Burton Gintell

I last spoke with Burton Gintell at the American Club of the Riviera’s Thanksgiving lunch in November. Chatting in the Salle Belle Epoque, his genuine kind self inquired with a twinkle, “How are you doing Nancy … really?” And yet he was with the pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

After several minutes, we were talking about one of my all-time favourite stories: how Burton happened to meet Fred Astaire in New York on their shared birthday on May 11.

Burton and I were anecdotal and chatty, as we had been since we first met years ago when I worked at the Riviera Reporter and he was in his first mandate as president of the American Club of the Riviera (ACR), a position he held from 2010-2011 and from mid-2013 to 2016; he also co-presided in 2017 with Beathe-Jeanette Lunde.

In 2011, the Reporter had done a piece on the annual conference on the Association of Presidents of the American Club, which Burton hosted at the Monaco Novotel with representatives from 15 countries in Europe. He remarked in the article, “The business component is rather smaller now as fewer firms are sending staff abroad. Talking to our guests, I heard that in some places business networking can still be a significant function of a club, in others there’s a strong interest in political issues. Here our emphasis is a blend of the social and the cultural.”

Burton, a trained CPA who was an Emeritus Member of the Board at Sophia Business Angels, strived to develop unique events for ACR members, such as a pre-lunch visit to Nice’s Museum of Historical Musical Instruments, whose curator Robert Adelson was American.

One of the most memorable ACR events I was invited to was a few years back, when the club celebrated Christmas with a beer tasting session at the then-new microbrewery in Nice, Allez Hops!, owned by ACR governor, Daniel Deganutti.

Ever the gentleman, Burton and his British realtor wife Jackie Pressman-Gintell, have always been kindhearted towards me. The couple lived in Europe for more than 40 years, and spent the last two decades in Cannes where both have been active members of the community and supporters of several French arts organisations.

Burton was a director and founding shareholder of Innovation Europe S.A., an investment vehicle created by SBA to invest in a portfolio of innovative young companies. I did not know this but he had received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in the UK during one tenure as chief executive at a major company. In addition to his presidency at ACR, he was vice-chair for three years of the Côte D’Azur-Monaco chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in France.

At ACR’s “Swell-egant Elegant Gala” at the Belles Rives, Burton commented, “Virtually all of us here have enriched our lives by living elsewhere from our birthplaces, to which some of our families migrated to seek a better life. We can perhaps pause for a moment to reflect upon those who do not have our choices.”

He was a compassionate and giving man who often reflected on others’ needs. Cy Todd, ACR vice-president and membership coordinator, added this reflection on Burton: “He was an ‘influencer’ before the term’s time. His friendly and inclusive demeanour drew people to him. This made him the perfect president of the American Club. He was like a Pied Piper, even taking a group of friends to his beloved Venice, to celebrate his and Jackie’s 25th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful trip, enjoyed by all.”

Burton died on April 30 just shy of his 87th birthday. Jackie shared the message: “My darling husband, Burton Gintell, passed away this morning. He will be missed by all who loved the extraordinary man he was.”

He will be cremated on May 11th at 11 am at the Cannes crematorium (Chemin plaine de Laval, 06150 Cannes la Bocca).

I will not be able to attend but at 11 am, I will do my best Fred Astaire moves in his honour.

International Women’s Day Monaco

March 8 is International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion this Tuesday, I am organising at StarsnBars a collection to support Ukraine.

Two of my colleagues are Ukrainian: one is currently being bombed; the other is here but her father is not. He has stayed in Ukraine and is working with the local government and preparing to defend his pays natal.

Like many of you I feel helpless. I see images on TV of brave-faced Ukrainian women who are trying to flee with their young children, with their lives stuffed in one suitcase. I see young women, middle-aged women and not so middle-aged women who are staying and arming themselves with rifles. I see women and their families in Russia defying imprisonment as they unprecedentedly protest to end the war on their neighbouring friends. This is all, by definition, courage.

Courage does not care how much money you have or what nationality you are. Courage is not easy, it takes effort to find your voice. But one voice can turn into two which turns into 200 which turns into 200,000 which turns into 2 million.

I am asking to hear your voice on International Women’s Day. We have lived in isolation for two years and now is our time to come together and to shine a collective light on Monaco, a community that shares a global conscience united through benevolence, compassion and love.

Here is where you come in.

9am to 10am Monaco Stands Together
I invite everyone who works, lives and plays in Monaco to come together outside of Starsnbars and #standwithukraine. It is International Women’s Day and I would love to see as many female faces as possible – moms, entrepreneurs, those working with nonprofits or in commerce, clubs and associations members, artists, athletes or retired – but this is a 100% inclusive event. Everyone is welcome to come and chat, network, order coffee at StarsnBars, hug … to connect.

Should you feel inspired, wear a dash of yellow or cyan blue for the Ukraine flag, orange for Kate Powers or purple for International Women’s Day.

9am to 7pm Red Cross Monaco
The Red Cross Monegasque (RCM) has kindly agreed to give a collection box for cash or cheque donations to Ukraine. Cheques need to be made out to:
Croix-Rouge Monégasque – Ukraine.

All cash and cheque donations to RCM on Tuesday will be made in the name of the Kate Powers Foundation.

Please note the RCM is not accepting items of any kind. You can also send a cheque direct to Croix-Rouge Monégasque at 27 Bd de Suisse, 98000 Monaco.

9am to 7pm Drive for Ukraine
There will be a collection of items for Ukraine outside of StarsnBars. I have organised with my Ukrainian colleague a driver in the community and point of contact in Ukraine to ensure these items are driven to the border where they will then be picked up and taken to various cities within the country. Many donated items from around the world are making it to the border but not able to be distributed in Ukraine itself. Some are making it across the border only to end up in the hands of those selling on the black market.

This is a part of a list sent today to my colleague from a volunteer in Ukraine. The focus here is on women and babies. These items are probably not in your closet but a little effort on your part will go a long way.

– antiseptics
– anti-inflammatories
– antispasmodics
– hydroalcoholic gel
– needle and thread
– hygienic wipes
– baby wipes
– Pampers
– baby food, baby milk
– baby clothes (socks), baby toys
– anything for newborns
– pet food
– feminine hygiene products
– toiletries, especially toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, baby shampoo

Please share this information to encourage others to support this humanitarian cause on March 8.  

Thanks to Annette Anderson and Didier Rubiolo at Starsnbars, Françoise Cellario at the Croix-Rouge Monegasque, Yana Kryshtofovych and Merrily Lustig Tornatore, who have all helped pull this together last minute.

Let’s stand together Monaco. See you on Tuesday.

Text in French
https://goodnewsmonaco.com/2022/03/04/journee-internationale-de-la-femme-monaco/

Photo: Flickr Renew Europe.

Journée Internationale de la Femme Monaco

Le 8 mars est la Journée Internationale de la Femme. Pour marquer l’évènement ce mardi, j’organise au StarsnBars une collecte pour soutenir l’Ukraine.

Deux de mes collègues sont ukrainiennes : l’une vit actuellement sur les bombes ; l’autre est ici mais pas son père. Il est resté en Ukraine et travaille avec le gouvernement local et se prépare à défendre son pays natal.

Comme beaucoup d’entre vous, je me sens impuissante. Je vois à la télévision des images de femmes ukrainiennes au visage courageux qui tentent de fuir avec leurs jeunes enfants, toute leur vie enfouie dans une seule valise. Je vois des jeunes femmes, des femmes en pleine force de l’âge et des femmes même plus âgées qui restent et s’arment de fusils. Je vois des femmes et leurs familles en Russie défier l’emprisonnement alors qu’elles protestent sans précédent pour mettre fin à la guerre contre leurs amis et voisins. C’est tout simplement du courage.

Le courage n’est pas une question de combien d’argent vous avez ou de quelle nationalité vous êtes. Le courage n’est pas facile, il faut des efforts pour oser parler. Mais une voix peut se transformer en deux qui se transforment en 200 qui se transforment en 200 000 qui se transforment en 2 millions.

Je demande à entendre votre voix à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la Femme. Nous avons vécu isolés pendant deux annéss et il est maintenant temps de nous rassembler et de faire rayonner ensemble Monaco, une communauté qui partage une conscience globale unie par la bienveillance, la compassion et l’amour.

Voici comment vous pouvez aider.

9h à 10h Monaco Stands Together
J’invite tous ceux qui travaillent, vivent et jouent à Monaco à se rassembler en dehors de Starsnbars et de #standwithukraine. C’est la Journée Internationale de la Femme et j’aimerais voir autant de visages féminins que possible – mamans, entrepreneures, celles qui travaillent avec des organisations à but non lucratif ou dans le commerce, membres de clubs et d’associations, artistes, athlètes ou retraitées – mais c’est un événement 100% inclusif. Tout le monde est le bienvenu pour venir discuter, “network”, commander un café au StarsnBars, faire un câlin ou autre. Il s’agit d’être solidaires

Si vous vous sentez inspiré, portez une touche de jaune ou de bleu cyan pour le drapeau ukrainien, orange pour Kate Powers ou violet pour la Journée Internationale de la Femme.

9h à 19h Croix-Rouge Monégasque
La Croix-Rouge Monégasque (CRM) a aimablement accepté de mettre à disposition une boîte de collecte pour les dons en espèces ou en chèques à destination de l’Ukraine. Les chèques sont à libeller à l’ordre de : Croix-Rouge Monégasque – Ukraine.

Tous les dons en espèces et en chèques à CRM mardi seront faits au nom de la Fondation Kate Powers.

La CRM n’accepte aucun article de quelque nature que ce soit. Vous pouvez également adresser un chèque directement à la Croix-Rouge Monégasque, 27 Bd de Suisse, 98000 Monaco.

9h à 19h Drive pour Ukraine
Il y aura une collecte d’articles pour l’Ukraine devant StarsnBars. J’ai organisé avec mon collègue ukrainien un chauffeur de la communauté, et aussi un point de contact en Ukraine pour s’assurer que ces articles soient conduits à la frontière où ils seront ensuite récupérés et transportés dans différentes villes du pays. De nombreux articles donnés du monde entier arrivent à la frontière mais ne peuvent pas être distribués en Ukraine même. Certains traversent la frontière pour se retrouver entre les mains de ceux qui vendent au marché noir.

Ceci fait partie d’une liste envoyée vendredi à mon collègue par un volontaire en Ukraine. Le focus mis ici est sur les femmes et les bébés. Ces articles ne sont probablement pas dans votre garde-robe, mais un petit effort de votre part fera beaucoup de chemin.

– antiseptiques
– anti-inflammatoires
– antispasmodiques
– gel hydroalcoolique
– aiguille et fil
– des lingettes hygiéniques
– lingettes pour bébés
– Pampers
– nourriture pour bébé, lait pour bébé
– vêtements bébé (chaussettes), jouets bébé
– tout pour les nouveau-nés
– la nourriture pour animaux
– produits d’hygiène féminine
– articles de toilette, notamment brosse à dents, dentifrice et savon, shampoing pour bébé

Veuillez partager cette information pour encourager les autres à soutenir cette cause humanitaire le 8 mars.

Merci à Annette Anderson et Didier Rubiolo au Starsnbars, Françoise Cellario à la Croix-Rouge Monégasque, Yana Kryshtofovych et Merrily Lustig Tornatore, qui ont tous contribué à l’organisation de la dernière minute.

Soyons solidaires Monaco. Rendez-vous tous mardi 8 mars 2022 à 09h au StarsnBar, quai Antoine 1er.

Texte en anglais:
https://goodnewsmonaco.com/2022/03/04/international-womens-day-monaco/

Photo: Flickr Renew Europe.

Open Water Me vs. Boat With Motor

My inaugural open water came in the summer 2012. I had signed up for my first triathlon, the Ironman 70.3 Pays d’Aix-en-Provence, for September of that year. I needed to get comfortable in the water as opposed to the Olympic-distance pool in Nice where I had been training.

Considering I had not swm since my teens, at the age of 43 I was a reasonably strong swimmer thanks to endless childhood summers at our family cottage in Canada. Swimming in a lake and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, however, are two different ball games, especially when the warm currents in the Med in the South of France favour jellyfish.

That first swim with my ever-patient husband is a memory we both chuckle over to this day. Embarrassing to admit, I thought my air bubbles were jellyfish. When I was not literally swimming on top of my husband for protection, I was stopping because the fear of jellyfish was interfering with my breathing. We maybe swam 500 meters that day before I’d had enough but I quickly understood the vital relationship between controlled breathing and open water swimming.

A decade later, and thanks to swimrunning, the sea provides a connection to nature that I simply cannot live without. In the winter season, when the water here can be between 10°C and 14°C, I still manage two to three 5-6km swims a week, depending on the weather.

As openwater swimmers and swimrunners, we take all the necessary precautions, from swimming when possible with a buddy and with a visible safety buoy to sticking close to the shoreline and being smart about marine conditions.

I am not what you would call a risk taker. I may push myself out of my comfort zone but I am overly cautious in everything I do in and out of the water. I swim year-round in swimrun shoes, so I can exit at any time should I need to – a jellyfish infestation, change in swell, feeling cold or unwell. Before every swim, I ask myself: what am I dealing with today? I look at my course from the shore. We have paragliders who offseason land on the beach and so there are security boats. I have many times mentally prepared myself for the possibility of a paraglider falling on me.

There are fears about open water swimming that we share. Some we talk about, like jellyfish (I have lost count on how many times I have been stung although I have several scars to remind me) and cold water (having succumb to hypothermia during a swimrun race I know the difference between mental cold and physical cold). Then there are the dreads in the back of our minds that we don’t talk about: more dangerous marine life, such as sharks, and the fear of getting hit by a boat.

I don’t have to worry about sharks but I got hit by a boat. So let’s talk about it.

****************

On Sunday, February 6, I did my regular 5km swim with ideal winter conditions: calm sea, clear skies and no wind. The water was 14°C. I had a bright orange safety buoy attached and looked up often to check my direction and for any boats. With cold water swimming, the longer I am in the water the more likely I can become disoriented so I am vigilant about maintaining visuals.

With less than 200 meters to shore to end my swim, an oval shadow appeared overhead and I thought it was a paraglider falling in the sea. Instead of stopping suddenly, I kept my course so the paraglider could calculate my direction and avoid hitting me. I learned this from rowing. Stay the course.

The oval shadow became larger until suddenly I felt a violent hit to the back of my head and neck, which I presumed was the paraglider’s feet plunging into the sea. I was pushed under the water and a voice in my head said “I am going to drown.” I madly tried to lift the parachute off of me only to discover it was not a parachute. It was something hard and flat, maybe a paddleboarder. My face and upper body were pinned down in the water and to my right, I registered a motor moving towards my face.

My face felt hot. I frantically pushed my hands down to try to stop my body. This did not work. I calculated it would be worse to lose part of arm than my life. I used my right arm to protect my face.

The length of the boat ran over me.

****************

Once I was upright and my head above water, I could see the driver. It was a security boat for the paragliders. I stayed in the water, in a treading motion, until I was calm repeating in French “je suis dans un état du choc” (I am in a state of shock). For some reason I could not speak English. I had been in the water for nearly 90 minutes at this point and my body temp was low.

The driver was apologetic. He was not supposed to be within the 300-meter buoys, but he was 150 meters from the shore. He admitted he was not used to seeing swimmers at this time of year so he was looking up at the paragliders and not down at the sea. He did not call the police, which by law he is supposed to do when a boat hits a person.

He did offer for me to come onto the boat. I wanted to get out of the water and get home. My right elbow was throbbing and I approached the boat driver to have him examine it. He looked at and said it was okay, but I was wearing wetsuit. I asked him to watch me swim to shore, for less than five minutes. He said he had to watch the paragliders. I said he had to watch me because I was not sure I could swim with my elbow.

It was hard to swim, something felt not right. I got to shore and he came around to check on me. I gave him a thumbs up and immediately started climbing the 475 stairs that connect the beach to my apartment in less than 10-minutes. I never take off my gear in the winter until I get home.

In the safety of my own home, I threw up from realising what just happened. I took off my wetsuit, my elbow had two slashes and was bleeding. I should have had stitches. I should have gone to had my head checked but my right side was so sore that I did not remember the thwack to the head until it woke me up in a dream the next morning.  

Unfortunately, my husband was away that Sunday. He would have told me to go the hospital (which I did do on Thursday for a head scan) but honestly as a sportif, I am used to injuries. Unless I see bone, I think I do not require medical attention. Throw into that line of thinking that I was in a complete state of shock that I had almost been killed. If I had stopped suddenly and lifted my head, the impact from the boat would have been so much worse. Or if he had approached me from a different angle where I did not see the motor before it cut me.

Once the gravity of this freak accident sunk in, I went to the police on the Tuesday afternoon to file a complaint. The first question the officer asked me was, “Why were you swimming?” and then he refused to take my statement. He told me to work out the compensation with the paragliding club. Huh? “I do not want money. He could have killed me. I want to make sure the sea is safe for everyone and this does not happen again.”

Nothing. So I went to the local French press. Following the article, the police have said they would “welcome” me to file a complaint. I have been in touch with a Roquebrune paragliding club who is helping me to find the identity of the boat driver. And another boat driver who was in the bay that Sunday, visiting with his paragliding club from Provence, has contacted me to testify to the lack of measures and security in place for the safety boats. Once I have assembled a file, I will go back to the police to porter plainte but at a different station. I have six years to do so.

****************

My biggest fear has happened and I survived. But shock is a funny thing. You are in no man’s land somewhere between “I’m okay” because you are alive and “I’m not okay” because I almost got killed.” You try to do things as normal. For example, I went rowing with a friend two days later, in hindsight I should not have with my arm, and fifteen minutes outside the port of Monaco I burst into tears and wept uncontrollably, slumped over my oars.

For nearly two weeks I have felt like I was floating outside my body wondering why I lacked focus and was randomly crying uncontrollably. When I tried to write, the words I typed were not the words formulated in my head. I have been frustrated that I am not “strong”, that I cannot put mind over matter and get on with things. I have done everything I am supposed to do – meditate, breathing, exercise, good sleep, eating well (lots of pots of homemade soup and homemade breads) – but honestly this is my regular lifestyle and it was not improving my state of zombie mind.

I consider myself strong minded I do not have the tools to help myself. I reached out for help and contacted Gavin Sharpe at Riviera Wellbeing. He explained to me about trauma and the window of tolerance. I knew nothing about hyperarousal and hypoarousal. Gavin put me in touch with a counsellor who has helped me understand, among other PTSD elements, that because my accident was silent – that I could not scream or physically respond to protect myself because I was stuck underwater; nor was there any car crashing sounds – that my fearful reaction has been trapped inside me. I am working on letting it out. It will take time but I am confident I am on the road to recovery.

I also reached out to a few water safety organisations to ask if they could provide any advice about what to do when you are in this situation, like the difference between fire prevention and the steps to take when you are in a fire. But maybe it is a question of whether it is your time or not.

I got back in the water a week after the accident and managed a very cold 3.5km swim with my husband. My neck hurt looking up and looking back too much but the waves welcomed me back with each caressing crest. I have since swam solo and have no fear. Bliss.

For those who do not open water swim, the sensation is impossible to describe. I refer to the words of Gillian Best, who wrote “The Last Wave”, a story about a woman who swam the English Channel: “There is nothing in a pool: no current, no tide, no waves, and most of all, no history. The sea is alive, expansive; a pool is dead and confining. The sea is freedom.”

Monaco’s G-Spot

Screenshot from the homepage of a Monaco pizza service. I have deleted their info.

Reading the British press over the past week and the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance and now confirmed murder, I have been shocked by the hundreds of stories women have shared about living in fear of walking home at night and harassment.

Jenny Jones for the UK’s Green Party suggested a possible “amendment to create a curfew for men on the streets after 6 pm” adding “I feel this would make women a lot safer, and discrimination of all kinds would be lessened.”

In Monaco, the question of security has come up in every conversation I’ve had with single women – who between 25 and 64 make up 7.7% of the population, see chart at end – and the idea of being able to walk home in safety at night was the biggest incentive in moving to the Principality, outweighing the exorbitant rent.

Having lived in Nice for nearly two decades, the deteriorating sense of safety during the last five years is what drove me to move. Even in the Carré d’Or, a block from the Negresco, I would not go out by myself after 10 pm. But I have never been harassed. Or have I? Looking back over my years in France, I can recall four times men have exposed themselves to me:

1/ walking home from the bus in Bois Fleuri in Biot a pantless man confronted me and started masturbating.

2/ after seeing Radiohead at the Frejus amphitheater, waiting for the train home a man in très short shorts whipped out his penis and started yanking on the stairway.

3/ my personal favourite, stopped at a red light on the southbound outside lane at blvd Gambetta and rue de la Buffa in Nice, a drunk came up to the passenger side, unzipped his beige cords and smudged his penis in a slow windshield-wiper motion against the window. My car was wedged in, I had to wait for the light.

4/ Walking the dog on the Prom in Nice, some guy called out for help and when I turned he starting jerking off and laughing.

Then of course there are the countless zizis I’ve unwillingly come across as men in France deem fit to urinate anywhere in public, which is still a culture shock having grown up in Canada.

It brings to mind an interview with Ricardo Antonio Chavira, who was at the 2005 Monte-Carlo TV Festival when I attended for People Magazine. Discussing his character Carlos Solis on the then new series Desperate Housewives, he said when the show first aired in the US, men would stop him on the street to berate him for bringing such a macho character back on TV between because it made their wives angry. in Europe, he said men offered him a congratulatory slap on the back for bringing back a macho character to TV.

But is being a macho European a green light for men to cause offense? I am no snowflake but when I read a headline like “Convincing Win For G-Spot” in reference to the Monaco team who won at the Primo Cup sailing regatta last Sunday, I can only sigh. This is not National Lampoon.

This type of hyper-sexualised culture feeds into the bigger picture of why young girls and women, regardless of their relationship status, feel unsafe. From inappropriate body references to catcalling, objectification sends a detrimental message. Even in my own case, I have somehow normalised public flashers.

I doubt a 6 pm curfew for all men is the answer but simply wishing a “Happy International Women’s Day” does not cut it. Maybe the headline “Convincing Win For Ball Sac” would help open the dialogue.

IMSEE’s most recent census statistics (2016) on women living in Monaco.

Age                Monégasque    Non-Monégasque
25-34                           384                  1,393
35-44                           486                  1,832
45-54                           705                  2,305
55-64                           675                  1,995

Age                Living w/partner         Not living w/partner
25-34                           1,078                           699
35-44                           1,750                           567
45-54                           2,162                           848
55-64                           1,785                           885

Andrée and Michelle

Monegasques Andrée and Michelle outside the palace in Monaco Ville. Photos: Nancy Heslin

To celebrate National Day on November 19, Andrée and Michelle – the “Mamies of Monaco Ville” – share their stories about growing up on the Rock and how Covid has impacted the community.

Andrée and Michelle are sitting on a bench outside the palace, nearby the marble statue of tribute from foreign colonies presented to Prince Albert I on the occasion of his 25 years of reign in 1914.

“When I was a child, I used to climb that statue,” Andrée points. “Everything has changed. This used to really be a square.”

“Well, it was different,” says Michelle. “When I was younger, we would bike and roller-skate in the square. You know, the other morning, there was no one here except for a few kids from the painting school (Pavillon Bosio Visual Arts School) who were sitting in front of the palace on the sidewalk with their papers and pens, and the teacher was there. I saw a Carabinier approach and tell them they had to leave. The gentleman said he was a teacher here in Monaco-Ville and the students wanted to draw the palace a little. The Carabinier replied, ‘No, it’s out of the question.’ I found this completely absurd.”

“When I was young and in the month of Mary (May), we would all go to the Cathedral. There are arches at the top of the church tower and you can see there is a floor. There was a door and so we would go up and look at the choir sing. Now, you have to show your credentials everywhere. It’s not like before.”

These days, Covid also makes life different for the two women. Before the health pandemic, Andrée and Michelle would usually meet with friends every day for coffee. “We would meet up every morning at 9 at the San Remo bar,” says Michelle. “Before Covid, Monaco was far more lively. I think that with lockdown, we realise that apart from tourism, there’s not much on the Rock. Even people from Monaco, they are not going to come here to buy souvenirs. Although, some have come in a stand of solidarity.”

“In our day, it wasn’t like that,” shares Andrée. “There were grocery stores, a stationery shop, florists, a cobbler … we had everything. Souvenir shops practically did not exist. But it changed in the Sixties, they took away all the stores.”

Michelle agrees. “Monaco-Ville used to be a village but it gradually changed and is now essentially touristic. I’m going to tell you the honest truth. At the time, we were a bit fed up, because you couldn’t walk in the street in the summer, in the middle of August. Between the restaurant’s terraces and the groups, going out was really annoying. Frankly, we were bothered by this but when you look around now, it’s obvious that it is dying with sadness.”

Andrée adds, “I think, there is going to be a reversal. It’s necessary for the souvenir shops to do something else.”

“But some can’t close because they have big management,” Michelle remarks.

Village Life

“Before, all the families used to all know each other in Monaco-Ville. Now we no longer do,” says Andrée. There are many foreigners who have bought as secondary residences.

“The old grannies would take their chairs,” Michelle describes, “and bring them in the street and they would be in front of their doors, chatting. I remember that.”

“I can see them now,” recalls Andrée, “with their aprons, and they would shell peas or beans…”

Michelle remembers how the women would wash laundry. “You’ve seen the Parking des Pêcheurs? There was a lavoir there. I saw women who would leave their house with the thing on their heads and they went to wash their linen there.”

“Not my grandmother,” says Andrée, “because we had the bassine on the terrace.”

“Well, Claudie, with her sister, who are roughly my age, they would go there,” Michelle responds.

Andrée adds, “Not so long ago, some people still didn’t have toilets at home, they would still go wash to the washhouse. And there was a lavoir at Sainte Devote church, you know where the stairs go up behind, there were toilets there. They removed them, and there was a washhouse.”

Michelle says she sold her 3-bedroom apartment on Boulevard des Moulins to buy another apartment on the Rock for her son “because I couldn’t see myself living at Palais Miramar. For me, my stronghold is here.”

“My neighbour can see me in my bed,” Andrée, who has one daughter, laughs. “It doesn’t bother me, it’s been like this since I was born. Where I lived before, my neighbour was Madame Augusta,  and when I opened my windows, there she was. ‘Hello Madame Augusta,’ I would say … My grandfather bought the place I now live in 1921, I have the deed. I wanted to leave because I had back pain and I have four floors. But at my age, I couldn’t picture myself moving.”

“I don’t have neighbours opposite,” says Michelle, who has a son and daughter. “I have a view of the mairie. It’s my grandmother’s house and I was raised there, so were my children, and even my grandson. My grandparents used to live near Sainte Devote, at villa Lilly Lou, I think it’s still there. And they sold it to buy here on the Rock, a house with two floors. They bought the second floor first, because the first floor was rented. And I remember that later when they bought the first floor, there were always two apartments. I was raised in one of the apartments with my grandparents.”

Andrée, with Michelle, in front of the Palace statue she used to climb as a child.

Living With Lockdown

During the first lockdown, the women say they only did what was authorized, like went out to do shopping or a morning walk in front of the Carabiniers or around the garden and then home.

Andrée admits, “Confinement didn’t bother me the first time.”

“I have a terrace with the sun, I have a view on the mountain … there is worse,” Michelle says. “We are very privileged in Monaco. Even if things have changed, we are privileged, really.”

“You know,” says Andrée, “you have to be born in Monaco-Ville, because there are a lot of people from Monaco who tell you they would never live here. I can’t leave.”

“Things never change here, and never will,” says Michelle. “Except that they repaired houses but otherwise, you can’t touch Monaco-Ville. When we look at the old photos, it was a bit old-fashioned. Now, when you look, it’s all perfect. It’s all redone.”

Michelle adds, “Everybody dreams about coming to Monaco. It’s the only place where you can go out with your jewellery and not worry about your purse. Let me tell you something. We are all happy, even those who complain, in Monaco, everyone is happy. And everyone would like to live there. Aren’t I right?”

Andrée nods in complete agreement. “If you only knew how I hear from friends because we are less locked-down than in France.I don’t know, it seems that people are jealous,” says Andrée. “There is good and there is bad, it’s a bit like life.”

“I can’t stand when people criticise Monaco. I can’t stand it,” admits Michelle.

National Day

“The fête nationale in Monaco is something close to our heart,” says Andrée. “Every time we come to the square, there is a party. I was born on the Rock, really, and I’ve never seen this before.”

Michelle agrees. “We come to the square with a flag, we wait until the Princely couple stands at the window. This year it’s sad because it won’t happen. There will be a speech on television. They are doing the Te Deum but with distancing and that’s all. For the Prince’s Day, everything has been cancelled.”

Typically, in the days leading up to the National Day in Monaco, which has been on November 19 since 1952, there are rehearsals for the parade in the Place du Palais and the ambience is festive. As we sit near the Place du Palais two days before the big event, there is little activity. This year, there will be no military parade or symbolic wave from the window by the prince and his family. Mass at the Cathedral and the ceremony in the Cour d’Honneur will be broadcast live on Monaco Info.

“Every year, the Princely couple would stand at the window, sometime’s the whole family even,” Michelle points out.

“It was a family holiday,” says Andrée. There were two different days, on Wednesday and Thursday.”

“Back in our children’s time, they would have all the games at Place du Palais. There were things for children all day long.” Michelle says warmly.

I ask the ladies if they saw Prince Albert as a child at the window, and they admit seeing all three young siblings – Caroline, Albert and Stephanie.

Michelle recalls the birth of Princess Caroline. “I was at school and I must have been in 6th grade. I remember, with the teacher, there were cannons fired.”

“… to know if it was a boy or a girl,” Andrée chimes in.

“And then, after the cannon shots,” Michelle relives, “we all left school and came here to the square with flags, shouting. It really came from our hearts. We were kids.”

Andrée and Michelle say that before Princess Grace, “Monaco was not much.” For Michelle, “Grace is the one who brought about the renewal of Monaco that led to making Monaco known all around the world. The whole world was invited to Monaco. There were parties, there were galas, and it was sumptuous. Sumptuous. Even now, it’s not the same anymore. It’s not the same thing, it was a different era.”

Andrée adds, “At the time there was Le Bal de la Rose at the palace or on the square … we would see all the artists pass by, I saw Charles Aznavour.”

“In the morning, we would always see Princess Grace bring her children to school,” Michelle reveals. “We would meet them in the streets. One day, I was walking down the ramp and there came the Princess, such simplicity. She had a small scarf, flat shoes. You remember Andrée?”

“Yes,” Andrée replies. “We would often see them. I also remember her with Stephanie, and their dog, the little poodle.”

“We had the most glamorous period of Monaco,” Michelle says. “We were very lucky because we had a time, I think, no one will have again. It was the time of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. It was magic.”

Words cannot express my gratitude to Andrée and Michelle, two characterful ladies who provided a rare glimpse into a very private world in honour of National Day. They only removed their masks for photos.

I wish I could organise a Rediscover Monaco-Ville day to encourage Monaco residents to explore and support the old town, to eat at the restaurants and buy some gifts and souvenirs for a Very Monaco Christmas. But alas, I cannot. So I will continue to share stories of real people and maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference together.

International Day of the Girl: Sports Edition

On Saturday, October 9, California became the first state in the U.S. to require large retailers to tackle gender inequality marketing.

In addition to sections for boys and girls, stores of 500 or more employees will have to display a separate and “reasonable section” of toys and childcare items related to in a gender-neutral way or face a first-time fine of $250 ($500 for repeat offences). The Assembly Bill 1084 impacts toys, children’s items related to sleep, relaxation, feeding, teething or sucking but falls short of clothing.

Democrat Evan Low, who co-authored the law, said “Traditionally children’s toys and products have been categorised by a child’s gender. In retail this has led to the proliferation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics-geared toys in a ‘boys’ section and toys that direct girls to pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life. The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking.”

Then, on International Day of the Girl on Monday, October 11, LEGO released a press statement saying the toy company will remove “for girls” and “for boys” labels to ensure that “children’s creative ambitions — both now in the future — are not limited by gender stereotypes”.

For Vibeke Thomsen, Monaco’s champion of gender equality and founder of the non-profit association SheCanHeCan, this is encouraging news but there is still “so much to be done”.

To mark the 10th edition of the UN’s International Day of the Girl, SheCanHeCan launched its first series of female footballer collector cards.  “This year we wanted to focus on women in sport and it was so apparent that one of the most popular sports in the world is wholly dominated by men but that the best footballers in the world are also women,” Vibeke explains. “This is a way of highlighting the inequality, challenging the current situation and encouraging more girls to continue or take up sports such as football.”

The limited-edition packs of 24 collector cards (€10) in French feature 24 of the 100 best ranked international female football players. “Even though research has shown that playing football increases self-confidence in girls. children do not value female football as much as male football, which is reflected through a lower participation in this sport,” she shares.

“There has been progress over the years when it comes to awareness of the many challenges faced by girls worldwide, like a strong focus on getting girls to school and including women in the digital revolution,” Vibeke reflects.

“We have also advanced in talking about violence against women but it is still a very real problem. Despite the few who get highlighted in the media – usually white, attractive young women like, for example, Brit Sarah Everard but rarely about less privileged minority women – most violence against women goes unreported and mostly unpunished.”

Her tone is less upbeat when is come to the abortion “heartbeat bill” in Texas. “Attacking basic rights to healthcare is rarely about protecting unborn life, but rather about controlling and exerting power over girls’ and women’s bodies. Such laws won’t stop abortions, it will just increase unsafe abortions, putting more women at risk.” 

On a lighter note, Vibeke shares one encouraging story at a local level. “I know most people cringe when I talk about periods and our Red Box Project Monaco but we are working to break that taboo. This makes me smile every time.”

To order collector cards, send an email to info@shecanhecan.org. Delivery in Monaco is free and there is a special promo this week – 3 packs for €20. Proceeds go towards SheCanHeCan International Day of the Girl projects and “hopefully to print more such cards in the future”.

Monaco residents launch World Cleanup Day initiatives

It was in 2008 that World Cleanup Day began when 50,000 people in Estonia came together over five hours to clean up their country. Today, the movement counts 50 million volunteers – from citizens to business to government – in some 180 participating countries.

The event is organised by Let’s Do It World (LDIW) who appoint a leader or leaders in the capacity of volunteers, “from all walks of life – strong women defying societal boundaries, environmentalists fighting for a better tomorrow, organisations uniting concerned citizens.”

LDIW relies on five principals: cooperation with the public sector, corporations and civil society who believe that waste does not belong in nature; Positivity in looking for solutions for “trash blindness” instead of pointing fingers; Leadership and empowering a new generation of leaders that aims to create a waste-free world; Technology by adding smart tech and engineering ingenuity to motivated volunteer power; and Fun in mobilising millions of people around the world to clean their communities and have fun while doing.

This year’s World Cleanup Day falls on Saturday, September 18, and the Tuiga crew from the Monaco Yacht Club is responding to challenge. “As passionate sailors, we want to keep our seas as clean as possible,” says Tuiga member Irina Peterson (above). “This is an opportunity to participate and to raise awareness of the problem of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, one of the most polluted seas in the world. Every waste that is not properly disposed of and recycled will end up in the sea.”

Through her association Ocean Amazon, Irina has initiated a 30-minute cleanup with participants of Les Voiles d’Antibes, which will take place at Port Vauban, Zone 2, at 6 pm on Saturday. The sailing event for Traditional Yachts and Metric Classes brings together some 75 boats with more than 700 crew members and 100 volunteers and president Joannon Yann is in full support of the cleanup.

“This will also be a chance to honour the memory of Kate Powers, an extraordinary eco-warrior who sadly passed away recently,” entrepreneur Irina shares. “She was deeply committed to the protection of the oceans and the fight against waste pollution. Her legacy will live on through actions like this.”

Also on Saturday, The Animal Fund (TAF) will be holding a beach cleanup in Villefranche-sur-Mer. “Come with your paddle, kayak, snorkel or diving gear to help clean up the sea or come along help us to clean up the beach,” says TAF founder and Monaco resident Berit Legrand (pictured below right).

Rubbish bags and gloves will be provided and refreshments provided by partner Blue Coast afterwards. Meeting point: 9 am at the parking lot at the end of beach Marinières.

Legrand launched TAF in 2015. “It is important that we are aware of how our habits impact the ecosystem and how we can prevent further damage and danger to the ocean,” she explains. “Every minute a truck full of plastic enters the ocean and it takes thousands of years to break down. Plastic contains toxic compounds and pollutants that pose a serious threat to marine life and us and more than 700 marine species are in danger of extinction because of our plastic consumption.”

Photos: TAF Facebook and Irina Peterson Facebook.

Walter Raymond

The death of Walter Raymond, 72, has brought forth so many emotions. For me, Larry Wallenstein made a comment on Facebook that best expressed Father Walter’s impact on our lives: “You believed in us and we believe in you.”

Walter Raymond was born and raised in Sacramento, California. “As a boy I never thought I’d leave,” he told the Riviera Reporter in January 2009. “I loved the weather, I loved the lifestyle. After college I moved to Canada and later realised I was eligible for the draft. Like a lot of my contemporaries, I didn’t agree with the war so I stayed on in Canada. I’d had a great welcome. I liked the people and the country so it became my home.”

Father Walter was raised a Roman Catholic and attended mass most days until he was about 18. “Then for some years I drifted away from the Church almost entirely. These were the Sixties, remember, and I got quite heavily into what they liked to call the alternative culture.”

It was during his time in Canada (he first moved to Toronto) that he came to realise he had spiritual needs and gradually became active within the Anglican Church. “To cut a long story short I was ordained in 1992, served in a parish and as a school chaplain; ten years ago I was made Dean of Quebec. But I wasn’t surrounded by canons and assistant clergy. It was just me.”

A bilingual Father Walter “loved Quebec City” and his congregation reflected a community that had become much more diverse with French-speaking incomers from Africa and Asia. As a priest in Canada Walter Raymond became a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. “It’s what we call a dispersed community and was founded in Cambridge in 1913. Put simply, it’s a worldwide group of Anglican men, mainly priests, who follow a simple rule and pray for each other daily as well as meeting regularly, usually on a regional basis. It’s a source of spiritual support and a great help.”

He took over at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Monaco in January 2009. “When I saw the job in Monaco advertised on the internet I decided the time might be right to make a move. I applied, was interviewed and eventually selected. I was attracted by a new challenge, the idea of working in another bilingual environment … and by the weather. After a certain age those Quebec winters begin to wear you down.”

When he arrived in Monaco, he made it clear he was in for “the long haul” and wanted the church “to develop as an active social centre for local residents and that includes the younger people. Growing up in this kind of wealthy environment can be a difficult, even a perilous, experience. I’d like to help them come to terms with that. Again, wealth and worldly success are in no way bad in themselves but there is another dimension in life which can’t be neglected. A lot of rich men do get through the eye of the needle, you know, even if some of them need a little help to do so.” 

He touched so many of our lives and became such a special part of the community. For many years, I only knew Walter by email through the Riviera Reporter as he would communicate Christmas and Easter events to the magazine. When we finally met, I was so impressed by his presence and quickly understood why he had a loyal fanbase at St Paul’s. Outside of the church, you never knew where you would run into his smiling face – American Thanksgiving at the Hotel Hermitage, the Amber Lounge Formula One Fashion Show or at an AS Monaco football match. With his beloved Sparky, Father Walter returned in to Quebec in 2017.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec announced Father Walter’s passing yesterday, after his battle with cancer. A funeral mass will be held at the Cathedral, followed by burial at St. Paul’s Church in Saint-Malachie, at a later date.

Monaco rowing club offers summer course for kids at €250

Photo: Aviron-Monaco Facebook

Monaco’s rowing club has announced the return of its popular summer rowing courses and you don’t have to be a member of Société Nautique de Monaco to partake.

Registration is now open to 11- to 15-year-olds (born between 2006 and 2010) who know how to swim. There is both discovery and improvement courses, and at the end of the session, bronze, silver and gold rowing certificates will be awarded.

Training is supervised by a qualified instructor and this year, the number of participants is limited to groups of 10 for each of the four sessions, which will take place July 26-30, August 2-6, August 9-13 and August 16-20.

At only €250 a week, the program runs all day from Monday to Friday and includes lunch at the club’s port-side restaurant on Quai Louis II. There is a special rate for two weeks of training.

Typically, the rowing takes place between Monaco and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and lucky rowers may even spot a dolphin or two.

Spots will go quickly so best to sign up early.