[email protected] - When a safe isn’t!

August 2008


I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not a happy bunny at the moment. It’s not been a great month or so down in Menton. I know it’s difficult to relate to other people’s problems – especially when that person has the Mediterranean lapping at his doorstep and his only worry in the world appears to be whether or not the Italian plumber’s going to put in an appearance.
As you may or may not recall, in my last epistle I was ensconced on my terrace in the blistering sun with a G and T awaiting on tenterhooks the appearance of Alberto. Well, to put you out of your misery, he did Veni and Vidi but he didn’t Vinci since he left again without having his ‘muratore’ fill in the hole in the wall. Instead they created a new hole in the bathroom to replace the shower basin … but that’s another story. (If you’re curious enough to want to see the real hole and not the golden sink that is as kitsch as kitsch can be, check out the latest Spanish version of Lakin at Large on the Europa Star website.)
In the meantime, Menton was in mourning for Séverin Wunderman. He was due to attend the laying of the foundation stone of the ‘Musée Jean Cocteau – Collection Séverin Wunderman’ later this year to which he had donated his vast collection of Jean Cocteau’s oeuvres. The Nice Matin newspaper devoted two pages to SÉverin’s life and achievements, underlining the amazing extent of his charitable work, and the Menton municipal council held a minute’s silence in his memory. I’d like to think that many of today’s watch companies also paused for a few moments to acknowledge their debt to the man who some years ago single-handedly created the concept and demand for the fashion watch.
To commemorate the beginning of summer we had the annual appearance of jellyfish, those large, disgusting, pulsating bits of jelly that have no brain and can and do leave large welts on the skin if you’re unlucky enough to be stung by one. Jellyfish are not on the same Richter scale as a tsunami, but they certainly cause waves of panic once they’re spotted in the Mediterranean. Even the French find them repulsive, and to prove it they don’t eat them.
The jellyfish story however, pales in comparison to the burglary of the house. On Friday, July 4th, instead of heading to the beach or celebrating America’s Independence Day, a mid-morning visit to the local supermarket to replace the empty wine and gin bottles with full ones was scheduled. Having put the fear of God into many a worker during the construction and completion of the abode, Toby was left in charge of the house, but he apparently succumbed that morning to a chocolate, a biscuit or a spray of gas and let a thief or thieves in during our two-hour absence.
The only items missing were two safes that were bolted to the floor and a suitcase in which the swag was carried away. But here’s the rub, within those supposedly safe safes there was jewellery, various amounts of different currencies (pounds, euros and Swiss francs) and five watches, four of which were mine. One of them was my oft worn stainless steel Breitling Crosswind Chronograph, the one with the delicious blue dial; my square stainless steel Ritmo Mundo with a black carbon fibre dial was another victim; a black dialled Pilo Chronograph that was a present and an inexpensive favourite and probably irreplaceable Guess with a black dial and brown leather strap that was reminiscent of a Panerai was also half-inched (that’s cockney rhyming slang for pinched or stolen).
Of course, one is supposed to be philosophical about the break-in. “It’s lucky you didn’t come home when they were there!” one friend offered as a consolation. “It’s like being raped!” another proffered. Of course, they’re right, although never having been raped I can’t make the comparison. What I find really difficult to come to terms with though is the fact that some thieving git is benefiting from the sale of irreplaceable objects of sentimental value. The Menton police were quickly on site and were very sympathetic and it helped that one of the inspectors was a watch aficionado - he’s now the proud owner of the Basel/SIHH issue of Europa Star. But it’s at times like these that you wish you had a ‘phone hot line to the mafia or the long white-bearded Guv’nor upstairs.
Alberto the plumber, who funnily enough used to be a policeman before plumbing the depths, came round the day after the break-in and promised to complete all the work in the bathroom and toilet by the next time I’m in Menton. He also tried to cheer me up with a story about a sister in a convent who went to see the mother su-perior saying “We have a case of syphilis in the convent.” “That’s good,” the mother superior replied, “I was getting bored with Beaujolais.”
Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you?

Source: Europa Star August-September 2008 Magazine Issue