THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Law vs ethics — again.

It used to be obvious in England that a good person was a law-abiding one. I was brought up to see the police as my friends and my protectors. I hate that I don’t feel that way now.

There was no road to Damascus moment. I had no personal bad experience with a police officer. I don’t think the police (apart from some senior officers far closer to being politicians than coppers) are to blame.  Rather there has been a decades long Chinese water torture of political “reforms”. Some were driven by the cynical “identity politics” of the Western Left; designed to set brother against brother and sister against all brothers so as to create conflicts only greater state power can resolve. Others, like this one, were political stunts to play on our instincts to win votes.  

We all agree that every human life is of equal value before the law. Right? Yet, shamefully, that’s no longer the view of the English Law in practice. To kill or injure a straight white male carries a lower sentence than to kill or injure someone whose protected status makes hurting them a “hate crime” for example. The law in effect now values members of certain ethnic groups, women, the members of one religion and non-heterosexuals more highly. Those who preach loudest for “equality” have long sought — cynically or stupidly — to undermine the only equality that matters; equality before the law. 

Boris’s latest trick along these lines — “life means life” when sentencing those who kill infants — is cynical not stupid. We are programmed by nature to love and protect not only our own young but those of all humans. For many of us that spills over into an urge to protect any childlike creature; whether a vulnerable adult human or a non-vulnerable adult panda whose markings make its eyes look big (a psychological trigger because babies are born with adult size eyes). “Think of the children” is such a common political ploy precisely because one of our strongest instincts is to do so.

A Government source told The Sunday Telegraph:

“Most people think all parties and the courts have lost the plot on sentencing. We agree with the public.”

So do I. But I also believe every human life is of equal value. Sentences should (all other things being equal) be equally severe no matter who the victim is. The government’s other recent stunt — more severe punishments for those who attack police — is from the same immoral playbook. They pick a group we favour; brave coppers, cute little children, and then signal their virtue by passing laws to “protect” them. Oppose such reforms, as I am doing here, and you bar yourself from public office. Congratulations. You’re too ethical to be a politician. 

Don't oppose such reforms however and the criminal law gradually becomes a source of societal resentments and injustices. Since its purpose is assuage resentment and crush injustice, that’s a problem, no?

 


Killing two bolshie birds with one stone

Pete North asks if the Union can survive Brexit and “do we really care?” Personally I think this damp archipelago, including Ireland, belongs together. We Scots, Welsh, English and Irish are interbred beyond all separation. I never encountered an unmixed family. More importantly we are unarguably one people culturally. We teach our children the same nursery rhymes, laugh at the same jokes and share the same magnificent literature, art and music.

Most of us can’t tell without asking which of the nations our fellows “belong” to. I stopped calling myself Welsh after a vile nationalist was rude to my English mum and no-one but her noticed. It seems, if not crazy, then at least very petty-minded to separate politically — even leaving aside the economics of it.

What’s driving the Irish government nuts about Brexit is how obvious it will make it that the Republic is economically not independent at all. No more would Scotland be. As Pete unkindly says, it would be “Zimbabwe with fried Mars Bars.” That’s perhaps a little harsh and unhelpful in such delicate discussions as we may be about to have, but not entirely unfair  

It is odd that people who think multiculturalism will unite peoples with the most profound ethical and ideological differences can also believe trivial differences between the Home Nations necessitate actual apartheid. Holding contradictory ideas in the same brain is a key postmodernist skill, I guess. Yet the Union is voluntary or it’s nothing. If the Scots want out, as the Irish did in their day, then that’s up to them and off they must trot. Sad though that will be for me and my Scottish pals (all of whom are economically-active Unionists). 

I don’t see why only the Scots (and others who happen to live there) should be asked to decide though. The United Kingdom, not its component parts, is the member state of the EU. However Brexit goes, if Scotland leaves the UK it will then have to apply to join (not rejoin) the EU. Previous applicants had to demonstrate economic stability before admission. That would prove difficult for a Scotland deprived of English gold. Spain, afraid of its Catalans (and far less relaxed about separatism than England) would veto their application. Their path would be rocky and that would never do because we love them and wish them well. So wouldn't it be better instead to ask the other Home Nations if they want to leave the Union?

England would certainly do so. It contains 85% of the UK population but 95% of the economy. Even if it took a Barnett formula adjusted share of the national debt with it, it would be a far richer country and the threat of Celtic-fringe imposed Socialism would be removed forever. Goodbye Mr Corbyn.

I’d be relaxed either way but I imagine Wales would vote to leave the UK too. We Welsh like to rattle our sabres in imitation of the Scots in pursuit of subsidies etc., but we know which side our bara brith is buttered. If Northern Ireland voted to remain in the rump UK, then the reduced member state could withdraw its Article 50 notice and the Brexit divide would be neatly resolved. Leave-voting England (& Wales) would be free from whatever EU or post-Brexit treaty entanglements remained at a single bound. The Irish could stop bleating about backstops and deal instead with the other side of the sectarian terrorist violence they encouraged (and clandestinely supported) for so long.

It’s an actual opportunity for karma, no less!

My contempt for the farce that is the UN is so profound that the idea of Scotland on its security council actually quite appeals. If Saudi Arabia can be a member of the UN “human rights” council, why the hell should a nuclear-free Scotland not sit at the top table with Russia, China and the US? Particularly as the US has always meddled in the UK’s internal affairs on the side even of violent nationalists. It would be hilarious to see the US government’s reaction to the Scottish Peoples Republic wielding its veto. Yet more karma in fact! In an ideal world our old comrade Councillor Terry Kelly would be Scotland’s U.N. ambassador!

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I offer this solution, as you will have discerned by now, mostly in jest. It’s far too sensible for the buffoons in power to accept it and of course far too much of a threat to their globalist agenda. But what actual objections — gentles all — do you see to it? 


A chap is entitled to his style

I try not to be provoked by ill-judged political outbursts by my friends on social media. Life’s too short to fix everything someone gets wrong on the internet. Or so my wife tells me. Today, for example, I almost wasted an hour of my life responding to attacks on Jacob Rees-Mogg on my personal Facebook page. This was from friends (one of whom is an English journalist in Russia) commenting on this article in The Independent about the style guide JRM issued to his parliamentary staff, which was leaked to ITN.

My journalist friend said it reminded him of the forlorn attempts of the Académie Française to hold back changes in the French language. One of his friends essayed a witticism by posting this image A3A6CB66-C1AB-49B6-A646-639DA66F351D

Fair enough, that’s a mildly amusing comic exaggeration but JRM, while not a libertarian, is very much a small state man. Unlike his authoritarian opponents in both his party and others, he wants fewer rules and less state interference with personal choices. It’s ridiculous to compare an office memo to the control-freakery of the Académie Française. He’s not laying down the law, just giving stylistic guidance to his employees. Write to him in your preferred style and they’ll now politely respond to you in his. Where’s the story here?

Yet class-obsessed (though disproportionately posh) journalists have apparently spent hours counting how many times Hansard features JRM using expressions he’s asked his staff to avoid. I understand they’re bored of Brexit. Aren’t we all? But if a free press has value (and I think it does) this strikes me as a poor example of it.

JRM is eccentric. He’s different. He adds to the rich and varied warp and weave of our wonderful society. He very much enhances its cultural diversity, in fact. But as his politics don’t suit the media hive mind, look how intolerant of “difference” journalists truly are. One extra space behind a full stop and he’s a dangerous reactionary!

Let me try to match my friend in Moscow in the field of OTT analogies. It reminds me of how the gentlemen of the press piled in behind Carl Beech when he falsely accused many Tories (and one — Jewish — Labourite) of sexual abuse and even murder. Never mind the facts, never mind the effects on the people concerned and their families. There’s the hated “other” in our sights. Attack!

So much for the kinder, gentler politics the Magic Grandpa promised  

These of course are the very same journalists who first systematically ignored and then, when the story broke, downplayed statutory rapes by the thousand so as not to criticise cultural difference in England’s poorer towns. These are the same journalists so carefully weighing the pros and cons of the Jessica Yaniv story in Canada (or in the case of Canadian media so carefully ignoring it). Such courage! Such independence of thought! What was that old rhyme again?

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.

But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

There. I haven’t wasted that hour. I’ve made a blog post from it. Now shall I send my friend in Moscow a link to it on Facebook ....?


The only state agency I ever loved

As a young boy I was a fan of NASA. I was born the year Sputnik was launched — the dawn of the Space Age — but, impressive though the Soviet space programme was, I — as a fan of Rawhide and DC Comics — was rooting for the Americans.

The Apollo Program was impossibly glamorous to a young boy in rural North Wales. I still have my scrapbooks of press clippings about the astronauts. The night (UK time) the Eagle landed 50 years ago I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch it on TV. They were not inclined to agree until I told them that nothing so great was likely to happen in my life and I just had to watch. I was 12 and — practical people that they are — they thought I was nuts but they agreed. They went to bed and left me to my nonsense. 

I don’t remember fearing for Armstrong, Aldrin and the Commander of Apollo 11, Collins. They must have been terrified but my confidence was total. As the flickering images told the epic tale, I felt all humanity was beginning something of vast and imponderable importance. I went out into the garden and looked at the Moon, thinking of those two guys on its surface and imagined leaving Earth’s confines myself at some point. I would have been disappointed to think a political blessing — the fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War — would mean 50 years later we would have done almost nothing to build on my heroes’ achievements. 

I can’t justify a vainglorious, largely pointless project funded by massive extortion  of innocent taxpayers. My practical parents were right about the costs. I know private capital would have funded the useful space technologies like communication satellites that have actually improved human life in practical ways. I later worked for a law firm that wrote contracts for such stuff to be funded. My head knows that it was mostly childish dick-waving by the USA and USSR but my heart still soars at the thought of such an adventure. 

If ever anyone had some excuse for joining a state agency funded by force, it’s the men and women of NASA. My favourite photograph was published in the Sunday Times Magazine, showing the immense power of the greatest machine ever built, the Saturn V, as it launched Collins’ craft. Looking at it, I felt proud to be human. Years later I visited Cape Canaveral and saw one of the two remaining Saturn Vs on display. I felt the same sense of awed (and undeserved) pride that 12 year old Welsh kid did all those years ago. I felt the same love for the daring, courageous, sweetly arrogant nation that built it and provided the heroes to ride it out of Earth’s gravity.

I stood on the walkway the Apollo 11 crew used to embark on that mission and got goosebumps. I was so excited I forgot the time difference and called my Dad. He was as baffled by my enthusiasm as ever I think — but we had a moment. I think he remembered the boy I once was.

My paternal grandfather died years after Apollo 11 but he mentioned it in our last conversation. We both knew he was dying and that we were saying our goodbyes. He said to me 

I remember seeing the first car in our county drive through our village. I thought that was something but then I lived to see the first planes and then jets and to fly on Concorde. I even lived to see the Yanks put men on the Moon. I saw so much progress in my life, from horses to space rockets. I can’t imagine what you’ll live to see

Annoying though it is as a libertarian I have to admit a state achieved the greatest technological feat of my lifetime. I guess I must view it in the same way as the Roman Conquest, the great Khan putting his DNA into 60% of modern Asians or the founding of the USA — wrong, very wrong, but magnificent. And in all three cases humanity can’t now be imagined without the consequences. 


The morality of public “service”

I was brought up to respect policemen. I still do. Even a libertarian state would ask good people to put themselves in harm’s way to enforce its few laws. The harm they do is rarely the fault of the (mostly) good policemen enforcing our current monstrous state’s thousands of bad laws. 

The same can be said for judges. They have an honest, important and necessary job to do that is foundational for civilisation but also apply and interpret thousands of laws that should simply not be. Their hands are dirty but it’s not their fault. Our soldiers too and perhaps (though here it gets murkier) even some of our civil servants.  

Though my conscience might still (just) handle being a judge (and relish the chance to lean hard toward Liberty in interpreting our laws) I couldn’t be a civil servant, soldier or policeman in modern Britain any more than I could be a politician for a mainstream statist party. I could not serve a gangster state that interfered with the citizenry’s freedom while violently extorting from it the money to pay me and hope to sleep at nights. 

Which raises the awkward question, who can? Being a judge, a soldier or a policeman is noble enough (and a civil servant harmless enough) in principle but to choose such a career serving the states we have now is morally questionable at least. Watch the French police currently beating up the gilets jaunes, for example. You’ll need to scour YouTube as the MSM is oddly reticent on the subject. These thugs are not conscripts. Each studied, applied, trained and freely signed a contract. Why would a decent human choose to do that job?

We have been watching Kiefer Sutherland’s Netflix show “Designated Survivor” and enjoying it well enough. I view it as the entertaining  tosh it is intended to be but wince at its po-faced portrayal of its heroes. They are cynical foes of Liberty and (literally) murderous enemies of the Rule of Law but we are expected to see them as paragons of selfless virtue. Given the boundless power of modern Western states, and the extent of their control over our personal lives, just who else would we expect to work for them but narcissists and sociopaths?

A children’s home (or church trusted by parents with their children) needs to be particularly alert to the possibility of child abusers wanting to work there. A powerful state should be similarly so about sociopaths. Neither our children’s homes, churches nor governments seem to have shown any such concern. I fear the abusers are now in charge of recruitment. 

This at least partly accounts for the relentless “mission creep” of the modern state. It certainly accounts for “Conservative” ministers, surfing smug tides of Liberty-minded rhetoric, interfering in the minutiae of our lives indistinguishably from openly authoritarian Labourites. There was a time when a moral man like this would become a civil servant but the people who staff our state now lack — almost by definition — any moral scruples about its rôle.

Please tell me I am wrong in this pessimistic analysis. If not, how can we hope peacefully and democratically to roll back the power of the state? If we can’t, then how does the story of our civilisation end?


Home again

All good things do have to come to an end. Safely back in London our honeymoon is already a happy memory. Any nervousness about attempting such a trip in a ten year old car — it’s Speranza‘s birthday this month — seems silly now. She acquitted herself magnificently.

It’s not the years but the mileage of course and after this tour hers now stands, as she cools off downstairs in her home paddock, at 83,055. I’m proud and happy to have driven all but 7,000 of those myself. I bought her because I feared death bed regrets if I didn’t take my chance to be a Ferrarista. I imagined selling her after a couple of years, having checked that off my bucket list. I little imagined she would loom in my life as she does. I love the marque but — having been through so much together — I am now mainly an enthusiast for this particular example  

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Mrs P II has been there for many of those miles and amusedly accepts Speranza’s rôle in our life together. This was her first such major road trip in “Spezza” as she calls her and I worried if she would like it. She says she’ll pack even less luggage for the next one to reduce the constant repacking and hauling of bags but enjoyed our life on the road. I love a good road trip so that’s great news. I already knew she was a keeper — reader I married her — but this just confirms it!

On her first visit to Continental Europe she got to visit six countries, experienced a high speed German autobahn run, ate Belgian waffles, drank Italy and France’s best wines, was received into a beautiful French home, drove a Côte d’Azur corniche in a convertible, shopped at two French hyper markets, listened to dinner table banter between Brits, Germans, French and Dutch and received the VIP treatment at the casino in Monte Carlo. She heard the proud Italian account of that country’s sporting, design and engineering prowess in the Ferrari factory (“Italy’s beating heart” as it describes itself) and ate at the tables of two Michelin-macaroned chefs as well as several humbler but more representative establishments 

It was a broad, quick introduction to our historic continent — home of all the imperialists who ever showed up on hers — but I think she now has a better sense of who we Europeans are (and how we interact) than many of us do ourselves.

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This morning we had our last French breakfast for a while and found a car wash to remove two and a half thousand miles worth of dead insects from Speranza before a leisurely run to the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais. I worked towards reacclimatising to Britain’s damnably low speed limits by strict compliance with France’s more generous ones. I was helped in this endeavour by the knowledge that the French government likes to top up its coffers by trapping speeding Brits on the Autoroute des Anglais as they rush to their train or ferry. 

We arrived in good time after a beautiful run and took five minutes to grab a packed lunch from the Flexiplus Lounge before catching the next train. We reset the computers and clocks as we rode and then ate our food. We refuelled on the English side, topped up with screen-wash and headed for home. As always, British roads seemed awful after the French experience. The M25 provided its usual frustrations but we arrived in time to meet our grocery delivery so that we could eat at home and rest. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed accompanying us virtually on our tour. This blog will return to political rant mode in due course. Right now I’m too mellow for that so don’t hold your breath. 


Underground in Épernay

We took our time over a shorter drive from Beaune to Épernay. French autoroutes somehow sit more lightly on the landscape than British motorways. They lack the embankments to screen them from their neighbours, the gantries to monitor and nag their users and the ugly safety infrastructure that makes a British motorist feel part of some dark industrial process. In consequence one can get a sense of terroir as one passes through it. I enjoy driving in France more than anywhere I’ve been — except the United States. Swiss roads are more beautiful perhaps, but too aggressively policed to provide enjoyment!

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Higher speed limits help too. On this run I made a conscious effort to slow down in order to break the habits I’ve acquired on this road trip before returning to the UK. The French limit of 130kph is 11mph over the UK’s maximum. I need our home limit to feel fast again when I return or I’ll be picking up points between Folkestone and London. 

At one stage of our run, we found ourselves stuck in a convoy, driving precisely at the French limit, behind a gendarmerie van. Time after time we were overtaken by motorists surprised to find themselves faster than a Ferrari, a Porsche 911 and a nifty little Abarth 500 only to watch their brake lights come on as they spotted the gendarmes’ waspish paint job and see them join our snake of frustration.

They played with our heads a little to amuse themselves. They slowed by 5kph at one point, tempting a Citroën to overtake them — very slowly — only to return to the limit and hold him there, uncomfortable in their gaze. They tried that again after a few kilometres but no-one took the bait. We never did find a boundary to their jurisdiction. We took the exit for the road to Lille and Calais while they carried on — for all I know or care — all the way to Paris  

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Our goal was to arrive at Moët et Chandon’s headquarters on the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay in time to take a tour. We arrived at 3.15pm. Having posed for a photo with the statue of humanity’s benefactor Dom Perignon and bought our tickets, we rested in the elegant exhibition area for thirty minutes before joining the last tour of the day with Belarusian guide, Marina. 

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I’d been before so knew that Mrs P II would enjoy it. Épernay has 110 kilometres of champagne cellars beneath its streets. 28 of those kilometres belong to Moët et Chandon, the biggest if not necessarily the greatest of the famous houses. Marina told us it produces enough of its fizzy joy juice for one bottle to be opened every second. That’s almost true. The house produces 28 million bottles a year (taking seven years per vintage bottle). There are 31.5 million seconds in a year. Near enough for elastic marketing arithmetic.

I enjoyed the tour as much the second time as I did the first though I’d forgotten how much Napoleon featured in the story. M. Moët was so excited at the prospect of his enthusiastic imperial customer's first of several visits that he built a palatial Versailles-style home opposite his workplace to receive him. We viewed that from a domed pavilion built to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Moët Impérial — the House’s iconic product — created in 1869. The dome is made from bottles of it! 

Boney is of course the Emperor referenced in the cuvée’s name. Marina’s constant warm references to that old tyrant jarred a little, but he’s long dead and deserves some credit for his excellent taste in booze, watches and bonbons. Sadly his influence lives on in his legal code, which has done more damage (in the view of this proud Common Lawyer) than his cannons ever did. 

Our tour rounded off with a tasting of the white and rosé expressions of the latest vintage — 2012 — we bought some to take home and headed for our hotel. 

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We are spending our last night of our honeymoon in one of my favourite hotels in the world. Many years ago I was journeying south in Claudia — my beloved Mercedes cabriolet — with my family. I asked the satnav to suggest a lunch spot on our route. It guided us to a converted brickworks on a champagne estate where we enjoyed ourselves so much that it became our regular overnight stop on road trips from our then UK home in Chester to the Côte d’Azur.

Since I was widowed and moved to London it’s been too far north to be a half way point and I’ve tended to break my journeys at Dijon instead, but I wanted Mrs P II to experience its charms. I knew its splendid restaurant would provide a superb last supper of our honeymoon.

After an aperitif in the sunny garden outside, It duly did. 


Beaune, idle

Today was one of the more ambitious in terms of driving. Our South of France idyll over, we reluctantly locked the door of our friend's villa and headed to the autoroutes. Our destination today was Beaune, which is 370 miles from Mougins.

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We decided to make the trip slightly longer by diverting to Abbaye Nôtre Dame de Sénanque. Our goals were not devotional – our researches suggested it would be a good place to photograph the lavender fields of Provence.

A couple of hours into our drive we found the place. After some excitement entering the car park (two Italians in motorhomes insisted on our backing up all the way to the entrance so they could exit – even though they need only have waited a few seconds for us to get out of their way) we set out for the short walk to the Abbaye. It's a functioning Cistercian monastery and growing lavender is indeed one of the ways the monks sustain themselves. Our internet researches suggested the guided tour (for which the monks will break their silence) is not worth the time or money so we contented ourselves with viewing the exterior and smiling at the antics of photographers trying to make the early and rather unimpressive displays of lavender look more dramatic than they were. Instagrammers had come dressed to pose in the lavender and the monks had thoughtfully provided a small patch with wide spaces between the plants so that their quest for the ‘grammable moment did not damage the crops.

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We then headed back to the road and were soon heading north on the Autoroute du Soleil. I was trying to rein Speranza in. We had left our last Euros as a tip for the cleaner at our villa so a speeding fine would have involved a slow drive in police convoy to an ATM. I have experienced this before and it's best avoided!

The speed limits had been reduced by 20kph because of a "pollution alert". I think one reason I became a libertarian is that I take laws so seriously they inconvenience me more than those who adopt the Jack Sparrow approach ("more like guidelines really"). So I wanted to comply. The locals seemed unconcerned however, except when the presence of radar controls was signalled, so I went mostly with the flow and complied in the broadest of senses. Two youngsters in a VW Golf amused Mrs P II by giving her the thumbs-down sign as they overtook us – indicating their contempt for Speranza, or more likely the unworthy chap driving her so sedately, 

We took breaks for lunch and petrol and bowled along enjoying the sights of Provence, Beaujolais and Burgundy while listening to our music. The day passed pleasantly enough for all the blistering heat. The roof stayed firmly up. Driving with it down is not much fun at high speed on motorways anyway and we wanted the comfort of the air-conditioning. Besides, the boot/trunk is fuller than when we set out as we have both received gifts and bought some of our own. The space required for the roof to be stowed is full of those acquisitions so the option is not available. 

Our hotel in Beaune is another old Abbaye, but no longer in monastic use. It's an impossibly cute hotel now, right in the city centre. We are idling in our air-conditioned room to recover a little before heading out to see the sights and find somewhere informal to eat. Much as Beaune may have restaurants to compete with those we've recently visited, I want somewhere I can go in the denim shorts and Fulham training shirt I am wearing in this  heat!

Apparently this is our last day of it as the weather forecast suggests Epernay – our destination tomorrow – will be a full ten degrees cooler and that it may even rain!


La Bastide Saint-Antoine

Bastide means either a fortified village from the Middle Ages (a small bastion, I guess) or a small country house - a Manor House perhaps. This particular Bastide may once have been the latter but is now a cathedral of French cuisine. We had planned for the dinner last night in Cap d'Antibes to be our grand culinary farewell to the Côte d'Azur but, having extended our stay to compensate for the time taken by our overnight excursion to Italy, we needed another.

I have eaten here before and knew what to expect. For my wife, new to this scene, the ceremonious approach in such a great restaurant was at first mildly amusing. In such surroundings in London one would still make an effort to dress up, but in the relaxed South of France "smart casual" was enough. Jacques Chibois is the chef-proprietor, which actually means something in France. Here they don't go in for the aggressive branding of the anglosphere mega-chefs, with chains lightly bearing (and sometimes debasing) their names.

He is no occasional visitor here but wields his own knives. Formerly head chef at the Gray d'Albion Hotel in Cannes, he worked in London and New York having first served his time (among other greats) with the area's culinary hero – the late Roger Vergé. Vergé now has a square named after him in Mougins, where his restaurants were and I imagine Chibois hopes to be remembered in the same way by his adopted home town of Grasse. He spent years searching for a suitable country house in an olive grove "in the style of the Colombe d’Or in St Paul" to establish his own restaurant.

We checked out the a la carte menu, mainly for the delectation of Mrs P II, but opted for the "menu Dimanche en Fȇte", as chosen by the great man himself. Each course was matched with wine selected by his sommelier. Gentle reader, any eloquence on my part would only torment you. It was superb. All I can say is – if you ever get chance to do so – go and try it yourself. Even if it means cutting your stay in the area by a couple of nights to save on hotel costs to pay for it, just do it. You will never spend a better €400+ with aperitifs and (as we did) with cheese.

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The heat was excessive today so the short drive there and back required the roof up and air-conditioning on full blast. It was so hot that the restaurant called us before we set off to say that the famous terrace was unbearable and to ask if we minded eating indoors! I imagine we might have coped with some shade, but it would hardly have been fair to the staff, who were – unlike their guests today – very properly dressed indeed!

Our plan today is to pack for an early departure tomorrow, then cool down in the pool shared with our neighbours. Tomorrow we say a fond farewell to our Mougins home. I am authorised by my friend the owner to say that if any of you would like to stay here yourselves, it's available to rent and you can contact him through me. It's a two bedroom villa in a gated development adjoining (and with direct access to) the Royal Mougins Golf Club. His paying guests can make use of his membership there. Even if you're not into golf, there's an excellent restaurant and spa facilities.

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I am not seeking to become an "internet influencer" on the backs of my small group of readers. I hope this small promotion – made entirely from the heart and not for gain – does not increase the number of irritating emails I receive from people wishing to use my blog for their own commercial purposes. It is and always has been a not-for-profit personal venture and I have no desire to change that. Besides, my political blogging is often provocative enough to drive customers away, rather than draw them in!


Heaven

I have still not found my lost faith but if I do and make it to Heaven, it will be like the place I took Mrs P II tonight. The one fixed point in this trip to the Côte d'Azur was, as it has been for me on every such trip for over twenty-five years, the Restaurant de Bacon at Cap d'Antibes.

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If it's not a cheap place, that's partly my fault. When a kind client took me there to Sunday lunch for my first visit, it was a local institution; too far from Cannes to pick up trade from the various festivals and trade fairs held there. It was even further from Nice. The local bourgeoisie in Antibes and the wealthy types with villas on the Cap knew it well enough but that was it.

Over the following years I took many clients and contacts there from all over the world. As I returned each year with a new batch of guests, I would see my former guests hosting other tables. On one such occasion, every table was hosted by someone I had introduced. Except, that is, for one presided over by the bemused gentleman who had first taken me there. He was mildly irritated, I think, that I had spread his secret local knowledge so widely.

One family vacation we met a Russian client there who had brought his family to Antibes for their holidays so he could take them to "the Bacon". One Christmas in Chester I was telling my family that "the best restaurant in the world" was in Cap d'Antibes. Our waiter asked me if I was talking about the Bacon and when I replied "yes" he said that he had trained there and would call the owner to tell him what I had said.

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The strange thing is that I loved it before I learned (on my recent diet) to love fish. I never willingly chose to eat it anywhere else. As we drove there in the evening heat, with Speranza's roof open to the moist air, I began to worry that I had built it up so much that Mrs P II might be disappointed. When I realised that, the old gentleman who took care of me so assiduously on that long-ago first visit having sadly passed away, the family had sold it to a new owner, I was even more worried. I need not have been. His spirit lives on. The food is as good as ever. The wine list is as spectacular as always. The service is just as impeccable.

Our waiter spoke such good English that we did not at first believe he was French. In all my years abroad working with speakers of the world's most widespread language – ESL – I have known lots of people who have achieved commendable fluency. I worked with lawyers for whom English was a second or third language and yet they functioned in it at a level most natives could not hope to reach. Yet I never met one like this young man, who could pass for a native. French cuisine's gain is French espionage's loss!

Sated and happy, we drove the long way home along the coast, rather than taking the autoroute. This allowed Mrs P II to get a sense of the South of France. It's not all Russian billionaires, bling and super yachts. There were also ordinary French families walking together through Juan-les-Pins and young people from all over Europe partying vigorously on the dark beaches as we passed. I played "Where do you go to my lovely?" by Peter Sarstedt to explain to her how a young me had first heard of a glamorous lifestyle unknown to my happy but modest childhood. He sang of Juan-les-Pins as we drove through it and I smiled. 

Tomorrow is our last full day on the Côte d'Azur. On Monday we are back on the road, heading first to Beaune.