Monday 31 October 2011

The Overall Effect

"Ee's just doin 'is teef but the lift's broke," came the voice of intercom mom from floor 23 of the concrete sky. We all waited on the bus as the lad made his way down the steps. At last he arrived dressed in the same clothes that he always wears. It's fashion sport wear and it's always clean. I think it's all he possesses. Mom must strip him off as soon as he gets in and poke it in the washing machine. Poverty is relative of course. Seemingly there are now 7 billion of us and the world can no longer feed us. When I see these poor kids and how they cling to the lifeboat of fashion even at the expense of food, I realise that the soul/status/ego/self image of each person is both our joy and our agony. It is a perversity to see the anorexic vision of  catwalk model beauty amidst the plenty and the Fast food/Big Biz/glamour glitz worshipped by the poor.

Yesterday afternoon I watched snatches of the first ever Indian Formula One Grand prix. How lucky they are that the Gods of Guzzle have handed them  the golden gladiators of radiators. Oh yes - the land of Shiva is now the land of GP diva. I'm a bit wary of making liberal arty farty capital out of the whole car racing circus. Probably it makes no difference but to me India has always seemed a land of advanced spirituality - beyond the brand and logo of plastered bill board overalls. And yet the taste of madness is sweet you know. Those childhood orgies of fallen conkers, hoarded simply because they were there, run on into adulthood and are delicious. The scream of wasteful engines and the kingfisher flash of  wealth are seductive. Seventeen thousand revs of orgasmic horsepower speak louder than a quiet voice of thought groping out for some gentle insight. Rip the rubber and ram it home to the chequered flag. Think simple and get the goods. That's the true grand prize. Who am I to say different? At one stage of the race a car stopped at the edge of the circuit. Suddenly a mob hurtled towards the high grilled fence and pressed their faces against the metal in an agony to touch that far far world of the man with sponsored boots and million dollar gloves. These two worlds will never collide - provided that the fences hold.

 A very disturbing film is out on DVD about the life of  the racing driver Ayrton Senna. I'm not sure if it was meant to worry me but I kept posing a Wagnerian question "Where is there for defeated gods?" Many folk saw him as a GOD. That would be very difficult for a guy who simply drove cars in the name of a cigarette brand would it not?

Oh no - trouble in the temple. The Dean of St Paul's cathedral has resigned over the strife around the anti-money changer demo on the steps. I love St Paul's cathedral and have so often lit candles to the lovely building echoing choirboy fake-up-kid-yourself-spirituality God. Seemingly the elders of the temple can't agree over whether or not to support the protests. I can see that this is a tough one. You get some kind of hippy guy show up with a few rough looking supporters and they go on about wealth and greed. Yup, even old Pontious Pilate was perplexed. He kinda fixed things up in the end though.

Emma thinx: Bossmosis - How the higher sucks out the lower.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Tea For One and Two for Tea.

Well, here I am back in Blighty. As I stepped red eyed and head-ached from the car my first impression was of fallen leaves. Initially I thought of back aching raking and sweeping. Then I thought of a proper strong cup of tea and gazed from the kitchen window onto the sog and bog of damp drizzling drab which is the Sunday morning after a night on the English Channel. The pint mug of tea pulsed out into my blood and flooded me with proper thoughts of love and romance. I found myself singing in French the song "Les Feuilles Mortes". Look- I can be a pretentious stupid cow can't I? Actually I only know one verse that goes:

"Mais la vie separe ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit.
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants desunis."

A quick translation : Life separates those who love each other/softly without sound/And the sea erases from the sand/the footprints of parted lovers.(This is deliberately not a poetic translation.The French language IS Poetry simply in itself).

In the famous Nat King Cole version in English, this is not translated. If you want to feel the emotion of this season enhanced by music there are so many versions. I have chosen one here by Andrea Bocelli. For me the visuals are a bit busy, but have a glass (or two) of red wine, turn to whoever you love and remember that life is brief and that words of love are our Spring and they they will grow until one day their fruit passes inexorably into memory. 

Now - let's talk about condoms.  A while ago when I first wrote "Knockout" I pushed it out for some pre publication reviews. Generally things were OK but one reviewer savaged me for allowing the lovers to have sex without condoms. Well, actually I did not allow it because having created these impulsive passionate beings the minute I took my eyes off them they were at it without even referring back to me. She attacked my irresponsible attitude to venereal disease and the kind of example I was setting to readers who might try this kinda thing at home. I know that from a public health point of view she was quite right but I just wanted naked passion between impossibly larger than life people in a wish list world. Now, fellow scribes - tell me what you think. PLEASE. I don't want to go down in history as the woman who poxed up the populous and chlamydia-ed Christendom.  

And then there's the subject of the tea served at breakfast on Brittany Ferries. I crossed last night from France and took the buffet breakfast in the restaurant aboard the vessel "Mont St.Michel". As always the staff were flawless and kind. However, Gilles and I took tea and received one pot of hot water and a tea bag each. I believe the tea was Twinings. For me it was a bit pale but it was OK. There was just not enough of it. You can just about get one cup. The breakfast buffet is generous with ham, salmon, eggs, cereals etc etc etc. It is brilliant quality and value. If you order tea and coffee you get a whole pot each! We Brits need more to prepare us for life back in the UK. Dear Managing Director.........

Tired and deprived of tea I turned on my lap top to write this blog and saw that a wonderful person had given me a lovely review. on Goodreads.

Emma thinx: Isaac Newton was primarily an alchemist. You can only get it right by being mainly wrong.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Horny Cowgirl

Today is a busy travel day so there is little time to write. Yesterday I decided to top up my memory store with images of my beloved Charentes. Newly ploughed soil stretched away across fields edged with the gold and auburn of Autumn trees. The river laden with silt eddied and dimpled as it pushed on to the sea. These images will keep me sustained through the traffic and anonymous rush of life. But above all, yesterday was a day for cows. I do not think I have ever shared with you my love of cattle. Of course, it's all sentimental twaddle since I'm quite content to eat ris de veaux and entrecote.

The white beast at the top is a young bull whom I met in a field between Coulonge and Taillebourg. If I wrote Rumance (that's romantic fiction for cows), this guy would be Fernando Terrifico. Just outside St Savinien I came across a small herd of beautiful cattle with calves. Take a look at their lovely faces.
I just love the one with wonky horns. The one on the left looks kinda aware of her beauty. She just turned and posed for me in a film star way. I could just see her getting it together with Fernando.
And of course, the picture to the right is what it's all about: the meat, the cheese and the milk. Without that nipple tipple where would we be?

Emma thinx: Wretched beasts who know so little. More wretched still those who do know.

Friday 28 October 2011

Cinema Paradiso

This has been my last proper day at home in France. Tomorrow I must turn my face and soul to the barren cruel north and get set to drudge the dark days of joyless survival. However, I have a project that will keep me motivated. In our temporary home there is a fireplace and there is a chimney. In St Savinien there is always that slight catch of wood smoke in the air at this time of year. As I opened the shutters this morning to find the church tower softened by mist, that soft smell of hearth and warmth caught my senses. Yes, I will have a fire and I will smell that sense of love and home which is at the very heart of our unexplored longing. Yes, longing - what a term that is. I believe that is what actually defines us. It is what forms the anger within so many folk. When I came back to urban strife it was an eye opener for me. I had forgotten the resentment and the violence in the soul. I see it now in the face of the road ragers and the angry special needs kids on my bus. I was a careless parent - probably quick to chide and impatient with youth, always restless with a selfish show-off ego to feed. I know all that will have bred anger and resentment. To be a parent you need the wisdom of age and the energy of youth.  If ever I'd applied for the job I don't think I'd have made the short list.

I wonder what the term cinema means to you. As a teenager it was essentially a dying art form, pushed under the water by pop culture and television. Now of course, pop culture as a monolithic entity no longer exists and television for young folks is merely background drivel as they tap on their various i pads, foot pads and key pads in a whirl of anti-social networking. Do you ever feel like screaming when you have to keep saying "Excuse me" to catch the attention people who are in your room but connected on tap tap tap machines to 8 thousand far more interesting people who are just " wow so cool yah lol".  

In St. Savinien the cinema is the "Florida". It is not a multiplex 25 screen luxury lounge. The building looks like it used to be a barn. The foyer is kinda professional. I think the guy who sells the tickets also does the projector and makes the coffee for the interval. Last night was a rare treat that could only happen in France. The show was a concert followed by the film "Arrietty". The concert was performed by none other than Cecile Corbel, composer of the film's music and a virtuoso player of the celtic harp. Now, after the concert, there was an intermission. Free coffee and galette was served while Cecile Corbel signed CDs and chatted with quite ordinary folk like myself. I must admit I felt like a bit of a hem-toucher. I know absolutely nothing about music so I admire these folks so much. Normally I would never approach such a person but Gilles went and got a signed CD. It will be a treasure. The movie is almost innocent and almost feel-good. However, there is a sentiment  that reality will triumph over sentimental wishes. Blink and you'll miss it and you'll go home with a warm glow. The movie is hand drawn animation from the renowned Ghibli  studio. It's so beautiful with a true sympa sound track. See the trailer here:

If you like animated film you must see this: L'illusioniste is one of the most touching and tender films ever made in my view. It was written by Jaques Tatti and only put out after his death. A fey sense of sadness drifts through it which is almost impossible to quantify.

Emma thinx: Home is where the hearth is. Light a winter fire. 

Thursday 27 October 2011

Relativity For Ripples

There are some words in French that just convey how different life is here. The word "Auberge" carries such a quality of  hospitality and warmth. Oscar and I decided to lunch out today at Taillebourg at a restaurant named "L'Auberge des Glycines". For the Romantic novelist this is the kind of venue where lovers might dine. Earlier in the year I strolled past when the front of the building was ablaze with mauve wisteria. Today rain fell on the river Charente as it swept past. In this mood I think the lovers would be discussing the impossibility of their love. As they talk, the raindrops leave their stamp of ripples on the flowing water - perfect circles, reaching for ever outwards and yet are swept helplessly onwards in the flow of life. These reaching innocent moments of perfection are born to fade into the chaotic power of the river. Maybe our lovers can escape the pull of time?  As I sat sipping my aperitif, these were my sketches anyway. This restaurant is in a beautiful location. The cuisine is absolutely first class. The menu is relatively limited - but believe me, this is no bad thing. It means they know what they are doing and do it well. If you are in the region and fancy a real gourmet treat at a very reasonable price check out "L'Auberge des Glycines" here.

You know those cookery shows where some celebrities get a tin of baked beans, 2 kippers and a cabbage. Their task is to create a gourmet meal whilst celebrity chefs pontificate and mock their efforts. I thought I'd give it a go but without the mocking supercooks.  I had some left over salmon, some Brussel sprouts and some potatoes and a couple of slices of bacon. I also had a rather dried out baguette, garden herbs and some chillis. The result was breaded salmon fish cakes with chilli sauce served with stir fried sprouts with bacon. At Intermarché whole Pacific salmon costs about 6 Euros and the bottle of Bordeaux will cost you 1.43 Euros. It's obviously not a grand cru but it's more than acceptable.

One day I'm gonna patent the safety cheese grater. Making my breadcrumbs I managed to remove enough fingerprints from my thumb to keep me out of Scotland Yard's data base for life.

You can tell I'm back in France because I'm rattling on about love,  food and wine. Well everything else is just dust and existence isn't it? (Well, there is cycling I suppose).

Emma thinx: Love does not confer rights. But it makes your wrongs delicious.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Passage to Taillebourg

There's something so exciting about discovery. Imagine having the chance to find the source of the Nile or even America. Of course there were Africans and Native Indians who used to wander about such places on their way to work every day. I guess they didn't know that anyone wanted to know about where they were. Nowadays, in the car at least I have Sat Naff. Huge satellites orbit the Earth some 12,000 miles away and they know where the source of everything is. Nevertheless today I got out my bike and set out to discover my own personal equivalent of the Northwest Passage. My aims were slightly more modest and amounted to finding a route from St Savinien to Taillebourg, not using the normal road. It was almost like stepping back into history as I encountered the little hamlet of Coulogné-Sur-Charente. I only have a couple of full days left here in France before I head back north for the madness of it all in the traffic with my bus. As I sit in the queues and bad tempered road ragers blare horns and shake fists I will re-live my moments of slightly woodsmoked  air and the whizz of my bike as I opened the South East passage of my own little world. If you are looking for a holiday in Europe and you don't want the tourist trample come to Charente Maritime.

I do wish the Brits would stop belly-aching about Europe. OK - there are problems but all this "We want the trade and the advantages but we don't want to join in" is getting tedious. I do not want to go on about politics but if you look at the World Atlas you will see Great Britain (The Disunited Kingdom) a few miles to the north of France. That's where we are guys. Prime minister Cameron is sitting on a very sharp fence that threatens to slice right into his leadership regions. John Major called the anti European faction "The Bastards". Oddly enough that was more or less what the French called William the Conqueror. 

If you are in France Leclerc supermarkets have some great prices for whole sides of French pork. They are also well priced for Boeuf Bourginon and other casserole beef  cuts. 

Emma thinx: United we stand, but only because there are no seats.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Yes I can.

Now, today is a slight departure from my normal approach. Generally I just blog away to my readers on any subject that comes to hand. Most of the time I'm not sure if I'm a bus driver, a Romantic novelist or just a slightly dotty old Doris with a fantasy literary life. The fact is that for the moment I drive a bus and I have written Romantic short stories and a Romantic novel that is selling quite well. My home is in France but for a short while I am living and working in the UK. Today I am back in France and as I strolled through the beautiful streets of my little town this morning I was thinking about my project which is to do a blog for Julia Brandt's "Warm Fuzzies Blog Fest". The subject to be approached is that of "Do you tell people you are a writer and what are their responses?" Just as this thought was hurtling around the empty space of my mind I came across a snail climbing a very long hill. I took a photo and it is posted above. The Great spirit of Happenstance and Inspiration touched my shoulder and I saw at once the situation of the writer: that slow climb to who knows where, dragging that shell of isolation across the pitiless tarmac of everyday life. 

Yes, these days I do sometimes tell people I am a writer. However, I'm careful who I tell. I do not tell fellow bus drivers. Most would reply "Well, I'm glad to hear it cos you're pretty poor at driving a bus." It's true I did break a mirror doing a reverse park and since I'm a woman it will NEVER be forgotten. I do tell a few posh middle class people in England. The responses are usually polite but flippant..."Wow - that's so cool. I'm gonna do a really sooooper book myself soon. I hope you don't do that stuff all about billionaires and sex in Paris. That is just so sad yah! It's kinda like for people who need cheap escape and stuff and buy those awful supermarket books with hero torso on the cover yah." When you are a something like a bus driver, people like to keep you in a safe slot. My partner Gilles is kinda posh French and has a well paid corporate job. A bus driver who is a published poet and prize winning writer just jangles a bit so I usually don't say anything. Gilles enjoys the sport and usually blabs something. A few years ago I won the town Literary Festival prize. It was all very public but you know - no one ever said a thing to me. I was a bus driver - NOT a poet. If anyone ever read the poem, no one ever said.

Even more years back I was living in a fairly run down part of South London. My ex husband had been a truck driver and I did whatever temp work could fit in with bringing up kids. I entered a Christmas short story competition in a newspaper. My entry was  "Sub Prime" and was based on real events from my life.  If you are reading this blog you can get it free here (for every kind of e-reader device). There is also a link for the audiobook version.

A couple of weeks later, the judge - a nationally acclaimed poet and writer called me to say that she was so sorry that the paper could not publish it, but that it had won the prize. She went on to explain that the content was too gritty and could upset advertisers. All the same as a consolation they published a feature about me with a photo. I had entered the competition as Millie Webb. I hoped that no one would know it was me. A few days later a neighbour tersely remarked "Bit posh ain't ya - writin' stories." I told them it was all a bit of a joke. It was sad that no one was able to read the story because they would have seen that it was on the side of working class people. As it was they just thought I was getting above myself. I never ever ever  EVER told anyone I was a poet.

So that deals with the two social class poles in the UK. My lovely neighbours in France know I'm a writer because they tend to wander in and find me writing. France is a different society that views "artists" as normal. They do have slight social class/wealth issues but in any event I'm foreign and free. 

The other group is of course FAMILY. My own children are completely and utterly embarrassed by the whole thing. I would talk about it but I think they would run out of the room with hands over their ears screaming. I am a parent. They know I write about sex and lust and they just could not reconcile themselves to me knowing anything other than not mixing up the coloured and the whites in the washing machine. I think I would have been the same with respect to my own parents.

These days the writer is visible public property. In some ways I think that the taciturn snail is most likely to produce the best work. Most snails play the whole thing down and tell folk they're a slug with a carbuncle issue.

Emma thinx: Know where you got lost. Finding yourself starts there.

Monday 24 October 2011

Allez Les Bleus

I'm guessing that most of you will recognise the above picture. Certainly it is one of my favourites. What many people do not realise is that somewhere under the heap of bodies is an oval rugby ball. Poor old France lost the world rugby cup to New Zealand by one point. The game was a dour muscular struggle and I think the French can come home filled with pride at the show they put on. A couple of weeks ago, France played Wales in the semi final. I am not a rugby fan and to be frank some of the guys look a bit fearsome. France won by one point against a Welsh team reduced to 14 when the captain was sent off. I must confess to having felt a slight conflict of loyalty since Wales used to be part of Great Britain. Nowadays they are semi independent but they don't hate the English like the Scots do. I don't know if the Scots and the Welsh hate each other. They probably do, but at present they are united by their dislike of the English.

The whole business of the Delacroix painting of Liberty leading the people came to mind as protesters all around the world have set up encampments in capital cities to protest against CAPITALISM. Given the course of politics I guess there will soon be camps of folks  protesting about lowercaseism. Shortly after the Popular Italic Front will split away and it will be the story of Great Britain all over again. What I didn't know is that the figure of Liberty served as the sculptor Bartholdi's inspiration for the statue of Liberty in New York. In researching this matter I came upon this fascinating photo taken in Paris. The link of course is that the underlying framework for the Statue Of Liberty was fabricated by Gustave Eiffel. 
Ooh, for a woman I can be a right old boring anorak. And that brings me to something you can all help with. (No - it's not about my placing of prepositions.) My agent and manager (my dear friend Rosina)  has been on to me about my blog. Seemingly it's too wayward. I am a Romance writer but my daily wotsit can be about anything from Fine Arts to Old Farts. I must promo myself to the Romantic readers. It's no good going on about carrots or world events. I think she's right so let me give you a sneak preview of my up and coming Romantic blockbuster "The Billionaire's Woman's Secret Furrow".

She drew the ripened marrow to her belly. There had been moments among the carrots, and a brief longing around the courgettes. Since the multi billionaire Rogerico Fantastico had entered her garden she had longed for his seed of fertile wealth. Even her past lover - the Count of Monty Bisto- with all his beef was nothing. But how could she bring him to her furrow when he was busy controlling the world?

Emma thinx: Molecool - two trendy atoms getting it together. 

Sunday 23 October 2011

I Think Therefore I Spam

Oh what joy it is to be home, if only for a few days. My tanks are filling with that long shadow/warm sun mellow ecstasy which still lives on this far south. We arrived back in France to find that a friend was moving house today. The affair had been in the wind for a while and suddenly the dam of expectation broke, the lawyers dipped their quills and the peasant mob moved in to finish the job. It's only when you live in France that you realise just how anal the Anglo Saxons are about everything. Here, one day things will unfold. No one knows which day but everyone lives and hopes. By the time it happens there are dozens of people who share the expectation. When the time comes, everyone moves into gear and somehow everything is achieved. No one is allotted any duty and no one is in charge. In rural France most people have vans. Those who do not have vans have trailers. This obviates the need for any furniture removal businesses. In fact, when you think about it, most of the services we think we need and have to pay for only exist because folk don't know one another. Gilles gave a hand rebuilding beds and I suggested that I cook dinner since there would be plenty else going on. Sometimes things go wrong.......

At about 1 o'clock I was about to put a chicken casserole in the oven to cook slowly for a few hours. The guests appeared at the door. Yes - you spotted the problem. They had come for lunch, thinking that when an English person says dinner, they mean lunch - because everyone knows that the English get it wrong. Accordingly they had double guessed my supposed error. I had single guessed that they knew I did not make that error. Look - this is no problem. You take some tagliatelle, a tin of Spam, a jar of Dolmio  pasta sauce, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some garlic, some Parmigiana cheese and a baguette. In 15 minutes a dish of  Spamastia Fantasia a l'Anglaise was served. Very few people have served Spam to the French. The meal disappeared and plates were cleaned with bread. I kinda felt that my life had not been in vain. 

Later, I took a ride on my bike. There is a field nearby still filled with wild flowers. These days I can no longer do poetry. Life has kicked it out of me and the jingle jangle of road traffic, commercial pop radio, hair dryers, mobile phones, work schedules and world noise blunts me down to a stub. It does this to all of us and we call it getting by and survival. Writing Romance is a different state of mind. It is about escape. You have to see that from which you wish to escape. So, I went to the field of flowers. The sky was a perfect blue and the heavens a dome of azure over my head. Under that  same dome all things lived in the only ways they could. A hawk hovered, a mouse scurried and the flowers ....well, the flowers simply blew in the wind as the world turned and the vacuums drew in the pressures and the strong sowed the seeds of their failure in the defeat of the currently weak. And when all the hour glasses are turned again and all the cards are shuffled, the flowers will blow in the wind. I took a short video which is a kind of a poem. It says nothing but itself.

Emma thinx: Make a deal with time while you can still negotiate.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Kissing in the moonlight

Do you ever wonder what you would go through to get to what you wanted? I seem to remember a game show on Japanese TV where you could win prizes by eating maggots or being drowned. If you Yanks haven't seen this stuff check  out Endurance here. This type of entertainment came to mind as I endured a night crossing on a Brittany Ferry between Portsmouth (UK) and St Malo (France). I cannot seriously fault the staff of Brittany Ferries. They are hard working and courteous. However, these night crossings are an ordeal. Because our vehicle had a roof box we were loaded last and so when we got to the restaurant there was a huge queue. Since many of the would-be diners were French, the word queue did not apply. Probably best to imagine the French Revolution and the mobs at the barricades. Since it was half term, loads of English were also on board and I'm guessing that the ship was at full capacity. We attempted to storm the self service barricades for about half an hour but gave up and headed for the posh restaurant. No tables of course. We headed for the bar. We grabbed a table and dear old Gilles went off and got pizza from a kinda cafe place. He was back in half an hour. And do you know what? Not a single guy asked me if I was on my own/would like a drink/fancied a shag. There's nothing more pleasing to me than being fancied and offended.  I was a bit miffed to be frank but that's how life is these days for the pre-menopausal bus driver. We gobbled the food and a singer did a Tom Jones, Englebert, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, Bobby Darin  medley. It was all a bit D.I.Y. so I suppose you could call it the Flat Pack. The guy was good and we all had a good old sing-along. Just imagine having to entertain folks on these ferries. The audience don't want to be there and they're more worried about little Wayne having run off and jumping overboard than your rendition of "Born Free". To all the staff and entertainers of Brittany Ferries "Chapeau". (I take my hat off to you). I'm not cross really, but these boats at peak times are just unable to cope at any acceptable level of comfort. And you pay premium fares!

After the pizza, the Flat Pack and the beer we strolled to the outer deck. There was darkness, not as an absence of light, but as a presence and a offer of anonymity. The white wake of the ship spread out in that bridal train fashion behind us. Ahead of us lay our home and I saw my man under the stars against the backdrop of the ocean. And then we kissed. Two creatures of flesh in a moment that took in the randomness of the moment and the pure pleasure of another body. If you were a passenger on that boat and saw completely inappropriate snogging by two old folk I hope it didn't spoil your evening. 

Emma thinx: If you wanna get to heaven - go out and kiss under it.

Friday 21 October 2011

French Leave

I wanted you all to be the first to know. I'm going home for the week.The photo is of one of my views. Can you believe it? I just can't tell you how lovely St. Savinien is. Away from the urban madness I will live properly again. I'm just so lucky. It's half term in the UK so I'm free from the bus. Gilles works for an Anglo/French company and he's convinced them that the corporate thrust needs to be applied over there for a few days. Poor old geezer should retire really but I don't think they do retirement any more. Soon there will be a mass army of unemployed young people who's only work will be as coffin bearers as all the old folk work themselves to death at all the jobs the young should be learning and taking on. I might write a book about it called "For whom the bell doles". For the benefit of non natives the word "dole" means unemployment pay. Ooh I'm a cynical old cow.

Quiet day on the bus. At the tower block, intercom mom told me that her lad was "not really up to it today." I asked if he had been kind to her. "Ee's been a right little darlin' Emma," she said with a genuine smile in her voice. Somewhere in the concrete sky above me was a little warm sense of love. Ah - made me feel quite motherly smotherly. 

Gotta get stuff in the car and calm myself. Much will be forgotten I'm sure. This time tomorrow I'll be home, gabbling to friends in French, wondering about dinner.....and the possibility of cassoulet du lapin. I love my man and this is the only proof he ever asks. Can a woman deny her man a nice bit of hot furry game?

Emma thinx: Don't just sit there. - Boo something. Be a fan not a spectator.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Shove Story

It's a girl! Carla Bruni has had her baby. Que je suis contente pour eux. She is 43 and likes a drink and a smoke. Apparently her husband (President Sarko) popped out of the office to have a squint at events for half an hour. Then he had to get back to world saving duties. My ex husband was delivering a load of floor tiles up North with his lorry when I produced my last one. Well, if you've seen one you've seen 'em all and there were queues waiting in Halifax for cut price mosaic kitchen floors. We also needed the money. The word is that there will be no pictures of the baby and no publicity at all. Ah come on guys....let's have just a little glimpse. There's an election coming up and Sarko is on the floor in the polls. Surely a president and a super-model First Lady turned pop singer aren't that shy.(Check out her singing style here) I doubt a few pictures would harm the babe. I don't think the socialist candidate  Francois Hollande can come up with a baby or a pop singer wife in time. They call him Mr Normal, but he has announced  some more fashionable spectacles. Looks like it's gonna be ferocious. If I were a PR guy I'd have Carla cradling the babe and warbling a number one single lullaby whilst wrapped in the French Flag.

Trouble on the bus. Testosterone fuelled aggression flared as one lad was assailed for sitting next to a girl of another boy's dreams. I intervened and sat the female on the front seat on her own. This allowed her to turn round and argue with both of her suitors. By the time we reached college she was in tears. I advised her to chill and think nice thoughts. She ran off to inform the Authorities. I can see case conferences and procedures being invoked. I hope they leave me alone. I think I'm developing a spectrum.

Colonel Gaddafi is dead. I guess no one could mourn his passing, but the grainy mobile phone footage of a bloody corpse and accounts of his death seemed to me to lack nobility. The mobile phone shots of Saddam Hussein being hanged gave me a similar sensation. On a pragmatic basis I can see that a trial could well have held open wounds and divisions. Very probably I'm too much of a cissy to enjoy Revolution.

Emma thinx: One revolution brings you to where you started. Two revolutions bring you to your knees. Three revolutions bring you to your senses.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Walk On The Wild Side

"Ee's just gonna do 'is teef," came intercom voice from floor 23, "ee's bein' a right little sh*t to me ee is. Ee's in an 'orrible mood."
Oh no - anger management issues in the sky village tower block. I wait in the bus. The lad appears, turns and lobs a half consumed can of breakfast Red Bull at the wall and stamps towards me. A lady runs out from the doors dressed in a dressing gown. She has no shoes.
"Pick that up!"she yells, turning to me. "Ee wasn't brought up like that. I had to follow him down in case he ran off or summink."
I glanced at the boy. He looked surly and troubled. I wish he had run off. The woman looks tired and strained. Her face and voice are smoked out. The contest of life is winning on points and she's hanging on the ropes ducking as many blows as she can. You kinda feel that the referee should stop the fight. My life is wonderful. I am a lucky privileged person. My heart goes out to this poor woman. I bet she's on her own. I give her a warm look, hoping I don't look like a posho being a feel-good kind liberal. She shrugs and goes back to her cell in the sky village. I wonder if she has the cash for some fags to dull the agony of daytime TV.

I'm getting very concerned about the British High Street. I think most High Streets will soon be renamed as Low Streets. Out of town malls and retail complexes are turning town centres into lines of charity shops, Tanning salons, Nail bars, Tattoo and piercing studios and of course Fish pedicure clinics. Well, I tell you one thing - even if I had a fish with feet, there's no way that I would take it to a clinic to be pampered. The government appear to share some of my concerns, at least from the public health view point. Seemingly a high percentage of  body piercings become infected. Also there is the problem of parents bringing their babies to be pierced. I mean - is it just me or are there other people who don't like looking  someone in the eye and being distracted by lip, nostril, chin  and eyebrow studs or rings? You cannot get your genitals or nipples pierced until you are 16 years old. Apparently up to 10 per cent of adults in the UK have this kind of piercing. What is going on here? Who will be the first President or Prime Minister to have facial piercings or tattoos? The punctured generation will soon be the total electorate. Instead of putting a cross on the ballot paper you will have to make a hole through it.

Dire warnings about Hepatitis and Aids risks associated with feet eating fish have appeared in the press. I guess the fish aren't too happy either. Are feet part of a proper balanced diet?

Emma thinx: Legitimise your anger. Call someone else a bastard.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

And Now - Here is The History Of The News

I ask this question rhetorically......When did the idea of "The News" first come up. There must have been a time before "News". I guess when cave persons (see how PC I am) were sitting round their roasted dinosaur crumb roasted twizzler, they told tales of the day's hunting and gathering. Maybe a tribe member had met his destiny under a mammoth foot or a French-cave-lady had discovered a new way to cook lizard gizzard in a wine and shallot sauce.( I bet some Madame de cuisine has already done it). Mainly I guess they told tales of recent history. Perhaps a smooth guy turned (stony faced) to camera and smiled "And now for the Olds". 

Every day on my bus I drive out to my first pick up. I listen to BBC Radio 4. The "Today" programme brings me news and analysis of all those things that are just so important TODAY. I know that when I pick up the kids they'll be yelling for moooosic. I really resent having to miss all the important NEWS about all those things that I hadn't realised even existed or were possible. It's a bit like Alcoholics Anonymous. You have to admit that you are a NEWS addict. Just imagine....the dramatic anticipatory communicatory music fades away - the grave presenter opens the bulletin and says "Today there is no news. Instead we are playing you the new recordings by Pixie Lott and Kelly Clarkson." Bloody hell - if they are new recordings there is some news! Who produced it, who wrote the lyrics? There must be an expert somewhere to give me some informed analysis. No News.... Sheesh, they had me worried there.

Years ago there was an advertisement on TV for a product called 1001 ( They had a jingle-"A Thousand and one cleans a big big carpet for less than half a crown". That's about 13 pence-20 cents ).  All that was before I was born - but my father used to sing it when he used the vax. He never had much in life you know. But today the numbers of one thousand to one have jingled and jangled all day on the NEWS. There has been much discussion as to whether or not the release of ONE Israeli man equates to the release of ONE THOUSAND Palestinian men. Some correspondents have kinda viewed it as a deal like buying a car -"Hey, if you'd hung in there you coulda got some alloy wheels. If you'd have toughed it out you coulda got the car for free!" I say - measure the deal in the joy it brings to all those families. Then I say- tell me what joy any slaughter has ever brought to any man. Think of the thousands who cannot return from the dead. What would you pay to rescue one of them if you could? And I'll tell you something else. The name of the Israeli soldier who was released was known to every soul in Israel and many folk beyond that. You cannot read out a thousand names and so it is a statistic and the deal sounds like betting odds. Mankind can do better. We can. We know we can. Let's start tonight in the homes and hearts of everyone set free this day to write a future.

And so, to the point where I meant to start my blog. I have never been to war or been a soldier. I am a hedonist saved from debauchery because I can't afford it. I have scrimped and saved to debauch as much as possible though. This afternoon I finished Bert Carson's book "Fourth and Forever". I will admit that I still don't fully understand American football. What I do understand is that Bert's breakdown and social analysis of the whole Vietnam War and its aftermath is more succinctly portrayed here than in any lengthy book on psychology/sociology. You see - the guy was there! He was there! Just think about that and the difference it makes. One day there won't be anyone alive who was there. To a foreigner, the Vietnam War is like a kinda watershed in American political life that seemed to me as a kid to play out like a civil war that divided the USA far more than it divided communism from capitalism. In a few paragraphs Bert clarifies the whole experience of Vets returning to a homeland with no comprehension of what their warriors had been through. Soldiers suddenly lost the bonds of comradeship that had sustained them and returned to a job at the shopping mall with flash-backs of courage and horror to be kicked up the ass by bright shiny executives for day dreaming on the job. Actually it's amazing that so many of them just got on with it, at least in public. "Fourth and Forever" is a book about coming of age in one sense and about coming to terms in another sense. It is an inspirational story written honestly in a plain word style that Hemingway could not have faulted. While I was reading it I kept thinking of a screenplay for a film...Come on Hollywood, catch this ball and run with it.

Emma thinx: Pin a label on your enemy. Pin a name on a fellow man.

Monday 17 October 2011

No Spare Tyre

I once went on an "extended interview". The job was as a minor official with an eminent UK cycling organisation. I arrived in a room containing about 30 people. Oh yes - we were all there for the same job. We were going to spend the day in teams working on issues and projects whilst we were monitored by important assessors. Then, a final long list was to be drawn up and over the following month or so more interviews and tests would eventually lead to the appointment of the lucky person to a job at about minimum wage. During the day we all had to give power point presentations which we had prepared at home on the subject that "Cycling is seen as a posh middle class activity." I think they meant people with "Stand Aside" 4X4's with bikes on the roof for kids called Tamsin and Tarquin Foreskin-Smythe. Then we had to do role plays with other applicants, analyse pages of accident statistics and discuss areas such as strategies, marketing and presentation. Smug but smooth managers moved among us mumbling holy words like "Anticipated roll-out profiles within contexts of multi-layered platforms of social interactions." In one of my own exercises I had to plan a multi-cultural fun experience transcending stereotypical attitudes whilst heightening ecological issues. I suggested a carnival procession without hydrocarbon entitled "Chilli con carnival" featuring a flypast  by the "Red Barrows" (The Red Arrows are the crack Royal Air-Force display team). Red wheelbarrows could be zoomed around by ethnically neutral persons making aeroplane noises. I thought the examiner was gonna choke. It's been a couple of years now and it's beginning to look as if I didn't make the cut.

The above experience came to mind tonight as I had to solve a problem. Imagine yourself driving a bus loaded with handicapped children. The bus starts to steer a bit heavy and you know there's a puncture. You can't really leave the bus or wait on the carriageway when you know there will soon be toilet issues. I spot a service station which is about big enough to take 3 family cars. I attempt an heroic shunt onto the forecourt. People run for cover. The Air line is out of order. I decide to head for the bus depot and make it with the wheel rim rim intact. If only those clever assessors could have analysed my strategy development.

Emma thinx: Liberal authoritarianism -you are free to obey.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Pick And Mix

Ever since the demise of Woolworth's our world has lacked the joy of the pick n' mix sweets display. If I were to be really pompous and OTT I could say that it represented a philosophy of opportunity, infinite choice and reward. It was the free market of anticipated pleasure. Now why is this daft old Doris in the fried egg and banana sweet display? Well, watching the "global" demonstrations against "Corporate Greed" the image of the Pick and Mix keeps flashing into my mind. Should I join the jelly baby, fruit chew and dolly mixture coalition, the Red Strawberry Brigade or should I stand up and march goose-step in black uniform with the Liquorice Jugend? The choice is mine if I can ever be certain enough to dip my scoop and pay up. We live in interesting times when the old political show is indeed like some dated summer camp concert. As a spleenager I used to love punk music - (you should see me pogo guys!). There is a lyric in the 1977 song  "Anarchy in the UK" which reads "Don't know what I want but I know how to get it." A further line reads "Your future dream is a sharpie's scheme." My dictionary gives a definition of "sharpie" as a "dishonest or cunning person. Now, as a very grown up parent with a life hard lived, lusted and busted I still see the fresh anger and confused accusation of this song. The modern young generation have an itch they cannot scratch - indeed because they have jumped nothing but focused educational hoops, they have received no word for that itch. They were told the pedlar had everything in his pack for them and that they could be even richer pedlars themselves. They have no anthems, no heroes and no leaders ....YET. In troubled times the winning slogan will be simple. The leader will wear some kind of boots - style to be decided. Sandals or slippers are unlikely.

I know that I overwork the word JOY. The reason is simple. In the universe of our hearts there is so much of it and yet we allow ourselves so little. Just now and then life gives you a booster jab of joy. Today, the joy was not my own - but danced and flung itself in ecstasy from the canvases of an artist. When Gilles spotted a sign advertising an exhibition outside a house as he was driving home I expected a polite amateur show of "local" art. We wandered along this afternoon to take a look at the paintings of Sara Barnes. Let me say simply that it is a long time since I desperately wanted to write a poem. The picture below speaks so vibrantly of the defiant fragility of blooms against the sky, the hidden force of their roots feeding their cry of  mortal beauty into the deaf indifference of the  ocean.
 Then we have a canvas of Exbury Gardens which needs no words and is a visual feast of atmosphere,light and colour.

Then an unwitting careless study of innocence, hierarchy, fascination and that peculiar English childhood of rock pool discovery. The disequilibrium  of the child in green, reflects a gauche accidental view of vulnerability and mortality.(Literatti among you might wish to check out "The Shrimp and the Anemone" by L.P. Hartley which explores this theme).
And finally a picture of that transcendent quality of motion that ballet sets out to achieve. Here a dancer leaps into the space of possibility that our imagination sketches ahead of us in time. 

 Feel the joy in that flight! I arrived too late to buy the above picture and paintings were flying off the walls. Remember the name: Sara Barnes (artist).

Emma thinx: A pure vacuum has no choice of what it sucks in.

Saturday 15 October 2011

War Horses

A man has appeared in court in London charged with assaulting a police dog that was chasing him. Somehow I suspect that if he had assaulted a police officer very little would have been made of it. The alleged villain is called Lukasz Sklepowski, 28 years of no fixed address. The dog is named "Zincan". I bet the get well cards and choco dog treats are already arriving at Scotland Yard. In 1982 a horse of the household Cavalry was injured in a terrorist nail bomb outrage in London. The horse received more cards and gifts than all the soldiers killed and injured that day. Sefton eventually recovered enough to return to duty. It was probably the biggest PR mistake that the IRA ever made. To me it seems only fair that poor beasts with no choice should be seen as special heroes. Those old newsreel shots of mules being craned onto boats to go to war do pull a tender chord. 

Of course it is romantic to think of Mountain Rescue Dogs. Given the chance I would like to go out with rugged guys and rescue mountains in return for some chocolate and a head massage. All manner of special rescue and crotch sniffing drug dogs deserve our applause. Some working mutts will never make the front page, yet their contribution to our lives is beyond price. We need look no further than Alf - the workshop dog. Imagine the problem of a bus coming back from a trip with football supporters. In addition to beer cans, sweet wrappings and crisp packets, there are certain to be all manner of Kentucky fried wings and burger bits all around the cabin. Alf is placed on board by his handler and within minutes every shred of chicken batter and burger bap is discovered and devoured. If ever a dog deserves the eco-reycle medal of gallantry it is Alf.

I've just come back from the movies where I have been watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. This is a simply fabulous film. It is witty, philosophical and just so sumptuously photographed. It is worth seeing just for the pictures of Paris. There is a great cameo role by Carla Bruni, wife of President Sarkozy. I always find that kinda stuff weird - like watching a U.S. president in a cowboy film. Nah - that's just too far fetched.

Emma thinx: A spider would make 2 four legged friends

Friday 14 October 2011

Chocs Away.

I'm tempted to quote Oscar Wilde on the subject of temptation. Unlike a genius and literary superstar, I can resist - which is probably why I drive a bus. But I am sure that many of my own romantic fiction readers here in the UK will know that it is National Chocolate week. Why do we need it? Every week is chocolate week, even if you don't succumb to a solitary Malteser. Look - all I've had this week is a packet of Turkish Delight - and that was an ASDA own brand budget deal so it can't really be counted can it? I have put up a struggle in the face of immense aggression from the chocolatiers of this world. Hotel Chocolat sent me an invitation to join their Chocolate Tasting Club. Their brochure invites me to "reach my bliss point". Do they think that such blatant erotically charged lustful hedonism would move me? Too bloody right it would! Most junk mail goes straight in the bin. I'm not quite ready to take that final step, but I will be once I've signed up.

Whilst in ASDA buying my budget Turkish Delight (I think it's a love it or hate it), I bought some sun flowers. At home in Charente Maritime they are a backdrop to summer, an orgy of careless beauty grown as a crop. You know I think that the context in which we see things is more important than the thing itself. A huge field of blooms is like a mob, an army or a nameless crowd. A few individuals in a vase are a work of art and a study of joy. How would life be if we saw the mass proletariat as precious and beautiful? How would it be if the poor and all the trampled dead of war could live an hour on canvas or in a vase or in the heart of the oppressors? We would know something then of our purpose - which is to love, to forgive and to share our chocolates. You thought I'd got God didn't you?

Emma thinx: The crop is our reality. Each bloom is our truth.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Camera Obscura

You know that feeling when things are going well - that feeling of inevitable victory that all those self improvement gurus tell you to re-create when you're about to take that penalty to win the World Cup. Well, today I had that feeling. Traffic was light. I sailed through a verdant spring-time of green traffic lights. A police officer was hiding in the front garden of a house with a speed gun and a bus coming the other way tipped me off. I cruised past him at 10 miles per hour as he pointed his ray gun at me. I gave him a big "Gotcha" wave and a smirk as I passed his bush hideout. I could see a twisted rage etched on his snide face. He looked like he needed the figures for the boss. A bus would have been a headline "public menace trapped by hero cop" catch.

I swung the bus back into the yard at the depot. There was a good clear slot to back in. I shut down and got my things together....I wrote the date on the defect sheet - the 13th. Hah! I said to myself - No worries. Then I glanced back through the aisle. There was a leg sticking out from behind the back seat. There was no discernible movement. "Oh F***k" I thought. I dashed to the scene and saw a lad sleeping so peacefully that it was almost beautiful. Some kind of intuition woke him up. He stared at me. At least he was alive. I knew that he should have got off at a stop about 5 miles from the depot. It was my own fault. Some of the kids get off at stops and some go to their front door. This kid hadn't got off and I hadn't noticed. He should have been home about 90 minutes earlier. I jumped back to the wheel and queued through the rush hour to get him home. I took him to the door, explained things to his mother and did a 46 point turn to get out of his road. Back at the depot my slot had gone and I was left with an angled shunt into a tight gap. It's just so easy to break a mirror! Looks like the next 7 years are gonna be tough. I didn't cry - well, not much. At least I can dream of that thwarted cop sobbing in his bush.

Before my afternoon shift I clicked on the TV and watched a black and white film about the sinking of the battleship "Bismarck" in World War Two. I just love those posh clipped accents and duffel coats. The good guys won of course. Suddenly I saw a deep truth of the universe. Colour film destroys Empire. When history was in black and white we won. Since colour we have been in a downward spiral. Come to think of it our prime minister looks a bit orange. Can't imagine dear old Winston in spray tan.

Emma thinx: Superstition - the popular front for legitimate mystery.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Putting The Boot In.

Many moons ago while I was working in my kitchen, my daughter came to me sobbing and asked if she could raise a very serious issue. Oh no - this must be the pregnancy/drug addiction/solvent abuse/pedophile situation that we watch as entertainment on the soaps, but do not wish to confront with the suds. I dried my hands and took her to the lounge, selected some calming baroque music and told her that whatever it was, we were there for her, that I knew several state registered professional counsellors and that we would not be cross. I decided not to raise the possibility of groundings, thrashings or bread and water diets. At last she spoke.
"Mother - um - I think it's about time I had some Adidas trainers. I'm being blanked and excluded because I haven't got brand names on my clothes."
It was true. "But you're not being held up at knife-point by trainer pirates" 
"No," she conceded -"but I am called a retard and a dork. I'd rather be stabbed."
The truth was of course that she was being stabbed. Needless to say we pulled together as a family, called in some counsellors and had the child suitably billboarded and labelled. I knew that one day our innocent unbranded world would end. We had had a good run. She was nearly seven after all.

 My dear friend Oscar Sparrow wrote a poem about fashion and how it had mattered to him as a kid - long before he became a stuffaphobe Buddhist and renounced all possessions. Check out "Fashion Footwear" here. 

And so it is that I tip out my load of kids each day at the college as waves of fashion branded youths troop in. A few retards and dorks mingle in, but are clearly an underclass of non-populars. Fashion and status have become tyrants, and it is not only the young who suffer it. In my guise of a sportive cyclist more and more carbon fibre bandanna clad executive types swap "better than you" tales of Specialised and Trek. I have a Boardman from Halfords and jolly good value it is too!

This whole subject came to mind as Prime Minister Cameron launches a mission to restore childhood and to stop kids advertising to kids on TV. Pester power is truly an awful phenomenon. Most parents I know with even 3 year old kids are hounded by demands - some of which the three year olds pick up from advertising on their lap tops. I witnessed such a thing earlier this week and I was astonished. Would you let a three year old play on the internet? Come to think of it they would probably be a bit sophisticated for some forum sites.

Some things are just so hard to judge aren't they? The trial of Yulia Tymoshenko (ex-president of Ukraine) all looks a bit like a political shenanigans to me. (Good job Gordon Brown was'nt put on trial for losing £7billion on our UK gold!). I mean - she's a simple billionaire girl who mis-read her gas meter. Seven years in jail seems harsh. I just hope they have decent hairdressing salons.  I can tell her that Gilles is very much on her side and that if ever she comes back to politics he would definitely offer to stuff her envelopes. Why are there so many multi-billionaires? Which bus company are they driving for?

Emma thinx: Reveal your inner darkness. Let your roots grow out.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

King Of The Fountains

By the time you get to my age you feel that maybe you've seen a fair bit. Well - you may have done but the fact is that so much changes so quickly. I arrived at the internet keyboard as a pure virgin only a couple of years ago and it is only recently that I had the courage to venture onto a forum. I felt like an apprentice wildebeest attempting to cross a crocodile infested river. I had always imagined cyclists to be  gentle grass eating creatures. I had clicked on a link to the magazine of the Cyclists Touring Club. I figured there might be some advice for the guys on positioning your winter flask in your shorts to avoid embarrassment or a few patterns to knit your own Lycra. I spotted a thread about bus drivers and their interaction with pedallers. As a member of both communities I read on. Suddenly I realised that I had unearthed a 2 wheeled Al Qaeda cell. All bus drivers were reviled as Morons. I decided to put the contrary case, pointing out that cyclists needed to understand the operation of big vehicles and of visibility/mirror issues. Dear Oh dear! Back came echoes of bile and hatred. MORON, MORON! chanted an accuser. I felt the tearing of flesh as the crocs tore into me and pulled me under. And that was a forum for righteous lentil gobblers.

So- looking at yesterday's item about honey bees, I read some of the comments that readers had added on the Newspaper website. The professors were "feathering their own nests". A counter opinionater declared that another correspondent was a "Mong" who should get back under his shell.  The fact is that this sort of behaviour is horrid.  Everyone in the writing game has come up against Trolls who abuse other people's work in an unacceptable way. In my opinion some "forums" are Troll fronts where many correspondents are mentally ill. A few days ago a man appeared in Court in the UK for trolling on  memorial websites to  dead kids. If you do not know of this case check it out here.

The fact is that anonymity permits the very worst of us to emerge, uninhibited by fear of actual violence or reprisal. I know a lad whose life was turned into a Hell by cyber threats on Facebook. I feel myself lucky to have grown up before any such thing was possible. I have just a suspicion that I might have been cowardly enough to express my true vile self.

Emma thinx: You can snipe at rabbits but beware of the cross hares.