The small flickering flame is extinguished! The publisher who had shown some interest in my latest book was looking for changes to be made before they would give a firm commitment. After re-reading the manuscript and considering their suggestions, I came to the conclusion that doing what they wanted would effectively change a work of non-fiction into a manufactured story which I would not be happy with.

Neither did I have a gut feeling that the relationship between us could be developed into a strong one, so I have declined to pursue that path, and wait to see what happens next.

Pass the tinder box, please. 🙂

A sense of foreboding

I had it all day yesterday, a vague feeling of unease that I couldn’t shake off, but I put it down to the violent attack of hayfever that had left me totally exhausted, two nights without sleep, and the effects of the hayfever medication. I took myself off to Poitiers on a shopping spree, but it didn’t do the trick, and when I went to bed I still felt very down and anxious for no reason that I could identify.

This morning, when I saw Mr Nextdoor at the gate, unusual at such an early hour, my first thought was that he had come to tell us that one of our animals had been injured but his face was drawn and pale, so I realised it was something far more serious.

Madame Grimaud, the dearest old lady, who, though she walked with difficulty and seldom went out was always cheerful, with a bright smile and mischievous eyes, had died in the night. The neighbours had seen that her shutters had not been opened at the usual time, had gone in and found her in her bed, just as she would have wanted.

The last time I saw her, about a month ago, she had been in very good spirits, and had told me that her son felt it was time for her to move into a residential home, but, she said, she wanted to stay in her own home for as long as possible. And she had told her close friends, Mr and Mrs Nextdoor, that she hoped when her time was over she would go very quickly. So both those wishes were fulfilled and I am happy for her, but she will leave a big space in the hamlet where she had lived for more than fifty years, and in my heart, too.

Her name was Eglantine, the French name for the sweet briar rose.


The Maximvs Mosleyivs Circvs rolls on

He’s been lying low for a while, but this weekend he has stepped out of the shadows and once more into the limelight in Monaco, where he looks like being the star of this weekend’s F1 Grand Prix. He won’t be rubbing shoulders with Monagesque royalty, though. They, like other International personalities and prominent figures in F1, have disassociated themselves from him. There was a story in the press a few days ago saying that team bosses and sponsors are so anxious not to be seen in the same photograph as him, they have hired scouts to warn them if he’s getting too close!

It looks as if his love affair with Bernie is under strain because Max has written to the members of the FIA warning that if he does not complete his term in office, the FIA will fall apart and it will all be Bernie’s fault. Bernie has reacted by stamping his small but very powerful foot:

“Ecclestone said he is angry at a letter sent by Mosley to FIA clubs and said he has finally retracted all support for his beleaguered compatriot.

“Everybody’s wrong except him,” Ecclestone said.

“Everybody was involved in the orgy except him. He is just lashing out at anything he can. If he wants me to be the enemy he should be very careful because if he makes me an enemy I could make sure that he never whips anybody again.” AFP.

Ron Dennis, Mosley’s bête noire, was cleared of any involvement in the unmasking of Max’s little personal eccentricities, and it was revealed that the whistle-blower was one of the ladies on either end of the lash during the indoor games. Her husband, it turns out, was an officer in MI5, Britain’s internal Security Service, and he has been forced to resign from his job. Really, you couldn’t make it up! 🙂

Whether or not he manages to cling to his position following the Extraordinary General Meeting at the beginning of June, Max’s mandate expires in 2009, so it’s not as if he is fighting for a long-term career. If he had made a dignified exit from the scene once the orgy news broke, we’d have forgotten him by now. Presumably he is an intelligent man, so why on earth has he demeaned himself by ignoring the calls for his resignatio, and the clear signals sent that he is no longer wanted in F1? By doing so, he has assured that he will always be remembered as the man exposed in the News of the World for being involved in a sado-masochistic orgy with five hookers.

Hoe, hoe, hoe

Mr and Mrs Nextdoor are almost self-sufficient in respect of food. Various small feathered and furry creatures live in cages in their garden, and it’s best to call out loudly if you visit, so that you don’t come upon unpleasant scenes when something is being despatched. Their five lawnmowers produce lambs each spring, which are destined for the freezer. They no longer have the goat, so cheese and bread are their principal purchases.

Mr Nextdoor’s vegetable patch – his potager – adjoins our garden, and we are frequent recipients of his bounty – for he grows far more than they, or their family can use. In particular we benefit from leeks and tomatoes, both of which he produces in great quantity, and neither of which he will eat.

Mr Nextdoor has been growing veggies for most of his 77 years, and I don’t suppose there’s a great deal he doesn’t know about the art. On the other hand, I only started two years ago, and last year was a hit and miss affair because I’m not very focussed on weeding and watering, so it is truly the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest, except of course they don’t survive, because they are wrenched up and eaten. Now, with the food crisis looming, it seems financially foolish and morally wrong not to put the effort into using productively some of the land we are fortunate enough to own, not to mention the pleasure of eating food that is fresh and pesticide-free, even if is does harbour an abundance of slugs and small scurrying things.

In all the time we have lived here, I have never seen Mr Nextdoor plant or water anything. I once saw him earthing up his asparagus, though. What he does do, is hoe. Come wind, rain, hail, heatwave, flood or drought, he’s out there with his hoe, rhythmically chopping away at the weeds, smashing them, slicing them, mincing them, leaving their roots exposed to the elements to die in naked agony. It sometimes seems that there’s never a moment that the tchk, tchk, tchk of hoe on flint cannot be heard.

Being as it is all he ever seems to do to his veggies, I decided that hoeing is the secret to success. Mr Nextdoor has a long, manly hoe, but because I’m neither long, nor manly, and because our potager is but a fraction of the size of his, I use this dinky little tool, which is also wildly effective at hooking up weeds out of gravel. As it is only 40 cm. long, I have to squat to use it, which hopefully will have the secondary effect of exercising the buttock and inner thigh muscles.

Having just spent almost an hour hoeing meticulously, I know now why Mr Nextdoor is such a dedicated hoer – there is a sensual satisfaction in killing weedlings, especially infant stinging nettles. Can’t wait for the next session. 😉


This obliging beauty sat perfectly still for me, as I photographed it from 6 inches away. I thought I had two dozen really good shots, but once I’d downloaded them I found all of them slightly out of focus. Except one:

When I went back, with a tripod, it was still there. Then the camera batteries ran out. 😦

Can anybody identify this flutterby?

Impressions of a foreign land

During a recent visit to England, I felt more than ever a stranger to the land of my birth, but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself; indeed I did. Some of the sights and events that have stuck in my mind:

On a sunny day on the Sussex coast, fishing boats and nets up on the pebbles at Lancing, and dozens of kite-surfers out on the sea.

The beauty of the Regency buildings on Brighton seafront; the nightmare of the traffic there; the scandal of the blackened skeleton of the burnt pier still sticking up out of the sea FIVE YEARS AFTER THE EVENT. Shame on you, Brighton and Hove City Council.

The herds of tragically young mothers.

The mantra of children in shops: “I want! Will you buy me one of those? Can I have some of this?” The frequent response: “You’ll get a fucking hiding if you don’t shut up.”

Pedestrians walking softly so as not to disturb a seagull enjoying an abandoned plate of baked beans at a pavement cafe in Worthing.

Old-fashioned custard tarts, jam doughnuts and iced buns in the baker’s.

The vast numbers of quite unnecessary but almost irresistible products on the supermarket shelves. No wonder people find their weekly shopping costs increasing.

Having a good rummage through the charity shops.

Nearly being mowed down more than once by a senior citizen speeding along the pavement in a mobility vehicle.

Meeting up with a friend after more than twenty years.

Sitting in the lounge of an old peoples’ home while visiting a friend, trying to ignore the dampness in the cushion,and being asked by two residents which room I was moving into.

Being addressed as “you guys” by a waitress in a gastro-pub.

The great variety of places to eat and cuisines to choose from.

A superlative prawn kurma and peshawar naan.

But, more than anything else, the tolerance and courtesy of English road users who, unlike their French counterparts, do not insist on boxing you in behind slower vehicles and refusing to allow you out; nor do they sit on your bumper flashing their lights, hooting, glaring and making rude gestures when you are overtaking a long line of slower-moving vehicles. The English traffic might be hell, but the drivers are so much better than les conducteurs français. (Why are a nation of normally such polite people such beasts behind the wheel?)