Friday, 24 August 2007

Slave to rhythm

My life at the pool has been revolutionised. The Speedo goggles have gone. The super light strap was looking a bit scraggy in Rhode Island and it broke as I plied the waters of Tooting Bec Lido a few Sundays ago.

Well all that was before Stockholm and now back in Paris the replacements have been put through their paces at Pontoise

They weren’t altogether brilliant as they let the water in. I wondered if it was a tad too demanding to grumble about that when I was in for free and there was a peaceful pool.

I grimaced a bit and managed to vacuum pack my eye sockets. Not much water was going to come in now. Though I was worried the suction pressure of taking the goggles off might rip out the eyeballs.

But that ouch was for later. It was time to splash. There’s been something elegiac about the pool – almost the last days of splendour before the avalanche. I made the most of the changes.

Transformation is certainly the key chez Eric and Eleanor. They went off to the countryside on Friday morning and on Thursday night I went round to see the new flat.

It’s a vast change from their previous place – not as many boxes for one and no obvious sign of Jack Bauer and his free world saving operatives. Space for the adults and the two children. Made me wonder somewhat about our own apartment. Reconfiguration will have to come at some point but without mutilating the bank account.

I guess I’ll have to find other ways to make cash and if those aren’t successful, then I’ll just have to be content with what I’ve got.

It’s not rocket science.

And apparently you don’t have to have a big brain to make the move to another country.

Record numbers of Britons are leaving their homeland in search of a sunnier life abroad.

The latest population figures revealed that nearly 200,000 Brits hit foreign climes last year.

If any of them have been sizing up a move to Paris over the past couple of days, they’d better go to Outdoor World and stock up on waterproofs. Worst August in 30 years the papers here were saying on Friday.

But enough of this short termism. Most Britons — around 71,000 of them — are venturing off to Australia. Spain is also popular.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics suggest that Brits who flee are seeking two things: the sun and other Brits to share it with.

That covers me only on one count because Paris has more or less the same volatile climate as my erstwhile home in London and I did come with a British partner.

What seems interesting though is that people, according to the data, are seeking better jobs abroad.

When I was but a young man, actually it was 1981, Norman (now Lord) Tebbit, rhapsodised about the 1930s when his unemployed father had got on his bike to look for work rather than spend his energy burning up his local town like the jobless youth had done on streets of Handsworth in Birmingham or Brixton in south London.

In the satirical TV puppet show Spitting Image, Tebbit was always shown as a leather-clad bovverboy to Margaret (now Lady) Thatcher’s cold-hearted controller.

It seems that after 10 years of Labour we’re all Tories now. Or is it that Labour isn’t working to such an extent that more and more are bailing out.

Well the flow of people is the history of the world.

And I’d be the last person to quell the wanderlust for fulfilment. But having hosted a few debates at the radio station on issues around migration, the portrayal of this is quite striking.

For Europeans it’s presented as a social trend. For almost anybody else, it’s apocalypse now.

Deeply strange especially when loads of Europeans once went over to Africa and brought scores over here against their will. Fast-forward a few hundred years and guilt complexes and European countries want to stop what they to a certain extent, may have started.

Before my tussle with the goggles, I was listening to a podcast on in which Bryan Welch, the publisher of the American magazine Utne Reader, called American reliance on illegal immigrant labour the moral equivalent of slavery.

It certainly made me think about whether there’ve been any high-profile prosecutions of the employers in France who aren’t as scrupulous about a person’s origins as they should be.

The immigration lawyer who appeared on one of my debates about Sgt Major Sarko’s hard line on immigration was just as scathing about the Socialists. They never made it any less complicated for migrants searching for a valid life.

France might be a desirable destination for 41,000 Brits. For thousands of non-Europeans who are moving away from a subsistence in the sun to improve their lots, it will be nothing more than a cold Kafkaesque catastrophe.