Saturday, 28 February 2015

Not a laughing matter... but

This reminded me of our visit to the Dali museum in Figueres, where we stood looking at a fire hose from all angles wondering if it was an exhibit.

Kestrels nesting

These are not our kestrels. Kestrels though we certainly have " chez nous" and we now know they do regurgitate their food. Malc  whilst gardening heard all the little garden birds start cheeping, singing and calling  warnings each time the kestrels kept sweeping over. We have seen them take the odd little bird on the wing but they are not generally aggressive to small birds. Sitting in the salon they sweep past the window and we are now very used to these birds. They have been up at Mas del Sol for 15 years to our knowledge, they  now feel part of the family along with Penny the hen.
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Sunday is a special day in France for Grandma

Not a straight forward decorator

Dear Val,
As you know I've been working as a decorator here for many years; not only the straight forward decorating but also paint effects, trompe l'oeil, disguising cement or breeze-blocks to look like stone, faking marble, wood or anything else.
Here is a link to my website.
I can give advice on colours and wall finishes, and am an expert in making and applying lime paint.
Maybe there are readers who would be interested in my services?

Love Charlotte.

The house with amazing wall papers at Laguepie

Hi Val,

The new site for Varen is a great idea. I may well have some nice pics to put on there.
The link for 'old french houses' is  Soon there will be a website.
Love Charlotte
Val says just look at this site and find the house at Laguepie with amazing wallpapers.

Concert tomorrow - The Great Romantics

East to West – The Great Romantics – This Sunday at 17:00 – Janet Emmelkamp’s house

To reserve tickets visit

Concert invitation

Having had one success, can we have another?

Who loves border collies?

Maya (j'ai pas de photo mais elle est visible sur demande), border collie de moins d'un an, elle est pucé (250269810571550), stérilisé! Elle s'entend avec les chiens, les chats, les enfants! Elle est très douce, joueuse, et très intelligente! Elle vit très bien en intérieur comme en extérieur! C'est une super chienne, vous ne le regretterez pas croyez moi! l'adoption est gratuite!

The dog called Maya is a border collie about a year old. She is puced and sterilised. She is good with other dogs, cats and children. She is calm, full of joy and very intelligent. She learns very quickly in the house and outside. She is a super dog. I do not think you would regret anything if you adopted her  and the adoption is free.
Well personally I would think if you were a TAG reader adopting you would give a donation to Maeva to get other dogs puced when needed, but that is only my opinion.
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Great news Malabar is adopted by one of our readers

I do not know who you are but you have made me very happy today. That lovely golden labrador Malabar has been adopted. I have asked Malc three times if we could have him, even explaining the dog would feel at home as we have a similar carpet to the one he was photographed on. It might have got me out of a sticky marital situation as I had been planning a sneaky move , a sort of "once his feet were under the table move"
So whoever you are look after my lovely boy, he looks a real treasure. I have just told Malc and we have both had tears in our eyes for the happy ending.
Gosh! I am on a high, another dog off to a safe TAG home.
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Floralies at Caylus, why not book a table?

Theatre at Septfonds

Kiwi fruit microwave jam

Hi, Val.

I made some kiwifruit jam yesterday. It's really quick to make and tastes good, so if anyone else has a few kiwifruit going spare, the recipe I used which resulted in two jars-full is:

Ingredients: 1 large dessert apple, peeled, cored and diced, 5 kiwifruit, peeled and diced, 180g sugar, 2 tbsp. lime juice

To make: Cook all the ingredients in the microwave in a microwave-proof bowl for 10 minutes on High, removing and giving the mixture a little stir every 2-3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and pulse till solid parts are less chunky. How long you do this for is up to you - if you want it thick do it for less than if you want it like a purée. Bear in mind that the jam will thicken after it cools down. Pour the blended mixture back into the bowl and cook for another 2 minutes on High. Leave it to cool a bit before putting it in your sterilised jars.

Sterilising jars: Either put them through a dishwasher cycle or wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse them in hot water and drain them. Put them in a low oven 100-120C/210-250F for at least 20 minutes. Remove them about 10 minutes before use so that they are still warm when you bottle the jam. 
It was delicious this morning on hot, buttered toast and should also be good with fromage blanc or stirred into a yoghurt. 
Val says sounds yummy and even I could do that. I will have a go.


Hi Val

Is there anybody out there who knows of an English speaking telephone number for "Groupama assurance". We have just changed for all our insurances, although we saved money it is a nightmare. Although Sofie in the office in St Antonin is lovely she  is not there most of the time. It seems the same here in France you get penalised for  being loyal.
Regards Derek
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Baby items for sale for comic relief/ ALL sold

Dear Val    ALL sold
We have some items for sale, proceeds going to Comic Relief 2015. Would it be possible to advertise them on Tag-online, please?
 We have car seat for a young baby, 10 Euros. A baby recliner seat, 5 Euros.  A travel cot, 8 Euros, or near offers. All in good condition. Photo attached of the two seats.
 Many thanks
 Linda and Martin

A profitable tin of peas (or a can of worms?)

A common sight on the supermarket shelves are tinned vegetables and prominent amongst them are the Bonduelle brand. The French company has posted record sales in Russia, despite the embargo placed on western imports by the Putin government. For some reason canned goods are exempted from the ban and families are buying them because they keep for years - important when you don't know what's ahead.
Probably as important is the fact that Bonduelle actually has two factories in Russia and uses local produce. An  example of the "modialisation" feared by some and promoted by others - a French company exporting its expertise (and arguably jobs) and repatriating its profits (unless they are based in Luxembourg!).
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Andrew Media man, a whizz with computers

Andrew and partner Becky moved to France wondering if they could make a living and life here with their two boys. Eighteen months on and they are happy, living the dream, have made lots of friends and Andrew is working harder than ever with many happy clients. His proud boast is if he cannot fix your computer then you do not pay but I can tell you he can fix most things. He also gives lessons in using your computer and new ipad and a friend has benefitted from a couple of lessons; more to an ipad than you know. Andrew can be find in the side bar by clicking on MEDIA MAN
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Picasso found after being stolen 14 years ago

A painting by Pablo Picasso stolen from the Pompidou Centre in Paris has been found by a US customs official after it was posted across the Atlantic disguised as a cheap Christmas present.
La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser), painted in 1911, was reported stolen in 2001 when it was discovered missing from the Paris museum.
It lay hidden for the next 14 years until it turned up in Newark in December in a FedEx package from Belgium, labelled as “art craft/toy” with a stated value of $37 (£24) and with the message “Joyeux Noel” (Happy Christmas).
It had been posted by someone called “Robert” to a climate-controlled warehouse in Long Island, according to the New York Times. But customs officers inspecting the package discovered the painting, worth $2.5 million, and passed it on to a specialist unit dealing with international art trafficking.
French museum officials then visited New York to examine the painting and confirmed it was a Picasso. Report in the Telegraph             Comments to

Agreeing with Madonna, what next?

Madonna has lashed out at intolerance in Europe, saying it is now so high in France and across the continent that “it feels like Nazi Germany”.
Speaking to French radio station Europe 1 in an interview to be aired on Friday morning, Madonna said “antisemitism is at an all-time high” in France and elsewhere in Europe, and likened the atmosphere to the period when German fascism was on the ascent.
“We’re living in crazy times,” the 56-year-old singer said, calling the situation “scary,” and lamenting what she described as France’s lost tradition of welcoming diversity and honouring freedom.
“It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form – artistic expression of freedom,” Madonna said. “Now that’s completely gone.
Val says-   Here I am agreeing with Madonna, and like Madonna I find the rise of antisemitism scary. Comments to

A good deal on apples

The Lions Club are once again selling apples outside supermarkets in Caussade tomorrow. If as in previous years, the money raised goes to dogs for the Blind. We read the report a few days ago but cannot find more details at the moment. I just remember plenty of readers were pleased with their bags of apples last year.
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An explosion in a house in the Gironde kills elderly Briton

A 69 year old man was found dead in the house after an explosion, his wife  age 74 is gravely injured.
The pompiers were called at 3 in the morning to the isolated house the couple lived in at St. Martin du Puy, 60 kms from Bordeaux.
The man is reported to have had a recent operation making movement difficult.
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Nous sommes samedi, le vingt huit

a rainbow - un arc en ciel
a drop of rain - une goutte de pluie
rainy weather - un temps pluvieux
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Friday, 27 February 2015

Very sad news from the Station des Angles

This is breaking news in that it happened this morning in the Pyrénées - Orientales at the ski station des Anges. A young 20 year old seasonal worker was discovered picked up in the machine of a " fraise a neige" one of those machines that cuts and churns the snow then sweeps it away. The driver was only alerted when the engine speed started fluctuating. He then discovered the body stuck in the machine. The driver is in shock and being looked after by the medecins. A post mortem will be needed to know if she was killed by the truck or if the body was already in the snow.
Some poor parents will be receiving this terrible news.

Mowing, strimming, computer problems, DIY, who comes to mind?

We have known James Sweeting for many years and know what a diligent, efficient worker he is. Over the years here he has put his practical skills to use for all our benefit. His advert is bold in the side bar and links directly to his site showing exactly what he can do to help.
You can never have too many James's about and I think wife Karen agrees.
Click on his advert, why don't you?
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Hugging the sofa this morning

It is raining, the wind is howling and shaking the salon door in its frame. The donkeys are there in the stable braying for me. What a relief to see them in place.
Is that statement a bit like those on facebook where  mindless people tell you what they have just had for breakfast. I mentioned this to a friend yesterday and got this reply
Hi Val
I know your point about getting dull updates from people that you hardly know. I mistakenly accepted a friend request from a former colleague, and get regular information about what she had for tea that day. 

By the way, I had prawn curry if you're interested.
Love S
Well it made me laugh!

Gaillac abbatiale menaced

Gaillac's most visited historic building, the Abbatiale St Michel, situated beside the old bridge over the Tarn is in need of urgent repairs. Classified since 1870 the edifice is suffering from water ingress from both rain and drainage as well as broken windows and damage to the paintings, organ and furniture. Repairs are estimated at 7 million euros, half of which will be available via subventions from the various government and European bodies. The remainder is being asked for via public donations especially via the Fondation de Patrimoine, which offer substantial tax advantages.
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Winter fuel allowance

AN ANSWER is expected from the European Commission next week over the legality under EU law of the UK’s withdrawal of Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) from people in France from next winter.

An MEP for south-west France, Franck Proust, has asked the commission whether it is legal for the UK to take WFP away from British pensioners in France, while still giving it to those in other EU states. A deadline for a reply runs out in the next few days. 

Read more
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An English language theatre needed at Paris

As a UK troupe prepares to put on a festival of British theatre in Paris, there have been renewed calls for English-language productions to be given a permanent home amid the French capital's Gallic-dominated arts scene.
Val says 
 What did I think when I read that headline ? We are one step ahead of Paris here in Tarn and Garonne with FET, Friends of the English Theatre on our doorstep at Les Cabannes.
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Bien venus aux ch'tis

Danny Boon's film concerned the transfer (mutation) of a public official from the comfortable south to the grim land of the ch'tis in the north. This week hundreds of teachers in Lille received notice of their transfer to Toulouse or Grenoble. In fact none of them had asked for the transfer and the notices were an "administrative error". So the accent of the shouth is shafe from the ravages of northern shtudents.
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Beaten by DNA

A good story this, I like it. I reported it, well it must have been  more than a year ago. The "viticulteur" at Albias, the domaine de Montels who came home after an evening out and was attacked by 3 thieves. The car was stolen after a fight and the thieves were not caught. The car a Range Rover was found abandonned  later and a DNA samples were taken.
Now the robbers have been caught by matching the DNA with some robbers caught recently.
 Marvellous, what a difference DNA must make to policing.
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Nous sommes vendredi, le vingt sept

a cloud  -  un nuage
cloudless - dégagé
cloudy  - nuageux
to cloud over  -  se couvrir
overcast  - couvert
to clear away  - se dégager
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Thursday, 26 February 2015

My first meals in France more than 55 years ago

Talking about the pigeon recipes reminded me of my first ever meals in France.  At 14 years old I exchanged with a French girl Annie who lived at  Roubaix near Lille. Roubaix was twinned with Middlesbrough. The father had a brilliant potager and cages in the garden with a white rabbit and a couple of pigeons. I thought it " dead chouette" till the day the rabbit disappeared. I asked where it had gone and the family explained that was the delicious thing we had eaten for lunch. I with righteous indignation said " I would have let it escape" The father said " no, no then the neighbours would have caught and eaten it" I later found out that we had also eaten the pigeons but they did not bother me as much as the rabbit.
I also remember I was allowed half a glass of wine with my meals. The family asked if I drank wine at home.  Well of course this was before wine had become popular in the UK. I did say " yes I drink wine " as Mum made her own dandelion wine which she was forever trying to give to somebody, anybody! so I felt that qualified.

Hi Val
I thought the translation of 'chouette' was owl or does it have other translations?

It also means " sweet" I think 
although " dead sweet" not so sure about. I better check it, could have been the extra glass of wine at lunch having its effect!
 Phew it does mean cute, dead cute.
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Writers Abroad published March 1 st

The next Writers Abroad free magazine will be published on 1 March. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed already. If you haven't, go to:
I helped produce it and have an article in it, as does local author Vanessa Couchman. Thank you.

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Alsaciens, nothing to do with dogs

I am always more proactive after a liquid lunch, whilst Malc goes to sleep.
Our subject over lunch was "Arsene Wenger"  the manager of Arsenal, who I am told comes from Alsace. His work take on life is "work, work, then more work" he thinks it is an Alsacien thing.
Before he went to Arsenal he was manager of Monaco but left because he hated the corruption. He once had a row in the tunnel at Marseille with Bernard Tapie and after that he decided to move to the UK.
Where there are mega bucks there is often mega corruption and Monaco is known for its "mega bucks" In the Depeche last night's match Arsenal against Monaco was called a humiliation for Arsenal who lost 3 - 1
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Oscar Wilde at Les Cabannes

For our first of six shows in 2015, we are delighted to present More Lives Than One: Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas, a humorous and poignant portrayal of the tumultuous life and times of the Irish poet and playwright.
Writer and performer Leslie Clack brilliantly embodies Wilde's flamboyant personality, from the height of his popularity in fashionable London circles to his imprisonment and early death.
The play includes excerpts from Wilde's best known works, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and, as one would expect, generous helpings of his legendary wit.

SATURDAY 28th MARCH at 7pm (bar opens 6pm)
To reserve your seats, please email

Ticket price : € 15 members  € 20 non-members
NB: Why not join  FET now to receive a 5€ discount on your seat per show.

Farming status achieved

Basqui Farm, Caylus. 82160.
Finally have the farming status!
We are slowly building our stock up this year, but will have Basqui Free Range Lamb for sale in the next few months. During the year we will also be selling Free Range Pork from our Gloucester Old Spot pigs, free range duck and chicken eggs and seasonal vegetables . We are a small farm and the meat produce isn't always available, however, e-mails will be sent out to notify when our produce is available. So, if anyone would like to be part of our mailing list, send me a message, don't feel obliged to buy, but it does allows us to let you, your friends and family know when our produce is available.
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Some go to the gym, some have brisk walks, some keep donkeys!

Some keep donkeys and do all of these things sometimes in pyjamas.
It was odd this morning as looking out early I certainly saw a couple of donkeys, but when I went out to feed them not a donkey was in sight. I went to the stable and all the hay put out for supper was still there. How very odd, I began to doubt I had seen two.
 I called and called and eventually Filou and Coco appeared from our wood, but where were Rosie and Lucy? Still in jim jams in the pouring rain I went round the wood checking the fence and  slip sliding away, slip sliding away, still cheerful enough to hum. I assumed the girls had got out and escaped but on the last section I suddenly spotted the girls seemingly stuck up against a fence not daring I thought to climb back over some mossy stones. With all my energy I removed all the huge stones making a small path through and suddenly realised that Lucy was trapped between two lines of barbed wire. I felt sick and fortunately Malc arrived to find out what was going on and I yelled fetch the wire clippers quickly. Malc bearing in mind has an artificial leg, scrambled over the mossy stones and squelching mud and cut the wires.
I checked Lucy over for cuts and miraculously she seems OK, Rosie was just trapped behind her and gingerly they both left their prison.
Filou by now was so relieved to see Rosie who is of course in season, and he brayed and brayed but then got a kick for sniffing her nether regions.
The poor girls must have been there overnight and the boys would stay with them.
That section of wood is now closed off and on a drier day we need to remove all the dreadful barbed wire.
Good fun donkey keeping!
Malc says where is the nearest gym we can join?
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Wonderfully french conversations

Having a short back and sides in the hairdresser's yesterday I listened in to a wonderful conversation.  An elderly man of Laguepie, do not know why I mentioned the elderly when it goes with out saying, if you live in Laguepie you are elderly!  He was having his leg pulled, the girls saying that he did not know how to put the "aspirateur" / hoover  round. All he knew was how to grow roses and chasse.
 He was bemoaning the end of the chasse season but brightened up to say there was a battu of pigeons this weekend. H e explained they were a nuisance to local buildings and then of course the young birds were very tasty to eat and his wife had some nice recettes / recipes for young pigeon.
 A different conversation to any I have heard in a UK hairdressers.
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A close neighbour shot this dog

A topical story, would a neighbour shoot your dog?
This dog if still alive would tell you, yes he would. This 23 month old pedigree dog escaped from his clotured / fenced garden in Dept 47( Lot and Garonne)  and ran into the neighbours garden. The dog was shot by the 17 year old son of the neighbour and it was reported to have killed some chickens. The owner denies the dog did that.
We are hearing this more and more. We dog lovers feel why not take the dog home and explain it is being a nuisance rather than shooting someone's dog. I noticed yesterday with the labrador needing a home Maeva says that dog was taken in to a foster home to save it from being shot.
It is not the English way but it does seem to be an option by some of the French. Let us be honest it is only in the last few months that pets have gained a status other than as furniture.
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Risk of floods

La Bigorre in the Pyrenees, such a beautiful place in the summer. Would you want to own a home there in the winter?  no fear!
Bigorre yesterday before all the snow melts. Every year TAG reports the difficult weather conditions in and around this village.
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Risk 5, the highest level in the Pyrenees

Falls of snow and avalanches in the Pyrénées: ski stations closed, routes blocked and villages without electricity.

Chutes de neige et avalanches dans les Pyrénées : stations fermées, routes coupées et villages sans électricité

Not a good move, Vincent

Vincent age 19, risks 6 months in prison and losing his job at the mairie of Toulouse after being involved in the anti sivens manif ( manifestation) He is accused of throwing a bottle of paint made up as a bomb and shouting obscenities at the gendarmes.
 This youth is taking the brunt of the news reports as a youth with a job in the mairie makes better news than an out of work lout. Interestingly shouting obscenities at the police is a very serious crime and I remember when we first came here  being told to never talk back to the police as it would be treated seriously.
 Vincent has a belief but in these difficult times of getting a job were his actions worth it?
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Nous sommes jeudi, le vingt six

la vitesse du vent     -  the wind speed
souffler - to blow
une brise -  a breeze
un coup de vent  -  gust of breeze
des vents forts - strong winds
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A movie hello

Hi Val
Just to recommend The imitation game, the incredible life of Alain Turing, a very good, very british movie (in the good sens!!), still in Gaillac this week (VO)
Val says it is on at the Queryls the 6th the 9 th of March we must see it.

Dentists at Cordes

Hi, Val and Malcolm.

Thanks for your timely reminder re dentists. We haven’t been for ages, and I keep thinking I must make some check-up appointments.

A friend of Gareth’s gave him the number of her dentist in Cordes, whom I rang just now (Lionel Alengrin on 05 63 56 07 25). I got appointments for both of us for Friday 6th March. There are at least 3 dentists at this cabinet, which is promising. I’ll let you know how we get on once we’ve been. 

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Specially knitted, patchwork, quilted, designer jackets

According to an interview on France 2 last night dog coats from all around France have been flooding in to a dog refuge at Garric, Albi. The refuge had asked locally for coats for the dogs in outside runs and the message went viral in France. The refuge manager showed us plies of coats in different sizes which the postman delivered every day. There were even dog boots and bootees, bet those dogs could have some fun chewing those! The piles of coats were brilliant and could be on a designer dog in New York or Paris, maybe they should arrange a cat walk fashion show, but this time a dog walk show. The idea overall is to rehome the dogs but prospective owners could go and see their new prospective pouch in a different light, beautifully suited and booted.
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Publicity is essential

Dear Val

We have just got home from an unexpected night's stay in Albi,but that is another story. We went to see the Flying Dutchman streamed from the Royal Opera House starring Bryn Tyrvel as the Dutchman. It was an incredible production and Tyrvel is a true mega superstar.

However unlike Gaillac which is regularly full for its operas from the Metropolitan, there were all of 12 of us in possibly the biggest cinema in Albi and another couple were also TAG readers. We came to the conclusion that poor publicity was possibly a reason so thanks to TAG for letting us know it was coming on

Val says what a shame, but you are right publicity is essential. I worry if we only get 14 at Mas del Sol, but 12!!  Glad you enjoyed it, we look forward to seeing the production at Mas del Sol, maybe next season.

The Lot or Wolf Hall?

Tonight's TV presents a dilemma: on France 3 at 8.50pm (20h50) is Des Racines et des Ailes, a normally unmissable transmission but especially so this week as it follows a 2 hour journey along the river Lot. The countryside, the towns, the history, often shot from one of the controversial drones that are so prevalent now, all under the eye of local historian the appropriately named Georges Lot.
We will have to record Wolf Hall as we cannot yet be sure we can record France 3.
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The Albi rocade is finally finished

41 years people from Albi, les Albigeois see the opening of the rocade in April. 41 years to build 10 kilometres of two lanes of dual carriageway. The Depeche says it was the longest time for any such works comparing it  6 years taken for 50 kilometres of tunnel under the channel and 15 years for the canal du Midi!!
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Rotten story to start the morning

What a terribly sad, sorry situation. The police had to break into a house in Casteljaloux, where they found two children, one of 14 months the other 4 years old. They had been left by the mother for a number of days. They were found in their own " d'immondices" / unspeakable things!
The father was in prison for repeatedly beating up his wife and the mother age 23 years was with two friends in Toulouse.
The mother is described as being " Sans emploi, la jeune maman serait fragile psychologiquement." so she is without work and mentally fragile.
How on earth were the children left in her care and thank heavens now the children will be safe in care.
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High risks in the Pyrenees today

Meteo France warns of strong winds and up to 60cms of snow today with an avalanche risk of 4 on a scale of 5. Many of the ski stations will be restricting access today, but it always seems to be those skiers who consider that off-piste is the thing to do who get caught by the avalanches.
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On the trail of a dentist and desertification is at the root of the problem

Two readers had mentioned that there was a dentist at Parisot and as I need an appointment we thought Parisot, not too far, easy parking that will do us. We went yesterday morning to discover there is not a reception in the Doctors/ dentists building. We would have been all at sea if we had not seen friends waiting to see a Doctor.
 Who do we see about making an appointment we asked.
The answer,  you just sit in the waiting room hoping that the dentist is working and catch him when he comes out. Now as we did not know if he was male, female, working, distinguish him or her from a Dr. all very confusing. We thought OK is there a card with telephone number... no there was not.
We decided sitting in a full waiting room with coughs and colds was not the best idea and as we were driving off noticed a big board with telephone numbers on including the dentist.
We phoned when we got home to discover that phone number did not work as the person who may have been a dentist there formerly was there no longer. The voice suggested we went and sat in the waiting room to see the dentist!
We next tried phoning a dentist in Villefranche who came highly reccomended, to be told they were taking no more patients.
Then we tried  Ali's suggestion of a dentist at Caussade and finally we got an appointment for April...
Dentists will be added to the list of optician and dermatologist as not been easy to get appointments with.
Since the lack of Doctors in St. Antonin patients have been coming to Varen and Caylus and I am sure we will have a wait now when making an appointment at the  Varen health centre.
It is all down to desertification, where recruiting young medical people to the villages is now very difficult. The young do not want to live quietly in villages and if they have partners they would find it difficult to continue working.
 It is a problem we did not meet 13 years ago when we arrived, although we did see the young French leaving and French villagers who were parents told us their children were in Toulouse, Paris or London
Malc says giving a young person a job as receptionist at the Parisot Health centre might help
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Nous sommes mercredi, le vingt cing

the weather report / forecast    le bulletin / les provisions métérologiques
to forecast the weather -  prévoir le temp
the weather conditions  -  les conditions atmosphériques
fair weather -  du beau temps
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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Over the years, snapshots of our village

If you want to post a picture of Varen, Malc and I have just created a site on facebook where pictures of our village Varen can be posted with the date and photographers name. In a years time we could build up a great community site with pictures of events and people all enjoying Varen over the years. The site is called     " Varen: un village en images"
I hope in time all nationalities will post, could be interesting. Have a look at the start of this venture and feel free to post  your photos of Varen.
This photo was taken by Piotr Cwiklinski in July 2007, there is such a warm light on the chateau and the fields beyond. The view point was the hill behind the health centre.
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Comments to

Raindrops keep falling on my head..

..and turn into a lake of snowdrops (perce neiges) under our feet. Despite the rather inclement weather this morning (Tuesday) we took a walk by the river Seye at the former Cistercian Abbaye de Beaulieu. This is a beautiful place at anytime, but when carpeted with tens of thousands of snowdrops it has a special appeal.

The river at that point was used by the monks at the abbey to feed the fish tanks where they raised trout; medieval fish farming. The tanks are still there and often have fish. There is a notice describing the fact that the valley also has an abundance of elder trees. These sureaux were valued by the ancient gods as a source of  alcohol (whose mother did not make elderflower wine?). We read that the Latin name for elder is "sambucus", meaning a harp and the wood is excellent for making musical instruments.
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Half marathon at Caussade

Half marathon in Caussade  on Sunday 1st of March
Good luck to Karen Sweeting and any other TAG reader running
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British Corner shop orders

Hi Val

We are planning another combined order from British Corner Shop in the coming week or two, including orders at the Book Swap next Monday, 2nd March.

If there are things you would like yourself, however small, please let us know before the weekend of7/8th March, so that we can get everything delivered in good time for Easter.

You can email us your order, you don't need to bring it along on Monday - as you prefer.  The "how to do it" information is below, as a reminder

Best wishes

Chris & Karen

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 next 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 following Book Swap, we can make separate arrangements to get the goods to you.  All chilled foods will stay refrigerated until you receive them.    

Click on the centre of the advert

Someone has just made it clear that they did not understand that all the little advert symbols were linked. You only need to tap on the centre of the advert and if the supplier or entertainment has a website you will automatically link to it. Try it on the new FET symbol and you will see how it works.
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Horses adopted

Hi Val
Oh, I forgot to talk about a very good news, we have found very nice people with 15 hectares for my 2 rescued horses and we brought them to their new family last Friday, they're happy, 

xx, Delphine (so you can take away their pictures! thanks again for adding them on tag)

Val says brilliant news I had put this information on TAG and horse sites throughout the area. One rider suggested she hated ads like this and the horses should be put to sleep. I replied why not give them a chance just because they were too old to be ridden did not mean they would not continue to be lovely pets. I love to be proved right. May they live happy and healthy lives for the next ten years.
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St. Antonin Noble Val

Une photographie de Côté Noble Val
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Is this the cock killer?

Remember the story of 80 year old Mado, the Gaillacoise who raised the coqs which routinely invaded the rugby international matches at Twickenham? Someone or something has been decimating her flock of magnificent gallic mascots.
Now a passing motorist ran over a fouine, probably a stone marten, and Mado is convinced that the serial killer has been eliminated. No doubt time will tell.
Mado with the corpse of the suspect. Photo by N Bonduelle/France 3

Local author published again

Campus Revenge by Olga Swan
University intrigue. A prestigious, army-trained, Vice-Chancellor receives two formal complaints just before he is due to retire: one from an overseas PhD student, the other from a member of support staff, both against the same professor. Worse, one of the plaintiffs alleges sexual misconduct.  This is a tale of revenge and blackmail: a dish best eaten cold.

Local author Gillian Green writing as Olga Swan. Sounds an exciting read
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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A salutary tale of intensive agriculture

Paul Francois is a 50 something farmer from Charente who embarked on intensive cereal production some 20 years ago, with reliance on powerful pesticides. But an accident when opening a spreader, which had been heated by the sun, leading to expansion of the pesticide product has left him with severe medical problems and a severe mistrust of pesticides.
In between fighting his Mutuelle to get his case recognised as an industrial illness and Monsanto to seek compensation for causing his poisoning, M Francois has gradually converted his 100+ hectares to organic production. With more careful crop rotation and use of natural fertilisers he says he has brought his soil back to life.
He urges young agriculteurs to reject intensive methods and make their industry one to be proud of. "We were accused of living off EU hand-outs, now of poisoning the environment", but it doesn't need to be like that.
Good luck to him in all his endeavours.
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Le dernier loup

I saw the director Jean Jacques Annaud being interviewed on French TV about this film, a charismatic man who made the wolves his friends to make the film. They spent hours with them to make filming possible. Clips from the film showed wonderful scenery and it looked a film worth seeing.
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Sofas, chairs, tables, interesting things for the garden, washers, fridges, beds, etc.

I have not been for an age, but do love going to Emmaus. I normally go to the one at Carmaux, difficult to explain where it is, off the largest main square, is open Friday after 10am and everyone in Carmaux knows where it is, so easy enough to ask.
There is another at Villefranche de Rouergue and also one at Montauban. There is a website for  Emmaus. I will look it up to see if there are contact details.
This email address gives you every outlet of Emmaus in France with address

Malc is right to point out that I should remind you where the idea of Emmaus comes from

Abbe Pierre made his now famous radio appeal to help the homeless and "mal logé": "Help my friends! Tonight a woman has frozen to death". From this grew the Fondation Abbe Pierre and the fundraising efforts of Emmaus (which he founded 5 years earlier in 1949) with the specific aim of providing shelter to the "sans-abris". In 1954 it was estimated that 54% of French people lived in unfit conditions, now thought to be about 5% of whom about 140000 are considered homeless.
Abbe Pierre, who died in 2007, was consistently voted France's most popular person.
Perhaps TAG should have a "like list" and after what I have read about Abbe Pierre, he would top the list.
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Overlooking Albi

As you drive in to Albi on a hill, one spots this church l'eglise de Notre Dame de la Drèche overlooking the city and the southern mountains beyond. The church in the commune of Cagnac les Mines and Lescure has started restoration work and donations are being sought These wonderful gargoyles/ gargouilles are set 50 m high in the walls. Photo from the Depeche
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Nous sommes mardi, le vingt quatre

to get bronchitis   faire une bronchite
a stuffed nose   un nez bouché
to cough   tousser
to sneeze   éternuer
to sniff   renifler
to catch a cold   attraper froid
a sore throat  mal à la gorge.
many of these can be found in the label " medical" at the top of TAG. Could be useful with flu raging at the moment.
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Monday, 23 February 2015

A weeks rental needed

Hi  Val
I am getting the keys (at last) for my new home on the 2nd March.
The property will need a good old clean before we can move in (dogs cats and me). So I need a weeks gite rental from the 28th Feb near Verfeil,  Varen,  Najac for 1 person and of course my 2 dogs, the cats are farmed out.
I would be very grateful if any one can help out .
Thank you
Jo Stephens

A few spaces left

hello everyone
just a reminder for our fundraising lunch this thursday, we have a really delicious menu for you together with a vegetarian option and some spaces left.
We hope to encourage a few more loyal donkey supporters to come and eat with us so we can be full in numbers.  
The proceeds from these lunches help us to pay for the enormous amounts of hay now being eaten all day long by the donkeys. We're hoping that spring and its warm days are not so far away so some grass can start to grow.
Thank you all for your support.

All too scary for words

The Front National candidate for Causse - Cantal who is known by the gendarmes for his " usage de stupéfiant" / and stealing cars and driving in a drunken state, has now made anti semitic comments on his facebook page. He was placed "en garde à vue" Friday afternoon and now faces 5 years in prison and a 45,000 euros fine for distributing racial hatred by electronic means.
Great choice of candidate Marine Le Pen!! why do they not vet these people more or have they vetted and found them worthy?
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Burons en Aubrac

Wonderful where a simple word and photo can take you even when you are changing and washing the bed sheets.
I received this picture of a " buron," My primary source of information failed me as did my dictionary but a quick google elicited this information.
It is a stone building with a roof covered in those lovely shaped slates which one finds in the mountains. The éleveurs of the regions mentioned not only now use these buildings as summer gites, not mentioned here but found in another post. They also serve for making the  local cheeses mentioned and  house the buronniers / the cattle herdsmen,  from mid May to mid October.
Un buron est un bâtiment en pierre, couvert de lauzes ou d'ardoises, que l'on trouve sur les « montagnes », pâturages en altitude que les éleveurs de vallée possèdent et exploitent de façon saisonnière dans les monts du Cantal, l'Aubrac, le Cézallier et les monts Dore. Ils servent à abriter la fabrication du fromage : le cantal, le laguiole ou fourme d'Aubrac, lesaint-nectaire lors de l’estive (de mi-mai à mi-octobre), et à loger les buronniers

Christine  Midi  Pyrenees tourism

Doors open at the potteries

Trouble is Penny, there is an economic factor! The world of high finance at Mas del Sol

Penny our old well cared for  hen does not eat her " poule pondeuse" food, it is eaten by the sparrows, who may " pondent" come the spring. Penny likes the wild bird food sunflower seeds from local  farmer Kevin from Cambou. I suggested to Malc when the  present tub  from Unicor runs out this time we do not buy anymore as she prefers the sunflower seeds. Malc thought and then said " but the poule pondeuse  is cheaper than sunflower seeds !!" When have we put monetary factors over pet health and preference and yes you are right the new plan is now in force.
 Even Malc can see buying hen food for the visiting mice and hedge sparrows is not an economically  viable stratagy !! and the wonderful sunflower seeds from Kevin are the cheapest and best around
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Sweet lemons

Next Sunday (1st March) is the last chance this year to witness the famous parade at the lemon festival in Menton, in the French Riviera. Every spring the chic town presents a series of parades dedicated to the fruit, plus displays and sculptures all in yellow.
The festival attracts more visitors to the Riviera than the Monaco Grand Prix, spread as it is over three weeks. Entrance to view the parade is charged according to whether you want a seat or will stand. Sunday is the third parade and may be a bit late to plan a trip to Menton now, but if you are going to that part of France it is unmissable.
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The worst flu epidemic in 5 years

I have copied and left the two sentences in French copied from the Depeche. For many the winter was spoilt by getting the flu. Take care after the holidays at the time of the  children going back to school and going back to work, the virus is passed on more than ever. In the first line are people with fragile health and those over 65 ( Malc and I do not like being included in these warnings!)
Some good words and phrases in these two sentences. I do sit every morning reading the newspapers with the dictionary next to the cat on my knee.

C'est la plus importante épidémie de grippe depuis cinq ans. Pour certains, les vacances d'hiver ont été gâchées à cause d'elle. Attention, après les vacances, à l'heure de la rentrée à l'école ou dans son entreprise, les virus s'échangent plus que jamais. En première ligne, les personnes fragiles, et notamment les plus de 65 ans.
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Public disorder in Toulouse all because of Sivens

You lose support for the cause when you stoop to public disorder. Smashing up shop windows, 23 poor shop owners being affected by this manifestation. 23 people  and their staff trying to make a living, having their businesses affected by these  out of work louts... and yes that is what those few were who caused this damage.
The cause is in my opinion a just one but being hijacked by these anti establishment anarchists is not going to do it any favours.
A sad day at Toulouse for the majority of those who care about the countryside plants, animals and the diversity of the forests.
Toulouse sous le choc après les dérapages de la manif anti-Sivens.  This was the heading in the Depeche.  Toulouse in shock after the manifestation anti Sivens. The word I needed to look up was "dérapages" which is to slide or slip away, (a degeneration.)

Another virus this time from a tick

A man from Bourbon county  in the USA, in his fifties died mysteriously. It was discovered he had been bitten by a tick with an unknown virus which is now going to be called the Bourbon virus. Do not panic as far as we know it is not in French ticks. They, we know pass Lyme's disease and in pets piroplasmosis. The advice remains the same, remove ticks asap safely getting out the head, using a tick fork seems the best way to me. Seek medical advice if you get a red ring around the bite. Needless to say I hate the things.
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Nous sommes lundi, le vingt trois

 some expressions with etre
Etre en colère  - to be angry
Etre énervé      -  to be annoyed or grumpy
Etre en advance   - to be early
Etre en retard    - to be late
Etre  enceinte - to be pregnant
Etre fatigué  -  to be tired
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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Glad he is better

Hi Val
Just to let you know, John is now well again after his fall, and will be delivering to Caussade (car park next to McDonalds) on Saturday, February 28th at 15h15 to 15h30.  Orders to be placed by Tuesday 24th.  The link is here  His pies and pasties are the best in SW France!

Church music

Dear Malc and Val
I am not sure in which diocese Varen lies but for years the diocese of Albi has insisted that in concerts at least 50% of the music is religious and a programme has to be submitted in advance to ensure that it conforms. So it may be that the new curé is doing no more than enforcing something which his predecessor ignored.
This has not been at all limiting and we have had wonderful concerts of Basque and Corsican Poliphony, Spirituals and Jazz  which has been accepted no problem. As to concerts which are entirely instrumental, the attitude has always been that these works have been entirely inspired by God so there has never been a problem.
Our problem is that currently the diocese only permits 5 concerts in any church each year. We could easily double that number here in Puycelsi especially as we can fill the church at the time that it would otherwise be empty and with no services being held either. But it is a fine balance between attracting people into an otherwise empty religious building and turning it into a secular hall by default. Sadly unlike in the UK the Catholic church here does not relinquish buildings and allow them to be used for other purposes but perhaps if we can persuade a greater use of churches for concerts even if they have to have a high percentage of religious music in them, the churches will be used by more people and that is something which people of all faiths or none would welcome.

Hi Malcolm
I can't see anything wrong with secular music being performed in churches - if it weren't, so many lovely concerts couldn't take place, as you say - though I know some clergy are sensitive.  Mostly they just want to fill their churches with happy people as often as possible.  However some secular music could be considered profane or irreverent, even blasphemous.  I should have thought that would be a more practical place to draw the line.   

Do you love huge brocantes ?

Well here we have a big one, spread over a huge area, spread over 3 days
Albi  at Parc des Expositions
Grand Déballage Brocante / Feb.
Friday 27th  14 to 19 h serious searchers and the trade go this day
Saturday 28 9h - 19h     serious buyers go this day
Sunday I st March 9h - 19h  serious browsers and white rabbit collectors leave it till Sunday.
tel 0563492840
Comments to

A photo in French Property news

What a lovely house and courtyard for entertaining, for shade a large tree. The two sun beds spoil the picture and where is the obligatory labrador lying in the shade. All this apart one can imagine a lovely dejeuner, sitting swirling a crisp chardonnay or a lovely light beaujolais. To complete the mood Malc in pinny serving a chilled gazpacho, followed by a fresh mixed salad accompanying sliced magret.
Go on suggest a nice summer recipe, Malc is cooking and serving.
Val says - a friend reminds me that we knew the previous owners of this house and we have in fact eaten there.
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We all enjoyed John

Hi  Val
It was back in September of 2013 that I came along to the monthly music club and played a few songs and got such a lovely welcome from everyone.
So I wondered if it might be of interest to some members of the group that the new album came out last November with some of the songs I played that night.
You can hear samples of the tracks on the store page of my website:

Hope that’s of interest – many thanks


If you are happy clap your hands

Most readers are happy with our choices of charities.A reader Ella has asked that we include the local cat refuge "Chats du Quercy" and as there are so many cat lovers amongst readers we will now add this very active charity.
We will  perhaps consider Ginny's idea of changing next year.
So to advertisers your choices for your cheques are
Via Sahel Enfants d' Afrique
Liberte des Anes
Cancer Support
Alzheimer 82
Chats du Quercy
AGMOMP (a cancer support charity aimed at helping bone marrow transplant patients in the area)
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Secular music - should churches allow it?

Over the time we have been here we have attended many concerts in churches, mainly to raise money for restoration or upkeep of the church. Such concerts have been of Occitan or Basque songs, of tango on accordion, of baroque amorous dialogues, of folk music, of gospel or glorious sacred music. In fact pretty much everything but pop music. Naturally such concerts have to be approved by the mairie, who are responsible for the building and by the curé who is responsible for the use of the church. But as an addition to our cultural life and a valuable source of revenue to those trying to restore the fabric of the buildings (or indeed the organs in some cases) these concerts have always been very popular and well supported.
We were hearing of a new curé who has ruffled a few feathers by insisting apparently that only sacred music should be played in churches. There is a wealth of wonderful music that would fit the bill, but I for one would miss the superb piano, flute, accordion (and one surprisingly moving harp concert) performances from  musicians who come from all over Europe to entertain us and preserve the churches that are part of the region's heritage.
Val says I thoroughly enjoyed " Gigspanner in the church at Najac"
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Handyman82 is Simon Curtis

Simon Curtis is just one of those people we hear good feedback about all the time. He is a worker who works his socks off and makes a good job, pride in his work. A general handyman who has a natural ability to fix things. Find Simon' s advert Handyman 82 in the side bar and know you can use him with confidence. It is strange as liking someone on a job is important to me and I reckon other readers, you cannot fail to like mild mannered Simon... and nothing simple about him.
Comments to

Great gardening weather

What a great week last week for gardening, so much tidying up to do, leaves to be moved, plants cut back, manure to be barrowed. Our year old pile of manure is black and crumbly and I could rave over it, texture just right etc. Some women feel about baking as I feel about gardening. I have made a little patch of garden in the courtyard where I might have wasted my time. It is against the sunny pet wall where in the summer the pets dig holes in the soil and a line of pets cats, dog and hen fall asleep in the sun. I have left them a section but Malc thinks by the end of the summer my little garden will have gone.
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