Sunday, August 12, 2018

Farewell to France

Zoë Sharp

Leaving France, where I spent just about the whole of July, was hard. Not only because it was beautiful, but because it was also a place that seemed to inspire creativity. Had I realised how distracted I would be once I got back to the UK, I might have been tempted to stay on another month or two! Just until the latest Charlie Fox book was finished, anyway.

Of course, it had its downside, like the flying ant invasion that suddenly appeared in my bedroom one night. The problem was, they disappeared during the day and you never quite knew when they might pop up again. I’m not particularly squeamish, but I was feeling severely outnumbered.

Yup, those are flying ants making a highway along the skirting board...
Despite France being mooted as the country of excellent cuisine, the restaurant meals were generally very disappointing in quality, although the fresh food – particularly that available at the weekly Thursday market at Villefranche-de-Rouergue – was exceptional.

Fellow author Libby Fischer Hellmann, who shared part of my writing retreat in France
I’ve tried buying apricots and melon since I returned home and it definitely doesn’t have the same flavour. I did not, however, quite have the courage to try A Fish Called Colin.

Even the promotional price couldn't tempt me to try Colin
Food was not the only thing on sale at the market. I bought a dish for grating garlic in, as well as having my trusty Swiss Army Knife sharpened. You could also buy a variety of clothing.

All things are for sale at Villefrance market
And all kinds of other stuff that defied description, really. The brown velour phone cover was particularly fetching…

Brown velour phone cover the height of '70s chic
In Albi, the Catholic cathedral of St Cécile was a staggering sight and must have been even more so when it was first finished in 1480. The interior was stunning and the exterior – built almost entirely of brick as there was no suitable local stone – looks more fortress than church. I particularly liked the stone gargoyles protruding out from high on the walls. Must be quite spectacular when it rains!

the amazing brick Cathedral de Sainte-Cécile in Albi

The interior was stunning, especially the seat for the bishop
A proper gargoyle high up on one of the towers of St Cécile
Elsewhere in Albi, the detail on the houses was a delight to discover, such as the door knockers and catches for window shutters.

Door knocker detail in Albi

window shutter catch detail in Albi
Back in our rural writing retreat, the insects kept us company – fortunately, other types than just flying ants – such as the bees and this enormous stag beetle.

beautiful bees in the French garden

sizeable stag beetle in the French garden
And, of course, the two cats acted as constant muses. Here they are in consultation about plotting and character development.

the cat muses, Inky and Spatz

It was on the trip back that I got to see one of the most amazing French buildings, though, with the Château de Bonneval, not far from Limoges. This fabulous castle had been in the same family since the site was first developed in 930 AD by an ancestor of the Bonneval family. There is still a Marquis de Bonneval in residence today.

the Château de Bonneval

when Bonneval was no longer required to be a fortress,
the windows were added and this section of the moat turned into a terrace
Sadly, my stay in France, as with all good things, came to an end. After a long drive up-country, past field after field of sunflowers, we eventually made the ferry from Calais to Dover. Back to traffic jams and overcrowded roads. And, somehow, not quite the same sense of flow with the writing that France seemed to encourage.

French sunflowers

the White Cliffs of Dover

This week’s Word of the Week is aposiopesis, meaning to break off in speech and leave unfinished, and is usually denoted by an em-dash or ellipsis. It comes from the Classical Greek meaning ‘becoming silent’. It is said to occur when the ‘if’ clause (or protasis) of a condition is stated without an ensuing ‘then’ clause (or apodosis). It should apparently never be followed by a full stop to result in four consecutive dots.


  1. Follow your muse, follow your muse! :-)

    I wonder if aposiopesis' root shares that of apoptosis, "programmed cell death." Maybe--

    1. Perhaps, EvKa, if it's written: 'and then the cells died...' ?

  2. I wish we'd known Bonneval was so close to Limoges. It looks perfect. Particularly the interior. C'est dommage. Next time. So glad I missed the flying ants -- when did they arrive?

    1. I know, Libby -- it's a picture postcard French château, isn't it? Definitely next time, though! And the ants arrived just as you were leaving. Excellent timing, there...

  3. Zoe, I have long believed that annoying insects in wonderful places are here to remind us, that some places on our sacred planet may feel like paradise, but they are still on earth.

    Like that church! And the castle! Thank you for taking us along.

    1. Thanks for that, Annamaria. I shall be forever looking for creepie-crawlies whenever things are looking too good. I have some ideas for scenes in some of the places we visited. Looking forward to writing them!

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  5. The buildings in France always fascinate me, right down to their knockers [pause for EvKa to catch his breath] and shutter catches. Such attention to detail.

    1. There were some beautiful little touches on the houses in France, Jeff, and I love French street signs and house numbers as well. Very distinctive.