Do You Smoke After Entrée Course?

The French smoke. The most accepted figure appears to be that 38% smoke compared to about 24% in the UK.  On Saturday night I was at the Resto St. Savinien for their latin/salsa/paella dinner. The musicians were tres special but disappointingly didn’t do CDs or i-tune links. They are trying to catch up and catch on – they really are. Somehow here, the applause and bonhomie of the folks at tables is enough. A day is a day. It is lived, and the butt end trodden into the cracks of the cobbles. The other thing at the table was – well – smoke. We were seated on la terrasse, but covered by a gazebo. A lovely waitress asked if we minded if a few other clients smoked. To be frank, I cared not. The ambience of something not quite right with the drains, strong coffee and the throat catch of French fag is (for me) La France. That smoky Serge Gainsbourg voice somehow is Romance.(Check him out here) Gilles – being French and a muscular cyclist/patio layer was less keen. I patted his tough old thigh and he let me breathe in my pavement café, Sorbonne and early tragic death of poet fantasy. Just so long as I don’t live it out OK! I’m not a bloody artist after all.

What a lovely word FECUNDITY is. We don’t use it enough. Try working it in to your daily vocab. It sprung to mind today as I immersed myself in domestique subservience and abasement by making jam for my man. Who knows what the feminoids would do to me if they invaded. Nature has studded budded and spudded. The ripe bursting fruits are picked and the cycle of abundance pauses on the fulcrum between fullness and decay. Well, bref – forget the poetry and just say jam. A while later will come the pickles. In French supermarkets there are big displays of jam making sugar. I gave my man some confiture de mirabelles to try. His pleasure was like having a best seller – well, maybe not quite that….but it’ll do while I’m waiting.

A train track runs across the bottom of the road. I’m sure that there are regulations about the sounding of hooters as you approach the crossing. I think all the old guys kinda shrug and just plough on in silence. The newbie blasts his klaxon at each town crossing.OK – we all know you now…we won’t cross in front of you we promise. Just SHUT UP!

Emma thinx: Make jam. Preserve the future.

You Can’t Fool the Bishops of the Revolution

Highlight of my evening yesterday was a street theatre performance by M. Gonzales and other acteurs from le Treteau Savinois. To be honest I was not expecting too much. A few folding chairs had been placed before the church. We chatted to neighbours and all of a sudden a lady of the Revolution appeared, knitting and all. Now, may I just say that any kind of anything involving a something of the Revolution plunges me into T. Rex like a submarine spotting a destroyer….. you can’t fool the children of the Revolution can you now ? So – the lady explains that this is the story of the local priest of St. Savinien who was approached by the captains of the Revolution to become bishop of the whole area. As far as I could gather he wasn’t very religious and that is why they chose him. His sermons concerned le peuple and La France. Sadly, churchy type folks got rid of him and he lived out his days in a kinda gluttonous limbo. Now in England they would have made him Archbishop at least. The performance had genuine gravitas and humour and would not have disgraced any stage. My thanks to all concerned, particularly the dear young kids who were sent round with the hat afterwards……Added value methinks!

I also got to see another author. The writer of the play was there, and looked like a guy in a mauve sports shirt who helped serve cidre and sell a few of his books after the show. So that’s what a writer looks like! I had imagined that if ever I saw another writer that some kinda bonding would happen. He sold me a book but I could see in his eyes that no special recognition had taken place. Trouble is – everyone in France is an artist/performer/philosopher/thespian. I’m gonna start wearing a badge saying “Romantic novelist. Stop me and buy one.” Well – it used to work for ice cream.

Tonight is Salsa night at le resto St. Savinien. Tomorrow is La Foire du Vin. I should have done more training – I really should.

Emma thinx: All the world’s a stage – so where do we sit to watch?

Clawed Money

Believe it or not, I once used to work in the field of fine arts. It was just a temp job but I used to see a lot of the inside track on art sales. Some of the prices are of course more famous than the art work or indeed the artists. Now – for the one big thing that I know that only a few thousand other people know. ( I mean- there are a lot of people in the world so a few thousands knowing something are almost like a secret). A lot of posh art in galleries and private collections is either nicked/copied/done by apprentices or simply forged. No one wants to tell you this. The world of Wheeler Dealer “one careful old lady owner full MOT immac condition” is nothing compared to fine art. You can get a manual to tell you about Mondeo camshafts and the AA will come and inspect it. Try that in the art world. There is always the likes of Brian Sewell. I just ADORE this guy. Check him out here – Last of the Medici on youtube

Anyway – today’s picture is a painting wot I done me self. It should enable you to see why I’m a novelist. At the time I was trying to teach the kids about art. Well, that’s my excuse.

Two matters got me onto ART issues. Well, actually it’s three matters because all of this horror in Norway just made me think that you just can’t rise to this sort of thing. All the outrage and horror is done by professionals. But – we do somehow create these individuals and don’t see them coming do we? Somehow it’s all about love and the lack of it – mainly the lack.

Last year I saw an exhibition of art here in St.Savinien. It was by a guy called Pascal Audin who had lived a terrible childhood of deprivation and imprisonment. He expressed himself in his art but sadly all photo reproduction was banned. I did buy some stuff but maybe I’m not allowed to put it up? I would love to if I could.
The other artistic matter was that of the free concerts held on the beach for holiday makers. As I mentioned yesterday, last year we went to see a performance at Royan. This series is done for French TV and is running again this year. The idea is to bring Culture to the masses. (Is that the same thing as bringing the masses to culture? – Well- NO- it is not). We guarded our plot on the sands for FIVE HOURS. People crammed in around us but with a certain lack of respect for personal space. Just as the concert commenced a couple more or less kicked one of our kids out of the way and tried to sit on top of her. Gilles went to the scene and told them to push him instead. He sat eyeball to eyeball, fists clenched, with the interloper for the whole performance. He’s not a Buddhist – but I do love his pure gorilla anger. I know how desperately he wanted to break loose and settle the matter jungle style. It still burns in him. I can’t explain how our anger builds into horror – but it does you know – it does. The performance ended with the overture to Tannhäuser plus fireworks. It was wonderful.

Emma thinx: Anger – it’s the gift of love not given

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When the Saint Saviniens go Marching In

So, it’s Sunday night and the town of Saint Savinien is holding a musical soirée in the church. A gospel group led by Jo Ann Pickens came to sing. Now, I wondered about this. How would this go down in rural France with an ageing population of Catholics. Well, I need not have worried. At least twice the expected number of folks turned up and they rocked – Oh Lordy – even for a Buddhist Trotskyite – they rocked. I hope you have checked out the video clip. The quality isn’t that good but just feel the depth of real soul pleasure that’s going on. So, folks – we have solved war and strife. Just let people see and enjoy each other. How it is that rural France embraces Southern American gospel beats me. They sure don’t have it on the radio. Incidentally may I say what stars all the performers were. The three girls that opened the show were fantastic and the keyboard guy was spot on. Jo Ann Pickens spoke in immaculate French and she just filled the place up with her talent. It was simply a wonderful event.

All of the above leads me to consider three individuals –  John Mayer, Cliff Richard and Johnny Hallyday. Now, I suspect that readers – depending where they are – will be asking Who?  All of these guys  have huge fan bases in their own countries but have never been heard of anywhere else. Now why is this? Clearly some music travels better than others. Johnny Hallyday is hard to describe. He is more French than garlic snails and more rocker than Meatloaf. Perhaps that is a recipe I should try. I think that the virtual generation of lost “book my face” souls won’t appreciate him but he still has a loyal following. If you understand Johnny Hallyday you understand something profound of France. Not even the French know what that something is. But it is profound. It is something of passion, excess, revolution and the soil. Check him out here.

I read the news today – Oh boy! Big trouble at St Rupert’s. The London Police Force has resigned and the Head Boy has recalled all the prefects from their jolly hols for a special meeting. Now, if you wanna know the real inside on the Met Police check out my Romance “Knockout.” I researched this book in bed with a true hot top Interpol cop. Now – how’s that for artistic sacrifice. 

Gilles and I have been gardening. He is on a mission- hence my daily thinx.

Emma thinx: Trouble not. Nature will win.

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.

Don’t turn a Drachma into a crisis

How ironic that the movie “Mamma Mia” was set in Greece and featured that show stopper  “Money, money, money….” Whilst politicos wring their hands and bankers predict ruin, many Français will simply tell you that this is the natural pattern of capitalism…….and that there will always be life, cuisine (they don’t do food), sex and Le Tour de France. My suspicion is that many paysans are completely indifferent to the fate of banks because their wealth is under the mattress or buried under the dung pile guarded by cockerels, chiens mechants and geese. They tend to be savers rather than spenders and have an instinctive suspicion of credit. It is criminal offence to bounce cheques. All the same, French banks are massively exposed to Euro zone sovereign debt. We live in interesting times and my feeling is that government bonds are poised to become the new sub-prime. Don’t throw away any of those old holiday Drachmas. If Michael Schumacher can come back……….. And do you know what ? There will always be life, cuisine, sex and Le Tour de France.

If ever you wanted to illustrate the deep cultural divide between the USA and the true cultural capital of the world you need look no further than my current reading material. Readers from yesterday will recall that I’m walking on the wild side of romance with a Harlequin Azur called “Pour une unique nuit d’amour”. My South London working girl translation would be “For just one night of love”. This book was originally released in America under the title “Pregnant with the billionaire’s baby”. Now, I don’t want to spoil the story but there’s this girl in possession of a womb. Then, there’s this billionaire in possession of a view from his penthouse. They come together. If I say any more the suspense will destroy you.
Readers will recall my spotting of the cute adorable ragondin on the banks of the Charenton. Look what I found in the fridge behind the pineau. I told you he’d go native!

Emma x
Read more on my website

Stiff Upper Lip

So, home at last to more rain. I often wonder what other folk think about on aeroplanes. Flying above clouds I kinda feel that if the engines cut out maybe they would support the weight of the plane. Flying under the clouds or in clear sky I look around for places to land in emergency. Taking off I wonder if we would just slide backwards in the event of failure and landing I kinda feel that at least it would not be so far to fall from here and that even if we skidded off the runway the fire trucks and ambulances should be able to reach us. If you add to this the queueing for security checks without shoes or belts, being frisked by guards and paraded in front of gimlet eyed officials, the whole thing is appalling.

Glancing around me this morning as we bounced through a little celestial turbulence, all the exec types looked bored. Oh – how I would love for someone to start yelling and panicking. Once someone else had started I could join in without shame. Incidentally – Did you ever start applauding at the wrong place at a show, play or opera etc.? I did it once at an opera. Well, I didn’t think anyone could go on singing with a sword sticking out of their chest. I tried to keep going so that others would join in – but they didn’t.

My man was there to meet me. He’d cut some roses from the garden. He looked well and handsome – probably nourished on several rabbits. On the subject of beasts, I wandered into the bathroom when I got in and was terrified by a bloody moustachipede. These things are one of the joys of being further south…..but if you’re in the UK – they’re moving up.

Turned off? Get your hands on your switch and enjoy.
Those things that influence us fall into two categories. Those we are aware of and those that are hidden or so built in that we just cannot see them. Other writers obviously influence me. Good writers create readers. Great writers create other writers. Ho hum, I’ll settle for readers! The singer Edith Piaf has been the most powerful influence on my life and work. I heard her singing on the radio by chance and was so drawn to her sound and language that I decided to teach myself French. If you’ve ever longed to learn a language and the school system turned you off, get some music of the language you want, turn yourself back on and get singing. Put all those classroom humiliations behind you and learn a song. Sing it in your head. You don’t have to show out until you are ready. Babies just gurgle and listen. Suddenly WHEN THEY ARE READY they go for it. Also try using the accent and flavour of your new language in your own tongue. Oh wee, ziss is ow you can do eet. I tell you, zair will bee uh no regrets.

Check out the life of Edith Piaf in the film La Vie en Rose.

I’ve added a poem which reflects my own tiny homage to her soul. It’s about living with who you are and what you are. Chanteuse

Quelques Fleurs

Nature has its seasons and we can but follow. Here in Charentes the infinity of greens begins to merge into a unity as the adolescence of Spring finds for now at least, that adult face in which it will live called Summer.  Ladies, let’s not think of those wrinkles and that gravitational pull of time on our tender assets.

I often look to flowers for metaphors of love, sex and the cycle of being. I’ve added a poem called “Bluebells” to my website. It’s about those things that pass and that we cannot hold.   Click here to go to my website, and select “My Poems”  Emma’s Poetry

If you’ve any love of French or just its sound and music check out