February 1: A change of heart

Joel, Jack and I after completing the 2014 Prom Classic

Joel, Jack and I after completing the 2014 Prom Classic

When I was writing my last blog, I was convinced I couldn’t run the 10k Prom Classic, but guess what? I did. It wasn’t the end of the boring running phase at all. I weighed up the possibility of feeling mentally crap because I hadn’t tried, against the possibility of feeling physically crap because I had. It felt good to be in the throng of finishers, wandering around with Joel and my nephew Jack, wearing our medals. My time was shameful (1.08), but at least it leaves room for improvement. Joel did it in 48 minutes; Jack in 50. Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, ran it in 53 minutes.

A good heart for running: this is the second heart-shaped potatoe Joel has found within a week...

A good heart for running: this is the second heart-shaped potato Joel has found within a week…

Now, I mention the mayor of Nice again because, while he’s hardly Joel’s sporting nemesis, they’ve been running a close race since we arrived. Christian (we feel familiar enough to be on first-name terms) was a professional motorcyclist before he went into politics. According to Christian’s website, Jacques Medecin, a former mayor of Nice, noticed and first supported him “because he was a champion”. (That was Jacques Medecin, by the way, mayor of Nice from 1966 until 1990, when he ran off to South America. He was extradited back to France and jailed on corruption charges. The local newspaper, Nice Matin, was a supporter of Jacques Medecin right up to his conviction. Jacques’ dad, Jean Medecin, was mayor of Nice from 1928 to 1943, and again from 1947 until Jacques was elected. That’s pretty much 50 years of Medecins in Nice.)

When Joel and I get Nice Matin, whichever one of us reads it first might suddenly look up and say, Page 2! The other nods. Sometimes, we’ll say, Well, well, not until Page 6 today. The other sighs. If there is no photograph of Christian Estrosi in Nice Matin, heads must be rolling at the editorial offices. The thing is, every single photograph is truly dire. Christian giving a speech, Christian giving another speech, Christian giving… Except, that is, for my all-time super-surprising favourite: Christian in his swimsuit doing a Christmas Day swim, surrounded by pretty girls in Santa suits! There’s no denying that the man is totally committed. He’s not bad-looking either, so they should be able to do better. If there were a Hollywood movie about local politics and driving ambition, he could actually play himself (except for that pesky language issue…)

Joel and Jack getting ready for their Segway tour.

Joel and Jack getting ready for their Segway tour.

I didn’t notice the mayor much until the second Prom Classic 10k run, when Joel noted that he’d improved his time in comparison to Christian. Of course, Christian gets to start at the front of the pack, along with the elite runners, and his run-number is “6” (06 is Nice’s departmental number, sort of like a zip or postcode.) That’s when, out of a sort of sense of injustice on Joel’s behalf, I started paying attention.

At one point I went to a press gathering­­­­­­­­­ for Christian because I wanted to speak with one of his team about the then-forthcoming “Summer of Matisse”. No one could leave Christian’s side for a moment. The Ville de Nice press office, it seemed, was actually Christian’s press office. Doh! Why hadn’t I noticed before? ­­­­­I get press releases from the Ville de Nice, and every single one mentions Christian, by his full title. This includes député, as he is also elected to the National Assembly in Paris. Once I even got a press release about a new pigeon house in the middle of a traffic island, which had won the first-ever Eco Award, from, it turned out, a single individual. Christian Estrosi, Député, Maire de Nice, Président de la Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur, considering his interest in pigeon protection, was delighted to announce… etc etc.  In my mind, I always add to his titles, Roi du Soleil – the Sun King. Nothing is outside the remit of the Sun King’s press office.

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So, early this morning, I go for a little 5k run on the Promenade des Anglais. Although it’s a chilly, cloudy day, the air is crystal clear, and as a result there are at least 150 lovely variations of grey to see in the water and sky as I trot along. Every second of running is a mental battle between “Stop now! Sit down!” and “Yes, I can!” My reward for hanging in there was: Christian! He was inaugurating a tiny bit of new bike route on the Prom, which, because it’s on a stretch called the Quai des Etats-Unis (United States Key, or Quay), was receiving its own mini Statue of Liberty.

There was a marching band, and, I guess in memoriam of the 1914 centenary, a few people dressed as WWI soldiers and nurses. I felt as if my running efforts were being not only rewarded, but celebrated! I did my cool-down stretches singing along to the band’s Yankee Doodle Dandy and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, revelling in the absurdity. Unfortunately I didn’t have my trusty camera with me to record it, but Christian’s press office did, of course. By the time I had gotten back home and taken a shower, a press photo of the event had pinged into my inbox.

Over lunch, I edited my morning for Joel: the sky, the run, Christian’s perfect hair, the marching band, the emailed photo… and me! Yes, on closer inspection, there I was in my sweaty running gear, from the extremely unflattering back, wandering off into the crowd behind the dignitaries. I’ve no disrespect for Christian – he does a lot for Nice (see pix of the new Promenade du Paillon, above), runs a damn sight faster than I do (though not my husband, ha!), and works all hours. But I’ve no respect either. I don’t know whether that’s irritation at him having apparently hijacked the tax-funded city press office, and the local newspaper in pursuit of his own aims, or whether it’s just because he’s another chapter in a long tradition of cronyism and corruption. In any case, if it weren’t for running, we’d prob­­­­­­­­­­ably never have become interested in the­­ Estrosi saga. And if it weren’t for running, my big bum would never have appeared in a Ville de Nice press release. That photo will probably be in Nice Matin tomorrow morning. I have to ask myself, was sticking out the 10k really worth it?

Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, on the woman's left.

Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, on the woman’s left.


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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