WELL known writer and journalist, Basil Howitt, died in December and I am sure readers will have read his many articles about life in France.
Here his wife Clare Gallaway writes about their life together, after their meeting in Manchester in 1997.
The couple got on famously, finding many shared interests and were soon married. However Basil set a condition - that Clare should be prepared to live in the south of France as soon as it became feasible!
Basil Howitt, who died on 3 December, will be missed here in France, perhaps first and foremost for his well-informed and widely-read articles on local customs and issues.
However it was through his previous career as a professional musician that he discovered his beloved corner of the Pyrénées-Orientales.
Born in Manchester, his first trip to France was a holiday with his parents. The little boy was wide-eyed with wonder at the cheminots he saw in Calais (his articles often feature trains and train journeys).
His musical career began then too, as a chorister in Manchester Cathedral, followed by Chetham's School of Music, then a Choral Exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge.
He sang, conducted, and played the cello, and eventually left his 'day-job' as a Liberal Studies lecturer to become a professional cellist.
Writing was another love. He gave pre-concert talks and his articles about music and musicians were published in music periodicals and the British press.
His first book, Life in a Penguin Suit was a collection of vignettes on the life of a jobbing musician and was followed by three books on the love lives of composers.
Finally, he completed a mighty work on the lives of the Carroll family, Walter and his Daughters, commissioned by the Walter Carroll Trust.
In retirement, not an appropriate word where Basil was concerned, he and his wife Clare came to live in France.
In the 1980s he played in the Rasiguères Festival de la Musique et du Vin with the Manchester Camerata and had bought in 1991 an enchanting old maison de village in a nearby village.
Typically, he adapted his writing skills to the internet and for several years, wrote regularly on life and customs in the P-O on a range of websites.
He kept up with current issues via the French press and internet, and tackled political and social themes, local customs and the patrimoine, but was never happier than when writing about gourmet topics.
His style was readable and lively, but the contents were always well-researched and informative. His series of 55 articles appearing monthly on expatica.com were hugely popular.
He will be remembered as a genial, hospitable friend who loved food, drink, music and France, with an infectious enthusiasm and joie de vivre.
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