John Dummer, author of Serge Bastarde Ate my Baguette was, before he became a famous author, a famous drummer in a British doo-wop group called Darts which had a string of hits in the late 70’s and early ‘80s. When John left the band he moved to France with his wife Helen and after moving to Portugal and then back to France he moved to Dax in Aquitaine to renovate a 300 year old farm. John and Helen decided to register as brocanteurs and to try earning a living at the French markets with the help of wily Frenchman Serge Bastarde…
A very dry and very funny book. John Dummer’s characters in this book are already large, he does not need to nor does he inflate them further and it is impossible not to fall in love with Serge Bastarde whom you can almost smell!
Serge is lazy, conniving and wonderfully resourceful and yet he is also a good friend to John, who often finds himself skipping back and forth across the lines of right and wrong. As Serge shows John the French ropes so that he can become a “brocanteur”, negotiating with farmers for their barn booty and bemoaning that even “peasants” now have Ebay, attempting to trick that most shrewd of creatures, the British expat and trying and failing to outwit the gypsies… you find yourself wishing the book won’t end.
It is an hilarious book but what I truly love about it is that there are so many tender moments and insights into John’s life in France with his wife, whose presence is felt as a kind, humorous, gentle, chiding reminder to John to beware the French rogue Serge – who is after all, a wife or girlfriend’s nightmare. Despite Serge’s lively imagination and constant hidden agenda, he is still a true friend to John and generous in his ways towards him, their bromance is most endearing and full of witty insights. For example, Serge explains to John how French people refer to the English as Rosbifs, not just for their love of roast beef but because of the meaty complexions.
John Dummer’s observations are warm and memorable and to be savoured with a glass of wine. Mr Dummer himself is a most interesting and diverse character, more than capable of extricating himself from all sorts of situations, thankfully. His musical background and considerable talent often give him the edge in a country where people appreciate any impromptu and artistic expression very much. However he does have that most British of conditions, a strong moral conscience, something Serge Bastarde does not suffer from in the slightest.
Read it, you’ll love it and guess what, of course Serge Bastarde has a son! John Dummer’s second book Son of Serge Bastarde is next on MY reading list. One can only hope that Monsieur Bastarde has more than one relative up his sleeve, and that Mr Dummer, in time, will enlighten us further!
Available from Amazon.