284 – Guy de Maupassant and The Trip of Le Horla

I’ve been reading the short stories of Guy De Maupassant, a French writer who died over 120 years ago. I first came across him in a bookshop in Montauban, a small redbrick town, 50 kms north of Toulouse. I was looking for some Albert Camus as I wanted to start reading novels in French and […]

283 – How To Tap Walnut Trees to Make Syrup

I like maple syrup on my porridge. It’s sweet, nutritious and tastes great. It’s also expensive. So yesterday morning Elizabeth said to me, ‘Why don’t you tap the Walnut trees in the garden? There’s loads of them.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ I said looking out over the walnut grove of the chateau we look after over the winter. It […]

282 – 99 Reasons Not To Buy This Book!

My hugely popular guide book to France has been called many things since I published it a year ago: “The most misleading guidebook to France ever written” “A treasure trove of inaccuracies” “As informative as a piece of wood” “As boring as Sartre” “Blander than French coffee.” “More self-congratulatory than a Michelin restaurant” To celebrate these […]

278 – The Christmas Woodpile

I’m the winter caretaker of this 17th century Chateau in South Western France. If you’ve seen or read The Shining this is as close as it gets. In summer the chateau is used as a hotel, in winter it’s closed. Cue me and Elizabeth who are here to make sure it doesn’t fall down, bills […]

277 – Death of a Vintage Bicycle

Last Sunday I completed my 10th cycle with the crazy guys from the Caussade Cyclo-Club. My best so far, mainly because I was riding a new bike. Dispensing, rather regretfully I have to add, with my vintage Peugeot PK10 (below). For those of you who know nothing about cycling or bikes. The Peugeot P10 series (PK, PX, […]

276 – Back in Auty

Auty, Tarn-et-Garonne, France GPS coordinates: Middle of Nowhere Altitude: 219 metres Population: 80 Amenities: Café (open Wednesdays 15.30 – 18.30), Church (Sundays)   I’m back. Looking after a 17th century chateau over the winter plus a Tonkinese cat called Pookie. His real name is Ventura, but we call him Pookie. Although in truth you could call […]

275 – EIBAB

It’s November. So it’s time to start thinking about Christmas… I’m in Auty again. Holed up deep in the French countryside and about as far away from Christmas shopping scrumdowns and sloshed-on-sherry carol singers, as Icarus was from reaching the Sun. If indeed that’s where he was going. I’m not going anywhere. Here for the silence. A special […]

273 – Three Recent Books

 Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast This is the book everybody told me I should read. Well I finally read it and immediately wanted to move to Paris. Why not? I thought. I already live in France, speak the language, have a bank account, so a move wouldn’t be that difficult – I could do it […]

272 – Blogley in Serramonacesca

I’ve been here three weeks now tucked under the remote Majella mountains in Southern Italy looking after a campsite for my friends. They told me not to expect too many visitors while they were away on holiday. ‘Highly unlikely you’ll see anyone at this time of year.’ Cue a carload of Germans the second they leave. Questioning […]

271 – Blogley in Italy

Waking up at Kokopelli Camping this morning was like waking up in a dream I’d forgotten existed. A dream where there’s no falling off cliffs or into holes, or being mown down by out-of-control lorries. A dream that starts slowly, gently gathers pace, meanders a bit through soft clouds and chocolate eclairs, then without any sudden death […]

270 – Life as a Holiday Rep

When I was 12 I went to Benidorm with my father on a package holiday. I remember the rep meeting us at the airport along with 50 other red-faced Brits, most of whom had already got burnt walking across the tarmac from the plane to the terminal building. Once outside he started doing a roll-call from […]

269 – Mangez, Buvez, Bougez

  So what’s happening? I haven’t written an entry for a while because in truth I haven’t been arsed. I did start writing one a few weeks ago about surviving the last three years on very little money. But it ended up being so self-righteous, clichéd and boring that I canned it. Smug, sanctimonious snippets like […]

268 – Climb From Le Roc

For a professional cyclist, the climb from Le Roc would be like a fully grown adult clambering over an assault course designed for a toddler. A mere bump in the road that might heighten the heart rate a couple of beats, but nothing more. On this year’s Tour de France, stage eight went up the […]

267 – Souillac to Groléjac: En Canoë

My last post concerned a paddle down the Dordogne from Meyonne to Souillac. This one concerns a slow meander down the same river from Souillac to Groléjac (see map above). I say meander because somebody upstream has turned the river off. I mean this quite literally as there is a great big dam up at Argentat with some EDF engineer sitting behind […]

266 – Meyronne to Souillac: En Canoë

A few evenings ago, after a tedious day lugging bags and bikes around for two-grand-a-week holidaymakers, me and Elizabeth decided to go canoeing. We’d been meaning to go for weeks, but had been foiled by the seven foot high waves hurtling down the river ever since the collapse of the dam 50 km up the river at Argentat. Granted […]

264 – Souillac: A small town in France

The rain is beating down today like a baton hitting an English football supporter. Hard raps against my window as I look out over a waterlogged road. When it’s sunny here, it’s as good as anywhere. When it’s raining, it’s like North Wales. Grey skies that look like they’re going to fall on you like […]

263 – The Curious Case of The Polish Vans

  It all started two weeks ago looking out onto the D820 from my bedroom window. A dirty grey Luton van with Polish plates trundling into Souillac. The time was 1020. I know this because I noted it down. I was curious. Over the following few days I saw more. Same type of van – Renault Master […]

261 – The Joy of the French Half Bath

  Being a holiday rep in the Dordogne has many advantages – nice climate, an endless supply of foie gras, lovely scenery, plus free comedy provided by irate English and Dutchmen parking their 40-foot motorhomes in cramped supermarket car parks. However, the best part so far has been bathing in a French half bath. When we first […]

260 – How Not to Capsize a Canoe on the Dordogne

  ‘We’re heading for a tree,’ I cried out to Elizabeth who was at the bow of the Canadian canoe we were piloting down the Dordogne last week. We were on a four-day canoe course so we had the necessary credentials to brief our customers on the basics of canoeing. Steering being one of the absolute essentials. […]

259 – Blogley in Souillac

  Where is Souillac and why am I here? Good question. Over previous summers, I’ve taught English to earn a few coins. This year I wanted to do something different. Mainly because I’ve retired from teaching, as I was starting to feel self righteous, and I didn’t want to become one of those people who […]

258 – Au Revoir Chateau Dumas

I told the gardener yesterday that I was leaving. ‘This is my last week,’ I said as we spoke by the dead oak tree that’d been struck by lightning over the winter. He looked at me blankly. ‘Oh,’ he replied. ‘How long have you been here?’ ‘Six months,’ I said. I’m le gardien – the caretaker. He shrugged. ‘I […]

257 – Blogley Rolls On…And On…And On

I once watched a Status Quo documentary entitled Roll On…And On…And On. They kept going on tour because they didn’t know any other way of life. In two weeks I’ll be on the road again. This time to Souillac, about 100km north of here, in the Dordogne. Why? Well, Elizabeth and I are going to […]

254 – A Man in France

After the phenomenal success of my short story collection, The Sunbed of Malcolm Todd (or TSOMT), there’s been quite a few enquiries as to where The Ridiculous Ramblings of a Man in France went to. For those in the dark, The Ridiculous Ramblings of a Man in France (or TRROMIF) were my favourite blog posts shoehorned into […]

253 – The Caussade Cyclo Club

  It couldn’t have been a worse day yesterday for my first group tour with the local cycle club. Hammering rain, droplets the size of marbles, the moment I stepped outside my house. Swirling dirty grey clouds overhead making the sky look like the palette of an artist who hates colour. A real shitfest of a […]

248 – The Sunbed of Malcolm Todd: A Short History

I first started writing short stories in 2003, the result of my six part sitcom, Crushed Soup, being rejected by the BBC comedy department. Gutted by their total lack of vision and foresight, I decided to shun script writing and pen short stories instead. The first one I wrote, Capital Household, was about a father who […]

245 – At the Chateau with JP Brown

What the 17th century chateau Elizabeth and I are looking after doesn’t provide is a selection of board games. So it was a shock to my friend – self confessed game addict and Barcelona based photographer Justin P Brown – when I told him that we were totally Cluedoless. We didn’t even have a pack of cards, […]

244 – L’étranger

“Aujourd’hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile : ‹‹Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués›› Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-être hier.” The first paragraph of L’étranger, a book I read years ago after finding it in a pile of my maternal grandfather’s belongings after his […]

241 – God, Garlic, Christmas Turkeys and Dried Sausage at the Caussade Monday Market

The best part so far of being in Auty is the Monday morning market in nearby Caussade. A six kilometre drive takes me to this rural working town where they once made straw boaters (canotiers) for Europe’s dandies. Nobody wears them here any more, unless you’re on holiday from Kentucky, but Les Caussadaises do wear their berets with pride in […]

240 – The Road to Auty

I’m a resident of Auty, a village 80 kms north of Toulouse on the border of the Tarn et Garonne and Lot départements. I’m looking after a château and a cat for the winter with Elizabeth. Two weeks ago it was 24 degrees, now it’s 2. I’m sitting in the château writing and I can […]

239 – The Need for Bikes after Paris

I was going to write a blog today about my new bike. A 1985 gold Peugeot PK10 ‘Record Du Monde’ in almost perfect condition that I bought from a guy down the road for the princely sum of 50 sheets. But then I saw the attacks in Paris. France is a great country. I’ve lived […]

238 – Blogley in France Part V

By this time next week I’ll be back in France. Where I’ll remain until I die. A wild slashing overly melodramatic statement I know (and almost certainly false) but a forceful way to sum up how much I am looking forward to returning – I’ve even renamed the blog and done a new logo to mark […]

237 – Four Years of Blogley

It’s been four years since I wrote my first post. Which started like this: ‘After a two-year break, I’ve ended up in France. I’m watching the Algerians below my window holding hands and the Senegalese watching football through the windows of a bar. I live in Guillotiere, which is part of Lyon. A heady mixture […]