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.

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?

Open Wide

It’s all about focus isn’t it. I have broken a tooth, or rather what was left of a tooth has given up and just left me with a lump of mercury about the size of the planet.  Before this incident I was a human being, a woman, a romantic novelist, a mother and a vin de pays (not champagne) socialist-Buddhist-cyclist. Now I am a tooth. I am a jagged lump, unfamiliar to myself. I probe myself with my tongue. The breeze, the dishwasher, my sweet neighbour’s chatty friendship have become a tooth. The developing characters of my book have become teeth. I feel like the ocean the day after the storm when my reaching self folds around and takes in the new ravaged cliffs. I think I’m kinda fumbling forward here, towards some kinda understanding of how we deal with change, trauma and loss. Because my experience is so small and trivial the actual experience doesn’t overwhelm me and so I can objectivise it. Am I making any sense? A few folks will have had terrible news and problems today and I feel so pathetically selfish.

So, I’m gonna hop back to the UK. There is my father’s old desk for me to pick up and there is a dentist. Probably I’ll miss the 14th of July in France but I do need a desk. I’ve always tried not to do sentimentality but this item of furniture has many memories for me. I can’t say that I had good relations with my parents and they certainly did not have a good relationship with each other. The desk was where my father used to sit in his isolation doing whatever adults do on desks. Moving it to France probably means it will never come back to the UK and he would never have been able to imagine such an event. Something rooted in the gum of my familiar certainty is crumbling. I told you – I have become a tooth.

I’m reading two books. The first is an old fashioned tree book called “Fatherland”. It’s a cops and Nazi mega stega blockbuster with a gold and Gothic cover. I’ve read cop stories ever since my helmet and handcuff phase with a Scotland Yard detective. So far I’ve avoided the Nazis. The other book is on kindle and called “Shadowbrook” by Shannon Bailey. As an ex hippy poet type I know nothing of genre etc. It’s a paranormal romance crime thrilla frilla I think. Tell you what though – it’s got me hooked and spooked. We live in a fantastic new age of stories. All those old back scratching scribbling elites are cracking. Did someone say tooth?

Emma thinx: Certain of the rock and the sea, I am sand.

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.


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 http://www.emmacalin.com

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.

Comic Belief

So just as I raised the subject of Buddhism yesterday, an Australian TV presenter makes a joke about the Dali Lama and gains world fame. I think it’s a great joke and what I love about Ozzies is their lack of reverence.  Check out the joke here.

Rain and more bloody rain. I had a good long write this morning and then joined Rosina on a trip to Wessex to see some printers. I ended up having a stroll around Dorchester, conscious that I was actually in Casterbridge, where the mayor sold his wife in the Thomas Hardy novel. Look – some snivelling little scribbler like me should not be allowed to speak of him. If you don’t read Hardy get on and do it.

As it happens I know this area. A few years ago before I moved to France I was part of a sort of an artists/writers commune just outside the village of Piddletrenthide. It was here that I met the poet Oscar Sparrow and became interested in Buddhism. Oscar spends a lot of time in Thailand and at one time was actually a monk. Check out his poem “Farang” which I’ve added to my website with his permission. My main memory of the commune was of leaking roofs, lentils and wind which entered our lives by either route and often both.

Tomorrow I go home to my lovely Gilles. I just could not leave Wessex without seeing again the famous Cerne Giant. I had seen this ancient chalk figure many times before I met Gilles but to me this is him walking up the hill past le château in the morning carrying my hot baguette.

Oh, I finished Fantasy Lover. The Greek love slave was released from his suffering. I kinda knew how he must have felt.

Emma x