Saturday, 25 December 2010


Ex-pats roasting on an open fire,

Frostbite nipping at your toes, (UK Version)

Riviera Radio appallingly dire,

And women dressed up like hos...(Nicois Version)



Wednesday, 22 December 2010


No. 3

I got on a tram again yesterday.  It was raining hard and I had to be somewhere and was dressed up and wearing heels and didn't want to walk for half an hour...enough excuses already???

OK.  Thanks.

Because of the rain all the carriages were packed full.  The only place for me was right in front of the double doors.  Along with 437 other people.

The next stop was very popular.  A lot of passengers wanted to disembark.  And so, as is the French way (you know, those romantic Frogs), I received a sharp elbow in my back, whilst at the same time, in front of me, a young father rammed his child's buggy over my foot.  

I'd had enough.  Months and months of this typically appalling behaviour. Something snapped and I said VERY loudly - in English:-

For God's sake!  How RUDE!!!

Everyone stopped in their tracks.  The man with the buggy looked sheepish, and others endeavouring to get off gave me as wide a berth as they could.

At the next stop the 54 people wishing to alight were shouting over each other to say Pardon Madame, excusez-moi, desolee...


1 A cross woman

69 Downtrodden passengers

ANSWER: Shout loudly in English.

Bottle of champagne in the post. 



Yes, yes, there might be a little local difficulty with some surprise seasonal precipitation in the UK right now, and Vince Cable may be spouting off about being able to bring down the Government (there's a government?  Hang on - didn't England used to be a country and not a winter theme park?) but we have our own problems here, too.

Because there are also British businesses operating on the Riviera. And if that isn't bad enough, French people use them.  

Let me explain. 

There's a Virgin store - a large one - at the bottom of Avenue Jean Medecin, the main shopping street in central Nice.  It sells lots of different things - audio equipment, CDs, DVDs, Virgins, and (mercifully) British-type stationery - the stuff with just horizontal lines running across the page, rather than those weird tiny squares the French insist on for their notebooks, just in case they feel an emergency graph coming on.  (If they don't have any paper to hand they have to make do with their clothing, hence their favourite shirts with those weird tiny squares. The French are nothing if not graphic).

Anyway, said store also has a cafe.  The waiting staff here are specially picked to combine the qualities of both countries nationalities; for they have the surliness of the French, plus the ineptitude of the British. Genius!

I arranged to meet some girlfriends in the cafe the other day.  Two of us had already been to lunch together in a lovely Nicois restaurant, where the cuisine was of reknowned good quality.  Which was just as well, because for the hour after we'd ordered all we could do was reflect on other people's opinion of the food, since they forgot about supplying us with any. Even after we'd reminded them. But the fact that others had enjoyed their meals was something of a comfort, as you can imagine. (They did knock the wine off the bill to be fair, although this, too, could have been forgetfulness.  But SO WHAT?!)

Anyway, Miranda and I looked forward to our post-prandial coffee with Santa and Veronica, who were already ensconced at a table.  We placed our order with the miserable young man who (eventually) approached our seats.  Some 15 minutes later he brought our boissons, spectacularly CRASHING DOWN ONTO THE TABLE my glass of water, so much so that it spilled.  He looked at it angrily and wandered off, never to return.

A while later I approached the counter and asked another miserable employee where the bathroom was.  He gestured wearily over to an area roughly the size of the Alpes Maritimes, which was obviously the most specific he was going to get, and so I meandered through the tables for a couple of miles.  In  a kind of foyer thing I then endeavoured to open 8 unmarked doors, before I came upon one with a torn piece of A4 paper stuck to it (the staff didn't have time to go out and buy stationery, FGS!) saying TOILETTES.  

I tried to open the door, but there was no handle.  Just a big lock.  I went up to the counter, where (yet) another miserable young man told me that the convenience was inconveniently occupied (an inconvenient truth - hey, promising title for a film! - being that there was only the one toilet to service 200 customers), and that I had to wait.  

I waited.

Soon the door opened. A man emerged with a large key in his hand, and proceeded to lock said door.  I told him I was waiting to go in, and he replied that I should go up to the counter then and tell them I wanted to use the bathroom. Without letting me explain he marched purposefully away, and handed over the key to the staff.  I then had to go up to the counter (again), and ask them for the key. A new, miserable young woman asked me if I was a customer.  I said yes, and pointed to my three friends the other side of the room.  She handed over the large key.

What WAS it with that w*nker? (No, not an 'i', try again). He was merely another customer. What was it to him if I borrowed the facilities for 30 seconds?  Would he really deny a woman the chance to use the bathroom if she hadn't been a customer?  Is needing to go to the bathroom something only wanton, wilful women do because of a terrible upbringing?  Or perhaps a misspent youth?

Was he saying that I had to buy something if I wanted to exercise my right to be human???  That I shouldn't have designed my body to have to get rid of excess fluids several times a day if I expected to go out in public? Or was he just a TW*T???  (No, It's NOT an 'i', I'm getting bored with telling you).

Moral of the Story:  Never tell a Nicois man to put his head in the oven unless you actually want him to do so.  Rules are rules and they are there to be followed.  If you'd like me to show this on a graph, you can piss off. (Unlike me in Virgin).

P.S.  That bathroom was one of the filthiest I've ever had the misfortune to visit.  Good job they keep it under lock and key, else the cleaner might be able to gain admittance.


Monday, 13 December 2010



According to a few old jottings recently uncovered by some bloke called Julian Assange, some bloke called Prince Andrew believes that the UK has the best geography teachers in the world.  I don't know if this is the case or not; could be that the shy and retiring royal is merely being characteristically modest about his much-lauded ability to locate his mouth geographically with his foot on a daily basis, but I do know that whilst Nice is part of the French mainland, when you've lived in the place for a while you realise in many respects the city is actually on another planet.

Take style, for example.  I'm talking clothes.  It's a grave mistake to expect the fashionable good taste you see on the streets of Paris emulated here.   Middle-aged Nicoise women especially give lie to the supposition that there's a French 'chic' gene; let's just say when they dress up - now, how can I put this delicately? - they do 'Ageing 1980s Prostitute' rather well.  (Knew I'd find a way!) 

And so it comes as a bit of a surprise that the music piped out in many public places comes from none other than TSF Jazz - supposedly cent per cent jazz, but which is actually around soixante dix-neuf per cent jazz. (Not such a catchy strap line, for some reason.  How fortunate they don't work out percentages in the same way as me!)   These venues include the kind of shops you find in the UK frequented by little old ladies with pink hair and purple cardigans (or purple hair and pink cardigans - British women love experimenting with the latest trends), where it is traditional to have to endure the kind of local radio station that only little old ladies with pink hair and purple cardigans (or purple hair and pink cardigans) listen to (and thanks for your requests, here's Roger again to talk about his lifetime collection of pasta art and used teabags).

'Cos jazz is quite sophisticated, really.  (Although according to my friend, Hugo, it's 'music for w*nkers'.  Funny, didn't quite picture old Brian, with his moustache, cravat and Brylcremed pate, tapping his spats to Thelonious Monk).  

Once a week I take an hour-long bus journey into the hills above Antibes and Cannes.  Sophia Antipolis is the Riviera's equivalent to Silicon Valley in California; it's a sprawling development across acres of gorgeous countryside, surrounded, at this time of year, by stunning snow-capped mountains.  Invariably, different bus drivers have the radio tuned to the jazz station for the journey.  Thus assorted IT workers, scientists and teachers travel the distance tapping their trainers to the music they habitually hear in assorted shops in the town and surrounding villages.

But they're French.  English speakers have something else entirely to represent their tastes: Riviera Radio.

The Full English Breakfast Show is what RR offers to its listeners to ease them into the day.  It is presented (and I use the term loosely) by Rob and Pete.  One of them is English, the other, Australian.  Which is which, I'm not sure.  They're interchangeable to me.  Neither of them can string one word together. There are frequent long silences.  One of them once poured such scorn on the day's weather forecast supplied by the company contracted to provide such a service to the station, he spent the next week making apologies so embarrassingly fawning, they were obviously emanating from his lips whilst he was lying naked on the floor with the MD's foot on his head. This pair make Alan Partridge appear highly intelligent. And they reportedly hate each other. They're a bit like Sooty and Sweep, but without the superior linguistic ability. 

For those of you unfamiliar with Sooty and Sweep, take a butcher's at this:-

I know a bit about radio.  I used to make comedy programmes for the BBC. I wrote, directed and produced, and edited my shows on quarter inch tape with a razor blade on an old machine in my office to tight broadcast deadlines. I worked with the nation's top comedians and most revered members of the acting fraternity.  So how it was I came to be sitting opposite a complete prat day after day in a studio in central London, co-presenting a live phone-in show for a networked independent station, still has me scratching my head.

It was me and Norbert Nobrane.  (Not his real name, his real name's Gordon Astley.  Oh dear.  Did I write that out loud?  Silly me.  Oh well). For my British readers, Gordon's career includes hosting the final series of Tiswas, and being a panellist on Cheggars Plays Pop. For my non-British readers, be thankful your memory of bygone media has not been sullied by these cult* shows.  

* Oops, typo!

Gordon Astley had a personal sting, which was a bouncy piece of music underscoring the line:  

Gastley [read 'ghastly'] Gastley, why did they name me Gastley?

Clever, eh?

He took an instant - and instantly noticeable - dislike to me.  He wasted no time in trying to put me down on air, and was personally rude about me into the bargain.  So one time after he'd yet again treated the world to the false modesty of Gastley, Gastley, why did they name me Gastley? I looked at him across the table and said into the mic:  'How long have you got?'

There then followed a 2 minute silence.  And from then on, it was war.

Gordon couldn't perform without his 'comfort blanket' of assorted objects, which he ritually placed onto the table around the mic stand. One such item was an old table top shop bell, which he liked to 'DING!' every time I came out with a witticism.  To pay him back, one day I smuggled into the studio without his noticing one of those streamer things you blow into to make a high-pitched screeching sound (not unlike Sweep's dulcet tones) which unfurls at the same time.  And after the next inevitable 'DING!' I suddenly reached for my instrument of torture and blew it loudly at him.  He was a little startled, I have to say. And possibly, I hazard, more than a tad irritated. The words 'dishing', 'out', 'but', 'can't' and 'take' come to mind. 

The Producer of the show, Robin, despaired of Mr Astley.  Whereas I turned up at the offices two hours before the show, as required, to go through the newspapers and discuss what were to be the day's topics, Gordon would shimmy in three minutes before we went on air and make straight for the studio. Robin would run after him, having just enough time to impart the information that the subjects to be covered were the ethics of female circumcision and East Timor's struggle for independence against Indonesia, while Gordon waved him away, intoning a breezy yes, yes whilst setting his toys out in front of him, before switching on the mic and starting with Welcome ladies and gentlemen...and the main topic today is 'funny names'.  Do you know anyone with a funny name?  Call in and tell us about it.

(Cue Producer banging his head against the plate glass window helpfully placed between studio and cubicle.  Obviously what it's there for).

And so it was that one person called in to tell us he'd once known a person called Willie Smallcock.  This amused Gordon greatly.  Willie Smallcock?!  he repeated through almost uncontrollable chuckles.  If my name was Willie Smallcock I'd change it immediately! he said.

Yes, I pitched in.  You'd change it to Willie Bigcock.

Gordon refused to talk to me for the next 15 minutes.  Live on air.   (This is the case, Gordon, should you be looking in.  I have it on tape. Wonder if it's worth anything on eBay?  Unless you'd like to make me an offer, of course...)

The audience, naturally, loved our disfunctional on-air relationship. But sadly (?  Hmm) we were just filling in for the regular presenters, and so this double-act (or rather, an act of two singles) was merely for a limited period.  The idea was then for me to contribute political comedy to the live breakfast show, which was about to be revamped, but - as is the nature of the industry - the owner of the station suddenly announced he was changing its remit, and it became a sports broadcaster.   No news-based breakfast show was thus required.

Gordon popped up on a local BBC radio station after that, before suddenly disappearing in highly mysterious circumstances in February 2009, to the consternation of his listener. (But what are mums for, eh?) The BBC stays schtum on what happened.  If I could direct you to where you can hear him now, I would.  (If I didn't like you, of course).  But I can't.

However, here's a lovely picture.

So, then, whilst it's often advisable to keep your eyes closed when out in the streets of Nice, lest they be offended by assorted sartorial crimes too hideous to contemplate, keeping your ears open is a bonus.  

Top international jazz versus Rob and Pete or Gordon Astley.  It's one thing to be an English speaker, quite another to be an English listener.  


Saturday, 11 December 2010


No. 2.

Shut up already!



1.00am.  Washing machine upstairs: 1hr 50 minutes

1.30am.  Monkey Woman and Banana Boyfriend: 15 minutes

2.30am.  Large group of wasted young men in the street below: 25 minutes

There are some things even Mastercard can't buy.  A good night's sleep being one of them.

Neighbours in central Nice?  Senseless.


Sunday, 5 December 2010


No. 1.




The world would be a far poorer place without the French.  Just imagine what it would be missing: couture design, as promoted by Coco Chanel No. 5 (for which Coco Chanel No. 4 never forgave her until her dying day); haute cuisine, cooked up by Georges Auguste Escoffier (although frankly his Suzette was crepe);  and Sacha Distel, whose renditions of Dans les Pharmacies, Un Pastis Bien Frais and On N'est Pas Des Grenouilles (knee deep in tradition) have brought tears to the eyes of millions of people around the globe who know a thing or two about music.

But surpassing even these luminaries are the great thinkers - Descartes (I think, therefore I can read maps); Simone de Beauvoir (I think, but I also look good); and Voltaire (I think, whilst at the same time undercutting EasyJet and RyanAir.  Fly Volt!).  

When it comes to everyday rationality, however, the Nicois tend to revere the thought processes of the little-known philosopher - allegedly the illegitimate son of Napoleon I - Jules Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire; for logic along the Cote d'Azur is nothing if not Hilarious.

My friend, Anastasia, and I visited a local museum when she was over from the UK.  (This was in the days before the UK managed to stop people from escaping its shores by the dastardly wheeze of coating tarmac with white water crystals.   Years in development, brilliantly effective.  There's just no holding back sophisticated governments of the 21st Century).  

The Musee Massena is situated in one of the best positions in town, facing the Mediterranean on the Promenade des Anglais.  Entrance is free. However, there's an important ritual that must be followed if you are to gain admission to this breathtakingly beautiful villa.  You first have to enter a shop next to the museum and ask the lady behind the counter for a (free) ticket.  She then gives you a (free) ticket.  You walk out of the shop and in through the gates of the house where, on the steps leading up to the front door, you encounter a guide, who asks you for your (free) ticket.  You hand over your (free) ticket, the guide thanks you very much for your trouble, and you cross the portal, whilst scratching your head (local custom).

Nice has a nice new tram system, which was years in the design and building.  It's very popular and very efficient.  Tickets - however far you're travelling - cost 1 euro, and you buy them from vending machines at tram stops.  

I bought one from my local tram stop the other day.  The tram arrived, I stepped onto it, and put my ticket into the 'composter' machine to be franked.  It immediately spat out my piece of card, alerting everyone in the carriage with a very loud BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP that I was endeavouring to hookwink it with an un-valid billet, and thus was a criminal of the finest order (though there's nothing about me which makes me look remotely like a British politician as far as I'm aware).

The doors having closed and the tram having set off on its route down the main shopping thoroughfare, all I could do was resolve to take the faulty ticket to the Ligne d'Azur shop for a refund. 

And so it was that I visited the Ligne d'Azur shop just opposite the very tram stop where I had wasted my euro on this duff oblong of blue paper. Well, this being a piece about tickets, you didn't really think they were going to let anyone just wander in, now did you?  It's a bit like queueing up for sausages at the Waitrose deli, you have to tear off a piece of paper with a number on it and await your turn.  My ticket said 18, the number of the ticket of the person they were currently serving was 327.  Ah well, I'm British, I know how to wait in line, and anyway, Michael Buble was purring seductively into my ear.  

After 20 minutes it was my turn.  I went up to the counter, waved my ticket in the air and explained that the machine on the tram wouldn't accept it.  Please could I have my euro back.  The woman pointed outside the shop to the tram stop 10 metres away.  Had I purchased the ticket from that machine, she asked?  Yes, I affirmed.  I had.  Well then, she said, you'll have to take it to the Ligne d'Azur shop two kilometres down the street in Place Massena. 

(*&^%$$£   (%^&*()@

(So which were the tickets she dealt with, then?  Those purchased in Scandinavia???)

Mind you, if French reason is unreasonable, just sample Italian thinking...

...I was once trying to get to Sam Remo from Nice - the sorry tale of which I will relate in another post - but all you need to know for now is that I got stuck at Ventimiglia station for what seemed like three weeks.  There is a very nice cafe come deli shop at Ventimiglia station, which enticed me for my lunch (and possibly supper, not to mention Christmas dinner. Think you're getting the idea).  

However, this is not just any cafe come deli shop, nor even is it a Marks & Spencer's cafe come deli shop, it is an Italian cafe come deli shop. Which means you don't go up to the counter, point at something lovely and say I'll take 7 of those por favor, you queue up at the till, tell the lady what you think you want to eat (either having no idea what there is to eat at the counter, or having studied what there is to eat for the last 45 minutes, realising that it is a necessity to memorize what fare there is to chose from - forget teasmade, set of towels, cuddly toy, it's more a case of Genoa Salami, Mortadella, Soppressata - oo, and what was the other thing again???, don't help me, I'll get it on my own...) - you hand over the money, she prints out a receipt with a list of the stuff you've paid for, you take it to the counter and queue up to hand it to the person serving the food, happening to glance down at something mouth-wateringly delicious before realising if you also want a slice of that, you're going to have to invest another 4 hours of your life you'll never get back again.  And thus you come away with 16 packets of coffee beans and a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil because you're menopausal. 

So perhaps living in France isn't quite so bad after all.   I've yet to visit the Ligne d'Azur shop in Place Massena (which is open from 1.24pm to 2.43pm on alternate week days, not including Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays or bank holidays).  But at least there's a certain comedy about it.  I'm not one of those people who knows the cost of everything (1 euro) and the value of nothing (6 gags), you know.


Thursday, 25 November 2010


You've heard the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman walking into a bar.  (With the barman turning around and saying 'What's this?  Some sort of a joke?)

Well, with the author of this blog as ever dedicating her daylight hours to comedy (the hours of darkness are a bit of a bloody joke as well, nice of you to bring it up again), it befell me (an Englishwoman) to enter one such hostelry last weekend with an American, a Canadian and a Polish woman.   There was free jazz playing, and we're suckers for anything free jazz.

But interesting point.  (Hey!  The first one since 1984!)  My friends here in Nice hail from all over the world.  There's a British Greek Cypriot married to a Norwegian (and, funnily enough, a Norwegian married to a British Greek Cypriot...that's a bit of a coincidence), a Cuban married to a Dane (now I come to think of it, I'm also acquainted with a Dane married to a Cuban, well, well, well), a Russian, a couple of Icelandic folk (not married to each other, even slightly), a smattering of Americans (why DO they have to smatter all the time???), some Eastern Europeans, some Western Europeans, a Swedish woman (who seems to be the only person on the planet to understand Swedish - frankly it's all Greek to me), a few Italians...even, possibly, the odd French person (don't tempt me).

It becomes more complicated still when I tell you that the British Greek Cypriot/Norwegian couple are currently living in Qatar (bless you!), whilst the Cuban/Danish pair have settled in Nova Scotia for a bit. (A bit of what, I can't tell you here, children might be looking in). Not to mention the Swedish woman having hared off to Dubai.  (Shh! Don't mention it!)

And so here's me, one lonely weekend, left solely with an American, a Canadian and a Polish woman.  (I actually met a man the other month - this is true - who told me his ancestry was English, Irish and Scottish...see?  Everyone's a comedian!)

Santa (the American, you've met her before in these pages) called me up to tell me about the free stuff jazz, and we arranged to meet at the tram stop close to where we both live before hooking up with the others.  (Not that we're hookers.  No idea how to play rugby at all). After we'd greeted each other I asked Santa about Felicja, the Pole, whom I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting before.

'Well,' Santa offered.  (Always a bad sign).  'She's a little...erm...avant garde'.

Right.  One of those evenings, then.

'And she's always, always late'.

So we waited.  It was a clear evening, not too cold, stars twinkling in the black sky.  

La la la.  

[Feel free to make a cup of coffee at this point, Felicja is going to take a while longer to get here.  But make sure you don't spill anything onto the keyboard when you get back.  They're a bugger to dry out.]

Seen any good films lately???

Oh!  Here she is now!

From external appearances, Felicja didn't look that avant garde.  Two arms, two legs, nose in the right place (Picasso might have had to rearrange her features a little to include her in one of his efforts), a ready smile.  And a hearty laugh.  More of which later.

Finally, we found Veronica (the Canadian), and, having the full joke quota, entered the bar.

The jazz was very good.  A trio: singer and rhythm guitar, guitar and double bass.  Three sets, a real bargain for the price.  (Erm, that is, had there been a price, which there wasn't.  But then, that depends on what the price would have been, had there been one, as to just how much of a bargain it would have been...gosh, life is complicated.  I blame the Euro).

But, whilst the music was great, even better entertainment was Felicja. She speaks no English whatsoever - which is fine, this is France, after all - but while she's lived in Nice for 14 years, her French accent can best be described as 'Polish' (don't try this at home; nobody will be able to understand a sodding word you say), and she bursts out into very loud, raucous laughter every 13 seconds.


Santa looked at me.  I looked at Santa.  Santa looked at Veronica. Veronica looked at me.  

(Why me???  I wasn't the one looking at her!!!)  

'Would you like to try my Guinness?' Santa generously offered Felicja.


'The decor's nice here, isn't it?'


'Oh, I heard this song on the radio this morning.' 


I read once that Peter Cook, the innovative cult British comedian, bemoaned the fact that dinner parties were a complete bore, thanks to everyone assuming that whatever emanated from his lips was some sort of exceedingly witty joke.  So whenever he said: 'Pass the salt,' everyone else around the table would fall off their seats with laughter, clutching their stomachs in pain, when actually all he wanted was for them to pass the salt.  

When I say this was fine entertainment, the first hour or so was amusing enough, after which time it began to pall a little.  And then the whole evening started to go south.

The female singer/rhythm guitarist announced a guest singer/rhythm guitarist.  Clap clap clap.  Onto the stage climbed a somewhat vertically-challenged man (took him 5 minutes with a ladder) who proceeded to strum and sing completely out of tune.  (Too short for the high notes).  And he showed no sign of relinquishing his 15 inches of fame.

That would be time to go, then.  The waitress brought over the bill.  

I have to relate that it was exceedingly dark in the place; when we had been perusing the menus earlier on in the evening we couldn't make out a damned thing, but the waiting staff just stood there looking at us, impatient for us to choose something from a list of items we couldn't see.  Could have been a brochure from the local fishing tackle suppliers for all we knew.  However, we ordered our drinks and a couple of bowls of fries (I hope) to share between us.  (Doesn't matter anyway - whatever they were tasted very nice with mayonnaise.  Even if they were wriggling around in your mouth).  A while after we'd ordered an older couple joined our table, menus in hand, at which point the lights were suddenly turned up.  And after they'd spoken to the waitress, guess what?  The lights were dimmed once more.


Anyway, now, as we endeavoured to decipher the bill in near total blackness, Santa got out her mobile phone in an effort to shine the light of its screen onto the teensy piece of paper with the faint printing on it, the rest of us leaning forward in order to peer at it, when all of a sudden


She'd unwittingly taken a photograph of the till receipt, making us look like a bunch of bungling 1972 Watergate spies.  We all dissolved into fits of uncontrollable laughter, to disapproving looks from the other clientele, who were concentrating hard on trying to discern just how out of tune the short guy with the ladder actually was. (Exceedingly).

There then followed an argument with the waitress about said bill - however much money we gave her, she kept telling us it wasn't enough - and this took ten minutes to resolve.

Worse was to follow.  For on emerging from the joke hostelry, we found that it was teeming down.  Not only with rain, but with Very Wet Rain, my least favourite kind.  Felicja and I had each brought umbrellas on the off chance the weather would suddenly deteriorate (we grew up in Northern Europe, it's part of our training), and with these (teensy, handbag-sized) pieces of nylon we endeavoured to keep all four of us dry.  (We failed).

After the twelve minute swim to the tram stop, Felicja suddenly looked at Santa and burst out with:


Santa looked at Felicja.  'Whose name's Kevin???'

Felicja looked at Santa.  'That guy!'

'WHICH GUY???'  Santa was a little discombobulated now.  


'The guy we were talking about on the phone last Wednesday!'


A bit later we all separated, which was good news for Felicja, because Santa was on the verge of separating her from her bits in ways she might not have enjoyed.  Santa and I were the last to say goodbye, and I attempted to recombobulate her before she had to paddle home in what was now a torrential downpour.

I live five minutes walk from the tram stop.  I didn't mind, I was wet already, the streets were well lit and I had fun dancing around the puddles.  The evening had been going downhill for the last hour or so, but hey, I was nearly home now, what else could happen?

I reached my road and looked forward to setting foot inside the lobby of my apartment block.  All of a sudden I heard CLOMPCLOMPCLOMPCLOMP behind me, heavy feet approaching me quickly.  I turned around in fright, to espy none other than Monkey Woman running through the precipitation.  She passed me and got to the apartment building first.  And SWEARWORD hell, she held the door open for me!

I muttered a grudging 'merci', and whilst she went to the lift, I fiddled about opening and closing my mail box.  Dammit, the lift took an age to arrive, and I couldn't spend a second longer pretending to sort the non-existent letters, and so I walked to the back of the foyer.  Monkey Woman got into the lift, I veered off to the right and walked up five flights of stairs.  Believe it or not (I'm not making this up, honest), we got to the fifth floor at exactly the same time.  Monkey Woman got out of the lift and quickly went towards her lair, I passed the back of her (breathing in - I hear exercise and diet can be very effective for that area) and opened my own front door.

Home, if not dry.  Exhausted from the laughter.  Worried about the little guy probably still trying to clamber down from the stage.

Always wondered what it would be like to take part in a joke, and now I know.


A sausage goes into a bar and orders a pint of beer.  The barman says 'Sorry, we don't serve food'.

A white horse walks into a bar and the barman says 'I stock a brand of whisky with your name!'  And the white horse says 'What?  Eric?'

A man walks into a bar carrying a roll of tarmac and says 'A pint please, and one for the road'.

(And you thought my jokes were bad...)

Monday, 22 November 2010


Those of you who are regular followers of this blog (as opposed to those of you who are irregular followers - but that's OK with me, I don't care how odd you are) will know that my relationship with one particular set of neighbours - the chunky Monkey Woman and her thick, banana-wielding boyfriend - could be a lot better.  Potentially, it could be brilliant if only they'd move to another part of the city, but hey ho.

Having disturbed my dinner party one evening because she didn't like the fact that four middle-aged women were having an in-depth discussion on Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (I think that's what we were talking about - memory's a bit hazy from this distance, but frankly, it seems unlikely to have been anything else), and this being a few days after she and Gormless had awoken me in the middle of the night with their screechingly loud alien friends on celluloid (that's a planet close to Uranus - or close to theirs, at any rate), everyday communication between us has been a little strained.

Cartesian Logic being somewhat remote from the everyday life of this self-absorbed, unreconstructed pair, it has befallen me to educate them in the rules of how to live amongst others in society.  

Thus, you can imagine the relish with which I greeted the latest opportunity to school them further with The NiceEtoile Course on How Not To Piss Off Your Menopausal Neighbours To A Dangerously High Degree In The Middle Of The Night.  (Free call to the emergency services with every subscription).

As is common with this couple's particular educational void, the full extent of the gaps in their knowledge became apparent once more at 3.30am one night last week.  There had been torrential rain for some hours, and the lovely pair had swung back through the branches to their apartment, having doubtless enjoyed an elongated tea party with their simian friends elsewhere.  Naturally, they were soaked through from the heavy precipitation, and Monkey Woman began to run a bath. I know it was her because she then lay in it and SHOUTED affectionate terms of endearment to her beloved, WHO WAS IN A DIFFERENT ROOM AT THE OPPOSITE END OF THEIR ABODE. CHERIE.

Having splished sploshed for a while with enough force to sink the Titanic (Every night in my dreams, I hear you, I HEAR YOU!!!) she then emerged from her ablutions and dropped something heavy onto the floor (it would be unusual for that part of her anatomy to have succumbed to gravitational pull so early on in her young life, so I think it must have been something else, but a good thought nevertheless! You're obviously getting the hang of this).  At the same time as whatever it was hit the carpetless undergrowth, a loud swearword emerged from her lips.  

Well, I thought in typically resigned fashion (well, perhaps not typically, or indeed resigned, but apart from that...), at least they'll now get to bed, spend some time monkeying around (ooh ahh eee ahh ooh) and then get some sleep.  


Little did I realize that someone had taught them a new chimpy trick at their tea party, and on now went the washing machine, followed by the tumble dryer.  For two hours.  Not a continuous sound, but 8 seconds of low tumble hum, followed by 8 seconds of silence.  (Zzz...) Followed by 8 seconds of low tumble hum, followed by 8 seconds of silence. (Zzz...) Followed get the idea.

And so it became apparent that whilst they may not have much of a liking for Spinoza, they (and I, by the morning) were more than a little acquainted with Spindryer.

An essay in good citizenship was duly attached to their front door. (This is the written part of the NiceEtoile course - I'm nothing if not thorough).  

Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, the monkeying around part of the evening's proceedings seemed to be much shorter than usual...perhaps I should also have a word with him about his technique...


Year of publication of Spinoza's treatise:  1670

No. of years necessary to train the Monkey Couple in selfless thought:   1,670

No. of English colloquialisms the neighbours are exposed to on a daily basis (in a kind and caring way):  14,692

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


There was a time almost two years ago when my future then husband was then my husband - not my then husband - not that he is my then husband now, technically, since the divorce hasn't gone through yet, meaning he is, as I said in the first sentence (although this still IS the first sentence, correct me if I'm wrong - oh, you know what, don't bother), currently still my future then husband...although why are you so hung up on titles?  Haven't you heard the phrase 'what's in a name'?  'A husband by any other name would be as duff'?  Pure Shakespeare.  (Or was that 'would be as MacDuff'?  Or perhaps McMuffin?  Or was that Ronald McDonald?)  

Anyway, I'm talking about him then being my husband, and, I suppose, my future then husband. (Oh, what's the matter now???  Can't you understand plain English?  Ye gods!)   

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, it became apparent that, with the event of him becoming my future then husb...oh the hell with it...let's just say it was obvious that when we split up I would be in need of a day job in order to supplement my day job (?) of writing clear, concise, explanatory copy for whomsoever employed me so to do.  (So).  (Not everyone can do this, you know, it's something of an acquired skill. And I don't take my talents lightly, I promise you).

Thus it was that I came over to Nice from the UK in May 2009 for an interview with an international school for the position of Music Teacher.  (I studied piano and comedy violin, remember?)  I was interviewed by a somewhat short (on charm, as well as stature) Australian man, whom we shall in this column refer to as Malcolm Wombat.  (What do you mean, 'that's not his real name'?  How do you know???  He's Australian, isn't he???)

Mr Wombat plainly knew nothing about music (along with knowing nothing about much anything else - but hey, at least he was consistent!) and so entrusted my interview to the new Director of Music, Mr Algernon T Whaffle a'Teebag.  (Far too much to type when you're menopausal, so hereafter referred to as A T Wa'T for short).

Mr T Wa'T's most disconcerting attribute (or so I thought) was that he looked exactly like Norris Cole from Coronation Street.  Even down to the choice of clothing.  If not the male pattern baldness and fussy attitude.  However, am not certain he ever formed a partnership with anyone called Rita, or consorted with paperboys every morning at dawn.   (Or at Rita's).  You'll be the first to know if confirmed.

During the discussion, the stuttering Mr T Wa'T having looked over my CV and read somewhat nervously, I thought, that I myself had been Head of Music for some poor, bedevilled school in London many years ago, asked me what I would teach a Year 9 class.  Thinking he was thinking (how wrong I was, on any level) that I might be a little above myself were I to be engaged by them, I answered:

'Whatever you wanted me to.'

This statement was not met with delight.

And so the conversation turned to tonic and dominant (I prefer tonic, with ice and lemon, thanks), the Junior Choir, the importance of learning the violin (not unlike the sentiments of my audiences when I was on the concert platform), and the Suzuki Method as opposed to arriving at school on just any old motorcycle.  (A little joke there for anyone who knows about violin teaching.  Which doesn't include me).

After a while, a few nods and winks having passed between the two men, Mr Wombat showed me around the school, and then, standing in the foyer, offered me the job on the spot, which I accepted.  I asked him how long it would be before the paperwork would be done (the position was to start in September), and he said 'two weeks'.  We shook hands, I left and flew back to the UK.

Three weeks passed.  I heard nothing.  So I sent Mr Wombat a polite email asking when I could expect the expected paperwork that I had been led to expect.  He wrote back instantly, saying that the Australian woman I was to replace (what Australian woman???  She'd never been mentioned before) had got her visa sorted out (what visa??? etc., etc.) and so they wouldn't be needing me after all.  

Dear Reader, there IS a recession going on, you can't just be sending off emails here, there and everywhere like we all did (myself included) in the old days, now can you?

I was fairly appalled, and somewhat ruffled.  (Or was I somewhat appalled and fairly ruffled?  A lot has gone on since then, it's hard to remember).

So, back it was to Square 1.  Little did I know, however, that that was just the beginning...

(Squares 2 - 46 to follow under separate cover).


No. of Squares so far:  1

No. of Beginnings:  1 (just)

Suzuki Method vs Rhythm Method:  Just say NO to both, OK?  Neither of them is a good idea, they can both lead to highly undesirable consequences...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


OK, so money may not buy you happiness (nor does poverty, dear Reader, all that buys is SWEARWORD fishfingers), but neither does it procure intelligence or class.  Both of which I obviously possess in abundance (along with a freezer full of Picard's finest batonnets).

Let me explain.

I was invited this summer to the graduation ceremony of a local international school's, erm, graduates.  (Well, you think of a better word then).  This being the Riviera, no other venue would do for the occasion than the plushest place around, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco (which is, I take pleasure in informing you, a mere 6 minute journey from Nice International Airport in your helicopter.  Don't say it's not an education reading my posts. I'm not just about cheap laughs, you know. And there's my Fishfinger Advisory Service coming soon, so stop complaining).

The word 'education' is an interesting one.  For that evening was certainly an education for me...

First, the backdrop.  The Hotel was built by Prince Charles III of Monaco next to the famous Casino in 1864, and kitted out in the style of Napoleon III, the 19th Century French equivalent of Justin et Colin en acid. The salon has not one small piece of floor, wall or ceiling not bedecked overly-gratuitously with decorative Stuff and Yet More Decorative Stuff.  The carpet wasn't just busy, it couldn't fit me in 'til next year; the walls not only clashed with the carpet, they were arguing amongst themselves; and everything was covered with gilt. Even the gilt. After only ten seconds of stepping into this grotesque chamber of horreurs decors I, too, started to feel a little bit gilty.

Had the Swedes established a flat-pack furniture business in the area at the time, their advertising slogan might have been Chuck out the Prince.

Next, the style of the proceedings.  Imagine a cross between the Oscars and an American beauty pageant: that would be a room full of self-congratulatory slaps on the back and a load of tits.  Some of whom were giving speeches.  But we'll get to that in a while.

There was a large screen hanging above the 'stage', onto which was projected live footage of the valedictorians' entrance into the hall, at which point the audience had to rise to its feet.  The 17 students looked jolly pleased with themselves, despite having to sport glaringly neon blue gowns and mortar boards, and unfeasibly white teeth.  This would have been bad enough on its own, but the choice of the accompanying music - Land of Hope and Glory, for God's sake, intimating this line of acned youths had alone saved the world from death, pestilence and tasteless decor - was so funny, I very nearly burst out laughing louder than I actually did.

And then, the schmaltzy film biog of each graduate, voiceover voicing over cute pics of Piers and Sasha at the age of 4, brushing down their favourite race horse, making their first million on the stockmarket, setting up their own global pharmaceuticals firm only last week to get rid of their spots.


Naturally, all the boys were going to go into business, and all the girls into fashion.  Apart from one female student, who was actually quite studious (how had they not noticed this and thrown her out?) and who won all the academic prizes.

Ah yes, the prizes. Best Helicopter Pad Design goes to...(it's only 6 minutes by helicopter from Nice Airport to the Hotel, did you know?) Best Livery For The Crew Of Your Private Yacht...Most Improved Excuse For Missing School Whilst Lying On The Beach...


And then, the moment (or rather 20 minutes) we hadn't been waiting for, The Inspirational Speech.

This year it was given by a Very Well Known British Businessman, who - in order not to unmask him as the mammary I may have referred to earlier (perish the thought!  It is my job merely to describe, not to reveal what shallow morons some purveyors of underwear are) - I shall refer to as Top Shop Cat.  

Top Cat ascended the podium and rambled on, erm, spoke inspiringly about how many millions he had amassed having started with nothing, how he had left school at the age of 3 with no brains qualifications, how he had fashioned (purely coincidence that verb has been selected) mega-deals and taken over over-takees, and I left home one morning with 200 quid in my pocket and went back that night worth 2 million...and the message was, throughout this vulgar self-promotional diatribe, that formal knowledge is worthless.  At this moment, when 17 young people were waving goodbye to their childhood and entering the next stage of their lives as fledgling adults, he was telling them over and over again that education has no intrinsic value and is totally unnecessary for success. Which, of course, is only measured in monetary terms.

His most memorable line was when he implored the Boys and Girls in Bright Blue not to get disheartened when things don't go as planned: Keep working and the money will come.

Obviously, then, The Most Important Aspirational Thing in Life is to amass an enormous bank balance.  Forget about contributing to society, developing your creativity, giving and receiving love.   Greed is the only thing that matters.

To their credit, even some of the parents in the audience - who represented a sprinkling of some of the richest people in the world - looked at each other and shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

The prizes were then dispatched by Princess Caroline of Monaco, who looked warm and genuinely pleased to be there engaging with the students, whilst at the same time wondering what she was doing on the platform hobbing with that knob.  Her class comes from her breeding, not from her wealth.  Top Shop Cat wouldn't begin to grasp that because he is unable to understand any concept of profit unless it ends up in his account at Coutt's.

Finally, we stood up, the students exited the room to Elgar's ponderous, breast-beating composition (even more tits!), and the audience gathered on the terrace overlooking the Casino Square to sup the best champagne and chat about how wonderful the whole experience had been.  I talked to a very nice woman from England for half an hour, before her (filthy rich) Italian husband joined us.  

'NiceEtoile's a comedy writer for the BBC, Benito,' she told him.  Benito looked me up and down, endeavouring to weigh up how big my investment deposits were.  (Makes a change from trying to work out what I have deposited under my vest, I suppose).  'Good for you!' he exclaimed patronisingly, with a flash of someone else's teeth, just about managing to stop himself from patting me on the head.

I teetered back to the car park on my occasion-necessary heels.  (I've told you before, I have big teets, OK?)  I don't get them out for everyone, you know.  (The heels, FGS.  The tits you just have to promise me a pack of Picard's for).

Land of Hope and Glory
Mother of the Free
I may only eat fishfingers
But I can still hold my head up and know my values are not so superficial as to be completely embarrassing in an (overly-decorated) room full of extremely rich people and royalty.



No. of headache pills I had to take to combat Decor Overload Pain: 2

Cost of a glass of Chardonay in the Cafe de Paris (the Hotel's bar): 17 euros

How many minutes it takes by helicopter from Nice Airport:  OK, I'll go away now...

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Some friends came to stay when my son was about 10 years old.  The eldest of their daughters, Coral, used to be in the same class in school as Sam before the family moved to the States, and the pair had been best friends.

One morning, over a lazy late breakfast when we were catching up on our respective family news, Sam and Coral started to play the game Blind Ignorance, where one person assigns secretly a new identity to the other, the task being for the recipient of the new identity to work out who they are meant to be by asking questions that can only be answered with a 'yes' or a 'no'.

Sam chose a character for Coral first.  The answer turned out to be the Queen Mother.

Next, Sam had to guess his new persona.  It duly transpired that he was the form teacher he and Coral had last shared at school, Mr Rice.

They played this game for what must have been an hour or more.  And every single time - every single time - the answer was either the Queen Mother or Mr Rice.  We were falling around on the floor laughing, but both kids took the game extremely seriously; I like to see it as a postmodern comment on the meaning of knowledge and the crassness of competitive intellectualism.  Whatever that means.

(Anyone ever read a postmodern novel?  Well, don't. I opted into a Literature course at uni, but opted out of finishing The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.  Here's a link:

Read that and you will you find out what I've been missing.  To be honest, I don't think I would have found out what I've been missing even had I not put myself in the position of missing it.  And the nonsensical sentences witter on forever with hardly any punctuation at all).

Anyway, I write about this - the story about the Queen Mother and Mr Rice* - because it relates to something which is part of ex-pat life here.

(*Am not suggesting there was ever anything going on between the Queen Mother and Mr Rice as far as I know they were never in the same room at the same time not that I would know and even if I did would I really be likely to publish it on here where one of them might sue well not the Queen Mother 'cos she's dead and anyway you can't libel a dead person I do know about Media Law you realize I did it as part of my journalism training and thoroughly enjoyed it as it happens but anyway it would be Mr Rice I'd be more concerned about for obvious or possibly not obvious reasons depending on your knowledge of the law of defamation though hang on now I come to think about it you wouldn't necessarily have to have any knowledge about libel law to know the Queen Mother wouldn't sue and the royals don't generally although wasn't there an instance once but no more jokes about her being pickled even though the present Queen thinks the word lunch is vulgar and everyone around her has to use the term luncheon)

God, fancy bringing up the topic of postmodern literature.  How I hate it!

Well, pub quizzes are popular here in Nice.  There are two pubs in the same Irish chain (yes, I did say Irish) which run such events on two different days of the week.  I and some other people from assorted ex-pat social groups used to turn up at one of these places on a weekly basis to pit our wits against the 40 or so other teams which took part. You're allowed 4 people to a team and you write the answers on printed sheets, 7 rounds or so every time, 10 questions to a round.

The first round is always dedicated to a random topic.  The initial week I attended it was Rugby players.  The faces of 10 rugby players were displayed on giant TV screens, and we had to write down who they were.  Erm...

The previous week it had been supermodels, and another week it was children of celebrities.  :~

Whilst rugby players were not quite Our Thing, we happened to excel at Politics, Topcial Events and History.  Only their idea of Politics, Topcial Events and History usually concerns rugby players, supermodels and yes, you've guessed it, children of celebrities.

My friend, Agnetha, a very clever woman, someone who has written (many) textbooks on a science-related subject, has A Technique.  No matter what the question she jumps up from her seat, bounces up and down and shouts: 'I know it!!!  I know it!!!'  There then follows a 2 minute silence.  Finally she shouts 'SHIRLEY BASSEY!'  regardless of what the question was in the first place.

No, I reply, the answer is ZZ Top, or perhaps the 21st International Symposium on Chemical Engineering, or maybe 2.142 to a ratio of 5.9 (squared), but no, Agnetha is certain the answer is Shirley Bassey.  Oh well, you only live twice.

The last time I attended, the team I was in managed to answer at least 7 out of 10 correctly in every single round.  On occasion we had a full score. We were ecstatic; the first prize is 100 euros, 2nd prize 50 euros. We were anticipating coming very close to the top, if not winning.  But it was not to be.  For, out of 41 teams, we came 34th.

Other teams, we subsequently discovered, were also puzzled.  One such group of people had managed a personal best of no more than 5 questions right per topic, but came a startlingly impressive 20th.  The 'winners' were an American couple sitting adjacent to us, who happened to be on their honeymoon, the male component of this partnership having spent most of the evening outside the pub on his phone, his new wife (his soon-to-be ex-wife, we predicted) being left alone at the bar for extended periods, with her sending him long lovelorn looks from a distance. It was she who was (periodically) writing on her answer sheet, though I HATE YOU, YOU SWEARWORD B*STARD (hope Brian isn't looking in) AND I'M GOING TO KEEP ALL THE SWEARWORD WEDDING PRESENTS doesn't actually gain you many points.  Or so logic should dictate.

Perhaps this would not be such a problem were the quizmasters not to make Such A Big Thing of counting up the scores.  Sometimes 20 minutes elapses between rounds, during which time you have nothing else to do other than to order yet more of the pub's overpriced drinks.  

After the results fiasco people were queuing up to complain.  I, personally, spoke to the Manager of the bar on behalf of the ex-pats I had invited, all of whom were angry. Having sat there for two hours we had spent some 200 euros in the place, since a lot of people had eaten there, too.  (Not me, they don't serve fishfingers. What kind of establishment IS this???).  The Manager affected to listen, took my number and assured me someone would speak to me the following day. This was two weeks ago, I'm still awaiting the call.

The following week, nobody from our ex-pat groups showed up.  Nor is anyone signed up for next week's farago.  

Ah, life on the Med.  However, I will survive.  

Where's the Queen Mother when you need her? **

** She's NOT having it off with Mr Rice, how many more times do I have to tell you???


A note about devotion, dear Reader.  Regard the time this post was published.  It is Saturday evening.  I am at home, sitting at my computer, compiling this rant eloquently composed piece for your delight.  I am not out being wined and dined and ultimately (oh, so hopefully) something else ending in -ed, as all good (or rather not so good) women should be doing on a Saturday evening.  Some small appreciation for the little Jewish comedian's dedication to her calling would not go amiss.

(Along with commiserations for the fact that all the single men I know are either 73 years old, living in the Poitou-Charantes and being useful around the house, or are waxing their moustaches).

What now my love?

Oh I, who have nothing.  But I will survive...

Thursday, 4 November 2010



Nice used to be called Nike, did you know?  It's Greek, and it means 'victory'.  (Hands up all those who thought it meant 'sweaty footwear'?  Hmm, you just can't get the quality of blog reader these days).

Anyway, it's probably just me, but the only reason I'd ever consider jogging is to get away from people jogging.   I mean, if we were really designed to squeeze ourselves into the most appallingly tight neon lycra, and jump up and down in ugly shoes constructed to stop the terrible damage that comes from jumping up and down in the most appallingly tight neon lycra, what on earth would be the point of of Paris Hilton???

Wander along Nice Promenade any day of the week and you'll have to keep your wits about you to avoid being run over by men and women with pained faces, bouncing slowly along from the Chateau to the airport, and then back again, looking so miserable you'd think they not only lived next door to Monkey Woman and her gormless boyfriend, but whose algorithm had just come up and bitten them on the backside.  (If it's so good for you, why do exponents of such a pointless activity - unless they actually want to puree their internal organs - look like they're extremely close to death?)

However, jogging isn't the end of it by any means on the Riviera.  For the Iron Man extravaganza came to Nice this summer.   On hearing 2,500 competitors were registering in person one Saturday, I popped down to the seafront with a pile of linen that I just couldn't get the creases out of. I like to do my bit for sport when I can.

After an hour or so, though, it became apparent that this was no ordinary ironing contest – the bonkers participants were expected to swim for 3.8 kilometres, before going on a 180 km bike ride, finishing off with a 42 km marathon run.  [NOTE:  Don't try this at home! It's very dangerous to swim and iron at the same time - leave it to the professionals.]

As you might have ascertained by now, I'm not someone who dedicates her life to outdoor pursuits.  Not physically built for it, to be honest. I once met a man who, upon looking me up and down lasciviously, let out a long breath and said: “Well, you're not a jogger, are you?” I've had my knockers in my time, but still...  (Got the impression he might have enjoyed engaging in a little horizontal jogging with me, but could be wrong.  And naturally, yes, he was married. Duh.)  

Anyway, having arranged to meet some friends to cheer on a participant we knew in the event, I had an hour to kill, having given up endeavouring to catch hold of a passing Iron Man in his tight-fitting all-in-one outfit.  (My goodness, those suits are slippery after a 4 km swim!)  My friend, Tigger, thought it would be a good idea at that point: 

'It should be easy for you, NiceEtoile' she said,  'they'll be knackered.'  

Now THAT'S what I call a supportive friend.

And so, with time, though not a man, on my hands, I ambled along to the Cours Saleya, noticing one bar had a large flat screen TV showing the England versus Germany match.   (For joy of joys, the World Cup was taking place).  There was a nice, comfy seat in the shade obviously just waiting for me, so I sat down and ordered a beer. The waiter having duly left my table, the half time whistle went and I spent 15 minutes watching dreadful commercials. That's the kind of sporting prowess I possess, dear Reader.

Whilst we're talking about what laughingly passes for 'English football', I actually thought the second half of the game was quite entertaining. The two goals were scored almost in the same way: the Germans had possession of the ball, and 10 of the England team had gone off to beat up a journalist or sleep with some prostitutes, leaving the one remaining English guy on the pitch to chase after the German with the ball and ask politely if he wouldn't consider, just this once, not kicking it into that funny net thingy.   But, as usual, the German had got there first. 

(With many apologies for that racial stereotype. However, be comforted that Germany has a football team, whilst the English have a collection of thuggish womanisers for whom dribbling has an entirely different connotation on a Friday night, lying on the pavement outside China White's). But it was a very close thing. 4 – 1. Could have been anybody's, Brian.

(And I thought I did the jokes).

I've said I'm not particularly sporty, but I did used to meet up with some girlfriends once a week to play tennis on an outdoor court. That was fun. And in inclement weather we did exactly what Roger Federer does when training – we went off for a lovely fry-up and a gossip. (And a few back-handed compliments).

Well, back to the old Iron Man thing (can somebody enlighten me as to why they have to dress like sperms before going for a dip in the Med?)  Our friend completed the competition well inside his personal best of 3 weeks and 4 days, and is very pleased with his plastic medally thing on a piece of string, which, I have to admit, does blend in quite well with his most appallingly tight neon lycra.

OK, so what did I learn from all this?

I learnt that beer costs 3 euros 90 for a small glass on the Cours Saleya on World Cup match days.  I learnt that you don't actually have to run back and forth to the airport when the weather is scorching, the Number 98 bus is normally extremely reliable (and a snip, at the price of a small glass of beer on the Cours Saleya on World Cup match days). And I learnt that I'll have to iron my own bloody pile of linen after all.

Well, at least I'll develop muscles in my right arm.  AND get the housework done at the same time. Which is more than can be said for the contestants of the Iron Man competition, whose right arms certainly appear to be developing muscles for some reason or other, but obviously not thanks to any constructive effort around the house...


(What???  It's my blog, the opinions expressed herein are indeed the opinions of The Management.  Unless they upset a lot of people bigger than me, when I will then state that Tigger made me write it.)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


There being a complete dearth of gorgeous, hunky, eligible, single men around (COME DOWN FROM MARS, ALREADY!) it behooves a gorgeous, petite, eligible, single woman to take matters into her own, feminine hands.  (It's not easy meeting men when you look like a fairy).  Put into plain English, dear Reader, I have frequented the odd online dating site. Or tried to, as you will see.

There have been periods in my life in which men have been sadly lacking. Or just lacking.  Or, frankly, sad.  But enough of them...what I'm trying to say is that we must embrace modern ways in modern times (in the absence of anything else to embrace), and if online dating services are there, like the proverbial mountain, we have no choice other than to, erm, climb up them.  [Anyone know of a good editor???]

I'm quite au fait with these sorts of sites, having been introduced to them years ago by a friend on the demise of my 2nd marriage to the then husband.  (You remember him - he's the one between the then then husband and the future then husb...oh, never mind. Let's just get on with it, shall we?)  Actually, this friend (let's call her Cheeky Bastard Woman) wanted me to investigate the world of cyber dating so she could write about it. I was adamant I didn't want a relationship with anyone - least of all a man! - but I made the crucial mistake one day of visiting my own bathroom whilst entertaining CBW, emerging to discover she'd logged me onto a site where such social transactions take place.  Having been shoved half-way up the mountain, then, I reckoned I might as well see what the view was like from the top.

Women are (justifiably) prized in the world of virtual flirting, with occasional offers of free or vastly-reduced subscriptions to lure them to the sites. And very few of the men know how to sell themselves. Most of them put things like 'I'm not used to talking about myself...' (yeah, right); 'I'm just an ordinary guy...' (Zzzzzzz); or even 'my friend suggested I do this because she wants to write about it...' (Tsk).

And so it was that I used to open my Inbox to discover 157 messages from men seeking to introduce themselves to me.

I didn't meet them all, of course, but a selection.  You soon get to develop an instinct about what someone's like from their style of writing.  And I didn't have a single bad experience, either.  (Unless you count the marriage that subsequently ensued from one of these encounters.  Hmm).

Anyway, earlier this year, when it became apparent that men were getting married purely so they could come on to me, I decided once again to try out the sites.  Two of them welcomed me immediately, but another - a large, very well-known American-based site similar to, say,, if I were to just pluck a name out of the air - took 72 hours not to publish my details.  So I wrote to them to find out what the problem was.

They sent back an aggressive email telling me they could delete any profile for whatever reason, any time they wanted.  Well, that's nice to know, but my profile hadn't yet made the leted stage, so how they could delete something that was never there in the first place is beyond me.  (This the world of the virtual, I suppose).  Anyway, I wrote back asking what exactly the problem was.  They answered:-

Je vous informe que votre profil "NiceEtoile" a été désactivé par notre
police du site car notre équipe de surveillance a remarqué qu'il était
non conforme à nos conditions générales d'utilisation.

Notre équipe a donc été amenée à fermer votre compte sans préavis.

And so I wrote once more, asking exactly what they had taken exception to?  Was it the bit which said I was looking for an intelligent man??? (Something against oxymorons all of a sudden?) A sense of humour? Did they have something against little Jewish comedians? (As you well know, this little Jewish comedian hasn't had anything against her for quite some time).  

They replied in the way that only pompous people who write pompous letters can reply: that they didn't have to explain anything.

So I told them they could tell me; whatever had offended them in my profile was about me and thus I would already know about it, especially since I had the misfortune to be living 24/7 with this terrible affliction of such total undesirability.  Besides, I work in the media and have often written about politics, nothing much shocks me any more, and if they told me to sit down before reading this horrible thing about myself that they were keeping from me, sit down I would.  

No more answers were forthcoming.  Data protection at it's most efficient, I think, when they protect you from knowing data about yourself that you already know, and in fact told them about in the first place.  

My son, Sam, laughed at my anger.  'It's just an algorithm, mum!'  In the tone of 'It's the algorithm, stupid!'

Well, up yours,  Or whichever large American-based dating organization exactly like it was.

I haven't been on any online sites for a while, but the other day, despairing yet once more of finding a Real Man to have something against, decided to have another go at posting my profile on a very well-known UK site. You will have read that I don't have a bank account at the moment, and so I can't actually subscribe and reply to any men should they write to me, or indeed initiate contact with other members, but I was bored and thought I'd put myself out there to see who swam into the net. [Honestly, someone must know a SWEARWORD editor!]

The site invited me to post a picture.  So I uploaded a favourite recent pic of mine, very arty, only you can't see all my fairy lights.  This photograph was deemed 'acceptable, but not suitable for use as a primary picture'.  So I then uploaded the photograph I had used when I last subscribed to the site, a full head and shoulders shot, which apparently is the requirement for your main image. However, I was startled to find that this, too, was subsequently judged to be 'acceptable, but not suitable for use as a primary picture'.  What the...?

The reply by Lisa to my quizzical email stated that it had been refused 'probably because it was a bit grainy', but that she was happy to override this ruling, and she wished me a lot of fun on the site.

I wrote back asking what kind of algorithm it was that accepted people's profiles with no picture of them whatsoever, but that didn't allow a photo of a member 'probably because it was a bit grainy'.  Am still awaiting a response.

However, three male subscribers to the site have already marked me as a 'favourite', including a 73 year-old from Poitou-Charentes ('I can be useful around the house...' just don't send him on a long walk down the garden, for God's sake), and a 27 year-old from north London, who is looking for 'an angel-headed hipster'.  Well, angel-headed is a start...

Oh my. Whatever happened to the days when men emerged from lakes wearing clinging wet white cotton frilly shirts over their hairy chests? What would it have been like to have had the internet then? Would the men have written 'I'm just an ordinary Mr Darcy, wet cotton shirt, hairy chest...not used to talking about myself...'  While the women looked at each other, raising their eyebrows in sync and sighing 'whatever', before clicking over to the next page featuring Brian:  

'I have a large collection of moustache wax, vintage Brylcreme tubs and gaudy cravats'.  


I SWEARWORD give up.


P.S.  There will, I'm sure, be some of you who are wondering how the book is coming on.  Well piss off with you.  Can't you think of something more constructive to do with your time?