The Deux-Sevres Monthly magazine March 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 106 of ‘The Deux-Sèvres Monthly’ magazine.

Booking a table at a restaurant, buying a cup of coffee, or delivering a pre-rehearsed speech at Franglais is one thing (for those of us who struggle with the language). But when a situation comes at you from out of the blue it is a different matter. So when I was reversing out of a busy market square I had no business being in, in the first place, and hit a mobile charcuterie van and damaged his rear indicator, I reached for Michel Thomas (the French gentlemen from the language CDs), but Michel wasn’t there! He was a big chap (the van owner, not Michel) and quite angry, rightly so; one minute he was bagging up some pâté and the next minute his whole mobile meat wagon was rocked...literally. I kept repeating how sorry I was as he picked up the plastic casing of his reversing light from the car park. He went into a controlled tirade and all I could say was ‘I’m English, I don’t understand, but am very, very sorry’. I have spoken of the ‘French stare’ before in this publication, but it is nothing to what I experienced then. A ‘communal French stare’. Everyone in the market, people coming out of shops and queuers at a nearby bus stop were looking at the pathetic Englishman (no longer a member of the European Union), trying to string a sentence together. Pathetic! After passing on my details I left the scene of the crime, feeling ashamed at my lack of progress and inability to learn the language, which I have been trying to get to grips with for several years now. Experiencing a different culture and language can be a wonderful thing, but there are times when it can be very frustrating and a little scary. Oh how I wish I had paid more attention in my French lessons at school! Hopefully, by the time you read this the weather will have cheered up. I have just seen a cluster of flowering daffodils in the garden, which gave me a warm tingle. Have a good March and we hope you enjoy this month’s issue.

à la prochaine Stephen & Anna

Tel: 05 49 64 21 98 Email: Website:

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

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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 Ark 79 Assurances Maucourt (GAN Parthenay) Beaux Villages Immobilier BH Assurances / Allianz - Isabelle Want Blevins Franks Financial Management BM Construction Ceramic studio contents for sale Château de Saugé Vintage Tea Room Chat-eau (Luxurious country cattery) Cherry Picker Hire Chris Bassett Construction Chris Parsons (Plumber/Heating Engineer) Christies (English Book Shop & Tea Room) 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) Hallmark Electricité Helen Booth (deVere Group) Hiley Location HMJ (Renovation service) H&R Project Management (Building and renovations service) Irving Location - Digger Hire and Gravel deliveries Jeff’s Metalwork John Purchase - Mobile Mechanic Jon - the carpetman J.W.Services (General building work) Keith Banks pool 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) Michel Barateau (Cabinet maker) 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) Safe Hands 79 (Garden maintenance) Simon the Tiler Smart Moves - Removal company Steve Coupland (Property services) Steve Robin (Plumbing, heating, electrics) 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 Zena Sabestini(Translation Services)

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© Anna and Stephen Shaw 2020. 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: mars 2020 - Tirage: 4500 exemplaires. Siret: 839 041 282 00014 ISSN: 2115-4848 TVA: FR 48 839 041 282

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 3

What’s On... 1 - GRANDMOTHER’S DAY (Grand-Mères). 6 - CHARITY QUIZ at L’Escale de Boussais will be in aid of the cat rescue Chats de Châtillon at 6pm to start 6.30pm. Raffle and chips. Teams of no more than six people 2,50€ per person. Contact Jenny at to book a place. 7 - NATURE OUTING in Aigondigné. Discovering nocturnal birds of prey whilst taking a guided tour of the village with DSNE (Deux-Sèvres Nature Environnment). Meet at the Church in Saint-Blandine at 8pm. (Bring warm clothes and a torch). Free. For more information contact JM Passerault 05 49 09 24 29. 7 - LE COQ ET LA ROSE OPEN AFTERNOON from 2pm-5pm at Paizay-Naudouin in the Carrefour des Associations. Join them for tea and cake to discover their activities and events for 2020, and make your suggestions! All welcome. 8 - VIDE GRENIER in Bressuire. Salle de la Broglienne 8am-6pm. 8 - ‘RANDO’ in Plaine-et-Vallees. Get off the beaten track and explore the Thouars landscapes with hiking trails of 8, 10, 12 and 16km through the pretty historical village of Oiron. Adults 5€, under 16s free. 14 - IRISH EVENING in Coulon to celebrate Saint Patrick. Delicious homemade food, Celtic music and dancing. Starts 8pm in La Salle des Fêtes. For more information see the poster on page 7. To make a reservation tel. Marie-Do: 05 49 35 83 15. 17 - ST PATRICK’S NIGHT in Chef Boutonne at Restaurant des Canards. Live Irish music with Shenanigans. 7pm-11pm. See advert on page 29. 18-22 - TERRI’ THOUARS BLUES FESTIVAL - poster on page 6. 19 - THE GOOD LIAR (Film in English) in the Salle Belle Epine, La Châtaigneraie at 8pm. For other VO cinemas see page 10. 20 - FRENCH LANGUAGE DAY. 20 - PLANNING NATURAL GARDENS in Les Châteliers. From 10am-4pm. Free. (French language) 21 - PLANT AND SEED EXCHANGE in Melle, 10am-1pm at Jardin de Gaïa de Loubeau (path in front of the Gendarmerie). For more information: 05 86 79 93 00. 21 - NIGHT OWLS in Saint-Aubin-le-Cloud. Presentation of different species of owls plus a chance to go out and listen and recognize the owls in our environment. Bring walking shoes or boots and red torch. 8pm, Free entry. 21-22 - MOTORCYCLE FAIR in Niort. Free show by world class rider Julien Welsh ‘Pro Stunt Rider’. Free entry and parking. See poster on page 7. 21-22 - ELEPHANT HAVEN INFORMATION WEEKEND (EHEES). Guided visits. For more information see page 6. 21-22 - AIR GAMES at the Mellois Flying Club, Chenay. Watch the experts take to the air in their Ultra Light Motorised planes. 22 - MOTHER’S DAY AFTERNOON TEA in the Saugé Vintage Tea Room, Château de Saugé. See advert on page 10 for more information.

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

27-28 - PANTOMIME Pommeraie Players invite you to a pantomime of eastern promise at the Salle des Fêtes in Clussais-La-Pommeraie. Bar opens 7pm, curtain up at 8pm. Tickets 7€ adults 3€ children tel: 05 49 07 61 71 or on the door on the night.

27-29 - SALON DES VINS ET TERROIRS in Thouars. The 73rd edition of this wine fair, bringing together over 100 winegrowers and local producers. A perfect opportunity to try before you buy and stock up your wine cave. See advert on back page. 28-29 - 14TH SALON DU VIN - LIONS CLUB VAL DE SÈVRE in Niort. See article on page 8 for more information. 28-29 - STAMP FESTIVAL in Thouars. Demonstrations, games, competitions and exhibitions. See poster on page 7.

REGULAR EVENTS... EVERY MON & WED 2PM-6PM Duplicate Bridge at Civray. Lessons available free. Contact Marian Green: 05 49 27 14 52 or email: EVERY TUES & 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.


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

22 - GOSPEL CONCERT in La Chapelle-Saint-Laurent, 4pm in the Church, free entry. 26 - BLEVINS FRANKS SPRING SEMINAR. For more information or to book your seat go to page 40.

15 17 18

SAMU (Medical Advice) 12 Gendarmes (Police) Pompiers (Fire Service) 113

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’) Opening 16 March 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

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European Emergency Drugs and Alcohol

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

Aulnay 17470 (from 6pm) Beauvais-sur-Matha 17490 Ballans 17160 La Chapelle 16140 St Jean d’Angély 17400

Also Ark 79 events and Hope Association 3 Day Booksale in May and October.

Tel: 06 02 22 44 74

OPEN 6 .30- 9pm

...march 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

what’s COMING UP...

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

4 April - THEATRE TROUPE DE CHAIL perform three short plays at the Salle des Fêtes, Sainte-Soline starting at 8pm. For more information or to reserve tickets see the poster on page 7. 4 April - THE MOUNTBATTENS - THEIR LIVES AND LOVES. Prize winning and bestselling historian Andrew Lownie talks about his latest book. See article on page 17 for more information. 5 April - SPRING FAYRE AT CAFÉ PAUSE! With bar, stalls, Easter gifts and live music. 11am-5pm. See poster on page 10 for more information. 25 April - CELESTIAL VOICES SINGING GROUP directed by Janet Kelsey present JS Bach Magnificat in D and music by Fauré, Ravel, Gjeilo, Rutter and Hayes. Starts at 6pm in Saint Nicolas church, Civray.


Limalonges Aigre Theil Rabier

Tel: 05 45 71 70 91 FROM 7pm



Mon: Charroux Tues: Sauzé-Vaussais (main square) Weds: Chef Boutonne (near château) Thurs: Sauzé-Vaussais - Eve (main square) Fri: Ruffec (Baobab car park)

Fri: Genneton - Café de la Mairie 6.30 - 9pm Every Tuesday: Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes L'Embuscade 5.30 - 8pm

Tel: 06 37 53 56 20

Tel: 06 23 25 48 36

OPEN 6 - 8.30pm

Visit each website for further information or to confirm venue and dates The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 5

Getting Out & About Chez Christie’s MOTHER’S DAY (UK) is SUNDAY 22nd MARCH! Do you really feel that putting Thought into it Counts? Searching for that Perfect Prezzie to show how much you care? then look no further for:

EHEES INFORMATION WEEKEND There are no elephants yet 21 and 22 March, 10am-5pm

Lovely Gifts & Gorgeous Cards Delectable Home-Baking and Absorbing Books!

Guided visits: Saturday 21 March 10.30am (French) & 11.30am (English) 2.30pm (French) & 3.30pm (English)

Thousands of Books & Cards Online : AMAZON.CO.UK / SHOPS / CHRISTIESGENCAY

Giving Warm Welcomes since 2004 !

Sunday 22 March 10.30am (English) & 11.30am (French) 2.30pm (English) & 3.30pm (French) 5 Rétabout, St Nicolas Courbefy,

--and Please Note: we’ll be Closed from Tuesday 10th March

RE-OPENING - SATURDAY 21st MARCH (Just in time for Mother’s Day Cake & Gifts!)

87230 BUSSIÈRE GALANT, France GENÇAY (86) - behind the Mairie

For more information email:

Siret: 47876969800018

73 Salon des e

Vins Terroirs

20 March – French Language Day by Beryl Brennan

Did you know? • There are 300 million French speakers worldwide. • 88 States and governments make up the Organisation International of Francophonie (OIF). • It is the fifth language in the world (total number of speakers). • 132 million people are learning French. • It is the fourth language on the Internet.


27 28 29 Mars


Orangerie du Château

United Nations wanted to celebrate multilingualism, to promote the equal use of the six official languages across the Organisation and raise awareness about the history, culture and use of these languages. The specific date was chosen of 20 March 1970 when the OIF was created. It’s also the International Day of La Francophonie and is celebrated in various countries with competitions, festivals, literary meetings, art exhibitions and gastronomic.

THOUARS 79 105 Viticulteurs Gastronomie

2 2200 m couverts

French has numerous homophones. Here are some famous French tongue twisters incorporating some: Si mon tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton sera tondu. If my uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle will be shaved. Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse, sont-elles sèches? Archisèches. The archduchesses socks, are they dry? Very dry. As-tu vu le vert ver allant vers le verre en verre vert ? Did you see the green worm going towards the green glass glass? Ces six saucissons-secs-ci sont si secs qu’on ne sait si s’en sont. These six dried sausages are so dry that we don’t know if they are.


Entrée : 4 E

Verre et bec verseur offer ts


Suivez nos actualités en nous suivant sur

25 Bd Pierre Curie - 79101 Thouars

Mail :


THOUARS Tél. 05 49 68 14 22 Fax 05 49 66 51 04

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, March 2020

28&29 2020






Salon du Vin, de la Gastronomie et du Chocolat ENTRÉE



LE DÔME - CENTRE DE RENCONTRE Samedi 28 et Dimanche 29 mars de 10h à 19h


Imprimerie Prim’Atlantic - 05 49 05 50 37 - Ne pas jeter sur la voie publique

Au profit des Blouses Roses, de l’A.F.D.79 et des Œuvres Caritatives du Club

Happy 100th birthday Thomas Stanley Moss

Born 23 February 1920 in Colchester, Essex. He joined the Royal Navy at Chatham, Kent 1939. Met his wife, Vera when he was stationed at Plymouth. Was at Petty Officer Training at the same time as Prince Philip (before he married Princess Elizabeth). Before he retired from the Navy in 1961, Thomas was an instructor at HMS Shotley Training Centre in Suffolk. Thomas is our very own Sarah Berry’s grandfather.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 7


For a modest payment of 3€ including a personal tasting glass, which you keep as a souvenir. Why not come and join us for this fun and interesting event and take the opportunity to spend a pleasant few hours to taste and buy, a large variety of wine and food products. Enjoy the ambiance and pleasure of one of the great industries of France. This show, by its reputation, has become renowned regionally because we host national exhibitors from all over France. Each year the proceeds are donated to various charities, this year the main charity is the French Diabetic Association and Les Blouses Rose (Hospital Visitors) The Lions Club Val de Sèvre will be 47 years old this year and since it’s creation has supported many charities and worthwhile causes. We still have some founder members taking part in club events and last year we were pleased to welcome four new members to the club. The Lions Club Val de Sèvre operates according to the goals of the Lions Club International, with the Code: ‘FREEDOM AND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHERS ARE THE SAFETY OF OUR NATION’ and its motto ‘WE SERVE’. Lions have a dynamic history, founded in 1917 in America, now with 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members worldwide. Best known for fighting blindness, the lions help numerous other

Letter from Blighty

ary Febru

Dear Frankie Storm Ciara has blown over us leaving sodden (or flooded) ground and shredded trees behind. But now, after two or three days of calm, Storm Dennis advances on us, promising a miserable weekend with further gales and torrents. In between, Boris Johnson has reshuffled his Cabinet and caused a minor storm of his own in the process. Sajid Javid has resigned as Chancellor, having been offered a deal which he was bound to refuse, and has been replaced by one Rishi Sunak (who he?). The bone which stuck in Javid’s throat was the afterthought that he had to sack his special advisers and rely on a joint team shared with No.10. In short, a ‘power grab’, as some papers called it, by the Prime minister (or a certain Mr Cummings, perhaps). All this follows other recent control-freakery by No. 10 who tried unsuccessfully to divide the political press into ‘sheep’ (good) and ‘goats’ (bad) with the upshot that the whole herd walked out! Centralising power at No. 10 is fine when things are going well but not so good when things go wrong and the sun goes in (think Brexit, think HS2, think Social Care). In the wider world Donald Trump has escaped impeachment and now seems well placed to secure another four years as President later in the year (now there’s a ghastly thought). The Democrats are busy trying to identify a credible candidate to oppose him, but are currently making a poor fist of it with a 79-year-old with a recent heart attack as their front runner (just). Meanwhile, the Coronavirus scare dominates the world headlines and obscures the horrors of the war in Syria now in its ninth year, continuing civil war in Yemen, and famine threatened in East Africa by huge swarms of locusts. Various items in the press caught my eye this month (a) A trip to the cinema can be as good for your health as a light form of cardio exercise and can boost your heart and benefit memory and concentration

8 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

charities and local causes, making them the world’s largest service club organization. Lions members help with whatever is needed in their local community and contribute to volunteer efforts around the world. The Val de Sèvre Lions Club meets on the third Friday of each month in Niort. At present there are 21 members (including two English members) who all have great fun organizing mars the wine fair and other & 2020 events throughout the year, Au profit des wives and partners are also Blous Roses, involved as much as they de l’A.F.Des.79 et des want to be. Visit the Lions Œuvres Caritatives du Vin, de la Club Stand at the Salon du du Club Gastronomie Vin for more information. If you are looking for et du Chocolat EME community involvement ENTRÉE 3€ new members are very NIORT NORON LE DÔME - CENTRE DE RENCONTRE welcome.

28 29





We hope to see you all at our 14th Salon du Vin, to enjoy great wines and produce. Why not make a day of it and take lunch in the onsite restaurant,or buy snacks from some of the stands.



Samedi 28 et Dimanche 29 mars de 10h à 19h

37 - Ne pas jeter sur la voie publique

e are pleased to invite you to visit the 14 Salon du Vin (Wine Fair) to be held at the exhibition centre in Niort organized by the Lions Club Val de Sèvre. This year there will be over 100 Exhibitors, wine and champagne producers, various food and chocolate stands.


Imprimerie Prim’Atlantic - 05 49 05 50



by Paul Woods

For more information go to: Or contact Paul Woods on tel: 06 09 68 02 50 (couch potatoes rejoice!); (b) Britons spent an average of 2.4 hours a day on their mobile phones last year, a 15% rise on two years ago; (c) Yoshi, a loggerhead turtle aged about 25, was released two years ago off Cape Point in the Atlantic but is now swimming off Australia, some 22,000 miles away; (d) Tea consumption in this country has crashed, with coffee, herbal infusions (yuk) and fizzy drinks edging out the traditional cuppa; (e) Radio 4’s Today programme won back more than 500,000 listeners during the month after John Humphrys stood down. To be fair, the increase may have been due to a busy news period encompassing both Brexit and the general election. Those who have died this month include Derek Fowlds (aged 82) who was famous for his role as Bernard Woolley, in Yes Minister and ‘Mr Derek’ to Basil Brush. Terry Jones (aged 77) comic, writer, film director, and historian. Most famous for his leading part in the Monty Python shows and films and particularly for his line in the Life of Brian, “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”. Seamus Mallon (83), tenacious Northern Ireland politician whose famous negotiating skills helped to secure the Good Friday Agreement. Nicholas Parsons (aged 96), actor and broadcaster known for presenting Sale of the Century and Just a Minute, of which he presented more than 900 programmes between 1967 and last year when he finally had to give it up. Kirk Douglas (aged 103), best known for his portrayal of Spartacus in the film of that name (the ‘I am Spartacus’ scene must be one of the best known in the whole of cinematography history). And, finally, something a bit lighter. Re Brexit, what terms would be used if other countries leave the EU. Suggestions include Finland Finnished; Netherlands - Nethermind; and Lithuania - Lith-away-nia. But the last word goes to the late Dorothy Parker, with her acerbic American wit who famously said, “The first thing I do in the morning is to brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” And, after a friend had given birth, “Good work, Mary. We all knew you had it in you”. Yours Johnny

Local Elections How it works

by Sue Burgess


n 15 and 22 March 2020, the French go and vote (retourner aux urnes). Unfortunately because of Brexit on the 31 January 2020, British citizens are no longer EU citizens and lost their right to vote (droit de vote) and to stand (se présenter) in the local elections (éléctions municipales). Contrary to popular belief (contrairement à une idée reçue), the voters (les électeurs) do not directly elect the mayor (le maire) of their commune. They elect the members of the town council (les membres du conseil municipal), who then choose the mayor and his deputy mayors (ses adjoints). The number of councillors (le nombre de conseillers municipaux) depends on the size of the commune. There are seven seats (sept sièges) in small communes and up to 69 in the communes with over 300,000 and even more in Paris, Lyon and Marseille where the method of voting (le scrutin) is different. Since 2014, in communes with more than 1,000 inhabitants, town councillors have been elected by a proportional election (scrutin proportionnel) with a majority (prime majoritaire). Each list (chaque liste) must present a number of candidates (candidats) equal to the number of seats (nombre de sièges). The list must represent an equal number of men and women. First Round (premier tour) - Sometimes the result is known after the first round. A list must have an absolute majority (la majorité absolue) of the votes expressed (suffrages exprimés). But that number of votes must also be more than 25% of the number of people on the electoral register (liste électorale). Second round (deuxième tour) - if no list has a majority after the first round, a second round is organised. Only lists that have received 10% are allowed to take part in the second round. After the second round the list that comes first is considered to be the majority and gets half the number of seats. The remaining seats are divided proportionally (la répartition des sièges restants s’effectue à la proportionnelle). In communes with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, the majority vote (le scrutin majoritaire) is the rule. The voters (les électeurs) can cross out (rayer) names or mix and match (panacher), that is to say add names from one list to another. When the votes are counted (lors du dépouillement), it is the number of votes obtained by each candidate that counts.

Vocabulaire / Vocabulary: voter............................................. to vote voter à bulletin secret.................. to vote by secret ballot voter à droite / à gauche............. to vote right/left wing voter par procuration .................. vote by proxy être appelé aux urnes .................

to be called to the polls

le taux d’abstention..................... abstention rate vote blanc ..................................

blank ballet paper

le scrutin..................................... polls, ballot, voting le mode de scrutin....................... voting system scrutin à deux tours .................... two round electoral system scrutin proportionnel................... proportional representation scrutin uninominal ..................... first-past-the-post system The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 9

Our Friend in the North

by Justin Wescombe


long, long time ago, the only thing that was growing faster than reckless over-confidence was the number of management books that swelled the shelves of many book stores. This was pre-Amazon days. Most were absolute trite but a few stuck out and one especially, that I read a number of times The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he tried to identify how and why a product makes the breakthrough to become part of everyday life. Most of the books and those heady days are long gone but I did think about that book as I sat on the train, heading home after watching the France vs England rugby match. Irrespective of where I live, or for how long, I have always supported England; it was second nature. However, just before the last World Cup, as I sat in the square with a glass of wine, I decided enough was enough. France is now my home and as such I was going to start supporting France. I was increasingly uncomfortable supporting an England team that had expectation of winnings; I was too used to the heartache of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. As I sat and thought about my decision, I tried a few feeble “Allez les Bleus” but they sounded more like the murblings of a drunk, not an auspicious start. Last Sunday was my first time out in my new colours. It was strange, yet fun, to support a new team and point out to the ref all the sins of the England team which, to date, I had gleefully ignored. Missed tackles, dropped balls and handling errors became a reason to cheer and not throw my head into my hands with despair. As the game progressed, it became easier and easier to cheer on Les Bleus. The glances of those around me made it obvious that my neighbours realised that I didn’t have a clue how to sing La Marseille. I will know it next time and sing loudly. What was my tipping point? When did I start to feel more at home in France than anywhere else? I do feel at home; it is my home. I still butcher the language but when I say I am going home I mean here, Saumur and nowhere else. I get that slight stupid grin of recognition on my face when I see the château on the horizon as I return from any overseas trip. Once I am home and have dumped my stuff, I have to go for a coffee just to make sure nothing has changed in the square, followed by a quick walk by the river to check the water level. I have become very parochial. What was my tipping point? Was it the moment that people waved as I walked past, or stopped to have a chat? The moment the stall holder reached for my usual order and I didn’t have to ask, or was it the moment when I knew that the patron of the new restaurant once owned that other place along the road? All of these were important. However, there is one moment I remember clearly, again in the square, when the tensions of the past that had suffocated my spirit fell away and I felt I could just breathe easily, drop my shoulders and relax. It was then that the sense of belonging which is oh so important enveloped me. What was your tipping point? To read Justin’s blog go to 10 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020


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

Route des Rois d’Angleterre 3


ollowing the route of the Thouet river, the next river crossing is at Montreuil-Bellay where the castle sits on a hill dominating the town. During the medieval period it covered an area of 4km2 and in 1025 it was seized by a Plantagenet supporter, Foulques Nerra, an early count of Poitou. It is a fine example of its time with 600 metres of wall and 13 flanking towers, and in 1822 went into private ownership and a major refurbishment campaign. Saumur was the next strategic river crossing at the confluence of the Thouet and River Loire. Overlooking the Loire, perched on a chalk cliff and visible for miles around, the castle was originally constructed in the 10th century as a fortified stronghold against Norman attacks. In 1026 it also came into the hands of Foulques Nerra. The original castle was destroyed in 1067 and rebuilt by Henry II in the 12th century. During his reign, Henry and Eleanor, as well as their sons Richard and John, visited Saumur and in 1188 Henry spent the last Christmas of his life at the castle. In 1203 King Philip Augustus of France sailed up the Loire from Anjou, seized the castle and took control from King John. Chinon sits at the meeting point of the provinces of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine, and was another important defensive location sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Vienne river. The first castle on the site was built in the 10th century and in 1044 it was taken over by the Counts of Anjou. In 1154 Henry II, King of England and Count of Anjou took it over as his main residence in France and it served as his and his wife, Eleanor’s, home until 1189 when Henry died of an ulcer after the betrayal of his son Richard. Most of the standing structure today can be attributed to him. During much of the period of her marriage to Henry II, Eleanor played a prominent part in government and, as her relationship with Henry was quite stormy, she was accused of encouraging her son Young Henry to rebel against his father and seize the English throne. For this, Henry had her arrested and imprisoned for treason. When Henry II died in 1189 and Richard succeeded him as king, one of his first acts was to free his mother from prison

by Beryl Brennan

and she became his regent whilst he went to fight in the Crusades. Following his death in 1199, she saw John crowned king and was his envoy in France. During her life, she was one of the most powerful and influential figures in the Middle Ages. So what happened to the Angevin Empire, which seemed so powerful with the kings of England supported by many of the French counts and barons? King John lost the Duchy of Normandy and most of his other French lands to King Philip II of France in the Anglo-French War following the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. In 1216 he died of dysentery in Newark, having lost most of the lands he inherited and was buried, not with his parents and brother Richard in Fontevraud, but in Worcester Cathedral. His son Henry succeeded him but as he was only nine at the time and too young to rule, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and husband of John’s daughter Eleanor, was appointed as regent to make decisions on his behalf until Henry came of age. As King Henry III he was King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine, inheriting the duchy of Guyenne as the last remaining piece of the Angevin Empire. After John’s death, his wife Isabelle of Angoulême married Hugh X of Lusignan. Most of the French barons were by now swearing allegiance to Louis IX of France. Along with his brother, Alphonse of Poitiers, in 1242 the Battle of Taillebourg was fought at the bridge over the Charente river near the city of Saintes. With 60,000 knights and infantrymen supporting King Louis IX and only 28,600 knights, crossbowmen and infantry on the rebel side, this was a decisive victory for the French and it brought to an end Henry’s hopes of restoring the Angevin Empire lost under his father King John. For nearly 100 years large sections of France formed part of the Angevin empire of the House of Plantagenet from Henry II to John I, and many of the structures built by them remain today. At a time when many of us feel abandoned by the current government of our country of birth, one can take comfort in knowing that we live in what was once part of the British Empire. The castle at Montreuil-Bellay © wikicommons/Lieven Smits

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 11

The Pyrenees - by the sea


by Howard Needs

y wife and I use the TGV quite a lot to visit family, and each time we are on the platform in Paris, we are confronted with names of far-off destinations of which we have no knowledge, just a romantic imagining. This prompted us to make a couple of trips down into the area called French Basque country, and in particular the corner by the sea, just to find out what it was all about. The area was part of the old Kingdom of Navarre, which extended on both sides of the Pyrenees. The southern section was conquered by the Spanish in 1512, and the northern part remained independent until 1589, when it joined the Kingdom of France. This explains the puzzling reference that one sometimes finds in French literature ‘of France and Navarre’. For the first trip, based around Saint-Jean-de-Luz, we ended up using the car - necessary because we wanted to get out into the mountains and take the little cogged mountain railway going up to La Rhune. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a delight: a well-maintained old town (with a rail station close by), cosy restaurants, and a wonderful beach on a protected bay. Not so much to see in the way of churches and museums, but walking the old shopping streets and the promenade more than made up for that. La Rhune, which had been recommended to us, met our expectations, with its narrow-gauge pinion railway to the top. La Rhune, which is a modern French name, is the first summit on the western end of the Pyrenees and thus right on the SpanishFrench border, which runs from summit to summit. It is covered in Neolithic remains, was a sacred place in Basque mythology and later gained the reputation for being a meeting place for witches. The railway, which dates from the early 1900s, runs a regular service to the top (advanced reservation is advised). Once there, we found, as you might expect, diverse wind-swept and weatherworn buildings belonging to a past era of tourism, as well as the usual more modern, small restaurants and snack bars – although not so many as to obscure the views, which were splendid. Wild ponies and cattle roamed freely, and vultures soared in the sky. The rest of this short car trip to the Basque country was dominated by rain, causing us to seek out châteaux, caves and Bastide towns, where we could expect some shelter. The caves were of particular interest to us. Les Grottes d'Isturitz, d'Oxocelhaya and d'Erberua are very close to each other and have evidence of human occupation dating back 80,000 years, to the Mousterian. The cave paintings and the remains of flutes and harpoons date to the Magdalenian (35,000-10,000 years ago). Les Grottes de Sara have also seen human habitation and have an underground lake; these days bats and amphibians find their home there.

12 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

We returned from this trip not by motorway but along the coast, crossing the Gironde by car ferry at the mouth of the estuary. We made a last tourist stop in Talmond, hoping to visit the Romanesque church, but as was the case the previous two times we’ve tried to see it, it was closed. For the second trip into the Basque country, we did use the TGV, from Poitiers to Bayonne - a very easy run. Luckily the weather was much warmer this time and this contributed immeasurably to the pleasure experienced in the towns. Bayonne is a lovely town, and we walked a lot within the centre and used it as a base for further exploration of the four towns in that corner of the French Basque country, using buses and local trains to get around. This proved practical and easy, for the most part. But, as we found out, if a train is cancelled in the evening, you have to act quickly to find an alternative to get back to your hotel 20km away. We found a perfectly good bus service running in parallel to the train, and so the panic was quickly over. Biarritz, which we had read so much about and been told is a major ‘must-see’, was a disappointment from our perspective. We did not find any old town, and the major impression retained was one of wealth - a major resort, yes, but no real heart. It seemed very dignified, and it definitely caters for the more well-off visitor. The Grand Plage was not as long as its name might suggest, and certainly not as extensive as the beach of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. However, walking south along the promenade and around the headland, Rocher de la Vierge, we found a long, extensive and more rustic beach. Hendaye was again different. The main station is a long distance from the sea, but we decided it was walkable. Later, we found a small station close to the end of the beach promenade for our return. Hendaye also has an old town, with a lot of the activity centred on leisure sailing. Parking is expensive and not easy to find. Friends had recommended we visit Hondarribia, the Spanish town on the other side of the estuary, which we did, using the foot passenger ferry to cross. However, continuous rain took all pleasure from the visit. We did walk all the touristy, attractive parts but eventually had to take refuge in a restaurant and call it a day. As soon as we were back in France, the weather cleared up, and we had an enjoyable afternoon wandering round Hendaye and its plage.

View from the Vendée by Karen Taylor

‘Rain, rain go away, come back another day’. And unfortunately it has, ever since October it would seem! I think everyone’s fed up with this wet weather, so I was not amused when I heard the expression les giboulées de mars the other day; what, we have to endure yet another month of rain? Let’s just hope that the British April showers stay north of the Channel next month! I’m trying to stay positive though and think of all the advantages that this wet weather brings with it… For a start, my lawn has never looked greener. It’s impossible to mow now of course, because it never gets the chance to dry out, but it certainly looks better than the patchy brown stuff we had to put up with in the summer. And our two Labradors are ecstatic that their local park has suddenly developed a lake! Who needs to go down to the beach when you have your very own sea on the doorstep? And, what else? Well, our new auvent above the entrance door has been worth its weight in gold this winter - no more soggy shopping whilst I fumble for my keys. And…well, that’s it really, I think we’re all looking forward to an early spring! So is this a good time to admit that I’m actually writing this column from the depths of southern Spain? We’re lucky enough to have a campervan, so we packed ourselves, the dogs and our bikes into the van at the beginning of February and headed south for the month. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in France and would never move anywhere else, but there’s only so much rain I can take… So perhaps I should call this month’s offering ‘View from Valencia’!

At least the dogs are enjoying this wet weather!

Harbour Saint-Jean-de-Luz (main picture, left page). Hendaye church - note the three levels of balconies (this page, top), La Rhune cogged railway (middle) and Hondarribia old town (bottom) All photos attributed to Howard Needs.

Some interesting rain facts to pour over: • On Venus, and other moons and planets, rain is made of sulfuric acid or methane. • Rain is not actually shaped like a teardrop. They are more like a hamburger bun. • Very small raindrops can take as long as seven minutes to reach the ground. • It may be covered with ice, but Antarctica gets only 6.5 inches of rain or snow per year, making it the continent with the lowest annual rainfall. • Under specific conditions, sometimes rain can fall but never touch Earth. This occurs when rain falling from a cloud evaporates as it draws closer to the Earth’s surface. Karen runs a gîte business near the Vendée coast at:

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 13



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.

Interested in playing walking football around the Dampierre sur Boutonne area? We really need more players of any level (and age) to join us for fun, competition and above all, the health benefits! Call Ted Sellwood on or email bigtsellwood@

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.

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

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. MERIDIEN GREEN ASSOCIATION We are a cross cultural association who aim for closer integration of the inhabitants of St Coutant 79120 and surrounding areas. Free weekly language classes on Monday evenings and Tuesday afternoons. For all our events visit

Tai Chi Classes - Exercise for both body and mind (and memory) for everyone. Classes are held in Bressuire on Mondays at 7.30pm and also in Le Breuil Barret on Wednesdays at 3pm. Call Terry on 05 49 65 60 34, email or see


We are a Franglais group in Montournais, 85700. We need some more English people! If you would like to try us out, please ring or email me, Penny Homewood, on 02 51 63 31 21 or

AL-ANON Support Group


A vibrant group based in Vasles (79340) offering quality theatre productions. New members always welcome. Contact, find us on Facebook or email:

Do you wish the Drinking Would Stop? Are you troubled by someone’s drinking? If so we can help. There is now an English-speaking Al-Anon meeting every Wednesday @ 2.30pm in the meeting room behind Civray Mairie. Just turn up or ring Angela on 05 49 87 79 09. 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: CLE (Charente Limousine Exchange). We organise trips exploring the region, lunches, quizzes and boules games for some light hearted fun. Forums on French tax and other relevant issues provide crucial membership support. President: Dave Brown 05 49 87 05 85 or


If so, join a group of like-minded friendly modellers who meet on a monthly basis to visit member’s layouts and swap information. If you are interested please contact Gerry Riley for more information on 05 49 63 34 01. Get Together is an association for English speakers of all nationalities. We have social gatherings, lunch & wine club, quizzes, walks, meetings for all manner of hobbies and much more. Contact Julia Murray for details. Email: Tel. 05 49 07 70 69


Meets every 2nd & 4th Wednesday of each month at Coulonges-sur-l’Autize. For when, where, how and why of practical gardening contact Janette by email: or call: 05 49 75 50 06.

Next month Association Violet will be sharing information about planned events for 2020 (Spring - sponsored walk at Pescalis, Summer - Garden Party at Puy-Hardy, Autumn - big fundraising event in Saint-Pardoux). 14 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020


A British style band, who meet each Tuesday at 8pm, at the Salle de la Cendille, Limalonges (just 1km from the N10). All levels welcome. Call Penny on 06 38 78 99 92 or visit our website 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: by John Blair

On the 9 March we have our Annual General Meeting at the Café des Belles Fleurs at 6.30pm. Four of the committee are standing down this year so on behalf of the membership our thanks go to Andrea Cornwall - President, Andrew Sanders Treasurer, Dave West and Malcolm Daniels for all their hard work over the past years. •

We are currently reading many scripts searching for a play that we feel would match the talent we have available. Perhaps you have a suggestion? • The Keynotes Choir and our Scottish dancing group are working hard for our tour of the Île d’Oléron in June. • The Art Scene are now in a new location, opposite the SuperU petrol station in Secondigny, where we meet every Friday and some of our members are also meeting on a Wednesday morning, at café Clavé (opposite the mairie). • A new ‘unofficial’ group of walkers has recently been setup and they intend to meet every two weeks. So, lots of activities going on, if you’re interested in joining us send me an email:

Take a Break Across 1. Easy and not involved or complicated (6) 4. Protect against a challenge or attack (6) 8. In the southern hemisphere, the second month of spring (5) 9. Within the shortest distance (7) 10. A colour bearing the least resemblance to white (5) 11. The capital city of Kenya (7) 12. Expel from a community or group; banish (9) 15. Italian sports car manufacturer (7) 16. Customary practice; normal (5) 17. A two-wheeled vehicle (7) 18. Gymnastics apparatus on which both men and women perform(5) 19. A colour intermediate between red and blue (6) 20. Professional killer who uses a gun(6)

Down 2. Pierce with a sharp stake or point (6) 3. The eldest daughter of a British sovereign (8-5) 5. Difficult to burn (4-9) 6. A battle in 1645 that settled the outcome of the first English Civil War (6) 7. Not lived in; empty (11) 13. A zodiacal constellation between Taurus and Cancer (6) 14. Saffron-flavoured dish made of rice with shellfish and chicken (6)

With thanks to Rob Berry

DSM Toughie Crossword Across 1. Young girl going after many in group. (5) 4. Ruby confused about republic’s money for training? (7) 8. European qualification starts to boost academic college? (3) 9. Test meant to re-establish a declaration of the situation? (9) 10. Greek prophet no-one believed, despite scars, and a condition? (9) 12. Pour scorn upon the ending of displayed graffiti representations. (3) 13. Randy boy I’ve no fancy to see on the piano? (5, 3, 5) 15. Feel a yearning to cover an old song? (3) 16. Chattels I bring round to track and field events? (9) 17. Studies of unfinished Indian meal I had with copper near American city? (9) With thanks to M.Morris 20. Come the hour, cometh the man? (3) 21. Support finishing with runner having no aspiration? (7) 22. Cut off breather? (5)

Down 1. Young animal in charge of leading last elephants into cell? (7) 2. Cares about having cosy edition of handbag, for example? (9) 3. Doubts about being sheltered by cannabis user? (3) 4. Preparing rough beds on A1 in temporary accommodation? (8-5) 5. Have a second look at French queen protecting short test? (9) 6. Biggles, for example, at the heart of running events? (3) 7. In the end, only some pungent alkali substances are abominable? (5) 11. It won’t get this if it becomes more difficult? (3, 6) 12. Told lie to make up for being a fictional animal lover? (9) 14. Only ash makes a covering, except for the eyes? (7) 15. Junior tories found in shelter of French college. (5) 18. Get this if you want to throw something away? (3) 19. White garment material becoming a cover. (3)

Brain Gym

Q1: What can you hold in your left hand but not in your right? Q2: What can’t be put in a saucepan? Q3: Which English word retains the same pronunciation, even after you take away four of its five letters? Q4: I have cities but no houses. I have mountains but no trees. I have water but no fish. What am I? Q5: A woman shoots her husband, then holds him underwater for five minutes. Next, she hangs him. Right after, they enjoy a lovely dinner. Explain. Q6: There are 30 cows in a field, and 28 chickens. How many didn’t?

Q7: Identify the following five towns in Deux-Sèvres and the surrounding areas from the anagrams: a) Hyena Trap b) Loco Nu c) Cube Heft Noon d) Angelica Eat Hair e) Rebel Culls Eels Q8: Can you work out the well known phrase or saying from the visual clues? a.



wear mholey

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 15

Answers on P.29 and our website:

DSM Easy Crossword

Hobbies Taking a break

YOUR Book Reviews

by Alison Morton

Warm thanks go to Vronni Ward for sharing her book review with us.


riting scenes in your story can be exciting, draining, even energising. And once you have set up your characters, they can start developing their own story lines. Your narrative is galloping along and your story is flying.

If you’d like to send us a book review, please email it to:


1. A break within a chapter – A full line space gives a visual signal that the scene has ended or changed location/time/lead character. It’s like jump-cut in a film where you can take out irrelevant bits (e.g. a mundane journey or task, or meal break) and continue the story without dropping the pace. Unless, of course these actions are necessary to the story. But do give a link, however tenuous, from the end of one scene across the bridge of the break line to introduce the next scene so you don’t lose the reader.

This book has gone mega global. It has won almost every prize there is; Man Booker, Pulitzer, the US National Book Award and others. It was placed on Obama’s summer reading list and has been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s and Radio 4 bookclubs. It has been published in 40 languages. Does it live up to these accolades? Sure, yes, in bucket loads. Everyone should read this book. Films like 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained have invaded our visual senses, whilst The Underground Railway invades our hearts and souls.

2. New chapter - Sagas, historical novels and space operas will generally have longer chapters than romance and thrillers. Tom Clancy seems to break this rule in his thrillers, but he has a lot of scene breaks within his chapters. I keep my chapters short, generally five to eight pages, approximately 2,000 to 3,200 words, depending on the narrative. Breaking for a new chapter allows the writer to finish on a revelation/cliffhanger/surprise and then drop into the middle of an entirely separate scene in the next chapter which pushes the story forward. Again, adding a link where the same object, phrase, weather or location is at the beginning of the next chapter but in a different context can be used here to great effect.

The story is told through Cora, a young slave. She describes living on a plantation and not only her interaction with her white owners but also with the other slaves. She recounts her ancestry and her escape from a plantation in Georgia. Beautifully and painfully written, it combines social history, oppression, freedom and a search for justice. Whitehead, a Harvard scholar, ploughed through 2,300 first person oral accounts of slavery collected in the 1930s - when the last survivors of slavery were in their 90s. He also uses actual advertisements in the novel that offer rewards for the capture of runaways… in many ways these adverts are the most painful. No wonder it comes across as being so authentic and shocking.

I sometimes start a new chapter in the middle of a conversation and then reveal where we are and what’s happening; this keeps the momentum up especially in a thriller. Having said that, sometimes the beginning of a new chapter is a perfect place to put a little background detail as long as it contributes to the story and isn’t an info-dump.

The book resonates today: the police killings of unarmed black men and boys, the stop-and-frisk policies that often target minorities, and the anti-immigrant language used by politicians to ramp up prejudice and fear. It places an obligation on every one of us to object to all prejudice and injustice – supporting such causes as Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement.

3. Parts - If you have quite distinct parts of a story, then you can split the novel into parts. These big separators are often used to cover intervening periods, or to show that one phase of a person’s life has finished and they’re moving on to something or somewhere else. Classically, parts are three, like acts in a play, but can be any number, though five or six is probably the maximum.

This is a story essential to our understanding of our past and present. A book you will never forget. by Vronni Ward

But at times you the writer, your characters and the readers need to take a break. So how and what?

4. Prologues and epilogues - Think whether or not you really need these as they can appear like dangly bits with no definite purpose. Could the information in the prologue be dripped into the story instead? Sometimes a hint of a deep buried secret or an event in a much earlier period of time is fine in a short prologue if it would seem out of place elsewhere in the novel, but it’s usually more effective if revealed at a critical point within the story. And finally, could the epilogue be integrated into the last chapter as a second resolution or an aftermath?

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 last September. 16 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Charity Quilt

by Sandra Lane


he ladies of our patchwork group, Pause for Patchwork, spent many months making this quilt for our annual raffle. The draw was held in December at our Christmas lunch. The lucky winner was Hazel Murphy. The photograph shows the quilt in situ. This year all proceeds are being donated to Médicins Sans Frontières. We are delighted to tell you that we raised 1000€. Over the last few years we have managed to increase the money raised and were thrilled with this year’s total. A special thanks must go to all the ladies that helped make the quilt and to those who sold raffle tickets.

An invitation to hear Andrew Lownie talk about his latest biography - The Mountbattens: Their by Kate Rose lives and loves


he Charroux litfest in partnership with Freshly Press, are delighted to invite you to a talk by the prize-winning and bestselling historian, Andrew Lownie on Saturday 4 April 2020, in the Salle des Fêtes, Tusson. Andrew will present his recent biography - The Mountbattens: Their Lives and loves. Drawing on four years of research around the world, The Mountbattens provides a fresh and revealing portrait of the glamorous couple behind the modern royal family. Published in 2019 to mark the 40th anniversary of Lord Mountbatten’s assassination by the IRA, The Mountbattens is a nuanced portrayal of two remarkable people and their complex marriage. From British high society and the South of France to the battlefields of Burma and the Viceroy’s House in India, this is a rich and filmic story whose characters include all the key figures of the Second World War from Churchill and Montgomery to Roosevelt and Eisenhower as well as the Duke of Windsor, George VI, the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Grace Kelly and Merle Oberon. Andrew Lownie was educated at Magdalene College Cambrdige, where he was Dunster History Prizeman and president of the Union, before taking a masters and doctorate at Edinburgh University. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society and former visiting fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, he has run his own literary agency since 1988. A trustee of the Campaign for Freedom of Information and president of The Biographers Club, he has written for The Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Spectator and Guardian and formerly served in the Royal Naval Reserve. His previous books include acclaimed lives of the writer John Buchan and the spy Guy Burgess.


Beekeeping Adventures

by Amanda and Kevin Baughen

You know when your bees have been ‘tanged’! Winter is almost behind us, so we’re now looking forward to the challenges of the new beekeeping season. In no time at all the bees will be flying and, if all goes well, swarming. Despite careful checks and the utmost vigilance, everyone who has ever kept bees will have, at some point, missed a swarm. The noise bees make when swarming is incredible and unmistakeable, a large thrumming dark cloud, growing bigger and bigger as more bees leave the hive. Then they’re off, landing several minutes later in a cluster, a ‘holding stage’, before they leave for their new home. We’re always ready with our ‘swarm kit’ to go and collect bees when people call to tell us about a sighting. Collecting them often entails climbing ladders as swarm clusters can be found in any number of places, usually high up and awkward to get at. That’s why we’re now keen to try out the centuries-old practice of ‘tanging’ bees while they’re swarming and before they cluster. No, it’s not feeding the bees a sugary orange drink! Standing close to the cloud of bees, the beekeeper takes a metal pot or pan and bangs it repeatedly and loudly. Within a short space of time the bees supposedly either go back into the original hive if close by, or drop from the sky and cluster in a low easily accessible place so that the beekeeper can claim them. The noise also alerts people to the fact that bees are swarming, and also tells landowners that a beekeeper is merely chasing bees and therefore potentially trespassing for a good reason. Allegedly. Studies and experiments have been carried out across the world with varying results, although in 2013 The Journal of Apicultural Research stated that it does not work. However, there are several YouTube videos showing beekeepers successfully coaxing bees from the air down into boxes by banging tins. The theory is that the swarming bees will pick up on the vibrations which either tell them there’s a hollow space nearby, a likely new home, or that there is distant thunder and so they need to find shelter quickly. It’s reasonable to believe that the vibrations do disrupt swarms and those who’ve had success with this method used items that produce a low smooth tone, with a constant rhythmic banging being the key factor. But remember, don’t bang without chatting to a beekeeper first.

Saturday 4 April 2020 at 10.30am-12 noon or 2pm-3.30pm. Salle des Fêtes - Commune de Tusson, Grande Rue, 16140 Tusson, Poitou Charentes, France. 15€ per person (includes tea and coffee). Possibility for large group booking reductions. Both talks will be in the English language Cash bar from 12 noon - 2pm (wines/soft drinks only) A home-made soup and bread lunch available from 12.30pm1.30pm, no booking required. Book Shop - Andrew Lownie will be available to sign books during the lunchtime break and following the afternoon talk. In addition, there will be a small bookshop. Local Authors will be promoting their latest works and will be available to chat to you during the breaks. To book your place please contact Kate at charrouxlitfest@ providing your contact details, with names of all delegates wishing to attend.

The Big Tang Theory

If you’re interested in keeping bees, why not attend one of our afternoon taster sessions? All dates are available on our website and of course, if you see a swarm, please call us on 05 45 71 22 90 - 13 Bees, Confolens The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 17

Home & Garden

Love your


by Greenfingers

Spring Cleaning March bustles in on windy feet and sweeps my doorstep and my street; She washes and cleans with pounding rains, scrubbing the earth of winter stains. She shakes the grime from carpet green, til’ naught but fresh new blades are seen. Then, house in order, all neat as a pin, she ushers gentle springtime in. Ruth Steiner


arch is a wonderful month of preparation and anticipation, and all our expectations will be that our work in the garden and greenhouse will be fulfilled by colourful pots, beautiful flowerbeds and tasty vegetables. Seed sowing is the first step and although the temperatures may not support sowing directly into soil, seeds do very well, sown in pots, trays or cells and kept in greenhouses, cold frames or on window sills until germination is complete. Protection will probably be needed from strong winds and perhaps frosts. March is the month when we can devote time and energy to digging, cutting, pruning and sowing. The frisson of anticipation is with me now….I feel as if I’ve been pent-up for weeks because of bad weather, and the minor sorties I’ve been able to make outside to feed birds, cut back shrubs and prune roses, have not been as satisfactory as being able to spend a whole day outside, really getting ‘stuck in’ to some decent gardening! It’ll be hard to control the excitement and the most difficult decision will be to decide what to do first!

18 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Now is the time to: • Cut down any remaining growth on perennials and grasses, not tackled before. Take care not to damage new shoots. With penstemons and perovskia, cut just above buds that are appearing low on the plant. Put in plant supports before new growth becomes too big, it’s much more difficult to do it later. • Divide summer flowering perennials such as hostas, astrantia and hemerocallis as new growth begins. Hostas particularly are easy to divide. Knock the plant out of its pot or carefully remove it from the soil. Using an old bread/kitchen knife, just cut it into smaller sections. Pot these up and grow on in a sheltered spot and then plant out or transfer to a larger pot. • Plant shrubs now as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. Place shrubs into buckets of water and soak thoroughly. Dig a big enough hole to be able to add organic matter, place the root-ball of the shrub on top, teasing out and trimming roots first. Trimming back roots encourages new stronger ones to be produced. Add mycorrhizal fungi to the roots and backfill the hole, firming the soil as you do so. Add a good thick layer of garden compost if you have it, or shop bought if you haven’t and mulch with bark or your usual mulching material. Water well. Planting a selection of shrubs will ensure flowers or interest throughout the year. Hamamelis, camellias and sarcococca give good colours in the winter; chaenomeles and viburnum give blossom in early spring with weigela and philadelphus flowering a little later. • Complete pruning of hybrid tea and floribunda roses. Remove thin, weedy stems and any that are damaged or dead. Prune out any stems growing towards the centre of the bush, then cut down all the other stems to about three buds from their base, always cutting above an outward facing bud. • Prune last season’s growth of hydrangea to the lowest pair of strong buds. Shorten stems of buddleia to within two or three pairs of healthy looking buds. The plant flowers on new wood. • Pruning now encourages new vigorous growth but sometimes we can feel anxious about doing it. Keep it simple and just prune back to a side-shoot or a leaf bud. As shrubs and plants generally age, they produce fewer flowers, higher up on the branches or stems. A situation can arise where one flower is all that is produced at the top of an overgrown, straggly rose for example. Pruning will encourage more vigorous growth which produces more blooms. Late flowering clematis particularly benefit from this procedure. Pruning back shrubs such as elder, cornus and willow will ensure new fresh shoots and larger flowers. • Move any evergreen shrubs and plant evergreen hedging now.

• •

• • •

• •

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Add lots of garden compost or well-rotted manure to beds and borders to improve soil quality and aid moisture retention. Feed hydrangeas with special feed which will keep their flowers blue. There is a tendency for blooms to become pinker in colour, when the soil has lost some of its acidity and feeding with the appropriate food will keep the plant healthy and the colour true. Start canna rhizomes into growth in pots of multipurpose compost, leaving young shoots exposed. Water lightly and place in a warm greenhouse or cold frame. Prune and repot overwintered pelargoniums and tender osteospermum. Deadhead early flowering spring bulbs as the flowers fade, making sure to remove the seed pods too. Leave any green foliage as this will produce sugars for the plant, which feed the bulb ready for planting next year. Take basal cuttings from perennials. New growth appears at the base of the mature plant in many herbaceous perennials. Choose shoots that look healthy, vigorous and are medium sized. Using a sharp knife cut through the stem as close to the base of the plant as possible. If you are taking cuttings from several plants, it is best to carry a plastic bag with you to pop the cuttings into straight away, this prevents wilting. Remove leaves from the lower half of the stem and reduce the leaf area by cutting all the leaves in half. Dip the end of the cutting into rooting hormone if you use it, but cuttings can just be popped straight into small pots of compost. Water well and leave in the greenhouse, cold frame or on a sunny window sill. Placing a clear plastic bag over the pot can help with germination, but keep an eye out for mould development. Small pots can be covered with empty jam jars or redundant tumblers to avoid the use of plastic. Newly germinated seedlings need lots of light, but not direct sunlight. Only water them when the compost is dry. Seedlings need space to develop properly, so prick out any weak looking specimens or any that are touching each other. Keep an eye out for aphids that will breed when temperatures warm up, especially in greenhouses. Spray with soapy water and wipe them off if you discover them. Begonia tubers can be brought into growth now. Fill a seed tray with compost and press the tubers into it, the top of the tuber should be just under the surface. Water well and put into a warm place. Prune hardy fuchsias at the end of the month. Wait for signs of new basal growth and trim stems back to this. If there is no sign of new growth, with a sharp knife, make a small scratch in a stem and you should be able to see green beneath the surface. This means that the plant is still living and you can prune it later! Sow hardy annuals now. These will germinate at low temperatures so can be sown where they are to flower. Mark the place by sprinkling with sand. Harden off veg that have been grown in a cold frame.

• • • •

If you haven’t bought seed potatoes yet, now is the time. There are lots available at the moment. Place tubers to ‘chit’, in a seed tray, or individually in empty egg boxes, and leave them in a frost free, dry light spot. Plant out in early April. Cover veg plots in membrane or cardboard to warm the soil up ready for sowing. When soil temperatures reach 5°C seeds of broad beans, carrots, peas and lettuce can be directly sown outside. Seeds of tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers can still be sown indoors or under cover. Sow seeds of Swiss chard, early beetroot, horse radish, leeks, broccoli and chicory. Also spring onions and spinach as early crops and kohl rabi can be sown at the end of the month.

Do enjoy the start of a new gardening season, pace yourself, wrap up warm, be daring and change some things, get sowing, planting and buying, and as always keep topped up with a cuppa!


The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 19


OF THE MONTH 20 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Our Furry Friends

Jasmine and Daisy Sisters Jasmine and Daisy are ready for adoption. Beautiful blue eyed girls, very loving and affectionate. 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.

Vicky and Ruby to Adopt TOGETHER Victoria and Europa (Vicky and Ruby) were born 8 May 2019 to a mother positive for FIV and FeLV. They have tested negative for cat aids but sadly positive for feline leukaemia. The virus for the latter is present in the saliva, so they can infect other cats and should be kept as indoor cats in a home without other cats. However, they cannot infect human beings and could perfectly well live with a nice little dog. They are vaccinated (including leukaemia), micro-chipped and neutered. They are very pretty, extremely gentle, cuddly, clean and sociable. Their life expectancy in good health cannot be predicted, as the tests cannot distinguish between a healthy carrier and one that is likely to fall ill. I am looking for someone to adopt them in the Vendée/DeuxSèvres. That way, if they fall ill and you do not feel up to nursing them through a difficult time, they can be returned to me. There would be a simple adoption contract committing you to respecting their annual booster vaccinations. A small donation at your discretion would be appreciated when the adoption takes place. If you would like to offer them an affectionate home, without other cats, contact me on tel: 02 51 00 53 80 or email:

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


Gordon is a stunning two-year-old mix, who has had a tough start in life. He is looking for a caring and patient foster or adoptive family where he can learn about home life and that people are not going to hurt him. Gordon will make a wonderful, loyal companion with time and love. Currently in a pound in south department 7.

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

Visit the website:

Zara Zara is a beautiful five-year-old brindle cross (22kg), great with other dogs, cats and children, albeit a little shy. If you would like to meet this sassy lady, who’s currently in Limoges in foster, then we would love to hear from you. Zara comes identified, vaccinated, sterilized, dewormed and treated for ticks and fleas. She’s still waiting for her forever home.

The Assocation Orfée tel: 09 77 48 71 43 or by email: The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 21

Where We Live...



on their shoe and he had to nod politely and take it from much younger people than himself. He was under constant pressure to meet targets, with more and more work being piled on to him plus all the usual issues that come with managing 40 employees. They halved his staff, yet expected double the output. “Steve hid his stress attacks from me, but when he started to have three migraines a week and was coming home to a whisky dinner and nothing else, I knew things weren’t right and something had to change. “We all have our reasons for coming to France and that was ours.” Soon after starting to make plans for their move to the Vendée, Helen was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to work for a renowned Yorkshire scriptwriter and a step towards her dream job of writing TV dramas. “Steve asked me if I wanted to stay in the UK. He had supported my writing dream from the start. When I first told him about it, he didn’t laugh but instead bought me my first laptop and said ‘you want to be a writer, you crack on lass!’ “Boy did I want to say yes, but not only had this man given me peace and love for the first time in my life, he had done the same for my two children and keeping him healthy and alive was more important and what he deserved. It was time for his dream and, in January 2016, we arrived in the Vendée along with months of rain!

Helen Johnson When all that fruit gives you the pip! ‘There comes a time when life throws you so many lemons, you’re sick of blasted lemonade,’ says Helen Johnson. ‘While I’ve always believed you have to suffer pain to appreciate pleasure, there are limits.’

“He worked tirelessly renovating the house (so much for resting!) while I dealt with the paperwork nightmare of settling in France. I can’t believe how much we achieved in such a short time, especially as we integrated very quickly with our lovely French neighbours – often finding ourselves tipsy at 11am on a Sunday morning! “We laughed and joked as we painted, sang songs and were like the Chuckle Brothers. To me, to you, but with a bit of swearing thrown in. The kids hadn’t wanted us to go, but understood and once they saw the change in their Dad, they knew it had been the right move. He was as happy as a pig in muck, learning new skills and telling me how clever he was, although I laid claim to being the project manager.” In December 2016, the couple celebrated Steve’s 60th birthday and their 17th anniversary. “I said that when we reached 20 years, I wanted to renew our vows and have a big family do here in France. ‘I won’t be around for that,’ he replied and I told him not to be so morbid, he had plenty of years yet. We spent Christmas here and then New Year in the UK with family.


“When we set off to come back to France, our daughter Nicola cried uncontrollably. For some unknown reason, she had a horrible feeling it was the last time she would see her Dad. Sadly, she was right. On March 9, 2017, exactly three months after his birthday, Steve got out of bed with indigestion, turned to look at me, smiled sadly and got back into bed and died. Just like that!

“In one year, our teenage daughter Nicola got cancer, my fatherin-law died and my husband Steve had to make half his staff redundant at Christmas. The staff were top performers, but head office wanted to amalgamate and the battle to save their jobs was the final straw for him. They were a close-knit team, he was well respected - firm but fair - and always had their backs and could often be found on the dance floor doing it Gangnam style on staff outings. There were no airs and graces about this Yorkshireman and if you didn’t do your job you would know about it. But to make them redundant when they didn’t deserve it, was very hard for Steve.

“Only the week before, he had been insistent that I should know how to do CPR. I had laughed at him, but as I pumped on his chest that night it was no laughing matter. I was convinced that, on some level, he knew his time was coming. The rush to finish certain jobs, the little things he’d said, the conversations we’d had. After an hour of trying to revive him, the Samu told me what I already knew but couldn’t quite believe. He was gone.

he proverbial phrase ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ is often used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. In Helen’s case, 2013 threw up enough heartache to put her off that particular fizzy drink for life.

“He had supported us all in his usual cheery manner, but it started to take a toll on his health. He worked in a tough industry. Clients held all the cards and treated him no better than something

22 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

“If there’s one piece of advice I could give someone from that experience and from what followed after that life-changing night, it’s to have that unwanted conversation about death with each other and your family and make some preparations. You have to be buried or cremated within six days in France and everything happens so fast. Just a few hours after Steve had died and I had made that dreaded phone call to our five children (Steve’s three

by Mick Austin

and my two), I had to be at the funeral parlour with a choice of his clothing and to make arrangements. I couldn’t even go back into the bedroom, much less choose his outfit. It’s pretty harsh here. “Talk about things with each other. Have some idea. Open or closed coffin, burial or cremation, where to be buried, here or back home? How will it be paid for, at a minimum cost of around 3500€? Have you got a will? If you have stepchildren, then a will is imperative. “You aren’t allowed to keep the ashes in your house, or divide them, or put them in your garden – although people do because who’s going to know? You need paperwork to take them back to the UK, but I guess that’s better than having customs rooting around in your husband’s remains for potential drugs! “Ask yourself, if you lost your spouse would you stay or go home? Make a financial plan to enable that, such as life cover. There’s no help from the UK Government any more. Widow’s pension is virtually gone. If you have English life cover, check it’s still valid in France - especially after Brexit – as some aren’t once you move here. If you are an early retiree female and have a pre-pension statement that says you will be entitled to a full pension, doublecheck it. They have increased the number of qualifying weeks and not contacted people to say you must now pay more if you want the full state pension. “It sounds morbid and nobody wants to think about these things, but when your life is turned upside down and you have the addition of the language issue - and the speed in which everything happens - you’ll be glad you did do some sort of pre-planning. There are also funeral plans here at a reasonable cost, with an English-speaking service, to help your family organise things.” For Helen Johnson, those lemons keep coming. She now finds herself a widow in a foreign country, her dreams smashed to pieces and having to navigate a way through it all. Her French gets her by, but not enough to have deep and meaningful conversations with any bereavement counsellors. And there doesn’t seem to be any real support for expats in her situation, other than the kindness of a few good friends and neighbours. So what does she do?

“If you care about your children, giving up is not an option, although that is instinctively what you want to do. You have to find a way and it’s the hardest challenge yet of my life - even more so than holding that first clump of hair in my hands after my child started her chemo. Nothing prepares you for this experience and not even the most empathetic person can understand all the challenges we face as widows. More often than not, it’s just too damn hard and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. “I have found some solace in meditation and as I’ve come out of the fog of bereavement and moved into the phase of finding a purpose, new dreams, a new life, even a new me, I’ve built a little gift shop in my garage, called Vintage et Chic (www.facebook. com/vintageetchic). “It took me two years to build and it was hard. Each time I started work on it, the chit-chat and singing Steve and I would have was missing and I often couldn’t face it. But then I’d feel him give me a kick up the backside and tell me to get on with it. So I did and I opened last July. I sell a variety of home decor and vintage gift items, English-worded photo frames, mugs, bracelets, candles and our soap bouquets and gift baskets are ideal for Mother’s Day. This year I’ll be introducing the vintage side of the business, where I repurpose furniture and other small items. I’m open to collaboration with other businesses - such as our recent fashion day, where another business showed her clothing range - or sharing my space with a beautician or other service.” Helen is also training to be a Widows Life Coach and has recently started a Facebook group called Help for Widows (www.facebook. com/HelpforWidows). It’s not a bereavement page, but a place for expat widows, widowers and even divorcees to find ways to help with the transition from the life that they knew to the life that they don’t know yet. “I listen to a lot of motivational speakers and will be sharing that and my own insights and other useful information, along with supporting each other. I hope in time to start some meet-up groups in the area. One of the hardest things after a bereavement is socialising. Whether you have an abundance of friends or not, it’s all to do with losing yourself and your confidence. It’s like having no mirrors in your house and you can’t see who you are. Anyone interested can contact me on 07 85 32 04 46, or pop into Vintage et Chic for a chat. We’re on the D66, next to SDF in Saint-Martin-desFontaines (85570), around 15 minutes from Fontenay-le-Comte. “I’m not sure what my path is yet. I wish my husband could just shout down and tell me. But I can see the gift in bereavement. It gives you a whole different perspective on life, a better one and a greater appreciation of the beauty in nature and the most unexpected things. It opens your eyes to another level of life and I feel that if everyone could see life that way, it would be full of love and peace.” Mick Austin is an award-winning freelance journalist based in the Pays-de-laLoire. 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, March 2020 | 23

A-Z of the Communes in the Deux-Sèvres Saint-Léger-de-Montbrun


by Sue Burgess

he commune of Saint-Léger-deMontbrun is to be found in the north of the Deux-Sèvres and is situated just to the east of Thouars. The commune is made up of eight main villages: Chenne, Daymé, Meulle, Orbé, Puyraveau, Rigny, Tillé and Vrère (or Vrères). The town hall can be found in the latter. On leaving Thouars, the first village that you cross is Puyrauvault and then you come into Vrères where as well as the town hall you will find a social centre and sports hall. Further south is Orbé, where the commune’s infant school is situated. The other five hamlets have between 50 and 60 inhabitants.

Saint-Léger-de-Montbrun is therefore a commune which is quite difficult to manage because of its geographical area and because of the lack of companies and enterprises on the commune. It is the only commune annexed to Thouars which does not belong to the Thouars district - probably because it is more rural than the others. Professional taxes only represent a very small percentage of the income of the commune which means that the budget is very restricted. In Saint-Léger, the number of inhabitants is increasing. The state school with its 157 children has six classes. Today the population is about 1,100 people. Before the Revolution, the parish of Montbrun depended on Anjou and on Poitou (viscounty of Thouars and senechalsy of Saumur). The name of the commune corresponds to that of its isolated church which stands on the hill at Montbrun, dominating its surroundings. A voir/Must see The megalithic site of the Pierre Levée dates from the Neolithic period. The megaliths are listed historic monuments at Grosse Borne and Champ des Pierres, at the edge of the D65 between Thouars and Puyravault. Only two dolmens (a type of single-

chamber megalithic tomb) exist today. The Pierre Levée of Puyravault is a strange low monument including a trapezoidal stone which is 4m long and 45cm thick. It covers a half buried chamber. The dolmens were listed in 1971. Different objects have been found near the Pierre Levée: fragments of decorated pottery, arrow heads, axes, tools made from bone or from deers’ antlers, jewellery and different vases. The church of Saint-Léger-de-Montbrun. Standing at a height of 90m on its promontory, Saint-Léger church dominates the plains of the Thouarsais area. From the hill of Petit Peu, the panorama looks like a postcard. The church is next to the cemetery and combines the Romanesque 12th century and gothic style. The church is home to the relics of Saint Léger, which are the object of a pilgrimage in September. Weddings and funerals are sometimes held in the church. SaintLéger-de-Montbrun is a succession of small hamlets and villages and the church is a sort of totem pole, an emblem of the identity of the commune. The church is open for Heritage Days but it is possible to ask for the key at the town hall (in Vrères) to visit the church. In the 7th century, Léger, who was at that time the Abbot of SaintMaixent, is said to have built an oratory on the hill at the site of a small temple which was dedicated to some Roman god or goddess. On their return from Jerusalem with Guillaume de La Trémoïlle, some Knights Templars built a barn or communal building there. In 1242, King Saint-Louis, stopped at Montbrun on his way to fight the English. After praying at Montbrun with the Chevaliers au Blanc Manteau (Knights of the White Coat), he defeated the enemies of France at Saintes and at Taillebourg. During the wars of religion in 1568, the protestants burnt the church down. Only the choir remained. The church was restored and the Génovéfains, from Petit-Bandouille, a neighbouring priory, held services there. After the revolution only the choir and the bell tower remained along with a staircase tower. Different works have ensured the renovation and conservation of the building which has now been completely restored. One of the old bells from the church, and one of the oldest in Deux-Sèvres, was found in 1887 when old marshes were farmed. The church and megalith at La Pierre Levée by WETRANSFER

24 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Spotlight Veluché Revisited

by Dr Vaughan T. Wells

But my words, like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence... Paul Simon, 1963 ‘Take the D46 from Saint-Loup-surThouet to Airvault’ and turn right, the article said (Beryl Brennan, Veluché Remembered, ‘The DSM’, November 2019), and so we did. And there it was, Frontstalag 231 at Veluché. Row after row of barracks stretching away into the distance, their foundations, like giant footprints, still visible - 500 in total, or so I’m told. Over them stands the mute sentinel of the water tower, sombre, but majestic in its own way. Spaniards, Poles, Germans and Moroccans lived, laboured and died in the eerie silence of this place where history and memory clash, still locked in the cold embrace of war. The story of the Poles and their lasting connection with Airvault and its environs has been well enough detailed elsewhere, and will not be repeated here: our concern is with the Spanish, German and Morrocan occupants, and their association with the the history of the camp. I’m told also that Spanish refugees, overseen by French army officers, were employed here in 1939-40, but the site reveals little of them. Still, there are signs of their presence, if one looks closely enough - scattered red bricks, half-covered in bright green moss, tiny memories struggling to be heard above the oppressive quiet. ‘Remember Dr Brique’ they whisper, who’s one prescription for every illness or accident was ‘put a warm brick where it hurts’. Who was Dr Brique? - Oh, just one of around 800 cold, hungry, unkempt and anonymous Spanish ‘Communists’ with worn out boots. Their forced labour built the camp, during the worst winter for 100 years. But best not to pick at that old Third Republic scab: after all, didn’t the workers themselves say that, however hard life was at Veluché, it was better than the disease ridden concentration camp at St-Cyprien-Plage from whence they came? And so Dr Brique’s spirit wanders uneasily amongst the debris of his labour: slowly decaying, but ever grateful for small mercies. Indeed, small mercies define the short history of Frontstalag 231. It housed French colonial prisoners of war from October 1940, and was closed to new arrivals in February 1941, barely five months later. The camp was policed by Landdesschützen, not combat troops, but ‘special battalions’ of men too old, slightly disabled, or otherwise unfit for frontline duty; they were inexperienced, ill-equipped and - from the German perspective - there were not enough of them. The problem of escapes, especially from ‘Work Commando’ outside the wire, was acute at POW camps such as Veluché and Poitiers, which were relatively close to the demarcation line between the ‘Occupied’ and ‘Free’ zones. Once across the ‘border’ the absconder was at liberty, since, at this early stage of the war, escapees were not pursued into the ‘Free’ zone. The precise number of successful escapes from Veluché is unrecorded, but the inability of the German authorities to properly police the camp and associated work details in field or forestry was certainly one of the reasons behind its closure. Another was the death of twenty-six French colonial soldiers who fell victim to the spread of infectious disease between December 1940 and February of the following year. As at Poitiers (where thirty fatalities were recorded over roughly the same period), the onset of another colder than usual winter, inadequate rations and unheated barracks contributed to an outbreak of tuberculosis

which threatened to reach epidemic proportions. Overcrowding and poor sanitary provision appear to have been particular factors: the estimate of 1,500 inmates at Veluché is probably too low, since (for example) the North African Tirailleur Koné Nian’s prisoner number was 2,707. But, albeit belatedly, the German authorities did take steps to rectify the situation. Veluché was inspected and condemned in mid-February, and its occupants transferred over the coming weeks to Frontstalag 230 at Poitiers, where significant improvements to the infrastructure of that camp, including clean piped water, heated wooden barracks, increased rations and the provision of wash basins and showers, were underway. In addition, and from the same date, prisoners suffering from tuberculosis were hospitalised or released into the care of the Vichy French authorities. Consequently, deaths from the latter disease at Poitiers in particular, and the Frontstalag in general, had fallen dramatically by mid to late 1941. For its part, Veluché was closed officially in May of that year. Undeniably, improvements to conditions in the remaining Frontstalag were motivated largely by the need to exploit the French economy, in order to boost the German war effort. With so many metropolitan French POWs incarcerated in Germany the occupying authorities faced a severe shortage of workers, particularly in the agricultural and construction sectors, and the 90,000 or so French colonial soldiers whom Hitler refused to have on German soil represented a ready and convenient source of labour. And, of course, the closure of Veluché came too late for the twenty-six North Africans whose re-interred remains rest today in the military cemetary at that place. For them, life as a prisoner of war was never - to quote the philosopher Hobbes - anything but nasty, brutish and short. German racial ideology emanating from Berlin insisted that soldiers of colour were buried hurriedly without military escort or honours, and repatriation from the Occupied Zone to their home country was forbidden. Sadly, mass graves (sometimes marked with a cairn of stones) for those French colonials who died in combat or as POWs were not uncommon: small mercies, it seems, did not extend to dignity in death. The concept of remembrance links history and memory, allowing us to acknowledge the victims of war and the death and destruction it causes. But in commemorating those who lived and sometimes died at Veluché, we should not forget the suffering of the Spanish refugees whose forced labour built the camp, and who had fled one war only to find themselves at the mercy of another. As ‘Communists’, many were deported later to Germany, where 5,000 perished in the concentration camp at Mauthausen. It is important also to remember that at this early stage of the occupation neither the Militärbefehlshaber Frankreich (Military High Command in France, at least one of whom was executed later for his part in the plot to assassinate Hitler), nor the Landdesschützen, were known for their adherence to the extremes of ‘Nazi’ ideology. Some effort, however small and belated, was made to improve the lot of French colonial prisoners of war, and to acknowledge the fact is not to condone the evil of the many other abuses to which they were subjected. If we are to ensure that such horrors never happen again, then we must link history to memory as it is, and not as we imagine it to have been – otherwise the voice of remembrance will remain forever dulled by the overwhelming sound of silence.

The water tower at Veluché (top left), and the memorial to the 26 French colonial soldiers who died at Veluché (right). Photos by Gaynor Mickelborough.

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 25

S E Health, Beauty & Fitness N D WA M Mad Intentions!

by Kelly Knight

e could not have been more proud of our three Team Madness members; Sarah, Rob and Anais when they crossed the finish line of the La Rochelle marathon, although we got quite emotional watching many strangers achieve their goals too. Such an accomplishment - 42km! Its a very long way and the training consumed their lives for some time but it all paid off and everyone got their happy ending. We celebrated with a beer and food at the restaurant in sweaty running clothes, sporting hard earned medals. A perfectly Team Madness thing to do :-) Aprés marathon was a quiet time, a few short local runs to keep the legs moving before Christmas and some took part in the Magné New Year’s Eve run and dressed up for the occasion.



Tai Chi – myths and truths!

During January, Lauren has rediscovered a love for HIIT (highintensity interval training) and is losing inches and getting stronger for her riding passion. Haley and I have started a high energy dance class and love every minute! Lesley successfully completed the 30 days of yoga challenge and feels so much better for it. She is continuing past the 30 days.


Already, as I write this it is mid-February. The mornings are getting lighter as are the evenings and this will make training more enticing and just more doable. We have all been doing our little bits here and there to try and keep the fitness levels up. The next run is in March, so the effort will be ramped up.

Taiji is thousands of years old. Although based on Chinese martial arts founded in antiquity, historical research places the birth of Taiji firmly in the 1600s. In fact it was created in Chen village, in Northern China by a Ming General, Chen Wang Ting.

Our newest member, Claire Brown, along with UK member Amanda and myself, have started to tackle the Walk 1000 miles in 2020 challenge and have passed the first 100 mile hurdle. Claire loves to walk and Amanda and I are also training for the 3 peaks in September but have both also pledged to cycle the same distance over the course of the year... so watch this space! Rob has decided to run 1000 miles and is already exceeding his monthly targets, getting those miles under his belt whatever the weather. The next time I write it will be spring and the first triathlons will be upon us which is, of course, how we started our journey together. We all love to be active and for many of us this has been the game changer. Whatever we do, however we do it, we are all safe in the knowledge that our health has improved and continues to do so as we enter this new year with our ever changing ‘mad’ new goals! Long may the madness continue! Fancy dress time at the Magné and Rob during the La Rochell New Year ’s Eve run e marathon (above).

by Terry Ryan - 3rd Duan

any are often intrigued when they see people performing the (mostly) slow, gentle exercises known as Tai Chi…aka Taiji. Unfortunately, some myths exist which deserve to be unveiled!

Taiji is always practised very slowly and very softly. However, there always exists the possibility for some faster and more vigorous movements. Chen style Taiji is based on the philosophy of the natural exchange of yin and yang - the complimentary opposites which continuously transform into each other in a harmonious manner. Taiji is too difficult to do. Taiji practice is suitable for all ages, from eight to 80 plus! By modifying the depth of the postures and the degree of vigour in the movements it is suitable for most people. Taiji can relieve stress and promote good health and aid relaxation. Happily, this isn't a myth! Why not try some Taiji? Just 'drop-in' to a class… it is relaxing, low impact and other than comfortable clothing, needs no special equipment. Weekly classes are held in Le Breuil Barret in the Vendée on Wednesday afternoons and also in Bressuire, in DeuxSèvres on Monday evenings … and free (at least until September).

Terry with his long term teacher, the famous Grand Master Wang Haijun.

For more information contact Terry Ryan at: 26 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

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per month

Everyday Yoga for Everyone Book Review: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope. Penguin Random House.


n Yoga and the Quest for the True Self Stephen Cope has written the book that many of us in the yoga world have been waiting for. He masterfully describes the fascinating emerging intersection between the wisdom traditions of the East and the Western struggle for meaning and belonging in an alienating world. Cope, a trained psychotherapist, discovered yoga after a traumatic breakup that compelled him to examine his entire approach to life. He found shelves of literature on posture technique, strange mystical states and advanced esoteric practices, but almost nothing that outlined the process of individual transformation through suffering. He writes, ‘Where were the descriptions of neurotic Western seekers like myself? Where was my story?’ He proceeds to fill this gap with intelligence, wit and a playful curiosity, sometimes turning the spotlight on himself, sometimes on those he meets, but always in some way touching upon the very first line of the book that runs through the pages like the words through a stick of seaside rock - ‘We are not who we think we are’.

by Rebecca Novick

Cope found a way to tolerate the suffering he was going through by the practice of yoga. He went to stay at Kripalu in Massachusetts, the largest residential yoga centre in the world, much to the scepticism of most of his friends. The candid stories he tells of the struggles and epiphanies in the fledgling community at Kripalu are told with equal doses of insight and kindness. He handles the shocking revelations towards the end of the book in a way that illuminates the most unexplored and unaddressed aspects of the human psyche and finds peace with paradox. (Jungian analyst Marion Woodman’s prescient witnessing to the unintegrated shadow in a community focused solely on light and purity is worth the read alone.) The book is also a testimony to the power of true friendship - the kind where nothing is off limits - of accepting people as they are, flawed, vulnerable and often difficult. We can recognize ourselves in the people he meets, and in the messiness of their path towards a more integrated version of themselves. This book is in the end, a deeply human story. Cope takes us gently by the hand on his courageous journeys of discovery, that lead both to the ultimate potential of the yogic path - the jivan mukti - the soul awakened in this lifetime, but also to something far more tangible for most of us. This is to become a vessel that can ‘hold life in such a way that we are not shattered by it.’ It is this latter and less lofty promise, that Cope presents so eloquently, and keeps those of us who have had the great fortune to have stumbled upon this path aiming for our mats, even on the dark days.

Respect yourself, explore yourself. Classes held weekly in central Parthenay For more information email: or follow Rebecca on The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 27

Food & Drink Growing Old Gracefully - Part One: Storage


long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I became friends with a guy name of Johnny Ego. Least that’s what he called himself, and with a name like that I guess he should know. He was acidic, acerbic, not easy to get acquainted with. But we did, chance throwing us into the same job and choice into playing in the same band and football team.

Life and time part but they also bring back together, and so a few weeks ago Ego and his wife of soon-to-be 25 years and I sat down at a table at La Cigale restaurant in Nantes. We ordered fine food and fine wine and no one, not those around us not even ourselves, batted an eyelid. No pile of squashed beer cans or ashtray overflowing with stabbed fag ends in sight (we knew how to party back in the day), but a white linen tablecloth, coupes of champagne and amuse-bouche on a porcelain spoon. How does that happen? “I’m thinking of buying some wine. You know, for maturing, to keep for a few years,” he says. I am nothing if not helpful, so for him and for those of you, my dear readers, who might be thinking similarly, here is my patent guide to making a modest wine collection, and most importantly keeping it in an environment where it will mature as nature intended. I assume at the outset that your ultimate aim is pleasurable consumption, not investment. Investing in wine, i.e. buying bottles to sell at a profit, is for a) the experts, the kind of guys you used to see in old movies with green eyeshades and expandable bands to hold up their shirtsleeves, b) millionaires/tinpot dictators/fraudsters who’ve run out of suitcases to stash cash, or c) idiots. You’re none of the above, right?

by John Sherwin

whatever is happening in the outside world. Consistent is the key word. Wine is an old shire Conservative, it doesn’t like change. Even if the temperature is above that of a normal cellar, that is 12°C or so, as long as it doesn’t buck like a bronco then the wine will be fine, it will simply mature more rapidly. That’s enemy number two dealt with. Number three is vibration. I hate to labour the point, but cellars don’t vibrate unless they’re lying next to the Northern line. How would you like it if you were jiggled up and down day in day out? Not much, I’m guessing, and you would grow up to be a maladjusted adult whose only friend is Facebook. Coming in at number four, odours. (I was tempted to say smells but it’s such a gross word, don’t you think?) Your wine is breathing through the cork, just a lickle bit, but just enough to help it change, mature. It takes air in, and if the air is rancid with fried onions or gasoline then that’s what you’ll get traces of when you eventually open your prized bottle - certainly not what the maker intended or you were expecting. Finally, humidity. Not really an enemy, in fact more of a friend, like the aunt you never liked but who left you 500 quid in her will. If the air is dry the cork will shrink; when the cork shrinks more air than necessary will invade the bottle; more air than necessary + wine = vinegar. Maintaining humidity around 60 to 70% keeps the cork snug in place and avoids all of the above. But what now? I know my enemies but with what do I gird my loins, forsooth, you ask. I ask you what ‘forsooth’ means, you say you don’t know, and we call it quits. Anyway. I’m assuming you don’t have a real cellar - if you do that’s a completely different article. I’m also assuming fewer than 200 bottles. So we’re talking a wine storage cabinet. If you’re looking for long term ageing (which you are) then you need a ‘cave de vieillissement’ or ‘aging cellar’. There are umpteen makes around, but you won’t go far wrong if you take a look at Eurocave, Climadiff, or Artevino.

If you’re going to buy serious wine with serious money then you will want to keep it in a safe environment that is conducive to its development. There are companies around who will do this for you for a fee. They will have temperature controlled facilities, perhaps even real cellars, and their spiel will be convincing, of course it will. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of such companies who are trustworthy, but there are others… well, there are others. For me, I would like to see my stash, touch it from time to time, be able to share such precious moments with friends, much as I might bore them with holiday snaps. To be blunt, I would want those bottles under my own roof.

Let’s take a specific example, the Artevino OXMMT177NPD (auditioned for Star Wars but the name was too long). It looks like a biggish fridge, 148cm high, 68cm wide and 70cm deep and will hold 177 bottles. It provides a consistent temperature conducive to ageing; it has a solid door meaning no light intrusion (some models have glass doors which are supposed to be anti-UV rays, but as far as I’m concerned, no light means no light); it maintains humidity between 50 and 80%, your choice; it has an anti-vibration system (in the old days vibration was a problem for all models, now solved). It’s also energy efficient with an A+ rating meaning an average annual bill of around 18€. It looks pretty nifty too, in a looming Darth Vaderish way. All your enemies vanquished. Yours for 1299€.

But how to provide the best environment? First, know your (i.e. the wine’s) enemies. Arch villain number one is light. There is a reason above and beyond olde worlde quaintness why wine is stored in cellars. Cellars are dark. Cellars also maintain a consistent temperature

Now all you have to do is fill it. I will expound on wines suitable for ageing, nay, I will exsanguinate the subject in Part Two next month. Can’t wait, but for now I could kill a can of Heineken and a fag.

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

Hoop and Soup by Jacqueline Brown

2020 may still be relatively fresh and new, but it has brought with it a whirl of change, probably blown in on yet more extreme weather and strong winds. Enough, weather gods, I have had enough. All I want is a bit of calm in my life, but I think that is likely to be no more than wishful thinking at the moment. So far this year it has been all change in the world of politics; from a Brexit date that has been and gone, but not actually happened yet (yes I’m still as confused as I was in June 2016), to the end of the current six year term of office for all local councils in France. For me at least, one is inextricably linked to the other as thanks to Brexit I can no longer stand for election or even vote for my preference as to who replaces me. You may remember me talking about the new organic, free-range egg farm that opened in the village last year. Time certainly has flown as it is all change there too and the first set of chickens are due to move on to pastures new. It has been lovely to drive past and watch the girls climbing on logs and branches or scratching around in the soil, pecking at grubs and insects. With an automatic door closing system installed, there always seemed to be a few who missed the curfew and driving past in the morning, before the doors reopened, I couldn’t help but smile to see the stragglers from the night before sheepishly waiting to be let in for food and a cosy nest box to lay their daily egg in. Talking of eggs, they are pretty tasty and have been the perfect back-up system for me when my elderly girls took an egg break. Always happy to find a healthy distraction from the mundane monotony of life, I’ve got a new exercise obsession. Thanks to a couple of nutty friends, I am now the proud owner of a hefty hula hoop, and when I say hefty, I mean 1.2kg of weighty hoop that massages you (think thumps) as it rolls around. Once you have mastered the moves and get past the awkward stage where you look like you’ve stuck your fingers in a plug socket, it’s a really fun way to exercise. We now regularly get together to hoop and chat, and one of my favourite memories of this winter has to be the early evening aperos, on a day mild enough to be outside, with our hoops, our other halves and lots of laughter (yes wine might have featured as well). If I was a celebrity I’d probably be in talks with my publisher by now for a lifestyle DVD and book deal, combining hula hoop exercising with a healthy diet featuring my homemade bone broth soups - the perfect winter boost for your mind and body. Hoop and Soup; you heard it here first. Email:

Take a Break - SOLUTIONs - P.15

Easy Crossword: Across: 1. simple 4. defend 8. April 9. nearest 10. black 11. Nairobi 12. ostracise 15. Ferrari 16. usual 17. bicycle 18. vault 19. violet 20. hitman Down: 2. impale 3. Princess Royal 5. fire resistant 6. Nasaby 7. uninhabited 13. gemini 14. paella Toughie Crossword: Theme - education Across: 1. class 4. bursary 8. bac 9. statement 10. Cassandra 12. dis 13. ebony and ivory 15. lay 16. athletics 17. curricula 20. Tim 21. endorse 22. break Down: 1. cubicle 2. accessory 3. sus 4. boarding house 5. reexamine 6. ace 7. yetis 11. any easier 12. Doolittle 14. yashmak 15. lycee 18. rid 19. alb Brain Gym: 1: Your right elbow 2: The lid 3: Queue 4: A map 5: She took a picture of him and developed it in her dark room. 6:10 7: a) Parthenay b) Coulon c) Chef Boutonne d) La Chataigneraie e) Celles sur Belles 8: a) Ambiguous b) Hole In My Underwear

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 29


by Helen Tait-Wright


oday, world travel is easy; hop on a plane and you can get almost anywhere in around 24 hours. 100 years ago it was more challenging. Crossing large tracts of desert for example was a major undertaking. But, mail, goods and people still needed to be moved ..…

In 1923 a pioneering service was started by two enterprising New Zealanders, to cross the Syrian desert by car at the request of the British Consul in Damascus. Norman and Gerald Nairn had served with the British Army in WW1 and after the war began trading in ex army vehicles. It wasn’t very successful, so they decided to operate a taxi service between Beirut and Haifa with the cars they couldn’t sell, as you do. They experimented with different vehicles and received encouragement from local traders who were using camels which were slow and liable to attack by tribesmen. When the call came in 1923 they made six trial runs from Damascus to Baghdad. Having demostrated the feasibility of the plan, the brothers signed a five-year contract with the Iraqi government to transport mail and passengers from Baghdad to Damascus and Haifa, and back again. The new arrangements cut the transit time for mail from Baghdad to Europe to around ten days from 30. The first official trip was made on 18 October 1923. The cars could travel at up to 70mph over flat, sun-baked ground for most of the route as the desert was a mud and gravel one rather than sand, and a trip cost £30 per passenger. By 1927 the brothers had made nearly 4,000 crossings and carried 20,000 passengers and 4,500 sacks of mail. The Nairns received strong cooperation from the French who recognised early on the advantages of the service and gave the Nairns the French overland mail contract, allowing them to import equipment without customs duties and gave a small subsidy. The British, despite initiating the idea and recognising the advantages of the service, provided no subsidy. One problem may have been that the Nairns never used British vehicles. (They didn’t use French ones either but the French didn’t care!!) The very long journeys made by the company required a variety of vehicles. The first used were Buick and Cadillac cars of which the Cadillacs proved very reliable, even in the extreme heat, due to their large radiators and excellent cooling systems. Cadillac advertising boasted ‘The Cadillac replaces the Camel’.

30 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

In 1934 the Nairns introduced two Marmon-Herrington buses specially adapted for them which had 18 tyres and two passenger levels. However, the Nairn’s archetypal vehicle was the ‘Pullman’ bus, introduced in 1937, and built using different companies’ components to their design, and essentially being a tractor with a trailer unit. The Pullmans were single level but air-conditioned with refreshment facilities. They were articulated, ran on ten tyres and cost £12,000 each. The time taken for each run was reduced from 24 to 18 hours. Each bus could carry 18 passengers and by 1958 had travelled two million miles. The journeys were dangerous and subject to ambush. The Nairns preferred to give the raiders what they wanted rather than risk the death of a passenger and no passenger ever died on a trip, though one was wounded and a driver was shot and later died from his wounds. The drivers, a colourful group of mostly English, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or Americans became acclimatised to the conditions and were expert drivers, knowing every yard of the five hundred mile journey. In 1955, the Land Rovers of the First Overland Expedition ran alongside the Nairn bus for an historic photo. Tim Slessor actually rode in the driving cab of one of the buses as he recalls in his book* …. “In the cab, high off the ground, there is an air of controlled strain. For hour after hour the driver neither speaks nor smokes; silent and expressionless, he leans slightly forward on his wheel, watching the way ahead …. suddenly, for no apparent reason his hand flies to the gear lever and the already deafening noise of the engine bursts to a roar, the air brakes hiss as he dabs with a foot, then one sees what he saw seconds ago. Like lightning and with wonderful precision, he wrenches the wheel, the bus peels away to one side and goes thundering through a tiny gap in the tangled rocks. With 17 tons behind them, there is no time for a mistake.” An aeroplane may be quicker but rather lacks the element of adventure don’t you think? * First Overland. London-Singapore by Land Rover ISBN 978-1-909930-36-0

FIND the CHEAPEST FUEL prices in your area. This government run website provides comparative petrol and diesel prices in all areas of France. Just simply select your department from the map, and voilà! 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, March 2020 | 31

Communications Windows 7 - What next?

by Tony Wigmore


ven if you know almost nothing about the internal workings of your computer, if you are using Windows 7 you will almost certainly know that Microsoft has ceased releasing any updates for it and there are warnings of dire consequences if you continue to use it. But what can you do to move on from here and how urgent is it? Firstly, let’s look at ‘the problem’. Microsoft has now ceased updating Windows 7 which means you will no longer receive monthly security updates for Windows. This lack of update makes your computer more susceptible to those unpleasant people who spend their sad lives trying to find ways of stealing information or money from us. It’s impossible to say exactly how much of a risk really exists for any individual but it definitely increases as each day passes. What can we do? There are several options available: Do Nothing Of course, this IS an option but it’s one that brings increased risk of your computer being affected by some previously unknown security flaw in Windows. As a minimum, you should be using one of the internet browsers that are promising short term continued Windows 7 support (e.g. Google Chrome) rather than IE or EDGE from Microsoft. My personal opinion is that, as long as you are sensible about which websites you visit, which emails you open and that you have good quality, up to date, virus and malware checkers in place, there is no need to panic but this is NOT a viable long term solution. Many banks and other financial institutions are expressing concern about their customers remaining on Windows 7 and may soon refuse online access to out of date Windows users. Upgrade to Windows 10 A purchased copy of Windows 10 Home (the cheapest) will set you back over 100€. There are still some ways to get a perfectly legitimate free upgrade but take care as ‘Free Windows 10 Upgrade’ is obviously a good way for scammers to get you to visit their virus-infected websites. Before upgrading you should be aware that a PC or laptop that is more than a handful of years old may struggle to run Windows 10. You may also need to buy enhanced hardware and/or software after the upgrade. It can be quite difficult to forecast how well, or badly, any given computer will deal with Windows 10 and you won’t know for sure until you’ve spent the money, though it is possible to return your machine to Windows 7 within 10 days of the upgrade.

32 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Finally there is the brutal reality that Windows 7 and Windows 10 are very different beasts, as far as user interaction is concerned, so there may be a learning curve for you if you make this change. Move to a new operating system - Linux For the uninitiated, the ‘operating system’ on your computer is the software that manages all the elements of your computer and allows them to work together and with you. Windows is such an operating system BUT it is not the only one available to us. Although Linux only has a small percentage of the market (about 2%) it has been around for a long time and is considered to be very stable. It is an open-source operating system and therefore free … yes FREE. It generally requires less powerful computers to run, is widely considered to be quicker and far less open to hacking/ viruses than its Microsoft competitor. It is also entirely possible to run it on your computer without trashing Windows, allowing you to try it free of charge and with absolutely no commitment. If you wish, your Linux system can be configured to look and feel almost exactly like Windows 7. You can replace most Windows based software with FREE Linux software that does the same job (e.g. there are many free Linux options for replacing Microsoft Office). Although a little more complex to achieve, it is possible to run a Windows ‘window’ inside your new Linux system so you can continue to use any specialist software that only runs on Windows. Probably best to take professional or knowledgeable advice if you feel that Linux might be an option for you. New Computer If none of the above sounds suitable for you then your only option is to buy a new computer. If you stick with Windows as your operating system, it will come pre-installed with Windows 10. Although perhaps the simplest, this is obviously the most expensive option and you may still need to upgrade or replace some software. Whichever route you choose, don’t dawdle too long.

Building & Renovation

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 33

34 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

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DÉCHETTERIES Do you forget the opening hours for your local déchetterie? Visit the website for details For waste disposal outside of the Deux-Sèvres there’s an alternative website Published by Anna Shaw, 2 Lieu Dit Jaunasse, 79600 LOUIN Tel: 05 49 64 21 98 Email: Siret: 839 041 282 00014


FEVRIER COLLECTE DE FERRAILLE dont les profits soutiendront les projets de développement du canton de Grand Gapé au Togo. Organisée par la section Togo du Comité de jumelage du canton de Thénezay





36 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020


NO TVA 2.6T Mini Digger CHARGE 1 Day 130€, 2 Days 220€, 7 Days 700€ 1 Ton High Tip Dumper 55€ per day 12 Mtr Cherry Picker 110€ per day Laser Level 30€ per day Wacker Plate 60kg 20€ per day 3 inch petrol water pump 30€ per day Concrete Breaker Digger Attachment Available Phone FR: 06 10 43 96 16 UK : 07753822265 Email :

Location de mini-pelle Travaux Publics Installer and supplier of micro-stations. Operator Available All Types of Groundworks Undertaken

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Siret : 840 226 666 00013

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 37

Business & Finance ALLIANZ PER-I


his is an assurance vie created by Allianz and all the other insurance companies to comply with the new law PACTE created by the government. This new law relates to pensions in France and in order to encourage people to save themselves for their pension, they have come up with the PERI: Plan Épargne Retraite Individuel. Most British people will recognise it as pretty much the same as any pension plan in the UK. Who can invest in it? Anybody who is a French resident between 18 and 62-years-old. This product is mainly for people who want to put money aside for their retirement. How much can you invest? You can invest as little as 50€ per month or/and as little as a lump sum of 600€. Tax advantages: Well, this is the good thing! Putting money into it gives you a tax advantage i.e. if you put in 100€ per month which is 1 200€ per year and you declare 30 000€ income per year, then you will be only taxed on 30 000€ - 1 200€ = 28 800€. If you don’t pay tax or don’t want to have the tax advantage, you can choose to invest in your PERI without this tax-deductible option (see the benefit below). How you get your money? Once you are retired, you can choose to have your money in a lump sum, partial withdrawals, or regular monthly/yearly withdrawals, or as annuities (for you or for your spouse). You can also withdraw as a partial lump sum and take some in annuities (rent until you die). Note that you can access the money prior to retirement in exceptional circumstances, such as buying your main residence or becoming disabled.

by Isabelle Want

think you will retire in 2030 for instance, then you can choose a fund which will automatically be riskier now but become more secured as you approach the date of 2030. PERP or Madelin contract: If you have a PERP or Madelin contract which are similar (except the exit is only as an annuity and no assurance vie advantages in regards to death duties), note that those contracts will be transformed into PERI automatically and also that you will be able to transfer those contracts from your current company to another one! That is also part of the new law. Fees: Entry fee of 4.80% negotiable of course + 12€ administration fee. And yearly management fees of 0.73%. No fees for withdrawals. As you can see from the French news and the ongoing strikes in Paris, French people are very attached to their pensions! But we must face reality one day and realise that it will be down to the individual to save for their pension themselves. This is exactly why this investment has been created. Allianz has a solvability ratio that is one of the best on the market at 174% for Allianz France and 200% for Allianz Group so don’t hesitate to contact me for any further information regarding our very large range of investments. 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 Lesterpt 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.

Tax when you take it out: If you had the tax advantage - tax-deductible option when you put money in, then the money withdrawn is fully taxed (7.5% + 17.2% social charges). If not, only the interest is taxed (just like an assurance vie). Inheritance advantage: Just like an assurance vie, you name the beneficiaries when you set it up and they are entitled up to 152 500€ each if you die before the age of 70 or 30 500€ if you die after that (if the money is still in it).

No Orias: 07004255

BH Assurances 22 rue Jean Jaures 16700 Ruffec

How is it invested? As you wish but at least 30% on shares/funds or bonds. You can also choose a fund specifically dated for your retirement. If you

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

Email: Visit our website:

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

06 40 77 27 35

French State health insurance advice line

08 11 36 36 46

Orange helpline

09 69 36 39 00

EDF International Customer Service

05 62 16 49 08

CLEISS (Social security advice between countries)

01 45 26 33 41

Funeral Information (AFIF)

01 45 44 90 03 or

Passport Advice

0044 300 222 0000

SOS Helpline English speaking service (affiliated to the Samaritans)

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

38 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020

Ask Amanda

by Amanda Johnson


i Amanda, I expect to be getting a reminder to file my French tax return soon. Are there any changes in French tax legislation which I may not be aware of? This is a topic which arises at this time of the year, when we are preparing for completing personal tax returns and yes, there have been changes within the French tax system. The main changes that have been announced in the French Budget for 2020 is the reduction in income tax rates for income received in the 2020 calendar year. The change occurs for income received in 2020 where the tax rate for the entry level for paying tax reduces from 14% to 11%. The band levels have reduced also, thus those on lower incomes will gain the most from these changes. The rates of income tax of the barème scale for income received in 2019 remain the same, but the barème scale for 2020 is as follows: Income Tax Rate Up to 9,964€ 0% 9,965€ to 25,405€ 11% 25,405€ to 72,643€ 30% 72,643€ to 156,244€ 41% Over 156,244€ 45% Local Residence Tax (Taxe d’habitation) Continuing from previous budgets, it is planned that the tax will be completely abolished on principal homes for all households by 2023. Second homeowners will continue to remain liable for the tax. The television licence fee (contribution à audio-visual public) that is collected with the taxe d’habitation will continue to be payable by non-exempt households. If you send me an email to my contact details, I will send you Spectrum’s guide on French tax changes and planning opportunities for 2020. 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 that 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, March 2020 | 39

Brexit begins: What UK expatriates in France need to know about by Bradley Warden, Blevins Franks the Withdrawal Agreement


pension transfers outside the EU/EEA. This could be easily extended once the UK loses its EU obligations in 2021, so time may be limited to transfer without penalties.

But the clock is ticking to lock in citizens’ rights indefinitely under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. There are currently no protections for UK nationals arriving after 2020.

Acquiring residence after the transition period From 2021, automatic freedom of movement ends for UK nationals. While it will, of course, still be possible to acquire French residency, we can expect this to be much less straightforward than today, particularly if the UK fails to secure new agreements in time.

ntil the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020, very little will change for UK nationals living in France, who retain existing residence, healthcare and pension benefits.

Residence under the Withdrawal Agreement To be protected, you must be settled in France before 31 December 2020 and apply for updated residence documents before 30 June 2021. Despite this six-month buffer, register as soon as possible to avoid potential disruption. You would lose residence (and associated EU rights) if you are absent from France for five consecutive years, or if you move to another EU/EEA country after 2020. Healthcare under the Withdrawal Agreement Existing entitlements to healthcare continue for settled residents. The S1 Form system will therefore carry on providing free cover in France for British pensioners, and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will provide free emergency care while travelling in the EU. Pensions under the Withdrawal Agreement UK retirees settled in France will continue receiving yearly cost-of-living increases to their State Pension, even if you start claiming it after 2020. As things stand, Brexit should not affect how you can withdraw or transfer other UK pensions. However, the UK currently charges a 25% tax on

Under current rules for non-EU/EEA nationals, individuals must demonstrate sufficient income to qualify for residence in France, at least equivalent to the national minimum wage. Brexit beyond 2020 Currently, 2021 offers three possible scenarios: 1) the UK/EU have a deal and the new relationship begins; 2) the transition period is extended as negotiations continue; or 3) the UK cuts trade ties with the EU (no-deal). Although there is still the chance of a cliff-edge Brexit in 2021, you can take steps now to come under the protection of the Withdrawal Agreement and lock in a lifetime of rights in France. To make the most of other opportunities within this closing window, take specialist, crossborder advice. Blevins Franks accepts no liability for any loss resulting from any action or inaction or omission as a result of reading this information, which is general in nature and not specific to your circumstances. Keep up to date on the financial issues that may affect you on the Blevins Franks news page at

Time to move on 2020 should be the year when we can finally put Brexit uncertainty behind us. The transition period gives you the opportunity to review your wealth management and adjust it where necessary – you can then forget about Brexit and get on with enjoying life in France! Our seminar will discuss Brexit; pensions and the possibility of the 25% ‘overseas transfer charge’ being extended to EU residents post-2020; French succession law and tax, and investment planning in today’s world, where we will be joined by a guest speaker from Russell Investments.


Thur 26 Mar NIORT (79) 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, March 2020

Property Small colour Advert from 35,17â‚Ź ttc per month

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020 | 41


by Joanna Leggett


he Gâtine, in central Deux-Sèvres, should be world-famed for its peaceful, relaxing way of life! This area has it all - rolling countryside, hectares of forest with nature reserves and woodlands. It’s rich in springs and small rivers which once fuelled the many mills built along the banks of the river Thouet. Today they bring water to the wonderful Gâtine orchards where many varieties of luscious apples are grown - the most famous locally, whimsically named, le clochard - the apple tramp! With its temperate climate Gâtine apples are famed throughout France, so much so a Pomm’Expo has been held in Secondigny each year since 1954! But apples aren’t the only produce farmed in the area as local lamb, beef and cheese are also all delicious! Springtime here is a treat - fields are lined with trees decked out in clouds of pink and white apple blossom - a feast for the eyes as are these three properties currently for sale! The first is a beautifully spacious long stone house between Vernoux-en-Gâtine and Secondigny (Leggett ref: 108542) which comes complete with its very own orchard and small lake! Completely renovated and beautifully presented you’ll receive a warm welcome as soon as you arrive (the hall boasts its own log burner), downstairs spacious living abounds, upstairs to four bedrooms, each with own bathroom. There’s a separate apartment (guests or extra income?) plus two outbuildings which could be incorporated into the house if wanted – and did I mention

the swimming pool, garages, glorious views and 16,755m² of land? Recently reduced, it’s currently for sale at 385,000€. A simpler option close by, but again one with far reaching views, is a charming whitewashed cottage (Leggett ref: 108406) just 2km from L’Absie. It has three bedrooms, large kitchen (induction hob), separate utility room and large sitting room with granite fireplace. Outside there’s a big barn, parking, a garden to the front and terrace with pergola - the perfect place to while away the hours feasting on local Gâtine fare! And it’s a snip at just 71,500€ making it a perfect holiday or family home. ‘There’s an old mill by a stream ..’ according to some old, longforgotten song and this very pretty former two-storeyed mill house just outside Allonne also has one along its boundary (Leggett ref: 106237). All the hard work has been done as it has been carefully and beautifully renovated. On the ground floor there’s a large kitchen and super open plan living with log burners at each end (you will be cosy as there’s central heating as well!), upstairs to the three bedrooms. Outside there’s a garage, barn, outbuildings, large mature gardens and gated entrance - 167,400€! Joanna Leggett is marketing director at Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full portfolio of properties for sale in France at



€93,500 HAI

Ref. 108663 - Spacious 3-bed, 2-bath house set in nearly a hectare of land with several outbuildings. DPE N/A - agency fees included : 10% TTC to be paid by the buyer

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


€46,000 HAI

Ref. 108964 - House for renovation on the outskirts of the village, with outbuildings and lake. DPE N/A - agency fees to be paid by the seller



€235,400 HAI


€114,450 HAI


€125,350 HAI


€349,800 HAI

Ref. 108800 - Renovated 4-bed house with 2-bed

Ref. 108651 - Duplex apartment in chateau tower

Ref. 108648 - Large 4-bed house with summer

Ref. 108842 - Stunning 5-bed house with outbuil-

apartment, outbuildings, garden and paddock.

with lots of character and stunning views.

room, garage, workshop and over 3 acres of land.

dings, courtyard and gardens, close to amenities.

DPE E - agency fees to be paid by the seller

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

DPE D - agency fees to be paid by the seller

DPE B - agency fees to be paid by the seller

+33 (0)5 53 56 88 48 - -

" I love working with a friendly dynamic team "

We’re recruiting property sales agents - if you want the freedom to grow a successful business supported by an award winning team, contact our recruitment department 00 800 2534 4388 - Emma Horsfall, sales agent

42 | The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, March 2020