The Riviera Tutor
LAURIE COLDWELL sneaks back online with a tale of streets paved with sun-soaked, BA Cantab gold.
GRADUATES. What job could you have in the rubble?
You know full well you could have your own pile of Nazi-gold if you were loud and confident enough to shout “¥en!” or “What a volte-face!” from behind a crisp Financial Times.
And even though you’ve been to 30 Deloitte cocktail evenings, you’re sure consultancy is just 12-hour days spent saying “ooh! You don’t want to do that.” So, yeah, you reckon you’ll probs tutor or something for a while, just to tide you over.
Getting a tutor in to help your idiot children is a brand-new 18th Century fashion the chattering classes have. It’s deliciously lucrative for down-on-their-luck Cantabs, what with the disgusting assumption by the rest of society that we have some sort of claim to be intelligent.
But the obscenely rich are obscene and a few hours here and there just isn’t enough for them. It isn’t! So in their Riviera villas, alongside the personal cinema and the tap that dispenses brie, lives the residential tutor.
Pete Baxter is one such, an English graduate from Tit Hall. Pete has spent the weekends and school holidays of the last 18 months working for Riviera Tutors, an agency who specialise in organising residential tutoring opportunities for English-speaking children on the French Riviera, as well as further afield. In a typical post-Cambridge way, he seems to have sleep-walked into it.
“I was doing a bit of tutoring in London here and there. My mate’s brother had just set up the company and asked if I wanted to do some tutoring in the South of France instead. I didn’t really have anything to lose and it wasn’t as if I was doing anything else. It was a stop-gap. I did a couple of hours in London with the kids and then that was it – I spent the whole Summer over on the Riviera.”
So, I ask him, this South of France lark with all them rich people: is it decadent and glamorous, like a wolf rutting a diamond? “The first family I worked for, I arrived there and they had this massive villa on the Cap Ferrat. They had an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a personal cinema and a fantastic view of the Bay of Nice. So that was alright.”
The Cap Ferrat, which looks terrible, doesn’t it?
Pete seems to have an enviable day at the office too, which might encourage you to take a swipe at his face with jealous clawing, were he not a tower of affability. “Obviously, every student requires a different programme and if you’re preparing them for imminent exams, you might have to put in a lot of hours, which is quite intense.”
“But a general day in the holidays will be quite relaxed. I’ll do two hours with the kids from 9-11 and then they’ll have lunch. I might have lunch with them or do my own thing. We’ll do another two hours in the afternoon 2-4 and then I’ve finished teaching for the day.”
He gets more out of it than just topping-up his
skin cancer tan, too. “I get a lot of satisfaction from it. You’re working closely with the kids and you can cover a lot more – you can work on problem areas and overcome them. And you can make the learning interesting too, exciting even.”
“I’m currently being paid by a family to fly out to Monaco every weekend to teach a year 9 pupil, but I’m supplementing what she learns at school. She wants to go to school in England, but even though she’s quite clever, she doesn’t really have the cultural touchstones that make up background knowledge. She couldn’t imagine what trenches were like, so we had a look at some Wilfred Owen poems and worked our way into it that way. Or I’ll take her to museums, castles, you know, anything to mix it up a little.”
Monaco, with a helpful key
There’s something which nags at me, though; I don’t like power structure of that situation, the deference. I don’t like the backhanded Downton-Abbey suggestion that if servants are treated decently, the system is somehow fine. So, what’s it like being staff for these families?
“You don’t really have that much to do with the family, you spend most of your time with your pupils. If you do, there’s a level of respect between them and you. You’ve got a university education.”
“They can’t quite conceive of how you live, though – they’ll recommend expensive ski chalets or exclusive restaurants without thinking about it. I don’t think they’d understand if I told them I fly out to them on EasyJet. I’m not sure they’d know what it is.”
And the future? Will he be doing this forever? “I’ll carry on doing it for a while and then the plan is to travel with what I’ve saved up. And after that, I’m thinking about teaching English abroad.”
I suppose it’s better than sitting here in the English rain, remembering the NHS and waiting for Scotland to run off with our oil. If tutoring’s your thing.