July 12: A dead guy with no pictures

Ted is helping me making bunting for Bastille Day at the restaurant

If there is a VeloBleu at the bike station a short walk from here, Joel can be at the restaurant within eight minutes or so of leaving ‘home’. So, when he called me about ten minutes after he left, I leapt onto the phone knowing something was up.

There was a dead guy in front of the restaurant.

I don’t have pictures because Massimo the chef, who took interesting photographs on his phone of the dead guy, has some kind of technical issue with email and his phone. I’ve seen them though. At the risk of sound hardened and cynical, considering the subject matter, they were good.

I dont' think we would get home by pirate ship - we would take our car.

I absolutely love the book A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. There was a movie of it, with James Coburn and Anthony Quinn, but I don’t think there’s a DVD of it yet, unfortunately, even though it’s from the 1960s. In it, the parents of some English children raised on a plantation in Jamaica are sent home to England by their horrified parents after they seem unaffected when they find the body of a friend who has been killed during a hurricane. On their way back home to Victorian England, their ship is attacked by pirates and they end up spending months on the pirate ship (manned by Coburn and Quinn), becoming even more dehumanised … or not, as the reader/viewer has to decide.

I had to think about that story when Joel was describing the dead guy. He was in his late 50s, one of the market stallholders (potatoes were his specialty) and he collapsed in front of the restaurant about 7.30am, when Michele was already there. Lots of people ran to help him, but he was already dead by the time the Urgentistes arrived. The police municipale were there – they prohibited the restaurant from putting out the terrasse tables – understandably, really. That didn’t stop Chez Tintin the sandwicherie next door from putting out their tables. Their customers happily drank their morning coffee and ate their croissants within metres of the dead guy, wrapped up in his white sheet toes straight up (so I noted on Massimo’s pictures) on the ground outside our restaurant.

Apparently everyone disliked this particular guy. Michele says the stallholder next to him was considering selling her site as she was so stressed by the old bastard’s unpleasantness. So, she’s rejoicing. My mother-in-law Denise was very derisory about the quality of his potatoes. And, get this, even his wife continued working until lunchtime, when the market closes down, knowing he was lying dead five minutes away.

I haven’t had the chance to check the facts, but word is that when there’s a dead body here, you have to leave it there for two hours. So, the urgentistes couldn’t take him with them, even though they knew he was dead. Everyone had to wait for the official body collectors to arrive. This unchecked-but-accepted-without-question piece of information has given rise to lots of absurd conversations among regulars at the restaurant, contemplating the various situations in which a body uncollected for two hours or more would be an inconvenience.

Listening to Morcheeba at the Nice Jazz Festival

I laughed along with rest of them. Is it time for me to be sent home to England to be re-humanised?

Joel says that if I’m happy, he’s happy. I say, if Ted’s happy, I’m happy. So, our entire lives here in Nice are predicated upon the satisfaction of a cat. I know, I know… he’s just an animal; as long as he’s fed and feels safe, he’s happy. Not much different from us humans, really, though making us feel fed and safe is a bit more complicated than pouch of Whiskas and a spot on the couch. But he is desperately hot. He looks a bit irritated all the time. It’s too noisy with the windows open for his delicate Chiswick sensibilities. I haven’t seen him curl up with his tail around him for weeks. He is always stretching out as much as possible of his furry self on the not very cool floor tiles. This will go on for about six weeks now. I haven’t told him.

My sister Sarah says, you sound homesick. Am I? Ted is, so I must be, too.

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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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