Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

…..is my new book which is being launched this week. (more…)

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An English Book-sale and a puppet show featuring La Reine des Neiges!



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In the UK, 2018 is the centenary of winning Votes for Women: the suffrage campaign finally won through! Women over 30 (or at least the great majority of them) finally won the right to vote in parliamentary elections; women over the age of 21 had to wait until 1928 to gain full equal voting rights with men.

Suffragists relied on constitutional tactics (keeping within the law), while suffragettes took militant action, often resulting in imprisonment.

Next week, British academic Jill Liddington will be at Book in Bar in Aix giving what will no doubt be an impassioned account of this struggle:  Jill was Reader in Gender History at Leeds University and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies. She specialises in the actions of women in the north of England, often working class and somewhat side lined by historians in favour of better-known activists in London.  Her book ‘Rebel Girls’ profiles some of these courageous northern women.

Her book, ‘Histoire des suffragistes radicales’, was published here in France last month.

This is a free talk – not to be missed!


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Provence.  Its powerful image enchants people worldwide, and many, inspired by the wonderful Peter Mayle, actually come to live here; and also, inspired by ‘A Year in Provence’ decide that they too have a story to tell.  Most are remarkably different. Some arrive to transform crumbling chateaux, with either lots of money or their own bare hands; others take on olive groves, b&bs, camp-sites, tea-shops, book-shops; all have different ways of tackling French and the challenges of  life here….giving us a wide variety of narratives.

‘Passion for Provence’ which has just been published is a memoir from Gayle Smith Padgett who uses  her experiences to draw 22 key lessons, designed to lead to full enjoyment of ‘La Belle Vie’.

Based in Germany, she and her fellow-American husband Ralph, chose Provence for a delayed honeymoon.  The attraction was instant. ‘Though retirement was a long way off, the Provencal spell had been cast’.

Two decades later, the couple moved south…but where to settle?  Gayle entertains  her readers with stories of house-sitting in different areas, good for local knowledge, not so good for coping with wayward cats.  After a flirtation with Aix, they settled in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, close to a variety of  biking trails and also the Camargue for bird-watcher Ralph. The book takes us through tough times such as Ralph’s hospitalisation and their experience of the French medical system; but also provides lots of fun as the couple make friends, entertain and discover Porquerolles, Villefranche, and Aix itself. Grappling with the complexity of French automated post offices, locating loos, and coping when the wheels were stolen from their car, all make entertaining anecdotal reading.

The major challenge though was gaining 10-year residency which entails Gayle passing DILF, the compulsory language test.  Where could she take it? What did it entail?  Not always easy to find out. The final chapters describing the process, while amusingly written, will surely be helpful to many readers.

Will Gayle get her residency? Will Ralph ever spot that elusive Grand Duc owl?

This is a very readable narrative written with wry humour and clear love for France and the French. It’s recommended for those thinking about a move, but also provides interesting observations and insights for those of us already in Provence.

You can find ‘Passion for Provence’ in Book in Bar or online via Amazon.



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Being the first Sunday of the month, there is free access to public museums in Aix and the Musée Granet is adding a programme of music (more…)

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Last summer saw the bi-centenary of Jane Austen’s death; there were events and celebrations across England.  Visiting friends in Winchester in the summer, (more…)

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The Death of Peter Mayle

What sad news to wake up to today. Peter Mayle, the author best known for writing ‘A Year in Provence’, has died in hospital near his home village of Vaugines.

In fact I had just posted this week about visiting his favourite restaurant in Marseille which had prompted me to pick up ‘A Year in Provence’ to reread a few chapters.

Peter Mayle in Lourmarin, Provence in 2006.
Peter Mayle in Lourmarin, Provence in 2006. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

This book inspired an entire genre of Provence-themed memoirs but he really was the godfather of them all.  His descriptions, so incisive and witty, were the product of his skill as an advertising man, added to a benign nature that saw the best in people and places.  His work is always optimistic and sunny, capturing the imagination of the millions who bought his books.

In true advertising tradition, he crafted his product, Provence, giving it an image and personality that so appealed to holiday-makers and people looking for a new life. No wonder the French made him Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2002.

He was 78.  A sad loss.



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