October 17: Sunsets and sniping

Sunset over the Baie des Anges


Joel is an almost unnaturally patient and even-tempered man. He usually becomes even calmer in a crisis. Once we were on a plane that had to abort its landing at Heathrow when we were already so close to the ground you could see the grass by the runway waving. We were just about ready for that hard little bounce you get when the wheels hit the ground, and suddenly it was all engines roaring. We were climbing again. I freaked; Hayley Mills, who was across the aisle, freaked (this was in our Virgin Upper Class days); the few wrinkles in Joel’s face just sort of melted away as if Botoxed. He looked as if he’d arrived early somewhere and had found a parking space right outside.

So when Joel loses his temper, it’s really quite serious.

On Thursday I went down to the restaurant at lunchtime to see Joel’s aunt Suzanne. She and my mother-in-law always go to the hairdresser together, then they meet for lunch afterwards. They are still gossiping and giggling – infectiously – like kids after nearly 80 years. I was enjoying their company (and some Corsican goat cheese with fig jam) on the terrasse when Joel walks angrily by and says, in English, that’s it, we’re going home, I can’t take it anymore. I could tell from the un-Botoxed look on his face that this was The Perfect Storm.

Corsican goat cheese

Well, the seas were very rough over the past few days. There’s no point in going into detail, because you are all grown-ups and you can imagine why brothers and sisters argue from time to time, particularly when they work together non-stop.

But time passed. Things took their course. The air has been cleared. Tears, hugs, promises of love, support and better behaviour – you know the sort of scene I’m talking about. Huge sighs of relief among staff, family members and regular customers. (One of the customers who witnessed the biggest blow-up, which took place in the storage area next door, was, ironically, a psychiatrist from Miami. She just happens to be Michele’s next-door-neighbour, and has been here in Nice since the 1960s. Joel says you can barely hear her accent at all.)

On the darkest day, I happened to be meeting Nadia for an indulgent aperitif on the rooftop of the Meridien, and her consoling advice made me realise how wonderful it is to have new friends here. While we were chatting, the sunset I’ve put at the top of today’s blog was happening. Over the next few days, Joel and I really did consider going ‘home’. I found myself sitting here one evening thinking, well, that’s a shame, I won’t get to see all these amazing sunsets anymore.

The Joan of Arc church. The sky looked the same colours as the church, but this shot doesn't quite show that as clearly as it seemed to me while I was standing beneath it

Now that we’re not going ‘home’, I’m going to Seize The Day, as they say. I’m always trying to take pix of the sunsets over the Eglise Ste Jeanne d’Arc, which we see from every window, but my night lighting is so bad I can only reproduce the spectacular ones. So, I’m going to write a 100-word description of every sunset I see. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put it on this blog – but I might start another one, specially for sunsets. I missed it tonight as we were out and about. Maybe I’ll catch it tomorrow.

Oh, the reason the plane at Heathrow had to start climbing again wasn’t due to terrorists or an air-traffic controller having a nervous breakdown. The pilot came on after three or four nerve-wracking minutes to say it was simply because the plane in front of us hadn’t gotten out of the way in time. Hayley and I smiled relieved smiles at each other. I’ve loved her since I was a teenager, when I saw Whistle Down the Wind on TV. I didn’t tell her that though. Because it was Virgin Upper Class, I didn’t even let on that I recognised her.

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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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2 Responses to October 17: Sunsets and sniping

  1. Robin Morris says:

    I loved all of those Hayley Mill’s movies they used to show on the Wonderful World of Disney!

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