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I’ve one of the early arrivals for this year’s TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes.
As always, we’ve set up The Moodie Report’s Interim French Riviera Bureau in our apartment just opposite the Palais (look out for our blue banner adorning the balcony) and are getting ready for a big week. Last night I enjoyed the wonderful company of Colm and Breeda McLoughlin from Dubai Duty Free, the perfect relaxation before a hectic few days.
Given the tragic floods of a couple of weeks ago, it’s remarkable that this show is even taking place, and immense credit must go to all concerned at the Palais (and indeed in the city) for somehow getting things ready on time. TFWA and their partners have simply worked miracles in very difficult circumstances. Bravo.
Despite rumours of wi-fi difficulties and ATMs not working, I’m happy to report that life here is very much ‘business as usual’. Our wi-fi is perfect and life is simply carrying on.
Perhaps there will be some frustrations this week, I don’t know. But they don’t even matter. And in that context it’s worth saying from the outset that no-one who is coming to Cannes for the show should forget that 19 people in this region lost their lives earlier this month due to the floods. Homes and businesses were wrecked. Let’s be thankful for what we have this week and think of those who lost loved ones, and/or whose properties and livelihoods were badly affected.
On a much lighter note, there’s a certain air of déjà vu this week for me. As many readers will know, the Rugby World Cup is taking place in the UK and it’s now down to the quarter-finals stage. This weekend will see four mighty showdowns: Wales v South Africa; Scotland v Australia; Ireland v Argentina; and the All Blacks (New Zealand) v…. of course, France. Four titanic Northern v Southern hemisphere contests.
We’ve pulled our annual Moodie International Superstars Honorary Invitation Tournament (MIS-HIT) forward to Saturday morning so that everyone can watch the two Saturday games in a central Cannes bar. I fear the evening match, the All Blacks v France, will be a lonely experience for me. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that I am outnumbered by about 73,000 to 1, French v Kiwis, in this city.
Mmmm, plus I reckon just about every ‘neutral’ from the travel retail industry will be cheering for France (even the English! Have you not heard of Waterloo? And Gallipoli? First you sell us down the river by joining the European Union and now this! No wonder we want that Union Jack off our flag.).
Speaking of history, there’s plenty of that too concerning this particular match-up. 1999 saw possibly the greatest Gallic uprising since the French revolution. The occasion was the semi-final of the World Cup. The teams? You guessed it. All Blacks v France.
Seven minutes into the second half the match was going entirely to script. The All Blacks led by 24-10, largely thanks to their man mountain winger Jonah Lomu (below) who was proving unstoppable, passing the French defence as if being waved through Parisian rush-hour traffic by a friendly gendarme. Then all hell (heaven if you were a French supporter) broke loose. In a few breathless minutes the French rose up from nowhere, scoring tries, drop goals and penalties with impunity, racing to a 43-24 lead in front of an astonished Twickenham crowd and a shell-shocked opposition. Game over. I was depressed for weeks after.
In 2007 it happened again. This time in the quarter-finals at Cardiff (same stage, same ground, same teams as this weekend). It still pains me to write this but once again the heavily unfancied French (aided and abetted by a notorious Mr Magoo impersonator called Wayne Barnes) played out of their collective skins, winning a thriller by 18-16. While one nation celebrated wildly on the streets, another went into symbolic mourning, the collective mood as black as their team’s outfits. I cried like a baby.
Four years later, this time in the World Cup final in Auckland, New Zealand, they were at it again. Yes the All Blacks once again hot favourites, the French dismissed as no-hopers. What happened? That’s right, another damned French uprising. The All Blacks somehow held on to win 8-7 though all of France and most of the (allegedly) neutral world thought that this time it was Les Bleus who had been robbed by the referee (for the record I thought he was outstanding…)
And so, on Sunday evening, it happens all over again. I am preparing to cancel all my appointments if we lose, snub any of the 73,000 joyous French people I might meet. I shall hide in my apartment overlooking the show. rising from my misery bed only to take occasional sustenance. It couldn’t happen again, could it? Well… answer me… could it?