Non, non Monsieur Brown, zis is how you kiss a lady


Last updated at 22:24 29 March 2008

Another day, another glorious reaffirmation of national stereotypes.

Yesterday, it concerned that timeless source of debate between the French and the British - the nature of manliness.

Now, if the French have always thought of us British chaps as a bit stand-offish, formal, even downright incompetent in our dealings with the fairer sex, then they will have simply crossed their arms, shrugged and murmured "C'est vrai" after yesterday.

This was a tale of two kisses. And, with Gordon Brown flying the flag for the Great British smacker, the result was always going to be a repeat of Wednesday night's football match.

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Enlarge   Mrs Sarkozy and Brown

Gordon puckers up and concentrates so much he can't even manage a smile as he greets Mrs Sarkozy

Enlarge   Mrs Sarkozy and Brown

The Prime Minister gets up close and then kisses Carla in what appears to be a slobbery manner

After a Windsor breakfast and farewells to the Queen and Prince Philip, President Sarkozy and his supremely photogenic wife set off for Downing Street.

The pomp was over. All that flummery has never been much to Mr Brown's liking. Now, it was summit time and he was in charge.

But as the State Bentley containing the Sarkozys pulled up in Downing Street, one could almost sense the dread billowing in the Prime Minister's head.

He had thought through all those issues - nuclear power, Nato, the Euro and all that jazz.

But in all those important deliberations, he had completely overlooked one crucial fact: the French do kissing. Big time.

As he welcomed the fair Carla to Downing Street, it suddenly dawned on him that some serious Mwa-Mwa was called for.

He gave it his best shot, poor chap, aiming for the left ear first and then the right, presumably hoping to make minimal contact.

He could not embrace thin air, much as he would like to. Some sort of contact was required.

In the panic of the moment, Mr Brown reverted to type and attempted a manly handshake. Then, clunk!

The jowls of Kirkcaldy came up against those Grade One-listed Continental cheekbones.

Mr Brown looked like a man walking into a lamppost while checking his watch.

Fortunately, Carla took this bear-like welcome in her dainty stride and shimmered into No.10.

A few hours later, it was France's turn to put on a display of tenderness as the president and Carla travelled to Greenwich for a brief spot of sightseeing aboard a Thames cruiser called the Aurora.

Clearly, this State Visiting lark is more to Mr Sarkozy's taste than his wife's.

As the Aurora set sail, Carla appeared a little tired, fed up even.

So, with the rest of the entourage keeping a respectful distance in the cabin, the president sat outside on the rear deck with his wife enjoying a receding view of Big Ben.

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Mr and Mrs Sarkozy take advantage of a moment to themselves during a boat trip up the River Thames to Greenwich

Mr and Mrs Sarkozy

The loved-up couple enjoy a cuddle

Mr and Mrs Sarkozy

Carla snatches a kiss from her husband

During the last few days, Mrs Sarkozy has been photographed even more times than Westminster's grand old landmark.

That studied look of hers - interested, slightly amused, slightly startled - was starting to fade. The reappearance of that old nude photo can hardly have boosted her morale.

So, for a few minutes, the rest of the world went on hold as she put her head on the president's shoulder and watched the world go by while he muttered a few sweet nothings, gave her a few hugs and then planted a delicate kiss on her lips - followed by another.

Suddenly, her spirits appeared to lift. Were it not for the helicopter overhead, the cops in their black inflatable speedboats whizzing around striking poses and all those photographers dangling from every vantage point along the way, the president and Carla could have been another just couple on a river cruise, huddled together against a biting breeze.

The dear old Thames may have history but it's no match for the Seine in the romance department.

By the time the Aurora docked at Greenwich, Carla looked a happier bunny.

With no time for a trip to the Royal Observatory - the home of the Greenwich Meridian and time itself - they walked straight to the Old Royal Naval College where yachting's Dame Ellen MacArthur was waiting to receive the Legion d'Honneur.

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Ladies who lunch: Sarah Brown welcomes her guest to Downing Street

A small crowd had gathered along the route, many of them clapping politely. Sarko grabbed the odd hand like the old political pro that he is but Carla kept her distance, smiling prettily and appearing to say something without saying anything.

At the college, Dame Ellen introduced the presidential couple to three girls who had benefited from the Ellen MacArthur Trust, a charity helping seriously ill young people to enjoy the joys of sailing.

"Carla was really pretty. She looked great," said Katie Schuster, 16, from Haslemere, Surrey.

"She talked to us in English and asked us how long we had been there and if we were cold."

Sounds like Carla's learning the fine art of the walkabout, then.

Inside, President Sarkozy made yet another passionate, lectern-thumping speech as he honoured Dame Ellen.

"We swayed with you at the masthead, trembled when sensing the icebergs, shared your tears of exhaustion!" he told her.

Top marks for passion. Can you imagine Gordon Brown coming out with this sort of stuff? And after showing Dame Ellen his repertoire of Gallic kisses, he grabbed his wife and made a dash for the car.

No sooner was the engine running than he gave his wife another kiss.

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