When I went down to the restaurant yesterday at lunchtime, the first people I noticed were Edward and Eveline, who I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks. Edward is a distant cousin, who as a child lived in part of Joel’s grandparents’ house. Eveline is Anny’s sister – Anny is married to Pierre, Joel’s uncle (his mother’s brother), and she helps out at the restaurant now and again, as she was doing yesterday.
I chatted with Edward and Eveline for a bit, then I noticed that Denise and my niece Manou were inside, sitting at the table by the till and watching the proceedings (I couldn’t hear their running commentary, but I knew it was happening). I got up to faire la bise (the always necessary kissy-kissy-cheek-cheek), but before I managed to get inside, Joel grabbed me to introduce me to some good friends of our new landlords. I got away quickly, but Michele then nabbed me from the other side, and held on to my arm while talking to a group of people she’s known since childhood. She might have forgotten she was hanging on. I really can’t follow the jokes of a rowdy group of six or so all speaking at once, so I wriggled away.
I then had to run the gamut of cheeks on the way to Denise – Anny behind the bar, Pierre wandering around flicking his keys the way he does, Mika the waiter/decorator negotiating the route from the kitchen to the terrasse… I still didn’t make it to Denise. I suddenly realised that Neil the Scottish sax player was finishing lunch just outside the door, with his pretty Chinese wife and son. I met him because he’s a neighbour of the woman who runs the school I do some teaching for. Neil had just come back from playing at the Moscow Jazz Festival, and he was very keen to tell me how horrible Moscow is. Somehow it led on to the work he often does here: he plays at big yacht and villa parties, lots of Russian clients. That’s great, as he gave me some numbers of events organisers who know about yacht parties, about which I need to verify a couple of things for The Novel.Only then was I able to get inside and actually chat with Denise and Manou… I’d wanted to take some pictures of what people are eating, but by the time I got around to it, the service was over. All I managed was this plate of figs, kind of like mints by the till – help yourself. They are wonderfully sweet and juicy, but they are a little unlovable-looking, which is why we have them. They were unsold by one of the market stallholders, regular coffee-customer, Daniella. (Actually he’s Danielle, a man, but we try not to mention it as it would blow his cover – I’ll save his/her story for another blog…)
When things had slowed down, Mika started to have his lunch on the side of the restaurant, within teasing distance of Edward, Eveline, Joel, Pierre and Anny, Denise, Manou and me. At one point he threw up his hands as if in surrender, and said he was on his own against the family, how could he win? He pointed us all out le tonton (the uncle), les tatas (the aunts), le frère, la mémé (the granny), la femme, la niece… How did I get to be part of this picture? The restaurant closes on Sunday evenings, so I like the feel of Sunday afternoons. Later, Joel and I went for a quick swim, and then jumped in the car with Michele and drove to the French/Italian border where we pulled in behind Pierre and Anny who were waiting for us. They led us to a town called Vallecrosia, which couldn’t be more different from the Cote d’Azur. It’s poor-ish, but still a beach holiday spot, very family, very relaxed. The local fishermen were having a little memorial for sailors or something, and we ate sea bream and grilled gambas at a little beachside restaurant as 1,000 candles floated out to sea in the dark. It was magical – too bad I’m no good at night shots. There was hardly anyone to watch it either. It felt like 1950 in Croatia, another world. But it only took us 40 minutes to get back ‘home.’
‘Home’ is still the studio, but we have high hopes for this week…