My first outing from my new base was to visit my friends in Mougins – let's call them Mr & Mrs L. I respect their privacy so no photos today. I met them 18 years ago through their son. A mutual friend sent him to me in Moscow. He was 18 and looking for work experience so I introduced him to some of my clients. His father sent a polite thank you note and invited me to dinner "if you are ever near Mougins". I replied I would be there the following month, accepted the kind invitation and we've been friends ever since.
I always used to attend MIPIM in Cannes - the annual jamboree of global real estate. Dinner at the Ls' became part of my programme each year.
Their son was only visiting. He is living post-COVID life in London, where he works in the City, but his parents still observe COVID restrictions. Their other guest at dinner – a French lady – pretty much compelled the traditional kissing, but I took the view "their gaff, their rules" and refrained from our usual hugs. It was a sad reminder of the fear governments instilled in the hearts of many citizens. They run their business from home and have not really left it since I last saw them.
Fist-bumps done with, we spent a splendid evening. I told my sad stories and was given much sympathy from Mrs L and a lot of avuncular advice from Mr L.
He is a classic car and motorsport fan. He owned 38 classic vehicles in his time, culminating in his present treasures – a flawless factory rebuild, which is arguably the best Bond-era Aston of its type and a Mercedes formerly driven by David Coulthard. The Monaco Grand Prix is this weekend and he regaled me with stories of his experiences there as a guest of one of the team sponsors. I was very envious of his pit-walks and chats with famous drivers. When he was a teenager, he used to trespass at Silverstone, which is next to his old school, Stowe. His very first glass of champagne was given to him by the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who was celebrating the purchase of a couple of cars from Jack Brabham! He has both their autographs.
I really enjoyed looking at his pictures of all the cars he'd had. Understandably, he finds my 12 year loyalty to one vehicle odd. He had many interesting ideas about what I should now be driving.
I have hopes we'll now have more chances to spend time together. The L's are thinking of retiring and Mr L promised to "bother me" more in London when they visit their son. We also talked of going to Goodwood events together.
I am thinking – as part of the return to my old life after the dark era of COVID and divorce– that I might go again to MIPIM next year. Many people from my former real estate universe will be there. It presents a great opportunity to catch up with many friends (including the Ls) in one beautiful place – and is the perfect excuse for more road trips to Cannes.
I only stopped going because it clashed with the Goodwood Members Meeting, which I started attending with my Dad after I retired. I am a huge fan of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a 260,000-visitor motorsport event, and used to go every year. My Dad was already too frail to cope in such massive crowds. The Members Meeting is restricted to members of the GRRC, so was perfect for him. We had good father/son moments there before he became too frail even for that. I went alone this year, but it was not the same. I will go to the Festival of Speed instead next year, making a return to my old haunts at MIPIM possible.
I had a small misadventure. I arrived home in the early hours and couldn't unlock the front door. I was preparing to sleep in the pool house before calling for help in the morning, but ventured a text to the local concierge to see if he was awake. Thankfully he was. He explained what I was doing wrong and I was able to sleep indoors!
My plan for today is to chill by the pool. I may venture out later for dinner or order my first French Deliveroo.
Days on tour involving recovery trucks are now down from a high of 50% to 28.5%. Long may that trend continue!