Column: French without tears ... or fear of officials!

la grande plage de Royan
la grande plage de Royan

I am writing this from France. The south west coast, to be precise. I have decided that I love France. I love the country, the people, but I particularly love the way of life over here.

The French just do everything so much better than we do. French coffee, for example, is sublime, and so are their cakes. In fact, all French food is to die for, apart from the elastic-banded crabs and lobsters swimming about in a tank in front of the fish counter in the local supermarché. I can’t imagine them having one of those down the local Asda, can you? But, that aside, the French have such a good quality of life that I think us Brits could learn a real lesson from. For example, here shops will shut for lunch in the middle of the day. How civilised!

I can’t imagine them having one of those down the local Asda, can you?

The French also seem extremely fit (apart from the smoking) and everyone in this coastal town seems to cycle. In fact, unlike Blighty, cycling is encouraged.

Nothing seems to faze the French, either.

At the motorway services I saw men, women, grandparents, small children and even a dog strolling around inside the ladies’ loo like a day out at the park. The dog was trailing its lead by the sinks, waiting for its owner. Bizarre! We rented some bikes but, on the last day when one of the teenagers lost the key to their lock, the rental guy just shrugged. He charged us a few Euros to cover the cost of a new key but refused to charge us another day’s rental, even though we were late getting the bikes back. Imagine that happening in England? They’d have the shirt off your back as well as an inflated fine, administration costs and a ban for life! But the thing I love most about here is you’re always on French time – much slower than GMT. No one seems to be in a rush, and that’s refreshing. It’s also just what you need when you’re on holiday to remind you that a life led at a slower pace is often a very rich life indeed. Then we returned to England. Goodness only knows what they must make of our country with its tinpot rules and little dictators. We met one of these as soon as we’d exited the ferry. This man was a particular despot, sitting in his own kingdom - a plastic cubicle - ready to enforce the ‘immigration act of 1971’. What law had we broken? We didn’t have a slip of cardboard attached to the inside mirror. A hanging offence by all accounts! We found it screwed up in the foot well, which did little to appease because he stated neither him nor the cardboard were here to be abused. As for Brexit, Europe must be breathing a sigh of relief to see the back of us.