Friday 30 September 2011

Holiday observations from behind the beard part 2

Arrived safely in Majorca and due to my clever folding skills and bulging pockets, I side stepped baggage reclaim and was delivered via a courtesy bus to the car rental place. 

Oh behave!  - I packed everything but my brain

It was with a surprising lack of fuss and bother that I collected my car and was soon whizzing towards Pollensa, arriving as the sun went down over the mountain.  I should say this was easier than for the British couple that were next to me at the car rental, who apparently hadn’t realised that they would need their driving licences. (the equation, hot country + holiday = total abandonment of sense) was duly noted and would form part of my later research.

As I know Pollensa well and was staying very conveniently in the old town, it took no time at all to find myself enveloped by the hot steamy night, sitting at a table in an ancient but familiar square, armed with a cold cerveza and a note book ready to begin my study.

Now I think it is worth noting here that some of the following research could be contaminated by the romance of the Mediterranean environment.

A Spanish jazz singer serenaded a cocktail of confused holidaymakers,  breathless with the sweltering heat they so craved and chatty locals, acclimatised and animated.

One of the things I noticed in my small study group was the difference between the generations of both the British and Spanish.

I was often passed by old Spanish couples that resembled happy six legged creatures, still arm in arm, walking sticks balancing their gait but seemingly pushing them even closer together, surrounded by their extended families matching their measured pace.

Happy six legged creatures, which on closer observation were actually old Spanish couples, still arm in arm with walking sticks balancing their gait but seemingly pushing them even closer together, often passed me, their extended families around with them matching their pace.

This contrasted with some of the study group who resembled a lame centipede that stretched over the generations, with the older members being dragged along at the back, struggling with the effort of their holiday.

Now obviously the Spanish are used to the heat, which does influence the results, but it was more the reverence they paid to their more mature members including rather than excluding them that was interesting.

So unusually for the Med the weather on my first morning was overcast with a shy sun playing hide and seek with the clouds, however, this mattered not a jot to some of the British males who stripped down to their trunks and could be seen foraging in the town square.

Now there is nothing wrong with making the most of your holiday and the weather but there is not an edifice or situation that deters these creatures from exposing their reddening flesh that has been lovingly exercised with beer and chips.

Not a restaurant nor supermarket or church bars the British belly.

Another moment that made me grateful my beardy weirdy disguise was working, occurred in a little restaurant overlooking the sea. A group of holiday makers, obviously relatively fresh to the island indicated by the red striping, were having a conversation about foot swelling and so took to comparing their bare feet on the cafe table while others tried to drink in the view and enjoy their tortillas. If this wasn’t bad enough the conversation turned to nail fungus, which amazingly acted like a magnet to some other Brits in the vicinity who enthusiastically joined in.

One evening we were treated to a marvellous Mediterranean storm, a sudden downpour, surreal to one schooled in dreary UK drizzle but beautiful and powerful something to savour.

The town square which has a raised central area, surrounded by bustling eateries that are fed by tiny streets and watched over by an ancient church, became a scene of delight and mayhem. The rain as hot as your morning shower, bounced like a million gunshots off the flagstones, running like water falls from the roof tops.

Children not yet weighed down with vanity, kept pace with the torrents, sliding and spinning, enjoying this warm watery event that punctuated the heat of the night.

Spanish people sat under the plentiful cover provided by the large restaurant umbrellas and awnings, hardly breaking off from their nightly socialising to smile at the scene.

In contrast, some of the Brits behaved like a startled herd, in a state of panic they broke cover, blundering into tables, each other and anything else that got in the way of their soggy stampede. This slapstick behaviour by people from a country that sees it's fair share of rain, only made the scene more delightful proving you can't argue with mathematics 
( hot country + holiday = total abandonment of sense)

Tomorrow: Language

Monday 26 September 2011

Holiday observations from behind the beard

I would be lying if I said it hadn’t been a trying couple of years and the idea of floundering into another one without a change of scenery was too much to contemplate, so I decided to nip off on my own to Majorca.

I wasn’t looking for adventure per say, though that is on the agenda and as I know the island relatively well I thought I could side step the pressure of exploration and any excursions that were offered and have a bit of me time. 

However, it didn’t take long to realise it was me I needed a holiday from.

Anyway the next couple of posts aren't going to be about the beauty and majesty of the land, sunny blue skies, or the crystal clear warm azure waters of the Mediterranean, instead it is about my scientific observations of how the Brits abroad behave.

Part 1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Now there is a subtle difference to travelling by ones self and going on holiday alone, especially to destination like Majorca that is all about the vacation. People were in couples, groups, or couples who became groups, meeting their new 'best holiday friends'.

As a 6.4', long haired bearded man sitting on his own with a note book trying his best to look Nordic and use pigeon Spanish wherever possible, I had a certain amount of invisibility meaning I could avoid any unwanted attention while observing the Brits in their unnatural habitat. 

After the fraught booking of flights, hotels, car etc I had just enough time to practice my origami skills and fold some clothes into ever decreasing and elaborate shapes so that they would fit into one small hand luggage case, enabling me to avoid the dreaded wait at baggage reclaim. I never know why people (unless you have children) take so many cases on a weeks beach holiday, especially the British male who seems to wear the least possible clothes whatever the situation while abroad, but more of that later. 

I was flying from Manchester airport, a new experience for me. This meant a long train journey, not helped by the fact that I hadn't researched the route properly and so had decided to go from Lincoln, 45 miles from the cottage. This rattling cigar of a vehicle stopped at what seemed like a hundred stations with vaguely familiar names, ebbing and flowing with families and their ever-increasing accents.

I finally rumbled into Sheffield where I made a mad dash across platforms to change onto a much sleeker and seemingly fit for purpose looking train, that had the promise of a reserved seat and would whisk me the rest of the way to Manchester in relative comfort. 

Making my with land legs up the aisle I became intimate with complete strangers before finally falling into my seat. With my luggage stowed I was ready to relax into my new comfy surroundings, but just as I was about to open my book I was tapped on the shoulder by someone I new who had travelled direct in this comfortable speedy carriage from Grimsby (closer and much more convenient for Belleau). I'm sure I used to be better at this travelling lark.

I was flying budget airline so the airport experience was the usual giant game of 'snakes and ladders' but with no ladders, just long queues like Disneyland but instead of a colourful character and the promise of fun at the end, there was a glum member of staff informing you in a monotone voice that you had to fill  in a form, pay extra and then join another queue.

The flight was again typical, squashed and squeezed with any announcements been drowned out by the screeches and squeals of children and the babble of their parents playing the failed bargaining and bribery game.

Now my first observations were regarding my subjects in flight. They mostly travel in tight family groups or packs of young males or females often called stag or hen parties.  These usually feature tribal adornments such as comic T. Shirts, brightly coloured stetsons or combinations of the two and communicate in loud hoots and hollers. The families often contain 3 generations, piles of luggage and an absolute disregard for safety.  

One of the alpha-nuclear families in my study consisted of a professional mother signified by using the term 'my children need' over and over again to anyone and everyone. The rank of this woman was displayed when she called over a stewardesses who was hurriedly trying to do final checks and take her own seat while we taxied down the runway, so that several hundred holiday makers who had already faced minor delays could get into the air and so closer to their annual holiday, to tell her daughter that the captain had said she must sit down or he won't take off. The flustered air-hostess looked a little non-plussed but said to the little darling that she must sit down and put her seat belt on as we were going to take off, obviously the brat didn't want to oblige and her equally brattish mother reiterated to the busy hostess that she needed to say that the captain had said it

The second incident was again with a small family group. The single offspring had been particularly annoying throughout the flight, screaming and throwing toys, food and anything else he could get his hands on into the aisle and at any unfortunate people that were sitting in the vicinity, but what was incredible was that even though they obviously doted on the child keeping him quiet was more important than his safety. As we were coming in to land, said offspring didn't want to sit or wear his seat belt so the parents placated him by allowing him to stand. It was no surprise that as the plane rushed towards the ground at a few hundred miles per hour, bouncing as it touched down he banged his head setting off another series of screeches and wails. 

 Tomorrow subject matter in Sunny environment.