Adam Edwards: Continental rift
- Credit: Pavel L Photo and Video
To leave Gloucestershire for the sweaty hell that is Southern Europe in order to practice the bizarre tradition of toasting an Anglican skin under a Latin sun remains a mystery to me
It was, I think, part of a joke from a 1970s Carry On film that produced the wry line “I went to to the Continent once and I didn’t like it”. I now sympathise with that sentiment. Why, I ask myself, would anybody who lives in the Cotswolds wish to leave it in high summer for a fortnight in foreign parts?
As I write this, for example, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has warned holidaymakers to avoid popular resorts in Spain and Portugal because of “overcrowding on beaches and by pools” (and I naively thought that that was the sole attraction of the Iberian Peninsula). Terrorism has ruled out Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey. Greece, in addition to its migrants and refugees, is in economic meltdown and the fearless USA has warned its citizens not to visit anywhere else in Europe for fear of attacks. (ABTA has helpfully suggested that British tourists visit Eastern Europe. This presumably is the same Eastern Europe whose citizens are desperate to leave it for Britain.)
Meanwhile Air France pilots and French rail workers are striking and the country’s petrol pumps are empty. And to add to the general misery EasyJet has launched a crackdown on anybody who gets to the airport late.
I understand that people need a break but to voluntarily leave the verdant heaven that is Gloucestershire for the sweaty hell that is Southern Europe in order to mostly practice the bizarre Western tradition of toasting an Anglican skin under a Latin sun remains a mystery to me.
Any break, for example, starts with the rip-off long-term parking, the absurdity of arriving at least two hours before a flight, the lie of duty free, the bland hours of boredom, the no liquid ruling and the semi-strip search. On the plane one is a faceless sardine in a plastic seat fed moronic in-flight entertainment and insipid politically correct food. On arrival there is the desperation to leave the airless tube – like a congregation waiting for communion - followed by the hateful queue at immigration before the rush to the baggage hall to allay specious fears that one’s identical piece of wheeled luggage has been lost or is about to be stolen. (I rather like American wit Erma Bombeck’s observation - “Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?”)
That is the first day of the getaway written off. And if that were the end of it then maybe, just maybe, the holiday would be worth the infernal journey. But it isn’t the end – it is just the beginning. Tourism is its own worst enemy – it is no longer interesting to go somewhere interesting.
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It is not just the indistinguishable, badly dressed, multi-cultural herds, sometimes with and sometimes without clothes, dominating all tourist destinations; or that every beach bar and most popular restaurants are Disneyesque pastiches of what they once were. It isn’t even that everyone seems obsessed with taking ‘selfies’ in front of the identical clichéd works of art or the impossibility of enjoying an historic building or gallery because of the overbearing numbers of gormless visitors.
It is because every country, city, town and beach resort in the business of tempting visitors offers the same blandness. The same Japanese or German car for hire, the same neon-lit designer shops selling the same Gucci sunglasses and Adidas trainers; the tedious middle of the road rock music, the pervasive pink Prosecco, the ubiquitous cappuccino sprinkled with chocolate, the McDonald’s le Big Mac and the same empty phrases to ‘enjoy’.
And then, once these sweltering, overcrowded days come to an end there is the grisly return journey identical to the outward leg, but without the misplaced belief that you are going somewhere interesting.
I have finally come up with a solution to this holiday hades. I am going to spend my annual holiday money - it is always at least four figures wherever you go - somewhere where there are no mosquitoes. Travelling to my destination will be mostly a delight. It is where I will meet up with old friends who understand my English jokes, where the food is delicious, where the wine waiters are not palming-off plonk and where vacuous visitors are, at least where I intend to go, thin on the ground.
It is called London and if I get fed up with it I can get back to the Cotswolds anytime I like without being told to take off my shoes and belt.