Well, after queuing most of the morning just to join another queue for another queue, surviving the security checks, buying the whisky and chocolate for the dear ones back home, I can sit down and get my irritation down on paper while I am still in full rant mode. Posting from an airport cafe is something of a first, but I have one of those 3 dongles which is costing me £8 a month and which I never use, so bugger the roaming charges and whatever other charges they add, I’m going to use up what I have paid for.
While I was on holiday, and with the irritation of flying here fresh in my mind, I looked up trains and ticket prices from Calais to Paris, then from Paris to Bordeaux with a view to next time possibly taking the train instead of flying. It’s all very well taking just one hour ten minutes flying from one airport to another once you’re on the plane, but the bloody pfaffing around just to get on and then off the plane really is no one’s business.
The aspect which I find most irritating are the security checks, which have become ever more stringent ever since that Muslim convert go it into his head to try to set his pants on fire on a flight to the U.S. Why do the security authorities always assume we all want to go up in flames on a plane dressed in nothing more substantial than our underpants? Yes, I exaggerate a little, but not much. The experience here in Bordeaux airport was particularly galling today: it really gets beyond a joke when some
guy wearing too much aftershave who dyes his hair insists he take you into a backroom for a strip search. I was livid, especially as he suddenly seemed to think the whole matter was unimportant after all and turfed me out almost before I was dressed. Caused something of a consternation in duty-free, I can tell you.
Speaking of which: duty-free? Really? Then why are so many of the goods supposedly duty-free almost always that much more expensive than in your local Super U and Intermarché? I use these trips abroad to stock up on all sorts of goodies, including aftershaves since I shaved my beard off (to almost universal approval, I should add - it’s very gratifying when your 13-year-old son being picked up from the school bus walks over to the car and the first thing he says is: ‘You look really young now’ - not once but twice). Well, I have brought back from La belle France a 50ml bottle of Pierre Cardin something-or-other and a 50ml bottle of Daniel Hechter. Both are very nice and not, in terms of quality, cheap. Yet both cost me just under €15 - the equivalent in Bordeaux duty-free were around €33, and I checked: they were still only 50ml bottles.
Didn’t actually get around to posting this entry at Bordeaux airport because we were summoned to board the Gatwick flight around 50 minutes before we were due to depart. Knowing that it usually means queuing up for 10/15 minutes to get through passport control, just to queue somewhere else for another 10/15 minutes, I was inclined to cut it fine, but was urged to make a move by a Scottish couple I was talking to when there was an announcement that Gatwick-bound passengers should get a bloody move on or else. So after a nifty bit of queue-jumping (‘sorry, can I just get past, yes, I know but, sorry, can I just get past, my flights been called’), I passed passport control and was virtually whisked onto the plane by 2.15pm even though we were not due to fly off until 2.50pm.
In the event, we left 10 minutes early and arrived at Gatwick 20 minutes early - where on earth is the sense in all that? The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter how late you are once you have checked in your bag and once it has been loaded onto the plane, because they prefer to leave late with all passengers accounted for rather than leave even later after having to search the luggage hold for the luggage of the missing passenger in order to take it off again (which they have to do, you see - Muslim converts, semtex, underpants and all that).
The M25 was the usual nightmare of stop-start traffic, so I took off cross-country heading for I don't know where - Dorking then Guildford, I think - and only went the wrong way twice after ignoring the sage advice of my satnav. But I am now sitting in The Brewers Arms in South Petherton (a very pleasant pub, by the way, if you are ever in these parts), enjoying a pint or two of cider (have only started my first) and a cigar (La Paz cigarros, which is equally oft-putting like all the rest by prominently insisting on the box that I shall probably drop dead within minutes of stubbing out the latest. But I am only 105 miles from home and shall see my little ones at around 9.30pm.
As for the flying, I am seriously considering whether it might not be equally as comfortable to next time to get a train from Calais to Paris, the on to Bordeaux and then on to Cerons, which is a small station just 10 minutes drive from my aunt’s house. At least you’re not obliged to do the journey dressed in nothing but your underwear.
As the Germans say Mahlzeit!
. . .
As far as I know, the latest thinking on why - inexplicably - the Russians (who we once called the Soviets) and the Chinese (who we once called the Red Chinese) refuse to back sanctions on Syria to put pressure on Assad to leave power: it isn’t that they are turning a pretty penny selling ever more lethal weapons to his regime or even that the Russians want to keep hold of the port they use in the Med. It seems what really worries them is that if all these popular efforts to rid the world of unsound regimes gets any stronger, their folk might see an opportunity. That is the latest thinking.
However, I think its crap. From what I have read, your average Russian isn’t doing too badly and the majority of them, like the majority of what we are not obliged to call the ‘middle-class’ Chinese prefer the baubles of affluence to whether or not they have a say in how their country is run. So there might not yet be much of a danger that the populace will turn around to raucous cries of ‘Freedom! Freedom!’
Two further points: it is utterly simplistic to imagine that with Assad out of the way, everything will be sweetness and light in Syria. We ain’t seen nothing yet, as the man said. Furthermore, it seems the U.S. State Department is in the process of doing a substantial U-turn and planning to make friends with the Muslim Brotherhood on the useful, though cynical, principle that all other things being equal it makes more sense to stay on the winning side. As always oil (which I learn today for the first time is sometimes referred to as ‘Texas tea’) dictates the agenda.
The second point is to imagine that holding free and fair elections every five years or so means you have a democracy. Oh no it doesn’t. What is crucial is the rule of law (which is so important, I might even resort to my limited stock of capital letters and call it the Rule of Law). And as for that crucial rule of law, things are now looking more than a tad dicey in Romania and Hungary. I have in the past here wondered what exactly the EU - make that the ‘EU’ - would do if one or more of its member states were to become de facto dictatorships, which is not at all that far-fetched. No doubt Brussels would ‘condemn the most recent developments in the strongest terms’ and urge apostate states ‘to consider the consequences and return to the rule of law’. I wouldn’t care so much if I didn’t have a 13-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter for whom I want a safe, prosperous and as far as possible hassle-free future. And it really isn’t looking that way, is it.
Once again, Mahlzeit!
. . .
Does anyone honestly believe this whole euro mess can still be sorted out? Honestly? That’s it’s all just teething troubles, that it just needs one more push and, you know, with a bit of luck, God willing, fingers crossed, if we all hold together - look just leave it to us, the experts, and we’ll make sure everything comes good . . . After the riots in Greece, we now have riots in Madrid and people don’t riot just because there’s nothing particular good on the telly. Now the Italian government in Rome is considering taking over the running of a bankrupt Sicily.
I am most certainly not an economist or a banker, but even for Pee Wee Powell here nothing, but absolutely nothing stacks up. A dog’s dinner doesn’t even start to describe it. Even the IMF has more or less given up on hope of ever finding a solution. UPDATE: According to the Spiegel, the IMF has told Brussels that it is no longer interested in bailing out Greece. Greece is on its own. That is good news for Greece, which can leave the euro, re-introduced the drachma, devalue and start living again. Meanwhile, the rest of us can look forward to a few years of dirt-cheap hols in the Aegean.
In Romania and Hungary two rather unsavoury prime ministers are riding a coach and four through their constitutional laws as they try to ensure they get an ever tighter grip on power. Now why would they being doing that, I wonder? Could it be that they rather enjoy being in charge and would rather do away with whatever democratic restraints could get in the way? Neither country has a track record of being a thriving democracy. The irony in all this is that one, unspoken, principle of the EU and its remorseless development into an ever more integrated political unit was to try to ensure that by binding Germany and France closer together, Europe would never again see war on the scale of the conflict which ran between 1939 and 1945. Some hope of that, it would seem.
And one more time, Mahlzeit!