Saturday, 5 July 2008

La Belle France 2

Here's my second entry. Already the memories are fading...

12th June: After the fourth thunderstorm in four days - easily the worst or best, depending how you view these things - the weather cleared. Today we actually sat out in the sunshine. All day.
The last torrential downpour almost got the better of us. Water poured off the roof so fast the grass was flooded along the length of the bolly.

This is yours truly surveying the damage. You can tell from the state of the bolly that we didn't totally beat off the mini flood.

By the next day all that water had soaked away into the limestone and you'd never know it had rained. It
keeps the countryside fertile.

13th Vergt market today. Got up early as planned, drove in but had to retreat as my back pain was very bad - little dagger sharp pains so sharp they made me gasp every time I moved any direction. Getting in and out of the Honda was excruciating. Started taking painkillers today.
Rain threatened, but held off. The streams ran higher than ever along perimeter of the property. We saw the local farmer hard at work channelling run-off water to prevent roads flooding. On the positive side, I am progressing with edits on Heiress's Dilemma. Second draft complete up to Chapter 9, p 96

14th Weather sunny, then grey

15th Poor weather. As tablets cured the rhume des foins we’ve been working outside, clearing dead wood and invasive brambles. I have to say dh does the hard work. At the moment I do no more than gently snip without bending too much and only after I've given the painkiller time to work. Dh got bitten very badly and is covered in lumps and bumps, all extremely itchy. Now we need medication for the dreaded mosquito bites!

16th Raining when we awoke. I am down to one painkiller today as pain is slowly receding. Went off to replenish supplies in Bergerac. Dh bought elastic bands impregnated with citronella, reputed to keep mossies away. He wears one bright yellow band on his wrist, one on his ankle and looks rather trendy.

17th More grey clouds. France is really not hospitable this year. Rain threatened on and off all day. We had planned to walk to Clement de Beauregard three miles along the valley. Well, in the afternoon, we plucked up courage and went. 3.4k there and 3.4 k back, with a tour around the place in between. It was hot, the kind of steam bath heat under grey skies without a hint of a breeze, and the last half mile was up hill – cruel.
But the tiny place made me think of gingerbread houses, and the cemetery is almost as big as the village. There is a curious tower with a statue on the top, a church, a handful of private houses, a creperie (closed), a small chateau and a carpenter’s workshop. The road system would look like this –o- a road uphill from the main road, a narrow circle on a slope around the church and then either around the circle again or off down the hill on the other side. Not the place to meet another car going in the opposite direction, a good half of the circle is no more than one car wide.

With all this unusually poor weather I have lots of time to read newspapers, and in the Sunday Times Books Supplement 15/6/08 I found a piece on Richard and Judy’s book club. Star of the Sea sold 14,000 copies between 2002-2004 before it was included in the first 10 books on their list. It went on to sell 600,000 and changed the publishing industry’s perceptions overnight. (I started reading, but didn't finish it, found it far too depressing.)
The book club had been regarded with mild derision and scepticism by “literary snobs.” Four years on, R&J Book Club accounts for 26% of sales of the top 100 books in the UK, and Amanda Ross, the club’s book selector, is the most powerful player in British publishing. In the autumn the R&J Book Club moves from Channel 4 to UKTV. Unhappily, I shan’t be able to access it. Bummer.

The article goes on to say: “the use of the word “literary” to define a book indicates a deep chasm between popular storytelling and high culture, a chasm unknown to Dickens and Shakespeare. Books shortlisted for the Man Booker or the Costa may do well, but they stand little chance of breaking through into the mass market.” How true.

It calls the British Book business incompetent. “Since the abolition of the retail price maintenance ( a thing this writer remembers fighting against) power has shifted from the publishers to the bookshops, and they, in turn, have aggregated into a few big chains, primarily the near monopoly of Waterstone’s. This has made publishing absurdly timid in its approach to marketing.”

Amanda Ross says the publishers “are all really nice people”, but she cannot understand why they want to use and reuse successful covers. (I have noticed a plethora of headless females in Tudor costume. Possibly Phillippa Gregory’s series started it, but now they proliferate everywhere.) She is also shocked to discover that publishers must pay to have display slots in shops. Don’t be fooled, she says, that these are “top picks” - they only criteria to got them there is money.

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