I have just been “fortunate” enough to spend the last couple of days at a conference in Cannes, location of the famous annual film festival. I have been unfortunate enough to spend this time amongst 750 or so bankers…….which might be a mis-pronunciation……
I stayed in a nice hotel. My room was large and comfortable and the surroundings were befitting of the highly paid entourage and movie celebrities that frequent this place. It was, however, like my good self, looking a tad tired. It had probably seen its high day in the late 60s and could do with a lick of paint and a half-decent wi-fi connection here and there.
But, the cocktail menus had been signed by no less than Michael Jackson (say hello to Jimmy Savile when you see him), Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone and Tarantino. They didn’t invite yours truly to sign. But, I did partake of a very nice Long Island Iced Tea.
It was hot. About 30 degrees hot. Too hot to be in a suit. But, that I was – in a suit. Indeed it reminded me of many a British summer wedding, with blokes, carrying a little too much weight, a little too much booze, and a little long in the tooth, looking a little uncomfortable, and desperate to loosen their ties and remove their jackets and trying not to get caught on the wedding video, and sucking in for all of the photos. But, that could just have been me.
That said, European bankers seem to have a strange concept of what constitutes “business attire” – there was a plethora of Paul Smith, pin stripes, blue shirts, plain ties, and Rolex. But, that was just the men. You could spot the non-Brits because they were wearing brown shoes. I am sorry, but blue pin-stripe and tan shoes do not go! And, why bother with a tie if you can’t be bothered to do your top button up?
The women were either taking power dressing to the extreme – out pin-striping the men – or, dressed like they were out for a night at the opera. There were LBDs and high heels in abundance. It was all rather too Gucci and hair by Stepford Wives.
Both the men and the women of the conference were quite a contrast to the Lycra clad lovelies rollerblading or jogging along the prom. Quite a contrast to the bikini bedecked beautiful people sunbathing or playing volleyball on the beach……which I caught a glimpse of in passing.
I like to spend my time people-watching and nationality-spotting. Some we’re obvious – the floppy haired Southern Europeans; the mafia dons from Eastern Europe; and the western/northern Anglo-Saxons, all of a certain age, with short grey hair and spectacles.
That said, I did not feel at all out-of-place with my Barbour man bag…..
The conference was in the Palais des Festivales, where the annual film festival is held. I like to think that I may have sat in the same seat as Julia Roberts ….. Sigh…..I would sit towards the back of the cinema-style seating looking down on a sea of bald spots shining up at me.
The conference was quite interesting, with high-hitters from Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Samsung making keynote speeches, and the final session was with Sir Stuart Rose. And there was the odd (the perfect word) retail guru who dressed like Doctor Who.
Unlike most business meetings which ban the use of mobiles and computers, this conference celebrated gadgetry of all types. There were apps to be used for booking which sessions you were to attend, make notes, and to send questions to the people on the stage. It was a celebration of multi-tasking as bankers everywhere pretended to participate while reading their emails, and playing games of Solitaire or Clash of Clans.
But, after enduring the Welcome Drinks, on the first night – all cheap wine, cheese and onion crisps and one-upmanship – I decided that mingling was not going to be my forte. And so, I ventured out onto the prom and ate on my own.
I am not sure i will be rushing back to Cannes. The conference had been a heady mix of testosterone, arrogance, money and eau de cologne. The town itself was, well, Brighton but with better shops, better boats, little black dresses, and, bankers.
Unless, of course, Julia Roberts wants to hook up again like the last time we were in France together…..