Friday, July 15, 2016

Boris (hereafter and in view of his unprecedented, not to say bizarre, coronation as Britain’s New Foreign Secretary to be referred to as ‘Johnson’) and a tale of woe, woe, woe when there was no room at the inn for this traveller and, bugger me, if not one Wise Man turned up. As for surly, unhelpful French bastards, I present a prime example

Illats – July 15 (Bastille Day plus 1)

The baffling, baffling, utterly baffling appointment of Boris Johnson as Britain’s new Foreign Secretary must be left for another time as I’m still tired, though I slept
well last night and am not as tired as I was yesterday. Any non-British readers wash up at this blog and don’t know who ‘Boris Johnson’ is, you’ll find extensive details of the man and his crass stupidity on the Wikipedia page on clowns and their role in responsible government. But for those who do not know what he looks like, here, left, is his official appointment portrait, taken two days ago at the Foreign Office.

. . .

I should, of course, have written and posted this entry yesterday when unkind Brit gibes at the French would have carried more weight and been even more gratuitously tactless, but as I spent more or less all day asleep – I’ll explain later – there was not really time and I wasn’t really in the mood. As it is, and while I was asleep, the annual parade of military might by which modern nations like to demonstrate national pride took place along the Champs Elysee in Paris, no doubt frightening the hell out of Isis and giving them second thoughts about whether to poke out their tougues again at Marianne and make suggestive comments about her virtue.

(Why when the French march all their troops and transport all their tanks and other armoury up to Paris to send it through the centre of the capital it is a ‘demonstration of national pride’, but when the Russians and Chinese do the same outside the Kremlin and Red Square it is an ‘unprecedented display of militarism designed to frighten the world’ I have yet to fathom. I do know it is something to do with democracy, but I have yet to make the link.)

The reason I spent more or less all Bastille Day lying on my bed asleep was because I had had barely three hours kip in the previous 48 hours (give or take an hour for dramatic representation but really no more than one). I had for some reason I am still trying to work out booked a 6.50am flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux with BA instead of the usual 9.50am flight with easyjet I have been catching every year when I fly out to Bordeaux for my annual concert-going with my elderly aunt. I can only think it was because at the time of booking BA were £2.35 cheaper than easyjet and – well, we all know that post-Brexit times are hard or will become so and that every penny must be made to count. (That I booked the flight on June 18, four days before the EU referendum, and so could not have known the outcome is a point which would only be made by a pedant and if that is you, you are officially banned from reading this blog for six months.) The upshot was that I was faced with getting up at just after 4am to drive to Gatwick from my brother’s flat in Earls Court, West London. It was that or find a hotel near the airport and drive down the night before.

Courtesy of an offer from APH parking with whom I have dealt before to leave my car near the airport, I was able to book a bed at the Gatwick Europa Hotel in Crawly for just £11 more than the cost of parking my car for eight days. However, somewhere along the line there was a cock-up. I got to the hotel at around 11.40pm and very much looking forward to a quick shower and wank before getting my head down only to be told there was no record of a booking in my name. I insisted there must be (and it didn’t help that the night staff were a surly middle-aged Frenchman who gave a new dimension to the concept of unhelpfulness and a slightly young, very tubby Brit who was that night’s nominal night manager. It is obvious the Europa Hotel chain don’t care very much who the appoint for night shift duty).

I returned to the car to get my laptop and was able to show them the email I’d been sent from APH confirming a room had been booked in my name, but that cut no ice at all. There was no record of a booking made in my name and, anyway, the hotel was full up (apparently of 1,000 Japanese juveniles all playing Pokemon on their phones and tablets to judge from the racket coming from the adjacent lobby.) Once midnight had long come and gone and it was obvious I was getting nowhere, I decided to cut my losses and try to find a room in a nearby hotel – any nearby hotel. I asked the surly Frenchman what were the hotels nearby. ‘How should I know,’ he
replied, ‘I’m from France.’ That, dear friends, is verbatim. Idiot. Brexit is looking ever more attractive.

After looking up hotels on the net, I tried the Crawley Holiday Inn, but had no luck, and then the Holiday Inn Express – yes, I know, what’s the difference, but there is, it seems – and was told I could have their last room which I booked for £99. So with the customary ‘fuck off you unhelpful French bastard’, I was off in search of the Holiday Inn Express my satnav informed me was just over a mile away.

That finding the bloody place took me the best part of 20 minutes I put down to the fact that like black cats in the night commuter towns like Crawley all look the bloody same at any time of day and are riddled with roundabouts every 200 yards or so – you take the wrong turn-off at one and you are onto the next roundabout before you realise your mistake. Or perhaps I’m just thick as shit.

As it was I found the hotel just before 1am and booked in, given the electronic key to room 135 with a cheery ‘you are lucky, sir, it’s our last room, and that will be £7 for parking’. In fact, it wasn’t, and for that I am very grateful, because when I slid in the electronic key and let myself in, I found it was already occupied by a foreign family of four. Back to the reception desk who pronounced themselves flummoxed and immediately found another ‘very last room’, this time 301. And so it was to bed where in all the excitement and praying I didn’t sleep through my alarm I didn’t get off to sleep until about 2.30am. I know because I kept looking at my watch. Two hours 20 minutes later my iPhone alarm went off.

There were more fun and games at Bordeaux airport (where I found myself at 9.35am that morning). I wasn’t due at Cerons railway station, 20 minutes south of Bordeaux and where I was to be picked up, for another five and a half hours, but I cared not one bit. I had already planned sitting in the sun at a café I know opposite Bordeaux Gare St Jean, supping a beer and enjoying a cigar, but as it was still early I decided to treat myself to a café au lait and a croissant at the airport. Which is what I did, only ten minutes after settling down for the whole area to be invaded – very slowly, it has to be said – by a policeman, a soldier with a very lethal looking automatic rifle and various typists with ‘Police’ armbands who told us to get our things together and leave. The area was then taped off. We who had been removed sat on metal benches about 20 feet away waiting for the café to be re-opened, but we were then told to make ourselves even scarcer and we withdrew to the further part of the airport. There, settling down again we heard a loud (or loudish) bang and that was that. I can only think they found a suspicious discarded Dunkin’ Donuts box and were not prepared to take any chances.

So there you have it: although I arrived at my aunts at about 5pm (she wanted to go shopping in the local Intermarche and, at 81, is no longer the fastest shopper) I didn’t get to bed until about 10.30pm because – well, I was being polite and thought disappearing into my bedroom for the next 24 hours might be a little rude. I got up at 11.30am yesterday, had a substantial lunch of lamb cutlets – I mention that because these days I find I eat less and less meat – and just a few glasses of wine. And it was the wine at midday which did it, because I again had to crash and slept for another four hours. The bonus was, of course, that I missed all the Bastille Day excitement.

. . .

Our concerts, only three in my stay here although there are, of course, more on other dates, don’t start until Monday night and I am off again on Thursday. My aunt, who is feeling her age a lot these days and has had two operations over these past 12 months, doesn’t like to go out on her own after dark, so she isn’t able to attend any of the concerts if I am not here to accompany her. (Incidentally: no Liszt or Chopin. Yippee! All that banging around on the keyboard – Liszt – and silly showing off up and down the keyboard while we, the audience, play Hunt The Melody.)

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