Domestic Violence Support Group

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th has been observed since 1981 to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were murdered in 1960. But it wasn’t an official designated day until 2000, when the United Nations called on governments, international organisations and NGOs to collectively raise public awareness every year on that date.

Eight years later, the UN launched its UNiTE campaign, 16 days of activism against gender-based violence starting on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and running to International Human Rights Day on December 10th.


0800 91 90 10 Victims of Violence Monaco
3919 Violences Femmes Info France

Additional numbers listed at end of article.

According to femicide statistics from UN Women, in 2021 some 45,000 women or girls were killed by someone in their own family – that’s an average of more than five people every hour. In France that same year, the government reported 122 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner and 35% of them were victims of previous violence by their partner. In the UK, the Femicide Census’ most recent data estimates that a woman is killed by a man every three days – and 62% of them by a current or former partner.

Paris-based therapist Jill Bourdais became involved in helping victims of domestic violence after meeting fellow American Paula Lucas in 2010. She recalls, “Paula had been cruelly abused by her Palestinian – yes, alas – husband while living in the UAE with him. She had escaped and come to Paris to talk about her non-profit then called American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center, which is now Pathways to Safety.”

As Paula was looking for people to help her spread the word, Jill at once volunteered, and organised a forum on the subject in Paris. Jill created a Domestic Violence Support Group soon after, which she hosted and led – “at first in a little space I own in our building but with Covid, switched to Zoom, which means women from all over France now join.”

Jill grew up in Boston and after college worked in journalism for several years before changing to psychology in 1977, doing a Master’s in New York and a DESS (Diplôme d’Études Supérieures Spécialisées) in Paris in 1981. “In 1968 I’d married a Frenchman I met in New York, which led to my moving to Paris. I have been working as a therapist ever since and have had lots of experience running groups and giving workshops.

For Jill, pinpointing the signs of domestic violence is tough. “As most women’s self-confidence is beaten down by abusers, this leads to a strong sense of shame. That means that they won’t share what they are enduring as they’ve been hearing for months or years that all is their fault,” she explains.

“Repetitive physical illness can signal abuse, as can depression or little remarks about the partner controlling all decision-making in the family, as control is an essential need of the abuser. If a friend or family member senses a problem, it’s probably best to start with unobtrusive questioning about the woman’s well-being, pushing the point little by little. Avoid remarks implying that all will be okay soon, or that some small fix on her part will make everything better.” Jill advises family and friends to read up on the web the signs of abuse which are often covert, in case your friend reveals some of them, not realising that she is, in fact, being abused.

“I think people often think that abuse means physical harm done to a victim. In fact, that is not always in the mix, whereas psychological, emotional and/or financial abuse are always present. Many, many people assume that an abuse victim can ‘just leave’ without factoring in the financial costs of that, the factors regarding uprooting children, the lack of family support in France, the ignorance of administrative procedures, poor command of the language, the lack of access to money, poor or no job prospects, and inability to return home if they have children!”

The Expat Web
Addressing the complexities of expat women, Jill says, “I cannot prove this, but my belief is that expat women who do not master French are at a considerable disadvantage with the police and with the justice system here. The procedures are long and arduous. If you manage to press charges, you never know if your report will be passed along to the prosecutor or just put in a file drawer, and you can wait for months before any action is taken. If you need a translator, he or she has to be court-approved, and can be good or incompetent. You are left out of any banter among those present.” 

Jill strongly advises finding a lawyer who speaks English and has experience with domestic violence “or you will be badly represented”. She adds that even if you find the best lawyer, all outcomes depend on the judge you get, and therein lie many sad stories of judges who clearly take the side of the French abuser.

“The biggest trap is that expats who have children VERY rarely get to return with them to their home country, so they are condemned to stay in France until the child is 18. Many fathers who have never even changed a diaper sue for full custody to take revenge on their partners, and though full custody in either direction is rare, even fathers who abuse their children often obtain 50-50 shared custody.”

Women are invited to join Jill’s bi-monthly Domestic Violence Support Group which is run by volunteers. “It is for anglophones – from any country – as there are plenty of helpful associations for French speakers. We meet twice monthly for 2 hours, and attendees take turns explaining their situations. Others are invited to chime in when they have information or suggestions or questions. Usually between 3 and 7 people attend each time – not always the same women, though there are several ‘faithfuls’ who are important allies in the process.

“I do not charge for anything I do for victims, such as accompanying them to the police or to court hearings, writing attestations for court procedures, finding lawyers or useful associations in France which might help them, finding a therapist – I don’t generally act as a therapist for the women who attend my group – or just being there when they need to talk.”

On an administrative note, Jill is currently looking for a volunteer to take over the Domestic Violence Help Paris Support Group Facebook page, a private group which was created in 2020 by a volunteer who has since left. Anyone interested should email:

Article first published on November 24, 2023. Feature photo: Flickr Marco Verch.

0800 91 90 10 Victims of Violence Monaco
3919 Violences Femmes Info France

Victims of Offences Help Association (AVIP)
377 93 25 00 07 Monaco in English

SOS Help – Support in English in France
01 46 21 46 46

Violences Femmes Info

Feminist Collective Against Rape, English help available on request
Collectif féministe contre le viol (CFCV)
0 800 05 95 95

Listen Violence Against Disabled Women
Écoute Violences Femmes Handicapées (EVFH)
01 40 47 06 06

Federation 3977 Against Mistreatment of Seniors
Fédération 3977 contre les maltraitances

National Federation of Associations and Support Centres for Perpetrators of Domestic and Family Violence
Fédération Nationale des Associations et des Centres de prise en Charge d’Auteurs de Violences conjugales & Familiales (FNACAV)
08 019 019 11

National Suicide Prevention France

France Victimes National Victim Assistance Number

National GAMS Federation – Group for the Abolition of Female Sexual Mutilation (excision), Forced Marriage and other traditional practices harmful to the health of women and children
La Fédération Nationale GAMS –Groupe pour l’Abolition des Mutilations Sexuelles Féminines (excision) des Mariages Forcés et autres pratiques traditionnelles néfastes à la santé des femmes et des enfants)
01 43 48 10 87

Beth Blatt

By her own admission, Beth Blatt has “a chequered past”. After college at Dartmouth, the American had a promising career in advertising but quit after three years to become an actress in musicals. She toured the US and the world until a 5-week stay in Tokyo turned into three years when she landed a regular TV and radio gig. “It was great being an expat there because I was allowed to do all sorts of work I had no experience doing,” says Beth. “I became the pop-rock music critic for the Japan Times, had a role in a Godzilla movie – and started writing lyrics with the composer of the musical I’d done.”

After Japan, and with a six month-detour in Hong Kong (where she met Red Pear Theatre founder Hilary King), Beth moved back to New York City with the decision she preferred writing to performing. She was accepted in the prestigious (and free of charge) BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop where icons such as Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic) became mentors. “I worked hard and my work was recognised, developed and produced. Then one day I realised musicals are so US-centric and that ‘The World’ was missing in my work. I wanted a purpose beyond that. And so I created my music-for change-business, Hope Sings –Singing Stories of Change to Change the Stories of Lives.”

Beth believes the power of music can change the world. “Not an original belief, I know. But my vision was to combine the specifics-rich stories favoured by musicals with music from all over the world to reach casual listeners in a deeper, more transformational way.” She started by commissioning Latina singer-songwriters to create songs inspired by success stories of women whose lives had been uplifted through microloans.

Then one afternoon on a playground in NYC, Beth heard a mom who worked at the United Nations talking about the formation of UN Women. “And it just popped out of me: ‘They need a theme song.’ The mom introduced her the UN’s head of communications, who was “rather taken aback by my idea, but didn’t say no” and, through Hilary King, she was able to reach out to composer Graham Lyle (What’s Love Got To Do With It). With Somalian songwriter Clay, they created “One Woman,” which became the finale for the UN Women launch at the gorgeously-gilded UN General Assembly. “When thousands of staid diplomats and bureaucrats stood and sang along – well, it’s one of those moments you treasure forever.”

The next thing that popped out of her mouth: “Now you have to record it.” Beth spent the next two years working every connection she had – cold-calling managers and Googling to assemble a cast of some 25 internationally-acclaimed artists, including Brazilian Bebel Gilberto; Indian Anoushka Shankar; and Angelique Kidjo from Benin. On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2013, the recording was released and Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon (below with Beth) ended his speech by quoting Beth’s lyric: “Shine, Shine, Shine – We shall shine.” This gifted her another treasured moment.

Every year since, groups perform the song on International Women’s Day at the UN and beyond. “If you are reading this and have a sudden urge to sing the song here in the South of France, please drop me a note. I’ll share the score, lyrics – even a karaoke backing track.”

Beth is a long way from New York and the UN General Assembly. So how did she end up here? “We moved to Paris from New York in July 2022 when my husband’s work transferred him over. We were both itching to come – he is French, an Antibois, and I was a French-German language major in college. We’d spent little bits of time in France over the years, but nothing substantial.”

The minute Beth landed in the City of Light she hit the museums, the historic monuments, the churches, and immediately discovered amazing women she’d never heard of. “I did what I always do. I started ‘writing’ them.” Her Forgotten Women of France series includes Clotilde, first queen of France; Christine de Pisan, first female professional writer in Europe; and Marie-Thérèse, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette – who survived the Terror and three years in prison.

Marie-Thérèse’s story was the richest and Beth turned the monologues into a play. “I went on a tour of the Chapelle Expiatoire, the Paris memorial to her parents that she had helped build. I’ve always wanted to create site-specific theatre, which takes place in a cool space relevant to a character’s life. I asked the guide there if they’d like to attract more Anglophone visitors. Turns out they did. Six weeks later, I brought a group of women there for a combination visite dramatique and one-woman-show. They loved it – so I’m now figuring out what to do with it next.”

For the past few weeks, Beth has had the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on her radar. She is committed to doing a presentation of new material about women who stand up for themselves and others. “Since I’m spending time in Paris and Antibes, I decided to do something in both places on November 25.”

In Paris, she discovered Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, who built the first shelter for battered women in Paris, and was a patron of the arts. On the Coast, two women have grabbed her attention: Béatrice de Rothschild Ephrussi and Eileen Gray. “Their stories are unexpected and heart-breaking – I long to bring them justice, dramatically. That’s what this Forgotten Women of France project is about for me. Telling the stories of women who’ve been erased from or misrepresented by history.”

This is where Beth needs help. “I’m looking for more stories of brave women that need to be told. I want to connect with historical sites who would value my bringing their spaces to life – and attracting more Anglophone tourists. I’d love to talk with organisations that help women who are dealing with violence – including, but not limited to, abuse from a partner, being forced into an early marriage or deprived of an education.”

Beth has been non-stop since she relocated to France 15 months ago and being fluently bilingual is definitely an advantage. “I grew up just outside of Chicago and from age four, went to a small private school attached to a teacher’s college. A French woman wanted her kids to go there, so she offered to teach French lessons. I started French at six, in first grade. I continued through high school, and in college, where I studied in Toulouse one year, worked the next summer in La Rochelle at a Credit du Nord. Years later, I married a French man. I guess France is in my destiny.”

She considers it a privilege to live on the Côte d’Azur. “I love Paris – the energy, the culture, the people I’ve met – but I feel it’s almost a physical need, to have this nature, this space around me. And I’m discovering amazing women to write about here, too. Wherever I am inspired and have stories to bring to life I am a happy camper.”

And Beth just learned that she has been awarded an artist’s residency at Le Chateau de la Napoule in Mandelieu. “I’ll get to spend a month there with the goal of bringing to life the story of Marie Clews, and her husband Henry. I’m thrilled!”

Article first published October 21, 2023.

Child Car Monaco Ladies Vintage Rally 2023

The 10th edition of the Ladies Vintage Car Rally took place on Sunday, September 10th, with nearly a hundred women – and for the first time – men stepping out to support Child Care Monaco. This year’s dress code: “The Charleston”, a nod to Prince Rainier as 2023 marks the centenary of his birth.

Now, usually, I would write about how unique this fundraiser is, how it shines a very bright light on women in Monaco and how wonderfully they can come together for a humanitarian cause. I would probably say that Martine Ackermann founded Child Care Monaco in 2012 with a mission to “promote and help the education of disadvantaged children in the world”, and has on-the-ground projects in India, Guatemala and South Africa. And, surely, I would add that Martine not only pours her heart into organising this vintage car rally for women (with the help of Bernhard, Theo, Carla, Annie, Dominque and David Golland), but she also finds the time to support each and every one of us for our events across the year.

Instead, I want to share other rally driver’s experiences. Throughout the day, I spoke with familiar faces and new faces to the Ladies Vintage Car Rally.

Here are the day’s highlights:
8:15am: Breakfast at the Café du Paris. I met up with Olive and Maria, and Tracy. (Scroll down for lots of photos.)

9:45am: Departure of 39 classic cars, including a 1947 Delahaye 135 MS and 1962 1500 Giulia Spider Alfa Romeo, courtesy of the Prince’s Car Collection and its director, Valérie Closier.  (WATCH VIDEO TOP OF ARTICLE).

12pm: The group made their way west past Nice and up to Opio to the secluded (this was a speakeasy, after all) Le Mas des Geraniums, where lunch was followed by roulette, a tombola and dancing, and not necessarily in that order. Here is Béatrice Bordier and Magali Jacquet-Lagreze from CFM-Indosuez Monaco,

12pm: The group made their way west past Nice and up to Opio to the secluded (this was a speakeasy, after all) Le Mas des Geraniums, where lunch was followed by roulette, a tombola and dancing, and not necessarily in that order. Here is Béatrice Bordier and Magali Jacquet-Lagreze from CFM-Indosuez Monaco, which donated the use of six cars.

5 pm: The post-lunch route led to afternoon tea at l’Antre Potes in Eze. Newcomers Simone and Audrey share their thoughts.

7pm: The day comes to an end with a prize giving in the presence of Princess Stephanie at Castelroc, next to the Palace.

Breakfast shots from the Café du Paris.

Valérie Closier, Director of the Prince’s Car Collection.
Bernhard Ackermann leads the way.

Article first published September 11, 2023. All photos and videos copyright Nancy Heslin.

Helene Guillaume

Helene Guillaume was in town today to speak to students at the International University of Monaco. Based in Portugal and working between the UK and US, the 36-year-old entrepreneur grew up Belgium, Hong Kong, Japan and Peru, although her family settled in Monaco a decade ago.

A competitive rugby player who went on to compete in 100-km ultra runs, Half Ironmans, ice swimming and surfing, Helene had little understanding about her own physiology. “I was training and eating like a man,” she recalls. “I wanted to transform an industry through sports performance and female health.”

The “outdoor addict” combined a passion for sport with her Master’s in Finance and Financial Risk Management, as well as her scientific background as a management consultant optimising internal risk models using AI to Fortune 500 companies (including Fannie Mae) to found WILD.AI in 2017 in San Francisco. The app has a free and paid version available on Apple and Google Play.

Although women make up nearly half of the population, a 2018 paper on “Sex Bias in Neuroscience and Biomedical Research” showed that 80% of the animals used in research are male. “These findings cannot be applied to women who are impacted daily by the 500 menstrual cycles they’ll experience over 40 years,” explains the first-time mom. “More so, a 22-year-old taking the pill has different nutritional needs, physiology and digestion than a 47-year-old perimenopausal woman.”

Using the catchphrase “Unleashing the beast in female athletes,” Helene and her 10 employees want to radically advance female health by building the largest record of female datasets— across all ages, life stages and ethnicities—to help women understand their bodies. “Based on fitness trackers, blood tests and pap smears, women have vast amounts of data but it’s not stored in one place. We understand our cars more than our own bodies.”

Through WILD.AI’s research and algorithms, the app can not only predict that in two days a woman will experience bloating or menstrual pain, but also advise how to alleviate these symptoms. It can indicate that during ovulation, when the body is particularly strong, workouts can be pushed, and even be able to foretell a window of a higher sex drive.

According to Statista, the femtech market in 2021 was worth some $51 billion worldwide and is expected to reach $103 billion by 2030. Helene, a former Hedge Fund quant, says angel investors and advisors have been critical to the startup’s growth, enabling WILD.AI to reach some of the most renowned researchers in female health, such as Dr. Stacy Sims, senescence, and human performance.

Funding early on came from the London-based deep tech incubator Entrepreneur First (which includes board member and Linkedin cofounder, Reid Hoffman, and is backed by Greylock Partners, Founders Fund and McKinsey), as well as The Refiners in San Francisco, started by three French entrepreneurs, including Géraldine Le Meur (LeWeb).

In August 2021, Helene appeared on Dragon’s Den to pitch her startup (WATCH Video below) and today WILD.AI has partnerships with Adidas, Garmin and Oura, which she has worked non-stop to develop. “Running a startup is like getting fired a few times a day,” she shares enthusiastically. “Between investors who pull out or strategic partners who don’t come on board … and being a founder is way less sexy than it sounds.”

Article first published April 27, 2023.

Runa Ray

Sustainable luxury designer Runa Ray reminds me that there is more to the Prince Albert Foundation than meets the eye. (WATCH VIDEO above.)

Sure, since it was created in 2006, the non-profit organisation PA2F has given out more than €100 million in grants and been involved in 750 projects dedicated to planetary health, including Beyond Plastic Med: BeMed, Human Wildlife Initiative, Forrest and Communities and, in our backdoor, the fantastic Pelagos Initiative. And yes, the PA2F Planetary Health Gala attracts some pretty big names: Leo, Sting and Redford.

Yet if you happened to stop by the first edition of the free Green Shift Festival last week on Promenade du Larvotto, you would have witnessed the Foundation’s other star power: partnering with those not–so–celebrity names who work relentlessly at a grassroots level using art to inspire a public shift of consciousness when it comes to environmental issues.

One of those stars is Runa Ray. The bio-couture designer was in Monaco for the Festival June 7-10 encouraging people to write messages of their commitment to the ocean as part of her Ocean Flag initiative, which is an endorsed activity by the United Nations Ocean Decade 2021-2030.

“I have been working with the Foundation mostly as a sustainable fashion designer,” Runa told me at the Green Shift Festival. “And this is using fashion’s waste for a social cause, which connects humanity and speaks about environmental purpose, which can be linked to climate justice and social justice.”

The Bangalore-born artist added, “These messages are going to be sewn and this specific flag will be displayed at COP28 UAE in November. People across the world – orphans in Ukraine who have sent in their commitments, India, the Indo-China border, San Quentin State Prison, and now people from Monaco – have all sent in their messages.”

Photos Facebook Martine Ackermann

According to the UN, “A three trillion-dollar industry, fashion is responsible for 20% of the global wastewater generated through pesticides for land cultivation, dyes and textiles – which often flows back into the ocean.” The UN says that the Ocean Flag “aims to bridge the gap between fashion’s environmental pollution and educating the public on the detriments of climate change on the ocean through the lens of fashion.”

In addition to being involved with the UN’s Ocean Decade, the author of Fashion for Social and Environmental Justice also works with the UN Environment Programme Faith for Earth. “I have used fashion as activism and education to engage youth and future decision makers and educate students in universities on the intersection between climate change and Peace,” she said.

Runa grew up in a city in the south of India, where the most coveted professions after graduation were medicine, engineering and dentistry. “It was important to be educated in the sciences whereas arts took a back seat,” she described. “India was still adapting to the post-colonial era for the need of the above mentioned professions and peer pressure was at its best with students vying for top honours to establish themselves and the names of their families.”

She studied science but found herself at a crossroads: become a doctor or pursue fashion, a new career path introduced by her mother who said “the world had enough doctors and that fashion could use some help.”

Runa was one of the prestigious few who were chosen to be a part of the ministry of textiles India and study fashion. “Fashion was nascent and I, being of the creative bent of mind, decided to enrol myself at the National Institute of Fashion Technology. It was an arduous process of selection wherein only 120 students were chosen for four centres all over India.”

She excelled in what she described “a wonderful journey where I won the best design collection award”. This led to a Master’s at the Ecole Supérieure des Industries du Vêtement in Paris under the Chamber of Commerce. Studying fashion and marketing helped Runa gain industrial experience in factories and couture houses, where she “notably came across fashion’s waste not just from the standpoint of consumer waste but that which existed within the industry from prototypes to printing, dyeing and even packaging.”

She continued, “One should understand that waste starts from the sketch that is created, from paper to prototype and the final product. This is what probably inspired me to take on being an environmentalist. I loved creating wealth from waste and using fashion as activism to educate and advocate for policy change.

“As I further explored the industry, I came in contact with the highly fragmented garment sector from nomadic workers to the denim industry, which employed young boys to scrape at jeans for the faded look using only sand paper and led to occupational lung diseases because of the fibre in the air, to the tanning industry and dyeing industry, which discharged effluents into water ways at night.”

This would further her reason to connect the arts, humanity and science for the benefit of mankind through fashion. “An environmentalist is one who keeps the environment in the center of everything that they do. I am a fashion environmentalist because I keep nature in the epicenter of my designs, to benefit and find ways to reduce carbon footprint within the industry, and any process that could contribute towards it.”

For Runa, it is “extremely important” to go to the source. “As a fashion designer, it is imperative to understand where your clothes come from, to understand the geography, the geo-political causes, the livelihoods of people engaged, the impact of economy on prices and the control of governments on natural and synthetic fibres.”

She literally goes to the source. “For my Himalayan expedition, I travelled to four villages in Ladakh to document the pashmina goats, their rearing, harvesting of their fur and making it into yarn and final conversion into products. Most of the pashmina farming is government owned, where subsidies are given to the herders. The communities are pastoral and semi-pastoral who depend on goats and yak for income.

“The goats are combed in summer months to get the fine pashmina fur, which is then sent to the de-hairing unit where it is cleaned of any debris. The hair is then sorted into variations depending on their length. The hair is further taken to communities in the mountains of which one would make the yarn and they are paid for their efforts. the yarn is collected and taken to the next village which spins the yarn to sweaters and other products. The products are collected and then sold in the wider market.

“With the advent of climate change, most goats are dying and pastoral communities are moving out into urban dwellings to find jobs, which means that by 2050 we would have most of our pashmina farmed and not free-raised as they are currently in the Himalayas.”

Runa, who dressed Grammy award-winning artist Laura Sullivan, will be creating a multi-episode docuseries to be shared with the Prince Albert Foundation to enable wider learning. “It is only right to help amplify the work of the Foundation through fashion and arts, to connect with science and throw light on relevant issues of climate change through storytelling,” she emphasised.

Photos: Facebook Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco

The fashion environmentalist YouTuber was a sustainable hit at Monte-Carlo Fashion Week on May 19 this year when she presented “The strait of couture” in collaboration PA2F. “I used seaweed as the main agent to print the fabric. By using the ancient art of Floating inks which was prevalent in 12th century Japan, I created unique organic prints which negated water wastage and pollution.”

When it comes to fashion and clothes, Runa says the biggest misconception that most people have is that if they donate used clothes to charity, most of the garments find a new life. “This is untrue, because most garments end up in the land fill, as only gently used and slightly worn ones make their way into the secondhand market.

“The one tip I can give consumers is to not follow trends, but stick to classic buys that will last for years, where quality and style will never go out of fashion.”

Runa Ray is currently working on a trip to Sudan to connect with displaced communities and their dying art of weaving, which is impacted by civil war.

Article first published June 18, 2023.

Red Pear Theatre returns to Antibes for one night only

The names Red Pear and Hilary King will no doubt transport some Riviera residents back 20 years.

In spring 1995, Hilary founded the non-profit Red Pear Theatre with her Heinz executive husband, Roy, and directed 150 performances in English in Antibes. “For ten years, the Red Pear performed professional English-language shows in Theatre Antibea once a month – except July and August, when you could have billed it as a weight loss program … just too hot!” Hilary recalls.

Following the Red Pear’s closure in 2005, the couple opened up their Cap d’Antibes villa, La Timonerie, to host fundraising cocktail dînatoires. “There were over 40 performances in my home, where the actors gave their services for free so we could send the ticket money to Cambodia, where we helped build three schools,” explains Hilary, who trained in theatre at Rose Bruford College in London.

When her beloved Roy “the Bear” died in 2010, Hilary continued the occasional soirée to raise money for Cambodia before moving to Avignon in 2015 and then returning to her native London in 2019. She has continued to use her theatrical talents. Last week, she organised a charity cabaret for St Martins in the Fields raising £45,000 towards funding 18 Keys, a sanctuary for homeless women in London.

It was during Covid lockdown that Hilary wrote The Red Pear Theatre Story: When the West End Hits the Côte d’Azur, looking back at the many people and details that made the theatre company such a success.

The book was released in March 2023 (£35 UK; £37 for EU) and the official launch takes place June 15 at Theatre Antibea when Hilary brings the Red Pear back to Antibes for one night only. “I return with nostalgia for the old Red Pear audience and a theatrical fairy tale for anyone who arrived in the area after 2015!”

Starting at 7pm, Hilary will kick off the evening with a few anecdotes from the book before veteran film, TV and stage star Anne Reid takes to the stage for a specially-fashioned cabaret, accompanied by Stefan Bednarczyk, whom Nice-Matin called “Un Roi du Cabaret”.

After their performance, both Red Pear veteran Stefan and Anne – who just completed a sell-out run of Marjorie Prime at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory and is fondly remembered as Celia in TV’s Last Tango in Halifax with Derek Jacobi and for the film The Mother with Daniel Craig – will share some Red Pear memories over a glass of wine with guests. Limited tickets (€35) also include a welcome glass of wine and a copy of The Red Pear Theatre Story with a chance of a book signing.

Hilary acknowledges the support of Theatre Antibea and its artistic director Dominique Czapski. For tickets, call 04 93 34 24 30. And hey, if there’s enough interest in Red Pear fare, perhaps Hilary could persuade Dominique to let her have the theatre again one of these days …

PinkWave Monaco

PinkWave Monaco sailing team. Photo: Martin Messmer

PinkWave Monaco was founded in March 2019 by what member Femke Doeksen describes as “a bunch of crazy Dutch-speaking women”. As the Monaco resident explains, “Like nowadays, there was hardly any female participation at the annual Primo Cup. Out of fifty or sixty participating teams, only two were female. So, the conclusion was that if their sailing boat could make it from Start to Finish, they would automatically end up on the podium in the Ladies’ ranking.”

Initiated by the energetic Anne Schouten, PinkWave Monaco was born. Today the sailing team consists of 45 women ages 24 to 76 ranging in levels from absolute beginner to high-profile regatta expert. And typical of Monaco, members come from all different backgrounds and nationalities.

British Olympic gold medallist Saskia Clark moved to the Principality last year and has been racing regularly since then. Saskia is supporting the PinkWave idea as an outstanding initiative for Monaco and the efforts to create a solid team to get more women racing regularly. “She is positive that she can guide the decision-making process during the racing and support PinkWave in developing its strong team,” says Anne.

From March 25 to 26, 2023, the Monaco Yacht Club will host their first-ever Ladies Sailing Cup. “PinkWave is not only about being a female sailing team amongst the highly successful predominately male Monaco crews. It’s also a statement we wanted to make, that everything, no matter which age or level, is possible if you keep on pursuing a dream. Needless to say, we are looking tremendously forward to such an event at our club,” Anne enthuses.

PinkWave member Kathrin Hoyos recently bought a pre-owned J/70, to be more independent and to be able to take part in regattas at the team’s discretion. This is the only female-owned J/70 on the YCM. “Hopefully, there are many more to come. The level of sailing on the Monaco Sportsboat Winter series organised by the Monaco Yacht Club is highly competitive and entirely dominated by professional male sailors. Most J/70 sailors of the PinkWave team are between 30 and 60 years, and most of us are, yet, far away from performing on a highly professional level. Our focus is less on the final results at the end of the races but more on the progress of adapting to the conditions and, most importantly, on succeeding as a team. The motto of Pink Wave remains: Progress, Fun, and Freedom.”

PinkWave Monaco competes in a wide range of regattas and various social activities already in the Monaco Yacht Club (YCM). In 2022, PinkWave participated for the first time at the regatta “Dames des Saint Tropez” with the YCM Flagship TUIGA. Much of TUIGA’s crew consists of PinkWave ladies, participating in an entire circuit of Classical Sailing regattas.

At the J/70 World Championships, which took place last October 14-22 at the Yacht Club Monaco, PinkWave Monaco had one boat at the start helmed by Anne Rodelato. “Three years of preparation went into this,” shares Kathrin. “The team ended up ranking first amongst the Ladies’ Teams. One of our PinkWave members, Axelle Foucaud, is on the Monaco team that became Vice-World Champions.”

Additionally, each year several PinkWave members participate in the Monaco Sportboat Winter Series and for two years in a row, PinkWave Monaco has participated in the Helga Cup in Hamburg, the biggest Women’s regatta in the world.

“Worldwide, the number of female sailors and female regattas is increasing rapidly. Only a handful of European countries organised Ladies-only Regattas two years ago. Since then, this number has more than doubled. The world’s biggest annual women-only regatta in Germany hosts over 70 teams – some 300 women. In France, the Ladies’ Sailing Circuit consists of seven races,” Anne says.

She adds, “Although we are quite competitive, our main objective remains to have fun, the love of sailing and after-sailing. We show constant perseverance, believe in ourselves and support amongst each other. Solidarity amongst women overcomes the harshest criticism by men. All in all, we are always considered the underdogs or outsiders, which pushes us to be the best version of ourselves on water and land.”

PinkWave believes supporting women in sport is essential. “We connect and reach out to other female sailors worldwide – so easy via social media – and we actively maintain dialogues with like-minded women worldwide, striving to create a true movement of support and understanding and an environment which feels safe and non-judgmental”

In addition to the 2023 sailing calendar (see “PinkWave 2023” below) an upcoming highlight of the year will be the participation of PinkWave in the “Lady Liberty Regatta” in New York from September 8 to 9 on J/24 class, an 8 m long boat with a crew of five. The race is organised by the Manhattan Yacht Club. “A dream coming true,” reveals Anne. “A Monaco women’s only team with a huge Monaco flag on the spinnaker sailing racing around the Statue of Liberty. We are very excited that we were invited to this extraordinary event and look forward to representing the spirit of the women of the Principality of Monaco with pride.”

Want to support PinkWave? “Spread the word,” says Anne. “We are also open to accepting sponsorships to support us in pursuing our various activities and participation with regattas.

“Sailing is a very cool sport, hugely beneficial physically and mentally, and accessible right here in the Principality. Those interested are invited to contact the Section Sportive of the Yacht Club Monaco or at We are looking forward to welcoming more female sailors within the Principality!”

For more, see the PinkWave Monaco website.

PinkWave Calendar 2023

Over the past two years, PinkWave Monaco (PWM) has built strong bonds with female sailors from Germany, Holland, Belgium, the UK, the US, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Dubai. From March 25-26, the YCM will organise its first Ladies’ Sailing Regatta. Several PinkWave Monaco members will take part in 2023 in the Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series, which always ends with the famous Credit Suisse Primo Cup on the first weekend in March.

After the success of 2022, PinkWave Monaco will again participate in May in the Dames de St Tropez regatta, hopefully with two ships and 30 female sailors in total. As in the last three years, PWM will participate in the Helga Cup in Hamburg and possibly at some of the French Female Regattas organized by the Federation Francais de Voile. PinkWave members will again join in the Mediterranean Classical Regatta circuit, such as Les Voiles d’Antibes, Les Voiles de Saint Tropez, and other famous regattas like the Palermo-Monte Carlo, the Rolex Giraglia or the SNIM in Marseille. “The advantage of the diversity and the spread of our team is that in any given race in the Mediterranean, most of the time there is a PinkWave member participating!” says Anne Schouten.

Article first published January 22, 2023.

Victoria Morris

Victoria Morris with “the most adorable German Shepherd”, 7-year-old Ziggy. “When I was called in to work with him as a young adolescent dog, he was highly reactive, would have intense reactions to dogs passing by and his general obedience needed much work. There must be participation from both owner and trainer to make a meaningful change and to see how happy, confident and well-adjusted Ziggy is now is just the best!”

Tis the season when parents think about putting a pet under the family Christmas tree.

For animal behaviourist and trainer Victoria Morris: “Often, we can get caught up in the excitement of getting a pet that we sometimes forget to be realistic. A pet is not only for Christmas but is your companion and dear family member for a very long time.”

READ Victoria Morris’ 20 helpful questions to ask before owning a pet.

With over 20 years’ experience, Victoria, who is based just outside Monaco, always knew she wanted to work with animals. “As a child, I was mesmerised when travelling if there were animals there, for example at Dolphin Quest in Honolulu, I stood there for hours just watching and observing the trainers. I would ask them lots of questions and was decided from the age of 12 that my career path would be with animals.”

From that moment on, researched the field of Animal Behaviour, Animal Behaviour Management and Training and worked hard to build her career starting with jobs in zoos and aquaria, working with Humboldt penguins, Harbour seals, snakes, guillemots, Patagonian sea lions, Moluccan cockatoos, pelicans and Bottlenose dolphins. 

She launched her Pet Behaviour and Training Consultancy in 2005 in the UK and has been working closely with vets and other professionals in the field since, including with the Animal Care College in Ascot. She says transferring her business to France was a natural decision. “Having already had experience living a European lifestyle in Spain from an early age, I understood and really came to appreciate all the lovely aspects to everyday life that brings. Also, my parents were living in France.”

She admits, “Working in this part of the world is quite different to that of my consulting in Essex years ago when I had my consultancy there. Many of the pets I work with here have very different lives and routines. Many owners travel with their pets frequently, so I am often helping owners to train and desensitise their pets to travel including air travel, car and boat travel.”

Working with a team within a household who care for her clients’ pets is normal. “As a result, consistency is very important in terms of training and behavioural treatment, so this takes a very specific approach in order to successfully attain. Essentially what I do is very bespoke and requires tailoring my programs to my clients and pets needs according to their individual routines and situations.”

In addition to looking after the mental and physical well-being of the pets in terms of behaviour, Victoria – who has published articles in Dogs Monthly and been on radio – is also involved in making sure all veterinary care for her clients’ pets is provided and up-to-date so both owner and pet are ready to travel.

“There are certain veterinary treatments that are specific to areas my clients travel to and here in France, so I advise on this from my knowledge so far and from the great veterinary professionals I work with. I am also often engaged in travelling with my clients’ pets and bringing them to my clients who may have travelled ahead of time so I can be occupied with their safe travel and look after any behavioural needs.”

Victoria is often involved in helping owners choose the correct pet for them. “I will help them prepare for a pet’s arrival to the home – having the correct beds, bowls and training aids – so we can start in the best possible way, therefore decreasing any potential stress that pet may experience but also getting training routines established early on and making sure the pet concerned adapts well to its new home.”

In some cases, Victoria, who has a Combined Honours Degree in Animal Behaviour from Anglia Ruskin University, can recommend breeders and will also accompany clients to visit their chosen breeders or in some cases rescue homes or people who may be looking for adoptive homes for their pets. “I have a wonderful team of professionals I work with in various different fields from osteopathy, general veterinary care, hydrotherapy, massage etc and work with the best quality groomers, eye specialists and skin specialists and work on referral from these specialists.”

Victoria takes her responsibility as an animal trainer/pet behaviour counsellor seriously and is dedicated to continuing her professional education. She is a member of the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants and subscribes to many pet behaviour journals, such as the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (which she is also a member) and is an accredited member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers in the UK whereby she abides by a strict set code of ethics. “I do not use choke chains, half choke chains, prong collars or any anti bark systems – systems based around aversive stimulus – that are available and employed by other ‘trainers or professionals’ as these are ethically questionable and are ineffective.”

Her clients are offered a high-end service with attention to detail. “I provide one-to-one behavioural consultations at my client’s home, dog training tours/residential training, group classes in obedience, agility, dog dancing, Pet Aid Training – training pets to aid owners with limited mobility, Dog Training Days and Group Dog Training Holidays. 

Working with a wide variety of breeds, she assures, “Yes, all breeds can be trained but the trainer does need to be aware of the breeds genetic predisposition and to be aware of that breeds specific needs, however many people do use this as a limiting factor. What I mean by this is that people have a preconception that certain breeds are a certain way, and it becomes a self for-filling prophecy and no effort is made to shape good behaviour to avoid those unwanted behaviours.”

“Many people come to me with issues with fear-based behaviour, house soiling issues, aggression, separation anxiety, stereotyped behaviour and general handling and obedience issues.” Not all behavioural problems can be completely solved. “You can’t give someone a guarantee. It depends very much on the effort and dedication of an owner to commit to working with a behavioural problem, as well as several other factors including how conditioned and ingrained unwanted behaviour has become, the individual pet itself, its behavioural history, the severity of the behavioural problem and how effectively behaviour can be managed. Having said this, with appropriate training and management huge improvements can be attained with behavioural issues and problems and many of these issues can be solved.”

She has witnessed the many emotions that come up for an owner during the process of behavioural treatment. “It’s not always easy for an owner to work with a behavioural problem that they are experiencing with a pet. There are many family dynamics and couple dynamics involved, as well as the individual psychology of an owner which means as a pet behaviour counsellor you need to have good skills with people, you need to be able to listen and really understand what is going on in a household. 

“It often means people must admit where the management of their pet may be going wrong and how they are contributing to problems, how their responses to certain situations and behaviours are increasing the rate of undesirable behaviour. I have to be there to support my clients and am very dedicated to being there for them and their pets.”

She states the most common mistake clients can make is to anthropomorphise their pet. “They love their pets but sometimes too much, they forget to create boundaries and nurture discipline which pets need to feel psychologically secure. Enrichment and socialisation is also very much underestimated in terms of its positive effect on behaviour management.”

Victoria works on referral from veterinary surgeons and from recommendation treating a wide range of behavioural problems and training issues. “I work with dog aggression, separation anxiety, house soiling issues and much more. I also work with veterinary professionals and groomers when there are issues with handling. I work with both clients and their pets to desensitise their pet to handling/veterinary procedures, therefore decreasing stress for both owner, pet and veterinary professional/groomer etc. This is something that my experience working with marine mammals and exotic animals has well prepared me for and given me great experience in, as this is an extremely important part of animal husbandry.”

“The focus with the kayak is to introduce the dogs to a wide range of experiences and situations. It’s all about socialisation and developing confidence, obedience skills and enabling the dogs to develop into well-adjusted dogs that can handle changing environments and of course have fun socialising and swimming,” says Victoria.

As a trainer, she says you never stop learning and experience provides you with so much. “You have to have a presence with the animal you are working with, you have to understand an animal, its environment, its history, its diet and genetic predispositions but patience and kindness is of paramount importance which is why I abide by a strict code of ethics. 

Many people think that training marine mammals is very different to that of training a dog but the methods of training are the same applied according to that animal’s physical abilities and the modern training approaches employed with companion animals today originated in many cases with marine mammal training and the training of exotic species.”

Beyond dogs, Victoria has worked with Moluccan cockatoos, macaws, bottlenose dolphins, Patagonian sea lions, harbour seals, Burmese pythons, Humboldt penguins, pelicans, dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and goats. “People are now realising they can clicker train their cat, rabbit and horse and the wonderful benefits of doing so.”

Caro Cuinet Wellings

Photo: Garderes & Dohmen

Caro Cuinet Wellings grew up in a small village near Aix-en-Provence but from a young age knew that she would travel, live abroad and speak English. “And that is what I did. During my LLCE degree at the Université de Lettres of Aix en Provence, I came across a poster advertising a Post Graduate Certificate of Education. That led me to St. Martin’s University in Lancaster to be a secondary school teacher, teaching French as a foreign language. I began that career in August 2000 in Kenya.” By 2009, she was teaching at the International School in Dubai, married and welcoming her first daughter.

“Teaching filled my life, it really did,” Caro says, “and I was a good at it. But when the possibility of moving to Malaysia came up, I decided to explore a new path for myself and stepped away from my 12-year career in education. The move to Kuala Lumpur was tough as I embarked on setting up a photography business, with little knowledge of how to run one, barely the skills to take photos and without the support of friends there.”

After the birth of her second daughter in March 2014, Caro suffered post-natal depression. “We spent six years in Kuala Lumpur, it is a place paved by fabulous friendships, fantastic trips, even better food, but also big heartaches, discoveries and great courage.” The family relocated to France in 2018 and Caro describes it as “perhaps the hardest move I have ever had to make. To put it simply, I felt like an expat in my home country.”

She focused on the teaching and coaching side of her photography business. Fast forward four years, she runs two workshops a year on creativity, light and building a visual identity as a photographer. Her online course on the Empara platform has motivated family photographers and somehow the mom of two has found time to develop a one-on-one coaching program. This is all in addition to her group mentoring day, where photographers can experience everything from pre-shoot to photo delivery.

Photo: Caro Cuinet Wellings

“My scope has grown. I shoot families in their homes but have loved taking lifestyle photos of private chefs and maison d’hôtes. I also photograph clothing collections working as part of a team with an agency in Barcelona and work with big education companies for their marketing materials.”

Caro says “our potential for learning is bottomless” and that anyone can develop a photographer’s eye. “I believe in having a vocabulary to help name what we see, so we can understand how elements of a scene work together. No need for a fancy camera to be able to do this, as our eyes are really the key – observing, taking the time to see, to name and to put things together.”

The Biot-based artist knows what she is talking about. Caro’s book Voir la lumière: #100daysoflumière will be available January 5, 2023, but is available pre-sale now on Amazon and Fnac.

“I once said to my now 13-year-old daughter: ‘I have a book in me.’ I didn’t know which book or what it was going to be about.” During lockdown in Eze in April 2020, Caro invited photographers to join her to find light. “Hundreds of photographers followed the project that consisted in taking and publishing one photo a day. The aim was to photograph the confinement but always trying to find the light and improve technique and art. I am so happy and humbled to have been able to gather a supportive and creative community during a time that was really difficult for some of us.”

The challenge led her to revisit the “book in me”. In 2021, she saw the amount of content she had created. “I had sent many newsletters about photography techniques but also about mindsets and how to cope with challenges, where and how to find creativity and inspiration. I had interviews with colleagues recorded on podcasts and countless pages of notes that had piled over the years doing the challenges. And, of course, some 600 photos created for them.”

Photo: Caro Cuinet Wellings

By the end of the year, she said to herself saisi mon courage à deux mains and wrote a pitch to Eyrolles, a publishing house that specialises in editing photography books. “I started writing in February 2022 when I got the go ahead and now it’s going to print nine months later. My third baby!”

She knew she would travel and learn English. She knew she would write a book. What next for Caro? “I always have projects swirling around in my head. I have dreams of exhibitions of the work created for the challenge, setting up a yearly festival with a conference around it and let it be a forum for exciting learning and human experiences. I want to continue to photographing families and women entrepreneurs. I want to continue my work with other photographers in my workshops or via coaching and see them grow and blossom in what they do. I feel a lot of happiness seeing them in their own paths for the success they have designed for themselves.”

All photos courtesy Caro Cuinet Wellings.

Jill Shepperd

Jill Shepperd and Deborah Frost of Niche Books Valbonne.

Jill Shepperd was instilled with a love of books from birth. Her mother was a librarian, then the owner of a small bookshop but when she passed away, Jill was too young to be interested in running the business. “Wanting to travel, I worked in various travel agencies over the years before relocating to here in 1994 with my then husband,” says the Whitley Bay native.

Jill is co-owner of Niche Books Valbonne but many of us know her from when she ran the English Book Centre (EBC) on rue Alexis Julien. “I first started working part-time for the owners Sue and Mike Abrahams in 1996, alongside part-time working as a TEFL teacher – new country, new types of job! In 2002, my husband and I were divorcing and I had to choose whether to stay in France or return to the UK. Coincidentally, Sue and Mike decided they wanted to retire, so I took the plunge and bought the business.”

She says she loved the shop as it provided an amazing opportunity to meet many interesting people and be part of the local community “but it was – and still is – hard work! As with any business in France, there are many social charges, restrictions and admin hurdles to overcome but the great thing about being an independent bookshop is complete freedom of choice for stock titles you think will interest the clientele. We held several book signings with various authors, including Carol Drinkwater, Maureen Emerson, Ted Jones, Michael Nelson and Stephen Clarke.”

The EBC turned into a hub for the local Anglophone community, putting people in touch with each other, creating social opportunities for new arrivals to the area and, during the summer, the shop became “the English-speaking Tourist Office.” Soon, local international schools also traded with Jill at EBC.

Which made it even more of “a very difficult decision to sell” the shop to Lin Wolff in 2009. “There were many personal reasons and complications. Lin had worked for me for several years and, like me, was a bookaholic. I left the shop in very good hands.”

After the sale, Jill needed to work again, so returned to teaching and became involved with the Sunnybank Association in Mouans Sartoux, volunteering in their library. “I did however, return to work in the bookshop from time to time when Lin needed staffing help.”

Fast forward to post-Covid lockdowns in 2022. By then, Lin had returned to the US permanently and was obliged to sell the lease for 12 rue Alexis Julien. Deborah Frost, who had worked for Lin for many years, and Jill decided to try and relocate the shop. “After a lengthy and fraught struggle, and many meetings at the mairie, we secured these premises at 7 rue Grande. Debbie and I formed a business partnership and created a new company. With the change of location, we decided to change the name and diversify the range of items we stock to appeal to an even wider clientele.”

The pair was able to raise money via online donations, which helped fund some of the changes they had to make to the new shop. “Debbie and myself say a huge thank you to our loyal customers and friends. It has been an incredible first year, helped enormously by our regulars, new customers who never knew there was an English bookshop here before and the return of tourists to the village.”

Niche Books Valbonne sells a wide range of books in English, bilingual books, local school titles, greetings cards, a small range of stationery items, including crayons and colouring books, French books linked to the region and the possibility to order books not in stock!

Brexit has obviously led to many changes for the British community, some of whom have had to permanently return to the UK. “The community of English-speaking residents remains largely unchanged. The growth of English classes in local schools brought a new clientele to the shop – parents wanting to see their children read much more in English.”

Jill and Debbie are continuing to help promote local authors and artists. A book signing with Lewis Hinton took place recently, for his novel The Face Stone, a Jack Sangster mystery. The shop also stocks cards by Cathie Van der Stel & Marina Kulik, and beautiful hand worked prints by photographer Jon Kershaw.

Illustrator Tiphanie Beeke will be at the shop on Saturday, September 24, at 3pm to read stories of Fletcher, an inquisitive little fox, and children can colour in their own Fletcher pictures.

Reflecting on the almost 30 years she has lived near Valbonne, Jill says that while the neighbouring Sophia Antipolis tech park has grown “exponentially”, the old village has maintained its natural charm. “There are still many villagers who have grown up, lived and worked here all their lives. Local festivals continue in time-honoured tradition mostly around Place des Arcades, the popular square at the heart of the village where there is a variety of restaurants and cafés to choose from.”

Of course, with a newly purchased book in hand – maybe the latest Thursday Murder Club story by Richard Osman.

Jill’s Top Sellers in Valbonne

For those who like bread straight from the oven, Jill suggests stopping by Le fournil d’Eugène, next to the bookshop, around 11am for a Valbonnais. Her other tips include “amazing cheeses” from 365 Fromages (rue Eugène Giraud), indulgent chocolates from a Meilleur Ouvrier de France at Chocolaterie Christian Camprini (rue de la République) or a glass of  ‘proper’ beer at the Irish bar Roots on rue de la Fontaine.