It’s over. Gilles was off work today and finished La Terrasse. The feeling is a bit like the ending of the Tour De France. In some ways I just can’t believe it’s over. A full meeting of the Tribunal de Terrasse took place. The newly planted grape bush (VIGNE) was applauded. I felt re-accepted into the community. Visitors piled in, including the local Angel of all beasts. “C’est formidable! – what a job – oh yes- when you said ten days I discussed it with my husband – he says ‘no way’- he knows of zeese mattairs”. A lot of kissing and hand shaking followed with advice about soil for grape bushes and something called “cépage”. A neighbour muttered about new plants being close to his wall.
It’s just not like England you know! Now – I am a Francophile. This is why I am here. However, anyone not French thinking of living in France must accept that this is an entirely different culture. In a sense you are interfered with in a manner beyond all normal Anglo Saxon boundaries. Your speech, behaviour and gardening are matters of public debate and concern. However, all manner of other stuff is secret and private. All kinds of disputes and dis-likings are hinted at but never explained. One neighbour mentioned another resident and asked if I had an opinion. I had very little to say. “He is an old Schnook” she informed me. Later on I saw them chatting. He was saying that the new road works might affect her drains and that she should join him in talking to Monsieur Le Maire. She shrugged and glanced at me. This is how you deal with Schnooks. The point of this ramble is that here you are somehow public property, but locked in to a secret society of alliance and opinion. This is France.
Bats – in St Savinien we have some very rare and endangered species. They live in the old quarry caves that pepper the town and also in our Préau (Charentais rustic car port/barn). Last night I sat in the garden being buzzed by dear little bats. Somehow the flap of their wings just inches from my face felt like a privilege. I just sat there, feeling the current of air created by their wings of stretched skin. It seemed like I was part of Nature. Then I went indoors to watch the world news. I felt that Nature was part of me and that I wanted to reject it. Kids under 10 years old out looting at 2am in Manchester UK. Tribal groups in Pakistan murdering each other when their enemy is poverty and lack of opportunity. I went back to the garden to see the bats and the stars.
Everything really is a question of scale. Maybe you have a problem. To you it is huge…..but what is the worst that can happen. Could you go to jail? Well, perhaps – but you would be fed and you could write a book and put it out on Amazon Kindle. BUT sometimes there is a problem that is so big that there is almost no solution. Generally such problems involve French furniture. Wardrobe problems are enormous especially if you buy a house agreeing to look after the wardrobes of the previous owner. Then you change the shape and dimensions of the house by blocking doorways, building walls, fitting stoves etc. Then you want to sell the house and move but no potential buyer wants huge wardrobes belonging to some third party. Hmmmm?
The holidays have begun for real. Massive queues on Autoroutes, businesses closed down. Our little town was buzzing this morning as campers and day tourists filled the streets. All in all a good day to stay at home and write. I really should talk more about writing. I have all kind of writing missions to fulfill. I have to do something for a web site dealing with French life. I have to do something about being on Kindle. I have to do some book promo blurb. All of these things are quite pleasant and give me the illusion of actually writing. As far as the book publishing aspect of writing I am so lucky that Gilles selflessly gives up so much time to help me with the inflammation technology. Rosina does all manner of promotions and chasing sales. To be honest I’ve come to think that being a Kindle author is almost more about the tub thumping than the actual book. Now, let me say a bit about my book “Knockout!”. Recently a reviewer saw my new professionally produced cover and said ” Excuse me – but it does kinda look like a Harlequin style romance.” Well, BINGO! I wish I had their success. I’ve read many Harlequin Romances over the years and they do not present many surprises. I first came to read them in French when I was looking for relatively unsophisticated vocabulary and prose style. “Knockout!” is a straightforward romance, the sex is on the paler side of purple, passionate and has no obscenities or curious behaviours. It’s about a girl who falls for a big tough bloke. It’s supermarket checklit. It didn’t really happen. It’s a made up story. Harlequin – you can have me – you can kiss my lips numb, find a place in my core that I’ve never known before and carry me to your castle and impregnate me, with a contract and your babies.. You can take me now!
I guess I was having a bit of a Buddhist moment. I thought I’d do a bit of painting. No – not ART. (I think ART is too much about this world and the ego and the me me me.) Nothing wrong with that but the Dalai Lama hasn’t been a Turnover prize winner has he? So – I was blanching the walls. Here in Charente the walls are Blanc, maybe une rose claire or maybe a risque beige. The sun bounces off the pastels while cherubs sleep on my wall. Look – I’m a Tacky Romantic OK. The front face of the house had become a bit tatty and flaky. I started to clean and brush the stone. First I saw a panicking earwig disturbed from somewhere on the flagstones. Generations of them had lived in a certain universe. I mean A UNIVERSE OF CERTAINTY. Suddenly a Mr Brico broom entered their cosmos. As I worked I caught a cob web in my paint roller. A spider reeled out a life saving silk of utter magical strength and mystery…..and landed in my tray of paint. Certainty destroyed again- scales of Time and Dimension overturned and brutalised. We are no less fragile but our scale of Time and power is different. World markets, the circus of greed, the preaching hedonists ( had to put myself in somewhere) will be swept away. All is relative and will change. I work on ideas of acceptance, wondering if I can have a glass of wine before 5 O’ clock.
While I was painting several folk stopped for a chat. As I was drinking a cup of tea, a neighbour remarked that I always had a cup of tea in my hand. “This is how we won the Empire, the World War and the CUP in 1966.” I replied, “What do you do in France?” The neighbour thought for a moment – “We have longer lunches and then it is time for aperitif.” He replied. I thought he was joking – until he came back with a glass of Pineau. Well, it was after 5.
Outside as I write a pigeon is giving it some real wellie. Wherever you are in the world pigeons and cockerels sound the same….yes a cockerel has just started up, probably to out-shout the bloody pigeon. BUT today I saw three butterflies. There has been a shortage and there still is no doubt. In the drought of butterflies a single one is a joy. The fragile motion of its paper thin defiant wings scribbled a poem against the blue sky that left me in tears.
Years ago I did a poem about power and change. It’s silly and banal but somehow I kept it. Check out “I threw a stone”
Emma thinx: To most living things, we are the Tsunami.
The sun came out and so did my lizard. For what seems like weeks there had been no sign of him/her. He lives either in the drainpipe or in the cracks of the stone wall. What I like about lizards is their apparent perfection. Dogs, cats, humans, foxes and most other things have some kinda limp, crooked ear, attention deficit or bad hair issues. Lizards are perfect as far as I can see. I only saw him because the neighbourhood Patio Posse came round to tell me about South facing walls and the NEED to plant south facing growing things. “OK – I’ll have one of those grape bushes.” I said – hoping that this obviously correctable mistake would appease them. “Vigne!” said the Chair. It was agreed. There will be a grape bush. Now the only reason I know anything about grape bushes is that a neighbour has one and big bunches are growing over onto my roof (Pinching some would be so much easier than growing them) I’m watching their progress..I don’t suppose I could make any wine with it do you? When I was a kid my dad used to go to the home-brew shop in Tooting and buy tins of grape juice. This was just about as his car welding/rabbit breeding phase came to an end. We had cupboards full of “Bordeaux” and “Burgundy” which he made on top of the fridge. He started listening to records like “Beethoven’s Greatest hits”. He assured us all that wine improved the mind. My mother was glad when he went back to beer. There is only so much improvement that a family can take.
Let me just for a moment return to the actual purpose of this blog- Romantic fiction. I’ve nothing against real life but where can you get a sexy romantic handsome intelligent, poetic, muscled super lover? OK – I know we all have one but it’s nice to have a slightly different one isn’t it? (Oh by the way – Gilles does not read the blog!). However, I’ve been doing market research. Well actually Rosina’s been doing it. “Could I do anything involving lesbian werewolves?” She asked on the phone. “What about supernatural bisexual sex therapists?” I retorted. “WOW – Emma – you just gotta do that – WOW, that’s ahead of the market honey!” Food for thought isn’t it. How about supernatural perfectly formed alien sex lizards?”
Talking of wolves – they’re back in France near the German border. Wolf huggers and shepherds are readying for battle. Sheep and little rouge riding hoods are somewhere in the middle. Now, could there be a supernatural angle? Am I the next Dan Brown? Something would be brown if a pack of ’em came at me!….Now how’s that for modern romance style!”
Emma thinx: Know nothing. Advice loves a vacuum.
“Oh yes”, my neighbour began, “there are many regulations about the guttering.” Now, if this sounds like it’s gonna be boring just think how I felt. One can discuss les gouttières between rain here and that can be months. Without boring you with zinc, copper and iron possibilities, let me simplify the regulations into a single expression. “NO PLASTIC” If you have ever lived in neatened gentrified development with plastic cladding and double glazing you will know what everyone is trying to avoid. Dilapidation topped by the crowing cockerel is the ambience of France. This is why people come here! One of the avowed intentions of my little town is to attract tourism. Much work is being undertaken to make us more attractive to visitors. Cables are being buried, cobbles quainted and façades painted. The town needs the work and without it the place will die. Anyone old enough to recall the cargo cults of post war Pacific will see the sadness and dilemma of it all. Check out cargo cults here. One thing for sure is that the zeal of converts such as I should be ignored.
Part of the cable burying project unearthed many human bones around the church. Just imagine the scene in England. The whole thing would be closed down. The Secretary of State in the department of Bones n’ Stones would be interviewed for TV, conservationists would chain themselves to railings and would be politicos would outrage themselves with – well – OUTRAGE. Here, a guy dabs away with a brush while diggers and pile drivers carry on. I saunter up and ask about the bones. “It is a mother and child – probably from the Fourteen Hundreds”. Explains an obviously experienced, competent and worryingly brainy university guy. I opine that they will have to stop while matters are catalogued and analysed. “I have the rest of the day – then the cables come in.” He replied. The reconstruction of the past needs a very modern present.
I’m worried about the lizard in my drainpipe. I haven’t seen him for days. I thought we were friends.Do you think he’s blocked me on lizard-book?
Emma thinx: All time, all history led to you in this moment.
You know that feeling when you come round the corner of your street and find the whole place full of police and fire engines? Maybe you didn’t turn the gas off? OK – no smoke in the air, perhaps it’s merely an escaped amazon parrot. Normally such an event would not come to mind – unless you live where I do.
The cat lady, who I explained is also the dove lady, is actually above all the parrot lady. In 2010 a number of violent storms swept across France around Bastille Day (July 14th). Somehow an aviary was damaged and Cookie, a red amazonian parrot, escaped. Seemingly, Madame had reared the bird after it had been born with a beak defect and could not feed normally. For a couple of days I had heard the occasional sound of what I thought was a parrot. I knew that feral parakeets had taken up residence in Southern England and I always imagined that they had been introduced in order to combat the feral children that colonised much of the UK tabloid press.
As I rounded the corner I came across a knot of sapeurs-pompiers with a couple of Gendarmes. Various ladders led into trees. The cat/dove/parrot lady was going through her normal range “My little man, my flea – oh please – oh-my little flea”. Regular readers will begin to recognise the pattern. A chief fireman was briefing the men “The suspect is wearing a red beret. He answers to the name Cookie.” He said drily. The Gendarmes nodded wisely. Radios echoed from inside vehicles. Squawks filled the air as a parrot rose gracefully from a conifer tree and flapped off across the rooftops. Personnel emerged from the tree. Madame set off in the same direction whilst ladders were retracted and replaced on fire engines.
I expected that Cookie’s career as a fugitive would not end well. Everyday Madame roamed the town with binoculars calling the bird. Several hundred cigarettes were smoked. All hope had faded as a fisherman on the banks of La Charente spotted the bird and threw a net over it. News reached the local radio station France Bleu La Rochelle and the miracle was complete. I have told you before that she is almost certainly some kind of angel although I’ve lost my Observers book of angels.
Just a note on the DSK situation. I do detect that in France there is a feeling that the humiliation of such a French figure is a blow at the National pride – a kinda cultural swipe at the Gallic gonad. I guess that many travelling world controllers are making their own beds just in case.
Emma thinx: NYPD? Bof! – blow that job.