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Bill Newman's diary: French lessons for Baggies supporters.

Sunday

"I always said French food was crap," said Nick, as the Newman family patriotically tucked into British beef.

"So you won't be wanting another glass of this Chateau Jospin-de-Gaulle?" I asked.

"I said their food, not their booze," said Nick, who is probably the only 16-year-old in Birmingham who has a picture of wine guru Jancis Robinson hanging over his bed.

"Cheese like runny ear-wax, bits of mutilated frog, boiled snails, sewage-fed meat, who wants to eat that stuff?" he said.

Karen, who has become a part-time vegetarian, began to look decidedly vert about the gills.

"Makes you wonder what they put in their eau de toilette," said Jude, thoughtfully.

We listed all the things we don't like about France, starting with Maurice Chevalier singing "sank Evans for Leedle gulls".

"Maurice who?" asked Nick.

Then it was time to turn on the Italians as we tried to watch the football through a dense smokescreen as flares and smoke-bombs exploded, turning the Milan pitch into Apocalypse Now.

"If that happened here FIFA would have our hands cut off and banish us into the wilderness for 40 years," I said.

"Where exactly is the wilderness?" asked Nick.

"Er, Manchester son, somewhere like that."

"Now we've got Carbone who knows what fireworks we'll see at Villa Park?" he mused.

Which brought back bad memories of last night and dinner with Charlotte.

It was another of her parties and a very dull one with two other couples who looked as if they had been filled with embalming fluid.

I tried to strike up a conversation about Carbone's brilliant debut but it turned out they were followers of the brutal game with the odd-shaped ball.

"Ragby," as one of them called it.

Not too happy today, I imagine, after England and Scotland got booted out of the world cup.

Monday

Feelings still running high on the French question as the BIFBO Works Office for British Beef campaign was launched.

Wayne made his gesture by removing pin-up pictures of Sophie Marceau and Vanessa Paradis from the babe shrine.

Michaela protested: "It's not nice, all this name-calling. We shouldn't call them Frogs."

"They call us names," said Dreary Derek. "Rosbifs and Perfidious Albion, for instance."

"What's West Brom ever done to the Frogs?" demanded Sid Voale-of-stock-control through a mouthful of sewage baguette.

None of us thought it worth explaining the difference between England and the Baggies.

Tuesday

The BIFBO lunchtime debating society in the back bar at O'Blimey's was considering a report that says children have trouble telling the difference between God and Tony Blair.

"Yes," said Dreary Derek, "the Labour Party has much the same problem."

"Arr, he's like an octopus, testicles everywhere," said Sid.

I quickly changed the subject as five people choked on their pints of Old Blair Witch Bitter.

"Why don't the London newspapers, radio, television and all the political parties realise that, of the 56 million in this country, 46 million couldn't give a toss about who becomes Mayor of London?" I asked. "Do you care if its Glenda Jacket, Frank Dobbin, Ken-the-newt or little Jeffrey Aardvark?"

The answer was no. I think I'll write and tell Mr Blair.

Wednesday

Lunch with Charlotte went badly.

"If ever there was a sound argument for closing down the House of Lords then it is Charles Francis Topham DeVere, Earl of Burford and heir to the 14th Duke of St Albans," I said, enjoying the absurdity of all those names. "He not only jumps on the Woolsack shouting 'treason' but also thinks someone else wrote Shakespeare's plays and that Tony Blair (or God, as we know him) is behind a conspiracy to take over the universe."

Charlotte gave me that haughty let-them-eat-cake look and said: "He's a hero and a true Englishman. We need more of his kind to save this country from revolting peasants."

I think she meant me.

Thursday

"Old Lord Lucan is going to have to get his finger out if he wants to sit in the House of Lords before it's abolished," said Dreary Derek, reading about the runaway lord being declared almost-dead by the courts.

"Is he related to Arthur Lucan, the bloke who used to play Old Mother Riley?" asked Sid Voale-of-stock-control.

"Perhaps he's been wearing drag for the past 25 years and that's why nobody has found him," said Dreary Derek. "The Danny la Rue of the Lords. The fugitive in a frock."

"The moustache would be a bit of a problem," pointed out Ahmed from the drawing office.

"You obviously haven't met my missus," said Sid.

At least it was better than listening to Fat Barry from Sales describing this Marcelo bloke as the Pele of St Andrew's.

Spent afternoon with Emma in yet another meeting about the merger and how we would be upping the downside and tipping the tiltwise balance into the optimum maxi-performance zone.

Really must go on another management course so I can understand what they're all talking about.

Friday

Couldn't help overhearing Cassandra confiding in Michaela about her argument with her fiance, Malcolm.

"He was sitting there watching the football and I said: 'You take me for granted. We don't hold hands any more, you don't tell me you love me' and do you know what he said?"

Michaela shook her head but I had a horribly familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"He said: 'Of course I love you but can't it wait until after the match?'"

Poor Malcolm.

He'll end up with more red cards than Dennis Wise.

Saturday

Charlotte has summoned me to her Hallowe'en party.

"Don't bother with fancy dress," she said. "You look weird enough already."

Oh well, at least we get an extra hour in bed with the clocks going back and there's the Formula One showdown to look forward to.

If Eddie-the-mouth wins will Mika burst into tears again?

Finns ain't what they used to be.
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Author:Newman, Bill
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 31, 1999
Words:984
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