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What Dogs really talk about

by Nick da Costa, an extract . . .

The Dogs were talking. As usual, they were sitting around the base of the old oak tree in the early evening.

There was Whitman, a Springer Spaniel, who – having been named after an American poet – affected an air of quiet superiority and tended to lead the discussion.

Anton, a Beagle, who rather fancied himself as Whitman’s Number Two.

Then came Pippa, an exuberant and irrepressible Boxer bitch; Butch, a down-to-earth Staffordshire Bull Terrier; and Malcolm, a well-bred and quietly-spoken Red Setter.

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What Dogs REALLY Talk About !!!!

Lastly there was Obi, a young Boxer, not long out of his puppy days.

This particular evening, their topic was Evolution.

“So how did we evolve?” asked Pippa, “I mean, there are so many different breeds.”

“It’s widely accepted,” said Whitman, “that all Dogs are descended from Wolves.”

“What are Wolves?” asked Obi.

“Think of them as German Shepherds who’d like to eat you,” said Malcolm.

“No change there then,” said Butch, but quietly, since he always felt just a tiny bit awed in the presence of dogs with names like Whitman and Anton. (‘Butch!’ for heaven’s sake – what were his Owners thinking of?)

“But we don’t all look like Wolves,” said Pippa, “how did that happen?”

“Well,” said Whitman, “in our Great Project to help the Owners, we specialised. Some of us grew large and powerful to tackle Wild Beasts – ”

Pippa and Obi looked round the group proudly.

“ – some of us developed enormous stamina to pursue Foxes and Deer – ”

Anton beat his tail.

“ – some of us developed terrific senses for flushing game birds and retrieving them – ”

Whitman and Malcolm nodded to each other.

“ – and some of us developed mighty chests and locking jaws to hold on in a tight spot and never let go.”

Butch puffed out his chest.

“But whatever our individual differences – our specialisations – deep inside us all, there is still the Inner Wolf – our Common Ancestor,” concluded Whitman.

Pippa threw back her head and howled.

“Thank you, Pippa,” said Whitman.

“There’s a French Poodle, lives down our street,” said Butch. “But I think he lost contact with his Inner Wolf some time ago”


You can buy the book HERE in hardback for £6.95 + £1 p & p.

It makes the perfect gift for Dog lovers, but might not be the smartest choice for those weird Owners who prefer cats. To buy the hardback, just click the ‘Buy‘ button and you will be taken to secure payment at Paypal where you can pay using Paypal or any credit or debit card.

The Dogs would, of course, prefer payment in sausages, but currently Paypal has no way of handling this.  Which is very backward of them.  Nevertheless, the Dogs thank you.

Available from

Your recommended reading for July

by Susan Keefe

The China-America Alliance: East Asian and American Cultural Values Promote Global Harmony 

by Jack C. Westman

415Zlr6r8ZL._SX339_BO1204203200_-205x300The China-America Alliance makes a compelling case that the USA and China hold the keys to the future of the condition of man and the health of the planet.However, the question is… Does mankind have the strength to stand united, and fight as one for humanity, and the future of our wonderful world?

In this fascinating book Jack C Westman examines in-depth, the similarities and differences which makes an alliance between China and America the way forward, not only for global peace, but also enabling them to turning about the destructive influences which are sweeping our world, and threatening its future for our decedents.

Thoroughly researched, this book is overflowing with theories, examples and quotes from great people throughout the history of the world, who each have been passionate about their work or beliefs, humanitarians, scientists, leaders, politicians, psychiatrists, cosmologists, the list goes on.
Asia and America both share remarkably similar cultural values. Deep down they both believe in old fashioned family values, the importance of stability for children, good neighbourliness, and supporting local organisations and businesses. However, somewhere, each has lost its way in this modern world of instant gratification and materialism, which has become a throwaway society, where all around are examples of lack of accountability, chaos and violence. It is this that has set mankind on a downward spiral which could potentially be fatal for the future of the human race.

It is time to open our eyes to the truth, which is that human beings cannot be separated from our environment, for us to survive we must do something to help our environment now. The author explores how we can proceed by looking at realistic and unrealistic thinking, and examining how Asia and America can achieve this, by working together for global peace.

However, to go forward we must be able to examine ourselves objectively, and the roles we play, discovering who we are and what impact we have on the environment. Global unsustainability is rising alarmingly, with air and water pollution, global warming, the destruction of our seas by disposing of our rubbish in them. Then there is the ever present threat of nuclear weapons…

I found this book absolutely fascinating and compelling reading. It has laid out a firm strategy for China and America to independently rekindle their cultural values, then work together to control hostile and corruption in both societies, and achieve mutual economic dependence.

Available from Amazon

Jug Valley Mysteries PHOTOFIT MYSTERY (Jug Valley Mystery Series Book 4)

by Anne Digby

41p6T0V91tL._AC_US218_In this exciting adventure Handles and Spouts Incorporated, or Hands for short have to use all their detective skills to discover the answer to the Photofit Mystery.

The Hands consist of twins, Tim and Amy, Amy’s best friend Mini, Tim’s friends Ludo and Ben. Together the five form a formidable team, which meets at its headquarters, an old caravan in the twins back garden.

Amy and Mini are friends with Esme, who lives at The Nook with her father. One day they notice that she is sad, and when she tells them why they understand. Esme only has her dad, and now he is off to a new life in New Zealand, the house is for sale, and Esme has got to live with her aunt, her dad’s sister, in a nearby village. Leaving Jugminster, and her dad leaving her, when her mother has already died, is more than Esme can stand, and distraught, she asks the Hands to keep an eye on her old house until it is sold.

Of course the Hands agree, what are friends for? However over the next weekend strange things are happen at Esme’s house, and late at night, a mysterious black car can be seen leaving the barn in the field which is behind the house, after dark.

Despite their very best detective work, the Hands have plenty of clues, but they still have nothing firm to go on, so Amy suggests Esme has a sleepover at hers, perhaps six heads will be better than five.

Esme happily agrees, and is even more excited when she is made an honorary Hand for the night. In their headquarters they ponder the clues, hatch a plan, then as night time is drawing in, they put it into action.

Will they discover what is happening at The Nook?

Also, why is the black car hidden away in the barn, and why does it only come out under the cover of darkness?

The importance of friendship and comradeship shines through in this exciting mystery adventure, and this story will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I can’t wait to read the next adventure of Handles and Spouts Incorporated!

Available from Amazon                    

Safari Ants, Baggy Pants & Elephants: A Kenyan Odyssey 

by Susie Kelly51WVpn0AtSL._AC_US218_Is it a good idea to revisit your childhood? For Susie Kelly it definitely was as you will discover in this fantastic book. I first became a fan of Susie back in the UK when I read of her move to France, and her adventures and exploits since. In 2014 she released I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry, a poignant memoir, which included her wonderful childhood in Africa, and this is its long awaited sequel.

In this book we join Susie, and her husband Terry, as they take up an invitation from her old friend Vivien, owner of As You Like It Safaris, to go on a safari, and enjoy the experience through her beautifully descriptive writing and wonderful photographs.

And so, leaving her animals in France, under careful supervision, in August 2015, Susie and her husband Terry set off for an African safari. More than 40 years after leaving Africa, many things have changed, including Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya, which through her eyes as the plane landed now resembles a space station.

Immediately feeling like she has come home, Susie straight away treats the reader to the full African experience, as she vividly describes the sights, sounds, and if possible the smells of this amazing continent.

After meeting other safari members, and a well-deserved sleep in the Nairobi Serena hotel, Susie, Terry and their group start their safari by making their way to the Amboseli National Park 140 miles south of Nairobi, and Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. I cannot begin to describe how much Susie’s writing and reminiscing brings this book to life. Not only is the reader treated to stunningly vivid descriptions of the animals and scenery, but also the native tribes and the people who are guiding them. At this point I have to say that Susie has taken some amazing photographs throughout the safari adventure and they complement this book beautifully.

The safari group stayed at some wonderful and famous places, from the Mount Kenya Safari Club, with its touch of celebrity lifestyle, to camping in tents for an ‘Out of Africa’ experience in the Masai Mara. However, these were no ordinary tents, in fact it is only their canvas walls which gives them their name. These were beautifully furnished, double lined, insect proof rooms, on raised platforms with double and four poster beds, and they were situated on the bank of the Olare Orok river, so Susie and Terry could sit on the veranda and watch the hippos in the water.

Being an animal fanatic I enjoyed learning so much about African wildlife from this book and also the incredible people who care for, and protect it
After a childhood spent on this vast continent, time spent in England, and 20 years in France, Susie has used her own unique style of writing to bring together her African safari, and past alive, and has generously shared it with her readers.

Whether you are looking for a book about Africa, love wildlife, or are addicted to memoirs, I guarantee that you will not be able to put this one down!

Available from Amazon


Dynomike: Magical Space (Children’s Mindfulness Book, Rhyming Bedtime Stories for Kids)

by Mr Frankie B. Rabbit
518vkLj6wKL._AC_US160_Some days you get up and everything goes wrong, it seems as if the world is against you. Poor Dynomike is having just such a day! As soon as the alarm clock goes off things start to go wrong, and before he even gets to the school bus disaster has struck three times, and so he is stressed, sore and grumpy.However help is at hand, Bus Driver Chubb notices his distress and has the perfect remedy, what’s more it is instant, costs nothing, and it really works!

So what is the remedy, well, I’m not going to spoil this wonderful story by telling you, but what I will say is that once you learn Bus Driver Chubb’s trick you never need to be grumpy again.

I absolutely love reading my grandchildren the Dynomike series of children’s books because they teach children how to cope with everyday problems in a positive way using rhyming verse. The books are especially appealing to youngsters because of they are beautifully eye catching, and wonderfully illustrated.

With so many extra pressures on our children and grandchildren these days I think it is lovely that this book teaches them, through Dynomike’s, example how to incorporate simply relaxation and mindfulness into their lives.

Available from Amazon


by Khaled Talib

513bOZl9WNL._AC_US218_Khaled Talib is set to take the literary world by storm with this, his latest spy thriller, Incognito.

When Pope Gregoire XVII disappears, and no one claims to have any idea where he could be, speculation as to his whereabouts, safety, and fate escalate, and soon the frantic search to find him spreads from Italy to further afield.

As the tension mounts, The League of Invisible Knights, send Ayden Tanner, an ‘officially dead’ former member of the British SAS, and his team, to find him. However as soon as Ayden arrives in Geneva for his meeting with the Papacy’s Press Secretary Rafael Rabolini, the problems begin.

This is a truly gripping read with a nail biting good vs. evil plot. Khalid Talib in his own vividly descriptive way, takes his readers on a worldwide adventure as Ayden and his team find themselves pitting their wit against a merciless enemy with a devastating plan…

Well written, with amazing characters and an action packed plot, this story will keep its reader on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
Available from Amazon

Bills, borders and balancing acts

By Richard Pickering, Cushman & Wakefield

Surging, settling and stepping down

One year on  

Well you can’t accuse it of being a dull year since the EU referendum can you? The Prime Minister resigned, the Chancellor resigned and the leader of UKIP resigned. The Governor of the Bank of England announced his intention to resign. The man leading the Leave campaign resigned his ambition to become Prime Minister – for now. The leader of the Opposition suffered a vote of no confidence but refused to resign, and so most of his Shadow Cabinet did resign. The leader of the SNP declared herself the true opposition, but lost the most seats in an unexpected General Election called by a new PM, who some are now calling upon to resign. We should perhaps resign ourselves to the fact that the next year promises to be equally eventful.

PM v3?

Despite representing a ‘win’ for the Conservatives, the General Election result brings with it a myriad of implications for domestic and foreign policy.  In particular there appears to have been a softening of position on austerity, immigration, and the form of Brexit.  But the political dice hasn’t stopped rolling yet. Whilst Jeremy Corbyn reportedly stated a belief that he will be PM ‘within 6 months’, the bookies disagree, with a further election in 2017 having only c. 25% implied probability. He does however enjoy equal odds with the resurgent David Davis of becoming the next PM at some point in the future. Being the only Labour candidate in the bookies’ top seven picks for this position is perhaps indicative of Corbyn’s increasing backing from his own party, whilst at the same time showing how the knives are sharpening behind Theresa May.

Settled status  

Paving a route to settle months of controversy, Theresa May has this week set out her offer to the EU regarding citizens’ rights. This is: (a) those EU citizens who arrived in the UK prior to a cut-off date (TBC – but not before 29 March 2017) will have a temporary right to live in the UK until: (b) they have accrued five years residence, at which point: (c) they can apply for ‘settled status’ (which is a bit like indefinite leave to remain). Those so affected will have broadly equivalent rights to heath, education and benefits as they do now, and there will be similar rights for family dependents. Those who arrive after the cut-off date will need to apply through new immigration arrangements, to be negotiated. Whilst there may be devil in the detail (not least, whether the ECJ gets to police the deal), the offer, described by May as ‘fair and serious’, should give UK businesses and EU workers some comfort over their status.

Surge pricing  

Many of us will have experienced ‘surge pricing’ in the context of the unwelcome multiple that Uber applies to its fares during periods of peak demand. However, soon this will be a common feature of a shopping trip, as retailers start to roll out dynamic pricing systems across the UK using electronic tags, reports the Telegraph this week. The system can help to manage stock levels and of course increase profit from customers who need to shop in peak hours. Compare this mark-to-market pricing of consumer goods with quarterly or annual accounting for real assets, and the ultra-slow 5-year re-pricing of rent. Potentially, new flexible lease models would allow for some measure of dynamic pricing, however the opacity of the property market and need for fixed commitments to achieve proper business planning probably renders this option unfeasible for most occupational contracts

Unpacking housing

With the housing crisis pricing many out of home-ownership, those wishing to get on the ladder may have to accept increasing compromises. This starts with ‘micro-apartments’ but could also include unbundling elements of the home that were previously consider core, including kitchens (responding to more social lifestyles) and internal walls (e.g. Naked House, Enfield). However, the most obvious win of moving storage space to a cheaper location is still overlooked by the majority of the UK, accordingly to the latest Self Storage UK Annual Industry Report, which we published recently in conjunction with the SSA. About 1% of the UK population currently uses self-storage, compared with a reported potential need by 51%. Could this be a new product opportunity for housebuilders, combining onsite living and offsite storage opportunities at a lower aggregate cost?

Going up?  

Madam,’ said Mr Wonka, ‘it is not a lift any longer. Lifts only go up and down inside buildings. But now that it has taken us up into the sky, it has become an ELEVATOR’. The elevator is arguably the most significant innovation ever in building design. It has allowed us to create the skyscrapers which are an integral part of our modern skyline. However, since its invention in 1854, little has changed – until now.  The fanciful nature of Roald Dahl’s ‘Great Glass Elevator’, which could travel ‘up and down, sideways, slant ways, and any other way you can think of’ is seemingly now a reality, as the ‘ThyssenKrupp MULTI’ ropeless design is implemented in the new East Side Tower in Berlin. Using a direct drive facilitates 90 degree turns, which increases efficiency, reduces the number of lift shafts required and potentially one day might allow cabins to dock in buildings from external transit systems.

Car-free cities  

Sadiq Khan’s draft Transport Strategy for London predictably promotes public transport over private car use. However, the most seized upon proposal is the potential to introduce road charging – essentially a pay per mile system, which might over time lead to a car free city. Banning cars from city centres has environmental and urban benefits, but is often perceived as politically impossible. For instance, Oslo proposed a complete car ban in 2015, but was unable to gain political support for the proposal.  However, the Norwegian capital has now found a new way to remove traffic in a three phase plan. The first stage is to remove all on-street car parking spaces (replacing the spaces with public amenities), the second phases closes certain streets to traffic and adds new bike lanes, and in the third phase the idea of a complete ban will be revisited. How long until similar proposals reach the UK’s crowded city centres?

A nation of Hufflepuffs

This week the Harry Potter franchise turns 20-years old, which, based on his age in the first book, places its protagonist at the ripe age of 31. Feeling ancient anyone? When asked by YouGov, most fans of course expressed a desire to be in Gryffindor (Harry’s school house, standing for courage and bravery), whereas an analysis of character traits suggests that most of us would in fact end up in Hufflepuff (hard work and loyalty), joining Adele and Ant and Dec who the public considered would be best suited to this house. Meanwhile, Theresa May, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and Simon Cowell all end up in Slytherin (cunning and ambition), where they would get to hang out with arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort and Draco Malfoy. The Electoral Commission is believed to be investigating the use of the Sorting Hat as an alternative to our current first-past-the-post voting system. However, the one-party State, run by the Ministry of Magic since 1707 and riddled with reports of corruption, incompetence, and summary justice, might allow us to reflect more kindly on our own political quagmire.

Humility and resolve 

The Queen set out the legislative programme for the next two years, and it seems that Theresa May has indeed accepted the degree of humility that she promised. In announcing 14 bills and two draft bills, provisions on: grammar schools, fox hunting, the ‘dementia tax’, an end to school lunches and an end to the pension triple lock were all conspicuous by their absence. Similarly missing was an announcement on Donald Trump’s proposed state visit to the UK, suggesting that this might not now happen.

Much of the speech was dedicated to provisions around Brexit, including new bills on trade, customs and repeal of legislation. Technology provisions covered matters such as data protection, electric cars, commercial satellites, space bases and HS2.

Finally, the unanimously popular provision on banning unfair tenant fees was included together with proposals on house building and housing market transparency.

Start of EU negotiations

Almost one year on from the referendum, negotiations have commenced between David Davis, and Michel Barnier over the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The UK appears to have accepted the EU’s position that there must be substantial progress on the terms of the exit (including the ‘Brexit Bill’) before talks can commence on the terms of a new trade arrangement.

The most immediate points to be discussed include the status of UK and EU citizens living abroad, and the nature of Northern Ireland’s new relationship with the EU. The latter may be influential on the UK’s final position on the single market / customs union, with the alternative to remaining in the single market seemingly being a hard border.

However, as Davis (quoting Churchill) noted, ‘The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty’.

Amazonian Foods

Amazon are about moving bricks and mortar retailing online, right? Not anymore it appears, as the online giant makes a $14bn foray into supermarket shopping with the acquisition of Whole Foods. What is behind this? Various reasons have been suggested, including: (a) the use of the 450 stores as logistics hubs for its wider network; (b) the acquisition of Whole Foods high-end customer base, (c) to take the fight to Walmart, which has been growing its online presence, (d) the potential to develop new grocery concept stores, and (e) potentially a realisation from Amazon that in the modern world online is not enough (currently grocery shopping has one of the lowest shares of online spend, c.5%, despite comprising almost half of UK floor space).

Either way UK supermarkets will be looking warily at Amazon’s next move, as eyes inevitably shift their focus across the Atlantic.

A fine balance

The fine balance between promoting growth and containing inflation last week took as step to the right as the Monetary Policy Committee voted in favour of maintaining interest rates, but only by 5-3, rather than 8-1 as previously.

Mark Carney has been quick to dismiss speculation, whilst noting, ‘As spare capacity erodes, the trade-off that the MPC must balance lessens, and all else equal, its tolerance for above-target inflation falls’. As Kristin Forbes (who voted to raise the rate the past three times) stepped down, it remains to be seen how this will affect the MPC’s decision going forwards.

Her parting comments: ‘The increase in headline inflation isn’t just a temporary effect of the exchange rate that’s going to go away … For a period now, we have been underestimating the inflationary pressures — I wouldn’t be surprised if we continued to do that.’

The high cost of high rise

The tragic events in Ladbroke Grove last week have provoked understandable anger, upset and blame. Whilst speculation has focussed on the cladding materials, and the failure to provide a sprinkler system, some have suggested that high rise living should be abandoned altogether.

Given the strong benefits of densification, that would likely be a mistake, but there are better solutions. Nearby Bayswater is the one of the most densely inhabited locations in London; not that one could tell from its stucco fronted houses, garden squares and heights usually limited to 6-storeys. High-density mid-rise buildings are shown to have community and aesthetic benefits, as well as creating ‘defensible space’ rather than the open tracts of land that bleed out from high rise structures.

As the population of cities grow, there are tough trade-offs to be made, but the trade-off between height and density doesn’t need to be one of them.

Role automation

A new study by the University of Oxford calculates the point by which AI will outperform humans at work. I imagine that most of us have certain colleagues for whom this achievement was satisfied with the introduction of the pocket calculator. However, for the rest of us this might come sooner than we think.

Truck drivers and some retail assistants have 10 years to go, says the study, whereas the New York Times could be fully automated by 2050 (meaning I don’t need a succession plan for my blog).  Full automation of labour could at its earliest estimate happen by c.2070, meaning that it may affect people entering the workforce today.

We should however take comfort from the fact that the ability to automate a role, doesn’t mean that it will happen straight away, and so more likely this is a problem (or utopia) for our great, great grandchildren to contend with.

Gig politics

A rare run of sunshine set an optimistically welly-free tone to Glastonbury festival. The 900-acre site, which has formerly played host to international stars like Jay-Z, will this year feature tea-total, vegetarian allotment-owner ‘JC’. Mr Corbyn took to the Pyramid Stage as the warm-up act for rapper Killer Mike. Of course, politics and pop aren’t such unlikely bedfellows, as former lead singer of rock group Ugly Rumours Tony Blair, might attest. Weaving contemporary pop into his campaigns, Blair employed symbolical songs such as ‘Things can only get better’ (D:Ream, 1997); ‘Call on me’ (Eric Prydz, 2004) and ‘Right here, right now’ (Fatboy Slim 2005).

Meanwhile, from the current iTunes chart, JC and Theresa have the following potential options: Unpredictable (Olly Murs), Bad Liar (Selena Gomez), and No Promises (Cheat Codes). They’d be well advised to opt for ‘There’s nothing holding me back’ (Shawn Mendes), or perhaps they could reflect on the words of Freddie Mercury…. “Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality.”


New Winter Ski Routes from BA

As summer temperatures continue to rise across the UK, British Airways is launching two cool new ski routes for winter and more flights available from Heathrow for under £40 than ever before.


The new Heathrow flights to Grenoble, perfectly located for access to some of Europe’s best ski resorts will depart on Saturdays from December 2 with fares starting from £39 each way. Skiers will also be able to reach the Italian slopes via Turin from just £40 each way.

The airline already operates flights between Gatwick and the Italian and French ski hubs during the winter season, so the new flights from Heathrow will take the number of weekly flights to the two cities up to 18.

Additional ultra-low fare flights from Heathrow start from as little as £32 each way and include: Tallinn (from £32 each way), Amsterdam (from £37 each way), Milan (from £38 each way) and Billund from £37 each way, which also has a ‘kids fly free offer’ available too.

Adam Daniels, British Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: “Turin and Grenoble are within easy reach of some of the world’s best ski resorts so we’re excited to be adding them to our Heathrow network. Our ultra-low fares will get our customers a round-trip to some of the hottest (and coolest) destinations in Europe for less than £40 and they can also carry their skis* for free as part of their checked baggage allowance.”

The expansion of the ski route network from Heathrow also includes increased flights to some of Europe’s most popular resorts. Flights to Salzburg from Heathrow will double from two to four per week and there will be two additional weekly services to Innsbruck. Frequency to Reykjavik will also be doubled with two direct flights a day from Terminal 5 and Sofia and Zurich will benefit from an additional service each week.

For skiers keen to carve up the slopes in North America, British Airways recently launched direct flights from Gatwick to Oakland, which is one of the closest international airports to the slopes of Lake Tahoe. The airline has also re-timed flights to Calgary specifically to help customers meet public transport connections to the biggest ski resorts.


Ski route frequency changes for winter 2017 France GNB in bold type

Airport code City Current Frequency (flights per week) New Frequency(flights per week) Day of the week departure Terminal
TRN Turin, Italy 0 2 Sat, Sun 5
GNB Grenoble, France 0 1 Sat 5
TLL Tallinn, Estonia 0 2 Mon, Fri 5
INN Innsbruck, Austria 4 6 Mon, Thurs 5
SZG Salzburg, Austria 2 4 Mon, Fri 5
ZRH Zurich, Switzerland 40 41 Sat 5
SOF Sofia, Bulgaria 7 8 Sat 5
KEF Keflavik, Iceland 7 14 Twice daily 5

For those keen to hit the slopes early this season British Airways Holidays have the following packages on offer:
Grenoble – British Airways Holidays offers seven nights at the 3* Hôtel Mercure Courchevel, from £459 per person, travelling December 10 to December 17. Includes Euro Traveller return flights from Gatwick and accommodation with breakfast. Book by June 27. For reservations visit or call 0344 493 0125.

  • Turin – British Airways Holidays offers seven nights at the 3* Parc Hotel, from £657 per person, travelling December 4 to December 11. Includes Euro Traveller return flights from Gatwick and accommodation. Book by June 27. For reservations visit or call 0344 493 0125.
  • Oakland – British Airways Holidays offers seven days, from £499 per person, travelling November 1 – December 11. Includes World Traveller return flights from London Gatwick and an Economy car. Book by June 27. For reservations

All each-way fares are ‘hand baggage only’ fares and are subject to availability.

Aude village in the top 13 villages competition

The 13 French communes competing for this year’s ‘Village préféré des Français’ contest have been announced, and Lagrasse in the Aude is amongst the elite few!


Now in its sixth year, the popular France 2 programme will be presented by Stéphane Bern, who will examine the heritage, gastronomy, crafts and conviviality that mark out each of the villages, as they compete for the title won last year by Rochefort-en-Terre – the second time in consecutive years that the competition was won by a village in Brittany.

Voting opens when the shows are broadcast over the summer.

The villages hoping to win the top prize are:

Piriac-sur-Mer, Loire-Atlantique

UnknownBèze, Côte-d’Or (pictured)

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, Somme

Lourmarin, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Moncontour, Côtes-d’Armor

Lagrasse, Aude (pictured top)

la_roque_gageacLa Roque-Gageac, Dordogne (pictured)

Gargilesse-Dampierre, Indre

Sant’Antonino, Corsica

Kaysersberg, Alsace

Bellême, Orne 

GE DIGITAL CAMERALa Garde-Adhémar, Drôme

Montchauvet, Yvelines (pictured)

You are only one hour away from your new best friend . . .

Life After The Refuge

Bella formerly Esquise

Bella is not our first rescue dog, so we do have a bit of experience having bought Lara who was our first dog with us from England. She was from the RSPCA rescue centre in Bristol in 2001 when she was 4/5 years old. Sadly we had to have her put to sleep when she was 16 in March 2013. Her death came at a time when there were other big family bereavements, and she was another big loss to the family.

I had been periodically looking at the Carcassonne SPA website, after a recommendation from a friend, looking for another dog. In May 2015 we were about to depart on holiday to Montenegro when I saw a beautiful Labrador cross who was described as large, very playful and affectionate called Esquise. I said to my husband that if she was still available when we returned from holiday I would be paying the SPA a visit.

Bella1On returning from holiday she was still there.  I was very excited, but held off for a whole 3 days before taking a nearly 2 hour drive from our house near Grenade to the SPA. It was pouring with rain and I could barely see a yard in front of me on the drive down there. The rain had stopped in Carcassonne by the time I arrived and so I went to her kennel to see her. She jumped up and showered me with kisses through the wire fencing. She pushed and harassed the other dog she was sharing with to the back of the kennel as if to say “Hands off! This one’s mine!” I went into the office to make further enquiries and to see if I could see her out of her kennel. They brought her to the office and we were introduced. She was very affectionate and quite calm for a young dog, but the main thing that struck me was her size! She is a big girl! She is about 2 or 3 times bigger than any Labrador I’ve ever seen and at just 1 year old at the time already weighed 37kgs; it didn’t put me off at all! Her feet were nearly the same size as my hands! I took a photo on my phone and texted my husband to show him what a gorgeous girl she was. I handed over the cheque and arranged to pick her up the following Saturday. This gave me a few days to prepare for our new arrival, collecting the necessary kit, ie. Lead, bowls and bedding plus some toys together that I had put away.   I’d already decided on the name Bella, as it suited her better and was easier to pronounce than Esquise.

We collected her as arranged and my husband had to lift her into the boot of my car as she appeared unable/unwilling to jump in herself (more about that later). I have since bought a ramp for her to use as I cannot lift her. She travelled well on the way home and we got a lot of admiring glances and waves from other motorists as she was periodically looking out of the window at the passing traffic.

On arriving home, we wanted her to live in the house with us so we tried taking her inside. This was obviously unacceptable to Bella as she flatly refused by plonking her bottom on the doorstep. We resolved the matter by running up to the door three of us side by side, it was a bit of a squash but we got her in! We allowed her to investigate the whole house, but she was reluctant to come in the kitchen and took a bit of persuasion. That evening we had invited a friend and her dog for dinner. They duly arrived, when I opened the door and they saw Bella and both of them looked as if they wanted to run for the hills! The dog wet itself and hid amongst its owner’s skirt, as if to say “Help! Save me! It’s a monster!” Thankfully they are now good friends and get on very well together.

Needless to say, lots of fun has ensued with her training. At the time of her arrival, the wall we had had built to enclose the garden wasn’t quite finished, as we were having to wait for the electric gates to be delivered so we had to sort out a temporary gate until they arrived. During this time we had to keep her on a long rope (15m) because sometimes the gate couldn’t be up due to the continuing building work. She obviously enjoyed being outside and we needed to keep her safe! During one evening we were playing with her, throwing a ball for her to fetch. My husband threw the ball not realising that the rope was wrapped around my leg, of course Bella went hell for leather after the ball upending me in the process, causing a bump to the back of my head and a rather nasty deep friction burn to my calf from the rope. Looking back it must have looked very slapstick, but I was in considerable pain and was not a happy bunny. I still have a slight scar there now. She has also taken my husbands’ feet out from underneath him whilst playing causing him to face plant right in front of the neighbours, who thought it completely hilarious and pulled me over whilst walking in the forest because she was frightened when some people came up behind us.

She has escaped a couple of times, which nearly turned me grey with worry as we live on a country road where drivers speed along it in both directions. The neighbours must have had such a laugh at my expense because at one point I was out on the road in the morning in my red with white spotted dressing gown, shouting at the top of my voice and waving my arms in the air to stop the traffic. She’s also very excitable when going out for a walk, and sounds like Darth Vader which is a bit scary for bella4passers-by. She also wants to say “hello” to everyone and they always seem to think she’s going to bite them. She also sees cyclists and Lorries, which she hates, as fair game to chase and bark at too! We are very lucky, we live in the countryside and there are lots of very good dog walking places which are traffic free.   We have also taken her with us when we’ve gone for days out to visit various tourist attractions and also when my husband plays Cricket.

In January of this year she was attacked in the garden by a very large semi-feral cat. She had cornered the cat underneath the garden shed and as a consequence suffered various facial injuries as well as a deep bite on her chest. The worst injury was that she broke her front left leg. She was referred by our vet for specialist treatment in Toulouse and had to have an operation with a plate and pins to secure the break. Worst still she had to be kept on bed rest for 2 months and then was allowed only to have gentle exercise. This is no mean feat especially when this concerns a very lively, young dog who just loves to be outside in our very large garden running “hell for leather” everywhere. This was when we also discovered that she also has a dysplasia of her left hip, which accounts for her inability to jump. We will have to keep an eye on this because she is big it may be a problem for her when she gets older.

We have now trained her to come when she is called. We tried many incentives to achieve this, food, toys, treats. Anything, you name it we tried it! Eventually we very reluctantly turned to a collar that buzzes or beeps. It doesn’t hurt her, just distracts and refocuses her attention. I must say I was extremely reluctant to use it at first, but we have only had to use it a couple of times and it really does work. Now all we have to say is “No Bella!” and she behaves herself. We have also used it when we walk her to keep her under our control and out of harm’s way. I am pleased to say that our perseverance and encouragement of good behaviour has paid off and she just decided herself that it was better to do as we asked. We still don’t trust her enough to be able to let her off the lead yet. I am sure that will come in the future. Training was also helped by her having to go to a dog sitter for a couple of days whilst we attended a family funeral back in the UK. The British lady who ran the place had 5 dogs of her own and there were a number of other dogs who arrived over the course of her stay, so she learned how to behave from them. I am pleased to say that she has continued like this ever since, which is a win-win for everyone as before we had to get hold of her by her collar to bring her in.

Bella is now nearly 2 years old and has been with us for 11 months. Life with her is eventful, but full of fun. The main problems we have encountered are due to her size (now 43kg) and her lively nature. Not only does she love to be outside but she also loves to be inside, especially when it’s either hot, to take advantage of the cool stone floors, or raining as she loathes getting too wet. She’s getting used to the shower routine to have her feet washed when she’s been out in muddy the garden. She is especially cute when she listens to us because she puts her head from side to side and now she has begun to calm down a bit, she is becoming a wonderful loving and loyal companion. We are besotted!


Open Gardens / Jardins Ouverts / Newsletter

By Mick Moat


Hello to you all and welcome to the 18th edition of the Open Garden/Jardins Ouverts newsletter. The season is now well under way and the signs are good that we shall have yet another spectacular and record-breaking year.

Late spring to early summer is always an exciting time for anyone interested in gardening but for those of us who are involved in the association, it is particularly so. We watch with eager anticipation as the number of gardens and visitors increase and the money starts coming in and I am optimistic that we shall be able to make more and bigger donations than ever before. This has always been our aim and it is wonderful to see that your generosity is making this happen.

It’s not all about the money, of course. There have always been two themes to Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts and it has been a real pleasure to read the comments from visitors who have enjoyed so much their tours of our beautiful gardens.


We like to keep all of our participants in touch with latest developments, news and events but it’s not the easiest thing to do without inundating you with countless emails so we tend to rely on our Facebook page to do this for us. Like many people, I was extremely wary of Facebook but I have to admit it has been a wonderful marketing and publicity tool for us and I think that this is the lesson I have learnt. I have no interest in letting the world know what I had for breakfast, posting selfies (you will be relieved to learn!) or creating a list of ‘friends’ with whom I have absolutely no connection or common interest. However, for an organisation like ours, I am the first to accept that it has been an essential addition to our commitment to openness and keeping people informed.

For example, once again we recently had a stand at, the Chantilly Journées des Plantes and were delighted to welcome Roy Lancaster who came to see us. Within a couple of days, this picture was on our Facebook page (and once I have bought myself a ‘modern’ mobile, this could be done within minutes). We don’t upload trivia or space-fillers to our page; all we ever post is information, updates, photos and alerts to upcoming events. If you haven’t seen it, please have a look.

Anniversary Card/Carte Anniversaire

You will have seen in our last newsletter that we were introducing our Anniversary Card and we are pleased that several people have decided to join this new scheme. New gardens have already been added and you can see these on our website under the ‘Jardins Partenaires’ heading. As was previously advertised, purchasers of the card in 2017 will receive membership of 2018 completely free, plus, of course, entry to all the other gardens in the scheme up to the end of next year. Full details are on our website

And finally / En fin de Compte….

There are still many more gardens to visit, so if you haven’t joined yet, go to our website and sign up. It makes it much easier for our hard-pressed garden owners if you have already purchased your membership cards and saves you waiting around for your card to be processed at the gate. On behalf of all of the conseil, I hope you enjoy the gardens and we look forward to hearing your comments in due course.


Manish’s Zodiac Predictions for July 2017

Cancer-zodiac-signCancer ( 21 June – 22 July ) – You will be very much tempted to start a business but may keep backing off for financial reasons. Running around will increase and you will take more than two short vacations. Business wise things look good for income and older sibling and friends can help. Investing in property will be another good idea and will turn profitable only in long term. You may have some major changes or addition done to your existing home around this time. Take care of health, urinary system and manage anxiety with patience. Favorable Dates : July 3, 7, 12, 16, 21, 25 Favorable Colors : White & Red

Leo  ( 23 July – 22 August ) – You may have many progressive, creative, money making ideas and discover new usual, innovative ways to generate funds. Nevertheless, be discreet about your sources and ideas and don’t overextend yourself too much. Things look positive for love and work in foreign land. Have more drive to do things. Relations will improve with siblings and friends. It’s best to simplify, not complicate matters and resist the temptation to cut corners.  You have to be extra careful when signing any important papers or contract this month. Favorable Dates : July 1, 4, 10, 13, 19, 22 Favorable Colors : Green & Red

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September ) – This month should turn out to be stepping stone and turning point in your career. New venture in partnership is also a possibility this month.  This should be a lucky period for bachelors too, who have been missing the opportunities narrowly in the past. A mature and nice companion will enter your life, leading to permanent ties before the month ends. Ultimate victory is possible in any ongoing litigation and it should be accompanied by big financial awards. Money wise you will stay comfortable and most probably you will invest in a property or land. Favorable Dates : July 2, 7, 11, 16, 20, 25 Favorable Colors : Blue & Yellow 

Libra  ( 23 September – 22 October ) – Financially you will stay in comfortable zone, its the professional hurdles which will not leave you alone. Working under others will be a challenge. Those who’ve been pursuing certain avenues, not out of personal choice but perhaps through external pressures or the need to please others, may have an opportunity to pursue a calling or direction more in keeping with their true, authentic self. This can also be a period in which you’ve to deal with people in positions of power and authority, which is only likely to prove problematic. Favorable Dates : July 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 24 Favorable Colors : Red & Green

Scorpio ( 23 October – 21 November ) – You are having a conflict of interest with your feelings, thoughts and desires. This is causing you a great deal of confusion. You need to set some goals. However, the burden is soon to be lifted or the problem soon to be solved. The load can be physical, mental or emotional but something can be done to help lighten the weight. Even though something was lost, something still remains. Look at what can be salvaged. There are new alternatives to be explored within the loss. Favorable Dates : July 4, 8, 13, 17, 22, 26  Favorable Colors : Red & Yellow

Sagittarius ( 22 November -21 December ) – You will be taking a journey, a move to a more pleasing environment. There will be a release from your tension and anxiety, and a sense of harmony prevailing once again. Your efforts on the final touches will bring you material gain, approval and recognition by others. You will experience a great sense of achievement and it is well deserved. If you are single, this can indicate the beginning of a new love relationship heading your way. Make yourself available for love in whatever way makes sense to you. Favorable Dates : July 3, 8, 12, 17, 21, 26  Favorable Colors : Red & Blue 

Capricorn ( 22 December – 19 January ) – This period would be good omen for financial questions. It would be more like fiscal generosity that comes to you because you have worked your way into deserving it. More money is very likely to be coming your way. Things seem to be going well for the person that you have your heart set on. . If you think the relationship is fabulous, be sure and find out “where your partner is” with the state of affairs. If you are not in a committed relationship, you need to be open to other possibilities, however. Favorable Dates : July 2, 4, 11, 13, 20, 22  Favorable Colors : Red & Green

Aquarius ( 20 January – 18 February ) – There’s a very good chance that you are working far too hard for far too little recognition and money. You may need to look outside your own area of network for helpful information in how the work you do is done elsewhere – this could lead to some very interesting realizations. Your financial situation is likely to take a turn for the better. If you’re in the market for some big ticket items, don’t scrimp on your homework.. Follow your “instincts” about what is best for your health, work and love. Seek out mentors with more information than you have. Favorable Dates : July 1, 8, 10, 17, 19, 26  Favorable Colors : Red & White

Pisces ( 19 February – 20 March ) – Actions that produce results and objects are particularly blessed at this time – especially so if they are involved in business or politics in some way. You can succeed as long as you are willing to be flexible, communicate carefully. You are particularly in tune with your psyche, your gifts and your limitations and  are able to make sensible decisions with good results. In relationship matters of the romantic, friendship, business or neighbourly variety, you are able to relate well to others. It could well mean that you have found your ideal partner. Favorable Dates : July 2, 7, 11, 16, 20, 25  Favorable Colors : Yellow & White

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April ) – This is an important month in which you can reap what you’ve sown, but also a time to make considerable progress towards your goals and along your life path. This period bodes well for relationships and your interactions with other people generally. This is a good time to meet new people, reconnect with old friends and for dealing with the public. Romantically you should be prepared to make an effort to get out and about, to make the first move and approach others rather than sit back and wait. Favorable Dates : July 4, 8, 13, 17, 22, 26 Favorable Colors : Green & Yellow

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – There will be many occasions when you will need to make quick decisions about career and business. It will be better to go after the gut feelings. Since fortunate planets will keep helping, all decisions will turn out favorable. There is a strong chance of an addition in the family for those looking forward. You will also benefit from advice given by a mature and elderly person. It will be better to get rid of few ungrateful friends from your life. Health will be fine and it will be another great month for you. Favorable Dates : July 1, 6, 10, 15, 19, 24 Favorable Colors : White & Yellow

Gemini  ( 21 May – 20 June ) – You will make tremendous progress in career. Hard work and patience will keep paying off in shape of rich financial rewards. Few promotions for those in service are not at all out of question. People in business will expand their horizons by buying more locations but still in the same field. Try to put some money away the moment you receive and you will be surprised at the end of month to see the balance This would be a great time to get out and about locally, to expand your social network and team up with kindred spirits who share your values, vision and ideals. Favorable Dates : July 1, 2, 10, 11, 19, 20 Favorable Colors : White & Blue 



What Brexit answers do we have one year on from the referendum?

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

In the aftermath of the UK general election’s unexpected outcome, we reach the milestone of one year since Britain voted to leave the EU. What do we know today about how Brexit might affect expatriates in France?

Has the UK election changed anything for Brexit?

Faced with a hung parliament as the Conservatives failed to win by majority, Theresa May secured support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists (DUP) to retain leadership.

The election outcome, however, is generally considered a public rejection of her hard-line “no deal is better than a bad deal” Brexit approach. The big question now, then, is whether she will be able to pursue a ‘hard Brexit’ or yield to pressure for a softer strategy.

UK Brexit minister, David Davis has since indicated that there has been no change in the government’s intention to pursue a form of ‘hard Brexit’ by removing the UK from the single market and seeking a unique customs arrangement.

How long until things change?

By triggering Article 50 earlier this year, Theresa May put Britain on course to leave the EU on 29th March 2019. That deadline still stands, so EU membership and associated rights for expatriates living in France should remain until that date at least.

Brexit negotiations were able to go ahead and started on 19th June as planned before the election.  David Davis  met with chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, to discuss the timetable and priorities for the negotiations ahead.

In an official statement after the talks both men confirmed that securing reciprocal rights for citizens remains at the top of the agenda. Davis revealed the government plans to set out the UK’s “offer” for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens on Monday 26th June. The next stage of talks – set to focus on this issue – are then due to begin in the week beginning 17th July.

Theresa May has made it clear she agrees, provided guarantees are mutual. The terms of new reciprocal agreements, however, could prove less favourable for expatriates than today. Now is the time to look into securing your position in France – before rules change – if you want to maintain current benefits.

Should you expect higher taxes?

With taxation being a domestic – not an EU – matter, the tax treatment for other French residents should not change post-Brexit. The UK/France tax treaty will continue to set the rules for taxing expatriates.

However, some UK assets may be treated differently in France after Brexit. For example, once UK bonds become non-EU assets, they will no longer qualify for beneficial tax treatment given to EU assurance-vie and capital redemption bonds. That means no fixed rates and no tax credit. If this affects you, take professional advice to review your approach.

Pounds or euros?

In these changeable times, the value of sterling is clearly vulnerable – the unexpected election news prompted the pound to drop 2% against the euro overnight.

Although currencies can swing both ways, if you have no choice but to convert from pounds to euros at a particular time – for example, by withdrawing UK pension income – this volatility can be costly. Living in France, you should receive some income in euros to reduce currency exchange risk. Look for structures that let you hold investments in multiple currencies or consider transferring UK pensions to arrangements offering currency flexibility.

What about UK pensions?

While Brexit should not affect accessing or transferring UK pension funds, one uncertainty is the annual inflation increase in State Pension payments. Not currently guaranteed for expatriates outside the EEA, this could be an easy way for the Treasury to save money in 2019.

The UK’s new ‘overseas transfer charge’ may suggest post-Brexit changes for private pensions. Expatriates transferring to Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) may benefit from tax-efficiency, estate planning advantages and flexibility over UK pensions. But since 9th March, transfers to QROPS outside the EEA attract 25% taxation unless you live in the same jurisdiction – and liability lingers for five years.

Currently, this does not affect transfers to QROPS based within the EEA, like Malta or Gibraltar. However, Brexit offers the Treasury more scope to recoup revenue from Britons in Europe, so could prompt further penalties on pension transfers or make it harder to take advantage of today’s high transfer values for ‘defined benefit’ pensions. Consider acting now under current rules, but take personalised, regulated advice to avoid pension scams and ensure a suitable approach.

With so much uncertainty ahead and current opportunities potentially expiring in around 18 months, now is the time to review your financial planning and explore your options. With the right strategy in place, you can plan accordingly as Brexit unfolds.

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 should take personalised advice. 

For more financial articles written for expatriates visit the Blevins Franks website at



The Bank of Mum and Dad

by Gemma Wright

What is it?

Soon to be the 10th biggest lender in the UK, it is now more common than not that the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ will be gifting or lending money to their children to help them buy a home.

How is it usually done?


Often parents simply give the money to their children. By transferring the money into the children’s accounts for them to send it to the solicitor. Alternatively, the money is sent by the parents direct to the solicitor though the solicitor is likely to need to know the source of funds is from parents and identify the parents.   Any gift needs to be reported to a mortgage lender.

This means the children can do what they want with the money and the property. As parents, you have no further control.


This is often done by way of an unsecured loan repayable on demand with no interest, usually with a letter or some other simple document or verbal agreement.

What could go wrong?

Whilst it seems pretty straight forward to pay some money to help a child buy a home most people do not consider the potential pitfalls which could result in the child paying tax on the gift given or the parents hard-earned monies being unrecoverable and used in a manner they do not approve.


If it is not clearly documented that the payment is intended to be gift and when it is transferred it could still make up part of the parents’ estate when inheritance tax (IHT) is calculated.  Also, depending on the provisions of any Will, the child could be required to return some of the gift so it can be paid out to other beneficiaries.


If the child is also obtaining a mortgage from a high street bank the bank will require assurance that the monies are a gift and that the parents can have no claim over the property that would rank above the bank’s.


Family relationships can often be complicated.  By simply handing over a lump sum to use for a property purchase the child has then got control of the property they buy and how it is later dealt with.  Although the intention would be for the child to have somewhere to live, and investment of the parents’ money, the property could be sold or transferred to a partner or friend.  The parents’ money could then be lost.

How can we help?

Deed of Gift

By documenting that a gift of monies was made in a legal deed it makes the intention behind the transfer of monies clear and explicitly sets the date the gift was made as proof to be used by the child in the calculation of IHT when the parent’s estate is being wound up.

Loan Agreement

Having a loan agreement in place will ensure there is a legal relationship in place in which monies will be repaid either within a set time period or on demand by the parent. The agreement could be more complicated with interest provisions and repayment terms if suitable.

As a more secure basis to ensure the monies given will eventually be repaid the loan can be secured with a mortgage over the property. The mortgage is registered in the names of the parents and gives more control over the use and sale of the property. The loan would need to be repaid once the property was sold or transferred. This may be worth considering if there is a concern about a child’s partner. The mortgage and loan can always be released later on though this may have tax consequences.  If the child is also obtaining mortgage from a high street bank then the bank would need to approve this arrangement.

Review the Ownership Structure

There may be different options on how the legal or beneficial title can be held to help retain control over the use of the property and when it is sold depending on individual circumstances.

Parents can jointly own the property with their children. This gives much higher degrees of control and an agreement can be entered into setting out each parties share. The shares owned by the parents can be gifted to the children at a later stage.

Alternatively, the property can be held by the parents in trust for the children with provisions for when they become entitled outright to the property or in the name of a holding company where the children are the shareholders and parents directors.

Any of these methods would need expert advice and to assess any tax implications before they are put in place.

June 2017

Gemma Wright   Solicitor   Sykes Anderson Perry Limited






Please note that the information herein is of a general nature and you should not act or refrain from acting on it without professional advice on the specific facts of your case. No liability is accepted by the author or Sykes Anderson Perry Limited in respect of this article. Taxation and property law are complex subjects and the above is a basic outline only and is intended only as a general guide. Nothing herein constitutes financial advice.