The Empire Man

You can usually hear him before you see him. In any town or city on the Mediterranean between the months of April and September, he takes his holiday and lets everyone know what a terrible time he’s having.

If you can’t hear him, you’ll certainly see him. He’ll be the only person (unless he’s travelling with friends – in which case you should start to walk in the opposite direction at once) wearing neatly pressed slacks, loafers and a panama hat.

His complaints are many and varied, but usually centre on the ability of the “locals” to make a “decent cup of tea”, why none of the tv channels broadcast in English and why it’s “so damned hot”.

Basically, Empire Man (as I have come to label him) looks and sounds like Nigel Farage. Not all are natural UKIP voters – many of the older sort are true Tories. Empire Man spends his holidays comparing everything to Surrey – food, music, traffic and everything else he encounters – finding everything lacking somehow.

And all while dressed like someone attending a cricket match circa 1932.

I encountered several of these “chaps” in the last week in Mallorca, a place they like to think of as a semi-detached part of England. They walk past groups of people queuing with a breathtaking air of entitlement, marching strait to the top and speaking very loudly and slowly to the poor unfortunate providing whatever service they need.

They brey like donkeys at their own jokes and take up more space than they really need. On the Tube, they sit with their legs so far apart they look like they’re about to give birth.

They bark at their wives and children and sound permanently exasperated. As would you if you got out of bed every morning bemoaning the fall of the British Empire. You’d be grumpy too if your idea of paradise was the set of a wartime drama, where “Johnny Foreigner” kept well out of things if he knew what was good for him.

I’m afraid I have come to associate panama hats with boorish arrogance and have yet to be proven wrong. I look out for them when choosing a seat in a restaurant and move away at speed when possible.

I would say they’re a dying breed, but this week I saw two 30-somethings fitting the above description. Neither could have seen action in the Falklands, never mind VE Day. Where they pick up this attitude – and uniform – is a mystery to me.

Next time on “Holiday Stereotypes”, we’ll discuss the challenges of navigating the “gay or German?” question…

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