Tales from the Pays d’Oc

Twenty-one tales of life, love and laughter in the land of sun and vines.

What is Matthieu doing up an olive tree?  Why won’t Joséphine ever eat pizza again?  Who went four by fourth? And who rescued two hapless Americans at Armageddon Falls?

Travel to the Languedoc, feel the scorch of the sun on your shoulders, smell the dust and the lavender and the ripening grapes and follow the adventures of the Saturday Club and the regulars at l’Estaminet.

In this collection of stories, Patricia Feinberg Stoner revisits the territory of her memoir, ‘At Home in the Pays d’Oc’ with a whole host of new and familiar characters.

 

My review

As an expat in France myself I was really looking forward to reading this book, which turns out to be a total gem. I love discovering other people’s versions of France. With this book it’s via a fictional route, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s based, however loosely, on the author’s experiences.

You don’t have to be an expat to love every minute of this charming collection of vignettes set in and around the Languedoc village of St Rémy des Cévennes.

The antics of members of the Saturday Morning Club, who meet at the Café de l’Ane (the Donkey Café, which I suspect is a tongue in cheek name!) keep us entertained. This assortment of characters, some local but most blow-ins from various distances, form a good-natured assembly with their shared love of their life in France as the gelling point. We meet most of them in more detail in various amusing exploits. The author is particularly good at portraying relationships – the way Henry plays the part in the Club of the old-fashioned English gentleman who’ll never quite fit in, but with his French wife he’s actually more immersed than others. The patient ‘yes dears’ from tolerant wives, the teasing by one partner of another, and so on. It’s beautifully done and really brings the book to life.

The descriptions are wonderfully detailed. I can picture every scene clearly and feel the heat of the summer days, hear the sounds of the busy market, and smell the truffle that Useless (who isn’t at all) finds.

This is a light and enjoyable read, something you can devour in one go, like a warm croissant, or take leisurely nibbles from, like baguette that accompanies a salad-based lunch. Either way, it’s thoroughly delightful.

 

Purchase Links

UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Pays-dOc-laughter-vines-ebook/dp/B07JF8RV2N

US – https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Pays-dOc-laughter-vines-ebook/dp/B07JF8RV2N

About Patricia Feinberg Stoner

Patricia Feinberg Stoner is a former journalist, advertising copywriter and publicist. For four years she and her husband were accidental expatriates in the Languedoc, southern France.  During that time she wrote a series of magazine articles which eventually became her first book about the Languedoc: ‘At Home in the Pays d’Oc.’

?Now back in the UK, she lives with her husband in the pretty West Sussex village of Rustington, where Michael Flanders encountered a gnu and the mobility scooter is king.

She spends much of her time writing short stories and comic verses. Her first book, ‘Paw Prints in the Butter’, is a collection of comic poems for cat lovers, and is sold in aid of a local animal charity.  In 2017 she published her second book of comic verse: ‘The Little Book of Rude Limericks’.

?In the autumn of 2018 Patricia returns to the locale of ‘At Home in the Pays d’Oc’ with a new collection of stories: ‘Tales from the Pays d’Oc’.

Patricia welcomes visitors to her Facebook page (Paw Prints in the Butter) and to her blog www.paw-prints-in-the-butter.com.

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You may occasionally find her on Twitter @perdisma.

I’m beyond thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Dave Hill of Slade’s autobiography. I grew up in the glam rock era and loved every minute of it!


Synopsis

Slade’s music and style dominated and defined the 1970s. With six consecutive number one singles they were the UK’s number one group and sold millions of records all over the world. At their peak, Slade enjoyed success and adulation not seen since The Beatles. Now, for the first time, the man whose outlandish costumes, glittering make-up and unmistakable hairstyle made Slade the definitive act of Glam Rock tells his story.

Growing up in a council house in 1950s Wolverhampton, Dave always knew he wanted to be a musician and in the mid-sixties, with Don Powell, founded the band that in 1970 would settle on the name Slade. Their powerful guitar-driven anthems formed the soundtrack for a whole generation, and their Top of the Pops performances, led by their flamboyant, ever-smiling lead guitarist, became legendary.

But So Here It Is reveals that there’s much more to Dave’s life than Top of the Pops and good times. Packed with previously unseen personal photos, the book uncovers surprising family secrets, tells the inside story of the original band’s painful break-up, explores Dave’s battles with depression, his decision to reform Slade and go back on the road and his recovery from the stroke that threatened to cut short his career.

My review

I was nine when Slade (consisting of Dave Hill, Noddy Holder, Jim Lea and Don Powell) shot to fame in 1971 with their first of six number one chart-toppers: Coz I Luv You. I had a brother and sister who were a good bit older than me and so I guess I was a bit precocious pop-music wise as I could listen (not always with their permission) to the singles albums they bought. These included Slade’s. I quicky fell in love with glam rock. Like every other young person in Britain at the time, I’d watched Top of the Pops every week, hoping Slade would be on, and if so, what on earth would Dave Hill be wearing this week!

So it’s been absolutely fascinating to read his autobiography. For all that Dave was the glitzy showman of he band (he used to say “You write it, I’ll sell it!”) with his outlandish, flamboyant outfits, he’s basically a grounded, positive, family man. He had a supporting and loving upbringing, although it wasn’t always an easy one as his mother suffered from mental health issues, something that Dave has been blighted with too. He grew up on a council estate in Wolverhampton, where he continued to live for a while even after he made the big time. He made his own success and worked hard to achieve his lasting fame but sporadic wealth.

The book takes us through Dave’s career, from his early short-lived bands to forming Slade and its enduring legacy. He gives the ups and downs of life as a rock star, and it seems that the downs are the more common: constantly striving to get the next hit, to break into a new market, to keep momentum up. Even if a member is out of action for only a relatively short time because of an accident or illness, something that happened to Slade a few times, that can knock the band off its feet for ages. Slade always managed to bounce back, but it took effort.

Dave recounts how and why the original band split up and reformed with Dave and Don at the helm, but the foreword by Noddy Holder shows that there are no ill feelings. It was the nature of the beast, with all the stresses resulting from such a pressured and exposed career, for bands to reach exploding point. Slade continues to this day, even though Dave had a stroke on stage a few years ago. It speaks volumes about this man’s courage, commitment and strong personality that he’s overcome that and still performs.

The book is absorbing. It’s well written and very lively. Slade rubbed shoulders with all the big names of pop of that era, but there’s no name dropping. If, for example, Elton John wandered into a dressing room where Dave’s sister Carol was waiting for her brother, then that’s included as a fun but relevant snippet, rather than an exercise in showing-off. Carol supplies a few short passages of this book, and that’s a nice touch.

Through this thoroughly entertaining account of the fascinating life that he’s still leading, the author’s down-to-earthness and values of family love and loyalty shine through even more brightly than some of his metallic outfits! Wonderful book by one of pop’s legends. An Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without listening to Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ at least twenty times!

About the author

Dave Hill was born in a castle in Devon and moved with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. As a teenager he taught himself to play guitar and in 1966 formed the band Slade. After the break-up of the original band, Dave eventually re-formed Slade, and twenty-five years later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. Dave married his wife Jan in 1973, and they have three children and six grandchildren. They still live in Wolverhampton.

 

 

Blurb

For some people, retirement dreams can consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene, whose dream was of adventure. They presented Audley Travel with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months.

Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, I hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos and bicycles. And a disobedient horse.

Turning Left Around the World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people along the way.

The book is published by Mirador Publishing.

My review

This is a truly impressive and inspiring travelogue.

At an age when some people might consider putting their feet up after a busy career, David sets off to see those places in the world he’s always wanted to. He’s given a gentle prod – or maybe it’s more like a shove, at least to start with  – from his partner Helene, who sounds to be one of those wonderfully organised and energetic people that many of us wish we were, but never quite find the energy! They take in the places Helene’s longed to see too.

The couple do things thoroughly and hire guides when they arrive at their various far-flung destinations so as to get an insider’s view of the place. They thus glean every interesting nugget of information possible, which the author then shares with us. The whole book is a rich tapestry of snatches of their interactions, historical and geological background facts, social commentary, people-watching and detailed observation of the cultures they immerse themselves in. It’s totally absorbing and immensely readable. There’s no overwhelming or impersonal info-dumping. The author has a wonderful flowing style that is so easy to take in. I can’t remember absolutely every fact he shares, but I’ve stored a lot of them away and hope to drop them smugly into those conversations that begin with ‘Did you know…?’!

David and Helene travel to an astounding assortment of fascinating places in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia (the only spot on their itinerary that I’ve been to!), Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, China and Japan. And that’s possibly just for starters since Helene asks where they’re planning to go next. Maybe this wasn’t the once-in-a-lifetime trip David thought it was!

There are emotional ups and downs to match the physical ascents and descents they make, muddles, a few shocks and frustrations, but the overall mood is of excitement and optimism. They bump into all sorts of people, from quirky to downright scary! Truly never a dull moment.

Their massive undertaking is an inspiration, and a reminder that life is for living to the full. Hats off to David and Helene for having the courage and determination to go for their dream, and I can’t wait to see if there’ll be a sequel…

 

About the author

David owned and managed a London marketing agency for 15 years, creating advertising campaigns to promote iconic international brands including Mars, Kellogg’s, Disney and Coca-Cola. Following the sale of his agency in 1999 he became one of the leading Consultant Marketing Directors in the UK, steering business in the launch or re-launch of their consumer brands including B&Q, Direct Line and RBS. David lives in Berkshire with his wife Helene. www.davidcmoore.author.com

 

This book is deliciously fascinating. What better way to learn about a country’s history than by being introduced to it around a certain food item, such as artichokes, wine or cheese. The author explains how politics, economics and culture link with food in ‘foodways’, which reveal a great deal about a country. We discover many such foodways in this book.

The book is like a plate of nibbles – bite-sized chunks of history and food at a time. We learn about Gauls as the same time as wine, Barbarians and table manners, The Battles of Tours and Poitiers and goat cheese, Charlemagne and honey, Viking invasions and Bénédictine liqueur, feudalism and diet, the Crusades and plums, Eleanor of Aquitaine and claret, Cathars and vegetarianism, taxes and seasalt, the Black Prince and cassoulet, the plague and vinegar, Charles the Mad and Roquefort, the Renaissance and oranges, colonisation and chocolate, sugar, forks and Catherine de Medici, chickens and King Henry IV… and that’s just for starters! Many other snippets of info are sprinkled like condiments over the main ingredients to pique our appetite. This really is a feast of a book.

Just as it’s hard to relinquish a plate a plate of moreish food, it’s very hard to put down the book once you’ve started reading. The author’s style is thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. He’s witty as well as wise, and you learn so much without realising it. He communicates so passionately and knowledgeably it’s hard not to be won over.

Like your favourite restaurant, this book is absolutely to be recommended.

The book is due out on 10 July 2018 from The New Press. My only quibble – it’s rather pricey. The Kindle edition is priced at €18.99 and the print copy at €24.24, which will surely affect its sales. This book has massive appeal but that price tag will put many purchasers off.    

This book

 ‘A comic tale of lessons in life, love, dating and the odd samosa party’

The contents lists seems to cover every possible thing you might want to know about dating from creating a profile to telephone interviews with prospective dates to handling speed dating. And that’s only part of it.

We begin with finding out about our author. Raj is sadly divorced but is now back in the dating game. He describes himself at the beginning of the book, and claims that he’s not a writer, but that’s not true at all. He has a wonderful way with words and a wicked sense of humour. Once you’ve started reading, you just can’t stop. I’m the absolute proof of that. I’m in my fifties and have been married to the same man for thirty-two years, so you might not think this book wouldn’t appeal to me at all. However, I loved every minute of reading Raj’s entertaining anecdotes and now reckon I could hold my own on Mastermind with the specialist subject of the dating game, having investigated the process thanks to Raj! 

After meeting Raj we get the lowdown on the Indian perspective on dating, and all the extra complications that brings. We meet the all-important Aunties (matrimonial intermediaries) who make things happen, and tag along to a function introduction samosa party where the faux pas are just waiting around every corner. I love how Raj describes how internet dating is really just the digital version of a match-making Auntie. We then go through all the various stages and explore this minefield alongside our very entertaining guide. If you thought, as the author did, that internet dating was only for freaky nerdy recluses or scary cat women, you’ll soon learn otherwise. There are a lot of perfectly normal people out there who are just needing a little help to meet their Mr or Mrs Right. For them, but actually for anyone, this is a superb hands-on, slightly tongue-in-cheek account of everything, and more, you need to know.

‘Winning your never-ending battle against stuff’

Let’s face it: most of us have a lot of stuff. Possessions, like they say of enemies, tend to accumulate as you go through life. Now, having stuff is OK, so long as it’s useful and you have a place to keep it. But when you don’t use yet still hang onto it, and it’s taking up the space where you could and should be keeping beneficial items, then it’s crossed the line and become clutter. And it needs to go.
The author tells us that the most important thing about decluttering is that stuff you don’t need leaves your home. It’s not about shifting stuff, rearranging it or buying new containers. Decluttering is not organising, but it’s certainly the first step towards it.
Throughout the author is very encouraging and very down to earth. She begins by explaining how her own clutter built up, rapidly and unnoticed, and then became a problematic part of her life. Her message is to live for now – not the future or past. Don’t hang onto items of vaguely sentimental value if you haven’t got space for them. Don’t hang onto stuff just in case you think you might use it one day. (There is a big difference between usefulness and using something.) Have what you need now to hand.
Dana K White uses some great words and terms. Here are a few examples that will resonate with most of us messy people:
• Deslobification – method of improving how your home looks from a cluttered mess to far more acceptable.
• Decluttering paralysis – don’t let it afflict you: you can overcome your clutter.
• Procasticlutter – things you just haven’t got round to dealing with but you know what you must do with it.
• Redecluttering – what you need to do when clutter threatens to make a come-back. But don’t panic, it’s a lot easier than decluttering first time round.
• Clutter threshold – the point at which the clutter becomes too much. Tell me about it!

There are four main parts to the book:
• Building a decluttering mindset: laying the ground rules and getting the ball rolling
• Decluttering room by room: the author reveals her 5-step process, but I won’t tell you what it is because you must go and buy the book. However, it really is effective as I’ve been trying it out.
• Helping others declutter: giving friends and family a helping hand in getting rid of stuff they no longer need
• Special circumstances in decluttering: how to tackle the huge jobs, like moving house or clearing out a loved one’s home.

The ‘at the speed of life’ element of the title is basically just fitting decluttering into your free time without it driving you mad. And simplifying the process as much as possible with easy steps, such as put the item where you’d look for it. And remember you’ve got it the next time you need it.
This is a common-sense, heartening and uplifting book. It makes decluttering possible and actually almost enjoyable!

This book is a must for anyone with chickens and who enjoys a bit of DIY. I think the two often go together, as if you’re someone who likes to produce your own eggs then you’re generally someone who enjoys being self-sufficient. All the projects in this book are achievable, especially with such clear instructions and helpful photos. Some can be completed in an hour while others may take three or four.
The authors invite you to either follow the instructions to the letter, or make adaptations and adjustments as you see fit for your own particular little flock. They encourage recycling and customisation in all their projects.

There are four sections:
Why DIY: the aims of this book are to help you save money by making things for yourself.
Basic tools and skills: from hammers and tape measures, to circular saws, you get the lowdown on what you need. You can manage with very simple straightforward tools, but electric ones make life quicker and easier. There’s advice on techniques such as cross cuts, and accurate measuring and marking, and handy and very sensible safety advice.
A look at the history of chicken keeping: this provides a nice little interlude before we roll our sleeves up and get busy, and very much gets the point across that improvisation to reflect the economic climate has always been part of keeping chickens.
And finally the projects. Each on is graded as to difficulty (many are beginner level) and gives an idea of how long it will take to make. They’re varied but they’re all extremely useful.

First up is a chicken tractor, not as in a farm machine for your chook to drive, but a movable chicken run. These are so handy.
Dust-bathing area: a great and hygienic treat for your chooks, and it will stop them digging holes in the flowerbeds.
Feeder/waterer: made from drainpipe parts, this is inspired. Chickens are messy eaters, and this has the benefit of keeping the food clean too.
Compost bin: to get the benefits of all that chicken compost, mixed with kitchen scraps
Egg incuabator: This is an advanced project, but looks a very interesting one to try.
Nest boxes: my chickens pointedly ignore any nesting box I give them and lay wherever they please, but I’m hoping that these might tempt my girls to be good.
Egg candler: this is a box design which provides a secure base for the egg you’re examining.
Chicken roost: a sturdy, movable roost that satisfies their psychological need to roost off the ground at night, and helps keep their feet healthy. Adapt this for the number of chickens you have.
Dropping board: this fits below the roost to catch all that night-time poop.
Chick brooder: to keep your hatchlings nice and cosy.
Quarantine habitat: chickens get sick from time to time and here’s a comfy cage to keep them isolated and unstressed in.
Collapsible chicken run: a foldable run, easy to move around, for when you need to keep your chickens contained.
Chicken ramp: to give your chickens easy, non-slip access to any elevated area, such as a raised coop door.
Chicken swing: delightful! A swinging roost, that’s really simple to make.
5-gallon bucket next boxes: a very quick and easy nesting box.
hod: an egg-collecting basket with wire mesh sides and bottom. You don’t have to worry about all of your eggs in this as it will keep them undamaged.
Grazing box: allows your chickens to graze at plants without totally destroying them.
Wading pool: a paddling pool ramp for hot days.
Chicken sweater- knitting pattern: this is just for fun to make your chooks look pretty, but could come in handy in short spells for a chicken that’s suffering at the beak of an overzealous cockerel.
Egg recipes for when you’re getting overwhelmed with eggs!
I was delighted to see a helpful index at the back – so many books don’t bother with these yet they’re an essential feature of a non-fiction book.
This is a fabulous book, full of great ideas. It’s beautifully thought and out and presented and if you keep chickens then you could really do with this book on your shelf. It would make a fantastic present for any chicken lovers in your life.

The authors are Samantha Johnson and Daniel Johnson. Published by CompanionHouse Books.
Paperback is priced at €13,64 $19,99 £14,99

 

F may be for France but it’s also for fascinating! This really is an interesting collection of assorted facts about France, many of them quirky. It will give you plenty of interesting things to bring up in conversations. “Did you know that it takes half a mile of Merino wool to make a beret? Did you know that the Eiffel Tower was only intended to be a temporary construction? Did you know that 95 pizzas are eaten every second in France? Did you know that the 100 billionth Bic pen was sold in September 2006?”

This little gem of a book is packed full of such rich snippets, covering culture, literature, history, language, art, nature, beauty, food, everyday life, eccentricities to give just a few examples. They’re presented in A to Z format. The author has put many, many hours of research into this book, and I think she must have had a ball while she was doing so. She shares plenty of quirky, delightful, and occasionally macabre bits of information that really do give you a good idea of what France and Frenchness is all about.

The author has a lively style and you quickly become thoroughly engrossed in what she’s saying. It’s a book you can dip in and out of, but it’s very hard to put it down once you pick it up.

In conclusion, I have to give this book another F word –  ‘formidable’!

I love knitting and I love birds, so it was impossible for me to resist this book. And if you share those sentiments, then so will you.

It’s a luxurious book. The first two pages fold outwards to give a four-page spread showing all the various birds you’ll be able to knit using this book. Same again at the back. The book is illustrated with full colour photos throughout, and there are very clear and well laid out instructions for making the birds.

Chapter One is an introduction from Arne and Carlos, describing their love of birds and how that gave rise to this book. The next two chapters in Part One outline everything you’ll need to make these fabulous little birds, from yarn and stuffing material, to how to construct their wire legs. (An note here: the book recommends using 1.5mm galvanised wired, but I found that rather stiff to handle so I’ve used 1.1mm wire very successfully.)

Part Two presents the birds. They’re all variations on the same basic pattern, and each one can be knitted up in a couple of hours. There are hats and scarfs to knit for them too, and a couple of tea-cosies to which to attach them. There are spring birds, winter birds, garden birds, embroidered birds, birds in traditional sweaters and rare birds of paradise. These latter are knitted using embroidery yarn rather than the usual fingering yarn from which the others are made, and have sequins and feathers attached. Gorgeous!

It really is a wonderful, inspiring, work-of-art of a book. I’ve already knitted four little birds and just can’t seem to stop. They’re addictive. It’s exactly the book to treat your knitting self to for a special occasion, such as Christmas or birthday or the fact it’s Wednesday. Any excuse will do!

Here to finish are a few of my birds.

 

 

Formidable! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.

Joe, his French wife and bilingual son leave California for Paris. Joe seems well-prepared for what French life will throw at him on the whole, but the quest for a French driving license leads him a merry dance and becomes all-consuming. It’s from this point of view that we follow Joe’s adventures in the land of shrugs and snails.

He has a sharp eye for detail and a lovely, lively style. He clearly relishes the foreignness and frequent inexplicability of France. The result is a very readable and entertaining book that will have you chuckling every few pages. For example, he hilariously describes the frustrating vagaries of French road signage, details delicious but interminable meals (with helpful ‘how to survive them’ tips), and gives wonderful accounts of nervous-tic inducing encounters with bureaucrats. He throws in lots of fascinating facts along way, for example about car ownership and vehicle-related revenues, and about the Strange French Names Club aka Asso des communes de France aux noms burlesques. He teaches us some slang and swear words and weaves in plenty of helpful information too, such as about the dreaded priorité à droite rule. All excellent stuff.

For me the book was also a look at ‘how the other half lives’, the other half being employed people in France whereas I’m from the self-employed sector. All those paid days off and holiday vouchers, I’m green with envy!

The only thing I took issue with was where Joe says that if a car fails its contrôle technique it has to be repaired immediately before it goes back on the road. You actually have two months to do the necessary work. Only a minor quibble but worth mentioning in case it causes panic to would-be expats!

A splendid book, well presented and written, and most definitely a must-read.