Way back when I was a millionaire I spent the Summer on the Cote D’Azur in the South of France. Long days passed basking in the Mediterranean sunshine, swimming in the warm, clear blue waters of the Cap d’Antibes. I brushed shoulders with movie stars at the Cannes Film Festival and made numerous excursions to Monte Carlo, the playground of the rich and famous.

I did some work while I was there, an hour in the morning and an hour, sometimes two, at night. Not every day, but as much as was required to keep my businesses going. That was back in the early 90’s when there weren’t too many millionaires in Ireland. Life was good. I hadn’t a care in the World.

Recently I read a copy of Tim Ferris’ bestseller ‘The Four Hour Workweek’ as recommended to me originally by James Kennedy at Bizcamp Limerick.

It brought to mind my Summer in Nice living the millionaire lifestyle.

Technically speaking I wasn’t actually a millionaire. I merely lived the life of one.

Yes, I lived in the sunny South of France and did all those things I mentioned earlier. I did the things that a lot of us fantasize about doing if we won the lotto. The only difference being I hadn’t a million pounds. Not even close to it. In fact I was pretty much penniless. The business I had which required an hour of my time each morning required no training and very little skill or technical knowledge.

For an hour each morning along the Promenade Des Anglais I set up camp and washed car windscreens at the traffic lights. During that hour I earned, on average, more than I did for a days work in my previous job as a trainee accountant in Mullingar. Granted the career prospects were less appealing, but the hours were great. And you got a break every time the lights turned green.

My night time job was a little more glamorous. I had conceived the idea and being confident that it would work, I handed in my notice in the Brasserie where I had worked as a barman for 3 weeks. Then I planned to find an Art student to carry out my plan. A chance encounter by my flatmate with some Irish girls on my last day at work proved very fruitful. We were invited to a party in their flat that night and as luck would have it, one of them had done Art in college. I kid you not.

I bought a Polaroid camera and borrowed a sheet of plywood from a building site. The girls set to work and painted one of those things you put your head through to have photos taken (the photo below explains better:)). I set up shop each night in Marche Aux Fleurs, the centre of night life in Nice. There were several other street traders and entertainers. I charged 40 Francs (about £4 at the time) a photo (10 francs if you used your own camera). Each photo sheet cost around 5 francs if I remember rightly. At the end of the Summer when I was returning home I sold the board to a pub for 200 Francs.

Anyone for a holiday photo momento?
Anyone for a holiday photo momento?
The painting nearly completed
The painting nearly completed

It wasn’t very a very glamorous way to make a living. Although I did meet Goldie Hawn while trying to sell her a photo. Of course I didn’t realise it was her at first, until I stood back with arms folded and said ‘Jasus, do ya know something? You’re the spitting image of Goldie Hawn’. When she ran off into the crowd then I realised my missed photo opportunity.

About 2 weeks later after accompanying some friends to the airport I saw a fella who looked just like Bono pass me going into the airport. Get a grip on yourself Derry I said to myself, just cause you met Goldie recently doesn’t mean they’re all famous. A few later I got a thank you letter from my friends with following photo enclosed.

The time I nearly met Bono.
The time I nearly met Bono.

Anyhow, why am I telling you all this? I’m not sure myself. I think I’m re-evaluating my modus operandi. I quiet like  the thoughts of having more free time to play with the kids and romance my wife. I was never into flash cars or having the latest fashion (although I do like gadgets) or building the biggest house. I enjoy my work, so much so that it doesn’t seem like work, but it still has to be done. And that does take up my time. I like the idea of outsourcing and it’s something I will be trying to implement more and more of. With all the technology currently available it is possible to run a business from anywhere.

Then maybe I will be able to spend another full Summer in the South of France with my young family while only having to work a few hours a day. But not washing windscreens or selling photos.

Derry O Donnell Random ,

6 Replies

  1. @Claire Absolutely! It’s got to be something you enjoy doing for it to have any hope of success.

    @James I haven’t yet. And I would be limited to the Summer months with the kids school and all that. I might look into doing a house swap with someone thinking along the same lines to further lower costs. I don’t think I’d venture as far as Argentina though, at least not for the first time 🙂

    @Grainne Thanks Gra

  2. Hi derry
    wow does this bring back memories what a laugh we had down there. Do you remember the night we slept in the back of a van in Antibes?. We had missed the train back to Cannes and you said they never close the doors of the cars so lets try. I remember the owner of the van was obviously in the fishing trade as we spent the night sleeping on nets and smelt very fishy in the morning. I got a foot infection when I came back to Dublin after the sea urchines on Antibes beach. Also Imelda and I decided to cook one night and went to the market and bought mince meat to make spagetthi but after an hour of cooking the meat was still red turns out we had bought horse meat instead. And what about your advertising campagign with the woman and the wheelbarrow?. well you never failed to come up with the most original ideas and laugh memories Imelda and I will never forget!

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