Thursday, 30 November 2017

Madrid City hall today

Photo sent by David Wallen

Petit Salon of Organic wines in Gaillac

Car mechanic needed

Hi Val and Malc,

Does anyone know and can recommend an English speaking mobile car mechanic please?

Many thanks,

Malc says: If you search Taglines you will find a couple of names who may help.
If readers have any new ideas please let us know

Loneliness, not a laughing matter

laughed at Malc's story coming back from seeing the Doctor. She is worried that Malc has lost so much weight and was telling him all the fattening foods he could eat, including drinking demi creme milk. Malc said " we drink skimmed milk I have high cholesterol"
Her reply " at 74 I would not worry about that"
We have laughed about it but it does make you realize one is not invincible.
I cannot imagine life with out Malc even though sometimes he is a right " grump" His words not mine. When " Grump" came up in scrabble he explained to the boys that was him.
Often  in my post box for TAG I received letters from people who are lonely. We are often isolated within our community here and when a partner dies, or good friends go back to the UK you can be left on your own. It probably happens in the UK as well but I think it is more of a problem here for both men and women.
Come to the book swap and let us talk about getting together for a coffee now and then and sharing company and giving each other time to talk, new friendships could be formed and support systems built.
We will talk about it on Monday, sometimes it is not about money ( though that can make you depressed) but about having someone to laugh with and tell a tale.
Malc has a blood test on Saturday just to "verifier tout va bien"

Nous sommes le jeudi trente novembre

As I sit with my ipad on my knee I see snow flakes starting to fall, nothing significant but perhaps a 
harbinger of things to come.
I have been contacted by two dog refuges who are desperate for old blankets, old duvets,warm bedding for the dogs. Albi and Figeac are both sending out shouts.
So good bedding comes to me for refugees and not so good to the dog refuges. 
We can all help some one, person or animal.

Support the Croix Rouge and get a bargain

La Croix Rouge de St Antonin Noble Val

vous ouvre ses portes pour une Vente Exceptionnelle !

Samedi 2 décembre  de 14h à 17h et

Dimanche 3 décembre de 9h à 17 h

Venez nombreux acheter des articles d’occasion et neufs pour préparer vos cadeaux de fin d’année.


RUE DE L’HOPITAL MAJEUR à Saint Antonin Noble Val

(derrière la Poste, à l’angle de la rue de l’Hôpital Majeur)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Mains tendues 82 on track to help

This post was prompted by a questions raised on another site, some legitimate, some mischievous, about the aims and methods and motives of the association. Rather than indulge in an intemperate exchange of views, I thought a more sober presentation of the facts might help.
Until now all money donated to Val and all the goods we have been given are for the support of the migrants/refugees. Where possible furniture, kitchen equipment etc has been used to furnish apartments of young men (and a couple of families) who have been granted asylum here. Clothes and shoes have been used as far as possible to help the asylum seekers.
Surplus or unsuitable items have been sold via Facebook and Tag-on-line with the monies received (including some generous donations from private individuals throughout France and the UK) being used to buy extra things that are needed (socks, underwear, toiletries, telephone top-ups etc).
Setting up the association “Mains tendues 82” is to provide a legitimate vehicle for those funds, but also to widen the circle of people and organisations who can be helped (such as the local school). It may be claimed that as the donations were primarily to help refugees, donors might be unhappy that funds are being used for other people and institutions in need, but so far reaction has been positive.
It was asked “who will make the decisions about where to spend the money” which is raised, for example by selling DVDs and CDs etc in St Antonin. The implication seemed to be that Val and I will be using it to cover our costs in housing refugees (legitimately) in our home. We could do that now, without the association as we have full possession and control of the funds which were donated to help refugees. But the association will have a committee, comprising English and French local residents who will make the decisions.  As we are based in Varen and the principal source of revenue will, we hope, be the Saturday morning sales through the old mairie, it is natural that we will privilege local residents and organisations, including refugees housed in our commune and those nearby.
We hope some of the funds can be used to help the asylum seekers we have here who have no income or financial support whatsoever until they have had their cases examined by the prefecture, which is in hand at present, but takes time. We can pay fares to Toulouse for meetings, some medication for which there is no reimbursement and some food (though generous donations from bodies such as the Croix Rouge provide much of what they need). There are many costs we incur on a personal basis for which we do not seek re-imbursement but the fantastic help we receive from the generous spirited people amongst us (and the muscle provided by our unpaid migrant “humpers”) make this worthwhile. I am pretty sure the mean-spirited, anti-migrant readers will not devote a fraction of the time and effort that Val does just to help others less fortunate.
 “Mains tendues” is reaching out to all.
Malcolm Johnstone

Anyone for scrabble?

Relaxez et vous
When do we do that?
Today our boys who speak French helped us play scrabble. Although the boys speak French they are not schooled so we thought we would  have a good chance of winning at scrabble! 
They know their alphabet but using those letters to make a word is not easy. I stuck to three letter words and won.
They are good boys and one has super trainers from someone.
I have a request for size 44 trainers and work shoes. A warm jacket given by someone has been worn all day.
Everything going well, the electric kettle that was washed has dried out and the electrics which it tripped have been restored . The bath which overflowed and has left streaks down the kitchen wall , they will sort.
Lovely lads, we came away  laughing as they reminded me of our niece Su’s boys.

Sauce maker for sale

Hi Val .
Hope you are both well.Just one last thing to sell."S E B Le Saucier" automatic sauce maker never have a failed sauce again.Very easy to use .50 Euros.
King Regards Derek Holmes

Warned for feeding the poor

For over 30 years the association Secours Populaire has been providing hot meals and drinks from a van in the Place du Salin in Toulouse. Plans have been approved to redevelop the square, but no work has begun. Nevertheless the municipal police felt it necessary to warn the volunteers that what they are doing is illegal, occupying public land to hand out food and drink to the poor and homeless of the area. Following that "warning" the association was handed a proces-verbal ie a notice of contravention last Sunday.

A barrier has been erected around the projected works, but the association has a key and a tacit agreement. They have applied for permission to continue their work in the square, but await municipal consent, carrying on their distribution of food and supplying hot showers in the meantime. A meeting is to be held today with the city authorities to decide if the PV should stand.
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Massive police operation in Albi

Some 30 police officers supported by 45 CRS agents descended on the Albi "quartier" of Cantepau yesterday morning. This was essentially a search operation for stolen goods, weapons and drugs.
Reports have not yet said what was recovered, but three people have been arrested on unspecified grounds.
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Nous sommes le mardi vingt neuf novembre

Moving on well with setting up our association " Mains tendues 82"
It takes awhile to tick all the boxes but we should be there soon.
Our aims
"L'association a pour objet la collecte et la vente de dons mobiliers, vestimentaires ou de toute autre nature qui pourrait être donné et ce au profit de personnes dans le besoin ou de toute association philanthropique aidant ces personnes. "
Basically we are willing to work collecting articles and selling reasonably for people in need and then help people with the money we collect.
I have been doing it for some years but want to do it from within an association as I did not realise how much money we could potentially take.
The bureau will be 
 Val Johnstone President and publicist
Frédéric Nicholas   Secretary 
Véronique Weyergans  Adjoint Secretary
Sarah Brown   Treasurer

Even before the association is in place we are keeping accounts and today I can talk to the bureau about giving a cheque to the local enfants school in Varen. We want to do that now so the teachers know they can pay for entertainers for a childrens Christmas show. 
As always I am grateful for all your support

A reply from our Secretary who is also on the parent teachers association.
Val, just to let you know that the "association de parents d'élèves de l'école de Varen" is planning to organize a christmas show for the kids from the school with Marie-Gabrielle Malaganne, a story-teller, and Jean Regazzoni, a musician. Maybe the donation you talked about could help for the organisation of that event ? Just a thought...

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Just love these, where we live and how it was years ago.

Earlier this year I offered copies of my slideshow to anyone who gave Val Johnstone a 20 Euros donation for her charitable work.  I am pleased to report that this raised over 550 Euros.  I had some very positive feedback concerning the slideshow which has since been updated.  There are now close to 900 photos and about 30 pages of historical notes, some in French and some both French and English, with an index of 50 categories which includes photos of 13 nearby villages and some old maps.

If you would like a copy contact Val to give your 20 Euros donation and provide an e-mail address.  You will then receive a link to download the file (105 MB PowerPoint) to your computer. (Val will be at the Gazpacho on Monday morning).

Plus tôt cette année, j'ai offert des copies de mon diaporama à tous ceux et toutes celles qui ont fait don de 20€ à Val Johnstone pour son travail de charité . Je suis heureux d'annoncer que cela a permis de recueillir plus de 550€. J’ai eu des retours très positifs concernant ce diaporama qui depuis a été mis à jour. Il y a maintenant près de 900 photos et environ 30 pages de notes historiques, certains en français et d’autres en français et en anglais, avec un index de 50 catégories qui comporte des photos  de 13 villages aux alentours et quelques anciennes cartes
Si vous désirez une copie, veuillez contacter Val pour ce don de 20€ et donnez votre adresse e-mail. Vous recevrez alors un lien qui vous permettra de télécharger le fichier (PowerPoint de 105MO) sur votre ordinateur.  (Val sera au Gazpacho lundi matin).

Great Christmas present if you love the area

En plus du diaporama de vieilles photos de St Antonin, j'en ai fait un autre avec des vieilles photos de Najac. Celui-ci contient environ 260 vieilles photos de Najac, des reproductions des originaux de 22 des dessins de Najac réalisés en 1923 par Cora Gordon, auteur du livre bien connu "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" et 25 photos aériennes assez récentes.

Ceci est également offert en échange d'un don de 10 euros pour le travail de charité de Val.  Faites un don de 25 euros si vous souhaitez les deux diaporamas. Celui-ci est de 85 Mo (PowerPoint) donc vous recevrez des liens de téléchargement séparés pour chacun d'eux.

As well as the slideshow of old photos of St Antonin, I made another with old photos of Najac.  This contains about 260 old photos of Najac, reproductions of the originals of 22 of the sketches of Najac made in 1923 by Cora Gordon, author of the well known book “Two Vagabonds in Languedoc” and 25 quite recent aerial photos.

This is also offered in exchange for a 10 euros donation for Val's charity work.  Make a donation of 25 euros if you would like both slideshows. This one is 85 Mb (PowerPoint) so you will get separate download links for each one.
John Dawson

Hi-Fi help

Our beloved home cinema, which has provided many hours of entertainment not just to us, but the famous opera evenings and James Bond films for refugee evenings, has suffered a major malfunction.
Last night a volume overload caused a lot of sparks and crackles, before stony silence.
Does any one have knowledge of repairing or having repairs to such things?
It is a Denon AVR - 1905, about 10 years old and would cost about 800 euros for a similar replacement (so a mid-range model).
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Five more years for glyphosate

The controversial herbicide glyphosate, mainly used by Monsanto in Roundup, is to be authorised for use in Europe for five more years. The deadlock over talks for its use were broken when Germany lifted its opposition and abstained (since Germany has a shaky coalition government it was no shock when the minister for ecology and minister for agriculture could not agree with each other). French ecology minister, Nicholas Hulot, has said that controls on the use of glyphosate products will remain and its use will only be allowed for three more years.
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Book and DVD swap on Monday 4th December

As always meeting at the Gazpacho in St. Antonin starting at 10.30 am, we will have lots of new books and as we have had a donation of DVD's and CD's we will be taking those and selling DVD's for 1.50 euros and CD's for 50 centimes. The money will go to our new association " Mains tendues 82"
The association will be helping everyone we can in the area who needs help, including refugees.
As we live in Varen we will be focusing our efforts on our village.
Anyone who wants to bring warm jackets for the boys, donate new warm socks or underpants I will be happy to accept.
I will also have a car full of donated items sold to give to people who have ordered from our facebook site.The link is in the top bar on TAG, if you have not already joined.

Champagne glasses for sale

It is the season to be jolly
37 champagne glasses, 3 wine glasses, 4 small brandy glasses and some others
All for 20 euros

Nous sommes le mardi vingt huit novembre

A chilly morning as I drove a young lad to the station to go to the prefecture in Toulouse at 7 am
Back to feed the dogs and indoor cats and outdoor cat. I say outdoor but little girl Nipolena sleeps all night tucked between Malc and I then disappears back to the grange to be fed.
Then wellingtons on to go to the fields and break the ice on the donkeys water buckets, fill their barrow up with hay and back in to warm up.
Doggy playgroup is at 10 am and Anke Terbruggen who runs the sessions has been raising money for Figeac dog rescue centre, selling calendars and doggy christmas treats. Bonny and Eldo have their Christmas presents sorted.
The day continues with hair appointment, then taking our two lads from our gite to see their African friends in the CAO at Verfeil.
In between all that I must try and organise all the furniture and boxes in the grange ready for the next influx.
It is a busy life but never boring. 
Keep warm, keep active and enjoy your day.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Estabuffette: bacon butties!

The Estabuffette cassoulet evening in Laguepie on Saturday was fantastic! Everyone cleared their plates and came back for seconds! Their initial reservation of an English (pardonez moi! Canadienne!) making this classic dish, was put to rest. So a request has been made to do another cassoulet evening sometime in January at the Bar du Viaur.  Will keep you posted.  I did put a French Cassoulet album on my facebook page, Estabuffette, so people could see how much was involved in cooking this dish for 32 people! took 2 days but well worth the attention and effort.

My next appearance will be at the Marche Noel on Sunday 3rd December in Laguepie, debuting bacon butties and grill cheese sandwiches. So we shall see how those go down with the locals! I am also starting St. Antonin market on Sunday 10th December serving up these two classic, hot sandwiches. Seems I will be positioned in the small place at the far end of the market, past the Halle.  Just so pleased to be able to attend, at long last! 
Malc says: don't know what the locals will make of bacon butties - but short work probably; we better get there early

"White Friday" in the Pyrenees

Friday 1st December will see the opening of the ski resort in the Haute Pyrenees, at Cauterets and with the promise of snow falls this week the resort has advanced its opening to use the publicity from the "black Friday" to promote the decision. Most other high ski resorts will open of Saturday, 2nd December.

Oh! snow

Meteo France is warning of snow falls throughout France from tomorrow (Tuesday), with likely showers here in the south west from Thursday. Although the snow will lay ("stick" we used to say in the north of England) in higher regions it is not likely to disrupt at lower levels. But with temperatures below freezing and cold days it will be important to wrap up well.
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Nous sommes le lundi vingt sept novembre

It must be more than 14 years ago that we went on a troiseme age trip to Lectoure and visted this company who produces products " pastel bleu" Apart from the products being beautiful ( I bought a beret and Malc a blue shirt) they showed us around and explained how the colour bleu was first made. They told us how important the colour from the yellow plant called pastel was and it made the region rich . They used to pay men to buy beer and then collected the buckets from the drinking place. The pee was vital in the colour process, but only from the men!
This company have taken a cabin for Christmas in the Place Capitol in Toulouse. Worth a look.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Crit - Air

Hi Val, 
I applied online for our vignettes for the car and our camper van and received by email the next day a facture which included a "justificatif" for our vehicles while we wait for the vignettes to arrive in the post.  So no worries about no having the paperwork if Toulouse do bring it in on Tuesday as they are threatening.

Anne xx

Nous sommes le samedi vingt six novembre

Lovely evening watching a film " A winter with the boys"  " un hiver avec les garçons" filmed and presented by Cecile Ordanoff. 
Malc, Sarah and I, who were all part of the group of the English helpers when our first boys arrived were there helping raise funds for the association. 
Two years ago Sarah and I worked hard setting up the bedrooms with donated bedding and towels and toiletries, lamps by each bedside and extra plug adapters for phones. Seeing the film brought back all these memories. I remember Sarah being excited when she got a donated lamp to complete the last bedroom. I always wondered if it was one of her own?
The group " Et Puis d'ailleurs" was formed as the boys were about to leave and we all wanted to help them move on. The French benevolves have worked hard on integrating the boys into French life and the joys of officialdom. The boys will be for ever grateful.
My three new boys came and were perhaps a bit bemused. Coming home they said they realised what a caring community they had come into.
I have some great photos of the boys, the first, and the recent groups but think it wiser not to post.
A concern voiced from some people that we were running a risk taking migrants from the streets but everyone was reassured when I made it clear that the Prefect of our area has been consulted and what we are doing is perfectly legal as the boys have all started the asylum process.
I do believe we will be on the police radar, and if my posts are being monitored, I want to pass on that the authorities have given us permission.
Two gendarmes who have cruised past our isolated country  home in the last few days (where we never see a police car from year to year ) can be assured we are doing nothing illegal.
I have for security reasons decided to post no more pictures of any of our boys. Their security is paramount.
Ending on a very happy note, when we got into the cars last night we realised the boys had been out in the afternoon and cleaned both cars inside and out!!

Clean cars

We were pleased (and surprised) to find that both our cars had been washed and vacuumed by our guests yesterday, though it did remind us that really we should lock them even when standing in our drive.
But on a more serious clean car issue, the Prefect of Haute Garonne is expected to announce tomorrow the implementation of the Crit'Air system of coloured vignettes to control entry to Toulouse in times of peak pollution. If you intend to drive into Toulouse you should apply on-line for a lozenge, giving salient details of your vehicle, including fuel and puissance fiscal. As the process takes up to four weeks we imagine the scheme will be brought into use in the new year.
The official government backed site is :
Beware of other sites which may charge more.
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'Tis the season of

Marchés de Noel. Mainly small local one or two day events attracting artisans and artists hoping to sell enough Christmas gifts to make standing all day in freezing weather worthwhile.
The Toulouse market fills the Place du Capitole with over 100 stands and lasts from this weekend until Christmas Eve (though apparently not open Sundays).

It costs 4000-6000 euros to rent a stall, but with 2 million visitors expected traders will be hoping for a good profit. Security measures will be tight and police ask traders and customers alike to be vigilant. Opening hours are 10h30 - 20h30 weekdays and 10h30 - 22h Friday and Saturday.
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Saturday, 25 November 2017

Nous sommes le samedi vingt cinq novembre

an update on Betty who is really Fleur

Betty's real name is Fleur and she is 16 years old. Her master 
has been found but he does not want to have her back to live in a kennel outside if she can find a warm place in a house.
Fleur has been to see a vet and apart from being blind is in good health. 
I would love to take her but would not even dare ask Malc but you know there must be some other dog lover out there who could take her in. She obviously goes out for " her besoins"
contact Margaret who has temporarily taken her in.  for more info.

Sausages etc

Ferme Basqui have some lovely pork produce available this week:

Numerous succulent shoulder and loin roasts for these autumnal evenings, escalopes of pork, filet mignon, echine chops, pork chops ....

Basqui sausages also available in packs of 4 and 6.... as well as Pork n Leek and Pork n Apple have a new batch of sausages for you to try "Old Yorkshire" recipe...with mace and nutmeg with a great kick of black pepper.....they are delicious.

Orders via e mail or phone me on

Have a good weekend


Friday, 24 November 2017

Old blind Betty needs a home

We cannot just turn our back on the old and disabled and that applies to dogs as well as people.
Margaret has kindly said she would be a foster mum for Betty, but in truth having not too long ago lost her husband and she has two cats and dogs already it is a lot to ask  to take on another.
Betty is a calm quiet dog who would still need a fenced garden just to keep her safe. Who knows how long she will have but how lovely it would be to keep her safe until she departs.
I asked Margaret how she was behaving.
Hi Val
Betty does not seem to wander. I have not known her for a long time but she seems to have settled here. My garden is enclosed so she can’t wander but she did leave the house one night via a cat flap that was made for a big cat. I found her in the garden she had gone out to do her besoins. 
Love Margaret x

If you think you can take on Betty and love her contact Margaret

Feed the birds

The unusually mild autumn has led us not to put out our bird feeders until these last few days. But even now a feeder full of sunflower seeds is lasting a few days instead of a few hours in midwinter.
The usual flocks of blue and great tits are still sparse, but we were rewarded with a small group of finches, chaffinches, siskins and unusually a hawfinch. Surprisingly few green finches, but whatever you expect some seeds and nuts, plus water supplies will all be welcome by the wild birdlife.
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Nous sommes le vendredi vingt quatre novembre

The chateau at Najac taken by Gareth Brown on a wonderful sunny autumn day.
I hope we have another like it today. Seeing the misteltoe in the tree reminds you Christmas is not far away. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Help us help them

Friend Samira has set up a site to donate so we can have some help to keep 3 young men from sleeping on the streets. Until we get them further into the system and into a CAO, we will have some train travel costs to Toulouse for meetings at the prefecture, medical costs, food and heating.
From what I have seen so far of the young men they are worth it
There is an English explanation at the bottom

A line of hope

I tell you what, never think you have had a bad life, we do not know what real suffering is.
Read this account of an interlude today as I sat with my African boys.
It is all about money
We have taken our three Africans to meet their African brothers in the CAO at Verfeil, some from Sudan some from the west of Africa
As we sat having a coffee laced with pots of sugar , Mosab asked how did they  get on crossing through Libya?
We need to know these things but how horrendous are the stories.
Each of the 3 boys had been captured by the Libyan gangsters. They demand payment to continue their journey. When these boys could not 
pay they took them into a big hangar and tied them up to the roof, then beat them. They stole their phones and phoned family demanding money, when it was not forthcoming they beat them more and refused them food and water. Lastly after 
6 months for one he was auctioned to be a slave. At this point he managed to escape.
Two started taking off their shirts to show me the marks and cuts of beatings on their backs.
One poor young man when he told me he had no phone said “ do not worry Mamie, I have no family left to phone!
The picture  is our washing line today
A line of hope, donated items that the boys are so grateful off

Nous sommes le jeudi vingt trois novembre

Yet another glorious morning.
Sorry for delay in the nous sommes, donkeys, dogs, cats and young Africans needing more attention this morning. Also the mail in our post box was enormous.
Have a great day, enjoy the weather.

Vintage Chrismas fair in Albi this weekend

Over 100 exhibitors will offer "vintage" items, from clothing to home decor at the Exhibition hall, over three days, 24th, 25th and 26th, from 10h-19h. There will be animations, music and food, plus an assembly of vintage cars on Sunday.
It is too late to enter the "World Championship of Ugly Sweaters", to be held on Saturday, with apparently 600 inscriptions (though many are thought be spurious). But as organisers remind us, Colin Firth in "Bridget Jones's Diary" would make a good candidate.

Beanz meanz Argentina?

The south-west's signature dish is cassoulet, a confection of white beans, Toulouse sausage and confit de canard (duck). Yet this classic recipe has in recent years relied on beans imported from Argentina in many of the commercially available brands. But local production has been increased after a major brand La Belle Chaurienne of Castelnaudary (the so-called "home" of cassoulet) was bought by an agriculture cooperative group called Arterris. The group based in Castelnaudary has 15000 members throughout the region, producing cereals, fodder and seeds and will guarantee bean producers in the group an outlet for their crops, ensuring local production is profitable.
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Note that the famous Estabuffette will be offering home made cassoulet at the Bar du Viaur, Laguepie, on Saturday evening 25th November. Details in the post linked below.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Clean air certificates

We have been asked about "vignettes" showing the pollution level of cars, required to enter some big cities. We showed the vignettes back in January when the scheme was introduced in Paris. It was subsequently extended to other big cities, Lille and Lyon and more recently Grenoble and Bordeaux.
The vignette can be obtained on-line at a government site (cost 4.30 euros). Just enter details of your car and the appropriate vignette will be sent.
The "pastilles"

The effect of the various vignettes is to restrict or allow entry to city centres on various days: in Paris on most days (though not 24 hours); elsewhere on days with high pollution levels. Fines for non-compliance can be substantial. We are not aware that Toulouse is involved yet, but the pollution levels last week make it more or less inevitable (readers may know if the scheme has been introduced).
If you are ordering a vignette, make sure you use the official site, as others may charge you much more. This link will take you to the English language introduction page:

"Unfair" Bulgarian ducks

Producers of duck products in the Gers have been badly hit by avian flu this year but are angry to find Bulgarian products on supermarket shelves at prices considerably lower than home produce.
Certain activists complained that although Bulgarian ducks are only half the price of the French equivalent, their competition is unfair because the welfare standards are lower. Consumers, therefore, choosing to pay less are risking the whole production of French ducks.

In an operation designed to draw attention to the problem producers toured supermarkets in Auch and fixed labels to the tins, indicating that the contents were "seriously damaging to French aviculture".
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Nous sommes le mercredi vingt deux novembre

What a beautiful morning with the sun already up shining on the trees giving them a golden glow.
I am off out to pick up a pair of shoes offered locally for one of our new young Africans.
I leave TAG in the capable hands of Malc.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Asylum applications underway

So we do not have 6 Albanians staying with us, we have three delightful French speaking Africans
They arrived this afternoon looking unsure
but after a look around, a bounce on the beds and a few cuddles they are looking quite happy.
We have Thierry from Cameroon, Mamadi from Guinée and Sadiu from Senegal
Malc and I sat talking tonight to make them feel at home. I said I hoped they would be happy with us until we got them into a CADA. They smiled and said after living in a tent on the streets of Toulouse this is wonderful. Malc had a chat about football, a universal language
I asked if they needed anything and Thiery showed me his falling apart shoes.
He is size 
42 but with thick socks could be 43, please if you are that size and have a pair of trainers or shoes you can do without donate them for Thiery.
We left them as they went upstairs to snuggle under their duvets
When Malc and I came home, in our house right next door to the gite, we had a cry and a cuddle and said “ this is the best thing we have done in our life”
Helping someone in need when you are in a position to help is so rewarding.
I am so glad I have Malc by my side.


Talk Saturday at Parisot library

'Renoir's Dancer:  The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon'
A quick reminder that Catherine Hewitt's talk is next Saturday, 25th November. Her thrilling subject, with supporting slide show, is not to be missed.
Suzanne Valadon was the Impressionists' favourite model, especially Renoir, who discovered that she was herself a talented artist.
From 10h30 at Parisot Library, followed by aperos at 12h.


European banking watchdog moving to Paris

One of the consequences of Brexit is that EU institutions based in the UK, such as the Banking Authority (170 jobs) and the Medicines Authority (900 jobs) must leave Britain. The medicines approval body is to move to Amsterdam and the Banking watchdog to Paris. The 27 countries remaining had set up a complex voting system to choose the new homes, but it is a reminder of how powerful the major economies are that neither agency is moving to Prague, Dublin or Warsaw, other cities who were among the candidates. We wonder if the 1000 or so staff involved were consulted. Local employees at lower grades and support staff may well be redundant rather than be relocated to Amsterdam or Paris.
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The vote for the banking watchdog went down to the wire with 13 votes each for Paris and Dublin. It was then decided by drawing lots which was fair. So the idea that only the big powerhouses of the EU are getting the cream is false. The local workers can only look to the UK for someone to blame.
David from Montricoux
Thank you for that clarification, David

Nous sommes le mardi vingt et un novembre et....Not long to Christmas

Monday, 20 November 2017


Hi Val and Malcolm,
 How are you both? The weather is so nice at the moment, fog in the morning and sun later on....I enjoy it a lot, doing all the planting, re-potting sorting out the fences and's my kind of weather.
Christmas is around the corner and someone was asking me where one could buy Christmas crackers. I don't know is what I told her. I rang Appostrophe in Montauban and they don't know if they will sell them later on. On line, a lady was saying that she got some from Toulouse but was disappointed, as the price was too high for the poor quality of the contents.....Would anybody know where to find some decent ones around here?
All the best to all, 

Freezer needed

Freezer needed / congelateur
We are being recognised as a group to help the village and i would really like to help this first request.
We got one from the Moulin but just discovered it does not work.
Anyone got one they can give or for a small price. It would be super to be able to find one.
All the pensioners dinners and dances could be at stake!!!
Frédéric just sent this message.

Hey Val ! The "adjoint au maire" just called me to see if we had a "congélateur" they could use/buy (?) for the "salle des fêtes". Sorry for my franglish : I cant find my words today...

Wine finances this hospital

The Centre Hospitalier de Beaune (Bourgogne) possesses significant high quality vineyards that each year it holds an auction of its new vintage. Not the faddy "vin primeur" of Beaujolais, but desirable grands crus. The amounts raised generally indicate the expected quality of the vintage, with 2017 looking to be a good year. The "pieces des presidents" are barrels of 200 litres, this year of Corton Grand Cru , Clos du Roi and they were sold for a total of 400000 euros (the 2016 vintage made 200000 euros, 2015 420000 euros). The total realised in 2016 was 8 million euros, allowing the hospital to undertake significant building works and buy equipment it needs. This year's total is expected to exceed 11 million.
The original charitable foundation for the Hospice de Beaune now funds the hospital, but the proceeds from the "pieces des presidents" auction is shared amongst other health and environmental charities.
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Nous sommes le lundi vingt novembre

A very foggy  morning and Malc tells me it could be 16h before it gets sunny.
We have had a lovely Eritrean family staying with us this weekend with their new born baby, it has been a wonderful moment for us all.

We have had a local lady Helen Thomas make a sketch to be the symbol of our new association.
The association will be called "Mains tendues82"
Our aims will be to help anyone in the area who needs help any nationality, young, old, refugee, even perhaps animal associations. We would really like a first donation to be to the local infants school.
Over the next few weeks as we set up we will be telling you more and asking for your help as always.
None of this could be achieved without you.
I thought  you would like to see some young  friends who were here last night and our new logo, if approved by the committee.

Portes Ouvertes at Caylus

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Can anyone take on Betty?

Dear Malcolm and Valerie
I was so glad to meet you at last and was thrilled about the connection with Mirka. It’s lovely to have the photo of Mirka with me thank you.
I am temporarily looking after an elderly chien de chasse who was found in Fenyrolls, she is blind, very gentle, and calm, Kathy is trying to find her a forever home and I wondered if you could mention her plight on tag lines I have called her Betty she is a very sweet lovely girl.
Please let me know if I can help in any way regarding the boys or help with the shop when you set it up.
Very Best Wishes
Margaret x

Val says Margaret already has two dogs so having a third even as a fosterer is not easy. It takes a special person who will adopt Betty. An old, gentle dog who is blind. It would be lovely if someone could take her on for what is left of her short life.
Contact me if you want to know more and I can arrange a meeting.

Najac 110 years ago

Hi Val
Interesting to compare your photo with this one taken 110 years ago on 31.08.1907.
More on this coming up soon on Taglines

Theatre workshops

Five Saturdays in term time, from next week until June 2018. 20 euros a session, or 80 euros for all five. Salle des Thermes, St Antonin.

FET end of year production


Only 4 weeks to go until our last show of 2017.

To ensure that FET can keep putting on these shows for you, why not bring along some new faces? We need ‘new blood’ to keep growing and  maintain our high standard of professional productions.

So if you haven’t already done so, round your friends up, reserve your tickets, and let’s go for a full house for the end of this season. If you needed any more encouragement, there’ll be seasonal refreshments too!
Ruth Etridge

Nous sommes le dimanche dix neuf novembre

A sad day really as our long time friend Jill Spearman has returned definitively to the UK. Jill arrived here about the same time as us in 2001 and we have been happy to be in her company (and not just because she is a superb cook!). She integrated herself in village life in more ways than many of us could imagine, though her stream of lovely interesting visitors and family from the UK and beyond made many a lively and often hilarious dinner party. We are going to miss our friend, but Birmingham is not too far and we are sure we will see each other again. Good luck Jill from us all.
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Tintin still setting records

Hergé original from the Sword of Ottakar, 1939
The boy reporter always excites Hergé collectors when an original piece of artwork is for sale.
In Paris a drawing for a 1939 Belgian weekly magazine, in which the adventures of Tintin were serialised, was sold in Paris yesterday (Saturday 18th November) for 505000 euros. The page was the cover for the February edition that year, before the drawings were gathered together into an album.
Collectors seek especially these original drawings, though the albums also very popular in their original editions. Tintin holds the record for double page BD spreads sold at auction, when the endpaper design sold for 2.6 million euros in 2014.
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It was cool in Najac

Saturday afternoon on a beautiful crisp sunny November day was a reminder of just how deserted these villages are in winter. With most of the shops closed and only a few tourists (plus a couple of unlucky pompiers trying to deliver calendars) the streets were practically deserted. And as sunset approached the compulsory "Taj Mahal" photo shot (down the main street with the castle in the background) showed the evening mist forming round the castle.
Yet the glorious sunshine enhanced deserted streets making our walk a real pleasure.
The cross is not actually leaning - it's a distortion from the camera's lens (honest!).

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Who could stoop so low?

Notice in Secours Populaire's window (screenshot hence quality)
There are people who criticise what we do to help others (and it's not just refugees, but Cancer Support, Red Cross, lost dogs and cats, children in Africa, Alzheimer 82 etc) but we don't imagine even those critics would endorse the theft of Christmas presents from a Secours Populaire depot in Gard.
The association sells clothes, toys and furniture in order to buy food hampers for families in need  and had planned a Christmas event to collect toys, supplying chocolates as gifts to those attending.
But a break-in to the depot led to the theft of 900 euros worth of the chocolates, causing the association to have to spend precious funds for a replacement. The association has distributed over 200 parcels to needy families this month and is disgusted that there are people who will steal from the neediest.
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Nous sommes le samedi dix huit novembre

Oh God , I feel drunk!
last night we went to our local bar in Varen to celebrate the 94 th birthday of our dear friend David Clench who died a few weeks ago. We had such a busy day I felt I needed a stiff drink and ordered a gin and tonic. It must have been a treble!!
Lovely moment to remember artist And friend David Clench.
But then who should come to the bar but the Mayor of Varen. The conseil of Varen met  Thursday evening and I have been longing to know if we would get permission to use the old town hall which is directly opposite the halle as a selling point to raise money for the village and local refugees.
Being slightly tipsy I went to the maire to ask if he had " des bonnes nouvelles"
He said " oui madame Johnstone nous avons des bonnes nouvelles" 
I do not think I kissed him but I certainly give him a squeeze.
He said as soon as our association was created we could go ahead. yipee!!
Sadly already feeling a bit  drunk someone bought me a huge glass of red wine and Malc had to drive us home.
The Mayor and I are getting to the stage he might call me  Val soon!!

A couple of lovely kittens

Can anyone give  loving homes to these tinies? 

One is a  grey tabby and one a smoother-haired tortoiseshell with a little kink at the end of her tail.   

Born on 7th September,   these babies  were abandoned on a door-step before even  their eyes were open.

These kittens  are hand-reared and  they are  loving, confident and VERY purry!   

These sister-kittens are  10 weeks old now and are ready to step out into the world -

 and  into someone's  heart and home. 

They are eating solid food  (not bottle-fed now!),  have litter-trained themselves and entertain each other endlessly. 

They have been introduced to cat-friendly dogs.      When the time is right,  their  sterilisation operation  will be FREE but obligatory. Further details available concerning this  later.  
Can  you  help me to help them find their special places?    Ready when YOU are...!

Please contact Andrea  for  kitten-viewing at:     'La Reverie' Chambre d'hôte in St Antonin Noble Val,

                        Tel: 06 84 15 52 11           email: