Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Alternative transport

Eurostar is terribly expensive so I chose to come back from Paris by ferry and coach. Surprisingly, it is cheaper to get to Calais by Eurostar than by taking an ordinary express train and changing at Lille. Only two of us got off at Calais; the other one was a retired engineer who supplements his meagre pension by practising homeopathy, faith healing etc. He assumed I had got off because I hated the tunnel. In fact I love it but don't like the price. In case anyone is interested, Paris to Calais was 19-odd euros, Calais to Dover 15, and Dover to Victoria £6-odd, total about £40 (all with old-folks' discounts). Journey time 6 hours.

London after Paris seemed old and tired. Coming in through Lewisham and Peckham it looks as though nothing has been repaired or repainted or washed for decades. And walking around Victoria I thought the provision for cyclists very primitive compared with those in Paris, and we still don't have the "velib" - free bikes that you can pick up and put down all over Paris using something like an oyster card (or with a one-euro-a-day permit). The system works because a central computer keeps a constantly updated record of who has which bike.

Getting into Britain is quite a hassle. I had to show my passport and go through security twice, taking off my belt and purse as well as emptying my pockets and having my bags scanned. Our failure to see ourselves as part of Europe is a constant aggravation to me. Fifty years ago there was no such problem; educated people accepted that our history, geography, language and culture were European, and when we wanted to make a distinction it was between Britain and "the Continent". Now people call that which is not British "Europe". I blame Margaret Thatcher. For my part I feel European before British and human before European, and I am happy to call myself a mammal. Citizens of the Earth, unite!

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