The stottie cake may have little in common with the baguette but there is one thing in which Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, the latest arrival to Newcastle United’s growing Gallic contingent, can find solace. The accent, it has been said, is the easiest in all of the British Isles for the French ear to understand.
Stop laughing, it’s about shared vowel sounds. Pronounce ‘howay’ in its natural, Geordie accent. Now try any French word ending with the ‘é’. See?
Recent signing Matthieu Debuchy was joined this week by Yanga-Mbiwa. And fellow Frenchmen Yoann Gouffran and Massadio Haidara are expected to arrive within days, with Moussa Sissoko following in the summer, taking the number of French players in Geordieland up to 10.
The new arrivals at St James’ Park will be able to find one or two French places but, as a Francophile Geordie, I can safely say that they are vastly outnumbered by those offering more traditional English fayre: Indian, Italian and Chinese food. The most beloved of Newcastle’s French community is Café de Vie. “It’s more a bistro than a restaurant but it’s a little bit of France in the middle of Newcastle,” said one expat yesterday.
The city’s Quayside has a Hotel du Vin [sic], which - like most French restaurants in Britain - is not particularly authentic, while a coffee shop near the stadium called Ma Provence may well prove popular. And the Grainger Market, in the city centre, even has a cheese stall. After that, however, the Gallic influence is relatively sparse.
And then there is the weather. While the average summer temperature differs only a little from Paris, people used to Montpellier’s Mediterranean climate will likely find it a little more difficult to adapt to.
Indeed, many of the French students who transfer to Northumbria University come from Aix-en-Provence, in southern France. Most start out OK, but - as autumn turns to winter - the grumbles begin to take over. At least, for Newcastle’s new signings, it’s only going to get warmer from here to the end of the season.