The last time that I recall having written a short story I was at school. To be precise, I was in the Third Year – which I think is Year 9 in new money – and my English Master was Mr H. I don’t recall what the brief was, but I do recall the general subject matter on which I wrote, the probable reason why I wrote it and the reaction from my Master and parents.
As a child and early adult, my family would drive across France, the Low Countries and occasionally Germany to Switzerland for winter skiing and then often again in the summer for climbing and walking. It took three days as my parents liked the scenic routes away from the motorways. We saw interesting places, lots of birds and stayed in nice hotels. But I hated the driving part and being cooped up in the car for hours and hours. I became more tolerant of the journey once my sister and I were old enough and competent enough to do some of the driving ourselves but it was still a lot of hours in a car driving on the wrong side of the road.
Anyway, I am told – for I do not recall the details myself – that in my school piece I was highly critical of the French roads. Mr H was by all accounts both concerned and amused by the depth of my loathing – clearly these roads had done me some huge, unforgivable ill. And oh yes they had.
The thing is, my objections were well founded, but at the time I could not articulate them properly as I had no real frame of reference. But this all changed years later once my sister and then I were driving ourselves and the secret of the French road effect was revealed to us. And what was that secret? It was that French roads were designed for French cars. You see, when my sister started driving, our parents got a second car which we were allowed to use. It was a red Renault 5, and great for running about in. But it had a thing going on, and we called that “The French Lean”.
Now, to those unaware, “The French Lean” relates to the car’s cornering style. A unique style, whereby it would first fling you out from the direction of the bend, and then ping you back in once the road straightened. Thank goodness for seat belts, I say. So you can imagine the joy of bendy roads or chicanes here in Blighty or a mountain pass in Switzerland. But in France, well it was a completely different kettle of fish.
The French Lean was just made for the French roads of that time with their steep crown cambers and uneven surfaces. It was a marriage made in heaven and these cars just bounced along without a care in the world.
Now, don’t worry, I haven’t written a sequel to the French road polemic. But I am in the middle of editing my first official short story since then. It’s a prequel to The Unseen Farmer and provides a little insight into how our leading lady, Dr Cora Griffin, has arrived at where that story begins.
I’ll leave you with that for now, but if you would like a free copy of the short story once it’s published, just enter your email below and I’ll let you know when and where you can download it.