Carry on up your organ

Very few words are worked as hard as “organ”. As I was saying yesterday I was at Saintes. Shortly before my car self terminated (French reflexive verbs are so expressive – we need more in English), I heard the organ playing in the cathedral and had to pop in. I know very little about music and so to me it is a form of magic. The organist was having a right old bash and was creating some arabesque sounds that I had never heard before. I lit my candle to Saint Universe of Beautiful Buildings and carried on feeling in a bit of a spiritual belly dancing mood. It lasted until I came to a halt in a road by the river. Before phoning the dépannage I asked a senior gent what the road was called “It is the road by the river – everyone knows this. But anyway – it will be your battery – oh yes it is always that – I have had awful problems avec myself.” I thanked him and waited for the tow truck in the road by the river. Luckily the driver was a member of the “everyone” tribe who knew where I was. The everyone tribe is pretty big in France and they know most things. 

A little later the word organ resurfaced. I told an acquaintance that I had taken to going to a farm shop for my veg’. “You have to be sure that no chemicals are used – otherwise it is no different and it won’t be organic.” She assured me. Well, it tastes delicious and is much cheaper than the supermarkets. The term organic has always been too difficult to me – but generally I find a fair bit of grit inside the lettuce. At least you know it’s been grown in dirt and there must be some carbon in there somewhere. 

And of course, there are the organs that concern Romantic novelists. Really I think that there should be a special Organ Thesaurus for we scribblers. We all cast about for some new and perfect way to describe the ACT. I’ve read and written enough cores and manhoods to create a novel set in a monastery apple orchard. The very word organ arouses the British sense of “Carry On” film double entendre like little else. For this reason no one has ever written a Romance where one of the stars has an organ in their front room or even a chest of drawers. Carry on!

I picked up some good words today. The French call computers “Ordinateurs”. They now shorten this to “Ordi”. Well, that’s what I’m gonna call this little machine from now on. They also have an expression for a particular kinda guy. The term is “un chaud lapin”- that is to say a hot rabbit. I see that the charges against DSK were dropped in New York. Ah well, back to the burrow. 

Emma thinx: Stuff means trouble.More stuff means more trouble.


I spent the afternoon in Saintes and wandered into the park. It is a truly beautiful town (City). Many times I consider the acts and works of mankind as opposed to the “natural” course of Nature. Of course, the last thing you could say of a park is that it is natural. However, flowers bloom and their composition in beds is only an enhancement of them.

 Also in the park there is a skateboard area with ramps and slides. Young warriors show their skills and hone their reflexes. At one end of their enclosure is a mural in graffiti style. I tried to work out what it was or what it was saying and I still have no idea. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that things composed can have meanings and power beyond themselves. A few times in my life I have spoken with poets about their work and told them of unities and patterns I have discerned. Several times they have never seen these undercurrents in their work. So tonight there are a few photos of Saintes in terms of composition and Art. If you get the chance, do come here. It will not disappoint.

Having meandered about in Wordsworthian fashion contemplating Art and Nature it was time to drive home. But I didn’t. The car broke down and it was carried away on the back of a lorry. The charming personnel of Praud Depannage got me home. Oh dear – back on me bike.

I didn’t quite get the skate park mural and I struggled a bit with the Latin.  Perhaps it was all done by the same guy. This place is stuffed with Roman history and stands on the magnificent River Charente. If you don’t come here you’re missing out.

Emma thinx: No woman No car.

Big Chief I Spy.

I think they still do “I Spy” books. In the days before the internet, such things were important sources of information. One of my favourites was “I Spy at the Airport”. I was not interested in tail fins and fire engines, but I thought one day I could be a hostess and jet around the world. One of the things not featured in the book was the automatic car park payment machine. Today I drove to La Rochelle to collect a guest from the airport. I paid the fee and returned to the car to see a British tourist break my car mirror by trying to lift a suitcase through a gap. I approached as the offender tried to twist it to some better shape. She did not realise it was my car. “Don’t know what happened there.” She quipped. I looked at her with curiosity. She did not look as if she suffered from any sensory issues. “You broke it with your suitcase.” I said. She was with a few quite well to do Anglos who hurumphed and looked at me with that superior “how dare you” expression. They quickly bundled themselves into their brand new Mercedes E class and shot off when they realised it was my car. Sometimes I really don’t like people. However, I got the mirror casing and managed to refit it – albeit a bit wonkily. Gilles will fix it I’m sure. The outcome of all this shamozzle was that I lost the ticket to exit the car park. I then put the car keys on the roof of the car, forgot where I put them and thought I had lost them. I went to the airport security and told them I had lost my keys. They took my phone number. I returned to the car and saw the keys on the roof. Much relieved I went back to the car park machine and pushed the enquiry button. SILENCE. I decided to see if there was a talk your way out of jail button on the exit barrier or if I could tailgate another vehicle before the barrier came down. There was a button. I explained my life story to a perforated grill which had slightly more personality than the folks who had broken my mirror. “Come to the Security Office”. Said the machine. I duly went. “You are the woman who has no car keys.” Said the guard. I think he was related to the machine because he sounded similar. “I’m sorry – I found them.” Several guards shrugged but looked friendly.”What is your name?” He asked. I told him…..and waited…..NOT A SINGLE GLIMMER OF RECOGNITION. Perhaps French security officials do not read Romantic stories for ladies written in English. “Go to your car and go…” He said. I drove to the barrier. I spoke to the perforated grill. It shrugged and the barrier rose. I rejoined the World. I must re-read some Kafka.

A neighbour sometimes looks after a baby – well a toddler. The child smiles – deeply and joyfully. It is a profound talent. Please World – let her exercise and keep her gift.

It’s 34 degrees and I’ve got the oven on to cook an English Sunday Roast. Mad dogs and Englishwomen roast in the midday sun. My guest brought me some English Bisto gravy granules. Back to the moules tomorrow.

Emma thinx: Break my car mirror – 7 years voodoo.

Etiquette to ride

Of course- it is the holidays at last and it is pouring with rain. Gilles and I went to Saintes to see le monument historique of the Carrefour hypermarché. One day these places will need guided tours and tourists will send by mind mails to their 10,000 friends on brain book by just swivelling their eyes. Remember where you heard it first. However, no shortage of tourists today. I reckon about a quarter of the shoppage was being done by peeved Brits. I spot them and then saunter up to check see if my detectors are correct. I loiter like a dispossessed store detective to catch a snatch of their conversation. I’m rarely wrong. I always wondered how waiters in Paris restaurants knew you were a Brit before you spoke. I still don’t know but it’s something to do with a kinda pressed clothing and over casual formality. The French are casually formal since they are shrugging people living out a book of etiquette. The Brits are formally casual since they are stiff people living without etiquette. You may need to read this twice – but it is true. Today in Carrefour we spotted 2 guys who live quite nearby. In the UK we might have waved or just given a nod. To a Frenchman this is impossible. They came over to us at the check-out since we were in mid conveyor panic mode and could not meet half way. People waited behind us while kissings and hand shakings were carried out. An exchange of news between Gilles and the lads had me glancing at the till operator and the waiting queue. In Peckham or Bermondsey (proletarian parts of London) there would have been uneasy shuffling and even some verbals. Everyone shrugged. Some things are necessary and have to be done. It is expected.

The same situation applies to French car driving. It is anarchic and pushy. All other drivers are fools who have to be defeated. Simply, driving of cars came after the main social etiquettes were formed and also in a your own tin box you cannot kiss or shake hands. Personally I would equip them all with very small cabriolets so that their normal impeccable etiquette would triumph over human nature as they came close enough to open their default behaviour mode.

Now for cuisine advice. You may recall my plan to cook curry on Sunday. Well, I did so and decided to use French curry powder in my lentil dahl. This was an expensive experiment at at about £2.50 for the normal sized jar. In UK ASDA I would pay about £1 at most. It was pale and weak. If you’re coming on holiday bring your own curry spices. There’s more tickle than massala. 

Emma thinx: When you get home – put the car in you away.

Breakfast at Brittany’s

The garage mechanic/roof tiler/drain unblocker/washing machine fixer/brain surgeon/lawyer/dentist are all descendants of the same gene. You have arranged to see them and you guess you’re just another Joe with a worn ball valve solenoid collapsed pipe spring widget divorce synapse enamel issue. They will have seen it all before. You are boring! And yet every time you encounter such people there is a huge intake of breath accompanied by a shaking of the head. Eventually those fateful words emerge ” Oh dear – dear Oh dear – this isn’t the normal sort of thing – dear me- this is more serious than I thought. Don’t know what we can do about this – dear oh dear- who fitted this brain/pipe/marriage/ widget sprocket/tooth?

 Does this sort of thing happen to you? Perhaps I just leave things too long.

So, I arrived in England on the overnight ferry. Sat naff sat with me all the way giving me impeccable instructions in French. My wonderful 1997 Mercedes 250 diesel shrugged off her 264,000 mile history and delivered me to Brittany ferries. I slept and awoke to the gourmet breakfast of smoked salmon, boiled egg, ham and cheese. There is also a choice of all manner of juices and fibres for people who have body temples. I don’t do commercial plugs, but Brittany Ferries posh restaurant breakfast buffets are WONDERFUL. So I drove to Rosina’s place, had coffee and set off for the dentist at the little market town of Romsey. I emerged an hour later a new woman. Dear me – I was a big job. I was pinned and shuttered like concrete gate post by a most meticulous guy called Dr Thomas and his lovely assistant Julie. If you’re in the area and need a tooth job – these are the guys.

Then the desk. I collected it from my old house. England no longer seems like home but sometimes neither does France. Tomorrow is the 14th Juillet – the national day with fireworks and well – fireworks. It is a celebration of the storming of La Bastille (a Paris prison) in 1789. I could join in of course but somehow I’m kinda glad to leave it to those born to it. Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations, the peel of church bells and the bark of a dog across the meadows this evening are my home. Sometimes I think of all those frontier guys who set out to make the USA and could never come home or know again those subtle rhythms and aromas of their own place. As I have said before, everything that we are and that we have was paid for by some poor soul.

Emma thinx: Home is where the artful are.

Oh Oh Seven!

In a few minutes time I will be at the wheel of my 14 year old car and taking the do or die auto route to the coast. Luckily the cruise out of control system still works. I set it at 80 mph and point it North. When I first arrived here I was worried about having a right hand drive UK car. My neighbours shrugged and said “Well – here we drive in the middle of the road, so it doesn’t matter”. I keep the vehicle taxed, insured and tested in the UK. I had hoped that Gilles would be able to come with me but he has to work poor soul. Do you think I feel any disquiet that several French ladies have offered to look after him while I am away? OF COURSE I DO NOT! At least none of them cook rabbit.

Look – I live in France and sometimes I don’t always catch what they say on the radio. I thought I heard that the Beckhams have called their child Harper Seven. The French don’t seem sure how to pronounce it. I must be hearing things.

At last a Buddhist hero. The cyclist Johnny Hoogerland was knocked off his bike by a car driven by journalists in the Tour de France.This bike race has always seemed to me like a bike rally that somehow got caught up in a car race. This poor guy hit a barbed wire fence at 40 mph. When interviewed he said “Well, these things happen – no one meant it to be this way – I feel sorry for the guys who did it because they will feel very bad.” Now – these remarks left me feeling utterly inadequate. He has acceptance, mercy and wisdom. He went off to receive 30 stitches weighed down with absolute respect of millions. I just hope that the ambulance chasing lawyers are careful not to knock him off again.

Remember I advised you to keep an eye on the Steroid-EPO team in the Tour. The cats pounced on a minor mouse today – well, sadly no surprise. Look all you Mr Gogetitnows- what sporting world do you want for your OWN kids? Write to me in confidence. I really want to know.

Emma thinx: What name would your child give to you?

Doing it by the book

I think I was about 25 when I first heard the word icon. I guess that before that time there were not so many of them. Since then icons and geniuses have been multiplying so that soon almost everyone and everything will be one or the other if not both.  In football commentary, several geniuses play in iconic matches and venues several times a week. Well, as a Sunday treat I’m gonna talk about 2 icons. One is the Citroen Deux Chevaux (2CV) and the other is the publisher Mills and Boon. This pairing is obvious since they are both famous, successful, lightweight, cheap and are constructed to contain at least one cow and generally a prize bull. And above all – THEY ARE STILL HERE!

In Charentes, some of the oldest vehicles are still on the road – not as weekend hobbies but as up and running day to day transport. Several Deux Chevaux two cylinder pop-pop-pop up the road most days and I see many old Renault 4’s, Citroen Dyanes and even a Simca Aronde. Now, I know we romantic novelists would not be expected to be petrol heads, but I am in a kinda nostalgic fuzzy way. Jeremy Clarkson has done all he can to make me hate cars – but I think I just hate boorish juveniles. Now, don’t get me on politics!

I am reading “Pour une unique nuit d’amour” by Carole Mortimer(in translation). This is a Harlequin / Mills and Boon romance in which a female photographer loses control of her exposure and focus and winds up being at the pregnant end of a shoot. That’s as far as I’ve got and pour être honête I like it. Shoppers can take a walk into a world of international passion, glitz and romance for 3.85 Euros at the Intermarché, between the bin liners and the light bulbs. If you’re learning French get a couple of Harlequin collection Azur and tone up that vocabulary and your pelvic floor all at once . The writing is clear and avoids complex tenses and figures of speech. Find the book here.

Bon Dimanche. Emma x

Connection thymed out.

Emotional and intellectual connection to the soil is far closer to the surface here in France. The term “Terroir” with regard to wine reflects  a deep affection for the very life giving particles which mother the roots of the vines. It is almost like the cow in Hinduism – not sacred but looked up to as a giver of life. It is as if the soil has personality and this concept extends to stones and the shape of the land itself. Deep down I believe this is what the francophile Anglais detect here – a sense of connection and belonging to a past and also a future. This is not a dressed up arty farty middle class eco connection. (I had my own shameful phase of attacking folk with rainbow righteousness).  It is a matter of fact, accepted and simply lived.

In my childhood the soil was known as dirt and represented an area where family males propped up Herbies for some mechanical repairs. However, these days I find myself afflicted with a condition known as “La main verte”, which the English call “green fingers.” Now, to me gardening is a completely counter-intuitive concept. When you are young you have time ahead to plant saplings and hope to see trees. Yet, it is only when you get old and cannot hope to achieve much that one starts to surf the green wave. Having pondered all this and the influence of subjective ideas, I have come to the view that one of the principal differences between social groups is the perception of time. Young folk with advantaged and happy lives with encouraging families see time as shorter and therefore academic success etc will seed a flowering life that is within grasp.  Kids who are told they are crap and live miserable lives expecting to be kicked up the ass by superiors see time as long and any better future just too far away to be reached. Therefore as you age and a year seems like a month, it is never long to wait for Spring, even on the 1st of June.