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.

Child Care Monaco launches appeal to help supply food kits in Covid devastated India

While Covid figures in Monaco and France are falling as more of the population gets vaccinated — 36.33% in Monaco and 30% in the Alpes-Maritimes have had at least one injection — the situation in India is heart-wrenching. On Wednesday May 5, the country set a new record with 412,000 new cases and nearly 4,000 deaths (3,980) in 24 hours.

Monaco resident Martine Ackermann, founder of Child CARE Monaco which offers education to underprivileged children in India, has been personally moved by the situation and describes it as “catastrophic.”

Martine shares, “I have been going to India for over 20 years, it is my land of wisdom. I have only met wonderful people there and I feel I have to help them … this is my second country, my second family.

“With the new virus, people are afraid to leave home. Hospitals are saturated and there is not enough oxygen for everyone. So those with Covid are dying from lack of oxygen and are immediately burned one by one.

“A 38-year-old friend of mine who helped me distribute food to the poorest in his neighbourhood has just committed suicide. He could no longer run his business or pay his bills.”

Martine says a dad of another family she knows is a tuk tuk driver and doesn’t have any tourist clients. “They have nothing to eat and tell me it’s getting harder and harder to get by. I send them food parcels that they then share with the whole neighbourhood. They are united even in famine.”

Lockdown has made the situation worse because people cannot go out and look for food. “Our team on site has authorisation to go to very poor neighbourhoods to distribute survival kits. They take people’s temperatures and teach them how to wear masks and wash their hands properly,” she explains.

Since setting up in 2012, Martine’s association has opened a girls’ school in the Udaipur region. The SNEH school provides education, food, basic healthcare, school uniforms — and, most recently, bicycles — for 110 girls. Across Europe, non-profits like Child Care Monaco have not been able to host fundraisers.

“It’s a blow to everyone,” Martine states. “We cannot leave people in imminent famine. I hear from so many people how much they love India – the colours, temples, culture, yoga, gastronomy, music …  it is time to give back.”

A friend of Martine’s who has an association in a slum in the poorest province of India has reached out to her for help. “Malnourished mothers cannot produce breast milk so their babies are deficient and will not survive. In the streets, pregnant women are losing their babies and old people are dying.”

Child Care Monaco is launching a special appeal for donations to supply food kits for families. Any amount is welcome by cheque or transfer and 100% of the sum goes to a kit and for poor families. See the site for more info.

“I thank everyone for their help and support,” Martine says heartfelt.

Martine Ackermann, founder of Child CARE Monaco.

Historic Grand Prix

Sir Stirling Moss on the 60th anniversary of his 1956 Monaco GP win. Photo: Nancy Heslin

On May 13, 2016, I had the privilege of meeting Formula One legend Sir Stirling Moss, who was being honoured at the Historic Grand Prix in Monaco.

It had been 60 years to the day that the British driver had won the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix for the Officine Alfieri Maserati team. As the 86-year-old sat on the front wheel of car #28 in front of the Rascasse turn, you could see a twinkle in his eye reliving the 3-hour race. (The car, he said, cost him £3,800. “Maybe I should have held on to it.”).

“It is extremely difficult to concentrate for three hours. I’d see the driver behind me, and every lap, I’d say to myself, ‘I’m going to try to do a perfect lap,’ which of course is not possible.”

He added that “from the driver’s point of view, there is not much change at all [in Monaco]. There are so many places you can see the drivers ahead or behind you on the hairpins, so I’d wave at the other drivers to try and make it look like I wasn’t trying too hard while I was actually clenched on the ground.”

Sir Stirling commented on being forced into retirement at the age of 83 but his charm shined through. “Monaco is such an intimate course. Every lap I’d blow a kiss to this woman with the pale pink lipstick … it never went anywhere though …”

Between 1955 and 1961, the late Sir Stirling finished as championship runner-up four times and in third place the other three times. “I would not swap my era for now. I had the pleasure of 600 races because I loved doing it. There’s no pleasure, exhilaration or fun nowadays. Driver input those days was more by the driver.”

Typically held every other year two weeks before the Monaco Grand Prix (except this edition as the 2020 event was cancelled for reasons you are well aware of and the E-Prix is on May 8), this is an open-air museum of legendary cars racing the same F1 circuit. You don’t have to love race cars to appreciate the spirit and energy of the Grand Prix Historique de Monaco weekend.

Much like the nod to Sir Stirling in 2016, this year’s 12th edition celebrates Ferrari’s first Grand Prix victory 70 years ago in 1951 with driver Jose Froilan Gonzalez at Silverstone. Keep an eye out for the many Scuderia F1 sports cars, one dating back to 1929.

By the way, Charles Leclerc is the first Monegasque driver to ever sign a deal with Ferrari and the 23-year-old recently gifted his first season SF90 race car to Prince Albert for HSH’s private car collection museum in Fontvieille. On May 23, Leclerc hopes to become the first native to win the Monaco Grand Prix since Louis Chiron drove a Bugatti to victory in 1931.

To watch the Monaco Historic Grand Prix race live on Sunday April 25:

We Eat Socca Here

Scott Petersen. Photo: Carol Flores

“It’s hard to go wrong when you can walk around the corner and get a perfectly flaky croissant or pain au chocolate for a euro and change,” reflects filmmaker Scott Petersen on his love for France.

Based in Southern California, Scott took French in high school and, for the past several years, has travelled all over the country, with a special interest in sampling local specialties. “As I was researching a trip to Nice, the guidebook mentioned this dish called socca, which sounded great to me. Just before leaving, I met a guy here in LA who was from Nice and he told me I had to try it.”

And so he did. At Chez Pipo. At Chez Thérésa. At René Socca … in fact, Scott was so taken by the old wood-fired brick ovens and the rustic food being served to locals, he figured there had to be a good documentary in there somewhere. “Food tells a fascinating story about history, culture, geography and people. Socca is really known only to people on the Côte d’Azur, I don’t think you can even find it in Paris.”

We Eat Socca Here tells the story of the chickpea-flour crêpe through the lens of the restaurateurs and entrepreneurs who keep the wood-fired flame burning: Steeve Bernardo (Chez Pipo), Stephane Pentolini (René Socca) and Jean-Luc Mekersi (Chez Thérésa). “From its early days in a makeshift food cart serving fishermen to current day restaurants feeding locals and tourists alike from 200-year-old ovens, socca is an indelible part of Nice’s cultural fabric,” the 52-year-old documentary maker enthuses.

Scott produced and directed the award-winning, feature-length documentary Out Of The Loop, which explores Chicago’s underground music scene (Veruca Salt, the Jesus Lizard, and Steve Albini) and, in 2003, he produced, directed and edited Scrabylon, a documentary about the cutthroat world of Scrabble® tournaments. His CV includes TV credits on Antiques Roadshow, Rescue 911 and Unsolved Mysteries.

He also worked in the office of legendary filmmaker John Hughes (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, Uncle Buck). “I’m a bit too young to have worked on Ferris Bueller, but, when I was there as a young adult, it was quite an experience seeing the giant moviemaking process up close.”

Scott’s 9-minute short We Eat Socca Here debuted on Amazon.com on March 30. “For me, it is about sharing a small part of French culture with everyone who loves food,” he reveals. (Even with restaurants in France closed due to Covid, you can still get socca to go.)

“I am hoping the next time I eat in a restaurant here in California that has a wood-fired oven that I can persuade them to add socca to their menu. When that happens, my job will be done,” says Scott Petersen.

Maybe Scott will bring Monaco’s national barbagiuan dish to the big screen next.

Covid Diary In Monaco

March 18, 2020, marked the day when the Great Hibernation began in Monaco. This is when all non-essential business services were ordered by decree to stop operating to contain the spread of Covid-19. And an obeying population in the Principality entered house confinement with stockpiles of flour, ready pasta and booze while the economy settled down for a long spring nap.

One year on, and as France announced its third confinement for 16 departments, including the Alpes-Maritimes, we are still living in a state of pandemonium as Covid continues to rear its ugly head sparing no one who gets in its infectious way. At my request, one Monaco resident in her early fifties who tested Covid positive a few weeks ago, shares a diary of her time in self-isolation. It’s a reminder that no matter how exasperated we have become with the situation, the virus is no joke.

Thursday February 25
I have severe aches and pains all over, like a steamroller ploughing across my body. I put it down to my rheumatism as there is a cloud mass and the humidity rate is at its maximum. It never enters my mind this could be a Covid symptom as I have no fever, cough, or any other warning sign. The pain is unbearable all day so I finally take some paracetamol.

Friday February 26
The pain has eased and as clouds linger over Monaco, I tell myself that it was rheumatism. But today a slight headache starts. Still no fever or other symptoms, so I’ll pay attention when the sun returns to see if I’m still achy.

I start to wear a mask even inside my home and ventilate the house well. As a precaution, I avoid pretty much all contact with the outside, but I am not in quarantine as I haven’t taken a PCR test yet. I’d heard about more notable symptoms like fever, cough, cold, fatigue, respiratory discomfort but I don’t have any of these.

Saturday February 27
My aches have disappeared and everything is back to normal. I am still careful and keep my mask on all day, waiting to see if there is any evolution or any other symptoms popup over the weekend.

Sunday February 28
For my son’s birthday, we keep the celebration limited to immediate family but at a safe distance on my side and no hugs. Still no symptoms, no fever. A very slight cough starts.

Monday, March 1
I feel good, no symptoms, so we visit my parents for lunch to continue the birthday festivities. I tell my folks that I am not going to touch them; I stand far away and keep my mask on at the table as a precaution. We eat lunch with the terrace open to air the room and between each course, I wear my mask.

Tuesday March 2
A mild headache starts, and there are pins and needles in my legs. I feel a little short of breath. Is that a cough? By evening, I realise that I have lost my sense of taste and smell, which immediately sets off the Covid alarm. I am now extremely cautious.

Photo: Stephane Danna/DC

Wednesday March 3
I get a PCR test at 11:30. Obviously, I do not take the bus and wear a FFP2 mask with sanitising gel in my hand. I do my best to avoid everyone and not to touch anything.

I am stressed about getting the nasal swab but when I explain my anxiety at the Espace Léo Ferré Covid Centre in Fontvieille, they put me in the care of a very kind nurse who helps me and, remarkably, whose swab technique didn’t hurt at all. It is fast, orderly, unpleasant but not painful. And I get my results immediately: I am SARS-CoV-2 positive.

I was infected outside of my home but where? My guess is an enclosed private space where I let me guard down in terms of wearing a mask, which I see now I should never have done. You really have no idea who around us is carrying the virus.

The Covid Centre contacts my family and also asks me who I had been in contact with but luckily I had not met any friends or been anywhere. They takes the name and surname of my mother-in-law and my parents, whom I did see and arranges to test my husband and children.

12:30 pm and am back home. I stay isolated in my bedroom without seeing anyone. With a ban on leaving my room except to go to the bathroom, which is next door, I organise myself and try to plan my day. I have my computer, meditation tools, the TV, a stack of books and my phone as company.

Clearly, I can have no contact with my husband or children – not even with the dogs and cats. At night I am woken up by my pets crying outside my bedroom door. They don’t understand why they can’t come in to see me.

In addition to the loss of smell and taste, I have some respiratory discomfort, a massive headache and fatigue, which prevents me from staying awake after 9 pm.

I find myself watching “easy” TV shows that I would otherwise never watch but are a guaranteed distraction. I put myself in the shoes of the elderly who plan their days around their TV programs and meal times … since that’s what will be happening for me over the next few days. My husband and children bring my lunch and dinner to my room without having any contact with me.

For breakfast, given that I get up very early, I quickly go down to the kitchen with my mask and gel at 6 am (to the delight of the dogs and cats but without petting them too much). I drink my coffee and eat my toast with minimal touching and before leaving I put hydroalcoholic gel on everything and return to my room. I keep the windows open – the kitchen is freezing!

When I get back to my room, I am still shivering since everything is open. I continuously ventilate the room to the point of being so cold I wear my pashmina and jacket.

Even if I am not going to do anything, I plan my day, telling myself I’m going to spend a few hours with me. With my computer, I take the opportunity to finish some work I started in November but never had time to finish. I meditate and at least I know that nothing and no one is going to bother me so I’m really in the zone.

I phone my parents and check in with them to see if they are okay after my visit on Monday.

Thursday March 4
Today I still have some difficulty breathing, a slight cough, but no fever or aches, always this huge fatigue. I still plan my day so that I don’t get depressed about being locked up, I am so used to seeing lots of people. Friends send me little notes or call me, it’s really nice not to feel alone. It warms my heart as so many people ask if I need help.

The doctor from the Home Patient Monitoring Centre (Monaco’s Covid Centre) calls every day and asks how I’m doing and reassures me. It lifts my spirits to be able to talk to someone about what I am going through and who gives me advice. I thank the doctor.

I have to admit it is not easy when your family treats you like the plague. The kids absolutely do not want to come near me, which I can obviously understand. But still, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Friday March 5
I’m a stranger in my own home, I haven’t seen my kids since Wednesday. Fortunately, the dogs and cats who come visit me, but it is a strange feeling. I am going meditate with deep breaths even though I am still having have breathing difficulty and a little cough. I have a very bad headache today but still no fever or body aches. I slept badly so I’m even more tired, if that’s possible. Still no taste or smell, I never realised how fundamental these two senses are. Under the doctor’s orders, I will do a smell rehabilitation exercise with essential oils. I was also advised to drink tea with thyme for the cough and respiratory discomfort.

Today I can’t see the point of eating as I have no taste. It’s annoying but tasteless vegetable soups won’t exactly satisfy me, crazy how loss of taste can lead to loss of appetite.

I think of the patients who are in the hospital in intensive care when I have the luxury of staying in my room and I calm down.

More and more, my thoughts drift to the elderly, who are isolated in their rooms and don’t see anyone. I am so lucky to have access to the internet to get away from it all. The day is long and it’s getting to be a bit much. Luckily today I’m going to watch the Buddhist monk and philosopher Mattieu Ricard, this will help my mind.

Saturday March 6
I have my breakfast early in the kitchen, 6 am, like every morning and I make sure to get back to my bedroom quickly before any of my family comes down to the living room. I have a massive headache today and still respiratory discomfort. A short, mild cough.

Like every morning, the doctor from the Covid Centre calls me. I tell him that isolation is starting to take a toll and it’s hard to stay locked up alone in your room with the TV as company with so many unappealing and depressing shows.

At 10:30 am I some sun on my terrace. This tiny moment of freedom really lifts my spirits, what a gift. Then the reality hits that the weekend is just beginning. It’s going to be a long, long day.

I tell myself it’s almost lunch time, followed by the news, followed by doing nothing … what a weekend. My headache is bothering me a bit. I slept badly.

At 1:44 pm, having not bothered to eat lunch (no taste buds, no motivation), I get ready for an hour of meditation in bed. I will travel the streets of Jaipur. And since there is a something positive in everything … my meditating will benefit from my fasting.

At 5 pm, I finally finish the famous job I started in November, I end the day on a high. I eat, watch TV and sleep, am exhausted. The dogs and cats are again scratching outside the door because they want to come in.

Sunday March 7
I did not sleep well and wake up exhausted with a headache, my legs hurt. Still no smell or taste. Coffee, sandwiches, hello to the dogs … then another day back in the bedroom.

Mentally it is going to be difficult, TV on Sunday is not really exciting. Finally I watch Pawn Stars, the reality show about auction kings in Las Vegas.

It is almost noon. I ask myself what can I do differently so the day doesn’t seem so long? Nothing, it’s hopeless. I organise a family Zoom to tell them I’m bored and we spend an hour talking. Seeing my family on the screen is better than nothing. I also have a birthday Zoom with friends. It’s so great to see everyone, even online.

1 pm is lunchtime and they bring me my meal on a tray, a delicious soup prepared by my husband and a tasty homemade cake.

Today is Fête des grands-mères. I am not a grandmother but I feel like one who can’t leave her room. The day chugs along but it has been very hard, I have a headache and fall asleep at 7 pm, totally wiped out. I think my sense of smell has slightly come back because I can smell the rose cream on my face.

Monday March 8
International Women’s Day. Have a brilliant day everyone. And to me, too.

Headache still there. My sense of smell has not fully returned. It’s so weird that I can smell my face cream with essential oils but not my coffee.

The Covid Centre checks in, she’s like a friend as this is the second time that I have come across this very kind and caring person. She asks me to again stay in my room today.

Okay, it’s decided: today I’m going tidy-up the room – and then my head. It will take the better part of the morning, making the day go by faster. As I’m cleaning, I realise we have so many useless things in our closets. I imagine it’s the same for the closets in our head.

My family did their second PCR test in 5 days. They are still negative, thanks to social distancing and my isolation.

This afternoon, I decide to prepare my next meditation trip. What if I reflected on beauty? Women’s Day inspires me and a quote by Giorgio Armani comes to mind: “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.” I love this expression.

Tuesday March 9
The day starts badly. I am bored with this persistent headache. I have not regained 100% of my sense of smell and it’s unsettling. My coffee still has no taste. You have to understand, I love this time in the morning when I savour my coffee and its aroma. Even the simplest pleasures have let me down.

My phone alarm reminds me that I have a Zoom work meet at 10 am. Great, my head is bad but at least I’ll re-existing in the world. A little make up, it’s been a while.

By noon, my meeting is over and I’m waiting for my meal tray to be brought to my room. I think about the meeting, it went well and was constructive. One thing bothers me, though. Why would I think for a moment that seeing the world behind a screen would give me the sense of “re-existing”? I have never ceased to exist. I exist! I am beautiful and well in this non-virtual world.

My meal has been served and I am going to do my meditation. I am tired and my head still hurts. Being stuck in your room gives you time to think. Anyway, I’m the kind of person who takes internal and external journeys. 7:30 pm lights out.

Wednesday March 10
5:30 am wake up, shower, flavourless coffee, same old, same old: headache, fatigue. One day turns into another. The doctor from the Covid Centre tells me it’s almost over, as I have no symptoms.

That’s encouraging but the headache refuses to leave and I’ve been locked in my room for a week. My impatience to get out of here is growing. What to do today?

The room is tidy, my work from November is finished, I don’t have the energy to revising my songs for my next class or get out the guitar. Doing nothing is starting to weigh me down. Or rather not moving physically is starting weigh me down. Going out, walking my dogs, breathing the fresh air outside, walking in the mountains. This is what is missing. Existing – breathe, eat, feed your mind, meditate – is not internal.  For me to exist I need to be out there and one with nature, with the universe.

I understand now that my bedroom is my place of rest. In fact, this week has allowed me to do just that, a time just for me, I was pampered for a whole week. I have found the silver lining in having Covid.

Zoom meeting at 5 pm. Headache, reality hits. 7:30 pm and I’m going to sleep.

Thursday March 11
The Covid Centre is going to call soon. I prepare my list as an eager student, I have to get out, even for a little bit, I need to. I have no fever, no body aches, no cough, no more difficulty breathing, my headache is gone. My taste and smell have semi-returned, I can smell my coffee!

I am back! My body and my mind warned me but I didn’t listen. So I was forced me to take a break. Thank you body for this inner journey which will allow me to appreciate other moments in life. Thank you for healing me. Thanks to me for being me.

Not allowed out yet but I have high hopes for tomorrow.

Friday March 12
My coffee this morning is not déjà vu, and in fact, it’s more delicious than before, no longer a ritual but a pleasure. I watch the sunrise, I listen to the birds, life has never ceased to exist, it is amazing how we view things that are most important. How we see ourselves, and others and life.

The doctor at the Covid Centre tells me I can go out. Zero symptoms. Wear a mask and respect social distancing. No shopping or going in closed spaces for me until Sunday. I am going to walk my dogs in the mountains! I am going to breathe deeply! I am healed. I am free.

March 18
Days later and I am still exhausted. Impossible to stay awake for an entire day and am in bed by 8 pm. I sleep soundly till 7 am. I have never have been so tired. I have started walking and exercising again but honestly, with a lot of difficulty still. But I have a life outside my bedroom.

See the government website for more information should someone in your bubble test positive.

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