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Living in France - signed copies

We have a limited number of signed copies of my book that we're selling direct to the public

Living in FranceAs part of the launch of WebVivant Press - web-based publishing venture set up by my DH and myself - we're making available a limited number of signed copies of my book, Living in France.

The book was published by Harriman House in 2008 and has received some excellent reviews. Sub-titled 'A practical guide to your new life in France', it's a hands-on, nitty-gritty guide for Britons who have bought a house in France, either for holiday use or as a permanent new home. It covers everything from the practicalities of the move, to considerations such as tax, work, marriage, children and the healthcare system, through to the simple savoir-faire of local life and tips for ensuring a happy relationship with the locals (including the rules on how many times you should kiss our new neighbours on the cheek!).

"A great read - entertaining, witty and richly detailed - as well as a really helpful practical guide."

— Heather Leach, writer


» Find out more about Living in France »





Another whingeing Pom

Oh, just what we need - another tale of a stupid Brit in France

The DH, bless him, sent me this link yesterday.

It's the tale of another beleagured Englishwoman who came to France, found it wasn't paradise, and left with her tail between her legs. 

I'm feeling a bit of a whingeing Pom myself this week, frankly, as my book, Living in France, is now down to its final sales.

If this woman, who has now landed a book contract detailing her shoddy experiences, had bothered to read it, she wouldn't have made half the mistakes that sent her running for home. 

Those of us who have succeeded in our new lives in France get the serious hump with rich Brits who come over here, swan around complaining about how you can't get custard creams in the shops and then head for home describing France as an appalling third-world country. Really, I can't imagine why anyone lives here, dahlink, what with the lack of culture, lack of healthcare, and natives who don't even speak English.

Oh well, there is nothing to be done, in a world where Jordan and Paris Hilton get to be celebrated just for being stupid tarts. Doubtless the author of this drivel will make far more money from her book than I did from mine, which actually HAS value, and I can continue to spit and snarl.

Rant over. 



Vive la difference?

Having read a bunch of beauty books recently, I was thinking about the differences between European women and Americans

When Segolene Royal, the French presidential candidate, was campaigning last year, she had a tooth straightened. There was a furore in the French press. What a very low-rent thing to do, they said. How awfully un-French.

And so it is. Segolene Royal may be drop-dead gorgeous but the French prefer their noses left alone, and their teeth left alone. They prefer a face more individual. They have a sense that what makes a woman sexy is precisely that individuality, and that if nature presents you with a fault, the best thing to do is embrace it. It's how come you get stars that look as different as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, Sandrine Bonnaire and Arletty. A fine figure (ie: thin as a whippet), good posture and a sense of herself is what a French woman requires - it simply isn't DONE to muck yourself about too much. They consider it naff.

But not so the Americans. Because you CAN, the sense seems to be, you SHOULD. Fuelled by a vastly wealthy plastic surgery industry, the pressure is on for face lifts, brow lifts, boob jobs, blepheroplasty, teeth whitening... The cheek implants on CNN presenters are starting to get positively distracting these days - all the women are turning simian. And re teeth, I don't know which freaks me out more - the picture-perfect Osmond-like smile (which to me betokens complete insincerity) or the Pamela Anderson type of proudly fake boobs.

Americans make jokes about British teeth but in the UK, the Queen Mother was always celebrated to have kept her own knashers rather than switch to false ones. A bit grey and raggedy so they were, but at least they were real. Meanwhile a French woman who's born flat-chested stays that way and feels all the more feminine for it - no need to stick a pair of silicon hooters on the front just to prove she's female. Nor would she opt for a full Brazilian wax (a pederast's delight, IMHO - I would run ten miles from any man who asked for one). When it comes to the muff, the French just do a bit of a trim and leave it at that.

Perhaps I am getting a skewed impression, but I notice this US/Euro difference constantly when reviewing books. The American tips for a daily makeup are SO much heavier than a European would wear: only a drag queen would wear this much slap over here, even for a special occasion. Nude panty hose are apparently SO last year and since you simply must go bare-legged you owe it to yourself to have sclerotherapy on your varicose veins (or what, exactly? Do your legs drop off? What the hell's wrong with tights?). It's suggested you spend 45 minutes styling your hair every morning. I mean, get a life for Christ's sake - I doubt I spend that much time a month: I just tip my head upside down and waggle a hairdryer about for a bit.

Maybe I am just lazy (actually, there's no maybe about that). Or maybe I am just too old and cynical. But so much of it strikes me as cobblers.

"There's nothing I won't put on my face in the name of beauty," said one American writer proudly in a book I just read. Well that ain't me. First I want to know it's not harmful. And then I want to know it's not tested on animals. And then I want to know how the company treats its workers, and is it guilty of polluting the environment. And then I want to know I'm getting value for money. And then - doh - I want to know how exactly it's going to make a difference. Frankly there's a host of things I won't put on my face in the name of beauty. No wonder my makeup drawer is so pathetic...


Living in France

Just to bang my own drum, my book Living in France goes on sale tomorrow.

blog imageAs a Brit who's lived in France either full or part-time for 12 years, I was asked a couple of years ago to write a factual book about living here.

It covers areas such as removals, getting your utilities connected, learning the language, schools, medical coverage and even dying in France. There are also case studies for different sections to show you how other people have made the move and are coping with, for instance, a different education system or retirement in a foreign country.

I hope, if you're thinking of moving, it will give you what you need to make a success of your new life.

You can buy Living in France from:

UK, US or France



Thoughts from Brittany

Haven't written for about 10 days as we were on holiday in Brittany last week.

blog imageIt was amazingly beautiful, but not really SecondCherry territory, in that there were very few opportunities to play dress-up. Most days we were scrambling round dolmens and menhirs, playing on the beach with the dog and walking in the oak woods, so practicality had to be the order of the day.

All the same, though, you've got to love winter for the fabrics if nothing else - there's something so luxurious about them. I ADORE my ribbed silk thermals in orange and lilac, my vintage cashmere polonecks in ice-cream colours and yummy brown moleskin trousers from Boden (nearly bald from too much stroking). Sadly, the dog put two claws through my leather trench (also vintage), so I reverted to a navy Barbour and trekky boots for the rest of the week, along with a rip-stop backpack that proved a godsend when I needed both hands free for climbing.

Still, sartorial elegance wasn't entirely lacking in the neighbourhood. On our last day, at the bakery in Carnac we encountered an amazing-looking woman, entering as we were leaving. Fluid black pants, a short, fitted Chanel-type jacket in white textured fabric, big black sunglasses and a chiffon scarf tied in that je-ne-sais-quoi way the French have. Her shoulder-length pageboy hair was gleaming white and her age, anybody's guess - somewhere between 65 and 75 I suppose. Undoubtedly a Parisienne, of which there are many in the area because of all the holiday homes. What fabulously simple chic.

That evening our hosts invited us for an 'apero' before dinner and at one point, when they asked what I did for a living, the conversation turned to fashion and beauty. Mr and Mme Jouanic were in agreement about French women never losing the plot. "My mother's 76," said monsieur, "and every day she dresses to the nines - and your mother's the same, isn't she?" Mme Jouanic nodded agreement. "Fabulous shoes, always does her makeup," she said.

blog imageI told them about Helena Frith-Powell, who when asked the difference between French and English women, said: "About 10 pounds...", which made them laugh. "Oh, but it's true," said madame. "I watch my weight all the time." "French women don't get fat," said her husband. "A little rounder, perhaps, once they hit 50, but that's no bad thing."

Monsieur, it transpired, was particularly enamoured of Jane Birkin, whom the French take to be very much their own, rather than technically English. "She has absolutely nothing up top," he said, waving both hands above his chest, "but she is so beautiful. "She has great style."

I told him that in the UK, Birkin's daughter Lou Doillon would probably not be considered beautiful at all unless she got a nose job. He found it completely scandalous, the idea that any woman should alter her appearance by surgery, or even by teeth-whitening or straightening. "Every woman has her particular charm which is entirely her own," he said. "The trick is to find it and bring it out."

Not a bad style pointer, that.


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