Sunday, March 8, 2009

The day the Mail came......

Now, I've been more than a little bit critical of that bastion of balanced reporting, The Daily Mail, so it's with just a hint of embarrassment that I have to admit to recently starring (well, second billing at least) in a double page spread in said worthy journal.

What? I hear you ask. Is Mme VLiF really an unmarried single mother(or even grandmother) with 8 children by different fathers, expecting another 6 through NHS funded IVF, with a partner in the slammer for GBH and living in a council flat in Bolchester? Is this France thing really just the ramblings of a demented inhabitant of 'Broken Britain'? If not, why is the Mail interested in her?

Here's how it happened......... (wibbly wobbly dream sequence thingy like on the telly......)

As I checked my e-mail, I noticed one which was a reply to a post on a forum.

Dear Mme VliF, it read, I was interested to read your post on the AngloFranglo* forum and would love to have the opportunity to discuss it in more detail for an article I'm doing for the Daily Mail. If you'd be interested in talking to me, please get in touch. Love your blog by the way.

Oh blimey... now what trouble has my big mouth to me into? A quick look back at the thread confirmed, which was about life in France, confirmed that it was one of my more 'outspoken' posts. Hmm, the Daily Mail. Could I really put aside my dislike of this paper and submit to an interview? While I've previously been described (by a dyed in the wool Socialist friend) as 'slightly to the right of Atila the Hun I'm really a woolly liberal at heart. No, I couldn't compromise my beliefs by appearing in the Daily Mail.............. could I?

But hey, a girl's got to get her fun where she can in rural France so with my moral compass set firmly at magnetic north I hit the reply button.

Yeah, why not. Give me a call.

Several hours later, the phone rang.

Hello, is that Mme VLiF? asked a pleasant English voice.

Yeeess, I answered curiously,half expecting the next sentence to begin with 'for security purposes.....'

Hi this is Fred Bloggs from the Daily Mail. We're doing a piece on how the exchange rate is affecting British people living in France on a sterling income. Would you be interested in talking to me?

Well, he caught me at a bad moment. I hadn't had adult conversation since the day before so I was loquacious in the extreme, much to his delight.

Well, of course it's difficult because we've lost 30% of our income in a year and France can be very expensive to live despite what all these wishy washy 'Living the Dream' books say. Our property taxes are double what we used to pay. Our utilities too. It's made things a bit tight. We think about how we spend our money and keep running the Grand Gasguzzler to a minimum. We try to use as much of our own wood as we can so we don't have to buy so much and don't use the heating as much as we used to. DS had two school trips planned, one to Italy and one to Spain but we've cancelled the Spanish one.

"If 'Living the Dream' involves spending half the winter covered in mud, with calloused hands from splitting logs, then I'm living it," I joked. "My mother says I have hands like a peasant!

He laughed.

Well, I'm going to be in France in a couple of days with a photographer (OMG!!!! - that's me not him!) would it be OK if we came down and took a few photos of you?

Oh bugger... why didn't I stick to that diet? Still, mustn't forget the miracles of Photoshop.....

Well only if you make me look 10 years younger with a body like Scarlett Johanssen, I told him

Don't worry, my photographer is a whizz at photoshop. Anything is possible

I'd wait to see the raw material first before I made promises like that!

So, the day of the photoshoot came but first I was helping a friend who was selling up her entire house to pay off the bank and start a new life. Well, a new, new life. France was supposed to her new life but it hasn't worked out as planned. Hers is a truly sad story, but it's hers not mine, to tell.

Gates opened at 10am sharp and within a nanosecond her back garden was swarming with people picking through her life for a few euros.

Suddenly a well dressed (i.e. no wellies and had clearly bathed this week) man appeared at my shoulder. Hello" he said "would you be Mrs B?

No, she's over there I replied.

You wouldn't be Mme VLiF by any chance would you?

Well, blow me down with a baguette (not a day old one of course, that would knock me out!) it's only Fred Bloggs from the Daily Mail, who unknown to me was also interviewing my friend.

Well, he was a pretty decent bloke. We chatted about all sorts of stuff and life in France while I gradually sold off Mrs B's possessions.

Eventually it was time to go and as he was heading back to the UK and not coming with the photographer in the afternoon, we said goodbye.

What on earth are you doing here? he said You're nothing like these people.

Not sure if that was a compliment or not but I took it as one.

I smiled. I often ask myself that.

Good luck with selling your house and he was off.

So, fast forward to the afternoon and the arrival of Paul, the photographer. A nice, cheery bloke who didn't seem to mind sidestepping the chicken poo on the terrace as he made his way to the front door. He took one look at our golden non-retriever and said "it's a pity it's for the Daily Mail. If it was for the Telegraph the retriever would be de rigeur. As it's for the Mail, how about the chickens...."

We chatted for a while and I reminded him of my criteria for being photographed. 10 years younger/Scarlett Johanssen. He assured me he'd do his best (but did I detect a hint of doubt in his eyes?)

So perched on the wall in front of the house and out on the balcony with an assortment of chickens and children he started shooting.

800 (yes I did say 800) photos later, he was finished. He took a few for the family album and promised to send me a few.

The article was due out at the weekend.

I was hardly even out of bed when the phone went mad. "It's in the Mail today" they all shouted.
And let me tell you.... Photoshop really is miraculous! I'd be transformed into a photo of the parade of shops in Virginia Water! Clearly Scarlett Johanssen was a task too far for the photographer and I'm still snorting at the description of me yomping through the woods with a chainsaw in my hand..... Oh, and he said I had hands like a peasant!

And did we ever get the photos? Nah. Hey ho!


Anonymous said...

Crikey, Fame at Last!

That really is a sad story and alas, I've seen too many similar sales advertised myself.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi NWbD - I think it's more like infamy. Despite not telling anyone about the article, word got around and the DM sold out in our village shop in a nanosecond. Thanks for dropping by. VLiF

justme said...

Blimey! Am off to look at the Mail On Line!!
Back later!

Shakespeare's Housekeeper said...

I'm hunting through a bag of old mails at work to see if i can find it! I live in hope...

Anonymous said...

Looking at the mail website would be a bit like selling my soul to the devil, but I'll try and make myself.

(Very) Lost in France said...

JustMe - hee hee, did you find it?

SH - see JustMe's comment above.....

CA - look on the bright side, at least you don't have to go out and buy it!!

justme said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
justme said...

Thank you! I read and wept indeed....
But you know, its not all bad. At least you tried.
So....where will you live in England when you return?

(Very) Lost in France said...

Justme - by the way, I wasn't the lady who was featured. I was 'supporting cast' further down the page. VLiF

justme said...

I know! I worked out which one you were!