June 14: 93,000 words

The back of Joel's head

When something prevents me from writing The Novel, I imagine my characters hanging about impatient and frustrated, waiting for the next thing to happen. The likeliest place for most of them to wait is at the restaurant that figures largely in the book. Today, my main character Alex is in the midst of a lunch in Monaco when lots will become clear to her; she’s also waiting to hear how two other characters got on during a visit to a key site in the countryside near Nice. Me, too! I’m waiting to hear how they got on! Because today instead of writing, I ended up hanging about impatient and frustrated at a certain real-life restaurant…

I cover the printer to protect it from dust, but it attracts cat hair

The frustration concerns not being able to express myself properly to 1) the glass guy (the wind blew our living room window shut on Joel’s elbow, cracking both); 2) the VeloBleu office, which is mistakenly convinced I’ve run off with one of their bikes and is charging me accordingly, and 3) my loveliest little student, the 13-year-old Sarah, whose lessons have been cancelled because she’s in such an emotional state due to her dire family circumstances. She’s the kid who is being fostered. Last week at the end of the lesson, her mother phoned. Sarah took the phone from her foster mother. When I was in the hall, leaving, I could hear her screaming and shouting. No 13-year-old kid should have to scream like that. NouNou left me a message this afternoon explaining the situation, but it was a bit garbled (everything is a bit garbled to me), so I went back to the restaurant to find someone to listen to it and give me all the nuances. Poor kid.

The organ at Ste Reparate Cathedral in Vieux Nice

I don’t usually venture out in the mornings, because I know life will take over and I won’t get down to writing. That’s what happened today. On Sunday life took over as well, because my mother-in-law Denise and I went to the wonderfully baroque Nice Cathedral Ste Reparate for Pentecost mass. I don’t do mass anymore, but we went because it was a special one, complete with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Nice and crashing gothic organ music… Ste Reparate is the patron saint of Nice. She was a 2nd century 15-year-old Palestinian Christian martyr who was burned and beheaded, but STILL didn’t die. She went off in a boat and ended up in Nice, where angels pushed her boat into the bay and onto land, giving the Baie des Anges its name – the Bay of Angels. Denise and I went back to the restaurant in time for lunch, then suddenly it was time for Joel and I to go swimming…

Today, I ventured out to the glass people and to put a cheque in the bank. Back to the restaurant for a quick coffee, then Denise turned up, the weather was beautiful, Joel kept telling me how fab the encornets were, and suddenly, it’s 2pm. I tried to get a VeloBleu… Well, I won’t bore you, but I ended up bursting into tears of frustration. I used to be articulate! I used to be able to convince most people of anything! I used to know fancy words! Now look – my only skill, withered.

Denise and Michele, watching customers on the terrasse

Then I went home to quickly prepare my lesson for Sarah then catch the bus (because I was barred from taking a VeloBleu). That’s when I got the message that the lesson was cancelled. I went back to the restaurant where even Denise (still there at 5.30 after lunch!) suggested I needed a glass of rose to raise my spirits. I didn’t argue. In fact, I spent an hour venting to Dominique and Patrick, two regulars who were awaiting with trepidation the arrival of Dominique’s mother for a 15-day visit and would have put up with anything to avoid going home. Ah, venting… even in French it does wonders for the soul.

Grilled sardines - some people really love crunching the heads. But not me.

Maybe I’m not quite so hard on myself today because I hit 93,000 words on Sunday afternoon. Joel thinks that’s a whole novel, but not yet, by any means.

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About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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