|French Annual Surrender Rehearsal|
If proof were still needed of the essential asymmetry in French-British relations, you need only compare reactions on either side of the Channel to the Sarkozy-Cameron agreement, which proposes that the French and the British military co‑operate to form a joint expeditionary force.
Beneath the diplomatic veneer, les Anglais are up in arms: the names Napoleon, Pétain, Exocet and Jacques Chirac are fiercely lobbed about. To sum it up, the French are unreliable, devious, and let others actually win their wars for them, while making a lot of noise on the sidelines. And that’s only in the last century or so; before that, they were the Hereditary Enemy.
The D-Day shindig has been bad news for Sarkozy. Meanwhile, we French, frankly, couldn’t be less bovvered. It’s a clear case of “you obsess about us; we hardly think about you”. Yes, of course, you can find historians and admirals to recall the infamous Mers-el-Kebir incident, when, on July 3, 1940, most of the French fleet was sunk by the British Navy rather than run the risk of seeing it join Nazi forces, at the cost of 1,297 French lives.
The French are famous for being deluded. They think we obsess about Napoleon, Petain and Delors? I fear most people, especially those who have wasted a few years in comprehensive schools, probably think Napoleon, Petain and Delors are a French boy band in the Eurovision Song Contest.
They think they are the only ones who can cook. They think they still produce the best wine. They think they still produce the best cheese. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
And what thanks do we get for saving them in numerous world wars? "You sank our fleet and cost us 1,297 French lives". It would be rude to mention what happened to the Jews who found themselves under Petain in Vichy France. But I'm going to:
In total, the Vichy government helped in the deportation of 76,000 Jews, although this number varies depending on the account, to German extermination camps; only 2,500 survived the war.From the Jewish Virtual Library.
I think it was the Americans who coined the phrase 'Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys'. I wonder why?
But I'm still looking forward to a week in Paris in the New Year. And probably a couple of weeks in the Vendee in the summer. If they'll let me in!
We wouldn't get on so well, us and the French, if we didn't have a pop at each other occasionally.