The Elephant in the Room

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Well, the provocation behind the French Empire is les rosbifs, of course. Or at least, our langauge. Because English is so dominant it has made the French absolutely positive that it must hang onto its overseas domains, no matter how many billions of euros they costevery year or how useless they are, in economic terms.


This was all made perfectly understandable to me today at Sydney University when I met my heroes, Robert Aldrich and John Connell, two academics who have written the world’s definitive text on the Dom-Toms in English. This book, known between Mr Millard and I as The Book, (as in “OH my GOD, have you got The Book?! I need to check out on the population growth of Guyane!”) has been our Bible. And it was thrilling to meet the authors today, albeit in the presence of irritating, head-butting children (c.f. previous blogs on bad behaviour amid the Junior Millards, who today had to be taken off by an Australian film star and entertained with charades).
Anyway, for Connell and Aldrich, two genial types from Leeds and the East Coast of America respectively, it was clear. The French language, culture and customs, be it arty films, decent bread, proper wine or petanque, is perpetrated across the globe by France in her overseas domains for a few reasons, one of which is because the rest of the globe has gone resolutely Anglo-wards.

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And so we have this parallel universe where one converses in French, where a cup of coffee costs 5 Euros and where cycling is bigger than cricket.

Yet diving into Sydney for a rushed night, though, seeing the skyscrapers and packed harbour full of rapacious English speaking capitalists (there’s no recession here, folks), these French enclaves with their Boulangeries, Mr. Bricolages and insistance on wacky currency (French Pacific Franc, anyone?), seem by contrast quaintly out of step, an anomaly, rather like a rare animal padding about in a zoo.

Or maybe I just feel like this because I’m about to leave the land of the dollar, normal pricing and the Ashes. Tomorrow, we return once again to Planet France. Next stop, the Indian Ocean and the French Department of La Reunion.

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