BRITTANY PAGES December 2011 - Issue 5
Seasonal fun for all the family p6-7
Craftsman swaps city for village p16
Breton crêpes and galettes p5
Oysters back on menu FULL STORY PAGES 2-3
Gloomy predictions of a 2011 Christmas without the seafood delicacy have proved to be wrong But virus has hit supplies so shoppers must shell out more
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2 News Contact us With a story, email: brittany@ connexionfrance.com (please include a daytime contact number) With a subscription or advert query call: From France: 0800 91 77 56 (freephone) From UK: 0844 256 9881 (4p per minute) or by email: sales@ connexionfrance.com Brittany Pages is published by: English Language Media Sarl, Le Vedra, 38 rue Grimaldi, 98000 Monaco. Directrice de la publication: Sarah Smith. Printed at Nice-M Matin, 214 Route de Grenoble, 06290 Nice Cedex 3. Environmental policy Brittany Pages is printed on recycled newspaper, using a printing company which adheres to stringent regulations to reduce pollution. Mensuel Depôt légal – a parution ISSN: 2224-9788 CPPAP: 1013 I 91047
Suppliers scotch fears of ‘oysterless Christmas’ Prophets of doom warned that 2011 would be a Christmas without oysters. The good news is that they were wrong... but the bad news is that there will still be a shortage of oysters as a virus has been killing off young stock. So prices will be up on last year, as TIM FINAN reports
Photos: Tim Finan
Brittany Pages December 2011
LOVED ones are there, the candles are lit, the logs are on the fire, the chilled muscadet is uncorked and in the centre of the table the oysters are lying on a bed of seaweed and ice... there is the scent of lemons and the sea in the air. It is Christmas Eve in Brittany. People have been taking them for granted for years and have not had to pay much for them. They have always been there... and nearly always in sufficient quantity for everyone to eat their fill. However, an essential part of Noël for France and the French who rely on Brittany for huge quantities of shellfish, is under threat. A virus which raised its ugly head in the spring of 2008 when it was still a mystery disease has now been identified as herpes virus type OsHV-1.
People were predicting that a third of producers would go out of business in 2011. Luckily that hasn’t happened. Producers have survived! Shellfish farm spokeswoman Maryline Maingam
So far, scientists at the Ifremer marine laboratories have failed to come up with a solution. When the virus first began to bite three years ago between seven and eight billion baby molluscs perished within the space of a few days at sea farms all along the coasts of the Channel, Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Oysters take three years to reach maturity so in 2008 and 2009 the pessimists were predicting extremely hard times for 2011. Some even went as far to say that 2011 would be an oysterless festive period and that festive dinners would have to make do with mussels and whelks. When the disease first started killing baby molluscs the mortality rate during the first wave was almost 100% – news which caused panic waves to rock the foundations of the shellfish industry. Mercifully the mortality rate decreased to 40-50% and has remained stable since, occasionally rising to 60% and very rarely to 100% in some areas. In 2008, before OsVH-1, French oyster farms marketed 130,000 tonnes of adult oysters which were unaffected by the virus. Last year the total French production of oysters amounted to 80,000 tonnes with 10,000 tonnes coming from the south coast of Brittany and 19,000 from the north, said Maryline Maingam, a spokeswoman for the national shellfish farmers association the CNC in Paris. In normal times in 2008 the total value of oysters sold nationally was about €630 million
Breton oyster farmers have been facing euros with prices at around €5 a kilo. Last year prices rose to €6-9 and this year there is likely to be a further rise of about 30%. Ms Maingam said: “It is true that many people were predicting that about a third of producers would go out of business in 2011. “Luckily that hasn’t happened. Producers have survived by withholding sales of smaller oysters which in normal years they would have sold off and letting them grow bigger and thus increasing their stock of healthy adult oysters. “To do that they have had to sell fewer oysters outside the festive season with the result
Brittany Pages December 2011
Producers facing uncertain times MARIE-CLAIRE, who runs a shellfish farm and summer restaurant near Le Tour du Parc in the Morbihan said the most difficult thing for producers to cope with is the uncertainty. “At the moment we are surviving. The virus is killing baby oyster stock but not all of it. If it starts to wipe out all the stock then it will wipe us out too,” she said. “We have managed to survive by holding back sales but to do that we have had to accept a reduction in turnover. We will be able to supply demand for Christmas but we are not sure about the New Year. “Don’t even ask about next year or next Christmas. We are diversifying into other species like whelks and we have developed our restaurant business selling our shellfish directly to the customer. It’s a game of survival but that’s what living off the sea is all about really, isn’t it?” Other producers are scathing about the causes of the virus. “I produce my own oysters from natural, organic baby oysters and I have not
been affected by the virus,” said Maurice, another producer in the Morbihan. “Others who buy in artificially produced stock have lost huge amounts. It’s the law of nature. Respect nature and nature will respect you.” Another oyster producer disagreed. “Organic or bought-in stock- it’s all the same. This virus isn’t choosy. It doesn’t respect nature at all,” he said. At the Vannes fish market sellers were unsure of how the situation will evolve this Christmas in terms of price. “We can’t commit ourselves,” said one seller, Hervé.
“It’s too early. Some people are talking about a 50% reduction compared to last year but I think they are being pessimistic. “One thing is certain and that is oysters will be costing more this year. It’s the law of supply and demand. “We’re waiting for a solution to the problem from the government scientists, however so far they haven’t come up with one.” A spokesman for Ifremer said research was continuing to try to find a cure for the virus and that scientists and researchers publish regular bulletins on mortality rates.
OYSTERS: A delicacy of the sea under threat
Inheritance Solutions French inheritance rules may mean that your worldwide estate will not be distributed according to your wishes. worrying times, with their production becoming greatly reduced due to the virus that they will have to charge more to supply demand during the crucial period at the end of December. “Obviously, the scientists are desperately looking for a cure but so far it hasn’t happened. In the meantime the producers are surviving – or at least most of them are.” On the coast the oyster virus has been added to the list of elements – the cold, the rain, an uncertain future and the perils associated with working at sea which make for a hard life for producers. In recent years they have also had to face a
problem of insecurity. Thefts of adult stocks of oysters on the Bassin d’Arcachon, the Charente, Vendée and the Breton coastlines have increased in recent years. The thieves operate at night under cover of fog and drizzle and can decimate stocks within a few hours. They load their plundered oysters into vans and drive them hundreds of kilometres to unscrupulous middlemen who sell them on. Isolated bays at night time are almost impossible to police with the result that the thieves are rarely caught.
Look after those that matter. Jennie Poate, Regional Manager Tel French Head Office: 05 56 34 75 51 Email: email@example.com
www.siddalls.fr French finance in plain English Siddalls France SASU, Parc Innolin, 3 Rue du Golf, 33700 Mérignac - RCS BX 498 800 465. C.I.F. No E001669 auprès de ANACOFI-CIF association agréée par l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers et Courtier d’Assurances, Catégorie B - ORIAS 07 027 475. Garantie Financière et Assurance de Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle conformes aux articles L 541-3 du Code Monétaire et Financier et L 512-6 et 512-7 du Code des Assurances.
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Barnacle thieves fined A QUIMPER judge fined four Spanish fishermen €4,000 each in absentia and confiscated a 4x4, refrigerators and diving equipment after they were found with 125kg of barnacles. The court heard the shellfish are a delicacy in Spain, fetching up to €100 a kilo on the black market. Collecting barnacles is banned in France during the summer months. Arrested in July at Plogoff in Finistère, the Spaniards, aged 28-32, were seen wearing diving suits and carrying hammers and chisels to chip the shellfish off rocks. The court heard their haul could have been worth €12,000 The judge ordered the sale of their confiscated vehicle and equipment.
Catholics protest at play As the Catholics shouted protests, anarchist groups and CGT union members demonstrated for freedom of speech. Hundreds of police stood by to prevent violence. The Bishop of Vannes backed the demonstration against the play saying it was “disgraceful beyond all comprehension”. However, Rennes mayor Daniel Delaveau called the play “a work of great humaneness” and said there was “nothing blasphemous” about it.
Lycée fills market gap THE Lycée Henri-Avril in Lamballe has started a motorhome service/repair course, filling an important gap. While motorhomes have become increasingly sophisticated, manufacturers have been unable to offer after any after-sales service due to a lack of qualified personnel.
Debates held on gender rights in the workplace. Issues on topics such as “Are men instrumental in furthering workplace equality?” and “What do young people think about boys’ and girls’ equal rights?” will be raised. Get details from www.bretagne-egalite.fr
Eco-activists disrupt deep-sea trawling
Photo: © Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace
THE Conseil Régional de Bretagne is holding its biennial conference on women’s equality at the Palais du Grand Large in Saint-Malò on December 9-10. The council is also opening an internet debate on its site aimed at defending equality
TWO hundred cyclists and 20 tractors formed a protest procession which took a week to reach Paris from Notre Dame des Landes, the site of the controversial new airport, project north of Nantes.
Photo: © IP3 PRESS/Julien Muguet - maxppp.com
A THOUSAND militant catholics sang hymns and waved banners in Rennes outside the Théâtre National de Bretagne theatre calling for a halt to “Cathophobia” and warning that “you don’t make fun of God”. Inside the theatre, spectators who had been searched by police at the entrance were watching a play by Romeo Castellucci called On the concept of the face of the son of God which had sparked angry protests by thousands of Catholics in Paris.
Protestors march on capital
Activists launched inflatable boats, forcing the fishing trawler to slow GREENPEACE militants flung themselves into the sea ahead of a Lorient trawler fishing off the Irish coast in protest at deep-sea trawling which they claim is destroying seabed marine life. Thierry Le Du, skipper of the Pierre-Jacques Matigny, which was fishing in 900m of water, said he was forced to veer to starboard to avoid the militants. The Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, which was
standing by, had contacted the trawler by radio and read out a text on overfishing in deep waters and requested the trawler to leave the area. Mr Le Du refused and continued to fish. The Greenpeace ship then launched inflatable boats ahead of the trawler and its members dived into the sea forcing Mr Le Du to slow down and recover his trawl. At Lorient, Scapêche, a subsidiary of Intermarché, said
its trawlers only fished areas of sand and gravel and not coral and marine life-rich areas. It claimed fish stocks in the area are stable or on the increase and not being over exploited. Lorient mayor Norbert Métairie denounced what he called a “media stunt by Greenpeace”. Greenpeace said it is planning further protests in supermarkets where deep sea trawled fish are sold.
Bishop seeks to resolve Facebook ID theft THE Bishop of Vannes has fallen victim to a hacker who usurped his identity on Facebook. Since March 2010, a person unconnected to the church opened an account in his name and
has published “holy” messages on the site. According to reports, the Bishop has established contact with the usurper and is attempting to come to an amicable agreement.
They were joined in Paris by hundreds of other protesters who arrived in coaches for a demonstration outside the Senate. Opponents of the airport say it will damage precious marshland and is unnecessary as Nantes already has an airport south
west of the city. Supporters say that the airport will provide jobs and boost the economy.
‘Stop the waste of agricultural land: No to the airport plan’, say these protestors dressed as cows
Ladybirds infest island FIRST it was Asian hornets now it is Asian ladybirds. Belle-Ile-en-Mer, once the home of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, is now home to unusually large swarms of invasive oriental ladybirds, which are yellow with black spots instead of the European ones which are red with black spots. According to reports from the island the bugs are attempting to overwinter in houses to survive the cold. The oriental ladybirds were deliberately imported into Belgium to combat greenfly. They are now established all over France and were reported in large numbers on beaches in southern Brittany this summer. They are now threatening to oust their European cousins by feeding on their larvae.
Soldiers repel pirates PIRATES attempted to seize a Concarneau-based tuna boat fishing in the Indian Ocean last month but they were repelled by soldiers with automatic rifles. The Torre Giulia boat had been attacked previously in March 2010 and the French tuna fleet has to be protected by armed on-board troops from French regiments. According to the International Maritime Bureau pirates have attacked vessels 352 times this year. Half of the attacks were in Somali waters.
Fraudsters caught with fake notes EIGHT con artists have been sentenced to between six months and six years of prison after attempting to defraud the owner of a stud farm in Normandy. The men, aged 30-50, posed as rich English investors keen to acquire the 35 hectare property for €1.5million. Two members of the gang who attempted the scam made an appointment with an estate agent and signed papers but said they wished to pay only €1.1 million “officially”. The rest of the money would be handed over in cash to avoid paying tax. In return for the €400,000
Did you know?
Breton pancakes date back to the Crusades PANCAKES are a Breton speciality, whether it is the sweet crêpes, made with white wheat flour, or the galette, usually served as a savoury dish and made with sarrasin (buckwheat). Buckwheat was brought from Asia during the Middle Ages by the crusaders. The acidic Breton soil suited it and the galette soon became the countryside staple. There were originally two buckwheat pancake types, firstly the galette, apparently from Upper Brittany (the eastern part). It was cooked in a pan on one side and remained soft. It was cut into strips to add to soups or garnished with products like eggs or sardines. The crisper buckwheat crêpe, which used to be widespread in Lower Brittany (the west), was cooked on both sides on stones. The dough, originally buckwheat, water and salt, is now enriched with eggs and milk to soften the texture. Buckwheat does not contain gluten, so galettes can be
The buckwheat galette has a long history eaten by people with celiac disease or gluten allergies. The sweet crêpes only appeared in the early 20th century when white flour became affordable. These are as thin as the buckwheat crêpes and include eggs, milk and butter. Candlemas
(February 2) is Crêpe Day in France. One tradition goes as follows: hold a coin in one hand and a crêpe pan in the other. Then flip the crêpe into the air and if it lands back perfectly in the pan, you will enjoy good luck for the rest of the year.
“bung”, the defendants asked for a return cash payment of €200,000 in 20 and 50 euro notes “for tax reasons” – the real objective of this kind of con. The estate agent set up the exchange but also tipped off members of the fraud squad in Rennes who arrested the fraudsters. Inside the briefcase they were going to hand over to the estate agent they found bundles of counterfeit €500 notes underneath a thin layer of real notes. Under questioning the defendants were found to be living in houses and caravans, as far afield as Serbia, Paris and the south of France.
Mutilated porpoise found washed up at Larmor Plage THE headless body of a 1.5m porpoise with a rope attached to its tail was washed up at Larmor Plage in the Morbihan. The unfortunate mammal was the latest victim of unscrupulous fishermen in the Morbihan and Finistère who have sparked anger by killing animals which are believed to have become tangled in their nets. The killings have not been confined to Brittany. The bodies of mutilated dolphins were found on the Mediterranean coast. The international organisation Sea Shepherd, which has vowed to break the fishermens’ omerta over dolphin deaths, has made a formal complaint about the latest death. Sea Shepherd has campaigned against dolphin killing as far afield as Japan and the eastern coast of the US. Dolphins are a protected species and killing them is a crime.
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6 What’s On
Photo: © Syndicat Mixte du Haras National de Lamballe
December 16-18 Marché de Noël au Haras national de Lamballe - The magic of Christmas comes to the horse stables converted into shops for artisans, artists and local producers. Children can create their own Christmas toys, meet Saint Nicholas and his donkeys and go for a pony ride. Don't miss the new show Le Père Noël au Far West with Santa Claus among cowboys and Indians. FREE entry to the market. Show: Adult €15, €8 for children aged 6 to 12, FREE for under 6. Family tickets available. Call 02 96 50 06 98 or visit www.haraspatrimoine.com
December 17 Atelier foie gras - Come to the Jardin des Mélanges to learn about the history and preparation of foie gras. After tasting several types of foie gras, participants will share a Christmas meal and be offered recipe cards. Tickets €78, advance booking required. Call 02 96 21 75 85 www.cotesdarmor.com
The Euro Tir 22 club practices a variety of shooting styles
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‘King’s College-style’ Nine lessons and carols “A CELEBRATION of Christmas” – a service following the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols of King’s College, Cambridge – will be held in the Abbey Church of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys (Morbihan) on Friday, December 23, at 16.00, followed by mince pies and a festive drink. The prayers will be led by Père JeanClaude Le Franc and singing will be accompanied by organ and a small ensemble of young English musicians. Details from Alison Parkes on alison. firstname.lastname@example.org or 06 19 36 26 28.
Mix of French and English at Saint Bart’s SAINT Bartholomew’s Anglican church on rue Faber in Dinard has its carol service on November 17 – a mixture of
Visit the website at www.eurotir22.com or contact Mark Crawford on 02 96 26 83 49 for more details.
French and English popular carols, readings in both languages and a short sermon in French.There will be mince pies and wine afterwards. There is a crib service on December 24 at 17.00 and Christmas Day Holy Communion at 11.00. The church is open daily and has a library of English books freely available to borrow. It is “particularly alive and welcoming” at this time of year, says priest-in-charge Gareth Randall.
Do your Christmas shopping at AIKB fair VISIT the AIKB association’s Christmas Fair on December 4 for a selection of gift ideas for all ages. The fair will include a variety of stalls, a café with foods like home-made mince pies, a bar and a raffle. It will be at the Salle Municipale in Saint-Gelven, 11.00-17.00; entry free.
Promote your community event, send details to: email@example.com
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Étables-sur-Mer CULTURE December 7 - Balade botanique Go for a walk and learn about the grafting of fruit trees with Patrice Rannou, head of flowering at the mairie. Departure at 15.00 in front of the tourist office. FREE, advance registration required. Call 02 96 70 65 41 www.etables-sur-mer.com
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The club hires out .22 calibre rifles and pistols to members and guests, but on payment a new member is given a club shooting licence. Mr Stace said: “This would allow them to buy something like a .22 bolt action target rifle, but if they wanted a semi-automatic, they would have to wait six months and attend the club regularly, which is recorded, and then apply to the prefecture.” Annual membership is €150 plus a €50 joining fee in the first year. Guests’ membership is €5, which gives people a chance to try out the club, but they must be accompanied by a full member.
December 31 Dernier bain de l'année - Every year on New Year’s Eve, more than 500 brave swimmers gather on the casino beach for the last swim of the year. Bring your bathing suit or fancy dress. Kick-off at 15.00 sharp at the Plage de l’Ecluse for no more than 15 minutes in the water. Call 02 99 46 94 12 www.ot-dinard.com Photo: © C. Ferrasson Photo: © Le renegat
THE Euro Tir 22 shooting club was founded three years ago and is officially recognised by the French Federation of Shooting. Based in Plumieux (Côtes d’Armor), it offers members the opportunity to shoot at 25, 50 and 100m. Treasurer Bob Stace said: “We fire anything from full bore to black powder.” The club currently has about 65 English and French members. Mark Crawford, the founder and secretary of the club, speaks both English and French, and all ages and nationalities are welcome. Rifles and pistols of varying disciplines are used and members can also compete in inter-club competitions. Mr Stace said: “Mark and I have won the departmental and regional championships a couple of times over the last few years.”
December 1 - 4 Transmusicales - A leading light of the modern music scene for the last 30 years, the Transmusicales festival has given us a taste of the musical trends of tomorrow. Bands come here in the hope of making their last “anonymous” performance before receiving unanimous acclaim from the critics. The 33rd festival offers a breath-taking musical journey with bands from Canada, Brazil, Norway and more. Mix of Free and paying concerts. Call 02 99 31 12 10 www.lestrans.com
What’s On 7
Photo: © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
December 1-11 19e Rencontres Photographiques - Every two years, a dozen photographers exhibit their work in several places around Lorient (Ecole supérieure d'art, espace d'art contemporain, galleries, the Artothèque…).This year's, entitled Traffic of influence, features photos referencing cinema, literature and painting. FREE entry. Call 02 97 21 18 02 www.galerielelieu.com (then click Rencontres at the top of the page)
December 17-30 Spectacle de la Crèche Vivante - This extraordinary Nativity play starring 150 actors and volunteers will be presented for the13th consecutive year. Thanks to wide audience participation, the Crèche Vivante has been helping various humanitarian projects in Africa, Haiti and Sri Lanka. Adult €6, €2 for children aged 5 to 11. Duration: 1 hour. It is advisable to arrive 30 minutes early to book your ticket. Call 02 97 24 34 94 www.lacrechevivante.org
Morbihan Photo: © Frédéric Lecloux/Agence VU
Larmor Plage FAMILY
December 31 Corrida de la Saint-Sylvestre - Finish the year in style and join the 28th edition of this costumed race. Surprise gifts will be offered for the best costumes.There will be two categories: 8,750m for men and 6,250m for women. €8 registration fee.You can register on the day from 18.00, but it is advisable to book in advance. Start at 20.00. Call 02 97 47 48 15 www.aurayvannes.com/corrida_vannetaise.php
Photos: © internets_dairy - flickr.com
Photo: © Emin Ozkan - Fotolia.com
December 21 Feu d'artifice conté - Meet in Place Notre Dame to listen to a Christmas story with sound and with images projected on the church. Santa Claus will dazzle you by ending his tale with a fireworks display. Free show. Call 02 97 84 26 33
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Photos: © ADAGP, Paris 2011
December 1-31 Exposition Jacques Doucet - Jacques Doucet (1924-1994) co-founded the CoBrA movement (an acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam - names of the cities of residence of its founding members).The movement advocated a return to creative spontaneity, experimental research and popular values.The exhibition presents 60 works by Doucet inspired by children's drawings, graffiti and folk art. Adult €5, €2.50 for under 26 and students, FREE for children under 12. Call 02 98 95 45 20 or visit www.mbaq.fr
Photo: © PHOTOPQR-LA VOIX DU NORD
December 2 Cendrillon sur glace - Four-time world champion of figure skating Igor Bobrin returns to France to present his latest show: Cinderella on Ice.The cast includes Olympic champions Natalia Bestemiyanova and Andrey Bukin as well as more than 20 Russian skaters. Meet Cinderella, her evil stepmother and two stepsisters as well as the Prince Charming in this beautiful adaptation of the fairy tale. Adult €30, €20 for children under 12. Call 02 98 44 24 96 www.brest-metropole-tourisme.fr
Written by the Notaires de France and published by Conseils des Notaires.
December 10 Broadcast of Faust - Don't miss this production – a sell-out in London last season – live from the Metropolitan Opera New York.With Jonas Kaufmann in the lead role, René Pape as the devil and Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite, Gounod's classic vision of the legend of Faust could not be better served. Stage director Des McAnuff won a Tony Award for his modern take on the story.Tickets €22. Call 02 98 44 24 96 or visit www.finisteretourisme.com
Photo: © Z6006 Karlheinz Schindler-DPA-MAXPPP
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Know the law and protect your heirs Expatriates with property and assets in France – and those with holiday homes here – need to be aware that French inheritance rules are strict and very specific. As the holiday season approaches and thoughts turn to families, it is worth looking to the future and taking steps to make sure that your estate passes down according to your wishes
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IF YOU live in France you must clearly take account of French inheritance laws but these laws also apply if you are resident in Britain (or elsewhere) and have property, such as a holiday home, in France. These strict rules are often a cause of concern to expats. Many have contacted the European Union calling for reform and Brussels is now investigating the possibility of harmonising inheritance rules across all member states. For the moment, though, it is important that expats with assets in France are aware of the rules and how to make the best of them.
The Connexion newspaper publishes an easyto-read guide to inheritance laws in France, with advice on how to plan for them. Here we outline some of the main topics that it covers. French inheritance law can be divided into civil law (matters such as who can inherit) and tax law (inheritance tax payable by heirs). In civil law, France and Britain have similar approaches. For “moveable” assets (shares, money in bank accounts etc), the law of the last
residence of the deceased person applies. For real estate (houses, land etc), the applicable law is that of the country where the property is located: eg. English law for English assets, French for French assets. Regarding tax law, if the deceased was resident in France, French inheritance tax is payable on his or her worldwide assets and British tax may be payable on British assets (depending on the British rules), but would then be deductible from the French tax bill. If the deceased was resident outside France, French tax is payable on French real estate only. Subject to allowances and exemptions, French inheritance tax can be high, especially in the case of heirs with no close family ties. If you are not married or “pacsed” (in a French civil union), or in a recognised foreign civil union such as a British civil partnership, you will be treated as having no family ties and taxed accordingly. A spouse, pacs partner or British civil partner pays no tax, but the law does affect them significantly. Because your children have an automatic right to a certain percentage of your estate, a
surviving spouse may need protection. It is worth noting, however, that France does not recognise stepchildren, who are taxed as ‘strangers’ – at 60% – if they are left legacies. Brothers or sisters living in the same house as the deceased are not taxed on legacies provided they are single, widowed or divorced at the time of death; aged 50 or more or disabled, and have lived with the deceased continuously for the previous five years. Everyone else is liable to pay tax, with some rare exceptions. While Britain taxes the overall net value of the estate, French inheritance tax is calculated on each share in the estate. Once the net value of the estate has been calculated, it is divided into shares, each of which benefits from a non-taxable allowance depending on the beneficiary’s degree of relationship to the deceased (see table opposite). Whether there is a will or not, children are héritiers réservataires, which means they are entitled to a set part of the estate, which you cannot change by will (the same applies, in the absence of children, to a spouse). Should there not be a will, a person’s estate goes to the following, in order of precedence: children or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren; then to the mother or father; then to brothers or sisters, to their children or grandchildren and so on, to more distant relatives. In addition to this are rules protecting a surviving spouse where there is no will. In the presence of children, these include the right to a quarter share of the estate. If there are no children, the spouse will inherit the whole estate unless either of the deceased’s parents are living; in which case, each of the parents is entitled to receive one-quarter of the estate. Due to the strict rules, when you do make a will, you cannot, if you have children, simply transfer full ownership of your property to your spouse alone in your will; and you should not rely on one made in Britain. It may not be effective in France. The crucial aspect for expats relates to property and other assets held in France and the position of a surviving spouse or partner in the light of the automatic rights of children. Where a pacs or civil partner is living in the family home at the time their partner dies, he or she has the right to occupy the property for a year. In the case of married couples only, this right extends for the survivor’s whole lifetime and includes the furnishings of the home. The spouse may also let the house to someone else. The issue of “marriage regimes” is an important factor in France concerning property and inheritance matters. Notaires can advise on this when you buy property. Common forms of contract include communauté universelle, under which a couple owns a
When you make a will you cannot, if you have children, simply transfer full ownership of your property to your spouse alone
December 2011 Photo: © Andrey Armyagov - Fotolia.com
home equally, or séparation des biens, where ownership is a percentage allotted to each partner. British married couples can visit a notaire to draw up a marriage contract in respect of French property. Otherwise, the wording on the deeds is crucial. A holiday home might be bought under an SCI, a company formed to own the property, in which case the laws of the home country will apply because it is considered a moveable asset. If you are going to live in France, purchase of a residence might include a tontine clause, under which the property is jointly owned and passes to the survivor, or a donation entre époux, which gives the survivor lifetime use of the estate and the right to ownership of a quarter of it, irrespective of children. Whether residents here or holiday home owners, it is essential to be aware of the differences from the system in your home country – and to take professional advice. The Connexion’s helpguide to French inheritance law can point you in the right direction and make you more aware of the questions to ask.
Help with planning for inheritance
Inheritance law helpguide The Connexion newspaper has an 18-page helpguide that takes you step-by-step through the complexities of French inheritance laws, explains how they affect expats and answers frequently-asked questions.
Download a copy for €7.50 at www.connexionfrance.com or call 0800 91 77 56 for a printed version to be sent to you
WHEN it comes to inheritance planning, it is often important to have tailored advice from a professional. For matters related to wills or property ownership and making sure your wishes for your spouse or partner and children are followed as closely as possible in the event of your death, the main source is likely to be a notaire. You can search for an English-speaking one in Brittany here: www.notaires.fr (then “find a notaire”). Put in your department and/or town and select English language. While a notaire is able to give practical advice and to assist with drawing up a will or organising various other legal procedures, you may also wish to take advice from an avocat, especially where there may be contentious or potentially litigious matters involved. An avocat who specialises in advising (as opposed to their other main role, being advocates in court) may also be called a conseil juridique. Find an avocat in your town at www.cnb.avocat.fr and look under Annuaires (directories). There is no simple way to find an English-speaking one, though your local bar may be able to advise (see Barreaux in the directories - they can be found, eg. in Saint-Brieuc, Lorient and Brest). A source of free legal advice, similar to a citizen’s advice bureau in the UK, is a maison de la justice et du droit. Ones in Brittany include: 15 quai Maréchal Foch, Rte de Logivy, Lannion; tel: 02 96 37 90 60 22 rue Victor Hugo, This sign may be seen Vannes; tel: 02 97 01 63 80 outside notaires’ offices Photo: © hannamonika - Fotolia.com
Relationship to deceased
Tax-free portion per share
Surviving spouse, pacs or civil partner
100% tax exempt
Direct heirs (ie. all children of the deceased, or, if they have died, their children)
Up to €8,072 - 5% ...then to €12,109 - 10% ...then to €15,932 - 15% ...then to €552,324 - 20% ...then to € 902,838 - 30% …then to €1,805,677 - 40% ... then 45%
Up to €24,430 - 35% ...then 45%
Nephew or niece
Other relatives to the 4th degree of relationship (eg. including cousins and greatnephews)
Brother or sister (apart from those exempt from tax, see above)
Foie gras for the Christmas spirit After she was chosen as first BBC Masterchef in 1990 JOAN BUNTING was soon writing a food column and doing BBC local radio. Now the former advisory teacher has retired and moved permanently to her home in France, but is still keen to tell readers about good food. IT WAS our first Christmas in France when we realised that we were well into November and we hadn’t seen many signs of the impending festivities. My pudding and mincemeat were made, my cards bought, but where in town were the garlands, the lights and the stacks of goodies? How different it is from the UK where, a couple of years ago, I was horrified to see that the Christmas season was in full swing in October, with people shopping as if there was no tomorrow. In our corner of France at least, food and family are far more important than how much
you spend on presents for all and sundry. I was utterly amazed as the food began to appear in the shops at the beginning of December and couldn’t believe how much was being bought. Recent statistics show that the average spend per head on Christmas food is €118 in France whereas the nearest comparable figures I can find for the UK is £309 per household for the whole festive season. Conversely, the number of presents bought in the UK is more than twice the French average of 11 per adult. Because the main celebratory meal in France is the Christmas Eve réveillon it has a very different feel. The first time we were invited to one it was a revelation. The friend who cooked it had agonised for weeks over her choice of main course. Turkey or goose is not automatic here and in the end she served chapon (capon) with a truffle stuffing... and not a Brussels sprout in sight. This was preceded by caviar, home-prepared foie gras and a plateau de fruits de mer – a selection, she explained because some people, strangely, don’t like oysters! Cheese followed and then the Bûche de Noël. The table was gorgeous and it must have taken her hours. I now always make Marie-France’s duck foie gras with my own addition of muscat jelly.
Which wine should I drink with this? Caline Montfort, of Julien de Savignac wine merchants (www.julien-de-savignac.com), says: Clos L'envège 2003, Monbazillac €29. A superb reference of Monbazillac. A very concentrated sweet wine made of botrytised grapes from our property of Clos l'Envège. It is an extremely complex wine with aromas of dried grapes, figs and apricots with notes of orange peel, vanilla delicate oak. The consistency of the wine will marry beautifully the Foie gras, and the refreshing acidity of this sweet wine will enhance its delicate flavours. Photo: © sylbohec - Fotolia.com
Duck Foie Gras with Muscat Jelly Photo: © Joan Bunting
CUT OUT & KEEP!
INGREDIENTS For 4 - 6 Servings 1 fresh duck foie-gras 2 tsp fine sea salt 1 tsp ground white pepper (black doesn’t look nice) 1 tbsp cognac
1 tbsp sweet muscat wine For the jelly: 150ml of the same muscat 3 leaves of gelatine soaked in water until soft.
METHOD Put the foie gras domed-side down on a board, and with a small sharp knife carefully remove all the veins – this is vital, so if you have to separate the lobes don’t worry, they will stick together again when you cook it. Put the prepared foie gras in a ceramic dish and add the seasoning and alcohol. Rub well in then refrigerate overnight. Next day pack the liver into a 50cl terrine, cover and place in a bain-marie in a pre-
heated 150°C oven for 35 minutes. Cool for an hour then chill for at least 12 hours before serving – it will keep in the fridge for two or three days. To make the jelly: Gently heat a couple of tablespoons of the wine, squeeze the water from gelatine and melt the leaves in the warm wine. Add the rest of the wine, stir well and pour into a suitable dish. Chill until set.
Connexion helpguides Up-to-date, impartial information on a range of topics for life in France
€5 To help readers make the most of life in France The Connexion has produced a series of helpguides on practical topics. The helpguides, priced €5 and €7.50, are produced independently by Connexion journalists or in partnership with Conseils des Notaires de France.
Download the helpguides at www.connexionfrance.com or call FREE from France 0800 91 77 56 or for just 4p/min from the UK 0844 256 9881
JIM ADCOCK moved to France in 2007 after many years’ experience in corporate and small businesses, including practical freelance support. He runs Stairs2measure.com, providing made-to-measure wooden staircases, and is a founder member of The Brittany Business Network. He will be writing regularly for the Brittany Pages on local business issues and welcomes your feedback, comments and input.
The end of capitalism?
How to avoid the double tax trap Photo:© Argus - Fotolia.com
I have my main residence in Saint-Brieuc and rent out my home in Hampshire. I understand from my local French tax inspector, that under the new double taxation treaty, my 2010 tax will be worked out differently. I will now have to pay social contributions on my UK property rental income. I earn €25,000 from the latter and have a UK state pension of €15,000 a year. Please could you tell me how much I will now have to pay the French government? K.T. The new UK/French treaty came into effect for the French tax year 2010. Under the old regime, the income continued to be fully taxed in the UK, with the net UK rental income then being added to your “worldwide” income under the “taux effectif ” regime in France. This calculation worked out if you should be a paying a higher rate of tax in France. The UK rental income will now be taxable in France, with a tax credit to provide relief for double taxation (capped to the equivalent French tax on the UK income). Your UK state pension continues to be taxed in France. French Social Charges are applied to all individuals tax resident in France. The net for sources of income subject to these social charges is very wide, and the latest French budget provisions have extended the net further, to help plug the shortfall in government coffers, in particular for the French pension burden. Your UK sources of income should have been declared on tax form 2047. You can claim for your state pension to be exonerated from social charges if you have form S1. Based on your income figures above, assuming that you are married and both of you are over 65, you will have to pay extra income tax this year of approximately €600, compared with the same calculation under the “taux effectif ” rules. The French social charges on UK rental income would be €3075, with a tax credit of about €1800. There will be €1450 CSG available as a deduction against your 2011 income tax bill. Overall, your 2010 French income tax and social charges will give an average tax rate of just over 10% on your total income of €40,000. To avoid paying tax twice, contact the UK pension department to confirm that your tax residency is in France, and arrange to receive your state pension gross. UK income tax on the rental income is approximately £600 each, assuming the income is split between you and your wife, and that you both qualify for age allowance. The UK rent received is subject to withholding tax. This tax paid should be shown on your UK rental self-assessment return. You can go ahead and make your UK returns, now that April 6, 2011, has passed, and apply for any UK repayment. Even with the new rules, you will still be paying less in UK and French tax and social charges combined, than if you had stayed in the UK. It remains to be seen how local tax offices will deal with the new rules.
By the time you read this article the protests against capitalism in many major cities across the globe may have run their course, but what do they hope to achieve? Perhaps the target should be an end to greed, not capitalism – and perhaps the call should be for what has been described in some quarters as “ethical capitalism”.
Photo: © Roman Levin - Fotolia.com
WHAT has driven the current levels of dissatisfaction, with capitalism becoming The capitalist system has become a focus of dissatisfaction the focus in many eyes? small independent businesses; it is the company receive very little considerThe trend over recent years has been these entrepreneurs who will create real ation and are just expected to work hardfor companies to just get bigger and jobs in time and contribute to the local er for longer. exercise greater control over both supplieconomy. We probably feel impotent to address er and consumer; employees becoming However, the personal choice one has the corporate (and personal) greed surcommodities in the process. to make is whether to sometimes pay a rounding us, but we need to be conscious I witnessed the latter firsthand when little more or wait a little longer; we can that individuals feed the corporate greed. being promoted as part of a worldwide choose not to be powerless in the relentThe demand for the latest/best product at corporate “re-structuring”, which shed a less march of the under-regulated corpothe best price and available third of the workforce. rates. now, leads us to the very The question of an One other thing we can all do is to take conglomerates we dislike. increase in pay to match every opportunity to lobby for or supThese organisations themthe significant increase in The alternative to selves have executives and port better regulation that actually works responsibility was raised. in the corporate world. shareholders whose idea of The response was that the making the On the subject of small enterprise, to long-term is within the year. CEO in the US decreed extremely rich compile a future article your valuable The fundamentals of that “no-one was to profit feedback on being an expat entrepreneur modern society require from others’ misfortune” - even richer is in here in Brittany will be extremely helpful some wealth creation, in the two years later after sale part to support in particular experience (good or bad) of the company the same small independent main the extreme examples –with RSI and also on being an autoof opposite models have CEO walked away with a businesses entrepreneur. Please e-mail me direct on not been a success so we hundred million dollars... firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 need to be careful what we Having discussed corpoDecember if possible. wish for. rate restructures with othThe basic form of capitalism is private ers from a variety of industries there investment and private ownership for seems to be a theme where those made profit; there is a strong argument that redundant are often treated well (probaThe Brittany Business Network here in Brittany and the rest of France bly out of necessity) but those left within www.synergienet.com greater support and reward for free enAgence pour la Création d’Entreprises terprise is exactly what is needed. www.apce.com Small businesses are key to economic Chambre de Métiers Brittany progress out of recessionary times and www.crma-bretagne.fr anything we can do to grow them here in Chambre de Commerce et de Brittany should be actively encouraged. L'Industrie (CCI) Brittany The alternative to making the extremewww.bretagne.cci.fr ly rich even richer is in part to support
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English-speaking firms near you For your security, we check that the French businesses in this section are officially registered with the authorities
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Solving your dog and puppy problems using calm, assertive and positive reinforcement methods Tel: 02 96 36 65 61 Mob: 06 45 79 01 67 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Siret. 481 238 483 00012
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BRETON BUILD Carpenter, roofer and general builder specialising in the renovation of traditional Breton Properties. Covering all Brittany.
firstname.lastname@example.org 02 97 38 57 61 www.bretonbuild.com
A BUSINESS TO PROMOTE A PROPERTY TO SELL
From Mini-Diggers to 20t Diggers
Bruno Bonnier Tel: 06 71 05 60 82
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Bilingual English Electrician/Plumber Registered and insured in France
Mike and Pam Derby
Tel: +33 (0)2 96 84 86 28 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.electricianbrittany.com Siret: 480 938 083 00015
56 MORBIHAN 56
All types of work, Exterior-Interior, New - Renovation-Repair. Entreprise Brown Robert
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English TV in your French Home EVERYTHING SATELLITE! Professional installations in Brittany & Normandy Mail-order throughout France Free, friendly, helpful advice
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English and Fluent French speaking agent, always needing more houses for sale, 8 years experience firstname.lastname@example.org TEL FR: +33 (0) 6 19 17 34 61 TEL UK: +44 (0) 7880 501 116 www.NormandyandBrittanyhousesforsale.com Siret: 519 751 465
Anna Pathfinder Your life coach in Brittany www.annapathfinder.com
Tel. 02 99 44 38 09
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The Holiday Exchange Home Exchange without the need to find a direct exchange partner.
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BRETON COUNTRY COTTAGES
Property Management and Holiday Letting Services We will take care of your second home or holiday property leaving you free to enjoy it.
JARDINERIE HOLLANDAISE Garden Centre and Garden Maintenance Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday or on 'RDV' Le Garly 56480 Ste. Brigitte Tel/Fax: 02 97 27 62 19 - Mobile : 06 75 39 25 79 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.jardinerie-hollandaise.com Siret: 40029026800020
David Robins Royal Forestry Society trained Arborist www.lesbocages.com Felling, pruning, planting all aspects of tree care. Tel: 02.97.39.99.82 56160 LOCMALO Siret No. 480 997 584 00028
Le Jardinier Anglais.com Tree surgery services
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All tree work undertaken within 150km of Rennes. Specialists in dismantling difficult & dangerous trees, wood chipper, stump grinder, extreme hedge cutting.
Ash Grove Stoves Supplier of Hunter - Villager
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Clean Burn - Fire Visible Boiler versions available Deliveries all over France Prices on our website Lowest Prices Guaranteed
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Complete Interior Renovation with all trades undertaken. Registered Carpenter.
Villager, Hunter, Aarrow & Stratford Stoves
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Relax during your renovation work Bilingual mason Chris Lynn will produce top results on any aspect of your building project BRITISH buyers have long had a reputation for falling in love with old traditional properties as part of their dream move to France. The kind of renovation work involved to make the property a home can vary from minor stonework to the complete renovation of a disused outbuilding. Often it is challenging to find masons who are reliable, experienced and who speak both English and French, but for those in the
A new kitchen installation and tiling work carried out in 2009
Brittany region, this is where mason Chris Lynn of CLC Renovation can step in and help. Chris learned his trade as a bricklayer straight from school in the UK, where he lived not far from Plymouth, and has been in building most of his life. He settled in Brittany about eight years ago and now works on all types of jobs, both big and small. “I’m happy to do half a day’s work or more long-term projects,” said Chris. “The last job I had took over six months and was a complete renovation inside and out, but even if a customer just needs a few slate tiles putting back on their roof I can do that too.” Some of the jobs that Chris can take on, relating to exteriors, include: hack-off rendering, re-rendering, stone work and re-pointing, concreting, paths and patios. For house interiors his work often includes: plaster boarding, plaster-
ing, insulation, floor and wall tiling, and the installation of kitchens and bathrooms. To make plastering quicker, cleaner and more cost-effective for clients Chris now does internal plastering and external rendering using a machine. “It is called ‘projection plastering’ and is faster than traditional manual plaster,” he said. “You still have to trowel it up or float it off after, but there is far less mess when it is done this way.” Chris is based in Plonévez-duFaou and usually works within a 50km radius of this area. “But I will go a bit further for an interesting job,” he said. As Chris is bilingual it means that communicating in either French or English with clients, suppliers or other artisans is something that he is used to doing on a daily basis. He has found that some English clients, who are not yet fluent in French, find this very useful.
The variety of jobs that Chris has carried out over the last eight years have earned him an excellent reputation and he often gets work purely through word of mouth. “The last clients I had were highly delighted with the pointing work that I did,” he said. “I think that people are generally always happy that I leave the place as I find it, in terms of cleaning the job up, as many builders leave a mess, but I leave everything as clean and tidy as possible.” Contact Chris to discuss your project or visit his website for more information.
Before and after of a complete rebuild in Plonévez-du-Faou, Brittany
06 59 71 50 29 email@example.com www.clcrenovation.com (in French)
Renovation expert for projects of all sizes With over twenty years’ experience in renovating interiors of houses in England, when fully qualifed carpenter Ed Chalkley moved to Brittany seven years ago with his family it was only a matter of time before he set up his business “I DIN’T set up my own business straight away in France as I was still busy on other projects in England and renovating my own house - it just sort of happened,” said Ed. “It was after people had visited the house and seen my work that I started getting calls asking if I was interested in laying oak floors and if I could come up with ideas on how to convert their greniers. I thought: what on earth am I doing slogging backwards and forwards to England if people want me to work for them here? “Fortunately, the auto-entrepreneur scheme had just come out and seemed like a good starting point to working in France,” said Ed, who promptly found his City & Guilds certificates and registered with the Chambre des Métiers.
“I was very lucky because my first project, which ran for 18 months, was a lovely job to work on and was only ten minutes from home,” said Ed. Ed is pleased with how the scheme works, as are his clients, as it means they do not have to pay TVA and he can still put a team of reliable artisans in all the trades together: electrical, plumbing, roofing, sand and lime rendering, studwork and plastering. “I co-ordinate the work and the client pays them directly,” said Ed, who especially enjoys the challenge of sympathetically renovating traditional old French houses and maintaining as many of the original features as possible. “It also means I can freelance for other building contractors,” he added.
After an initial meeting at the house, Ed can proceed with the job even if the client is going to be absent. He is happy to send regular emails and photographs so they know how the project is progressing. It is this care and consideration, along with the high quality work, that the client appreciates. It allows them to return to a house in France that is ready to become a home. Up until now Ed’s work has mainly been in the Côtes d’Armor region of Brittany, but he can travel further afield - in fact his next job will take him to Normandy. “My wife, who is a florist and the French distributor and stockist of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paints (www.lescouronnessauvages.com), needed someone to run the Chalk Paint furniture painting courses for her. Knowing how brilliant the paints are I agreed and went on a stockist’s course on painting furniture with Annie Sloan in Oxford.
Ed Chalkley takes on jobs in departments 22, 35, 50 and 56 “Annie has a house in Normandy that is in exactly the same state as it was when she first bought it twenty years ago - so it needs a bit of work and TLC before she can let her brushes loose.” To see examples of Ed’s work you can visit his website online at:
www.edwardchalkley.blogspot.com. If you have a renovation project - no matter how big or small contact Ed by email or telephone. 02 96 72 82 91 06 70 54 13 76 firstname.lastname@example.org
Garden centre goes online For all your tree, plant, shrub, bulb and even garden design needs, pay a visit to La Jardinerie Hollandaise - or go shopping on its new website LA JARDINERIE Hollandaise is located in Sainte-Brigitte, between Pontivy and Rostrenen, and is run by Peter and Marieke Commandeur. They started the business about 16 years ago, starting off with just a few rows of plants and have gradually built it up to what it is today: a garden centre selling an impressive range of plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. “Peter has always done this kind of work, his dad was a bulb grower and he went to work for a Dutchman at a garden centre in Wales,” said Marieke. “We’re both Dutch, but I was a nurse in Wales, where we lived for ten years, and I’ve worked here since we moved to France in 1995. Our son works with us now so it is a real family business.” The garden centre now has a cou-
ple of greenhouses and Marieke and Peter do some of their own growing too. Their acers, hedging plants, rhododendrons and fruit trees are some of their best-selling plants. The couple have worked hard to make the business the success it is today. “We used to do a lot of market work in the beginning and Peter was there every day until we got more customers - now we’re just doing two markets a week,” said Marieke. “We also do the foire aux plants, which are special plant fairs in the spring and autumn. Most of our business comes from the foires, markets or word of mouth.” As bulbs are one of La Jardinerie Hollandaise’s specialities, the family have high hopes for the website, which has just been launched and allows customers to buy their bulbs online. Now is a perfect time to buy
explains Marieke because new stock, including bulbs and plants, has just come in and you can plant out all through the winter unless the frost is in the ground. The bulbs they sell are not just in a package, customers can buy them loose too. “Our most popular bulbs are tulips, irises, crocuses and hyacinths, but we sell a bit of everything really,” said Marieke. The website is still being developed and in the future will sell trees, plants and flowers online too. They also offer an advice and maintenance service to customers. “We do a lot of garden maintenance in the winter,” said Marieke. “In the spring we do more mowing, cutting hedges and the planting out - but we look after people’s gardens all year round - and can also do the design and planting for people who want new gardens.”
La Jardinerie Hollandaise now sell bulbs from its online shop The couple find that many customers just want a bit of advice, which Peter and Marieke are very happy to offer. “We really do make time for people and customers seem to like the personal approach. We organise an open weekend three times a year now where we have tea and coffee with customers and give advice,” said Marieke. One of the advantages for customers is the couple’s flexibility. While the garden centre itself is
only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, people can call to come at other times and to also get advice about their gardens. “Peter often goes to people’s gardens to give advice and usually they come to the garden centre to buy the plants,” she said. “But sometimes we go and plant their garden up - it all depends on what the customer wants.” 02 97 27 62 19 www.jardinerie-hollandaise.com
Try wood for warmth D I Y t i p s As the cold weather sets in, it’s time to make sure your home will be warm. A wood stove can be a worthwhile buy, says REBECCA LAWN
WHY NOT SPONSOR & ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS HERE?
How to get a new-look bathroom on a budget
Photo: © Hunter stoves
Photo:© Henrik Winther Ander - Fotolia.com
WOOD-BURNING stoves can save you money as well as making your house a lot warmer than a simple open fire. “If you have a typical French house with a big fireplace and open chimney, you’ll find that a lot of the heating will go straight up the chimney,” says Steve Hill from Ashgrove Stores, which supplies wood-burners across Europe and the US. “The benefit of having a woodburning stove is that it seals the chimney off and the air has to go through the stove.” The stoves are made of cast iron, steel or soapstone. Steel wood-burners increase – and decrease – in temperature more quickly and are generally lighter. Those made of cast iron require solid floors to support them. As for fuel, hardwoods are best but the main thing is to make sure it’s fully seasoned, timber that is
Hot tip: a woodburning stove in a large fireplace prevents heat from disappearing up the chimney
sap-free: “Otherwise it will smoulder,” says Steve. The size of the stove you need will depend on the size of the room you are heating, but there are other factors to take into account, such as insulation, double-glazing and the number of doors and
with a boiler that can be connected to the system. Again the size of the room it’s in is important, as Steve explains: “Boilers send more to the heating side than to the room. If it’s a big room, you’ll need a radiator as well.” When buying any type of wood-burner, check that it conforms to the European standard (EN 13240 for stoves). And remember that under French law, you need to have your chimneys swept at least once a year by a professional company. It’s not enough to do it yourself, even if many people do. It is also worth checking with your local council to see if there are other rules specific to your area. In urban areas, for example, chimneys generally need to be swept twice a year. If you use your chimney, this requirement will be in your home insurance. As well as having it cleaned, you also need to have a chimney liner. Make sure the fitter is registered and is accredited by an organisation such as l’Organisme professionnel de qualification et de classification du bâtiment. Once the work has been done and the chimney is working, you will need an annual certificate (certificat de ramonage) to prove it has been swept. Getting it professionally cleaned is also for your own safety as flues that become blocked can raise the risk of a chimney fire. Soot has now been classified as carcinogenic, so make sure you choose a sweep who uses a specialist hazard vacuum cleaner afterwards.
windows, so it is best to speak to a professional before making a decision. For a particularly large room there are double-sided stoves that can be placed in the centre. If you want a wood-burner that also powers your central heating, you need a stove
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You needn’t spend a lot to restyle your bathroom SO YOU have just bought a house complete with avocado bathroom suite dating from the 1970s, or perhaps your bathroom is just looking a bit tired. Well, there are some simple ways of revamping the salle de bains that won’t break the bank. First, empty the room completely so that you can spot all the cracks and holes that need to be filled. When the filler has dried, sand down the walls so that they are smooth. Next, clean the bathroom to remove as much mildew, soap residues and dust as possible – sugar soaps are very effective and inexpensive for this. The toughest place to clean is usually the grout, so you need to use a hard toothbrush or nail brush and scrub with bleach. You can also try using a steam cleaner. Repaint the walls using special bathroom paint so that it resists the humidity. If you have a large bathroom that is well aired, why not be brave and make a feature wall by decorating with a large print or colourful wallpaper? If your tiles are not the colour you want or are starting to look old, you do not have to replace them but simply give them a new lease of life by repainting them. Once the tiles are clean and dry, evenly apply a tile primer with a synthetic bristle brush. It is best to paint with vertical strokes. When the primer is dry, rub down the whole surface with fine sandpaper, remove the dust produced and apply the second coat of primer. After sanding down and cleaning again, apply the gloss coat with a natural bristle brush, again using vertical strokes making sure you catch any running paint. Wait until the first coat has completely dried before applying a second coat. Paints are now also sold in DIY shops that allow you to repaint sinks, baths and shower trays, but these are quite expensive. Give your bathroom furniture a new look by painting it or just cleaning up and changing the handles. There is so much choice now, from modern and novel to traditional or antique, and they make an immediate difference. Shower curtains are a prominent feature of the bathroom and hanging a fabric one immediately gives a more luxurious, warmer feel. To care for it, wash it in hot water about once a month. If you prefer a plastic shower curtain, a good tip is to wash it by putting it in the washing machine with a couple of towels – the friction of the towels will help to get it cleaner. Finish off your new bathroom look by adding a couple of scented candles and humidity-loving plants such as orchids or bamboo to add life and colour to the room.
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Houses for sale in and around Brittany Buying or selling a property in or around Brittany? We can help. Our website www.connexionfrance.com carries details of more than 14,000 homes for sale across France.
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It’s harvest time for your winter vegetables
Picking, pruning and planning by STAFF REPORTER WHILE many people might think December is the time to shop and plan and that gardeners, like their gardens, benefit from a period of dormancy, there is still work to be done outside. In northern regions December can be a month of frosts and it is the time to harvest winter cabbages and cauliflowers. Brussels sprouts should be ready in time for Christmas and leeks can be harvested as required. Where there is a danger of severe frost, it may be worth transplanting a few to well-dug ground which will not freeze solid. Harvest celery and parsnips and store your carrots in peat, sand or a clamp if you have not already done so. Parsnips could also be left in the ground, so long as they are protected with straw. If you are storing vegetables over the winter, check for rot, removing any affected vegetables before it spreads. Check potatoes especially, paying attention also to any slugs, which may destroy one potato after another. December is not all hard grind and spadework. The pruning season has also started and some plants with woody stems can bleed if not pruned until early next year. Vines, birch and acers all benefit from early pruning. Vines can be pruned back to two buds from last year’s growth, to encourage new fruiting branches and larger foliage in ornamental varieties. Birch and acer should be shaped with care, as their elegance relies on the delicate growth of their branches. Shape in a regular fashion, without cutting into old wood, taking growth back by one branch within the canopy. Pears and apples, currants and autumn raspberries can be pruned any time between leaf fall and March. Stone fruit should not be pruned in winter, as retreating sap can take in an airborne fungus, “silver-leaf ”. This is a good time to plant roses to bring colour to your garden next spring and summer. You can plant at any time from now until spring, avoiding bad frost periods. Roses flower from the first year, except climbing varieties, which need two years to establish themselves. Choose a sunny south-facing spot with good ventilation, avoiding wind exposure and proximity to large trees. Roses can be in shade for a part of the day and suit different soil types, which are not waterlogged or very wet in winter or too dry in summer. In the flower garden, keep an eye out for moles and set traps if necessary. Ordering your seed catalogues now will give you time to choose next year’s bedding and perennial treats, while they are still in stock before the spring rush.
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Pontrieux, Côtes-d'Armor On the ground floor, there is a fitted kitchen, a living room with fireplace, a bathroom and toilets. On the first floor, there are 2 bedrooms, another room and a boiler room as an outbuilding.
Guilliers, Morbihan Situated at the outskirt of a village with amenities, house in excellent condition comprising a full basement, 4 bedrooms, a fitted kitchen, a dining room and a spacious sitting room.
ENERGY RATING = Not given
Plounévézel, Finistère This elegant Neo-Breton house consists of lounge/diner, kitchen and large downstairs en-suite bedroom. On the first floor there are 3 further bedrooms and a bathroom.
Bourbriac, Côtes-d'Armor Detached family residence in village location comprising of entrance hall, kitchen/ breakfast room, utility room, 4 bedrooms, lounge/dining room, bathroom and w/c. ENERGY RATING = F
Dinan, Côtes-d'Armor Beautiful 17th century stone house with lots of character. Large living room with stone fireplace and kitchen on ground floor. 4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and 1 en-suite shower room.
La Vicomté-sur-Rance, Côtes-d'Armor Charming house with river views from most of the rooms. 3 bedrooms, living room with fire place, charming kitchen with fire place, study, utility room and 2 bathrooms.
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = F
PROPERTIES AROUND FRANCE
Le Blanc, Indre This beautiful old cottage has been fully renovated and provides delightful views across the river Anglin. The cottage has 2 double/twin bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, large landing with additional bed and a bathroom. ENERGY RATING = Not given REF: IFPC15159
Languedoc-Roussillon, Hérault In a hamlet at 10 minutes from a village with all amenities, stone house with more than 165m2 of living space, kitchen, living/ dining room, 4 bedrooms, workshop, garage and large attic, on a 250m2 plot. REF: 10765-TNTLESN225000E ENERGY RATING = Not given
l’Absie, Deux-Sèvres The house comprises an entrance, a living room, a sitting room with insert, a fitted and equipped kitchen and a wc on the ground floor. The first floor offers 3 bedrooms in which one has an en suite bathroom. REF: 37952
Troyes, Aube Completely restored house near golf course with 150m² of habitable space: living room with a fireplace, fitted kitchen, 35m² covered terrace, beautiful view, 3 bedrooms, 2 with shower rooms and toilets, large garage. ENERGY RATING = G REF: IFPC21727
ENERGY RATING = Not given
La Flèche, Sarthe Renovated in 2006 by English artisans the house benefits from; downstairs bathroom, kitchen diner, lounge, dining room, 4 bedrooms (2 with en suite) utility room and a garage.
Narbonne, Aude Comprising kitchen, living room with fire place, mezzanine, 3 beds, 2 bathrooms and veranda. Several terraces. Nice recent pool and wooden garden shed. Located in a protected and preserved area of the coastal area. ENERGY RATING = Not given REF: AV980
ENERGY RATING = Not given
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Potty about Brittany life British potter Sean Miller moved from London to Brittany – now he makes such French favourites as breakfast coffee bowls and Breton cider cups. TIM FINAN met him and his family. SEAN and Jenny Miller and their daughter Rosza came to Brittany in 2005 and opened the pottery three years later. They had bought a fine 1930s maison bourgeoise in the village of Peillac near Redon in the Morbihan and close to the green and pleasant Vallée de l’Oust. Their labour of love – doing up the house and turning an outbuilding into a showroom for Mr Miller’s work and a spacious workshop – was complete. They are now producing and selling attractive, reasonably-priced kitchenware in earnest. For two weeks this autumn the Millers staged a well-publicised portes ouvertes (open day). They were joined by a well-known name in British pottery, Nigel Lambert from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. People from the village and the surrounding area came and watched fascinated as he and Mr Miller constructed a new wood-fired kilnusing 1,100 refractory bricks each weighing four kilos and brought in from the UK. The visitors were able to observe the kiln taking shape in the covered space overlooking the lawn behind the workshop. The first firing began on the Monday and everyone had to wait for two long days for the
Each of the 1,100 refractory bricks in the Miller family’s new kiln weighs 4kg big moment when the kiln was opened and the first pots taken out and placed on tables for all to see. “We built the whole thing in 10 days . It’s like a birth”, said Mr Miller, 53, as he opened the kiln door and removed the first pots: large coffee bowls which the local farmers like to drink out of in the morning and cider cups, the famous bolées.
There were also fine glazed plates with an African feel and practical country-style kitchenware; the kind of objects that French housewives love to cherish. “We’ve had a steady trickle of people coming in and about 80% of them do buy, which is encouraging. We tell people we’re halfway between La Gacilly and Rochefort-en-Terre, both villages full of crafts.
“The difference is that here people who come in tend to buy, whereas at La Gacilly and Rochefort they tend to be ‘just passing through and looking’”. Mr Miller uses pine offcuts from a local sawmill to fire the new kiln – there is no shortage of wood in the Morbihan. He said: “I’ve been potting since 1990. We were in London before.” Asked what he thought of Brittany, he said: “The weather isn't what it is in the southwest; but the people here are dependable, reliable and honest. That’s what is so important about Brittany. “The mayor of Peillac, Jean-Bernard Vighetti, who was formerly the head of the tourist board in Rennes has given us nothing but encouragement.” Mrs Miller said: “When people ask me what I do my answer is I’m a femme au foyer”, (a housewife). “I used to be a picture researcher in London putting together magazines. It was important to be in London for work because it was important to meet and talk to people.” Rosza,14, has settled in at school in nearby Allaire and has become bilingual. The city girl has become a happy country girl. “It’s better than London here,” she says. Nigel Lambert’s verdict on the fruits of the inaugural firing of the Miller kiln in Peillac? “Excellent firing for a first time”. Sean Miller’s pots can be viewed at Rue Marcel Callo in Peillac or on his website www.seanpots.com Please note that the article about butter maker Jean-Yves Bordier in November’s edition was incorrectly credited to Tim Finan. It was in fact by Isabelle Carvalho.