I’ve learned something this trip. When we left the coast last time, I left the refrigerator reasonably well stocked, thinking we’d be back in a week or so. But circumstances changed – as they do – and it was many months. So one of the tasks this trip was to clean out the fridge. What I learned was: don’t leave a stacked fridge through the Mediterranean summer – and especially don’t switch off the electricity at the mains.
It’s an anniversary of sorts – a double one.
The Bellevue Stratford is a hotel in Philadelphia which has been the location of two momentous events. Its earlier claim to fame was that it was the location of the world’s first recognized outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in 1976.
The other? Well, I was giving a talk to the PRSA there five years later with a different name – not me, the hotel - when I noticed my boss in the audience. This was unusual: he heard enough of me at work not to need to go to downtown Philly to hear me again. When I’d finished, he invited me into the bar for a drink, for which he paid: this was even more unusual. Something’s up, I thought. He’s either going to fire me – or give me a raise.
It was neither. He had been asked to sound me out on whether I would want to run an operation based on the French Riviera.
It was about as bizarre a life change as you could imagine – from the pressure-cooker world of mid-town Manhattan to a medieval Provençal village where farmers still herded their goats along the main street (not any more they don’t: they were blocking the traffic – and tourists spend more money than goats, even if in other aspects there’s a passing similarity); to move the kids from Junior High, swimming club, Little League and the Eagles to a world where the school bus was Dad’s Renault 21 and they would unlearn the 50 state birds and study strange things in a language of which they knew not a word.
It was so bizarre as to be hardly worth discussing, but I said I’d think about it. As we walked out of the hotel, we glanced up at the sign above a coffee shop right across the street, then at each other. The sign read ‘La Côte d’Azur’.
At home, we talked about it most of the night, used weighted pro and con tables, chicken entrails and other sophisticated management techniques – and finally came to the decision that surprised us both. We came to France.
That was 25 years ago, and now, nearly native - if only part-time – I work at the desk pictured in the Profile, looking out on a terrace that overlooks the Med.
And the bilingual kids? They live in England.
I ‘published’ my previous post Sunday night. It didn’t blog until this morning, Wednesday Sept. 6 - dated Monday Sept. 4. 60 hours.
Is someone trying to tell me something?