Sunday 22 June 2008

Back in Blighty

I am back, and Dieppe was as restorative as ever - though making the journey by rail is a pretty gruelling business. Eurostar is fine, but crossing Paris always grim, whether by Metro - worse signage than the London Underground - or by taxi, through the impossible traffic. On the way out, in fact, things turned positively English when the train for Rouen (to connect for Dieppe) sat endlessly in the station, with occasional announcements hinting at mysterious technical faults. The result was a case of rater la correspondence, and a late, hot and bedraggled arrival in Dieppe. All this to avoid staying overnight in grisly Newhaven and getting up ridiculously early for the only practicable ferry of the day. Oh for the old days, when the ferries were frequent and sailed right into town. To disembark, cross the street and walk straight into a restaurant for lunch is now a long-lost pleasure...
However, Dieppe retains its peculiar charm - the shades of Sickert and Wilde, Ginner and Blanche and all the company of les Anglais from the port's heyday can still be faintly discerned; the air is at once bracing and soporific, in the best seaside manner; and the light is quietly extraordinary - no wonder the place was so popular with painters. And there is enough there to keep the flaneur pleasantly stimulated. The food - especially, of course, sea food - is superb, though I must report that one of the town's best restaurants, La Melie, has gone, and there are worrying signs of others closing down. We Anglais must renew our efforts to keep Dieppe thriving.
Anyway, here I am, back again, and the world seems much as it was when I left it. Funny how we always expect significant things to have happened in our absence - and imagine we've been away for ages when it's only a few days. Time stretches on holiday, the more so for changes of location. And the mind goes fuzzy and disengaged, which is probably the best way for a mind to be. But it won't last. One more day and NigeCorp reclaims me.
Or not. An email in my inbox from a charming gentleman in China called Mr Yao Guoping informs me that he can, with a stroke of the pen, secure me a handsome share in an abandoned sum of US $20 million he's come across. How very kind of him to think of me. I might never need to work again.


  1. Welcome back, Nige. Lots of things have happened since you were away but we're all sworn to secrecy and can't tell you what you missed.

  2. Good to have you back Nige, Dieppe sounds like a rejuvenatory place, hope the exchange rate wasn't painfull.
    You didn't miss much, although yeterday I filled the wive's car up plus two ten litre jerrycans, for misc garden kit, cost £98, my first car in 1959 was £100, things can only get ?. here's a fitting method of transport for your Chinese financial adviser.

  3. Bienvenue, Nigel! My garden is overrun with butterflies and I wish you could see them....

  4. Did Dieppe have painters like Deauville Nige, or am I more confused than usual. The Orientalism exhibition at the Tate is very good- a wonderful Reynolds, a couple of fine Wilkies, a lovely Laurence view of a souk, and a man called Mueller's stunning picture of a carpet market that is like a Piranesi with the light let in.....all nice and manageable too not like one of those mega shows which weary the soles.

  5. Ah it's (almost) good to be back... The exchange rate is indeed harsh, Malty - breath-takingly so at St Pancras, as I discovered when I realised I'd got about 270 euros for £230. In the Eurostar buffet they seem to be rating the Euro at well under 70p, which seems fair to me.
    Susan, I am envious - very little butterfly action in Dieppe this time, truly a bad year.
    Dieppe was on every painter's itinerary, Captain, through most of the 19th century and up to the 1st war. Sickert was the best of those who actually settled there (shacked up with a fishwife from le Pollet), and the home-grown Anglophile Jacques-Emile Blanche (he has some portraits in the NPG) was a superb painter, quite underrated. Charles Ginner's painting of Dieppe harbour at night was one of the highlights of the Tate's Camden Town exhib. I must get to see those orientalists...