It was that time of year again when I joined my partner in crime and the force of nature that is Jo Parfitt for our annual general meeting to discuss this publishing malarkey and plan the road ahead. It also provided a welcome excuse to have a proper natter. Previous AGMs have been on this side of the North Sea and so Jo suggested we pop across the water to her elegant gaff in The Hague. We bit her hand off.
Not that it was all work and no play. That would make Jack a very dull boy. Naughty gossip was definitely at the top of the agenda, accompanied by tasty fare and free-flowing wine. Jo and husband were generous hosts. The ‘any other business’ involved a walkabout. As our lodgings were city-centre chic, we had plenty of time to amble round the cobbled streets of the tidy and graceful City of Peace and Justice. We had to keep our wits about us – looking left not right, eyes anxiously peeled for the trams and cyclists coming at us from every which way. We were lucky with the weather: warm and breezy with a few heavy rain clouds that failed to burst, and we took full advantage of the café culture spilling out all over the bricked pavements.
We even got the chance to hop on a tram to delightful Delft, a mini-Amsterdam without the reputation, criss-crossed with pretty canals and home to blue pottery and the House of Orange. The still waters were distinctly green in places: a quick dip would have been unwise.
Just to demonstrate we’re not total lightweights, cultuur-wise, we took in the cute and bijou Vermeer Museum to sample Delft’s most famous artist. Liam was definitely plugged in to the Vermeer vibe.
We flew the KLM City Hopper to and from Amsterdam’s manic Schiphol Airport courtesy of the rather sedate Norwich International which is more of a hut than a hub, but then we were home 30 minutes after landing, chilled white in hand.
It was one of those warm and overcast days threatening thunderstorms that saw us at Sculthorpe Mill near the pint-sized market town of Fakenham, about 25 miles north-west of Norwich. The mill sits astride the River Wensum and there’s been a watermill on the site since the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. These days they’re pulling pints rather than grinding corn. Outside, the grounds were trickling and luscious – at this time of year, Norfolk simply glows with bounty, even when the sun struggles to poke through. Inside, the mill was as quiet as a silent order. A little background music on a low setting would have lifted the mood a notch or two.
We were in attendance for the annual general meeting with Jo Parfitt, my partner in crime and the force of nature that is Summertime Publishing. Jo brought her delicious mother along for a light bite too. Lunch was nice and we quickly whistled through the agenda to get to the gossip. By any-other-business, the sun decided to put in a late appearance and we couldn’t resist a few snaps sitting on the old mill pond wall.
After lunch, Jo dropped us in Fakenham to catch our bus back to Norwich. Fakenham was once described as ‘the most boring place on Earth’ in a travel guide. Although the quote was actually taken out of context, it’s rather stuck. Fake news for Fakenham? Perhaps, but despite a few pretty buildings, it did have a one-cow-town feel to it. Sad but true.
Wells-next-the-Sea was the venue for this year’s works outing with Jo Parfitt, my partner in crime and the force of nature who is Summertime Publishing. We love a day out at the seaside when the weather’s set fair. Getting there was a bit of adventure in itself. The first stage was a stately railway journey through the ripe fields, reedy wetlands and sleepy hamlets of North Norfolk. My sedation was only interrupted when I spotted the large station sign at Gunton. Well, it didn’t look like a G to me. The two-carriage train deposited us at Sheringham, a bucket and spade resort where undertakers and vets never go out of fashion. Then onto a little bus for a white knuckle ride along the curvy coast, through flint and stone villages with impossibly narrow streets called ‘Old Woman’s Lane’ and the like. There was little time to admire the view. I held on for dear life, wishing I’d worn Pampers.
Well-heeled Wells is a gorgeous little resort and working port surrounded by pine forests, sandbanks and saltmarshes. We lunched aboard the Albatros, a genuine Dutch cargo ship serving up fake Dutch pancakes. They were delicious. The tide must’ve been out because the boat had a distinct starboard list; I felt quite tipsy even before a drop had passed my lips. Happily, I managed to regain my sea legs after half a bottle or so. We didn’t make it down the agenda to the 2016/17 marketing strategy. We got stuck on gossip. Can’t think why.
The train back to Norwich was packed with sunburnt kiddies and lively country cousins out on the lash. The painted ladies opposite shared shots of raspberry liqueur and a Bottecelli babe squeezed into the aisle next to me. As the crowd nudged past, the shapely Norfolk broad fell off her heels and tipped her ample rack into my face.
‘My, my,’ I said. ‘A total eclipse.’ How she laughed.
In my last post, I took a meander down memory lane and hinted that change was afoot. Well, my news is that I’m now a publisher, a bone fide purveyor of the written word. No, I haven’t bought out HarperCollins or picked up a Penguin. I’ve gone into partnership with Jo Parfitt, she who is the force of nature behind Summertime Publishing and Jane Dean, a super-talented eagle-eyed editor with a big red pen. The new publishing venture is called Springtime Books, and you’ll see that we have a few books on the books already.
Summertime Publishing has been the expert in expat books for years. From now on, Summertime will specialise in expatriate families and third culture kids, while Springtime will focus on travel and the expat experience in general. We’ve even got a snazzy little video to promote our new enterprise.
Are you a current or former expat with something fresh to say about expatriate life? If so, it could be your time to shine.
And that’s not all. Today’s also the day Springtime publishes its newest title, Passage of the Stork, Delivering the Soul from the rather wonderful Madeleine Lenagh. Click on the book image to find out more.
Now, I’d wager you thought that this post was going to be about the weather. You did, didn’t you?
For a glorious tail-end to summer, the flip flops were dusted down and the shorts were washed out for a final flourish and a sunny bite with my publisher Jo Parfitt, the tour de force who is Summertime Publishing. Jo was passing through the county, visiting her folks before she sets sail on her latest expat expedition, this time to Malaysia. Jo treated us to a gastro-pub lunch at the Orange Tree in Thornham, on the north Norfolk coast. It was an unmissable chance to cruise through the bread basket of England during harvest time while it’s still above sea level. Thornham is a picture-postcard hamlet dripping with money, converted barns and upmarket holiday lets, the kind of place featured on those minor-channel relocation programmes like ‘Escape to the Country.’ Liam loves to watch these shows but since we don’t quite have half a million stashed away in an off-shore piggy bank, watching is all we ever get to do. The pub grub was delicious and Jo was delightful, as were her splendid parents who popped along for a glass. While Jo is sipping Singapore Slings on her latest posting, she’s asked me to join her small cohort of trusted confidantes, a huge complement and a nice little earner. So, to Ms Parfitt, I thank you. To Summertime authors, if your Kindle file goes tits-up, on my head be it.
Many years ago, I had a family of blue tits nesting in a bird box nailed to the back wall of my inner city garden. It was a one egg family. For weeks, I watched chick tit spend its formative days with its tiny beak permanently poking out of the little round hole as Mummy tit and Daddy tit embarked on a never-ending feeding frenzy of tit bits. Eventually, chick tit grew into a fattened teenage tit. I was lucky enough to be working at home on the day it got its wings and I watched the launch from the window of my back bedroom. The doting parents took up position on opposite fences, tweeting melodiously to lure their offspring from the warm comfort of the nest. Now and again, they would show off with a cocky cabaret of aerial acrobatics. Teenage tit tentatively balanced its body on the ledge of the box to watch the flypast, nervously flapping its wings and preening its new-season plumage. After an agonising wait – which had me with my nose pressed hard up against the pane – teenage tit took the plunge, firing itself into the air like a rogue missile. I swear that its eyes must have been firmly shut; it shot straight towards me and slammed into the window like a bullet, just inches from my face. I got quite a start. Unfazed by its unguided maiden flight, teenage tit flew off into sky, never to be seen again.
You may wonder why I mention this tit chick flick, tender and delightful though it is. Well, we’re all forced to fly at some time in our lives, none more so than the courageous souls who migrate to greener pastures. Some stay the course and some don’t, but all have a tale to tell. Those who have tried know that it’s not all wine and song. The best of us brave the blunders with humour and insight. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Forced to Fly, a delicious compilation of wit and wisdom from those in the know. And, I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. As writer and editor-in-chief, Jo Parfitt, says:
“Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, but Forced to Fly is more than a collection of funny stories about seeing the funny side of the day-to-day blunders we all make. It is packed with stories that resonate with anyone who has lived abroad. Its opening chapters, written by experts, counsellors and real-life expats who have struggled with culture shock, will provide support and advice to guide you through any dark patches.”
You can pick up your copy at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. While you’re thinking about it, why not take a look at the book trailer?
Calling all men who have followed their working partners (male or female) to a foreign field. How is it for you?
Colleen Reichrath Writes:
If you are a male accompanying partner we would love to hear from you and include your insights and tips in the 4th edition of ‘A Career in Your Suitcase’ by Jo Parfitt. Send an email to me at email@example.com and I’ll send you a list of questions. Looking forward to sharing your stories and helping others of your kind to not feel so rare.