May 24th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Nous Sommes Anglais

For those who don't know, I'm serialising my 98% true, 2% borrowed from a more entertaining parallel universe, account of my first eight months in France. I'm just about to start a new chapter - Pipes and Plombiers - a surreal tale of what a man can do with ten miles of copper pipe and a bootleg copy of 'Home Plumbing for Dummies'.

Still to come:

Animals behaving typically (ie badly) in which I am menaced by a twenty-foot long caterpillar (I kid you not), Gypsy turns us into criminals, and Rhiannon causes a stampede.

Three Fetes and a football match. In which I somehow drink too much a local fete and accidentally sign for the local football team. Language problems again - I was sure I told them I'd had professional trials when I was fifteen. They have the impression I'd been a professional footballer for fifteen years. So, at the age of forty and not having kicked a ball for four years, I turn out on the right wing for Racing Club in front of three hundred people.

Then we come to the bulk of the book - the incredible true crime story to end all true crime stories. How I was impersonated, my identity stolen, our life savings seized, a bank account opened in my name in Spain and ... abandoned by the police forces of four countries - who all insisted it was someone else's jurisdiction - had to solve the crime myself.

It was the most bizarre investigation ever. For starters, unlike fictional detectives I had an 80 year-old mother-in-law and an excitable puppy who insisted they accompany me if I was going anywhere interesting - like a stakeout. Finding toilets became as important as finding clues. And then there was Spain - I'd tracked down the bank, I'd questioned the bank manager, I'd made an amazing discovery, I rushed to the police station and ... it was Gendarme's Day. All the police were on holiday. And there they were, marching through the street on the way to the restaurant and a day's unrestrained drinking.

And that's only the start of it. There are fourteen chapters in all including: Crime and Poetry (how to write a police report in French), Fraud and Warp Coils (cars behaving badly in the middle of an investigation), Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Toilet (never take your mother-in-law on a stakeout) and The Screaming Detective of Castlenau (Never take your dog on a stakeout).

So that's Nous Sommes Anglais, best described as A Year in Provence in the Pyrenees with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell. The complete chapters are/will be available on my website.