LAKIN@LARGE - A summer of contradictions

September 2015

It’s been an odd sort of summer. Horologically speaking, little exciting has happened except news that Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, was recently seen wearing an Apple Watch, but down here on the Côte d’Azur it has been a period of contrasts, contradictions and controversial credibility.

For example, some friends of friends have just returned to their home near Liverpool (UK) and informed me by email that the weather there is wet, windy and cold (18º centigrade). As I sit writing this in Menton, hot doesn’t really convey the heat here; even the Devil would be frantically searching for someone to install an air conditioning unit.

A few days ago, during a total lapse of sanity on my part, I decided to go to the beach for the day. By the time I arrived, the temperature was hovering around 40º C so I plunged expectantly into what I thought would be the cool Mediterranean. The only item missing was soap: 29º centigrade.

In contrast, a mere kilometre away, whilst I was simmering in the cruel sea, African migrants congregated on a rocky outcrop by the sea at the Franco-Italian border were hoping to get into France and make their way north to what they see as the promised land – should the French police blink.
Many of them are youngsters surviving in makeshift tents, on handouts of food, drink and clothing from both the French and Italian Red Cross. Hundreds more migrants are to be found in Ventimiglia, a busy market town in Italy a few minutes further down the coast, having paid a small fortune to unscrupulous profiteers only to find themselves homeless and helpless. The migrants are not villains or troublemakers, simply people fleeing untold misery in search of a life. It’s a sorry sight.

In contrast, further along the coast in the opposite direction, between Antibes and Cannes, lies Vallauris, a town renowned for its pottery and where Picasso lived for several years. In what was then the Château de L’Horizon, people such as Sir Winston Churchill, Maurice Chevalier, Greta Garbo and Noel Coward stayed as guests and Prince Ali and his new wife Rita Hayworth made it one of their homes.

LAKIN@LARGE - A summer of contradictions

Re-named the Villa Aurore, it now belongs to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who arrived recently for a holiday in this refurbished über-palatial property accompanied by close to a thousand family, friends and aides. Four hundred limousines were hired to ferry the guests around on visits to St. Tropez, Monaco, Nice and receptive restaurants; 250,000 euros a day were spent accommodating people in nearby hotels and, reportedly, orders of 15,000 flowers a day were delivered to the villa. Much to the annoyance of many locals, the public beach below the villa was closed with a 300 metre exclusion zone implemented, and the building of an illegal lift from the villa to the beach to facilitate easy access for the king and his guests did little to appease the Vallauriens.

The distance between the migrants in Menton and King Salman in Vallauris is 57 kilometres, but the difference between the plight of some and the comfort of many is a contrast that reaches stratospheric proportions.

Meanwhile, on a stage in distant St. Petersburg humour was supplied by Vladimir Putin, the country’s President, who suggested that his pal Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter, the beleaguered President of FIFA, should be awarded the Nobel Prize. Don’t Sepp and Vlad make an interesting couple? Blatter the head of an uncontrollable organisation being investigated on multiple counts of corruption and Putin the head of a country where corruption is considered an integral part of the economy. The average punter believes that they should be hung, drawn and quartered, and yet there they were strutting around like third-world dictators, worthy of persecution but seemingly immune to prosecution. Naturally, Blatter’s Nobel Prize category would obviously be Escapology. Needless to say, this reminds me of a Russian story about Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia and two of his leading ministers dining at a restaurant after the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation.
A waiter approaches and asks Putin what he would like to order.
”I’ll have the meat.”
“And what about the vegetables?” the waiter asks.
“They’ll have the meat, too.”

And because it’s summertime here’s an additional and appropriate story recently told by Jimmy Fallon, the U.S television host of The Tonight Show.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin was on vacation last week, and apparently he caught a giant 46-pound fish. Putin called it a crowning achievement, while the manager of the aquarium said, ‘What am I supposed to do? He’s the president.”
Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you.

Source: Europa Star September 2015 Magazine Issue