February 17: Life in general

When I speak to a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while and they ask, ‘So, what’s new?’, I’m usually stumped. It’s hard to give a resumé: concerns that loomed scarily in the wee small hours a couple of weeks ago have been forgotten. I might tell them about something that happened yesterday, which I won’t remember in a day or so, but which the friend might think is still consuming me next time we speak in a few weeks’ time. We could end up discussing a crab-cake recipe, and when I’ve hung up I realise I’ve forgotten to mention that a mutual friend was knocked off her bike by drunk driver and has had a leg amputated.

Didier the Carnival florist

The thing that usually makes me sit down and blog is a good photograph, but that might not have anything to do with our life here in general. For instance, I love this pic of a florist with a cigarette in his mouth. French people can do anything while smoking, leaving me in a sort of disgusted awe. This one’s at the hangar de fleuristes, where I saw florists from all over the region decorating their floats for the carnival, which starts tonight. There were 20 or so floats in a big old warehouse, and the fragrance of all the flowers (grown locally, though you have to admit a lot of special greenhouses must have been involved) was so intense my nose prickled. The two-week-long Carnaval de Niceis a big deal. Last year it brought 30 to 35 million tourists euros to Nice, according to the mayor, who was at the hangar des fleuristes to egg them all on. The carnival has been going on since the 15th century, and involves lots of flowers, floats, giant papier-mâché models, loud noise, and crowds. Joel reported busses of tourists being off-loaded outside the hotels on the back-street route we take home from the gym. Tourist season is officially open.

The Nice emblem, the aiglon, with floral wings

VeloBleu-ing back from the hangar, I stopped at the Venetian circus to look at the lions and tigers in a parking lot. It’s very surreal. I knew they were there, as Joel and I discovered them the other day (he’s pretty cold in this picture; it’s warmed up over the past two days). The animals were very active, roaring and playing and pacing each time a circus person walked past. They all look so much like Ted, I couldn’t stop watching them. When my bike fell over, a lion got up and looked straight at me, and, stupidly, I felt special. I’m sorry they’re in cages and have to act silly every night for the financial gain of their owners, but I like to think that in the off-season at least, they have their own wilderness island somewhere near Venice (that’s where the circus is from). Please, don’t contradict me.

Another photo I took recently is this one, of Joel, his niece Manou and a friend, Hervé, on the tram. We were all going to Michele’s 60th-birthday party bash. About 20 of us piled on after having started out at the restaurant. It was about 8pm, and the other passengers looked at us with distaste, as being raucous goes down badly before dinner. Well after dinner, however, on the way back, the other passengers though it was hysterical that Herve (a 40-something gay groupier in Monaco) was teaching everyone to pole-dance on the hanging-on bar. If I’d seen a gang like that in London on the Tube, I might have smiled – or changed carriages fast.

Climbing back up our small hill to home, I walked the long way just to get a closer look at the starlings that seem to take over one particular tree every evening. I was hoping to get a snap of them all taking off at once the way they do, but I was distracted by a child with those clacker balls – remember them? As I turned around to look, the thousands of birds took off at once, and were gone. I’d missed it!

Now, I wonder what important things I’ve forgotten to mention?


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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