Monday, 16 January 2017

Driving in Paris today

Vehicles passing through Paris from today (as well as Grenoble and Lyon) will need to display a vignette to indicate the pollution level of their car (or scooter).
There are 6 colours of "pastille", ranging from green for electric cars to grey for older diesels. Vehicles over 20 years old are banned from the city on weekdays between 8am and 8pm (20h).
There is a 2 month period of grace when motorists will be advised to get a vignette from the ministry of environment's web site (cost 4.18 euros), after that  a fine of 68 euros will be payable.
The system will be extended to other big cities over the next few years.
comments to

At Montaigu de Quercy

Risk of avalanches today

The Pyrenees have seen over one metre of snow in the last 24 hours and more is forecast today. Combined with strong winds France Meteo has issued an orange alert for avalanches. Many ski runs are closed as are roads.
The temperatures will continue to be mild today, though the strong winds will make it seem colder - and the thermometer could plunge to -5 or more tonight.
comments to

In Louis Wain style

Louis Wain, "the man who drew cats" at the beginning of the 1900's
What would he have made of this mouse?
comments to

Nous sommes le lundi dix huit janvier

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Not an insignificant moment at Verfeil

Je pensais Verfeil à l'abri du tumulte du monde et surtout de cette tendance à inciter à la haine, quel naïf je fais!!

Que le curé ait accepté que la réunion se tienne en l'église est une autre surprise désagréable, quelle ironie alors que ce lieu de culte n'est ouvert que rarement si c'est en plus pour accueillir ce genre d'évènement!

Merci au maire d'avoir refusé l'utilisation de la salle des fêtes. Imaginer qu'il ait pu y avoir la police, des chiens etc pour une manifestation a Verfeil c'est presque de la science fiction...pourtant cela a bien eu lieu, comme quoi il nous faut rester vigilants même dans notre belle campagne.

 "Ils" ratissent large, n'agissent plus dans l'ombre et tendent à être de plus en plus présents dans notre quotidien, insidieusement la bête renaît des cendres encore tièdes de l'histoire.

 A nous de veiller à ce qu'elle reste à distance (à disparaître faut pas rêver car elle sera toujours là quelque soit le masque qu'elle porte).

Ce village de plus en plus composé de "pièces rapportées n'aspire qu'a la paix et à l'harmonie, c'est ce qui nous a fait choisir d'y venir.

Nous ferons face (j'allais écrire "front" mais ce n'est pas approprié ici!) et NO PASARAN comme le disait les anti Franquistes.

I thought Verfeil sheltered from the tumult of the world and especially of this tendency to incite hatred, how naive was I ?
The priest has accepted that the meeting is held in the church is another unpleasant surprise, how ironic then that this place of worship is rarely open that if this is in addition to accommodate this kind of event!
Thanks to the mayor of having refused the use of the village hall. Imagine that there might have the police, dogs etc for a demonstration has Verfeil it's almost science fiction... yet it did take place, like what we must remain vigilant even in our beautiful countryside.
"they" drag wide, no longer act in the shade and tend to be more and more present in our daily lives, insidiously the beast is reborn from the ashes still lukewarm of history.
It's up to us to ensure that she stays at a distance (to disappear don't dream because it will always be there regardless of the mask she wears).
This village increasingly composed of " pieces reported that aspires only has peace and harmony, that's what made us choose to come here.
We will face up to them (I was gonna write "front" but this is not appropriate here! ) and "no pasarán" as the anti Franco.republicans said.
comments to

These Jews fought for freedom in France

During the German occupation of France from 1940-1945 groups of resistants sprang up in all areas. Many were allied to political movements (especially communists), but the network established at Vabre (Tarn) was unusual in that it was composed mainly of protestant and Jewish resistants. Young men and women who were hiding from forced labour deportations (and worse) were under the leadership of "Pol Roux", the code name of Guy de Rouville who died this week aged 101.
Many of the 450 members of what was the only Jewish resistant group joined the army of liberation and de Rouville founded the association "Amicale des Maquis de Vabre" and a museum in the village of Vabre.
Guy de Rouville aged 100

On a day when our villages have been marked by what many see as perversion of catholic history, especially by groups whose anti-Semitism and nazi sympathies are at odds with the principles of the republic, it is good to remember that there were brave  Frenchmen and women who stood up for freedom from tyranny.
comments to

Nous sommes le dimanche quinze janvier

Yesterday at Verfeil was a very worrying occurence. A conference linked to the far right was arranged to disrupt the village, as had happened the day before in Espinas. The village of Verfeil is a very welcoming village to a greater part thanks to the Mayor and his team. When he realised what the conference was all about he refused to let the salle de Fêtes be used.
Then the curé offered the group the church. Now this was politically inciting as the curés refusal to have any sort of meeting in the churches, even AGM' s for the church is well known.
It would appear that the far right are trying to align themselves with the Catholic Church and even going so far  as saying if they gain power they will bring back Catholicism  to France, changing France from its secular ideals.
Religion is surely about love for your fellow man and living in peace, or have I got religion wrong and perhaps that is why I personally have rejected it for humanity?
comments to

Saturday, 14 January 2017

So funny, frightened of their new mangeoir

I asked Malc if he could build something so the donks could eat their hay without standing on it and kicking it everywhere. Today out in the cold grange the " mangeoir" was finished. We carried it over together and screwed it to the stable wall. Then filled it with hay with Rosie and Lucy standing well back watching.
They tentatively came to eat with necks craned.
It ended up seeming to be a success with no notable design faults so far.
Comments to

Refused by everyone .. but the curé ?

I wondered if I dare report this but with great delight I can as it has been in the Depeche.
I know that when the new curé came to the area he refused to allow meetings or conferences in the churches including a meeting with the
committee for the restoration of the  church of St. Vincent de Varen. Malc was on the committee.
After heated discussions the AGM was allowed.
Now we hear that even though the Maire of Verfeil did not allow this group in the Salle des Fetes,  the curé allowed this meeting to be held in the church at Verfeil.
Verfeil is a very welcoming village whose residents really objected to this intrusion of hatred. How did they handle it. The young people were their handing out food and hot drinks on a cold day.
I got a call from friend Anais to go and arrived to see masses of police cars and police dog handlers with dogs in the back of vehicles.
The meeting went off quietly and it is with great delight that I can tell you inexplicably the church lights and heating were switched off.
Is this a taste of things to come and is religion not supposed to see love and humanity?
The day before in Espinas is the story in the Depeche
and the photo shown of the author organising her new book about the history of Jews, sadly her view of that, was custard pied!
I should maybe add for those expats who do not know the names mentioned in the Depeche all have close links to the National Front.

Funeral arrangements for John Taylor

THe family are having a service at the crematorium in Albi at 2pm on Thursday 19th January.   It is open to everyone and donations to Medecin Sans Frontières or Help for Heros are invited instead of flowers.  

We are planning to hold another service in a couple of weeks at the church in Varen as a celebration of his life.  We will hopefully have more details tomorrow.  

Comments to

Winter draws on

Meteo France is predicting some very cold weather next week. Night time temperatures as low as -8ºC, possible snow flurries, cold winds. So make sure you keep warm and check on elderly neighbours. Most mairies have a cold weather plan to which vulnerable people can subscribe to ensure someone keeps an eye on them.

Here is a shot of the Meteo's forecast for the next 14 days (a dose of scepticism is usually advised though)

Nous sommes le samedi quatorze janvier

A bit advanced into the morning doing the date, sorry my friends.
What a cold start. There was snow on the roof at 2.30 am but it had gone this morning so Malc is sceptical that it may have been the moon making the ice glitter.
One really feels we are into the hard winter weeks now, hard for us all, the birds and animals with water sources frozen and food hard to find.
Although we have underfloor heating it was so cold last night we lit the wood burner just for that extra boost of warmth and cheer. I enjoy making up the fire and getting it going, a sense of achievement when my girl guiding skills came into play... I think I had the badge for fire lighting !!!
Malc says " what the arsonist badge?"
Comments to

Sliding into custody

When the pompiers attended an accident near Pontcirq (Lot) little did they know that the injured driver was one of Britain's "most wanted".The man's car had slid off the road which was icy, ending in a ditch requiring pompiers to intervene. A paedophile who had been on the run from the UK police for more than three years was unmasked when hospital staff were unable to trace his family and asked the gendarmes to help. He was living under an assumed name in a rented house and is now under arrest awaiting contact from the UK police.
It's an ill wind...
comments to

Leaving pets, the problems

I must write a post about pets being left behind when expats decide to leave France for whatever reason, health, fears about brexit. To leave a pet is not an easy option and one I find unacceptable. If you take on a pet in my view it is for life and your responsibility. No one else wants to take on an elderly cat for example. Vets will not put them to sleep, they are here to save animal lives not kill them. Whatever your position, you will pay to have furniture shipped home, you will pay your fare home.. you must before the deadline consider your pet. It is going to cost you if you want to leave it. Chats de Quercy will take it but it is not an inconsiderable amount. On facebook I have given some ideas but the best idea is to make provision well before you are due to leave. I have copied the post below.

I will continue to comment on such posts which are now numerous since so many Brits go home and leave their cats and dogs  in unbelievable conditions. You may now realise more info would have helped. I will personally continue to be judgmental when I know how many cats are just left to fend for themselves, locked out of their homes without food, dogs left roaming locked out.. believe me I know many like this.
We thought the French were not caring of their pets but I can tell you, we Brits are just as bad if not worse.
The problem with an elderly cat is the possible vets bills, could the owner leaving continue to pay these? Could they pay Chats de Quercy a very large sum to take Mimi in? could they have the cat placed in a cattery till a home can be found as they leave Monday? I know from the number of times I am asked on TAG to home cats the problems that there are. I did manage to rehome two elderly cats with a lady called Danielle Dicsi in the Lot who is an inspector for the Brigitte Bardot foundation, called "La mere aux betes" Tel 0565219450  She took them for a small donation. I think she has a link if googled.
comments to

Following their progress

The young men refugees who arrived a year ago are supported by our French friends, many taking them for interviews in Paris, sorting out documents, sorting out accomodation, lawyers, generally helping with their lives. They need our support as this help costs money. On this evening there will be shown a documentary made by film maker Cécile Ordanoff, restauration/ food available with music afterwards. If you are interested in the progress of these young men and want to help further please come and join us. Malc and I will be there.

Friday, 13 January 2017

roaming dogs

Dear Val,
Just saw 2 reddish coloured labs running around at Palmires house...has anyone lost them?
Val says the dogs are on the outskirts of Varen, anyone know who they belong to?
The dogs are now safely back home after escaping.

comments to

Sad cat needs a home

Hello Val,

Happy New Year to you and Malcolm.

I have clients who have contacted me this morning looking desperately for a home for their 8 year old cat. It is quite an emergency as they are relocating to England on Monday!!!

I just can’t take on any more as I already have so many.   Do you think you could put it up on taglines just in case someone is able to take it on.

The cat is 8 years old and is up to date with all the vet stuff. It is a lovely animal and is also happy to be outside quite a bit.
I have attached a photo.

Best wishes,

Jane Smallwood
Agence l'Union
Direct Line: 0033 (0)5 63 30 26 15

Val says    so what happens Monday if a home has not been found? 

And cameras to be in abattoirs

From January 1st 2018 it will be mandatory for all abattoirs to install CCTV in a bid to ensure that animals to be slaughtered are treated with respect. Inhuman handling of animals was highlighted in clandestine filming by an animal rights group called L214 in several abattoirs. This week parliament has passed a law to try to end such practices by having video cameras in all such establishments. Inspections currently carried out by Ministry of Agriculture staff will include monitoring of the video records.
comments to

Parking fines via video

From next Monday (16th January) around 100 surveillance cameras will be trained on the centre of Toulouse and police will use them to issue parking tickets to drivers who are badly or illegally parked.
Parking on double yellow lines, double parking, blocking pedestrian crossings, using reserved places could all lead to  PV being sent to the vehicle's registered owner. There will also be extra space in the pound for vehicles towed away.
comments to

Does this sound familiar?

Readers used to getting their news from the BBC or UK newspapers will know all about overloaded hospitals, patients waiting in A&E on trollies, bed shortages as the NHS is under stress.
Yet viewers to French TV news broadcasts yesterday will have seen very similar scenes and heard Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine, urge hospitals to prepare for even more patients suffering from flu as the epidemic reaches its peak. 143 hospitals have been declared at risk and staff have been recalled from leave. Operations will be postponed and efforts made to free beds  - one doctor said "we are human and dont like to leave patients on trollies".
Presently the south west is less hit by the epidemic than elsewhere, but major problems have arisen around Lille, Paris, Lyon and Marseille. One sad result is that in some areas there are delays in funeral services as the death toll rises.
comments to

Nous sommes le vendredi treize janver

2017 begins  with sadness to hear of John Taylor's death then joy at the birth of baby Rose, the child of John and Debbie from le Jardin des Espiemonts near Caylus.
Our love goes out to this lovely family and their new family member.

Debbie says
Rose decided to make an early appearance! Born at 32 weeks, requiring a midnight dash to Villefranche then an ambulance transfer to Rodez, she arrived rather quickly, weighing 3.75lb. She needs to be in the neonatal unit for about 6 - 8 weeks, so both Rose and I are in Rodez for the next few months if anyone wants to come a say hi! She's tiny but stable and is, of course, absolutely beautiful 🌹🌹🌹

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Retail therapy does the trick

We went off to Toulouse on a bit of a downer. Bexit, Trump, Malc's accident, friend John dying in his prime!!
By lunchtime with lots of sale packages under our belt, life was beginning to look rosier. By the time we came home in the evening with even more packages...  we felt retail therapy was to be recommended and we must not leave it so long till we do it again.
 I must add the " we" was myself  and two girlfriends and our credit cards, Malc was left at home pet sitting!
comments to

More condolences for John

Dear friends, 
 It's a very sad news, you have written about John. Our band does join about the pain, both of you and your English mother language friends.
We will keep in mind about a nice guy and a melodic voice and a warm smile.
Please: to give the MJB' support to his relatives and folks.
We will remember,
Deddy & the MJB
Martin Jazz Band, Toulouse

More good memories of John Taylor

    Dear  Val and Malcolm,
  You talking about your memories of John made me think about my personal memories  of the ‘Singing’ man.   As well as the work he did with the ‘Folk and Jazz’, he was previously  involved with the other musical talents, Mik  Box and Max James. Together they formed ‘The Trois Barbs’  which was  thought to mean ‘The Three Beards’.  John tried hard to keep them together in timing   and harmony.  Sometimes he even succeeded.
Anyway they sang a selection of songs from the 50’s, 60’s including Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack, The Everly’s and the Beatles.
They also sang work from Musical Theatre including Les MISERABLES.  One of my favourites from t  was the song, ‘Bring him home’ – it was sad, melodic and meaningful.  When they got it right, they sang it as well as  any professional artiste.   That was due to John’s ability to inspire others.       
 I definitely think John missed his calling.  I witnessed his Voice getting stronger and stronger. He was also starting to develop  his own unique   way of interpreting lyrics. He would often reduce me to tears as he sang these  songs with such sensitivity and understanding.
A few other thankyous to John     
A big thankyou for the Friday Luncheon Group you started.  It still continues with the older members and even more newer arrivals.
Also to say thankyou for supporting the FIFI Christmas Choir  along with Max and Gavin.
 Some of our thoughts on our dear friend,
  Jac and Max
Val says my memory of the three barbs were singing impromtu on my birthday and again on our wedding anniversary. Talking with friends from the village today we all agree, John and his contribution to village life will be sadly missed.

TAGland on TV

Our beautiful area often appears on French TV, but here is a chance to see it featured on UK TV.

Hi Val
We've been readers of the blog for the past 3 years, ever since we made the decision to move out here, finding it a useful place to learn about the area, events, people, activities, items for sale etc.

We've now been living out here since June 2016, getting our accommodation and cycling business, 'Tours du Tarn', ready for this summer.  When we first moved our 'journey' was filmed by the makers of Channel 4's A New Life in the Sun, and I thought your readers might be keen to know their region will feature on the show from this Monday 16th January 3pm (UK time, 16h local time)

on Channel 4 when we make our TV debut!
We think this corner of France is beautiful and we made every effort to show it off to the programme makers so look out for some familiar sights! Saint Antonin will definitely feature, but so should the surrounding countryside too. Meanwhile we'll be hiding behind the sofa with embarrassment! 

Charlotte, Marcus, Mel and Jim (Tours du Tarn at Espinas).
Val says: we will be glued to our TV (set "record" just in case).

Nous sommes le jeudi douze janvier

The sales started yesterday.
A mild morning, not raining. A perfect day for a day shopping in Toulouse with girlfriends, maybe that should be ladyfriends!
Rushing to feed donkeys, cats and dogs sorted, then off to the city and bright lights!
Comments to

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

John Taylor: RIP

This is a story we never thought to report: John Taylor, our good friend of many years has passed away after a short illness.

John loved his music
We met John when he and Sheila moved to Varen to be near to their daughter Juliet, Val's French teacher. After Juliet moved and her sister Francesca moved here to Belpech we continued to meet John and Sheila regularly, knowing that they loved their life here, adored their grandchildren and Cracker the dog. But John blossomed as a member of the Folk and Jazz group, progressing from a guitar beginner to an accomplished musician, especially in the traditional folk music of the UK - not that he neglected the more popular French songs to appeal to the increasingly international audience of Folk n' Jazz.
We became used to the newly pony-tailed cyclist whizzing by; hearing the tales of the TV studios he worked in; his increasingly devoted  care of Sheila; those garden parties or evenings in the barn at La Vigerie. Wherever John joined in he was welcome: the jazz band for the nights at Mas del Sol welcomed his contributions with open arms and we know they (as well as the patrons at the Domaine de Sautou) will mourn his passing.
First performance at Mas del Sol
All of those who knew John will share with Sheila, Juliet and Francesca and their children the pain of his passing, but remember the enjoyment of the times we spent in his company.
comments to

Film/ documentary in Verfeil tomorrow

Jeudi 12 janvier au petit Verfeillais :

Projection de "Benvenuti" de Laura Auriole à 20h30, documentaire sur l'île de Lampedusa, en présence de la réalisatrice
La projection sera suivie d'une heure de discussion autour du film.
Pour ceux qui le souhaitent, repas partagé à partir de 19h

infos sur le film :

Can anyone sort electrics on a scooter?

Hi Val

Hope all is well at Mas del Sol and that Malcolm’s shattered nerves are on the mend?

We are once again on the lookout for a good mechanic. Our scooter has a problem - it will only kick start so there must be an electrical fault. Could you ask if any of your readers know of someone who could help?

Thanks in advance

Linda xXx

Hi Linda

Have you thought of taking it up to Russell Phillips in Beauregard?  Worth getting an appointment as he tends to be very busy.  Contact Debbie at

Good luck


Next lunch with donkeys

Jan Lemmy at Liberte des Anes, near Belveze (82) has finalised the next lunch on Friday 20th January. To start with we'll offer you a greek salad and for dessert either dame blanche or crunchy fruit yoghurt, all nice and light to compliment your fish and chip for lunch on Friday 20th January here at Lavolvene, 17 euros a head to include an aperitif, wine and as much as you can eat.

Also Jan has three Shetland ponies that she would like to re-home.
One of Jan's shetlands

Churchill looked forward to a United States of Europe

We need a Churchill now.

Nous sommes le mercredi onze janvier

We are having a four hour electricity cut this morning as a line of new pylons are put into service. I am expecting suddenly to be plunged into darkness, heating to go off, telephone and internet to disappear.
It will all be worth it in the end.
Comments to

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Erasmus 30 this year

Not the Dutch theologian, who would be over 600, but the eponymous scheme available to EU students to spend a year studying in another country. Since it was introduced in 1987 more than 5 million students have chosen to spend a year abroad. Originally it was used largely by students of foreign languages, as a decent knowledge of the language of the country chosen (say at least one year university study) is needed, but more and more students from other fields, including school children and apprentices, are now included.
Spain is number one destination, followed by Germany and France. In a study it was found that 27% of those asked had met their partner during an Erasmus course. Conversely 60% of those interviewed were still single (but since no ages were cited in the study it could include many under 25's).
The UK contribution to Erasmus was given by Boris Johnson as something that could continue after Brexit.
comments to

Isabelle Huppert

The veteran French star was voted best actress at the 2017 Golden Globes for her role in "Elle", by the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. The film also won the best in a foreign language award.
Accepting Golden Globe: pic Paul Drinkwater/AP
Huppert, now 63 is one of French cinema's most decorated actors: 15 times nominated for a Cesar (French Oscars), twice best actress at Cannes; Lion D'or at Venice. She studied Russian and has played in Russian, English and Italian as well as French. There was also an exhibition of portraits of her by many leading photographers in New York in 2005. She starred in the Oscar winning film "Amour" in 2012.
The Golden Globes are voted for by the international industry press, but will the Hollywood based Academy choose a foreign language performance for an Oscar?
comments to

Nous sommes le mardi dix janvier

A wet morning but much milder, a few mild days forecast but then a plunge in temperatures possibly giving us snow at the beginning of next week.
I must remember to check we have supplies of food for all the pets and that we have bread in the freezer... just in case it is batten down the hatches.
Lots of friends now have gone to Spain for a few weeks wintering in the relative warmth.
We never mind a few days or a week away but I get homesick for the pets and the beauty of the  countryside if I am away longer. As I walk the lanes with the dogs there is always something new to see with the seasons. At this time of the year it is often the beauty of the Pyrenees covered in snow.
I will be " trudging" through the rain this morning trying to see something beautiful!!
Comments to

Looking forward to your Easter holidays?

Well not according to official French school holiday timetables. Possibly in the name of laicité but probably because Easter moves and the holidays dont the break is known as the Spring holiday. Indeed a leading politician asserts that we can no longer speak of "Christmas" holidays as a result of the narrow interpretation of the law. Though conversely "Toussaint", "Ascension" and "Assomption" are still classed as official holidays.
The polemic arises because Francois Fillon said he is "Gaullist and Christian", prompting criticism that the probable next president is not sufficiently secular. France's determination to keep religion out of government - presumably aimed at the Catholic church all those years ago - seems to end in tying itself in knots to deny its Christian heritage and roots.
M Fillon says he respects freedom of religion but will use his faith to treat others in a Christian spirit: many will say "amen" to that. ( ndlr: views of the sub-editor)
comments to

Solid breeze blocks

Hi Val
Does anybody know where we can buy solid breeze blocks. We are in Montirat.

Thanks Catherine