with Madeleine McMullin

Town Hall’s decision to drop one VISA pour l’image screening causes spat

The director of the VISA pour l’image festival, Jean-François Leroy has said that he is surprised by the decision of the town hall to drop one of the 3 screenings that have taken place in the Place de la République.  The screenings are appreciated by both the restaurateurs and the public and have always been well attended, so well in fact that he was intending to ask for a 4th screening this year.  The mayor has said that the screening on Thursday attracted less people and would be replaced by a “Jeudis de Perpignan” instead, even though the Thursdays are programmed to end on the 25th August and the screening was scheduled for the 1st September.  The councillor in charge of tourism confirmed that it would indeed not be part of the “Jeudis de Perpignan” programme, and spoke of another event which he wants to keep secret for the time being.  The director of the festival concluded that if the town hall had decided that Perpignan was no longer interested in VISA, he would act on the fact.


Snake charmer caught burgling

A robber entered a house in Elne without noticing that there was a teenager watching him from upstairs.  When he left to go next door the child followed him and rang his mother who called the police.  The burglar managed to escape in a car, but witnesses took the licence number and he was arrested a few hours later.  The 33 year old fire swallower and snake charmer who lived in Thuir was found with 66.1g of cannabis, 10g of cocaine and drug taking equipment at his house and was sentenced to 3 years in prison with an extra year that had been suspended added on top. 


Catalan embalmer found guilty of irregular practices

The 58 year old family man had nearly 700 litres of blood in his garage in Pia.  Over the years he had looked after nearly 1400 bodies, which would have generated about 7000 litres of blood, not to mention other bodily fluids  which should have been incinerated according to the regulations.  However there was no paper trail for any of it, meaning that he had avoided paying anything for its disposal.  The undertaker claimed that he had a special method of embalming which meant very little blood was taken from the bodies, but an ex-employee testified that he had often dumped human waste in roadside ditches.  He was given a suspended sentence of 1 year with a €3000 fine for violating his licence and €4000 damages and interest to be paid to the Embalmers’ Union.  He is also forbidden from having a business in the undertaking profession for 5 years, although he continues to work as an employee.


Herd of wild cows culled in the Albères

There are 300 wild cows in the Albères.  The cows have gone back to the wild and frighten people because they are aggressive when scared according to the Mayor of Laroque des Albères.  Last summer a tourist was gored by one of them.  Fifteen animals were killed in the cull organised by the ONCFS in the Laroque, Sorède and L’Albère communes.


Locals upset that Catalan not mentioned in new name for the region

Joan Bécat, who was part of the regional naming committee explained that the committee deliberately removed all references to Catalan or Catalonia from the list as they were afraid that if they were chosen they would be rejected by the national government as linked to a foreign area.  Occitanie-Roussillon was added at the last moment as a sop to appease the people who were upset at the lack of recognition of the P-O in the list.  According to M. Bécat the new region is dominated by Toulouse like France is by Paris: they think they are the kings of the heap and they’re not used to debate.  He claimed that it doesn’t bode well for the smooth running of the region in future and that the consultation is just a smoke screen.


Departmental budget for 2016

On Monday 4th the departmental council allocated this year’s budget as follows: €354m for welfare, €40m to collèges (building work, disabled access, tablets for the pupils), €13.5m for culture of which €350,000 will go to “Catalanité”, €13.5m for the sea (improvements to harbours, cleaning the port of Port Vendres etc.), €2m for sport.


23 year sentence for rapist

A man found guilty of raping his daughter and his cellmate was sentenced to 23 years in prison, with no release for at least 14 years and 8 months, and a period of 5 years follow up on parole after release.  He was also stripped of his parental rights for both his children.  The man had already been in prison for rape but had been released early and proceeded to rape his daughter.  She told her mother who got the police involved.  He then sexually abused his cellmate after his arrest.  The man who was impassive throughout, denied everything and said that the daughter was confusing him with another man.


CEO of Medipole Partenaires mentioned in Panama Papers

Marcel Hermann, the CEO of the Medipole Partenaires group which runs a lot of health establishments in the P-O is one of those mentioned in the Panama Papers according to Le Monde.  M. Hermann said that he was consulting his lawyers on the best way to clarify what had been published.


World Kitesurf championship coming to Leucate

Le Franqui will be full of kitesurfers for the world championship from the 16 – 22 April.


French Ambassador called into see the Spanish Foreign Secretary

The attacks by the wine makers from the Aude on tankers of Spanish wine at Le Boulou have led the Spanish to put an official complaint to the French ambassador in Spain for a flagrant violation of the fundamental principles of the European Union, such as free circulation of goods between member states.  The Spanish had already complained at the lack of police intervention during similar attacks on lorries transporting Spanish milk and meat by French farmers last year.  The unrepentant wine makers who emptied the tankers of their cargo, said that they intended to increase the number of this type of operation.


A spring without cherries in the P-O this year?

Farmers are saying that the banning of an insecticide based on dimethoate by the Anses (national agency for health safety) could threaten the cherry crop in the region.  Dimethoate use is still legal elsewhere in the EU and the Minister for Agriculture is asking for an immediate ban for use on fruit and vegetables in the whole of the EU and a ban on selling any produce that comes from countries that allow its use.  The problem is that this product prevents the drosphila susukii fly from becoming established in the orchards and its larvae from destroying the crop and the alternatives are less effective.  The fly doesn’t like hot, dry conditions so its proliferation depends on the weather.  33000 tonnes of cherries are harvested in France, 3500 of them in Languedoc-Roussillon and 600 in Roussillon.  The insecticide is also used to stop the olive fly and to protect strawberries and other small fruits. 


Change the name of the P-O

The Vice President of the new region has suggested that rather than object that the suggestions for the new name don’t include the idea of “catalan-ness”, the elected representatives should change the name of the department from the Pyrénées-Orientales which doesn’t mean anything particularly pertinent.


Fifteen days for snaring protected birds

A 36 year old man was given a 15 day prison sentence and a total of €3800 in fines, damages and interest for snaring protected birds.  He was found by the ONCFS (National Office for Hunting and Wild Animals) with a European Goldfinch in a cage which he was using to attract other birds which he caught using sticks with glue on them.  Five birds that he had with him were seized and 2 chaffinches were found in his house.  The poacher said that he had bought the bait bird in Spain for €140 and sold on others for €10 per piece.  He freed their feet using flour but sometimes they became severed.  Bird smuggling is endemic in the south of France.  The birds are prized for cross breeding and also by bird lovers for their beauty and their song particularly in Spain where they sell for between €100 & €150 but can fetch up to €1500 for a particular good specimen.


A cork oak for every 5000 recycled corks

The Department is planting 50 cork oaks thanks to an operation which promises to plant 1 oak for every 5000 corks recycled.  They will be planted near the Water Sports Centre on the lake at Villeneuve de la Raho.  The aim is to make people aware of the industry and help in the fight against waste.  Since they started more than 600,000 corks have been collected, 300,000 of which have been sorted by ESAT (the establishment for help through work).


Archives for 1944 – 1951 finally open to the public

The archives for the period immediately after the end of WWII when the country was being “cleansed” are now open to the public.  Previously researchers could file a request to see documents, but they were not allowed to publish the contents of what they had learnt.  From today there are no more restrictions and the public can view the microfilms of all of the court records, witness statements, police statements and cautions, judgements etc.  Many of the original documents are quite fragile and so only the microfilms are available publicly.


Women the biggest victims of debt in Roussillon

The department stands out from the rest of France because of the number of people in debt every  year, with 1816 people having banking woes.  The department’s unemployment rate has broken 15%, 9% of the population are receiving income support, and average net income is just about €17,702, so it’s hardly surprising that so many people are in difficulties with debt.  The situation has been getting gradually worse according to the latest analysis published at the beginning of the year.  The total volume of debts locally has reached €65 million for the 1512 cases treated.  55.1% of these are women, 70.4% are single and 57.7% have no children.   70.8% are between the ages of 24 and 57 years old.  Unsurprisingly homeowners do not figure very largely with only 9.4% of the cases.  However a lot of the cases were employed on permanent contracts with 16.6% on salaries between €2000 and €3500 per month.  57.2% of the people in difficulties are unable to pay back their debts. The director of the Pyrenees Orientales branch of the Bank of France commented that it was not due to deliberate overspending, but to the worsening poverty of the households concerned, and that it was not surprising given the economic situation in the P-O.  He added that what is most worrying is that there was an increase of about 5% in 2015, whereas in the rest of France, the situation improved by about 5%.  Around 40% of cases will have their debts wiped out as the debtors cannot repay them.  The national rate is around 30%.  The director finished by saying that welfare organisations and the State services needed to educate people to help them avoid this sort of situation.


Mimed flashing at the gendarmes

The gendarmes were called to a household in Villelongue de la Salanque when they were alerted by a woman that the boyfriend of her 32 year old daughter would not let her leave his house and had hit her several times with the handle of a broom.  When the gendarmes turned up at the house and asked him to open the door, the man who was visibly drunk mimed dropping his trousers to show his private parts to the police.  They eventually forced the door and arrested him.  He appeared before the court and has been placed on remand awaiting trial on 2nd May.


Stop wasting agricultural land in the P-O

Marc Maillet, the president of the association for defending the environment, Frene 66, visited Argeles and then Prades with a delegation to try to draw attention to and stop developments which are menacing several dozen hectares of agricultural land.  In an interview with the Independant he explained that we need agricultural land to feed the population.  The proposed development near St Andre is for about 40 hectares and the community of communes is proposing to pay locals about €1 per sqm whereas they have sold the land on to the developers for €113 per sqm and they have an agreement with the town of Argeles to share the profit.  12 of the hectares are currently under vines and are essential for the financial viability of the local wine cooperative.   In Prades the proposed development is for 30 hectares of mixed industrial and residential use, again on agricultural land, even though there are a lot of houses that could be renovated in the town rather than using a green field site.  The association would like to see a freeze on developments on agricultural land.



Madeleine McMullin lives in Palalda from where she runs her marketing business Marketing66.  She has worked both in the UK and abroad, with big brand names in the interiors and design industries such as Wedgwood, Denby, Sebastian Conran, Laura Ashley, Hemingway Design…….

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