Two fixed camera speeding fines arrive from the friendly French government, each with a laudable disdain for translation options. They may not be able to open their shops on Sunday but the French can sure produce a superb form to fill in. There is a loving care about the precise information, the attention to detail, the colour-coded (three) pages: even the quality of the paper itself. Each is a thing of beauty – officialdom elevated to an art form.
This could be the documentation for a national treaty recognising the newly independent Scottish state or perhaps the formal application for citizenship of the Republic. The tricoleur flies on the summit of each page adorned with the head of the Maid of Orleans who clearly did not die in vain now her people can boast such transcending secretarial skills. It exclaims: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Penalite!
(I made that last bit up).
This is the bitter postscript to a soujourn in Limousin where we barely saw another car let alone a speed camera. I believe I’m right in saying the French don’t approve of fore warning drivers in case they slow down. That would be cheating when there are fountains of francs, or oudles of euros, at stake. I’m not kidding. Each fine is 90 Euros and for passing on my name to les flics, Hertz bill me €19 each time. That’s a total of €218 or £157. I only paid £200 for the entire hire for a week.
The cameras must have been hidden in the hedgerows like snipers so invisible were they. And before you scoff, I wasn’t exactly racing pied a plancher, just ambling along with kids in the rear. On one I was adjudged to be doing 60 kph in a 50 zone and in the other 58. Fifty eight! They allow you five over the limit for a margin of error which means I was four kilometres an hour over the rate in an area with no noticeable speed signs, not even locals peering out of the verges to wave me down.
Four K over the limit (that’s two and a half mph) and charged €90 for the fine means it cost me €25 per mile. And that’s only if I cough up within 46 days because, like your bill on the table d’hote menu, it goes up and up, eventually hitting €375, although for that Maigret comes round and collects it.
Even if I wanted to contest it, they demand the minimum payment upfront as ‘a deposit’. Talk about guilty without trial…
And, yes, I do have to pay. I did break the law, your honour, even if it is a damned nonsense. It was a French registered vehicle, not one the police would have to trace through the British DVLA. And it’s part of the rental agreement that I am responsible for offences and fines so, if I don’t pay, Hertz will pursue me. As yet, I think there is no agreement on pan-European penalty points affecting UK drivers but it’s coming in a couple of years. No wonder Nigel Farage is on Question Time so often.
Anyway, they’ve made it very easy for me to pay online – isn’t global finance wonderful. (Is it too late to blame the kids?)by