What is it with France?

Tandem in Silhouette

A sobering quarter century or so ago, I recall appearing with our Barbershop Quartet The Four Tones in the British Embassy Pantomime (can’t remember what the nominal theme was, but it was hilarious) in Peking-as-was/Beijing-as-is with a jaunty, entertainingly xenophobic song that had as its refrain “Zat’s why you lurve ze French.”

Four Tones singing “That’s why we love the French”, Beijing British Embassy Pantomime, Xmas 1986

(Cliche-laden photo right of, right-to-left, baritone Jasper Utley, high tenor Bill Zaritt, low tenor self and bass Darryl Johnson, and click the image to hear the song as we performed it at the Great Wall Hotel, Beijing at Christmas 1986…)

I was repeatedly reminded of those cliches in late August/early September this year as Sue and I tandemed our way boozily and enjoyably north across La Belle France from Montpellier in the south to St Malo in the north-west, whence home by ferry and train.

Eight hundred miles nearly, and knees and kneck (nees and neck?) held out gratifyingly well, as did Sunshine our tandem, glossing over a bad day with multiple punctures in the searing heat.

The Usual Welcome

But what constantly got our goat, with alternating smiles and angry bleats, was how France, mostly, is shut. Continue reading