'Walking along the drab, grey streets past bomb craters and piles of rubble, I day-dreamed about a more romantic world where people spoke exotic languages, played music, and sang and danced with passion.'
Trapped in the austerity of post-war London, 20-year-old Valerie Barnes dreamt of the good times promised by the wartime songs. Then two chance meetings catapulted her into a high-flying career at the UN in Geneva and the arms of a glamorous Frenchman...
Joining an elite breed of independent women who travelled the world in the 1950s and 1960s, Valerie lived a jetset life as an interpreter, working in exotic locales and rubbing shoulders with prime ministers and presidents. At the same time she was juggling a Swiss chalet home, three children and a love- rat of a husband back in Geneva. But whatever Valerie did, she threw herself into it with zest. From dancing flamenco to being kidnapped in Cairo, wooed as wife number 14 by an African president or falling for a passionate Pole, Valerie's tales from home and abroad make A FOREIGN AFFAIR a lively, funny, utterly delightful memoir.
To a 20 year old fresh form the austerity of post-war London, Geneva seemed impossibly glamorous and Valerie soon became caught up in the intrigues, scandals and jet-setting lifestyle, attending lengthy conferences all over the world in exotic places and five-star hotels.
She was kidnapped in Cairo, offered marriage by an African president who wanted her to become his fourteenth wife and hobnobbed with world leaders, astronomers, philosophers, millionaires and diplomats.
Along the way she married a handsome, charming French womaniser, who thought she should have been proud that he had such a beautiful mistress and who once kindly told her in 'I have heard of men who kiss their wife once or twice and then just leave an arm round her while they read the paper or smoke a cigarette, waiting for her to get aroused. That's what I should do! But I'm not a patient man.'
But whatever Valerie did, she threw herself into it with passion, whether it was dancing flamenco, investigating Voodoo or falling in love. Valerie writes with refreshing frankness about sex - she says UN conferences were a hotbed for affairs - and with humour and great affection about the characters she met in her travels, her UN colleagues, the inhabitants of the tiny Swiss village she lived in, and her husband's extended French family. From tales of French Papa's gourmandising (not trusting Swiss cuisine, he never visited without his own supply of French bread, meat and wine) to the story of Bernadette who thrived on a cup of blood every morning, and from escaping from Imelda Marco's palace via the kitchens to finding an abandoned baby on a wintry train journey, 'A Foreign Affair' is a delightful, funny, lively memoir packed with anecdotes.
An intoxicating tale of Valerie's life. Living life to the fullest, Valerie shows us passion and romance in a new light, with some intriguing tales along the way.