Sunday, 31 August 2014

Old Penny is on her own

Our lonely hen Penny who has outlived two of her compatriots sat with us in the sunny courtyard today. She looks quite sad as she wanders around on her own but we have decided she could not cope with a new young aggressive newcomer. There is a pecking order and Penny has never been up for a pecking match, she is the sort of hen who would wear a CND badge.
Malc and I discussed how she would manage on her own in the winter months with no one to snuggle up to. Having done some research on the net this cuddly hen toy could be an option. Any other ideas readers?
Who will be able to resist this one!

One idea put forward " roast chicken with the  creamy courgette recipe"
Comments to

Just take 5

Book swap tomorrow, first Monday of the month. As always at the Gazpacho in St. Antonin 10.30 am.  Swap books and DVDs but let us try restrain, take 5 is just an idea, but if they are 5 good ones it could work OK.
See you tomorrow and it could be books and coffee in the sun.
Comments to

Jazz at Najac on the 6th Sept

Hi Val,
Just to let you know there will be an evening of jazz with singer Valerie Merz, pianist David Archbold and two others on Saturday 6 Sept. In Najac. Tickets from Najac office du tourisme.[gC]=|MoFetesManifestations|FetesManifestations||-5|-6|-TT|&tfo[page]=1
Apparently the group and singer are very good, so definitely will give it try. 
Kind regards,

Le Cloup are here for you

Many thanks to TAG readers says Rod

Hello Val and Malcolm,

 Thanks to your readers my daughter’s boyfriend got a number of days work which at such short notice was excellent .
In just over a months’ time they’ll be off on their travels. I am so envious

Thank you again
 Very best wishes

Val says I know at least 3 people who had him doing jobs for them and all were very pleased. Now we hope the pair go off and have a wonderful time " globe trotting"

Atelier Ouvert Caylus

and the two strimmers, both up for grabs with a small donation

The strimmers are Bosch EasyTrim and Florabest     contact Linda
Val says  thank you Linda Walsh some people are just out and out kind hearted.
Comments to

A little lawnmower with a little donation

Hi Val
We would like to offer a small electric lawnmower and 2 electric grass strimmers to TAG readers in return for a donation to one of your charities.

The mower is a Flymo Visimo with a 33cm cut and a detachable grass box.

Linda W

We need young people,we need jobs, we need revitalising!

It all happens slowly but suddenly you think back and notice the changes that have happened in 12 years of being here.
Today walking the dogs along the Aveyron in Laguepie we past the building at "la base nautique" and the attached camping ground.
When we first arrived and indeed for many years in the summer this place was packed with youngsters on their holidays  with an association the UCPA
Over the years we have noticed a sad decline in the building and two years ago the UCPA pulled out as the facilities were not up to scratch. The commune as other communes has little money to spend on such things.
When we talk of desertification of the countryside this sort of problem runs along side it. Fewer people living here in the villages, elderly  residents with little or no income except pensions, where does the commune raise money from ? (did I hear someone say "us Brits")
We need young people, we need jobs, we need revitalising, but I am going for an afternoon nap so maybe I will start that project later.

Do you know I thought that  last sentence really funny but when I read it to Malc he gave me a withering look!
Comments to

Suzuki Grand Vitara 16 v sport for sale

Grand Vitara  16 V Sport 2004
Petrol 1590 CC
Right hand drive
French registration
Tow ball fitted
Smart little car. New roof approx. 18 months ago.
Tel: Carole or Alan 05 63 76 18 40

The now famous courgette recipe

Hello Val,

I have made the courgette recipe that Martine sent in and it is delicious. I made it with the mustard which was lovely and I made it the second time without because I forgot to put it in! Both were very tasty and I could imagine eating it with fresh bread at lunch time or as we did as a vegetable with a meal. Great way to use up courgettes

 Val H
Val says I am trying it today

Brilliant, what a winning recipe, even I could not go wrong
Comments to

Very French evening in the Halle in Varen

As I looked around at the  mostly elderly villagers sitting on benches in the Halle, the warm, dark  evening with splashes of luminosity from the hanging street lamps, the music being played I thought " this is France" this is why I love it.

The four musicians  from the Poitou region had a hand held hurdy gurdy and the songs were sung in a dialect / patois not dissimilar to Occitan called Poitevin.
They did play two  mazurka dances which when I went to Occitan dancing found impossible to do, as you dance around with your partner raising your knee on about every fourth step. I always embarrassed partners by raising the wrong knee each time giving a clash of knee caps.
Comments to

Do you know about this story?

Malc told me about it yesterday as he doubted the authenticity of the parents' story.
A couple placed the carry cot of their 4 month old baby on the ground whilst they had a game of boules.  They told the gendarmes someone had then run up and picked up the carry cot and ran off with it. Malc said he didn't like the sound of the story.
Today I read that the parents have been arrested as there were just too many inconsistencies in their story. Sadly whatever a little four month baby is missing or worse.

Les parents du petit Loan, qui affirmaient depuis trois jours que leur bébé avait été enlevé par un mystérieux ravisseur dans la Creuse, ont été placés en garde à vue hier après-midi.
Comments to

Remember when I bought the slide?

All the worries about the slide into the pool are over now as our last children left yesterday.
When, which has not been often, children have used the pool and slide there has been no problem but oodles of fun. Older children respected that the slide was for the under 12's and we do not have  the sort of gite were drunken louts play by the pool. ( that only happens in Spain doesn't it)

Malc says  Not only the Daily Mail, Gerard Depardieu, DSK but Spain is added to the list, I see Val.

Val says  No, only the people who go to the British hot spots in Spain.
Comments to

The equine Versailles

This week many of us have marvelled at Charlotte Dujardin's wonderful control of her horse Valegro in the World Equestrian Games in Normandy. But did you know that the event is being held at one of France's most visited sites, the National Stud at Le Pin (Haras National du Pin).
The 600 hectare estate was chosen by Louis XIV to improve the royal stables and was developed over the next few decades into what has been described as the Versailles of the Horse. Every equine aspect is catered for: breeding; smithy; saddlery; veterinary etc. The lush Normandy grazing was found to be much better than the poorer land around St Leger, where the original stud was sited.
Today the flagship of the National Stud is a major tourist attraction, with over 500000 visitors a year. As its website says "why not pay Le Pin a visit when you are in the area?" The donkeys have already put their names down for a holiday...
National Stud Le Pin

comments to

5 year old boy dies in a swimming pool at Toulouse

A well managed pool at Toulouse with a children's section watched over by parents and used by apprentice swimmers and yet the little boy still drowned.
So much fun from a swimming pool but constant vigilance is needed.

Hier, vers 16 heures, le petit Anas, âgé de 5 ans, se baigne dans la partie réservée aux enfants du grand bassin central de la piscine Nakache. Cette partie de baignade, placée également sous la surveillance des parents est très prisée des apprentis nageurs
Comments to

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Courgette gratin - delicious and creamy.

Hi Val
Just made Martine’s courgette gratin - very easy (no grating or draining of the courgettes) and very delicious and creamy. Everyone thought I must have spent hours preparing béchamel to make it so creamy. Yum!!
Thank you Martine.
Linda W xXx

Comments to

I took it with my iPhone!

I have changed the heading on Wild photos to Photos. If readers send any exceptional photos they will go on but it would be useful if photographers told us how they achieved the shot for example lens, shutter speed / exposure.
I have always been a fan of serious photography, nothing to do with seeing it being sold for fortunes around the world at Sotheby's and Christies. It is an art form that us little camera snappers can envy but never produce more than  pretty snaps.
Gareth Brown took a photo this week of Trevor Carter which I have moved into the photo section, it really is amazing. If you have family coming out and want photographs of them all, it might be worth speaking to him.
He took some wonderful photographs of Marie Giles for the cover of one of her new books.
Remember  that  photographer's name.  Gareth Brown
Comments to

"Is this enough to make you bounce back ?" said Malc

Returning from the post box Malc waved two  letters at me both containing cheques. One from John Dawson for selling a table on TAG and a biggie from Hans Buijserd for his advert on TAG.
Thank you both and today I am sending off cheques to Via Sahel for 80 euros
Comments to

A simple microphone needed

Hi Val,

I am planning my bits and pieces for our horse show next week and wonder if you might ask on TAG if anyone knows of a simple microphone I could hire to make announcements.  (the ones they have for the big Fetes are rather more than I really need).  Just need it across next weekend.

Many thanks, Karen

British leaders cited this week

The French government is heading steadily rightwards - and backwards, if the hopes and fears expressed this week are anything to go by. Some delegates at the MEDEF (employers group) annual meeting thought France needed a dose of Thatcherism whereas at the Parti Socialist annual "université" some feared a "Blairisation" of the government.
Given that both those politicians give rise to very divisive opinions amongst us expats it may be better to stick to home grown leaders - though it is always very useful to have a foreigner to blame for everything that's going wrong (how many French friends have blamed you for the weather?).
comments to

Peaceful times ahead

The season winds down for gite and b&b owners in the area.
Today we have a family leaving, going back to the UK, the children are back at school next week.
We have an empty week than another two weeks booked. The renters today need not rush to leave as is the case when it is a one lot out, next lot in situation.
We are now receiving emails from friends saying " some weeks of calm needed" after holiday makers and friends and family visits.
We love it really but being back to quiet times... we love that as well.
Malc says - what are you talking about Tudor arrives in two weeks time for his holiday and there are always some adventures then.
Comments to

The little boy with a brain tumour from the UK sought in France

As I was about to report this story, I have just heard on the BBC news that he may have been seen in Spain
Comments to

The right approach

Dear Val,
 We do enjoy reading your blog, particularly finding out about local events which we just don't have the time to research ourselves. It is informative, amusing and enjoyable. Occasionally what appears on your blog isn't always to our taste either (sometimes makes our blood boil infact) but we would defend to the hilt your right to say it - it is after all your blog! It is widely known and popular, so ignore the criticisms.

PS... the blood boiling is not from your comments! Love the blog. Cxxx
 Carinne and Steve Trinder

Do you love reading TAG on a morning

Do you look forward to TAG landing on your mat on a morning and your dog picking it up and bringing it to you ( unless it is the neighbours Daily Mail put through your letter box in error and the dog knows the distinction and rips it to shreds)
Well Malc and I enjoy researching and writing it for you. I hope it is informative, tells you what is going on in the area and has a happy tone, obviously forgetting any political rant.
I have a friend who loved writing a blog but gave it up after receiving so much aggression from readers.
I am made of sterner stuff but I would ask readers to think twice before becoming a newspapers "agitated from Brighton" sort of reader.
What goes on the blog goes on in my way, when I want and I choose things which I think will interest you.
We enjoy writing and editing the blog for you, but I want also to keep my sanity.
Written at 5.30 am when  mental tough decisions have been made.
Comments to

Musique nomade tonight

Comments to

Friday, 29 August 2014

Now that's what I call music..

A day of fluctuating emotions led us to run through the DVD for the first opera night of 2014. The Royal Opera House in London had a revival of Puccini's Tosca in 2011 and for two nights only invited a star cast to sing the main roles and filmed it.
Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca, Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia bring wonderful singing and interpretation to the roles and with great support from the cast and orchestra this is a sumptuous treat. We watched on the television and can't wait to see it on the large screen. Bookings are already rolling in for Wednesday 15th October at 6pm. Dont miss it.
bookings to

Look good, feel good

Watching the evening TV news on France 3 this evening was a story which reminded us of the post sent by Joanna: Beauty salon.  Back in 2006 Lucia Iraci (never heard of her) had the idea that many women had a poor self image simply because they could not afford hairdressers or beauty therapy. Women looking for a job, wanting to look good at the school gate, victim of a violent relationship but unable to afford the feel good factor that a hair-do (do we still say that?) . So she set up Josephine a salon - now a chain - with an aim of providing such women with a chance to get back self esteem.
Women clients also benefit from a group of dedicated health professionals who give free advice. With funding from major cosmetic groups entre autres these salons "solidaires" are giving many women a boost to their self image.
The person filmed had her hair done and a facial for 4 euros. No doubt local salons will be a bit more expensive, but as Joanna said being pampered makes you feel so good...
comments to

Fairy lights and candles to end the season

It was a glorious day followed by a warm evening and extra jumpers and blankets stayed in the car while we all enjoyed the beautiful peaceful ambience of Brian and Lorna's garden and barn ( It was worth going to see the garden now it is finished and in its late summer glory). Anyway - gardens aside - it was a great evening of music,  story and song from Brian, Linda, Trevor, Roger, Eileen, yours truly and first time visitor Eric who plays recorders of many sizes ( not all at once of course). It was good to end the season of outdoor events with good weather, with the summer we have had this year perhaps we should regard 2 out of 3 without a downpour not bad at all.

Now thoughts turn to planning our return to the Salles des Fetes at Verfeil in September - last Thursday of the month as usual - more news nearer the time. Anyone wishing to perform or needing further information should, phone 05 63 67 93 35 or find us on Facebook as Folk'n'Jazz

Sue Carter

French paradox

An IMF report, based on opinions of leading businessmen and academics, places 6 young French economists among the world's "most promising". The USA has the most, but France is second. One wonders why with so much talent the French economy struggles so. Perhaps the fact that of the six, four are in the USA and one in London and only Thomas Picketty, author of the influential "Capitalism in the 21st Century" still works in France, has some bearing.
comments to

This lady in the Tarn is out enjoying life at 108

La doyenne des Tarnais / the oldest lady in the Tarn celebrating her 108 th birthday.
She will blew out the candles on Sunday with her family and she has received chocolates and flowers from the Mayor of her village Ambialet

Cent huit ans. C'est l'âge qu'à aujourd'hui Albertine Larroque, devenant ainsi l'aînée de tous les Tarnais. Si les bougies seront soufflées dimanche avec toute la famille, elle a déjà reçu fleurs et chocolats de la part du maire d'Ambialet, Jean-Pierre Lefloch. «C'est gentil de penser à moi .»
Comments to

Another beauty

Hi Val,
 Still following  Tag keep up the good work ,found this on our warehouse wall look at the size compared with the bricks
It would just about fit in the palm of your hand

Best Regards

Val says  Martin came on holiday to Mas del Sol a couple of years ago and it feels "special" that he is still reading and enjoying news of the area.
Comments to

Swings and roundabouts

A  storm at 7 am with rain lashing down made  all the pets snuggle in their own little niches until 8am
Rotten start to the morning but we never complain about getting " a sleep in"
Even the donkeys were loath to get up and Penny the lone hen as far as I know is still tucked up in her strawy nest.
Comments to

A second marriage tying the knot again in France

I do like a happy starry news story. This couple although married in California wanted to renew their vows and chose their home in the Var for this romantic event. A little intimate chapel and then a celebration with family and friends.
Angelina is 39 and Brad is 50 both still looking great.
Good luck to them and their 6 children
Comments to

Party conference at La Rochelle

Will it be a stormy one or will all be calm with the change of government?
Comments to

Trevor Carter plays at Folk'n'Jazz last night at La Contie

Photo  taken by Gareth Brown  shot at  ISO 25200, 

Twister is getting on, we are all going the same way!

Yesterday Twister our elderly lab needed his jabs. We have had Twist just over 4 years when his owner went into a maison de retraite and he ended up in a refuge.
He is an adorable dog but has always had dysplasia of the joints and now he is totally deaf and has developing cataracts. The vet at Laguepie has left and been replaced by a young Belgian guy who speaks English.
One has not got to promote vets or doctors, their ethical code so if anyone wanted more info. we can be contacted off line.
TAG is often asked about Doctors and vets off line  and the first question is usually "do they speak English
comments to

Joanna feels like new

Dear Val
I have just come back for two hours of wonderful spoiling!  
 Having lived in and around Southwest France for the past twenty years and at last on my doorstep, I have found a really wonderful  facial, massage, and manicure and pedicure in Cordes sur Ciel,    There are many more treatments, but these are the ones I have sampled.    The owner, Babette is charming, and her place is impeccably clean  and to cap it all  even in place is easy to reach, right near the Post Office.
 Yes, her name is Babette and the salon is inside the hairdresser ‘Le Cosy’ , (sorry, her English is not marvellous, but then what is one going to talk about when having a wonderful time being pampered! 
Why don’t you try it out.
Nature ‘elle  et Belle

All the best , Joanna
Comments to

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Another of life's little mysteries

He looks just as though he's slipped a fur stole round his shoulders!

Linda W
Comments to

Lift needed Monday 8th of Sept.

Hi Val
Could you ask if anyone is doing a drop- off/pick -up from Rodez on Monday 8th September.
My mum and I would appreciate a lift to Verfeil if anyone has room in their car . We would obviously pay for the petrol .
Many thanks and congratulations on you successful Regatta once again!

Take 5

Can you remember the Dave Brubeck quartet and " Take 5" Malc tells me the musicians are all dead now.
Take 5 is an idea I have for the book swap. I will continue to take the books I have designated to go back again but could borrowers " bring 5 and  take 5"
Really what I am trying to avoid is masses of books that we then have to try and dispose of. If we all chose 5 of our clean, newish paperbacks to take and swap rather than empty our shelves of long past their sell by date books, (which we have all been a bit guilty of) The book swap would be easier to manage.
Chris is still happy for you to take  newish Magazines which if no one wants he will dispose of.
I cannot believe the swap is coming up again on Monday 1st of Sept. next week, at the Gazpacho starting at 10.30 am.
Comments to

Concert in the halle at Varen on Saturday

 Un petit mail pour vous informer du concert de musique traditionnelle du Poitou, produit par “Sanguenitou”, qui aura lieu le Samedi août à partir de 20h à Varen sous la halle. Ce concert sera gratuit.

Susan can store and Ginny can give to a shop at Puycelsi

Hi Val,
That's fine, just let me know when they want to drop them off - I'm here most days and am online a lot of the time working so it's easy to contact me either by email or phone.
Also if anyone runs out of books in between swaps they are welcome to come and have a rummage to renew/exchange their reading supply!
If anyone is driving back to the UK and have room they can arrange to come and collect what they can fit in too. 
Love Sue

Ginny says
In Puycelsi we have a wonderful second hand book shop which sells new and second hand French books and ephemera in its front shop but in the back shop is an enormous second hand book shop for French  English and German books. I would be very happy to bring books from St Antonin to here and pass them on if someone would keep them till I am next over - usually never less  than a week.  The shop  sell the better quality ones and those which are thought too old/too damaged to be sold are put in small crates in bars or other places round the village for people to help themselves to for free. Of course since we are a tourist hot spot these rapidly disappear. I suspect that somewhere in between they have an outlet via amazon or ebay but what is important is that this tiny shop is recycling books and providing employment in this small village which like everywhere in this area is an unemployment black spot. 

Val says We now have an acceptable answer and if we are giving employment to a black spot area all to the good. Can someone take the books to Sue Coombs where Ginny can then pick them up?
Comments to

Surplus books

Hi Val,

If you still need a solution for the surplus books then we would be happy to store them - possibly someone may be able to do a drop off after the book swap finishes?

If anyone has the time/inclination to catalogue them and advertise them online on amazon/abebooks/ebay etc., then any money raised could be donated to one of your charities.  It may also be worth asking Andrea White if she needs any more books for the Chats de Quercy charity shop in St Antonin.

If all else fails then anyone travelling back to the UK by car could take whatever they could manage with them and take them into a charity shop there - better than the bin!

We nearly always drive back when we visit the UK so would be willing to take what we have room for, we also have friends driving down to visit in October and I'm sure they would do the same.

Best wishes,


Val says a few good ideas there. I know I have not got time to catalogue and sell them on ebay but taking them to a charity shop in England is a great idea. Will someone also check out "chats du Quercy" The lady Sue Coombs who sent this post, does anyone live near her who could deliver books after the swap.
This is me in delegation mode, I just do not have time ( refencing donkeys at the moment) to spend much time on it.
Comments to

A delegate from St. Antonin needed

Dear Val,
Just read your item about what to do with unwanted books. 
In St Antonin I believe the English book shop would take some good quality books. 
Also the Mediatheque (library) is building up the English section and likes to receive good quality books. 
They keep a box of donated books that are surplus to requirements in the foyer.  
There is a little French book shop near the Renault garage, who may be interested in some English books. 
Finally the Catholic Charity shop near the main bridge (open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons) does have some books as well. 

I agree Marks and Spencer would be preferable to Primark !!

Val says a spot of delegation needed here. Will someone who lives in St. Antonin and comes to the book swap go into the English book shop, and the two libraries and see if they want our left over books.
The ideal would be to come and take them directly after the swap has finished. I sort out what we need for next time but novels that have had 3 chances I move on, and at this stage those sortedbooks could go.
Comments to

Do dogs feel jealous?

An expensive survey has been undertaken by some University or other, which proves dogs suffer jealousy.
Annok in the village of Varen could have told them this without much time being spent on a survey.

Annok and Frans have a labrador called Hugo, but they have for the last few weeks being looking after a cute little "cuddle on your knee puppy"
The owners of the puppy have been going three times a week for medical treatments  in Toulouse and so the couple in Varen  offered to babysit the dog of their friend.
After a few weeks of this Hugo suddenly became ill, off his food, ears down and appeared totally dejected. The couple took the dog to their vet at Cordes who did lots of tests, including a blood test. The dog appeared to be in tip top condition. The vet inquired if there was anything different at home which could affect the dog and Frans thought of the puppy.
The vet said "that is it,  the dog is depressed and jealous"
The puppy for 3 weeks has not been to stay as another member of family is staying there, so Hugo has had Annok and Frans to himself .
What a change in the dog,  he is back on form, eating again and getting lots of extra cuddles.
Annok phoned to tell me this story for TAG and she was also sending a donation to the Grandma whose dog was knocked down.
Comments to

A morning smile

Malc has just suggested we have a side label called " political rants"
It did make me smile.
Comments to

Au revoir 35 heures?

Most of us have become used to seeing workmen disappear on Friday afternoon because their 35 hours are complete (not really that simple...) but the new Minister of Economy, Emmanuel Macron, has aimed a shot at the left's sacred cow, the 35 hour week. In an interview in Le Point he suggests that where a firm, with the agreement of its workers, wishes to derogate from the law it will be allowed. Introduced by Martine Aubrey in 1999 the regulation of hours has been seen as a hindrance to employment rather than a measure to "share" work.
The very social democrat ideas coming from Valls and Macron are encouraging the employers (standing ovation for Valls at the MEDEF yesterday) and driving a wedge into Hollande's majority in the Assembly.
Socialist supporters have been shocked at Macron's suggestion that French workers' rights are a handicap to those without work - the fact that he used to work for a bank does not go down too well on the left! They think he is an "ultra liberal".
Whatever, something needs to be done to halt the rise in unemployment which has been going on for years now. Perhaps a decent dose of social democracy will be the answer.
comments to

Rare indeed, a blue sky and sun in 2014

I know, I know, the afternoons have been warm and sunny but there have not been many mornings in the fields where the cloud and mist have not shrouded the surrounding area. I have to admit even with this micro climate at Mas del sol we have had grey, miserable starts to the day.
The French TV news this morning was discussing levels of rainfall throughout France and we have all suffered the same fate although  NW France  have  seemingly had a pretty miserable summer.
Let us hope the tourists here will forget the bad weather and return and give us another chance next year.
Comments to

Primark will open in Toulouse in 2015

Primark will open in the old Lafayette maison building next year. In the UK the company are known for turning out cheap clothes, wear, wash or throw away.
 I would prefer an M&S but we are told that is not going happen in the near future.
Comments to

What to do with excess books

Evening Val,
How about donating them to schools so they can improve their English ?

Val says  trouble is schools have the same problem of us all- space. The numbers we are talking of are too great and I think schools would also want them tiraging/ sorting for quality, standards of literature etc. We need somewhere where without problems we can take bags full and leave. 

Your own business with FREE stock If an enterprising person wanted to sell books on the market these could be available for free and they are all clean modern paperbacks generally. Good dry space at home to store, got spare time at the weekend, want to make a bit of spare cash, could be for you. When I started bookselling I sold paperbacks on a rack outside my shop at the weekend and I could take £200 a weekend just selling paperbacks. As all the books would be free, it would all be profit. Worth a thought? Contact me if you fancy the idea.
Comments to

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What can we do with masses of perfectly good books in English

Sarah and I have been in a dilemma. We both ended up after the book swap with bags of books for Emmaus. On taking them to the dechetterie we were told to put them in the ordinary poubelle as Emmaus no longer wanted them.
I did throw mine away feeling terrible but Sarah still has hers, not being able to perform this sacrilegious act.
What can we do? Any ideas? Do not suggest the libraries,  we have tried that one and they do not want them. I know the donkey sanctuary would take them but it is quite a way to go regularly and who can store them for weeks on end... not us. Do you want anymore STEVE Carpetman? He has been selling them in his shop at Montauban for the donkey refuge.
Comments to

Opera at Mas del Sol

dear Val
 I have often thought how nice it would be to come to an opera evening but they always seem to pass us by.
 One of the big attractions has been the apero dinatoire as well as the work being performed but I have thought what a lot of work for you how it must eat (sorry about the pun) into the money raised. However how about a repas espangole for the interval? What is the point of trying to have more French attending if there is not the opportunity to talk to them. I know that the only problem with a repas espagnole is that there tends to be too much food which may not be appropriate if the money is to go to an area of the world where hunger is rife. However that problem could be overcome by making it clear that people should bring a plate of only enough food for 6.
Val says  We are starting half an hour earlier so with drink and nibbles we should get chance for a chat. When we have had large amounts of food more than half the guests snored through the opera (you know who you are, and it did once include me ) So many thanks for the idea but we will keep to the plan and can always revert back in January if it does not work.

Sponsorship for the regatta

Going back to sponsorship, I have this amusing thought that it ought to be the St Antonin Mineral Water company! What a slogan. Fall in it, drink in it and be kept safe by it;

Val says  good one Ginny!

Welsh breeds horse show

Hi Val
Would you mind putting a note about our show on TAG please.

I am organising a Welsh and Part bred Welsh horse show with the association Welsh Passion France, at Puylagard on Saturday 6th September, at the site of the Haras (just before Salle des Fetes)

The show is for all 4 sections of Welsh pony and welsh part-breds in hand and will start at around 10.00 am.  There are also two junior handler classes  (12yrs and under, and, Over 12 years) which are open to any breed of pony since they are judged on the handler not the horse, and three ridden classes (lead rein, Junior and Open) also open to any breed of pony.

Entries need to be in by the 30th, so if you are interested contact me quickly and I will send you the forms.

Thanks, Karen

Val says our donkeys are not proud,they would love that. I cannot promise they will come as it maybe
a day they have planned their next escape!

The Military cleaning up the Livron

Hi Val

Val says certainly is - but have not got time to translate

A lunch at the donkey sanctuary

hello everyone
here is our menu for thursday 11 september, we will start at 1 as normal
Starting with some mexican favourites, served with a selection of dips,salads and salsas.
Main courses :

Encheladas Rojas , pork filed tortillas with spiced tomato sauce
Chilli Con Carne, beef and beans in a rich spicy sauce with rice
Mole Poblano de Guejolote, turkey in a chocolate and chilli sauce  or
Vegetarian Enchiladas Rojas, tortillas with quorn in a spicy tomato sauce
Choice of desserts:
Key Lime Pie, or
Torta de Tres Leches de Chocolate, or
Tropical fruit salad  
Cream is available with all the desserts

Tea and coffees for everyone

We hope you like this exciting menu, when booking your place please note that the main courses are buffet style so if you like you can choose some of each but i will need your dessert choices.  

As always only 15 euros including nibbles and apero and wine/mexican beer with your meal.  Incredible value for a good day out supporting the donkeys here at lavolvene.  The update on Venus is that she has had her hooves trimmed,  she will need another trim soon, she lays down a lot as it will take a while for her legs to get used to the correct angle again !

We are still waiting on the delivery of 2 or even 3 very large unwanted donkeys, watch this space !!

It looks like an interesting day so hope to see lots of you here.  Many thanks.

Opera at Mas del Sol / hiver 2014

For those already asking about the programme, work is underway to come up with interesting operas and  productions.
We have the dates
Wed Oct 15th note the earlier time at 6 pm ( not 6.30pm)
Wed Nov 12th  6pm
Wed Dec 10th at 6pm
This winter we are making changes, starting earlier we will offer only a drink, not an apero dinatoire and instead of charging 10 euros we will make it participation libre, basically pay what you like. The money taken will still go to Via Sahel Enfants d'Afrique but  we accept it may be less.
Why you may ask would we do this?
We are hoping to encourage more French people in Varen to come and join in. This may or may not work but till January we will give it a try. We feel in a spirit of integration us all mixing could be as valuable as giving money to the children.
If we by any chance are swamped with bookings, we can consider  what to do then.

We are going to commence with Puccini's Tosca: a performance from the Royal Opera House in 2011. That will be in October
In November it will be Puccini again and  for a second time but with a different production of Madame Butterfly. ( we showed it with an early DVD of a young Placido Domingo in the first ever season)
In December  we have a few choices which we are still deciding upon.
If you want to book any of these evenings please book by contacting us at
Comments to

Vous avez entendu de - ou même assisté à - nos soirées d'opéra. Projeté sur un grand écran avec un système de son multi enceinte les DVDs sont des meilleurs présentations de l'Opera Metropolitan de New York, Royal Opera House de Londres ou même des festivals comme Aix en Provence.
Et les titres pour cette saison sont très populaires

Mercredi 15 octobre 18h Tosca de Puccini. Chanté en Italien. ROH de Londres 2011
Mercredi 12 novembre 18h Madame Butterfly de Puccini: Chanté en Italien. Met de New York 2009
Mercredi 10 décembre 18h à decider.

Entrée sur réservation. Participation libre au profit de Via Sahel; Enfants d'Afrique.

reservations: ou 0563 640673

Place Sainte-Cécile at Albi, deviations around the Cathedral

What a load of aggravation they have had with those expensively badly laid cobblestones. For the next few days they are using new cement doing " a safety job patch up"
Comments to

An interview from two years ago with Najat Vallaud - Belkacem

The 34-year-old is known as the "face" of the new French government. She is both minister of women's rights – a post resurrected after decades of absence – and government spokesperson, handpicked to embody Hollande's reforms and firefight on the media frontline. In a country still shellshocked by a divisive election campaign, marked by the rise of the far right and its anti-immigration discourse borrowed by Nicolas Sarkozy, Vallaud-Belkacem's appointment is symbolic. It is also part of a much-demanded reshaping of government. France's new cabinet, with 50% women, is doing far better than the European average of 26% women, and in particular the UK, which has five women out of 23 cabinet members. In addition, 20% of the new French cabinet are from ethnic minorities (seven ministers out of 34), compared with just one minister in Cameron's cabinet: Lady Warsi.
Born in rural Morocco, Vallaud-Belkacem arrived in France, aged four, with her mother to join her father, a construction worker. The second of seven children, she grew up on a poor estate on the outskirts of the northern town of Amiens in the Somme. Her parents, as foreigners, didn't have the right to vote, and the family didn't talk politics, except to tut when the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen appeared on television. Vallaud-Belkacem "flourished" at school, as she puts it, swayed as much by Voltaire's Zadig as the Berber songs of her parents. She got French nationality at 18. With scholarships, she studied at France's Institute of Political Science and worked as a jurist. But when in 2002, Le Pen shocked France by getting through to the final round of the presidential election, knocking out the Socialists, she felt she had to go into politics. Elected councillor in Lyon and rising up the ranks of Lyon's town hall and the Socialist party, she found herself on a plane in 2006 with Ségolène Royal, then running to be France's first woman president. She offered to help Royal, who made her her spokesperson. This year, Hollande gave her the same post in his own presidential campaign.
To read more follow the link
Comments to

A new government all walking the same line, and a promotion for this popular lady

Najat Vallaud- Belkacem age 36 and a popular minister has been promoted to Education Minister.
Many women have been promoted in the new government and Manuel Valls says they will now all walk the same line.
TAG predicted this lady's rise a year or so ago and reported an interview with her.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A leisurely walk in the lanes... no fear of that.

So what happened this morning you ask me?
Rosie and Lucy were the chosen donkeys, so we saddled them up and Matilda and Alfred (lovely English names) were chattering and singing away as we set off.
When we arrived at the chestnut wood the biggest newish, nosiest combine tracteur/faucheuse  appeared. We stopped to calm the donkeys and we thought the machine was stopping to let us past, the donkeys were obviously agitated so we quickly dismounted the children and set off again.
The blinkin' (would much prefer a swear word but I am trying restraint) young person in the machine, not someone we knew, started the machine and followed directly behind us at the donkeys heels. The noise was tremendous and we were panicked never mind the donkeys. What was really galling and I see red thinking about it, was the person could see the donkeys were alarmed, two minutes waiting till we had rounded a steep corner was all it would have taken.
He continued behind us with donkeys bolting downhill with Julia and I hanging on for grim death. He could have caused a serious accident all for a couple of minutes waiting.
Fortunately we did hang on and the donkeys were swiftly calmed and the children were mounted again. They trotted back home in a really splendid fashion, little darlings.
These are the last children of the season as all our next renters are adults.
It is rentrée even in England.
Comments to

Life jacket sponsorship

Hi Val
On Easy Jet flight yesterday, my book was accidentally stowed in the top locker, so resorted to browsing the ESJ magazine. I see EJS support a wide range of events/initiatives thought it an option to approach ESJ this coming weekend, for life jacket/canoe sponsorship? 
Small financial fry for them, especially where almost all attendees at the regatta are customers! 
Worse thing that could happen is they either say no, or we have to listen where jackets are stowed and have a whistle to attract attention.

Would the Commodores like me to do that on their behalf? I worked in PR in previous lives.
Gaynor Stuart-Smith
Val says certainly worth a try. I have passed the letter on to the two commodores and I am sure they will say go for it. I think we need to explore every possible avenue.

TAG advertising rules are back to being enforced

Some readers just will not  play the game, I thought they would but it just does not run smoothly.
More I think that people forget to pay than deliberately do not. A recent example of some one saying they have paid to their own worthy society makes me know reverting back to stricter rules has got to be.
I chose two charities
Via Sahel enfants d'Afrique
Liberte des Anes
and readers, you chose
Alzheimer's 82
Cancer Support82 and
I ask for cheques to be made out to a charity of your choice and sent to me. This is so I know it has been done and also so I can keep records of how much we have raised over the year.
From today any item under 50 euros will be put on without an upfront donation and 5 euros if it sells.
Over 50 euros and under 100 euros a donation of 5 euros upfront.
Over 100 euros and up to 500 an upfront donation of 10 euros
From then a 20 euro donation upfront for any listing over 500 euros
Send the cheque to
Val Johnstone
Mas del Sol
Many thanks for your understanding readers.
Comments to

Will the sun appear for our walk?

Donkey rides at 10 am
The last children of the season are dying to get the donkeys out for a walk. They are here for the second week and still have not had a ride. Rosie and Filou who have been amorous for a  week have been too frisky to consider saddling up.
We hope they are calmer today having had their romps and a little trot along the lanes will be a pleasant mornings interlude.
Why is it with donkeys you end up pulling them as they stop to graze the verges,  or desperately yanking them back as they want to gallop into the blue yonder?
If you have that philosophic answer please let me know? but while you ponder I must go and get dressed and showered.
Comments to

Hearing aids going to be sold and cheaper at the chemist

At last a good thing for your wallet or purse. Chemists have been authorised to be able to sell sonophones / hearing aids.
Enfin une bonne nouvelle pour le portefeuille. Les pharmaciens seront désormais autorisés à vendre des sonophones, appareils d'assistance d'écoute préréglés dont le coût – autour de 300 € – est jusqu'à huit fois inférieur à celui des prothèses auditives vendues dans des centres spécialisés.
Val says good for your wallet but you will surely miss the specialist advice. 
Malc says because of the specialists having the monopoly prices were extremely high and many people were sold expensive ear pieces they do not need. 

Two deaths of touristes retraités sur la route, near Toulouse

29 morts depuis janvier 2014

En Haute-Garonne de puis le début de l'année (hors Toulouse, St Gaudens, Tournefeuille, Colomiers et Blagnac), 25 personnes ont été tuées sur les routes. Quatre personnes sont mortes dans les zones urbaines à Toulouse, soit 29 personnes au total.
Val says these results of road deaths published in the Depeche after the two deaths on the road yesterday.

Charles and Anna's pedigree border collies, bred to be champions

Eight little champion sheep dogs. I wonder if the couple serenade them at night with viola and banjo sonata's.
Malc says  do you have banjo sonata's? Val says  I am sure Chas could write one.
Comments to

Monday, 25 August 2014

How time flies.

So many plums, figs, tomatoes, (some green ) and apples, that I felt more chutney had to be made. So all of these went in the chopper with onions, fresh ginger chopped and mustard seed, a pint and a half of vinegar.Then one and half pounds of  moist brown sugar, a tsp of salt and pepper and simmered for 3 hours. It is delicious, cheapest chutney on the block.
Then I mowed the lawns, still mowing the lush lawns in August, just unbelievable.
Malc read about the collapse of the French government, so he quickly put something on TAG for me.
Then a local farmer arrived with Julia and his tractor with bales of hay to be stored for the donkeys' winter feed. There was great excitement with donkeys running about and kicking up their heels. I suppose to them it was the equivalent of a British Corner shop delivery.
I said to Malc I did not recognise the farmer and Malc explained he thought he had invested in a new vest, so all was explained.
Rosie runs with excitement
In between answering letters from TAG readers and posting money off in all directions. Must still send a cheque to the French grandma and her little dog, the day has flown past.
Comments to

French government resigns

Manuel Valls has offered his resignation as Prime Minister and all his ministers will be in line for a re-shuffle tomorrow.
Francois Hollande was in Brittany, but will almost certainly ask Valls  to form a new government. The crisis has been precipitated by a speech made by Economics Minister, Arnaud Montebourg over the weekend. Montebourg has always been a "loose cannon", but has considerable support on the left of the Party. He called for a change of direction in economic policy, including the abandonment of the target to reduce the budget deficit to below 3% of GDP as demanded by the EU economic policy. He claims (in common with politicians of both left and right) that it is leading to stagnation and hence unemployment.
Also in the firing line is the "loi Duflot", a housing policy introduced by the then Minister for Housing, Green Party leader Cecile Duflot. Industry leaders have called it a disaster for the construction industry, resulting in a 20% reduction in construction in the last 12 months. Duflot quit the government in the previous re-shuffle and has today published a memoir with a scathing attack of Hollande.
Predictably, and understandably, opposition leaders in the UMP and Front National have been calling for a dissolution of the Assembly.
comments to

A recipe from her French mum.

 “ Gratin de courgettes” from Martine Lewis
I am going to let you in on a gorgeous French recipe using courgettes, my mum used to cook for us kids in summer with the unsold courgettes. It’s a dish I do often and never tire of. Plenty of courgettes right now in the garden so here it is. if you haven't tried it yet, have a go.
1kg of courgettes (serves 3 people)
A little olive oil
1 biggish onion
1 garlic clove
1 bunch of flat parsley
Salt & pepper
1 tbs flour
½ glass of milk
50gr X2 of grated Emental cheese( or more if you love it!)
¼ glass bread crumbs
1- In a large saucepan( the courgettes will greatly diminish while cooking), fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes until golden.
2- Add the courgettes washed and sliced, peel and all if the courgettes are fresh. If they aren’t, get rid of half the peel. It’s easy to see if the courgettes are fresh, the skin should be shiny.
3- Toss for 10 minutes or so then add salt, pepper and parsley then cover and let simmer for ½ hour or until the vegetables are tender.
4- Take the lid off and let the water from the courgettes evaporate for a few minutes.
5- Once evaporated, bring the heat right down and add a tablespoon of flour and ½ glass of milk and stir well. You should have something that looks like a puree. At that point I often add a table spoon of mustard but mum never did.
6- Stir in half the grated cheese.
7- Take it out of the heat and pour the lot in an oven-proof dish.
8- Top with the breadcrumbs and the rest of the cheese and let it cook in the oven gaz mark 180 for between 35 to 45 minutes, or until brown. It’s yummy!

A concert at La Mothe

Dear Val,

 The September concert will feature Sally Bradshaw and classical guitarist Antoine Chaigne who will entertain with a varied program of works from the 16th to the 20th century. Both artists are generously offering their performance in order to raise money for Via Sahel Enfants d'Afrique.

Ce concert de Septembre presentera Sally Bradshaw et guitariste classique Antoine Chaigne qui feront un concert avec un programme varie des travaux du 16eme jusqu'au 20eme siecle. Ces deux artistes offrent cette performance benevolement afin de gagner de l'argent pour Via Sahel Enfants d'Afrique.

Reservation or tel 05 65 81 51 46 check the website for address. 
Comments to

Sponsorship from someone

dear Val
Rather than hiring the life jackets for the regatta has anyone thought of offering sponsorship to a canoe company? New life jackets and for 5 years there would be regular mention in TAG that provision of life jackets had been sponsored by ..... canoe company  and a representative could be offered the opportunity to be photographed presenting prizes. Loaned life jackets would only warrant a photo opportunity.
This is just a starter for 10, I am sure others could come up with better ideas and better sponsors!
Val says lots of good ideas coming in and this is certainly one to think about. With 700 to 800 readers a day  reading TAG, who ever took up buying life jackets would get an exceptionally good press and it might be worth it for the publicity.
I wonder if I offered a promotional spot on TAG for free rather than them paying and I ran it over the summer.
Lots to think about there.

Gate legged table for sale/ SOLD and cheque for my charities is on the way.

Hi Val
 We are selling this oak gate-leg table.
 Height – 78 cm (standard dining table height)
Size fully open – 90 x 120 cm
Size folded – 90 x 46 cm
 It has a few scuffs as you can see in the photos but otherwise a good solid table.
 Price €100.00 o.n.o.
 I could deliver it depending on distance.  We are 4 km from St. Antonin.
 Best regards
 John Dawson

A thought perhaps

Hi Val
With the canoe firms in St Antonin doing the bulk of their business at the weekend, there ought to be a ready supply of life jackets not needed each day during the week. Hiring some would save paying over €200 for something which will be used once a year. If there is an enterprising TAG reader with good French, who regularly uses canoes from the same depot, could he/she maybe have a go at negotiating a day's hire of the dozen or so you need?
xC of Caylus
Val says initially I thought brilliant idea but the cost of hiring would be there every year ( Malc pointed out) and as the regatta is a free event it never raises funds, and none of us would want to get into forming an association with all the responsibilities I suspect.
At the moment I am awaiting Sept. when there may be a possibility of buying second hand ones, so a lot depends on how much they would be.
It would be a fine gesture if some local organisation could find it in their hearts to make a donation.
Keep your thinking caps on everyone.
If anyone made a donation, the canoes and life jackets could be made available all year to them
Comments to