To be released in paperback on JANUARY 27th 2019. Pre-orders of the digital version at a 50% price reduction is available now here.
Having dabbled in the delights of Blackpool and Magaluf with mixed success, a teenage DAN JONES is taken to France by his father and is immediately captivated. Two decades on, DAN and his future wife KIRSTY are enchanted, bewildered and a little bit frightened by the more remote areas of the country. Once married, they decide to surrender jobs as professional musicians and conservatoire lecturers to bring up their children, FLO and SAM, in a sleepy yet extraordinary village in the Dordogne.
DAN endures fearsome battles with France’s archaic administrative systems and robot-like fonctionnaires, learning en route that the latter can be charmed by flower-bearing children, as long as you are in possession of a current electricity bill. He endures an obligatory three-day formation in animal hostelry and sits the most intellectually rigorous exam of his life – all to ensure he can use a poop scoop without risking RSI.
Caught up in the UK’s property market collapse,LA FAMILLE JONES are eventually able to obtain a mortgage due to their bank manager being unable to operate a computer. DAN picks up the language, avoiding traps such as wandering accent syndrome, and learns vital linguistic lessons such as the French for, ‘I’m going to throw up’, the hard way. He guides newcomers through a minefield of rural etiquette, including knowing when a man can kiss a fellow man without being punched in the face.
DAN and KIRSTY soon realise that modern Health and Safety practices are blissfully absent in rural France and watch their children experience the joys of an upbringing where they swim in rivers, are welcomed in bars, and are revered nearly as much as red wine and offal.
DAN finds himself gifted a small and ancient tank-like vehicle within which he avoids the hazards presented by rogue deer,wild boar, and leaky window seals. In this mighty machine, he frequently encounters Les Gendarmes of all personalities during his late-night sorties to concerts, although he is only once successfully prosecuted for a traffic violation – when riding a pushbike. He also has a close call when accosted by the French SAS on a train for failing to compost a ticket.
In an area disproportionately affected by unplanned explosions, LA FAMILLE JONES experience improbable leisure activities, such as dangling fireworks into naked flames at a junior school fête and witnessing the trial and burning of the Pétassou. As they take ownership of livestock to control their land, DAN soon recognises that seemingly unrelated species devise sophisticated cooperation pacts for the solo purpose of tormenting him, or possibly achieving his total demise. He explains how to lure a goat from a neighbour’s kitchen.
DAN attempts to comprehend, through his own painful experience, why so many rural French keep well-honed killer hounds in their gardens before rendering them akin to a pair of purple candy flosses separated by a sausage at a toilettage boutique every three months. He reveals the practice of La Chasse – The Hunt – to be a thinly-veiled drinking club punctuated by hours of standing in the drizzle in a hi-vis vest holding a cocked firearm and an antique trumpet.
ORDER EXTRACTING GOATS FROM JEAN-CLAUDE’S KITCHEN HERE.
As a working musician, DAN outlines concertetiquette, the importance of MONSIEUR orMADAME MICRO, andthe requirement to put on a good show regardless of musicalcompetence. He recounts the hazards a guitarist experiences when wedding guests from overseas are offered unlimited rosé of dubious quality and legality to mark their big day and explains why pretending to be French on such an occasion is a poor idea. At the other end of the spectrum, he gives an insight into performing at a French funeral, alongside the dangers of whimsically offering to help out at such an event.
DAN finds that his life as a lecturer in a music conservatoire prepared him rather poorly for hands-on tasks but, having unwittingly locked himself in the cattery building he is constructing, he finds he starts to change. With the help of precious and unassuming friends, he adopts a new rhythm and sees the simple joy of possessing a giving heart. In particular, the family’s special relationship with their elderly neighbours,ANDRÉ and ELIANE, is central to guiding them through working the land, finding water sources and putting insomniac chickens to bed. ANDRÉ also teaches DAN the art of the twenty-four hour aperitif, how to garden by lunar rhythms, and the dark secrets of World War II. He learns the French country traditions of constructing animatronic nativity scenes, creating hooch from excess fruit and picking mushrooms without poisoning friends and family – the last lesson acquired from a boy just out of primary school.
LAFAMILLE JONES fight with a faulty septic tank, becoming bosom buddies with the long-suffering MONSIEUR BOGEVAC along the way. They endure the horrors of the firefighters’ wall-calendar, tackle teachers who refuse to move into the twenty-first century, and find themselves the proprietors of a small petting zoo without ever understanding quite how. They always experience the warmest of welcomes from the eccentric locals, some of whom drive road vehicles down rivers in their spare time and others who fail to understand the difference between ‘millilitres’ and ‘litres’ when adding accelerant to a bonfire. They experience a sense of belonging unmatched by their previous life experiences.
After seven memorable years, after which they just about decipher the rules governing swimwear in Municipale swimming pools, they are called back to the UK due to an unmissable opportunity for their gifted dancing daughter. Rather than say ‘goodbye’, they say ‘au revoir’ which, of course, means ‘until we see one another again’. Within these pages, DAN shares his experiences and lessons with you.
ORDER EXTRACTING GOATS FROM JEAN-CLAUDE’S KITCHEN HERE.