I was taken by surprise last month while holidaying in Biarritz. As I splashed through the surf towards the beach I passed a woman paddling. She was topless and it struck me that this was a sight you don’t often see any more in France. I first came to France on summer holiday as a young boy and recall asking my mother, who is of Scottish presbyterian stock, why French women didn’t wear bikini tops. She replied from behind her sturdy one-piece swimming suit that it ‘was just the French way’ Not any more. In 1984, a survey found that 43 per cent of Frenchwomen bathed topless on the beach.