As I walked yesterday morning from my friend's house in Twickenham to the local train station, the first people I passed were a father and his 2 kids, one of whom he was teaching to ride a bike. In Spanish. And then I picked up a paper on the tube – Express News – and it was almost a minute before I realised this was entirely in Spanish.
Friday was not a good day for me in my capacity of seasoned traveller. I left my UK phone and charger somewhere – probably on the train to London - and I lost my through-ticket to Twickenham on the tube before I changed to the overhead line at Vauxhall. At least the guy let me through the exit barrier but, of course, I still had to buy another ticket for half the journey. I suspect the old one had been 'stuck' to my Spanish phone in my pocket and had dropped off when I took the latter from my pocket. Bloody smartphones!
If Friday was bad, Saturday was a disaster. I was down to visit old friends in Maida Vale and got there on time at 12.30. But couldn't get through to them re picking me up on my Spanish phone, so had to buy a coffee - for almost 3 quid – so I could use their internet. When I finally got through and could hear my friend above the Spanish levels of noise in the café, it was to discover I should really have been in Balham - on the other side of London and not far from Twickenham, where I'd set out from at 11 o'clock. The only good news was that I could use the return half of my ticket to get at least as far as Vauxhall. In fact, the error only cost me a 7 quid taxi ride to their house from Balham station, as I was able to blague my way - Spanish style – through various exit stiles that tried to stop me. But the basic reason for not needing to buy another ticket is that - 3 wasted hours later – I ended up more or less back where I'd begun. And where, of course, I'd been scheduled to return to later in the day.
Anyway . . . Arriving on Friday at Euston, there seemed to be no ticket offices there. Worse, the machine I opted for hassled me about both my UK debit cards before finally taking my money and giving me the ill-fated ticket. Not very impressive really.
Used - as I am to 3 or 4G phone coverage in the wilds of Spain - it astonished me that – for whatever reason – I couldn't call from the streets of either Maida Vale or Balham in London. This, as I've said, did little to help me communicate with the friends I was due to meet for lunch. Not to mention the absence of my UK phone.
The logistics of moving vast numbers around the huge city of London are immeasurably complicated but I have to say that I found everything truly efficient and fast, both above and below ground. The information services – assuming you understand English – are remarkably good, whether you're looking at screens, listening to announcements or asking the staff. All peerless. As in Spain, a smile always helps.
One odd thing I noticed about people in London is that they appear to have radar or antennae and to be able to detect you, even if you're coming from behind. And then, even more remarkably, they instinctively move out of your way. After 16 years in Spain, I'd forgotten about this human facility and the consideration it engenders.
This line of illegally-parked cars is outside a church in Heald Green, North Cheshire:-
But this scene can be seen in any street of the area, day and night. And the police do nothing about it!. I guess this is because they take the pragmatic view that life there would be impossible if they imposed the fines that are surely due. And because the police are not a de facto department of the Inland Revenue. Life used to be like this in Spain not so long ago. But, these days, the drivers of all these cars would be fined and their cars towed, whatever the impact on citizens' lives. I guess one factor might also be that, with 4 or 5 police forces patrolling a relatively crime-free city, Pontevedra's officers are all bored stiff and only too happy to indulge in the national hobby of form-filling. Especially if they're on a bonus.
But onto global matters . . .
As Trump seeks to impose his model of a 'benevolent' dictatorship on the US public and Mrs May faces the almost impossible challenge of successfully negotiating the Brexit, one thing they'll surely come to learn is that this is - as it has been for some time – The Age of the Bureaucrat. Things are now so bloody complex, it's impossible to cut through the Gordian knots. At the end of it all, the power will be found to lie in the hands of those who can stop, rather than start, things.
Smack on cue, Trump has reacted to an adverse court judgment on his executive order by attacking the “so-called judge”. Through diabolical contacts, I asked Adolf Hitler for his view of things and he said much the same thing, citing the problems he'd had with Germany's judiciary. Initially at least. His advice to Trump was to stick at it and keep in mind his dictum that “If you're going to tell lie, make sure it's a bloody big one”. Or something like that.
As Nick Cohen puts it in today's Guardian: Truth, reason, evidence, decency must all be sacrificed to the greater good of keeping the strongman looking strong.
Finally . . . Something I can't resist posting . . .
I love God's sense of humour.