Tag Archives: Winston Churchill

Early Days, 1955 Part Three – Disney, McDonald’s and La Résistance

1955 disney

“The people of McDonald’s need guidance. They need to be told that Europe is not Disneyland…. It should look like a normal European bistro and nothing to tell you from the outside that this is a McDonald’s except for a discreet golden arches sticker on each window and a steady stream of people with enormous asses going in and out of the front door.” – Bill Bryson, ‘Neither here Nor there

The year 1955 unleashed another American icon on the world when Walt Disney opened his Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.

Sixteen years later the World Disney World resort opened in Orlando, Florida and although I have never been to California I went to Disney World three times in the 1990’s which was good fun but at least one time too many.  My young children enjoyed it of course but I tired of the theme parks fairly quickly and looking back I would have to say that I liked EPCOT most of all and here in Walt’s own personal dream my favourite was the World Showcase.

Disney World Epcot

In 1955 Disney and McDonald’s almost got together when Ray Kroc wrote to Walt Disney offering a deal: “I have very recently taken over the national franchise of the McDonald’s system. I would like to inquire if there may be an opportunity for a McDonald’s in your Disneyland Development.” The story goes that Walt was too busy to deal with the matter himself so he passed it on to the President in charge of concessions.  Allegedly he agreed but wanted to increase prices by 50% with all the extra profit going to Disney.  Kroc refused and it was to be another thirty years before they worked together.

I am not sure just how big a set-back that was because since then McDonald’s has globalised and like a giant tsunami swept into every continent  in the World, the company has more than forty thousand restaurants in over a hundred countries, with two million employees and serving nearly seventy-five million people every day which is a staggering 7.5% of the World’s population – but perhaps some people go twice!

Although a lot of us deny ever dining there most of us secretly do.  Take the French for example.

The French are famously snooty and protectionist about all things Gallic and they didn’t take very kindly to Micky Mouse when plans were revealed to open a Disney theme park in Paris and the proposal was a subject of fierce debate and controversy.

I like France but the country has a massive unjustified superiority complex and the French are so up themselves about things like wine and food and language whilst they turn a blind eye to dog poop on the pavements in Paris, too much garlic in their food and Charles Aznavour as a cultural icon.

As Disney threatened, French intellectuals and conservative republican traditionalists denounced what they considered to be the cultural imperialism of Euro Disney and argued that it would encourage in France an unhealthy American type of consumerism.  But they were powerless to stop it and it opened anyway in April 1992.  There was one final act of defiance in June of the same year when a group of French farmers blockaded Euro Disney in protest of farm policies supported at the time by the United States.

As heirs to the revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1968 French farmers in gilet jaune  need of course only the tiniest excuse to raise a barricade, shut down motorways and burn tractor tyres.  Booking a ferry ticket from Dover to Calais always includes that inherent risk.

Today the theme park, rebranded as Disneyland Paris, welcomes over fifteen million guests a year and half of these visitors are from France and that is more than 10% of the population of the country!

And this statistic raises another important issue.  The French boast that with over eighty million people a year they are the most visited country in Europe but it turns out that 10% of these visitors are going to Disneyland and think they are in the USA!

EPCOT France

After language the French get most uptight about food and for McDonald’s the battle for France was one of the most difficult.  The first outlet was opened in the Paris suburb of Créteil in 1972 and in 1999 a farmer turned environmental activist and anti-globalisation protester Jose Bové gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘drive-through’ when he vandalised a McDonald’s in the town of Millau in the south of France by driving a tractor into it.

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At the time he was running for President and must have thought this would be popular with the French electorate but he was no match for Le Big Mac and this act of folly completely scuppered his chances. The French it seems didn’t want a modern day Asterix the Gaul swinging a battle axe heading up their government. The first round of the presidential election was held  and Bové finished an embarrassing tenth, getting barely one percent of the total vote.

By then, the Gallic dam was well and truly breached, McDonald’s was expanding rapidly in the land of classic cuisine and fine dining and had three hundred more restaurants than when Bové began his futile campaign.  The company was pulling in over a million people per day in France and annual turnover was growing at twice the rate it was even in the United States.  Against McDonald’s, Bové had lost in a sticky landslide of mayonnaise, milkshake and ketchup.

He spent a few weeks in jail but unbelievably went on to become a representative at the European Parliament.  Little wonder the people of the UK want to leave!

More evidence of French snobbery…

“Lots of people around the world are completely bemused by the fact that French people want a McDo at all. Many of us see gastronomy in France as something to be cherished and a visit to McDo is letting the side down and a slap in the face to the heritage of French cuisine.” – a patriotic French website

Even though the French still maintain that they despise the fast food chain an awful lot of people eat there. Across France there are nearly twelve hundred restaurants and in Paris alone there are almost seventy restaurants under the golden arches with even more dotted around the outer suburbs. That’s much the same as London, but with only a third of the population.  McDonald’s, or “McDo” as it is known, is France’s dirty secret.   In 2017 sales exceeded five billion euros.

That is more than it generates in the UK and in terms of profit, France is second only to the United States itself and it has the most locations per capita in Europe and the fourth-highest rate in the world ( USA, Japan, China are the top three, the UK is seventh).  It is now so firmly a part of French culture that the menu includes McBaguette and Croque McDo and in 2009 McDonald’s reached a deal with the French museum, the Louvre, to open a McDonald’s restaurant and McCafé on its premises by their underground entrance which is probably why over eight million people visit the Museum every year, not to see the most famous painting in the World but to get a Big Mac and Large Fries!

Mona Lisa with Fries

Statistically (but questionably) France is the most visited country in the World but most likely because most people want to go to eat at McDonald’s.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

In the world of national and international politics, in this year Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in Great Britain and Juan Peron, who was famously married to Eva Duarte, or Evita as we popularly know her, was overthrown from power in a coup in Argentina.  Cardiff became the official capital of Wales, Austria was restored to the status of sovereign independent state and faithfully promised the world to remain forever neutral and the Soviet Union finally declared the end of the Second-World-War with Germany.

In sport the 1955 Le Mans disaster occurred during the 24 Hours motor race when a racing car involved in an accident flew into the crowd, killing the driver and eighty-two spectators which in terms of human casualties was, and hopefully always will be, the most catastrophic accident in the history of motor sport.

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South Wales and the Hundred Greatest Britons

Aneurin Bevan Memorial Stones South Wales

On the way home (the motorway route, I wasn’t going back along the Fosse way, for sure) we stopped off near Tredegar to visit a site that without my local travel guide pal I would never have heard of or even thought of visiting. The Aneurin Bevan Stones –  Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the UK National Health Service.

The memorial stands at Bryn Serth, just off the Heads of The Valley Road at a site used by the famous politician for open air public meetings. Symbolically, the central monolith represents Bevan himself, whilst three satellite stones represent his constituency towns of Ebbw Vale, Tredegar and Rhymney.

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In a BBC poll of 2002 The Greatest Britons’, Bevan came forty-fifth out of a hundred and personally I think he deserved to come a bit higher than that, but let’s be honest how can you trust a poll of the people when Princess Diana came third ahead of Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare and Horatio Nelson.  She had no chance of beating Winston Churchill of course, but she is probably spinning in her grave at not pipping Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who had French parents) to come second.

It is an odd list, even Tony Blair gets in the top one hundred. Tony Blair?  What the? When it comes to Wales, Richard Burton is ninety-sixth, Lawrence of Arabia is fifty-second, David Lloyd-George only makes seventy-ninth but Owain Glyndŵr is as high up as twenty-third.  Owain Glyndŵr has been dead for seven hundred years and is surely irrelevant now – who on earth, I wonder voted for Owain Glyndŵr ahead of David Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan?  Bear in mind that this was a nationwide vote and 99% or so of the population of the UK have never heard of Owain Glyndŵr.  Possibly some vote rigging going on there do you think?

Owain Glyndŵr even came ahead of William Wallace and he had a film made about him starring Mel Gibson.  Rob Roy MacGregor didn’t get in and he had a film made about him starring Liam Neeson.  Which makes me think, if there was a film who could play Owain Glyndŵr?  Probably Mel Gibson, he seems to hate the English enough to take on the role!

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To set the record straight however 100 Welsh Heroes was an opinion poll run in Wales as a response to the BBC’s 100 Greatest Britons poll and quite rightly Aneurin Bevan came top.  Owain Glyndŵr came second despite an accusation from Neil Kinnock (fifty-eighth) that Welsh Nationalists were multiple voting to try and manipulate the result.  Tom Jones came third, two places ahead of Richard Burton.  T.E.Lawrence came 52nd.  I don’t think we should take these polls too seriously – Catherine Zeta-Jones came thirteenth!

Anyway, back to the BBC poll where there were even more anomalies.   There were eleven Kings and Queens and eleven politicians, ten military heroes, eight inventors and seven scientists.  This is what I would expect but then there were eight pop musicians including Boy George!

Now, surely there must be dozens of people who could be more appropriately included on the list than that.  Even if you do accept that pop stars are great Britons what is even more unbelievable is that Boy George beat Sir Cliff Richard by seven places!  John, Paul and George were included in the eight but there was no place for Ringo, which doesn’t seem very fair.

Enoch Powell was one of the politicians and he was a raging racist.  Richard III is in but not Henry VII.  There is an issue of equality because of the one hundred only thirteen were women and I can’t help feeling that there must be more than that.

Here are some suggestions of mine; the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry, the philanthroprist Octavia Hill, the Suffragist,  Millicent Fawcett, the pioneering aviator, Amy Johnson, the nineteenth century gardener, Gertrude Jeckyl and the very embodiment of Britishness, Britannia herself.

At this time lots of other countries ran similar polls, some of the results were equally predictable, South Africa voted for Nelson Mandella, Spain for King Juan Carlos, Greece choose Alexander the Great and, ignoring politics, Italy went for Leonardo Da Vinci.  Some results were less obvious, in France there was surely someone more famous than Charles de Gaulle (Louis XIV perhaps) and Germany overlooked Otto Von Bismarck and Martin Luther and choose Konrad Adenaur.

My favourite is Canada, where, despite being the second largest country in the World, there are so few famous people to choose from that the long list was restricted to fifty and the top ten included three Scots, the public voted for a man called Tommy Douglas!  In Australia the newspaper ‘The Australian’ selected Andrew ‘Banjo’ Patterson who pushed the World’s greatest ever cricketer, Don Bradman, into second place.

owain-glyndwr

It had been a good few days in South Wales, before we went I thought I knew something about it but as I drove home I realised that if my pal has a bucketful of knowledge mine would barely cover the bottom of a thimble.

We took my preferred motorway route and where I was pleased that there were no incidents or queues my friend was just as disappointed that there were no hold-ups because I was acutely aware that he was just itching to say  ‘I told you so, we should have taken the Fosse Way!’

Age of Innocence – Disney and McDonalds

Walt Disney (2)

The year 1955 unleashed another American icon on the world when Walt Disney opened his Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.

Sixteen years later the World Disney World resort opened in Orlando, Florida and although I have never been to California I went to Disney World three times in the 1990’s which was good fun but at least one time too many.

Read the full story…

 

Winston Churchill – The Greatest Briton

the 24th January 2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

I think that few would argue that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was probably the greatest Briton of all time.  I know that I can say this with some confidence because in 2002 the BBC conducted a nationwide poll to identify who the public thought this was.  The result was a foregone conclusion and Churchill topped the poll with 28% of the votes.

Read the full story…