Foreign Desk – February 2015

by Claudio Blancardi

I was born in Bordighera, Italy, a small Ligurian seaside town in the area known as the Riviera dei Fiori (Flowers’ Riviera.) It is close to the French border and less than 10 miles away from a well-known place called San Remo, famous worldwide for its song festival which takes place every February.

I spent my youth in Italy, where from the age of 14, I worked during school holidays to earn some pocket money doing various catering jobs; from being a waiter to working in hotels as a luggage boy. I also got to work in France and Monte Carlo, where one of my fondest memories was meeting Ella Fitzgerald when she stayed at the Hotel Hermitage. Wow!

My mother tongue is, of course, Italian and like most Italians, provided my hands are free, I’m sure that I could even communicate with Martians!  I wanted to learn other languages (English mainly, but also French and Spanish) so from the age of 18, I moved to live elsewhere, including over 11 years in the United Kingdom; a few years in Los Angeles; then back to Europe, which is where I met my wife, Isabelle.  She was working at the (then) Loews Hotel where I was staying for work and within less than a year we were married, which is over 20 years ago now.  Isabelle and I lived in the Nice area (her hometown) until about 5 years ago, when we relocated to Luxembourg. We have a “soon to be 21 year old” son, Valentino.

I currently work in marine insurance and have been in this field for around 20 years. I am an underwriter for a Stockholm based insurance company and we insure large commercial ships such as bulkers, tankers and ferries. It was this job which led us to move to Luxembourg, but I still travel a lot for professional purposes, mainly in Europe. I usually travel at least every other week between March and June; and then again between August and January. I am privileged to have a job that I love doing and appreciate every moment of it (and am conscious and thankful for it).

Musically, I grew up listening to the Italian singers back in those days like; Mina, Milva, Modugno, Villa, and Celentano. My mum was very much into music, her mother played several instruments and her uncle was a street musician in Nice. I loved to watch U.S. musicals on TV (a rare commodity, still, in those days) and I particularly liked the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers’ movies, as well as the ones starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and those charismatic icons.

I started listening to jazz when I was about eight thanks to my uncle. He was into Benny Goodman, Sydney Bechet, Glenn Miller and I have liked jazz ever since, but always melodic jazz, as I am not a fan of free jazz, which I find technically exceptional, but not always pleasant to listen to.  I loved every minute of my years in L.A., bathing in cool jazz every hour of every day.

I came to know of MITM in the same way as the best things in life, pure coincidence that only makes sense after it has hit you!  I discovered the TuneIn Radio app and started looking for radio stations in the L.A. area. “Martini in the Morning” came up and with a name like that I could not resist checking it out… and I have never tuned out since!

Better still, because I listen to MITM every day, my wife has also adopted it. She even plays the station all day in the store she owns called, Comptoir de Famille, which is a franchise for a French chain.  She has given out the details of MITM to clients so many times! They regularly come and ask what radio station is playing, because they say “it’s too good!” and they have never heard anything like it! Even my son who currently lives in Paris (studying, allegedly) listens to it from time to time and has passed on MITM’s details several times.

To be honest, listening to MITM is like a bowl of fresh air – even better, as it’s a bowl of real cool sounds, delivered by Tweety Pie and Sylvester (or Brad and Miriam, if you prefer). Hopefully, later this year I will get meet them both, as my son and I have talked about doing a trip to Vegas to mark his 21st birthday, with a stop in L.A. before heading home (that’s if we survive it!). It will be a boys’ trip, as my wife will look after her store, but of course we will (try to) be good boys!