June 1st. The mercury is rising.
In Britain the general election is less than a week away and the opinion polls, the ever questionable barometers of political opinion, suggest that the winds are no longer in Theresa’s favour. Her lead is shrinking and politics has taken a back seat after the shocking events in Manchester. She may well be praying for rain –if it rains on election day then Labour won’t get it, that’s the cliché.
In Germany I am most definitely praying for rain. The temperatures reached into the thirties at the start of the week and haven’t dropped since. I hate the sun. It makes people irritable, especially in Germany.
Nearly every day this week some perfect stranger has given me a telling off for something minor misdemeanour or other: drinking beer on the train, speaking too loudly, wanting to use an exit that they’ve parked their bicycle across. Bloody Germans, why can’t they mind their own bloody business? There, I’ve said it. And so now you know that the heat is making me irritable too.
I hate the sun. I don’t see the attraction in it at all. I don’t know why anybody would want to go on holiday to a hot country but I am clearly in the minority. There are a lot of Germans who will tell you that they love to visit southern Europe, Tuscany for example, because:
“They are just so much more relaxed about life than we are here in Germany.”
Stay well clear of them. They are the least relaxed and most uptight and most irritable Germans out there; it is they who give the Germans a bad name. You can tell them by their dress code: socks and sandals for the men, white or beige for the women. Blood-drained white legs for both. We can’t wait until August when they go away, then the rest of us can drink our beer in peace.
Fussy, irritable, uptight. You can tell that they are related to the British. There is a parallel sect in the UK and its members are just as egregious. They swap beige for floral — Laura Ashley mainly — and Tuscany for the Dordogne. For fifty weeks of the year they complain bitterly about Britain and the depravity of its citizens and do you know why they do so? It’s a training exercise so that when the hit French shores they can complain the whole time that they can’t buy baked beans and that “literally nobody speaks English”.
I know this because I worked for three seasons as a holiday rep in France. We used to tell the locals about La Poubelle de Calais, a dustbin at the port of Calais where many British tourists liked to deposit their brains for the duration of their stay. I don’t know where the Germans deposit their brains when they head south but such a place exists in the Alps, of that I am sure. Der Eimer von Bozen. The Bolzano dustbin.
I would never go to these places on holiday. I like the cold. My last holiday was to the American midwest in January. I still take my hurricane-damaged tent out a couple of times a year in honour of the week we spent together camping in the Norwegian Arctic. I will never part with it, just as I will never throw out my picture of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque in a blizzard. Russia in February: been there, done that, bought the bearskin hat. Lithuania in January? Best holiday ever.
But just because I wouldn’t go to the south of Europe on holiday doesn’t mean I’ve never been there on holiday. I was a holiday rep after all. Three summers in the south of France. Oh, and I’ve been to Mallorca and had a bloody good time. Twice.
Think of Mallorca and you probably think of half-naked drunken Brits punching each other’s lights out, peeling the skin off each other’s backs, throwing up and copulating in alternate doorways and cheerfully reminding the locals exactly who, according to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht at least, possesses sovereignty over the rock of Gibraltar.
Well I wouldn’t know about any of that because that’s what happens when the Brits turn right out of the airport and invade Magaluf. On the two times I was there I turned right and headed for Playa de Palma. Heaven! Not a drunken, sun-scorched Brit in sight! The only disadvantage: Playa de Palma is the playground of thousands upon thousands of drunken sun-scorched Germans.
I started talking about crossing divides last time and believe me, this is a big one. The second time I went there the hotel staff even asked whether we all belonged to the same group, they were that confused. Five Germans and one Brit here as friends to enjoy each other’s company? No entiende signor ¿Ha sido secuestrado? Have they kidnapped you? It’s just a matter of time before a fight breaks out, they seem to be saying to each other.
Well as it happens we went twice and didn’t fight once. I’m told that punch-ups often happen on Mallorca and that in the summer months a hundred police officers from Baden-Würtemberg would be coming down to keep order. Over the bay in Magaluf a similar number of Bobbies was expected.
Neither the German nor the Spanish police have to arrest German visitors for asserting the Fatherland’s sovereignty over Gibraltar or indeed any other part of the Iberian peninsula. As far as I am aware, no part of Spain is under German jurisdiction and no German wishes this to be otherwise — although you might get into trouble if you go to Anton’s Bierkeller and oder a Cerveza San Miguel instead of a König Plisener.
Pickpocketing, drink-related violence, drug abuse and prostitution are what the cops are on the lookout for –on both sides of the bay. There’s no indication that one side is worse than the other.
Both sides receive visits from TV crews relating the scenes of depravity to a curious public back home. Both nations secretly need a guilt trip, something to be ashamed of now that global imperialism and national socialism have passed into yesteryear. In Berlin and Birmingham the beige or Laura Ashley types can distance themselves from “that kind of people” and reaffirm a sense of moral superiority. We are doing it for them.
If abusing the locals is a particularly British misdemeanour well there is a German one. You now know that the German word for “dustbin” is Eimer. Eimer also means “bucket” and on Mallorca the word has a special connotation: a bucket of sangria. It’s a real bucket, it’s filled as with as much alcohol as you can carry and you consume it out of straws while lying on the beach.
Consumed. Past tense. It’s now illegal. If the German police catch you doing it then there’ll be a court summons from Stuttgart waiting for you when you get home.
The other main crime is fashion abuse. Mallorca Germans love neon, they love straw hats, they love the collective look and they love Hawaiian shirts. They look bloody awful but at least they wear something, unlike many of their British counterparts.
Humping in doorways like they do on Brits on a Club 18-30 package? Well yes, it happens. The German word for it even sounds Hawaiian: ficki-ficki. The best place to get involved is an über 30 party.
One thing that all British readers will of course want to know is whether it’s true about the towels and the sunloungers. Well the first time I went there we went to the beach and hired sunloungers for the day. When it was time to go to lunch, I started packing up my stuff in a bag. “You can leave everything here on the beach” said one of my mates “just like you did at Dunkirk.” You’d have to be good friends to get away with jokes like that.
I’ve left my towel over the sunlounger every time since and I do so with a clear conscience. Back when I was a rep in France, we once got up extra early and hid in the undergrowth to see whether the Germans really got up at sunrise just to put towels down on the best seats.
We were not disappointed. We hid for what seemed like hours in that bush, hardly daring to breathe for fear of being discovered.
There they were, at the crack of dawn, stalking the territory like beasts on the Serengeti, cautiously staking out the best places; their white legs like blue cheese as the veins nervously pulsed under the pale skin.
From Berlin they came, from Bremen, from Braunschwieg and from Bayreuth, like a herd of nervous wildebeests.
From Béziers, from Breda, from Birmingham and from Burnley. Caught in the act.
Come to think of it, the hot weather’s not such a bad thing after all. It’s a great leveler. Now pass me that bucket, will you?