Walking the streets of Tel Aviv these days, it is impossible to go very far without one’s hearing being assailed by a sickening nasal sound. And I am not referring to the delightful manner in which Israelis clear their sinuses (before projecting the dislodged contents onto the pavement without a thought for adjacent pedestrians).
No, I am talking French.
Like Germans entering France in May 1940, the French have arrived in Tel Aviv in their hordes. And they have only been a little more welcome, male and female Frenchman alike bearing tasteless testament to the deleterious consequences of gaudiness and too many hours spent under the sunbed (though North Africa is probably as much to blame as France for these roasted peacocks, jangling and clunking under the weight of excessive gold).
Israelis, hardly paragons of best manners, loathe the behaviour of the French – though perhaps they resent the competition – even scapegoating them for Tel Aviv’s increasingly unaffordable property prices (thankfully, the French have tended to settle the streets in the immediate vicinity of the Mediterranean, a safe-ish distance from Rothschild).
Whoever invented the French language must have had a single guiding principle: “How do I come up with a sound that will drive other nations to sheer distraction?” And my instantaneous, though subconscious, reaction every time that I hear it is for my cheek muscles to contort my mouth into a De Niro grimace, that psychotic inverted smile which “Bobby” pulls in the movies whenever he is about to “whack” someone.
When spoken by the male of the species especially, the language turns me into a Tourette’s case, giving me the irrepressible urge to utter “the ‘c’ word” (not that, as regular readers of melchett mike will attest, I normally need too much encouragement). And the Frenchman, like the c*** in your high school class, has absolutely no self-awareness of that quality.
Following the arrogant, pretentious excesses of Eric Cantona (who could only be French), Thierry Henry restored the dignity of the Frenchman in English football. But the dastardly Hand of Frog ‘goal’ (left) that broke Irish hearts 12 days ago – cheating them out of a place at next summer’s World Cup in South Africa – showed that Henry had us duped. And, instead of admitting his offence, and going down in history as both a great footballer and a gentleman, Henry will now be remembered as a cheat in the mould of that repellent Argentine degenerate, Maradona.
To the Englishman, memories of white flags being raised over France in 1940 are as repugnant as thoughts of the Hand of God doing so in Mexico City in 1986. It took the French all of six weeks to surrender to the Germans – it is no coincidence that the central strip of the French tricolore is white – a noble feat which they then surpassed by establishing the collaborationist Vichy regime.
But are our neighbours across the Channel any more worthy of our contempt than, for example, the Belgians or the Dutch, who surrendered in two and a half weeks and four days, respectively? And, cowardice aside, what is it about the French that so gets under our skin?
Far from displaying a modicum of gratitude to the British for fighting for his nation’s freedom, De Gaulle subsequently made every effort to exclude the United Kingdom from the European Community (now Union). And his successors, too, have stabbed the British in the back at every given opportunity.
For some peculiar reason, known only to themselves, the French are persuaded that they are superior to everyone else. In art. In style. In food. And, most inaccurately of all, in bed. According to a global sex survey, the French only spend an average 19.2 minutes on foreplay, while we Brits spend 22.5 minutes (I have been known to spend even longer . . . especially when I have company).
In spite of its close proximity to London, I have visited Paris just once, and then only for a cousin’s engagement party (yes, he did). But it was enough to discover an absence of hospitality – shopkeepers feigning not to comprehend a single word of English as I groped for morsels of O-level French – that gives me no urge to return.
Since S, the French girl who paid me midnight visits at Jerusalem’s Ulpan Etzion (the aptly named “absorption centre” where we lived for five months following Aliyah), I have not even come close to dating a French woman. Moreover, my extensive Facebook and mobile phone lists contain a mere single French entry. And, having known Yael for ten years now, the thing that still strikes me every time that I meet her is how nice she is for a French woman. The exception to the rule.
So, Thierry Henry – arguably, until a week and a half ago, the greatest living Frenchman – reverted to type, proving that it is no coincidence that the national emblem of France is the cock.
Call me a “racist”, but . . . when it comes to the French, xenophobia takes on a rationality that makes it, if not a virtue, then common sense.
Dedicated to Bridlington Gert and his noble crusade against racism in all its forms (oh yes . . . except that against Jews).