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Only Fools Drink Water Book Cover, Geffrey Morris, Léonie Press

Only Fools Drink Water:
Forty years of fun in Charente-Maritime

Written by Geoffrey Morris 
and illustrated by Patricia Kelsall

ISBN: 978-1-901253-10-8
(Old ISBN: 1 901253 10 4)

206 pages, paperback, 30 Black & White drawings,
2 B&W photographs, 146mm x 208mm.

Published by Léonie Press, May 1999.
Reprinted December 1999, February 2002

Price: £ 8.99 Postage and Packing:

e-Book versions
Kindle format ISBN: 978-1-909727-03-8
Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN): B00GFDGPX2
Click here to buy from Amazon

About the Book

In a book crammed full of self-deprecating humour and bursting with joie de vivre, Geoffrey Morris relates his love affair with France and the west coast marshlands of the Charente-Maritime.

It starts with an Auvergne farmer's wife expertly stripping him of his cycling shorts in the summer of 1939, traces 20 years of fun-filled post-war holidays among the Charentais farmers and fishermen, and finishes long after he and his wife retire to France and become naturalised French citizens.

The book, one of the funniest about France to be published in English, is illustrated with drawings by Cheshire artist Patricia Kelsall.

Each of the 29 short chapters is a comic gem. The author warns his readers at the beginning that he is "slightly crazy", but what comes across is that he is one of those rare souls who throw themselves headlong into life's escapades - and emerge battered but smiling (usually rescued by his level-headed wife). He seems fated to spend much of his time dans la merde. In short, as his long-suffering son declares, Geoffrey Morris is a "senile delinquent". But one with acute powers of observation and an excellent command of colloquial French.

The book is peppered with French expressions and colourful slang, which are explained in the text and collected in a glossary at the end. Readers with their own second homes in France may suddenly realise just what their neighbours have been saying for years!

The title comes from an early adventure in the 1950s. Parched with thirst after a morning gathering in the straw, Geoffrey sits down for a harvest lunch with the other farm workers. Pitchers of water have been set out to dilute the generous doses of pastis provided for each man. Bent on relieving his painful dehydration, he fills an empty glass to the brim with water and puts it to his lips. There is an immediate outcry."Don't you know the harm straight water can do?" cry his companions. "You'll derange yourself!" "Do something! Stop him! He'll do himself a mischief! These sacré foreigners have no idea how to look after their health!" It is as though he has brought out a hip flask of whisky at a total abstainers' convention...

Food and alcohol feature prominently in the book. After all, the French live to eat, while the British eat to live. Faced with prodigious paysan meals washed down with pastis, apéritifs, home-produced wines and eau de vie, the Morrises confess that they don't have the cultural training or stamina to do true Gallic justice to the feasts. Then Geoffrey's wife unwittingly gets her own back by innocently concocting a sherry trifle which is so strong - "alcoholic nitroglycerine" - that it goes down in local folklore.

Animal-life features too. The Morrises spend so much time on their friends' farm that the dogs regard them as members of the family who are not to be barked at. This even applies to one 'dog' which is really a sheep with an identity problem. During the couple's wedding anniversary lunch in a newly-renovated barn, a hen flies in and prostrates itself in the bowls of coq-au-vin containing its recently-departed relatives. One day, Geoffrey finds himself going out to catch frogs with a red woollen pom-pom and a jute sacking butterfly-net. Another night, an off-duty gendarme organises a poaching expedition for fresh-water fish in the nearby dykes and canals.

There are brushes with French bureaucracy and the inevitable papiercul ("bumph"). When they move to live in Charente-Maritime, the Morrises find themselves filling in forms in septuplicate and trying to persuade the authorities that their French-made Peugeot conforms to the country's notorious normes. Getting the caravan registered is even more of a nightmare.

The book is a joy to read from cover to cover, or to dip into for a chuckle. The Morrises come across as such likeable down-to-earth people that it is no wonder that they were so easily assimilated into their French community of farmers and fishermen more than 40 years ago. And as Geoffrey says: "There's never a dull moment."

About the Author and Illustrator

Geoffrey Morris

Geoffrey Morris was born at Crewe, Cheshire, England in 1920 and attended Crewe Grammar School before qualifying as a schoolmaster. After volunteering to serve in the Royal Tank Regiment in the Second World War, he left Great Britain with the 50th R.T.R. to join the 8th Army in North Africa. He fought as tank crew from Alamein to Tunis, through Sicily, Italy, Palestine and Greece, was three times wounded and returned to England after four and a half years of absence. Three days later, by special licence, he married the girl who had waited for him. A school friendship from the age of 10 had developed into a love affair which was still going strong when the book was written. He taught at Derby, passing through all grades of staffing and retired thankfully in 1980 to settle in France, naturalize and become a French citizen.

Following the success of this book, Geoffrey has gone on to describe some of his earlier exploits in "Two Birds and No Stones" which Léonie Press published in June 2000.

Patricia Kelsall is a professional artist and a part-time art lecturer. She has exhibited in various parts of the country including the Royal Academy, and also in France. She and the publisher, Anne Loader, who both live in Hartford, Cheshire, share a love of France and have been involved with the Hartford-Mornant twinning since it began in 1986.


"...this is another of Anne Loader's inspired productions for the Francophile with a sense of humour, for whom it is an absolute 'must'" - Living France

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