Friday, September 14, 2007

Mr. Toad of Toad Hall

In days of yore, he would merely have had to tell his coachman to give the fellow a damned good thrashing with his riding whip. But good help is hard to come by these days and so the Marquis of Blandford had to do the job himself- which resulted in his having his collar felt by the fuzz and an unsympathetic magistrate consigning him to the pokey. Which just goes to show how little respect there is for class nowadays and the appalling lack of domestic servants. Surely he could have got himself a Polish chauffeur to have done the job.
But there again, chauffeuring is pretty much confined to those working for government ministers, who may well be as incapable of steering a vehicle as they are of steering a country in the right direction.
Road rage is not a new phenomenon. Boadicea's habit of putting knife blades on the axles of her chariots, whilst it may have made for ease of movement during rush hours, was, if not rage, a trifle bellicose. And some of the activities during Ben Hur would have raised eyebrows at the British School of Motoring.
The French have long recognised the open road as a suitable outlet for their belligerence, and this is manifest in the antipathy shown by non-Parisian drivers to those from that noble city. French number plates bear the number of their department, making Parisians easily spotted.
My wife, who is from Texas but who has lived here long enough to consider herself a paid-up member of the “Drive Parisians off the Road” society, is a good example.
“There's one,” she'll cry. And set off in pursuit of some poor Parisian and his family, wending their way to the coast for a spot of “vacance.”
But now the authorities have decided to bring a halt to this innocent bit of fun. Shortly, number plates will no longer indicate the department of origin of your car. The official line is that it will save administrative costs. But we all know that it is really an attempt to curb one of the Frenchman's more innocent pleasures.
We no longer have many Marquises here in France, most of them having suffered a more Draconian style of punishment than that meted out to Blandford, but there are a good many Mr. Toads on the road in every country.
The sooner we all get back to driving our canary coloured, horse drawn caravans along peaceful dusty lanes, the better, I feel.
Then, of course, you might wind up with a bad-tempered horse!
“Poop, poop,” cried Mr. Toad.


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