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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

What I saw on the night my husband was hit by a car

Rebecca Armstrong
UK border control at Heathrow Airport  

Luckily for Barbara Roche, formerly of the Home Office, Easter reminds us that heaven loves the repenting sinner best

Matthew Norman
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit