Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
I've always been intrigued by beautiful people, and by that I don't mean the plastic, over-privileged Paris Hiltons of the world, but people who are naturally blessed with the sort of striking good looks, allied to a certain confidence and poise, that somehow distances them from the common herd. Thomas Mann's Felix Krull, Confessions of a Confidence Man' is a lighthearted fable about how far good looks and charm can take you in life, but for the most part these beautiful creatures remain an enigma to all but those within their own privileged circle. As a dedicated people-watcher I sometimes try to fathom what really lies beneath their smooth, untroubled surface, but generally without much success. Their existence seems, in a sense, to be largely dedicated to maintaining the aura of mystery which their beauty has created around them.

Mediterranean beaches are a good place to observe them at play, mingling at arms length with the heaving mass of humanity, now and then accidentally rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi. I sometimes watched a group of three of them while on holiday. They were French, two men and a woman, and because both men seemed to have a close relationship with the woman I was reminded of Truffaut's film 'Jules et Jim'. The woman - probably in her early twenties - could best be described as one part Kate Moss and two parts Brigitte Bardot, and she was well aware of her impact on those around her. Men would walk into lamposts as they turned their heads to watch her pass; women would glance enviously - but discreetly - at her perfectly honed, tanned body, and slap their husbands about the head if their gaze settled for too long on this vision of loveliness clad in nothing but a piece of string.

One day she arrived at the beach with one of the men - a handsome guy, fit and well built, with an easy air and winning smile - possibly, I thought, a centre for a glamorous French rugby team like 'Racing Club de Paris'. As they reached the steps down to the beach the couple were stopped by a family of Germans - father, mother, and teenage son - who were walking on the promenade. The father immediately began talking earnestly and animatedly to Monsieur 'Racing-Club' while gesturing towards his girlfriend who stood a little to the side. At first Monsieur 'Racing-Club' looked bemused, perhaps there was a language problem, but then the son, a tall, gangly, blond-haired youth of about 16, stepped forward and held up a white t-shirt and a small German flag on a stick, while pointing in the direction of Brigitte, as I will call her.

The Frenchman finally understood and took Brigitte aside to consult with her. She seemed slightly perplexed, but the German mother approached and offered her some kind of encouragement, whereupon she nodded in agreement. She put the white shirt on over her bikini, took the German flag in her right hand, and allowed the youth to put his arm around her waist while the grinning father took a snapshot of the couple. The boy looked rather bashful as both parents thanked 'la plus belle fille sur la plage' for providing their son with this immortal memory of his holiday, but I suspect he was already secretly anticipating the moment when he would triumphantly reveal the photograph to envious friends back home.