The Well

by Mike Briley


When Peter Bennett is made redundant from his publishing company in the UK he decides he needs a break before starting on a new phase of his career. Influenced by his mother’s life-long love of France he decides to accept a long-standing invitation to visit friends in South-West France or “Deepest France” as he likes to call it.

But from the moment he sets foot on French soil nothing goes to plan and Peter rapidly finds himself involved with a number of colourful characters in a series of mysterious intrigues.

Francophiles will enjoy the pertinent (and impertinent) descriptions of rural France while the fast-paced plot which twists and turns like the deep mountain valley where the action takes place, will keep the pages turning.

About the author:

Although born and educated in the UK, Mike Briley left Britain after university to continue his studies initially in Argentina and then later in France where he has lived ever since. He spent 7 years in Paris and now lives in “Deepest” South-West France with his French wife.


“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” asked Peter’s boss after he had called him into his office.
“The good?” Peter replied dubiously.
“Congratulations you’ve been promoted to section editor as of today. You will be responsible for all of the titles in the Nature, Environment and Tourism sections and of course you’ll be in charge of finding new authors”.
“Thank you very much,” replied Peter without enthusiasm because he felt the bad news was going to be more important “and the bad news?” “As of next week you’ll be working from home as a freelance. The company is having a very hard time financially as you know. The management have decided to make everyone freelance and to use them on an ad hoc basis”.
“Which means?”
“If there’s no work you don’t get paid. Of course there is nothing to stop you working for someone else at the same time which is what most freelancers do. In case you’re wondering, I’m in the same situation. For a young chap like you it could be a good opportunity to spread you wings”
“Is all this legal?”
“Probably not but I wouldn’t advise you taking them to court. Give you a bad reputation in the industry. Oh, I nearly forgot. To make it easier to swallow they are adding some sugar. You will get six month’s salary as compensation if you accept the change.”
“And if I don’t accept the change?”
“You don’t get 6 months salary …. But you’ll be made redundant anyway. So tomorrow evening take all your personal affairs and be sure to leave me your phone number and e-mail so we can try to continue working on the few titles that remain.”

Back in the cubicle that Peter had come to think of as his office, he tried to analyse his feelings. He was not really surprised. It was obvious that the company could not go on losing money the way they had been but that did not make it any easier to accept. He knew several people who worked freelance and they seemed to survive, so it must be possible. Nevertheless he could not just switch like that, from one day to the next. He needed to take a break. A few days away. But where? This was no time for extravagance.
He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling with his hands behind his head. The stain made from a leak in the roof about 5 years earlier was wonderful for meditation. As he stared at the stain it depicted more and more the familiar hexagonal shape of a map of France.
France was associated with happy memories for Peter. His mother had been a French teacher and had been in love with France and everything French. In fact Peter often wondered if his father had been French but his mother had always refused to discuss the subject and now it was too late. She had died of cancer the year before. At least once a year, sometimes two or even three times, they would go to France and stay with various friends that his mother made so easily. His mother, who was a very logical person, decided to start with the north of France and to move progressively further south on each trip. Once they got to the Dordogne region, however, her logic abandoned her and she fell passionately in love with that region. From then on they went to the Dordogne every year. Not to the same friends, not to the same towns and villages but always to the Dordogne. There were also trips to Paris, of course, but his mother always said that Paris was Paris and France was France and although they coexisted they were totally different. Although Peter loved Paris he preferred what he liked to refer to as “deepest France”, the France of Clochemerle, of Alphonse Daudet, of Marcel Pagnol……

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