France. 1:01

I went to Paris last autumn, got the Eurostar train there, two hours twenty minutes, not bad going and delivered into the heart of Paris. It was one of those rare days when neither the trains, ferries nor airports were on strike. (I think in fact the farmers were on strike but as nobody could tell the difference it made little odds.)

In general, France is a safe destination, though I should warn you that, from time to time, it is invaded by Germany. Traditionally, the French surrender more or less at once and apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky life for the visitor generally goes on much as before. Fortunately the channel tunnel has made it much easier for the French government to flee to London.

Chief amongst its contributions to western culture are champagne, Camembert cheese, escargot, the guillotine, Sacha Distel, oh and croissants which is interesting for two reasons, this is a previously unknown use of the term ‘culture’ and secondly, croissant is one of two words that Americans can never pronounce correctly – the other of course being aluminium (sic).

What I do like about France is it’s complete disregard for any EU rules – or even any rules at all, the EU passes all these laws and the British implement them immediately but the French tend to ignore them, it’s a bit like Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”. Consequently, driving around Paris is like taking part in the Monaco Grand Prix and even just trying to cross a road is fraught with danger as traffic lights are ‘advisory’. The French know this because they see their President and even minor ministers blatantly flaunting the rules and think well, if they can do it…

The French of course can’t bear anyone who isn’t French and will give anyone who doesn’t speak perfect French a hard time. I have a friend who went to Paris a few years ago, Murphy, a furniture dealer decided to go to Paris to see what he could find. After arriving in Paris, he visited with some manufacturers and selected a line that he thought would sell well back home. To celebrate the new acquisition, he decided to visit a small bistro and have a glass of wine. As he sat enjoying his wine, he noticed that the small place was quite crowded, and that the other chair at his table was the only vacant seat in the house.

Before long, a very beautiful young Parisian girl came to his table; asked him something in French (which Murphy couldn’t understand); so he motioned to the vacant chair and invited her to sit down. He tried to speak to her in English, but she did not speak his language. After a couple of minutes of trying to communicate with her, he took a napkin and drew a picture of a wine glass and showed it to her. She nodded, so he ordered a glass of wine for her.

After sitting together at the table for a while, he took another napkin and drew a picture of a plate with food on it, and she nodded.. They left the bistro and found a quiet cafe that featured a small group playing romantic music. They ordered dinner, after which he took another napkin and drew a picture of a couple dancing. She nodded, and they got up to dance. They danced until the cafe closed and the band was packing up.

Back at their table, the young lady took a napkin and drew a picture of a four-poster bed.

To this day, Murphy has no idea how she figured out he was in the furniture business.