It’s been an odd few weeks. I seem to have been in a dozen places at the same time and in none of them really long enough to discover the journalists’ Holy Grail … the scoop.
So, I’m going to begin with a genuine tale of woe concerning my camera. Having been assured that it was foolproof by a fast talking Chinese salesman in Hong Kong, I successfully used it on and off during the last year or so and even downloaded a few photos to my computer, some of which have appeared on this page. But last week whilst attending a dinner at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club (nudge, wink, nudge) it categorically refused to take a photo and kept flashing the message that the memory was full. Ever the adventurer, I clicked onto the menu during the repast, diligently pressing ‘yes’ and ‘ok’ until in one moment of lunacy I signalled ok to a nondescript question. To my unadulterated horror I erased not just one photo as had been my aim, but the entire contents of the memory card and sent every photo to hell, or wherever purged photographs flock.
Amongst them was an award-winning gem of the shoeless HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, President of the Monaco Yacht Club, about to board the magnificent SS Delphine. Like myself, he had been invited by Hublot to the Monaco Classic Week where boats bobble and glisten and the people aboard them babble and gently glow. Everyone was in formal attire – dinner jackets and long dresses - and looked absolutely stunning prior to boarding the Delphine, where instead of a coat and hat check-in, there was a shoe check-in, which left everyone mincing around with a numbered ticket that theoretically linked them to their shoes.
Having gone through the undressing ritual, I turned to find that my im-mediate passage to the gangway was blocked by a couple of knuckle-faced heavies who were holding everyone up whilst Prince Albert untied his shoes on the gangplank. I leaned over to watch the prince strip, sans music, and then said to nobody in particular but loud enough to be heard, that if Albert’s shoes were better than mine maybe I’d do a quick swap when I left. Needless to say, this met with a stony look from one of his gorillas and an even stonier elbow in my ribs from his partner.
Once HRH Prince Albert had been piped aboard, the plebeians were allowed to set foot on the hallowed decks. The rest of the evening was an amusing affair as elegantly dressed men and women tried their best to remain oblivious of their feet flapping flaccidly and stylishly slid from one side of the yacht to the other, sometimes preferring to walk without their socks which could be seen casually hanging from their dinner jacket pockets. Others tried their best to hide the holes in the toes of their socks, wrinkled their noses at the fusion of odours, picked splinters from their feet and consoled themselves by quaffing vast amounts of complimentary champagne.
Disembarkation was less chaotic than boarding and reclaiming ones shoes was a simple matter of patience as the shoe boys clasping one shoe, scuttled around like chickens without heads in search of its companion. I didn’t manage to get the prince’s shoes, but I did get to walk in some of Monaco’s finest K9 faeces.
Amongst the other photographic chef d’oeuvres that I lost was a magnificent photograph of Ya Kwanza, a male gorilla who kindly posed for me at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. This superb zoo was created by, and is now dedicated to the late Gerald Durrell and it remains a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to the protection and conservation of wild animals.
As a permanent reminder of Durrell’s conservation work, there’s a striking bronze statue of him with a ruffed lemur touching his knee, which I had photographed and lost, but the charming and helpful Caron Glover, the Website and Communications Manager of the Trust (www.durrell.org), kindly supplied one via e-mail after my camera’s moment of insanity.
So now for the raison d’être of this Lakin at Large. Look closely at the statue and try and determine the brand of watch that Gerald Durrell is wearing ... answers please on a postcard addressed to Europa Star. Any donations of shoes should be addressed to either yours truly or HRH Prince Albert c/o Palais Princier, Monaco.
Photo: Gerald Durrell - Photo © Durrell/Bruno Melim
Source: Europa Star October-November 2007 Magazine Issue