As I queued at Stansted airport to check-in last Friday, I realised life is not always a picnic. It was mayhem and the Tower of Babel ruled. Thinking back a few weeks, the Eos flight from Stansted to New York had been unreal. Easyjet was more like it – back to reality with a bump, although I have to say the flight itself was faultless. In fact I’ve always tried to mix the high-life with the low-life (well not too low) and really enjoy simple hotels, beach-huts, boats and hammocks. Sleeping in vans, cars and buses comes a lot lower on my list but has cropped up quite often over the years – generally a result of minor natural disasters: landslides, floods, low budget, that kind of thing.
But back to last Friday and my exit from London. This time I was en route to Nice airport to be picked up by my partner and spirited off to Cannes. He was working, I wasn’t. A nice change. So I could watch the circus that is the Cannes Film Festival in a completely stress-free way. It’s not as chic as people think as all you see on TV is the red carpet and the stars. In reality there are tens of thousands of people in the film-bizz all trying to make a living and all desperate to meet the right people in Cannes. On a yacht, in a bar, in the hotel lobby, at a party. There’s a lot of hand-shaking, banging on the back and air-kissing. Then there are the frenzied-looking hacks scuttling from one screening to the next interview. Bouncers are the other highly visible element, mainly big men in shades and suits, all equally menacing looking. It’s pretty tough trying to blag your way into a party.
And, apart from that, you’ve got the local population. Sinewy men and face-lifted women, all tanned to a crisp, they are inimitable. Geriatric fitness fanatics jog or bike along the seafront while, cruising past, you see a vintage blonde in an open-top BMW, fluffy white lapdog in the passenger-seat. Those lapdogs get everywhere: riding pillion on motorbikes, in pedal-bike baskets and, inevitably, dragged on leads along La Croisette. And I’m sure there are a few hiding away on the yachts. Handbags? so last year. Get a dog. After the dogs comes the bling. Gold is always big here whether round the neck, on a finger or colouring the latest strappy stilettoes.
One morning we escaped for a quick spin into the hills of the Var to the north-west of Cannes. Less than an hour away, silence descended and we were back in a time-warp. Provence just does not change. A few more foreigners in the local café maybe, but otherwise it’s all pretty much as I knew it 20 years ago: shady main square, café, pots of geraniums, smell of something good bubbling on the stove as well as a whiff of jasmine. Superficially it’s idyllic, but then it’s not. Is timelessness what we want? And how real is it? A suivre. as the French say. Let’s see what Sarkozy gets up to.