Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas

A very Happy Christmas and all our best wishes for 2014 to everyone

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas Update

I can't believe how much time has gone by since I made my last post on here but we have been away on an extended holiday to the UK to visit all of our sons and families and New Zealand to visit our daughter and her family. In addition we have spent a total of 7 days in Penang in Malaysia.
We had a fantastic time with just a couple of little hiccups. We had to get an internal domestic flight from Penang to Kuala Lumpa ready to catch an international flight to Auckland in New Zealand, the transfer time was quite tight at just over an hour, as we had to transfer between the domestic and International terminals but when the plane was 35 minutes late arriving it was nearly impossible, we had to clear passport control and pretty much ran all the way arriving after the takeoff time with everyone else boarded. The staff had to phone the plane for permission for us to board but we got there.
However when we arrived in Auckland there was an announcement asking me to go to the desk.......Our luggage hadn't made it!
The baggage handling company a toilet bag and tee shirt each and $153 ( around £75 ) New Zealand dollars as compensation and delivered our luggage to our Daughter's house in Wellington the next day.
Whilst on holiday there I was using my debit card in ATMs to withdraw cash about halfway through the holiday one of the machine's kept our card! I went to the nearest branch of the bank that owned it only to be told it would have been destroyed by the machine as a security measure. It wasn't a problem to us as I had several other cards with me to use but it is a warning to others that If you rely on only one card you could be in a bit of trouble If this happened ( there was plenty of money in the account so there was obviously a problem with that machine )

I would have liked to post while we were away but didn't want to advertise the fact that we were away from home. Here in France where we live it is even more pertinent as under French law if we did get a squatter in the house while we were away we could not legally evict them during the winter period. It is against the law to evict anyone from November the 1st until the middle of March.

We had a terrific holiday but as always were pleased to be home when we got back, the traffic in the UK particually seems to get worse and worse, I think when you live in it you get to accept it more but the difference to the roads around where we live is difficult to describe. Driving here is a pleasure.

Even though I was expecting it the amount of leaves that had fallen from our lovely line of lime trees and the big acer's on the front lawn still came as a bit of a shock.

It took me five days to clear them all with well over 100 barrow loads of compressed leaves, they are all being composted and eventually will be incorporated into the soil in the vegetable plot. We have established that our soil is acidic and needs the PH levels raised. It won't happen overnight but hopefully year on year it should improve. We are adding as much compost as we can plus a liberal spreading of lime pellets which should all help.

Since getting back home our social life has taken off again, we are very lucky to have a wide and varied set of good friends and there is rarely more than a day or two before we are meeting up with someone or another for a drink/chat/coffee/meal etc. I don't know how I ever had the time to work.

With the winter starting to set in we are starting to make good use of the fir trees I cut down and logged. The wood we are putting into the wood burner now is over 2 years old and fully dried, an essential thing if you don't want to tar up the flue. It also burns a lot hotter with little ash, the ash by the way also goes onto the vegetable plot and helps raise the PH levels.
I am hoping that I have around 3 winters worth of logs in stock now.

It is nice to be looking forward to a New Year arriving once again and already have a few projects in mind including painting the exterior of the house in the spring.

A very happy Christmas and a great New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Commana Horse Fair in Brittany

Last Saturday ( 21st Sept ) we went to the annual Commana horse fair, the whole of the centre of the village is closed off for this annual event which has been held here since 1798.
The fair has developed during the last 20 years to encompass not only trading and showing of horses but the selling of small animals, a large amount of retail trade stands plus a Vide Grenier ( equivalent to the UKs car boot sale.)
It is very well supported with a large attendance and a good place to catch up and chat with friends.

Here is an old photo from the Commana web site   showing the horses:

For anyone visiting or living near here i can thoroughly recommend  this as a good day out.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Property taxes

It's that time of year again when the property tax bills start dropping through the post, the first of them the "Tax Fonciere"  which is a property ownership tax and is imposed on the owner of the property whether it is used by them or rented out, this is due now or within a few days and is payable in October. 

The second bill the "Tax D'habitation" which is payable by the occupier of the property which they were resident in on the 1st of January and should arrive in October and is payable in November.

However for anyone over the age of 60 and on a lower income which for a couple in 2013 is €15684 or €10224 for a single person, both are net amounts after allowances, the Tax D'habitation is free. Please note the only for of proof accepted is for you to have submitted a French tax return
I have put some help files up on my web site, which should help anyone submitting these for the first time.

For anyone over 65 and meeting the financial allowances as above there is a minimum €100 reduction from the Tax Foncieres and for anyone over 75 this is free.

Please note it only needs one person in the house to meet the age requirements

It is quite important to check the bills though as although these deductions should be automatically applied they are sometimes missed off ( Ours was last year ) and you will need to go to the tax office to sort it out

Saturday, 14 September 2013


We have had some lovely weather here over the last few Summer Months but bang on time Autumn has arrived. Mornings and Evenings are definitely cooler and it won't be long before the wood burner is put on again.

The biggest indication for me is the leaves starting to fall. We have a couple of huge Acer trees in our front garden and a lovely line of Lime trees down the side of the drive, however the downside is the amount of leaves that come off of them all of which I shall need to rake and clear over the next couple of Months.

As you can see from the photo above they have only just started falling but even the few seen here on the driveway and under the Lime trees resulted in two full barrow loads of leaves, I estimate by the time they are all down I will have collected between 100-200 barrow loads.

At least it will all help for compost for the ground which we need!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

I have just received my annual tax statement from the French tax authorities, this is always issued in August of each year and relates to tax due on income up to the 31st December of the previous year.
This is the second return that I've made since we moved here and I am pretty pleased that once again I have managed to complete the 8 or so pages in French and had them accepted by the authorities.

I think with even very limited French anyone moving here should with a bit of common sense be able to fill these out plus I have put together some notes on my Living in Brittany website which although fairly basic ie: relating to others in similar positions to ourselves being on old age pensions plus some private pensions and some income from investments should give anyone a good reference to start with.

The tax return is important to us as by proving our income to be below a certain level, and this is the only proof that is accepted, means that we get out Tax D'habitation reduced to zero and a hundred euro reduction on our Tax Fonciere. Tax D'habitation and Tax Fonciere together are the equivalent of  house council tax or rates in the UK.

By doing some reading up on the rules I was also able to reclaim nearly 300 euros of tax that I had paid on a wood burner that we had installed last year, It is worth noting though that this has to be installed by a professional  with a copy of the original paid invoice to enable this. This would also be reclaimable on other eco friendly installations such as cavity or roof insulation, double glazing etc. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Two year anniversary

Unbelievable, but we have now been here living in brittany for just over two years. The time just seems to have flown by and we are feeling very settled here and made a wide range of good friends since we arrived.
I really do have to keep an online calendar as there is never a week where we are not doing something with someone or another and dread the thought of double booking!

This last few weeks has been a very busy time for us as a group of friends from an online forum I have been on for years came over to France to our house for the Annual BBQ we had every bedroom full and the rest stayed in a B&B close by, the weather was a bit spotty with rain that day but certainly didn't take anything away from the proceedings.

We then had my brother Roger and his wife Margaret arrive for a holiday with us, I think they would agree we had a very social time indeed while they were here with many BBQs at home, dinners out and vistis and meals with many of our friends here.

These are just a few of the photos I took whilst with friends over the last three weeks so a big thanks to

Steve, Majella, Andy, Carole, John, Sandra, Bob, Blanca, Roger, Lorrie, Roger, Margaret, Ron, Ethal, Roger, Anne, John, Sue, Alec, Dave, Jane, Malcolm, Maureen, Donnie, Rosie, Michel, Els, Richard, Katrina and others who I am sure I have missed out

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Dental treatment update

Just a quick follow up to my last post, to give an idea how long these things take. I paid the bill for the treatment on a Friday and had the payment back from CPAM into my bank account the following Thursday.
The balance due from the insurance of 250 euros ( the maximum allowed under my plan ) was repaid into my bank 4 days later.

This is pretty consistent with other repayments with the CPAM payment always coming first. Both payments come automatically after showing my Carte Vitale card which is linked electronically to my insurance policy.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Dental treatment and costs

Many people moving to France to live are concerned about health costs and rightly so. The health service here in France is generally accepted to be one of the best in the world and it can come as a bit of a surprise how quickly you can get an appointment for specialists etc. I have recently had a course of dental treatment so I thought I would share with people what the actual costs are over here from a first hand experience

Photo attributed to Irina Patrascu

up to date as to July 2013  and also to show what can be claimed back from the health service If you are registered here.

I have had quite an extensive course of treatments involving 5 fillings one extraction and 3 crowns including quite a number of xrays.
The fillings extraction and clean came to a total of 798 euros and the 3 crowns were 327 euros each making a total of 981 euros so 1779 euros in all. I opted for metal crowns as they were on molars out of sight but If I had ceramic ones they would have totaled over 2000 euros for the 3.

At the end of the treatment I had to pay the full amount due on the spot, however as is normal once you are registered here and on the health system a percentage repayment is made direct to your bank within a few days. I received a total repayment of 784 euros made up of 558 euros being 70% of the 798 euros plus 225 euros off the crowns.
The 225 euros was based 70% of a figure of 322 euros rather than the 981 as presumably this is classified as being partly cosmetic.

In addition, I have a private health care plan which allows me up to 250 euros a year for dental work. There are many health care plans at a variety of costs and cover so this will change depending on what you take out.

So in total I will have been repaid a total of 1034 euros from the total of 1779 euros I paid.

I hope this is helpful to others to give some idea of what to expect

Monday, 1 July 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well at last we seem set for some warmer weather, It has been a long time coming this year so not before time. I'm taking advantage of it and spending most days in the garden either on the vegetable plot or cutting down and logging up more trees.

As you can see from the photo, the potatoes are looking good this year but the broad beans are stunted, at least I seem to have the weeds under control this year.

We have been more than a little disappointed in our vegetable plots as a lot of things we put in don't do well at all. We have put this down to the soil and after a stilted French chat with a neighbough at the rear of us she confirmed what we thought. The main problem is that the soil is too acidic so that although some things seem to do OK such as potatoes, courgettes and most of the fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants etc.
The answer seems to be to apply lime to the ground to raise the PH levels and also to get some more compost into the ground. I shall be making sure that I use as much of the huge amount of autumn leaves as I can this year.

Our fir trees at the back of the house are gradually coming down, It is making a big difference, not only to the amount of extra sunlight that we get to our decking area but also gives us a lovely view over the garden which we never had before.

Monday, 10 June 2013

What a difference a week makes

We have just come back from a week's holiday in Florida, at £389 for the flight, car hire and Hotel it was a real bargain. It's a pity that there seem to be no bargains like that to be had from France so we had to go from Gatwick.
However the total cost including a Ryanair flight from Dinard to Stansted, a coach to London Victoria and the Gatwick express train to the airport plus a night at the Premier inn at Gatwick plus the holiday in Florida complete still came to just on £500 each about  the same cost as I could have got just a return flight from France!

We had a really relaxing holiday over there although probably to many American Breakfasts for the waistline.

Apart from going to the cinema a couple of times and a couple of visits to a Van Heusen Factory outlet store for some very reasonable and good quality clothes we spent most of the time around the pool, swimming and soaking up the sunshine. All in all a great week.

When we got home I couldn't believe how much every thing in the garden had grown, the grass looked as if it hadn't been cut in a Month and 5 new rows of potatoes had sprung up. Also while we were away the deer that we seen to have in abundance around here had helped themselves to most of the new growth on the roses! In fact they were devastated!

Monday, 13 May 2013

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

After cutting down the trees last week I'm left with the mammoth task of sawing the wood into movable pieces and clearing away the tons of fir branches.
There is so much of it that I have little option but to burn it. I don't feel too bad about it as after doing a bit of research it appears that it gives up as much carbon if it is burnt as if it is let to decay naturally over many years and is considered "Carbon Neutral". Everyone around here seems to have a fire at some point in their gardens and even the local council burns a huge amount of branches etc when the're coppicing the trees around here.

I am already piling up a serious amount of wood for the wood burner and I haven't really started on the larger trunks yet at all.

Cutting the stumps down to ground level is a job I'm not looking forward to, the base of some of the trunks are very large and the only way I will be able to tackle it is to chop around it a piece at a time.

When it is all cleared away we hope to extend the rhododendron bush that is around the base of the palm tree. The palm tree should also benefit from the removal of the trees as It will no longer be in their shadow.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A lovely week

This past week has been superb, not just because of the beautiful weather we have been having but also having one of our sons, Peter, and daughter-in-law Rachael staying with us. They also brought their dog, "Matty" with them. It was lovely so spend time with them as it was a few weeks ago when our youngest son, David and Amanda stayed for a few day with the grandchildren Tom and Emily.

I have slowed down a bit recently in cutting down the row of trees behind the house that have been putting the house in shade during the evenings. Peter and Rachael insisted that they give me a hand to lop some more off, however after cutting off the first one and commenting that was one of the most dangerous jobs he had ever done! Thanks pete! He talked me into taking the rest down to ground level. I am really glad that he did as It's going to open up the back of our property and give it a whole new look.

We have left just one standing as there is another fir in the field behind that would need to come down as well if we cut it down, however who knows next year I may be tempted.
They were some serious trees that we took down and I will have a few weeks work in logging them up and clearing them away.

The ground actually shook as the larger ones came down and should provide wood for the woodburner for a long time to come.

With the lovely weather we were able to spend a few evening out on the decking with the Chimenea going and the BBQ on.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Trips to the UK

I've been doing some thinking and costings on getting back to the UK for our flight from Gatwick to the USA later this Spring and thought I would share this as the obvious is not always the best.

My first thoughts would have been to drive the car and take the Roscoff to Plymouth ferry
 ( around £250 ) then drive to Gatwick and leave the car parked there, however Avril is not the best of sailors and as we needed still to drive for several hours once we were in the UK I looked into driving to Calais and taking the Eurostar to Folkestone  However from here in Brittany this is around a 7 hour drive plus around 25 euros in each direction for tolls plus the cost seems to have gone up a lot since the last time I used it ( around £180 )

I ended up booking a Ryan Air flight from Dinard to Stansted with a coach trip back to Victoria and Gatwick Express train from Victoria to Gatwick.

I won't go through all the costings as it was complicated in that I needed hotel accommodation due to an early flight from Gatwick but allowing for everything, ie: travel costs, petrol, parking etc I saved around £200 by flying which was the easiest and cheapest way.

This is something for others to think.about rather than just assuming that the closest ferry is the best way to go.
I normally pay around £250 return to take the car on an overnight crossing with a cabin and a return during the day without a cabin. In this instance I paid a total of £122 for the flight for both of us including all of Ryan Air's ( hidden! )charges and taxes, as I could hire a car for a week for about £88 I shall be thinking twice in the future before taking the ferry!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Jazz and more Jazz

We are off today to Chateauneuf-du-Faou a town about 40 minutes away from us to for an afternoon of Jazz. There are regular Jazz sessions held at the bar "Tal ar Pont" which overlooks the river there and is a beautiful spot.

You can see the bar in the right hand side of the photo.

Today is the tenth anniversary of Jazz held there and is a full afternoon. Starting off with a "Cochon Grille"
 ( Pig Roast ) at the local hall at 12.30 this goes on to 7pm with two well known local Jazz Groups
" Goodtime Jazz" and the "Ragamuffins" plus guest appearances from others.

I really enjoy listening to The Goodtime Jazz who are a very lively group despite the fact they are what you may describe as being "mature" in age. Here is a You tube footage of them.

Good Time Jazz playing "Operator"

I started this before we went, so this is a carry on after the event so to speak. We got to Chateauneuf du Faou about 12.30  at last we had some decent weather as well. Before the food there was a wine tasting of some Sancerre wines we just had a glass of a very nice white wine but as it was a tasting and the wine was 10 euros a bottle ( not expensive but it is all in proportion ) we just had the one.

 We then moved into the hall where there was jazz being played all afternoon by a variety of groups there were well over 100 people there having the Roast Pork which was lovely, along with a few(ish) glasses of wine we stayed there until 4.30 

when we all moved across to the bar on the other side of the river "Bar Tal ar Pont. The main group of the day "Good Time Jazz" were playing there, the bar was full but the weather was good so we sat outside and listened to some great music along with a few more glasses of wine
 ( no I wasn't driving ) 
We eventually got home at 8 in the evening, all in all a superb way to spend a Sunday Afternoon.