Friday 6 November 2009

Cannes can

On the ferry back from Ireland I was most relieved to see the news that Barclays had agreed to buy Standard Life Bank for £226m. I have mixed feelings about the transaction on a personal level as it does mean a large chunk of my business knowledge going "out the door" as Standard Life divests itself of a banking operation. My relief is at the news being made public so that I no longer having to work "on the inside" on the project. This is what has been keeping me very busy since the start of September with lots of due diligence questions to answer at short notice and various levels of legal-ese to untangle and understand.

One consequence of the Bank work was that my boss Derek and I had to cancel our trip to the Gartner EA Summit in London. As an alternative, we went to the Gartner IT Expo in the south of France instead. On the face of it, a good swap! We flew to Nice via Heathrow on the Sunday and taxied to our hotel, the Novotel Montfleury in Avenue Beausejour, Cannes. It was a decent mid-range hotel, dear enough but a good ten-minute stroll from the edge of the town centre and twenty minutes from the Palais des Festivals where the conference sessions were hosted.

Food prices for a meal for two in Cannes ranged from €35 to €200, the latter being in the old town area nearer the marina and the former in a back street Thai restaurant (they did a fine duck curry). Admittedly the €200 meal featured a rich bouillabaise and a bottle of wine but we stayed away from the really expensive places! On the Tuesday night we went to a gartner reception for UK attendees (and vendors) at the 3.14 Beach Club which was a pleasant place to spend the evening, with the tented interior opening out on to the sandy beach with the waves lapping in a few yards away. All told, Tuesday was a glorious day and a I enjoyed strolling around the marina and the local streets in between the rather turgid Gartner sessions. Some of the yachts and cruisers in the marina were spectacular, with one wooden-decked yacht adorned with all manner of gleaming copper chandlery and several of the cruisers having a "boot" into which one or more reasonably-sized (by Firth of Clyde standards) smaller boats could fit.

On Wednseday lunchtime I took a stroll up to the church at the top of the old town and sat looking out over Cannes. It has a very similar layout to Monaco, the curve of bay edged by the city and the old town on a headland to the west. It was good to have some peace and quiet after the busy months of September and October but it would have been good to have had Sharon with me to share it. Derek and I headed home on the Thursday. The conference wasn't that great, over all, being rather too large (2700 attendees), too diverse and with very few UK attendees so opportunities to network were limited. Still, I'm not complaining. Sitting by the pool reading on Thursday morning or watching the sun set from my balcony on the Tuesday evening sure beat being at work. And I got a good bit of exercise in too, walking up and down to the centre of Cannes from the hotel.

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