Saturday, 12 April 2008


The Frenchman is impressed by British 'phlegm'. Well that is what he said but it is not as revolting as it sounds. 'Phlegm'in this case is the French 'flegme', best translated as 'stiff-upper lip'.

Apparently extremely rigid upper lips were required for his Eurostar ordeal and they were in abundance at St Pancras when the whole service seemed to implode from an unlucky combination of technical problems and bad weather. The Frenchman - whose train to Paris was three hours late and who missed several important work meetings - says there was also evidence of the equally famous British 'black humour' when announcement after announcement contained nothing but bad news.

He says, with considerable surprise, that nobody made a fuss even when the seats ran out and they were forced to sit on the floor, even those traveling with young children. What is more he reports, with astonishment, there were even wry smiles and joking.

I ask if it would have been so different at a French station. He says without a second's hesitation: "Ah oui. If it had been a French station people would have been angry. I wouldn't have wanted to be wearing a Eurostar badge." He adds, ominously: "There would have been violence; not physical but verbal." I know this must be true because normally he has to think for ages before answering a question and because five days later he is still talking about British 'phlegm'.

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