Thursday, December 16, 2010

Close encounters

There is no end to the distractions of working from home. The girls are at school and Iain is at work, which should mean peace and tranquillity and no excuse for writers block. Not so. I have just discovered Oscar, the mentally deranged pug, loudly chewing. Given that he inhales every meal whole in 15 seconds flat and then proceeds to race around the kitchen hoovering up any stray biscuits that happen to bounce out of his or Tallulah's bowl with lightning speed, I go over to investigate knowing only that it cannot be food he is eating.

He has stolen Issy's favourite dog-eared toy puppy that she has treasured since babyhood from her bedroom and has pulled out both beady eyes to indulge in a light snack. Having lost the tussle to continue (digging beads out of a pug's slobbery mouth is only marginally better than picking up poo) he is now consoling himself by licking the upholstery on the chaise longue.

He rates high on the cute factor, but there's no doubt he is one bone short of a doggy bag, or as I heard it called today, a Chewy Vuitton. We are taking him and Tallulah to London for Christmas (oh happy days on a 14 hour car journey) and Clare has begged us to bring Hotel for Dogs along as it is his favourite film. He joins in with the action scenes, standing at the side of the TV waiting to chase all the hounds when they run off camera and occasionally headbutting the screen in his excitement. Ruby and Charlie are desperate to video him in full audience participation mode and start a new YouTube sensation. Spot the difference thinks he has a career looming in movies, the other has no eye, dear.

Highlight of the week was a close encounters experience at Helen and James's annual Christmas carol service on Tuesday night. Following a tuneful rendition at their little chapel, complete with authentic snow flurries and a fantastic feast of curry and mulled wine for around 70 people, the kids decided to light chinese lanterns and let them float into the night.

As we left later that evening, we were amazed to see a cluster of them still alight, hundreds of feet up in the valley (the lanterns, not the kids.) We were slightly puzzled by the number of local gendarmes and pompiers gathering in the village with their own blue lights flashing as they set up a roadblock but thought nothing more until Wednesday morning when we heard radio reports of a UFO sighting in Bar sur Loup! Some of the villagers not at the festivities had reported strange supernatural lights and fearing an alien invasion, called the police, who were following up all leads with gusto.

Riviera Radio and Nice Matin gave the story further credibility, with Nice Matin quoting a terrified local who described ‘a stationary orange light about ten times bigger than a star hovering just below the cloud line. It lasted for seven to eight seconds then a second light arrived before disappearing. Three other lights then appeared.’ Yes, that would be the lanterns....

With C-day looming, I have further distracted myself by shopping for presents on the internet as I am still struggling to commune with the idea that the big day is really not far away. I thought I'd read the letters to Santa that I forced both girls to write to give me some ideas. Livvy's was extremely helpful, with full url web address links for the gifts she wanted, complete with colour codes and prices. So much for the old fashioned spirit of Christmas reigning supreme. Issy's was less specific and I think she must have forgotten which of Santa's elves would be reading her letter when she sat down to write the paragraph about how immaculately behaved she has been all year and will continue to be next year!

Bonnes fetes to everyone.....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feeling hot hot hot

So, on a day when I have many jobs to do, I have managed to achieve precisely very little. Every other Monday is the same scenario and for this, I have the lovely Issy to blame. Her two week school agenda means she starts at 10.20am and finishes at 3.10pm. Hardly worth her going in (she agrees but has yet to persuade me completely) so I find I get home from Grasse just before 11am and then have to leave again at 2.45pm to pick her up as the buses are too irregular to trust outside peak hours (or indeed at all when Tam Tam do their usual and just forget to turn up or stop in Bar sur Loup.)

So today, instead of rushing back to write up an interview with Robert Redford for The French Paper (lovely craggy man with a wicked sense of humour) I found myself wasting time Christmas shopping at Fragonard and Galimard in Grasse as I have just realised that with less than two weeks to go, I haven't yet bought a single present for anyone. Then I tried to download a picture from Cannes Christmas market yesterday of a dog looking totally peed off in a handbag - it just pipped the chihuaha in the fake leopard print jacket to the post. Dressing a dog up as a cat is a no no in my view. Sadly my new Blackberry torch that has replaced my clapped out Storm is refusing to send it so you will just have to use your imagination...

Then I decided to make a shepherds pie with a difference for supper tonight. Iain usually cooks all the meat in this house as I haven't eaten it for over 20 years. Forget alligator eyes or kangaroo's bits, mince and mashed potatoes are the two things I would struggle to eat if I was on I'm a a famous London Italian restaurant many years ago, I disgraced myself by spitting a mouthful of lumpy mash into my linen napkin very indiscreetly before dashing madly for the loo, so averse am I to any kind of potato lump. My mum blames the Smash we were force fed at primary school, apparently I have never been the same since.

Trouble is, the handyman cannot help himself loading everything from spag bol to shepherds pie with enough chillis to blow your tastebuds (and everything else) out of the water. Anything that doesn't have at least three whole chillis in is deemed 'bland' or 'a bit tasteless' which is rather infuriating when you have laboured over a subtly flavoured fish pie or a spaghetti vongole, where the absence of chilli is purely deliberate. The fact that my Italian neighbour Rosine has just given us a year's supply of fresh chillis from her garden merely compounds the problem, with the poor girls having to drink two litres of water with every meal Iain cooks now.

So I wasted 90 minutes making a flavoursome and entirely heat-free shepherds pie before realising that there were only four tiny potatoes left in the fridge. Knowing that this new carb-lite version of an English classic combined with the lack of 'flavour' would be enough to cause a cretin person (I meant to type 'certain' but that must have been a Freudian slip) to throw a minor strop, I decided to mash the leftover veggies from yesterday's roast with the potatoes to bulk them out. A cunning plan and one which I hope will work as the last time I did this for a fish pie for Sunday lunch with friends, I added rather more olive oil than necessary and blended it for so long that it looked like cat sick when I served it up. All in the pursuit of no lumps. The best compliment that day came from Serge, who diplomatically remarked that it tasted so much better than it looked!

Enough about my cooking prowess, writing about food has reminded me that it is now almost lunchtime which means that there is definitely no point reliving the lovely chat with Mr Redford today as by the time I have made and eaten my lunch, it will leave just an hour until the school run. I remember in the way distant past BC when I used to get so carried away writing and fulfilling deadlines that I would still be tapping away on my PC in a completely dark house, in the days before small voices would disturb me begging for supper.

The only thing that makes me feel slightly better about my lack of dedication today is the memory of my gorgeously talented journo pal (CM you know who you are) who did precisely one and a half day's work a week on her weekly national newspaper column. This involved reading all the week's papers in bed on a Wednesday afternoon and writing opinionated and highly entertaining topical copy all day Thursday, after which she would have five and a half days of complete non-taxing bed rest before having to do it all over again. She made the mistake of entertaining us with this tale of career dedication one night over a very boozy dinner as her horrified husband did the mental maths and promptly sacked the cleaner, the au pair and the gardener. I think it was the same night I fessed up to driving the car the wrong way down the A13 shortly after passing my driving test...a fact I had kept to myself for many years before that dinner party. It was almost worth nearly killing myself and a dozen other horrified motorists to watch the faces round the table that night! Although none of those faces could begin to match the horror of the ones on the A13 as they hurtled towards me at 70mph in the fast lane, just as I slammed the car into reverse and sped backwards onto the roundabout to continue on my way, this time on the correct carriageway.

In other news....the car is working again (hurrah) following €1000 euros of umming and aahing by various mechanics and a few minor repairs at two garages last week. So Christmas in London is back on (double hurrah.) And our first meeting of Premier Mardi, for working women to network and exchange ideas (not gossip or tittle tattle, and there was no eating of cake either) went swimmingly.

I will leave you with the entertaining faux pas I witnessed on my erstwhile boss Piers's talk show last night. A very revealing interview with Elton John, where he spoke frankly about his near death experiences with drugs and his habit of downing a bottle a day of Johnnie Walker suddenly cut to the ad break and the show's sponsor...Grants whisky!

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bah humbug

Can it really be less than three weeks til Christmas? I am usually in full on festive mode by now, making mulled wine, sending Christmas cards and buying presents but the Scrooge in me has taken over and I am in denial this year, particularly as the car has given up the ghost and so, two weeks before we depart foggy, rainy France for snowy, freezing London we still don't know how we are going to get there.

The original plan was to drive with kids, dogs and Christmas pressies, smugly bypassing any wildcat airline strikes, closed airports and snowbound runways and stopping off as and when we need to (with Oscar the car-hating, nauseous pug in tow that will be about every 10 minutes.)

However, even the chance of booking the car into a garage before Christmas is proving to be about as likely as witnessing the second coming. I was very efficient, French even, in my tactics this morning. On the phone at dead on 8.30am to request an appointment at their earliest convenience. The receptionist took my name and number and told me a technician would ring me back. Two hours passed, nothing. Then my phone rang with an unfamilar number as I sat in Cafe Latin in Valbonne with a friend so I started into my spiel about the car being stuck permanently in second gear, only to discover it was actually Fenelon, asking where Livvy was! Not sure who was more surprised, me or Msr Motet!

I rang the garage again at 11.30, explaining that I would quite like to be able to make an appointment before the end of 2010 to be told they had my message and my number and yes, someone would be ringing me back to arrange an appointment. Needless to say, nothing. I'd find it disappointing if I wasn't so familiar with this scenario.

While the weather has been doing its worst here, I have been busy beavering away on my website Have had some great feedback already from friends and colleagues and the guys at Brightbox did a fab job of making it look slick and professional (if only they could perform the same magic on me!)

Spoke to the lovely Dermot O'Leary last week, who has never changed despite now being one of the hottest hosts on TV. He's hosting the National TV Awards next month and talked about why he won't wait as long as Simon Cowell to tie the knot, how his personal trainer kicks his butt to kick him in shape and why he would do pretty much anything for the job of US X Factor host. Coming soon in Closer and Hello.....

Finally, the photo at the top is destined to remind everyone in Blighty that snow can be quite lovely really...first day of ski season last Saturday in Greolieres with views down to the coast, fresh snow, sunshine and a Snickers and a grand creme to die for....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Monte Carlo or bust

I think I might be starting to lose my credibility as a cool mum (my friends all agree with me that I am, the girls obviously disagree as is their prerogative during hormonally imbalanced teen and tween dom. The truth will out.)

Evidence of this worrying situation came to light over supper this evening when I mooted my great idea for Liv's 16th birthday next spring. 'Why don't you invite some of your friends over to camp and Max and Jeff can set up their band equipment in the garden and you can all pretend you are at Glastonbury?' was my suggestion. Iain's contribution was: 'Yeah, great idea, and we can clean up loads of old joints and beer bottles all over the garden the next day.' Liv stopped eating and looked utterly horrified. 'Have I actually heard you say that or am I in a TOTAL nightmare? That is the kind of thing you would only do if you were seven or 47 mum. Not 16.' Point taken, but on the plus side, it looks like I'm a mere few years away from throwing Bar sur Loup's first music festival.

Occasionally you can have a really amusing conversation with a 15-going-on-30 year old, entirely dependent on what side of bed they got out of. If the sun is shining, they have money in their pockets, a lift sorted and there are builders tea bags(rather than my preferred Earl Grey) in the cupboard, the chances rise considerably.

Last week Liv went with a friend to a make up workshop in Monaco. It was kind of like a Swiss finishing school for young ladies rolled into one afternoon at the Fairmont Plaza, and a great idea on how to demonstrate to a bunch of teenagers that less (make up) really is more. A point I have tried to hammer home with very limited success for the last two years. Part of the afternoon was devoted to making small talk with strangers (an under rated skill if you've ever had to walk into a party where you know no-one, as I have frequently for work, and somehow spend three hours not only having a passable time but getting some kind of story out of it.)

Anyway, after the make up session, each girl was told to ask an open ended question of the girl sitting next to them. Liv was seated next to a 12-year-old Russian girl who lives in Monaco. She marked her card in the lift on the way up when she revealed that she was not removing her sunglasses because she hadn't had a chance to put her make up on that morning. Her question was:'Have you seen the new season Dior collection yet?' While Liv tried to think of an open ended answer rather than:'Of course not, I am only 15' the team leader told her not to worry and to make up an answer because no-one here will have seen that yet. To which the Dasha Zhukova wannabe responded: 'Well, I only asked because the colours and designs are so amazing this season and my closet is already full of it!' When Liv elaborated that her wardrobe was full of Zara, H&M and Converse, the poor girl looked completely lost. As am I at this story but this is just another completely normal day in the wonderful wacky Cote d'Azur.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Monday meltdown

France is not in my good books today. Whenever any of my buddies (chiefly Tony or Will) start complaining about life in France, the bureaucracy, the driving skills etc etc I am the first to leap to the defence of my adopted country.

But not today. Now that summer has properly skidaddled out of here, we decided on a cosy night out at the cinema. Consulting Angloinfo, I noted that The Town was showing and being a massive Jon Hamm fan and having read all the brilliant reviews, we bolted down supper in record time, jumped in the car and hurtled off to Roquefort, as usual cutting it so fine that we arrived just as the film was about to start. Except it wasn't.

Having spent ten minutes searching for a parking space (a certain person wanted to be under a streetlight in deserted RLP because he was worried that our battered, scruffy jeep might look like a good prospect to a passing opportunist car ringer) we hurried to the entrance to find it in total darkness and all locked up.

Cussing in the freezing cold on the trudge back to the car, we consoled ourselves with the thought of a cosy stop off at a bar en route home...then we remembered that this is the Cote d'Azur, there are no cosy bars in this neck of the woods, just very expensive hotel bars or slightly shabby brightly lit atmosphere-less stop offs for a swift after work tipple. But no pubs with a log fire, some decent wines by the glass, a dimly lit ambience and a comfy sofa or, nothing like that at all.

So our night out culminated in a trip to the garage to fill the car up (76 euros) before arriving home to the guffaws of the girls who said: 'But surely you know by now that everything here is closed on a Monday?' After two and a half years, I really should remember that Mondays and indeed every lunchtime is a no-go, no-trade total shutdown. I have checked Angloinfo again, and it clearly states that The Town was showing last Wednesday and Saturday, but definitely NOT Monday night. I am sure this has been sneakily ammended in the last hour.

The picture above, by the way, is of idyllic Bar sur Loup, without aforementioned bar....

Onto the curious case of the pet insurance fiasco. When we first arrived here with our menagerie of animals, we decided in our infinite wisdom to take out an insurance policy covering all the furry beloveds in case of accident or illness (this was pre-empted by Archie Smith, Norma and Tony's cute but acutely allergic Westie who has now had in the region of £40k worth of vets bills covered by Pet Plan.) How sensible we thought we were. In the spirit of cutting back this autumn, we decided that shelling out in excess of €1000 a year on the rudely healthy little rugrats was not strictly necessary so Iain emailed Generali to politely cancel our policy.

Cue a concerned phone call the next day from a Generali minion politely informing us that we can't cancel the insurance. If we refuse to pay, they will continue to take it from our bank account anyway, because we renewed the policy in August and so have to wait until August 2011 to cancel something that is not mandatory in any case. Is the world going mad? Ok, so what if all the animals die then? Well, in that case you need to produce a death certificate for each animal certified by a vet in order to cancel the policy. Cue much hilarity from Will, whose suggestion that we start a dead animal collection service locally was not greeted with total derision. As nan in Catherine Tate might say: 'What a %£*?ing liberty!' Except liberty is the one thing in short supply.

My mood has been lightened somewhat following a flurry of emails from C in London, who entertained and shocked me in equal measure with the story of how her just turned 16yo has been grounded for a month after being dropped off for a girlie sleepover in her PJs on Saturday night, only to change into her gladrags and head out to a Soho nightclub with all her friends, before catching the 5am nightbus home to sleepover friend's empty house (the parents, of course, had gone away for the weekend.) Having shared the story with Liv, she could only gasp: 'Wow, that is legendary - but I know I would have been grounded for life if I'd done that!' She is not wrong, so perhaps living in a pub-less, bar-less, cinema-less rural idyll is the least of my problems.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back to reality

Well readers, I know you have been used to jetting around lately in virtual reality with me to exotic destinations like Toronto, New York, Hawaii and Japan, so if like me you are feeling a bit travelled out, here is a picture to make you smile (especially those readers in the generally soggy, generally freezing UK)...the rain in Bar sur Loup, specifically, on my terrace.

It's day three of relentless, stair-rod style downpours and I am amazed to reveal that I haven't left the house now since Saturday afternoon. Even Oscar and Tallulah, who usually hurtle to the door every time I stand up, are refusing point blank to venture outside. The logs have been burning, the X Factor has been blaring and astonishingly, I didn't leave the sofa from 2pm yesterday, cosied up watching back to back Halloween films, which reminded me of how great it is to now have children who have no interest in making me dress as a old hag and go trick and treating, annoying the neighbours and frightening old people.

Having spent half term down at the apartment in Mandelieu, playing volleyball and beaching it in warm sunshine with our London mates who all took the first plane out of the UK for some respite from the frost that has already set in, we arrived chez nous at BSL in need of some R&R that didn't involve copious amounts of rose.

So my weekend was spent ruthlessly culling way too many clothes from over stuffed wardrobes, and discovering that I don't need to buy another pair of shoes, handbag, hat, pashmina or outfit for at least five years. In the spirit of being eco and tightfisted, this is a good move and made me feel quietly smug when I recalled all the beautiful but totally unnecessary purchases made by Norma and Sarah last Thursday as they worshipped at the alta of Rue d'Antibes, and Maje and American Vintage in particular.

I even resisted the temptations of High St Ken last week, God only knows how. (I have been waking up feeling a bit weird lately, perhaps Iain has performed a frontal lobotomy on me without me realising.) The lovely peeps at Disney booked me into the Royal Garden Hotel ready for my interviews with their teen stars Allstar Weekend and Selena Gomez. This meant two days of lounging around in five star luxury, with chaufeeur driven Mercedes ferrying me around, and post-Tokyo, the nigh on impossible challenge of STAYING AWAY FROM THE SHOPS which were stumbling distance away from my room.

I'm pleased to report, reader, that I almost managed this. (Does a summer jumpsuit from Urban Outfitters count? I'm saying not, particularly as I can't wear it for at least eight months.) The trip was also brightened by a number of other factors....

* Spotting Eric Clapton mooching around in the lobby as I checked in, chatting on his mobile and looking sartorially cool in a this-is-what-I-just-found-on-the-floor rock star kind of way.

* Running around the Serpentine on a bright sunny but FREEZING morning and remembering all the reasons why I still really love London (but just don't want to live there anymore.)

* Meeting PR extraordinaire mates Jo and Judy at E&O, our favourite haunt in the whole world and the scene of many memorable evenings, for a feast of food, fine wine and gossip, lots of it. Then spotting Rose Byrne, who is brilliant in Damages, sitting at the table next to us. When will these celebs stop stalking me?

*Meeting the aforementioned teen stars and finding out that it's still possible to be superfamous, or on the brink of superstardom, yet polite, funny and charming to said interviewer.

*Leaving a frost covered Heathrow on BA bound for sunny 18 degrees in the shade Nice, and enjoying lunch at Las Cabanas in Theoule with the handyman I married 14 years ago to the day.

What I'm saying is three days of rain cannot dim my world (unless it turns into five or six.)

Friday, October 22, 2010


Everyone needs to visit Tokyo once in their lives. After a 12 hour flight, landing at 9.30am is never a great plan when you are jumping forward eight hours but somehow the amazing sights, sounds and not least the FABULOUS food kept us out until 1am the following morning.

Norma, Lisa and Virginia hit the shops at the first opportunity as soon as we checked into the hotel and we trailed along in their wake, watching the fashionistas walk into a store and know within about two minutes whether there was anything worth following up for next year's collections.

After about five stores, Sarah and I needed a bit more than fashion to keep us going so we peeled off to head for Harajuku, Tokyo's version of Camden/Carnaby Street, with boys dressed in cargo shorts, leggings and boots (sounds so wrong yet it works but only if you're diehard trendy, under 25 and Japanese so don't try this at home.)
We finished off at a restaurant called Ninja where you go through a London Dungeon type underground cave system to sit in your own private locked booth, cross legged on the floor for the most fantastic sushi, sashimi and miso black cod...E&O eat your heart out.

One of the highlights of the trip was Kyoto. The bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 2 hrs 20 and was just phenomenal, it hurtles along at such speed you can almost feel the G force. Clean, spacious, with reclining seats and spectacular views. We decided the perfect way to see the city was by bike so we hired some by the station and headed off in the direction of the shrines and temples, east of the city hugging the mountains. The traditional Japanese architecture is evident, with elaborate overhung carved rooves on the tea houses and winding steep narrow streets. Best spot was two gay Brits who were made up as geishas for the day and rode around in a carriage, as well as a real geisha, still a fairly unusual sight during the day. It really was a feast for the senses.

We wound our way into the city after all the culture and parked our bikes at the front of a colourful shopping mall. I noticed what looked like parking tickets on all the other parked bikes and a friendly warden came over and started pointing at the tickets and shaking his head with a big smile. We came to the conclusion that he was telling us all the bikes had been issued parking tickets already so we were probably safe so we merrily took our chances and left them there. As we were wandering through the shops, it occurred to me that the last time I was on a day trip with the Smiths, Norma and I were towed away in Ventimiglia to the tune of €400! Tony and Sarah were chilled but I suddenly had a panic attack about the bikes being towed and we legged it back to find that every other bike had been clamped! Ours were the only three left untouched...oh happy days.

We ate the best sushi at the station, simple, fresh and cheap. I'd move to Japan for that alone. I noticed that much as Tokyo is probably one of the world's most crowded cities, everyone respects personal space. At the crossings, people stand well away from each other, no-one jostles or pushes forward and flu-style surgical masks are worn by commuters and cyclists on a daily basis. Even at 11pm the metro was full of commuters still making their way home from memorable sight was a girl on the metro dressed entirely in pink; tutu, legwarmers, Mary Janes, and even pink ear muffs like a real life Barbie. Some of the fashion is bizarre but it is without doubt the most daring fashion forward place I've ever been to, which explains why the Swedish buying team from H&M were also staying at our hotel, on the lookout for fresh ideas.

So, if you are planning a trip to Japan anytime soon, top tips are:

* Shibuya district for an Oxford Street style bustle, amazing shops and mental fashion. Parco is definitely worth a look.

* Womb - concealed down a backstreet, you'd never find this place unless you know where to look but it's worth the hunt as it's one of the best clubs I've ever been to, with brilliant music, a mainly Japanese clientele and a very late licence.

* Adam and Eve onsen, in Ropponghi. A traditional bath house, with hot springs, plunge ppols and steam rooms, the masseuses are no-nonsense and clad in black bras and knickers, and cover you with oil and slap you around on the beds like you've never been slapped before, all the while chatting away to each other. They use crushed cucumbers for the facial and then shampoo and condition your hair before dousing you with moisturising milk. You leave feeling like you are floating on air. Women have to be naked, men need to wear shorts (Tony got a bit confused on this one, hence much hilarity from us. Luckily he was in the boys room next door.)

* The bullet train - just amazing.

* Ebisu and Meguro by the canal, great for vintage stores, cafes and bars.

* The Prada building in Aoyama, built like a beehive it is floor after floor of design heaven but be warned, twice the price of London.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mad Men and Englishwomen

There are times when being a jet setter journalist is a lot of fun. Jaunts to LA, tick, Hawaii, tick, Maldives (landing in a sea plane, then relaxing between shoots in an overwater bungalow) tick. Then there are times when it is mind-blowingly, stressfully not fun, ergo last night stuck on the drive unable to open the electric gate due to stair-rod style horrible rain (a daily reality in the UK right now but still blissfully rare here.)

I get ready for a night that promises to be fun at Mipcom in Cannes, which involves registering for the festival, watching a screening of one of the latest Mad Men episodes so far unseen on UK television (need I say more) oh and a Q&A with the supremely talented, good-looking and yes genuinely nice Jon Hamm, aka Don Draper. Followed by cocktails at the Martinez. Ho hum, sooo worth venturing out in the gladrags on a rainy Monday night for.

Manage to make it up the rapids-style drive to the car, a not inconsiderable feat given the unsensibly high black boots I was wearing. Press the gate beep, nothing. Press again, still nothing. Call Issy on my mobile at the house to ask her to press the intercom gate buzzer, STILL NOTHING. Under normal circumstances I would have been a bit fed up, then thought about the advantages of not driving to Cannes on a wet and windy Monday night and been quite upbeat about my fate. But not when the hottest male TV and film star of the moment is waiting in Cannes.

Cue the hot handyman and jack of all trades (which implies master of none, and yet he can do it all, plumbing, electrical, even chimney sweeping!) Iain is none too impressed to be summoned from his warm dry PC to look at the gate in pouring rain but he graciously did it anyway before telling me there was NO WAY I was leaving the drive that night. Something in my crestfallen face and whingeing tone along the lines of ‘how I am I supposed to do my job and earn money if I can’t leave the house? I CANNOT miss the star of Mad Men’ must have had an effect because he then spent 45 minutes trying different ways to restart the electrical short before dismantling the gate mechanics so we could open it manually, me by now in my wellies trying to be the electrician’s mate and watching the hair I’d straightened earlier frizz into something approaching an exploding mattress.

No matter....reader, I got off the drive while Iain swam down it for a hot shower and then drove like a demon so as not to keep DD aka JH waiting. In the flesh, he is charming, funny, relaxed and even more handsome than he is on screen. If that's possible. If you are wondering what I’m on about, tune into Mad Men on BBC4 tomorrow night and all will be revealed.

Tomorrow, lunch with Robert Redford, Jon Hamm and a host of other celebs in Cannes. That is one big tick. To be continued.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Aloha! I'm boring the pants off myself saying that, but it's a great word, it means hello, goodbye, welcome, I love you and any manner of other nice greetings so really, it's the only Hawaiian word you need.

A trip has to be really good for me to say yes to spending a total of three days travelling across the world and back for four days actually on the ground but when the destination is Hawaii for Bravo's remake of Hawaii Five O, what else could you possibly say except aloha!

We flew United, and I really want to write nice things about them as their staff are quite sweet, polite, older than average steward crews, whch makes me like them more for being non-ageist, plus they bumped us up to a slightly higher class (the one that sits mid-way between economy or misery class and business, so basically, more legroom but no flat bed or flashy meals.)

One of the joys of flying is that you can't use your mobile (unless you're on Emirates, which will probably offer the first holidays to the moon as they are so avant garde and ahead of the competition) so it's licence to read uninterrupted and catch up on all the movies you've missed. Unless you're flying United. An antiquated miniscule screen with more plastic trim than screen, on the 11 hr LA leg, it offers a choice of 8 old-ish films on rotation so if you fall asleep or need the loo, you might miss a crucial scene.

Then horrors, after three hours at LAX in transit, on the next leg of 5hrs 50 mins, there was one drop down screen showing Mr and Mrs Jones, a complete piece of drivel which makes me worry that David Duchovny is one of my favourite actors. My advice - buy every mag and at least three new books in Smiths and you will be fine. No offence United, but you have the monopoly on London - Hawaii and a 19 hour journey would be so much more bearable with a decent Virgin-style on demand entertainment system.

Hawaii itself is just fantastic, words can't do it justice. Oahu is the most commercial island, with Honolulu and Waikiki, so I was expecting touristy and built up, but outside of those areas, it was amazingly unspolit. I can see why Jurassic Park was filmed there; the volcanic mountains are a sight to behold, and Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz left just before we arrived, having wrapped the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean at gorgeous Cockroach Cove.

Diamond Head and North Shore are the places for serious surfers (maybe in another 10 years I will be headed there) but Waikiki is great for beginner/me-style surfing so whenever I had a free couple of hours (no readers, it was not every day, contrary to Iain's belief that every work trip is merely a journo's holiday) I would hire a board for a couple of hours and head off there while my fellow journos hit the shopping. It's really saying something to admit that in four days, I didn't buy one solitary item of clothing, shoes, hat, bikini, CD, DVD, scarf, coat etc etc. The warm Pacific means no wet suits (yay) but also means I'm now sporting an attractive collection of friction burns on my knees, toes, under arms and cleavage! It was so cool though that I can't care too much. Standing up on that board in Waikiki was worth a thousand BCBG Maxazria T shirts.

Went to the beach premiere (see pic) to watch the pilot and then onto Nobu for a sushi and champagne fuelled party with the cast and crew. Nuff said. OK, it was AMAZING. And Kahala Resort where we were staying (thanks to our clued up pr Jakki) was the height of luxury. Saw Liam Neeson getting in the lift (and was tempted to give chase) and it's Cameron Diaz's fave hotel when she is on the island (only slightly sad that I missed her and her pneumatic beach bod.)

So now I'm back. Iain and the girls have become so adept at coping without me this summer that after the initial hugs and kisses followed by 'what have you bought me?' I slip into the background again, only to be told a day later to 'calm down, the house ran perfectly well without you and your telling offs and constant 'tidy your room' orders!' And that's just from Iain....At least Oscar is still not over the excitement of having me back, bless his chubby triple chin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New York

Okay so this is the moment when I made a lasting impression on the lovely Jonas Brothers. Otherwise known as ‘How to break the ice in one fell swoop’, especially when your celebrity subjects are a tad suspicious of an ex-tabloid hack from the UK – we are on a par with e coli as far as our lovely American clebs are concerned.

Five minutes into the interview and we were talking about a picture of the boys making an appearance on the Ellen chat show in the States...
Joe - That was our third or fourth time on Ellen. We were in Florida we did a performance for her and we were able to ride on tons of roller coasters which was a lot of fun. It was hot though, really hot, and we had very, very long hair.
Kevin – My hair looks like it’s consuming my face.
Joe – You look like a mad scientist! Ellen is such a sweetheart and we loved being on her show.
Me – That’s not Owen Wilson there is it?
Kevin – That’s Ellen deGeneres!
Me – Oh my God, don’t tell her I said that will you? It’s just the blurriness of the photo! I’m about to get sent home on the next plane!
Kevin – That’s ok! That’s ok!
Joe – I don’t think she’s reading it, thankfully you own what you write!
Kevin – That is hilarious!
Me – Moving swiftly on, that is our little secret....

I swear to God in her brogues, slacks and with her short but floppy blonde hair she was a dead ringer fro owen. Can I just say the boys were lovely, they laughed so hard (at me) then signed a CD for the girls, and even allowed me to bust in on their red carpet moment and told me I was their favourite journalist of all time! Not that I’m swayed at all by flattery….

Anyway, here are the little finds I discovered this time around in lovely, 90 degree NYC….

Sushi Damo, West 58th St – fantastic sushi, amazing salads with a secret Japanese dressing that the chef didn’t want to share with me, and amazing spicy rolls. So good we spent three lunches there!

Bes , 11th Ave and West 22nd St in Chelsea – cool little bar serving food til late, a great stop for any Londoners missing the pub and consequently full of ex-pat Brits.

The Mandarin Oriental, Columbus Circle near Central Park - Amazing city views and a gentleman’s club feel, they also serve food til 11, or midnight if you are very hungry and persuasive after a red carpet premiere, like us.

Mercer Kitchen at the Mercer Hotel in SoHo– the warm shrimp salad was fab and the scallops with spinach stuffed ravioli and crushed peas was a party in my mouth.

I am writing this two weeks after my return, so manic has life been since, but I do remember trying to pack my room against the clock and constantly ringing the front desk for a slightly later check out (three times, they were quite long suffering about this.)

Stayed at the Hudson Hotel, which has great communal areas and a breakfast bar with thrones at the tables but doesn’t seem to wanna spend much on lighting, hence the bruises all over my legs from walking into furniture and also getting off at the wrong floor on a regular basis as a result of being distracted by the piped but very good and loud dance music in the lifts.

They also don’t like you moving chairs at the outside bar/terrace, you have to be a table of four or spend the entire evening sitting apart, or risk the wrath of the humourless bar staff. To summarise, it’s a cool location and has a very hip image but DON’T STAY HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Toronto has never been on my list of must see places to visit. Vancouver yes, for its wide open west coast beauty but Toronto flies under the radar yet it is one of the coolest small cities I have been to as well as the friendliest.

From the taxi drivers to pedestrians who wil leap to your aid if they so much as see you looking at a map, to the polite restaurant staff, the Toronto locals cannot do enough for you.

Nikita was fun, the star Maggie Q has the face of an angel but makes Lara Croft look like a wimp and fights like a wildcat. As always, there was lots of sitting around on set waiting for interviews but Jess and I alleviated the boredom by trying on Nikita’s very bad wigs and sunnies!

If you’re ever passing through Toronto, here are my top tips for a brilliant visit...

By the Way on Bloor St West for brunch. Great lattes, fresh squeezed OJ and a three course breakfast on a plate. Mine was a gut busting omelette with feta spinach and mushrooms, accompanied by delish fried potatoes and melon and fruit oh and a toasted bagel. As we say chez moi...fat ass!

Le Select on Wellington St West for classic French food every bit as good if not better than the Cote d’Azur – and certainly cheaper – the bouillabaisse was authentic and divine.

Lee Gardens on Spadina Ave. Don't be put off by the slightly shabby decor, it’s always packed and the wilted snow pea leaves in garlic were a triumph, so much so that I ate the whole very large bowl!

Drakes Hotel on Queen Street West for the beach style roof terrace serving brunch until 4pm and home made lemonade.

Lucien on Wellington Street West serves authentic local ingredients cooked with a French twist. The octopus chorizo was novel and the pacific halibut and crushed snowpeas were, as Mr Winner might say, historic.

Brassai off King Street West is a cool bar, always busy at weekends and Johnny the London barman will make you a wicked mojito at the outside bar if he hears your British accent.

Kensington Ave, Augusta Ave and Queen Street West for the best vintage shopping EVER. Courage My Love, Fashionably Yours, 69 Vintage, Model Citizen where I bought Iain a fab limited edition Grace Jones print (had it framed in New York, forgetting I need to get it on the plane!) Bungalow and Heel Boy are just a few that made me feel so very welcome that I couldn’t leave without a carrier bag and Jonathan and Olivia on Ossington does designer capsule collections.

Could barely shut my suitcase when I left London and next stop after this is New York....

Monday, August 9, 2010


It's 11.15pm, I have blogged once tonight (which is a rarity I know), am dead on my feet after 2am homecoming from the Big Chill this morning and have a massive list of things to do before I leave for Toronto on Wednesday, swiftly followed by New York for work. Aargh. But I cannot pack up before writing about Paris, which broke up the journey to the UK., food...cheaper and better than the Riviera and markets ... brilliant for vintage, high fashion and antiques. We should be moving there sometime soon.
I wrote myself a memo with the names of all the best places we visited but have now lost it so will have to do this from memory.
We stayed in a fab apartment in St Germain at le Prince Regent Residence et Spa, beautifully furnished in an old bourgeouis building with a little courtyard just five minutes walk from Cafe Flore and Les Deux Magots. Went straight out for dinner after an epic journey and very late arrival but the civilised thing about Paris is they understand that you might want to eat later than 9.30pm and actually take your money and custom with a smile.
We dropped off the luggage and ran to the first restaurant we spotted, across the road, les Caves du Polidor, which was all chandeliers, tiled floors and rustic tables oozing Parisien atmosphere without the too obvious tourist touch. Our waitress was Mr Bean's elderly toothless mum, she kept whacking Iain in the back of the neck, first with a bread basket and then the table mats. We were cracking up just as she performed her piece de resistance and knocked over a wine glass, stared at it as it rolled across the table and then walked away without picking it up! But the food made up for it, proper hearty chicken casseroles and mashed potatoes which are just what you need after numerous stale baguettes en route.
Breakfast at le Danton was followed by a stroll around the market at Clignancourt.
It's the biggest flea market in Paris and the girls were cooing over all the great fash finds there. Then Montmartre for some caricatures and views across the city from the Sacre Coeur, a float along the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower and finally Notre Dame where Livvy spotted Mr Fashion himself Gok Wan.
Dinner was at the Au Saint Benoit off Boulevard St Germain, and if you don't go anywhere else, go here for supper. It's intimate, friendly and the service and food are up with the best I've had anywhere in France. We rounded off with cocktails at a bar where two guys performed death defying acrobatic feats in mid air.
The Pub St Germain is a fab find for lunch or dinner too, with four floors of seriously cool decor, red velvet sofas and dramatic purple walls, virtually hidden away down a little cobbled alley and a manager who is on the ball and ensures that everything is swift, friendly and up to scratch. I know, this is Paris I'm talking about. It gets a bad press but maybe we got lucky.
We arrived in London to house sit for a friend only for me to discover that my pride n joy Houlihan leggings which I have worn just ONCE had been left at the hotel. After going into slight meltdown, I called the manager Remi, who promised to post them to me in the UK immediately. Two days later, they arrived. So Paris, au revoir, coming back very soon.

Glamping - lights, music and toilet paper!

Now there's camping and there's glamping. Until recently, well last weekend, I was a camper. Camping is that quaint outdoor pursuit that I love, on paper, until the rain starts to tip tap on the canvas before you have even finished pitching the tent, and rarely subsides until you have packed everything up again and decamped back to full plumbing and hot showers.
I've camped in England with varying degrees of success - last time we left early because of relentless downpours and the girls didn't speak to me all the way home and told me I had ruined their best holiday EVER. Forget Caribbean beaches and Alpine lakes, they love not seeing a toothbrush or the inside of a shower cubicle for days on end. What I remember about that particular trip was sitting in the laundry room at our New Forest site with my Manc friend Clare, who is a tough cookie, trying to warm up next to the tumble dryers.
Italy was fun last year but the opposite extreme, so hot that it was almost impossible to sleep.
So with the Big Chill beckoning, and a dry Glastonbury for the first time in years, I felt strangely confident as we packed up all our camping gear the day we left France. The fact that it took up three quarters of the boot, and that was without our months-worth of luggage, hair straighteners, beauty products...three females equals a lot of stuff....was not a worry for me, although Iain had to drive 1000 miles without a rear view.
Then two things happened. We saw the weather forecast for last weekend...showers...and noticed an advert for Yurtel on the BC website...yurts with double beds, proper quilts, electric lights, lamps, even carpet for God's sake. Oh and no forgetting an eyemask and ear plugs for the discerning festival goer who likes to sleep at some point. How did we miss this, opined Iain, who tries to avoid every camping trip with excuses like work, bike trips and frozen shoulders. He also mentioned something about being able to read in bed if the music got too much for him. So with less than 24 hours to go, we booked one and spent the next hour unpacking all aforementioned gear in sunny Herts before setting off.
The fact that we had a. all bought wellies, b. booked a luxe alternative and c. even thought to borrow the waterproofs that had been forgotten in our haste to pack meant of course that it didn't rain at all, well apart from one sharp downpour on Friday, which just meant beating a hasty retreat into the Thali tent for a fabulous Indian.
But if you think that's extravagant, the Lotterys can beat it. N&T had booked a hotel 8 miles away, then decided to join us Yurting, but didn't want to lose the full English breakfast and en suite that even the yurtel couldn't provide so kept their rooms on, sleeping on site and rushing off each morning for three hours to 'freshen up'. Needless to say, Issy became a Lottery for the duration of the trip.
My highlights? Mystery Jets' brilliant set on the Clash stage on Friday night, they thanked the crowd for sticking with them rather than watching Massive Attack on the big momma stage but they needn't have bothered because they were SO much better, and The Magic Numbers yesterday, who have made a few of my favourite tracks ever. Plan B was also magnetic live, not what I expected at all, and went down a storm. Lily Allen proved that pregnancy doesn't have to stop you having a good time and Paloma Faith and Newton Faulkner were also good value. Plus loads of little unknown bands, including Hundred in the Hands, who are really super talented.
Iain's highlights? The dozens of world food stalls serving everything from Lebanese wraps to Goan fish curry and everything in between. His mission was to try as many as possible and reader, he didn't fail.
Issy's highlights? Setting up a three day residence at the dodgem stand, she and Poppy must've spent every pound of their not inconsiderable pocket money whizzing round at speed bashing as many people as they could.
Liv and Lyd checked out the talent at the festival too, most of which had nothing to do with music, so everyone was happy. But the joy of arriving back to a toilet that doesn't resemble the one in Slumdog Millionaire cannot be denied.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A black day

Today I am writing the blog I didn't want to write. My beautiful, funny, clever friend Lisa died on Tuesday after a long and courageous battle against ovarian cancer. She was 52 and she leaves a husband and four gorgeous children.
Having a friend who is so ill when you are 1,000 miles away is very hard but we wrote letters and emails frequently (somehow she always managed to make me laugh no matter how bleak she felt) and talked on the phone and in that way, our friendship was just as strong as it was when I lived in England. I last saw Lisa at Christmas, when she cooked us scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast and uncorked a bottle of Champagne at 10am to celebrate us all being together at her house again. I planned to go and see her last Wednesday and when we last spoke, she was so looking forward to it, as was I. It seems unreal that I will never see her again.
The day of her funeral was terribly sad, as well as bizarrely uplifting. The rabbi told stories of her many car scrapes - her poor mini cooper was always in the wars - the way she used to chat on the mobile while driving and would turn to chat to whoever was in the back seat while speeding along, oblivious to anything else, and too many other zany moments to mention, and we couldn't help but laugh through our tears.
My favourite story was one Livvy told me this week, about when she and Beaux were in the car with Matt and Lisa one day. Matt said, shall we cause a scene, and Lisa said go on then. So he got out of the car and started throwing a wobbly in the middle of a busy roundabout, screaming and shouting at Lisa while she was hanging out of the car window and the girls were ordered to pretend to cry in the back. One or two motorists got out of their cars to come and see if they could help, only to be given their marching orders. Then Matt got back in the car and he, Lisa and the girls drove off screeching with laughter!
She is the kind of friend who would turn up for dinner with a bottle of wine she had already opened at home, or a lovely box of chocolates that she had already eaten a few of. She also had a vintage wardrobe that gave me green eye and which she generously let me rifle through for that special occasion when you didn't want to buy a dress if one of her D&G or Betsy Johnson creations fitted the bill instead. A total one off who will never be forgotten.
As we all stood at the burial thinking of her during prayers, the sun broke through the thick cloud and shone in a tiny blue oasis for a couple of minutes before really felt like she was there too, watching down on all of us.
Afterwards, we listened to Led Zeppelin and some of her other favourite bands, drank wine and swapped stories and laughter and tears.
Today I spent the whole afternoon in my PJs watching the boxed set of Glee ... somehow I just know she would approve.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Part Two

Forgive me readers, for it has been a long time since my last blog (well, apart from yesterday’s) and while painting this afternoon, I remembered loads of stuff that I forgot to put in, so here I am again. Actually, writing a book on paint drying would be infinitely preferable to what I am doing now, painting over lots of new concrete all over the outside of the house in 90 degrees of heat. The paint keeps drying in the pot so I am slapping it on quicker than I should and dodging the lumps which keep falling off as I am still in sweaty tennis gear (too hot to change) rather than painting clothes and standing on the velvet chaise stool instead of a ladder, which just makes it all more of a challenge.

The highlight has been hearing the pesky tiger mozzies approach with undisguised glee, only to find themselves stuck to fresh paint and watching them die a slow sticky death, which is still too good for, I am not a Buddhist.

As all my lovely UK mates and colleagues think my life is a permanent holiday, consisting mainly of shopping, partying and lying by the pool drinking rose, I am expecting no sympathy on the painting front. It took a lot to dig out the paint again after the last time I wielded a brush two weeks ago. Iain, who has been flat out for weeks, said, can you paint the doors upstairs, it will only take half a day? Naively, I agreed, and spent four days on a half a day job. Feeling faint from fumes, I had to keep retreating to the fridge, the pool and my pc at regular intervals which is maybe why it took me eight times as long to do the job!

Went to a brilliant party last week at the Cannes Lions, perhaps the party of the year so far (well, along with Grace Jones at Le Baron.) It was Massive Music’s beach party to celebrate their 10th birthday at the Palais Stephanie beach in Cannes. Usually parties take ages to get going but their DJs were so hot on the decks that everyone was up on the floor by 10.15 and the place rocked all night. The highlight was a 10yo guitarist who came on to perform solo and who knocked everyone sideways with his talent and cool factor.

The only downside...having to buy tokens to pay, yes reader, pay for your drinks. I have never yet been to a party here where you have to pay at the bar, the pr machine knows that all journalists, media types and freeloading industry experts love a free bar. The Laurent Perrier and Belvedere flowed through Film Festival but Sarah says the whole ad business has had to cut right back on spending and the most dramatic saving they can ever make is forcing us all to pay for tomorrow’s hangover. It was so good that nobody cared, which proves that throwing a party is not rocket science - if you have great music, enough people and a fab setting, you really cannot go wrong.

This afternoons’ boredom was punctuated only by hearing Issy bursting chewing gum bubbles while lying on her bed in her shady boudoir watching American movies (how easy it is to be 11) so I reflected on the last two years here. Occasionally people contact me to ask about moving abroad, how we found schools, settling in, houses and areas, as it is an emotional and financial minefield when you first arrive in a new country. I realised that probably the most valuable bit of advice I could give is the piece I never offer. Which is, be very wary of taking people at face value. I have made a lot of gorgeous friends since moving here, which I never expected, but I have also met two or three people who misrepresented themselves and their motives, and truly had hidden agendas, which you only discover much further down the line.

I have never been a cynical person – one of my journo mates always used to say: ‘Ask Karen if you want to hear the Hello version, talk to me if you want the blunt truth!’ I’m still not cynical but much warier of making new friendships now. For some, starting a new chapter here means just that, a change of scene, lifestyle and better quality of life. For others, it is an escape for altogether different reasons.

BTW heard back from Amanda on the talented Leroy, he now has an in with a music producer who will spend a day in the studio with him in London. This guy has worked with Celine Dion, Cher, Enrique Iglesias and many more....but haven't heard back from Leroy. Maybe he thinks I am a demented stalker or fan! Or maybe I have discovered the only YouTube musician who doesn't dream of a recording contract. So frustrating.....

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nice has talent

Talent is a much overused word but just occasionally someone comes along oozing with it and you can't help taking notice. I was working earlier on a feature (Jessica Szohr from Gossip Girl, who didn't have much gossip at all) when Livvy told me to come and have a look at someone on YouTube. Usually it involves watching a dog do tricks or a gang of wedding guests performing Thriller, none of which are particularly scintillating. I politely feign interest for about 30 seconds before switching off.

Today was different. Leroy (not his real name) is an 18yo Spanish guy who goes to ISN and has made his own channel on YouTube where he performs cover versions from The Script, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Kings of Leon and so on. He plays guitar and sings and I spent ten minutes watching him. He is nothing short of brilliant, the whole package, and one of his songs, Jason Mraz's Lucky which he sings simultaneously with a girl he has never met before via webcam is phenomenal. I sent him an email wishing him luck and pasted the link to my friend Amanda who works with Simon Cowell and is married to Chris, a great music boss and producer in the UK. She came straight back to me saying: 'He's fabulous, have sent it to the producer and God.' (That's Simon.)

So watch this space to see what happens next. Or click on and see what all the fuss is about. He is going places.

Onto Issy's party last week. She's now 11 going on 25. She has a new Blackberry, which is her first ever phone and smarter than mine. I have the worst phone out of the entire family, but as I can barely use three functions on it..calling people, sending an email and doesn't really matter. She sends me things like 'Hi mum, I'm up.' Sweet. But never seems to have it on her when I try and call her. Somehow she has already used up her monthly forfait in the space of 10 days.

She and seven friends camped in the garden on her birthday. They were still awake at 1am telling each other ghost stories and I was woken up at 6am by lots of shrieking and giggling. Thank God there are no neighbours to hear them. Cue lots of jaded faces by noon when they all reluctantly trooped home after gorging on chocolate brownie cake, lemon cake and an amazing chocolate heart inscribed by Issy's friend Manon.When I asked if she made it herself she said; 'Non, c'etait mon patissier.'

Her parents have just bought the Hostellerie du Chateau in the village, a gorgeous old hotel and restaurant which we have loved since before we moved here but which has suffered from being off the beaten track and never been properly marketed. That's changing now and word is they are going for a Michelin star, having owned restaurants in Dijon and Aix-en-Provence. Issy is full of stories about how she calls a special number from her room to order strawberries in chantilly and nutella at 11pm and gets them delivered by room service!

Last week Manon came for lunch during school and I gave them turkey sandwiches, crisps and some raw carrot sticks. She raved to Issy about how amazing the food was, saying: 'I never get food like this, I usually get risotto or boeuf bourgignon for lunch!' When Issy went there a few days ago for lunch, they had a table for two in the restaurant (where supper is 59 euros a head for the set menu!) and enjoyed a three course meal, starting with feuillete of mozzarella and tomatoes, then fillet of beef followed by a fresh berry dessert. Thank God she didn't have to pay the bill!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Gleeful week

The last two months have been my busiest since moving to France. It all kicked off with Malaysia and Elle Mac then came the Cannes Film Festival and last week was the Monaco TV Festival. Even the train journey, hugging the coast from Nice to Monte-Carlo, is enjoyable, particularly if you sit on the right and soak up the views. Am halfway through The God of Small Things but couldn’t bring myself to read when I could look out of the window and daydream instead.

I interviewed the lovely Julie Walters, above, who is always such good value. She was making me laugh about getting older, why she is proud to be grey and why she won’t even go there on cosmetic surgery or botox, hurray for that. She looks phenomenal, mainly because she is completely natural and funny and convinced me that 60 might not be so bad after all.

But the highlight of the festival has to be meeting Jane Lynch, aka Sue Sylvester in Glee. You have got to love a woman whose favourite quip on screen is: ‘I’m going to get a diaper for your chin because it looks like a baby’s ass!’ I LOVE that show and I love Sue/Jane so I didn’t shut up and thankfully nor did she. Coming to Hello magazine on a newsstand near you very soon – in fact this week!

Going back to being busy after a long honeymoon with France, it is really good to be firing on all cylinders again. I forgot how much I enjoy being busy. I definitely needed a period of go-slow to adjust to a new country, language and way of life and however much the girls are independent and to a large extent off my hands now, I think they have appreciated me being around a lot more.

I used to be so jealous of my ladies-that-lunch friends in Brookie Park with their tennis, manicures and of course the long Friday lunches. They were always jealous of me, rushing off to interviews, spending half my life in airports and meeting extraordinary people in far flung corners of the earth..and maybe not so jealous of the hours spent sitting hunched over my PC in my office til God knows what time writing it all up and the hours on the phone and email setting everything up. The grass is always greener but having had ample time to do that pool thing, lunch and tennis, I finally realised what I secretly knew all along – that life isn’t for me. Well, in small doses but with plenty of work tucked around the edges. Iain is secretly relieved too!

The only downside is I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to potter around in the garden. After two years here (hard to believe) I found a cherry tree in the garden the other day. I had a suspicion it was a cherry tree last year when I kept finding squashed red berries all over the windscreen of the car but none of us were brave enough to risk being poisoned by a possibly toxic yet innocuous looking berry when we didn’t even know how to call an ambulance. So I asked Rosine next door and she laughed her head off when I told her that we had all been too nervous to eat one. I picked loads and they are lovely, all the tastier for being straight from the garden with no fertiliser, pesticide or any other muck on them.

Had several calls in the last few days following the floods in the Var that have tragically killed over 20 people this week. The storms have been terrible and everyone is worried that we have been washed down the hillside but the advantage of buying a house that has been underpinned is that it ain’t going anywhere! We’ve had torrential rain in the last few days, interspersed with hot,hot sunshine (which just means the grass grows like mad and Iain has to strim twice as often.) Very peculiar for June.

As if to invite even more rain into our lives, I have just booked tickets to the Big Chill at Eastnor Castle in August. Lily Allen, Plan B, Gilles Peterson, Massive Attack and MIA are playing amongst others and it will be the girls’ first music festival. Makes up for me not doing Glastonbury and we are all dead excited! We are camping while Norma and Tony stay in a four star hotel down the road. I have tried to explain to N&T that room service and an en suite is not what festivals are about when you can have a portaloo and a warm beer instead but they are having none of it, citing ‘bad backs.’ Have a feeling we will have all four girls in with us while they have a ‘romantic weekend’ a deux. Which is fine. I am packing shorts, wellies, bikinis, hoodies and a cooler full of wine so we will be prepared whatever happens.

The only downer has been the news this week that Liv has to redouble (to non-French students, that means retake the last year.) She is utterly devastated. We wrote an appel last night and have to go to Nice next Thursday – Issy’s birthday unfortunately – to fight our corner. I don’t think it is a bad thing and even she is coming round to the idea that she will at least fly through the next year instead of struggling but like her competitive mum, she hates losing and really wants to stay with her peer group and her best friends who all mean the world to her. I think Lily is as devastated as she is. It’s heartbreaking to hear your firstborn weeping down the phone unable to even speak. So, we will appeal and give it our best shot and if that fails, she has to stay back. She has one friend in the year below who is thrilled at having his mate back in the same class and I have to believe that it might not be so terrible for her, especially as she is 15 going on 25 right now!

Just as I was content to settle into a period of house renovation, early nights and family suppers after the social whirl of the last two months, Sarah calls to say that it is Cannes Lions advertising festival next week, and she is coming over with Bex and has put us on the guest lists for all the coolest parties. My Dr Sebagh Youth Serum will be tested to the core once again and I have told Iain I have no choice but to fit in two parties a night as it will be the perfect networking opportunity...sadly his response was unprintable dear reader, but it was along the lines of ‘You poor love, of course I’m happy to cook for the children, walk the dogs and hold the fort here while you make new business contacts at the Majestic, Palais Stephanie and all those other boring beach parties!’

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cyber lesbian stalker alert!

Thought that might grab your attention....but it's not a News of the World headline, it's actually true! It all started on the night (or rather the morning after) the Monaco Grand Prix. Regular readers of this blog will remember that last year was memorable for the fact that Iain got a bit 'confused' on his way home after a couple of glasses at the Cafe de Paris, missed his train, sloped off to the Rascasse instead and ended up on a bench at Monaco station til Monday morning. He arrived home in the previous day's clothes (obviously) and got a roasting from Livvy for daring to walk through Grasse station at a time when some of her college friends could have spotted him and seen his resemblance to said highly embarrassed daughter.

Could it get any worse? I didn't think so....this year, he invited three London mates to join in the fun. The plan was to 'watch' the race at Cafe de Paris, then 'meander' back towards Grasse for a curry before arriving home about 11 ish. He didn't specify which day though. Fast forward to Monday morning, no text or phone call and no three drunken musketeers in various states of inebriation.

On the way back from the school run, I texted to say 'Where are you?' Ten minutes later, Iain replies 'Who is this?' Not the response I expected, so struggling to sound cool I send back 'It's me you idiot...the wife you never bother to call...' Then back comes 'I think you have a wrong number.' I reel back through my contacts to find I have an unexplained mobile number next to Iain (his real number is under Iain France, rather helpfully.) So I hastily send back 'Sorry, thought you were my husband!' only to get back: 'I don't mind being your husband...I am female though!' I end up having a little chat with Fran, who works as a carer, has a girlfriend in the police force and thinks it's hilarious that I am texting her at 7am in London to demand where the hell she is!

This was two weeks ago. A few days ago, I was lying by the pool with a chilled glass of rose (this has to be done on a regular basis for the next four months) and up pings 'Iain' again, asking 'So did he ever get home?' We had another little exchange about men (she has four kids so I'm guessing she liked them once) and a little laugh at their expense and I told Iain that if he doesn't shape up, Fran is waiting for me!
At least he didn't end up on a bench this time, quite the reverse, Tony booked a room at the Hotel de Paris which they all snuck into and crashed out on the floor until Monday.....

Have had my running coach on the phone this evening asking why I haven't been running with the club for ages. Well, between working on the house, writing up Elle Macpherson, covering the Cannes Film Festival and entertaining six sets of visitors in the last six weeks, all that is missing is a run every other evening. It's so hot right now that running any more than 8k fills me with horror, let alone goose stepping round Pre du Lac car park, another 'training' exercise which certainly makes you stand out from the crowd.

Other news....we heard last week that Issy got into Fenelon. She is so smart but it was particularly tough this year and very over subscribed and we're so happy she will meet lots of international friends as well as the French friends she already has. After two years spent speaking just French all day every day at school, it will be a relief for her to have mates she can chat to in English once again.

Last week I was walking up to school with the dogs when I received an email from Disney asking if I fancy interviewing the Jonas Brothers in the States this summer during their tour. If you are over 15, you won't have a clue what I'm on about but Issy reliably informed me that they are HOT and massive thanks to their first film Camp Rock. So obviously I said yes. I love that a little walk through Bar sur Loup can end up as a trip somewhere fab thanks to the wonder of BlackBerry.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The glitz and glamour

First night in since the Film Festival started, the sofa has never ever felt this comfortable. Last night, I was getting ready to go out at midnight for a party with Paris Hilton at the VIP Room, and that is the kind of thing I used to do in the good old Ibiza days, when you could lie in bed til 2pm, in other words pre-kids.

Seems to have been a slightly lower key festival this year but not without its highlights. Robin Hood was a romp, despite Russell Crowe's erratic accent which wandered from Scotland to Newcastle and across the Irish sea. And Cate Blanchett looks just as flawless and beautiful in the flesh as she does on screen. Wall Street's sequel is very different to the original although Gordon Gekko is just as mean. And Tamara Drewe is a classic little low budget British offering that has hit written over it, with the excellent Gemma Arterton and a great supporting cast. It really made me miss England (but then it was shot in lush Dorset, not Soho.)

The three best things about screenings in Cannes are: you get to walk up the red carpet in jeans, you don't have to endure any boring adverts and the film starts at precisely the minute is says it will (the French wait for no-one.)

The parties have been rather lush too. Kicked off with a girls weekend which involved Baoli (I treated this as a warm up for the late nights to come), the Colombe d'Or, where Billy Zane was at the next table, Cosy Box and the beach on Sunday for recovery purposes.

Started Monday evening at a cocktail party on a yacht in Cannes Harbour, before heading back to Cosy Box for dinner til late but Tuesday was the party evening to end all others. The de Grisogono dinner at Hotel du Cap was AWESOME, chatted to Myleene Klass and Lionel Richie, who was full of beans and ready to party All Night Long (his pun not mine!) Naomi Campbell, Meg Ryan, Flavio Briatiore, Paris (she was everywhere), Margerita Missoni, it was wall to wall A list. Cheryl Cole did a mini-concert on the terrace which was ace then took to the decks and everyone was up dancing outside despite the fact that it was a bit nippy. A very cool party. Indeed.

Sadly had to leave to get to another party at le Baron, but watching Grace Jones storm the place with an electrifying set was worth it. She's 62 and looks phenomenal, had the whole place rocking in minutes, and couldn't even be upstaged by some rather cheeky flirting with a couple of A listers who are not together...interesting, cannot say more but all will be revealed in the US mag I was working for next week!

Last night, Milly and I rocked at VIP Room where Jalouse and Paris were hosting the night. The DJs were so much better than last year, they played a fantastic mix of Frank's New York New York over the top of Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling, it shouldn't have worked but it did. And a wicked remix of Roxanne too. It was so worth the sixth 5am bedtime of the past seven days.

So it is that I am sitting here with a bowl of white chocolate ice cream (with real pieces of chocolate in, uhum) not caring that I now look 150, because I've had a blast. And despite the best efforts of Dr Sebagh's Youth Serum (which is seriously effective), the good doctor cannot yet walk on water and restore me to pre-party health and glow without a few 8-hours-a-night-nights, the first of which is fast approaching. Hurrah for that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cannes can

The good news is the Cannes Film Festival starts tomorrow...the bad news is it looks like this week at least will be a washout. The rain hasn't let up for ten days, much of the Cannes seafront has been destroyed by freak waves which have been battering the beachfront restaurants and the pressure is on to clean it all up before tomorrow's opening ceremony. As I write this, a huge grey cloud is engulfing us for about the 100th time today. Booorrrrinng, never thought I would be complaining about the weather here.

One of the joys of Film Festival is wandering around in the sunshine, grabbing a coffee and a chat outside at one of the cafes or even fitting in a little beach lunch between screenings and press conferences. Think that scenario is looking unlikely for the first few days at least.

Never mind....have been invited to some fab parties, one of which is on the beach next week, with Mel B, Victoria Hervey and Paris Hilton, and Carl Cox in the DJ booth, so really hoping the sun will have its hat on by then. It won't be the same with wind and rain lashing down.

Robin Hood opens tomorrow so at least I will start off in a warm dry screening theatre. Word is that Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett will be here for tomorrow night's premiere .... my other top choices are Tamara Drewe with the brilliant Gemma Arterton, the sequel to Wall Street, with Michael Douglas reprising villainous Gordon Gekko (and Carey Mulligan playing his daughter), Fair Game with the brilliant Sean Penn, who NEVER puts in a bad performance, and Naomi Watts and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. The title alone makes it a must-see without the fabulous cast list.

It's always good to have a few buddies to party with...Lissa is here from LA working in Cannes and Sarah and her entire office are descending for Baoli, le Colombe d'Or and whatever else comes up. Last year was hard going, I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy this year's festival so much more, weather notwithstanding.

Gary and Phil just left after four days here with Michelle, Adam and their lovely baby Evie. We didn't let the rain ruin our fun, dinner at Ecole des Filles, market day at Valbonne, lunch at Gourdon (in a cloud so no views then) are all the things we don't usually have time to do. Think they were praying for the ash cloud to hang around so they could spend a few more days here. And on the plus side, when everyone leaves, how lovely is it to slob out on the whole sofa (not just a quarter of it), drinking tea, (not wine) and reading all of last weeks papers?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One very brave and inspirational woman

I am sitting here wondering how to write what I want to write next without seeming trite or cliched. There is no easy way to do it.
A great friend of mine has just found out, after four years of valiantly battling against cancer, that she is losing her fight. The doctors cannot do anymore, despite yet another round of radical chemotherapy and radiotherapy,and the outlook is bleak short of a miracle.
L is a woman who has packed more into her half century than many do in a lifetime, a true party animal who doesn't actually drink but still has the best time, entertains and is a dynamic mother of four. On her 50th birthday, she invited her closest girlfriends over for lunch. We arrived to be greeted by semi-naked male models in bow ties and not much else wandering around with trays of champagne. Then the belly dancers arrived and we all had to get over ourselves and join in for an impromptu dance class, followed by more champagne, stupendous fish pie, and a long, unusual and utterly memorable afternoon full of laughter which ended only when we all reluctantly headed off for the school run. It was one of the most stylish, fun and hysterical lunches I have ever had the pleasure of being invited to, and it summed up the hostess perfectly.
Over the last two years, we have seen each other intermittently, always planning a weekend down here which somehow hasn't happened, due to treatment, house renovations and other irritations which always seem to get in the way. And even during her bleakest, most desperate times, L has still somehow found the time and energy to send a lovely long thoughtful message asking how life is, full of funny anecdotes about her hugely talented kids (who could out-perform the cast of Glee) and generally make you feel she is thinking of you.
She refused to miss my 40th birthday party even though she had only just been diagnosed and had started treatment a few short weeks before, and came along to dinner full of humour and life, entertaining my old school friends who had no idea of what she was going through. None of this can do her justice kind of have to know her to appreciate her but I hope this gets across a tiny little smidgeon of just how special she is.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Malaysian moments

It’s been an eventful Easter. First stop was Kuala Lumpur to meet Elle Macpherson and watch the filming of the final shows of Britain’s Next Top Model which returns this summer. I’ve flown with some great airlines before but Emirates really does put them all to shame. Amazing food, huge great personal TV screens which start the moment you get on the plane rather than half an hour into the flight, cabin crew that speak 12 different languages, and that was just in economy. It made BA look like Ryanair.

The downside was that they managed to leave top PR supremo Justin’s luggage in Dubai, meaning that after 24 hours travelling he had nothing when we arrived in KL and given that we had a royal gala reception with loads of foreign dignitaries the next day, it was not a great situation. He was calm under pressure (I would have been catatonic without my clothes and products) and his case finally turned up the next morning.

Kuala Lumpur is like any big city, quite American in feel with five star hotels, designer stores and malls in the centre but ten minutes drive from our hotel, we were in lush tropical countryside with jungle foliage and stunning views everywhere you looked. The people are fantastically friendly and hospitable. One of the highlights was meeting Jimmy Choo, who as well as designing shoes and couture also acts as Malaysia's ambassador for tourism. I managed to tell him how much I loved his shoes, no points for originality there, but sadly reader, he did not offer me a pair gratis.

The food was another plus. Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indian and Thai food compete with Malay cuisine and although I draw the line at nasi goreng for breakfast, it was lovely to have such choice after two years of living in France and having to search really hard for good Eastern fare. Weirdly, they all stop serving at about 10pm which meant dragging our jet lagged bodies out early and going to bed just when you felt full of beans.

The best bit though was Dr Fish. Marty the producer told us about the spas you go to where hundreds of tiny fish nibble your feet in a lagoon (see above, if you can bear it.) It sounded mental so with all nine interviews done, we rushed off to try it before our flight home. If you are squeamish about feet, stop reading now. If not, here’s the deal. You sit at the waters’ edge and dangle your feet in the water and shoals of fish dive onto your feet and literally start nibbling at them, eating the hard skin with relish! My poor runners feet are not the prettiest (so glad I didn’t show them to Jimmy, although I was sorely tempted) but these fish were obviously peckish and not too fussy. I was yelping and giggling so hard that a Malaysian family started filming me with their camera. Their little girl kept asking, ‘Why you laughing lady?’ like it was the most normal thing in the world to be the main course for Malaysia’s marine life. Just make sure you don’t order whitebait afterwards!

Four days in, and it was time to come back. After the luggage debacle I decided to try my luck at the airport and tell the staff how disappointed we were with our outward journey. Bingo, Justin and I were upgraded...thank you Emirates! Suffice it to say that a flat bed, plasma TV screen half the size of my one at home and selection of over 100 movies made for a very pleasurable first leg, although by the time I reached Nice, 24 hours later, I was fit to drop.

The weather here has finally decided to cheer up so once i got back, we headed to Mandelieu for a few days by the beach. The girls have had all their UK friends over which means peace and quiet, uninterrupted conversations, a glass or two of rose with picnic lunches and the odd game of beach volleyball. Bliss. Really feels like I have had a holiday.

Have also been running in the Esterel every morning and there is no better start to the day than looking across the bay of Cannes towards the Isles de Lerins. The dogs have had loads of exercise although poor Oscar doesn’t know what’s hit him. This is a dog who rolls his eyes, sighs loudly and then pretends to be asleep whenever he hears the word walkies. He puffed like a steam train the first two mornings but by yesterday, I didn’t have to wait for him to have a breather and he now looks like he has lost a pound or two (which will offset all the sneaky treats the kids have been feeding him under the table.)

Iain had to leave early to go to a trade fair in Frankfurt but spent longer there than planned when the volcano stopped flights. He ended up spending 14 hours travelling back yesterday by train via Switzerland and Italy to get home. Had a flurry of texts all day as he kept me posted on how hungry/thirsty/fed up he was, making me feel quite guilty as I poured my first glass of wine and tucked into moelleux chocolat! But he wasn’t as stuffed as N and T, who had to hire a car, drive to Calais and get the ferry, picking up a friend en route who couldn’t get on board as a foot passenger, finally arriving home 30 hours late and £2,000 worse off!

Meanwhile M & F have decided to wait it out as their flight tomorrow morning is cancelled. It’s either hire a car, book the train – one way at £1500 for the family - or take your chances on flights being rescheduled next week and enjoy a bit longer in the warm sunshine. It does feel wrong that while the blitz spirit prevails among thousands of stranded travellers, hotels and transport companies are hiking their prices to capitalise on everyone else’s misery. For once, I’m so glad not to be travelling.....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I know that time just whizzes by as you get older but how did I become the mother of a 15 year old? I remember those chubby cheeks and that mop of Scandanavian white blonde hair and that angelic smile like it was last week, instead of which I now have a tall, moody teen who can be quite a good laugh when she wants to be with dyed-brown-but-rapidly-turning-red hair who is 36 hours away from 15.
It got me thinking about what I was like way back when..... I should be relieved that the worst she seems to do is go to parties, drink the odd beer and hang out in Valbonne on a Friday night eating pizza by the skate park with her friends.
That's tame compared to bunking into pubs (Hudsons in Kentish Town, where thanks to my heels and two friends who were four years older but actually looked younger than me, I never seemed to have a problem getting in or just as importantly, getting served at the bar.)Then there were the mum and dad were so liberal and laidback that they actually went out for the evening and stayed at my grandparents house so I could throw a party for my 15th birthday at home....their only uncool moment was driving by at midnight to make sure the house wasn't burning down or being marauded by gatecrashers. They even allowed me enough time the next day to clear up before arriving home. I cannot imagine doing that for my girls, unthinkable.
Then there was the henna look du jour was a shaggy henna-ed perm which I thought was the bees knees but looking back at old photos, it was so WRONG!
Last weekend was bittersweet as we partied to celebrate and mourn the Mayos moving back to England after seven years here. The wine and curries flowed, speeches were made and tears were shed and no-one can believe that next week they are off for good. We talked about what we miss about the UK top three are M&S, having a phone conversation without hand gestures and long pauses as I struggle to make myself understood and goes without saying, people. And that's it, so on that basis, think I am good for a few more years here yet.
Cannes is approaching and having just received my accreditation, I am looking forward to another glam fest of parties, screenings and interviews. Malaysia also beckons with Elle this space!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How time flies....

...when you're having fun. This is my first chance to sit down and write something other than an email or a feature for weeks.

I am officially sick of winter now....we have lit so many log fires, which is lovely (especially now we have a chimney that actually takes the smoke away) but we've had sleet, freezing temps and snow in the village for the first time in years last month (luckily we were snug in Antigua!) Great for skiing tho, we went last week with friends for the day while the girls were at school and laughed so hard skiing off piste in two feet of fresh powder that we were down in drifts more than up on skis! We have had quite a few days on the slopes lately but I need some heat on my bones now!

Carried on celebrating Iain's birthday in Antigua last month, our little gang of 15 had a lovely time. Weather was stunning, beaches gorgeous (and empty) people lovely, I would very much recommend it, much nicer than Barbados. The reggae and steel band at Shirley Heights was brilliant fun and lunch at Carlisle Bay was fab too. Still have a little glow, but have been wrapped up like Arctic Annie since I got home so little chance to show it off. We had a laugh, rum punches on the beach, ate way too much and have tried to be sensible now I’m home but the cold weather makes salads very unappetising!

With the weather still so wintry, we have decided to crack on with the house and are DIY-ing like mad upstairs. I didn't know I was so handy with a paintbrush! It's a mini facelift shall we say, with the final fix happening later this year hopefully. I am soooo sick of mismatched tiles in every room upstairs and dodgy bathroom suites! The girls' rooms are priority, I feel bad that the last rooms they had any say in were at Carpenters Cottage, eight years ago when we renovated, and they were too young to say much then. So they are first on the list. Our guest suite leaves a little to be desired as yet but Iain has repainted it and it already looks and smells so much nicer!

Issy had her interview for Fenelon last week. All conducted in French with the head of the international section....I nearly fell off my chair, she is so fluent now, says alors a lot and sounds like she was born in Nice! It’s very academic and four times oversubscribed and she has to sit an entrance exam and have another interview but fingers crossed she will get in, we don’t find out til May/June.

Livvy is 15 in three weeks, God help us. We have been reading in French every night sinc Mme Savary said that she has to 'embrace' French life and culture. She clearly took those words to heart as she now has a French boyfriend, Theo, who speaks no English! Who'd have thought it? Checked him out on Facebook (much to her horror) and he looks nice. She has good taste, like her mom! I told her to brng him over for lunch or dinner sometime but she made choking sounds then left the room!

She is a proper teenager, rebellious, full of back chat and even dyed her hair brown a month ago. Brown? I did explain how much I pay to try and create her colour on my hair but she wasn’t listening. She was fun in Antigua, without Facebook and her mobile phone, which we banished for the holiday. She, Lydia and Luke spent two days driving around in a golf buggy on the domaine, with their iPod blaring, scaring all the locals and giving lifts to old ladies at the supermarket just so they could hare around. I had one lift with Liv driving at 30 mph (you are supposed to be 21 to drive them so they got banned by the rental guy on the second day for being so crazy) and that was enough for me!

Spoke to a party panner friend today about a feature I am writing for The French Paper on this year's Cannes Film Festival. She told me she is planning some great parties with major league celebs and films and I'm on the list! It's days like today when I really love my job. Particularly when you are on your hands and knees in your sweaty running gear (I was too cold to change or shower - gross I know) painting the floor of the loo and you get an email about a job with Elle Macpherson in Malaysia! Bring it on.....although I will not be wearing a bikini on a sunbed next to The Body, for sure.......

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nice day for a run

The day of the Nice - Monaco Course du Soleil, 21 kilometres of stunning coastline, sandwiched between the cliffs and the sea. It's the oldest semi in the world and probably the prettiest too. After a changeable few days and torrential rain, thankfully the sun was shining, so no excuse not to leap out of bed at 6.15am (well, stumble) to meet the others ready for a 9am start at the old port in Nice.

I did start wishing that I hadn't decided to do Thai for eight on Friday night, much as it was fun, or drink three glasses of white wine last night. I tried to make up for it by going to bed at 10 but not sure if an early night cancels out alcohol.

As we walked across the port to the start line with the sun rising in the distance, my fellow runner Marc said: 'You only have to look at the sunrise to know you are on the Cote d'Azur.' It certainly knocked spots of the half marathons I've done in Watford and Nottingham!

We headed off, around 1200 runners snaking along the Basse Corniche, which must rate as one of the most breathtakingly beautiful roads in the world, made famous by James Bond and Grace Kelly movies. It's embarassing to admit that despite holidaying down here since 2003 and living here for almost two years, there are so many picturesque spots that we still haven't explored. The pretty quaint main street of St Jean Cap Ferrat stood out, as did the nearby beaches bordered by cliff paths rather than roads. Once bikini weather arrives, there will be no excuse not to go.

Highlights included watching the four musketeers run while hanging onto their feathered hats, winding through the beautiful towns of Villefranche, Beaulieu, Eze and St Jean and being able to look at the early morning winter sunshine glisten on the flat calm sea whenever the going got tough. And despite the earliness of the hour on a Sunday morning, groups of spectators urging the runners on with 'bravo' and 'courage'.

The downsides - the steps up from Villefranche and the prolonged hills which I have come to expect training down here but will never ever get used to. The last three kilometres to the finish at the Stade in Monaco is downhill and despite pains in my left knee and butt (I still haven't recovered from a taxing rocky 2hr adventure to Gourdon)I gritted my teeth and went for it.

Official time - 1 hr 56 mins and 10 seconds, 50 seconds faster than the Cannes semi last year, which was flat, so in real terms, victory! I take back what I said earlier, thanks must go to Neil, Helen, Sylvia, Hans, Jacob, Christine and Iain for keeping me up late and laughing on Friday night and last night's half drunk Chablis still in the fridge.

Have demolished wasabi nuts, roast chicken, and too much Cadburys (this is the real reason for running) and about to pack for Antigua if I can get myself up the stairs. There's always tomorrow though - the challenge of getting off the sofa tonight might be beyond me.