26th April – 1st May: Birthing a Book


(Mark Sampson) #1

I was determined to end the week on a high of some sorts. So I knuckled down at long last to what had been top of my to-do list since January. But you know how it is... It's a lot easier to strike off all those more mechanical items that bring a short-term sense of satisfaction.


I approach something that takes concentration and concerted effort, like bringing out my book of selected blogs, as a mongoose might a cobra. In fact, I'd done the hard work during the first couple of months: selecting the material, reading, proof-reading and re-proofing the text. However, I have this irrational fear of all things technological. So rather than striking for the snake's neck, I kept on circling the business of actually submitting La Vie En Straw.


In fact, it proved quite painless. Amazon has made the process considerably easier than it used to be. Now you just upload the finished Word document and the cover and their backroom machine does that rest. There were only six spelling errors and all of those were French words unrecognised by the programme. Ah, the longer-term sense of achievement!


I'm glad it's done. Next time, I'll be rather more mindful of Lady MacBeth's words about doing it quickly (if 't'were done). (Was it Lady MacBeth or was it her vacillating husband; I can never remember?) If I hadn't have done it, I would have lingered longer on all the tribulations – minor ones really – of a difficult week, which started with some of the most torrential rain seen here on the Dog's Meadow.


After a beautiful Sunday morning, which lulled the dozy inhabitants of the northern Lot into a sense of false security, the predicted storm broke suddenly after lunch and within an hour it had scoured deep ravines in every path and driveway, like our own, made of limestone chippings. Half of ours, it seemed, finished up deposited on my freshly mown lawn.


On Monday, it kept on raining all day. I dropped off all the papers of our annual tax declaration at my wife's expert comptable. That, too, had taken much circling of the cobra. Well over a week, in fact, since I'd begun the process of collating figures that really weren't that complicated. Now, 't'is done – but 't'were better if I'd done it a bit more quickly. It's in the lap of the tax gods now and I just have to trust that I won't be hauled in front of some tribunal of hooded judges to face a fiscal inquisition, before being dragged off to prison, kicking and screaming my innocence.


The next day, the sun came out. I discovered two unwelcome things in quick succession. First, that Daphne had uprooted her predecessor's grave. There were stones and soil scattered at its foot. Obviously the concerted work of some sunny afternoon when I'd been upstairs, probably labouring at my tax declaration, and revelling in the apparent peace and quiet. Never trust a Terrierdor, in other words, when you think all's quiet on the western front.


Having chased the hound several times around the house, I went into the cave for a shovel and discovered that the rainwater had found its way in through the walls. A cave is not a home, just a storage place, so it's only a minor inconvenience when it's awash. Nevertheless, I was feeling slightly traumatised by the sight of our dear dog's uncovered grave and not in the best of humours. I understood why Eliot quoted Webster in The Waste Land, why you should keep the dog far hence. (Come here, you little foe to man! I yelled at our pup, who thought it was all great sport.)


My thoughtful neighbours invited me to dinner on Wednesday evening, because they're kind and well-meaning and probably think that a man alone is a man who needs feeding. At the end of an afternoon of wheeling barrow-loads of limestone chippings back to their rightful place on our drive, it was a welcome break from kitchen fatigue.


On arrival, I heard all about their own misadventure with flood water, against which my own paled into insignificance. They had got back on Sunday afternoon from the wedding of some friends in the neighbouring department to find the water literally pouring through the stones of their living room wall – and the (mercifully) tiled floor of said room transformed into a paddling pool. They'd done a good job tidying up and I have to say that the tiles were cleaner and shinier than I'd ever seen them.


It was a nice, congenial meal. I drank two single malt whiskies that evening and when I spoke to the Good Wife at my sister's later that evening, she asked me if I were drunk. She told me the next day that I sounded so unlike my normal self that she went to bed wondering whether I'd found some other woman. Daft ha'pence.


The following day, I struck off another medium-term to-do. I went to Brive to print some posters for some EFT workshops that she's running in a few weeks' time with a doctor colleague. It was hot in the car and a storm was a-brewing on the western horizon, so I decided to leave the Terrierdor at home for the afternoon. I therefore had a limited amount of time in which to buzz around town distributing the posters. I got back before Daphne managed to dig her way through one of our straw walls, and even managed a quick mow of the prodigious grass before the first drops of rain fell.


On Friday, as I said, I gave birth to my new book. And lo! it felt so good that I allowed myself to prepare my next radio show in the afternoon. Something frivolous this way came. Thus on the seventh day, I took up my staff and walked my ass 40 leagues to the local market and back. And the Lord said, You have done well, my son. Come the end of the day, I shall restore your loved-ones unto thee to render thy family life whole once more.


Solitude has its place, but its merits are transient.


(Karen Phillips 2) #2

I may have been the victim of very imaginative predictive text on my tablet! It definitely has a mind of its own and if the old teaching skills of 'correcting' slip for a moment,it takes control!

On a different note. Did I watch you build your straw house on Grand Designs? I've always loved the idea and I think they look beautiful. Does it do what it says on the tin? I've bought that book too,to find out, don't tell me the ending.


(Mark Sampson) #3

You're a star, Karen. Thank you so much. I imagine that you hit the 'c' instead of the 'v'! Convert, not concert?


(Karen Phillips 2) #4

Kindle is perfect! I'm a definite concert!


(Mark Sampson) #5

Hello Karen. Thank you very much for your support and encouragement; it's sho' 'nuff appreciated. If you've got a Kindle (or a Kindle reader on your computer, which you can download from Amazon), you can click on the link in the blog above (the blue book title) to go to the amazon.fr page. If not, hang on a bit and I'll bring it out as a print-on-demand - when I can face all the re-formatting involved!


(Karen Phillips 2) #6

And can we buy the book?

I always enjoy your witty blogs! Either to identify with, or laugh at, this life on 'foreign field's ' I wouldn't change for anything.