Magpie mind James Higham is running posts on vintage posters. This one sums up my week in and around Cap d'Antibes, Cannes and Mougins. I drive home today and tomorrow, so blogging will be non-existent.
I was invited to the UK launch of the Maserati GranCabrio, the convertible version of the GranTurismo, the car I am lucky enough to drive. Recently launched at Frankfurt, the one extant example is now on a world tour in advance of the the model going on sale next April. It is, quite simply stunning - an object of intense desire. I would go so far as to say Modena never produced a more beautiful car. Sadly, I will never own one.
The main problem persuading Mrs P. to allow me to buy Vittoria was her 260 litres of luggage space. When we go on our Summer holidays, Mrs P. easily needs all that and I must settle for a small grab bag behind me. The GranCabrio is a full four seater but the space for the retracted soft top consumes 90 litres of the GranTurismo's luggage space. It has barely capacity for overnight luggage for two, let alone a fortnight's luggage for four. This is a design fault. "Claudia", my AMG Mercedes convertible lost no boot space to the soft-top when it was raised. Once the bags were safely at our holiday hotel the roof could be lowered. I cannot imagine why the undoubted design geniuses at Pininfarina did not copy that.
Still, the GranCabrio is an awesome car and immensely beautiful. I hope it sells well so that the world can be enriched by its undoubted charms. I will smile every time I see one, even it it's not for me. Here is a short video of the world's one copy being unveiled at the Belfry last night.
I am spending this week and next in Shanghai for my work, which pleases me greatly. It's only my third visit and the first where I have been able to stay a while. I have always been fascinated by China. This is a culture which has existed continuously for thousands of years. I don't have any profound thoughts to offer today. Moving between an hotel and an office block in a central business district is no way to understand a civilisation. I have lived too much abroad to jump to any rapid and foolish conclusions.
My only observation so far is this. Why has our own - supposedly shallow - culture had such a powerful influence around the world? Take dress for example. The Chinese men in the streets of Shanghai are dressed exactly like their counterparts in the City of London. The women too - at least around the offices and shops of the city centre- wear "Western" dress, albeit (apart from the occasional power-dressed businesswoman or administrator) a rather girlish version.
Why? Western dress for men in particular, is boring. There is so little scope for colour or individuality (especially in a recession, when even tiny flamboyances are forbidden). Why did our choices prevail?
She will not forgive me for posting this, but I am so filled with paternal pride at the younger Ms Paine's pumpkin carving that I had to show you. Before more traditional readers accuse us Paines of being un-English, let me explain that it all started when she was at an American School in Eastern Europe as a little girl. I had to carve them for her at first, but she soon surpassed me. I never even aspired to anything like this standard!
To bring it back to current affairs, do check out this site for political devotion expressed in the same field of endeavour. Pumpkin carvings are supposed to be scary, but in this case the thinking of the people carving them is much scarier. Can you imagine someone doing that for Gordon Brown or David Cameron?
I can think of no better insight into what it is to be French; no better illustration of what it is to be civilised. And he's funny too. He says that he is not intelligent. He says he designs to prove he has a right to exist. But there is much here that is profound; expressed in a childishly open way without any apparent fear of seeming a fool. If only the English could get over their pride and be this way more often.