Friday, February 27, 2015

Underwonderful Days in Paradise

Not every day in our paradise is perfect. The past couple have been anything but.

For another perspective on what I'm about the describe, check out D-L's blog:

We had arrived back in Argeles-sur-mer the night before, having driven straight through from Geneva, about an 8-hour trip. Normally I prefer to stop midway, give the arthritis in my hands a break from the steering wheel, maybe see some interesting sights, find a quaint new hotel. (On the trip up to Geneva, we detoured to Monaco for one of our mini-honeymoons.)

So Wednesday morning, I was feeling like I'd gained a day, or at least half a day, to get some things done.

Thursday was going to be a full work day, mostly research and writing, maybe with a brief trip out for lunch at the excellent new restaurant we discovered near the bank.

But it's those little things, ya know? The ones that turn into bigger things.

I'd noticed the water in the toilet bowl didn't seem to be draining real well. Mildly concerned, but some liquid plumbing gel should take care of it. Donna-Lane's instinct is to call the plumber, which I agreed to do if my cheap DIY approach failed.

Then I noticed the water in the shower drain was also slightly backed up. Not a good sign. Need more gel. Always worked before. But two non-draining appliances in proximity suggested a more major issue somewhere in their common pipeline.

You're starting to get the picture. Before things were done there was (not exactly clean) water all over the bathroom floor, flowing into the hallway and foyer, and the village sanitation guy was hosing down the street where the exterior sewer drain had burbled over.

His truck pulled away just before the ambulance showed up. A friend had become suddenly ill, and a trip to the hospital was the prudent measure.

The good news is the friend is back home resting now. 

The floor is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Lunch at Le Regal, a day delayed, was delicious (try the carmelized sesame poulet - the Thai-like sauce is plate-licking good). Got my flight for next month booked on the iPad after several failed attempts on the laptop. Fixed the phone (the classic unplug-replug method). A key document related to a planned milestone event has been located. Had some fun with stickers. And bought a new mop.

I didn't really mind that it rained off and on both days. Actually like to listen to the rain on the skylight in the dining room as we lay in bed, the electric undersheet warming our buns, checking email, Facebook, and Twitter before we officially start the day.

We don't often have entire days with nothing planned. Seems lately when we do, something very unplanned intrudes on that time we thought was available for getting a bunch of lingering projects done. Perhaps it would be best if we schedule something every day - just so unexpected events don't have any available room on the calendar?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Suddenly a shot rang out. A woman screamed.

I am approaching the coming next weekend with nervous anticipation.

Nothing life-threatening to be sure. Maybe potentially ego-bruising.

I'm going to discuss with someone who does not know me, an honest-to-gosh literary agent, whether the few pages I've written of my hopefully first novel show any merit for continuing the effort.

I'm inspired by D-L's writing ability and persistence in publishing 10 novels to date:

I may never get a legitimate publisher to issue my book, but I'd at least like the satisfaction of finishing it.

About 30 years ago, I wrote about 20% of another attempt at a novel (on an Apple IIe with a dot-matrix printer), but abandoned it when a move to Texas took me out of the Northeast US area where I wanted to do some first-hand research for authenticity (pre-internet and inter-library lending was a best cumbersome). I also had the notion at the time that I hadn't seen much, hadn't experienced much, so how could I pretend to be a worldly wise writer?

What amazed me during that first attempt was those times when the story seemed to be writing itself. I was simply the scribe, furiously attempting to keep up with the scenario flowing scenario through my brain.

Donna-Lane says what I've written thus far is pretty good, and I believe her, but she's also inherently prejudiced. I have been collecting a ton of research on my topic, and our rather frequent travels have taken us to numerous locales which may factor in the book.

If the agent offers a smidgen of encouragement, I'll find schedule when I can to spend more time writing the novel. The outside goal is to finish it when we go on a writing retreat in Andorra in June.

If the agent instead gags or laughs at my premise or style ... I won't give up the quest; it may just change positions on the priority list.

Oh, and I may also end up reading a portion of the manuscript aloud to about 50 of the very knowledgeable members of the Geneva Writer's Group. That's not intimidating at all! 

"He mixed revolt with love and melancholy"

I had never before heard of Léo Ferré, and now I'm disappointed I never got to hear him in person.

He was probably the most notable French singer in the decades from the 50s to the 80s - the era of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen - but because he sang in French he was never exposed to American audiences.

Ferré composed and sang about 40 albums, some fun, others languid, many serious. He is described as the archetypal French protest singer - think Pete Seeger with an accent. Some of his stuff was banned by radio stations, at least temporarily.

Here are a few lyrics from his ode to Les Poetes:

Ils mettent des couleurs sur le gris des pavés
Quand ils marchent dessus ils se croient sur la mer
Ils mettent des rubans autour de l´alphabet
Et sortent dans la rue leurs mots pour prendre l´air

They put colors on the grey of the pavement
As they walk it they feel like on the sea.
They wrap ribbons around the alphabet
and walk their words in the street for a stroll.

Here's a link to Ferré singing La mémoire et la mer to give you a sense of just one of his styles and his voice:

Friday evening, they rendered hommage to Ferré with a film of his life (unfortunately for me, no subtitles), followed by a dinner of ragoût de boeuf, couscous, salad, cheese and vin rouge (all locally produced), capped by a concert with a powerfully voiced singer Maax Pissane and talented keyboard accompanist channeling Ferré's songs.

It was an education in French culture and history that you might expect in Paris. We had the pleasure of enjoying it with about 100 people at the intimate little theatre around the corner in Argeles, with the concert in the salle where D-L and I had our commitment ceremony two summers ago.

The more time I spend here, the more I appreciate the authentic spirit of the French soul.