Friday, 27 May 2011


Before I had my son the thing that most worried me about parenthood was the thought of the parties. 

Dinner parties for grown-ups: fab.  I love cooking and entertaining (in the hosting sense, I mean; my stand-up audiences might sue over misappropriation of the word 'entertaining') and I've been poisoning cooking for people since I was 18.  (Most - if not all - of my guests are still alive. And the person who once broke a tooth on my rice [TRUE] was extremely understanding and gracious.  And remained in contact with me for, oh, minutes afterwards). 

Birthday bashes for rampant toddlers, however: hmm.    

One year, when Sam was 4, we invited a bunch of his friends to our house with their parents - the idea being we adults could socialize whilst the children were having fun. We couldn't understand it when assorted mums and dads accosted us in the street asking us if we were mad.  You'll find out they said, mysteriously...

...and so we did.  After the last visitors on party day had bidden their farewells, we surveyed the crayon marks all the way up the expensive embossed white walls of the Victorian stairway, the broken toys, the vomit on the carpet.  As luck would have it I had made some orange boats, floating on a sea of blue jelly; only being new to this kind of catering, I'd put far too much food colouring into said jelly, with parents relating to me a week later how the cobalt blue dye was only just passing through their childrens' bodies. (Use your imagination).  


So the next year, when Sam was 5, we hired the school hall.  Sam wanted a dressing up party.  


Why are kids supposed to love dressing up?  I always hated it. Whenever I was invited to a dressing up party, my mother never asked me what I wanted to go as, it was a given that I always went as a nurse.  


(You only start to think about gender stereotyping when you realize my brother was sent as a Senior Otolaryngoloist specializing in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  But things have happily moved on since then, thanks to EU legislation).

In those days, of course, there weren't X-Boxes and i-Pads and Wiis.  No, children back then were entirely reliant for their amusement on something called crepe paper. Wahoo. Seconds of fun. Yards of it were routinely acquired in bright blue and white to transform me - a sensitive, bookish child, madly in love with music and art and Paul McCartney - into a sodding nurse. Every. Single. Time.  (Just say 'ahhh' for me.  Thank you).

And so, when my son requested fancy dress, I had to think carefully. Not least because parents now have very busy lives, and are naturally considerate about putting extra pressure on their friends to ensure their kids are kitted out appropriately for their social occasions.  Apart, that is, from one mother who organized her son's 'do' requesting 'Medieval Dress'.  WTF? (Although I happened to be directing an actor at the time whose professional dressing up box contained a knitted 'chainmail' balaclava.  Phew.)

Anyway, I and the Then Husband (if you don't know now, frankly I'm not going to bother) thought up the most wide-ranging category we could, erm, think of, and invited everyone to a Cartoon Party.

I made Sam's Fred Flintstone costume, and also the party bags, out of fun sabre-tooth tiger fabric (we were living in Brighton, OK?  It's not uncommon to dress like that around those parts), and I also painted some large posters of favourite cartoon characters with which to decorate the hall.  The Then Husband worked on lots of games, expertly recording sound FX onto his laptop, from which the impressive voice of Darth Vader would boom out from time to time frightening the bloody life out of me.

The day came.  And so did the little brats children.  They were totally uninterested in any of the formal games and activities, affected to be bored with the (pricey) magician we'd hired, and were completely unimpressed by the (real) voice of (ficitious) Darth Vader.  Couldn't you get the real one? was the question of the day.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, because I wanted to arrange some sort of farewell thing the night before I left Nice. (And it's goodbye from me). I know I go on about the horrible people, but I actually know a lot of very nice folk indeed, many of whom I will stay close to for the rest of my life. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to spend one last night on the beach, and I sent out invitations to drinks at a particular favourite spot of mine on the pebbles.

Most were delighted to have been invited. Some people residing miles away made the effort to brave the horrendous parking nightmare in the city and be there. People brought bottles, and snacks, and food. 

However...I had this email from one particular ex-pat invitee:-

Nice Etoile, It is supposed to rain on Thursday and THIS  IS APRIL, not July. It's going to take more than a bottle to warm us up. I don't fancy sitting on the beach huddled on a concrete slab unless we have a space heater overhead. When you said beach , I thought that's what you meant.  Call me a wuss but let us know when you come up with a plan B.  Best, Godzilla.

In truth, even I - someone who had spent the past couple of years in a place where there are seemingly no rules of engagement with how you talk to or treat others - was completely taken aback by this response to an invitation to my party.  Elsewhere on this blog I've discussed the sense of entitlement that is pervasive in the town, but being set upon merely for having asked someone to a celebration, well, words (almost) fail me.

I could understand the Queen of England turning me down.  I could understand it not being quite grand enough for the wife of a Russian billionaire. But being castigated by another ordinary ex-pat for having under-performed in the party invitation stakes was a new one.

I wrote back saying that it would be inappropriate for Godzilla to turn up after all, should she subsequently condescend to grace us with her presence.  She wrote back telling me how much she admired me for what I'd achieved in a very hard town, to which I replied her opinion was no longer of any value to me, but thanked her for convincing me beyond all doubt that I had made exactly the right decision to leave Nice.

We had a lovely time on the beach. Lots of friends, much laughter, a very nice meal in a restaurant after drinks.  And no, it didn't rain. Even though it was supposed to.

Thus, the sun started to set on Nice Etoile's final night on the Cote D'Azur.  Only for it to rise again the next morning...but tomorrow is another post...


Friday, 20 May 2011


There was a certain cyclical quality about my last few weeks in Nice, in that my first days in the place in 2009 were also a bloody nightmare. Seeing as I write plays in my spare time (have to fit in 60 hours of worrying Monday to Saturday, and sometimes do overtime on Sundays and Bank Holidays), I can't really complain about the drama and symmetry of it all.  

Oh, OK. I can.

You know how when you're having trouble making up your mind about an important decision, you get 'signs'; nudges from the Universe trying to elbow you into the path you're meant to be taking (George Clooney or Jeff Bridges??? Still waiting for guidance on that one) well, having decided to leave the Riviera in February - some two and a half months before I stepped onto the plane on 29th April - I imagined I'd saved myself from being shoved in the back by some power higher than a menopausal fairy.  

But no.  

One of the reasons I elected to bid my farewells to the Cote D'Azur concerned the rudeness of people on the street.  Extremely formal in their verbal communications, the Nicoise aren't noted for their politeness when encountering others physically.  As was demonstrated to me even more regularly from March onwards.  It's as if the 340,000 locals had each been personally advised that I was planning my escape, and that they therefore had a limited time left in which to push me under a passing tram.  (Not sure how the points system works, but judging by the number of people attempting to walk into me - and I'm not meaning to boast here - I think I must be worth something impressive).

And then there's the behaviour of some of the ex-pats.  Regular readers will already be acquainted with WikiMan and Pam, but a few other characters subsequently revealed themselves as being not quite as civilized as I had previously thought.  For example, the person - supposedly a friend - who once sent me an email consisting of nothing other than a Nazi symbol.  Life on the Med ought to come with a health warning.

Anyway, events in the final week were far from subtle in demonstrating to me why I was right to leave.  I was endeavouring to pack up my stuff (some of which had to go into storage - in two different places), arrange a place to stay in the UK, tie up various administrative issues, and I also had an article deadline to meet.  

And so I didn't really enjoy the extra stress created by parties of extra-rude teenagers on the sidewalks, the Hysterical Italian Landlady From Hell (lots to relate about her another time), or the (large) eight-legged creature that ran up my arm one morning just after I stepped out of the shower (first one I'd ever seen in that apartment. I screamed it to death.  But thanks, Universe. I'm on the SWEARWORD plane already...)

And then there was Jenny.  

Jenny - whom I had met through a friend - was trying to sell apartments for a living.  Not her own, but other people's.  Having been through a bit of a rollercoaster ride with assorted immobiliers in the saga of the apartment I and the future-ex own in Nice (I was renting something smaller to live in myself), I offered her the chance of trying to sell ours.  

Selling properties in France is not like selling properties in the UK, which is the only other place I've ever had experience of real estate.  In England, people moan about the (commonly negotiable) fee estate agents (mostly young, cocky men called Darren) charge for sitting in an office in cheap pin-striped suits, occasionally mustering up the energy to get up from their desks where they're continually on the phone to people who are probably paid by the government to be on the phone to estate agents (keeps the unemployment numbers down) and slime their way over to the photocopier to make a sheet of cheap paper with a photograph of your house on it to stick in the shop window.  

KERCHING!  That's two and a half per cent of your sale price please!

In France, it's a bit different.  In that the usual percentage you pay an agency to sell your place is FIVE per cent. And sometimes SIX. (Sorry, should have told you to sit down before reading that sentence).

Our apartment currently has a long-term tenant in it.  This complicates matters considerably.  Especially since French law is completely on the side of the tenant - whom you cannot ask to leave during the winter, from October to March, and who is totally within his rights to continue residing in your property even if he doesn't pay the rent for months on end. You, as an owner, must go through sometimes years of costly legal procedure to evict him.  

However, there are different rules for furnished and unfurnished contracts.  I had made it clear to Jenny - on several occasions - that our apartment was being let furnished.  Somehow, though, the words didn't quite compute, and much confusion, misunderstanding and pointless conversation ensued. To cut a long story short, we eventually decided to enter an exclusive contract with another agency, who has managed the rental of the property for the last eight or so years.  And with whom I managed to negotiate a 4% fee.  

We were very polite in informing Jenny of this decision.  We thanked her for her time, didn't castigate her for having met our tenant in person and given him the impression he had the right to stay in the apartment for another three years (oy veh!) and wished her well for the future.  I told her I'd drop by some time and pick up the keys.

Only given my chaotically frantic timetable leading up to my departure, I didn't manage to make it to her agency. I wrote her a polite email apologizing for this. Rather than have the keys sent to London at considerable expense to her company, I asked if she would kindly send them to a friend in Nice who would keep them for me.  

I received this reply by return. (Please note - even though I knew Jenny socially, I had never tried to negotiate her fee down.  Got it? Good). 

I must say that after all the time and understanding I spent on your dossier I find it very impolite of you not collecting the keys yourself and insisting on me sending them by post when they are available at the agency and Bld Victor Hugo is only a step away.

Given this occassion I must say that on many occassions I did not appreciate your behaviour, in particular the way you mislead the agency concerned by the rental, or acknowledging the fact that you were totally aware that our 5% commission was negotiable.

For information Nice Etoile, I was not surprised nor do I regret your decision to withdraw your apartment.  I was totally aware that you were using me and am convinced that this is your normal behavour!

Being 'impolite' for not collecting the keys myself???!!!

I wrote back telling her I was having the week from hell, and asked how it was my fault I didn't know her commission was negotiable.  I also requested an explanation as to how I had 'used' her when I hadn't even tried to knock down her percentage!  She replied curtly that I should tell my friend to call in at the agency for the keys. I replied that my friends had small children, jobs, lives, and that I didn't treat them like staff, and pointed out my consideration in not having asked for the keys to be sent to England, where I would shortly be living. 

Mexican standoff for a day before she sent me a frosty email saying she'd put the keys in an envelope and sent them to the address I had asked her to.  I wrote back saying now f*ck off thank you.

Was there any point to all this??? I was committed to leaving Nice, I'd had my ticket for some time, I didn't need any more persuading that the place was no longer for me!  Complete waste of negative energy, Universe!

Anyway, life moves on, tenants (hopefully) move out, my path towards either George of Jeff will soon become apparent.

Moral: Don't buy anywhere in France. And if you do (I've just told you not to, why aren't you listening to me?) don't stick a tenant in it.  And if you do (you're starting to annoy me now), don't say I didn't warn you. (NOT LISTENING, LA LA LAAAAA.....)


Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Fish and chips, Indian takeaways, fry-ups for breakfast.  

Radio 4 News, Downton Abbey, Come Dine With Me.  

People smiling at you in the street!!!

Oyster Card.

Hotel (helpful staff).  

Potential flat for rent given to someone else hours before I saw it.

Welcome to London, Nice Etoile.

Excuses for not having updated this blog for a while:  moving house; moving country; Two Weeks From Hell.

Have somewhere else lovely to move into later this week.  Will have to arrange internet (not to mention furniture).  But normal service (as normal as it gets on here) will be resumed as soon as almost-humanly possible.

Oh, by-the-way, did anyone know two people got married last Friday???


Monday, 25 April 2011


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, how come lawyers grow rich from clients suing hordes of people over allegations of plagiarism?

I read a very interesting piece yesterday about intellectual copyright in the world of Oscar-winning luvvies:-

(Quite interesting what it says about lawyers, too.)

Anyway, I myself have been 'flattered' of late, it turns out.  

A few months ago, having tired of the weirdos I'd been encountering on established dating sites, I decided it would be far preferable to encounter weirdos on a site of my very own making.  Apart from anything else, a great way of being required to talk to every man who happened along, n'est pas?  And so my singles site was born.  

The membership grew quite quickly and I instigated a regular monthly coffee morning, along with organizing the usual sort of drinks evenings, visits to the local book market, and so on.  I wrote the questions for the members profile page to include which attributes best described them and what attributes they were looking for, leaving space for each person to list their their interests and passions.

Naturally, since I'm moving out of the area, continuing to run such a group would be impossible, so I found someone to take it over.  Would have been a shame to see it go under, it having in excess of 50 members.

Well, guess what?  Another singles site has sprung up!  Here in Nice, where my singles site is based!  

Regular readers to this blog might like to hazard a guess as to whom they've met on these pages who would have the chutzpah to do just such a thing...

...any luck yet?

Well, here's a clue.  Remember Pam?  She of the school of kamikaze driving and secret socializing sites?  The one who threw me out of her group for committing the heinous crime of not having turned up to an event on a wet Wednesday afternoon, thus causing permanent emotional scarring to her members?

Yes.  Pam has started a new singles site.  Here in Nice.  It has the word 'singles' in the title. As does mine. As the second word. Just as in the name of my group.

There are a few differences, however.  Like, er, the secrecy thing.  If you're a non-member you have to join (usual Pam essay required to persuade the esteemed Organizer you're worthy of membership) before you can see if there's anyone there with whom you might like to mingle. (I think might learn a thing or two from Pam).  

And oh, the profile page...






STAND UP STRAIGHT, MAN!!!  (I added that one myself).

GRRR...(I added that one, too).

Not sure how, but this group appears to be related to something called Looking for Fun Cote D'Azur 2011

Well, if that's somebody's idea of fun, I'd rather sit in front of the TV and watch the Royal Wedding coverage, ta very much.  Whilst having my fingernails pulled out.  Very slowly.

You're not really going to be surprised when I tell you I wrote to Pam, are you?

No, thought not.

I asked her how many singles groups she thinks Nice can support, and whether she'd mind if I started up a group with the same premise of one of her other sites.  

Surprise, surprise, am still awaiting a reply. But then, who am I kidding?  I haven't submitted 2000 words about myself to be worthy of an email acknowledgment.  



P.S.  There's an upper and a lower age limit!  As there is with Pam's other sites!  25 to 58, or some other unfathonable random selection. 

Oh, and:-

This group is for singles, and those looking for fun/ relationships who know what they want, and have good reason!  You've got the finances...and the personality to go with it!! 

Screening and selection apply to each candidate.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Let Me Give You Money For Being Nutty

It's hard being homeless.  But at least I'm not green.  (According to Kermit - another frog I haven't kissed - it's not easy being green, either. And just imagine - homeless AND green!  See how much I have to be thankful for?)  

Especially hard to find somewhere to live from 1000 miles away.

Still, thank goodness for the internet, eh?  Look what's out there:-

Beautiful double room with ALL MOD CONS available ASAP.

Would suit someone who is EXTREMELY neat and tidy (who doesn´t like clutter or dust), who has one suitcase, who is patient, good with computers, understands if people are sensitive to chemicals and food allergies and doesn´t mind checking the post.

Flat comes with ALL mod cons, excellent washing machine, nice lounge, excellent storage, gas central heating, double glazing, big refrigerator, cleaner, wifi (internet), free telephone calls to most of Europe and USA, big TV, TV license.

Ideally short term is best, but might become long-term. (Someone who is easy going and flexible with this - and doesn´t mind making sure the flat is kept to a high standard of cleanliness as most people LOVE the flat when they come in because it is kept well-maintained). Thanks!

Now that sounds like just the kind of welcome to a new life I'd been hoping for. I think it would do me good to have to get out of bed at 5.30am every morning and stand up straight with my back to the wardrobe, proffering my fingernails for a cleanliness inspection. And since I don't know many people in London, what better to do in the evenings than polish my boots and iron the edges of the sheets as they form the perfect 90 degree angle over the mattress?

One suitcase?  Must write and ask how many pairs of socks are allowed, and whether they can have stripes...

Think it might be an idea to post an ad looking for accommodation instead.



Stuffed dog, no suitcase, 4 paws (clean-ish), would like kennel for himself and his menopausal Jewish fairy (unstuffed for some considerable time).

Very good with computers (loves dribbling over keyboard).


Now let the dog see the rabbit...(which shelf in the big refrigerator did you say the rabbit was???)


Tuesday, 19 April 2011


It was the London Marathon on Sunday.  I know this because I was watching the news, where they interviewed assorted pandas and carrots - along with Fred Flintstone - before the race started. (Superman apparently completed the course in 2 hours 42 minutes - what kind of superhero is that, FFS???  No wonder the world's in such a bloody mess).

They then spoke to some kind of an expert, who explained that when you're running in the usual wanker  jogging kit, your blood temperature is a normal-ish temperature for jogging blood, whatever that may be (what am I now? A doctor???)  However, in a chicken suit your blood reaches the upper limits of what is considered safe for freshly heated soup. (Umm, lovely giblets. Can you pass the salt?  Ta.)

As it happens, I had a very urgent appointment on Sunday morning for coffee on the beach, so on prising myself out of my sick bed (had been imbibing fish soup the previous day, having run out of chickens - possibly because they were all taking part in the bloody London Marathon) - I went over to my living room window to see what all the traffic noise was about in the street below. (Sunday mornings are usually quiet, it's the middle of the night when you get noisy traffic round here).

I live on a crossroads.  One of the roads had been closed off.  Not a good time to do this; for one thing it's Mercury Retrograde (oh, don't bother yourselves, I'll fill you in on it another time), for another, half of the street connecting one major thoroughfare to another had been drastically reduced in width because of roadworks, and now, among the hundreds of cars that were gridlocked thanks to the sudden road closure, there were lots of buses trying to negotiate the redirected route, too.

I looked down the street that had been barricaded to see a fearful sight - men and women bobbing up and down in bright spandex.  Not a couple, not a few, but over eight thousand of them, I later discovered.

Well, I knew the London Marathon was arduous, I just hadn't realized that it started in Nice.

Anyway, out I went (not in bright spandex), and ambled down to the Promenade for my rendezvous.  And that's almost as far as I got.  For the road that runs alongside the beach was entirely full of joggers, jogging as if they would have looked completely stupid in neon rainbow clingy jumpsuits had they decided to walk.  


I wanted to cross the road to the beach cafe.  I looked left.  I looked right.  Joggers to the left of me, joggers to the right of me - into the promenade of deathly attire it was impossible to ride.

From the port to a distant point on the way to the airport, there were joggers jiggling in every direction.

Many of us wanted to traverse the Promenade des Anglais.  We live by the sea, it's not entirely unreasonable to want to get to it from time to time. Especially on a Sunday. But the Promenade (it's a PROMENADE, joggers, you're supposed to PROMENADE on it, otherwise it would be known as a JOGGENADE, would it not???) was saturated by the spandex crowd. For miles. 

There are no underground pedestrian tunnels to gain access to the beach. No overhead walkways. The place was designed as if beach goers are grown up enough to cross the road safely under their own devices, negotiating speeding tons of metal coming at them from all directions without any help.  

Negotiating joggers, however, is an altogether different - and evidently more dangerous - matter.

(Why did the chicken cross the road?  He didn't. Too many people jogging in sodding chicken costumes stopping him from getting to the other side).*

*  Or was it that he was just too chicken?

I managed to get to the narrow island in the middle of a pedestrian crossing area, where 45 others were also perched, waiting for a chance to reach the Promised Land of pebbles, friends and coffee.  And there I stood for 15 minutes.

I won't tell you how I managed it in the end, but suffice to say there's a really interesting domino effect when you stick a foot out 45 degrees from your body in an absent-minded, menopausal kind of a way. Which subsequently made the hardest part of traversing that narrow width of tarmac being able to effect the journey without laughing my head off.

Oh, and yes, lovely day in the end - coffee turned into lunch, I got home at 5.30pm.  By which time there wasn't one single chicken in sight.

Clucking marvellous.


P.S.  Yes, I know chickens are female, should anyone else want to have a go at educating me.  We used to keep hens in the back garden. Rare breeds, all: Swarfega (my favourite), Nutella, Fruitella, Anaglytpa and Dyspepsia.  

To my knowledge they never entered a race in which they had to dress up as themselves. Nor did they try to cross the road. 

They did come into the house from time to time (egg-delivery used to be a sight more personal in those days) and follow me around on the grass when I teased them with grain, not to mention take soil-baths in the summer, but they were all extraordinarily well-balanced chickens (except for perhaps all of them) and knew I would have taken a very dim view of any monkey business. Which is just as well, since they were chickens.

All now jogged off to that great hen house in the sky, graves close to the house.

RIP, girls.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Feeling ill. One of those things where your whole body aches, you feel sick and you can't sleep, even though your eyelids are continuously on the point of closing.

It's 17 degrees outside, my (double-glazed) windows are closed, and the heating's still on full throttle. I've just been lying in bed under two duvets (that's not a euphemism for two Italian painters and decorators - why aren't you following me on Twitter, FGS???) and I'm cold. Even my stuffed dog looks sorry for me.

Mind you, perhaps the reason I can't sleep is down to a typical Saturday afternoon in Nice.

The woman upstairs is playing some jolly, bland (and jolly bland) plink plink plink plink pop song very loudly, the pompiers are hurtling around, sirens belting out the usual siren sound, and assorted cars are driving slowly along the streets of my neighbourhood, car horns BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEPING as is customary at the weekends.

Manchester United fans?  Manchester City fans? Exasperated drivers in north London stuck in jams trying to get to see the FA Cup semi-final?


These beeping cars (meant literally, but please feel free to substitute a swearword of your own choosing) constitute a wedding party.

Wills and Kate, take note.

For here in Nice, brides - having enveloped themselves in acres of bright white polyester satin (the fabric, if laid out end to end, would undoubtedly cover the Alpes-Maritimes; twice), and caked their faces in make-up so orange, Judith Chalmers would look like a veritable Goth standing next to them - climb into the back of open top cars to be driven around town for hours so they can wave at Saturday shoppers struggling with their heavy Saturday shopping, yell at startled passers-by, and look the smuggest they're ever going to look. I was on a tram once, with such a wedding car following behind us, wheels astride the tram lines. Sweet, how the vehicle duly waited at all the tram stops, presumably to see if any other orange brides needed a lift. 

Don't you think a tour of London in this way would endear the future king and his wife to their future subjects? Prince Phillip does that carriage driving stuff, I'm sure he wouldn't mind taking the wheel of a resprayed Renault 5, banging his fist on the horn several times a second. It would give the Queen time to nip back to the Palace to make sure the Cheesy Wotsits were laid out strictly according to royal etiquette. And it wouldn't cost much either - Kate's parents would, I'm certain on this occasion, donate the bunting tied to the back of the vehicle, and the silly string, and the life-size cardboard cutouts of corgis stuck on the side of the car, from their own, Party Pieces pockets. (Frilly pockets £5 extra).

Well, let me know if they take my advice.  Sadly, I'll be leaving for the airport at the very time Kate arrives at the Abbey. We already know she's turning up in a car, perhaps the Royal advisors have got wind of how to make the British monarchy just a little more relevant to the British people in this, the 21st Century.

Oh god, where's my bucket...