Friday, 31 October 2014

The planned Sivens reservoir is too large to irrigate 20 farms

French local authorities have decided to suspend work on a controversial dam after the death last week of an activist protesting against the project.
The executive council in charge of the project in the south-western Tarn region decided to freeze work on the dam but did not definitively scrap it. It was impossible in the light of the tragedy to continue any work at the site of the Sivens dam project, said Thierry Carcenac, head of the region’s executive council. “What happened was terrible and should never happen again,” he added.
Remi Fraisse, 21, died in the early hours of Sunday during violent clashes between security forces and protesters against the project. It was the first death during a protest in mainland France since 1986.Tree-clearing for the dam at Sivens, about 30 miles from Toulouse, began last month as part of a project that has been planned for more than 20 years.
On Monday, an independent experts’ report gave succour to the environmental campaigners by pointing out that the proposed dam on the Tescou river was too large for the purposes of irrigating about 20 farms, and that ecological concerns had been neglected. This report from the Guardian

And everything happened in the sun

This morning I was at Terri Trippett's market garden at Cornerave near Parisot, whilst Malc took the dogs to walk round the Lake, then back to Charley's for lunch.We sat in the street surrounded by long haired, pigtailed, plaited haired, bearded friendly youngsters. We see these youngsters so often in Verfeil , that we now have quite a good camaraderie, making lunch a pleasant experience.
Malc plays boules Friday afternoon and I ended up on a bench in the sun watching the game.
Back home to walk the dogs, once again in the sun, then on to the donkeys to have a chat and a brush.  We told them they were in for an exciting day tomorrow as we are planning on having Kevin in his digger dig out around the stable and replace the mud with stones, then geotextile and then sand. ( no squelchy wellies for us this winter.) once the work is completed we can then give them some new pasture.
Hope you profited by being in the sun and Malc tells me it was a record temperature high.
What a great day, is it really November tomorrow.
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Autumn colour

Hello Val and Malcolm,Could not resist taking this photo of a Lagerstroemia in full autumn regalia, one day ours might look like this.
Neville              comments to

TAG likes to help

Hi Val.  
Next instalment of the saga and apologies for using TAG like

this but it is the quickest way to get word out to all Castanet residents.

I have been in contact with our English councillor and she tells me that

the Maire has had one letter from a resident of the commune and

therefore, hopefully, it will get onto the agenda for the next Council

meeting.  I have a suggestion and that is if all residents in Castanet

who care about the dire speeds actually put pen to paper and write to

the Maire, he will have to bring it up at the next meeting.  I know my

email will be taken to the meeting but I also plan to write a very

polite letter to the Maire as well.  Hopefully if we can keep up

constant active pressure, things may be forced to change.

In response to James and Numericable.  I don't see how they can offer

any better speeds as it is the cable that is not capable of offering

higher speeds or so I was informed by both Alice and Orange and I am

guessing that as the aged system gets more demand it creaks even more.

I know when I contacted Alice about tv via the alicebox, I was told our

cable couldn't support live streaming of tv and they refused to send us

a box.  We only have Orange tv now because it comes through the

satellite not the telephone cable.


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Internet at Castanet

Hi Val
 I was interested to read your readers comments about the lack of Internet Speed at Castanet, I have been in contact with two people from Cambayrac (next to Castanet) who are fed up too.  One who wants me to  install Broadband via Satellite because he cannot stand the lack of speed when the children are around.
 I also looked at which tells you what internet connection options are available to you (based on your address and Telephone number) and what speeds they offer (theoretically). From that you can see that Numericable offer a high speed access to Castanet sadly i am told they aren’t best company in the world.
 There may be another reason for the slow down – maybe someone else has been given a higher priority service or perhaps they are trying to get people to switch to Numericable...

Watching paint dry in Castanet

Hi Val,
You can reassure Rupert that the internet at Castanet is like watching paint dry, especially now the kids are on holiday. We are ok and can stream the internet radio until about 8.30am in the morning after that it is off and on and drives us nuts. Trying to download anything takes HOURS; there is nothing wrong with Rupert's equipment it is orange's service to us. Tell him to plug in his phone number on their website for adsl and you will see it comes up with that we get between .500 and
1 mbit. That is barely better than dial up. Our local councillor said that the mairie has been trying to get Orange to do something but they say we aren't getting fibre EVER and the best we can hope for is a satellite boost in 2018. What ticks me off is that we pay exactly the same price as someone in Paris getting 8mbits. We are all getting so frustrated with the service and I am glad I no longer run my business from home because it would now be impossible to do it. Perhaps the time has come for the residents of Castanet to get together and march on the mairie and see if we can get something done
Anne & Nick
Val says  getting together and protesting as a group to Orange and at the Mairie has got to be the way to go. I mean how do you get to read TAG, an essential to local life.
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Does anyone really find clowns funny?

A spate of violent street robberies throughout towns in France have taken place by people wearing clown masks. Strangely I have never found clowns worth a laugh and I know small grandchildren were always frightened of them.  A clown roaming dark streets at night looking for victims is to me a scary thought, and yet all the clown masks in shops are sold out, "donc fait attention ce soir."
If you meet a clown instead of a witch he may not be juggling...  unless it is with your money.
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Don't waste those pumpkins

A campaign in the UK is encouraging people to use the pumpkin flesh after they carve their
Halloween lanterns. According to recent research by the charity Hubbub, 18, 000 tonnes of
squash is thrown into UK bins each Halloween. That's the same weight as 1, 500 double decker
buses! I'm doubly shocked: firstly, that anyone would waste this delicious vegetable, and
secondly that people would put it in the bin rather than composting it.
I'm sure TAG readers would never do such a thing. Personally, I've used our pumpkins in every 3
courses of dinner. As well as a tasty pot of veggie and bean curry, I've made pumpkin and pea
samosas a lighter, healthier version than potato ones, and the chocolate spider cakes for our
Halloween pudding have a bit of pumpkin added in for extra moistness.

Scary spider cakes - watch out Glynis!
Other recipe ideas are pumpkin soups, casseroles and tagines, or traditional US treats like
pumpkin pie. And don't discard the seeds either: save a few for growing more pumpkins next
year, and roast the rest in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt for a tasty snack that's high in
protein, zinc, magnesium, omega 3 oils, antioxidants and fibre.

recipes to


Demonstrations about Remi throughout France

Fresh clashes broke out overnight in Paris between police and activists protesting over the death of a young man who was killed during a demonstration against a controversial dam project.A group of around 250 people gathered late Wednesday outside the City Hall in Paris, with some hurling missiles at police and scrawling "Remi is dead, the state kills" on walls.These demonstrations took place in other towns throughout France.
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At Montauban today and tomorrow

George King III (I kid you not) is a New Englander passionate of vintage and veteran cars and not unlike our Laguepie bus builders decided to rebuild a 1915 ambulance, originally built in France from a Model T Ford, his favourite vehicle. Searching for original parts and plans George managed to find an engine built in 1916, the year the ambulance went into service in WWI. Now with the vehicle fully restored George is taking on a tour of France to mark the start of the Great War. You can see it today and tomorrow at Montauban.
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Nous sommes Vendredi, le trente et un

Mae West
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West

It should by rights be a scary Halloween quote, but with her " come up and see me  sometime " statements,  Malc and I feel this lady was pretty scary.
coments to

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fireworks tonight at Mas del Sol

Malc had gone to play bridge leaving me to my one handed devices. I thought now is the time to eat my chestnuts / chataignes. Unfortunately I could not prick them as I would normally do, just too difficult with one hand. Never mind I thought, should be OK and popped them on a tray in the oven. After 10 minutes the first one went off with a bang and I thought what a mess the oven would be. I lifted out the tray and had to run for cover as all the other chestnuts exploded all around the kitchen, banging and flying everywhere. The kitchen ended up looking like a war zone with shells everywhere.When is bonfire night? I had my fireworks tonight and hope Malc arrives back with good results from bridge as he isn't going to be best pleased when he sees the mess the  kitchen is in !
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Somethings happening at Castanet with that net

 Hello Val,
 Our internet in Castanet was super fast when we moved here 5 years ago. The last 9 months it has become barely useable, we can't even stream radio now, certainly can't stream say You Tube. Particularly bad at weekends at 12.30 and between 4-6pm when the kids get home from school, like clockwork. Clearly an Orange problem, nothing's changed our end.

Classic car meet

Castanet  82160
Franc     +335 63 67 76 02

Internet problems at Castanet

Hello Malcolm,
Please allow me to share another problem with you.  Our internet access comes via Orange and, despite the thick walls in our house, the wifi connection has been pretty good.  For example, we could generally go for many hours on internet radio without having to reboot although we had occasional, momentary interruptions.  Having said that, we have never had sufficient broadband speed to stream video live.  
Over the last year this has got a lot worse.  Now internet radio is interrupted every few minutes, sometimes permanently, requiring a reboot.  None of our hardware has changed.  Orange are adamant that it is not the fault of their signal, nor of their modem (which is the latest) and they blame the thick walls.  
We are in the commune of Castanet.  I wonder if this is a regional problem, or an Orange problem, or a modem problem.  Has anyone else experienced this?  Is there a better internet provider?  Or a technical solution?
With best wishes, 
PS is there an professional out there who can help?

Bridge over the river Quoi?

Hello Val and Malcolm

I had just made a sandwich so that I had something to nosh on whilst writing this piece and I saw what looked like a piece of crust left on the breadboard, so waste not want not I popped into my mouth.  Ooops, it was not crust at all but a shield bug - wow - hot AND peppery. Out it came, but there could bea future recipe in the offing; steak and hot pepper shield-bug sauce.  Watch this space.

Back to the story - the forecast was good so we decided to drive the 100km North to Rocamadour and walk around the limestone gorges.  Our route took us along the D32 which gave us an impressive view of the "Sanctuaries"  with the village of Rocamadour below in the morning sun.  Did you know that Rocamadour has 1.5 million visitors each year, second only to Mont-Saint-Michel?

Our walk commenced in the lower car-park of Rocamadour where we climbed steeply up onto the limestone causse.  The leaves were still quite green so autumn has not fully arrived here.  After a few kilometres we stopped for lunch before descending back into the The Canyon de l'Alzou that would take us back to the car.  Reaching the canyon we were met with a dried riverbed but this is characteristic of limestone gorges where the river can disappear underground in the summer and re-emerge later in the year.  There is a nice easy path that takes you past old mills that have fallen into disuse. The first we came across was the Le Moulin de Saut, it was barely put into use before it was burned down, possibly due to a flour dust explosion.  Do not worry, you are safe from your flour shakers: the dust needs to be suspended in a cloud within a confined space, with enough air and some type of ignition.  Interestingly, dust is still a significant risk in modern milling as well as coal mining.

The path continues alongside the cliff-confined dry river bed and there is relief from the sun from the many trees along the way.  We came across a freshly renovated stone bridge which we called "bridge over the river quoi".  I am sure it will be very welcome when someone fills up the river this winter.  The final picture is a little round hut above the D32, unusually the road itself is not cut into the rock face for its full length but supported in places by arched sections that continue up to the top of the causse.


Good care in the UK and here in France for dementia

Hi Val
I have to disagree with Mr Coopers post about how far ahead of the UK the care of those people with Dementia is in France
When I went back to work after having my children  in 1985 my job was with a team of people, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologist  and doctor, who assessed those clients with signs of early dementia. We travelled to two bases for two days each a week. Clients could be referred by anyone, local GP, a relative, social worker anyone who suspected the person was showing signs of dementia. We assessed them medically, mentally and physically. Travel to the assessment centre and meals were provided free of charge.
I went to their home to make sure they had all the equipment they needed to make life easier for them and their carer. If help was needed in the home, then home care was arranged. The client paid for this facility, though it was means tested. After assessment, which was usually around six weeks, they were referred to an appropriate facility if they or their carer wanted this.
The carer was also interviewed  to  gain an insight into problems they may have had in the home. They were given a list of agencies who would arrange for a 'sitter' to stay with the client while the carer went shopping, hair done etc.
A support group was set up for the carers on a day when the client was at  the day centre so they could discuss their problems, worries etc with professionals and other carers.
Apart from home care and the sitting service this was of no cost to the client or carer.
When I moved from East  Yorkshire to the south west I continued to work within this field. Similar facilities were available.
I left work in 2009 and though I had changed to specialise in another area of my profession I still came into contact with people suffering from some form of dementia. I was able to refer them to the appropriate medical staff who made sure their and their carers needs were met.
Naturally I can only speak of geographical areas I worked but I attended national courses in England were I met with professionals who were working in the same field trying to tackle the 'Rising Tide' as it was known, of people with different types of dementia.
comments to

Why do we have to be unkind to others?

The magazine" Minute" has been condemned ( love that French word in the justice system) to pay 10,000 euros fine for comparing  Christiane Taubira to a monkey.
Christiane Taubira or Christiane Taubira-Delannon is a French politician who on 15 May 2012, was appointed Minister of Justice. She studied at Panthéon-Assas University. 
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French course for the winter

Twiddling your thumbs for the winter and wondering how your French will ever improve, help is at hand. Julia my French teacher who I am so pleased with is giving lessons in conversational French over the winter months. I have lessons on a one to one basis but may also do another hour in a group.I find Julia a very helpful teacher and she  corrects me with out making me seem useless. I think her  encouraging attitude makes me learn and I do my homework not to let her down.  I also think being French helps with my accent. If you are interested in knowing more contact me and I will pass on all the information.
If you are a French teacher in the area  reading this send your contact details again.
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What to do for your British Corner Shop order

Hi Val   
For anyone coming to the Book Swap at the Gazpacho, St Antonin on 3rd November, who would like to join in our group order from British Corner Shop, here's what to do...  
First step: go to the British Corner Shop web site and choose what you'd like.  The address is  You can ignore log-in;  just click on Start Shopping or Shop Now and then browse products by brand or view by group or by category, or search for key words like "mint sauce", "custard powder", "gluten-free" etc.  There's a huge range to choose from, including lots of fresh and chilled foods which come in refrigerated parcels.  

Second step: don't add anything to a Shopping Basket, but instead bring a note of what you've chosen, its brand, size and price, and your email address to the November Book Swap. There won't be anything to pay in advance. We share the cost of delivery between us all (it's rarely more than 5% or 6% of what we spend).
And that's it!  If you later find you are unable to pick up your order at the December Book Swap, we can make separate arrangements to get the goods to you.  All chilled foods will stay refrigerated until you receive them.    

Whilst they have many offers and reductions, British Corner Shop prices are, inevitably, higher than at Asda or Sainsbury's - but they do sell top brands, and the goods will be delivered to SW France for next to nothing!
x Chris

Kestrels hyperactive

Quick snap yesterday
Regular readers are familiar with our fascination with the kestrels which often nest in our gite wall. Strangely a pair have been flying around making their usual mating and warning calls and investigating the nesting site for a couple of weeks now. It looks as if a third bird - probably another male - is trying to entice our female to go to another site nearby leading to aerial combat on a regular basis. Our male is up for a fight and this morning aggressively saw off a passing heron.
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ours en peluche/ a teddybear.

Every other day I go to the maison de santé in Varen to have my bandage changed on my hand.
There is something about the bandage material in that it picks up pet hairs. By the time I go to get the bandage changed I look like a teddy bear/ nounours with a furry mitt.  Malc has started asking if I have a steiff stud in my ear and if he presses my tummy will I growl. Press my furry mitt and I will howl not growl.
a bear soft toy  / ours en peluche  but children tend to call them nounours
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She saw her photo in a funeral parlour

A journalist was walking in Paris when in a funeral parlour window was her own photo, with a fictitious name, used to advertise one of those memorial plaques one sees in French cemeteries. The pompes funebres  (undertaker) explained that the manufacturers had not wanted to pay a fee to a photo agency so had simply lifted a photo from the internet. Whatever, it was probably quite a shock to the woman concerned to see that she had died in 2009. Halloween story? Spooky...
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Another beautiful morning

The weather is set fair yet again and the meteo is promising us fine weather over the Toussaint / all saints weekend. The shops and market gardens are full of chrysanthemums ready for the family graves. The graveyards are already blooming and will be overflowing with colorful floral tributes by next week. Remember not  to give chrysanthemums to French friends as a present, they are really grown at this time of the year for the dead. I made the mistake of giving a beautiful plant to someone who was ill when we first arrived in France, a real blunder that.
Enjoy the weather whilst you can as we are told to expect a weather change next Wednesday, a veritable chute / drop in temperature.
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What was an ehpad again?

Can you remember what an ehpad is? Was it a baby elephant, a bigger ipad or... a maison de retraite?
Clever you for remembering an ehpad is an old people's home.
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A report in the Guardian on Alzheimer care in France

I am thankful for moving to France 17 years ago. Four years ago my wife started to lose her memory. Within four weeks she had seen a specialist and a psychologist, and had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. She was put on to medication at once and her progress was followed by our family doctor and the specialist.
A year ago she had reached a point where she was unable to wash and dress herself and she was assigned the aides-soignant. At about 8.30am the aide arrives, takes her into the bathroom, toilets and showers her, with hair washed and dried too if necessary, then dresses her. At the same time, the service of an aide for persons who have problems living at home came in. My wife was assessed, then help decided on. Now, each month I receive a book of cheques which I can use to pay for a carer to spend time with her. The cheques cover three hours a week and I pay for an extra one, so that she has two two-hour sessions per week. She has now been accepted for the local day centre. This means she will be in a group of similar people, maximum size 15 and with five specially trained nurses, and will spend the whole day being worked with and cared for. Also she is collected by taxi each morning and returned the same way in the evening. I do have to pay for this service – €55 a day. We have started with one day a week, but I have the option to increase it to two days a week which I will certainly do.
It is obvious that France is a long way ahead of the UK – largely thanks to that much-reviled former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who had the foresight to realise this was something that would grow and that the country needed to be ready for it. When will the UK catch up?
Ian Cooper
Molitg les Bains, France

Nous sommes jeudi le trente

Maya Angelou
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Michel Bras has top dessert

On French TV tonight we were told that Michel's chocolate fondant dessert is now the most preferred in France
I have found these two recipes

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Twister and arthritis

Hi Val,
 as you probably know Barty has very bad arthritis and we have him on Green Lipped Mussel extract.  Huguette has a doggy version which we tried him on and simultaneously I bought some for me to try.

It was miraculous for me and I haven't needed a painkiller since I started it.  Barty wasn't so good, so I tried him on half of my human dose and he perked up immediately.  I also have coming from our old vets in England a natural anti inflammatory called Nutramed (google it and you will see it has three different herbs in it) which we are also going to put him on to see if we can get him nearer to 100%.

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A lady seen at tractomania

Photograph by Gareth Brown
Is the lady's hat made in Caussade? I love the buterfly, look at her brooch, a lady with a big hat.Also is she sitting at a sewing machine making... hats?
Comments to

Carpetman has new arrivals

Dear Val,
 Just a quick update on the new arrivals at Carpetman.
 After a quick trip back to Harrogate for 'The flooring show' we are proud to now be the official suppliers for Karndean Design Flooring along with Axminster andKingsmead carpets. 
 Also Stairrods UK have trusted us with their range of flooring accessories and we will soon have the beautiful sheepskin rug / cushion collection from Barnscroft.
 Hope to see you soon. Take care & enjoy the sunshine !
Carpetman    Lot 5b, Voltaire 2
2 Rue Voltaire
82000 Montauban  
05 63 20 51 59  
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Is Hollande getting it right?

Three economic institutions have made encouraging reports in recent weeks, as well as the rating agencies keeping France's AA rating. The EU has agreed to accept the budget, saying it does not infringe  European fiscal rules, The OECD has said that France's plans offer the prospect of good growth in the next few years and now the World Bank has said France has made considerable progress in the last two years in making the country easier to do business.
In a study of 189 countries France has moved up from 38th to 31st. It seems that it generally takes 4.5 days to register a business (down 2 days in 12 months) but more than 5 forms to fill in. 31st may not seem too good, but Japan is only 29th and Germany 14th, so size of economy is not a great indicator.
France is now back to its pre-crisis level of 2007.
Singapore tops the league, followed by New Zealand and Hong Kong. USA no 7 and UK no 8 are also very business friendly.
Of course some will argue that easy for business is not necessarily good for workers.
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Home is where the heart is

That subbie fancying a lunchtime not cooking  suggested we go to the Gazpacho in St. Antonin for lunch. The dogs had been walked, donkeys feed, my hand had been re bandaged at the  new maison de santé in Varen, so off we went.
We found a table for two and sitting in the sun enjoyed watching the world go by. I gave out a couple of TAG cards and met a couple of readers who introduced themselves. It is so nice when you can put a face to a name, although we know lots of readers it would be impossible to know everyone. Malc does think I am working on that.
We then went to the supermarket where we met lots of French friends from our village all concerned about my bandaged hand.
As we drove home we agreed talking to Dutch, French and English friends really made us feel as if this is our home, which it is of course, home is this wonderful corner of SW France.
When we arrived "chez nous" the dogs barking, the donkeys all braying, the cats and hen running towards us (they really do this) we know we are home.
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Photographs of local characters

We were fortunate enough to have  two Canadian friends staying in the gite last year in the winter / spring months. They may be coming again after Christmas and I will once again be able to revel in Stuart's photos. Stuart a retired professor of media studies taught photography amongst other things and his delight when here is taking photographs. With Gareth Brown living just round the corner (in country terms, 2 kms up the road) we can delight in photography talk coming up.
Stuarts claim to fame is when a young student reporter he interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their bed when they were having a "love in" He was then invited back the next day by Lennon and given a sketch.
I thought it would be interesting to see local portraits on TAG so if you have any please send for readers to admire. Below is one that Stuart took whilst we were at the opening of the theatre at Albi
What a great interesting photo of a couple at the Theatre at Albi
Never tell me photographs are not art.

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A step too far, TAG in French

Good morning Val,
Just read this article on learning other languages and thought it might interest you too.
Love, Marcia
Mind you, I do not mean that you write TAG in French :-)

Canine arthritis

Our old chap Twister is finding things more and more difficult having pretty bad dysplasia of his hind legs, with the arthritis that entails. As our house, like so many here, is "upside down", with the living rooms up the stairs Twister is reluctant to come up stairs. Many will say "well leave him down", but as he sits at the foot of the stairs whining and barking it is not the best solution.
 Are there any  suggestions? We have pain killers for bad episodes, but would like a more long term solution.

solutions to

TAG has a considerable audience as always

Nearly 900 views yesterday of TAG. Fortunately my left hand tapping is improving.
Malc enjoyed being out in the fields saying it is warm with the sun already shining.
Thanks to all who have sent messages against the recent negativity shown about trying to learn the language. There will always be  those who do not see the need or feel they cannot learn. With a positive attitude " petit à petit" any of us can progress and I will keep plugging away.
On Sivens, my point about Sivens not being Iraq has just been made on national TV. Is this the way to treat for the greater part ecologists?
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Nous sommes Mercredi, le vingt neuf

Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple
sent by L
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Elly Wright answers the 10 TAG questions

1. My name is Elly Wright. Many moons ago I was a medical liaison officer in the NHS and then an allocations manager for a large housing trust in London.  I started studying art (drawing, painting and printing) at the City Literary Institute in London and gained a BA Hons from Chelsea College, London. Since 1993 I have been a full time painter, practising both in France and UK.

 2. Since the death of my lovely husband Michael in early 2012 I have no other family members here on a permanent basis. However my son loves to visit and my sister and family from the Netherlands also enjoy spending time here on a yearly basis.

3. Michael and I bought our house in the countryside near Najac in 1990 and have spent many happy years here. I am now getting used to being here on my own. I do not live here full time. Although in the past we would come for Christmas and New Year, now it is mostly four months a year and for the rest I live in UK and make short trips to the Netherlands and further afield.

 4. I am a painter ( ) and I have a lovely stable studio attached to the house. I have frequently exhibited my paintings in France in the Salons of Albi and St. Antonin Noble Val, as well as in contemporary art spaces and galleries in Auvillar, Prayssac, Caussade, Caylus, Parisot, Najac, St. Antonin Noble Val  and last but not least in my studio in Les Combes.

 5. When I was nine, I started learning French. In Holland it was deemed a more difficult language than German or English, so I thought Id get a head start. I have integrated with the local community around me both because of being neighbours but also as friends. In addition I feel part of the artist community around me.  My French art colleagues and I alert each other to art opportunities and exhibitions and meet at vernissages, always trying to support each other (and not just because weve drunk a bit too much). With my favourite French neighbours, who live about 15 mins away on foot, we sit and gossip and put the world to rights. She and her brother are friends but also fantastic neighbours, sharing local knowledge, recipes, planting advice and often lending a hand. A good English friend and I have taken to making an outing each year with our French neighbour. Our first trip was to Toulouse on the train. It took us a while to get the conductor to understand we were senior and formed little group, so wanted a discount. Now we know to say that we are Senior-plus and the discount will be duly applied! We visited the Capitol and Le Musée des Augustins and this year it was Le Chateau de Mauriac near Gaillac. Next year we hope to go to Chateau du Bosc.

 I was invited to a French/English book club, where we only read French. The group consists of about equal numbers of locals and incomers. Although daunting at first, it is very educative and fun.
When in France I belong to local yoga- and walking groups. They too are part French and part English.

 6. I like the way I divide my time between France and UK.

 7. You must have gathered that I love visiting exhibitions and art museums.  In addition I like to walk, read, swim, travel and generally spend time with my friends.

 8. Yes I love travel.  Michael and I went to Turkey many times (he loved archeology and has been on digs in Tautavel, Clermont Ferrand, Turkey and South Africa as well as UK. We also visited India a few times, as well as Indonesia and Morocco. I hope to pay a visit to Sicily next year.

 9. Not being in France continuously, I have no pets. If I did live in Les Combes all the time it would be a cat and chickens.

 10. A decent phone line with good internet.
28October 2014

La Seye et Vous at Verfeil

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

Vendredi 31 octobre, concert à la Seye et Vous à partir de 19h30 avec "B.ROY".

Lorsque B.ROY s'empare de son accordéon et interprète ses chansons, c'est tout l'univers du Paris rock indé, éternel et populaire, qui refait surface.

B.ROY fait partie de ces musiciens sincères et attachants, issus de la scène alternative des années 80. Il a pas mal bourlingué aux quatre coins du monde, notamment de 2000 à 2002 au sein de RADIO BEMBA,le groupe de MANU CHAO. Accompagné par PATRICK LEMARCHAND (ex-batteur de Parabellum) au cocktail drum et ALEJO MARASSI(du groupe Flor del Fango)à la basse, cet ex-French Lovers interprète avec énergie et sincérité- en plus d’une vraie légitimité -ses textes simples et touchants.

Le genre de musico bon esprit qui, son accordéon dans les mains, dans un bar enfumé ou ailleurs, vous transporte dans son univers festif autant que rebelle…Et qui donne sacrément la pêche !

Au Menu : Poulet Korma ou Assiette végétarienne et dessert au choix.


N'hésitez pas à faire passer l'info... A très bientôt !!!
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How absolutely horrendous

Dear Val,
My son & his french girlfriend attended the protest at the proposed Sivens Barrage site over last weekend. I am so glad that they were there & that we have 1st hand reports of what really went on - it was the protesters who actually sealed off the area where Remi had fallen. When the body was taken away by the pompiers the surrounding area was left open to the public, the protesters fenced the area and waited for many, many hours for forensics to arrive... 
The scene on Saturday night/Sunday morning was described to us as terrifying, like a civil war - people were bombarded by grenades, tear gas & rubber bullets from 1am through until 6.30am. No one had a possibility of leaving or any means to defend themselves. One girl in a caravan who refused to leave the relative safety of it had it covered in a tarpaulin by the CRS who smashed the windows & tear gassed her. The insane brutality makes me weep, these were people young & old attempting to save a beautiful wetland area for future generations. It is an absolute tragedy that a young man was killed in the process, a young man whose passion was wild flowers in particular a rare wetland buttercup present on the site. There is an online petition that has been there for a long time quietly collecting not very many signatures. I am giving a link to it in the hope that our community will take the few seconds to sign it & to send up a prayer to Remi  who died so tragically and to his friends i & family in their suffering. May justice prevail. Laura

Val says thank you Laura for giving us a true picture, how sad that these people were not allowed a peaceful protest and how tragic that a young man whose concern for flowers lost him his life. I could not be there on the barricades but I can sign the petition.
This is France not Afghanistan or Syria.
We hear now that the government have banned the grenade that killed the young protester being used again... too late for Remi

Francois Hollande promises the truth on the death of Rémi Fraisse

The young man who we now know was killed by an explosive device at the barrage de Sivens has been promised a proper and truthful investigation in to his sad death by Francois Hollande.
Manuel Valls deplores the excessive attitude by members of the Green party, Cecile Duflot and José Bové
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A thought for the day

When I write the date in French everyday I thought it would be a good idea to have a thought for the day to go with it. If anyone would like from time to time to send their thoughts ( I will add positive thoughts ) it would be good to have readers input.Todays thought was from Theodore Roosevelt, no less.
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Lady readers annoyed by sexism?

A couple of weeks ago TAG ran a story about a MP who insisted on saying "Madame le president" when the lady concerned had specifically asked to be called "Madame LA presidente". Now casual or routine sexism can be reported via a website called "" (presumably there are English language versions). The site is full of what the organisers see as unnecessary sexism. In adverts mothers are usually seen as domestic goddesses, grandmothers as cuddly or in dating sites women are depicted as sexy and available ("French models also have great body work" - dating site using motoring metaphors). Competitors in the La Parisienne women's road race were presented with panty liners and detergent.
The site offers useful templates for sending to men in public life who offend women with insensitive remarks and lots of other links pointing out how stupid stereotyping language is used everywhere. Some will dismiss it as "political correctness gone mad", but it can be annoying.

Val says we have just laughed as Malc who wrote the post wondered if he should say" do not worry your pretty little heads about it" I think he could see from my expresion it would not be a good idea!
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1000 cow farms

Several activists were prosecuted for actions against a "1000 cow" farm in the Amiens area. The "farm" is in fact a factory and local farmers are up in arms against what they see as factory farming, a threat to the traditional way of raising cattle.
The court decision is expected today and farmers and anti-industrial activists are expected to converge on the town to give their support. "Farms not factories" is the slogan of the protesters and demonstrations are expected in over 20 towns around France today.
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Reading TAG can be good for you

Even for the tiny minority that TAG makes your blood boil reading TAG every day is good for over 60's, because reading on a daily basis apparently helps maintain the connections in the brain which fight off degeneration and senility.
Recent research in the US and Spain has pointed to the benefits of engaging with intellectual activity: going to art galleries, theatre and reading on a regular basis can stimulate brain activity which in older people will combat memory loss.
This adds to advice on exercise (walking every day), diet and most other aspects of daily life. Perhaps it all means keep up with an active life if you want to keep your marbles.
Val says  fortunately the overwhelming feedback from readers is " we love TAG"and so another benefit of TAG is guarding your marbles.
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Nous sommes Mardi, le vingt huit

Believe you can and you are half way there.
Theodore Roosevelt
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The book swap is next Monday 3rd Nov.

As always at the Gazpacho in St. Antonin 10.30 bring your good condition books and dvds and swap for others.
Chris and Karen will be there with christmas cards to buy at very reasonable prices and they will also kindly be coordinating all our orders for the British Corner shop.
Spiced cuisine will also be there to deliver and take orders.
Malc and I will be there intent on getting some good reading material as I am flying through my book stock, only having one hand in use does limit what you can do.
See you all there.
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Monday, 27 October 2014

Something different, a vegan pop up restaurant

Pop-up resto at Moulin Druilhet

Really good vegan food in great company; today my place was turned into a lovely retaurant by Nina, Marc and their beautiful little girl Amira. The Romanian couple, he is an artist, she a vegan chef de cuisine, provided not only a wonderful atmosphere, but also 4 amazing dishes for ony 13 euros per person! 12 people enjoyed having a very tasty and plentyful meal together in a homely environment and my kitchen was spotless when the cooks left! If there are any more people interested in hosting this lovely event, please contact Nina at   Nina speaks English and French

There will also be another lunch at the Moulin in a few weeks time!
Val and Jill say book us in
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Sue from Poor paws is on the trail

(this relates to an earlier post )
Hi Val
Oh, my favourites !  Danielle (the lady I work very closely with) and I will be going next week to collect them if they are still in need.  I have spoken to the gentleman and need to call him again tomorrow.
Val says I know Sue Glibbery from Poor paws has a soft spot for Brittany Spaniels, so an email to her has proved worthwhile. If anyone can get those dogs into a safe place and then get them rehomed it is Sue.

A pre-Christmas British Corner Shop order...

Hi everyone
A quick note to tell you we're planning a British Corner Shop order in November, for delivery at the December Book Swap (or separately, if you can't make that morning).  If there's anything you need, however small, either bring a note of it to the November Book Swap, a week today, or tell us by email in the next 10 days or so.  As before we'll share the delivery cost among those ordering.   

Also, whilst nothing to do with British Corner Shop, we have managed to buy in at near-wholesale prices another range of British Christmas cards, of which we will bring a selection to the November and December Book Swaps.  There's no need to order in advance - just come along and see on the day if there's anything that catches your eye, or let us know if you'd like to see the range separately...
  Best wishes
Chris and Karen
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Brittany Spaniels need homes

A french friend tells us of 3 dogs, Brittany Spaniels who are in desperate need. They are 15 months old and a little frightened. They don't chasse and that is one of the problems. Martine asks anyone who has the time or patiience to take one of these poor dogs. The man to contact is Mr Bonnefé tel 0565645704
I will also send this message to Poor Paws and the Dog Links at Rodez

Hello Val
 Si vous avez des amis avec du temps et de la patience , il y a au centre canin du Buenne à coté de Rignac 1h de Varen dans le 12 , 3 chiennes de 15 mois qui ont été en souffrance à cause des chasseurs, et qui ne chassent pas
Elles sont très craintives et le propriétaire  Mr Bonnefé au 05 65 64 57 04 veut les donner à des gens biens , car il prend sa retraite..
Il ne peut garder tous les animaux et elles risquent la  s p a ou de mourir ..;
Il doit louer une petite maison, a une trop petite retraite , il veut déjà essayer d 'emmener 7 chiens .;
Peux tu faire passer un message ,svp, merci .
Bisous pour toi et Malcom
Bonne soirée

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All tonights news was about Sivens

Looking at the film of protesters at Albi, Gaillac and Sivens on TV,  they are not just the young but spread across the ages, young, middle aged and old. The young man of 21 years who was killed, now proved to be by an explosion, was described by his father not to be one of the "anarchist' type of protester, just a young man who felt strongly about the countryside.
In this area of SW France this is all the news, but not just here, it was the first story on the National news.
Work has stopped for the time being but one hopes that when a final decision is taken both sides accept the law.
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Good news about Michou

Michou Ceré of Varen ( our deputy mayor) has a bad time with health issues. He has just come out of hospital after a 10 day stay. Glad you are on the mend Michou and also Happy Birthday to his wife Nicole who is celebrating today.
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La fete de l automne

Jude keeps us posted

Hi Val
Hope the hand is feeling somewhat better.
Just thought I would give you an update on my situation. The quality of care remains high although 
my foster mother is beginning to show signs of wear and is her washing machine.
She has finally realised that my milk intake should be dramatically increased and although I have 
tried various other forms of nourishment frankly nothing equals a good bottle.
Judy Kent ( who gives a very good cuddle) continues to supply my reading material and I am now 
managing to get through several newspapers a day – she may however be approaching the end of her 
paper store as I couldn’t help noticing the last one was dated 2007!
I was given a very nice stuffed lion as a bedmate -he unfortunately is not as well trained as myself and 
seems to spend a lot of the time being washed and hung on the washing line
I am a great explorer and climber so would hope that any prospective home would be able to foster 
these talents.
The attached photo was taken a few days ago and clearly I have improved a LOT since then – the 
photographer appears to have taken herself off to her other life in Albi but hopefully will be back
 for another photo session at the end of the week ( by the way, Val the artist Silver Farley
 ( “fenceposts 8” painting ) is my photographer, my foster mother’s daughter and also does
 the posters for FET – she featured on TAG a lot last week!)
Anyone who would like to visit me can phone on 06 24 09 87 30 or 05 63 53 95 57
 Off for a lovely sleep now.
 Thank you, Val
 Jude xx
 Val says well done Jude, your grasp of English in such a short time is remarkable, (an intelligent pup 
this one) 
I thought Silver Farley's paintings wonderful and now I know why the FET posters have such style.
I am however slightly concerned that wherever Judy Kent goes readers are going to want to sample 
one of her very good cuddles!
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Jose Bové says the work should not start at Sivens

This article tells you why... go Jose go.
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From the sub's bench

Readers probably think I agree with every word Val posts on Taglines, but often they provoke some discussion and dissent at Mas del Sol. One of the things we disagree about is citizenship. Ginny’s remarks about her dyslexia putting her off taking a written test for citizenship made me think “why bother?” Personally I wonder why anyone would bother to take French citizenship – unless the UK withdraws from the EU making it difficult for us “immigrants” to remain here. (ndlr: lots of discussion about this in the French press of late). I singularly fail the Tebbitt test, always support England at rugby and the Boro at football rather than France and TFC.
Val totally disagrees with this as she wants to vote here rather than have a meaningless vote in a different country. She is passionately opposed to the racist and “let’s blame everything on the foreigners” policies of the Front National and UKIP which leads to the occasional “political rant”.
On integration I think Ginny and Ross are hiding their light under a bushel. Yes they do what interests them and they would probably do the same back in the UK. But they are actually doing things here and with the support of their French neighbours and the maire. How do they manage it? Because they speak French and their enthusiasm is infectious. They have the respect of their fellow villagers. They are well integrated into their community. As are many of our compatriots.
Some readers seem to think that Val is saying “let’s all speak French”, but it is actually “let’s all TRY to speak French”. The fact that a hospital doctor or a restaurant waiter wants to practice his or her English is no reason not to try and practice your French. Each having a little bit of knowledge can be recipe for misunderstandings which could be disastrous or, indeed, hilarious; but each having no knowledge can be worse. Imagine ordering chips and getting crisps!
Instead of sympathising why not try helping? Set up simple everyday French conversation groups about the weather, or at the checkout, at the boulanger; these things could be arranged by those of you (us) who have experience of teaching and a reasonable amount of French. Yes help is at hand to translate that difficult document or call France Telecom, but it is so much more satisfying if you have a go yourself.

It is the young who try to save the planet

It is the young who mounted the barricades over the years to bring change in France, the young are brave and free thinking, still full of courage (that is why soldiers are kids). Carrying on with that tradition over the week end through the day the young have taken picnics and young families creating a party atmosphere to make their point in a peaceful way against the reservoir at Sivens. Who knows what will be reported through the night when trouble with a few hot heads start.
But that I was young enough and full of passion to be there on the battle lines. I was a very proper teenager, never a rebel, never wearing a CND badge, never protesting at Greenham Common, I wonder what has changed that I now wish to mount the barricades at Sivens.
Malc thinks it is because Mums not alive to tell me off.
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Can Lisa from Oregon resend her email address

I read about your blog on and I would like to subscribe. Thank you.
Portland, Oregon USA
Val says many apologies but I deleted Lisa' s address in error, please can you resend Lisa.
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Nous sommes lundi le vingt sept

Nous sommes  lundi le vingt sept and another lovely day forecast. We have all erased thoughts of the poor summer from our minds now with week after week of glorious weather.
Malc took this photo of the river at Varen this morning whilst waiting for Val to have her hand dressed. A beautiful still morning with the sun reflecting on the river and Gerard's boat ready for a spot of fishing.

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

A body of a man found dead at Sivens last night.

The cause of death is not yet known but last night 100 to 150 protesters who we are told were throwing stones, and it is said incendiary devices, they were fired on by the gendarmes using tear gas and flash ball grenades. Somewhere in this mêlée one assumes this man was killed. 
Jean Luc Melenchon,Cecile Duflot and Jose Bové all were on the barricades with 2,000 peaceful supporters yesterday. It is sad that a group of  young supporters take things too far. A peaceful protest it has got to be, getting yourself killed is not going to save the countryside.
A report on the reservoir which  has been demanded by  la ministre de l'Ecologie Ségolène Royal  is out this coming week end.

Folk'n'jazz this Thursday 30th October

folk'n'jazz in the salles des fetes at Verfeil  Starts 8.00pm 
Free entry   Bring drinks and nibbles if you want to.
Further information or to join in as a performer contact tel: 05 65 67 93 35 or find us on facebook at Folk n jazz
Sue Carter
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Chestnut stories one way or another

Some of you will be savouring the sights and sounds of the Chestnut fair at Laguepie, fabulous day for it. Whilst I chose instead  to walk back from the local chestnut wood. We had taken our usual favourite walk up by Le Croix de l'Aube, the dawn cross, until recently we knew it as Cazelles cross, but now a neighbour has told us the local name, we like it.
Twister and Malc were ready for home, but Bonny and I decided to walk back by the chestnut wood. With Bonny snuffling about seeming to find the biggest and best sweet chestnuts I ended up with my pockets stuffed with these tactile brown shiny autumn delights, all ready to roast one evening.  With that pop, pop, pop, explosion which tells you they are ready, I tend to cook mine in the oven now and then scoff the lot as Malc is not a big lover of them.
What a wonderful morning in the country in SW. France. Hope you all enjoy your day.
If anyone went to the fair and has good pics please send.
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Opera at Mas del Sol

The performance on Wed Nov 12th  6pm  of Madame Butterfly is now fully booked.
The next performance on Wed Dec 10th at 6pm with a recording from The Metropolitan Opera of Cinderella (La Cenerentola or Cendrillon by Rossini) still has a few seats left. A seasonal production with offerings of mince pies and Christmas cake to help us get into the festive spirit. 
book now to reserve your seat at 
Christmas festive booking to

Val answers the 10 questions

1.What is your name and profession past or present ?

My name is Val Johnstone, I am the TAG  editor but in the real world  I was an
antiquarian bookseller specialising in turn of the century childrens and illustrated books.
Childrens authors being Kate Greenaway, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Beatrix Potter, etc. and specialising in Glasgow School of Art material focusing on Jessie M. King.
We only sold first editions, signed material or special copies. A wonderful occupation seeing and handling rare editions, often then sold to libraries or institutes around the world. We also had quite a starry mailing list of customers. Actors and film stars seem to be book collectors, so life was interesting.

2.Do you have other family members here?

The sub editor Malcolm is my suffering  long term partner of 48 years.  We are still together even after the ironing board fiasco and other such incidents.

3.How long have you lived in France and are you here full or part year?
We have been here 13 years and are full time, when you have pets you need to stay

4. Do you have an activity or profession you wish to promote?
TAG a community tool I promote all the time wherever I go,  but it has to have an essence of me, I just cannot help it.
Via Sahel Enfants D'Afrique, I cannot bear to think of children black, white or brown suffering. When we had such stable backgrounds  love, food, education why would you not feel the need and pain of others suffering who are not so fortunate. I do not think it is anything to do with politics but a basic caring of humanity.

5. Would you say you are enjoying integrating, give examples?

I am enjoying integrating but wish my language skills were better to make it easier. I keep plugging away and I think readers know of my efforts, as do the poor French folk who struggle with my accent. I am hoping our café and conversation  becomes popular, any nationality can come but the conversation is in French and the French know they are helping us with the language.
After the last French elections it was clear when one party in St. Antonin felt they lost votes by including the British that there was work to be done, and we were clearly falling short. This was reinforced by our Mayor in Varen having a meeting and making it clear learning the language was the way to integrate and he wanted the high percentage of " etrangers" in Varen to  speak French and mix more.
I have restarted my French lessons and I am improving.

6. Do you think you will stay in France for some time or forever.?

We have been here 13 years and envisaging staying but Malc always says " never say never"
7.What activities do you enjoy?
Walking the dogs and donkeys, reading, gardening, planning things, I tire myself out with the next great idea. Malc groans when I say " I have a great idea."  I also enjoy eating a good meal as everyone in France seems to be a fab. cook, trying new recipes and culinary delights out on you. Whilst I am an old fashioned cook relying on yorkshire recipes from my Mum, can't beat yorkshire pudding, 2 veg, roast beef and gravy, basically a Sunday dinner ( not lunch, we are from the North) If we are invited out for a meal do not try giving us yorkshire pudding, it will never equal mine. It is the only thing I crow about, that and my chutney. I do no longer enjoy eating in big groups of French or English, just hate the noise levels and indifferent food you get served in large groups.

8.Do you enjoy travel ?
We have travelled much in our working life but now with the animals find travel difficult.
To be honest when you live in the most beautiful place, where else do you need to go. I am content.

9. Have you got pets?
Have we got pets?

10.Is there anything you miss living in France?
Grandchildren and nephews and nieces who are all a delight and fortunately they do come to see us.
Pease pudding from Newboulds at Guisborough. Bacon ( not so bad now with British Corner shop) Just now and then shopping in a upmarket location  with designer shops and really spoiling myself, or in desperation M& S
Laguepie market clothes stalls just do not compare with Max Mara in New York. Gosh those were the days.