After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy...
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Winding Up the Holiday Brits!
You might think that the idea of the British Tourist Authority (BTA) having a network of agents dedicated to making travel to foreign parts a miserable experience rather outlandish (see Happy Now?), but there’s no shortage of evidence to support the theory.
For example, many years ago I was travelling back from France with a mate of mine. Between us, we had just about enough money left to buy either a breakfast or a few pints on the Calais/Dover ferry, so you can guess which way the choice went. This was in the days when the Calais-Dover route was operated by Sealink, a part of British Rail, and there were no other options, so you can imagine the level of customer service.
The young man behind the bar was clearly one of the BTA agents. Even though there were few customers in the bar, as this was the early hours of the morning and most people had more sense, he still made a point of ignoring anyone waiting at the bar for as long as he could. When finally forced to acknowledge their presence, he never made eye contact or engaged in conversation of any sort. Instead, he would jerk his head in the general direction of the putative customer and grunt. By this means he would take your order and return with something approaching what you had asked for.
As the bar was particularly quiet, and my mate was cursed with an enquiring mind, he managed to engage this surly youth in conversation, whereupon he (the youth) admitted that this performance of his was all about promoting his philosophy of ‘winding up the holiday Brits’. He saw it as his duty to reduce his customers to seething balls of impotent rage, which would then be let loose on our continental cousins with predictable results.
I will always remember standing at the bar, chatting to him, whilst behind us a group of blokes with whom he had clearly been particularly successful in his endeavours, jeered at him and yelled obscenities, which he resolutely ignored. Eventually, things reached such a pitch that an object came flying over our heads from the restive tribe behind. Without missing a beat in our conversation, he reached up and caught the projectile, which he then casually examined. “Looks like I’ve won myself a lighter” he announced calmly to the room as a whole. Now that’s a professional – I hope the BTA gave him a medal!