Sunday 31 July 2022


Our village of Talloires

The name of my blog, book and social media accounts might be misleading. After all, I am not always ... in France, Madame. But, now that I have become known as "But you are in France, Madame," I am loathe to part with this identity. I like it. And, figuratively, it is true. But, Catherine, you might remonstrate, it is a wordy title: one that is hard to remember correctly. Yes, you are right, but if people want to find me, they do.

So, where am I right now? Not France. I am an hour and a half outside Sydney. For those of you who have followed me since the beginning, you would know the twists and turns of our path since leaving France. Briefly ... Sydney, buying our beautiful French home in Talloires on the Annecy Lake, an unexpected and lengthy Covid lockdown in Sydney and our recent delayed move to the Blue Mountains.

New discoveries in the Blue Mountains

We still have our French home and we visit when we can, but our long-term future there is not as clear as when we left. Back then, we presumed that we would have a two-year hiatus in Australia before resuming our full-time French journey. It hasn't turned out like that and so we have sought interim adventures, challenges and destinations. 

Our French home

I have turned onto enough new paths to know to expect joy, reinvigoration, beauty and amazement each time ... loneliness, too, plus discomfort and weariness. That comes with navigating the unknown and the quest to belong.

In the months following our arrival in France, our first smile from the bar tender at Le Café de la Place in Menthon, an invitation to morning tea with the mayor's wife in Giez and bumping into someone who recognised us in Annecy were steps towards feeling like my husband and I were not just extras on the periphery of French life, being swept along in a fast-flowing current of change. Those interactions felt good and we deliberately sought out more. Sub-consciously, we knew that if we were feeling more confident about our new life in France, we were in a stronger position to help our children adapt and thrive.

Our first home in France - Giez

I am still looking for my signs here in the Blue Mountains. Our dinosaur shenanigans in the street brought one neighbour out for a friendly chat; we have been invited for afternoon tea and lunch; are refining where we can buy a good baguette, sit for a while over a coffee, pick up op-shop treasures, walk or ride, and collect firewood (with a permit) to avoid another astronomical heating bill. But, at the post office with my latest book packaged for a customer, I caught the eye of the girl behind the desk. There was a glimmer of recognition and a return smile. The hairdresser, too, today asked me when we were heading back to France. Very soon, I was able to tell her, happily - but my point is, she knew to ask. 

Small steps.

Thank you to all of you who have supported my latest writing project. A book with readers is like its author - much happier.

Here again are my three books. Clicking on the links should take you to where you need to go, wherever you are in the world, to make a purchase.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

And now ... first review for "With bare feet and sandy toes"

I have said on many previous occasions that connecting with people around the world has been the best part of my writing journey. Readers have (mostly!) been supportive, encouraging and generous. And, despite being competitors in one sense, authors that I have bumped into virtually or in person have been keen to share successes and eager to chat about improving our craft and untangling marketing strategies.

Reviews are critical to remaining positively visible in bookstores and on Amazon, but waiting for them to drop after a publication can be tense. Mardi understands this as an author. But, we have a lot more in common than writing and the rollercoaster emotional ride that it engenders, as she explains in her review of "With bare feet and sandy toes" (below). It can be found on her blog along with information about her books, details of her cooking classes, her newsletter etc.

If you have not yet come across Mardi on  FacebookTwitter, Instagram may I recommend that you take a look at what she does. Right now, she is completing the final day of a six-year journey (not full-time) along the Camino de Santiago. Following her as she has walked has been a true joy, and prompted many a daydream. 

This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be sharing book recommendations –  a series of “not just cookbooks”.

For Summer Reads this week, I’ve got another story that’s close to my heart!

Catherine Berry of But you are in France, Madame, and I have a lot in common. We’re both from Adelaide and both love  (and have lived in) France. A few years ago, I happened across Catherine over on Instagram (she’s also Our French Village House – another thing we have in common, rental properties in France that we operate from afar!) and downloaded her book, But you are in France, Madame and read it in one sitting. I loved that part of Catherine’s story (because I found out we had even more in common than just Adelaide and a love of France) – you can read my full review here) – and equally loved the follow-up story, Weaving a French Life: An Australian story which came out in 2020 (you can read my review here) where she describes the very delicate balance of loving two countries at the same time – something I know all too well about!

You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered she had written a memoir all about growing up in Australia in the 1960s and 70s – what a PERFECT summer read and a trip down memory lane for me!

I read this book in one sitting thanks to jetlag, but also because it was so “more-ish” – each chapter had me nodding my head in recognition. Written to be read either as a stand-alone book to the first two or as a prelude, I’d say all the books make you want to read the others. This one completes the trilogy of Early Life – France – Australia (with her heart in France).

This book really transported me back to my childhood – the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Adelaide. I had to smile at SO many memories – from the warm milk “enjoyed” in the lunch “shed” at primary school, trips to the beach in summer, being subjected to confession at a Catholic school, and watching Test Cricket matches (sometimes over 5 days!) on the tv to the absolute wide-eyed wonder of a first trip to Europe as a teenager, there was SO much in here that I related to/ remembered.

Life really was simple when I was growing up in Australia and this is a very accurate depiction of that time. It’s a delightful breath of fresh air as Catherine remembers her hopes, dreams, and fears growing up in a more innocent time. For anyone who has happy memories of a simpler life as a child (wherever you grew up), who wants a book that will put a smile on your face or who wonders what life “down under” looked like 50 years ago, this is a PERFECT beach, couch, porch, backyard, plane or train read for the summer!

Thank you, Mardi and congratulations on your Camino journey. One day to go ...

Here again are my three books. Clicking on the links should take you to where you need to go wherever you are in the world to make a purchase.

Merci et bonne lecture