25th November 2012

The end of the world is nigh, and salvation is in our region!  Well, so the ancient Mayans prophesied.  And, we haven't got long to prepare for the day of the apocalypse: 21 December 2012.  The tiny village of Bugarach, nestled amid breathtaking landscapes is the place where tourists are heading from far and wide.  It's so small there are only two narrow cobbled streets and less than 200 residents....well there were until the world descended on the place. The publicity boys have been in full flow: 'come and book your final doomsday destination'.  Of course, the puzzled inhabitants don't know what to do. Some have decided to get out while they can by putting their old terraced houses up for sale.  Typical French. Why would anyone want to buy a house when the end of the world is nigh?  The mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, a 60-year old farmer has been rushing around like a self-important headless chicken, proclaiming special security measures and the like. But what can he do to prevent the apocalypse other than make money from all this unexpected tourism? Meanwhile, planes from the US have been fully-booked for December by passengers with one-way tickets! And the village sign and mountain pebbles have been stolen to be sold as profit - but if there's no future, there are no buyers. Couldn't understand why one budding entrepreneur was charging 5 euros to bury last wills and testaments in the last place on earth until I noticed Him indoors had gone missing....

18th November 2012

Is it just me?  The whole world has gone 'virtual crazy'.  But even I never thought that wars would be partly conducted on social networking sites!  It's a sign of the times, but never before has the start of a military campaign been announced on Twitter - as happened last Wednesday. Both sides of the current Middle East debacle are apparently tweeting and uploading videos onto YouTube non-stop. The tweets are both direct and aggressive, both sides countering each other tweet by tweet!  It seems that such sites are not only used to share information with the rest of the world, they are also on the conflict's frontline. But, I suppose any means that can help innocent people in a conflict are good, e.g. a recent tweet: 'Try sticking plastic tape onto window panes and school books' as a preventative in case of sudden attacks. I can't understand how apparently impoverished people, sometimes living in one room, can afford to have the latest technology.
The danger with all this is that not only are virtual - sometimes amateurish - sites reporting on global news, but they also give a blank canvas to mad people giving vent to individual furies. Unchecked, unprofessional, comments can now be published globally, causing mayhem and blowing events up out of all proportion. This ageing, insecure writer is feeling worried. Please can we go back to a time when all news events (and God-forbid) wars are reported and dealt with by experienced people properly trained, selected and educated?

11th November 2012

What's up with the English?
Today everyone should be remembering those who died so that we could live in freedom and democracy, and be able to vote for those who will determine our future. That's what democracy is all about - it's set out in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.  However, that basic right is denied to British expats resident in Europe for over 15  years.  There's a British 90-year-old called Harry Shindler who lives in Italy and patiently waits for his inalienable rights to vote again - but the wheels of justice move exceedingly slow. The answer may not come  in time for him.
So, is that what the English are justifiably up in arms about? What, says Him indoors, by chains?? No! As usual, the English are obsessed with sex, perversion and paedophilia.  And, they've even dragged my favourite BBC broadcaster into all this. Of course, the average UK policeman would much rather be dealing with these salacious matters - I can see them all salivating now - than actually dealing with mundane street crime.  The French can't understand it at all. For them, the big issue is not sex but money, money, money.  The only 50 shades of grey that concern them are the complexion and doings of Francois Hollande, who is rapidly ruining the French economy - but that's another story.

4th November 2012

Fifty shades of grey?  Fifty shades of nothing, say the French.  E. L. James' best-seller has now been translated into French, but literary it is not.  Connoisseurs of the arts are horrified. What do you do when sleaze apparently outsells Shakespeare? It's grunge v the opera, graffiti v Renoir. This week I read that Pippa Middleton was advanced hundreds of thousands for her completely juvenile, illiterate book.
A sign of the times, I suppose.  Makes me wonder why I continue to struggle to achieve something literary in a world where perversion is news and being famous is more important in a writer than the beauty of the written word.  Good job Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Shakespeare aren't about to submit their manuscripts today. None of them would count for much in the looks department!
I was saying all this to a French friend the other day. She had recently read a French novel, the writing of which had brought tears to her eyes. The James' saga couldn't happen in France, she said, promising to read one of my novels and even to translate it into French!  Worth a try, I suppose, but I'm still sceptical it'll achieve anything positive in today's world of cash-strapped literary editors and publishers.
But, anything that will lighten my gloom would be a glimmer of hope as I contemplate the stirrings of a new novel in my fervent brain. One thing's for sure:  this may be France, but the Marquis de Sade I'm not!