Sunday 26 March 2017

Bubbles Blog Tour Author Guest Post : How life differs in France and the UK

As a dual-nationality French/English family, I was fascinated to learn about a charming new children’s book, Bubbles, written by Malcolm Howard & Steve Harrison (published by Clink Street Publishing, 2nd March 2017).

Inspired by his many years living in Chamonix in France and waking up daily to see the stunning mountains and countryside landscape, Malcolm Howard decided to put pen to paper to create the story of Bubbles. Initially written as separate stories for the children his then wife was nannying, their enthusiasm for the characters prompted Malcolm’s family to publish the book as a surprise for his seventieth birthday.

Beautifully illustrated by Steve Harrison, Bubbles will stimulate the imagination and bring a smile to children and adults alike as they join the escapades of Angelique and her nursery school pupils in the Alps..

The book blurb explains : Angelique has long thin legs, long thin arms and a turned-up nose on which sits an enormous pair of spectacles. Her spectacles are so big that they look like magnifying glasses and make her eyes look very large. She normally wears black shoes, a blue dress and a red scarf, and she has just been awarded all her Certificates and Diplomas to become a teacher. But she needs a job. Returning to her home village at the foothills of the French Alps, Angelique finds her childhood school has closed! All she needs is determination, enthusiasm and ten pupils to re-open the school and realise her dreams. But Angelique soon realises that her daily adventures have only just begun.

Author Malcolm Howard has kindly written us a post about life in Chamonix and how it differed from his home town in the UK.


Home in England is Walton-on-Thames in leafy, suburban Surrey. It’s in the Thames valley, which is flat. The river meanders down from Windsor and Weybridge before passing Walton and flowing onwards to Hampton Court, Kingston, Richmond and, eventually, through London to the sea.

The river is picturesque and populated with rowers, pleasure boats, swans and geese. The towpath provides a trail for walkers, joggers and cyclists and riverside pubs ply a lively trade. But the area is liable to flooding in wild winter weather, which can be a bit of a bore.

Contrast Chamonix, which is mountainous. Melt water from the glaciers provides white-knuckle rafting rides down the River Arve, which joins the Rhone at the outflow from Lake Geneva and eventually reaches the Mediterranean sea.

Chamonix gained prominence as a mountaineering resort – it is not one of the best skiing resorts. The most adventurous skiing is off-piste with a cable car ride up to the Aiguille du Midi followed by a tortuous descent of an arête on foot, often requiring crampons, and then a guided ski run down the Vallee Blanche.

Slightly out of town, on one of the buttresses of Mont Blanc, is the village of Les Houches, which hosts the Chamonix World Cup Downhill Race. That is where the British Ski Academy is based and that is what drew me into the region.

The things we do for our children!

My son James liked most sport, but loved Alpine Ski Racing. There are few more expensive pastimes. I started Ski High School so that he and others could train in the Alps and also do their schoolwork. He made the British Junior Ski Team and then broke his ‘tib’n’fib’ and took up paragliding instead.

The British Ski Academy evolved from that. But in the preceding eight years we travelled all over the Alps, in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. They were ‘heady’ times. But it cost me everything I had, so it was time to head back to dear old ‘Blighty’ (an affectionate term for Britain during the world wars).

I gained employment with the Surrey Probation Service and saw out my time until retirement organizing and supervising Community Service projects, dealing with offenders given Community Service as a punishment. It reminded me of my time in the army, and I would have wanted most of those offenders on my side!

I am now retired and have become involved with local politics. I have been elected to the local Borough Council and worry about things like local green space, and the river flooding. Oh for a white-knuckle ride down the Arve!

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