Arctic weather, birth rates and jumble sales

The weather in Europe has been the number two topic of news and conversation recently. (Do I need to identify the number one? Surely not. But just in case, I don’t mean the American Presidential election, just the mess poor Obama will inherit when he takes office in January.) The odds on a White Christmas for London have shortened somewhat, but England isn’t the only place to have had unseasonable weather. Here at the end of October it rained every day for the best part of two weeks. Up till then we’d been enjoying a warm autumn but the rain put paid to that and since then it’s been getting steadily colder. Here’s a link to a page describing the weather in Antibes on Monday night:

Siberia in Antibes

For those not from round here and who don’t have a map to hand, Antibes is near to Cannes and has an enviable reputation for year-round sunshine and warmth and the centre of the Riviera super-yacht luxury world. Well just look at the photos.

Here on the Italian side of the border the nights have been cold, unusually so for November. We live just seven km from the sea and the nearby mountains are neither high nor far inland, but this was the view yesterday morning from my bedroom window.

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Earlier in the month, just after the rains finished, our piazza hosted a stop-off for a historic car and motorcycle club on one of their days out. The region seems to have a lot of these clubs and they enjoy criss-crossing the border area, stopping here and there for lunch and a chat and discovering some of the out-of-the-way places like Torri. The stop-off didn’t last long; there were so many cars they filled the piazza and the car parks, so by the time they’d all arrived they were getting ready to leave again. Here’s a short video clip.

Torri is of course mildly famous (notorious?) for having the highest birth rate in the whole of Italy. Some suspect it’s because the encircling mountains make it impossible to receive a TV signal, so the population turn to other recreational activities. For more on this, see

Riviera Woman article

As the proud owners of our own media website (this one, of course) we were interested to hear about The Riviera Press Forum, a media event held in Nice last Friday, at which other proud owners and operators would be giving of their expertise and knowledge. The event, held in a bank’s auditorium (I don’t suppose it gets much other use in these apocalyptic days) was organised by the British Association, and the speakers were from the local English language press, radio stations and websites. Here’s the lineup:

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Although well-meaning the whole thing was undoubtedly intended to remind and reassure that the organisations were prospering, though deep suspicions remain as to the viability of most of them without considerably deep pockets and charity from their owners. As acknowledged by one of the panellists, it’s a hard time globally for newspapers; advertisers are becoming more cautious and newsprint gets steadily more expensive. Radio stations aren’t an easy road to riches either; the ones round here can never aspire to more than niche listening markets. And websites need a lot of careful attention to keep their readers. In the end, nobody likes to pay for what can be obtained free, and this is putting presure on everyone in the media world. Except Google, perhaps.

But enough of this; my diaries aren’t supposed to be economic treatises. The seven panellists answered questions honestly and often entertainingly but the event itself was stage managed with only pre-vetted questions being taken, as local media prefer to be safely non-controversial and lightweight. So a bit of a disappointment for anyone hoping to gain any real insight into the media world. Though the buffet wasn’t bad.

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On Sunday was the annual Ecumenical Fair, held in the big circus tent in Monaco. Lest the name mislead, this is a jumble sale, albeit on a grand scale compared to the usual English village event. But it’s still unique in this area, where there isn’t quite the same tradition of recycling cast-off clothing, crockery and toys. This was the second time I’d been, the first being two years ago, and I had the impression that the French were taking a keener interest this time. The French bookstall was as big as the English one and although English voices still predominated French came a close second. The Italians still seem as bemused as ever by the whole idea and of other Northern Europeans there was little sign. As is the tradition with these things you have to buy something; I came away with a stone pitcher of little use except as decoration. But for ten euros I thought it was a good buy. So here’s a picture of my pitcher (I do love alliteration):

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