019

Last chance for many to claim eco-friendly cash MANY better-off households are likely to lose their eligibility for the long-standing system of tax credits for eco-friendly home improvements and renovations next year – so if affected you may want to undertake work while 2019 lasts. At present, the tax credits are not means-tested but it is expected that higher-income households will no longer benefit from next year. Levels set where exclusion would begin are €27,706 a year for a single person and €44,124 for a couple. The planned changes are part of 2020’s finance law, which has not yet been finalised. Many types of installation currently attract a 30% tax credit subject to set levels and dependant on family size. This relates to materials but not labour, apart from in the case of insulation work. For example, a family of four can obtain a credit worth up to just over €5,000. Another key change is that the tax credits – known as CITE – will be changing next year to a system of fixed grants paid out by the Anah home renovation agency immediately after work is complete. Currently, they are claimed via the following year’s tax declaration. The credits have existed for more than a decade and involve inserting the cost of items such as insulation or a new eco-friendly boiler on the relevant tax credits section of the income tax declaration. This results in money off the tax bill and/or a payment from the tax office if you do not owe enough tax to benefit otherwise. The items eligible for this vary slightly from year to year and the installation must be done by a worker with RGE environmental certification (you can check this at faire.fr). For the full 2019

The CITE may be used for roof insulation list of items covered, see the Ademe agency’s website here: tinyurl.com/y6eszkon. People with incomes above the “intermediate” level listed on the government site tinyurl.com/y4mcjw2a will not be eligible at all from 2020. Next year, it is planned that those on “modest” or “very modest” means will be eligible for new grants for eligible work they have done. Details of these grants are to be clarified in a decree. Meanwhile, those between “modestes” and “intermediate” top levels on the chart cited above will benefit from an extension of the CITE tax credit for the year 2020 instead. However, the benefit will apply only to homeowners next year and no longer to those who rent or who live in someone else’s home for free. From 2021, “intermediate” households will also be eligible for grants. Some criteria for eligible items are also changing, for example, gas boilers will no longer qualify next year except for people on “modest” incomes who have a very high performance boiler installed. Amounts of tax credit, where relevant, will also be different, with a greater variety of levels, depending on the item installed. For more information on these schemes, see faire.fr, where you can also obtain free advice.

Time to shut pool down for winter SUMMER is well and truly over. The clocks went back at the end of October, which means there are no more excuses: if you have not done so already, it is time to shut down your pool for winter. It is good practice to shut down outdoor pools when they are not in use to protect the walls, liner, pumps and skimmers from damage and maintain water quality. It also saves time and money, and means you do not have to clean a dark green pool when it is time to start enjoying it again next spring. The best time to shut down a pool is before the first frosts, and once the temperature of the water is steadily between 12C and 15C. It may be advisable to drain the pool a little – but do not drain it completely, otherwise the pool could deform without the force of the water over the winter months. Many 10-year pool warranties are voided if it is drained over winter. Cleaning the bottom, walls, water line, skimmer baskets, pump pre-filter and filter will save a big job next spring. It is worth taking the time to do. Readily-available pool wintering products prevent algae and bacteria developing in your pool during the winter. They also prevent limescale deposits on the walls. If you expect it to freeze where you live, protect your pool by installing anti-freeze accessories such as floats, wintering plugs and an anti-freeze box. Finally, put your winter debris cover on to keep out fallen leaves and other debris – and make sure it is taut enough not to dip in the water. You should take advantage of the time to clean your summer cover, then fold it up and pack it away if possible. Then it’s just a case of waiting until it is time to open up your pool again... I rented my pool out for €150 a month: Page 39

The Connexion November 2019


Practical: Money 33

The Connexion

Money / Tax page

Is business needed to sell a few wooden hobby items?

MY HUSBAND is retired and has a hobby making wooden items. He occasionally sells them at a fête or after an inquiry. How much can he earn before he is required to register a business? Can we show the work on internet groups and occasionally sell items? A.B.

THE FRENCH tax authorities consider that when you make items with a view to selling them, you should set up a business. So if you promote the items as for sale, it will usually call for setting up a business and paying business social charges, for example as a micro-entrepreneur. You can do this at guichetentreprises.fr. There is no specific income threshold. In other cases where someone sells on an occasional basis items they have at home – but not items they have made or bought for resale – no business set-up is needed and no tax or social charges, unless the sale is for more than €5,000. In the latter case, a declaration and payment is needed for a capital gain for moveable property (biens meubles) within a month of the sale. This also has to be declared in a set box on the annual income declaration. Other exemptions exist where no business or declaration are needed, eg. when someone sells excess fruit, vegetables and flowers from their garden and for sales at vide-greniers (no more than two a year). For the first exception, the production must be from a garden attached to your home and it must not be over a certain size. Your husband is intentionally creating the items, so the income has to be declared and made liable to tax, irrespective of where he shows his work. He should register a business. IF A family member in the UK wishes to give me money, would that be taxed? I would use it to pay some of my French mortgage. B.R. THE TRANSFER of funds as a gift from one individual to another is treated under the laws of inheritance and in France it is the beneficiary who must declare the gift. As with inheritance tax, taxation increases heavily, the more distant the relationship between the two people is. Current allowances (renewable every 15 years) and tax rates are most favourable where the gift is to your child, where there is an allowance of €100,000, then taxation in bands from 5-20%, then higher after €552,324 of taxable income. They are least favourable where the gift is to someone who is not a close relative: an allow-

Send your financial queries to

Hugh MacDonald at

news@connexionfrance.com ance of €1,594 and then taxation at 60%. There is an additional abatement of €159,325 for disabled people. Find out more on tax rates and abatements here: tinyurl.com/y2g3854v. There is no exception for gifts from someone in the UK because there is no UK/France tax treaty on gifts. In theory, all money gifts should be declared to the tax office (for forms, see tinyurl.com/y5h9xylg). Payment should be made at the same time but for amounts over €15,000 you can opt to pay only after the giver has died. There is an exception where money is given on a special occasion, such as a birthday, and is of a “reasonable” amount given the donor’s means, and also an exception for up to €31,865 every 15 years for money given by an adult under 80 to adult children or (great) grandchildren, or if none, nephews and nieces. However, in the latter case the gift should still be declared (form 2735). A FRIEND and his wife bought a home under a tontine. His widow thought she would become the full owner with no fee but her notaire said there is €4,000 due to register the change of ownership. Is this right? N.H. HONORARY avocat Gerard Barron from Boulogne-sur-Mer said property purchase “stamp duty” fees are not due on re-registration in the widow’s name as the death of the husband does not affect a transfer of title. It just means he is deemed never to have owned the property. He said there is a small land registry fee for removing his name from the title of around a couple of hundred euros. The notaire is entitled to some remuneration for his or her work but he said €4,000 would be too high. He added that there is no obligation on the widow to remove her late husband’s name from the title. She could leave things as they are. If, for example, she later wanted to sell, the notaire would deal with the amendment to the title records when registering the sale. The same would apply on her death, he said. Inheritance tax is due on the husband’s part of the home - but the rate is zero between spouses. A tax return should be made via a notaire.

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.

I LIVE and work in France. In light of Brexit, can I transfer payments from my UK state pension to my French state pension? B.R. IF YOU are asking if your UK state pension consists of a “pot” you can transfer to increase your French pension and thus avoid currency fluctuations, this is not the case. Your state pension is a right to regular payments from the UK government based on your National Insurance contributions. An exception is people who reached state pension age before April 2016 and deferred taking their pension, who can opt to take part as a lump sum. There is more flexibility with some private or work pensions that could be transferred into a scheme outside the UK, though not into your French state pension. One option is the Rops – Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme – but there are none in France. Some financial firms advise an “international SIPP” as an alternative. Some consultants may offer to amalgamate all your UK and French pensions into one sum that is paid to you in euros in France, but in the case of the UK state pension, this does not remove conversion problems and the option is unreliable, not advantageous and rarely done. You may be thinking of EU pension aggregation, a system for people who have paid into several EU countries’ pension systems, under which each country pays its pension separately. Its aim is to take into account your whole “EU career” to avoid penalties for a short career. It pays you pro rata for the time spent paying into a country’s system. When you reach pension age, you apply in the country where you live or last worked. It processes your claim and brings together records of your contributions from all the countries involved. It is advised to make preparations at least six months before pension age. In a Brexit with a deal, aggregation would continue between the UK and France for Britons living in France before the end of the transition period. In a no-deal, it would end but France would recognise UK payment periods made up to six months after Brexit and the UK would recognise periods in the EU before Brexit. It could continue if there is a UK/France treaty signed on this.

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.

65% reduction in taxe d’habitation this year LOCAL tax taxe d’habitation is payable for most homes by November 15 if you do not pay online, by smartphone or by regular instalments, but for 80% of households – all but the highest earners – there is a 65% reduction. Some homes, usually second homes, have a December deadline. The reduction is part of a gradual phasing out of the tax. It applies to main residences, not second homes. There is a simulator to check if you are eligible at impots.gouv.fr/portail/ node/11605. The reduction is calculated automatically. It will be 100%, wiping out the tax, for those eligible next year. This year some people were due reimbursements, which should now have been paid. This affects people who pay in monthly instalments and overpaid, bearing in mind the reduction due. You should see the refund on your bank statements, listed DDFIP and a local address. If you are eligible for the reduction next year, you can reduce the amount you pay each month on the tax website to avoid the need for a refund next year. Changes made until December 15 will take effect in January, and those made later will take effect two months afterwards. Click on Paiement, then Gérer mes contrats de prélèvement and choose your taxe d’habitation. Click Modifier ou arrêter vos prélèvements and Moduler vos prélèvements. You can also do it via the Impots.gouv app or by contacting your Centre Prélèvement Service by letter, email or phone. You insert the amount of tax you should pay next year. In many cases, it will be €139 – just the TV licence fee.

Tax bands set to change CHANGES are on the way to income tax bands that will mean reductions for 17million homes, with middle earners benefiting the most. The first taxable band will be at 11%, as opposed to 14%. However, there will be adjustments to the levels at which the other bands take effect, so high earners do not benefit. A simulator to see if you benefit is at tinyurl.com/y3sptrsp.

Fisc to use social media PART of the 2020 Finance Law which is being finalised authorises tax officials to do mass collections of social media and online sales site data so computers can analyse it to better target controls. The aim is to identify people making undeclared money from online selling.

Wealth tax nets €1.8bn THE property wealth tax IFI, which replaced ISF, is bringing in more than expected – €1.8billion this year, up from €1.3billion in 2018. When it was brought in, it was expected to net about €850million. Reasons are thought to include more tax inspections, property price increases, and online declaration which helps avoid people undervaluing their homes.

34 Practical: Money


The Connexion November 2019

How is income from UK assets taxed in France?

This column is by Bill Blevins of Blevins Franks financial advice group (blevinsfranks.com). He has decades of experience advising expatriates in France and co-authored the Blevins Franks Guide to Living in France

Most British expatriates who live in France continue to own some UK assets, whether they be bank accounts, shares or property, as well as pension funds. Is it a good idea to keep hold of so many UK assets if you live in France permanently (particularly with a change of government a possibility when a UK election takes place)? Is it a tax-efficient way of holding your capital? As a tax resident in France, you are liable for French tax on your worldwide income, gains and property wealth. This applies regardless of whether you bring the income into France or leave it in the UK. Income earned from UK assets is also liable to tax in the UK in most cases. You need to follow the France/UK double tax treaty to establish where you should pay the tax. Although you only pay tax in one country, the income still needs to be declared correctly in both. The rules differ according to type of income. UK rental income and government service pensions are not directly taxable in France, but you still have to include them as part of your taxable income. A credit is then given for the French tax and social charges liability. This applies even if no actual tax is paid in the UK. Conversely, UK bank interest earned by French residents is taxable only in France. In other cases, such as UK dividends and real

estate gains, tax paid in the UK is offset against your French liability. If your French tax bill is higher than the UK’s, you will pay the difference, but there is no refund if it is lower.

UK investment income Income derived from ISAs and Premium Bonds is tax-free in the UK but this advantage is lost once you become resident in France. All income and gains from cash and share ISAs are fully taxable here. Although betting and  gambling winnings are tax-free in France, this does not apply to Premium Bonds because the initial investment is never actually at stake. Look also at your other UK investments, such as shares, unit trusts, OEICs and investment bonds, and consider whether they are the most taxefficient way of holding your capital. In France, most investment income, whether earned in France, UK or elsewhere, is currently taxed at a flat rate of 30% – including social charges, which would be 17.2% on their own. This applies to interest, dividends, capital gains on sale of shares, etc. Low-income households can pay tax at normal scale rates instead. If you receive interest or dividends from the UK, you must declare the income within 15 days of the end of the month and pay 30% of the amount received. This is then offset against the tax due on your tax return. Lower-income households can avoid this advance payment. UK pension income Pension income from UK funds is generally taxable only in France, at the scale rates of income tax. These currently range from 14%, for income over €9,964, to 45%, for income over €156,244, with a potential extra 3% or 4% for higher

income. You receive an annual 10% deduction (maximum €3,812 per household). There is an additional 9.1% social charges payable (7.4% for pension income below €2,000 per month/€3,000 for a couple) but you are exempt if you hold Form S1 or are not registered for French healthcare. There is one exception. If your pension arises from UK government service employment, UK tax is always payable. This pension income is not taxed in France but must be included as part of your taxable income. French residents do not benefit from the 25% tax-free “pension commencement lump sum” that UK residents get. Lump sums are generally taxed as pension income in France. However, you may be able to opt for a fixed 7.5% rate, with a 10% deduction, provided you had paid into a contributory pension scheme, and the whole pension fund is taken at once or there is no further possibility to take another capital sum from it. This can present real opportunities if you are over 55 and can withdraw your entire pension as one lump sum under the UK pension freedoms. You could potentially re-invest the capital into a tax-efficient arrangement in France and pay less tax overall. Another option is to transfer pension funds out of the UK into a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), which can unlock estate planning and currency flexibility that you do not get with UK pensions. Note, however, that the UK applies a 25% “overseas transfer charge” for EU residents transferring outside the EU/EEA. This could potentially be extended post-Brexit to put an end to tax-free EU transfers. If you are thinking of cashing in or transferring your pension, take advice and carefully consider

your options to establish what would work best for you in the long term.

Exchange of information Once you move to France, it is your responsibility to establish what taxes you are liable for on all your assets and income, and declare and pay tax accordingly. Getting it wrong, however inadvertently, could result in a tax investigation, back taxes, interest and penalties. Your local tax office in France now automatically receives information on your assets and income outside France under the global Common Reporting Standard, so double-check that you are declaring everything correctly. Tax planning The French tax regime is completely different to the UK’s, so tax planning set up in the UK is unlikely to be effective here. France does offer opportunities for tax-efficient investing – an assurance-vie, for example, can prove to be highly beneficial, for yourself and your heirs, if you choose the right one. Speak to a locally based tax and wealth management adviser to confirm what taxes you should be paying and where, so they can review the way you hold your assets and recommend tax-efficient alternatives for France. Your tax and estate planning should be designed around your specific circumstances and objectives. n Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices, which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised. An individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

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The Connexion November 2019


Got it taped... art of retro music recording A NEW generation of music lovers are being introduced to the joys of cassette tapes, thanks to a French company. In the past, there was a real thrill watching the little wheels spin while listening to recordings of your favourite music. Now an updated formula of the famous BASF tapes, once reputed to be the best for sound quality and longevity, is available. Recording The Masters, part of the Mulann Group, is the only company in Europe making cassettes, at its factory at Avranches in Normandy. The Mulann Group specialises in making the magnetic strips found on bank and other cards. It began making large reel-to-reel tapes for use in recording studios, archives and film, and for military and space use, before restarting cassette manufacture too. Company head Jean-Luc Renou told Connexion: “We started picking up from the market the fact that cassettes were becoming more and more popular again. “Obviously, the stocks were running out because they are not being made any more, and, as someone who always likes the analogue sound, I could appreciate that there might be

a niche market, which is why we decided to take the chance and see if we had buyers.” Tapes have been on sale since last November and buyers have been in two groups: the first in their 40s and above, who remember tapes from their past and who still have good quality tape decks. The other group are in their 20s and 30s, who have become aware of the softer sound produced by tapes, when compared to digital music. Only one company, from Japan, is making new highquality cassette players, but Mr Renou said many people still had old players. “Often they work straight

away or just need a little bit of attention, like having the heads cleaned, and there is often someone in town who still knows how to fix them,” he said. “They are pretty easy to understand, and if they go through a good amplifier and good speakers, the sound can be exceptional.” The company makes the tapes from scratch, starting with rolls of plastic similar to those used in agriculture for greenhouses. Iron oxides and other chemicals are ground down and mixed with solvents to make a slurry, which is then used to coat the plastic and dried

Jean-Luc Renou, of the Mulann Group, with his company’s latest product – the once-ubiquitous cassette tape, above them, because the widespread before the rolls are sliced into use of digital recording techthe correct width. “It is a niche nology has reduced the market and there are very few difference between amateur people who know how to use and professional standards. the machines, so they feel “They have found that by individually responsible and using tapes they can produce the quality is very high,” said recordings showing all their Mr Renou. skill and passion, something Sales are through the compdigital recording has equalany’s website – recordingtheised,” said Mr Renou. masters.com – and the tapes The final application is with cost €29.90 for a pack of 10, or military and space researchers, €3.49 individually, plus TVA. both of whom need to be able The reel-to-reel tapes the to record sounds from space company also makes are used or under the sea with as little to archive music, because distortion as possible. many people distrust digital “They are all niche markets, recording, where formats and probably will never be change regularly. huge again, but we are happy Large recording studios are to be in it,” he said. also going back to using

Crédit Mutuel and Arkéa’s divorce is close to absolute AFTER four years of drama, the messy divorce between Crédit Mutuel Arkéa and the rest of the Crédit Mutuel group has reached an interlude, with banking regulators now looking at the mechanics of a split. Crédit Mutuel is the fourth largest retail bank in France, with 29 million customers, 18 million of whom are outside the country. It has one of the most trusted brand names in France but is involved in a messy drama with more plot lines than a TV soap opera. Arkéa wants to leave the Crédit Mutuel group, which does not want to see it go. A spokeswoman for Arkéa said: “At the moment, we are co-operating fully with the European Central Bank (ECB), our regulator, over how the mechanics of the split will operate. “There is no fixed timeline but obviously we would like the conclusions of the ECB to be as quick as is possible.” Arkéa, which is prepared to give up the Crédit Mutuel brand for independence, is based in Brest, in Brittany, and has support from Crédit Mutuel local banks in the south west. Its opponent, known as CM11-CIC, is based in Strasbourg and has most of its support in the east and in the Paris region. Much has been made of the supposed cultural differences between the east and west. Parts of the Massif central federation are involved in a sub-dispute, after some local branches refused to accept a vote that it should switch alliance from Arkéa to CM11-CIC. The switch finally took place in September. What started the bad blood is not clear – some say it was because CIC, which was bought by Crédit Mutuel in 1998 and aligned itself with CM11, started poaching in Arkéa’s areas. Others say it was simply down to over-inflated egos at the top of the two federations.

Another explanation was that Arkéa, which is one of the leaders in France in using new technology and whose Fortuneo is one of the few online banks making money, became frustrated by the more traditional outlook. The normally staid financial site La Tribune wrote: “There is a bit in this of battle of Astérix against the Romans, Brexit, Catalonia and bonnets rouges, peppered with explosive ingredients: economic development, competition, jobs, cultural antagonisms and exaggerated personal ambitions.” It added that there were close links between the leaders of CM11-CIC and government high-flyers from the old Socialist Party, while Arkéa’s top flight worked closely with Jacques Chirac when he was president. Nicolas Théry, head of CM11-CIC and of the Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, worked with the present governor of the Banque de France François Villeroy de Galhau, who is also on the board of the European Central Bank, the regulator. Mr Théry is also close friends with Odile Renaud-Basso, head of France Trésor. He worked in the finance ministry as part of the socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s cabinet. By contrast, Jean-Pierre Denis, head of Arkéa, was part of Jacques Chirac’s inner circle, first at the Paris town hall and then in the presidential palace, where he was secrétaire générale adjoint de l’Élysée. Arguments against a split centre on the received wisdom in European banking circles that the time has arrived for a small number, larger banks, rather than more smaller ones. Arkéa brushes this aside, saying that on its own it will be the sixth biggest bank in France. It claims that, free from the ball and chain of the rest of Crédit Mutuel, it will be able to take full advantage of its leadership in digital technologies to become a European leader.

‘Movie notes’ warning to shopkeepers POLICE have issued a warning about fake bank notes after several shopkeepers were duped by “movie money”. The fake €20 and €50 banknotes are sold on Chinese websites and are normally made for children or used in movies. Some shopkeepers have been fooled, notably in small shops in the Vosges and Limousin. People have also used them in markets, where it is easier to pass them on as sellers do not have time to check them. The words “movie money” are written on the notes instead of the signature of the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, and they are easily recognisable as they do not “crack” and are made with ordinary paper. There is no relief on them, unlike the real ones. On one side, they say: “This is not legal. It is to be used for motion props.” EYPΩ has been replaced by PRΩP. The serial number is also wrong, as it does not contain 12 characters. Holding and using fake banknotes is an offence in France, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

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Talk to the people who know

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by Brian McCulloch

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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.

36 Work


The Connexion November 2019

Financial kick-start for sole traders to be cut would have had disastrous consequences for lowerincome sole traders. He said the present system helped businesses in their early stages, and the federation will fight to get the best deal possible – and a promise that nothing will change for those who signed up under 2019 Acre rules. Every year, 300,000 people start their own businesses as micro-entrepreneurs. n From this month, selfemployed workers will, for the first time, have the right to unemployment benefit of €800 a month for six months. However to qualify the worker must have previously earned at least €10,000 and be actively looking for work. The rules say their business must also have gone into legal liquidation. Mr Leclercq told Connexion this means few micro-entrepreneurs will benefit because the liquidation procedure is expensive. He said liquidation costs nearly €3,000, a huge proportion of the €4,800 the person will receive in benefits. He said he has written to Work Minister Muriel Pénicaud asking her to reconsider this condition.

Small business and tax advice Q: I have heard that the annual obligation of income tax declaration is being abolished in France from next year? Is this true? A: It is true that as of 2020 there will be no declaration to make for many households – though not all. Those concerned are some 12 million tax households who usually do not make modifications to the pre-filled declaration supplied to them (online in their personal space at the tax website and on paper). This notably concerns people with French employment incomes and French pensions whose amounts are known. As of 2020 such people will simply receive a short document listing the incomes known to the tax office and, if they have nothing to add, they will not have to submit a declaration, but will be taken as having done so tacitly. However if they have changes or additions to make then they will be able to make a declaration in the usual way. If necessary, they will also still be able to make a corrective declaration or réclamation if they realise that they should have declared something additional. Anyone who does typically make changes and additions, or who has not declared before (eg. someone who moved to France recently) or for whom the tax office does not have ‘exhaustive and precise’ information such as self-employed workers and people with property incomes which can vary, will have to continue declaring in the usual way. The Public Accounts Minister Gérald Darmanin has described the move towards tacit declaration as “an enormous simplification” for both taxpayers and the tax offices – and following on from the change to at-source tax this year it continues a move towards a system which will be more familiar to Britons moving to France.  Email your tax questions to news@connexionfrance.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. Please note that Fiscaly is only able to answer queries if retained on an advisory basis. See www.fiscaly.fr or call 09 81 09 00 15

Photos: Selma Daddi

Financial benefits offered to small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs for three years to help them get off the ground are to be significantly reduced. Since January, the Aide aux créateurs et repreneurs d’entreprises (Acre) regulations have allowed new entrepreneurs to pay reduced social charges. How much has depended on status and income, but most sole traders with annual earnings under €40,000 have paid only 25% of their full charges in the first year, 50% in the second and 75% in the third. The government had planned to reduce these advantages from October 1 but due to pressure from the Fédération des Auto-Entrepreneurs, the decree was withdrawn. Authorities are now in discussions to decide what measures to take and it is certain there will be less help in the future. Estimates show that if nothing changes, the Acre system will cost the government €1.4billion in 2022, rather than the €446million it cost in 2018. Grégoire Leclercq, president of the Fédération des AutoEntrepreneurs, said the decree

Inside the magical world of a self-taught ceramic artist

Véronique Pignatta works across so many disciplines that it was hard to find a business description when she set up on her own

CRAFTS in focus by SELMA DADDI Small, discreet, and full of hidden treasures, the workshop of ceramicist Véronique Pignatta is a reflection of her artistic style. Mrs Pignatta, 50, creates... from painting to sculpting, jewellery and ceramic items, she makes everything with her hands at the back of her shop in Nice where she grew up. Her inspiration comes from stories, whether her own or well-known tales such as Alice in Wonderland. She is self-taught and did not follow any course or receive a diploma. She said: “Sometimes I do something and someone tells me ‘oh, you used this technique’, and I did not even know this was a technique! “When I was young, I wanted to be a painter but my parents told me it was not a real job.” But she did not give up and kept on doing what she liked, making objects with clay and painting them. Her main focus today is ceramics but she admits it was hard for her to settle on a preferred career choice. She said: “When I set up the business, they did not know which field to put me in. They were asking me what I was doing and what I was earning from but I was already doing a bit of everything, painting, sculpting, making tiles and ceramic cups… “It took months to finally put me in a business pigeon-hole, which was something like ‘various artistic activities’.” She loves trying new ideas and started creating jewellery after her son asked her to make earrings for his girlfriend. She found something “different” in this art and now also sells

There is always plenty of work in progress in Mrs Pignatta’s workshop, right. Below, some of her unique designs

jewellery, which has her unique signature: a ceramic character. When she works in ceramic, pieces can take two to three hours to create. She works with clay and has to be careful as it dries quickly. “When I work in a new place, I have to check the humidity of the room as I need a bit of humidity to work,” she said. She said that clay is her “playdough” and she can create anything with it. She often makes cups, plates and bowls but each piece is unique and she chooses not to reproduce items so they all remain one-offs. She gives names to all her creations. She is currently working on a ‘princess collection” and said: “I tell myself a story and this is how I create. Each creation has a story.

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a painter. But my parents told me it was not a real job

Véronique Pignatta

“Sometimes, the objects are more beautiful than practical but it is also a real pleasure to know that some people use my cups every day.” Some of her plates featured in the well-known French TV version of Come Dine with Me, Un dîner presque parfait, in which contenders are evaluated on how well they host a meal. She said: “I didn’t even know about it. Someone told me and I was so surprised.” She likes working and recreating stories, especially tales such as the Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, and Alice in Wonderland. And sometimes the inspiration comes directly from her. A client will give her a theme and she might come back with several ideas.

Once, some clients asked her to create something for their friends’ 60th wedding anniversary. She immediately thought of creating two married skeletons. In the end, the clients decided to take what she described as a less eccentric option. Although her style is special and clearly marked by fantasy, Mrs Pignatta can create simple and feminine items such as floral plates or polka-dot tiles. She previously worked for several restaurants in Nice, where her paintings are on the walls – and the doors and tiles. Mrs Pignatta has always worked alone. She said: “I do what I love so it does not feel like work, and I will keep on doing this until I can’t do it any more.” She said she might then hire an intern to help her and so she can pass on her knowledge. Ms Pignatta’s self-taught career path is not the only way to become a ceramicist, though it is a well-trodden route. The basic qualification required is a CAP (certificat d’aptitude professionnelle) tournage en céramique or décoration en céramique. You can then go further with BMA (brevet des métiers d’art) céramique d’art, and later do a BTS CAIC (concepteur en art et industrie céramique), though experience and apprenticeships remain key to this sort of work.

The Connexion November 2019

Architecture of France... The Eiffel Tower

Happy birthday, Iron Lady By JANE HANKS

Subscriber Extra

We speak to Eiffel’s great great great grandson about his famous ancestor’s iron legacy + find extra photos relating to Eiffel online ThIS year is the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, one of Paris’s most famous landmarks – yet it was originally planned to be dismantled after 20 years. It was designer Gustave Eiffel’s crowning achievement, but he was responsible for many other iron structures which can still be seen around the world. The Eiffel Tower was built for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 because organisers wanted to mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. They launched a competition to build an iron tower on the Champ de Mars with a square base, 125 metres across and 300 metres tall. There were 107 entries but Eiffel’s project - which he had created with engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, and architect Stephen Sauvestre - was the winner. The original plans included stonework pedestals, monumental arches to link the columns and large glass-walled halls, a bulb-shaped design for the top and many other ornamental features. The plans were simplified but elements, such as the arches, were retained. It took two years, two months and five days to build: five months for the foundations and 21 for the tower. All the elements were made in Eiffel’s factory at Levallois-Perret, on the outskirts of the capital. Between 150 and 300 workers were employed at any one time, supervised by constructors who had worked on Eiffel’s other metal viaduct projects. The tower - nicknamed the “Dame de fer”, Iron Lady in French – is made up of 18,000 pieces and each one was designed and calculated and then made to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre. The pieces of this extraordinary jigsaw were held together by 2.5million thermally assembled rivets, which contracted during cooling to ensure a tight fit. Each rivet required a team of four men: one to heat it up, another to hold it in place, a third to shape the head and a fourth to beat it with a sledgehammer. The foundations were made of concrete installed a few metres below ground level on top of a layer of compacted gravel. The tower was assembled using wooden scaffolding and small steam cranes which moved up and down the tower itself. Sand boxes and hydraulic jacks, which were later replaced by permanent wedges, were used to position the metal girders to an accuracy of one millimetre. It was finished in what was regarded as record time on March 31, 1889, and Eiffel received his Legion of Honour on the narrow platform at the top. Such a huge structure did not please all Parisians. A “Protest against the Tower of Monsieur Eiffel” was published in the newspaper Le Temps and signed by some of the big names in the world of literature and arts at the time, such as the writer Guy de Maupassant and composer Charles Gounod. It attracted unflattering descriptions in the press such as “this truly tragic street lamp”, a “half-built factory pipe” and “this giant ungainly skeleton”. Eiffel defended the attack in the news-

Property Watch ‘

n A free exhibition about the construction of the tower is open to the public on the Esplanade at its base until the end of November. The Eiffel Tower Operating Company, SETE, says it shows in a fun and educational way how the tower was built. Visitors, for example, can walk over screens on the ground that reproduce the image of the girders, so they can feel what it was like working high up on the construction.

Midi-Pyrénées 09, 31, 32, 65

DEPARTMENTS: Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées MAIN CITIES: Foix, Pamiers, Saint-Girons, Toulouse, Saint-Gaudens, Muret, Auch, Condom, Mirande, Tarbes, Argelès-Gazost, Bagnères-de-Bigorre MOUNTAINS and plains, plains and mountains. The landscape of the western portion of the former French region of Midi-Pyrénées could not offer more of a contrast. With the exception of Toulouse – home to about half a million people and regional capital for the entire super-region of Occitanie, into which the Midi-Pyrénées was subsumed in 2015 – this picturesque part of south west France is a sparsely populated, largely agricultural area, dotted with bustling market towns and typically sleepy French villages. Head towards the Pyrénées, and the landscape changes again – with never-ending skies and wonderfully dramatic views for lovers of the outdoors, painfully historic castles on craggy peaks, and the winter promise of skiing on snowcapped mountains. None of this is to say that this is an out-of-the-way, hardto-reach place. Transport links, on the whole, are excellent. Airports, in Toulouse and Tarbes for example, offer both European and longer international services, while road and rail services are generally excellent – thanks in no small part to the tourism industry. Toulouse – where a typical older property can cost upwards of €300,000 – adds a big-city spike to the average property price round here. But if you look beyond the influence of the Pink City, there are plenty of bargains around. A villa in Tarbes will cost around €125,000, while anyone with a budget of €200,000 will have plenty of change to play with if they centre their property search on Auch.

Eiffel’s long and eventful life and career

Eiffel was born in Dijon in 1832. After training as an engineer, he worked for several years supervising work on the great railway bridge in Bordeaux. He set up his own company, specialising in metal structural work, in 1864 and constructed hundreds of different metal structures around the world. His achievements include the Porto viaduct over the river Douro in Portugal in 1876, the Garabit viaduct near Ruynesen-Margeride, Cantal (pictured below) in 1884, the Pest railway station in Hungary, the dome of the Nice observatory, and the metal structure of the Statue of Liberty. He was admired for his inventiveness and even created “portable” bridges that were sold around the world in “kits”. However, not everything he touched turned to gold. His company won the contract to build locks for the Panama Canal. It was the biggest deal of his business life – and a career-ending failure. The project was badly managed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Frenchman who had overseen the successful Suez Canal, and ended in one of the biggest financial scandals of the century. De Lesseps and Eiffel were taken to court for fraud. Eiffel was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2,000 francs. Even though the ruling was later annulled, his honour was severely compromised and he retired. He spent the next 30 working years as a scientist, and set himself the task of finding a practical application for the Eiffel Tower. He used it in wind resistance experiments, as a meteorological observation post and as a giant aerial mast for the new science of broadcasting. He was interested in aero-dynamics and built a wind tunnel at the foot of the tower, followed by a much bigger one at Rue Boileau in Paris in 1909, which is still in use today. He died on December 27, 1923, aged 91. paper, saying: “I believe that the tower will possess its own beauty. Are we to believe that because one is an engineer, one is not preoccupied by beauty in one’s constrtions, or that one does not seek to create elegance as well as solidity and durability? “Is it not true that the very conditions which give strength also conform to the hidden rules of harmony? “Now to what phenomenon did I have to give primary concern in designing the tower? It was wind resistance. “Well then! I hold that the curvature of the monument’s four outer edges, which is

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as mathematical calculation dictated it should be, will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design. Moreover, there is an attraction in the colossal, and a delight to which ordinary theories of art are scarcely applicable. “For my part, I believe that the tower will possess its own beauty.” The tower was an immediate popular success, visited by two million people during the Exposition Universelle of 1889. It now attracts more than seven million visitors a year.

What your money buys Under €170,000

A charming late 19th century, architect-designed three-bed house, a super renovation project. Renovation work has been started and this now requires completion. Located just 15 minutes from Bagnères-de-Luchon, and the ski resort of Superbagnères. €88,000 Ref: 103495CMC31

A delightful cottage in a pretty and vibrant Gascon village with stunning views. A 19th century property in Lavardens that is deceptively spacious. Set in the heart of one of the “Plus beaux Villages de France”, all amenities within walking distance. €165,000 Ref: 104344SBU32

More than €200,000

Just reduced, an attractive fourbed house with two-bed annexe and pool in heart of the Pyrénées. A spacious villa on three floors, a wonderful permanent or holiday rental property, with potential for a B&B in Biert. Direct access to cycling and walking routes, with skiing nearby. €244,000 Ref: 102566CMC09

Spacious and tastefully renovated five-bed Pyrenean-style home with pool, not overlooked. In grounds of 3,025m², with outbuildings and a garage. This house is perfect for a family who want to be close to town with the tranquility of the countryside, in Luby-Betmont. €296,800 Ref: 100725AVA65

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

Next month: We look at the Pays de la Loire


Your questions answered

Consultant Solicitor John Kitching answers a reader query

Q: Earlier this year, my spouse died. He was English. In 2016 we moved to France and bought a house here. He only had a British will. My notaire asked me to obtain probate in the UK. Everything we have is in joint names, including bank accounts in UK and France, and land and property in France. My application was rejected because there is nothing to probate. Do you know how this should be dealt with? I can’t get the land and house into my name until succession is approved. S.W. A: I suggest you contact a UK solicitor who is a specialist in French law and with expertise of UK wills and EU succession regulation. To advise with any clarity, it is necessary to see the will, its date and exact wording. It appears the residence of the deceased is in France. We then need to ascertain if there is a valid choice of law (implied or expressed). If we assume the will is valid and does not exclude assets in France, the next question is whether the will contains or implies a valid choice of law. If not, French law applies based on

habitual residence. French law would interpret a UK will in accordance with French law. Any children would be entitled to their reserved share, and the will would apply to the free part of the estate (quotité disponible). If there is a choice of law, the notaire can apply the will according to English law. The notaire may require an affidavit from a UK solicitor to confirm the validity and effect of the will. This would need to be translated with a certification and often an Apostille certificate of legalisation. Regarding probate, it may be possible to ask a UK solicitor to sign a statutory declaration (translated into French) to confirm that: n a grant of probate is not always necessary, and does not apply to assets outside England and Wales; n the authority for an executor to act arises out of the will itself, not out of the grant of probate; n and that a grant of probate cannot be issued unless there are assets in England and Wales in the deceased’s sole name requiring a grant.

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

Q: The loi Carrez – why is it so important (I have only come across this concept in France)? Which areas are counted? A: The 1996 Carrez law obliges sellers of copropriété property (ie. a property, usually a flat, that is part of a larger complex with common areas) to give buyers a certificate detailing the surface area, which is also mentioned in the main sale documents (compromis de vente, acte de vente, etc). It is advisable to have this established by a diagnostiqueur, who will provide a certificate. It remains valid unless work has been done changing the surface area. The law is named after the centre-right MP who championed it, Gilles Carrez, and it included a standardised

definition of floorspace. The superficie Carrez is the total enclosed floor area, not including walls, partitions, staircases and stairwells, piping and electricity conduits and doorways. Cellars, gardens or terraces, and parking spaces are also excluded, as are enclosed areas less than 1.8m high and rooms less than 8m². If the floor area is overstated by more than 5%, the buyer has the right, within a year, to demand a pro-rata price reduction. If the floor area is understated, the seller has no recourse. It does not apply to property that is not yet built (covered by other rules) or detached property, though there is a Civil Code obligation of accuracy if a contract mentions floorspace.

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

The Connexion November 2019


Plastic fantastic plumbing


When you don’t have a ...clou Nick Inman charts the ups and downs of doing it himself with tips and information he has learned renovating a French farmhouse The great thing about plumbing is that you immediately know when you have got it right without resorting to complicated testing equipment. If a joint is not watertight when you turn the stopcock on, you get wet. Simple as that. I once demonstrated this to my family when a fine arc of water came out of the toilet feed that I had just “fixed”, soaking the landing carpet. But that’s the worst that can happen. Plumbing is safe to do yourself – as long as you have a mop handy. The worst part of it is that you often have to work in confined spaces. Domestic water in France works the same as in the UK – with one big difference: there is no cold water tank in the loft and the pressure coming out of the taps is provided by a château d’eau on a hillside somewhere. A wise first move when you buy a house is to take control of your pressure by fitting a regulator (réducteur de pression) at the start of the system. This will probably come pre-

set at a certain pressure and without a scale but you can tweak it up or down. I’m sometimes tempted to turn it up for the benefit of the slow-running shower at the far end of the house but everything else works well, so I leave it alone. My main plumbing problem is that progress has been made since I moved from North London and I have been slow in coming up to date. In the 1980s and 1990s I taught myself to make soldered joints in copper tubing. There was no alternative and that was fine by me because metal has a satisfying solidity to it. A well-sealed system will last donkeys’ years. While wielding my blow torch, I’d turn my nose up at the idea of “plastic” piping because I thought it would never be long-lasting or reliable enough – but I have been forced to see reason since I moved to France. If you plumb a new bathroom, or even a house, you do what everyone else does in France: use PER polyethylene reticule tubing. It is conveniently colour-coded (red for hot and blue for cold) to make it idiot-proof and usually comes in housing (gaine) to protect it from UV light. Sizes are 12, 16 and 20mm


Cheaper loans lead to better prices for seller

SELLERS are now much more likely to achieve close to their asking price as historically low mortgage rates entice more buyers on to the market, say agents LPI-SeLoger Over 20 years, the average mortgage interest rate (excluding insurance) for standard borrowers is 1.2%, as at September 5, 2019, compared with 1.6% a year earlier and 2.7% in September 2015.

Village puts 24 houses and shops on market A “DESERT” village in Haute-Saône put 24 houses, apartments and shops on the market on the same day in an attempt to rejuvenate itself. Jussey took the unusual step to highlight the appeal of village life in an area in which 22% of housing is empty.

Rents fixed in 28 areas

LANDLORDS in 28 high-pressure housing areas are banned from routinely increasing the rent of a property for new tenants. This rule applies to empty and furnished leases for the tenant’s main residence as well as shorter-term “mobility leases”. You can check the areas affected at tinyurl.com/yxkkb23d.

diameter and it is flexible, so that, unlike copper, you can bend it instantly and make incredibly long runs of continuous pipe without the need for elbows or joints, as long as you avoid tight corners. The system is organised around one or more manifolds, or distributors (nourrice in French, which means wet nurse – you get the picture.) To work with PER, you need to know a few basic, easy-tolearn techniques to make crimped joints. This will require a set of specific tools (cutter, flarer, crimper), which come in a kit called a coffret pinces pour raccord PER à glissement from Brico Depot for €50.90. “It’s like a child’s toy kit,” says my neighbour who is plumbing an old farmhouse entirely with PER. Another type of plastic pipe is multicouche, which is white, requires different handling methods and is mainly used by professional plumbers. My house now has a combination of plumbing systems: heavy-duty supply pipe from the meter; copper pipe from the 1990s; multicouche after the passage of a plumber who is really an Occitan folk musician; and PER from my adventures with the new material. As if that were not enough variety, I added one more system when I installed a water filter that came with narrowbore push-fit tubing. It all seems to work together. Water gets to where I want it to go, touch wood. But I have a box of dedicated plumbing tools at the ready – just in case.

Paris mulls tighter rules on Airbnb PARIS is considering changes to property rules that would severely curtail the number of Airbnb rentals. Several foreign cities have already placed restrictions on the online rental platform in an attempt to reduce the number of empty housing units. Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of urban planning, said: “In Paris you have more than 200,000 homes that are unoccupied, empty or transformed into second homes or Airbnb residences. This is equivalent to the entire 16th and 17th arrondissements.” Some cities – including New York, where it is now impossible to rent an entire apartment on the platform for less than 30 days – have banned or severely restricted Airbnb rentals. Mr Missika said Paris should think about following suit: “These are things we must consider. I think we must be aware that constructability in Paris is relatively limited. “But, on the other hand, these empty dwellings will have to go beyond simple taxation. To have a way to ensure that these dwellings are occupied. “You understand that in a city like Paris, where housing is scarce and rents are high, having so many vacant units is a real problem.” n Any tenant who sublets their property via Airbnb without prior written agreement from their landlord has to pay the full amount of any income they receive as a result of any sublets to the landlord, the Cour de Cassation recently ruled.

Creator’s descendants hope to save first concrete house DESCENDANTS of an industrialist who built the world’s first reinforced concrete house for himself have got together to save it from ruin and give it a new lease of life. The house, in the Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, was built in 1853 by François Coignet, a maker of products such as glue, chemical fertilisers – and concrete. Mr Coignet pioneered the use of prefabricated and reinforced concrete in building construction. He built his house next to his factory, partly as an advert for the business, to show that an entire house could be made from concrete, as opposed to more traditional materials. Despite being classed as a historic monument since 1998, it has been derelict for more than half a century after being owned by various private companies. Now Mr Coignet’s descendants have created the La Maison Coignet association and hope to restore the building to its former glory. They have been canvassing ideas on how to save it. An agreement is being negotiated to buy the house and former factory site, which is currently owned by Saria, a company which recycles butchery waste. It plans to sell in the next two to three

Photo: Eric Bajart / wikimedia commons

38 PRACTICAL: Property

years, during which time the association would like to lay the foundations for its future project. The main idea so far is to make the house a place of research, training or education on sustainability, housing or social issues. Association president Emmanuel Sala said: “The idea we propose aims to bring back the forgotten drive for social progress advocated by Coignet by using the building for activities dedicated to the environment. “We are working with eco-construction companies and the local community.”

The Connexion November 2019

Property 39


I earned €150 a month from renting out my pool from May. It is a bit of work because I make sure everything is clean and neat and correct, and make an effort to have flowers in the garden, but everything has gone well. “When I am at work, I leave the keys with a friend. I have had no problems. “The fact that it is an open platform where you can write about the renters and they can write about you is good. “You are free to accept bookings or not. Once or twice I turned people away because I had family over.” Having people use her pool has meant an unexpected and enjoyable return to the beach. “I love the sea but since I have had the swimming pool, have not gone nearly so much,” she said. “A few times the pool has been rented so I have gone to the beach instead, and really enjoyed it.”

IT IS only November but one homeowner is already thinking of next summer and her swimming pool – and how to rent it out after earning €150 a month doing just that this year. Marie-Eve Appel, who lives in Bordeaux, was told about a company that could help her make money from her pool after grumbling to a work colleague about it being unused when she was at work. Swimmy (swimmy.fr) rents out private swimming pools for people to use for up to four hours at a time. Ms Appel said: “I love my pool and it seemed a bit strange at first (the idea of strangers using it). “However, I thought about it, before putting my pool on the site at the start of August 2018. “I had one rental that year, and this year started getting people coming

Enjoying friend’s piscine led to idea, says hire firm founder An afternoon enjoying a friend’s swimming pool and the realisation that neighbours’ back gardens were empty a lot of the time led to Swimmy being set up in France in 2017 by Raphaëlle de Monteynard. “It seemed a pity, and from there we started talking about Airbnb and decided that we could do a similar thing with pools,” she said. Ms de Monteynard said most of the people renting out see it as a way of recouping running costs. “We do have one renter who has made €7,000 in a year but that is the exception,” she said. Of the 8,000 rentals to the end of

Swimming pool rental site founder Raphaëlle de Monteynard July this year, she said 99.8% have gone without incident. “Our belief is to share happiness,

and I am happy to say most users have adopted that spirit,” she said. When the site was launched, most of the pools were in the suburbs of cities in the south but the number in the centre and north and in smaller towns and villages has increased. Each rental is insured and the site makes its money by charging a 12% commission. Prices charged for four hours average €15 per adult, with half price for children aged three to 10, and under-threes free. The site shows photographs of the pools and lists the facilities.

Location, location rules in viager market Retirement is more relaxed when financial concerns are eased. A viager could be one way to ensure that security.

Photo: Michael Coghlan / CC BY-SA 2.0

THE market for selling properties en viager is growing steadily – partly as a result of an increasing number of sales to viager mutualisé funds. Viager sales are where vendors sell their property for a discounted lump sum, called a bouquet, usually with a right to remain in it for life and a guaranteed monthly “rent” from the buyer. Viager mutualisé funds are a variation on the classic person-to-person sale. The buyer is a group of investors in a large number of viagers who share profits from them. By doing so, they reduce the risk of losing money if a seller lives for a long time. The group can be structured as an investment fund or an SCI, a company set up to own property. Shares are sold to private or to institutional investors, such as insurers and banks. Once the vendor dies, the fund resells the home. In theory, selling to such a fund can be reassuring because payment of the rent does not depend on one person. Such funds can also more easily take the risk of a property belonging to a couple, where both wish to maintain a lifetime right to stay (called a viager sur deux têtes) so it may be easier to sell quickly to such buyers in this case. However, Hervé Odent, chairman of Paris-based Etude Lodel estate agency, which has specialised in viager sales since 1942, argues it is best to sell to a clearly identified individual. “For the sellers, it is imperative to make sure the deal is signed by an actual person taking individual responsibility because if they stop

paying the rent, courts are very quick to jump on individuals but much slower to act on companies,” he said. A notorious example was a case from 2014, where a US company called Live Invest­ment entered the viager market in the south of France and then stopped paying rents, with some people not being paid for five years. The mess was only sorted out when administrators let a French bank take over the properties and the viager contracts that Live Investment had taken out. Having said that, a seller is – at least in theory – protected by the fact that the notaire drawing up the viager contract will include a right for the seller to recuperate ownership if the buyer does not pay the rent. Mr Odent said English speakers are a small but significant part of the

viager market in France, with most of the sales being in Paris and the south. “Because the market is so investment-driven, buyers are most interested in areas like Paris where the property market is dynamic and going up. “It is much more difficult to get them to buy an isolated rural property because, at the moment, rural property prices have not recovered from the big fall they saw after the 2007 crisis and the market is flat.” He said that, under current market conditions, most viager deals are done within six months of the sellers putting the property on sale. “It is a very good deal for people who do not have children, because in that case it is the state which benefits most when you die,” he said. “People see that they can have a little more money to make things

easier by selling under the viager system. For buyers, almost all the interest is in contracts where people stay in their home or rent it out if they have to go into old-age homes. “Some do it for a place for their own retirement but for most it is a simple property investment. “There are no official records of viager sales, so it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to whether there are more now than before,” Mr Odent said. “However, given our own business and talking to others in the market, we estimate that it is growing at roughly 3% a year.” In most cases of viager sales, the buyer buys the property outright and the seller only maintains a droit d’usage et d’habitation, a right to continue living in it, but no actual ownership rights. In a minority of cases, the seller maintains a partial ownership, called keeping the usufruit (see right about the viager nue-propriété). These are both forms of viager occupé, which is the usual system, as opposed to viager libre, where the property is vacated by the seller and the buyer can use it immediately. When looking into the viager, you will come across two legal terms: débirentier and crédirentier. The former refers to the buyer and the second to the seller (the person to whom a rent is due). Anyone who knows of a seller’s health and the possibility that they have a condition that may lead to early death is banned from buying through a viager.

‘It took us seven weeks for our sale to go through’

A married couple of Connexion readers, who asked not be identified, shared their experience in selling their house via a viager:

“WE WERE just over 70 and, as it happened, my wife had strained her ankle so hobbled when we went to sign,” the husband said. “However, you mustn’t have an illness which kills you within three weeks of signing: if you do

die then, it’s called off.” The estate agent they used produced tables to calculate the bouquet and the rent, based on age. The reader said one surprise was that the buyer and the seller share continuing responsibility for the insurance, with the buyer paying for the structure and the seller for the contents. However, he said the combined premiums ended up being nearly

double what they had been paying before. The estate agent found two potential buyers, both of whom wanted to buy as investments for their children. “One family dropped out after seeing our scruffy garden, the other stayed,” he said. “It took about seven weeks to go through the notaire’s procedure, which is just like any other property sale. The notaire can give you

the buyer’s deposit before the sale, but it’s not immediate.” Just like in some ordinary transactions, a small refund of notaire’s fees came months later. As with the insurance, tax responsibilities are also shared in a viager sale. The buyer, once becoming the owner, pays the taxe foncière, and the seller, if they continue to live in the property, pays the taxe d’habitation.

How ‘bouquet’ and monthly ‘rent’ are set

THE WAY a viager sale is divided – what proportion of the price is in the lump-sum bouquet and what part is in the monthly rent – is key to the deal. In theory, the negotiation is open but guideline tables are used by professionals. Hervé Odent, of the Etude Lodel agency, said: “They have proved their worth for sellers and buyers. “If sellers want too much as a lump sum, the attractiveness of the deal for buyers is reduced.” The amount of the bouquet is determined by the age of the seller, their financial situation, and the property value. Higher bouquets result in lower rents and low bouquets in higher rents. Viager bouquets vary between 0% and 50% of the value of the property. Most are around 30%. Rents are worked out using a complex calculation that takes into account the amount of bouquet, the seller’s age and how much the property could theoretically make if it was rented out. Bouquets can be higher than 50% but those risk attracting the attention of the tax authorities, concerned it may be a scam as the lump sum paid as a bouquet is not taxable. There are also more exotic viager arrangements, including one called vente à terme. Translated as “forward sale”, it involves paying a bouquet, and a rent determined for a fixed period only. At the end of that time, which can be up to 20 years, the buyer takes possession of the property, whether the seller has died or not. Another variation is viager nue-propriété, which creates a legal separation between the use of the property and the ownership. Sellers are able to rent out their properties until their death if they wish to do so, but they will receive less rent from the buyer. Another is the viager with a higher rent but no bouquet, and there is also the viager sans rente (with no rent). The latter’s advantage for the buyer is that the property can then be used as collateral to take out a mortgage loan, but if they do so the larger-than-usual bouquet means they may end up paying more than in a classic viager if the seller dies early.

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The Connexion November 2019


France let me keep baby UK would have taken è Continued from page 1 cite it as a validation of their action. Ms Poole and her partner fled their home in Caldicot, south Wales, to France when she was eight months pregnant after learning their baby was at risk of being removed at birth. After children are removed, they can be put up for “forced adoption” and, once they have been adopted or fostered, cannot be returned. Ms Poole’s mother, a former dental receptionist, has since moved to live with her daughter and grandson in Mirande, Gers. Ms Poole is still traumatised by the way she and her partner were treated by Welsh social services. It started, she said, when a friend of her partner, whom he met in the psychiatric hospital and who had mental issues, contacted social services about them. The 50-year-old accused the pair of taking drugs and other offences and began threatening them on a daily basis. Ms Poole said: “He sent us a text saying ‘I will make sure you never see that baby’ but social services did not take this into consideration. “We had to go to horrendous meetings and they would say you need to do this and that... we did everything they asked.” On the last meeting, social workers said they were allowed to take the baby after it was born. “From day one, you could tell it was the decision they would come to. No

‘Punishing people for crime they have not committed is wrong’

From day one, you could tell it was the decision they would come to. No matter what you said, they weren’t listening

Sarah-Jane Poole with her son, who is now two years old matter what you said, they weren’t listening. The accusations against us were unfounded,” Ms Poole said. UK social services traced the couple to France but they then came under French social services investigation. After her son was born, Ms Poole had monthly monitoring from social workers here but this has now stopped as it was deemed unnecessary. She said: “French social services were a dream compared to the UK. “They really wanted to help me. They saved me.” She is now trying to build a

life in France and is looking for work, and for help with learning French. She says that if she returns to the UK, her son could still be taken away from her. “I feel safe here. But the worry is on being able to stay,” she said. A spokesman for French social services said: “We can’t comment on an individual case but it is correct that the law in France and the UK is different. France puts the link between the mother and child at the centre.” A Welsh social services worker, contacted by Connexion, said: “We cannot advise on this case and are not able to comment in general.” A French documentary on the subject of forced adoptions ‘Les enfants volés d’Angleterre’ (The stolen children of England) was shown on French TV in 2016. You can see it at tinyurl.com/y2fte5xk.

A BRITISH businessman who lives in France is one of several people who regularly help women to flee the UK to give birth abroad and keep their babies. Ian Josephs, pictured, told Connexion he got involved after learning of a woman’s case while he was a county councillor in Kent. He receives several calls a day after women contact him through his website (forced-adoption.com). He gives advice and pays for the mothers to leave the UK. They mainly travel to France or Spain. Ireland is another destination. Mr Josephs, 87, said: “Every woman should be given the chance to raise her child. While they are still pregnant, they can leave the country. “The UK system is totally unfair: it is based on what may potentially happen in the future. In what other circumstances is someone judged for a crime they have not committed? “People can’t believe it if I say one reason given for a child to be removed is a potential future risk of emotional abuse. “People say I may be helping people who go on to abuse a child but we are talking about predictions. The women

cannot hide their birth in the new country and they enter into the system there. They don’t go off the radar.” He says adoption is pushed in the UK as it represents a billion-pound industry, and social workers come under pressure to place children into new families. Once children are taken into care, he adds, phones and laptops are routinely confiscated to isolate them from family. Parents can visit in supervised situations but are forbidden to discuss the possibility of coming home, court proceedings or abuse suffered in care. Mr Josephs said: “Jailed murderers are treated better… Hardened criminals can phone out and discuss anything they want with visiting family and friends. “The ironic fact is that the children are much more likely to come to harm in foster homes than with their mothers.” He says the law must change so that children can only be taken away if a parent has been convicted of a serious crime against children. Freedom of speech should also be given back to the parents, who are under gagging orders, he said. “Nobody knows about this in the UK because nobody can speak about it,” he added.

Implications of Brexit and UK elections. Are your UK assets at risk? UK elections | A new government could have implications for your UK based assets, with both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats having talked seriously about taxing the wealthy more.

Talk to the people who know

Brexit and pension transfers | The 2017 ‘overseas transfer charge’ imposes a 25% tax on pension transfers outside the UK, such as into a QROPS. Transfers within the EU are currently exempt – but this could easily change in a post-Brexit world.


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The Connexion 205 - November 2019  

French news in English since 2002

The Connexion 205 - November 2019  

French news in English since 2002