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Fads, Fashion and Foolery for 1994

January 04, 1994|SCOTT KRAFT and WILLIAM TUOHY

Paris — THE FRENCH CONNECTION: Sometimes they've been enemies; sometimes they've been allies. But throughout their long histories, the French and the British have always been comfortably separated by the cold seawater of the English Channel--or La Manche (The Handle), if you prefer.

But come May 6, that buffer zone will, in effect, disappear. That's when the Channel Tunnel, seven argumentative years in the planning and digging, officially opens to passenger traffic, cutting the crossing time to an estimated 35 minutes for special auto-carrying railroad cars dubbed Le Shuttle.

The British already are worried about French rats. Some fear that rabid rodents from the Continent, where all domestic animals receive rabies shots, will traverse the dark, dank warrens of the tunnel to wreak havoc in Britain, where rabies has been eradicated and pets are not inoculated.

For the French, the big worry is another kind of rat pack--British shoppers clogging grocery stores to buy up beer and other items that are cheaper in France than Britain. Already, Paris newspapers say French families in the channel-side town of Calais are hesitant to go to their local grocery stores because of all the British shoppers. And, cutting right to the heart of French pride, the stores has even started posting signs in English.

Meanwhile, even as the French lay high speed links to the tunnel, the British continue to argue over the route of a permanent fast-track to London, giving editorial cartoonists an inviting target. One, for example, depicts a bullet-type train entering the tunnel at the French side and a Toonerville Trolley emerging from the British end.

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