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February 2019 Issue 196 €4.20 Row over Chambord’s domes
Equity release in France
‘The figures shocked me’
I was there to watch 600 mayors debate with Macron by JANE HANKS
It is not often a president comes to the sleepy town of Souillac in the Lot, near where I live, but when he came for his second meeting with the mayors of France, I took the chance to attend for Connexion. It was an impres-
sive sight. Six hundred mayors, most of them with their tricolour sashes across their chests, listening attentively as Emmanuel Macron spoke. There are a lot of mayors in France – nearly 35,000 – so this was just a small selection, there by invitation only from the Elysée. They came from the 13
European green card proposed as solution
departments in Occitanie and fulfilled Mr Macron’s wish to meet the so-called rural mayors who look after smaller populations, often under 500. They feel forgotten and some have already handed in their notice – 23 in the Lot alone this mandate, 200 in Occitanie. The mayors I spoke to
before Mr Macron arrived were happy to have this chance and many had come hundreds of kilometres to be there as Souillac is in the very north of the region, nearest to Paris. It was no mean feat getting into Souillac that day. I live 10km away and è Turn to Page 10
A PROPOSAL for a “European green card” that would prove and maintain EU free movement rights for Britons, and for EU citizens living in the UK, after Brexit is gathering momentum. The idea, put forward by the pro-EU group New Europeans, has support from a growing number of MEPs and the public (57,000 have signed a petition at è Turn to Page 5
A YEAR TO GET your CARTE IF NO DEAL, says FRAnCE P5
Why magazine ‘Hitler’ image of president rightly shocked Nabila Ramdani P14
Scientists who say you do not have to grow old and sick
Idea gains momentum as Brexit looms by OLIVER ROWLAND
Dr Aubrey de Grey P8 M 02701 - 196 - F: 4,20 E - RD
Pro-EU campaigner Madeleina Kay is one of many to back the card plan
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2 News HIGHLIGHTS 1-11
Migrants cook up a business 3 Beynac bypass halted 4 France steps up no-deal plans 5 No more ‘Buy 1 get 1 free’ 7 Living well for much longer? 8 News in Brief 10-11 Good news on autism 12 Memorial to war animals 13
Simon Heffer / Nabila Ramdani A women’s Tour de France? 15 Readers’ letters 16-17
Your questions We explain the French Pacs Families and the internet Teachers’ protest group My operation in France
18 19 20 20 21
French Living Celebrity chef and... cupcakes Tourism but not as you know it The myth of Jeanne d’Arc DIRECTORY
Money / Work Property 32-39 The Back Page 40 ‘Wwoofers’ of the world unite
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What now for gilets jaunes? THE gilets jaunes are still on the roundabouts of many French towns and cities even though they have achieved most of what they set out at the start of the movement. European constitutional law expert Patrick Martin-Genier, who teaches at the Sorbonne University, expects them to stay active and visible for “some time to come”. He said: “It has morphed from being a movement with specific demands, linked to purchasing power and taxes, into a political movement. “Now their aims are for the government to completely change its policies, or for the government to fall. Those are purely political aims.” He added that it has become obvious that the ideal government for a large swathe of protesters is one of the extreme right. “They might not take part in a formal way in the national debate launched by President Macron but they will try to influence it, if only by staying on the roundabouts. “And they are looking to the European elections in May, where they hope to get people
Photo: Olivier Ortelpa / CC BY 2.0
Gilets jaunes have held a tenth Saturday of mobilisation (84,000 turned out according to government figures [147,000 according to protestors’ counting] and are expected to continue for some time to come
to vote for parties with values held by the far right,” he said. He said he did not expect the movement to go international but noted that in Germany, Belgium and the UK, where there have been gilet jaune protests, they were dominated by overtly far-right politicians. The different cultures of demonstrating meant that they were unlikely to have the same level of impact as the French protests. One of the early spokesmen for the gilets jaunes, Thierry Paul Valette, has co-founded
the organisation Gilets Jaunes Citoyens, which he says intends to take part in the European elections. He said: “Inevitably, it has become political and the way to continue political action is to take part in elections. “We will be on lists all over France and mobilise people to try and get as many votes as we can.” He said the Gilets Jaunes Citoyens movement was “not right and not left” but had a position that decisions taken by the government should put
the people first. It also supports a constitution change to allow the people to vote in referendums on matters that affect them (see page 6). “Of course, we will be taking part also in the national debate organised by President Macron,” he said. “We have to make ourselves heard in every way possible, and that includes roundabouts as well as the meetings organised in the national debate. “How long will it last? I can only say for a long time to come.”
Many still feel pinch despite buying power boost in 2018 ONE of the basic beliefs of the gilets jaunes movement is that French people’s purchasing power, especially for those on the minimum wage, is falling. Yet statistics from a number of national and international organisations show that this is not the case. French national statistics agency Insee, for example, says the purchasing power of the average French man and woman was €160 greater in 2018 than in 2017. So what is behind the perception that purchasing power is falling when the opposite appears to be happening? Insee’s Julien Pouget, head of the department looking at price changes, said that while the overall picture for 2018 was positive, the situation appeared very different when looked at quarter by quarter. “Overall, the purchasing power figures for 2018 are positive, but our studies show that many individual households do not have that impression,” Mr Pouget said. He pointed out that France has seen small gains in average household purchasing power in the decade since the 2007/2008 economic crisis. “The first quarter [of 2018] actually saw a fall in purchasing power, due largely to rises in the price of fuel and tobacco. “Then, in the second quarter, there was a change to a rise in purchasing power in the figures, but that was mainly
due to the issuing of dividends by companies. There are relatively few people in the lower economic groups in France who benefit from dividends.” The third quarter was marked by sharp rises in the price of fuel, which led to 2% inflation across Europe, and that would have had an impact on how people saw prices. Then there was a marked improvement in purchasing power figures in the last quarter as government plans to reduce charges on workers were felt in pay packets, along with cuts in taxe d’habitation. The World Inequality Lab, which is linked to noted French economist Thomas Piketty, published the results of research last September, before the gilets jaunes protests started, and that is also relevant. It showed the bottom 50% of earners in France are disproportionately hit by nonprogressive social security charges and indirect taxes, such as those on fuel, leading to the pressure on spending power. Its research shows that the richest 1% in France had 8% of the national wealth in 1980 and 11% in 2014, while the poorest 50% had 23% of income in 1980 and 23% in 2014. Economist Jean Pisani-Ferry, one of President Macron’s economic advisers when he was running for president, wrote an article called Fifty Shades of Yellow on an influential blog site in which he point-
ed out the middle classes, who formed a significant part of the gilets jaunes movement in the early days, regard carbon taxes as unfair, especially as many now live away from their work. Rich people do not pay carbon taxes for air travel and city dwellers benefit from subsidised transport, leaving the tax pain to be felt by the rest, especially in rural areas. Explaining the wider perception that purchasing power has fallen, he points to many more single-person or single-parent households that are more expensive to run. Also, expectations now include being able to pay for things like smartphones, restaurant meals and holidays, where prices have risen faster than wages. House prices too have risen in cities, but remain stagnant in country areas, putting finances in these areas under strain. He wrote: “The deeper issue is that many middle-class people feel the social contract is broken. They once believed that rising levels of education would bring better jobs, higher income, and upward social mobility for their children. “But growth has become too meagre to generate significant increases in income, middleclass jobs are threatened by the digital revolution, and competition for access to the best schools increasingly seems skewed to benefit those already on top.”
Protesters face €135 ‘yellow vest’ fine threat
GILETS JAUNES demonstrators in Normandy, where President Macron visited for the first meeting of the grand débat national with mayors, were threatened with €135 fines if they wore their yellow vests. Local gendarmes said the vests were a visible sign that people were taking part in an illegal demonstration, as no formal request for a protest was lodged with the prefecture. The courts have ruled that behaviour, slogans, chants and dress can be used to decide if people are taking part in illegal demonstrations. Gendarme bosses said Mr Macron’s visit justified it but there were no plans to extend it. Judicial experts claim the threat of a €135 fine, the same as for not having a high visibility vest or jacket in your car, was too high. The fine for taking part in an illegal demonstration was fixed years ago and remains at €38.
Early leader Jacline set to launch political party
ONE of the early gilets jaunes leaders, Jacline Mouraud (right), says she is launching a political party. Ms Mouraud was one of the prominent protesters who accepted government invitations to talks, a move which she claims resulted in her receiving death threats from hard-liners. She had criticised, in particular, the tax on diesel fuel in a selfie video which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. She drives around 25,000km
The important thing is that the dialogue and energy is used for positive change
a year in her job as a selfemployed anti-smoking hypnotherapist in Brittany, she said, for which she earns around €1,000 a month. Ms Mouraud said: “I have been flooded with messages of support for the new party. “Over half are from people who were not part of the gilets jaunes but see the need for positive change in the country, not destruction.” The party, provisionally
called Les Emergents, will campaign for full reform of the tax structure and more emphasis on the social impact of any new policy before implementation. The party will be “not right and not left”, she said. It will be organised mainly through a website rather than social media, which she described as being “full of parasites with bad intentions”. It will not contest the European elections in May but could possibly be ready to canvass for the municipal elections in 2020. “We want to take it slowly and build well,” she said. “The important thing is that the dialogue and energy we saw in the country from the gilets jaunes is used for positive change in France.” She has welcomed moves by President Macron to improve the purchasing power of lowpaid workers. She called for people to take part in the national debates (see page 10).
Zero to pay for glasses
PEOPLE needing glasses will be able to get a free pair from January 2020 with costs fully covered by state healthcare and their mutuelle insurance. A new law (zéro reste à charge) means opticians must offer a range of lenses and frames at no cost. Some, such as Afflelou and Optic 2000, already offer lowcost options but all will offer free ranges soon. The scheme, with cost limits for equipment, will also expand to dental prosthetics in 2020 and hearing aids in 2021.
Shortage of lifeguards SWIMMING pools are being forced to shut or close early due to a shortage of 5,000 lifeguards across France. Lifeguards do not give lessons but pools can open only if they are on duty, so people cannot get swimming lessons. Too few people are signing up for maîtres nageurs lifeguard courses, which can cost €6,000, so there is a shortage as the number of pools rises. The number of drowning deaths doubled last year.
Seven cooks, seven countries, one great food idea by BRIAN McCULLOCH A CATERING business and restaurant with seven migrant cooks from seven countries has been set up by two friends who met at business school. Sébastien Prunier and Louis Jacquot were set for standard business careers – Sébastien in finance and Louis in marketing and web design – but they were not happy. Louis said: “We were disappointed with the reality of the work. We would talk about doing something else. I am a keen cook, which is why we thought of the food business. “There was a lot of fuss from anti-immigrant people about the TV pictures of the Syrian migrants, so we thought of how food always brings people together. The idea was born.” They spoke to groups working with migrants about finding cooks for Les Cuistots Migrateurs, and since starting in 2016 they have hired seven cooks from seven countries. Now they have catering contracts and a buffet lunch restaurant Le Hasard Ludique in the old Paris Saint-Ouen railway station in the 18th arrondissement. At first, Louis was the chef, but last year they recruited a
The cooks at Les Cuistots Migrateurs make dishes from a range of different countries depending on their nationalities friend with 15 years in the restaurant business to take over, allowing him to join Sébastien on the business side. The staff all start on shortterm contracts but are due to switch to permanent ones. Louis said: “Unlike some schemes, which work with migrants for three-month projects, we aim to give a proper French employment contract because we know how important it is for finding somewhere
Organ transplants fall for first time in 8 years
ORGAN transplants fell by 5% in France last year, the first drop in eight years. Doctors feared worse figures after a flu epidemic prevented them from working on organ donation because they were busy keeping people alive. That led to a 10% drop in transplants early in the year. Dr Christian Lamotte, of the Agence de la Biomédecine, said another factor was a fall of 15% in the number of strokes, due to a successful campaign - but that this meant fewer deaths and so fewer donors and transplants A new law in 2017 giving “presumed consent” - people are presumed to offer organs after death unless they register at registrenationaldesrefus.fr or leave written instructions – had little effect. The number of people and
families who refused to offer organs fell only slightly, from 33% in 2016 to 30% in 2018. Dr Lamotte said: “The situation corrected itself towards the end of 2018 and there were encouraging developments. “It is too early to say for 2019 but obviously a shortage of donors cuts the number of patients we can help.” A 20% increase in donations came after patients died following a heart attack when medical treatments were halted or failed. Dr Lamotte said: “For families, it is particularly painful but our medical teams are trained to work with them. “Because of improved prevention, we are seeing fewer early deaths, especially of younger people, which is good news and a sign of better healthcare. “But we also have a system
R is for purrrr with Homycat’s letter-shaped scratch posts
where donations are encouraged through our Plan Greffe, especially from living donors who help in kidney or liver transplants.” Kidneys and livers are the two organs most often donated, with 3,546 kidney transplants and 1,323 livers in 2018. For donations after death, each donor can offer an average of 3.5 organs. Unlike with blood donations, where people who were in the UK between 1980 and 1996 cannot give blood, Britons are included in the presumed consent law. They can offer organs for donation after death unless they have had close contact with beef, or beef products. You can specify only certain organs – for example, offering your heart but not an eye.
Pets mean pampering OWNERS will stop at nothing to get the best of pampering for their pet and the Paris Animal Show had perfumes, beauty serums, cushions and scratching mats – plus hemp-based treats, and treatments to calm animals’ moods and ease their pains. Owners spend €4.8billion a year so there was no shortage of exotic trends, with cat cushions of yak hair and wool, giant letters with scratch pads, or a kangaroo pouch for pooch. The exhibition included demonstrations and the biggest cat show in Europe.
to live and to get in the system. Selection is professional. We give tests, ask them to make a dish from home and judge if their French or English is good enough to work in a team.” The cooks all have refugee status or other papers to work in France. None was a professional cook before starting. Their countries of origin are Syria (Faaeq does falafels and houmous), Iran (Rashid is a rice specialist), Ethiopia (Sarah
makes curries and injera pancakes), Nepal (Bishnu does momo dumplings and sauces), Chechnya (Fariza makes roseshaped raviolis), Afghanistan (Azim is a falafel specialist) and Senegal (Babs adapts African dishes). Louis said many recipes are “based on home cooking, which gives a freshness sometimes lacking from restaurant dishes”. The chef looks at the cooks’ recipe ideas and together they
see how to source ingredients and how to present the dish. Usually all the spices in the refugee food can be used in France, except for chillies, so they cut back and find options. Reaction so far has been good. “Most people come because they like food and like experimenting with something new,” said Louis. “Obviously showing solidarity with migrants is there too, but they know there are other ways of doing that.”
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by JANE HANKS WORK on a bypass around a historic village has been stopped by France’s top administrative court even though €15million of public money has already been spent on it. The Conseil d’Etat ordered the suspension of the €32million project – involving a 3.5km road, two bridges over the river Dordogne and a tunnel through a beauty spot valley – as there was no “imperative major public interest reason” for it. The court said there were many protected bird and animal species in the Beynac area and their habitat should be disturbed only if strictly necessary. Half-finished concrete pillars have been left jutting out of the Dordogne, and work on a road has been abandoned. Depart mental council presi dent Germinal Peiro called the decision “scandalous”, saying they are “victims of the bad workings of the state”. He wants to continue the works, saying the bypass would mean fewer hold-ups in Beynac,
where the existing road is often choked by summer traffic Beynac is between Sarlat and Bergerac and he says it would improve transport links. Stéphanie Berbessou, president of the association J’aime Beynac et sa Vallée, told Connexion: “Environmental issues should not just take the fauna and flora into account, but also the people who have to live with pollution day to day.” Opponents of the work argue that congestion in Beynac lasts only a couple of months a year and it is not in the public interest to lay concrete through one of France’s most beautiful valleys. It has three chateaux and more than 700,000 visitors a year. The site is in the heart of a Unesco biosphere - the largest of 12 such sites in mainland France – and a Natura 2000 site, with more than 100 protected species. They also say it is a waste of money in a department which is France’s third most indebted. They refused to give up when work started with permission from the prefecture. Protestors hit the headlines
Photo: Jane Hanks
Beynac bypass halted after €15m work
Works on the Beynac bypass have been left abandoned pending another court decision when one stopped works by living on a crane for six days and nights. However, they lost 10 court cases locally and so appealed to the Conseil d’Etat. Jean-François Vidalie, from the group Sauvons La Vallée de la Dordogne, said: “This was a big victory for us, but it is not over yet. It must now be reviewed again, in depth, by the Bordeaux administrative tribunal. This could take a year. In
95% of cases, regional tribunals follow the judgment given by the Conseil d’Etat. “We are working on ways in which the site can be reverted to what it was and are confident it can be done for about €5million, far less than the cost of continuing. “We also think there are practical and less devastating ways of reducing traffic in Beynac.” There are two online petitions:
one to stop the works and one to get them started again. Ms Berbessou said locals now realise they must fight if they want the bypass. She said: “The bypass is the only possible solution to make life in the village bearable. “It is not just in the summer but all year round when lorries come through.” She thinks a possible solution would be a local referendum.
Golden turrets row at Chambord WILL the Château de Chambord get gold on its roof as part of celebrations marking 500 years since building began? The question has caused a furore after high-brow culture magazine La Tribune de l’Art claimed the plan is inauthentic. Chateau general manager Jean d’Haussonville wants to re-gild lead decorations on the roof. He says that recreating how it might have looked in its early days, in the time of François I, would “give back the chateau’s poetic enchantment”. It would be part of restoration work on the domed “lantern turrets” and the €4million cost would be paid for out of the chateau’s management funds and donations. However, the plan was recommended for rejection by a historic monuments consultative body – before President Macron asked for it to be approved. La Tribune de l’art is particularly upset that Mr Macron supports the idea. Chambord is officially under the protection of the president. Editor Didier Rykner said
The turrets at Chambord now look grey and dull
they had “feared for the closeness of Jean d’Haussonville and President Macron, whom [d’Haussonville] received for his birthday in ‘his’ chateau – and we were right.” He wrote that historical evidence for the gilding was scanty and if it existed it was during a very limited period. Chambord should have other priorities, he said, and “it is not anodyne, in the current atmosphere... It’s like the whim of a prince” [referring to the gilets jaunes]. Culture Ministry officials proposed a compromise of gilding only the weather vane, but Mr
Veteran crossing the Atlantic... in a barrel AN INTREPID pensioner is crossing the Atlantic in a “barrel” – powered only by wind and currents. Jean-Jacques Savin, 72, from Gironde, launched from the Canary Islands at the end of December and aims to reach the Caribbean by the end of March. He built the barrel himself out of resin-coated plywood. The ex-paratrooper took books and materials to write and sculpt to pass the time – and a bottle of SaintEmilion to celebrate his birthday last month. He has been enjoying good conditions and speeds of 2kph.
d’Haussonville said it “wouldn’t make sense because it would be expensive and almost invisible”. Officials at Chambord said they were waiting to find out if work can start – and on what. Chambord spokeswoman Cécilie de Saint Venant said: “The actual gold itself is a small part of the overall cost. The estimates are 500g of gold leaf, which is around €36,000 a kilo.” She said they had been stunned when the plan looked set for rejection. “The lead roofs need to be repaired. They are letting in water and, if it continues, there is a risk that the wood underneath will rot.” It is not the first time projects to add gold to buildings have caused controversy. In the 1980s it took the intervention of President Mitterrand for the gold dome of Les Invalides to be approved. The idea of Paris celebrating the millennium by putting new gold leaf on monuments, including the place de la Con corde obelisk and the Opéra Garnier, was judged a success.
More deals as Linky logs on in 15m homes ALTERNATIVE electricity offers have been multiplying as Linky “smart” meters are installed in more homes. More than 15 million homes now have the meters, which allow detailed, real-time monitoring of people’s electricity use, and all should be fitted by 2021. Sylvain le Falher, co-founder of energy comparison site hellowatt.fr, said Linky allows for new offers which can give large savings, especially for people with varied use times. He said: “There are weekend offers for people who mostly use their energy then. In some cases, such as for second homes, it can be interesting. “There are also offers with different rates for summer and winter. Or Direct Energie has an heures super creuses [super offpeak] offer, for use at night. “If you heat your water and charge your car overnight, it can make a big difference. “If half of your consumption was in that period you could save 20% compared to being on EDF’s regulated tariff.” The meters have attracted criticism over health risks, data protection and their funding. Consumers report increased marketing, including cold calls, from energy firms but Mr le Falher said this is likely to be from their own suppliers, proposing a switch to a new tariff. However consumer group UFC-Que Choisir warns against strong selling tactics of Engie. One advantage of Linky is that bills relate to real usage, not an estimate based on earlier readings during visits to your home.
Steep rises for health ‘top-ups’ TOP-UP health insurance prices have been rising sharply this year, with some up by 5-9% – and even 34% in one case, according to consumer group UFC-Que Choisir. Companies have partly blamed the new “100% santé” offers (see page 3) for free hearing aids and glasses. Patients’ group France Assos Santé notes that insurers had promised they would not make increases based solely on the 100% santé. In some cases, increases have been put down to “rebalancing” of loss-making contracts. Over the last decade, top-up premiums have increased by around 50% in total. Many revise their rates every January. Contracts can include clauses allowing you to cancel if the rises are unusually high.
EU green card plan Continued from Page 1 tinyurl.com/EuroGreen). The New Europeans have now been invited to a hearing with the constitutional affairs committee of the European Parliament. The group, which won a presidential medal from President Macron, hopes MEPs will put the card idea forward as an EU law. It would mean Britons who have obtained an EU right of permanent residency due to living abroad in the EU for at least five years before Brexit would be issued with a card guaranteeing continuing rights, including free movement across the EU. The card could also be presented at the French border on return from a trip outside the EU (such as to the UK) to show that the holder does not need an Etias (online application for permission for non-EU visitors to the EU, due to start in 2021). In daily life, the card could confirm the holder should be treated for practical purposes as if they were an EU citizen. For EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit, it would be proof of their ‘settled status’. In the UK there will not be cards but a system of proof online. New Europeans founder Roger Casale said the card would be for those with EU permanent cartes de séjour, or rights under a Brexit deal if there is one, or for those granted similar residency status after a no-deal Brexit if individual EU states make laws for this (as in France, see right). He said: “The green card will be needed whether there’s a deal or not. It would not be a way to secure residency rights but, once secured, it would ring-fence your other rights as an EU citizen, in particular free movement. “This is especially important for British people who need to travel freely around the EU for work. Or if they decide to up sticks and move to Spain, it would allow them to do that without a visa or carte de séjour. “Beyond that, there are many administrative issues you don’t need to worry about if you have EU rights. And how will the
Roger Casale, New Europeans French distinguish between a Briton with rights under a deal, or a unilateral guarantee after a no-deal, and someone who has come later? A green card is how.” As well as MEPs, former Finnish prime mini ster Alex Stubb and British “EU Super girl” campaigner Madeleina Kay support the idea. Mr Casale said: “The MEPs passed a motion in 2017 saying they would not sign off the withdrawal agreement until a way had been found to give back freedom of movement to Britons in the EU. This will do that. “It is critical people get behind it; it will help to relieve anxiety because now so many people have lost hope.” He said the card is “the only show in town” as the agreed deal did not allow for free movement and a previous ‘associate EU citizenship’ idea did not take off. “We say it should ring-fence all the current status and rights – even voting in local and EU elections – and it should also be given to those waiting to acquire rights after five years. In practice what we get will depend on what the commission decides and the EU Council agrees to.” British Labour MEP Julie Ward said: “Britons face having citizenship rights taken away and the card would be a step in the right direction. “But you don’t get things done unless you are determined, and citizen pressure – such as signing New Europeans’ petition – can make a massive difference.”
Brexit news in brief IN VIEW of the possibility of a second Brexit referendum, it is important that Britons in France make sure they are registered to vote if they have been living here for less than 15 years and want to take part. See gov.uk/register-to-vote. THERE will be a British Embassy outreach meeting at Annemasse, Haute-Savoie, on February 11. See bit.ly/2SPjNCI. THE UK has signed an agreement with Switzerland duplicating expatriate rights aspects of the rejected Brexit deal. It guarantees the rights of British people there, whether or not there is a Brexit deal. It has also agreed a similar deal with the EEA/Efta countries, ie. Iceland, Liechtenstein
and Norway. A DExEU Brexit Ministry spokesman said the guarantee for Britons in Switzerland was possible because the deal is much simpler than the main withdrawal deal (no ‘divorce payment’, no questions over the Northern Ireland border etc). The UK has made a “verbal agreement” to maintain citizens’ rights aspects with EEA/Efta, but it is more complex because that deal contains extra items linked to the main Brexit deal, such as on judicial cooperation. As for Britons in the EU, DExEU says it is encouraged by French promises to protect Britons’ rights if there is reciprocity, as it says it intends to “guarantee protection of EU citizens in the UK, ensuring residency and several other rights”.
France gears up for no-deal... one year to get residency card
BRITONS in France will have a year to obtain new residency cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit, France has announced. Making use of special powers conferred by a no-deal Brexit law, the government is to make five ordonnances (laws passed by order to speed up the process) in coming weeks. One will be on Britons’ residency rights. Another aims to “ensure the continuity of certain financial activities, in particular relating to insurance, after the loss of the UK’s financial passport”. Connexion asked the prime minister’s office if this includes ensuring Britons can continue to receive private pension and insurance payments in France from UK-based providers. It said this will be clarified later. Details remain to be clarified on the residency plan too but an outline says that – dependent on the same being granted for French people in the UK – Britons would retain the same rights as now for one year. During that year they would have to obtain a residency permit to stay. The UK says, in a no-deal, EU citizens will have until the end of 2020 to apply for its ‘settled status’ scheme. This confers most of the same rights as under the negotiated EU/UK deal, and during that time they retain broadly the same rights as now. Britons would have the right to apply either for a carte de résident, if they have lived in France for more than five years at the time of Brexit, or otherwise one of the existing cartes de séjour for non-EU citizens
who have lived in France for less than five years (but with simplified conditions compared to the usual requirements). A resident’s card is usually either renewable after 10 years or permanent. The other cards are mostly renewable annually, but holders may apply for a resident’s card, notably on conditions of language skills and earning levels, after five years. An Interior Ministry source
The plan is to have specific offices in departments where Britons are numerous Interior Ministry source said it is expected that the resident’s card would be an ‘ad hoc’ one for Britons, probably based on the rights in the deal, but including loss of the rights for those who leave France for more than five years. It is not clear that there would be any special rights for people arriving in France after Brexit day in the event of no-deal. It is expected that people who already have EU citizen cartes could exchange them for new cards, as the EU ones provide proof of the length of their legal residency in France. The order is also expected to preserve social security rights of Britons in France before
Brexit, allow them to stay in regulated professions such as notaires, avocats and accountants, and remain as fonctionnaires (civil servants, including teachers and nurses etc). Another order relates to establishing strict border controls, including spending €50million making facilities for lorry checks, and recruiting and training 580 people to do customs and veterinary checks. The ministry source said there are plans for specific offices for card applications in departments where lots of Britons live and prefects have been invited to do this. There should also be information meetings at prefectures and sous-prefectures to complement national communication about Brexit rules. The official online source for information is brexit.gouv.fr. Until then, it is still worth putting in applications for EU citizen’s cards, the source said. In the case of no-deal, pending applications would become invalid “for IT reasons”. People would have to put in new ones but would not have to submit new supporting documents and could ask officials to use ones from the other dossier. An official from the prime minister’s office said: “Our preferred option is still the deal negotiated, which is precise about citizens’ rights and would leave us two transitional years to prepare. But if there’s no deal, the new laws would apply, so Britons living in France have a legal residency status.” He added: “The president and Europe minister have said several
times that the deal was the best one on the table, so it is hard to imagine it will be renegotiated.” The guarantees would only apply if there is reciprocity for the French in the UK – “but it’s not in our interest to penalise British people who’ve been living in France a long time”. He added that time is running out and they are preparing for all eventualities. “Extra personnel are being recruited, laws are being put in place and speeded up, as it’s more likely there will be no deal. “The prime minister is asking ministries to get ready – the Interior Ministry for paperwork or Agriculture for food regulations – and prefectures in concerned regions so as to respond to demand. We’re trying to get everyone to gear up.” Ordonnances must be ratified by parliament or they lapse. n In view of a possible no-deal, it remains important to apply for a carte de séjour or at least prepare documents for one. It is advisable to change a UK driving licence for a French one. In a no-deal, there will be extra paperwork to do this and non-EU drivers must swap to a French licence within a year. Delays are already reported. If you plan to travel with pets, speak to your vet. The EU pet passport will be invalid in the case of no-deal so extra papers would be needed. For more on preparing, see our helpguide Brexit and Britons in France, available via our website (or call 06 40 55 71 63), and our web Brexit section.
Maybe now we can create a better social Europe We spoke to former British ambassador to France Lord Ricketts, Julie Ward MEP and some of the British in Europe coalition groups for their thoughts at this crucial time.
Lord Ricketts NOW everyone can see what Brexit would actually mean, it’s essential we ask people: is that what you want? Or some improved version of the Prime Minister’s plan? Or shall we just stay in? May’s deal is dead, so it would have to be either a People’s Vote or a Norway-style deal – something mostly off-the-shelf from the EU with some of the UK’s red lines rubbed out, potentially including free movement, which would be very interesting to British people abroad. The route to a People’s Vote would be discussions among the parties and the government accepting it has to try a new approach, or going back to Brussels and being rebuffed again. There will have to be more blockages and rejections and still no Commons majority for anything, then perhaps a People’s Vote becomes possible. It is very unlikely a majority of MPs would vote to cancel Brexit without one.
Julie Ward MEP
Brexpats – Hear Our Voice
LET’S hope Brexit is never going to happen. It would be a complete disaster. But maybe through this we can be a better social Europe – a Europe for people, for the many and not the few. That’s Labour’s perspective and what I’m fighting for. We’re running out of time and desperately need to extend article 50. That is the priority but not just for more of the same. There needs to be a democratic mechanism that gives a clear signal, a People’s Vote or a general election on parties’ manifestos so people can decide. Mrs May’s win in the vote of no confidence makes an election less likely but it is still possible. My experience of politics has taught me that anything can happen. Sometimes things happen that no one had even thought about. But something really has to shift now. I observe elections as research for the European Parliament and am sceptical of those who claim the UK sets an example of democracy. In 2017 in Kenya, for example, presidential elections were cancelled by Kenya’s supreme court because of similar interference as happened in our referendum with Cambridge Analytica. We often have a high opinion of ourselves, but I say “look at what they had the courage to do”.
BHOV is diverse, with members right across the EU. Reactions have varied. For many, the withdrawal agreement was never going to be adequate because issues such as freedom of movement and cross-border services have been left to being bargained over in the future relationship. Some fear what might result from a People’s Vote and wanted peace of mind now. We are united, though, in our disgust with Theresa May. After two years, seven months of limbo, or what for many feels like purgatory, we’ve had enough. That was very much of Mrs May’s making in the wilful absence of any meaningful guarantees. To now scold her opponents and say people, in particular us, need “clarity” was one glib statement too far.
British Community Committee VICE-CHAIRMAN Christopher Chantrey said: All the things we’ve been talking to Brussels and the UK’s Brexit Ministry about over two years are in the bin. All we’ve got is arrangements that – so we are told – will be made by France. We’re in the hands of their goodwill. There’s no time to arrange matters like pension uprating and the UK paying for pensioners’ healthcare if there is no deal – not to do 27 bilateral deals.
Citizens’ referendum plan – a fair idea but can it work? The RIC (référendum d’initiative citoyenne) has been put forward by the gilets jaunes protesters as a way for ordinary people to directly influence government policy. The idea is that if enough citizens sign a proposal – 700,000 is being suggested – it could trigger a referendum. Subjects could include the creation of new laws, abolishing an existing law or even dismissing a politician. A similar scheme, called a référendum d’initiative partagée, already exists but requires 4.5million signatures and the agreement of 185 MPs. It has never been used. The RIC idea has 80% support, according to a poll of 1,967 people by Harris Interactive. Switzerland and Italy, as well as some American states, operate similar schemes and are held up as models by the gilets jaunes. Setting up the RIC might be more complicated in France. We spoke to politics lecturers about the pros and cons.
News in brief Paris tests anti-heat and anti-noise roads Paris is the first city in France to test a special road surface aimed at reducing noise and heat. Rue de Courcelles, rue Lecourbe and rue Frémicourt in the 8th and 15th arrondissements have been fitted with 200-metre sections which can reduce temperature by two degrees and cut noise by half. The move follows on from France’s Plan Climat of 500 measures to reach carbonneutrality by 2050.
10.2m visitors set record for Le Louvre The Louvre museum in Paris broke its visitor numbers record in 2018, with 10.2 million over the year - a rise of 25% compared to 2017. Museum president Jean-Luc Martinez said that a music video of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, shot at the museum, and the opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi had boosted its reputation.
€500 ‘terrorists’ note to disappear BANKS have stopped the production of €500 notes since January 27. Only Austria and Germany are allowed to continue to print them, until April 26, as a transition measure. The European Central Bank reacted to concerns from officials about the purple note, which is regularly used in illegal activities including terrorism and drug-smuggling.
PROS Christophe Bouillaud, Sciences Po Grenoble.
THE RIC would be welcome in our institutional system. Everyone could ask direct questions and this would compensate for our political system, which gives great power to the president when his party has a majority in the National Assembly. For years, and not only in the case of Emmanuel Macron, presidents have been elected by a minority of registered voters. However, when the National Assembly represents the presidential majority, the president can make many decisions and these can differ from the popular demand. So RIC proposals to allow other minorities to have a say are a good idea. Actually, in the Fifth Republic [the current one] as imagined by de Gaulle, ideally the executive power should represent the majority. However, he estab lished two rules: one where the presi-
dent could dismiss the Assembly [so the people can vote again] and one where the president can ask for a referendum, but the subsequent governments did not use them. What is more, when Jacques Chirac asked for a referendum in 2005 on a European constitution, he asked French people to vote yes – and they did not. He then stayed on, whereas de Gaulle would have quit. RIC referendums would ensure the government respects decisions of the numerical majority. For real democrats, a referendum is always a good thing. And the more open they are to different subjects, the more efficient they are. There is a lot of hypocrisy from people who oppose the RIC because they know it could work but prefer to only mention referendums which were unsuccessful (eg. led to complications). A RIC would change a lot of things. But the upper middle-class – the backbone of Mr Macron’s support – do not want working classes to put them in a situation of minority so, in my view, the RIC won’t happen, not with our current government. It’s like asking them to cut their own hands off. The party in power has nothing to gain from the majority of people expressing themselves.
CONS Raul Magni-Berton, also of Sciences Po Grenoble, does not oppose the RIC but outlines difficulties that could arise. IT IS a bit like asking me to choose between democracy [the RIC] and autocracy [no RIC]. It is hard to put the pros and the cons on the same level. Politically, it is true that the RIC will allow people to have more rights. Citizens will be better informed because they have to answer questions and they will be more motivated to look for information on the subject. They will participate more and will be more satisfied. When a RIC is proposed, studies show that there is no major devastating effect and even some positive economic effects. The public debt is often reduced. In reality, the RIC proposal is nothing new for France. In 2016, a survey found that 70% of the French population was in favour of the idea. In 2017, during the presidential elections, six candidates out of 11 included it in their programmes. In the current public debate, there are
lots of fake “cons” but there are also true cons that nobody speaks about. For example, the RIC gives more power to bureaucracy. It would be the civil service that would apply the new laws and they are appointed, not elected, so the system becomes less democratic. Then, people tend to vote “no” more often than “yes”, so a lot of laws would not get through. If we want to make more laws, you might think the RIC would prevent this, as it is said to be a system which does not really approve change. This is true to some extent but there is also a little inaccuracy here. Some big decisions have been taken thanks to referendums. For instance, in 1914 in the United States, Oregon chose to abolish the death penalty using one. I chose this example but there are many more, such as child labour and the eighthour working day. Important decisions like these happen but are rare as they have to be based on a consensus. On the other hand, some people argue that RICs might create too many changes and that things get worse in countries which continually change their laws. These countries do not improve and business constantly has to adapt to new laws. Changing everything on impulse would be a problem. Citizens would have to use the RIC responsibly.
Jobs to be axed as railways are opened to competition MOST of SNCF’s debt – estimated at €46billion a year ago – is to be paid off by the government. In return, the rail company must make drastic changes, including job cuts, as services open up to more competition. About 2,000 jobs have already been cut in 2017 and 2018, and this year SNCF Mobilités employees (train and station workers) are the main target. A total of 2,095 posts are being axed, as well as 162 in SNCF leadership roles, though 171 jobs will be created for SNCF Réseau (rail maintenance). The railway union opposes the cuts. UNSA Ferroviaire leader Roger Dillenseger said: “We will have to do more with fewer people.” From January 1 next year, the special railway worker status of cheminot, which comes with many advantages, will disappear for new recruits. The number of people benefiting from this has been decreasing for many years. There were 300,000 in 1970, 175,000 in 2000 and 146,000
New InOui TGV trains should be all over France by 2020, replacing old trains which lack plugs and wifi
last year. Existing cheminots with the status will keep their rights, including a number of free train tickets, discounts for family members, 28 days paid holiday, guaranteed lifetime employment, early retirement and a better pension. They will keep this even if they transfer to another rail firm as the market opens up. From December, regional railways (TER) will be opened to new private companies. By the end of 2020, SNCF will
also have to share the TGV long-distance trains market with competing companies. Meanwhile, SNCF’s turnover is expected to increase by 8-9% and new InOui TGV trains should be all over France by next year, replacing old trains which lack sockets and wifi. These new trains have already gone into service in Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lyon, Toulouse, Nancy, Metz and, more recently, Saint-Nazaire. They offer a more comfort-
able journey with extra space and services, but without an increase in price. SNCF also continues to diversify by opening more OUIGO low-cost lines. Passengers can now travel by OUIGO from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice, with stops at Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aixen-Provence, Marseille, Toulon, Cannes and Antibes. Paris to Nice fares start at €19. OUIGO, launched in 2013 with a line from Marne-La-Vallée to Marseille, has since attracted 33million users and aims for 26million more by 2020. Plans for a new TGV service from Paris to Lyon – passing by Orléans and Clermont-Ferrand – have been put on the backburner as SNCF would rather focus on completing a new dedicated high-speed TGV line between Lyon and Paris this year. SNCF is about to spend €600million on this major construction project, so Clermont-Ferrand has been deferred until 2025.
Cashback of €60 is now available
Play’s audience and actors bare all
Cashback is now widely available in France and Casino supermarkets are among the first to take it up. The concept, which allows you to get cash from stores as long as you make a purchase by bank card, is already widespread in several European countries but was slow to start in France. It has come in following a European directive. The maximum amount you can get is €60. It is hoped this will especially help people who live in the countryside, far from bank cash dispensers, whose numbers have fallen in recent years.
HUNDREDS of people stripped off to attend Paris’s first naturist theatre play Nu et Approuvé (Naked and Approved). The play was performed at the Palais des Glaces, in the 10th arrondissement and for one hour and 15 minutes the actors and the audience had to be naked, although they could bring a towel with them (those in VIP seats were offered one). The show, which deals with a family inheritance, was supported by the Fédération Française de Naturisme and the Association des Naturistes de Paris.
Tax to hit firms like Facebook and Apple france has announced it is bringing in a “Gafa [Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple ] tax” on big digital companies by the end of February. The EU aims to come to an agreement on the subject next month but France says it will not wait. It claims the tax could bring in €500million this year. The multinational businesses operate in several countries and, via complex structures, can choose where to pay tax. For example, Google’s turnover in France was estimated at €2billion in 2017 – but it reported only €325million, so paid just €14million in tax. Apple, Amazon and Facebook also – legally – take advantage of optimisation fiscale (tax optimisation) which allows them to declare some of their advertising income in other countries, such as Ireland or Luxembourg, which have lower tax rates. Although the European Com mission hopes to come up with a deal this year, Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France would be taxing Gafa before that. Other countries, such as Spain and Italy, have also been reviewing how to tax the Gafa firms. Britain may also follow France. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in October that he would introduce a tax of 2% for global digital companies.
‘Buy one, get one free’ food deals banned
SuPERMARKET food prices are set to rise, thanks to a new law banning so-called “superpromotions” such as “buy one, get one free” deals. The law will ensure there are no repeats of scenes last year when Intermarché surprised everyone with a 70% discount on Nutella – and caused violent riots in several supermarkets. Under the new law, which is set to come into force on March 1, supermarkets can no longer offer discounts of more than 34% off the price of food. The law also rules that supermarkets cannot re-sell any food items for less than a 10% margin on the base cost. Relèvement du seuil de revente à perte (raising the threshold for selling at a loss) aims to ensure that farmers and other producers are fairly paid. Super-promotions are still allowed on cosmetics and household products, such as cleaning materials, shampoos and shower gels. Reductions on
food are expected to stay between 20% and 30%. The best deals on offer will be “buy two, get a third one free” but the word “free” will not be allowed in advertising. No more than 25% of a supermarkets’ annual turnover can come from discounted products. The stores warn that, as a result, the price of 3,000 products could increase by 1%. Big discounts bring in around €1billion every year, say supermarkets. Leclerc has already responded by reducing the price of 4,600 items in its ownbrand Marque Repère range, as this is not considered to be a resale of produce. Lidl marketing director Michel Biero claimed offers could be made in other ways, such as loyalty cards. He said: “Offering 70% off a product or giving the same value of credit on a loyalty card is the same thing for the consumer: one is forbidden but the other is not.”
TV show investigates pesticide levels of fruit
Photos: l’Institut Curie / Twitter
Captain Jack all aboard to give hospital children some cheer
avocados, kiwis and plums are among the fruits on sale in supermarkets that are the least contaminated by pesticides and herbicides. Wheat, asparagus, tropical vegetables madeira and yam, beetroot and cauliflower showed the lowest levels of contamination overall in the study for Envoyé spécial on France 2 TV. Grapes, clementines, cherries, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches and oranges, all showed the highest concentrations of residue. More than 72% of non-organic fruits, and 41% of non-organic vegetables, contain pesticide and herbicide traces – including the controversial glyphosate – by the time they reach the table, according to NGO Générations Futures. Urine samples of celebrities participating in the show all contained gysophate but at levels considerably under the limit allowed for tap water.
STAFF working with child and teenage cancer sufferers at Paris’s Institut Curie have thanked actor Johnny Depp after he made a surprise visit to patients dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. The 55-year-old star spent time meeting patients and staff, before posing for photos in his Pirates of the Caribbean outfit. The institute said: “It brought joy to patients, families, carers, doctors and researchers. [An] immense thank you to Johnny Depp for
his time, comfort, and energy.” It is not the first time Depp has helped children’s hospitals. In 2007, he donated £1million to London’s Great Ormond Street after it cared for daughter Lily-Rose following an E.coli infection. Last year, fans expressed alarm at the star’s frail appearance and weight loss – but it was put down to his recent role as a terminal cancer patient in the new comedy-drama film Richard Says Goodbye.
National service trials THOUSANDS of young volunteers will take part in a month-long pilot of President Macron’s national service scheme in June this year. Some 3,000 people will participate in the trial of the Service national universel (SNU) in 12 of France’s 13 regions, as well as French Guiana. For two weeks, they will wear uniforms, salute the flag and sing La Marseillaise during initial group-training sessions which will include team-building exercises and first aid skills. They will then work on ‘individual commitments’. The scheme is set to rolled out nationwide by 2026 – at an estimated cost of between €1-€1.5billion a year. Presiden Macron wants it to be obligatory but this has not yet been agreed, nor has the exact length of the service.
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Can we live forever as young old people? We assume the ageing process to be a natural part of life that we must accept but many scientists now think we can act against it at the cellular level. Oliver Rowland spoke to French-Croatian biologist MIROSLAV RADMAN, author of a new book for the general public, Le Code de l’Immortalité, and to British ageing expert Dr Aubrey de Grey
iroslav Radman believes he has found the keys to slowing ageing. He describes biological ageing as “cultural vandalism” and says it is possible that in future people will be able to stay young and healthy indefinitely. The eminent scientist told Connexion: “What we can do for a start is help people live up to the apparent maximum limit of around 120. Nearly everyone should be like Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect, who was creating splendid designs at 103. It doesn’t have to be the exception. “If we have the knowledge to reinforce the weak links, or slow down the fire that burns us – the radicals – it’s legitimate to want to live in good health as long as possible and be productive for oneself and for society.” Prof Radman, 74, a member of the French Academy of Sciences, added: “As long as one is not ill or disabled, you will never say – just because you’re out of work or something – you want to be killed. All that’s lacking is the science and technology. If we invested like we do in the army, we could live much longer, but people are fatalistic, they think there’s no point ima gining a more beautiful and better life.” Even so, he said he is “very confident” there can be effective therapies to slow down ageing in about 10 years time. As for prospects of rejuvenating people who are already aged, he said: “I can’t see any scientific reason it’s not possible. We would just need to rejuvenate the body’s stem cells – that renew our intestine, the surface of the lungs, the nervous system’s glial cells, the neurones etc. In theory, there’s nothing against the possibility.” Prof Radman has had an illustrious career with national
research bodies Inserm and CNRS and as professor of cellular biology at the Université de Paris-Descartes. He was born in Split, Croatia, the son of a fisherman, and now spends much of his time at his privately-funded Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences in his birth town, where he says he has more freedom to pursue his research. He said: “People don’t realise that in the 19th century cancer was a luxury. It meant you hadn’t been killed by tuberculosis, paralysis, chickenpox... horrible infectious diseases.” Hygiene, vaccinations and antibiotics brought solutions for infectious diseases so people now die from degenerative diseases of old age, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. However so far investment that makes the moon landings look like peanuts has brought “negligible success” in treating them, said Prof Radman. He believes it is makes more sense to attack the root causes of ageing itself so as to intervene before such diseases develop. He was inspired by the fact that some people are naturally highly resistant to diseases of old age and live to be 110 or more. “There are 200 cancers and at least 100 degenerative diseases of the brain and muscles, cardio-vascular system etc. How can they fend off all of them? There had to be a common cause. “If we wait for illnesses to develop and study the brokendown tissues, we find there are thousands of things that have changed. It’s too late, it’s like waiting for an avalanche to smash everything, then see how many trees and homes were destroyed and in what way.” Our bodies are built of cells, each of which has a nucleus with DNA molecules inside – carriers of genetic information – as well
If we invested like we do in the army we could live much longer but people are fatalistic Prof Miroslav Radman
as other components such as proteins, large molecules that do most of the “work’” in a cell. Prof Radman says he has identified oxidation of proteins and DNA as the main factor in ageing and found mechanisms in nature which protect against it and can be used for therapies. He said there was little interest in studying the molecular basis of ageing in France before he started in 2003. This has now started to change and he claims some of the credit. In 2009, he said Inserm had no anti-ageing projects. There are now 13 Inserm teams working on ageing in France, with support from industrialist Dassault. Prof Radman said his first research was on a bacterium that can survive 5,000 times as much radiation as humans. “I wanted to understand how it has indestructible cells. Its DNA can be pulverised but it puts it back in the right order. How? It is because it protects its proteins, and they do everything in life; genes just allow the proteins to be renewed, because proteins are fragile – they oxidise, wear out, becoming dysfunctional. “We’ve got to make new ones,
and need instructions in genes. But I moved the focus in biology from genes to proteins, in bacteria and in tiny aquatic animals that are also ‘indestructible’. “I found they invest a lot of energy in little anti-oxidant molecules that protect against oxidation: these ‘sacrificial mole cules’ let themselves become oxidised before an oxygen radical hits the protein or DNA.” He added: “Each protein is a different molecular machine with a different shape and size, and there are tens of thousands in our cells – that makes life. “The whole of the proteins together interact like life’s software, allowing the synthesis of hundreds of thousands of small molecules of the metabolism that are needed for interactions and chemistry, and it all plays together like a huge orchestra. “While it plays well, we are young and healthy and when it starts to play out of tune, the damage eventually reaches the conductor, which is the DNA, and one error provokes another and it becomes a vicious circle and the risk of dying and getting ill increases like an avalanche.” Another expert, Aubrey de
Grey (below), says the metabolism is so complex we should repair the damage that occurs in the cells as a side-effect of its processes rather than trying to prevent the cellular damage. Prof Radman disagrees. “What’s better than stopping the DNA becoming oxidised in the first place?” he said. “We need to invest money and attention to use all possible means – it’s an ethical issue – so people don’t suffer, so they don’t get ill.” Prof Radman was frustrated to find that panels that allocate research funding in France thought his ideas “too different”. “They suffer from intellectual inbreeding – there’s not enough diversity. I had to change course and leave Paris and I got young researchers together in Split. “I found money from British, US and Swiss venture capitalists and French industrialists. “We’re independent and there are now two start-ups in Cam bridge working on our projects. One is at pre-clinical stage [just before tests on people],” he said. Another start-up company is working on a treatment that will soon be tested as a way of keeping people’s skin young.
BRITISH scientist Dr Aubrey de Grey is just as passionate about anti-ageing and spoke in Monaco recently about progress in the field. He believes the metabolic processes that lead to age-related damage are so complex that it is better to focus on repairing the cells with periodic use of therapies so damage never leads to illnesses of old age such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s or cancer. “People die after dependence, decrepitude and misery and it’s terrible many people are ambivalent about doing something about it.” Dr de Grey, formerly of Cambridge University and now chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation in California (sens.org), which he co-founded, claims there are seven kinds of damage and it is possible to find therapies for all of them, which could be used to keep us physically young and healthy or rejuvenate older people. This is the focus of SRF, an inde-
pendent research charity. Classic medicine focuses on “trying to stop the diseases from becoming too severe, in spite of the damage which is idiotic”, he said. “The damage is still accumulating, so the therapies will get less and less effective as the person ages. “It’s astonishing nobody had thought about ageing this way until I started saying these things 18 years ago, because it’s common sense. “It’s the same as the way there are still classic cars over 100 years old that run as well as the day they were built due to preventative maintenance. People looked after them well – they got rid of the rust before the doors fell off.” Dr de Grey said the field is “the next big thing”, with related investment funds setting up, including one in Paris, research now being done in many countries and start-ups using discoveries to develop therapies. “France is playing a big role on the academic side
– not much yet in the private sector, but that will happen soon. There is sufficient proof of concept so more money is flowing in and that will explode in a year or two. There is already a multibillion-dollar so-called anti-ageing industry built on products that basically don’t work. It will be amazing when we have ones that do.” There should be clinical trials into treatments for all the kinds of damage within 10 years, he said, and the only thing slowing things down is sufficient research funding. He said once available the new medicines will pay for themselves. “It’s very expensive to keep people alive in bad health. Plus healthy older people will be able to carry on contributing wealth to society in one way or another. “It will be economic suicide for a country not to make the therapies available to those old enough to need them.” It can be compared to the benefits of free education, he said.
Anti-ageing will be the ‘next big thing’
“One of our approaches is sacrificial molecules. Another is based on a discovery called ‘chaperone molecules’. “I’ve established that the chemistry of ageing is corrosion of the proteins, and secondly that accumulation of oxidised proteins increases with age. “But we don’t all die at the same age of the same thing and this is because we have different weak links in our sequence of proteins. We could in theory predict from what illness a baby is going to die in 70 or 50 years. “Antioxidants can help but we can also use chaperone molecules that protect the weak spots like a plaster. In the future there might be thousands of medicines for this.” He added: “These processes happen to some extent in nature, otherwise we wouldn’t live long enough to reproduce – but now we want to live much longer in full health. We need to grow and acquire knowledge and so for the evolution of our culture we need ‘young old people’. “Many French people think it’s immoral to want to live a long time, but they can’t imagine doing it in full health. Biological ageing is cultural vandalism.” Another of his discoveries is cellular parabiosis. Para biosis originally refers to linking the blood circulation systems of two animals, such as lab mice. He said researchers in California have had impressive results in rejuvenating older mice linked up to a younger one. “Illnesses regressed, memory loss and osteoporosis were reversed. But when separated the old mouse returned to the previous state. “Cells do the same: there is a solidarity between cells. Dys func tional ones are helped by neighbours that don’t have the same faults. All age-related illnesses involve inflam mation where communication channels between the cells are cut off.” Asked about his book’s bold use of “immortality”, Prof Rad man said: “The title was my editor’s. I could have called it ‘Buy my book at all costs’.”
BBC calls for your views on iPlayer future
VIEWERS have been asked to help the BBC decide how to improve its iPlayer service, which is popular with Britons abroad who watch via VPNs. The BBC says it wants to transform iPlayer “from primarily a catch-up and linear TV service into a destination for our audiences, where programmes will be available for longer, both for individual programmes and box sets”. It says it must give all licence-payers value – while also challenging Netflix and Amazon – and asks for views on making shows available for 12 months, giving complete series box sets, and offering more archive content, along with bought-in material. It also asks viewers on “steps to promote positive impacts” where read‑ ers can call for a licence to be available to them abroad to get programming. Find details at tinyurl.com/ycfo3j2m and reply to publicinterest.test@bbc. co.uk or BBC Corporate Affairs, Room 5045, London, W1A 1AA. The consultation ends on February 15.
Tougher benefits sanctions as job-seekers told to take less pay TOUGHER measures to force jobless people to do more to find work could see benefits removed for four months. The sanctions will also mean a claimant who refuses a reasonable job will lose their payments – even if the pay level is less than was previously used to define a “reasonable” job. The moves are harsher than propos‑ als set out last spring and come as President Macron said in his new year message that he wanted unemploy‑ ment benefit reformed to promote the return to sustainable employment. He wants savings of €3.9billion in the social security budget over three years and aims to target 865,000 people who claim benefit while working part-time. He also wants to cut the number of fixed-term contracts that firms hand out, many for just a month. Negotiations are going on with unions
Tightening of the penalties is unfair
Marylise Léon CFDT union deputy leader
and employer organisations. Unemployment benefit in France is not a set sum but a percentage of previous pay based on work history, wages earned and social charges paid. It is capped at €7,445 a month. Unemployment was 9.1% at the end of 2018. Some claimants are said to maintain a good standard of living as long as their benefits last, leading to accusa‑ tions that they are “holidaying on
other people’s taxes”, though many claims are exaggerated. Claimants can receive about two-thirds of their previous pay – calculated over 365 days – for up to two years, or three years if aged over 55. Last summer, Pôle Emploi (the job centre) said 12% of job-seekers were not actively seek‑ ing work, and just 8% of those on assurance-chômage benefit. Now controls are being tightened for missing Pôle Emploi interviews, not trying hard enough to find a job and, in particular, refusing job offers. The original message from ministers had been that benefits would be sus‑ pended for a month, meaning they could be paid later if needed, but with increas‑ ing penalties for repeated job rejections. Now the month’s payment is lost. Missed meetings with Pôle Emploi advisers will lead to benefits being
suspended, for one month for a first lapse, two months for a second and four months for three missed dates. The government aims to create more Pôle Emploi posts to help job-seekers. However, Marylise Léon, deputy leader of the CFDT union, said the “tightening of the penalties is unfair” and would destroy job-seekers’ confi‑ dence in Pôle Emploi. Another union, Force Ouvrière, said 60% of unemployed people found a job before their rights ran out. It said the law was turning Pôle Emploi into a con‑ trol agency rather than a job-finder. Unemployment benefit is one of sev‑ eral key reforms on the government’s agenda for 2019. Others include tax, pensions, national institution change and possible referendums, energy transition, the public sector and national service.
MORE than a quarter of all native species in France are extinct or in danger of vanishing – and human activity has been blamed. There is less birdsong, fewer animals and small mammals are seen, and there are real fears for the future of common species. European mink, the goldfinch, common frog, European polecat, Eur‑ asian lynx, northern snipe, Iberian ibex, bearded vul‑ European ture, sperm whale and goldfinch corals are all in danger, the Agence Française pour la Biodiversité says in its Chiffres-clés de la biodiversité 2018 (Key Figures on Biodiversity) report. A third of land and sea mammals, such as the polecat and the common seal, could also vanish, up from a quarter under Eurasian lynx threat in 2009. Naturalist Antoine Lév êque heads the ecology ministry’s biodiversity ser‑ vice. He said: “A quarter of our species are in danger and 3% are already gone. “France has an excep‑ tional heritage with 10% of world biodiversity in its mainland and overseas Iberian territories but it has 19,000 ibex endemic species found nowhere else. These are all in danger.” Already the losses are being felt, with less birdsong in the country as nearly a quarter of common specialist birds (those with specific diets) have van‑ ished since 1989. It is no comfort that the bird-eating greater noctule bat is also under threat – because 38% of all bats have gone in 10 years. Human activity is being blamed, with urbanisation, monoculture farming, climate change, the arrival of exotic species and pollution. New roads, shopping malls and car parks are destroying vital habitats such as wetlands. An example is the Euro-
Photo: Brian McCulloch
One in four French species dying out Photo: Nicolai Meyer CC
PEOPLE taking French citizenship will be given a new French first name “to show they really want to be French” under a proposal by a right-wing MP. Although new citizens can already adopt a French name if they wish, Vaucluse MP Julien Aubert (Les Républicains) wants it to be obligatory. He said: “It is a small thing people can do to show they really want to be French. “If, for example, your name is John Smith and you add Jean-Paul to your name, when you are looking for work or to rent a flat you can use Jean-Paul to show you really are French. “It will make integration easier.” Making his call in a booklet titled Livret tricolore sur les Islam(s) de France, Mr Aubert said the names would be chosen from a list based on French history and the old compulsory names related to Catholic saints. Far right groups, especially the Front National, now renamed Rassemble ment National, have long called for compulsory name changing after natu‑ ralisation, even though one of the first names of leader Marine Le Pen, Perrine, is not on any official list. She told journalists: “We have been saying it for years, and now the Républicains are saying it, just as they are stealing our other good ideas.” Mr Aubert admitted he would have a hard time convincing parliament. “People are so fixed on multicultural society being good, and of the rights of the individual, that they are shocked at the state imposing a name on people when naturalised,” he said. “But it fits in with French tradition – until 1993, the state could impose a first name on you if your parents did not choose one from an accepted list. “I think people will be happy to have a new first name given to them.”
Photo: mpiet CC BY-SA 2.0 de
New name if you take citizenship
Photo: Tuxyso - CC BY-SA 3.0
Oscar takes children on the school bus run in his specially-built cart pean mink, or vison d’Europe, with just 250 left, all in southwest France. It prefers wetlands but is being wiped out by land reclamation, bigger American mink and accidental trapping. Now 65,000 hectares of wild land is concreted over each year – and today covers nearly five million hectares, or 10% of the mainland territory. Meadows, marshes, cliffs, dunes or oak forests should be maintained but are being lost, as is permanent grass‑
But Oscar heads for pasture after leading a revival WORKHORSE Oscar, a Cheval Breton, is heading for retirement 10 years after pioneering a revival in working horses in Brittany communes to save the breed. La Bouëxière in Ille-et-Vilaine was among the first to use horses this way and Oscar is a “community horse”, working with council staff, children and local groups in place of a car, van, tractor or bus. Similar medium-size draught horses were once seen all over Brittany before tractors took their place. Assistant mayor Gérard Becel said: “We decided to test a communal horse and the experiment worked far better than we could have imagined. “His main jobs have been to water flowers in summer and to take the children from school to the canteen, about 1km. “But he has been used to weed the sports ground and especially around a small lake, where a tractor risks damaging the banks, while Oscar does it without problem.” Now 18 years old, Oscar is finding it more difficult to do heavy work and his success has led La Bouëxière to buy a second horse. Other communes have followed suit and the region offers grants for projects using a Cheval Breton, of which there are just 1,700 in France. In all, France has 7,000 draught horses, down from around 14,000 in 1990. Mr Becel said Oscar had been universally welcomed. “People recognise it is a way of reducing carbon emissions – but more than that, bringing a bit more life and interest.”
land which, being insect-rich, would maintain a strong ground fauna. There is hope of revival, driven by the success in rebuilding populations of species such as beaver, otters and Alpine ibex. Beavers had all but disap‑ peared 100 years ago but are back in the Loire and Ile-de-France. The Observatoire National de la Biodiversité says the crisis has grown despite warnings. Groups such as the WWF has reported that 60% of wildlife
has vanished worlwide since 1970. Mr Lévêque said 24% of people cite loss of biodiversity as a key environ‑ mental issue and want to do some‑ thing. Participative science projects have seen numbers grow from 21,000 in 2011 to 54,000 today. n The ecology ministry has moved to help biodiversity by stiffening light pollution laws and ordering parks to turn off lights, as well as creating 10km ‘dark’ zones around certain sites.
10 News in brief
Immigration was only topic booed
public transport, the need for help to attract industry and business and new inhabitants, more support for renewable energy projects, and disbelief that internet and mobile phone coverage would arrive for all by 2020 were all subjects aired. Now it was Macron’s turn. He is an accomplished speaker with a solid grasp on the policies he is dealing with. He had no aides whispering facts and figures in his ear, no paper in his hand other than the pages he used to make
Photo: franceinfo / Twitter
placing goods in a “virtual basket”, which will charge their bank account as they leave. Auchan already operates 700 such stores in China.
Oldest-ever woman ‘faked age of 122’
Director, 50, defends his comments on women over 50 The film director who sparked controversy with his comments on women over 50 has defended what he said as a personal problem – but refused to apologise. Yann Moix (above), aged 50 himself, prompted outrage when he told Marie-Claire: “I am incapable of loving women aged 50. I think it’s too old. [Women aged 50] are invisible to me. I prefer younger women’s bodies.” On France 2 show On n’est pas Couché, he insisted that his relationship with women is personal and related to his own inability to accept the fact he too is ageing.
Auchan to open first French ‘smart’ store Auchan is to open its first experimental “smart store” in France next month. It will have no employees or tills, with all transactions managed via a smartphone app. Customers will be able to shop at the 18m² Auchan Minute store at Villeneuve-d’Ascq (Nord, Hauts-de-France) 24/7,
The body of the world’s oldest-ever person could be exhumed for DNA testing after claims that her extreme longevity was faked. A Russian researcher claims Jeanne Calment, who died in Arles in 1997 at the recorded age of 122, was in fact her daughter Yvonne, who was recorded as having died of pneumonia aged 36 in 1934. He says the younger woman faked documents to avoid paying inheritance tax.
Airport fights back against illegal taxis Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris has launched a new system of official taxis to crack down on illegal cabs that target tourists. The scheme, developed with the Paris police, sees official Taxi Officiel Aéroport vehicles available from 05.00 to 23.00. Cars now arrive at a designated, easy-to-access taxi rank to help tourists spot them. It comes as a new list of official taxi prices for France is published, with the minimum price for one taxi journey now set at €7.10. Standard prices have also been introduced for Toulouse airport, bringing it in line with Paris (Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly), Cannes and Nice, which have set tariffs. The fees will come into force by March 1. Search “taxi” on our website for a list of rates.
assiduous notes on whilst listening. He spoke confidently, directly to the person who had raised the point, and was not floored, even when it came to talking about Pyrenean bears. He gently reprimanded the mayor who raised the subject for giving the wrong name of the valley where they were first introduced. He often said he was prepared to discuss this or that matter but also made clear that he thought his reforms were already beginning to address the issues raised. He did say that after being driven on the local roads, some limits might go back to 90kph. It was a respectful audience, with whistles and boos just once when the mayor of Montauban brought up immigration. She was firmly reminded by the president that immigration and terrorism should not be mixed up in the debate. Macron spoke for over two hours but it was far from over. Mayors were invited to put their hands up to speak, and they too were answered one by one. Christian Venries, presi-
dent of the Lot rural mayors, was applauded when he told Macron he should take advice from the people on the ground before drawing up laws in Paris. Speaking up for the weakest, the insecure and the destitute, he warned the president that if he imposed laws without consultation, he would be pouring petrol on an uncontrollable fire. The marathon ended at 22.10 – a little shorter, at just over six and a half hours, than the seven-hour debate in Normandy a few days before. The mayors listened attentively. I am sure some did not leave their seats the entire time. They clapped at the end and sang the Marseillaise in a room decorated with huge tricolours. However, as they were leaving, I asked one, Francis Chastrusse from Nadaillac-de-Rouge, Lot, for his impressions. “I don’t think rural mayors were satisfied by what he had to say,” he said. “It is clear he is leaving it up to us to get on with things as best as we can and we will continue to be submerged in administrative duties.”
Court rejects bird hunting ban Bird hunters in France can continue to use the controversial “glue trap hunting” method as France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, has rejected a demand for its ban. It refused a challenge from bird protection group La Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) arguing that the traditional hunting technique should be banned. It said that fixed seasonal quotas for bird hunting should be maintained instead, with hunters not permitted to exceed that level. As a result, hunters may continue to use the method legally – up to the quota amounts – in the Alpesde-Haute-Provence, the Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-duRhône, Var and Vaucluse. Glue trap hunting (la chasse à la glu) is a technique that allows hunters to trap birds, usually thrushes or blackbirds, as they land on tree branches. They spread an adhesive substance so the bird is stuck. It is not intended to kill the birds but to catch them to sell as pets to live in a birdcage or aviary. The LPO said the technique is an “abuse of power” that can often kill or injure the birds, and it is “non-selective”, meaning that other types of birds, animals and insects also become stuck and hurt in the process. It has already announced plans to take the case to the European Court of Justice and fight France for the right to end the practice.
Photo: Taco Meeuwsen / CC BY 2.0
the first meeting with gendarmes was at the bottom of my empty country road, where there were two, one armed with a rifle, who asked me to open my boot. Two more checkpoints before reaching the centre of town, where the shops had pulled down their shutters and the market had been cancelled. Anyone who wanted to go to work had to have a letter from their employer and an ID card – and, if you lived there, you had to show proof of address and an ID card to get home. There was a small gaggle of gilets jaunes in front of the post office, outnumbered by the CRS surrounding them. At 15.30, half an hour late, the meeting started. Twenty-eight mayors had been chosen beforehand to air their questions and grievances, and that alone took two and a half hours. Poverty in their communes, the growing gap between poor and rich, closing classes in schools, lack of healthcare and
Photo: Jane Hanks
è Continued from Page 1
Later lycée start times to be tested Lycée classes across the Ile-de-France may soon begin at 09.00 instead of 08.00 after the minister for education said he was open to the idea of allowing older students more time to sleep. Jean-Michel Blanquer was responding to a suggestion from Ile-de-France regional president Valérie Pécresse, who said starting lycée days later would help to improve students’ health.
Everyone can put forward ideas for the Grand Débat
THE Grand Débat National on the future of France – one of President Macron’s key proposals in response to the gilets jaunes protests – is open to foreign residents and also to second-home owners. An official told Connexion: “We want the greatest possible number of people to participate.” The debate, which runs until March 15, is collecting views, via mairies, on what directions France should take. Anyone can offer to organise a discussion in their local area. Events are also being organised at national and regional level. The site granddebat.fr allows people to submit ideas online. We queried why the “status” for creating an online account only has a “citizen” option (along with clubs and businesses etc) and were told this means “member of the public”. You need a French postcode. Later, a series of “citizens’ conferences” made up of people drawn by lots in each
region will consider the ideas. Subjects for discussion should include: ecology, tax and public spending, democracy and citizenship, and the organisation of the state and public services. President Macron explained the scheme in a “letter to the French people”, published in mid-January before he set out on a tour of mairies (see right). Search “letter” at our website for a translation of his letter. Ex-minister Chantal Jouanno withdrew from heading the Grand Débat after her salary of €14,000 a month was deemed excessive in the context of the gilets jaunes protests, which have attacked inequalities. The pay is not specifically for running the debate but is her salary as head of the Commission nationale du débat public (CNDP), an authority that checks on respect for the public’s right to be consulted over major public spending projects.
I’m a celebrity: Cut your meat eating
Tribute to teenage inventor of Braille
Hundreds of high-profile French personalities – including Hollywood star Juliette Binoche – have written an open letter calling on the public to cut fish and meat from their diet for at least one day a week. Some 500 actors, entertainers, directors, professors, writers, artists, and scientists called on individuals to introduce “lundi vert” (green Monday) into their diet in an letter published in Le Figaro.
Stop homeopathy payouts, say GPs homeopathic medicine should no longer be partially reimbursed by the state as it is an “esoteric practice” that cannot be justified, say doctors. Such medicine is currently reimbursed in France at 30%. The national association for teaching GPs said: “There is no way to justify the reimbursement of these ‘medicines’. “There is not even any justification for teaching this kind of practice at university.”
30% péage discount for motorway users Plan to ‘fine’ parents of violent children Road users in France will be entitled to a 30% discount on their péage payments if they make at least 10 return journeys on the same road in one month. More than 1 million motorists stand to benefit from the change to season tickets under the system. Overall, from February, standard péage charges are set to rise by up to 1.9%, due to prestanding contract agreements between the state and motorway operators.
A TEACHERS’ union leader has criticised “inappropriate” government proposals to penalise the parents of violent children financially by removing some of their family allowance payments. Education minister JeanMichel Blanquer said he wished to sanction parents who were “complicit” in bad behaviour and would look at the idea as one way of tackling growing school violence.
Citizen referendums: Good or bad idea?: Page 6
THE Frenchman who invented Braille, the 200-year-old method that enables blind people to read and is still in use, has been celebrated across the world. The 17th annual World Braille Day honoured the birthday of Louis Braille, who was blinded in an accident at the age of three. His raised-dots alphabet, which he developed and presented at 18, has since become a global method of reading and writing for blind people in more than 147 countries. As well as in books, it appears on medicine bottles, cash dispensers and even public toilets. It was invented at the then-Institution Royale des Jeunes Aveugles (Royal Institute for Blind Youth, now the National Institute) in Paris, where Braille was a scholar. Before Braille, blind people read using a complicated system of embossed Latin letters. It allowed them only to read, not write. Over the course of his studies, Braille developed his own reading system, which was named after him. Initially, it was not used widely and was adopted by the institute only in 1854, two years after Braille’s death. Braille is now an alphabet system which enables users to read 64 different “letters”, including normal words, accents, punctuation, and even musical notes, in hundreds of languages.
connexionfrance.com Photo: C Delage
Classic cars bring vintage glamour to Paris streets MORE than 700 vintage cars paraded through the streets of Paris as part of the 19th Traversée de Paris event. Motorcycles, buses and even a few tractors also took part in the bi-annual 30km loop around Paris organised by Vincennes en Anciennes. The summer edition will take place on July 21, finishing with a picnic at the Meudon Observatory. See more images of the cars at our website
The 10 French words most used in English living abroad is a good way to learn more about ourselves sometimes by how we are perceived by others. Le Figaro recently listed 10 French phrases Britons and other English-speakers love to use...
Daring Alps helicopter rescue
Photo: Arnaud Lécuyer / Twitter
A French helicopter pilot who completed a daring rescue in which he hovered centimetres from a mountainside to rescue an injured skier in the French Alps later modestly told journalists: “The move was not extraordinary.” Gendarmerie pilot lieutenant Jean-François Martin, who has 5,000 flying hours, held the helicopter securely in position, with its rotors and body just off the slope, while emergency staff disembarked at the Anterne Pass (2,200 metres altitude) near Chamonix. He had just a few minutes when weather conditions were right to complete the manoeuvre. Mr Martin said: “The move is taught to all pilots who pass their mountain qualifications. You simply look at your rotors, to make sure the angle of the ground is compatible with ‘a skate support’ [touching just one helicopter ski on the mountainside].”
Je ne sais quoi Defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as “a quality that cannot be described or named easily”, English-speakers often opt for this quirky phrase when describing something that has an indefinable flair. According to Le Figaro, it dates to 1531, and comes from the old French “je ne scay quoy”. Déjà-vu Literally meaning “already seen” in French, this phrase is used in English to explain the peculiar phenomenon of feeling as though you have lived through an exact situation or experience already. Rendez-vous While, in English, this phrase often has romantic connotations, in French it tends to mean a simple appointment or meeting, without any extra meaning.
Mayor delivers dumped rubbish back to owners A mayor in Brittany has become the latest official to send an illegally-dumped pile of rubbish back to its owner. Arnaud Lécuyer, mayor of Saint-Pôtan in Côtes-d’Armor, found a pile of rubbish (pictured) dumped anonymously in the town centre when he visited to put out his own bin. An address was visible among the pile of boxes, gift wrapping, food leftovers and other waste, so he decided to return the lot to its owners. He first rang at the door but nobody answered so he left the rubbish with a letter outside. The letter read: “Over this
holiday season, I suppose these boxes, wrapping paper and leftover food fell off Father Christmas’ sleigh when he was leaving your house. “To help correct his mistake, I thought it would be useful to bring them back to you.” He also advised the residents of the opening hours of the local tip, and called on them to display better “civic duty”. Mr Lécuyer said: “I haven’t heard back from them but the reactions of other residents have been very positive.” If he has time, he will do the same again – in the meantime it is job given to the gendarmerie.
Fiancé(e) While English-speakers also use the words “engaged” and “betrothed”, this is the most common word to describe the person you plan to marry. It is said to come from the verb “fier” (to trust, not to be confused with the same spelling for the adjective for “proud”), plus the suffix “ance”. Brunette As in French, this word denotes a girl or woman with brown hair. In English, it tends to describe particularly dark hair, while in French it may be more likely to be used for light brown locks. Bon appétit The fame of French food transcends the plate: this handy expression is still used often in
English to mean “I hope you enjoy your meal”. It is said to date from the Middle Ages. Baguette (and croissant) Although some shops may label the long loaf as a “French stick”, it is much more likely to be known as a “baguette”. Its buttery cousin is always called a “croissant”, even in English, and acknowledged as a French breakfast food by the OED. But while it sounds quintessentially French today, the word “baguette” actually comes from the Italian “bacchetta”, meaning “small stick”. Chic This word describes a certain fashionable elegance. It is pronounced “sheek” with a longer “e” sound in English, than the “i” in French. This apparently very Gallic word actually comes from the German “shick”, which means “in a good and convenient manner” and “convenient knowledge”. Boutique This simple word for “shop” in French would be more likely to denote a high-end fashion or beauty shop in English. Similarly, when used as an English adjective, it often describes something small but high-end, highly-designed, fashionable and luxurious such as a “boutique hotel”. Avant-garde This French phrase is still used in English to describe “new and experimental ideas and methods in art, music or literature” (according to the OED) and usually points to something “ahead of its time”. In French, the word was first used to describe the leading part of “an army or a flotilla”. Readers suggested more words to add on our Facebook page: voilà; c’est la vie; sacre bleu!; bon voyage; nouveau riche; bourgeois; carte blanche; bouquet. Send your additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
News in brief 11
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12 Autism / Science
Brighter future for autistic young people l Put
by SCHEENAGH HARRINGTON AUTISTIC children in France “continue to be subjected to widespread violations of their rights”, a United Nations report said two years ago. This coincided with a high-profile court case, dubbed the Rachel affair, in which a mother from Grenoble was refused access to her three autistic children and accused of faking their condition. It prompted the government to promise a new action plan, addressing what was called a “civilisational challenge”. The publication of that promised government strategy, coupled with encouraging results from an ongoing clinical trial, could finally lead to life-altering changes for autistic children and adults in France. The welcome news has come too late for Limoges-based Sarah Berry, 47, who admitted she has “no faith” in the country’s education system. She said daughter Niamh, now 19, exhibited early signs of autism at 14. “She was basically breaking down every lunchtime, every day,” Sarah said. “There was one teacher who would see her in a corner, who wrote it off as ‘family troubles’. They never stopped to speak to her, or tell me this was how they were finding her.” The situation deteriorated in 2014, when Niamh moved up to lycée. The school nurse picked up on her struggles and arranged for her to attend a Maison des Adolescents – a centre which offers support to young people and their families. Sarah said the help her daughter received was good, but it did not go far enough. “Then we got involved with a teenager psychiatric unit,” Sarah said. “After going to the day unit for a month, Niamh was committed. “I was told when I went to pick her up she wasn’t coming back with me, that I’d missed everything and I wasn’t doing my job properly as a parent.” This was just one stage of what Sarah described as “a massive fight” to ensure her daughter – who was not then officially diagnosed as autistic – would be treated with dignity and respect. Her bid to have Niamh accepted as an interne (boarding student) turned into a nightmare, as the faculty at first
Niamh Berry (left) and her mother, Sarah said no, then yes, then denied the application again. Sarah said the lycée refused to recognise Niamh’s medication meant she required regular toilet breaks, but used the same reason to stop her going on a trip to Germany. A visit to another lycée, while Niamh was taking her bac exam, offered a glimpse of how much easier life could be, and Sarah asked about switching. “They point-blank refused.” The stress prompted Niamh to attempt suicide more than once. Sarah spent two days compiling an explosive letter listing her grievances, and sent it “everywhere”, including the lycée, the Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées, and the head of education. Marion Pilling, 51, is France’s only accredited trainer in Person-Centred Active Support – an internationally recognised best practice in intervention and support for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. She also lives in Limoges, and helped Sarah write her letter. She said her own son Matthew, now 23, who was dyslexic and dyspraxic, “went downhill within three weeks” of starting collège. He was diagnosed as “multi-dys” (having one or more conditions such as dyslexia or dyspraxia) at 13. Further tests were ordered but not carried out, while her son suffered at the hands of bullies and the faculty “were not dealing with the matter”. Marion moved Matthew to another collège, where he received more support, and continued to try to
Manon Pilling has found work at a boutique couturier secure an autism diagnosis for him. He was eventually diagnosed at 21. For daughter Manon, now 20, it was a different story. Marion said Manon had “lots of bizarre behaviour” and was in a halte garderie (daycare centre) until the age of four. The school tried age-appropriate classes through both moyenne and grande sections, but by the time Manon reached CP (cours préparatoire, aged six), Marion realised the teachers “didn’t know what to do”. She said: “It used to take four of them to take her off me in a morning. She would cling to me, screaming. “They never used to tell me when she was traumatised in class, and it just went on. Manon was put into a class with 12 children and they repeated the CP curriculum for five years.” As with Matthew, Marion fought to secure an autism diagnosis for Manon. The moment she had the medical recognition, they were able to access a range of support services. Marion secured a place for her daughter in the region’s only specialist centre, and also at the SESSAD (Service d’Education Spéciale et de Soins à Domicile). Over the next three years, Manon learned practical life skills, and embarked on a series of short apprenticeships. Although Manon’s formal education never progressed beyond CM1 (cours moyen 1, 9-10 years), she has found work at a boutique couturier. While their experiences of the French education system have left deep scars on Sarah and Marion, there
does seem to be a light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel. Niamh, Manon and Matthew are participants in a clinical trial, led by Limoges doctor Eric Lemonnier, which has been quietly running for nine years. He is assessing the impact of diuretic bumetanide on chlorine levels in autistic children’s brains, and its associated calming effects. Results so far have seen a positive effect on 75% of participants, and while the treatment is not a cure and cannot be taken by everyone – diabetic children, for example are excluded – results from the trials demonstrate it can lower anxiety levels. Manon has been taking the diuretic for two years, and Marion said “her language skills and social communication have improved”. Matthew is set to start taking the drug this autumn. Niamh too has had positive results with the drug, to the point where she told her mum she “wasn’t sure she was autistic any more”. If the girls’ anxiety levels remain manageable, the likelihood is they will take the diuretic for the rest of their lives. As well as the clinical trial, which has been expanded to the UK and Germany, France is to overhaul its treatment of autistic children, including their diagnosis and education. The latest strategy, developed by Sophie Cluzel, Secretary of State for Disabled People, comes 10 years after the country’s first plan autisme. It has four aims: l Create an inclusive society for all autistic people at every stage of life;
science at the heart of the practices, and structure a search for excellence, ensuring that strategy is implemented; l Guarantee the ability of autistic people and their families to act with interventions adapted to their needs; l Support families and professionals in their field of expertise while carrying out work. For parents of autistic children, the most important ambition puts science at the heart of policy. It could end children on the autistic spectrum being misdiagnosed as psychotic, sociophobes or with depression, as well as ending the blaming of mothers for their children’s difficulties. Isabelle Bryon, responsible for school inclusion at the Education Ministry, said “psychoanalytical approaches to autism do not meet any of the conditions corresponding to the grades of evidence listed by the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), nor do they fall within the consensus of experts”. The report acknowledges the education system has failed, and is failing, autistic children, and said the new strategy aims to diagnose children much earlier, introducing mandatory examinations at nine and 24 months. If autism is suspected, a “second line” of medical professionals, including neurodevelopmental specialists take over. Mrs Bryon said awareness and training modules are being developed for teachers to help them recognise early signs of autistic behaviour. The 2018 strategy also aims to “guarantee effective schooling” for children with autistic spectrum disorders from nursery school onwards. For those with severe autism, who “lack autonomy or need a safe environment”, Mrs Bryon said the plan offered enrolment into a localised support system which groups students according to their needs in small numbers, coordinated by a specialist. For Marion, the changes that need to be made in the French education system are clear. “There needs to be a complete overhaul of how teachers and medical professionals are trained, and a lot more training – not just on autism but all neurodiverse difficulties that kids have – because they know nothing about nothing.”
Brexit ‘a major error’ for scientific research in Britain and EU BREXIT is “a major error” that will have a negative impact on scientific research in Britain and across Europe, an award-winning Franco-British scientist has said. Professor Margaret Buckingham (right) said: “Not only will it make it more difficult to get funding, but it might reduce co-operation in other ways, as the European Union insists for countries like Norway and Switzerland that there be free movement, and of course people who voted for Brexit are against that. “Britain has wonderful scientists and does very good research and it is so sad that there is not the political leadership determined to keep the country in Europe.” Prof Buckingham was promoted to the status of Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur last year, in recognition of her work as a development
biologist and scientific administrator. It is the latest recognition of a scientific career which included winning France’s top scientific distinction, the Gold Medal of the Centre National de
la Recherche Scientifique in 2013. Only one medal a year is awarded. “I was lucky in that they had not had a biologist for a while,” Prof Buckingham said. “My field, the development of muscle cells, was big news at the time, and lucky that I am a woman. Being dual-nationality also probably helped too as it is important to the French scientific community to show it is open to the world.” The work carried out by Prof Buckingham and her team led to an understanding of how muscle cells are formed in embryos, and how muscle cells regenerate to repair damaged muscles in adults. This led to further research into heart muscle formation, and into the role played by stem cells. “The hope is that it can be taken further and lead to new treatments, especially for dreadful muscle diseases
like muscular dystrophy,” she said. The research on heart muscle has improved understanding of heart deformations that occur in 0.8% of babies born in Europe, which may need surgery immediately after birth. Prof Buckingham grew up in Aberdeen and studied at Oxford, where she gained her doctorate degree. She and her physicist husband Richard were then both offered postdoctoral research posts in Paris. She went to the Institut Pasteur, where she joined the team of François Gros. She was admitted to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, a French government-funded research institute, after a national examination, and also rose in responsibility in the Institut Pasteur, leading teams, laboratories and whole departments. The Buckinghams have three children and lived in Paris, “in a
typical 14th arrondissement apartment with three flights of stairs to walk up”. They bought a country house in a small village in Burgundy five years ago, where Prof Buckingham, 72, spends as much time as possible working in her garden. “An absolute delight, as I have never had a garden before,” she said. She no longer heads a laboratory but works as a collaborator on projects, and is a government adviser on scientific matters and a consultant on numerous panels. She is a member of the Académie des Sciences in France, and the Royal Society in the UK. Other work includes being on the scientific advisory panel of the European Research Council, a European Union body which offers grants for scientific research.
French Life 13
A rescued hedgehog being fed and, above right, the public watches as vet Marie-Pierre Puech releases a bird back into wild
Vet’s hospital is on call to help injured wild animals by SAMANTHA DAVID Marie-Pierre Puech is a vet on a mission. With two staff members and a team of dedicated volunteers, she has been running a hospital for wild animals for the last 10 years. She said: “The first year we treated 80 wild animals and birds... in 2018 it was nearly 3,000. Around 85% of them are birds, and the rest are hedgehogs, rabbits, foxes, toads, badgers, moles. You name it, we treat them!” Marie-Pierre was born in Algeria into a family which had lived there for three generations, but moved back to France to study at the Grenoble veterinary school. She moved to the Cévennes 30 years ago. “I wanted to support nomadic shepherds who still raised sheep in this area. “It’s important to live in harmony with nature, rather than behave as mere consumers who are destroying it,” she said. She founded the association Goupil Connexion 20 years ago, originally to run a club, Connaître et Protéger la Nature (CPN), but it evolved into running the Hôpital Faune Sauvage, her hospital for wild animals in Laroque, Hérault. “People often accuse animals of making them ill. Rabies is the fault of foxes, for example. Not true. It’s the other way round. Humans are usually the cause of illness in animals. “In my practice I treat all kinds of pet animals and the main cause of illness in them is their owners. They feed them the wrong food, or too much food, or too little. Or they don’t give them water, or they leave them alone in flats.” This is why she sees caring for sick animals as integral to caring for the natural world and for human well-being. “I try to educate pet owners. I educate people about the needs of their pets, as well as of wild animals, and their importance to human well-being. “When I’m treating wild animals, I know I’m caring for the environment, and the humans within it. I started the
A young deer receives treatment at the veterinary centre
hospital 10 years ago because I saw it was urgently needed and I thought if not me, then who? If not now, then when? “When we treat a toad, or a mole, we put them at the heart of human life. Pollution is often cited as a leading cause of killing nature, but it’s us. “Humans kill animals in direct ways too. Hedgehogs are burned in bonfires, they are run over. Birds are shot and electrocuted by high-tension wires. We have to change to live alongside nature.” Here is an entire philosophy, she said: “People have to live more simply. They need to slow down and enjoy the world around them, recycle, make and mend, take time to learn about the natural world. “We have to stop with insecticides and all the rest. We need animal tunnels under roads, we need electricity lines buried underground. “People kill animals, but why? “Here at the hospital, when we operate on birds, badgers, foxes, and moles, it’s not just for the sake of treating them, it’s to protect our world. It’s all connected with how we live. Animals are ambassadors – there’s no point saving them without educating humans and saving them, too.” The association advertises planned releases of healed wild animals and birds as a way of educating the public. Up to 100
Animals are ambassadors – there’s no point saving them without educating humans and saving them, too
people attend each release. Now, Ms Puech is calling for help: hands-on volunteers, stand-by “taxi” drivers for injured wild animals, and donations. Running costs at the hospital are around €55,000 a year, including two salaries, but there is no payment for Ms Puech. She gives her time and skills for free, as do a small army of volunteers. “But someone has to pay and a wild pigeon isn’t going to write a cheque before it flies away. “We have lots of volunteers, but we need more. We need volunteers to come and spend a month or two months working here, and learning. We need money, too. The work we do is difficult, and sometimes sad, but it’s wonderful too.” The group also needs people across the south of France, from the Italian to the Spanish borders, to offer to drive injured animals to one of the three centres which treat wild animals. “The sooner they receive treatment, the better their chances. The animals that survive the first hour after they arrive at the hospital have a 90% chance of recovery.” On top of her veterinary work, Ms Puech is writing a thesis on the bugs found in the intestines of wild birds and animals. “There are far more than previously thought. I take samples from every animal I treat and am discovering new things all the time.” Reconnection and reconciliation are important. “Animals have lots to teach us. We live in a toxic world. But you only need a little bit of nature to make people happy. “People are trying different things, they are looking for answers. People need to be liberated as well as animals.” The association’s website (goupilconnexion.org) has first aid instructions (in French) for people who have found an injured wild animal, as well as emergency contact numbers Puech and a link to donate via Paypal.
EIGHT million horses and unknown numbers of mules and donkeys died on Europe’s battlefields during World War One. Hundreds of thousands of dogs and pigeons were also killed, bringing the total to an estimated 11 million animals. Now a monument to all animals killed in warfare is to be built in Paris, following lobbying by the Paris Animaux Zoopolis association. Amandine Sanvisens, its president, said: “They have established a working group to establish where it should be, the form and what text should accompany it. “We weren’t invited to take part, but we intend to keep pushing because if it isn’t done by the next elections in 2020, it might get pushed aside, forgotten, never built.” The point of the memorial, she said, is to remind people of the carnage that war has often meant for animals. The centenary of the end of World War One in November was the starting point for the campaign to win recognition for the animal war dead. “But the council has decided to make the memorial to French animals killed in all wars,” she said. The number of animals killed in the two world wars is not much recognised in France, which has no equivalent to the UK’s Dickin Medal, awarded to animals making outstanding contributions in wars. London has an animal war memorial in Park Lane. Ms Sanvisens said: “It is important to remember, in order to avoid similar carnage in the future, and to guide opinion as it evolves on the question of animal rights. “There are a few isolated memorials to animals in the north of France, but we need one in the capital. “Our association is also running campaigns to improve animal rights in Paris. For example, we want to see the end of fishing there. Fish caught in Paris are too polluted to eat, so what’s the point of catching them? Fish aren’t toys. It’s absurd.” The association is also campaigning to get circus acts involving wild animals banned from Paris. “Strasbourg and Montpellier have already banned them, and there is a broad public consensus to ban wild animal acts, so we’re pushing hard on this one. “We don’t just want wild animal acts banned. We’d like to see the authorities help circuses make the transition
Photo: Michel Pourny
Photos: Goupil Connexion
Paris memorial will honour war dead of the animal kingdom
It is important to remember, to avoid similar carnage in the future, and to guide opinion as it evolves on question of animal rights
Amandine Sanvisens Paris Animaux Zoopolis association and find retirement homes for their animals. France has the second largest population of wild animals in European circuses after Germany, so we need to push hard on this.” A fourth campaign by the group is less likely to receive widespread popular support in the short term. It is working to end the poisoning of rats in Paris as a means of controlling their numbers. Ms Sanvisens said: “They use anti-coagulants, which mean the rats die painfully of internal bleeding.” The idea that rats carry diseases is against them. “We explain rats don’t carry any more diseases than dogs, they are highly intelligent, and we could cohabit Paris with them. “Controlling their numbers could be done by getting rubbish off the streets, so there’s less for them to eat, and by putting oral contraceptives down, not poison. “We’re not suggesting that they should live in people’s flats but we’re saying it would be OK to see them in parks. “There is no necessity to confine them to sewers, but the policy is they can’t be seen – it’s a visual problem. “A first step would be to carry out a large-scale study to count them, understand their living patterns and find scientific, peaceful ways to control their population.”
Simon Heffer, the renowned political commentator and historian, turns his gaze to France
Nabila Ramdani is an award-winning
French-Algerian journalist who specialises in French politics and the Arab world. Her articles feature in the French national press as well as internationally. She is a regular columnist in The Connexion.
Simon Heffer is also a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs
T Why magazine ‘Hitler’ image of president rightly shocked France
Image: Le Monde / Twitter
ANYBODY who attempts to evoke an image of Adolf Hitler to make a point about a modern politician is on shaky ground. It’s an extension of Godwin’s Law – the contemporary adage that if you bring up the tyrant in online discussions, then you immediately lose your argument. It was astonishing, then, to see Le Monde – France’s traditional newspaper of record – apparently drawing parallels between Emmanuel Macron, once projected as France’s boy-next-door head of state, and the Führer. Le Monde denied that the stark cover image on its M weekend magazine was meant to make Macron look like Hitler, but nevertheless apologised to the many readers who thought it did. [It did however say it was inspired by Canadian artist Lincoln Agnew who drew the Hitler image for Harper’s magazine in 2017]. But it was a fixation on the Champs-Elysées that made the parallel particularly chilling. The Macron picture showed him facing off an anti-government crowd by the Arc de Triomphe, with a headline reading: “From inauguration to Yellow Vests – the Champs-Elysées, theatre of Macron’s power.” The reality is that the most famous avenue in France, and the neoclassical arch that it leads up to, is as much a monument to German military might as it is to French achievements. There are numerous films and photographs of Nazis parading around it during the occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944 (just as the Prussians did after their victory over France in 1871). When Hitler went sightseeing in Paris in late June 1940, he was driven to the Arc de Triomphe, as well as the Eiffel Tower, the Palais Garnier Opera, the Madeleine church and the Sacré-Cœur. He too saw the city as a beautiful theatre, instructing his accompanying architect, Albert Speer, to turn Berlin into an even more inspiring city. When Hitler got to Les Invalides, he insisted on honouring Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb. This was at a time when the
French were starting to actively assist their invaders in the Holocaust. Paris police rounded up thousands of Jews and other “enemies of the state”, using national rail company SNCF to deport them to German concentration camps. Now the same city police force is engaged in a mass effort to subdue the Yellow Vest movement. It has been protesting across France since mid-November, with extremists linked to it initiating non-stop riots that saw the Arc de Triomphe desecrated. In turn, Macron has ordered an especially tough response against what he has referred to as a “hatefilled crowd”. There have been hundreds of complaints about brutality by the authorities, with Amnesty International condemning the use of “flash-balls, disorientating It was grenades and tear gas against astonishing mostly peaceful to see protesters”. Those of us who Le Monde – have covered the France’s Paris disturbances at first hand have traditional recorded the newspaper deployment of armoured vehicles of record – carrying chemical apparently weapons, water drawing cannons and parallels other reactionary measures. between Vast white Emmanuel clouds caused by the casual use of Macron and tear gas are parthe Führer ticularly disturbing – especially as they often envelop innocent bystanders, including children and the elderly – as are savage truncheon beatings, some of them videoed. Since his election in May 2017, Macron has become increasingly known for his single-minded approach to governance, imposing policies by decree while key lieutenants either resigned or stayed silent. Nicknames like “Jupiter” and “President of the Rich” bring to mind a ruthless egomaniac. None of this justifies a Reductio ad Hitlerum, however. The reason the French are so shocked by Godwin’s Law-style hyperbole is because their national psyche has yet to recover from one of the darkest periods of its recent history. Exorcising a nation’s shame requires honesty and level-headedness, and not dismal Adolf Hitler comparisons.
his is a hard winter: hard in France, where the president appears reduced to going on his knees before his electorate to ward off anarchy; and hard for Britons living in France, watching the dishonesty and incompetence of Westminster politicians in providing anything approaching leadership with respect to Britain’s future relationship – if any – with the European Union. It is at such times that one searches for consolation. There are, of course, many: and I am reminded of one thing France and the French have to celebrate by the publication on January 4 of the new novel by Michel Houellebecq, Sérotonine. Houellebecq can claim to be Europe’s, and indeed possibly the world’s, greatest living novelist. He is to my mind without question France’s foremost living creative artist: there is no practising French composer, architect, painter, film director and certainly no writer to rival him. His development is a tribute to the seriousness of French literary culture (which continues to produce numerous novelists of a quality rare in other western countries), something about which France can be immensely proud. In Britain, great writers are a minority sport, and seen as curiosities. In France, they are celebrated, and read, so widely that the initial print run of Sérotonine was 320,000 copies. Houellebecq, who trained as an agronomist and worked as a computer manager before becoming a fulltime writer, is almost 63. Wikipedia says of him that “literary critics have labelled Michel Houellebecq’s novels ‘vulgar’, ‘pamphlet literature’ and ‘pornography’; he has been accused of obscenity, racism, misogyny and Islamophobia.” Well, some literary critics have, mostly American. In Europe, and especially in his native land, Houellebecq is feted. He is a miserablist: he writes about a fractured society, about doomed relationships, about ill-will between people, but above all about the evils of consumerism. He is often represented as an enemy of the free market; but he is essentially hostile to the obsession with consumption, and how material objects and sensations become substitutes for more profound experiences. Nihilism runs through his work, starting with his first novel, Extension du domaine de la lutte (1994); literally “extension of the field of struggle”, the title of whose English translation is Whatever. It is a short novel about defeat, loneliness and isolation, the unsatisfactoriness of human existence. The failure of the unnamed hero to hold down a relationship with a woman, and of his suicidal workmate even to start one, anticipates Les Particules Élémentaires, his second novel – and the one that made his name – in 1998. Published in English as Atomised, it is the story of two-half brothers from a dysfunctional family (not unlike Houellebecq’s) that leads to one brother becoming a sex addict. It is a matter of debate between European and American literary critics about whether how
In the UK, great writers are a minority sport, here they are feted - and read
Houellebecq writes about sex – as he does extensively in Atomised and even more in his next novel, Plateforme (2001), which looks at sex tourism – is pornography: but his descriptions are so anatomical and free of eroticism that possibly only the puritanical American mind could find them titillating. Plateforme also launched another theme in his oeuvre that would have massive resonance years later: his attitude to Islam. The resort where the sex tourism is depicted is the target of a terrorist attack; it was taken as a premonition of the Bali bombings, which happened the year after publication. Fast forward to January 2015, and Houellebecq’s Soumission
Houellebecq is one of France’s glories, and a country that has him – whatever he thinks of it as a nation in decline – has something to feel rightly good about
– Submission – was published on the very morning Islamic terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo and massacred many of those it found there; Houellebecq was featured on the cover that morning. Yet the argument of Soumission is subtly different. Set at the time of the 2022 presidential election, it depicts a first-round win for Marine Le Pen, with the right, left and Islamic Front candidates coming within fractions of a per cent of each other in second, third and fourth place. The problem
is that it is the Islamic Front candidate who comes second: and the leaders of the two other parties then have to decide which of the final candidates to ask their supporters to vote for. They choose the Islamic Front, and it wins: Houellebecq’s message, which he echoed in pre-publication interviews, was that many people had lost respect for authority in France, and things had to change. The book reflects the ease with which the culture of which the French are so proud, and of which they claim to be such careful guardians, can be surrendered. As usual, there is a theme of personal depravity running through the story. François, the anti-hero, is a fortysomething lecturer at the Sorbonne whose main interest in his work is the opportunity it gives him to seduce his female students. Yet his latest conquest is a Jewish girl who finds the new atmosphere in France so poisonous that she and her family emigrate to Israel. Meanwhile, François’s superior at what is now called The Islamic University of Paris tries to persuade him to accept the new order, not least on the grounds that he now has four wives, the youngest of whom, he says smugly, is only 15. For all his critiques of the effect of consumerism and the free market on human relationships, what seems to disturb Houellebecq most is France losing control of its ability to be French. He finds little positive about immigration, and his later works have been interpreted as attacks on the European Union: he is a souverainiste. Sérotonine, on which I am about to embark, continues the idea of Houellebecq as prophet by depicting a riot by, effectively gilets jaunes. But his genius lies in his ability to write and communicate, not as a soothsayer. He is one of France’s glories, and a country that has him – whatever he thinks of it as a nation in decline – has something to feel good about. An English translation of Sérotonine is due in September.
Push for a women’s Tour gathers pace
Photo: Donnons des Elles au Vélo J-1 / Facebook
by CLAIRE MCQUE CYCLING is a sport that is seemingly run by men for men but a women’s movement is gaining momentum – with the target of a women’s Tour de France. Furore over the lack of a women’s long-distance stage-based race, except for Italy’s Giro Rosa, gathered pace last July when a self-organised women’s race following the route of the men’s Tour a day earlier received unprecedented media coverage – and Skoda as a sponsor. Women used to have a Tour equivalent but it stopped in 1989. There is only the one-day La Course, a fraction of the men’s distance – described by former cyclist Kathryn Bertine as “throwing women a token”. Last year, La Course was 112.5km, by comparison, the total men’s distance was 3,351 km. So women cyclists have taken action. Contradicting the argument that they are not capable of cycling a three-week event, activists Donnons des Elles au Vélo have been completing the 21-stage route of the Tour de France race one day ahead of the professional men since 2015. Claire Floret, a French road race cyclist and team leader of the group, said: “In 2018, 19 countries covered our project, particularly France, Britain, the US, Germany and Spain, a first in our history. “Each year, it remains a surprise as to whether we will have media coverage or not.” Last year’s was the biggest to date. In 2017, France Télévisions covered the women’s journey with a daily slot. “We are hoping that they will do the same in their live coverage of the Tour de France 2019,” Floret said. Donnons des Elles Au Vélo J-1 had just three riders when it started in 2015 but Floret says the number has shot up. “In 2018 there were 1,500 participants, of whom 500 were women.” While the numbers are promising, Floret said that the organisation of a women’s Tour is where progress is slowest. Despite support from La Fédération Française de Cyclisme and various ministers – the new president of
Since 2015, women road racers have ridden along the Tour de France route, a day ahead of the men’s race the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is pro-women’s cycling – the Tour’s organisers are yet to be persuaded. Floret attributes this to their concern “with the economic aspects and logistics of running a cycling event”. Speaking last March, Yann Le Moenner, chief executive of Tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation, said the profile of “women’s racing is becoming so high that the sport will definitely deserve a dedicated women’s Tour”. But he said it was not “logistically possible” to run a women’s Tour alongside the men’s race because the media cannot be in two places at once. Media attention is crucial, driving the sponsorship that is key to the success of staging a race and running a cycling team. Donnons des Elles Au Vélo has support from several sponsors, notably la Française des Jeux, LIV (Giant for women), and Skoda, which joined in May 2018. Floret describes the addition of Skoda as “a very good omen”, saying: “Skoda are very keen for the development of women’s cycling. They understand women’s cycling is one of the major pillars for the future growth of the sport. We hope the partnership will develop as it represents a
ground-breaking partnership for the Tour.” The lack of incentives for sponsorship of women’s cycling is holding it back. Current sponsors of women’s teams are mainly companies already involved in cycling. Casting the net to other sponsors that appeal to women would draw greater interest from a female audience. Co-sponsorship of a team between brands could be another solution. The UCI announced reforms for women’s cycling at the UCI Road World Championships held in Innsbruck at the end of September. The most noticeable change is the introduction of a minimum wage for women’s cycling teams, equal to that earned by men’s Pro Continental teams (just over €30,000). Two-thirds of female cyclists now earn as little as €10,000 per year, which UCI president David Lappartient described as “unacceptable”. The UCI has also introduced a two-tier system for women’s racing, as in men’s cycling. These measures form part of their 2022 agenda to grant equal access to competition for both genders, along with a push for equal prize money. Ultimately, Floret identifies participation as the force that will propel the profile of women’s cycling to the fore. Right now, “women’s cycling doesn’t exist for much of the world”, she said. Another much-debated facet of gender equality in cycling has been the continuation in the Tour of the podium girls, who have been dropped by other sporting events and cycle races. Floret said “I think that podium girls should not be chosen because of their gender. “A mix would be better. As a sportswoman, I am not a fan of the clichés where a woman watches the man complete his physical tasks, while her identity relies on her beauty, patience and attentive nature.” Floret sees the use of podium girls as linked to the image of women’s cycling. “The underlying problem needs to be addressed in the development of women practising the sport and the access of female professional cyclists to beautiful, stage-based races.”
Why do Parisian doors lock themselves? Two events all Parisians dread: receiving a Registered Letter Return Receipt Requested, and locking themselves out of their apartments. Registered letters are almost always the bearers of bad news: an eviction notice; a warning that wages are going to be docked; a bank account seized for non-payment of taxes; a summons to appear in court – or something else sure to be unwelcome and unpleasant. In all the places I have lived in America, it was impossible to lock myself out because to lock the door required a key: you close the door and then you lock it. Any Parisian can tell you that as soon as you shut the door, it is locked. Basically, forget your key and you’re locked out. If you don’t have a spare hidden somewhere or entrusted to a friend or neighbour, your only recourse is to head for a locksmith. Life in Paris could not exist without locksmiths and there is always one nearby to rush to the rescue – for a price. Most Americans would have
trouble locating a locksmith, but in Paris they are nearly as ubiquitous as bistros. A search on the Pages Jaunes resulted in 40 pages with a total of 799 locksmiths in the 20 arrondissements of Paris alone – not including the 29 suburban towns bordering the city. When I lived in the 17th arrondissement, there were then two locksmiths facing each other on the avenue des Ternes. Both appeared to be doing handsome business. Generally speaking, to open a door, whether the key has been lost or stolen, the basic charge for a service call can range from €90 to €250. The cost of replacing a lock can run from €120 to €300. If the door has a three-point locking system, the locksmith can charge from around €1,500 to as much as €5,000. Reproducing a key can cost from as little as €5 to as much as €300. The worst case of an unscrupulous Paris locksmith that I have found was documented in Le Monde in 2015. A certain ‘Michel’ slammed the door
without taking his key and ended up paying €7,500. He called a locksmith who had left a flyer in his mailbox. Two employees arrived after an hour and quickly prepared an estimate: €1,165 – already more than 11 times greater than the normal rate for a service call of €100. They inserted an awl into the keyhole and drove it in with a hammer. The door opened but, since it was one of the burglarproof three-point locks, all three bolts were damaged and needed replacing. The locksmiths left and returned an hour later with a new three-point lock set – and an additional estimate: €4,750 for the new lock, which costs €540 in hardware stores, as well as another charge of €2,113.63 for labour and an additional €686.36 VAT. When he learned that the total charge was €7,500, Michel protested he “felt he had been the victim of a holdup”. After contacting a consumers’ defence organisation for assistance, it was now Michel’s turn
to send a Registered Letter Return Receipt Requested. Citing French consumer protection law, Michel demanded restitution of €6,000. I have started to wonder why the doors of Paris apartments automatically lock when the door is closed. Could the Parisian locksmiths have lobbied City Hall to require that doors lock when they shut? Can you imagine how much money those 799 Parisian locksmiths collect by just opening several doors each day? I am not given to conspiracy theories but I believe that the Paris locksmiths may have organised a kind of mafia to make sure that apartment doors lock automatically when closed, guaranteeing themselves a steady income from scatterbrained Parisians. Article by Ronald W Kenyon, author of On the Trail in France, documenting his discoveries in la France profonde [“the soul of France”] on foot, and 18 other books. See www.amazon.com/ author/ronaldwkenyon
You can’t make an omelette without grating a truffle... The real value of truffles rests in the know-how, rituals and passion of local farmers, says Connexion writer ‘Ross Beef’ It’s a chilly early morning in the countryside of the Lot. The stony earth harbours a hidden treasure – le diamant noir black truffle, gastronomic speciality of the region. An emblematic product, the black truffle is naturally a focal point for tourism in the area, with exhibitions, cooking workshops, tours and holidays – but production is falling. Cheap imports and different varieties pressurise the traditional model of production, while farmland is often put to more intensive use by a younger generation of agriculteurs, and wild truffles are virtually non-existent due to the loss of
Photo: OT Pays de Lalbenque
natural forest maintenance. These simple and good quality French produits de terroir – local specialities – sometimes adorn the most glamorous, prestigious and expensive restaurant tables around the world. But disassociate the product from the price and you’ll find the real value lies in the knowhow, rituals and passion of the rural paysans – the farmers and producers, authentically rooted in tradition – and in the case of the trufficulteurs of the Lot, in more ways than one. The highly prized Tuber melanosporum is the fruit of the labour of les trufficulteurs but like any cultivated product, it is subject to variations depending on the weather. It is also difficult to produce, sometimes taking five to 10 years before the first harvest. Dogs are often used for le cavage, finding the aromatic fungus, but they are less diligent than pigs and certainly less easily motivated by the reward of potato skins or acorns for finding one. Once a basket has been filled with four or five other truffles of differing sizes, the next stop is the famous weekly truffle market of Lalbenque, on Tuesday afternoons from the first week of December until the end of March. The main street of the tiny village, la rue du Marché aux Truffes, is closed off as a crowd
waits expectantly behind a cordon and barriers along one side. The public truffle market, selling small transparent sachets of la truffe noire, will soon be joined by that of the professional sellers and buyers, offering a unique spectacle to the assembled tourists and locals. In front of the light stone buildings with wrought iron balconies, stout wooden trestles around a foot high are arranged in a long snaking line. Sellers, in coats and caps, stand with their produce – cleaned and sorted by size and colour, arranged neatly in small baskets lined with red-check tea towels. At 14:30 exactly, a bell and the waving of a red flag indicates the opening of the marché. With close inspection and a lot of smelling, the negotiations begin in earnest, depending on the quality and quantity, – but also on the time of year. Christmas and New Year can see prices edging up to over €1,000 a kilo. Professional buyers – wholesale or restaurants – mark the agreed price on the back of business cards and then the transaction is finalised around the back of a van. A set of antiquated handheld scales offers scope for last minute price adjustments, depending on interpretation of the measured weight, and then the cash changes hands. On a good day, it’s all over in a matter of minutes. One Frenchman, a self confessed gastronome, has come especially for the event. “It’s a convivial atmosphere. The people here are proud of their tradition and their produce,” he explained. “We’ve bought some truffles, and tonight we’ll have a big party with our friends, and we’re going back now to cook and open a good bottle or two.” Truffles can be used in a variety of ways – in starters, main courses and also desserts, generally freshly sliced or grated on top, adding a unique odour and earthy flavour. Risotto, pasta and eggs are the traditional culinary bases associated with truffles in the region, but chefs are constantly creating new ways of using the delicacy, often complementing other regional specialities such as lamb, saffron and cheese. Then choose a local wine from Cahors, or further afield a Pomerol or St Emilion from the Bordeaux region, to complement your omelette aux truffes. It’s global gastronomy, local style...
Now, every day is a little reminder of January 7 for us, we think about it every day. Riss
Photo: Craig Coomans [CC BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons
Charlie Hebdo’s managing editor on France Info on the fourth anniversary of the terror attack at the magazine’s offices in Paris in which he was wounded
The former World Rally champion recalls some of the more unusual experiences of competing in the Dakar Rally for Eurosport
I’m not saying there weren’t any mistakes but, frankly, I don’t know what I’m guilty of. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin
The Archbishop of Lyon who is on trial for covering up sex abuse committed by a paedophile priest in his Archdiocese
When the trade unions gather 50,000 people in France, they say it is a failure. Laurent Berger
The Minister for Women and Equality in an interview with l’Obs about the damage carried out during gilets jaunes protests around France
It’s easy to judge these people when you’re well enough fed and well protected. Sandrine Roudaut
The author and editor argues that disobedience can be a positive process, which makes it possible to “tell us again what are the fundamental values of humanity”.
Photo: Nantilus [CC BY-SA 4.0 - Wikimedia Commons
The Secretary of the French trade union CFDT comments on the numbers cited as taking part in gilets jaunes protests in a broadcast on France Inter
Who finances these ‘vandals’? Foreign powers?
Isolated UK Sympathy for protesters UK breaking health pledge in France and many European It is easy to understand the would lose frustration countries that prevents people’s that led to the gilets MY NEW attestation from the protests. People had had performance being measured Assurance Maladie is valid to on all fronts jaunes and rewarded. Correction is not enough of inaction by succes March 29, 2019.
They said it …
Sometimes in the dunes, our car is silted up and a local arrives, quietly, in his little van, parks alongside, looks at us and says “Are you okay?”
allowed for poor work attitudes and practices. Does any leader in Europe understand the level of poverty in their own country? The evi dence would suggest not. President Macron’s need to apologise reflects the common view across Europe that politi cians and bureaucrats are out of touch with the basic needs of their people, to survive. France has a minimum wage standard which is supposedly a living wage, but is it sufficient to prevent poverty and does it apply to everyone? The gilets jaunes protest – without the violence – is the way forward until leaders realise that actions speak louder than words, in particular theirs. Jim Short Pyrénées-Orientales
I have just read a very inter esting book – That Sweet Enemy – on the love-hate relationship between Britain and France by the Anglo-French historians Robert and Isabelle Tombs. One sentence in particular, from a discussion on British foreign policy towards Europe in the 1950s, seemed quite à propos for today’s situation: The worst outcome would be isolation between a protection ist Europe and an inward-look ing America. As well as being economically disastrous, it would reduce Britain’s influ ence and prestige... Britain might lose at every table – powerless in Europe, fading in the Commonwealth, discount ed in Washington. Chris Haines Hérault
sive presidents to ensure every one had a living wage. It was not a surprise that the protests became violent as it seems it is the French nature to measure the success of protest by the level of violence used. The French attachment to violent protest is akin to the American attachment to the gun. But France is not alone in the rise of poverty. It is preva lent throughout the world. The trend over the past 20 or 30 years is that those at the top are taking a greater share of the profits at the expense of their employees. The introduction of zero-hours contracts, which I consider to be indentured slav ery, and the increased use of temporary contracts has fuelled the rise of poverty. Another con tributor to poverty is the process
No easy road safety answer
You just can’t run a country like a bank
There can never be a simple answer to road deaths, as David Hardy claims on your letters pages in January. Even allowing for France being approximately 2.5 times larger than the UK, I suggest his population comparisons vis à vis road traffic are simplistic because he ignores the levels of foreign traffic in France. We have cars and lorries from five neighbouring countries and also from another 22 EU countries passing through France and that must mean the traffic numbers are far greater than he suggests. Nobody likes to be tailgated but, as someone who drives both in the UK and France, I have to say that it seems to me to be just as prevalent in the south of England as it is in France. Roger Kendall, Lot
Macron promised he would cancel local taxes for all in 2017... instead, he has reduced taxes and spread the cuts out over three years. In addition, he said he wanted to increase tax on fuel to encou rage people to give up diesel cars. That seemed a good idea but the truth is, it is to reduce France’s international debts. Three French people out of four think he is unable to bring about good things; he lacks the necessary experience. He has always thought it is possible to run a country as a bank, a gigantic error accord ing to me (and a lot of others). Many people, as I do, want to maintain their purchasing power, see a significant drop in taxes, bigger taxes on listed companies, proportional rep resentation, abolition of the Senate. Ordinary voters want
to have more influence on French politics. We want to often be able to decide directly, not via elected representatives, because we have no more trust in politicians. I am convinced if I ask a British person whether they think it is a good thing to make decisions for themselves, they will say “of course’’. We would like the news to tell us what the government wants to do in 2019 about the poor... not more about violence and riots. I am not proud to have a country becoming a shambles. I like my nation, but how do you fight for more equality? If you have a clever solution, or even just a clue, tell me. Gilles Carré Aude Editor’s note: Mr Macron’s elec tion manifesto stated that ‘fourfifths of people will no longer pay taxe d’habitation by 2020’.
After then, my carte vitale healthcare card will no longer be valid. I will have to apply to obtain medical care for my life-threatening condition. I have investigated private health insurance, but over a certain age the companies in France are not interested, and even if they were, it would be prohibitively expensive. Despite earlier promises by the UK government that my status in France will not be affected by Brexit, it concerns me as to what other ways the UK can make life here difficult. Will my state pension be frozen, having already been reduced by the fall in the value of the pound? Already, I have lost the right to vote in the UK. The conclusion is the current UK government cannot be trusted in any way to look after its citizens living in Europe. Name and address withheld on request
Easy enough to get our cartes Re: The recent letter head lined “Humiliating faff ” about applying for a carte de séjour... The requirements for the application are clearly set out on the website and in various translations. The primary objectives, per fectly reasonable, are to estab lish that you lived in France uninterruptedly for five years, that you can support yourself and have medical cover. We created our dossiers, originals with photocopies of everything required, were seen promptly, treated courteously and efficiently, and received our cards within three months. I suspect a much better and easier outcome than those poor folk having to deal with the chaotic and antagonistic UK Home Office. Fred Adkins, Occitanie
The Connexion letters pages are
Poetic history repeats itself The situation in France today: a president who thinks or thought he was “royally” above the overtaxed people recalls the peasants’ revolt in mediæval England. The rebellion failed, and the king executed its ring-leaders, who included in their number one John Ball, remembered today for a couple of lines from a poem of his. “When Adam delved and Eve span, where then was the gentleman?” Few understand the reference to the “gentleman”. The “gentleman”, a word of French origin, designated the oppressors of the people. Adam and Eve were salt of the earth. “Delving and spinning” (Saxon words) were the occupations of the Anglo-Saxon oppressed. There was no “gentleman”, of course, “when Adam delved and Eve span”. History does seem to repeat itself! Stephen Burrough Charente
Go online for free banking Reading the recent news of a freeze on French bank charges and subsequent readers’ comments, I’d like to add that I have recently changed my French bank from Crédit Agricole to Orange Bank online (arranged at my local Orange phone shop). With this account I receive a cheque book, debit card, ATM free withdrawals and full banking facilities online. Most importantly, no fees or charges provided I use my card at least three times per month (otherwise it incurs a €5 fee). Free banking! Maybe it’s time to vote with our money? Clive Allman, Charente
The B-word. What does it mean for you?
Country I live in is Passport post farce full of tasty venues I have dined in many places in France over the last 20 years. I do not recognise the France your correspondent Nabila Ramdani describes in the article French food at the bottom of the list (January). In all that time, I can remember only two unacceptable meals, and many, many more that were startlingly good, and good value. I have eaten in many different situations, ranging from the opulence of a New Year’s Eve dinner to the cheerful conviviality of harvest festivals, and as an individual in a bistro to a member of a coach party. I have never found it difficult to discover good, sometimes extremely good and memora-
Letter of the month
ble, restaurant cooking. Often, the smaller the venue, the better the food! As for variety, within 200 metres of my apartment, there are restaurants representing no fewer than 17 national cuisines. Within 10 minutes’ walk, there are at least three top-class classic French restaurants. In the surrounding area, I could guarantee to find a good and reasonably priced meal in virtually any small town (maybe except on a Monday!). And I haven’t even mentioned the special attractions of the Breton crêperies, or local fish. Maybe Nabila Ramdani should get out (of Paris) more! Chris Hibbert Rennes
CHRIS HIBBERT wins the Connexion letter of the month and a copy of the Connexion Puzzle Book. Please include your name and address in any correspondence; we can withhold it on request. The Editor’s decision is final.
Write to: The Connexion, Patio Palace, 41 avenue Hector Otto, 98000 Monaco or email email@example.com
Brexit fails basic analysis In my multinational company career, no project would be undertaken before a cost benefit analysis had been carried out by a project team and approved by a management review board – in our case, a quality review board made up of a select team representing the stakeholders who would pay for the project. In the case of Brexit, the stakeholders would be the UK taxpayers, whose representatives could be selected by the prime minister. Without going into detail, it would be difficult to justify the continuation of such a project at any of the review stages, solely from the pertinent cost benefit analysis – EU divorce cost of £39billion and an estimate of £500million per week for manpower and expenses. Estimated time to recover costs is 10-plus years! Even the most ardent Brexiteers should find it hard supporting such an expenditure, recognising that all UK taxpayers will pay for it. The cost-effective solution for Brexit is Remain and keep, among others, most Connexion readers happy. Let logic win over selfish politics … and let the pound improve, so our UK pensions can buy more rosé! Michael Browne, Bouches-du-Rhône
You said it … Would Britons abroad have a say in a ‘People’s Vote’ if it happens? “What may be forgotten is the length of time required for all the legislation, then time for registration and checks before even an entry can be made in an electoral register.” P.S. “I do not understand why, if one has left the country for a significant period of time and one is no longer paying taxes there, one should expect to have a vote in that country’s affairs for life.” I.T. “Ruled by a unelected government where no one can change anything they decide.” T.C. “I would not vote in UK as I am not resident there I don’t feel I have any right to dictate (or request by voting) how they run the country.” F.D.
IT took half an hour to complete an online application to the Passport Office, a lot of which was spent refining and downloading the photograph. A week later they sent an email: “Your passport application has been approved.” Then another: “Your new passport is on its way” – just a week after that. But it was at this point DHL took over. I went on to DHL’s site to find out about delivery, and was referred to their tracking service. It advised me to choose a delivery point, but the nearest “point relais” was a 160-km round trip. I phoned them and was told that there was a relais point in my home town. Relieved, I called later in the day for an
update and was told by another person that there is no relais point after all and I had either to go to Trélissac or wait at home for delivery between 9am and 6pm the following day! I stayed in all day, which meant I had to cancel an appointment. At the end of the day, I called DHL several times, only to get an answer machine’s “try again later”. The next morning, the tracking report said: “The estimated delivery date is ... unavailable.” I called DHL again and was told that there IS a point relais in my home town. It was delivered there at that afternoon. Bravo to the British Passport Office, thumbs down to DHL. Clin BOND, Dordogne
I HAVE never read such a negative comment on the gilets jaunes as the letter (January edition) from Ms Lebreton-Travis. I wonder if she lives in a bubble where everything is okay in this country. Perhaps she belongs to the prosperous 1%, the ones the president treated so favourably as soon as he ascended to the throne. He wanted to reform fast and loose and make France competitive... by raising fuel taxes, cutting housing benefits, taxing pensioners, and keeping wages low. Plus, raising the quality of the French MOT and privatising public services. Since he was elected, two more taxes have appeared. His election was a big mistake. If he stays, there will not be any rest for this country. A Thatcherite at heart, he never understood you cannot import an ideology from another country. When he goes, France will celebrate as the miners did when the Iron Lady was forced out. France has more presidential power than any state in Europe. One guy controls all the levers and one party of newbies stands to orders. Jane Brandon, Haute-Vienne
... an opposing view Please pass on our congratulations to Daniele LebretonTravis for her Letter of the Month (January edition). As a Swiss married to an Englishman who has lived permanently for the past 28 years in the lovely Dordogne, her letter expressed clearly the sin-
cere convictions of both of us, so thank you. The Swiss are, by tradition, in favour of referendums, but not in the way Notre Dame de Landes was treated in France. Brigitte and Keith Daffern, Dordogne
Let there be streetlights RE: the letter “Only a Fool Breaks Two Second Rule” (January), I would suggest another reason for so many fatalities on French roads is the lack of lighting. I was surprised, coming out of Paris towards Normandy recently, to find many major junctions and roundabouts were unlit. This, together with the lack of cat’s eyes, makes night driving in France much more hazardous than the UK. John Costello, Manche
Connexion’s interview with Cédric Szabo of the Association des maires ruraux de France (January edition) reads like so many PR pieces allowing lobbies to present their arguments without challenge. The loi Notre was designed to streamline and improve what is essentially an ancien régime territorial administration. The paroisses of the pre-revolution era were almost entirely renamed as communes, leaving the local landed gentry as “elected representatives”. Over the 18-plus years we have owned our home, we have had four mayors – all but one were local farmers and the first was also a senator. Of the current team, seven of the 15 are farmers or have a farmer in their family, with just 18 farmers out of the total of 740 inhabitants. Four have resigned or died and of the remainder, one is British and back in the UK and another never attends meetings. Communication and consultation are not necessarily part of French rural politics. Peter Moncreiffe by email
You can debate and comment on articles either at our website: www.connexionfrance.com or via our facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheConnexion Here is a selection of recent popular subjects and readers’ comments...
Macron ‘everyone must make an effort’ speech draws criticism “President Macron is talking sense, it is no point asking for everything if the money isn’t there to provide it.” C.R. “We all want lower taxes and increased public expenditure! But the two are incompatible. The difficulty lies in implementing decisions and balancing the needs of society with available funding.” A.F. “Sadly, 60% of French do not support his comments. They are still stuck with the French revolution.” S.S. “It is for the individual to advance themselves; always was, always will be.” P.S.
UK reveals details on pension rights after Brexit Uprating for Britons in EU countries after a no-deal Brexit would depend on “reciprocal arrangements”, government document reveals “What’s the government up to? Why this mean-spirited decision not to commit to uprating pensions for Brits in the EU in the event of a no-deal? It’s bad enough that some expats in non-EU countries are already denied uprating, but to threaten to extend it to those of us in the EU is plain nasty. In order to continue to live in France, we have to prove that we can support ourselves - which is harder to do each time the exchange rate falls.” K.S.
‘I find it natural to speak for Britons’ A senator with responsibility for citizens overseas explains why he has taken to campaigning for Britons’ rights in France after Brexit “The whole approach to citizens’ rights for non-residents is beyond the capacity of the UK government to even consider.” M.W.
OAP healthcare in no-deal Brexit depends on new deals Ongoing healthcare for British state pensioners in France after a no-deal Brexit would depend on each EU state entering bilateral agreements “My worry is that the meds I am on are not available in the UK so returning is not, or ever has been, an option.” S.G.
Readers’ questions answered
What does the term ‘fiche S’ mean?
FICHES S is a watchlist relating to state security – the “S” stands for sûreté d’Etat – it is an alert system. At the end of last year, the list contained 29,973 people who are thought to potentially pose a serious threat. Around a third of them were linked to an Islamist movement. Others include anarchists, gangsters and hooligans. Those who are fiché S have not yet attempted a crime related to the reason for their listing. Some have not committed any crime but are listed because of their acquaintances. The fiches S are used for information-gathering and cannot be used alone to order an arrest. They are the highest level of warning in France. Strasbourg shooter Chérif Chekatt was listed in January 2016 for radicalisation, which probably took place in prison, but had not yet committed a crime in the name of radical Islam. The objective of fiches S is to trace movements and acquaintances. Those listed are not under permanent surveillance. Only when the file needs to be consulted, say if a fiché S is arrested, does surveillance begin.
A listing can be wiped off after a year. The Interior Ministry states that the objective is to share information between police and other law enforcement agencies, including at European level. While additions are made by the French intelligence agency (la Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure - DGSI), entries can be made based on information from other countries. This provides information about individuals for the purpose of border control and law enforcement between Schengen states. Fiches S form part of a larger file called Fichier des personnes recherchées – FPR (wanted persons list) created in 1969. It should contain the individual’s ID details, their photo, the reason for their inclusion and what action to take in the case of confrontation with the police. The FPR includes 620,000 people and is divided into 21 sections, including Fichier des signalements pour la prévention et la radicalisation à caractère terroriste (FSPRT), which is exclusively for religious radicals. This is unlike the fiches S, which is broader and contains, for example, right or left-wing radicals. Most people on the FPR are seen as posing a threat to public order, including escaped prisoners and the insane.
Ten per cent of people listed on the fiches S live in the Bas-Rhin department where Chekatt was born and lived. Local MP Bruno Studer (LREM) told Soir 3 that Strasbourg is a European capital where many events take place and the Bas-Rhin is a border area. He said that there are many international institutions in Alsace, as well as a nuclear power station. A militant ecologist living in Alsace could be fiché S, for example. Mayors can be informed of people listed in their area – knowledge which Mr Studer said should be “carefully supervised” and used “prudently”. Several of those responsible for the terror attacks that have taken place in France in recent years have been fiché S, a fact which often promoted anger as to why they were left at large. A senate report into making the system more effective largely concluded that, while technical improvements are possible to make it easier to use, what is needed is more communication about what it is for and what it can achieve. Police argue that the system is efficient, despite the occurrence of attacks committed by fiche S suspects. By not arresting people as soon as they are considered suspects, they say they are able to dismantle networks and prevent terrorist plots.
A FRIEND said the EU had passed legislation meaning documents in official EU languages no longer had to be translated into local languages for official purposes, such as applying for a carte de séjour or nationality. He was adamant that this applies to ones in English. Is it correct? K.L. THERE is an EU law related to this, but it has not yet come into force – although it is imminent. It is Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 6, 2016 on promoting the free movement of citizens (see tinyurl.com/yb7rsp6p). EU states are supposed to have taken steps to comply with it by February 16 this year. An Interior Ministry source confirmed it will apply in France. However, the fine print of the regulation shows it is not as helpful as it first appears. It relates only to “public documents”: that is, those issued by the state or courts. It concerns primarily birth/marriage or death certificates etc, and means that, in theory, presenting one of these issued by an EU state should mean there is no need for it to be translated, legalised or apostilled. Note: the issuing state has to be an EU state, so it is not just a question of the language, unlike an older EU regulation that documents in an EU language should not need to be translated for social security procedures. Up to now, the legalisation requirement has not applied to British documents, though this may change post-Brexit in the case of no deal or after a transition period. However, UK documents do currently have to be translated by a traducteur assermenté. Unfortunately, the regulation says they only have to be accepted without translation if they are accompanied by a “standard multilingual form” in the languages of the country of issue and the country where you want to present them. The Interior
Who owns fallen tree branches?
I KNOW the key French emergency telephone numbers, eg. 18 for the pompiers. What if I had to call them from the UK (for an elderly relative living there) – could I do it? G.G.
FUTURE QUESTIONS - SEND IN YOURS...
WE HAVE a number of large oak trees around the perimeter of our property. In recent storms some of the branches fell into the grounds of our neighbour’s property. Can we have them back (for firewood) or does our neighbour now have the right to keep them? C.E.
police commissariat, gendarmerie, fire station and Samu. They usually have ordinary geographical numbers (eg. starting with 02 for the north-west or 05 for the south-west).
What would change for dog and pet owners in the event of a no-deal Brexit?
Prefectures should in theory follow the new rules Ministry source said: “This would concern the UK during a transition period. Every official body in the EU countries [issuing documents] will have to supply the standard forms, in effect to some extent providing a translation service. However, I doubt if the UK will have time to apply it…” We asked a UK Home Office spokeswoman, but she was unable to confirm that the UK will be issuing these forms – and, in any case, it would apply only to new copies. As for the current regulation that social security documents needed, for example, for obtaining a carte vitale do not need translating, this should still apply to documents in English, as English will continue to be an official language of the EU.
Diététicien or nutritionniste – is there any difference? I AM looking to lose weight and wondered if I should see a diététicien or a nutritionniste – is there a difference? L.S.
Can you call pompiers from UK? WHILE in France you can, as you say, call 18 for the pompiers, 15 for the Samu (ambulance), 17 for police and gendarmes, or indeed 112, the universal European emergency number (which will redirect you to a local call handler, usually in France, either based with the pompiers or Samu, depending on which department you are in). If you need to contact local French emergency services for the area where your relative is, the best bet would be to do a web search and note down the landline numbers for the municipal or national
Must French officials accept documents in English now?
Send your queries about life here to Oliver Rowland by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I HEARD the term “fiche S” used about the perpetrator of the attacks at the Strasbourg Christmas market. What is this and why was he free to roam? I.I.
Photo: Fred Romero / flickr.com
HONORARY avocat Gérard Barron from Boulogne-sur-Mer said the branches overhanging a property continue to belong to the owner of the tree (although the neighbour has certain rights to cut them back) but once they have dropped they belong to the owner of the property on which they have fallen, so no, you cannot claim them. He added that to recover the fallen branches, you would have to enter the neighbour’s property, which would be trespassing (intrusion illicite).
I recently became French, my wife did not. What residency rights will she have as my wife?
THE LATTER (who may also be called a médecin nutritionniste) is a medical doctor who did an extra diploma in nutrition, usually as part of their university studies. He or she may be a GP but potentially practises any specialism, such as endocrinology (hormone specialist) or gastroenterology. On the other hand, the former only has a qualification in diet, generally a state diploma such as a BTS or DUT. In some cases, a diététicien might take longer to discuss your eating habits with you and provide a more tailormade diet, but he or she cannot prescribe any medications or blood tests and is less qualified to consider how any health
Neighbour has put up an eyesore 30m-high radio mast – do we have to put up with it?
conditions might be affecting weight gain or loss. In particular, you should see a nutritionniste if there are complications such as diabetes. While sessions with a nutritionniste are reimbursed by the French social security system, within reason (if you see them very regularly, Cpam may refuse to reimburse all the sessions), those with a dietician are not. However, some mutuelles do reimburse part of the cost. Note, however, the usual rules apply as with most specialist doctor visits, ie. reimbursement may be at a lesser rate if you are not referred by your own GP (médecin traitant) and some doctors practise dépassements d’honoraires (they charge above the set state-reimbursed fee). One factor that muddies the water is some diététiciens refer to themselves as diététiciannutritionniste, a meaningless addition.
How do you open a bôite postale temporary address? Can you do it at a distance?
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Make sense of
The French Pacs
Bob Elliott from telephone and broadband provider, UK Telecom, answers your queries
Q: For weeks I have had a problem with my Orange landline. While I can make telephone calls, incoming calls are cut as soon as I answer the phone. I wonder if other readers have experienced similar problems? A.C.
If you are living in France with a partner and want to formalise the relationship, you have two options: marriage or Pacs THE PACTE Civil de Solidarité (Pacs) is 20 years old and continues to grow in popularity as an alternative to marriage. It was originally aimed at same-sex couples and was then opened to all in 2013. In 2016, there were 233,000 marriages and 191,000 Pacses (including 7,000 same-sex Pacses, the same as gay marriages). A Pacs suits couples wanting legal recognition but fewer obligations. It is simpler and cheaper to enter into and each partner is free to break it without giving a reason. In the latter case, no financial compensation is due unless previously agreed. While it is sometimes possible to obtain legal compensation for breaking the Pacs in an “abusive” way – for example, if one partner throws the other out with no warning – there is no legal expectation of fidelity, as there is in marriage. Just like in a marriage, the couple should live together and give mutual support (in financial terms, this is for each in proportion to means, unless otherwise specified). They share responsibility only for debts related to daily life, and not if they are “excessive”. A Pacs between a foreigner and a French person might help the former obtain a residency card but, unlike marriage, it does not provide a fast-track to nationality. Some Britons in France choose to become Pacsed because the partner benefits from the same exemption from inheritance tax as a spouse, as opposed to 60% between
couples living together in an informal relationship. However, unlike a marriage, a Pacs partner does not automatically inherit, so it is vital to make a will. He or she does benefit from some rights to stay in the family home in the case of death, but they are more limited than in marriage. Other differences include the fact that a Pacs couple cannot jointly adopt a child, a Pacs partner cannot claim part of a deceased’s partner’s pension (pension de réversion) and does not qualify for the allocation de veuvage widow/er’s benefit. As with a married couple, a Pacs couple make a joint tax declaration and they have similar social security and healthcare rights. Since 2017, you no longer have to complete the signing at a court. Instead it can be done at the mairie of the couple’s home. It is also possible to complete abroad at a French consulate if at least one of the couple is French. Unlike a wedding, this is often without a formal ceremony and speech from the mayor, though some mairies do offer this as an option. There is no need for witnesses and the partners retain their surnames. As with a marriage, people have the right to four paid days off work. Most people mark the occasion in some way, ranging from sharing a glass of champagne to a romantic meal, a party or a weekend away, but there are fewer set traditions involved. As an alternative to the mairie, you can also sign the convention de Pacs document at a notaire’s office at a cost of around €400 (it is free at the
mairie). This is also a chance to obtain help with drafting a contract about how property will be owned by the couple. The notaire will maintain a record of the Pacs. Only the couple keep copies of a Pacs signed at the mairie, though the mairie notifies relevant authorities. If a couple wish to break a Pacs, this can also be done without charge at the mairie. Franco-British honorary avocat (and retired English solicitor) Gerard Barron from Boulogne-sur-Mer said that while a Pacs is relatively simple, you should not take one out in haste. Give thought to current and future assets, debts and earnings and how the members of the couple intend to fund household expenses. He said it is best to enter into a specific agreement on these points and obtain advice from a
Our main image was drawn for Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr notaire or avocat. “Untying the knot may seem simple legally but if there is no agreement on finances, assets and even pensions, these matters will quickly become a nightmare,” he said. He added that from an English legal point of view, such an agreement should be respected by a UK court unless it considers the arrangements unfair. It should, however, be noted that the UK does not officially recognise a French oppositesex Pacs, though this may change (see January’s edition,
page 18, or search “Pacs” on our website). The standard convention de Pacs can be extremely simple but it can also be made more complex. If not otherwise specified, the default regime for the couple is séparation de biens, meaning each maintains separate ownership of items they bring into the relationship, or own other property in proportion to what they paid for it. The main other choice is indivision, where property acquired during the Pacs – but not money incomes – is owned jointly. Unlike marriage, there is no option for universal community, where a couple may agree that all or part of their possessions are jointly owned, whenever acquired. This means also that a Pacs couple cannot use this strategy to protect a survivor’s right to inherit the family home in full, against children’s rights. The list of documents needed for a non-French person includes: a birth certificate and a sworn translation, passport or carte de séjour, certificate of custom proving that you are single and in full legal capacity to enter into a civil partnership (obtain one from the UK government at tinyurl. com/c6phvsg) and a non-Pacs certificate (apply to the Foreign Affairs Ministry via form Cerfa no.12819*05 – see its notes section for the address – or see this link for email applications: service-public.fr/particuliers/ vosdroits/R51271). If you have lived in France for more than a year, you will also need an attestation de non-inscription au répertoire civil, proving that you are not listed as being under a power of attorney, from the Service central d’état civil (you can request this via email at email@example.com).
A: Depending on your package with Orange, either analogue line or VOIP service, Orange will need to run a remote test on your line. The type of fault you describe is normally capable of being addressed remotely and, if successful, there would be no need for an engineer to visit your property. However, if the fault requires an engineer to come out, they will come to your property as necessary – we make many such arrangements every week. It is possible that there is a problem with your internal wiring or equipment and that is why a technician will want to speak with you and probably ask some questions to establish where the fault lies and have the
service working again as quickly as possible. If an engineer was sent as the first option and the fault was found after the DTI box you would have to pay for the visit, so a brief telephone conversation is desirable. It is, of course, quite probable that this conversation will have to take place over your mobile phone. Your discussion with the engineer could identify a problem with your modem even if you can use the internet connection, should your broadband service be carrying your telephone calls (this is a dégroupage total service where the telephone is plugged into the modem) so it is possible that you will need a replacement modem. If it does not resolve the issue, you will have to speak with Orange again and, if required, an engineer will visit. If necessary, there is a site for complaints to Orange at assistance.orange.fr. As a last resort, you can also complain to a mediator via mediation-telecom.org.
See uktelecom.net for more information on services in France. T: UK +44 1483 477 100 T: from France 0805 631 632
Euro Sense Shaun Dash from Currencies Direct, answers a reader question on currency exchange Q: My state pension is paid into my UK bank account. What is the best way to move these payments to France? Would I be better off moving them monthly or in less regular chunks? S.T. A: When moving money abroad, it is important to fully explore your currency options. While a bank may be your first port of call, you may find using a currency specialist results in better returns. Banks typically apply charges but some leading currency transfer providers move your money at competitive exchange rates, fee-free. As to whether to move your money in chunks or regularly, you may be able to achieve a better exchange rate on larger transfers so there could be an advantage to one-off amounts. However, if, for example, you only moved it annually, the value of currencies can shift significantly over the span of a year, meaning the amount you receive for your transfer could be considerably more (or less) than you expect. For instance, the pound traded at around €1.13 at the start of 2018, but had fallen to €1.10 by mid-December. While this is a difference of just a few centimes, it can have a significant impact when moving larger sums. For instance, a transfer of £30,000 would have been worth €33,900 at the start of the year, but €33,000 at the lower rate. Fortunately, there are ways of protecting your transfer against such movements, including taking out a forward contract with a trusted currency provider. It is possible to fix an exchange rate for up to 12 months so, even if the pound plummets after Brexit, you could guarantee a future transfer would be worth the same as when you took out the contract. And if you opt for monthly payments, a forward contract can also be used along with a regular transfer service, automatically depositing a set amount into your French account each month. n Email your currency queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about making international money transfers with Currencies Direct visit the website www.currenciesdirect.com/france or call +33 (0)4 22 32 62 40
Families must discuss screen use and parents are as bad as children Safer Internet Day on February 5 promotes the pros and warns against the cons of internet use
Many issues worry parents about their children using the internet, from cyber-bullying, inappropriate images and video, to sorting out real information from “fake news”. February 5 is Safer Internet Day, which will try to tackle and debate these issues. The campaign began as an EU project in 2004 but now takes place in 140 countries. This year the theme is “Together for a Better Internet”. Organisers in France believe the most important issue is to learn how and to what extent we should incorporate digital screens into our daily lives. Deborah Elalouf, president of Tralalere, which creates educational digital resources and organises France’s Safer Internet Day, said: “The greatest risk is that people are wasting too much time in front of screens and losing the sense of what is important. “It is increasingly common to see everyone sitting together in a family but each one is interacting with their mobile and not the person next to them.” She says online addiction is increasingly difficult to control
Children can explain why and how they use Snapchat, as many parents have no idea what it is
Safer Internet Day’s Deborah Elalouf
Photo: Jason Rogers / CC BY 2.0
by JANE HANKS
because it has happened so fast and children are often learning faster than adults: “Almost three-quarters (73%) of children now have access to a screen of some sort. “Parents are responsible for the education of their children but they are as lost as the younger generation they are meant to be guiding. “Some 45% of children think their parents use the internet too much and they want their parents to set them guidelines of how and when to use it.” She said the best way to correct the online/real life anomaly is to recognise it as an issue and discuss it: “The way forward is for adults and children to discuss it in a positive way to try and draw up good practices together. “There are plenty of positive aspects to using the internet. For example, being able to talk to distant family members and friends and keeping informed. “The big debate is how much
time should you spend on it? For example, to start with, you could discuss whether your family should keep to the rule of no phones at the meal table.” She says internet use should not be a taboo subject: “Children have a great deal to tell their parents. They can explain why and how they use Snapchat, as many parents have no idea what it actually is. “The internet should not be seen as a ‘secret garden’ but as part of everyone’s life that can be openly discussed.” The association’s website, www.internetsanscrainte.fr, has quizzes for parents and children to help them question their internet use. Safer Internet Day sites also have guidelines for parents about other subjects that may worry them. On internetsanscrainte.fr there is practical advice under the heading Parents. It ranges from use of Facebook – and how to make it as private as possible while
insisting that children, who should only use it after the age of 13, must be reminded that any photo or information they post could go public – to search engines created specially for children. Among these are Potati, Kidoz, Kiddle and Qwant Junior – a France-based search engine adapted for children aged between six and 13 years. They also suggest using Vikidia or Wikimini for under-12s as an alternative to Wikipedia. There is similar information in English on the UK website saferinternet.org.uk. Last year the theme of Safer Internet Day was “fake news”. It was thought essential for young people to have a critical view on the information they are bombarded with so they can decide which is likely to be both relevant and accurate. Ms Elalouf said: “We ran workshops in lycées. First we would show a documentary which ‘revealed’ that Aids had
been introduced in a plot by former US president Barack Obama and Fidel Castro to destabilise the world. “After a first showing, the students would comment, saying how dreadful this was. “We then showed them that the image of the Aids virus was, in fact, the Ebola virus and so on, until they saw how films can be constructed to show a plausible ‘truth’ from something that is false.” For its 2018 campaign, Safer Internet Day sent out a plea to the government to bring the fight against disinformation into the classroom, saying that schools are the place where this should be taught. It said: “It seems to us that it is essential to educate and to guide young people in the ways of the media and information so as to give them the right reflexes from a young age.” The statement went on to say this could be taught not just in a media lesson but through other subjects such as science, history and geography. It is essential that pupils learn all the aspects of how the internet and social networks work, where information comes from and how it is spread, it said. One year on, Mrs Elalouf says this is still one of the biggest challenges in the 21st century. She said: “We must make sure our citizens are equipped to deal with the advantages and disadvantages of a digital world.” n In France, internet bullying website netecoute.fr allows children and teenagers to contact a specialist team, either by phone (0800 200 000) or text. The site for reporting instances of child pornography, incitement to racism, suicide or terrorism is pointdecontact.net. Both organisations are partners of Safer Internet Day.
Teachers’ protest group is growing AN “angry teacher” protest group launched on Facebook in mid-December has grown to around 64,000 members – one in every 14 teachers. Les Stylos Rouges en colère, a reference to the red pens that teachers use, has outlined 13 demands. They include better recognition – both in pay and from society as a whole – and better teaching conditions. Teachers can post personal grievances on the site. One said: “I have 28 pupils, from three year groups, and I earn less than €1,700 a month. “I am disillusioned.” Another said: “I would have liked to have had some support when a pupil hit me. But the disciplinary panel told me I shouldn’t take these matters so much to heart.” Teachers say they have lost 40% of their spending power in 30 years and are now among the lowest paid in Europe. They want smaller classes and more help for children with special needs. They also want to halt planned lycée reforms to allow time for more consultation, and respect from pupils, parents, education bosses and the French in general. Education Minister JeanMichel Blanquer told France Inter the government has already started work on improving spending power. He said: “A teacher starting at the end of this presidential term of office will earn €1,000 more than at the beginning of this presidency.” He said more than a million people were employed by Education National: “This makes it difficult to make a huge effort. However, it is what we are doing. “Already tax exemptions on overtime will mean more than €250million going to teachers.”
Sadly, love is not all you need in inheritance planning Money Matters
Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains. www.kentingtons.com February, being the month of Valentine’s Day, is an apt time to discuss the financial options we have to take care of our loved ones, our families. I spend a lot of time talking to people about inheritance tax and how to reduce or avoid it. The fact that people worry about their family being well taken care of after their own death is a wonderful part of human nature, demonstrating that the relationship with our families is more important than anything else. Many people assume all French tax systems are bad and expect no different when it comes to inheritance tax. In many cases, this is simply not the case. The topic does, however, as in the UK,
require planning. Leaving assets behind is more complex in France due to succession rules. The main difference between the UK and France is that the French tax the individual, based on the relationship to the donor, whereas in the UK it is the estate that is taxed and not the individual. This makes the two systems incompatible, which is why the UK and France have a succession treaty to deal with those incompatibilities. The good news for spouses is that gifts on death (not those during your lifetime, sadly) between you and your beloved are exempt from any inheritance tax considerations at all. If you have children, however, it does not necessarily mean that your spouse will inherit everything (in line with your wishes), as would be the case in the UK. Succession rules protect reserved heirs, such as children. A spouse is not deemed a reserved heir. This means that, in many cases, steps need to be taken to ensure that spouses are well
protected and that they will be sure to have a say in what happens to the joint estate. This can often be achieved by a simple act of signing a legal document, but this is not a solution for everybody. What happens to assets left to children? There is a basic allowance of €100,000 per child, so if you have three children, that will be €300,000. Capital invested in a French-compliant assurance vie could mean you would be able to leave a further €152,500 per child. This means that a family of three children can leave €757,500 to their kids without a cent of inheritance tax. UK fixed property comes under UK rules (courtesy of the UK/France succession treaty), so it is out of the equation. If you have a property in the UK worth up to £325,000, therefore, you can leave it to them tax free too (under UK rules) so, in this scenario, we
can get to well over €1million before paying inheritance tax. There are all kinds of ways to plan for inheritance tax and appreciating the international dynamic is important, as there are many opportunities that may be taken advantage of. Also, consider that tax rates start at 5% and do not reach 40% until €902,838, after allowances, whereas inheritance tax starts at 40% in the UK. There are, however, punitive situations, where serious action is required, such as leaving money to unrelated individuals. In such instances, the inheritance tax rate is a whopping 60% with virtually no allowance. Again, a combination of legal and investment solutions can work well, so it is a matter of agreeing your objectives and wading through the plethora of solutions, which is where professional advice becomes important. As the Beatles wisely said: “All you need is love.” But the truth is, a bit of helpful financial advice can also be useful.
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life is sweet!
What does it take to become a top pâtissier?
The life of Joan of Arc Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Jardin du Luxembourg
2 Art deco
French Living I February 2019
‘I was so embarrassed by Folies Bergère’s dancers – but just loved the deco’ With his new book on Art Deco on sale now, design legend and Oscar-winning film-maker Arnold Schwartzman tells Samantha David about his love of the 20th-century art movement
Photos Arnold Schwartzman
Left, an art deco creamery in Paris. Above, the Palais de la Méditerranée, Nice. Right, Arnold Schwartzman’s new book chronicling the very best of Art Deco architecture in cities around the world
rnold Schwartzman, the author of Art Deco City likes to say that he loves the visual arts, architecture and design style because it was fashionable at the time of his birth, 1936. “I’m from that era,” he said. “I was born in a workhouse in Wapping, and my father worked at the Savoy Hotel in London – a beautiful building, incidentally, which still has many Art Deco interior features. “He served all the great Hollywood stars of the era, including Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Edward G Robinson, Charles Laughton, and Marlene Dietrich. “I fell in love with Art Deco, Hollywood, everything,” he said. After the Second World War, when he was 11 years old, Arnold’s parents moved
to Margate. “During the summer holidays they would pack me off to stay with my great aunt in Paris, which has a wealth of Art Deco buildings. “And sometimes I would stay with my cousin on the rue de Rivoli. You had to take your ration cards with you at that time, and get your passport stamped when you changed money. “You were only allowed to change £5 at that time, and you could only do it in certain places. I remember going to the Galeries Lafayette to change money.” After finishing school, he trained in design, and started a career which eventually took him to Hollywood – where he won an Oscar for his 1981 documentary Genocide. “That was an amazing moment, standing on the stage with my statue and looking at the front row.
‘If you just look up from street level, you can see wonderful cinema and post office buildings all over France’
“All the stars were there, clapping. I completely forgot my speech and didn’t know what to say.” Along the way, Mr Schwartzman has worked with bands including The Rolling Stones, and The Who; designed advertising campaigns for Coca-Cola, and the 1984 Olympic Games; he worked in broadcast television, magazines, advertising agencies; he illustrated, took photographs and has now produced three books. He is nothing if not energetic. “At one point, I used to lecture on cruise ships and that allowed me to explore the world – and especially the world of Art Deco, tracking down the best examples has allowed me to explore the whole world. “In France some of the best examples are in Cannes and Nice. “The Folies Bergère in Paris is also a fabulous example. I went there as a child and remember being quite embarrassed by the dancers, but most impressed by the decor!” Although the book, which he compiled with his wife of many years, Isolde, mainly features exteriors, he is also a big fan of
Art Deco interiors. “La Samaritaine is a wonderful example,” he said (La Samaritaine was constructed as a department store but has been closed since 2005. It is, however, undergoing renovations and will reopen as a department store and a hotel in late 2019.) Mr Schwartzman says that France contains some of the best examples of Art Deco in Europe because so much was saved from destruction during the Second World War. “London was bombed and lost so many fine examples of Art Deco, but France escaped, which is why there’s still so much to be seen.” He is particularly keen on cinemas and post offices. “If you just look up from street level, where the entrance is very often modern and anonymous, you can see wonderful cinema and post office buildings all over France. “And many of them are still used for the their original purposes.” Art Deco City by Arnold Schwartzman is published by Palazzo Editions
Art nouveau 3
February 2019 I French Living
Above: The ornate entrances to the Paris Metro are famously art nouveau – while Thiers Post Office, in Nice (below right) is pure art deco in style
Art Deco or nouveau – what’s the difference?
Above: Mr Schwartzman takes in the art deco scene in Miami. Left, the dancers may have embarrassed him as a child – but his heart was stolen by the style at the Folies Bergère
rt Deco? Art Nouveau? Which is which? Essentially, Art Nouveau developed first and features curly lines (new baby curls) and Art Deco came slightly later and features straight lines (straight arty decoration). Art Nouveau evolved around 1890 as a response to the formal 19th-century Neoclassicism (realistic portraits, for example) which were favoured throughout the Industrial Revolution. As artists started to turn back towards nature, Art Nouveau developed as a reflection of nature’s power and strength. Lines were drawn in curves reflecting tree trunks, or graceful flower stems, and in order to emphasise the elegance of line, colours were often quite muted. The overall impression is quite dreamlike and otherworldly and paintings often depicted sensuous women. Examples include many of the iconic Metro entrances in Paris, and the Moulin Rouge posters designed by Jules Chéret during the Belle Epoque. Architecture, interior design and furnishings, fashion, painting, posters and book illustrations were all included in the design ethos. The Nancy School saw Art Nouveau as a good opportunity to enhance the prestige of Lorraine, which boasted industries like steel as well as crafts using crystals, glass, bronze, ceramics, earthenware and wood, by setting up collaborations to use all these skills in architecture, furniture, and the decorative arts producing everything from stained glass to wallpaper. In Nancy they also researched how to use glass, iron, steel and wood to make beautiful objects that most people could afford. Designs were often based around plant shapes like water lilies, thistles, and gourds, whilst the dragonfly was also a popular motif. Art Deco (short for Arts Décoratifs) started evolving from around 1911 and had replaced Art Deco in fashionable circles by the end of the First World War. The ethos of Art Deco is harder, more sleek and glamorous, the straight lines reflecting elements of ancient Egyptian design as well as Cubism, Fauvism and
styles from what was then thought of as the ‘exotic east’: China, Japan, India and Persia. The human form is stylised, formalised and colours are clear and bright although not gaudy. Art Deco was characterised by elegant monochrome colour schemes setting off luxurious materials including gold, bronze and ivory. It was the polar opposite of Art Nouveau, with its echoes of nature. If Art Nouveau offered relaxation, Art Deco was grown up and hell-bent on impressing everyone. The Art Deco style was used everywhere; architecture, furniture, jewellery, fashion, cars, cinemas, ocean liners, hotel interiors, and even everyday objects like radios and the new smart vacuum cleaners. Gradually, during the 30s, as times got tougher, Art Deco became more subdued and used newer, less luxurious materials like chrome plating, stainless steel and plastic, until it died out altogether with the outbreak of the Second World War.
French Living I February 2019
Meet the accidental television chef who taught France to love cupcakes Celebrity pastry chef Chloé Saada did not set out to make her living in the culinary world, she tells Jane Hanks
hloé Saada is a pastry chef with a difference – even in France. Not for her the classic millefeuilles, macarons or croquembouches. Instead she has seduced the country with cupcakes. Nine years ago she opened one of the first cupcake shops in Paris. She has written books on the subject and she has her own cookery show, La pâtisserie de Chloé on culinary TV channel MyCuisine. She was also guest judge in an episode of the first series of French TV’s version of Bake-Off, Le Meilleur Pâtissier. You did not set out to be a celebrity chef. How did it come about? I actually studied photography and graphic art, but as well as loving everything visual I have always loved cooking. I discovered cupcakes when I went to New York and fell in love with them – and then noticed that, 10 years ago, the Fifties and Sixties were back in fashion and thought that the time of the cupcake had arrived in Paris. “There were already some small local shops selling cupcakes, but I was the first to really put them into the media spotlight in France, by writing books and presenting them on TV shows. Why cupcakes? Because you can be so artistic when you decorate them. There are many different ways. At first, I did not like to use butter creams because I found them too sickly, so I used other types of icing, but then I started working to create a butter cream that does not use so much fat. Visually, the most beautiful are the ones decorated with butter cream. You can colour it, make it smooth, pile it high, but I also like using salted caramel or chocolate spread, things like that. Do you sell just cupcakes? During the week I work as a caterer so preparing classic food for different functions and then on Saturday I run my salon de thé. I make all the cakes that I sell. On Friday I bake all day and on Saturday morning I decorate my cakes. I have about a hundred different recipes and when you come to my salon you never know exactly what you might find, whether it will be fruity or chocolatey because I decide according to the ingredients I can find and my inspiration on that particular day. It is always great fun, because people come to celebrate birthdays or baby showers and it is festive.
What do you like about cooking? It’s a real passion. I love the way you start with raw ingredients and then something almost magical happens when you put them together and cook them. You have made new textures, new tastes and there is a transformation that happens when your mixture is cooking in the oven. The cakes I like making are always very colourful and very decorative and it is something very close to art – and also a return to childhood. You are diabetic. Does this make it difficult to bake cakes? I taste them when I create a new recipe, but I do not eat them. For me it is a way to de-dramatise the fact that I cannot eat them by making them for others, because it is well known that when you cook you are less tempted to eat what you have created. You might think it would be difficult but in fact it isn’t. I do make cupcakes to order for diabetics without sugar, so there are solutions. I also make gluten-free cakes, so that everyone can try them. Do the French like cupcakes? Yes, they adore cupcakes, because they are very visual and very beautiful. At first I found the American and Anglo-Saxon versions too sugary and too fatty, so I had to work hard to create recipes using the best ingredients and flavours, that would appeal to the French palate. I think it is impossible for anyone not to like one of my cupcakes! They are more like the classic quatre-quarts cake (which uses four ingredients: butter, flour, sugar and eggs in the same proportions) and my cream is much lighter.
Do you work out what you are going to say in advance? I write the introduction and the conclusion but I ad lib while I am cooking. It is a challenge to talk while you are cooking, but I have given lots of cookery courses, so I have had a lot of practice.
TV chef Chloé Saada (right) has based her successful career on cupcakes, after falling in love with the sweet fancies on a visit to New York
Do you think cookery programmes are popular in France? Yes and I think we have a lot of programmes in France. Perhaps we don’t have as many stars as you do in the UK, apart from Maïté who is the TV chef everyone knows and who had a show in the 1990s. I was lucky enough to be a guest judge on the first French Bake-Off series. I think people love it because it is amateurs so, like them, they make mistakes.
I found the American versions too sugary and too fatty, so I had to work hard to create recipes using the best ingredients and flavours to appeal to the French palate
Can you describe your working day? It depends on the day. On Mondays I spend the day with my children. From Tuesday to Friday I am cooking either for my catering business or creating recipes, or working on a new book. On Saturdays I am in my shop. Do you find it difficult to cook for your family in the evenings after a day in the kitchen? Yes, often I do not really want to cook in the evening. But on my two days off, Sunday and Monday, I love to cook and often prepare food for the week ahead. I love cooking so it does not worry me if I have to spend every day in the kitchen. You also have a television show. What is it like cooking for the cameras? It is something I adore, sharing what I know and what I love. You feel you are really with the audience. I like to make it very visual and to show how to make very simple cakes, accessible to everyone.
Do you get much feedback from your shows? Yes, I get quite a few letters and they are always really lovely. There are just good things that come from cooking. In other areas of TV it is more complicated, but in cooking it is always positive. Do you have any favourite ways of cooking at present? I love anything that is Italian or Middle Eastern. There are wonderful flavours. I put sesame in everything at the moment, in savoury dishes and in my cookies. Do you like experimenting in your cooking? Yes, I do. Cooking is very rich and varied. You can make discoveries about other countries and cultures. There are an infinite number of variations. In music you can make so many different melodies and types of music from just a few notes. You have the same range of possibilities in cooking with basic ingredients. What I really appreciate in my cooking is its creativity. www.cakechloes.com
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6 Gardens/Green news
French Living I February 2019
Luxembourg, the capital’s oasis
e Jardin du Luxembourg, in the centre of Paris on the border between Saint-Germain-desPrès and the Latin Quarter, is worth visiting not only as a green park to stroll through to escape the noise of the city, but also as a garden with many horticultural treasures. It also has a rich history which reflects the story of Paris, and it is at the heart of French culture, favoured by many of its most illustrious writers and philosophers such as Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Verlaine, Balzac, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and painted by the greats such as Rousseau and Van Gogh. Benoît Priel, technical director of the gardens, says they are recognised as the most beautiful gardens in Paris: “They are very varied with parts which are in the classic French style and areas planted à l’anglaise. There are important collections including a greenhouse with tropical orchids, an orchard with 600 varieties of apples and pears, 3,000 trees, flower gardens, 35,000 shrubs, beehives and a horticultural college where the public can sign up to free courses given by the garden staff.” At 25 hectares, it is much smaller than the London parks (Hyde Park 142 hectares, Kensington Gardens 111 hectares, St James Park 34 hectares) but attracts between 50,000 and 100,000 visitors a day. The gardens have not always been open to the public as they were first designed for royalty by Marie de’ Médici, who became Queen of France when she married Henri IV. She wanted to escape the Louvre after the assassination of her husband and bought the Hôtel de François de Luxembourg which gave its name to the gardens. She gradually bought more and more land to create a garden to remind her of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. It was what we would now call in the French classic style which was influenced by Italy, with geometrical designs, alleys and box hedges. As fashions changed parts were later designed in the less formal English style. For a short while after the Revolution, the palace was a prison and the garden was no longer looked after. The palace was then turned into a legislative build-
Aid for drought farmers Livestock farmers in the AuvergneRhône-Alpes region, badly affected by the summer 2018 drought, are to receive state funding up to €2,000 per farm in order to pay for cattle feed. The local authority, headed by Laurent Wauquiez (Les Républicains) estimated that between 12,000 and 16,000 farmers in the area are affected, with grass feed harvests down by 30 to 50%, especially in the Ain, Allier and Cantal departments. On average, by November the price of grass fodder had doubled to €160 per tonne. Many farmers had already been using stored fodder stocks since August, when their usually verdant meadows were being scorched by drought.
ing and it has been the seat of the French Senate since 1879. The gardens which are therefore owned and run by the Senate were from then on opened to the public. In the 19th century they were drastically reduced in size when Haussmann redesigned Paris. He put a road through part of it despite five petitions. During the Siege of Paris in 1870 and 1871 the palace became a hospital for wounded soldiers and the gardens an ambulance park. Later, between 1940 and 1944, when the Germans took over the palace, they built defence posts and parked their vehicles in the garden. Just before the Liberation of Paris, French tanks rolled in and took back the palace. The gardens and their horticultural collections are looked after by a team of 30 gardeners and the greenhouses have always enjoyed a worldwide reputation. One, the Serres de Paris, has a collection of 8,000 orchids, 4,000 tropical plants and an annual production of around 3,000 pots of flowers to decorate receptions in the Senate. In 1872, seeds from the tropiPhoto: Pixabay
The Jardins du Luxembourg are owned and run by the French senate; Below: visitors relax in the sun in the jardin à l’anglaise; Inset: orchids form part of its impressive horticultural collection
During the Siege of Paris in 1870 and 1871 the palace became a hospital for wounded soldiers and the gardens an ambulance park
Michel Joux, president of the regional branch of the FNSEA, the country’s leading agricultural union, said the funding was “a very strong symbolic and political gesture”, but called on departments and State authorities to do more. Chestnuts trees destroyed in Bordeaux Campaigners failed in their attempt to prevent the felling of 17 of the 38 chestnut tress standing in a Bordeaux square, despite a petition that had amassed more than 10,000 signatures. It took just a few hours for local |authorities to remove the trees in Place Gambetta in Bordeaux, in order for a new layout of the square to be started. “If only all the construction sites in Bordeaux could go so fast,” quipped Pierre Hurmic, a municipal representative from the Europe Écologie Les Verts party. “What a massacre!”, a local woman was
Photos: Sénat; Wikipedia/Crazynorvegian; Orchids: Inocybe/Piero d’Houin
Jane Hanks examines the remarkable history and modern day allure of the most celebrated public garden in Paris
cal collection were used to re-introduce the papyrus in Egypt. The Orchid collection is one of the oldest in European and was begun in 1838. There are 1,300 different species, and the most important part of the collection are the Paphiopedilums or Venus Slippers from South East Asia. In the Serres de Longpont 120,000 plants are grown every year to be planted out in the gardens. The greenhouses are only open to the public once a year on the European Heritage weekend. There is also an Orangerie which, in winter shelters 200 palm trees, pomegranate trees, oleanders and citrus trees, some of which are more than 200 years old. There are 50 flowerbeds which are planted out three times a year; spring, summer and autumn so that there is colour from March to November. In spring there are primula, pansies, tulips and hyacinths which are planted in November to avoid empty beds during the winter. There is some spring planting, including poppies which would otherwise be eaten by the pigeons over the winter.
There is a great deal of forward planning for the summer planting as the gardeners try never to repeat the same composition twice. They use around twenty different species to ensure a range of colours and continuous flowers over a five month period. Geraniums are often used as a base with petunias, ageratum, dahlias and sage. More unusual plants give variety, for example the castor oil plant, cardoon and pennisetum. Compositions are tested out first in smaller, more discrete beds. Many of the 3,000 trees in the garden are more than 100 years old and some are no longer healthy. The orchard was originally part of a Chartreuse monastery which used to be to the south of the palace. In 1650 one of the monks who had originally been a gardener, developped a vast collection of fruit trees, which in 1712 produced more than 14,000 trees which were distributed throughout Europe. After the Revolution the monastery was closed but the collection was saved and planted in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and ever since the gardeners have given free courses in the art of growing and caring for fruit trees. All the trees are labelled and those with the logo of a monk are those that were cultivated by the Chartreuse monks. We tend to think of urban beehives as a new concept but the first beekeeping school set up by the Central Society of Apiculture was in Le Jardin du Luxembourg in 1856. It could house twenty bee colonies and displayed examples of different types of hive and beekeeping equipment. The original hives were destroyed when Haussmann reduced the size of the garden, but a new one was established in 1872 which was then entirely rebuilt in 1991. Other activities You can play chess, tennis, basketball and pétanque, enjoy a pony ride, sail model boats on the lake, go to a concert or an exhibition and there is also a traditional roundabout and a puppet theatre. There are guided visits to the gardens on Wednesday mornings from April to October. Open every day and times vary with the seasons. For full details see www.senat.fr/visite/jardin/index.html
reported as saying in 20 Minutes. “I enjoyed walking there... At a time when we have to protect nature, we concretise everything.”
uses his findings to pinpoint historic sources of contamination potentially dangerous to humans, such as on old mining sites in the Vosges and Alsace vineyards.
Snails used to study environment Instead of covering escargots in garlic butter and cooking them for lunch, a laboratory at the University of FrancheComté in Besançon is using snails as bioindicators in order to assess the quality of the environment. Under laboratory conditions, scientists are studying small particles ingested by the snails from soil samples taken from around France. The particles cannot be detected in soil because they are present in too small doses, but they gather in the animal’s lung. “The snail is ideally located at the interface between soil, plants and air,” said ecotoxicologist Frédéric Gimbert, who
Strasbourg bypass is ‘ecological stupidity’ Former ecology minister Nicolas Hulot has called Strasbourg’s planned bypass – aimed at alleviating traffic and pollution in the Grand Est city – ‘ecological stupidity’. Speaking on L’Emission politique on France 2, Hulot referred to the project – called the Grand Contournement Ouest – when explaining his powerlessness in office. “Legally, at any given time, I was stuck. First of all, because local elected officials were in favour of it, and Paris does not decide everything”. “No one listened to me,” he said of his final attempts to implement more stringent social changes as part of the government’s ‘energy transition’ plan.
Photos: Cathy Thompson
February 2019 I French Living
Does lunar planting really work?
Grower’s digest Flower pot power We are in the age of ‘smart’ technology and now even the humble houseplant can take advantage of technological advances. The Parrot Pot, which uses a self-watering system with four built-in sensors to monitor light, temperature, soil moisture and fertiliser levels in real time around the clock, tends to your plants while you’re away on holiday or for the weekend. Autonomous and wireless, The Parrot Pot runs on 4 AA batteries. RRP €149, available from www.fnac.com. Winging it Few things are more pleasurable when sitting in or working in the garden than spotting butterflies flitting about. There is plenty you can do to make your jardin more papillon-friendly – initially in early spring when they wake from hibernation – the main thing being to provide plenty of March and April flowering plants so they can feast on nectar. Another idea is to install a Petit Pod eco-friendly butterfly house (below). Painted in duck-egg blue, its rear can be easily removed to allow twigs or straw to be added and for cleaning access. Price €26.95, www.lejardinperdu.com
Cathy Thompson reveals her tips for planting according to the moon’s calendar
Social media app Instagram is a brilliant way to enjoy other people’s gardens in France, with everyone from chateau visitors to chambre d’hôtes owners posting seasonal snaps of their gardens (users can search using the hashtag #jardins). This month’s selection features some shadowplay on the brickwork and garden at Bas Rhin’s (Alsace) vertiginous Mont StOdile, as captured by user mylene.bau
French garden diary
t was always a traditional neighbourly past-time and apparently it is still in vogue. We are talking about your neighbours’ favourite way of whiling away the hours (almost as if it was your job to provide local reality TV) by passing comment while you are earnestly engaged in any particularly challenging/delicate gardening operation. These, being French neighbours, are often quite keen to point out that you are doing things at the ‘wrong’ time. The ‘right’ time, in France, is in scrupulous accord with the phases of the moon. In a nutshell, this means that you can sow any kind of vegetable during an ascending moon (including roots), but only plant or transplant/ repiquer when the moon is descending. If, for example, you were to lift and plant out lettuce seedlings when the moon was rising, they would quickly rush up to greet the moon, running to seed in the process. But does it work? Your belles salades are the only proof of the pudding – and trial and error the only test. For this you will need to arm yourself with one of the many calendriers de lune available at your local newsagent round about now. This is best, since you are about to immerse yourself in a complicated pseudo-science (I could come on stronger) and you need a paper guru who will not lead you up the garden path. You will find that each month is divided into root, leaf, flower and fruit days. When in doubt about the crop you are dealing with, think about how you use it. For instance, sow seed of tomatoes on a fruit day, when the moon is in the
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ascendant and then prick out and pot on a fruit day during a descending moon. But be aware that, if you follow the advice to the letter, you might find yourself anxiously out in the potting shed around about midnight trying to complete a task which must not be done (on pain of death) five hours before or after the apogee (when the moon is furthest from the earth) or a lunar node (when the moon intercepts the ecliptic). Clutch that paper guru close... It all gets much more serious when you are also informed that you have, at the same time, to be aware of the movement of the planets with regard to the moon. Continuing with the tomato example above, not only have you to sow in an ascending moon, but you will be particularly successful when the moon is in Aries or Sagittarius. If you are confused, so are the French neighbours (I speak from experience). This is just astrology for plants! A February ‘to-do’ list Sow slower-growing vegetables and annual flowers – for example, antirrhinums, petunias, begonias, dahlias, onions, cauliflower, sweet peppers
If you are confused, so are the French neighbours. This is astrology for plants!
and aubergines. In the open garden, February is the month to begin sowing broad beans if the ground is not frozen. This is an overlooked crop in France, because it used to be considered only peasant fare. But the delicate flavour of the small, young beans (especially in combination with perfect partners, mint and jambon) is increasingly appreciated. They have the added advantage that they are very drought-tolerant. Personally, I do not put tomatoes in this early sowing category. If you live in an area experiencing cold winters, any tomatoes sown now will be long and leggy by the time you are able to plant them out. Better wait until late March/early April. Beefsteak tomato ‘Big Daddy’ was the real star in my garden last year, great either for cooking or for slicing into salads, but I also loved little cherry tomato ‘Groseille Rouge’. Both were still cropping in November last year. In view of last year’s dry summer months, I am inclined to start sowing cool-loving brassicas much earlier than in the past – this month, in fact. All are completely hardy and really need rain to get them settled in before the harsh summer sun arrives. They may coast rather listlessly through July and August, but will crop nicely in autumn and winter. OVER TO YOU What are your thoughts or experiences on gardening with the moon? Email me at: email@example.com
elphine de Vigan is striking: tall with long, blonde curly hair and a smile which lights up her face, powerful and gentle at the same time. We found a quiet corner in the café of her hotel in Brive, which was bustling with publishers, writers and journalists, and she talked about her career as a writer. Two of her novels, No et Moi (No and Me) and D’après une histoire vraie (Based on a True Story) have been made into successful films. Many more have been translated into English, and her latest – Loyalties –was published by Bloomsbury in January. Her books explore the relationship between fiction and reality and are often based on her own experiences – in Based on a True Story the heroine is an author and called Delphine. Tell me a little about your latest book in English, Loyalties There are four different characters: two women, one a biology teacher and the other the mother of a young boy who is the third character, along with another young boy both of whom are 13, so on the threshold of being adolescent. The four characters are at a crucial moment in their lives, where – in a painful way – they will have to face the question of loyalty, for different reasons, for each one. Why did you choose this theme. Was it because you think it is one which is of interest to many people? No, because I don’t really think about the reader when I write. It was more that I chose a theme which interests me because it is something I often ask myself – am I loyal or disloyal? I have wondered if the importance of loyalty for me was linked to the fact that, when I was a little girl, my parents separated. I think children in this situation ask themselves these questions early on. I have since discovered it is a central theme for many people, not just those with divorced parents. In the book, I wanted to explore the idea that loyalty is a positive value, and that we need it to help us look at ourselves in a mirror in the morning, but there are times in our life when loyalty prevents us doing or saying things, so that we are often caught in the conflict loyalty presents us with. To answer your question, I did not think to myself this is a universal theme, so I will write about it, but it was something I personally wanted to explore and then it became evident that it touched a chord in people in a far greater way than I had ever imagined. So when you write, it is about your own emotions and experiences and is very personal? Yes, even if it is not necessarily autobiographical, all my books are born from the emotions, sensations, amazement, a revolt that I have felt. What pushes me to write is the fact that sometimes I find myself over-sensitive to the world around me. My writing is there, and then it either
I write so that I can feel both human and alive communicates with the reader, or not. I am sure that even science fiction writers are talking about their emotional experiences and their way of seeing the world. Is it in a way a therapy for you? I am in particular thinking of your books when you explore the anorexia you had as a teenager in Jours sans faim and Nothing Holds Back the Night, when you talk about living with a bipolar mother. No, I wouldn’t say that. I believe in the therapeutic virtues of words when you lie on the psychiatrist’s couch or when you write a diary, but then you can reveal everything. When you write and you are going to be published it is very different. There has to be an element of self-censorship – you don’t necessarily want to share every personal detail with someone else. When you are writing, even if you do not reveal everything, is it important to find the right words to bring out the truth, and do you think that is why your books are popular – because they reflect real emotions? I realise now, after some years of writing that I do have a very wide-ranging public. Some who are very literary minded, but also a broader public who do not necessarily read very much. It is difficult of course to explain why, but what I try to do is to lift up a mirror to the contemporary world which is ours. I like the idea that my books are very anchored in today’s society and something I try to do is to describe the things, the sensations, the mechanics of violence, to write about class relations, the relations between people and to be as close as possible to what I am writing about. Often it requires a great deal of effort to find the words that will hit the mark. Often people say to me that I have managed to put the way they have felt into words in a way that rings true and which they couldn’t manage to do themselves.
There is a very strong literary culture in France and the book is seen as something sacred, sometimes too much by the way, but it means it will survive
Award-winning author Delphine de Vigan chatted to Jane Hanks about her career before a busy day meeting authors and readers in her role as President of the Brive Foire du Livre
French Living I February 2019
Your books have been translated into other languages, including English. Do you think your books work well in other cultures and languages? It is difficult to know. There is always a cultural approach to books, but I think I have an extremely good English translator which is very important. Many people who speak English but who also know my books very well in French, tell me that the translation is very good. I am lucky to have someone who has worked with me since I started publishing, so he knows my style very well. He is called George Miller and he is worth mentioning. I have discovered in some countries, from the questions readers have asked me, that perhaps the sense in the translation does not put across exactly what I meant. You have to accept that you cannot control everything. Do you think that a reader from another country can learn a lot about France from your books? Yes, I think so. I think my books have a definite French flavour even if they talk about universal themes. They must tell something about French society. I think that of my book, Nothing Holds Back the Night, which gives a panorama of society, via the story of my grandmother, my mother and my family. You are at Brive for the Foire du Livre, and there are many book festivals and literary prizes in France. Is it a good country in which to be a writer? I think the answer has to be yes. The book is seen as very important in France. There is a festive dimension to reading,
with the great number of literary prizes we have here. Literature is celebrated. I think we are lucky, as we have dynamic publishing houses. Contemporary literature is particularly diverse and there is something for every type of reader. Despite films and the internet is reading still popular? Yes, I have the impression books are holding up well. There are other factors which mean there are good years and bad, but on the whole books are doing well. There is a very strong literary culture in France and the book is seen as something sacred, sometimes too much by the way, but it means it will survive. Is it important for authors to win a literary prize, as you have done on several occasions? Yes, undoubtedly. It is a way of being recognised, and it is especially heart-warming to be chosen by readers for a prize, that is amazing. You are put in the spotlight and this is a good thing. Is it important for you to meet readers? When you are a writer you have moments of great solitude as you see no one and don’t go out when you are writing. I am in that phase at the moment and so it was a pleasure to accept the presidency of the Foire du Livre. I like these moments a lot as there are times when you are a little bored of sitting alone in front of your computer. I am happy to meet readers; it is interesting to see how a text is seen by others and what is fascinating is that you realise there are as many different types of readers as there are writers. And there is not necessarily one way of reading that corresponds with what you have written.
February 2019 I French Living
Did you know from a young age that you would be a writer? No, I think I always thought it was a world which was not accessible to me. It seemed so impossible it was not even a dream. I began to write when I was 12 or 13 years old in a diary but I wrote my first novel when I was over 30, and I don’t have any memories of writing in between, other than therapy writing not intended to be read by anyone else. Later, when I was lucky to have my first manuscript published I could begin to think that, maybe, I was a writer. I worked for a long time in an opinion poll company and I published my first books while I was working there, so I did not think I could call myself a novelist then. How do you work? I have tried several ways. I did have an office outside the home, but it did not really suit me – though it was when my children were younger, and it was more difficult for them to understand I was working when I was at home. But I like it better being at home. I work mostly in the morning with a certain discipline and need to have a rendezvous with the text. But if I get stuck on a paragraph, I can get up and hang out the washing, or I empty the dishwasher and it clears the head and the writing is better afterwards. Being in my little office was rather suffocating sometimes because I had nothing else to do but write. I like working at home and starting as soon as I wake up, early in the morning.
Do you work a long time on your ideas? Yes, but it is more than just the idea of a novel, which comes to me little by little. Often as well I think about the characters; how I will write the book; will it be from the first person or third person. I have to work out everything until I have quite a precise idea about how the story will develop before I start writing. I often call it the incubation period. I take notes but I don’t actually write it. Is it difficult to create your characters? Not particularly. They appear as silhouettes and little by little become defined. At the moment I am working on a character who is a speech therapist and I have not completely captured her yet. My editor has read the first pages and I am sure I will have to make some changes, but it is always interesting and I like all my characters, even the baddies. Do you know why you write your books? It is impossible to know and it probably changes from one book to another. For me, it is a way to feel human and to live. It is difficult to explain in just a few words why I write, but perhaps in the end writing for me is a way of trying to discover why I write. Is it a difficult job, difficult to find the right words? It can be hard, yes, but above all it is a great privilege to be able to make your living from writing.
Eva Green in Roman Polanski’s 2017 film adaptation of Delphine de Vigan’s novel, Based on a True Story. Below, Eva Green shares a scene with co-star Emmanuelle Seigner.
It’s tourism, Jim – but not as you may know it... Jane Hanks learns about the lengths tourism firms go to in order to give their customers much more than sun, sea, and sand...
reative Tourism, in which holidaymakers take part and learn a local traditional activity is the latest trend in the tourism industry. According to the Creative Tourism Network, which was set up in 2011 as an international platform to showcase groups offering this kind of holiday experience, it is not just about going on a writing, pottery or painting holiday: “That kind of holiday has always existed,” said network director Caroline Couret. “But this is different because the person is learning something traditional and relevant to the area he or she is in and it is an authentic meeting with the locals who share their knowledge and skills with the visitor.” Shortly before Mrs Couret spoke to Connexion, she had taken part in a conference organised by the Minister of Culture at the Musée du Louvre-Lens where one of the key subjects discussed was le tourisme créatif. She said tourists today no longer want to sit back and be entertained but want to feel involved in the destination’s daily life. France has great potential for this kind of tourism with its huge diversity of places to visit, she added. “The idea started in 2005, when we wanted to invite tourists to ‘live the city’ in Barcelona in a new way. It was so successful that seven years ago we launched an international network. “In the first year we had to really go out to find holidays which matched our criteria. Since then the idea has really taken off so that we can find them everywhere.” It appeals to all kind of tourist: “It can include singles, couples, families or groups of travellers. It can be for the whole holiday, or a family in a gîte who spend an afternoon at a mosaic making class to experience the local traditions.” “An example of this type of holiday would be a cooking course, to learn how to make a baguette or a regional dish.” Every year there is a Creative Tourism Award. This year first prize for the Best Creative Travel Agency went to B-Holidays in France which creates tailor-made holidays for visitors to Northern Catalonia, Pyrénées-Orientales.
Activities include wine tasting, making pâté, discovering an oyster farm, making soap, glass making and having a go at wheelchair rugby. A young French company, set up seven years ago by three women who wanted to introduce a new way of visiting cities in France and Europe have also found that this type of tourism is popular. Their Pop in the City events for 550 people a time sell out within two weeks. They organise urban races in different cities with 30 challenges divided into five categories: art, sport, extreme, culture and solidarity. Participants work in teams of two and at 8am each day, they are given a book of riddles which will lead them to each of the activities. Clémentine Charles, one of the co-founders, said: “They have cleaned beaches, played poker in a casino, taken part in a jazz dance, learned how to fight like a Roman gladiator, painted boats, and even learned fire eating. People on a break now want to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do and get
People on a break now want to do things you wouldn’t normally do and talk to local people at the same time
to talk to local people at the same time.” Two people work full time for five months in a city to find the best partners, coach them and create the 30 challenges. In 2019 there will be seven events, one of which is for both men and women. You can enrol from February but places sell out fast. You can also sign up as a volunteer helping out on the day, for which you would need to speak both French and English and can find details on their website. www.popinthecity.com www.creativetourismnetwork.org
10 February What’s on
French Living I February 2019
Join the fun at Nice’s spectacular show Carnaval de Nice, February 16–March 2
Photos: Main image OTCN H Lagarde; Left: OTCN A Chailan
Since 1873, beautifully decorated floats and parades have added joie de vivre to Nice’s sunny streets every February, and the carnival is now one of the great highlights of the city’s calendar. Each year a theme is selected to lend a little Niçoise history to the celebrations. As Nice’s Victorine Studios celebrates its 100th anniversary, this year the festival pays homage to cinema giants. Marcel Carné, François Truffaut, Jean Cocteau, Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen have all passed through the studio doors therefore floats themed around ‘The King of Cinema’ will feature throughout the 11 grand events taking place around Place Massèna and Albert 1er gardens. Flowers of the French Riviera perfume the air during the unmissable flower parades and things get all the more spectacular come night time, when the parade of lights sets the city ablaze on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Expect mesmerising dancing, international musicians, a buzzing atmosphere and a good dose of Nouvelle Vague cinema. en.nicecarnaval.com
More February events Grand Mimosa Procession, Bormes-les-Mimosas, February 24
The idyllic hilltop village of Bormes-lesMimosas becomes even prettier during this elegant annual affair in celebration of the village’s eponymous mimosas. The feathery flowers bloom in February and their delicate scent fills the medieval village. Great parades featuring floats decorated with over 80,000 flowers snake through the historic centre attached to tractors, as residents revel in the arrival of Spring to the Côte d’Azur with music and dancing. The festivities culminate in the Battle of Flowers before awards are handed out for the best flower arranging. corso-fleuri-bormes.com International Short Film Festival, Clermont Ferrand, February 1–9 This film festival is the second largest in France after Cannes. The cinematic works of over 3,000 cinéastes are screened in 13 cinemas and the beauty of short films is that you can mix and match to
suit your own film-going taste. From documentaries to dramas and comedies, all genres are present and this year, there is a special focus on films shot in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. There are French subtitles on all films while English subtitles accompany screenings at Maison de la Culture theatres. Alongside the programme of films, there is also the opportunity to meet directors and take part in filmmaking workshops. clermont-filmfest.org/en
Strasbourg mon amour, Strasbourg February 8–17 Paris may be the original city of love but Strasbourg gives the capital a good run for its money over the Valentine’s period, with more than 40 romantically themed events held in the city’s fairy-tale streets. The intimate dinners held in unusual locations, Valentine’s balls, poetic concerts and glamorous parties are a far cry from the clichéd roses and overpriced meals of previous Valentine’s Days. strasbourg-monamour.eu/en
bewitching exhibition. Held at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, France’s major art movements are explored via 51 iconic works of art by the likes of Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Pierre Soulages. From 1800s realism to abstract contemporary creations of the 1980s, witness how each art movement birthed the next: Impressionism, Symbolism, Cubism and Surrealism all feature. tinyurl.com/yafc6r7e
Food’Angers 2019, Vins de Loire et Gastronomie, Angers February 1–10 Food and wine of ‘the garden of France’ is splendidly showcased at this festival of gastronomy; a foodie’s paradise chock full of fine purveyors of regional produce. Try fouace, a traditional bread baked in a wood-fire oven, often served with rillettes – a textured pâté of pork, salmon or duck. Fish is excellent here too; from lighter-than-air beurre blanc to flavoursome eel stewed in red wine for matelote d’Anguilles. Wine tasting, cooking ateliers, sommelier and pastry workshops are just a few of many activities around the city that teach the art de vivre à l’angevine. foodangers.fr
Le ski nocturne, Pra Loup, February 13, 20, 27 and March 6 There is something quite special about night time skiing, only permitted in a handful of ski areas at specific times of the year. Head to Pra Loup, a dreamy little ski resort in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for a moonlight ski on the six pistes, open from 18.30 until 22.45. Let your hair down post-ski in one of the bars on the mountain, where DJs are rolled out along with copious amounts of vin chaud. praloup.com/ski-en-nocturne.html
Kermesse aux Poissons, Théoule-sur-Mer, until 28 February Perfectly situated Théoule-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, rests at the foot of the dramatic Estérel Massif overlooking tranquil calanques. There is no better place for a kermesse (festival) of ocean-inspired gastronomy. Throughout the month the town’s best restaurants, including seafront establishment Chez Philippe and Aux Ingrédients, offer creative five-course tasting menus, using freshly caught fish and seafood. Local wine caves partner with restaurants, ensuring excellent wine pairings with each dish. theoule.wixsite.com/kermesse-auxpoissons
La Percée du Vin Jaune, Poligny, February 2–3 Encased inside its squat, wax sealed 62cl clavelin bottle, Vin Jaune (young wine) is the pride of the Jura region. Its distinctive flavour comes from the unique winemaking and fermentation process, after which the wine is transferred into mature oak barrels. Grown from the Savagnin grape in the appellations of Arbois, Côtes du Jura, Château-Chalon and l’Etoile, the white wine is best enjoyed with morsels of local Comté cheese thanks to its strong, pungent flavour. An entry ticket to this lively festival gets you a glass and ten tasting tickets inside the wine cellars. percee-du-vin-jaune.com
Ubaye Snow trail Salomon, Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye, 17 February In the high altitude Ubaye Valley (Alpes de Haute-Provence), runners take on the sizeable challenge of a cross country race through the snow. Beginning in the picturesque village of Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye at 1,450m, the course weaves through the mountains taking in snow-filled passages 2,250m up, at the foot of the valley’s second highest peak Brec de Chambeyron. Experienced athletes run the 22km loop while a 9km Découverte course is open to all. Watch the action unfold from the village amidst an electric atmosphere. ubaye-trail.fr/en/ubaye-snow-trail.html De Monet à Soulages, Chemin de la Modernité 1800–1980 Saint-Etienne, until February 24 Get an well-rounded understanding of France’s rich history of visual arts at this
Collection Motais de Narbonne, Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse, 22 February until 2 June Epic scenes of religious miracles and mythology loom large in the private art collection of Helena and Guy Motais, avid collectors of French and Italian paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the first time that the nearly 80 paintings from their personal collection have been displayed in their entirety, to majestic effect. Marvel at the impossibly detailed canvases of Simon Vouet, GabrielFrançois Doyen, Mattia Preti and François Boucher, as exhibited at the Fondation Bemberg – housed in the magnificent Hôtel d’Assézat. tinyurl.com/y93lyszb
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.
February 2019 I French Living
What’s on/Cultural digest 11 Baby love and a new mini world A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life
Photos: Facebook/ Phillipe Sagot/musicograph
5. Kings of Lyon France’s biggest animated miniature world park in Lyon has opened the latest phase of its intricately crafted tiny replica of city’s best loved areas – scaled at 1:87. In April, Mini World presented the first part of its exhibition, a replica of the
2. Kings and Queen of the charts 2018 was the year that Nantes singer Héloïse Letissier, known professionally as Christine and the Queens (and latterly Chris), made big waves in the UK. Her second album reached the top 10 in September and then end-of year roundups in the NME and The Independent chose it among their year-end ‘best ofs’. She is an example of the ‘international export’ success of French electro acts, including when they sing in French rather than English. Topping streaming platforms Spotify and Deezer in France were two rappers, the Belgian Damso and Jul. 3. Fair figures make for good reading Young literature fans turned out in large numbers to attend the latest Montreuil Children’s Book and Young Press Fair in Paris. A record 179,000 attended the six-day celebration, with a significant increase in family audience numbers (there was free admission for under 18s. Among the attendees were 28,000 local schoolchildren who enjoyed workshops, readings and meeting 126 authors. The fair also provides illustrators with a shop window to publishers, and also gives out awards, such as the La Pépite d’Or awarded by the jury of literary critics to Raphaële Frier and Julien
Carnaval de Dunkerque, Dunkirk, February 2–March 23 The coastal town of Dunkirk explodes into a riot of colourful parades, a hotchpotch of weird and wonderful costumes and jubilant music as an estimated 40,000 people take to the streets to join in with the much-anticipated annual festival. Famed for its mad celebrations, grand balls and epic parades are held every Saturday leading up to three days before Ash Wednesday – known as Trois Joyeuses (Three Joyful Days). The tradition dates back to 1676, when extravagant parties were thrown in honour of local fisherman who were setting off on a six month voyage to catch cod in the North Atlantic. Look out for crazy masks, long-handled umbrellas and towering statues carried across the town. Make a beeline for Place Saint-Valentin on the final Sunday afternoon in time to catch a herring, 500kg of which are thrown into the crowd by the town’s mayor. Later that evening, join hands with revellers for the Rigaudon, a lively folk jig danced in honour of 17th century naval officer Jean Bart. tinyurl.com/y8bfxt9j
4. Soulages exposed Musée Soulages, the Rodez (Aveyron) museum featuring the work of the town’s most famous artistic son Pierre Soulages, is displaying 118 career-spanning paper works, some for the first time. Made using walnut stain, charcoal, Chinese ink or gouache, the pieces will be preserved thanks to a €40,000 donation from the BNP Paribas Foundation. “Some of these papers have never been taken out of Pierre Soulages’ drawers,” said Benoît Decron, museum curator. The Ruthenois artist is best known for his Outrenoir (‘Beyond Black’) paintings.
Photo: Raphaele Frier and Julien Martinière
Fête du Citron, Menton, February 16–March 3 This festival is arguably one of Europe’s prettiest celebrations. The tradition was born back in 1935 when Menton was Europe’s number one lemon growing region. An exhibition of sunshine coloured citrus was organised for members of royalty staying in the palaces on the French Riviera. These days, an eye-popping 145 tonnes of fruit is transformed every February into stunning sculptures. This year’s lemony celebrations revolve around the theme of fantasy worlds. Expect otherworldly dancing, international music and a staggering visual feast whose creativity and originality is unparalleled. On the three Sundays, parades named Corsos des fruits d’or take place on the Promenade du Soleil and twinkling lights fill the Jardins Biovès, where artfully arranged citrus fruits create a fairytale atmosphere. There are firework displays, an orchid festival, an artisan fair, plus theatre and street performances. A quarter of a million people come to appreciate the zesty designs, so reserving tickets is a must. fete-du-citron.com/?lang=en
Acting heavyweights excel: Gilles Lellouche as the temporary new ‘Dad’; Sandrine Kiberlain as the child protection officer; and Elodie Bouchez (above, with Lellouche) in a compelling turn as the childless woman ready and waiting to transform the child’s life for the better. StudioCanal will release the film in English at a date to be confirmed.
Martinière for their graphic book Le Tracas de Blaise about a man who turns into a bear. (see illustration, below).
Lyon Peninsula from Place Bellecour to Terreaux. Next it unveiled Old Lyon, Fourvière and Saint-Jean and just before Christmas it revealed the Part-Dieu district, the Parc de la Tête d’Or and the quays of the Rhône river. Especially tricky to get right, say organisers, was reproducing the thousands of windows of the Tower of Part-Dieu skyscraper, while Notre-Dame de Fourvière, with its stained glass windows, took four months of work.
Photos: © Ville de Menton
1. Baby love Receiving glowing critical acclaim is Pupille (English title In Safe Hands), a devastatingly tender and touching drama by Jeanne Henry about the administrative mosaic and emotional turmoil for all concerned in the adoption process of a baby, Theo, given up at birth by his young mother in Brest, Brittany.
French Living I F
Secrets of baking succe New York-based chef Rory Macdonald reveals what it takes to become a top pâtissier and provides two favourite mousse recipes
irst in, last out. That’s the first thing I say to anyone looking to enter this profession. In a restaurant the pastry chefs are there at the beginning and the end of a meal, and in pâtisseries or bakeries, their work often starts just as everyone else goes to bed. It can be tough and relentless, but I have never thought of it as a sacrifice. Whether working as a chef or a pastry chef, this is my job, this is what I do. And if you want to have any sort of success in this career or any career, you have to work hard and be dedicated. It’s not glamorous, but it is rewarding. It’s the little things in life. I still smile every time I tap out a tray of shiny chocolate bonbons, and I’m still proud when my macarons come out with perfectly straight sides or when I speak with a guest who enjoyed their pastry. As Chef David Evans [Macdonald’s first boss, at Nutfield Priory Hotel in Surrey] taught me, success is not about recognition, success is about being proud of what you do. Practice until you get it right, and then take pride in the results, whether it’s in a professional kitchen or at home, a caramel or a croissant. Rules for perfect pastry Pastry making is a discipline. The more you can stick to these guidelines (or, in my world, rules!), the greater your chance of consistency and success. In Chanson’s [Macdonald’s New York pâtisserie] kitchen when my cooks say to me, “Something went wrong, I don’t know what happened, I did everything the same,” I always smile because that’s not how baking works, especially when it comes to pastry. At some point the rules weren’t followed, whether it was the scaling of the recipe, the time of a proof, the
Baking is a skill, a trade, an art form – whatever you want to call it, it takes time, patience, and practice. Don’t be disheartened if your first round of macarons doesn’t rise
temperature or baking time or fan speed of the oven, something was different and it had an affect. When it comes to baking, there is something really satisfying, almost addictive, to following the rules because that way you will get the same results every time. This may sound a little intense, but once you have mastered the following rules, after that you have the knowledge you need to change them. A great example of this is my croissant recipe. Once you have mastered this recipe, the possibilities are endless, from chocolate-raspberry or pistachio to black truffle and prosciutto croissants, all using the same base dough. But only if you follow the rules. Cleanliness This is paramount. In the kitchen it’s actually the most important aspect of our work – if your work area is dirty, then your food is dirty. This is the first and most important thing a young cook will learn and it will serve them for the rest of their careers. The same should be applied to a home cook, too. Being clean and organised will make baking more efficient, less stressful, and more enjoyable – and that’s how baking should be! • Before starting any recipe, empty your dishwasher or fill your sink with soapy water, so you can clean up as you go. This will keep your work surfaces clear, and when you have finished baking, you can sit back and enjoy your creation without an hour’s worth of cleaning ahead of you. • Clear as much counter space as possible; this will help you to keep things clean and organized as you cook. • Get all the necessary equipment out, and have it clean and ready before you start. This way you won’t be stressing out as you search in the back of your cupboards halfway through a recipe. Weigh your ingredients There are many variables in baking –
adding the precise quantity of ingredients called for in a recipe should not be one of them. As every good pastry chef knows, weighing items, preferably on a digital kitchen scale, is the cleanest, fastest, most efficient, and most importantly, accurate method for achieving this. That is why I strongly recommend that you get into the habit of weighing your ingredients rather than measuring them using grams and tablespoons. Here are some examples that demonstrate how weighing can make all the difference when it comes to the success of your pastries, breads, and other baked goods: • One cup of flour might weigh 50 percent more than another, depending on how it is scooped or packed. • Different brands of salt are not equal when measured by volume, so depending on the salt you are using, you could be adding way too much or too little, potentially a significant variable. • Eggs are another massive variable: depending on where you buy them, the weight of six large eggs can vary by as much as 200grams. • When measuring flour, icing sugar or cocoa powder, lightly spoon it into the measuring cup, rather than packing it in or dipping and sweeping the cup through the flour to measure it.
Chocolate mandarin mousse
Oven hot spots Every oven is different and will have hot spots – even convection ovens will have these. So, it is worth your while to try to figure out where they are and how that might affect your baking. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This saying is something I think about every day in the kitchen. “Do we need to change this recipe?” “Is this truly better now that we’ve changed it?” I ask these questions whenever we are testing a new recipe. Did we improve it or are we just changing it because we make it every day and we’re bored? Here’s another way of saying this: “Respect the old but embrace the new.” If you master the classics, then the possibilities are endless. Baking is a skill, a trade, an art form – whatever you want to call it, it takes time, patience, and practice. Don’t be disheartened if your first round of macarons doesn’t rise, or if your first attempt at croissants doesn’t look like the photos. Examine all the variables and see if there was anything you missed so you can come up with a plan for the next round. It can be frustrating, but don’t give up – when you bite into a perfect macaron or croissant that you made yourself, that feeling will outshine any frustration ten-fold! Simplicity isn’t always simple, but it is always the best. Happy baking!
Serves 8 Ingredients 3 sheets gelatin 190g milk zest of 3 Mandarin oranges 2 large egg yolks 30g sugar 225g milk chocolate, preferably Valrhona Bahibé (46% cacao) 25g Mandarin orange juice 225g cream, whipped to soft peaks For the Mandarin glaze 9 sheets gelatin (18g), 250g Mandarin orange puree, 40g glucose or corn syrup and orange liquid food coloring
Extract and recipes from Bake by Rory Macdonald, published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. Recipe photographs by Jade Young
Method 1. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water. 2. In a saucepan, bring the milk and orange zest just to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisking continuously, pour the boiling milk over the eggs and sugar. 3. Return to a clean pan and stir with a spatula in a figure eight motion until the crème anglaise begins to thicken; remove immediately from the heat, add the drained gelatin, and pass it through a fine-mesh sieve, directly over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted, then stir in the orange juice. Allow to cool. 4. In three stages, gently fold in the whipped cream until fully incorpo rated. Using a piping bag or spoon, fill sixteen 3-inch half-sphere moulds three-quarters full. Place in the
freeze until 5. When out o flat si and u the tw a per the fr froze skewe spher freeze 6. Soak soft; d water 7. Heat in a s drain and t sieve. temp therm 8. First aroun too th micro 9. Using dip o into t then exces dip th shoul out th in the Repea mous 10. If ava mand into t Serve temp
Food notes 13
er for at least 3 to 4 hours, or frozen. n frozen solid, push a mousse of the mould and place the two ides together. Working quickly using your fingers smooth, join wo edges together so you have rfectly smooth sphere. Return to reezer. Repeat with the remaining en mousse. Insert large wooden ers into the middle of each re of mousse; leave them in the er. the gelatin in cold water until drain and squeeze out excess r. the orange puree and glucose saucepan. When hot, add the ned gelatin, whisk to incorporate, then pass through a fine-mesh . Reserve at 95°F (or body perature, if you don’t have a mometer) until needed. make sure the temperature is nd 95°F and that the glaze is not hick; if it is place it briefly in the owave until it is liquid again. g the skewer as a handle, quickly one of frozen mousse spheres the glaze, coating it completely, quickly removing it to allow the ss glaze to drip off. Immediately he sphere again—the glaze ld set straightaway. Carefully pull he skewer and reserve the sphere e refrigerator until serving time. at with the remaining frozen sse spheres. ailable, insert some fresh darin orange stalks with leaves the holes made by the skewers. e on dessert plates at room perature.
Photo: Consulat général de France New York
ess Earl Grey and blood orange chocolate mousse Serves 8 Ingredients Hazelnut Dacquoise 9 large egg whites 120g granulated sugar 375g hazelnut flour or ground hazelnuts 10x icing sugar
Chocolate Glaze 300g heavy cream 375g milk 50g neutral glaze 500g dark semisweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Manjari (64% cacao)
Mousse 40g loose Earl Grey tea 375g milk 60g granulated sugar 5 large egg yolks 2 sheets gelatin 450g milk chocolate, preferably Valrhona Jivara Lactee pistoles or bars 450g heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks zest of 3 blood oranges
Method 1. Make the hazelnut dacquoise: Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they become foamy, then gradually sprinkle in the sugar, whisking on full speed after it’s all added until a smooth meringue is achieved. 2. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the hazelnut flour and icing sugar, then using a spatula, fold them into the meringue, mixing gently until fully incorporated. 3. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray, spread the dacquoise evenly over the pan. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until it has a light colour and bounces back when you press with your finger. Let cool on a wire rack. 4. Meanwhile, make the mousse: Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water until soft; drain and squeeze out excess water. Put the tea in a small saucepan and add water just to cover. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until the water has evaporated. TIP: Cooking the tea leaves slightly helps rehydrate them and removes some of the strong tannin flavours, as you would get from over-brewing tea. 5. As soon as the pan is dry, add the milk, bring to just under a boil, then strain over the egg yolks and sugar, whisking continuously. Return to a clean pan and stir with a spatula in a figure eight motion until the crème anglaise begins to thicken; remove immediately from the heat, add the drained gelatin, and pass through a fine-mesh sieve, directly over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted. 6. In three stages, gently fold in the whipped cream until fully incorporated. To line the cake ring or frame, gently press ring or frame over the cooked dacquoise and cut around the ring or frame so you have a tight fitting base, exactly the same size. Lightly spray the sides of the ring or the frame with non- stick spray so it is easier to unmold after it has set. 7. Pour the mousse into the mould or cake ring over the hazelnut dacquoise, place in the refrigerator, and allow a minimum of 4 to 5 hours to set, but ideally over night. 8. To finish the mousse, remove the mousse from the mould or cake ring, ensuring that the dacquoise is on its base, and place in the freezer for at least 3 or 4 hours, but preferably overnight. 9. Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze: In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and mirror glaze and bring to the boil. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and mix well, emulsifying with a whisk or hand blender. Transfer to a heatproof container and allow the glaze to set in the refrigerator. 10. When you’re ready to assemble the mousse, gently melt the chocolate glaze in the microwave; it’s ready to use when it reaches 95°F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, then wait until the glaze is around body temperature before using.) 11. Remove the mousse from the freezer and place it on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet or parchment paper to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over the mousse, allowing the excess to run off, then immediately place the mousse on a plate and return it to the refrigerator to allow the glaze to set. 12. When ready to serve, add one or two blood orange macarons and some caramelized hazelnuts, if you like.
The creepy crawly that left biscuits in the pink
In our series providing a sideways look at French food, we look at how insects gave Reims biscuits a rosy hue
he next time you dip your perfectly pale pink, crisply delicate Biscuit de Reims into a glass of Champagne or vin rouge – its recommended accompaniments – spare a thought for the humble insect to which we owe this sweet treat its famous colouring. The Biscuit Rose dates back to the 1690s in the Champagne region. Bakers, keen to use the residual heat from their oven after unloading bread (other recipes originating in this manner include pommes de terre boulangères), had the idea of creating a special dough which, after having been baked for the first time, was left in the bread oven where it finished drying. This process gave rise to the word bis-
cuit, which means twice-cooked. To give the crunchy snack some more flavour, vanilla pods were initially added but they gave the biscuit an unattractive brownish stain. So one ingenious baker turned to the natural scarlet dye carmine – which comes from the cactus-residing insect cochineal – to conceal the unsightly discolouration. The dye was used in North America and Mexico in the 15th century for colouring fabrics and became an important export good during the colonial era. It was eventually used as a natural food colouring, and also latterly in make-up and to colour medicines and pills. Maison Fossier started in 1756 under the reign of Louis XV, and received a royal certificate in 1825 from Charles X. Today it remains the leading producer of the seemingly simple egg, sugar and flour blend that retains an air de luxe despite its parasitic ancestry!
Love is... a meal served up in a heart-shaped cocotte
Luxury liver delicacy gets a Michelin-starred addition
Valentines across France will either embrace or avoid overpriced restaurant menus this month as February 14 brings out or repeals the romantic in all of us. However, if you prefer to impress a loved one with home-cooked food and a ‘ta-dah!’ moment when you serve up, this cast-iron Staub cocotte is Cupid’s choice. Made in Alsace, its enamelling gives excellent heat retention for slow-cooked perfection. Looks cute, too! Price €199 from www.staub-online.com
Figeac (Lot) foie gras producer Jean Larnaudie has been in business since 1951 but still moves with the times to keep up with evolving customer tastes. For its latest recipes is has teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Eric Guérin to create two new ‘mi-cuit’ specialities. Le Plaisir brings hints of Calvados, fennel seed, Guérande salt and Tellicherry pepper, while Réserve 1951 is luxurious tribute to the company’s origins. Price €16.90 to €44.90 (120 to 340g) from www.en.larnaudie.com
French Living I February 2019
Sowing the seeds of a mustard boom Photos: Fallot
Mustard is the ultimate French condiment. Connexion reports on the only French moutarde maker to grow its own seeds
RECIPE: Fillet of beef with carrots and Fallot blackcurrant mustard
rance produces the most mustard in Europe and 80% comes from the Côte-d’Or in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. However, people may be surprised to learn that France grows very little of the mustard plant which produces the seeds which are turned into this popular condiment. Up until recently, the vast majority was imported, mostly from Canada and eastern Europe and it is only since 2000 that farmers have begun to grow it again – last year, 30% was home produced. Before the Second World War all mustard was grown locally and it has always been a very important part of Burgundy’s gastronomy. It was introduced into France under the Roman Empire and was appreciated for its medicinal qualities – it has long been known for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. Queen Victoria famously used mustard seeds in her bath to improve circulation. In the Middle Ages the Dukes of Burgundy favoured this condiment at their feasts, first to ease digestion during their copious banquets and then for its taste. Soon they were exporting mustard to royal families all over Europe. At first vinegar was used to make the mustard, but then verjus (unripe grape juice), was used to make a better product and Burgundy was ideally situated to provide the grapes from its numerous vineyards.
Fallot is one of the leading campaigners to make mustard 100% French again
The plant was often grown by charcoal manufacturers, because it grew well in the soil which was left after the trees had been burnt and it also provided additional income for them. However, charcoal burning began to die out as an activity and with it the mustard crops. After the Second World War, farmers were encouraged to grow much needed food crops and by the end of the 1980s, mustard crops had virtually disappeared, replaced by the more lucrative Colza. Yet mustard continued to be made in the region and so the seeds had to be imported. Burgundy is still the main mustard producing region of France. There are four
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 slices of beef fillet (150g) 1 violet carrot juice of a lemon 200g carrots ½ litre orange juice Blackcurrant mustard salt, pepper, beef stock, chive flowers, olive oil, thyme
Method 1. Wash, peel and cut the carrots.
Cook them in ½ litre of orange juice, mix them to a purée then season. 2. Wash the violet carrot and cook it with its skin, with the juice of a lemon, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil, in an oven at 180°C for 15 mins. 3. Cut it in four immediately on taking it out of the oven. 4. Cook the beef to your taste. Put the beef on a plate, covered with a serving of blackcurrant mustard and small pieces of violet carrot, a quenelle of orange-flavoured carrot purée, chive flowers, a chunk of violet carrot and a spoonful of beef stock. Serve.
To make sure that the mustard does not dry out, put a slice of lemon on the mustard in its jar and put the top on carefully. Recipes www.fallot.com companies which dominate the market: Amora-Maille (Unilever), Reine de Dijon (Develey), Européenne de Condiments (Kühne) and Maison Fallot. Maison Fallot in Beaune is the only one which has not been overtaken by a multi-national company and it has been in the same family since 1840. It has been one of the leading campaigners to make mustard 100% French again, and it still grinds its mustard seeds using stone mill wheels. The CEO is Marc Désarménien, the grandson of founder Edmond Fallot: “This year we expect to use 100% locally grown mustard seed. Last year we were already up to 60% and we are very proud of this fact,” he said. One of the company’s main products is Moutarde de Bourgogne, which was created in 2009 with a European Protected Geographical label – which shows that all its ingredients are local. So is this a Dijon Mustard, the king of mustards from Burgundy? “The name Dijon Mustard refers to a recipe,” says Mr Désarménien, “which means it can be made anywhere in the world. It is why we introduced a new label which is guaranteed local. The new Burgundy Mustard is inspired by the original and traditional
Above: Some of the mustards that Fallot create using their homegrown seeds; Inset: a bestseller in production after being stored in huge barrels to eliminate bitterness
recipes for Dijon Mustard, and we have added Burgundy white wine, which makes it a little less bitter and creates a more gastronomic product.” In his mill, the mustard is made from mustard seed, verjus and flavourings and spices. The seed comes from the Brassica Juncea Czern and Cosson variety which is commonly known as brown mustard or Indian Mustard and is a vigorous variety with an excellent flavour and it is the main ingredient in Dijon type mustards. When the seeds arrive at the Fallot mill, they are first washed and then sent to a vibrating winnowing machine which eliminates any parasites, grass seeds and other foreign bodies. They are then weighed and put into vats where they are steeped in a mixture of vinegar, water and salt. This will make it easier to separate the husk from the kernel. They are then milled by granite stones which Maison Fallot prefers because it says it prevents the mixture from being overheated so that it retains all its flavour. The mixture is then passed through huge sieves to get rid of the kernels, un-
less it is moutarde à l’ancienne when the seeds are, of course, kept in. The final step is placing the mustard into barrels where it is kept for several hours so that it will lose its bitterness and due to a chemical reaction it will release its mustard taste. It is then ready to be bottled. An increasing number of different seasonings are now added to mustards, for example at Fallot you can buy it flavoured with Dijon blackcurrants, tarragon, walnuts, green pepper, basil, pinot noir and even gingerbread. Fallot makes 2,000 tonnes of quality mustard a year, which is just a fraction of the 75,000 tonnes produced in the region. However, Mr Désarménien says the future is promising as sales continue to rise each year: “It is a trending product, which is increasingly popular with customers who want to know where their food comes from. In cooking people no longer want to make an elaborate sauce; using a good quality olive oil and mustard is all that is necessary for a gourmet meal.” The Fallot Mustard Mill in Beaune is open all year round. Booking required. See www.fallot.com
Wine and Cheese 15
énépi is a herbal liqueur, traditionally made in the Alps using wormwood (Artemisia, pictured above) which is indigenous to the region, and which is also used to make absinthe. It is usually drunk as a digestif, but has also been known to make an appearance from an inside pocket if the mountain winds are particularly fierce. Génépi has been made in the Alps since the Middle Ages, often by monks. It was only commercially produced from the 19th century, and only became more widely known with the development of the ski industry in the Alps during the second half of the last century. It is made by steeping wormwood and sugar in a colourless spirit such as vodka or pure grain alcohol. Recipes vary all across the Alps, many people making their own versions to a family recipe. The natural colour varies from pale gold to a light olive, although some have added colouring to make it bright green. One of the best-known brands is made by Chartreuse, and Export Director Philippe Rochez says that since the 1980s génépi has become increasingly wellknown. “Restaurant owners often offer diners a free glass at the end of a meal so people associate it with Alpine hospitality, making it a perfect souvenir.” The Chartreuse monks have been making distilled drinks for four centuries, each with its own secret recipe. Their recipe for génépi involves harvesting the flowers in August and then macerating them in 40% proof wine alcohol and sugar for several weeks. “Everyone has their own secrets and, of course, we aren’t giving ours away. You just have to taste it and you’ll know that it’s top quality.” Génépi is normally drunk after a meal as a shot, or nicely chilled over an icecube. But people enjoy it all year round and it is even possible to buy ‘sachets génépi’ on the internet in order to have a bash at making your own. If you want to branch out, try a shot of génépi in a glass of chilled, dry, white wine as an apéro or – as a refresher on a hot day – a shot of génépi and a shot of mint syrup in a tall glass topped up with ice and fizzy water.
Artisan cheese of the month: Soumaintrain Photo: CandBee
Meet the producers
February 2019 I French Living
A raw cow’s milk cheese with a pungent aroma, this soft, unpressed fermier (farmhouse) cheese is produced by a group of just five farmers in the Burgundy region. It gets its name from a small village in Yonne. Its origins are thought to date back as far as the 12th century when Cistercian monks in the region paid their landrent in soft cheeses with washed rinds such as this. In keeping with the tradition for imbibing local tipples with native fromages, it is recommended to accompany Soumaintrain with a glass of Burgundy white such as Chablis. The cheese was awarded the label IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) in June 2016.
Local speciality: Navarin d’agneau
Few French dishes speak of their seasonality quite like a navarin d’agneau, a rich, slow-cooked shoulder of lamb ragoût (stew) usually featuring fresh spring vegetables. As well as staples such as carrots and potatoes, an essential addition is some navets, turnips, from which the dish is said to have got its name. A version is available to reheat, in 750g jars from www.bienmanger.com
Some vintage wines are worth much more than their original price
Like it or not, every wine has its price Vigneron Jonathan Hesford on what makes some wines more desirable than others A year in the vineyard
ast month I tried to lay out the reasons why some wines cost a lot more to produce than others. However, production costs do not always account for how a particular wine is priced in the market or why people are prepared to pay more for some bottles than others. There are several reasons why a wine might be a lot more valuable to the customer than the production cost implies. The first is flavour and the second is desirability. The enjoyment of a bottle wine is not determined by production costs. All the things I mentioned last month such as farming methods, yield, winemaking equipment, barrel-ageing and quality of packaging do not necessarily make a wine smell or taste any better. We have all bought bottles that promise a great experience but fail to deliver in the glass. Many consumers cannot tell the difference between a decent wine and what a connoisseur would regard as a truly great wine. For most people, a wine that has sufficient concentration and does not have any noticeable faults is all they are looking for. Subtleties like length, complexity, balance, mouthfeel and minerality are not important. In fact some qualities like tannin and acidity that a wine enthusiast may enjoy are actually disliked by many
Wealthy wine connoisseurs are willing and able spend ridiculous amounts to obtain rare bottles
casual wine drinkers. Great wine is an acquired taste. Terroir is important and even with all the latest equipment and most expensive consultants, it is difficult to make a great wine from grapes that were grown in soils and climates that are unsuitable for their grape variety. Sometimes wine producers try too hard to make wines to impress. Low yields and lots of new oak barrels can lead to wines that may do well in a competition but turn out to be too powerful and oaky to be enjoyed with a meal. When considering desirability, we should remember that wine is a product that can improve with age in the bottle. Therefore a wine that is known or believed to improve and deliver a greater taste sensation in the future is worth more than one which is not. Potential is worth paying for. At the top end, wines are bought for their fame and rarity value. Some of these wines, primarily famous Bordeaux and Burgundies, also have a significant investment value attached to them. Cases of Château Lafite and Domaine de la Romanée Conti can be sold at auction for much more than was originally paid. Many of those wines are sadly now beyond the means of most connoisseurs and belong more in a portfolio than a cellar. Wealthy wine connoisseurs, or wanabee connoisseurs, are willing and able to spend ridiculous amounts to obtain rare bottles for their collection. I remember reading articles in Wine Spectator about dotcom billionaires who suddenly developed a desire to build themselves beautiful cellars and fill them with the most famous and critically acclaimed wines on the planet. That led to a huge increase in prices. The same is happening today due to wealthy Chinese businessmen developing a desire for wine. The top wines will now cost several thousand Euros a bottle if you can find them for sale. Packaging, advertising and marketing can all be used to increase desirability.
Consumers can be fooled by heavyweight bottles and luxurious labels. Wine is a perfect product for psychological marketing techniques such as product-placement, celebrity endorsement, exclusivity and fake rarity to encourage people to pay much more that the wine is really worth. For example, Cloudy Bay developed a sales strategy in the UK where they would combine advertising with restricted availability in prestigious shops like Harvey Nichols to sell the wine at two or three times the price of an equally good Kiwi Sauvignon blanc. So how does the budding wine aficionado who does not play for PSG or work for Goldman Sachs manage to buy and drink really great wine? The good news is that there are lots of high-quality mid-priced wines in the world and there are always new producers in less famous regions coming out with amazing wines. The key is to learn to spot the real bargains. I do not mean what a supermarket is pretending to sell on a discount. I mean looking at regions like the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, Alsace and South West France that are sometimes off the radar. Try avoiding the most heavily advertised wines or those in ostentatious bottles. Read wine magazines and online resources to discover new producers. Buying age-worthy wines to drink in five to 10 years time is also a smart way to enjoy fine wines without breaking the bank. By developing confidence in your own taste, learning to look for clues on the label and buying from trusted independent merchants or direct from producers, great value can be found. Jonathan Hesford has a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology and is the winemaker of Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon – www.domainetreloar.com. If you have questions on this column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
French Living I February 2019
Cottage style means refined and rustic Photos:Courtney Allison
Courtney Allison reveals her passion for French country cottages and how to style your own home on a rural theme
ne of the things that I struggled with when we bought our cottage was that it was just that – a cottage. It was built as a holiday house and, as such, had an informal floor plan, and I longed for more elegance and formal spaces rather than a more simple style. With worn wood floors, rooms with awkward layouts and quirks, it was the farthest thing from elegant. I started out trying to embrace that more rustic style – and then a quick stop in a secondhand shop one day led to the first piece that gave me the confidence to follow my more elegant, French-inspired design dreams in this cottage. It was a simple vintage chandelier with a brassy patina, lots of crystals, and candlestick holders yellowed with age. My heart pounded at the thought of hanging it in the kitchen. I imagined those crystals sending light through the room and how elegant it would be even in a more rustic space – and I turned around and bought a chandelier that I didn’t even know worked. The kitchen light when we moved in was a 1960s ceiling fan with a lovely beer bottle pull, and when that came down and that one simple vintage chandelier went up in the kitchen and the lights went on the first time, my heart soared. My husband even nodded and thought it was perfect. That chandelier changed the kitchen game. It instantly elevated a simple room, giving it the feeling that it was much more important. And that was the piece that was the start of finding my style and the confidence to trust the vision. That chandelier led to a second, a third, and many more, and each time the effect was the same. As that old rustic cottage started to feel a bit more refined, I realised that the difference between an ordinary space and one that knocks your socks off might not be as big a change as I had originally thought it would be. It might not involve top-to-bottom renovations or fancy floors and formal spaces; it might be something simple like a fresh coat of paint and a little bit of jewellery in a room. Over the years, my style has evolved as I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a fabric or a paint colour or a craving for more or less in a room. But even as some of my taste has changed, I have stayed with the mix and mingle of refined and rustic, and with the elements that I love.
Elements of the style: Palate The French country cottage palette is made up of textures you might find in nature, along with sun-bleached, faded colors, soft florals, and that delightful silvery colour of weathered wood. The subtle softness of old linen washed a
in the hallway. It was simple, and there were more frames than mirrors, but the arrangement brought a bit of reflected light to that long, dark corridor, and with something on the wall, a small, unimportant in-between space instantly felt interesting. My favourite mirrors are ones that are well worn and no longer reflect as well as they once did; those brassy, gilded, framed mirrors with the mottled looking glass that shows more black areas than silver make my knees weak every single time. OLD METALS Copper cookware is quintessentially French. I love my copper pots and pans, dents and all. I love old and new – and love finding ways to incorporate the pieces into my decor. Old copper moulds and bowls are charming on the shelf but also to use in the kitchen on the counter to hold odds and ends. Brass candlesticks are some of my absolute favourites on a table. Mixed pieces that are various heights, sizes and styles somehow come together to create a cohesive look on the table. Always on the flea market list are old silver pieces. And while I love shiny finishes, I’ve also found a love for letting them tarnish to that dark, blackened look. With pale pink roses, the mix is undeniably charming.
Get the look With astute French high street and online buys, you can emulate Courtney’s simple rustic chic look ... Prices and availability correct at time of going to press.
hundred times is perfection, as are the pale blushes, shades of white and chippy patina that exposes layer upon layer of vintage goodness. PATINA The patina of antiques speaks to me so loudly. In my home, patina and texture make an appearance on everything from the furniture to the linens to the architecture. Sometimes it is simple, such as the knot holes and detailing on the wood plank walls and the handrubbed finish on the wood on the buffet. And sometimes it is more intricate, such as the delicate, handpainted florals on the china cabinet in the bedroom. ANTIQUES Antiques and vintage play a big role in my style. Sometimes I’ll find a piece that I am drawn to instantly: a sideboard at the flea market, or an oil painting. There are the always-in-season pieces – vintage French chairs, mottled mirrors, old zinc buckets – which are snapped up right away, of course; but an unexpected find might become a favourite.
Above: Courtney’s cottage cuisine; Inset: Copper pans are a must-have for an authentic rustic French kitchen
Simple utility pieces – such as stools and chairs with broken caning, missing spindles and torn fabric seats – seem to always find their way into my home. Even in a less-than-usable state, they are perfect for tucking into a corner. Another favourite are small Florentine nesting tables. I don’t hesitate to grab another set or single table when I bump into them. VINTAGE TABLEWARE I am one of those people who have a hard time walking by vintage cups, plates and platters at a garage sale. Dishes with delicate details such as florals or embossed patterns and gilded rims always catch my eye. They often have imperfections – old stains on ironstone or a few chips or missing gilding – but if I love the pattern, those pieces will find a home with me.
Extracted from French Country Cottage by Courtney Allison, published by Gibbs Smith. Available to buy from www. gibbs-smith.com.
CHANDELIERS Filling a room with light that bounces around like a little breeze quite simply makes it feel magical. I have no shame in admitting that I might have a room or two with more than one – and yes, even more than two – chandeliers in it. In my opinion, the more crystals, the better. MIRRORS I once gathered up a dozen or so mirrors and old frames of various sizes and created a wall of empty frames and mirrors
Who’s the fairest of them all? If finding an original, wellworn miroir at market or brocante proves elusive, try one with a readymade vintage look such as this one from Maisons du Monde. Price €279.90. www.maisonsdumonde.com Ceiling with feeling Light can bounce around the room beautifully from a chandelier, and there are some lowcost alternatives to antique ones, such as this from Conforama. Luminaire in metal and plastic, priced €43.99 from www.conforama.fr Pans people Copper pans not only conduct heat superbly but also ensure a romantic French country feel when hung from a cuisine wall. Alsacemade set of 5 Baumalu pots €157.49. www.cdiscount.com
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French Living I February 2019
Bilingual cryptic crossword
by Parolles Answers are in French and English Across
1 Benoit’s rock band joined by American singer after the third of March (6) 4 Standard English boxes just perfect for Jacques (8) 10 Arsene’s payment of Eve’s rent fluctuated over months (9) 11 Find oneself eventually getting a goal and winning (3,2) 12 Danton’s to deny being concerned with turning to the queen (4) 13 Help girl on the way back with small geographical aids (6,4) 15 Stop before finding Delphine’s dumbbell (7) 16 Write in French about preparation of rice earlier (6) 19 Got to know from books on old king (6) 21 Keep everything in large bag (7) 23 Where York is housing Hungarians initially for free (2,3,5) 25 Extremely lucky against City in France (4) 27 Simone’s health worker resides in the Nice area (5) 28 King interrupts dreadfully pedantic old preacher (9) 29 Amusement park originally on fields close to river (8) 30 River to divide before the start of Northamptonshire (6)
1 Clergyman finds article on revolutionary’s revenge in Paris (8) 2 Luchini at the outset gripped by nice role created by French dramatist (9) 3 Girl needing new flat (4) 5 French fellow’s girl keeping to it at first (7) 6 No one will be charged for scrap (4-3-3) 7 Country road running back across the earliest of dykes in Northern Ireland (5) 8 Divulge the identity of former model (6) 9 Draw back from cancelling decree (6) 14 People rescuing dogs (10) 17 Willing female servant reportedly available immediately (5-4) 18 Working with Ken primarily in factory producing fish food? (8) 20 Le Pen’s to deceive with rumour served up implicating migrant leader (7) 21 House on street on the outskirts of Epinal becomes a residence for students (6) 22 Appears suddenly when dad’s in court (4,2) 24 Tons at stake for Gisele’s aunt (5) 26 Upset for example without it in holiday accommodation in Biarritz (4)
by John Foley Note all answers are words or names associated with France Across
1 Bourges-born impressionist painter Berthe _______ (7)
1 Exactly the right word (3,5)
4 Sign in musical notation indicating lowering a note by a semitone (5) 7 Receptacle for tea, coffee, etc (5) 9 Wine district north-west of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Gironde (5) 10 Oiseau for foie gras (3) 11 Ballot box (4) 12 Roue dentée qui fait partie d’un engrenage (6)
Q: Located in Finistère, Le Roc’h Ruz is the highest point in Brittany at 385metres. Which area is it in?
5 Wine named after city in the Saône-et-Loire department in Bourgogne-Franche Comté (5) 6 Third movement of Debussy’s Suite bergamasque – Clair de ____ (4) 8 Long-tailed primate (5) 13 Potage à base de viande ou de légumes (8)
16 Day-to-day book (6) 20 Simple et ingénu (4)
14 Commune in the Seine-Maritime department – until the 16th century the principal seaport in north-western France (8)
21 Place specialising in wild animals (3)
17 Simple or silly (5)
23 Back part of the foot (5) 24 Dead ringer (5)
18 19th-century composer best known for his setting of the Latin prayer Ave Maria (6)
25 A cuddle or hug (5)
19 The whole amount of something (5)
26 Honoré-Victorin _______, 19th-century caricaturist and printmaker (7)
21 Counter in a bar or café (4) 22 Born of or descended from – ____ de (4)
Like our quiz?
Ardèche: fact or fiction?
Q: WHICH of these statements about the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes department of Ardèche is false? A. Its administrative centre is the least populated in France B. The department does not have a single passenger rail station C. It is the only department named after a river that does not go through any other department D. It has the biggest proportion of village, town and other place names containing the word ‘Saint
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LOCATED in the west of Brittany, Finistère’s capital is Quimper while its most populous town is Brest. The region’s name means ‘End of the earth’ – similar to Land’s End in Cornwall.
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IT was a feat of epic proportions when on August 8, 1786, mountaineer and guide Jacques Balmat became the first person to scale Mont Blanc. His subsequent account of the climb was criticised, however, when he downplayed the role played by his co-climber, physician Michel-Gabriel Paccard. And in the ultimate irony, this conqueror of all things icy met a hot demise – he fell asleep with his pipe in hand and died in a fire in 1834.
1 True or false?
3 Person who has witnessed a crime or accident (6)
15 Precious objects hidden (6) 19 Knitted jumper or pullover (6)
Fun French facts
2 Exude sweat (4)
ers language teas
February 2019 I French Living
Test your knowledge of France with our Connexion quiz
8 Which famous chef gave his name to the covered marketplace in Lyon and died in January 2018? 9 Which French artist is known as a pioneer of street photography? 10 Can you name the actress who used to learn her lines or nap in a coffin to help prepare for roles? 11 The Terror is said to have ended on the 28th July 1794 with the death of which Revolutionary politician? 12 On February 2, French people eat crêpes. In pagan times this was to celebrate longer daylight hours, later
18 Claude Nougaro composed an anti-racist song in 1967 paying homage to which jazz musician? 19 Known for its astronomical observatory, how high is the Pic du Midi? 20 What kind of animal is the French equivalent of the tooth fairy?
Photo: Christopher Hall - Fotolia.com
17 Which 2011 hit comedy series aired two minute episodes narrated in the first person during Le Grand Journal (a nightly news and talk show) on Canal+?
Guess the region This is the sardine fishing port of Douarnenez in Finistère (meaning ‘Earth’s End’) Brittany. Photo by Donatienne Guillaudeau/CRT Bretagne
16 How do you spell the homonyms “almond” and “fine” (as in a penalty) in French?
Can you complete the following titles? “La cigale et la …”, “Le corbeau et le …”
7 What does FFL stand for?
15 How many times has France won the football world cup?
Quiz 1 Rétais, 2 Masculine, 3 Tarn-et-Garonne (82), Lot-et-Garonne (47), and Haute-Garonne (31), 4 Jean-Michel Blanquer, 5 “clef ” and “clé”, 6 “La cigale et la fourmi” and “Le corbeau et le renard” are two 17th C fables by Jean de la Fontaine, 7 “Forces Françaises Libres”, 8 Paul Bocuse, 9 Henri Cartier-Bresson, 10 Sarah Bernhardt, 11 Maximilien Robespierre, 12 La Chandeleur, 13 1295, 14 Tartuffe, 15 Twice; in 1998 and 2018, 16“Amande”, “amende” , 17 Bref, 18 Louis Armstrong, 19 2877 metres, 20 A mouse.
14 Which eponymous character from a play by Molière has become symbolic of hypocrisy?
5 What are the two accepted spellings of “key” in French?
13 In what year did the Auld Alliance begin?
Bilingual cryptic crossword Across: 1 Rocher, 4 Parfaire, 10 Versement, 11 End up, 12 Nier, 13 Relief maps, 15 Haltère, 16 Écrire, 19 Learnt, 21 Holdall, 23 On the house, 25 Lyon, 27 Sante, 28 Predicant, 29 Pleasure, 30 Severn.
4 Can you name France’s current Minister of National Education?
on Christians celebrated Jesus being brought to the Temple. What is this day called in French?
Down: 1 Revanche, 2 Corneille, 3 Even, 5 Antoine, 6 Free-for-all, 7 India, 8 Expose, 9 Recede, 14 Retrievers, 17 Ready-made, 18 Plankton, 20 Tromper, 21 Hostel, 22 Pops up, 24 Tante, 26 Gite.
3 How many departments are named after the Garonne river?
Take the first letter from the first word in the answers to questions 10, 14 and 16 and the first letter of the second word in answers 10 and 18 to spell out the French word for giblets or offal, which are very popular in Lyonnais cuisine.
French-themed crossword Across: 1 Morisot, 4 bémol, 7 tasse, 9 Médoc, 10 oie, 11 urne, 12 pignon, 15 trésor, 16 agenda, 19 tricot, 20 naïf, 21 zoo, 23 talon, 24 sosie, 25 câlin, 26 Daumier.
2 Is the word “tentacle” (“tentacule”) masculine or feminine in French?
Try our quiz
Down: 1 mot juste, 2 suer, 3 témoin, 4 badinage, 5 Mâcon, 6 lune, 8 singe, 13 bouillon, 14 Harfleur, 17 niais, 18 Gounod, 19 total, 21 zinc, 22 issu.
1 What are inhabitants of the Île de Ré called?
Fun French facts 1 False – he died falling off a cliff. 2. Monts d’Arrée. 3 C. Loiret, Nièvre, Drôme and Vendée share this particularity.
Guess the region...
Clue: Packed in like sardines at the end of the earth...
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...
20 Reviews French films A critical eye on the latest ciné releases Return of the Hero
French Living I February 2019 Tropic of Violence Nathacha Appanah, Maclehose Press Editions, £14.99 ISBN: 978-0-85705-773-0 IF YOU fancy a glimpse of a France far removed from the one most of us know geographically and socially – you could do much worse than pick up Tropic of Violence, a short but hard-hitting novel set on the newest French department Mayotte. At the same time gritty and poetic, it tells of a French nurse, Marie, who moves to this far-flung island in the sea between Madagascar and Mozambique, to marry her boyfriend (who is Mahorais – the term for some-
one from Mayotte) only to find herself dumped a few years later when another woman catches his eye. It may be France’s poorest region but Mayotte is still wealthier than its neighbouring islands and a target for refugees who come on rickety boats and face early-morning queues for paperwork (with which some British readers may now sympathise...), often suffering from injuries and illnesses. One of them, a young woman, abandons her baby with Marie, who brings
him up only to die of a brain tumour – the opening pages of her memories turn out to be her life flashing before her eyes. The focus is then on the boy, Moïse, moving startlingly into a scenario where he has killed another youth who abused him. He later gets mixed up in gang violence in an infamous slum – far from the typical idea of an island paradise.
Books – The 20 minute review
We read recent releases with a link to France. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time Laurent Tirard; 90 mins This charming, knowingly daft historical drama set in the Napoleonic era provides the perfect platform for Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin to do what he does best – ooze smug charm combined with hints of vulnerability. Dujardin plays the imperiously named Capitaine Charles-Grégoire Neuville, an army officer who has only just asked for the hand in marriage of young noblewoman Pauline (Noémie Merlant) when he is called up to go to war against the British. A distraught Noémie is reassured by the captain’s promise of a daily letter from the frontline. Needless to say the letters dry up and it is left to Pauline’s older sister Elisabeth (Mélanie Laurent) to keep her sibling’s dwindling spirits up – she does this by sending her a stream of self-penned letters purporting to be from the captain. The adventures she details make the soldier seem like the most extraordinary fighter of his era, a man of extreme courage and guile, and he basks in the glow of this deferred glory when he eventually returns to the village, with not a hint of revealing his true history. The tit-for-tat trickery as Elisabeth and Neuville try to outwit each other is great fun. Add plenty of romance, manor house intrigue and big-budget, all-action swashbuckling scenes and you have a very enjoyable period romp.
Also out: Colette
Keira Knightly is superb in this well-received portrayal of French writer SidonieGabrielle Colette. We follow Colette’s path from country girl to literary circle figure and writer, egged on – perhaps cruelly as is implied – by her man, the literary entrepreneur ‘Willy’. A high quality drama.
Lauragais Colin Duncan Taylor, Matador £12.99 ISBN: 978-178901-583-6
The Princesse de Clèves, Madame de Lafayette (translated by Nancy Mitford), Riverrun Editions, £8.99 ISBN: 978-1-78747-058-3
YOU may not have heard of the Lauragais – but that is the point of this book, a vividly descriptive bid to encourage people to visit an area which, author Colin Duncan Taylor, who has lived there for two decades, says modern life and tourists have largely passed by. Pronounced Lo-ra-gay, Taylor says “once you scrape below the surface” of the area “you will discover a land steeped in history and soaked in blood” (notably that of the Cathars who died in the Albigensian crusades, or later on of Protestants). He says this region of hills, walled towns and villages, dotted with forts, abbeys and sail-less windmills is not one where you learn about history in a museum but rather you “stumble across it in a country stroll”, “hear it spoken” in dialect in the market, or “pull it over your head in the shape of a pastel-dyed garment” – referring to woad, made from a plant grown there and used for a blue dye that was once exported all over Europe. He succeeds in revealing depths beneath the landscapes which may otherwise flash by on the A61, combining tales from history with his own explorations and anecdotes from locals; from a neighbour who shows off his medieval cellar equipped to withstand a siege, to the owner of the only inhabited Cathar castle, whose resident ghost is “always grey but isn’t disagreeable”.
Renoir’s Dancer, Catherine Hewitt Icon Books £9.90 ISBN: 978-178578-305-0
NICOLAS Sarkozy – not known for his artistic sensibilities – famously dislikes La Princesse de Clèves, saying it was ridiculous civil servants had to answer questions on it in exams. So much so it sold like hot cakes among those opposed to his economic policies who sported ‘I’m reading La Princesse de Clèves’ badges. This tale of illicit love and of intrigue among factions at the 16th century court of Henry II may seem removed from today’s practicalities, but is hailed by literature lovers as one of the first great novels and noted for its exploration of the characters’ feelings as opposed to just narration of adventures. This new edition is a reprint of a 1950 translation by Nancy Mitford, an aristocratic English writer who lived in Paris and who was described by a French magazine as ‘England’s gift to France’ (she is also known for the expression ‘U and non-U’ about how to recognise someone’s class from the words they use). According to a new introduction by her biographer Selina Hastings, Mitford wrote to Evelyn Waugh she was ‘translating it in hopes of showing the English what French society is like, because that’s exactly what it’s like to this day’. Author Madame de Lafayette had much in common with her – an aristocrat with a literary salon and who loved life in Paris where she lived amicably estranged from her husband, a rural gentleman 18 years her senior from the Auvergne, who she saw every few years. When the book came out in the era of Sun King Louis XIV it was an immediate success, sparking much debate about whether or not the heroine was right to have admitted to her husband her love for another man, much as friends might discuss soap plots today. The heroine is a young lady who is taken to court by her ambitious mother and ends up married to a respectable man who is infatuated by her but for whom she just feels a lukewarm respect, much to his disappointment. Then the king introduces her to the charming Duc de Nemours at a ball, sparking off romantic feelings between the two. The first few pages deliver an almost overwhelming catalogue of information about different people at the court (there is a handy glossary at the back) but it gets more interesting once the spotlight turns to the new ‘beauty’, the future Princess, who has just made her admired debut at court. Most characters apart from the heroine are historical figures, from Catherine de’ Medici to Mary, Queen of Scots.
BORN the illegitimate daughter of a widowed laundry worker in rural Limousin in 1865, Suzanne – real name MarieClémentine – Valadon, had an inauspicious start in life. Nonetheless she went on to become a model to famous painters including Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec and, inspired by them, became a successful painter herself, the first female member of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts and owner of a large medieval chateau. There is doubtless an exciting story to be told here, but it is questionable whether Renoir’s Dancer (named after the cover image, a well-loved Renoir of her dancing with a male friend) pulls it off with the panache its subject deserves. It opens with a confusing preamble about an event some years after her death then details her mother’s early struggles and social aspects and superstitions of the Limousin before Marie-Clémentine arrives as a pretty baby some 25 pages in. It continues in chronological style as mother and child move to Montmartre. Well-researched, and livened up with descriptive scene-setting and occasional direct quotes so it sometimes resembles a novel more than a biography, it nonetheless may have benefited from more focus on high points and less minutiae.
Time to get fruity with these French phrases Language notes
iven France’s obsession with, and love for, fresh produce, it is hardly surprising that a cursory browse of the fruit and vegetables displayed at your local market might inadvertently trigger a food-related idiom or two. There are many to choose from. Some of these fruity phrases used in everyday conversation are sweet and innocuous, just like their edible inspirations – for example, avoir la banane (literally, to have the banana) means to have a big smile, while avoir la pèche (to have the peach) is used to describe being in good form or feeling great (feeling peachy, perhaps!). Less kindly in nature, especially when one is describing an adult and not a child, is the delightful ‘il/elle est haut(e) comme trois pommes (he/she is as tall as three apples).
Less kindly in nature is ‘il est haut comme trois pommes’
Turning to more practical matters... couper la poire en deux (to cut the pear in two) means to split the difference, or go halves, such as when paying a restaurant bill. If a driver is in trouble with the law and gets a ticket (this is called un PV or procès-verbal) you could say ‘il s’est prit une prune’ – literally ‘he got given a plum’. The implication is that a plum is worthless, and this reputation is said to date back to the Crusades, when the Crusaders were defeated and could only bring back the roots of plum trees from Damascus from which they tasted their delicious fruits. Upon their return, the King expressed dismay at them having gone all that way for nothing but plums. To do something ‘pour des prunes’ means to do something for nothing. Until the 19th century prendre une prune was also argot for getting a punch in the face.
Shopping/Did you know? 21
February 2019 I French Living
QUOI DE NEUF?
New products, designs and ideas from around France
ROM and Butch is the company name of two friends – Romain Desmaretz (33) and Vincent Lipowicz (39, a former butcher who retrained as a carpenter) – who create unique wood and metal furniture pieces in their workshop in Saint-Mamet-la-Salvetat, Cantal (AuvergneRhône-Alpes). The metal they use comes mainly from scrap, while the wood is sourced at local sawmills and is always French oak, chestnut, walnut or ash. Vincent is passionate about cutting wood with a jigsaw, and he creates elegant decorations made of vertical panels and works on the details of wooden objects. Bookcase shown: €820. https://fullmaya.com/8_rom-butch
Some original settlers from Aveyron pictured in Argentina in 1905; Inset: Pigüé residents visiting St-Côme-d’Olt
Argentine town created by Aveyron adventurers Did you know?
Fun for all the family
Pompier pullovers THE eco-responsible clothing brand 1083 has taken the ‘circular’ economy by creating sweaters made up to 65% from recycled firemen’s jumpers. Their new “18 – Volunteer” pull – is available for men and women and is entirely recycled, spun, dyed, designed, knitted and made in the Tarn. It bears the pompiers’ phone number and the word Volontaire. Price: €99. www.1083.fr
‘THE only game that can be enjoyed as much by granny as by her grandchildren’ is how Quilles Molle – the French-made version of the Finnish game Mölkky – is billed. This skittleslike game was originally conceived as an outdoor summer game but Nantes designer Clément Levesque decided to create an entirely French version to be enjoyed in the comfort of the living room – made with ecologically responsible Pyrenean beech wood and Angoulême felt. €43.90 for a set. www.quillemolle.fr
Putting the posh into pochettes FAMILY-RUN fashion accessories company Inès de Parcevaux – with sisters Inès and Sophie at the helm – produces a wide range of foulards (scarves) but it was these vibrant clutch bags that caught our eye for springtime. The bags are made in Lille while the chains are created at the company’s headquarters in Boulogne Billancourt. Price €45. www.inesdeparcevaux.com
igüé is a town in Argentina, south-west of Buenos Aires which would never have existed had it not been for a group of 180 people from the Aveyron who decided to set up home there in 1884. Back then, it was open countryside with a very low population, now it is a thriving urban area with more than 13,000 people. Echoes of its French origins can be found if you listen carefully, as there are still a few elderly people who speak Occitan – the regional language in the Aveyron – and many people speak French as it is taught in primary schools. In the 1880’s life was hard in the Aveyron, or Rouergue as it was called then. Families were big, the soil was poor and the phylloxera epidemic had destroyed the vines. Some were tempted to emigrate. One, Clément Cabanettes, born near St-Côme-d’Olt in 1851 into a family of eleven, responded to a call from Argentina for soldiers to help fight their revolution. He stayed when peace was established and was attracted by the huge, open, fertile landscape of the pampus. He started exploring and 600km south of Buenos Aires he came upon an area which reminded him of his homeland: “It looks like Aubrac (a plateau in Aveyron) in July,” he said. The Argentine government was actively looking for immigrants and so he
reserved 270 lots of 100 hectares each. In Buenos Aries, he met another Aveyronnais, François Issaly, and they went back to France where they had to work hard to tempt people to move so far away. At last, in October 1884 there was a big enough group, including thirty couples, children and single people. Most were farmers, but there were also builders, a blacksmith, a young teacher and a priest. Each one had to hand over 3,000 francs (€1,000) for housing, equipment and farm animals once they were there. They left Bordeaux in an old steam and sailing boat, the Belgrano for a 38 day crossing in difficult conditions, with little to eat, cramped together in the bottom of the boat. Once in Pigüé, their troubles were not over. There was drought and early frosts and wild animals to contend with and their first harvests were poor. Throughout, the struggling pioneers were helped by the two men who had brought them there and gradually things began to get better and the town began to expand. In 1984, there was a grand centenary celebration and the mayor of Pigüé, Rolando Maurel went to Rodez and St-Côme-d’Olt to invite people to travel to Argentina to join in the festivities. The Association Rouergue-Pigüé was created and since then the links have been strengthened, with visits, help tracing family trees on both sides and many events in France for example traditional dancing from both Argentina and the Aveyron. www.rouergue-pigue.com
French Living I February 2019
Jeanne d’Arc – taking the myth out of France’s ageless heroine In 1428 the English laid siege to Orléans, one of the few cities still loyal to the French king. The city was expected to fall, giving the English the run of the Loire Valley and effectively the whole French kingdom. Jeanne went to the garrison with her tale but was dismissed. She persisted and, eventually persuaded two soldiers to believe her. They, in turn, persuaded the garrison commander to meet her, and she convinced him she was a prophet by correctly predicting the French defeat at the Battle of Rouvray. The commander agreed to escort her to the king. In 1429 she travelled to the court disguised as a soldier, a normal precaution at the time. “It was a warring society, but women did command, some even ruled seigneuries and passed them down from mother to daughter, with husbands taking the names of their wives,” Mr Bouzy said. “It had to be that way, as life was so uncertain and no-one could guarantee a male heir. In that context, her story and her actions weren’t that extraordinary.” Jeanne was 17 when she met the 26-year-old Charles VII, but he was so impressed and convinced that he allowed her to join an expedition to relieve the siege of Orléans. Understandably nervous in case his enemies turned the tables and accused Jeanne of being in league with the devil, Charles VII ordered background checks and a theological examination at Poitiers to verify her ‘morality’ in April 1429. She passed with flying colours, and later that month arrived at Orléans. The French were losing the war badly. They were short of soldiers, money, military hardware and motivation. Perhaps they were ready to try anything? How much she participated in the decision-making as the French sought to break the siege will remain a mystery. But whether she was heavily involved or if history and legend have painted her into a greater role, the fact is the previously beleaguered French forces were reinvigorated. Leaving the city, they took the outlying fortresses and on May 7, 1429, attacked the English stronghold of Les Tourelles. Jeanne was the heroine of the day, holding her banner aloft in the trenches until wounded by an arrow. She returned to the fray after receiving treatment to cheer on the troops making their final assault. The English retreated and the siege of Orléans was over. The French took that victory as proof that Jeanne had been sent by God to help them. The English declared she had been sent by the devil. Despite the still very present danger, Jeanne, dubbed the ‘Maid of Orléans’ (‘La
Painting: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres; Inset: Clément de Fauquembergue
eanne d’Arc was born into a farming family around January 6, 1412, in the remote agricultural village of Domrémy in what is now Vosges, in eastern France. The Hundred Years’ War had been rumbling since 1337. Although she was born during a period of relative peace, conflict resumed in 1415, when the English King Henry V invaded France. Young Jeanne must have grown up amid regular talk of who was fighting who and how the War was going. “Context is important,” said Olivier Bouzy, an expert on Jeanne d’Arc. “At that time, people believed in God, but also in elves, monsters, demons, and prophets. “Things that are fairytales to us were reality to people then. “It was an irrational world, without scientific explanation. People thought that everything, even the death of a bird, was God’s will because God was all powerful. “Jeanne was functionally illiterate; she was taught her prayers by her mother and went to church services conducted by a provincial priest, but probably picked up a very hazy, albeit committed, version of the Catholic faith.” To many peasants, Europe seemed to have been at war forever. The royal families of England and France were so intertwined that The Hundred Years’ war was essentially a family squabble over the French throne, and by Jeanne d’Arc’s time, the French side had split in two. The king, Charles VI, suffered crippling bouts of insanity, resulting in a ferocious rivalry between his brother, Louis, Duke of Orléans, and his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, for the throne. In 1407, the Duke of Orléans was assassinated on the orders of the Duke of Burgundy. The former’s son Charles then stepped up and the faction supporting him assassinated the Duke of Burgundy. He was succeeded by Philip the Good, who made an alliance with the English. Then Henry V and Charles VI of France both died in quick succession, leaving Charles VII vying with the infant Henry VI of England for the throne of France. By this time, an Anglo-Burgundian alliance controlled nearly all of northern France as well as parts of the southwest. Reims, where French kings were traditionally crowned, was controlled by the Burgundians. According to legend, Jeanne, aged 13, saw a glowing light in the garden one afternoon. She was convinced it was God or an angel telling her to defeat the English and take Charles VII to Reims for his coronation.
Jeanne’s visions convinced her she was on a mission from God, and – as Samantha David discovers – the 15th-century Maid of Orléans guided the French king from the edge of defeat to the brink of victory
Above top: the Saint in a classic pose in a statue in Philadelphia; Above, bottom: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ famous work of art Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII; Left: the only known contemporary image of Jeanne
At that time, people believed in God, but also in elves, monsters, demons, and prophets. Things that are fairytales to us were reality to people then Jeanne d’Arc expert Olivier Bouzy
Pucelle d’Orléans’) was set on her ambition; she would travel with the army and liberate Reims so that Charles VII could be officially crowned. It was the start of a glorious summer for Jeanne. Suddenly instead of being nobody from nowhere, she was riding with kings, in the vanguard of the army, taking part in victorious battles. Overnight she had become a major player in the destiny and history of France. She was even awarded her own coat of arms. French forces entered Reims on July 16, and the coronation of Charles VII took place the next morning. Then the army went off again, via a succession of other victories, to Paris, which they attacked on September 8. Jeanne was wounded in the leg by a crossbow bolt. The French army was finally forced to retreat but in October they enjoyed another string of victories. By year’s end Joan and her family had been ennobled and a truce had been called with England. Jeanne was left dictating aggressive letters to so-called heretics until the following May, when the Anglo-Burgundians
Local history 23 Photos Entre Deux Mers Tourisme
Painting: John Everett Millais
February 2019 I French Living
The very big secret history of France’s smallest commune Jane Hanks tells the remarkable history of the tiny Gironde village that was the birthplace and occasional home of royalty Secret history of buildings
C besieged Compiègne. But her luck ran out and she was captured by the Burgundians. After she had made several unsuccessful escape attempts, they sold her to the English, who incarcerated her in Rouen. Fruitless attempts were made to rescue her throughout that year and into the next, while the English enacted a bizarre series of inquiries and interrogations, and finally tried her for heresy. During interrogations, she was coerced into abjuring her visions of angels and confessed that they had not come from God, and that she realised that saying so was heresy. Later, she retracted that admission and said that her visions were real, giving the prosecution a pretext on which to find her guilty of being a relapsed heretic. Having repeatedly, even in prison, worn male clothing was also produced as evidence of repeated heresy. At just 19 years old, she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. “She was burned for political reasons,” says Olivier Bouzy. “Witches weren’t thought to have any power, and it wasn’t
unusual for a woman to be a prophet, or to fight with an army. So she wasn’t burned for being a witch or for being a woman. She was burned as a heretic because she was a political threat to the English and they wanted rid of her.” According to witness accounts, once she was dead the coals were raked back to display her body, which was then incinerated twice more until it was reduced to ashes, which were then scattered in the river Seine. The Hundred Years’ War dragged on for another 22 years until 1453, but the English never regained the upper hand. Charles VII remained the legitimate king of France despite Henry VI of England (aged 10) being crowned king of France in Paris, in December 1431. The Anglo-Burgundian alliance broke up in 1435 and after that, the action fizzled out, by which time Jeanne d’Arc had already become mythologised. In 1452 there was a posthumous investigation into her execution, and then a retrial declared her innocent in 1456. She was beautified in 1909 and canonised as a Saint in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
Above: John Everett Millais’ painting of Jeanne d’Arc, 1865.
astelmoron d’Albret, in the Gironde, is the smallest commune in France, a surface area of 3.5 hectares – but it has a big history. In 2019, just 52 people live in the village; and the mairie is open once a week, on Wednesday afternoons. But in its heyday it was an important administrative centre ruling over 40,000 people. The village is built on a rocky outcrop and its buildings are grouped around the church and its ancient market place. From 1556 up until the Revolution, Castelmoron, as it was called then, commanded one of four seneschalties for one of the most powerful noble families in France, the Albret family. A seneschalty, sénéchaussée in French, was a judicial and administrative region in the south, controlled by a royal officer, called a sénéchal, and its jurisdiction covered five towns and 75 parishes. The Albret family came from Les Landes and the most well-known is Jeanne, who was the mother of King Henry IV of France, also known as Good King Henry who ruled from 1589 to 1610. She was Protestant and, though her son was baptised a Catholic, he was always sympathetic to the Protestant cause. Jeanne d’Albret stayed in the village on several occasions and she gave money for a Protestant church, which is no longer in existence. It is also said that Henry IV stayed in the village. However, as time went on the population became unhappy with their rulers. In 1775, a new tax on livestock resulted in rioting.
Some 500 peasants armed with pickaxes, scythes and pitchforks gathered in front of the sénéchaussée building shouting death to the sénéchal. He fled out of the back door and the rioting crowd seized all the accounts and records and burnt them on the square. After the Revolution, the royal privileges were taken away, though it continued to rule over 11 communes, and for a short while its name was changed to Roc Marat, after the revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. Up until the 1950s it was a lively place with plenty of shops, cafés, restaurants, dance halls, a cinema, hairdresser, blacksmith, mechanic and post office. Little by little, the rural population left for the towns and now there is a bar, brocante, garage, blacksmith and potter. The school closed in the 1980s. Its name was changed to Castelmoron d’Albret in the 1950s to avoid confusion with other Castelmorons in France. The mayor, Caline Alamy says her village is a magical place to live in. She was born in Australia and says it is funny that someone from one of the biggest countries in the world should now be mayor of the smallest commune in France. “We are a medieval site with only one road in and one road out. “There are many historic vestiges such as a pretty little lavoir, the houses and the market place. “Around Christmas we become the village des crèches where visitors come to see all types of different nativity scenes set up all over the village. “Our village has not been perfectly restored, like St-Emilion for example, but tourists love it because it remains an authentic place, full of history and still lived in by ordinary people.”
24 The big picture
French Living I February 2019
Costumes make for a grand spectacle Main photo: Maire-Noëlle Robert / Théâtre du Châtelet; The King and I and Grease by CNCS / Florent Giffard
Samantha David high kicks her way to a new exhibition showcasing musical theatre outfits
spectacular new exhibition of costumes from musical shows is running at the National Centre of Stage Costume in Moulins until April 28th, including more than 100 glittering costumes from shows like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Grease, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera. The exhibition retraces the history of the musical through the costumes on display, and how so many shows which were first staged between the wars in the US have been so ultra-successful in France over the past decade or so. It also gives visitors a chance to experience what it is like backstage in a theatre where a musical is being staged thanks to an original, interactive design allowing visitors to see costumes being delivered and fitted, as well as exploring make-up, hairdressing and dressing rooms, right through to the final spotlight. Musicals have their roots in operettas, music halls, variety, jazz and ‘opérascomiques’. Born on New York’s Broadway, brought up in London’s West End, they arrived in France during the 60s, with cult films like West Side Story and My Fair Lady. Later on, French musicals Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort spread the news and the late 1990s saw several hit musical French productions including Notre-Dame de Paris, Roméo et Juliette and Les Dix Commandements and for the last decade or so Parisian theatres have been running sell-out productions of musicals including The Lion King, Grease, 42nd Street, and Singin’ In the Rain. “Musical comedy is very much an American and British art form,” says exhibition curator Delphine Pinasa. “Even now, French musicals tend not
to have dancing, and they treat very serious themes. Broadway and West End musicals are escapism, they are feel-good. But French culture is generally more serious, the themes are more tragic.” The costumes belonging to the museum cannot be on constant display as they are very fragile, which is why the museum mounts a new temporary exhibition every six months. “We wanted to introduce more French people to musical comedy, to the notion of tap dancing and comedy all being part of the show,” says the curator. “It really isn’t a very French thing, despite the sell-out shows in Paris, which are often directed and designed by British people. French actors don’t routinely learn to sing and dance, they aren’t
Clockwise, from above: A production of 42nd Street at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris in 2016; A costume by Sue Blane for The King and I in 2014 and by Arno Bremers for Grease at Théâtre Mogador in 2017
expected to be able to do everything. Dancers dance, singers sing, they are seen as separate disciplines.” For more details of the exhibitions Musicals, The Costumes Stage their own Show! – including opening hours, prices and how to get there – see www.cncs.fr. Can I kick it? Yes you cancan To kick start your exploration of French musicals, and tempt you to further exploration, here are five of the best: French Cancan (1954): Jean Gabin stars as Montmartre nightclub owner Henri Danglard, who is trying to rescue his flagging fortunes by building the Moulin Rouge, and reviving the cancan starring Nini (from the laundry). Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964): The film which made Catherine Deneuve an international star is almost entirely sung, like an opera and there is no dancing.
Geneviève’s widowed mother owns an umbrella shop in Cherbourg, and does not approve of Geneviève’s car mechanic boyfriend Guy... Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967): It’s Gene Kelly alongside Catherine Deneuve and her sister Françoise Dorléac, playing sisters who long to escape small-town Rochefort. On Connaît la Chanson/Same Old Song (1997): The plot follows the intertwined lives of six Parisians including Odile who is flat-hunting, and her sister who is in love with an estate agent. The characters lip-synch 36 of France’s most-loved and best-known songs Les Chansons d’Amour (2007): Polyamory threesome Ismael, Julie and Alice break up and Ismael finds consolation elsewhere. Set in Parisian cafés redolent of cigarette smoke and rainwater, this moving film has a great soundtrack.
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ME AND MY OPERATION: Cataract surgery
From diagnosis to surgery, everything looked perfect The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service, by Gillian Harvey Childminder Julia Benson, 60, moved to Bellac in France in 2010 with husband Bob, who is also 60 and works in property maintenance. The pair chose their new location as it offered the chance of a better work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle. Initial symptoms I noticed a problem with my eyes in about December 2017 – but I just assumed I needed glasses. The following summer, I began to see patches in front of my eyes. I was going back to the UK for a break, so booked an eye test for when I was over there. They told me that I had the start of cataracts in my right eye and asked me to come back in six months. Treatment When I returned to France, I made an appointment with my GP and told him about the diagnosis. He referred me to the hospital in Limoges. To my surprise, when I went in to book the appointment, I was offered one the following day. At my first appointment, I saw the surgeon, who spoke perfect English. He did the eye test and confirmed that I had got cataracts – and told me that they had started to develop in both eyes. He asked when I’d like to have them done. It was so efficient. This was October and I booked in for my right eye in December. The operation I went in on the day itself. At first I had to see the secretary to check all the details and then I was asked to go to a room in the back where there were a few other people waiting. I changed into a gown and was taken through to the theatre. The procedure was carried out under local anaesthetic using eyedrops. They also
FACTS ON CATARACT SURGERY Cataract surgery is relatively straightforward in most cases and carried out on a day-patient basis. Patients attend the clinic about an hour before the procedure and can usually go home the same day. The procedure itself is carried out under local anaesthesia, for which either eyedrops or injections are used. After about 30-40 minutes of preparation, the procedure in the operating theatre usually only takes about 10 minutes. Afterwards, a protective shell is placed on the operated eye until the day after the operation. It will then be replaced by a pair of glasses, whose
Dr Marc Weiser, ophthalmologist at Clinique Jouvenet, Paris job is to protect the eye from injury while healing takes place. Patients usually experience no pain after the procedure, although some complain of a temporary feeling of a “foreign body”. Recovery varies – with some patients recovering full vision after 24 hours and others taking several days. One to four weeks after surgery, new glasses need to be prescribed, taking into account changes in vision. While severe complications are rare, about one in three patients experience a “secondary cataract” within five years of surgery. However, this can be treated with a laser and does not warrant a second operation.
NEXT MONTH: Caesarian eye patch, and was given drops to put into the eye. The next day I had to go back to the doctor for a control, just to check everything was OK. Then I had a hospital appointment for two weeks later, where they checked that the lens was working and that the operation was successful. Three weeks later, I was booked in to have the second eye treated.
Julia Benson saw patches before eyes gave me a sedative which helped to relax me. They take the lens out and fit a new one in, but I felt quite relaxed and detached from it all. Recovery After the operation, I was taken to another room where my blood pressure was monitored. After about an hour, I was taken to another room where I was offered a hot drink and a snack. I had to wear a plastic
Aftercare I had to continue to wear the patch, but just at night for 10 days, and continue the eyedrops for three weeks. However, after the operation on my right eye, I noticed my eye often looked a bit red, although there was no problem with vision. I booked in to see the specialist and was told that this was caused by tiny haemorrhages in the blood vessels in the eye, but it wasn’t of particular concern. Doctors simply advised me to continue the drops for an additional three weeks, which helped greatly. My experience with my left eye was much better – I only needed the prescribed three weeks of eyedrops and didn’t experience any adverse effects.
Universities in France are not up to scratch This is false French universities are listed far below their US and UK equivalents in world ratings, meaning they do not have the same high international reputation. In one of the most influential listings, the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, Harvard and Stanford are first and second, Cambridge third. France’s top university, the Sorbonne, is 36th. France has 19 universities in the top 500, compared to 139 in the US and 39 in the UK. In the Times Education Supplement (TES) World University Rankings 2018, the
In this column we look at the ‘truths’ everyone ‘knows’ about France first entry for France, Paris Sciences et Lettres, appears in 72nd place, and the list is dominated by the US and UK, with the top two places going to Oxford and Cambridge. However, criteria for these listings have been criticised as too narrow, concentrating heavily on research and not teaching. The Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, for example, looks only at science subjects and takes into account the number of Nobel Prize winners
and the number of publications in scientific reviews. The TES is also based on judging research-intensive universities, and states it looks at “teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook”. A study by three academics for Tours University in 2009, “Should you believe in the Shanghai ranking?”, concluded that “the criteria that are used are not relevant” and “the Shanghai ranking ... does not qualify as a useful and pertinent tool to discuss the quality of academic institutions, let alone to guide the choice of students and family”. Gilles Roussel, president of the CPU, which represents
university and grandes écoles presidents, told France Info that French universities are not centres of research so France cannot rate highly. “Our qualities are not necessarily reflected in the Shanghai classification system. This is, above all, because we separate our universities from research bodies like the CNRS, which attract excellent researchers but which are not, in fact, universities.” He also says that one of the criteria taken into account is budget and the amount of money allocated to French universities is lower than in the UK and the US, another element that pushes them down the ratings.
My fight to obtain TV cash-back offer A CONNEXION reader has had to fight for eight months to obtain a €1,000 money-back offer advertised on a widescreen television she bought at a home furnishings chain. Pamela Cherry, from Brittany, says she bought the TV because of the offer but then discovered it involved a time-consuming online registration and postal application. It then took months of disputes with electronics company Samsung to obtain it after she was turned down due to an “error in the application” – though none was ever confirmed, she says. Mrs Cherry said the firm’s customer service was unhelpful and she obtained the money only with the help of the original store. “I went back and said ‘I’m not leaving until someone tells me I’m getting the rebate’.” She was reassured it would be resolved but when it was not, she returned and the store manager finally spoke to a Samsung area manager. She said: “I guess people give up. Perhaps that’s part of the ploy.” Mrs Cherry reported the problem to trading standards – her local DDPP – who told her they had found no evidence that Samsung broke the law. It asked the firm to put in place a new form to help consumers whose initial claims were turned down, and said people with similar problems can contact their trading standards departments (tinyurl.com/ y8hdze3e). Another avenue is
Pamela Cherry with her TV seeking help and advice from one of the large consumer associations, though you may need to pay a membership fee. A home electronics specialist at UFC-Que Choisir said: “We’ve had plenty of discussions of such problems on our online forums and many letters from consumers about this company’s aftersales service, though it seems to have calmed down compared to a few years ago. “Samsung is not the only firm concerned, but they have often been cited as they’re market leaders for televisions. Having said which, it did seem very recurrent with them. “It’s hard to prove, but likely to be true that when they run such promotions, firms try to make things complicated so they don’t have to pay up.” He added that such deals may sometimes be “too good to be true” and you should always check the fine print. The issue relates also to mobile phones, he said. Connexion contacted Samsung but has not received a reply.
al Q: I have heard that it is easier now to build a house near the coast - they have opened up the right to construct when it was not given before. Can you explain? We dream of building our own home near the sea. G.L. A: You are probably referring to an amendment to the Elan Law that relaxed the Coastal Act, which has prohibited construction in certain areas since 1986. The amendment allows local authorities – on a case-by-case basis – to allow the construction of houses, buildings or agricultural spaces in areas that have, to date, been preserved. There are significant guarantees in the Elan Act: No new properties can be built within 100m of the coast-
line in protected areas, or on certain zones considered “remarkable”. Furthermore, construction must be linked to the improvement of the housing supply, or the establishment of public services, and it must not have the effect of extending current urbanised areas, or substantially change their characteristics. It also specifies that building applications must be refused in the event of damage to the environment or landscapes. It is early days for this new law, and much has to be tested – particularly with regard to coastal protections – but it is almost guaranteed that there will be many planning hoops to jump through before you can build your dream home by the sea.
Tel: 05 61 57 90 86 www.brightavocats.com firstname.lastname@example.org If you have a legal query send it to email@example.com We select questions for answer every edition
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.
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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
The Connexion February 2019
New Approaches to help in cancer The Mind Project is a small centre set in the Tarn, near Albi and organises workshops to help in cancer, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, depression, addictions, sleep disorders to name a few. Headed and coordinated by qualified experienced health practitioners. We only take the maximum of 8 people at one time- couples are welcome with partner as accommodation guest only. Why not extend your break and enjoy the area together? We adopt a holistic approach and new therapies are offered such as EFT and Transformational Life Coaching the workshops are instructive as well as fun and you will learn helpful well being tools to continue using even when you leave the centre. Individual support sessions are included in weekend.
Join us on the 2 day April residential weekend which aims to1. Assist people who have been diagnosed, who are going through cancer and who are in remission 2. Highlight how to recognise stress, as well as offer easy practical “tools” and strategies to deal more positively with stress and anxiety
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seeds can make the world of difference to your health l Diet Awareness in well being l Alcohol Awareness in well being l Stress and Anxiety Management Sessions l Facilitated Drumming for Anxiety and stress - a tool of nonverbal expression l Understanding and dealing effectively with depression Your Practitioners Melissa Martyn is a Health PractitionerCity and Guilds Certified, Registered Nurse/ ITEC/Nutritional therapist/PTLSS/EFT Practitioner/Recreational Therapist “My practice combines aspects of personal Christine Haworth-Staines UK Chartered Psychologist
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awareness in anxiety, diet and exercise, with the powerful energy-psychology technique of EFT. EFT involves lightly tapping on acupressure points whilst using focussed affirmations to bring about dramatic personal change. Emotional Freedom Techniques can be applied to make any of life’s challenges easier. Doing restorative activities such as Facilitated Group Drumming, Deep breathing, Personal Awareness and EFT at our workshops puts the brake on your fight or flight response, so you will feel less rushed and stressed. “ www.healthyminds.eu Sas Edwards is a Transformational Life Coach and Cancer survivor “I assist people who have just been diagnosed, who are going through cancer and who are in remission. Thanks to my coaching strategy, I can help people take back the power of their body and remove any mental scars. Rise above cancer” www.destinytuning.net
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The Connexion February 2019
Private for sale property company looking for homes throughout France Selling property privately in France has long been popular with French buyers and sellers. ARB French Property run by Adrian and Jacqui Bunn, have developed an innovative way for English speaking sellers to take advantage of the private for sale market, attracting buyers from UK, France, Belgium and Holland, all keen to save money and to deal direct. As Adrian explains. “Feedback from our sellers has highlighted three areas of concern. Firstly, the lack of a pro-active approach to marketing a home, secondly
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the quality of some of those clients sent to view and thirdly a lack of feedback following a visit. These are three concerns that ARB have set out to answer.” Jacqui continues, “We ensure that every home receives the same high level of attention with individually designed property particulars containing an extensive description, up to 30 photos, and a free floor plan. Additionally, we mailshot our 5000-strong database targeting by specific postcodes such as London and also specific occupations including the armed services, police and teachers. “A typical ARB purchaser is undoubtedly a serious buyer, has cash available, is probably semi-retired or retired and may well be considering a fulltime move, with many looking to enjoy the home with family and grand-children. We are seeing an increasing number
taking advantage of their pension fund arrangements or cashing in on UK house prices to purchase in France.” Adrian adds, “To help sellers further we introduced our Platinum Plus service which is proving very popular with sellers. The scheme has a one-off fee which includes a visit to photograph, floorplan plus advice on home dressing ready for viewings. There is no commission or balance payment due, saving thousands.“ After a highly successful 2018 ARB now need homes for sale throughout all areas of France. If you think your home will appeal to buyers from the UK, France and beyond, if you want a pro-active approach and the attention your home deserves, please call or email ARB French Property. +44 (0)1803 469367 email@example.com www.arbfrenchproperty.com
Heslop & Platt Solicitors & French Law specialists Providing quality, professional and efficient French legal advice in English Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Connexion February 2019
Telephone company offer new broadband prices from 31.90€ per month It’s not just the gilets jaunes that don’t like price increases. Bob Elliot, Commercial Director, explains how UKTelecom are bucking the trend of price increases not only holding them but going further by reducing them. Their great 2019 promotion offers new customers big reductions in old prices, including a special promotion for the first 12 months they are with UKTelecom. How have we done this? Although Brexit has caused lots of anxieties the number of people taking our services has increased every year, with each year seeing more customers choosing us than the year before, for the last five years. This has improved our relationship with our suppliers and this in turn has brought savings that we are now passing on to all new customers. Save even more by suspending your broadband up to 4 months every year
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There are many reasons customers choose us. Here are just some of them: l New installation management – 95% of customers ask us to set up their new broadband service l Free and unlimited technical support in English with translation between customers and engineers when needed l Pay in £s or €s l Access to UK catch up TV l Special arrangements for holiday home owners and others that rent their property and more.
Clean Burn - Fire Visible Boiler versions available Deliveries all over France Prices on our website Lowest Prices Guaranteed Tel: 00 44 (0) 1392 861579 www.ashgrovestoves.com email@example.com
Meditation and Yoga Retreat in Normandy Experienced teachers, beautiful location and fine vegetarian food www.riboudin.com Tel: 0970 90 19 66 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sure Sweeps Formally HETAS, & NACS registered Fully Insured - No Mess Competitive Rates 02 14 15 58 52 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Siret 51442634500013 - Covering Depts 22, 35, 56
Birthdays, Anniversaries, Special Occasion, Christmas, Hand-made and Open - From €1.00 Hand Written Service Available
Tel: 02 97 60 27 21 email@example.com
www.englishcardsinfrance.net Siret: 538 583 60000019
Brexit and Britons in France helpguide What’s next and what to expect with interviews, analysis, reader stories and an overview of the practical issues.
Order at connexionfrance.com
Love French Interiors French Reproduction Furniture. Hand crafted from Mahogany. Wide choice of finish options. Full customisation possible. Bespoke Design service available. Delivery throughout France. www.lovefrenchinteriors.com
0044 (0) 20 3474 0092
English TV in your French Home Professional installations in Brittany & Normandy Mail-order throughout France Free, friendly, helpful advice
02 97 27 58 50 www.tvbrittany.com
Pete's Roofing Covering the Gard
All types of roofs renewed / repaired Velux roof windows - Guttering
04 66 72 75 84
firstname.lastname@example.org Siret No: 50066265500017
Multi-Service - Builders
Everything from repairs and maintenance to complete A-Z renovation and decoration. References – Professional – Reliable
Karl - 06 04 45 63 57 / Paul - 06 34 95 19 71
05 SOUTH west
The Connexion February 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
AUDE & HERAULT Need someone to help with property maintenance problems, home improvements, renovations, Exteriors, Gardens & Pools.
Contact Anthony Main 0033 (0)4 30 34 17 90 email: email@example.com
www.midibuilder.com Siret 4846 8735 500012
Aude / Herault Gary Alderson
Electrician Friendly, Experienced, UK Qualified, French Registered Rewires, Installation, Fault Finding Tel 07 83 05 29 43 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Siret 81115002800017
design : parkes architecture SARL Architects & Designers Dossiers for Permis de Construire Déclarations Préalables Interior & Landscape Design Ordre des Architectes No. 1867
Office: 05 63 59 85 16 www.skyinfrance.co.uk Please see our main advert in the Connexion
Depts - 24,46,47 Tel: Bob & Tracy 06 42 82 44 96 Email: email@example.com
Tel: 05 53 09 33 45 Fax : 05 53 09 36 12
DEMPSEY TREE SURGERY CONTRACTORS Tel: 05 45 65 96 86 Mob: 06 61 90 04 92 firstname.lastname@example.org www.dempseytreesurgery.com
City & Guilds Qualified
Basic french and conversations for adults French tutor 6eme à 3eme
email@example.com Tel. 09 80 38 59 43
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ironwoodmotif.com Siret 48119863800019
Property Management Services
Plaster The Lot
* Property Check * Property Maintenance * Garden Services * Change Over * Design & Styling
Plastering, Pointing, Crepi, Tiling, Plasterboard, Insulation, Painting Call: 05 65 10 76 90 Email: email@example.com
+ 33 (0)5 45 82 55 93 / + 33 (0)7 70 76 58 89 www.gapdm.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Qualified English Artisan
• Rural Broadband • UK & French TV Satellite & On-Demand
ELECTRICIAN Experienced & French Registered. Available for all types of electrical work. Insured and guaranteed. Areas: 16,17,24,47
Tel: 05 46 86 07 61 Email: email@example.com Siret No. 49376573200015
Siret No.520 980 269 00010
CONTACT PETER Maslen 05 53 31 95 88 / 06 86 94 85 78 firstname.lastname@example.org www.dordognecattery.com
Working dept: south 19, 46
PENSION POUR CHATS NEAR SARLAT, OPEN-AIR, INSULATED AND HEATED
• CCTV & Alarms • WiFi Installation • Home Audio & Cinema
Creation, Garden Maintenance, Tree Surgery, Felling Property Services
Tel. 05 65 34 09 91
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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
Tel 06 80 55 06 09 SW France email@example.com
05 63 94 73 97 www.chatsduquercy.fr
Les Amis Des Chats
Satellite and aerial systems installed and repaired. UK boxes available. Senior Sky engineer 05 53 06 08 65 firstname.lastname@example.org www.digitalsatellites.fr 484 432 323 00018 - Regions Covered: 24, 47, 33
THE DORDOGNE CATTERY
ANGLICAN CHURCH IN MIDI-PYRENEES & AUDE
Salies de Béarn Karine Flandé Piché
Plastering, boarding, external pointing, painting and decoration Tel: 06 48 56 22 83 Email: email@example.com
Siret: 53068838100017 Regions Covered: 46, 19
Luxury Cattery - Cales near Lalinde - Very Spacious - Lots of Love and Attention Tel: Paula 05 53 24 14 42 www.thecatsinncattery.com paulaL24150@aol.com
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.parkesarchitecture.com Depts: 16,19,24,33,87
The Cats Inn
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:
siret : 48293447800017
British trained & qualified tree surgeon All tree work undertaken.
Gary at his office near Lyon
PHOENIX ANIMAL RESCUE
Working in dept: 16, 17, 24, 87 Siret: 48930027700014
Paul the Plasterer
Supplied & Fully Installed
Gary Automobiles EURL Telephone: 0033 4 74 43 89 51 Mobile: 0033 6 84 85 04 61 Email: email@example.com www.gary-automobiles.com
All Gardening Work - Cutting Strimming - Hedge Trimming Clearance - Property Services
Sky, Freesat & French TV
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
For Daily updates see
Sky In France
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
Hundreds of practical questions are answered in Connexion helpguides Order downloads at
Every Sunday at: ALET-LES-BAINS: 10.30 am CAHORS: 10.00 am GAILLAC-BRENS: 11.00 am TOULOUSE: 10.30 am ALSO at: CAYLUS VALENCE d’AGEN & VAYRAC TIMES VARY - PLEASE ENQUIRE
Information: 06 86 92 07 07 www.churchinmidipa.org for sale
2005 RHD PORSCHE BoxsterS 115,000 km matriculated in France 2013. Good condition, full spec including electric memory seats, full leather. 15,000 euros firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +33 (0) 6 71 44 79 56
JAGUAR S-TYPE 2.5 V6 CLASSIQUE 14 CV 2004
69000 miles, petrol, FR reg, RHD, CT exp 1220 Great runner
promotes sterilisation to improve the well-being of stray and pet cats in the rural villages of SW France.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS
to help run our charity shops and events. Donations are also gratefully received at Les amis des chats, 82150 Roquecor. See how you can support us by visiting www-les-amis-des-chats.com Registered charity no: W821000447
Tel: 44 (0) 778 662 140 email@example.com
The Connexion February 2019
Fun language classes to thaw out frozen French
HEALTH AND COUNSELLING
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS SOUTH OF FRANCE Is Alcohol Costing You More Than Money?
FREE ACCOMMODATION OFFERED BY ELDERLY COUPLE SEEKING COMPANION
Call Alcoholics Anonymous.0820 200 257
and possible little home help (Other help kept plus femme de menage)
Consultus Care and Nursing Short term positions available for live in carers in the UK
Own bedroom, shower, etc. CAR DRIVER ESSENTIAL, possibility car provided, expenses paid. Would suit widow with pension looking for rent-free accommodation In Aude (dpt11) 40kms from Carcassonne
www.aa-riviera.org Siret : 49197537100015
Make a difference to an elderly or vulnerable person’s life Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.consultuscare.com ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS South West France Have you a problem? www.aafrance.net Or Call Shepperd 06.74.95.19.66 Angela 05.49.87.79.09
Tel: +33 (0) 4 68 79 73 49 or email email@example.com
Useful telephone numbers EMERGENCY NUMBERS u 18: Emergencies: This number connects to the fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) but they deal with medical emergencies and should be the first port of call in lifethreatening situations u 15: Samu (for other urgent medical 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
Community events You can see more events and post your own at connexionfrance.com/community/events Eyes down for a French full house on February 3 as the Brittany Association Intégration Kreiz Breizh (AIKB) joins other associations in Gouarec, Côtes-d’Armor, for a fundraising Grand Lotto afternoon. This traditional event attracts dozens of players hoping to win prizes. If you would like to play or just volunteer for the afternoon to either serve tea or set up tables, please contact info@ aikb.fr. This event is popular, so arrive early for parking. Salle du Bel Air, 22570 Gouarec. Doors open 12.30pm, games start 2pm. The Room to Read charity, which promotes child literacy around the world, will benefit from all proceeds raised by a quiz night on February 8 organised by Section Internationale La Celle St CloudNoisy le Roi. In order to take part, contact Yvonne RémondMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Entry €10 per person. Refreshments are available and there will be prizes for the winning team as well as a raffle. You have three chances to catch the English Theatre Company’s Comedy Theatre Lunch this month, if you live in or around Gers. The group will be in Panassac on Saturday, February 9, Marciac on Saturday, February 16, and Castéra-Verduzan on Sunday, February 17. Tickets for each Lunch event are €20 and the price includes a three-course lunch. Availability at each venue is limited and tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Book tickets via the Box Office hotline, 05 62 67 12 99, or email email@example.com
For unique, French-themed gift ideas see our shop at
Following the success of the screening of The Bookshop in January, the second So British film event of 2019 – in which an acclaimed and award-winning film is screened in its original language – takes place at Iris Cinéma in Questembert, Morbihan, on February 26. To book tickets, contact: 02 97 26 60 90 or 02 97 26 00 97 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Local historian Pierre le Dour will give a guided tour of historic Gouarec, Brittany. On the map since the 10th century, the town later became a de Rohan stronghold, and boasts more than its fair share of well-known local historical characters. Though a market town, it was attached to Plouguernével until the parish church was built in the early 19th century. Meet at the railway station opposite the Garage Martin at 14.30. Members: €2, guests: €5.
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
HARS help up-and-coming athlete The Hearing Aid Repair Shop (HARS) helps people of all ages, by expertly repairing their hearing aids. The day after Boxing Day we helped a young athlete by repairing her hearing aid so she could study for an important German GCSE mock exam at the start of the spring term. A member of Berkshire’s Newbury Athletic Club, Charlotte Payne has earned numerous accolades for her sporting achievements and was runner up at the Young Deaf Sports Personality of the Year in November 2016. Charlotte’s mum, Denise, said, “We turned up in the snow with my daughter’s hearing aid which had died over Christmas. We were met with a smile by the wonderful
team at HARS who helped us out on the spot. We were overwhelmed by their kindness and won’t go anywhere else from now on.” Charlotte competes in the throwing events – discus and hammer. In 2016, Charlotte was UK National Champion and UK No. 1 in Under 15 Discus and UK No. 3 in Under 15 Hammer. Last year Charlotte moved into Under 17 category and became UK No. 1 in Under 17 Hammer 4kg, UK No. 3 in Under 17 Discus, South England Under 17 Hammer Champion and championship record holder. She was also a silver medallist in hammer at the School Games and a bronze medallist in Under 17 Discus at the English Schools Championships.
The Connexion February 2019
As well as all that, Charlotte has been the best UK deaf female thrower in hammer, discus and shot put, for all age groups, for the past 2 years. Denise said, “Charlotte is now the youngest in her age group and has yet another year at this level to improve on her amazing achievements.” This year Charlotte has set her sights on being No. 1 in the UK in hammer and discus, representing the UK in the Under 18 European Championships in Hungary in August and competing in the School Games and Schools Track & Field International. Denise said, “Hopefully Charlotte will have a busy summer, competing in various national and international events, if she can
successfully win all the necessary qualifying events beforehand. She’s capable, so it’s definitely on the cards. Fingers crossed! You rarely find a thrower who does both hammer and discus to a high standard, so Charlotte will probably have to decide between them. It’s going to be a tough choice to pick which one.” The HARS team wish Charlotte all the best with her studies and athletic aspirations over the coming years. We hope to be watching her compete at major championships in the future. If, like Charlotte, you need your hearing aids repaired you can send them to us for a free, no obligation quote. For more details go to www.hars.co.uk, email email@example.com or call us on 00 44 1635 48724.
Box clever and even arrange for UK purchases to be delivered to you Watson European are expanding their current service of removals and storage to include the delivery of packing materials to your door. Andrea Watson, the proprietor of Watson European, explains. “Many customers find it difficult to locate suitable packaging material for their removals. Being based in the UK means that Watson European are able to source a wide variety of boxes in quantities to suit a client’s individual needs.” From full home removals to the individual pieces of furniture, Andrea’s team have the trade contacts to supply boxes, wrapping material and tape to ensure your belongings can be transported in perfect condition. With weekly services to France the Watson
European team can deliver the packaging to your door and collect the filled packages at a time to suit you ready for direct delivery to the UK. Andrea continues: “We also cater for those not in any particular hurry to move into their new home in France or who want to put affairs in order first by offering up to 60 days’ free UK based storage. Many clients take advantage of this offer. “Also due to the increased demand we have been experiencing, Watson European has invested in yet more specialised equipment to transport vehicles, home removals and even plant and machinery. With Brexit looming ever closer people are taking advantage of our services, both those establishing themselves in France or returning to the UK. “We also offer a delivery service to our regular customers in France when they wish to make purchases in the UK. Where
our customers order online from different suppliers in the UK we take delivery of the items and can store them for up to 60 days without charge. Once all the different orders / packages have arrived, our team delivers to the customer’s door in France.” With Watson European, you can rest assured that your belongings – and your stress levels – will be looked after. Andrea concludes: “For us it’s the small things that make the big difference. Moving home is often a stressful experience where the best-laid plans can go astray. Many of our clients remark on how having our friendly staff available at the end of phone is one of the most reassuring aspects of our service. Being there to deal with the smallest of detail is what our job is all about, whether you require relocation services, partial house removals of pre-packed items or a complete packing and delivery service of a full home.”
Watson European can deliver items safely to your door with great service www.watsoneuropean.co.uk Tel: Andy +44 (0) 7876 504 547 Dave +44 (0) 7515 722 772 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Complete solution to fosse septique problems There’s little worse than a smelly or blocked fosse septique, but there is a simple, ecological and costeffective treatment, say Eco-tabs Europe founders Shelly and Tim Burns-O’Regan WITH costly emptying charges and the potential to smell or get blocked, fosse septiques can be a homeowner’s nightmare. But an innovative product now exists which not only takes away the need to empty your fosse, but also removes odours and reduces blockages. Eco-tabs are purely bacterial-based, not a combination of enzymes like many competitive products. They help to increase overall system efficiency, reduce costly maintenance and eliminate the need for
toxic chemicals and special handling procedures. The tablets work by oxygenating the water in the fosse, removing hydrogen sulfide odours, preventing corrosion, and initiating aerobic biological breakdown of organic sludge, including oils and grease. Store bought products that are enzyme based liquify the solids for them to reform later. So you will still need to pump out your tank. Eco-tabs degrade the solids and remove those pesky odours. Company founders Shelly and Tim BurnsO’Regan say: “Our company is founded on the core belief that eco-friendly, non-toxic waste treatment products have become a necessity in today’s environmentally sensitive and fragile ecosystem. We also provide excellent customer service and follow up as fed back from our customers.” An eco-tabs Clean out Pack starts at 66€ ( exc TVA, p+p) for a standard 3000 litre
tank compared to the cost of a pump out truck ranging from 125€ up to 400€, this is a no-brainer. “Simply flush a tablet down the toilet each month to maintain a healthy fosse septique. Or, as an alternative to pumping out, use two tabs and one bag of our Shock powder and watch the magic. “Not only do the tabs oxygenate the water, which removes the odours, the sludge is eaten away by the bacteria. The result: a clean fosse which does not need to be pumped out… all that remains is water.” Eco-tabs are compatible for old septic tanks right through to the new microstation systems. To ensure that you are only buying the products necessary for your tank, we offer a Personalised Treatment Plan which will recommend the ideal products for you. Visit: www.eco-tabs.biz and click on the link for a Personalised Treatment Plan.
Eco-tabs are 100% ecological and mean you don’t need to pump out your fosse For more information, visit the website or contact Tim on +33 (0)6 35 96 95 12 www.eco-tabs.biz email@example.com
Swimming pool company can install your pool in one week from dig to swim Buying a swimming pool in France can be a daunting experience; there are so many companies offering to build you a swimming pool. How do you pick the one that cares about your pool, the finished product and its longevity and maintenance? Krystian Sordyl from Compass Pools France details their approach to the swimming pool installation process in France. Budget is top of the list for most people when considering a swimming pool installation and this is often balanced against the
longevity of the pool itself. Most builders prefer the classic block and concrete pools and operate with ‘decenal’ insurance which covers their work for 10 years. These pools vary greatly when it comes to build quality and may not even last that long. Compass Pools France offers a 40 year warranty on our one piece carbon ceramic pools and they are built to last. Once you have decided on the size and location of the pool it will be time to get quotes and to apply for planning. After getting in contact with Compass Pools France we will be able to give you an initial estimate over the phone and help you with the ‘déclaration préalable de travaux’ which is needed for all in-ground pools under 100m2 surface area. As well as the pool itself one also has to think about the surround of the pool. With a supply chain across Europe, Compass Pools France has access to quality decking
and stone at unbeatable costs. Timescales of swimming pool installations do sometimes have to be flexible, bad weather can often cause delays to the build, but with the rapid install of a Compass Pool these issues, along with bad weather can easily be avoided. The whole process, from dig to swim can be completed in 1 week! Compass Pools France was founded by Alexander Pearson and Krystian Sordyl who moved to France after working in the high-end swimming pool construction market in the UK. Their frustration at the throw away culture that has crept into the French swimming pool market, dominated by cheap polyester pools with 10-15 year lifespans, led them to create Compass Pools France - a company with a philosophy of finding the best value, most sustainable and longest lasting materials to create a beautiful place that can be enjoyed by families and friends for many, many years to come.
Contact Alexander or Krystian to discuss your requirements Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel(UK): +44 (0) 7983806244 Tel(Fr): +33 (0) 777231116 Web: www.compasspools.eu
The Connexion February 2019
Maximise your house sale proceeds Pioneer France ensures sellers receive the best currency rates possible for the transfer of their house sale proceeds “It is shame when house sellers who have tried so hard to achieve the best price for their house then relinquish an unnecessary chunk of these funds by using old fashioned, expensive banking methods to repatriate their money back into sterling, dollars or whatever”, says Harris Raphael, Managing partner of France-based Pioneer France. “The seller often relinquishes thousands which could have been so easily avoided
had they used a specialist Foreign exchange broker. Our historic data shows that the average loss is around €3,500”, comments Harris. Historic data shows that sellers are much less likely than buyers to use the services of such a specialist. Harris believes that this is primarily because the profile of a typical seller is usually older than that of a buyer, with sellers more likely to have traditionally used a bank for their transfers, while being reluctant about using ‘newer methods’. “I understand this completely, especially when it concerns one’s major asset!”, says Harris “However, Pioneer France’s foreign exchange brokerage has been operating for over 35 years, is one of the world’s largest, trading over €13billion on behalf of over 20,000 clients a year, in over 80 currencies. “ It is also one of the very few that is fully authorised and regulated by the FCA, with
the right of establishment in France”. “As such, our brokerage can provide our clients with security of funds and can give expert currency exchange guidance to aid our client’s decision making, which the banks are not licensed to do”, advises Harris. Pioneer France was recently voted number one for foreign exchange rates and service, so contact Harris and his team to find out more about saving thousands. 05 53 07 06 27 email@example.com www.pioneerfrance.com The Pioneer France FX team, from left: Harris, Simon, Tanya, Zoe, James and Steven
Retirement offers an opportunity to purchase and run a successful French business The English Institute Toulon is looking for new owners due to the anticipated retirement of current owners Peter and Tracey Waite. The school is an English Language training centre and has operated in the same rented premises since 1990.
It is on the second floor of a traditional French Hausmann style building with a lift, right in the middle of Toulon with five training rooms, computer room, reception, library, kitchen etc. In all about 170m2. Peter explains, “The English Institute teaches English to French adults and older teenagers. The lessons are mainly on an individual, one to one basis although we do teach some groups of people within the same company. Around 50% of our business comes from businesses in the area for their employees. The other 50% is from individuals doing their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training. In France there is now a system where employees have a personal budget to use for CPD and they can use it how they want. English is very much key for all CPD so it is a popular use of these budgets. “We have 4 self-employed teachers and a full-time office manager/PA. The business turns over, on average, €200,000 per annum.
The owners’ net remuneration is around 2030% of turnover. Much is dependent on how much teaching the owners do and this figure is therefore flexible. The lease is around 5,000 € per quarter and is renewable every nine years. The next lease renewal is in June 2020. “We will be staying in the area and will be available for an extensive handover (3-6 months) and for ongoing support.” Tracey details the purchaser profile; “The figures given above assume that the owners do some teaching, it would be highly beneficial therefore to have experience in teaching English as a second language (TESL, CELTA), to have general business background and to speak French. The office manager is French and is practically autonomous but will need day to day guidance on business decisions. She speaks a strong intermediate level of English and most of the teachers are bi-lingual - all are native English speakers. “We understand that with BREXIT on
the horizon British people interested in this opportunity will have a number of questions regarding the feasibility of living and running a business in France. This is something potential purchasers should inform themselves of, however Connexion is an excellent information source regarding all things BREXIT. “Property prices in Toulon are very reasonable in comparison with some of the other areas along the South coast, see Le Bon Coin or SeLoger.com websites.” If you are interested, in the first instance please contact Peter and Tracey with a landline telephone number and they will call you to discuss further and answer any initial questions you may have. They require offers in the region of €150,000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.english-institute.fr
Peter and Tracey Waite, owners of the English Institute, founded in 1990
SATATISFFACTTION 81 500 €
112 750 €
90 500 €
117 875 €
102 500 €
164 000 €
WITH WEEKLY SERVICES FRANCE NCE TO AND FROM T OA ND FRO FR OM FRA AND SPAIN, SPAI P N, PAI N, OUR SPECIALISED VEHICLES CAN ACCOMMODATE FULL OR PARTIAL HOME REMOVALS, CARS, CARAVANS AND MUCH MUCH MORE.
REMOVALS R EMOVA EMO EMOV V & STORAGE
ANDY: 0044 (0) 7876 504 547 DAVE: 0044 (0) 7515 722 772
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Constructive criticism gives budding authors a helping hand Donation
Sally Dixon has recently published Three Girls, a romantic thriller set in The Hague, and her next book, based on her experiences of life in Cairo, is due out in the summer. She is part of a thriving writing group, available at the Vivre Ensemble en Minervois association (veem.fr) based in Olonzac, Hérault, and says many of the members have published books and articles. Sally said: “Linda Amstutz has just finished a mystery set in rural France; Richard Savin has had three books published; Stephanie Patterson writes under the name Cathie Dunn and is working on her third book, to be released in March. “And James Gault writes novels, short stories and English-language textbooks,
Members of the writing group of the Vivre Ensemble en Minervois association have enjoyed tremendous success thanks to the support of their peers and produces an online magazine. “There are around 10 members and we
bring material we’re working on, read it aloud and critique each other.
“I joined recently, but find it very useful. There’s also plenty of practical help about how to get published.” She says getting published is much easier than it used to be, thanks to a number of recent self-publishing innovations. She said: “This has happened in the last year and has been a real revolution for writers. I am currently working on a third book that brings together Cathar elements and current extremist tensions. The writing group has been a real help.” New members are always welcome. Membership costs €25 per person and €45 for a couple or a family. There are several activities apart from the writing group, including language courses, cooking, wine, gardening and outings.
Friends raising cash to restore ancient and unique church A GROUP of enthusiasts are raising funds to pay for the restoration of a unique and mysterious church. The small church, surrounded by vines and fields in the commune of Thénac, southwest of Bergerac in the Dordogne, was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is one of many Romanesque churches in the department, but Thomas Hettlage, president of Les Amis de l’Eglise de Monbos (AEM), said this one is unique, with features found nowhere else in the region. He said: “It is not a typical Romanesque church as it has four columns with extraordinary figures carved on
Mayor of Thénac Jean-Jacques Chapellet (left) accepts a cheque for €1,000 from AEM treasurer Mathilde Donzac-Counet and president Thomas Hettlage
them. Their origin is a mystery and there is a possibility that they are very ancient and even pagan in origin. “Rather than the biblical scenes common at that period, they show scenes such as two couples making love and a woman with a snake at her heel and a club in her hand, which could be Eve, but the snake could also represent eternity, as it does in Nordic mythology.” The unusual stone sculptures attract visitors from all over the world, from as far away as Australia. But the rural church is in poor condition and there are many features needing restoration. Mr Hettlage said: “The most urgent
job is to restore the medieval painted walls and there is already a study in place to see how best to do this. “The project will cost around €37,000 and public funding will pay for about 45% of it, and we hope to raise at least €13,000 to make it possible. “Then there are important structural issues, including the principal arch, which is visibly sagging and which will cost an additional €90,000 to restore.” Mr Hettlage hails from Germany and took over as president when his neighbour was too ill to continue. There are 130 members and around a third are non-French: people who fell in love with the church when they moved
to the area. “We have three concerts a year in the church to raise money and have recently given €1,000 to help pay for the study for the first phase of the restoration,” he said. The financial needs are enormous but Les Amis de l’Eglise de Monbos hope to pay for a fair share of the costs. “We are increasing our drive to find sponsorship and we have already found many supporters. We will start a crowdfunding initiative on a site specialising in funding national monuments.” The association welcomes anyone who will help them to save this very special country church. Contact the association by email at email@example.com.
Sign up here to support the homeless A SiMPLE way for the public to give practical help to homeless people has been launched by the La Cloche association. The Le Carillon project (lecarillon.org) has signs for shopkeepers or restaurants to put in their windows to show what services they can provide. This could be access to a telephone, internet, a meal, a haircut, toilets or a glass of water. La Cloche, an association to help the homeless, hopes the idea will spread through an international network. Communications officer Mathias Mourier said there are estimated to be around 150,000 homeless people in France. Many citizens want to help, but do not know how. He said: “If a shopkeeper shows he is willing to offer a glass of water, a person living on the streets will feel he or she can go into the shop without fear of being thrown out, and there is the added possibility of
talking to someone. Clients can also participate by talking to the person and by buying something, for example a baguette that will be put aside for someone in need later on.” Allowing homeless people to feel part of society is a key part of the association’s work: “We always include them in our decision-making procedures and they work as volunteers with us alongside the public. “This means they take responsibility for their future.” Gilles Martel, 55, became homeless 15 years ago. He now does voluntary work for Restos du Coeur, which helped him find a room, and he is also an ambassador for La Cloche in Paris. He said: “I was attracted by the concept that homeless people work alongside other volunteers. The symbols are very helpful. If you need to go to the toilet and there aren’t any public ones nearby, it is
good to know a café or restaurant will let you use theirs without having to buy a drink. “Many of the people have been on the streets longer than me and find it hard to do normal social activities. “The first couple of times I go with them, they see they are welcomed and then after that I tell them: now you can go on your own.” La Cloche also gives training in how to approach someone living on the street. “People may be worried that a coin will only be used for alcohol,” said Mr Mourier. “It is best to ask what the person needs. Many associations give food, so a razor might be more useful.” Mr Martel says it is best to make contact with someone gradually: “If you pass someone in the same place every day, start by giving a smile. It is lonely being on the pavement. “I cannot tell you how much
boost for elephant sanctuary
EUROPE’S first elephant “retirement home” is hoping to open this year thanks to a grant from the British-based Olsen Animal Trust. Tony Verhulst (above, with partner Sophie Goetghebeur) said it will help them finish a barn to house three elephants – and they hope to welcome the first animal to their HauteVienne sanctuary this year. Sue Olsen, founder of the Olsen Animal Trust, said the charity particularly likes to help initiatives like Elephant Haven “that are owned and managed by passionate people, such as Sophie and Tony”. She said she did not wish to disclose the exact amount to avoid being asked for similar sums from other projects, but described it as “substantial”. Last year, the Fondation Brigitte Bardot, one of France’s biggest animal welfare donors, gave €350,000 to the charity (elephanthaven.com). The couple decided to create a sanctuary for elephants in 2012 and moved from Belgium in 2014 because of the availability of land in France. It took them until 2016 to raise the money to buy land at Bussière Galant and they spent three years getting the necessary permits and money to start building last May. “It has been a long and hard journey,” said Mr Verhulst. “We want to be ready by the end of 2019 but it depends on weather and the construction and each step forward also means new paperwork to go through.”
Have your group featured:
it meant to me when someone gave me a genuine, from the heart, warm smile.” Some 800 shopkeepers are signed up in 16 arrondissements in Paris, Nantes, Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux,
Strasbourg and Toulouse. La Cloche has an international platform (thechime.org) and you can get involved by organising events, meeting people on the streets or looking for local shopkeepers to join in.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Room swap website matches students with empty-nesters
More people in the big cities but fewer in Paris FRANCE’s population remained fairly stable in the five years between 2011 and 2016, according to newly-released census results from the state statistics body Insee. The national population, including overseas territories, reached 66,362,000 in 2016 – a growth rate of 0.4% a year on the previous census in 2011. While most of the large urban areas recorded increases (with Occitanie and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes seeing the largest rises among France’s regions), Paris bucked the trend with a decline. The capital has 2,190,327 inhabitants but saw its population fall by an average of 0.5% – or 11,900 inhabitants – a year between 2011 and 2016. In the five years up to 2011, its population had risen by an average of 13,700 a year. In total, 24 departments saw population declines in the period. This comes as Insee also released its latest figures on net migration in mainland France, showing that it decreased in 2015 – meaning more people left the country than came to live here in that year. The population figures show: n The Ile de France had 12,117,132 inhabitants, an increase of 0.4% on 2011, making up 18% of France’s total population; n Montpellier was the city whose population rose the most. A 1.7% increase in inhabitants saw the Hérault capital reach 286,098 residents; n Bordeaux saw the second-largest population increase – its 256,045 population represents a 1.5% rise on 2011; n Nantes (314,611 residents) and Toulouse
Photo: Jean-Louis Zimmerman / CC BY 2.0
EVERY year, thousands of students leave home to attend colleges and universities in other parts of France – and, every year, thousands of rooms are left empty, at least temporarily, as they go. In every instance, there is the dual problem of finding suitable student accommodation that is not too expensive, and – for the parents of new students – dealing with empty-nest syndrome. Now, a mother and her formerstudent daughter, who had faced just this problem, have come up with an online room-swap solution. Troctachambre’s website (troctachambre.com) allows student subscribers to search for rooms in family homes near their university. A contribution to household expenses (capped at €100 per month, excluding food) may be requested but rooms are otherwise given for free – the idea being that the student’s family will do the same. Student users pay a monthly fee of €19 to the site once they have secured a room. All is not lost if a student does not have a room to swap, or if their home town is not within easy travelling distance of a university or college. Rooms can be taken in return for services such as babysitting, doing the school run, or tutoring younger children. The site has been translated into English, but so far all rooms on offer are in France – and most are in cities such as Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Paris and Lille.
The Connexion February 2019
Montpellier is France’s fastest-growing city (482,738) both recorded population increases of 1.4%, while Rennes (222,104) saw a rise of 1.2%; n After the Ile de France, the most populous region is Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, with 7,916,889 inhabitants; n Hauts-de-France is third, with 6,006,870, followed by Nouvelle-Aquitaine (5,935,603 – an increase of 160,000 residents on 2011 figures); n Occitanie recorded the biggest increases, with 5,808,435 people, as of January 1, 2016 – an increase of 47,000 residents a year since 2011; n The populations of Brittany (3,306,529), Normandy (3,335,929) and Provence-AlpesCôte d’Azur (5,021,928), regions popular with Britons moving to France, all remained stable over the five years.
Parents warned on property handover
Donating the freehold of a property to your children while you maintain use of it could be considered an abuse by the taxman from January 2020, a financial thinktank has warned. Cercle des fiscalistes says a provision in the 2019 Finance Act means that parents donating the nue-propriété while retaining usufruit (a life interest) could end up being heavily fined. It hopes the new text will be struck out by the Conseil Constitutionnel. Tax payable by offspring at the time of receiving a nue-propriété gift is lower than if inheriting the same property later, as the value of the gift takes into account the fact the beneficiary does not (yet) have full rights to it. Up to now, the arrangement could legally be contested only if it was proved to be done exclusively for tax reduction reasons. The new text changes this to “principally for tax reasons”.
Contactless cards can still work after theft A FLAW in the contactless payment system means criminals can continue to use cards even if they have been reported stolen, warns consumer watchdog 60 Millions de Consommateurs. The system that makes the payments quick means cards can be abused even after a block, as they do not need the bank’s electronic approval. Legally, the bank should reimburse the amounts – if you notice them and alert them. There is also another safeguard: banks must put in place a limit to the number of combined contactless payments either per day, week or month, as well as a fixed maximum of contactless payments before the code has to be used again.
life in france less taxing
France: 0810 23 84 23 - UK: 08451 23 84 23 - Email: email@example.com
Money / Tax page
Practical: Money 33
Tax at source is here: all you need to know FRANCE has changed to at-source income tax this year. In theory, it is a system closer to the one Britons are used to with PAYE, though tax is still levied on households rather than individuals. In practice, French income tax is now a hybrid between what existed before and a new system. The aim is to levy tax at the same time as income is received rather than in the following year. Unlike in the UK, it will still be obligatory for everyone to make an annual declaration, to make sure the correct amounts have been paid. Refunds will then be given – or requests for more payment issued. It will not change the fact that half of French people do not pay income tax. The move to prélèvement à la source (PAS) is not an initiative of President Macron but was agreed under his predecessor François Hollande. Mr Macron merely put it back by a year to give more time to prepare. Tax workers were worried there could be bugs in the system, leading to a lot of extra work helping people, either over the phone or face to face. However, Public Accounts Minister Gérald Darmanin is “confident” things will go well and no major issues have yet been reported. He said: “People were predicting there would be a major bug on January 1, and we wouldn’t be able to do anything – it wasn’t the case.” WHO collects people’s income tax? AS IN the UK, it is now mostly collected by whoever pays you the income: a French pension provider in the case of pensions, or your French employer in the case of employees. In other cases, estimated amounts based on the previous tax declaration are debited from people’s bank accounts. WHY did I get tax taken at source on income from December 2018 that was paid into my bank account at the start of January? BECAUSE the PAS applies when you receive the income, not when you worked to earn it. You would not include the amount in your declaration of 2018 income, which you will complete this May/June, but rather next year (not for it to be taxed again, but for verification). A generalised tax credit is being applied to most kinds of 2018 income to cancel out tax that would otherwise have been due on it, so people are not paying double tax in 2019. This will not apply to this income as it will be part of your declaration for 2019.
IS TAX taken every month or for 10 months, like in the old income tax mensualisation instalments? IT IS every month, unlike the old system, which was a slight misnomer as it only applied from January to October. If you had the old system, you will now probably be paying a bit less each month, but with no gap. I HAVE paid French tax for years. Do I have to do anything in particular to have the PAS applied? NO. THERE is no obligatory action to take. If you are due to have instalments taken, the tax office should have your bank account details that you filled in on a previous tax return. If you are an employee or have a French pension, a rate will have been passed to the employer or provider. WHAT day of the month are monthly instalments taken? INSTALMENTS, where payable, will be taken out on the 15th of the month. WHAT rate am I paying? YOUR rate should be on the avis d’imposition that you received last year, based on your 2017 income declared in 2018. You can also find it in your personal space on the tax website under Gérer mon prélèvement à la source, as well as on your French payslips and pension bulletins. HOW will the tax service deal with it if I am found to have paid too much or not enough after I have made my declaration? IF THERE is more to pay, it will be payable in one go in September, if it is less than €300, or otherwise over the last four months of the year. If you have paid too much, you will be reimbursed by September. HOW does PAS work for couples? NORMALLY there is a single rate, based on the overall household income, but there is an option for individual rates (most useful where people have very different levels of salary). You would have had to take up this option last year for it to apply in 2019. WHAT about micro-entrepreneurs? Is their tax changing? IF YOU used to pay income tax monthly or quarterly under the libératoire system you can maintain this. However, if you did not and just declared your income annually, then you will have monthly instalments taken out of your bank account under
This month we are devoting this page to questions about the new prélèvement à la source. Our regular Hugh MacDonald column will return from the next edition. Please send your financial questions to firstname.lastname@example.org PAS. If your income varies drastically during the year, it is possible to modify the rate applied, based on the new income level, by clicking Actualiser suite à une hausse ou une baisse de vos revenus in your personal space on the tax website. WHAT about property incomes? AMOUNTS will be taken out of your bank account monthly, based on your 2018 (2017 income) declarations. As with micro-entrepreneurs, there is an option to modify the rate if incomes change drastically (or to stop the levies if the income ceases). WHAT happens if my personal situation changes (due to the birth of a child or a marriage)? YOU should declare this on the website. A change to the rate, if applicable, will be made within two or three months. Similarly, the rate may change if a person changes job, but the employer should deal with this. I LIVE in the UK but will be renting out a property in France. Will I be concerned with PAS? YES, non-residents are included for regular French incomes such as from renting out a French property. In 2019, people who declared rental income as non-residents in spring 2018 (for 2017 incomes) will have monthly instalments taken out of their bank account. The amounts are calculated at a rate based on your previous declaration and the bank account must be in France or the SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) zone. The UK may leave this after Brexit, depending on any future agreements with the EU. Incomes that already have tax taken at source, such as from a French pension, are not included. HOW does it work for income tax credits and reductions? INCOME tax credits and reductions continue to be taken into account but in this case there is a one-year gap. If you have recurring expenses that usually entitled you to credits or reductions – such as paying a cleaner or gardener to work at your home, childcare, gifts to good causes, certain
tax breaks for renting out property – you should have had a 60% payment of any money owing to you related to this into your account in January. It was based on your declaration last year of incomes /expenses in 2017. The rest is due in July after your declaration this year of 2018 income. Note, however, that if you did not have such expenses in 2018, you may be due to pay back money received in January. This system does not apply to tax credits for eco-friendly work in the home. If you have any money owing due to such work in 2018, it will be paid in summer this year. The same applies for other kinds of tax reduction if you incurred the expense related to them for the first time last year. I WORK in someone’s home as a nanny – how will tax be taken off? PEOPLE in this situation will pay estimated instalments of their 2019 income tax over the last four months of this year (based on 2018 income declared in May/June 2019). PAS will start for them in 2020 (and there may be some readjustments of the 2019 tax once employees have made their 2019 income tax declarations in 2020). During 2019, the websites for the Cesu and Pajemploi schemes will allow people who employ in the home to set up an automatic arrangement so the employee receives their pay minus appropriate tax from 2020. This relates only to where someone is directly employed in the home, not where they work for a firm or association in a person’s home. I have income from abroad. How will that be dealt with? IF YOU have regular incomes such as foreign pensions (state, private or government) or foreign letting income,
then this will be subject to estimated direct debits on your bank account based on your 2018 declaration (2017 income). I HAVE a pension that is taxed in the UK and then sent to me in France – is it going to be taxed again? IF YOU have a UK state or private pension, that should be taxable only in France, so you need to check with the UK tax authorities and your pension provider that you are being taxed correctly. If you have a UK government pension, this should continue to be taxed only in the UK. It will still be “taken into account” for your French tax rate calculation to stop you benefiting from two sets of personal allowances. I HAVE both French and British state pensions. Can you advise how to deal with the latter, given that its value is affected by exchange rate fluctuations? THE UK state pension income (as opposed to a government pension, such as for a civil servant or teacher) will be subject to PAS instalments once it is known to the tax authorities. If you think that your pension income in euros has severely dropped due to a fall in the exchange rate, so there would be a substantial difference in your amount of tax payable, you can ask to modify the rate being applied, by going into your personal space on the tax site. Before validating the request, it will allow you to put in the amount of the income and obtain a simulation of what (if any) difference the change would make to the rate being applied for the calculation of your instalments. How can I get more information on PAS? IF YOU have an issue regarding your personal tax situation and PAS, there is a new helpline (French only), at the price of a French landline call, on 0 809 401 401. Non-residents are also advised to use this number, rather than contacting the non-residents’ tax centre. The Finance Ministry has also been responding to questions at facebook.com/Economie.Gouv.
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. 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.
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34 Practical: Money
How you can protect your heirs from succession tax This column is by Bill Blevins of Blevins Franks financial advice group (www.blevinsfranks.com). He has decades of experience advising expatriates in France and co-authored the Blevins Franks Guide to Living in France There are various issues to consider once you have moved to France – particularly if you have retired and plan to spend the rest of your days here. While financial planning for your new life will be high on the list, you also need to think about estate planning and protecting heirs from succession tax and France’s strict succession law. French succession tax works differently from UK inheritance tax. While your children can each receive €100,000 tax-free, for other relatives and non-relatives (and this includes step-children) the allowances can be very low and tax rates very high. Likewise, French succession law dictates who you have to leave much of your estate to, so your succession planning needs to be specifically set up for your family situation and wishes. Succession tax rules and rates French succession tax is applied when assets pass on death or as lifetime gifts. The tax is charged on each beneficiary individually, with the level depending on their relationship to the owner and the amount they receive. If you are resident in France when you die, each heir has to pay succession tax on their inheritance. This applies to worldwide assets. Likewise, if you have been living in France for six out of the last 10 years and receive an inheritance or gift from abroad, you could be liable
for succession tax. This will depend on the double tax treaty between France and the country where the assets you receive are located. Inheritances from the UK, for example, are only taxable there, not in France. Spouses and PACS (pacte civil de solidarité - a civil partnership available to French residents, whether same or different sex) partners are exempt from succession tax on inheritances. Lifetime gifts are taxable at progressive rates from 5% to 45%, though the first €80,724 is tax-free. Tax rates for children (inheritances and gifts) range from 5% to 45%, with an allowance of €100,000 each. This allowance does not apply to step-children (unless they are fully adopted) and they have much higher rates. Other heirs in the direct line (ie. grandchildren) pay the same rates as children, but do not receive the €100,000 allowance. They get the standard €1,594 allowance, but you can give them lifetime gifts of up €31,865 tax free, plus the same again for cash gifts. Brothers and sisters generally receive a €15,932 allowance and pay tax at 35% or 45% (if they are over 50 or an invalid, unmarried and living with you long-term, they may be exempt from tax). The allowance for nephews and nieces is €7,967 with a 55% tax rate. Anyone else pays succession tax at 60%, and their allowance is just €1,594. Note that this includes step-children (and for couples with children from previous relationships, this can be a real problem) and long-term partners if you are not married or in a PACS partnership. Succession tax can therefore be crippling, potentially reducing the inheritance you hoped to leave to someone by over half.
Let’s look at an example of a situation that we come across often with clients. Many people are on second marriages and often one or both have children from previous marriages. If you leave assets to your spouse’s children, or vice versa, they will be considered as ‘strangers’ (unrelated) to you and thus will pay the full 60% succession tax rate. As assets pass from one spouse to another then to the next generation, it can generate a large tax bill for some children.
Succession tax example As an illustration, Peter and Jane live permanently in France and have assets worth €2million. Peter has two sons from his first marriage, while Jane has a daughter. Peter dies and leaves everything to Jane, who is exempt from succession tax. When she dies, her daughter receives half of her estate as of right, so receives €1million, and Peter’s sons each get €500,000. Her daughter benefits from the €100,000 allowance and has a tax bill of just under €213,000. She therefore receives an inheritance of just over €787,000. John’s two sons, however, would only receive a net inheritance of €200,956 each. Since they are inheriting from Jane, who they are not related to, their tax bill is €299,044 each. If you and/or your partner have children from previous relationships, there are steps you can take to avoid such high and unfair tax liabilities. Likewise, if you are living with someone but not married to them or in a PACS, they will also pay succession tax at 60%. This will even apply if you jointly own a property, and one inherits the other’s share of the property on their death.
Mitigating succession tax There are various solutions that could help mitigate succession tax. For example: l the allowances for all lifetime gifts renew every 15 years; l you can make tax-efficient gifts to step children; l the value of your main home can be reduced 20%, provided your spouse/PACs partner or children continue to live in it Alternatively, you could use a usufruct (usufruit) to give away assets to children, while retaining a lifetime right to live in the property and/or to the income. This is a way of splitting the overall inheritance of a property between deaths while utilising maximum allowances and lower tax rates. The younger you are the better, as the value of the gift is reduced on a sliding scale depending on age. When it comes to your savings and investments, there are structures that can provide significant succession tax planning benefits in France, as well as accomplishing tax advantages for yourself. Every family is different, so your estate plan must be tailored to your personal objectives and situation. Dealing with tax regimes and succession laws of different countries is complex, so you need to understand how the various options would work for you. Professional advice will give you peace of mind that you are making things as straightforward and tax-efficient as possible. 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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A pig of a job? No, Elise loves life down on the farm by Jane Hanks Elise Jarasse came to France 13 years ago when she was 12 – and she now runs a farm with her French husband. Elise, 25, loves her life now – the couple have a baby daughter, Alixe – and has no intention of returning to the UK. But when she first arrived, she could not understand why her parents had brought her here. It was hard being pitched into 5ème in collège with no grasp of French. She said: “We had other English-speaking new arrivals with us, which helped in one way because we had someone to talk to, but not in another way as it took us longer to learn French. “The other kids were mostly friendly, but it was mixed with the teachers. Some were very welcoming, but many did not know what to do with us and put us at the back of the class.” A plus for Elise was being able to have her own horse, which would have been too costly in the UK. She already knew she wanted to work with animals and thought of being a vet. She went to the nearby lycée, but did not do as well as she needed and so changed school and resat a year. “That was the best decision of my life. I was in a small class of motivated students who all wanted to go into medicine and so I worked hard and got good grades. However, because French was not my first language, my teachers thought a preparation year to go to vet school would be too tough,
‘We started school with little French but look at us now!’ Interview 4 of 6: Elise Jarasse so I took another option and went to do a BTS (brevet de technicien supérieur) in an agricultural college at Naves, near Tulle.” She found it amazing that she could spend two years studying to work on a farm: “I learned most when they put me in charge of 56 pigs on internship for a summer on the school farm. “I realised I did not want to be a vet, but was more interested in seeing them being born and rearing them.” She went on to do the preparation year at Clermont Ferrand she was now ready to do – and did so well that she was accepted at a top school to study for a three-year degree in animal husbandry in Paris. She stuck it out for two years: “I did not enjoy it. I was with students who had lived all their lives in the city and never been on a farm. I was happiest when I was back at the Naves school farm on internship. “I don’t do big towns at all. I would not have wanted to work in research. I prefer being on the farm.” Elise married Guillaume last year
Elise Jarasse: ‘Feeding the calves in the morning doesn’t seem like work’ and joined her husband’s family farm, near Ussel, Corrèze – not as a farmer’s wife but as a farmer in her own right. She said it is sometimes still difficult for people to accept the idea of a girl working a farm, but she has learned to stick up for herself and show she is to be taken seriously. Her husband already reared veal and she has added pigs to their stock. They employ a butcher to cut and
New paint from old... scientist recycles the leftovers in old tins
should be able to use your knowledge to recycle this old paint’,” she said. “For me, it made more sense to make new paint from old, rather than to try and mix colours and different thicknesses of old paint where the quality cannot be guaranteed. “It was more complicated than I thought but I found a solution.” Maïlys Grau was inspired by her own decorating She said she decided to recycle only acrylic paints, which use water as a solvent, because people were turning away from oil-based paints for environmental and health reasons. “People now know that the strong new paint smell when oil paints are used is dangerous for health, as well as being unpleasant,” she said. “All the trends in the market are for more acrylic paint to be used.” The Nouvelle Aquitaine region awarded the firm a €68,000 grant to help it get established as part of its initiative to encourage recycling. Prices of the tins of recycled paint are matched to those of existing brands – and the product is guaranteed like other paints. “It is important to us that the use of recycled products is open to all, not just the well-off,” said Dr Grau. The environment agency ADEME estimates that 37,952 tonnes of paints, varnish and similar products were left unused by householders in France in 2017, based on the figure being 10% of the total amount sold.
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FRENCH chemist Maïlys Grau has started making and selling new paint made from the remains left in old tins. Dr Grau spent 18 months perfecting a “recipe” to convert recovered acrylic paint into new high quality paint in 14 colours. She formed the company Circouleur in 2017 to start an industrial conversion process, and the first paints went on sale in Bordeaux DIY stores and to professionals last summer. She said: “It has been very gratifying to see the reaction. We will be expanding into other DIY shops in the south-west and then, hopefully, across all of France.” The paint left in tins in déchetteries has been separated out as part of the recycling industry for years, but until now it was sent away to be burnt, either in cement factories or in industrial incineration plants. Now in the region around Bordeaux, tins that still have some liquid paint left, or thick paint under a skin, are sent instead to the Circouleur factory in the city’s suburbs. There it is sorted by colour, filtered and then remixed with additives in a method developed and patented by Dr Grau. The company produces 14 colours of interior paint, all chosen in consultation with a Parisbased design firm. They are all muted tones, partly because of the difficulty of getting bright tones in the recycling process, and partly because the design studio advised that muted tones are coming into, and are likely to remain in, fashion. So far, the bestseller has been a shade of green called Eucalyptus. Dr Grau was inspired to set up the company after decorating her own home and wondering what to do with the paint left in pots. She investigated and was shocked to find it was destined for incineration, though a company in Quebec had been recycling paint for 10 years. “I thought ‘you are a trained chemist and you
pack their meat and they hire him out to other farmers. They sell their meat direct to clients, which means that four times a week she goes off in her big van to market. They sell to restaurants, local schools and supermarkets, so she also has to deal with the huge amount of paperwork any business generates. “We always hear that the life of a farmer is hard,” she said. “Yes, we get
up at 6am every day, including Christmas Day, and we have to find someone to look after the animals if we want to go away. But we are our own bosses, so we can choose which days we work really hard, and which days we do a little less. “We don’t earn a lot of money but we have enough and we enjoy what we do. When I feed the calves in the morning, it doesn’t seem like work.” Does she think her life would have been the same if she had stayed in the UK? “No. I think if you work hard there are far more opportunities in France. All my education was free, and I was able to change when things did not work out for me and I could redo a year to improve my grades. “Many friends back home went out to work to earn enough money to go to university, but then never went. “Also many British and Dutch come here to farm, because land is so expensive back home. If I was farming in the UK, I would be an employee and not a farmer.” She is grateful now that her parents decided to make the big move: “I think children in France don’t have to grow up as fast as they do in the UK. “My friends back home were going out to nightclubs when I was still happy riding my horse. “That is precious, and I am really happy that Alixe will grow up on a farm in the French countryside.” NEXT EDITION: Translator Stéphanie Denton-Welburn
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What are the options to work as a couple? My husband and I live in France and plan to launch a small (online) business together. Can you explain the main options for doing this? Can one of us work without being paid, at least at first? T.B.
THE main issue to resolve here is what status you should both have within the business. The Finance Ministry estimates that around 30% of business owners in France work alongside their spouse but a third of those spouses have no official status. This is not ideal for the person in question as he or she gains no personal rights from their work: no share in the firm, no right to unemployment benefit, and no right to a pension etc. As such, the new PACTE business law which is now going through parliament includes rules obliging owners to declare work done by their spouse or civil partner. There are three possible statuses: conjoint collaborateur, conjoint salarié or associé. The latter involves being a partner in the business and is only possible if it is set up as a company (rather than run as a sole trader business, such as one
under the simple microentreprise system). As for the others, a conjoint collaborateur is not paid for their work but they do benefit from health and maternity rights as the business owner’s dependant, and they pay into the same retirement regime towards pension rights. However, they have no right to unemployment benefit if the business is wound up. The conjoint salarié is, as it sounds, an employee, with the usual benefits that implies: they should be paid a salary of at least the minimum wage, they pay towards their own healthcare and pension and may, if necessary, obtain unemployment benefit, as long as they did not have a “decision-making” role with regard to the future of the business. To clarify the conjoint salarié’s role, they should have a work contract and it is possible to register it with the tax service, which establishes proof of the contract’s start date. In the case of spouses who are business partners, each has a right to profits from the business and each will be registered with the sécurité sociale indépendants for health and pension rights.
Small business and tax advice Will taking French nationality affect our tax situation? Q: We have UK state pensions plus income from UK lettings and government pensions. We are over 65 and have S1s for healthcare and do not pay social charges. If, due to Brexit, we take French citizenship while retaining our UK citizenship, how would this affect our tax position and liability to social charges? A: TAKING French nationality will not affect your tax or social charges liabilities. As things stand, as a result of Brexit there would be no change to income tax and the social charges for UK nationals resident in the EU as the EU has never intervened in any country’s fiscal rights – international taxation laws are enshrined in double tax treaties and are not connected to the EU. Healthcare rights after Brexit, however, are different. These are addressed for existing Britons abroad in the reciprocal EU/UK deal that is on the table under which they are maintained as now. In a no-deal, the situation would be more complicated as the S1 is an EU scheme, although the UK has expressed willingness to enter into new bilateral agreements in order to protect health arrangements. In the absence of such, anyone maintaining legal ongoing French residency should logically be entitled to healthcare under the fee-based ‘Puma’ scheme. This would be facilitated by French nationality as French people have an unconditional residency right. The state pension would remain free of French social charges as long as you are not deemed a burden to the French social security system (your nationality does not affect this). Your other UK incomes are exempt through the UK/France double tax treaty. Email your tax questions to firstname.lastname@example.org This column is sponsored by Olaf Muscat Baron who is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Accountants UK, a French expert comptable and an International tax advisor. He is the principal accountant of Fiscaly, an accountancy firm based in the Dordogne which serves individuals and businesses in or out of France. See www.fiscaly.fr or call 09 81 09 00 15
CRAFTS in focus
Left, a restored altar at Chapelle du Cheylard by Xavier Bretel (left) and father Pierre. Below, one of their bespoke kitchens
Father-and-son team share growing passion for wood by JANE HANKS
Becoming a cabinet maker is a calling – a vocation that takes many years of training. Atelier Bretel is a father-andson business in Borrèze, near Sarlat in the Dordogne. Pierre started the business in 1983 and his son Xavier joined him in 2008. They make staircases, kitchens, bathroom furniture, parquet and woodwork for windows and doors, in all styles from all periods up to contemporary design. They work mostly for private individuals but also for the heritage body Monuments Historiques. They are proud of being craftsmen who are skilled in a traditional savoir-faire. They work with wood from sustainable forests in France and learn all they can about each tree their wood comes from by talking to the woodsman who has cut it down. Every last inch is used – down to the wood shavings, which they have used to fuel their heating system for 12 years... long before this type of recycling became fashionable. “Cutting down a tree is a serious act,” said Xavier. “It may have been growing for 120 years so it must be respected. “I make sure that if I make a door, the wood is used in the same direction as that in which it grew, so the bottom corresponds to the part which was nearest the roots and the top nearest the sky. “It means it will hang better and is less likely to warp.” Both men studied hard before qualifying. Pierre did a CAP Ebéniste, which in his day lasted three years, and Xavier a CAP Ebéniste, a BMA (Bac equivalent) and a DMA (BTS equivalent), which took him
six years in total. He went on to do as his father did after his CAP: what is called a Tour de France with Les Compagnons du Devoir, lasting four years. This is an organisation of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages, where young men and women spend three to five years working for between six months and a year with different masters, learning various aspects of their trade in different towns. As well as working in the workshop, they also have to study. Pierre now has a young compagnon working for him and twice a week he gives him lessons after work. This type of apprenticeship results in dedicated, highly skilled, qualified craftsmen and women. In total, Xavier studied for 10 years before joining his father’s business. The Bretel father-and-son team agree on the qualities needed to be a cabinetmaker – or ébéniste: “You have to be passionate about working with wood; you need to be able to use your hands with intelligence; have the desire to create excellence; be good at drawing, mathematics and geometry; and have a knowledge of the history of art, so, for example, you can differentiate between a Louis XIII and a Louis XV.”
When they start on a project, they first talk it over with the client and that can include up to seven meetings. “It is important to get the detail right from the start,” said Xavier. “I look at the room, how the light works and suggest the types of wood which would be most suitable, and make drawings.” Then they create the project and are meticulous over measurements, so that 95% of time is spent in the workshop and just 5% in installation. “When I was younger, I loved mastering the skills and techniques,” said Xavier. “Now I am older, I love the creative side and the part which brings the greatest satisfaction is seeing the pleasure in the client’s eyes when they discover their new kitchen or staircase.” He is also keen to point out that he can create a made-tolast kitchen for the same price as a fairly upmarket industrial kitchen from a national chain. He said: “People are worried that we are far more expensive, but if someone is going for a mid-to-top-of-the-range kitchen, around €12,000, we can match that with quality materials rather than chipboard and will give you a working surface which will resist hot pans. “We do not have the com-
mercial visibility of the big companies and one of my projects for 2019 is to open a showroom to show what we can provide for the public.” The website (atelierbretel.com) has brought in business from far and wide for this small workshop hidden deep in the Périgord Noir, taking them as far as Barcelona. An ébéniste is defined as someone who makes furniture to order or who creates his own style in unique pieces or in a small number. They mostly work in wood, but can also use materials such as metal, glass and textiles. An ébéniste usually has a greater range of skills than the more recognisable menuisier and is likely to work on single pieces in a small workshop. There are nearly 37,000 cabinetmakers working in 16,600 artisanal businesses in France, ranging from one to 10 workers in each. Three-quarters of their work is done for private buyers and most is in the creation of furniture (a small percentage is in restoration work). Most cabinetmakers have a qualification, with 60% having a CAP, a two-to three-year qualification that can be taken after the college brevet. At Bac level there is a Bac Pro artisanat et métiers d’art option ébéniste, a Brevet des Métiers d’Art, BMA ébéniste or a Brevet Technique des Métiers, BTM ébéniste and after that there is a Diplôme des Métiers d’Art, DMA, or a Brevet Technique des Métiers Supérieurs, BTMS. A salaried worker earns around the minimum wage to start, and can earn up to €3,800 a month. Many of the qualifications can be carried out as sandwich courses and it is a sector with one of the highest apprentice numbers.
Property Watch in
REGIONAL CAPITAL: Rouen DEPARTMENTS: Calvados, Eure, Manche, Orne, Seine-Maritime MAIN CITIES: Caen, Cherbourg, Alençon, Rouen, Le Havre, Deauville, Rouen, Evreux , Saint-Lô, Dieppe NORMANDY is a region synonymous with conflict after it was the stage of the D-Day landings in 1944 but it is also a popular place for people looking to buy a second home. Excellent road links between Paris and the Seine-Maritime and Calvados departments mean Normandy’s resorts are just a two-hour drive away from Paris. In addition plans for a new high-speed rail line connecting the capital and Le Havre that will slash the current two-and-ahalf hour journey time are also well under way. Even without a high-speed rail link, such is the popularity of the region with wealthy Parisians, many of whom own second homes here, that it is sometimes known as the capital’s 21st arrondissement – Paris-sur-Mer, if you will. But the race for properties in Normandy does not seem to have had a huge impact on prices. In Le Havre, house prices were on average around €177,900 in July 2018, according to Notaires de France figures – but expect them to jump when the high-speed rail line opens. Before the rail line bump, house prices across France are expected to rise between 3.3% and 3.9% in 2019. Coastal Seine-Maritime and Calvados are the most popular departments with average prices boosted by their seaside positions. Prices per m² in the former were some €900 more than in neighbouring landlocked Orne. The average price for a non new-build house in Rouen is €160,000, while in Caen it is €211,700. Flats in the two towns fetch prices of €2,160 per m² and €1,840 per m² respectively.
The 18th-century gates on the Canal de la Banche still work perfectly. Below, plans drawn up in 1700 for a lock gate
By JANE HANKS
For centuries, man has battled with the encroaching sea to make the most of the rich soil of the Marais Poitevin. It is the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue, and the fifth largest in Europe. It extends across three departments, the Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and CharenteMaritime, and is divided into three areas: the wet marsh – also known as France’s Green Venice – the coastal zone, and the agricultural dry zone. Officials in the Vendée are drawing up an inventory of all its heritage sites and their work has revealed many architectural features linked to the draining of the land, including the canal systems, dykes and several canal gates which have been used since the Middle Ages. This early system still functions, even though the area has been in constant danger from natural forces or war, and the drainage system has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The department’s chief heritage officer, Yannis Suire, knows the region well as some years ago he studied the hydraulic features for his PhD thesis. He said: “The same principles have been used to keep the sea at bay since the end of the 12th century and though the original wooden gates have long since rotted, we know that many of the existing ones today are on the same sites, and built in the same way, and pre-date more recent systems in the Netherlands.” The oldest existing structures date from the end of the 18th century. There are 13 near the village of Puyravault, which were all built in the same way. A wooden platform rests on wooden piles which were sunk into the mud. Some of these are undoubtedly originals, in the same way that Venice rests on old piles still intact after centuries of submersion. Then there are stone supporting walls on each bank – and between them the wooden gates which are pushed shut by the force of the water at high tide or during violent storms, and open again when the waters subside. The two gates are
Photo: CVRH Nouvelle-Aquitaine Y.Suire
Built to last: the dykes, locks and canals of Marais Poitevin
Architecture of France... Marais Poitevin
What your money buys Under €75,000
built so that they close against each other to become watertight, forming a V pointing downstream, which makes them stronger than if they shut flat. Usually a house was built nearby to lodge a lock-keeper. Records show the Port de l’Epine was first built in the 13th century and there are records from 1694 asking for permission to build a cow shed against it. In 1884, it was rebuilt to allow cart access. Another was on the Canal de la Banche. The structure was not, however, easy to build. Stone from quarries in the Charente and wood from nearby forests were brought by boat to avoid the marshy land. Work was interrupted by the tides and it is not easy building in mud and water. Mr Suire said 19th century documents record the difficult working conditions, and he said he could imagine it was even more difficult in earlier times. Only wealthy landowners could afford to tame the marshland by paying for labour to dig the canals and build the gates. At first, in the late 12th and 13th centuries, monasteries undertook the work as they knew that valuable pasture and arable land lay underneath the water. One of the canals is still called Canal des Cinq Abbés as its construction was funded by five abbeys which grouped together in 1220. Other canals dug out by hand were the 20km Ceinture des Hollandais in 1283 and the Canal du Clain, which is one of the oldest still in use today. Dykes built along the Aiguillon Bay have been repeatedly breached and rebuilt through the ages. Dykes were also built along each side of the canals, with tracks along the top of them to act as roads.
During the Hundred Years War, many of these works were destroyed. In the late 15th century the king ordered repairs and a royal official concluded that this was “a very good land, fertile and abundant with wheat and other fruit and farm animals of all kinds”. In 1599, a report into the state of the marshes, near Aiguillon Bay, indicated that a gate from the Bot Neuf canal had been taken away by Protestant troops and its replacement was urgent. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the dry marshes were an important region for wheat, the bread basket of Poitou, despite storms in 1616 and 1671 which caused massive sea flooding and destroyed crops. After the revolution, a syndicate was formed to maintain the defences. During World War Two there was more damage, which was subsequently repaired, only to be destroyed again by Cyclone Xynthia in 2010. Despite the constant battle to keep the canals, dykes and gates functioning, the dry marshes are still in existence and the drainage system, although renovated, is basically the same. Mr Suire said important lessons have been learned: “Man has been constantly working to reclaim the sea here, and from the first they understood that this was only possible through enormous effort. “If they built houses, they built them on raised land and built ditches round them to protect them. The dykes and the canals were intelligently planned. “The gates were solid constructions – not like some building works we see on flood plains today. This is not just history, it is relevant today.”
3-bed semi detached house with large attached barn and separate stone barn in a quiet rural hamlet. A spacious stone house 5km from Barenton on the edge of the Norman Maine Regional Park. A pretty cottage offering great space, extensively improved by the current owners. €56,000 Ref: 73449RL50
7-bed period house with huge potential for a guest house, close to Briouze with a direct line to Paris. This is a large detached character property in need of updating with lots of potential. It also has a garden that wraps round the house, a pergola and large garage. €71,500 Ref: 93882RBR61
More than €100,000
A gorgeous 3-bed country cottage in a peaceful and private location, just 15kms from the coast. Nestled in the countryside at the end of a quiet no-through road, this lovely cottage offers pretty rural views. A short drive from the market town of Saint-James. €114,450 Ref: 75165CMR50
Situated in a small hamlet just a few minutes from the lovely riverside town of Putanges-le-Lac. This is a beautifully presented and interesting property with lots of potential to develop further. There is also a further small house to renovate and a barn in the garden. €155,000 Ref: 89285LOK61
Properties available through Leggett Immobilier www.frenchestateagents.com Tel: 05 53 56 62 54
Next month: We look at the Rhône-Alpes
38 PRACTICAL: Property
LegalNotes Accidental off-gridders have Your questions answered
A: In most cases, a developer will need to secure certain reservations in order to get a financial guarantee in place with its bank for the project. The agent will therefore need to work hard to ensure sufficient commitment from potential buyers. You need to be prepared for lots of documentation – all in French! The legal process for offplan sales is well established. However, delays are not uncommon and sometimes developers begin marketing before they have even secured ownership of the site. Most off-plan purchases we deal with involve delayed handover of the completed apartment. It is difficult to obtain compensation for this delay. Given that you are looking to buy an apartment, as opposed to a standalone chalet, the apartment complex will be part of a legal structure known as a co-ownership (une copropriété). There will be an overreaching co-ownership deed with rules which will govern all co-owners and which are designed to ensure a harmonious experience for all. There will be an annual meeting of co-owners, where a service charge budget is set and other matters are voted on. The first document you will be required to sign if you proceed with the purchase is a reservation contract. This will commit you to the purchase but will be conditional on the developer receiving all necessary planning and administrative authorisations for the project as well as a financial guarantee from a bank. There will also be a deadline –
usually 12 months from signature of the reservation contract - by when the developer has to be in a position to call for legal completion of the sale. This means that ground works must have begun before the end of the deadline. If that deadline is missed, this is an opportunity for you to withdraw from the purchase and recover your deposit. The reservation contract should also in your case include a finance condition so that if you are unable to source a mortgage for the 50% of the purchase price which you need, you will be able to withdraw from the purchase without penalty. The best advice is to use a UK-based French mortgage broker for your loan application. Assuming all conditions are met and the sale proceeds to legal completion, you will become owner of what has been built at that stage. You will then become owner of the rest as construction proceeds and the purchase price will be payable in stages. Once the developer’s architect declares your apartment is complete, you will be invited to a handover meeting to check for any snags. If all is in order, the final 5% will be released by your lender and you will receive the keys. The best way to protect yourself is to receive independent legal advice on the documentation. Going it alone or simply relying on the agent’s assurance that all is in order could be a dangerous and potentially costly mistake.
Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 www.heslop-platt.co.uk email@example.com
enjoyed soaking up the sun LOSING their jobs in France turned out to have a happy ending for Dutch couple Fred and Marijke Andriessen, who have since lived off-grid for nearly two decades. Mr Andriessen said: “We moved to France in 1986 to manage a holiday park and worked there for 10 years. But the park closed in 1996, at which point the house we had been living in became due for demolition. “We didn’t want to move back to Holland so we started house-hunting and found this beautiful house on a hill with wonderful views of the Pic St-Loup, near Montpellier. “It was perfect for us as we didn’t have much money and we could only afford it because it was unfinished.” Undaunted by the work the property needed, they moved in and rolled up their sleeves. “Back then, we just had candles and petrol lamps. Then we got a propane gas fridge.” From the moment they bought the house, in Vacquières, they knew they could never afford to connect it to the electricity grid. “EDF wanted almost as much as we paid for the house. It was out of the question. We always planned to do it ourselves.” They started with an electric generator, which ran on heating fuel. “But it wasn’t great because every morning, before we even had a shower, we had to start it in order to pump water from the well to heat it with a gas water heater.” A chance meeting with a BP Solar specialist proved to be a game-changer. “He gave us information about solar panels, and that was good, as we wanted to stop using oil. “But because the roof of our house is orientated east/west, we placed the panels on a veranda sticking out in front of our facade, and this works well. “The panels also protect the house from rain, wind and sun. We bought a transformer so we can use the electricity for ordinary appliances but it was very basic and it fused often.” They bought a more robust inverter – which transforms a direct current produced by
Photo: Fred Andriessen
Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query
Q: I have just spent a week skiing in the Alps. Whilst there, I inquired about the purchase of an off-plan apartment. The developer’s agent is now bombarding me to sign a contract. As I have never purchased property in France before, can you outline potential pitfalls so I do not make an expensive mistake? I have some cash funds but will need a euro mortgage for around half the purchase price. F.T.
Fred and Marijke Andriessen at home and, below, olives they collect to turn into oil solar panels into an alternating current used by modern appliances – a few years later and now they have almost 100% constant solar electricity. “We store electricity in batteries but during long periods of cloud and storms, the batteries run flat and I have to start the generator. But that happens very rarely.
“The panels supply our needs plus the needs of the 60m² gîte we have built. The gîte gives us an income.” They are self-sufficient when it comes to sewerage too, as they have a septic tank. “Three years ago, when we applied for planning permission to extend the house, we were obliged to update the septic tank, so now we have an up-to-date system with a champ d’épandage (leach field) where practically clean waste water (produced by anaerobic digestion in the septic tank) can go back into the ground.” The extension was part of a plan to remain in their house
permanently. They extended the ground floor so that they could sleep downstairs. “We’d like to stay here as we grow old, and while we were doing the work we also put 12 extra solar panels on the new south-facing roof of the extension, and we bought a heat pump for our water supply, which has reduced our need for propane.” The only connections they have to the outside world are for a phone and internet. “The house is remote so we have to take our rubbish to the bins in the nearby town. “But we separate and compost as much as possible, and take metal to the déchètterie. I recycle a lot. I keep things that might be handy for DIY and see if I find a use for them.” Even during last summer’s long heatwave, their well remained in service. “We even had enough to refill our small swimming pool from time to time. We originally filled it with rainwater, which we collect throughout the winter. “We can store up to six cubic metres, but we are not allowed to use all of it. We always have to keep three cubic metres available for the firefighters in case they should ever have to come out.” Mr Andriessen said he thought that it probably costs more than if they were connected to mains services. “It’s not only the cost of buy-
ing equipment, but also the maintenance costs are higher. “If you are connected to EDF and generate your own solar or wind power, it might be different because you don’t need batteries or an inverter.” For anyone connected to the grid, spare electricity from solar panels can be fed back into the system. If the solar panels are not producing enough, the house will use electricity from the grid. “The batteries only last about 10 years, and are expensive,” he said. “Also, the generator only works for about 100,000 hours and then has to be replaced – which means a big investment of up to €7,000. “And you have to be able to maintain all this yourself – change oil, change filters, etc. If I ask a technician to come, it costs a fortune.” Because the house is on a hill, their land is dry and not suitable for growing vegetables. “We don’t have a kitchen garden because it would take so much water, and we don’t want to run the well dry. “We do grow tomatoes. So just when the shops are full of them and they are cheap, we have a glut. “We also have 40 olive trees and we make olive oil which is wonderful. We have to make enough to last for at least two to three years, because our olive trees don’t always give a good harvest year after year.”
Sound of silence now means ‘non’, not ‘oui’
Block of flats warmed Wealthy villa owners by passing Metro trains lose coastal path fight
The principle of tacit planning acceptance from authorities has been overturned in the case of mountain pasture chalets or summer buildings. Four months of silence now indicates refusal rather than approval. A new decree states that applications for such mountain properties, which are popular with holidaymakers, that are filed after February 1 must be formally approved within four months – otherwise they must be considered rejected. This is the opposite of other planning rules.
TENANTS of a social housing building in Paris are saving on their heating bills as it has been adapted to be warmed by passing trains on the Metro. Around 20 flats in a building on rue Beaubourg in the 4th arrondissement have seen their heating bills drop by about €70 a year after a heat pump was installed to capture and filter hot air generated by trains on the underground network. The scheme is being rolled out to other buildings along the Metro’s Ligne 11.
HIKERS will soon be able to walk along a pristine stretch of Brittany coastline after a 36-year legal battle with local villa owners. Work to build a path along the Emerald Coast, near Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, had been opposed by property owners, including the family of former US presidential candidate John Kerry. Path opponents claim security issues, but under French law the coastline must be accessible to all. The path cuts through the wall of one property and runs next to another’s pool.
Start at the end to create order out of chaos on site Nick Inman charts the ups and downs of doing it himself in our regular column... here, the important point of organising work space
When you start a new project – say, like me, a French farmhouse that needs major restoration – you have one big advantage that you shouldn’t let slip away. You can decide where everything goes. This may seem a secondary concern when you are still planning, but once you are in the thick of building work, you will realise how important it is to organise your space and you’ll wish you did it at the
When you don’t have a ...clou outset. As soon as the first lorry turns up, you have to decide where it all is placed – whether neatly stacked out of the way or placed somewhere you will trip over it every half an hour. The last thing you want to do is dump everything on the lawn in front of the house until you have time and energy to sort it. Remember the organisation is not just for you but for anyone who helps you with the
house. If they can’t see a system, they’ll stick stuff wherever they feel like it and things will only get worse. If you arrange a party of friends to bring 200 pantiles down from the roof and tell them to stack them somewhere in the garden with the idea of shifting them to a permanent
location later, where they are is where they will stay until the next owner of the house finds them overgrown with ivy. So, start at the end of the process by deciding where you are going to put your rubbish. You will generate more than you think. Hack even a small hole in an old wall and you will
be surprised at just how much rubble comes out. A lot of rubbish can and should be recycled. I sort and sieve all building materials, placing it in plastic dustbins or other containers so I know where to find fine sand that I can mix with cement, or coarse rubble to fill a hole. Everything organic goes on the compost heap, chopped if necessary. Damaged but still serviceable timber can be used as garden poles and fences. Scraps of wood are stored dry in old removals boxes to go on the stove in winter. Sawdust I use for mopping up oil or making homemade filler (with wood glue). Plastic sheet and large pieces of cardboard come in handy for shielding furniture from
dust or protecting services while working above them. Once you have a system of disposal you can start planning where to store new materials. Some of these are immovable – pallets of bricks or a pile of building sand (also messy). Some are heavy – sacks of cement – and while you can shift them, you don’t want to have to displace them too often. These need to be kept out of the way, while the materials you will be working with daily must be near at hand. All the above does not mean that I am not forever tidying up my own mess, but at least I know where things are supposed to go – and that helps make me feel things are in some sort of order.
Equity release loan: ‘The Old boats get new rates didn’t work for me’ life as garden cabins
Retired farmer Penny Stevens looked into getting an equity release loan
Connexion often receives requests for information about equity release in France. We talk to a reader in Brittany who says she gave up on it (twice) because it was too bad a deal THE MAIN form of equity release in France that suits older people wanting to release funds from the value of their home is the prêt viager hypothécaire. Retired farmer Penny Stevens, 80, who has lived in Brittany since 1998, said that as she has no children she was initially looking for a way to avoid leaving her home in a will to someone who would have to pay 60% inheritance tax on it. She had looked into an en viager sale – allowing her to continue living there until her death – but it was “absolutely impossible in Brittany unless you have a very nice house and are at death’s door”. She then researched equity release. In theory, the prêt viager hypothécaire is the kind most suited to her case as it is aimed at senior citizens. It is currently
only offered by Crédit Foncier (though as of mid-February 2019 it will cease to offer it to new customers with the product being taken over by other banks in the Banque Populaire Caisse d’Epargne group). The money is given as a lump sum, minus set-up costs, as a loan repayable with interest from your estate after you die. If the debt to the bank on your death is more than the value of the property, the difference is taken on board by the bank, whereas if there is money left over, it goes to your heirs. Ms Stevens’ house, in a Breton village, near a forest and with sweeping country views, has been valued at €180,000. She said she went to find out about the loan at the Crédit Foncier in Lorient – more than 60km away – 10 years ago but gave up after being offered a maximum of €15,000 at an estimated cost to her estate likely to be several times the amount by the time she died. She made inquiries again recently, obtaining information
on costs compiled by Notaires de France. (It is now possible to do it via some local notaires, although the loan is still from Crédit Foncier.) “With Brexit and the fall in the pound, my pension has gone down and I was struggling. I’m probably what Theresa May calls ‘the just-about-managing’, but I wasn’t managing. “But it’s no better now. It is really only suitable for people who are wealthy and have no children and who want money to buy a smart car or a yacht. “What it’s not suitable for is anybody who wants extra income, because it costs too much. It would have cost €11,000 just to set it up, then, as an 80-year-old, I would have been eligible for a loan of 44%, then there is compound interest, worked out at 8.5% [payable on sale of the home]. It’s huge.” Ms Stevens said the loan is only available to people aged 60 or more and the amounts obtainable rise with age. “I want to remain in my house as long as possible but there will probably come a time when I can’t cope. Because of these costs, I feel I’ll have to sell the house and move into a flat.” A spokesman for Crédit Foncier said the rate had dropped since Ms Stevens researched it and is now 4.8%. He added set-up costs vary depending on the details of each case but they cannot be compared to the costs of obtaining an ordinary mortgage because the bank has more risk – it does not know what the home will be worth when the person dies, or how long they will live. If you have taken out a prêt viager hypothécaire and found it proved practical, tell us about it via firstname.lastname@example.org
A BOATYARD has started converting old yachts and motorboats into sleep-in garden cabins. There was a boom in pleasure boating, starting in the 1960s when polyester-based composite boats –often wrongly called fibre-glass – became popular. With mass production, hundreds of thousands of the boats were made, and many now lie deteriorating in ports and gardens up and down the country. Didier Toqué, president of Bathô boatyard near Nantes, said: “The problem is that there is no way to recycle the polyester used to manufacture the boats. Before we started business, it had to be broken up and either buried in landfill or sent to cement factories where it was incinerated, producing toxic gases, neither of which are good solutions for the environment.” The government has become alarmed at the situation and tougher new regulations, based on the principle of ‘polluter pays’ are due to come into force soon, giving a boost to the re-use idea. “Our boatyard is socially active,” Mr Toqué said. “We train people who are long-term unemployed or have never been in work, which has helped us get started. Employees sent from Pôle Emploi usually find work in the boating field after 12 or 24 months with us.” The boats most favourable for conversion are usually 7-11m long and no wider than 2.6m, which means they can be transported on the roads without special convoy status. Almost all are given free to the company by owners who do not know what else to do with them. Converting them starts with
Here and below - artist’s impressions of cabin designs
stripping out the engine and navigation gear, which gets re-used or recycled. The stern is then cut off to allow access via a wooden platform, rigging for a horizontal shade is installed, and the interior space is adapted for use according to the buyer’s wishes. “We have had a few sold as extra bedrooms for people who have garden space, others as a garden cabin, and various one-off uses too: one buyer had his converted into an insulated sound studio,” said Mr Toqué. Most of the resulting cabins have a floor area of between 15 and 20 square metres, with a shaded wooden deck giving extra living space. Toilets and plumbing are stripped from the boat but the company proposes separate toilets or showers made from the small cabins found in the middle of many fishing boats. These can be dry toilets or linked to sewers or septic tanks. The firm also promotes the
boats to campsite owners as an alternative to small wooden cabins, and has had a positive response. Usually no planning permission is needed because the re-used boats fall into a legal void. “Each boat in France has to be sold with registration papers – a bit like the carte grise for a motor car,” said Mr Toqué. “When it is sold, there are only two options: destroying the boat or keeping it to navigate. Obviously, our old boats don’t navigate but the owners have the papers as if they can.” The price, which includes transport and installation, is usually between €15,000 and €20,000 per boat, and experiments show they last for between 10 and 15 years before needing another facelift.
The Back Page
‘Wwoofers’ of the world unite for board and opportunity by BRIAN McCULLOCH IT IS now officially an “opportunity” rather than “work” but the idea is the same... and it is firmly established on organic farms in France. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Wwoof) was first called Weekend Workers on Organic Farms, then it became Willing Workers on Organic Farms before settling on the new name. The change reflects battles with authorities over employment laws in many countries, including France, as the scheme’s popularity has grown. The principle is simple: in return for accommodation and at least one meal a day, the “wwoofer” does a limited number of hours’ work on a farm or garden. Except it is not called work – it is “sharing labour” in return for practical experiences. The network started in the UK in the early 1970s and became popular as a way of having a cheap holiday and seeing first-hand how people in different countries live, as well as doing some (usually manual) work. A number of people here, including Britons, began acting as Wwoof hosts in the late 1990s, using the “independent” section of the website for countries with no official organisation. As numbers grew, French wwoofers formed a national association in 2007, but they risked running foul of labour laws: in France work has to be paid for in money, not kind, unless it is a
simple case of neighbours or family helping each other. David Marie, former president of Wwoof France (see www.wwoof.fr) and now the organisation’s part-time employee, said: “That is why we never refer to ‘work’ on organic farms. “It is a sharing relationship. The wwoofers learn skills, techniques and the philosophy of organic farming, and hosts open their houses and share meals to pass on their knowledge. “A Wwoof host, for example, cannot say ‘I am going to milk the cows at 6am tomorrow and I want you there’. Instead he might say ‘I am going to milk the cows at 6am tomorrow and if you want to be there to see how it is done and help, you are welcome’.” This arrangement was formalised in 2014 between the association, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA), the super-caisse which runs health, pensions, family allowances and other services for farmers. There was a crackdown on illegal workers at the time, and Wwoof took the chance to clarify the legal status of its organisation. Mr Marie said: “The base of the agreement is that wwoofers and hosts are helping each other, and everyone has the right to help someone, without being classified as an employee.” There are now 1,700 hosts in France and “thousands” of wwoofers, although the exact number is kept secret. “So the MSA does not get alarmed,” he added.
GARDENERS’ WORLD JULIEN LUCY and his wife Mélanie are both former wwoofers who now host others on their market garden in Charente-Maritime. Situated in a bio (organic) co-operative in Mortagne-surGironde, they grow and sell vegetables either to subscribers who buy weekly or fortnightly baskets, or through a kiosk at the local port and a bio shop at the larger town of Saint-Georgesde-Didonne. “We could do the work ourselves, but having the wwoofers is a great help,” said Julien. The couple have between 200 and 300 requests a year, and so select on a first-come, first-served basis. “The only exception is if someone has a project to open their own bio farm or market garden, and then we let them jump the queue.” He heard of wwoofing for the first time while travelling. “We were in the Landes and by chance met up with a market gardener who was a wwoofer host.” The couple had many requests from Germans, usually women aged between 20 and 25 who were interested in bio farming and staying on the Atlantic coast, but now find there are lots of requests from French people. “It is obvious that more French peo-
ple are hearing about it, and it is becoming accepted. We also have had people from Canada, South America, Africa and Japan.” The couple’s experience with wwoofers has been overwhelmingly positive. “I know some people have had less good experiences with wwoofers and wwoofing, but that has not been the case with us at all,” he said. “We are still in touch with many people, and some return every year.” WWOOFER TURNED HOST ONE of Julien’s former wwoofers, Fanny Choisy (pictured with him), has now also started living in the co-operative, where she is in the process of setting herself up as a bio-baker. She first
heard of wwoofing through word of mouth while working as a jeweller in Poitiers. “I suppose I was in a circle of people who were interested in bio eating and things, and somehow through them I heard of wwoofing and gave it a try,” she said. She wwoofed with Julien and Melanie, and then moved to another host near Bordeaux, who had a bakery as part of the business, and spent time there learning the trade. “The hosts I have had have been genuine about sharing their experience which helped me tremendously,” she said. “At no time did I feel they just wanted me to do the work without being paid – it was a sharing arrangement where I really learnt as I worked.” She is also a volunteer with Wwoof France, where she is a mediator in cases where there is a conflict between hosts and wwoofers. “There are very few of them, and they normally boil down to what is expected from each side. “Some hosts feel wwoofers are not really interested, while we also get complaints sometimes that hosts seem to expect too much from wwoofers, but given the number of people involved now, the number of problems is very small. “In the end, sometimes, some people just do not get on with each other.”
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