'He's no poodle - we like poodles in Le Touquet'

Outside Le Touquet's splendid neo-Gothic town hall, Charles Clarke, flanked by his French counterpart, Luc Ferry, talked about warmth: the warmth engendered by this event, the warmth of the reception, the warmth of the ties between Britain and France. It was some feat by the Education Secretary. Forget about the froideur between the two countries over Iraq, Zimbabwe and farm subsidies; the icy wind blowing off the Channel was enough to chill the bones of even the most thick-skinned politician.

''C'est froid, Le Touquet,'' exclaimed Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the French Prime Minister, 30 minutes earlier when he stepped off the Airbus taking the French delegation to the town's small airport. He shook hands with the few spectators, before granting an exclusive interview to The Independent. ''Why have you forgotten to bring your jumper?'' he enquired of our Paris correspondent.

At the town hall, Jacques Chirac (who remembered to bring his scarf) greeted Tony Blair, and the body language was simple to translate. After the military band played the national anthems, the French President put a friendly arm around his guest's waist to usher him along the red carpet towards the crowd. The townsfolk of Le Touquet had gathered in impressive numbers to wave their plastic flags and meet the two premiers. Much of the time, M. Chirac had his hand on Mr Blair's shoulder. There were spontaneous chants of ''Chi-rac, Chi-rac'' and a brief moment of excitement when the President spotted a baby, but, alas, he couldn't reach across the crowd to seize his photo opportunity. For Mr Blair, it was "bonjour" all round.

The military guard stood, sabres glinting in the sporadic sunshine, as the two men disappeared up the steps for some sabre-rattling of their own. This was the biggest such event in the 120-year history of Le Touquet and the town had put on its best suit for the occasion – even the furniture at the town hall was replaced for the day by more sumptuous items from the national collection. (The meeting, symbolically, took place in a room designed for bilateral agreements – it's where civil marriages are conducted.)

A northern coastal resort of 5,000 permanent residents (more than twice that number have holiday homes here), Le Touquet was an appropriate venue for an Anglo-French summit. It was created by the British for the British at the turn of the 20th century, and Tony Blair and his party would not have felt they were in unfamiliar terrain. All around are British influences. The hotel where they had lunch is The Westminster; houses they passed on their way from the airport have names like "Fairway" or "Byways" or "Home Sweet Home"; P G Wodehouse and Ian Fleming lived here; and much of the architecture is of a mock-Tudor style found primarily in the Home Counties. Much of the town's popularity today derives from its golf course (opened in 1904 by one of Tony Blair's predecessors, Lord Balfour), and for the many thousands of British visitors who come here, it is regarded as Wentworth-sur-Mer. As M. Chirac said later, ''Le Touquet is symbolic of the friendship between the two countries.''

There were a few Britons in the crowd who welcomed Mr Blair at the town hall, although it was a local resident who most appositely summed up the differences between the two nations at the moment. ''We wouldn't say that Tony Blair is George Bush's poodle,'' she said, ''but that's because we like poodles too much in Le Touquet.''

At the later press conference, however, the entente could not have been more cordiale. On Iraq, M. Chirac would not be drawn by persistent questioning on the what-if scenario, preferring to repeat his country's insistence on following the United Nations route. For now, his message was clear: Vive la Resolution!

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker