'Fidelma Cook’s French Leave' is an ideal summer read. All the hack pack know Fidelma and her stiletto wit goes beyond her weekly, Herald Magazine columns, writes Dorothy-Grace Elder.
She was crunched into redundancy from the Mail on Sunday a couple of years before today’s meltdown.
“Had I but known it, I was a precursor of what was to come,” Cook writes of her nano second impulse to move from Glasgow to France during a boozy greetin’ meeting with friends. “We drunk-dialled or texted everyone we could think of to announce the news.”
Being Fidelma, she simply had to go through with her bravado. This Saturday, she returns to Glasgow for a book signing at Borders, in Glasgow's Buchanan Street between 11am and 12 noon, having defied a few doomsayers who predicted a) she'd never cope in France and b) never finish a book, the latter being a journalistic norm.
This book – sub-titled, 'Yes I'll Have Another Vin Rouge S'il Vous Plait' – is, of course, beautifully written and definitely not of the 'Buy-a-house-in-France-and-sneer-at-the-French' genre, Cook being Irish and scornful of Brits who live in France but never bother to learn the language.
It’s also an honest report of many mother-son relationships in exchanges when her young adult son, Pierce, visits. Fidelma: “Bloody great. You’ve been on the road barely a week, you’ve moaned non-stop and cost me a fortune. Well, I’ve had enough, too”.
Of 'back home', she writes: “By coming here, I see how often abnormal our normal has become.”
She remains astonished by how polite French children are and that even students in cafes keep their mobile chat low “eyes constantly check that their talk is not upsetting nearby tables”. All this makes up for “spiders bungee jumping across my bedroom wall”, the septic tank overflowing and other world encounters with estate agents who don’t think it’s their job to bother showing people round houses.
The novelty about Cook’s book is that she writes with skin peeling honesty about her own faults; she’s no smartass on negotiating house deals or handling money and hopeless at all things practical, except that she can speak French.
This is a woman who is a stranger to DIY, gardening or cooking, whose tastes are Prada on Primark finances; a woman strapped for cash because, admittedly, of her own past spending on daft luxuries like having her dog groomed weekly. But she’s a steel butterfly in surviving, plonking herself in a remote French farmhouse, knowing no-one initially but surmounting the loneliness, damp and spiders.
Sinner takes all; Cook has won through and produced a sparkling book which should be on the Richard and Judy list.
'Fidelma Cook's French Leave (Or, Yes I'll Have Another Vin Rouge S'il Vous Plait)' is published by MacDonald Media Publishing. RRP: £9.99. ISBN: 9780955312632.
Buy it also here.
Read more, here.
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