Monday, 24 July 2017

I read, I write, I watch television, I grow stuff. Oh, and I live in France.


Just back from a holiday in Cap d’Agde (pronunciation varies but reminds Al and I of a song involving pushing a pineapple and shaking a tree…). It’s a jolly little resort made up of a million campsites one of which I chose more or less at random.  Yelloh Village – you may have had the pleasure, as it’s a chain.  Anyway, I foolishly took along and failed to read through the latest draft of my new DCI Alice Candy manuscript.  I got to page ten on the third day, hunched over in bed, trying to ignore the rave that was going on not far enough away from my open window, open due to the online misrepresentation of what was supposed to be ‘air-conditioning’ and which was in fact a wall-mounted fan.

Hot and bothered, I squinted at the bundle of A4 paper and blamed my husband for the print size and spacing.  All to no avail as he quoted my request for a font size of twelve and extra wide margins.  Double spacing hadn’t been specified, apparently.

Three days gone.  And editing barely begun.

We had neighbours with young children on either side of our mobile home.  (Mobile homes, or tin boxes with zero sound or heat insulating properties, are not recommended for authors wishing to add value to a manuscript.)  I wanted to make sure there was continuity and check detail.  My neighbours wanted to vie with each other in a ‘tolerant parents’ contest, calling to their children in increasingly harrassed tones, urging them to stop destroying various toys, washing lines, plastic chairs and wooden deckings.  In the end, with nerves frazzled and wanting to strangle someone, anyone, I knew that going to the beach was the only option.

Ah, the beach.  No, really.  The Mediterranean does it well.  Soft sand, blue skies and water heated to a temperature cool enough to make you squeal and yet just perfectly refreshing once you were ‘in’.  If I couldn’t write, I could read, stretched out on my mat, working on my tan.  What could be nicer?  A pleasant walk along the beach?  An enormous human turd in cross-section?  I stepped around it, wondering where the other half might be, still questioning how it had settled next to a group of oblivious tourists chomping on beignets.

Oh, well.

In a matter of what seemed like minutes, with a number of salads under my belt and a higher number of glasses of wine sloshed down in some of the most chilled out restaurants I’d ever eaten in, built on the beach, with the sea fifty metres away, I eventually forgot about the editing I hadn’t been able to do.  I’d had a great time.  And so had my sons and my husband.

The journey home was fabulous.  Our Peugeot 406 had developped alternator problems which had been easy to ignore until the day we left Cap d’Agde.  As we clanked to reception to hand in our signed inventory, pedestrians looked round in astonishment believing, no doubt, that they were moments away from being killed by a tractor with engine problems.

“It’ll be okay,” would be the mantra of the day.
And the magic of positive thought seemed to be working… 

Then, approaching Toulouse a message flashed up on the dashboard, ‘battery charging fault’.  It was the first of many, each one staying on for a little longer.  I diagnosed the problem, slowed down and it disappeared. 

We limped home, grafeful for every mile covered and momentarily appalled as we almost got taken out by a poids lourds pulling out in front of us at two miles an hour from the hard shoulder.  Al shouted, “go, go, go!” and I did.  Never had I been so focussed – I made for the gap with inches to spare.

We got home in one piece and lugged in the cases.

To celebrate, I went to the butcher's and bought entrecotes which we ate with jacket potatoes and butter.  Bye, bye Caesar salad and café liégeois.

Yesterday and today I’ve been putting the garden to rights.  Tomorrow my friends arrive for a week.  We have no car until Thursday.  Maybe I’ll wait until next week to get Alice Candy by the scruff of the neck and sort her out.

Or, I might get started right away… 


The first DCI Alice Candy book is available here.  It’s a dramatic tale that will have you guessing from the start.


Locked Away by B. A. Spicer








Friday, 7 July 2017

Living the dream is not quite so simple for Martha Burton.

My lovely house - a lifetime of renovation!

France is wonderful – the weather, the food, the pace of life.  I have a bakery on my doorstep and the beautiful town of Saintes with its majestic river and colourful cafes a short drive away.  In my garden there are tomatoes re-seeded from last year which will be small and sweet and delicious.  I have an olive tree and a ridiculous number of thriving rose bushes.  But the most precious commodity I have is time.  My children are grown and about to fly the nest.  My husband and I look forward to a simple life and a lot more travelling.  And, best of all, I will be able to devote even more time to my writing.

From 14th - 19th July I’m running a promotion on A Life Lived Twice. Although it is most definitely not autobiographical, it is set in France, with lots of authentic detail.  Of course my experiences here have fuelled the setting and the characters to some extent, although this is primarily a work of fiction - thank goodness.

******

Martha Burton is relatively young and attractive, values her newfound independence, has a very healthy bank balance and, although she wouldn’t admit it, is on the lookout for a new man. She leaves behind a faithless husband and a life that has become routine.  When she moves in to a charming Charentaise house and later meets the handsome and enigmatic Clement Berger it's easy to believe that a new and vibrant future beckons.

But the world is inhabited by all kinds of people, some of whom follow imperatives that are too dark to contemplate.  How could Martha have known the dramatic turn her new life would take?




Sunday, 18 June 2017

At the Beach with Bev and Carol


Bev and Carol are graduates, spending three months in France as part of their degree course.  They are young and frivolous, unfettered by preconceptions or mortgage payments. Bev is bookish, a bit of a dreamer, and Carol is down-to-earth, unafraid to say what she thinks.  In this (exceptionally frank) excerpt, they experience the challenges of their very first nudist beach.








‘Does ‘Naturiste’ mean what I think it means?’ asked Carol, standing in front of a very large sign with a very large arrow on it.

I wasn’t sure, but I thought so.

‘I don’t mind getting my baps out if you don’t!’  she reasoned.

The beach was coming up fast and we clutched at each other, controlling our giggles as best we could.  We might have made it, had we not heard men’s voices behind us and looked round to see two bronzed gods swinging up fast.

‘Christ on a bike!’ said Carol, stepping aside and staring rudely.

‘Guten Tag!’ 

Please don’t stop and have a conversation with us!  I thought.

They passed in front of us and we watched their perfect asses for a while, breathing in for what seemed to be a very long time and, eventually, remembering to breathe out.

‘Did you see the size of his cock?’ asked my gobsmacked friend.

 ‘Well, yes.  I didn’t have much choice in the matter, did I?’

‘Come on!  There must be loads more on the beach…’

 I wasn’t sure that I fancied the idea of so much nudity all in one place, but I had never sunbathed topless before, so I was keen to give it a go in an environment where one extra set of, admittedly, perfect breasts would not cause too much of a stir.

To my horror, Carol was untying her bikini top before we even got there and soon it was difficult for me to concentrate on what she was saying as I felt a little sea-sick in the face of so much uncontrolled bouncing.

‘God!  Your tits are enormous!’ I said.

‘Pretty good, eh?  Aren’t you getting yours out?’ 

'All in good time, all in good time, my little Devonshire divvy,' I said.

It was a beautiful beach and there were a fair number of people, mostly couples or small groups, generally without a stitch on.  This was a whole new experience for me.  The German gods we had come across on the path had set up camp near the sea and looked over to us, waving.  Carol was all for joining them, but I suggested that we should keep our options open for the time being, not mentioning that I was rather uneasy about diving into a conversation with a couple of blokes with their willies out.

So we put our towels out about thirty feet from the dunes and sat down.  It wasn’t that easy pretending that it was perfectly normal to be sitting with a load of people we’d never met before who seemed very pleased to see us.  I was aware of my breasts in a way that I had never been aware of them before.  I wished they would just shut up (metaphorically speaking) instead of pertly announcing themselves to all and sundry.

‘Shall we whip off our pants, too?’ said Carol, as she was actually whipping off her bikini bottoms.

‘Really?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know whether-’

‘Don’t be such a prude!  No other bugger’s wearing any.’

She was right.  So I did.

Having no clothes on in public was an altogether liberating experience.  I got used to it quickly and was soon stretching out in various poses, sighing nonchalantly and acting as though it was all terribly normal.  I got out my latest find and started to read. I had brought l’Etranger to the beach and made sure that the cover of the book was visible to others as I read. In those days I was deeply proud of my literary pretensions.  I breathed in the ozone and tried to remember what my French tutor had said about Camus, but I kept hearing the Cure singing ‘Killing an Arab’ instead.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bonjour tout le monde!
Sunny again this morning in Charente Maritime. Difficult to stay indoors and write, but I shall get to the garden this afternoon. With two huge sons and a husband to cook for, I'll have to pop out to the market at some point too. Luckily, we have one in the village on a Thursday - fifty metres from my door. Just a little further away than the boulangerie...

In other news - I just wanted to let you know that Bunny on a Bike is free today and tomorrow (13 - 14 April) so if you're looking for something lighthearted and fun you've come to the right place! If you do download and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads - potential readers prefer to choose books with lots of reviews. Thanks a million, and happy reading x

Friday, 7 April 2017

Couch to 5k Week Six



Steps 5663  km 4.72  cal. 451  time 40m

Bonjour!  For those of you who have been reading my journey to 5k you might notice that I’ve jumped to week six…  I have been running three times a week since I last posted, but have had no time to write a post as I was (and still am) heavily involved in revising my second DCI Alice Candy book.  However, I’m currently looking at half an hour of precious free time before I go running for the first time on the road near our French house – it’s a 5k loop, fairly safe apart from local unpredictable drivers, some of whom are well into their nineties and probably visualising the road from memory (I kid you not).

Anyway. I did my run around the garden yesterday (yes, I know I should leave a day between runs, but my husband has promised to come with me today – he’s caught the bug) with a new selection of music on an old MP3 player.  Long overdue – how can we be so easily and quickly bored with our music collections?  As the new selection is my husband, Al’s there’s a lot of rock, some of it fairly violent.  But on a ‘random’ setting, I got an inspired variety including Kate Bush, Ozric Tentacles, Johnny Cash and The Cult.  What’s more the sun was shining, the garden was bursting with shiny leaves and emerging colour and my body was functioning in all the ways it should.  Bliss.

Hang on a minute! This running lark seems to be catching.  My son, back from uni only yesterday, has just come downstairs in his dad’s best shorts, downloaded a superior app (mine is apparently rubbish) and disappeared out of the front door a la jog.  My other son is mocking all present while making a saussison seche baguette with cornichons, onion, butter and mayonnaise.  He’s already eaten a handful of grapes, a banana and an apple.  He runs like a gazelle and is super fit and healthy.  And annoyingly smug.

So.  Anyway.  I shall resist having lunch before I set off on a circuit that I will hopefully be able to accomplish without sinking to my knees or rupturing my enthusiasm.  The plan is to start ten minutes before Al, who will try to catch me up.  I’m sure he’ll cheat, but I’m equally sure he won’t set off in time to finish before me – he’s always the last to leave the house. 

Wish me luck.  I shall have to do without music.  Might be the fatal blow.

I’ll post when I can.

A la prochaine.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Couch to 5k Week Four





Week Four 13.3.17


Steps 3834  km 3.08  cal. 291  time 29m


A brisk five-minute walk, then eight minutes of running, five minutes of walking and eight minutes of running.


Week five!  Over half way through.  I like that.  I like it so much I mess up my timings and only do 29 minutes instead of 31.  Never mind.  Weds will be more exciting for it.

On my own today, so sleep in.  Naughty.  Get up to see Victoria Derbyshire ensconced in a semi circle of people who believe (or not) that dogs can sniff out cancer.  Must be a trend – only the other day, there was a woman who could do the same with Parkinson’s.  Ian Duncan Smith did a good job of undermining the voice of science and good sense by quite reasonably suggesting that if it works, it might be worth a try until something more, well, scientific comes along.  Nothing is, apparently, that simple.  The NHS can’t keep dogs – what about feeding them, walking them?  I feel my brain glazing over.  I say, stop arguing about it and let those who want to be diagnosed by a savvy four-legged friend at least have a try.

Homes under the Hammer is on the other side.  Dare I?  I feel myself being dragged under by the 80s current.  Presenters who echo the fashions and music of a bygone age, entrap me.

I finish my toast.  Drink my tea.  Stare at the screen goldfish-like.

Eventually, when I’ve seen how much profit everyone has made, I curse my luck  and get into my leggings.  Blue sky and a surly breeze.  Perfect washing day for sheets and towels.  Damn!

The sheets blow dry and I run.  Marianne Faithfull is in full flow with some of the most colourful language I’ve heard set to music.  I imagine that some of the (quite ball-shrivelling) accusations are aimed at Mick Jagger, not that he will give a hoot.  I find that I like the narratives more than I thought I would.  Four letter, mainly anatomical words abound, along with ever more cutting recriminations and a slightly contradictory world view.  Go Marianne!

Is it smoking that gives her voice such gravel?

I run.  Almost without noticing.  I have absolutely no shortness of breath, although my legs wouldn’t cope for long with a faster sprint.  I might try next time.

My garden is coming along.  I edged some of it yesterday but was awake all last night, itching.  It’s either cancer of the kidney or an allergic reaction to some of the weeds I strangled.

Fingers crossed.  There are three dogs in the impasse.

Times’s up.  Saunter.  Smug expression.  Lunchtime – does it count as lunchtime if I’ve just had breakfast?

I believe it might.

A mercredi?




Week Four 15.3.17


Steps 4089  km 3.32  cal. 314  time 31m




Blue skies and garden coming to life.  Feeling on top of the world.  No time to write blog.  Too much to do.



Week Four 18.3.17


Steps 4729  km 3.88  cal. 369  time 34m


Missed Friday so just did my run today (Saturday).  I tuned in to the music of Queen and hoped it wouldn’t go on forever.  When the rhythm took me I upped the energy level and was surprised how fast I could go.  Pushed myself.  Actually got out of breath today.  Time was up, but Brian Ferry started singing More than This and I wasn’t going to stop him.  Took me back to the idealism of my youth and made me want to write a book.  I’d call it The Bits that Matter.  In the meantime, I have to practically re-write my second Alice Candy mystery.  I’m up for the challenge, though.  My advice: Get running – there’s nothing like it for boosting those brain cells.

My posts have shrunk.  If anyone is reading them and notices, apologies.  I will probably get back to normal next week.  Probably  But as long as I’m doing the running, that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

A la semaine prochaine  x




























Sunday, 12 March 2017

Couch to 5k Week four

Week Four 6.6.17

Steps 3266  km 2.64  cal. 249  time 25m


The new schedule: a brisk 5-minute warm-up walk then 3 minutes of running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2 ½ minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running.

Back to morning running.  Fruit for breakfast – I sometimes feel the need for an apple with my cup of tea.  We watch another episode of Fortitude as the thought of BBC’s Louise and Dan on the couch is just a little underwhelming in comparison to great drama.  The Arctic landscape is bleak and the murders brutal.  The two policewomen are reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy.  The sheriff’s smile makes my blood run cold.

Should I watch another episode?

Got to get moving.

Outside, the weather is blowing a storm.  Trees are down in the village.  But I love the wind.  I set off at a brisk pace and am soon jogging easily.  First up is Gotye with Somebody I Used to Know – I can’t resist singing along.  Then comes Grace Jones and my running takes on a whole new rythmn.

I think of a place I used to work in London, Bond Street.  The mind makes strange connections.  It was a family business dealing in high quality, high tensile bin bags.  Amanda was the boss’s daughter, selling bin bags over the phone with her educated banter and plummy tones.  She and her millionaire boyfriend had gone to see Grace Jones in concert.  It was back in the late 70s and I was a Blondie lookalike who’d never heard of  Pull up to the Bumper.

Mirror Man and Electric Dreams send me into a different, more nostalgic, more romantic mood.  The garden takes on a summer haze and I picture perfect afternoons spent in the arms of perfect men (isn’t imagination a wonderful thing…). 

With Happy Mondays Twisting my Melons, I start to wonder about the rest of my day.  Writing, a lunchtime walk with Al, a dental appointment, shopping, and cooking dinner.  And planning a trip to Berlin.  It could be worse.

Time is up.

A mercredi?




Week Four 8.3.17

Steps 3626  km 2.95  cal. 2.79  time 27.5m


First, let me note that I forgot to progress to week four schedule on Monday.  Just realised!

Today, I’m thrilled to see an increase in my stats.  Almost touching 3k and running is much easier.  Too late for the olympics, but keeps me out of walking netball.  I’m aiming to be able to run for a bus, leap on a moving train or take part in my future grandchildren’s egg and spoon race without flushing purple.  All looks good at the moment.

Only downside today has been the music.  Japan.  Just Japan.  I like a bit of Japan in a bar, as an alternative to jazz, but after 27.5 minutes of David Sylvian droning on, replacing lyrics with dum, dum, dums and la, la, las.  Ad infinitum.  Well, I must say I pulled out my earphones and considered the various methods of pruning my wayward garden, wondering at the same time when I had turned into a person who prunes.

But I didn’t skip ahead on my MP3.

I simply put in an earphone every couple of minutes to see if anything with a bit more life had arrived.  Not a bit of it.  And, as I began to write up this blog I decided to leave the MP3 running, just to flush out the last remaining dirges.  The net result of this is that I shall begin on Friday to the outrageously fabulous Hendrix and his wailing guitar.  Good.

Back in the house I couldn’t be bothered to do the cool down.  I know.  I should have.  Nobody’s perfect.

Instead, I shall shower, listen to Charlton Heston reading The Old Man and the Sea while I concoct a pork curry for the slow cooker.  Requested by my son.

When we are on our own, I tell Al, we will eat at lunchtime and in the evening, we’ll sit by the sea for aperos then come home for romance and cheese. 

A vendredi?




Week Four 10.3.17

Steps 3718  km 3.04  cal. 289  time 27.5m


Woke up to the most beautiful blue sky and sunshine at my bedroom window.  And, yes, the birds were singing their hearts out.

Toast and marmalade for me, peanut butter for Al.

Today, we are being encouraged by the BBC to listen to a very affable man and his adoring colleague.  They want us to count penguins.  More interesting to me is mapping the surface features of Mars.  And wondering why Sally is wearing her grandmother’s lacy blouse.  Oh, and she has a dog on her lap.  There are more dogs.  Ones that behave badly.  Apparently, according to an expert, we shouldn’t reward bad behaviour. Who knew? BBC in depth investigative insight at its best.

In a random universe I shouldn’t have been surprised when Susie Quatro appeared, unchanged in style, if not in physiology.  We switch off.

Round and round the garden.  I’ve actually started to wear a track.  Lots of dew on the grass, but the weather is pure summer bliss.  I fill my lungs and remember the bike ride I had to work in Cambridge in the midst of lorries and cars and untrained cyclists from all over the world.  With my three-year-old son on the back, we would could the different words for rain and snow.  I remember getting to twenty-six.

Hendrix sings in one ear and plays guitar in the other.  He shoots his fickle woman, muddles through a purple haze, before turning up all along the watchtower.  I try to work out why he is such a genius and decide that genius is not something that can be defined.  I just let the music penetrate my soul and take me back to parties, youth, laughing, dancing, joie de vivre.

My track is turning muddy.

My favourite primrose is flowering next to the compost bin.

Daffodils that have survived the storms are brilliant, brilliant yellow.

Madonna injects me with vigour.  She’s a dancy kind of girl.  Good for joggers.  I remember being surprised that such a scraggy, untalented young girl had become so famous when I returned to England after two years in Greece.  Holiday was the song that got her noticed, apparently.  All I saw was a Cindy Lauper lookalike who couldn’t really sing.  Much better now. Hard not to be envious of her jaw and waistline.

Time’s nearly up and I’m not in the least exhausted.  My knees are fine.  No twinges in my muscles.  Alice in Chains delights me with a version of The Man Who Sold the World.  Better than Bowie?  Would that be blasphemous?  I remember my grandmother’s warning: comparison is odious. Where did that come from!

My final seconds.  A perfect start to my morning.  And as Marianne Faithfull begins Broken English, I pull out my ear plugs and go inside.  I’ll switch off my MP3 player when she’s finished.

Happy days!

A la semaine prochaine?