Most observers of this morning's 14 July parade on the Champs-Elysées will award top marks, I'm sure, to the new producer and director: Nicolas Sarkozy. He had the excellent idea of transforming this French event into an unforgettable and spectacular show dedicated to Europe. While there is not yet any such entity as a united European army, we certainly had a chance of admiring colorful specimens of the various armies of Europe. No less than 27 different European nations had representatives of their forces participating in today's grand parade.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the super show was its music and its military choreography. It was amazing to discover the variety of different ways in which soldiers can march! A naive observer might imagine that marching is simply a matter of, well, striding along in a stately style. Not at all! There would appear to be countless different ways in which soldiers can move their legs and arms. Marching, for imaginative military choreographers, is much more than simply... marching. In Monty Python talk, you might say it's a matter of doing your particular kind of funny walking. The weirdest thing of all was that everybody, from gallopers to goose-steppers, appeared to be marching to the same music, and advancing at roughly the same rate, even though they seemed to have a whole range of different styles of locomotion. For me, there's some kind of a mathematical enigma there, which I haven't yet solved.
There were three fabulous songs, performed by military choirs assisted by the Little Singers of Paris: the Marseillaise, of course; the haunting Chant des partisans (hymn of the Résistance), which inevitably causes me to burst into tears of emotion every time I hear it performed in such solemn circumstances; and finally Europe's anthem, Beethoven's Ode to Joy, exceptionally with French lyrics.
After such a morning TV show, I was worn out emotionally when the Tour de France came around, later on in the day. At times, living daily in a land such as France can be a really exhausting experience.
PS In France today, even Google got on the Bastille bandwagon: