23rd October 2016

Today is the first anniversary of the release of my first novel with Crooked Cat Publishing:  '3rd Degree Murder', drawing on my 30 years' working at The University of Birmingham. Who killed Prof. Axel Sloan? Was it me, i.e. the secretary? You'll have to read it to find out (authl.it/4ia).
 Anniversaries are always a good time to reflect on the past. Did we make the right decision in coming to France, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 11 years ago (chronicled in 'Pensioners in Paradis' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pensioners-Paradis-Olga-Swan/dp/1847994156 )? Yes. We've really enjoyed it but, now we're both approaching 70, we need to return to our roots. A new branch in the tree of life. But, it's not going to be easy. On Wednesday we signed the Compromis de Vente, so the sale of our home is proceeding. But the buyer - a marchand de bien - needs first to get a business loan then planning permission to divide the land into 2 building plots. Thereby hangs a tale. Schadenfreude for us in getting our own back on the neighbour perhaps? Or, giving him the chance to voice his public objection, which he may well do?
Let's hope it doesn't all end in 3rd Degree Murder!!

16th October 2016

Don't wish to tempt fate, but are things finally happening on the French house sale front?
.....Meantime in the UK the High Court on Tuesday started hearing details of three legal challenges over the process of triggering Britain’s exit from the EU. Senior judges will decide whether Theresa May, the prime minister, has the power to serve notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 or whether she will need a vote in parliament approving withdrawal.  Perversely, for me, at this present time of low euro:£ exchange rates, it would be better if Brexit went ahead!  I know, I know. But, you see, if the legal challenges were to win and Brexit were cancelled, the £ would probably then shoot up making our search for an English house within our budget impossible! Some say Fix the Rate now. Also problematical. There'd be a deposit of c.£18K to pay with international exchange banks, which we'd lose if a sale didn't go ahead. And... previously I thought that all buyers, after signing the Compromis de Vente (first stage), had 10 days to change their mind. However I've now discovered that if the buyer is a Marchand de Biens (a company dealing in renovations/land e.g.) there is no 10 day reflection period but you have to wait to see if nec loans are approved. All too much for me. I'm too old for all this.
                                        .........more next week on the rolling sale news of a house in Gaillac.

9th October 2016

A topsy-turvy week.  Suddenly interest seems to be growing at last for our French house. However, just as I was feeling more confident in our plans for the future, a rather unlikely cause has arrived to throw a kybosh into the works.  UK Secretary of State Sajid Javid has overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year, provoking outrage from local groups and environmentalists. Why has this outraged me too? The drilling site is just 3 miles from where we were planning to live! My understanding is that this deep drilling can cause nearby house foundations to shake or even a mini earthquake. My panic is rising because we had a viewing today, another one's fixed for Monday and another for later in the week. And, we have no idea where we're going to move to.....
For some, this is the time for talking to Him Upstairs about the past year and hopes for the future.  Wonder what decision He will make for us at this crossroads time of our lives!

2nd October 2016

I often write about French life v American. Best about the US:  the friendly people, the great State of Maine, the greatest customer-service in the world. Worst about the US:  the health system that would have bankrupted us as incoming senior citizens, and the gun law! The average US citizen obsessively allies the 2nd amendment with his citizenship, drummed into him at school.  History tells us that in 1791, having just used guns and other arms to ward off the English, the 2nd amendment was created to give citizens the chance to fight back against a tyrannical federal government. But that was then; this is 2016! America needs to urgently review this law, which gives all testosterone-driven young men (and even toddlers!) a tool to kill whenever they're upset about something. And they are, increasingly, every week! US youths are barred from buying cigarettes/alcohol but can walk into a gun store and easily buy a firearm and ammo. A French law I like: it is illegal for stores to dump expired food. Instead they donate 10m meals p.a. to those in need, via food banks. In the US, whilst 1 in 7 go hungry, 40% of food is wasted and ends up in dumpsters. Well done France.

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.....