Sunday, 22 June 2014

Patriotism



The world cup football is in full swing, but until yesterday there was not much evidence that France was taking part. In countries like Holland you would have seen many buildings and businesses festooned in orange and in England you would've seen many flags of st.George. I can't speak for the rest of France, but here on the Côte d'Azur things are different.

The Côte d'Azurians care about appearances. A baggy t-shirt and jeans just won't do. So when it comes to supporting Football, you don't want to look silly. I can feel for the many England supporters who are having to put all their flags of st.George away until the next big sporting event. Here in the south they wouldn't risk looking that embarrassed, non Monsieur, here they waited until France had convincingly won their first two matches and are safely out of their qualifying group.

I was rather amused when I walked into the village today and suddenly spotted a number of tricolours outside businesses and hanging from balconies. They haven't gone completely over the top yet with their decorations, I think they will wait with that until France has reached the final. Yes we're getting right behind our national team, but côte d'Azur style, we wait until it is fashionable to do so.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ethics

One of the things I like about being a writer is that it is a fairly ethical job. It doesn't exploit people in the third world, has a low carbon footprint and it doesn't torture animals. As far as I'm aware, my computer is the only thing that has a carbon footprint, my books are only available in e-format so no trees were cut down to print my scribblings and the only animal that was tortured was my cat as he claims I'm starving him of both food and attention. But unfortunately my writing doesn't bring home the vegetarian bacon, I need another source of income.

I do like my day job, the day goes quickly and I meet a lot of interesting people, but you probably don't get a more massive carbon foot print than an airport! Then there is the cosmetics. There are some brands we sell that are ethical but I do realise the majority of them do use animal testing. A practice that is horrible and has no place in the modern world. I'm far more comfortable selling cigarettes and alcohol, neither of them are good for the human health and they cause a lot of suffering, but humans have a choice about what they put in their bodies and these days, cigarette packaging leaves no doubt as to how damaging smoking is to your health. Maybe cosmetics should come with pictures of cute bunnies that had to endure horrific experiments, that might stop the practice.

This month I've been enjoying my work even more, my employer has decided that in June we collect for l'action contre la faim (action against hunger) an orginisation that hopes to combat world hunger and it is nice to not only be there to sell things. So if you're passing through a French airport, pop into the duty free and make sure that next to buying some cheap booze, you donate something to this great cause too.

As regards to the writing job; I've been busy with editing Language in the blood 2, again with the guidance of my editor Penny Hunter. We are nearly done and I need to get busy with my camera and design a front cover, but it should be on the virtual shelves soon.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Something Short

The new bundle of short stories I've co-written with my friend Elspeth Morrison is selling slowly but steadily. It is amazing how hard it is to get family, friends and acquaintances to part with 77p ($1.29) even when it is for a good cause. We are trying to plug the book at every opportunity so  I thought I devote another blog post to the charity we are hoping to help. The Stafford centre in Edinburgh is fundraising to send 4 volunteers plus a staff member to the family centre at Vileyka in Belarus.

This is what the Stafford centre says:

Vilejka has a population of about 26000 with a further population of 24000 living in the surrounding rural area. Within the town around 50% of families have heating and water however within the surrounding rural area most families do not have these commodities. Around 25% of the total population are elderly and struggle to survive on the state pension.
The family centre is run by the local municipal but is severely restricted in its work due to financial restraints. As a result only a very small percentage of those living in poverty have any support from outwith their family.  After finding out about stand international our service users had no hesitation in volunteering for this worthwhile cause.  

We need to raise £2000 to help us get there by donating as little as a £1 you will not only be helping our volunteers you will be helping the people in Belarus where the family centre means so much to so many people.  

So if you can, donate via the following link 

 https://www.justgiving.com/volunteering-belarus

or buy the book!

http://www.amazon.com/Something-Short-Elspeth-Morrison-ebook/dp/B00K74XHZO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401545726&sr=1-1&keywords=elspeth+morrison 

Thanks
Angela

Friday, 23 May 2014

Airport life

Certain situations bring either the worst or the best out of people, the airport brings out the stupid. Maybe all the braincells were used in packing all the necessary clothes, toiletries and documents and getting to the airport in time. They clear security and some proceed to relax so much that the brain is switched off. The other day I was talking to a very nice German customer, he told me all about his stay in the South of France; he was relaxed as he had arrived at the airport very early and had time for some shopping. He went off with his colleague to enjoy a beveridge. The next time I saw the man he was shouting at the Easyjet staff as they wouldn't let him on the flight to Hamburg. They had requested him to board three times via the tannoy, now they had closed the gate and were off loading his luggage. No matter how much he raised his voice, they would not let him on the plane; Easyjet does not wait for stupid people.

The other thing people shout about is not so much stupidity but a failure to read and being ill informed; if you read through all the information about flying you will know that the maximum amount off liquid allowed in hand luggage is 100ml. We have had this regulation for a very long time now and the frequent flyer knows the drill. So it is often an older passenger that doesn't fly that often that gets their liquids confiscated. They come into the shop and lament about that lovely bottle of champagne, wine or olive oil that they thought would be saver in hand luggage that got confiscated. At night I see the security people walking back with big bags of confiscated good that have to be destroyed.Call me cynical but I think the traders at the airport love these security measures. It's a fine excuse to sell water at extortionate prices and it has done duty free shopping no harm either.

Then there is the whinging Poms. Again it falls probably under the heading of being ill informed rather than stupid but it is a close call. The UK has been part of the European union since the 1970's so you pay European union prices not tax free prices. With every purchase I have to explain this and in 50% of the cases, they didn't know. Then usually a very unpleasant diatribe against Europe follows. The Fins who only joint recently seem to be all aware how it works and are perfectly pleasant about paying the EU prices. I have to say that the UK citizens aren't the only ill informed passengers, and all European governments could do better at informing their citizens about what it means to be in Europe including its many benefits. I said it before but I think every whinger who complained about his booze and cigarettes being more expensive than they wanted voted for UKIP in yesterdays election. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and continue to enjoy the benefits of the European union. A stable peaceful place to live and the right to live and work in a different country without permits, free movement within Schengen etc etc etc... 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Belarus

It has been a while since my last post, but some times you just need to prioritise and I'm afraid the blog fell by the way side. I have been busy editing and getting a bundle of short stories ready for publication. I'm so pleased that Something short is now available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Something-Short-Elspeth-Morrison-ebook/dp/B00K74XHZO/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1400057792&sr=8-4&keywords=something+short

So why Belarus I hear you ask? Elspeth my friend and co-author has a friend that is trying to raise £500 to go out to Belarus and help build a play park at an orphanage. We hope to help this wonderful charity; stand international with the proceeds of this book. This charity works with children that have been affected by the Chernobyl fall-out.

http://standinternational.org/where-we-work/belarus

We are selling the book at $1.30 which means after tax and Amazon deduct we have royalties of $0.30 so we need to sell a lot of books to make any impact. I would like to call on my followers to share this post, buy the book (its only $1.30!!) or do a review.

Many thanks for helping out!
Angelax

Friday, 18 April 2014

Boardingcard please



Europe, its nations and cultures continues to provide a rich source of inspiration for me and is also the thing that makes my job so varied and interesting. Selling perfume and may not be the most riveting of jobs in the world, but the fact that your customers have a completely different profile from hour to hour is.  I’m not talking about national stereo-types but every flight has its own quirks.

For example, cigarettes must be expensive in Switzerland and as it is a tax-free destination we sell lots of cigarettes during the Geneva and Basel flights. I rather like the Basel flight as there are a number of German speaking customers on it. 

During the morning we have an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, which means clear the decks and roll up your sleeves as everything must be expensive in Moscow. Wine, fine Champagne, cosmetics; basically if the Moscow flight is a bit light we won’t have a good day. It also helps to learn a few words of Russian such as Boarding card and transfer (Biljet and transit if you’re interested) I’m currently working on ‘Bon Voyage’ (Schastlivogo puti) but not managed it yet.

Being surrounded by all these nations, it is tempted to start by asking for a boarding card, but this should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing that annoys a French passenger more than being spoken to in English in their own country, so I always lead with ‘Votre card d’embarkement s’il vous plaît’ and only ask for a boarding card if you receive a look of utter panic of your passenger.

Then last there is the British quirk, like it or not you are in Europe, therefore you have to pay European union prices (not tax-free) It is best to explain this before you ring up the purchase, otherwise you end up cancelling the sale when they find out they can’t buy tax-free. Maybe it is the fact that Brits can’t buy cheap alcohol and cigarettes on their holidays to the continent that is stirring up this anti-European rhetoric. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Edit

I'm very excited by having started the edit of my second book. Steering the ship safely through the murky waters of grammar and punctuation is, like in book one, my friend Penny. I wouldn't be as flippant as to say that writing a book is easy, but everything after you finish the final chapter seems to be harder. I often talk about how hard it is to promote your book and how things are complicated by living in France (see ISBN) Today I hit another French complication.

I do all my work on an incredibly cheap Packard bell note book. I love it as it has a nice keyboard and it is so small and light that I can take it anywhere. It has been fine to do most word processing tasks but it didn't come with the full version of Microsoft Word. Word has a very nice changes tracking function which my editor used. I would just need to OK the changes and job done. My version of Word is in French, but even after much searching I could not see a way to OK anything. Penny very kindly send me the link to a help site but after more head scratching I realised that my version could not sing and dance and I would need the full version of Word to send back something she can work with.

Help was at hand as my husband's computer does have the full version and even better; it's in English which makes following the dummy guide so much easier. With my husband away at work I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. I was zipping through the red changes marking them as agreed with a click of the mouse until I hit the French snag. My husband and I both have French keyboards or AZERTY, but for some reason Word thought I was using an English or QWERTY keyboard. Hubby assured me it was possible to change it, but it wouldn't be easy to explain over the phone. I decided to carry on and after a while you get used to typing a Q when you need an A or Z when you need W etc.

Finishing the book was only the start of the journey; it is all those other skills and experiences I'm picking up in trying to get published and a readership that is proving the most challenging.