I’d somehow thought that bar-staff would write down multiple orders. But come 12.30 there just wouldn’t be time. For the next 3 or 4 hours it was just a blur of work, with people ordering directly from me at the bar,  Felix or Jo shouting out orders for people wanting serving on the beach. (Many French waiters will call out something like ‘deux espress, deux’ or ‘trois kir, trois’, repeating the number of drinks in case the barman misses the beginning of the shout.)


So, at any one time, I might be preparing, or about to prepare: 6 or 7 different aperitifs (deux ricards, un kir, un baby whisky, deux gin tonic, un manhattan); 3 different bottles of wine, each needing an ice-filled bucket; 4 digestifs (un courvoiser, deux armagnacs, un petit calva); not to mention half a dozen coffees.  After a couple of weeks I would be working on autopilot, knowing to the second when to whip round to pick up a cup just after the final drop of coffee had plopped in.


The kir was one of several drinks I’d never heard of before that summer. A mixture of dry white wine and creme de cassis (distilled from black- currants) it was named after, and allegedly invented by, Felix Kir - known as the Abbe Kir - a Catholic Canon, who was one of the leaders of the resistance in Burgundy during world war two and mayor of Dijon from 1945 to 1968. 


I discovered another drink when a man came up to the bar and just rapped out ‘Cuba Libre!’  Assuming that ‘Free Cuba!’ was a political statement (Castro had ousted Battista a mere three years earlier) I just looked at the guy quizzically, till he realised I needed to be told that this was a mixture of dark rum and coke.   For a long time I assumed that the name of this drink dated from the time of Fidel.  But Jane Greer orders one while drinking with Robert Mitchum in a dark bar in Acapulco in Jacques Tourneur’s great film noir ‘Out of the Past’ (aka ‘Build my Gallows High’), and that appeared in 1947.

I worked all the time just in bathing trunks and, when there was a brief pause, would dash under the shower for a few seconds, towel myself down and head behind the bar again.


Most of the customers were pretty rich and seriously picky, so if I wanted to keep the tips rolling in I had to (a) remember their names from day one, (b) make immediate eye contact, when they hove into sight, however fleetingly if I happened to be dealing with another customer, (c) find out and remember each person’s preferences for brand, proportions, amount of ice, olives, cherries, nibbles, type of glass and so on.


At moments of relative calm I would occasionally play a game of poker dice with a lone customer.  This was usually just for fun, but one day I asked the young English guy I was playing with if he fancied having a little money on it, ‘just 10 francs a point’. This was liar dice and he was just terrible, rubbing his nose every time he had failed to improve on my throw.  Half an hour late I was over 200 francs up and he was starting to look worried, saying he’d have to get the money from his dad back at the hotel. It was then I realised that he had assumed I meant ‘new francs’ whereas I, like most people in France at that time, was still using ‘old francs’.  Instead of being four bob up (20 p), as I had assumed, I was closer to £20 up, serious money for 1962.  He, or at least his dad, could afford it, so I suggested we just threw the dice once each, double or quits. And that time it was I who lost.


Most customers left the beach by 6.00,  going back to their hotels to get ready for the evening ahead.  I started gently closing down, taking my second swim of the day around 6.45, before getting dressed and heading back to the villa. Christou would have a snack waiting, and I would just crash out by nine or so.


On only one day did I stay later than 7.00. And that was July the 14th, Bastille Day, when all of France celebrates till the early hours, and which also happened to be the day before Christou would be going into the clinic to give birth.  (She had amazingly slim hips and the doctor had said it would have to be by caesarean section).


So next morning, there I was back at the beach , pasty-faced and shaking, having got to bed around three.  At 10.30, which was when Christou was due to go into the theatre, the phone rang, just as I was polishing a beer glass. It fell out of my hands and shattered on the floor. It wasn’t even the clinic, just the beer supplier.  When the same thing happened a few minutes later, Monsieur Charles sat me down, poured a generous shot of brandy, placed both my hands firmly round it and announced that he would be answering the phone.

Ten minutes later, when it finally rang again, I was the father of Celine Jeanne Vaughan-Rees.  (The pic above is from the day of the christening, a couple of weeks later.  And how about the clothes and haircuts? Christou, in a clinging silk dress, like someone from ‘La Dolce Vita’; me in my dark blue, Italian silk and mohair suit, white shirt, black silk knitted tie. Cool or what!).