Letters in January and February 2017


Thanks for all your letters so far in 2017. We haven’t printed them all, but here are some of them this week, and there’ll be more to follow. Please keep the letters coming in, we love to hear your views.

We’ve got lots of letters about the new Michelin Guide too, so we’ll be featuring this subject next week.


Thanks to Ron Bennet from Autignac for pointing out our translation error.

No, there are no penguins in the Med! Penguins are Southern Hemisphere species and I believe the nearest ones to the Med are those found at the tip of South Africa. I believe the article should refer to Razorbills, a species of auk, related to Puffins, the French name of which is Pingoin Torda.

We corrected the article, sorry if you were hoping to see penguins!

Happy stories

Thank you for ‘Happy News Day’. Stress levels reduced in the knowledge that others suffer similarly with the constant barrage of negative news. Keep the smiley stories coming please.

Tony Brier

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Thanks especially for the article about the friendship and soap making venture. We need to hear many more such tales. When all we read is disaster after disaster, how can people be expected to move in positive ways? Thanks!

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What a lovely surprise today to have some good and entertaining news for once. Well done!



An interesting quote today from the French woman who took Trump to task when an Egyptian caused a bit of terror – and Egypt isn’t on Trump’s list. Another very Muslim country omitted from the list was Saudi Arabia.

Last April it was reported that the Trump Group was building a holiday complex in Jeddah. There’s an obvious reason why Saudi Arabia was omitted…

Geoff Taylor

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The woman who responded to the recent Trump Tweet over the machete attack in Paris has sunk to the same level as the man himself, in that she did not check the facts before she mouthed-off. I was in India at the time of the attack and had access to a range of world-wide broadcasting stations including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, DW, RT and CNN. All stations lead on the news of the attack and not only clearly inferred that France was “on edge” but also used those very words on more than one occasion.

They even followed up the Louvre report with replays of Charlie Hebdo and Nice – again with the inference of high-level sensitivity. If she wants to blame somebody for the use of this term, perhaps she should start on the media which has a horrible tendency of exaggerating and exacerbating odious events. Where I do agree with her is that someone in the Trump administration should have the guts to take that iPhone away from Trump and ban him from ever using social media! However, also perhaps we could go one step further and ban all social media channels. The damage, upset and cyber bullying they cause is far greater than any benefit they bring to humanity!

Hugh Burrell 

The perfect road?

Reading that the stretch of the A75 between Pezenas and Beziers is Ronnie Smith’s favourite, I can go further than that, the whole length of the A75 has long since been my favourite stretch of road taking me, toll free, from Clermont Ferrand to my favourite place in the world, the amazing coast of l’Hérault. From driving mile upon mile at above 2,500 ft, in almost alpine scenery to the sudden warmth as one drops down from Le Caylar to Lodeve, a distance of a few miles in which the midday temperature even in the summer can rise from 12C, to 25C.

Not forgetting the evening journey in February 2003 when the snow started falling as I travelled south soon after Clermont Ferrand. Having made the decision that I did not wish to join the many others who were stopping at Air de Lozere, I pressed on almost alone by following the efficient succession of snow ploughs until I reached the Millau viaduct where the last snowplough peeled off.

I suspect Ronnie Smith will also understand my second favourite stretch of road, the A66 from Scotch Corner to Penrith.

William Paige 

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Ronnie, re your article about rubbish on the A75 Pezenas to Beziers stretch and comparing it to the motorway outside Edinburgh – I hear where you are coming from but I do get fed up when the comparisons are not like for like. Motorways in the

UK are free – often full of much needed road-works and are frustrating to drive on.

The bliss of French motorways – but we pay to drive on them. Fortunately the A75 is free for local traffic as is the A750. But to start comparing the density of traffic and the ensuing rubbish around Beziers to that around Edinburgh is crazy.

I love my life in France but I do pass horrible rubbish on the roads – the ring road round Beziers was dreadful a few years ago.

I am lucky to live in the hills above the coastal plain in the splendour of the chestnut forests. How sad the other day to drive past two McDonalds brown bags tossed to the side of the road. Bad social behaviour exists everywhere.

Yes I do choose to live in this most idyllic corner of France but I don’t think you can always make comparisons. 

Lindsey Blake 

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I’d like to say that I enjoy Ronnie Smith’s letters very much.

His letters are entertaining and informative at the same time.

I hope for many more letters from him on your site. 



Associate EU membership – This is solving an easy problem by giving us freedom of movement instead of having to obtain visas for pre-planned visits. The real issue which is not being addressed in this associate membership is the retention of healthcare cover and pension increases. That is much more important to families young and old. Trips into the EU, for work or leisure, are generally planned therefore visas can be obtained in advance, as was the case in the UK in 1960’s. Health emergencies cannot be planned so health cover is much more of an issue. If the freedom of movement is allowed to go ahead it will hijack any negotiations for reciprocal health and pension issues to be retained, and will die a death.

Please remind your readers of this important difference when reading about this associate EU membership issue. Carte’s de Sejour are not difficult to come by if you follow the process carefully. Citizenship is more complex.

Pat Handslip

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An Outsider’s impression of the Referendum

‘An Outsider’, because David Cameron failed to keep his pre- election, vote catching, promise to Harry Shindler to remove the artificial 15 year bar to voting rights.

David Cameron gave another vote catching pre-election undertaking, to call a Referendum within two years of election, as an appeasement, a sop, to the Eurosceptics in his party. In the event he honoured this undertaking, the impression being that he and the majority of his Party were so confident of the result that neither they, nor the draftspeople, provided otherwise in the EU Referendum Act. In any private or public organisation, is it not fundamental that any major change of the constitution demands a sufficiently significant majority – say of 2/3 or 75% of the members to give effect to the change? (A pertinent example being in Parliamentary procedure itself; a majority of 2/3 of the seats being required to call an election before the fixed term of 5 years is up!) The impression is that Parliament – in other words MPs – were negligently careless; and in addition no thought was given to the practicalities of how or by whom Article 50 would be triggered.

The impression of the result of the Vote was surprise and shock, to most MPs and most of the public. Even speechless amazement among the leaders of the Leave campaign; lost for words.

It is possible that some Conservative MPs said they would vote ‘Remain’, because it was politically unwise for them to appear to be opposing the Government. How they actually voted is, of course, a mystery, but the impression has been given that some of them have now come out of the wood.

Why did the Government, strongly led by the Lady, seek to exclude Parliament from any subsequent debate about triggering Article 50? It was so obvious from the outset, to this outsider, that the Vote was not binding on anyone. The Lady had no mandate; was this power corruption? Fortunately there was another lady who, in the absence of any effective action by MP’s, took legal action, which restored power to where it belongs – Parliament.

David Cameron honourably resigned. What about MPs whose constituents voted against their MPs beliefs (either way) of what was best for the Country? Can they, honourably, continue to represent their constituents? Only one of them, apart from David Cameron, did resign; he had voted ‘Leave’, but the majority of his constituents had voted ‘Remain’. In the bye election, he stood again, as an independent, and lost heavily. The impression is that retention of seats is now the overriding ‘political’ factor which persuades MPs, of whatever party, that they are ”honour bound” by their commitment to “respect” the Vote. But was it, truly, a sufficient majority, to change the Constitution of Britain? Or are they too ashamed to admit their ineptitude? It, the Vote, was not of ‘the People’, but only a small majority. Should such MP’s now vote according to their own beliefs, as to what is best for Great Britain, or follow the wishes expressed by a majority of their constituents? The duty of MPs is to do what they believe is right for the Country, not just for retaining their seats. If they cannot do that, is it by ‘political’ or selfish motivations that they do not resign?

The impression is, it is only now that the People and Members have begun to be aware of the many ramifications of leaving. Take one, mentioned on the French news this morning- the Irish boundary! Were these factors taken into account in the lead up to the Vote, coupled as it was with so many untruths? The people spoke and showed division as well as dissatisfaction, which is also apparent in many other EU member states..

The impression is that people have forgotten the prime purpose of the wise men and women who founded the origins of the EU, which was security, the wish to avoid further internecine wars in Europe. Trade, with wealth and well-being, was incidental. The EU is an historically young entity, far from perfect. Any society, family or otherwise, needs time, experience and wisdom to develop. This can best happen from within. Is it likely to happen by destruction? The impression is that destruction just leads to more destruction. The Vote did not trigger Article 50 There is as yet no binding obligation to leave the EU.

It seems that Parliament is about to sanction a fundamental amendment to the Constitution as a result of a non binding vote with a majority of a mere 2% ?

Simon Wollen 7th February 2017