I am briefly in England, preparing for my motorised expedition to the Cote d'Azur. So far I have had three conversations with people outside my family.
The man who drove me from Manchester Airport (proud sponsors of the Labour Party) expressed his doubts about Thursday's terrrorism alert. "You can't believe anything this lot say, can you?" he observed wearily. If the denizens of the Northern Heartlands, who have unquestioningly drunk the Party's hemlock for generations, think Labour might lie on this scale, anything is possible.
To be honest, I have been a bit shocked that so many (including Guido) think our Government would imitate Goebbels so shamelessly. Cynicism is one thing, but that verges on moonbattery, surely? I don't even think it's good politics. If they were lies, surely Blair would have stayed home to deliver them, movingly? Leaving such powerful drama to his understudies makes no sense.
The second chat was with the guy who cut my hair. Unprovoked he observed, when hearing that I live in Russia, that I should probably stay there. He said many of his more educated customers have left England in the last 10 years. "The American tourists" [ours is a small-scale tourist town] "are amazed we can live with low wages, high prices AND high taxes" he added, sadly.
The third exchange of views was with a bewhiskered Trot who thrust a leaflet into my hand denouncing BushandBlair and calling for "immediate unconditional ceasefire" in Lebanon. "You must be joking", I said. "Children are dying!" she Gallowayed for the benefit of the adjoining counties. "But what about Hezbollah's rockets? Didn't you mind when it was just Jewish children?" I said, and started to walk away. She bellowed after me, for the benefit of passersby, "Afraid to stop and argue, then?"
I swivelled on my heel and went back. I am so glad I did. If I hadn't I would have missed the first laugh of my holiday.
"Have you read the Hezbollah Charter?" I asked. Somewhat evasively she riposted "I've read a lot of things I have. I've got three university degrees, I have. I'm not stupid."
That made my day. I hadn't called her stupid; effectively she just had. Three degrees were not enough to fill the cracks in her well-justified sense of inferiority. Nor enough to get her a job, judging by her bedraggled appearance.
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, she decided that, so far from being afraid to argue, I was deliberately distracting her from the struggle. She turned away and resumed ranting at the bemused shoppers.
The nostalgic smell of Trotskyite fear in my nostrils, I strolled away, contentedly wondering where I could find the "Ramon Mercador Fan Club" badge I used to wear at National Union of Students conferences.