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?

O Brave New World

So, a star in the heavens slips beneath the horizon. The News of the Screws is no more. A pillar of certainty and tradition crumbles and I must confess to a genuine sadness. And I suspect that around the UK it is a shared sadness far more profound that a lot of the puffed up (Oh just look how moral I am) band wagoneering. I am a romantic novelist and I have been a thoroughly wicked woman. At least I know something juicy to write about. They would never have had to spy on me. I would just love to have told them! The decision to close a “toxic” brand is probably correct ……but if you think they won’t be back I wouldn’t get down to the bookies just yet.
Poor Rosina had to get to the Newsagents in England at 6am this morning in order to get my final souvenir copy. She’s a bit posh and probably felt a bit sullied by asking for it. I love her though – she’s a star yah. So, this morning after my portion of baguette I ventured to the tabac for a copy of the French Sunday paper “Le Journal de Dimanche”. The lead story was about a socialist politician. The headline translated roughly as “XXXXXXX – faces rumours about her private life”  Wow – did you feel the heat and explosion? Many column inches talked seriously about the Dominic Strauss-Kahn case in New York. Now, this is a sensational story with ambitious prosecutors facing utter humiliation as they come under fire for a botched case driven by what I call “big case boogie”.  Meanwhile a French accusatrice  alleges a sexual attack some eight years ago. The headline blares out “We have material facts says lawyer”  Wow!  The problem is that while in the UK they have both the gutter and the cerebral press, few countries have such a fantastic mix. Come on Ozzie tycoons- buy your way into France and give us some Dent de Lion and Murdoch.

All of a sudden copies of my short story “Sub Prime” are ripping up the download statistics (Well, my statistics). We did a free audio download with it on Smashwords.com. If anyone out there reading this knows what’s going on please please let me know.

A day of horrible crashes and heroism in the Tour de France.  But a Frenchman Tommy Voeckler  has won the yellow jersey as leader of the Tour de France. Mon Dieu merci!

Emma thinx: Your life is the bus ride – not some maybe stop round the bend.

Cyber Splash

The appeal of most news stories is that somehow it all has something to do with us. The DSK affair involves all of us in France because he is – well – French. Opinion polls here today suggest that at least half the population think he should return to national politics. None of this serious reflection is of interest to Gilles. He has already spent the morning in Lycra on his bike and soon the live TV coverage of la Grande Boucle will start. Now, I’m not sure whether or not to raise issues of waxing and shaving – perhaps I’ll come back to it when I discuss supermarket armpit issues. However, a most serious matter has arisen as a result of the DSK affair. Many Anglo media outlets have suggested that as a man of 62, DSK would not have the sexual drive to chase females. Now, Gilles has taken this matter very much to heart and has asked me to rebut any suggestion that the Euro male in his 60s is not up for it. So, world take note. The old boulangers of France are still baking the best hot baguettes. They do tend to get up early but in my experience this is often the case wherever you are.

News that Facebook has had a slight fall in users has left me wondering if we need to recreate some of the old fashioned social networks. In France some of these have never gone away. The cafe, the street market and the long aisle blocking supermarket chat still rival cyberspace. In the Boulangerie this morning the young assistant spent two or three minutes talking to an old guy about his daughter’s dog. Husbands, wives and children in the same house do not send one another e-mails. Sadly the old town and village lavoirs have fallen out of use. These were areas of a river or stream partitioned to allow the communal washing of laundry and of course the exchange of News, blues and views. Whenever I come across an old lavoir I feel like writing a story where young  Primrose Fodderfurrow (Marguerite Vachemouton)  (Foundling orphan and probably a misplaced aristocrat) takes her mum’s table linen down to the river and learns that there’s to be a party at the big house (Château). Sounds like a winner to me. Anyone wanna suggest a title? Tell you what – a free copy for the winner!

The word lavoir does of course rhyme with La voix (The voice). The Eurovision song contest of 2009 introduced me to the Swedish entry sung by an opera singer named Malena Ernman. The song, entitled “La voix” is something else and so is she. Check her out here. Spot the “Queen of the Night” pastiche and WOW that dress…

Emma thinx: Know what you don’t know. Know who you do know.

Tribal Reservations


We all have our tribe. Being kinda foreign in France but feeling oddly patriotic about her but also still standing for God Save the Queen, I’m not sure whether I’m tribeless or a member of an  extra important minority group called “a person of mixed tribe”. I’ve always wanted to be part of an unassailable victimised minority that no one could criticize and that kindly ambitious politicians and lawyers would support. However, even if you’re in the mainstream, blameworthy and guilt ridden tribe, you can still subdivide into cool tribesfolk and mockable tribesfolk. Only if you are in the same tribe can you mock your fellow tribespersons. This is the first law of tribal correctness. In France we have Les CH’TIS. This word, which is pronounced “SSchtee”, signifies the way this community pronounces words with an s sound as a ssch sound. Now, although members of the CH’TIS community are allowed to live anywhere in France, they are only to be found in the North. The whole matter is illuminated brilliantly in a film called “Bienvenue chez les CH’TIS”. If you are a Francophile and want to learn something esoteric about France, the human race and French comedy, watch this film. Amazon has the DVD.

So, if it hasn’t been fixed, made, repaired or planned – I’d better forget it. Today was the start of the Tour de France and today was the end of Gilles. There is of course live coverage, dead coverage, highlight coverage and drug raid coverage. It only goes on for a month. Please please let somebody French win.

I finished “Pregnant with the billionaire’s baby” or “Just one night of love” in the French edition. Poor girl was in a dilemma. Should she go off to live in poverty as a single mother with twins or should she marry the most attractive billionaire in the world with whom she is in love? No! I won’t spoil the ending for you.

Emma thinx: Dilemma – Two books by Jane Austen.

Stand up Comedienne


Yes – there are still stand up loos in France. Now, we females have quite correctly sought equality and in this regard for long periods we have been able to use true unisex stand up toilets. The last one I found was on the autoroute services close to Poitiers. However, these are not stand up toilets! One squats the bot……there was a time when I did not know this. Also be aware that toilet paper is not always provided. You have been warned. I have also found that when cycling with kids, minor cases of Diarrhoea can be turned into instant constipation when the stand up threat is rolled out.(One day the child abuse van will pull up outside and uniformed politically correct guards will grab me). I didn’t intend to make this blog a toilet tantrum but if you are an affecianado of deep luxury quilted double silk tissue that will caress your flesh with the kiss of the soft southern breeze – FORGET IT. If that’s what you want take your own. But again beware! For UK drainage users, the design of sewer here is often of smaller bore and lesser gradient, but let’s not plunge into such depths.

Just before we lower the seat down on this issue I must tell you about one evening in Paris two months ago when I was dining at a Pot au Feu restaurant. We were seated near a door which opened into an airless cupboard which housed la toilette. Another diner dashed into the cupboard and appeared to be immediately swept up in something involving a bullet train and a volcanic explosion. He emerged appearing soothed and returned coolly  to his table to continue his elegant life of chic Parisian. We were engulfed in a cloud of gas that contravened the Geneva convention and the laws of physics. I struggled for air while Gilles calmly lifted a bone from his stew to his lips. ” La vie – it is about flesh you know….” He said. He was born there.

As I rode through the town today I saw the cat lady. (See my blog “The cat’s out of the bag”) She was standing in the road with a large pair of binoculars held to her eyes. She was studying the church tower. I must point out that the cat lady is also the bird lady. She is also an angel but probably escaped. She saw me and we did the four kisses.
“Oh my little bonhome, my little flea – you are there.” She explained as if I would understand.
“My little man, my love, my ‘plume blanche’, he is there alive.”
A while ago she found a dazed crashed baby dove with a white breast feather, fed and did whatever angels do to fallen doves and set it free. She watches over it. One day an angel may need a dove for a special mission. As gangstas say on the streets of South London -“Respect”.

Emma thinx: Leaders –  Leave out a little seed. A dove may land.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen – Lend me a Boudin.

It’s hot! Only the English would be that interested. I mean it’s hot – shrug. Gilles and I cycled down to Saintes which about 12kilometres. Essentially you follow the valley of the river Charente. Now Saintes is a very historique and beautiful city which is twinned with the Wiltshire town of Salisbury in the UK. Both have magnificent cathedrals, a river running through and buskers who can’t sing. The Euro to pound exchange rate means that the French performers are far more expensive. Whilst Salisbury is quite near to Stonhenge (Oh why oh why can’t someone reveal that it is fake?), Saintes has the most fantastic Roman amphitheatre. Being France, it’s kinda in the middle of a housing estate with a shed at the entrance. Cars can pull up half on the kerb or on a gravel pavement.  Visitors to Stonehenge may walk around the hallowed stones via the heritage centre, through a roped off path and see the stones from some untouchable distance. At the Saintes amphitheatre you can stand in the middle, practice your “Friends, Francais, Countrymen” or simply run out from the dark sinister cavern where the “performers” waited into the blinding light and roar of 28,000 baying, blood lusting Simon Cowells…..if your imagination can stretch to that. Look- just believe that you are Wayne Rooney trotting out to meet a few thousand tabloid readers. Bref – come to Saintes and help me earn my commission from the ministry of tourism! Are you reading this Sarko?

Yesterday I said I was gonna say a few words about travelling on a bike in France. Now, there are many places you can stay called “chambres d’hôte” Really this means Bed and Breakfast in someone’s house. A curious aspect of this can be the hovering host. On one occasion travelling with the kids we were served a meal of mashed potato and boudin blanc sausage. Now, this is a dish of some character made from bloodless pork meat and often milk. I think the gourmet term would be “sloshy”. The kids, weaned on Jamie Oliver’s cheeky chiploatas, slithered dripping pale slosh into their gobs. The host ,in full chefs hat and apron, paced up and down the room beaming and nodding “Oh – delicieux n’est-ce pas?” he repeated. The kids swallowed and nodded. “Tomorrow Big Mac.” I promised, smiling and swallowing. No one died. It’s called character building. I think the Duke of Edinburgh may be adopting it as a challenge.
Emma x

Emma thinx: If I had a sausage dog I’d call it solo.

We All Have Our Crossing to Bear

There’s just something about ferries isn’t there. As the holiday madness approaches and ferry tariffs lift off with the last space shuttle, many Brits will be anticipating their journey to France. Ho ho – deep foaming and churning deep joy. According to the French ministry of statistics, 19.3 million (Yes – I’ve checked it) British landings were made in France in 2009. Sure makes D day look a bit thin.  My own highly scientific silly rucksack, odd looking shoes and men with handbag survey reveals that about 19 French people have ever travelled on ferries from France to England. Hence, the whole cross channel experience is BRITISH. Yes – Abba karaoke, pints and pints of lager, shaven headed cyclists in stripey jumpers on charity rides, pink trousered loud voiced posh folk who’ve lost their yachts and tattooed parents bawling at marauding mohecan headed brats. Even Gilles has given up trying to speak French. “Poisson frites” he says in perfect Parisian “Uh..you you vant zee feesh and zee sheeps yes..? Well, to be honest on Brittany Ferries the crew are generally from Bretagne. Paris is another country. Stick to English – most of the waiters have never met a French traveller. The problem is I need a desk and I have one in England that I could bring over …..but can I bear it?

On the holiday theme, readers will know of my love for cycling. If you haven’t planned your hols and perhaps you’re a bit poorer than you’d hoped and you really want to do something fantastic, life changing and totally boast-worthy – why don’t you cycle to Paris? This was the first thing I ever did with Gilles. Luckily he has a fetish for sweaty moaning women with varicose limbs. This is what you do. You get to Newhaven; cross to Dieppe: follow an old railway line to Forge-Les-Eaux; keep to tiny car free roads until you pick up le canal de L’Ourq AND YOU SLIDE INTO PARIS! We did it second time with three kids. Just one problem. We are talking about France – yes – in Northern France many non-chain hotels close for summer holidays. YES – you did understand that. Shops close noon until 3pm. Hotels close for the summer. There are ways around this and tomorrow I’ll tell you of some folks we’ve stayed with unless something astonishing happens in Charentes. If you want info on the trip of your life just get in touch and I can give a romantic novelists guide to saddle sores, love in lycra and how to smuggle your hair straighteners, manicure set and five changes of costume to Paris on a bike. I want you guys to do this. Just think – a wet night in October – dinner party with the Beatyourazzi who’ve just come back from their own island with slaves, en suite waxing salon and a money mine……And I don’t suppose you did much on holiday?…….Ooh I’m a conniving cynical bitch!

Emma x

Emma Thinx:  Bullshit baffles brains. Sweat dissolves bullshit.

Bac on me bike

If there’s one big thing I miss over here it is BBC Radio 4. Actually there is just nothing like it in the world. OK – it’s often a bit up itself but the breadth and quality of the programming is stunning. If there’s a cause that would get me to the barricades it would be to keep the BBC free. Media moguls must size it up and politicos may think of sizing it down. What a commercial market it would be for a few city chums. Whenever I get the chance I catch an afternoon play, the PM programme or the late night book on the internet and no one tries to sell me incontinence clothing or a Volvo.

My local radio station is France Bleu La Rochelle. Local radio was all we had before everyone in the world was an online author. Old wiseacres phone in with tales of trouble with turnips in France just as they do in the UK. Local radio reveals just how similar folk are. Today they are talking about the Baccalaureate  – the French equivalent of A levels. The day before the exam on Tuesday, one of the questions on the maths paper was published on an internet site for what the French call ados (teens). Now- why didn’t I get that kind of opportunity at school? Ironically, the maths required to recalculate the re-marking seem to be defeating everyone. According to some sources, the leaked question was an easier one just to get students into the rhythm of the algorithm, so you can’t simply divide up the marks using the unleaked questions. OK – I’m chewing my pencil….

And here is something astonishing. The French racing cyclist Jeannie Longo has just won her 57th National title. Well, so what? Just that’s she’s 52 years old, has degrees in Maths and an MBA and I dare say she makes her own bikes. As I wobble my gasping mentally challenged way to Intermarché on my old bone shaker at about 10kph she will be my inspiration.

The Drama Queen’s Speech

OK. just between you and I – and I mean that – I was wrong. I know this is a rare situation but, yes, I was wrong. Today was the audio day. I presented myself at Rosina’s office (It’s a kinda pre-fab in her garden. I was to read a masterpiece for publication. I felt humbled even though I wrote it myself. For hours I toiled amongst sound deadening egg boxes. I emerged into a sea of troubled faces. Well, Rosina and her partner Bob who twiddles knobs.

“We – I don’t think your voice…..” He began.
“What?” I screamed – “I’m the bloody genius who wrote it!!!!”
Rosina and Bob laboured away trying to assure me that I was a genius but with the voice of a moron. Look – you just cannot accept personal and professional re-assurance from a bloke called Bob. Rosina de Montfort…….um…..well, at least it has gravitas, a sense of history and sounds as if she could cook a tagine of lamb.

So, like I said – I did the only thing a passionate romantic novelist could do. I went off on one.I took a bike from the garage and rode about 5 miles to Danebury hill fort. Here I offered my spirit to the pagan gods on the altar of my own ego. Well, until I began to feel a bit silly. These ramparts were built in olden times to protect the natives from rival tribes and invading hordes. Walk calmly and reflect and you can imagine their fear and longing for safety. I could smell the burning fat of their rush lamps, the cycle and acceptance of their life. A few years ago I wrote a poem about a hill fort and you can find it on here on:  my poems page

Then I rode back. You guys are the first to know of my suffering.

Everything has its place.

Rain. Sweet Rain that filters through the chalk downland to refresh the river Test and its tributaries. Rain also in France but all the same Gilles phoned to say he’s going out on his bike with les garcons. Now, where do you stand on the whole Lycra/lunch box issue? Should skin tight sports clothing be like booze, fags and solvents with an age limit where no one over the age of say 50 should be allowed to buy it? There is also the issue of speedo swimwear. Last year Gilles was banned from the local piscine for wearing swim shorts. An obliging attendant was on hand to sell him some budgie smugglers.  In the UK you get banned for wearing speedos cos apparently one looks like a dirty old man.(Well the men do I guess).  Personally I hate the whole screaming in chlorine flavoured urine experience and never go.

On the subject of bikes I’ve noticed a new trend here in the UK. In France old guys ride about on 30 year old Peugeot racers. Here you see mobs of exec types with i pods and smart phones riding bikes with bleeping sat naffs. One of those pelican things swept through the village yesterday evening.  The bikes wouldn’t disgrace those carbon fibre exotica of the Steroid-EPO team. Watch out for this team in the Tour de France- they’re almost certain winners. And where are the girls? I just hope they’re warm and dry with a good Romance to read. “Zak unclipped from his pedals and stepped away from his Fandango carbon XR47 special edition and leant it against the wall. As he turned towards the street in his turquoise Lycra shorts, Immelda’s legs buckled and she sank to her knees.”

Rosina was up early tapping out some blurb for a book about electric trains. She did bring me  a cup of tea and enquire if I would be working on my book with a kinda tweaky eyebrow high flyer human dynamo expression on her face. These Anglo Saxons are just so angled.