I am in Antibes and I’m a bit lost as the GPS on my phone keeps packing up. Furthermore, there is something of a fracas on the street I’m heading down. A red pompier truck has parked itself squarely in the roadway, blue lights flashing, traffic is backed up and people are stepping out of their cars in aggressive mood. Is there a fire? As I draw near, I can see that on the rear window of the pompier truck there is a big sign: “Grève”. No sign of the striking
pompier driver who has simply abandoned his light-winking vehicle in the middle of a major thoroughfare. Clearly this is a mobile traffic impediment designed to infuriate the citizens of Antibes and to draw attention to the legitimate claims of the local firefighters. Only in France. The French se manifestent better than almost any other nation as the gilets jaunes have proved.
I take a detour and, reverting to analogue methods of getting from A to B, ask a passer-by if she knows where venue Pasteur is. It turns out I’m now actually on Avenue Pasteur. I head off down the street, looking for the Résidence des Fleurs.
The Avenue Pasteur is an unremarkable street a couple of blocks back from Antibes’ port. The Résidence des Fleurs, a large apartment building, was where Graham Greene lived for the last twenty-five years of his life. I never met Greene but I know quite a few people who did. A friend of mine interviewed him in his apartment: one bedroom, bamboo furniture, a living room with two walls lined with bookshelves, a television set, a distant view of the
masts of the yachts in the marina. Greene was sixty-two when he moved in here and, I suppose, at the height of his renown. It appeared to be a curious choice – I know he was in flight from the Inland Revenue – but to downsize so
radically seemed strange, almost perverse, given his fame, given the money he must have been earning. There were surely nicer places to hole up.