Channeling la différence #history #Anglo-France

FrenchMarketJust spent a great weekend with my daughter and her family south of Paris, France.

The English Channel (La Manche) separates our two nations and as near-neighbours we have a long history of belligerence, but in reality we have harboured a treasonous admiration for various aspects of each other’s lifestyle too!

Perhaps one of the most evocative differences is the French local street market, regularly used for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables in a way that is a lost art in England. The one in their town was heaving on Sunday.

Right now, in the UK we depend more on supermarkets. The long-established ones (Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose) are however losing market share to two German interlopers (Aldi and Lidl) – bizarrely a country that is perhaps most responsible for proposing and maintaining the worst of EU decisions! Here we are getting all Little-Englander and xenophobic in the run-up to our general election in May and yet we are apparently flocking into German discount stores – go figure!

I am a confirmed European but some of the most recent EU pronouncements  do test your resolve! – such as the 1.7 billion euros they wanted to charge us for what some academic decided was the assumed GDP contribution for our undocumentedand unsubstantiated black markets – drug trafficking, prostitution…

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I sat with my French son-in-law and French grandson cheering on Monaco as they beat Marseille – because Marseille currently sits above their favoured PSG (Paris St Germain) team in Ligue 1.PSGTravelled home to the UK only to learn that my team Chelsea has drawn PSG in the last 16 of the Champions’ League – sorry boys but clearly you are going to lose – again!

chelseaAnd Monaco has drawn my son and English grandkids’ team – Arsenal!

This Euro-living does get complicated – I blame Michel Platini!

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History of the English Channel – an extract from my forthcoming book

1789 and all that!

– everything you need to know about French history as an ex-pat or visitor

500,000 years ago England was connected to the continent by low hills situated between the Weald and the Artois in northern France. The rivers Rhine and Thames flowed into a glacial lake located near today’s North Sea.

Scientists have examined the deposits in the Bay of Biscay to conclude that La Manche (the English Channel) was forming some 450,000 years ago. The North Sea glacial lake grew to a point when it breached the natural dam formed by the landbridge between the countries. The large volume of water flooded as a super river that ate away at the chalk hills and then scoured out an existing river valley between France and England all the way round to the Bay of Biscay.

Successive ice ages and warm periods continued the process, finally consigning England to its island status at the end of the last ice age – just 9,000 years ago.

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