January 8: London vs. Nice

Joel warming up in the crowd for the Prom Classic 10k run

It’s been 138 photographs since my last blog post – I downloaded them just now. Most of them seem to be of some of the 7,000 people who did the 10k (6m) Prom Classic run this perfect sunny morning. Only one of them counted, as far as I was concerned: the good-looking, fit guy in the lower left of this pic, shouting something at the photographer. I didn’t do it – my knee still isn’t up to running, so I felt a bit left out and a bit blue. It’s something we started talking about doing together after Joel saw it happen last January, so it was disappointing for me. Still, Joel did it, and that’s almost as good! He came in in 51 minutes!

My favourite athlete!

He wasn’t going to work today, but we met a cousin on the walk back up home from the Prom, who said it was packed on the restaurant terrasse. He decided to show ’em what Londoners are made of and went to help anyway. He was joking, sort of, but he does say he’s more of a Londoner than a Niçois. Good. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about most people who live here. In fact, since we got back here from London about 10 days ago, I’ve been trying hard to see anything positive about Nice. The light is uplifting, compared to London’s dirty-fishtank weather. The sunsets are usually fabulous, even when there’s not a cloud in the sky. Having an excellent bakery on almost every corner is handy, if fattening. Being able to swim in the sea is wonderful, but I won’t be able to do that again until May or so.

Sunset on the Baie des Anges: what I could see while waiting for Joel a few days ago

I keep seeing an ad for Le Lac Des Cygnes (Swan Lake) at the Acropolis, Nice’s biggest theatre. There’s only one performance, in February, and the ad says “60 danseurs et orchestre live!” The word “live” irritates me – there must be a French word they could have used -, but mostly the ad reminds me that Nice is a second-rate city. Just one visiting performance? And I feel patronised being told the orchestra is live and there are 60 dancers – am I such a peasant that I don’t know Swan Lake is a classic worth seeing, and have to be pulled in by bright lights and noise?

I love the Fondation Maeght near here in St Paul de Vence, and the Matisse Museum right up the road. But in London, there’s never enough room in my mind for all the exhibitions I have a mind to go and see. It’s not fair of me to compare, I know. London is a capital city with more than 6 million people. But when we go to something in London, it feels significant. Here it often feels like it’s just entertainment.

Freezer/exhibition at The Abattoirs

A few months ago the old abattoirs of Nice, which were closed down years ago, were turned into an exhibition space. They’re on the other side of town, and I didn’t get to them until the other day. I wanted to see a show inspired by Nice, with the work of 50 contemporary artists. I was expecting something edgy, but I should’ve known. Nice doesn’t do edgy. (When I got there, I discovered the “other side of town” is only a 15-minute bike ride from the Promenade, but that’s also part of the smallhead Nice mindset – if it ain’t in my quartier, I ain’t going.) At first, I couldn’t figure out how to get in to the huge, abandoned-looking building, but then I saw a guard wandering around on a distant loading platform smoking a cigarette. I was the only visitor. He gave me a plan of the exhibition, which ranged from juvenile sculptures and crayon drawings, which were way too small for their spaces, to a sofa hanging from the ceiling as a screen for a video of a waterfall and a naked woman. As someone who’s been privileged enough to spend workday lunch-hours wandering around Tate Modern, I was not impressed. I was scared, to be honest. The place still reeked of automated death, what with the giant hooks and pulleys, and I was on my own in there with one bored watchman. Some of the exhibits were in the old freezer rooms, and I kept imagining the doors would slam shut behind me.

There is one way in which Nice wins hands-down over London – I haven’t had to work for a living here. Joel works enough for both of us, and hasn’t complained about that yet. But unless I get a huge advance on The Novel in the next few weeks (chances: microscopic), I should get out and do something. I won’t be working at the restaurant – I can’t take my sister-in-law Michele’s temper tantrums. Joel, so far, at least, hasn’t given up because of them…

And of course, Ted is here in Nice. Home, for now, is where the cat is. But he does have a passport.

Cats leaving the UK have to have a pet passport, like Ted's

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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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