Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I’m talking to author Andy Frazier about what France means to him.
Andy lives on a smallholding in South West France where he spends his days writing for children and occasionally adults too. He is a very funny guy (in my opinion) and I always enjoy his ramblings/rants on his life in France, which are now into a third ebook edition, A Parrot in My Soup, Who the Heck is Auntie Florette? and Trumpy the spider-frog. You can read my review of the first two here.
Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?
Andy: I love the way farmers drive massive shiny tractors but then understated battered little white vans – without a Range-rover in sight! This certainly defines rural France, compared to UK.
I quite like berets and now own a collection of them for all occasions.
2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?
Andy: I used to visit the Paris agricultural show in Parc d’Expostions, right in the city centre. It was a fantastic mix of peasant farmers and chic Parisians, along with massive cows and fabulous food. It still is, and well worth a visit in early March, just for the food hall alone.
3) When you first arrived in France what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?
Andy: I loved the language challenge. Everything, from ordering food to plumbing accessories, was a test that I relished. The moustaches scared me a bit, though.
4) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?
Andy: I still haven’t grasped the local dialect properly after 7 years. I learned my French playing pool for a local bar after dark. Some of the phrases I use still raise an eyebrow when used in daylight! It’s like being a Glaswegian!
5) Every region in France has it’s own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish?
Andy: Duck – with everything! In the south west, just about every meal revolves around it. Confit, Cassoulet, Magret - all with extra lard. Who needs health anyway!
6) Is there anything French you won’t eat?
Andy: I can just about manage raw oysters without gagging. However, now I have learned to cook with them, they do make it on to our dinner-party menu from time to time, with a cheese and Worcester sauce sauce.
I also refuse to eat Aquitaine beef as a) one once broke my nose and b) it is tougher that a Geordie dock-worker and only fit to resole my brogues!
7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?
Andy: Aha. A loaded question. Usually I am OK with un café, but sometimes it comes with a Pastis which is a great wake-up call after a busy night before!
8) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?
Andy: I might be a Coulomiers - round, soft in the middle and not overly rich!
9) How would you explain that very unique French concept of ‘terroir’?
Andy: I once described the bouquet of a Marmandais red at a wine tasting as having a hint of ‘doggy doo’! I knew exactly what I meant but it did cause a bit of a giggle when I left my tasting notes behind and they were circulated by email.
Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?
Andy: When don’t I? I once wrote a book, and then couldn’t stop. I think I am now on number 30! My latest project is a true story about a guy who built a plane in his upstairs bedroom in an Airdrie council-house, and then couldn’t get it down the stairs. It should be out in summer – the book, not the plane!
Currently I am researching for a commissioned history book about cows, which has me travelling in UK for a few months this year. I am very honoured to be appointed with this massive undertaking.
I also just released a novel called Sheeple (A political romantic comedy erotic crime thriller-drama - with some sheep in it, obviously!), which is set in a parallel world run by sheep. It is, at the very least, quite bizarre – but fun!
In my spare writing time, I submit a column to a UK magazine about our life here in France, containing my biased, sometimes bigoted and usually un-pc opinions on life in general. Each year it gets published into an ebook and this year’s is the third in the series, entitled Trumpy the spider-frog.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.
All of Andy’s books are available on Amazon and you can follow his blog here.