All over or just beginning?

It seems so long since I first sat on a leafy terrace looking over the fence at an impressive number of small spotted ponies in an old pear orchard. The orchard was along a dusty lane that wanders away from the road that runs between Noves and Cabannes in a little known area of Provence. The beautiful ponies were sheltering quietly from the oppressive heat of the August sun. In the cool of the evening, when the cicadas began to wind down their incessant whirring, the ponies would be moved to a field on the other side of the lane to run and play like naughty children.

Every now and then, a small semi-naked man would drive past on his tractor waving politely at me and I would wave back. Once, he came to the jasmine covered gate with a gift of oddly shaped courgettes and peppers. My hostess introduced me to Monsieur Martin, her neighbour who lived with his wife and son at the bottom of the lane. Later, she told me a tale about this family and I was lost forever.


 Sat on that distant terrace, I wrote a short story about Monsieur Martin and the small spotted ponies. Over the aperitif, I read it aloud to my friends and it made them laugh so I wrote another. And after that, I couldn’t stop. Back in grey old England, constructing an alternative life for Monsieur Martin made me think constantly about the South and Chez Martin was born and completed. It was such a pleasurable pastime and I suspect the story is not that far from the truth. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know we weren’t laughing at Monsieur Martin, but with him.

 In truth, I wrote that book for myself but it’s given pleasure to lots of folk who have never been near Provence. That they were able to read Chez Martin was due entirely to Tim Pepin, a colleague from work. Tim constantly nagged me to tidy up my manuscript and get it published; and when I seemed incapable of the latter, he took it away and published it himself. It was an act of such graciousness from one writer to another. He was horrified when I tried to wave money around. As a compromise, he said he would take payment in chocolate oranges.

Book sales were good but I was still surprised at the number of people who kept asking for more news of Monsieur Martin. It wasn’t a great hardship to begin again and my terrace-owning friend updated me with little snippets of news. But life gets in the way and there always seemed to be other things to do. Last summer, Tim was once again nagging me to finish, saying he would help me again. By this time, however, he was dreadfully sick and sadly we lost him before the new book was completed.

He’s the last person who would want any unhappiness today now that The Road that Runs has finally been published. Here’s a picture of ‘Phyllida’ with the small spotted ponies taken last year when we visited their owner chez Martin. It’s a timely ending as without her sharing her tale over that long-ago aperitif, Monsieur Martin would never have graced the pages of these two volumes.

The Road that Runs  by Madame Verte is available on Amazon:



A very French day

2016_1127tarasconmm0011On a gloriously sunny November morning, with the bluest of skies that have been cleaned by recent storms, we arrive at Tarascon. So far, it’s been a good start to the day: we have heating, water – hot and cold, electricity, fuses in the upright position and hens donating prolific numbers of eggs.

2016_1127tarasconmm0016I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter how much the rest of the world deem Tarascon to be a non-starter, I inevitably find it an interesting place full of surprises. Where else do you find a weather vane depicting a monster? What other town has open access to the relics of St Martha? And, where else, at a point in the year where there are no tourists, can you take your expresso on a tiny terrace listening to a Provencal folk troupe and watch Arlesienne ladies dancing a Farandole?

2016_1127tarasconmm0021We are minded to visit the Christmas crèche. In fact, for the duration of our ten day sojourn, this is the only thing that I’ve been adamant about seeing. Naturally, we can’t find it. There are plenty of signs but, as a long-time ex-pat resident said only the other day, the French don’t do directions. We wander along the back streets, find this choir by accident and ask every other person including two police officers. They all know the creche is in the aptly named Chapel of Perseverance but no-one is quite sure how the chapel might be located.

A Provencal Christmas crèche is unlike any other: the nativity is a minor inclusion; the point and purpose is that all of the other santons depicting Provencal life will be present because, of course, Jesus was born in Provence. If you think his visitors comprised only shepherds and kings, think on. 2016_1127tarasconmm0025 2016_1127tarasconmm0034 2016_1127tarasconmm0029 2016_1127tarasconmm00332016_1127tarasconmm00352016_1127tarasconmm0032 2016_1127tarasconmm0030












Wow Tarascon! Thank-you but we must dash as we’re due down the notorious road that runs between Noves and Cabannes. Only those that have read THE book will understand the significance of this. Phyllida and the partner who cannot be named are hosting lunch. After, we sit in the sunniest of gardens and I bemoan the fact that the small spotted ponies are nowhere to be seen. Phyllida suggests we visit Monsieur Martin. Oh yes please! And Monsieur Martin, who doesn’t know he is a literary character, is delighted to have so many visitors on this delicious Provencal Sunday in November.

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