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.
CUE WILD APPLAUSE
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...
MORE WILD APPLAUSE
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
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
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
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.