November 9: Stormy weather

Beach stones (with a strange creature)

The beach here in Nice is stony, little gray ones called galets. I can’t remember the stones in Brighton, exactly, but they’re probably similar. Every spring, the town of Nice renews the galets, adding 6,000 cubic metres of them at a cost of about 600,000 euros, so that the beach stays about the same distance from the Promenade to the water’s edge. Those 6,000m3 sort of slide into the sea, and all those years’ worth of lost stones are still there. That’s one of the reasons why the water has such an unreal turquoise glow. Lots of people take them, too, of course, as mementoes, artists’ materials, garden decoration, ballast… They’re famous throughout France.

Yesterday the sea spit lots of the galets back out in fury. The weather has been tempestuous for a week – three months’ worth of rain in less than 24 hours in some parts nearby, with driving winds. People were evacuated from their homes, trees fell down, everything drooped dangerously. The sea went wild, and though we didn’t see it ourselves, we saw footage on the news – the galets were strewn all over the Promenade des Anglais.

Joel and I were watching the rain from our window, and when the wind changed suddenly, it was as if buckets of water were being thrown against the glass. For a few seconds, water poured in underneath the frames. On the kitchen balcony, Ted’s chair and his scratching post were sodden. His litter tray, which is under an old table, became a swimming pool. That chair was the best thing we ever found on the street: he can’t resist it. I put it out to dry in a bit of sun the next day and he sat underneath it. When it rained that frightening, driving rain again the day after that and I quickly brought it into the kitchen, he sat on it there, looking a bit confused about why his view had changed.

One of my students, Malou, is an elegant older woman who has a spectacular apartment full of beautiful things, with a view out to sea. I love going there for our private English lessons, during which we sit at her antique dining table and face the view through her plate glass windows. This week, the view changed from minute to minute. I couldn’t help but gasp at the colour of the sea when I got there, as it was so strange and stormy – grey and glowing at the same time. Over the course of an hour and a half, the sea disappeared in sheets of rain and reappeared in shafts of sunlight at least ten times, the colours completely different each time. I was finding it hard to concentrate, but Malou, fortunately, loves to discuss Ted, so it wasn’t very trying. I’m becoming very fond of her, and it’s not just because I get to spend time enjoying the view.

All this weather makes it tough at the restaurant, but at least it means that Joel has more time to spend with me. And if he’s with me, we can concentrate on each other, instead of worrying about how many agents people send their finished novels to before they hear something. Every cloud has…

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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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