Corner of France where it will be forever
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
MORE Union Jacks are flying along 25 miles of the Normandy coast than in the whole of London.
That’s what you see between Vierville and Arromanches drenching the seashore, tens of thousands of flags laying down easy in the calm of mid-day, then snapping out full of pride when the evening breeze takes them.
This is the last great show of TRUE BRITAIN anywhere on EARTH. And it is in FRANCE, in sunshine and all through the seaside villagers behind the monuments on all those famous D-Day beaches.
There is an irony everywhere. Not in England do the nation’s colours fly in great sheets of red, white and blue. This is offensive to people who won’t even learn the language.
So the Union Jack is wound down from a thousand towns’ flagpoles and replaced with a golden circle of stars for Europe.
But just across the Channel in Normandy, from where the ancestors of half of today’s British came in warships, there is a place where we can sit and talk and say things a policeman would arrest for in England.
Not serious racial things. Little things, such as how awful the place is and who is to blame.
Aides are searching for ideas in the rooms in Downing Street where Blair’s departure is being planned. It is called looking for a place in history.
Blair wanted to give Northern Ireland away. He failed. Decent people revolted against his slimy friendship with the IRA and hatred of Loyalists.
Gibraltar was to be gift wrapped and posted to Spain. That’s still bubbling and the people down there on the Rock had better watch every sneaky move.
No point in looking for patriots in the New Labour Government. They just ain’t there.
AT THE weekend, Paul and Jan Barratt waited in a café at the end of the Arromanches main street while the chef ladled steaming moules into a black metal bowl and sprinkled torn parsley over the top.
They’d got a coach in Derby. It was one that parked with the engine running across the only gap in the seafront where you can eat and look at where thousands of British soldiers landed on June 6, 1944.
‘Get out of it’ Paul shouted towards the driver in the cab. He didn’t hear. But he moved the coach anyway.
Some big Union Jacks were hanging down dead still like sheets on a clothes line. It made a nice frame for the view of the beach. Why do you come here, the Barrats asked.
Paul said he was 64 and too young to have had even a school-boy thrill of living through the war.
‘My interest is the history of these beaches. And frankly, I like coming to a place where unashamed British like me can talk about pride in our country.
‘Any others on the coach think like you?’ the
‘How many would you say, Jan?’ he asked his wife.
‘Roughly every single one of them,’
she said. And everyone else they had met off coaches and cars such as the men and the women on the next table who had driven over in a 4x4.
‘Just look down that street,’ one of the old guys said. It was tunnel of Union Jacks. There were Stars and Stripes and Tricolors as well. But mostly Union Jacks, it seemed. Probably a thousand.
‘Now I want you to tell me where in England would have the guts to put on a show like that? Nowhere, my friend. The police would make you tear them down because they were likely to offend the
“you know who’s.”,’
One of the women leaned right over and said:
‘Well, it isn’t really a country any more, is it?’
ON ANOTHER table some Americans were finishing off a Ryder Cup trip with a hop to Normandy.
‘Don’t you think Americans have wonderful names?
An old, grey-haired woman with a leathery suntan was saying.
At the Omaha Beach American cemetery, I saw a George H. Washington, a Tony Virgil and one Rudolph Lutz. They’re better names than Jones or Ryan.’
Maybe, she was told, but those people in the café – a table of Brits –
Are thrilled to see all the Union Jacks, the British flag.
‘I don’t understand.’ The American women said. In the UK most Government agencies and city councils discourage flying it because it distresses immigrants, she was told. You could get into trouble.
Are we having a serious discussion here? It’s a fact, you told her.
‘Ricky and me are from Colorado, and if you pulled a stunt like that in our home town you probably wouldn’t live through the night.’
Brits, arm in arm, walked under the arches of the flags. A child being dragged along by two of them said he had never seen so many of them in his life. He saw so few at home in Walsall the significance was lost.
The another women said she was trying to get her daughter to emigrate to Australia.
‘England’s finished,’ she had got around to thinking. ‘This is about the last place you can go to and pretend it isn’t.’
Which was being said in the street that looked like the old days of Britain, with bunting and flags and happy people showered with memories.
BUT the STREET was in NORMANDY, FRANCE.
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