We awoke at 5am. At least there was Breakfast at Brittany’s to look forward to. I try to avoid anything too healthy. I always go for the salmon, the boiled eggs and the ham. I knew that an ordeal lay ahead. The broken down car was sitting sullenly on the car deck. They had put us with the lorries, expecting to tow us off the ship. Gilles had other ideas. He suspected that once the gearbox fluid had cooled it would produce enough friction to get us moving at tick-over revs. If we could sneak out with the trucks and clear immigration we could break down in comfort. And so it was that we found ourselves without transmission about 500 metres (that’s 546 British yards) on the safe side of the border. A security guy starts shouting and waving. We shrug in a kinda Gallo-Anglo manner. The guard approaches.
“Thirty years Sir – thirty years I’ve been in Security Madame – I’ve seen so much bad parking Sir- Dear me- so much anger….I didn’t mean to shout Madame….but you have to…..so much anger Sir ….I just see so much of it. Just yesterday Madame, I was on routine patrol in the terminal building. Anger Sir- yes, a man assailed me. Frustration – that’s what it is Madame. Frustration leading to anger Sir.” The guy was an absolute gent and something of an English eccentric. We offered confusing hands to shake. Well – we are foreign.
We awaited the tow truck. The AA arrived. The car went to the Mercedes dealer. We unloaded all the gear and at about lunchtime arrived at my new home in a breakdown truck. I saw an old guy peer round the gate and then scurry away before he had to kiss and shake hands. Um – no, they don’t do that do they. He probably went off to tell the neighbours that a load of pikeys (semi nomadic scrap metal dealers and asphalt contractors) were moving in and they drive around in a lorry.
Well, the house has green grass and an oak tree filled with gorgeous black crows. It’s all quite posh really. I keep staring at the red clay bricks – I had forgotten bricks! The house is on a rental contract and Gilles will be taking the train to London. He indulged me by coming to the Test Valley so that I can see Rosina. The area looks like the sort of place where they have the Women’s Institute and the Rotary club. To be honest I feel very out of place. I’m gonna make friends with the crows. At first sight there are 2 colonies in 2 separate trees. I have missed garden birds in Charentes.
Emma thinx: Who imagined that tree you’re looking at?
So it is the 14th July and I am in England. The night boat awaits so at least I will be under the French flag before midnight. As it stands this morning a Frenchman – Tommy Voeckler is leading the Tour de France. Please oh please all you other riders – let him stay in the yellow jersey tonight. He won’t win the tour but he is an absolute gent and a courageous rider. He will give every gramme of his soul to fight today as the race goes into the mountains. If there is any justice he will stand on that podium tonight. Already I am filling Rosina’s cottage with sounds of La Marseillaise. My edition is by La Garde Republicaine and has a real shouty urchin vocal by Mireille Matieu. A while ago there was a suggestion that the blood soaked words of the French anthem were watered down and made more PC. I think the sight of the guillotine being erected finished all that nonsense.
And now my special revelation. Anyone travelling on the overnight boat may notice a car with a bike on top – well actually it’s a tandem. Gilles is something of a cyclist and I am something of a woman who rides about on a bike. Have you ever seen bored looking males in Lycra loitering about at the top of hills as you sweep by in your car. Then as you descend the hill you see a beetroot coloured female about a mile behind slogging along in the lowest possible gear. Now I can tell you that just as she arrives exhausted to join her mate, he will give a peeved “OK then!” and shoot off. The tandem is heaven and is such good training for him! The great thing is that we chat all the time. If you wanna test your relationship – get a tandem. I won’t go into the history of the bike here, but it is considerable. The next project for it is a non fiction book called “Le Grand Crew.” Geddit?
Emma thinx: Chain him up – he’ll love it.
Well, this is England. Yesterday June was busting out all over my bust and today I’m simply busted. A crow and I stare mournfully at each other as I look out onto Rosina’s soggy lawn. He cocks a watchful bluish eye at me. He knows my mortality. He’s sizing up my sinews – if not for him then for a future re-mix of his inescapable black feathered genes. I tell him we are Buddhists in the same cycle. He says that given the chance he will eat me. Well, that’s what I meant actually.
So, it rains and drizzles that gorgeous self indulgent mournfulness that is the secret sunny side to sadness. C’mon, don’t say you’ve never been there. For some scenes I have to try and get that feeling…a bit of Beethoven No 7 helps, but a sunny day just wipes it out. A sunny day is for kisses – God yes, kisses kisses kisses. I read so many Romances without sexy kisses. That is because too many of us live without sexy kissy LOVE. Plain hardcore is for crows and they are planning to eat you.
So, having done some more audio and helped to script a video trailer, we deserved a treat. We drove to the old picturesque town of Stockbridge. To be frank it’s a bit crushed by traffic and people so posh that even their jodhpurs and Lyahndrovahs have accents. My accent is a bit Pekham/Pigalle n’est-ce pas? Innit. All the same the town is cut glass Anglais and Rosina decided to take tea at one of the genteel tea rooms. Apparently it used to be a filling station.
A sweet child begged if I would indulge her with my order. I ordered a pot of tea and some fruit cake.
“I will have to pose the question as to whether we may serve the fruit cake – I believe it to be reserved for another client.”
“I only want a small tranche.” I replied in mid Channel posh – (aren’t you impressed with my slickesse) voice.
The child returned. The fruit cake was not allowed. It was RESERVED.
I took tea and an almond slice. In gay abandoned nonchalance I sugared my tea from the bowl of posh white crystals on the table. Well, we all need salt in our diet don’t we?
OK – I’ve been writing today and I’ve been allowed to record some audio poems. Once free, I emerged into the stunning gentle beauty of the Test Valley. If you’ve not been here, put it on your priority list with Venice, Paris and Charentes. Yes – it is a gentle beauty, self confident, thatched and patched with fields of green and gold, called by crows, bumble hummed with bees, lifted by larks, softened by silence. This evening a team play cricket on a village green, an impossible profusion of roses slam dunk cottage doors with exclamation marks of belligerent tenderness. These hammer blows of beauty kiss as I imagine an angel would kiss a lamb. OK that’s double purple flame grilled whopper OTT – but that’s want I want to say to you about the power of this loveliness. Rejoice in this life. Kiss your lover as if their lips were love itself. Don’t let me be the only sad romantic, tearful as an iris blooms and a duck planes in to land on mirrored water.
Cricket – I had to mention it. My first memories of cricket were as a girl when my father and brothers listened to it on the radio. It was always the same commentary “Higginbottom, polishes the ball on his testicles, comes in from the gas works end, bowls around the wicket to Homerton-Smythe who bat and pads it away to silly mid off. A ripple of applause stirs pigeons on the boundary as the scoreboard records another maiden had over.”
Never can I serve soup or dessert without saying “comes in – bowls.” Oh dear, I’m getting a bit dotty and potty. I need my man!!!!
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.
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.
Wow! here I am in the beautiful Test Valley. My wonderful friend and literary agent Rosina picked me up from Southampton airport and I find myself in the green green grass of Hampshire. They say there’s a drought here – but believe me, they know nothing. Gilles dashed me to the airport for 12.30. Lunch was a Flybe sandwich. No time for baguette this morning and no writing done! Ah well – it’s a day off. Her cottage (she says its haunted), is close to the country town of Romsey and the gorgeous gardens of Mottisfont Abbey and House. I might just give you a little hint that my latest novel could involve unsuitable and forbidden love in an English period house.
It was at Mottisfont house a few years ago that I chanced to find a real treasure of a book in a second hand sale. The book is called “Indian Love” by Laurence Hope. I had never heard of her before. She had to pretend to be a man and also pretend that her poems were translations of Indian love songs since they were so passionate,(perhaps slightly sexually ambiguous ladies) and therefore quite unsuitable for a respectable gal. Won’t drone on about her cos you can look her up on Wiki and her poetry speaks for itself.If she needs any other endorsement let me say that Thomas Hardy was a fan. She took her own life soon after the death of her husband in 1904.
I’m missing my lovely man….he’ll have a sweet little bunny rabbit in the pot by now. I just know her will!