For goodness sake, Europe is on the road to hell
AUSTERITY means different things to different folk but whatever definition applies to whichever last ditch plan's in vogue to preserve the irredeemable Eurozone, you can bet that lunacy's close at hand.
For some countries austerity's enforced, like the plot of a Mario Puzo novel, by the equivalent of thick necked knuckle draggers with garlic breath, Sicilian accents and bulges under their coats making bailout offers nobody can refuse.
In others like Portugal, last autumn's austerity package included an EU order to start charging for using motorways. Only snag was they couldn't afford thousands of toll booths so they turned to a myriad of electronic gadgetry so arcane that many locals now prefer off-motorway gridlock.
However, it was the bit for visitors that ensnared businessman Mike Beggs when motorway cameras 'read' his Hertz hire car number plate while he drove from the airport to his hotel. Now to give the system time to work, drivers must wait two days before going to a post office to pay, with an automatic fine if they don't cough up within five.
After two days Mr Beggs dutifully popped into a post office to settle for his one trip, only to be billed for three; the previous hirer, literally on a flying visit, apparently having been up and down the same motorway hours before him. Mr Beggs' offer to settle his share of the total 9.90 euro owing was rejected so, despite the threat of a 27 euro fine and impending criminal record, he walked out without paying anything.
Seeking a simple answer, he asked Hertz, who advised him not to use motorways for two days before leaving Portugal; impractical when using the motorway was the only way to catch his flight in time (ordinary roads now clogged with austere, toll-avoiding Portuguese) after his last appointment.
At the airport he again tried to pay, and was told to come back in two days! Now he's awaiting two lots of fines and criminal citations, closely followed no doubt by a dawn raid under a European Arrest Warrant.
As Rome (Athens or wherever) burns, how splendid to know Nero's spirit lives on.
BEFORE the last election the Tories promised, along with an EU referendum, to cut the red tape strangling British business. In two years of coalition most quangos survive and little's changed, so it's hardly inspiring to discover the latest attempts at finding a solution have been kicked into the long grass of a consultation. Presumably until around 2015.