With Nous Sommes Anglais scheduled for publication later this year, I thought I’d post an extract. It’s from the chapter on animals and, as usual, they’re behaving badly.
What’s Nous Sommes Anglais about? Well, it’s the unfortunately true account of the first eight months of our life in France. A time when, if it could go wrong , it did. But never in a mundane way. After three months, I was convinced Fate had singled me out for some kind of bizarre punishment. Four months later I had my identity stolen, our life savings seized and a bank account opened in my name in Spain to take the proceeds.
Could it get any worse? Oh, yes. We were then abandoned by the police forces of four countries who all insisted the crime belonged in someone else’s jurisdiction. So I had to solve the crime myself. Which I did. But unlike fictional detectives I had an 80 year-old mother-in-law and an excitable puppy who insisted they came along if I went anywhere interesting – like a stakeout.
Think, A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
Here’s an extract:
“What!” I sprang from my pillow, engaging automatic pilot on the way down, one leg in a pair of jeans, the other still asleep.
What the hell was happening?
“Cat fight!” screamed Shelagh once more from some dark place on the other side of the bed.
An awake eye peered at the clock – 1:35 – the middle of the night. That’s why it was so dark.
I staggered across the room in search of slippers … or the light switch … or possibly the window. Brain was not quite sure. Legs were even less so. Especially the solitary one, half-buried in a pair of jeans.
I fell down. It seemed a sensible course of action. And it gave Brain an extra few seconds to arrive at an explanation.
Something about a cat fight?
A strange yowling noise burst in through the open window. Oh my God! Now I remembered. The Black Cat! Both our cats had been injured in fights, Guinny had had to have stitches, Gally had limped for a week.
Was the Black Cat back? Was it attacking our cats?
I stopped struggling with the trousers, threw them off and staggered arms out-stretched through the gloom towards the bedroom door. Which immediately flew back and met me halfway – Shelagh having got there first.
Closely followed by Gypsy, our half greyhound, half crocodile, lurcher puppy.
I was somewhere in between. Dazed, confused, half-asleep and under attack from a playful puppy. A predicament lent a considerable piquancy when it’s pitch black and your clothes are on the other side of the room.
I grabbed my dressing gown from the back of the bedroom door and stumbled into the hallway, trying to fight off Gypsy, get dressed and find a light switch all at the same time.
And then there was light. At least for a short while – our hall light being on a timer carefully designed to extinguish itself ten seconds before you really needed it to. Like when you’re desperately trying to unlock the front door and find your shoes at the same time.
And there’s nothing quite so unexpected in a dark hallway as a cold nose slipping under your dressing gown as you bend over in search of shoes.
Strange nocturnal noises wafted in through the cat flap.
Whereupon I was admonished – told to stop playing with the puppy and go save our cats!
As if I was trying to do anything else.
Gypsy continued to bark and boldly go places where noses hadn’t and shouldn’t have gone before. I struggled with the door. It opened, I fell out. Gypsy’s lead was thrust into my hand, plaintive yowling drifted in from my right … and then we were off. Man and dog sprinting across the fields towards the sounds of battle. Surely even the Black Cat wouldn’t hang around once he caught sight of a giant dog bounding towards him.
“It’s coming from over here!” I shouted over my shoulder as we plunged through the stubble of last year’s maize crop.
“Is it Gally?” shouted Shelagh.
It was difficult to tell, it was coming from such a long way off. Not so much in the field as over the far hill.
And was it a cat?
Wasn’t that a cow?
I looked back at Shelagh, standing on the patio bathed in the glow of the outside light. An anxious figure staring fieldwards, flanked by two interested cats.
I looked at Gypsy. She smiled and wagged her tail; this was what life should be like – faithful hound and master stride out into the night to hunt cows by moonlight.
I was not so enthused.
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
Coming in March: International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!