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PLACE: The village. One of France's most beautiful. It's official. As you drive into the village there are plaques reading Un des Plus Beaux Villages de France. There are only 143 others in all France.

OCCASION: The annual conventi

 The voice on the telphone said Venez déjeuner, monsieur. Come for breakfast. We like to finish each job with a meal. It's just a little custom we have. Please join us. We'll expect you about 7.30. D'accord? 

A is for the Association des commerçants, the village shopkeepers' association. Every New Year's Eve they lay on a dinner/dance for anyone prepared to fork out about €30 ($30, £20). It's possibly the sma

SUMMER AND winter, early every Wednesday and Friday evening we're interrupted in whatever we're doing by a mighty noise from somewhere down in the village, a monstrous wave of gibberish, and there's no excuse for missing M. Maigre, the travelling

A RECENT French TV news item centred on the steps government ministers are taking to master, or at least improve their English. The movement seems to be led by Nicolas Sarkozy, erstwhile minister of finance and now president of the majority centre

I ASSOCIATE it in my mind with President Mitterand, but maybe it goes back beyond him to the days of Giscard d'Estaing: it's the principle known as désenclavement, the opening up of remote country. It was expressed in human terms as the not

CAST: Mireille. Pretty name. Middle aged, talkative, not without imagination. Favours split skirts, but unlikely to trouble MENSA assessors. Given to righteous indignation. Known as the One o'clock News.

Aristide. Sage and