Tag Archives: France

Time To Move On

I have been absent from the blogosphere for several weeks recently and I apologise to my faithful followers for this.

The reasons have been many but at the top of the list is a decision I have made.  I have decided to sell my house and then take several months to travel around Europe, and France in particular.

Why now one may ask – well  I have always had “itchy feet”.  This was pandered to by my husband and his moving around the world during the busy years making a name for himself and a life for us.  When he died I spent several years between New Zealand and England where I had been born and raised; eventually deciding to settle down again here in NZ.  But here on the other side of the world, we are so far away from everything and I am feeling that if I don’t do something about this restlessness now I never shall.

Then a few weeks ago I read a post from Kathryn McCulloch about major changes she and her partner Sara have made.  Apart from selling their house and getting married in New York, they have embarked on a new life in Ecuador.  How very brave is that!  This, of course, set me thinking.  Oh sure, they are younger than me and there are two of them, but so what.

So I determined to have an adventure of my own.  I do have two special sisters, one in Los Angeles and one in London and of course, any odyssey will have to start with them.  Added to that my sister in London has agreed to come to France if only for a few days while we/I decide where to spend the next few months.  Isn’t that exciting.  And I have a very good friend in Paris that I have been threatening to visit so Kay watch this space.

And yesterday, to add icing to this cake, I heard that another blogging buddy, Joss at Crowing Crone has put her house on the market and plans to travel to France in September.  So I shall have the opportunity to meet with her and her husband IN REAL LIFE!


The excitement continues to mount.Living roomThe house is on the market and the marketing has commenced.  It will be tendered over two weeks with the first Open Home on Sunday.  And if the other properties my Real Estate friend has sold over the past couple of months is anything to go by, it should sell easily.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the Beautiful Miss Bella – I have a very good friend who will adopt her for the time I am away.  I fear though that I might not get her back.

So Europe here I come.  I will attempt to be in the blogosphere more often now that the decision has been made.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.
The great affair is to move. ”
Robert Louis Stevenson
,  Scottish novelist, poet,
essayist and travel writer. 1850 – 1894



Fiction for the Fearful

“If we had to say what writing is, we would define it
essentially as an act of courage.”
Cynthia Ozick, American-Jewish short story writer,
novelist, and essayist. 1928 –

Many years ago when I was completing a creative writing course one of the exercises set for us was to write a letter to ourselves, either our older selves or our younger selves.  The letter would be mostly fiction but of course, interspersed with necessary facts.  I haven’t thought about that course or the task for some years.

ChateauBut today, when I had time to ‘noodle’ ( my sister’s word) around the internet I found some interesting courses being run in France and thought how lovely it would be to attend a creative writing course in a château in France.  Patrick Gale is not a writer whose work I know but I think I would be very pleased to get to know him and his writing by attending a course held in the Chateau Ventenac on the banks of the Canal du Midi in the Languedoc Region.

Note the title of this blog is copied from the title of Patrick Gale’s course in October.

Hunter Building, Vic University Wellington

Victoria University, Wellington

But now back to the creative writing course held in Wellington, New Zealand.

Imagine a dark Tuesday evening in the middle of winter.  The course was run at the local University in one of its older buildings.  I seem to remember that it was always cold in the study room; perhaps they turned the heating off once the main body of students had left for the day.  Most of the building was deserted and the cafeteria was closed for the day so no cups of hot coffee for us.

Fifteen of us started the course that was run by well-known NZ writer Bill Manhire, but in memory only about 11 of us completed it.  This was no holiday course.  It was hard work.  The fact that such a large percentage of people dropped out was disheartening.  Bill was rather a hard taskmaster but he was inspirational.  Praise wasn’t lightly given and so was all the more welcome when it came one’s way.

Anyway, back to the task.  I chose to write as a 70-year-old to my younger self.  Little did I know then how quickly the years would pass until I became a 70-year-old.  I wrote as a fond (maiden) aunt might; praising my young self and encouraging her/me on my life journey.  I don’t remember quite what I said – we didn’t all have laptops then – but I do know that having completed the task I thought how nice it would be to receive such a letter from an aunt or a caring relative.

That then made me think of other letters I might write.  In fact, it encouraged me to write to my parents thanking them for the childhood my sisters and I had experienced and for the love and caring they showered upon us.  I knew, from talking to others, that not everybody had been so lucky and I thought it important to let them know that I appreciated them.  And now that they are no longer here I am so very glad that I did write that letter.

And now I ask you “Is there somebody to whom you would like to write a letter before it is too late?”  I think there is nothing more cheering than receiving a handwritten letter from a friend or relative.





















A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to .. Antibes


As I said yesterday, it was a bright sunny morning and we set off to the South of France, the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera.

At that time, oh so many years ago, there were no GPS systems.  We had to rely on books of maps.  And few motorways, so driving was necessarily more leisurely than it is today.  Added to the fact that we were in an elderly Land Rover.  We did discuss the possibility of driving to Antibes but that was some 500 plus miles away; the sun was shining so we decided that were in no hurry.

We found a lovely place to eat our bread and cheese the local staple lunch time diet, beside a river.  Very peaceful and sleep inducing.  After a quick nap we were off again.  After a further 3 hours driving we decided it was time to find somewhere to stop for the night.  Having spent the last two nights in the caravan we thought we would treat ourselves to a night of comfort, warm bath and soft bed.  We found the perfect place.    A small hotel in a little village (sorry after all this time I just can’t remember its name) where we could get a bed for the night and breakfast the next morning.  We were directed to a secure parking area for the Land Rover and caravan  – secure parking included in the charge for the night –  and also to a restaurant for dinner.  We spent a lovely evening just the two of us speaking only to each other and to the waiting staff as we were the only diners.

Then back to the hotel for that promised bath and comfortable bed.  It was here that I first discovered the joys of the feather filled duvet common in France.  Oh the joy of that discovery.  We settled into bed only to be rudely awakened some time later by loud crying, wailing would be a better word to describe it.  The awful outpouring of grief went on for the rest of the night and so our hoped for night of peace was not to be.

When we went to breakfast in the morning – typically French with croissants, whipped butter, jam and large cups of coffee – we found out why the commotion in the night and what had disturbed us.  A woman had been travelling to Paris with her husband and children when they were hit head on by another car.  Her husband and son were killed outright while she and her daughter were both badly shaken up.  Hence the wailing.  A note here that today they would all have been wearing seat belts and perhaps might have been saved.

We paid our bill, packed up and left in a very subdued mood.  While we were enjoying out dinner the night before, total tragedy had befallen this other family.  We took time to find a public phone to call London and check on our family.

So next stop Antibes – and yes, that was yet  another experience/adventure

“Never drive faster than your guardian angel
can fly.”


Saturday Once Again


Six word Saturday button

It’s time once again for six word Saturday and today my six words are

“Let them eat cake, she said”

Want to play along? All that’s necessary to participate is to describe your life (or something) in a phrase using just six words – click here for more details.

I have just seen the movie “Farewell My Queen”.  A French movie with a German actress in the starring role.  Here we are shown (for the first time in my experience) the Revolution as seen by a servant.

We are introduced to Versailles in July 1789.  Unrest is growing in the court of King Louis the XVI. The people are rebelling – a revolution is imminent.  It is sweeping from Paris towards the court, and the bejewelled, befuddled aristocrats are only now awakening  to discover that they are in the way of a growing and impressive movement of the people and it  will not stop for them.

We are shown behind the facades of the royal palaces where fleeing is on everyone’s mind, including Queen Marie Antoinette and her entourage.  The story is told  through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting Sidonie Laborde    Sidonie is the Queen’s reader and  has become quite intimate with her. We are shown this intimacy growing and a relationship of trust develops.  With the Queen  and with great amazement, Sidonie experiences the first hours of the French Revolution.  Her  misplaced loyalty and conscious self-sacrifice  prove to be her undoing.

We all know that while France and its inhabitants have been starving, the court and its entourages /sycophants have been filling  themselves with expensive delicacies.  We are shown one scene where one of the maids complains about the bread and the retort is that whole families could live on that for a week.  We are given glimpses of the relationship between the classes of French society and the way the lower servant classes spy on, fantasize about and interact with the other upper classes.

In Paris, a list has been drawn up of 286 aristo heads set to roll. And people on the street have not only stopped showing respect for the king, many are waving pitchforks and torches in his direction. It’s July 14, 1789, and within days, the world will be turned upside down.  Once this list becomes known the nobles and gentlemen and ladies of the court fall over themselves int heir efforts to escape.

We see little of  King Louis XVI whose surprising choice to return to Paris on his own and face down the insurrection puts him way above the cowardly fugitives in his court.

We are shown the Queen as a weak willed woman, led by her husband but also by her appetites for gratification.  One of these leads her to an infatuation/love affair with Mme. de Polinac which she doesn’t try to hide.  But when she tells her lover to flee the country and Mme de Polinac agrees she feels betrayed and abandoned by her.  However, she convinces the young Sidonie to dress herself and act as Polinac so that an escape can be achieved.

This is a movie that is worth seeing even if only for the way it portrays the other side of the story of the Revolution.  How it impacts on a lowly maid in the service of the Queen and her ultimate sacrifice for her.