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News > Pangbournian Stories > Book Reviews > THE CULINARY DANGERS OF RURAL FRANCE…and other stories by John Beadon (62-67)

THE CULINARY DANGERS OF RURAL FRANCE…and other stories by John Beadon (62-67)

John Beadon (62-67) by his own account “has been lucky to lead an unusually full and adventuresome life.” This book he describes as the “memoirs and musings of a slightly deranged Englishman”.
29 Mar 2021
Written by Robin Knight
Book Reviews

THE CULINARY DANGERS OF RURAL FRANCE…and other stories
by John Beadon (62-67)
ISBN: 979-8656-344302; 
Publish Nation, 2020; pp 214; £6.99 through Amazon, £1.99 Kindle ebooks


John Beadon (62-67), by his own account “has been lucky to lead an unusually full and adventuresome life.” He is also a self-confessed “curmudgeonly persona.” In a book he describes as the “memoirs and musings of a slightly deranged Englishman” made up of 54 short stories from rural France, South Africa and the sea, he conveys vividly the great pleasure and amusement he has derived from a 50-year post-Pangbourne existence only ten months of which has been spent in offices.

To those who do not know John, or know anything about him, a résumé is in order. Since his time at the NCP, he has worked in aquariums, caught fish for stock tanks and trained dolphins and seals. From the age of 30, he has sailed, run sailing schools and delivered luxury yachts all over the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Always a risk-taker, he ran a fast motorboat for a year in the southern part of the Red Sea when piracy and kidnapping was rife there. He married three times and, until Covid struck, was living half the year in a shepherd’s cottage in the Alpes-Maritime foothills north of Nice and half the year in South Africa. 

Late in life John started writing for his own enjoyment. Now aged 71 he has decided to share his “scribblings” with a wider audience. He certainly knows how to tell an entertaining story, has a good sense of the absurdity of much of life, and holds strong opinions on all sorts of matters. He definitely does not belong to the ‘woke’ school of writing. Some of the stories in this book may be apocryphal – he admits to “a certain amount of poetic licence” early on. But the great majority, even the supernatural, ring true. 

Given the number of stories in this book, it is invidious to single out more than a couple. One, right at the outset, recounts the appearance of a most unusual spook at his converted 250-year-old ‘bergerie’ – not exactly a ghost, but seductive cooking odours generated by an old grandmother who was the last-but-one inhabitant of the cottage and a great cook. Repeatedly, John is woken in the middle of the night by a variety of delicious smells. Each time he goes looking for the source, the odour disappears. Far from being spooked, he loves the “extra little ‘je ne sais quoi’” of his French hideaway. 

Many easy-to-read tales of life in the village of Puget-Théniers, written in the style of Peter Mayle, follow. Beadon has a strong sense of the absurd and life in a remote, small rural village in the wilds of France offers much juicy material. But John is never vindictive or mocking and by the end of the book one realises that, as his peripatetic lexistence winds down, he has probably found his utopia. 

Pangbourne features in the book once in a chapter titled ‘A Most Fortuitous Meeting.’ Sailing a 50ft ketch from the Mediterranean to the Seychelles at the end of 1983, a mechanical issue forced Beadon to put in at the port of Hodeidah in Yemen to acquire a shear pin. Welcomed with infinite suspicion, and guarded by Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers, he spotted a Red Ensign freighter anchored nearby and managed to sneak on board. The captain, he discovered to his delight, was Rodney Pym (60-64). Half an hour later, spare part made and the Nautical College duly toasted with a couple of beers, Beadon got back to his yacht, fitted the pin, distracted the guard with a copy of Playboy magazine, and hurriedly sailed out of the port.

This is an enjoyable, exuberant, irreverent book written to “provide some light relief.” It will do that – and also stand as apt testimony to a full life lived to the full. 

 

by ROBIN KNIGHT

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