From Buckfast to Bordeaux Column 4

I love affection… with family members (platonic affection), close friends or strippers, but the French have really taken the biscuit on this one, in fact they’ve taken all the biscuits. Mister Kipling is furious.

I went to the park to do a bit of sketching (I have a lot of free time) only to have my view blocked in every direction with amorous couples. “Oh, teens! What they like!” I hear you exclaim, NO! Not just teens, adolescents, adults and oldies, the lot! They’re all at it over here. And when I say amorous I mean their next step involves a condom.

I have tried desperately to see the romantic side of this and to accept these public displays of affection as the in suppressible desires of couples madly in love but I can’t. I just can’t. I’m no prude but I seriously cannae watch two folk lying on the grass rubbing each other in public.

As if it isn’t bad enough that the French insist that we are all a part of their love affairs by making us bear witness to its very consummation, they also allow a little bit to spill onto you. The friendly greeting and au revoir known as ‘bisous’ can see its prey receive up to four kisses (I kid you not) to the cheeks depending on the region. In Bordeaux, it’s two.

The bisous is a strange thing for us socially awkward Scots to deal with. At first it is a big accomplishment of integration and acceptance. Then, after the discovery of ‘bisous acne’ it became something to tactfully and politely avoid.

In a previous article I referred to French young women as prudish. What I can decipher from an amalgamation of these two articles is, if you meet a French girl you will get at least two kisses from her and all of her friends on the second meeting but you still won’t get to see her tits.

I don’t mean to offend this French tradition, but it’s not just the adults, primary school kids are at it too, and where I work, the bisous can very quickly get out of control.

After a particularly insistent child chanted “bisous, Claire, bisous, Claire” just once more than was tolerable on the dreaded journey across the playground to the staff room I gave in. Biggest mistake… in life. It was riotous! Children appeared from every direction as if they had somehow sensed that I had been cracked and that if that insistent bastard was getting bisous from the language assistant, the whole fucking school was.

I ran. I ran so fast I was worried for the knees of my trousers. I slammed the door of the staffroom behind me, dishevelled, perspiring and covered in the snot of half a dozen six year olds. Two teachers were there, staring at me as I stood with my back against the door. “Ça va?” they said mockingly.

“Oui, ça va. C’est très dangereuse dehors!“, I said, my eyes darting around the room for something to wedge the door shut with but their eyes had already returned to the photocopier, their happy, bisoused faces, not giving a damn about the attack I had just been under.

Because, as I began to notice, it’s nothing to the teachers, in fact, the strangest thing about France has to be their schools. Not only are they teaching French as a first language but the teachers often give the kids cuddles and kisses. I have made several mental citizen’s arrests since I arrived here and quietly waited for the authorities to arrive. Nothing.

They also bizarrely leave the front door of the school open all day. Is this country unaware of the dangers in the world? I’m starting to wonder why France feels it can be so brave. When it comes to cold sores and potential sex pests France just seems to have a bigger set of balls than us Brits.


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