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Because he'd have looked silly with French Letters

In my formative years those French went in for that kissing each other thing. Britons on the other hand, shook hands. I know; we were all repressed. I am aware that nowadays if we don't hug our kids, high five at the least pretext or perform a mutual back massage on everyone we meet there is a real risk to our self esteem and general mental well being.

Personally I don't really care if someone I hardly know wants to slap me on the back or give me a bear hug. Well apart from thinking that it's hypocritical tosh that is. It's a bit like "I love you" at the end of a phone call. Fair enough, nice sentiment and especially when said with feeling. But as a sort of Christmas cracker motto substitute for goodbye?

I don't like the hugging though for a very practical reason. I have no idea how I am supposed to do it. As vague acquaintances move into my personal space in their attempt to hug, kiss or exchange bodily fluids with me I usually end up treading on their toes (or having my toes trodden on) bumping foreheads or elbowing them in the kidneys. It was not a British thing and even now I don't think we have a proper set of instructions for it. My dad taught me the basics of handshaking and Mr. Plant, the greengrocer, had strong views on the firmness of grip and the length of time of hand holding between men (do you kow I'd never realised until I just read that back that Mr Plant the greengrocer sounds like a Happy Families name)

Now the French know how to do that kissing thing and so do the Spanish. They grew up with it. I saw a group of three or four Spanish men the other day saying goodbye to each other as they finished off their beers. Spanish men usually stick to hand shaking but amongst family members touching cheeks and even cheek kissing is fine and that's what these men did. Men to women and women to men is usually cheek grazing. First go left to touch right cheeks then go right to touch left cheeks. Easy as pie. Even I can do it. There's a routine. Nothing false about it - it's one up from the mumbled greeting. Shaking hands with the face. I do it as naturally as I do anything that requires any level of social interaction and I'm sure Mr Plant would be fine with it.

Oh and the title is the answer to the question as to why General de Gaulle had Greek letters on his hat. If you don't know what French Letters are then think Australian sellotape or check them out on Wikipedia. General de Gaulle also features on Wikipedia.


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