Surprisingly, the journey home this time was relatively uneventful - no near death experiences, no people dressed as cows (see Beaune), just hundreds of French army vehicles heading north - presumably in an attempt to liberate Calais from the British (anyone who has visited recently will know exactly what I mean!) and three van loads of CRS who, with their wild psychotic staring eyes, could have been taken for a contingent of Millwall supporters if their silly cardboard hats didn't make them look like they work at McDonalds in their spare time!!
The thing about French motorways is that they are comparatively quiet and you can easily find your mind wandering. This time, my attention was focused on the extraordinary amount of random shoes littering the carriageway. How does that happen? I for one have never come across someone who said ' you never guess what happened to me today. I was driving along when all of a sudden my shoe came off and blew away!’ Doesn't really sound plausible does it? And I'm not talking 2 or 3 random shoes here people - there were easily enough in the stretch from Villefranche sur Soane down to Marseille to be considered a small but well stocked branch of Stead & Simpsons! Recently I discovered that one of Che Guevara's jobs before he became a raving revolutionary was to collect odd shoes and try to sell those that most resembled a pair. He should have moved to France instead of Cuba - he could have made a killing!!
It was as I approached the port d'Arenc in Marseille that I was reminded of my recent panic over the CGT strikes and port blockages. The CGT stands for Confédération Générale du Travail, basically the General Workers Union, but the word 'workers' has obviously been used in it's loosest possible sense as they should really be called the CGG - General Union of Strikers. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against unions per se, but what I am against are selfish lazy toads who are onto a serious cushy number with lots of perks and very little actual work, who don’t want anyone rocking the boat, if you’ll pardon the pun. This time, not only did they call an indefinite strike during the school holidays, but they illegally blocked all ports on the island so no one could get in or out, including freight such as food and petrol and even the other ferry companies from France and Italy. What better way to hold the government hostage as the island is practically crippled within a week.
Now the reason for the strike sounds fairly noble; they are protesting the cut to the budget for maritime links between Corsica and the mainland. OK, fair enough, but when you consider that Corsica Ferries also offers this link (with no strikes) and manages to turn a profit using half the workforce, I think you’ll see where the problem lies.
As I arrived at the port, there were 3 blokes idling in a little shelter, ostensibly to direct people to their ferries. However, as there are huge boards and arrows for each route, and as they never bother to speak until spoken to (and then they don’t bother to get up), it’s a pretty useless role. From here it’s 2 minutes to the CMN waiting area where you park and check-in. Five workers were here chatting with each other, and one bloke to deal with the single file traffic directing them to the correct queue. Hhhmm, I see a pattern forming. On to the boat and a queue for the reception to collect cabin keys. Two people behind the desk, one to highlight the cabin number, the other to hand him the key that is within arms reach behind him. Disembarkation the next morning was no different – one bloke to wave the cars off and at least 10 at the doors chatting. I don’t think it’s hard to see why this nationalized company has yet to turn a profit and is supported by the tax payers – the same tax payers stuck at the ports each time they strike.
So what to do? Well as French union workers are paid full salary whilst striking(!) there seems little incentive for them not to. Plus the perks are fab, as anyone who has tried to eat in the restaurant of the Scandola will tell you. How do they manage to run out of meat and fish with only 20-odd cars on board? Guess where the stock for some of the restaurants in Propriano comes from. I, for one, have chosen the cheery yellow boats of Corsica Ferries for my next trip onto the mainland. Cheaper, more efficient and never on strike, so up the yellows and two fingers up to the CGT!