Eirinn go brach – with small, but perfectly-formed parts …
“Have you heard of Riviera Memories?” asked my new friend, Nessa – one of the two founding organisers of local association, PACA*-Irish (pun definitely intended), and someone whose warmth, insight and uncommon degree of commonsense have already made their mark on my life in Nice.
“Thought you might be interested” she continued, “It’s run by this interesting Irishwoman – Ann Kelly.”
Well, I hadn’t heard of either, as it happened. But as ever when Nessa has something to say, it’s worth paying close attention. Nessa listens; Nessa notices – and Nessa … acts. Constructively. Positively. When she speaks, it’s considered and to the point. She is one of those rare people with a mind entirely their own. And there’s definitely a bit more than a smidgeon of practical magic about Nessa. One thing you may be certain of about her: she makes things happen.
As for Ann Kelly, a local resident for decades, she researches, writes and organises the enactment of literary events, visits and writings connected with the Cote d’Azur**. For example, every year she puts on a Bloomsday show at Nice’s Tour Bellanda, rising from the rocky outcrop of the Citadel overlooking the Baie des Anges from the Port end of the Prom’. A spot chosen with care for its resemblance to the Martello Tower at Sandymount that figures in the opening paragraph of Ulysses.
“You might,” said Nessa casually, “be interested in going along there, or even seeing if you’d like to help out or something … I tell you what, I’ll let you know about the meeting to set the whole thing up.”
I nodded vaguely, enjoying the moment as we sat at a beach cafe playing at being ladies of leisure for a couple of hours one afternoon. Of course, Nessa had correctly identified my love of good writing and all things theatrical and gone on to make the necessary link and suggestion. It’s how she operates. Then the subject slipped my mind as I carried on with the frantic search for employment and a mite of security.
It might have receded from the forefront of my memory; but not from Nessa’s. A week or so later came an email promptly followed by a ‘phone call.
“There’s a meeting about Bloomsday – you remember I told you? Anyway, it’s at the associations’ rooms – y’know, over the Gare Routiere – tomorrow evening at six. Would you like to come along, see if you’re interested and maybe if you’d like to help out in any way?”
Well, yes. Yes, indeed. And yes, I said, yes I will Yes (and it’s high time I stopped the Molly Bloom impressions. Far too old for that … sort of thing. Don’t possess the requisite luscious embonpoint either. And finally, well, harrumph and all that).
So I went. And instantly found myself surrounded by a group of some of the nicest, liveliest, funniest, friendliest and most talkative people I’d met for years. Somehow we got a great deal of organisation done and decisions made while having the most tremendous fun. Ann – another redhead – turned out to be a vivacious, laughing tornado of a woman, her discourse swirling about all around us, drawing us in and enthusing us with her own passion for words, for music; for literature and life itself.
I don’t remember laughing as much with a group of people for a long, long time. But why bother to cast one’s mind back, when there is so much to appreciate in the present? As if to emphasise this, Nessa, Ann and I ended up walking together to inspect the Castel end of the beach to see if Nessa’s suggestion of a post-production picnic there – in place of the previous, exorbitant and less socially flexible arrangement of a sit-down meal – would be feasible. It would, we agreed.
Together, we contentedly contemplated the potential rewards of a do-it-yourself hooley at the end of our literary labours.
I looked around me at the evening light casting a blue-tinged glow all over the far mountains on one side and the contrasting colours of foliage against stone on the Tour on the other, while ahead the horizon showed as a thin line of pale gold between sky and sea. A stunning picture of clear-cut vivid outlines fading gradually into a wash of light. The odour of the ocean was invigorating, and the now-fading hubub of passing traffic so muted that it was easily drowned in the washing, lapping sound of the sea. The scene might almost have been timeless, the moment one to savour and treasure.
And I’d not only having met new, interesting and enchanting people; but there’d been an entirely unexpected bonus: I’d been … cast!
Eek: cue strangled cries. These will be followed by panicked solitary rehearsals as I go over my lines, simultaneously attempting to project my ‘strange, unatural (sic) beauty’ while entertaining horrid imaginings that what I will actually project on the day will be more along the lines of ‘nearer and nearer crept the ghastly THING’ (images courtesy of Molesworth 1).
I’m to do some narrating, starting off by reading from the script and ultimately learning some lines. Learning lines will definitely prove a challenge; I hope I’m up to it!
Mind you, I am thrilled and beside myself with joy: what an accolade, to be promptly and without hesitation offered a chance to contribute to what I have no doubt will be a splendid entertainment. Bloomsday – 16th June on the Tour Bellanda at 1800h: be there!
No? Can’t? Ha! How empty seem your excuses to mine ear – all sound and fury and signifying nothing, as we thespian types might say.
You don’t know what you’ll be missing. Really you don’t.
Watch this blog.
* PACA = the region: Provence, Alpes Maritimes, Cote d’Azur