Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Okay, I'm standing drinking Gaillac wine, surrounded by French people talking French. So where am I?

Paris? Toulouse?

Actually, just off Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. It seems very strange to be chattering away in French. A young stagiere comes from the Aveyron, just a couple of hours away from where we live, and a stone's throw from my French publisher, Editions du Rouergue. A couple of ladies originate from towns very close to Gaillac, and are thrilled to hear me talk about the town and the wines, as well as to drink them - a taste of home.

This is the Los Angeles Alliance Francaise, and most of the people who have come to hear me speak are either French, have a French spouse, or grew up in France. Everyone speaks French. There are classes held here nightly, and facilities for teaching kids the language from the earliest age.

The event starts at seven, and doesn't finish until after ten. Our Sarrabelle wines were augmented by the wines of another Gaillac vigneron, Robert Plageoles, but it was the Sarrabelles that stole the show. Everyone wanted to know where and when they could buy them.

It was nearly midnight by the time we got home, having left at 10.30 that morning to meet with our former French neighbours, John and Bettie Jensen, at the LA Country Club for lunch. We have eaten there with them many times, and it is always a joy to see them again. We first met them 20 years ago when we bought a small holiday home in the 13th century village of Carennac on the banks of the River Dordogne.

They always told us they could hear us giggling at night, our voices carried across the gardens on the warm summer air, and that it always cheered them up. Happily, we are all giggling still.

Then it was on to the Los Angeles Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, where I signed piles of books before heading off for the Alliance Francaise.

Four events in 48 hours has left me staggering a little, but I cracked off to the gym this morning (Day 20) to get oxygen to my brain for a research trip this afternoon to the forensic laboratories of the Orange County Police Department at Santa Ana (the CSI people) - research for the new book.

No rest, it's true, for the wicked. So I must be ve-ery bad. Cos first thing tomorrow, it's into the car for a seven-hour drive north to Sacramento, and events Friday and Saturday at San Mateo and Corte Madera, right across the bay from San Francisco.

It's at times like this I almost wish I'd succumbed to last year's temptation to buy a little vineyard in Gaillac and spend the rest of my days producing wine rather than words. But it's maybe a little late to change horses now.

So.... onwards! And northwards!

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