25th September 2008

When you leave Dover for France, the last thing you see is the famous White Cliffs. Then, if you haven't collapsed from seasickness en route, the first thing you sight on approaching Boulogne or Dieppe is similar white cliffs. This means that in prehistoric times England and France were one country. Today they are separated by a channel 18 miles across at the narrowest point. This has proved such a formidable barrier through 18 centuries of mutual invasion that when you land you find yourself in a foreign country, the architecture and language being totally different. And even the roads: the French were the first people after the Romans to make national roads as far back as the 17th century. But, other than that, what else is different? Well, the French seem far more cheerful to me - something that attracts me enormously. So, don't make the mistake of listening to international news too much: too depressing. Those politicians! They are themselves so indifferent to enjoyment that they are sincerely convinced that enjoyment is a disease from which their fellow citizens must at all costs be saved! But for hypochondria: no-one suffers from this more than the average Frenchman. The standard treatment for un crise de foie or liver crisis is the suppository. French doctors love to proscribe it for every ailment under the sun. Of course, the average prudish Englishman (as with the ubiquitous French bidet) would never stoop so low as to actually use it!!!

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