THE BLOG

'You Need to Get to Nice'

15/07/2016 11:42 | Updated 15 July 2016

"It's for you" my wife said, handing me her mobile. She'd already got up, but after a long and historic week - in fact, a long three weeks since the referendum - I went to bed without setting the usual 6am alarm, figuring my young daughters would wake me up an hour or so later.

It turned out the newsdesk wanted me sooner, and on the phone was my colleague Julia. "You need to get to Nice, and we've got you on standby for two flights".

I knew why straight away. Before going to sleep, I always cast my eye over the headlines, and I'd seen that a lorry had hit a group of people in the city in the South of France. It read like a tragic accident though - the second in a week after the head-on train collision in Italy. Around a dozen people were thought to have been killed.

As I now made for the shower, my wife said she'd heard on the radio around 80 people had died. "Eighty?!" I responded, incredulously. "How on Earth?" It was terrorism, clearly.

I'm writing this on the plane. Nice is one of my favourite cities, with a setting that has the best of both the mountains and the sea. I've spent happy times there, but my mind is once again drawn to that week in London, almost exactly eleven years ago, when the atmosphere changed from jubilant to terrified.

Within days of winning the right to host the Olympics (ahead of Paris), London was hit by the 7/7 bombings.

France, unfortunately, is experiencing even more jarring contrasts. The Charlie Hebdo attack at the start of last year, and then the terror that gripped the capital in November, centred on the Bataclan theatre, has left the country in a state of emergency.

Despite that, and in defiance of those who want the French population to live in fear, it has successfully hosted Euro 2016, while the world's biggest annual sporting event, the Tour de France, is currently halfway through and is on its way toward passing within a stone's throw of Nice. The Tour celebrates much of the best of France, but this latest sickening attack represents the very worst it has to endure.

The UK may have decided to leave the EU, and may also have a new foreign secretary who his French counterpart is less than enamoured with, but France will always be our closest continental neighbour. They watched with fascination as a new Prime Minister moved into Downing Street less than 48 hours ago. The pain, confusion and concern they are now experiencing will also be keenly felt on our side of the Channel.

Matt Barbet presents 5 News Tonight on Channel 5, live from Nice, at 6.30pm this evening

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