In The Second Path, Selkie Moon is confronted by a number of bizarre and cryptic clues which lead her across the world to France. As the story evolved, some of my experiences from several recent three-month stays in France added depth to the story.
As my husband and I drove from Bordeaux airport, north through the Dordogne, to Tours in the Loire Valley we contracted the flu, la grippe catastrophe. About an hour after arriving in Tours we were stricken and didn’t get out of bed for eleven days. Almost. After nine days of dry toast we decided a bottle of French wine was what the doctor forgot to order.
There was only a supermarket within walking distance. French supermarkets have a dizzying array of wine but price is no indication of quality. In a previous visit several bottles were so bad we’d poured them down the sink.
The weather was foul. I was in better shape than hubby so I zipped myself into my raincoat, walked to the supermarket and, as a shortcut to choosing something drinkable, I stalked various shoppers in the wine aisle to see what they bought.
In a draft of The Second Path this experience inspired a short scene. Selkie Moon is feeling all alone in Paris and she’s telling her friend Derek, laid up in Hawaii, about her wine shopping experiences.
As predicted, Derek’s got over his huff. He skypes me every day from the sofa, his foot encased in a moon boot. I hide the depths of my loneliness by regaling him with adventures designed to make him feel involved.
“I’m not sure what I’m missing most,” he says. “The food or the wine.”
“The wine’s a challenge,” I say, wanting to divert him from how few restaurants I’ve sampled. “In the supermarket there’s a huge range of wines you’ve never heard of but you can’t tell what’s good, even by price. Some of my choices have been so undrinkable I poured them down the sink.”
“A travesty.” He knows I’ll drink almost anything.
“So I stalked some customers. To see what they bought.”
“You didn’t.” He laughs. “See what mischief you get up to without me?”
“I can’t ask anyone for help, so I loitered in the wine section, looking for a shopper I could trust.” It’s been one of my lighter moments. I can’t be pouring wine down the sink on my budget. “Two teenage girls cruised by and picked up some bottles of bubbly. Pink.”
“I don’t think so,” Derek says, pursing his lips.
“An old gent in an overcoat grabbed something very cheap and put it in his pocket.”
“Not your demographic.”
“Then a business couple in their thirties turned up, shopping together after work, arguing about the wine.”
I couldn’t understand a word but their body language was universal. “She wanted one particular red, he wanted another. They went back and forth a few times, getting heated. In the end they took both. And so did I. Great drinking at six euros each.”
I don’t tell him I consumed both bottles the same night and woke on the terrace shivering under a layer of dew.
I love the scene as an interlude amongst the deeper issues, but my editor felt it was too light-hearted for the serious themes around it. I couldn’t find anywhere else to put it, so it was axed. Boo hoo. Readers of this blog are the only ones who are going to see it.
In The Second Path, Selkie has other adventures based on my French experiences, spun into a mystery with a mythical twist. In her sleep she collects seven strange objects, including a French spoon. Then later in a market she buys a set of silver ducks – little French cutlery rests that turn out to hold a secret clue to the mystery. A French fairy tale inspired a chilling experience for Selkie, its symbolism creating more mythical layers in the mystery.
In spite of the axed scene I still recommend stalking as a great way to choose good cheap wine in a French supermarket.
Thank you for reading this blog post. A version of it first appeared on A Lover of Books blog.
You can buy the books in the Selkie Moon series from your favourite store here.
Selkie shares her ‘wisdom’ on her Facebook page.