June 9: Rain or shine

There have been some spectacular thunderstorms lately. Nice usually has its own unique microclimate, so we’re not really aware of what goes on in the mountains right behind us, but recently it feels like they’re right on top of us, and they’re furious about something. During some storms I’ve heard the glasses rattling in the cupboards! (Actually, for our simple kitchen, make that cupboard, singular…)

The sea, normally a bizarre sort of pale turquoise that looks as if it’s illuminated by underwater lamps, goes about the same shade of grey as my camera. When it starts to rain, people don’t open umbrellas, they run for cover. I was on the main shopping boulevard, Jean-Medecin, when the rain began a couple of days ago: I thought there was a sniper on a rooftop!

These storms roll in quickly, which means l’equipe at the restaurant have to be at the ready. Joel, who rarely used to notice the weather in London, now makes pronouncements every morning about the direction of the wind and the position of the clouds, as if he’s an old peasant.

A starter at the restaurant: assiette de charcuterie Corse - mm-mmm!

One recent evening, when it had been quite hot all day, the terrasse was fairly crowded with people in mid-dinner. It had gotten increasingly thundery, but everyone was betting on the storm passing. The big square parasols were still up, and I was sitting outside for a chat with two regulars, Valerie and Adolino, who had just paid their bill. There was a bit of a buzz inside the restaurant as a TV gameshow host was there with a crowd (a table of 10!) – I don’t know him, but he’s been a familiar face to French people for 22 years. In French when they mean it’s raining cats and dogs, they say it raining rope. That makes much more sense, especially considering the way the rain suddenly started coming down.

There was a lot of jostling under the parasols, which are very sturdy, but there was inevitably someone at every table who got dripped on. The tables are pretty heavy, and Joel and Yen had to rearrange them under the parasols, drag as many as possible inside, move chairs, and make sure glasses and plates went too as quickly as possible. I was impressed! The thing is, there’s room for about 40 on the terrasse, and 36 inside… Neither was completely full when the heavens opened, but do the math anyway. Joel dried naturally, in motion.

The enforced cosiness ended up being very jolly. I noticed the couple who had been sitting at a table next to the gameshow host’s crowd had actually become part of the crowd, which I’m sure made their evening. It was such a downpour I couldn’t leave, but there was nowhere to sit or even stand. I was put to work delivering pissaladiere and drinks to customers who had to wait a little longer than usual because of the disruption. People do love to try out their English the moment they notice an accent! After a while, Joel introduced me to three English customers (one of whom runs a beautiful b&b nearby) and her two friends, visiting from home. It was still too rainy to move, and they very sweetly invited me to squeeze in with them. They were lots of fun, and I felt as if I’d had a night out with the girls in London.

It’s been rainy, but it’s also been hot and sunny. On Monday Joel and I cycled to Matisse’s grave, and I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt. I should have thought… I now have a sun-burn on half of my arms and I look like an Irish road digger. Matisse is buried in the Cimiez cemetery, in his own peaceful garden, along with his wife, Amelie. I seem to remember reading that Amelie didn’t like Nice much, so that’s not very fair on her, to be stuck here with him for all eternity. People have put hundreds of stones and pine cones on top of his tombstone, with little messages written on bits of paper. I didn’t have a pen, so I took a stone and daubed it with my lipstick. I hope the Matisses appreciate the dash of colour.

Joel with his favourite drink - a perroquet (pastis and mint syrup) at the bar round the corner


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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One Response to June 9: Rain or shine

  1. Harriet Salisbury says:

    I haven’t had a perroquet for years, and I’ve never met anyone else who likes that particular combination. Fantastic – tell Joel that I’ll be over mid-September to join him. Love the image of him drying off by rushing between tables!

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