ADRIFT IN FRANCE

amazon shop that sells kisses

Dearest sweet Chantal,

I do so hope the signed copy of my new book ‘The Shop That Sells Kisses’ has safely reached you and trust that on this occasion you will refrain from self-harm.  I well remember that upon reading my last tome, ‘Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse’ you took a razor to your wrists, silly gal that you are!  I’ll not tolerate such shenanigans this time around.

Oh how I miss you Chantal. Even now, all these years on I merely have to close my eyes and you are there taking all manner of things down for me while I sit back and admire the sublime tempo and dexterity of your shorthand. No finer personal secretary has any chap had.

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To the point! I need your urgent assistance for I am presently adrift in France and at my wits end. You see there are only so many concussive bumps on the head and attacks by giant hornet a man can take and this 300-year-old farmhouse we are renting in quite the dullest, remotest spot in all of France is cursed with the lowest ceilings and doorways imaginable and murderous hornets infesting the bedrooms to boot. My God it is cold also. Outside the day is sweltering, yet within so cold to the extent I am thinking of changing my name by Deed Poll to ‘Shackleton’. I am convinced that a batch of trafficked, naked illegals in the back of a locked freezer container lorry on a cross-channel ferry have more chance of survival than I in this place. The fact that the property name is ‘Le Maison du Fridge’ should perhaps have given me a clue that all would not be well here. Sorrowfully, I overlooked that point so taken was I with the place upon scanning the brochure prior to parting with a King’s Ransom in advance rental fees. Odd how the pictures in said brochure barely match the actuality of this wretched place.

untitled.png28 So unconducive to all but the vertically challenged in the extreme is this property that I note from the guest book none other than Toulouse-Lautrec in July 1890 upon his stay makes mention of the fact he bashed his bonce severely on more than one occasion. Indeed, he goes on to point out that the café/bar Madam Tortionnaire, the owner, had advised was in easy walking distance was, in truth some 87 kilometres away. Gagging for a beer Toulouse-Lautrec, a chap notoriously short in the leg department, it seems eventually successfully made the trek to that bar whereupon he chanced upon buxom Fifi the barmaid who kindly gave him a piggy back home. Interestingly the artist’s notes verify what my wife and I had already concluded, namely that not even the humdrum missionary position was humanly possible in this house of guaranteed celibacy. As to Fifi it seems the poor frustrated girl left empty handed sometime in the early hours.

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Another entry within the guest book and signed by an ‘Esmeralda’ dated August 1881 suggests that it was during their short visitation that, her partner, The Hunchback of Notre Dame first developed his hump within the walls of this very house.

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Additionally, the master bedroom boasts an ensuite bathroom yet, as I have discovered to my cost access to the loo be it for either a number 1 or 2 can only be achieved by first dropping one’s trousers and underpants about the ankles, bent over at a 45-degree angle and then reversing in taking care to ensure bum cheeks moor themselves in line with the lavatory seat. Ten days have I stayed here now and have yet to have a pee standing upright. Likewise, the shaving mirror is ideally placed for those prone to shaving off their pubic hair rather than that about their chins.

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Downstairs, in the lounge are two large settees’ although I’ll wager that the arse on the corpse of my long since deceased Auntie Maud has more spring to it than these arguable ‘furnishings’.  Also in that same lounge sits a grand piano that promised, by the look of it to offer some potential diversion from the general misery of being here. That it is hopelessly out of tune and has been for many years has been verified by yet another entry in the guest book. Heinrich Himmler, founder of Waffen SS requisitioned the property during May and June 1943 so as to enjoy a quick break from being generally beastly to all and sundry. He notes, ‘How is a man supposed to belt out a bit of Wagner when the fucking piano’s fucked.’ It is generally accepted that Himmler had a way with words.

Last week I had cause to attend the local Médecin three days’ drive away as Shirley had become worried as to the stoop I have developed since we arrived in France. Gratifyingly he advised that it was nothing six months in traction back in Blighty wouldn’t cure. You see a positive often comes from a bad experience I find young Chantal!

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By the way I did gift Madam Tortionnaire a copy of ‘The Shop That Sells Kisses’ just the other day. Imagine if you will Chantal my dismay when popping up to the big house where she resides to beg a little kindling this morning only to see that my treasured poetry book was hanging from the back of the door to the outside privy her servants use when caught short whilst on duty. There’s gratitude for you!

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To the nub of the issue then Chantal.  We, that is my entire family are trapped within the minute ensuite bathroom all being ‘caught short’ in unison. There is no prospect of escape unaided, more so in that I carry not a shoehorn nor axle grease about my person.  You must get that husband of yours, ‘Brian’ by name if I’m not mistaken…regardless, the one who plumbs for a living, and is, so rumour has it, hung like a brewery dray horse the lucky blighter. Have him and his burly plumbing chums drive over to France in that frankly common as muck, awful sign written van thing and rescue us before we feed on each other’s flesh.

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I leave the matter in your universally accepted most capable hands.

All my love,

‘He Whose Name Must Only Be Spoken in Whispers’

 

UK Paperback edition of ‘THE SHOP THAT SELLS KISSES’ at;

UK Kindle edition at;

US Paperback edition of ‘THE SHOP THAT SELLS KISSES’ at;

US Kindle edition at;

And available at all AMAZON wherever by searching ‘Mike Steeden’ or ‘The Shop That Sells Kisses’

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78 thoughts on “ADRIFT IN FRANCE

  1. Wow. Clearly the holiday of a lunchtime, or even lifetime. I’ve banged my “bonce” on one famous occasion which allowed me to see a variety of stars which are not yet logged on any astronomical map, but that’s another story. I can only hope your burly plumber chum and his well-gymed mates arrive soon and get you away from this never to be forgotten hideaway !

    1. One I will remember Mia…although I don’t think we have laughed so much for years. My skull is a mass of scabs…there’s a sentence one doesn’t hear that often!

    1. Sorry about that…I have just read that these enormous killer hornets that have spread to France from Africa (global warming etc.) are now to be found here in England!

  2. Dear Mike, you have made my day with this letter to Chantal, though I feel rather naughtly reading your personal correspondence, were it sent to me I would have come to your rescue with a can of wasp spray. Your adventure has brought a huge smile to my face. Kisses is on my list of must reads.

    1. Oh my giddy aunt! I laughed out loud at some of your comments. You poor thing. It looks half derelict! Surely a case of false advertising. I suppose it was advertised as ‘rustic’ which means falling to pieces. Good job you can laugh about it Mike!

      1. You should have seen the photo’s on the brochure…the place, on a big posh stud farm looked perfection. My the lies a camera can tell…was a bloody good laugh though, especially as my passion is being sat outside a French café ‘people watching’ when the nearest café (brochure said ‘walking distance’) was 12k away. Such is life.

    2. Thank you so much. Chantal is real by the way. She and I have been writing to each other for years. She was my secretary back in finance industry days; was the ‘best man’ at our wedding and is young George’s godmother…she’ll probably kill me when she gets the hard copy I posted her this very morning though.

    1. Thank you Sir. My life has been one of errors and this break in France proved that once again. Paid (relatively) a lot of money to rent the place on a stud farm now, as they say in old London town ‘pissed to the wind’!

  3. Mike, what can I say? Apart from the fact your ensuite wis way better than our in Denmark one year. Also you never had a shower in your kitchen did you? The 400 hundred moths eating the curtain in the kids’ room or indeed the break yir neck ladder to the upper half of the house? I know you speak about no being able to pee standing upright but you need to try sleeping for six days on a bed you just assumed didn’t fold down cos everything else was screwed, smashed and broken including the telly which only showed Zulu in black and white. (Wasn’t it in colour originally) Then there was the time in Spetses in the remote villa where the water pump broke and we were reduced to washing in the sea, that time of which I still cannot speak, given what it cost. Now I could say so do quit the complaining. Seriously having been seen off so many times, it is the stuff of memories but really, when you have looked forward to something with utter desperation, it’s something else.

    1. You do realize Ms S that we could turn this thread into a Monty Python skit! Would be rather fun. For example your Danish beds were clearly pure luxury compared to ours that had not ‘memory foam’ but ‘dementia foam’ and pillows that crackled like eggshells breaking and a swimming pool (ho, f*****g ho) more akin to a bucket of murky water than any pool I have seen but we did laugh so very much. I just mentioned to Leslie that at one point I thought Shirl would lose total control of all bodily functions as she could stop laughing…went on for an age and I feared for her life! You are correct though…’it is the stuff of memories’.

      1. Oh yeah. Memories indeed. That bed that did not fold down was in this dump of a place called St John’s Chapel near Durham. At that point in our illustrious holidaying life we went to Easingwold near York. it was gorgeous there. But like that Mr S said time to try other places. And this dump said it was like 4o minute drive along the river wear to Durham. Aye, as I said to Country Cottages from whom we got a huge refund, maybe if your car wis James Bond’s. We had to come home early cos the older girl’s bed was ina cupboard. I kid you not. Enough got to be enough. The whole place was dreadful. Anyway what made it worse was that we had gone to Easingwodl on the way down for a night…. But that place in Denmark was something else too….

      2. What I missed most was a town with a café. French towns, sublime coffee and people to watch and make up stories about. We were on a stud farm and whilst horses are OK things they were not doing it for me. Denmark is off my list by the way. Still, never before have I had a bad experience in France…in The Ardennes last September the house was a paradise!

    1. There were additional things I did not mention here like the dementia foam mattresses on the beds that had pillows that crackled like eggshells plus the swimming pool that was more like a bucket of cold water than any pool I’ve ever known! We did laugh though…a lot, thought Shirley was about to lose control of bodily functions a number of times as she couldn’t stop laughing!

  4. I want more piccies, Mike. I have lived in farmhouses like this most of my life! Always with rather tall blokes who had stoops and bumps on foreheads and behaved oddly. Thanks for reminding me why I now inhabit a civilised Georgian. Ahh – and then there was the hornet’s nest 😦

    1. I’ve never rented a bad place in France all the years I’ve been going there…oh how I wanted a café; coffee and people to watch. Still there is always next time, September methinks and not in the wilderness where Normandy joins the Loire! As to snaps we have tons more, I shall have to think up a story to put them to good use. We had a good laugh though…my dear wife almost died laughing!

      1. The stories you are going to write… think shenanigans, illicit trysts, ghosts ghosts ghosts, nasty spirits stuck up the chimney. My last old house was so full of history the stories wouldn’t stop coming. Have a fine time. I guess there isn’t a swimming pool?

      2. Oh the ‘swimming pool’ as advertised was little more than a bucket of cold water…I’ve paid less for places with heated indoor pools. Talking of places full of history that inspire I rather like north east France (the bit the Brits drive through and ignore). Places like Bethune, St Omer, Montreal even Boulogne if it comes to it. What made you go Georgian after living amid ghosts?

      3. I like that part of France too. A rather acrimonious separation meant I left the ghosts and all that history behind. I loved the place but it fades and new history is made 🙂 Georgian means large beautiful windows and high ceilings, and a lot of light. It has its benefits 🙂 🙂

      4. I must confess when I have stayed in the city that is Bath the inside of Georgian places is rather sublime. I had a neo Georgian house by the sea once yet it’s not the same as a proper one.

    1. Home and safe with shed loads of fine red wine thus all is well. We even took coffee with our Croatian chum that being the very first thing we did on getting back! France again in the autumn though.

  5. So you do have another book out! Congratulations! And you celebrated it peeing outside the closet (if it reaches the toilet). Odd farmhouse. It should’ve had a warning to renters: You must be this tall to enter.
    Hope those bump bruises heal quickly!

    1. If only! I have been travelling around the wonderland that is France for years and this was the only time it went terribly wrong. I adore France from Toulouse to Lille and beyond. I put it down to English owners of the place!

  6. Sir, I have not a clue in the whatsoever world, about how have I ever missed following your blog. I sincerely apologise, but will not forgive myself for a while…
    Please count me behind your posts from now on.
    I can’t believe they have those tiny toilets in France as well…
    I had the unforgettable chance of living in such a property in the Midlands, being forced to sit at a twisted angle on that torturous toilet seat, both horizontally and vertically… Well it did the trick, but standing up was always memorable…

    1. You got to ‘stand up’…what I would have given for that. I was in the motorway services outside Calais on the way back when I realised I’d forgotten how to pee when torso was in line with legs!

  7. I read this one last night but had no time to reply, so I read it again today just to have a good laugh, sorry for being selfish! What a place! Your blog would win the Review of the Year for sure. Did you kick the hornets nest before you left?

    1. I think the hornet – a lonely chap – lived in the roof. About 3.5 inches long and the locals say fresh in from Africa (a global warming thing it seems). The sting can, on occasion kill also and it sounds like a lawn mower when angry. Even the South East of England is on alert I am told as the blighters cross the channel sooner rather than later. I named him Adolf by the way. Glad you enjoyed the read.

      1. You scared me. Formidable insect that can be measured in inches sharing your house that can be measure in inches too… It sounds Kafkaesque…

      2. When atop a bed reading a book and suddenly spotting the hornet in a state of madness scared me rather a lot. Couldn’t being myself to kill it though, open the window and ensured he left with some trepidation I might add.

      3. In that regard I guess I am like a racist Brexit supporter. The thing is I have long since treated all forms of life with respect; am a veggie etc. Mind, I would be mortified if your point was correct…wanders away confused seeking a cigarette and an open space! God I hate being me sometimes!

      4. I just hope he drowns in Irish Sea 😦 Sorry if I hurt your feelings… Such a big ‘form of life’ should have lived in the wild, not in a fine cottage!

      5. Wish I’d taken a photograph as it happens, better than a Dr Who Dalek by miles…why are hornets and wasps so angry when the bumble bee busy about pollinating is such a joy to watch? Once holidaying in Ireland and playing tennis (Clonakilty I think) several million wasps tried their level best to kill me!

      6. A photograph of a hornet! It could be your last one… I think the hornet had mistaken your fine cottage for a termite mound or something. If he came from Africa, he must have been confused.
        I too wonder why are they attacking people for no reason.
        Clonakilty is a lovely little town. So what was that about? Did you serve a ball into the nest?

      7. Most likely…it was the end of August I recall, the time the wasps get edgy. The strangest thing about that holiday was stopping off at a pub in the middle of a beautiful nowhere and to find it heaving within, 200+ customers, clouds of nicotine (days before smoking bans) yet without just our car in an otherwise empty car park and not a chimney pot to see for miles around…to this day I swear I had discovered the Irish Brigadoon!

  8. My, my… I’ve been living here nearly nine years and only once have a seen a hornet and that was around some overly ripe figs. Being vertically challenged myself, it might have felt cosy but here near the Mediterranean, all but the new builds in our village are very high indeed. I must drag out a giant ladder to even change a lightbulb on a chandelier. While house hunting in other parts of the department, I did chance upon one or two houses with a low ceiling in the grenier. Enjoyed your story. Léa

    1. France is, remains my favourite country of all. From Gaelic shrug to smelly cheese I adore the place…just a shame the UK’s decision yesterday will cause friction and beaurocracy when travelling in near future times.

      1. There are not many English in my small village. However, I ran into one man yesterday and he looked absolutely shell shocked! He said he will go for French citizenship.
        Yes the decision was sad for so many. A friend in London is also shell shocked, I look after her flat here. Of course Le Pen and Trump were thrilled… and of course Trump had his foot back in his mouth in Scotland but he doesn’t know where else to put it.
        In all the places I have lived and in all the travels, there is no place like France!

      2. Vive la France! I have always referred to myself as a European; right now I feel ‘stateless’ for the UK I am presently looking at is not one I presently want to be part of. Yesterday, if the truth be told was right up there with the death of a parent insofar as it felt to me. Best of luck regardless and have a splendid day.

      3. While I have a number of friends in the UK, I am not from there. The birth certificate says California but over time I realised what a work of fiction it was to begin with. The maternal side of the family were all from the UK and my father a Swede. That makes me a mongrel I guess… c’est la vie! Try to have a good weekend and look forward to more time here.

  9. This really is a delightful post, Mike. I enjoyed all the fun photos. The place is charming, but I guess the low ceilings would get on my nerves. You’ll have to make friends with a good chiropractor when you get home. 😀 Wishing you huge sales with the book. Hugs!

    1. Cheers Teagan. It was quite the strangest French property I have ever rented. Nigh on crippled me all that bending plus the massive hornet from Africa plus the fact that the café (cafe’s being my great pleasure in life) not ‘in walking distance’ but 12k away! We did laugh our legs off though.

      1. Well we did debate whether or not to kill the beast…just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Deathly allergy to bee stings! Generally the bee is not aggressive I find, yet how on earth do you cope with the angry wasp? I get stung by them 3 maybe 4 times a year. Stay safe come autumn when the wasps get drunk on rotting fruit.

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