They’re at it again. Truly it drives me to distraction and I know it shouldn’t but today as I coursed along the luxuriously curvy mountain road towards the village of Deia I spotted a fluorescently white, middle-aged couple eating white sandwiches on a narrow and muddy apology for a lay-by in full view of the traffic. What’s odd about that, I hear you cry?
Well for one thing this British couple (identifiably so for a multitude of reasons that I shan’t bore you with now) were sitting on fold-up picnic chairs cheek by jowl with the green municipal rubbish bins. And furthermore they were situated a hair’s breadth from the road where they appeared to be drinking up the spluttering exhaust fumes of every passing vehicle.
On the far side of the asphalt Paradise beckoned. An azure sea rolled into infinity like a bale of rich blue silk dotted with white crested waves and tiny fishing craft, and in the distance below a benevolent sun the furrowed brow of the Tramuntanas whiskery with Aleppo pines and olive trees promised an abundance of mysterious and aromatic paths for exploration. But no, our British couple would not be budged. Why take lunch off the beaten track when a welcoming piece of tarmac will do?
It’s the same every year. I see their kind sitting in stifling metal cans eating packed lunches in-ye gods- municipal car parks when only a whisper away they could be sprawled on a grassy bank, in a verdant forest, on a rocky mountainside or spreading their feast on a battered old pine table- kindly provided by the local forestry department- in a wooded grotto.
By contrast of course there are those adventurous, intrepid British souls who venture forth with maps, rucksacks and sturdy walking boots, only too keen to conquer every nook and cranny of the Majorcan rural landscape. Fearlessly they set out across the grissled hills, water bottles swinging like cow bells about the neck, their arms slick with sun tan lotion that shines like polished armour and behind dark shades their eyes animated and thirsty for adventure. They carry a picnic of local fare, ruby red tomatoes, hulks of crusty bread, olives and cheese and voluptuous ripe plums, singing as they go. What must these valiant foot soldiers make of their quivering countrymen who skulk on the verges of hot and palpitating roads, supping on warm tea from flasks and masticating rigor mortis sandwiches that curl up like the lip of a snarling canine?
last year I was stopped by a couple in a car park in Soller’s port. Are you English, they asked in loud voices, clearly enunciating every syllable for fear that I should be aurally impaired. Is there a Burger King near by? Our rep in Magaluf said there was one on the seafront but we can’t find it. I told them that it had closed through lack of interest but that they could find some delicious tapas at a nearby bar. They reeled back as if nipped by a snake. Oh no, thanks. No foreign food for them. Their all inclusive hotel had taught them that much. It seems wrong to borrow from one of my favourite poets, but as the perceptive Rupert Brooke once wrote, ‘There’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England.’
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