David Beckham's move to Paris is a chance to reflect on the modern ease of international travel

Plus: Mamma Mia, La Lolla! Screen goddesses aren't what they were

Share

We forget what a complete palaver it used to be going abroad at all. Before Mrs Thatcher came to power, you were not permitted to take more than £500 out of the country at any one time. For years after that, the limits on technology meant that you had to arrange travellers’ cheques or bank transfers, or stash large amounts of cash on you. To book hotels, you had to track one down in a guidebook or similar, not really knowing whether it was any good or not, and book it over the telephone. Alternatively, you entrusted yourself to a travel company who packaged the whole deal.

That was for a week’s holiday. Anyone wanting to go and work abroad, or live there for any extended period, had to overcome all these barriers, and, even in Europe, there were all sorts of additional legal restrictions about travel, residency, police registration and so on.

David Beckham’s move to a Paris football club is a chance to think on how much things have changed in 30 or so years. His wife and children are going to stay in London; he  will commute and live in a hotel. Hardly anyone has the means of the Beckhams, but this way of life is not unusual these days. Large numbers of British citizens are being driven, or are choosing, to work abroad – 4.7 million British citizens live abroad, at the last count; 149,000 left in 2011 alone.

And these figures don’t include people like me, whose domestic circumstances require a commute with a plane. To spend the weekend with my husband, I need to get on the plane to Geneva, if he’s not coming to London. In the autumn, a nicely timed combination of a sabbatical for me and a secondment for him meant four months of moving between London and New York. These days, it’s easy, and not impossibly expensive. Flying to Geneva is often cheaper than going by train to Liverpool.

Travel between capital cities in Europe and even across continents has been transformed in the past 30 years. What hasn’t been transformed is the travel within Britain, especially train travel. The announcement of HS2 promises the sort of fast movement between regional capitals which would be routine in almost every other major European economy. It will cost a huge amount of money; it won’t happen for 20 years, at least; it should have happened 20 years ago.

No wonder the elite has turned its attention away from great provincial British cities, and towards Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. It is just easier to get there. And provincial towns, too, are relatively isolated from each other. Try getting across the country, from Bangor to Hull, for instance.

If you want to go the 100 miles from Oxford to Cambridge by train, leaving today and coming back tomorrow, it is going to take two and a half to three hours each way, and cost you £100 in standard class. You might as well go to Paris. Not many of these challenges will be resolved by HS2.

The mentality of the capital has turned away from the country and towards the rest of  the world. We were supposed not to have to travel so much, in the new world of electronic communications. That hasn’t happened. What we have is an ease of transport, an ease of existence between different cultures compared to 30 or 40 years ago. On the other hand, going 100 miles by rail within England is probably exactly the same as it was when Dr Beeching left it, apart from, of course, costing a pound a mile.

Screen goddesses aren’t what they were

Twenty-two years ago, I was in Sicily when, all of a sudden, a cry went up from the street. “La Lolla! La Lolla!” Awestruck, thrilled Sicilian men of a certain age were acclaiming the appearance of that most characteristic of Italian sirens, Gina Lollobrigida.

She’s hardly been in a movie for 40 years. She still looks so magnificent there could hardly be any doubt about her appearance, still calling up fond memories of that glorious piece of biblical tat, Solomon and Sheba, with Yul Brynner (she played Sheba).

It appears, however, that not everyone is as familiar with La Lolla’s appearance as those 1990 Sicilian fans. She claims that her lover, Javier Rigau y Rafols, went through a marriage ceremony in Barcelona with a woman called Maria Pilar Guimera Gabilondo, who impersonated her. I have seen a picture of Senora Gabilondo. It is fair to say that she is never likely to stop traffic in the street in the same way.

This extraordinary story made me wonder about my long-standing difficulty in recognising Hollywood actors today. I must have seen Scarlett Johansson in half a dozen movies. Still, I have absolutely no idea what she looks like. She just looks like someone with regular features, very much like a number of other actors of the day. The problem isn’t limited to women actors. I wish I knew what Shia LaBeouf looked like, or Ryan Reynolds, who was, indeed, married to Scarlett Johansson during a confusing period. If Maria Pilar Guimera Gabilondo wants to make a profession out of her alleged impersonation, she would stand much more chance if she put on a straight blond wig, and aimed at the modern-day starlet. Nobody knows what they look like. On the other hand, there is only one Lollobrigida, and only ever will be.It’s amazing anyone could have thought for a second they could have impersonated her.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls  

The campaigns to end FGM are a welcomed step, but they don't go far enough

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game