Vivant au Bon Courage!

My love of adventure is well documented. I’m not sure that there is anything more adventurous than picking up, moving to a foreign country and embarking on a restoration project in a place where you know no one and barely speak the language. How romantic!
We were all introduced to this concept by Peter Mayle back in the 90’s with his “Year in Provence” series. Frances Mayes was able to build on the genre by doing the same in Italy in “Under the Tuscan Sun”, and even Elizabeth Gilbert managed to write a successful twist on the tale in the more peripatetic “Eat, Pray, Love’.
By all accounts I would have said this idea has been done. But, in “Bon Courage”, Ken McAdams proves that any good story can be retold . I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and his wife, Bing at a reading at the Yale Club (more on that later). Ken recaptured some of the more lively scenes in the book through his personal renditions. Foreign language gaffes are always much funnier when spoken! But what makes this story unique is the underlying theme of struggle. The challenges they faced in restoring their home were merely a metaphor for the struggles they faced in their dealing with loss (Ken’s wife had passed away, Bing was divorced), with their gain (they had met each other, married and in starting their “retirements” finally began realizing their dreams of writing and painting) and in discovering each other. The work being done along the way was more internal than external.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was naturally inclined to like Ken from the start. Growing up an airline brat I’ve always had an affinity for pilots, Ken had flown in the Marines and went on to be a Pan Am pilot. I had the pleasure of joining them for after the reading, during which Ken recounted some of his many stories from flying around the world at the dawn of the era of air travel. At that time, any international airliner was at risk for hijacking but Pan “American” airlines was particularly interesting to terrorists. Early on Ken was flying a return trip back from Beijing. He got a call on the radio asking him if he would harbor an undocumented passenger. This was back during the height of Communist China and that request could mean any number of things. Ken, however, acquiesced and off they were back to the States. About a half hour into the flight, the trap door in the floor of the cockpit popped open from the cargo hold and out popped H.W. Bush! Imagine if that mission had not been successful. So that’s why signing up to restore a centuries old home in France didn’t seem so scary.
I have been so inspired by Ken’s courage to publish a book that many might have said had been written before. I think there is room for one about the pub in Ireland.