Some corner of a foreign field by Frank Beck Review by IRB Hibbitt
There is only one person who can claim copyright for the above title and that is Rupert Brooke but it would be undiplomatic to accuse the author of Some corner of a foreign field of plagiarism for his foreign field while also in France is far removed from World War One
Frank Beck was an engineer at CERN in Geneva. The European Centre for particle Physics, home to the scientists and physicists working and sometimes playing with their pet theories but CERN gets only passing mentions in this self-published book. Instead of proton accelerators we are taken into the world of living in a hamlet with French farmer neighbours.
The Becks - Frank and his wife Louise - take us instead to the experience of house hunting in a beautiful valley near the town of Cruseilles. They popped in to an estate office to get warm because it was so cold and subsequently fell in love with a small chalet only two years old and put up for sale by a farmer whose mother wanted him to buy a place in Geneva. He and Louise fell in love with the chalet that had been the farmer's shooting lodge refuse and love nest and made an offer that was accepted.
However, when it came to the final stage in the buying process, the notaire mentioned an additional tax that would be required and Mr Beck refused to pay a penny more and stormed out of the room with his party. In a typically French fashion, he was called back and the farmer and his agent agreed to go halves and pay the tax themselves. A done deal!
They became weekenders at the chalet, motoring down from their flat in Geneva and became good friends with all their neighbouring farmers.Read more ›
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A beguiling story of real life in a small French village. How an English couple escape from dour Geneva Sundays for happy weekends in France, almost accidentally acquiring a small country cottage. We are introduced to the unspoilt village of La Troussaz near Annecy with its varied inhabitants all sympathetically described. (Peter Mayle makes fun of the local French, but Frank Beck is on their side ..... which makes for a much better book). The locals are warm, friendly and helpful.
The village is full of apples, pears and plums; mostly used for making the local hooch, called gnole, and if you keep your cows in the adjoining barn their heat will warm you in winter. We participate in making the local cheese and help a calf being born, pulling it out of the cow with ropes. Visit a twin village in Beaujolais, admire the copious stalls in Annecy market and enjoy French country food.
The Becks gradually extend the cottage, acquiring plots of land. They learn how to negotiate with the peasants and the covert operations permitted by a French notaire. Then gradually, step by step, the village is slowly drawn into the modern world. People die, sell their cows or their land, modern villas and flats spring up: the old atmosphere dissolves. (But there are still plenty of villages like this surviving in rural France). Eventually the Becks retire, sell their house in typical French fashion and move back to England, sadly saying goodbye to this blissful country retreat.
Francis Farley is the author of Catalysed Fusion a sizzling romance set in CERN Geneva Catalysed Fusion
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