Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Rhiannon Harries: M. Sarkozy shouldn't feel embarrassed at being caught short

There are few subjects on which I consider myself expert enough to advise heads of state, but if it is true – as French daily Le Parisien claimed last week – that the president of France favours diminutive police officers as bodyguards in the hope of a more flattering visual comparison with his own petite stature, then I have one, emphatic word for M. Sarkozy: non.

M. Sarkozy would appear to subscribe to the reversal of a tactic known as the Elizabeth Hurley school of accessorising, which involves super-sizing everything about your person (watch, sunglasses, handbag, hired help) in order to appear a slip of a thing. I like to think that everything in her Cotswold farmhouse is built on the scale used for the set of Cats.

Both approaches are nobbled as soon as any rogue normal-sized things enter the vicinity – quite a conundrum if you are, like le petit Nicolas, married to 5ft 10in of former model. In ye olden days, he could have made her stand at a distance behind him in photos and optical illusion would have done the rest, but in the age of rolling news, Sarkozy is forced to employ the last resort of the short man: the Cuban heel.

With vertebrae stacked to maximum effect, I scrape 5ft 3in, so I sympathise, but it is easier for a vertically challenged woman than a man. No restrictions on heel height for starters – although the irony of heels is that they look better on the taller woman. Vertiginous platforms take on something of the corrective shoe on shorties like me, so better to embrace one's height than make a prat of oneself trying to pretend otherwise.

Admittedly, shortness and gravitas are uneasy bedfellows in either gender, but in women it encourages characteristics antithetical to the Napoleon complex it supposedly produces in men. You find yourself smiling politely as strangers lift you on to the bar at gigs like a child (the joke is on their lower backs). Once on a tour of a French vineyard, the owner produced a crate for me to stand on so I could see better – very thoughtful, had we not been at the top of a hill contemplating the valley below. I doubt M. Sarkozy would have laughed.

But there are some advantages that might comfort the president. Who needs business class with all that legroom in the cheap seats? And I'm sure he knows short people make better ice-skaters (it's the low centre of gravity). Next time he meets other world leaders, instead of standing on a box, he should get them on a rink for the photo op and challenge them to a triple Salchow-off.