The Deux-Sèvres Monthly magazine December 2019 issue

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Welcome! to Issue 104 ‘The Deux-Sèvres Monthly’ magazine.


Noah had forty days and forty nights of rain. Well, he got off lightly. It hasn’t stopped chucking it down for what feels like weeks. My wellies are full of water when I venture outside, the grass is like a paddy field and very slippery I have discovered, as I went into some forced splits on my way to the post box. But to look on the bright side the pond has never been so full and the drainage channel I dug last year to guide water away from our back door is working a treat. I can stand for hours watching the water as it whizzes down my flume. Life can seem like a long list of things to fix and mend. Particularly living with Anna who is not known for her delicate touch. I wince every night as I hear her yanking the curtains shut. We don’t own a cup or mug that isn’t chipped. I am the tortoise to her hare. Slowly, slowly catchy monkey. Some jobs are lovely and fill one with a sense of pride when complete. Some jobs are infuriating and will send me into an apoplectic rage, like Basil Fawlty thrashing the mini. Some jobs will create other jobs; jobs I didn’t even realise needing doing until I embarked on the initial job. One step forward two, three, four steps back. If this weather continues, my next job will be constructing a large wooden boat into which I will usher two of every animal. Coypus, wild boars, whip snakes, feral cats will become my new travelling companions, and together we will sail across 79 (and surrounding areas). We don’t produce a January issue, but will return in February, dried out for the new year. A huge thank you to all our advertisers, contributors, distributors, our eagle-eyed proof readers and of course, to you, dear reader. Happy Christmas and see you in 2020.

à la prochaine Stephen & Anna Tel: 05 49 64 21 98 Email: Website:

Contents What’s On Getting Out & About Take a Break Hobbies Clubs & Associations Home & Garden A-Z of the Communes in the Deux-Sèvres Spotlight Motoring Food & Drink Health, Beauty & Fitness Our Furry Friends Communications Building & Renovation Business & Finance Property

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This Month’s Advertisers

ABORDimmo Adrian Butterfield (Handyman) Affordable UK Designs (Kitchens & UPVC Double Glazing) AKE Petits Travaux (Builder) Amanda Johnson - The Spectrum IFA Group Andrew Longman (Plumbing & Heating) ARB French Property Assurances Maucourt (GAN Parthenay) Beaux Villages Immobilier BH Assurances / Allianz - Isabelle Want Blevins Franks Financial Management BM Construction Building & Renovation Services Cherry Picker Hire Chez Lou (Upholstery and Furniture) Chris Bassett Construction Chris Parsons (Plumber/Heating Engineer) Christies (English Book Shop & Tea Room) CJ Electricité Clean Sweep Chimney Services Cosmetic Contour Darren Lawrence ESCOVAL (The English Speaking Church of the Valley of the Loire) Franglais Deliveries (Transport & Removal Services) Hallmark Electricité Helen Booth (deVere Group) HMJ (Renovation service) Inter Décor (Tiles and Bathrooms) Irving Location - Digger Hire and Gravel deliveries Jeff’s Metalwork John Purchase - Mobile Mechanic Jon the Carpetman J.W.Services (General building work) Labourer wanted (Projet Piscine) La Deuxieme Chance (Decorative paint specialists) La Petite Brasserie De La Grange Leggett Immobilier Le Regal’on (Bar and Restaurant) Lisa Pryke(Psychic medium) LPV Technology (IT services) Mark Sabestini - Renovation and Construction MD Project Management Michael Glover (Plasterer, tiler, renderer)) Michel Barateau (Cabinet Maker) ML Computers Mutuelles de Poitiers Assurances Needa Hand Services (Grass cutting etc.) Pamela Irving (Holistic Therapist) Place de l’inattendu (Health food and well-being centre) Poitiers Biard Airport Projet Piscine (Swimming Pool solutions) Restaurant des Canards R J Coulson Building Services Rob Berry (Plasterer) Robert Mann (Upholstery) Ross Hendry (Interface Consulting & Engineering) Safe Hands 79 (Garden maintenance) Simon the Tiler Smart Moves - Removal company Steve Coupland (Property services) Steve Robin (Plumbing, heating, electrics) Steve Shaw (Cartoonist) Strictly Roofing Sue Burgess (French Classes & Translation) Sunny Sky Cars (Cars, Motorhomes and Vans wanted) Terves English Christmas Market The English Mechanic & Son - Tony Eyre The Fixer - Rick Denton The Hope Association Tony Wigmore(IT services) Town Renovations Val Assist (Translation Services) Vienne Tree Services Vintage et Chic (English gift shop)

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© Anna and Stephen Shaw 2019. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced without permission. While care is taken to ensure that articles and features are accurate, Anna and Stephen Shaw accept no liability for reader dissatisfaction. The opinions expressed and experiences shared are given by individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the publisher. Please ensure you verify that the company you are dealing with is a registered trading company in France and/or elsewhere. It is strongly advised to check details of published events with other sources before setting out on long journeys. <<The Deux-Sèvres Monthly>> est édité par Anna and Stephen Shaw 2 Jaunasse,

Louin, 79600 Tél: 05 49 64 21 98. Directeur de la publication et rédacteur en chef: Anna and Stephen Shaw. Crédits photos: Anna and Stephen Shaw, Clkr, Shutterstock et Pixabay. Impression: Graficas Piquer SL, 29 Al Mediterraneo, Pol. Ind. San Rafael, 04230, Huércal de Almeria, Espagne. Dépôt légal: décembre 2019 - Tirage: 4500 exemplaires. Siret: 839 041 282 00014 ISSN: 2115-4848 TVA: FR 48 839 041 282

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 3

What’s On... 1 - INDOOR ENGLISH CHRISTMAS MARKET in Terves Salle des Fêtes from 10am-5pm. Keynotes choir singing carols at 3.30pm. 3-4 - NATIONAL BUTCHERY COMPETITION in Parthenay. Honouring the Limousin breed (amongst others), the traditional cattle market is open to everyone. The butchery competition will be from 4.30pm on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. A meal on Tuesday evening for a friendly exchange between all members of the cattle industry and the public. 7, 14, 15 - TREE EXHIBITION AND COMPETITION OF MINIATURE HOUSES. The 5th edition of ‘The Enchanted Alley’ exhibition - 40 ash trees form the enchanted alley plus a new competition to construct miniature houses with objects extracted from nature. More information, rules and registration at 7-8 and 21-22 - HONEY PRODUCERS OPEN DAY ‘LA MIELLERIE DE TITELL’ in Aigondigné from 10am-6pm. Demonstrations, videos and explanation regarding the production of Royal Jelly, sweets and honey - a chance to taste and buy various honey products. Food available on site. 8 - CAFÉ PAUSE! CHRISTMAS FAYRE in L’Absie. 10am-5pm. 8 - KEYNOTES SINGERS CAROL CONCERT at Amailloux Church from 3pm. See page 17 for more information. 8 - CHRISTMAS CONCERT in Pompaire. A concert of Christmas songs with the Iteuil Vocal Group, at the Saint-Pierre de Pompaire church from 3pm. Entry 5€ (free under 15yrs). See poster on page 6. 13 - KEYNOTES SINGERS CAROL CONCERT at Café des Belles Fleurs, Fenioux at 8pm. See page 17 for more information. 13-15 - GOSPEL WEEKEND in Moncoutant. Gospel singing concerts and workshops galore. For more information go to index.php/agenda/evenement/195-week-end-gospel 14 - KEYNOTES SINGERS CAROL CONCERT in Le Retail Church at 3pm. See page 17 for more information. 14 - CHIMERA RACING QUIZ in Bouillé-Saint-Paul. See poster on page 7. 14 - SCALLOP MARKET in Saint-Jacques-de-Thouars. Stroll through this local producers’ market honouring the scallop. From 9am-3pm. 15 - KEYNOTES SINGERS CAROL CONCERT in Coulonges Church at 3pm. See page 17 for more information. 15 - ESCOVAL CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT. Starts 5.30pm in Arçay. See the advert on opposite page for more information. 20 - JAM SESSION in Parthenay. Bring your musical instrument, meet and jam with other musicians. Free entry from 7pm visit for more information. 20 - CONCERT ‘THE FOLLY OF HELL’ at the café du boulevard in Melle. Free entry into this spontaneous cabaret night where you can participate in the concert. Sing, perform magic, dance – join in and show your talent! From 9pm (booking necessary for food). Visit for more information. 21 - ‘MO AND THE RED RIBBON’ live theatre in Parthenay. A playful show on the theme of family and resilience. Mo is a giant wicker puppet journeying to a new life. Begins 7pm and entry free.

contact ‘The DSM’

Tel: 05 46 01 54 65

OPEN mornings

4 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

REGULAR EVENTS... EVERY MON & WED 2PM-6PM Duplicate Bridge at Civray. Lessons available free. Contact Marian Green: 05 49 27 14 52 or email: EVERY TUES AT 5PM Belote at Café des Sports, L’Absie. EVERY TUES & THURS AM - Annie Sloan Painting Workshops. Please see EVERY WEDs AT 2PM - 4PM - Charity shop, café and cats at the Funny Farm Cat Rescue, St Germain-de-Longue-Chaume. EVERY WEDS - Franglais Bressuire 8-10pm in term time at the Centre Socio-culturelle. EVERY THURS AT 7PM - Scottish Dancing at Café des Belles Fleurs. EVERY THURS FROM 8PM - Quizwitch Quiz at le Chaudron, 79320 Chantemerle. 2.50€. In aid of Cancer Support Deux-Sèvres. EVERY THURS - Jean David Art Group at L’Absie. For times contact Jean on tel: 06 52 93 33 60. EVERY THURS - Franglais group in Montournais. Contact Penny Homewood 02 51 63 31 21 or EVERY FRI AM - Reaction Theatre’s Art Scene meet in Secondigny. Contact Jane Trescothick: EVERY FRI 6PM-7.30PM - Line Dancing at Café des Belles Fleurs, Fenioux. Contact: or 05 49 10 37 80. EVERY SUN 2PM-5PM - Chats de Châtillon Adoption/Visiting afternoon. All other times tel: 06 85 63 55 94 EVERY OTHER THURS AT 6.30PM - Franglais Group at LA TABLE DU CENTRE, Mouilleron-en-Pareds. 2nd Tues of Month AT 8PM - Quiz Night at Le Regal’On, Allonne. 3RD WEDS OF MONTH AT 3PM Franglais Group at Café Pause!, L’Absie. Last FRI of month - Books, CDs, DVDs etc. sale. Chez Sue and Stuart Marshall, 12 rue du Bourg Chasteigner, Cheffois, in aid of animal charities (2pm-5pm) tel: 02 51 51 00 96.

what’s COMING UP... 5 January - BROCANTE DU DONJON in Niort. 8am-6pm Place du


Sat: Fontenay-le-Comte (marché), Vendée and at Saint-Jean-d’Angély (marché intérieur), Charente-Maritime Sun: Aulnay (marché), Charente-Maritime

For CHRISTMAS Markets, please see back page

Donjon, free entry.

Call Anna Shaw on 05 49 64 21 98 Monday - Thursday: 9am - 1pm & 2pm - 6pm

Markey’s pork ‘n’ pies Traditional British cooking

29 - INTERNATIONAL CORRIDA 10KM RUN in Magne. Big party end of year fancy dress race with 2000 runners. For more information visit www. 31 - NEW YEAR’S EVE/SAINT SYLVESTRE in Antigny. Starting at 8pm. See poster on page 7 for more information.

23 January - CRAWL (Film in English) in the Salle Belle Epine, La Châtaigneraie at 8pm. 25 January - BURNS NIGHT EVENING AT RESTAURANT DES CANARDS in Chef-Boutonne. For reservations tel: 05 49 29 73 46. See page 29 for information.

La Vendée Chippy We would like to thank all our fabulous, loyal customers and colleagues who have supported us so amazingly over the past seven years and have helped to make our lives here in France a very happy and rewarding one. We are sad to be ‘handing over the fryers’ but it is now time for a slightly more relaxed life here in France. We hope you will continue to support the new owners, Ray and Mary in their new venture of running La Vendée Chippy. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Billy & Sarah

MR T’S FRITERIE Regular venues at: • • • • •

Aulnay 17470 (from 6pm) Ballans 17160 La Chapelle 16140 St Jean d’Angély 17400 Les Essards-Saintes 17250

Tel: 06 02 22 44 74

OPEN 6 .30- 9pm

...december 2019 LOCAL MARKETS Mondays.........

Benet 85490 La Châtaigneraie 85120 Lencloître (1st Monday in month) 86140 Tuesdays......... Lezay 79120 Civray 86400 Coulonges-sur-l’Autize 79160 Thouars 79100 - and - Bressuire 79300 Vasles 79340 Wednesdays.... Parthenay 79200 - and - Celles-sur-Belle 79370 Ruffec 16700 Thursdays........ Sauzé-Vaussais 79190 - and - Niort 79000 La Mothe St Héray 79800 Gençay 86160 Friday............... Thouars 79100 - and - Melle 79500 Secondigny 79130 (pm)-and-St Aubin le Cloud (pm) Civray 86400 (small food market) Saturdays........ Bressuire 79300 - and - Champdeniers 79220 Chef-Boutonne 79110 Airvault 79600 - and - Niort 79000 Saint Maixent-l’École 79400 Fontenay-le-Comte 85200 Ruffec 16700 Magné 79460 and Moncoutant 79320 Sundays............ Coulon 79510 - and - Neuville-de-Poitou 86170 Thénezay 79390 Saint-Varent 79330 Saint-Loup-Lamairé 79600

The National Holidays, Religious and Feast Days 2019

25 December 2020 1 January 6 January

CHURCH NOTICES... The Chaplaincy of Christ the Good Shepherd, Poitou-Charentes, holds English speaking services. The Filling Station - Poitou-Charentes. Local Christians of all denominations who meet for spiritual renewal and evangelism. www. or Carolyn Carter on 05 45 84 19 03. ALL SAINTS, VENDÉE - Puy de Serre. We hold two services each month (+ Sunday school), on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at the church of St. Marthe, Puy de Serre, at 11am. The Rendez-Vous Christian Fellowship hold meetings throughout the month in the Deux-Sèvres and the Vendée. Contact Chris & Julie Taylor 09 60 49 78 50 or visit: The English Speaking Church of the Valley of the Loire (ESCOVAL) meets at the R.C. Church in Arçay every 3rd Sunday of the month at 11.00am (just off the D759, Thouars to Loudun).

Christmas Day (Noël)

New Year’s Day (Jour de l’An) Epiphany (Fête de la Galette) (Dates in bold=Public holidays)

We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS: 15 17 18 12 113

SAMU (Medical Advice) Gendarmes (Police) Pompiers (Fire Service) European Emergency Drugs and Alcohol

TOP HAT QUIZ Nights 2: 5: 9: 11:

Limalonges Chef Boutonne Theil Rabier Aigre

Tel: 05 45 71 70 91 FROM 7pm

Christmas closure

Please note that ‘The DSM’ Office will be closed from 6pm Friday 6 December until 9am Wednesday 3 January 2020, although you can still contact us via email.

FISH 4 CHIP & AUTHENTIC INDIAN MEALS Mon: Charroux Tues: Sauzé-Vaussais (main square) Weds: Chef Boutonne (near château) Thurs: Sauzé-Vaussais - Eve (main square) Fri: Ruffec (Baobab car park) Tel: 06 37 53 56 20

OPEN 6 - 8.30pm

FRYER TUCKS 1 Sun: Terves - Christmas Market 12 noon - 3pm 6 Fri: Genneton - Café de la Mairie 6.30 - 9pm 20 Fri: Genneton - Café de la Mairie 6.30 - 9pm Every Tuesday: Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes L'Embuscade 5.30 - 8pm Tel: 06 23 25 48 36

Visit each website for further information or to confirm venue and dates The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 5

Getting Out & About Chez Christie’s

BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS CARDS Relations, Charity Packs, Boxes … Buy Any 3 Single Cards ~ Save 1€ ! GREAT GIFTS for FAMILY & FRIENDS Tapestry, Scarves, Mugs, Notepads, Books, Puzzles, Candles, Tins, Pens … CRACKING CHRISTMAS CRACKERS DELICIOUS HOME-BAKING Christmas Cake, Mince Pies, Truffles, Cream Teas, Brownies, Cupcakes …

OPEN LATE THURSDAYS till 8.30pm until CHRISTMAS ! GENÇAY’S XMAS MARKET SUN 15 DEC Open All Day from 9am ! --and

Plus: OPEN MON 23 & TUES 24 DEC ! Thousands of Books & Cards Online: AMAZON.CO.UK / SHOPS / CHRISTIESGENCAY GENÇAY (86) - behind the Mairie

Siret: 47876969800018

December Services in the

Chaplaincy of Christ the Good Shepherd

Date and Time


Sunday 15, 10.30am

Carol service Temple Protestant, (Morning worship) Barbezieux (16)

Tuesday 17, 7pm

Nine lessons and carols service (bilingual) Eucharist with carols Eucharist with carols Christmas eucharist

Sunday 22, 11am Sunday 22, 11am Wednesday 25, 10.30am


Parish Church, Courcelles (17) Jarnac Temple, rue Abel-Guy (16) Parish Church, Pompaire (79) Parish Church, Courcelles (17)

For further details please go to:

Have you LIKED us on Facebook?

We post regular updates, things to do and promote special offers on our page, so why not pop over and say “Hello”! 6 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019


Simply register on our website:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 7

Letter from Blighty

mber e v o N

Our Friend in the North

by Justin Wescombe

Dear Frankie The clocks have gone back and daylight is in shorter supply. The din of explosions (undimmed by cold and wet weather) in memory of Guy Fawkes has now given way to the first fusillades of the General Election to be held on 12 December. So, Sir Lyndsay Hoyle has just one day in which to enjoy his new role as Speaker of the House of Commons before they all pack it in once more and head for the doorstep, the hustings, and social media. All this and Mothercare is teetering on the brink of administration (is nothing sacred?). Here are some news items which caught my eye during the last month. (a) After years of exclusion 4,000 Iranian women were finally allowed to watch their national team play football (Iran beat Cambodia 14 - 0); (b) The Archbishop of Canterbury sought medical help for depression last year after his daughter told him that mental health problems were ‘just life’; (c) A woman from Suffolk won the Golden Spurtle, the trophy to the winner of the recent World Porridge Making Championships held in Scotland (where else?); (d) The number of children awaiting adoption (4,140) outstrips the number of families (1,700) approved to adopt; (e) an eight-year-old girl scaled an 18 foot replica of Donald Trump’s infamous wall in a matter of seconds, as did a man who juggled with one hand as he did so; (e) The Oxford English Dictionary has embraced ‘summink’, ‘sumfin’, ‘sumthin’, and ‘sumtin’ not because they are slang but because they are ‘regional variants’; (f) Supplies of olives and olive oil are under threat from a killer bug (Xylella fastidiosa) known as olive tree leprosy. It has infected 21 million trees in the Puglia region and is advancing at the rate of 2km a month; (g) On the subject of bugs, a tiny beetle (less than 1mm long) has been named after Greta Thunberg. Nelloptodes gretae has no eyes or wings but does have two long pigtail-like antennae; (h) The Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park, Liverpool, is more than a thousand years old and has been named England’s Tree of the Year; (i) GPs are to be trained to prescribe singing and gardening ‘as readily as medical care’; (j) Just as well, as pharmacies are running out of everyday drugs in a crisis across Europe. Due to acute bottlenecks in supplies from Asia, there are shortages of painkillers, emergency contraceptives, HRT drugs, and antiepilepsy medicines; (k) The tight black trousers and leather jacket worn by Olivia Newton-John in Grease have been sold at auction for more than £300,000; (l) Oxford students have voted to replace clapping with ‘jazz hands’ to help people experiencing anxiety to feel more at ease.


have been in my new home almost a year and I am finally coming to understand its nuances and quirks. They say that sand and dust find the weak points of a car, well I believe that it is the cold and rain that find the weak points of a house. The small leaks by the windows, the corners of the rooms which seem to have the chill unfelt in the rest of the room and the lights which aren’t quite placed correctly, throwing shadows across walls and thrusting corners into darkness. With the curtains closed and the fire lit, there is a sense of calm and security which cannot be replicated at any other time of the year; only broken by the occasional ringing of the bells of the church in the square. There is no pattern. Sometimes, they ring on the hour, sometimes the half hour but never sequentially. At first, it would drive me to distraction as I anticipated a chime which never occurred. Eventually, I remembered these bells are in France and the ringers are probably sitting in the belfry shrugging their shoulders and enjoying their meal. It is I who needs to change, not them. Some evenings I will venture out for a walk around the lanes of old Saumur - the old Protestant quarter. I take my camera to try and capture the intimacy created by the old street lights shining against the toffeau stone. It is easy to imagine a horse-drawn carriage thundering past rather than hearing the reality of the screaming whine of a two-stoke motorbike. The sound of footsteps echoing across cobbled streets can send a quick shiver up the spine and I always turn around, relieved to see it is merely someone hurrying home after work and not Jack. Despite its location, it can be incredibly quiet and calm along these streets. I try to imagine the fear of people, all those centuries ago, who lived in these buildings when myth dominated beliefs and religious prejudice bubbled under the surface of society. Saumur was a sanctuary town for the minority Protestant faith and one of the sites of the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, so the fear would have been real. It seems so hard to believe.

Those who have died recently include: Robert Hunter (aged 78), songwriter and poet, who wrote lyrics for both The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan; Diahann Carroll (aged 84), actress and singer; Reg Watson (aged 93), the producer who created Crossroads and Neighbours and earned the nickname of ‘godfather of the modern soap’; Alicia Alonso (aged 98), one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century and as much a symbol of Cuba as cigars and Castro; Deborah Orr (aged 57), fearless, leftleaning journalist, who famously documented her acrimonious divorce from the author Will Self; Raymond Leppard (aged 92), conductor and harpsichordist, who uncovered early Italian operas and famously said that the exciting thing about writing film music was the cheque. Finally, some examples of modern folk wisdom: (a) The people have spoken but we don’t know what they have said; (b) If you don’t have justice, you are left with just ice; (c) There’s no light at the end of the tunnel because the tunnel’s not straight; (d) No one’s too big for a hug. That last one gets my vote! Yours Johnny

Frequently, I will walk back via the square and stop to have a drink before heading home. Sitting behind the large glass windows of the café, watching shadows pass merely increases the perception that time has stopped in Saumur as the world continues to turn... or maybe it is just the effect of Pastis. To read Justin’s blog go to

8 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Christmas Markets

by Sue Burgess


Christmas market (un marché de Noël) is traditionally an open-air market (un marché en plein air) associated with the celebration of Christmas (la célébration de Noël) that is held during Advent (l’Avent). You can find everything connected with Christmas but also with the festival of Saint Nicholas (la SaintNicolas). The first traces of Christmas markets go back to the 14th century in Germany where they were called St Nicholas Markets (Marché de Saint Nicolas). Later on the Protestant Reformation (la Réforme) perpetuated the tradition and renamed it Christ-child market (Christkindlmarkt marché de l’Enfant Christ). Strasbourg Christmas market dates from 1570. Christmas markets are generally organised by the towns (les municipalités) during December. You can find small covered stalls (des petites échoppes) with decorative items for Christmas (des articles de décoration de Noël). Popular attractions on the markets include the nativity scene (la crèche de Noël), traditional Christmas biscuits (des biscuits de Noël), local produce (des produits régionaux), handcrafted gifts (articles artisanaux), small gifts (des petits cadeaux) and things to eat and drink (de quoi se restaurer). Christmas lights (les illuminations de Noël) often accompany the markets. Christmas music (la musique de Noël) is played. Large Christmas trees (des sapins de Noël) are often set up on the town square (la place).

Vocabulaire / Vocabulary: une échoppe ..............................

a covered stall

un stand ......................................

a stall

un chalet ....................................

little wooden boutique

le pain d’épice ...........................

spice bread (like gingercake)

un sapin de Noël .........................

Christmas tree

une guirlande de Noël................


une guirlande lumineuse

Christmas lights

une boule de Noël ........................ bauble un calendrier de l’Avent............... Advent calendar une chaussette de Noël ............... Christmas stocking du papier cadeau........................

wrapping paper

du bolduc ................................... gift wrapping ribbon une couronne de Noël.................

Christmas wreath

Château de Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet (title photo). Strasbourg Christmas market (centre). Photos courtesy of Sue Burgess.


look for screenings in ‘VO’ or ‘VOST’ Bressuire Le Fauteuil Rouge: CineChef, Chef-Boutonne: email: Salle Belle Epine, La Châtaigneraie: L’échiquier at Pouzauges: Melle cinema: Niort CGR cinema: Niort Moulin du Roc: Parthenay Cinema: and find others at The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 9

A Taste of Bordeaux

by Steve Shaw


isiting Bordeaux, the city of wine, during ‘sober October’ was foolhardy, to say the least. We usually head north when leaping in the car with a bag packed, so turning right on to the D938 was a novelty. The weather forecast was terrible, but we were determined to make the best of it. The two and a half hours in the car flew by compared with the usual six hours to the Tunnel sous la Manche. I was feeling guilty that I had twisted Anna's arm into booking a rather 'basic' hotel, which was a lot cheaper than her booking of choice, so was apprehensive. The hotel was marketed as an environmentally friendly establishment, which meant there was a communal pot of apricot jam at breakfast, the toilet paper was an off-white colour, you only got one pillow and the room resembled a rather nice prison cell. I embraced the marmalade and loo paper, but one pillow! After much apologising it was time to do some exploring. Our hotel/hostel was on the east bank, opposite the main part of the city, so we had a fantastic panoramic view of the city across the swollen Garonne. We set off across the beautiful Pont de Pierre avoiding the trams that glided by as well as people on motorised scooters, and eventually reached the other side. We love to wander about a place and see where we end up and historic Bordeaux was perfect for such a meander, with so many interesting places and people to intrigue.

We passed the Grosse Cloche (built in the 15th century), with its twin conical roofs and...big clock, the magnificent Porte Cailhau (similar to the Grosse Cloche, but without the clock). We marvelled at the Cathédrale Saint-André before walking up the Rue SainteCatherine (a 1.2km shoppers' paradise, billed as the longest pedestrian street in Europe). Passing the Grand Théâtre we reached the Esplanade des Quinconces (considered to be the largest square in Europe), with its monumental fountain. Half term coincided with our visit and the funfair was in town. The esplanade was full of candy floss and flashing lights. Everything seems to be billed as 'the biggest in Europe' in Bordeaux and this funfair was no exception; it took us half an hour to walk from one side to the other, watching teenagers being hurled about on various rides. On our way back to 'the scrubs' as we affectionately called our hotel, we passed the Place de la Bourse (formerly the Stock Exchange) with the Miroir d'Eau, an outdoor artistic installation created in 2006. It is the world's largest reflecting pool (see), made of granite slabs covered by 2cm of water, covering 3,450 square metres. Unfortunately, the magic was lost as the plug had been pulled and the thing was empty, but we tried to imagine the effect. For day two a trip to the Dordogne was mooted, but then dismissed when we realised it wasn't as close as we thought. So, instead we headed west to the coast and the Arcachon Bay (an hour and a quarter in the car). The weather forecast was not favourable, but when we arrived the sun was shining on the beautiful sandy beeches and seaside resort.

Arcachon is a beautiful seaside town known for oyster harvesting. Its four districts are named after the seasons: the Ville d'Été quarter is home to shopping streets, bustling market, the town’s main sandy beach and a casino, Ville d’Hiver has extravagant 19thcentury villas, all of which we wandered around, ending up in the town park on top of the hill, looking out across the bay, whilst enjoying our packed lunch. In the afternoon, back in Bordeaux, our hips were feeling the strain so we plucked up courage and hired two of the city's 'Boris' bikes to continue our exploration of this magnificent place. Although we weren't drinking we were keen to visit the Cité du Vin (the mecca of all things wine, opened in 2016). To get there we cycled along the garden banks on the Garrone and crossed the The Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a vertical-lift bridge. Inaugurated on 2013 by President François Hollande, its main span is 110m long. It is the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe (here we go again). Like a space age four poster bed, the middle section can rise into the air to allow shipping under, a quite incredible piece of engineering. From one amazing piece of engineering to another the Cité du Vin sits like a giant goiter in the north of Bordeaux, wrapping itself around a slatted viewing tower and restaurant. When we had worked out how to return our bikes to the nearby docking port, we ventured inside. It costs nothing to go in and have a nose about, but for guided tours and demonstrations tickets can be purchased. The building had a serene feel to it, maybe it was all the fumes from the booze, but after a quick look around the shop we came to the nerve centre of the place. A dark, circular room, full of hundreds of bottles of wine from across the region. Wherever you looked there was a glimmering bottle enticing, inviting, tempting. It was like something out of a Harry Potter film. I don't know if it was the bike ride over or being surrounded by so much wine, but Anna was looking a bit off-colour, so after a cup of tea and a canelé at the café, we left. It would have been interesting to have seen more of this incredible place, but time was agin us. Passing people enjoying the autumn sunshine, we wandered back into town along the river. Stopping and marvelling at the teenagers in the skateboard park doing tricks on their bikes, skates, and scooters; risking life and limb as they propelled themselves into the air from various ramps. It was then a toss-up between the Museum of Contemporary Art or the public gardens and we opted for the park, which was beautiful. I was running on empty so after a quick game of 'I wonder how far we've walked today' it was time to find somewhere to eat and return to 'the scrubs'. We were tempted to hire a motorised scooter (which everyone in Bordeaux seems to zip about on), to get us back to our lodgings, but instead walked. We had a fantastic couple of days in the 'big' city of Bordeaux. There was so much to see and do, and our whistle-stop tour gave us a wonderful taste of the place, if not the wine.

Place de la Bourse reflected in the Miroir d’Eau. ©wikicommons/Fabien1309 Inset photo: Anna doing her Princess Diana/ Taj Mahal pose infront of the Cité du Vin.

10 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

French Engineering Marvel of the month: The Eiffel Tower


t would be amiss not to recognise the Eiffel Tower in the year in which it celebrates its 130th anniversary! It was designed and built as the entrance to the Paris World Fair in 1889. Since its inauguration 250 million people have visited the Tour de 300 mètres, as it was originally named. It is the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.21 million people ascended it in 2017. The tower is about the same height as an 81-storey building.

Origin - The design of the Eiffel Tower is attributed to Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers working for the Compagne des Établissements Eiffel. Eiffel initially showed little enthusiasm, but he did approve further study. Stephen Sauvestre, head of company’s architectural department, added decorative arches to the base of the tower, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other embellishments. The new version gained Eiffel’s support. He was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and the following 20 years. Construction - The foundations for the east and south legs were straightforward, but the west and north legs, being closer to the river Seine, were more complicated: each slab needed two piles installed (using compressed-air caissons) to a depth of 22m. Each of these slabs supported a block of limestone with an inclined top to bear a supporting shoe for the ironwork, anchored by a pair of bolts 7.5m long. The finished components, some already riveted together, arrived on horse-drawn carts from a nearby factory. In all, 18,038 pieces were joined together using 2.5 million rivets. Although construction involved 300 on-site employees, only one person died, due to Eiffel’s safety precautions. During the cold weather, the tower shrinks by about 15cm.

View from the Vendée by Karen Taylor

‘There’s nowt so queer as folk’ and their pets, for that matter! We have a bungalow near the coast in Saint Michel-en-l’Herm which we’ve been renting out as a dog-friendly gîte for the past couple of years. We hadn’t originally thought about the whole dog-friendly bit, but we have two Labradors ourselves so quickly realised the gîte’s potential for other dog owners. So we drew up the advert, added a few photos, mentioned our maximum of two dogs (as the bungalow’s quite small), then sat back and waited for the bookings to roll in… OK, so perhaps not ‘roll in’ exactly, but we soon began to receive enquiries which gradually became a steady flow of bookings, many from pet owners. And so the fun began!

Inauguration and the 1889 exposition - The tower was an instant success, and nearly 30,000 visitors made the 1,710-step climb to the top on 26 May. After dark, the tower was lit by hundreds of gas lamps. At the top there was not only a cannon which announced the daily opening and closing of the exposition, but a post office where visitors could send letters and postcards. Aesthetics - The tower is painted in three shades (lighter at the top to complement the Parisian sky). Originally reddish brown; this changed in 1968 to a bronze colour known as ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’. Maintenance of the tower includes applying 60 tons of paint every seven years. It has been repainted at least 19 times. Events: • In 1912, Austrian tailor, Franz Reichelt, died jumping from the first level whilst demonstrating his parachute design. • In 1925, the con artist Victor Lustig ‘sold’ the tower for scrap. • In 1926, pilot Leon Collet was killed trying to fly under the tower. In 1984 Robert Moriarty succeeded. • In 1987, A.J. Hackett made a bungee jump from the top of the Eiffel Tower, using a cord he had helped develop.

the last evening she stayed a little longer on the beach to admire the stunning Vendéen sunset. But when she called her dogs, only two of them reappeared, the other was nowhere to be seen. As the light faded and the rain began to fall, she eventually gave up the search and rang me in panic to ask if she could stay an extra day at the gîte to look for her dog. Like her, I had a troubled night’s sleep listening to the gathering storm, but the next morning brought good news - the bedraggled little Westie had been found the night before and was now warm and dry at the local gendarmerie. I was almost as relieved as she was! I just have enough time for a third little anecdote. A Parisien family arrived for their spring break near the coast. As I was speaking to Monsieur and Madame, the children clipped a lead onto their family pet, jumped out of the car followed by! - which bit of ‘dogfriendly’ didn’t they understand? I’m sure I could write a book about all our animal experiences at the gîte - maybe I should…

I don’t have enough column inches to regale you with all our pet owner stories, but here are a few little anecdotes to keep you amused… One of our earliest bookings came from a French lady who actually lives in Saint Michel, but she was looking for accommodation for her dogowning friend. No problem - yes, we’re dog-friendly, yes, her dates are available and yes, she could leave a deposit there and then to seal the deal. Perhaps I didn’t stress our house rules strongly enough because imagine my surprise when Madame drove up and out jumped five (yes, five) cute, cuddly Chihuahuas! Well, they were only small, I suppose… We hadn’t really expected to have any bookings over Christmas, but last year we received a request from a lady wanting to spend the festive season near the coast with her father and their three dogs (yes, I know, I know, will I never learn?). They had a lovely week in the gîte - the weather was fine and the dogs really loved the sea, so on

Karen runs a gîte business near the Vendée coast at:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 11

Take a Break DSM Easy Crossword

Across: 1. Not complex, complicated or involved (6) 4. Insult, attack the reputation of (6) 8. Embarrassingly stingy (5) 9. Hospital attendant (7) 10. Prime Minister of the UK between 1997-2007 (5) 11. Large powerful bear of western North America (7) 12. Extremely painful (9) 15. Fast-running flightless bird (7) 16. Nastiness; hurt the feelings of (5) 17. Put out of action (7) 18. Mustard associated with a French region (5) 19. Fasten by sewing (6) 20. Baby’s toy (6)

Down: 2. Draw in air into the lungs (6) 3. Not attending school without due cause (7-6) 5. The temperature below which a liquid turns into a solid (8-5) 6. In a gentle manner (6) 7. Capable of seeing to a great distance (11) 13. Give help to; be of service (6) 14. A leisurely walk (6)

With thanks to Rob Berry

Across: 1. Old street thief cutting twelve inches off his apartment? (3) 3. Creep is first to invite negative comments himself? (4) 5. Girl turning up in Catalan demonstration. (4) 9. Many in a kind of sleep, “must give us pause”? (5) 10. Nasty lady blocks each way to entrance? (7) 11. Renovated inn has satin coat applied in attempt to get enchanting results? (12) 14. Fill in a log about rope? (6) 15. Good people who entertain fantastic creatures? (6) 18. Article on Potter’s Sirius star revamped in sinister practices? (3, 5, 4) 21. Someone making an effort to find water is claiming to be “holier than thou”? (7) 22. Pest control leader is a keeper? (5) With thanks to M.Morris 23. Good hard limits of enormous exclamation? (4) 24. One injecting hesitation on our group? (4) 25. What an idiot to run through a tree? (3)

Brain Gym

Q1. What’s so special about the Christmas alphabet? Q2. How did Darth Vader know what Luke Skywalker was getting for Christmas? Q3. When Santa Claus sets off from the North Pole on Christmas Eve, in which direction does he travel? Q4. What happens if you eat the Christmas decorations? Q5. What day would yesterday be if Thursday was four days before the day after tommorow? Q6. Use all letters of this sentence once each only to spell out three animals. ‘TALL ELEPHANT OR APEMAN’

12 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Q7. Q8:

Down: 1. According to report, treaty is very well attended? (4) 2. Possessed a way of working unknown number into throw of dice? (7) 3. Make rain naiad fly all over an unreal place to find itself? (2, 1, 9) 4. Measurements used in ancient wooden flood defence, involve transsexual in economies? (6) 6. Completely outrageous card, naming one turned over once again? (5) 7. The remains of Arthur, for example, found out east? (3) 8. Bizarrely, it charms a wet into becoming leader of the coven? (1, 5, 6) 12. Band adding direction to 7? (4) 13. Worry about basic part of instrument? (4) 16. I am not involved in work on stoicism for some TV series? (7) 17. Form of caress causing moments of anxiety? (6) 19. Ours taken from us: only little people left? (5) 20. Friends return familiar make- up? (4) 21. Go deeper and you will get it? (3)

You have five children and you have to get them all into a car because you are visiting grandma for Christmas. Tommy and Timmy are twins but they fight so they can’t sit together. Sarah and Sally fight too, so they can’t sit together. Max fights with his sisters so he can only sit by his brothers. There’s five seats side by side and you have to put them in order. How would you seat the kids so that everyone is happy? Can you work out the well known phrase or saying from the visual clues? a.




Answers on P.29 and our website:

DSM Toughie Crossword

Festive Fun - Spot the Difference

I’m Eric the elf, from Échiré. I need your help. Ten things are missing from the picture on the right. Can you find them? Answers on P. 29

Advent Quiz

Traditionally you open a door on an advent calendar and enjoy the chocolate inside, or in my day a small festive picture of an angel, bell or toy. Arguments would arise over who got to open the double sized door on the 24th. Why not try our advent quiz. You can ruminate over a question a day or do it all in one quiztastic go. Good luck! 1. Which English leader prohibited the singing of Christmas songs? 2. The following are words from which Christmas song? ‘Once bitten and twice shy I keep my distance’ 3. Which two-time Oscar winner played Kris in the 1994 remake of the Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street? 4. 'Who' catches the Grinch red-handed stealing Christmas presents? 5. Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen. In which country was Wenceslas king? 6. Name The Scaffolds 1968 Christmas number one? 7. Which is the only eponymous Christmas No.1 single? 8. Which band took New Year's Day to number 10 in the charts, in 1983? 9. On which day of the week was New Year’s Eve in the year 2000? 10. Superstition dictates that when making mince pies one should always stir in which direction? 11. During Elizabethan times ‘humble pie’ was popular at Christmas feasts. What was the main ingredient?

12. Who said, "You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?” 13. In which city is Kevin left Home Alone at Christmas? (the first Home Alone) 14. Mele Kalikimaka means Merry Christmas in which language (think Bing Crosby)? 15. What is wrong with the Grinch's heart? 16. Which 'embassy employee' toy was on many a boy’s Christmas list in 1964-65? 17. Plus or minus two years, when did the Etch A Sketch first appear under the Christmas tree? 18. What name is given to the event nine months before the birth of Jesus, in which an angel tells Mary “Fear not, for thou shalt bring forth a son?” 19. On which festive day do the French eat Galette des Rois? 20. On which three feast days do Americans consume the most food? 21. Plus or minus one year, how long does it take a Scots pine Christmas tree to reach a typical retail height of six to seven feet? 22. Name three actors who have played Scrooge. 23. What is the name of the skin that hangs from a turkey’s neck? 24. Which of Santa’s reindeer is named after another animal? Answers on page 29

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 13

Hobbies A writer’s reality check

by Alison Morton


t’s ten years since I started thrusting books on the world and I’d like to share some, let’s call them ‘insights’, and experiences with you.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. If you take a working day of eight hours, that comes out to 1,250 days. Suppose we work five days a week, i.e. a 40-hour week (haha!) that comes to around 250 weeks or 4.8 years. A wise entrepreneur once told me it takes about five years to get a business off the ground and into profit. So theoretically, after nine fiction and two non-fiction books over ten years I should have got hold of this writing business. I couldn’t possibly comment… However much you are bursting with ideas, dialogue and meaty plot points, it’s actually quite hard to get ideas out of your head into an arrangement of words on a page that you feel satisfied with. But be comforted - perfection is impossible. That’s almost the first helpful lesson you learn. Some readers will rave about your writing, others will be left cold. But as a writer you feel compelled to keep trying, however tired your fingers are or however much your back aches, however many times you feel discouraged by others’ success or your own lack of it. But if you know you’ve done the very best you possibly can, then give yourself a gold star. As writers we’re completely alone. Yes, we might have supportive families, editors, beta readers and writing colleagues but ultimately the work we produce is up to us. And that makes many of us anxious, possibly neurotic. Self-confidence is hard to hold onto, whether you’re starting out as a writer or whether you’re already published and at the mercy of people who want to tell us that our latest book wasn’t as good as the previous one. This means we feel we must drive ourselves to work even harder on the next. This can be energising, but also become a vicious circle of anxiety. Being stubborn and persistent also helps. The effort it takes to go to your desk/dining or kitchen table and write every day even when you really don’t feel like it, not to mention the emotional exhaustion, the self-analysis, the sacrifice of nearly all your free time… None of this is easy. And looking back over ten years the writing process itself doesn’t get much easier. Some aspects have: organising myself, research approaches, knowledge of how the publishing world works and continuous learning of new techniques and skills. Perhaps some books are easier to write than others, but it’s hard work at any stage of your career. Even some of the most successful writers say that the pressure of expectation (or, ironically, the relief of financial pressure) can actually stifle their creativity. So this month’s hint/tip is to accept that it might not get any easier, but not to let yourself feel bad about that either. Writing isn’t easy. It will probably never be easy, but if we can accept that and still do it, then we should all be proud of ourselves especially when we go on to see our work in print. Have a relaxing break over the holidays and do try to sneak a bit of writing in!

Happy writing! Alison has compiled a selection of articles from this column into ‘The 500 Word Writing Buddy’, available on Amazon and in paper format at events. Her ninth book in the Roma Nova thriller series, NEXUS, came out in September. 14 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

YOUR Book Reviews

Warm thanks go to Dennis Alexander and Vronni Ward for sharing their book reviews with us. If you’d like to send us a book review, please email it to:

PYGMALION by George Bernard Shaw My slim copy of this classic was produced as a play in 1914 and then published (by Penguin) as a book in 1918. The preface makes interesting reading and the epilogue even more so. Many people know the story from the film My Fair Lady, which surprisingly is faithful to the story. Some may remember it from the time it was a ‘set book’ for literature in school curricular. To read the book is a double pleasure because it provides an opportunity to read a familiar story totally in dialogue. For those whose experience is purely in presented visuals, it gives the chance to indulge in exercising the imagination. When reading a play, I am sure most people visualise a certain familiar character playing that part. I see Kenneth More as Colonel Pickering. Perhaps try Barbara Windsor as Liza. The other is to understand how written dialogue narrative gives many clues to how it is a different technique to the novel, where the author must provide many verbal clues to the story. A skilled author can cope with both with consummate ease. The bonus with my edition is the explanation of the character of Professor Higgins and gives more depth than any of the visual interpretations. Shaw had a serious reason for the story, apart from his socialist leanings he had an academic interest in how spoken language is written. The extra bonus is Shaw’s own epilogue to the story. What happened to the characters after the original story is told. His version is a surprise, but by popular demand recent performance have succumbed to the unlikely conclusion, unlikely that is, by Shaw’s original intentions. by Dennis Alexander

NOCILLA DREAM by Agustín Fernández Mallo Mallo, a physicist by trade, wrote the book after he was struck by a motorbike whilst crossing the road in Thailand. He had to stay in bed for 25 days in his hotel, popping painkillers, watching TV and reading - here he started his novel and completed it in three months. Nocilla is actually a cheap Spanish version of Nutella chocolate spread (does this remind you of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction?). The novel starts in the Nevada desert where a solitary poplar tree stands, covered in hundreds of pairs of shoes. Further along U.S. Route 50 a lonely prostitute falls in love with a collector of found photographs, in Las Vegas an Argentine man builds a peculiar monument to Jorge Luis Borges and on the run from the authorities, Kenny, takes up permanent residence in Singapore International Airport. These are some of the characters you meet along the way. The book has been described as ‘channel surfing’ as it presents us with a world in parts upon which we impose our own subjectivity. This book made me think about my own experience of the world which is in indeed in ceaseless parts - we watch the news, receive a phone call, kiss a loved one - novels should reflect this. I found it difficult going at times but somehow the scenes he paints and the characters who live in them stay with you. by Vronni Ward



Mind Your Own Beeswax! Beekeeping Adventures

by Amanda and Kevin Baughen


uring the winter months beekeepers remain busy, dealing with all the wax following the honey harvest. Beeswax is secreted by bees for making honeycomb, and used by humans for an overwhelming variety of purposes ranging from modelling to candlemaking. The Egyptians used it in shipbuilding and the Romans used wax tablets as a substitute for papyrus. Nowadays, if we think of beeswax it is as candles or as a food wrapping, but we may also be reminded of Madame Tussaud who, in 1789, began making wax models of severed heads straight from the guillotine! Although beeswax had been used in many cultures for thousands of years (the Minoans in Crete were making candles in 3000 BC), it wasn’t until the 18th century that we had a clear idea of how it’s actually produced. Until then nobody had contradicted Aristotle’s observation in 340 BC that bees collected wax from olive trees (he’d actually seen them collecting white pollen from olive flowers). However, in 1792 John Hunter, a prominent Scottish surgeon, presented a paper stating that bees produced wax from glands on the underside of their abdomens. Since then several scientists have studied how bees make and model wax that is both light and strong, able to support 40 times their own weight in honey. Bees use it very efficiently as it’s ‘expensive’ to make in honey terms; it is estimated to take 1kg of honey to produce 60g of beeswax. That means it takes around 7kg of honey to produce the 400g of beeswax found in an average hive. When you consider it takes 50,000 foraging bees to produce 1kg of honey, you can understand how precious both honey and wax are. All of this means that we are very careful when it comes to recycling the wax from our hives, from the cappings of any honey that we have harvested, to spring-cleaning any frames. We also have to guard against the larvae of the wax moth getting access to any stored wax, by treating it immediately or storing it in the freezer. Horror tales abound about wax moths getting into flour bins in kitchens too, so it’s best to keep them out altogether. We separate the wax from the frames and any accompanying hive debris by melting it in a steamer, then it is filtered several times through a variety of ever-finer meshes. The result is pure beeswax that we can then use to make candles, lip balms, furniture polish, food wraps and Christmas tree decorations. If you are interested in attending a candlemaking session this winter, please visit our website for further details

Mad News I




by Kelly Knight


t is hard to imagine that we were in the midst of a heatwave the last time I wrote an article! With the first frosts of the year arriving, the soaring temperatures are a dim and distant memory! We were eagerly awaiting our first ever team triathlon in August, in Cognac. Well we did it! And with temperatures above 38 degrees, we certainly didn’t need to worry about chilly river waters. It was an interesting event working as a team and taking advantage of individual strengths across the three disciplines.

September was busy with the Niort and L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer triathlons. Again, at Niort the heat caused us some problems. We then went from one extreme to the other and at L’Aiguillon we rode possibly the hardest cycle of our lives in torrential rain with gale force winds. Across this triathlon season we really didn’t have much luck! Judi ran for charity in September, along with a staggering 13,000 other people! And Sarah and Rob achieved more PBs at the Niort half marathon! Like the sunshine, triathlons already seem far behind us. Some team members have enjoyed some downtime from sport whilst others have been ramping up the training for winter events. We now have Anais, Sarah and Rob in full marathon training. They are doing amazingly well, and we can’t wait for the big day. We also have Pam swimming a marathon during the month of November to raise money for charity. Throughout the winter we will continue to meet up for local running events and then start to re-focus on individual goals in January. We will be tackling some new things in 2020… some will be attempting longer triathlons, others will be tackling enormous swims, the three peaks will be climbed and there will, of course, be horse competitions too. It is still all go for Team Madness. We have achieved so much in the last two years and together we will continue to do so. Whatever we do and wherever we go, the madness is always in tow! This will be proven when we run 10km on New Year’s Eve in fancy dress! (I’m sure the average person enjoys a glass or two in their PJs or party frock?!) See you for more Team Madness in 2020!

If you’re interested in keeping bees, for whatever reasons (honey, pollination, the environment), please visit our website or call us to find out more about the comprehensive beekeeping courses on offer. The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 15

Adaptin g a ne cklin e on a dre ss ma kin g patte rn

by Nicola Chadwick


ou may need to adapt or change a neckline to solve a specific fit problem - if your existing neckline is too wide or too narrow, or just not sitting correctly. You may want to get creative and change the look of your favourite top pattern. Just follow a few basic guidelines.

or higher round neckline If you would like a fractionally deeperthe new neckline on the plan than your pattern style allows, as simple as that. You will pattern piece to your own design, it’s ribbing to match. I have neck any ten need to lengthen or shor s you how to measure and a handy video on YouTube that show r-Elastic) -Ove (Fold FOE or ing apply elastic bind com/watch?v=Yur7-CQMT24

To raise a neckline simply place some pattern cutting paper under your existing pattern and plan the new neckline shape. Use some tape to secure the extra paper in place. If you are just raising or lowering the neckline then you don’t have to make any changes at the back of the pattern.

Making a toile will help. What is a TOILE? It is a trial garment (sometimes referred to as a muslin), to test the fit of the pattern. They are often made in a cheap calico canvas (for woven designs, stretch garment toiles should be sewn in a fabric as close to the finished fabric as possible). All adaptations and modifications are made to the toile and then transferred to the pattern. This means that when you make your pattern up in expensive fabric, your fit will be perfect. Look at my blog page for a detailed guide. Points to consider when changing a neckline: • You can raise or lower a front or back neckline independently, however changes to width must be made equally so that the shoulder lines still fit together. • If you raise a neckline and the garment has no opening at the neck, then you will need to make sure that the neckline still fits over the head. The general rule is that a neckline circumference for an adult should be no less than 57cm (remember to measure the stitch line and not on the edge of the pattern seam allowance). • If you lower a neckline drastically you may need to make some additional changes to the fit of the garment so that the neckline does not gape. • You will need to recut your facing pattern to finish the neckline neatly (see my blog feature on facings). You will need: • the existing pattern you want to adapt • pattern cutting tracing paper • a ruler - and a French curve or flexi curve if you need one • a pencil (2H is best for pattern cutting) and a rubber • • • •

like the bottom of a boat. Boat or bateau necklines, shaped are high at the front, they that lines neck d style r These are wide ’t want to draw attention tend to emphasize the bust. If you don They can be planned on d. to this area then this is a style to avoie traced. shap new the and the pattern piece

paper scissors sticky tape to fix any parts calico if you want to make a toile your machine and all your sewing tools.

Neckline types - There are many types of necklines, here are some of the most common ones and some tips on adapting your patterns. Round neckline. The most common is a crew neck, these are often seen on t-shirts and usually finished with a ribbed band. They need to be able to pull over the head. The fabric must recover to its original shape so that the neckline doesn’t appear baggy and out of shape after one wear. 16 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

V shaped necklines are a great choice for most figure types and can be finished neatly with a facing. Simply plan the new shape on your pattern piece. e to make some changes Hopefully you now have the knowledg adapting a style then just help any d to your necklines. If you nee and head over to my blog page at . help to py hap ys alwa am post a question, I Nicola

Clubs & Associations ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, there are now a number of English-speaking meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in the South West of France. Alcoholics Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women who share experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership and A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organisation or institution. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Telephone: Angela: 05 49 87 79 09, Jim: 00 44 79 60 16 83 30 or Janet: 05 46 26 90 85. Email: publicinfo.swfrance@aa-€ or visit for details of English-speaking meetings. Want to keep fit, have fun and make new friends? Join us at Vasles Netball Club (no experience necessary). We meet every Monday from 5.30-7pm at the Salle Omnisports in Vasles. For more information contact Lynn on 05 49 63 52 39 or mobile 0044 7527490241

Franglais Anglo-French Group Thouars - Centre Socio-Culturel

We meet every Wednesday 7.30pm-9pm, at 21 Avenue Victor Hugo, Thouars for conversation in English & French, for a mutual understanding of each other’s language and culture. Contact 05 49 66 35 11 or email or Royal Air Forces Association Sud-Ouest France Le Perail, 17250 BEURLAY, France Tel: 0033 (0)5 46 95 38 89 Mobile: 0033 (0)6 89 90 55 82 Email:

by John Blair Keynotes Singers carol concerts in December

Sunday 1: Sunday 8: Friday 13: Saturday 14: Sunday 15:

Terves Christmas Market - Terves Salle des Fêtes (singing starts at 3.30pm) Amailloux church (starting at 3pm)* Café des Belles Fleurs, Fenioux (starting at 8pm) Le Retail church (starting at 3pm)* Coulonges church (starting at 3pm)*

(* featuring our very own Keynotes string ensemble) FREE ENTRY Mince pies and mulled wine will be served after each concert, except at Terves where food and refreshments are available on sale during the fair. Keynotes Singers involves considerable expenditure for all of its performances, including the cost of music copyright, performing rights and charges for heating the churches. Donation boxes will be available at each venue in order to try and cover these costs. We greatly appreciate any donations made so that we can continue to perform.

CSDS LATEST NEWS by Carol Andrews - Secretary CSDS

D • •

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ecember already, another year almost over! So an update on our progress is in order. Three of the team have recently been to Toulouse for a three day training course organised by Cancer Support France, which proved very useful and informative. We have updated our contract with Niort hospital and also signed one with the new hospital at Faye l’Abbesse. These contracts allow us to visit patients in hospital should they ask for our help. Our new posters are now available and if you think you could help with the distribution to GPs surgeries please give us a ring, help is always appreciated. Should you wish to meet the team we are holding a coffee morning on 2 December. If interested please contact Denise on 05 49 64 29 83 for further details.

After consultation with the staff at Faye l’Abbesse hospital we have decided to use fundraising money to buy refrigerated bedside cabinets for their palliative care unit, so that patients can have access to drinks and snacks whenever they want. On behalf of the team, we would like to offer you good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

The choir during its very successful Île d’Oléron tour in June when the singers and the Keynotes musicians performed to over 400 people on the island.

2019 has been a busy and rewarding year for Keynotes Singers with the Musicals Spectacular concerts in May, the annual Île d’Oléron tour in June during the Fête de la Musique weekend, and now ending with these Christmas carol concerts. Please do your best to come along and join us! The choir would like to extend its sincere and grateful thanks this year to Margaret Round and Aidan and Linda Fairlie, whose immensely valuable contributions and enormous enthusiasm have made it such an eventful year for us all. If you are interested in joining the Keynotes Singers, please contact :

Have a Happy Christmas everyone!

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 17

Home & Garden

Love your


by Greenfingers

December Can the garden afford anything more Delightful to view, than those forests of Asparagus, artichokes, lettuce and peas, Beans and other legumes and edulous Plants so different in colour, and of such Various shapes, rising as it were from the Dead, and piercing the ground in so many Thousand places as they do, courting the Admiration or requiring the care of the diligent. Stephen Switzer 1682-1745 ‘The Practical Gardiner’ (sic) “The best way to get real enjoyment out of the garden is to put on a wide straw hat, hold a little trowel in one hand and a cool drink in the other and tell the man where to dig.” Charles Barr


ollowing what must have been one of the wettest of Novembers, we can only hope that December will bring some drier days when we can get outside and finish some of the jobs that have been waiting to be done for weeks. I have managed to plant some bulbs (hopefully they will not rot in the mire-like earth) and have been cutting back some plants in between deluges of rain. We have had one frost already (the fleece was on hand to protect more precious things), and we must expect more of the same. It has snowed several times in the winters since we have been here, sometimes preventing us from getting out to the shops or anywhere for that matter! The hills near us are very steep and the side roads are never gritted, so we hunker down and I pop outside to feed the birds and ‘tweak’ things that don’t really need tweaking, at the same time looking for signs of green spikes appearing. It is amazing walking down the old railway line (now an official, beautifully gravelled cycle and pedestrian way). The ferns can be frozen solid and icicles hang down from the cut surfaces of the rocks that were hewn to make a space for the railway track. When we first arrived, the tracks were still in situ and we watched huge machinery arriving to lift the rails and then the sleepers (lots of attention given to those at the time as they were just becoming useful additions to gardens). Now, of course, we can buy them all cleaned of their toxins and use them safely.

18 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

To ward off the miserable feeling that winter can bring, with its limited daylight, low temperatures, fog and damp, planting up pots of winter colour can give a much needed lift to the spirits. Cyclamen make such a lovely display on their own, or planted with ivy and heathers. I have some that I hardened off years ago that have self seeded in the flower beds and are now an annual treat. Violas (such pretty faces) are very hardy and can last for months if deadheaded regularly and given a bit of feed every month. Wallflowers, traditionally sold in bundles and tied with string are easy to plant and beautifully perfumed, and will set seed too. Planting miniature daffodils and narcissi give a lot of easy pleasure and there are so many varieties available online. Poinsettias have arrived to cheer up a window sill and if not overwatered will last well into spring. Amaryllis lilies are very worthwhile and easy to grow in a pot or in a glass bulb container. Ferreting around in the countryside to find cones, ivy, dead leaves and teasels etc. will give opportunity for imaginative wreaths and decorations. Wrap up warm! Now is the time to: • Add organic matter, garden compost or well rotted manure to borders to act as a mulch, as well as a soil enricher. • Wrap trunks of yuccas if in exposed positions and protect the crowns of tree ferns by introducing fleece into the crown and pushing it down hard. Protect the trunks too. • If fruit trees haven’t yet been pruned, there is still time; blackcurrants and gooseberries can be pruned now too. Deciduous trees can be pruned for shape, but leave Prunus species until they are in leaf. • New fruit trees can still be planted as long as there is not frost on the ground. • Cold winter winds can desiccate the foliage on evergreens, so check that they don’t dry out, especially if they are being grown in pots. • Keep potted alpines in cold conditions but sheltered from the rain. Remove fallen leaves from alpines and sedums in the flower beds to protect them from rotting. • If the roses haven’t been trimmed yet that can still be carried out, just remove about a third of the old growth and any dead or diseased wood. Leave the harder pruning until the spring. • If planting new trees on very wet soils, make a small mound underneath them to improve drainage. • Check that evergreen climbers against walls and fences have enough moisture, they can dry out easily in the winter months. • If over-wintering dahlias, agapanthus, phygelius and penstemons and any other more tender herbaceous plants in flower beds, apply a dry bark mulch to protect the crowns. • Hardwood cuttings can be taken from viburnums; tamarisk and callicarpa. Insert cuttings deeply into a pot of compost so that only a third of each one remains above the soil surface. • Rhubarb can be ‘forced’ by covering it with an old bucket or flower pot. This will ensure an earlier crop of much sweeter tender stems. Rhubarb plants can be divided and replanted now too. • Garlic can still be planted either in pots or the ground. • Protect all brassicas with fleece or netting to prevent damage by pigeons. • Check grease bands on fruit trees to ensure that they have stayed in place so that they can continue protecting against winter moths. • Blueberries can be planted now into pots of ericaceous compost. If you prefer to plant them in the ground and have alkaline soil, you will need to fill the hole with the same ericaceous compost and always feed them with the appropriate fertiliser.

• • • • • • • • •

Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts, leeks, kale and parsnips. Weed in between plants and remove any yellow or diseased leaves. Use stakes to provide support against wind damage. Leave ornamental grasses uncut to provide hibernating spaces for insects. Ensure all bird feeders are topped up regularly, washing out the feeders from time to time to prevent disease spreading. Don’t forget to provide fresh water too. Clear vegetable plots if not already done, composting all the ‘debris’. Prune grape vines by mid to the end of December to avoid the sap from ‘bleeding’. Trim back all lateral growth to two buds and keep vertical stems free of new shoots. Keep camellia plants well watered as the flower buds are formed during the winter. Acers and birches should be pruned before mid-December to avoid ‘bleeding’ from cuts. Ventilate greenhouses and cold frames to reduce the risk of Botrytis. Reduce the frequency of watering indoor plants and those being protected under cover for the same reason as above. Many of the ‘usual’ pests stay active in the greenhouse protected from the cold, so make regular checks for mealy bugs, scale insects and whitefly and take steps to eliminate them or stop them spreading. Look out for hibernating ‘friends’ in the greenhouse frogs, toads, ladybirds and maybe a hedgehog or two using it as a winter holiday home! Alpine seeds need a ‘chilling’ period for germination to happen. Sow the seeds finely into free draining compost, then cover with grit. Leave in a cold frame or stand the pots outside and cover with a sheet of glass or strong plastic. Strong winter winds can damage plant/tree supports and untether

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climbers, so keep them securely attached to supports. Tree ties and stakes should be secure but not damaging the bark. Make sure the soil around the rootball is firmed in, to prevent root rock and add more soil if needed. Continue to take hardwood cuttings from deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers. Root cuttings can be taken from verbascum, acanthus and oriental poppies. Take cuttings of 5-10cm long with the diameter (roughly) of a pencil and insert them into compost, or lay them on top of the compost and cover with grit or perlite. Leave in a cold frame outside. Pot up in spring. If snow falls, brush it off shrubs, hedges and conifers as it can damage both foliage and branches. Seed potatoes may be available at the end of the month and the tubers will store well in a cool frost-free place until needed for planting. If severe frost is forecast it may be a good idea to fleece cover fig trees to protect embryo fruit.

Whatever you do in the garden, have a really good, safe, happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year.


The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 19

End of year report


weekend break for children and young adults with disabilities, and respite for parents), Association Marfans (support for sufferers of Marfan syndrome), Réseau Bulle (network of support for patients and families with autism), Association Française des Syndromes Costello & Cardio-Fascial-Cutané (support and research network for sufferers of Costello Syndrome.) It is important to reflect that each time you, as a supporter of OpenGardens JardinsOuverts, either open your own garden, visit other gardens or help out at someone else’s open day, you are contributing to this amazing effort. Where the love of gardening and raising money for charity come together to make something so much bigger. Thank you!

by Janet Greenwood


fter a difficult year that saw less gardens opening than usual for various reasons, the association nonetheless succeeded in raising significant amounts of money for charity. Seven charities have received donations this year. Of the 17 000€ that was raised, 12 000€ has been given to our main recipient A Chacun a son Everest, (a charity that offers care and recovery strategies to children and women affected by cancer). The rest has been shared by the remaining six organisations: Rigolopito (hospital clown service to entertain young patients), Quelque chose en plus (support for children and adolescents with multiple disabilities and autism), A Bras Ouverts (offers a

20 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

If you would like to become involved with this worthwhile cause, you can either: • Open your garden for one day a year (or more if you want!) • Become a Friend of Open Gardens and help someone else! • Visit our gardens when they open. Please get in touch with Janet Greenwood on janetlmusgrove@ for more information, or go to

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 21

Where We Live...



“We had plans to turn the house and outbuildings into a gîte complex, where I would run all-inclusive luxury retreats. After leaving secure jobs with a regular income, we lived in a caravan for the first two years of the renovation. We soon realised that the budget we had set ourselves and the time we believed we needed, were a lot different to the reality of our renovation dream.” The couple realised another source of income was necessary so, using the catering experience gained working in pubs and restaurants while at school and then as a catering supervisor at the Bristol Youth Hostel while at university, Haley set up a fast-food business - Reel Fish and Chips - selling traditional English-style fish and chips, kebabs, burgers etc. “It proved to be extremely hard work for me, with my then limited French. Setting up the business, registering the catering trailer, finding venues and suppliers. And I was still renovating during the day as well as selling fish and chips some evenings and most weekends. However, it was a great income and a brilliant way to meet so many fabulous people of all nationalities – many of whom have gone on to become good friends.” Haley and Andy continued with their renovations and, as the gîte complex neared completion, they sold the catering business in 2016 after running it for ten years. Unfortunately, their marriage had failed during this time. In 2017 they separated and in 2018 they sold their property and went their separate ways. At the beginning of 2019, Haley bought two barns and a garage with an adjoining stable in Reffannes, halfway between Parthenay and Saint-Maixent-l’École. Despite having said ‘never again’ to living in a caravan while renovating, what did she do? She bought another caravan to live in!

Haley Bennett Living life in the fast lane The good life in France. Putting your feet up, doing what you want when you want, just enjoying the gentler pace of everything. That might suit many of us, but not Haley Bennett. She could make the Duracell bunny look positively geriatric!


rekking on Mount Everest, white-water rafting across Costa Rica, an eight-day car rally in the Sahara Desert, renovating tumbledown houses in France. Haley has been there, done that, got the T-shirt... and been shot at and robbed in the process! “I don’t know why, but I always knew I would live abroad. I’ve always loved to travel, getting my first taste of back-packing following my A-levels when I inter-railed around Europe. I hitch-hiked from Latvia, through Lithuania to Belarus during university holidays and also travelled extensively through central and South America Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Venezuela and Columbia. They were all travelling holidays with just a rucksack and a guide book, arriving in an unknown town or village and finding accommodation on the spot - no mobile phone or internet for me!” Haley graduated from the University of Bristol with a first class honours degree in Design and Technology with qualified teacher status. She taught at a comprehensive school in the Cotswolds before leaving teaching in 2001 to join the police force. Three years later, while still a police sergeant, Haley and her then husband, Andy, bought a wreck of an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Étusson, in the Deux-Sèvres. 22 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

“My intention is to turn one of the barns into a workshop, where I can draw, paint and do other crafts and turn the other barn into a showroom where I can sell my work along with other beautiful things for the house, the garden and the individual. With this in mind, I’m going through the process of setting up my latest venture, Daisy Vie - Maison, Jardin, Santé. So it’s back to sorting out paperwork, albeit this time with my improved French - although I’m not sure that it helps! “I thoroughly enjoy the renovation process, taking on an uninspiring building and turning it into a place to be used and loved. When my building work is finished, I want to share the space with others. I’m amazed at all the beautiful paintings, sewing, woodwork - in fact, all sorts of craft work - I have seen. I want to be able to have craft days where like-minded people come together and enjoy each other’s company while continuing their work. Where we can promote each other’s work, sell what we have made, help each other.” But where does all this fit in with Haley’s hectic life of travel and adventure? After all, in the last 15 years she’s hardly had time to Haley’s latest renovation project - the soon to be arts and craft centre Daisy Vie - Maison, Jardin, Santé (photo below).

by Mick Austin

An example of work to be sold at the centre (above left), Franck horseback, Marguerite the cow and Coup de Cœur the horse.

draw breath. In June 2014 she was in Nepal, trekking 5380 metres up the south side of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. In March 2018, she crossed Costa Rica coast to coast by bicycle, walking, canoeing and white-water rafting - with bullets flying as her party were robbed at gunpoint and all money, phones and passports stolen. “We had just navigated some rapids that opened out into tranquil waters. It was nearing lunchtime so we pulled our raft up onto the bank and turned it upside down to use as our table to put out the food. Fresh fruit, salads, meats and bread were spread out and we had just started to eat. Another raft had floated past us and this was the initial target of the robbers. I don’t think they had even seen us at that point. However, the man rowing the boat rowed over to the bank and jumped out of the raft to make his escape on foot and that was when the masked gunmen saw us. “I think my police training helped enormously at this point. Either that or my greed, as I decided to eat my lunch, thinking that if I was taken hostage at least I wouldn’t be hungry for a while! Anyway, they came over to us and one of the men hit and then pushed his gun into the throat of one of the guides, grabbed watches and wallets and then took our supply raft farther down the river. He was then joined by the other masked men who slit open our waterproof bags, stealing anything of value. Luckily, they then made off with our valuables and left us alone.”

“Have I made mistakes? Oh, you bet I have. In fact I’ve learned so much from my mistakes that I’m thinking of making a few more! I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t. However, what I can do now is live as healthily and happily as possible. This is easier than ever for me as I now live my ideal life on a farm with my very own French farmer, Franck. Gorgeous Parthenay cows, sheep, horses and goats are my escape from the renovations. We eat homeproduced meat, grow our own vegetables, pick our own fruit and cut our own wood for the fire. “All very Good Life. Although for now that should probably read Bonne Vie!” Pop into the pop-up If anyone has something that will complement Daisy Vie, contact Haley at or on 07 68 30 40 65. The showroom and workshop are at 7 rue du Château d’eau, 79420, Reffanes. Haley is hoping to be fully open by the summer of 2020, but until then she will be running a pop-up shop from December 2-15, from 10am-12noon and 2pm-4pm. She has already partnered with Kelly’s Pampering, in Saint-Lin, and will be promoting and selling the health and beauty services she offers. “It will be an ideal time for people to pop in to buy Christmas gifts, or just to say hello and see how the renovations are going.” Daisy Vie on wheels.

As that experience obviously didn’t put her off, in March 2019 Haley turned to four wheels and the Rallye des Gazelles. She teamed up with ‘The DSM’ contributor Helen Tait-Wright to be the first 100% British team to enter the event, which is unique in that it is the only all-female rally. They and their 21-year-old Land Rover Defender battled through 2500 kilometres and eight days of sand dunes, dried-out river beds and shock absorber-busting stony plains in the Western Sahara Desert of southern Morocco. No racing (the winning team is the one that travels the least number of kilometres between checkpoints within a given time frame), no GPS or binoculars, just old-school navigation, all entirely off-road. “It may have taken me some time, but what I have come to realise is that it is also really nice to have a home. For the first time in many years, I like going home. I don’t feel the need to travel. I’m a member of a local triathlon club, I have a horse again and I ride whenever I can. The green lanes where I now live are amazing. You can ride for hours without going on a road. I’m fitter, happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. And I want my new business, Daisy Vie, to reflect this.

Mick Austin is an award-winning freelance journalist based in the Paysde-la-Loire. He has had his work published in several expat magazines and newspapers and has also written the Mayenne Tourist Board’s only English language brochure. He runs a gîte business at

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 23

A-Z of the Communes in the Deux-Sèvres Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes

by Sue Burgess

At the time of the wars between Pépin le Bref, Charlemagne and the Duke of Aquitaine Hunald I, the monks fled their monastery. During the Viking invasions at the start of the 9th century, the monastery was spared because it was well away from navigable rivers. In 878 the monks rebuilt the monastery on the site of the abbey church. Refugees brought precious relics here and that made Saint-Jouin a popular destination for large numbers of pilgrims whose gifts favoured the prosperity of the abbey. Saint-Jouin is situated between Angers and Poitiers, on the via Turonensis, a Roman road which is part of the road to SaintJacques-de-Compostelle. During the 12th century the number of pilgrims increased so much that the old church could not house them all. Moreover, there was not enough room to exhibit all the relics. So a new building was needed. The first stones were laid in 1095. The abbey church is a sign of the prosperity brought by the pilgrims and it was built between 1095 and 1130.


he commune of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes, is situated at the northeastern limit of the Deux-Sèvres on the border of the Vienne (commune of Moncontour). It is 9km north-east of Airvault and 16km south-east of Thouars. The old name of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes is Ension, which can be written Ansion, Hension, Enixio, Ansio and Enessio. The name of the commune appears in a charter of 976 when Geoffroy l of Anjou restituted the church of Saint-Jouin du Lude. In 1179, a list of possessions confirmed by Pope Alexander ll was sent to the Abbey of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes in the diocese of Poitiers. On 1 January 2019, Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes joined with the communes of Brie, Oiron and Taizé-Maulais to form the new commune of Plaine-et-Vallées. The Abbey of Saint-Jouin-deMarnes is one of the largest Romanesque buildings of Poitou.

At the end of the 4th century, a certain Jovinus (Jouin, in French) accompanied by a small group of ‘disciples’ was looking for safety and solitude in the forests of the area. He probably came from Silly, near Loudun, and was from a well-off family. His brother Saint Maximin was one of the first archbishops of Trêves. As the legend tells it, in about 342, Jovinus founded an oratory near Ensio. A monastery was founded there later. At first it was named after the Gallo-Roman village of Ension and then it was given the name of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes. The monastery was to become one of the most important places for the spreading of Christianity in the area, after the Abbey of Saint-Martin de Ligugé (Vienne) which had been founded in 361 by Saint Martin de Tours. The preaching and the acts of the founder led to the forming of the cult of Saint Jovinus. His bones were kept as relics in the small church of the monastery. During the 6th century, Felix, the bishop of Nantes, demanded that Martin of Vertou work towards the evangelisation of the southern part of his diocese and of Poitou. His mission led him to Ension, where he found a monastic community.

In 1179, the abbey church had 127 churches and their communities under its jurisdiction. In 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War, the region was held by the English. The southern tower was topped with its little bell tower at this period. The fortifications were extended to protect the church against the English and ransacking. The convent was restored in 1447 and in 1467, Saint-Jouin-deMarnes became a market town where markets were held every Saturday. The abbey was damaged during the Wars of Religion (1562-1598). In 1655, the monks reformed and joined the congregation of SaintMaur. The abbey flourished until the beginning of the 18th century. In 1755, the Abbey of Saint-Jouin lost its independence and was placed under the administration of Amboise. The monastery has not been lived in since 1770. After the revolution the monastery was sold but it was returned to the Catholic church in 1795. The abbey was officially closed in 1789 and sold - in theory to be demolished. Fortunately the church was saved. Prosper Merimée visited Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes in the middle of the 19th century and found the monastery to be in a very sad state. It is thanks to his efforts that the abbey church has been preserved. Every year the Fête des reliques is held in September. The first Fête des reliques was held in 1130, the date when the construction of today’s abbey church was completed by the Benedictine monks of the time. This church, a masterpiece of Poitevin Romanesque art was destined to welcome the large number of pilgrims who came to venerate the relics (bones) of Saint Jouin and Saint Martin de Vertou, the patrons and founders of the former abbey on the road to Compostelle. On 8 September 1130 the abbey was consecrated. A large fair was organised on the village greens in honour of Saint Jouin and it is remarkable that the tradtion of the Fête des Réliques both religious and popular has continued until today. And always on the second Sunday in September. One of the attractions of the modern Fête des Réliques is a large vide grenier. There is also a funfair.

Photos of the Abbey of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes by Sue Burgess

More A-Z of the Communes of Deux-Sèvres next month... 24 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Spotlight The Route de Rois d’Angleterre

by Beryl Brennan

Thus the Route des Rois d’Angleterre was established. The Donjon in Niort is the last remaining structure of the castle built by Eleanor and Henry on the site of the original wooden castle destroyed by fire. It was the focal point of a large impregnable fortress erected to protect access to the city and protect the harbour and warehouses. It was a garrison of Henry’s soldiers for the defence of English possessions against the King of France, and a base for supplies of food and ammunition for the troops. It is generally believed that it was enlarged by Henry’s son, Richard the Lionheart, and was reinforced by a dozen towers, most of which were destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century. The Donjon is made up of twin towers over 20 metres high and connected by an inner courtyard.


t a time when half of the UK voted to sever its connection with Europe, back in the 12th century large swathes of France were ruled for nearly 100 years by the Kings of England, the Plantagenet dynasty. So how did this come about? Part of the duchy of Aquitaine was originally ruled by Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who wore a piece of broom (Latin name Genista) in his cap, earning him the nickname Plantageneste. Geoffrey was married to Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England and their son, Henry, was born at Le Mans in 1133. In 1122 Eleanor was born to William Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers, and inherited from her father at the tender age of five. First married to Louis VII of France, this marriage was annulled and she married Henry, 11 years her junior. With this marriage the pair ruled Brittany and Normandy in the north, through Anjou, Maine, Touraine and down through Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine. How does this tie in with Henry also becoming King of England? His mother Matilda made efforts to claim the throne of England from her cousin Stephen of Blois. Stephen had grown up in the court of Henry I and after the death of Henry and his son, in 1135 he successfully laid claim to the throne of England. Then in 1153 Henry Plantagenet invaded England backed by powerful barons, whereupon Stephen preferred to negotiate peace. By the Treaty of Winchester Stephen, in preference to his surviving son William, made Henry officially his heir. As a result of all this, the House of Plantagenet ruled over areas covering roughly half of France, all of England and parts of Ireland and Wales, and they held court primarily at Angers in Anjou and Chinon in Touraine, although they did spend one Christmas at Saumur. Eleanor bore Henry five sons and three daughters and two of their sons, Richard and John, would also be Kings of England. The most noticeable changes under the Plantagenet dynasty were increased trade and fresh architectural styles including the construction of major fortresses.

Eleanor was an intelligent and educated woman and issued about 160 documents during her marriage to Henry, many of which were charters and she so liked Niort that she bestowed one upon the city, grants of lands and privileges which favoured the development of trade. Today the towers and basements of the Donjon are open to visitors as a museum. Next stop on the Route des Rois d’Angleterre is Echiré which also stands on the banks of the Sévre Niortaise. Legend has it that the Château de Coudray-Salbart was built by Mélusine, a local fairy, but the truth more likely rests in the lords of Parthenay, the Larchevéque family, receiving grants from the Kings of England to complete the fortification and to control the Niort plain and the Gâtine. The first documentary reference to the castle is in 1219 and its six high towers were good observation posts. As it was neither modified nor demolished, it is considered an important example of what was known as Angevin military architecture. These days a local association Les amis du CoudraySalbart manage and preserve it on behalf of the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles. Next time we’ll follow the Route des Rois d’Angleterre northwards and discover more of the fortresses built by Henry and his sons during their reign as the Plantagenets in France.

The Donjon in Niort (top left photo), by David Brennan. A map showing the Route des Rois d’Angleterre (right). Château de Coudray-Salbart (bottom right) ©wikicommons/ Apotheme.

There were rebellions aplenty in Poitou so Henry decided to reduce the power of the barons, notably the Lusignan family and the lords of Mauléon, Thouars and Parthenay. Hugh, Lord of Lusignan, was a vassal of the counts of Poitiers, a very prominent powerful family with many followers and he played a strong role in the baronial revolt against Henry. To facilitate an increase in forces, Henry chose La Rochelle as the port of entry for the English to reach Poitou, sailing up-river to Niort, originally a port on the Sévres river from where a network of fortifications was established, mainly placed to defend a rivercrossing or bridge, or to control a route from which to launch expeditions and raids. The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 25


by Helen Tait-Wright


ith the winter looming ahead of us, now is a good time to pay a little attention to your car so that you are ready to face the cold weather.

Whether you do this yourself or ask your mechanic is up to you, but a bit of forethought could save you being stuck out in your car in harsh conditions! If you think this is all obvious, I apologise! Top of your list should be checking you have antifreeze in the cooling system. It isn’t expensive, but could prevent serious engine damage if your water freezes. Use a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. This should protect your engine down to -34C, so unless you are planning an antarctic expedition, you will be fine! When you go to the motor factors you will find there are different types of antifreeze, denoted by colour, so do check you have the right one for your car. While you are doing that put a suitable additive in your screen wash bottle too, to prevent it freezing. If your car has aircon, check it is working. I guess we all think of aircon in terms of hot days, but a functioning aircon system will demist your windscreen faster and will also reduce condensation in the car. Being able to see where you are going is essential whenever you are driving but crucial in low visibility conditions. (For Defender drivers, keep your flaps closed, and make sure there are lots of cloths in the truck to wipe the inside of the screen at regular intervals, until the heater system splutters into life and sends a stream of tepid air to your screen to clear the condensation. This may take some time.) Check the condition of your tyres. Slick tyres do not work on snow or slippery surfaces! You are going to need some tread to get purchase in slushy, snowy or slippery conditions. Remember, also, if you do decide to change tyres change a pair, as uneven wear from one side of the car to the other can cause problems with grip. This applies all year really, but unfavourable road conditions will heighten this.

26 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

I can also tell you from experience that wide low profile tyres and snow are not a great combination no matter how much tread you have. If you have a sports car, seriously consider borrowing your French neighbour’s 2CV if it snows - those skinny high profile tyres will be much better. (Defender drivers, as you are, unless you have Mud Terrains as spares, in which case put them on …) Also check that your battery is in good condition. With longer nights and cold weather, your battery will have extra demands on it and could let you down. Check all your car lights are working and do remember to clean them regularly as lenses do get covered in muck, reducing their effectiveness during the winter months. If you are planning a long journey, allow extra time in bad conditions and keep an eye on your fuel levels during the journey. Better to fill often than risk being stranded with no fuel because of unexpected delays. Take sensible waterproof boots and a warm coat, hat and gloves with you, just in case. (Defender drivers you will have these anyway as the aforementioned heating is pretty ineffectual unless you have a V8 petrol, and you will be used to protecting your feet from the inevitable leaks through the bulkhead! Quite apart from that the cold air will find a way in through the shut gaps around the doors anyway, so I would recommend a blanket too!) If you have a Defender or other type of 4x4 off-roader, remember you may be called on to help others who are less fortunate! Stow your straps, shackles and a shovel in the back of the car, along with sand ladders if you have them. (These work in any situation where grip is lost, not just sand!) If you have a winch, give it a check over. Even people who spend the rest of the year moaning about the diesel fumes your truck throws out, will be pleased to see you when they need towing out of the snow or a ditch and it would be rude to disappoint! And, should you have a 4x4 but have never used the low range box or diff locks, give yourself a slap and find out how they work right now! Above all, be safe on the road this winter !

Moroccan Charity Update by Helen Tait-Wright


ou may remember that at the end of July I held an Afternoon Tea Party to raise funds for a Learning Centre in Talataste, Morocco, which some of you came along to support. Thank you. As a result I was able to send 945â‚Ź to the British Moroccan Society specifically for this project. In October, my sister and I were privileged to visit the Centre, in the Atlas Mountains, which is approached by a rough track up from the Zat Valley. We received a warm welcome at the school and were delighted to be able to participate in some of the learning activities with the younger children. We took donations of coloured pencils and basic supplies with us, but it was useful to gain an idea of the items that will really help them through seeing the setup first hand. I was also pleased to be able to converse with some of the villagers with the help of Khalid, one of the teachers (my Arabic is pretty non-existent), who told us of the extra opportunities that education brings to the village children. I will continue to support this cause through fundraising events in 2020, and will carry the logo of the British Moroccan Society on Priscilla for the rallies I have planned for the next two years.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 27

Food & Drink All Roads Lead to Lugdunum

My first few times driving into Lyon the road signs might as well have been in Latin. The A6 takes you downhill (watch the sneaky 70K speed limit) and you coo over the cute view. So this is Lyon then. Hmm, not bad. Then it sucks you into a 1.853km tunnel (I counted every metre) beneath the aforementioned hill. Traffic snarls, red rear lights stare back at you from the dark like wolves, engine noise like rolling thunder, cocky Lyonnais cut you up. Half way through time has lost its meaning and you want your mum. Then suddenly there’s light! And a river! And light glinting off the river! So this is Lyon. More than not bad. Much more. But back to my wine brief. Not only is Lyon a strategic point for traffic (it’s there you decide to go east to Geneva or west to Montpellier or south to Marseille, having come from the north and Paris) it is also a great base for trips to very different wine regions. An hour to the north is Beaujolais, and only a little further, Pouilly Fuissé. To the south, 30 minutes will see you in Condrieu, and an hour more in Tain l’Hermitage. Beaujolais has a bad rap. This is down to Beaujolais Nouveau, a poor wine released on the third Thursday of November when it’s barely out of diapers. What was a great marketing campaign 30 or more years ago (‘Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!’) has now become a distinctly double-edged sword, with the reputation of the great Beaujolais tarred with the same brush as the rubbish Nouveau. To be clear, there’s nothing new about Nouveau: it was a basic wine to give to your labourers to keep them happy over Christmas. The great ‘crus’ of Beaujolais are all clustered at the northern end of the region on granitic soil - the villages of Juliénas, Saint Amour, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, and Brouilly will all provide you with well-made fruity reds. Some can age for six to ten years, but most are best drunk within five. The countryside is beautiful and the people are the friendliest in France. Just a short hop from Beaujolais is the area of Pouilly Fuissé. All whites here, from Chardonnay - but not Chardonnay as you might know it, Jim. These are complex wines with a kind of lush minerality and were all the rage with the cognoscenti in the States from the mid-70s to mid-80s. They’ve got even better since. The wines that is. Maybe the cognoscenti too. A neat tasting trip idea would be to visit J-M Ferret in Pouilly village, then the Château de Fuissé in Fuissé village. You need to make appointments for both (or go via French Wine Tours!). In the same neck of the woods are Pouilly Loché and Pouilly Vinzelles, similar wines, supposedly of lesser quality, but not necessarily so: value for money territory methinks. After a relaxing or rumbustious night, as you wish, back at your base in Lyon, time to head south. And this is where my mental north-south divide kicks in. The great rivers I’ve referred to without naming them in my keep-em-hangin’-on, annoying way are the Saône and the

Rhône. The Saône meanders south from way up in the Alsace region and through Burgundy without having any great impact on the terroir, being too distant from most of the vineyards. The Rhône flows west from Lake Geneva before it meets missy Saône at Lyon where they hitch up and head down south together, now known only as the Rhône, missy having taken her master’s name, as is only right. There’s a linguistic shuffle, where ‘vin’ is no longer pronounced as ‘van’ but ‘ven’, a climatic shift where the continental extremes of Burgundy morph into the sunny, benign Mediterranean climate, but most importantly a tingle in the air that tells you something’s changing. At Condrieu, the bucolic hills of Beaujolais have become slopes so steep that in places they seem almost sheer. Still, somehow, vines flourish as they have done since Roman times and the sombre Rhône rolls by within a stone’s throw. If Beaujolais was Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, this is Wagner or Cobain’s Nirvana, up to you. A stop at George Vernay is de rigueur. This is the chap who singlehandedly hauled the viognier grape from obscurity/near extinction to worldwide renown. A story for another day. Tain l’Hermitage’s claim to fame, and it’s a big one, is the hill of Hermitage where some of the greatest Syrah is made. Spicy, smoky complex reds. Whites from Marsanne and Roussanne – full-bodied, herb aromas, peach scents. Head for the train station, the hill is right behind. You really, really can’t miss it. You also shouldn’t miss a visit to Chapoutier, just down from the station. One of the great movers and shakers in the Rhône (and elsewhere), the wines are of a consistently high quality and the young sommeliers there will take you on a great tasting journey with all the explanations you could shake a spittoon at. I leave you with an excerpt from an article by Charlton Fettus, band member of Tears for Fears, in the NY Times of 25 October 2019. “Lyon is beyond lovely. It’s smaller than Paris and everyone will be speaking French. I’d just been to Paris and it was overrun with tourists, everyone speaking English or Chinese or, really, anything but French. And the food. Lyon is known for its cuisine and with good reason. Every dish was amazing, from the simplest sandwiches to the filet with Lyonnaise potatoes to the confit of duck. It is a town that takes its food very seriously, and it shows. We ended up at Look, a little bar in the old city that stays open until four in the morning. Serge Gainsbourg on vinyl, quirky owner doling out gratis black Russians for no apparent reason, eclectic clientele all unabashedly chatting with friends and strangers in muddled French and English. It is the Paris I remember from my 20s but haven’t seen since. Go to Lyon. But don’t tell anybody. Don’t ruin it.” If you think Tears for Fears is a bit too middle-of-the-road for you then think again: being the middle of many roads never did Lyon any harm. Oyez, oyez, OYSTERS! I’m thinking of organising a trip to one of the best oyster growers in the best oyster-producing region in our neck of the woods, Bouin. No coincidence that Christmas and New Year are almost upon us… If you’re interested, drop me a line at john@

John Sherwin, French Wine Tours 07 50 90 02 00 or 28 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Lyon from La Croix-Rousse, drawn by T. Allom. © Wikicommons


t must have been a no-brainer for the Romans. Here was a site in Eastern France (sorry, Gaul) at the confluence of two great rivers. It had a hill with commanding views. From there you could control not only north-south but also east-west traffic. Control. The key to Empire. So Lugdunum, present day Lyon, was established as capital of the Three Gauls in 43 AD.

by John Sherwin

Promoting vegetarianism

by Jacqueline Brown


recent initiative that has been rolled out in every French school canteen, from nursery aged children in maternelle to the almost-adults of lycée, is that one day every week, everything that is served must be vegetarian. No meat, no fish; just a healthy balanced meal using plant-based proteins. Way to go France! Not having a child at school anymore, I learned this from listening to the radio, where they also had a roving reporter loitering outside schools and asking for opinions about it. On the whole, the kids thought it was a great idea. Some confessed to disliking school meat, so were relieved that for one day a week they wouldn’t have to eat it. Others saw the benefit to the environment and their health and were happy to see positive changes towards a better future. Then they interviewed the parents. Some were okay with the idea, after all it was just one meal per week, so they felt confident that their children would survive. A father they interviewed wasn’t keen on this ‘ridiculous new idea’ and a grandfather they spoke to seemed to think it was just another fad; after all, they were all encouraged to buy diesel cars in the past, and now they are told they are bad for the environment. He seemed to think it would only be a few years until a vegetable-based diet would be seen as bad for something, somewhere. I think it is a great idea that will probably lead to children having a better understanding of their food groups, plant-based proteins and nutrition than I had when I left school. It should also lead to a rise in vegetarian options in French restaurants too. Now here is a bizarre coincidence. At the same time France has turned a new veggie leaf, I found myself gorging out on the biggest meat feast ever, and I loved it! We managed to plan ourselves a minibreak when for the same two days Adrian was home from work, Ed was home from uni to look after the dog and the rain held off too. We followed part of the Flow Vélo cycle route that begins in the Dordogne and ends up on the Atlantic coast, although we stopped when we got to Angoulême. Looking for somewhere to eat in Angoulême we found Le Bruleau Charentais, a small restaurant specialising in local produce and much more adventurous than our usual goto of a wood fired pizza. We started with a Pineau aperitif and a sharing platter of charcuterie, followed by the entrecôte. In full view of the restaurant, a huge side of beef was removed from a fridge and two generous steaks were sliced from it, seasoned and placed on the open fire where we watched it sizzle and cook. It was just what we needed to refuel halfway through a 140km bike ride and although I couldn’t eat like that every day, it is a meal I will remember fondly.

Take a Break - SOLUTIONs - P.12

Easy Crossword: Across: 1. simple 4. defame 8. cheap 9. orderly 10. Blair 11. grizzly 12. agonizing 15. ostrich 16. spite 17. disable 18. Dijon 19. stitch 20. rattle Down: 2. inhale 3. playing truant 5. freezing point 6. mildly 7. longsighted 13. assist 14. stroll Toughie Crossword: Across: 1. pad 3. inch 5. Edna 9. comma 10. bewitch 11. incantations 14. record 15. ghosts 18. the black arts 21. diviner 22. troll 23. gosh 24. user 25. sap Down: 1. pact 2. demonic 3. in a fairyland 4. cubits 6. ditto 7. ash 8. a witch master 12. sash 13. fret 16. sitcoms 17. scares 19. elves 20. slap 21. dig Brain Gym: 1. There’s Noel 2. Because he felt his presents 3. South. Everywhere is south from the North Pole 4. You get tinselitis 5. Friday 6. PANTHER, ANTELOPE, LLAMA 7. Sarah, Tommy, Max, Timmy, and then Sally 8. a) the three degrees b) painless operation Advent Quiz: 1. Oliver Cromwell 2. Last Christmas 3. Richard Attenborough 4. Cindy Lou Who 5. Bohemia (Czech Republic) 6. Lilly the Pink 7. Mr Blobby 8. U2 9. Sunday 10. in a clockwise direction 11. innards or offal (usually deer). 12. Scrooge to Bob Cratchit 13. Chicago 14. Hawaiian 15. two sizes too small 16. the James Bond attaché case 17. 1960 18. the Annunciation 19. on the 6 January. 20. Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and Superbowl Sunday 21. seven years 22. Reginald Owen (1938), Alastair Sim (1951), Albert Finney (1970), George C. Scott (1984), Bill Murray (1988), Michael Caine (1992), Tim Curry (1997), Patrick Stewart (1999), Vanessa L. Williams (2000), Jim Carrey (2009) 23. Wattle 24. Vixen (a fox)

Happy Christmas and may 2020 bring peace, good health and happiness to you all. Email:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 29

Health, Beauty & Fitness



Everyday Yoga for Everyone Here comes the sun As the Winter is firming its grip upon us even earlier this year, I find myself contemplating the sun and the central role it plays in our lives. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is the perfect yoga sequence to add to a morning routine, if possible, facing an easterly direction. At the beginning and end of each round, we bring the hands together with the backs of the thumbs gently pressing the sternum at the heart chakra. This is a tactile reminder of our deeper identity. Just as the sun is the heart of our solar system, the Surya Namaskar. Photo by Elodie Peltier heart - not the brain - is where eastern wisdom traditions place the seat of the mind as the centre of our conscious experience. Surya Namaskar is performed in coordination with the breath within a flow of forward and backward bends, and strength and core building poses that engage the entire body, engaging the right and left sides in equal measure. The sequence is ideally performed slowly within a gentle movement flow, giving the same time to each posture.

by Rebecca Novick

Some say that this yoga sequence originates two and a half millennia in the past, but this seems doubtful. It is not mentioned in any text on Hatha Yoga, nor in the ancient Vedic text, not even by Patanjali, considered the father of yoga and the author of the Yoga Sutras. As much as it might be tempting to mystify its origins, it appears that Surya Namaskar as we know today was originally developed as a military exercise as late as the 17th century as part of physical preparedness training for the army of a powerful Indian warrior king named Shivaji Bhonsle I. In fact, since 2016 the Indian army has regularly begun incorporating Surya Namaskar into its training exercises. There is a meditative effect that you can experience on your own as you deepen the practice. The breath coordination activates the regulatory calming effect on the nervous system of gentle, conscious nasal breathing, especially exhales, and in combination with the movements, calms the mind by shifting awareness from the external to the internal landscape. Each posture counteracts the preceding one, so that the distribution pattern of load bearing on the limbs ensures that none of the joints are over-stressed. A common practice sequence is three full rounds, which means six half rounds, but even one full round will make you feel more alert and more ready to face the day. Yoga traditions teach different variations of this sequence and if you search on YouTube you can surely find a sequence that feels right for you. In this way, you can keep a little sun within you even during the dark days.

Respect yourself, explore yourself

Classes held weekly in central Parthenay For more information email: or follow Rebecca on 30 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Our Furry Friends hope association charity shops helping animals in need

café • bric à brac • books dvds & cds • clothes • furniture

hope 79 • sauzé-vaussais

17 route de civray 79190 sauzé-vaussais open every thursday & 1st sunday of each month, 10am - 4pm

@ • Good quality donations of clothes, books and bric-à-brac are always welcome • • N°RNA W792002789


Vosko is a fantastic dog who needs space to run, friends to play with and something to channel his energy. He’s great around people and other dogs, but still needs work on walkies as he is highly excitable when on the lead, so a large enclosed garden where he can explore and learn would be perfect for him. Vosko is lively, smart, energetic, friendly, fun and affectionate. He is in foster in the south of department 79.

The Association En Route tel: 07 69 18 56 81 or by email: Visit the website:


Kara is a spaniel x, born January 2012. She is a liver and white Brittany spaniel with a tail. Naturally exuberant and friendly to people. She is chipped, neutered and fully up-to-date with vaccinations. Kara is still full of beans for her age (seven and a half) and can live with other dogs. If you think you could give her a home then please contact us, she needs to be rehomed quite urgently.

The Assocation Orfée tel: 09 77 48 71 43 or by email: Bourbon & Oreo


and Oreo Meet brother and sister, Bourbon and Oreo. They came to us with their mummy, Maddy, who has recently been adopted. They are fully vaccinated, available to be reserved and due to be neutered very soon. It would be lovely if they found a home together and had their first Christmas by the fire. Contact us at if you are interested. Le Grand Beaupuits, 79200, Saint-Germain-de-Longue-Chaume Association number W793001884. Annual Subscription Costs: 34€ within France, 29€ UK addresses. (Unfortunately the cheaper ‘printed papers’ rate cannot be applied to addresses within France, only when sending abroad) Full Name:...................................................................................... Postal Address:.............................................................................. ....................................................................................................... Postcode:............................Country:............................................. Tel:.................................................................................................. Email:............................................................................................. Please make cheques payable to ANNA SHAW.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 31

Communications So long, farewell...Windows 7

by Ross Hendry

“After January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates and support for PCs with Windows 7. If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended, your PC will still work, but it may become more vulnerable to security risks.”


ince the announcement, earlier in the year, of the end of secure usability for Windows 7 (which has been with us since 2009), things have been quite busy for me. Millions of PCs still run one of the most popular Microsoft Windows operating systems (around 34%). Windows 10 is still only at 45% but we can anticipate Microsoft will support this until at least 2025. Most of my customer enquiries are about upgrading their Windows 7 PC to Windows 10. I have been installing new Solid State Drives (SSDs) and loading them with Windows 10. It doesn’t matter if it is a laptop or desktop/tower PC the results are brilliant with customers feeling like they have new PCs! This upgrade is quite inexpensive, the new super fast SSDs start from less than £20 for a 120GB drive and you can still download Windows 10 for free (if you search for it). The result is at least another couple of very useable years from your investment. Loading Windows 10 is very efficient with a raw installation possible in less than an hour on any PC worth upgrading with an SSD. The full upgrade time is longer when you include reloading the apps you use and of course the obligatory security programs. You will also have to transfer any data from the old hard disk drive if you are upgrading a laptop, but for desktops and towers you may retain your previous hard disk drive and simply use that as a secondary drive where your data resides. If you would like to upgrade have a look at com/en-US/Download/confirmation.aspx?id=20. This scans your Windows 7 PC and tells you if it is compatible and which programs will need to be upgraded. As always, if you are not sure please ask the person who looks after your Windows PC to advise you. You will be surprised how much less it costs than having to buy a new PC. Finally, I have been running a ‘free clinic’ at Café Pause! in L’Absie on the second Thursday each month (2pm-5pm). This has now changed to the second Wednesday each month, same time. Bring any tech problem to me and I will do my best to resolve it free of charge, or if you are not sure how to do something on a laptop or tablet I can help and/or show you what to do. Thank you all for your business in 2019 and I look forward to helping you in the New Year, Merry Christmas.

Ross Hendry is the proprietor of Interface Consulting and Engineering, who has over 44 years experience in communications, computer technology and direct marketing. (see advert below).

32 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Building & Renovation

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 33

34 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 35

Small B/W Advert from


per month

36 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019



The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 37



t occurred to me that I have been writing articles for almost five years now and thought it was about time I introduced our agencies to you and what we offer.

BH Assurances is our name and we are an agent of Allianz but also a broker which enables us to sell every type of insurance. We have 16 staff, seven of which speak English. We now have four offices based in the Charente (Roumazières joined us last month): 22 rue Jean Jaurès 16700 RUFFEC Tel:+33(0)5 45 31 01 61 Email:

10 Bd du 8 mai 1945 16110 LA ROCHEFOUCAULD Tel: +33(0)5 45 63 54 31 Email:

Our bilingual staff are based in the Ruffec and Chasseneuil-sur -Bonnieure offices but I am available by appointment at any of our offices or I can come to you. We can provide advice on any of these subjects: French inheritance law, moving to France permanently, French income tax, funeral cover, investments, savings, vehicle, life, house, health top-up and professional insurance. We have a website: on which you can find all the previous articles I have written relaying information on all of the subjects above. We also do a free Monthly newsletter which is sent by email and full of useful information not only regarding insurance, French tax and making claims but also more light-hearted subjects related to what happened in France this month, living in France, agency news, some vocabulary, French recipes, contacts, etc. To receive this, simply ask me by email and I will add you to our mailing list. Or you can register directly at our website. We already have 1200 people receiving our newsletter and it would be a shame for you to miss out, especially when it’s free!

102 Avenue de la République 16260 CHASSENEUIL-SUR-BONNIEURE Tel: +33(0)5 45 39 51 47 Email:

by Isabelle Want

Finally, we have a Facebook page Allianz Jacques Boulesteix and Romain Lesterpt on which we notify our followers about weather alerts, bank holidays or news regarding our agencies.


Summary Page 2 & 3: Isabelle Want ’s article of the Month Page 3: Useful information Page 4 & 5: Tax news

of the Month

Page 5: This Month’s recip e Page 6: Professional of the Month Page 7: What happened in France in October and agency news Page 8: Living in France Page 9: Agenda for Nove mber Page 10: Some French vocab ulary 1

So feel free to contact us for quotes or advice any time you like! 2 Avenue de la Gare 16270 ROUMAZIÈRES-LOUBERT Tel: +33(0)5 45 71 17 79 Email: Roumazières is open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9am-1pm and 1.30pm-5.30pm Closed Wednesday and Saturday

On behalf of BH Assurances, I would like to take this oppportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2020!

No Orias: 07004255

BH Assurances 22 rue Jean Jaures 16700 Ruffec

Our other three offices are open: Monday: 2pm-5.30pm, Tuesday to Friday: 9am-12noon and 2pm-5.30pm Saturday: 9am-12noon

Contact Isabelle Want: Tel: 05 45 31 01 61 Mob: 06 17 30 39 11

Email: Visit our website:

Useful English Language Numbers... Cancer Support Deux-Sèvres

06 40 77 27 35

French State health insurance advice line

08 11 36 36 46

Orange helpline

09 69 36 39 00

EDF International Customer Service

05 62 16 49 08

CLEISS (Social security advice between countries)

01 45 26 33 41

Funeral Information (AFIF)

01 45 44 90 03 or

Passport Advice

0044 300 222 0000

SOS Helpline English speaking service (affiliated to the Samaritans)

01 46 21 46 46 (daily 3pm-11pm)

38 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

Ask Amanda

by Amanda Johnson


ishing all the readers of ‘The Deux-Sèvres Monthly’ magazine a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Looking forward to answering your financial questions in 2020. Best wishes Amanda Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our roadshow events or speak to me directly, please call or email me on the contacts below and I will be glad to help. We do not charge for our financial planning reviews, reports or recommendations.

Amanda Johnson Tel: 05 49 98 97 46 or 06 73 27 25 43 E-mail: The Spectrum IFA Group is fully regulated to offer financial advice in France and we do not charge for reviews, reports or recommendations we provide.

Ask Amanda in HAPPY

What do I do with m y UK ISA?

What do I do with my UK pensions?


Do I need a French will?

With Care, You Prosper 05 49 98 97 46 | | The Spectrum IFA Group is a founder member of the Federation of European Independent Financial Advisers. • TSG Insurance Services S.A.R.L. • Siège Social: 34 Bd des Italiens, 75009 Paris • R.C.S. Paris B 447 609 108 (2003B04384) « Société de Courtage d’assurances » « Intermédiaire en opération de Banque et Services de Paiement » Numéro d’immatriculation 07 025 332 – « Conseiller en investissements financiers », référencé sous le numéro E002440 par ANACOFI-CIF, association agréée par l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers »

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 39

by Bradley Warden, Blevins Franks

France’s 2020 budget introduces an income tax cut


utumn is the time of year when we find out what tax changes we will be faced with the following year, and wait for parliament to debate and finalise the proposed budget. We hope for tax cuts, but often get tax rises. This is a good year, however, as the budget includes nine billion euros worth of tax cuts for families in France.

Here is a summary of French taxation in 2020, though the draft budget could change before it is finalised at the end of the year. Reduced tax rate for lower income -The introduction of PAYE this year means that the 2020 budget unusually includes the income tax bands and rates for both 2019 and 2020. Tax rates for 2019 remain the same as last year, but bands have been indexed for inflation (so for example, the 14% tax rate starts being applied on income over 10,064€). For 2020 income, the starting tax rate will be reduced from 14% to 11%:



Up to 9,964€


9,964€ to 25,405€


25,405€ to 72,643€


72,643€ to 156,244€


Over 156,244€



Assurance vie - The initial budget draft did not include any reforms for the taxation of assurance vie. Four early amendments were proposed, potentially introducing significant changes, but it looks like they have all been rejected. Real estate wealth tax and succession tax - The threshold of 1,300,000€ for the ‘IFI’ real estate wealth tax will stay in place for 2020, with no changes to the scale rates of tax. The 75% limitation also remains unchanged. The budget did not include any reforms for succession tax rates and allowances. Taxe d’habitation - The changes announced in 2017 continue to remove households from taxe d’habitation. While some already escape it, the number increases so that next year only 20% will pay it and by 2023 it will be completely abolished. Pressure from the EU? - When the budget was launched, French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Marie, explained that the aim was to boost investment and consumer confidence, and that raising taxes was not an option. The European Commission, however, has written to France asking for clarification on its budget plans which are not in line with its commitments to Brussels. The Commission could potentially demand a new budget draft.

The flat tax rate for investment income remains unchanged at 30% for 2020 income.


Social charges - No changes were announced for social charges, so it looks like they will remain: • 9.7% for employment/self-employment income • 9.1% for pension income • 17.2% for investment income including rental income. Remember that the 30% flat tax above already includes social charges.

Summarised tax information is based upon our understanding of current laws and practices which may change. Individuals should seek personalised advice. Keep up to date on the financial issues that may affect you on the Blevins Franks news page at


from all of us at Blevins Franks

05 49 75 07 24 | Blevins Franks Financial Management Limited (BFFM) is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, reference number 179731. Where advice is provided outside the UK, via the Insurance Distribution Directive or the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II, the applicable regulatory system differs in some respects from that of the UK. Blevins Franks Trustees Limited is authorised and regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority for the administration of trusts and companies. Blevins Franks France SASU (BFF), is registered with ORIAS, registered number 07 027 475, and authorised as ‘Conseil en Investissements Financiers’ and ‘Courtiers d’Assurance’ Category B (register can be consulted on Member of ANACOFI-CIF. BFF’s registered office: 1 rue Pablo Neruda, 33140 Villenave d’Ornon – RCS BX 498 800 465 APE 6622Z. Garantie Financière et Assurance de Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle conformes aux articles L 541-3 du Code Monétaire et Financier and L512-6 and 512-7 du Code des Assurances (assureur MMA). Blevins Franks Tax Limited provides taxation advice; its advisers are fully qualified tax specialists. This promotion has been approved and issued by BFFM.

CRST19 - DS 186x125mm - L C - BW.indd 1

40 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

07/11/2019 13:27:38




The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019| 41


by Joanna Leggett


he run-up to Christmas is one of my most favourite times of the year. With shorter days the bright lights, decorations and general bonhomie seem to almost envelop you in good cheer - experienced best of all when you visit a Christmas market close to home! If you’re planning on fulfilling last New Year’s resolution by finding a new home with new opportunities, we can tempt you with three of the best properties currently on the market! Each is near its own Marché de Noël to really get you into the Christmas spirit. The first is an absolute pearl (Leggett reference 104829) not far from Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet with its charming Christmas market. This gorgeous Maison de Maître showcases the very best aspects of an inspired architectled restoration which has seen a beautiful collection of buildings (main house, gîte plus a cottage/ wine press with highly flexible accommodation) transformed into the most welcoming and stylish of homes. In all there are ten bedrooms with heaps of income potential from the already existing B&B business and passive income generated from solar panels bringing in around 1300€ a year. All renovation works have been undertaken since 2000, including double glazing, mains drains, central heating and it’s all set in around two acres of your own grounds - a delicious treat at 530,000€. Hopping over the border into the stunning town of Fontenay-le -Comte, we’ve the most delectable 18th century townhouse (89757) on the market for 689,000€. This beautifully presented property is

on a cobblestone street literally moments from cafés, restaurants, shops and the amazing Christmas market, which is kicked off with fireworks on the Friday night. Currently a boutique hotel, it offers eight bedrooms over three floors. You’ll be seduced by the flag-stoned entrance hall with its fabulous staircase. Each room is full of charm and traditional French character with wainscoting, stunning fireplaces and other features abounding. At the back is a terraced garden, while across the lane is another garden with orangerie and separate gîte. Great income in a great location with so much to offer any guest! Border hopping again, one of the best Christmas markets in Maine -et-Loire is in the medieval town of Baugé (this year it’s on 13-15 December) and it’s in the heart of this ‘village de charme’ where our final offering is stashed! This pretty 16th century cottage (104560) is off another cobbled lane behind the church in Le VieilBaugé . Oozing with character, there are beautiful beams, enormous fireplaces to hang your stockings and features everywhere, it boasts two ensuite bedrooms and large sitting room. An easy walk to the medieval fortress, restaurants, shops and market, it’s the perfect present from Santa - 79,200€! Joanna Leggett is marketing director at Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full portfolio of properties for sale in France at





€210,600 HAI

Ref. 106491 - Beautifully renovated 5-bed house with garden and outbuildings. Close to l’Absie. DPE C - agency fees included : 8 % TTC to be paid by the buyer

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE YOU CAN TRUST Buying or selling a property? Contact us now!


€284,928 HAI

Ref. 106500 - Riverside 6-bed manoir, with 2-bed apartment, 1.8ha of land and outbuildings. DPE B - agency fees to be paid by the seller



€119,900 HAI


€136,250 HAI


€61,000 HAI


€214,000 HAI

Ref. 105855 - Renovated 3-bed house with plot

Ref. 106538 - Character 3-bed cottage with many

Ref. 105943 - Cute 2-bed house with barn, garage

Ref. 106309 - Spacious 4-bed house with garage &

of 2443m² and outbuildings, in a quiet hamlet.

original features and garden, in a small hamlet.

and garden. Within walking distance of amenities.

beautiful mature gardens. Close to the town center.

DPE N/A - agency fees to be paid by the seller

DPE N/A - agency fees included : 9 % TTC to be paid by the buyer

DPE E - agency fees to be paid by the seller

DPE C - agency fees to be paid by the seller

Be a part of our award winning team If becoming an independent property sales agent interests you, contact Head of Recruitment Lorraine Deuré:

05 53 60 82 77 -

+33 (0)5 53 56 88 48 - - 42 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, December 2019

2019 Christmas Markets... Saturday 30 November • Beaulieu-sous-la-Roche (85190) from 10am-9.30pm, over 100 exhibitors. • Les-Sables-d’Olonne (85100) from 2pm. • Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud (79210), Salle Polyvalente from 2pm-7pm. • Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet (79600), town centre from 3pm-11pm with over 100 exhibitors. Sunday 1 December • Beaulieu-sous-la-Roche (85190) from 10am-7pm with over 100 exhibitors. • Brioux-sur-Boutonne (79170), Salle des Fêtes, La Boutonnaise from 9.30am-6pm. • Faye sur Ardin (79160), Salle des Fêtes, éspace Magnolia from 10am 6pm. • Les Sables-d’Olonne (85100) from 10am-6pm. • Melle (79500), Place Bujault and town centre from 10am-6pm. • Saint Gelais (79410), Espace Agrippa d’Aubigné from 10am-6pm. • Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud (79210), Salle Polyvalente from 10am-7pm. • Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet (79600), town centre from 10am-7pm with over 100 exhibitors. • Terves (79300), Salles des Fêtes from 10am – 5pm. • Val en Vignes (79290), Rue du Château from 9am-6pm. • Villiers-en-Plaine (79160), Salle des Fêtes from10am-6pm. • Vouillé (79230), Salle Polyvalente from 10am-6.30pm. Friday 6 December • Fors (79230), Parc du Champs de Foire from 4pm-10pm. • Marigny (79360) town centre from 4pm-midnight.

Saturday 7 December • Champdeniers-Saint-Denis (79220), Salle des Fêtes from 10am-6pm. • Doué-la-Fontaine (49700), inside the troglodyte caves, 5€ entry (under 12s free) from 10am-8pm. • Echiré (79410) market and telethon from 10am-6pm. • La Chapelle-Saint-Laurent (79430) market and telethon from 4pm-10pm. • La Mothe-Saint-Héray (79800), Place Clemenceau and through the town, over 100 exhibitors and oyster bar. From 3pm-9pm, see • Longeville sur Mer (85560), Place de l’église from 10am-8pm with over 70 exhibitors. • Louzy (79100), Rue de la Marie from 3pm-10pm. • Niort (79000), Place du Donjon with over 45 chalets in the Christmas village, live entertainment every weekend, on until 24 December. • Nueil-les-Aubiers (79250), Espace Belle-Arrivée (next to Intermarche) from 3pm-8pm. • Sainte-Néomaye (79260), Salle des Fêtes from 4pm-9.30pm. • Thénezay (79390), Salle des Fêtes from 6pm.

Sunday 8 December • Beaulieu-sous-Parthenay (79420), Salle des Fêtes from 10am-6pm. • Doué-la-Fontaine (49700), inside the troglodyte caves, 5€ entry (under 12s free) from 10am-6pm. • François (79260), Salle des Fêtes from 10am-5pm. • L’Absie (79240) Café Pause! Christmas Fayre 10am-5pm. • La Chapelle-Saint-Laurent (79430) market and telethon from 10am-6.30pm. • La Mothe-Saint-Héray (79800), Place Clemenceau and through the town, over 100 exhibitors and oyster bar. From 9am-6pm (truffle market) • Longeville sur Mer (85560), Place de l’église from 10am-6.30pm with over 70 exhibitors. • Nueil-les-Aubiers (79250), Espace Belle-Arrivée (next to Intermarche) from 10am-7pm. • Prahecq (79230), Salle Polyvalente from 9am-6pm. • Saint-Symphorien (79270), town centre from 10am-6pm. • Sainte-Verge (79100), Place de Liberté from 10am-7pm. • Thénezay (79390), Salle des Fêtes all day. Friday 13 December • Cognac (16100) Quartier St Jacques from 10am-8pm. • Fontenay-le-Comte (85200), town centre from 5pm-8pm.

Saturday 14 December • Cerizay (79140) from 9am-6.30pm. • Charroux (86250), Les Halles from 10am-6pm. • Cognac (16100) Quartier St Jacques from 10am-8am. • Coulonges-sur-l’Autize (79160), Halles from 4pm-10pm. Fontenay-le-Comte (85200), town centre from 5pm-8pm. • Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon (79210), Rue René Caillié from 9am-5pm. • Thouars (79100), Rue porte de Paris, from 10am-9pm. Sunday 15 December • Cerizay (79140) from 9am-6pm. • Cognac (16100) Quartier St Jacques from 10am-7pm. • Fressines (79370), Salle des Fêtes from 8am-6pm. • Gençay (86160) all day from 9am. • Thouars (79100), Rue porte de Paris from10am-9pm. Saturday 21 December • Bressuire (79300) Sunday 22 December • Bressuire (79300) • Celles sur Belle (79370), Salle des Fêtes from10am-6pm.

While every effort has been made to be accurate, please check to confirm details.