Friday, 24 July 2009

Edmund King watch

He’s ubiquitous. We must always be on the alert for Edmund King.

He even turns up when you aren’t expecting him. Yesterday afternoon, for example. I set the video for LOST HORIZON on BBC2, a Hollywood blockbuster based on a bestselling novel written by James Hilton, who at the time was still living with his mum and dad in a semi-detached in what is now the glorious London Borough of Waltham Forest. Puzzlingly, having written two bestselling novels which were turned into Hollywood hits, James departed to spend the rest of his life in California. Quite why anyone would prefer California to Waltham Forest is one of life’s great mysteries.

As I was running back the vid last night, there he was. Edmund King! At the tail end of the programme preceding the movie, something called ‘Working Lunch’. The discussion was about driving on the continent, and Edmund was there on the sofa to caution us about the vicious oppression which awaits the English driver from foreign police.

Apparently they have on the spot fines over there, which can cause enormous distress to the hapless English motorist. Edmund painted a moving picture of an innocent English motorist who would never, ever dream of exceeding the drink-drive limit or the speed limit in Britain, but who, once in France, lets that intoxicating holiday spirit get to him. A couple of glasses of vino, you put your foot down, next thing there’s a big beefy gendarme glaring at you, demanding hundreds of euros. That sort of vicious police state nonsense can completely wreck your holiday.

Abroad, it can get worse than that. The woman on the sofa was outraged at the “bizarre” rules that Johnny Foreigner has, deliberately designed to entrap your innocent English driver. Edmund King could not have agreed more.

“You’re right. Some of them are bizarre. Different speed limits when it’s raining. Dirty cars in Romania.”

Dirty cars in Romania? How many people do you know who, when asked where they are going on holiday this summer, say, “We thought we’d go motoring in Romania”? But if anyone is thinking of relaxing this summer on the highways of Romania, beware - there are entire legions of savage, pitiless police waiting to swoop on a Brit with some splashes of mud on his Mondeo.

(Incidentally, a lower speed limit when it’s raining sounds to me a sensible idea.)

It gets even worse. Edmund had this horrifying revelation:

“In France it’s illegal to use a speed laser detector – even to have one in your car!”

Whereas in Britain carrying a device designed to evade road traffic law and to encourage reckless and lawless speeding is regarded with amused tolerance.

The message was clear. The British driver can flout road traffic law to his heart’s content in this country, but once the other side of the Channel you’d better watch out. In Britain you don’t even have to bother turning up in court, and if you are rich you can hire ‘Mr Loophole’ to get you off a speeding rap. But abroad you might well encounter a mean, unsympathetic cop who wants to take your euros off you. Immediately, then and there, with no excuses.

The prog ended with some free advertising for the RAC and the AA. That’s what the BBC is all about – what we philosophers call the Jeremy Clarkson Weltanschauung.