George East (who is to be found at George East in France – Online) very kindly consented to doing an interview for A Taste of Garlic and, because it was raining hard, didn’t insist on my traipsing up to the outer regions of wild and windy Finistère (where I believe baby eating is the norm and strangers from other parts of Brittany are routinely kidnapped and sexually assaulted with a courgette before being marinated in cider – or is that Peckham that I’m thinking about?)
So, we did the interview by email instead.
Before I could even start by asking George if he was sitting comfortably he insisted in saying…
“Yo Keef. What a brilliantly good and funny site. Can I add it to my recommends in the new Brittany book, which will be out next year? Are we linked with your site/s, and if not can we be?”
Well, that was nice, wasn’t it?
I popped off to empty my bowels and to have a little think about what sort of questions to ask a literary superstar.
I’d certainly have to bear in mind that every one of my English neighbours for more than 200kms in each direction has got the complete works of George East taking up pride of place on their “posh” bookcase.
And that most of them , if they don’t actually admit to worshipping George, certainly believe that he walks on water and then turns it into wine!
And that’s not to mention the hordes of newcomers who, having picked up an old George East book at a car boot sale, have decided to sell everything they own, leave their family and friends and jobs behind and move to Brittany to open an organic aromatherapy centre. They were bound to be fans of his as well!
I’d definitely have to tread carefully then.
In the end I think I got the mix right. I’m only just a little bit disappointed that I didn’t manage to ask him anything about incest or morris-dancing – still, there’s always next time!
The first question I asked was….
1). Are you real (and can you prove it?)
George East – I have just looked inside my body warmer, and the label that my wife sews in all my garments (as well as the gloves connected by string running through the sleeves) definitely says it is me.
It is a quiet crossing when I do not get spotted ( in spite of the out-of-date photos my publisher insists on putting on my book covers) and the spotter will generally say something like: ‘You are Lobby Ludd and I claim by five quid’ or ‘You look just like Oliver Reed does- now.’ or if they actually realise who I think I am, ‘You are that fat old bloke who writes the crap books about living in France,’ or ‘My wife says she would rather go to bed with you than me’. Of course, his wife means one of my books.
I once arrived in Portsmouth after a crossing and a man up a ladder painting a house shouted out ‘ I know you; I’ve read all your books. You’re that Fred West bloke. I replied that it was actually my wife who does all the concrete mixing and laying.
I once signed a set of my books for a little old lady at a French property exhibition, and she asked me when my next TV series would be. Not wanting to tell her I didn’t have any telly lined up, I mumbled something, and she said ‘Well it has been very nice meeting you and I shall enjoy reading of your adventures, Mr Vernon.’
It was not until she had gone that I realised she thought I was the Fat Man on a Bicycle chap. I didn’t go after her and take the books back and return her money, though, as they were signed and thus worthless.
2). Where do you get your vests?
George East – Funny enough I used to favour string vests in summer and long john tops in winter to go with the woollen tights, but was persuaded to trendy up a bit by my agent.
3). Ricard or Pernod?
George East – Both together, preferably, with the dilution caused by the ice cubes overcome with a good slug of absinthe, which as everyone knows, makes the heart grow fonder. ( What do you expect from an old fart but old gags?)
4). If you had a daughter and she brought home a Frenchman, what would you say?
George East – I would advise him to watch out for my daughter’s husband, as he is very big, very jealous and a tenth dan black belt at Origami ( told you about the old gags.)
5). If you had a son and he brought home a Frenchman, what would you say?
George East – I would tell him to watch out for my son’s wife, who is very big, very jealous and a thirteenth dan black belt…etc.
6). Roughly how much a year do you spend on razors?
George East – About the same as on combs, after shave and French Ticklers combined. (Editor’s note: What’s a French Tickler? Sounds like something you go fly fishing with.)
7). How many times have you been naked in public? And, please elaborate in detail.
George East – I know it is an old one, but it is actually true that I once walked out of my hotel room starkers and accidentally locked the door behind me. It was not because I was sleepwalking, but in my single days and on my way to the room occupied by my boss’s secretary.
As it was, she refused to let me in with the box of chocolates under my arm and ribbon tied elsewhere in gift fashion, so in desperation I knocked on the door of the room alongside. It was opened by my boss, who had no qualms about inviting me, the chocolates and ribbon in.
I do suffer recurring nightmares in which I find myself out in public fully clothed.
8). What do you say to the people who believe that Elvis isn’t dead but lives in a leaky caravan near Callac?
George East – “Hello, Mum.”
9). Do you have any advice for people thinking about moving to Brittany?
George East – No. I get about fifty letters and e-messages a year from total strangers asking me if they will be happy if they sell everything they own and leave their family and friends and jobs behind and move to Brittany to open an organic aromatherapy centre.
My general view is that which was once expressed by the great Somerset Maughan. He was once booked to address a conference of would-be authors and had had a very good lunch before swaying to his feet to make an address after being introduced in glowing terms by the organiser. SM looked owlishly round at the audience and asked all those who wanted to be writers to put their hands up. When they had all done so, he said ‘ Well, fuck off home and get on with it, then..’
10). When is your next book out and what is it all about?
George East – Before you rudely interrupted my working day, I was just 4,987 words away from the sweetest words in the English language, which are for me… The End.
The new book will be called French Impressions: Brittany, and my agent says it is a new type of ‘fusion’ travel book. That poncey term means it is a mixture of what my wife calls the usual old crap about living in France, together with my impressions of more than a hundred Breton towns and places, and lots of stuff about the history and culture and food and drink peculiar to the region. Particularly the food and drink reviews. My publishers Orion have the first refusal contractually, and when they refuse to look at it I shall fire the script off to lots of others. Hopefully it will be out by next summer.
11). Do you want to answer any more questions or shall I just make up the rest of the answers?
George East – Not unless you are paying me or buying the beer, and please feel free to make any more stuff up as that is what I do all the time. Thanks for listening, if you have been and all power to the elbow of an excellent web site.
Well, thank you very much George, for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure that we are as excited as your bank manager is about your new book – keep in touch and let us know when it is out.
All the best