How To Survive Paradise
By Diane Messias
Spring on the Cote D'Azur! A time of celebrity, champagne, Hollywood film stars and handsome young racing drivers. Topless starlets on the Croisette, topped-up tanks roaring around Monaco. What could make a person feel more positive about life?
I'll tell you what - a few Health and Safety rules...
Let's start with the Grand Prix. I have the misfortune to go to Monaco a few times a week at the moment. Why misfortune, I hear you ask? It's one of the most exotic locations in the world, isn't it? A place where you can't walk around without tripping over some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet. Which is exactly the problem...
Whilst you're snuggled on your comfy stone-coloured, kid-leather Galeries Lafayettes sofa, watching your state-of-the-art flatscreen TV, G&T in hand, mesmerized by flash, high-performance sardine cans powering through the narrow Principality streets on over-sized slick-tyre Bridgestones (you never know when you might need a handy fact to let slip casually to a squared-jawed hunk over a glass of over-priced fizz), just think how we disappointingly-normal people must negotiate our way around tons of scaffolding, cameras, hundred-ton broadcast trucks and assorted members of British Royalty - who have to be seen in The Right Places in order to perpetuate their brand - to carry on with our disappointingly- normal daily lives.
Pedestrians? Who needs them? Monaco doesn't, certainly not in May. Sidewalks are closed off, broadcast cables lie patiently in wait to trip you up, steel scaffolding bars swing perilously over your head, attached precariously to the prongy bit of a crane (don't really want to chat up a crane-driver, so who needs the vocabulary?) by way of an old elastic band, pedestrian crossings are declared null and void. If you want to cross the road, don't even bother to look both ways, just close your eyes and step out into the busy stream of traffic hoping for the best. (Don't say I never give you any worthwhile advice). There is no other way. If you are walking in Monaco that must mean you have legs, which indicates you are plainly not rich enough to have evolved excessively-expensive luxury cars instead of those humanoid limb things more common amongst poor people. Which means you don't matter.
One day last week I was so exasperated trying to get to the other side of the port from the station that I para-glided, para-scended (and subsequently para-medic-ed) my normal Grand Prix route across town clutching a box of Milk Tray to my breast, but this made no difference whatsoever (can I sue Cadbury's?) and I have to admit, I did feel a bit of a Hazlenut Praline...
(It did occur to me to hitch a ride with Jenson Button – is he related to Cadbury's Buttons? - but then I realized he drives somewhat slower than a Nice bus driver, and thought I'd get there quicker if I just crawled).
Do I sound bitter? (Or perhaps bitter-sweet? Notice a theme developing in this piece???) Perhaps I should have gone to Cannes? What could possibly be injurious to a person's health there?
Well, all I can say is, just go into a cafe at Film Festival time and order a coffee.
Then look at the bill.
(NOTE: THIS COLUMN DOES NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR HEART PROBLEMS, ASTHMA ATTACKS OR CONSEQUENCES OF RAGE. CANNES COFFEE TO BE ORDERED ENTIRELY AT READER'S OWN RISK).
None of this would be possible in the UK, of course. There are lots of poor people there, and the Government needs them kept alive so that they can be taxed to high heaven in order for MPs to buy their ducks floating hotels and pay their secret lovers rent. Thus Health and Safety has grown into an enormous industry, worth millions.
Moreover, the Health and Safety Executive's Mission Statement is: “To prevent death, injury and ill health in Britain's workplaces.” (Not quite “To infinity and beyond!”, but it's a start.) Their website covers such lofty topics from Can a person be left alone at their place of work? to Vibration – Are the new regulations in force yet? Fat chance of reading anything like that around these parts...
...and so, since it would appear that a glamourous lifestyle on the Med is not without its dangers, in the interest of my readers I hereby pledge to carry out my very own Risk Assessment to help them negotiate next year's spring celebrity frenzy as healthily as possible: I volunteer to go to Cannes to find out whether George Clooney's vibration is strong enough for me to be left alone with him. (Don't say I'm not always thinking of others.) And since I'd like to get there safely and in one piece, if you happen to see Jenson Button, could you ask him if I could have a lift?