Snippets of French History: Leonardo da Vinci



It would be crazy for me to attempt an item on Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), an Italian who spent most of his life in Italy.  However, he lived the last three years of his life in France, and died in his French Chateau de Clos-Luce, near Amboise in the Loire Valley.


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Snippets of French History: Edith Piaf



I have to say that I cannot abide her singing, but I am not a musical person and I am sure that her singing is wonderful …. just that I don’t like it.  Oddly enough, although Edith Piaf grew to be internationally famous, and although there are several books about her, relatively little is known and, due in part to Edith’s own verbal embroideries, there are all sorts of myths surrounding her birth and her childhood.

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For some reason best known to herself my little PA, Charlotte, suddenly asked me this morning how old I was when I first had sex.  Now, I have known Charlotte for many years and we have a really great relationship, so this kind of question doesn’t bother me at all.  In fact it made me launch in to the following story:

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Extract from ‘A Call from France’


“A Call from France” by Catherine Broughton is a true story.  It has been described as a must-read for mothers of teenagers:-

Letter from my father.

Be grateful for small mercies – Hussein is not a fanatic, and Muslims can be fanatics in a way we’re not accustomed to in the Western world. Having met him, I’d say he is quite moderate, and I daresay many a Muslim would say he’s barely Muslim at all. It’s important to understand that Islam is not a religion in the usual sense – it is more a political system in the name of God. It is based on poems and sayings set out by Mohammed in the Muslim year One – our 622 AD. Where we, as Christians – or westerners at any rate, regardless of our beliefs – can say a prayer or sing a hymn in almost any way we want to, and can in fact believe (Roman Catholics and Protestants, for example) in any way we want to, Islam has only the one way.

Furthermore, that one way has not changed at all since the 622 AD. It is stuck in that mode, for the Muslims believe that there NO OTHER way, that all and everything and every aspect of all things are covered by the Qu’ran (Koran) and that there is absolutely no need for any further ideas or inputs in any form. There exist only the prayers already in the Qu’ran, and not only do they have to be said in that tongue, all the intonations have to be the same too. Otherwise it is a corrupt prayer.

In our culture we don’t mind which language we pray in – French, Spanish, German – the Our Father is still a prayer. We can sing it or whisper it. Islam does not have this luxury. Some might argue – and probably correctly too – that that is why Muslim countries are so backward – precisely because of their inability to allow an intake of anything other than what they already accept. It must be quite galling for them to see (I’m thinking of Americans and the Gulf) “corrupt” people in their country.

Anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much about Hussein. He is clearly very fond of Debbie and Jasmina, even if he does impose his Muslim ways of thinking on them. He has lived mostly in France, so I doubt he’d be willing to exchange the comforts of the western world for the unhygienic sluminess of Algeria. He seems to me to be pretty off-hand about his beliefs for on the one hand he forbids alcohol and card games, but on the other is a bouncer at a Casino.

Hussein had indeed a foot in each world. It explained some of his aggressive macho-ism towards me, for he felt that I was a mere woman, yet he lived in a world, recognized and accepted that world, where women play as important and worthwhile a role as men. He veered back and forth between Muslim principles and western ways, making a kind of wobbly ideology so that one never really knew where one stood with him.

Catherine Broughton is an author, an artist and a poet.  Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries.  More about Catherine Broughton on

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Snippets of French History: Isadora Duncan


Isadora Duncan was an American (1877 – 1927) who lived and died in France.

She has her tragic place in history more due to her unusual philosophy and extrovert ways, in an era where conformity was more the norm and, unlike her counterparts such Coco Chanel, does not have a rags-to-riches story to tell, nor stunning invention or breakthrough in science.

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Extract from ‘The Man with Green Fingers’


He met Fiona, a girl his own age with hippy-like flowing skirts and long loose hair, at one of these classes and thence began a love-affair that introduced Ashley to sexual intercourse for the first time. He found it a disappointing experience.

“I thought the world was supposed to change,” he complained to Melvin, “I thought there was supposed to be like an explosion and a – I dunno, a feeling of wonder and splendour and …… and well, that it was really great.”

“Yeh, well mate, it is. It is great. Can’t do without it. S’ppose my first time was a bit flat too. Depends on the girl, I think. She has to sorta be well …… you know, erotic or summat.”

Oddly enough, his new non-virgin status seemed to open up other doors for him, and for the first time ever, and thanks largely to Fiona who was a bubbly and charismatic girl, Ashley was able to join-in with his college friends and feel a part of the student peer group to which he adhered. Having Fiona at his side introduced him not only to other students but to the sensation of being a cog in a wheel, a part of a whole, and of having a role to play. He supposed he was probably in love.

“You don’t look like a Maths student,” said Fiona one evening. They were lying on her bed and she traced her fingers slowly over his chest. The room smelt of spunk and cigarettes.

“What does a Maths student look like?” he asked.

“Oh – dunno –sort-of boring. You look more like a poet.”

“What does a poet look like?”

He thought he was going to be pleased with this conversation, particularly in view of Melvin’s comment. He had – years ago now – sensed that his father was disappointed that he was not a big burly chap like himself, and he had been concerned as a young lad that his fair hair was girlish …… but if he looked like a poet, that was okay. He smiled at her in anticipation.

“You look like Rupert Brooke,” continued Fiona, “ethereal, sensitive, beautiful like an archangel.”

“Well, I am ethereal, sensitive and beautiful like an archangel,” he grinned, though he had never heard of Rupert Brooke.

“And modest!”

“Yeh – really modest too.”

When he got home to his digs that night he looked Rupert Brooke up on the net: a first World War poet. There was a black and white sepia photo of him – indeed, he was beautiful like an archangel. A finely-chiselled profile gazed out of the side of the page, full of the pain of love and full of an ardour all things lovely. He was beautiful and Ashley could suddenly see how men find men beautiful. Ashley closed the net, stripped off and stood naked in front of the mirror. Frowning slightly as he turned this way and that, he studied his body carefully. He was not tall – five feet nine inches in fact – and he had a pinkish skin that tanned quickly in the English summer to a pleasant pale gold. Without the tan his skin was effeminate. His eyes were light blue-grey. His hair was fair, not quite blonde, and he wore it short in a traditional schoolboy cut, though it was already extremely thin. His pubic hair was slightly darker. He had only recently started to shave, and even now – he was nearly twenty – needed to do so barely once a week. What stubble did grow there was fair and hardly showed. There was not the slightest trace of hair on his chest though a thick crop grew on his lower legs, like a soft down. The jaw-line was oval, the cheek-bones high, the lips full, and he had long thin fingers with immaculately clean nails.

The Man with Green Fingers by Catherine Broughton, is a novel set in Cyprus.  Described by leading critics as “brilliantly written” and “a page-turner”, this novel has little do to with gardening, as one might have supposed, and contains a gripping mixture of mystery, adventure, romance and murder.  Available on Amazon on Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries.

Catherine Broughton is English, though born in South Africa.  She has travelled a great deal and this is reflected in all her books.  She is also an artist and a poet. More about her and her work on

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In the Souk-Morocco



This amazing old crone (there is no other way to say it) had a stall at the edge of the souk, opposite where we sat down for a coffee.  It was impossible to judge how old she was, quite possibly not very old at all, for these people often live very tough lives and age quickly.  We had been over to her stall to look at her wares, which appeared to be bits of dead I-dread-to-think.  Certainly the smell drove us away promptly.  The woman herself was extremely loud, despite the pensive look in this quick sketch.  Yes, her hands were big like that – huge hands that had done a great deal of hard work.  They were more like a man’s hands and, indeed, her general features were, and for a mad moment I wondered if it really was a man … and perhaps it was.  She did a great deal of shouting, angry shouting, at an older man nearby.  He in turn just went back and forth, back and forth, between an old timber cart drawn by a moped and the back of a small shoe repair shop.  He ignored her completely.

We watched for a while, drank our coffee (though I think mine was mint tea) and then set off around the souk, avoiding the old crone, and mesmerized by the brilliance of the colours, the cacaphony of sound and the exotic mixture of scents and smells.  All around Arab boys gathered, all trying to persuade us that we needed them as a guide.  We had taken one of these boys on, years earlier, in Tangiers.  His name, he told us, was Mustafa Coca-cola.  I sometimes remember him and wonder where he is now – no doubt running around with tourists in a souk just like this one.

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries.  Catherine Broughton has travelled widely and her book “Travels with a Biro” is due out soon.  More about Catherine Broughton on