Tuesday 21 March 2017

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, is branching into non-fiction and my professionally-produced and revised book, Pensioners in Paradis, will be one of the first two published under the True Cats non-fiction line. (The other will be Life with Arfur by David Robinson.) Pensioners in Paradis is expected to appear in paperback and e-book later this year.  A contract for the book was signed yesterday afternoon and the formal announcement was made on Facebook and Twitter later in the evening. Here's the preliminary announcement. New artwork will be displayed soon.


Crooked Cat Books 2017

A few weeks ago I discussed with fellow authors on FB about the various genres they enjoyed reading in these worrying times.  Certainly humour came high on the list. In my experience anything that shows ordinary people finding themselves in ridiculous situations with which others can empathise, is always good for a laugh. Add to that the folly of trying and failing to mimic the lifestyles of other cultures whilst continuing a lifetime habit of self-deprecation and depression and you see what I mean.  I can already feel a FB event party coming on.....

19 March 2017

There's a new word in the dictionary. Cyberia....
I'm reminded of an early episode of Star Trek in the '60s where two warring peoples had stopped conventional war for centuries by peacefully choosing random people to voluntarily eliminate themselves. In today's real world the horrors of WW2 and subsequent fighting remind us every day of the horrors of war and the killing of millions - usually initiated by the pride of a single dictator or brain-washed, deranged groups constantly seeking more land to aggrandise personal motives. One reason why many Remainers voted to stay in the EU was to avoid such wars. But now we also have cyber warfare where warmongers are much more subtle, using the silent web to further their aims. Deterrence? You'd need to stop everyone using a computer - impossible. If we can't stop the proliferation of conventional wars, how on earth can we stop Cyberia?
....No point calling on Scottie to put up his defence shields. There are none yet for Cyberia. Come on Sir Tim Berners-Lee, on the anniversary of your invention: we need you. Otherwise we're all out in the cold.

12th March 2017

Oh to see ourselves as others see us, as Robbie Burns said so eloquently in 1786...
After near-hurricane winds we lost all our English TV programmes. So, on channel TF1 we've been watching Bienvenue chez-nous, the French version of the crassly-named 'Four-in-a-Bed' whereby fellow B&B owners score points off each other's establishment and facilities. One couple were English expats. First, the wife painted their volets her favourite colour purple. No! Then they served the other owners a full English breakfast of eggs/tomatoes/mushrooms. No! I recognised the wife's introversion when she greeted each new arrival far too affectionately by throwing her arms around each of them, rather than the standard French polite peck on each cheek. Then the host's French accent.  He spoke fluently, but his pronunciation!  Eventually, despite offering their guests a fab musical jam session in their barn, the English hosts couldn't undo the harm already done, scoring only 4s and 5s.
...Rule no.1 in France: Paint volets according to the commune colour in which you live. 2. Practise your French accent every day. 3. Serve food as the French do. 4. Cultivate French mannerisms.  So, quoting St. Ambrose, a mediaeval Latin poet: if you want to gain favour in France, when in Rome do as the Romans do!

5th March 2017

In the Foreword to Vichyssoise I note that "People in democracies all over the world, when casting their vote for leader, should choose the person who is the most educated of the selection." Of course in that book I was referring to the populist French choice of Philippe Petain in WW2 - a man far too-weak and politically-inexperienced. The problem is that no-one at the time of voting could possibly have known what their newly-elected leader would be forced to face. This week a French historian, ironically a specialist in WW2, was detained for 10 hours by armed US customs officials whilst on his way to an academic conference in Texas. Other innocent new arrivals have reported similarly that if you get called out of the arrivals line, you are screamed at and treated as a potential terrorist. What then can the world do about Donald Trump? He's certainly not weak as Petain was and may actually deliver some populist constitutional changes, but his political inexperience and gung-ho bravura, combined with a team bristling with 'mad dog' Generals, bodes just as much ill for the world as did the mild Petain when collaborating with Hitler. I wonder if on his Oval Office wall Trump's got a sign, emulating Petain, saying 'L'histoire me jugera'!

26th February 2017

The excitement began last Tuesday.  All seemed a bit vague. Our notaire didn't contact us but the buyer casually mentioned that we should be at the notaire's on the 21st. No paperwork. Just his casual mention.  Oh, OK then. I made some cinnamon and ginger biscuits in an attempt to sweeten everyone up. Tuesday arrived and, from past experience, had to assume that the venue would be the buyer's notaire in Lisle sur Tarn. Arrived early comme d'habitude and bit our nails.  Would the buyer arrive? Walked in and stared sightlessly out of the window. Voices were heard in the car park. Buyer had turned up!  All were ushered into an office, I placed my biscuits centre table, and the spiel began. Questions were asked. Did we know of any reason that neighbours might object??
 No, not to our knowledge, we said....I know, I know. Papers were passed to and fro, signatures were requested on innumerable pieces of paper. Everyone ate a biscuit.  So, is that it? I asked our notaire.  Oui! she said. Finally, the house is sold and all monies would be sent immediately to our French bank!!! Meantime, we've agreed with the buyer to remain as tenants whilst we await completion of our new-build English house.  Perfect.  A new stage in our lives. Here's a pic of work in progress. Support all around...just what I need myself!


19th February 2017

As I and the NHS approach our 70th birthday, we both need a full body scan! No more standing on the scales myopically ignoring the obvious. The problem is nostalgia. No-one likes change, even when it's so obvious. Using the French health system shows up strikingly all that is wrong with the UK and the US systems. Here's a plan: 1. UK: raise your annual GDP from the current 9.1% to at least the French 11.5%. 2. US: introduce a national, fair system based on the French model. 3. Each government to pay 70% of all health costs; individuals 30% - the latter paid for via Government-approved, cheap health insurance. 4. Built-in safeguards for free access to the low-paid and the terminally ill. 5. Introduce French-style carte vitales, with built-in health history microchips to use at all pharmacies/hospitals/surgeries for instant, free access to care.  Why? UK: this will cut at a stroke the excessive queues for urgent care, no longer 'not enough beds', whilst providing free taxis from home to hospital for those with long-duration conditions. No need for so many highly-paid administrators as the system won't need them. US: no longer can you say you can't afford to go to the doctor.  Nostalgia? Forget it. It's a thing of the past.

12th February 2017

This comic opera called global politics continues... Have you seen the new Mr. President book by Steve Bannon (http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2017/02/08/donald-trump-mr-men-cartoon-just-superb/). Says it all really. Here in France it's not much better. Since the Conservative Fillon's fall from grace, who's left in the imminent race for the new French President?  Yes, you've guessed it: the current 'It girl francaise': Marine Le Pen.  And for other expats reading this, have you heard the latest from her lips?  She will stop all dual citizenship!  Does she realise, I wonder, that following Brexit there were only 2 options for British expats here: to take dual citizenship or go back to the UK?  Yet more booking their passage home then. Of course, there's always the new young garcon on the block, Emmanuel Macron, who plans to stand in the election under the banner of En Marche!, a centrist movement he founded in April. But already there's a closet gay suspicion about him. Shouldn't make a difference but in the world of anonymous voting, who knows? So, the right-wing bandwagon morphs on.
...Bacharach's comic song springs to mind: One wheel on my wagon and I'm still rolling along.....