Sunday, November 26, 2006


You trip over the answers to the problems of the Universe in odd places – last week, it was a food programme on the Radio. The presenter was in France, where a few really keen Englishmen were holding a Cheese Festival – Coals to Newcastle, or what?

But of course, it’s not like that at all. The French Cheese industry is apparrently undergoing a bit of a recession at present (I was going to write that “It’s going off”, but that’s not very funny, is it?), with an increasing number of the artisan producers over there ceasing production. The reason the guy came up with was the strength of the local French Cheese Cooperatives. Their products, he claimed, were now so good that the gap between them and the real specialists was not that large, and the French public, who are in the middle of a burgeoning love affair with les supermarchés at present, are turning away from the small producers. I can’t believe that myself, but it was on Radio 4, so it must be right.

Anyway, as reliably as night follows day in spoken Cheeseland, General De Gaulle appeared, and the slightly over quoted comment he made duly arrived – “How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?” When you look into the quote, you find of course that over the years, de Gaulle milked it a bit, and used it on many occasions, with the result that the number of cheeses France produced varied as time went on. One year, it was “over 200”, another year it was 256, or 265, or even “one for each day of the year”.

Whatever the number, it’s a lot, and the point of the comment is that was his way of saying governing France was a bit like herding cats – Impossible.

So, having said so memorably how difficult it all was, he didn’t need to bother anymore, so he didn’t. Job done.

But now of course, you come to this country, and a bit of lateral thinking makes you realise why Our Glorious Leader in Number 10 is having such a problem in his job, and why so much isn’t working the way he said it would in 1997. It’s all caused by the explosion in the number of English Cheesemakers, which has very accurately coincided with the dissipation of the UK’s governmental competence.

In an industry which came perilously close to extinction in the UK a couple of decades ago, there are apparently now well over 400 different cheesemakers in this country, producing a massive range and diversity of traditional and new cheeses. Good though that may be for our taste sensations, the political ramifications are clearly huge, with the future survival of UK plc at stake. If de Gaulle couldn’t hack it in France with their 246 fromages, then what chance does our Tone have when we have heading towards twice as many.
And “Stop Press” – a trawl around WWWland throws up, if that is le mot juste, that the USA has more than 500 - now that explains everything!

So, to get this country rolling again, we simply need a concentrated cheese-focussed pre-emptive strike to zap all the producers and go back to a position where there is only good old “Mousetrap” in this country. We can keep all that foreign smelly, runny stuff for the gannets among us, and Britain will be great again. It’s all very simple really isn’t it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, but 499 of those 500 American cheeses contain no dairy ingredient of any kind, glow in the dark and come in a spray can.

Not sure if that makes things better or worse...