We stay closer to home this time and make the short drive over to Vence to interview the charismatic and very talented Welsh actress, playwright and author Liz Morgan; her Welsh flag 'Y Ddraig Goch' still discreetly hanging from her French balcony.
It was one of those cold, dark, dreary days that we sometimes suffer from on the French Riviera in winter as I drove over to meet and interview Liz Morgan at her home in Vence a couple of weeks ago, but Liz's bubbly, engaging and dynamic personality quickly put the spark back in the day.
You may recall that we recently reviewed Liz's book “Life Style French Style”, which was the sequel to her first, and very popular, book “Can We Afford the Bidet: Guide to Setting Up House in France”, published by Queen Anne Press in 1993.
Liz has had a love affair with France since she was sixteen, though she thinks that this was probably due to the fact that, as a young school girl, she fell in love with a French school boy on a school trip to Paris. While this young love didn't last, she continued to adore France and found this love deepening over the years. However, it was not to be until the mid 70s that Liz would finally come and live here.
Born in Llanelli, a pretty Welsh town some 13 miles from Swansea, Liz was truly favoured with creative and artistic talents. She has performed at the Royal National Theatre in London, and provincial venues, notably the Sherman Theatre Cardiff and Theatre Clwyd, as well as touring the USA with her own one-woman plays.
She has worked extensively in radio, particularly with the BBC Radio Drama Company, and recorded “Under Milk Wood” with Sir Anthony Hopkins, and played Caitlin in a play about Dylan Thomas at the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea. She is also a prolific playwright and has written 26 performed plays for BBC Radio 4, several short stories and four television plays, and wrote and appeared in the 1994 sit-com pilot Sisters Three.
Liz is also considered somewhat as a cult figure as she was the principal female voice artist for Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, lending her vocal talents to the French ‘Destiny Angel’ and resident Sloane ‘Rhapsody Angel’, as well as ‘Harmony Angel’ in early stories, before Lian Shin took on the role a dozen episodes into production. Liz also voiced Dorina Cordova in the Joe 90 episode “Viva Cordova”.
Liz has, among others, starred in The Old Devils for BBC Wales, was District Nurse Joanna in two seasons of ITV's We Are Seven, Mrs Prosser-Davies in The District Nurse, and Joyce in the LWT (London Weekend Television) comedy The Two of Us. Other guest roles include Public Eye, The Wednesday Play, Dad's Army, The Dick Emery Show, Dixon of Dock Green, Softly Softly, The Befrienders, Are You Being Served?, Terry and June, Angels, Fair Ground, Maybury, Mapp & Lucia, and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.
By the mid 70s Liz was married and the proud mother of two daughters. She had just finished work on a television serial in the UK when her husband, a painter, told her of his interest to go down to live in France and teach at a painting school. Although their holidays had always been spent in Spain, she and her husband made their way to the South of France for the first time and settled just outside of Uzès, a charming medieval town in the Gard départment of the Languedoc.
Though located in beautiful countryside, Liz described her first home as nothing more than a hovel at first. Renovation work began and so did Liz's experience of owning a home in France and dealing with local administration, tradesmen and builders. Sadly, it would also be a turning point in the couple's life together, as they separated. Liz remained in France with her children and decided to live in Uzès to be closer to schools. She found a gorgeous little town house which she and the girls loved. A few years passed and soon the girls started bringing home boyfriends and the house became too small and crowded. So Liz decided to move back to the country and found a delightful property between Uzès and Alès.
These experiences culminated into her first book “Can We Afford the Bidet?: Guide to Setting Up House in France” a pot-pourri of anecdotes and funny experiences that had happened to her during the different moves. She also thought that it could be a good guide for the many English starting to buy second homes in the area and forever asking her for advice.
In fact, there was a decisive knock-on effect after the book's publication. Suddenly she found herself writing less and less for the BBC and radio plays and instead a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers, providing articles about living in France and its various region.
In 2007, after three years of living in Nice, Liz finally decided to move away and return again to the countryside. She found Vence very much to her liking and, after visiting a number of different places, fell in love with her present home. While some renovation work was required it is now a very comfortable and cosy home that's big enough to cater for her family, six grandchildren and the many friends who come and visit her.
With our interview coming to an end I asked Liz what plans she had for the future and it seems that writing is still on the agenda. At the moment she is busy compiling a program for the theatre in Antibes that will involve Shakespeare Readings (in English) and be something along the lines of "The Bard Says It All". She has already arranged for three actors with solid RSC experience to come over and take part and will herself be joining them on stage.
She has also started to write another novel which is close to her heart: the Welsh Emigration to Patagonia in Argentina. Over 1,000 Welsh immigrants arrived in Patagonia between 1886 and 1911. Their journey and heart-rending decision to leave their family and green hills and valleys of Wales is the basis of Liz's book.
Liz has also been very active in setting up a branch of the Society of Authors on the French Riviera. Meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month in Nice.
As I left, Liz smiled and remarked "It's a great country!" As I drove back through the medieval towns of Vence, Tourrettes-sur-Loup and Bar-sur-Loup still decked and brightly lit with Christmas lights , I thought "Yes, France is a great country and, Liz Morgan, you're definitely a great lady".