French View of Brits

Here is a little article written by a French journalist about the
english, then translated into english....

Tuesday April 12, 2005
The Guardian
Binge drinking
Binge drinking is a national sport practised in the streets of towns throughout the kingdom on Friday and Saturday evenings or, during the week, at the pub as soon as the office closes. The idea is to drink,drink, drink until you drop. According to Home Office statistics, binge drinking accounts for 70% of emergency admissions to hospitals at weekends. This mania is costing the country more than £20bn a year, especially through damage to property and loss of productivity at work (17m days a year are lost through hangovers).

Where can the visitor find binge drinking? Let's take just one example. Friday evening, strolling on the seafront in Brighton: young people are drinking "buckets of joy" (literally buckets filled with lemonade and vodka) through a straw, others are already staggering. Scenes are developing outside the nightclubs: young girls throwing up in the gutter, two adolescent couples making love on the beach, in full view of passers-by, and, finally, other young people have passed out on the pavement, apparently senseless. An ambulance siren can be heard approaching ...

British eccentricity
Devotees of the queue, ardent monarchists, fanatical darts players, weather absessives, devourers of biographies, gardeners, eaters of toast with baked beans in tomato sauce ... the British are the kings of eccentricity. They practice it better than anyone else and it's not a passing thing. From George III to Boy George, by way of "Beau" Brummel, Oscar Wilde, Monty Python and Vivienne Westwood, their aristocratic pretensions to the art of eccentricity are beyond all compare.

It's the insularity of the British that makes them, by definition, "ex-centred" (in the strict meaning of the term). In the course of time, the notion was then applied to the way of thinking and acting of people who behave in extraordinary ways, contrary to the received wisdom. There's no point looking for examples of European eccentrics; you won't find them. Don Quixote in Spain and Jacques Tati in France?Odd, yes, but not eccentric.

Finally, there's a good collection of eccentrics in politics as well. Boris Johnson, for example. How should one define this cub of the Conservative opposition, successor in parliament to the debonair Michael Heseltine, editor-in-chief of the rightwing magazine the Spectator, occasional anchorman of a TV game show and amateur cyclist? His real name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Barely 40 years old, educated at Eton and Oxford, he has not stopped making the news. Adept at repartee, his bonhomie and his anarchic dress sense, in a check jacket and beetle-crushers, tweed trousers and smoking jacket, have made him a choice guest at fashionable London dinner parties and one of the favourite targets of tabloid press photographers. His anti-European opinions, despite (or because of) his time spent in Brussels as a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and his rumbustious appearances on the humorous television show Have I Got News For You have made him both a trouble-maker and dear to the British heart. Some are predicting a rapid ascent to the top of the Conservative party.

English breakfast
The English breakfast is now reserved for passing tourists who want to rediscover a culture that no longer exists. Or for British expats, 29% of whom, in a recent survey conducted by the Royal Society of Medicine, miss it every day of their lives. In another study, they put it in fifth place among the iconic images of their country, just after the Queen and Buckingham Palace. Even if it is not based on a great deal, the symbol still shines. Like the gleaming of the stars whose light reaches us long after they are dead, the FEB (full English breakfast) still exhales its divine odour of grilled bacon long after the last serving.

Oh! To awake to this magical smell hanging in the air in a bed and breakfast, somewhat seedy but as cosy as the heart of the English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish countryside. When it's cold and wet outside and still dark at eight in the morning ...

Fish and chips - and Modern British Cuisine
The cliche goes that in Britain you eat badly, and I mean, really badly. Every French family has its own set of anecdotes to spread about the time when the prodigal child returns from a language course in the land of Peter Pan and Princess Di. Everyone remembers their first confusion in front of a dish of boiled chicken, salad with no dressing, peanut-butter sandwiches, baked beans on toast, enormous
peas, Marmite butties (you know, that Bovril-like sauce they spread on bread like Nutella), all served with mint sauce or, worse, jelly. Everyone in the family has experienced that mixture of nausea and stupefaction in the face of so many exotic dishes with unpredictable flavours.

Fortunately, English cooking is not limited to this popular image or to these few strange products. If it has weaknesses, it also has some pieces of brilliance, some real specialities at which it excels. Its special talent is preparing game and poultry. Its Sunday roast beef is engraved on the memory of many a traveller and its turkey with cranberry sauce has become the national dish of its American cousins.
In short, it is wonderfully good at feeding a population that is chilled by one of the most unpleasant climates there is with hearty, hot and tasty dishes.

But English cooking is not just that, because it is open to the world. To India, of course, primarily. For the past 50 years, fish and chips have shared star billing with curry and chicken tikka masala, which have become traditional British dishes.

Finally, English cooking has also, for the past 10 years, had a burning desire to mingle the best gastronomic traditions from all over the world. England accepts everything on offer without prejudices. It likes to taste, that's its strength. In the mid 1990s, the British supermarket chains had the brilliant idea of importing a selection of the most tasty Italian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Swedish and Greek
specialities - focaccia, buffalo mozzarella, Iberian ham, Brie, sushi, Baltic herrings and feta cheese have made a conspicuous entrance on to the shelves of fresh food at Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Waitrose in city centres.

At the same time, miracle of miracles, cooking has become fashionable. In just a few years, the whole country has got into it - to such an extent that Britain has become a nation of foodies. Television programmes about cooking are a huge success and recipe books, in fancy editions with sophisticated photos, sell in their millions every year. Now every generation of food lovers has a chef it follows blindly.

No sex please, we're British
Let's be charitable and put ourselves in the place of our poor British friends. How can they not have a (big) problem with sex when:

· Every morning, their newsagent spreads out under their noses the front pages of the tabloids covered with close-ups of silicone-enhanced breasts and buttocks, an absolute turn-off without an ounce of eroticism
· Until 1996 there was an "annual charity ball for sex maniacs"
· The Kama Sutra was banned until 1963
· The 1,500 shops in the Ann Summers chain (the Marks & Spencer of sex toys for adventurous couples) sell a million dildos every year.

Under these conditions, how do you not go completely bonkers?

Indeed, the British have learned only how to laugh at sex. To scoff at it at the slightest opportunity. It is impossible for them to consider it seriously. It frightens them. So it obsesses them. Sex, this subject of national embarrassment, pervades absolutely everything. Just look at the often provocative appearance and attitude of English women. But talk about it? No way.

The British have decided to ignore bad weather once and for all. The proof? Just watch a London worker. He hasn't got a clue what a mac or overcoat are for. Men go blithely off to work dressed in a short-sleeved shirt when it's a damp 10C, or in a jacket if it's 5C. Young people out at night arrive at the nightclub around midnight
half-naked, arms, navel and legs bare, when it's a few degrees above freezing. But they're kept warm by alcohol (see binge drinking, above).

The English have found a response to the cold: repress it, deny the obvious, and make the best of a bad job. It's an admirable reaction compared to the French, who invariably moan: "What terrible weather!" And the British have even managed to turn rain to advantage: champion gardeners, they are past masters in the art of putting this providential water to good use.

Then, when the sun does come out, they take their clothes off in a few seconds, they roll down the tops of their convertibles and make a dash for the first pavement cafe they see. Even if the sunny spell occurs in the middle of January and lasts just half an hour, you can be sure that those precious UVA rays will be immediately absorbed by their pale skins.

· Agnès Catherine Poirier is a French journalist who lives in London. Her book Les Nouveaux Anglais is published by Alzik in France on Thursday.

**Thanks to SC for passing it along.**