John Lichfield: Our Man in Paris

Read my Da Vinci book and you'll be even more lost than with the original
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The Independent Online

Dan Brown, the author, a self-proclaimed zealot for accuracy and deep research, may be disappointed to find that the "American embassy" is represented in the movie by a building on the other side of the city.

On the other hand, Mr Brown may not notice. When writing his wonderful novel, which proves that Jesus Christ was a married man with several children, he must have been holding his map of Paris upside down.

Or maybe he used the imaginative, official French railways map of Paris which I discovered a few months ago. It has the river Seine running north to south, instead of east to west.

Mr Brown's successful novel - which is of course historically accurate in almost every detail - has the Ritz hotel in northern Paris, instead of the centre. It has Versailles north-east of Paris, instead of south-west.

When Dan Brown visited Paris for his research for the book, he must also have stumbled across a dishonest taxi driver.

At one point, the hero and heroine - played in the movie by Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou - drive their tiny Smart car to the American embassy. They cross the Place de la Concorde and turn into the Avenue des Champs Elysées. One of them announces (taxi-driver-like) that the embassy is still a mile away. At that point, the US embassy is 100 metres away.

Anyway, I have decided to devote my two weeks summer holiday to writing a deeply researched novel which will make me a multi-millionaire like Mr Brown.

Initially, I intended to write a book called "The Da Vinci Cod". It was to be the story of a mysterious Christian cabal, dedicated to the endless replication of the biblical miracle of the loaves and the fishes. The cabal has infiltrated the high command of the European Commission, in Brussels, the capital of Denmark.

They have succeeded brilliantly in the loaves part of their task. By inventing farm subsidies and fertilisers and banning hedges, they have turned the whole of rural Europe into a giant wheat field.

The fishes part of the task has been less successful. Far from multiplying, the fish are vanishing. Initially, this is blamed on the militancy of a far-left trade union started by one of the fish. This, however, turns out to be a red herring.

It emerges that the fish are gathering off the east coast of Luxembourg, where a rival cabal is hoovering them through an underground tunnel back to the Sea of Gallilee, in County Offaly.

A check on the internet revealed, however, that other people had already used the title the Da Vinci Cod - for spoofs, not for a serious thriller like mine.

My own thriller will therefore be called "The Da Vinci Co-Ed". It will tell of a female American university student called Wendy who is given an unpaid, work experience job at the Elysée Palace, in the French capital, Clermont Ferrand.

She discovers that the President of the Republic is the original Methusaleh from the Old Testament, capable - through unknown power - of constantly re-generating himself. He is now 7,002 years old.

Under his perpetual reign, France - once a prosperous, polite, happy country north of Belgium - has become a quarrelsome nation, with only one private-sector job between 60,000,000 people.

Wendy teams up with a modest, dashing, handsome, though rather small, French politician, called Nicolas. At first it seems that Nicolas is interested in his own advancement.

Later it emerges that he is the direct descendant of Saint Nicolas, known to us as Santa Claus, but to the French as Santarkozy. His ambition is to bring the benighted French people the gifts of the Anglo-Saxon enlightenment. The gifts, permanent, not just once a year, include Thatcherism, Blairism, the National Health Service, Network Rail, cricket, haggis, the war in Iraq, chip butties, the Rover car company and Jack Straw.

In a twist in the final chapter, the ungrateful French people revolt against Saint Nicolas and reinstate Methusaleh.

If any publishers are interested, I can be contacted at my home in Normandy, off the west coast of Scotland.

La Brusselaise?

André Vallini, a Socialist member of the national assembly, wants to add a new verse to the French national anthem.

Depressed, like me, by the "non" vote in the referendum on the European Union constitution, M. Vallini wants all French children to sing "La Marseillaise" before lessons each day.

However, to the well-known revolutionary verses urging the "enfants de la patrie" to destroy invading foreigners and their "impure blood," M. Vallini proposes that the education ministry should add a pro-European ending.

His verse begins "Allons enfants de nos 25 pays..." Here is a full translation. "Come on children of our 25 nations, a new era has dawned. In the sky of Europe, the starred, blue flag is flying... Remember the bad old times, which tore us apart. There will be no more wars, only friendship and peace..."

Good try, M. Vallini. Is any brave British politician willing to suggest a similar re-write of "God Save the Queen"?

Off message

Someone has been going to a lot of trouble to stencil an anti-capitalist message on the pavement outside bank branches in Paris. The message reads: "Complicit in inhuman productivism."

Anyone with experience of French banks will know that this is grossly unfair. French banks are, for the most part, bureaucratic, slow, obstructive and over-staffed. Their notion of capitalism is to refuse all small risks - anything involving less than a billion euros.

Inhuman they may be. Productive, they are certainly not.