Tropical Climes

The last song hits the evening,

Sudden sound alone in the fading light.

Darkness comes soon in these parts.

In seconds day has turned to night

And the sleep calls fade off to the

lush green jungle, screeching song, plain,

Sheltering in the night noises, sight

Hidden till the sun rises again.


And then!

Alive are the trees with the calling,

The chatter, like women who wash

Down at the river, pounding, stalling,

Fending off the heat, babies cling,

A million tiny creatures, moist falling,

And the birds.

Always the birds.


Catherine Broughton is a poet, a novelist and an artist.  Her books are available as e-books on this site, or can be ordered from Amazon/Kindle or from most leading book stores & libraries.

e-book links:-    “A Call from France”    ”French Sand”    “The Man with Green Fingers”    “Saying Nothing”

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How avoid arguments and how to deal with arguments. Men and Women: Venus and Mars


I was about to write: my husband and I never argue, but that isn’t really true.  Like all normal human beings we sometimes argue, but it is soon over and done with, it happens rarely, and it is never ever out of hand.  It is also, by the by, usually about his mother!

We have been married 34 years – a tad more.  Here are the tips I have picked up over time, not because we argue but precisely because we don’t.

– decide in advance. Almost like a recipe, write it down so that you both agree and neither of you can deny it later. These are the things that are  guaranteed to drive me mad.  These are the things that are important to me.  Where you cannot agree on the ingredient (for the recipe, so to speak) examine whether or not it is reasonable and what to do about it.

– decide in advance what you are going to do. Write down (it is better to write it down if you argue regularly so that you can point to it and say look, we agreed that we would never mention that again!)  Set out the rules, e.g the following:-

– have a cushion.  Or a jar, or whatever.  Whoever is holding the cushion speaks.  They are allowed to “hold the floor” for up to 3 minutes and after that they have to hand the cushion over to the other person to speak.

This technique forces the other person to LISTEN.  It is way too easy to interrupt when somebody is trying to make a point (“that’s not true! You said it was the dog!”)  The three minutes of listening also gives time to breathe deeply, decide to be calm, think of what you are going to reply …

– speak calmly. And check the expression on your face.  An angry expression only makes everything worse.

– check the level of your voice too, and your body language.

– never ever use foul language.  People who resort to calling their loved ones foul names are the pits.  You can never take it back and no amount of “sorry” is going to wipe it out.

– Let go!  For goodness’ sake let go of the argument.  Is it in fact so so important ?!  Does it really really matter that you “win” ?  Shut up!  Just leave it be.

– never argue (or even discuss) in the evenings.  Emotions always run higher in the evening/at night, especially if you have had a drink.

– never argue (or even discuss) in bed.  That is a special place where you love and it must be sacred to that.

– if it is still important in the morning, discuss it then.  Chances are it won’t matter at all by morning.  It may even seem very silly!

– never try to reason with somebody who is drunk.  A drunk person is temporarily mentally handicapped.

– remember who you are dealing with.  This is somebody you love, for pity’s sake.  S/he loves you!  This is not the enemy.  This is not a fight, nor a competition.

– count to 10 before you even begin.  Seriously, it is amazing how after just 10 seconds you can calm down.  If not, go for a walk or in to a different room.  And tell each other that this is what you will be doing so that it doesn’t seem that you are stomping out.  Write it on your list.

– and take a few moments before you answer.  Think.  Is this worth persuing ?  Would it be better to simply say “oh, really?  Did I?  Sorry about that, I hadn’t taken it on board somehow…”

– if it helps, know that when you are angry you look very ugly!  Most people would be shocked if they knew what they looked like.

– remember!  That awful argument was because you once again forgot to put the bins out.  You promised that this evening you were taking Freddy to football. You agreed that your mother didn’t have to come over every single bloomin’ Sunday!  Remember it!  Actually I’d say that this is what most women get cross about – their husbands/partners quite simply forget.

– if it is over 7 days old do not argue about it.  That is just silly.  If it is something very important that happened over 7 days ago it should be something that gets discussed – not argued over.

– concentrate on what is going to end the argument rather than on proving your point.  As the years go by you learn to side-step each other’s irritations anyway, so learn now.

– the key to a happy marriage is that you do everything s/he wants and s/he does everything you want!  Why do something you know in advance is going to upset him/her ?

So many arguments are over the silliest things.  I remember arguing with my husband over a fire poker.  Quite recently actually.  What a stupid thing to argue over.

And remember that men and women are wired-up totally differently.  They handle things differently.  You cannot expect each other to understand every time, because your partner’s brain is not wired the way yours is.  So let it be.  Peace.

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.  Her books are available from Amazon/Kindle or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries.  They can also be purchased as e-books from this site (£1.99):-    “A Call from France”    ”French Sand”    “The Man with Green Fingers”    “Saying Nothing”

A very good book, even if you don’t argue:-

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Scene from my books: Touvent, Charente Maritime, France



(Picture shows view from the terrace).

When we first arrived in this part of France is was called “les Charentes inferieures”.  There was Poitou-Charente and the Charentes Inferieures.  The only claim to fame it had was the ancient fortified port of La Rochelle, and the first time I visited it there were all sorts of utterly disgusting things floating down open drains, a smell of septic tanks, undrinkable tap water and an overall feeling of decay and neglect.

Then, sometime in the late 80s, the local authorities twigged that the climate here was exceptionally good, the area rich in history, and the name of Charentes Inferieures not very encouraging.

So it was re-named Charente Maritime.

We arrived along with the first trickle of tourists.  Compared to Sussex, where we had been living, the entire region was miserably backwards.  Telephone wires straggled the streets and what had once been fine merchant dwellings built in the 18th and 19th centuries were dowdy blackened stone monstrosities.  I had a little estate agency and saw a great many houses.  It was odd – even in our Victorian Britain our terraced houses had the casi down at the end of the garden … but this bit of basic modernity seemed to have slipped the average local French man by, and many houses had no toilet at all.  Others still had them in the garden. Many had them in the garage or in a barn attached to the house.  Wall tiles with imitation splashes on them were de rigeur, there were holes in the pavement (if there was a pavement) and the telephone directory enquiries closed for lunch.

It was extremely disheartening, and wefrequently wondered what idiot notion had made us move here.

But it has to be said that when France swung in to action, some time in the early 90s, they hit it hard and hit it good.  We virtually watched the restoration of hundreds of wonderful old buildings, the reparation of pavements and roads and the modernization of each and every little town, from beautiful La Rochelle and Saintes to the smallest little village.  The constant smell of septic tanks, at one time a characteristic of France, disappeared as mains drainage was installed and the new Charente Maritime sprang in to life.

As was the way with so many British I was later to sell houses to, we chose something far too big, needing far too much work, and far too isolated.

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.  Her books can be ordered as e-books from this site (£1.99), from Amazon/Kindle or from any leading book store or library.


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People in my books: Faydu. Paphos, Cyprus


Faydu had got Stella sussed from an early stage.  He thought it was amusing. In the quiet of his bedroom he whispered to his wife, laughing lightly, trying not to snigger for he was not an unkind man.  To him it was obvious. His wife said she couldn’t see it, she thought he was wrong, but on the whole she tended to defer to his judgement, whatever it was.  Either way he didn’t want the children to know.  Children can be so cruel.

Faydu watched Stella as she approached his cafe, almost every day during the winter months and almost never during the summer.  He could spot her a long way off – well, who couldn’t ?  As she tottered on her ridiculous heels across the street, it was sometimes all he could do not to laugh out loud.

Years later, when he read all about it in the newspaper – and it was headline news for several weeks – he wished he had said something at the time.  He’d probably have got in to the paper too. Had his photo there.  He’d have said: I knew, I knew it all along!

Extract from “the Man with Green Fingers”, a novel set in Cyprus:-


Both men sat.

“I am buying a house in France,” said Ashley, coming straight to the point, “and I need an account.”

“Yes – do you have the house already?”

“The purchase will be going through within a few weeks. I need to have the money ready to pay the notaire.”

“You must ask your notaire for a RIB – releve d’identite bancaire,” said Delahaye, “that way you can transfer the money straight to the account.”

Ashley hadn’t expected this. Does the man want me to open an account or not? He had heard the French were not natural business men and this seemed to be proving the point.

“Yes, I realize, of course. But I need an account anyway – the house will need a great deal of work and I must pay the firm – the carpenter, the bricklayer and so on. They will need to be paid in Euros.”

“I need to have your passport pliz, monsieur,” said Delahaye, offering no further argument, and rummaged in the drawer next to him to get out the appropriate papers. “First, your name.”

“Ronson,” replied Ashley, “Robert James Ronson.”

And he handed over the photocopy of the passport. Delahaye did not ask for the original.

So far, thought Ashley, as he watched the harbour of Calais pull away from him a couple of hours later, so good. He felt the rush of sea air over the deck whip, bracingly, round his neck. It has all been very straight-forwards. Delahaye had glanced only very superficially at the photo on the passport copy. He had given Ronson’s address for the cheque book and paying-in book, and had paid in a few hundred pounds of his own money. Oddly enough – and Ashley recognized that it was odd – he felt unreasonably irritated at having to use some of his own money to open the account, even though he knew he’d get it back a thousand times over.

Jeanie was whining and irritable when he got in. It occurred to him that he should simply move out and be done with it. Now that he had got The Plan in motion he had no reason in the world to stay. Ollie and Mike were sitting at the kitchen table when he walked in.

“Say hello to daddy,” Jeanie told them absently.

“Hello daddy,” replied Mike. Ollie stared. Ashley looked back at Ollie. He was so like Jeanie – the same vacant eyes and white skin. Mike didn’t look like either of them. For a wild moment Ashley was about to ask who these children were – these disgusting little boys with food on their chins.

Jeanie took both boys over to see her mother on the Sunday.

“Are you coming?” she asked him.

“No,” Ashley told her firmly, “I have to work.”

“I cannot understand you working even on a Sunday!” exclaimed Jeanie with a sting in her voice. “Can’t that ridiculous firm manage without you?!”

Again, Ashley had that clear sense of having understood where others may not: – she didn’t want him to go with them to her mother’s yet needed to pretend that she did. It was like sex: she needed it only in order to make her feel normal. Any pleasure it might have given her – which was unlikely – was by-the-by. He waited for half an hour after she’d gone then went to her wardrobe and took out a floral frock. He kept Stella’s underwear and shoes in the garage still, and was aware of the familiar thrill that went through him as he put it all on, watching himself in the bathroom mirror as he did so. The dress fitted to perfection. As always, Stella took the phone off the hook – she could hardly answer the phone to somebody who knew Ashley – and closed all curtains. She cooked herself a light meal at midday having spent the morning on her make-up and arranging scarves about her head. She still shied away from wigs but accepted she couldn’t put it off forever. She sat with her lunch on a tray in front of the telly, eating sedately, her knees tightly together, careful to not smudge her lipstick. She spent the afternoon looking at magazines – also kept in the garage – and chatting to an imaginary friend

Order your copy of “The Man with Green Fingers” from Amazon/Kindle here:-

or as an e-book:-    “A Call from France”    ”French Sand”    “The Man with Green Fingers”    “Saying Nothing”

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.  Her books are available as e-books on this site or can be ordered from Amazon/Kindle, and any leading book store or library.

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Marie-Carmen de la Frontera, Peru and Spain


When they left Peru, Marie-Carmen treated it almost like a game.  She had been hankering after a trip to Europe for some time and, although their departure was sudden, and in the middle of the night, she didn’t take it seriously and didn’t truly imagine they were in any danger.

She was accustomed to intrigue.  From an early age she had heard urgent voices, low, almost whispers, in her father’s office.  She knew to not ask questions.  With Ignacio being in a powerful position in the police, the continuing urgent whisperings and quiet telephone calls seemed more-or-less normal to her.  She had grown up with it.

Afterwards, she realized that Ignacio was afraid the night they left.  Prisca had cried.  She had felt slightly irritaed – and surprised – that Ignacio was afraid till she realized her was afraid for her, not for himself.  And it was normal that Prisca should cry.  She had cried buckets when, as a young teen, she had gone to California for a fortnight – silly, lovely, warm, silly Prisca!

When she and Ignacio married, Marie-Carmen has just assumed they would stay in her parental home.  After all the place was massive, and she didn’t want to leave papa.  There were odd moments when she realized that having a home of her own would have been nice.  She could have taken Prisca with her.  But no, she wanted to live only, and forever, in her elegant childhood home, with peacocks strutting the lawn and letting out their bizaree, painful cry. Later, when she was in the garden of the house at El Madronal, she pictured her home so clearly – as the architects scribbled and the builders worked, she was aware that she must not try to re-create the house where she and papa had lived …  That would be a mistake.  Even then, it didn’t ever dawn on her that she would never see it again.

Extract from “Saying Nothing” a novel set in Spain, by Catherine Broughton:-

Dawn broke heavy, humid, and airless. There was none of the freshness of a morning.  The bed was damp with sweat.  Janie lay still some time and then rose listlessly and made tea.  She sat by the door to drink it, shuffling her bottom to one side as the men came in and went out, fetching bread and making coffee.  The van was there again and she wondered if she’d only dreamt it had gone.  None of it made sense.  They said that Don Carlos would be back.  Surely he would be?  I can’t stay here any longer, I shall go mad, she thought.  And she resolved to spend the rest of the day in the cabin and not got to the river at all rather than risk missing Don Carlos.


Bludgeoned by the heat Janie staggered to the trees and sat down in the dust, sweating and dirty and already exhausted.  Again the possibility that she had been drugged crossed her mind – she was unnecessarily hot, far too tired …. and she slept so heavily.  But when would they have drugged her ?  Surely she’d have noticed if one of them had put something in her drink ……….?


There were insects, thousands of insects everywhere.  Jeez, where do they all come from ?!  Far more than in the previous days.  Breathing through her mouth her throat was quickly parched, and breathing through nose, her nostrils became intolerably dry.  She lumbered back to the cabin.  At midday the abuelo came in.


Que calor!” he exclaimed cheerfully, “ heat like this is sure sign of a storm.”


“Don Carlos?” she asked, knowing she was not expected to understand, “Don Carlos?”


Si, si, te entiendo,” he replied – yes, I understand you. “Ya viene – viene por la tarde, viene manana – no sé – viene pronto.”


He is coming, the abuelo had said, he’ll be here this afternoon, tomorrow – I don’t know – he’ll be here soon.


The other men trooped in and sat at the table. The bread had gone hard and Janie did as the men did and dunked it in her wine.  The sky was a deep, clear and cloudless blue.

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Scene from one of my books: Sierra Blanca, Costa del Sol, Spain


The foothills of the Sierra Blanca were dotted with outcrops of woodland, though mostly it was deserted and rocky – white rocks, hence its name.  Janie knew the area well. She had travelled up the road to Ronda several times, and had frequently picnicked amid the spring flowers in the hills beyond San Pedro.

Her unexpected journey, however, took her well beyond any of the ranges she had come to know and love over the years.  She had no idea where she was.  Only good sense told her that she could not be so very far from Ronda, or perhaps even somewhere off the road to Cordoba.  But that in itself covered many square miles …

She kept looking out for landmarks, but there were none.  Hills and rocks and trees and the endless dirt tracks.  It was amazing how the van stood up to the road which was, in parts, barely passable.  For a while she could tell she was travelling west, but as darkness fell and the tracks twisted this way and that, she rapidly lost any sense of direction.  Indeed, even her sense of time went.  And certainly all sense of reality …

Extract from Saying Nothing, a novel by Catherine Broughton set in Spain:-

Her book sat on the white wicker chair, a historical novel she’d bought from Amazon, where she had left it, the little piece of torn-off newspaper to mark her page.  He slammed the French doors shut and went back into the room.

With more paper he wrote another note:

“Janie, baby.  Can’t find you! Wait here – back in a sec. Paul xx”

He underlined the word ‘here’ several times, and added a few more kisses after his name.  He re-read the note times, wanting to add something special, but didn’t.

Back in the reception, he stood for some moments, trying to work it out.  There was quite clearly some obvious solution to this.  He looked around him constantly, half-expecting to see her at any moment and then, making up his mind, he strode systematically round the hotel grounds, down to the tennis courts, the lawns, the car park, round the pool and terraces, and then back into the hotel.  The slick young men assured him they hadn’t seen her.

He went out again, to the Irishman’s bar, to the bar where he’d last seen her – the smoky scene still hadn’t changed – round the pedestrianized shopping area and then back to their room.

Finally, sometime between midnight and three in the morning, Paul reported her missing.  The two young  men at reception were unhelpful and even slightly amused.  The guardia said that nothing could be done till morning and that anyway wives were always running off.  The man was short and fat and smelt strongly of unwashed body; he wrote down Paul’s name and the name of the hotel very slowly, using his best handwriting.

Back in his room, Paul lay down on the bed.  His head ached.  He felt afraid and he frowned into the darkness, wakeful and wary.  Dawn started to break, a grey-white mist to the east, and Paul at last dozed.


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Raising Debbie: I am a Powerful Woman


When we looked at Debbie, aged fifteen, going on sixteen, we felt proud. We had done well. We had raised her and her two brothers to be independent, kind, caring, self-assured, decent people.

Debbie had always had everything, from the buckets of family love and devotion, to the hours of attention through various childhood ups and downs, to the more tangible things like skiing and horse riding.

No, I don’t think she was spoilt. I worked, so she knew all about the dashing-around-I-haven’t-got-time-right-now, not to mention all the “I’ll be half an hour late picking you up from school”. She didn’t suffer for it and I don’t think children do, providing they know that they are loved and cared for in every way.

She had to work for her pocket-money. Just simple household chores – wash the cat’s bowls, empty the dishwasher, and so on. Nothing unreasonable.

So, no, she wasn’t spoilt.

She was a nice kid. A kid to be proud of.

So how do you cope when it all goes horribly wrong? What does a mother do when her lovely daughter starts to do all the things – the very things – you had trusted her not to do?

How do you handle it when she turns, seemingly overnight, from a sunny, cheerful teen to an obstreperous, snarling one?

When Debbie was almost sixteen she ran away from home with a thirty-five year old man who had just got out of prison. Out of the blue. She had had a tattoo done on one of her breasts, and I had been angry and hurt about that. A small butterfly, or a flower on a thigh or shoulder is one thing – but this was the head of a horse, very badly done, and huge. She had also, for several weeks, been slightly rude to me. Nothing much, just a bit of back-talk at odd intervals, which I ignored. So it was out of the blue.

Debbie put us through six years of nightmare. For four of those years she disappeared completely and we had no idea where she was or how she was. Alcohol, drugs, pregnancies, rape, police … you name it, we went through it.

Debbie came out the other end of it a pleasant young woman, relatively unscathed. We have a close relationship now, and I think I can say I am relatively unscathed too. But her dad has never really properly recovered. Her behavior triggered Meniere’s disease which has been with him 24/7 ever since – fifteen years now. He is clingy in his love for his daughter in a way that is perhaps slightly …. I can’t find the word … desperate, perhaps?

I am a strong woman. Very strong. I learnt to be strong at an early age. I went to fourteen different schools as a child. I changed country and changed language frequently. Sometimes we lived on a leper colony in Africa (my dad was a doctor of tropical disease). I was the eldest in a huge family. These things make you strong. From an early age you have to make or break. It is good for you.

I won’t go in to all the things that helped me, in adulthood, build-up my muscle (so to speak) but suffice to say that I dealt with A LOT. Never, when I was expecting my baby girl, did I imagine that she would be the cause of the biggest test. As part of my “recovery” process I wrote a book, “A Call from France” which was like a kind of catharsis for me.

Here are five thoughts I want to share with mothers who are going through traumas with their teenage children.

Show your children that you trust them. This does not mean that you should necessarily trust them, but allow them to feel trusted. Trust, within reason, triggers responsible behavior. They do not need to know that you are still supervising quietly from a distance.

Do The Best You Can
My father always used to say that a parent can only do what seems to be the best thing at that particular moment. We all make mistakes and wish we had done things differently. As long as you are genuinely doing what you think is the best thing for your child, then that is what you must do, even if it turns out to be the wrong thing.

Still Learning
Teens, like children, are essentially selfish. By that I do not mean they are unkind in any way, I mean that their thoughts and feelings tend to centre, perfectly naturally, on themselves. Just as a small child learns to share his toys, so teenagers need to be learn to see the bigger picture. It is something they learn, so do not expect them to understand overnight your feelings when their own psyche has not developed enough yet.

What Do They Love?
I do wish that I had got Debbie involved in something she really loved, for I often think that might have made things turn out differently. Horse-riding or archery or whatever – I do think that if she had had a passion for something like that, it would have been better.

Know that it will be All Right. Children come home. Children grow up and become sensible adults. Some take you through the mill en route, and some do not. Relax. It is going to be OK. Not today, not tomorrow. But soon.

Catherine Broughton is an author, an artist and a poet. Her books can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries, and are available on Amazon/Kindle. You can also down load them as e-books from her web site
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Catherine Broughton. Novels, paintings, and poems

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