Eat Shit – Dog’s Breath!

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.

Amongst all the gardening advice came much guidance on the civil disorder in the UK. ” Army commandos – yes this is the thing. Shoot them dead. All this stuff of no job etc – this is a pretext. Yes – shoot them dead and guillotine the others. It is interesting to me that as yet no one has defended the action of the rioters and looters. I don’t suppose they care, but this is a street politics society. No sympathy here guys!

My neighbour’s dog wandered in to the garden and ate a lot of the cat shit. To be honest I’ve never been very sentimental about animals. I would like to dress this up for you but you cannot deny bald facts. I must build it in to my next super swoon love Romance. He has a dog. She has a cat. They meet over a dog’s dinner. It’s about mutual need…..C’mon all you movie guys – this has to be the blockbuster of all time!

Emma thinx: The truth can be revolting. No revolution can change it.


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. 

Talking of stars – I woke up at 3 am and looked out of the window. In St. Savinien, Charente, 17350, there is very little light pollution. The sky at night in rural France is the most fantastic floor show. I remember it from mon enfance- before the cars and the madness of it all. Obviously it’s just a dome with holes pricked in to keep us fooled. All the same, I had to reflect on the painting by Titian in the National Gallery in London of Bacchus and Ariadne (Check it out here). I won’t bore you with the arty farty guff but it is a painting crammed with love and passion. Bacchus throws the crown of Ariadne into the heavens and above her it burns as an immortal constellation. If you’re able – go and see it. IT’S FREE. You don’t have to loot it or steal it. Several times a day you can get a free guided tour of selected works in the gallery. A deeply intelligent person will chat to you about the paintings. You will feel humbled and ashamed that you know nothing. At the end you will know more than you thought you could know.  As a poor scum bag from darkest London with an average IQ destined for the honourless, wealthless  drudge, I started to go see this stuff. It didn’t change the world but it changed me. Educators! Stop just jumping the kids through the hoops, then turning your back when they fall. Batter and discipline them until they know what they are worth! Just remember all those free tours and the sweet folk who lecture to anyone- ABSOLUTELY ANYONE – are part of civilisation and a law abiding world. 

And finally a few words about La Bise – this whole Euro kissing thing but also taking in the hand shaking thing. If you were  young and you were expected to kiss older folk and expect them to address you in a caring yet senior manner would you then go and smash up their home/shop/car/business? I tell you – you would not! Parallel so called communities have no hope. Community means everyone. Not this community or that community -teenage looters, ethnic rapists and Nazis are communities. In France the word has slightly more meaning…….but erosion and diversification do their work here too. Kiss before you smash. – Vive La France. 

Emma thinx: Search for your darkness and see the stars.

Nailing it!

To all problems there are several answers. Sometimes we have been shown the way to do things. Sometimes you already know instinctively or most often you put forward some idea based on your own life – whether or not it has worked out for you. Several callers today have raised the issue of the riots in England. Responses range between – “Oh yes – we have the same problems here – they put all the no hopers together and – bof – they smash the place up.. it is normal quoi?” An old die hard hippy assured me of the answer – “I say – put your sack on your back and go off to find the road….this works every time.” Watch out for petrol bomb throwing peace and love hippies coming your way guys. The fact is that no one knows what to do. The French suffer similar nonsense with about the same frequency. Very few problems cannot be solved with a shrug and a long lunch.

A tearful neighbour appeared this afternoon. For a while she chatted about kids and holidays. Suddenly she said “Fremus……is dead.” To my shame I had no idea who this person was. I looked at her with incomprehension.  “The dog – he had an operation on his foot – he died.” Given the utter merciless savagery of the human species, it is always a surprise to me how badly we take the death anything close to us. The French are probably about 15% more sentimental about animals that Brits. They also stuff geese with corn by force feeding to create foie gras, eat horses and boil live crabs.

Everything I know about life is this – We favour what we know more than things we don’t know. We love whatever loves us but not necessarily in fair proportion. If you can’t love – don’t hate. If you still hate – know. If you can’t know – learn. 

Plants arrive. Gilles has been in full “main verte” mode. He went to Intermarché to get something for dinner and came back with half the Amazon Rain Forest. You can’t take the soil out of these folk. A full set of horny handed digits trumps any boast, accolade or triumph. Who cares about your Ferrari? Look at my fingernails!

Emma thinx:  Consistency – the thickness of our contradictions.

Right Said Fred (..eric)

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? 

” Could you care for a few wardrobes for maybe some years until my children or grandchildren can take them?” Asks a most sympa and creative kind friend. I shrug and set out to see the problem. “You can rope them out of a window on ladders….Oh yes – I have seen this many times…it would be easy.” Much tape measuring and shrugging follows. A window almost big enough is identified in a room with a door too small to admit the wardrobe. ” Some parts maybe can be squeezed and then we can slide it over the tiles until it impacts with the plum tree and then with a few ropes…..” This one will run and run. Watch this slightly too small space. I want to help….I really do!

My neighbour’s daughter is camping in “The North.” Seemingly the whole Northern French experience is terrible. It is cold and wet. Sadly there is no Duke of Edinburgh award for holiday camping in France. I would invent it but I am neither Duke nor French. Travelling North for a holiday in France is like moths scrambling into the shadows. There should be some kinda prize.

Project patio is leaving less and less space and opportunity for la toilette of local cats. Nature abhors a vacuum we are told… they still don’t crap in their own soil.

Emma thinx: Shit happens everywhere. Cat shit happens somewhere else.


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!

Gilles had his shirt off in the garden. He’s looking tanned. I do like to look at him – what’s the oldest possible age for a Romantic novel hero? I guess if he were a Latin billionaire…..

We have sparrows. The dear little souls have evaded various anti nesting devices under the roof tiles and this year’s brood of piafs seem to have come through well, despite the drought. I can never see a sparrow without mentally acknowledging Edith Piaf and how she changed the course of my life. She still flies on plainly dressed street wise wings and chirrups out the human soul.

Emma thinx: If you just can’t stop – at least enjoy it.

Painting the Town White

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 Grapes of Sloth

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.

Boys Toys

What is it about bridges? I suppose that on any given road, a bridge is a place as opposed to just another anonymous portion of distance. How often we stop on bridges to take in the view or to watch a river flowing underneath. I’m sure you will all have seen spectators on bridges over the autoroute. I must confess I have done this myself – watching all those unknowns pursuing their private destinies. You may wonder what got me onto this. Well, in St Savinien we have two bridges – one that is on the road in and out of town and the other which is a pontoon bridge connecting us to La Grenouillette – which is a park with a boating lake with a circuit of canals. The boats are fantastic and are scale models of real vessels such as tugs, cross channel ferries and Mississippi steamers. These are real boys toys! Kids need adults to accompany them and Adults need kids so Gilles has to wait for some grandchildren to turn up so that he can play on the boats. Won’t be long and he’s getting excited. At least it takes his mind off the cycling. Every year the French scan the horizon for a home-grown winner. Oh dear, a Brit won again yesterday. Best not mention it.

How do you feel about wasps? I mean, would you go out looking for them? In France we have a species called les frelons asiatiques which Anglos would call hornets. They are huge and kill lovely little pollinating bees. Citizens are asked to trap them using a bottle containing beer and grenadine. I’ve always found that beer attracts most Northern European males and the grenadine certainly attracts me in a suitable cocktail with lemonade, vodka and ice. I’ve got to be a good citizen so I’m giving it a go. There might be a bit left for the hornets. Santé!

Emma thinx: Build a bridge. Kiss someone you love.


Dem Bones

“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.

Live Parrot Sketch

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.