I have to admit that I didn’t expect to be invited to the Paris Motor Show since my relationship with a well known car manufacturer soured in a flurry of harsh words, unfortunate misunderstandings and a solicitor’s letter clarifying that the car was not mine to sell. Happily, when the Guild of Motoring Writers performed their annual review and discovered that several of their long standing members had been dead for over a decade I was able to scoop up one of their spare tickets and claim my flight to gay Paree. One of the advantages of being based in the North of England is that I can insist on a flight from Manchester. So whilst many of my fellow scribes are enduring just a short hop from Heathrow, my flight to Paris takes a good 30 minutes longer allowing the excellent flight crew to serve a delightful meal and several of those charming pocket sized bottles of wine.
Attending a foreign motor show is all about priorities and upon arrival in Paris my first priority was to find a lavatory. Suitably abluted I congratulated myself on having successfully pocketed four bottles of wine from the trolley on the aeroplane. Well, when in France… Polishing off the last of these cheeky vintages I was filled with the vigour necessary to face an international car show and set off immediately to size up some of the new models on display. However, I have to say here and now that my first impressions of Paris were not good. The main hall seemed bleak and bereft of the usual razzmatazz that we have come to expect from a major motoring event. In fact, as seems to be the disturbing modern way, many well known manufacturers had not even bothered to turn up and, typically, it was one of the home team who dominated proceedings, in this case Peugeot. Sadly even they didn’t appear to have put much effort into their display which consisted of just one lonely 307 SW on a plinth in the middle of a bare and unattractive arena surrounded by cheap plastic seating. I was even more disappointed to note that there were no bar or buffet facilities in the immediate area and I was forced to walk some 300 yards or so to a bar to order a revitalizing glass of red. As if that wasn’t enough, upon requesting a swift constitutional I was met with a demand for payment! The surly barkeep was in no mood for negotiation and pretended not to understand my expert command of his mother tongue, forcing me to cough up. I mentally composed a stiff letter to the head of Peugeot whilst cursing the swarthy attendant and his complete failure to understand the predicament of a man whose expenses have been drastically cut following the incident now known simply as ‘Mortgagegate’.
Praising the calming effect that one experiences when one has poured the last from a second bottle of la belle vin de France, I marched stoutly back into the main hall in search of more freshly unveiled metal. Once again I was disappointed. Once again I was forced to put my hand in my pocket for refreshments at another bar. Once again an uncouth security guard demanded to see my passport and issued a frankly rude warning about touching the female members of staff. Downcast, I had another look around the 307 SW and noted the irony of a motor show so bereft of cars yet so amply provided with shops selling watches, socks and Toblerone.
I have to confess that I was sorely disappointed with this year’s Paris Show, and indeed with the general attitude of the French people I encountered in several watering holes around the exhibition centre, although full marks for the ample seating throughout and special thanks to the two good natured British Airways staff who brought a plane around to just outside the main hall and then carried me on to it. Nonetheless, shame on you Paris. If I had wanted stark halls, dismal facilities and a depressing lack of new models I could have just waited for the Birmingham Show in a few weeks.