I walked from Westminster to Primrose Hill on this date in 2019. I walked past Regents Park Zoo, drug dealers and The Beatles’ Apple Studios. I didn’t see any tourists searching for Freud, apart from me. Over by Abbey Road, the street was alive with people taking selfies on one of the most famous pedestrian crossings in the world.
I walked into Les Oliviers Palace Hotel on this date in 2007. It’s a mock Moorish building in the port of Sfax in Tunisia. It was built in the 1920s and had been listed for preservation then renovated in 2006. The facade seemed faux but interesting. Yet more interesting was the lax, surly if not rude attitude of the staff inside. No one cared a date or a fig, indeed it seemed that guests were a disrupting annoyance to empty routines. This was a quite a contrast to our experiences elsewhere in Tunisia where tourism was a primary occupation.
We got chatting to one young waiter who was interested to practice his English as we strangled the French. He called himself a student without a future because he couldn’t afford to be a student. We had been seated where the German Desert Fox Irwin Rommel often took lunch before the British ousted him in 1943. Or so said the student waiter. He told me that a famous Irish writer had lived in Sfax until recently. I had no idea who he meant until today. It seems that Eoin Colfer had spent time there but Artemis Fowl had not been on my reading list so the waiter’s information fell on fallow ground.
The lack of employment in southern of Tunisia was very depressing back in 2007. It seemed that everyone wanted to be somewhere else.
We were there that day to meet and inspect a geophysical vessel. It was coming to Sfax to clear customs, change crew, load fuel and supplies before heading north to conduct a geophysical research program offshore Bizerte. The CGG Princess was like most seismic vessels, completely self contained. It would not be employing any locals other than those engaged in chandlery.
We were accompanied on that trip by photographer Ken Taylor who was documenting one aspect of my employer’s corporate activities in Tunisia. Ken has some interesting work on view here.