Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Personal Battle with Francophobia

OK, so I'm biased. I'm a bit of a Francophile. For all her faults ,France is a bit like an elderly relative - prickly, impoverished( but in denial,) and definitely living in the past, but ancient aunts can be strangely lovable. And when some little ill-informed twit comes along and criticises her it really annoys me. If there's going to be any criticism I will be the one doing it.


Today's' Sunday 'Wail' really got me going. " British motorists face £100 fine for failing to wear fluorescent vests when driving in France".

What? Of course you don't have to wear a flourescent vest while driving ! You put the bloody thing on if you breakdown, for God's sake!

It's at times like this I wonder why on earth I bother to read British newspapers online. And as for buying one at the grossly inflated price that they're on sale for in French newsagents - forget it. I can buy a bottle of wine for less than that and get a good deal more satisfaction from it.

So. back to the article. What a load of Europhobic, badly researched journalism!

This quite acceptable law came in on July 1st, having been enforced in Spain for 2 years already. It's now law to carry a fluorescent vest together with a red triangle (which has been a legal requirement since God-knows-how-long). It's been widely discussed on ex-pat forums, and advertised on French telly for months. And I'm quite sure it's all out there in the UK via the AA or travel insurance sites...so where's the problem ?

Fluorescent vests are as cheap as chips (unless you're going to get Stella McCartney or Donatella Versace to design one for you) Go down to Halfords, or even cheaper probably, a garage forecourt, invest a couple of quid in a polyurethane vest in day-glo yellow and if you do have a breakdown and you happen to be on the Autoroute de Sud in driving rain you stand a chance of being seen by that artic that is thundering along a couple of yards from the hard shoulder that you're parked on. The law only requires you to have one per vehicle at the moment (as far as I understand it - but the jury appears to be out on that bit.)

The best way to avoid being stopped by 'le flic' is to display the vest in a prominent position in the car... hanging it from the back of the driver's seat seems to be the most popular choice . After all that's where it needs to be if you do have an accident or a breakdown. Not in the boot where you may have to risk life and limb to access it. If the gendarmes can see it, they're less likely to pull you over. I mean...we all know what that means (in any country). Full check of all your documents and maybe a look in the boot, a keen look at the tyre treads, and and a good deal of teeth sucking before they eventually wave you off. So unless you actually enjoy a bit of a run-in with the traffic police. and find it adds to the holiday excitement, buy a vest, keep it in the car and above all ,drive as if every other driver is a lunatic. Remember, France holds the dubious honour of being rated as having the worst drivers in Europe.

As long as you bear that in mind that lovely, stubbornly cantankerous old auntie can still provide you with a great holiday.

2 comments:

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Hi Jo how lovely to hear from you again. I so enjoy reading your posting.

Is the prices raising just as quick with you?

Best wishes
Annie

Timecheck said...

Thanks for clearing up a mystery for us. We were walking on the GR 653 last month, and noticed all the fluorescent vests hung over the driver's seat of cars. We first speculated that it was due to hunting season,(since we were seeing hunters on the trail), but seemed like either everyone hunted, or there was some other explanation. Now we know.