TWO French Air Force bomber squadrons were based at Elvington airfield outside York during World War II, adjacent to what is now the Yorkshire Air Museum.
Just down the road stands a memorial to the 216 French air crew who lost their lives flying sorties from there, and Sunday was the 60th anniversary of it being unveiled.
Every Remembrance Sunday roads through the village are blocked and hundreds come out to pay tribute at the small memorial plaque opposite the village green, before parading to the French monument, where the service is read in both languages, both national anthems are played, and senior French and British officers pay their own respects. Canadian officers attended too last Sunday.
It’s heartwarming to see and hear the Boys Brigade playing the Last Post before breaking into the Dambusters and James Bond theme tunes – plus Ilkley Moor Baht’at – as the cubs, scouts, guides and brownies are followed by the crowds back for either a cuppa in the village hall or pint in the pub.
All as it should be, at this most poignant time of year. And all as it will be for years to come, whatever the respective idiocies of the Brexit negotiators.
Realistically, there was no point hoping the EU’s joyless commissar Michel Barnier might hold off on his tiresome threats out of respect of Armistice Day. Instead he threw down his latest ultimatum, shouting the odds unless the UK agreed how many billions in bribes it was going to cough up within two weeks.
David Davis should have just told him: Oy – sunshine. You’re going to need a bigger stick than that!
We know well enough not to expect gratitude for the massive sacrifices of British men and women – sacrifices which ironically mean Barnier can still make his threats in French, not German.
It’s equally ironic that Barnier, Jean Claude Juncker and friends should be increasingly intent on creating an EU military and EU finance ministry to effectively seize the continent in a bloodless revolution.
Well I say bloodless – to begin with at least because history tells us these things never end well.
And all without asking the people of Europe, obviously. You can’t trust the great unwashed with such important decisions. These unelected eurocrats are probably well advised to get a move on with their army, because they’re going to need it.
The citizens of Germany, Poland, Holland, Spain – and yes, even France – are running every bit as short of patience with the Brussels empire building project as we were last June.
The question remains – can things possibly end well with Brexit? To reference history again, it’s unlikely so long as French politicians dictate the EU position.
I read a fascinating piece this week citing problems from Britain’s ill-fated 1802 Treaty of Amiens with Napoleon, to PM Harold Macmillan’s broken relationship with Charles de Gaulle, our respective attitudes to ‘negotiation’ are rooted in different philosophies.
Britons look toward practicality and solution – we could agree a future border relationship with Ireland in weeks, if left to it – the French prefer to deal in rigid, immovable certainty.
As a senior British diplomat said: “The British put themselves in the position of the person they are negotiating with … the French are not interested in getting inside the thought of others.”
Cue the retort of a French diplomat: “When one is right, one does not compromise.”
Indeed a 2014 French Chamber of Commerce guide to cross-Channel relations cited Britain preferring a ‘win-win’ outcome for all parties, while the French are “proponents of ‘I win you lose’, appearing not to care if it risks breakdown.”
There’s the nut, in one.
One solution presents itself: to put the Brexit divorce bill to a binding Court of Arbitration but the EU are unlikely to accept that. They know that the figure will be miserly – because we actually owe very little.
My sense is that they see this as their shining moment. Rather than possessing any gratitude for the fallen of two world wars, it’s their chance to make Britain pay in a way their forefathers never could.
What a cost that cancerous inferiority complex looks like taking.
The thing is, the only big stick Barnier and Co possess is the one being wielded behind our own backs by traitors like Nick Clegg, Tony Blair and Ken Clarke, and now by rebel Tory MPs many of whom are up to their self-serving necks in EU business connections.
How ironic yet again – the only faint hope of building a European empire lies with the British doing the dirty work. I wonder what those brave French airmen would make of it all?
I CAN feel another mid-life crisis coming on.
I’ve had enough by now that I have a pretty keen eye for them – indeed BBC Radio 4 featured me in a documentary about MMLCs (Male Mid-Life Crises) not too long ago. It’s probably still on iPlayer somewhere.
I can imagine Mrs L crossing her fingers as I write, clutching her lucky horsehoe and mumbling repeatedly “let him go for the young totty, let him go for the young totty” ... but no such luck, dear. This one’s the snazzy sports car MMLC. It’s time for my lease car to go back and I’m fancying a bit of change of pace. Change of pace? I’m fancying 7-speed tiptronic change of pace – and the open top feeling of the wind in my hair. Well, the wind whipping round my exposed lugs and sun burning my scalp at least.
We’re not talking brand new obviously, but I still fairly drooled this week at a sharp BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK and a fully loaded Audi TT.
And then the car dealer threw me the keys to a Porsche and told me to get in and try that baby for size. Vroom, vrooooom.
So I did. And it took me 10 minutes and a helping hand to get back out. I must say the Vauxhall Vectra Cabriolet looks quite comfy...
PHEW, I thought I was losing my touch for a minute there.
So a big thanks to correspondent Nadim for taking me to task for my outrageously sexist comments in last week’s column.
Nadim says, and I quote: “If this reflects his mindset (me, obviously), I would be very nervous if I were one of his female work colleagues”.
And so say all of us, Nad, although I think you’ll find I’m quite a considerate boss. I’ve even bought extra storage heaters so the girls don’t catch a chill when working in the new staff uniforms I’ve just invested in – bikinis (and I even allow them to wear woolly socks under their stilettoes).
I should point out though, that I am well aware we can’t flatter members of the opposite or possibly even same sex any longer without being labelled as vile pests.
As such I thought my rather ungallant references about those two lady MPs might actually attract criticism for my lack of chivalry, but no. Such irony eh?
I’m not sure where the witchhunt stops though. Some weeks into the Sexminster Scandal and there’s still no word of a single arrest or charge laid, while careers are still being thrown on the bonfire of unproven accusation.
Labour MP Kerry McCarthy really lit the town up, releasing a few mildly flattering letters from her old codger colleague Kelvin Hopkins.
The bounder wrote that he thought her pretty and attractive and he admitted having a dream about her! Lock him up and throw away the key, the dirty old perv!
I was going to ask why McCarthy, aged 52, didn’t just show her husband (or wife – no assumptions these days!) the letters and have him/her sort the old flirt out.
That would do it, you’d think – except it seems there isn’t a Mr/Mrs McCarthy. Well slap my thigh and go to the foot of our stairs ... you don’t say!