I dreamed a dream...

My father once said to me: to be famous you need to say the right thing at the right time to the right person.
Watching the YouTube video of Susan Boyle - from the Britain's Got Talent show - brought this home to me. Here was a middle-aged woman, who walked in front of an audience and got the typical reaction: laughter. How dare someone so old, plain and out-of-fashion have the effrontery to think she was a star? The cameras panned onto the faces of the illustrious judges, then across the young faces in the audience. All were laughing in sheer disbelief.
And then she started to sing.....
If you haven't watched the video, I recommend it. Not so much for her voice - which brings a tingle down the spine - but for the story it unfolds. Just Google on Susan Boyle, then turn on your PC speakers. From the first few bars of 'I dreamed a dream' from Les Miserables, it was absolutely obvious that she was a star.
In another genre, I was reading about a new Star Trek movie just out. Back in my heyday of the early '60s, the original TV series was a flop. It wasn't until they relaunched it in the early '70s that it suddenly took off (literally).
What I'm trying to show here is that my father's original message was correct. Having talent or an original idea isn't quite enough. Susan Boyle's voice wasn't any less good when she got thrown out from the X-Factor and all those other auditions she tried. The Star Trek series broadcast in the '60s was still just as good. For both of them, the message was right, it might even have been to the right people, but it wasn't the right time.
Maybe for me and my writing, I'm like Susan Boyle. The message is right. Maybe the right people haven't yet read it. Maybe the right time is just around the corner.......

26th April 2009

I see that Mr. Darling has introduced a £2000 scrap payment when exchanging your 9-years-old+ car for a new greener model. I'm pleased at last that he's starting to look to France and Germany for some good ideas. (Pity this hasn't yet extended to health care).
I'm pretty hopeless with tech things. I knew that when we bought a new French car 4 years ago that we didn't need to pay an annual road tax - good! - but wasn't sure about the equivalent to an MOT. Well, now we know. Just before 4 years are up, the garage which originally sold you the new car sends you a leaflet for a Controle technique, required by French law. It gives you the date by which you need to get 116 different mechanical items checked over - this is called a Pre-Controle. (After this is done, you need a Controle technique every 2 years).
I thought, 'Oh, here we go...', remembering all those English garages of yore. You bring the car in, with absolutely nothing wrong with it, and they always say it needs hundreds of pounds spending. One particular occasion about 20 years ago, the UK garage said they had replaced the spark plugs so we foolishly paid them. When him indoors later looked under the bonnet, the spark plugs were still covered with the original blue paint of the car! (In other words, they hadn't replaced the plugs at all!!).
So, this time, with sinking heart we went back to the garage in Montauban after the 1 hr pre-Controle, ready for the bad news. Lo and behold, they said the car was fine, nothing needed doing and there was nothing to pay!!
I like it here in France.

19th April 2009

Lately I've been experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. When children ask what's the point in learning subjects like history (it's all dead and buried), the wise history teacher will say that unless we know where we've come from, we'll never know who we are.
The French, for all their faults, know exactly who they are. From the blockading fishermen in the north to the village townsfolk in the south, their culture is supreme. I even saw in our village bibliotheque a leaflet on how to renovate ancient crumbling houses so as to maintain French local heritage and history.
I see in the Sunday Times that Prince Charles is battling to stop a monstrous glass and steel reconstruction of the ancient much-loved Chelsea Barracks in London. I agree with him. A lot of what's wrong with the UK is not the crumbling edifices of its houses, but the crumbling edifices of its culture. When will planners get the message that unless we conserve the essential character of our past, we destroy not only our heritage but the essential character of who we are.
So, I suppose my own id crisis is caused by being an Englishwoman with eastern-Europe ancestors struggling to be accepted in yet another country. Like the teeming nomads in history, cross-circuiting the globe in search of a better life, I too need to find the essential ingredient that tells me who I am.
Answers please (not on a postcard) but by the comments section here!

12th April 2009

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but it seems that the article due to appear in The Sun has been delayed. Here's what Charles Rae, their finance journalist, had to say when I asked if he could confirm the exact date of publication: "no unfortunately I can't . It was due to appear on tuesday but the cashflow supplement has been put off until next month and I don't have a new date. I will try to let you know when I get another date, thanks, charlie". I'm not sure how the financial machinations of fine journalism work, but I'll confirm the date as soon as I know it myself.
In the meantime.....
In our village there is a tiny bibliotheque/tourist office, which serves as a local library as well as information point. I had borrowed a reference book before when I was researching Philippe Petain for my book 'Je ne regrette rien', but hadn't read any novels because they're all in French. However, I was pleased to be contacted last week to ask if I would be interested in volunteering one day a week to 'man the stall'. Now, this was a challenge I couldn't resist. It would test my level of French, the names of local residents, as well as my knowledge of the local area (the latter being rather sketchy). But, the tourist season is building up now it's already Easter weekend. I'll probably be O.K if the tourists are all English, and even if they're Dutch (because many speak English better than I do!), but the French?
Oh well. Must be mad. On verra....

5th April 2009

Regular followers of this blog will know that I'm constantly seeking marketing opportunities for my writing. It's the same old problem. In this difficult economic climate, traditional literary agents and publishers seek only celebrity authors to make a quick buck - rather than search out new quality writing as they used to do.
So, I needed to find a 'third way' as Tony Blair would say. Imagine my surprise, then, to be contacted by a national UK newspaper journalist! Yes, a seasoned hack by the name of Charles Rae rang me last week to interview me over the phone. His basic interest was my own experiences in being an expat: how the current financial climate was biting in France, how we were dealing with it and whether (as so many others have already done) we were planning to return to the UK.
Of course, knowing me as you do, I didn't want to miss an opportunity - and, besides, it was relevant to the article - so I told Mr. Rae that, no, we weren't planning to return to the UK, and that we were currently riding the global economic storm by capitalising on my writing.
The newspaper? It's The Sun. I told Mr. Rae to please go ahead with the article, but not to picture me on page 3!!
So that you can all go out and purchase a copy on the right day, I was told that it would be published around 15th April, with a picture of us outside our French home. Hope Charles doesn't let me down now I've told you all.