Friday, January 19, 2007

A Marriage Proposed in Hell?

Concerning the recent revelation that the French prime minister in 1956 proposed subsuming France within Great Britain, the Independent wonders how it might have turned out if they plan had gone forward:

Could such a marriage, between mutually jealous and perennially quarrelling siblings, ever have worked? Fifty years on, we might have blended the best of France and the best of Britain. On the other hand, we might have shared our faults. France might have had our public transport and health systems. We might have had the ramshackle, French university system. We might have had French rates of unemployment. They might have had the London Tube, instead of the Metro.

We both might have ended up with French TV, British hospital waiting lists, the French police, British estate agents, French trades unions, British school dinners, French plumbers and Scottish joie de vivre.

This is of course a gloss on the old joke about "European Heaven and European Hell," which usually goes something like this: in European Heaven, the Italians are the lovers, the French are the cooks, the the Swiss are the bankers, the Germans are the intellectuals, and the English are the police; in European Hell, on the other hand, the Swiss are the lovers, the English are the cooks, the Italians are the bankers, the French are the intellectuals, and the Germans are the police.

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