We flew into Nice at the end of the season, but not so late as to bump into a Graham Greene character. Staying at a villa in the hills, we’d all pile into the car and roll between Cannes, Antibes, Cap Ferrat and the rest; eating, drinking and generally having a good time.
There came a day when one of our party wanted to swim in the sea, so we took ourselves off down the coast to find a quiet beach. It was a Saturday and our mission was doomed to failure. In the end, we gave up and defaulted to a busy public stretch with a small handiplage at the end of it full of slings and hoists. I wanted to try them, but it was deemed inappropriate.
We found the remaining postage stamp of beach that had not yet been occupied and sandwiched ourselves between an old French couple, a gaggle of girls tanned to a butterscotch brown and four Australians who, with admirable foresight, had brought an icebox of beer along.
The elderly French lady removed her bikini top and her breasts began an intimate conversation with her ankles. Behind me, the Australians were discussing precum. Their broke from this topic when a girl in their number noticed a tattoo on her neighbour’s forearm and asked what the green script meant.
“Oh, it’s in Thai. It means ‘Hot Chicken, Cold Chicken’.”
The girl, not unreasonably I thought, asked why.
“Oh, because sometimes you get chicken and it’s really really hot, but other times it’s really really…”
Right. I padded off down the beach, waded into the sea and struck out for a buoy in the distance.
The word buoy is difficult one. I remember having a conversation with someone who followed the Olympic sailing (can you imagine?) and said that Ainslie—"Harriott?" I gambled wildly—had got into all sorts of trouble for touching one.
“I should bloody well think so,” I replied, incensed, “I’m astounded he was allowed to compete at all.”
“No. A buoy.”
“Well indeed. It’s a disgrace. Prison was it?”
“No, a buoy.”
We returned home to eat chicken. Hot chicken.