FRENCH SUBS, STATE OF THE ART
Bandicoot is excited to learn that the Royal Australian Navy is to acquire a fleet of French submarines. But they will be trimmed back a little from the sorts of facilities available to French crews.
First, the French navy observes a 35-hour week for all submariners, who must be half-and-half m’sieurs and mesdames. Its sous-mer bateaux must come to the surface for all meals, which are taken on deck except when weather does not permit. All food is fresh, prepared by a three-hat Michelin chef and served by waiters at silver-service tables with laundered linen napkins. Lunch and dinner are three courses, separated by a palate-freshening sorbet, with a wide selection of wines, followed by a cheese platter and liqueurs.
On surfacing, the boat’s deck is transformed into a typical treed Paris boulevard, with umbrellas protecting diners from the sun and a pretty young mademoiselle in a white and red hooped T-shirt playing the piano accordion. A patisserie built into the conning tower serves a range of petit choses and such traditional French delights as croissants, escargots (the sultana pastries, not snails) and a range of not less than ten tiny sweet treats sculpted in chocolate.
While the officers dine on the foredeck, the national imperative of liberté, égalité and fraternité is observed after the menu. Following both post-meridian meals all hands gather on the after-deck, if calm seas allow, for boules on the piste, or stroll on the boulevard for a little gentle exercise and window shopping.
Once-fortnightly conjugal visits from wives (or mistresses; one only per visit) and husbands (or lovers, ditto) ensure strong ésprit de corps on board. The accordion player is entitled to this benefit, or to fraternise with her chosen crew member.
French submarines do not operate above the Arctic Circle or below the Antarctic Circle, or in any ocean area where the water temperature is below zero. Its main function is to monitor current or colonial French possessions, especially those departements with Club Meds.
So, eat your hearts out, Aussie submariners!