Amazing is an over-used word but I'm going to use it lavishly because it's too much of an effort to hunt for alternatives and I have an excuse: bunged up sinuses knocked out my cognitive faculties since I got back from France and writing a blog post, let alone thinking of one, has been about as feasible as climbing Everest. But here I am now so it must mean that the wool filling my head is starting to unravel and will, I hope, evaporate if I continue to inhale menthol-infused steam.
Everything was amazing from the start of my privileged journey on Eurostar in a Premier class seat, breakfast served by solicitous attendants, and at the Gare du Nord my name was on a card held up by a chauffeur who took me to Deauville, a two and a half hour drive from Paris, without my having had to lift a finger or spend a single Euro just because I was one of the invited speakers at the Women's Forum. I was awed by the mind-blowing logistics of organising such an event, involving 207 speakers and 1200 participants from 70 countries, 600 organisations, 143 journalists, and much more. Amazingly, it all ran like Swiss clockwork with never a hitch, at least not visibly.
My hotel was at the top of a hill, on a vast golf course overlooking the town - that pale blue strip in the distance is the ocean. Below is the view from the window of my room and below that, moi-même in the mirror on the first night, ready to go out to dinner (flat golden shoes) to meet the organisers. The dinner was at another luxury hotel where the company and the food were....amazing. Normandy is known for its gastronomic delights but don't ask me what I ate, or drank, because I don't remember except that it was all super-delicious and frequently timbale-shaped.
At first I wondered if I'd have to make a long trek down from the hotel every day to Le CID - Centre International de Deauville - where the Forum was held, but I soon realised that all possible contingencies had been taken care of: a fleet of navettes (coaches) appeared at regular intervals to transport participants to and from the venue. So much was going on during the three days of the Forum's duration that I saw more of Le Cid's interior than I ever saw of Deauville but in the few glimpses I had of the town, it seemed to me like a designer film set, all posh boutiques, hotels and shuttered second homes, deserted except for weekends and holidays when the well-heeled from Paris and elsewhere roll in to play at casino, race-course, golf or yacht.
The nostalgic old-world, old-money ambiance surviving in a hard-edged new world was summed up when a well-dressed elderly gentleman hobbling with his cane down a shiny main street came up to me and said apologetically: Pardon madame, quel jour est aujourd'hui? (excuse me madam, what day is today?) It wasn't a chat-up line and he was perfectly sober and when I replied, he thanked me politely and hobbled elegantly away.
There couldn't have been a more vivid contrast between that tiny melancholy incident and the forward-facing, high-powered, high-achieving, high-heeled goings-on at the Women's Global Forum 2013: compete, cooperate, create. There's no way I can give an adequate report of the event or do justice to the myriad praiseworthy projects happening, or about to happen, in many countries thanks to enterprising, inventive, energetic, courageous and clever women world-wide and to organisations and individuals who support them. It seemed odd that I was there at all: moi, an art-worker usually found sitting in her imitation-ivory tower, making things of no discernable use to the real world and occasionally blogging about it: what on earth was I doing in such real-world company? I was very happy to be there but wandered around in a daze, not sure where to focus my attention. Most interesting to me were the conversations I had with some of the fascinating women I met. The Creativity and Aging session (the reason I was invited) was probably the least interesting part of the Forum, in my opinion. But I'll write about that in the next post.
One thing I did was to take photographs and, looking at them when I returned home, I see that visual content almost always holds my attention more than the verbal. The images I gathered and remember from this experience will, I'm sure, serve me for paintings or other media. I share some of them below. More words and pictures tomorrow.
Heels and mobiles at the Forum
Russian-themed party given by Cartier at Deauville casino in honour of the Russian delegation
Cooking Boeuf Stroganoff
Serious Russians cooking
Blue dress, red lighting
Listening to Russian musicians
In a Russian sled
Busy legs, shiny surfaces