Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Isolation and Socialization

We’re not very good at isolation. 
We had every intent to isolate 10 days. Then a friend said the rules say 7 days, but they’re a suggestion. 
We let our friends know we’d be happy to see them in the garden if they felt safe. 
But the weather was rainy and chilly that first day so Lou and Steve brought us dinner, and Derrick and Kris joined us, all of them with their dogs, so 4 dogs and our surly cat roaming around. We ate and played board games until 9 pm when I put away the wine and kicked everyone out. I figured I’d done well to stay awake that long. 
Quillan is preparing for the Tour de France to visit.
On Monday, our friends Sue and Steve came for drinks. Drinks turned into dinner before they raced home to beat the 9 p.m. curfew. 
I suggested that Jo might want to drop by for a glass of blanquette on Tuesday after I finished teaching, and then invited her husband Matthew to join us for dinner as well, so they both arrived and we grilled chicken on the grill and talked late into the evening, including a bit of poetry recitation (thank you, Matthew.)
On Wednesday, the bars and restaurants opened outside in France for the first time since October. Did I have a choice but to meet Derrick early at a café where we had a café crème on the terrace overlooking the river Aude. 
The flowers grow out from the bridge each spring. 
I'd already asked the belly dancing group, which meets outside on the tennis courts, if they would feel safe having me there since we dance outside. Everyone was fine with it. Meanwhile, the husbands of the belly dancers were gathering for a drink at an outdoor bar and asked Earl to come along. 
When we finished learning some Bollywood moves, my friends urged me to join the husbands for a drink too. So, I did, drinking a monaco, beer, lemonade and grenadine, glowing a beautiful red. 
I returned home to work on taxes where my frustration grew, as you can see from my previous post. 
On Thursday, I met Derrick for a coffee again and then a drink later that day, all outside. We talked about dinner, and agree to combine our meals -- I had pork in the crock pot and he made potato salad. We made an attempt at playing Password, but my brain apparently is not over jet lag. Earl and Kris did quite well, so maybe it isn't jet lag. 
After I finished teaching on Friday, we hosted my friend Linda from Frenchless in France and a friend. It's always fun to catch up with friends from far away. 
Friday was fish and chips night. The van parks in Quillan near a local bar, the PMU. The PMU provides the drinks while the van doles out fish and chips which we must order ahead of time. We hadn't seen our American friends Jim and Theresa yet, so were happy to meet with them and walk over to fish and chips. Some red wine, some greasy chips and breaded fish. Earl and I share one order and that is plenty.  
Saturday, technically seven days after we arrived, is another market day, that meant more coffee alongside the river, plus coffee from the van that kept us in take away coffee throughout the lockdown since last October. And finally, our first real meal out in France since October 30th. We returned to Les Platanes, the restaurant we last ate at. 
The nine of us sat at two tables, a limit of six adults is in place even for outdoor tables. I ordered duck and fries, something I haven't eaten since October. We were all so happy to be out for the evening, although we remained aware of the 9 p.m. curfew. The duck was a bit overdone, but the wine flowed and I enjoyed ordering a café gourmande, a mix of desserts and tiny cup of espresso. 
Earl finished his dessert and looked my way. I loaded up the remaining cake, ice cream and chantilly (whipped cream) and sent it his way. 
It was in the midst of this week that Earl began asking when we would have a day off - and day without anything scheduled. Like a race horse in mid-stride, it took me a minute to remember that maybe he didn't feel the urge to catch up with everyone like I did. 
But we'd already committed to an afternoon at Sue and Steve's on Sunday, an afternoon that ended shortly before curfew with way too much cheese and nibbles. 
And on Monday, we planned an outing. We ended up going to the sea in the morning since the weather forecast warned of higher winds in the afternoon. The water was cold, so I satisfied my sea urge by walking in the sand. Earl and Kris went in and they report the water was breathtaking, not in a good way. 
The sparkly sea. 
After being told all the restaurants along the beach were full, it was a bank holiday, which meant no one was at work and many people were at the beach, we drove into Beziers. We'd enjoyed a stop in Bezier four years earlier when searching for a place to live. 
We found a restaurant with outdoor seating. I tried duck again and was much more pleased by the thick magret de canard cooked rare and juicy. I shared only a bit with Derrick and with his dogs, eating the whole thing. 
Yum. Hand cut fries, duck and salad. 
We finished the meal and went walking along the park that stretches through the center of the city, Plateau des poètes. A lovely walk in the sun admiring all the poets who were born in the area. The fountains are impressive. 
A moody sky over the fountain
And finally, today, Earl got his wish. A day without dinner plans. I met my friend Isa for coffee in the square this morning.
Cappuccino with chantilly

 And I might have gone to meet some other friends for a drink after they signed papers on a new house. But other than that, an evening for two stretches in front of us. 
As my British friends might say, We're rubbish at isolating. Luckily, we were vaccinated and tested so felt safe that we weren't spreading Covid. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The End of My Rope

 This is the closest I've come to throwing in the towel and leaving France behind. 

Everyone is healthy. No crises. It's my own personal Achilles heel that drives me to the edge, tempting me to put it all behind me and return to the States. 

Taxes. French taxes are  currently the bane of my existence, but only for about 12 more hours because they are due today. 

These horses aren't bothered by taxes. 

I realize I'm being unreasonable. I put off doing US taxes, but I got them done while we were visiting friends and family during our five week trip. And on Monday, May 17, the official tax day in the U.S. this year because of COVID, the government promptly removed the $5,400 we still owed in taxes. 

I didn't worry about French taxes, which I thought were due in June. Then I saw that they are actually due on May 26th. I'd better get moving. But since we don't have a tax number, we have to file a paper copy. The paper copy is due on May 20th. That's today!

I joined a Facebook group that helps English speakers figure out taxes, but truthfully, they could be speaking French or Bulgarian. The helpful files are called things like F2041E or IMPOTS deduction for pensions alimentaires. 

Earl and I jumped in our car and went to the tax office half an hour away. We were outside a few minutes later slightly stunned. The man was the most helpful federal worker I've ever run into in France or the US. He gave me two forms and a phone appointment, saying his colleague will call me Thursday at 3:30. 

My hopeful feelings died bit by bit as I struggled to understand where to put the numbers in the two forms I'm working on. I just get so agitated, either because it's about taxes, or money or budgeting, or my own inadequacies. Whatever it is -- I hate it. 

I went for a run this morning, hoping I'll be able to calm the beast within. Derrick is coming over to look at it with me, but really just to offer moral support. 

Whatever happens, I'll have a chance to ask a few questions this afternoon when the tax worker calls -- preparing for a telephone conversation in French, another stressor. 

I'll turn it in and see what the French government thinks. Then I'll start preparing for next year. Maybe we'll pay someone to do our taxes in France. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Novels Set in France

 Since many of you read my blog to keep up-to-date on my novels or my travels in France, I wanted to let you know about a new Facebook group that might interest you.

I have spent time writing and looking out this window in Aix en Provence

The group is called Novels Set in France and it highlights books that -- you guessed it -- take place in France. You might find some new favorite books there.

I have no doubt that you'll be able to add some interesting ideas and discussions to the group. 

Let me know if some of your favorite books haven't been included yet.

And, just in case you've fallen behind on reading my novels, here are some pictures and links: 

The Summer of France: When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she'll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she's saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who runs a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn't tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War Ii, and he doesn't mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.

Falling for Provence: Running a French B&B isn’t all wine and smelly cheese, Fia Jennings discovers as she tries to create a new life for herself and a smooth path for her teenage twins, while not—absolutely not – falling into a new romance. But she didn’t anticipate a handsome stranger showing up on her doorstep and sucking her into an art caper with dangerous overtones. Can she make a new life in France or will she retreat to the States and her broken marriage?

Paris Runaway: When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

I See London I See France: When her husband of a dozen years walks out in a huff, Caroline Sommers walks out too - to Europe, with her kids after impulsively selling her minivan for travel money. Tired of being the perfect wife, she escapes to rediscover herself, and possibly rekindle the unrequited love of a Frenchman from her college days. While shepherding her kids from London to Scotland then Paris to Provence, she finds herself at a crossroads. Does she choose love, or lust, in the arms of a European man, or should she try again with the father of her children and the man she truly loved, once?

Trail Mix: In the tradition of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, comes a novel of two suburban women who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, escaping their lives as moms and wives in search of nature, adventure, and the ultimate diet plan.
How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes a distraction from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. With no previous camping experience, Andi and Jess begin the 2100-mile odyssey from Georgia to Maine. The friends figure life on the trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives. At the very least, the women are bound to return home thin.

French Masquerade: A short story: As Joanna’s only son graduates and her marriage stumbles to an unexpected close, an old friend drags her to Paris to drown her sorrows in wine, museums and men with accents. Can the City of Light ignite a spark in Joanna or only torch songs from her younger days?

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Homeward Bound

Five weeks slides past in the blink of an eye. 
We go from a longed-for stay with those we love in the States, to the comfort of a familiar bed and a bright kitchen, along with the sharp claws of one méchant cat. 
When we decided to live in France, we always promised ourselves we could return to the States if anyone needed us, but we hadn’t anticipated a worldwide pandemic. 
So 14 months after our last visit, we could return to this crew 
Mother's Day brunch
Tucker, Kaitlin and Spencer celebrating Mother’s Day with me at an outdoor brunch. 
We started in Florida, isolating for a few weeks to make sure we didn’t catch COVID from any of the 20 people on our flight across the Atlantic. We loved having time to hang out with Mom and Dad, plus frolic in the pool. 
I got to see so many people I love, including both my brothers.
Me and Craig

Craig traveled from Texas to visit Mom for Mother’s Day and we arrived that evening in time to share some memories. 

Kevin's birthday

My younger brother Kevin celebrated a birthday and I got to join him. 
We stayed with our friends Deb and Greg and, of course, got to attend a Blue Jackets hockey game. We had a suite to watch the game so were separate from other fan, but it seemed so close to normal. 
Blue Jackets game

A separate suite
Gathering with their family and Dave’s (our dentist and friend) family too. 
Open restaurants

We ate outdoors at restaurants from the very first night in Ohio, as the boys reminded us to eat pizza with our hands rather than with a knife and fork. We got to stay at Spence and Kaitlin’s apartment; everyone is so grown up. 
Fat Cat
Their cat Mrs Potts never took to us. 

Lovely evenings with friends around a fire, sharing stories. 
Fireside stories

Impressive creations
That is some studio, Sheila. Amazing stained glass creations are sure to come. And the beans and rice you served were delish. 
Friends and friends
Met my running friends for coffee where we talked about running and also gathered outdoors with my writing friends! I'm sensing a theme. No writing or running was accomplished during these gatherings. 

We visited with beautiful babies like Henry 
All smiles

And Elizabeth

That is one of the things we really miss in France, getting to visit with little ones. There's a café owner in Quillan with a little girl, maybe six, who will occasionally join us for a card game, but it's harder to make connections with kids than it is with French adults. 

A dental implant curtailed my activities at the end of our time in Ohio, but I healed enough to eat some home cooked meals with Mom and Dad - a Kentucky-style big breakfast. 

Who tires of Mom's homecooking? No one

Blue skies
We did a bit of work around Mom and Dad’s, but mostly we were pampered, feeling the love of a long-awaited visit. 
On Saturday night, we caught a flight in Miami and flew to Barcelona. It wasn't without its challenges. We stood in line at American Airlines for two hours before a hassled worker led us by the hand through security to catch our plane on time. 
The airport was mayhem, but the flight was over an hour early. 
Our friend Derrick came to fetch us in Barcelona. Luckily, he couldn't sleep so drove to Barcelona early.
We stopped in the Spanish town of Roses along the Mediterranean for the sea breeze and a nice lunch. 

Derrick had to get a covid test to come pick us up, so we rewarded him with a restaurant lunch. 

Restaurants in France are still closed through Wednesday. 
So nice to be home again after five weeks of shared experiences with our family and friends. 

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...