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Best value MAPS of FRANCE, and keeping the children amused

SNCF changes website name as part of rail rebranding

The website of the national rail company SNCF has been renamed and given a new address for the first time in 17 years as part of the organisation’s rebranding of its services. From now on anyone using the website to book tickets will need to use the address Oui.sncf rather than voyages-sncf.com.

The update brings the website in line with the company’s new “Oui” branding and marks the first time the site has been revamped in 17 years. And it’s not only the name that’s changing.  It’s important to remember that the change will also apply to the company’s phone apps.

The new site is expected to offer several new features including an email alert system, which will let users know when a low-cost, good-value ticket that fits their searches and budget is available. “We’re keeping everything you like and improving the rest,”SNCF announced.

The change is part of the SNCF’s move to rebrand all its services around the word “Oui”, which as we all know means “Yes” in French.

In July, the company’s famous TGV (trains a grand vitesse) service was rebaptised“inOui”. The “inOui” name aligns the premium high speed train service with the company’s low cost equivalent, Ouigo, launched in 2013. It also fits alongside SNCF’s coach service “OuiBus” and its hire car service “OuiCar”.

The ‘inOui’ phrase is actually a play on words in French – as well as the word ‘yes’, the new name is also effectively the word ‘inouï’, which means ‘unheard-of [in a positive way]’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘incredible’ or ‘unparalleled’, in French.

Effective from 1st January 2018 the wealth tax, which previously implicated property buyers in France, is being amended.

by Fleur Buckley, Property Services Manager, FrenchEntree

Back in October 2017, President Macron’s reforms of this notorious wealth tax passed into law and will now come into effect as of 1st January 2018 much to the delight of many British expats.

The impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) was previously an annual levy (of up to 1.5%) onproperty and assets held worldwide by residents over €1.3 million.

Whilst Macron’s reforms result in no changes to the rates and thresholds themselves, the tax will now apply almost exclusively to the property and assets of French residents’ only.

“The implementation of these new tax changes on 1st January 2018 is certainly welcomed by expatriates with property and assets in France. It will bring a renewed surge of interest from buyers and investors alike into some of the prime real estate markets in France including Paris, the Alps and of course Provence-Cote d’Azur.

“This comes at a time when agents are particularly proactive at bringing new properties to market in the anticipation of gearing up for Spring interest from new buyers.”

One market set to benefit from these tax changes is the French capital, Paris.

Typically, demand for property in Paris is greater than the supply but this will start to balance in the New Year with the buyers’ market becoming more competitive once again with the easing of the wealth tax.

Significant decision regarding trust taxation in France

By Graeme Perry, Solicitor at Sykes Anderson Perry Limited Solicitors

his information has been prepared by Sykes Anderson Perry Limited as a general guide only and does not constitute advice on any specific matter. We strongly recommend that you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of any information or advice given or omitted. The information herein does not constitute investment advice. Always consult an IFA if before taking any investment decision.

Since 2011, France has had in place a specific taxing regime for trusts. The legislation governing this regime is very widely drafted and covers all trust arrangements in the same way. As such, it has no real basis in reality; it is simply a contrived approach to tax assets held in trust structures.

The main impact of the law is that assets within a trust are treated as belonging to the settlor (or “constituant” as it is referred to in France). This means that the value of these assets falls within the settlor’s estate for wealth tax and inheritance tax (generally at higher rates than assets held outside a trust).

The rules also contain declarative obligations for trustees and heavy penalties for failure to comply with these obligations. The French Revenue previously published a database of all declared trusts (including names of beneficiaries) online, which was accessible to any French taxpayer. This database was removed within 48 hours after an injunction was granted.

Because of the way in which trust arrangements are defined by the French legislation, it is often complex as to how the declarations ought to be filed. This is because commonly used arrangements under English law do not necessarily translate well into French Law or are simply treated as tax avoidance.

Up to now, there has been little feedback from the authorities as to how these declarations are to be dealt with. There has also been no case law on which to base an approach to this law. A recent decision though may well reduce the effective scope of the law.

Whilst on the face of it the decision which confirms that the law is in conformity with the French constitution, it recognises that the application should be more nuanced. Up to now, even if a settlor is prohibited from benefiting from the trust and in practice they are excluded, the French tax laws would still treat that individual as owning the assets for wealth tax purposes. This decision recognises that where a settlor is excluded from benefit from a genuinely irrevocable, discretionary trust, then they should not necessarily be taxed as owning the assets.

This will require closer scrutiny in all cases as it will not only be the wording of the trust deed which is relevant but also the practical approach of the trustees and whether the settlor does benefit either directly or indirectly from the trust. This may be difficult to prove but is at least a departure from the strict approach which applies under the legislation.

In any case, trustees are still obliged to file the usual declarations in France. Our experience is that many trustees remain unaware of these obligations and continue to run the risk of cumulative penalties and interest. It is often the case that no tax is actually at stake in France as a result of these trusts but the penalties are applicable regardless and the French tax amnesty scheme ends 31 December 2017. Any trustees who are managing a trust which has any connection to France (French assets, French resident settlor or French resident beneficiaries) should contact us urgently for a consultation.

December 2017
Graeme Perry, Solicitor
Sykes Anderson Perry Limited
Graeme.perry@saplaw.co.uk
020 3794 5958

Ski flights take off from Manchester

As  Manchester basks in a light dusting of snow the serious skiiers took off for the deeper slopes on the new British Airways flights to Salzburg and Chambery this weekend.

The two new winter-only flights from Manchester will operate every Saturday through to April to Salzburg in Austria and Chambery in France, gateways to some of Europe’s top ski resorts.

To celebrate the launch Helen Jones, British Airways’ marketing manager, donned her ski gear to wave customers off as they checked-in for the inaugural flights.

Basic each way fares to both cities from £49 are available to book on www.ba.com

In May the airline launched seven new summer-only routes from Manchester to popular leisure destinations in Europe as well as London City, providing more than 35,000 extra seats from the North West. Next May new services to Florence and Dublin from Manchester will start.

Luke Hayhoe, British Airways’ general manager customer and commercial, said: “We are delighted to follow our successful summer programme from Manchester with these new direct services to two of the most popular snow destinations in Austria and France. They are also brilliant winter break destinations even for those who don’t ski!”

All flights will operate on modern Embraer 190 jet aircraft, with spacious cabins and two abreast seating so every customer can have an aisle or window seat.

Club Europe and eligible Executive Club customers are also able to use the rooftop British Airways Terraces Lounge at Manchester Airport. Club customers receive complimentary food and drinks on board, a generous free baggage allowance and free seat selection and on-line check-in.

  • Flights to Salzburg operate every Saturday departing Manchester at 1.05pm, arriving in Salzburg at 4.20pm, with the return flight at 5.10pm, arriving in Manchester at 6.30pm
  • Flights to Chambery operate every Saturday departing Manchester at 7am arriving in Chambery at 10am, with the return flight at 10.55am, arriving in Manchester at 12noon

And so on to 2018 – Open Gardens for the coming year

By Mick Moat

And so to 2018, which will be our 6th year of operation. The updated leaflets, posters and other paperwork have arrived and if you want a supply of our main leaflet to hand out, particularly if you live in an area where we have few or no gardens, please let us know and we’ll send some to you. All new and existing gardeners will, of course, receive their usual supply in due course.

Our target for 2018 is to have 200 gardens in at least 33 départements. As you will no doubt be aware, we are always looking for new participants, so please help us by persuading any of your friends, acquaintances and neighbours to open their garden (just 1 day a year is sufficient). It would be wonderful if we could achieve 200 gardens in 2018, which would also mean that our donations to charitable organisations in France would rise by the 6th consecutive year.

I mentioned previously that we would be taking on part time staff and, although this process is still to be finalised, it is hoped that they will start within a couple of months. It is worth noting that all Garden Owners have an Area Coordinator allocated as their first point of contact and primary support and that this won’t change.

Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to thank you all for contributing to such an incredibly successful 2017 and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and happy 2018.

Your reading for January

Unedited! (Because life is): Recipes, ramblings and a few creative ideas from the kitchen at The Cosy Pigsty

by Kati Barr-Taylor
Product Details
The title of this wonderful book draws you in doesn’t it, and then as soon as you read the introduction you realise that this is not going to be your run of the mill cook book, it is one which you will treasure forever! Unedited! (Because life is) was conceived because of a request from Kati’s oldest daughter Lilly for a book of her recipes, and as any mum knows that’s a great compliment!

However, because of a tragic family incident the author could relate to the plight of the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, and decided to help the survivors in her own way by publishing this book and donating half the money to the Grenfell community.

This book is so much more than a cookery book, interspersed with the wonderful eclectic variety of recipes are family memories and stories, glimpses into the author and her families lives, both past and present. As an expat in France she has also helps others who have made the leap the other side of the channel by adding the French words for some of the ingredients, and also anecdotes which every expat can relate to when you arrive confidently speaking high school French to find that the ‘natives’ didn’t read the same text books as you did, and haven’t a clue what you are saying.

There are a wide selection of recipes for all the different meal times, times when you just fancy something nice/warming/comforting, and even a lovely selection of ideas for edible gifts. The recipes come from all over the world and are her own family’s favourites.

I highly recommend this wonderful cook book as a great reference for recipes, entertaining reading, and I hope many people will support the author by buying this book and as a result donating to the Grenfell Tower community.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unedited-Because-life-ramblings-creative-ebook/dp/B077TVY5WJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1514305795&sr=1-1&keywords=Unedited%21+%28Because+life+is%29%3A+Recipes%2C+ramblings+and+a+few+creative+ideas+from+the+kitchen+at+The+Cosy+Pigsty+by+Kati+Barr-Taylor

Philippe The Black Sheep/Philippe Le Mouton Noir 

by Joan Dupont 
This is an enchanting story about a courageous black lamb called Philippe, he’s not your ordinary lamb, no following the flock for him, he knows what he wants out of life!
You see Philippe wants to become an artist, he loves to paint and dreams of escaping to Mont Saint –Michel where he imagines himself sitting under its bell, painting.

However, it is one thing to have dreams and another to follow them through, and in this enchanting story we discover if Philippe is successful. We follow his intrepid journey as he bravely works out how to escapes from the mundane life the other salt marsh sheep live, and eventually arrives in France, ready to embrace his new life.

Of course, there is one important little thing that Philippe has overlooked though – in fact he has probably not even considered it, it is that he is a lamb, and for a lot of people his future will have already been decided.

Undaunted and no doubt unaware of the above, Philippe is confident that with hard work his dream will come true, and so he sets out to find a job in the land of his dreams. Determined to succeed he sets out to prove how hard he can work, despite the taunting of Chef Louis the Cruel.
Through his exciting adventure the author, Joan Dupont, teaches the reader some important life lessons, that if you believe in yourself, do what you know is right, and help others, dreams really can come true.

My little granddaughter absolutely adored this delightful story which is not only beautifully illustrated throughout by Ellen Shires but lovely to read as it is written in rhyming verse.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe
 

Fall of Shuruppak: Harappa 2 (Harappa Trilogy)

by Shankar Kashyap
Fall of Shuruppak: Harappa 2 (Harappa Trilogy) by [Kashyap, Shankar]
This fascinating journey into Indian history is set in the third millennium BCE. Through the author’s thorough investigation into this era, and extremely descriptive writing, these splendid days of the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilisations are brought to life for his readers.

In this the second book of the Harappa series we join the friends Upaas (a physician), his wife Lopa, Parthava and Elaamite Prince Shushan as they continue their journeys, travelling far and wide through unknown lands satiating their thirst for knowledge.

In this adventure they find themselves agreeing to help the grief stricken Emperor Gilgamesh of Sumer find the great Sage Ziusudra. Gilgamesh believes that the sage will answer a question he is compelled to ask, and through the answer he will find an end to his torment.

Armed with the help and advice of Sage Vasishta, magic potions, and amulets for protection they set off on a quest unlike any other they have undertaken. Their travels take them through unknown lands, where they battle mythical beasts, demons, and many unimaginable creatures, but will they succeed and will Gilgamesh find the answer he seeks?

After seeing the Sage they return to Shuruppak as war breaks out, and with battles raging and thousands lying dead or dying they escape by ship, taking those they can. Little do they know that a higher being has decided that mankind needs a lesson, and what happens next is one of the most well-known of all biblical stories…

What I love about this story is that for those of us who are not Indian, yet have a great interest in Indian history, the legend behind the grief and torment of Gilgamesh, and others, interwoven into this epic adventure, adding immeasurably to the enjoyment, and fascination of this book.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe
 
Available from Amazon 
 
                                        
 

NEIGHBORS: The Yard Critters, Book 1 

by George Held
 
Product Details
As soon as I received this book I knew it was going to be something special. I sat with my little granddaughter who loves animals, and together we enjoyed this wonderful selection of poems written by George Held, and beautifully illustrated by the talented Joung Un Kim.

Yard Critters: Book 1 is an enchanting way for children to learn about the animals who live in their own back yard or neighborhood. The author has cleverly incorporated into each lovely poem, in a fun way, a wealth of information about some of the creatures the reader could come across.

Without even trying, and with a smile on her face my granddaughter learnt about squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons, possums, robins, earthworms, bats, garter snakes, and groundhogs. She also discovered another animal in the book, one which wouldn’t fit in her yard, but, I’m not going to tell you what it is, you will have to read the story and find out for yourself…

As a parent and grandparent, what I really loved about this book is that it teaches children a very important lesson, one which tends to be forgotten these days, that this earth is for all creatures and every one of them has a place on it.

I would recommend this wonderful children’s book to parents, grandparents, and care givers, to read to their children, and for the children themselves to read when they are able to.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe
 
 
                                                      

The Book of Angels: Twin Flames Rising

By Maya El
 
Product DetailsThis exciting, yet tantalizing mystery is set in Chicago, the author’s home town. What makes this story very special is that it is a story which the author feels has to be told. The backbone scene setting of this book comes from the past memories, and personal experiences to this day of Maya El and her family, and gives an amazing insight into what it was, and is like to live as people of color in Chicago. From there the story takes flight into an exciting mystery, one which will keep its reader engrossed until the very last page.
At the time this story begins, Chicago is a city in lockdown. Backed by a president intent on making America safe, its police force make their own rules, and have unofficial carte blanche to terrorize and control its people of color.

At the largest black Baptist church in Chicago, the camera loving, outspoken, successful pastor Carson Parker, is a shining light for his flock, helping the community, providing hope and strength, a force to be reckoned with.

Living in a beautiful house, his wife Natalie is safe and secure, she’s in a perfect marriage as far as the outside world is concerned. However Natalie’s husband is a very different man than the caring, charismatic pastor, he is controlling, violent, and terrifying! Natalie knows she must do something, but how, and who is the sexy mysterious man who haunts her dreams?
As this clever police thriller morphs into a mystery, romance, murder, and then a horror story, this talented author takes the reader on the rollercoaster ride which is Natalie’s life.

This book has an absolutely riveting storyline, and yet it is so much more. The character of Natalie shows such strength in the face of adversity that she is empowering, and her journey of self-discovery shows us that there are forces out there which we do not understand, and yet they are there, and their powers can shape our destiny…

 
This exciting, yet tantalizing mystery is set in Chicago, the author’s home town. What makes this story very special is that it is a story which the author feels has to be told. The backbone scene setting of this book comes from the past memories, and personal experiences to this day of Maya El and her family, and gives an amazing insight into what it was, and is like to live as people of color in Chicago. From there the story takes flight into an exciting mystery, one which will keep its reader engrossed until the very last page.

At the time this story begins, Chicago is a city in lockdown. Backed by a president intent on making America safe, its police force make their own rules, and have unofficial carte blanche to terrorize and control its people of color.

At the largest black Baptist church in Chicago, the camera loving, outspoken, successful pastor Carson Parker, is a shining light for his flock, helping the community, providing hope and strength, a force to be reckoned with.

Living in a beautiful house, his wife Natalie is safe and secure, she’s in a perfect marriage as far as the outside world is concerned. However Natalie’s husband is a very different man than the caring, charismatic pastor, he is controlling, violent, and terrifying! Natalie knows she must do something, but how, and who is the sexy mysterious man who haunts her dreams?
As this clever police thriller morphs into a mystery, romance, murder, and then a horror story, this talented author takes the reader on the rollercoaster ride which is Natalie’s life.

This book has an absolutely riveting storyline, and yet it is so much more. The character of Natalie shows such strength in the face of adversity that she is empowering, and her journey of self-discovery shows us that there are forces out there which we do not understand, and yet they are there, and their powers can shape our destiny…

 
Reviewed by Susan Keefe 
 
 
                                                      
 

NEIGHBORS: The Yard Critters TOO

by George Held
 
Product DetailsAfter reading the beautifully written and highly entertaining NEIGHBORS: The Yard Critters, Book 1, I was really looking forward to sitting down with my granddaughter to read this, the second book in this series. As I looked at the cover, before I even opened it, I could tell I was not going to be disappointed.

Yet again George Held has done a wonderful job writing enchanting rhyming verse which not only captivated my little one, but also taught her many interesting things about some more new critters which she might find in her yard, or neighborhood.

Being a family of nature lovers, this book with its beautiful illustrations is a wonderful way to introduce her to the natural world and it very quickly captured her attention.

Included were some critters which are common, like the ladybug, sparrows and crows, and there are others who although not rare, are shy, like shrew and field mice. There are night time owls, and prickly characters like the porcupine, cheeky chipmunks, nasty ticks, beautiful humming birds and of course the crafty coyote, each described in the author’s wonderfully magical way.

I love the way this book brings the natural world around us to life, offering amazing insights into our animal friends, also, I love that it gently teaches the reader that all nature has a place in this world.

I highly recommend this book for parents, grandparents, and care givers to read to their young charges, and also for the children themselves to read, enjoy, and treasure, when they are able to.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe
 

Expatriates’ rights safeguarded with Brexit breakthrough

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

 

A landmark agreement has been reached in Brexit talks which has cemented citizens’ rights on both sides.

Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented a joint “progress report” on 8th December outlining the key areas of agreement. Focusing on the three priority issues – citizens’ rights, the Irish border and financial settlement – it paves the way for the EU27 to unlock the next phase of negotiations.

So where do we now stand with citizens’ rights and the other key Brexit issues?

The right to remain

Both sides have formally agreed to maintain existing rights for EU nationals settled in the UK and Britons in the EU. “Today, we bring back the certainty” said Juncker. For Britons resident in the EU today – or who gain residency before Brexit takes place – this means that your right to remain is guaranteed. This also extends to partners and direct family members, even after the Brexit date. You would, however, lose your permanent residency status after a period of five consecutive years abroad. Britain’s request for onward freedom of movement – enabling Britons to freely move between EU countries – has been deferred to the second round of talks.

While the cut-off point to lock-in the right to remain is set for the date Britain leaves the EU on 29th March 2019, it is unclear if any transition period could extend this further.

So if you are spending time in France and would like the freedom to continue doing so post-Brexit, consider taking steps to secure your residency now. Similarly, if you are thinking about relocating, now is the time to take action, before the rules change. Beyond Brexit, the precise requirements, length of time and expense required to acquire permanent residency are uncertain.

Access to healthcare

The UK and the EU27 have committed to continue existing healthcare entitlements after Brexit. This means that:

  • Expatriate healthcare costs will continue to be fully or partially reimbursed by the NHS
  • The Form S1 system will carry on providing free cover for British pensioners and those receiving certain long-term benefits
  • Holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) remain eligible for free or reduced healthcare when visiting another EU country

While this is reassuring, you may prefer to secure peace of mind by lining up comprehensive private health insurance for your family.

Legal protection

A previous sticking point was how citizens’ rights are enforced by law. As well as freedom of movement and residence, rights include access to healthcare, education and social security benefits, and also employment issues like working conditions.

While the EU27 maintained that citizens’ rights must be protected outside national jurisdictions through the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Theresa May insisted on sovereignty for British courts.

Mrs May still demands that EU citizens living in the UK have their rights “enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts”. However, she has now agreed to allow an eight-year oversight role for the ECJ up to March 2027 where cases are unclear. This compromise was a significant factor in securing agreement with the EU27. For UK expatriates, it represents more scope to invoke British legal protection while living in the EU.

The divorce bill

Initially, Prime Minister Theresa May offered to pay around €20 billion up to 2020, falling short of the EU’s expectations. However, in late November, she agreed to fully honour Britain’s financial commitments – estimated at around €40-60 billion – to secure the go-ahead from the EU27.

The Irish border

The Prime Minister has now presented a solution to satisfy the key players regarding this problematic issue. She promised no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic while confirming that the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will leave the customs union.

What happens next?

At the EU summit on 14th-15th December, the EU27 are expected to formally agree that “sufficient progress” has been made to trigger the next phase of Brexit talks. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier indicated that next steps would be to discuss a transition period before tackling the future trade relationship. But there is still much to agree.

In the meantime, nothing changes for expatriates in France. If you are in France before Brexit, you and your family have the right to stay permanently and continuing accessing the healthcare benefits you do today. Your tax treatment should also stay the same and, as things stand, you can still transfer your UK pensions without penalties.

However, you could benefit from reviewing your financial planning and exploring your options before any changes take place. A locally-based adviser with cross-border expertise can help you secure financial peace of mind and prepare for Brexit developments that might affect you.

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

All advice received from any Blevins Franks firm is personalised and provided in writing. This article, however, should not be construed as providing any personalised taxation and / or investment advice. All information contained in this article is based on Blevins Franks’ understanding of legislation and taxation practice, in the UK and overseas at the time of writing; this may change in the future.

We upload new financial articles for expatriates each week. Visit our website here

 

 

Carrefour runout of butter again ? Churn you own . . .

Pour a pint of heavy cream or whipping cream into your mixer, turn on low speed, then raise to medium speed.

First, the cream will turn into whipped cream with soft, then stiff peaks. Keep going until the cream breaks.

You’ll now see the butter clinging to the beater. This usually takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. In this process, you are separating the butter fat from the liquid.

Once the butter has solidified, pour off the buttermilk and save it for baking (or drink it!).

Scoop the butter into a bowl. Rinse the butter by pouring ice water over it and pressing the remaining buttermilk out with a small spatula or a spoon.

Pour off the water and repeat the process.

Keep rinsing and squishing the butter with the ice water until the water runs clear. Then add some salt if you like and work that into the butter.

All you’ll need is:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Large bowl of ice water
  • Salt to taste
  • Mixer, hand mixer or blender,

Christmas in France: What really happens ?

In France, Christmas is called Noel. This comes from the French phrase les bonnes nouvelles,” which means “the good news” and refers to the gospel.

In France it is a time for the whole family to come together at Christmas to holiday and worship. On the eve of Christmas beautifully lit churches and cathedrals, ring out Christmas carols with the church bells.

Once dinner is over and the family have retired to bed, they leave a fire burning and food and drink on the table in case the Virgin Mary calls in. Children leave their shoes or wooden clogs called sabots in the hearth for the Christ Child or Pere Noel to fill. In the north of France, children are given gifts on December 6, which is St. Nicholas’ Day, instead of Christmas Day. The adults give each others presents on New Year’s Day.

Traditionally the French burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest.

On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.

Nearly every French home (and village) at Christmastime displays a Nativity scene or creche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The creche is often peopled with little clay figures called santons or “little saints.” In addition to the usual Holy Family, shepherds, and Magi, the craftsmen also produce figures in the form of local dignitaries and characters. The craftsmanship involved in creating the gaily colored santons is quite astounding and the molds have been passed from generation to generation since the seventeenth century. Throughout December the figures are sold at annual Christmas fairs.

The Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France, and though the use of the Yule log has faded, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Nol, which means “Christmas Log.” The cake, among other food in great abundance is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called le reveillon.

Le reveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. Le Revellion may consist of poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine.

French families used to have a Three Kings Cake with a bean hidden in it. Whoever found the bean in their slice was made King, or Queen, for the day.  In France the children go out to look for the Kings, taking gifts of hay for the camels. These days cakes are sold with plastic model characters from current films !

Another name for this day is Twelfth Day. It is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which used to be one long holiday. It was the last night of the Feast of Fools before the Lord of Misrule had to give up his crown and become themselves once again.

Your reading for December . . .

Reviews by Susan Keefe

The God Mind Principles

by Krystyna Fowler and Phillip Fowler 

What an amazing and life changing book!
Jointly written by husband and wife Spiritual Writers Krystyna and Phillip Fowler, The God Mind Principles is a truly enlightening book, which if you want, can be the catalyst to change your life if you follow the Rules of Law and the three spiritual seals which are written at the front of this inspiring book.
The aim of the authors is to open your mind to the God Mind Principles which will enable you to live your life in the best possible way, achieving what you wish for, finding inner peace and harmony, experiencing true joy, and learning how to recognise evil when it manifests itself in different ways.
The God Mind Principles discusses all the things and prejudices you will encounter in life, in your dreams, hear reported scientifically, and wonder about, in many different ways. In recognition that everyone is unique and absorbs knowledge differently, the authors emphasise that it is vital that everyone read all the book thoroughly, that way you are ensured of understanding its teachings the way which is easiest for you.
Throughout, the unconditional love offered by the god, goddess, eternal father, eternal mother shines through, and the reader learns of how this love and understanding can be attained through belief, and that although everyone is different this love will unite them all.
When we have finished reading this book we are asked to continue on and read it in reverse from back to front, and in doing so we will discover the keys to open the Book of Journals.
We are asked to keep a daily record of our hopes, desires, goals, and feelings, both good and bad.  Although the authors recognise that this may be difficult at first, we are asked to persevere and assured that through the keeping and reading and re-reading of our hopes, dreams fears etc. and studying them, we will ourselves come to recognise the answers we seek in our writings, and by opening our hearts and minds to the eternal father, eternal mother we will be receptive to their guidance and support throughout our lives.
Somehow inspiring just doesn’t seem enough to encompass this book, but it does sums it up. If you are lost, confused, unhappy, depressed, unsure, indeed in any form of crisis you will not only find this incredible book inspiring but also perhaps the way to your salvation.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

The Bootstrap Ultimatum

by Avraham Azrieli
Memorial Day has become a travesty for thousands of Americans, the greedy word of commerce has taken it over.
As with many other holiday days, it is used as another excuse for companies to make huge profits running special ‘Memorial Day Weekend’ sales, selling things people really don’t need, to people who just can’t resist going shopping, and then coming home with a bargain!
Not surprisingly US veterans, and the families of those who have lost their lives fighting for their country feel resentful. Many veterans are every day tragically suffering silently, terribly maimed and traumatised by war, often forgotten, or refused help by the authorities. However, this year is going to be different, as one person, an ex-Air Force Veteran has decided to do something about it! What’s more, the veteran has a powerful ally, modern technology, and aims to use all its considerable power to reap revenge on the world of commerce!
This exciting political thriller begins with Ben Teller, investigative reporter for NewZonLine Media and his girlfriend Keera popping into his father’s grave to pay their respects. They are just about to head off for a weekend away. Then Ben receives a text from Ray, his boss, asking if he can take a job on. There is trouble expected at Out-Mart. It’s on their way, so Ben decides to cover the story, and on arrival discovers a riot in progress. Someone has emailed all the Out-Mart customers an ‘Everything $1 on Memorial Day Weekend’ coupon!
This is just the beginning! Soon more coupons begin arriving in inboxes, and the troubles quickly escalate. We join Ben as he frantically tries to find the perpetrator, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together, only to discover to his dismay that a vital piece is missing. With time running out and disaster looming on the horizon will Ben manage to find the final piece, discover who the culprit is, and apprehend, them before it is too late?
I really enjoyed reading this exciting suspense mystery which has plenty of twists and turns, and a storyline which kept me riveted until the very end.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar

by Pamela Gossiaux
Romance, mystery, and adventure, this book has it all!
Self-preservation is natural when one is hurting, and Abigail Chartwell is doing just this when we meet her at the beginning of this unforgettable story. Widowed young, she believes she will not love again, tortured by her past and fighting her own demons, she has hidden for six years behind her wedding ring and thick glasses. Romance is the last thing she wants, or needs. Her work in the ancient maps and documents department of the university enables her to escape from the world, there she can enjoy the quietness and sanctity of her surroundings, and her church and the friends she has there are her family.
Then there is Tony, a handsome, dashing guy, fond of quoting Shakespeare, wooing the ladies, and an accomplished cat burglar. However, he has a secret, he is a man on a mission. Hidden in his families past is a legend about a lost painting, said to be painted by the great Antonio Russo, he has promised his grandmother that he will find it for her, he’s tantalisingly close, but he just needs to get one more clue…
It is his search for the clue which leads to him to drop in at the library, and there he encounters the beautiful Abigail. The accidental meeting is destined to change their lives forever. As the story unfolds they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other, her intrigued by his story and mystique, he by an overwhelming urge to love and protect her.
But does the painting he is so desperately searching for even exist, and what does the future hold for Tony and Abigail?
I couldn’t wait to read this exciting new release from Pamela Gossiaux because I really enjoyed her last book ‘Good Enough.’ Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar is a lovely story and I highly recommend it, it has everything you could wish for, mystery, suspense, romance and a great adventure. I just couldn’t put it down!
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Harappa 2 The Fall of Shuruppak

by Shankar Kashyap
Product Details
This fascinating journey into Indian history is set in the third millennium BCE.
Through the author’s thorough investigation into this era, and extremely descriptive writing, these splendid days of the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilisations are brought to life for his readers.

In this the second book of the Harappa series we join the friends Upaas (a physician), his wife Lopa, Parthava and Elaamite Prince Shushan as they continue their journeys, travelling far and wide through unknown lands satiating their thirst for knowledge.
In this adventure they find themselves agreeing to help the grief stricken Emperor Gilgamesh of Sumer find the great Sage Ziusudra. Gilgamesh believes that the sage will answer a question he is compelled to ask, and through the answer he will find an end to his torment.Armed with the help and advice of Sage Vasishta, magic potions, and amulets for protection they set off on a quest unlike any other they have undertaken. Their travels take them through unknown lands, where they battle mythical beasts, demons, and many unimaginable creatures, but will they succeed and will Gilgamesh find the answer he seeks?

After seeing the Sage they return to Shuruppak as war breaks out, and with battles raging and thousands lying dead or dying they escape by ship, taking those they can. Little do they know that a higher being has decided that mankind needs a lesson, and what happens next is one of the most well-known of all biblical stories…

What I love about this story is that for those of us who are not Indian, yet have a great interest in Indian history, the legend behind the grief and torment of Gilgamesh, and others, interwoven into this epic adventure, adding immeasurably to the enjoyment, and fascination of this book.

I am looking forward to reading Dasharajna: The Battle of Ten Kings (Harappa Trilogy Book 3).

Reviewed by Susan Keefe