Sneak Peek: Marathon Man

I am dreading this “writing streak” drying up. I had another “productive” day yesterday, when I finished a draft chapter. It features “James,” “Isabelle” and “Béatrice” in something of a light-hearted situation.

It also includes an unexpected reference to “Uncle Bill.” After all, when you are connected personally to someone “famous,” well, you never know who else out there might also “know” that “celebrity.” Nor do you ever really know where you might encounter a fan.

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“Just write that Austria lost”

Long-time singer/ performer Madonna has readily admitted she’s interested in “being provocative and pushing people’s buttons.” Presumably this rates as another effort at being so. The Guardian:

….Speaking to French radio station Europe 1 in an interview … Madonna said “antisemitism is at an all-time high” in France and elsewhere in Europe, and likened the atmosphere to the period when German fascism was on the ascent.

“We’re living in crazy times,” the 56-year-old singer said, calling the situation “scary,”….

….“It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form – artistic expression of freedom,” Madonna said. “Now that’s completely gone.

“France was once a country that accepted people of colour, and was a place artists escaped to, whether it was Josephine Baker or Charlie Parker.”….

That commentary has unsurprisingly attracted attention in France. If you click on the picture below, or here, it will take you to the interview. Her words are translated into French, but one can hear her speaking English:

Europe 1 screen grab.
Europe 1 screen grab.

Obviously she has read and heard various things over the years, and knows just enoughdinner party” banter to sound informed. Listening to her throughout her career one has never been able to suppress a feeling that she is the proverbial “mile wide and an inch deep.” You never quite believe she knows nearly as much as she appears to position herself as knowing.

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It’s “Schmaltz,” Say The French

The Independent newspaper here in Britain reports that France’s film raters will not give Fifty Shades of Grey an “adults only” rating. That means those as young as age 12 will be allowed to see it:

France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.

He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.

The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.

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From The Travel Photo Archive

In scoping out potential cover photos for the 3rd book, I paused yesterday to have a dig through old 35mm prints. Remember those (if you’re old enough)? It was called F-I-L-M.

I’d almost forgotten about this one. I can’t believe this is now approaching nineteen years ago. Almost TWO decades!

A famous landmark. In the foreground, a singer of some unidentified nationality was shooting a music video. [Photo by me, 1996.]
The Eiffel Tower (of course). [Photo by me, 1996.]
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#JeSuisCharlie In Corsham

Monday, news outlets here in the United Kingdom reported that Wiltshire (our English county) police had “investigated” a newsagent in the small town of Corsham. The shop had sold copies of Charlie Hebdo, and an officer had visited and requested the names of customers who’d bought it. The Guardian explains:

Wiltshire police confirmed that one of their officers visited a newsagent in Corsham, Wiltshire, to ask for the names of four customers who ordered the commemorative “survivors’ issue” of the magazine.

The incident came to light when Anne Keat, 77, who bought the special issue from that newsagent, wrote a letter to the Guardian to warn people that wearing badges emblazoned with je suis Charlie may attract police interest….

We live just down the road from Corsham. We have to drive through it to get to London. It’s a rural, even picturesque, place.

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Genève Aéroport

On Saturday, our ski week in France sadly ended. As all good things do. :-( We flew back to London from Geneva, Switzerland – which is about an hour’s drive from where we’d stayed in La Clusaz.

View from our chalet, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View from our chalet, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Geneva Airport isn’t huge. It feels rather “dated” as well. However, it also has corridors covered with wall ads for the likes of wealth management companies, astronomically expensive watches, Dubai, and stuff George Clooney’s hired to endorse; but before we got to any of that, we were in a mob scene at check-in.

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Six Nations

Americans tend to think of the French as soccer players, but rugby is hugely popular also. Last night, England took on Wales in the “Six Nations” tournament. Those battling for the championship includes those two countries, plus Ireland (including Northern Ireland, interestingly), Scotland, Italy, and, of course, France.

France has long been something of a rugby powerhouse. Yes, really. Many French love it. The national team’s prowess has been a source of great pride.

England v. Wales on France 2, February 6, 2015. (Capture by me.)
England v. Wales on France 2, February 6, 2015. (Capture by me.)

Like last night, even when France isn’t playing the sport still makes France’s national TV channel 2, on a Friday, from Cardiff, Wales, in what we Americans would term “prime time.” Wales led early. England took charge in the second half and won 21-16.

The international competitions are usually gripping. The U.S. can get up to the top level someday. What’s needed is enough funding and interest.

With the heritage provided by football, we should. Americans are “natural” rugby players. I think the U.S.A. is far more likely to win a Men’s Rugby World Cup before we win a Men’s Soccer World Cup.

Which concludes this sports commentary. Have a good weekend. :-)


In having posted back on Wednesday about those “ghosts” in our lives, one aspect of remembering deserves expanding: it is, we know, music. It stays with us. In many respects, our lives’ passage is marked by a “soundtrack.”

I had one of those experiences sitting in a small restaurant at lunchtime. During our meal, a “background music” radio station blurted out part of Jean-Jacques Goldman’s Quand La Musique Est Bonne. Released in 1982, it was an “oldie” even two decades ago:

I could have dropped my fork. It’s one song that marks, for me, “two decades” ago and especially hereabouts in France. We subsciously associate music with places, people and events to the point that we often barely realize the connection.


Last evening over dinner, our chalet “host with the most” sought to bring together a roughly 10 year old French boy, and two English sisters, who we figure are between about 7 and 10.

Mid-morning today, from our La Clusaz chalet. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Mid-morning today, from our La Clusaz chalet. [Photo by me, 2015.]
They were sitting with their respective parents at tables opposite each other. He gave it his best shot at coaxing them together. The kids did lots of giggling, but that was about all.

Finally he shrugged and declared in his friendly voice loud enough that everyone eating overheard, “I see it all the time. They become friends their last day. That’s sad. It should be from the first day.”


Had a slew of views and new connections in the last few days. I’m still trying to understand what prompts its ebb and flow. Some days so many, others many fewer.

Always intriguing regardless. Some people put A LOT of effort into their profile pages. Makes me feel kinda inferior. ;-)


Actually have time for some writing today. Going to try to take advantage of it. Have a good Friday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

In Our Chalet

Insofar as writing for the third volume is concerned, this ski holiday has been nearly a disaster. This week, I’ve gotten barely a couple of pages done: honestly less than one decent regular day’s work. However, we’re also having a great time – and, in a sense, I’m getting LOTS of new material I can use once home in England and comfortably at my desk.

The chalet owner is a Belgian, well-spoken in English, and reminds us of something of a cross between a pleasant Gerard Depardieu and my (mischievous glint in the eye) novelist uncle. As you don’t know my uncle, that comparison’s incomplete, but naturally I’ll explain more. ;-)

At breakfast, the owner confirms dinner is acceptable each night. (If anyone objects, the chef will do something else for them.) This morning, as her similarly aged English half was sitting at their table, he asked the 30ish, Scottish, female half who was at the bar getting coffee for herself, “Are you okay with the menu for tonight?” She approved quietly. He followed up by asking playfully, “And your lover? Does he approve it too?”

Her husband at their table next to us turned around to me, embarrassed, smiling, shaking his head. Seeing her expression as she walked back to their table, my wife told me afterwards that her face was bright red as she too embarrassingly grinned.

I'm taking pics of food now. A dessert. [Photo by me, 2015.]
I’m taking pics of food now. A dessert. [Photo by me, 2015.]
The owner has told me he used to own an art gallery in Belgium. In the last decade, he has redone what had been a shabby, old chalet. His booming, friendly voice can easily be heard singing or laughing during the day. (We even heard him outside while we were taking a walk our first day.) When I asked him if his chef was French, he joked, “French? No! He’s Belgian too.”

Evenings, they’re assisted by a Polish woman in her early twenties. She speaks French very well (at first we thought she was French until she told us her background), and English passably. The owner clearly relies heavily on her, but she also admits, though, to being a bit accident-prone. “I’ve broken so many wine glasses,” she once laughed to us from behind the bar.

Yes, welcome to France.

The church in the center of La Clusaz. Note the distant skiers on the slope to the left of the steeple, and the gondolas to the right. [Photo by me, 2015.]
The church in the center of La Clusaz. Note the distant skiers on the slope to the left of the steeple, and the gondolas to the right. [Photo by me, 2015.]
The chalet has 14 rooms. The guests so far have been mostly French. But there have been of course some other English-speakers besides ourselves and that English/Scottish couple.

Another, older, Scottish woman, unfortunately took quite a tumble skiing her first day and badly damaged a knee. That ended her skiing week. The other night (her last night), just before dinner, the owner concocted her a drink on the house.

“It’s terrible, she fall on her first day,” he remarked seriously to us. He then winked as he strolled off carrying the sympathetic, surprise glass to her table. “I try to make her feel a bit better.”

Hope you’ve been having a good Thursday, wherever you are. :-)

The Ghosts In Our Lives

I got an email yesterday from our former neighbo(u)r in Christchurch, Dorset. Sad news. Another neighbo(u)r, a widowed, later 80s-something Swiss woman we’d all known, died quietly in her sleep at home the other night.

She had been ill for some time, so her death wasn’t a huge surprise. But her passing prompted me into certain thoughts. As you may know, that’s usually dangerous territory.

Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I was last here in La Clusaz in 2003. Long before that, I knew nearby Grenoble. And Chambery. And Annecy.

We accumulate so much mental “baggage” over the years, don’t we? And we never really entirely forget, do we? Again in a vicnity, much comes rushing back. When one hears, sees, or even scents, we’re struck by a familiarity. You know what I mean? It’s that feeling of visiting an old haunt.

Yet if no one you knew there is around any longer, how does it also feel? Sort of disconcerting. The scenery and towns remain, but all of the people are strangers.

You think back on those you used to know, perhaps pondering on where they are now, and how they are. You may even stop and wonder indeed if they are all still alive? If decades have passed, it’s quite possible some aren’t any longer.

By now you had also already decided to try your hand at writing some novels and infusing them with certain memories of happenings from that old haunt and with those people. And when you find yourself back on that familiar turf, memories may become all the more vivid. In a way, you keep seeing “ghosts.”

If it all gets to be too much, sometimes the best thing we can do, though, is to stop with all of the wondering and introspection….

Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]
Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]

….and just enjoy dinner. :-)