12 April 2018
Macron too macro?
By Chin Chin
Well, where are they, then? The first signs of spring, where are they? There I was in New Zealand, living life in the sunshine, sitting on a deck gazing over the Pacific, the hard choice of the day being whether that bottle of iced chilled Chardonnay would go better with the native Bluff oysters or the local green lipped mussels, when it occurred to me that as the heat went out of the sun in the southern hemisphere the daffodils that would be turning London yellow. So back I came. Twenty-four hours of flying only mitigated by the odd Singapore Sling and what did I find? Daffodils and crocuses setting the gardens ablaze with colour? Did I, Hell. No, the country looked as if the White Witch of Narnia had decided to take her holiday here. Spring deferred by up to 3 weeks. Honestly, it’s worse than a trip on the French railways.
And it’s not just the flower beds which are empty, either. What about the newspapers? News of the Salisbury poisonings had reached New Zealand, of course, so the conspiracy theorists down there were enjoying themselves thoroughly, secure in the knowledge that no one was likely to poison them. I assumed that, when I got here, the country would be full of amateur Smileys trading off their theories in the pubs and men wearing contamination suits stalking the streets. Indeed I had purchased myself a special set of dark glasses to give me status in the discussion. And what do I find? Despite a somewhat arid debate as to the exact words used in a conversation between Boris Johnson and Porton Down which Russia and its Guardianista friends naturally tried to use to undermine the UK’s position, it seems pretty clear that the poison originated in Russia. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it was used by the Russian Government – there are plenty of fruitcakes, Russian and otherwise, who may have got hold of it, but it seems unlikely that we will ever get to the bottom of that. No, now the focus now seems to be on why the Skripals’ cat and guinea pigs were cremated. The Russian Embassy has said that they could be important witnesses, but then over egged it by referring to their demise as “sad”. With all those spies, you would have thought that they would have learned that irony can be overdone.
So what else has been going on here? The Brexit news seems devoid of excitement, presumably because the negotiators think they will get on better talking in private. They are right about that, but it’s a little unfair on a man who returns from abroad expecting some rip-roaring stuff to keep him amused.
It isn’t often that I want to be a Frenchman, but the sad truth is that their newspapers are more exciting than ours at the moment. Striking rail workers and airline staff, protesting students and civil servants, angry pensioners, prison guards and rubbish collectors all on one side: the youngest ruler of France since Napoleon on the other. That’s what I call tension. Introducing reform in France has always been a difficult business, indeed successive failures to remove the tax exemption for the nobility and clergy were prime causes of the revolution. Can Macron emulate Napoleon and force change on his countrymen? Well, he gave his movement En Marche his own initials, reminiscent of the Napoleonic “N”, so perhaps there is hope, but then at 5’10” he is rather tall. Napoleon was only 5’7”and Louis XIV a mere 5’5”. Is Macron too macro to succeed in France? That is the central question of French politics.
Coming back to the UK though, one can normally turn to the sports pages for amusement, but the truth is that I heard enough about sport in New Zealand. Fortunately, I did not make the terrible mistake of going to a test match to see how our cricketers performed there – abysmally it turns out, losing the series one nil and scoring a truly dreadful 58 all out in the first innings of the first test. Spending weeks trying to avoid talking about international sport rather turns one off the subject. So where could I look for some truly cheerful news to offset the grim greyness of the national press? Was there a tunnel somewhere with light at the end of it?
I looked across the road at a house occupied by a friend of mine, a man who had ruined his mind with a degree from Oxford. It gave me an idea. Tremulously, I put in a search on the Boat Race. Aha! A decisive Cambridge victory, no less. Then I looked at the Isis/Goldie race. Another Cambridge victory, forsooth. Then the women, then Blondie and Osiris, then the lightweights of both sexes. Light Blue triumphant everywhere. So rather than reading the paper this morning I found the recording of the race on the Internet and watched it from end to end. Then I watched it again. Tomorrow I will not buy a newspaper, but will just re-watch the race. I think that has set the pattern for the rest of the week. It is good to be back, after all.