Blog of Monaco

4 August 2013

There’s been a rather long gap since the last installment. Apologies for this. I have been, in the words of the great Sir Les Patterson, busier than a one-armed taxi driver with crabs. This week I had to get on an aeroplane with my orchestra, go to Monaco and put on a series of concerts of Rat Pack classics and then fly home. I haven’t had a spare second to get cracking on the seaplanes of the Axis Powers diorama, and if anything, the avionic appetite was somewhat dulled by the fact that in order to get out there and back there were two episodes involving Easy Jet, or Jet as they should now be known in the light of their new group ticketing scheme. Walk up to the check in desk with your passport like before? Oh goodness no! If it gets much more complicated it will involve Polaroids of your nooks and crannies countersigned by a magistrate before you can even walk up to the check-in desk. However, I carp at the procedure, not the staff. They couldn’t have been more helpful when young Shane Hampsheir, singing star extraordinaire, misplaced his boarding pass. Shane is a magnificent shedder of personal documents, and can often be found on his hands and knees like an anxiety-ridden truffle hog at an airport near you looking for his passport, but he reasonably declined my kind offer to affix it to his nooks and crannies with a staple gun for safe keeping once they’d printed him another one.

As rigorous as the rehearsal and concert schedule was, it wasn’t all work work work though. We actually managed to get out for an inevitable curry at one point, and very good it was too. Should you find yourself in Monte Carlo with the urge for some proper food, there are three Indian restaurants and an Indian supermarket in the Rue De Republique, which despite only being eight or nine blocks back from the front is actually in France. I had a rather splendid chicken phal and a delicious onion naan, and reports from the other restaurants in what must be the Monegasque equivalent of Brick Lane were equally favourable. It is important to note, while we’re here, that Her Indoors’ onion bhaji didn’t turn up. Unlike many of the establishments over there, the curry houses are reasonably priced. We had one casualty in the band who had a bottle of beer from his minibar. It must have been happy hour, because he was only charged thirty-seven quid.

One of the things which let us know we were in France is that the Monte Carlo Parish Council, or whatever it is called, keeps the streets spotless, and France is, well, French. By spotless, I mean that every morning at around 5 a.m. council trucks mounting an unparalleled quantity of street cleaning apparatus slowly move around town washing it. Crawling along the streets like a curious fusion of Robocop, Dustcart and Electric Toothbrush and exuding pressurized disinfectant and water at a rate which would make even a catholic primary school envious, buildings, streets, pavements, bollards, famous hairpin bend etc etc, were all rendered squeaky clean and lemon fresh before you could say “Dodgy Offshore Banking”. The clean streets were a boon during the after-work trips to the Guinness bar by the big fly-over. Fusing the two ideal qualities in a pub in Monaco, which are late opening and beer at under one million pounds a pint, it understandably got pretty full in there after hours. Thanks to the squeaky clean streets, it was both comfortable and hygienic to sit on the pavement with the feet in the gutter. I’ve drunk Guiness in the gutter in Monte Carlo. It was noticeably less unhealthy than most boozers in the west end. We had nice digs too. I took this picture the other morning whilst enjoying a fry-up by the pool. Smashing, it was- E&G

I reckon that Monte Carlo might be the only functional communist state on the planet. There, everybody has everything they want. Parked outside our venue on the day of rehearsal was an enormous convertible Lamberati 560Z or something. It says something for the crime rate there that the owner of this £300k luxury item felt secure enough to leave it parked with the lid off and the key placed on the dashboard. You don’t see much of a police presence there either, so I conclude that for that to happen, a state has to exist in which no-one is interested in nicking anything, let alone something which could so effortlessly propel itself and its thief across the nearby Italian border. It leads one to the conclusion that Marx was onto something, but that he’d underestimated basic human greed. It’s not enough for the proletariat to own the factories and farms, they’ll need a Ferrari and a Sea View flat too before everyone feels equal. However, we all know that Monaco can only exist because it is one tiny blip on the surface of the globe supported by the vast plethora of Croydons and Swindons everywhere else. Her Indoors came up with a good theory, that if we liken all the stuff in the world to a giant duvet which we all have to get under, for a place like Monaco to exist, everyone else on the planet has to have one leg out in the cold. Move over Keynes!

On our return, I was looking forward to a bit of time down in the Shed for some long-overdue seaplane construction, and a couple of quite nights up The Swan with Her Indoors and our chum Billy. God forbid, maybe even some clarinet practice for an album idea I’m toying with. As usual, once plans are made, they will have to be put on hold as on our last night out in Monte, we were informed that the management liked the show so much that they’d like us back. Hooray! We said. When? Next year sometime? “Non! Next week”, they replied. They would pay off the show they’d booked and have us back for further fun. On Thursday, then, it’s back down to Gatwick to get the red-eye to Nice, help find Shane’s passport in the bins at Starbucks and get back in the Guinness gutter. I’m sure the Spanish air-sea rescue Dornier 24 I’m building can wait for its stickers for another week. This has started to sound like whingeing. It isn’t. It’s great to go and do nice work in a really pretty place, and then be able to come home and pay the tax bill with the earnings. It is as if briefly, just briefly, I’ve had my leg back under the duvet.

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