Friday, 10 February 2017

My husband cycles. I don’t...

February 10 was a big day last year too. After a bit of persuasion to go down the ebook route, I succumbed and listed on Amazon. This year, it was the hottest February day on record in Sydney and France Today published an article that I had written. It was my birthday, too...but that's an annual, less unpredictable event.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

We made it back to France

It is hard when you live in two countries. It is harder still when they happen to be nearly 17000 km apart, require on average 30 hours of travel time and several months salary to pay for the family to get there, knowing all the while that you are setting yourself up for certain mind-numbing jet lag and seasonal confusion. Without careful thought, what you wear to board your plane at one end can severely compromise your comfort at the other (think stepping out into negative temperatures in shorts and t-shirts or stripping off jumpers, coats and scarves to combat 35-degree heat). Living in Australia, that's what French love is all about.

We had planned our long-awaited family return to France for the beginning of December, taking a few indulgences regarding the school calendar (which officially released the children on Dec 17) in an attempt to prolong our time away and escape the harshness of peak peak-period Christmas tickets. We nearly didn't make it to the airport.

Bags on the side of the road. Car smoking.

Fortunately (used somewhat advisedly) we noticed the smoke drifting from the car bonnet before we hit the traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you have never visited Australia, I'm sure that you will; nonetheless, empathise with being in this predicament and creating chaos and discontent from the middle of such an iconic structure. Again fortunately, we had found ourselves a lovely housesitter who had kindly offered to drive us to the airport (a good hour-and-a-half drive from home). In an extraordinary display of good humour, our housesitter, having calmly alerted us to the smoke, offered to wait for roadside assist alone and waved us onwards in the back of a family sized taxi. 

Strangely, after a few casual pleasantries, the taxi driver smiled and told us that we had been lucky. What did he know that we didn't? How does breaking down on the way to the airport, where time is of the essence, constitute 'lucky'? When we nervously asked him to elaborate, he just smiled again, nodded his head slightly and said, "You'll see... in about 10 minutes." Yikes!

And ten minutes later as we sailed past cars rooted to the spot in our free-to-go-like-the-wind taxi and bus lane, we grinned back at him.

A lesson? What appears to be a curved ball can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. I must moralise with myself more often...

PS For two years now, I have seen reference to the All About France links and have at times tried to paste the image to my post in order to be able to join in. Clearly, I haven't managed or simply haven't tried hard enough. Trying again now.

Friday, 13 January 2017

A long-overdue post

En route to the Christmas markets in Annecy. Wild, striking sunset.

We returned to France at a time of year when festivities are in full swing, evenings can be spent around an open fire or strolling the Christmas markets, where weather app reading becomes a daily addiction and snow watching, when it does decide to oblige the amateur weather forecaster, can last for hours. I had thought that this would give me plenty of inspiration for writing happy, uplifting blog posts.  I've been inspired, no doubt about that. I've also been way too inclined to enjoy whatever celebratory cheer has been on offer, which has meant no writing at all. Zilch, zero. Nothing to show. 

Fortunately, Jacqui from French Village Diaries had something up her sleeve that might just get me off the hook. Please enjoy my interview with her here

Backyard bliss. Snow, sun and mountains.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Towards the title

A few things have brought a smile to my face recently.... I reached 100 K views on my Google plus page, there was a slowing down in the number of Instagram followers who were deserting me each day (my daughter keeps telling me to stop taking social media so personally), the banner and publicity material that I had ordered for my market stall arrived and looked, to me anyway, beautiful and exactly as I had hoped, the flyer for my book talk at the library was finalised, and the attendees for the talk itself ran to a waiting list with a full-house on the day. But, nothing compared to having 'But you are in France, Madame' placed on the shelves of a proper bookstore.

I'll be lucky to pocket a couple of dollars per book sold, so the thrill came not from the expectation of financial gain. It came from a sense of validation. The book industry is a tough industry to enter, understand and stand out in and the last three years (two for the writing and one since pushing the button on 'publish') have been hard, filled with self-doubt and disillusionment. I needed this small something to help keep me going.

For those who do not know my family's story, I began writing 'But you are in France, Madame' several months after arriving back in Australia after 3 1/2 years of living in the French Alps. The first few months for the family (years for me) were difficult. I talked a lot, in those early days, about what we had experienced in France. Eventually, talking was not enough and I started to write. Admittedly, I had no certainty of ever finishing something as enormous and unknown as a book and even less of publishing it. I wish I had known how things would turn out as I would have enjoyed the process so much more. Throughout the two years that I was writing, a long list of magnificent book titles presented themselves to me, revealed their unsuitability in the days that followed and were swiftly relegated.

You don't eat sushi outside Paris came, went, came back and stuck and was the title that I eventually used to submit my book to a selection of Australian publishing houses. It was a throw-away line from one of our French friends. We had met in Australia but caught up with him and his family in Italy, in the beautiful city of Florence at the end of our first year abroad. It was a joy to see them and to re-live the time that had passed since both families had undertaken their latest adventures. Affected by the difficulties that were stymying our transition to successful French living, we nonetheless tried to conversationally minimise our deceptions. Our host was not to be fooled. "You don't eat sushi outside Paris", he answered. This was his way of reassuring us and acknowledging that there were indeed rules to be followed but that it was particularly difficult to follow them if you didn't know that they even existed.

I see now that this first title was too obscure plus I didn't hear back from the publishers, so went back to work re-drafting the entire manuscript, including the title.

I loved my next attempt and even had a cover made up for Five go to France (see above). I don't have short hair and my husband is not blond, but the illustrator somehow captured a little of the personalities of the three children in her drawing, despite me giving her only the title and not much else to go on. Potential copyright issues from the publishers of Enid Blyton, whose books I loved as a child, made me pull the rug on that title too.

The story behind the next and final title But you are in France, Madame is one that I have recounted before. It was the conclusion to an actual conversation that I had and a subtle reminder of the existence of a special French something that we were learning to live and appreciate. It felt right, especially when coupled with the photo taken by my husband of our son, running through the streets of Noyers-sur-Serein on one of our family holidays.

My French friends, on the other hand, they smile and nod their heads when they first see the book in print. They require no further explanation of the title.