It’s a strange relationship we have with the French. Mistrust here, some begrudging admiration there. Of course each of us thinks we rule the roost in this part of the world, whether it’s over food or sport.
How many of us holiday in France and declare it the most beautiful country in the world, but aren’t sure about the people? And this antipathy, imagined or real, stretches back centuries. We’ve just had the 600thanniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, while it’s 200 years since Bonaparte got his comeuppance at Waterloo.
It really has been a long history of love-hate that is hard-wired into people from both countries. But for now, any petty rivalries have been rightly set aside.
The recent atrocities in Paris have allowed the British to show our true colours towards our Gallic cousins – a wholehearted support of the blue, white and red of the tricolour.
Nowhere has the worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy been felt more strongly than here in Britain. French flags have appeared in streets across the country. When was the last time that happened?
England football fans sang along to La Marseillaise at the friendly international at Wembley. Britons have been urged to buy French goods. London cabbies have replaced ads on their roofs with a tricolour.
Not since the Second World War have we stood resolute, shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbours against a common enemy.
This show of solidarity sends out a message that whatever our disagreements of the past, for the moment we are as one in protecting our freedoms.
And maybe, just maybe, when the dust has settled Les Rosbifs and the Frenchies will learn to love each other a little more. Well, tolerate, then.