Sunday, 30 June 2013

Let them eat cake!

Baguette consumption is down throughout France 28% in the last ten years. ( never mind eating day old bread in Nimes) The Frenchman in stripy sweater, beret and baguette under his arm may soon be no more. There is a rise in cereal eating for breakfast, biscuits for tea  and rice pasta dishes in the evening. Personally we prefer "pain cereal" and the only berets we see being worn  now are by Englishmen with an affectation of being French.
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Cranes ( grus grus) in the Loire

The LPO publish this website on common cranes
I just missed information on the TV about their migratory passage which can see 60% of the crane population flying along the Loire river.

Do we have baby kestrels? Yes we do.

We have not actually seen them yet but we can certainly hear them squeaking away like fury. The parents flying in have got a new ploy to other years, they land on the roof of our house to then fly in to the hole in the wall of the gite. Not quite sporting when Malc has his tripod set up for kestrels swooping past the salon window, which they have always done in the past. The next exciting bit is when we see the babies appear at the front of the hole all jostling for position. Malc should be able to get some pictures then.
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Wilkie has gone missing near Bor et Bar

Hi there,

Sorry to bother you. I've already put an announcement on Our dog, Wilkie, went missing at lunch-time today from Bor et Bar, just S of Le Fouillade, and I just wondered if you'd mind putting an announcement on your site. He's medium-sized, black and tan, with a long tail and very good natured. Our landline is 05 63 24 03 60 or UK mob. 00 44 7889 177 597 should anyone come across him. We live the other side of Najac near Castanet.

In hope,


Old tomettes wanted

Dear Val
 Does anyone have around 10 meter length of old tomette tiles or equivalent
 of wall coping tiles, left over from a building project, and fed up with
 them hanging around the garage?
 Get in touch if you wish to sell these and we'd be happy to pick up.
 Gaynor and John Stuart-Smith
 05 63 45 25 56

A comment on the interview with Maree Giles by Doreen Porter

Val says - Firstly I found this interview fascinating, could be as I have spent by working life with books, librarians and authors. I was interested to see that at one time Maree had written romance stories, or tried her hand at it, for the publisher  Mills and Boon. I am one of the people who might have turned my nose up at this genre at some point (like last week) and in fact I can clearly remember saying do not take Mills and Boon to the book swap, as if you would!( might be this week as well) However you look at it as long as you are reading, you are learning. Trouble is do you learn about a handsome hero riding in on a horse to sweep you away. Life is not like that but do some ladies wish it was and so are not  fulfilled. I suppose I could say does everyone want to commit murders who read crime books. I have been reading a lot of those recently but I cringe at even the thought of any physical violence on people or animals.
Anyway make sure you read the interview and please make up your own mind on Mills and Boons.
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Howay the lads, 13 French players in the Newcastle team

Alan Pardew is making sure that his team which includes 13 French players learn to speak English. He has arranged 3 lessons a week studying English along with the rigorous training sessions on the pitch. You can imagine the changing rooms full of French expletives like  "merde" I do not really know many more to continue but you reader may know a few.
Malc says the funny aspect of the story is, all those French boys learning to speak like " Geordies" Will they get Gazza in to teach them?
Chris says  
Getting Gazza in to teach geoooordie? This will surely end in tears! 
Bien amicalement

Comments to

Never mind just Dear Val

Dearest Delightful Delectable Val
This was how I was addressed on one  of my latest emails.
I am not complaining now.
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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Easy jet luggage information

Check out another tripping about tip from David about Easy Jet luggage.David at tripping's email is

A summer evening with Charles and Anna

Let the barn rafters ring to tunes with banjo and violin
Music starts at 7.30pm at Mas del Sol, Varen on Monday August 12th
Interval with sausage sandwiches served in the price.
Seats can be reserved at 10 euros per head.
Bring a bottle of wine and glasses.
All monies going to ''Liberte des Anes'' the local donkey refuge/ sanctuary.
Places are limited to 50, so book early to avoid disappointment.
Everyone welcomed and directions can be given to Mas del Sol if you have not been before.
Tickets ordered by contacting
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Penny now only needs the last week in August. Anyone need a dog sit?

Hello Val, I would just like to thank you for putting my ad' online for somewhere to stay. I had two replies one of which knew me from England which was a bit bazar. Lots of people on the St Antonin Wednesday walk mentioned it and will keep their ears open for anything. So all in all although I didn't quite receive what I wanted, there were an awful lot of people who must have read it. Well done you and the site.
Having found a dog sit from friends, I only need the last week in August sorted to have been successful in finding what I want in this lovely area. 
Again many thanks for your time and effort.
Kind regards Penella

What a totally false and cynical attitude

Lance Armstrong is reported as saying to a reporter of Le Monde that there is no Tour de France win without  doping. Armstrong who won the race 7 consecutive times after fighting off cancer,  goes on to say " it is an endurance test where oxygen is a factor"  he continued " doping has always existed and always will"
What a terribly sad way of thinking of sport. Surely if everyone stays within the rules the strongest and best will win through. What is the point of a sport where the best " doper" will win, there would simply be no point. I used to admire the man but I no longer do.
Dear Val,
I'm not a Lance Armstrong fan, but what he said in Le Monde is that back when he was racing it was not possible to win without doping, he didn't say or mean now.  
Bruce and  Alisa
Val says  Thanks for that comment, still does not make it acceptable but glad he was not talking about " our Sir Bradley"
Val again Just went back to read the report on News 24 and I have reported it exactly as they have , so that's newspapers for you.
Alisa replies  
Dear Val (I'm now using Dear),
I love TAG.  Every morning it's on my look at list.  Thank you for all the great information you put on.

Dear Val,
I agree, it doesn't make it right...what he did wasn't just dope, he made everyone on his team dope or else they couldn't be on the team.  He also ruined many lives of others who challenged him.  As a cyclist it was known everyone doped, yes, even the great Lance.  What he did with his interview with Le Monde though is exactly what others had done when he was still racing (bringing up his possible doping) and he called them trolls.  Now he's the troll.

Oasis to be given away

Dear Val,
I have 48 small oasis rounds for DRIED flower arrangements which are not needed.  If anyone is interested in having them, at no cost, they are very welcome as long as they are prepared to collect from me.
My e-mail address is:
Kind regards,
stephanie mears

Val says Stephanie lives near Cordes
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La Chataigneraie at St. Andre de Najac / La Garde Viaur

Every year I give this place a mention. Smart it is not, in a beautiful place and with a great area for swimming in the river after your crepes, it is perfect. High on the list of places to go with children. Also if you like Jazz, the evenings are given over to Bossa Nova, Jazz musique with concerts gratuit. Have a beer, glass of wine and  crepes, galettes, salad or just an ice cream It is open in July, August and September only and it is always closed on a Tuesday, enjoy the surroundings and the music. Mozzy cream or spray essential in the evening as you are right next to the river. If you have youngsters do not let them bang their feet on the dusty floor. We were nearly thrown out one year  when a big group of our families children discovered they could send clouds of dust in to the sky by stamping their feet. Oh! no I should not have mentioned that as they all thought it was so funny, and if their Mums read this and remind them it could all happen again.
tel 0565656307
Val says for the person who says tell me more this is the English version of the hand out leaflet.
"In a cheerful atmosphere, nearby the Lagarde Viaur plage, La Chataigneraie greets you outside in terrace. Non stop courses from noon to midnight [except Tuesday] All the time we make every effort to propose you for salads, pancakes, sweets, fruits and vegetables issued from organic production."

To find it go to St. Andre de Najac and find the Relais de Mont Viaur, a newly done up  restaurant [also worth a visit another day] Then follow the road down to the valley bottom.
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Le Riols en Fete 13th and 14th of July

Saturday concours de petanque en doublette, grillades 12 euros, and an evening disco.
Sunday a repas gastronomique followed by a bal with Sylvia Nauges  Reservations 0563654281 or 0563539664
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Lez Art Festival 5th of July to 20th Aug.

Concerts, Diners, Expos, Projections, stages [ courses] all at Lez, a little hameau up above Laguepie.Collect the leaflet from the Tourist Office and they can promise you lots of interesting events happening. When Malc brought me the leaflet in and showed it to me, I smiled. If you know Lez  [and it is unlikely you do] It is a tiny hamlet with about 6 farm houses but the picture on the leaflet shows a picture of a globe. Lez, the centre of the universe,so unlikely ... but go to the events to find out. It could be Tardis like, enter the gate and the world expands.
Malc and I once went there to a boules tournament not long after we arrived. We were very new at playing boules but we did have all the best shiny equipment including those rather natty magnetic boule picker uppers [all presents I might add] We now know that word went around the village players that some hot shot ringers had appeared on the scene becuase of all the equipment and the fact that we were practising before the event. We were then chosen to play with their red hot players and of course were duly humilated with 0 -13's three times over. One of the hot shots we played later became our electrician and he laughingly told us how at first we had been fancied as winners!
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Malc comments that in fact we played some 10 year old boys and ended up with a bottle of wine as a prize.
Val says Yes, that was after we lost against the real players, and how you could be happy  Malc, winning against little lads is beyond me! There again I do remember we got a bottle of wine but I am sure that was just for participating.

Have you got the DVD Madame Butterfly?

If you have got the DVD Madame Butterfly I would be grateful if you saved it for us, Malc or myself on Monday. It is one we bought but really would like to keep and watch again.
Many thanks
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A freedom fighter not a terrorist.

Carlos the Jackal says he was a freedom fighter not a terrorist when he masterminded deadly bombings in the 80' s. He has just lost his appeal sentencing him to life in 2011.
The reason this rang a bell with me is I have just finished Reginal Hill' s crime novel  The Death of Dalziel. Where once again the terrorists said no, no not terrorists, freedom fighters is what we are.  I must not say more as the book will be going back on Monday to the book swap and I can recommend it as a good read. I used to turn my nose up at this genre at one time but as with any novel the quality of the writing makes all the difference be it crime, adventure, romance etc.
Malcolm asked me to make this comment from him. Nelson Mandela claimed to be a freedom fighter  but Margaret Thatcher called him a terrorist, until he was universally acclaimed as a good guy.

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Vanity Fair hits the news stands and shelves in France

With Scarlet Johannson gracing the front cover with a smoldering pout, the magazine will emulate the US edition with sharp punchy articles on pop culture and fashion and a small amount of investigative articles on politics and current events. Sounds just like TAG really but with an editorial staff of 22. May be we should have a monthly TAG pin up girl and boy,  send your photos now !
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Yesterday's baguette being snapped up in Nimes

A discount bakery store is doing a roaring business in Nimes selling yesterdays baguettes. Nimes surprising to me,  suffers one of the highest unemployment rates in France. I would have thought Lille  or Roubaix, but there you go, they must be a close second. The customers are being told to water the baguette then crisp it in the oven. Maybe a high student population in the city helps sales.
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How to write to the TAG editor - politely.

That's me of course. Can I ask in future I receive no emails without the mention of '' Dear''  in front of Val. If it is a letter of slight complaint or high praise be it from a friend or someone who does not know me I respond so much better to a ''dear''. Actually I hope I always respond politely,  I try. Also any letter now having more than one exclamation mark or question mark, never mind a row of ten will be deleted on the spot with out the courtesy of a reply.  It is gentlemanly to think how to approach me [or anyone really] specially when it is all fun after all  ''Vals thought for the day.''
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Summer sales start in France with bumper reductions

The summer sales are off to a good start for customers with huge reductions in some stores. When I read this I often wonder why it is never in the shops I want or the goods I want that are reduced items.
Regardless of this a girlie friend and I are arranging our shopping trip to Toulouse. I will be going to FNAC for their sale where I buy the past years DVD's for a fraction of their normal selling price.
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Second of our celebrity chefs makes an early appearance

David Hatfield who is also TAG' s "Tripping about" editor and writer is the second of our SW of France chefs to be chosen to be in the team.  Stepping up a week early and ready with his mini autobigraphy David has helped Emma out as she has unexpectedly been called to England this week. Click on the " Cooks" label to read about David' s cookery experience and click again tomorrow for his recipes or ideas. He will be writing his column all week, so keep looking.
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Friday, 28 June 2013

Book and DVD swap in St. Antonin Noble Val, Monday July 1st

Monday 1st of July 10.30pm is the bi monthly book and DVD swap as always at the Gazpacho. Take your books and put them out on the tables ready for everyone to choose,  give your DVD's to Martin Mackenzie to present for us and then look after till the next swap. The ladies of Spiced Cuisine will also be making a delivery, why not go and talk to them and request leaflets about their dishes if you have not yet bought from them. Apparently their spicy sausages are in demand.
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Viviane still at freedom somewhere near Sigeon

The big Tibetan bear Viviane is still wandering at will in the territory surrounding the nature reserve where she escaped from. Yesterday she was photographed by a group of walkers on holiday from the Tarn area. Even though there has been many sightings she still remains on her adventure.
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Those beautiful lilac poppies are OPIUM poppies

I visited Terry Tippett's today for her plant sale and noticed one of the "controversial" lilac poppies growing wild in a pot.  I asked what is was called to discover it was an opium poppy. Well you have heard of the opium fields of Afghanistan and here am I cultivating the opium  fields of Mas del Sol.
Who knows when all those heads were picked down the road, perhaps it was not the neighbour  but a passing  drug cartel from Marseille. Before long I could be in the middle of drug busts and "go fasts" and all for some very pretty poppies. I googled opium poppies and the first post was an American saying it was illegal to grow them in the US of A. I wonder about France?
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John's jingle stick makes it's first appearance

What a brilliant end to the first year of folk'n'jazz!
Val's courtyard was looking lovely in its summer best to welcome us for the evening and the barn sheltered us from the somewhat chilly breeze as folk and jazz ended its first year in the venue where it had all started last July.
Is there no end to the talent to discover in these 'ere parts? Last night the music ranged from leadbelly blues through Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchel, traditional English folk to occitan dance. We heard all manner of squeezeboxes, guitars, recorder and even John's jingle stick ( no rude comments please!). All the regulars were there; Betsy, Brian,Charles, Ian, John, Linda and Trevor in various combinations, showing us how hard they had been practising over the last month . They were joined by Boris and Regis, now also becoming regulars, visitor Vincent and newcomer Magali. Magali is Val's new neighbour, she plays the diatonic accordian and obviously enjoys occitan dancing, hopefully we will see much more of her. It is great to see that the line up now includes so many French performers and also lovely to hear the interval chatter in English and French.
There was a great atmosphere all evening and everyone enjoyed the variety of music, Regis and Magali got many of the audience to their feet dancing in the courtyard just to add to the fun. The compere for the evening was John who had done a great job putting the programme together - although he was complaining about losing his voice by the end! No one else was complaining though, we were all sorry when it finished and already looking forward to next month ( 25th July)  at Parisot Chateau when the compere will be Trevor. Anyone wanting to perform should contact Trevor in advance on
Sue Carter

Val says. I have googled diatonic accordian to discover
diatonic button accordion (DBA) or melodeon is a member of the free-reed aerophone family of musical instruments. It is a type of button accordion on which the melody-side keyboard contains one or more rows of buttons, with each row producing the notes of a single diatonic scale. The buttons on the bass-side keyboard are most commonly arranged in pairs, with one button of a pair sounding the fundamental of a chord and the other the corresponding major triad (or, sometimes, a minor triad).
Diatonic button accordions are popular in many countries, and used mainly for playing popular music and traditional folk music, and modern offshoots of these genres.
Johns jingle stick was home made from bottle tops -   Overview. Jingle Sticks are a great way to add a quick tambourine sound to a rhythm while striking a cymbal or another instrument. John asked me why I had not researched jingle sticks?

There have been quite a few photos already but there has to be one of the John's jingle stick!

A very rough translation of Betrands " Fighting Cocks"

Val says this is a VERY rough translation of friend Betrands stories of his " double " life, spent between France and Laos. It shows with humour the difference between cultures, where the cock is more prized than a pet dog.

As you have been giving injunctions I am now obliged to execute them
I am delighted to give you a reason to open your dictionary!
One reads often on these pages the stories of pets for the most part abandoned, but sometimes stories of a charitable act looking after a pet abandoned by his master. Eventually ending up in a British home.
If you talked of a cock it would be in an occitan cooking pot, then sliced finely with a Sheffield steel knife.
In another planet, called Laos each animal has a destiny also tragic ( for them) If you have a pet that is on the loose in town or village one day they will end up in a " Palais Laotien" flavoured with strange but delicious aromatique herbs. The animals are not puced ( marked) and your favourite dalmatian, well you could end up paying to eat him at the local chinese restaurant.
The laotien cock has no such risks, this is a mythical creature which is subject to all the care given by a Laotien male and also his wife. The cock will be well nourished, talked to with respect, caressed like a mistress. His beautiful feathers cared for and tied with beautiful ribbons.. If by chance your cock disappeared, a murder would soon follow in the village, that cock is so prized.
Each full moon, all the villagers organise a combat in a small clearing in the forest, with a small ring of sand, it will be the theatre for the  homeric fight. More modest perhaps than the grand arenas in Spain and certainly less bloody.
The two fighting cocks are let loose with cries of bravo and the delight of the spectators. Money changes hands furiously. The two cocks turn and dance for several minutes with the cheers of the experts. They do not have spurs on their feet so no injuries, not a drop of blood. The winner is decided by being the most nimble on its feet and the most pecks achieved against the other cock. Money once again changes hands. The participants celebrate the bravery of the winning cock and that winner will be sainted and glorified in its retirement in a paradise on earth, with no taxes
Comments to

Visit some lavoirs

Trevor Carter will be the next MD at Parisot Chateau in July

Wonderful atmosphere last night.  I'd endorse all of Linda's comments - particularly of John's being a hard act to follow.  My brain is working on it already! says Trevor
John says
What a great night, thanks for all your outstanding contributions,

it makes the M/C's job so much easier!

Look forward to next time



Val says. These letters are passing backwards and forwards but I think it gives you the impression of what a lovely evening we had.

David says  I hope Trevor hasn't taken up brain surgery.
Blood at the château?
Gruesome thoughts! See you all at Parisot.

Poor old Nelson, no fleas in his ears.

Hi Val,
Not France related but a happy end for Nelson, just shows how cruel some people can be
Best Regards
Martín, we stayed at your cottage at the end of May when the weather was rather damp, still had a good time
Val says We even get our renters becoming TAG readers. Thanks Martin, Malc thinks maybe the thieves were after the identifying tag in Nelsons ears.

Click on picture for larger image

Thinking about the Folk'n'Jazz nights

Do you know what I am reminded of ? When we were young before the TV took over and now the internet, families and friends made their own entertainment sometimes musical. I remember every family get together with dad playing the accordian [by ear I might add] and everyone having their turn at singing. We had some fun and it left us all with happy memories of those evenings. Well that is being recreated now with friends and sometimes family here in SW France...  long may it continue.
Comments to

What a great evening, well done to all

What a huge difference a venue can make. It was so much more intimate in Val's barn and I think that helped to pull everyone together. Thank you so much Val and Malcolm for making the barn so inviting and providing cushions for every chair!

The mix of singers, musicians and choice of songs and music worked very well. Well done to all  for some great entertainment, it's a great pleasure to be a part of it.
You did a great job as compere John, your timing and humour were much appreciated.
A hard act to follow Trevor but we all know you will step up to the mark.

Looking forward to a few practice runs for Parisot.
Linda xx
Val says It was such a great evening I am adding a quick montage of photos.. but I am sure there will be more with Sue's report.
Click on all the pictures for larger images

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Winter Fuel allowance gained and lost after one payment.

Sadly it is true! France is on the list!

The seven countries are as follows:-

'Expats in seven countries will lose the payment. They are: Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain.'(BBC)

Though why on earth Italy, Andorra and Croatia have been omitted, only George Osborne knows! Perhaps he ought to come and spend a winter in the Pyrenees, the Alps or simply the Tarn et Garonne, let alone northern France in the Pas de Calais, which can be perishingly cold in winter!


No foxes but fighting hens

Val says
I have been pestering Betrand for want of a better word (actually there is no better word, pestering it was) to write something for TAG. We had established that there were no foxes in Laos, Betrand's second home but that they did have fighting cocks,  hence the piece below.
For those TAG readers who can understand,  enjoy. He is one of the most intelligent, amusing men around  [swoon] That should get him running for his dictionary!( or the door!)
Tomorrow when I am not so pressed I will make a rough translation with  ''my dictionary''

Sous vos pressantes injonctions je suis dans l'obligation de m'executer;
Ravi de vous donner ainsi l'occasion d'ouvrir peut etre votre dictionnaire.


Bertrand Dezes
Le Château

Histoires de coq

On lit souvent sur ces pages des histoires de « pet », la plupart vous font essuyer une larme, ou pester contre l’égoïsme du genre humain…mais parfois une âme charitable récupère le toutou abandonné par son maître, le canasson martyrisé, le matou famélique…Chacun terminera enfin sa vie décemment dans un abri douillet, souvent britannique.
Si l’on parle de coq, le gaulois a beau monter sur ses ergots, le pauvre échouera, accompagné par un vin de terroir, dans une marmite, ici occitane, et finement désossé par un impitoyable couteau de Sheffield, la tendresse a ses limites.
Sur une autre planète appelée Laos, chaque animal a un destin tout aussi tragique (pour lui) ; tout ce qui bouge en ville, ou à la campagne, va un jour ou l’autre régaler le palais laotien, aromatisé d’herbes étranges et délicieuses , qui feront douter de son espèce ; surtout ne quittez  pas d’un pouce  votre dalmatien favori, si vous décelez une sollicitude suspecte à son égard, on risque de lui payer un aller simple pour le palace chinois du coin .
Le coq laotien, lui, ne court aucun risque.  Bien au contraire sa vie ne manque pas de panache.
Cet animal mythique est l’objet de tous les soins du mâle laotien ; même l’épouse (officielle) ne sera pas aussi cajolée que lui. Il sera bien nourri, on lui parle avec respect, il est soigné comme un pacha, caressé comme une maitresse. On souligne son beau plumage par des rubans colorés. Sa disparition sera généralement suivie d’un meurtre.
A chaque Pleine Lune, tout village organise un combat, tenu dans une petite clairière en bordure de forêt, à l’écart de la foule. Seuls les aficionados sont admis. Un petit enclos sablé  sera le théâtre d’une bataille homérique, plus modeste toutefois que dans une arène espagnole, et surtout moins sanglante.
 Les deux combattants lâchés vont devoir s’affronter avec bravoure sous les cris de spectateurs en délire ; l’argent circule fiévreusement dans les rangs des parieurs. Les 2 coqs vont tournoyer et danser la carmagnole pendant plusieurs minutes sous les hourrahs des experts. Pas de lame acérée aux ergots, pas de blessure, pas une goutte de sang ; on désignera comme vainqueur le plus adroit, le plus malin.. celui qui aura porté le plus de coups de bec au jabot de l’adversaire (un peu comme 2 politiciens gaulois ); puis les deux combattants indemnes seront rendus à leur maître ; les billets de banque vont changer de main… Les participants vont célébrer la victoire ou noyer leur défaite dans des flots de bière.
Le coq gagnant aura droit à tous les honneurs. …Après plusieurs lunes de combats valeureux, il sera béatifié. Il gagnera une retraite dorée, dans un paradis , bien sȗr, défiscalisé.

Quand on vous dit que l’argent est le nerf de la guerre…
Val says again    - I am not glorifying that sex mad cock from over the road, he is after my girls all the time.It would be the occitane marmite for him if I had my way.
Comments to

Maeva not only has information on dogs but also vide greniers

Samedi toute la journée, vide grenier devant les maisons a st antonin!!
Wander the streets looking for bargains
The begging jack Russell has also been adopted
Sent by Maeva
Comments to


The first real TOF review is in , and it is not good. I have moved over the Renaissance review as I am sure the writer John would give it a zero, as he never got to eat. Click on TOF's. Hope lack of service is not going to be a recurring theme,  it is early days yet.
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Folk'n'Jazz, Folk'n'Jazz, Folk'n' Jazz

Don't forget it is the Folk'n'Jazz tonight at Mas del Sol, the chairs are out,  the singers tonsils are lubrictaed, the musicians hands are exercised ... all we need are the adoring crowds to make it a great evening.Starts prompt at 8pm
comments to

Doreen Porter and her interview with Maree Giles, local author

Firstly let me say I am so delighted that ''our Doreen'' is back home and is once again able to do what she is best at and has done all her life, which is write. A very interesting ''Face to Face'' with Maree Giles, a local author now living in the Tarn .Thank you Doreen for this informative interview and keep up the good work of getting better.
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Winter fuel allowance, France cut, as it has a higher winter temperature than the UK, come up to Mas del Sol to test It
Link sent by Karen Sweeting

Four great Cooks

Involvement of experts in our area does not end with gardeners. We have a prolific number of excellent knowledgeable cooks in the area but some shine through. TAG has chosen four cooks of the region to tempt our taste buds and give us a few of their  tips and ideas. The first of TAG celebrity chefs is Emma Hilditch.
The others will be revealed as the weeks pass. Emma is starting the month of July with ideas for quick and impressive meals. Click on the Cooks link at the top of the page to read more.
Emma also runs cookery courses in summer here in the SW and in the winter, well read all about her yourselves.

Cooks of South West France
Cook, eat, discuss, dream about, write about food. Luckily I live in SW France where I am completely normal says Emma.
Emma Hilditch has joined the TAG editorial team and this month will be giving us her ideas of ''Quick and impressive meals'' Read about Emma by following this link.

If you have any queries or questions Emma can be contacted by email

Val says  - Talk amongst yourselves who the next cook could be, but it will not be revealed till the second week of July

New Theatre at Albi, next year

A reader has asked for more information so if you click on this site you can see what a structural
 treat we are in for

Jardin des Paradis

Good morning Val
Would you plese mention this  event.
1. This weekend at the Jardin des Paradis at Cordes there is a festival specially aimed at children with theatre, music, clowns, story-telling and childrens workshops. Entry is 5 euros for adults and 3 euros for children over three years old.. People can bring a picnic to eat on the terrace and the Jardin will be selling drinks, cakes and ices. (
 Many thanks, Pauline
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Winter Fuel Allowance

Morning Val,
France is not on the list of 7 countries to be excluded as far as I know. It is Spain, Greece, Malta, etc. It is a comparison of the weather temperatures in South West England with other EU countries. I don't think it will involve us.
  Celia Berry
Val Says My information was from Paul Lewis on the BBC Breakfast show where he definitely said  France but not Italy would lose it. I will do more research  if I get time, if anyone has time to research please do.

The Tour starts Saturday

Whilst we are glued to Wimbledon most French viewers will have their eyes on the Tour de France which wheels off on the isle of Corsica on Saturday. Despite being mired in drug scandals "La Grande Boucle" remains no 1 sporting attraction here.
Unfortunately the nearest we get to the action this year is  on Friday 5th July, when the stage ends at Cap Decouvert near Albi. Coming from Montpellier the stage is expected to give the sprinters a chance.
After Sir Bradley will it be Chris Froome who triumphs this time?

A turn up for the books

On an American TV chain NBC Carla Bruni being interviewed defended Francois Hollande saying he had a very difficult job, " un travail extremement difficile" her understanding surprised the journalist interviewing her. Why I do not know, as her partner Sarkozy had held the same difficult post and she more than most would understand the stresses.
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A follow up on the " go fast" story

It has been discovered that a driver in a jeep that had nothing to do with the drug traffickers was thrown out of the car and killed as he was not wearing his seat belt when he was rammed from behind. The driver of the black mercedes which crashed at speed tried to escape by climbing a barrier but he was caught by the douaniers/ customs police.
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Winter fuel allowance being scrapped.

Just our luck, the first year we received it was last winter. This was because of changes in the law to make it fair and now they are going to scrap it. The way the weather is going we will need to claim it in the summer!
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Alerte rouge for pollen allergies

The SW France is on red alert for allergies to pollen, so do not go out with out your hanky and remember to take your allergy treatments.
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What do you read on a morning and evening with your facebook and newspapers on line?

Have Debbie and John got a large family, why do I ask? Viewers yesterday 815!! Should not really mention this as I have had a mild reproach from a TAG fan, that I do bang on too much. Maybe readers, enough to start getting more advertisers? Another interesting number Davids "tripping about" is getting the most hits of the labels. Well done David.
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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

La Cuisine Japonaise at St. Antonin Noble Val

I remember when we came to SW France, you had a choice of duck, duck and duck. A slight exaggeration and I do like duck but suddenly we are being offered spicey dishes from Spiced Cuisine, Pizzas from every outlet possible in Varen, they will be offered in the Mayors office before long. Now we have Japanese cuisine " sur commande" at St. Antonin market, Bento Shop, tel 0684680753 or 0637349516
Apparently a Bento du jour is 9 euros
Maki bento is  11 euros, a plateau of Sushi 15 euros  and so on.
Well I never
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Brocante, vide - grenier at Laguepie

Two days to remember and mark in your " agenda" ( diary)  Dimanche 14th Juillet  and Dimanche 11   August.
Not just a brocante though,  for lovers of old  vehicles " Retro vehicules du Rouerque et Laguepie" will be showing off their old cars and buses. Roger, one of their members,  as old if not older than some of the cars will be there on hand to talk about his passion .
He may even mention the cars and the old bus on show. As some  of you may recall Roger does not have the internet and so I wait for friends to tell him what has been on TAG and often I receive a " bollocking" when we meet. The great thing about Roger is he used to work for and represent the Observer, so he knows how a good story is pulled together and he can take a bit of leg pulling. Friends like him are rare and I should treat him with the proper respect his age deserves!
Is this story about Roger or the vide grenier, I do digress!
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Perle now

 Look at pets to go and see Perle before Maeva 's care and look at her now. Maeva is quite taken with her and says she is a lovely friendly dog.
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Click on the picture for a larger image

Who likes small dogs? This one needs a home and he will beg for his supper, cannot promise singing.ADOPTED

ce petit jack de 8 ans, castré et identifié cherche une famille!!
il s'entend bien avec les chats et les autres chiens, il n'est pas fugueur et aime etre avec son maitre, vu sa taille il peut etre transporté partout!
son propriétaire nous a demandé de l'aide pour le placer!!
alors si vous voulez un petit chien super sympa contacté moiu au 06 77 35 28 30
merci  ADOPTED

September singing course at Najac

Calling all singing enthusiasts!

Sally Bradshaw is running two days of classes for lovers of singing on Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th September 2013. Philip Collin will come over from London specially to accompany the classes and solos. There will be classes on breathing, a song masterclass, choral singing and troubleshooting for amateur singers. Classes will run from 10am - 5pm with lunch provided. You can read about Sally on her website at Sally teaches singing locally too. Contact her on to discuss your vocal needs and to enrol for the weekend. Weekend course, 175 euros, one day only, 100 euros.
A song class doing a Spiritual

during the last course I ran in my barn.

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Welcome Debbie and John to the TAG team

You may have spotted the new label at the top of TAG, simply called gardening. Well I am happy to introduce Debbie who is the writer and John who is the horticulturist who as a team are taking over this slot. Having just arrived in France ''en famille'' they need to raise their presence in the area. For TAG I want gardening experts who will give us an interesting and informative column and when I received  this email ( in part ) from Debbie offering their services I jumped at the chance of using their expertise for TAG

About TAG
It's great that the advertising revenue goes to charity. TAG's good all round I reckon,  providing interest & information for local people, providing an advertising medium for local businesses  & raising money for charities as well!  I'm really pleased to be a part of it,  thank you!
Read below and then and click the label " Gardening"  and enjoy

Tag on-Line
Debbie and John’s Gardening des Espiemonts

We are a husband and wife team who run a horticultural business, Le Jardin des Espiemonts, which consists of a plant nursery (open Mondays 10 – 3 or other times by appointment) and a gardening service:

We will be writing a regular gardening column for Tag, and are here to answer your gardening questions. Are you struggling with a gardening issue and could do with some advice? Wondering what is the best spot to place a particular plant? Love a plant in your garden, but don’t know the name of it? Drop us an email, send us a picture, and we’ll help:
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Les Femmes Savantes at Espinas

Tripping about has another interesting idea for a day out around the Villefranche and Villeneuve areas

As David says exactly the sort of ''tripping about'' ideas we are looking for sent by Marion. Click the label for the lovely ideas.
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You do not need an official card to be a TAG restaurant reviewer. 1 to 5 how good was your meal ?

                           Official card
             Be a ''TOF'' and have some fun !

2,000 Cars in Cahors affected by a hailstones storm

On the 18th June 2,000 cars were affected by " l' orage de grele". These hailstone storms seem relatively common here in SW France in spring but do you know I never remember anything like this  happening  whilst we lived in England. Malc says " hailstones like golf balls" is a well known expression so it must have happened.
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A new theatre in Albi Feb. 2014

A new theatre in Albi designed by Dominique Perrault, a spectacular looking building which will open next year with a very interesting programme.
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L'ours dans l'aude

A big brown Tibetan bear has made a bid for freedom from an animal reserve in the Aude. The 30 year old bear weighing 130 kilos has been playing " cache cache" ( hide and seek) for 72 heures. People keep sighting her, a female but the bear is still out there enjoying her  adventure. 30 soldiers have been brought in to find and capture her .Let us hope it is a happy ending and  she is darted with a drug rather than shot and killed. I cannot find a name for her anywhere, so should we call her Bardot  Bear ( in tribute to the animal activist) Forget Bardot the bear is called Viviane
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Let us have some fun and laughs on our restaurant outings

I want you all to become TAG FOODIE INSPECTORS, now stop groaning this is going to be real fun. Each one of you has my permission to become a food critic or restaurant reviewer. Think what fun you are going to have. Every time you have a meal out let TAG know your rating on the day. The stars go from one to five and include service, cleanliness, presentation and of course most important of all food taste. It can be a 13 euro menu du jour or a la carte  but discuss what rating you would give the meal. There may be other TAG reviewers in the restaurant and it will be interesting and fun to see if you have come to the same conclusions. Lets make TAGs Restaurant Reviewers a force in the area. Who knows we could take over from Michelin ! Have fun in the restaurant and then email TAG with your results. Starting now.
Was it Ruth Madoc in "Hi de Hi" that Malc compares me to, campers?
Sue Carter says you'll want a Tag logo next xx
Sue then says   just thought it could be TOF ( tag on food) or TIF ( tag inspectors of food)
Val says  Wonderful Sue, I love it , lets all become TOFs. So if anyone asks in a restaurant your credentials are as "TOFS"
Credit where credit is due, the idea came from Linda Hatfield , another Ruth Madoc!
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New logo for real restaurants

... and why not. You can tell the difference between food produced in the boil in the bag fashion straight from a pack in the freezer and a chef cooked meal,  but you would like to know about that before you start your meal. TAG welcomes the new logo, bring it on.
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Not more photos!

Down the hill to Varen at 8 am, mist in the valley

9am and the mist has gone but still a grey sky

My stepdads poppy and the ''war of the roses, poppy''
Click on pictures for larger images
Wherever we live I take my stepdads poppy, he was a great gardener and loved his lawn being pristine but his poppies wild and blowsy. You can just see a purple weedy poppy but next to it a stronger version of the poppies in dispute.
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It all makes work for the working man to do

Malc dismantling the childrens play cart as it had become unsafe.

Jean Pierre gives us a smile

Getting the field ready for Thursdays parking along the edges
Click on the pictures for a larger image. Malc who suffers with hay fever was not so happy with the field being mown.
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Eau dear! Eau dear!

It is illegal to distill Eau de Vie de prune or any other such fruit  for example at home. You need the right which has been  handed down within certain families in the village to be able to have an ''alambic'' which is a still. These families take their still at certain times of the year to where others in the village can come and they are then able to distill their fruits for them. We have been given in our time many different bottles of this  from French friends but what they all have in common is the power to blow your socks off, and as it is still cold you are probably still wearing them. The minimum percent is around 40 and 42 is not uncommon. Never take a tumbler full if offered as it has a lovely fruity brandy taste but wowee! does it get you wobbling on your pins.
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A " go fast" death of a drug dealer

The borders between Spain and France appear to be a mecca for drug dealers. There are often stories in the French newspapers about the dealers they catch, must be a huge problem and there must be dozens if not hundreds they do not catch. On the A9 between Narbonne and Perpignon there are often  speed chases which in French are described as " go fast" another English term slipping in to the French language. The latest "go fast "saw a black mercedes ( if you were a drug dealer would you have a black mercedes?) driving at speeds of 240 kms an hour trying to out run the gendarmes with tragic consequences. There were 3 cars on the "go fast" the first disappeared off up the motorway, the second hit a car in front at 240kms and a passenger was thrown out and killed. The third car which was caught had a known crook in the back handcuffed, beaten and barely alive, so heavens knows what his fate would have been if the car had not been caught. Apparently 178 kilos of cannabis was found in one of the cars. I suppose it also makes all the gun crime in Marseille between gangs of dealers more understandable.  It all reads like a crime novel but it happened yesterday here in SW France .
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Sue Ellen or Sweaty Sue ?

I have a similar problem with my name as Sue translates into French as sweat! Not exactly flattering and causes some odd looks when I introduce myself.
I did consider becoming Suzanne or Susie for my French life but now I have found the best way is to say its like the little coin ( a sou ) or even easier like Sue Ellen ( it seems all French people have seen Dallas!)

Sue Carter

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Happy in my skin, even though old and wrinkly

Malcolm would say I have a happy disposition, I know that as I have just asked him. What brought this question about? Well a lovely Dutch friend, no irony here, mentioned to me that she was concerned I introduced myself to Dutch people as Val. Well I would,  it is after all my name and I am more a Val than a formal Valerie. Apparently Val in Dutch means or has the sound of " old skin" , not far from the truth then. She could not understand that I did not mind, call me "old wrinkly " as long as you like me (that does not apply to you Malc, just so we have that clear ) An acceptance of what and who we are should not just be down to the way we look, but I did rile a bit at the next tale.
We had renters from England and one evening one of the chaps came to ask us about bike hire. We did have information in the gite pack but as I know we have Velovista at La Fouillade in the adverts on TAG, I said "give me a jiffy whilst I look it up on my TAG magazine." Whilst I was tapping it in the chap looked on in amazement and then said " I am astonished that someone of your generation (he was about 40)  is computer literate and can have a blog!" Malc was passing through and as my jaw had dropped open and I was momentarily speechless, Malc volunteered "it is amazing what us oldies can do". We had been out late the night before and lack of make up must have given him the impression of talking to "an eighty year old dear"  So maybe ''Val old skin '' is quite appropriate!
I am a mere 67 if you wish to discuss it and Chas who likes to tick anything to be controversial, please tick enjoyed if you  want to and I hope everyone enjoys a smile and ticks away.
I do like TAG to be called a magazine rather than blog
To those who may think mentioning an ''80 year old dear''  may be ageist and patronising, my apologies now, no need to write to me. We will all be 80 years olds one day and some of us may be dears -  if we are very lucky.
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She does bang on about those views!

Yesterday 567 views of TAG, this morning 143 before 9 am.
I hope you are as interested as me with the figures. I will let you know when we get a low I promise. But even lows tend to be around 360, which once upon a time I would have been happy with.
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Sun hats at Mas del Sol for the Folk'n'Jazz

Reminder this Thursday - and for one night only - Folk'n'jazz returns to its birthplace venue of Mas de Sol.
The opening of the "summer season" promises to have quite an international flavour with contributions from Britain, France, Holland and Spain. ( Any Italians out there want to give it a go?) The regulars have been busy getting together throughout the month and new performers should contact John, the compere for this month, at beforehand or arrive before 8pm

The evening starts at 8pm sharp (2euros entry), bring your own drinks, friends and a sunhat (). For directions to Mas de Sol see the last post or email
See you there
Sue Carter
Val says  For latecomers put a couple of picnic chairs in the boot of your car but DO NOT BRING THEM IN TILL YOU ESTABLISH THERE ARE NO CHAIRS LEFT. Parking in the lane next to us is easy. I have copied directions from an earlier post as a couple have  emailed us to ask

Directions to Mas de Sol:
From St Antonin direction
Pass through the village of Varen and turn left onto D20, Verfeil sur Seye. Turn first right (200 metres) onto an unclassified road signed for St Martial. Take that and cross a small bridge and after about 200 mtrs a junction marked St Martial (left) and less visibly Mas del Sol (right). Take the right fork and climb for about 2 kms until you see a small Mas del Sol sign. La Bergerie is on the left, with white wrought iron gates
From Verfeil/Parisot direction
From Verfeil keep on towards Varen.
About 200 metres before the Varen/Laguepie T junction there is a small, unmarked road to the left. It does have a sign for St Martial, but it is not visible from that direction. Take that then as above.
If you arrive at a T junction, marked Varen (right) and Laguepie (left), turn round and take the first right. Then as above.
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Fathers in France do not take maternity leave.

Does this sound familiar, we have just had the same story in England. Fathers with new babies in France or England take only the minimum maternity leave. Is it because the limited salary stops them or is it all the work of feeding, washing, changing nappies, lack of sleep, never a minute to yourself, makes them hurry back to work?
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Laurent Jalabert found positive from 1998

Laurent Jalabert, local well known cyclist living in Montauban, has just been proved positive for drug taking back in 1998 in the Tour de France.  Modern methods of detecting drugs have meant the samples stored going back many years can now be tested. It still seems a long time to store a sample and not expect degradation or changes but what do I know about it, other than all sports need to be clean .
Further to this story Laurent is pulling out of his duties and engagements with this years Tour to spend time getting evidence to defend his case.
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Perhaps 600 randonneurs at Caylus this coming week end.

Dimanche 30 juin à partir de 7 h, le petit déjeuner est offert par les organisateurs. Deux départs de circuits différents. Pique-nique au lac de Caylus. Nouveau petit circuit.
À partir de 16 h, remise des récompenses et pot de l’amitié à la salle des fêtes.
Renseignements: Le Rayon albiassain, tél. 06 43 18 41 59 ou 06 84 10 28 96.
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Monday, 24 June 2013

Swap and chat, choose and chat with a coffee

Monday 1st of July at the Gazpacho in St. Antonin will be the very popular book swap, DVD swap and get your orders in for Spiced Cuisine.  Starts at 10.30am and is all over by lunchtime.
Bring books and DVDs you do not mind if you never see again and take others you would like to read or watch. I am bringing back good books and enjoyable DVD's and always  come away with a couple of months good entertainment.
Look forward to seeing you there.
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On taking the piscine

Never thought that on the 24th of June I would be sitting hugging my cardigan around me, still wearing trousers and socks rather than shorts. I have in fact just made the decision to go and put the sleeping blanket on.
Readers might be interested to read Boris Johnsons take on global warming or the lack of it in the Telegraph. The snippet below gives you a taste or slant of his rumblings or ruminations.

"It is outrageous. Think of all those honest hard-working folk who have sunk their resources into a pool, only to find they use it only a couple of times a summer, and even then the wind-chill is so bad that the swimmers get goosebumps as soon as they emerge. I am generally against the compensation culture, but in my mind’s eye I see a class action: aggrieved English pool-owners against the global warming prophets and the erroneous meteorologists who have, frankly, been taking the piscine."
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The rotten scammers!

The scam mentioned on Tag - it happened to Deirdre. She hadn't lost anything but they had hacked into her email and lots of us got emails saying she was stranded in Spain. it also happened to John Price the butcher and his customers got emails saying he was stranded in Greece, so hopefully this lady hasn't actually lost any property.
Val says That is terrible, like a double scam, the rotters, but I suppose on the bright side Lizzie has not been mugged in Manila... we hope.
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And they cannot even talk propa English!

Hi Val
Quite apart from our having seen similar "send money" scam emails before, the most telling fact is that Lizzie Jewel's command of the English language is infinitely better than the people who have tried to pass themselves off as her in this, frankly, pathetic email!  These thieves give themselves away in their first few words every time.  Long may they continue to make their attempted fraud so glaringly obvious!

xx Chris  
Val says   Read down to the scam letter. I do hope Lizzie is OK and did not lose all her important documents in Manilla. If anyone knows her let TAG know she is safe.

Giving away car seat for child

Britax childs car seat free to good home, well any sort of home. We used it with grandchild from baby to 6 years old. Useful for holiday visits.

Check out ''Tripping about''

A good travel tip from David on ''Tripping about'' One I had not thought of . Thanks David
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Brother held in Annecy murder case

Three British people and a French cyclist were shot in the French Alps last September and two children in the car survived. Both French and British police have been co-operating in enquiries and today the brother of the businessman Saad al-Hilli was arrested by Surrey police.
Theories from mafia to plain robbery have been advanced, but a family feud seems to be the line favoured by investigators.
The 4 year old daughter Zeena was found alive under her mother's body 8 hours after gendarmes arrived on the scene.
Just checked the charge   is " suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder."
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We thank Ton for putting our medical list in to Dutch.

Thank you for your kind words, is was a pleasure doing it.
Kind regards Ton
Val says Hope nobody needs to use the list but if any of your compatriots do Ton , it will be worth all your work.
Once more a big thank you.

Perle still looking for a home

Malc kindly went in to the vets at Laguepie this morning,  as I was soaking up the poetry of Sylvia Plath in my Fifi Poetry group meeting. The dog lost is a male that was lost in February by an English couple who had found it a year earlier and it had attached itself to them. That dog is still missing so if anyone has found a hunting dog email Angela on
That means Perle of the skinny body and long ears still needs a family. We must have a corner she could fit in ... but Malc says we have NOT.
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Horrible experience from Lizzie Jewels

It has being a horrible experience for me here in Manila,Philippine ,during my vacation i was attacked by some thugs around the hotel vicinity were i lodged who beat me up and collected all my money,credit card including my cell phone and other important documents i took along.But to the glory of God i still have my passport and my life spared. i have been to the police and embassy but they are not helping issues i was ask to come back in the next 3days,right now i am in a local library mailing you for financial assistant.
     My flight leaves soon and i am having a problem settling my hotel bills,please i need you to help me with ($1,750.00) to foot my bills and board a plane back to the state because right now i am stranded and you are my only hope to get out of this mess.When i get back to the state i will refund you every dime that you've spent if possible with interest...Write me back so i can tell you how to get the money to my present location.


Lizzie Jewels is a TAG reader and has had posts on TAG. Someone will know better than me, but I think she is travelling at the moment. It sounds as if  she has had documents stolen. Put it this way I will not be replying or sending any money . What a blinkin' cheek some thieves have.
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Athos settles in to his new home

Good morning, Val.
 Athos is at his most rewarding first thing in the morning , when whoever gets up first is subject to the most enthusiastic welcome ever. Athos jumps around like a lamb, and as the floors are wood, he usually manages to skid a fair distance. He then sticks to that person like a limpet for as long as it takes to find his lead and take him out for the first walk of the day.
He is a lovely dog, but is still really scarred from his treatment by his first owners. He is scared of loud noises and of people, and his first instinct is to run for the hills as soon as he encounters anything like that. After his early disappearance and return to us, he has given me the slip twice, both times whilst on a lead and spooked by other people. I think it will be a long time before he relaxes and realises that not everyone means him harm.
We absolutely love him, though, and are very grateful to TAGlines and to Maeva for bringing him to us. I've sent Maeva a few pictures, but unfortunately one or other of us is also in the shot. I've promised to send her decent pictures of Athos on his own as soon as I take some, and I'll send them to you in case any of your readers are interested.
 All the best.