Nr Pézenas, Departement de L’Hérault
Random thoughts from mid-August abroad; not that they should be all that random. Now that BBC News 24, Sky and CNN can be viewed in the deepest Midi, where we are, and several British newspapers print ‘same day’ editions in Marseilles, which are on sale at 8.30 a.m. in our nearest village, most of us should be as in touch with events as we would be in London.
But somehow, in deepest August, in Mediterranean lands, we cannot be. The sun and the wine make us think we are out of touch, that they know more in London. ‘Just ringing to find out what’s happening about [say] Ken Clarke reneging on the euro after all his years as a Brussels agent,’ we tell some London answering machine. Then we discover that a similar message, from a Briton in the Midi, has been left on our own answering machine in London.
Psychologically, then, August is the only month in which we of the political class — politicians and those who report them — think it safe to admit to not knowing what is going on. It is a matter of pride to admit to not knowing it; otherwise we would run the risk of not being thought the sort of people who go away to the sun for August. Hitler understood this about the British. He chose August 1939 for his pact with the Soviet Union, which made it safe for him to invade Poland without Soviet hindrance on 1 September. He knew our holiday habits. Likewise, a previous Germany started the first world war in August 1914.
What interests us on holiday is not the same as what interests us the rest of the year round. So the ‘piano man’ is not a mute musical genius of unknown nationality and still in a Dartford mental home.