My best friends from London have been visiting with their three boys. Walking around Paris the children's expressions became increasingly wide-eyed at the invasion of pavements by motorbikes, scooters and cycles. One scooter speeding up the pavement headed directly for us, all but thumbing his nose as we jumped to one side and he whizzed by. I am so used to this I hardly noticed but Eldest Boy was genuinely perplexed. He said: "But really...why doesn't anyone stop them?" I said: "Do you see a police officer anywhere around?" Then he asked why there are no cameras to catch them. I explained that in France cameras are controversial; considered an infringement of individual liberty and rights. He thought for a second; he is a thoughtful, intelligent boy. He said: "So....that means someone has the right to jump a red light, kill you and because there is no evidence you couldn't prove it?" I said: "Yes, that's about it." He concluded: "But that's crazy."
The boys' father succumbed to pedestrian rage within hours of being here. He whacked a car whose driver, holding a mobile phone to his ear, not only failed to stop when we were on a crossing on a green pedestrian light but even took his other hand off the steering wheel to flick an obscene gesture as he aimed the car to cut a swathe between my friend and two of the boys and the rest of us including La Fille and Youngest Boy. "Did you see that moron?" said my friend (though he might have actually said something ruder).
He was right to be furious. I am all the time. I said: "You should live here. It drives you mad."
Why I love Belgium
2 days ago