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Hellish hail stones and cats that love fish newsletter from France

Cobbled street in Dinan, Brittany, lined with ancient houses with roses and vines growing over them

I hope that you and yours are well.

My big news this week is that my new book My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life, will be out in print in America on 1 September (you can find it on Amazon.com, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and book shops everywhere). I’ve had some lovely reviews for it (it’s been out in Europe for 3 months) and if you enjoy it, I’d love to know – nice feedback for writers is like spinach for Popeye!

Here in my bit of France, we’ve started to build a garage. This week we laid a ton of concrete for the foundations to build a wall. It’s something we’ve been meaning to do ever since a freak hail storm hit our village a couple of years back. Giant hail stones the size of cricket balls rained down at 6 minutes to 6 on the 6 July – how’s that for coincidental numbers.

We were driving home from the shops when the localised storm hit at the top of the hill that leads to our village. We pulled over as little balls of ice came down thick and fast making visibility poor. The balls got bigger and bigger, pounding the car and leaving great dents. When the enormous lumps of ice smashed the car window and the glass went into my leg, I really thought we were in serious trouble. It’s a long story which involved cars being written off and the roofs of the houses in the village being destroyed (it’s in the book!) but ever since, when I see “hail” on the weather forecast, I get the heebie-jeebies. Even though it’s such a freak occurrence and unlikely to happen again in our village, we decided to sort out protection for our car and van just in case. At the moment, at a hint of hail, we rush them round to neighbour Jean-Claude’s big barn with everyone else in the village who doesn’t have a garage.

People here are fascinated by our seemingly endless renovation to convert what was a hovel into a home to be proud of. (I’m putting a few pics on Instagram if you want to see it)…

This week as we toiled in the garden, shovelling the ingredients for the concrete into our trusty old mixer, Fish Man stopped by. He calls by the village once a week, stops at the homes of his regular customers, toots the hooter, pulls out a traditional blue and white awning and opens a window at the side of the van to reveal an impressive display of fresh fish. My cats love Fish Man. The smell lures Winston the biggest cat in the village from his comfy bed on the terrace, Shadow, FatCat, Loulou, Marie-Antoinette, Little Socks, CrazyCat (he lies on your feet and won’t move) and Tony Manero (he struts like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever!) all follow the scent.

“Bit of squid to keep your strength up? Fillet of salmon as a reward for your hard work? Treat yourself with a trout?” Fish Man said through his mask. He’s a born salesman.  Marie-Claude appeared from next door with her shopping bag and peered at the mixer which was noisily turning. Then Madame Bernadette puffed her way from the bottom of the hill, and farmer Thierry’s wife Mathilde came along.

At a time when we are all staying home so much, it seems that the only Brits in the village are once more a source of entertainment. Everyone had a look at the area where the garage will go and it was decided, by them, that it would be a perfect space for a party to celebrate post-Covid. I’ll certainly drink to that.

Next week I’ll be in Annecy in Haute Savoie, where I’ll be celebrating my birthday, so no newsletter then, but after that, I’ll be back every week!

Wishing you and yours well, bisous from my little pigsty office in rural northern France,

ps:  Top photo is Dinan in Brittany – most popular photo shared on Facebook in August! Join me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for daily photos and fun from France…

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream – ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online, and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life

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