Friday, October 12, 2007

Entente Cordiale

When your own country is going to hell in a hand basket, it's a good idea to divert attention by pointing out the defects in others. That seems to have been the editorial policy behind one London newspaper this morning, who must be in the pay of Gordon Brown.
For they carry an in-depth review, with excerpts, from book entitled “Fifty Reasons to Hate the French.” It is, of course, intended humorously and is about as entertaining as a root canal job only not as useful.
All the tired old clichés about the French are trotted out and any publisher that thinks that the word “hate” is desirable in any book title nowadays needs to wake up. It is harmless enough drivel however.
In the same edition there is an article by a correspondent living somewhere unspecified in the French countryside listing all the things that make the French so miserable and dissatisfied with their life and their country. One thing is for sure, he doesn't live in my village and he fails to explain just why, if things are as bad as he says, why he doesn't return to the UK.
Comparisons are odious in any context and to compare the two countries is ridiculous. Of course neither are perfect – no country is – but I suppose it will cheer the newspaper's readers up and make them think that they are not as badly off as they really are.
King Edward VII put the Cordiale back into the Entente with his visit to Paris in the 1900's. Not only did he win over the hearts and minds of the French but also the hearts, minds and a few other bits of some of the cast of the Folies Bergeres. But since then the Brits have had a strangely ambivalent view of their neighbours.
When the Channel Tunnel project was resuscitated early in the 20th. Century, the British military vetoed the project, apparently envisaging the French army, bras en bras, swarming into the Kent countryside to rape, pillage and plunder.
But this weekend sees perhaps the most serious conflict since the Hundred Years War.
France v. Les Rosbifs in France's second most popular sport, the first being tax avoidance.
It promises to be a Rugby match, par excellence and we've been invited to watch it in the home of some expatriate Brits. It won't stop us from shouting “Allez les bleus!” however.
And whether the correspondent from that miserable little village likes it or not, the French still have their “joie de vivre.” I think that perhaps he is the miserable one.
During the Hundred years War, which of course many of you will recall, Froissart wrote, “In France, the English enjoy themselves in their own miserable fashion.”
Seems not much has changed.


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