Welcome to our Brittany Blog
Friday, 12th April 2019
Everything is taken far too seriously.
The French are quite a serious nation which is generally a good thing but the French do have a knack of making fun things serious. Take table football for example, how can anyone possibly make table football serious?, where the object of the game to to turn a few handles and whack a small ball into a goal. Let me introduce you to how the French approach table football. They have formed a ‘table football school’ !
Around 20 students have enrolled in the course, which will offer weekly lessons for €75 per half-season, every Thursday night from 19h-22h.
Nicolas Constantin, French table football doubles champion (seriously !!), argues that table football is a real sport and that players should train several hours a day and watch their diet, to strengthen their arms, shoulders, and back.
Tuesday, 2nd April 2019
A six month waiting list for reading glasses!
Even after 17 years in France I am discovering new things about the way things work here. Some things I still just assume work the same way as they do in England.
Now, pushing 50, my eyes aren’t quite what they were. I am finding that I am having to hold the paper that I am reading further and further away. Soon my arms won’t be long enough!
So, last week I went to the opticians to ask for an appointment to get my eyes tested.
I was asked for my prescription.
I explained that I was at the opticians to get a prescription.
‘Non, non madame, you must get an appointment from the ophthalmologist and then bring it here. We only provide glasses with a prescription.’
Seems a bit long winded to me, but only because it is different. Not what I am used to.
So, I call the ophthalmologist and the wait is 6 months for an appointment. Seems a long time, usually medical appointments are so much quicker. I try another ophthalmologist, this time an 8 month wait. What is going on?
Apparently, there are 35,718 opticians working in optician shops in France, compared to just 4,643 fully-trained ophthalmologists in clinics and hospitals. This is the problem.
In order to relieve the pressure on ophthalmologists there are proposals under consideration which will widening the services of other eye health professionals, such as opticians. This would also free up ophthalmologists’ time to focus on more serious eye conditions, and on patients who require surgery and other more serious intervention.
It recommended that these professionals receive extra training - up to two years more - to enable them to offer simple consultations to customers who may not require the extra services of an ophthalmologist.
This could include prescriptions for glasses and lenses, eye tests, and the monitoring of certain eye conditions.
So soon France will operate in the same way and England !!.. However France will introduce one difference. To prevent conflict of interest in shops, the court recommended that customers should not be able to receive glasses or lenses from the same place that gave them the initial prescription.
Friday, 22nd March 2019
Tempted by a DIY course
France has just finished a nationwide series of DIY courses and lectures.
I proffered a notice about a DIY course at our local Leroy Merlin DIY shop. He didn’t attend, but I was very tempted, as I am almost too embarrassed to admit, I cannot change a plug, but then I think to myself, when would I ever need to change a plug. Appliances are now all sold with plugs.
The sessions will include lessons on how to take on DIY ("do it yourself") projects safely, avoid accidents, and protect your home.
The project is being spearheaded by Marie Davideau, the founder of renovation training school l’Ecole des Métiers de l’Habitat and DIY class company Lilibricole.
Every year, 300,000 people in France end up in hospital after a DIY accident
Advice from Ms Davideau on how to avoid accidents and injuries - both to yourself and to your home - include:
• Wear hard-wearing clothes with close-fitting long sleeves and trousers, without loops or straps that could get caught
• Wear strong boots or protective shoes
• Tie long hair back
• Wear protective gloves and eye masks
• Take off jewellery including watches, rings, bracelets and necklaces
• Unplug tools when not using them
• Prepare your workspace, including laying sheets or tarpaulins on the floor
• Keep children and pets away from the work
• Use tools adapted to the task, e.g. paint rollers with extendable handles for tall spaces
• Ensure that all ladders have the safety catch properly fixed
• Ensure that your first-aid kit is stocked, including with bandages, disinfectant and eye drops
Monday, 4th March 2019
Will the 80kph speed limit stay after the trial period?
The 80 kph limit was introduced in July 2018, to much opposition and controversy. Some road users and critics said the measure would not help improve road safety, and would simply allow the government to collect more fines.
President Emmanuel Macron and the French government have both previously said that the success of the reduction of the speed limit would be re-evaluated two years after the rule change.
However, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has claimed that 116 lives have been saved on the roads since the introduction of the 80 kph speed limit in July 2018; but that figure has already been questioned.
This is the first suggestion that the government believes that the 80 kph speed limit is saving lives.
However, commentators have questioned Mr Philippe’s recent numbers, as they say that the number of accidents refers to all roads, and not only those under the new speed limit.
In Brittany, for example, many rural dual carriageways still have a speed limit of 110 kph.
Yet, the government has defended its calculations, saying that the number of deaths on other roads has been constant throughout, meaning that the number of lives saved actually does point to the new 80 kph speed limit.
It looks like we will have to wait for another 18 months to see the real impact of the reduced 80kph speed limit.
Tuesday, 19th February 2019
France to protect bears
In 2012 the European Union condemned France for neglecting its obligations to protect the bear species.
So, in a move to adress this the minister for ecological transition, Nicolas Hulot agreed for two pregnant female bears originally from Slovenia to be introduced into the Pyrenees.
This move as not been welcomed by the farmers as according to the farmers, the presence of bears is not compatible with farming. Bears - whose diet is usually 70% vegetables and plants - may attack goats, and even cause dozens of animals to fall down the mountain as they try to escape if a bear is chasing them.
Around 100 shepherds, farmers, hunters, and local government members from the Ossau valley, the Hautes-Pyrénées, and the surrounding areas, met up in the mountains in an attempt to move away two female brown bears that had just been released. Officially, they are just people who are setting off on a mountain walk.”
The idea is to scare the bears and the wolves and maintain movement. The idea is to make the bears go towards Spain.
Looks like France is continuing to neglect its obligations to bears!
Tuesday, 12th February 2019
Fair food prices
Having given this new law some thought, I think that it is a fair law.
The cost of hundreds of popular food and drink products increased last Friday, (February 1), as a new law came into force.
The Loi Alimentation - which also brings to an end so-called super-promotions, such as buy-one-get-one-free deals - aims to ensure farmers and other food producers are fairly paid.
From 1st February, supermarkets are required to make at least 10% on a wide range of processed foods, including hazelnut spreads (Nutella), formula milk, fizzy drinks, self-service fresh food such as ready-made pizzas, even mineral water will be affected.
The government is asking supermarkets to find a way to distribute margins differently, to distribute things better, the objective is to sell agricultural products at their fair value.
Now you can 't really argue with that.
On a personal level, no one want to see their weekly shopping bill increase but food is the cheapest that it has ever been and I sometimes do wonder how farmers can produce food so cheaply.
Tuesday, 5th February 2019
Brittany celebrates le Chandeleur with crêpes!
For the last couple of weeks all of the supermarkets have been promoting crêpe ingredients. I thought it was a bit odd as pancake day (Mardi Gras) isn't for another four weeks
Well, pancake day, has nothing to do with it, it is all to do with Chandeleur.
Saturday, February 2, was La Chandeleur - known in English as Candlemas - which celebrates the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple - and it has become traditional in France to mark this day by eating crêpes. I am struggling to see the link here, but I will run with it.
What I didn't realise was that crêpes have been in existence since 7,000BC - but they were originally thicker and look more like a ‘galette’ made of water and cereals.
However, this popular staple began to evolve after the crusades in Asia - when the French brought back the famous buckwheat known as ‘sarrasin’.
Although they could not make it grow everywhere in France as it requires a humid weather, they discovered that Brittany was the perfect region to produce it. Thus the crêpe bretonne was born.
Sweet or savoury, crêpes have since spread all around France, especially since the arrival of wheat flour - which are more commonly used to make sweet crêpes.
In Brittany, crêpes are part of the heritage, every town has a crêperie, and it really is impossible to visit Brittany without eating a crêpe or two!
If you want to try and make a traditional crêpe bretonne, here is the recipe:
500g of buckwheat flour
1 tbsp of wheat flour
A pinch of salt
50cl of milk
1litre of water
First, put all the ingredients together in the list order and mix them - being careful to ensure your mix is lump-free.
Leave the batter in the fridge for at least an hour.
Then, pour a bit of the batter on an oiled pan to give the crêpe its shape. Flip it when it is ready. Do not cook it too much, otherwise it may break.
Once cooked, you can add an egg, ham, and grated cheese on it or anything else you fancy.
If you prefer it sweet, you can eat it with sugar or chocolate and some fruits on top (bananas, raspberries…).