Wednesday, 26 January 2011


You need to know how to cross a road here if you're not to look like a wimpy tourist. (Can I have a slice of cheese and extra onions?  Thanks.) Wimpy tourists (just regular fries, please) think they're going to stay safe by loitering (not littering, the bins are over there. That's right, leave your tray on top) at the edge of the pavement, waiting for the homme vert to light up.  Hahahahaha! Little do they realize they've got more chance of staying alive by walking down the middle of the highway during rush hour. (Where did you say the ketchup was?)

For here in Nice, pavements are the domain of motorbikes.  And the riders get very cross indeed if their passage is blocked by a hapless perambulating pedestrian.

Visitors might think there are no rules when out walking on the streets, but oh yes there are.  


1.  Disregard red lights.  Especially the ones that tell you not to cross the road.  Just leap off the sidewalk (look at the name, it's for when you walk on the side, the road is for when you walk in the middle) any time you like. The cars won't run you over. Not unless you're walking on the sidewalk, at which point you are obviously fair game.

2.  Don't affect to be startled when approached from behind and the front (and the side, if you're on the sidewalk - what do you think the letters SIDE are doing in that word???) by motorcycles of all varieties and CCs. Whatever CCs are. Presumably they're bigger than BBs.  But not as much of a handful as DDs. Whatever that means). Remember that motorbikes have right of way at all times.  Even when you don't know what the time is.  

I was once passed by a bike on the pavement of the very street where I live. The rider roared along  so close to my body, he skillfully parted me from the top layer of my skin (but then, I hadn't exfoliated for a while, saved me the job), and manoeuvered his machine towards the double doors of an apartment block, at which point he leaned forwards and unlocked them, before driving into the building's foyer. And so I'm never surprised when looking in the bathroom mirror whilst cleaning my teeth to see a motorcyclist drive along the hallway behind me, giving me a jaunty wave. (At least, I think that's what it was.) So what that I live several stories up?  What's that got to do with anything?

3.  Embrace the spirit of the regulation which allows motorists to turn right when their light is red, and yours is green.  Laugh at the way in which the turning car millimetres its way forwards (we're in France, they can't inch, can they?) trying to intimidate you into pleading for your life, you snivelling little person getting around on mere legs. Chill out when the driver three cars back honks his horn for twenty seconds, gently encouraging the car currently millimetering forwards to get on with it and run you over.  Resist the temptation to approach said honking driver, tear off his windscreen wipers one by one and stuff them firmly into his big end. It wastes five hours at a police station. 

4.  Educate yourself in Nicois Physics. Indigenous pedestrians here are magnetic, they are powerfully drawn towards your body and it is up to you to avoid them.  They will never naturally step out of the way when you are on a collision course; Mexican stand-off tactics are the only thing they understand. And in a city with a population of 340,000 - plus tourists - they are always, always surprised to encounter another person on the sidewalk.  

5.  Practise saying Pardon.  This is Very Important.  It gives you carte blanche (see? You DO speak French) to bump into people as rudely as you like, nudge them into the path of an oncoming tram, knee them in the groin and jump up and down on their heads; you said pardon, what's the matter with them???

6.  Dress badly.

No tourist book will give you the above information.  (Can't imagine why not.  Hmm.)  Don't say it's not an education reading my blog. (Told you not to say it!!!)  


(Excuse me, it's been ten minutes now and I'm still waiting for my milkshake.)

Monday, 17 January 2011


Very nice Nice weekend.  The sun came out at last, as did the people, spilling onto the beach and stripping off to lie prone under the blue skies we had forgotten we were meant to enjoy around these parts.  

Acres more lycra than the winter months had exposed got an airing, the garish fabric tightly clinging on for dear life as it was bounced up and down the seafront by people old and lumpy enough to know better. Strollers took their lives in their hands, risking death from fast-approaching rollerbladers - SWISH! SWISH! - and one couple provided a cocktail of choreographed dance moves on wheels; the Riviera's own Torvill and Dean, only a bit rum and sans the ice. (Pretentious? Eux? Guess what my dog thinks...) Oh, and I spotted a Japanese tourist throwing up into a free-standing waste bin.  Spring must be on its way.

On Saturday morning I met with my friend's son, Viktor, to whom I teach music. Viktor is a very bright boy, and, having asked him for last week's homework to compose a tune in D major, the result turned out to be an unwitting pastiche of Prokovief. So we talked about where the Russian came within the time scale of musical history, and the difference between 'modern' and 'contemporary' music, deciding that whilst dead musicians weren't much good at composing, they did rather excel at de-composing.

An hour was then spent by the author sitting on the beach, an act which encouraged a few shy freckles to emerge from hibernation.  The beach restaurants were setting up for the pre-season season, the dogs were jumping in and out of sea (the four-legged variety, that is; the two-legged ones were too busy testing out the seams on their gossamer sports apparel), and one young couple practised their circus skills, juggling (not jiggling, yay!) amusing both children and adults alike.   

But all this could be a temporary aberration; last February we had six inches of snow in central Nice, which lasted for days. Well, two days. Which is more than one day.  Which is more than no days. I took a photograph of a snow plough shovelling its way along the streets of the Cote d'Azur, a sight somewhat unfamiliar to those of you dwelling perhaps in a more northerly clime, where masses of snow unfailingly falls every single year, lasting for weeks, and which surprises every single government every time it happens. Which is every single year. (Couldn't you have worked that out for yourself???  It's easy.  Just take away the government you first thought fact, while you're at it, take them all away.  Thanks.)

Saturday evening was spent seeing The King's Speech, which has a brilliant screenplay. Only three things wrong with it: Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was portrayed as being a sympathetic and likeable character, when in reality she was more Royle family than Royal Family; Derek Jacobi's make-up and wig looked marginally less convincing than Angelina Jolie's lips; the third thing being I didn't write it.

Sunday shopping has just arrived in Nice, and yesterday, after a riotous coffee with friends (erm, it was the friends who were riotous, the coffee was reasonably sedate for coffee) I took back to a shop something not quite right, which I had bought the previous day - and paid for with cash - only to be told they would not refund me in cash, but on a card.  I asked to see the manager, the manager duly came to see me.  She informed me that on my receipt for the item it stated that no cash refunds would be given.  I pointed out that the only way I could read this line on the receipt was at the time when it was handed to me, AFTER I'd handed over my money. She was not amused.  Nor was she forthcoming with my money.  French surrealism rules!

Today my French doors are open (yes, I know I live in France, what other nationality of doors could I expect to have, but they're French French doors.  OK now?)  The heating, which is centrally controlled, and on 24 hours a day from the middle of October, will not be turned off until probably some time in April.  The sun is shining again, the sap is rising (mine levelled off at maximum a few years ago, ho hum), and the Nicois are still looking miserable.

Happy Monday.


Thursday, 13 January 2011


OK.  Let's get a few things straight.

I'm a menopausal fairy.  I had the misfortune to be born into the 20th Century when, as my regular readers will know, I should have lived in the 18th, at which point in history gorgeous men were queuing up to emerge dripping wet from lakes in order to bag a Sheila for the sake of family continuity, not to mention a bit of decent shagging.  Get your muff, Charlotte, you've pulled.  


Anyway, here I am, marooned in a part of the Med where the old ladies are no longer old ladies (at which point is the Cutty Sark - having had 97 per cent of its timbers replaced - not the Cutty Sark??? How many litres of Botox does it take to replace a little old lady, FFS???)  I am not currently afforded the luxury of having a teenage son at my beck and call - if he wants to eat food that month - to come and turn on the desk light (what do you mean, it's got a switch?  What the f*ck does that mean?)  I have to sort all this 2011 b*ll*cks out for myself, for God's sake.

I've just spent weeks of my life I'll never get back endeavouring to open a Facebook page for me, NiceEtoile.  

It's the 21st Century. We can put man on the moon.  (Am not even going to engage at this point with why we can't put them all there. Tempting though it is). 

We can invent the iPad.  We can invent the iPod.  We have yet to invent the iPud.  (It's Sticky Toffee Pudding and it's all for me).  

However, we cannot communicate to menopausal fairies how to open a SWEARWORD page for their comedic purposes.  Therein.  Lies the tale.  Please God by you.

I feel as if I'm in a deleted episode of Lost in Space (and a deleted episode would be something - reckon they destroyed all the good ones and put out on air the segments they filmed at the end of the wrap party, at a point when they were all entirely wrapped).  

Get this:-

What the f*ck does Default loading tab for everyone else mean???

Am I supposed to love my Wall spam filter???

Why does Auto-spam comments sound rude???

I'll level with you here.  I have two degrees.  I have a measured IQ in the top one per cent of the population.  So why can't I decipher what should be the reasonably easy task of how to put information about me (about which I'm an expert) into a few SWEARWORD boxes???

How is it I have been given money at various points in my life to write witticisms about top politicians?  To makes jokes on live radio about important global events as they are unfolding?  To describe the terribly upsetting trauma of what it is to have dimpled kneecaps?  (Oh, sorry, need to send off that Health & Beauty article to Melissa).  But that, somehow, I am totally incapable of creating what is, in reality, a non-real page for me, Mickey Mouse?

Am I completely teapot?  Is the Pope Jewish?  Half past Sarah Palin, m'Lud.

wi34r0 *&^ 98we wiw o%ufy bqewr023r  wie£££wpe  r3qh-9nd'pq3 wr8e=pojd f[qe0 we$$ pew9 &** f8cha fd




This blog entry has been interrupted due to severe electrical storms in the vicinity of the author's brain.  Dogger, Fisher, North Utsera, South Utsera, you can't get quicker than a Kwik Fit Fitter.  Tottenham Hotspur 5, Hamilton Academicals academic (cals).   Monkey Woman 457, NiceEtoile second left past the herbaceous border.

Thank you and Happy Easter.

(Can I sue???)


Saturday, 8 January 2011


Glorious day today; after yet another spell of continuous rain the sun's shining again, the windows are open so that I can enjoy the constant hooting of the car horns in the streets below all the better, and the dishwasher is softly depositing soapy suds across the kitchen floor.  As the first week of the New Year concludes, the forced jollity of les fetes retreats into the distance and normality returns.

I walked down to the Old Town this morning to attend an appointment.  You might think I had to fight the crowds, out for the January sales.  For in the UK at least, the sales begin the second Christmas Day becomes Boxing Day, at which point queues start forming outside department stores for bargain skis, skidoos (easier to handle than skidon'ts), ice picks and huskies.  

Not in France, however.  For, just as President Sarkozy runs not only the entire country, but also the national football team (ironic that he has no control over his own wife, nor she over her own face - just say fromage, Carla...oh, never mind, I'm sure the feeling will come back in time for your divorce once he gets voted out), apart from this, the government also determines when the store sales start.

What???  Yes, you heard that correctly.  The shops do not have autonomous control over the price of their own merchandise.

Not only that, but whereas most traders are understandably anxious to offload their surplus Christmas stock as soon as the present-giving present becomes the presents-given past, the Winter Sales this year don't begin until next Wednesday. The 12th January. Thus there are a clear two and a half weeks between the frenzied buying of the festive season, and the frenzied buying of discounted goods, ensuring the shops are empty enough to accommodate the long queues of disappointed women returning the wrongly sized see-thru neon orange lace boiler suits their boyfriends have so thoughtfully picked out for them.  (For those lucky enough to have a boyfriend.  <SNIFFS> Though at least I don't have to join one of those queues. Hooray!)

This is France, ladies and gentlemen.  

Anyway, not having to fight my way through the throngs (that's another thing I don't want to see under the tree...oh, hang on...) I got into town a bit earlier than I'd planned, so thought I'd have a walk around Virgin to see if they had some specific stationery I needed.  But Virgin was closed.  It's a Saturday, and Virgin is closed.  Well, maybe it's good news, and Health and Safety have shut it down until they hire a cleaner for the bathrooms.  Or some friendlier staff in the coffee shop. (For their own health and safety).

See what I mean about normality returning?

And so we look forward to a year of businesses closing randomly for no apparent reason, strikes for no apparent reason, car horns hooting for no apparent reason and Carla Bruni attempting to put a brave face on being married to that little prat.  

How long before Christmas is it???


No. of Christmas mottoes NiceEtoile likes:  1 :-

Christmas is for Christmas, M. Sarkozy, a dog is just until the effects of the plastic surgery wear off.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


I saw my dog today. Well, when I say 'my' dog, it doesn't actually belong to me, but is the kind of dog I'd have if I had one.  Come to think of it, I'd have whatever dog I had if I had one, else I wouldn't have one whilst having one, and that would be surreal nonsense. Not to mention nondog. But it wouldn't necessarily be that kind of dog, although it would undoubtedly be mine. 'Cos I could show you the receipt.  But why would I have a dog I didn't want? I may be menopausal, but I'm not completely ironing board.        


Anyway (any reason you're being so pedantic?  Possibly the hangover? Hmm.)  Anyway...why was it 'my' dog?  Two reasons. The first being it looked like a giant, long-haired teddy bear, gambolling about joyously on the beach; a puppy, even though it was bigger than I am.  The second reason is that it was a very fetching shade of grey, and matched what I was wearing. The third reason (thought you were too ill to count?) becoming apparent when a jogger ran past it. My dog was sitting down quietly. He looked at the jogger approach from the right, and then turned his head to follow the jogger's progress to the left.  And I swear from the look on that animal's face he was thinking 'w*nker'.

That's my dog alright.

It's been a lovely New Year's Day. I was awoken with a text from my friend Luke, who invited me to coffee downtown, and so I leapt into the shower and dashed out into the glorious weather that has finally arrived after weeks of relentless rain. We sat under a heater at a pavement cafe in the Palais de Justice square, and I enjoyed an enormous mug of chocolat chaud, whilst Luke regaled me with the tale of his New Year's Eve celebration standing outside a nightclub. (Let's be kind and imagine it had no doors.  What's happened to your Christmas spirit?)

After gossiping for an hour or so we then walked along the Promenade, gazing at the amazingly beautiful clouds and occasional bursts of blue sky, which enabled the stunning rays of the sun to spill down onto the peacock blue sea.  We listened to a saxophone player busking to his jazzy backing tracks, and eventually ambled along to the Negresco Hotel; a wacky local landmark I will fill you in on another time.

We parted company here, and I walked slowly back along the seafront, taking in the glory that nature had bestowed upon the first day of Nice's year.  I then made my way home to answer emails, chat to friends on social networks, and spend ten minutes of my life endeavouring to open a bottle of cheap fizz.  A glass of which I now toast my readers with.

I wish each of you whatever you wish for yourselves this coming year. As I do myself.  If life is a journey, last year for me was being stuck at a motorway service station, watching other traffic zoom past in an unimpeded way to its destination, whilst I was waiting for the tow truck to deliver me back to where I'd started from, being told my big end had gone and that it was going to cost me.

But that was 2010.

A warm welcome to 2011.

Happy New Year.