It seems a long time ago, but a fortnight ago we returned from ten days holiday in Hungary and Croatia. The constituency was placed on auto-pilot, with visits to internet café’s planned to keep abreast of pressing problems back at home.
We read the small print in the literature from the budget airline that offered to fly us to Hungary for less than it costs to get to Waterloo. They were relaxed about how big or heavy their passengers might be, but obsessed by the vital statistics of their luggage. As a result of their priorities, my luggage had a better journey than I did, as I hugged my knees into my chest.
We had a good time away, and the Prime Minister had the courtesy not to dissolve Parliament in my absence. I use this column to report on the driving habits on the continent
In Hungary, they have not banned the use of mobile telephones while driving. On the contrary, it is compulsory. If there are two people in a car with one on the mobile phone, it would be the driver. The preferred position in that country is for the driver to have his window half way down, with the left elbow (they drive on the right) resting on it. In the left hand is the mobile phone, clamped to the ear. The right hand is entrusted with all the navigational and other activities that make a car move through Budapest. When the car is stationary, the right hand is redeployed to caress the thighs of the lady in the passenger seat.
In Croatia, we travelled by bus. They have railways in Croatia, but no one uses them because they take twice as long as the bus. The buses are good, with drivers that neither talk on the phone, smoke nor caress thighs. They stick to the timetable, but they can only do this by maintaining an average speed which is 10mph faster than the maximum speed of the white camper vans that are the principal other form of traffic. A bus driver will overtake if he sees nothing coming the other way; fair enough, but this practice is applied even when approaching a corner. It is best to take the coastal bus from south to north, as the folk coming the other way are the ones who get forced into the sea.
Our holiday plans caused some initial distress to our family. We told our children we were off and left a number of telephone numbers. We told them of the proposed destinations, and one overheard the remark that, while in Croatia, we were going to Split. This was interpreted as their parents, after forty-three years of ostensibly happy marriage, were going to split. As I write this, we are still co-habiting.