CANNES OF WORMS
I read Charlotte Edwardes’ Diary (Spectator 27 May) concerning her
experiences with the French authorities following a mugging in Cannes with
a sinking feeling and growing recognition. Three weekends ago, a friend
and I went for a long weekend to Cannes. The weather being bad, we escaped
the coast to base ourselves in the ancient university town of Aix en
Provence. We parked our hire car in a busy main road having safely secured
all our valuables out of sight in the boot. Forty minutes later, we
returned to our car having found rooms and drove to the hotel. We opened
the boot. It was empty.
Entering the hotel reception, sans luggage (and, in my case, sans trousers
and passport – I just had a pair of shorts to my name) we were given
directions to the Police Nationale. I had little hope of recovering the
stolen goods, but at least I could quickly file a report for insurance
purposes. Or so I thought. The police station had been built in the
sixties and was particularly uninviting. A large sign proclaimed "Defence
de Fumer" while a heavily armed but shabby gendarme sucked on a particularly
rancid local brand of cigarette. We went to the main desk to report the
crime. A police officer suffering from terminal acne who looked 16 years
of age and about 5 foot 4 inches tall gesticulated at a bench and said "Deux
Minutes". We joined a group of disgruntled American and German tourists
all of whom had had their hire cars broken into and all of whom had been
waiting for more than ‘deux minutes’.
After an hour of sitting there we enquired again and were told to sit down.
"Deux minutes". Two women police officers then arrived and sat at another
desk. After a few minutes of uncertainty, no one had approached us, a
scramble then ensued to be first on the list they seemed to be compiling.
We were asked why we wanted to see a detective. We told them we had had
all our luggage stolen. They asked what we expected the Police Nationale
to do about it. After three hours and twenty minutes we got to make our
report. I collected a form which may enable me to claim back on the
insurance but, we were assured, offered no hope whatsoever of finding our
My friend who is well travelled, has stood for the European Parliament and
is something of a Francophile said "It was like dealing with officialdom in
a third-world country". For once on a European issue, I was able to
agree with him.