Thursday, April 9, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twenty-four

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-four
A glorious day to spend relaxing in the garden


Day 24 In holiday mode

If yesterday had been a lovely day, today was double lovely. The weather was glorious and lounging around watching the swallows and house martins chattering to each other as they sorted out their nests, was pure bliss. At 24º it was warm enough to dig out my shorts and summer tops from the bottom of the wardrobe. I wasn’t getting anything done on the to-do list, but it made me feel a little better about missing out on a cycling mini break.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-four
#KTTinyTourer The Marais Poitevin


Today we should have been setting off to the Ile de Ré with our Bromptons and our Brompton cycling friends from London. Leaving from Niort, following the Vélo Francette through the Marais Poitevin and the Vendée, into Marans, La Rochelle and onto the Ile de Ré. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for an April cycling tour, but I had to make do with looking back on last year’s photos of days out in the Marais Poitevin and Ile de Ré. Maybe next year.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-four
#KTTinyTourer Ile de Ré

April is often a holiday month for us, but I’m not sure holidays are going to be easy for any of us in the coming months. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a daily travel photo memory with you. If nothing else, it might give you a change of scenery to look at and maybe inspire your next holiday to France.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-four
St Martin de Ré, Ile de Ré

It was an early start for Adrian as although we ran out of fresh veg yesterday, we had made the decision to leave shopping until next Tuesday. As head of purchasing, he says that is the best day to shop to avoid the crowds. Then we realised it’s Easter weekend so next Tuesday is likely to be busier as shops here will be closed Sunday and Monday. Thankfully for him, this morning proved to be another crowd-free, no queue, but stacked shelves, shopping experience and we are now well stocked for another ten days.

I did manage to drag myself into the kitchen this afternoon and put some of Adrian’s fresh veg shopping to good use with a (hopefully) tasty vegetable lasagna. All being well it will be ready to take out of the oven and serve in the small window between the end of this evening’s yoga class and the virtual pub quiz we are doing with friends, via Zoom, tonight.

It's all go here.

Stay indoors, stay safe.


French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-four
#KTTinyTourer Ile de Ré

Lockdown library

Today’s reading suggestion is inspired by the lovely Ile de Ré and the feel-good, humorous novels by Karen Clarke that are set on the island.

Book review of Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries book review Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet
Rendez-Vous in Cannes

My review today is for Rendezvous in Cannes, by Jennifer Bohnet, rereleased this week by Boldwood Books, with a beautiful new cover and a few extras inside. 


French Village Diaries book review Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet
Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet

In this book the Cannes film festival comes to life and there is plenty of behind the scenes drama and emotion. We meet two characters in town for the event, Daisy and Anna, who are both at a time in their lives when they have got new adventures to look forward to, but there are things in the past that need addressing first. For Anna especially there are secrets that have been buried for too long and although it may now seem too late, the past isn’t quite ready to let them go just yet. 

There is a lot of sadness surrounding Anna and without the love in her life from Leo she would have been very lost and alone, despite the crowds and buzz of Cannes. Her story is from a past where things were done differently, and decisions were made in the belief they were for the best. I felt very sorry for the young Anna. 

Daisy is young, single, energetic and keen to move her life and journalist career in a different direction, but unsure of how and where to start. I enjoyed getting to know Daisy and especially loved the little snippets from her daily festival reports, usually written outside a café, with a coffee and a croissant, where she was being paid to write and people watch, lucky thing. 

As you would expect for a book set amidst the excitement and glamour of the annual film festival, it is full of the glitz of designer clothes and accessories, where diamonds sparkle in the light of the paparazzi flash bulbs and villas are alive with parties full of stars. 

Jennifer’s writing was not only sensitive in the emotional scenes, but also brought Cannes alive and I could feel the electricity of the festival. If you love the South of France don’t forget to pack this book for your holiday this summer.




 
French Village Diaries book review Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet
Rendez-Vous in Cannes blog tour

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter.


French Village Diaries book review Rendez-Vous in Cannes by Jennifer Bohnet
Jennifer Bohnet

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twenty-three

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-three
Potted on seedlings


Time in the garden

Today was a garden day, with morning coffee after yoga taken on the bistro table in a sunny spot by the house, followed shortly after by lunch of homemade soup and flat breads out in the sun. It was peaceful, warm and relaxing.

Then there was work to be done as the seedlings had grown too big for the tubs I sowed them in. Forty courgette, pumpkin and butternut squash seedlings now have their own little pot and their next move will be out into the potager in about a month, frost depending. There are about another twenty squash that are still a little too small, but with around sixty plants, I have high hopes for a great harvest this year. We also potted on about thirty tiny tomato seedlings, but I let Adrian handle these as they just seem so delicate in comparison the thick stemmed, large leafed brutes of the courgette family.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-three
New growth on the fig tree

The sunloungers and kindles then required our attention and sitting in the garden reading, and taking time to admire the blossoms and new growth, we could feel the heat of the sun like on a summer day.

Adrian and Ed then mowed in the orchard and potager, again, and I’m sure the grass out there has never looked so well kept so early on in the season.

Dinner this evening will be a pork risotto, using up the last of the supply of fresh vegetables, and if I’m quick, I’m hoping we can eat it in the garden too.

Lockdown library

Today’s reading selection is for Laura Brigg’s latest A Train from Penzance to Paris that released today. You can read my review here.

Book review of A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs

French Village Diaries book review A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs
A Train from. Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs


A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs

Synopsis

When Maisie accepts a celebrated author’s invitation to mentor her, she finds herself leaving Cornwall behind on train tracks bound for the glitter city of Paris. Instead of making beds and serving coffee at the Penmarrow hotel in Cornwall, she’s making notes on her manuscript while sitting in a French cafe, meeting famous writers at private dinner parties, and trying to ferret the secrets behind the author’s unfinished future novel.

It’s glamorous, it’s breathtaking … but it’s also an ocean channel away from the place that she loves, and, more importantly, the person to whom she just recently confessed her deepest feelings. Separated from Sidney by distance and circumstances, Maisie fears that their connection will be lost despite her words to him – and maybe because of those words, and the ones she didn’t allow him to say in return.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of things in her new life trying to distract her – the professional editor hired to critique her novel, the eager young literary agent who sees pie-in-the-sky potential for Maisie’s talent, but Maisie finds solace in the eclectic group of amateur writers into whose midst she finds herself by accident. Their critique and advice is fast becoming as important as the editors – maybe even more important than the published author Maisie believed held the keys to refining her skill.

But it’s missing Sidney that fills Maisie’s thoughts the most, along with her life back in Port Hewer, and she can’t stop wondering whether his feelings are the same as her own. His unspoken answer has become one of the most important pieces of her life, even as she struggles to match the pace of her new life and keep her dreams in sight. And when she unwittingly becomes privy to a seeming literary conspiracy, she must decide what to do in light of its truth – and decide what’s most important in her quest to become a professional writer.

Join Maisie in a whirlwind tour across two of the world’s greatest cities, filled with questions, dreams, and a chance for fame that she believed far beyond her grasp, as she discovers herself as a writer, and how to embrace an unexpected future on her own terms.

 
French Village Diaries book review A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs
A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs


My review

We first meet Maisie in A Little Hotel in Cornwall, book one in the series, when on a whim she leaves the US and follows the only clue she has to try and find her favourite, elusive, author, who she believes is in Cornwall. A young writer, rejected from a mentoring programme, she feels sure this author will give her the best chance to make the most of her debut novel. 

The author may prove to be difficult to track down, but Port Hewer and the quirky Penmarrow hotel she finds herself working in, soon become very special places for her. A Train from Penzance to Paris is book five in the series, and you will probably follow along better if you have read the previous books.

Maisie is the sort of person who things happen to, so it is no surprise that she is off on an adventure once more, trailing behind Alli, an author who has promised help with her novel and connections to the right people, in Paris and London. There is an innocent naivety to Maisie, but a determination to follow her dream and do anything it takes to become a successful writer. This includes leaving behind Port Hewer and Sidney, a drifter who she met on her first day at the hotel and who she has become close to. Her daily letters back to Sidney are mostly left unanswered, but he does have a special something he sends on to her, leaving her more questions than the answer she is seeking from him.

Introduced as Alli’s protégée, Maisie joins her at exclusive social events, is treated to a boutique shopping experience and meets those in the publishing world who could make or break her dream. Alli is flighty, vague and difficult to get a straight answer from, but a bit like a fairy godmother as she generously shares her life and contacts with Maisie.

Maisie learns a lot about Alli and the publishing world and how it works, but more importantly once the excitement of Paris and London dies down, she discovers things about herself and the direction she wants her writing journey to head in. 

This series is great fun. The short novels are full of energy, adventures and quirky characters who you never quite seem to get to the bottom of.

French Village Diaries book review A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs
Autor Laura Briggs

You can follow Laura on Twitter and Facebook 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twenty-two

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-two
Covid-19 confinement day twenty-two, feeling reflective


Feeling reflective

We are now into week four of confinement and life outside of our little home bubble is still a very scary place. People are still falling ill in large numbers, hospitals are still struggling to cope and well-known names, including the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are being hospitalised. I don’t read too many newspaper articles in full as the more I read, the more out of control it all feels. 

Despite all of this so many still do not seem to have grasped the concept of staying at home, or the importance of social distancing when they do leave home. I find this as hard to get my head around as I do the surging rapidity that the virus is spreading by.

I last ventured out of the village on day eleven. It was calm, uncrowded, some people wore masks and gloves, many didn’t. I think it would be different if I went out now. The French official line on wearing masks has shifted in the last few days, from there being little point in wearing one, to them being an effective barrier, and if the wearing of them is adopted by many people, a good way of reducing the spread of the virus. Medical masks are now impossible to get hold of, but our Mairie has encouraged those of us who sew, to make homemade ones to be given to the more vulnerable in the village. Once my accounts and admin duties are completed this week, I shall be making some more, especially as I unearthed a lot of spare fabric during a tidy up. If you would like to give it a try, here is the pattern I used and some simple instructions.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-two
Mask template

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-two
Mask instructions

Coping

My current coping mechanism seems to involve the need to be as organised and in control at home as possible. In fact, this need has given me more drive and motivation than usual. Every task I achieve from clearing out the freezers, to ensuring there is always a homemade cake in the tin, to getting around to sorting areas of house and garden that have festered for too long, all help to improve my mood. This increased activity is balanced by yoga and home cooked meals, which keeps me feeling calm, grounded and sleeping well at night. We are all different. For Adrian, hard exercise is what he needs and for Ed it is his music.

Change of focus

In some bizarre way I think I needed this massive change of focus. Something big and beyond my control, forcing a rethink and taking the attention away from the doom and gloom of Brexit. This is bigger than Brexit and has the magnitude to create more harm and damage to our lives, but this time we are all in it together. There are no smug voters who won, nor any ‘remoaners’ who lost. This is an invisible war. We can’t see the enemy approach we can only try to protect ourselves and those around us to the best of our ability and do whatever is necessary to cope. If we are targeted, we just have to hope that we can recover.

Stay indoors, stay safe.


Lockdown library

My reading selection for today is Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings. These books are pure magic, two collections of short stories from different authors, set in different era’s but all featuring the enigmatic Miss Moonshine and all scoring a 100% hit rate on feel-good happy endings. Just what we all need in the world right now.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twenty-one

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-one
No blue sky or sun today, so here is a pic from the garden I took a few days ago


Early bird

I often wake up early, tentatively listening to the sounds outside before opening my eyes and taking a peek at the clock. This morning the birdsong had been replaced by soft rain falling on the roof and splashing into the gutter. I lay still and quiet as Adrian isn’t at his best on rainy days and I figured he had no need to discover the change in weather when it was only 6.20am. 

Things didn’t get much better when I got up and realised I had once again forgotten to make my breakfast last night. I somehow thought writing about it here would help me to remember, I was wrong about that. Adrian has come up with a clever solution, so rather than overnight oats, mine will now be 24hr oats and will be made up at breakfast time, for the following morning. Surely even I can’t forget breakfast, at breakfast time.

The rain continued on and off all day, but at least this gave me a good excuse to busy away on the quarter-end accounts. Work may have come to a dramatic halt, but the accountant will still want to know what has been going on since January, and I’d much rather sit indoors with my spreadsheet and piles of receipts on a wet day than a sunny, gardening one.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-one
In the pain cave together

We also did a bit of indoor exercise in the pain cave, notice how I’m moving so fast, I’m blurred!

My writing buddies

I did take a well-earned break this afternoon to have a virtual catch up with my writing group via Zoom. We normally sit around a table, writing, learning, thinking and sharing, before enjoying tea and tasty homemade cake. Today I was sat on an inflatable cushion with my notebook and pencil, in my new yoga nook thinking it seems a shame I moved the writing desk two days ago. Mel gave us five words and about ten minutes to come up with a short piece using as many of them as possible. If you would like to have a go, the words were; blue, hat, water, table and waiting. Here is what I came up with:

Sitting in my garden on a warm afternoon is one of my favourite ways to relax. The blue sky above me, cloudless on a perfect day, busy with the birds circling and diving, dipping into the pond to sip at the water. On the table in front of me my lazy old cat is stretched in a pool of sunshine, his paws playing with the ends of the ribbon that is tied around my discarded straw hat. The time passes easier out here, with the gentle distraction of bees and butterflies to catch my eye, soothing my pain a little. I know my time waiting for his return is far from over just yet.


French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-one
Trying to look intelligent in my glasses


A documentary film star in the making

Ed has also been busy, working on a project for uni on the topic of “Are small French villages dying?” The plan, before lockdown, was to interview a few key figures in the village and seek their views. Sadly, this is now impossible, meaning his only option was to use the one member of the village council he lives with, me. The main challenge for him was that I instantly freeze when you poke a camera in my face, and to add to my woes I had to plan what I wanted to say, and deliver it, in French. However, (and here is the funny bit) as it’s for his English class, he now has to subtitle my text back into English. If you are still with me here, well done.


French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty-one
Mobile attestation here


Mobile phone attestation

The French government have launched a new mobile phone version of the attestation we need to fill in every time we leave home. You can follow this link here, fill in the details online, on your phone and it will generate a copy of the form that includes a QR code to show if requested.

Stay indoors, stay safe.



Sunday, April 5, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twenty



French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
Ready, steady, cut!

Pop-up hair salon

Well, maybe salon is taking things a bit too far, but I could wait no longer, my fringe (bangs) had to be trimmed and as I’ve been shaving Adrian’s hair for many years now, it seemed only fair he got the chance to have a go too.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
I can see again!

I was unnecessarily nervous as the minutes ticked slowly by, imagining the result would be something way too short, but even before I got a peek in the mirror, it already felt so much better now it wasn’t tickling my eyes. As I hope you will agree, he’s definitely hired and did a great job even if the only comb we could find was a beard comb and the scissors were kitchen scissors!


French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
La Cornuelle


Palm Sunday or Rameaux

Today is the last Sunday in Lent and a day I’ve always looked forward to, since I discovered the special biscuit, la cornuelle, baked locally to celebrate. In these unusual times I was looking forward to a moment of normality this morning when I arrived at the boulangerie. However, I was disappointed as sadly, there were no pretty triangle shaped buttery biscuits, with fluted edges, a hole in the middle and decorated with aniseed sweets, for me to buy today.  Bernadette admitted that with everything that has been going on recently, she had completely forgotten all about les cornuelles

The tradition behind these biscuits has two explanations. The first being the triangular shape represents The Holy Trinity; The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit and traditionally it was baked to be sold at the entrance to church on Palm Sunday, where a sprig of box (another traditional French symbol of Palm Sunday) would have been placed in the hole. The second story comes from those whose beliefs are more Pagan than Christian, and with spring signifying new life, la cornuelle is believed to be triangle shaped to represent the female reproductive organs and is a sign of fertility. Maybe Bernadette was subconsciously erring on the side of caution, as many believe this period of enforced confinement is likely to lead to a rise in the number of births in nine months’ time, so I guess there is little need for a fertility biscuit this year.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
My courgette, squash and pumpkin seedlings

Talking of signs of new life, I can’t help but share news of my courgette, pumpkin and squash seedlings, that are growing so fast, they will need to be potted on this week. I hope you agree they are little beauties and so far, I have counted a whopping 60 have germinated.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
Adrian in the potager

Adrian has also been busy rotivating the potager and turning the compost heap, all necessary tasks getting things ready for the seedlings to be planted out next month. As I now know the exact contents of my freezers, this year’s harvest can’t come soon enough as stocks of last year’s roasted veg purée are running very low. 

Stay indoors, stay safe.


French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twenty
The Roma Nova series by Alison Morton


Lockdown Library

Today’s reading suggestion takes us away from France, into the alternative history world of Roma Nova, a series written by local (to me) author Alison Morton. Alison is currently offering book one in the series, Inceptio, FREE on kindle. 
Universal link here.

Alison and I both write a regular piece for The Deux-Sèvres Monthly magazine and Alison and her husband kindly offered us a bed for the night when we took on the challenge to cycle the whole of the department on a charity bike ride back in 2017.