The Deux-Sèvres Monthly magazine February 2020 issue

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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.

Welcome! to Issue 105 of ‘The Deux-Sèvres Monthly’ magazine.

A quick catch up. Two days before Christmas Anna returned from Australia, where she had been visiting her sister on the Gold Coast for three weeks. She had been eating turkey in sweltering heat, avoiding bushfires and attending numerous Great Gatsbystyle parties. I stayed at home, with the cat, the never-ending rain, a long list of DIY jobs and constant texts from Down Under telling me what a fabulous time she was having. Fabergé, our feral French cat, for an outdoor cat, seems to be spending a lot of time lounging on the sofa. He has weedled his way into Anna’s affections and I fear we could be approaching the ‘it’s him or me’ scenario. I might find myself living in the barn, before long, sleeping on a pile of logs and going to the tiolet in a pile of builder’s sand. We placed a cowl or (spinney thing) on top of the chimney to stop smoke being blown back into the kitchen. At first it made no sound, it whizzed round in the strongest of winds with not a squeak. Now, when the north wind blows, instead of smoke coming down the chimney we have the sound of a helicopter landing on our roof, as though the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon is taking place. I will have to get up there with a bit of WD40. As the water levels subside, alas, so does the dwindling log pile. But the sun has returned and given us some glorious weather, bonfires have been lit, lawns mowed, New Year’s resolutions broken, sunsets admired and we have been reminded of how lucky we are living in this beautiful part of the world. Whatever your plans for the year, may they be fruitful. We wish you all the very best for 2020 and hope you enjoy our first offering of the year.

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 Where We Live A-Z of the Communes in the Deux-Sèvres Spotlight Health, Beauty & Fitness Food & Drink Motoring Our Furry Friends Communications Building & Renovation Business & Finance Property

4 6 13 14 17 18 122 24 25 26 28 30 31 32 33 38 41

This Month’s Advertisers 73rd Salon des Vins et Terroirs 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 Château de Saugé Vintage Tea Room Cherry Picker Hire Chris Bassett Construction Chris Parsons (Plumber/Heating Engineer) Christies (English Book Shop & Tea Room) CJ Electricité Clean Sweep Chimney Services Cosmetic Contour Darren Lawrence Discover Yoga ESCOVAL (The English Speaking Church of the Valley of the Loire) Franglais Deliveries (Transport & Removal Services) Furry Friends Fund Black Friday Sale Hallmark Electricité Helen Booth (deVere Group) Hiley Location HMJ (Renovation service) H&R Project Management (Building and renovations 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) KJ Painting and Decorating Services La Deuxieme Chance (Decorative paint specialists) 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) ML Computers Mutuelles de Poitiers Assurances Naturalis Pools Needa Hand Services (Grass cutting etc.) Painter Pamela Irving (Holistic Therapist) 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) 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

44 43 36 2 33 39 34 43 39 43 38 40 35 6 36 35 34 6 34 36 27 33 27 5 41 7 34 39 36 35 35 33 37 36 30 21 35 21 20 42 29 27 32 36 33 35 32 39 41 21 21 26 2 41 29 33 35 20 32 20 33 41 34 36 20 34 9 30 30 9 31 32 35 9 20

© 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: février 2020 - Tirage: 4500 exemplaires. Siret: 839 041 282 00014 ISSN: 2115-4848 TVA: FR 48 839 041 282

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 3

What’s On... 9 - RECORD FAIR IN BRESSUIRE. Vinyl, CDs, Memorabillia etc. 9am-6pm - Free entry. See poster on page 6. 14 - WEBCAST OF THE MAGIC FLUTE from Mozart’s Opera in Melle. Starts 8pm at the Metullum in Melle. Duration 2hrs 45 minutes including 20 minute interval, prices from 12-15€. 14 - VALENTINE’S DAY 14 - SPECIAL VALENTINE’S AFTERNOON TEA at Château de Saugé, 79400. See advert on page 6 for more information. 14 - ST VALENTINE’S DINNER at Restaurant des Canards in Chef Boutonne. Live music with G‘n’T. See page 29 for booking information. 14-16 - FÊTE DES MIMOSA in Île d’Oléron. A celebration of the Mimosa flower - carnival of floats decorated with mimosas - an event held since 1959. 15 - ‘BRIC A BRAC’ CONCERT in Nueil-les-Aubiers. Percussionists perform using DIY instruments, recycled and transformed. Free entry. Begins at 6pm Espace Belle-Arrivée. 22 - QUIZ AND CURRY NIGHT in Saint-Macaire-du-Bois 49260. Entry 15€ per person. Arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Teams of six. Bar and raffle. Advance reservations must be made at (poster on page 6). 22-23 - VIDE DRESSING in Vix 85770. Organised by Les Amis Des Chats. From 10am-5pm. See page 31 for more information. 23 - CSSG BOARD GAMES AFTERNOON in Foyer Rural, Saint-Pardoux. Lots of games to choose from plus unlimited refreshments - 5€ entrance. Starts at 2.30pm. For more information see page 17. 28 - FURRY FRIENDS FUND BLACK FRIDAY SALE in Cheffois. CDs, DVDs and jigsaws. From 2pm - 5pm. See poster on page 7. 29 and 1 March - COLLECTORS’ AND CREATORS’ FAIR in Magné. Saturday 2-6pm, Sunday 9am-6pm. At 424 Ave du Marais Poitevin, Magné.

Leap Year Little month of February, you are small, but worthy - very! Will you grow up like the others, like your sister months and brothers? Every four years with a bound, with a leap up from the ground, Trying to grow tall as they - all you stretch is one small day! Even then you’re not so tall, but just the shortest month of all! by Annette Wynne

contact ‘The DSM’

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...

18-22 March - TERRI’ THOUARS BLUES FESTIVAL - poster on page 7. 19 March - KNIVES OUT (Film in English) in the Salle Belle Epine, La Châtaigneraie. Starting at 8pm. For other VO cinemas see page 9. 21-22 March - ELEPHANT HAVEN INFORMATION WEEKEND (EHEES). Guided visits. For more information see page 6. 20 March - MOTHER’S DAY FLORAL WORKSHOP at Château de Saugé, 79400. See advert on page 6. 22 March - MOTHER’S DAY AFTERNOON TEA in the Saugé Vintage Tea Room, Château de Saugé. 26 - March - BLEVINS FRANKS SPRING SEMINAR. For more information or to book your seat go to page 40. 27-29 March - 73rd SALON DES VINS ET TERROIRS at the Orangerie of Château de Thouars. See page 7 for more info. Full advert on back page.


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

FIND ‘THE DSM’ AT ONE OF OUR FRIENDLY DISTRIBUTORS THIS MONTH: Markey’s pork ‘n’ pies Traditional British cooking


15 17 18 12 113

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

La Vendée Chippy

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

Weds: ‘Pub Le St Vincent’, St Vincent Sterlanges Thurs: , ‘Restaurant Les 3 Cocottes’, 69 route du lac, Mervent (formerly ‘La Bohème’) Fri: ‘Bar...Miton’, 14 rue Jean Marie Mellisson, Antigny Sat (last of month) : Bar ‘Le Chaps’, La Chapelle Thireuil

Tel: 05 46 01 54 65

Tel: 02 44 39 16 73 OPEN 6 - 8.30pm

OPEN mornings

4 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020


For February opening dates please refer to website or FB.

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

...february 2020 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 2020 2 February 14 February 25 February 1 March 12 April 13 April 1 May 8 May 21 May 31 May 1 June 14 July 15 August 1 November 11 November 25 December

Chandeleur (Fête des Crêpes) Valentine’s Day (St Valentin) Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) Grandmother’s Day (Grand-Mères) Easter Sunday (Pâques) Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques) Labour Day (Fête du Travail) Victory in Europe Day (Fête de la Victoire) Ascension Day (Ascension) Pentecost (Pentecôte) Pentecost (Lundi de Pentecôte) Bastille Day (Fête Nationale) Assumption of Mary (Assomption) All Saints’ Day (Toussaint) Armistice Day (Armistice) Christmas Day (Noël)

CHURCH NOTICES... The Chaplaincy of Christ the Good Shepherd, Poitou-Charentes holds English speaking services. A warm welcome awaits everyone for a time of worship and fellowship. For further information please take a look at our website or contact us by email: Further information from the Chaplaincy Office 05 49 97 04 21 or from John and Barbara Matthews 05 49 75 29 71. The Filling Station - Poitou-Charentes is a network of local Christians of all denominations who meet together regularly for spiritual renewal and evangelism purposes. All welcome. Please see our bilingual website for details of meetings and summer programmes or contact Carolyn Carter on 05 45 84 19 03. All Saints, Vendée - Puy de Serre holds two services each month (+ Sunday school), on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at the church of Sainte Marthe, Puy de Serre, at 11am. After each service, tea and coffee are served in the parish room and everyone is invited to a `bring and share’ lunch. For details of all our activities, our services in the west of the Vendée, copies of recent newsletters and more information, please check our website: The Rendez-Vous Christian Fellowship welcomes you to any of our meetings held throughout the month in the Deux-Sèvres and the Vendée. 1st and 3rd Sunday at 11am in St Hilaire de Voust, Vendée and 2nd and 4th Sunday at 11am in two locations: one near Bressuire, Deux-Sèvres and the other near Bournezeau, Vendée. Find out more by contacting Chris and Julie Taylor 09 60 49 78 50 or visit: www. 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).

(Dates in bold=Public holidays)

TOP HAT QUIZ Nights 4: 5: 10:

Limalonges (Tuesday) Aigre Theil Rabier

Tel: 05 45 71 70 91 FROM 7pm

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


14 Fri: Genneton - Café de la Mairie 6.30 - 9pm 28 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, February 2020 | 5

Getting Out & About Chez Christie’s If you LOVE great Gifts If you ADORE beautiful Cards If you FANCY delicious Cakes If you RELISH a good Read Then come to Christie’s and lose your Heart over our Lovely Gifts & Gorgeous Cards Delectable Home-Baking Satisfying Hot Drinks and Absorbing Books! We’ve a Toasty Warm Welcome for you as Always! Looking forward--and to seeing you soon… Thousands of Books & Cards Online : AMAZON.CO.UK / SHOPS / CHRISTIESGENCAY GENÇAY (86) - behind the Mairie

Siret: 47876969800018

Fabulous February!


ome people don’t like the month of February. It’s as if there should be a hole in the calendar. Yes it’s cold, wet and not quite spring yet, but February has plenty of other good stuff going for it. Here are some reasons to be cheerful and to embrace the month of February: • • • • • • • • • •

Easter eggs have already hit the shelves. January’s over! We can ditch the diet and stop the pretence. Drinking seems even more fun now, after a month of trying to abstain. Being a short month, you won’t be nearly as skint in the last week as you usually are. The 15 February (Valentine’s is over for another year). February frequently occurs in lists of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language. Much Ado About Nothing is the only Shakespeare play that mentions February. February is the only month that can pass without a full moon. This was the case in 2018. The Saxon term for February is Sol-monath, means ‘cake month’. The days are getting longer, the evenings lighter and before you know it, it will be spring. Hoorah!

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, February 2020

EHEES INFORMATION WEEKEND There are no elephants yet 21 and 22 March, 10am-5pm Guided visits: Saturday 21 March 10.30am (French) & 11.30am (English) 2.30pm (French) & 3.30pm (English) Sunday 22 March 10.30am (English) & 11.30am (French) 2.30pm (English) & 3.30pm (French) 5 Rétabout, St Nicolas Courbefy, 87230 BUSSIÈRE GALANT, France For more information email:

73 e Sa lon des

73rd Salon des Vins et Terroirs From 27-29 March 2020 at the Orangerie du Château de Thouars



hether you’re connoisseurs, amateurs or beginners, the wine show and terroirs of Thouars is a unique journey of French wine and food, with its colours and flavours. It’s in a remarkable setting full of history, overlooking the exceptional valley of the Thouet in all its magnificence. True to its legendary tradition, the show owes its existence to the commitment of a team of volunteers, forming an association in 1901, supported by many public and private partners. The organisers are proud to display the wealth of talent and passion of all our producers. This year will see the 73 edition taking place under the vaults of the Orangerie at the Château of Thouars, with a total of 106 winemakers and 15 producers of terroirs participating. rd


27 28 29 Mars


e du Châ



Gastronomie 2200 m2 couverts

Opening times are as follows:


Saturday, 28 March 9.30am: Opening 8pm: Closing

S 79

Entrée : 4 E

Verre et bec verse ur offerts

Sunday 29 March 9.30am: Opening 4pm: Induction by the brotherhood of the can All day entertainments 6pm: Closing


FREE PARKING - Refreshments on site Entry: 4€ - Glass and ‘Stop goutte’ offered


105 Viticulteurs

Visit our website below for further information about this fantastic event running from 27 to 29 March 2020.

Friday, 27 March 2pm: Opening 3pm: Inauguration 8pm: Closing






www.credi tmutu

25 Bd Pierre


- 79101 Thou Mail : 3632 200@creditmu ars




Suivez nos actua en nous suivan lités t sur



Tél. 05 49 68 14 Fax 05 49 66 51





For more information visit: - See back page for full poster.


Simply register on our website:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 7

Our Friend in the North

by Justin Wescombe


t must be the child within but I love Christmas. It is wonderful to meet up with family and friends alongside the obligatory mince pies and brandy butter. Whilst I am no longer out of bed in the early morning ready to catch Father Christmas with an endless stream of traps, I still love the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids; well, for the first hour. However, this year I noticed a new tradition forming which was unexpected - an endless stream of questions. Most conversations will start with “Where are you living now Justin, you are always moving around?” As soon as I respond “France, permanently” then the questions begin: “What’s it like to live there?” “Why did you decide to move? I/We would love to move there but the pet gerbil needs to go to the vet to be neutered next week so we can’t.” “What are the people really like?” “Do you eat French food?” “What is your favourite vineyard? Can anyone visit it?” For many people, France seems to be the fantasy escape from their normal lives. However, there seems to be a belief that there are two versions; one visited by tourists and one hidden, which is inhabited by long term residents. One easily accessible, the other not and only disclosed after a tortuous initiation rite (maybe the awarding of Carte Vitale which seems to require the skills of Indiana Jones to navigate the myriad pitfalls and numerous dead ends which constitute the painfully complicated process).

Letter from Blighty

ary u n a J

Dear Frankie The decorations are down; the trees are outside waiting for the recycling team to take them away (not mine, however; it is only 12 inches high, came through the post as a freebie (plus twelve fat tulip bulbs) and, now potted up, will reappear - ever bigger - for many Christmases to come, I hope). New Year resolutions have been made but, as Mark Twain said, “Next week you can begin paving hell with them, as usual”. Parliament is back. Boris Johnson has promised us a “decade of prosperity” (don`t hold your breath); the Labour party are hunting for a new leader (not a Corbanysta, surely, after the recent General Election debacle); and Stormont has finally resumed work after a (disgraceful) gap of three years ‘total inanition’. And the Queen’s ‘bumpy’ ride in 2019 (Andrew and all that) has carried over into 2020 (Harry and Meghan). Greta Thunberg is now 17. In the meantime, Iran and the USA are growling dangerously at each other, and horrendous fires (one four times the size of Greater London) are sweeping all before them in Australia. But if it’s good news you are after, blame is being dropped from divorce, teenage pregnancies are down, beavers are back, and more disadvantaged youngsters are going to university. Some quirky items which I spotted in the press include: Radio 3 bosses are trying to stamp out the use of ‘presumptuous phrases’ such as ‘of course’, ‘as we all know’, and ‘and so forth’. Gardening (as well as red wine, coffee, and chocolate?) and choral singing are good for you. And playing the didgeridoo, too, apparently. Hungary is having a wedding boom as their government is offering loans of some £26,000 to newly-wed heterosexual couples (the bride has to be under 41) and the interest is cancelled if they have a child within five years. Katie Price (a.k.a. ‘Jordan’), once believed to be worth £41m, has been declared bankrupt. The Archbishop of Cantebury told a CBI conference that under the government’s border reforms,

8 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

I try to explain that we shop at the same shops, eat and drink in the same restaurants and visit the same vineyards. Frequently, this is met with a look of disbelief and words of incredulity. In the end, I usually give up and admit to visiting some imaginary location off the tourist route. However, the one thing I rarely mention is the people. For me, it is the French who make living here special. I rarely say this as I know any positive comment will be met with disbelief. There is such a widespread assumption that they are rude and arrogant but, in my experience, the reality is almost exactly the opposite. When I first moved to Saumur, I was invited to dinner with a friend of a friend - Jean-Claude; a local stonemason. It was one of the most magical nights of my life - we drank and ate in his workshop hidden deep under a hill, cut from the local tuffeau stone. The cave was cool even on this most blisteringly hot summer day. We had no way of measuring time and left in the early hours of the morning. JeanClaude didn’t give a damn; he was a rogue, a prodigious drinker and smoker but he had a charm and kindness which beguiled everyone. His girlfriend who is closer to 80 than 70 is one of the most elegant women I have ever met. Anyway, his life caught up with him and he died last week. People like JeanClaude exist in every country but seem to be particularly prevalent in rural France. It is people like Jean-Claude and not the places, the food or the wine which makes France for me, such a wonderful place to call home. To read Justin’s blog go to Jesus would not have got a visa, “unless they were short of carpenters”. He also consecrated the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin as the first black woman bishop (of Dover) in the Church of England. Nick Butter, aged 30, has run 5,130 miles to complete a marathon in 196 countries. Experiments with graphene may lead to the end of potholes (that’ll be the day!). There has been a spate of celebrity deaths in recent weeks, including: Martin Peters (aged 77), gifted midfield player in England’s famous (and only, to date) World Cup win in 1966; Colin Skipp (aged 80) who was Tony in The Archers for 47 years; Bob Willis (aged 70), fast bowler who steered England to a sensational win against the Australians in 1981 with eight wickets for 43 runs; Jonathan Miller (aged 85) first came to fame as a member of the Cambridge Footlights’ Beyond the Fringe and then went on to ever greater fame as a ‘polymath’, a term which he hated, in theatre, opera, and science. Inclined to be a bit of a grump, he threatened to leave the UK on the grounds that it had become, “a mean, peevish little country”; Clive James (aged 80) after a long fight against cancer. Writer, poet, critic, and wit (“Experts say men think of sex every ten seconds. What do they think of in the other nine?”); Jean Fergusson (aged 75) outrageous as the peroxide blonde, Marina, who pursued the hapless Howard Sibshaw in The Last of the Summer Wine for a quarter of a century. To end on a lighter note. The child star Shirley Temple is quoted as saying, “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me up to see him in a department store and he asked me for my autograph”. And Jeanne Calment, who lived to 122, said, “Despite my age, I’ve only got one wrinkle - and I’m sitting on it”. Finally, Manchester City Council have purchased a fleet of eight new road gritters and asked for suggested names for them from the local rate payers. The best suggestions included; Basil Salty; Grit Astley; Gritter Thunberg and Spreaddie Mercury. Boaty McBoatface, eat your heart out! Yours Johnny

STRIKE ! by Sue Burgess


t the time of writing this article, the trade unions (les syndicats) are in discussion with the Prime Minister (le premier ministre) to try to find some common ground and a compromise (un compromis) over the age for retirement (l’âge du départ à la retraite) and bring an end to the strikes (les grèves). Since being included in the constitution in 1946, the right to strike (le droit de grève) is no longer considered a tort (une faute civile).

The laws concerning strikes are very strict and certain types of strike are forbidden. A strike is defined by law as une cessation collective et concertée du travail en vue d’obtenir la satisfaction de revendications professionnelles - a collective, concerted stoppage of work in order to obtain satisfaction for professional grievances. Work must be stopped completely - a go-slow would not be considered as a strike and the worker might even be accused of committing a transgression as he would still be working, but not properly. Une grève de zèle where the strikers continue to work but with painstaking details (for example security officers at the airport who insist on checking every case) is legal and the workers could not be criticized for not doing their job as they would in fact be doing it too thoroughly. Some terms are not easily translated into English - for instance the new type of strike une grève perlée where workers strike for two or three days, then work for two days and then strike again, is sometimes translated as a go-slow, which it is not in the British sense of the term. Strikes must follow certain procedures and cannot just happen without any preparation. Une grève reste un mouvement régi par une procédure. Elle ne peut être réalisée du jour au lendemain sans aucune préparation.

Vocabulaire / Vocabulary: appeler à une journée de grève... call for strike action briseur de grève/briseuse de grève scab/strikebreaker droit de grève............................... right to strike en grève ......................................

on strike/strike

faire grève ................................... be on strike/go on strike grève des transports...................

transport strike

grève générale............................ general/multi-sector strike grève sauvage............................. wildcat strike mouvement de grève................... strike movement, industrial action piquet de grève .......................... picket line préavis de grève.......................... strike notice reconduire une grève .................. extend a strike


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, February 2020 | 9


From firefighter to fish fryer



by John Remington

t’s been a year now since the 79’s Fishing Group started meeting and casting their lines in the smaller lake that forms part of Simon and Julie Tee’s gîte and fishing complex at La Germondière, Secondigny. What a successful first year it has been. Our get-togethers are mainly on Sundays, when we fish small, friendly competitions or sometimes just for the pleasure, without competing. During the summer these events were regularly well attended with up to ten members competing. Winning weights of fish caught were usually between 30 and 50 pounds, although one member did show his expertise with a winning weight of more than 80lbs! The catches comprised mainly carp in the one to six pound range, with a few small bream, roach and the odd tench even put in an appearance. Aside from the pleasure of fishing in a spring fed lake where the depth was not greatly affected by the long hot summer, the season also provided us with a fabulous BBQ hosted by Simon and Julie, after one of our Sunday competitions; an entertaining spectacle when one member fell in the lake with the grace and elegance of an Olympian gymnast; and being part of the very successful fundraising fête for Violet, around the lakes. Now that the weather has turned colder we are seeing fewer fish and less members turning up regularly, so we are looking forward to spring weather when both should improve. One of our first events of the year will be a work party to help tidy the trees and shrubs around the smaller lake - those who attend have been promised another ‘catering extravaganza’ by our hosts. New members and guests are always welcome to come and join us enjoying our fishing. For more information about the group or fishing contact Julie at or John Remington at

Land Ahoy!

by Ray Lloyd

ometimes I wonder how we got to where we are now. A couple of years ago we were living in County Kildare, Republic of Ireland, where I was a firefighter/paramedic and my wife, Mary, was working as an administrator for Goodfellas Pizza. We moved to the Vendée just over a year ago to have a year’s break and during this time I carried on travelling back to Ireland on a regular basis, teaching paramedic skills. This has varied from teaching general first aid to a lovely group of lads living in a refuge run by the St. Vincent de Paul charity, to teaching advanced CPR to a class of doctors in the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin. Mary has a passion for animals and spent many years back in Ireland volunteering for animal charities and has always provided a home for rescue dogs. During the last 12 months her French has improved enormously as she insists on speaking to the dogs (and me) in French (and Irish). And so to our latest venture - taking on an exciting challenge as new owners of La Vendée Chippy mobile fish and chips which has been fantastically run by Billy and Sarah for the last seven years. The chippy (or chipper as we say in Ireland) is a mobile food trailer providing traditional fish and chips at various locations around the Vendée. Current venues are; • Pub Le St Vincent, St-Vincent Sterlanges (Wednesday evenings) • Restaurant Les 3 Cocottes (formerly La Bohéme), Mervent, (Thursday evenings) • Bar...Miton, Antigny, (Friday evenings) • Le Chap’s, La Chapelle-Thireuil, (last Saturday of each month). For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it is deceptively simple. The trailer is parked in the car park of the bar. We start up the chip pan and start cooking. The condiments and seasonings (not forgetting the malt vinegar) are on tables situated around the chipper or inside the bar. You can place your order at the counter (or by phone or email), collect your vibrating token and then go and relax and enjoy a glass or two of your favourite drink while we cook your food. When your order is ready your token will flash and vibrate to let you know. We are also available to hire for functions such as birthdays, anniversaries and weddings, and you can contact us by the email address or phone number shown below. We can’t wait to get started and look forward to seeing you when we open for business at the end of February 2020, when I will complete the transition from firefighter to fish fryer. See you at the chipper!

This was the Sèvre recently after 302mm of rain in November alone. Our river - but not as we know it. Thanks to Jocelyn Simms for the photograph.

10 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

Email:, telephone 06 31 42 47 52 or go to:

French Engineering Marvel of the month: The Palace of Versailles In 1678 King Louis XIV, left the Louvre for Versailles. A settlement little more than a hamlet before becoming the seat of royal power. By the time of the Revolution, it had a population of 60,000. From hunting lodge to palace - Much of the land around Versailles was uncultivated, allowing wild animals to flourish. Earthwork and levelling were essential for construction to begin. Louis XIII’s hunting lodge was situated on a narrow plateau with many swamps around it. The workers had to fill the area around the plateau with soil and stones, and dry out the swamps. Versailles wasn’t located near a river and for a King that wanted hundreds of fountains, this was a big issue. They built aerial and underground aqueducts to supply water for the Palace. Pumps drew water from the Seine and drove it through pipes more than one hundred metres above the river level, to reach the aqueducts. But it was not enough, so they would only activate the fountains at the presence of the King during his walks. As he walked, the fountains would be activated and the previous ones deactivated. For the King, the Palace of Versailles was the reflection of his power, so it was important everything looked sublime. Materials came from all over France: roof slates came from Angers, white stone from L’Oise, and the marbles from Campan in the Pyrenees. These had to come by sea and reach the Seine river. At that time, mirrors were very expensive, but the Galerie des Glaces contains 357. Venice had a monopoly on making mirrors, but France enticed Venetian mirror makers to make some specially for the palace. The craftsmen were later assassinated by the Italians for giving away their secrets.

View from the Vendée by Karen Taylor


ith the winter almost behind us now, we can look forward to longer evenings, warmer days and spring flowers beginning to appear. Having said that, one of the joys of winter for me is to return from a chilly dog walk and curl up in front of a roaring log fire (well, wood burning stove, in our case) with a mug of hot chocolate! Since settling in France ten years ago, we’ve discovered how important wood collecting is to the rural community. Our winter walks in the forest are now a chance to collect kindling, strolls along the coast an opportunity to pick up pine cones, and the ancient pear trees in the garden are gradually succumbing to David’s chainsaw. When we were living in Alsace, logging was virtually regarded as a sport. Over the years, many of our neighbours had bought large areas of nearby woodland, divided them up amongst their friends and then, on a given weekend, they all descended with their chainsaws to cut, sort and stack the logs. The ‘event’ always finished with a bevvy or two of course - not dissimilar to la chasse I guess!

Facts and figures • Experts believe the Palace of Versailles cost between £150 - £220 billion to build in contemporary money. Over 35,000 workers helped build the 700 rooms, 67 staircases, and 1,200 fireplaces, spread over 2,014 acres. • Marie-Antoinette, built a ‘temple of love’ consisting of a dozen columns and a statue of cupid. It’s unclear what she used this for but you can make your own educated guess. • The Grand Canal is so large it was often used for naval demonstrations. Today, many of the fountains (of which there were originally 1,400) include the same hydraulic systems from over 300 years ago. • During the French Revolution, the people of France destroyed the palace gate, which was made completely out of gold. In 2008, the gate was restored and decorated with 100,000 gold leaves. It cost six million pounds to rebuild. • There were approximately 350 living spaces in the Palace, and they varied in size due to a person’s standing with the King. The fireplaces did so little by way of keeping rooms warm that, in March of 1695, wine is reported to have frozen in glasses on the King’s table.

Here in the Vendée, creating log piles is a veritable art form! My favourite creation is in the garden of a fellow countryman; he’s managed to pile his logs two metres high to create a mini maze. His wife assures me that they have enough wood to last at least a decade, but that hasn’t stopped him logging and stacking again this autumn! A short anecdote to finish this logging tale. We have a small gîte near the Vendée coast which is heated with electric radiators, plus a log-effect mini poêle in the lounge. Imagine my surprise when, after seeing photos of the inside of the gîte on our website, I received an email from a French holidaymaker asking whether logs were supplied for the fire, or whether he needed to bring his own! I hardly dared tell him the sorry truth… Logging factfile: • The largest tree is, unsurprisingly, in the USA. A giant sequoia (known as the General Sherman) with a height of 80m, the circumference 30m. • A yew tree in Scotland is thought to be between 3,000 and 9,000 years old. • The Janka test calculates the hardness of wood by measuring the force needed to embed a steel ball halfway into a piece of wood. The hardest wood is the Australian Buloke which requires a force of 5,060lbs to embed the ball. • The most expensive wood in the world comes from the African Blackwood. It is used to make woodwind instruments and its value is around £19,000 per cubic metre. Needless to say, it is an endangered species. Karen runs a gîte business near the Vendée coast at:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 11

Route des Rois d’Angleterre 2


he 12th and 13th centuries were turbulent times in the House of Plantagenet. Henry II was having problems with his sons Young Henry, Geoffrey, Richard and John. (His eldest son William he had made Count of Poitiers). They all mistrusted each other and resented their father’s policy of dividing land between them. Added to this Henry was enlarging his French possessions at the expense of the King of France, Louis VII, which later led to Richard siding with the new King of France, Philip II. The influence and power of the Plantagenets opened a period of conflicts spanning over one hundred years. By 1186 William, Young Henry and Geoffrey had died, leaving Richard and John surviving. Richard feared his father would make John king, which led Richard to rebel, supported by King Philip. By now Henry was suffering from a bleeding ulcer so he retreated to Chinon castle in Anjou where he died soon after and was succeeded by Richard. Richard died in 1199, leaving the surviving son John to become King of England and the Plantagenet empire which included much of northern France down to Aquitaine. During all this family turmoil, further to establish a stronghold on Deux-Sèvres, the English army moved northwards from Échiré to the next strategic river crossing on the road north, the river Thouet at Parthenay. The town dates from the 11th century and the castle of Larchevêque (Lord of Parthenay), is situated on an easily defended site at the tip of a rocky promontory surrounded by a loop in the river. By 1202 John was on the English throne and granted the Lord of Parthenay (who supported him in the fight against Philip Augustus, the King of France) money to improve his fortress. At the same time the outer walled fortifications protecting the citadel and the town itself were completed, almost 3km in total. The best preserved lines of fortification are the Saint-Jacques Gate to the north, at the bottom of the mediaeval Rue Saint Jacques, and the Citadelle Gate to the south, the latter providing a wonderful view of the plain of the Gâtine and the river below. The town also became a place of passage on the secondary route of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela and it is for this reason that the Porte Saint-Jacques got its name. The foundations of the castle are clearly visible today, including the tower du Châtelet, or de la Poudrière, together with parts of a tower with multiple arrow slits facing the town.

Henry II was responsible for demolishing the original castle at Thouars, the next river crossing on the route north, after a crisis in 1156 at the beginning of his reign. He seized control of the castle from the rebellious local viscount but as the town guarded the frontier of Anjou and was of great importance to the English, a new castle was built before the end of the 12th century. It faced the town, on a promontory surrounded by the river Thouet. New stone walls were built to enclose the town, with two gatehouses at points of entry and exit, as well as a surrounding outer wall which was added to the dungeon at the end of the century. Unfortunately no pictures of the different castles from this period are available. The main entry to the town was at the Prévost’s gate, with a portcullis and a floor opening in the vault of the passage through which stones could be dropped on unwanted visitors! The circular Prince of Wales’ tower defended the East front of the town and both these buildings survive today. This second castle was also demolished, replaced in 1635 by the current château of the Dukes of Trémoilles. Although these were the main fortified castles on the Route des Rois d’Angleterre, it is believed that the châteaux at Amailloux and Saint-Mesmin were built around the same time; also the château at Bressuire, the latter being a fine example of medieval military architecture with the visible remains dated from the end of the 12th century. Another medieval castle dating from the 12th century is the château at Airvault in the Thouet valley, serving as an important part of the defense of the town. It dominated the town and the remains are well preserved with towers and a fortified gate, a drawbridge and portcullis. The castle at Mauléon, a seat of the Lusignans, was built around the same time and today the visitor can see large parts of the foundations, part of the keep, the base of the Tour Poitevine, cisterns and cellars. Also the remains of a subterranean passage possibly leading to the church. The 12th and 13th centuries, during the time of the Angevin Empire, were times of great conflict with the English imposing their dominance in Normandy and Brittany, Poitou and into the Loire, with much evidence still to be found today. Next month we’ll follow the Route des Rois d’Angleterre to Saumur and the termination of the Angevin Empire at the Battle of Taillebourg, near Saintes between King Henry III and Louis IX.

The castle at Parthenay (left) and the castle at Saumur (right). Photographs by Beryl Brennan.

12 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

by Beryl Brennan

Take a Break DSM Easy Crossword

Across: 1. A small wave on the surface of a liquid (6) 4. Replace electric cabling in a building (6) 8. Travel at an illegal velocity (5) 9. Any heavy material used to stabilise a ship (7) 10. To abandon, as a project or programme (5) 11. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar (7) 12. A written assurance (9) 15. Be false to; be dishonest with (7) 16. Coffee and chocolate flavouring (5) 17. A muslim who opposed the Crusades (7) 18. Slang term for lacking funds (5) 19. A professional person authorised to give legal assistance (6) 20. A person who cuts hair and beards(6)

Down: 2. The striking of one body against another (6) 3. An infant that is born before 37 weeks of gestation (9-4) 5. Someone employed to provide social services (7-6) 6. One who is playfully mischievous (6) 7. Town in Monmouthshire, north of Pontypool (11) 13. A state in south-western United States (6) 14. From what place, source or cause (6)

With thanks to Rob Berry

DSM Toughie Crossword

Brain Gym

Q1. How do you make the number 7 an even number without addition, subtraction, multiplication or division? Q2. How can you take 2 from 5 and leave 4? Q3. How many sides does a circle have? Q4. One is to three as three is to five and five is to four. What is the pattern? Q5. 81 x 9 = 801. What must you do to make the this equation true? Q6. How can you make the following equation true by drawing only one straight line: 5+5+5=550?

Q7. Q8:

Down 1. Sounds like developed cry of despair? (5) 2. Former European politician backing holy man with new form of making excuses? (7, 4) 3. Put back into place a way to steer horse into its box? (9) 4. Allow cute presentation of salad? (7) 5. Fans arrive when teas are prepared ? (7) 6. On the radio it is permitted to speak up..........(5) 7. .......and optional for a stirrer? (3) 8. A best wand is waved to deal with overheating in court? (9) 13. Scilly place to put up Coe’s lantern? (5, 6) 14. Understand European Police man is breaking down? (9) 16. Do charges make up for sniffing out contraband? (6, 3) 18. Permitted everything not paid to be put together? (7) 19. Heavily criticises over popular dogs? (7) 21. Only connect presenter with swindle about faith teaching? (5) 23. Entrances could be sliding early perhaps? (5) 25. More than one being first to walk out? (3)

When Simon was six he hammered a nail into a tree to mark his height. Ten years later at age sixteen, Simon returned to see how much higher the nail was. If the tree grew by five centimeters each year, how much higher would the nail be? Can you work out the well known phrase or saying from the visual clues? a. b.



The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 13

Answers on P.29 and our website:

Across 1. Rule a girl breaks to become combative member of group? (9) 6. Small particles produced when cat is put in restraints of apparatus? (5) 9. Greater than a thousand extracted from mineral. (3) 10. A lot of conversation stimulated since router has been used. (11) 11. Necks a cocktail of aspen? (5) 12. Sounds like the worst arrangement; is it tuned differently? (9) 14. Remove deposit from Clydeside’s Caledonian Bank? (7) 15. Girl arriving when shorter girl is not available? (7) 17. Advance on small stream with article for creature sounding like one? (7) 19. Domestic with danger sign, but burned anyway? (7) 20. Colin and some criminal getting With thanks to M.Morris break in sentence? (9) 22. Domestic died (burned according to reports) in Somerset town? (5) 24. Being very close together, it went red in combustion? (11) 26. Sounds like more than one is excessive? (3) 27. Developed runs in a dress? (5) 28. Greed is as complicated as being discordant? (9)

Hobbies Putting Romance into Your Story by Alison Morton


alentine’s Day on 14 February is now widely recognised as a day for romance and Valentine, a bit of a mystery himself, has become the patron saint of love, engaged couples, beekeepers and happy marriages. Just as they are part of real life, love and emotion can play a vital part in our stories. Even if you’re not writing a romance as such, adding a relationship will give your story spark, emotional punch and tension. Romance should be woven into your story from the beginning so that it seems perfectly natural. Parachuting a random romantic element halfway through a novel to add conflict and/or spice could send your story off in an unwanted direction. It’s far better when your protagonist has an emotional reaction - positive or negative to another character from the start (whether either or both know it or not). As the characters meet obstacles and tension ramps up, there might be moments when the two characters become closer through their common purpose. They may even seem to be falling in love, with a hint at the end that they may get together. Or not! But the main purpose in your story must stay central unless you’re writing a straightforward romance. If, for instance, you’re writing a sci-fi adventure and the focus shifts primarily to the character’s relationship, the reader will become annoyed because you’re not delivering the extra-terrestrial thrills you promised on the cover. If a spy thriller turns into a romance… Well, I can hear the thud of books or even e-readers being thrown onto the floor. A romantic character in a non-romance can be a terrific way of introducing a plot twist. He/she might betray the protagonist and cause them double grief - professionally and personally. Or he/she might provide the strong faith in the protagonist that keeps them going when all seems lost. As with other types of characters - best friend, business rival, boss or junior - romantic interest may play a pivotal part in the story such as discovering evidence against the antagonist, or even as a catalyst for the climax to the story. (Pun intended.) At the risk of sounding indelicate, the characters do not need to have rampant sex throughout. Romance is about attraction, and a developing relationship with uncertainty, tenderness and obstacles along the way. If you are busy solving a dark mystery, awaiting the result of the Battle of Waterloo, or throwing a tyrant off a planet in the 25th century, there may not be time for much horizontal activity within the scope of your story. And finally, an ex-spouse or lover can introduce natural conflict and carries great potential to impact the main plot. Are their feelings as buried as they like to think they are? Why not contrast glances, smiles and hand touching with snappy, antagonistic dialogue? You can choose whether to bring them together or make the parting permanent as a result of the main plot. Featuring romantic characters can add emotion, tension and conflict to any story. Make them rounded and credible and you’ll have added an extra dimension to your story that the reader will be sure to love.

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, February 2020

YOUR Book Reviews

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

THE FAST 800 by Dr Michael Mosley It’s the New Year, a new start, with new goals. One of which always seems to be to lose weight. Having eaten my body weight (not inconsiderable) in fancy French cheese and knocking back bottles of glorious red wine over the Christmas period… I need to go on a diet or as the French say ‘Le Regime’. The only book that has really helped me lose those dreaded kilos is The Fast 800. Written by Dr Michael Mosley the well-known BBC presenter giving us programmes on biology and medicine. He’s the one who swallowed a tapeworm! What I like about him and his book is that it all makes sense. He uses his own experience - his father died at 72 after having diabetes - and he himself was diagnosed with diabetes. He therefore decided to use medical science to influence his diet and he is now diabetes free without any medication. He first came up with the 5:2 fasting diet to alleviate his diabetes and now is recommending using the ‘Fast 800 diet’ (800 calories a day with intermittent fasting of 12 hours a day) to really shift those kilos. He reckons on a five kilos loss in two weeks and nine kilos in four. And before you all say ‘if you lose it fast, then you will just put it all back on’, he gives scientific evidence to discount this. Dr Mosley says losing 5% of your body weight will: reduce your blood pressure and blood fats - cutting the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lower the risk of getting cancer, sleep better, cut your risk of type 2 diabetes and boost your sex drive! All this can’t be bad… happy dieting! by Vronni Ward

HAPHAZARD BY STARLIGHT by Janet Morley Before Christmas my father sent me a book entitled Haphazard by Starlight (A poem a day from Advent to Epiphany). I saw the word ‘poetry’ and shuddered. Like opera, poetry is something I have tried to get into, but have always struggled. A lot of the poems have a religious bent which added to my reluctance. On the positive side, I liked the cover picture. As well as a short poem a day the reader is given an accessible commentary, giving information about the poet, style and imagery included. Each day I would read the poem initially, and then reread it after the brief commentary, giving me a fresh insight. The book is a fabulous way of engaging in poetry and I thoroughly enjoyed my daily dose of Larkin, Lawrence, Plath, Shelley, Eliot, Blake, Yeats et al. My favourites included BC:AD (U.A. Fanthorpe - 25 December) and Innocent’s Song (Charles Causley - 28 December) about Herod. My father also sent copies to my brother and sister, so we would bore the rest of our family at Christmas with a discussion about the poem of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience finding it thought provoking and educational. The poems don’t have to be read at advent, but it gave it more poignancy. Haphazard by Starlight is a companion volume to Janet Morley’s bestselling selection of poems apposite to Lent, The Heart’s Time. by Kevin White


Happy New Year! For the first review of 2020 we’ve got four award hopefuls for your consideration!

JOJO RABBIT (Out Now) Taika Waititi’s satire sees him play a fictional version of Adolf Hitler, seen as an imaginary friend to Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a young boy living in Nazi Germany who has his ideals challenged by a revelation. Pushing the envelope with risky humour and satirical swipes, this edgy comedy has a surprisingly heartfelt message that feels pertinent to today despite being set during World War II. A wonderful script and quirky direction make for one of the most thought provoking stories you will see all year. JUST MERCY (Out Now) Michael B Jordan, rumoured to be the new Superman, plays a real life superhero as an idealistic lawyer who commits years of his life to overturning the conviction of a death row inmate (Jamie Foxx). While this legal drama moves in a slow and very obvious direction, proceedings are elevated by a talented cast. Jordan is the picture of restraint and professionalism as the lawyer who will not give in to the racism surrounding him, while Foxx is powerful as the inmate afraid to hope. A rousing drama that makes up for in heart what it lacks in depth. QUEEN & SLIM (12 February) America’s racial tensions are taken to a nightmarish conclusion in this drama about a couple on a Tinder date (Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya), who are forced to go on the run after killing a police officer in self-defence. Love, politics, and the nature of what it is to be a minority in the US are explored in a thrilling Bonnie and Clyde style road movie. Turner-Smith delivers a powerful performance, mixing strength with vulnerability and making a believable partnership with the always excellent Kaluuya. DARK WATERS (26 February) If ever there was a movie with a message, it’s this environmental drama, the passion project of Avengers’ actor Mark Ruffalo. Based on a true story, he plays a lawyer who turns on the energy company he used to defend after he uncovers harmful practices that poison almost every one of their customers. This sobering drama has a worthy message, even if the wandering narrative can feel frustrating at times. Ruffalo gives his all to a role he clearly cares deeply about, with adept support from Anne Hathaway as his wife, and Tim Robbins as his partner. A difficult watch, but a film with a lot to say.

Release dates are nationwide in France.

Top Ten French Romantics


s Valentine's Day arrives once again, we at 'The DSM' would like to salute the crème de la crème of French romantics. Here's our top ten:

Pepé Le Pew - the animated French skunk constantly in search of love. Storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of a female black cat (who often has a white stripe painted down her back, usually by accident), whom he mistakes for a skunk. Cyrano de Bergerac - A dashing officer and romantic poet, who is secretly in love with Roxane. His one curse in life, he feels, is his large nose and believes she will reject him because of it. He resorts to writing letters to her on behalf of one of his cadets, Christian, who is also in love with Roxane. Joséphine de Beauharnais and Napoleon Bonaparte - French society frowned on the General’s marriage to a widowed mother of two children, six years his senior but Napoleon was besotted. Unfortunately, Josephine couldn’t bear him children so the Emperor “Roses are red, violets are blue...” was forced to divorce her! Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI - The 14-year-old Austrian Archduchess, Maria Antonia, was married off to Louis-August on May 16, 1770, to reinforce a political alliance between the two countries. Despite her capricious tastes and appetite for fun, Marie Antoinette stood by her man throughout their marriage to their final days in the French revolution and walked to the guillotine with her head held high in 1793. Yvonne Anne Marie Vendroux and Charles de Gaulle - The young couple wedded on April 27, 1921. Yvonne supported her husband’s decision to challenge Pétain’s cohabitation with the Nazis during WWII, which forced the couple into exile in London. Together, they survived assassination attempts. The First Lady is said to have stated, “The presidency is temporary, but the family is permanent.” Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre - Sparks explode when you put together one of France’s most famous philosophers with a prolific French intellectual feminist and writer. Édith Piaf and Marcel Cerdan -Édith Piaf met the powerful (and married), Marcel Cerdan, in the summer of 1948. Her love affair with the world-champion boxer lasted just over a year before he perished in a plane crash in 1949. The songstress composed one of her most famous songs, Hymne à l’amour, for Cerdan. Brigitte Bardot and Roger Vadim - As soon as Bardot turned 18 years old, they married in 1952. Vadim molded his young wife into a famous sex symbol - he directed her in her first major film, And God Created Women, catapulting Bardot into an overnight sensation. Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni - A man so sure of himself, he asked Carla to marry him only a few months after their first date. No one was surprised when the model-turned-songstress accepted and became France’s most beautiful First Lady. Valérie Trierweiler, François Hollande and Julie Gayet President, François Hollande, brought Valérie Trierweiler with him to the Élysée Palace. But paparazzi caught him on a motorcycle speeding off to a secret love nest to meet his mistress, the actress Julie Gayet causing Trierweiler to have a very public nuclear meltdown. The President, in a terse 18word public announcement, ceremoniously dumped her so she took her revenge in a tell-all book about their relationship.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 15

We’re Back..! by Sue Fitzgerald


ast year was a quieter year for TheatriVasles than we’ve become accustomed to. After our successful production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking in December 2018, we took a little break from life in and around the theatre due to our various personal and work commitments.

Up to 2019 we barely had time to catch our breath! We brought you a huge variety of plays including Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Richard Harris’ Outside Edge, two festival plays, David Tristram’s Ghost Writer and Amanda Whittington’s Ladies’ Day and Ladies Down Under. We hope that we made you laugh and made you think; we introduced you to ghosts, fast bowlers, serial killers and a pantomime horse and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing in some funny, farcical, thought-provoking and sometimes poignant moments.

No experience is necessary, but it is always welcome. What is needed is a desire to get involved with other people and be part of the creative process. Most of our current members discovered a love of theatre because they tried it. Working with others to produce something that none of us could have created alone, brings wonderful rewards. If you would like to find out more or have a chat about how you might get involved, please drop us an email on theatrivasles@ or send us a message on our TheatriVasles Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

So, after twelve months of no lines to learn, no props lists to draw up and no conversations to prompt, we are back! Looking forward, we are busy planning our 2020 production and are on the lookout for potential actors, stage managers, directors, set designers and builders, sound and lighting technicians and people to take part in all the surrounding activities involved in turning a script into a production. We are a friendly bunch who would love to welcome new members.

Photographs by Steve Marshall

For more information visit or find us on Facebook 16 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

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.

Craft Café Creatif

Do you enjoy knitting or sewing in the company of others? Join us in L’Absie for an enjoyable afternoon over a cup of tea and a piece of cake. For details contact Mary Phillips on email:

ThouarStMed’Arts - Association that aims to bring together people from the historic town of Thouars (Quartier Saint Médard) for a new development of artistic activity. Exhibitions, galleries, brocantes, creators, cultural events etc. Visit the website: 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:

Combined Services Support Group (CSSG)

by Steve Marsden - Secretary CSSG

In December, after a couple of cancellations, I eventually managed to complete my 10 mile sponsored walk carrying 35 pounds in weight. The walk was from L’Absie to Fenioux raised 624€. Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, and thanks to Dave, Geoff, Sue and Jane, who did the walk with me and kept me supplied with chocolates along the route. A small portion of that money went to the UK Army Cadet Force, we also donated money to Combat Stress and the Pompiers. In the coming months we have a board games afternoon which will be at Foyer Rural, Saint-Pardoux, where you can pit your wits against other board gamers. It can become quite competitive. The times and dates are 2.30pm on Sunday 26 January, 23 February and 22 March. There will be lots of games to choose from. Plus unlimited tea, coffee, soft drinks and cakes, wine is 1€ extra. What’s not to like? All for the sum of 5€. Please keep an eye out on the L’Absie 30 minutes Facebook site where I post the events. If you want to get involved helping to raise money for both French and British military services please contact me at

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

Pure Fitness

Exercise to music classes - every Wednesday 7.30pm-8.30pm Salle des Fêtes, Vernoux-en-Gâtine 79240 For more info contact

by John Blair

All the sections of the Reaction Theatre group are now back in action: • The Theatre Group - it’s not too late to register an interest in performing in our variety shows. As the title implies if you have a talent in singing, dancing, acting, comedy, or whatever, please let me know. • Keynotes Choir - meet every Friday afternoon at the Café des Belles Fleurs in Fenioux at 2.30pm, come along and join in. • Out of Kilters - also meet at this venue in Fenioux but on Thursday evenings at 7pm. It’s great fun and will provide that little bit of exercise we all need at this time of year. • The Art Scene - gather in Secondigny every Friday morning at 10am-12 noon. However, we have moved to new premises across the road from the petrol station, next to the fire station. If you are interested in joining any or all of our groups, email me at

Best wishes, John COME and PRACTICE your FRENCH

with a friendly group of French and English speakers. Each Wednesday at 7.30pm at the Salle des Fêtes, Veluché 79600. Call Christian for more details: 05 49 63 04 78

Franglais at Bressuire

Why not come and practise your French with a friendly and convivial group of French and English speakers? Each Wednesday evening (8-10pm) at the Centre Socio-Culturel in Bressuire. Phone Jan for further details 05 49 65 60 34.

Les Amis Solitaires

We are a group of people living alone in France. We meet up for coffee mornings from 11am, every 2nd & 4th Thursday at The Lemon Tree in Sauzé Vaussais. More details from Gwen on 05 49 07 58 46 or email: Melleran Chanteurs – Amateur singing group meeting every Monday 6.45pm in Melleran Salle des Fetes. French & English members, singing in many languages. New voices always welcomed, particularly tenor and bass. For more information contact Maggie Geal 05 49 07 11 69

Bridge Players Wanted

A small, friendly bridge group are looking for new players in the Parthenay area. We are friendly and informal and we are keen to welcome all levels of players. Contact Richard Knight via email or 05 49 69 18 65

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 17

Home & Garden

Love your


by Greenfingers

February Though Winter still asserts his right to reign, He sways his sceptre now with gentler hand; Nay, sometimes softens to a zephyr bland The hurrying blast, which erst along the plain Drove the skin-piercing sleet and pelting rain In headlong rage; while, ever and anon, He draws aside his veil of vapours dun, That the bright sun may smile on us again. Today t’would seem (so soft the west wind’s sigh) That the mild spirit of the infant Spring Was brooding o’er the spots where hidden lie Such early flowers as are the first to fling On earth’s green lap their wreaths of various dye Flowers, round whose forms sweet hopes and sweeter memories cling Rebecca Hey


ith this being the first edition of ‘The DSM’ this year and this decade, I’d like to wish you all, health, happiness, and many productive and enjoyable hours outside amongst the plants and the wildlife wherever you do your gardening.

18 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

Walking around ‘my plot’ in the drizzle, which seems perpetual of late, I was really heartened to see that buds had appeared on the magnolia, forsythia and the hibiscus. This autumn and winter (and we are only in February) has been so wet and miserable, with few opportunities for real gardening, frustration was beginning to set in. The natural world being the marvel that it is, comes up trumps every time, reassuringly so! Apart from the grass being very long and the flower beds a bit bedraggled, everything is ‘coming back to life’. The daffodils that I managed to get planted, are already several centimetres tall and the honeysuckle which had the hardest prune ever, has put on new growth already. The various salvias around the garden have continued to flower for months, giving colour when I needed it most, and the birds have been very keen visitors. I have invested in so many feeders, I think I spend more on food for them than I do on us! Although still early in this new decade, the signs of spring are definitely with us and they inspire me to plan anew, to do what I didn’t get done last year and to spend as many hours outside as I can, relishing every moment…even those spent in the rain! There has been plenty of time to catch up with reading gardening magazines, to research the web for new plants and new seed suppliers, to think about new tools I may need (or would like) and to choose my free RHS seeds, such a good scheme I would recommend it to anyone. I have trees to get into the ground, some of which have been in pots waiting all autumn, and a major project, to tidy and clear up so that I can really see what I need and remind myself of what I already have! Now is the time to: • Lift and divide clumps of snowdrops and winter aconites once they finish flowering but still have foliage. Snowdrops particularly, establish more readily when divided like this ‘in the green’. • Keep winter containers looking good by removing weeds and debris that may have accumulated, and deadheading any plants still in flower. Top-up with new compost and remove containers from rain exposure if the compost has become waterlogged. • Sow hardy annuals in trays or small pots to get a head start on plants directly sown in soil next month. These can include cosmos, dahlia, nicotiniana, pelargonium, petunia and verbena. These seeds need 20°C to germinate and will do well on a sunny window sill and be ready to plant out in June. Hardy perennial seeds can also been sown now and require about 16°C to germinate, so will be easy to grow in a cold frame or greenhouse. These include delphinium, dianthus, helenium, lupin, verbascum. Sweet peas can also be sown now.

• • • • •

• • •

• • • • • • • • •

Cut back the side shoots of campsis and wisteria to two or three buds. Prune out any dead, diseased or crossing stems. Prune shrubs such as santolina, fuchsia and lavatera, cutting back to low, well-formed branches. Shrub fuchsias can be cut back hard to about 15cm. Tie-in and mulch winter flowering jasmine, at the same time shortening lateral stems to 5cm from the old wood. Other shrubs which can be pruned, include buddleia, caryopteris, hydrangea paniculata, perovskia, spiraea and leycesteria. Winter flowering heathers can be trimmed back as soon as the flowers fade. Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses, avoiding damaging any newly emerging shoots. Plant new shrubs such as roses if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. Prune established roses to promote growth of young vigorous stems. Whilst the shrub is leafless, look at its shape and trim crossing and twisted stems. Look for signs of disease and treat if necessary. Rambling and climbing roses can be pruned now too. If fuchsias have been overwintered in a greenhouse or indoors, their stems can now be trimmed back to two buds on each shoot. Remove dead or yellowing leaves from hellebores so plants don’t develop fungal die-back. Tidy up bergenia plants, removing brown and dead leaves and old flower stems. Re-dress alpines and succulents with fine gravel and remove any plant debris and dead leaves. Deadhead winter pansies and primulas to encourage further flower production. Plant lily-of-the-valley crowns, preferably in light shade. Asiatic lily bulbs can be planted now. If you have lily plants already established in pots or beds, reduce all old flower stems completely and top up with new compost and feed well. Overwintered pelargoniums can now be pruned back. Bare root hedging in the form of whips, can be planted now. Soak the roots for a couple of hours in a bucket of water and then trim back any damaged or long roots with secateurs. Prepare a trench a spade’s depth and line it with organic matter or good compost. Insert the whips at the same depth about 45cm apart and refill the trench with soil. Firm in around each plant. Water well and add a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

• • • •

Prune back last year’s growth on late flowering clematis. Viticella and jackmanii varieties come into this group. Stems should be cut back to ground level just above a healthy pair of buds. This ensures that flowers will be produced lower down on the plant and new stems will be produced as spring progresses. These can be trained to a trellis or support of some kind and they will flower abundantly in the summer. Spring and early flowering varieties just need tidying now, don’t prune too much as the flower buds have already been produced and the number of blooms will be reduced overall. Chit potatoes by placing in trays or egg boxes in a dry, cool but light place. Knobbly green or purple shoots will be produced which will grow quickly when planted in the soil. Sow leek, spinach and cabbage seeds in a cold frame ready to plant out when the weather is warmer. Raspberry canes may have suffered stress after the high temperatures of last summer, but they will respond well with the help of feeding, watering and mulching. Autumn fruiters will produce their fruit on canes that will grow this year, so these canes can be pruned back to ground level towards the end of this month. Summer raspberries will fruit on last year’s canes, and these should have been pruned back last autumn. If pruning was not carried out, it can still be done now. Check branches on citrus plants. If they are overcrowded, thin them out to allow more air to circulate through the plant and any thin, leggy branches can be shortened by two thirds. Look out for signs of woolly aphids which look like small balls of white cotton wool on stems and branches. These are sticky but can be washed off easily using diluted washing up liquid. Sow tomato, sweet pepper and chilli seeds under cover. They will need about 20°C temperature to germinate. After germination grow on undercover at about 15°C. Blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes can become dense and straggly if left unpruned. Prune out any dead wood and shoots growing at ground level. Plant shallot sets about 15-18cm apart with the tips just under the soil surface. Cut out dead, old and thin stems of bamboo to open up the plant and be able to see individual canes. Remove lower branches and foliage on established clumps. Bamboo spreads by rhizomes and some varieties can be very invasive. Restrain growth by digging to expose rhizomes and sever them below ground.

Once again, Happy New Year and enjoy your gardening.


The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 19

20 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

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, February 2020 | 21

Where We Live... - Sam and Fred - did come along, though, and all my efforts were concentrated on the family.” But back to the shock announcement of the move to France. “We decided that if we were to move to France, it would be the whole family, which included my dad. So he and Kevin went to France for a few weeks, leaving me with the kids. Once again, my husband returned home triumphant, this time having made an offer for a mill in somewhere called La Mothe-Saint-Héray, in somewhere called the Deux-Sèvres. 'Sign here,' they all said. I sort of had no choice, so I did. “It would take another year to sort out the mortgage and other stuff, so the first time I saw the house was in January 2004 - a week before the signing. First impressions? Freezing cold, no internet, no phone reception and a new home that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.” The moving-in date was set set for April 2004 so, come the day, everything was packed - kids, animals, the lot - and off they all went. “We arrived to beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. Not a bad start, even if I was a bit shell-shocked by it all.”



Julia Leighton 'Pack your bags. We're off to France!'


t's 2002 and hubby Kevin returns from a three-week fishing holiday to announce the family are moving to France to start up a fishing business. Fast-forward 17 years and, for Julia, life has come full circle...

“It wasn't the first scheme he had dreamed up,” says Julia. “We had three young children at the time, so I didn't really take him too seriously. But the fishing business idea didn't go away. At the time we were living in Stanwell, London, where I didn't feel too safe, so the thought of moving to France actually had some appeal.” Julia had been brought up in Twickenham and enjoyed a happy life with her mum and dad and two sisters. After leaving college, she had a spell working in a flower shop before changing direction and joining a large telecommunications company in London. Life changed dramatically for the whole family in 1994, when her mother died. “I was only 22 and my sisters 17 and 12. As you can imagine, it was an extremely stressful time, especially as I was pregnant with my daughter, Grace. I moved back to the family home for the next six months to be with my dad and sisters. “Although life took on some sort of normality over the next few years, I was never really settled or truly happy. Two beautiful boys 22 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

After two months, Kevin moved back to England for nine months, partly to sort out the house and to do some work, which left Julia and her non French-speaking family to get on with life in France. “Dad, who never planned to move here full-time, was going back and forth to the UK, so I had to do everything myself. It was a defining time for me. I had to be independent, resourceful - and learn the language! “Like so many Brits who buy in France, we'd bought a house that was way too big to heat, we had too much land and loads of work. It did mean, however, that for the kids it was perfect for spending hot, lazy summer days in the garden, fishing or canoeing on our own river and barbecues on the terrace.” Julia took on work where she could - cleaning jobs mostly - and before long she had herself a menagerie of rescued dogs, ponies, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens and rabbits. “Luckily, the children had settled into French life and quickly learned the language and for a while we were living the Good Life.” It didn't last, however. “As many expats will know, making a new life in another country doesn't come easy. After a difficult few years, dad moved back to the UK and in 2009 we decided to sell the house and find something smaller in another village. I think I knew then that things wouldn't work out. My husband and I finally separated in 2015 and, once again, I was on the move. This time to a rented house in Lezay.” By this time, Julia had been working as an estate agent for a couple of years and all her energy was channelled into that and looking after the children. Grace, by now 21, had left home with her daughter Lolli - meaning Julia was now nanny Julia! “Initially, I loved the job and enjoyed meeting people with their new adventures of starting a new life abroad. But the hours were long and the intermittent income put a lot of pressure on me to continue the cycle of more clients and longer days. But, ultimately, this was not what I wanted to do and I realised I needed to make changes to my life. I needed something more fulfilling. I had no real social life. I had friends, some really good friends, but no one special in my life. “Then, in May 2017, I met Steve via the dreaded online dating process. We quickly realised our paths in France had followed a similar route. Steve came to France in 2005 with his own family initially to work for a large Anglo-French holiday company - but

by Mick Austin

things didn't work out in his marriage and he divorced in 2014. By the time we met, he had re-trained as an English teacher and so began our new adventure together.” After 18 months of travelling between Lezay and Saintes, where Steve lived, thoughts turned towards finding somewhere they could live together. “By now I was really not enjoying life as an estate agent and I knew I had to do something different, so I left the business. But my next job - working in a pork factory - wasn't exactly what I had in mind! Getting up at 5am and working for 12 hours in 2°C is not something anyone would want to do out of choice, but it provided a regular income. I was always determined it wouldn't be for ever. It couldn't be!” On a visit to La Mothe-Saint-Héray one day, the couple decided to see what properties might be for sale in their price range. There weren't many, but one place stood out - not too big but with plenty of work needed on it - and after a few visits and plenty of negotiating they finally got the house. It was 2018 and it would be another year of travelling for Steve before he was able to move in permanently at the end of summer 2019. “Ten years after leaving, I was back in La Mothe-Saint-Héray and the circle was complete. This time it was a really good decision for both of us.” But the link to La Mothe-Saint-Héray doesn't stop there. “One of the first things Steve asked me when we moved in was what would I like to do. My answer was a flower shop. Flowers and craftwork had always been a passion of mine, so that then became my goal. No way was I going to carry on at the pork factory a moment longer than necessary! “As luck would have it, the flower shop in the village had recently closed. Once we had seen it and after a lot of 'can we and should we?' we decided to try and reopen it. We might not get a better opportunity. Getting the lease on the shop was by far the easiest part, ploughing through the French administration process less so. But we got there. I also completed a diploma in floristry and, despite a few last-minute hiccups, we were ready to open. “It was a little later than planned but finally, 15 years after I moved to France, we opened the doors of La Wild Rose at the beginning of October 2019. Those long, cold days working in the pork factory had been worth it. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I was both excited and terrified at the thought – though mostly terrified!

“If I was asked to describe our shop, it would be organic, friendly and inviting. Most of the furniture, stolen from our own home, has been repurposed for the shop. It definitely has our stamp on it. We even have our African Grey parrot, Betty, with us in the shop! Business got off to a good start and has been steady ever since. We've received really good feedback, which is very satisfying. Not everything has worked, but that's just part of our learning curve. “In November, our Marie asked us to make a flower arrangement for the Armistice Day commemorations, which was a real honour. We've since done more arrangements for funerals and other occasions. We've done our first Christmas market, which gave me the chance to make lots of Christmas compositions. My chance to be really creative! After a quiet build-up, Christmas Eve was frantic but really enjoyable - no doubt helped by the smell of Steve's mulled wine! Now we're well into the New Year and looking forward to the next challenge. Valentine's Day is not far off and we're excited about that.” Alongside the flowers and plants, La Wild Rose has an array of artisanal products such as hand-made cards, patchwork products, jewellery, candles and locally-made original pots. There are also crystals, light-up headbands (ideal for music festivals) and handpainted postcards among loads of other things. Contact Julia on 06 21 96 17 67 or find the shop on both Facebook and Instagram. A website is due in February. “What has been really satisfying is the reaction and help from the local people of La Mothe-Saint-Héray. We are so grateful for all their support. We've made some really good friends here, which helps us feel part of the community. “I just love being a florist. Don't get me wrong, I'm still terrified half the time! But I love all aspects of the job and to have found something I'm so passionate about is amazing. It's hard work and the hours are long, but I'm really excited to be working on new projects, especially weddings. They are something I've always wanted to do and I will be concentrating on that area in the near future. “I'm just so grateful to have been given this chance...” 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, February 2020 | 23

A-Z of the Communes in the Deux-Sèvres Saint-Laurs


by Sue Burgess

t the western edge of the Deux-Sèvres, where the plains end and the Gâtine begins, the small village of Saint-Laurs extends over 840 hectares. The site has been inhabited since at least the Bronze Age, as a gold necklace from that period has been found here. The necklace is exhibited in the museum in the Donjon of Niort. The church dates from the 11th century. It is situated in the valley near the Grande Pierre stream and has a Romanesque bell tower. In the middle of the 11th century the village was known as Sanctus Laurus instead of Sanctus Laurentius. The village became known as Saint-Lors then Saint-Laurs (Laurent, who came from Huesca, in Aragon, was a deacon of Pope Sixtus II and martyred just a few days after the Pope in 258, he was burned). In the 19th century, the population grew as people came from Poland and the north and east of France to work in the mines. The management of the mines paid for the nave to be rebuilt. During the masses, the miners sat on the right and the St Laurentins on the left. One of the stained-glass windows represents Saint Barbe, the patron saint of mine workers.

In the entrance under the bell tower there is a memorial plaque dedicated to Father Sabouraud who was the priest of Saint-Laurs in the mid 16th century - a period known for the wars between Protestants and Catholics. Father Sabouraud was reknowned for his strong conviction. He was hated by his enemies and actively hunted down. So he was forced to hide for over six months, only appearing to celebrate masses which were held in secret in the barns of his most devoted parishioners. In 1568 when quiet and calm had been restored in the area, he ventured out to the market in Coulonges-les-Royaux (Coulonges-sur-l’Autize). Unfortunately he was captured and tortured by a bunch of Huguenots as he was returning to Saint-Laurs. They first buried him up to his neck and used his head as a target for a game called courte boule (ancestor of wooden bowls). As this didn’t kill him, the Huguenots wanted to put him down the well and drown him, however the priest insisted that this would make the water unsafe for drinking and so they tortured him to death. Once they had left, the Catholics from Saint-Laurs took the body of their priest in order to give him a decent burial. His tomb became a place of pilgrimage and sick children were brought there for healing. Between 1838 and 1916 the commune grew due to the extraction of coal. Saint-Laurs was the only place in the Deux-Sèvres where coal was mined. In 1838, after the discovery of a coal seam at Marillet near Faymoreau in Vendée, the Marquis of NettancourtVaubecourt who was a town councillor in Saint-Laurs decided to drill a well at la Grande Fontaine and found seven seams of coal at a depth of 30m. He applied for a concession and opened other larger mines - Saint Laurent, Saint Marie, Sainte Clotilde and Sainte Claire. The mines were named after his four children. The mining activity began in 1840 and the small village became an important mining town with between 200 and 250 miners. In 1861 his children created the Société des Houillères to manage the mining activity.

24 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

At the beginning the means of communication and transport for the coal which was extracted were very limited. The coal was used in the local lime kilns (for example in Coulonges-sur-l’Autize). The Saint-Laurs - Parthenay tramway was used to transport the coal to other kilns. The miners were firstly recruited on the commune and later included men from all over France and Poland. The population of Saint-Laurs increased from 526 to 1,315 in 1906. Children worked in the mine. The mining activity changed the village for nearly a century. At its height there were 15 cafés in the village - today there are none. The last deep shaft mine was closed in 1916. The mining explains why the village is arranged as it is. The mine workers lived at La Rampière and the directors and senior workers lived in Saint-Laurs. The town hall and the school are between the two. There was a boys’ school in Saint-Laurs and a private girls’ school at La Rampière. In 1875 the town council decided to build a new school to house the numerous children from the mining families. A voir/Must see • The church (see above). • The 5 metre bridge - Le Pont de 5 mètres is five metres wide and 28 metres long. It was built in 1867 for the Niort Bressuire railway line. Saint-Laurs railway station (the building is now a private house on the Coulonges - l’Absie road) was opened on the 28 October 1868. The railway allowed for easier transportation of the coal. • Le Lavoir de la Grande Fontaine (The wash house) - The spring at the Grande Fontaine has existed for centuries and has never dried up. It feeds the Grande Pierre stream that flows behind the church. The water is particularly pure and is used by farmers to water their livestock. The wash house which used to be very busy was restored and renovated in 1998. It is the only wash house still in existance on the commune. • Le Quaireux (Square of La Rampière) - Le Quaireux or Quereux means old square. Hundreds of years ago there was a pond with ducks where cattle used to come and drink on their way back to the farms. The square has had its present form since 1881 when the town council decided to create a tree lined area. The oldest plane trees date from 1881. From 1839 to 1936 the miners used to meet there on Sundays and organise different games. From 1906 when the population was at its largest a big market was held there on Friday mornings. Two large annual fairs were held there from 1874 - one on the second Friday in April and the other on the Monday after Saint Laurent’s day. Cows, horses, sheep, goats and pigs were sold. The fairs disappeared with the approach of WWI. • Le Chemin des Galibots (Galibots is an old name for mine workers). For those who like walking, a 12km walk around Saint-Laurs visiting the sites of the mining heritage has been organised and signposted. If you google Le Chemin des Galibots Saint Laurs you will find a downloadable PDF leaflet on the website of the Deux-Sèvres rando (hiking) organisation.

Must see: Le Lavoir de la Grande Fontaine (left photograph), The 5 metre bridge (centre) and the church (right). Photographs taken by Sue Burgess

Spotlight Death and Hell - Depictions of death, resurrection and a moral life in medieval churches by Howard Needs


ive years ago, I wrote a stand-alone article for ‘The DSM’ concerning the theme of Death and Hell (La Mort et l’Enfer) in medieval church wall paintings (fresques) all over France, including the Deux-Sèvres and nearby departments. I have long planned to return to the subject, and this is the introductory piece to a planned series of eleven articles. Fresques, and also sculptures, relating to the theme of Death and Hell serve as a reminder of how close death was to all people in a time when medical knowledge was very limited and warfare rife. They also serve as a reminder of the sins of the living and the punishment or fate a sinner could expect upon death or at the Last Judgement. The Last Judgement greatly concerned the church and its congregations in the Middle Ages and beyond; even these days, the imagery of hell is very potent for some believers. In medieval times, imagery relating to the Last Judgement was to be seen in parish churches and cathedrals all over Europe. It was not for the soft-hearted and undoubtedly would have a 16 plus rating these days. The theme of the Last Judgement comprises five sub-themes that are sometimes individually represented: • The Arising of the Dead • The Weighing of Souls - the Judgement • The Demons Taking the Sinners • The Ascent into Heaven of the Saved • The Descent into Hell I will treat each of these sub-themes separately, thus allowing more photos of each to be shown. Later in the series, I will discuss additional themes that are separate from, but related to, the Last Judgement. • The Processions of the Damned and the Saved • The Dance Macabre • The Three Living and Three Dead • The Seven Deadly Sins • The Figure of Death • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

columns fronting public buildings. However, the paintings and sculptures that I will present in this series have little of the realism of the Renaissance paintings, as they were not intended as art or decoration. They were purely educative, being illustrative of church doctrine and the supposed fate of those who sinned against it. I have documented many examples of the Last Judgement, both painted and sculpted, some more ‘primitive’ than others. One of my two favourites is the sculpture above the entrance to the Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, Amiens, Somme. The other (shown below), is inside the abbey church of SaintAustremoine, Issoire, Puy-de-Dôme, in what is now the bookshop. It is so very illustrative of the Last Judgement that I thought it worthwhile to allow more space for the photo than I usually do in my articles. I have therefore kept the text brief – something I shall try to do in the remaining articles as well. This wall painting is exceptionally complete when compared with the remnants seen elsewhere. At the top we see Christ seated on the arc of the heavens with a globe earth at his feet. Angels with trumpets are heralding the resurrection of the dead and the final judgement and fate of man being shown at the bottom. Details from this magnificent fresque will illustrate the coming articles together with examples from other churches.

Photograph of a wall painting of the Last Judgement, Abbatiale SaintAustremoine d’Issoire, Issoire, Puy-de-Dôme. Photo by Howard Needs.

The paintings and sculptures I have seen and photographed cover a considerable period of time, from the 11th century to the 15th century, being preserved in the Romanesque churches of the Middle Ages, the Gothic architecture churches, and the churches of the Renaissance. The Renaissance is commonly seen as the period when Greek and, to a lesser extent, Roman art, literature and science returned to Europe after the so-called Dark Ages that followed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. In reality, literature and science had been preserved in Europe by the church and, in particular, the monastic orders. The Renaissance was more a cult of adopting all things Greek as being superior to the local product - a cult that persisted through to the 19th century in the form of the Corinthian The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 25

Health, Beauty & Fitness • •

We do reduced rate breathing which stimulates ‘rest and digest’. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with sleep, stress and anxiety. We do rapid pulsed breathing which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system response to increase your energy and prepare you for exercise, and boost your body’s natural defenses. We do diaphragmatic release. This massages the major organs (liver, stomach, pancreas and spleen) which hugely improves digestion, alleviates IBS and constipation. It also activates the vagus nerve which reduces the heart rate and relieves blood pressure.

The main lymph channels are below the diaphragm. Expansion of the diaphragm gives a healthy internal massage to the heart and lungs.


i, my name is Pamela Irving - I have been working full-time as a holistic therapist for over 20 years and am happy to announce that alongside my other therapies, I am now qualified to teach Buteyko Breathing...

What is the Buteyko Breathing Method? The Buteyko breathing method consists of a series of breathing exercises and guidelines specifically designed to reduce over-breathing (clinically known as ‘chronic hyperventilation’). The majority of people with health problems breathe too much. This alters the natural levels of gases in the blood and reduces the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and organs. This then causes the constriction of smooth muscles surrounding blood vessels and airways. In Buteyko breathing we teach you to bring your breathing volume back to normal and make the switch from mouth to nose - this helps alleviate health problems. During an intensive five day course we introduce you to breath holds. These are controlled and build up carbon dioxide in the blood. The reason we do this is when we over-breathe it lowers the pressure of arterial CO2, tightening the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin, depriving all cells in the body of adequate oxygen (The Bohr effect). CO2 plays a vital role in balancing the pH of bodily fluids. Using Buteyko breathing means we send more blood flow to the brain and heart. We calm down the nervous system. Those who breathe too much can be characterised by mouth breathing, upper chest breathing, frequent sighing, large breaths when speaking and heavy breathing while at rest or chronic snoring. During our training you will learn to unblock a congested nose and switch to nasal breathing permanently. If our cells are under-oxygenated, we lack energy - these are the typical symptoms of ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This under-oxygenation also prejudices the function of every system in our body, including the following: • Our lungs (causing wheezing and asthma) • Our arterial system (causing high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease) • Our digestion (causing IBS, Crones disease, diabetes, weight gain) • Our body’s acidity (causing osteoporosis) • Our immune system (causing colds, flu, cancer) • Our blood supply to the brain (causing headaches, mental health problems, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s) • Our reproductive system (causing infertility) • Our blood supply to joints (causing inflammation) Buteyko Breathing Method During the breathing exercises we change your blood pH (acid/ alkaline) in minutes. No food, exercise or medication acts as quickly.

26 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

The Buteyko Breathing Method releases 70% of body toxins through the exhale; reduces the risk of heart disease (lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol); stabilises blood sugar/ reduces chances of diabetes; cuts the risk of inflammatory disease e.g. cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s; reduces production of stress hormone cortisol; improves sleep cycle, reduces insomnia and sleep apnoea; optimises the immune system by strengthening the T cell formation and improving lymphocyte production; improves your mood by elevating ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin and other positive endorphins; and improves mental focus and concentration by increasing blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The history of Buteyko Dr Konstantin Buteyko was born in the Ukraine in 1923. He had a breathing disorder and doctors told him that this was likely to cause him an early death. He worked as a scientist. In his work, he measured the breathing of people who were dying. This proved a breakthrough for Dr Buteyko as he used the knowledge he had gained to cure his own medical condition. In the 1950’s he was given charge of a team of people who were scientifically researching breathing disorders. He used his new found knowledge to test whether the method worked on other patients - it did - everyone who practiced his method became permanently cured of whatever condition they suffered. In 1960 he published his successful results, expecting those in authority to be pleased. However, they felt threatened that with this method everyone would cure themselves and put them out of business. The authority in charge set Dr Buteyko the challenge of curing 80% (36) out of 46 ‘incurable’ patients. In 1968 all 46 (100%) were cured. However, rather than being acclaimed Dr Buteyko and his team were disbanded and lost their jobs. Dr Buteyko’s work has continued and has eventually spread to the west. Dr Buteyko was poisoned and died in 2003 at the age of 80. My teacher, Patrick McKeown, was honoured to receive his diploma in this method from Dr Buteyko himself, when he went to Russia in 2002. Patrick is the creator of Buteyko Clinic International. He travels extensively and has written numerous books. Buteyko Breathing is excellent for: Asthma/bronchitis/COPD/sinusitis Improving immunity Sleep apnoea and insomnia Pain release IBS and digestive problems

Increased energy Improved circulation Weight loss Dealing with stress Keeping calm

If you are interested in knowing more about this life changing experience please get in touch with Pamela via her contact details above, or go to



Small B/W Advert from


per month

Everyday Yoga for Everyone The Step as the Goal


ost of us have heard the Chinese proverb, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ We know logically that this must be true - that each step is part of the journey, and yet, how often do we really bring our full attention to that ‘single step’ itself? And why does the destination - the goal, in other words - so often seem to remain distant, elusively far? What stops us from reaching our goals? Are we just lazy? Incompetent? Undeserving? I wonder if we sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment and self-perceived ‘failure’ by continually placing our sense of personal achievement at arms length from who we are right now, in a future which, by definition, does not yet exist. But what if we start to see success in each small measure we take towards our goal, our destination as inseparable from any single step in the journey. For without that single step how could the journey ever be completed? Can we really separate the goal from the measures we take to achieve it?

by Rebecca Novick

This is true self-encouragement. And the magic of it is that like sunlight and water on a plant, it feeds our confidence to do even more. When we begin to see how our goals do not exist ‘out there’, but consist of all the moment-to-moment choices and gestures that we make to achieve them, then the deeper meaning of that ancient Chinese proverb is revealed. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Yes. And in each step, we have already arrived.

Respect yourself, explore yourself.

Two friends of mine are currently learning to speak French. One of them treats the whole process like a battle, and constantly complains about how difficult it is and the impossible amount he has yet to learn. The other one focuses on his improvement, however small, and everything he learns feels like a success. Guess which one is having more fun and learning the fastest? When we measure progress in what we have achieved rather than what we still have yet to achieve, we reinforce our ability to improve and change. One of my favourite things that I hear in any yoga session is, “I can do that so much more easily now!” or “Wow. I could never do that before!” Classes held weekly in central Parthenay For more information email: or follow Rebecca on The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 27

Food & Drink The Veritable Viognier of Monsieur (et Madame) Vernay by John Sherwin

“Vognear?” “No.” “Veeo-nigher?” “Nope.” The final contestant takes a deep breath and a mental running jump. “Vignee!” It’s at this point that I wake in a cold sweat. The poor beggar’s gone off the top of Mount Pronunciation and taken me with him. I gather the duvet around me and crawl back into bed. “Vee-on-yay,” I murmur. “Vee-on-yay.” And sleep comes upon me as to the righteous. The atmosphere is tense at the breakfast table. My two slices of toasted brioche are too thin and on the way to carbonisation; the pot of apricot jam before me I recognise as the one we stowed at the back of the larder two years ago, forgot about, and haven’t dared to open since. The bits of butter on the plate are curled like sneers. “You had that viognier nightmare again?” she says. I study the whorls on the oak table and try to calculate how old the tree must have been, keeping my head down. “I thought so. When I get back I expect a good night’s sleep, so write about it. Get it out of your system. It worked for gewürztraminer.” She’s always right. § You’ve probably seen the name ‘viognier’ (it is indeed pronounced vee-on-yay) on bottles in the supermarket or your local wine shop. Maybe it’s unfamiliar so maybe you figure it’s a new-fangled doodah from the New World as a lot of it comes from the US (particularly California), Australia, South Africa, Chile, and other upstart wine producing nations. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Viognier has been cultivated in the northern Rhône since Roman times. It has been proved by DNA testing (even grapes leave fingerprints) to be a direct descendant of a grape variety from the Piedmont area of north-west Italy. Not difficult to imagine the Roman legions bringing cuttings with them - they couldn’t do without their wine. It never strayed far from the northern Rhône for many centuries, its spiritual home being the village of Condrieu, stuck between precipitous slopes and the Rhône river. A question of terroir, without doubt. It is also prone to diseases such as powdery mildew, ripens unreliably, and gives low yields. Phylloxera in the late 19th century and the two World Wars reduced a dwindling stock to next to nothing, so that by 1965 there were but eight hectares around Condrieu with a production of 1,900 litres - about a weekend’s worth for a couple of rugby clubs. Viognier was looking to join the dodo. Not an attractive proposition for the average winemaker. How fortunate we are then that there was a far from average winemaking family lurking in the wings. Georges Vernay took over his father’s meagre plots in the early 1960s. He was convinced there was character and potential in the grape and in the grim terroir, much as a committed teacher might see a special spark in the hapless pupil all others have damned as a ne’er-do-well, and goes out of his way to ensure that both character and potential are realised. A roundabout way of saying Georges worked bloody hard. Alongside

other likeminded (at the time ‘crazy’) vignerons, Pierre Perret, Alfred Gerin and Edmond Duclaux, he was the driving force in viognier’s rehabilitation, earning the moniker the ‘Pope of Condrieu’ in the process. Hallelujah! His daughter, Christine, took the reins in 1996. There was Vernay blood in her veins literally and metaphorically. To this day she combines steely determination and minute attention to detail. She was voted ‘man’ of the year in 2012 by the influential French wine critics Bettane and Dessauve, despite her nickname of the ‘papesse’ or female Pope of Condrieu. Frippery aside, she is acknowledged worldwide as a bees-knees winemaker. Her philosophy? I have a very strong attachment to my vines and to my terroir. I love to bring out the best in them. All my wines come from my vines. I don’t buy in grapes or sell my own – that’s a business I have no interest in. When I create a wine I’m not out to impress you… I want to knock your socks off.1 So why did Georges, and then Christine, expend such amounts of blood sweat and tears? What’s so special about viognier? Like all great wines it typically has a rough upbringing – the more unpromising the ground the harder the roots have to work. The steep slopes around Condrieu are basically granite in different stages of decomposition. The stone terraces collect and retain warmth during the day and exhale it overnight, giving the grapes a double dose of goodness. And my, it does get warm, more like hot. The grapes get plumper and more full of potential alcohol propped up against the near sheer slopes: think German tourists tanning at the side of a hotel pool but without the need for pre-dawn towel annexation. The main attribute of viognier is aroma. We’re talking apricots, peaches and blossom. All well and good, but these aromas only fully develop when the grapes are extremely ripe. This means high alcohol and low acidity, and low acidity means little potential for ageing so, unlike other ‘great’ white wines most viogniers are best drunk young. It also makes an interesting partner when fermented with syrah, the red grape from neighbouring Côte Rôtie. Up to 20% of viognier (but usually much less) is allowed to be thus cofermented, enhancing the syrah’s floral aromas, texture, and improving brilliance and intensity of colour. Although viognier can be enjoyed as an apero, it seems a waste to me given that it has so much to offer to the right kind of food. Seafood such as lobster, crab and mussels are great, but avoid ‘fishy’ fish like sardines and mackerel. Its exotic aromas pair well with Thai, Indian and Malaysian cuisine as long as these are not over-spiced. Closer to home, turkey, ham and duck will all fall in love with viognier. Things to avoid are light dishes that just won’t stand up to the wine’s boldness, and anything tart such as olives and capers or a vinaigrette based salad. § The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays… “You listening to Springsteen again?” Eyes closed, I’d had the headphones on. She’d slipped them off and now Bruce was nothing more than a tinny sound from pieces of moulded plastic. “Viognier all done? No more nightmares?” “Yes. Better now.” ________________________ 1 My translation from French, with a few stylistic liberties.

John Sherwin, French Wine Tours 07 50 90 02 00 or 28 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

Eating Local

by Jacqueline Brown


do hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year, wherever in the world you spent it. We took a risk this year, abandoned Ed to the grandparents in the UK, hoped for a dry and sunny day (which we got) and set off on our bikes with a posh picnic containing smoked trout, confit de canard and Champagne, among other tasty treats. This was our first Christmas without Ed and first one celebrated in France for about ten years, and although I’m not sure my parents were too impressed with us breaking from the norm, we had such a great time I think a new tradition has been born. With a short trip to the UK over New Year, we covered quite a few kilometres and saw these words in fields all over France ‘votre alimentation commence ici’ or ‘your food starts here’. A timely reminder to eat seasonally and buy local wherever possible and something that was reinforced when struggling my way through plastic packaged melon sold in the UK in January. Its crunchy, flavourless flesh bore no resemblance to the local Charentais melons I buy from markets here in the summer. The world needs our help. We need to make less journeys by car and so does the food we eat. Making the choice to buy seasonal produce that is grown locally will make a massive difference if we all embrace it, as well as helping the producers in our local economies. Despite the excesses of Christmas and New Year, I do have a soft spot for the French traditions of January and February. There is

nothing quite as delicious as a slice of galette des rois, especially the frangipani one, and enjoying it with village friends at our first meetings or get togethers of January, often with a glass of cidre to toast a new and healthy year. Then there is the voeux du maire, the maire’s New Year wishes to his population, accompanied as always in our village with a kir and some nibbles from the boulangerie. Before I have time to blink, February is upon us and don’t forget there are two pancake days in February. February 2 is Chandeleur or Candlemas Day, always celebrated with pancakes in France, and this year Shrove Tuesday falls on 25 February. I like to think that with a winter lunch diet consisting of homemade vegetable soups, I can justify the slices of galette des rois and pancake indulgence, but I know I can’t go over the top. This year is likely to be one of challenges; tough ones in the form of Brexit and the changes it will bring to our lives here and fun ones on our bikes too. With Adrian’s 50th birthday only a season away, we are planning an epic mountain climb on our bikes to celebrate; Mont Ventoux in Provence. My fitness will need to be on top form much earlier than usual if I have any chance of reaching the summit alongside him. Eek, wish me luck! Email:

Take a Break - SOLUTIONs - P.13

Easy Crossword: Across: 1. ripple 4. rewire 8. speed 9. ballast 10. scrap 11. Ramadan 12. guarantee 15. deceive 16. mocha 17. Saracen 18. skint 19. lawyer 20. barber Down: 2. impact 3. premature baby 5. welfare worker 6. rascal 7. Abergavenny 13. Nevada 14. whence Toughie Crossword: Theme - homophones Across: 1. guerrilla 6. atoms 9. ore 10. intercourse 11. napes 12. untidiest 14. descale 15. Susanna 17. gorilla 19. charred 20. semicolon 22. chard 24. intertwined 26. too 27. grown 28. disagrees Down: 1. groan 2. exempts from 3. reinstall 4. lettuce 5. aerates 6. aloud 7. oar 8. sweatband 13. Ennor castle 14. digesting 16. search dog 18. allowed 19. canines 21. coren 23. doors 25. two Brain Gym: 1. Drop the ‘S’. 2. F I V E (remove the 2 letters F and E from five and you have IV). 3. Two. The inside and the outside. 4. One has three letters in the word, three has five letters, five has four in it. 5. Turn it upside down. 108 = 6 x 18. 6. Draw a line on the first plus sign that turns it into a 4. 7. The nail would be at the same height since trees grow at their tops. 8. a) dominoes b) foreign language

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 29

Motoring Priscilla’s New Adventures!

by Helen Tait-Wright

(For any new readers who don’t know her, Priscilla is our Land Rover Defender 110!)


s we head into 2020, I wanted to update you on our forthcoming rally and adventure plans, which support our chosen charities in Morocco; Coeur de Gazelles and the British Moroccan Society Learning Centre in Talataste. This year’s big adventure however is not in Morocco, but in the former Russian Republic of Georgia! In October, Chris (my husband), Priscilla and I will set out on the 4,600km overland journey to Tibilisi where the Rally Adventure Georgia starts. This will take us through eight countries, and should, if all goes well, take the same number of days. After Priscilla has had a check over, we will spend a week competing and discovering the Caucasus Mountains and the Georgian countryside and culture. This is also an off-road navigation rally but GPS is allowed, as are mixed teams, so Chris can join the fun! As the departure time approaches I will let you know how you can follow us. As if that wasn’t enough for 2020, I am embarking on a new campaign for the 2021 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles with new team mate and navigator Sue Alemann, and that starts right now! If you remember the run up to the 2019 Gazelles you will know that 2020 will be full on for us as we raise the funds necessary to compete in the rally. Sue is from New Zealand and after living all around the world, she has recently settled in department 49. She brings navigational skills to the team, gleaned from offshore sailing, and oodles of enthusiasm and motivation! I am very excited to be planning our return to the desert, Priscilla and I, with Sue, and with the benefit of hindsight we have lots of things to change and improve for the 2021 edition. Seems the Saharan sand really did get everywhere, including under my skin! We are excited to be able to share our journey with you all through ‘The DSM’ and we will keep you abreast of our events once they are confirmed, and where you can meet and support us. Don’t forget to follow our social media feeds on Instagram and Facebook by searching @chimeralandyadventures or #priscillalandyadventures Do you run a small business? Would you like to be part of Team Priscilla? We need you! Send me an email for more details!

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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

Les Amis Des Chats

Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 February 10am-5pm L’Espace Cultural, Nina Vasseur, Rue GeorgesClemenceau, Vix 85770

by Julie Briggs

We are a small charity created in November 2019. Focusing on trapping, sterilising and releasing feral and abandoned cats. We initially started the association to help four cats that were abandoned when their owners sadly died. Since then we have been asked to help so many others! We are solely funded by donations, association membership and fundraising events. In 2019 we steriilsed 75 cats, rehomed many cats and kittens and have been working to provide shelters and food for all those under our wing. We have organised a Vide Dressing in February to raise more money so we can continue for years to come. Please come and support us! Sellers and buyers welcome.

Naomie Meet Naomie, isn’t she divine all leggy and with such velvety ears! She’s shy but eager to please and the pound is no place for such a fine young lass. She’s been through the wars and now asks “pretty please, have you room for a diva like me?” The cold and damp will get in her bones so make her happy and contact us. She will be microchipped neutered, vaccinated and have a passport.

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

Adult clothing, footwear, handbags and accessories, etc. Entrance to the event is 1€ for an adult, free for under 15s. All money raised will support the sterilisation and feeding programme of the local feral and abandoned cat population. For more information about Les Amis des Chats and the Vide Dressing contact Julie on tel: 07 88 46 40 76, or

Matilda Matilda is a three-year-old collie x who loves to spoon with her humans. A smart girl who is playful and polite with other dogs, she will make a wonderful companion.

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

Visit the website: This little box of beauties are all waiting patiently to be adopted. Mum, Caline, and her babies are all vaccinated and chipped. Caline has just been sterilised and tested, she is the sweetest little cat. Her kittens are full of fun and very lively. Please contact us if you are interested or would like to look at our other cats and kittens, all waiting to be adopted. We are open Wednesday afternoons between 2pm-4pm. Le Grand Beaupuits, 79200, Saint-Germain-de-Longue-Chaume Association number W793001884. The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 31

Communications Choosing a Telephone and Internet by Ross Hendry Service in France


y annual check of the home telephone and Internet services on offer in France take into account the service provided and my ability to communicate with them when there are problems. Top service for me is still, closely followed by Please remember that it is the intention of all suppliers to cease the old analogue telephone landlines by 2023. Therefore you will find that most companies will not even offer you a fixed line service (even though you have to have a pair of wires to deliver the digital services including the Internet, telephone and TV). Company

1st year/month

Following year





English helpline




Great service







These services do NOT include an analogue telephone service, just VOIP (phone service over the Internet)

Fibre services are becoming available to more of us in rural areas and are set to be implemented in the coming months in the Deux-Sèvres. You can check out when at and the Vendée Internet speeds This is probably the most contentious issue when finding an Internet Service Provider (ISP). It is virtually impossible to guarantee Internet speed as there are so many things that can reduce or disrupt it. It is possible to get up to 20Mbps download speed in France for a standard subscription, as I have previously advised. This is usually achievable in towns and villages where there is a telephone exchange (the nearer you are to the exchange the more likely you are to receive the maximum speed). If you are over five or six kilometres from the exchange, you will be lucky to get much over 1Mbps. This is simply near the limit of the system’s ability to transmit the internet using telephone cables. Also, you will be refused the service by the traditional telephone type suppliers and will have to find an alternative supplier such as a satellite service. Check what is available to you by visiting or calling John Sidwell on 05 55 78 72 98. You should check how much you are paying at least every couple of years; the packages are changing all the time and usually you will save money or get more for less! Ross Hendry is the proprietor of Interface Consulting and Engineering, who has over 45 years experience in communications, computer technology and direct marketing. (see advert below).

32 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020

Building & Renovation

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Business & Finance



his was one of President Macron’s promises during the presidential election and for once, a politician is good to his word! You might have noticed that in the French system, 100% cover does not actually mean 100% of the cost covered, but 100% of the price set by the French health system. This means that French people could not afford to go to the dentist or get hearing aids. Between 25-30% of people who got a quote for crowns, glasses or hearing aids did not go through with it due to cost. For that reason, M Macron has come up with a reform called réforme 100% santé. So, how will it work for you? What this reform means and when will it happen? It concerns three aspects of the health system: teeth, glasses and hearing aids and the law will come into force in January 2022. However, it will be done gradually over the next two years. The changes will be implemented by all three entities concerned: the French health system, the top-up insurance company and the medical professionals. So, everybody makes an effort but as you will see below, the effort is more for some than others! How will it work for dentistry? It depends on the material, the type of work and the tooth. It only concerns dental prosthesis or crowns. It will apply to all teeth, but if it is a molar, the material must be metal instead of ceramic. Last year the price set by the health system for a crown was 107.5€, this year it will be increased to 120€. In 2018, professionals had no cap on their charges (excuse the pun), in 2019 the maximum price was 530€ and this year it will be 500€. If you have a 100% dentistry cover today, your top-up will reimburse you 416€ (30% of 120€ + 380 (500-120)). How will it work for optometry? Same here, depends on the type of glasses you want (frame and lens). There are two types, class A and B. Class A will be fully reimbursed in 2020. But you can choose frames at class B and lens at class A or vice versa. There are so many types of glasses that it would be too lengthy for me to explain! How will it work for hearing aid? As above, it depends on the equipment you have, so don’t expect the latest super hearing aid! The price set by the health system for 2020 is 350€, in 2021, it will be 400€. In 2018, professionals had no cap on their charges, in 2019 the maximum price was 1300€, this year 1100€ and in 2021 it will be 950€. If you have a 100% cover

today for hearing aids, your top-up insurance will reimburse you 30% of 350€ (105€). In 2021 the reimbursement will be 670€ (30% of 400€ + 550 (950-400)). What obligations/innovations? With this law, there are a few obligations for professionals: they must give you more than one quote on their work and one of the quotes must be one at 100% reimbursed. So, for a hearing aid, they are obliged to have one that fits the criteria for 100% reimbursement; authorisation for glasses shops to renew the optician’s prescription within five years and do an eye test themselves invoiced at 10€ max; the level of cover for top-up insurance companies must be standardised with an example of reimbursement in € instead of percentages; creation of a quality questionnaire for glasses and hearing aids shop; and the establishment of a body in charge of checking that this new law is respected by medical professionals and insurance company! As if! Conclusion: This new law is mainly being implemented for people who could not afford to have the work done, so don’t expect best quality crowns, glasses or hearing aids - but still better than nothing. Also please note that the effort here will be mainly done by top-up insurances which apparently have agreed not to increase their premium by too much! Which gives me the opportunity to tell you that Allianz do a very good top-up. With most top-up health insurance, the covers are based on levels (level 1 to 6 for example) which means that if you want the best hospital cover, you will also pay for the best dental and optical cover. With Allianz, you can pick and choose what you want which makes it cheaper! And remember to check out our web site en for all my previous articles (‘practical information’) and register to receive our monthly Newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook: Allianz Jacques Boulesteix et Romain Lesterps Don’t hesitate to contact me for any other information or quote on subjects such as funeral cover, inheritance law, investments, car, house, professional and top-up health insurance, etc.

No Orias: 07004255

BH Assurances 22 rue Jean Jaures 16700 Ruffec

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)

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Ask Amanda

by Amanda Johnson


ery little has changed in my life during the last 12-18 months; why should I review my finances?

When and how often you should review your financial position is a question I often get asked by people attending my financial surgeries. There are several questions which I feel are important to consider when looking at whether you are due for a financial review: When did you last sit down and fully review your finances? If you have not had a review for 12 months or more, you may not be aware of legislation changes or new opportunities which may be open to you. Have your personal plans and aspirations changed since your last review? Are you now looking closer at retirement or wish to look in more detail at inheritance planning? Perhaps you are thinking about downsizing and want to make any surplus monies work efficiently for you? How are any investments or savings you hold performing against your expectations? When you took out an investment or savings plan, it is likely you looked at how they had performed, and this past performance made a sizable contribution to your choices. That information is now out of date and superseded by more recent information. Reviewing this new data is vital in ensuring your money is still working for you to its best ability. Just because your last year feels standard, you should not underestimate how external factors can influence your financial security and your ability to make the best use of any money you have worked hard to earn. Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows or speak to me directly, please call or email me on the contacts below and I will be glad to help you. We do not charge for reviews, reports or recommendations we provide. 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.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 39

Financial planning for 2020 H

ere we are, already starting the second month of 2020. A new year is a perfect time to review your financial planning, so if you have not already done so, make time to check your tax planning, investments, pensions and estate planning are all on track to protect your family’s long term wealth.

Brexit The big event in 2020 is Brexit. The transition period means that things should remain unchanged for expatriates in France for the time being, but we still have to find out what the landscape will look like after that. With the clock ticking, financial planning reviews are particularly important to keep ahead of any developments that may affect you. Tax planning Effective tax planning can make a significant difference to how much tax you pay in France, and with various tax reforms over the years, you need to keep your planning up to date. Are your investments and wealth structured in the most suitable way to minimise taxation, while meeting your obligations? With today’s global tax transparency, it is more important than ever to get this right. Cross-border tax planning is complex, so take specialist advice to achieve peace of mind and potentially significant tax savings. Savings and investments If you do not have a financial plan in place for France, take a fresh look at your savings and investments. Successful investing is about having a strategy specifically based around your personal circumstances, time horizon, needs, aims and risk tolerance. Ensure you have adequate diversification to avoid over-exposure to any given country, asset type,

by Bradley Warden, Blevins Franks

sector or company. Explore investment structures that allow multicurrency flexibility to help minimise exchange rate risk. Pensions Today’s pension landscape offers more choice than ever, so take regulated advice to make the right choice for you and protect your retirement savings. Note that there may be changes after Brexit. For example, tax-free transfers to Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) in the EU/EEA may be targeted once the UK sheds its EU obligations. Carefully weigh up your options, alongside the tax implications in France and the UK, to establish the best course of action for you. Estate planning It is vital to review your estate planning when living in France, as both succession law and tax work very differently to the UK. To bring all these complex elements together and avoid missing out on suitable opportunities, take expert, cross-border advice – you can also attend the Blevins Franks Seminar in Niort on 26th March for a 2020 update. Spending time on a financial health-check now can secure peace of mind that you and your family are in the best position to enjoy a prosperous 2020 and beyond. 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

The Blevins Franks Spring Seminar We are living in a time of change and our seminar will cover various financial issues that expatriates in France need to be up to date on in 2020. Book early to secure your seat.

Thursday 26 March NIORT (79)

We will also have a guest speaker from Russell Investments, one of the world’s largest investment companies, who will share their views on the global economy, markets and asset classes going forward and outline successful investment principles.

book your seat now


05 49 75 07 24 Online booking available from our website


I N T E R N AT I O N A L TA X A DV I C E • I N V E S T M E N T S • E S TAT E PL A N N I N G • PE N S I O N S Blevins Franks Group is represented in France by the following companies: Blevins Franks Financial Management Limited (BFFM) and Blevins Franks France SASU (BFF). 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 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.

40 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020


Published by Anna Shaw, 2 Lieu Dit Jaunasse, 79600 LOUIN Tel: 05 49 64 21 98 Email: Siret: 839 041 282 00014

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, February 2020 | 41


by Joanna Leggett


pring is one of the most wonderful times of the year as everything burgeons back into life. Trees start showing green tips, bulbs thrust through, while blossoms almost seem to weigh down tree branches. The grass becomes a carpet of jonquils, the heady scent of hyacinths renews promises of joys to come. Spring started early this year, I spotted hellebores blooming at Christmas! A week or two later a daphne was covered in tiny pink buds, its perfumed twigs a delight, with first primroses in mid-January! If your hands are itching to wear those new gardening gloves, we’ve chosen three properties each with wonderful garden space. Like Goldilocks, you’ve a wide choice of property and garden sizes from which to choose!

Beside the ancient village of SaintMartin-de-Sanzay, on the edge of the Saumur wine district in the northern Deux-Sèvres (delicious sparkling or red and rosé wines of Anjou on your doorstep) this beautifully renovated five bedroom maison de maître (Leggett reference 104991) is on the market for 466,400€! Recently renovated it’s set within extensive landscaped grounds. Everything has been done from double glazing to modern bathrooms - just move straight in! Spacious living with drawing, dining room and kitchen, laundry and boot rooms, and wine cellar. Upstairs to five bedrooms. There’s a swimming pool, landscaped gardens, raised vegetable beds, old stables and barns. Easily manageable, you can garden to your hearts’ content!

Should something smaller appeal, another beautifully renovated stone cottage (Leggett ref: 104048) is for sale at 150,420€. In a quiet hamlet close to Melle and ChefBoutonne, this is a perfect family home or ideal lock-up and leave. Generous spaces abound with kitchen/breakfast room, separate dining and sitting room as well as study/bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor, upstairs to two more bedrooms. Outside there’s a covered terrace and patio area, garage and storage sheds and a mature garden - a massive bank of irises beside the house will bring garden joy in later spring! If we’re speaking about springtime fairytales and gardens, a charming ‘little castle’ covered in Virginia creeper welcomes every season. With Medieval and Renaissance features (Leggett ref: 102984) in a picturesque village near Coulonges-sur-l’Autize, it has ‘kerb appeal’ plus. Beautifully symmetrical this maison bourgeoise was built in 1905 complete with turrets and terraced roof. Glorious living spaces abound on the ground floor, upstairs to the six bedrooms. Well maintained the property includes a hunting lodge, swapping fairytales, a ‘Cinderella tower’ and, a boon for any gardener, an orangerie as well as five hectares of woods and landscaped grounds including a small lake! There’s room to extend accommodation, create gîtes or simply live to the manor born in this beautiful home - 445,000€! Joanna Leggett is marketing director at Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full portfolio of properties for sale in France at






€130,800 HAI

Ref. 107645 - Lovely 3-bed bungalow with garage and 11183m² garden, located in a small hamlet. DPE D - agency fees to be paid by the seller

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


€158,050 HAI

Ref. 107113 - Stunning 3-bed stone farmhouse with barns and lake, in a private location. DPE N/A - agency fees included : 9 % TTC to be paid by the buyer



€219,350 HAI


€36,000 HAI


€140,610 HAI


€310,300 HAI

Ref. 106601 - Attractive and well-maintained

Ref. 107470 - Renovation project - opportunity

Ref. 107439 - Deceptively spacious 4-bed house

Ref. 106597 - Large eco-friendly property with 8

single storey house of 4 beds with pool.

to create one or two houses, with rear garden.

with large garden and lovely original features.

ha of land, 3000m² fishing pond and 3-bed house.

DPE B - agency fees included : 7 % TTC to be paid by the buyer

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

DPE D - 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, February 2020

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