Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Vigilance, solidarity, generosity, costs us little but we gain so much by caring

 Thank heavens for that, Manuel Valls has taken a stand on the " sans abri" those poor people homeless living on the streets. A homeless man has just died on the streets at Rodez, one of many that will die this winter in the cold weather.
Manuel Valls a appelé ce mercredi les Français à la « vigilance, la solidarité et la générosité » face au phénomène des sans-abri, soulignant que le gouvernement était « mobilisé » pour assurer leur accueil.

Bonny after her morning walk

Yikes shriek I, I am trying to keep the house clean.
That is it you are banned Bon.
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How scruffy is Laguepie?

Dear Val & Malcolm,
 It would be interesting and perhaps valuable to compare not only the appearance but also the average  age, the average house price and the per capita income of Henley and Laguepie. With which French town is Henley twinned?
Happy New Year to you  both.
Sally C.
 Val says Apparently twinned with Falaise which we do not know but must be smart I would have thought. 
If one factors out in Henley rich pop  and film stars, the odd oligarch, city lawyers and bankers it would probably be pretty similar... but Henley would then have no people left in it.

FALAISE (in Normandy, France)

The Twinning link was inaugurated on 17 November 1973 to provide and foster friendship between the people of Henley and District and those of  Falaise.
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Tardy, tardy, tardy with opera choices

I like that word " tardy" but not necessarily when it applies to our plans. However tardy we have been with deciding on our operas for the coming season. We are not very good on agreeing which we would like and there has been a bit of an impasse between me and the subbie. Left to me I would want Placido  Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti singing anything.
Anyway we have after fisticuffs  decided on Johann Strauss Die Fledermaus, an operatta in three acts. This will be on the 14th of January, a Wednesday. Start booking now and if you have already booked remind us.
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En route to Villefranche this morning

 photograph taken by Gareth Brown
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A Happy New Year from New Zealand

Hi Val and Malc
 Wishing all Tagline readers/contributors a happy New Year.   Your happenings
 continue to be a  part of my daily life.    Hopefully for me 2015 will see the  end of the fight with insurance companies etc  and bring some closure after four years of earthquake related problems.  You have had a most successful year facilitating animal adoptions and for that alone Tagliners have my admiration.    Please note new email address  - stolen computer!  

Val says for new readers Ann who lives in New Zealand found TAG when she was having a rotten time in her life after the New Zealand earhquakes. She remembered having a good holiday in St. Antonin and she transported herself back to happy times and found TAG.
We all wish you a Happy New Year Ann and hope that indeed all your problems are resolved. We really value your continued reading and you are a genuine TAG friend.
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Not just sunsets at Mas del Sol, what about the sun rises?

Pretty daft those sheep and fox, but we like them, part of the menagerie now

What a laugh we had doing this selfie

Writing TAGlines since March 2011, TAG on line that is.
Before that we printed colour paper copies which we handed out at the markets and placed in shops and hairdressers, that was in 2003 / 2004, and at a time that the number of English speakers were scarce on the ground.
Since then there has been a veritable explosion of  nationalities, UK residents, Australians, Americans, Belgians etc. all arriving to live the dream. Families, couples, bringing out other relatives who saw the good life we lead.
When I started TAG on line in March 2011 it was once again to pass on information and news about our life in France. Malc had always been in the background helping with "techie"bits  and proof reading and altering those dreadful spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. 2014 saw him enter the arena as a sub editor and he now enjoys searching out and writing interesting French news posts. As when we were in business  together team work makes us succesful.
We have seen readers numbers rise from 100 to 800 or 900 each and everyday, often now over the 1,000 and we think looking at the stats that a great majority are from our area here in TAGland, SW France. As it has been pointed out many times I am a lady with strong opinions, some you may not agree with but it does make TAG  an interesting read (so I am told)
Information about the area you should find on TAG but if there is something that is missing let us know, and it can be printed and put into a label.
From writing TAG we have made so many lovely friends, hopefully made you laugh and cry and increased in all of us a better  knowledge of the beautiful area, the people and the culture of our adopted country France. Whilst having fun we raised over 3,600 euros for our charities in 2014. Over the years TAG has raised more than 6,500 for local charities.

One of the words of the year is " a selfie" and at this point here is our "selfie" and yes Malc does have more than one shirt!

Postage up tomorrow.

A whopping 14% rise on postage from tomorrow. A reader suggests we go today and buy stamps.
Thank heavens for social media.
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Minus 5 this morning here in SW France

 Our under floor heating is very efficient but what a surprise I got when I threw open the curtains to see a world of white. Malc still taking his donkey duties seriously was out well wrapped up, looking a bit like a Michelin Man. The donkeys were shivering in their hut although when they are all bunched in together it must warm them up. The buckets of water were frozen again necessitating trips over with watering cans full of hot water. Fresh clean water as needed as their hay and straw. Rosie was as naughty as usual trying to keep all the hay piles for herself, and she is so dominant all the others defer to her. Malc is enjoying finding ways to trick her so the others get their share.
Before coming in for breakfast he walked Bonny up the road, cold it maybe but it is also beautiful.

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Warmest year for 100 years

Sunday last was the first day of frost in Paris for over 12 months and with the following days also below zero this was the fewest number of freezing days since 1870. Other French cities also enjoyed a very mild winter last year and overall the year was the warmest since 1900. Sadly here in the south west the mild winter was followed by a very wet spring and summer. Can't have everything we suppose.
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Yet another elderly man shot / accident de chasse

Do not tell me that the rules on chassing and testing chasseurs are sufficient. Yet another elderly man was killed yesterday when he was shot in the Gers.  Actually shot in the thigh and later died.
Guns are dangerous as a lady who was shot and killed in Walmart in the US discovered when her two year old reached into her bag, found her gun played with it and shot her.
Playing with guns on a sunny day in the countryside is not a sport, especially dangerous after lunch when the wine bottle has been passed about.
Controlling animals in the countryside should be performed by rangers, trained, educated, and controlled. The gung ho attitude to guns here in France appalls me.
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Easyjet flights today

Among the airports affected by the strike of French cabin crew at Easyjet is Toulouse, where 4 flights today (Wednesday) are cancelled. The strike will continue tomorrow.
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nous sommes mercredi le trente et un

Not any old trente et un, but St Sylvestre, le Reveillon, the last day of 2014.

"Ring out the false, ring in the true"

Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

I wish we could invite more.

So many people we would have liked to ask for New Year but our biggest table seats 14, so we have tried to keep within those boundaries. Anyone who we have missed our sincere apologies and we will be seeing you all,over January and we do value your friendship.
We spent yesterday shopping, today setting up the table and chair arrangements and tomorrow... we cook.

Where-ever you are, alone or with friends and family, we wish you a great 2015. Why am I saying it now? Well who knows how tired or hungover we will be tomorrow night? Restraint seems to fly out of the window on New Year's Eve.
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Christmas pearls of wisdom.

Hi Val
Don't know if this will work but found this on The Guardian web site.Anne Penketh in Paris 
The Guardian, Monday 29 December 2014 18.29 GMT
The pearls were in osyters from Arcachon Bay, south-west France, and were only likely to 'have a sentimental value, not a commercial' one. Photograph: John Carey/Getty Images 
Few French people downing their festive serving of oysters would expect to find a pearl inside the shell. But one market stallholder was confronted with not one but two.
“Finding two at once is extremely rare,” said oyster farmer Malika Molen who sold the molluscs at Saint-Jory market near Toulouse a couple of Sundays ago. “He’s one of my regular customers. He always buys two dozen – one to eat while standing at his couscous stall, and the other to take home.”
The wild pearls were in two oysters from Arcachon Bay, south-west France, which the stallholder took home. “The next Sunday he brought them back to show me,” said Molen, from La Teste-de-Buch on south shore of the bay.
In fresh water, pearls can take between 12 months and six years to form, while the formation of saltwater pearls takes much longer. Molen’s oysters mature in seawater in the bay.
Molen charges €7.50 (£5.80) a dozen at the market where she has had a stall for 32 years. So could the lucky customer strike it rich? Depending on their size, quality and lustre, wild pearls can be valuable.
But the ones found in the Arcachon Bay oysters were only likely to “have a sentimental value, not a commercial” one because they tended to only be the size of a large pinhead, said Molen. “But still, it’s a nice Christmas present. It’s the pleasure of the discovery.”
It was not unusual to come across them, she added. “My children found one, this year seems to be quite propitious.”
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HyperU and points

Good morning Val,
Your Hyper U points can be redeemed, or added to, at any other U supermarket.
There are also a few more days at Villefranche to do so, I thinkuntil the 4th. of January.
Wishing you, your sub and all your menagerie a happy and prosperous New Year.

The Spaniard who wants to change France

The respected right wing Spanish newspaper El Mundo has named Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, as its Man of the Year. In an interview Valls outlines his intention to continue to reduce public spending and promote growth. Wanting to preserve the French model at the same time will mean a number of years of sacrifice for the French people, but Valls is adamant that to loosen the belt just when growth is returning would be to lose all that had been gained.
Despite the President's unpopularity, Valls is often seen as the most likely left winger to succeed him. The prime minister would make no comment on this in his interview, saying that the French people would lose confidence in him if he was talking about a different job when he already has this task to complete.
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Blankets not grills please

A mayor in south-western France has been accused of a shameful lack of Christmas spirit after banishing homeless people from the city centre by placing metal cages over public benches.
Critics said that erecting the cages on Christmas Eve suggested a total dearth of "empathy" on the part of Xavier Bonnefont, Angouleme's 34-year-old Right-wing mayor, for those without a roof over their heads.
Joel Guitton, deputy mayor in charge of security, defended the move, saying the benches were "almost exclusively used by people who consume alcohol on a regular basis". Report in the Telegraph by Henry Samuel
 Val says How can we support buying warm coats with sleeping bags and then get an idiotic unfeeling Mayor in SW France being so lacking in humanity, and what an absolute waste of OUR money. Spend money on shelters for the homeless not  cages. Your life may have gone well Monsieur le Maire but that is not the case for many homeless people.
 Our adage " there but for the grace of God go I"

"Closer" condemned again

The photo magazine which released the photos of President's trysts with Julie Gayet has now been condemned to pay 20000 euros damages for publishing photographs of Front National vice-president Florian Phillipot with another man, described as his partner. Phillipot has been notoriously reticent about his sexuality, probably given the rather right wing views of his party's electorate.
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How do you food shop in SW France

If you are like us and live deep in the country we organise our shopping by doing a big supermarket run about every three weeks supplementing with local produce in the markets and butchers at our local village Laguepie and bread from the excellent local boulangeries
We have two freezers and plenty of storage space all needed.
With supermarkets being an half hour run away one can spend a full morning shopping, then unpacking.
Yesterday at HyperU  at Villefranche I asked the young cashier what she had planned for St. Sylvestre. Not a late night she told me as she was working the next day,  the store changing to Carrefour. I found Malc who was filling trolley number 2 to tell him the interesting news. Malc suggested the girl might mean they were changing the aisles / the carrefour. So easy for me to be confused with the language.
Val says just googled to see HyperU at Villefranche  IS changing to Carrefour on the 1st of January.
Malc is cross now that we did not use our points.
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No war between Martin Malvy and Damian Alary

A big job fusioning two big regions but both men who have to undertake the work are privately friends so assure us " a difficult job but not going to cause a war"
We still wonder who will gain control of the new huge area will it be Martin Malvy for Midi Pyrenees or Damien Alary for Languedoc-Roussillon  and what name will be given to our new area.
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A young driver killed from Septfonds

Un accident mortel de la circulation s'est produit hier au petit matin sur la «Départementale 9», commune de Septfonds, aux confins des communes de Cayriech et Saint-Georges.
A Laguna car overshot the road killing the young driver from Septfonds on the road to Puylaroque.
Patrick Morisse age 29, described as a child of the village of Septfonds with many friends and a member of the Rugby club. He was an employee of Caussade Semence.    Comments to

Nous sommes mardi, le trente

“Every New Year people get you some presents but your best present you get never changes: Your own existence! It is also your best present to others!”

Monday, 29 December 2014

Maeva still has lots of dogs needing homes


Bonjour moi cest Délia, je suis une jeune jagd terrier dun an.
Je suis une chienne qui aime tout le monde, chien, chat, enfant, volaille, je ne chasse pas. Jadore les câlins, le canapé et la voiture. Je suis stérilisé.
Ma famille daccueil dit de moi que je suis une boule de poils très attachante, avec un  têtu du à ma race ! Je suis très intelligente, espiègle et rusé ! Pour le moment je nai aucun rappel mais je veux bien apprendre par contre je sais marcher en laisse.
Jaspire à une vie de famille, avec beaucoup damour !
Si vous craquez pour moi, téphonez au 06 77 35 28 30, je vous attends !!!

                                            (Ladoption est gratuite)
Hello from Delia, a year old terrier. 
I am a dog who likes everyone, cats, dogs and children. I do not chasse and I adore cudles. I am sterilised.
I am with a family who are looking after me till I find a home but I need my own family. You can adopt me free of charge.
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Reveillon St. Sylvestre 2015

You probably have sorted out your festive plans but if not and you fancy something a bit special you still have time, so click on the link. The link covers things happening in major cities throughout France.

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Eurostar, certainly a possibility.

Perhaps another way of travelling with Eurostar. You can start booking now and the trains start in May with a daily train in the summer months.
Journeys from the heart of London or Ashford to the centre of Lyon, will take about four-and-a-half hours, while Provence will be reached in a less than six hours, or Marseille in just over 6 hours.
London to Marseille would be approx. 111 euros return.
Check out the Eurostar website and there  is more info in the Connexion.

Sir Terry has a second home in SW France

Sir Terry and his wife Helen live relatively modestly for a couple with his means. They have a house in Taplow, Buckinghamshire and a holiday home in Gascony, south-west France.
Val says so that is what they were doing on our flight Heathrow toToulouse, had I know they had a home here I would have given them a TAG  business card. 
And on other starry figure Robin Ellis who lives in the Tarn and now writes cookery books as well as being Poldark years ago had a bit part in Fawlty Towers which we watched again on DVD at Christmas, the programme watched was 20 years old but just as funny as ever.
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Free the nipples campaign / libérez les seins.

I like to be abreast with what is happening in the wider world and a lady described as a "provacatrice" Miley Cyrus has started a free the nipples campaign on social media " libérez les seins" in French. So far 50 influential people around the world have signed up. Do you know it would annoy Nigel Farage so much it might be worth it. I think I will sign up when the weather improves like in the summer ... possibly 2025. By then who will give a damn I certainly won't.
Malc says Miley Cyrus  is a pop singer whose name came up in a childrens quiz at Christmas. It was reported in the Depeche so can qualify as French news.
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Can anyone explain why?

Why is it the season to buy new bedding? Every start of the year in January all the shops and supermarches start sales of sheets and pillowcases, our post box being  inundated with leaflets for vile looking cheap bedding in terrible multi colours,  garish and  "uncool"
 If you are like us we are still in our fashionable white look. A white look with those attractive paw prints weaving around as if part of a " pussy pattern" perhaps we should buy white linen with paw prints already on so the cleaner never can tell if the sheets are dirty. When Bonny bounds in on a morning and hurls herself at me, a grimy patch hovers around the top of the quilt.

Perhaps we do need some purple floral bedding with intermittent yellow stripes, which  will hide all the pet bed adventures!!
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The two Presidents put their heads together for the two regions

Martin Malvy president of the region Midi Pyrenees and Damien Alary , President of Languedoc Roussillon got together yesterday for a mini summit to discuss the fusion of the two regions.
Martin Malvy thinks the fusion will take at least two years.
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More than hoped for in Toulouse

The minister of the interior has this Monday promised 50 more gendarmes for Toulouse to counter the many attacks from delinquents in the heart of the city.
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Christmas fun

" Question of the day"If some one threw a rock and knocked you off your donkey,would you be considered stoned off your ass?
EEhh really!
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The mayor and the one doctor left for St. Antonin Noble Val

A serious problem in St. Antonin, one doctor for all the inhabitants, just is not going to work. Read the story in the Depeche

The snow has arrived at the ski stations in the Pyrenees

Good snow falls have made the ski stations viable this morning, so all the holiday makers flying or driving in will be able to have their promised holiday. Our plane was full of families going ski-ing. In the airport at Heathrow we met friends who were flying out to the Alps to then go on to a ski resort. The Alps has had so much snow now that roads have been blocked and thousand of  skiers have been stuck, many suffering being blocked on roads for many hours and one skier has been killed by an avalanche.
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Nous sommes lundi, le vingt neuf

Alfred Tennyson
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...” 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Whilst the cats away the mice will play

Safely back home to be welcomed back by appreciative pets.  Bonny was rather quiet last night which we thought odd, but today found out that she had eaten the contents of the house sitters waste bin yesterday which would explain things.
Rosie the naughty donkey who had spent Christmas Eve on a walk about which was discovered on Christmas Day apparently appeared at the salon window and asked to be let back in with the others. The family thought she had probably stayed in the grounds but as we walked up the road today we saw piles of donkey pooh in evidence all along the way, so we could practically track her movements.
The cats have all reappeared from their various hiding places apparently making pop back visits to eat and then rather than suffering a toddlers caresses nipped back out to the barn.
The hen Penny was in evidence as always around the garden and grounds nothing seems to phase her. Why is she a chicken who does not cross the road? The fact she stays within our boundaries amazes us.
The owl is still about with interesting piles of regurgitated bits and white pooh just at the entrance to the salon door .
We had a great Christmas with our family but what a welcome home one receives from the  pets, and it reminds me of the book title " Our family and other animals" by Gerald Durrell.
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Who knows about Jotul woodburners?

In the gite we have a Jotul woodburner, we have just noticed a sealing trim on the inside of the door has worked loose. We think it needs some special glue or cement to stick it back in. Has anyone had the same problem or know where to get the special fixant?
Hi Val
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Art supplies have sold well

but still for sale are
  As for the art supplies,,,, I still have silk paint and silk dye, a table easel and misc. supplies for painting on silks

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We China women know how to handle a drill

Victoria China and daughter  Daisy building a new donkey shelter for their recent addition rescued donkey Coco.
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Over the garden and down to Laguepie

Betsy and Reiky who live up above Laguepie send us this photo with good wishes for the New Year.
 Voorspoedig 2015
Best wishes for 2015
Gutes neujahr

How scruffy is Laguepie?

We left Henley on Thames in the sun everywhere clean and bright, every inch of possible living space used and made smart. We arrived back to Laguepie, admittedly in the dark but in comparison how scruffy and down at heel old Laga looked.
 We will not abandon our " We love Laguepie" T shirts yet as we still love the place but it would be great to see some of the houses used and restored.
Two places both with rivers running through but they could not be more different.
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Vegetables for all grown in the middle of Albi

Vegetables grown for all in the centre of Albi by the  l'association «Les Incroyables Comestibles.
Henri Bureau a retired man of 73 says  " servez vous, c'est gratuit" pointing at a row of cabbages.
This is my sort of story and on a smaller scale I noticed a few tomato plants in the summer in the centre of Verfeil with a notice saying help yourselves. Good job it was not courgettes, one struggles to give them away !

The ten best café gourmands in Toulouse
Val says it took a French friend a few years ago to explain to us exactly what a " café gourmand"  was.
It is a plate of sweet things often little cakes or biscuits, usually three or four different ones and can often be ordered as a dessert after a meal even if not listed on the menu. Lovely if you are shopping and need a coffee and an energy boost.
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Gerard, the tsunami and the school

Gerard presents gifts
The tsunami story below was the efforts made by local French and Sri Lankan (with some input from British and other Tarn and Garonne foreign residents). Here are some the results of those efforts in pictures. To read the story and see more pictures follow the links
English version
Version francais
The school buildings and retaining walls
Children admire the decor

Bright and attractive classrooms
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How does the TAG blogspot compare with facebook

It is early days but we have at the moment between 700 and 1,000 readers of the TAG blogspot everyday.
On a similar site taglines82 on facebook we get between 10 and 40 views depending on the post. It is early days but so many people have never become facebooks addicts or are now dissatisfied with facebook that I personally think the medium is limited. We will keep up our presence there but if you are a TAG reader on the blogspot you are certainly in the majority.
It would appear you can get friends from just about anywhere but I want people who know and love the area as our advertisers are local.
facebook seems excellent for family and real friends passing family photos and gossip but very rarely does it touch more serious issues happening in our lives.
I welcome your ideas and views.
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Keep your eyes on the news if flying with easy jet

French unions at low-cost airline easyJet announced a New Year strike on Friday similar to a Christmas work stoppage to press demands for better scheduling and pay.           Comments to

Flying versus driving to the UK

Yesterday we had a panic when on leaving Henley we found the M4 blocked with signs flashing up long delays. We were actually on stand still for about 10  mins before moving slowly off. We arrived at Heathrow in time for our luggage drop but then had a two hour wait for a delayed plane. Then a delay at getting a slot for flying, another delay with the bags, half arrived the last bag with many other peoples luggage being delayed. Would not have been so bad but Malc had gone off to get the car, sadly I had the car park ticket in my handbag so he had to walk back in the rain. I was still waiting at baggage check out so he could not find me. We did eventually get the bags and walked back for the car, arriving home 3 hours late.
This morning we were discussing how we preferred driving to the UK when I saw these headlines

Neige: 15.000 véhicules bloqués en Savoie, 19 départements en vigilance orange

Winds gusting up to 160kph have forced Calais port to close since 8.00 French time on Saturday until mid-afternoon, when the weather should improve. Until then, no ferries are operating in either direction.

and of course at this time of the year if driving you  could have  poor weather  conditions.
As an aside - On our flight were Sir Terry and Lady Wogan and Sir Terry wished Malc,  Happy New Year 

Terrible car accident at Millau

A tragic accident in the Millau area, a family out late at night, just after midnight collided with another vehicle. In the car were girls who were twins age 5 were killed outright. Their brother age 9 is in a very serious condition with brain injury. The father age 39 and mother are in hospital injured with numerous fractures and the mother has a perforated digestive system. 
Reading the Depeche this morning it is just full of car accidents, makes you think on wet roads in the dark having even one drink could put an end to the festivities for you and your passengers.

Nous sommes dimanche,le vingt huit

Beating yourself up today, about events yesterday, will not help tomorrow.
An even looser translation from C
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Saturday, 27 December 2014

We love transporting a bit of culture back to France

I know, I know the French are cultured, the cities, the food, the bastide villages but Malc and I are importing a bit of culture back for New Year and future festivities. I can hear you ruminating and conjecturing, what could it be?  At great expense, bought in Robert Dyas sale, a twinned disco ball.
At the witching hour of midnight we can bop away with the disco lights flashing, our guests will feel young again as lithe bodies gyrate to Freddie Mercury and Beatles hits. Malc and  I have been practising moves to a dance Wii and we could blow your socks off..
 we know about culture!
A reader on facebook tells us " Theo" has been struggling to get rid of them. Is Theo out of the dragons den?
Yes   -Theo Paphitis buys Robert Dyas chain for £10m
Dragons' Den star acquires hardware chain's 96 shops to add to a varied empire of businesses worth £210m                                             comments to

A whizz on the wiggler scooter

My last go on the " wiggler scooter" before setting back for home in SW France. Henley has been fun with the youngsters, Grandma won all the games ( little white lie) but now the pets at home need us.
After a tail back on the motorway we are in the airport with a 45 min flight delay ... but we do have free WIFI access for 4 hours
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The system does work

Hi Val
When we sent a donation to one of the TAG charities this Autumn we doubled up the amount, as you know, and crossed our fingers that we'd get an attestation to send off with our tax return.  This is just to tell you and TAG readers that yes, indeed, Alzheimer 82 have sent us just such a document, based on which the Centre des Impôts will charge us a little less tax this year, hopefully.  Other readers of TAG have faith - the system does work! 
x Anon     
Val says  we have also discovered the system works making giving a bit more that bit easier.

A green light go ahead for a footbridge across the Tarn in Albi

An artists impression of a new proposed footbridge across the Tarn at Albi which has the support of Environment  minister Segolene Royal.
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Toujours sous doté

Toulouse is the fourth biggest town in France but has recently been under equipped with police officers, causing some say  a number of suicides within the force under pressure. The  minister for the Interior should announce on Monday that there will be reinforcements for the gendarmes.
Sous-doté   under staffed

Nous sommes samedi, le vingt sept

“A year of ending and beginning, a year of loss and finding...and all of you were with me through the storm. I drink your health, your wealth, your fortune for long years to come, and I hope for many more days in which we can gather like this.”
― C.J. CherryhFortress of Eagles

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Friday, 26 December 2014

A black lab puppy in the Elysee

A three-month-old black Labrador named Philae -- after the comet probe -- landed in the presidential palace on Christmas Day as a gift from Canadian war veterans. The playful ball of fur, who came all the way from Montreal, is already spreading joy in the Elysee presidential palace, which has had a rather morose year. Political and economic gloom and doom added to a scandal over Hollande's affair with French actress Julie Gayet that led to the public implosion of his relationship with partner Valerie Trierweiler. And Hollande's popularity, along with employment levels, struck historic lows.But things are looking up for the French leader: his popularity in December crept up several points, according to various polls. And he has a furry new best friend.
Val says did the  President want a puppy? It does seem an odd present for the Canadian veterans to give. A dog is not just for Christmas and has the President got time for a dog?           Comments to

Another treasure trove found

Renaud the macon/ builder is a lucky fellow. For the second time in 3 years he has found a treasure trove whilst knocking down walls on a building site in the Caen area. This time he has found 37 coins from the years 1854 to 1868 the time of Napoleon. The haul is estimated at 5,000 euros.This follows a story where a hotel in Lot and Garonne had a find of even older money from around 1480

10 years since the tsunami - Version anglais

Gerard Narjoux sent the report below detailing activities undertaken in Sri Lanka to rebuild schools following action in and around St Antonin Noble Val to alleviate the effects of the tsunami 10 years ago today. Here is a rough translation of the salient points.
"When the tsunami devastated south east Asia 10 years ago  we all remember where we were. I was in Espinas and wondered what we could do to help at our humble level.
So an association was was formed called "one school, one village" because we thought a school is a place where one can share, meet and especially a place of hope.
Soon our neighbours came on board; friends joined in and friends of friends. They competed to come up with fund raising ideas. Parents at the college at St Antonin organised a meal at which a painting by Tom King was auctioned; a dance evening was held at Cazals; a meal followed by an auction sale was organised by our English friends; pharmacies donated first aid products; local mairies sent contributions; presentations in primary schools in St Antonin made children aware of the drama and the children of St Joseph's school in Varen organised a collection.

Making bricks with a press
In short everyone mobilised; we were in touch with friends in Sri Lanka who chose two sites to build schools, enough money having been collected to fund these projects; the site chosen as on the south east coast where several schools near the beach had been swept away. Thanks to local contacts these were amongst the first schools built in Sri Lanka. Teachers dealt with the red tape; an architect friend drew the plans; we opted for the simplest model on local lines and tried to recycle materials; we made bricks and coconut trees blown down provided the timbers
The schools are equipped with basic teaching materials; a swing and slide were erected in the playground, all thanks to a local association. A great celebration was organised for the opening on an auspicious day and it was an emotional return to school for the children.
Children in their classroom

Teachers salaries were covered by gifts and the children are sponsored to this day by French people paying 20 euros per month (the original pupils are now at college, but the links are maintained). This amount provides a school uniform, shoes and classroom materials.
The proper use of funds is regularly checked by Yasmin Rajapakse, president of the association. 

Personally I stay regularly in the schools working with the teachers and teaching English to the children. Other people help from time to time with  different subjects: arts, sewing, sport, advice to the amateurs!
In all over 500 pupils have benefitted from the education in these two schools over the last 10 years.
Unfortunately in these humid climates maintenance costs are continuous,  With tropical storms, termites... often it is the ingenuity of the parents which allows things to be overcome with a minimum of funds.
Gerarrd presents gifts to children
On this anniversary the Association would like in the name of the children to express its recognition of all those who, in one way or another have become involved  in order to fulfill its objectives and continuing goals thanks to the dynamism of the franco-sri lankan team on the ground."
Gerard Narjoux
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Pretty tree from Elly

Dear Val and Malcolm,

Even though Christmas is nearly over, I wish you both (belatedly) a very happy one. Enjoying your posts tremendously. Hope you arrive safely back from UK and that snow does not hamper your travel plans and homecoming. Also wising you health and happiness for 2015.
Herewith a detail of this year's Christmas tree.
Kind regards,

Snow set to arrive in Midi Pyrenees this weekend

Looking at the forecasts Midi Pyrennes is on course for having snow tomorrow. A  sprinkling of snow for most is at best seasonal,  for others like us it could be a problem. We fly in to Toulouse and arrive back at Mas del Sol just after dark around 6.30. Mas del Sol is at the top of a hill with roads winding up and round to the top, impossible for our rear wheeled cars to cope with. If you are actually at  Mas del  Sol with all the pets with freezers and pet stores full it can be quite cozy for a couple of days  but getting there in snow... just not easy. Walking up with Malc is also impossible with his disablility, so everyone cross fingers.
We have just had an email from the house sitters to say Bonny is adorable, the hen is happy, the cats are not in evidence and Rosie, the naughty donkey escaped last night. They caught her easily this morning but do not know where she escaped from.. so I can tell you she will be out again tonight.
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Want a cuddle in Albi

A mother and daughter have been offering " free cuddles" in Albi, as it is the season of goodwill. I think they would get short shrift in most cities but it is a nice idea to make you smile and feel happy. Not sure I would want to cuddle everyone ...  but I do like the sentiment.
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10 years since "le tsunami" VO original francais

Val says Gerard Narjoux has sent his post ten years after the tsunami. He and his  partner from Sri Lanka were very involved in helping after the disaster. The report is in French but will include a translation later today and also some photographs.

Dix ans  après le tsunami………….

Dix ans déjà (c’était le 26 décembre 2004 vers 10h) qu’une vague immense dévastait les côtes de plusieurs pays d’Asie du sud-est. Sous le choc, le monde entier s’organise pour venir en aide aux populations frappées par le désastre. Les images passent en boucle sur tous les écrans du monde et comme souvent lors d’un événement majeur, chacun se souvient de l’endroit où il était quand le cataclysme se produisit.
J’étais à Espinas et aussitôt  la question se pose : « comment pourrions-nous venir en aide nous aussi à notre humble niveau ? »
Une association est créée : elle s’appellera « Une école, un village » car nous pensons que l’école est un lieu de partage, un lieu de rencontre et surtout un lieu d’espoir.
Rapidement nos voisins se montrent enthousiastes ; se joignent à nous rapidement les amis et les amis d’amis qui rivalisent d’imagination pour proposer des actions qui pourraient permettre de collecter des fonds : les parents du collège de Saint Antonin organisent un grand repas au cours duquel une aquarelle du peintre Thomas King est mise aux enchères ; une soirée de danses  est organisée à Cazals ; un repas suivi d’une soirée de ventes aux enchères est organisé par des amis anglais ; des pharmaciens nous envoient des médicaments de première urgence ; des mairies ( MontelsLevernois en Bourogne )nous adressent des dons grâce à des contacts amicaux ; des interventions dans les écoles maternelles à Saint Antonin notamment sensibilisent les enfants au drame ; les enfants de l’école saint Joseph de Varen mènent une campagne de collecte .

Bref tout le monde se mobilise ; nous sommes en contact avec des amis sri lankais qui sélectionnent deux sites où reconstruire des écoles car nous collectons suffisamment d’argent pour construire deux unités: ce sera sur la côte sud-ouest où la vague a balayé plusieurs écoles qui se trouvaient à quelques dizaines de mètres de la plage. Grâce à ces contacts sur place, les choses se mettent en place très rapidement : ces deux écoles seront parmi les toutes premières réalisées au Sri Lanka. Des amis enseignants se relaient pour surmonter les entraves administratives. Un ami architecte dessine les plans. Nous optons pour des structures les plus simples possibles sur le modèle local. On s’évertue à utiliser des matériaux de récupération ; une presse  permet de produire des briques à moindre coût ; les cocotiers abattus sont récupérés pour la charpente…
Les écoles sont équipées de matériel pédagogique basique ; un toboggan et une balançoire sont installés dans la cour de récréation : tout cela grâce à une association locale.
Une grande fête pour l’inauguration est organisée à une date auspicieuse. C’est avec beaucoup d’émotion que les enfants retrouvent leur classe.
Le salaire des institutrices est pris en charge par des dons et les enfants sont parrainés par des familles françaises à hauteur de 20 euros par mois (c’estencore le cas aujourd’hui : les enfants sont désormais au collège mais les liens se sont maintenus).Cette somme permet de leur fournir un uniforme, des chaussures et du matériel de classe.
Le bon emploi de cet argent est régulièrement contrôlé par Yasmin Rajapakse, présidente de l’Association.
En dehors des cours, les locaux sont mis à disposition des mamans qui réalisent des travaux de couture notamment les uniformes grâce à deux machines à coudre (don du Crédit Agricole de Saint Antonin).

Personnellement je séjourne régulièrement dans ces écoles : je travaille avec les maîtresses ; j’enseigne l’anglais aux enfants plus âgés du village. L’accueil est toujours très chaleureux. D’autres personnes interviennent de manière ponctuelle dans différents domaines : arts plastiques, couture, activités sportives…Avis aux amateurs !
Au total ce sont plus de cinq cents enfants qui ont pu bénéficier de la scolarisation dans ces deux écoles en 10 ans.
Malheureusement sous ces climats humides, les travaux de maintenance représentent des frais récurrents : orages de mousson, termites,… C’est très souvent  l’ingéniosité des parents qui permet de faire face à ces problèmes faute de moyens.

En cette date anniversaire, l’Association tenait à exprimer sa reconnaissance au nom des enfants, à tous ceux qui d’une manière ou d’une autre, se sont impliqués afin de mener à bon terme ce projet conformément à nos engagements et qui plus est, de manière pérenne grâce au dynamisme de cette équipe franco-sri-lankaise toujours active sur place.

Nous sommes vendredi, le vingt six

They think it's all over, well it is now
Kenneth Wolstenholme, 1966 World cup final
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Thursday, 25 December 2014

Dying at Calais, not just at Christmas

Migrants are dying at Calais, we surely do not want this?
Somehow worse at Christmas when we lucky few are indulging ourselves to the hilt and enjoying it. Knowing there are  homeless displaced people and Malc and I always think "there for the grace of God go I" Born in the right place to the right people, we thank out lucky stars. We also feel empathy for others not so lucky as I am sure do most of  our readers.
Yesterday I passed a Big issue seller and paid her but as I walked away and past her a couple of times through the day her hellos to most  passers by fell on deaf ears. Smartly dressed folk walked past this poor  lady. A lady  not begging but trying to earn a crust, even if one did not give money what does a polite hello cost you?
 I have given a link to the article in the Guardian about migrants at Calais.
Why spoil Christmas you may think, but surely it is the time we should think of others.
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That French language

This morning breakfasting on salmon, scrambled eggs, croissant and just a small glass of champagne, we played a game with the grandchildren. You say a word or saying you know in French and then pass on to the next. Annie the seven year old has been taught an amazing number of French words at school and always prefaced by le or la or un or une, knowing the masculine or feminine of them all... puts one to shame.
Our favourite expression which Malc says I was doing window shopping " leche vitrine" The expression means window shopping but Malc says outside Jaeger that is just what I was doing, practically licking the window.
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Have we not been here before and had it disproved?

IF YOU’RE wondering whether to have a little tipple with your Christmas meal, you’ll be delighted to learn that scientists have discovered that red wine helps keep you younger.

France produces some of the world’s finest wines, and now respected journal Nature has reported a glass of red contains resveratrol. According to the study, resveratol “mimics another amino acid - tyrosin - found naturally in the body that is involved in activating an ancient chemical pathway to limit stress and damage to the DNA of cells - which would otherwise result in ageing and disease.

Val says What you can and cannot eat seems to change weekly, a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetable and the odd glass of wine and I am sure you cannot go wrong.
Malc says  define the "odd glass". 
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nous sommes jeudi, le vingt cinq, jour de Noël

Christmas is'nt a season, it's a feeling.
Edna Ferber
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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas with a bit of rare blatant Christmas advertising for family

Our daughter and partner are also booksellers and this is the front cover from their Christmas rare book catalogue.
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The little Prince and Princess at Christmas

The first official photos of Gabriella and Jacques, the twin "princiers" of Monaco. were shown in Paris Match. Albert and Charlene of Monaco are celebrating the christmas season with their new family. They look like any new proud Mum and Dad.

Merry Christmas everyone

Happy Christmas Val, Malc  and TAG readers– here’s to a Happy and Healthy 2015
Jane and Isla ( plus Ron and Bryony!) xx

An ethereal moment captured

Dear Val and Malcolm,
Hope you are having a great time in consumer-land not sure if it will ever catch on here, even though le gouvernement wants to extend Sunday trading. 

From the sunny albeit chilly south west of France, well it was yesterday now it is Très nuageux.  So how about a nice picture, (subjective) of the sun shining through the mist on our local ruisseau, la Lère.

Val says   Nev, that is so beautiful, what a photograph

A very happy Christmas to all our readers

Good wishes to all men.. and women, children and our pets.
Thank you for coming on the ride with Malc and I with TAG, hopefully we have given you things to talk about, laugh about and think about, mostly on and about our adopted country France. We need to know what is happening to direct our lives and in this where we hope we have helped.
We have enjoyed your friendship and your input, too many readers  to mention all.

From our daughters in Henley on Thames where we are being given a" spiffing" Christmas we send our love and wish PEACE for all in the coming year 2015
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Christmas is for the children

But no reason why we should not all enjoy it. Last night we booked to see a film tomorrow afternoon, all booked on line at the local cinema. As we are " over sixties" we could have booked tea and a biscuit and we will have a table next to our chair to stand the cup on.
We consider the differences with the Queryls cinema at St. Antonin, where Yannick checks at starting time if there is anyone else about to arrive by looking down the street. No popcorn, tea and biscuits here... just a film. ( and I know what you are all thinking in France)

 Paddington Bear is the character we are going to see, we  loved the books, we will tell you  later if we loved the film.
Val says  great film for families, so charming and funny.
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Doctors in St. Antonin

Hi Val
 Just thought you may want to post something about this which I just saw in the Depeche
The two doctors always seemed to be overloaded with patients and I understood that Dr Raynal wanted to fully retire this year.
Best wishes for a happy Christmas
Val says this is a worrying story about the plight of Doctors and the " desertification" of country villages and towns. The  doctors in these villages are at retiring age but there are no young Doctors wishing to replace them. Our friend  a Doctor in yet another village nearby wishes to retire but is unable to find a  replacement. Is a monied incentive needed to encourage young doctors to these country places. The health centre in Varen was pushed forward by Sophie Bouvier, local doctor, knowing the importance of having doctors and other skilled professionals together and with the hopes younger doctors will be encouraged to come in the future.
And to John and family, many good wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Your continuing  positive input is much appreciated

Nous sommes mercredi, le vingt quatre

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
 ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

An idea to help the homeless

A WARM and weatherproof winter coat that transforms into both a sleeping bag and a shoulder bag is set to help homeless people in Paris survive the onslaught of winter. The first 70 items of the so-called “Future Coat” in France are to distributed among the city’s neediest people on Saturday by members of the Croix Rouge, Femmes de Demain 
The coats are made from recycled plastics and the old uniforms of firefighters. To make a donation to help Femmes de Demain make and distribute more coats - which cost €167 each - log on to the Manteau d'Avenir website
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A Jessie M King illustration, a Glasgow school artist

Absolutely no French connection that I can think of, but it gives me so much pleasure, I will cheat a little.
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They deserve a rise.

General practitioners, who are set to strike until December 31, want to see an increase in  the average fee for a consultation from €23 to €25. 
Val says   I am happy to pay an extra 2 euros a visit, how do you feel?
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More security over the festive period

Manuel  Valls has ordered more security over the festive period, putting airports, stations and shopping centres on alert and placing security services at these high risk people populated places. Up to 300 extra soldiers will be deployed over the Christmas period
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The Restoration Consort are singing tonight at the church at St. Antonin

Hi Val
 Sorry to ask at this late moment. Any chance you could put out a reminder regarding tonight’s concert please?
 We start at 18:00 but would like people to arrive for 17:45 as we start in darkness.
Val says - you all want to go to this, it will be the highlight of your Christmas." Les Sons de Noël, and money raised from donations at the door  will go towards the restoration of the organ.