Saturday, August 26, 2006

All the News That's (selectively) Fit to Print

Every morning, courtesy of the internet, I read the London newspapers. Well, not all of them, since The Times has elected to charge me for the pleasure. As their writings will be mirrored by the other quality(?) dailies, I felt there was no need to subscribe to the Rupert Murdoch retirement fund.

Anyway, it’s a jolly good job I do read them, for without their expert knowledge, I would remain blissfully unaware of what a miserable existence the French have in La belle France. It’s a mystery to me why the French don’t seem to notice it themselves – just that stubborn pride that crops up so often in the newspaper columns, no doubt. Of course, it could just be that here in France, the quality of life is pretty good, outside of the urban ghettos that blight all civilisations. I suspect that the Paris correspondents of these papers are based somewhere around there and told not to report anything from outside of a 25 km. radius of a trouble spot.

Admittedly, our President, Jacques Chirac, is not Jacques the Beloved, but he stands head and shoulders (literally as well) in the political and diplomatic field above Britain’s present incumbent of St. Albions (with acknowledgements to Private Eye). Winston Churchill once rumbled that he was not First Minister in order to preside over the dismantling of the British Empire. Mr. Blair seems to be going one better by presiding over the selling off of Britain, either to George Dubya Bush or to any Muslim radical that makes a better offer. Eastern European immigrants are also taking up a collection, I understand.

But here I must be honest. In this decadent land that is France, we do have our crosses to bear.

For instance, we can’t complain about our railways – they run, pretty much on time and, with a few exceptions, are clean and graffiti free.

Our TGV system whisks us at close to 200 mph hither and thither across the country for fares which are risible by the standards of the UK systems. And is on time.

Complaining in the letters to the editor about the time taken for a specialist medical appointment is not an option. The waiting time is as long as it takes your doctor to contact the specialist.

Some of the hospitals have had to economise by getting rid of the top-flight chefs who used to prepare the patient’s meals. Dommage.

Our auto-routes are not free of charge but are, except in August, largely free of traffic and, remarkably, construction work.

Our post offices are clean and efficient, providing a whole range of ancillary services from banking and insurance to that sine qua non of mail services, rarely losing your letter, no matter what the size. And the mail gets delivered by knowledgeable mailmen.

And for years we have been taking Sir Ian Blair’s advice which was, presumably, directed at the inhabitants of Canning Town and similar, of leaving our doors unlocked. It does save a lot of paperwork for the “breaking and entering” charges, I suppose but our local criminals don’t seem to have cottoned on yet. And our gendarmerie is 15 kms away and closes for lunch, so better not to disturb them.

Yes, it’s all very distressing, and as I read the gloomy reports of the difficult times we are going through here in France, it’s enough to drive one to drink. Now there’s a thought – what shall it be? A bottle of good Bordeaux for €3? Nah, too expensive. I’ll just settle for my local Vin du Pays, excellent, at 75 cents a litre.

Looking on the brighter side, these newspaper reports are obviously the reason that so many immigrants just transit France and keep on going to Britain. It shows that they must read the newspapers too, and know a good thing when they read one.


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