‘I am presently writing a history of the world as it was back in the year
1847. I actually addressed the friends of the PGIL on this peculiar
subject in 2010. And that was the crux of what I was writing during my
four wonderful weeks in Monaco in the sun-drenched autumn of 2011.’ – Turtle Bunbury, Writer-in-Residence 2011
Random Strolls & Black 29
Every time I walked back to the apartment, I went a different way. I’d learnt that it doesn’t matter which way you go in Monte Carlo. You’ll still get there. So long as you know the approximate location of the place you are heading to, all you need to do is fasten onto an angle and walk with dogged persistence in that direction. You may have to walk through a tunnel or a shopping mall, or whoosh up a cliff encased in a metal box, or clamber up a thousand steps. But you will get there.
Apart from once when I found myself face to face with an elderly lady in a pinstriped suit who was filling a bright red kettle. She smiled, even as her eyelashes fluttered wearily. I was evidently not the first to spin off piste and wander into her kitchen.
There is a profound joy to walking in Monaco. My preferred commute from
my quarters in Beausoleil to the Princess Grace Irish Library took me
past the Casino de Monte Carlo, down the hill towards Eglise St. Devote,
then westwards around the bay to the ancient steps running up from Fort
Antoine. And then, ruddy-cheeked and wet-kneed, I would pile into the
Princess Grace Irish Library and do my best to distract fair Judith,
gentle Geraldine, kindly Síle and courtly Claudine from whatever tasks
they otherwise engaged in.
I am presently writing a history of the world as it was back in the year 1847. I actually addressed the friends of the PGIL on this peculiar subject in 2010. And that was the crux of what I was writing during my four wonderful weeks in Monaco in the sun-drenched autumn of 2011.
I think it important that my kind patrons at the Ireland Fund understand just how far their generous bursaries can sometimes. In one particularly eventful stretch, I managed to elope with a Jesuit priest across Argentina, climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza with Werner Siemens, started and finished the Swiss Civil War, killed Mendessohn, slept with a Swedish soprano, enjoyed a circus for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, beheaded a Kazaki Sultan and established a jewellery shop in Paris in the name of Louis-Francois Cartier.
On my final night I was reflectively rambling through the streets of Monte Carlo when I came to a halt by a fountain. I about turned and found my gaze cascading over a series of further fountains towards a massive building that shone bright and golden in the dark blue sky.
And lo it occurred to me that despite all the time I had spent in Monaco, I had yet to visit the Casino de Monte Carlo. I recalled a text message from my brother-in-law requesting me to place €10 on black 29 for him.
I returned to my apartment, donned a jacket and tie and ambled on down, a solitary but crisp €100 note secreted in my wallet. Aside from a drunken soiree in Aberdeen, I had never been to a Casino before and I was suitably wary about my immediate future. I figured I’d play Roulette and play it safe, €10 on red, €10 on evens, that sort of thing.
There was only one Roulette table in operation when I arrived and not a seat to be had. The silver ball was already hop-skipping around the colours. And I swear on all the Gods that have been and gone that as I watched, it popped into black 29.
So that tripped me up because I thought ah, well, black 29 ain’t going to show up again tonight. So I went to watch some Blackjack for a while.
Then I noted a second Roulette table opening up. I cruised over, waving my €100 bill at the croupier, feeling kind of cool. He looked at my banknote as if it were a soiled nappy and counselled me that it was €200 minimum on his table. While I was recovering my composure, he span the wheel. And the darned ball popped into black 29. I have no reason to kid you, and I assure you I kid you not.
I ended up watching an Italian guy who looked like me, and his pretty moll, as they blew €100 on the Blackjack, €25 a round. They probably got 12 rounds out of it all told, winning and losing, hugging and shrieking, moaning and frowning, before they realized their 100 bucks was gone and they stumbled off a little dazed.
And I reckoned that’s exactly what would happen to me. So I returned to my apartment and as I swirled a nightcap to celebrate my final night in Monaco, I figured I was doing pretty well because not only had I enjoyed a formidable month in the sun, and written a massive chunk of my book, but I still had a crisp €100 note in my wallet.