Britain isn’t working

The Ryanair flight having landed, I thought the worst was over. But the nightmare was just pausing for breath (cue creepy music….)

I went to Bay 27 to take the courtesy bus to the Car Hire Village (it turned out to be the Hilton Hotel several miles offsite) but the bus didn’t pitch up for fifty minutes – they were supposed to be every 30 minutes – which I found slightly discourteous, and mentioned this to the driver.

“Name?” he asked, without acknowledging the question.

I got on the bus, which departed 20 minutes later.

The car hire ‘village’ turned out to be a small office in the bowels of the hotel. The bloke in front of me was abruptly informed that, as his card had been used to pay for the hire, he had to be the lead driver. “I don’t drive” he said. His wife had to pay all over again…and there was a surcharge.

Having had an enormous barney over the last car I hired in Britain eighteen months ago (I had my EU plastic driving licence but not the UK full counterpart) this time I brought the counterpart, only to be told I needed the EU plastic. Once again the call had to be made to the DVLA…..but this time the call cost £15 for two minutes.

So now the Government isn’t just into cuts: it’s into hidden taxes close to extortion. I was then informed that as I hadn’t ticked the usury masquerading as collision insurance, they wanted to have £1000 set aside from my credit card limit on an entitlement slip. Or else. This was, I was told ‘standard procedure’. Then I filled in all kinds of details they already had, and after that they made me a petrol ‘offer’ that ten seconds of mental arithmetic told me was a ripoff, so I declined. Then they gave me an exit ticket for the car park. It didn’t work. The car wasn’t one the one I’d ordered, and it wasn’t diesel. I was seriously thinking of going back to Ryanair for a respite break from this Southside Chicago racket.

In the hotel reception, I asked the concierge for use of their wifi in order to view my hosts’ instructions for arriving at their new abode. Of course, he said, but my laptop said the hotspot was too dangerous to let me anywhere near it. One used to be able to overrule this nonsense, but not any more.

Blind navigation wasn’t helped by the fact that on the M & A11s, all the lane surface guidance arrows had worn off, and never been replaced. All the signage everywhere was tatty and graffiti stains covered most of it. Everything looked old and ill-kempt; it reminded me of driving through Italy in early 2014.

The next morning I set off again. After three miles, a wall of traffic appeared. It took an hour to clear. We all speeded a further two miles, at which point another motionless wall lay ahead. After another forty minutes, I took the slip road to Ipswich and skirted round the East Anglian coast – not the normal route for going south to Kent, but the only solution to endless queues, piecemeal road works and hand-worked single-file traffic lights. The M25 was a forty-minute bumper-to-bumper queue of 35 mph traffic. The M20 was a little faster. South from there (avoiding the toilet that was once Maidstone) I spent forty more minutes threading through to Yalding around parked cars, rotting wooden signs, and manic cyclists.

The pub where I finally stopped wanted £4.50 for a half of bud and a packet of crisps. And the text I tried to send to my soninlaw took seven attempts to send successfully. He didn’t get it.

Five hours later I’m in another pub. Things can only get better, or perhaps worse. You see, in neolibritain, it’s all about choice.