Unlike Boris Johnson, I met my deadline. My book was published 1st November “do or die” as planned. No January extensions for me.
It’s called Le Glitch and it’s not about Brexit. It’s about a French village called Crêpe a million miles from nowhere.
Oh God! Not another book set in France. No thanks!
But wait! This isn’t a normal story. There’s no mention of lavender fields, pastis, croissants, or salad dressing at all. There’s not even any accordion music. This is straight from the heart. Straight from a mud strewn hellhole in a desolate part of France no one ever visits.
Which is why there’s a story.
Because one day a car arrives in this rathole. A family looking for a place to stay. They must be lost thinks the Mayor. Horribly lost! No one ever visits Crêpe. Why would you? You can’t even get a baguette.
Next day another car arrives. And another. Soon people are arriving from all over France. All lost. All hungry. All in need of a drink. Something very odd is going on.
But wait! Perhaps this is the moment the Mayor has been waiting for. To finally do something with his wretched life.
And so begins Le Glitch. Will the Mayor of Crêpe grasp the opportunity? Or will he blow it?
Out now as a paperback or ebook (click price below to buy).
It’s that time of year again. End of the winter, end of looking after the chateau. Time to move on.
First stop is Spain to which me and Elizabeth are cycling to in a few weeks time. Me on my ultra modern road bike, Elizabeth on her 1970 Peugeot Randonneur. The bicycle equivalent of the Ford Econoline van used by travellers and musicians in the 1960/70s. Lots of bells, chrome fittings, lights and racks. Perfect for a cycling trip in France and 1000 times more stylish – and comfortable – than my 21st century posing pouch.
We are going to be following part of the Chemin de St. Jacques to sling shot us down to St Jean Pied de Port and then catapult us over the Pyrenees towards Pamplona. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do since I was there a few summers ago on a camping holiday (Read Blogley post 139 if you can be arsed)
After that it’s back to Auty, then the long drive back to Double Brexit – sorry I mean the UK – to sort out a few bits and pieces. Like assassinate all the politicians and burn down the House of Commons. After I’ve done that it’s onward to Denmark via Essex (Also known as Stansted Airport).
Going to Copenhagen for three months feels almost exotic. Not in a Radox-blue tropical sea sense. Exotic in a Northern sense. Mysterious. Edgy. Cold. Vikings, longboats, herrings and plastic building bricks that get stuck in your foot.
I once saw a film when I was a kid in which a Viking chieftain is cremated on a longboat. The ship gently sailing out into the harbour fully ablaze until it caved in on itself and sank into the bay. A glorious send off. None of this black tie funeral parlour stuff full of straight faced vicars and washing line thin pallbearers receiving weak silent handshakes from relatives they’ve never met.
I remember the Viking funeral being spectacular, full of passion, death, honour and glory. Sending the warrior to a new life sitting at the high table next to Oden, a voyage over the waves, through the clouds and into eternity. Stark contrast to what happens to most of us: burnt in a cheap wooden box and then tossed into a rose bush or kept on the mantelpiece for the next 100 years like a ornament.
I said to my father after I’d watched the film that I wanted to be buried like a Viking. To which he replied while reading yet another dismal writeup of Leeds Utd’s latest demolition, ‘You’ll get buried like anyone else. In the ground. Here in Leeds. You’re not a Viking, Philip.’
‘Oh. Aren’t I?’ I replied and wandered off to research other burial practices from around the world. Parsi was my favourite: the corpse left on a high tower to be baked in the hot sun and then ripped to pieces by vultures.
(**Memo to my father: If I die in Copenhagen, I have the right to have a full Viking funeral. Longboat, flames, honour and glory – The Works.)
One Christmas I remember a quiz question from one of my sister’s board games. It asked, ‘Name three Danish brands?’
Most people would probably say what I said, ‘Lego and Carlsberg.’
I tried Danish pastries but that didn’t work. I could have said Bang & Olufsen (TVs), Netto (supermarket), Prince (fags), or Arla (cheese). Good to know now though.
I only other thing I know about Denmark is that it’s flat, which might be a welcome break after the ascent of the Pyrenees in a few weeks time. It’s also – or so I’m told – stylish. Which is where I may or may not fit in.
Style for me is drinking good coffee, not pretending it’s good just because it’s been squirted out of a ludicrously expensive Nespresso machine like a dribble of warm tar. Feeling good on the inside as opposed to obsessing about what I look like on the outside. It’s why I’ve been in the middle of rural France on and off for the past four years. I can dress in a hemp sack and there’s no one here to say, ‘What are you wearing a hemp sack for? You hippie!’
In Copenhagen I’ll probably have to say something like, ‘It’s not hemp, it’s brushed Japanese cotton. Seriously, you think I’d be wearing hemp. That was so last season!’
In a few weeks we’ll leave Chateau Dumas for good. It’s been a very pleasant year (2 x winters) and I’ve done lots of things. What, I’m not sure, but now it’s time to move on to Danish ‘Arla’ pastures new.
I’ll leave you with the last ever short video made here, featuring me trying to head a red football into the cold outdoor swimming pool accompanied by Beethoven. Au revoir and Bye!
More silly stories about my time in France can be found in A Man in France: Available in Books
Someone asked me today as I was trying to fit a bike rack onto a van with an assortment of ancient French tools made for a tractor, if I’d now be going back to the UK.
I replied quite quickly, ‘I voted remain, so I’m staying here.’
That was the end of the conversation and I went on my way carting bikes around for the retired English middle class. It was probably just a genuine question. But I couldn’t help thinking as I spun my (French made and owned) Renault Trafic round the tight corners of the Perigord, that the question had more to it. Loaded with disdain that I was swanning round France, living and working without a care in the world. As though I should join the masses back home under a governing class who want to force a real life re-enactment of the Hundred Years War. Join Citizen Boris in his crusade to be King of England. Why not? He’s bent over backwards to be Prime Minister, destroyed his chum Dave in the process, and taken his country out of a cushy trade agreement and into an economic abyss.
The Queen looks dead already so Boris must have eyes on the crown. If only because it matches his hair colour. With the Royal Family being the longest comedy act in history, another clown would fit in perfectly. Not that Boris Johnson is stupid in the slightest. His buffoonery, as everybody knows, is merely an act to fool people into thinking he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he knows exactly what he’s doing.
I should know, I do it all the time. Today for example. Scrambling around in 35 degree heat trying to fit a bike rack onto a van while being egged on by four retirees who were taking it in turns to add their own bike rack fitting wisdom into the equation.
‘Don’t do it like that! Do it this way! That’s not the way! I thought you said you were a bike mechanic!’
‘I am a bike mechanic, ‘ I replied laughing, grease and sweat running down my face like a demented clown. ‘Doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing.’
We all laughed inanely and just when I thought I’d done enough to get a free lunch – “Hapless bike mechanic earns free lunch from wealthy baby boomers!” Ha Ha Ha – I got hit with the question: ‘So I assume you’ll be going back now?’
Cue my rather curt response, Fuck off!, which ended all hopes of an afternoon munching lobster and sipping sweet Sancerre. We all then went back to being serious in true English fashion, talking about the weather and agreeing pickup times. I drove off and left them to get on with whatever retired baby boomers do on holiday. Which from listening to the majority of them since I’ve been doing this job is being amazed about how welcoming and pleasant the French are.
So there we go. We’re out, I’m in and Boris Johnson is King. Bonne soirée.