The day I lived like a millionaire...

I check my wallet.

55 Euros.

I check my surroundings.

I am not supposed to be here.

Another rummage in my wallet, in the vain hope that laying there, in amongst the receipts, the business cards, the scraps of paper and the FBI card (now that’s another story) should be a nice tight wad of 100 Euro notes tucked away in a corner. The fact that there isn’t merely confirms this fact.

Yep. I do not belong here.

I look around at my surroundings.

I look at all the beautiful people dressed in even more beautiful, stylish clothes, nonchalantly parading past me looking like they most definitely do belong here.

I look at the expensive cars, slowly driving along the promenade, all built for speeds of much, much faster than the 10km/hour that they are currently being asked to perform by their incredibly handsome and beautiful inhabitants as they growl past (the cars, not the passengers).

I look at the perfect picture-postcard scenery of the harbour with luxury yacht after luxury yacht idly bobbing in the water. Big yachts with even bigger price-tags glinting in the glorious midday sunshine, dazzling the passers-by - had the passers-by not been wearing expensive sunglasses or even acknowledged their presence.

I. Do not. Belong Here.

I look at the humble attire that I am ‘sporting’, feeling more and more conscious about the fact that I am an impostor. What was I thinking when I got dressed this morning?

A short-sleeved shirt (wrinkled) from Next. Swim-shorts courtesy of that most chic of designer shops C&A and a pair of scruffy, rather dirty, Lonsdale trainers. I had even forgotten to bring my Ray Ban (fake) sunglasses with me.

God – what the hell am I doing here? I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. I am that fly in the ointment, the thorn amongst roses. The uninvited party guest.

In the past (and no doubt in the future) I have waxed lyrical about my home town of Ballyclare and rightly so. It’s a grand wee place, nestled in the Six Mile Water Valley of county Antrim.

But at running the risk of coming across as a pretentious wanker – and God how I hate those kinds of people - Ballyclare certainly ain’t no St. Tropez.

Yes folks – I am in St. Tropez.

Fuck me – even just writing these words gives me such a rush and puts a big, dumb smile on my face.

Please let me make myself clear here, lest there be a misunderstanding. I am talking about THE St. Tropez. The small seaside town in the south of France made famous by Brigitte Bardot and home to some of the world’s wealthiest people; the St. Tropez that serves as a playground for the playboys and playgirls and occasionally the Goddess that is Angelina Jolie.

Yes folks – THAT St. Tropez.

Now you’ll understand why I feel like I do not belong.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog I hail from a modest background from small-town Ireland. Nothing wrong with that in itself and indeed I am fiercely proud of it, probably even more so since leaving all those years ago.

But let’s face it – despite as much as I give Ballyclare “The Big Sell”, Ballyclare ain’t no St. Tropez.

So just how did this wee fella from rural Northern Ireland end up in this place, walking in the footsteps of his fellow country man – ex-formula 1 driver, Eddie Irvine? By private jet perhaps? Helicopter? Luxury limousine even?

Err, no – not quite. I hitched a ride with friends.

You may have read elsewhere on this blog that for the duration of the winter, practically every Saturday morning, I spent my time in the wind, rain and snow cheering on my friends’ son play football. Now this wasn’t some act of loyalty or even duty – ok, perhaps the first time it was – but it fast became an important and very enjoyable addition to my social calendar.

It’s a lot of fun cheering on those 7 year olds through victory after victory – they lost one match all season and I wasn’t there (draw your on conclusions).

Of course there is the fact that I love football. You all know that. If there are kids playing in the park, I slow the car down as I pass to watch some of the action. (It is only as I write these words that I realise just how paedophilic I must look when I’m doing so)

But it was more than the football. It was a Social Event. The proud parents all took me under their collective wing and very soon I became one of the gang.

And me without a 7 year old son.

At least not that I know of.

(Sorry - too obvious a joke to ignore, although I wish I had done. Perhaps I’ll remove it from the final version of this tale. After all – my mum has been known to read these words and I don’t want to frighten the life out of her.)

In fact so much have I been taken under their wing that I was invited to their annual holiday in a villa in the south of France.

And so it came to pass that last Friday evening after work I set off with a few of the guys on the 13 hour drive to Lorgues, a small picturesque town located just a short drive from Cannes, Nice, Marseille and of course the aforementioned St. Tropez.

But we’re not here in St. Tropez to merely gawk and stare at all the various displays of decadence that attacks our every sense. Or even to hopefully catch a glimpse of The Goddess that is Angelina Jolie and perhaps convince her to dump that minger Brad Pitt and run off with a rather average looking IT nerd from Northern Ireland. (OK – perhaps I may just have harboured that ulterior motive a little) Oh no – we are here to become part of the jet-set scene. All be it for only a few short hours.

Let me explain.

One of the proud parents works in Antwerp’s thriving diamond industry and as you would expect with someone with such a glamorous job, he has many glamorous contacts and associates. Including a colleague who has a boat in St. Tropez. Sorry – three boats in St. Tropez.

Rather kindly he convinced his colleague to VERY kindly give us all a trip around the French Riviera in one of his boats. A fantastic luxury speedboat.

So there I was, after having excitedly consumed a few over-priced beers on a small café terrace (Stella Artois of course), actually boarding one of those hugely expensive yachts that moments earlier I had been surveying with wide-eyed wonder. As I did so, I hoped the whole world was watching as I tried for all the life of me to behave like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to do.

Upon reflection, I’m not sure that I carried it off. Perhaps it was the fact that I was giggling like a little school girl as I boarded. Or perhaps it was the fact that I immediately went below deck to change into my Northern Ireland football strip, grab my Northern Ireland flag and pose for a photo, grinning like a lunatic, hoping that my picture will be published in the website

And this before we’d even set off.

Yes, the air of nonchalance that I had so hoped to exude from every pore deserted me the moment I stepped on the boat. The fantastic, luxurious speedboat that spends its life moored at St. Tropez harbour.

And then when our captain gunned the engine as we left the safety of the harbour and headed out to the open sea I thought I was going to spontaneously combust out of sheer delight and pleasure at the whole experience.

The wind blowing furiously in my hair as we skipped and bounced along the sea’s surface, tasting the saltwater as it sprayed up around us, the glorious sun beating down on us from above, surrounded by other excessively luxurious yachts, overlooked by even more excessively luxurious properties dotted around the scenic coastline is a memory I will take to my grave.

It truly was a magical moment.

Just because I like to write does not make me a good writer and I’m having trouble finding the words to describe exactly how I felt yesterday afternoon on that boat. But believe me, I have rarely felt happier with my lot in life. It was quite simply one of the most amazing things I have ever had the very, very, extremely good fortune to experience.

I write these words not to show off or boast and I certainly hope that I don’t sound like that pretentious wanker that I so hate but folks it was a once in a lifetime experience that I just had to share with you all.

Thanks for listening.


Jenny Okanagan said…
Go west, young man! Western Canada, that is...
I checked out some of the photos on the website you mentioned and the farthest west location they had was Calgary.
You could break new ground here!
(Lovely piece, btw.)