|Star of the
1980s punk scene TOYAH WILLCOX is busier than
ever. She tells Amy Carroll how she fell in love
with Menton and why her apartment there is the
perfect place to be creative...
What is it
about the French way of life that makes you feel
youre escaping to somewhere really special?
My first experience of how
the French do things was in 1984 when I was
filming The Ebony Tower with Laurence Olivier. We
stayed in a ch‚teau in the Dordogne and it was
all shabby gentry style. Even the countess, our
host, had no pretensions. It was all about
family, evenings eating home-made fish soup and
chatting around the table. Its the same in
Menton. Its sleepy and most visitors are
retirees. Theres very little interest in
strangers and the locals leave you to your own
business. Its so laid back and quality of
life always comes before work.
appeared on Masterchef and enjoy cooking at home.
Do you take inspiration from the cuisine on the
I like trying out new
recipes but out here, Im not equipped for
cooking. The culture is for eating out so, like
most people, I have a tiny kitchen. I usually
make a daily trip to the fabulous glasscovered
market in the square. I buy fresh fruit and
wonderful salad produce most of which I
dont even know the name for in English
because we dont have it back home. Then, I
usually eat on my balcony, enjoying the fabulous
view over the harbour.
You come out here to
write. Apart from the obvious beauty of the
place, what is it that brings out your
Well, sleep isnt
something I aspire to and I love solitude. So,
when Im out here, sitting on my balcony
until the early hours of the morning, I find it a
great place to contemplate. The light in this
town is incredible and the place just lends
itself to being creative. I think I always have a
sense of urgency when Im here too. Even
though the pace is relaxing and slower, and I can
switch off my mobile phone and not worry about
being interrupted. I know Im only here for
short periods of time so I click into
super-creative gear to make the most of it.
Is it true that Menton
is popular with arty types?
Menton definitely attracts
artists. I found out about it because my
percussionist has a place here. But it also has a
strong French community and there are plenty of
local sculpture artists, jewellery-makers and
painters. The place seems to hold an interest for
surrealists. I like that type of art because it
takes you beyond real life; its not just a
photocopy of what we see.
When youre not
writing, how do you spend your time?
Ive never been
comfortable on the beach but I love the outdoors,
so I go for really long walks. You can walk into
Italy from here. I also love buying antiques. Ive
found a shop that specialises in antique
fairground pieces. The treasures youll find
in there are absolutely astonishing Ive
just bought a wonderful church mirror. Ive
discovered that if I go every so often, over the
course of two or three months, I can barter a bit
and eventually get a good price.
How easy was it for you
to buy your apartment?
The first time I came to
look at property here I couldnt afford
anything and so I bought an off-plan apartment
close to Nice, in »ze. Once I had made some
money from renting that out, I looked again at
Menton and fell in love with this apartment as
soon as I stepped inside and saw the sea view
through the French windows. I paid 345,000 Euros
for it and only needed to do basic updating
inside painting, new flooring and the
With the time youve
spent in France, have any French songwriters made
a lasting impression on you?
Not really. A lot of my
work comes out of silence. I rarely even listen
to music. I require non-interference and up here,
67 steps up from the old harbour, and three
flights of stairs up from the front door, Im
incredibly high up and I can only really hear the
church bells. Its ideal for me. I love the
place to bits.