Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book review of Lovers in Paris by Andy Conway

french village diaries book review Lovers in Paris Andy Conway France

Christmas is now a hazy memory, New Year is rapidly approaching and I have the perfect solution to get you in the party mood; Lovers in Paris by Andy Conway, a collection of New Years Eve short stories set, unsurprisingly, mostly in Paris – the city of love. This book is a lovely mini-break in Paris and the great thing about short stories is the ability to pop in and out when time allows, although I had no trouble in turning the pages.

The couples in the stories are a good mix of different nationalities and their reasons for being in Paris are just as varied and while love is on their minds they don’t all buy into Paris truly being the city of love. There is romance, but this is not a soppy lovie-dovie book. We have first meets, unexpected get-back-togethers, disappointments, love at first sights, surprises and plenty of examples of fate taking a hand in the best laid plans. I enjoyed meeting the characters, reading the snippets of their lives and following their will-they-won’t-they relationships unfold and develop (or disintegrate) with a well-described Paris as a backdrop. Towards the end there is a lovely twist, which made a good collection of short stories even better. Unfortunately I can’t say anymore, as it would spoil it for you.

Lovers in Paris is available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon are below. Thanks to Andy for contacting me and sending me a copy of this book.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The France Show 2014

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion

Next year we will be celebrating ten years of living in France, but before we moved here we were regular visitors to The France Show held every January in London’s Earls Court. For those who have never been, The France Show is three days when the Francophiles of the UK are able to indulge in all things French without having to do battle with Ryanair or worry about French air traffic control strikes! I am delighted to announce that this perfect Francophile weekend, to be held on 17th to 19th January 2014, just got even better as I can offer you the fantastic discounted ticket price of £7 per ticket (‘on the door’ admission will be £13). This would make a great Christmas gift for the Francophile in your life.

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Perfect Patisseries
Here is what The France Show have to say about their brilliant event.

A fantastic French day out in the heart of London.

Earls Court in London is the place to be for a flavour of France in January!

Enjoy cookery demonstrations from top French chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Clotilde Dusoulier, the award-winning food writer, listen to bestselling author Carol Drinkwater, sample fine wines and champagne, visit the French market, pick up holiday ideas, play a game of petanque and enjoy the live entertainment!
Thinking of buying a property in France? Browse thousands of properties for sale in the UK’s largest French Property Exhibition and get the lowdown from the experts in the seminars, which cover all you need to know about buying in France. The best of France in a day!

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Fantastic Fromages
For more information and to buy tickets for just £7 each, CLICK HERE and make sure FVD67 is showing in the ‘promotional code’ box.

TICKETS £13 ON THE DOOR, Children under 16 free of charge

Many thanks to the organisers of The France Show for this fantastic special offer. I’m sure you will have a great day out and I know it sounds silly, but I wish I lived a little bit closer so I could go too! Please feel free to share this post with your French-loving friends.

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Ooh La La!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nativity Troubles

french village diaries nativity religion school France
Ed's 'cut out and colour' nativity scene
I am not normally one to talk about religion as we got off to a bad start when I was younger and the main thing that comes to my mind when thinking of religion is conflict. Most wars I know of have a difference of religion somewhere in their conception and every Sunday was a war zone when I was growing up. I was the sulky, slouchy teen who was dragged to mass every Sunday with ‘that look’ on her face, right up until the weekend I turned 18. I don’t think it is a surprise that neither my brother or I married Catholics or even got married in a church. I have also yet to meet anyone who is impressed with my GCSE in religious studies, so I have no problem with religion having no place in French state schools.

However, this does mean Ed has no experience of a nativity play or carol singing, although I know not everyone gets to star in their school nativity play. If my memory serves me correctly the short, fat, dumpy kid never gets to play Mary, whereas long legged, slim and pretty Lisa and Lara were always the stars at our primary school. At least being educated in France we have saved Ed from the trauma of nativity play disappointment. No nativity play also means there is no need for French parents to bribe the teachers into giving their little darling the best part, something I read happens a lot in the UK.

When Ed was younger we would read him the children’s versions of the nativity story and he really enjoyed the ‘cut out and colour your own nativity scene’ craft book that then graced our coffee table for many years, but I will admit Christmas has now become a holiday where he expects to be indulged by doting grandparents.

This year some good friends invited us to an English carol service being held here in France. To avoid the sulky teen act I remember so well it was Ed’s call whether we went or not, and go we did. The nine short lessons refreshed my memory of the nativity events and held his interest throughout. The nine carols, some we knew, some were new to us, were all sung to the best of our ability and enjoyed. As each reading introduced a character in the nativity, a slice of cake with a candle was added to a plate and anyone using cake to illustrate a point has my attention 100%. One lesson told of Joseph’s reluctance upon initially hearing his fiancée was with child that wasn’t his and I heard a lovely story this week about another reluctant Joseph.

A little boy at nursery school was playing the role of Joseph, but despite landing the lead role in his first nativity, all was not well. Our young star was disappointed as he had his heart set on the part of Mary. The reason was a simple one; Mary got to hold the baby! Why in these days of equality and political-correctness does Joseph not get to do his bit of baby holding too? Nursery/primary teachers please take note; you may just make some little boys very happy. Even ten years ago we never set gender boundaries on Ed’s playtime and he was as happy to dress up in Cinderella shoes or be a fairy with wings as he was being a soldier, policeman or pirate. If he had been in a nativity play I’m sure he would have been as happy playing Mary as any of the other parts and why not? More equality and less conflict can only be a good thing.

The carol service we attended was a great example of equality; being held in France, but in English and with a mixed French/English audience. It was a good evening out, with mulled wine and mince pies served afterwards, as well as being very good for Ed’s religious education too.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book review of French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow

French Village Diaries book review French Illusions Linda Kovic-Skow Loire Tours FranceI’m posting this review today as Linda Kovic-Skow’s book French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley (Book 1) is currently on promotion on Amazon Kindle and reduced to 77p for a limited time.

This memoir is set in the late 1970s in a chateau in the Loire where Linda, a young twenty-something, arrives from the US to perfect her French as an au pair for a year. It is her dream in life to work for an airline, but to do so she must have a foreign language and she will stop at nothing to fulfil her dream. Linda’s determination and strength of character are two of her traits that stood out for me during the book, especially as she put herself in a very awkward position. Her host family were expecting their third child imminently so hormones and emotions were running very high throughout the chateau when Linda arrives in their lives. They were also expecting her to be a competent French speaker, but she wasn’t and this made settling in even more difficult and not just for Linda. I can’t begin to imagine how different and difficult life in this chateau with two young children who don’t speak your language, a grumpy new mum and a tiny baby, must have been for Linda. This was years before the Internet, so contact with friends back home was limited to letters and an occasional phone call to her parents. I do know I’m not as brave as Linda and could not have done what she did, but she seems to have given the experience her best shot. Life wasn’t easy, but her language begins to improve, she meets some friendly faces and shares some lovely snippets of French family life and student life in and around Tours and the Loire. It was an interesting peek into a different life in a different era.

I know Linda is currently working on the second part of her time spent in France, but I would have liked this book to carry on a little longer. There is quite some excitement towards the end and then she just leaves us. This is great to ensure interest in the story for book two, but it felt a bit abrupt for me as I think her real adventure in France is just about to begin. I will be looking out for book two.

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley (Book 1) is available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon can be found below.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book review of The Half-Life of Hannah by Nick Alexander

The Half-Life Of Hannah by Nick Alexander is one of the (many) books that I found for free on Amazon Kindle. I downloaded it a while ago and have finally got around to reading it. I find there are always too many books and not enough time. Please note, this book is not free all of the time.
french village diaries book review half-life of hannah nick alexander provence france
The Half-Life of Hannah

In the book we are on holiday in the south of France with an extended family. Hannah aged 38, her husband Cliff, their 11 year old son Luke, Hannah’s sister Jill, her 13 year old daughter Aisha and Tristan, a family friend. There are tensions in the group from the outset and I have to say to begin with it was a little confusing to follow. It took me quite a few chapters to get who was who and even then I found I had to wait for the story to unfurl to understand a lot of what is running just underneath the surface. It was worth sticking with though, as towards the end I got totally lost (and lost track of time) in it.

Hannah is looking forward to a relaxing family holiday in the rented villa with pool, hammock, garden with stream and all the people she loves around her. However her safe life with her safe husband seems to be under threat when someone from their past walks back into their lives. There is a lot of confusion of feelings between the family members, add to that bottled up emotions and sibling rivalry and the situation threatens to reach boiling point. I have a degree in sibling rivalry from the good old university of life, so I could feel the anger that was playing out uncomfortably on the pages.

When the years of lies are uncovered it is up to Hannah to decide what comes next and how the second half of her life will play out. There are also some nice little vignettes of the France they visit scattered amongst the turbulence of the family drama that unfolds.

I am so glad that the sequel Other Halves will be published on 12th December 2014 as despite this book coming to a satisfactory conclusion, I want to read more.

Also by Nick Alexander with a French theme is The Case of the Missing Boyfriend and it’s sequel The French House. Both are waiting patiently on my kindle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Early December

French Village Diaries Cafe de la Paix La Rochelle
Café de la Paix, La Rochelle
I have been a little quiet on the blog as I took some time to enjoy five treasured days, the only ones that Ade had at home this month. I collected him from the airport at La Rochelle and we treated ourselves to a date at the delightfully decorated Café de la Paix before heading home where I kept him busy with the list of things that had broken/gone wrong in the time he had been away. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to have someone who was strong enough to put the front gate back on it’s hinges, someone to look at the slow puncture on my car, someone to struggle along with when manoeuvring the heavy pot plants indoors for winter, someone to encourage me to get out on the bike, someone to snuggle up with at night and someone to talk to when watching TV of an evening, even if we did miss many of the programmes when the talking took over. I even enjoyed getting up early on Sunday and making him a fresh batch of plum jam that was still warm when we breakfasted on our croissants and coffee.

My lovely weekend has evolved into a very busy week, as I am part of the organising team cooking up a meal for over 100 people for the Téléthon charity this weekend. I have been shopping for vast quantities of food and drink, helped with peeling kilos of vegetables and tonight we will be setting out the tables and chairs in the salle des fêtes before eating a yummy tartiflette together. Top tip – if you want people to come and help with something always offer a delicious homemade meal.

Thankfully having Mini and her doggy friend Toffee, who is staying with us this week, means I do have to go out every day and enjoy some quiet time in the countryside. There is not much to beat a crisp, early morning December walk with frosted hedgerows and mist clinging to the fields. Winter isn’t my favourite time of year but I can appreciate the beauty that is out there when you take time to look. The cold and frost are suggesting winter, but the stubborn golden leaves are still clinging on to autumn. There are deer in distant fields that thankfully the dogs don't notice and clouds of lapwings crying and calling out in protest as we disturb them in the fields. Life may be busy, both for Ade away at work and for me but I’ve lots to be thankful for and it won’t be too long before I have another date with my favourite man at my favourite café in La Rochelle. I hope you enjoy these pictures from my dog walks.

French Village Diaries France countryside walks frosty leaves
Frosty morning walks

French Village Diaries December France countryside
December country walks