The Third Leader: 1066 et tout ça...

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The Independent Online

Sacré bleu! What is this? The Advertising Standards Authority appears to have decided that mentioning a company's French connections is "denigratory". Well, or eh bien, as they say over there, as usual never using one word when they can use two. This really will have to stop.

The cause of it was, let's be clear, 939 years ago now; nor should it be forgotten that the Normans were, in essence and reality, Vikings pretending to be French, so it's hard to see why all this denigration isn't directed at Norway.

You will argue that the Norwegians don't come over all superior, criticise our cooking, affect not to understand plain English, and like Johnny Hallyday. Actually, if you've ever eaten in Norway, you'll know why, but that's not the point.

The point is that this childish antipathy is based on envy. Thierry Henry, Provence, existentialism, small Corsican megalomaniacs, happy farmers, that shrug, a cracking national anthem, and the ability to take themselves entirely seriously: we're miles behind, although I can tell you that we, in fact, have more types of cheese.

Stereotypes are, of course, unhelpful and often misleading. If I might offer some slight anecdotal evidence, not long ago I took to the streets of Paris to see what its allegedly haughty inhabitants made of the well-known theory that the grand boulevards were inspired by Napoleon III's stay as a young man on that magnificent thoroughfare, Lord Street, Southport.

To a man and woman, the Parisians were graceful and receptive, if unpersuaded. So, please, enough. If you're still not convinced, remember that they, at least, are no longer keen on invasions.

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