THE DIARY, SIR ELTON JOHN: Lazy days in the South of France - Nice

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The Independent Online
My summer started off badly because, as most people know by now, I had a pacemaker fitted. One Saturday afternoon, I was supposed to go and play in Italy and I felt very ill and dizzy and had to cancel the show. The next day I was supposed to go to the Victoria Adams-David Beckham wedding and I couldn't go to that either ... I was whisked back to London on the Sunday night, went in for tests for three days, got the all-clear and then came back to the South of France. I was playing tennis in the afternoon when my partner, David, and my doctor said, "It's more serious than we thought. You've got to go back to London immediately and have a pacemaker fitted."

The thing I hate about the pacemaker is the name. It sounds so hideously geriatric and Zimmer-frameish, whereas actually people as young as two have pacemakers fitted. But worst of all, it meant I couldn't play tennis for four weeks which really pissed me off. In fact, it pissed me off so much I actually got off the trolley on the way into the operating theatre and said, "Right, that's it! I'm not going to have the operation if I can't play tennis for four weeks." So they wheeled me back upstairs and people hit me with saucepans or frying pans and of course I had the operation in the end. And the good news is I'm back on the tennis court, feeling brave, and I have even done a show since the new pacemaker - I felt a bit rusty but I flew to Orlando, Florida, did the concert and flew back all in one day. So now I'm looking forward to coming back and doing the shows I had to postpone in Britain, at Leeds Castle and Harewood House.

SO THAT was the start to the summer. Since then we've had a stream of guests. We usually have most of our closest friends down when we're here and we've had a really great time. One highlight has been spending time with Lyn Wyatt [mother of Steve Wyatt who had a fling with Fergie], one of our neighbours. She's an amazing woman because (a) she's so glamorous and (b) she's not just a shallow socialite. She's had an incredible life, she's climbed mountains, she's very intelligent and she's great fun. We've had many laughs - and summers should be full of laughs.

A BIG part of the summer has been music and the top 10 CDs that have been on my machine this year are Groove Armada's Vertigo, Macy Gray's On How Life Is, Len's You Can't Stop the Bum Rush, TLC's Fanmail, Moby's Play, Jimmie's Chicken Shack's Bring Your Own Stereo, Melky Sedeck's Sister and Brother, Gay Dad's Leisure Noise and The Pet Shop Boys' Night Life, which is an advance copy; it's not coming out until October. The last one is also an advance copy, my mate Sting's album Brand New Day. That's the advantage of being famous - all your mates send you their new records. They're both really good which fills me with huge amounts of envy.

I HAVE done some work while I have been down here. I had meetings with Disney about Aida, my musical [written with Tim Rice] opening in Chicago in November and hopefully going to Broadway in April. It's directed by Robert Falls who's just won a Tony Award for Death of a Salesman. I'm very happy with the way that's all come together. I have also been writing songs with Tim Rice for El Dorado which is Dreamworks' next animation feature. I've been in the studio in Nice writing away, trying to come up with something decent. There'll probably be about 12 songs. I'm also doing an album of the songs with Patrick Leonard when I'm back in England, which I'm looking forward to because he is a great producer and a great writer. It's a very minimalist studio here, part of the old Victorine Film Studios in Nice. I had to bring my own keyboard and my engineers from London - and my own air conditioning and food because there wasn't any.

WHEN I'M on holiday a typical day for me runs like this. I get up about 8.30am, play tennis from about 9.15, come back completely soaked and before I have a shower I light all the candles in the house, which takes me 25 minutes. I feel like a church chaplain or Mother Teresa going around lighting them all, but it's nice to do that for my guests. Then I have a shower and have my hair done and look at my faxes - new-release CDs, DVDs, videos, books. And I fax the world, ordering things. And for the first time (I'm not very internet-friendly) I bought stuff on eBay, an auction house on the net: Surf's Up on CD, which you can't get anywhere except Holland, and Carl and the Passions' So Tough. Both are by the Beach Boys and they're fantastic. I also bought the video of Don't Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

I have lunch about 1.30 and then I might go into Nice to have a look around the record store or the antique shops. The British papers arrive about 5pm and so I have a good read of those, then might have a nap and then cocktails at 8pm even though I don't drink, so it's usually a glass of apple juice for me or a non-alcoholic beer, and then dinner either on the terrace here or out.

I'VE TWO favourite restaurants this summer. One is the usual, La Chaumiere in Eze, which has a very simple menu. The other is La Petite Maison in Old Nice. It's typical nicois: everything is beautifully prepared, salads, fresh tomatoes, truffle risotto, langoustines, sea bass - and a toasted little truffle sandwich, which is the best I've ever eaten. For dessert, there's a huge pan of tiramisu, freshly made - this, too, is probably the best I've had anywhere in the world. We have a cook down here for the summer but one night we gave him the evening off and we had the staff from the restaurant come up and cook a special meal for us and it was just incredible.

I DO not lie in the sun on holiday. I've never been a sun worshipper and I haven't really swum in the pool at all, which I think is hilarious. I've had two or three invitations to go to St Tropez or to go on a boat, but I like Nice so much and St Tropez is such a hassle because of the cameras and paparazzi. And I have this great view of boats from my house. If you blew them all up it would be fantastic, not the nice sailing boats, those great big flash motor boats, the gin palaces. I can't bear boats. The staff at the house have been wanting me to get a speedboat and I said no way. I love to be by the water, I love to look at the water but I don't like to be on it.

I'VE READ some good books - the Tony Parsons novel Man and Boy, which I loved and read in a day. I phoned him up to tell him; it touched a big chord with me. I've also read an incredible book called Disco Blood Bath by James St James and Hannibal, Thomas Harris's bestseller which I thought was terrific. I can't wait for the film.

ANOTHER GREAT thing about the house apart from our staff, who are fantastic, are the seven dogs we call the Magnificent Seven: two Alsatians called Bruce and Duncan, one white Labrador called Gianni, and four cocker spaniels, Brian and Sabrina who are the parents of Daniel and Lulu. Sabrina and Brian sometimes sleep on the bed and snore all night. I'm going to miss them so much when I go back to England because of the stupid quarantine law, although hopefully that's changing and next year we'll be able to take them.