Monday, 2 July 2018

SUMMER MADNESS



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Read an excerpt from Book one: One Summer in France (two girls in a tent):


Polka-dot Pants and Gallic Gall

It was late afternoon when we arrived in France. 
There was a train to Paris that we could catch if we hurried and, this time, there was nothing to stop us.  The carriage we chose was almost empty so we settled down and snoozed our way through the French countryside.
We changed at Paris and boarded another train bound for a place called Narbonne.  I can’t remember why we took this route, but it was probably because the train to Perpignan was not due at a convenient time.  We had plenty of scope for detours, anyway.  And we didn’t realise how big France actually was.
For a while, it was fun to gaze out at passing vineyards, miraculous fields of sunflowers and impressive chateaux.  This was definitely a foreign land.  But there were reminders of England – wooded hillsides and open meadows, a solitary oak.  This was a place that was different enough without being too intimidating.   What struck me most was the scale of everything.  The distances between towns and cities huge, the fields were enormous.  No wonder French cows were so happy.
‘Let’s get off here and find a campsite!’ said Carol, long before we reached our destination and after far too many hours travelling without a proper night’s sleep.  I didn’t need persuading.
The sign on the platform announced that we had arrived in a place called Carcassonne.  It sounded pretty.  We stepped down, and I was grateful for the solidity of the ground beneath my feet.  I was not yet fully recovered from my ordeal on the ferry and was as keen as Carol to set up somewhere for the evening.  Anywhere, in fact, that wasn’t moving.
‘Excusez-moi?  Nous cherchons un camping près d’ici,’ I said, to a woman who had started scowling even before I had started speaking, and who obviously did not realise that I was a master of her mother tongue.
‘Perhaps she’s not French,’ said Carol, peering at a large brown patch on the woman’s neck.
‘Let me try another one.  There!  He looks normal.’
Carol approached a man dressed in white tennis shorts and a purple floral shirt.
‘Excusez-moi, monsieur?  Le campsite, ici?’ I winced at Carol’s appalling grammar.
The man looked even more confused than the woman.
‘Sorry, I don’t speak French,’ he said, shrugging his shoulders and wobbling his chins.
Soon, Carol and Mr. Plunket had become bosom buddies and it wasn’t long before he was loading our bags into the back of his hired BMW.
It was a short drive to Carcasonne centre and what we saw as we looked out of the windows were flowers.  They were everywhere.  Along the verges, in pots along the road, at roundabouts.  Everywhere.  We had arrived in a land of colour and fragrance.  I wound the window down and a French wasp flew in.  Several screams and swipes later, Carol wound down her window and, to everyone’s relief, it flew back out again.  Pulses returned to normal and, after consulting one of the many maps our patient escort had thought to bring along, we arrived at our destination.
Jethro Plunket dropped us off at the municipal campsite and pressed a five-hundred-franc note into Carol’s hand, saying that he had a daughter of his own who was about our age and that he believed in karma.
‘Thanks, Mr. Plunket.’
‘Call me Jethro.’
‘Thanks, Jethro.’
‘What kind of a name is Jethro?’ I asked, as he drove away. ‘Do you think it’s his real name?’
‘No, probably working under cover, doing good deeds for vulnerable girls travelling through France,’ said Carol.
‘Really?’
‘No!!’
Carol said that she didn’t know how I would survive without her and, picking up her bag, marched off to reception, leaving me to feast my eyes on the view of her red polka-dot knickers, which were exposed to the world due to the fact that she had caught her skirt on her bag.
‘Welcome in Camping Municipal of Carcassonne!’ said the sign in the window.
We peered inside and, just as we were about to venture in, a dumpy girl, eating a doughnut, loomed into view and locked the door from the inside.

End of excerpt. 

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