People of France, your attention please. We know you to be a civilised and cultured people; with a fine history of music, art, literature and philosophy. Your culinary tradition ranks amongst the highest in the world, and your national anthem is perhaps the fourth best in the EU. However, it has come to our attention that - of late - the quality of your tourists has been, shall we say, disappointing. Please do try and do something about this, such as sending them to Eurodisney instead. (Oh, and please stop voting for people like Marine Le Pen. It really doesn't look good.)
Caroline and I were returning from a party in Mestre last Saturday night (yes, a party! with real Italians!). The weather was still warm enough to sit outside on the vaporetto, the Grand Canal quiet and almost empty.
Then one of the two French women in the adjacent seats lit up a cigarette. OK, I can imagine a time when I might have enjoyed a late-night cigar on the back of the vaporetto, enjoying the silence and watching the city slide past. But you can't smoke on the vaporetti any more, and the rules exist for nice people as well...
Caroline asked her to put it out, initially in Italian and then in English. The woman half-apologised and tried blowing the smoke away from us. But that's not the point.
So we rattled through every combination in English and Italian that we could think of - non è permesso, è vietato, è illecito, è contro la legge, è illegale...but nothing seemed to work. Annoyingly the one phrase that wouldn't come to mind was defense de fumer. I don't think she'd have cared anyway. She obviously understood what we were saying, but by now she was openly laughing at us.
Then Caroline snapped, walked over to her, grabbed her cigarette and chucked it into the canal; before stalking off to the front of the boat. I followed, open-mouthed in admiration and not a little fear.
People of France, one day you might just find yourself sitting next to my wife when you decide to treat the city as your own personal fiefdom. And trust me, you don't want that to happen...