"European travel, British politics, holidays, and the judicial system ...", by Rob Burge (England, UK)

From the Web 1.0 days I bring you The Forum. To preserve them for posterity as Geocities can no longer be found but also it's fun to re-read some of them.
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21st July, 2001

20-June-2001

Well, I’m sitting here at work, with a million, billion, trillion things to do and don’t know where to start. So I’ve made myself a nice cup of tea, adjusted my chair and made an executive decision. For the past few weeks I have been promising Mike that my next ‘Forum’ contribution would be completed and posted within days. Obviously, from the lack of any material from me, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Spare time, since the birth of Tomos, has been at a premium so try as I might, my latest column never had a chance. This is the only free time I have had available for weeks so I’m making the most of it.

European travel

Last week I was sent to Barcelona (first time I’d been to mainland Spain) and my thoughts turned to the wonderful cuisine, sitting on a beach or worst case lying by the hotel pool and bar after a hard days work. It all started well, transferring flights in Paris and at Barcelona our luggage arrived with us. We met our hosts and an hour later we were at our destination. Now for those that don’t know, Spain has some very interesting working hours. 30 minutes for lunch? Oh no. 1 hour for lunch? Wrong again. 2 hours is the standard time. So after ½ hours work, everything stopped and we were on our way to a local restaurant. A splendid lunch with a local red wine then followed along with plenty of time for conversation. Shame we had to return to work.. Finishing at 7:30pm a taxi took us to our hotel. I thought the driving in Turin was bizarre, but that had nothing on the local traffic in Barcelona. The city suffers from an infestation of scooters. There must be 5 scooters to every car and at one point the taxi driver had a running battle with a young girl as she scooted around the city. The windows were fully down and both the driver and the young ride spent every spare moment shouting and gesticulating at each other before the girl finally swore and rode off into the traffic. As I wrote earlier, the appeal of a couple of free hours next to the hotel pool was high on the agenda. Unfortunately, this hotel was situated in the middle of the city so basically, no pool. After booking in and ending up in tears of laughter trying to figure out how the elevator worked, we met up and hit the town. Well actually the town nearly hit us, or rather a police car travelling at around 80mph from behind a stopped bus. It missed us by about 6 inches. Another step forward as we crossed the road would have found us a bouncing off his bonnet (hood). A bit scary to say the least. To finish off our trip a quick word about the high class hotel we were put in. No hot water into the sink and the hot water that did come out of the shower was mud brown. Ah well, Germany next week so lets see what happens then.

20-July-2001 (Told you I was busy)

A smidgen of British Politics

The biggest event in the UK over the past few months was the General Election. An event so monumental that we ended up having to endure 6 weeks of childish behaviour from a bunch of ‘grown-ups’ trying to make us vote for them. Surprise surprise, voting numbers were down yet again. I wonder why? Is it because we’re fed up with career politicians whose main function in life is feather their own nests at our expense. Where are the politicians of old who have actually had jobs? Who have suffered bad times with redundancies? Who know what it feels like to have a limited pay packet which has to last the week/month whilst supporting a family? Most of those who represent us in Government nowadays have never had anything less than ten pound notes in their pockets. Well, it’s all over now and life gets back to normal.

Holidays

The last few weeks have been a busy time for children in Britain with schools closing down for the annual summer holiday. 3 weeks ago we packed the car and travelled to France for a holiday in a caravan. Not as bad or as cramped as it sounds. The campsites on the continent are run by British firms and the caravans are ‘static’ (not towed by cars). They are well equipped with 2 bedrooms, bathroom, fully equipped kitchen and a good size living area and bathroom. Not that we used the living area too much apart from breakfasts of fresh croissants. After that the girls spent most of their time playing with new friends and riding on their bikes. We rented a mountain bike one for Philippa and ended up buying a new one for Georgina. Evenings were spent relaxing eating BBQ’s, reading, playing cards and drinking local wine. The site had a pool complex with 5 different sized outside pools, 1 inside heated pool and a water slide. Mind you, it was a bit touch and go as to whether I would be able to drive to France……

British judicial system

Last January whilst driving home from work my mobile phone rang. Not having a ‘hands-free’ phone in my car as I usually turn it off while I drive, I answered it and held it my ear. Why? Well I thought that the call was from my wife Karen, who was 7 months pregnant and had recently resumed a course of painkillers. Obviously we were both concerned over her health and that of our unborn child. 10 seconds later an unmarked police car stopped me. For those that don’t know, the legal speed limit on a British motorway is 70mph. Whoops! I was travelling at 90mph. Not looking too good for me so far is it? Well, I was invited to sit in the police car and hear my fate. Firstly I was told that I was stopped because of the use of the mobile phone but I couldn’t be charged with it as it is not in actual fact an illegal act. Secondly, he informed me that I was tracked by his radar for 1/3rd mile and my average speed was 90.54mph. Again I was informed that I couldn’t be charged with the speed offence as I was driving with the ‘pack’, which meant that the other 12 or so cars around me were travelling at the same speed and that we were also driving safely. So the upshot was that I was charged with a combination of both. This is classed as ‘Careless Driving’. Bollocks! As I run my own company I NEED to be able to drive and now I was facing a charge of a maximum £2,500 fine AND a 12 month driving ban. The new baby was due in 2 months time and because Karen was having a Caesarean delivery it meant that she couldn’t drive for 6 weeks after the birth. Oh, and I was starting a new contract based in the UK and Italy (Pinnifarina - Turin) so keeping my license was somewhat of a priority. Great timing huh? The British system is such that after being warned of an ‘Intention to Prosecute’ they have 6 months to bring me to court. The weeks turned into months and still nothing came through the post. After 5 months I thought that I might have got away with it. I started to think that the officer had listened to me. It was my first offence in 16 years driving (well first time I had been caught anyway) and maybe, just maybe he had used this as a scare tactic and didn’t intend to prosecute. 2 weeks later the Summons arrived through the post. I was to appear in court for an offence of ‘speeding’ not Careless driving, so that was a bonus. My court appearance coincided with a trip to Germany and also my holiday to France a few days later, so it was imperative that I kept my license. If I didn’t appear in court, they couldn’t ban me. Therefore I then had to go and get myself a solicitor. Don’t know if any of you have had to go through all this, it was a first for me and a real pain in the arse. To summarise, I was represented at court by my solicitor which resulted in a £350 fine. Plus £150 for the solicitor. OK I paid the price for my offence and I can fully accept that. What I can’t accept is this…last week a colleague of mine had a court appearance for 98mph and he had a £200 fine. It all comes down to an issue of easy revenue collection from motorists and not one of safety.

More next time…… cricket, rugby & the art of coming second.

Rob
Rburge_omarline@yahoo.co.uk
http://www.omarline.co.uk

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