Always nice to get a positive review for one of my books and even better when it comes from another 'ex-pat' Burtonian! Carol post...
Monday, 16 June 2014
“Have you been ashore yet?” he asked, in that peculiar sort of whine and inflection that you just know is the preface to an Englishman about to embark on a damn good moan.
“Erm, yes.” We replied, wary of how this conversation might go.
“Not much there, is there?” he said, with an expression like a spaniel whose tail had just been trodden on. I decided to take a sudden and abiding interest in the lift’s progress up the floors but my wife, who hates negativity, obviously decided to engage in the debate. “Well, I think…” but they were never to know as we had reached their floor and they, and their anoraks, and their little cloud of depression, headed off to find a few like-minded souls with which to commune.
I’ve written before (see If You're Happy And You Know It...) about the British attitude to happiness, i.e, it’s something to be avoided if at all possible. Every time that I think that I’m being hard on my fellow countrymen, they seem to go out of their way to provide confirmatory evidence. Like the man and his wife in the lift, for example. He was referring to the port of call where we were then docked, Alesund in Norway. This is Alesund:
Now, I don’t know quite what he was expecting, but this strikes me as a pleasant little town arranged around a rocky outcrop in the Norwegian Fjords. The architecture is interesting, the scenery majestic and, on the whole, it’s got a thick edge over Burton upon Trent. So what were they expecting, I wonder? I suppose if I had been sufficiently interested I could have asked, although our conversation was mercifully too short to allow for much in the way of interrogation. Perhaps they had singing and dancing fishermen in traditional garb in mind, or shoals of carefully choreographed herring swimming through the harbour? Kippers skipping from stone to stone?
What this couple were really hoping for, in my opinion, were a few others of similar temperament so that they could have a good old choral moan. Being trapped in the vicinity of one of these sessions is always hugely dispiriting as they seem to drive every drop of optimism and positivity from their immediate surroundings.
This cruise actually started with an encounter with one of these positivity vacuums. As it was the start of our holiday, I was reasonably chipper, which is not my natural demeanour if I’m honest. I have been told that I usually resemble an undertaker going through a lean patch. Anyway, despite the howling wind, and the rain coming down sideways as I dumped the luggage at the cruise terminal, I was in relatively good spirits. The past few days had been sunny and warm at home, and the weather forecast had led me to believe we could expect much the same for the next week in Norway.
I was dutifully shovelling my various items of hand luggage through the scanner, including a sort of white panama-type hat which, although somewhat redundant in the wind and rain of Southampton, would not fit into our normal luggage, when I was surprised by a comment from the woman overseeing the process.
“You won’t need that!” She said emphatically.
I tore my gaze from my collection of valuables, now consigned to the scanner, and ceased my nervous patting down of my pockets to try to ensure I had left nothing behind to which the body scanner would object. I discovered that she was holding my hat aloft and regarding it with some disdain.
“I’m sorry?” I said, typically apologising for not having heard an entirely unexpected and unrequested comment.
“This hat,” she pointed to the offending article, “I’m saying you won’t be needing that where you’re going.”
“Really?” I replied, somewhat lamely.
“I went to Norway in May last year,” she volunteered, “and it never stopped raining” she added with some disgust.
I almost felt ashamed of going at all. Her attitude seemed to be that, if I had the sense I was born with, I would turn back now and desist from this reckless adventure. Any chirpiness I might have experienced was now left whimpering and dejected by the check-in desk. I wondered if the British Tourist Authority were sponsoring her to make departing citizens feel guilty about taking foreign holidays? If so, they were succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.
The author defiantly wearing his hat, despite the dire warnings
TO BE CONTINUED
You can find a lot more of this sort of thing at Philip Whiteland's author page