Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"I've noticed that people who know how to eat are never idiots." (Apollinaire)



"I've noticed that people who know how to eat are never idiots" (Apollinaire)


Guillaume Apollinaire (not his original name) was born in Italy to a Polish mother. In his short life, which ended nearly one hundred years ago, he seems to have done and said pretty much whatever he wanted to. Still, today, the interesting people around me have this capacity. In this noisy 'me', 'me', 'me' world, they are the oft-silent ones who can be confrontational without confronting, whose ideas make me think, whose words are not drowned out by the inane, trivial conversations around us. Sure, they are sometimes arrogant so-and-sos who can upset by their unflinching honesty; in my case, only saved by their genius and my gratitude at being taken out of my daily humdrum. I probably would have enjoyed a tête-à-tête with Guillaume, but, the truth of it is that I don't know how to eat.

Table etiquette: which fork/spoon/knife to use, elbows off the table, no slurping or burping and how to place one's cutlery at the end of a meal - I've got spades of that. I come from good English stock. The mechanics of eating; clearly, that is not a problem either. But (and here's the rub), I am never the one to salivate prematurely over the duck stuffed in the turkey stuffed in the chicken (or however the turducken is prepared although I concede that my method appears unlikely). I am never the one to order my steak 'saignant' (let alone tartare), I skip lunch often and snack on Weet-Bix or handfuls of muesli and, dinner for my children and I, when my intelligent husband is away, is often not pretty.

That said, I'd like to think that I am not an idiot either. My defence might look something like this:-

If A equals 'people who know how to eat' and B represents 'not an idiot'

And

A=B  ⟺A⊆B and B⊆A

But, if

A⊆B and B⊈A then A≠B

Ah, we are not talking equality at all. Good, I can still legitimately keep company with my other half.

Actually, I digress. This post was to have been about baking bread but I got side-tracked by stumbling upon the aforementioned quote in Cooking for Claudine by John Baxter, a gift from Lulu (thanks, Lulu, and I hope to hear soon that your French trip was a great success).

I'll aim to get back to my exemplary bread knowledge in my next post. In the meantime, there is a chapter in 'But you are in France, Madame' entitled 'Mon péché mignon' and it is all about bread. If you would like to read more, here is the link.



A la prochaine...



Friday, 9 June 2017

David Pujadas, I'll miss our daily get-togethers...


Thirteen years ago, we still lived in Melbourne, my children were very young, living in France was just a dream, but David Pujadas was already well-ensconced at the helm of the evening news on France 2. I'd had plenty of flat tyres, flat hair days, flat days tout court, but, for our family, flatscreen viewing was many moons away. Our television of the period had to be backed into a corner, so big was the tube. But, it did the job nicely enough and allowed me to get to know David through the news (or was it the other way around?).

My children, young as they were, became familiar with the French news presenter's name and the time of his appearance on SBS.

"Mummy, David Pujadas is on", called with a beautiful French accent down the corridor and I'd come running.

And, this morning, I shed a few tears. In my sitting room in suburban Sydney, as David said his good-bye on the set, surrounded by his colleagues who have also become household names, my emotions surfaced. It is hard to believe that the end of an era could affect me so much. Granted, the world is all over the place at the moment and, possibly because of this, the loss of a familiar face in my day is as real as any other loss. True, too, that David accompanied our nights when we were living in France. By 8 pm, the children would have finished with their goûter, homework, dinner routine and I would sit with at least one of them, usually my youngest, and take in the news of the day. Maybe, I was crying for that time past, too?

David was professional, analytical, warm, serious, humorous and kept me up-to-date on world events in a manner which I appreciated enormously. I'm sure that we'll meet again on some screen at some point in the future, but in the meantime, "Thanks, David".

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

PS. I'm linking again with Phoebe at #allaboutfrance. If you have come across from Phoebe's blog, then welcome, and if you are curious about our story, click on this link to read 'But you are in France, Madame'. In advance, thanks for your comments and interest in my book.


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!