Not White Enough to be Scottish

“Whit dae ye mean am no white enough tae be Scottish?”

“Yer no white enough to play a Scottish freedom fighter, simple as.”

“But ah am Scottish, ah’ve been Scottish since ah wis born.”

“Well, yer no peelie-wally enough. That’s aw there is tae it.”

“It’s probably the tan, ah’ve just had a fortnight in Lanzarote. Ah’ll be white as a bottle of milk again before ye know it.”

The casting director wavered.

“Show us yer arse.”

“Whit?”

“Did ye sunbathe in the scud?”

“Naw.”

“Then show us yer arse.”

Ah, I could see where he was going. I flashed a chunk of cheek.

“Naw, yer still no white enough, there’s a touch of olive tone there. Wis yer maw Italian?”

“Naw, but ma granpa wis fae Sicily; came over as a POW during the war.”

“Well, whitever the reason, yer no white enough to be in this movie, ye’ll stand oot like a sore thumb.”

“This isnae fair. It’s awright for Idris Elba tae be James Bond but ah cannae play a Scot in ‘Freedom – the Willie Wallace Story’ when ah am one.”

“James Bond is fictional, it disnae matter who plays him.”

“Yer wrong there, he might be fictional, but he’s got a back story. His da wis Scottish and his maw wis fae Switzerland.”

“So?”

“They’re no exactly known for their thriving black populations. The chances of a wee Idris popping oot isnae very likely. If ye ignore the back story, yer no showing any respect for the source material. It’s just no right if yer a lover of literature. What’s more, if there are any missions in Eastern Europe they cannea really send Idris undercover can they? He wudna get very far before he wis spotted.”

“Ye never know, they made Sean Connery Japanese in You Only Live Twice. Trying tae pass Idris off as a Russian isnae any different.”

“Aye, good point… but he couldnae go on a mission tae America.”

“And why’s that?”

“He’d never make it oot of JFK before the American polis gunned him doon.”

“Right, ah’ve had enough of yer nonsense. Get oot,” the casting director pointed towards the door.

There was nothing more tae be said.

Now I know how that Zoe Saldana feels.

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The Awkward Moment

“Why?”

The conversation came to a complete halt.

Our friend stared at us, waiting for an answer.

Why don’t fussy eaters know they’re fussy eaters? How can that fact escape them?

There’s a very simple test to check whether you’re a fussy eater or not. When you pick up a menu do you peruse its contents considering everything on it because you’ll eat absolutely anything? Or do you skip lots of menu items, seeking out the handful of dishes that are the only things you’ll consider eating?

If it’s the latter, then you’re a fussy eater. It’s simple.

But not one of our friends who are fussy eaters recognise it.

When we are trying to decide where to eat they all say the same thing every time: “You choose, we’re easy, we’ll eat anything.”

Easy? Really?

Mature friend A will eat anything as long as it’s scampi, tuna steak (we introduced them to that one) or chicken in mushroom sauce. That’s it, that’s the lot.

Friend B will eat anything as long as it’s steak, or beef of some sort at a push. Friend B sometimes brings their own mustard when they go out to eat.

Friend C will eat anything as long as it’s a particular type of fish cooked and served a specific way.

We were with friend C who had asked us what we thought about a restaurant known for its creative cuisine. He was looking for new places to try after being disappointed by a place he’d dined at earlier in the week.

It was a restaurant we’ve always viewed as a bit stuffy and old fashioned so we’ve never been tempted through its doors. Our friend had asked for the same thing he asks for just about every time we’ve dined out with him. The restaurant didn’t have the dish he wanted done the way he likes it, ergo it wasn’t a good restaurant.

Seconds prior to telling us this friend C had interrogated the waitress about the dishes on the menu of the restaurant we were dining in – how they were cooked, what the ingredients were etc. complicating what should have been a simple process i.e. choosing something from a menu which was full of delicious sounding goodies.

Friend C is under the impression chefs should prepare what he wants to his specifications rather than something that is actually on the menu which is why when he asked about the restaurant with its avant-garde cuisine both of us blurted out at the same time.

“You wouldn’t like it.”

“Why?”

The question came again, this time accompanied by eyes that had visibly narrowed slightly.

The obvious and honest answer was ‘because you’re a fussy eater and there’s no way on this earth you’ll like the adventurous food they serve.’

The answer we actually gave was a mumbled mess of an explanation about how chefs in restaurants like that tend to prefer to present customers with their signature dishes without any input from the actual diner.

“But they must have a menu?”

It was getting awkward. We were being herded against the wall where the only exit was a neon signposted screaming ‘BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO FUSSY’.

We were saved by the waitress who appeared at our table to check if we were ready to order, distracting our friend from his line of enquiry. He turned his attention to the waitress, having discarded everything on the menu.

“Do you have bream cut open like a butterfly which is then grilled and served with a white wine, parsley and lemon sauce?”

Did I mention we were in a vegetarian restaurant?

The Doctor’s Waiting Room

It’s a nightmare.

I don’t need a pair of specially designed glasses to see the air is full of victim-seeking microbes courtesy of the man who blasted them out of his nostrils.

Did the germ ridden creature really not have enough warning that a sneeze was imminent to even get his hands close to covering his face?

I push back in my chair trying to put as much room as possible between me and the invisible cloud seeking to do me harm.

From somewhere behind me I can hear a woman wheezing and coughing as if on the brink of pegging out. I don’t turn around to see if she’s covering her mouth in case there’s another germ cloud heading my way from that direction.

The place is a minefield full of diseases. All around are the walking wounded – coughing, spluttering, sneezing… spraying infection everywhere.

Contagion. I’m in a horror scenario.

At some point I’m going to have to leave my relatively safe position – I’ve picked a spot where there is nobody sitting immediately to either side, in front or behind. It might be a futile attempt to protect myself against airborne attackers but you’ve got to try, right?

I recognise a sniffy man I’d seen in the gents earlier. He seems intent on touching everything he passes. It makes me feel a bit queasy. He hadn’t washed his hands after completing his business in the toilet cubicle. What is it about old Brit guys that they have an aversion to personal hygiene?

A friend and myself once observed a stream of blokes using a toilet in a bar. That sounds a bit dodgy, but we were actually watching a football match on TV and the entrance to the toilet was in our direct line of vision… as was the sink outside the toilet door. Only one in 10 (we counted 20 in all) washed their hands. The two who did were aged somewhere between 30 and 40. The rest looked in their 70s. The conclusion of our survey was the older a man, the less he was concerned with personal hygiene.

They are disease-spreading machines to be avoided.

My stomach rumbles loudly reminding of the reason why I’m there. It is time to make my move, to enter the heart of the germ infected arena.

I’m ravenously hungry. It is  time to eat and the spread of food laid out on the long tables is in danger of being removed whilst I dither.

Buffets in holiday resort hotel dining rooms. Don’t you just hate them in peak flu season?

How to Pitch a Travel Piece to A British Tabloid

After years of sending probes into the darkest reaches of my brain to try to come up with original angles for travel articles, the penny has finally dropped and I’ve come up with a guaranteed way to perk up the interest of travel editors working on the British tabloids.

This is the pitch for any popular hot weather holiday destination.

The article will focus on what I did on my family holiday. That won’t actually be a lot as I’ll mostly spend it lounging around the pool drinking, eating and enjoying the glorious weather. I might venture out to the nearest purpose built resort which I’ll big up and say it’s sort of quaint with an authentic feel even though it’s nothing of the sort. But, hey, nobody ever notices that and it gives people licence to tell friends back home they had an authentic travel experience when all they did was sit in a Brit bar drinking sangria and singing along to an Adele sound-alike.

Almost all of the piece will be about the hotel (as I’ll rarely be leaving it), although I will throw in some inaccurate references to other nearby locations and maybe take a few cheap shots at stereotypes, everyone loves those even when they’re long past their sell by date.

Oh, and don’t expect me to do any research about where I’m staying (I am on holiday after all) apart from maybe asking the local tour rep, who’s been in the job two months, for their insightful input.

That’s it. Sound as though it’s a winner?

It should do because that seems to be the formula applied to a lot of the tabloid travel articles about the place I live that come up in my Google alerts.

When People Cross the Line

I’m not one of those people who closes all the doors on anyone who holds different views from me. I like people who have opposing views… when they’re intelligently thought out and backed by facts not sensationalist, destructive tabloid headlines. I learn a lot from people who think differently.

People who throw easily destroyed tabloid fiction at me might lose all credibility as soon as soon as they open their mouths, but even then I don’t automatically hit the unfriend button, either in real life or on some social media platform.

But there are some circumstances when lines are crossed.

Friend one lived on the same island as us. She paid no taxes but was happy to use the country’s health service on a number of occasions, even complaining when doctors and nurses couldn’t speak her language.
Despite her being the guest in another country, they were the ones who were in the wrong for not being able to communicate fluently in English.

That was enough to have us raising eyebrows but the crunch came when she moved back to Britain and proceeded to complain about foreigners – meaning people who weren’t the same colour as she was – taking up space in doctors’ waiting rooms.

Racist and hypocritical.

That was enough for us.

The upcoming referendum in June about whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU is bringing similar sorts of people out of the woodwork in their dense droves. It’s frightening. The depths of their stupidity is scary.

One casual friend shared a post on facebook about how the NHS should be for the British alone. This friend lives on a Spanish island. Not only that, he has been receiving quite specialist treatment from the Spanish health service for years. He’s a pensioner, so not actually contributing to the Spanish system, at least not in the same way as many Europeans who move to the UK to work are contributing to Britain’s economy.

And yet this man, who has benefited from another country’s health service feels strongly the NHS in Britain shouldn’t treat foreigners in the same way.  His post quite clearly states ‘The NHS is for British’.

That means people who aren’t British but are working and paying taxes in the UK shouldn’t be able to use the NHS in his book.

The Spanish health authorities here pay for transport from other islands, living expenses and even accommodation if required. It’s a generous system and I have British friends who have had their lives saved thanks to it.

I cringe when I think locals might see how this man, and others like him, would like to see them treated (or not treated in this case) if they visited Britain and needed medical help. I’m not sure that has even crossed his mind. Like far too many expats he just doesn’t view himself the same as ‘Johnny Foreigner’ even when he’s the foreigner.

It is another example of extreme hypocrisy.

These are not the sort of people in whose company I’d wish to spend a second more of my time.