Well, here I am back in Blighty. As I stepped red eyed and head-ached from the car my first impression was of fallen leaves. Initially I thought of back aching raking and sweeping. Then I thought of a proper strong cup of tea and gazed from the kitchen window onto the sog and bog of damp drizzling drab which is the Sunday morning after a night on the English Channel. The pint mug of tea pulsed out into my blood and flooded me with proper thoughts of love and romance. I found myself singing in French the song “Les Feuilles Mortes”. Look- I can be a pretentious stupid cow can’t I? Actually I only know one verse that goes:
“Mais la vie separe ceux qui s’aiment Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit. Et la mer efface sur le sable Les pas des amants desunis.”
A quick translation : Life separates those who love each other/softly without sound/And the sea erases from the sand/the footprints of parted lovers.(This is deliberately not a poetic translation.The French language IS Poetry simply in itself).
In the famous Nat King Cole version in English, this is not translated. If you want to feel the emotion of this season enhanced by music there are so many versions. I have chosen one here by Andrea Bocelli. For me the visuals are a bit busy, but have a glass (or two) of red wine, turn to whoever you love and remember that life is brief and that words of love are our Spring and they they will grow until one day their fruit passes inexorably into memory.
Now – let’s talk about condoms. A while ago when I first wrote “Knockout” I pushed it out for some pre publication reviews. Generally things were OK but one reviewer savaged me for allowing the lovers to have sex without condoms. Well, actually I did not allow it because having created these impulsive passionate beings the minute I took my eyes off them they were at it without even referring back to me. She attacked my irresponsible attitude to venereal disease and the kind of example I was setting to readers who might try this kinda thing at home. I know that from a public health point of view she was quite right but I just wanted naked passion between impossibly larger than life people in a wish list world. Now, fellow scribes – tell me what you think. PLEASE. I don’t want to go down in history as the woman who poxed up the populous and chlamydia-ed Christendom.
And then there’s the subject of the tea served at breakfast on Brittany Ferries. I crossed last night from France and took the buffet breakfast in the restaurant aboard the vessel “Mont St.Michel”. As always the staff were flawless and kind. However, Gilles and I took tea and received one pot of hot water and a tea bag each. I believe the tea was Twinings. For me it was a bit pale but it was OK. There was just not enough of it. You can just about get one cup. The breakfast buffet is generous with ham, salmon, eggs, cereals etc etc etc. It is brilliant quality and value. If you order tea and coffee you get a whole pot each! We Brits need more to prepare us for life back in the UK. Dear Managing Director………
Tired and deprived of tea I turned on my lap top to write this blog and saw that a wonderful person had given me a lovely review. on Goodreads.
Emma thinx: Isaac Newton was primarily an alchemist. You can only get it right by being mainly wrong.
Near to my temporary home here in the valley of the River Test there are three oak trees. Two of them contain colonies of rooks while the other is a kind of neutral uninhabited territory between the two tribes. Living here I am able to indulge my love of crows. I am certain that they are at least as bright as I am. As far as I can tell the two trees contain two separate tribes. When I put food out on the lawn one tribe or the other make the first raucous swoop. When the other lot appear they peck at one another rather than the food. At the first hint of risk they all fly off – all except one hero whom I have named “Hook-Beak”. At first Gilles thought I was talking about him because he does have a rather Gallic snoz. Hook-Beak kinda wanders round all the various shamozzles with his hands behind his back. As others flap and squabble, he eats. He looks like a retired old crow who never made it to the government but never got defeated either. If I can get an interview with him I’ll post it on here. It’ll be Frost and Nixon with feathers. First question will be if he has any ideas for peace in the Middle East
Today the guys are feeding on acorns. They edge out carefully like old time sailors in the rigging. Then they harvest the acorn neatly and fly off with their prize. On this beautiful autumn morning I am alive and able to sit at my window and share in their endeavour. I lead a very privileged life. I’ve been trying to get a photo of Hook-Beak but I can’t get close enough.
Friday is a relatively easy day on the bus. My biggest problem is getting the dear little souls out of their front doors. At the tower block today I pressed the intercom and spoke to a lady. “Ee won’t be long Love – Ee’s doin’ ‘is teef.” She advised me. Now, since he lives on the 23rd floor and has to take a lift (if it works) it means at least a five minute wait. If 14 kids all make me wait 5 minutes I’m gonna run at least an hour late since the schedule assumes that I suck the students onto the bus with a Star Trek tractor beam without stopping. When I hear executives talking about stress I wonder if they know what life is like on the bottom. Saturday tomorrow – joy joy joy – I won’t have to get up at 6.am.
I see the Saudi lady driver is now not to be whipped. I knew that once the king read my views he would change his mind.
Emma thinx: A stitch in time saves some smug bastard from telling you so.
The weather is warm and succulent like the juice of a pear on the lips in those last minutes before climax spills into decay. When I was a girl my mother used to describe all old men (and most other men) pejoratively as “fruity”. Essentially this meant unattractive men who still had desires. Now I write about attractive men who have desires. They are often quite unpleasant so I’m gonna think of them as “stoney”. Well, today I feel fruity – I guess this is how all those ugly old guys felt. It is sad when a season ends, even if it is Winter. To me there is always that sense of time rushing on with a merciless finality that no pleading or longing will stop. It is also sad when a more transcendent season ends. The closure of the American Space Programme in a sense is the end of a human season. Recently I heard Neil Armstrong talking about the good old days on the moon. At the same time the Chinese are at full lift off to get cheap clothing and chow mein to the Martians. I’ve heard there are mono sodium glutamate deposits on Venus. I bet some clever guy has already bought them. But, come on yanks, the old space show gave us technology, pride, belief, heroism and focus. You can’t just let the grey guys in suits serve out your bowl of gruel while you stand in line to pay penance for having created the modern world. Growth costs money. If we’re all gonna be capitalists then we should know that when you’re weak you cannot starve yourself back to health. Get that sovereign debt, poke it firmly into some bloated creditors and fire it at the moon. Let them set up a market and crash it there.It’ll be a softer landing for all of us.
I was fascinated to hear that 2,000 people had applied for 16 refuse collectors jobs in the city. I know these are not high status posts but look at the alternatives. Call centre robot, burger flipper, exploited door to door chugger (Charity contribution mugger). I wonder what would happen if someone advertised a real job – like making something!
Today I’ve seen 2 snow ploughs being driven around. In each case the driver appeared to be under the supervision of an official in green vest, safety goggles, construction site helmet and a clipboard. This is the invariable modern uniform of a guy from the Council. A little research shows that they are having a programme of dry run training so that they are ready for the real thing. I guess they won’t be rolling at 40 mph in a line of traffic and there might be some snow. I guess you have to get used to that council guy in the cab. But do they know something?
Emma thinx: Genetic engineering – the final front ear.
A gorgeous Autumn day. I am looking out at verdant grass, sparkling with slightly amber dew as the low sun hauls itself above the trees. Oh yes- this is England. Now no church bells mark my hours and once again I will wear a watch. The noose of time tightens. At least I know the words for everything – well almost. I’ve just been phoning around to get some pâté de foie gras. Can you believe that there is none! Whist on the line to the deli I asked a young girl if they stocked moules. She went off to ask the manager and didn’t come back.
Other than imminent economic implosion, the News is filled with uplifting English tales. Eight year old boys apparently put on a cage fight in a social club to entertain the crowd. I suppose I should be shocked – but I’m not. At least there were adults to supervise and I imagine that the parents actually knew where their children were that night. When my brood were adolescents I suggested to various toy companies that they produce inflatable street corners with spittoons so that kids could hang out safely in the warm at home. Since then inflatable friendships and hostilities have been developed by social media and most kids are too badly affected with rickets to go out.
On the subject of pugilism I hear that the boxers of Azerbaijan tried to buy gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics. If you wanna read about this kinda stuff in boxing get my novel “Knockout”. It’s all true. The book is damn near free at 99 cents or 86 pence on Amazon Kindle. There’s SEX too, but I know you wouldn’t read it just for that soppy stuff.
I’m not sure what to make of the discovery by Italian scientists of particles that travel faster than the speed of light. I’ve always known that if you are in a hurry, stockings ladder before you touch them. I’ve also found out that banks put charges on your account before you perform any transactions. The philosophical implications for fiction writers are massive. Characters will move ahead of the plot into a kind of uncharted mist without any causal structure. Come to think of it, I might have already written a couple of novels like this.
This afternoon I’m going to the bus depot to sort out my next career move. I’ve spotted quite a few lady bus drivers. Dear old Geoffrey will be there to ease me into the system. Once again I am to be a horny handed daughter of toil. Maybe I won’t drone on about the shortage of foie gras just yet.
Emma thinx: Causality – the next great step for man.
They are dying out. There used to be uncountable millions of them like sparrows. All those wildlife charities and noble United Nations type institutions should list them as endangered. You know who I mean of course……yes – it’s people who can actually fix practical things. I will not bore you with my “no car” woes but just let me say that the problem has been re-classified from technical to “possibly mechanical”. This diagnosis is on the basis that the plug-in computer analysis doesn’t know the answer. They have sent for a man who actually has a bag of spanners, an oily rag and dirty fingernails. I bet you he’s gonna be in his fifties! Now, this brings me on to my own dear sweet oily rag of a superhero – Gilles. Today he did some world controlling on his laptop and then decided to help out some kids with mending their bikes. He has all those sexy widgets that remove sprockets, line up hubs, remove crank tapers and tension spokes. He knows about ball bearings and head set adjustment nuts. What bothers me is that it’s only the old grey-beards who know this stuff. All these bikes, buses and batteries are stamped out in China and our whole economy is based on waste and consumption. But comrades – this cannot go on. We’re gonna have to make stuff ourselves, make it last and fix it up. We could just flip burgers for the new masters.
In France there is a great unexpressed fear for the changing world. Europe is in decline economically, having more or less committed suicide by following the short term benefits of globalisation. Morally it could be said that we have re-distributed our wealth through the organ of capitalism. That is true, but we have undistributed our own jobs and talents of our young folk. The French are far more conscious of this issue than the Brits. Now, I’m gonna be quite provocative here and talk about racism even though it is not really allowed. The French feel that the rising power of China and the fact that they are literally buying a lot of the world is a major threat to their lives and traditions. The rich don’t want to rock the money boat as yet because they’ve still got some, but the poor are not so bothered. If sovereign States go belly up in this completely artificial world financial system, will they be for sale? YES…..In France folk in the streets think of this and they have worked it out all for themselves. Our leaders have fiddled while Rome, Lisbon, Athens, Dublin and whoever next burns. I am a Romantic novelist, a collector of cliché, a purveyor of soft porn and a laureate of the licentious. And even I can work it out! Today, the credit rating guys have down-graded some major French banks. You know, if you slash the belly of a shark it turns and eats its own guts as they spill out. Keep cutting and slashing guys.. we’ll be OK.There’s a job flipping those burgers. Let’s fight each other for it.
The Autumn now wins the mornings and evenings but cannot hold the day. The buzz and passion of a Summer still smile and show a tempting leg. We are alive. There is always wine, harvest and joy. May it ever be. May we always be free.
Emma thinx: Who will make the coffin for the last carpenter?
Surely this is the uninhibited open mouthed scream and proclamation of blooms. I know, I know – I’m a dotty old Doris rattling on about Nature and flowers. Today Gilles and I rode our tandem to St. Jean d’Angely. On the roadside close to the village of Ternant the verge was a mass of joyful bloom, alive with bees and butterflies. I took the photo in order to share them. I think there is a wild flower growing scheme in France but I have no details. Whatever is going on you see bands of wonder and ecstasy along roadsides and on disused land. In a previous blog I raised the issue of the how and why we discriminate between weeds and “plants”. In Charentes fig trees grow like weeds. If you buy a pack of four figs in a UK supermarket it’s like entering a cathedral of cuisine and crossing that huge accent/income demarcated gulf between the working and middle classes. (Four figs £2.99p ($5) at Waitrose). And that’s the price of weeds!
I was chatting to an English lady today. She has been here for a year and will probably stay for a further 6 months. The main issue, as always in this life is money. It is very difficult to obtain work here for anyone. If you don’t have a perfect command of the language you choices are much reduced. Another factor with language is that unless you quite quickly achieve a level of fluency to allow day to day chat without effort, a certain fatigue and sense of isolation creep in. In the past 2 weeks, 2 people have said this to me. Very probably all manner of folk have enjoyed holidays in France and dream of moving into the land of gourmet bread and sun. My advice – get to grips with the language and ask yourself if you have that desire and discipline. When you get home get a TNT decoder and a satellite dish and point it at ASTRA 1 (19.2 degrees East of South). Watch French TV all the time. The News is great because you probably know what the story is already. The presenters will speak good French. When they say a phrase – you say it. Don’t be shy! Check out Claire Chazal on the TF1 news at 8pm (7 pm in the UK). She helped to teach me French. She also writes romance novels. I must confess I’ve not checked her out but it’s on my list.(If you wanna watch foreign TV in the UK I recommend www.sateuropa.co.uk The guys there are very helpful and professional without ripping you off.
OK – so tonight we have Poulet Provençale. I have cut rosemary, chives and thyme from my herb garden. Once I had a micro skirt/ now I dig around in dirt. As you get older- scrap the skirt. Get down and dirty and give it some flavour!
Emma thinx: Sex isn’t everything in life, just its continuance and joy.
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.
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.
Sitting here in the late afternoon with the temperature at 28 degrees, it seems almost inconceivable that the Municipal Gardens in Bournemouth UK were nearly washed away yesterday. I know I’m supposed to be writing about Charente Maritime, France and writing novels but if there is one thing that can raise any UK nostalgia from me it is Bournemouth. To me, it is a magical place of sepia sadness and lollipop longing – a childhood of sandcastles lost, trodden and overwhelmed – of proud flags on sticks defiant as the holiday ended and the dark satanic life of subservience called you back in to be counted and controlled. (Ooh- I was a terrible pupil. Those guys were stealing my free life and replacing it with punishment.) I used to live quite near Bournemouth and all my life I’ve gone back there, both with family and alone – several times to write poems in the course of loves and desires gone wrong, gone good or not going at all. I turned on the late BBC South News on my planet Murdoch satellite and saw a fabulously Municipal spokesman telling folk that the show would go on. Of course it will! I know I put up a poem yesterday but here is another one about Bournemouth Park. Check it out here.
From out of a blue sky this morning at about 8 o’ clock a tremendous smack and shatter of thunder stunned the whole town. There followed monsoon style rain which lasted for about 2 minutes. My eco water butts filled and all day I’ve had a kinda full water not got dem empty butt blues feeling. Think I’d like to write a song one day.
One of the things to get used to here in France is the difference between cuts of meat. This evening I’m serving coeur de basse cote de boeuf. Now to be honest, I had no idea what this meant in English. It looks like rump steak and the price per kilo would be that kinda bracket in the UK. I’m gonna cook up some onions and grill it for a couple of minutes. I had a quick peak on the internet and I could not see a kinda multilingual cut of meat chart. If anyone knows different please let me know.(Might be a big enough pull to get some google gold).
Gilles and I had a spin on the tandem. Dear Lord – we found a new hill near Les Nouillers. Dear Lord I’m getting old. I could hear his breathing was more or less normal. Sometimes the line between love and hate is very faint. Who said faint?
Emma thinx: Dribbling rivalry – oldies still wanna win.
A fig fell on my head. Now – wouldn’t that be the most wonderful opening to a world changing novel. The thing is that in the garden at lunch time a fig fell off the fruit tree and bounced off my head. I ate it and it was delicious (first I took a photo). You have no idea how exotic it seems to me to have figs, grapes and lizards all around me. I feel like I should apply to be Snow White, but I’m afraid the dog ate my CV. It must seem that I am a trappy old trollop caught in a fecundity fire storm. If you were born with a concrete, tarmac and red bus shovel in your gob, all this rural paradise stuff is like – well – paradise. On the way to Intermarché, I detoured along a track that runs alongside La Charente. Bushes were heavy with blackberries and I must have eaten half a kilo. Swallows swooped and turned as they harvested their vital crop of insects to sustain their migration back south. The church tower chatters, clicks and whistles with mobs of starlings as they begin to cluster in that kind of sinister black cloak of Hitchcock un-realised fear. (Starlings are big on my poetry radar – check out my poem “Winter Starling” here.) The year has ratcheted its way up the roller coaster of time and now its pauses just long enough for your sense of joy and sorrow to mix into that stuff we call the human soul.
Along the river banks this afternoon were many guys with long rods. They sat resignedly watching the flow of water, I guess hoping for a fish – or maybe not. The fishing here seems to need merely long poles with none of those reel things that you can wind in and out and generally fiddle with. I was taken with the number of “fish wives” who had been taken out to the bank. There were knitters, readers and merely gazers. If they’d been English and if they had had Kindles in France, I would have stopped and told them how to get their pan sizzling just in case the old man didn’t catch anything.(Knockout! – by me).
Going back to the falling fig – it is said that maybe no apple actually fell on Isaac Newton’s head. Just imagine if a would be beautician from Tulse Hill Comprehensive had discovered gravity. Would the scientific world have taken any notice? Good job it was a clever old guy who knew some maths eh? Otherwise we might be floating about trying to write novels with the pen stuck to the ceiling. Might have helped the old boob droop I suppose. It’s daft I know but I’m feeling frivolous. At least if I’d have discovered it I would have hired lawyers to snatch the patent.
At Intermarché I bought a pain parisien (brief tremble of pleasure as the word PARIS brushes across my follicles). A lot of visiteurs to France think that the only bread to get is the baguette. Actually, le pain is bigger and often better. It’s a kinda supersize Mc loaf. It was hot, crusty on the outside, soft and yeasty on the inside. I rode home on my bike nibbling at it. I often see even really old French folk sampling their bread on the way home with a simple child like joy. I love this place and my little time here on this Earth. I am so lucky.
Emma thinx: Love is free – provided you’re prepared to pay any price.