Archive for October, 2010

Kat Quickly – The Awakening

October 24, 2010

Last time I posted a review of a book – John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River – it set off an avalanche of unwanted comments, 90% of which were just spam. So let’s hope this one is different.

This book – The Awakening by Kat Quickly ( and be clear when you look on-line that you specify the author as the title is by no means unique), is written by a close and dear associate of mine, so it is a publicity blast for her, such that this is a minimally read blog. But all publicity helps in this on-line world. This is an on-line book – an e-book, only to be purchased here in cyber-space. Links at end of review. Here’s the blurb from Amazon.

What if you were the one who could do something about Global Warming? Would you believe the ramblings of a strange but handsome older man, and accept your destiny as the immortal daughter of Ursula the Warrior Goddess, protector of the Great Ice, and save the planet? This is Carmen Whyte’s destiny: of which she is oblivious until she meets Victor Bernhard, enigmatic owner of Great Blizzard Publishing Enterprises. Once Victor takes Carmen’s hand she senses a powerful connection that she spends much of the novel resisting. After all she is engaged to Andrew Adams: the most desirable bachelor in New York. Victor must bring Carmen to accept her fate; re-awaken the Half-lings, immortal half men-half bear/wolf, shape shifters like Victor, and restore the Great Ice. Carmen must accept her destiny willingly; expediently. Evil forces are gathering. The most dangerous threat is Andrew’s father, Will, powerful Senator & industrialist. Will’s initial approach is through Andrew. But as Victor’s influence grows, Will’s sense of urgency spurs him to drastic action. Will knows that Carmen can only be disempowered through marrying a mortal and bearing his children. Thus a battle is waged – a battle Carmen is reluctant to join, despite Victor’s warnings. Her true powers of insight and healing are slowly emerging. Finally the truth of Carmen’s birth is revealed, she sees Andrew’s true heart and goes to Victor. In a dangerous final confrontation between good and evil Carmen and Victor defeat Will and Andrew. Andrew is humiliated, now Carmen’s sworn enemy.

Essentially this is a romp of a book – erotic, paranormal romance, with bits of thriller and the environment thrown it. If you’ve had enough of vampires and feel like a new sort of shape-shifter – wolves and polar bears (I kid you not) plus immortal dogs, evil politicians, ex-olympic swimmers all with the future of the planet at stake then this is for you.

It’s a page turner, and even if everyone lives in great places, tend to be handsome and beautiful and dress well, as well as fly their own helicopters, there is also a considered focus on personal internal angst, the search for yourself and the difficulty we have with losing a beloved parent young and being left with the one we don’t really get on with. How do you choose the right man for you? How do you come to trust your own instincts? It’s not just a romance, there is plenty of meat here.

The plot twists and turns and in true romantic tradition our heroine, Carmen, must choose between two alpha males and much of the tension is around her choices, her ability to work things out for herself. There are some wooden moments, a few editorial glitches; perhaps the characters are somewhat stereo-typed, but this is e-publishing and at least this fun book gets a chance to get out there for someone to read and enjoy.

This is a book for a cold rainy day by the fire, soup, crusty bread and a glass of red wine. It will grip you – one of my male mates read it in two sittings: once he’d started he couldn’t put it down. You’ll want Carmen to make the right decision, be cross with her inability to see what is under her quite long nose, and cheer at the end when the odious Will and arrogant Andrew come completely un-stuck. It’d make a great film, lots of shots of the great outdoors, magic moments with shape-shifting wolves and the potential for a very handsome cast. I look forward to the next one.

Check it out here –

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-theawakening-454302-143.html

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Awakening-Ice-Chronicles/dp/B0042RUZAM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287919508&sr=1-1

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/simpleSearch.do?simpleSearchString=The+Awakening+Kat+quickly&typeAheadFormSubmit.x=17&typeAheadFormSubmit.y=12

Enjoy – tell me what you think. Spread the word!

Like the universe, ever expanding

October 3, 2010

And there we are – all back where we were – except for Twisted River which i jettisoned some time ago due to the stupid amount of stupid spam comments.

Normal service will be resumed – much silliness still in the world – after all one is back at work and that remains as mad as ever. A significant birthday looms and wisdom still eludes. The days shorten and the darkness grows, rain is ever-present and France well behind us now. It’s sad how quickly the joy of holidays evaporates in the harsh light of the real world of work and bills.

Still, the dog brings joy, the beloved daughter has returned to joy-bringing and we remain – amazingly enough – married, so must be something there. It goes on, it goes on. Life and blogs and the universe; ever expanding into the darkness, into the unknown.

Indeed, is there life out there – anywhere? Please say hello, so we’re not so alone.

writer’s block

October 3, 2010

I am in the middle of PhD studies – I tell you this not to brag but to open this comment on Writer’s Block, as it is entirely germane to the issue. I have been writing stories, articles, books and the odd bit of poetry since I was 10 – some publishing success, but not enough, as for most people. In these many years I’ve never been stuck for ideas or been able to write as and when I’ve wanted to. True, things have stalled from time to time, and I’ve given up countless times, but to be blocked fast, with no way to go ahead that was new. But come the book for the study and into the second draft (96,000 words of first draft) and I get stuck. Fast. Utterly.

I had been ignoring this state of being for a while – it struck in February after a dose of luke-warm feedback from my supervisor. Come April with no relief in sight I am facing it and seeing if perhaps through talking about it – to myself and selected others – I can move through the impasse and return to Ophelia (working title), which is now, like the Shakespearean heroine, foundering in a dark muddy stream somewhere in the subconscious.

In fact the analogous image is more like the sleeping beauty in her glass casket – you can see her, she seems all right from a distance, everything is there but up close you know there is something wrong. You can’t open the casket, the glass is impervious to your banging; to your variety of ways to open the glass; you cant smash it apart as what you need is still there, so caution is essential. But you remain positive that once you get past the thick protective, opaque shield you can do something to make everything work as it should again. You can see it, you can smell it, but you can’t touch it or bend it to your will.

I tried all sorts of methods that had helped get me moving in the past – but as I had never been this stalled before, nothing worked. I recognised that work was a burden to the creative mind, that having family responsibilities wasn’t helping, that physical exhaustion and drinking most days was simply dulling the brain. But recognising problems wasn’t solving them.

I put my book and characters to the back of my mind, let them sleep a while in my subconscious, hoping they would reveal their true selves to me and start to talk to me again so I could find them and me and the story, which was so far away on the horizon that no matter how well or fast I sailed towards the spot it was always moving away from me – its breeze much greater, my ship in a wind-shadow. I could not find my characters in my dreams and if I found an hour to sit and re-draft a chapter it seemed futile. I had lost the story, lost my purpose. The futility of writing – of the story itself – overwhelmed me. I made notes in my pretty writer’s diary about the despair of losing my characters, especially of the loss of my heroine – it felt as if a friend had died.

But what to do? Re-draft from where i was, knowing my supervisor wasn’t really into where I was? Start the whole thing again? But how – what time did i have for that? Did I have to abandon the structure, move to first person, what would make it zing again? I simply hadn’t a clue. I needed to move away from the story and just leave it be.

I entered a long and reassuring email conversation with my trusted writing mate on the other side of the world. She recommended a few articles and reminded me of the facts of life, of how we do too often burn all our candles at both ends. And what were we doing – what was the point of our writing, our being? It struck me that being blocked was because of the study component, that i felt compelled to write only about it – not let other ideas in, or play with new stories, as I usually did. I’ve always had several things bubbling away on my stove at the one time.

And then, on watching Notes on a Scandal an idea seeded; something new began to percolate in the brain, something was shimmying there; something new was forming. New characters presented themselves and dialogue wrote itself in my head; the premise of a new story unwound and a new heroine, deeply flawed and needy was there, demanding to be made flesh. I wrote pages of scrawling notes in my book, happy to be making again, happy to have a new story to work through and sort out. I was writing again – it may not have been Ophelia but I was writing. I allowed myself to smile.

Two things then happened. My other characters returned to my dreams. It was as if they knew they were in danger of being replaced by these upstarts. They crowded in, making themselves flesh again, but in new clothes, bright and clear and demanding. And I got a brand new iMac and it seemed to reconnect my fingers with my brain and spark the story back into life. Plus, work became a whole lot less frantic, so the brain freed up on several levels, as did life itself.

As I revised a few chapters I suddenly knew exactly what to do. The structure and shape of the novel that had eluded me presented itself and I knew it was right. I changed the opening completely, made my characters more of what they were, laid out the essence of the novel and re-wrote like a demon. It all came flooding back.

Time and patience and trusting that what you are writing is worth it – that brings it all back; that unblocks the brain. I’m now very happy with where Ophelia is going – initial feedback from supervisor is good and the recent re-writing is strong. We will have a novel worth having. And there’s another one waiting in the wings, for its turn in the spotlight, so the urge to get the new one started will get the old one finished, I know myself – completion, completion.

£3 000 000 would do it

October 3, 2010

£3 000  000 would do it – would be enough to give up work, pay all debts, buy a London flat in an area of my choice, generate an independent income, and give up work for the writing life forever. In the scheme of things it’s not a lot of money. I wouldn’t be idly rich – I’d finish my PhD and do it well; instead of this piece-meal paltry pursuit of publication I could write so much more; walk the dog, do lunch and be a loving generous parent. And, very possibly a loving wife.

Not that money is what i need to make me happy. No, that makes me sound so materialistic – and while I am to a normal extent, I do know that money does not buy a whole raft of things – love, health, an ability to play the sax and speak fluent french like a native. But it buys time – in the not having to work to earn money way of buying time. Thus I would be less stressed, less tired, more relaxed, kinder and I would laugh and smile far more often. Indeed I would become a much nicer human being. This is why money would be good: freedom from worry about money – bills, mortgages, children’s needs – and therefore the ability to make it a non-entity in one’s life.

So enough to eliminate the drudgery of work and bills, enough to free time and the spirit and the imagination. Not a lot, not a fortune, but enough. But from where?

Well, lotto isn’t working; I haven’t made the JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer break-through; I’n not going to turn into a middle aged Ronnie Biggs; and I’ve got no brain for money-making schemes, otherwise I’d not be lamenting my lack of money here in cyber-space. So, dear reader, you know the answer – work. I must continue working until – and very possibly beyond – retirement.

Indeed, my little financial fantasy flurry is prompted purely by the return to work after a simply sublime holiday. Work is not as terrible as it could be, or as it was. My pay is not pathetic, but oh, I do long for freedom from work, from the grind, from debt and anxiety that modern life imbues us all with. In this, at least I am not alone.

Tall Buildings

October 3, 2010

I

like tall buildings, big long things that reach up to the sky. Yes, the old fashioned sky scraper. I’m sure there’s something entirely phallic about this interest, so I won’t mention the Gherkin at all – especially not it’s shape, nor the fact that despite it’s exceptional green-ness (no 1 hated colour – blame my father) it is a wonderful, exciting and dramatic building that does add oomph to the traditional London skyline.

Not a lot of them in my home town, but more and more of them in my adopted town – which is a good reason to hang on here that bit longer. The first one I really had the hots for was the Orient and Pearl Tower in Shanghai – it’s so pretty – round and pointy and pink and so well lit up at night. The Chinese are very good at tall buildings – Pudong new area (as it was in 1997 when we were there) had some with interesting and imaginative ‘caps’ for want of a better word. You looked from the Bund across the Yangtzee  to this array of wonder and magic. Here, have a read about it and look at some pix – you’ll love it too. And yes, we went up it as well, and into the exec pod at the top due to ‘connections’ at the time. Mmm…

http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/China/Shanghai/Pudong/blog-495382.html

London is the city of regenerated tall building projects. The GFC stalled everything there for a while and I gazed upon the Strata Tower from my window, standing neglected and forlorn waiting to finish its thrust skywards. In the recent past I watched cranes and men doing foolish and daring things way up there in the sky and was very happy to be earth bound. It’s now finished and does, from some angles look like a resting owl, considering what it’s doing there marooned in Elephant and Castle.

But potentially the building i will love the most is the Shard, currently moving ever skyward at an alarming rate. I travel in and out of London Bridge Station every day and i must confess it did take me a while to work out exactly where the building was being built. You have to have you eyes open and every once in a while travel on into Charing Cross and then you see the drapes and the larger than life sign emblazoned for even the blind to see. Down on street level the amount of glass is awe inspiring. The amount of men working on the site equally so – they must have a break as we disembark the train in a morning because we invariably meet a host of them coming down the station road to the adjacent street – all with their Mace safety yellow vests on.

The Shard will be the tallest building in London and for those of you into facts and figures – courtesy Wikipedia –

General information
Location 32 London Bridge Street,Southwark in LondonUK
Status Under construction
Groundbreaking March 2009
Estimated completion May 2012
Height
Antenna or spire 310 m (1,017 ft)
Roof 305.7 m (1,003 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 87 (Including Radiator floors)
Floor area 111,400 m2 (1,199,000 sq ft)
Companies involved
Architect(s) Renzo Piano
Structural engineer Arup (Building Services), WSP Cantor Seinuk (Structural Engineers), Robert Bird Group(concrete temporary works) Ischebeck Titan on most floors 40+ for concrete support
Contractor Mace
Developer Sellar Property Group

Thus one of my plans in life at the moment is to remain in this fair city until the Shard is completed – a shiny pinnacle of glass and engineering wonder, that i can gaze upon for miles on my inward journey of a morning and be pleased that all is right with the Empire after all and perhaps England can be great again one day?

Scratch that – I’ll just marvel at the building and be grateful I don’t have to clean the windows!

Traveling Girl 1

October 3, 2010

On that day in February 1984 as she inched down her steep drive, away from the orange weather-board house that had been her home for the best part of her Uni days, she was not aware of – or even considering – the fact that she would never call this place home again. She would (without the faintest glimmer sparking in her synapses) from this very moment forward, always be moving on. She would never live in this city again.

Would she have set off so brightly, car packed with her small life’s worth of detritus – books, tapes, cats and clothes, to her new job and government provided shared accommodation four hours drive away on the brutally beautiful West Coast, had she known how her life would unfold? It’s hard to tell what we would do if we knew the future, all of it.

This clear blue February morning she was leaving her youth behind, the easy life of a student, the unhappiness of her family and too many messy affairs, and taking up her first job – teaching English and Social Science to the youth of Queenstown.

It was a desperate place – embroiled in environmental stoushes these last few years; its mining industry in decline; its 14 pubs a reminder of the good old days; its gravel football field a testimony to the toughness of the townsfolk. Its high school small and inhabited by neophytes like herself. It was the second worst place to be sent as a high school teacher. But she wanted work – she was finally qualified – and she needed to go. Saying no to the education department meant no job, unless you’d lined up something in the private sector and she hadn’t.

Two years. She had to do at least two years and then she could come back – well apply for a more civilised posting. Back here, she’d thought and resume her life in a place she was quite comfortable in after all. She was inordinately fond of the river.

Three years and the car would be paid off and she could go overseas – Europe and the UK, spend a year there, working in the schools, making some money; travel and see all those things she’d read about for years. Neuschwanstein Castle, Paris, Athens, London – Hampton Court and the Tower. Then, if she hadn’t met someone on her travels (as many did) she would come home, think about settling down, acquiring a professional husband, she guessed, buying a house and having a few children. A modest, normal life. Nothing too grand, nothing too exceptional. Oh, and write a few books and get published somewhere in there as well.

If she had a plan, that was it. Good in broad outline but no details and only scant attention to time-lines. She wasn’t a particularly driven person, not ambitious, not hugely smart – well an Arts degree (and Dip Ed) were not for the intellectually gifted were they? Not Medicine, not like some of her mates – too much maths and science there.  She was smart enough – she’d won a scholarship to uni and despite too many failures along the way (personal issues that even now she preferred not to think about) she’d had good teaching pracs, and would be all right as a teacher. Her mum had always considered it a good fall back profession. Her mum was thinking children – she was thinking writing – but that was in the indetermined future.

She drove on that February day with a calm sense of the future unfolding before her as the road did. She never thought of the alternatives, that she could have joined the public service, obtained a cadetship at the local paper. The alternatives that would have kept here, stopped her taking the first step that unhooked her from all that she knew, all that was familiar and comfortable to her.

Home would forever be a difficult word, used to mean so many things simultaneously. Belonging would be another word that she struggled to define and own. She played Split Enz loudly as she drove quickly, eager to get there, curious about her house-mates, nervous of the reality of classes all to herself – how would it all be? She examined her feelings – there was no sense of foreboding, no feeling that disaster awaited, only a sense that life was hers to take and mould and make of it what she wanted.

In dreams we are beautiful

October 3, 2010

In dreams we wander far from home – geographically, emotionally, physically, temporally. In my dreams – the ones I prefer to remember – I am young again and my body is firm and tanned and strong. I feel invincible and dream of liasions with old lovers and sometimes faceless men who seem familiar, where the dreams feel as real as life did then. When I dream of my beloved it is from those early days when we could only think about getting to bed or other places to fuck ourselves senseless.

And when I dream of other men (and don’t reveal such dreams, sometimes only faintly accepting them myself), men I loved and desired and recall only too well, I wonder – do they dream of me and think of me in that wistful nostalgic way? I know they have aged, wrinkled and paled. I wonder how many I would recognise in the street? Would they know me?

Perhaps it is better to recall them in dreams, conjured from nowhere to remind me of how gloriously carnal we once were? Perhaps it is better to wonder about past lovers and not to know of the current reality? I’d rather resist the urge to ‘google’ them and be forever disappointed.

No, far better to indulge in erotic dreams of past lovers, hug the dreams close, let them warm and remind you of what Apollos we all were, once upon a time, when it was always summer and the world was at our feet…

Home Again

October 3, 2010

Ah, me, the end has come and we are home. Arrived back in GB, to our little spot in London about 24 hours ago. We are still recovering – washing, sleeping, emptying huge email in-boxes – due to aforementioned difficulties with IT on the Continent. Blogging was bad but email was impossible. Oh, well, we went for a big break, so that includes not-communicating with the rest of the world. No TV either, so the federal election in OZ passed us by too. Perhaps that was a shame…

It was bliss to be back in the matrimonial bed last night after a month on air matresses – so noisy in the night as you roll from side to side, unbalancing like a top as one of you gets up for a night time loo trip, not to mention the challenges of intimacy! And wonderful to return to a washing machine, normal plumbing and my iMac.

But none of us wanted to leave. Despite the various and entertaining short comings of our little (it’s bigger than our terrace here in London but little cottage sounds right) rural French cottage – plumbing, cooking, heating, incredible amount of dust, outrageous and cheeky flies (as mentioned) and the bloody wasps. Truly, I think the only wasp free meals we had were in the restaurant. Even lunch down the main drag on Tuesday found a visiting wasp or two. Have meal – have wasp.

It was relaxing, it was miles away from normal (weasel word there – what is normal?) life; we had abandoned the rest of the world and moved among laid back friendly people who cared not where we were from or what we did. We even managed to be mistaken for locals being asked directions twice while walking beloved wolf. The food was lovely, such wonderful cheese and French breads and pastries – and cheap. We ate and drank well and importantly (for beloved) economically. We had picnics at the lake; walked in the woods, in the village and by the river, where child and dog splashed; we sat in the sun and read.

Beloved re-conquered War and Peace and Verdun, not to mention I, Claudius, a Balzac, the new Dan Brown and a bit of Stephanie Meyer, plus Mister Pip and Dorothy Rowe’s Why We Lie – my research reading. My list is not as wide ranging or ambitious. But I managed to get through 2 Why We Lie books, Nick Kent’s Dark Stuff, The Men’s Room – an old Ann Oakley (remember the TV series? It was the beginning of my Bill Nighy passion), a Bowie biography and AS Byatt’s The Children’s Book – disappointing, I have to say. Baby girl read The Host and some other teenage thing plus her usual array of Manga.

Reading is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures and to sit uninterrupted in the sun and around the kitchen table (not up to sofas yet) after dinner is bliss. You can read your book all day – luxuriate in it, think about, chat about it – share it. We all loved this bit of being in France.

But why did we all want to stay? Was it the reluctance to return to the real world, to face up to some of the grim realities that await on our return – the rejoining of the financial struggle; return to the diet; response from my supervisor re latest chapters; school and work?

Quite predictably, we didn’t want to come back to the grind, to life as it is, despite the various short comings of the French house, the bizarre plumbing, the odd weather – 4 days of brilliant sun followed by 4 days of thunder and rain; and our ever-present insects.

No, we liked the out-of-timeness of the location, of our holiday. We had a complete and absolute break, and to want to stay testifies to the success of the holiday. We’ll go back again next summer, but next time we won’t leave the esky in the car with the dog on the return ferry trip for him to chew into and eat the remaining brioche!

Dinner Conversations – Make Up – Enhancements & Delusions

October 3, 2010

Being an only child has its advantages, I believe. Although never having been one, I’ll have to go on assumptions and observations. Our youngest, due to the 5 year gap between herself and her sister and the fact that said elder sister has been living with boyfriend for last two years, is currently a de facto only child. This seems to bring many advantages – the current one being that she is in France with us being indulged and dined almost as we speak.

Thus during dinner conversations she has both parents’ undivided attention and gets to speak about a wide range of topics that interest her. She can ask all sorts of questions and get informative, bizarre, provocative responses that stimulate her little ole brain cells and should enable her to pass any Oxbridge exam without study. For example – do flies get fat?

And this evening – Why do women wear make-up?  She asks her father, while looking across the table at me, with my mascara, eye liner and shadow, blusher and lipstick; all carefully applied to look my best for our evening out. Most men don’t like women with make-up, says her father helpfully. Not even Mum’s? She pursues.

Ever the politician, he moves neatly into the two purposes of make-up – to enhance and to conceal. I of course enhance, I say, given the lack of foundation, powder and being locked in the bathroom for 6 hours getting ready. Yes, he sensibly nods. Your mother is enhanced.

Exactly, says youngest daughter – why would you get up so early every day just to put on make up? I’d much rather sleep. Yes, we nod, we all know that.

Concealing is the issue, we all agree. Putting make-up on with a trowel is the problem, he says and then has to have a longish aside explaining what a trowel is and how this is an insulting term and yes, we all know people who do it – girls in her class and some white girls in my senior classes. What about black girls and make-up? We ponder – do they trowel it on too? In fact, what about make-up for coloured women? We wonder as I recall Iman’s foray into cosmetics from my holiday reading on Mr Bowie.

But make up is not new: women have been enhancing their features for 1000s of years – Cleopatra and the Romans to name a few from long ago: a bit of colour for your lips, your cheeks, your eyes, to make the most of what you’ve got. To entice some man (or woman) to take a second look, to pay you more attention, as Antony certainly did with Cleo – and look where that got them.

There must be something in it for us to keep going with cosmetics, for it to be one of the mega-bucks industries of the modern world.  Despite my beloved’s avowal that men don’t really care much for make-up, or skinny women either, we persist in buying the beauty myths – the air-brushed models, the lies of the women’s magazines. We agree it seems to be more about women v women – I’ve read the stories for years about what men say they prefer, yet the media (owned & run by men?) don’t seem to believe it and persist with images of women that move further and further from what is real.

My baby girl and I have looked at the sites showing the before and afters of digital enhancement and you have to wonder why. Why is there this seeming compulsive need to enhance, conceal, delude and lie? Is it just to sell more products, to make us – women especially– feel worse about ourselves and accept the nonsense about beauty, attractiveness and love?

We all want love, we want control over our lives –so say the books I am reading about why we lie, but we compulsively lie and delude ourselves about all manner of things to maintain our egos, our sense of self. So, do we buy beauty products (and remember there is a boom in men’s grooming products and gay men are inordinately fond of looking good too) because we want to be loved, because it feeds our view of ourselves as beautiful/loveable, or because we are gullible enough to believe the lies of the beauty industry and the media about how we – men as well as women – should look?

Back at dinner we agreed that daughters tend to do what their mothers do. Eldest daughter wears about the same amount of make-up as me – mascara, eye liner (since about 15 I think, when she started “borrowing” my stuff) and a touch of lip-stick: she’s now just graduating from lip gloss. My mother wore more than me – foundation, powder, etc. But I spent twenty years living in the tropics and only those who never moved from the air-conditioning wore a full face of hours-to-put-on gunk. It was a bit like hair – I didn’t have time for anything fussy or that would, in the case of a face of make-up, melt away within the hour of application.

So, laziness is my reason, I guess and perhaps an acceptance of my own level of attractiveness and understanding that I was never going to be beautiful no matter how much money, time, effort or make-up was expended. Being loved helped too – with modest enhancements, naked face in the morning and worst, panda eyes in the days when late nights ruled and cleansing routines were abandoned.

I have been beautiful in his eyes and now I am just fine in mine. I hope my girls can do the same.

Adventures in France 2 – Dinner Out

October 3, 2010

In our village there is not even one cute shop – no boulangerie, no patisserie, no supermarket, no bar. Indeed if you didn’t have a car you would starve – the nearest anything of convenience is 7 ks away – a nice enough drive, but a nasty stroll.

But there is a restaurant – do not ask me why. A restaurant that is open Wednesday – Sunday – for lunch and dinner and, very clearly when we have been there, for drinks at the bar for the local inhabitants of this very small, very picturesque, rural French village. It is in the village centre, next to the war memorial, just a second from the mayor’s office, in sight (and sound ) of the village church, also quite large for size of village, it seems to me. We have been twice now and might go again before heading back to the joys of London.

Most handily for those of us whose French is only primary level and that from nearly forty years ago – the Maitre’d (and possibly the owner?) has a decent smattering of English. This is because he has spent time working in French restaurants across New York. You can only wonder what on earth he is doing back in his tiny hamlet of origin after time in the Big Apple. However his ability with English was appreciated – having eaten some exceptionally strange and intriguing things in Paris, Timor and Shanghai in the past due purely to language difficulties.

Both evenings now we have supped from the set menu – 4 course at just over 18 euros per head, not including wine, but including cheese. Entrees are salad arrangements that would stand as a very decent lunch – salad and little lightly fried fish, salad and dried meats and cheeses, salad and bacon and beautifully poached eggs – lots of fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumber, dressing and endless crusty bread to go with everything.

Main courses have been hearty, filling and just wonderful. I’ve never seen beef, pork or chicken cooked in such a way – no such recipes can be found in any of my French cookery books. The first week I had slices of pork with some lovely cheese melted over it, plus carrots, wedges, peas and other vegetables. Beloved and baby girl had tender rounds of beef and same veggies. Filling, tasty and good choices made by all.

Then the cheese – a tiny pot of something very runny with a spoon and a slice of what looked like edam but wasn’t – a smoother but bitier taste. The runny cheese pot was not possible for beloved and child, but i found it all (yes, I helped them out) quite yummy spooned over the bread. Second visit, however, we abstained from the fromage.

Main course second week saw pork cheek in some lovely sauce for beloved and chicken leg (not wings as we’d expected – slight language issue) with mushrooms, stuffing and sauce for off-spring and myself. The veggies were a mix of squash, peas, capsicum and something else and potatoes like i’ve never had. They looked like warm potato salad but tasted like heaven. This was the best chicken dish of my life – tender, succulent chicken, firm mushrooms, textured stuffing that complimented the rest. Even the girl-child who can be mushroom shy ate it all up. My sample of the pork said that was pretty sweet too.

Desserts were special – some caramel confection, sort of meringue but soft and melty and so sweet week 1 and week 2 a rhubarb pie. Which was nothing like a pie at all – not something with cream or ice cream with pastry on the top –no, indeed. It was a flan thing, with soft centre and caramelised rhubarb on top and within. Sweet, delicate, filling and lovely.

We waddled home, fuller than any old goog, utterly replete on such exquisitely cooked food. Filing, fresh, interesting and fabulous.

Oh and the house aperitif is almost worth a visit on its own – red, sweet, hint of marzipan and red berries and completely chilled. I could drink a carafe of that. One strange note – on the first Thursday night we dined they were playing Foo Fighters. Mm, daughter and i wondered, very disconcerting here in rural France to listen to old Foo Fighters songs as we eat fab French food