I won’t pretend otherwise. This February is proving to be a very bittersweet month. As I mentioned in last month’s blog, my new novel THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER was published on 11th February with a few nice events lined up by Michael Joseph/Penguin to launch it. A special and exciting moment for me as this new novel has been a while in the writing and I am very proud of it.
Unfortunately, my wonderful Irish mother, Phyllis, – a best friend and big sister to me – died in my arms totally unexpectedly on 4th February. It was a gift for her that her passage between life and after-life was so swift and painless but a terrible shock and heartbreak for me. Obviously, the show goes on and THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER was published. It has – I am writing this just a couple of days beyond its publication – been receiving some wonderful five-star reviews and seems to be selling very healthily.
So, because I am locked in pre-funeral arrangements, I am going to cheat this month and post here the text I wrote for an article published in the Mail on Sunday Travel section on 14th February. It tells a little about my patch of Provence.
“Provence is a large region of southern France. Officially, it is Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, PACA. My corner is the geographically stunning tip that stretches to the borders of Monaco and Italy to the east, the Alps to the north, Hyères to the west and the sparkling Mediterranean to the south. The French Riviera or Blue Coast. Its reputation is so celebrated with tales of wealth, resplendence, decadence and all-night jazz hotspots that you expect it to disappoint, yet it never does.
“Queen Victoria loved the French Riviera. She visited on nine occasions and did a great deal to bring this wintering resort its international reputation. Her first trip in 1882 delivered her from a damp Windsor by carriage, train, crossing the channel on her yacht, Victoria and Albert, descending by train to Menton, the last hilltop stop before Italy, appreciated today for its Val Rahmeh Botanical Gardens and its exuberant Lemon Festival. Victoria was entranced by the palm and citrus vegetation, the sweeping views and the benign microclimate. She made expeditions along the coast, eulogising the landscape, which she later described in her diary as ‘a paradise of nature’. The local shepherds, she wrote, were ‘very…