Friday, February 23, 2007

Travelling Broadens the Mind

Those of you (and I’m sure there are lots) who turn to this column for inspiration and knowledge, will, I’m afraid, have to look elsewhere for a week. For I’m off to that “sceptr'd isle, set in a silver sea” on this morning’s flight.
Might I suggest therefore, that whilst you wait impatiently for my return, you entertain yourself by reading some of the more comical excerpts from Hansard? Always good for a laugh, it sometimes has a touch of the Hans Christian Andersens about it. For those who are of a more serious mindset, you can always turn to The Daily Mail or The Beano for shrewd comment on the affairs of the day.
I used to enjoy traveling. But now, when I have to present myself a couple of hours ahead of time at the airport so that they may inspect my underwear, some of the gloss has gone off the idea. By the time I’ve driven and hour or so to get there, the one hour flight has turned into a four hour marathon, added to which is the entertainment at the destination of watching other people’s luggage go round on the carousel whilst yours is on its way to Barcelona.
It’s the farce of the security in place that is irritating, a knee jerk reaction that has been foisted on the world by paranoid governments. As governments love statistics, here’s a few to try over on your pianola. Got a pencil and paper handy? Good, now we can begin.
First jot down the number of passengers who traveled by air in the past year. I suggest you ignore Indian and Chinese here, there’s rather a lot of them and it makes the figures a bit hard to handle.
Then divide this by the number of people discovered to be trying to blow up your aircraft. I’ll give you a little time here since you’re probably out of practice at long division. Oh, you’re using a calculator – saves the brain I suppose.
You should now find that you have a dot (we call it a decimal point in the business) followed by a lot of zeros and terminating in the odd digit. This is the risk factor involved in flying.
If you can be bothered, now find the statistics for getting knocked down crossing the road, being mugged in the more salubrious parts of London or, if you’re still at school, being hurt playing conkers without a face mask and body armour.
You will see that all of the last mentioned are rather more hazardous than jumping on one of Wilbur or Orville’s inventions (fewer zeros in front of the digit for the mathematically challenged.). Conker playing should clearly be preceded by a two hour period during which the child’s shoes can be x-rayed, pocket knives confiscated, sticky toffees placed in transparent plastic bags and the participants made to walk through a metal detector. I can’t imagine what the government’s thinking of allowing such dangers to exist.
For myself, I’ve been riding buses and coaches in Britain just lately. They seemed to have escaped the safety dragnet so far.
Provided you show up before the driver lets in the clutch, they allow you on board. The driver loads your bag for you without a lot of piffling questions as to who packed it. None have ever asked me to open it and, as a bonus, since he put it on board, he takes an interest in it still being there when you arrive. He doesn’t put on a life vest and go through a valueless safety drill and is mercifully brief with his cabin announcements.
All in all, I’ve found it the best way to travel around Britain, even with the congested roads. I suppose it's only a matter of time before they put a stop to such a lax operation.
But if you’ve time to spare – go by air.
Back next week.


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