David and I have a second home in Nice and this past year we spent the winter there and then returned at the end of May for a five-week visit. In other words, we just missed the terror attack on Bastille Day by a couple of weeks. From our home in Ely, Cambridgeshire we’ve been watching the news unfold in horror through television and social media and this morning hearing the rising death-toll figures on radio. Part of me wishes I had a private jet to fly me there right now to be with French neighbours and ex-pat friends at a time like this. But another part of me is breathing an uncomfortable sigh of relief. Had we been in Nice, it’s likely we would have been on the Promenade watching the fireworks or listening to the live bands. Our little apartment there is some 100 meters from the famous seaside thoruoghfare, though we’re away from the city centre, some two miles from where the attack occurred. While I’m thinking about the dead and injured, many – if not all – could be strangers to me, I’m also thinking about our friends who have used our apartment over the years – I’m grateful none of them were there.
We were in Nice in November of last year when Paris was attacked. Here’s an excerpt from my journal the following day:
“After breakfast, we decided to walk into the centre of town – a health walk with the aim of picking up a British newspaper along the way, as we normally do on a Saturday. On the Promenade des Anglais we saw a few French flags that would normally not be there. The road was unusually quiet without the Saturday morning traffic we had grown used to. I guessed that most people were inside watching television or in the halls of apartment buildings talking to neighbours, sharing the experience of shock and worry – was it safe here in Nice?”
The answer to that question is now “no.” I’m feeling sadness and anger. This beautiful city, which we have made our second home, has been brutalised and turned into a place of fear and confusion.