If you’re anything like me, you are thinking about your summer vacation. (I’m always thinking about my vacation.) Perhaps in reading today’s e-interview with L. Phillips, new author of Houses, History and Humour (A British Estate Agent in France), released in the Fall 2015, your curiosity about things français might be piqued and you might decide on a trip to France, or at least the travel section of your bookstore.
L. Phillips’ book is an adventure into the unexpected, “filled with stacks of amusing incidents and insights into the nuances of French life and culture.” You can expect some of the same in this e-interview too! True to her nature, and unlike any guest we have featured here on LivinginCyn.com so far, she turned around her responses within hours. (If I held an interview-question-answering contest, she would walk away with the gold trophy for speediest!)
Usually, I ask authors questions about their writing rituals, but in this interview we ended up talking about all of Lynette’s “extracurricular” activities. What a wonderful window into la vie en France! (As usual my questions are in bold, grey text.)
L. Phillips: on Houses, History and Humour… and Living in France
Name/ Age… Lynette Phillips, age – irrelevant.
Occupation/Aspiration (related website?)… Retired Estate Agent, occasional Journalist, hobby writer. No website and don’t want one. We spend too much time on these machines as it is.
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? Born in Liverpool, lived in many places, currently in Matignon, Côtes d’Armor, France. My father was half English, although that’s debatable as the surname’s Welsh and they were from the Welsh Borders, and half Liverpool-Irish – his mother’s family were from Galway originally. My mother’s mother was French, and her father was Liverpool-Irish. His family were from County Kerry (Killarney) originally. So I guess I’m half Irish, a quarter French, and a quarter English with perhaps a bit of Welsh thrown in. But I consider myself English.
You just published your first book, Houses, History and Humour… It sounds like creative non-fiction—a memoir with some humorous reflections on adapting to life in France. I remember when you purchased your house in France in 2002… Can you share a little bit about the decision to do so? That’s all written up in the first chapter.
Did you begin writing your book then? Absolutely not. I was working full time in Real Estate in Cognac. It took me six months precisely to write the book – the words just flowed whenever I was in the mood to put fingers to keyboard, not every day by any means.
What triggered your decision to write this memoir—was there an inciting event? It’s not a ‘memoir’ at all, although it does have personal references throughout, but mostly based on working experiences. It is indeed an account of working in a foreign country. The book simply evolved from work diary notes written up in retirement. It contains lots of primary source information (my degree is history and politics) from World War Two, and several references to early British history, especially relating to Britain’s early invasion of France! Its trigger? Yes, but not divulging!
When you write, is it chronological—that is, was your first chapter the one you started with, or did you jump around and rearrange chapters? In as much as I followed my diary notes from the beginning until I left the world of realting, yes, it is in sequence.
What do you do when you’re not writing? I live pretty much on the Coast, which is undoubtedly one of the world’s loveliest. Cruising house guests have likened our area to the Caribbean. Hence, I spend a fair amount of time beach walking. I have a good circle of friends, mostly French now, and we play Rummykub on a weekly basis. Our group is made up of French, Russian, Dutch, and English players.
I belong to a very serious choir here. We have 75 members and make quite an impression on the local scene, putting on regular concerts. We sing in French, Latin, German, English AND Italian, ending our last concert with a gloriously emotional rendering of ‘The Slaves Chorus’ from Nabucco.
I have a pretty normal life, a bit of this, a lot of that … I’m an optimist and a do-er, an organiser (so I get a fair few requests to do things) and I speak French, which means people make use of my translation skills. I enjoy this, as it keeps the lingo up for myself, too! Oh, and I still write for a couple of English language monthlies in France.
Are you working on anything new, or learning something that’s fascinating to you? Maybe !!
Coffee or Tea? English Breakfast Tea first thing, then coffee mid morning (usually two); Russian Earl Grey Tea after lunch; regular Earl Grey Tea mid afternoon; coffee after dinner; Moroccan Mint or Camomile if I’m watching late night TV. I do not like coffee made in a cafetière, which always tastes mushy! It’s got to be proper espresso or instant décaf – Douwe Egberts is the BEST instant coffee in the World!
Is there a question you wished I would pose to you? (or to anyone else? Whom?) [Editor’s note: The following questions in bold, black text were submitted and answered by L. Phillips!]
What are your ambitions for your current book? To be serialised on television.
IN or OUT of the European Union? IN!
What do you think of Donald Trump? A dangerous idiot. Just imagine the World with Trump on one side of it, and Putin on the other!
Milk or plain chocolate? PLAIN, every time.
I’m also curious, red or white? White with fish (Chablis, Sancerre, Muscadet sur Lie … ) otherwise a nice red Loire or Bordeaux (St Emilion for example …). Living in France, we have a great choice. I used to like Cahors and Languedoc Roussillon wine but find them too strong now. I’ve been helping next door’s 12 year old with his anglais for an oral exam tomorrow, came home to find a Dutch friend here, so gave her a cup of tea, and now I have to keep silent before choir tonight!!
More about Houses, History & Humour (A British Estate Agent in France) by L. Phillips
This is a journey, not only a travelogue but a ‘workalogue!’ Moving to France in 2002, the writer (an estate agent from Hereford) immediately falls into a job. Totally immersed into a different culture, with completely alien work practices, it’s also a story of survival against many odds. In ‘the merde’ from day one, it has its hilarious moments amongst the seriousness and kindness of les Français, not least her survivors from the Second World War. With clipboard and camera, first-hand tales from members of la Résistance, and a little bit of early British history thrown in for good measure, this is a book of many parts. A country’s habits die hard, and fitting in doesn’t always come easily, but arrival is splendid when it finally happens. Selling clients add daily frustration. This is a new game for the French, but one they are keen to profit from. Buying clients recount joyful and tearful tales in equal measure of why they are joining the property exodus from Great Britain. All is told as they are driven amongst the vineyards, corn and sunflower fields of Poitou Charentes, passing through towns where time has stood still, but are about to be invaded by les Anglais! One of them remains in France to this day and here’s how it all happened …
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