Baker Street 1978. Where have you been since?

Baker StreetThere I was at the checkout at the Intermarché supermarket  at Saint Jean d’Angely close to my home in South West France. I’d bought mussels to make moules marinères and a half decent Muscadet to accompany them.

And, I was humming, then singing along – “give up the booze and the one night stands…” The French  guy in front of me turned as I went into the sax solo under my breath. He smiled – he knew the song too. There it was, Jerry Rafferty’s Baker Street blaring out on the supermarket sound system – cutting through forty odd years back to a London teenage bedroom and an unformed mist of life ahead.

I could never have imagined that supermarket moment in a different culture and language that lay ahead of me. Only a smell has that same power as a song to zap you back to some place you didn’t even know you’d remembered.

What’s been your Baker Street moment and where does it zap you?


MADE IN NASHVILLE – @MandyBaggot likes to do it the American Way

Today I am delighted to welcome a wonderfully talented writer and performer to my blog – Mandy Baggot. 

I first met her at a literary event where she was not only promoting her novels but was entertaining the crowds at lunch with her microphone and PA system belting out Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. She is a total star.

She has a brand new book out called MADE IN NASHVILLE … for a good ol’ dose of country-style romance. 

Without further ado – Mandy, I’ve noticed a number of your books are set in the US. Why is this? 

Mandy:  To be really honest I’m not entirely sure how this happened!

When I started writing I had in mind using my cool British humour and knowledge of UK popular culture in my novels. My first four books had British heroines and three of those were set predominantly in England but two had ‘foreign’ heroes – American heartthrob actor Nicholas Kaden and ice-dance sensation Jimmy Lloyd.

By the time I got to novel number five I was writing about an American-born heroine travelling back to her homeland. There were diners, hockey, my words had Zs in them and one less ‘l’. I was talking pants instead of trousers and clutching purses instead of bags.

I think having my dad living in the US is an influence. He’s a constant source of inspiration, keeps me in touch with American culture and all things Michigan.
But another reason is my obsession with US TV shows. British drama for me has got a little too British. I want escapism. I want action, talk of bodegas and a sexy drawl on my hero.

Made in Nashville was born out of my love for country music and the American lifestyle. Writing about things you’re passionate about always makes for a great story and I really hope that passion shines through on the page.

Although the book is set in Nashville, in the middle of the music scene, you don’t have to be a fan of bluegrass to enjoy Honor and Jared’s story. Their relationship is the focus and it’s their feelings that drive the plot forward. But, before you know it, you’ll be listening to Tim McGraw and wearing plaid!
So there you have it! I’m a girl who loves writing over the pond but I also like to keep everyone on their toes. My next hero’s a Bulgarian!

Mandy Baggot is a romantic fiction author. In 2012 she won the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance. Her self-published title, Strings Attached was also short-listed for the Best Author Published Read award.

Also in 2012 she signed with American publishing house, Sapphire Star Publishing, who produced her novels, Taking Charge and romantic suspense, Security.

In June 2013 she signed a two book deal with Harper Collins’ digital first romance imprint, Harper Impulse.

She is a regular contributor to writing blogs and on-line magazine, Loveahappyending Lifestyle

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, World’s Strongest Man, travel and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor.

Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two daughters and cats, Kravitz and Springsteen.

Loveahappyending Bookshelf:
Harper Impulse:
Latest release: Made in Nashville– Amazon UK

Culcha Vulcha

Dear me – I think I’ve been missing something for the past 24 years or so. Once I had realised that I had completely wasted my opportunity to be educated I kinda figured that clever people read clever books and listened to Beethoven, at least until they were ready for Bartók.  Until recently I think I had been becoming more and more SERIOUS. I soon realised that the kids on the bus were not ready for the Shostakovitch cello sonata  . To be honest I’m never been sure if I genuinely like this stuff or not or whether I’m just a bit up myself. Anyway check out that guy doing the Gershwin piano.

But the kids voted out the culcha and it’s been WAVE 105 all the way each and every day. Well, this morning I heard a song that made me feel so happy. I had the kids singing along and cranked it up to full volume. If you were at the traffic lights this morning next to boom box bus with the warbling old Doris at the wheel I don’t care. I rushed home and downloaded “Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor” by Caro Emerald. This is super album that makes you wanna dance, kiss and wiggle ya waggle. Oh if you like Caro Emerald you’ll like a French singer called ZAZ. This song “je veux” sung in the street in true “Chanteuse” tradition is a joy. If you love Paris and la langue francaise it’s a little gem.

Older people are having more and better sex according to a new survey. Over 70% of males and females over 60 say they’re having more fun than ever. Ho hum – that’s great but should we not be looking at the life style of the consumption driven brat tortured middle-agers who live in a blur of work and tail chasing? For late boomers like me it was possible to dream of saving up your life for later.(Actually I saved it up for a rolling infinite NOW).  As pensions dwindle and opportunities atrophy these younger folk ought to think about having some decent sex TODAY. I wrote a poem about this issue. Check out “Boomer” here.

News on the radio that Dyslexic cops are to receive special notebooks. What I want to know is why every time I’ve been booked for speeding the officer has recorded all my details perfectly leaving no loopholes. Surely once in my life I deserve a dyslexic ticket that allows me to beat the rap. 

Emma thinx: Chill –  there’ll be another NOW along in a while.

Yoofs like Jagger

Another day survived with the bus. The number of pick ups and the available time do not add up. Well, they do add up to being late! One of the problems is sleepy headed boys who appear to live unsupervised lives in less than encouraging situations. Ho hum – it’s a learning curve and certainly a re-acquaintance with the less advantaged element of society.

Of course the kids all want to listen to pop music radio at high power. They appear to be quite happy with endless commercials for new cars and people who buy old scrap cars. In just one advertising slot the whole of our economic system is exposed. For me the pop music has been a bit of a revelation. I know I’m getting old but to me it all sounds the same semi electronic auto tuned nonsense. Their favourite is called “Moves like Jagger”. Does that refer to good old Brown sugar Mick? Surely not I thought. I asked the kids on the bus who Jagger was – nobody knew. I mean old Mick must be drawing his state pension by now- but a bit of You Tube research reveals him to be the inspiration. The guy singing sounds like a robot toy. I’m just gonna have to wise up and get some new stuff on my i pod. I do like Mr Saxobeat – check it out here! I think it’s a bit sexy. As soon as I kick them all off the bus I dive back to Radio 4 and head for the depot with nice posh people telling me that we’re all doomed. It’s such a relief from all that cheerful stuff.

Talking of doom – check this out. The BBC interviewed a money changer in the temple last night. AND HE JUST SPILLED THE BEANS. In fact he spilled so many beans that I don’t think all the bean counters are gonna be able to measure the effects of his candour. Watching him I really did not warm to him and I would like to know his agenda. He wants a crash because he needs one to make his big trades and scoop the gold from the Rhine maidens. If they give him an International TV stage to talk up a crash they are playing into his hands surely. He strikes me as one of those guys with eight brains, but not necessarily all connected.(Could he be a scam?) Make up your own minds.

Emma thinx: The wise are too intelligent to bother being clever.

Howdy Partner

Oh no! Misted up windows when I got up. A quick check outside revealed several citoyens in coats and hats – now you know they’re not Brits because for them it’ll be shorts and T shirts until October. It is quite astonishing to me that just a few hundred miles further south makes the climate so different and the folk so much less tolerant of cold.

Readers may think that I kinda bang on about the virtues of simple soil huggers at the expense of the capitalist globalisers and grabsters. However, there is one element of “modern” culture that embodies every excess of Hollywood bezaz and fakery. It is the American musical and I just love them. Last night I watched “Oklahoma” and last week I watched “State Fair”. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen “Carousel”. The guys who wrote and produced these shows were touched by genius and also the desire to make it the best possible show that could be made. I know it lacks cred to admit to watching them these days but if you were too young to have been aware of this genre at the time you could be in for a real treat. As a snap shot of American attitudes in the 1950’s it shows you just how glum we have all become. If you are a romance reader these films are for you. Go on Amazon and check out “Rodgers and Hamerstein” . Prices for sets vary a lot so look carefully at the whole range.

Blog is short today cos I’ve got a meeting about a book project. Do you think I’ll get an offer and a huge advance cheque? Bet I don’t.

Emma thinx: When cars had fins, dreams had wings.

Staying on track.

Some folk just seem to skim coolly above most of us don’t they? They float noiselessly between their past and their future triumphs. As they pass they give a regal nod at us mudlarks scrambling for pennies and scrabbling to pick up the shopping that has just fallen on the supermarket floor when our eternal shopping bag handle fell short of eternity. (Is this whole everlasting carrier bag lark just a way to get folk back to the idea of FAITH. Some of these churchy guys are pretty sharp at psychology). Anyway – back to the mud. Last night I went to a piano recital at one of my neighbour’s château. YES – that’s right – OK –  My neighbour has a château and I went to a recital. Now – In France I am foreign, therefore I am neither posh-oui nor posh-non. In England I could go to such an event but I would have to keep me gob shut cos one squeak of the old Sahff Lundin vowels would have me sent to the kitchens to put me uniform on. However, sometimes you come across a cool dude who just has to be admired. The recital was given by the superb Alice Rosset. She is a native of Charente Maritime and the region is rightly proud of her. She played Bach, Bartok, Rachmaninoff and Brahms. She was fantastic. I had not heard much Bartok before – I think it’s for very sophisticated folk who put their clothes on back to front and walk backwards in order to understand the shadows cast by the future on the fleeting present of appearance and expectation. SEE – I could be ARTY. Anyway – there she is playing this beautiful music and the 2140 hours to Bordeaux rattles past. Was she fazed? Non! She just played on. The girl’s a trouper and she walked on the stone driveway of the château with no shoes. If her everlasting carrier bag broke she’d just lift the shopping off the floor with a twitch of her eyebrow. Bravo!!

Now, the above ramble reminds me of some advice I received in bed from a very cynical guy. He told me that you could never beat the English class system – but you could merely side step it. You can never quite get the vowels and arrogance of the posh Anglo. So – be foreign. At first I thought he was joking but this guy used to take me to receptions and the like at places like embassies and the Foreign and Come on it’s all my wealth Office. There was no way I could pull off the My Fair Lady Act, so I went accent-uh-sexi-rissima. I don’t know what they thought – but no one asked me what school I’d been to or if I had been at the races when The Right Honourable Foreskin – Smythe had won the golden fleece.

Hair dryer humid wind here today. It’s a greenhouse of bursting juice. If you fell dead to the soil here you would decay in seconds among the worms and eat-you-pedes of NATURE. Life is sweet juice. The market will close with strangers hosing away to gutters whatever is left of what you nearly became….

Emma thinx: Drink deep the juice. In the hour glass is sand.


Things are just so prolific here. I took a stroll through the allotments to check out the harvest. Pumpkins and tomatoes swell with joyful fertility. Peach and apple trees ache with fruit like filled breasts needing the suck of hunger and dependency. Nature here is swollen with it’s summer of passion, giving itself up selflessly, proclaiming its spilling lust and asking to be taken – NOW! It’s just so bloody sexy – but of course, that is what the whole show is all about. I’ve never really been a gardener – but is that the key? Did all those Capability Brown types feel the great undercurrent of sex in the shrubbery. All those manicured posh house gardens always kinda remind me of supermodels with waxed hollywood punanis. I must say I do love the word punani. I think it comes from an Indian laguage. I first heard it on the lips of Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen). I kinda love this guy – he is so outrageous. His movie “Bruno” had me laughing to a point of pain. If he’s reading this – please do a gardening movie.

Talking of punani put the great problem of panini into my head. A while ago during my big posho push I got into the operas of Mozart and decided to learn Italian. The French had driven off my husband but luckily I was with a Scotland Yard detective who tolerated my pretensions. At that time I was working in Central London and all manner of Italiano Eateroni were springing up. I used to saunter in and quip my order in over the top “ooh- just listen to my accent” passionato Italiano. Nobody noticed – well they were all city morons.(I could see they were ruining the world) . One day it occurred to me that I could not buy a panini. I could buy a panino because panini must be the plural. I wanted to ask in perfect Italian and even rehearsed the question……..Anyone help?

A mere 32 degrees today so I got my bike out and cycled to St. Jean d’Angely. There were mobs of Team Top Lycra loins in the boating lake by the park. I think a couple of them called out at me as I whizzed past. Ooh – I must walk past a few more building sites. Oh No – the correctoid police will be out gain!

Emma thinx: You yourself are a fruit. Be generous.

A mere trefle

I wonder how many songs we encounter in a lifetime. Some just pass on through but others stick for ever – often to a point of ad nauseam. Some songs just sit there like unexploded time bombs waiting for some trigger years and years ahead. Such a thing happened to me today. The Angel of all Beasts passed by and came over for La Bise (four times remember). She rummaged in her sac and pulled a four leaf clover which she had found. She handed it to me with a sense of great delight. She then showed me one that she had mounted on a card and carried in her purse. Well, today is a bit of an anxious day because Gilles is on a long drive and we have kids wound up like crossbows waiting for various exam results. But now an angel has given me a four leaf clover and I know that all will be well. I just know. Anyway – the unexpected gift plunged me back to the tune “I’m looking over a four leaf clover” performed by Les Perry and his Banjo Maniacs. It was on an old 78 rpm record that my mother had collected from somewhere. I used to play it on my record player when I was a kid. It also had “Bye Bye Blackbird” on the same disc. I never told any of my contemporaries that I played these songs because I guess it was music from the forties or fifties. In any event, this music made me feel immensely cheerful and happy and now the bloody song – banjos and all, keeps playing in my head. The only good thing is that it has driven out “Are we human or are we dancer?” performed by the Baseballs.

A trip to La Dechetterie  had me queueing behind some English folk. Their car registration gave them away of course but I would have known they were not French merely on the basis of the things they were discarding. When French folk throw away junk – it is junk. When English folk throw away junk it is what the French call Brocante. All manner of old metal rods, bits that looked like they would make a plough, trap a ragondin, reinforce some concrete or fix up a combine harvester were crashing into the bin. If Gilles goes to the tip it’s 50/50  he’ll bring home more than he takes.

A while ago the church bells stopped. They have now been repaired and I have been able to take off my watch. Francophiles will already know that in general church bells sound twice at the hour with a 2 minute gap. Explanations are numerous, but it’s probably so that workers get the chance to check twice on the time.It  would never do to miss lunch.

Emma thinx: Someone will need that junk. It may be a long wait for their birth.

Paella Fitzgerald

It was Jazz night at the local restaurant. It was to be a barbecue because last week for the Salsa night it was Paella. We had booked to barbie but as we took our seats by the musicians table they were eating large amounts of what looked like – Paella. I had guessed that they were jazz musicians because one of them was wearing an arty winter scarf, a T shirt and jeans. Le patron appeared. “Oh dear – you booked the barbecue – oh yes- but it is Paella – it is just as good.” Two of our party were not seafood fans. We ordered Paella without the seafood.  The musicians munched on – even asking for more. Perhaps they don’t get paid. Suddenly a DIVA trotted in from somewhere across the street. She dashed around a little, then took the micro to explain that she was exhausted because she had been so busy with important concerts at places she described as “Blah blah blah” and another equally important place called “Blah blah blah.” She told us not to worry and that after some red wine she would be her normal fantastic self. She sat with some friends and chatted and then sang a little before going back to her friends to smoke a cigarette and take some medicine. The band played on – she had been in mid song – but such conduct is normal among indoor scarf summer time wearing folk I believe. We munched the non barbecue, partially non seafood Paella. The music stopped. The Diva explained “Now – important – MONGE.” She sat down with her friends to eat. We paid up and left. Some shows are better than others. Last week’s singer was fabulous. I suspect that Monsieur Le Patron has had better days.

As I write we are expecting folk for lunch. It is 2.30 pm. This is the weekend of 15th August and is a major holiday. All routes South are blocked with traffic……

We ate at about 4pm. It was hot. These guys are old work colleagues and are just so modern and clever. They know about things like machines that build micro chip machines that go inside computers. I kinda know how to heat up chips in a microwave. She speaks French/American. He speaks Franglo-americano. The kids sound American but adore baguettes. It’s called evolution. They had to go – but I wish they had stayed.

I want to talk about saving the world, conserving energy and recycling carbon footprints. All of this is embodied in a single concept. The photo today is of a wonderful product that will turn you into a paragon of preservation. The idea is to recycle the kernels of maize into barbecue fuel. I walked from Carrefour with a kinda eco-warrior maiden swagger- a bit like Boadecia-pelting the Romans with re-cycled toilet rolls.  We lit the barbecue. Flames shot skyward. Some red embers remained. We semi cooked 4 sausages. The fuel ran out. The future looks – well-cold and raw. Probably best to just eat the fuel.  

Emma thinx: If you’re singing for your supper – ask for an advance. Folks are fickle. 

Brass Banned

I’m a relatively trusting soul. In the Tourist Information office of St. Savinien, there is a large poster advising you not to eat wild mushrooms. I trust the folks who created this work with all its intricate pictures and warnings of death and agony. I also trust a guy up the road who is a reputed maitre de mushrooms, a chef de champignons. Monday Gilles and I are invited on a funghi fest. You might be well advised to read this blog over the week-end……there may only be a couple of more episodes ever. Gilles is convinced that the guy is a true son of the soil and a bona fide rural wiseacre. If the Archers played in France, this chap would be Jethro Larkin. My American readers may not know that the “Archers” is a radio soap opera broadcast by the BBC. It’s a story of country folk. The poor talk with hick/rural accents and the rich talk with posh yah yah patronising voices. 

Much politics over invitations, counter invitations, cancelled invitations and potential invitations. Since everyone knows everyone and everyone knows who went to whom and who has disputes and therefore did not, and who owes who and who should have been invited first, I sometimes think I will stay at home with all the lights off. Alternatively I could invite everyone for a mushroom spectacular….then I would know who really trusted me. As it stands we are doing lunch tomorrow for old Anglo/Franco/Americano work colleagues travelling South, and dinner for a local couple who are from “The North.” If you are from “The North” you are different. You have a natural affinity with the Brits. It’s all about darkness, rain, chips, beer, coal mines, brass bands and gritty Saturdays at Football matches in the cold sleet. Apparently Northern French find middle and southern French very difficult. In my view it’s probably because the regional accents of France are like fences in the Grand National. There are many fallers.

Friday night is Jazz night at the resto St.Savinien. These guys work so hard to make their business work. I’ll try and get a vid and put it up tomorrow. If any French person knows you are about to eat, are going out to eat, queueing for a kebab, sitting on a railway station bench with a sandwich, have food that is for a meal later they have to say “Bon appetit.” It’s a sacred mantra. If you’re about to eat – “Bon appetit.”

Emma thinx: Reincarnation – an everlasting buttonhole.