I take malicious joy in watching people here squirm. I know, of course, that it’s not very kind of me. After years of toxic bile directed towards Blighty, the lot have had to face the reality of their own ineptitude. No, Germans trains do not run on time and save for a very select few lines, they’re not particularly clean or brilliant, either. The famed ICE is really no better than the Bristol to London-Paddington GWR line. The country is hardly efficient. If anything, the albatross that is the state weighs heavily on the necks of the country’s peasants.
After so many years of hearing about how Adolfina Honecker, er, Angela Merkel I mean, is a leader superior to Boris, Toxic Tess (not difficult to be) or David Cameron (again, not exactly a challenge) it’s all come undone. Germany has managed to bungle everything terribly. Take, for example, the vaccination drive. Elderly people were expected to complete a ten-step online appointment registration process with a two-step online ID-verification procedure. The procedure would give me a fit of the vapours and I grew up using this technology. I bloody well can’t imagine my 89-year-old nan who has never used a computer in her life or the 77-year-old neighbour who thinks it’s all bollocks to cope with it. (This isn’t a swipe at the venerable, rather a swipe at the fact that Germany is yonks behind the UK, Australia, Sweden and USA in respect to digitalisation)
The glorious German government is now at the verge of collapse with both major parties heading to historic defeats. The CDU and CSU are caught up in scandal after scandal, reaching as high as the health minister himself. (His husband was profiting from government procurement contracts given the company he works for.) Between general incompetence and corruption, the sense that the CDU/CSU just need to leave and that SPD have betrayed everything they should stand for, Germany’s heading to a frightful coalition.
Then, when things were already going badly, they waged war against the Oxford jab for political reasons. This isn’t my opinion, this is the view of the Italian health authority! As Britain passed the milestone of 50% vaccinated, the German government has finally started to grasp that it might need to simplify its vaccination process. Not that it much matters to me. I’ve given notice of intent to vacate to the landlady, made sure that my papers in the UK are in order and have my aeroplane tickets booked. Oh, and I have made arrangements to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot jab whilst in California. I might as well get something out of my tax dollars.
This morning I received a message from an acquaintance, a woman in her 70s who grew up between Britain and Hunland. She asked me for my opinion on Adolfina Honecker’s, I mean, Angela Merkel’s, China deal. Having been distracted with other things recently, I hadn’t heard about it. (Funny how real life and work tend to get in the way of things) I took a Captain Cook and was amused.
Amused. Yes, I was amused. The EU will now increasingly become reliant on China. Had this been 20 years ago, I would have been more forgiving. Even 10 years ago one could have been relatively forgiving. After all, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao followed Deng Xiaoping’s maxim that China’s initials “PRC” should serve as an acronym for its foreign policy: please remain calm. Under Deng and his hand-picked successors, China sought to position itself as a stable, doveish but assertive alternative to an often histrionic United States. As the 1990s came to a close and the USA engaged in a catastrophic series of wars and foreign policy blunders after 9/11, Deng’s call bore fruit.
Continue reading “Turny Worms”
Germany is a special place, special in the nest of three-headed, phosphorescent rats on the shores of Lake Karachay sense. Germany can be difficult to stomach at the best of times. After all, even seemingly mundane matters can give those of us with distinctly Anglo-Saxon leanings fits of the vapours. For example, in order to be enrolled in a “Krankenkasse”, I was instructed to provide a copy of my British health insurance card that does not exist. They were well aware that prior to my descent into madness, I mean, move to Germany, I had been living in the United Kingdom. They were also aware that there is no British health insurance card. Yet they requested it anyway.
Continue reading “Tilting At Windmills”
I have a particular luxury. Working online, I can get by reasonably comfortably with a part-time job to supplement my income. I’ve had some informal chats with employers in Portugal about working part-time as an English tutor. The three regions where I have the greatest chances are Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve. Could you please give me some general advice? Things are still embryonic and I’ve also heard some positive noises out of Arizona but I’d like to consider all my options.
I like the idea of rail travel. In fact, I had considered booking a rail holiday from Chicago to Sacramento earlier this year. This being 2020, that didn’t happen. In fact, not very much of what I had planned actually took place this year. In fact, I ended up living in a country I had little desire to visit. But this is 2020 and one can’t change that.
I travelled by rail this summer. I travelled by rail a lot. Flights, while growing in frequency and reliability, are still sporadic and prone to cancellations. Carriers have taken full advantage of the chaos to continue offering flights only to cancel them at the last moment. The EU has relaxed regulations on the air industry in light of the chaos. This can mean only one thing: carriers hold onto money for as long as they possibly can before issuing refunds.
Continue reading “Les Voyages en Train”
I hadn’t originally intended to fly to Germany, but it became necessary due to a family emergency. It was initially supposed to be for a few weeks, a month at most. Ultimately, it dragged on for over two months due to constant flight cancellations and the travel situation on the Continent. Usually, arranging for travel by train wouldn’t be difficult. But, as Germany. the Netherlands and France agreed to keep their borders closed until 15 June for all but essential travel, that was postponed until then. Continue reading “Chaos and Chuckles”
Dame Vera Lynn passed away at a spry, youthful 103. She was one of the last members of a great generation, a generation that went through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Cold War. She represented something increasingly rare in today’s vulgar world: class, decency, humility and grace. Even though she has not recorded new music for some time, her retirement was well-earned and she certainly accomplished more than enough in her lifetime, the fact that she remains so instantly recognisable, so well-loved, stands as a testament to her great talent and presence. She will be missed.
The process of decolonisation was complex and sometimes fraught. There were times when the best efforts at maintaining unity came apart — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are good examples of this. At times, there was something that looked good on paper and would, had it worked out, have resulted in good results. The West Indian Federation is a classic example of this. (The Central American Republic is another, but that’s for another discussion) But sometimes, a situation was complex enough that it required an entirely different set of measures. Continue reading “A bit overdue?”
I write this at a time that I should have been packing up for a flight to Denmark before continuing on to California. I’m clearly not. Rather, I’m sitting in suburban Trier listening to the sound of aeroplanes flying to and from Luxembourg. Passenger flights remain suspended, but cargo flights are still coming and going. Continue reading “Life in a Time of Covid”
I have followed the case of Cardinal George Pell with interest. Cardinal Pell, as many of my cherished co-Charioteers will know, was convicted last year of raping two boys at his cathedral in Melbourne. After the initial appeal was rejected 2-1, the High Court of Australia overturned his conviction 7-0. Continue reading “The Redemption?”