La Veuve Vengeresse

Frédéric Debreu continues to develop a life of his own. The latest twist comes from France; a contact from French musician Michel Ameline, with his version of Debreu’s riotous ‘La Veuve Vengeresse’ (‘The Vengeful Widow’).

M. Ameline (I shall call him that, as it sounds exceptionally French, and I don’t know him well enough to refer to him as ‘Michel’) has kindly given his permission to share this: his translation of my English ‘translation’ of a French song by a fictitious French artist in an English book. So there you go.

The audio recording is below and it is quite lovely, for anybody who appreciates a little chanson.


La Veuve Vengeresse (Alex Marsh/Michel Ameline)

Devant à son vieux mari quarante années d’ tourments

Elle eut un curieux sourire le jour de son enterrement :

“J’ vais pas l’ rater, s’ dit – elle, ce sale menteur dégénéré !”

Elle balança une fleur dans l’ trou … puis s’ fit le jeune curé .


Ne jetons pas la pierre à la veuve vengeresse.

 Les cornes posthumes du mari n’ furent pas imméritées.

 Non, ne jetons pas la pierre à la veuve vengeresse.

 Les cornes posthumes du mari n’ furent pas imméritées..


On entendit dans toute la nef l’ écho de francs ébats :

Le fossoyeur fut le suivant des mâles qu’ elle tomba .

D’ un enfant d’ choeur rougissant elle compléta l’éducation,

Puis s’ tourna vers les choristes et … bénit la congrégation.


Un gendarme apeuré fut chargé d’ la conduire au cachot.

Excitée par la vue des menottes elle lui j’ta un r’gard … chaud !

Il app’la des renforts de peur qu’elle ne l’attrapât

Dix collègues, matraque en l’air, vinrent  … et elle ne résista pas


Ne jetons …


Au tribunal, ensuite, “ Ce n’est pas juste !” s’écria t – elle,

Puis, sortant du box, à la défense fit voir ses jarretelles.

Elle pinça les fesses du juge et tripota l’greffier outré …

Et, scandalisant le public, elle corrompit les jurés.


Comme tout l’ monde, devant Saint – Pierre elle dût un jour se présenter …

Le malheureux, depuis, regrette bien de l’ avoir acceptée

Et sur son épitaphe, aujourd’ hui, tous les r’gards s’arrêtent

“ Papa mort, notre chère maman … soudain perdit la tête .”

The Frederic Debreu video commercial

(Don’t forget to turn up your speakers)


The film was made by Claire at Interesting Digital. We work on projects together occasionally; some fun, some serious. (Readers from the old days may remember some Post Office-saving action…)

The original graphics – taken from the book cover and insert – were by Jason at Rawshock Design, who must be one of the most talented designers working in the UK book industry today.

Aside from the legendary Debreu, credit for the tune goes to Paul Thompson. A lover of Georges Brassens and Jake Thackray, Paul has promoted the work of Thackray through regular live performances, appearances on BBC radio, DVD production and, most recently, writing and recording for an album of long-lost Thackray songs.

And the playing, arrangement and recording was by Will Thompson, who was given the melody and a brief, and came back first time with something that couldn’t have been more perfectly-suited.

(I wrote the book.)

Please do share this if you feel so minded!

In which my songwriting career is unexpectedly revived

If you read my first book, you’ll know that I once tried to be a songwriter.

I was a teenager at the time, and I wasn’t very good at it. I could blame the fact that I was growing up in very un-angry, un-rockandroll surroundings; or the fact that I was heavily into progressive rock at the time; or the fact that I was on target to horribly bomb in my English ‘A’ level. Or I could simply accept that I didn’t have the first fucking clue about what I was doing.

“We are the aliens, we come from the Planet Og; We look like a cross between a monkey and a dog.” Yeah, take that Paul Simon!!!

It was sooner rather than later that I decided that lyrics weren’t my thing. As did the rest of the band.

A little while ago I wrote a bit of an essay about Jake Thackray and Georges Brassens, and how they’d been the inspiration for Frederic Debreu. With Jake’s last will and testament long-since having been read, I couldn’t send him a gushing fan-boy note with a copy of the book, but on a whim I sent one to Paul Thompson instead; he’s the man behind and a general authority upon and mover behind All Things Jake.

I’d written some lyrics when I’d been writing the book, partly as a sort of background-immersion type thing; partly to ensure that I was consistent when I quoted them back to myself throughout the pages. These were worked up into a little promo booklet to go with advance copies of the book (there are still a couple available if you contact the publisher). So I popped one of those in Paul’s envelope as well.

To cut a long story short, Paul replied unexpectedly, having set the lyrics to music. Which was a little flabbergasting, given that my last musical collaboration was about twenty years ago, with a girl who I met via the ‘Loot’ small ads. Anyway, between the two of us, we’ve created a library of lost Frederic Debreu songs. Translated to the English, of course.

Here’s one: it debuted at the Lymm Festival in Cheshire this month. See what you think.

Manning a book/pork pie stall: some observations

So anyway. I did the joint book and pie stall with Sarah and Derek from Bray’s Cottage. It was a genuinely lovely day. Let’s face it, chatting about books and signing them for people is a very pleasant occupation for a Saturday morning, but the incorporation of pork pies and sausage rolls elevates things to a new level. And that was before the nice lady from Ethnic Fusion fed me free bhajis.

To help other authors to benefit from my experience, I have put together some observations. So, in the most niche clickbait ever, I present to you:

8 tips for authors considering running a book and pork pie stall at a farmers’ market

  1. Appreciate that you are not in a bookshop. It is an utterly different audience. The books are an unexpected thing for the customers, who generally attend farmers’ markets to buy pork pies. Some humility is in order. You are not Mr. Important Author behind a desk and a stack of books; you are Mr. Novelty Man Trying To Sell Books In A Different Environment. (Or Mrs./Ms., etc)
  2. If it’s important to you, insist that your pitch is referred to as a ‘book and pie stall’ not a ‘pie and book stall’. Puppet show and Spinal Tap, an’ all that. But either way, ‘a book and a pie – what a perfect way to spend a summer’s afternoon’ was a very successful opening gambit.
  3. Giving away a sausage roll with every book will eat into your margins. And it will not sell a single extra book, as book purchases are not price-sensitive (unless yours is vastly overpriced). However, it will delight the buyer and help the pie/sausage roll element of your stall, who will be grateful, and big up your book accordingly.
  4. Appreciate that – far more so than in bookshops – people will pick up and examine your book even if they have no intention of purchasing. It is a curiosity: a book! They are just being polite, in the way that you say nice things about the house that the Estate Agents are showing you round, despite the fact that the bathroom is avocado and the M6 runs through the front garden. Put an already-thumbed book right at the front. This is your sacrificial book.
  5. A subset of these people will do a sort of lightning flick through the inside pages. It is as if they are double-checking that there are actual words inside and that you are not trying to con them. This behaviour is simply weird.
  6. “I would buy one, but I have a big pile of books at home that I haven’t read yet,” is the universal code for a polite knock-back, allowing both parties to part ways amiably and with dignity. Note that this phrase is acceptable in this type of venue only. If heard at a normal signing, you are well within your rights to respond with: “So what are you doing in a fucking bookstore, then?!?”
  7. “I would buy one, but I’ve just had breakfast,” is the associated code for pie non-sales. Whatever the time of day. And, whether book- or pie-related, “I won’t buy one now, but I’ll pop back,” means they won’t. So don’t get your hopes up.
  8. The most important one: unlike in a bookstore, you’re manning the till yourself. So don’t forget to actually keep a proper account whenever you make a sale, as you can’t live on feeling pleased with yourself alone.