etcetera magazine December 2021

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Gift Givers & Fireplace Folklore Joy eux No ël

Present Ideas

For Nature Lovers PLUS



hello & welcome

Contents 3

A note from the editors


What’s on















Welcome to the December edition of etcetera magazine.




Free time

As we close the door on the year and lock, double-lock and perhaps even barricade it, we hope you are all warm, safe, and can enjoy all that you have, whilst preparing your welcome for 2022 with open arms and a smile.




Farm life






Farm life


Home & specialist


Latest news


Getting connected




Motoring & removals





Tel: 05 17 36 15 32

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Heartfelt thanks to everyone this year for your ongoing support. Continue to keep safe, keep well. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.


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A Note from the Editors

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SAMU (Medical) Gendarmes (Police) Pompiers (Fire and also trained in medical emergency) 114 Text-message emergency number for deaf/hard of hearing 119 Child abuse 115 Homeless 113 Drugs and alcohol 112 European emergency not always English 1616 Emergency- Sea & Lake 3131 Last incoming call, key ‘5’ to connect Orange English speaking helpline 0033 (0)9 69 36 39 00 Website in English: Technical assistance for landlines (French): 3900 (+33 9 69 39 39 00 from abroad) SFR 1023 or 00336 1000 1023 (Not English) EDF 0810 333087 EDF breakdown 24 hours +33 (0)9 69 36 63 83 EDF Helpline in English 0033 562164908 (From UK) 05 62 16 49 32 Fax E-mail: CPAM - 09 74 75 36 46 Veolia Water Emergency No: 24h/24 et 7j/7 05 61 80 09 02 (press 1 for urgent problems or 2 for a technician) S.E.P Du Confolens (Water) 05 87 23 10 08 Emergency 24/7 Aéroport Int’l Limoges 05 55 43 30 30 SNCF (train times, buying tickets etc) 36 35 Alcoholics Anonymous For contact details of meetings in your area including those conducted in English, visit

Please download the pdf from this link now:

HOSPITALS 05 55 05 55 55 Limoges (CHU) 05 55 43 50 00 St Junien 05 55 47 20 20 Bellac 05 49 44 44 44 Poitiers 05 45 24 40 40 Angoulême 05 49 32 79 79 Niort 05 45 84 40 00 Confolens Counselling In France Counsellors, psychotherapists, NLP, CBT etc offering therapy in English to expatriates all over France on SSAFA France 05 53 24 92 38 email French Health Insurance Advice line. CPAM English speaking Advice line: 09 74 75 36 46 (from France) 0033 974 75 36 46 (from other countries). The line is open from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. NHS website : No Panic France Helpline: No Panic UK helpline: 0044 1 952 590 545 11h - 23h (French time) 7/7 / English-speaking Crisis Line SOS- HELP 01 46 21 46 46 3pm-11pm 7/7 British Consulate in Paris 01 44 51 31 00 British Consulate in Bordeaux 05 57 22 21 10 Credit Agricole English Speaking Helpline Charente (residents only) 05 45 20 49 60 Anglofile - Radio for British in Charente Tues 20h (repeated Sun 11h30). leme 96.8, Chalais 96.9, Confolens 95.4, Ruffec 95.4, Char. Limousine 104.1, Cognac 89.9

Print 2 copies - one for your home and one for your car - it could save a life.

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By Sar ah



Sarah is the author of where she blogs about her original craft tutorials, recipes, foraging, and developing wellbeing through being creative, spending time outdoors and connecting with nature



eed diffusers are a home fragrance system where reeds disperse a fragrance held within a carrier solvent. They don’t need any batteries or electricity so are an easy way to fragrance your home.

Diffuser oil can be expensive to buy, but you can make a DIY version that is just as good as the ones in the shops. If you are interested in making your own, see the next page.

− Fillable Christmas baubles that will hold liquid (narrow-necked glass)

for environmentally friendly reed diffusers and room sprays and is readily available from soap making supply outlets

− Augeo Clean Multi Oil (Reed Diffuser Base) - an eco-solvent made from glycerin that is a sustainable alternative to petrochemical solvents. It is widely used as a diluent and carrier for the fragrance

− Christmas essential oil blends − Rattan reeds − Evergreen Foliage or spice pods (I used holly and spruce for mine)

1. I started by popping the fresh foliage into my fillable baubles. I used holly and berries in one and spruce clippings in the other.

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craft 2. Measure out the correct amount of Augeo Clean Multi to almost fill the bauble and add the scent of your choice. I chose to use a ready-mixed essential oil fragrance rather than mixing my own on this occasion. How many drops you add will depend on the strength of your Christmassy scent, so experiment until you are happy with the aroma. 3. Use a funnel to add your diffuser oil into your Christmas bauble and pop on the lid. My Christmas baubles came with Christmassy ribbon attached, so I just popped a bundle of reeds on top and tied it into a bow. How simple are they to make?! We made some for the children’s teachers, some as gifts for friends and families, and the rest we kept ourselves, infusing our house with gorgeous Christmas aromas. As always, use your imagination and get creative this Christmas! Reed Diffuser Base - experiment The base oil or solvent is the magic ingredient in a reed diffuser and while ago I spent some time testing which one worked best. This diffuser oil needs to combine successfully with the fragrance and be thin enough to travel through the reeds at the appropriate rate. For me, it also needs to be an ethical product and something safe to use in my home. We tested 3 popular DIY Reed Diffuser Oil bases - almond oil, a vodka and water mix and Augeo Clean Multi. After 7 days the reeds in the Augeo Clean Multi were still emitting a pure and intense fragrance, and the solution continued to look bright and attractive in the bottle with no sign of evaporation. Overall Impression: Weeks after we started the experiment and this sample continues to fragrance the room effectively, making it the clear winner in our DIY reed diffuser oil test.


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Christmas Buffet

Belinda, the ‘Accidental Chatelaine’ loves to cook at any opportunity and is delighted to be able to share that love with you By Beli n

da Prin ce



Ingredients (Serves 8, simply double for a crowd) ½ medium red cabbage 3 medium sized beetroots 4 medium carrots 1 red onion, finely sliced 2 tsp salt 2 tsp sugar 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 150ml home-made or good quality mayonnaise 2 tbsp creamed horseradish or Dijon mustard Method 1. Cut the woody core from the cabbage and shred as finely as possible with a sharp knife.

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2. Peel the beetroots and carrots and use a peeler to slice thinly, then shred into strips. 3. Place all the raw vegetables in a large colander, add the salt, sugar and vinegar, toss together well, and leave to drain in the sink for an hour. 4. Meanwhile, make your mayonnaise or use a commercial one and mix in the horseradish or mustard to combine. 5. Press down the vegetables in the colander to squeeze out any excess liquid and tip into a large bowl. 6. Spoon over the mayonnaise, toss together and serve. This creamy coleslaw goes well with so many different buffet food!

Creamy Coleslaw

food Blue Cheese & Spinach Puffs

Ingredients (Makes 16 - 20) 100g blue cheese, mashed 75g cream cheese 375g ready rolled puff pastry 300g frozen spinach, thawed 1 egg yolk, beaten 25g walnuts, roughly chopped plus 16-20 for the ‘centre’ decoration (if creating squares) Sesame seeds for garnishing Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/Gas 6 1. Stir together the mashed blue cheese with the cream cheese. 2. Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible and blend with the cheese mixture 3. Lay out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut the pastry into 7cm squares (or a 7cm round cutter and cut out circles if you prefer them to be sealed parcels). Re-roll any leftover pastry and cut out more shapes. 4. Brush a little egg yolk around the edge of each shape. Then put a heaped teaspoon of the cheese/spinach mix in the centre of the square. Fold the pastry over the filling, pressing the corners together to meet in the centre and then place a half walnut over the

Ingredients (Serves 8) 300g boneless chicken breast, chopped 2 garlic cloves, crushed 2 sprigs thyme 2 tbsp sage, chopped 2 tbsp brandy 250g rindless streaky bacon (poitrine fumée) 1kg sausagemeat (chair) Parsley 100g shelled pistachios 100g dried cranberries Salt & pepper Method 1. Put the chicken, garlic, 1 thyme sprig, and the brandy in a bowl and mix together, cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge. 2. Heat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160º/Gas 4. Butter or oil a 1kg loaf tin or terrine mould, put the remaining sprig of thyme in the bottom, and line it with overlapping strips of bacon, leaving any extra hanging over the edges.

join in the pastry. If you’re using circles and making enclosed puffs, add the filling to one half, and make sure you press out any air to ensure the parcels are well sealed. 5. Place on a large non-stick baking sheet, baste with the remaining egg

3. Add the sausagemeat to the bowl with the marinated chicken and mix well. Stir through the sage, parsley, pistachios and dried cranberries, and season well. Take a small amount and fry to check the seasoning, adding more if required.

and sprinkle over the roughly chopped walnuts and sesame. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. These can be frozen at this stage for up to 1 month). 6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until puffed up and golden.

Chicken Cranberry and Pistachio Terrine

4. Pack the terrine with the mixture, pressing down well, flatten and stretch over the bacon. Cover with buttered/oiled foil and wrap the whole terrine in a double layer of cling film. 5. Place the terrine in a roasting tin, half-filled with boiling water, and cook for 1 hour. Cool and chill overnight – you can press down the terrine as it cools in the fridge using a board and a couple of tins to weigh it down which will produce a firmer texture. 6. Release the terrine by dipping briefly in hot water and turn out onto a serving platter. If there is any jelly around it, you can either scrape it off or leave it according to taste. Serve with some good bread or toast and cornichons.

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food Salmon Wellington with Ginger and Raisins Ingredients (Serves 8) 100g butter , softened 40g blanched almonds, chopped 40g currants 4 balls stem ginger in syrup, very finely chopped grating of nutmeg 500g block puff pastry 1½ tbsp semolina 2 salmon side portions (about 500g each) cut from the middle, boneless and skin removed ½ lemon , juiced 1 egg yolk 2 tbsp milk For the sauce 15g butter 1 shallot, very finely chopped 1½ tsp plain flour , plus extra for dusting 350ml double cream 1½ tsp Dijon mustard Method 1. Mash the butter, almonds, currants, ginger and nutmeg together with a fork. Divide the pastry in two, making one piece slightly larger – this will be the top. 2. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry, for the base, on a lightly floured surface

until it is large enough to fit the fish with a 2.5cm border all the way around it. Put this onto baking parchment or a non-stick metal baking sheet. Sprinkle the semolina over the pastry base. 3. Place one piece of the salmon on the pastry. Sprinkle over some lemon juice, season and spread the butter mixture over the top of it. Place the other half of the salmon, with the side that had the skin on it facing upwards, on top of the butter. Brush any excess semolina off the edges of the pastry. Mix the egg yolk and milk together and use to brush the pastry around the salmon. Roll out the rest of the pastry to fit the top and, once you’ve laid it over, pinch the pastry edges together to seal. Use the excess pastry to make

shapes to decorate the top. Chill for 30 mins and heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 4. Brush the salmon parcel with more egg wash and put in the oven for 40 mins. Now make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan and fry the shallot until it softens. Add the flour and stir for 1 min. Take the pan off the heat and gradually pour in the cream. Put it back on the heat and gently bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a couple of minutes until the flavours of the herbs come through. Check for seasoning. 5. Leave the salmon to cool for about 10 mins, then move it onto a warm serving platter and serve with the sauce.

Ingredients (Serves 8) 2 tbsp icing sugar 300g frozen raspberries 2ltr good quality vanilla ice cream, softened 30g meringues, coarsely chopped 120g nougat, coarsely chopped 40g dry-roasted almonds, coarsely chopped 4 buttery crunchy biscuits of your choice, finely chopped Method 1. Place the icing sugar and half the raspberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook gently, stirring, for 4 mins or so until the raspberries collapse. Strain through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Discard the solids and set aside to cool. 2. Grease a 2ltr pudding basin and line with cling film, allowing the sides to overhang. Combine the ice cream, meringue, nougat, almond, biscuits, and remaining raspberries in a large bowl. Add half the icing sugar mixture and gently fold to marble. Spoon into

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Christmas Ice Cream Bombe the prepared basin and cover with the overhanging cling film. Place in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight to freeze. 3. Turn the ice cream bombe onto a serving plate. Drizzle with the remaining icing sugar mixture. Serve immediately. 4. You can decorate with extra raspberries, blackberries and coulis, and if you don’t have a pudding basin, freeze the mixture in a lined loaf tin, then scoop or cut into slices to serve.


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Christmas Gift Bringers

Following yonder star the Three Magi travel towards their Epiphany



he Romans were especially fond of gift-giving at New Year. There were several festivals around this time, such as Saturnalia and Sol Invictus (the festival of the Unconquered Sun – a Mithraic celebration of the solstice), which were celebrated with feasting and a general relaxation of social strata (this still carries over today in the tradition of the upper ranks serving the lower at Christmas meals in the British Armed Services). The season was especially appreciated by Emperors, who expected to receive gifts from their subordinates. At first this was a token – a branch of a tree from the Sacred Grove, for example - but soon it became far more lavish, with careful records being kept of who had given which costly gift. Other cultures also gave gifts at this time. The Northern races, especially, beset by short daylight hours and cold nights, needed to cheer themselves and their children up. The parents, though, for whatever reason, made it clear that the gifts were from Odin, not themselves, as a reward for the children’s good behaviour. Often a sort of “punisher” would accompany the gift-giver, to dole out spankings or unpleasant gifts (rotten fruit or stale sweets) to naughty children. When Christianity took over the New Year as the time to celebrate the birth of the Saviour, gift-giving was a good thing to incorporate. “Do not change their rituals, but make them new”, advised St Gregory

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and other missionary leaders, so this was done. Out went Odin, but then a new giftbringer was needed. The obvious candidate was the Christchild. This was an early belief, and still holds good in parts of Germany and central Europe. The Liebes Christkind, or beloved Christ-child still brings gifts here, and when German families went to America, they took him with them. In the course of time the German name was misunderstood and forgotten, and transformed into Kriss Kringle, which is a name now often (wrongly) given to Santa Claus.

name for him, Sinteklaas, was transmuted into Santa Claus. From America a sanitised, new-made Santa Claus with a strong commercial instinct was reexported to Europe (and elsewhere) with a red robe, sleigh and reindeer. In Europe, strange things had happened to St Nicholas. In many countries, he had been teamed up with an “Anti-Santa” who, harking back to the Norse tradition, doled out un-festive punishment to naughty children. Even France linked Père Noël with Père Fouettard, or Father Flog, who laid about miscreants with a whip. Many countries had similar “helpers”, many of positively terrifying aspect!

Santa Claus himself also appeared fairly early on. Saint Nicholas was a bishop of In some countries, children got a second Myra (now Demre in Anatolia) in the 4th bite of the cherry. The feast of St Nicholas Century. Little is falls on 6th December, known about him. He Even France linked Père Noël and sometimes the attended the Great good saint would with Père Fouettard, or Council in Nicea (after hand out a helping of which the Nicene Father Flog, who laid about gifts on this day, as Creed, used at Holy well as Christmas Eve! miscreants with a whip Communion, is In England, the named), and is Reformation swept away saints. They were celebrated for boxing the ears of another not compatible with the new theology. delegate named Arius, with whom he Bye, bye, Saint Nicholas; but with what do disagreed. However, legend associated we replace him? Someone had the bright him closely with children, and with giftidea of promoting Father Christmas, or Sir giving, and he came on the scene only Christmas, or whatever was the name of about 50 years after Christianity was made the Personification of Christmas who had the official religion of Rome, so he was an been lurking in more rural traditions and obvious candidate. He became a prime mummers’ plays for centuries. This chap mover in the distribution of gifts, and when the Dutch settled in America, their was a red-faced, definitely pagan, club-


Father Christmas, but definitely not very saintly!

wielding reprobate, crowned with phallic holly. The Reformers had let loose a thoroughly disreputable old scallywag. It is small wonder the Puritans banned Christmas in the 17th Century! At the Restoration, many Christmas traditions, like the Lords of Misrule, Boy Bishops and some of Father Christmas’ less-endearing habits, were quietly forgotten. The American Santa Claus had a ready market when he surfaced in the early 19th century. Meanwhile, a lot of other gift-givers had been quietly going about their business. The Three Kings, the Magi, were obvious candidates as gift-bringers; after all, that is what they are chiefly known for, and from the Bible, no less! Indeed, in Spain and most Spanish-speaking countries, especially in South America, Los Reyes Magos bring the gifts, though they tend to do it at Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, and the children leave out a carrot for the camel, not the reindeer.

Saint Nicholas, dressed in the red robes of his Office as Bishop. The three balls on his book represent the money-bags of his role as a gift-giver

A German version of Père Fouettard (Father Flog), punisher of naughty children

Linked with the Three Kings are some ladies, Befana in Italy and Baboushka in Eastern Europe and pre-revolutionary Russia. These ladies represent elderly housekeepers from whom the Magi asked directions to Bethlehem, and who were urged to come along too. They stayed to finish their housework first, though, and thus missed the way. Now they wander abroad on Christmas Eve, seeking the stable and leaving gifts in case they have passed the vital house. Russia for much of the early 20th Century tried to ban all trace of Christmas, but it couldn’t be done. Instead, the authorities sanctioned Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) a Santa-like character in a blue robe and fur hat who distributes gifts at New Year. He is sometimes accompanied by his grand-daughter, Snegurotchka (Snow-maiden).

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Befana, the old Italian lady whose sweeping delayed her in her search for the Christ-Child

Julbock (Christmas Goat) decoration traditionally made of straw

Tió de Nadal, the "gift-log" of Catalonia, sporting his jolly Catalan hat

Norwegian Nisser, wondering when their bowl of porridge will arrive

children, who had a very frightening aspect. Now he brings gifts, and straw models of him are made, in all sizes, some to go on the Christmas tree, others on the festive board and, these days, huge creations to stand in the market-places of towns. Sadly, these last, a Swedish speciality, have spawned a spate of “goat-burning” evenings, which were not originally part of the plan and which the authorities are trying to stop. In Norway, the gifts are distributed by the Nisser, who are gnomes who abandon their mischief-making for the Christmas period and leave gifts for children. One thanks them by leaving them a bowl of porridge! In Iceland there are thirteen “Demons” or “Trolls”, the jólasveinar. For thirteen days leading to Christmas, children leave a shoe out on the window-sill to receive a sweet or treat. Originally the trolls had various names like “Milk-stealer” and would spend the thirteen days before Christmas doing the things their names suggested, then reversing the process for the thirteen days after Christmas, which seems a curious procedure. Perhaps the oddest benevolent creature is the Yule Goat: Joulupukki in Finland and Julbock in Sweden. This now-welcome visitor seems to be a new incarnation of a former punisher of bad

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The Catalan region has perhaps the strangest gift-bringer of all. Called Tió de Nadal, or more commonly Caga Tió, this is a hollow log propped up on wooden legs, and with a smiling face at the front topped off by a red Catalan hat. He is filled with gifts, but he must be cared for, so for days leading up to Christmas the children of the house wrap him in a blanket to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve they must whip him with sticks to aid his digestion so that he will “expel” the presents easily on Christmas morning. No laxative needed. So, one way and another, the children are quite well catered for, with a choice of gift-bringers of human or animal form – or sometimes worryingly non-human! May I wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and a good encounter with your gift-bringer!

Image credit:


raditionally, December calls for reflection, does it not? Profound musings on the past year beckon, solemn conclusions wait to be drawn on what it all meant. Care for some of that? No, I thought not. I mean, holy moly, where do you start?

moment so long ago, strolling in front of us. Their evening shadows remain.

Photography exercises a powerful influence on our perception of the past. A personal example: it’s a tale of two snapshots. The first was taken in the last days of a marriage in 1989. It’s a desolate In any event, those of us with birthdays image, I look like my own X-ray. I’m this month are quite familiar with the wearing a Miles Davis T-shirt, although I whooshing by of passing years, thank you. soon abandoned it to a drawer somewhere Without going full Stephen Hawking, how due to its association with that picture. we calibrate time is a conundrum too However, this summer it suddenly abstract for me. Maybe this is why it’s reappeared in a WhatsApp photo from my sometimes simpler to measure it, not in daughter. It’s her own daughter waving seasons or years, but with pictures. Sure, goodnight. And (lump in the throat) the clock and the calendar Sophie is now wearing might tell us where we that same Miles Davis Photography currently sit but it’s images T-shirt as her nightie of the past which tell us the because she feels “closer exercises a powerful route by which we came. to Grandad France”. influence on our Photography is life’s rearDark memories wiped perception of the past view mirror. in an instant - one of my year’s best moments. I recently happened upon some vintage photographs of Argentonsur-Creuse, the pretty market town near our home. In the oldest one, a postcard dated August 1907, the Place de la République throbs with activity. Outside the corner café donkeys haul carts past a stack of barrels while women in long skirts and dapper men in suits chat in the evening sunshine. Everyone wears a hat. Our modern world is adorned with everything technology can offer. But on that summer evening in 1907, so was theirs. They too were the front row to history; the most modern humanity had ever been. There’s a poignancy in these images because we know what lay ahead. Watching them now is fascinating yet hard to bear. Every time Mrs W and I sit outside that same café in that same square, I see those men and women in that

I’ve always been effortlessly ‘hip’, even teetering worryingly once or twice on the edge of ‘groovy’. Nevertheless, time’s winged chariot thrusts maturity at us all and I’ve long since reconciled to the allure of the garden centre. I now realise, though, this was merely the gateway to the hard stuff. For in 2021 (gulp) we began keeping a secret stash of Werther’s Originals in the car. I know. Too old to Rock’n’roll, too young to . . . anyone? Further change came to Chez White this winter: the end of the spine-warping fun of shifting several tonnes of logs into the house in instalments. Our new pellet burner has made redundant my daily macho task, (“Stand aside, dear, this is guy’s work”); instead, I now faff about each morning with a small vacuum cleaner. On the plus side, however, I’ll no

Brian White lives in south Indre with his wife, too many moles and not enough guitars longer greet the spring walking like a gibbon. So, nature’s kaleidoscope clicks round again, the reds and golds of autumn give way to silver mist. In our small woodland shadows float back and forth, wraith-like, across the greying light; garden furniture snoozes under its covers, the tractor mower hibernates in the barn. Napoléon, our mighty banana plant, six metres tall in the summer, is cropped and wrapped, awaiting spring’s call to “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Gardens will slumber on until nature – like my old Tshirt – relaunches with a new and vibrant purpose. Thus, another year cranks round. Fully jabbed against life’s nasties, (three for Covid, one for the ‘flu, plus my annual one for Country & Western music), I’m prepped and ready. Friends will once again huddle in corner cafés which reverberate still to the echoes of a thousand customers past. On and on it goes, although, as William Faulkner wrote so memorably, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” It’s been a privilege to share my random thoughts with you this year. Whatever and wherever your Christmas is, may it be what you choose it to be. I wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable one.

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language & assistance

Parlez Français French conversation, vocabulary & traditions Le saviez-vouosx sur Noël ? Did you know about Christmaosx? Les Cadeaux Contrairement à une idée reçue, la tradition des cadeaux n’a rien à voir avec le récit, dans la Bible, de l’arrivée des Rois mages venus apporter de l’or, de l’encens et de la myrrhe au petit Jésus. Cet événement, correspond à la fête chrétienne de l’Épiphanie et ne se fête d’ailleurs que le 6 janvier. Or, aujourd’hui, c’est plutôt le 24 ou le 25 décembre qu’on s’échange les cadeaux de Noël !

promotions, à acheter des jouets aux enfants pour le 25 décembre. Le Sapin Il est difficile de dater avec précision à quand remonte la tradition du sapin de Noël, mais une chose est sûre : le sapin n’a pas pour origine une fête religieuse mais un rite païen.

Avant que Noël existe, un rituel pour célébrer le solstice d’hiver consistait à décorer un arbre, symbole de la vie et du À partir du XIIe siècle, est apparue la renouveau. On tradition de Saint retrouve donc ce Nicolas, cet évêque qui, Avant que Noël existe, un symbole de l’arbre dans la nuit du 5 au 6 dans le monde antique rituel pour célébrer le décembre, vient et médiéval, avant qu’il solstice d’hiver consistait à apporter des friandises ait été assimilé par le aux enfants sages : fruits décorer un arbre, symbole christianisme. secs, pommes, gâteaux, de la vie et du renouveau bonbons, chocolats, En France, la première pain d’épice… référence à un sapin de Noël dans les registres municipaux date Au 19e siècle, les enfants recevaient une de 1521, dans un village d’Alsace. Après la orange, signe, à l’époque, de prospérité : guerre de 1870, la tradition s’est l’orange était encore un fruit rare, généralisée dans tout le pays grâce aux donc cher. immigrés d’Alsace-Lorraine. Ce n’est qu’au XXe siècle avec l’arrivée de la société de consommation que les La bûche est aussi associée aux rituels simples friandises se transformeront en païens pour célébrer le solstice d’hiver. À jouets. Vers 1950, les Grands Magasins cette période, des bûches étaient brûlées Parisiens, suivant le modèle américain, afin de célébrer la renaissance du soleil. vont inciter, dans leurs vitrines et via des

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with experienced French teachers Groups - Private tutoring - E-learning Contact Alain 05 55 32 41 76 / 06 37 76 54 98 Siret: 824417364 00018 Au Moyen ge, la tradition voulait que les familles se réunissent lors de la veillée de Noël autour de l’âtre, où une grosse bûche préalablement bénie devait se consumer le plus longtemps possible. La bûche devait provenir, de préférence, d’un tronc d’arbre fruitier, censé garantir une bonne récolte pour l’année suivante. Les cendres étaient conservées pour protéger le foyer. Elles avaient, dit-on, la propriété de protéger la maison de la foudre et des pouvoirs maléfiques du diable. La bûche est devenue le célèbre dessert que bien plus tard, vraisemblablement à la fin du XIXe siècle, grâce à l’œuvre de pâtissiers français. Jusqu’au XIXe siècle, le sapin de Noël était décoré de fruits de saison en guise d’offrandes aux dieux puis de pommes rouges, afin de symboliser l’arbre du paradis. En 1847, un souffleur de verre de Lauscha (centre de l’Allemagne) eu l’idée d’imiter ces pommes en créant des boules de verre. Un peu plus tard, en 1858, après une grande sécheresse qui affecta les récoltes, un artisan verrier de Moselle, fabriqua à son tour des boules en verre pour remplacer les fruits. La coutume s’est peu à peu répandue dans le monde à travers les 19ème et 20ème siècles.

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Cette tradition vient de la légende de Saint Nicolas. Il est raconté aux enfants que le saint, touché par la misère de trois sœurs, fit glisser des pièces d’or par la cheminée de leur maison. Les pièces seraient tombées dans les chaussettes des jeunes filles qui séchaient près du feu ! Depuis, les enfants perpétuent cette coutume, mais les pièces d’or sont remplacées par des cadeaux…

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business FINANCE


Financial Health


ell, another year has flown by and you are all probably gearing up for the Christmas festivities. It has been a very interesting, different, and worrying year with a lot happening again. Covid 19 is still having a major impact on travelling, holidays, day-to-day journeys, and the economy and the stock market, but things are getting more stabilised as people get used to mask wearing and sanitaire passes. I hope that everyone who is reading this has managed to stay safe and well - look after yourselves and your loved ones. Brexit has continued with issues that are coming to light even after a year has gone by. These include restrictions on what

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goods can be brought into France, tax on the goods, issues regarding banks closing accounts (and now some UK credit card companies are following suit), and restrictions on how you can access any pension pots. Around the world there have been climate change issues with countries being impacted by different weather cycles. And in the news, the Panama papers and Joe Biden as the new president of the USA.

− Have recent events affected your retirement goals? − Is there a shortage in your retirement savings? − What effect will Brexit have on your UK based pensions? − Will you have access to your UK based pensions? − Are you planning on relocating to France permanently?

As you all get ready for Christmas and the − Will you be sending money back New Year with your loved ones, and to the UK or transferring perhaps have more from the UK? You might time to yourself, There are steps you can take need forex services that now is a good time to get better currency rates, don’t charge a fortune to reflect on your in fees. get more growth on your financial goals, how the above has hard-earned savings So once the festivities are impacted you, and over and you have finished what you would like that last bottle of wine and had the last to happen next year for your mince pie, do something about your financial health. financial health. Make sure that your There are steps you can take to get better financial goals are still on track. currency rates, get more growth on your Make it a New Year resolution to have a hard-earned savings, and protect your thorough review by an independent pensions that you have if they are still in qualified financial adviser. the UK. Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas − Do you have an idea of what your and a Happy New Year. income will be when you retire? − When was the last time you made changes to your retirement goals?

Please note, the above is for education purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should always contact your adviser for a personal consultation.



or many, bringing home the bacon can only be achieved if you are selfemployed in France. And becoming selfemployed has seen several changes over recent years. No matter what your business is, there are many hurdles throughout the self-employed journey. As of 2018, there were an estimated 3 million self-employed in France, 1.3 million behind the UK. Many non-natives feel that being self-employed is not ‘encouraged’ as much as we see in other countries and that there is little support. Many online processes are frustrating and it’s easy to get in a pickle. So, in reality, it might be better to do it right the first time with the help of those who know, a trusted hand-holder. Of course, hand-holders experience challenges too. But they have the language skills and knowledge of the process from beginning to end. They will save you much frustration in the long run by not having to correct something further down the line. Once registered and sireted you are the boss of your company! And the company is you! You will be wearing many hats; marketing, sales, administration, as well as doing your day job. There will be an increase in workload, so expect to start out

working more hours, not less. And depending on your business, achieving a work-life balance might be tricky. Another sticking point is the paperwork! Yes, France is famed for its endless bureaucracy. Just when you think you have nailed it, something new lands in the letterbox or inbox that can cause angst. Some of it seems pointless and nonsensical, and it doesn’t change whether you are an ME or SARL.


MICALA WILKINS ALACIM SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING bureaucracy. Your knowledge of working in France broadens, and you realise you are not alone! We get to work in a beautiful country. We get to enjoy a much more peaceful and slower way of life (if we choose to).

As well as the day-to-day running of your Get your business set up the right way business and bringing home the jambon, with a first-class hand-holder – one who other priorities will need knows what they are your attention. For doing. A suitable handexample, what will While there are many holder will know many happen if you cannot challenges to working in other valuable people you work? How will you France, many of us wouldn’t will need to know about provide for your change it for the world throughout the selfretirement? Despite the feeling of lack of support, employed journey. it is down to lack of Get your plan together. If your business is knowledge or understanding much of the making money and growing, get yourself time. France provides a raft of help and geared up for the next regime to factor in support. It’s just a case of knowing where the ‘just in cases’ such as sickness and to go and speaking with the right people. your future pension. So while there are many challenges to It’s important to enjoy doing what you are working in France, many of us wouldn’t doing, no matter where you are. change it for the world. You get used to the

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business INSURANCE



s opening an assurance vie savings account viable after you reach 70?

YES, because the amount you invest from this age is entitled to a death duty allowance of 30 500€. This allowance is added to the one you were already entitled to before you were 70 years old (152 500€ per beneficiaries). Example: You have invested 305 000€ in an assurance vie savings account before you were 70 years old and named two beneficiaries. This sum of money will be given to your beneficiaries named without any death duties (152 500€ allowance per beneficiaries). After you’re 70 years old, you open a new assurance vie saving account with 30 500€ and name the same two beneficiaries, you can therefore pass on to them free of any death duties 335 500€ (305 000+ 30 500). Furthermore, the interests or gains made by this contract are not liable to death duties. Example: You invest 30 500€ after your 70th birthday. On your death at the tender age of 85, this assurance vie savings account is worth 40 000€ (30 500€ of capital and 9 500€ of interest). The beneficiary you have named will get the sum of 40 000€ without any death duties. As a reminder, here are the allowances before death duties in France (outside Assurance vie saving account): Children : 100 000€ Grandchildren : 1 594€ Brother or sister : 15 932€ Nephew or niece : 7 967€

Assurance Vie Savings Account, over 70s Other : 1 594€

No, this is NOT life insurance!! Assurance vie is a savings account!

Example: You wish to leave a lump sum of Assurance vie savings accounts have been money to your grandson upon your death. so successful that today there is over €1.5 You write a will in which you state that you trillion invested in Assurance vie policies. are leaving him one of your savings Over 22 million individuals have either accounts currently in invested lump sums or saved your bank (like a regularly using this instrument. Over 22 million Livret A or PEL) of a individuals have either General information on value of 20 000€. On your death, your invested lump sums or assurance vie: It’s a savings / investment account. The money grandson will have to saved regularly you invest is available at any pay death duties on 18 time. You name beneficiaries 406€ (20 000€-1 when you set it up. You are only taxed on 594€). If you invest this money in an interest, not capital (and only when you assurance vie savings account and name take money out). You can set up regular your grandson as beneficiary, he will have monthly, quarterly or yearly withdrawals from it. You can invest one lump sum (min no death duties to pay at all. €5000) or regular monthly amounts (min So, whether you have opened an assurance €100/month) or both! You can check vie before you were 70 or not, it is worth what it is doing via your online customer account. thinking of opening a new one now!!

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Cotisation Foncière Des Entreprises (CFE) T

here are a number of small business owners that have received a letter in the post from the services des Entreprises in October/November to remind them of the necessity to have an espace professionnelle. This is to be able to receive and pay their CFE bill. Principle

With the CFE bill is added the taxes linked, for those businesses who are not micro entrepreneurs, to the functioning of the Chambre de Commerce and the Chambre de Métiers. This can increase your bill by between 90 and 200 euros for small businesses. Exonerated Activities

Businesses concerned

There are rights to exoneration from the CFE for B&B businesses or gîtes that have been classified. I have talked about the classification system in previous articles.

Businesses which provide property rentals (apart from those that are empty and rented out for homes) are affected by the CFE. Even those who previously had the right to an exemption as furnished tourist rental included in the main residence of the owner will find they have a bill, if not classified. There are certain businesses that are permanently exonerated from paying this tax, such as mobile hairdressers, so you can always check with the tax office.

There are a number of activities that are exonerated from paying CFE, these include farmers, artists and authors etc. For a more exhaustive list, visit Tourist rentals businesses classified - Meublés de Tourisme

Declaration - There are no annual declarations to return. However, a statement 1447-M must be filed before the 2nd working day following 1st May by companies: ▪

that demand to benefit from an exemption

if the business has moved or opened a second address

that want to report a change in use or modification of the surface of the property subject to the CFE.

Professional or non-professional Businesses

that have modified their number of employees

This tax concerns companies, small businesses and microentrepreneurs.

Important for very small Businesses For those businesses with less than 5 000 euros turnover per annum, they are now exempt from CFE. So check online to see if your bill is zero.


Please refer to the table below.

The cotisation foncière des entreprises (CFE) is one of the 2 components of the economic territorial contribution (CET) along with la cotisation sur la valeur ajoutée des entreprises (CVAE). Unlike the professional tax, from which it gets most of its rules, the CFE is based solely on property subject to taxe foncière. This tax is payable in each municipality where the business has premises and land. The CFE is due by companies or small business owners who perform habitual self-employed professional activities, regardless of their legal status, their business or their fiscal structure.


that have terrestrial wind, solar or hydro installation with 100 kW of minimum power.

created (including the new micro/ auto entrepreneurs) businesses are not subject to it in the year of their creation. Then, for the 1st year of taxation, they benefit from a reduction of half of the tax base. For those businesses situated in certain geographical zones or certain industries, who produce accounts, there exist further exemptions for the first three years and then partial reductions for up to a maximum of 15 years. The business creator or purchaser must file a form 1447-C-SD, before the 31 December of its first year, so that the elements of tax for the following year are established. Payment Since 1st October 2014, businesses no longer receive their tax bill directly by post. This is because they must be consulted and paid via an online pro tax account. The CFE bill must be paid in total before 15 December each year, net of any deposit paid on the 15th June (where applicable). ▪ online payment via the online tax account ▪ prélèvement mensue l- monthly direct debit (possible inscription until 30th November)

For new businesses

▪ prélèvement à l'échéance (payment on final date)

The CFE is due by businesses which are active on 1st January of the year, so newly

▪ or a one off direct debit by card via the impôts website.

Calculation and tax base The rate of the CFE is determined by the commune or the Communauté des Communes in which the property is situated and is based on the rental value of the properties used by the company for the purposes of its activity. Minimum contribution - When the rental value is very low, a minimum contribution sum is established by the commune. The amount varies depending on the total turnover. Those businesses working out of their home are generally given the minimum contribution to pay.

Less than 5000 €


Between 5000 & 10 000 €

Between 223 € & 531 €

Between 10 001 € & 32 600 €

Between 231 € & 1061 €

Between 32 601 € & 100 000 €

Between 218 € & 2229 €

Between 100 001 € & 250 000 €

Between 218 € & 3716 €

Between 250 001 € et 500 000 €

Between 218 € & 5307 €

from 500 001 €

Between 218 € et 6901 €

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t has us reminiscing of lazy, log fire toasted conversations with loved ones, mince pies, and all the rich, spicy evocations of the yule tide. Christmas is about music and good cheer, relaxation and laughter, and mulled wine brings us right into the spirit of Christmas. There is no need to sacrifice our health while we indulge and make merry. Making mulled wine with fresh, organic spices and fruit adds many digestive aids and healthy boosts. We can vary how we make mulled wine and there are many different traditional recipes available but generally the recipes we find all call for the warming herbs of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and orange fruit. Here are some of the health benefits of the herbs used in this mulled wine recipe: Ginger An anti-inflammatory herb, great for nausea, aids digestion and has carminative effects. Known to help symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Cardamom A powerful herb, used medicinally to treat indigestion and bloating. It is antiinflammatory and promotes circulation so it’s excellent for people with high blood pressure. Cinnamon Antiseptic, regulates blood sugar so great for diabetics or anyone prone to hyper/hypoglycemia. Great for people with high cholesterol as it reduces triglycerides and LDL Cholesterol. Star Anise Great for coughs as it reduces bronchial muscle spasming and is antiinflammatory. Cloves Also anti-inflammatory, stabilises blood sugar levels and aids liver detoxification.

By Amanda


Amanda lives near Ruffec and is in the final year of an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition with the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London. She holds a BSc in Human Biology and Counselling /Psychology. Amanda is passionate about living in harmony with nature and innate wellness.


3. Crush the 4 cardamom pods and put aside.

Antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-bacterial - excellent for boosting immunity and providing healthy sweetness.

4. Grate off a tablespoon of zest from the remaining orange and set aside with your herbs.


5. Stud the cloves into the whole orange it will be most secure where there is zest left attached.

Everyone knows that oranges are a great source of Vitamin C. But did you know they also contain powerful antiinflammatory agents in the bioflavonoids contained in the white pith? So it’s worth eating the orange interior after you have squeezed the juice into your simmering mulled wine for this benefit and also for the soluble fibre which aids digestion. Oranges also contain a range of minerals and vitamins which are a wonderful health boost.

Health boost Mulled Wine Ingredients: − 2 bottles of organic, sulphate free (sans sulfites) red wine. If you prefer a non-alcoholic version, you could swap the wine for grape juice but choose a good, organic one - check the ingredients carefully as sugar content can be high

6. Place all of the herbs and the clovestudded orange into the wine, leaving the honey for later. 7. Slowly bring the wine to a simmer on a low heat. 8. When the wine is warmed, slowly stir in the honey - you may add more or less depending on your taste. 9. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes but don’t bring it to the boil. Strain, serve and enjoy. Feel free to add in more bottles of wine and orange juice as the spices will go a long way. Double the recipe up for carol singing and mince pies with friends. Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy yuletide, warm fires, much love and merriment.

− 4 large oranges − Thumb of ginger − 4 cardamom pods − Cinnamon stick − 12 cloves − 2 star anise − 4 tbsp honey Method: 1. Empty two whole bottles of red wine into a large cooking pan. Squeeze the juice from three large oranges and add to the red wine. 2. Peel and grate the thumb of ginger and set aside.

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26 etcetera


Saying No At Christmas - Fat Chance!

By Louise Cotton

Louise works with the Fit for Life Association as a Clinical Weight Loss Coach. She is also a Hypnotherapy Practitioner Specialising in Hypnotic Gastric Band Therapy email:



hen I sat down to write this article, I could not believe that this was the 12th one and that it was for the December edition. (All previous articles can be found online). My first article in January of this year was entitled ‘Correcting Christmas’ and now here I am thinking about what to say to you about not overindulging during the festive period.

crises; obesity. I so hate that word. During the Covid pandemic many people have put on weight that they have been unable to lose and the forthcoming festive season is just another reason to compound this weight increase further. We come up with every excuse in the book as to why we should not have to worry about what we are eating and drinking and the fact that this adds a few pounds/kilos to our weight or a few extra inches/centimeters to our waistlines. This only makes the effort needed to reduce both of these all the more intense.

When I was a child, I do not remember Christmas starting until Christmas Eve. Yes, we went to Advent services at church. We either attended or took part in nativity plays at school. Helping to decorate the Generally, we eat and drink far too much. house and Christmas tree a couple of We hide this under a myriad of excuses weeks beforehand, but no earlier. My birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, mum always enjoyed a good party and still Easter, etc. Food has become a focal point does for that matter. She always took us for celebrations and socialising and can along. We slept upstairs in sleeping bags, often be a bone of contention or a source taken home in the wee small hours, but I of conflict when never remember these you are trying to significantly increasing in We come up with every keep your weight number the closer we came excuse in the book as to why under control. to Christmas. we should not have to worry The food and diet The Christmas Song states about what we are eating industry does not that there are 12 days of help with this and drinking Christmas. However, for situation and many, December and early unfortunately January just seems to be one long round of there is only one person who can help do drinks parties, dinners at home and in something about it and that is you. restaurants and why should it not be? I The idea that we should live our lives on think this year will be even worse as we diets and/or a mode of restriction puts a were so restricted last year with curfews lot of people off trying to start to lose etc. A couple of years ago I mentioned to weight. There is a true fear that all the the ladies at one of my slimming clubs that food and drink that you now enjoy will not I had come up with some ideas about a be available to you. That you will be eating low-calorie Christmas. The laughter that salads and low-calorie foods for the rest of followed was so contagious that it took at your days whilst others tuck into all the least 10 minutes before anyone was able to things that you love. Then when you give even think about saying anything sensible into the things you enjoy you see yourself without the laughter starting again. as a failure and give up and go back to There really is no easy way to try and keep your old habits. the calorie count down over the festive The word ‘journey’ is so often used when period and I am sure that some would ask, starting out on a new endeavour. I like to why should we even bother to try? To that think of this ‘journey’ as a change of I have a simple answer. Modern Western mindset and this is truly where it all starts, society has one of the fastest-growing

in the mind. I have said in previous articles about not being forced into change. If it is not your decision you will not be totally committed. It is about making new good habits to replace old ones. Finding enjoyment in new and different types of foods. Making informed choices to ensure that you can still enjoy all the things you love. If you view Christmas as your ‘last hurrah’ then I wish you well in your endeavours for the New Year. However, if you have been on your ‘journey’ for a while and are making progress, regardless of your pace, then I salute you and wish you every success for the future. Remember, not giving into peer pressure and by saying no to a second helping or an extra glass of wine is not something to be ashamed of. You are not being boring or unsociable. You are taking care of yourself and your future self. To quote Nelson Mandela – “It always seems impossible until it is done.” This is my last article for the etcetera and I hope that you have enjoyed reading them and found them useful. I have very much enjoyed writing them and thank those of you who have contacted me and given me some lovely comments and feedback. Wishing you all a very Happy Festive Season.

etcetera 27


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By Ronnie Ogier

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he choice is wide with hundreds of species of botanical roses and thousands of hybrids. And then there is the scent, ranging from musky scents to fruity! It’s up to you to choose the style and the perfume that suits you best! How to Choose a Rose Bush There are several key points to consider when choosing a rose bush. Not all roses have the same hardiness and some will succumb to very cold weather such as the 'Hazelnut' Rosa cooperi or Rosa chinensis, which prefer southern temperatures. In the mountains, the choice will be very hardy species such as Rosa alba or Rosa rugosa. To be sure of the resistance to diseases, prefer roses labeled ADR, a famous

German label ensuring that the roses have been tested in very difficult conditions for many years. They will adapt better to harsh soil or climatic conditions while being resistant to diseases. The types of roses are numerous. Choose yours according to what you want, whether that be over a pergola, as ground cover, on a slope, a miniature potted rose on a terrace, or a bush rose to decorate a border. The choice is yours. Check the fragrance of your chosen rose if this is important to you, because not all roses are perfumed, and they don’t all smell the same. You can choose your rose bush by type of packaging. Container, for planting all year round (except in case of frost or high heat)

or bare roots for planting in autumn or winter. How to grow roses in open ground Try to choose a rose adapted to your terroir (soil, climate etc). Roses need a sunny and well-ventilated location. The soil should be very drained, loose, and fertile, never constantly soggy. In very clayey soil add river sand of medium particle size, and a good dose of compost. When planting, do not bury the rootstock. A well-established rose can be satisfied with natural rainfall from autumn to spring. However, water in summer when it’s very hot. Scratch a mixture of dried blood and crushed horn powder at the foot of the rose bush in early spring and late

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garden summer, to promote the second flowering on the remontant varieties. Treat. if necessary, against diseases with organic treatments. Prune the rose bush from February to April, depending on the region and the species concerned. How to Grow a Rose Bush in a Pot Most roses, except for climbing roses, can be grown in an appropriately sized pot – clearly a miniature rose can use a smaller pot than a shrub rose.

point from which a new flowering stem will grow. Winter, from February to mid-March, is the time for the annual pruning of your roses. Remove all dead, diseased, or dying branches at the base as well any crossing branches. This pruning allows the light and air to penetrate the centre of the plant. Keep the number of branches to between 3 and 7 to maintain the shape of the plant, then cut down to the 3rd or 5th eye depending on the vigour of the rose bush. The punier the rose, the more it needs to be pruned.

The pot needs to have a hole at the Climbing roses that bottom and be deep Climbing roses that are not are not repeat enough to support repeat flowering should flowering should the development of preferably be pruned just after preferably be pruned the rose. Provide a flowering, in a less drastic way just after flowering, in draining layer a less drastic way. based on small Length is usually stones of clay beads retained on the main branches and cut at the bottom of the pot. A commercial above the 6th eye on the compost can be used to fill the pot with the secondary stems. addition of a slow release fertiliser. Place your rose bush in a sunny location. Shade What Are the Different Types of at the hottest hours in summer and in the Roses? south of France. There are species and varieties of roses of Water regularly in dry and hot weather all sizes, from 20cm for miniatures to without allowing water to stagnate in the more than 10m for climbers and ramblers. cup or the roots will suffocate. In the The shapes also vary with very compact, spring, add a specialised rose fertiliser to bushy, or erect varieties. The flowers are support flowering. Prune your potted rose sometimes carried in bouquets, sometimes bush in winter. solitary at the end of a straight stem, often How to Grow a Bare-rooted Rose fragrant, although they can also be odourless. A bare-rooted rose, as the name suggests, is sold without a container and attached Bush Roses soil. They are grown in open ground in the Bush roses (arbustres or buisson) are the best conditions and available to buy at the most common, regularly grown in beds best planting time. These roses are and borders. The roses 'Floribundas' or invariably cheaper than pot-grown roses, 'Polyanthas and hybrid tea roses are part and are more resistant because they have of the category of bush roses. They can not undergone a constraining growth in grow to between 60 cm and 1.20m in a pot. height, and are appreciated for the beauty How to Prune a Rose Bush of their flowers. Many hybrids have been created, more or less fragrant and Deadheading encourages new flower buds, variously coloured. Some of these are quite essential on repeat flowering roses. On unusual and last year I found a brown rose these varieties, the point at which the leaves join the stem, the petiole, is the which I find quite interesting.

Climbing Roses or Ramblers Climbing roses and ramblers (grimpants or lianes) are vigorous roses that can grow exuberantly, sometimes exceeding 10m in height. Perfect for dressing a facade, covering a pergola, or creating a romantic arch, they can also climb along an old tree or fence. Ground Cover Roses These roses grow between 30 and 60cm in height but they spread. They are resistant and perfect for covering an embankment or rockery or their edges, but are also perfectly suitable for the edges of borders or paths. These roses often bloom for many months. Miniature Roses These are often available in supermarkets but can be hard to keep. They rarely are more than 30cm and come in lots of different colours. So now all that is left to do is choose! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

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hristmas seems to come around more and more quickly as the years go by and it can be difficult to think about what to give your loved ones when it only feels like a couple of months since last Christmas! Luckily those who are keen gardeners will always need new tools, books, plants and decorations.

Tools Winter is a time for tree pruning, removing all of the dead, damaged and diseased branches and pruning to develop a well balanced and productive crown. When we are out and about demonstrating good pruning practices many of our customers are envious of the long reach pruning saw that we use. It is great for

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taking out medium sized branches from a safe position on the ground and standing well back from the falling branches. We invested in a professional-standard telescopic Silky Saw because we do a lot of pruning work and it is well worth spending that bit extra for a quality tool that will stand the test of time, but at around 300 euros it is worth looking at other brands for less expensive alternatives if you will only use the saw occasionally. A good pair of long-reach loppers and a handheld pruning saw also make up the kit for tree pruning. We recommend using hand tools for most pruning work because they are more precise and controllable than a chainsaw which is designed for tree felling and chopping up fallen wood.

Books This year I received a copy of Arthur Parkinson’s ‘The Flower Yard’ for my birthday. Arthur was a student of mine when he first left school and started his gardening career on the National Diploma in Horticulture which I ran at Nottingham Trent University for over 10 years. Arthur went on to train at Kew gardens and later developed an inspirational rooftop garden at the Emma Bridgewater pottery. (His first book ‘The Pottery Gardener’ describes this). He has more recently worked with Sarah Raven and has created quite a name for himself as a flamboyant florist and his work was exhibited at Chelsea this year. Although ‘The Flower Yard’ mainly looks


Christmas Box or sweet box (Sarcococca)

at growing plants in containers, Arthur’s flair for planting combinations, floristry, and colour co-ordination is inspirational and the principles can be applied to garden borders and other floral displays. His photography is outstanding, and the book is packed with colourful pages and beautiful plant combinations.


family as box, they are not susceptible to box blight or the box caterpillar and produce highly scented flowers in December. Another great shrub for winter scent is the shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima. This non-climbing variety produces flowers through the winter with a perfume that can be detected from several metres away. It is a godsend for the bees, providing nectar for those that wake up on sunny winter days needing an essential energy boost.

Every gardener that I know is a ‘plantaholic’; whether you are starting out Solar powered garden lights or an experienced gardener you can never have too many plants and they give so At any time of the year lighting in the much pleasure, whether it is the colour, garden at night-time is atmospheric and scent, bringing wildlife to watch into the encourages you to sit out longer on warm garden, edible or purely decorative. Over summer evenings and enjoy the garden the years of gardening here in France we even more. They are also very pretty have found the hardy perennial Salvia’s to around Christmas time, be outstanding although we do take ours we now have a indoors for the worst of collection of over 60 different Every gardener that I know is the winter to stop water getting into the battery varieties, although a ‘plantaholic’; whether you and bulbs. We have found some of these are are starting out or an the LED strings of fairy the tender, we just experienced gardener you can lights to be the best and can’t stop most resilient to water never have too many plants collecting them and strung up through and even those trees add a magical touch that will not stand to the garden. We also the winter outside have some single lights on a stem that can survive happily in pots in our unheated be angled to highlight certain plants and polytunnel. The hardy sub-shrubs such as features and have them shining subtly Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’, S. ‘Nachtvlinder’ through our stained-glass and S. ‘Crazy Dolls’ just keep on giving as garden suncatchers. they are covered with flowers from May to November. We have even developed our Keep an eye on our website in the New own hybrid which we have named ‘Le Year for details of our new programme of Jardin Créatif’ and are trialing a couple of courses for 2022. others which we will be naming next Our garden and nursery are now closed for spring. So why not get someone started the winter period, reopening in early with their own collection! If you want to March. You can still browse our plant list give someone a plant with winter interest during the closed period and collect preas a Christmas present then a Sarcococca ordered plants by appointment: (the ‘Christmas Box’ or ‘sweet box’) is perfect, although this genus is in the same

By Caroline Wright

Caroline has been a lecturer in horticulture for 20 years and is now running a nursery and 'garden craft' courses in the Haute-Vienne at Le jardin creatif

Salvia Royal Bumble

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free time

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free time

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he books I am including are ones that I have found lately, and even purchased, to enable me to look more deeply into the areas of nature that I find interesting, so this article will be a bit more idiosyncratic even than usual.

in English by the same authors, “Plants that Kill”, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691178769. It is priced in dollars, and I have seen it offered for sale at anything between €26 and €40, so shop around. The book is fairly comprehensive, and the English edition is full of information, introducing you to the types of poisons with which plants defend themselves. There is good solid material, but readable, and interspersed with anecdotes and historical instances. A little research in its pages will tell you which of your houseplants is likeliest to kill the cat, and which leaves to avoid when making salad. The illustrations are very good. Sadly, the book barely mentions fungi; but then they aren’t really plants, are they? Besides, as we have already seen, that matter is quite well covered elsewhere.

Two that I found that particularly piqued my interest were “Champignons Comestibles” by Nat Sinob (really?), Mosaique-Santé, at €14.90, and “Guide des 60 Meilleurs Champignons Comestibles” by Eyssartier and Roux, Belin, at €12.50. I have always said that the best fungus guide is “Mushrooms” by Roger Phillips, but that is a fairly weighty tome. These are small enough to be portable, and contain quite a lot of information about the dos and don’ts of looking for edible mushrooms, especially with regard to the French law and approach. You will have to have reasonable reading ability in French. The two books do not completely overlap; the former is more a guide, but with some mouth-watering recipes included, while the latter is more a gourmet approach. Both are very well illustrated.

When I was convalescing from surgery some friends gave me a lovely book, “A Sting in the Tail” by Dave Goulson, Vintage, ISBN 9780099575122, £9.99. It is very much one man’s journey into the world of bumblebees, but it gives you all the information you are ever likely to need to know about them in a very readable form. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone starting out or even deep into the subject of Natural History, as it shows the reader how the researcher’s mind works. It is not an identification manual, although it lists at the end the common and Linnaean names of all the bumblebee species, but apart from the cover it is unillustrated.

As part of my ongoing mission to keep all my readers safe, I invested in a book called, “Les plantes qui Tuent” by Dauncey and Larsson, Ulmer, ISBN 9782379220319, €32.00. This proved to be a very heavy tome in all senses of the word, with challenging French. Then I discovered it was a French translation of a book

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Two bird books now. As far as I know they have not been translated into English, though I’d be happy to be proved wrong. “Rapaces Diurnes et Nocturnes d’Europe”, Paul Böhre and Joris De Raedt, Artemis Editions, ISBN 9782816012446, €25.90 is a superb encyclopaedia of the raptor birds of the continent. Superbly illustrated with detailed paintings of each species, copious

detail both written and illustrated, distinguishing features, anatomical details and maps, this is the book for any wouldbe student of birds of prey who has a good grasp of the French language. It includes owls, and reveals the difference between a hibou and a chouette (basically, a hibou has earlike tufts of feathers on its head and a chouette hasn’t). One suggestion for the less-than-bilingual reader; make a list of the English and corresponding Linnaean name of each raptor by reference to an Anglophone bird-book and keep it in the front of this book – it makes a useful cross-reference. “La Migration des Oiseaux” by Maxime Zucca, Editions Sudouest, ISBN 9782817704067, €28.50, covers many and varied migratory birds. The photographs are excellent, the research is detailed, and copious maps show the migration routes that the birds follow, and where they stay. It answers many of the questions that the interested observer might ask, but again a good knowledge of French is essential for full benefit. One bird book that is very familiar to British birdwatchers is the Collins Bird Guide. I have to say that my own edition dates from 1977 and is intended as a field guide – as its title states. However, I learn



that it was extensively revised in 1999, and judging by “Le Guide Ornitho”, Delachaux, ISBN 9782603023938, €32, which claims to be the French version, the revision must have been extensive indeed! The illustrations are the usual excellent paintings, but there are far more of them, showing variants, flying attitudes and profiles, and the distribution maps are more detailed and colourful, and contain far more information than did the old black-and-white ones. I am tempted to seek out an up-to-date English copy, but I have to say that the French in this edition is relatively simple, and should be within the scope of any moderately competent French reader. It is a much heavier book than the old Collins, and really for the serious bird-watcher. I would hesitate to carry it too far! On the subject of Guide Delachaux, they have recently bought out a stunning butterfly guide, “Guide Pratique des Papillons de France”, ISBN 9782603026786, €39. It really is a book for someone who wants to be a serious lepidopterist. Unlike most French butterfly books, it deals only with butterflies – there isn’t a moth in sight. The first section of the book will tell you all you ever wanted to know about butterflies. Then there are keys to basic recognition, then some 260 species are described (to give you some perspective, Britain has 58 breeding species listed). Each species gets a page to itself, a stunning photograph chosen to show distinguishing characteristics, a key to show the months of adulthood, a map of where it can be found, details of its lifecycle, and code-boxes indicating its weather and habitat preferences, conservation status etc. There is even a “did you know” box for each butterfly,

e Geo r ge

Mike George is our regular contributor on wildlife and the countryside in France. He is a geologist and naturalist, living in the Jurassic area of the Charente

containing a small fact. It is a bit over-thetop if you are just a butterfly-spotter, but if you want to take the subject seriously, and your French reading skills are good, this is the book for you. I must say, though, that the old (1989) Collins New Generation Guide, “Butterflies and Day-flying Moths” by Michael Chinery, ISBN 9780002197878 is an excellent English equivalent if you can find a copy. The illustrations of the specimens are paintings, which can be a bit clearer than a photograph. And it’s in English and, strangely for an English butterfly book, contains quite a few moths!

bookshop recently. It is not brand-new (2014) but is a treat for any health-conscious gourmet with a sweet tooth. It is very much only available in French. It is “Grand Traité des Miels” by Isabelle Avisse, published by Editions le Sureau at €34.50. This book will tell you everything you need to know about honey: its history, its types, its uses in medicine, beauty care and cookery. It looks at bees both wild and domestic. It is not copiously illustrated, but what illustrations are there are fascinating and exquisite. And it is an attractive book for your coffee-table.

A new book has been published outlining some interesting current research on vertebrate fossils, especially dinosaurs. By Michael J. Benton of Bristol University, with some surprising paintings by Bob Nicholls re-interpreting some familiar dinosaurs, it is “Dinosaurs, new visions of a lost world”, Thames and Hudson (in French translation, “Les Dinosaures, tels qu’ils étaient vraiment”, Ulmer) ISBN 978-2-37922-179-8. It is not too complicated to follow – I am even finding it easy to read in French! Bear in mind, however (in spite of the rather presumptuous French title), that the book is based on speculation and debatable interpretation of minor details. Still, it will give you some background on theories on the origin of feathers and the colour patterns of dinosaurs to augment the information in the articles that appeared in etcetera in May and July this year.

Well, that is a selection of the books that have given me pleasure over the last year. I hope you enjoy them too. May I wish you all again a very happy Christmas and a less-restricted and happy New Year.

Finally, I must bring to your attention a book I truffled out of the back-shelves of a

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nature farm life

Better Lives for Turkeys

Tamsin Cooper is a smallholder and writer with a keen interest in animal behaviour and welfare By Tam s

in Coop er



here are several ways to do this: by raising your own; buying from a smallholder whose practices you know and trust; or choosing organic (bio) or Label Rouge. Living in the fertile French bocages, some of us have the time and land to raise our own animals. This is triply fulfilling, in that we can enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and a better quality of produce, while ensuring our animals have happy lives. We can be involved in all aspects of their care, housing and termination, and ensure it meets acceptable standards. This is exactly why I was drawn to smallholding. Commercial producers are increasingly resorting to large-scale intensive farming to meet the demand for meat, milk, eggs and other animal products at low supermarket prices. Animals in such systems are faced with many welfare problems, such as reduced space and activity, and a lack of opportunities to perform normal physical and social activity. It is sad to see fewer cows out at pasture these days, as many modern farms keep them indoors for ten months of the year for easier management and access to automatic robot milkers. Similarly, many goats in the north and west are now kept indoors due to issues with parasites out at pasture. Farmers find it easier to manage them indoors, but goats are active, inquisitive animals that require exercise and stimulation. In addition, many commercially-reared animals are bred for high yields, so they grow unnaturally fast or produce to excess, and this can cause them physiological problems. Turkeys have been developed to have such large breast muscles that they can no longer mate naturally. Similarly, meat chickens grow so quickly that their bone structure gives poor support, resulting in lameness and pain. You can find products from

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traditional breeds or slow-growing poultry by examining the practices of the label or farm. For example, the white Cobb turkeys that we see so frequently are commercially bred to grow fast, while old breeds like the Black or Bronze are smaller, but are also slower growing, hardier, healthier and more tasty.

and quality label, Label Rouge. These labels offer higher income to the farmer and stipulate higher minimum welfare standards for the animals. A local cooperative may also include higher standards in their charter and offers membership to farms who agree to comply. Often the issue is that farms are bound by a long-standing contract to stay with a large-scale buyer, who no longer offers competitive prices.

If you are tempted to turn vegetarian, you can see here that milk, cheese and egg production is subject to the same issues of These farmers often Other small farms have economy, as animals’ found a market in supplement their incomes bodies are pushed to preparing artisan with gîtes, children's produce more. In products, like cheese, parties, open days or guided paté and sausages, which these days of low tours and tastings prices paid to the they sell at the local farmer, it is very market, restaurants or difficult for them to make ends meet. The supermarkets. These farmers often solution has been to expand and intensify, supplement their incomes with gîtes, and many small farmers have gone out of children's parties, open days or guided business as they can no longer compete. tours and tastings. Set-up costs are high as hygiene rules are strict for products for One issue for consumers is that labelling public consumption, but it is gratifying to in France does not make it clear what kind see small family businesses still thriving in of conditions animals are raised in. this way. Packets of milk and cheese may show animals at pasture, whereas the farm Ecologists are encouraging governments actually keeps them indoors. A labelling to revolutionise the food supply chain, so scheme indicating how livestock are kept that nature and natural resources can has just been introduced in some recover. This includes decreasing intense supermarkets. Hopefully, this practice will farming methods. This in turn could allow become more popular. Compassion in animals greater freedom. But it also World Farming ( supports such depends on people decreasing animalwelfare schemes and has many ideas for based products in their diet and switching you to add your voice to encourage better to plant-based proteins. This diet is also welfare initiatives. highly recommended for people’s health and is what is meant by the slogan Of course, good welfare is more than just “mangez mieux”. access to the outdoors: minimum standards stipulate space per animal, good So my message for Christmas this year is health and nutrition, comfortable shelter, eat healthily; eat quality food from gentle handling, protection from disease animals with high welfare standards; look and predation, and ability to perform for organic animal products or Label normal behaviour in safety. Rouge; buy from small local farmers or smallholders who care to give their A promising alternative to intensive animals quality lives; and farming is the organic label, AB (Agriculture biologique), and the welfare “mangez mieux!”

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Claire 1

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Night Sky

By Clair Wardla e w

Claire Wardlaw, originally from Edinburgh, lives in the Charente with her husband. Since their move nearly 6 years ago, Claire has become passionate about astronomy



e can look forward to one of the best meteor showers of the year - The Geminids - midway through the month. With the Winter Solstice falling on the 21st, we can enjoy the longest night - and the shortest day! Constellations which are very well placed for viewing this month are; Looking to the North Ursa Major - rising again in the east and pointing the way to Polaris (our pole star for now!) Ursa Minor - hanging from the pole star. The number of stars you can spot in Ursa Minor will indicate the darkness of your skies Looking towards the South The Pleiades - a cluster shining brightly directly south Auriga - sitting high and to the left of The Pleiades Gemini - well placed and easy to find if you draw a line up and to the left of Betelgeuse in Orion The Moon and Planets in December The month will open with a very thin crescent Moon, with the New Moon following on the 4th. During the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th you can observe the waxing crescent of the Moon close to, and passing in turn, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. I often think being able to see the changing positions of these objects in our skies over the course of subsequent nights really helps me to better understand our place within the Solar system. So, firstly, on the evening of the 6th you can see bright shining Venus sitting low but just above a thin crescent Moon. Look to the southwest from around 6pm. On the 7th Venus will be shining away at its brightest (magnitude -4.7) and will now be seen to the left and just below a crescent Moon. The 8th will show a waxing crescent Moon which is now positioned between Saturn and Jupiter. By the 9th we can spot the Moon almost adjacent to Jupiter. On each of these nights the three planets will form a beautiful diagonal line across the southwest sky. At the end of December we can observe, if conditions allow, the planets of Mercury and Venus (our 'Evening Star') close together just after sunset in the southwest on the 29th. We can end the year with a lovely morning view of a waning crescent Moon which will be forming a triangle with Mars and the star Antares. Look to the southeast just before sunrise.

Object of the month - Castor (an incredible star) The star Castor is the lead star (Alpha Geminorum) in the constellation of Gemini. There is so much more to this star than was first understood. It has a magnitude of 1.9 and is around 50 lightyears away from Earth. It is in fact a system of stars - which we can see with the naked eye as a single blue-white sparkling light - but which can be seen as two gravitationally-bound stars through a small telescope. One has a magnitude of 1.9, the other 2.9. These two stars orbit one another every 468 years. Looking even closer, these two stars are also now known to be 'doubles' in orbit around one another. Another double 'red dwarf' star brings the group total to six. Castor is easily found in the southeastern skies this month. It is a truly beautiful sight through a small telescope. Constellation of the Month - Gemini The constellation of Gemini is a beautiful and fairly easy star grouping to find during December. The main stars of this constellation form a simple pattern - found to the north and left of Orion - of two parallel lines. Gemini, or 'The Twins' is ranked as the 30th largest of the constellations. It represents the mythological twins of Castor and Pollux. The Greeks believe these figures were turned into stars and placed forever in the sky. These are the two brightest stars of the constellation which mark the position of the twins' heads. The star Pollux, or Beta Geminorum, is the second star of the constellation but, not unusually, it is the brighter of the two. It is an extremely large star whose diameter is 40 times that of our Sun. To find Gemini, draw an imaginary line from the right foot (Rigel) of Orion through to the left shoulder (Betelgeuse) of Orion. Continue this line up and through towards the left and you will reach the two stars representing the feet of the twins. With binoculars or a small telescope it is possible to view an open star cluster, M35. This object can be found to the right of the right foot of Gemini. It is possible to see around 200 stars which form this beautiful cluster and which lies 2,800 light years away. Meteor showers in December One of the most significant showers of the year is The Geminids. This year it will be active from around the 3rd to the 16th. During very active years we can expect to

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see around 100 meteors per hour. They are medium speed, bright meteors and are associated with an Asteroid named Phaetheon (3200). The peak this year will fall on the 14th but as the Moon will be fairly bright in a waxing gibbous phase conditions are not perfect. Any meteors you do see which seem to emanate from the Gemini constellation will be 'Geminids'. This is one shower which can show before midnight. Remember to allow your eyes to become adjusted to the dark for around 30 minutes to ensure the best chance of catching a falling star. Shining a Light on Astronomy Jargon - Solstice The word 'Solstice' combines the Latin words 'sol' for Sun and 'sistere' for ‘to stand still’. The path of the Sun across our sky changes with the seasons. During the winter Solstice the daylight hours are at their shortest as the Earth's tilt creates our shortest days. During the Summer Solstice the tilt of the earth means that the Sun spends the longest time in our skies. Making History in Space and Astronomy At the time of going to print and having suffered from many delays, the new date for an historic launch has been set for 'The James Webb Space Telescope'. On December the 18th at 7.20am EST the huge telescope will be launched in the European Space Agency 'Ariane 5' rocket. It will be launched from the European Spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana on the equator. This remarkable space telescope will make history as the largest space telescope to be launched. While Hubble was a mere 500km from Earth, the JWST will orbit at 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Its primary mission will last for around 5 years studying infrared wavelengths and so showing scientists things that we have never seen before. It will be able to see the first stars and galaxies formed around the time of the 'Big Bang'. Webb's 18 segment primary mirror is 6 times bigger than Hubble's (6.5 meters in diameter) and 100 times more powerful. It really will be a time to 'Watch This Space'!

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hen I started to fish in the late 1960s the angling press was full of stories about the fantastic fishing that could be found in the Hampshire Avon. Articles written by boyhood heroes were illustrated with photographs taken on the Royalty, Ringwood and Throop fisheries. I dreamed of the day that I would be able to fish these hallowed waters, but never have. The nearest I got was viewing some of the famous beats whilst on training courses in Winchester. On moving to France I discovered that we had the equivalent river on our doorstep in La Belle Charente. Like the Avon it is in parts a chalk stream and fed by limestonerich aquifers that enrich the aquatic environment. The Charente is 381km in length, four times that of the Avon and slightly longer than the Severn and Thames. It has a slightly smaller catchment area and a flow rate of twothirds of the two largest British rivers. King Francois I, patron of the French Renaissance and one time owner of the Mona Lisa, declared the Charente as the most beautiful river in his Kingdom and it is easy to see why, especially given that he was born in Cognac, one of the most picturesque areas of the Charente’s route to the Atlantic Ocean from its source in the small village of Chéronnac near Rochechouart in the Haute-Vienne. Its early course takes it through meadows for around 6km whereupon it enters Lac Lavaud as a small stream and leaves at the other end of the lake having crossed into the Charente department as a small river where it continues to meander through pastures heading roughly north-west towards Civray. The River Charente is classed as a Category 2 river throughout its whole length despite holding predominantly trout in its upper reaches. If there are any truly wild brown trout left in the river they will probably be outnumbered by the stockies that are released by the Fisheries Department each spring. Stocking trout takes place right through to Savigne each year. These trout rub shoulders with roach, bream, perch, barbel, carp and pike that can be found in increasing sizes as the river itself grows in size. The river is hardly fished until you get to the Parcours de Pêche at Charroux in the Vienne, the third department to host this river. By Savigne it has run into limestone country and takes on a different look. The river splits and reforms many times creating islands and narrow channels that, along with the increased

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weed growth, makes the river very interesting indeed for the roving chub angler. There are some lovely chub fishing stretches along with specimen perch.

Angoulême to Saintes. There are also specimen roach in the river around Chateauneuf S/ Charente along with some lovely chub and carassin carp.

From Civray, barbel of a size worth catching become more populous. The river turns south towards Angoulême and takes in several notable tributaries that swell its banks. By Mansle the river is fully fledged, very healthy, and has a good flow over a hard gravel bottom creating a marvellous mixed fishery. From there through to Cognac I suggest that we have the equivalent, if not the better, of the famous Hampshire Avon and yet, hardly anyone fishes many parts of it. There are chemins and farm tracks alongside much of the river and the beautiful clear water is just begging to be fished.

Barbel anglers will find good sport in the Sireuil area where regular feeder matches are disrupted by rogue barbel breaking the pecheur’s fine lines. There is a Chemin de Halage, or towpath, along much of this length so access is easy. At Bassac, another good barbel spot, you will find a memorial to the two survivors of the Cockleshell Heroes raid on Bordeaux harbour. The bridge there was the rendezvous where ‘Blondie’ Hasler and his comrade Bill Sparks met the Resistance who led them to safety. Further down at Angeac S/ Charente the river splits into some very interesting channels and holds some lovely wild carp and tench. At the nearby church another memorial can be viewed. This time to young New Zealand airmen who perished whilst supplying the Resistance in the build up to Operation Overlord.

At Angoulême the river becomes navigable. Work commenced to make navigation more accessible before the Revolution and work was delayed because of that political upheaval. Once finished it became a major waterway allowing wines and spirits from the Cognac region to be The barbel fishing continues to be good sent downstream on gabarriers, large through Cognac until Jarnac. After Jarnac barges that also brought salt from the the river is better known for its large carp Atlantic coast and sugar and spices along and catfish. This continues through to with other goods Saintes and beyond from French where a tidal barrier dominions far and The middle Charente is a truly has been constructed to wide. At Bourgbreathtaking river and holds a prevent flooding as the Charente a 5.6 wide range of species including land is barely 3 metres metre dugout canoe above sea level. Saintes the larger predators made from oak was was at one time discovered that has dependent on the been dated to spring migration of around 3,000 BC. shad, and fish traps and netting took place Even back then the river was an important to harvest these regular visitors. The fish source of trade. From an angling point of were cleaned and hung out to dry in the view the features of navigation, the locks, sun on wooden racks like herrings. Fish make the river much more interesting. traps are also visible in the village of SaintLocks create areas of still water and the Simeux where fixed traps would harvest weirs lead to faster, shallow stretches of eels and shad migrating upstream. river. The navigation channel is constantly The river holds good sized carp right being dredged to ensure a good depth of through the Charente-Maritime water is available mid-river. In practice department until it reaches the tidal the river can be over 4 metres deep in barrier at Saint-Savinien. From there the many places and so clear that you can see brackish waters hold flounder, mullet and every stone on the bottom. Weed is bass, especially in the estuary near verdant and as a result there is a great deal to Rocheforte. of insect life that in turn feeds the fish. The middle Charente is a truly breathtaking river and holds a wide range of species including the larger predators; catfish, pike and zander along with an increasing number of black bass. Specimen perch are caught every year and for the carpistes amongst us fish up to 50lb are caught in the navigable part from

And so, having travelled over 380 kilometres through one of the most beautiful regions of France, taking in four departments, passing from the Neotholic through the Renaissance to the Resistance, all that is left for me to do is wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Compassion in World Farming was founded 50 years ago in 1967 by a British farmer who became horrified by the development of modern, intensive factory farming. Today we campaign peacefully to end all factory farming practices. We believe that the biggest cause of cruelty on the planet deserves a focused, specialised approach – so we are relentlessly focused on ending factory farming.

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home & specialist

Fireplace Folklore

By Kris Jenningtian s

Kristian of Jennings Chimney Sweeping specializes in Chimney problem diagnosis and is a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps



leigh bells, reindeers, a jolly fellow in a plush red suit and a snow-covered chimney top. These things are just some of those that come to mind when the word “Christmas” is spoken. For many years, the humble chimney has retained a central role in the festivities - after all, how could Santa deliver all our presents if there was no chimney? However, it’s not always been the case that a cheerful, somewhat plump gent with rosy red cheeks and beard as white as snow plopped down a flue with such merry aplomb. The first notion of Santa using a chimney to deliver presents can be found in Washington Irving’s 1809 book

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‘Knickerbocker’s History of New York’. Irving’s parody novel to ‘A Picture of New York’ jested to Dutch immigrants in New Amsterdam obsessed with the Dutch Heritage of the city. In his 1809 book, the character ‘Sinterklaas’ is presented smoking a clay pipe and of Elven appearance who ‘would often make his appearance in his beloved city of a holiday afternoon, riding jollily among the treetops or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites’. Sinterklaas, who later became the Americanized ‘Santa Claus’, was not found tumbling down the chimney himself

however until 1823, when in Professor Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem ‘A visit from St Nicholas’ (more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas from its first line), he wrote: As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot 1881 was the first time we got to see the Santa Claus we all know now. Thomas

home & specialist

Nast developed the image of the festive figure adorned with a furry red coat and mistletoe atop his matching red hat, arms overflowing with presents and smoking a pipe. A hugely successful marketing campaign 50 years later by Coca Cola really hammered home the idea of the jolly fellow in red as they spread their message that Coca Cola was an all year round beverage and not just for the hotter summer months as was the common conception at the time. Santa isn’t the only character to enter our homes via the chimney over the Christmas period. Myths of Witches, Goblins and Fairies letting themselves in via the chimney were very common and likely to have influenced the literary traditions surrounding the end of the calendar year. There is a particular story of a Brownie who would let itself down the chimney and complete household tasks whilst you slept – now wouldn’t that be a lovely thing to wake up to! One so-called ‘Companion’ of Saint Nicholas is the somewhat similar gift-bringing character known in German Folklore as ‘Belsnickel’. The tatty-clothed, whipwielding, Christmas figure was said to travel alone, frightening the naughty children and rewarding the nice ones. Belsnickel would fill stockings with presents at midnight and his favourite way to enter the home was, you guessed it, the chimney. In Norse mythology, it is said Odin and his motley gang would fly over the villages and countryside scaring anyone who was out and about during the late hours of the night. Children would fill stockings with straw and leave them by the hearth where Odin would slip down the chimney and leave toys and candy. For most of the year, the chimney sits unnoticed atop the roof of our house. However, once a year, every year, our attention shifts as we begin to think about what might be coming down the flue. Whether it be a Goblin, a Norse god, or a cheerful chap in red, there is no doubting that the humble chimney deserves its place on the festive stage. Merry Christmas everyone.

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latest news

Postal Customs Fee Post Brexit


Following the UK’s exit from the EU, keep in mind that you may be charged to receive a package from Great Britain. Items marked as ‘gifts’ on the customs paperwork and are under the value of 45€ should be exempt from these charges, but it does appear people are getting charged on occasions.

Congratulations to Robin and Alison Mitchell who are the lucky winners of the November edition’s fantastic Bird Feeder competition! We were inundated with entries, proof that we are all a caring lot who thoroughly enjoy our feathered friends! Cyrille was hiding on page 48 of last month’s AIRBNB PLEDGE MILLIONS TO RURAL AREAS edition. Thank you to Airbnb has signed a deal to donate millions to restoring heritage everyone who entered. buildings in the French countryside as it seeks to up its activity in

ELEPHANT HAVEN’S FIRST RESIDENT Following many years of hard work and fundraising, Elephant Haven (based in the Haute-Vienne) welcomed their first elephant, Gandhi. She arrived safely on the 14 of October, she has days when she seems a little overwhelmed but is plucking up the courage to venture further and explore new areas. Visits are not possible, it’s vital for Gandhi to have time to get settled in her new environment in all its tranquility. EHEES (Elephant Haven European Elephant Sanctuary) said “Although elephants have big feet, like us they sometimes need to take small steps...”. You can keep up to date with her progress on social media and the EHEES website:

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rural areas. The US-based company will be the main benefactor in a funding project named ‘Patrimoine et tourisme local’ by the heritage charity Fondation du Patrimoine . The main objectives are to allocate funds to preserve architectural treasures, promote the rural heritage, as well as create new opportunities for businesses in these territories. Demand in rural areas has increased since the start of the pandemic, with city and town dwellers looking to more rural areas to live or visit. Every cloud…

TRACK SANTA Keep an eye on Santa’s whereabouts this month by tracking him on the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) website The program goes live on the 1st December, but you’ll have to wait until midnight on the 23rd (he’s a busy man) to see the live tracking.

getting connected


‘first time install’ of your satellite receiver. t’s the most wonderful time of the year… Frequencies change all the time behind unless you’re a turkey, in which case the the scenes and sometimes our receivers jury is probably still out on that one. It’s can’t keep up. A quick refresh is usually all nearly Christmas. It might even be it needs to get back to normal service. Christmas if you got a copy of etcetera as a present. If you did, I’ll assume you I went to a client recently who was fingered your way directly to this page. complaining of a perfect picture but no Congratulations, you sound on his TV. All the clearly have class (but cables were correctly terrible present-giving Nothing looks better on inserted and the volume friends). How are you a large screen 4K TV was indeed up. However, all? Looking forward than something filmed via the menus, they had to the festivities I managed to mute the TV in the 1970s hope. Maybe not so speakers and tell the TV much the after effects that a home cinema system of all that food and drink, but remember was attached when it wasn’t. So, if a your (literal) loss is the toilet paper similar thing happens to you, check the industry’s gain. Circle of life and all that. sound settings on your TV just in case. Speaking of which, I hope the Lion King In case you missed it, Freesat has added a gets an airing for the holidays. channel called That’s TV Gold to its line Freesat good, Freeview bad. Got it? up. Found at position 178, the channel Great. Onwards. features ‘comedy’ from yesteryear with the likes of Tommy Cooper, Kenny Everett, It’s worth repeating, but if you find that Richard Briers and Mike Yarwood. you’ve lost any satellite channels, the first Basically, anyone who is now dead. And thing to do is a ‘rescan’ or maybe even a


STUART WALLACE THE FRENCH HOUSE Mike Yarwood. Nothing looks better on a large screen 4K TV than something filmed in the 1970s. Anyway, that’s all from me for this year. Thank you for sticking with me even though I moved away. I wish you all a lovely Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. Have a good one. See you in January! As always, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions relating to satellite TV or satellite internet. Only those though. Whilst I try to read all your other emails, some of the accompanying photos are quite disturbing.

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getting connected

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Roofing / Renovations Roofing / Renovations ALL ASPECTS OF ROOFING / RENDERING & POINTING - Zinc / PVC guttering - Anti-moss - Insulation & Plaster boarding - Interior / exterior renovations For a free quotation please contact: Howard (fully bilingual, living in France since 1990, 10 yr décennale Insurance)

Tel: / Email: Depts: 87,86,16 & 23 Siret: 799 894 860 000 11

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Call Mark for a free quotation: T: 05 55 44 71 44 / M: 06 78 60 96 16 Siret no. 493 159 412 00037

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motors & removals Walton Coachworks 87600 Vayres Nick Walton CARS MOTORCYCLES LIGHT TRUCKS

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Family run business based in France which prides itself on a personal professional service. 7 tonne truck to and from the UK and Europe, we also have a box trailer for larger loads. Our highly experienced staff provide a door to door service with packing and dry secure storage We are a professional furniture removal company NOT a man and a van. Please call Phil and Jean Evans....

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