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Column: In Bed with Sarkozy14 March 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
The French spend more time asleep than any other nation, a full nine hours. They also eat for an additional two hours a day, another world record.
This conjured up a picture of Nicolas Sarkozy nibbling on a bit of foie gras on toast while enjoying a lie in with Carla Bruni and being in control of the French nuclear arms, ‘La Force de Frappe’, prompting Carla to utter in a sultry whisper: ‘Force de Frappe’. It seems utterly impossible that this man could find enough time to have an affair.
Yet recently, an intern at L’Express, a weekly magazine, managed with just one tweet to start a worldwide rumour mill. Allegedly, the President was romantically linked to his glamorous Minister for Ecology and former national karate champion Chantal Jouanno, and the French First Lady had developed a close relationship with a musician.
At the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal I overheard a Frenchman commenting gleefully that the French only really get worried when their leaders are not engaged in any extra-marital affairs.
When I was growing up a French comedy actor called Louis de Funès was all the rage. He had a hyperactive personality, was of short stature and had a remarkable mobile face. It occurred to me that Sarkozy shows a notable likeness to the young Louis de Funès, especially when the President, touchy about his lack of height, walked on his toes next to Barack Obama. This moment has been captured in pictures.
Sarkozy is one of these people you’d suspect of wearing built-up shoes. Well, that’s Nicolas with his Force de Frappe. French men do remind you of a defeated Napoleon, although Eric Cantona is an exception.
One movie by Louis de Funès stands out for me: Le gendarme en balade (The Gendarme Takes Off). It is set in St Tropez and, for reasons too convoluted to explain, it features Louis de Funès in his role as chief inspector Ludovic Cruchot busily directing his gendarmes across a nudist beach. This caused many holidaymakers to choose the South of France as their next destination.
France was considered ‘Ooh la la’, and Southern France really started when you had negotiated your way around Paris. The members of the most influential Dutch literary movement in the 1950s, De Vijftigers, didn’t have much in common except one fact: they all managed to live in Paris. Their leader Simon Vinkenoog used the offices of Unesco to replicate their literary pamphlets. At that time everyone of note lived in Paris, from Hemmingway to Picasso.
Ah, those were the times! The influence of France was felt everywhere: a dripping candle in an empty wine bottle, girls with kohl ringed eyes, and the last song, ideal for slow dancing, that was played at many end of term parties was: Je t’aime, moi non plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. The world was caught up in a love affair with France, symbolised by lounging on its beautiful beaches with the latest novel by Marguerite Duras.
However, during the last few decades France has lost its pre-eminent position, and now it hardly registers on the world’s cultural radar. Even French wines have to cope with stiff competition from around the world.
The influence of the major French philosophers, student activists, writers, designers, painters, films and chansons seems to have taken a permanent backseat. Only riots in the Parisian banlieues (commuter belt) manage to trigger headlines in foreign newspapers. Poor France!
This development was stopped in its tracks when Carla Bruni took centre stage. After quite a few liaisons with people such as Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Donald Trump (Donald Trump?!) and the father of a well-known French philosopher (she denies this) and the French philosopher himself (no half measures) she chose Nicolas Sarkozy.
Recently Carla welcomed the Russian President Medvedev without wearing a bra. Fortunately she was wearing a dress. She once admitted that she flirted with everyone under the sun, including the piano and floor lamps. Not quite a compliment for the French president or the lamp.
France has been put back on the map, thanks to a First Lady glowing like the Mediterranean sun. I have become quite addicted to Bruni’s number one hit in France: ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit’ or to give it its full title: ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit, que tu m’aimais encore.’ (‘Someone told me that you are still in love with me.’)
But of course Madame Carla Sarkozy-Bruni, please ignore this one unfortunate tweet, after all you are La Force de Frappe of France.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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