Why I’m quiet at the moment

Two reasons. The first is that we are tentatively putting the house on the market, which entails much decluttering, mowing, pruning, sweeping, minor decoration. All things for which we are not by nature enthusiastic. On the surface, rooms are tidier. Behind the scenes, cupboards are bulging.

Between the wibbly-wobbly pound and the Eurozone crisis, it couldn’t be a much worse time to try and sell and I imagine we’ll still be here in 5 year’s time . But, we’ve got to start somewhere. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, or ever finding somewhere so peaceful and spacious and idyllic; but the house is larger than we need, and now that we no longer have horses the field is going to waste.

There is a grand canyon of difference in valuations between French estate agents and British ones, which is why we won’t be using the French. And amongst the British agents there are contrary opinions. One says no French person would buy it because the loo is in the bathroom; French people like the loo to have its own little room. The other says, nonsense, she’s sold plenty of loo-in-bathroom houses to French people. One agent says the vibrant colours we use are divine – we are not great fans of muted colour. We dare to be different. 😀 Another says we should paint everything white. One agent says the house must look immaculate, sparkling, freshly painted, not a plant pot out of place. Another says, don’t worry about the house, it’s the land and garden that will appeal to British buyers.

I remember selling a very large house we owned in England. Powerful colours throughout. The frantic rush to get everything tidy for every viewer. The strange little man with a strange little moustache who stood in the centre of each room raising his arm in a “sieg heil” salute and pivoting on his heels 360°. Looking for magnetic north, he explained. And the evening a couple turned up unexpectedly, just standing at the door and asking to have a look. No, I said, we’re not organised, we’ve only just come home from work. There was stuff everywhere. Half an hour later they’d bought the place. Because, they said, it looked like a family home, and not like a show home.

We’ve had the preliminary DPE survey – the French equivalent of the British HIPS that was scrapped a few months ago. No doubt it will be scrapped in France sooner or later. It’s a pointless waste of time and money.

So that’s reason No. 1 for lack of posts.

Reason No. 2 is that I have regained the rights to two of my first three books from those nice people at Random House. This means that they can now be re-published in digital format. By a most unlikely stroke of luck, I found in the bottom of an old cardboard box the 3.5″ floppy disk (remember those?) containing my original manuscript for Best Foot Forward. And by an even greater stroke of luck, a friend has a computer ancient enough to still have a 3.5″ drive. So I am working my way through the manuscript making slight tweaks and updates, and removing those passages that made me cringe when I first read them in the paperback.

So far I haven’t been able to find any disk containing the second manuscript; so that’ll probably have to be retyped. 😦

I’m also getting close to having a new manuscript ready for publication. There’s another one about half-finished, and an embryonic novel waiting in the wings.

So I’m not idly sitting around sipping mojitos and painting my toenails gold. 🙂  Just a little occupied at the moment.

I hope all my blogging friends are enjoying the same heavenly autumn weather that we are having: fresher evenings, dewy mornings, hot sunny days, and the first hint of yellows, golds and reds beginning to appear.




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One of those phrases I would like to have written

“Janusz looked up at (his father’s) steady face, settled in its white starched collar like an egg in an eggcup,”

Another phrase refers to women machinists. “Each woman watches her needle stitch a path through the day.”

Beautifully written, spellbinding book. I couldn’t put it down.

Stupid me, forgot to name the book!

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson.

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

Despite a poor season generally in the potager due to the vagaries of the weather, rhubarb will be featuring on the dessert menu for the foreseeable future. 😀

Image lifted from Independent.co.uk


Rhubarb crumble, rhubarb crumble cake, rhubarb crumble ice-cream. Oh yes!



Orange fail again

Just when our Internet was restored and working properly, it stopped again.

I don’t know where the no-help line person comes from, but they spoke no language I have ever heard of. After many minutes of fractured stutters, giggles and long silences, from the few minimal words I was able to disentangle from the garbling, I understand that an engineer will do something about the fault, but not before next Monday. So it looks as if we are back to where we were about one month ago.

Fail, Orange.

I have a book

but it is not mine. I found it about 10 years ago, in the barn next door, in an abandoned box of assorted household items and personal possessions.

The box was left behind by our previous neighbour, who had a removals business plying between Spain, France and England. It was one of many items that would never reach its intended destination. Among the clutter were magazines, cigars, and family photograph albums. Unfortunately I was never able to find any way of tracing their owners, as there were no names, no addresses, no clues whatsoever.

Except on the book. It is a pretty thing, with a floral cover, called Victoria Book of Days. And it is a book of memories, written by the wife of a man who died in 1993.  Apart from his name, and hers, all I have to go on is that they lived in or around Weston Super Mare, where an inquest was held for the man on 15th June 1993. It is a very personal book, and I can’t begin to imagine how it came to be in a damp cardboard box in an old barn in south-west France.

I contacted the Weston Super Mare council in the hope of finding the address of the lady to whom the book belonged, but they weren’t able to help. Neither was the local newspaper, and Internet searches proved useless, too. And so after several months I put the book in a drawer, where it has stayed ever since, until I came across it a couple of days ago and decided to have another try at reuniting it with its owner.

On Facebook I found somebody with the right name, living in the same area, who seemed like a strong possibility. I have sent her a message, and an email, but so far heard nothing, so I don’t know if I have the right person yet. Or whether she hasn’t received the messages. Or, perhaps, she has moved on doesn’t want the book back?






The long slow wait

Friday afternoon the weather was glorious. An unblemished bright blue sky. Fine weather for a funeral.

The usual merry crowd of paysans waited at the church; weather-beaten and muscly, stout and upright, with calloused hands and checked jackets. Their average age would be about 80 – reduced by the presence of half a dozen great-nieces and nephews.

With his lean face and crew-cut, the priest looked like a man who maybe runs a lot, or cycles. He was wearing a fabulous new cloak, or whatever it is called. A background of bottle green, smothered in golden whirls and twirls and crosses.

He has a beautiful voice. It makes me wonder, as Catholic priests seem to have to do a great deal of singing and chanting, what happens to those who can’t?

He spoke fondly of Maurice, a shy man who never hurried but always arrived on time. A man who knew that a rolling stone gathers no moss. A true man of the land, like his parents. Maurice was lucky to be born in 1929. He was too young to have to fight in WWII, and too old to go to fight in Algeria. So his life was an enviably peaceful one. He was of a generation that understood the rhythm of the land, and knew a seed takes time to develop into a plant and can’t be hurried.

Maurice and his four siblings were born in what is now our living room. For 78 years he lived in this 12-house hamlet, apart from 18 months when he did his national service. Until his mother was taken into a home in the early 1990’s, he had lived in this house with her. When we bought it he moved into a tiny cottage two doors away, where he kept bantams and a vegetable garden, and his beagle Dolly lived chained in the barn.

Most afternoons Maurice sat for a couple of hours behind the barn, watching his bantams scratching about and ignoring Dolly’s whimpers of frustration, until the opening of the hunting season released her from her imprisonment. The two of them wandered, slow and portly, through the fields and lanes. Despite the shotgun slung over his shoulder, I never saw him with any kill.

Four years ago, Dolly died of old age. Not that long afterwards, Maurice collapsed at Madame Grimaud’s kitchen table during one of their weekly card sessions.

He was left disabled, and never recovered sufficiently to be able to care for himself. From hospital he went to a nursing home, and from there into an old people’s home. He didn’t watch the television in his room. He didn’t relate to the other residents. He didn’t read. He didn’t participate in any of the organised entertainment. All he would say was that he wanted go come back to his home.

On Friday, after four years, his wish was finally granted.