Fab-Oh so Vintage!

20190325_105026-1 (1) The Cours Saleya in Nice is most famous for its flower market. One claim to fame is I believe, the scene filmed walking through here in that famous movie with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. It was during the filming she was first introduced to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Although the site itself has been in existence at least since its mention in Napoleonic texts from as early as 1714, it became a fruit  vegetable and flower market in 1861.

Every Monday it gives the space over to the Brocanteurs, or flea market stalls, a mix of antiques, bric-a brac and Vintage. The prices, obviously geared to the supposedly wealthy tourists and to discourage professionals from buying to resell are not cheap, that is, by my modest standards. However bargains can still be found. Getting to know certain vintage stall holders helps. As a local I am after all, an all year round potential customer and business, even during the busiest seasons is not brisk. Most people are there to browse.

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This Gucci shoulder bag in mint condition for € 450 may seem like a lot of cash to have in your pocket. Price wise, for a collector or passionate vintage fan its a way to afford a unique piece, the ‘It’ bag you would love forever. The original would have cost you over four times that new. A turquoise painted silk Celine skirt can be bargained down from €80 to €60 for example, or a 60’s print cotton frock from €45 to €30, more in my affordable price range. Silk scarves abound, the more pricey Hermès of course but real gems in silk chiffon with Paris labels for as little as €2 can be discovered in box’s piled with assorted finds. Fifties Georgette in fab colors, a purple jersey silk with designer label great for tying around your hair, floral squares in splashy retro prints. If you love vintage jewelry, especially broaches, in themselves a vintage concept, there are hundreds on display on various stalls along with objects of interest, accessories and clothing, jackets and furs to browse to your hearts content.

 

Plan to arrive early before the tourist crush in summer.  Even though some stall holders may still be unpacking at 9.30 this is preferable to a later arrival. Once the leisurely holiday  petite dejeuner is over you will find it impossible to move forward more than a few paces at a time, or to view without hindrance .

Across the square of the Palais de Justice, the city courthouse, situated at the end of Cours Saleya is a delightful patisserie and gelato shop. Small tables outside in the shade, you can enjoy a single scoop of the flavor of your choice and an Italian stretto, the most intense Italian coffee, before heading home.

 

A Novel Bookstore and Last Train from Liguria

One of the most fortunate purposes of literature is to bring like-minded people together and get them talking.

I quote the above from the book by Laurence Cossé, translated into English by Alison Anderson ( also translated : The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry).

A Novel Bookstore was one of my two most recent and delightful discoveries in the English section of my local library.

The sadly sparse shelves at first appear to reveal nothing of interest. Suddenly my eye is drawn to a title, The Last Train from Liguria is a second case in point. This coastal area from the Italian frontier beyond Menton in France is not only known but dearly loved by me. I  lived for a short while in Bordighera where much of the book is set and cannot even begin to enumerate the times I have taken that delightful coastal train back to France. I was delighted to confirm my impression that nothing had really changed of its landscape, architecture or quiet ambiance since the years between the wars. Although the fatal rise of fascism and Mussolini in 1938 marred its history for a while the town survives today much as it was then.

Three main protagonists, two of them contemporaries, lead us through this beautifully written story of tragedy and love. I am convinced on the first page as Bella arrives in Bordighera for the first time.

‘ Bella, Bella,’ everything was Bella to the Italians she reflects. So completely opposite to her mundane life in Dublin. How these people embraced and savored all of life! Beauty is everything, seen in everything. Even a bride, not in herself beautiful, was Bella simply because she was a bride and all brides were beautiful. These words rang so true in my personal experience of Italy and the Italians I had observed and met while living and visiting there. It is was why I am never happier than when I am there.

I am not going to recount or review this book which traces back and forth between generations and only reveals its secret at the very end.  I only point out that Annabella, the third protagonist, living in mid 1990’s Dublin and who’s relationship with the past slowly unravels, is the only jarring note for me. I found it impossible to understand the reasons for her slovenly behavior, attitudes, mores and language. Otherwise the book to me was without fault. It left unsaid the things that were beyond words. I  would have loved it for that alone.

The Paths to the past have been long closed.

And what good is the past to me now?

From the forward poem by Anna Akhmatova.

 

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The wealth of literary encouragement for those of us who love to write would alone justify reading A Novel Bookstore. However, this startlingly original and surprising novel is rich with characters and wonderfully drawn portraits of French life with a wealth of often amusing insights by a French writer for those of us who, even after years living here, are sometimes baffled by our adopted countrymen.

I am aware that it is not permitted to reproduce more than brief quotes due to copyright laws and therefore restrain myself to only one more below. I shall instead, keep and review my own notes from this book as I continue to struggle at this craft in the face of enormous odds against me in today publishing world. A world incidentally, so succinctly described by the voices of the two principal actors in the story.

Literature is a source of pleasure, it is one of the rare inexhaustible joys in life. Everything is there. That is why I never use the word fiction. Every subtlety in life is material for a book

 

 

 

Port de Nice

 

20190225_170255 One of the compensations of my room without a view is that the entrance to my building opens onto the Port de Nice.

The big shiny yachts, both sailing and motor are moored on the far side, closer to the road leading to the Point and the famous promenade. I cross the street from the steps of my entrance way to the colorful local fishing boats , an endless source of delight to me, both in their evocative names and gorgeous colors. At the far end of the quay, local fishermen are at work on the slip, preparing, repairing and repainting for the coming season. The distinctive wing-like shape of their craft, characteristic of the style Niçoise, is unchanged , perfectly in harmony with the sea.

Seagulls glide overhead and suddenly I am transported to my childhood. I am walking beside my father. His sailors gait, hands in pockets, half whistling a tune under his breath as without need for speech we absorb every nuance.The sky, perhaps cloudy or clear, the wind, perfect for sailing. The boats examined closely, if from afar. The shiny ring or hefty hawser, the bollards stone smoothed by who knows how much time, centuries perhaps? Gaining the same simple enjoyment of beauty and of being and of all life.

I was born in a fishing port like this once was and perhaps this is why I remember those walks with my father. That picturesque town remains one of the last homes to a commercial fishing fleet on the South Coast of England. These men belong to that same age, preparing their small boats as their grandfathers before them. I look up, trying not to let my sudden tears well up and fall. Sunlight glints, reflected through a seagulls wings and I feel the joy my father would have felt to be here now. Now that the years of my life have flown away and brought me, perhaps finally here, alone, yet rich with memories of the past and joys in the present.

 

20190118_112949-1 (1) Continue reading

Why Lily?

The simple answer is because I read a piece of advice for would be authors seeking publication.  Having a writing blog to showcase your voice as an aspiring creative writer of fiction they said, was a good idea, it was something to include on the heading of your submissions. It made sense. If, even remotely interested in considering your request for representation, they may just take the trouble to have a look at a broader spectrum of your work, your style. Had you any talent? Was there more than one book in you?

Writing posts on my aspirations, reflections and inspirations, especially on writers, art and artists and including a few short stories of my own may, one day, wonder of wonders serve to tip the scales in my favor.

However, it quickly became an outlet for my frustrations of writing for no audience, at least I could publish, click that button, it was instant, no go between. Even if no one was interested in reading what I wrote. I would write anyway and so this was better than all the lost notebooks discarded in my travels. Completed stories written in longhand pre lap-top days. Of the children s trilogy that was all but concluded only the first mss remains in hard copy. The two others lost long ago somewhere in India. I still have these and other abandoned plots in my head, somewhere in one of those closed drawers stuffed with ideas, but Oh! the work involved, the lost hours irrevocably spent and the hours I no longer have to riffle through and start again.

I still have a fair stack of completed stories however, and enjoy immensely the process of creating new ones. Every time I re read and note small errors, corrections and improvements I could have made to the text, I realize that slowly I am making progress, I am learning. Even though I have temporarily laid aside the arduous and vital quest for an agent or publisher, as with my paintings , I simply embark on the next one in the hope that this one may actually be good.

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A Learning Curve

Here they are! Arriving simultaneously in my head, two short story plot lines complete with titles.  The catalyst, my deciding to walk to the lighthouse, something I had thought about doing since moving to live in Port Lympia the first, a name I read somewhere in a news article, the subject of which I no longer recall, the second. The two plot ideas are quite different, both one to another as well as aspiring to branch out from the basic romances  that constitute the bulk of  my previous work.

I hope this is all part of a learning curve.

No one, it has been pointed out, ever had a huge success with their ‘first’ book. It may seem to be a first when the acclaimed best seller by a previously unknown writer is suddenly hailed at the latest must read. However, as was pointed out in a post on the word press blog Novelty Revisions, this person has probably written ten unpublished novels before this one was taken up resulting in the author being catapulted into  sudden renown.

This is just one small example of insights and advice about writing by writers who clearly understand what you are trying to do. Their perception of the doubts, as well as pitfalls which assail, as it turns out, all writers, born from personal experience as well as technical prowess, can send us soaring onto that new curve.

Before we realize it we are looking down on the place where we were discouraged. It is like seeing the sunlight filtering through the spread wings of a seagull, suddenly we are soaring with him, seeing ourselves clearly again. Who we are, who we aspire to be. This is innocent, devoid of guile or conceit. It is simply striving to leave something of beauty in this world.20190128_093239.jpg

 

 

Skating on Thin Ice

Over the years I have become an adept.

With little trepidation the trapper in Jack London’s tale, To Build a Fire, took to the trail on the frozen river knowing it to be fraught with hidden dangers. His self-confidence, out-weighing his misgivings was, in the end, fatally misplaced.

He knew the risks; there were warning signs. The trek alone to the camp in the depths of an exceptionally cold spell, even his dog sensed the danger. Older more experienced trappers had told him of the possible consequences, the safety net of never undertaking such a journey alone. The necessity of having someone, or something, to fall back on if things should go wrong.

For some time it never once occurs to him that he may not reach his destination safely before nightfall. When after a mishap he is forced to light a fire and rest, his meditation is on his own ability and confidence to overcome the odds rather than the overwhelming evidence of experience and of the facts. He was taking an immense risk and those facts were cold and hard indeed, both literally and figuratively. He presses on anyway, by this time, even if he were to entertain misgivings, there is no going back. He cannot retrace his steps and he is running out of time.

When fear begins to take hold of him and the worst of them are realized, it is too late.

For years I believed I would get to my own destination before nightfall.

Skating on thin ice.Monte Carlo & before sept oct 2013 284

 

Something to be kept secret.

The American romance writer, Anita Shreve was born the same year as myself. She died last year of Cancer after a ‘long battle’, as it is often somewhat euphemistically described. It is a battle our besieged bodies fight within us, our conscious selves have few weapons other than attitude and perhaps diet.

We both began writing at a very young age but it took me a lifetime to approach my writing seriously, to focus. She however, published the first of her prolific catalog of work in 1975. Possibly the most well-known of which, The Pilots Wife was made into a film.

In an interview she gave in the Guardian in 2008 she called writing ‘a solitary pursuit’. In this she echoed my own observation and it seems to me by definition, this goes hand in hand with a certain loneliness. However, it is a loneliness which somehow gives rise to inspiration and thus becomes a necessary part of the creative character.  It was at first, she said, ‘ something to be kept secret’.

I saw myself scribbling away, twelve years old, immersed in a world of characters I preferred to real people. That these stories were to be kept other than secret never once occurred to me then.

The well-spring is very private.

 This being the case, publishing lays one bare to hurtful disregard for our carefully expressed thoughts.

Later it became a way to express emotions I had no idea what to do with.

If someone were to ask me to give one reason why I write, realizing that what I write is of little interest to most people, I could do no better than to quote the above.

Finally, it morphed into its present incarnation; daydreaming with a lot of craft brought to bear on what makes it to the page.

I am working hard on the craft, the daydreaming comes naturally.

 

All above quotes by Anita Shreve.

vous rêvez seule

Beyond the Bay of Angels

Autobiographical Fiction: Takes the facts and fills the gaps with your imagination.

It seems this is an accepted category, ever evolving from the genre of fiction and one for which I recently discovered the above definition.

Reassuring, even if I get the impression, somewhat denigrated and certainly lacking the prestige, or heaven forbid, comparison with Literary Fiction.

Apart from a children’s story written during my years in India, my stories and novels to date have comfortably fitted into the category of Romantic Fiction. Sometimes called Women’s Fiction. Even my attempt at mystery writing was, in the end, overshadowed by the romantic element linking the two principal protagonists.

I have given much thought to just what it is that makes a good writer. I do not mean great. I have never for one moment been deluded to the extent of aspiring to such heights as those of Conrad, Henry James or  their ilk.  However, winner of the Booker Prize some decades ago, Anita Brookner, is described as ‘ one of the great writers of Contemporary Fiction’. Another term, and incidentally, one which gives me pause for thought.

In The Bay of Angels published in 2001 we find again the recurring theme of all her work. Disappointment in love and isolation. Although an Academic, she came to writing relatively late in her life, at age 53. She never married and took care of her parents until their death. She died aged 87 in 2016.

I rarely walk now beside the Bay of Angels here in Nice where I now live, without thinking of her, or of this novel. The haunting sadness of wasted life. Both the daughter and the tragic mother seemed incapable of grasping the joys held out to them.

In my new novel, on which I am at present embarked, I find myself reflecting on life’s regrets. On missed opportunities, on untapped potential. I wonder just how much of Anita Brookner is reflected in her characters which brings me back to the term, Autobiographical Fiction. Not because knowing some facts about her life explains a lot, but knowing one’s own life experience from the perspective of later years, I see how rich a fund of material is at my finger tips. How great an adventure this story can be. If not in literary terms then in enjoyment of a good tale well told.

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The Bay of Angels