The Cotswolds were deserted as we drove back from France. The ferry ride over from St Malo had almost approached civilised status. The meal was superb, as the ship was run by a French company. It was a far cry from the things that chug between Calais and Dover. Once in England, the predictable August rain was giving the countryside a good soaking. From what I could make out, everyone here is currently in the Dordogne. Why, is a mystery. The moment I spot a "Friday night is fish and chip night" sign on a restaurant abroad, I want to flee to the ferries. It was the reason that I didn't go on the usual gap year between school and university. I couldn't quite see the point of going to Koh Samui in Thailand to flounce about in fluorescent face paint at half-moon parties with everyone I knew from London. It's this homogenisation of world travel that makes travel so much less exciting nowadays.
As my wife is Canadian and a far nicer person than me, she is a lot less bothered about these things. I'll get really unhappy if we go a restaurant and they bring me a menu in English.
"They're just being courteous," says Stacey.
"They're disrespecting me," I reply stubbornly.
"But you don't speak a word of Mandarin Chinese," she continues with that look in her eye that has become oh, so familiar.
I ignore her, refuse to accept the English menu, and point at some random things on the alien menu. Then I'm surprised when I'm served roast donkey dong and beetroot mash. What is extraordinary and so French is how they rely so heavily on the English tourist money for income and yet despise us so. Wandering round yet another morning market I eavesdropped on a couple of older French men sitting comfortably outside their café. For the five minutes that I listened in, they slagged off every Brit that shuffled past.
"Look at the size of that lot... I hope they buy lunch at your place, Claude. You'll be sold out when they leave." The man who said this was huge and sat arrogantly in his chair smoking and necking a vat of wine.
His friend pointed at a young English couple. "He looks gay. She is much too good for him." I rather loved these two and longed to sit down with them and join in. Sadly, I would have been the prime butt of their insults and I strode away quickly when I was eventually ordered to leave by Stacey. We were here to do the usual English thing of smelling loads of vegetables and grumble about how we couldn't get things like this back home. My interest, however, was elsewhere.
Even the smallest market will have a guy sitting around selling a veritable martial arts arsenal. You start with the little kitchen knives and individual lock blades but quickly move onto flick knives and machetes. The local hardware shop in the town nearest to us, not only had a knife section but you could buy air-rifles, crossbows catapults.... It seems that the French are not going to be caught napping by the Germans a third time and are hoarding vast supplies of weapons in readiness. Unless they are secretly stocking up for the day when they take revenge for Agincourt and sweep the English invaders from their land.
Whatever the case, local anger seems to be pretty high. On a day trip to St-Emilion, the Disneyland of wine, I spotted a huge line of graffiti on a wall. The words "Fuck English Now" were eloquently scrawled on the ancient brick. But the French are missing a trick. What they really need to do is get in their CVs and head for the Cotswolds for a burglary spree – the place is wide open.Reuse content