I've just ordered a hard copy of my story, since the deadline for a free copy from CreateSpace is tomorrow. It's not finished, and still needs editing and actual re-writing - I'm thinking I'm going to start it in a different place, for a start - but a free not-quite-finished version is good enough for me!

Its somewhat hurriedly thrown together cover looks like:

Exile book cover

And it's going to live happily ever after on my bookshelf where I can look at it and amuse myself with the thought that I wrote a book. I have an idea for another one that came to me while I was lying on the beach, so I might write another. It's easy to be a prolific writer when you know none of them are going to be published!


The moon

The moon is an odd colour tonight.

Moon pictures

Moon pictures

Moon pictures

Moon pictures


I have a new website!

(Sort of cross-posted from the jewellery blog)

Some of you may have noticed that my website has changed. It's now no longer the flash site it used to be, and so should be much faster to load, as well as being more easily found by search engines and more easily updated. The aim is to eventually host my own (multilingual!) sales platform, in addition to Etsy, DaWanda and ALM, and this is one small step towards being in a position to do that.

I'd be interested to know what you think of the new site - bear with me while I sort out the ugly URL it redirects to. My hosting company seem to have some issues... (If anyone knows how I can get the URL to redirect properly, masking the ugly URL, I will give you a gold star. When I find out where in France sells gold stars.)



Last night, Villefranche held a dinner for its residents, as part of the 150 year celebrations. Unfortunately, we didn't find out about it until last night, so it was too late for us to go. (And I probably wouldn't have been able to eat anything there anyway.) But we did enjoy the fireworks they put on at the end - less so, the music blaring at full volume before and after, but the fireworks were pretty, and right across the water from us.

You get some slightly blurry photographs, while I write about Fete de la Musique, which was last week, and which I don't think I've written about yet. (Sorry, I know you were all hanging on my every word...)






Post Office: reopened

The New Exciting Package that was waiting for me at the post office has been recovered: it's my yoga DVDs. As part of my continuing search for healthy, and since it's now too hot to go running any time after about 6am, I've decided to take up yoga. We'll see whether I like it or not...

This means your Heavy Exciting Package is still somewhere in transit, Fran. As is my new jewellery stuff - I'm going to teach myself to make soldered jewellery. Remind me to check the insurance cover on our house, to see what the fire damage section says...

ETA: Your Heavy Exciting Package was delivered this afternoon, Fran, along with a note that says I have another package waiting at the post office that they couldn't deliver because of roadworks. Sure. But thank you!! I am set for days and days of lying on the beach reading Guardian magazines; this makes me ridiculously happy! Now if only the weather will sort itself out, all will be perfect. As it is, it feels rather like being in England when global warming has finally kicked in...


Strikes and general admin failure

My attempts to be a good citizen and pay my hospital bill today failed. I intended to go via the post office, where I apparently have An Exciting Package waiting for me, and then on into Nice to argue with the hospital that they really shouldn't be charging me at all.

Aware that this would be challenging, at best, I dressed up in my best French outfit (it's the best dress ever, black and white with French stripey bits at the top) and dug out my heels and set off into town. First stop: Post Office. There's a strike on today, so La Poste is closed. Come back tomorrow.

Undaunted, I continue up to the bus stop, where the tourists have formed an orderly queue. I briefly considered joining it, but decided my dress made me French enough to wander to the front, where I stood with all the real French people marvelling at the queue. The woman at the front of the queue went to great pains to point out to the guy standing next to me that this was a queue, and he should join the end of it. Once I'd translated for him, he looked incredulously at me, and smiled and nodded at her, ignoring her completely. She got more and more agitated, and he was more and more bewildered.

He let her get on the bus first, since it was obviously important to her, and she said to the bus driver, "This man is pushing in!" as if it were a crime worse than death.

He looked, confused, at the man next to me, who shrugged and said "Elle est bizarre, cette dame."

And she was, very odd. The nice English tourists behind her looked at me and the guy, burst out laughing and said "Do go ahead, we don't mind." We talked about the boat - it came from Southhampton, and was going around the Mediterranean. It actually sounds like a fairly pleasant way to spend time, if you don't end up having to deal with women like the one at The Front Of The Queue.

Arriving, eventually, in Nice, I made my way back to the hospital, going in the front entrance this time. It's got a lovely atrium inside, all sunlight and trees and things, rather fabulous. Following the signs for the Acceuil d'Urgences (A&E reception), I got as far as the Urgences department, then got lost and ended up wandering around with patients. A nice doctor opened a secret door for me and showed me where I ought to be going. I reckon my dress helped me not get shouted at. The woman behind the counter, however, just shrugged at me when I said I'd come to pay, and said "Les computeurs sont en panne. On ne peut pas prendre les paiements aujourd'hui." (The computers are broken, we can't take payments today.) She then told me to come back another day, or to just wait, I'd be sent a reminder eventually. Haphazard system, this...

Given the total failure to achieve anything I'd planned today, I decided to stop for a haircut. This is something I've been meaning to do for ages. And as I was wondering whether I ought to bother or just wait til I'm back in the UK, I saw a hairdressers advertising a walk-in service. (Is that what you call it in English? Where you don't need an appointment?) And they were that bored, they were practising on each other. So, in I went. For 35 euros, I now have a shorter, more grown up, more French hair cut and have found a hairdressers where they don't laugh at my complete inability to communicate hair terms, because they put it down to a language failure. I shall go back, sans aucun doute! (Ines B, 11 rue de l'Hotel des Postes, Tel: 04 93 13 85 85 if you're in Nice and desperately searching for a hairdresser.)


French hospitals

Excellent places, French hospitals. Well, not so much at 11:30 at night, when you're sitting in a corridor on one of those beds with the fold up handles to stop you falling out. But otherwise, good places. Friendly doctors and nurses. (Shame about the admin staff, who, to be fair, were probably as knackered as I was. But still, a little empathy and compassion probably wouldn't have killed her...)

On Sunday, I had an allergic reaction to something I ate - presumably, though not definitely, nuts. I'm hoping it's nuts - I can cut nuts out of my life fairly easily, though the lack of yet another thing I could eat isn't exactly fun. If it's not nuts, who knows what it is. Anyway, before that got to the throat closing Oh-my-god-I-think-I'm-going-to-die terrifying stage, it started with a persistent cough, trying to clear my throat and never succeeding, with less and less oxygen getting through. Which isn't fun, but isn't imminently a sign of the Apocalypse. Or hadn't been, prior to Sunday. So, when it started again last night (despite not having eaten anything with nuts in, or anything prepared out of the house) I was in two minds as to whether I ought to do anything about it. Urging from my parents and boyfriend later (yes, I really am that incapable of making decisions about myself; miracle I survived this long, really, isn't it?) and I took the medicines the doctor had given me after the weekend's mess, which helped a bit. But then it came back.

Her firm suggestion that if it came back, I was to call the SAMU on 15 (the emergency healthcare number here, like 999 in the UK or 911 in the US) ringing in my ears, I decided we should make our way towards the hospital, just in case. My lungs felt like they were filling with fluid and the top left of my chest hurt - I figured if anyone else told me they had these symptoms, I'd tell them to fuck off to the hospital asap. So we went, though it wasn't developing the same way as it had on Sunday. But if I were going to deal with it, I wanted it to be at a normal(is) time of day, rather than 2 in the morning. And my breathing was feeling wheezier by this point.

A long queue to get seen, with people with more urgent illnesses pushing in ("Ah, your finger is practically severed and you're bleeding? Do go right on ahead, I can wait.") and they sat me on the aforementioned wheely bed, took my temperature (which was high) and my blood sugar levels (which were presumably normal, since no one mentioned them) and hooked me up to one of those pulsereading machines, with the finger clip thing. Then asked what happened. When I explained, they told me my intial tests they'd done were fine, but they'd like me to see a doctor, just in case.

Had I known it was going to take another hour at that point before I saw a doctor, I might have walked out. I was feeling better, they'd checked I wasn't instantly going to die, the room they left me in was full of sick people, and I feared I might catch something actually serious. Later they wheeled my wheely bed into its own private cubicle - the room had about 15 little booths lining the side - like little meeting rooms, but without the glass walls, into which we were wheeled one at a time when they became free. It was an improvement on the corridor-lining I had been doing, but this was now 45 minutes or so later, and I still hadn't seen a doctor.

Another set of nurses came in and took some more details, and then finally a doctor came in. I had the luckiness to have two doctors - a trainee and a real doctor, both fo whom were lovely and not at all put out that I was apparently wasting their time. They said I was right to come in, but that the tightness in my chest and the allergic reaction weren't linked - it was a coincidence on Sunday that they happened at the same time. They did lots of listening to me breathe to check my lungs were clear, hooked me up to an ECG (those little sticky things have strong glue on them!) and then finally let me go.

Or at least, let me go and join another queue, to get my papers from the most bad-tempered admin woman I've ever seen, so I could come back another day (sooner, rather than later, was the clear message) to pay. If only I had a Carte Vitale; I'm hoping just for a quick checkup and an ECG, it can't cost that much. It's not like I had blood tests, which were the hugely expensive bit last time... Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The trip back took even longer than I thought. We left the hospital at about half past 12, intending to get a 12:53 train back home. We arrived in time, sat on the train, and it didn't go anywhere. At about ten past one, the security people came round and made us all get off, because there weren't any more trains running.

To their credit, SNCF did do a good thing - they arranged, and paid, for taxis for all of us to get home, and were actually friendly. I've never seen a friendly SNCF person, so it was somewhat of a shock, particularly when he said "of course you won't have to pay for the taxi", as if this level of customer service from the SNCF were a given. So, thank you very much SNCF - I hop your strike goes well today. (Though it would be nice if you could work on getting your scheduled trains to actually run, before deciding that the way forward is just to run less trains. Still it means I can put off going to pay the hospital, because of the grève...)

Even so, it was 2am by the time we got home. A long, long night.


Mini digger makes beach

After dumping an enormous pile of sand on the beach yesterday, the council have now employed a mini digger to smooth it out across the beach. Much to the surprise of the people out of shot in the below picture, who were trying to sunbathe while a digger was reversing at them, swinging its bucket erratically.

Mini-digger makes more beach

Those of you who remember the mini-digger telemarketing nightmare will no doubt be pleased to know that I still remember all sorts of mini-digger related information and terminology. (Hence, bucket.) The makers of this particular digger sponsored that campaign. Isn't it a small world?


Charmingly erratic

Hello Telegraph readers! If I'd known you were coming, I'd have written something more interesting than rambling about my book - something with more pictures, at least; I can't guarantee they'd actually be interesting...

Anyone who doesn't regularly read the Telegraph should look at this article which describes me as "charmingly erratic" - which might be one of the more polite things anyone's had to say about me. Thank you, Telegraph article writer!

One step closer to fame and fortune, you mark my words...


Clock for the chronically late

This clock is perfect for people like me who have trouble being on time for things. It's not that I don't care about the people I'm seeing, it's that everything takes longer than I expect it to, so I'm late. Setting my clock 15 minutes fast, or whatever, has never worked, since I *know* it's fast, so I have more time. This often leads to me being later, since I don't trust my clock.

The unpredictability of this clock is a genius idea, you have no choice but to work to it, since you don't know how fast it is, if at all. I await the physical version eagerly.


My book, formatted

Subject to any major rewrites, which I'm unlikely to do in the next ten days (though you never know...) my book is 400 pages, now I've formatted it properly and put it on the right page size. Give it a proper cover, and it's going to at least *look* like a proper book, as long as no one reads it too closely...

I'm pleased with myself. I'll be even more pleased when it actually turns up and I can show you pictures of the shininess that is my very own book.


Leaving page numbers off some pages in Open Office

You'd be amazed how much I have struggled with this, this afternoon. To get my story printed, I need to submit it as a whole document, complete as I want it printed. Which means there are some pages I want page numbers on (the story ones) and others that I don't (like the title pages). This is actually surprisingly easy to accomplish in Open Office Writer. I'm using version 3.1, and the instructions in this fantastic blog post worked perfectly for me.

In case you happen, in the future, to be looking for ways to start page numbering on page 2, or page 7, or any page other than page 1. You just never know when this sort of information will come in handy.


Down to 90,500 words. Somehow I've already got rid of 3,500 words, just by making it make some vague sense. The ending isn't as abrupt as I thought (though the pacing is still off, I think), and I think I've got all the punctuation sorted.

For future reference, before you start writing a book, make sure you know how to punctuate dialogue. It really does make things easier not to have to change it all at the end, because you've been guessing.

Now I'm going to take a break from editing. If I look at the pages any more at the moment, I might scream. I'm going to design a cover for my book, instead. Much more fun. That or have a nap.


Not dead, just editing

Just to let you know, it's not that I've forgotten about you all. But my deadline for getting a free copy of my book is the end of this month, and while it won't be perfect by then, I'm trying hard to get the story as coherent as I can...

On the plus side, by ignoring you, I'm not boring you by letting you know on a regular basis what page I'm up to on my second draft (127, for now) or having long and involved discussions with you about whether I should cut this scene which is actually just pointless waffle designed to boost my November wordcount, but which I like. And you're missing out on the numerous exclamations of "Oh, shit!" as I realise the number of subplots I set up and never followed through on. Not to mention the wailing and gnashing of teeth as I realise my story actually has no real plot.

Be glad.


Sunshine - it's summer after all

Apparently the news in the UK has been full of the woe that has hit our little corner of the world. (I can think of no other reason my grandmother would fear I was drowned...) Fear not, faithful readers, we are coping just fine. There have been some transport problems, but our little village has been fine - even the tourists are fine.

To demonstrate, here's a photo of the beach today - as you can see, the sky is blue, the sun is out, and the sea is lovely and clean again. The large boat in the distance is the tourists.

The sun has got his hat on...

Also, apparently lizards like sunshine after rain - I nearly trod on three as I was going down the stairs to the beach this afternoon. Here's a photo of one little one that stood still for a while.



Running, tourists, and a short excerpt of my story

I went for an actual run today - only 20 minutes, but that's more than I've felt up to for days. I must be getting better... I met a bunch of Spanish tourists on the way back who were lost and looking for the train station. They thought I was German, so imagine their surprise when I gave them directions in more or less coherent Spanish. I was heading roughly that way, so thought I'd show them where they ought to go anyway - they were nice people, and called me guapa a lot. Given that I was a sweaty mess, I think they probably have low standards, but I'll take compliments where they lie, I'm easy like that.

When I got home, I found out there are no trains today because of the bad weather. Oops. It's the thought that counts, right?

Since whenever I sit at home trying to edit, I get distracted by shiny internet, I'm going to take our mini computer (Paul's, really, but I've adopted it because it's teeny and cute) to the cafe by the beach and work without distraction there. Maybe a change of scenery will help inspire me.

I'm going to try putting the first couple of hundred words of my story in a spoiler box, below, so that those of you who aren't interested can skip over it and those of you who've been hassling me to let you read it can see whether you're really interested after all. Assuming the spoiler box works...

I'd had the best of intentions. This hadn't helped much at the trial.

I had been kneeling in the dust since dawn. My throat was parched and sweat trickled down my back and between my breasts. My arms were lashed in front of me to a short stake. That would hold me up, after the firing squad. I liked to think they would regret it afterwards – I knew them, after all – but they would shoot anyway. The Ducal Guard were trained well.

My hair tickled my face. I wasn't used to it being this long, but a few months in prison had seen it grow and no one was keen to show kindness to a traitor. The Duke held grudges.

The door to the palace opened and the Commander of the Guard stormed out. Her face taut with anger, Krystal stalked across the square towards me. Tall, slim, in her early forties, Krystal was a gifted soldier and an excellent Commander. The Guard lived for her approval, and were terrified of her temper, both with good reason. She and I had been lovers, once and experience suggested that whatever she was about to say to me, I wasn't going to like it. When you're about to face a firing squad, there's almost no good news.


Today has been a rubbish day. It started off well, if a little early - I woke up at 4:30, but when I got up, the sun was rising, everyone was asleep, I had coffee in peace.

Since then, the football has happened. That was noisy. I've slit my thumb on wire and my toe has a huge bleedy hole in it where I dropped a saucepan lid while doing the washing up. Who knew a blunt saucepan lid could do so much damage?

Because of all that, I missed the parachutists and the Patrouille de France flying in Nice. Which I'm pissed off about. On the plus side, though, I'm not on this train:


It's parked outside our window, as is the one heading in the other direction. Fire engines are sounding their sirens, but I've no idea how they plan to get to the train line. It's nowhere near a (real) road.

I had considered going to the fireworks this evening in Nice, I like fireworks. But given the way today has gone so far, I'm going to take this fire as a sign not to even leave the house today. I'm bound to get run over by a police car or something, if I do.



Tourists who travel in loud, shouty packs that stream past my bedroom window, screeching at each other, should be banned. Or at least fined, to pay for double glazing and/or ear plugs for the people they're disturbing.


Today's celebratory events

Today's events were somewhat limited, since I didn't go to the casting of the new bell for the cathedral last night (it was late, in town, and public transport can be erratic at the best of times round here). Since that's the case, I didn't go to the opening of it this afternoon, either. I did, however, manage to make it to the weirdest culinary event I've seen in a while, if not ever.

A group of chefs called Les Toques Brûlées were put on stage to cook, in little groups, local specialities. At ground level, the crowd were waiting to be fed. Having learnt my lesson from the combat naval, I stayed away from the sharp elbows and vicious fighting for free things that seems to invade people round here, and took photos instead. Sadly, I was too transfixed by the dancers - who could not stop laughing at themselves and the crowd - to actually photograph them. So you'll have to make do with photos of the chefs. The food smelt good, even if I didn't get to eat any of it!








Airplanes! In the sky! Painting pretty colours!

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Nice becoming part of France, and this weekend is apparently full of events to celebrate. I'll try to keep an eye out for them to share with you, my lovely readers. (All 3 of you.)

Yesterday while I was walking from a friend's house to the pub to meet Paul after work, I saw planes, lots of planes, flying very fast and doing pretty looping thingies and all that, with red, white and blue smoke trailing. They were, I'm told, practising for the finale of the weekend's celebrations, and will do the same on Monday - I'll try to have a better camera with me, rather than just my mobile...

They finished by drawing us a picture of a heart in red and blue, and then punctuating it with an arrow through the middle. I was impressed - but not as impressed as everyone around me who started clapping. I'm not sure I quite understand people who clap things like that - it's not like the pilots are going to hear you... But it was awesome to watch the planes playing with each other and dancing. (And yes, oh ye of little faith, they were, in fact, dancing. Not just flying around aimlessly.)

Some (poor) mobile phone photos:







More shiny things: new pendant

OK, so I know I'm being lazy by cross posting, and that the reason I set up a jewellery blog was so that I didn't have to bore you all with pictures of my new shiny things. But I've got nothing much to talk about except boring and depressing things, so you can have a post about shiny things instead. Hopefully I'll have some clarity soon on what's happening with my likely move back to the UK and then I will have something to talk about...

Anyway, so, this pendant has been quite a long time in the making. Every now and then, I get out this abalone square and wonder what to do with it. Then, inspiration struck.

Sticking with a sea theme, I've paired it with red and white freshwater pearls and argentium sterling silver. It measures 6cm by 6cm and the circle of pearls is approx 2.5cm.

Argentium sterling silver, red and white pearl and abalone shell pendant


New earrings

Today's been more productive than I expected! Putting off editing the monstrosity I've just finished writing has inspired me to make new shiny things; it's almost a win-win situation, except that the editing doesn't get done...

The first of today's new things is this pair of earrings. Made from dichroic glass and square copper wire, they measure 4cm from the top of the handmade ear wire and 1.5cm across.

Dichroic glass and copper earrings

Also, and I know I have your heartfelt sympathy, I'm sunburnt. Sitting on the balcony working all afternoon apparently has a downside - who knew?


Story: The end

I think I've finally, finally finished my first draft of my book. I've got a couple of scenes to add in that I skipped (and cunningly wrote notes to myself in bright red, so I'd notice when I was rereading it, since I totally forgot about them) but I've written 7,300 words today, for a total of 93,686, and I think I'm done.

It's about time!


Monegasque bank holidays and national parks

Today, Monaco very kindly declared a bank holiday to mark my dad's birthday, so I have been temporarily freed from the world of employment. Which is nice.

Rather than do what we usually do and waste our days off lying in the sun drinking coffee and beer, we decided to go somewhere. After lots of looking at bus timetables and realising we were limited in where we could go, we decided to go up to the Plateau de la Justice, up in the mountains behind Eze, and look round the national park up there. Since we hadn't planned this very much in advance (read: at all) we didn't have a picnic lunch with us. Which is a shame, since the park is perfect for picnics, and we will have to go back to take advantage of this fact.

We went back down to Eze to get some lunch (their supermarket sells sushi! And quinoa salad! I feel our Casino is letting us down a bit, now...) and ate in the church courtyard. Eze was, predictably, packed full of tourists. Our plan was to go into the gardens, since it was cloudy last time we went there, but as we were eating lunch, it clouded over a bit, and we decided to leave it til next time. There's no point going somewhere you're only going to go once when the weather's a bit off - it's not like we don't have months of guaranteed sunshine coming up, after all.

So, some photos...









This hotel is stunningly pretty - I'm going to stay here one day, if it's not too expensive!:











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