Mrs Paine and I had a great holiday. We talked and talked and, for once, came to some conclusions. Unless there are serious changes in Britain (unlikely, with the Conservative Party on its current tack) we want out.
France tipped the balance. It is just so civilised. People are polite. The streets are clean. There are enough roads for the peoples' needs. Official notices make suggestions, they don't give orders. There is no need for signs warning against "verbal assault" on public servants.
I am a gentle enough man, but I am often in the presence of British public employees I could cheerfully kick, so triumphant are they in their hour of victory over a private sector cowed into meek submission.
Our daughter needed medical help there. We had a full set of tests and a diagnosis within 48 hours. Had we been French, we could have claimed the costs back from the State, but the State did not own the clinic or employ the doctor and all the staff treated us with the same courtesy (I do not exaggerate) as the staff in the expensive shop where I bought my wife's anniversary present.
We know it's no paradise. France has her problems too - e.g. an even greater population than England's of Muslims hostile to native values. Yet, time after time, we asked ourselves "Why can't England be like this?" We can accept that the English don't care about food. That's their choice. We can live on poor fare ourselves when we need to, much as we enjoy French cuisine. We know that the French are theoretically more Socialist than the Brits. But that doesn't deter us from wanting to move there. The English talk Capitalism but act Socialist. The French talk Socialism but act Capitalist. In the end, handsome is as handsome does.
Much as I hate Socialism, I have finally realised that it is not really the main problem in Britain. Puritanism is. It is the Puritanism of the British that elevates good ideas like "let's save energy by recycling" or "let's encourage people to give up the dangerous habit of smoking" into quasi-religious fanaticism. It's Puritanism that turns people with different viewpoints into dangerous heretics whose thought-crimes must be punished. It's Puritanism that is turning the cradle of freedom into a police state, day by day.
I don't smoke. I would rather have one glass of really great wine than a case of plonk, so I drink in moderation. It was no hardship to be on a driving holiday because I can forego even the fine wine for the pleasure of driving my car. By French standards, perhaps I am a Puritan. But I enjoyed being in a country where I was not constantly badgered and nagged by know-it-all goody-two shoes trying to invoke the powers of the State to tell me how to live.
I got angry once in over two weeks away. That was over a personal matter. But in England I was in a sustained state of fury for my first seven hours as I laboured from traffic jam to traffic jam on roads deliberately neglected for allegedly "green" reasons. When not fuming in stationary traffic, I was in fear of losing my licence to a speed camera if I took a rare chance to make up some time stolen from me by the Ministry of Transport's incompetence.
France was not so much another country as another world. A calmer, politer, frankly more civilised world. In the name of equality, tolerance and multiculturalism, Britain is descending into the barbarism of which the French have always accused it. I would have fought for my country's good name against such accusations in the past. I have found great relief in simply accepting them. I can no longer defend the indefensible. Britain was great, but is no more. Labour and its fellow travellers have destroyed everything I held dear and the only way is out.
I love my country. I am sad beyond belief to feel this way. But enough is enough.
Mrs Paine says I should "let go". She thinks I waste too much time and spiritual energy worrying about the future of a country that has only a past. She says that she has already put the place behind her and accepted that it has passed the point of no return. It will decline, in her view, until it hits bottom. It will be rebuilt, she thinks, perhaps as an Islamic Republic but certainly as nothing to which she could feel any loyalty.
I fear she is right. If so, this blog makes no sense. It is making no difference to anything and there is no hope - if Mrs P is right - that it could ever do so. I shall have to think about that.