Monthly Archives: August 2015

Foreign Desk

(This is a piece I wrote based on an earlier blog.  It wasn’t published as a magazine article, and is rather out of date now)

Tunisia

Following acts of terrorism we’re advised to stay away from certain Middle East and North African countries.  Tunisia now heads the list of countries that risk having their economies decimated with the loss of their tourism industries.  I say well done to the 10,000 British holidaymakers who stayed on to complete their holidays in Tunisia (around 50%).

At one time, I had a bit of a reputation as a Trouble Tourist as many of my holidays were spent in the Middle East and North Africa.  Sadly, if I were Muslim, I’d probably be suspected of visiting terrorist training camps.  I enjoyed a holiday in Tunisia some years’ ago, and particularly liked Sousse, the town where gunmen recently massacred thirty-eight people.  Had I been out there at the time, I would have defiantly seen out my holiday, and shown solidarity with the local people.  Terrorists aim to produce terror.  If people don’t give in and carry on as normal, the terrorists lose.  Remember the defiance of the French people back in January:  “Je Suis Charlie”?  More people than ever bought the Charlie Hebdo magazine.  The terrorists lost.

It’s said that more attacks could take place in Tunisia.  True, but more attacks are likely to follow elsewhere too, possibly including the UK.  We’ve certainly had our share of terrorist outrages over my lifetime.  Even before I was born, our parents and grandparents still got on with life despite the Luftwaffe bombing our cities.  The IRA were bombing British cities well before I started work in London in 1978.  When I became a cab driver in the eighties, my work was often disrupted when streets were closed because of bomb threats.  Terrorist outrages continued to happen around Britain on a lesser scale ever since, but we didn’t give in to terrorism.  We got on with life.  When fifty-two people were murdered in London ten years’ ago, London didn’t come to a standstill.  As far as I know, foreign embassies have not advised their citizens to avoid the UK.

The threats aren’t necessary stronger in Muslim countries.  I’ve had more problems in my own country.  My wallet was lifted on a crowded Istanbul tram within minutes of my arrival, but problems have usually been of minor rip-offs rather than overt thieving or violence.  Let’s be honest, this isn’t the safest country to live in.  Violent, well-organised gangs of thieves are targeting London and other cities twenty-four hours.  The crime rate is often lower in the countries that people are now scared of going to.   Personally, I’d take my chances in West Beirut or East Jerusalem over any British town centre on a Saturday night.

Greece

I’ve also had nice holidays in Corfu and Rhodes, so I’m sorry to hear of the problems Greece is facing.  Not sure who decided to let them into the European Union though.  I understand paying tax was pretty much regarded as optional, and that workers in occupations such as hairdressing could retire on a full pension aged fifty (I’m not sure what age Greek taxi drivers retire at).  Had I moved to Greece to become a Careers Adviser rather than Northampton, I could have retired by now.  I could be sat on a beach counting my nest egg of unpaid tax.  Maybe we shouldn’t be complacent at our own country’s lax policies though:  I was shocked to read that self-employed Uber drivers can claim tax credits!

France

Talking of whom…  Our friends across the channel recently took to the streets to protest against Uber.  Cars were overturned, Police were injured, and tyres were set on fire during the protests.  Unbelievably, Uber in Europe supply a ride sharing service employing – sorry, providing – drivers without either a taxi or a private hire licence.  Disgruntled French ferry workers have also had issues.  Their strike forced the closure of Calais port, leaving drivers to queue in the sweltering heat for days in their lorries in Kent.  This was on the hottest summer day for many years.  Both demos involved setting fire to anything that got in their way.  Say what you like about them, the French know how to throw a party.

A friend and I were wondering whether winning the Battle of Waterloo was necessarily a good thing.  Had the French won we might be all working a thirty-seven hour week, and enjoying several extra days per year in strike days. I’ll gloss over the idea of snails, but we could eat as many frogs’ legs and as many rare steaks as you can shovel at us.  We wouldn’t have had to wait two-hundred years for a decent cup of coffee either.  We could then round off the evening with setting stuff on fire over a steaming café au lait.

No, no need to be scared of foreign countries, nor foreign food.  I’d just be careful which cab company you get to drive you home.

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