Newsletter August 2021
I want to begin this missive with an apology for the delay in writing a Newsletter. I know, it has been several months since the last one.
Truth is, it has been a hectic summer and I have quite a bit of news. I am writing this from Greece where I have been attending a gloriously exotic, boutique film festival held on the magical island of Kastellorizo. I am sure I have written about this festival and this island in previous letters and articles. This is the fifth year that I have attended the event. Beyond Borders, which is the name of this documentary film get-together, is, amazingly, now six years old. Michel, my husband, has for the last five years been the International Director of the festival. He has nurtured it and helped it grow from a very small history event into an international gathering of modest size but high quality. Each year, it gets better. More films are submitted from further afield, and the quality of those selected grows stronger. A panel or jury of international filmmakers: directors, producers, critics, in fact folk from all walks of the cinema world, gather together to celebrate the best of these documentary films and to choose the prize winners.
And what do I do? Well, truth to tell, not a great deal. This year I have been swimming, reading masses (from Durrell to King) and sketching my next novel. I also gave two readings. One at l’ouverture, the festival’s opening evening. This was a letter penned by an Afghan woman filmmaker calling on her fellow artists worldwide to do all we can to assist those trapped in Afghanistan terrorised by the Taliban, most especially women, children and those in the world of the arts whose lives are particularly at risk. She begs us to keep putting out the word lest the world forgets. When we lose freedom of expression, when our writers and filmmakers are silenced, our liberty is in grave danger.
The second reading was an extract from an essay written in 1821 calling upon the countries of Europe, most especially the great British Empire, to help Greece free itself from the fetters of the Ottoman Empire. This year of 2021 is the bicentennary of the Greek War of Independence so the focus of the Beyond Borders festival was ‘Independence’. It seemed a dark irony and very poignant to the festival’s purpose this year that just a few weeks before the first of the festival’s films were screened, the United States pulled out of Afghanistan and, within no time, the Taliban had taken control bringing with them a new reign of terror and oppression.
In spite of the seriousness of the subjects, Beyond Borders is, and certainly was this year, a joyous experience. Kastellorizo is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt of the Greek islands with its own very special history. It is the perfect place, the ideal environment, for such a celebration of films, and all involved had a memorable and jolly time. We are all homeward bound now to our various locations across the world with special memories in our hearts.
Here is a pic of part of the view from our hotel room, looking back into the lovely island harbour.
And here is our favourite lunch spot:
So, on to my other news.
After quite some years, during which time I have been at my desk and out of sight, beavering away, creating stories, writing books, I am back in front of the camera. I received an offer from one of the UK networks which seemed too interesting an opportunity to turn down. Since accepting it and working on the outlines of the programmes, I have been spending many sunny days with a tiny camera crew. It has been terrifying! At first I said I couldn’t do this, could not go back to performing at my age. Many dear friends encouraged me, by reminding me that acting is rather like riding a bicycle. Once you learn the skill, it remains. Even so, during those first few day of shooting, I was rusty and, as I say, shaking with terror, but it has also proved to be great fun.
I am hoping that when the series goes to air you will all enjoy watching it and will experience the performance joy I have rediscovered during the making of it.
Performance joy, yes, I had dorgotten its power and compulsion.
What this series is exactly, I am not allowed to disclose just yet. It is all under wraps until the TV station announce it, which I hope will be quite soon.
Below are a couple of pics of me on location. During lockdown I allowed my hair to grow out. So here I am with grey hair, also a bit scary!
The first of the two pics was taken off the coast of Cassis and the second is at the amazing MUCEM in Marseille. Scenes from both, I hope, will feature in the series, if they don’t end up on the cutting room floor!
What other news?
Michel and I have been spending most of our time at the Olive Farm. Before this current trip to Greece, our travels have been non-existent. Home and our olive orchards seem the sanest and healthiest place to spend our time and to do our bit to alleviate the spread of the virus.
My next novel is set not far from where we live so inspiration remains on my doorstep, which is such a blessing.
AN ACT OF LOVE, my most recently-published novel, which hit the bookshops earlier this year, has been garnering some fabulous reviews. For those of you living in the UK or who have access to UK Amazon, it is on special offer as an e-book at 99p. A jolly good price for a trip to France, to the perfumed hills behind Nice, to sink yourself into a story of love, adventure and courage. If you are not buying it for your Kindle, please order it through a local bookshop and support the independents. Thank you.
Before I sign off, I promise to write again very soon – as soon as I have more concrete news for transmission dates for the TV series. Otherwise, it is home to the desk and the computer and the next novel, which I hope will be an emotional ride, filled with adventure and glorious landscapes. Watch this space!
Enjoy these days of late summer, or spring if you are reading this from the other side of the Equator.
Thank you for your patience and merci beaucoup for your lovely letters and reviews and constant encouragement. They really make a difference.
By the way, here is the link to the French epsiode of a three-part BBC4 series presented by Richard E Grant titled WRITE AROUND THE WORLD. I had the honour to feature in this French ep. Do take a look. I hope you enjoy it.
Stay safe, and love to you,