Above: Home-made vin d’orange from our farm.
Hello dear Friends!
My goodness, it has been a long hot summer. A time of waiting. Waiting for rain, waiting for news, waiting for inspiration! … I am happy to be back in touch with you all after a slightly longer than usual break.
We have been struggling with temperatures that have regularly reached up to 36C in July and August. This has been accompanied by la sécheresse – aridity – no rain to quench the earth and replenish the water table. I think our total rainfall for this year has been little more than four days.
I find that I am no longer very good in extreme heat. When I was younger, (quite a bit younger!), I would happily bake myself for hours on end in full sun with leisurely swims in various seas to cool me down. Now, I find myself curled up with a book indoors or in shaded corners of our recently constructed pergola. It makes me lethargic such heat and I have been struggling to begin a new novel. It is astounding to me how I can manage instead to fill hour after hour with diversions instead of settling to the desk. The times spent watering early each morning and during the evenings while I listen to the splash of jets of water and the insistent call of the cicadas have been like bookends to each day. Not unpleasant at all but it’s not a task that is moving my life along!
The heat and possible excessive water salinity have caused the loss of several fruit trees: two cherries and three apples. I am particularly sad about the apples because I planted a small grove of them thirty years ago when my father died. He loved apples especially Granny Smiths and it seemed a fitting tribute to him. I often picture him, the spirit of him, in amongst those trees. I hope those that are just about surviving will recover their strength, their sap, over the cooler winter months. The thought of digging them up and replacing them with heat hardier trees is rather painful for me.
I have little news to pass on regarding my latest completed novel, The Unknown Guest. I am hoping for publication early next year but I have no firm details to pass on as yet. I think that while I am still, as it were, cradling that baby, the drive needed to dive into the next one is harder to conjure up. So, fingers crossed I can soon hand The Unknown Guest over and move on.
We spent ten days in Greece on our favourite little island very close to the shores of Turkey, Kastellorizo. Michel is the International Director of a small documentary film festival, Beyond Borders, that is held there each year during the last week of August. I particularly enjoyed this year’s offerings. I met some fascinating people working in television and film. As well as producers and directors, there were commissioning editors, journalists, painters, actors and others. It is a very small festival but it does manage to attract a wide range of creative voices. If you are ever in that part of the world at that time of year, I highly recommend it. The island itself has a complicated history but well worth reading up on.
BOOKS and FILMS
Unlike my Newsletter back at the beginning of May, I have been reading enthusiastically all summer. Last week, I finished two novels – non-Inspector Maigret works – written by the brilliant Georges Simenon. The Train and The Snow Was Dirty. These are the first works of his I have read that were not Maigret stories and I am bowled over by the power of Simenon’s work. He is first class. When I finished Le Train, I thought what a marvellous film it would make. Then I discovered that, in fact, it was adapted for the screen and directed in 1973 by Pierre Granier-Deferre. The two central characters were played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Romy Schneider (two of my favourites). I have managed to track the film down, have ordered it and am waiting excitedly for its arrival.
During one of those internet searches – hours of diving into rabbit warrens – I then discovered that Pierre Granier-Deferre was married to the British actress Susan Hampshire who I knew a little bit back in my All Creatures days. For a while we had the same agent and I met her at several charity events etc. She was absolutely lovely.
How curious life is. I also discovered that she acted in a French film directed by the same director, Granier-Deferre. I think that is how they met, but I am not sure. The film was titled Paris au mois d’août or Paris in the month of August. Susan starred in the film alongside CHARLES AZNAVOUR. (One of my heroes!) I had a hard job tracking the film down but I succeeded and have ordered it and am waiting with equal anticipation for that one to arrive as well. I wish I was still in touch with Susan or that I had known this info all those years ago. I would have quizzed her endlessly about what is what like working with Aznavour. You see what reading can do.The marriage of books and films and lovely people from my past.
I recently finished reading the latest Stephen King, Holly, which I enjoyed. Aside from his horror and thriller elements and the fact that he sure knows how to spin a tale, his observations on modern America are very acute.
A dear friend has invited me to visit her in Alexandria early next year. I think I mentioned in a recent blog or Newsletter that it is a city I have never visited but it has long been almost top of my bucket list, so to say that I am excited is an understatement. In preparation, or just for the fun of whetting my appetite, I have embarked on a re-reading of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet first published between 1957 and 1960. I think I own several copies of each of these books and I dip into them from time to time, but it is decades since I have read the four books straight through, almost as a single very long novel. I am already well lost in Durrell’s world. It is a fact that his prose is sometimes a little overwhelming but it does not deny the fact that together they are a collective masterpiece.
A lovely reader friend, Ian Wilfred, sent me this pic – thank you so much, Ian – informing me that yesterday was to celebrate Olive Oil Day. I missed it, not even knowing of the day’s existence so let me celebrate Olive Oil Day and Olive Oil/Olive Farm Day too. Books right here.
What else? I want to pay a special salute to a wonderfully kind member of my family who died two weeks ago. Dennis McCormack was ninety-nine years young and the cousin of my mother, so almost the last of Mummy’s generation. It was all so sudden and he was buried two days after his death so I was unable to fly over for the funeral, which I feel very sad about. All the more reason for me to raise a toast to him here.
This photo is of Dinny at the Olive Farm with Phyllis, my late and much missed Mum. He, along with his wife Kay, came to visit to celebrate Phyllis’s eighty-eighth birthday.
An amusing little exchange that took place yesterday. I received an email from my fabulous agent, Jonathan Lloyd, saying that on Radio 4 Sunday morning prog, I had been anagrammed. NETWORK RAIL CARD is an anagram of CAROL DRINKWATER. Who would have thought it?! I replied that it is ‘Travels with Drinkwater’ from hereon in.
Enjoy Autumn. The days are too beautiful for description here. I hope my writing mojo returns before too long and I will send more news again soon.
Love to you all and thank you for being here,