Saturday, 26 January 2013

The disposessed

 I'm a member of a social network called Survive France. The members are anglophone (predominantly) expats living in France who support each other with questions, concerns, solutions, news. Most of them are British. This week the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron  made great political noises about the possibility of Britain quitting the European Union. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen but I'm sure he gave no thought to the effects this threat could have on British expats living in Europe. At present they have the right to live and work in the EU. If they stop being citizens of the EU what happens to them?

Some of them were mightily unsettled and a bit worried about how they would survive in a world where they no longer had rights in a country they now call home. Would they be evicted? Would they be in my precarious position? What would happen to them when they were sick or needed to retire? What would be the status of their children? What would happen to their rights to free schooling?

I'm totally sickened at the way politicians use people as pawns. There's growing despair everywhere. And this raises an interesting though very scary question. What happens to people who suddenly find themselves countryless? Even if you still retain citizenship of a country you may not be able to go back because you no longer have any rights to social assistance of any form. you can't stay where you are because your current country wants to evict you.  This isn't new in poorer war-torn parts of the world but now it's happening in the no-longer-civilised ones we live in.

It seems to me that there may be, in the not so far off future, an enormous group of dispossessed, displaced persons with nowhere to go, no means of support in any country, no family to take them in. They might be any age. This is a recipe for human disaster on a grand scale never seen before. It scares me because I can see this could happen to me unless I keep getting lucky. Lucky these days is to have a job somewhere. How did things sink so low?  Old values went out the window, greed took over and we let other people take charge of our lives.
For decades we've been encouraged to move around the planet, seek opportunities, develop our skills. And when we haven't been encouraged we've been pushed very firmly by impending personal financial disaster if we don't. I thought we were a global village - turns out that's a hollow construction which is turning around to bite us in the bum. But what can we do?

It's hard to see how this endemic mess can be sorted out positively for the people involved. We are living through times unprecedented in terms of scale of rape of resources, environment and people's rights to help themselves for a better life. I feel very strongly about the human tragedies unfolding, the carelessness and selfishness of those with the power to change things for the better but who won't. We honestly need a people's revolution but that brings down disasters of its own on those undeserving of them. I hate injustice, greed, selfishness and aggression and most of all the energy sapping, hope-numbing helplessness many folks face.

I felt very uncomfortable reading some of the posts on Survive France Network  of those who are so vulnerable. I myself feel like flotsam and jetsam in this world and that really gets up my nose. Those who go through very bad times wish they'd been born into another era. I think my parents had the best this world had to offer and it's all downhill from there. So, although I sound bleak, I think it's important to have a plan, even though it may not be much of a one, where you come up with a couple of possible scenarios as to how to survive until you die and hope you don't have to use them. In the meantime create human connections for emotional and practical support and find a little bit of love out there. 

Yesterday a tanker driver who was pumping up some sewerage guided me to a little space hidden behind his tanker where I could park at work. it was the only space around. He saw me and with a smile and a kind thought connected briefly with me. In response he got a beautific smile and heartful best wishes. Sometimes that's all we have but in those moments it's enough.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


Friday night saw me stop off at the service station to fill up my little car on my way home. Standard stuff! Alas, as I stood there in darkness with it snowing moderately and my hands shaking with the cold my key wouldn't unlock the petrol tank. The key wouldn't go in. I tried and tried again but only the tip would go in. Oh oh! The tank was nearly empty. I sprayed some anti-ice into the lock but nothing improved. Unsettled, I had to get back in my car and drive off. I was supposed to visit Jean-Claude but I didn't think I had enough petrol to go there yet alone there and back.

The roads were getting rather fluffy and the flocons (snowflakes were just a bit more insistent) by the time I got home. Thank goodness for an underground park. I tried again to unlock the petrol cap but it wasn't going to budge. There's nothing like the Automobile Association in France. I feel very vulnerable to anything going wrong on the road. There's little a small woman like myself can do to help herself- I'd be dependent on a motorist stopping to help me.

I dialled an auto knight instead, aka, Jean-Claude, and explained the situation. He said he'd get his tools and drive gingerly over- it would take a while so I had enough time for a hot shower. He duly arrived and we hovered around my car. After an hour out of the elements the keyhole decided to unstick. Yay, so JC showed me what to do if/when it happens again. He gave me a cigarette lighter and told me to light it and heat my car key up, wipe the soot off and insert it into the keyhole. It would probably work.

Naturally I didn't have a cigarette lighter so he gave me an old one which he advised I keep in my handbag, not the car. In the car it would simply freeze and not light when I needed it. Sage advice. We grabbed my overnight bag and drove very slowly all the way to his village.

The next morning all was brown and white and green. I had the pleasure of munching my breakfast in bed while watching the heavily laden branches tip their white passengers on the ground. Some of the snowflakes were carried away by the breeze. So beautiful. So Cold.

A little robin redbreast hopped outside the window in search of something to eat. We could see where birds had left tracks in the snow against the French doors in their quest to find some warmth oozing from the house so we decided to make some breadcrumbs and scatter them on the snow. I hope the little robin finds them.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Long and Winding Road - Part 2

My baby steps are following one after the other into the publishing world. I haven't gone far yet but everything I do puts me further ahead. I've created some business cards for my book; usual details on one side, quick hook on the reverse. I plan to use them at the Paris Book Fair in, well, Paris at the end of March.

 I've never been to a Book Fair but I figure I need to learn about this new industry I want to be part of. There will be publishers, translators, legal folks, authors, possibly some agents, digital publishers, all sort of services. I want to learn the lingo and the issues.

The publishing world has gone through major change in recent years. There's online publishing, e-books, kindle which never used to exist. There are decisions to be made as to what type of publishing an author will use. I want to go traditional, even if it's the hardest. For most people trying to sell a manuscript it's impossible. But I want to give it a try, a good try and for that I have to understand the business. I have to have the right discipline and nous. I have to put all my ducks in a row, cleverly, with impact, persistence and balls.

My book proposal is nearly finished. I just need to finish the chapter summaries. My agent query letter is underway. Sometimes my writing is inspired and others it's a confused mess. When the later happens I put it down and do something else on a different aspect concerning my book, such as researching the right publishing houses and literary agents in my target markets.

My target market, and thus publisher and agent, is the U.S. Apart from New Zealand and France they are my top supplier of readers for my blog. It's a big market and if I can crack that it'll help me get started on my second book. Yes, there always was another one, 1955-2008 was to have been written first but I felt To the Ends of the Earth had just the right recipe to get me started. And there'll need to be a third book because readers will want to know what happens after 2013.

Next on my list of things to do is to organise my web-hosting and start building my book's website - scares me as I'm not feeling competent with the later and the former is an investment. It's hard to commitment to bills when i never know how long I can stay here and be employed but I got here on the back of Hope so I just have to keep doing so. Hope told me to register for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. It's the world's largest book fair and with the Paris one under my belt I should have a better handle on what to do there. I've never been to Germany- hey- it's another adventure.

My book will be completed before that. I'd like to hire a book editor to whip the manuscript into shape (I'm hardly objective) but I have no money for that. I'll just have to do the best I can myself and hope the proposal and a few finished chapters will be enough to gain me a book contract. The publishers would then be responsible for the professional editing. I want this to work. I've no idea how to be successful but I'm going to learn a lot trying to find out on my own.

There are pitfall to publishing everywhere. here's what author and blogger Penelope Trunk's post on the Guardian says...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Getting a few things sorted

As the new year entered in I took myself back to home. It was a rare sunny day and I enjoyed seeing my home town starting 2013 at peace, gently going about its business. I was headed for a physiotherapy session in an indoor pool, the sort with high sides and made of resin I suppose.

My shoulders are still troubling me, especially the right one and it's difficult to sleep so any help with that is appreciated. The warm water was relaxing, the instructor was a friendly and charming young lady who seemed to find me, a New Zealander, rather exotic. There are not that many Kiwis in France and I may be the only one within 50kms. I coped as best I could with the conversation and concentrated on moving a thin stick in the correct trajectories to re-educate my muscles and ligaments while the anti-inflammatories keep the pain lessened. Inflamation and arthritis have been identified by Xray and ultra-sound. No surprises, at least it's nothing worse. I was informed that the exercises in the pool would quickly become quite challenging. I was given a sneak preview- she was right. Clearly I have work to do.

I also have lots to do in terms of progressing my writing. Some of my Christmas holiday break has been spent motivating myself and moving ahead a step at a time. Work continues on my book proposal and I have purchased two domain names,  as a window on my professional abilities to encourage networking and opportunities. I've ordered some business cards for my book promotion and need to build a website. The latter is challenging for me.

I'm not IT savvy and although companies may say their web-building tools can be used by anyone they don't seem to have been thinking of me when they declared it. I'm looking around for a webhosting company that will make it easy for me to get a site up and running that I can edit myself. I feel like such a noddy with it all but I will have to make time to practice, explore and maybe just make a decision and hope it turns out for the best, as lately I've been dithering through lack of confidence. 2013 is the year I need to finish and publish my book, preferably the traditional way. I have ambitions. I think my book could make a good film but I still need to finish it.

I've been procrastinating about the last chapter. How will it end? My journey is still continuing. It won't be ending happily ever after. Following a long discussion with Jean-Claude about our relationship it's clear there's no particular positive outcome there on which to end the book. He's a lovely man but he has no intention of changing our arrangements - his arrangements- his environment rules all. He never wants to visit me at my home, he never speaks about emotional aspects. Everything is practical, concrete and revolves around how he wants things to be and he will not change anything or even compromise though he knows I'm not completely happy. He told me to find a way to finish my book without seeming too sad, so make it fictional. I totally rejected that idea. My book is a faithful and honest account of what I've faced and felt. Somehow I need to tell it like it is, respect my readers but not have it all finishing on a blue note even though, in reality, things are feeling a bit blue for me.