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THERE DOESN'T seem to have been any lessening of the popularity of beauty contests in France. Maybe this isn't surprising in a country capable of running The Benny Hill Show as emergency fodder whenever French TV studio technicians go on strike, s

SCENE: Montpellier, super-sophisticate among Mediterranean cities. Only Venice and Barcelona offer any challenge.

OCCASION: La Comédie du Livre, the annual 3-day Book Fair. It's called 'Comédie' because it takes place out of d

I SHOULDN'T have mentioned it, of course. Just tempting providence. Any public hint that I was building a wall carried the seeds of its collapse. In my beginning is my end. I suppose that's true of any human project, really. But need it have happe

WELL, WHAT would you have done?

You'd have done what I did, wouldn't you? You'd have fetched the net and rescued the poor . . . but I'd best start at the beginning.

Water's such a precious commodity round here, especially in high sum

IT'S ALL very hilly in this part of France, and any cultivable land has been wrested from the hillside by building up terraces. The terraces are broad or narrow according to the slope, and usually they're planted with olive or cherry trees, and a

THERE'S A first time for everything, of course. Catching measles, eating oysters or spinach, riding a bike without stabilisers, baking an uncollapsed sponge, your first unassisted length of the pool, uttering a virgin merci or bonjour on your firs

Sunday night is nostalgia night here. Useless to resist. Despite all these years of expat life (Josephine 18, me coming up for 12), all these years of practically going native here in the south of France, despite all those struggles with thorny br