I sniggered, I cackled and my belly ached as I travelled through the adventures in France. What a treat! You must, must, must ‘(expletive deleted)’ read this book about following a dream: remember ‘what the heart wants, the heart wants’.
A relationship will thrive if you are destined to follow an impulsive dream together; but you must be able to laugh with so much gusto that you ‘fear for your trousers’. The dream of life in France is contrasted with the reality. This writer is a witty wordsmith who delivers a punchline like an artful comedian. I found myself laughing so much that my husband wanted to understand what was so funny, but I couldn’t articulate it without reading sections aloud. Indeed, I can echo the author’s words that ‘I have been crying with laughter and sniggering – Himself was not amused’.
Patricia Feinberg Stoner has a unique flair for writing comedy and you will be drunk with laughter. She will make you laugh at stories involving: ironing boards, party planning, trips to the second-hand shops, renovation and every day incidents. Les Dawson, Dawson’s poodle and Mighty Mouse feature in the escapades. If you are confused then you will have to learn the ‘gallic shrug’ and say ‘alors’.
You cannot ‘loiter politely’ or ‘cough Englishly’ in France; it’s not even sufficient to speak French. The narrative shows you that ‘if you want to integrate, you have to do it at the locals’ pace.’ You will learn subtleties of why the French mock the English and why we laugh at the French. Mais oui, we have so much in common as we like to eat drink and laugh. It’s not that simple! It was pure genius to invite the locals for an English breakfast and afternoon tea; fight traditions with more traditions and vive la difference. One must accept that the British will never know what time bonjour becomes bonsoir. One must rejoice in the fact that ‘in France, you spend a lot of time eating’.
Patricia’s witty observations will instruct you in French way of life. However, it is refreshing to view British culture through French eyes and laugh at our own idiosyncrasies. Despite the culture gap, Herself and Himself charmed the locals. In turn, you will also be charmed by: Henri, Loony Tunes, P’tit Gui and a comedy of wonderful people. However, the most endearing characters in the book are Patricia, Himself and, Purdey, the dog. Wouldn’t it be great fun to invite Patricia and Himself to a dinner party? I dare you to ask Patricia if Henri almost made her blush. Perhaps, Himself would agree to partake in a spot of demolition after coffee.
I can’t tell you how or when Patricia’s wonderful turn of phrase will make you chuckle. I can’t tell you about all the hilarious events that will make you rush to read more. I can tell you that there may not be a cure for the hangover that the laughter will cause.
Read At Home in the Pays d’Oc if you want to move to France: read it if you don’t want to move to France – just read it for the ‘(expletive deleted)’ hell of it. And let’s thank Jean-Jacques for finding the house, with a terrace, and ensuring that it wasn’t time ‘to cry finie la comédie’.
Connecting with the virtual world of WordPress, Twitter and Facebook has encouraged me to find a message in the ordinary world around us. I am always looking for photograph opportunities to support a tweet, Facebook post or blog. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and it’s great. These adventures can result in some fulfilling interactions in the real world, but my photographing adventures can also get me in into trouble.
On the whole people are very accommodating and let me take photographs of their shops, museums, pubs, gardens, houses etc. For instance, the porters on The Grand Hotel, in Brighton, were happy to let me capture the glamorous setting with my camera. I needed the photographs for Ally Bunbury’s book review and interview. The helpful porters even cleared some luggage to enhance the shot. Later that day, a kind gentleman pointed out various signs for me to capture in his grocer’s shop, but I did get a little suspicious when one of the signs read: ‘New husband for sale’.
During my adventures, I have learned to smile at the museum curators and carry on. Unfortunately, I was chastised for photographing Churchill’s writing desk. Though, I was delighted to be informed that Churchills would ‘fight me on the beaches’ if I dared to take photos. Another curator pretended not to see me taking a view of the garden from the window. One antique shop owner looked at me suspiciously when I declared, ‘I need pictures of old spades etc to display as murder weapons.’ I intended to use these in a murder story lark developed, on Facebook, with Angela Petch and Patricia Stoner. On this occasion, I didn’t use the photos but they will be useful at some stage.
Walking through the Beacons, I decided to write a blog about the inspiring environment. I spied an opportunity to throw a stone in the water to represent a big splash. The splash would represent a thought or an idea. Unfortunately, I was chased away from the lake by the people who were fishing for trout. I did ask if they would like me to ‘sling my hook’ but they weren’t amused.
Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Just for the Holidays’ got me into the most trouble. I required some images of holiday items as mine weren’t glamorous enough for a friend of Leah. While shopping in a supermarket, I saw lots of holiday goodies. Bingo! I set to work removing the various items, placing them in better light and clicking my camera phone. The Canadian security guard was not impressed with me and said, ‘Ma’am, would you please follow me?’ I followed him. Disappointingly, I was led to his security post and not his horse. He was very polite and soon accepted my explanation.
The most frightening experience occurred when I was taking a photo of a street sign for Muddles Green. That day, I was in a muddle with editing so the sign was perfect. I stood in the middle of the quiet country lane to snap the image. A motorbike almost ploughed into me as it raced around the corner. It was worth it when lots of authors connected with the message.
Not everyone can connect with my adventures. I asked shop owner if I could place Jan Ellis’s The Bookshop Detective’ in his window display and then take a photograph. Sadly, he wouldn’t allow it as he was concerned that there would be breakages. How did he know that I am clumsy? Maybe, he thought that I was the detective and wanted to get inside of the window display.
It is great fun to think about representing my adventures through social media. It is a bonus that my everyday experiences and thoughts mean something to like-minded people out there in the world. My handbag adventures have enabled me to connect with a wealth of creative people who challenge and inspire me. These connections wouldn’t have happened without social media, and now I am exploring how I can further develop some creative collaborations. I am looking forward to working with Jenni Lopez from @TheJennieration.
The wonderfully witty author of At Home in the Pays d’Ocarrived on a perfect summer’s day. Purdey, HRH the Dog, also accompanied Patricia.
My esteemed guest admired the scones that I had baked for the occasion. Purdey was not amused so decided to take a nap. The scon / scohne debate lasted until Purdey awoke from her slumber in my favourite armchair.
Patricia had brought some pork pies as a tribute to my northern roots and a limerick to mock my obsession with handbags. The limerick below is now proudly displayed on my website. Apparently, Patricia is writing a book of limericks
Our Jessie’s bit of a wag:
She doesn’t think reading’s a drag.
Her authors, excited
To be so invited
All send her their books for her bag.
Patricia hopes that ‘the Little book of Rude Limericks’ will be out in time for Christmas. Her illustrator has gone missing…
After much hilarity, tea and scones were abandoned for a good bottle of Picpoul de Pinet. It was a hoot to listen to Patricia’s anecdotes about her experiences and I could have listened to her all day. Finally, we managed to get back on track commence the interview.
Jessie: Summarise At Home in the Pays d’Oc in two sentences.
Patricia: A humorous memoir that is largely, but not entirely, based on fact. It’s the story of how my husband and I became expatriates in the south of France for four years – without really meaning to.
Jessie: Your book is probably the funniest book that I have ever read and everyone should read it. What do others say about your reviews. At first, Patricia was hesitant to share the reviews until I insisted.
‘Laugh-out-loud funny, always engaging, a great read.’ Ingénue Magazine
5.0 out of 5 stars. What a delicious book! Patricia’s telling of Himself – and Herself’s – life in the Pays d’Oc is so well written. Funny in places, poignant in others, and exasperating too sometimes, as they deal with their new life in southern France. A joy to read. Elfyn Morris, Amazon
‘Patricia writes with a warm engaging tone, great to read if you fancy an escape in the sunshine. A very enjoyable read – highly recommended!’ TJ Green, NZ book reviewer
Jessie: Read an extract from your book that will tempt a reader.
When I first met my husband, he announced casually, quite early on in the relationship, that he didn’t like France. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘this will not do.’ I decided to change his ways.
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book?
I felt a mixture of things. Relief, of course, at having finally finished it. But a little sadness too. I had been living with these stories for a decade: they started out life as a series of sketches for a French property magazine. Turning them into a book brought back some wonderful memories, and quite a bit of laughter. I had lots of stories left over, so I immediately started planning the next book.
Jessie: I do hope that you write a sequel.
Patricia: It was suggested I should write ‘At Home in West Sussex’, which is where I live now. After some initial excitement, I decided this was a non-starter. I have returned to France instead and am writing a collection of short stories provisionally called ‘Morbignan Tales’.
Jessie: Have the people in your book read your novel, and did they recognise themselves?
Patricia: My best friend recognised herself instantly when I called her ‘the acquisition queen’. Luckily, she saw the funny side. A lot of the people in the book are French, though, and I doubt if they will have read the book. Apart from my lunatic neighbour I think I have been kind about everyone: the book is written with a lot of affection. And I hope to goodness no-one will think it is patronising or condescending, as some other books about living in France can be.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Patricia: That’s a poser. Language barrier aside, I’d be happy if some of my neighbours from the village read it, and I hope it would make them laugh. In particular I’d like M. Alibert, who took a chance on us and let us have Purdey, to know she is well and happy and still with us at the ripe old age of 15. It would be quite nice, too, if the BBC came knocking…
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Patricia: Look at the state of the world! If we are all going to hell in a handbag, then wouldn’t it be nice to have something light-hearted to offset the doom and gloom?
Jessie: What is the last sentence in your writer’s notebook?
Patricia: I have a thing called the Owl Book. I’ve had one since I started work on a local newspaper back in the dark ages – the first one just happened to have an owl on the cover and the name stuck. I write in everything that happens: thoughts, phrases that might come in useful, limericks and also memory-jogging stuff like groups I’ve joined and review copies I’ve sent out. The last note I made was ‘A Dog Called Useless’ which is a reminder to re-think the title of my next book…
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?
Patricia: The fact that you can never, never stop promoting. There are some wonderful exceptions, such as Ingénue magazine which is immensely supportive, but on the whole it is extremely difficult to get publicity for an independently published book.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Patricia: Well, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but when I first started work I as a journalist I had a wise old news editor who once looked at one of my more fanciful pieces and remarked ‘Never spoil a good story for the sake of a few hard facts.’ I interpret this as being true to the spirit of what happened, rather than the letter.
It was wonderful fun to interview Patricia. She has an instinctive dry sense of humour and is warm and engaging like the narrator in At Home in the Pays d’Oc.
Patricia is a words person: she loves reading, writing and dogs (and some people). She can be lazy, though: like a lot of writers she will do anything – even housework – to delay sitting down at the keyboard. She has a keen sense of the ridiculous and is prone to compose daft limericks at the drop of a hat.
I sincerely hope that the BBC will make a series out of the warm-hearted, funny and poignant book. Alternatively, Patricia should go on a theatre tour to perform her limericks, present anecdotes and engage with the audience.