Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunset over Monte Carlo

Have you a spare moment to share some thoughts on Monte Carlo?
Why Monte Carlo? Well, my god-daughter, Caroline, phoned this morning. She’s just returned from a conference that was held in Monte Carlo. It had all come as a great surprise. The senior partner in her firm had been unable to go . . . someone else couldn’t make it . . . finally, rather like a modern day Cinderella, Caroline had found that she was the one to be going to this highly-desirable ball! Scarcely believing her luck, she’d packed her bag and rushed off in a taxi to Heathrow.
What is the twenty-first century equivalent of a pumpkin coach . . . ? A helicopter!
Sure enough, a helicopter was waiting at Nice airport to whisk her off to the luxury of L’Hermitage and a two-day, high-powered meeting of the mighty.

But the clock struck midnight yesterday, and Caroline is home again, wondering if she’s imagined it all. Apparently, I should be receiving a post-card in the near future - the glass slipper to prove that neither of us has been dreaming!

Caroline's adventures revived my own memories of Monaco. Distant memories from when I was just a few years younger than she is now. On a whim, a friend and I had taken off to see if we could keep ourselves for a year on the fabled Cote d’Azur.
True, we’d had no helicopters - we travelled everywhere by train or by local bus. True, we’d had no luxury meals at L’Hermitage - we’d frequently had a second breakfast when funds wouldn’t rise to a lunch. But when it comes to sheer fun . . . well, I think our experiences could rival Caroline’s any day!
Have you a moment to share my lost youth . . . ?

After grape-picking in Frejus, we turned down the opportunity of picking chestnuts in the mountains in favour of seeing what Monaco had to offer. Monaco charmed us from the moment of our arrival and, on our first Sunday, we attended St. Paul’s, the Anglican church.
It was entirely thanks to he vicar of St. Paul's that we found our first job in the Principality. A man of great charm and persuasion, he later went on to become the Bishop of Gibralter. His persuasive powers must have been stretched to the limit in convincing the committee of the Monte Carlo Golf Club that these two stray English girls were just what they needed.
"I'll put in a word for you," he said, "they can always do with caddies."
And so it was that, with little or no knowledge of golf, but a great need for income, we found ourselves caddying on a golf course more designed for mountain goats than portly millionaires.
Way up in the mountains, with an almost sheer descent to the Mediterranean, it was spectacularly beautiful.
From a golfing point of view, I doubt whether it was a good course. The fairways were too short and too steep, the greens too small. But, as a breathtaking scenic viewpoint it couldn't be surpassed.

I caddied for a wide variety of the privileged and the wealthy, the most eccentric being Monsieur Philippe, the genius behind an empire built on stylish footware. After teeing off with at least six balls from every hole, he would then go in search of the one that had taken the straightest and longest line.
"Ah. zee eentelleegent ball! " he would enthuse happily . . . before hitting it, with great confidence, into the rough.
But I wasn't caddying for the genial Monsieur Philippe on the day that disaster struck. Most unusually, I was caddying for someone who actually cared about golf, who wanted to win. We had reached the eighteenth green and he was in the lead. Success lay just one putt ahead.

It was a beautiful evening, even by Riviera standards the sunset was spectacular. Slipping down slowly into the Mediterranean, it stained the sky crimson and gold and demanded an awed response. There was just one problem, a solitary tree was slightly barring my view.
I stepped back in order to see better . . . and kicked the ball off the green!

It was instantaneous. We were sacked there and then.
I don't remember what the vicar said, but he probably used the good advice of 'keeping one's eye on the ball' for a future sermon at St. Paul's!