In 1969, Peter Sarstedt famously sang to his “lovely” Marie-Claire, “when you’re alone in your bed”:

When you go on your summer vacation

You go to Juan-Les-Pins

With your carefully designed topless swimsuit

You get an even suntan

On your back and on legs…

Poster by Picasso

The troubadour saw that there is poetry in a fashionable resort like this one; you have to work to find it.  The mid-summer crowds, the thick heat, the movement, with colours like a Picasso poster, curving and swerving, cluttered and abundant… a kind of plastic phantasm, a flurrying unreality, with profiles, suntanned midriffs, arms, sunglasses, slingbags, beach umbrellas and the chatter of nations… three hundred restaurants are clinking, forty hotels fawning and the traffic nudges forward, nudges forward, clearing its throat.


Is there a merciful breeze drawing over the iced aperitif?  Further from the bundled streets, quieter, almost disdainful, is the deep green of Le Cap d’Antibes where solemn estates lie cool by the sealine.  Here is Le Grand Hôtel du Cap where Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, in the mid-1920s, sipped whisky and played cards under striped umbrellas on the summer morning beach.  A gaggle of celebrities passed through their hazy days – Rudolph Valentino, the heartthrob of the silent movies; the novelist John Dos Passos; the revue artist Mistinguett; the director Rex Ingram…the list giggles on, as the money and the glamour begin to fray precariously and the jazz age winks drunkenly over a footless goblet.

The poetry is there.  Europe comes to find it, Americans too, the ones who set Juan-Les-Pins on its feet, Russians and others from countries where summer was on a Thursday last year.

So, Marie-Claire, lost under the high umbrella of sun, in the surging waves of people and blue, what will we find when we look inside your pretty head?

 Jeudi  29 Juin 2012

©Will van der Walt


Image Sources: Cannes Doves, poster by Picasso 1958 & Juan-les-Pins poster 1930s.  


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