25th September 2016

Have you read 'Submission' by French author Michel Houellebecq?  What a frightening political future he paints for France!
In a week when the woman we all love to hate, Marine Le Pen - leader of France's far-right National Front (FN) party - is certain to advance to the second round of the country's 2017 presidential election, according to a new poll published on Thursday, maybe we should all listen very very carefully to what M. Houellebecq has to say.  I'm particularly interested as the main character in the futuristic novel is a sardonic French professor (see my own novel '3rd Degree Murder', about another sardonic but English professor, authl.it/4ia); and M. Houellebecq's novel includes threats of a Frexit, similar to the Brexit fuelling my desire to move back to the UK.  However, the novel's main thrust is a future French general election, which pits the FN v a French Muslim Brotherhood party, and because they're neck and neck in the polls, a frightening compromise agreement is worked out between them!
Bon courage M. Houellebecq:  you're a braver man than I!

18th September 2016

The September edition of the excellent Connexion newspaper included a double-feature on how to get a novel published here in France. It's clear that an important point for all authors is to write about what you know and to work out your target audience.  What is different about your novel and why would people buy it?  My latest novel, Vichyssoise (amzn.to/2bg3kkG), now available in paperback, springs to mind because it was researched from original French texts and set in areas and streets near to where I lived. I would hope, therefore, that it appeals to all English readers, but particularly those interested in WW2 and/or those who know the areas of France covered therein. Here's a taster, covering St Antonin Noble Val in Tarn et Garonne. Hope you enjoy it.
"... Back in her own lodgings on the top floor of an old house in the Rue de la Treille, just off the Place du Bessarel, Karin thought long and hard about what to do next. She had secured the flat by using some of her precious francs from her coat lining. She managed to set up her improvised radio on the table in the kitchen, and told her landlady that she was a journalist and didn’t wish to be disturbed.  “Don’t worry about the cleaning,” she told her. “I prefer to do my own.” In her secret broadcast back to London that night, she reported that from her observations, the mood of the country seemed to be that of being neither active in the Resistance nor acting as active collaborators. Most appeared to have adopted a wait-and-see stance – something they called attentisme – and were concentrating what energy they had in holding on and getting through the dark days of les années noires. Their priority was survival. Because of the loss of the men, the burden of everyday life fell on the shoulders of the women. It was they who formed the lengthy queues outside shops, and they who washed what clothes their families possessed with what cleaning materials were available.  That night proved clear and free from mist rising from the Aveyron, so Karin carefully locked her room and ran downstairs to the Rue de la Treille. She crossed over the Place du Bessarel, greeting the old women with her customary “Bonne soirée” before turning the corner and walking up to the café.  Whilst she was standing at the counter waiting to order her coffee, a stranger walked in. He had a newspaper under his arm and wore a soft felt fedora on his head. He walked up to the counter and ordered a café crème.  “Non plus,” said the bartender, wiping the counter clean of coffee stains.  “D’accord,” said the stranger, and went to leave. But not before turning to Karin and, in a surprising gesture rather like Général de Gaulle himself, taking her hand and brushing the skin on the back with his thin dry lips. Before she could utter a word, the man lifted his head and looked at her, his eyes glittering a warning not to say anything. She understood. He left, closing the café door quietly behind him, the tinkling of the bell the only indication of his having been there. 
"It would have been forgotten, except for the scrap of paper he had surreptitiously left in the palm of her hand.  She carefully stowed it away in her coat pocket for later, carrying her coffee over to her usual table by the door. She finished her coffee and got up to leave, wishing the bartender “Bonne nuit” before walking slowly but purposefully back to her flat. Once safely there and with the door locked, she sat down on the bed and took the paper from her pocket.  'Imperative we know date when Germans take over unoccupied zone. Take whatever means to find out, and report back soonest. Gwendoline.' "

11th September 2016

British expats are stressed. Anyone'd think it was 9/11 or something. On arrival here everything was wonderful (read Pensioners in Paradis (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pensioners-Paradis-Olga-Swan/dp/1847994156?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc). This lasted for around 7 - 10 years. Then, slowly, slowly, a sort of mind confusion occurred. Do we want to die in France?  (Him indoors says he doesn't want to die anywhere!) Eventually, this crystalised into putting our house on the market. This weekend we had 2 viewings: 1 via Leboncoin, the other via a local agency. Now this is an unusual house, so for the first I showed them all the petit trucs the house had to offer, but for the second, disaster set in. First, 5 mins before arrival, our 'wonderful' neighbour decided to start his very noisy mower. Peaceful environment shattered. Then I thought the agent was the buyer (she'd never visited before and didn't know the house at all), and French agents require absolute silence and no input at all from sellers!  Result: no sale yet again.  And you wonder why I'm stressed.....

4th September 2016

Humour, mayhem, madness. Should've, could've, would've...
1st, kitchen floor.  Since first fitted, I've struggled to seal the white, natural stone tiles - rather like trying to polish the pavement! Should've insisted the fitter do this in first place. List of products that failed:  linseed oil, beeswax, various floor polishes. Lightbulb moment from Him indoors:  try my car polish. Not perfect, but best of all of them. Second, la Poste. Gaillac has only one - crazy for a town this size - and last Monday, the interior was being renovated. Could've found out before. When I asked how I could weigh/send a small birthday parcel for daughter in US, a gallic shrug!! Third, a house viewing. Olga's rules: stuff all family detritus in available, non-integrated cupboards and keep smart 'staging' materials like cushions, expensive soaps, rugs in a handy place ready to whip out at a moment's notice. Didn't help that Him indoors, attached to dogs, having had specific instructions to keep out of the way, approached the car on arrival!! If I'd known, would've tied all 3 to a tree far away. Did we sell? Jury's out.  Oh, and a very happy birthday to Julie today!

28th August 2016

Be very very afraid.....
Too much state control here in France. First they introduced automatic organ donation. Unless you go to a lot of trouble in finding and signing the right form, your organs can be taken on death without permission. Now a 2nd violation:  in February, without fanfare, France introduced a new law whereby terminally-ill patients can be sedated, water and food withdrawn, until they die.  Imagine how I felt reading this, when my own dear brother suffered from exactly this in a UK hospice under the now discredited Liverpool Pathway scheme.  Legalised euthanasia by another name!  I know there will be some reading this who say 'it's for the best; he's dying anyway.'  No: it gives far too much power to doctors, who can now make their own, God-like, decisions on whether you live or die. Remember: there is no pain that can't be assuaged today by strong drugs. Don't let the State overrule our hard won independence, the human right to make our own decisions.
....life is precious. As long as we live, there is always hope. Don't take that away.

Sunday 21 August 2016

For 2 weeks in Rio the Olympic flame has shone brightly. Superb athletes from most nations have shaken hands in friendship and goodwill...
But in Europe it's chilled, despite the summer heat. No handshakes in the banlieues of Paris, where over the last 3 months, 13000 newly-arrived immigrants speaking Arabic, Pashto and Farsi were quickly handcuffed and served deportation orders. NE in Calais it's worse, the Jungle now completely out-of-control. SW, on the outskirts of Marseilles, wild fires rage.  And, France's Hollande - in his government-funded Lanterne holiday residence, several kilometres from the gleaming Elysée Palace - is also in a rage. Terrible terrorist atrocities have necessitated the deployment of armed guards everywhere. Alarmed, many Communes have cancelled the very summer attractions that boost his ailing country's vital tourist income. And, following Brexit, the 2017 French elections loom, with the scheming Mme Le Pen poised to strike, along with most of the French workforce it seems!
...... but the lights in Paris are flickering alarmingly.

14th August 2016

House sale blues!  The French property market in this region is impossible - no buyers anywhere!  I know what you're thinking.  It's no good saying 'houses aren't selling in our price range'. Just lower the price.  But, what to do if you've already lowered the price drastically and still nothing?  So, we currently have no less than 5 local agents, English sites plus a private ad on Leboncoin (a sort of French ebay: https://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobilieres/1004554664.htm) but with them unless your price is 100K euros or less, there's not much interest. French estate agents aren't worth the huge commission they get:  c.6% of the asking price - way more than the English ones receive! Him indoors says the word immobilier is onomatopoeic : immobile! It's certainly helpful when they vet prospective buyers and come to the notaire (solicitor) with both buyer and seller, but my cynical mind says that's to ensure we actually all sign on the dotted line!  But at least sellers in France don't pay anything to either the agent or the notaire. Meantime I'm busy keeping chez-nous up to scratch: tidy, clean and 'well-staged' with flowers, table-setting etc......just in case.