Friday, 19 May 2017

Falling in love all over again

Market day at the War Veterans residence

I fell in love yesterday. With Arthur.* And with Jean, Mabel, Audrey and George.

Arthur was buying clothes at the market stall next to mine. The jumpers, socks and casual shirts for seniors were laid out neatly on two trestle tables and there were a couple of clothes horses displaying long, printed flannelette nighties, loose-fitting jumpers and pants with elasticised waists on coat hangers. It was not obvious that there was a ladies' and a men's side, so when Arthur started looking through the women's pants selection, he was gently guided to the other rack by the lady in attendance.

At that point, I had to turn to my own affairs and did not see Arthur head off, but with both of us customer less, I started chatting to my market stall neighbour. I had observed her earlier, helping her elderly clients and I wanted to tell her how much I loved the way that she was interacting with them. At this point, Arthur returned. He was still an old man, but now he was an old man wearing jeans. They were slightly baggy, slightly long and were possibly not often teamed with a felt hat with finger-length dimple, soft scarf, v-necked jumper and jacket. But, boy did he look swell. The price tag was visible at his waist line, but oblivious to this, he handed his own pair of pants back to be put in a plastic bag and said that he would just keep on going wearing his new pants.

"They are really good quality. They will last you for, (nearly imperceptible pause), a long time."

I don't think Arthur heard. He had already moved on to my stall, where he asked about my book, said slowly and regretfully that perhaps he wouldn't buy it straight away, took one of my brochures, no doubt to not let me down, and, bypassing the hand-bag stall, moved on to the lady selling jars of jam. My heart followed him.

Jean bought one of my books, but not before she had told me several times that she had honeymooned in France, where she and her husband had hitch-hiked to get around, and checked several times that the book was mine; that I had actually written it. She eventually decided that even though her birthday was a long time off, she would treat herself. I don't know whether she will remember from one day to the next what the book is about, but sincerely hoped that each little chapter would take her back to that happy place and time when, just married, she was in France.

George and his wife also stopped for a long chat. He looked not a day older than 60, but confided in me that he had already celebrated his 80th birthday and that Audrey and he had been together for 45 years even though many had predicted that their 13-year age gap would be their undoing. There has been much ado recently about age gaps in relationships. I wouldn't have known, guessed or even given it any thought.

* - not real names


Saturday, 29 April 2017

A most audible option


Click here to listen

I wanted to have a reading done of 'But you are in France, Madame' as soon as it went into print. Initially, I believed that it couldn't be that hard and that I could just do it myself. Despite being the person most intimately associated with my story, my reading was never convincing.

Recently, Rosemary Puddy (The Book Podcast), contacted me to ask if I would mind if she did a reading of the first few chapters of my book for her podcast, which celebrates Australian women writers. I was delighted!

I received the link to Rosemary's reading last week-end. It was an overcast Sunday and I was not in a hurry to get out and about, so clicked 'play' and sat down to listen. In a scene somewhat reminiscent of the days when a family's evening entertainment was to gather around the radio and listen to the next instalment of a radio series, my family gradually all joined me. Variously, leaning on the kitchen bench, sitting cross-legged on the stool next to my desk, standing no doubt with the intention of listening in for a couple of minutes, we remained for the entire 30 minutes of the reading.

It was good. In fact, it was lovely. Our story, my children's story, read as if it were a proper piece of literature. Regardless of how it is viewed in reality, that is how it felt. Afterwards, came the memories. Thank-you, Rosemary!
If you have a spare 30 minutes to listen, make yourself a cup of tea and then follow this link to episode number 9 (you will need to scroll down the page).





Saturday, 1 April 2017

A quick trip to France with your Book Club?




I have been asked recently to provide some ideas for book club discussions of 'But you are in France, Madame'. Where possible, I am happy to attend your book club meeting but, if you live too far away (outside the Sydney area!), I hope that the flyer (above) that I have put together might promote lots of fun and lively discussions. Contact me on cb222@me.com and I will send you a pdf for printing or distribution to your book club members.

A reminder, too, of the different purchase options (see below) for 'But you are in France, Madame'. 

Print Books.

Blurb Online Books: CLICK HERE
Amazon: CLICK HERE

Kindle Editions

Amazon USA:  CLICK HERE
Amazon Australia:  CLICK HERE
Amazon UK:  CLICK HERE
Amazon France:  CLICK HERE

Other Formats

eBook fixed page format for iBooks and iPad via Blurb: CLICK HERE

Or

Contact Catherine on cb222@me.com 

$30 to have a print copy sent within Australia (includes postage)
$20 print copy - collected in person from Catherine in Sydney


Finally, if you would like to continue discussing my book, bilingual education, purchasing in France or moving with your family, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Just say it's Monsieur Vélo

Article in  France Today magazine

Let me fill you in on the back story to my latest contribution to France Today magazine, which is less 'travel piece' and more 'story'. 

One of the best decisions that we made when living in France was to move from Giez to Menthon-St-Bernard. That's not to say that we didn't love Giez. It is a beautiful little village with a castle, a golf course, close to the Annecy-Albertville cycling track, not far from the Annecy Lake and close enough to the shops of Faverges, plus we had started to make friends and were slowly discovering the village rituals and get-togethers ... but it was just not close enough to the children's schools. 

As is often the way, our circle of friends in our new village of Menthon started to widen as we were introduced to the parents of our children's friends. Some of these friendships took time to form, after all we could have been the Australian blow-ins; there for just long enough to scoop off the best of French living before skiddadling out again. Others springboarded from the first morning drop-off on the day of la rentrée, where a couple of Mums came straight up to my husband and I standing rather uncertainly on the edge of the courtyard, introduced themselves and started chatting. 

Years later, one of these mothers, who by then had become a special friend, attended a dinner at the Abbey in Talloires. Seated randomly, she quickly discovered that the person next to her was Australian. Good, something to talk about...me...also Australian. One thing led to another and ultimately to an email conversation between my friend's dinner acquaintance and myself. 

And no, it didn't stop at an email conversation. Let me introduce you to M. and Mme Vélo in the article above; new friends, fellow Australians and equally enamoured with Annecy, the lake, the mountains and new beginnings. 


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Le Fabuleux Village des Flottins


In 2009, newly arrived in France and knowing no-one, we consulted our guide books regularly for ideas on what to do and see. At the time, the name Evian made me think only of bottled water. I had no idea that Evian-les-Bains was a sizeable village (approx. 9000) on the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and very close to where we were living. Funnily enough, it was not rated highly in our guide book and was even considered particularly dull in winter. Prompted by an ad on a bread wrapper, similar to the one below, we went anyway.



It was a cold winter's day, so cold that the spray from the lake had set solid on benches and around the tyres of cars and created dramatic temporary sculptures. It was definitely the sort of day where sitting by a fire or inside a café would have been more comfortable than strolling outdoors. Except that we were not just in Evian, we were in the Village des Flottins in Evian, where we encountered live elves and mystical (human) beings hanging out with enormous inanimate driftwood creatures. Legend has it that these warm and hospitable creatures, who arrive each year and set up their village in Evian, rescued Father Christmas and his reindeer after an altercation amongst the reindeer on a training run meant an urgent landing for Le Père Noël and his party in the waters of the Lake. He now stops in to see them annually as he is passing by.




These photos are from this year's festival, the tenth, which now includes old-fashioned games for the children such as the ones that you can see in the photos below; the closest is a recycled dancing marionette; the second, made of wood has a pull-back lever which when released propels a ball up an inclined wooden chute and where the aim of the game is to get the ball high enough for it to fall through a hole in the chute.


The parent-powered merry-go-round was popular with the young children. They sat in metal bucket seats and circled in a slow, leisurely fashion: a far-cry from the roller-coasters and mechanical fairground rides of today.


Ten years ago, there were twenty sculptures. Now, there are more than 650. These days, the festival mobilises the whole community. They gather the driftwood from the lake shore, dream up the ideas for the sculptures and then help with the fabrication. Schoolchildren and their teachers compete to invent creative sayings to write on the shopwindows in the village. All is done with the most pure of ecological intentions.


Happy to have ignored the advice of our guidebook the first year, it has now become a must-do on our Christmas calendar. If you happen to be in or near Evian in winter, pop past to enjoy this event, which proudly differentiates itself by not being a Christmas market. 
In fact,
 "Ici, rien n'est à vendre. Tout est à rêver et à imaginer".

Bye friendly flottins.
Until next year...
Linking today with #allaboutfrance