Saturday, 26 February 2011


And so, having been offered a non-existent job in Nice in May 2009 (which didn't exist, funnily enough), I spent the summer residing with the Future Then Husband (don't start). And then, one morning in early September, I was lying asleep in bed minding my own business when the phone went.

It was Malcolm Wombat. You still available for work? he asked. We need someone from next Thursday. The job's yours if you want it.

It was 7.30 am.  It was a Thursday.  Was I available?  You bet I was.

Flew over the following Tuesday.  Comedic scenes at Heathrow Airport, where the nice BA lady (there IS one after all!) told me one of my cases weighed too much, whilst the other had some space.  So the Future Then Husband took charge, as men (and future then husbands) often do...neither of us had enjoyed much sleep, and it was very early in the morning.  Thus we spent ten minutes taking stuff out of the suitcase with not enough stuff in it, and putting it into the suitcase with already too much stuff in it.  

The nice BA lady had obviously dealt with this scenario before (amazing what training they give them these days), and without looking even slightly askance - as if this was an everyday occurrence, three times an hour - told us we'd f*cked it up.  Although in BA-type phraseology.  (My name's Samantha and I'll be your F*ck-Up Monitor for the duration of the check-in...)

We set to again.  Watched in fascination by an ever-growing crowd, happy that Terminal 5 was not the nightmare it had been reported as being in the worldwide press, but actually a place in which you could expect to depart for exotic climes, whilst being entertained by a couple of clowns masquerading as normal members of the public in a somewhat discreet, understated fashion.

Finally, it was time to part.  We said our goodbyes. The Future Ex, with the odd tear in his eye (did you think it was going to be a normal tear???) turned and walked away.  I watched the end of my marriage make its way to the short-stay car park, hoping the luggage farrago wouldn't mean my impending divorce was now deemed long-stay.  


Landed in Nice.  Was met by an Italian taxi driver, pre-booked on recommendation.  All I can say is I have no idea of either the Italian or French words for 'mullet'.

We took the coast road to Antibes.  This runs parallel with the beach - virtually on it in fact -  stretching west from Nice.  Antibes was the only place I had been able to find last-minute, long-ish term accommodation: a holiday-let studio in the Old Town.

Impossible to park anywhere near the apartment block, we had to transport on foot huge suitcases and a comedy violin (I'm a former professional comedy violinist, remember?) across the busy square and into the narrow lanes opposite the Carousel.  

The studio (for 'studio', read small cupboard) was on the third floor.  Up narrow, winding, very steep steps.  I'm on the shortish side for a menopausal fairy, I felt like I was training for a highly-physical mission with the French Foreign Legion; one in which it was imperative to hit your chin with your kneecaps on every step.  Hup, hup, hup, hup...  

Let's put it this way, it was where the Hunchback of Notre Dame would have lived had he hailed from Antibes instead of Paris.

I spent 5 weeks there.  Very handy if you felt like turning on the washing machine from the comfort of your bed. And all night long the lamps of the Antibes lighthouse burst into the window opposite where I lay my head....FLASH FLASH.....FLASH FLASH.....FLASH FLASH.....

The electrical supply left something to be desired (flash flash), and the cooking facilities consisted of nothing you could actually cook with. And being a building in the Old Town, the thick walls ensured there was no internet facility, or possibility of a mobile phone conversation.  

But life was about to get a sight worse.

Not feeling sorry for me yet?  Just you wait...


Wednesday, 23 February 2011



Had to do some stuff at the Post Office this morning, where I discovered it's 44 euros to send a letter to the UK to arrive the following day, 4 euros 50-something for a 3-day delivery without signature, and 6 euros odd - and 5 days - if you want someone to sign for it at the other end.

Two days longer for someone to scrawl Mickey Mouse on a piece of paper???

Welcome to France.

Called in at Intermarche on the way back.  Wishing I hadn't.

I'd just bought a lettuce at my local street market. The nice lady had taken my money and placed it into a plastic bag, which I then put into my large, soft-leather shoulder bag.  Walked around the supermaket, picked up a few items - eggs, a couple of pork steaks, a packet of fresh anchovies - and went over to the self-service payment tills. 

After I'd paid I took out my Monoprix nylon shopping bag (we all have them in assorted colours.  Some of us swap them with each other on rainy days; such is the glamour of life on the Med) to carry home my spoils.  I also took out of my leather bag my newly-purchased market lettuce, and placed that, too, into the nylon bag with the other foodstuffs.  

I attempted to leave the building.  The security guard called for me to stop.  He insisted on looking into my leather bag to see how many other vegetables I'd bought at the market without having secured his permission so to do.

He told me I was not to put a lettuce into my shoulder bag. Or something.  I told him I'd bought it at the market, it was nothing to do with Intermarche, or him. He (rudely) told me in future I should take my previously-purchased lettuces and leave them with the woman at reception. (Is she particularly partial to salad?) I smiled sweetly and told him to f*ck off.  No, didn't think he spoke any English.

But he's right.  On the way back to my apartment I thought of an even better place to keep my lettuce.  

That's right.  England.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011


It's the Carnival.  Once again.  Funny how February feels like it comes around every six weeks here.

It's rather famous, this extravaganza.  People arrive from all over the world to experience it.  

Bit of a mystery to me as to why.

Floats supporting gigantic fibreglass figures - more grotesque even than the deformed caricature of the thing Carla Bruni tries to pass off as her face - cruise slower than snails along the seafront, their journey culminating in Place Massena - which is surrounded in its entirety by high blue hoardings, so that if you don't hand over an enormous wad of euros to the council you are excluded from the centuries-old festivities. 

Men dressed as women with fake breasts (don't let on to Michael Winner, we'll never hear the end of it), strangers aiming at each other with cans of silly string in bright neon shades (try that with me, Francois, and you won't be in any doubt as to the practical definition of Menopausal Woman), people in silly jesters hats, horrible street music, litter everywhere.

Believe the theme this year is Pickpockets.

Had to go out today (think I stayed in last February).  On my tram were several performers (at least, I hope they were performers), male, dressed in a costume concoction as follows:-

On top of their heads, a Venetian ceramic mask complete with Savaltore Dali moustache, attached to which was an acre of colourful gingham fabric in folds down their backs; their chests were bedecked as if they were Roman Gladiators - a breastplate comprising hundreds of (real) shiny silver coins; whilst from the waist down they resembled those memorable Greek guards outside the Palace in Athens - white mini skirt with under petticoats, white tights, black shoes with large pom poms.

Forget Coco Chanel, this was more Coco the Clown.

But not a hint of embarrassment, standing as they were amongst the rest of us going about our daily chores. Perhaps there is something to be said for living in a place where being badly dressed is de rigueur for the entire population, after all.  

You can't walk anywhere in the centre of town at Carnival time, the trams are unable to make a complete journey from one end of the line to the other, and the prices in the bars and restaurants become doubly exorbitant.

Naturally, the weather obliged with pouring rain and chilly temperatures last weekend, as if NiceEtoile had waved her wand and ordered the perfect accompaniment to such a dismal activity.

But if the Carnival isn't my kind of thing, dear Reader, it has also been raining on my parade.  For quite some time.

A decision has been made.  I'm leaving Nice.  In the next few weeks.  

Still more to write on this blog - there's much I haven't yet told you - but as Barbra Streisand didn't say, the Carnival is Over.  

What Babs did say was:-

At least I didn't fake it.  Hat, sir?  I guess I didn't make it...

So as NiceEtoile gradually morphs into NotNiceEtoile, I hope you stay and continue to read the rest.  But for me, the light is now a faint glimmer at the end of the Channel Tunnel...


Thursday, 17 February 2011


 Michael Winner 
Just bin phoned by Independent newspaper, riveted by our tweets particularly concerning bosoms and U-know-hoo. They'll be writing sbout it

 Nice Etoile 
@ Will they write about me too if I tweet about my breasts?

 Michael Winner 
@ i would ave to make a full inspection before i can answer gthat question, sweet of you to think of it. LUV from MW

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


What's in a name, eh?  Apart from letters.  And numbers, if you're Fireball XL5, or a short, bald prat on a dating site.

Take my name, for example.  Now many of you might well be thinking thank goodness you're not saddled with the monica (or Monica) Nice Etoile, but if you look at it from another perspective, it's a relief when you consider my siblings are called Ugly Etoile, Paranoid Etoile and Dangerously Psychotic Etoile.  Suddenly doesn't seem so bad, does it?

One of the endearing things about living in a country where English isn't the native language (let's leave America out of this for the moment) is the fascination the population has for using foreign terminology, in which they obviously find a certain exoticism.

And what could be more glamorous than having the name Pudding over your shop frontage???  

This is a business close to where I live in central Nice.  So go on then, hazard a guess as to what this shop sells...sweet delicacies composed of the finest pastry, framboise and Creme Anglaise?  Imported traditional English desserts from Fortnum and Mason?  Hmm?

No.  Wrong again.  (I win!)  Pudding happens to be a second hand clothing agency.  Come to us to look like a pudding!  (Could be worse, they might make you look like Carla Bruni.  For which you would probably be able to sue).

A new chicken fast food place has opened in the main drag, challenging the stranglehold (sorry, unfortunate choice of term) of the established global players.  And how are they enticing people to eschew the familiar and give them a try instead?  By calling the place Chicken Spot. Must be some interesting conversations when they ask what piece of the bird the customer prefers.  (A pox on KFC!)

Conversely, it can be a sight dangerous to stick to your own language when setting up shop in a foreign land.  When I lived in England a new Chinese takeaway opened in my area.  I watched in anticipation as they gutted the premises, installed thousands of pounds worth of professional kitchen equipment and plastered the place with shiny tiles.  Finally, after a number of weeks, the shop sign was erected - big red letters, 3 feet high:-

Wan King.

Business was inexplicably slow to start off with - until somebody helpfully let them in on the probable reason.  And then they would have worked out that, whilst the set menus were a bit of a bargain, potential customers were possibly just a little cautious of ordering the sticky rice...


Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Men, eh?  What can you do with them?  (Please let me know - it's been so long, I've forgotten).

Here's what I DO know:-

1.  Some of them have no idea what women are looking for.  (And it's not down the back of the sofa).

2.  Mostly, they have no idea how to sell themselves.  Generally, we don't pay by the inch. (Although, how cheap would that be, girls?)

OK, have to tell you that I gave in and registered on (yet) another dating site. Last one, I promise.  No, really.  Really really really.


I filled in the usual standard questions about myself - sex (yes please!), favourite divorce lawyer, how many dogs are you taller than (left that one blank), thought up a witty pseudonym (what do you mean you don't like HorribleEtoile?) and wrote a few paragraphs to express my shy and retiring personality.  Posted a pic and put a link to this blog.

A few interesting conversations subsequently ensued. It's a great way to meet people from all walks of life, if not men.  (Since when have they been people? Have I missed something???)

And then I received a message from someone rather endearingly calling himself XFG4387596.  

...your profile, liked your intelligence, liked your blog, worried about becoming a character in something you write.  Want to correspond?

Bit of a twist in the chat-up routine, have to admit.  

I looked at his profile. Well, when I say his profile, it was more like gazing at the profile of a blank page.  Hardly any information on there at all.  Here are the questions he'd answered:-

Body Type: Average

Hair:  Bald

Height:  5'6"

(Now, we women are fairly experienced with men's default measurement position, so I took that to mean he was 5'1").

Anyway, as descriptions go - may just be me, perhaps I'm too fussy for my own good - I wasn't exactly experiencing a racing heart at this point. So I read on (as far as there was reading to be done).

((And as she melted into his average length arms, running her fingers through his...erm...over his scalp, she purred 'tell me more, XFG4387596...'))

Old-fashioned values, modern ideas.  I try not to waste words.

Well, isn't that a good thing in a recession?  Where will all the new words come from if we thoughtlessly spit them out as if there's no tomorrow???

I'm goal-directed. Everyone has a number of goals.* Some people get on with working towards them, others don't.  I try to be in the first group.

* Tottenham Hotspur players excepted.

Hang on. Had he got this form mixed up with the one he was filling in applying for the position of Office Manager for the Neasden North Society of Actuaries?

But what finally did it for me (meaning what didn't do it for me - OMG...just look at that word-wasting!) was his answer to the question: What are you good at?

Now, we might think, might we not, in an effort to capture the heart of some gorgeous menopausal fairy, that a man would carefully consider his options here.  What do women like a man to be good at?  Cooking? Playing the guitar?  Talking Italian?

What's old XX438&^$(%$£ good at???

Board meetings.

'So, er, which side of the bed do you prefer, Gerald?'

'Oh, just let me make a few calls - can I let you know after I've spoken with the Vice Chairman on Wednesday?'

Board meetings indeed.

I wrote to him.  I said I didn't have enough information to know whether I wanted to communicate (this was irony, dear Reader; in not having any information about him, I already had too much). Why no photo, I asked?

He replied tersely:  Haven't figured out the IT.  And YOURS doesn't show all of you. And you haven't answered my question!!!


I calmly replied thanking him for the kind compliments, and said I'm a writer, I write about things that happen to me, I don't sign anything that says I won't write about anyone, and that he should have picked up from having seen my blog that I don't generally do hatchet jobs on people (currently under review).  If someone pisses me off - and it's interesting enough - I might wryly pillory them.  But if he was that worried, what on earth was he doing writing to me in the first place?

I went on to say something like if I wrote to all the men on dating sites who paid me a few compliments, I wouldn't get any work done.

This was his reply:-

I'm impressed and humbled by the number of men who pay you compliments.  I must create rarity value by not doing it.

Well, what's minute-taking come to these days?  He'd paid me three compliments in his very first message! 

I told him that he was awfully combative.  He said no, he wasn't. (Ha!) He was a sweet pussycat really, but he 'could go for a girl who used the word combative'.

Never mind combative, I could easily have used some other choice words....but instead I said thanks, but no merci. (And I would have had no mercy...)

Pointless. Depressing. And a complete waste of the time I could more usefully have spent fantasizing about George Clooney.

And so, as the ageing maiden of time seeks the suitable suitor of destiny, and the short, averagely-built bald men of fate prattle on for eternity, NiceEtoile has left the dating site.

Somebody please turn out the lights.



Friday, 4 February 2011


 Michael Winner 
@ Yor date with George clooney is going greatl He's gasping to meet you. Sed 2me yesterday "Ms Etoile is for me, could B serious."