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Holiday bleus

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It's that postholiday 'so many things are so muchfibetter in France' syndrome. I recognise it. I understand it. And I know I'll get over it. But for the next few weeks I'll just have to be miserable. Amazing really since we only got as far as Le Touquet. I was barely outside the UK and the effect was profound or 'profondement' as they say in France.

There's no one thing of course. 'So many things are so much better in France' syndrome is not really quantfiable.

It's about the food, the weather, the beaches, the markets, the language, the people and the TV fi although this last one is a new quirky addition. I can explain, but it would take too long. And then there's the roads. . .

No bout of 'so many things are so much better in France' syndrome would be complete without withdrawal from those wonderful examples of modern engineering achievement.

The memories seem to bring real physical pain each time I battle through the UK's congested road network. Those long, open, smooth, empty N roads that inch through the rolling countryside past charming towns and interesting villages, through forests and across vast valleys on amazing (named) structures fi and I didn't even get as far as the Millau.

Memories of the Peage, making it possible to romp across vast tracts of the countryside effortlessly. What a great idea: charge motorists for using the motorway depending on how much of it they use. It seems so genuinely simple.

It comes then as something of a relief to see the Corporation of London thrusting its weight behind the introduction of road user charging. As far as I can see, the sooner a system is up and running across the UK the better.

Yet what worries me is that we haven't received the usual clutch of 'so many things are so much better in France' syndrome letters from readers this year. Have you all stopped going to France because the return is too painful? Have civil engineers found an antidote?

But worse still, could it be that France's ailing economic condition, with rampant unemployment and massive pressure on the public purse, has started to take its toll?

Come to think of it, yes, I was stuck in more than one trafiIc holdfiup in France. There were roadworks advertising 'risk de bouchon'. There are surreptitious speed cameras being installed 'pour votre securite' and the laissez faire attitude of French police towards speeding is increasingly being replaced by strategically hidden radar gun vans.

And if you are going to toll drivers fi as I say, a great idea fi at least buy some better automatic payment technology or employ more people in the booths so as to avoid a 20minute queue.

There you go, it's started already. 'So many things are so much better in France' syndrome is starting to wear off.

France fi crazy place. All that nuclear power fi what are they thinking. . .

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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