New Year Newsletter

Happy New Year!

There was a time when I used to look to the years after 2,000 and think of them as distant stars. A universe I could not see into or imagine. Now, here we are, almost a quarter of a century into this millennium. It hardly seems possible. I remember my father when I was a child saying, ‘I am not convinced I will make it to 2,000.’ He didn’t; he died in 1993.

Time flies. We know that and yet it always seems to take me by surprise, the rate at which it really is whizzing by.

Last year, for me, was the year of Jupiter. Remember how in the summer, social media posts were alerting us to the fact that Jupiter could be seen closer to the moon than ever before in our lifetime? I spent many hours last summer sitting out on the top terrace in the warm deep starry nights, while all around me slept, watching Jupiter, watching the stars. I became a stargazer. The habit has stayed with me. There is barely a night when I don’t creep from my bed to stare out of the window in wonder. It has given me a new perspective. These stars and planets are zillions of years older than even the olive trees. For those of you who have read The Olive Route you might remember when I found the 6,000 year old olive trees in Lebanon, those two small groves. Those gnarled old beauties, all still fruiting, gave me my first real sense of how fleeting our lives are.

I think in this crazy world, a world where so little respect is given to our planet, it is not a bad idea to ponder from time to time on how tiny we are in the grand scale of things.

So, that’s my tuppence worth for the opening days of 2023.

What do you wish for yourself this year? Good health, above all, as the French always say.

For myself, I want to get fully back into the swing of working hard. Last year, after a 2021 winter of less than tip-top health, I am now bursting with energy and keen to get rolling.

I am on the second draft of the novel I was writing towards the end of 2022. It is proving to be quite challenging, possibly because I have not written a book for more than a couple of years. Anyway, fingers crossed it is finding its path and will tell its story.

Otherwise, I would like to do a bit more travelling. Covid stopped that for us all and I haven’t really picked up my travelling feet since. I am beginning to make mental lists of all the places I would like to visit. Where is top of your travel bucket list?

I think mine this time is Argentina, which might be unlikely this year. A return to Sicily and Malta to visit much-missed friends would be an excellent choice too.

Outside, as I write, there are three eagles wheeling and turning beneath a crystal clear cobalt sky. Nest hunting? Or simply looking for dinner? They frequently fly low and close to the house and I always call out ‘hello’. They usually respond too. (Call me batty, Michel does!)

Spring is beginning here. The hills towards Tanneron, an inland village a little west of us, are beginning to turn yellow. The mimosa trees are coming into egg-yolk blossom. The almonds are in bud too. I have spotted several honey bees. This morning in the lower olive grove I spotted a pair of Black Redstarts. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this bird until today when I looked it up on the internet and there it was with its blue-black head and orange-red under-tail. It always thrills me to discover new species here (new to me, that is).

So, the year begins with promise. I look to nature for the signs and it never fails to surprise me.

For those in the US, Open has taken nine of my books including the six in the Olive Farm series. They are available for Kindle. Check them out. My Dutch publisher is also making the Olive Farm books available again. It is so thrilling for me to see these books continue on from one decade to the next, finding new readers, reacquainting themselves with older friends. Long may it continue.

What am I reading? I have just finished a book of short stories by the Nobel Laureate, Alice Munro. Over Christmas we watched a film by the marvellous Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, Julieta, made in 2016. It was a slightly different tone to his usual works and I was keen to discover why. I read that he had been inspired by three Alice Munro’s short stories from her collection, Runaway. Until now, I had only read a few of Munro’s stories, but they had resonated and stayed with me. So, I purchased this collection. The stories are set in Canada in the 1960s while Almodovar has moved his tale to Spain in the 80s.  As with any adaptation, there are many changes but the tone of the original work is there. Personally, I prefer those of his films based in his own Spanish roots. The short stories though are worth reading. The collection, as I said, is titled Runaway. Now, I am re-reading Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day.

So, here’s to 2023. I pray that it will be a kinder year than the last two or three have been. I pray that we will see peace in Ukraine and Syria and other corners of the world where the conflicts grind on.

Here’s to laughter and reading, good company, good food cooked, shared and enjoyed with friends and loved ones.

Thank you for reading this,



X PS: the photo of the dove at the top of the letter is the huge dove at the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence. Michel invited me there for dinner on New Year’s Eve. I took the pic from inside the auberge. It was a memorable start to the year for us. Here’s to love.

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