I’m not sure whether I should be delighted or slapping myself on the head and going, ‘Durrr!’
As I’ve been doing quite a lot of work today (aka much effing and blinding) on setting myself up a Facebook author page, doing a LinkedIn profile etc I thought I might as well check how the sales of my books on Kindle are doing. Normally this is pretty gloomy viewing and needs a strong drink before I have the courage to click on “Prior Six Week’s Royalties”.
Today I noticed for the first time that what I assumed were my total sales were just those for Amazon.com, including India. Since I’ve never been published in either place and all my publicity has been aimed at the UK so far it isn’t surprising that my sales haven’t been astronomic. Now I’ve looked at Amazon.co.uk my general sales are quite healthy, well better anyway.
So while I’m not looking forward to royalties like this for March,
I have a feeling some other people will be going ‘Durr!’ for me.
Note to self: Inspect under the fridge. And the cooker. And think about the dust bunnies under the dresser.
I discovered a vital new word this week on Book Group Online – tsundoko – which is a Japanese word to describe buying books and letting them pile up unread on the floor, on nightstands, or as in my case double stacked in a bookcase. I think it’s quite normal, it’s saving one, or several, or more than several for later just in case you feeel like reading it.
There’s even a Tsundoko list on Goodreads; I have to admit I haven’t read or even tsundokoed The Last of the Mohicans or Contact by Carl Sagan which are numbers 1 and 2 on the list, but I have read Vanity Fair, Dracula, The Three Musketeers, The King Must Die which are all high up on the list and practically knew Dune, number 4, off by heart as a teenager because I’d read it so many times. Which all goes to show that one person’s tsundoko is another’s essential reading.
Japanese is full of useful words – Nito-onna describes a woman who is so dedicated to her career that she has no time to iron and dresses only in knitted tops. I wonder if it also includes non-career women who just don’t want to iron. A bakku-shan is a woman who looks pretty from the back but not from the front, Komorebi is the sort of scattered, dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines in through tree leaves and Amagami is to pretend-bite someone. This might be more useful in football matches than the real thing, perhaps.
There’s about to be more tsundoko in this household as it’s the Phoenix Euro Book Sale next week, 18,000 second books in English for a euro. I know I don’t need any more books but there’s always room for a few more…
Our local town Cadillac is a medieval bastide, a walled town, with a grid of narrow little streets that would always have been a tight squeeze for carts to pass each other, let alone two white vans. In fact it’s always worked pretty well, most of the streets are one way and even on market day people tend to park on just one side of the street so the traffic keeps moving.
Someone on the council appears to have decided that a little re-organisation is necessary, possibly to allow better access to a small car park behind the post office. Only so far it hasn’t quite turned out as intended…
This road used to be one way down the hill;
I think that’s supposed to say that this is a one way street, though the sign underneath seems to indicate minds haven’t been firmly made up on the subject yet. And if any luckless drivers happen to look to the right, they’ll see this:
This new system appears to operating brilliantly. Everyone seems to have a different interpretation of what the signs mean and are simply doing whatever suits them (no change there, then), but they’re doing it really slowly.
They’ve already removed most of the road markings in Cadillac in an effort to get drivers to slow down but whoever hit on making the road signs so incomprehensible that everyone is too confused to speed is an absolute genius.
I wonder when it’ll spread to other French towns.
Last week my OH and I headed off towards Perpignan, which neither of us had been to before, for a bit of exploring. We had lunch in a delightful little town on the edge of the Pyrenees – I have no idea what it’s called because it was on the edge of the map on two pages of our French road atlas, the atlas had kind ly overwritten it with ‘See Page …’ in both places. Afterwards we’d decided to do a leisurely drive through the Pyrenees via the scenic route, a wise choice since we met a ‘Route barré’ sign about 20 minutes out of ‘See Page…’ and discovered that they don’t seem to sign deviation signs in the Pyrenees.
The sun was out, the scenery was stunning and there weren’t any caravans so that was OK. Presently, after we’d been around and up several mountains, the OH went, ‘Just look at that!’
That was the Chateau de Peyrepertuse, a Cathar castle perched high on the spine of a mountain. Very high indeed. The OH got vertigo in the car park and announced he couldn’t go any further.
To be fair the drop in front of where the car was parked was similar to the drop from the castle above. I left the OH to take pictures while I walked up to the castle, which a sign said would take about 15 minutes.
Peyrepertuse was never a place for softies, the men who lived in it didn’t bother with anything like roads leading up to the main gate. Instead you got there by a mule track that went around the back of the mountain, probably much like the path that visitors take now, only easier to navigate. Mules aren’t that stupid.
The present path is about one mule wide, is made of uneven rocks and earth, goes up and down, has the mountain on one side and on the other – let’s put it this way, there are several places where is you tripped you’d find yourself doing a vertical hundred metres in under ten seconds. There are no rails, no posts, nothing to help you apart from some bushes which were occasionally very necessary.
It was quite slippery too.
The castle itself was fascinating but had its – ahem, interesting moments. I was following la sens de la visite, came out of the keep and was presented with this to get back down to ground level:
The French attitude to places like this is that you should look after yourself. I suppose it works, I doubt anyone has actually fallen over the edge at Peyrepertuse. Otherwise I’m sure there would be the odd warning notice with a bit more than the existing one that states the path is unsuitable for pushchairs and the castle is closed during summer storms because of the risk of lightning strikes.
However it is apparently OK for small children and the infirm. There is a handicappé entrance. I kid you not. It’s a ramp which avoids two wooden steps up to the gift shop and ticket office. Sadly due to his vertigo, the OH, who has a gammy leg, was still in the car park so we weren’t able to put it to the test and see if they’d have sold him an entrance ticket.
It was getting late so I turned down the chance of climbing up to the Chateau du Queribus
Of course we didn’t know what was awaiting us at our chambre d’hotes.
We didn’t get off to a good start. It had an electric gate, no bell and Madame had switched her mobile off. Luckily someone living in one of the mobile homes scattered over the property (certainly not visible in the brochure) arrived and let us in. Madame emerged, full of apologies.
‘Is your husband all right with stairs?’ asked Madame’s daughter, who’d noticed he has a limp.
‘Perfectly,’ I said breezily.
‘Good,’ she said, ‘because you’re up there-’
We made it to our room and found it had this-
directly opposite the bed. The curtain didn’t have an opaque lining either so you had to use the facilities without turning the light on; otherwise whoever was lying on the bed, reading a book, got to see a lot more than they wanted.
We’d thought about having one of those flying loos when we were doing up the house but the OH, who is 6’2″ and not fat but built on a Viking scale, said that he’d always be worried about whether it could bear his weight properly. This one was set so high up the wall that when I discreetly left him alone after breakfast his feet didn’t touch the ground properly.
There was a general systems failure.
If Madame and the rest of her family hadn’t been so utterly charming we’d have felt justifiied in slapping warnings all over Tripadvisor and the like, but they were delightful and it would be just mean. So I suppose there’ll be other visitors experiencing the delights of that staircase after an excellent fish dinner and half a bottle of wine… at least it’ll give them more to talk about than when they stayed in a Mercure with a fully functioing lift
Seven-Week Itch is finally up on Kindle, something very strange went on with the formatting but it seems to have been sorted out now. Much to my surprise as I’ve barely even told my nearest and dearest that it’s gone live it’s already sold a few copies. Not a lot but every little helps!
I love this cover by Theo Wayte;
the ram has a small but important role to play in the plot so fully deserves his place on the front cover, and he’s such fun too.
In many ways I’m fondest of this book of all that I’ve written because it was so easy. I started it high on the excitement of having a proper two-book contract and it simply flowed out, I was writing 2-2,500 words a day without pushing myself, I’ve never managed that sort of output again. I still like it, it’s unashamedly light and I really enjoyed editing it for this edition.
I’m come across a couple of on-line reviews that give it a thumbs down because it’s about ‘big country houses’ which is strange, as it isn’t. Susie, my heroine, is living in a tiny cottage and while it’s true that her wayward friend has married someone with a big house the story isn’t about the house. I can only presume it’s Owl Criticism (a brilliant idea coined by Charles Baxter here) which goes, ‘There’s an owl in the book and I don’t like owls…’
Oh well, I trust I don’t have too many potential readers who suffer from country-house phobia, sadly there isn’t a specific word for it though a phobia about houses is the splendid oikophobia, so perhaps the mansion version could be called ‘big-oikophobia’?
…I wasn’t wandering quite as lonely as a cloud, I was meandering along, walking the dogs and enjoying the sunshine* when I came upon a carpet of these between two sections of vines.
My mother used to plant grape hyacinths in the garden, around here they grow wild in such profusion that no-one seems to really notice them. I do, even after nearly twenty years here I’m constantly surprised by the profusion and variety of wild things – both animal and vegetable that abound in the French countryside.
Suddenly after the greys of winter there’s colour around, the glorious blue of the grape hyacinths, the pink of the campions, the purple of the tiny violets that grow so abundantly across our lawn, all wild, all untrammelled, all harbingers of warmer days to come.
Vive le printemps!
*With apologies for making everyone who’s shivering under a blanket of snow feel jealous.
Our first introduction to our closest neighbours the R’s came when we returned
ruin new house in our hands and found the post box had been uprooted and left against the fence.
The post box had been at the end of a chemin rurale – a green lane, on the verge outside the R’s house. La Poste isn’t officially allowed on private land (it doesn’t stop our nice post lady coming to the door when something needs signing for though) and there wasn’t anywhere else for the post box to go.
It took a month and the intervention of the mairie telling the R’s that the verge is public land and they had no right to stop our postbox being there before we could have letters delivered again. Then we got a letter from the R’s demanding that I stop walking up the 250 metres of chemin rurale to collect the post as I was making their dogs bark. We were instructed to make a round trip of over a mile by road instead and informed that we probably didn’t understand the ways of the countryside…
The R’s are natural bullies and thought that as we were foreigners they could dominate us – they soon discovered how wrong they were about that. They also owned both houses at the end of the chemin and wanted to sell one of them. They were desperate that potential buyers shouldn’t realise that the “abandoned” chemin which went under the kitchen window was actually in regular use. I refuse to use the car when I can walk though I did try to compromise by going the long way around, through the vines and not past their garden, when I could.
As a result the R’s cut us dead which, frankly, didn’t cause us any loss of sleep. I scrupulously bonjoured them whenever we met, it was always ignored. We found common ground with our other neighbours – they detested the R’s too. The R’s sold their house eventually, no doubt blaming us for it sticking on the market rather than it being semi-detached and vastly over-priced. I introduced myself to the new owners, the I’s, while collecting the post of course, and they shook my hand with visible reluctance as if they were afraid of what might be on it. It seemed that they’d already heard about us.
The I’s were nearly as unfriendly as the R’s. They too disliked me using the chemin, especially after I inadvertently surprised Madame sunbathing in the nude in their garden. They started parking their cars two abreast and blocking the chemin which wasn’t just inconvenient when I was hauling the wheely bin up there on rubbish day, more importantly the chemin is the official route for the emergency services to get to our house.
One day my OH saw Madame I trying to change a wheel and helped her do it. The next time I saw the I’s they said bonjour, a breakthrough. As they were being slightly approachable I explained about the chemin being our access pompiers - the right of way that we use as a drive isn’t marked on the maps and a fire engine wouldn’t know it’s there. The I’s looked thunderstruck, it must have dawned on them we weren’t being so unreasonable about the chemin after all, and they’ve kept it clear ever since. Relations thawed considerably.
The R’s continued to pointedly ignore us until recently when Madame R’s younger dog chased Kevin the kitten across the field in front of me. To do her credit, she was horribly embarrassed, I said it didn’t matter, Kevin had a good start and got away easily, and since we were actually talking admired her dogs for something non-controversial to say. She told me the elder one had arthritis and I, who will always help a dog, offered to give her the details of a remedy I’d found helped Jez’s arthritis, which I put in their postbox the next day.
Madame R seemed astonished at this even vaguely neighbourly gesture and it’s had big results. Both the R’s now say Bonjour when we pass, I doubt they’ll be asking us around for an apero in the near future but I can live with that. I’m happy to accept we’ll never be friends, I’ll settle for no daggers drawn.
The other day Monsieur I popped his head out of the kitchen window, the one that opens onto the chemin and asked me if I’d like a pheasant he’d shot.
Despite it being almost certainly illegal as it’s long past the end of the hunting season, my not liking pheasant and the fact that I’d have to draw and pluck the horrid thing I was still deeply appreciative of such a generous peace-offering. He looked quite relieved when I thanked him profusely but explained I have an allergy, I expect Madame I was about to be put to plucking.
The I’s have put up their house for sale. I wonder if we’ll have to go through all of this again with the new owners.