Saturday, 27 March 2010


Shall I be dull and do the "holidays" thing? After the Parisian glamour, the TGV took me to the Côte d'Azur to stay with my soeur d'acceuil of 2004. Laura personifies the word acceuillir. She is utterly lovely and calls me her Australian brother. And the countryside too seemed in a welcoming mood. After the steely grey of the North, sunshine and 20 degrees are marvellously uplifting.

Laura adores horses and riding, so these featured rather a lot in our hectic social calendar. At the Domaine Equestre des Grands Pins, some rather startling wealth was on display. Surprisingly, a lot of it seemed to emanate from Belgium. But for all this, the club restaurant was quite, quite awful. The service was bizarre to say the least, with an old man scampering about congratulating people on their choice of dish. My soup was cold, my pasta suspiciously un-pasta-like and I noticed nothing. Well, not terribly much, because directly ahead of me was the Swiss Miss. One of my absolute favourite tennis players, I used to love watching her. Love. Whenever I played myself, at 0-3 15-30 I would frequently ask myself "What would she do?". This didn't usually work particularly well, but by golly it helped the psyche.

But why should I be starstruck? I'm an equally valid human being, surely? I may not have dozens of trophies and millions in prize money, but I... Well at any rate I was there too, even if by accident, surrounded by obnoxious Monaco money. Of course this is such a poor man's retreat, I know it so well, quite off-by-heart. It's not the money's fault that it is being thrown in my face. This is rather what I resent the most. With such money I would not endlessly play charades with grandiose pretences. Perhaps one or two to begin with, of course, but only very privately. Probably in the antique free-standing bath, for example.

I took to considering life as an investment banker. Could I? I mean, truly, could I? Why not? Far sillier people than myself work in the industry, so whyever not? As I've mentioned before, I tend to think only about the results, never quite considering properly the details. I just want too much. The AbFab lifestyle in which one can fly to New York for lunch simply because there is a rather nice doorknob one saw and it might look nice in the new kitchen. Often insufferably tedious, but this is why there is champagne.

A friend we met in Cannes could quite possibly fit this bill. Nightmarishly manic to shop with, causing me an unexpected overspend just about everywhere and just wonderfully, flamboyantly French when in the Galeries Lafayette, she was hideously fascinating. Striking looks, very much savante, yet equally childish and naive. The highlight was her telephoning her Mother to check which day of the week it was. Charming, and I loved her the more for it.
However, La France hadn't finished surprising me quite yet. Organising passage to Germany (and specifically, Stuttgart) with SNCF was neither an easy nor cheap task to complete. By some bizarre stroke of luck, some of the equestrians were in fact Stuttgart bound, off to collect some horse or other. Four year old filly, if memory serves me correctly. The hilarious twist was that if I were to accept a lift from them, I should be sleeping in the horse van. I mean really, how could I not? A rather bizarre ten hour journey ensued, featuring a swearing German and a very timid Frenchwoman. And a lot of chocolate, inconceivably. When finally we arrived, the German rather officiously told me I should get out now, as they needed to continue East. So out I hopped, suitcases and all at 6am with no idea where I was, where to go next nor how to get there. My "Deutsch", if you could call it that, was about to be tested well. Naturally the only thing open at this hour was the butcher, so in I went, asking for directions. I didn't understand the reply. Thankfully the "English speaker" was summoned. Within thirty minutes I reached my friend's house and, happily indoors, tucking into the wonderfully delicious German bread. It really is so much better than English bread. I eat so much of the stuff on a daily basis. I defy anybody to lose weight in this country.

A week on and I am thoroughly enjoying Germany. Stuttgart is a marvellous city, full of surprises. I just wish that I could communicate better, I were a few inches taller and a few Euros wealthier. C'est la vie, hein?


  1. I had totally missed this post- you sound like you had a lots of larks! I remember the swiss miss being fascinated with horses, didn't she put herself out of some quite big tournaments falling off and get in trouble with her rather terrifying Mama and couch?

  2. You seem far too nice to consider the world of snakes that are investment bankers.... carry on travelling and eating far better :)

  3. Why thank you, the only problem is it takes a lot more funds than that which I currently possess!

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! So you didn't accost the Swiss Miss at her table and ask to be photographed together?