Monday, March 22, 2010

Les petits francais

I'm in France for a week, so posting may be even more sporadic than usual (or it may be more frequent without work to get in the way). I was at the Stade de France on Saturday to watch England generously donate a rugby game - and the Six Nations grand slam, en passant - to a French team who had so sportingly given us several chances to win the match ourselves. You can read what I think about that on my Times blog.

Then, on our way to the delightful Normandy fishing village of Honfleur, my wife and I spent yesterday at the Palace of Versailles. We were out of season so the gardens were not quite at their best - the fountains were all turned off, for a start - but it also meant that the state rooms were less packed than in summer.

This was welcome as there is something insufferably pushy about the French in confined - or even in not particularly confined - spaces. They seem to have the same lack of awareness of other people as children, taking the direct line towards what they want to look at, even if it means pushing through or over others. When there is clear room for them to manouevre round, it gets a bit wearing.

I've developed the knack, helped by playing rugby at school, of sensing when someone is about to come up on the blind side and sticking out an elbow to catch them amidships, but my wife found the constant sudden appearance of a Frenchman avec femme underneath her nostrils annoying.

On a related matter, why were they all so small? I'm no giant at dead on 6ft, but I was looking down on everyone around me, literally as well as with the English superiority complex that other nations somehow find insufferable.

Obviously, not all Frenchmen are midgets. Their rugby players are lofty enough and according to this website the average Frenchman is only half an inch shorter than the average Englishman (the Dutch and Scandinavians come out on top).

Yet so many of their great achievers are tiny (Napoleon, Sarkozy, Asterix...), as well as apparently all those who go to art galleries. Is this evolution in process? French art-lovers will never walk round other people so are they gradually being genetically adapted to walk through people's legs instead?

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