Angel Book of the Year Shortlist for Patricia O'Toole

Patricia O'Toole's debut memoir Call of an Angel  has been shortlisted for the angel book of the year 2019 in the Soul & Spirit Magazine Spiritual Book Awards


Soul & Spirit  is a high quality, UK monthly lifestyle print magazine with columns from all the best experts from the mind, body and spirit arena, including Russell Grant, Sally Morgan, Diana Cooper, Derek Acorah, Tony Stockwell, Robina Courtin & more. 


The winner will be announced in March 2019.

Direct Action by the Gilets Jaunes in a Poitiers Car Park Creates Mr Bean-like Chaos

Susie Kelly writes:

We went to Poitiers yesterday evening intending to do some night photography. Unfortunately, as somebody had unplugged my camera's battery charger unbeknown to me, my battery was almost dead so I only took a couple of shots before it ran out.


However, that didn't mean the evening was without excitement.


For those who don't know, there is a movement in France at the moment called 'gilets jaunes' after the protestors who wear the high viz yellow vests. They are causing disruption, protesting about the rising cost of fuel and living and generally expressing their disappointment with Mr Macron and inviting him to resign.


Although there has been some violence in major cities, around here it is generally good humoured. We see groups of gilets jaunes on the roundabouts waving placards, and that's about it. Last night we shared an experience with them.


They were at the entrance to the multi-storey car park and had raised the barriers so everybody went in without paying. They were polite and friendly, and said they were helping reduce our living costs by giving us free parking. Which was most kind of them.


By the time we were ready to leave, they had gone. The exit barriers had come down. Hundreds of people who had enjoyed free parking had no tickets, so they couldn't get out unless they knew the secret password 'Gilets jaunes'.


Terry went up to the 6th floor to recover our car, while I waited at the exit. I stood between the two barriers explaining to the queues of drivers they had to press the intercom button and say the password so that the barriers would be raised. They were grateful and it worked.


For about 5 minutes.


Then the intercom began playing a recorded message saying that their calls would be answered. It kept repeating itself but no calls were answered. All the cars were trapped. People began hooting, some repeated short hoots, some keeping their hands on the hooter. People I had previously spoken to came to ask me what was happening and why the barriers were no longer working.


A very angry man reversed from one barrier, almost smashing into the car behind him, and tried to escape through the second barrier. He repeatedly punched the intercom button with his finger until somebody answered, when he yelled and waved his gilet jaune into the intercom until he was allowed out.


Then the intercoms stopped responding at all.


The continual hooting became deafening.


Then the sirens went off, followed by an announcement that there was a technical problem and everybody must evacuate the building immediately.


People poured out of doorways and down from the ramps. A man with a clipboard appeared and and was swamped by a barrage of questions. Terry appeared, having come down from the 6th floor to find out what was happening.


The party spirit took over. The people laughed and joked in the same way they did when we had the bomb scare and were evacuated at CDG.


Then the police arrived and after lengthy discussions the sirens stopped and the barriers were raised, and people were instructed to return to their cars. Terry went back up to the 6th floor.


However, during the evacuation mentioned above, some drivers had simply left their cars wherever they were at the time, on the ramps, and gone away, leaving them there. So any cars behind them were trapped until the drivers decided to return.


A dribble of vehicles came by, among them a number of people who had previously bought parking tickets and were determined to put them into the machines, which were not functioning because the system had been switched off. Instead of driving straight through, encouraged by the police waving their arms, they persisted in putting the tickets into the machine and when nothing happened, turning them the other way round and putting them in again. The cars behind began hooting, the police waved their arms, and after several minutes the ticket holders accepted that they would have to leave without paying, just like everybody else.


Every so often no cars appeared for long minutes, due to abandoned cars blocking the ramps. Then a few cars rolled past, then a few more. Another long wait. A few more cars.


I don't know how long I stood there with my two tripods. A security man kept walking by and saying it was just a matter of being patient, there were still many cars trapped on the upper floors.


There was also an elderly lady with her shopping bags waiting anxiously for her lift. We pulled sympathetic faces at each other.


Terry finally arrived, after the driver of the car who had thoughtfully abandoned it across the ramp returned to remove it.


Merci aux gilets jaunes pour ce divertissement. (Thank you, yellow vests, for this entertainment.)

Susie Kelly's new book In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France  is just outin ebook and paperback.

Follow Susie on Twitter @susieenfrance

Follow Susie on Facebook Susie Kelly's Books Page

Talk Radio Europe Interview With Susie Kelly

Talk Radio Europe Susie Kelly.mp3
MP3 Audio File 23.9 MB

Hit the DOWNLOAD button above to hear Susie Kelly chat about her new book In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France with TRE's Giles Brown.


Susie Kelly on the Being Anne Blog

Many thanks to Anne of the award-winning Being Anne [Books, travel and other things that make life interesting...] book blog on the release of Susie Kelly's new title In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France. REPOST:

#Newrelease: In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly @SusieEnFrance @Blackbird_Bks #authorpower

By  | December 4, 2018

It’s always exciting when an email from Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books appears in my in-box – you might just already have discovered that their team always has the perfect eye for something different and enticing, and I’m always keen to share whatever they’re doing next. My reading’s a little all-over-the-place at the moment, or I’d most certainly be reading and reviewing their latest – In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France by Susie Kelly was published yesterday (3rd December), and is available as an e-book and paperback. I’ll admit that memoirs aren’t always my kind of reading – even when they’re focused on travel – but I’ve skimmed through this book and it’s really quite a story!

As the date for Britain leaving the European Union draws close, and the British living in European countries still have no idea what the future holds for them after Brexit, Susie looks back on the beginning of her life in the country she loves and has called home for 23 years.

With her house literally crumbling around her, the number of odd characters Susie manages to attract are only matched by the assortment of creatures appearing from in and out of the woodwork. Terry almost dies, and Susie’s resilience and good humour are tested to the limit. Sometimes it feels more like taking part in a musical comedy than starting a new life in France. Another delightful, very funny, memoir from the bestselling, much-loved, travel author Susie Kelly.

So, no review to share – but let’s take a look at a taster, see if it appeals to you as very much as it does to me…

We didn’t have any heating, having naively swallowed the estate agent’s assurance that there was no such thing as cold weather south of the Loire.

As the temperature during November plunged to zero and kept slipping ever lower, I was very seriously discomfited. The animals were fine, the poultry in their leaf and straw-lined coop – except for Sandra the bantam who continued roosting in M Meneteau’s plum tree – the horses with their shaggy coats and access to a large barn, the dogs in nests of blankets in the straw, the cats seeking out sheltered corners in the barns, and the two parrots’ cages covered with a duvet. On the sofa-bed with its thin mattress through which I could feel the springs, covered by a skinny duvet and one blanket, I was colder than I believed it possible to be and still live. The house was damp. The north-east wind shredded the plastic sheeting we had so optimistically pinned over the gaping doorway in the barn, and in came the rain, hail and snow. It was too cold to cook there, so I put an electric kettle in the living room, which wasn’t a great deal warmer, and lived on hot drinks, cider and packets of biscuits. The electricity supply wasn’t capable of running even a small fan.

The small room which in summer had been a cool haven became icily cold as the days shortened and the easterly wind started to bite. Despite the paint and polish I had splashed all over, it became mildewy in no time at all, with new colonies of mushrooms popping up on the walls. Most of the floor had collapsed onto the pungent earth below. As I lay in the dark, I was aware of things nibbling and scuttling around me. Once I’d tugged on the string that caused the light bulb to go off I was usually asleep in seconds, waking later to the sounds of scraping, munching and scampering. Occasionally, light, fast bodies with cool feet ran over the bed, chittering as they went. I burrowed further under the covers.

Minimum daywear was at least one set of thermal vest and pants, tights, two pairs of long socks, jeans, T-shirt, jumper, scarf, gloves, woolly hat, sheepskin-lined denim coat. I looked like a cross between a scarecrow and a Michelin man. Instead of my usual Chanel No.5, I now slept fully dressed. And I was still cold. In the morning, I lay under the covers until the dogs demanded to be fed. I spent the rest of the day wandering around, banging my arms against my sides and stamping my feet, scampering around the field with the animals, or huddled in a chair with a blanket wrapped around myself feeling like a Siberian babushka. I ticked away the hours waiting for the first signs of evening, when l could feed all the animals and burrow back into my nest.

Terry brought me a thicker duvet and an electric blanket from England. Night time became less arctic but made getting out of bed in the morning more of an ordeal. We had not been prepared for how cold winter can be in an old French farmhouse.

One morning, I awoke and was sure I could hear a stream burbling close by; by the sound of it, almost in the garden. I clambered out of bed, into my Wellington boots and stuck my head outside the front door. There was a brisk brown brook swishing its way down the lawn towards the field. Two things immediately struck me as odd: first of all, we had not had a brook running through the garden when I last looked, and secondly, there had been no rain during the night. I followed the brook upstream through the plastic sheeting into the barn where the provisional kitchen no longer stood on a dirt floor, but in a spreading, chuckling ocean of mud. The copper pipes to the sink had burst, transforming themselves into ingenious water features gushing thin, high-pressure fountains from eight splits. The mud was ankle-deep and rising.

I sploshed to the phone to call Terry.

‘I’m going to have to get a plumber in here quickly.’

‘No, don’t do that. We can’t afford a plumber. You’ll have to fix it yourself.’

I snorted. ‘Don’t be ridiculous! You’ve absolutely no idea what’s happening here. The water’s flowing through the barn and right to the end of the garden! It isn’t a little trickle, it’s gushing all over the place, and there’s mud everywhere!’

‘OK. Listen. Go and find the toolbox, and the blow-lamp. And turn off the stopcock.’

‘Where is the stopcock? What does it look like?’

‘It’s a red-topped tap, and it’s somewhere beneath the basin.’

I found it just above the waterline and stopped the multiple squirts. Over the next two hours, Terry gave an elementary plumbing tutorial via the telephone. I did exactly what he said, cutting through pipes with a hacksaw, joining them up with little brass rings called, for a reason I couldn’t understand, olives, and soldering the splits in the pipes, all the time slithering and sliding about in the slimy residue left by the receding stream.

I was colder than ever, soaked and filthy, and we still only had the plastic bucket to wash in. The contents of the refrigerator were frozen: butter, milk, eggs, fruit, cheese and bread were all solid. The washing up liquid had turned to crystals and if shaken made a noise like maracas. The jams and sauces in the jars were frozen solid. All our house plants were dead, turned to a limp green mush. My French dream had turned into a nightmare.

A week later, six inches of snow fell overnight. The horses’ water buckets were frozen from top to bottom, so I scraped snow into plastic buckets and brought it into the house, but after four and a half hours in the icy living room, they were still buckets of snow. I borrowed a small heater and stood them in front of it. Within ten minutes, it had all melted, including the buckets which were buckled and no longer bucket-shaped.

Madame Meneteau lent me some buckets and filled them for me. I thought how ironic it was that Terry and I had almost certainly earned, over the preceding years, more money than all the inhabitants of the hamlet had jointly earned in their lives, yet while they were all cosily comfortable in their houses, with their wood-burning stoves, I was quite literally freezing.

During that first winter, the weather could be bright and sunny one day, and bitterly cold with thick ice the next. Two days later, it might pour with rain, and the following day, out would come the sun again. The horses were particularly perplexed – used to the monotony of cold wet English autumns and winters, they didn’t understand why the seasons changed here with such rapidity.

Friends urged me to return to England. It was, of course, never an option even if I had wanted to, not with all the animals dependent upon me.

Goodness, I’m shivering with her – many thanks to publisher and author for permitting me to share that extract. Definitely a book I’ll try to catch up on later…

In Foreign Fields is an update and rewrite of Susie Kelly’s first book, Two Steps Backwards(Transworld 2004) – not previously available either digitally or worldwide. 

About the author

Born a Londoner, Susie Kelly spent most of the first 25 years of her life in Kenya. She now lives in south-west France with her husband and assorted animals. She believes that her explosive temper is a legacy from her Irish-American grandfather, but has no idea who to blame for her incompetence as a housewife. Still, she’s very kind to animals, small children and elderly people. Susie particularly enjoys exploring the road less travelled, discovering the lives and events of lesser-known places.

Prior to publishing with Blackbird, Susie was with Transworld who sold over 50,000 of her titles in the UK. Some of those are rights-reverted and are now available to readers worldwide for the first time.

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Blackbird on Publishing & Book Marketing Advice Panels

I was delighted to be a part of the Writing Coach UK  Routes to Publication evening at the Google Academy, London, with Apple Tree Yard author Louise Doughty, Unbound publishing's John Mitchinson, and Oxford University Creative Writing programme director  Clare Morgan. The panel discussion was chaired by novelist and Writing Coach UK Founder, Jacqui Lofthouse.

I also had an interesting and enlightening morning recently on the book marketing panel at New Generation Publishing's annual self-publishing summit at King's College, London.  With New Generation's David Walshaw; Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity, and Katy Guest, editor, reviewer and new projects editor at Unbound. The good news for new authors is that, whilst there are now very many more books being published than there used to be, the ways in to publication are many and varied. The latest marketing techniques, such as Amazon Advertising, provide affordable options for new writers to get their books noticed and are well worth exploring.


Thanks to Jacqui Lofthouse MD of The Writing Coach and Tom Chalmers, MD of Legend Press and New Generation Publishing for inviting me.




Creative Writing Workshops With Diane Chandler

Our popular, intimate Diane Chandler creative writing courses are back. 


The classes are geared towards beginners but are suitable for more experienced writers who are looking to get their creative juices flowing, or who just fancy an inspirational morning away from the desk.


Cost: £40 to include a copy of Diane’s latest novel, Moondance, coffee and homemade brownies.


Tues Dec 4th Chiswick BOOKING OPEN


Saturday 19th January, Teddington BOOKING OPEN


A Meditation on Bread - New Art Book by Michael Lawrence

Delighted to receive a new art book in the post from artist Michael Lawrence, author of Tripping with Jim Morrison & Other Friends

American artist Michael lives and works on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra. To see more of Michael's work, his website is at