Idle was in Monaco last week, instead of Newmarket or the Aberdeenshire Dee. The sport, such as it was, involved the grunt of supercars rather than the poetry in motion of a Guineas-hopeful three year old thoroughbred, or the glory of playing a 20lb 'springer' from the bank of the Middle Dee.
Monaco was, well, Monaco. In other words, perfectly agreeable for two or three days, despite the concrete, most of the people (a sunny place for shady people, said W Somerset Maugham), the eye-watering cost of a bottle of decent rose, and (though less consequential), Rizla papers at a 500% mark-up on the cost in my newsagent. Dinners in a private salon in the Hotel de Paris were reassuringly expensive, as one would expect. Of course, the bank was paying for all but the Rizla papers, in anticipation of successful client meetings resulting in the conversion of plutocrat targets into plutocrat clients. If you find this all a little vulgar, console yourself that corporation tax, bonus tax and income tax will be tumbling into the bank accounts of NHS trusts up and down the country. The compact between the State and the banks is simple - depending on the cycle, politicians will either be brown-nosing bankers (that'd be you, Gordon, even with Lehman Brothers) whilst failing to regulate them, or cursing them roundly and VERY publicly, promising to tax them out of indignation and pique. But overall, politicians love banks to make huge profits, for tax income is the lifeblood of the spendthrift Chancellor.
But one bores of Monaco swiftly, and the prospect of being marooned there at crucifying expense was not a good one. Our mobiles buzzed with messages that our flights the next morning were cancelled. TGV and Eurostar had been fully booked for days. So, whilst quaffing shampoo and nibbles on Friday evening at the Empire Salon of the Hotel de Paris, overlooking an extraordinary array of supercars in Casino Square, it suddenly occurred to me that we needed a plan, and fast.
The concierge told us that hire-cars in Monaco had reached €3000 for a day, particularly if left at the other end of France. A taxi driver speculated that he could get us to Paris for €2700, but then decided he couldn't be arsed.
Resourcefulness was called for. Idle reckoned that there must be a few hundred hire cars at Nice airport with no incoming folk to pick them up. So, at 8.45pm in the Salon, we drained our glasses, cancelled dinner and went for it. Taxi to Nice Airport - 30 mins and €90. Rather modest 1.6L Opel estate - €316, to be left at Avis in Caen. 1280km, 8 and a half hours later, including several camera flashes but mercifully no gendarmerie, we sped into Caen in good time for the 0830 sailing to Portsmouth. My co-driver (2 hour stints) said the Opel managed over 200kmh downhill with a following wind on the autoroute, but I was kipping at the time and doubt it.
At Caen, we dropped the car at the station and took a taxi to the ferry terminal - €20. Lady Idle had booked the ferry online from home for us while we drove - €40 a head. On board, we found a restaurant - full English €9.60, and booked cabins with bogs and showers - another €40. The beds were made up and we managed 4 hours kip. Arrived on time, taxi to the station, train to Petersfield, wife picked up.
As we waited for the taxi at Caen, we talked to thers who had done the same from Barcelona, Madrid and Geneva. The local news this evening spoke to one determined bugger who had flown from Moscow to Istanbul, Istanbul to Spain, and driven the remainder. Dunkirk spirit, boys, Dunkirk spirit.
And the practical joke when we got back? That Cleggy, the oversexed Eurofanatic, having bullshitted his way through Thursday night with a bit of earnest charm and the odd well-thought-out oneliner, had not only breached the 20% ceiling for the LibDem vote, but was IN THE LEAD with 34%.
Cripes! I have been saying for the last year that the Cameron strategy of Liberal appeasement was a wrong-un, but evidence that it had crashed and burned quite so badly as this was unexpected.
I suspect that Cleggy's new popularity is a mile wide and an inch deep, and that he will get a nosebleed at this altitude, but a breakout poll, even if unsustained, tends to give bouyancy to a campaign. If I were a Tory candidate hoping to unseat a Lib in the Westcountry in three weeks, I would be bobbing like a turd on the Tamar.
The Idle prediction that the first poll after an election is called is a good indicator looks as safe as an Indonesian car ferry right now, but more twists and turns are surely in store. Does this country need a Lib Lab pact, keeping McBust in charge and spending money like a drunken city trader on bonus day, gifting his partners proportional representation, and ever-closer union with the corrupt and unaccountable Euro politcal 'elites'? Does it f#"k.