I have begun wearing kilts again. I used to do this years ago but, erm, passage of time rendered them, uh, too small. Alack, the Fleming waistline now oscillates between 36 and 40 and those distant days of 32waist/32leg are long since departed. However, last year I bought a few more and now I wear them pretty much every day. And when I’m not wearing the kilt, I wear tartan trews.
Now what could possibly have spurred this aberrant behaviour? A sudden dose of ‘alt-fashion’ in the old fool’s noggin? A passionate longing for the owld country? Simple homesickness? Senility?
Not quite. I wear these because I want to remind everyone that I am Scottish. Or, more precisely, that I am not English.
Now I know that there are nice English people. So this is not so much about dislike for them.
Instead, it is about the fact that I live in France. And here, not being English has suddenly become much more desirable than it used to be.
Most English people think the French reserve towards them has something to do with Jeanne d’Arc or Napoleon, and it is true, that forms a part of it. But it’s not the main reason.
Scratch the skin of a French person and you will find Dunkirk resentment. The British, according to this, abandoned France in her moment of need and allowed the Nazis to rape her, rape her and rape her. The French will not forget that in a hurry.
Before I lived in France I had no real idea what the Germans did to this country. In my long conversations with the late Kiki la Gare (as described here) and other veterans of those grim days, all now passed, I came to know something of their awful suffering. Yes, Britons endured the Blitz, but they did not spend years having to toady to arrogant Germans who could arrest or shoot them on any pretext; or none at all.
Yes, they know the British had no choice at Dunkirk. Yes, they know that the Expeditionary Force was encircled and had only two options — surrender or escape. They know the pragmatic reasons for the flight from disaster, and they understand them. French people are the products of a Classically derived education system and they are very rational.
But they are also passionate Gauls, who feel deeply. And that feeling part of them will always say ‘Yes. But you still abandoned us.’
Now most of that had settled down. It is, after all, 71 years since the end of that war. Few who were adult then now live on.
But this year, the English managed to do it again. Well done. And this time it’s not ‘the British’. Oh no, the French know the truth. It was the English.
Brexit — Dunkirk all over again.
I am referring, of course to the ‘Brexit’ vote.
Once again les Anglais have deserted their posts. Once again they have abandoned the French before overwhelming German power. Certes, that power today is not in the form of SS regiments goose-stepping across Europe. Today the Wehrmacht deploys economic might, not Panzers.
The European Union (EU) was never conceived or designed to deal with a reunified Germany. Its forerunner, European Economic Community, (EEC,) was intended to form a balance of power between France and West Germany, with Italy as a moderating counterweight. These three nations and their economies dominated the original EEC.
Since 1990, when the Germanies were re-united, European expansion has had but one, albeit unstated, end: to counter the economic might of a resurgent Germany.
One could make the case — and it would be difficult to refute — that Europe has never been able to accommodate a unified Germany. After all, this only happened in 1871, after Bismarck’s cynical ruse forced a war with France. For 76 years since then, Germany has been at war with its neighbours, under strict Armistice conditions that limited its power, or divided, as a result of those wars. In other words, for over half the time that Germany has existed, it has been at war or dealing with the consequences of wars — that it provoked.
And the principal target remains, as it was for Bismarck, France.
The New Maginot Line
So we can see that the major purpose of the European Project, over the last 25 years, has always been to contain German power. Expansion, it was hoped, meant dilution and, until the ill-starred Euro project upset the apple-cart, that might have been sustainable. An expanded Europe would be the political Maginot Line that would defend France from Germany. And the United Kingdom was an essential part of that.
Which makes, in French eyes, the decision of English voters to abandon their posts, once again, appear cynical and cowardly. It shows them, as if they did not already know, that an Englishman’s word is not worth the breath that speaks it. (Something, of course, well known to all Scots — or it should be, after 2014.)
That they will, for reasons of simple self-interest, abandon and betray those they hitherto called friends and swore to support.
They also know, viscerally, that without the UK, Germany will once again run amok. It has already crippled Greece and, in essence, extinguished its sovereignty. It clearly intends to do the same to Spain and in Portugal, democracy has been crushed at Berlin’s insistence. Italy will be next and France…
The Euro Disaster.
Most of this, of course, is a result of the disaster that has been the Euro, which the UK, wisely, never joined. But logic matters little in affairs of the viscera. The French counted on the UK to stand beside them on the ramparts. To be allies against Europe being turned into Greater Germany — and now the rats have fled.
Oh, the people round here are nice and they know me. And they too, understand the problems of Europe — its lack of democratic accountability, its behemoth bureaucracy, the sheer scale. There are many here who would see a ‘Frexit’ tomorrow and smile. That, however, changes nothing: desiring something and doing it are not the same. Believing one would be better off alone and betraying a loyal friend are two different things and no matter how much the friend might be frustrated or his complaint legitimate, taking that first step condemns him.
This — considerable — anger here has been compounded by the behaviour of the English since June 23. The explosions of xenophobic and racist hatred, widely reported in the media here, have shocked the French.
And they are right. Imperial supremacism and the nasty class structure that built it, remains prevalent in England, which it does not in France. Oh, the French are quite capable of being xenophobic, but they do it in different ways. They are brought up, through their system, to accept that anyone who fully espouses French culture is French and therefore an equal. They see themselves as good Europeans, welcoming towards others.
The vicious racist attacks, those reported in England as well as the predictably appalling behaviour of English football fans abroad — surely the dregs of the nation, if not the planet — have soured the French view of the English. Not only are you disloyal betrayers, you are crude, uncultured bigots too.
‘See,’ they feel justified now in saying, ‘We knew you were racists all along. It was just a matter of time before you showed it.’
Being uncultured, by the way, is a grave sin in France. Here, one’s rank is not determined by dint of whom your mother slept with, but by how you behave, and the level of your educational and professional attainment. The English in particular seem to have no understanding of this. Nor do they comprehend that the explosion of yob culture that has — at least to eyes looking across la Manche — consumed their society since June, confirms all the worst suspicions that the French have about them: drunken, boorish, violent and untrustworthy.
The Bad Apple.
It is likely that things will get hot for UK ex-pats in France. We have no idea what will happen. ‘Brexit’ is a catastrophic mess and we are likely to be abandoned to our fates by an English Government that cares only about voters in the Home counties. While in official terms, all Britons remain EU citizens, for now, all our rights are to be stripped from us.
The English have identified themselves, once again, as the bad apple in the basket. And all this, apparently, because they don’t like the Poles — who, by the way, did not betray the English, but fought and died to keep England free of the very German jackboot that crushed France. Much thanks do they get now.
However, the French know that the decision to quit their post was taken by the English and forced on the Scots. They know that we voted to remain.
Since I began wearing my kilt again, strangers have come up to me and shaken my hand. They have congratulated me. ‘You’re Scottish? Well done!’ they say. ‘We are old allies.’ Sometimes this outpouring of solidarity is really moving. ‘Thank you,’ they are saying, ‘You did not abandon us.’
And so I wear a kilt and tartan. I’m not English and only ‘British’ under duress. And I like that to be known, especially in these times.