Posted by Big John on October 26, 2006
Yesterday I went on one of my regular shopping trips to France by ‘Eurotunnel’. Bad timing, as French seamen had decided the day before to mount one of their usual protests and had blockaded the port of Calais. Hence there were bloody thousands of cars queueing to travel through the Channel Tunnel instead of travelling by ferry.
Normally I arrive at the Eurotunnel terminal at about 7am, spend a couple of minutes checking in and am on my way to France about half an hour later: but not yesterday. Why ? because the queues were being caused by the ‘self check in’, a ‘touch screen’ system which can be a bit confusing if you have not used it before. Obviously most of these diverted ferry passengers had not.
Now I don’t know if it was because of the need to speed up the increased volume of traffic or not, but apart from one French policeman inspecting passports at the French checkpoint this side of the Channel, I saw no visible signs of any security precautions as I boarded the shuttle.
Not so on the other side of ‘La Manche’, for when I returned with my car full of French goodies, I found the terminal at Coquelles fairly bristling with heavily armed soldiers and police, complete with sniffer dogs and explosive testing kits. My car was stopped for inspection by an officer who ran some sort of chemical swab over the steering wheel, door handles etc. He then took the swab to be tested before allowing me to proceed. All other vehicles were being tested in the same way which was obviously causing a delay in boarding the UK bound shutttle.
Now all these security checks were fine by me, but not alas with the man driving the car behind mine in the queue. He decided on a little protest about the delay and I could see him in my rear view mirror waving his arms about and getting angry with the cop who was inspecting his car. This was not a very clever idea, as the cop called his captain, a huge grim faced man.
A young policewoman smiled at me and waved me on, and as I looked in my mirror I saw the car behind being emptied of it’s entire contents by the driver and his female companion as the captain watched. It was obvious from the look on his face that …
………… his ‘Entente’ had never been less ‘Cordial’.