Monday, 28 October 2013

Catch 22

Last week I got my first royalty cheque, not very large but very exiting none the less. Like many writers you have this dream of releasing this first book and then royalties just roll in. They don’t, there is just too much choice out there for your book to get noticed without some serious promotion and networking.

Here then is the catch 22, to write I need a steady income and inspiration. My job in Monaco provides me with both. But what do you do with money if you don’t get the time to pursue your dream and frankly enjoy life. Should I be foolish and just leave my job to concentrate on writing and promoting without ever making it big, but have a whale of a time doing it until the pennies run out? Or should I just keep getting on that 8.10 train and be a responsible adult. When I took this job it ticked all the right boxes on paper, but 2 1/2 months in it is turning out to be a nightmare. I know what Cameron would do; he would have management for dinner and run off with the day’s takings and stock! 

Watch this space.....

Friday, 25 October 2013


It’s not quite winter yet but summer is definitely over. Most of the big boats have left planet money for warmer climes and I had to dig out my socks and coat. One of the reasons we moved to the Côte d’Azur from Scotland is its superb climate. In summer the temperature doesn’t often rise above 30°C and in winter you can still get T-shirt weather. 2 years ago we celebrated Christmas on the balcony and on my rare day off, I still look forwards to having a swim in the Mediterranean. (Albeit with a wetsuit) 

Normally I would recommend coming to the Côte d’Azur in winter; there are fewer tourists and as there is less custom to go round, shopkeepers and restaurant staff are friendlier than during the busy summer season. Unfortunately, this winter Planet money has transformed itself into a building site. Train traffic is going to be disrupted for the next 6 months. (I know essential work which is going to bring much needed improvements and I shouldn’t grumble!) But also the beautiful terraces of fountains in front of the casino are being pulled up behind some high fences.

 Planet money is tiny and space is at a premium here in Monaco. To make more money, you need space to build and the only way now is to go up or down. Under the fountains are already about 7 floors of car park and going down is not an option, so to build a row of luxury shops they are digging up the fountains. Hopefully they will put the fountains back on top and the end result will be equally beautiful, but I have my doubts and I fear that some of Monaco’s charm will be lost in the pursuit of money.

One of the fountains before they got dug up:


Monday, 21 October 2013

Etiquette part 2

What is perceived to be rude in one culture is not a big issue in another. One year I worked in the lost luggage department of Nice airport. There were two things that would annoy my French colleagues more than anything else. A passenger would come to the desk obviously distressed and worried that their luggage hadn’t appeared on the belt. ‘My luggage didn’t arrive’ the mostly northern European would start, losing them all goodwill with my colleague. After saying ‘Bonjour monsieur’ demonstrative my colleague would curtly take their details while muttering under their breath ‘it doesn’t hurt to be polite.’  It doesn’t bother me so much, we northern Europeans like to get to the point quickly, but if you want to get good friendly service here in France you have to start with a bonjour.
The other thing that got my colleagues riled up was the comment after some waiting on luggage, whether we were on strike. After about 5 occasions that started to annoy me too. Mostly those remarks resulted in us closing the desk and going for a quick coffee, rather than suffer the snide remarks. The Passenger meanwhile thought we might be going behind the scenes to speed up the delivery of luggage. I knew the baggage handlers would probably have 2 arrivals at the same time and would get to it once the other plane was unloaded and there was nothing else we could do.
This leads me to finish with bizarre things people forget to take of the belt or get delivered by mistake. It is beyond me why you would forget to uplift your lawnmower or riffle. I don’t think the customer who ordered eight boxes of meat from the USA would have been very happy that his boxes got put with the passenger’s baggage on the belt instead of going to freight and their refrigeration unit. It spend the whole morning in the hot baggage hall before some customs and security could be found to take it to freight. I would just advise all passengers on airlines to label their luggage and please avoid putting perishables in your suitcase.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Blog browser day

Here are some other great blogs to check out:

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Language in the blood is all about blending in; to live amongst humans as a vampire without being detected. Cameron also successfully pretends to be French on occasion. I’m doing very badly at pretending to be French; I’m too tall, too blond and too pale to be passed off as a local. If anyone had any doubts still, they are soon put to rights by hearing me speak.
Local etiquette can be tricky; one of the things I dreaded most about moving here was the ‘Bisou’; the polite peck on the cheeks that the French greet each other with. Having lived in Scotland for many years, I’d grown quite accustomed to greeting without physical contact, or at worst a handshake. In the Netherlands we greet friends and family with 3 kisses, but here complete strangers plant their lips on my face!
The custom varies from region to region. In and around Monaco it is two kisses, but if you go north it can be three or even four kisses. Not knowing of forgetting can lead to some awkward moments. I have learned over time that people here are aware that the Anglo-Saxons are uncomfortable with the ’Bisou’ and if I stick my hand out and keep my distance, they are not insulted. If you get introduced to a colleague or mutual acquaintance you have to be quick though in holding out your hand otherwise you receive two kisses before you know it. (Must find dark room to rock back and forwards in to hug myself out of that traumatic experience!)
At work, thankfully, we have done away with any physical contact. The greeting includes a bonjour, a privet or a ni hau and that’s it; ready to start the day in a friendly way without making anyone feel uncomfortable. At my husband’s work however, the ‘Bisou’ has been taken to a whole other level. Once you arrive in the office, you go around all your colleagues and either shake their hand or kiss them. A fabulous way to waste a good portion of the workday!  
I will say this for the custom, especially with flu season approaching. Viruses are easier transmitted by handshakes than by a kiss on the cheek, so maybe they are on to something after all.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I wasn’t going to moan about the French being on strike. It is an unfair stereo type. Most people here on the Côte d’Azur work very hard for not much money. If you are lucky enough to work for the government, then I’m sure you don’t want to see your wages and conditions being cut. Like Cameron I’m not very interested in politics and I’m not going to start now so I took very little note of what the dispute was actually about. But the second train strike in as many months is a bloody pain in the backside!

I live in one of the most congested stretches of land in France; the Côte d’Azur is just a small strip of land squeezed between the hills and the sea. When I came to live here I thought local public transport was wonderful; clean, frequent and cheap, until I got my first job. I soon had to buy a scooter as the bus to my local place of work stopped driving at 7.30pm and we had to work till 8pm. I was surprised everyone has a car here as the train and the bus are just so cheap. Now I know, you do need a plan B. 

I hate taking the car to Monaco, with toll roads and parking it works out at about 8X the price of my rail card and as there was a strike, the roads were very congested. Mind you it is hard to stay annoyed long on the Côte d’Azur; the sun is shining, I’m able to sit and write my blog outside, surrounded by palm trees and tonight I won’t have to run down that hill to catch the 20.13 train home, instead I get to drive around the Monaco circuit like a formula one driver.

Needless to say, that book two is going to be influenced by commuting and Cameron will at some point take a train. A large part of the second book is being written on the train and in Monaco station, and I hope tomorrow we will be back to normal.

Planet money, not  a bad place to be writing your book: