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February, without fanfare, France introduced a new law whereby terminally-ill patients can be sedated, water and food withdrawn, until they die.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.

Wednesday 10th August 2016

Here is the last so far in my series of three books for those aged 9 - 13. And there's a prize!  Read Ruby, Clementine or Saffron (link below) and the first to leave a review on Amazon will receive an Amazon voucher!


Saffron has already had to suffer racial taunts due to her mixed-race origins. Her mission involves the Taj Mahal, where she learns via her late grandmother’s letter that she must find the hidden love token buried many years ago. Her travels to India prove a revelation. In searching and finding the missing artefact, she meets young Abu, who touches her heart. Slowly she learns something about herself and the inescapable facts of her personal Indian roots.

Don’t miss the characters who appear throughout the series:  the inscrutable Verdigris, the evil Miss Pinchtuck and an ancient professor who plots to solve the world’s global warming problems. Can each of the seven Rainbow girls complete Verdigris’ mission and prove that the professor was right all along?  Only time will tell.

Below is an exclusive extract from Saffron, just for you:

India
Invisible engines thrummed.  An uncanny wind whistled past Saffron’s eardrums, the insistent beat echoing her thudding heart. 
Don’t look down, for pity’s sake don’t look down. 
From time to time the bustling noises of the Agra chawls came wafting up to her: the shouts from colourful vendors, blind and maimed beggars intermingling with the honking rickshaw drivers. All competed for her attention.  But still she could not, would not look down as she clung ever tightly to the boy in the white turban. He was sitting cross-legged on the ancient, now threadbare piece of carpet, but Saffron could only perch on her knees as with every passing cloud the itchy fabric knitted and patched itself into a ruby, woven scab.
‘Remember what I told you,’ the boy shouted to her.  ‘Keep away from the chawls. They’re full of cockroaches, centipedes and earthworms. Above all, don’t drink the water. It’s poisoned by human and animal excrement.’ 
Saffron shuddered.  She just couldn’t imagine what life must be like for all those poor people she could see crammed into their personal kholi flats within their chawl. 
How ever had she got here?  What would her parents say if only they knew? But her parents would still be sleeping, sublimely unaware that she was already nearing her destination. Verdigris had known all along that her special mission involved the Taj Mahal, but for Saffron all she wanted was to fulfil her grandmother’s dying wish.  ‘...Find my very own love token, my dear. I’m the only one who knows where it’s hidden, but I’m now too old.  It’s you Saffron, yes only you, who must find it.  Then at last I can die in peace. Goodnight for now, my darling girl.’
Now, years later, Saffron could only stare straight ahead, even if it was directly into the boy’s cambric shirt.  If she moved her head slightly, or even pinched her eyes tight shut, a terrible nausea would prevail.  She remembered the mantra her Mum always told her at the dentist’s: ‘this won’t last long; this won’t last long’.  Soon, her agile brain had incorporated this with every zoom and lurch of the carpet beneath her knees, until suddenly, at last, the speed and motion changed.
The boy shouted out to her ‘Hold on tight. We’re going down.’
----
Don't forget, there's a prize. After reading one of the 3, click again on the buy link below and go to Leave a Review.  GOOD LUCK!

Below is that all-important link on how to buy:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IDLQ4O








7th August 2016

August already and it's not been a good year for British expats in France. Terror attacks and anti-Semitism increasing exponentially and a growing realisation that France's security is not all it should be. Talk of a cover-up in Nice to hide their shame: CCTV camera footage of the recent attack has been destroyed! My solution? Call in the Israelis. They know a thing or two about national security. They have to in order to survive. And Brexit worries continue as we wait for the start button to be pressed in January. As well as the 2 main options (return to the UK or take up French citizenship), for those having difficulty in selling their home in a dormant market, they might consider applying for a carte de sejour, giving them a measure of residence security in the meantime. Trouble is there's the dreaded French bureaucracy to deal with, e.g. they ask for your original birth certificate but it must be issued during the last 3 months!! So, the original certificate I've held for 60+ years is somehow not authentic enough? Words fail me.

Wednesday 3rd August 2016

It's my Wednesday international blog. As promised, here's another excerpt from my alter ego, Gillian Green's, series for those aged 9 - 13.  This is book 2 in the Rainbow series: 'Clementine'.  Musical Tina finds herself going back in time in search of a missing violin. She meets a wonderful boy called Antonio Stradivar but discovers she's now living in the 17th Century. How ever will she get back to normal time again?

So, here's a short extract. Tina is in Rome on a school trip. Her teacher, the mysterious Mr. Verdigris, asks her to do a strange thing, about which she must tell no-one. She must find a missing Stradivarius violin. She has no idea how she will accomplish this but soon, as she's visiting the Colosseum, she's swept up, up and away....




".....Suddenly, a movement in the corner of Tina’s eyes caught her attention.  She turned and saw one of their helpers beckoning to her. 
Oh no! 
It was that weird one with the black headscarf. 
What on earth does she want?
She indicated to Beth that she would only be a moment.  Little did she know!  No sooner had she reached the old woman than she realised at last why she looked so familiar.
‘Oh, you look just like Miss Pinchtuck – from my dance class,’ she said in confusion.  ‘But, what are you doing with our group from school?’ 
Tina was really really surprised.  It was not often that someone from one part of her life collided into another.  Really, her Saturday dance classes at the Rainbow School of Dance had nothing whatsoever to do with Kingsbridge School, so she was amazed that the old woman was here as a helper.  But right here, at the Colosseum in Rome, was where she undoubtedly was.  There was no mistaking her now, with that bent body and horrible warts all over her face. 
Miss Pinchtuck cackled and rubbed her hands together with glee.  ‘I wondered how long it would take you, child, to recognise me.  But at least, as an over-65, I got in for free!’  She paused awhile and looked ahead of her whilst nodding slowly to herself.  Yes, that just might do it!  But first she needed to entice the child towards and through those two central gothic pillars over there, the ones with the flaking masonry hanging in shreds right down to the ground.  Yes, those are the ones, she smiled to herself.  The ones with that arch above them – the arch with the seven grooves in it……But how to lure the child over there? 
Miss Pinchtuck strained her painful neck muscles backwards so that she could look straight up into the clear blue sky, a sky so translucent that it was a perfect dome for the Colosseum beneath.  Why, it was almost as if they were all spectators in what was to be the greatest show on earth.  She brought her head straight again and looked at the arch directly in front of her.  A voice came into her addled brains.  Keep it simple, Mildred…(for that was her name, a name that no-one ever used any more because it sounded like mildew)….keep it simple.
‘Child,’ she said, turning again to Tina, who was shuffling from one foot to the other anxious to get back to Beth again.  Tina was frightened she would lose sight of the rest of the group and become hopelessly lost in the milling crowds all around. ‘You couldn’t do me a favour, could you?’ said the old woman, smiling in the best way she could, despite her yellowing, decayed teeth.
Tina nodded, but saying ‘Yes, but can you make it quick. I’m sure I’ll lose sight of my friends if I don’t hurry up.’
‘Yes, yes, dear.  It won’t take a moment…a mere second in life’s precious passage of time.’
‘What?’  What on earth was the old woman going on about now? thought Tina, growing increasingly irritated.
‘You see those pillars over there – the ones with the arch above linking them both together?  Miss Pinchtuck pointed to the exact place she wanted the child to be.
Tina nodded.
‘I simply need you to fetch my handkerchief which I’m sure I dropped just the other side.  You can’t fail to recognise it – it’s got rainbow bands all around the edges.’
Tina thought oh, anything to get rid of her, so quickly agreed.  ‘Just between those arches, you say?’ as she ran off in the direction the old woman had said. 
Shouldn’t take long. 
As the child sped off, Miss Pinchtuck stuck her bony hand inside her bodice and extracted a rainbow-shaped charm hanging on a gilt chain around her wrinkled neck.  She raised her other hand in an arch above her short-sighted, hooded eyes, the better to see exactly when the child was in the correct position.
She peered through the sparkling sunlight until her eyes suddenly focused. 
‘Yes, yes, you old fool.  Now.  Now.!’  With that, she rubbed the rainbow charm in an anti-clockwise direction, mumbling an ancient spell she had concocted specially for this moment.
Nimble, nimble, child be quick
Don’t be slow, for here’s the trick
By all that’s holy, all sublime
By magic’s grace, GO BACK IN TIME!
       
Tina found the pillars, the ones underneath the archway, but as she ran through them searching for that elusive handkerchief, something very strange happened.  She found herself growing dizzy, all of a sudden.  She put her clammy hand up to her head in an effort to still the throbbing vein in her temples, but it made no difference.  She suddenly felt worse, much worse.  The whole world had started to spin in an anti-clockwise direction, herself in the centre.  She felt as though she was in the middle of a giant tornado, in the very eye of the needle, twirling, twirling, round and round. Everything went first grey, then black, as she was flung helplessly along.
Every so often, the twisting fabric of her life would pick up elements of years gone by.  Images of people, their thoughts, collided in a quickening and roaring pace, each phase superseded by another, then another. 
Hours passed, days disappeared, followed by years, then centuries, as the loose sheets of the world’s calendar were torn off one by one.  And still she spun in that vortex, like a helpless spider being sucked ever downwards into the giant plughole of time.
In a fleeting moment of consciousness she kept repeating to herself, over and over, in a never-ending mantra:
 
Where am I? 
What am I? 
Where am I going? 
Why?
     
Soon, very soon, she would find out. 
It would be like nothing she had ever experienced before....."

Here's the link for all 3 in this series:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IDLQ4O

Do hope a youngster in your family enjoys them.

Don't miss, next Wednesday, an extract from the 3rd book: Saffron, who's a child of mixed race who visits the Taj Mahal in India in search of her late grandmother's love token. Don't miss it!




31st July 2016

Growing up in England, I was known as someone who couldn't cook. Stay out of the kitchen, everyone said. So, since arriving in France and having more time, I was determined to improve my non-existent culinary skills. Yesterday French friends Gerard and Monique arrived. What better challenge, Monique having almost cordon-bleu abilities. Beforehand, because of the intense heat here, I determined to prepare 3 courses fraiches. Useful because everything could be made the night before. But what?  See what you think. For the main plat I made a smoked salmon terrine: a melange of creamed cheese, herbs, cooked salmon and asparagus, wrapped with slices of smoked salmon, served with noodle salad and green lambs-lettuce. The dessert was mon favoris: cherries in juice topped with a melange of fromage blanc and mascarpone. But what about the entrée? Can you guess? Him indoors said but of course, has to be chilled vichyssoise soup, which I topped with a swirl of cream. And....Monique said: 'C'est tres bien'. Was ich hob gelebt.