Friday, 31 January 2014

Le Croix Rouge at St. Antonin Noble Val

 If you have a desire to help  the Red Cross and improve your French why not consider helping the happy band who work hard in St. Antonin. If you have not the courage to phone send an email and I know Bernadette Curato from Espinas is on the committee, she used to teach English so I am sure she will help you.

 Comment nous contacter? En venant place François-Pomiès (derrière la mairie), les jours d’ouverture, les premiers et troisièmes jeudis et samedis du mois. Vous pouvez aussi nous contacter par téléphone, au 05 63 31 24 66 ou au 05 63 67 00 83, ou par e-mail:

A smart car top of the list for thieves

German-made smart car, the Smart Fortwo, was the most stolen car in France for two years running, a new ranking has shown. 
Published by the magazine Auto Plus on Friday, the annual ranking is based on statistics provided by 15 insurers and banks, which represent some 20 million vehicles in France.
“Generally speaking, premium German and French [makes] share almost all of the places in the top 50 most stolen cars, with a majority of city cars, compact saloons and SUVs lately, but also some old [models] which are still popular,” the magazine wrote.
Created by German automobile manufacturer Daimler AG, the Fortwo is a rear-engined two-seater city car. First presented at the 1998 Paris Motor Show, the model’s all-electric version was first introduced in 2007.
But what is it about the smart car that is seemingly irresistible to thieves?
According to the magazine it has nothing to do with its ability to park in small spaces or ecological fuel consumption and more to do with its “very little resistance to burglary” and the fact that its parts are “worth gold”     News 24

Astra 2e

Hi Val

Your readers will be keen to know that Astra 2e is coming on line on the 1st Feb and that BBC, ITV, Channel4 and some other less important channels are moving onto it.
It has a ‘tighter beam’ which may or may not effect us here being a long way outside of the UK.

Hopefully we will all be fine but if anyone is experiencing problems I am happy to come round with my professional satellite finder and try to solve them.
Best Wishes

There is a link for further technical info too if you want it:

James Sweeting
 comments to

These are my girls today

You have to admit they are the prettiest donkeys ever seen!
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Ratty meets the Mas del Sol cats and comes to a sticky end.

"What are the cats throwing up in the air in the barn?" looks like a furry ball? Closer inspection revealed it was a rat.
My friend Anke has a farm down the road and Chats du Quercy asked her if she would have 3 feral cats to live in her barns, all sterilised of course. Anke was debating about it but as she has a mouse problem in her barns, she said yes. Those cats come today. Look at this Anke, that is why in the country you need the odd cat or two, or three!
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15 cats adopted from the SPA to be served roasted!

An Italian age 50 from the Lombardie region likes to eat and offer to his guests roasted cat. The SPA became suspicious on his 15th adoption and further checks revealed he was not a cat lover but liked to eat them. He could be  sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. In the Depeche alongside this article is the picture of a cute black cat.
One of the people who ticked enjoyed is now in jail and the other should be sent!
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Ecole de Piano at Arnac

Comme d’habitude tous les dimanches à 18h concert de piano entrée libre, programme libre et participation libre.
Quelques statistiques du mois de janvier :
- 38 personnes dont 35 adultes et 4 enfants pour les 4 premières Vespérales
- moyenne de 9 personnes et demi par concert !
- 112.20€ de dons soit 2.95€ par personne...
Restons optimistes !
A bientôt !
Jean-Paul Carrère
Ecole de Piano

Val says  the February programme will be uploaded soon. Jean- Paul is really trying to "energise the area with music" and the Sunday evenings are worth a visit, a really charming musical interlude.

I am only visiting the family in Andorra! "he said"

A Frenchman used the motorway from Toulouse to Andorra 84 times with out paying. He went through without taking a ticket and left by getting close to the car in front and then driving through with them when the barrier was lifted. ( our niece not understanding the system and being tired did this on her summer holidays, but the barrier came down on the back of her rental car!)
Anyway the man was eventually caught by the Gendarmes and as well as all the tolls now to be paid, owes massive fines.
Tomorrow Feb 1st the tolls are going up by 0.7 and1.6 %
The man did well to get caught before the tolls went up!
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Wednesday 12th of February, the opera is fully booked.

The Opera in February at Mas del Sol is The Marriage of Figaro and is now fully booked. I so enjoy these  now multi cultural evenings . An Italian Opera written by an Austrian, based on a book in French with a mixed audience of French and English.
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This mornings job

This morning Malc and I will be filling the boot with unwanted books and videos left over from numerous visits to the book swap. After each month we cart home what books are left and I spend time debating what can go to Emmaus and what can go back again to the next swap. At the dechetterie the books are taken into the site office to be picked up by Emmaus.
The swap on Monday will see a few extra bags of books sent by Steve Trinder of Le Cloup, some good ones amongst them, thanks Steve.
EMMAUS will not take old videos we discovered, so please do not take these to give away at the bookswap
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Madness from the big four

Despite the seemingly endless stream of bad economic news for France, there is at least one sector that’s booming: weapons. French arms makers confirmed €6.3 billion in orders to foreign countries in 2013, which represents a 31 percent jump on the previous year.
The figures released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Defence ensure France keeps its spot at number four among the world’s largest providers of weapons. The United States, the United Kingdom and Russia all sold more weapons than France in 2013.
For France the biggest orders came from Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with about 40 percent of deals being inked in that region. According to the Ministry of Defence, “2013 marked a return to the Middle East.” South East Asia accounted for 16 percent, North Africa contributed 11 and South America added nine percent to French defence industry sales.     News 24
France, UK,,Russia USA all  make and sell arms, then in wars send our young lads to sort it out and be killed.  More women in politics needed.
Malc says  - Defence spending is different, in France it is aircraft which is toting up the spending not guns.
Val says   was it a French missile that shot and sunk a vessel in the Falklands war? Do not tell me that these arms do not get sold on.  
Elly says 
  Hi Val,
I can only say 'Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.' I am sorry to be such a sceptic, but there it is. However, this does not mean that we have to accept it lying down. We can all hope and work for a better world.
I so enjoy daily clicking on the TAG shortcut to see what is going on in your little corner of France that is so close to my heart.
Best wishes,
              comments to

Le crunch

The trainer of the French rugby team seemed to get his food related metaphors in a mix, stating that France were about to eat "les rosbifs" in their first match of the Six Nations championship tomorrow, but they are ready for "le crunch". Crunchy roast beef - about a likely as Francois Hollande eating his vegetables at the pub lunch.
France v England, 18h (6pm) tomorrow Saturday (on France 2 or BBC1)
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Saloon bar politics

When David Cameron meets Francois Hollande today they will discuss, entre autres, the future of the EU. But the important nature of the relations between the two countries will be shown by new deals on aircraft, military co-operation, EDF to build nuclear power stations, space technology etc. The President will be entertained to a pub lunch (Val wonders will it be an "all you can eat" Harvester). Let's hope the usual saloon bar politicians a la Farage are kept away. Oh, and wives are not invited.

There are also likely to be some tensions over the frequent swipes made by Cameron's Tory party about the Socialist president's handling of the French economy. But French officials insisted they would rise above such criticisms at the summit, saying there will be no reciprocal "British-bashing".

Varen, the bureau for fishing in the area is elected.

L’assemblée générale de la société de pêche de Lexos a élu son nouveau bureau:
Président:éric Savignac; vice-président: Michel Cere; trésorier: Pierre Pequignot; trésorière adjointe: Régine Couffignal.
En Tarn-et-Garonne, la vente des cartes de pêche 2014 se fait principalement sur internet, sur le site
Pour ceux qui n’ont pas internet, une permanence se fait au syndicat d’initiative, le vendredi de 10 heures à 12 heures, à partir d’aujourd’hui 31 janvier. Il est conseillé de téléphoner à M. Péquignot, au 05 63 65 42 06ou au 06 32 40 55 87.

Val says we sometimes get people renting who want to fish in the Aveyron, so having information on where  to get the permit is useful.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A new bete noire?

Have you noticed how mail order packaging has changed? it used to be that everything was packed in moulded polystyene or worse still polystyrene balls both of which had to go straight to landfill. But now everything comes in cardboard boxes and any space is filled with polythene airbags. So what is the problem you may ask?    

Well last week we received a metre cube box from Marks and Spencer. We had bought just 4 pillows, two of which were compressed and the box was nearly three quarters empty. This week Darty sent us a 1 litre kettle in a box again about 6 times to big. 

So is it time for a new campaign - not only should packaging be recyclable but it should be an appropriate size for its contents?

Ginny Jenkins 

Sarah Massey says  I had a delivery this morning  and the packaging inside comprised of torn egg trays! They will be recycled into my compost bin!
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Serge Gomez, standing against the Mayor of Varen

Check out the site to see the team proposed by Serge Gomez

La date du 22 février est retenue pour une réunion publique de 17h à 20h à la salle Claude Teil pour vous informer comme promis de notre démarche.

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Queen Victoria loved her donkey and took him everywhere.

I thought this extract would interest you as it pertains to donkeys. We have

some aquaintances who live in Aix les Bains where Queen Victoria used to

take the waters and sent me a scan of the section about her in a book of

theirs. Apparently she took the train, but didn't care for it

particularly so the speed was limited to 20 mph and stopped for meals and

overnight. It must have caused havoc with the railway system.

I don't suppose they still have donkey races!

Hope you are both in good spirits; the weather here is depressing,

Alan & Val

Val says He does look a nice chap, does Jacquot.

When the Queen went to Aix-Les-Bains in 1891 she had difficulty walking. One afternoon
she saw a peasant with a cart and donkey. The Queen asked if she could buy the donkey. 
Not knowing who he was talking to the peasant with the usual distrust which country
folk entertain for towns people said "All depends"
"How much did you pay for him?" said the Queen
"100 francs"said the peasant.
"I will give you 200" said the Queen, and the deal was done.
The donkey went everywhere with the Queen and was even brought back to Windsor.
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Elton John at Carcassone Festival in June

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They look good Simon

Having had a business and knowing how important advertising is I appreciate people with initiative, well done Simon and Linda for coming up with a useful item which will remind us all of Simon's skills. Power to your elbow,
Simon tells me the bookmarks will be 5 to an A4 sheet, fully laminated and guillotined. Linda will be coming along and would hope to distribute them at the Book swap Monday.

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A final push for Fanfaron

Thank you Val. Don’t worry, I would prefer a quiet death for Fanfaron than an horrible Refuge. Sorry for yesterday evening I was really in a sort of temporally breakdown because of all that work with the rain and so on... During the summer, Fanfaron is very nice and quiet. It’s specially during the hunting period that it is horrible because he loves hunting... And he escape. But he can’t go to a hunter house because he is afraid of gun noise. I did’nt told you than when I went  to the vet for the castration we really found a “plomb” in his ear, that why he will be always afraid of gun noise. I can’t lie to hunters because when they will see that, they won’t keep fanfaron. 

Thank you for the anounces. One day I will arrive. I have a project to built my new kennel... The problem is the time to do it! 
By, dear Val.

Val says  We are talking here about a dog who escapes in the winter ( Bonny does that) and a dog who is nice and quiet in the summer. A fenced garden would sort out his escaping and time spent on training would make him a good pet. We occasionally receive emails from an owner in  England who rescued a sad chained dog, not even with a name  and now he is winning dog competitions. This dog could be the same if given a chance, if no one will have the courage to try, he sadly will be put to sleep. I asked Cécile not to send him to Figeac dog refuge whatever she did. A "plomb" by the way is a lead shot gun pellet
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BDs - art or comic books?

Today, 30th January, sees the opening of the 41st annual festival of BD (bandes dessinés) Angouleme Festival. This is now an important event in the calendar of those passionate about the genre, designers, producers and seller alike.
Most of us Brits know about Tintin or Asterix (whose adventures "Chez les Pictes" was the best selling book in France in 2013, with over 1 million copies - second btw was "50 Nuances de Gris").
But do we know about Professeur Cyclope, Mafalda or that there are countless "serious" titles. We've heard of Hervé but what about Tardi or Willem?
There is a long history of comics (Mickey Mouse annual is 80 years old) with acclaimed artwork, but are BD's outdated now, with DAs (dessins animés) more in vogue worldwide? It seems clear that the French remain attached to their BDs. If you are going to Angouleme this weekend you will see for yourself.

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An expression to learn / tombée d' un gratte - ciel

Internet Apocalypse

I've just signed this important petition at to save the Internet as we know it.

The US and the EU are on the verge of giving rich corporations the right to control what we all see online -- but we can stop it if we build the largest call for a democratic and free Internet ever. Join me in this campaign here:
Charlotte Organ

I think this is really important! This petition needs signing in order to help suffering animals and humans via campaign information and online petitions.

Charlotte Organ
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Raymonde at Lourdes lost everything in the floods

Lourdes does seem to suffer with floods each year. A story in the Depeche today where a lady has lost everything with the flooding in the zone du Monge area. All her papers, documents, photographs but even worse her two pet dogs and a cat all drowned.
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Dieudonne owes 90,000 euros in unpaid fines.

French police have seized 650,000 euros and $15,000 in cash during a raid on the home of controversial comic Dieudonne M'bala M'bala as part of a probe into suspected fraud. 
The revelation came as the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) began a legal action aimed at forcing Dieudonne to withdraw one of his videos from YouTube.
The UEJF said sections of the performance on the film breached France's laws on incitement to racial hatred, racial defamation and denial of the holocaust. A judge will rule on the application on February 12.
Dieudonne, who has been widely accused of promoting anti-Semitism, already has a string of convictions for hate speech and other related offences.
Al Jazeera news
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TAG has noticed the same trend

Trevor Leggett, of estate agency Leggett Immobilier, has noticed a growing trend. “The press and TV tend to focus on retirees who move here for the weather and generally slower pace of life, but we have noticed the increase in younger buyers for some time,” comments Trevor, who sees this as a positive and welcome trend. “Working parents help stimulate the economy and, of course, pay taxes and social charges that boost public coffers. Often with young families, parents need to move to an area where they can find suitable schooling for the children as well as work opportunities for themselves. This has helped with integration.
Val says  I must add that us retired folk must stimulate the local economy, eating, out, restoring properties. How many businesses have grown off the back of us... including estate agents.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A good sized market, the Chinese one.

The Chinese appear to have beaten the French at one of their own favourite pastimes – quaffing red wineChina's drinkers knocked back 1,865bn bottles of vin rouge last year, an increase of 136% over five years, making the country the leading market for red wine.

Who will take Fanfaron?

Bonjour,Je sollicite à nouveau votre aide concernant fanfaron. Il n’a toujours pas trouvé de maître. Grace à votre don, il a été stérilisé et pucé. Je m’en occupe depuis Novembre 2012. Il est heureux mais pas moi.

Je n’ai qu’in chenil pour trois chiens et maintenant une portée de 5 chiots, plus un chenil de secours à la ferme. Fanfaron s’échappe de ce chenil et j’ai parfois du mal à le remettre dedans. IL a compris que c’est plus agréable dehors. IL part alors de longues heures, entrainant avec lui  le chien pour lequel j’ai payé un dressage et dont il détruit le travail. Fanfaron vient de vivre 14 mois de bonheur et de liberté, il a vu beaucoup de monde. Mais moi je craque. Ce chien devient un sujet de dispute entre mon compagnon et moi.

Si cela ne va pas, quelles solutions à part l’euthanasie, quand personne ne veut d’un chien? Exemple, je viens de le remettre au chenil, il est là devant ma fenêtre à attendre, il vient de s’échapper. Du coup, je suis obligée de laisser enfermé les autres car sinon il va les entrainer en vadrouille. Ce n’est pas juste pour les autres. Les miens sont dressés, reviennent au rappel, et je peux les laisser en liberté alternativement.

Tous les amis des animaux ou qui se disent tels n’ont pas franchi le pas que j’ai franchi pour adopter Fanfaron. A qui le tour?

Voilà ce qu’il lui faut.

Un jardin clos et la compagnie d’autres chiens. Ce chien n’aime pas rester seul et ce qu’il préfère, c’est être avec d’autres chiens.

Je suis prête à offrir la nourriture de ce chien si quelqu’un peut l’héberger. Je veux bien aussi partager la garde, dans un premier temps. Mais aider moi à me libérer au moins partiellement de ce chien.

Merci de remettre une annonce actualisée.


Val says  Cecile took in a wandering stray dog, more than a year ago now. She has her own dogs which she breeds and could not keep Fanfaron , even for a short time unless he was castrated.  You, Tag readers pulled together and we raised enough money to have him castrated and chipped. Being looked after by Cecile was always going to be a  "short stay"  problem or so Cecile thought.  She is wondering now what alternative is there for a dog nobody wants but to have him put to sleep. She begs anybody interested in taking him on to give him a try now. He sounds as if he is a dog who needs someone with time to train him and a fenced garden in the meantime. 
What will happen to poor Fanfaron ?
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French women do get fat and some wear big cotton knickers

Shock news in England  from across the Channel: French women do get fat, they have brattish, fussy-eater children, chipped nails, they sometimes sleep on their own wearing big cotton knickers and they do mind if their husband is enjoying cinq-à-sept trysts with his mistress.
President François Hollande's affair – alleged – with an actor and betrayal – alleged – of his "official" partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has revived some hoary old stereotypes concerning the French female.
Until now, les françaises were seen as effortlessly stylish, enviably slim and usually able to treat their partner's dalliances with impressive sang-froid (though not in the case of Trierweiler), and have been the subject of a host of self-help books aimed at their less fortunate sisters in other countries.
The Guardian
Val says  I knew all the  talked and written about slim, sexy French women was  a myth.
Some of those undergarments / girdles  / brassieres one sees on the market stalls, told me all was not as written in the popular books on French women. Some ladies must wear these contraptions seen on the markets,  although they look as if they are remnants from the 1940's .  

Never bored in South West France

I have invented a new winter sport, one which is great fun and no expensive equipment needed.
A stout pair of wellies with the tread well worn, an old brown coat ( preferably that colour) and a well padded rump, then you are away.
 Away I was today, sliding from the standing position, then a spectacular wobble, before flinging hands in the air and skating flying face forward, but then executing an aerial turn before sliding for a few metres on my rump in the smelly, slimy manure covered mud.
For my first attempt, marks out of ten, it has got to be ten for effort. The donkeys were holding up boards and tens were awarded from them all.
They knew I was fun. Anyone wanting to book a beginners course send me a mail, marking it  "Loony mud slide course " Please bring a total change of clothes with you.  With my powers of persuasion and advertising skills I can see it catching on and maybe becoming an Olympic sport.
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We had planed the Hirondelle, then the St. Mamet but we ended up at Le Clos

So difficult finding restaurants open in January, keep trying and you can usually manage it. A proliferation of  January birthdays meant another outing today, oh goody.
The  Hirondelle at St Cirq appears to be closed for the week, must be congés annuel. The St. Mamet at Septfonds on its website says open from Tuesday to Sunday but we phoned to be told they were closed. Le Clos at Monteils we have been meaning to try for years, but here you need to watch for our mistake, there is a Le Clos at Monteils in the Aveyron and another at Monteils in Tarn and Garonne. We booked the one we wanted in the Aveyron, or so we thought... read on in TOF's
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Folk'n'jazz Burn's night

Folk'n'jazz Burn's night

So cold and wet it could remind some of bonnie Scotland and so what could be more appropriate for the January meeting of folk'n'jazz to celebrate the Bard with a Scottish themed evening of music,song,poetry and dancing.
Regular singers have been hard at work preparing their Scottish repetoire and  the resident band, after their successful debut  at the celidh in November,  will be making another appearance and hoping they can get a few people on their feet. Compere for the evening will be Gavin Porter, a great Burns enthusiast. The only thing which will be missing is the haggis and bagpipes (maybe some of us will be thankful for that).
Join us at Verfeil in the salles des fetes at 8pm this Thursday, entrance is free. The room is well heated and comfortable just bring yourself something to drink and forget the weather outside!
If you have a "burning" desire (sorry) to perform or want further information or phone  05 63 67 93 35Transport request - Is anyone is coming from the St Antonin area who could provide a lift for two people? If so please contact as above.

Flights affected Thursday

It could be a bumpy ride on Thursday if you're planning to fly in or out of France. Air traffic controllers have called a strike, which is set to result in a 20 percent reduction in traffic around the Paris region. Check with your airport.
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Turn your nose up at the law, at your peril

French police raided the offices and home of Dieudonné M'bala M'bala in Paris on Tuesday, in what is the latest chapter in the controversy surrounding the comedian.

The raids were carried out as part of a broader investigation into suspected fraud by Dieudonné, whose act has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic. He also has a string of hate speech convictions.
Authorities are now seeking to compel Dieudonné to pay tens of thousands of euros in outstanding fines related to the convictions, and suspect that the 47-year-old of scheming to fraudulently declare himself bankrupt. They are also investigating suspected money laundering and misuse of corporate assets.             News24                   Comments to

Just bought some fuel oil (fioul)

We have always found Geraud Tampier from Septfonds to be very quick, courteous and competitively priced. Today's delivery of 1000 Quatre Saisons fioul was actually 68 euros cheaper than the same day last year.
As the delivery man was M Tampier himself I asked about buying in bulk as a group, as some people here and in the UK do. He said that 10000 litres delivered to various customers on the same day could give reasonable savings and suited him too - provided the deliveries were within a radius of about 10 kms. The current price for 1000 litres is about 900 euros so even a saving of 5% would be worthwhile. No doubt other suppliers (such as Miquel at Caylus) would be equally amenable, so it may be worth asking neighbours to see if a buying group can be set up. Some may need to break off from their traditional supplier and align their orders but if anyone can get a group together we would be interested to pass on their experiences.
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Looking for cleaning work

I’d like to introduce you to my excellent Polish cleaner, Helena, who is looking for work. Please contact me on 05 63 53 99 45 if you are interested. Gill Catterall

Rubbishing the French, not me.

In an earlier post Katharine Whitehorn says we Brits love rubbishing the French, and in some ways if you were in England and a Daily Mail reader that might be the case. I think one of the reasons we expats have made our homes here is we love the French, the lifestyle, the relaxed way of living, the food and in summer the weather.
I find it extremely satisfying to read the younger peoples blogs who live in the area, all who are loving the life living here with young families, working but out of the rat race and going for quality of life with their youngsters, a classic example of money not being everything. I am thinking of  Andrew  and  Becky from Parisot, from  her blog you can see how the family is enjoying life. Then Debbie and John from Les Jardins des Espiemonts working hard growing their business but really enjoying their family life. Leila Mcclelland who draws architect plans and has an advert on TAG, her, hubby and daughter work hard to have a good life here. There must be many other young people who are integrating well and you will not hear them or me rubbishing the French.
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The uneven streets of Albi

You will have read on TAG that all the work on the paved roads around the Cathedral which had Albi " upside down" for months has not been "bien fait" and will have to be redone. The courts have declared the result positive, the cobbles are not well laid and the original company has to pay back monies and another firm to replace the work has been found. When we were in Albi on Monday we went passed the Cathedral very slowly as the puddles and bumpiness were terrible. The poor restaurants and shops in that area, the effect to a business must be tremendous. They should be able to sue for loss of trade.
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A bit on the side, but you can still be a good leader.

Along with cricket, Coronation Street and carping about the weather, we British enjoy rubbishing the French. Their marital practices form a rich source of entertainment, particularly their acceptance of infidelity – which, we marvel, seems to have its own rules.
This tolerance might, perhaps, derive from the fact that marriages were traditionally arranged for reasons not of passion but of family, inheritance or property. And some romantics might have thought that such a cynical acceptance of a bit on the side would be abolished, if there were no artificial or legal formalities, such as marriage. Well, this month's French capers have put paid to that idea: indeed, the "first lady" is not even the first spouse – the real aggrieved person, you might think, should beSégolène Royal, the mother of François Hollande's children.
So how worrying is it? Kennedy and Clinton weren't bad presidents after all, and look how they carried on; even the saintly Mandela was apparently a ladies' man. The one thing romantics have to remember is that though you might well try to stop your daughter getting mixed up with one, there is no necessary connection between being a good ruler and being a loving and faithful mate.
Katharine Whitehorn writing in the Guardian

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Valerie Seales -Johnstone, that is me,

MARRIED women should receive official letters in their maiden name instead of their married name - after MPs voted to clear up the rules used by the French administration.

From now on, a woman's surname at birth will be the default option used by government bodies, the tax office and any other state organisations.

Her married name will only be used if the recipient specifically agrees to the change.

Laws have existed since the French Revolution stating that "no citizen can use a first name or surname other than that written on their birth certificate" - but many official organisations address both partners by the husband's surname.

Since last year, the French tax return has included a tick box for women who wish to use their birth name. The new rules, put forward by two Socialist MPs, Axelle Lemaire and Sébastien Denaja, would mean the opposite choice would apply. - See more at:

Val says  You know I am going to mention that hospital visit where they asked for the name of my "jeune fille" and I gave them our daughter Samantha' s name. Getting back to say to Malc  " how did they know I had a daughter and why would they want her name?"  One wonders how many embarrassing things we have all done or said whilst being here.
Malc says  "do you need the hyphen ?"  I thought it has a touch of class.
 Seales - Johnstone hyphenated! 
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Jamming at Parisot

The next jam session will be Friday 7th of February  starting 7.30pm at the Cafe du Forail, just off the main car park at Parisot.
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Do not forget 120 Femmes

We have just had 3 more ladies sponsored in the scheme to help women of Mali raise vegetables to feed their families and to sell any extra produce grown. I will check with Winnie Nosal to see how the numbers  of us helpers are growing.
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Francois Hollande in London on Friday

Francois Hollande will run the gauntlet of the probing UK press on Friday when he makes a visit to discuss defence and energy with David Cameron. The half-day Anglo-French summit will include a media conference, at which Hollande will likely face awkward questions about his love life from Britain's notoriously prurient press.
Sarah says   Are the French press any better?
Val says After the leaking of the affair, the UK press called French reporters timid in their questioning.
Sarah says  again  Timid maybe but just as  invasive!
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Sodden underfoot and the skies are still heavy.

All the fields are sodden and walking around the donkey hut my wellies kept sinking in so deep that I could not pull them out without real effort, and rain is still being forecast for the next few days. Tarn and Garonne are still on orange alert for flooding.
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Sad news for folk music followers

Many of us have enjoyed the mix of the folk music, from traditional to Dylan, presented by the FolknJazz club these last 18 months or so, but yesterday saw the death of one of the most influential figures on the scene, Pete Seeger.
With his group the Weavers, Seeger inspired the movement in the 60's and his song "We shall overcome" became an anthem of the freedom movements, especially the American black rights campaigns.
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Cats and donkeys

Hi Val,
Curry arrived back at the door a couple of  minutes ago and we can now relax, or Geoff can. He is the one to worry himself sick over our animals. The little fellow had been out of the house all day and no sign of him all evening. We were for ever opening the door and calling out for him…cats are so independent, aren’t they, and do just as they pleased. That little cat had been with us may be 6 weeks now and Geoff isn’t sure that he wouldn’t get lost out there at night….
Anyway here is some news about those donkeys. I called Mr Monier this morning , and he is clear, he doesn’t wish for his donkeys to be separated. He gave his male donkey to his best friend in Marseille a while ago to look after and the friend called him back after 3 weeks saying I am bringing your donkey back. He is not eating and has not eaten for the 3 weeks he’s been here. He is letting himself die…Mr Monier refused my offer to take one of his donkeys and I reassured him that I fully understood his feelings and that I agreed that the best thing for them is not to be separated. I said I would investigate around here, in Puylaroque if anyone would be interested in those donkeys. I made quite a few calls from a list given to me by Brigitte, the mayor’s secretary but I have not had much success. Donkeys are not worth anything and there is no-one with 4 hectares of vacant land ready for them…. It is such a shame as I believe they are very special indeed. The castrated male is the one to have made the “Ane de Provence” a recognized pedigree, 16 years ago in Paris, and Mr Monier has all the medals he won since with these animals….But like you said Val, there is that charity A.D.A.D.A that has accepted them if no-one is found around here, and there will be a guarantee that they won’t end up apart…..we can now turn that page .
Chat soon,
Val says Martine and I have been phoning and spending time wondering how we could help the donkeys. I had offered to have them whilst the elderly owner was in hospital and Martine had offered to take one. These options were really not acceptable as the donkeys cannot be separated and a long term solution is needed. A donkey refuge in the North of France has offered to take them so although the man wanted them nearby,  that is going to be the only option. Martine is wrong saying they are not worth anything, they have a price as donkey meat!

... are the veggies in the soup?

A reader says, I found Martine's post interesting and appreciate and enjoy the French way of eating but still do not understand where all the vegetables go,  in the soup perhaps ? Meat and 3 vegs is good for me roasted, steamed or boiled.
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Jobless figures up

French jobless claims hit a new record in December, rising by 10,200, effectively crushing President François Hollande’s pledge to reverse the trend by the end of 2013.    comments to

Suddenly on her own.

Valerie Trierweiler stepped on to the world stage without President Francois Hollande at her side on Monday, and in her first public utterances since their break-up declared: "Don't worry about me, I have time to think about the future."
As her ex-boyfriend headed to Turkey on an official state visit, Ms Trierweiler, 48, was at a charity event 3,000 miles away in Mumbai, India, with just a single bodyguard to show for her previous status as France'sunofficial first lady.                        Comments to

Monday, 27 January 2014

I asked what do the French do with their vegetables?

What happened to all those vegetables? Being French I might be able to bring some light here.
Let’s have a look at it.
 On 17th November 2010 Unesco officials enshrined the “gastronomic meal of the French” as part of the“intangible cultural heritage of humanity.”
Below is a definition found on the internet of the gastronomic meal enjoyed by the French: The writing in red are the words I would take out if I was to explain to our English friends what a meal at home is about.:
“The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and reunions. It is a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking. The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting items at the table. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert. Individuals called gastronomes who possess deep knowledge of the tradition and preserve its memory watch over the living practice of the rites, thus contributing to their oral and/or written transmission, in particular to younger generations. The gastronomic meal draws circles of family and friends closer together and, more generally, strengthens social ties.” This is a pretty accurate definition of a meal in our family.
When we arrived from Algeria, early 60’s, we’d lost everything, and the money was scarce. The little we had was borrowed anyway.  As little children we were unaware of our parents hardship and thought we were in paradise because living on a farm, we could go barefoot everywhere from morning to night without a care in the world other than the one of checking on the new wild ducklings, or those kittens we’d heard miaowing in the hay. The truth was we were penniless, we wore second-hand clothed handed down from cousins, repaired our socks, never went to the hair dresser, cycled to school in all weathers, had only one pair of shoes…and so on,  and yet, there was a 3 course meal on the table everyday, with a specific way of laying the table with spoons and knives on the right and forks on the left….there was always wine on the table, and we washed our hands before sitting at the table. My dad insisted on us waiting for mum to sit down and serve everyone before starting to eat….All these things were taken for granted and still are. That’s how it was. When as a young mum in London, I used to come home to France for the summer with my little boy, the conversation at lunchtime was always: What shall we have for tea? And when having tea, the conversation would be: what shall we have for lunch tomorrow? It was a family decision and everyone pulled in to offer ideas and preferences..I never worried about this kind of thing in the UK but being back in France after 35 years away, I now find myself laying the table in the same way, and preparing 3 course meals as a matter of habit and soooo enjoying it,  and when it happens that we don’t, it’s terribly missing like something’s wrong….
So what happened to those vegetables you may ask again?
Well, the meat and 3 veg that one is used to and enjoys when one is British, doesn’t have a place here in France. All the vegetables are cooked in addition to others and transformed such that apart from a salad as a starter, you would not recognize any of the vegetables when they reach your table. Where the British like their salad without dressing( mostly) we, the French would not touch it with a barge pole as we’re not rabbits would have said my old Aunt Titoune. A good dressing is an important  well balanced and very palatable addition to any salad dish and there are so many variations of a good one. Roasted  potatoes are delicious in their jackets aren’t they? Most roasted vegetables are scrumptious but you  Brits like your boiled vegetables. Boiling vegetables isn’t considered  COOKING, merely messing about in the kitchen…. Have I answered the  question of vegetables ?
Martine Lewis
Val says  Not sure  still that I know where the vegetables go Martine, but I enjoyed the post anyway.

The two young " wannabe terrorists" boys back in France

The two 15 year old schoolboys from Toulouse who borrowed their fathers credit card to get the plane to Syria and then become terrorists have been found and brought back.  How do you handle youngsters like that ? But at least now the families have a chance to try rather than receiving the boys back in coffins. ?
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We fancied somewhere different and what an excellent choice we made.

Having at one time or another eaten at many of the restaurants around our patch we were up for somewhere different. Not an easy task on a Monday in South West France but we could not have made a better choice. Read about our meal at   Auberge du Pont Vieux at Albi. We gave it the top score,  a 5 in TOF's. Check out the TOF' s label to read more .
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Roll up, roll up to things happening in the coming days

Thursday night at the Salle des fetes at Verfeil is a Burns evening being held by the Folk'n' Jazz group with Gavin Porter as host starts at 8pm sharp.

Also Thursday night, as always the Bridge Club will meet at the Bar Bascule at Caylus, starting now 5 pm prompt instead of 5.30pm

The Friday boules group will be at Varen starting at 2.30pm

Sunday at Arnac the classical piano concerts starting at 6pm, remember these are every Sunday evening, a  musical event " chaleureux"

Monday the DVD and book swap, Spiced Cuisine delivering( why not go and talk to them if you have not ordered before) and orders being delivered from The British Cornershop by Chris Robinson
All at the Gazpacho at 10.30am
If I have missed anything happening you want reporting let me know.

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What happens to all those vegetables ?

Why when the daily market stalls in different towns and villages are heaving with an array of seasonal vegetables do you never get a plate in a restaurant with vegetables on, as "à l' anglaise". If you are lucky you might get a small portion of well overcooked green beans. Who will answer the question, where do all these vegetables go and what do the French do with them?
This question will be asked of Martine our French correspondent but if anyone else has an answer let TAG know.
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Not just a marechal ferrant

You will have read about our blacksmith (marechal ferrant) Patrick Rossetti, but  he is also a passionate petanque player and coach of juniors at Lafrancaise.
His two sons  Joffray and Lucas are also up and coming players, but in Laguepie last summer these two youngsters won the departmental  championship in the youngest category under Patrick's tutelage. The club at Lafrancaise is thriving at all levels and the indoor bouledrome has a concours "a la melee" every Sunday afternoon if you fancy a day out.
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Those 3 donkeys needing rehoming.

The elderly man who owns the three pure race donkeys needing rehoming can be contacted on
tel  0563 95 91 06 and portable 0609895348. He is called M. Monier, he has to go into hospital for 3 weeks and his wife died  at the end of last year. Transport can be arranged for them.
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Les voeux du maire

At the moment villages and communes are being invited by the Maire to get together with refreshments and listen to the good wishes of the Mayor. This year it is more important than ever that the Mayor presents himself well as the elections for his post come up in March.
Mayors by now have chosen their list, the people who will help him over the next five years, often these people have special tasks like being in charge of roads and lanes, etc. and often the Mayors ajoint have special areas of expertise. If you want to vote in these local elections you need to have registered at the Mairie before Christmas.
More about how to vote in a later post.
Mayors about whom TAG are hearing good comments are from Verfeil sur Seye, le Riols  and Parisot.
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Two French triumphs abroad

News papers and TV news this morning are happily reporting successes on international stages, neither of which would register with most of us expat readers.
Firstly the French handball team carried off the European title in Denmark, beating the holders, the world champions and the favourites en route. You may recall some suspicion of illegal gambling by Montpellier players a couple of years ago. The French team has actually won almost every tournament in recent years, including the London Olympic games.
Secondly, and probably of interest to younger readers was the 5 Grammy Awards picked up French duo Daft Punk. Dressed in full astronaut style, including helmets (think of the Stig)  the "electro" duo carried off best album, best remix, best dance disc etc. They remained silent throughout the ceremony, a spokesman accepting the awards for them. (Little note for us oldies: Paul McCartney won for best rock song).
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Day of Anger in Paris

Several thousand people marched through central Paris on Sunday in a “Day of Anger” directly targeting France’s embattled President François Hollande and his policies, ending in both clashes and arrests.

Security forces used tear gas to disperse several hundred youths who lobbed police with bottles, fireworks, iron bars and dustbins.
Police said at least 250 people had been arrested after the clashes, during which 19 officers were injured, one of these "potentially seriously", according to one police source.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the violence "by individuals, varied groups from the extreme and ultra-right, whose only goal is to create unrest".
While police estimated the turnout at around 17,000, organisers placed the figure at 120,000.

Un tremblement de terre a Rodez

Un séisme de magnitude de 3,9 sur l’échelle de Richter s’est produit samedi à 22 h 16, entre Estaing et Le Nayrac, à 27 km au nord-est deRodez. Il n’a fait ni dégât ni blessé.

An earth tremor of 3.9 on the Richter scale at Rodez, nobody was hurt. In the last few days there has been earlier report of an earth tremor in the area.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Bill and Maggie in Violets Brook, Novia Scotia

Val says a reader had asked at the same time  as I was wondering how Bill and Maggie who are second homers here were managing in Novia Scotia
Good day Friends!
Your missive arrived just after I spent about 4 hours just getting our 700m lane open in the wake of our latest snow "bomb". It took me that long just to be able to get to the pavement. I spent most of the day yesterday opening things up in preparation for the next snow. Saturday morning started out -25.8c, it was +5.4 this morning and raining like all hell. It is a bloody skating rink outside now and the afternoon temperature is now -2 and headed to -12 over night! Any other questions about our weather? It has been something like this most of the time since we left France in early December. Christmas was spent with Maggie's mum in Sandy Spring, Maryland (just outside Washington D.C.) The weather there ranged from +20 to -6. All in all, I would venture that global climate change is really happening. On the 17th of January we had lost all of the previous snows and it was quite mild. That day we harvested all of our Brussels sprouts which had been under the snow for over a month and they were in beautiful condition. (pictures enclosed) Yesterday on the coldest morning so far this year we had a downy woodpecker at a peanut butter stick feeder and later on in the honeysuckle bush just outside the kitchen, a sharp shined bird hawk. (see pictures) I also made a couple of shots from my tractor while I was plowing. We have our air tickets for April 14 and we will stay to the end of May. Keep the cards warm Mal!

Bill and Maggie when they are at their home here are star bridge players at Caylus, hence the comment about the cards to Malc.

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Martine writes a piece for WIT

Geoff and I went to the dentist last Thursday, 20 kms west of Toulouse. A very nice man and a gentle and caring dentist. Why do you go all the way there? Asked the chemist here. Because he is the best one around was my answer. He is a friend of my sister Claudine who lives near by and came highly recommended to us when we moved down here…. 
continued in " Writers in TAG"
Martine Lewis has written a post about Christmas cards which is now in writers in TAG, enjoy reading.

Coffee table for sale

Dear Val,
I wonder whether any of your readers would be interested in this coffee table which I am selling for 60€. It is a FLY glass top table in good condtion with metal legs and the dimesions are 120x80 cm.
If anyone is intetested can they call me on 0563240997 or send a mail to
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What should happen to the old " grand station at Lexos"

In the Varen commune, at Lexos is an old rather grand defunct railway station premises.
When SNCF who owned it talked about pulling it down, we the residents of Varen were outraged. It really is a stylish building and needs preserving. The commune was then given the building for donation of one euro.
Now a few years on after this scenario the building is costing us all a lot of money to keep in a reasonable state of repair. What should happen to it, what use could it be put to and how can it be made to be profitable enough to pay for its own repairs?  Any ideas readers?
Val says  My idea would be to make it an antiques/ brocante centre and have all the rooms rented to different dealers. In England these centres really pulled the crowds in and if there was a coffee shop and a central desk for taking payments so that the dealers did not have to spend all their time there it could work. It has plenty of parking and people love their brocantes / vide greniers here. The money raised from small rents from lots of people could then pay for its upkeep.
A bit like Hexham railway station in the North of England, and as the train stops at Lexos with plenty of advertising, customers could come from both directions on the train.
Any more ideas? I will pass them on to the Maire
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Inondations / floods in the South West

Locally in Varen the river Aveyron is over the  access road  down by the Moulin and rising. Speaking to a friend with a Moulin nearby the water is high, everywhere and rising and even here at Mas del Sol the fields are sodden and the road snaking down to Varen has a stream running down the middle.
It is not raining this morning but more rain is forecast over the next few days.
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Crime in rural areas

French rural areas are facing a growing crime wave as thieves steal potatoes from the fields, grapes from the vines and expensive machinery from farms and showrooms.

On January 21, French gendarmes broke up a highly specialised international criminal organization. It wasn't robbing armoured cars, luxury jewellery stores in Place Vendôme or tourists on the Paris Métro – it was stealing tractors.                                    comments to

What a night it was, it really was such a night.

I thought we were going for a late Christmas celebration last night with a group of good friends, two who had missed Christmas here. In the event it worked out being a birthday celebration for myself and the hostess as well as a Christmas celebration.
I was presented with a cake alight with candles made up of a malteser top and chocolate finger sides, but even more than this, these kind and thoughtful folk had bought me a present of a " leopard skin onesie" Now if this suddenly conjures up images of  sexy Eartha Kitt, forget it and think old, cuddly mother leopard. I spent the evening  in my " onesie" with hood and ears and I really could not understand why everyone was laughing at me.
Bought from Boohoo on line, you could look like this ... if you wanted to!
A reader says 
 Hi Val,
Just to say you look Grrrrrreat!! Hope you didn't scare the Donkeys.
Debra says    I absolutely love the look Val! From a very cold and wet, miserable London it looks just the thing to wear to keep cosy. Quite chic in a way! Could this be the start of a TAG trend?
Debra x
Purr, purrr
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The elusive Anna Gauthe

Hi Val, I'm in the bar de la Halle with Betty and they have changed exhibition. Sorry for the late notice.

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François et Valérie: la séparation est officielle...

The President François Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler are no longer a couple and it is now official. Imagine how that must feel, announced to the world your partner no longer wants you. Everyone has crosses to bear in life and for both people being in the worlds spot light at this difficult time cannot make this an easy thing. Our sympathies to both people.
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Just take it away AND it has been

We have a really good quality in good condition but old settee that is now surplus in our house. It is extremely comfortable, no sagging or snagging. It is free to anyone who collects it.
How do I get it on to this website with a picture?

Kind regards
Janice Kempton Wooding

Hi here is a  picture of our settee. A bit dusty where we have been decorating but no marks and good quality.
We live in 82240 Puylaroque
Anyone interested can email me

Janice Kempton Wooding
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Anna Gauthe is a talented local photographer

I have just noticed reading the very interesting Noble Nuptials advert that Anna Gauthe, a talented local photographer is the wedding photographer for them and has shot the photos on the site. If anyone hears about her having another exhibition let TAG know.
Anna has an exhibition at the moment in the Bar Halle in St. Antonin  says Betty Nuttall            Val says that is unbelievable, but you must all go and look
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