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April 2018
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Manish’s predictions for May 2018

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – This is a time of re-organization and heightened awareness of your roots, issues of intimacy and vulnerability, and it’s an excellent time to come in touch with your feelings and needs. Energies thrown toward recreation, travel, or just cooking up great new ideas are well spent and serve to refresh and renew your vitality. Creative projects can flourish with enlarged focus and redoubled efforts that somehow don’t tire you out. Your desire to “plump” your nest this month is strong, and impulsive spending should be watched for. Favorable Dates : May 5, 7, 14, 16, 23, 25 Favorable Colors : Red & Grey

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June ) – You’re at your best when you are showing the world your practical, competent, and responsible side. Surprises surrounding long-term goals, friendships, and group affiliations may be in store. Something that has been “in hiding” or brewing under the surface of things comes to light, or there is a significant fruition or culmination. Communications, short trips, errand-running, and general busy-ness feature now. You could have a finger in many pies, so to speak, as your curiosity is piqued by a larger variety of things than usual. Favorable Dates : May 1, 4, 10, 13, 19, 22 Favorable Colors : Red & Yellow

Cancer ( 21 June – 22 July ) – It is a time to focus on the elements of your personality that you are projecting to society and as a professional. Goals for self-mastery and self-discipline should be made at this time. You are more inclined to take pride in your intellectual accomplishments and your ability to socialize and make connections. The flowing, expressive, and spontaneous energy surrounding you attracts like-minded and hearted people. Your friends and romantic partner are best appreciated now if they are intellectual types. Be sure to take time to enjoy yourself, preferably around others. Favorable Dates : May 1, 3, 10, 12, 19, 21 Favorable Colors : Grey & Yellow

Leo (23 July – 22 August) – You may have more energy than usual to want to organize projects. Your humanitarian impulse may be stimulated. The role you play for other people in your life becomes the focus. Besides spending more time tending to domestic affairs, the focus can be on cultivating and nourishing your inner foundations that support you and your growth. Finding new ways to express yourself creatively figures now. It is a time when you will be more aware of your environment, and when you experience increased alertness. Favorable Dates : May 2, 3, 11, 12, 20, 21 Favorable Colors : Purple & Black

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September ) – You may have more energy than usual to want to organize projects. You’re at your best when you are showing the world your practical, competent, and responsible side. You prefer to lead a group rather than follow during this period. Your adventurous side pushes up and out, demanding attention. Money issues pop up now—the discovery of a way to increase your income, an unexpected gift or reward, or a brief and tiny financial crisis that motivates you to find new ways to make money are possible. Favorable Dates : May 7, 8, 16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Blue

Libra ( 23 September – 22 October ) – It is a good time to focus on issues of intimacy as well as developing self-mastery skills. You may experience increased awareness of others—what makes them tick—as well as your own internal motivations during this period. The best way to achieve your goals is to work as a team, or to at least to do some networking. Career planning strategies or thinking of concrete ways to turn your dreams into realities as well as sharing your thoughts on these matters with a few significant others should be very fruitful now. Favorable Dates : May 2, 5, 11, 14, 20, 23 Favorable Colors : Red & Green

Scorpio ( 23 October – 21 November ) – Your vision is practical right now, and you want to see tangible results for your efforts. More contact with authority figures is likely during this period. Recognition is likely to come your way whether you ask for it or not, and the responsibility that comes right along with it. This could be a period in which you come up with solutions to a number of problems. At this time, you have a greater need than usual to be with a partner. A partner provides a mirror for your own self-discovery. Favorable Dates : May 8, 9, 17, 18, 26, 27 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Black

Sagittarius ( 22 November -21 December ) – Your inclination during this cycle is to think about the “big picture” rather than the mundane circumstances and details of your life. Missing appointments and other forms of forgetfulness could be part of the picture now. You will be able to mingle and make new friends or connections. It will also be a great time to gain connections by networking with others. Strong energy for romance is also with you now. Your quirkiness and ability to come up with pleasant surprises for others is especially attractive and rewarding. Favorable Dates : May 2, 6, 11, 15, 20, 24 Favorable Colors : Blue & Green

Capricorn ( 22 December – 19 January ) – It’s time to put your best foot forward. A blast of personal energy comes your way, and showing your leadership skills works for you now. More opportunities to socialize and network could present themselves now, or circumstances are such that you need to draw upon your diplomacy skills in order to advance. The spotlight is on you and your ability to lead, so make it a good one. Take steps to improve how you come across to others. Any love affair begun now will be characterized by good cheer. Favorable Dates : May 4, 7, 13, 16, 22, 25 Favorable Colors : Yellow & White

Aquarius ( 20 January – 18 February ) – This is a time to start fresh in terms of how you arrange your life in order to feel a sense of value and worthiness. Heightened sensitivity to your physical environment, and to the security you gain from the solid ground you have built for yourself is in order. Attunement to, and appreciation of the physical world of the senses is the focus. Your self-mastery skills and psychological predisposition matter to you more than usual. This is the time when you are most desirous of change on a deep level. Favorable Dates : May 2, 6, 11, 15, 20, 24 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Red

Pisces ( 19 February – 20 March ) – This is a favorable time for learning something new, feeling at ease in social situations, taking care of the details of daily life, and developing a mental rapport with others. Your mind is bright and active during this cycle, and you have the ability to come up with unusual and inventive ideas. Sharing your thoughts with others is a prime interest. You are more inclined to want to smooth over differences in a partnership concerning the sharing of power, intimacy matters, finances and other emotionally-charged topics. Intimate relationships are intensified now. Favorable Dates : May 1, 7, 10, 15, 19, 25 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Blue

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April ) – This is a period of easy creative energy. You are open to expanding your knowledge base during this cycle and communications from or with someone far away may be part of the picture. You are putting everything into perspective now, rather than compartmentalizing. For you, this is an especially strong period for personal magnetism and close partnering. There is strength in your feelings of love and the power of attraction, which may open the door to new romantic relationships. The role you play for other people in your life also becomes the focus. Favorable Dates : May 2, 3, 11, 12, 20, 21 Favorable Colors : White & Yellow








Your reading for May

Billy Gogan, American: A Novel

by Roger Higgins
Lose yourself in the pages of this exciting historical novel as you follow the adventures of Billy Gogan, an Irish orphan sent to America on the eve of the 1844 Irish Famine. Discover the dangers he faces as he lives by his wits, and does what he has to, to survive….
The author of this exciting adventure story, Roger Higgins was born in Cheshire, England, and he emigrated to America with his parents and younger brother just before he was seven. Today he lives with his wife in Chicago, Illinois and is immensely proud of his four children.
He served on a guided missile destroyer and other ships as a naval officer, he then became a lawyer, and had various other jobs, eventually becoming a partner at a firm with the grandest bankruptcy practice of them all. He still practices law on a smaller scale and enjoys writing novels.
It is this diversity of knowledge, and life experiences which the author has used to full effect in writing the story of Billy Gogan – American.
The book begins with the 15 year old Billy Gogan in school, however, suddenly his life changes forever when he learns that his father has died in mysterious circumstances in prison. Following this devastating news he is informed by Father O’Muirhily that he must leave his native Ireland and start a new life in America. Passage has been arranged for him on the Maryann.
Forced to travel in steerage he meets in the boarding queue Mary (Máire) Skiddy a young widow, and her young daughter Fiona. When a sailor mistakes them for a family they are bunked together, and a firm friendship is formed. However the voyage hasn’t even begun before Billy witnesses the death of Father O’Muirhily on the quay, but was he pushed, or did he fall?
The vividly descriptive historical writing of this author enables his reader to really get a feel for the lives of his characters. The harshness of life on board ship, the living conditions, and the terrible weather they endure during the voyage, are acute reminders of what travel used to be like.
When the Maryann eventually docks in Gotham, New York, Billy Gogan is distraught to discover that he has become separated from Mary and Fiona. Despite various attempts to find them, he is unlucky, the Five Points district of New York is a dangerous blend of ex-slaves, Americans, and Irish refugees, he can only hope they are safe.
Straight away he manages to find board and lodgings, and after starting work as a brick carrier, being quick to learn, he soon finds himself working as a bookkeeper for the notorious Magee. There, as if by fate, he is reunited with Mary and Fiona, and they begin to plan a future together…
Through Billy we discover what it was like in those times not only to travel to and survive in a foreign country, but also to make a new life, and learn about love, hate, and the myriad of emotions in between.
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful historical novel and am looking forward to discovering what happens next in the life of Bill Gogan – American.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Everything is Different

by Ann Morris
Everything is DifferentBrett and his dad visit England where so many things are different, and in this lovely book he learns that different is not necessarily wrong.
From the moment Brett stepped onto the plane he knew he was in for a great adventure. He and his dad had been invited to England, and that was a long way away from his home in America.
There are lots of things for him to discover, and the first was that the clouds were under his feet, not over his head.
Then he discovers that the English drive on the ‘wrong side of the road’ and not only that, they ‘speak funny’ too. Whatever next?
Arriving in the Midlands Brett is in for a treat when dad tells him that they are going to visit Bolsover Castle, and he immediately looks it up on his laptop to find out more.
“Wow, this big stone castle definitely looks like a great place to explore, but why aren’t they made of wood like ours are?” He asks his dad.
He soon discovers the answer to this question and many more when he arrives at the castle. Everyone can dress up, and Brett decides it would be cool to become a knight for the day. And wow what a fantastic day he has as he steps back in time and relives history. He has learnt so much in just one visit!
However the day is not over, there are other places to see, and different food to try.
Sadly, soon it is time to go home, their brief holiday is finished. Brett has had a wonderful time and has learnt a very important lesson from his trip, which is that different definitely isn’t wrong, and having an open mind to new experiences opens a world of wonderful opportunities to you.
I loved the way that this book highlights positively the differences between England and America. I found its message to children inspiring, because like the author, I feel is very important for our children to be able to experience new things, and realise that things are very different in other places.
This book is beautifully illustrated by Melissa Wright.
Reviewed by Susan keefe

The Adventures of Anuk: The First Leap

by Suzanne Mondoux
As this amazing adventure story opens we are with Anuk, it is her sixteenth birthday and her life is about to change forever!
Adopted by Julea and Lucca, who are mammal beings, Anuk has had a wonderfully happy childhood, at the hostelry they run. However, on this, her birthday, she has been given a book of poems, and told that she must leave behind everything she holds dear, and follow her destiny back to her homeland the island of Roese.
You see Anuk is an Assisi Human, a very special being, half animal half human. What’s more, Assisi Humans have a very important responsibility, and this is to keep the harmony between the humans and the other beings.
As well as the book of poems, she also has around her neck two medallions with magical powers, there for her protection. The journey is a very scary prospects for one so young, however Anuk decides that she could be a protector, and so she takes up the mantle and her adventure begins.
Accompanying Anuk is Aye, a primate being, and two other beings, an owl called EagleOwl, and a golden brown furry animal being called Kinkajou.
From the beginning their path is hazardous, across fetid swamps, ruins, desolate areas and seas. Even in the beautiful partems (or lands) there are hidden dangers, however they are resolute in their determination to travel the dangerous route to Gibo, and then onwards to Roese Island.
Had they realised that perils they were to face, or the strange beings they would encounter, I am not sure they would have been brave enough to stay the course. However, they didn’t know that they were going to meet fairies, mermaids and many other creatures from myths, legends, and the author’s incredible imagination. Neither did they realise that they would be imprisoned by evil people, tested and deceived, or ride on a dragon’s back for that matter!
To go with them on this amazing adventure, discover if they did reach Roese Island, and what the future held for Anuk and her friends, you will have to read this wonderful book. I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed. Throughout it I was reminded very much of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a classic and a childhood favourite of mine.
The author has woven two very clear messages into this story, the first reminding the reader of the devastation the human race has reeked on the earth, and the second is the strong message of the importance of kindness, acceptance of others unlike yourself, and living in harmony. After all there is a place for everyone, and thing, on this wonderful planet.
Young or old, anyone who loves to be transported into a magical world, where anything is possible and incredible creatures exist will love this book!
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Update on the Overseas Voting Bill

Dear John Rushton,

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Give all British citizens living abroad the right to vote and dedicated MPs”.

Government responded:

The Government remains committed to introducing ‘votes for life’ ahead of the next scheduled General Election in 2022 but has no plans to create overseas constituencies.

The Government’s principle is clear: participation in our democracy is a fundamental part of being British, no matter how far you have travelled. The Government remains committed to scrapping the 15 year limit on the voting rights of overseas electors ahead of the next scheduled General Election in 2022, subject to securing the necessary Parliamentary approval.

Glyn Davies’ Private Member’s Bill on Overseas Electors successfully passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 23 February 2018 and will now be moving on to the next stage of legislative passage. The Government spoke in favour of the bill during the debate. If it becomes law, this bill would implement the Government’s manifesto commitment to deliver ‘votes for life’. We encourage all eligible British citizens to register to vote, wherever they live.

The Government agrees that all British citizens who move to another country should be able to vote for a Member of Parliament to represent their interests. This would be the Member of Parliament representing the area in which an overseas elector previously lived.

The Government does not support the creation of parliamentary constituencies for overseas electors. We believe it is the right principle that overseas electors continue to have some form of connection to the area of the country where they were last resident. This is the approach taken generally in other democracies with overseas voting.

Cabinet Office

Click this link to view the response online:

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee:

The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

Your reading for April

Absurdimals: Lola Goes to School

by Gywendolyn Javor

Lola the Belephant says be different, be an Aburdismal!

The author of this amazing children’s book, Gwendolyn Javor is on a mission, and the mission is to reach out to children and through her wonderful storytelling teach them that it is okay to be different. Her passion for the subject has led to the birth of the amazing Absurdimals.

So what are Absurdimals? Well, they are animals who are a mixture of two others, like Lola, the Belephant who is the star of this, the first book in the series. Lola is half bunny and half elephant and this makes her very special, as we can see through the beautiful illustrations of Melissa Spears.

Today is a very special day for Lola, she is very excited because she is going to school for the very first time.

At school she realises they are many different types of animals, but none like her. Rejected by the others because she is different, her happiness turns to sadness as she is told firmly that she is absurd, and just doesn’t fit in.

However, wise Principal Hooves comes to the rescue, he sees her distress and gently explains that people call absurd those things which they don’t understand, or which are different. He shows her examples of things which seemed absurd years ago but which are accepted now, and explains that deep down all animals are the same.

Emboldened by the principal’s words Lola goes back to school the next day determined to embrace who she is. When the other animals see that she is proud of this, and courageous enough to stand by it, they realise that she is right, and that it is okay to be different. Which is good because they are all about to meet some more, very different new friends.

This book contains in its lovely story important messages to children which will help them to gain self-confidence in themselves, and be more understanding when they meet others who are not the same as they are.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon


Surprise in Auntie’s Garden!

by Ann Morris

This beautiful book is a wonderful way to teach children about nature, and the main characters in it are the author and her niece and God-daughter Erin.

Erin and her auntie have shared a special enjoyment of the garden since Erin was a baby, when looking at the lovely flowers settled her.

.A little older now, Erin discovers a ‘worm,’ and quickly calls her auntie over take a look. There sitting on some milkweed is not in fact a worm but a caterpillar, and the milkweed is its food.

Eagerly they look at the bright and colorful caterpillar and wonder which sort is it.

Well, when they look it up, and find out, they are so excited! What’s more, they learn that the milkweed, although a weed in human eyes, is very important to the caterpillar, indeed, the reason it can be so brightly colored, is because it eats it!

As the summer goes on, and autumn sends the butterflies to their winter feeding ground, Erin’s caterpillar remains, yet it has changed into something else.

What could it be, and why isn’t it a butterfly yet?

Well through Erin’s experience, children learn that that circle of life, and evolution can take time. It is the following spring before Erin and her auntie finally watch a beautiful young butterfly emerge and spread its wings for the first time. However the wait is worth it because the butterfly it becomes is one of the most beautiful and well known.

To discover which type it is, you will have to read this beautiful story with its bright and wonderful illustrated by Heather Varkarokas.

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I read it with my granddaughter and the look of wonderment on her face was priceless. I am sure it will be a firm favourite for many years to come. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon


Mumbai Matinee

by Ajay Kaul

Ajay Kaul is an Engineering Manager who received his degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, and his master’s degree in business administration from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He loves travel and world history, and in this, his memoir, he has used the substantial time he has spent in Mumbai, to gives his readers the chance to see beneath the surface of this city, the financial capital, and Hollywood of India.

His story begins in February of 1993 when he leaves his home in North India, to accept an internship at Tata Consultancy Services, in the impressive Air India Building, an attraction in the Nariman Point business district of Mumbai. Very quickly he falls in love with the city and so when he graduates the following May as a Chemical Engineer he is happy to return to TCS to work.

Through Ajay the reader is treated to a real glimpse of his life in Mumbai. On his first day he has to forget his mother’s warnings not to eat the food cooked by street vendors, after all he reasons, everyone does so, why shouldn’t he? Just outside his office at his first lunch time he is introduced to Patil, by his mentor Venky. Patil makes pav-bhaji’s at his stall, and Ajay becomes a regular visitor.  Patil’s food is delicious, and soon Ajay discovers that the tale he has to tell about how he became a pav-bhaji seller demonstrates the true entrepreneurial spirit which thrives in Mumbai.

Throughout the book the importance of family, and the support the network of family members provides is clear. However, with the passing of the years, the world becomes a smaller place, and the restrictions with strict religious beliefs put on the younger generations can begin to cause problems. There is so much more free will in the modern world, and inter religion marriages are becoming less common. This problem, along with death, crime, and others, are prevalent in today’s society, not only in India but other countries throughout the world. In the telling of this memoir they all have a place.

As we journey with Ajay on the adventure which is his life, we travel to other parts of Mumbai and then farther afield, to the USA when he is accepted into Arizona State University. However, even when he lives in America he is still very much in touch with his family and friends in India, and he loves to visit his beloved Mumbai to catch up with them and watch cricket of course!

In this interesting book, Indian culture, taboos, traditions, food, cricket, and many other things are brought alive by the author, and through his writing we celebrate the amazingly vibrant city which is Mumbai.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon

Will you pay less tax in France this year?

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

France has a reputation for being a high tax country, so reforms that could reduce taxation are very welcome. The Finance Law for 2018 introduced two significant changes, which particularly affect those with higher investment income and/or wealth.

What do these reforms mean for you?

Income tax and social charges

First the bad news (though it is not too bad). Social charges have increased by 1.7% for all types of income. So the rates for this year are 9.7% for employment income; 17.2% for investment income, and 9.1% for pension income (you are exempt for pension income if you have Form S1 or do not have access to the French healthcare system).

The income tax rates remain the same as last year, though the income bands have increased slightly with inflation.

New flat tax for interest, dividends, capital gains on the sale of shares and securities

Over recent years you will have been paying income tax on your investment income, but now a brand new tax has been introduced. Officially called the Prélèvement Forfaitaire Unique (PFU), it is more commonly referred to as the ‘flat tax’.   The same rate applies to everyone, regardless of how much you earn.

The rate is 30%, and the good news is that this includes both income tax and social charges.

Whereas this could be a significant tax saving for higher earners, if you do not earn much investment income (i.e. less than €150,000 per individual/€300,000 for a joint investment for married/PACS couples) you may pay more tax with the flat tax. In this case, you can opt to use the progressive rates of income tax instead (as you did last year), plus 17.2% social charges. Beware, however, that once you make this election it applies to all your income; you cannot, for example, pay income tax on your interest and the flat tax on your capital gains.

When it comes to selling shares, the tax relief for holding them for a number of years is no longer available under the flat tax system.   The relief now only applies if you opt for the income tax rates, and only for shares bought prior to 2018.

The flat tax does not apply to rental income, or real estate gains.


The flat tax does apply to assurance-vie policies, but only where the policy was set up after 26th September 2017 (and withdrawals occurred after 1st January 2018).

If your policy was set up before 27th September, you can opt for the old fixed rate system. For any top ups after this date, the proportion of the gain element relating to the top-up will be subject to the 30% flat tax.

The allowance for policies held for more than eight years stays in place for all policies (€4,600 for individuals and €9,200 for married/PACS couples).

Wealth tax now only applies to real estate assets

 The second big change was the wealth tax reform. Impôt sur la Fortune (ISF) which applied to your household’s total wealth (including property, investments, jewelry, art etc) was repealed and from 1st January 2018 replaced by a new real estate wealth tax – Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilière (IFI).

This means that your savings and investments (including assurance-vie policies) are no longer liable to wealth tax, regardless of the total value. The exception is for financial assets of a real estate nature.

These reforms make this an excellent time to review your tax planning. Establish what the changes mean for you, and whether you should re-structure your assets to take full advantage. Seek personalised, specialist advice to ensure your tax planning is designed around your circumstances and objectives, and you are not paying any more tax than necessary.

The tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

Read more about the financial issues that can affect you on our website





Manish’s Zodiac Predictions for April 2018

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April ) – You come up with ideas that are different, unusual, or innovative, and you enjoy going outside of your intellectual comfort zone. You know what you’re capable of, and you know exactly what has to be done. You’ll keep going until you get what you want, no matter how hard it gets. You can be lazy with your loved ones, in your relationships, and with your commitments. Don’t slouch too much or you’ll make things worse. You can flake out on your family responsibilities, and have a hard time sifting through your emotions. Favorable Dates : April 3, 6, 12, 15, 21, 24 Favorable Colors : Purple & Green

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – You will have renewed energy for your work. The more work you do, the more energy you seem to have, and you can get through many small projects, start new ones, make progress at work, look for new work, and have more work opportunities. In love, you’re more romantic, and want to spend more time with your partner, if attached. If single, you can find other people are attracted to you without you putting in much effort, and they come to you, so you have your pick of the litter. Favorable Dates : April 1, 5, 10, 14, 19, 23 Favorable Colors : White & Blue

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June ) – Your creativity can blossom in this period, so it’s a good month to start a creative venture. It’s a good time to do some traveling, especially somewhere you’ve never been to before, or to learn something new, opening up your mind. You can also focus on your beliefs, figuring out what your beliefs really are and which are true to you. You can be lazy with your friendships, the groups you belong to, and the dreams you have for your future, not wanting to be bothered by any responsibilities. Favorable Dates : April 1, 6, 10, 15, 19, 24 Favorable Colors : Purple & Red

Cancer ( 21 June – 22 July ) – You think about the direction your life is going in, and want to be sure you’re on the right path. You feel most like yourself when you’re with friends, in groups, and surrounded by other people. You would enjoy being with people you feel are your equal, especially intellectually, and who push the envelope. You can experience a more positive time with your home and family and being in tune with your feelings could even prove to be beneficial to you. You can strengthen your inner foundation, and become even more stable and secure. Favorable Dates : April 2, 8, 11, 17, 20, 26 Favorable Colors : White & Yellow

Leo ( 23 July – 22 August ) – You may come across as more inventive, independent, or rebellious. You would feel enthusiastic in like minded groups. The more people there are around to give you input and point out what you’re missing, the better. This is a good time to try putting together a budget or financial arrangement. You can enter into an important new relationship that brings great new things into your life, start a new partnership that’s beneficial to both of you, become more committed in your existing relationships, or take it to the next level. Favorable Dates : April 1, 6, 10, 15, 19, 24 Favorable Colors : White & Blue

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September ) – You may come across as more regal, stubborn, and friendlier. You’re also more comfortable in the spotlight, and crave more attention from people. If single, you can meet lots of potential mates, and you spend your time dating and flirting, playing coy, and while you could fall in love, it’s the playful kind. Your confidence helps you to overcome any financial difficulties. The better your finances are, the better you feel about yourself in general. You can focus on making more money in some way, or on attaining something of value. Favorable Dates : April 4, 7, 13, 16, 22, 25 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Green


Libra ( 23 September – 22 October ) – You can expand your life in new ways, ways you’ve been dreaming of for some time, and have new experiences that open you up. It’s a great time for travel, going back to school, and pushing the boundaries of your life further apart. There’s plenty in your life that you can smile about. You feel good with your loved ones during the second half of the month, enjoying the time you spend with them and wanting to be around them more as the month goes on. Favorable Dates : April 2, 6, 11, 15, 20, 24 Favorable Colors : Red & Purple

Scorpio ( 23 October – 21 November ) – You can experience an excellent period for work. You take on an important project that gets you recognition and praise. If in job, you’re offered a new work opportunity or job that’s better than where you’re at, or you decide it’s time to take control of your work and be a leader. You can embrace a financial opportunity that brings good energy. You can be presented with a wonderful opportunity to do something in the background, and it leads to bigger and better things for you later on if you use it right. Favorable Dates : April 1, 9, 10, 18, 19, 24 Favorable Colors : White & Grey

Sagittarius ( 22 November – 21 December ) – You may come across as more gregarious, independent, or optimistic. You feel ambitious and focused on what you can get done and succeed with and you look at the bright side of situations. You can also focus on your beliefs, pursue further learning, or take a well-deserved trip. If in a relationship, you want to connect with loved ones mentally during the first half of the month, and can talk things over with your partner. If single, you want someone who can stimulate your mind. Favorable Dates : April 1, 8, 10, 17, 19, 26 Favorable Colors : White & Yellow

Capricorn ( 22 December – 19 January ) – You have opportunities presented to you to achieve your goals, to reach high places in your career, or to get further along your life path. You feel you’re going in the right direction. You have the ability to make things happen for yourself, so if you feel motivated to, take the reins. In love, you want an emotional connection, and if in a relationship, you work on having that connection with your partner. If single, you look for someone who can be nurturing, supportive, and sensitive to your emotional needs. Favorable Dates : April 7, 9, 16, 18, 25, 27 Favorable Colors : White & Red

Aquarius ( 20 January – 18 February ) – You’re optimistic about life, seeing all of the good that’s around you, and this positive attitude leads to opportunities for you to expand your life in new ways and give you a different perspective. You crave mental stimulation and to have a mental rapport with others, and you want to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. You can have lots of conversations and more communications with others than usual. If in relationship, you want to make sure you have a mental connection and get along as friends before you take things any further. Favorable Dates : April 5, 9, 14, 18, 23, 27 Favorable Colors : White & Grey

Pisces ( 19 February – 20 March ) – It can be a good time financially as you put more focus on improving your finances. You take your time with anything you begin, and you keep going until you reach the end. You focus on trying to get everything under control, including your spending habits. You create a stronger value system, sense of security, and bond to your beliefs. If single, you’re attracted to those who are serious, brooding, quiet, and a little dark. If you’re in a relationship, you’re more passionate and intense with your partner. Favorable Dates : April 4, 9, 13, 18, 22, 27 Favorable Colors : Blue & Grey









Your Reading for March

Hosting Hapless Helpers

by Karen Luff

Karen Luff, the author, left her native UK with her husband and five year old son for a new life in France over 12 years ago. The large house they fell in love with is called Le Chataignier, and it came with a cottage, several barns and land.
Like many expats they dreamt of running a smallholding and renting out holiday cottages. It wasn’t until they had settled in to their new home and took stock of all the things which needed doing that the size of their project, the amount of work, and sheer manpower needed to accomplish it all fully dawn on them.
However, when a relative regaled them with tales of his exploits on a working holiday Karen quickly realised that having helpers living in to assist with the work was the way forward. Nothing could have prepared them for the rollercoaster ride which was to become their lives from then on, and continues still today…
One of the primary reasons for writing this book, Karen says, is that having a complete stranger in your home can be hard work, also there are cultural and language problems, amongst others to overcome. She quickly realised that an ‘open letter’ on their Facebook page was needed for all prospective helpers to read prior to them applying to visit. This letter is in the book, and the reasons for each point, and the results of them not being adhered to make entertaining reading for people who like something different and sneak peaks into other people’s lives, and essential reading for anyone considering having helpers to stay and work on their project.
In Hosting Hapless Helpers Karen offers invaluable advice backed by comprehensive experience. You will find yourself laughing, crying and experiencing every emotion in-between within its pages, just remember that all the events and situations really happened…

Available from Amazon


My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream (Audiobook)

by Janine Marsh

In this totally captivating audiobook we discover that people really do buy a house in another country on impulse. In fact, the author Janine Marsh did just that on a wet and windy February cross channel day out with her husband Mark, and Dad.
Townies Janine and Mark threw caution to the wind, and jumped in with both feet, buying and renovating a run-down French farmhouse. So what made these sensible people with their feet firmly on career paths do such a rash thing? Well, quite simply it was the love of France and everything (well almost) French.
I am an expat but even if you are not, I am sure, you will like me fall in love with the North of France, the Seven Valleys region, its coastline, seaside and country villages, the gastronomy, its people and so much more. This story isn’t just a wonderful way to enjoy experiencing someone else’s life in another country, it is a way to get a real feel for what living in France is really like – warts and all.
It is amazing also to listen about the transformations which can easily happen to someone when they go to live in another country, the new skills we discover, and how anything seems possible.
Throughout this audiobook there is plenty of information about, food, history, renovation, quirky sayings, and not least the enormous differences between our two cultures, even though we are only separated by the English Channel.
The narrator, Ester Wane wonderfully tells this story, so whether you are looking for a highly entertaining story to listen to, considering moving to France and want to know what really motivates anyone to give up a successful career and life in the UK to make the move, or are going on holiday to France and would like a little insider information, this is the audiobook for you!

Available from Amazon


THE STARLIGHT CLUB 9: Una Morte Facile (An Easy Death)

by Joe Corso

What daughter doesn’t love listening to her father’s stories, and this exciting new Starlight Club adventure opens with Lynn, devoted daughter of Bobby, waiting for her father to return from a visit to Queens, where he hopes to see some old friends.

When he arrives safely home they settle down with a coffee and some Sambuca, and Bobby tells Lynn of his day, and how it had bought back memories of a troubling period in 1975 when the Sicilians had arrived in Queens and set up in business selling drugs.

You see, Big Red Fortunato, owner of the Starlight Club, despite having his fingers in many pies did not condone drugs and prostitution on the streets of Queens. So when the word got back to him that the Zips were peddling drugs, he wasted no time in sending out his men to get more information, and after a ‘meeting’ with the Sicilians, he eventually discovered who the leader of the cartel was.

Determined to keep drugs of his streets, and with a fortuitous legitimate excuse for visiting Sicily, Red, Tarzan and Trenchie set off to meet Antonio Andolino, the person responsible for sending the Zips over, and the leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world.

Used to being feared, Antonio has never met the likes of Red before and as the meeting deteriorates it is clear that the problem is not going to be solved simply.

In this powerful, exciting story we follow Red and his gang as they travel between Queens and Sicily, and very early on find ourselves fascinatingly ensconced in the world of the Sicilian mafia, with their proud honour, sense of family, blood oaths, and revenge killings.

This enthralling story brings together many of the past very memorable characters in the Starlight Club books, and if you are a fan, like me your will quickly remember them like old friends, however if this is the first book in the series you have read, it doesn’t matter, as everything is wonderfully explained and you will find yourself sinking into this excellent plot and its larger than life personalities with ease.

The author has managed through his amazing storytelling to bring the streets of Queens and the atmosphere of Sicily magically to life, in weaving together a clever story which includes drama, murder, mayhem, and kidnapping.

A really gripping thriller, reading The Starlight Club, An Easy Death, with its twist and turns, will keep you riveted to the page, and keen to know what will happen next, I highly recommend it.

Available from Amazon


Lakewood: Reggie and Anita’s Camelot

by Reggie Hill

For Reggie, Lakewood had been his childhood playground a place for him to explore, learn about nature, and make memories with his beloved Granny Good. Reggie’s grandfather had built a lake on his land there between 1942 and 1943. Post war gasoline was not available and ‘so the lake was built with pans pulled by mules and driven by men.’ Isn’t that amazing, a seven acre lake and a dam built solely by man and animal, surrounded by woods and fields, truly heaven!

Back then Daniel and Annabel Hinson, Reggie’s grandparents recognised what a special place Lakewood was and spent many Sunday afternoons in their trusty pickup atop the highest mountain at Lakewood lovingly gazing down the mountain to the lake.

When Reggie inherited Lakewood from them, he and his wife Anita decided to build a house on the land. Over the years they have been fortunate enough to live in this very special place, observing nature and the seasons. Through their busy careers they have always had Lakewood to return to and have enjoyed the peace and solitude there. This beautiful place, their piece of heaven has a bounty of wildlife, fish in the lake, and has furnished them with wondrous memories, and now they are sharing them with us the readers of this lovely book.

Each page is like a slice of paradise, with beautiful poems about the animals and nature which surrounds Lakewood. Interspersed with these are snippets of Reggie’s memories, precious words which transport us from our modern busy lives into a bygone era, a time when people had time to stand and stare, and children were given time to grow without a keyboard, mobile phone or educational stages to accomplish. I found this wonderful as I too was lucky, I had a childhood like this abet on another continent, and this lovely book brought back memories of special times with my grandparents.

This little book gives its reader something very unique, a place to retreat, far from the madding crowd. The memories, old photographs and anecdotes Reggie shares, and the visions of the natural world which share Lakewood with him make it very special, a book not just to sit on the book shelf but to be carried around until its pages curl and it becomes part of your life. I loved it!

Available from Amazon


Forgive Me: Nadia

by Veronika Gasparyan

From then on life has other cruel cards to deal Natalia, and it is incredible that one young woman could suffer so much hardship and sorrow, through no fault of her own. However, Natalia’s strong faith, kind heart and compassion to others is a true inspiration, and it is heart-warming to read how she transforms the lives and futures of those who know her with the beauty of her spirit.

Unfortunately it is a horrific fact that sex-slave trafficking is still going on in Moscow, and throughout the world, and very young children are sold and stolen to provide sexual gratification for cruel and perverted adults.

This story brings the plight of one of these children to the attention of its reader. Natalia’s life and what happens next in Nadia’s makes compelling reading.

The author’s attention to detail about the life of Natalia both as a sex slave and afterwards makes parts of it heart-breaking. However, perhaps the most shocking thing is that it is based on a true story, somewhere out there this woman exists…

Available from Amazon


Sloths: Life in the Slow Lane

by Dr. Rebecca Cliffe

This outstandingly beautiful, and highly informative book is a celebration of the sloth, and a masterpiece. It is the combination of the knowledge of the author, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, a British zoologist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on sloths, and the incredible photography of renowned award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas.

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe has been working with these amazing animals since 2010, and she is Founder and Executive Director of The Sloth Conservation Foundation.

The intrepid pair have spent months in mosquito ridden rain forests, and on an isolated uninhabited island, patiently gaining the trust of these remarkable creatures in order gain a better understanding of them. It is this dedication which enabled Suzi Eszterhas to get such beautiful pictures of these shy animals, and their young.

The book is packed with fascinating facts about all six species of sloths, including the reason that they were named sloth, after one of the seven deadly sins. We think of sloths as lazy couch potatoes, however we soon discover that there are very good reasons for their slow speed, including some very unique physical features, and we learn how these have attributed to them surviving for over sixty million years. I knew of Sloths, however it was not until I started reading this book that I realised how very little both I, and I would imagine the majority of people actually know about these astonishing animals. In so many ways they are unique! Their evolution which has gained them the reputation of the slowest form of existence has resulted in a totally different creature to any other species on earth, physically, internally, their metabolism , the incredible variety of wildlife which lives within their fur, and in so many other ways.

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe explains, and shows in the book, how it is now possible to study these fascinating creatures like never before, using tracking backpacks which record a range of data, such as the sloths movements, when it feeds, and much more.

However there is a very serious side to this book. The author wanted to bring to the attention of the public the plight of sloths. We learn that every day hundreds of animals fall victim to the progress of man, with urbanisation and land development, in South, and Central America, their home. The Sloth Conservation Foundation (SloCo) is dedicated to saving sloths in the wild. They tirelessly work on campaigning for underground power lines to preserve the forest and the planting of new forest corridors for the animals. They carry out tree surveys, and are dedicated to the international education programmes which educate the local communities, and reduce the poaching of sloths for the pet and tourist photo industry.

If you would like to help The Sloth Conservation Foundation you can find out the wide varieties of ways you can make a difference at the back of the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of nature, not only is it a beautiful book to own, but also there is so much to learn about these wonderful creatures within its pages.

Available from Amazon


Dynomike: Love Bug

by Frankie B. Rabbit

Valentine’s Day is a special day where people express their love, however the power of love, and the feeling of being loved every day is immeasurable. Hugs are something which hopefully all children receive a lot of, and in this very special children’s book the power of a hug to show someone how much they are loved and cared for is explained to children in a very simple way.

Dynomike discovers how the power of love can change your world from sad to happy, and how caring makes the world of difference.

At the beginning we find Dynomike sad and searching for love, then, luckily he runs in to his old friend Barry McDoug.

It may be cold, and the snow may be falling, but with a big bear hug Barry McDoug makes Dynomike very happy and awakens his love bug.

Suddenly Dynomike realises the magical powers of the love bug, and what’s more, that it is contagious!
Armed with the knowledge that a hug will unlock the power of the love bug, together Dynomike and McDoug set off around town. As they spread the love to people and groups, it’s not long before everyone realises how blue days can become sunny with a magical hug.

The message in this wonderful, beautifully illustrated book is clear, it is in everyone’s power to brighten up someone’s day with a hug, and with this simple gesture the recipient feels better and knows they are loved.

This is a book to treasure and one which I think will be loved by all children.

Available from Amazon


Tricycle and Friends: The True Life Adventures of a Three-Legged Golden Retriever and His Rescued Farm Animal Friends

by Lester Aradi

This wonderful children’s books is about a three legged retriever called Tricycle who is adopted by a family, and goes to live at their farm.
Once there, he meets Buckaroo, the miniature donkey. The two quickly become friends, and Buckaroo introduces Tricycle to some of the other animals. Many are adopted too. He soon discovers that there are all sorts, not only other dogs, but horses, llamas, chickens, and honey bees.
Every one has their own story to tell, and no one cares that Tricyce has only three legs, in fact they are interested to know how he lost it, and if it bothers him. He in return discovers that all his new friends have their own stories to tell, and that the farm is a magical place where they can all live together in harmony.
Through the talented storytelling of Lester Aradi, and the wonderful illustrations of Darwin Marfil, children learn in a very gentle way, through the experiences of Tricycle and his friends, how being different is okay, and as the book progresses they learn about bullying, the importance of adopting animals, and many other things.
That this beautiful Golden Retriever and the farm, with its animals actually exist is the icing on the cake – one day perhaps I will be lucky enough to visit!

Available from Amazon pre-order

The clock is ticking to lock-in residency benefits in France post-Brexit

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

British expatriates in France should act now to secure residency and take advantage of healthcare and pension opportunities before Brexit changes the rules.

February’s Chinese New Year celebrations bring to mind a Chinese proverb that never dates: ‘dig the well before you are thirsty’. In other words, make sure you plan for your future needs early, before it becomes too late.

Such wisdom has particular relevance amidst today’s Brexit uncertainty. Despite many unknowns, now is the time for Britons living in France to take action to protect their position. We explore what you can do to secure the key areas of residency, healthcare and pension benefits in a post-Brexit world.

Residency and Brexit

December brought reassuring news for expatriates as the UK and the EU27 agreed to maintain existing residency rights for Britons settled in the EU. A joint statement confirmed that citizens “lawfully residing” on both sides can continue “to live, work or study as they currently do under the same conditions as under Union law”.

So as long as you are legally resident in France at the Brexit cut-off date, you should keep the right to stay and access the same benefits as today for as long as you remain resident.

The most secure position is permanent residence, available after a period of five continuous years living in France. While you will not qualify if you have lived in France for less than this, you may still be considered French resident for tax purposes. If you have not already registered at your local tax office, do so urgently to ensure your position is formally recorded. You could also consider applying for a ‘carte de séjour’ – although some Britons have been told they need not apply yet as this document is not required for EU citizens, it is still legally possible to obtain. This can help demonstrate that you are legally resident in France before the Brexit cut-off date and therefore eligible to benefit from the citizens’ rights agreement.

Those thinking about moving to France should act fast. While it may seem like Brexit is still a long way off, there is already an administrative backlog for residency applications and a surge of interest is likely closer to the cut-off date. Even if you would prefer to wait until more practical Brexit details are known, it is a good idea to relocate and start the residency process – as an EU citizen under current rules – as soon as possible. Post-Brexit, we can expect the requirements, time and expense for acquiring residency to be much less straightforward than today.

Securing healthcare

Under the existing Brexit deal, settled residents can continue receiving reimbursements for certain healthcare costs. This means the Form S1 system will carry on providing free cover in France for British pensioners, and holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) remain eligible for free or reduced healthcare when visiting another EU country on a temporary basis, such as holidays.

To secure residency in France, you may be asked to show evidence of ‘comprehensive’ health cover. If you do not hold Form S1, you may therefore need to join the French healthcare system (a process that can take weeks) or prove you have sufficient private health insurance to qualify. Note, however, that being affiliated to the French social security system has potential tax implications, so take advice to assess your options.

Pension options

The UK has committed to continue yearly cost-of-living increases to State Pension payments for retired Britons living in the EU post-Brexit. As a result, British pensioners in France will receive annual increases linked to the ‘triple lock’ – whichever is highest out of the rate of inflation, earnings or 2.5% – until 2022.

When it comes to private pensions, current opportunities may not survive Brexit. Today, UK pension contributions and growth both benefit from tax relief in Britain, and can potentially be accessed by expatriates without paying UK tax (under double tax agreements). While this is unlikely to change with Brexit, the government may want to stem the flow of UK pensions abroad and keep more funds within taxable range.

Currently, it is possible for French residents to transfer UK pension funds to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) in the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) tax-free. Doing this can unlock tax efficiency, estate planning advantages and currency flexibility. However, since 9th March 2017, transfers to QROPS outside the EU/EEA attract 25% UK taxation (unless you live in the same jurisdiction as the QROPS).

Post-Brexit, the UK could potentially limit how expatriates in France can access their pensions by widening this taxation net, or by making it harder to cash-in UK ‘final salary’ pensions tax-efficiently. Consider acting now under current rules, but take personalised, regulated advice to ensure a suitable approach and avoid pension scams.

A realistic timeline

Although the Brexit date is currently set for 29th March 2019 – and could potentially be extended by a transition agreement – it is sensible to work towards a much shorter deadline. If you cannot take action immediately, make sure you have put processes in place by September 2018 to allow at least six months before the Brexit clock runs down (pension transfers may need even longer).

Even if you are already permanently resident in France, do not wait for the final Brexit details to be confirmed before reviewing your situation. With just a few months of certainty left, now is the time to explore your residency, estate planning, investments, pensions and general tax planning options.

With suitable planning – done early – you can make sure you are in the best position possible to continue enjoying your life in France as you do today. A locally-based financial adviser who understands the interaction between both the UK and France can help you take advantage of opportunities and find the best solutions tailored for you as an expatriate, during the Brexit countdown and beyond.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals are advised to seek personalised advice.

Blevins Franks accepts no liability for any loss resulting from any action or inaction or omission as a result of reading this article, which is general in nature and not specific to your circumstances.

Read more about the financial issues that can affect you on our website


Your reading for February

by Susan Keefe

Lagrasse and the Corbières : Life in the deep south of France 

by Stuart Benton 

Lagrasse and the Corbières : Life in the deep south of France by [Benton, Stuart]A thoroughly entertaining guide to the Corbières region of southern France.

This wonderfully entertaining and informative book is not only a great read but it also offers priceless glimpses into the breath-taking Corbières region of southern France.

Stuart Benton’s love of France began when he was a child, and his character and insights into life make this book like no other.

It is an excellent fun to read travel guide which offers many personal observations and real life experiences of the places and festivals he has visited.

Within its pages the history of the region comes to life as we read about the medieval villages, majestic castles and landscape of the region. As he thoroughly embraces the expat life we join him in sampling the regional food, and discovering local traditions.

The wonderful scenery, clear rivers, and fantastic beaches which the author brings to life with his writing make you just want to pack your bag and visit it now.

Whether you are looking for somewhere interesting to go on holiday, or perhaps relocate to, love France, or perhaps just want an entertaining read, this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon:

99 Creative WOWs Words of Wisdom for Business

by Randi Brill

99 Creative WOWs Words of Wisdom for BusinessThe author of this highly motivational book at the age of 14 knew she was ‘Going to be in charge of something,’ and sure enough she has been in her own words ‘in charge of several “somethings” since then.’

Randi Brill received a BFA in Graphic Design from Carnegie Mellon University, and then her education really began in the real world! The experience she has gained so far in her working career through, hard work, forward thinking, the determination to succeed, and real guts made her the woman she is today. She admits to using personally, and sharing as Chief Creative Officer of QuaraCORE, WOWs or Words of Wisdom every day. It is her belief in the power of these that instigated her to produce this inspiring book so others can be energised and learn by them too.

The WOWs are categorised into Business, Personal and Creative, although the author says that they may well overlap for the reader. The whole book is so bright and attractively displayed that it is quick and inviting to read, yet the WOWs are so motivating that they stick in your mind.

Whether you are launching a new business, resurrecting an old one or looking to change your career or direction, these words of wisdom will not only inspire and motivate you, they will also give you food for thought. What I really loved about this book is that many of the words of wisdom come from experience and for me, and I am sure for you, they will either ring a bell straight away or if not, I am sure they will come to mind at some time in the future when you are in a particular situation.

The amazing achievements of this author in themselves are an inspiration, and in reading this fantastic book we are fortunate enough to gain from her words of wisdom, derived from her vast experience. This little book is a gold mine of tips and one I shall treasure for always and re-read frequently!

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Dasharajna: The Battle of Ten Kings (Harappa Trilogy Book 3)

by Shankar Kashyap
Dasharajna: The Battle of Ten Kings (Harappa Trilogy Book 3)
Yet again Shankar Kashyap has combined thorough and detailed research, with his amazing ability to tell a fantastic story and written this the third book in the Harappa trilogy – Dasharajna – Battle of Ten Kings.
Traditional history books are sometimes difficult to get into, however the author has overcome this by using in this Harappa series the character of Upaas, originally a trainee physician, his friends, and wife Lopa. These characters and the people they meet, rich and poor, give the reader a real insight into what it was like to live in this period of history.
Set in the third millennium BCE, the legend of the Battle of Ten Kings can be easily determined to have taken place on what is now the banks of the River Ravi, in what is now the Punjab, Haryana and north-east Pakistan. The traditions, laws and everyday lives are fascinating to read as a wonderful background to the epic story which is the Battle of Ten Kings, a battle between King Sudas and the alliance between ten to twelve kings. The alliance was forged because the descendants of King Yayathi were unhappy that the central part of Bharatha was given by the king to his youngest son Puru, and not to one of his elder brothers.
The years have passed and Upaas now moves with Lopa and their baby Atreya to Ila to become the Royal Physician to King Sudas. Ila is a great capital city known as the centre of the world and stories of Upaas the physician of Harappa are well known, and he and his family are warmly welcomed by Sage Visishta.
However it is soon apparent that there is great unrest, the opposing forces are grouping together, and adding in numbers. There are rumours in Ila that the enemy has sixty thousand soldiers, fired by their rulers united sense of past injustice, intent on winning the battle over King Sudas.
As the opposing forces gather on the banks of the River Parushni (Riva) it is apparent to all that this is going to be no ordinary battle. Then begins this epic war with soldiers and the king fighting bravely, and Upaas tending the wounded. All would seem to be lost until man is taught an important lesson, one they should never forget….
Wow, is all I can say to this amazing story. Whether you are interested in Indian history, enjoy reading about life in times gone by, or are just looking for a totally fascinating story, this is the book for you, and I highly recommend, it.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Sunshine’s Excellent Adventures

by Reggie and Anita Hill
This is an absolutely enchanting little story which my granddaughter adored, about a real kitten and some of his adventures.

Sunshine is a really special kitten in lots of ways. Now I can hear you thinking that all kittens are special, however Sunshine really is special, he has something about him which is different from all other kittens, but I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you what it is.
He had a very happy kittenhood living under a pier on Topsail Island with his mummy, called Mama Motley, and all his friends. It was there that he learnt how important it was to treat others kindly, and discovered the first of many important messages which he passes on to the boys and girls who read about his adventures.

One day Sunshine was adopted by his human parents Reggie and Anita and they took him to live at their beach house called Summerhill where he is very happy. It isn’t long before he has made friends and quickly learns how to make Anita laugh with his antics, he decides it’s fun to make people happy!

However, Sunshine also learns that sometimes he has to go to the animal doctor and be checked out, but he takes it in his stride, he knows his human parents will keep him safe. Whether he is having Christmas at his human parent country home called Lakewood, or meeting new animal and human friends, for Sunshine life is just one excellent adventure, each day bringing new experiences and fun things to learn about.

As I read this lovely story to my granddaughter I was impressed at how many little life messages are woven in the story, and how beautifully written and illustrated it is. That Sunshine was a real cat doesn’t surprise me at all, for it is only when people have a close loving relationship with their animal friends that the true characters of the animals shine through, and we can enjoy not only them but the life lessons they teach us.

I would highly recommend this wonderful story for young children for their parents, grandparents and caregivers to read to them, and slightly older children to read themselves.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe


What can expatriates in France do with their UK pension in 2018?

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

When it comes to pensions, your long-term financial security is at stake, so take care to do what is right for you and your family. Expatriates also need to consider the tax rules and implications in France.

Start by understanding the options available for different pension types.

‘Defined contribution’ or ‘money purchase’ pensions

These pensions are made up of what you have paid into the scheme alongside employer contributions, tax rebates and investment growth. Examples include individual or group personal and employer pensions and Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs).

Since the pension freedoms of 2015, members of these schemes can usually do the following from age 55:

  • Take the whole fund as cash – 25% (the ‘Pension Commencement Lump Sum’ – PCLS) will be tax-free in the UK.
  • Make cash withdrawals when you want – unless you have already taken the PCLS, a quarter is free of UK tax each time.
  • Take regular income through ‘flexible drawdown’, leaving the remainder invested.
  • Take a secure, regular income for life through buying an annuity.

Expatriates also have the option to transfer UK pension funds to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). QROPS benefits include flexibility to pass pension benefits to chosen heirs and to take income in Euros instead of Sterling. Once in a QROPS, funds are protected from lifetime pension allowance penalties and future UK taxation.

However, QROPS benefits and rules can vary between providers and jurisdictions, and a 25% UK tax charge applies on transfers to QROPS outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Gibraltar. As transferred funds remain liable for five UK tax years, you risk being penalised if you become tax resident in a non-EEA jurisdiction within that period. It is important to take professional advice to first establish if transferring is suitable for you and then navigate the complex options.

‘Defined benefit’ or ‘final salary’ pensions

Here, your employer guarantees a proportion of your salary for the whole of retirement. As benefits last a lifetime and are often generous, these are viewed as ‘gold-plated’ pensions.

While you cannot usually withdraw cash from these pensions, you can transfer it to a defined contribution scheme or a QROPS. Traditionally, this has been considered less attractive than drawing a guaranteed pension for life. However, today, some struggling providers are tempting members to cash-in with ‘transfer values’ of up to 40 times the annual benefits due at retirement. Although a one-off sum could potentially provide a retirement income that exceeds the original annual payment, it is crucial to fully understand the consequences before giving up ‘gold-plated’ benefits.

Whatever type of pension you have, consider certain issues before making any decisions.


While a quarter of a defined contribution scheme can be taken tax-free in the UK, French residents are liable to French taxation at the income tax scale rates up to 45%. Only withdrawals prompted by an ‘accident of life’, like invalidity, unemployment or death of a spouse, are exempt.

It may be possible to limit French tax on a UK lump sum to just 7.5% – with an uncapped 10% allowance – in certain circumstances. Generally, you must take the whole fund at once, so you may be ineligible for this rate if you have already started taking benefits.

All pension income also attracts annual social charges of 9.1% (7.4% previously), unless you hold EU Form S1 or do not have access to the French healthcare system.

Making your money last

Having the freedom to withdraw or transfer your pension does not mean that you should. You may even be better off taking no action at this time. If you choose to take some or all of your benefits as cash, make sure you have a plan to fund your long-term future that suits your personal circumstances and goals.

The threat of losing it all

Pension scams have never been more widespread and sophisticated – Age UK estimates £43 million has been lost to scammers since April 2014. Generally, if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Once you transfer your pension, it is too late.

Also, beware that many companies offering pension services are unregulated. Whether they aim to defraud you or not, unprotected investments risk losing your money, with no recourse if things go wrong.

Even amongst regulated providers, check for quality. The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that less than half of those cashing in final salary pensions received suitable advice. Make sure your adviser takes account of your needs, objectives, personal circumstances and risk appetite to find a tailor-made solution for you and your life in France.

Getting it wrong could have serious and unexpected consequences. Take the time you need to do your research and establish your best approach for a prosperous retirement.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

Read more about the financial issues that can affect you on our website