Having lived in France for more than 20 years he has come to understand and love the country, whilst his time as a brocanteur introduced him to the tricks, tips and characters of the trade.
One of those characters was Serge, who filled the title and tale written by John in his book Serge Bastarde Ate my Baguette.
Here John talks about his French life, writing and the best way to get a good deal at the next vide-grenier you attend.
Craig McGinty: What were the reasons behind your move to France?
John Dummer: My wife Helen and I moved to France with our three Staffordshire Bull Terriers and two cats in the eighties. I had been managing a rock band, the Screaming Blue Messiahs for three years and have to admit I was burnt out from all the craziness of touring in the US.
We were about to move to Cornwall but when we saw what we could buy in France we dropped everything immediately and hot footed it across the channel to view houses there. We were hooked when we fell in love with an old monastery, sold up and moved within eight weeks and we've never looked back.
CM: How has France and your own French life changed in the years you've been here?
JD: When we first moved out over 25 years ago it was a different world. It was like going back in time forty years or so. We were the only English people in our village and there was no internet, mobile phones or English telly.
That first Christmas we thought it would be great to be away from the commercialisation in the UK but we found Christmas was like it didn't exist. It was a very quiet affair and we couldn't rush back to England together for a quick fix with our dogs as there were no doggy passports then.
We've seen it change over the years and the French have gone mad for garish Christmas lights and decorations, and we too got used to a different type of Christmas and these days we often spend it at the beach. We've changed a lot.
I think we're far more caring. 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité' is something I strongly believe in. A country with this for a motto is all right by me. We were typical townies from London when we first moved out even though we had lived in the country for a couple of years in England where our neighbours had been awfully snobby town & country types right up themselves.
But here in France we met the true old country characters who will do anything for you and everybody helps each other out no matter who you are. It's a spirit that existed in England in the countryside years ago but commuting sort of destroyed it.
Also we've become much more self sufficient and able to turn our hands to surviving at a basic level. If you want anything done in the sticks you more or less have to do it yourself. Luckily with the internet you can teach yourself to do anything from cutting wood to plumbing and re-roofing your house.
CM: How did you meet Serge, and what were some of your favourite adventures together?
JD: I first met Serge at a brocante market when I bought a Rupert book from his stand and he helped get me a place on the market. We hit it off from the start and even though he proved to be a bit of a rogue and did some things that I strongly disagreed with I grew very fond of him and enjoy having him as a friend .
What tips do you have for spotting the best deals at brocantes and vide greniers?
It really depends what you're after and what your taste is, but its important to get to the market early, as in car boots in the UK.
Most French brocanteurs are reticent to haggle at first and you need to be persistent. This is best done if your French is up to it in a light hearted way.
The French love to joke so don't be too serious about it. And remember to always be polite. La politesse is important here in all things.
CM: What have you gained from writing the books about Serge and life in France?
JD: I've had a lot of feedback from readers who've enjoyed reading about Serge and the life on the brocante markets in France. It's really heartwarming to hear from readers and makes it all worthwhile and spurs you on to write more. Both our lives are constantly moving on and changing so I've got much more about Serge to relate yet.
CM: What particular routine do you have to help you write?
JD: I don't really have much of a routine. I just settle down with computer on my knee and work away till I'm done or have something else urgent to do like cutting up wood or Helen calls wanting something ludicrously big shifted.
I'm a slow writer and tend to write and rewrite stuff. I always run what I've written past Helen who helps me stay focused. I find if I force myself too hard to write it seldom works out well.
CM: What adventures can we hope to read about in the future?
JD: Well, I don't want to give anything away, but a lot has happened since the second book, Son of Serge Bastarde. We've moved into the forest which has proved to be a different style of life altogether and Serge hasn't exactly been keeping himself out of trouble.
So you'll have to wait and see in the third book!
Website: Serge Bastarde page on Facebook
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