GUY HENDERSON: Gatecrashing socialite Tamara Ecclestone's bash
HAVE you been here before? asked the chap who sold us breakfast in Nice the other morning. "Yes," I replied. "We were here yesterday."
"No," he said. "Before that. Maybe last year."
And indeed, yes, we had sat at that very same table at that very same pavement café last autumn, the last time we grabbed a few days on the Cote d'Azur.
Well, he does good breakfast.
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It turned out that it was the hair that gave me away. They don't get many ginger people in Nice.
We saw the chap again as we were making our way to the airport bus the next morning, with no time for breakfast on this occasion.
He waved from across the street and shouted: "See you next year!", and we probably shall.
For the rest of the day I kept a mental note of the number of ginger people we saw around the place, and counted two American students and a small boy who was too far away for us to hear whether he, too, was American.
It was a day of strange happenings and coincidences, the day we gatecrashed Tamara Ecclestone's multi-million-pound celebrity wedding.
We had the same bus driver, for instance, as we had last time we caught the service that goes out to Cap Ferrat, where the property prices make it the second most expensive place to buy a house on earth, beaten only by nearby Monte Carlo.
A coastal path runs round the very edge of the peninsula, and it takes a good couple of hours to get round them.
The last time we did it the driver, who looks a lot like Ray Davies out of the Kinks, had to turf us all off his bus somewhere on the hillside climbing out of Nice because it had expired with a groan and a wheeze and a great grey billow of smoke.
When he looked underneath he could see a little babbling brook of hot engine oil running down the road towards him, so he ordered us all off.
He was just as grumpy this time, even though we had exactly the right money for our fares, but his bus ran sweetly and swiftly all the way up the big hill and down the other side to the bay where the big yachts are.
And there we had yet another strange coincidence.
On the western side of the headland, where the views are breathtaking and the house prices start at £BigLotteryWin and peak at well beyond the dreams of Croesus, there are houses with their own fenced-off walkways down to private beaches and landing stages.
One of them is apparently occupied by Andrew Lloyd-Webber when he's not away singing or suchlike.
On our last visit we had rounded a corner in the coast path to see a little round fellow of advancing years, standing on his private walkway gazing out to sea and smoking a cigarette, without a stitch on.
When we realised we had reached that point in the coast path once again, Mrs H and I turned to each other and said "Wouldn't it be funny if... ?" and there he was again.
Little, round, smoking and naked — apparently without a care in the world. We looked for just long enough to establish that it wasn't Andrew Lloyd-Webber and then went on our way.
Maybe he had been standing there ever since we last walked the path. Maybe it was the first time he had done it since then. Maybe the truth lies somewhere between the two.
There was a party going on down in the cordoned-off cove at the very end of the coastal path, a very noisy one at that, with gangsta rap (that's how the young people spell it) blasting out across the bay at festival volume.
Bright young things dressed all in white linen were having the absolute time of their lives sipping champagne on pure white loungers and having their ears pounded by rap music featuring bad language and the sound of gunfire.
Mind you, the DJ did drop (that's another young person's term) some Abba and Bee Gees at one point.
A flotilla of jetskis bobbed in the bay, just for the party guests to use if they felt the inclination. Apparently someone from Girls Aloud was on one.
High up on the hill on the opposite side of the cove some paparazzi photographers had their big lenses trained on the beach.
There were only four of them, though, so we decided it couldn't have been anyone really, really famous.
Back home in Paignton, I discovered that we had, in fact, gatecrashed the wedding of Tamara Ecclestone, who is a 'socialite' and whose dad runs Formula One.
People rumoured to be on the guest list included Elton John, Lionel Richie, Sarah Ferguson and some other people described as 'socialites'.
Anyway, somewhere in the paparazzi files there will be some pictures of Mrs H and me being escorted across the coast path where it crosses the beach, through the white linen madness, squinting through the pounding sound waves, by the very friendly English security guys.
They did have the good grace to see the absurdity of it all, and were presumably being well paid to spend the day on a sun-bleached beach on the French Riviera guarding the interests of some international bright young things.
In the pictures, when they appear in the celebrity magazines, I'll be the one looking a bit like Roy Cropper from Coronation Street, wearing baggy khaki shorts rather than white linen.
I'll be carrying a supermarket carrier bag with lunch in it, and I'll be doffing my battered straw hat to a celebrity or two.
It's the way I roll, Tamara.