There’s a US Navy ship in the bay. Our American visitors the other day were massively impressed with the trouble we went to so that they would see the Stars and Stripes flying when they looked out. We didn’t tell them it was a coincidence. But why? What’s the Navy doing in Villefranche? When De Gaulle took France out of NATO in 1967 he banished the Fleet to Italy. But they’re back and we’re worried. What are they doing? Are they listening? Can they see what I’m writing?
A French friend is coming to lunch today and we’re wrestling with a social problem familiar to any Anglo-Saxons who live in France. It’s called tutoiement, or the process of calling someone tu – the familiar form of ‘you’. I knew this lady when I was in business here 24 years ago, when of course she was a vous. Now that she has become a family friend, she would normally be a tu – but since we’re roughly the same age no one feels they are senior enough to suggest the change. The rules are complex and ill-defined. Like what do you do when your daughter’s boy-friend becomes your son-in-law? It’s easier for the parent to change – in fact one of the rules is that the older person can invite the younger but not the other way round, but although I suggested it, he never managed to call me tu. Some may say it’s not a hell of a lot to have to worry about – but problems enlarge to fill the available worrying space, so if all you have to worry about is whom to tutoi that’s what you do.
Another worry is what’s on Hungarian television in July. I thought I’d give herself a surprise for our anniversary and booked a trip to Budapest. A nice thought – except that it means I have chosen to be out of the country for BOTH the final of the Wimbledon tennis championships and the final of the World (soccer) Cup – thus possibly missing her and my favourite sports events.
These are important times for European football. At the end of each season, the top four teams in each country in Europe go into a competition called the Champions League for the following year. Then THEY play off to see who – in theory – is the best team in Europe – or is it just to cash in on the huge television audience and potential advertising revenue? We’re half-way through the semi-finals of this year’s Champions League competition: remaining are two Spanish teams, one Italian, and one English. No French teams have survived because if French players are any good they go to English, Spanish or Italian clubs, where they make more money. This can give rise to some bizarre situations: such as the fact that the best English teams have been known to play without a single Englishman on the team – while the French national team sometimes plays without a single player who plays his football in France. (The one English team remaining in this year’s Champions League – Arsenal – has four Frenchmen and a French coach.) It’s as if every country in the world produced quarter-backs: at least once they get to the top in the USA there’s nowhere for them to go.
Thought you’d find that fascinating – more next week when we’ll know who the finalists are, giving a whole new meaning to the word ‘indifference’. Or is that what the Navy are here for?