The Good Life France Podcast Episode 3 with Ian Moore, a British author and comedian who lives in the Loire Valley where he runs a gite and dreams of killing his guests which has inspired a series of fun thrillers! He also has staring contests with goats, makes chutney and keeps hens who don’t lay eggs! He talks about his fear of feisty French women over the age of 40, the quirky things about living in France, how being a mod and how wearing a suit in the chicken pen is a way of life!
Author Janine Marsh chats about life in France and answers listeners questions – do French people really think it’s lucky to tread in dog poo?! Find out in this fun and lively podcast – everything you want to know about France and more!
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In the next episode meet Molly Wilkinson who left Texas to study cake making in Paris. She now lives in Versailles where she teaches people all around the world how to make the most beautiful cakes…
Transcript of Ian Moore Podcast
Janine Marsh Today’s guest is Ian Moore. He’s a British comedian, author, columnist, corporate speaker, blogger, podcaster and chutney maker. Yep, you did hear that right. He’s a chutney maker. He lives in the lovely Loire Valley with his French wife Nathalie and their three children. He also has two dogs, Gigi, and Kipper, who’s known for his slobbering tendencies. He has feral cats, a flock of egg free hens, and three mad goats. And when he’s not writing best-selling books or newspaper columns or headlining at the world famous Comedy Store in London, or making people fall about laughing at comedy festivals around the world, or popping up on telly to talk about his life in France – he makes chutney and jams which he serves at breakfast at the gite he also runs – which the Times says is one of the 30 best B&Bs in France. Welcome Ian. We’re really thrilled to have you on the show today. When I was writing questions to ask you the list got so long that I had to cut it back because I thought we might be on here for a really really long time. Or we have to call it the very long Good Life France podcast.
Ian Moore You know, when you hear an introduction like that, my wife’s been telling me for ages that I need to cut back on stuff that I do. When somebody introduces you and literally list everything you do. You realise I really do far too much. And so I will be cutting back. But not yet. Not yet.
Janine Marsh Not today.
Ian Moore Not today, from tomorrow.
Janine Marsh Thank you. Because you’re also an author. And your first book was a memoir called A la Mod, My So Called Tranquil Life in Franc – I know what that feels like – which is all about how you came to live in France and brought your mod style with you. And for anyone listening who is thinking, well, what’s a mod? – it’s a trend that became popular in 1960s’ Britain. I don’t think anywhere else, I’m not sure. Mods like to dress stylishly and ride scooters. And I have to say, I really love to think of you in your slick mod suit and trying to keep you know, shiny shoes clean in the chicken pen. So are you still a mod?
Ian Moore I am, I am. The thing is, you’re right in what you say. It was more of a kind of fashion thing in the 60s for the British working class youth. It is how it would have been best remembered. I mean, its roots are in jazz clubs, and Sartre and all of that, which nobody needs to know, it’s really quite dull! But as you get older, you realise that it’s harder and harder to remain part of a youth cult.
So I’ve kind of dropped the youth side of things. And it’s just, basically it’s an attitude, I still dress very smartly at all times. Because that’s just who I am. It makes me feel better about myself. And it’s just a kind of sensibility. It’s kind of a perfectionist, look at things. You know, you put in the maximum effort for what you do. And it’s also about you controlling your own existence, which is where the Sartre stuff come into. But in the end, basically, it’s just nice suits and nice shoes.
Janine Marsh Sounds pretty good to me, I think I should be a mod as well. I’d like to be in control of things.
Ian Moore It’s not for everyone, because you can really annoy yourself by knowing that this ineffectual thing, this ephemeral thing that’s in front of you that you have absolutely no need to control, but you will look at it and go I have to control you now. And it’s just you know, it becomes a bit of a headache after a while. For instance, as you say, wandering around the goat pen in a nice suit is a stupid thing to do. But rules are rules.
Janine Marsh Do you know what though? I think it sounds really exciting. And I think for anyone passing your house, seeing you in your suit, looking quite incongruous and out of character is going to be a bit of a thrill for them. So you know, that leads me to what exactly is a mod doing in France?
Ian Moore Very good question. It all stemmed from the fact that my wife is half French, and her family were based around where we live. And so we’ve been coming here for years on holiday. I first came here with my then girlfriend now my wife in 1990. And one of the first things I said when we stayed in this beautiful area was, I just want to retire here and write like undemanding comic novels, which is how it has eventually worked out. The plan was to retire here. But we just reached that point where we thought just let’s have a go at it and see if we can make it work. And that was 17 years ago.
Janine Marsh And it was the right decision, I guess
Ian Moore Absolutely.
Janine Marsh You know, we’ve all gone through quite a change in the last few years with Brexit, COVID and things like that. So it hasn’t always been easy for all of us. But I’m delighted to say that your books are just brilliant and I really really enjoy reading them and I’m gonna get round to talking about them in a minute. But first I want to ask you, I am an animal lover I have… I don’t even know how many chickens I’ve got any more. I’ve given up counting. But I know you have a lot of animals as well. How many animals do you actually have?
Ian Moore Where are we? Mid-afternoon… Things may have changed since I last counted. But we’ve got two dogs, we’ve got two cats, three hens at the moment, three goats, and a horse, as well. So I don’t know how much that is. I need to work that out. It’s very difficult because we if we accidentally land on 13, my wife gets all jittery and says, no, that’s bad luck. So we have to go and get another one. So I really need to count up. With this, that’s 4, cats and dogs is 4. Seven with the hens. 10, with the goats. We’re on 11.
Janine Marsh Do you know what that I think? Goats count for more because they’ve really, really hard work. I’ve looked after my neighbours goats. They climb all over you, they attack you. They creep up behind you… I mean, God, they’re awful. And I know I know you once said that your wife collects animals like there’s a biblical flood on the horizon.
Ian Moore And the thing is, she’s developed a reputation for it as well, because two of our goats we got from the zoo, le Zoo de Beauval, which is very close to us. My older son did well at school one year, and it gets to the end of the year. And we said, well, you know… you’ve earned a reward, what would you like? The most sensible teenagers would say, I don’t know, Play Station, trainers, whatever – and he said a goat, so we got two goats from the zoo. And then I was away working, gigging in the UK, and I came back, very tired after traveling, and noticed there was a third goat, and nobody was going to tell me, it was just, you know, you have to accept it. And what had happened, genuinely true, what happened was my wife had driven into town. And she had been flagged down by this bloke, just this bloke standing on the side of the road. And he recognised her, and he said, Do you want a goat to my wife. And she said, no, we’ve already got two and my husband doesn’t really get on with goats. And he said, alright, then. Well, I’ll just eat this one. To which my wife replied, right, put him in the boot, and I’ll try and hide him. So we ended up with a third goat. It’s a bizarre old life in rural France.
Janine Marsh I can quite understand your wife putting the goat in the boot. But I kind of like the idea of you coming home from a gig tired bleary eyed, probably had problems on the trains, in a nice suit, looking in the garden and thinking, I’m sure we only had two goats last time.
Ian Moore It’s just the way that nobody tells you! Just that, you know, try and back up again. No, no, no, you must have miscounted before you left, you know, as if you’re so tired, you’re going to accept that kind of nonsense.
Janine Marsh Do you know, I think it’s a woman thing because my other half says to me quite often, you know, we’ve got eight cats now. And he says no more cats. I don’t want any more cats. We’re overrun by cats. And then a cat will turn up at the back door and look at me pitifully, and I’ll let it in. And then he’ll look at it and he’ll go: is that cat changed colour. I say no, no, this cat has been here for months. I know. It’s terrible, isn’t it really!
Ian Moore It’s just something you’ve got to put up with. That’s what I found. You know, French law legally has it that I’m the head of this household. It’s just an absolute nonsense. You know, I have absolutely no input at all. I’m merely constitutional monarch.
Janine Marsh I’ve never heard of that French law that a man is head of the household. I’m going to look into that after this.
Ian Moore Yes it is, it’s true. Laughable isn’t it?
Janine Marsh I think we should definitely cut that bit out of the podcast in case my husband hears it and gets ideas above his station. Not gonna happen. You’re talking about goats. And I have also looked after goats and I don’t have any for that reason, because I experienced them in the first place before I agreed to you know, own a goat. I hear that you have a “penchant” – French word thrown in there – you have a “penchant” for having staring contest with goats. What the heck is that all about?
Ian Moore Well, it’s kind of inevitable because they have these really weird eyes. You know, their pupils or whatever it is, are the wrong way. They’re horizontal when they should be vertical. And because of that you are just sort of get drawn into it. And I read a book, there’s a book called Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. And it was a genuine attempt by the CIA to use mind control in the battlefield. And they tried it out on goats. It never worked. They never got it to work. But I thought, you know, if the CIA can have a go, I might try and have a go and they just stare at me and chew. And then just wander off.
Janine Marsh Is that for real men in suits, Men in Black staring into the eyes of goats?
Ian Moore Yeah, it’s absolutely true. And it was made into a film. They made it into a film and who’s in it? Ewan McGregor is in it. Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. It’s a fascinating, insane book
Janine Marsh My neighbour’s got goats. He’s got pygmy goats. I might have to kneel down to stare into their eyes.
Ian Moore You see, the thing is, I’m going to stop you there Janine. Because we have to get rid of this nonsense that pygmy goats exist, okay, because this is the kind of lie that my wife sold our goats to me on saying they are pygmy goats. Pygmy goats don’t exist, there are baby goats, and there are adult goats. And pygmy goats is this kind of sales pitch they give you like, you know the mini pigs. Mini pigs they grow into massive great pigs. David Attenborough needs to do a documentary on this to try and quell this nonsense.
Janine Marsh No, I know, you’re right about pygmy pigs, because I stayed in a gite in the Loire valley as it happens. And I stayed there, because on the advertising stuff, it said, we keep pigmy pigs. So I thought, oh, wow, I would love to see a pygmy pig. And then when I got there, they actually had this enormous great big pig that basically ruined their house because it just got bigger and bigger, but they’d fallen completely in love with it by then. And they had to build its own house on the back of their house because it would just run rampage and it ate everything and you know, left its mess everywhere. Little messages or big messages, actually. So yes, and they said oh but when we bought it, it was so cute, like a little tiny baby and it was a pygmy pig. And now it’s about 250 pound pig monster.
Ian Moore Pygmy pigs, pygmy goats. It’s a lie.
Janine Marsh And another lie. Chickens lay eggs.
Ian Moore They don’t all lay!
Janine Marsh Well, I’ve got some really old ones. And they don’t lay very often. And I think some of them don’t actually lay anything at all.
Ian Moore Mine have stopped. I bought two more about three weeks ago. And they haven’t laid a thing yet. And I don’t know what it is. I don’t know whether.. I mean they’re French hens they could be on strike. I have no idea. They’re certainly not producing that’s for sure. So every day I have to feed my hens but still out go out and buy eggs, which was not the idea at all.
Janine Marsh No, it’s not! You sound quite resigned to it Ian!
Ian Moore Well what can you do? See the thing is, although I love love living in rural France, I realised you know, if I was proper native of rural France, I simply wouldn’t have any truck with hens that don’t lay eggs and they would be deposited in a pot and used in another fashion. But I can’t do that. I just can’t. So I’m resigned to now having these hens until you know, until they decide to produce or whenever.
Janine Marsh Until they pop off. You are powerless. Chickens rule the roost. Do you not know this Ian?
Ian Moore Well, I really love hens. I really love the peace, the tranquillity that they bring, I really adore them. And I get very attached to them. And one of our first hens was, this is a few years ago, and she wasn’t very well. And again, I know I how the locals deal with this situation and probably quite rightly so. But I took my hen Victoria to the vet. And so I’m sitting in the vets in rural France and I was wearing a suit as well because I was about to go to the UK after this. You know, it was not a way to ingratiate myself with the locals or just this staring at me like I was Doctor Who or something like that. It was very peculiar. And you know, I kind of didn’t overstep the mark with that, but it was pretty close.
Janine Marsh Did they help you?
Ian Moore Yes, because vets like money. That’s what I found. They are addicted to the stuff. And she gave me, the vet gave me an injection, I was to put into the hen’s gullet. So I had to bring the hen home and basically do the job myself. It didn’t help. It didn’t actually do any good for poor Victoria.
Janine Marsh Oh, no poor Victoria. And you’re still not getting any eggs either even after you’ve cared for them so well. Yeah, ungrateful, aren’t they? Yeah, I will say I do sometimes have a good result when I play Lady Gaga for my chickens.
Ian Moore Oh really?
Janine Marsh Yeah, they like music.
Ian Moore I don’t think I’m prepared to go that far. But I think because the hens share the paddock with the goats and the horse, maybe it’s privacy they are after, I’m going to have to work it out.
Janine Marsh Stop looking at me, I’m trying to lay an egg. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think it makes any difference because once I was sitting in the garden with Mark my husband and we were just sitting there having a glass of wine. Sitting at the table, couple of chairs, nice table and Barbie, one of our chickens just jumped up onto the table and laid an egg right in front of us. So…
Ian Moore See, that’s just showing off.
Janine Marsh I filmed it as well, but most people are not interested. I thought it’s fascinating. Wow, rosé and an egg, fantastic. But that’s you know, that’s what animals are all about. And they give you pleasure in so many ways you didn’t even know existed.
Ian Moore Absolutely right. Yeah. Kipper … he’s always been, my wife says that -he’s my dog, basically because he’s very, he’s quite naughty. So that’s just, it’s just a secondary way of blaming me for whatever, but he just, he gives me an immense amount of pleasure. I just adore him but he eats hens. So they have to be separated and guarded.
Janine Marsh Ian, I think there’s a bit of a theme here: he eats hens and they’re not laying eggs.
Ian Moore Yes, there could be a connection.
Janine Marsh Now, Ian you’re an author as well as an animal lover. And I recently read your comedy thriller book “Death and croissants”, and it was really funny and really fabulous. And I know you have a new book out now. I think it’s out now “Death and fromage”?
Ian Moore Yep, yeah, the hardback came out in July.
Janine Marsh Congratulations! I haven’t read it yet. But I have pretty much been traveling back to back since July. So it’s on my reading list. But I think you also have another book coming out for Christmas.
Ian Moore Yep. The hardback version of a short story I wrote, which is called “Death and Papa Noel”, which is a handy stocking filler sized little hardback, bit oversized, like those old ladybird book. So that comes out next week.
Janine Marsh Fantastic. Congratulations.
Ian Moore Thank you. Thank you. And you know, it’s all going really well. The third one in that series comes out next June. I’m writing the fourth one now.
Janine Marsh Wow. Do you do have a title that you can tell us? Does it have death in the title? Yes.
Ian Moore Yes, of course, naturally. The third one will be called “Death at the Chateau”. And the fourth one will be called “Death in le Jardin”.
Janine Marsh Very nice. Where’d you get your inspiration from? Because that’s a lot of books.
Ian Moore Well, initially because the main character is a guy called Richard Ainsworth who runs a B&B in the Loire valley. Now part of my kind of Brexit safety net tactics was I opened a B&B here as well. It’s not open that much because I’ve been away working quite a lot. And it is mine rather than my wife’s who’s a teacher. And when I first opened up the B&B, I found it so phenomenally dull, that I started planning how to kill off my guests. And that’s the inspiration behind “Death and croissants”. And the first one was very successful. The B&B is just a base for Richard and his investigating partner the very French Valérie d’Orçay. I don’t really kill off my guests. Can you imagine just how bad my TripAdvisor reviews would be?
Janine Marsh Yes, one star because he kills his guests.
Ian Moore Nice breakfast, but kills his guests.
Janine Marsh So is Richard, based on you. Are you Richard? And is Nathalie, Valérie?
Ian Moore The thing is no. This has caused something of a problem at home in that. Richard I guess is based on me. Not 100%. But there are elements. Whereas Valérie is not based on Nathalie at all because Richard is, is going through a separation from his wife.
Janine Marsh Quite right. Not based on Nathalie at all.
Ian Moore No, Valérie is a guest who stays and basically my wife read it and was quite vociferous in this. This is just you and a male fantasy, you’re gonna write something proper. But it wasn’t at all. It was easy to base the very English character of Richard on me. And the very French character of Valérie because the humour in the book comes from the very stereotypical English versus the very stereotypical French. It’s the mutual love. It’s the mutual respect, but it also kind of bafflement in each other’s reactions, which provides a lot of the comedy. But Valérie is basically a composite of every French woman over 40 I’ve ever met, who just terrify me, every French woman terrifies me. Because they are so right, so certain of their opinions and of their values. And that’s how I wanted Valérie to be, just so sure of herself. I’ll give you an example. I was once in our little town here with my middle son. He was very young at the time, Maurice, and I was pushing him along in the buggy, and suddenly three women surrounded us and said to me, you must put a coat on her because she’s clearly cold. And I reply to these women, I said: maybe, but that’s actually a boy. That’s my son. And then just peered at Maurice and they looked at me going no, no, no, no, it’s definitely a girl. And it’s that level of certainty that I wanted to bring across. But not based on anybody I know. I have to make that clear.
Janine Marsh Did you give in to the women saying that Maurice was a girl?
Ian Moore Oh, yeah, anything for a quiet life..
Janine Marsh Your part Richard then, aren’t you?
Ian MooreThere’s an element of me, that always looks for a quieter life.
Janine Marsh You clearly find the strange things of life fun: confident women, chickens that don’t lay eggs, you clearly find all these strange aspects of French life. And I’m kind of scared to ask you. Because I read your blogs, and I follow you on Twitter, and I’ve read your books. So I know it’s gonna be a long answer. But what do you find most strange about life in France?
Ian Moore What do I find strange? I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s anything specific about France, I think, as a comedian, and as a writer, you just go through the world, and you have a sort of sixth sense for what is peculiar. And remember that kind… I mean, with France, for example, the very, very different way of say, for instance, looking at DIY. In France, there’s, you know, like, you’d go to Bricomarche, and shops like DIY shops in France aren’t open on a Sunday. Whereas in the UK, that’s when everybody goes to a DIY shop. You know, there’s that kind of completely different… this is the weekend, why would you want to be doing anything like that? Which is, you know, to my mind is absolutely right. Also little quirks, like you know, a local hotel restaurant will shut for two weeks in August because the owners want a holiday. This is all well and good. But why are you in the hospitality trade? Why are you doing that? And I just I love things like that. I love the idea that France is actually more rigid than it likes to think of itself at times, I think because France as we know it was born out of revolution. There’s this idea that the French – and the French always think that they are, you know, we’ll just disobey any rules we don’t like. We just won’t do it. When actually they’re a very, very rigid law abiding rule based society. And you recognise that is there’s such a conflict there in their own psyche, I love watching things like that.
Janine Marsh I think you’re so right. I mean, it’s like, if you get banned for driving, because you’re drunk, or for bad driving, you can then go and buy a little electric car without a license. So in one way, they’re sort of law abiding, and in another way, they kind of anarchic by doing this.
Ian Moore Absolutely, I think there was an incident in one of the books where I said that I think I had to get “carte grise” for the car that I brought over from the UK. And we were being treated dreadfully by the local “prefecture”. And we had French friends around. And they said, I should go on my own, because my French was good enough at the time to deal with it. And so therefore, that would confuse them into actually having to do what they wanted us to do, rather than actually go there and be fluent. And so therefore they could abuse you and they knew how to do it. It’s those lovely little quirks like that, you know,
Janine Marsh My top tip is always go at half past 11, because they want to have lunch at 12 o’clock, and they’ll do anything to get you out the door for that. So I guess that that made you a bit grumpy, and you do actually have a bit of a reputation for being grumpy. And that’s not just me saying that you yourself, say it. And in fact, your second book was called “C’est magnifique. Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France”. So do you think living in France has made you more or less grumpy?
Ian Moore No I think I’m less grumpy in France. The longer I stay here, the more my grumpy levels go down. I think that what happened, I was always pretty grumpy before we came here. And I had that kind of reputation onstage. And offstage, just that reputation. But when I’m here, I feel less grumpy. I just… because I love it. I love my life here and I love being here so much. But for the first – up until the pandemic – for the first 15 years I was living here but still working away in the UK almost every week. So the travel, it just became so tiring that my mood levels would sink and it would take a couple of days for happiness to come back into my life while I was here, and then I’d be off again. So I’m less grumpy now, now that I’m here more often, and I’ve made a conscious effort to try and be less grumpy as well. Because I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, which makes travel very difficult anyway, but my wife, and she’s probably right in this, is convinced that my general attitude to existence is what has given me that, that it’s not just my body physically attacking myself, but because of the way I’ve looked at life for so long. Maybe I have kind of mentally invited that if you see what I mean. So to try and change my outlook was, you know, it was a deliberate attempt to change my outlook, which is why I started writing the “Death and croissants” and “Death and fromage” books because they genuinely cheered me up to write something like that, rather than concentrate on my life, but try and build a little community that was – even with multiple murders – a happier community, and it works, you know, it works for me.
Janine Marsh I love that that you know, you’re less grumpy in France. It’s given you a chance to look at things differently and a different way of life. And you know, dreaming about killing your guests has given you such inspiration. That’s brilliant, and clearly you really love your life in France. But what do you love most about it? Is it chutney making, jam making, staring into goat’s eyes?
Ian Moore It’s difficult to pin down because there’s lots of things that just make up France for me, one, it’s home when I spend so much time traveling. There’s a pace of life in France, which I find much easier to live at. There’s the priority in France, that family comes first, which I adore. Certainly that’s the case around here, whether that’s the case in the bigger cities, I don’t know. But also, I look at my family, and we came to France so that we can have a big family. There’s no way we could have afforded what we have in the UK. So I look at the fact that I’ve got three sons and think, well, if I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have three sons. That fills me with a lot of pride that we’ve done this and that we have that pretty close knit family in that sense, I think we’re quite French, if you see what I mean. I mean two of my boys were born here anyway. So they’re sort of French there. Everybody’s got dual nationality, but they watch far too much English football.
Janine Marsh Do you know, I love that answer though, because you’re right, you know, France is all about family. The fact that shops don’t open all day on Sunday, including DIY shops. Because people do value the time to sit down at the table and to go visit the rest of the family.,
Ian Moore You know, I love that kind of feeling. There’s our neighbour, she’s in the “maison de retraite”, she’s 94 years old. Her family did a surprise party for her last weekend. And they invited us which is such a lovely thing. You know, it’s such an intimate thing to be invited to somebody else’s family like that, you know, I’m not saying those kinds of things don’t happen in the UK. I just don’t think we’d be part of it. Whereas we are here.
Janine Marsh Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, I used to live in London. And, yes, we had family. And yes, we had parties. But like you I get invited to neighbour’s parties here and I don’t think I would have done in London. Well, I know I wouldn’t have in London. So yeah. Ian, thank you so much for joining us on The Good Life France Podcast. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to pass a goat again without staring into his eyes. In fact, after this, I’m gonna go and find a goat just so I can stare into its eyes.
Ian Moore They’re supposed to stare into it so long that you overpower its mind and in the end, they just keel over. So that’s the whole CIA technique.
Janine Marsh There’s a goat farm up the road and they have a male goat. They’re nearly all females, but they have one male goat called “L’amoureux”, the lover. That’s the goat I’m gonna stare at.
Ian Moore That’s the nickname you want as you get older.
Janine Marsh Everyone listening, you can find details of all of Ian’s book on his website. It’s called IanMoore.info. His books are also available on Amazon and all good book shops and you’ll also find details of where he’s appearing next for his comedy shows his blog and his gorgeous gite “La Pause” in the Loire valley. It’s under the section chutney and jams of course, and I promise you, he’s not going to kill you when you go and stay with him. Okay.
Ian Moore I don’t make that promise. You can make that promise on my behalf.
Janine Marsh You can hold me to it everyone. Thank you so much.
Ian Moore Thank you Janine. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks very much.