I awoke yesterday morning, after a tossing-turning kind-of-a-night, with the sense that the weight of the world was resting on my shoulders. It was making me feel anxious so I went for a run along the Promenade des Anglais; the sea air and the fit French men in lycra normally remedy the most severe premenstrual mood-swings. However, on this occasion no amount of feet-to-concrete pounding could shake off what was bothering me. Jogging into my apartment, semi punching the air to the theme from ROCKY, I felt a wave of energy to get on and do something meaningful. I put my leg up on the counter and as I stretched towards my toes I spotted a number scribbled on the back of a Monoprix receipt. I picked up the phone…
I have, for sometime now, been rather taken with this notion of devoting my life to others. Two years ago, fancying that I would make an excellent modern-day Florence Nightingale, I volunteered for a charity that used football to help young homeless men in London. As predicted, I took to the role of do-gooder with aplomb and when I moved to Nice last year I was adamant that I would continue to follow in Ms Nightingale's footsteps. On arrival, I did a rough headcount and gathered that there were a lot of young men living on the streets; so plenty of work to be done then. Yet for all my good intentions, I quickly discovered that finding one’s way into France's charity sector was rather difficult and, after a few false starts, I lost the impetus. Rest assured, I did not abandoned the homeless altogether, it’s just that drunkenly kissing a handsome tramp in Vieux Nice was not the form of aid that I had initially envisaged providing.
Then last weekend, as I was waiting rather impatiently for a declaration of love from my caddish French amour, a friend of mine suggested that I distract myself from my romantic woes by throwing myself back into my charitable pursuits. ’Why not,’ she said matter-of-factly ‘set up a mini football-for-the-homeless project like the one you worked on in London?’ I latched onto the idea at once; this way, if the Silky French One rejected me, I would not only take comfort from the indisputable fact that I'm the better person but I could also develop the Mother Theresa thing and move into a local nunnery.
It was thanks to this renewed vigour to do good that I impulsively picked up the phone yesterday. The number belonged to a friend’s ex-girlfriend, Gabrielle; a French woman who volunteered for a local charitable association. The husky voice at the end of the line suggested that we rendezvous at a juice bar. I was expecting one of those vegan hippy types so you can only imagine my surprise when, on entering the café, I was greeted by a chic woman with cascading blonde curls. In her skin-tight black satin dress I struggled to picture her on a street curb ladling out soup; the elderly tramps must have assumed that they were being greeted at the pearly gates by one of God’s angels.
Not that Gabrielle is all that angelic mind you: she’s a kick-ass banker who just happens to have a heart of gold. We hit it off instantly and within hours of meeting I had been invited to her place in Cannes for a dinner party. Safe to say that after several glasses of vin rouge and two large slices of French apple pie my day ended in hazy happiness. As I chatted with Balendin, the beautiful, brooding artists’ model sat next to me, I temporarily abandoned my plans for a football mission and decided that my true life-path was not as martyr but as muse.
Obviously, should I return to my former career as a nude model then my chances of being accepted into the Sisterhood might be damaged irrevocably. Then again, times are tough right now; perhaps the Lord will be forgiving. And who knows, the idea of a nudie nun having a kick about with a bunch of homeless junkies may hold, even for Him, a certain je ne sais quoi.