I think I have begun every letter I have sent out this year by saying how tough these last months have been since the loss of my mother in February. And it continues with the recent loss of several friends and colleagues.
Michel and I have decided to take time out quietly, just the two of us together at home at the Olive Farm, reading, watching films, enjoying our land and trees and celebrating the small pleasures and treasures of life. There will be no Christmas decorations and no laden tables – I count us amongst the fortunate that we always eat well if not extravagantly.
This year, all that we might have spent on decking out the house, fine wine, a plump turkey, is being donated to two charities; Médecins sans Frontières, and to a food bank in the UK.
The crisis that is Syria has been on all our minds this year and there seems to be no signs of it abating. As I write, Palmyra has been taken again by Daech/ISIS and by the time you read this, other horrors will have been reported. We have all been dismayed and left feeling impotent by the scenes of bombed hospitals, children mutilated, families broken, millions and millions of refugees on the move. The lack of medicine and qualified medical staff is distressing. The need for organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders is more urgent than ever. I chose them as one of the charities I donate to some time ago because only a very tiny percentage of the money received is held back for administration. I have rather lost heart in some of the bigger charity organisations who pay fortunes for staff and offices. Médecins sans Frontières get the money straight into drugs and aid and to the spots where the calls are most urgent, and they are not affiliated to any government or creed.
Their website is www.msf.org
The power of cinema.
I went to see Ken Loach’s masterpiece I, Daniel Blake a few months ago and the film has haunted me since. I had not properly understood the role of UK food banks until I watched the film. The dialogue exchange when the young female protagonist who is bringing up a family as a single mother asks sotte voce whether the food bank has any tampons and was told no, shook me to my bones. After some enquiries and with the help of friends living in the UK, I decided that the money for all the Christmas extras we might have enjoyed would be spent on toiletries, sanitary towels, books for children, along with other basic requirements, and sent to a UK food bank.
Donations to both charities are being made in memory of my mother, Phyllis Drinkwater. I know she would be pleased. She started her young adult life, travelling by bus at the age of seventeen from County Laois in Ireland to Dublin and from there by ferry to the UK where in wartime London, she trained as a nurse and midwife, going on to become a hospital ward sister.
Now that I have made the decision and sent off the funds, it feels like the best Christmas gift I could have given myself and Michel. We won’t be trudging about the shops, arguing about what to not buy!! We will enjoy what we have, which is plenty and I will feel that these modest sums are making a tiny difference. I smile to myself quietly imagining a few children who I will almost certainly never meet holding a book they would not otherwise have had access to. The next generation of readers.
And to all those aid workers who will not be celebrating Christmas because they are on the ground in a war zone or refugee camp somewhere helping to save lives, I salute you.
Work related matters.
The paperback of THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER is being sold on Amazon UK for £3.99. It would make a great stocking filler. The reviews are terrific. I promise it will transport readers to the south of France, to a magnificent vineyard where love, intrigue, good food, warm weather and wine are waiting to be discovered.
If you are not in UK Bookdepository.com stock it and ship worldwide FREE.
You might have seen on this website that the distributors of THE OLIVE ROUTE DVDs are offering the complete set of five DVDs in a pack for the special prize of 29.99 euros plus postage and packing (5 euros within Europe and 6.50 euros to rest of the world.) If you are interested please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will organise the order with you.
The offer is till the middle of January.
I will be at the France Show at Olympia, London each day from 27th to 29th January. Do come along and say hello.
After that, the year will be very busy. I am recording the audio version of my next year’s novel (still untitled!!) early February. That untitled novel will be published in hardback in July, and the one after, which I am writing now, needs to be completed and delivered by late October.
If you are in Ireland, do keep an eye on my website. I have three or four events booked already. I would love to meet you.
And so here I am, sitting by a log fire with a hacking cough wishing you the very best of holidays: Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, whatever you celebrate, signing off the last Newsletter of this year of 2016, this annus horribilis for me.
Here’s to 2017. Even with all the challenges we see banking up around the world, I pray that it will be a joyous year for you and your loved one. As the French say, I wish you: Surtout la bonne santé. Above all else, good health.
Thank you for being here, and for buying and reading my books. I genuinely appreciate it.
Here’s to all of us. Peace on earth.