right now - or is it?
I know absolutely nothing about the "contract" with the French "Naval Group". I know absolutely nothing about submarines.
The closest I have ever come to a submarine is from some distance away at the port which services our city. It looked a bit like a misshapen whale. I think I prefer whales.
I spent five years of my childhood living in a suburb adjacent to the port. The Senior Cat grew up in yet another suburb adjacent to the port. My paternal grandfather grew up in the port itself.
From the time I was very young I was taught about ships, boats, ketches, tugs, vessels, ropes, anchors, fore and aft, bows and sterns and much more. Grandpa thought all children should know about such things. Which tug was in port today? Tusker! We loved seeing Tusker tied up to the wharf.
We went with Grandpa to get the fish for lunch - if he had not had time to go fishing - and the present my brother and I still remember as "the best" was the tour our grandfather arranged of "that big boat". (We went all the way from the hull to the bridge and had all our many questions answered.)
But we didn't know about submarines, not in the same way. We just never saw them. It is hardly surprising. They are generally naval vessels. They travel beneath the surface. They don't dock in civilian harbours. And, looking back, I think Grandpa was not quite comfortable with them. He may have made his living as a tailor but he was also a seaman. He swam all year round. He could row a dinghy, sail any of the small fishing boats in the harbour. He understood the tides. He could read those strange maritime maps as easily as he read the daily paper. He could tie all those strange knots. When it came to submarines though he would grunt and say something like "I know nothing of them". That was it.
I don't have his wisdom to guide me on submarines. The Senior Cat has always said he does not want to even set foot on a submarine. The idea of being submerged in something like that frightens me. Years ago there was a curate at the church my parents attended. He had been a submariner - a "submariner turned sky pilot" as the priest put it - and we talked about this. Being a submariner is clearly not for everyone.
I'd like to ask him now whether we really need any submarines. Do they actually make a difference to our ability to defend ourselves? Can we really sneak up on others by using them?
The idea does not appeal. The French may be feeling rather angry about the loss of the $90billion contract - I know I would be - but I wonder how many millions of sensible French citizens also feel just a little uncomfortable about submarines. The French have a fine maritime tradition. Could someone pay them to develop something like an environmentally friendly and speedy substitute for planes?