Been thinking a bit this week about the France/All Blacks showdown on tonight, in which the winner of the Rugby WC will be determined. If it were any other country in the final with France I would be supporting Les Bleus to the hilt. But it's not.
If we were all, say, a series of doors waiting to be opened; our memories, experiences and loves behind each one of them, then behind one of my doors would be France. I've been there on four different occasions, each one a revelation. The last time I went there I spent three months in an old campervan on my own, wandering aimlessly from village to town to city, discovering that while some of the cliches of French life exist, it's also possible to find badly dressed women, to find supermarkets full of processed food, to hear that beautiful language used to discuss such unglamorous subjects as banking and parking tickets, (gonflage, the place at a petrol station where you pump up your tyres remains my favourite French word), and drink wine that can only be described as utter crap. I also saw no trace of that supposedly Gallic trait, arrogance. Instead I found friendliness, curiosity and an ordinariness - much like you find in New Zealand.
On that last trip, nine years ago, I worked for a week picking grapes on a vineyard in Burgundy. My French being also pretty rubbish, I barely spoke to a soul. But those who knew I was Neo Zelandaise, not a deaf mute as one girl thought - or worse, English - tried to engage with me and teach me some French words. Moutarde, panier, sang, caisse croute, porteur; some words were learnt out in the vines, autumn sun turning the scene golden, others over the daily long lunch of five courses and wine, then a sleep in the sun. The village church bells signalled lunch time. Hearing people talk was like my high school French lessons come to life. It was all too beautiful. Except when it rained.
So France, though I love that you brought us gratin Dauphinoise, the croque monsieur, Champagne, Matthieu Kassovitz, wrapped sugarcubes, broiche and Le Tour, I am hoping that tonight you'll forgive me my lapsed nationalism. Go the All Blacks!