SO the game’s up, the tournament’s over and France’s national footie team can now stitch a second star to their jerseys, having won the World Cup for a second time. England still only have one twinkler, of course. I know because I’ve been counting it for the last 52 years and will doubtless continue to count the poor lone little thing for the rest of my natural. Oh me of little faith?
Okay, England have a promising young team, but they’re distinctly pedestrian compared to France’s even younger side. So I’m afraid the Three Lions look set to be, at best, ‘Poopoo’ Poulidors, the valiant, much-loved Raymond P always being thwarted by Jacques Anquetil in cycling’s classic races.
In fact, the only the thing that could have made France’s victory any headier for them would have been eating us Rosbifs alive in the final. Well, both countries have long been bitter rivals jostling for the world’s centre stage, so at least I won’t have to listen to them banging on about being double champions and humiliating the English at the death, too.
That’s some consolation, I suppose, as was my guilty schadenfreude – the pleasure you feel at someone’s misfortune – in the eerily deserted fan zone at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin where La Patronne and I watched the semi-finals. Well, the prematurely eliminated Germans have got four stars on their shirts, which just isn’t cricket somehow. Thank goodness they don’t play rugby, eh.
England’s semi-final elimination by Croatia, a country with a population of four million, like Brittany’s, also spared us any diplomatic incidents chez Masstairmann in Dinan. La Patronne and daughter Fleur are one-eyed French supporters while our other daughter Morgane is allergic to all sport’s shenanigans and just mutters ‘Pathetic’ at us from the far end of the sofa.
The final final whistle in Moscow also signalled the kick-off in another fiercely contested competition in France – to see which car driver could pump his horn the loudest and longest. And if, on the eve of the final, Bastille Day fireworks lit up Dinan’s night sky, it glowed again a few hours after Lloris brandished the trophy, now lit up by a dozen burning cars as drunken knuckle-brains chanted and danced round the mediaeval town. Vive le sport!, said Morgy.
The celebrations were also a soupçon nationalistic, almost a Gallic Harvey Smith to the rest of the planet. In 2012, Fleur spent the Queen’s Jubilee year at Kings College London and she loved the unaggressive, affable patriotism of it all, though not quite enough to forsake her republican principles for her father’s royalist ones.
Now, if the end of the 24/7 World Cup month has left a yawning hole in your life that the Tour de France can only partly fill – your Froome and Sky are bare-faced cheats, they say here, but then that’s La Perfide Albion for you – Brittany is hosting the Women’s Under-20 Football World Cup in August, as I mentioned in last month’s Letter from you know where.
England v Brazil is the Anglo’s pick of the six group games in Dinan but Germany v China in St Malo could be worth a trip on the Condor, too. The other ties are taking place in Vannes and in Concarneau, where victorious French manager Didier Deschamp’s wife comes from.
He’s a thoroughly regular bloke, apparently, and the locals address him as Didier when he wanders down the road for his baguette. Well, Monsieur Deschamps would be too formal and Dédé, after his initials, a bit too matey.
If you still fancied a trip to Dinan but without the football, merci beaucoup, you must pop into this fascinating exhibition at the Bibliothèque Municipale. ‘The English Colony’, which is much older than Dinard’s – local rivalries, you see – traces the history of Brit expats here from the dawn of the XIXth Century until the eve of the Occupation in 1940.
They came for the medicinal waters at the Fontaine-des-Eaux, the gentle Breton climate and the lower cost of living – plus ça change, in my case – which enabled many of them to live in fine, Upstairs-Downstairs elegance.
They left an unmistakable Eglise Anglicane and quite a few of them are even now resting in eternal peace in the English Section at Dinan cemetery. The church has been abandoned for years though, so the current sizeable Anglo-Beano-expat community had a good excuse for not ringing the bells to celebrate their gloating hosts’ second World Cup win, eh. The exhibition closes on 30 September.