We are pleased to announce that the latest book by George East, entitled “French Impressions : Brittany” is now available. George has supplied us with a few advance excerpts of this book over the past few months and we are delighted that it is now finished and available for people to enjoy…
PR Extracts :
On the locals:
Turning into the square I have to swerve to avoid running into Eddie Izzard. He has just emerged from the pork butcher’s shop and favours me with a nihilistic stare before flouncing off in the direction of the post office. It is of course not Eddie Izzard, but a local lady doing an unintentional but impressive impression of the comic and enthusiastic wearer of women’s clothing.
Brittany certainly seems to be the European capital of lookalikes, and Huelgoat its headquarters. As well as the Clint Eastwood and Rasputin dopplegangers, the owner of the creperie down the road is a spitting image of Robbie Williams. There is also a woman who could be a clone of Margaret Thatcher – had she become a bag lady instead of one of our greatest Prime Ministers. In one of the bars, there is even a pug dog which has a sneer exactly like the late great Elvis Presley. Such is the prevalence of lookalikes here, there is a regular contest to see which townsperson looks most like a famous personality. Last month there was a special event to find who looked most like the mayor of Huelgoat. The contest was won, unsurprisingly, by the mayor.
On the expats:
Yesterday I met a Scotsman who believes he is a reincarnation of an ancient Breton king with magical powers; to me he looks more like a reincarnation of Rab C Nesbit on a bad hair and teeth day. Riothamus (or Dougal to his former friends in East Kilbride) lives in an impressively distressed caravan, carefully hidden from official view alongside an as-yet restored stretch of canal. We met when I was passing his hideaway and he accosted me to say he recognised me from a past life. Steeling myself for a probable touch, I accepted his invitation to take a cup of dandelion tea and was fascinated to learn that apart from his other talents, he is a skilled wind-maker. With the right incantation and frame of mind, he says he can raise anything from a zephyr to a full-blown hurricane. Unfortunately, when I asked for a demonstration he said it did not work when there were other humans around to interfere with the temporal forces. Riothamus says that the canal was deliberately built along a really strong leyline and always attracted unusual people, and I believe him. After I slipped him a few euros to keep him going until he secures his next windmaking commission, we parted and promised to look each other up in another thousand years.
We cannot get closer to the castle at Vitré than the car park, which is anyway being dug up and taken away to foil would-be visitors. Across the morass, a cherrypicker is holding two men up against one vast wall. I see that they are re-pointing it, filling the gaps between huge slabs with mortar. As they are using trowels not much bigger than soup spoons, it is clear they have a job for life.
On the way back to the car we marvel at the range and condition of buildings, and note probably the only restaurant in France calling itself The Cabbage Soup.
Spotting a sign bearing the silhouette of a teapot, I go in to the café to be confronted by the glinting glasses of a short, fat woman who seems to be chewing a wasp. She denies all knowledge of tea and how to serve it, and when I point my umbrella at a plate of fancy cakes and ask what they are, she completely loses it, grabs my brolly and orders me from the premises. After a spirited tug-of-war, I retreat from the shop and we find somewhere more welcoming.
Beneath the waves in the bay of Douarnenez is said to lay a place with a history of nearly as much drama, sex and misery as a TV soap in desperate search of ratings.
The island city of Ys has several great stories associated with it, the most common and popular claiming it was built for the princess Dahut by her father Gralon, the king of the Cornouaille region.
As well as suffering from a shortage of vowels, the island was below sea level and protected by a gated dyke for which the king held the only key. Ys was to become the most impressive and beautiful city in the world, but was also a byword for sin and corruption. Dahut was a bit of a ladette, and had a penchant for organizing orgies then killing her lovers when day broke. One fateful evening, a knight in red arrived and was invited to join in the fun. During the night, he suggested that Dahut steal the key from her sleeping father. She did, and the Devil (for it was of course he) threw open the gates and allowed the sea to swallow Ys. Enraged, the king threw Dahut into the oncoming torrent, where she became a mermaid, doomed to swim the lonely seas for eternity. As with all drowned cities, it is said that on stormy nights you can hear the bells of the church at Ys ring dolefully out, and sometimes even the mournful cries of the lonely mermaid.
If anyone should know his onions about France and the French, it is or should be George East. His books and newspaper and magazine articles and TV and radio programmes on our nearest continental neighbours and their intriguing country have been enjoyed by millions. Now George has created a new type of travel book.
George East was born in Hayling Island and ran away to sea at an early age. He got as far as the Isle of Wight before jumping ship and completing his education at Portsmouth Technical High School and Big Charlie’s Snooker and Poker Academy. After completing one term of his degree course in English at Portsmouth Polytechnic (he was thrown out when it was discovered he had forged his ‘O’ and ‘A’ level certification), George tried his hand at a number of occupations. Amongst others, his professions included would-be rock god, private detective, brewer’s drayman, night club manager, disc-jockey and bouncer (often all at the same time), snooker club proprietor, hotel manager, male model for outsize womens’ clothing (for a certain shop catering for men with a liking for female attire), seamstress (for the drag shop), pickled onion manufacturer, radio and television producer and presenter, publican and PR consultant.
The last of these activities came about when George was appointed as the world’s first professional bed tester. The recognition came after a leg of the East’s ancient bed pierced the ceiling of the lounge bar of their pub and became a significant tourist attraction. After being signed up by American giant bed maker Sealy Inc, George appeared in the world’s press and on hundreds of British and American radio and television stations.
Realising from this experience how easy it was to make up stories and gain publicity for their sponsor, George went into PR and marketing, and ended his proper working days with a number of national and international clients. When an unexpected windfall came their way as the result of a slightly dodgy deal, the Easts had the choice of paying off some of their mortgage or buying a new second-hand car. After hiring a car ferry and taking a thousand publicans and their spouses on a memorable day trip to Cherbourg, George and his wife looked into an estate agency window and decided to keep their mortgage and old car and use the windfall to buy a tiny cottage in the Normandy countryside. Having made every cock-up in the book that had not yet been written about the perils of buying a foreign property, George decided to write it. Home & Dry in France became a classic of its genre, and seven more books about trying to make a living out of living in France followed. After mistakenly buying a manor house next door to a thriving dog kennels, the Easts gave up trying to be sensible and decided to spend the autumn of their lives on the road and moving around their second favourite country.
French Impressions-Brittany is the first in a series of books about the 22 very different regions of France. It is also a truly innovative travel book. It is a deliberate hybrid of information about Brittany, melded with anecdotes about the often eccentric expatriates and Bretons George encountered on his travels. Taking the advice of travel writing legend Louis Theroux and rather than racing around the region in a camper, George decided to take his time and live where he was writing about. So the Easts spent a year in a tiny hamlet half way up what counts as a mountain in Brittany, in the wild and often desolate reaches of the Finistere department. While attempting to fit in with the Breton-speaking community and their sometimes funny little ways, George toured the region in search of unusual places and people….and to discover how and why Brittany is so different from the rest of France. The result is totally unlike any other sort of travel book you will have read, and French Impressions: Brittany has already been described as a blend of Billy Bryson, Eric (Short Walk in the Hindu Kush) Newby – and the ravings of an ill-educated lunatic. Whether either of those is a fair description is for you and the reading public to decide.
- A new sort of travel book about the most popular destination in France for Britons
- Author with proven appeal, unique style and often quirky ‘take’ on people, places and Life
- More than a hundred towns and tourist attractions reviewed
- The history and culture of Brittany explored
- Dozens of traditional Breton food and drink recipes
- Information on holidaying, visiting or moving to live in Brittany
Millions of Britons visit Brittany every year. Many dream of moving to and starting a new life and perhaps business in this fascinating region. French Impressions – Brittany not only explores the region, but its history, culture and appeal. It is the first in a series about different areas of France, and the first of its type. Whatever you want from it and whichever way you look at it, this is Brittany in a book…
Title: French Impressions-Brittany by George East
Publisher: La Puce (The Flea) Publications
Type of book: Paperback, 296 pages
Main Distributor: Gardners Books
Official Launch: June 1st 2010
More information from: francesca.b[email protected]