François Duriaud's British understatement
Tuesday 21 July 2020
I would like to recount some memories of the late François Duriaud, as I was fortunate enough to have been filing copy under the Paris dateline when Mr Duriaud was the quietly excellent bureau chief.
Mr Duriaud invited the hard pressed corros to a social evening at his flat by the smart Luxembourg Gardens, and I was struck by how every spare inch seemed to be taken by books. As I browsed, I came across Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, which seemed an odd choice. I am not a football fan, but I got round to reading and enjoying the book, so I thank Mr Duriaud for feeding my addiction to books and introducing me to the North London author.
When senior executives from London called by the bureau, Mr Duriaud would often invite the visiting firefighter to dinner with the corros at the Grand Colbert, a smart restaurant just a short walk from the bureau. A key scene in the romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give takes place in that restaurant, and I consider it prescient that Mr Duriaud got us there before location scouts placed it on the tourist dining map.
I went to see Mr Duriaud for leave-taking when I ended my Paris assignment. I cannot remember exactly the terms Mr Duriaud used, but it would have been something along the lines of my underperforming in my first year. I knew how useless I had been, but he had never taken me to task in that difficult time of acclimatisation. For a French national, Mr Duriaud lived and breathed the British understatement. And while he spoke little, when he did speak, every word carried weight.
I may be late in contributing to the file but I am sure Mr Duriaud would understand my tardiness. ■