'Merde' is probably one of the few French words english-speakers understand from a very early age. I can't remember how or why I happened to learn the French for 'shit', but in all likelihood it wasn't thanks to my French professor at school. 'Merde' also happens to be in the title of Stephen Clark's best-selling novel, a funny and well-observed take on French culture, in France, from a British perspective. Now the French, in their love of wordplay and puns as humour, tend to find this title somewhat offensive - as it suggests that France is shit. And seeing as the hero, Paul West, spends a year in France - this would seem to be the logical association. However if you've read the book, or indeed lived in France for any length of time, you would know that 'in the merde' actually implys 'stepping in shit'. This title alludes to the plotline of the book - as well as highlighting one of the most revolting facts of French life. That is - France is covered in dog shit. Nowhere [...]
England's rugby team played their joker on Saturday night. The unsuspecting French failed to notice the competitive advantage attached to Josh Lewsey's top lip and chin before it was too late. The winger bounded over the line within the first few seconds of play to score the opening try - thanks in no small part to the blond goatee attached to his face. It's no conincidence that Lewsey's five points also happened to be the winning margin. The final against South Africa could again be decided by facial hair. Boks forward Victor Matfield has been sporting a fine chin of roughage throughout the tournament, and with Lewsey out of the England squad, it may well be the decisive whisker.
Well the rugby world was turned on it's head yesterday as the Northern Hemisphere teams showed that the supposed dominance of the Southern Hemisphere was once again little more than hot air. England's turn-around from hopeless losers some five months ago - to World Cup semi-finalists can't be explained in simple terms, nor can France's miracluous neutralising of the mighty All Blacks. However, if you ask me there was one key edge that both England and France were able to draw upon that completely threw the opposition: beards. That's right, more precisely - beards on the bench. George Chuter and Sebastien Chabal both came on to replace clean shaven comrades in the second half, and the sight of facial hair on the pitch clearly threw the Aussies and Kiwis into disarray. "Strewth! That cobber's not scrubbed up for the ocassion. I'm not tackling him - I might get beard-burn!" The question now is - who will win the semi. With one beard apiece it's maybe too close to call. Somehow I think it just might be France who edge [...]
I'm a big fan of the fifteen man game, and so you can imagine my excitement when the Rugby World Cup kicked off in France a few weeks ago. However, it's all been a bit of a wet balloon. The French TV coverage has been scant to say the least. Naturally, in their 'chauvinism', TF1 has opted to show all of the prime time games that have mattered to the French national team. However coverage of any other games has been hard to find on terrestrial TV. I was appalled to switch on the other night to discover that the round-ball league cup clash between Strasbourg and Amiens was being televised live from Stade de la Meinau. A fixture that pulled barely enough spectators to fill one corner of the stadium. Yet England vs Tonga was all but ignored. But such is the nature of the French when it comes to their sport, it is about French participants and ultimately - the result, the taking part is neither here nor there. During the six nations I stood in a [...]