Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Listening to my critics

Five years ago, I wrote 'But you are in France, Madame.' I had no particular aspiration to tell my story, no desire to hold a published book in my hands, no illusion that I was doing the world a service by writing - and certainly no belief that it would be a money-making venture. So, why did I do it? I guess it was for me. The thing is that I did not realise that at the time. Neither did I truly understand that my story would be read around the world and that that would open me up to scrutiny ... to criticism. Naive? Probably. 

I have been called a bogan (and similar), my parenting has been questioned and my writing has been pulled apart ... by people who do not know me but feel completely at ease with passing judgement. Some days, the personal attacks are so hurtful that I feel that the only option is to give up ... to stop writing. It usually takes a couple of days before I can once again put into perspective that these anonymous (and most are that) attacks could possibly be saying more about those who write them than me. I slowly pull myself together and start again - before the cycle repeats.

But, I have listened to those who have bothered to write with actionable critiques. You were right: I was inexperienced; I did not know anything about writing or the publishing process. For you, I have updated my files for 'But you are in France, Madame': available in print or ebook by clicking on the links.

And in so doing, I take heart from Germaine Greer*; a stellar, accomplished literary figure. In an interview with Julia Zamiro, she tells us that she did not consider her first book, 'The Female Eunach,' to be her best book but goes on to say that it was the best book that she could write at the time. 

Here's to listening and learning ... and being gentle, or even re-considering, when you feel the urge to be nasty.

*Germaine Greer (/ɡrɪər/; born 29 January 1939) is an Australian writer and public intellectual, regarded as one of the major voices of the radical feminist movement in the later half of the 20th century. (thank-you Wikipedia)








Monday, 10 August 2020

Let it grow, let it grow...



I moved my desk downstairs a week or so ago. Historically, when we bought this house and all three children were still living at home, there was not enough room to have a study of my own. My desk was placed in the kitchen and didn't ever get moved out. I haven't minded, particularly during lockdown, as it has meant that I have been blessed with lovely meandering conversations as different members of the family have wandered up for food at various times of the day. Long coffee breaks have been spontaneous and I've also had quick access to the microwave to re-heat my heat packs, and to the kettle (which in our case is a saucepan on the stove). Sure, occasionally it has been hard to concentrate and I decided after years of not even contemplating a move for my desk and me, that it was time. 
That evening I read two reviews for But you are in France, Madame. They had come in a week or so apart but I hadn't noticed them. One was a 2-star review, the other 5 stars. Which do you think wouldn't leave me and gave me a fitful night's sleep?

Apparently, it is human nature to dwell on the negative so that we learn not to make the same mistake twice. Huh. Well that hasn't worked. I had moved my desk in order to concentrate better on writing my...second...book. 

Now, one of the other bonuses of the last few months is that I have taken the time to nurture my plants. Look how they are rewarding me.                        

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Pride cometh before a fall



I ran up the stairs yesterday with a smug feeling: no idea why, but I was feeling pretty happy with myself. My slipper caught the top of the step. I didn't fall, but I was quite literally taken down a peg. Slightly more cautiously, I rounded the entrance to the kitchen. My shoulder caught the wall. Again, I steadied myself and spun slowly around a couple of times... reflective. Positivity; not allowed? Optimism; too bold? Smile and confidence banished.

It occurred to me that those few moments were a good representation of my writing journey. The ups and downs can be confoundingly extreme. On a good day, I hear from people around the world, my book sales are good, I will wake up and have messages from real editors (does that make me a real writer?) and the words pour out of me. Then there are the bad days. I see me as people who don't know me, see me...and oftentimes, that is judgemental. I get it.

Part of the internal debate comes from this gnarly question: as a self-published author, am I a real writer? Way back when I had no idea of what I was doing, I didn't have a choice. I also know that I presumed, incorrectly, that knocking once at a few doors was all that anyone did. Most days, I assume my decision, but love falling on articles like this one, Facts and Figures about Self Publishing: The Impact and Influence of Indie Authors

Whichever way you look at the math, indie authors earn more per sale than those who work exclusively with trade publishers. The average trade-published author earns approximately 7.5% of their’s books cover price, and those with agents lose a further 15% of that. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon, Apple Books, Ingram Spark and Kobo pay up to 70% of each book sold to authors. Those indie authors who sell direct to readers from their own websites take in up to 96% of the value of the book. Of course, publishing costs have to be deducted from this income but there’s no question that over the life of a book, indie authors earn more. 

Then, the judgement is so much more tolerable.

Little by little, I am figuring things out. It is quite the journey.

To read my contribution to this world of Indies, click here for your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame' or send me a message cb222@me.com. A bientôt.






Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Is there a right time for France?


Is there a right time for France? Yes.
Is there a perfect time? No.

I'm not talking about a holiday, but the question of how one decides on the timing for that big French trip - family adventure, permanent move, year-long sabbatical...?

The thing is, most of us, given a little encouragement, will choose inertia; what we are familiar or comfortable with. It takes effort, commitment, and a real belief in what you are doing, to resist the urge to stay put.


It also takes clarity about why you are even thinking about going to France. Have you put pen to paper and debated the answers to questions such as:

Why France and not another country?

For how long do you want to go?

Where in France do you think you will be happy - be specific: city, village, seaside, mountains...?

Is it to run away from what is your current normal?

What if you don't like it when you get there?

What if you decide to stay longer than your original plan?

Do you have the finances to cover your time away?

How does work, present and future, fit into the plan to go to France?

How will you find accommodation, schools, doctors, dentists, information..?

How will you cope with being distant from family and friends?

Is learning the language important to you?

Each person's situation is different, but I want to focus specifically on planning your French adventure with children. Timing, then, is a subject of enormous consideration, and often great angst for parents. From talking to families planning their time away, doing our own French adventure and my years of working as Head of School, I would say this: we are very good at protecting our children, shielding them from difficulties, and not fully believing that they are (or can become) resilient and strong when things don't work out for them. More questions:

Is your trip principally for them, for you or for the family?

Is your trip so that your children can become bilingual?

Is it so that your children can see the world from a different perspective?

How will they cope with a change from what is familiar?

Only you know what your children are capable of, but I would guard against making decisions based on what you believe your children do and don't want. They don't yet know and unless you give them an opportunity to spread their wings, they may not know for longer...or ever. My experience is that more people regret not going than going, even when things are difficult for a period of time.

Gathering information and talking with others that have done, or are thinking of doing, their trip to France is useful, although, once again, the questions will never all be answered fully, and the timing will never be perfect for every member of your family. Don't be swayed, or side-tracked, by another family's decision making (including mine 😏).

All good luck to you. My personal perspective is that most things are surmountable, and that the positives do outweigh the negatives. If you need a sounding board, drop me a line at cb222@me.com.

To read about our French experience, 'But you are in France, Madame' can be purchased directly from me (email above) or by clicking on the link.



















Tuesday, 23 June 2020

But I now know the rules


I've been trying to work out if I've got it in me. Is there a sequel, or a prequel, waiting under my wings? Another book. Many have asked, as they are interested. Who would have thought? They want to know what led up to, and followed on from 'But you are in France, Madame', how I am, how the family is, where we are in the world and how France fits into our lives currently. I am chuffed, flattered and intrigued by this. Indubitably. I just don't know if I can. The stories are there, but something has changed: a new-found shyness, a desire to communicate with the world, and yet, a need for distance.

But you are no longer in France, Madame
The other problem is that I now know the rules.

Is there such a thing as a conservative rebel? If there is, it's me. I have never wanted to be outrageous, noticed or dangerous. In fact, I grew up thinking that I had to toe the line, be polite, give way to others and do what I was told. At the same time, I hated conforming.

'But you are in France, Madame' was written. Yes, passive voice, as I was a passive contributor. The words found their way out. I knew nothing about writing. I knew nothing about publishing. I knew next to nothing about marketing, and I thought I loathed everything to do with social media. Blogging? Uh uh, not for me. Facebook? Nope. Too showy. Instagram? What even is that? Or so I thought.

I didn't follow the 'writing a book' rules the first time around because I simply did not know them.

Much like taking the family to France.

I see that what we did as a family was a rather uninformed leap of faith. Buying a house in France was an even bigger hop, skip and lunge. Figuring out how to live between two countries, on opposite sides of the world, with our lives - and the world - changing constantly, is just huge.


If I had my time again, would I do things differently?

Even though I know with certainty that I made mistakes, both with my writing and our French living, and am clear that things could have been easier or better, my answer is always the same.

How can I be so sure?

Because it led me to you.

And back to me.










As if to put a point final on my thoughts, mid-way through drafting today's blog, I read a post from une âme soeur (a kindred spirit) at A Family In France (excerpt below). One family, three children, five bags (or thereabouts), the promise of a year in the south-west of France and an unfinished, imperfect French connection. Sound familiar?


Today, we are home again, sooner than I intended and still trying to unwind the bureaucratic grip of our French life. 
People ask ‘how was France?’ and I know the answer they want to hear is ‘amazing’. They want the fairytale, the happy ending, the dream fulfilled, tales of incredible adventures and unabashed family bliss. They want the picture perfect village that welcomed us in, lasting friendships and endless fun times.
Like everything in life, the real answer is far more complex. Our French adventure brought highs and lows, sometimes within a single day. It was joyful and it was gut wrenchingly painful. It was hugely challenging and profoundly rewarding. It was fun and it was sombre. It was a time of rich connection and deep loneliness, when we saw our circle shrink and our world expand.
Click here for more.











Sunday, 14 June 2020

Interview with writer Christine Betts


A few days, six months, a year, several years, multiple visits over many years, vicarious visits …  we all do our French affairs differently.

Today, I am chatting with Australian author, Christine Betts, whose first visit to Paris at the age of twenty-two was the bittersweet incarnation of a non-attainable joint project. We connected recently through our writing and our common passion for France. Read on for Christine’s story:

Thanks, Christine, for agreeing to this interview. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Hi Catherine. I’m a Gold Coast girl on the outside and a little bit French on the inside.

How and when did your love of France begin? I fell in love with the Madeline picture books as a little girl, fuelling a passion for France, art, and books.

 You have travelled many times to France. Do you have a couple of stories from these trips that you could share with us?  Do you have any long-term French plans? Like a lot of people, I would love to spend a year in France sometime in the future. We have spent a month here and there but 12 months, to see the seasons, would be lovely. I was planning
my upcoming 50th birthday celebrations in the countryside outside Paris but that may have to change now. 
In 2006 we spent a month wandering across France with our caravan. It was lovely to see our son making friends with children from all over Europe while us mums and dads lazed in camp chairs chatting and sipping cold drinks. We are still in contact with some of the families. 
My favourite Only-In-France memory of that trip was seeing the quirky entertainers who ply their trade at campgrounds across France in the summer. A cat and miniature goat circus? Only in France!

Your books are set in France. Is this an obvious choice for you? How do you go about researching your story lines? My first attempts at writing were my journals from my early trips to France. In 2005, I wrote a memoir called From There to Here via Paris. My sister is the only person who has read it and probably the only one who ever will. I think the reason I love Paris is that I went there with a broken heart and just being in that beautiful place showed me that life goes on. 
I seem to be perpetually working on a Paris-themed memoir of some description because Paris has been there at every important point in my life.
In 2017 I shifted gear, deciding to write a fictionalised account of a 2012 “girls’ trip” to Paris. I lucked across an historic B&B right near quai de la Tournelle with views of the towers of Notre Dame from the rooftop terrace. My first novel Hotel Déjà vu grew from that kernel of an idea, and the B&B inspired the grand mansion in the story, the home of the de la Roche family, even down to the pool in the basement. 
I had great fun using my own memories, photographs, and souvenirs to flesh out the story, but also used Google Maps a little. I know the inner areas of Paris well, but Maps was able to fill in little details. 
My second novel is mostly set in the Loire, so I was able to draw on that magical summer with my little boy in 2006. They might be in a crumbling chateau in the Loire, but of course, the characters take off to Paris for the night to stay in my imagined hotel, L'Écrivain – the Writer.

What writing projects do you have on the go at the moment? I am about to launch Alia Henry and the Ghost Writer (releasing tomorrow June 16), but I am now working on a story in the same ‘universe’ as Hotel Déjà vu. A couple go in search of the fabled time-portal to fix the terrible mess they have made of their lives. That’s a fun little side project! My passion project right now is set in modern-day London and Wiltshire, with an interwoven story set in Neolithic Gaul and England. Paris was always my favourite place in France but as I get a little older, I have developed a love for the French and English countryside, and this story includes stone circles and Celtic legends. As is in everything I write, there is a ‘supernatural’ element in this story but I’m not giving any spoilers. 

And just for a bit of fun: 

If you could choose to be any character from any period in French history, who would it be? And why? Ooh that’s easy! I would have to pick my name-sake Christine de Pizan, a French renaissance novelist who is the first known woman in France to have made her living solely from writing. She was a feminist and a bad ass. She wrote and published protest poems, utopian fiction about a city inhabited only by women, and a celebration of the achievements of Joan of Arc. I love her work because like Christine, my goal is to write female characters who are interesting and intelligent but above all, real.

Thanks so much Christine. I look forward to hearing of the progress of your new release and staying in touch.

Christine’s books are available in print and digital versions on Amazon here

You can follow Christine on













Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Another way to get pregnant?


I laughed out loud this morning and it felt good. Silliness really, political incorrectness even, but it helped shape the start of my day.

"Apparently, in some place around the world, girls are being told that swimming in public pools can make them pregnant."

Listening to the car radio and concentrating on the twists and turns of the road, I grimaced and prepared to do an indignant head shake and cautious eye-ball roll, at what I imagined to be the forthcoming deformed ideas of a chauvinistic and repressive regime.

"Yeah, you know the red line that chases the Olympic swimmers during the televised events," a listener called in with his quip, "if it catches them, then they're pregnant."

My own red-line-pregnancy-test moments swam before me. I guffawed. Not even apologetically. I love clever people and I love clever, funny people even more.

So, with my day having started well, I expected it to continue in the same vein. Jobs, work, exercise all done, it was time for my warm shower reward. When the bucket catching water for the spring beans was full, the time was right. I committed. This was not a toe-testing timid trial, I was in and under completely.

"Mmm, nice and war...freezing!" There were only two of us at home, both supposed to be working. Why did he choose this moment to wash out the coffee pot (or so I discovered when I emerged with my shower story some minutes later)?

The up, the down. Life ... and only a very tenuous link with my French-themed blog today. The best that I can come up with is that we live by a lake in France and this is a story based around water.

Good enough? I hope so.

'But you are in France, Madame' available for purchase here


Monday, 25 May 2020

The power of the word

Early days in France. Bakeries were so tempting.

A flooded home during a bushfire crisis? Should this have been the hint that 2020 was not going to go to plan?

Rarely is there no-one in my sister's home. Hers is a busy place, with four children, partners, grandchildren and friends all happily bumping into each other regularly, randomly. For the hose under her bathroom sink to burst was in itself rather extraordinary. Don't these events occur every twenty or so years, if ever? For it to do so when all were out, preparing to hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne was a wee bit mischievous. This; however, was not the adjective that my sister used when, flush with the peace of a day - and night - away, she opened her front door and sloshed through ankle deep water. No slow leak here, this show-stopping soak had pulled out all the plugs at its own private New Year's party.

For those of you who read my blog, you'll know that my last post was a bit impetuous, a lot angry. I wrote, and it helped, but I resisted multiple attempts from the outside world to talk in person, including from my family. I just wasn't ready. A few days ago, months after the bushfire flood event, my sister was finally able to unpack some of her salvaged items. My book was amongst the pile and, before placing it back on to the bookshelf, she paused to flick through the pages.

Grey skies
"Helloo..."

My phone screen lit up. I picked up and answered, "I was just thinking of you. Thanks for your messages. Are you free to chat?"

"Yes!!"

It was affirming, reassuring, nice to talk, plus she told me a story. That of my book on her bookshelf.

"You know the section where you were diagnosed ... and you mention that one of your stubborn sisters Skyped you every day even though you refused to look at her and pointed the computer screen at your couch instead?"

"Yes."

"Well, I know that that wasn't me that you were talking about. But, having re-read that, I knew what I had to do. I had to keep sending you messages. I just had to keep trying."

Blue skies ahead
Again, thank you everyone who took the time to contact me after my outbursts here and on Instagram. I didn't always get it right. In fact, without thinking I chose my words badly on one occasion and unthinkingly caused some pain.

It made me reflective. Words are powerful, but bring responsibility.



   

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

I couldn't outrun the fear


Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six strokes per minute... it wasn't working. The rowing machine remained implacable and emotionless. I couldn't outrow the fear.

The doctor was having none of it.
"You're heart is beating too fast."
Confirmed shortly thereafter by the triage nurse at the hospital where I was sent.
Too much uncertainty? Too much news? Or my husband's 1st April biopsy for prostate cancer that was no April Fool's.

We were far from family when I was diagnosed with cancer in France.

Cancer, why can't you just stay the #$% away from my family?And, to present during yet another time of family distance...cruel.



Monday, 20 April 2020

France. That's my answer.


Asked the question, "What is your greatest achievement?" obvious answers come to mind. But, whether I have middle-child status to thank for this or not, I have always hated conforming. So, clear and clichéd answers I give you not. In fact, I don't even like the question. Why do I have to have just one? I guess you could turn all pedantic on me and state that the word 'greatest' was used. Q.E.D.



France. That's my answer. Getting there, being there, living there. It was one of the most - and least - obvious things to do at that point in my life. I had ticked off study, work, travel, home, marriage and children and might have simply continued down this path. What would that have looked like? Next step in my career? Nicer car? Home renovation? BBQs on Saturday with good friends? Increasingly brief communal family moments? Dissatisfaction with the mundane or the routine? Who knows? Perhaps, I am being overly dramatic, overly pessimistic but I know that I would have struggled with continuing the trajectory that I was on.

“It was just a normal morning. Almost exactly five years ago. I was making tea in the kitchen. Bobby was still in bed. And we get this knock on the door. I opened it up slowly, and saw the police standing there." 

My daughter kept speaking. I closed my computer and sat back in my chair. My son kept playing with his Rubik's cube but edged closer to where she was sitting on the deck, separated from us by a metallic fence.

"They went straight back to the bedroom, and walked up to Bobby. I heard them ask: ‘What’s your name?’ And he said, ‘Bobby Love.’ Then they said, ‘No. What’s your real name?’

Even my husband looked up from what he was doing.

We had arrived on the deck individually, no doubt hoping to give some moral support to my daughter in self-isolation.

"It didn’t make any sense. I’d been married to Bobby for forty years. He didn’t even have a criminal record. At this point I’m crying, and I screamed: ‘Bobby, what’s going on?’ Did you kill somebody?’ And he tells me: ‘This goes way back, Cheryl. Back before I met you. Way back.." 

Despite it being a sunny day, despite the fact that we were outside, each cradling high-tech devices, her reading aloud of one of the stories from the Instagram account of @humansofny  felt more like a scene from a London living room during the Great War. She was our radio and we were tuned in attentively.

Since that day, Covid 19 confinement has imposed aeons of family time: multiple opportunities for talking, sharing and debating. Not unlike when we went to live in France.


My intention in writing this is not to reduce the seriousness of the health pandemic that we are living through now, but back then, on arrival in France, there was fear, there was uncertainty, there were moments of intense frustration and even anger, there was little outside help and a lot of the information coming through to us was hard to understand.

There was also shared joy at minor successes, solace in diary writing and time to chew the fat around the dining room table or squashed into the car for our hour-long morning and afternoon trips to school or, thanks to an empty social calendar, to sit and have a coffee under the quince tree, or play 'pin the tail on the donkey' (map of the Haute Savoie region) in order to select a destination for a family outing...

Just being there, living there, making it through each day was a great achievement and, with the exception of not being able to choose where to go, not unlike this period in our lives.

But, back to Bobby. What did happen 'way back', before he met Cheryl? I will give you the pleasure of heading to @humansofny to find out. (This excerpt is Part 1/11)

To read more of our family's French story, click here for your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame'.












Thursday, 19 March 2020

I was that girl




Its big steel pockets were filled, and filled me, with joy, but time was of the essence so my selection was haphazard. Sitting on the floor, I would start at the bottom and work diligently at building up an effective and sustainable rhythm: take, devour, replace, repeat. An occasional slight sideways push kept the turnstile in the 'ready' position.


Somewhere else in the store, my father, an important Maths professor, would be doing....mmm, I'm not too sure. In my mind, he did what he did. I was proud of him and that was as far as it went. I guess, though, he was buying books or stationery.

I nearly made it to the top of the stand once. Every other time, conscious of, but not distracted by, the coolness of the big white floor tiles, a dozen or so books would fly into and out of my hands before time was up and I'd be called to head to the bookstore door.

I would never be allowed to buy a book but we did have books in the house. Christmas would generally offer up one each and birthdays had potential too, but these books were so special and so revered that I couldn't bring myself to read them...much like the Easter eggs that I refused to eat and that I would then proudly place on the communal table for my very-long-time-from-Easter class Christmas party.

Time passed and priorities changed. Work, study and all the usual growing-up distractions took over. And, then came France....and time...and the re-discovery of libraries and books and reading.

Today, for many of us, although the circumstances are not right, we have been given a gift of time. What if we embraced that gift and turned it into a magical turnstile of possibility?

What if we opened up and savoured a book?



  • a great gym for the mind
  • a remedy against anxiety
  • a support to help traverse a difficult time *
*Article, in French, here


Share, talk, send messages, jokes and love. We need to feel strong connections from all over the world right now, but I'm convinced that, like the little girl in the bookstore, escaping into books will help too. #tryabook

PS I'd be upset for you to think that this blog was a ploy for you to buy my book. It isn't, but if you don't know our story and would like to find out more, 'But you are in France, Madame' is available in print or Kindle here








Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Brushes with fame



Sightings of and brief conversations with: it has been a big week for celebrity in my family. Nothing too deep and meaningful, but they have kept our little family group chats animated.



By far my favourite encounter came about as a result of my husband travelling for work far, far west of the Eastern coast of Australia. In fact, in a monster of a day, he left for the airport at 4 am, took two planes, rented a car, drove 350 km, did some seriously onerous labouring, got back in the car and rang ahead to a hotel to let them know that he'd be there by midnight. He didn't make it and fortunately had enough good sense to pull over and sleep rather than trying. The only comfort was the knowledge that the cramped sleeping quarters in the car, not terribly dissimilar to the hotel room he had optimistically booked, cost nothing and were not booked out, plus the fact that he was not attempting to outrun a fierce storm, as he had been the week prior. Bringing his numb feet back to life after a couple of hours of roadside slumber, he raced to the airport to take a 6 am flight and was back in Sydney by early afternoon. Distance travelled: over 2600 km...one way. Time away: 34 hours. Time slept: approx. 2 hours.





But, back to celebrity brushes:

"You've got a rather famous name."

"Yeah, but I'm better looking and can cook better."

Flash, real name Gordon Ramsey, was also a real outback character with a gloriously gravelly voice who, having lived in his remote patch of Australia for many decades, had more than a yarn or two to tell.

Truth, it appeared, was an unnecessary hindrance to many of his delightful anecdotes.













These are the stories and the people that excite me. I'm guilty of the occasional glance at the vacuous tabloid celebrity articles, based on nothing more than the sound of a good headline. I'm also guilty of skim reading whilst champing at the bit to get to my next task, spending far too long flicking through screen posts and neglecting both the pleasure of slow reading and the wonder of debate, conversation, disagreement and acknowledgement.

"Start an argument," I said to my daughter.

She looked at me quizzically.

"No," I laughed. "Not with me, right here, right now, but with your friends, over dinner. See what their opinions are, what they have to say and enjoy the thrust and parry."

Still, she looked bemused.

"Be French," I grinned. "Just, don't forget to close the conversation and leave as friends."

PS I didn't actually use the words 'thrust and parry' - that might just have produced its own, non-sought-after argument...but you get the drift.


I wrote about the contrasts between our French and Australian lives in a previous blog (wow, nearly four years ago). Click on through for some more beautiful photos taken by my husband (who can be found, if you are interested, on Instagram @rustymarmot)






Wednesday, 15 January 2020

That New Year Hump


It hasn't been an easy start to the year here in Australia. So much so, that the well-intentioned, somewhat compulsory sharing of 'Happy New Year' or 'Bonne Année' good wishes has stuck in my throat. It has somehow felt sacrilegious (which I inadvertently initially spelt scar..ilegious) splashing around smiling goodwill at a time when the world feels dark. I know that I should be mature about this and sensibly declare that that is exactly the reason why I should be emanating joy, but I'm here to declare that I'm a bit over doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

In a moment of clarity this morning, I also realised that one of the downsides to my restless need to keep moving cities/countries - and contributing to my mood - is that I miss my friends. I know. Melodramatic. Churlish. Childish. But there it is. The good old ones who have been with me... and stayed through my yellow tracksuit and permed hair phases. I do miss them, their closeness, their 'sureness'.

In my second revelation of the morning (see, life is looking up), it also occurred to me that friendship happens differently now. And, as if to put a boldly underlined 'point final' to that thought, a message has just popped up on my Instagram feed. 'Coucou ma belle' writes @frenchwithnicole in response to my message on @lostinarles post. I have never met either of these ladies, but I had just admitted that, when it comes to social media,  I am still hiding a little too far along the safe end of the ‘open and honest’ continuum.

Puzzlingly poignant.

Pertinently positive.

And a reminder to be forever grateful to every single person who has stopped by and set up a borderless chat, to all those who have shared their stories with me as if I were a trusted confidante, and to those who seem to, I don't know, care for me, despite having never met and having no shared history.

... just taking time to shake off those New Year blues, I guess.

... time to let go and see where the year takes me.











PS If you have just found your way here, to my blog, welcome. Another story with a similar theme 'Words and friends in a French life' and to read more about our French life, 'But you are in France, Madame' is available in print and Kindle by clicking here.


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

You're last




It was still morning and I had already shed a few tears. I had also answered my own question as to whether the airport would be busy not long after midnight on the first day of the year. The roads there, after all, had been quasi deserted.

We were standing in a circle at the international departure gate and my daughter was saying 'good-bye' to us all with hugs and kisses. I was third in line but she by-passed me.

"You're last."

Isn't it funny how an overlay of perspective can change a message.

On this first day of the year, I hope that to someone you are their last.

Bonne année. Happy New Year. And to one special girl newly arrived in Montréal - bienvenue. Have a ball.

PS Price reduction for Kindle versions of 'But you are in France, Madame' until Wednesday 8 Jan for UK and US readers. Link here