19 July 2013

God save us from…Boorish Brits Abroad

'Tis not my fault, the Boar provok'd my tongue, 
Tis he, foul creature, that hath done me wrong!' 
- Venus & Adonis 

It is a perennial problem. Idyllic French campsite, nestled in the shadow of a magnificent chateau, encircled by a lush and verdant landscape, with leaping carp and ducks gliding gracefully across a tranquil, emerald lake; sunsets to write home about, church bells softly tolling in the distances, glorious sunshine and tomatoes the size of your head…

This, is the reward for months and months of hard graft, head to the grindstone and gritted teeth. Heaven on earth. Paradise. That is, until the Boorish Brits arrive. Then, the silence is suddenly shattered, and a cruel holiday reality sets in.

You know the type. They travel in packs, or rather, successfully find members of their tribe upon arrival. They find themselves infinitely interesting, and endlessly amusing. They’ve untapped the Belgian beer and the Calvados, and they’ve got stamina. They can go for hours, and they’re here all week. “Manners” mean nothing to these people, and ‘etiquette’ is just another French word that rhymes with ‘baguette’.

And, what are we to do -- those of us for whom “holiday” means ‘a bit of peace and quiet’; a chance to catch up on all those books I’ve been meaning to read for the past 12 months; a chance to sit and watch the sun set, and actually have an uninterrupted conversation with my spouse, about nothing in particular -- when that serenity is disrupted by a bunch of boors braying and guffawing, as loudly as possible, just to show the rest us what we’re missing?

It is, of course, their right, they will have you know, to enjoy themselves as they please, but what about our right to enjoy ourselves as we please? The sad truth is that there is actually very little one can do in a situation such as this. As the revelry carried on past midnight, I tried to sooth my seething soul by penning a well-crafted letter (in both French and English) to the chateau staff. A sympathetic shoulder shrug with a “Quelle dommage”, however well intended, provides little relief.

I’m angry. And, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m sure we are not the only ones feeling this way, but, the only option that exists for us all is to suffering in silence.

How did things get this way? There used to be a time when you could approach an individual and say, politely, “Sorry, but would you mind…” and it actually had an effect.

To my embarrassment, I recall an instance, years and years ago, when I was a student living in London.  I had a little job at a pasta shop in Marylebone High Street. One morning, I was feeling a bit cheeky, and carried my portable music player with me to work. I provided myself with an audio soundtrack as I sashayed to work. “Young lady, you can turn that down for a start.” An older male voice admonished me, clearly unappreciative of Duran Duran so early on a Saturday. I snapped to attention, and switched the player off immediately.
Those were the days!

If one dared to engage in that sort of social admonishing nowadays, you’d need to be prepared for fall out, backlash or a black eye! There is no reasoning with these people. They are bigger, louder, ruder, and undeniably, here to stay.  So, what is one to do, apart from suffering in silence?

No use complaining to camp ‘authorities’, they could do without the aggro. They don’t want to intervene, as they’d rather not have their heads ripped off in your stead! No point appealing to camping organisations like the Caravan Club. Not their problem. As long as members pay their subs and clear up after themselves, these organisations are not bothered about behavior or social harmony.

Perhaps, if there was a monetary incentive these groups and camp authorities could and would get involved. What if they could extract a hefty fine from individuals who breach the peace past a certain hour? Or, following a certain number of complaints? What if groups of boors could be barred from a site after repeated infringements? Well, I suppose that would make too much sense.
Quelle dommage.

So, it is assumed and the more civilized amongst us are meant to just accept it, chalk it up to experience, vent our spleen on Trip Advisor and try somewhere else next year.  But that doesn’t stop us imagining what we might do - or pursuing creative ways to sooth our rage and frustration: strategically placed stink bomb in the bedding quarters of the offending boor’s Unicorn caravan? A ritual flogging of said boor, at dawn, outside the campsite café?

Close, but not quite right. The punishment should fit the crime. And, at the heart of this particular crime is a desire for attention and public recognition. The other side of it, my side of it, is that feeling of helplessness, the frustration of having my highly-prized solitude and privacy invaded. How can I ever place ‘the Boor’ in the same position? By writing him an open letter, of course. And, include his car registration details for all to see.

Dear Mr K40 CWP,  
The boorish behavior you and your newfound chums displayed on the campsite last night was obnoxious, unnecessary, rude and ignorant.  Why you felt obliged to share your bravado and ill manners with the entire campsite remains a mystery. 
 I regret to inform you that your ambitions to become a stand-up comedian are woefully misguided. Your act may go down well in your local, however, I have no doubt that the strangers laughing at your sad jokes and trite stories last night were merely doing so for the free beers and crisps that were on offer. Behind your back, they think you’re as big a berk as the rest of us do. 
 Upon reflection, I realise that it is not your fault.
I blame “Top Gear”. But, not in the way you might suppose. The format of Top Gear is to blame: lively presenters, surrounded by a gaggle of enthusiastic sycophants, eager to laugh at every line. That is the dream to which you aspire. Unfortunately, Mr K40 CWP, life is not an episode of Top Gear, and you are not Jeremy Clarkson, Richard May, or even, “The Hammond”.  
Like them or loathe them, one must admit that they are knowledgeable and gifted ranconteurs who are, in fact, engaging.  They, in stark contrast to you, are professionals. Perhaps Top Gear should come with a warning: “Do not try this at home – or on a campsite.”  
Of course, Mr K40 CPW, you have every right to live out your Jeremy Clarkson fantasy as you will. But, please understand that I, likewise, have the right NOT to be an unwilling participant in that fantasy. 
 I’m not quite sure for whom I feel most sorry: myself and my husband, having a lovely, peaceful, summer evening ruined; the family camped next to you, too afraid to register their discomfiture; your wife, snuggled up on her own inside your caravan, with a well-worn copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, since your idea of ‘quality time’ on holiday is showing off to group of strangers; or, should I feel sorry for you?  
No, I think not.

Well, they do say the pen is mightier than the sword. One can only hope.


Expat mum said...

Oooh, fabulous. You should Tweet that and make sure that someone who knows him will tell him about it.

james d burns said...

I hope this was only one occasion and the remainder of your stay was fine