Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Nice Foreign Holiday for Labour Councillors

I hear that  a delegation is being planned to travel to Nicaragua and visit León, Oxford’s twin town. It will be led by Cllr John Tanner, who is also Vice-Chair of the Oxford-León Association & Trust and include Chair, Jan Marshall and Pete Fryer of Unison.
Are these town-twinning events really any more than a free holiday for the Labour councillors and their friends in the unions? It would be nice if they would release the figures about the cost of this little jaunt across the Atlantic to us, the taxpayers who are doubtless footing the bill.
 Will they bring us home a T-shirt saying, "My city councillors went to Nicaragua and all I got was this measly T-shirt"?
   Some years ago I joined the Oxford-Grenoble Association. Its events were not well-organized. We went to Grenoble in May and the weather was shockingly cold. It was snowing when we got there, after a tedious train voyage in the company of some of the most ghastly people you could find anywhere. We were freezing and  when our host picked us up and took us back to his house, dinner consisted of cold ham and salad. Then we were put into a chilly, draughty bedroom. The reason I went was to take my daughter, who was learning French  - but the OGA placed us with an English family. The great event was a coach trip to see a weird fantasy castle built by a local postman out of junk. This might have been more interesting had it not been pouring with rain. On the Monday, when we wanted to see the art and history museums in the town, we were told that there are all shut on Mondays. Surely the OGA should have anticipated that.
   When the OGA organized the return visit, I hosted a nice young French woman.  I have happy memories of her, but again the itinerary was not well planned. On a roasting hot day we all went to Henley in a coach. On the way back, the temperature reached about 90 in the coach and we had no water. As the coach route into Oxford was passing my house, I asked the driver if he could drop me and a few others at the bus stop in Headington. To my surprise, the OGA organizer, a rather stern old-school matron type of person, said that would not be allowed.
      Why? It was perfectly legal. Coaches can stop at bus stops, can't they? But no, she said the coach had been hired to take us to Henley and back to central Oxford. No stop in Headington had been planned, so it could not possibly be permitted. Why? Despite several pleas from hot, tired and elderly people, she remained intransigent.
      It was then that I realized I was up against a certain sort of authoritarian mentality, typical of the EU. We were all cooped up on that coach like cattle on a truck. Nobody would listen to us. I had no mobile phone at that time, otherwise I would certainly have considered ringing the police. The coach proceeded on its way into the city and because it was the rush hour and there was severe congestion on the London Road, it took another three-quarters of an hour to get to the centre of the city. It was blistering hot and sweaty and we were all parched and exhausted. Then we all had to queue for another bus to bring us all the way back to Headington.
     I got home one and a quarter hours after the coach had originally passed my house, and I rang up and resigned from the OGA that evening. I had learned a valuable lesson about being "European".
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