30th April 2017

What a week. First, personal  Last Saturday we held our Vide Maison. We'd decided that, because we had bought a very small, modern house in the UK, the large, classic French furniture here needed to be sold. I'd advertised it nationally, via the ubiquitous LebonCoin site, and locally via the familiar card on a board in our local Intermarche. First I had to deal with the downright rude responders on LebonCoin. For those who understand what this says, please don't repeat it to your mother-in-law: 'va te faire f......, sale cons.'  Clearly, she wasn't happy with my prices (3 - 100 euros for each piece). Oh well, can't win them all. The day dawned and TG loads of people arrived, carting away absolutely everything! Thursday the UK removals van arrived, taking with them the mainly bedroom furniture that we'd arranged. And, surprise, surprise, two of our previously-hostile neighbours turned up to give me a kiss on both cheeks. Pleased to see the back of us, you think??
Secondly, the French elections:

Just look at all those dark blue NF areas, including this Departement (81)! Yes, as expected, the dreaded Mme Le Pen is through to the second round on 7 May. To be clear, an outright fascist has just achieved an alarmingly large share of the votes in this modern democracy. Just goes to show what so many francaises really think.Am I gonna sit around as so many decent Berliners did back in the '30s? What d'you think - I'm outta here and fast.

23rd April 2017

Fear abounds. Not just the recent terrorist shootings in Paris either. None of the French I've spoken to know in which direction France is heading. They want to be proud of their heritage but fear what will happen should Marine Le Pen become President. The educated, business-types seem to prefer M. Fillon, but his chances were scuppered when the press printed accusatory libel re personal misdealings. Thinks...rather like what happened to Hillary Clinton...could global hackers be changing the face of French politics too? The young, of course, admire M. Macron but does he have the essential experience and world knowledge to cope with what lies ahead?  Thinks...look what happened to Philippe Petain in WW2...too weak and untested to deal with a rampant Hitler. Then there's a burgeoning M. Melanchon. If he and Le Pen get through to round 2 in a few weeks it'll be Far Right v Far Left. Quel choix! So rather like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the first round today is just for thorougbreds and largely just a 4 horse race. Who will win? The answer could destroy the EU in its tracks and change the face of French politics forever.  Ah well, there's always the UK elections coming soon....now there's a Grand National event. Maybe the favourite will fall at Becher's Brook and a total outsider come through on the rails? Madame Guillotine, are you ready?

16th April 2017

Are you old enough to remember Cool for Cats on UK TV from '56 - '67, presented by Canadian Kent Walton? Watching the Rolling Stones as teenagers, or even Cat Stevens, we laughed hysterically at the notion that such cool bands would still be performing at the crazy age of 74. But everything's changed today. We all have to stay young. As a writer, the internet's changed everything. Back in the '50s, once you had a publishing contract, you sat back and left all that advertising stuff to your publisher. But today? Rather belatedly I've realised that writing books and getting a publisher is not enough. You need an advertising budget, so I asked Him indoors (he of the old DIY market stall).  He said budget for marketing at 1% of my turnover. Turnover? All this came into sharp focus this weekend as my publisher crookedcatbooks.com has a major Easter sale running. What to do? As many of my characters are US-driven, I picked at random some US book promo sites and scratched together an advertising budget. Any success so far?  Yes!  Lamplight authl.it/4q0 and Vichyssoise authl.it/52l have leapt up the US charts particularly, with 3rd Degree Murder authl.it/4ia to be promoted tomorrow.  Am I still a Cool Cat as I was in the '50s?  Well I'm certainly trying, as Him indoors would say!

9th April 2017

De Gaulle once said 'Every man of action has a strong dose of egoism, pride, hardness and cunning...high qualities...the means to great ends.'
My all-time heroes are De Gaulle and Churchill, men who put into practice brave action when it was desperately needed. So all the more surprising that the man the whole world (including the US) loved to hate has turned the tide. Yes, Trump has confounded us all. Par contre I was left disappointed in Obama. Never was there such a fine orator, such a great actor on the world stage. Ultimately that was the problem - all fine words but absolutely no action. As Churchill might have said: sometimes autocratic, evil dictators rise up, against whom diplomacy and sitting on the fence are useless. Just ask Chamberlain! If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago what kind of global action Trump might take, I'd have imagined a scattergun, incoherent, all-guns-firing explosion of uncontrolled aggression. And yet, the action in Syria when it came was careful, proportionate, exactly targetted and controlled.  Both Hollande and Merkel were full of praise, despite their own worries at home. As usual in the EU, it's the constant struggle of right v left. For each, the favourite successor wants a full United States of Europe - but where's the democracy in that?
,,,,What would De Gaulle have said?  'Politics - too serious a matter to be left to politicians!'

2nd April 2017

Mad dogs and Englishmen....
So the Brexit button was finally pushed. Could have been worse - better than the nuclear button. But still the US and EU inwardly implode, the UK starts to fragment and next week Mme Le Pen comes to the fore. Meanwhile, we went to our local French vet to get our two rescue dogs microchipped in time for the customs inspection at Calais.  The UK government site is clear: microchip then rabies vaccine. The French vet said Non, vous n'avez pas compris. The procedure order doesn't matter, it's the 21 days after the vaccine before travel that matters. I knew I was right, but let him go ahead with both procedures the same day. Only then did he discover that Tina, our 2nd rescue dog, was never registered to us, nor even to the alcoholic who originally left her at the rescue kennel. Tina's a pedigree dog and still registered with the breeder!  This means that the Customs may not let her travel with us. Disaster! Well to cut a long story short, finally we've managed to change ownership to us via the French I-CAD system (similar to the Kennel Club in the UK). But still I worry because they could interpret this new chip change as being performed after the vaccine and leave us fuming in Calais.
..go out in the midday sun.