Life in France

france

After my trips to France whilst writing French Summer this spring, I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the views and the beautiful light that hit my balcony every morning. I’ve been coming here since I was seventeen, staying at a family member’s house, but it had been three years since I’d last been here. It was my wife who suggested I stay for the summer whilst working on my next book, and I agreed that was an excellent idea. I thought I’d bring the dogs, and also the dog of said family member. How hard could it be, driving from the UK to France with three dogs in the back?

I found out soon enough. Luga, our adopted friend who tagged along, is a proper diva and not one for sitting in the back. For the first three hours or so, she tried to fight herself into the front seat, where a grown man (a roofer I brought along) used all his power to keep her in the back seat during the 17-hour journey. She cried and howled the whole way, devastated that she had to sit second row. Luga is a Giant Schnauzer.

Our smallest dog, El Comandante, isn’t the easiest either, as he refuses to sit anywhere else but on my lap while I’m driving. He likes to have his paws on the steering wheel, controlling the car. It always amused me, but this time around, it was extremely stressful driving through the winding mountain roads with his little head blocking my sight. It took me about three weeks to get used to driving here with my little assistant, but we now work seamlessly together. I work the pedals, and he steers the car, warning me about potential enemies around each corner.

Buddy, the good boy, is always in the back. He has no pretensions whatsoever and is more than happy to accept his lot in life, which is playing second fiddle to the two divas. Docile and with a big smile, he settles in and sleeps until we reach our destination, always. God Bless Buddy.

Driving through France is beautiful and fascinating but we underestimated how vast France actually is and the distances are always much larger than you’d expect. Last week, we were lucky to attend a wedding in Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, near the Spanish boarder. My wife is visiting for two weeks and we thought it would be nice to drive there. We didn’t bother to check the distance before we left, and found out soon enough that Barcelona was actually closer!  We weren’t mentally prepared and planned to take the scenic route, explore the Pyrenees and stop for meals in quaint little villages along the way. Instead, we realised we had to take the motorway, driving just over the speed limit without even so much as a coffee break, were we going to make it to the wedding in time. Exhausted, and with eyes like little cranberries, we finally arrived, after driving through the night. We could barely stand straight, but managed to stay awake during the ceremony. After inordinate amounts of Champagne at the wedding, and two more nights at the ‘party house’ we had rented with four other friends, the drive back was even worse. While I was driving in a zombie-like state, my wife was next to me in the front seat with a plastic bag on her lap. Charming. She told me she hadn’t thrown up in a plastic bag in seventeen years, but she sure made up for it during that particular journey.

Waking up on the Cote D’Azure every morning is a blessing and the sun always shines. The villages around here are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. No one litters, and there are lots of wild flowers, townhouses that look like artist residences, stunning views and cobbled streets with bakeries, cafes and other small businesses. The locals are really friendly and they love to chat. Lucky for me, I really like to make smalltalk too. You know how some people are shy to speak another language? I’ve got the opposite problem. My wife says I’m overly confident; willing but unable. I blurt out random sentences and make up words that sound really French in my head, convinced they’ll understand me. Unfortunately, so far, my victims have been nothing but confused. I’ll never stop trying though.

My wife is really excitable. In fact, she’s one of the most excitable people I know. It’s fun to hang out with someone like that, especially when visiting new places together. A bakery?! “Oh my God, I need to get a baguette,” she’ll shout, before posing with it in one of those charming alleyways with blue shutters and lavender filled pots. A mulberry tree?! “Let’s get some Tupperware and make jam!” An ice-cold river? “Hold my bag, I’m jumping in! And don’t forget to save me if I get dragged away, the current looks really strong!” Needless to say, we’re having a lot of fun. We’ve also gained a lot of bruises, and my wife has lost a chunk out of both her big toes.

The writing is going well, although not as fast as I thought it would. There’s a lot of distraction in the form of people, wine, sunshine and more wine, but I’m pleased to share that I’m almost through a third of the rough draft of my next novel (still untitled), set amongst airline crew, starring Captain Ava Alfarsi (Yes! In uniform :)) and Mia Donoghue (also in uniform, lol).

French Summer will be out on the first of July, and I was thrilled to wake up last week to find this lovely review on Curvemag.com and Lotl.com.

 

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