Is it possible to feel a personal warmth and affection, even love, towards someone one has never met? It must be, because that’s how I feel about the late President Ronald Reagan.
The reason I felt so fond of the old Cold War warrior, and the reason I cherish his memory now that he is even colder, is this. Back around 1983, towards the end of Ronnie’s first term in the Oval Office, the man did me one enormous favour.
Sixty years on, the crossing to Normandy was flat as a millpond, the sun shone, the helicopter from the Portsmouth to Ouistreham ferry’s British destroyer escort (there were three other destroyers, one French, one American, one Canadian) performed all sorts of clever tricks for our amusement, and our welcoming party comprised a Royal Marine and, later in the evening, a magnificent fireworks display from Omaha all the way to Sword.
The Portuguese police are donning their riot gear, the café owners are boarding up their premises and the locals are telling each other, ‘Don’t go down to the square, the English are coming....’ It’s Euro 2004, and the English have already arrived. They are sitting in clumps around the fountain, groups of pink, misshapen men, wearing St George T-shirts and shellsuit bottoms or shorts. Some are glum, nursing a can of beer as consolation for a lost wallet or a night spent in the park.