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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Saturday 27th September: (Part Two): Festival Kernours

Celine phoned on Friday and arranged to pick me up yesterday as she was keen to go to Festival Kernours at nearby Kervignac. On the way there she put on a C.D by a Breton rock band called Merzhinwhich, according to the sleeve notes, featured a traditional instrument called as bombard which has a kind of mellow oboe sound. (I don't know how Celine can drive and listen to music at the same time - I'd crash into the nearest wall!).
I was very interested to discover a workshop at the festival all about edible wild herbs. We watched a cooking demonstration of several Breton dishes including Far Cake, Friko Kaol (a kind of cabbage, meat and potato casserole), and another recipe of which I've forgotten the name. 

The music at the festival was very good. I particularly enjoyed TheSavaty Orkestar; featuring drum, fiddle, accordion and trombone (an unusual combination of instruments). While I chatted to the accordionist, a guy called Wenceslas (never met anyone with that name before), Celine had taken a fancy a the singer/guitarist who had been performing that afternoon. When she returned, armed with two CDs from her guitarist, we went over to a food stall and each tried a Galette-Saucisse (sausage wrapped in a cold pancake) which didn't look particularly appetising but tasted good. I also had a bowl of the Friko Kaol which was very tasty. 

Back at my place we sat outside in the garden. Celine pointed out that my hanging baskets looked neglected. I had to admit I'd been so busy marketing my books I've not been watering them lately. I told her the story of Jean-Luc and Hilda and how I'm still concerned about him. She suggested going to see him, but apart from that, didn't know what else to do.
It was a clear sky and we talked outside until late in the evening.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Saturday 27th September: (Part One) The Caricature

Up at 6.30 this morning and I got right into the draft of my historical novel. I worked through until 9.00 before taking a break. As I needed some bread, I drove to the village and dropped into the cafe-bar for a coffee and croissant (there are times when I yearn for a full English breakfast!). I was about to close the cafe door when I paused. I was shocked. Taped to the inside was a printed cartoon drawing of a cow and farmer gazing into each other's eyes. 

The caption read, Les Amoureux (The Lovers) and it was surrounded by a circle of red hearts: unmistakably a caricature of Hilda and Jean-Luc. I approached Pascal who was polishing glasses at the counter and asked him about it. After telling him about Jean-Luc's troubles I asked him if he would take the picture down. At first Pascal pretended not to understand. I pointed to two other copies behind the bar and another by the television. He eventually sighed and promised to remove them, muttering that the English have no humour. I noticed his smirk when he brought over my coffee and croissant. He then asked if I knew a woman with dark hair. At first I couldn't think who he meant. But when he told me the woman had been in several times asking about me; wanting to know if I went there often and who I came with. I knew then he was talking about Adele. I told him I had no idea who the woman could be. (Pascal is the biggest gossip in the village and not to be trusted). After that, I'd lost my appetite and left half my croissant (a rare thing for me as I hate wasting food). On my way out I took the poster down and slipped it in my pocket to show Karl.
Celine has just turned up. I forgot we had planned to go to a festival this-afternoon. I'll finish this blog later (tomorrow).

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunday 21st September: Billet Doux‏

Karl called round this afternoon. He was worried about Jean-Luc and Marie and suggested it might be an idea to call on them.
As we parked in front of their farmhouse, I pointed out the freshly painted window sills and front door with tubs of geraniums standing either side. We waited a few moments then entered. Marie was humming to herself, crouching over a dish in the oven. The kitchen was transformed; dishes washed and drying in the rack, the tiled floor swept and mopped and the table covered with a red and white tablecloth, a vase with lavender placed in the centre. Bruno lay asleep on the armchair surrounded by cushions.
Marie smiled at us as we came in and invited us to sit at the table. She began searching through the pockets of a tattered denim rucksack hanging on the back of the door. She took out a piece of crumpled paper, smoothed it out, and laid it flat on the table. It dawned on me that she had prepared a speech for our visit.
She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and picked up the piece of paper. In her hesitant English she thanked us for helping Jean-Luc and explained that he had been very ill and worried about money but was now well. She paused and beamed as we clapped.
I asked where Jean-Luc was. She told us he was outside checking on the cows.
Karl gave me a meaningful look as we went out to look for him, and I had had a sinking feeling: Did Jean-Luc still believe Hilda possessed prophetic powers? We caught sight of him, head lowered and ambling up from the corner of the field where a group of cows stood. One of them was undoubtedly Hilda, but I had no idea which. He waved his hand in greeting but after this lapsed into his customary silence. I had the distinct feeling he was covering up. However, he was polite enough to invite us back to the kitchen and offered us a couple of beers. Marie watched in silence.
There is obviously still a problem with Jean-Luc. I'm not sure what it is and I don't think there's any easy answer. On the drive back Karl suggested that he should see a doctor for depression. 

When we arrived back at my place, a book was sitting on the doorstep with a note. I thought it might be from Celine, but when I went to pick it up I noticed the note was signed by Adele written in large capitals. The book was The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Karl waited as I read the note. It was written in English; "I think you will like this book. You remember when we see the movie at the cinema?" I tried to laugh this off but felt somewhat uneasy about it. Adele had been here, at my cottage. Karl suggested I should just ignore her, but I can't help wondering what she's after. 
Pieter came back from London this evening so I looked after Pepin whilst Solange and the children went to the airport to meet him. They were a lot longer than expected, as his suitcase was lost at Gatwick. He seemed relieved to be home, especially as it was Madeleine's third birthday today. Pepin had spent most of the time waiting at the garden fence for their return: true devotion! 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wednesday 17th September: Sur la Plage‏

When I arrived back from Intermarche this-morning Solange was hanging out the washing (she works from home, preparing accounts for small businesses). She told me Pieter is away in London for a few days on business and she's worried about completing the preparations for an important meeting with one of her clients. She hadn't been able to get any work done as she was being harassed by Pepin who was constantly bringing his ball over to her to play. She was desperate to get the work done before Madeleine finished kindergarten so I offered to take Pepin for a walk on Carnac beach. (I'd been tweeting on Twitter and friending on Facebook since 6.30 in the morning so I was pleased to have an excuse for a break). I phoned Celine to see if she wanted to come and we arranged to meet at Ty Bihan, one of the smaller and more peaceful beaches at Carnac. Pepin was totally hyped up; barking and scraping his paws at the window every time I slowed the car down. I told to be quiet but it only made him bark louder and we ended up having a shouting contest!
Celine was already waiting when we arrived. She'd brought along a bag for collecting sea glass. As we walked along the beach she told me how, as a little girl, she and her brother used to spend endless summers on the beach collecting for her grandmother who had bottle lamps with the bases filled with shells and sea-glass. She was reminded of a legend her grandmother used to tell her about a unicorn who lived on the beach at Carnac and slept in a cave at St.Malo. (Seems a long way to travel each day!)
We searched amongst the seaweed for glass, Pepin pulling impatiently on his lead. Every time we stopped he'd run circles around me, getting the lead tangled until I lost my balance. I had to keep a firm hold as Solange had warned me not to let him run off. We stood to watch the boats in the bay and I told Celine about the mystery man on the yacht at the gig last week. He reminded me of the novels by Patricia Highsmith, in which the anti hero, Tom Ripley, got away with his crimes by fooling and manipulating the other characters in the story. It was at this point that Pepin spotted a man running along the beach with two labradors. The lead slipped from my fingers and off he went, racing towards the other dogs. He then made an abrupt detour towards the rock pools as the man with the labradors disappeared in the opposite direction. When we looked there was no sign of Pepin. We called his name; must have spent about fifteen minutes pacing up and down the beach. I began to panic. What would Solange say? What if Pepin had run onto the road! Celine kept reassuring me, saying he would soon come back and couldn't have gone far. But there was no sign of him. The beach was deserted. By now, I was really worried. 

Celine went over to speak to an elderly couple who were strolling arm in arm along the sands. She came back to me with a smile. Pepin was at the cafe at the top of the beach. The couple told her that had been sitting outside enjoying a coffee when Pepin came running up, chasing the seagulls who were busy stealing food from the tables and the waitress had carried him inside. When we arrived it was clear Pepin was loving all the attention; accepting offerings of scraps and leftovers with the two waitresses fussing over him. What a relief! They were happy to watch him while we had a coffee outside on the terrace. I told Celine I'd never had a dog as a child. She said her grandmother had a spaniel called Beau and when he died, she replaced him with an identical spaniel which they called Beau the Second.

Arrived back and handed Pepin back who bounded over to Solange as soon as he saw her then slumped, exhausted on the rug. (Just as well dogs can't talk!) 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Saturday 13th September: Visitors from Arizona

Woke this morning in a good mood, feeling pleased with last night's gig.
When I arrived at the marina at Kernevel it was a lovely warm evening with just a slight breeze. I loaded all my equipment (keyboard, amp, speakers, etc.) onto a trolley and had to edge my way down a steep ramp to the pontoon. A man was watching from the deck of his boat and seemed to find the whole process amusing. When I reached the bottom he commented "Tres dificle, non?" (It would have been nice if he'd offered to help). 

The Flying Pheonix was easy to find; flood-lit with streamers and banners festooned along the rails and a couple of waitress's weaving through the guests with trays of drinks and canapés. As soon as I set up, the host, Judith, came over and asked if I'd like a glass of champagne to get me started. She explained that it was her husband's 60th birthday, telling me they lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and normally moored in Marbella but occasionally sailed up to Brittany as they both loved the area, having several good friends here.
Once I settled in with my usual routine I tried WhenI Was Your Man by Bruno Mars, a new piece I've been working on which seemed to go down well. Larry (Judith's husband) asked if I could play something by Gershwin, and luckily I had the music for Summertime which he seemed happy with.
During my first break the host's son, Brian, and his partner, Jason, came over to say how much they enjoyed the music (particularly SorrySeems to Be the Hardest Word by Elton John: their most favourite song in the world!). Neither of them had been to France before; Brian admitting he wasn't into sailing like his parents. He introduced me to his sister Melissa, who was chatting to me when a smartly dressed man approached us. He told us he was from Nice and owned a yacht which he kept at Cannes. When I mentioned I was from the U.K he said he'd recently spent a weekend with Prince Harry and his wife. He went into great detail about the hampers of food from Harrods which the Royal couple had delivered to their country estate in Gloucestershire. Melissa seemed puzzled at this but listened politely as he boasted how the Royals were planning a visit to his home in Nice, a luxurious villa with tennis courts, two swimming pools, a gym and extensive grounds. It was as he launched into a description of his indoor cinema when Melissa interrupted, asking the name of Prince Harry's wife.
He paused and looked at her.
"It's just that I didn't think he was married," she added.
At this the man shrugged and wandered off. I asked Melissa how her parents knew him, she said she wasn't sure, and we both agreed he was behaving oddly.
It was during my second break, as I was chatting to Judith and Melissa about Phoenix when we noticed Larry talking to the smartly dressed man. We could hear him questioning him about who he was and where he came from. Judith looked worried, saying she'd never seen him before. Most of the guests were also listening when Larry ordered him to go. We all watched the man stroll along the marina, seemingly unconcerned.
The evening had started off warm but, once the sun went down, it started to get really cold. I was positioned in the worst place with the cold breeze blowing up from the open water behind me. By the time I got to the end of my final set, my fingers were freezing. It was a relief to finish.
Coco was waiting for me at the door when I got home - she probably gets less attention since Pepin arrived.
I'm still not sure whether to get on with my historical novel (which only has a few chapters to complete), or get back to the psychological thriller (only about 50K words down). I need to get on with something creative, away from all the marketing. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday 9th September: L'eau‏

Had a rehearsal yesterday evening with Rodrigo and Alexander. Ines didn't come as she'd only just got back from holiday and said she has so much work to catch up with. Alexander's still thinking about giving up his job and concentrating on his luthier business. Although he did mention Simone doesn't seem that keen on the idea (she's probably worried about the money).
We rehearsed the backing for a couple of new songs: MiTierra and Como Fue plus improved some of the versions of earlier ones: Quen Sera and Corcovado, which I have been practising singing (although, of course I wouldn't admit it to the others).
Celine called around this morning. She had just been interviewing an elderly lady living nearby about her childhood memories of legends and folk tales. The lady remembered how her mother used to tell her stories of Les Lavandieres; three old washerwomen who go to the water's edge at midnight to wash shrouds for those about to die. Also known as Kannerezed Noz / Cannard Noz (night ducks); small figures, dressed in green, with webbed feet. She told Celine there used to be a stream at the end of her garden, and when there was a full moon, she would stare out of her bedroom window, terrified at at the idea of seeing them (Of course, she never did!). 

Celine said she was a very sweet old lady who gave her some biscuits and coffee. The coffee was so strong it tasted like... Celine made a face and tried to find the word.
"Mud?" I suggested.
"No, not this."
She shook her head.
"Ah, yes, yes, this is it!"
She also said the biscuits were "old".
Remembering how I'd been in the merchant navy, she brought along a C.D of traditional Breton sailor's songs by a band called Cabestan; songs of shipwrecks, accompanied by fiddle and accordion. While we were listening to the C.D and eating the remains of my butter cake there was a knock at the door. I was amazed to see Adele. She was about to say something when she caught sight of Celine and stopped.
I waited for her to continue. Eventually she explained that there was some problem with her car.
"I am driving and the temperature it goes up" She indicated with her hands. "You have the water to put in le reservoir?" She gave a frown at Celine.
I introduced them and Adele said something in French (asking how long she had known me).
Celine replied in English. "I think it is not right to speak French when James is here. We speak English, yes?"
Adele didn't look happy with this. I caught her glaring Celine again as I filled up a jug of water.
We walked out into the lane in silence. Her car was parked alongside the hedge with the hood up. She took the jug from me without a word and poured in the water. When she handed it back she hinted at coming in for a coffee. I was about to answer when Celine interrupted saying that we were about to go out. Adele turned to her. "What is your name? I forget," she smirked.
Celine headed towards the house. I started to follow.
"It was good to see you James," Adele called out. "See you again, soon, yes?"
I told Celine more about the relationship with Adele and how she had been possessive and controlling.
"I do not think she likes me!" Celine laughed.
We moved on to the subject of her book and I asked how it was going. She told me her grandmother had died a year ago and left her enough money to concentrate on the book for the next year. Celine said she'd like to stay longer but had arranged another interview.
After she'd gone I thought about Adele. Was she really serious about seeing me soon? 

PS Wednesday 10th September 2014

The new cover is live - at last! Amatore's Restaurant on Amazon

Read a Free chapter each week at James Sillwood website

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday 5th September: En fuite‏

First of all, while it's still fresh in my mind, I must write down the details of the dream I had a couple of days ago. Now, for some reason, I rarely remember my dreams but on Wednesday morning I woke early with Pierre Dupchant (a character from one of my novels) in my head.
Initially, he was laying in the long grass within the grounds of what appeared to be a 16th century abbey. His battered body, covered with cuts and bruises, was resting against a high stone wall which I assumed he had managed to scale. The next moment the scene switched to a dormitory (not unlike my old school) where Pierre was being attended to by a couple of nuns. And that's it, I'm afraid - that's all I remember.
I'm no expert, but I can only assume this dream was brought on because I had been discussing the follow up to my book (Amatore's Restaurant) with Laura earlier this week. Pierre, who is on the run from the Préfecture de Police in Paris, is temporary employed as a waiter at the restaurant in London. Laura and I had been discussing the possible outcome of Pierre's story, and his inevitable arrest, when I had the idea that he could abscond from the police once back in France.
So that could account for the first part of the dream. The rest could be explained by the fact that I happened to be reading a chapter of Boccaccio's, Il Decamerone, which describes the adventures of a gardener at a convent who is seduced by the nuns in turn.
I guess Pierre would love to be in this situation!

Now for today. The warm weather has returned and I've been sitting outside in the garden most of the morning. Coco is now in my lap while I'm trying to scribble down these notes on a piece of paper. So much for all the work I'd been planning to do! Since the arrival of Pepin, I don't get to see much of the cat so I just don't want to disturb her.
Ines is back from her holiday (in Provence - lucky thing) and we were supposed to have a rehearsal today. But when I phoned Alexander to ask if it was still on, he'd forgotten all about it. I sent Ines a text and she said she'd only just arrived back: "Could we make it next week?"
I'm a bit relieved as I need to get to grips with marketing my books.
Paul came over with Isabelle and Mathilde to say goodbye (they're returning to Paris for the new term). I asked Paul if he's finished preparing his lectures and he launched into a five minute speech about the life and times of the composer Francis Poulenc. I wished them luck with the baby and Isabelle mentioned they'll be back up at the gite for the occasional weekend. They brought me a Kouign-Amann, a Breton butter cake they'd brought back from Dinan yesterday - looks delicious.

As soon as they'd gone Benjamin and Madeleine came running into the cottage. Pepin trotted after them, sniffing around for scraps. I couldn't resist giving him a piece of my cake (even before I've had a taste!) 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday 2nd September: Le Retour‏

Karl called around this morning. He told me, that when he dropped off Jean-Luc's shopping last week, he'd persuaded him to write down directions to the house where Marie was staying. So we decided to go and find the place this morning to talk to her. On the way over Karl explained how, when he returned to the farm, he attempted to lead Hilda out into the yard. But, even though Karl assured him it would only for ten minutes, Jean-luc became hysterical; swearing and accusing him of trying to find out the winning numbers of the next lottery. Apparently the "magic cow" had won him 100 Euros last week.
The directions were useless. We back-tracked along the country roads a few times, stopping at several properties. Eventually we came to a hand-painted sign advertising fresh eggs for sale: the only clue Jean-Luc had given us. We both noticed the misspelling of the word "fresh" (œufs fraise à vendre) which gave the impression they were trying to sell "strawberry eggs". Jean-Luc had mentioned this, calling them ignorant peasants. We drove down the long dusty track until we came to an old farmhouse and two outbuildings, their roofs patched with corrugated iron. A few rusted trucks and dismantled cars stood outside where chickens roamed freely, searching through the long grass. A black dog lay slumped in the sun and growled listlessly after Karl's van skidded to a halt.

Two men looked up from under the bonnet of an ancient Citreon Dyane. They were dressed in blue overalls and I was immediately struck by their similarity; matching pencil moustaches, long greasy black hair tied back, and identical baseball caps worn in reverse. They both stared at us for a while before one spat, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. The other man did exactly the same: Marie's brothers.
Karl strode towards the nearest and held out his hand. "Bonjour, monsieur." Before he could reach him, the door of the farmhouse creaked open and a short fat woman waddled out. She stopped a few feet outside her door; grey hair tied in a bun, orange and brown swirls of her trouser suit (a symbol of the seventies) stretched over her middle, her eyes squinting in the sunlight. At the mention of Marie's name she nodded and beckoned us indoors. The twins continued to stare.
The kitchen was large, cluttered with mismatched cabinets, heavy oak sideboards and two big wooden dressers. Chickens strolled around the stone floor regardless while numerous cats slumped in every available space. I noticed Karl's eye roving over the furniture when we were interrupted by a rasping cough from the threadbare armchair in the corner. An old man, wearing grey underpants and a string vest was clutching a cigar in his claw-like hand. Behind him, alongside an ancient stove, Marie was stirring the contents of a large pan. She turned and gasped as she saw us.
Karl explained how Jean-Luc wasn't managing and needed her to be with him. Marie said nothing, but flung the wooden spoon onto the cluttered table, took off her apron and marched out through the door, without saying a word to her parents. The twins watched as Marie got into Karl's van and we dove off.
For once, I was relieved to hear the familiar tones of Muddy Waters as we made our way back down the track. During the journey Marie remained tight-lipped while Karl hummed tunelessly to the every song on the album.
Jean-Luc's face lit up at the sight of his wife while Bruno bounded over to Marie, leaping into her open arms. Hilda, meanwhile, stood her ground with glazed eyes fixed on the numbers around the dial of the kitchen clock.
Karl and I closed the kitchen door behind and left.
We called back to his place and had a couple of beers outside near the lake. Gary seemed happy, bossing the other geese and ducks around: King of the Pond!

PS: Wednesday 3rd September.
Woke up this morning to another dream about Pierre; the second one in the last two weeks. It makes me wonder if I should start plotting the follow-up to Amatore's Restaurant. Although I had planned to work on my historical novel (once I get all this marketing out of the way). More of this in my next blog post.