• Jonathan Shayfer

The Old Enemy?


So....things are not looking so great between us and erstwhile partners in Europe at the moment. The country is fairly polarised on this question. And what of our nearest neighbour, our old enemy the French?

We may have been strong allies for much of the last century but we were beating the hell out of each other hammer and tongs for much of our history. There aren't many nations with whom you could have a Hundred Years War.

Of course the problems started when a bunch of former vikings from Normandy (land of the North Men) were allowed to settle the place rather than pillage it and, in time, became a sort of Frenchified horde of Medieval Spartans intent on seizing our sceptred isle for themselves. With myself hailing from an Anglo-Saxon clan in Devon, I was never all that happy about this turn of events. Life may well have been "nasty, short and brutish" but at least we weren't feudally enslaved to a bunch of foreign overlords.

They treated the conquered Saxons in much the same way as the nazi's treated the occupied Poles; in both cases we were despised untermenschen. The English language was regarded as a 'Peasants Only' tongue and French was the lingua franca of the courts, the nobility and the law. As centuries passed, Anglo-Saxon won the day and royalty evolved to become quintessentially English and a sworn enemy of that other lot across the channel, resulting in Crecy and Agincourt and later, Waterloo.

And what now? Are we still enemies? Perhaps in cultural terms according to the plebs, jingoists and xenophobes. It's a popular pastime in human history to lock horns with your nearest neighbour. Personally, I like the French. What's better than sitting by a quiet roadside with a warm, crusty fresh baguette, some soft and pungent cheese and a bottle of the local wine? I like the fact that they can be patriotic without somebody screaming at them that they're racist. I like their defiance at authority and a sort of chilled laid back attitude to, well....life.

So, in the spirit of European brotherhood which a large number of my mean spirited countrymen have worked so hard to destroy, I'll raise a glass to our neighbours and wish them well...."Santé!"


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