I've chosen the worst time to film down in the South of France.
I've chosen the worst time to film down in the South of France. It's the busiest week of the year for tourists and the whole place has been hit by freak thunderstorms that make filming almost impossible, unless you're Jacques Cousteau. We've been confined to our hotel rooms for a couple of days, and this has exposed me to far too much French TV. I'd forgotten just how bad it could be. Most of it consists of 30 men and a couple of women sitting in an enormous semi-circle on ugly chairs shouting at each other furiously. Occasionally a man gets up and hits another man but, apart from that, it's basically unwatchable. They do have a very liberal attitude to pornography and tend to dub "new" shows such as Dallas so badly that they become unintentional comedic masterpieces. To me, a life sentence of having to watch French TV, would be worse than the death penalty. Yet, ironically, it has been while watching it that I have learnt of some of the most significant events in my lifetime.
Staying at my dad's house down here in the south in 1977 I remember a solemn-looking French newsreader announcing that Elvis had died on the loo at Gracelands. I was way too young to appreciate the king, but it made a big impression on me. Not having been around for JFK, this was my first international celebrity death moment, and it had a big effect on me. I was stunned that one person's death so far away could have so much impact globally.
Thirteen years later I was living in Paris when French TV announced that Maggie Thatcher had resigned. I wandered down the Quai d'Orsay after hearing the news, needing to share the moment with someone. Three middle-aged English women were drinking a bottle of champagne and screaming with delight in a little café. We shared a glass and watched her tearful departure from Downing Street on the TV suspended on the wall.
Seven years later, on a hot August night in 1997 I was on holiday near Agen in the south-west of France. I couldn't sleep and turned on the television to watch the very first reports by the French news networks of Diana, Princess of Wales's fatal car crash. It seemed that I couldn't visit the place without something momentous happening on the world stage.
In September 2001 I returned to my rented house in northern Provence after a magical day canoeing down the Gorges de l'Ardèche to see the second plane slam into the twin towers. At that moment I realised that I had somehow acquired this strange power to influence world events simply by setting foot in the country.
This obviously makes me quite nervous as I don't know why I have been given this power, but it does make my trips here very exciting. I tried to channel my powers into something positive and went to sleep on the first night willing George Bush to tackle increasingly larger pretzels, but I awoke to no news bigger than a forest fire in the hills behind Cannes.
The second night I really concentrated and thought about something more original like Bush coming off the wagon, getting legless in some backwoods town in Texas and ending up in an impromptu gay marriage to a cowboy called Chuck, who becomes very possessive. I awoke and flicked the telly on to hear a French newsreader tell me that Johnny Hallyday's 57th tour of France was kicking off that evening in Nice. I made a mental note to leave town and get a decent bouillabaisse at the Tetou in Golfe Juan until the wrinkly old rocker had left town too. It seems that my powers have diminished. Maybe they've been passed on to someone else. Maybe it is all just a coincidence and I shall hear of Bush's demise when I'm on holiday in Zanzibar or gardening in the Cotswolds. I've only got one more night here and then I'm back to Blighty, so I shall soon find out. The way I see it is if something momentous happens this week, then it was definitely me, otherwise I'm cured.
I've got to be up at the crack of dawn as I'm putting a 30ft by 20ft beach towel on the beach before anyone gets there. I'm going to wait until the beach is packed before marching on to claim my prime position while dressed in full lederhosen. Hope nothing goes wrong.Reuse content