with Madeleine McMullin

Young boy found safe

A young boy of 9 who disappeared on Friday 19th March was found safe and sound by a gendarme helicopter after passing the night outside when he’d wandered off and got lost while playing with his brother.


Architect found guilty on appeal of swindling the ANAH

A 78 year old architect from Perpignan who had appealed his suspended sentence of 1 year and €3000 fine for swindling the ANAH (National Agency for Improving Housing) by inflating the costs of renovating flats in the Saint Jacques district so that the work would be covered 100% by state aid rather than the maximum of 80%.  The businessman who was accused with him pleaded guilty to inflating the costs by €1000 to €73000, and was given a 6 month suspended sentence, but the architect denied the allegations and appealed.  The court of appeal in Montpellier found him guilty and sentenced him to 2 years in prison of which 18 months will be suspended.  He also has to pay back €72000 to the ANAH.  He has also been forbidden from practising again.


Unemployed man victim of identity fraud via the Pole Emploi website

A man from Pollestres who had been unemployed since last November applied for a job as a chauffeur on the Pole Emploi website.  The company told him by email that he had got the job and asked him to send some documents for them to process the paperwork.  He sent off copies of his passport, his driving licence and his criminal record.  When he heard nothing back he got in touch with the Pole Emploi and the gendarmerie as he suspected identity fraud.  The Departmental director of the Pole Emploi, Guy Dujol, confirmed that it was fraud, saying “somebody got hold of the passwords of a company and changed the advert so that all responses went to them”.  He went on to say that this happens very rarely and they have a department which works with the police to counter it.  However nobody should ever send any copies of official documents or banking information before having been interviewed in person by an employer.


Four walkers carried away by an avalanche

One walker slipped and caused an avalanche when 4 of them were out walking with a guide at Porta.  It swept all 4 of them downhill and 1 walker broke his ankle but 3 others were lucky enough to escape injury.  The snow missed the guide who raised the alarm and scrambled the air rescue helicopter which took the injured man to hospital at Puigcerda.  The rescue services warned walkers to wait till the snow had hardened and stabilised as snow fallen over the weekend was still very unstable due to the relatively high temperatures.


Discontent at the Hotel-Restaurant Show in Perpignan

One of the local businessmen, Alain Pinos of Orta, a specialist in professional kitchens, who normally exhibits at the annual restaurant and hotel show in Perpignan didn’t do so this year as he was upset at the Chambre de Commerce et Industrie inviting Spanish companies to take part.  According to him, it was okay for businesses to choose individually to buy from Spain, but the CCI shouldn’t be supporting foreign competition by inviting them to exhibit at the show.  He also claimed that there were a lot of other companies that felt the same.


Verdict awaited in local libel case

Last summer Roger Hillel published a book called the “Triade nostalgérique,” a play on words combining nostalgia and Algerian, which makes reference to 3 Perpignan-based monuments to the war in Algeria.  The Independant interviewed him and then the members of the Cercle algérianiste, which runs the documentation centre, published a reply in the paper.  Their reply caused the writer to sue the society and its president in the department, Suzy Simon-Nicaise, the deputy mayor of Perpignan.  When the case was heard on Tuesday, the lawyers for Hillel didn’t dispute the right of reply of the Algerianists but said that they’d besmirched his honour, by accusing him of being a revisionist and a Stalinist who hated French Algerians.  The lawyer for the Circle reasoned that Hillel was a polemist and nothing that his clients had said constituted a libel.  The verdict will be returned on 3rd May.


Customs seize 700kg of cannabis in one weekend

On Friday 18th March, a German lorry was stopped at Le Perthus with 234kg of grass in 10 big sports bags.  Then on the Sunday a Danish lorry driver who claimed that his lorry was empty was stopped on the A9.  The customs officers found 465kg of resin hidden under a false bottom.  Both are being held by the police in Perpignan.


Dead turtle washes up on Canet beach

A turtle in an advanced state of decay washed up on Canet beach on Sunday, having apparently collided with a motor.  Laurent Dupont of the National Office for Hunting and Wild Fauna (ONCFS) said that sighting turtles in the Golfe du Lion is very rare even though there is a permanent population.  Anybody who spots a sea turtle is asked to contact the ONCFS on 04 68 53 01 81


“Terroirs divins” wine show, Cava Festival, & Cocktail competition

The Centre for Training for Professional Viticulteurs in Rivesaltes is holding the 11th show on 2 April from 10am to 5pm with the aim of introducing the public to Roussillon wines.  12 vintners from the department have been chosen, and people will be able to purchase a glass for €3 and taste the wines, as well as purchase them if they wish.

On the 17th April, there will be a dance organised around the theme of cava, in the St Jean district of Perpignan, in collaboration with restaurant owners and musicians.  It kicks off at 10am and runs till 8pm.

A cocktail competition will be held on 8th April to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Byrrh.  20 pupils from variouis local schools and colleges will have to create cocktails based on Byrrh.  The best in 2 categories: long and short drinks will become the property of the Pernod group.  Winners will receive a trophy and presents.


Pupils meet Rivesaltes Camp intern

David Korn gave a talk to around 50 pupils at the Memorial to the camp at Rivesaltes.  He spent 15 months there after leaving his native Brussels in 1940, being arrested at the French border and then taken to various other camps on the way.  He was rescued in 1942 when a French lady persuaded the Jewish mothers to let her take their children and then spent some time with the “éclaireurs israélites de France” (French Israelite scouts) before having to flee when the unoccupied zone was invaded.   His mother was deported to Drancy where she was gassed.  His message to the students was that it is important that young people understand what happened and that we need to be vigilant, because it could happen again.


Annual report on rubbish collection in Perpignan

The rubbish collected for the 36 communes in Perpignan in 2015 weighed 109336 tonnes which was just a whisker lower than the year before at 110000 tonnes.  Glass collection is still below average for the area compared with the rest of the country at 24.30kg per inhabitant per year as opposed to 30kg per inhabitant per year.  Experiments will be carried out in volunteer communes to find ways of increasing this in 2016.  The budget was 3% overspent in 2015 but will remain the same for 2016 and there will be no increase in taxation for the service.


P-O has the highest unemployment rate in the country

The P-O has an unemployment rate of 16% way higher than the national average of 10% and bucking the trend by increasing month on month, rather than stabilising or decreasing as it is in the rest of the country.  More than 50,000 people were unemployed at the end of January.  The departmental director of Dirrecte (Regional Directorate for businesses, competition, consummation, work and employment) commented that the reasons for the high employment rate were twofold: firstly that the area is heavily dependent on tourism and agriculture, and secondly that there is a high migratory factor with the number of people arriving and looking for work, more than the number of jobs that are being created.  So the fact that 240 companies were offering 2600 jobs at the Taf show in Perpignan on the 24th March is welcome news.  However most of these are in seasonal hotel and restaurant work and for the big retail chains who need extra workers over the tourist season (April – October).  The remainder are temping agencies, estate agents, banks and home help agencies, as well as agricultural and building firms.  Last year 12.000 visitors attended and 90% of the jobs offered were filled by people attending the show.


Catalan barques head for Sète

Traditional Catalan sailing boats are in Sète to take part in a festival.  There boats from both North and South Catalunya as well as a host of other sailing boats are present and a programme of entertainment based around maritime themes such as cookery classes, conferences, jousting tournaments, sailors songs…


The P-O Food Bank holds its AGM

1600 tonnes of food were distributed in the P-O which is an 18% increase on the previous year, the equivalent of 12000 meals handed out daily throughout the year to around 8000 people in difficulty from 54 distribution points through organisations such as the Red Cross.  In 2012 INSEE estimated that more than 90,000 people were below the poverty line in the department.  In addition to distributing food the association also aids the charities and organisations with which it works, trains volunteers, holds cookery workshops and goes into schools to teach children about nutrition and the importance of not wasting food.


The gorge at Amélie the subject of bitter disputes         

The opening of the gorge at Amélie has been put back for a second time and may never happen, after a rock slide hit the pedestrian walkway that had been suspended on the left hand side of the gorge as looked at from Amélie.  This was the second set back after 2 workers plunged to their death about 18 months ago when part of the rock face into which they were anchored came away taking them with it.  The opposition to the Mayor have been saying that the work should never have been carried out in the way that it was, and that the old path on the other side of the river should have been repaired instead.  The original plan was to have a via ferrata and climbing wall as well as opening up the gorge to tourists who wanted to walk through them, and locals who used to use the pool just the other side of the narrow entrance to bathe in.


Life Guards wanted

Volunteer life guards are wanted by the local Fire and Rescue Service (Sdis).  There is a new appeal for candidates to work on the coast (Torreilles, Canet, Collioure, Port Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer, Cerbère) and at the lakes (St Jean Pla de Corts, lac de la Raho, Vinça).  You need to be at least 18, in excellent physical condition and sporty, and be available from June to September with a medical certificate and vaccinations against hep B & DPT.  Training will take place from 11 – 15th April.  Get in touch with Audrey.laurens@sdis66.fr or henri. perez@sdis66.fr to get more details and apply.  Candidates will be tested in both the sea and the pool using snorkels and swimming without equipment, as well as running across the sand.



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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