Tuesday, June 15, 2004

If you know a better hole . . .

Off to ZA to see son one and family. Depressed at way England has become uncouth. Will consider emigrating, but where to? New homeland would have to be couth (strictly personal and subjective definition, variable with time and mood), warm and meet basic tests of being civilised – see remarks on couth. Limited choice as all dictatorships, one party states and ones with a state-backed religion ineligible. This makes UK ineligible on grounds of being cold (in winter) and a one party state for foreseeable future. Also object to craven attitude to anything bearing remotest possible risk of injury, mishap or causing offence to innumerable ethnic, religious or cultural minorities. Only people it’s safe to insult are poor, unemployed, undereducated whites (no CRE to defend them); to satirise, just the native, middle class white and educated. Pros: decent beer available, thanks to Camra, cricket still widely played at true amateur level, including on our village green, can still fly (privately that is) with reasonable lack of restrictions, can still laugh at ourselves, great cheeses as even my French friends admit, general decency and sense of humour of vast majority of people, healthy distrust of government. Cons: in fact few, but multiplying under current government (distrusting them does nothing to change their ways) and its policy of simultaneously pushing on with ill thought through, basically Tory policies and pandering to left and fringe groups over e.g. hunting, wind farms, protection of slugs. Mused through a few possibilities.

France. Obvious first choice as a) near, b) I speak the language. This close to essential as anathema to be part of uncouth Brit ex-pat enclave on e.g. Costa Plonka. Pros: civilised attitude to food and language, low population density cf. most of UK, good climate and scenery. Cons: part of EU (though attitude to it is a pro), beer poor, driving standards poor (though again sympathise with attitude). Couth Index, out of five, probably 4 except in Paris.

Belgium. Just to get it out of the way. Close to ineligible on account of being fount of all EU nonsense and therefore nearly a sort of pan-national dictatorship. Couth index 2 urban, higher in the south-east they say. Cons: beer overrated, driving standards abysmal, two languages. Pros: easily bypassed. . .

Netherlands. Pros: civilised attitude to drugs, prostitution, pornography, also to speed cameras. Good trains, endurable airport. Cons: much bureaucracy I’m told, despite pros, impenetrable language, crowded, at risk from global warming as mostly below sea level, rubber cheese. Couth Index 4+ for the good guys.

Germany. Pros: best lager in Europe and therefore by definition in the world, trains run on time one assumes. Cons: language with three genders, not always readily apparent which applies, and strange word order. EU main player with France. Love of bureaucracy.

Ireland. Civilised attitude to food, drink, conversation, rush. Climate better than reputation. Cons: inflation, competition for EU grants increasing, signs of losing sight of principles, e.g. allowing golf course on Old Head of Kinsale. Pros: food, drink, company, generous to pensioners. CI currently 4++, fear on the wane.

Norway. Pros: one of two European countries not in EU and therefore civilised by definition (but see Switzerland), people friendly, girls beautiful and friendly. Don’t panic like UK when it snows. Cons: food, liquor laws, too cold and dark in winter.

Sweden. Much as Norway except is in EU. Betrayed us many years ago when they switched to driving on the right. Switching over at border crossings was a small price to pay and think of the advantage it would bring now as excuse to stop and search every vehicle. CI probably has distinct seasonal variation with relaxation in long summer days but generally good, as exemplified by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Switzerland. OK, not in EU but outdoes it for petty regulations, e.g. no loo flushing at night, switch off engine at red lights. Even currency not what it used to be. As once described by a friend who lives there, it’s a police state because the inhabitants want it that way. CI unknown, unobservable, like the far side of the moon.

Italy. All that culture and they seem to take it in their stride. Pros: food, wine, scenery, hospitality, art, architecture, climate. Cons: Venice overrated, corruption. Couth index 4+, at least in the North.

Spain. Different from all of above in that I’ve never been there but let that not be a barrier to having strong views about it. Information mainly from one of the brightest clients I worked with, who married a Spanish woman. After he had endured traditional ritual of assessment by her five brothers, mother, grandmother etc., he was accepted and loves it. Pros: climate, food, wine, strength of family unit, general idea that life is to enjoy unhurriedly, that super bridge in Seville. Cons: attitude to animal welfare still a bit dodgy, too many Brits, lack of extradition treaty, or have they sorted that out now? I’m with them on Gibraltar though. Couth index probably close to 5 so long as you are talking about Espana, not Spain as an extension of Essex.