It happened almost without me noticing. We’d been driving back to the cottage at La Lande D’Airou chatting away and paying little attention to the car radio. When we pulled up at the gate to our driveway I realised the Cricket was on, so I started listening for the score. With every word I got a little more confused because it all sounded so horribly familiar.
Here am I, sitting in a car at the gate to our house sit in Normandy in France on a bright summers day knowing it’s an Australian match because I’m listening to Jim Maxwell from the ABC. He is sharing his thoughts on what turns out to be the Pakistan team as they host Australia at their temporary English home ground.
It all sounded so ..... normal. So much like the other hundreds of test match broadcasts I’ve heard before. I could have been pulling in to any Australian driveway in any part of Australia during a typical summer day. But I am on the opposite side of the world with the family in the car, having a very different summer.
Radio has become my main way of staying in touch with the world. Internet in France is great if you live in the cities. There are free WiFi points scattered around the city. There are numerous companies willing to supply internet at very reasonable prices compared to what’s on offer in Australia. But if you live in the regions, the Departments as they are called, the story can be very different.
At our house we get several phone signals from mobile phone providers, none of the signals are reliable. They fade in and they fade out. When we do get a service, unless it is in partnership with our phone company we can’t make or receive calls. To make sure we can use our phone we have to drive into the towns and villages.
The Internet is equally fraught. In the UK we bought a Wifi Dongle [a plug in modem] through one of the major companies and it worked in almost all areas. In most rural areas it was horribly slow, but it worked. The Dongle cost us 45 Pounds and came with a month’s internet access. That dongle will work in Europe, but it will cost us an arm and a leg if we use it. The salesman explained that it would cost about 1 Pound per minute on the internet if we used in France. And he assured me, it would be a similar charge in just about all other EU countries.
When we looked into buying a dongle in France the cost was 140 Euro, or around 5 times the price in the UK, and again it would only be any good in the country of purchase. We would have to buy another one in Germany, and another in Italy, and another in Belgium, Holland, Poland etc, etc. It’s left us relying on a certain “Family Restaurant” and other free wifi hotspots when we can find them.
It means for me that I look to radio and the so called “traditional” media for my news and information fix. Thankfully the BBC runs a Long Wave radio service and it just so happens that our car has long wave in the car radio and so far it works across France. So the BBC has been my life line to English language news and programmes.
Unfortunately the BBC doesn’t have a huge focus on Australian news. They announced the elevation of Julia Gillard to the Prime Ministership in about 15 secs flat. They gave no context other than to say it was a party room Ballot. State Politics is just not heard of. Premiers Brumby and Kenneally are absolute no-bodies in the British media landscape. I would have a better chance of being a news subject than they would. [as I write this I don’t even know if Brumby and Kenneally are still Premiers!]
Like much of the western world’s media, when the Brits look to international news [as opposed to European news] they look to America and China, the world economic heavyweights. I’ve heard many reports on the BP oil spill, and all the latest news from Washington in similar amount of detail to what we get at home. I know China is still the “Great White Hope” of the world economy, and when China sneezes the world dares not breathe for fear of Pneumonia.
The biggest news item from Australia has been the claims by AFL footballer Jason Akermanis. He suggested that many other AFL players would feel uncomfortable in a dressing room with a fellow player who they knew to be openly gay. That prompted quite a few panel discussions and lots of comment by the British media.
However when it comes to other news issues we just don’t rate a mention. Some years ago former Prime Minister Keating copped a hiding for saying it, but our country is at the “arse end of the world”. It was true when he said it and it’s true now. Like it or lump it.
So instead of the latest State or National Political news, or someone suggesting they’d like to turn a replica castle into a Brothel or that a local windfarm proposal is a good or bad thing, I settle for an occasional chance to read papers online. It’s not as satisfying as having the real thing my in hands but it keeps me grounded.
And then there’s the cricket on the radio. Just like any other Australian summer I can sit back and listen to Jim Maxwell describe the Australia-Pakistan matches, live and uninterrupted, on the Beeb