Tag Archives: Brits Abroad

Just leave the dog alone

“My mother would have phoned the police by now.”

“What?”

“She would have phoned the police or, at least, have rescued that dog.”

“Why?” I looked at the forlorn face of the mutt peering past us and into the restaurant. It had a hang-dog expression for sure as, and this was an assumption on my part based on years of amateur dog psychiatry, it was missing its owner who was clearly scoffing food somewhere in the depths of the same restaurant. But it was absolutely fine, its leash wrapped around a fire hydrant on the opposite side of the narrow, cobbled street.

“Because it’s in distress.” replied my concerned friend.

I looked at the dog again. “No it isn’t, it’s just feeling sorry for itself… as dogs are prone to do when they’re excluded from the social scene.”

“I think it’s been abandoned.”

“What? It has not. It’s just been tied up outside whilst its owner has dinner. I’ve seen similar plenty of times.”

“Well I have never seen a dog left outside a restaurant. In London the RSPCA would have rescued it by now.”

“Well, I have seen plenty of dogs waiting for owners outside bars, shops and restaurants, and if anyone took that dog now it would be a really shitty thing to do.”

At this juncture I have to point out my friend is from London whereas I grew up on a Scottish island where if a dog was left outside a bar nobody would think twice about it. I have seen it in many other small places… which were not London. This time was in an area of Lisbon where there’s still a strong feeling of community. I had no doubt the dog was ‘waiting’ rather than having been abandoned. But London is apparently the centre of the universe and whatever happens in England’s capital city is what dictates… even if you happen to be in a different country.

“Why did that guy duck out of the way?” Inquired an American man of his family on the table next to us. There was a World Cup penalty shoot out taking place on the TV on the other side of our table and the Americans had been giving a running, and quite surreall uninformed commentary throughout the football match. The ‘ducking’ man was a goalkeeper who had just dived the wrong way. Combined with my friend’s insistent and misplaced concern for the dog, I was not having the most enjoyable of dining experiences. Maybe this was also partly to do with the fado musicians, the singer’s soulful voice filling the place with an infectious melancholic saudade. I felt as depressed as the dog looked.

“I’m really worried about that dog.” She wasn’t going to let it lie even though at this point a pair of pugs entered the scene and the dog brightened considerably. His tail perked up and he forgot his owner as he bopped about trying to attract the pugs’ attention. “I think I’ll call the police.”

By this point I was exasperated. I didn’t want to, and it was embarrassing, but there was only one way to knock this nonsense on its head. I stood up and walked over to the barman.

“My friend…” I was making it crystal clear who was responsible for my question. “… is worried that dog has been abandoned.”

The barman looked at me like I was an idiot tourist sticking my nose in… which of course I was.

“It’s a local dog, everyone knows it around here,” he nodded toward a room where the fado musicians were. “The owner is in there. In Portuguese law the dog isn’t allowed in the restaurant. But the dog is fine.”

“Yeah, I know that,” I responded like a particularly sheepish sheep, my travel cred in shreds thanks to my friend. “But my friend’s from London.” I added, as though that explained it.

I fed back the barman’s response which, finally put paid to most of the worries about the dog’s welfare (she still didn’t approve of it being left on its own).

The irony of this little exchange is this is someone who is vehemently and vociferously opposed to the idea of Brits attempting to impose their culture on different nationalities. Apparently there’s an exception when it comes to how other nationalities treat their dogs.

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The Polluters

“It’s fackin’ Saint George’s day, innit”

My heart drops. There are four lads at the end of the bar, all pissed and loud. After 5 days of walking in the wilderness meeting only smiley, gentle country folk, encountering the four drunken Brits is like walking into a wall – it’s a harsh, hard reality check.

Our football-watching bar isn’t usually like this. It’s a bar aimed at Brits, but normally ones who know how to behave when in another country. We don’t get pissed up Brit lads, it’s a traditional town; there’s nothing for them here… except big measures at low prices.

We grab a couple of stools at the bar, leaving one space between us and the closest inebriate.

I’d been looking forward to the FA cup semi-final. It’s the end of the northern European season and there are usually only a handful of people in the bar. Something is different this year.

There are two skinny lads in their early 20s, both suffering from sunburn; an older chubby bloke who laughs uproariously at everything he says, even though none of it is remotely funny; and closest to me is a sly-eyed, stocky man in his mid 30s, swaying unsteadily every time he stands up.

16.45 and they’re all as drunk as skunks. Initially I tell myself not to be judgemental, they’re on their holidays and just letting loose.

But there’s an unpleasantness in the air, it’s coming from the nearest Brit.

I soon pick up that the chubby bloke is from Stoke, the two matchstick lads are Irish and the fourth is from Fulham, or ‘fackin Fulham’ as he’s unable to go more than three words without throwing in a ‘fackin’.

Southerners are shite at swearing. Whereas the Scots, Irish and northern English can make swearing funny and even descriptively poetic, it grates when some Londoners swear, the words breaking up their sentences rather than enhancing them. Can’t think of anything to say? Just throw in a ‘fackin’. To me it just sounds whiny and angry.

It’s quite evident the drunken Londoner is the potential problem.

When he staggers outside for a cigarettes, the other lads quieten down. They’re drunk but they’re okay with it. The Irish lads are typically funny. The Stokey seems alright, just a bit of a div who thinks making loud noises is amusing. When he can’t think of anything to say he starts singing football chants about some footballer I’ve never heard of, probably from Stoke.

The atmosphere feels lighter whenever the Londoner pops out for a fag. When he returns it changes again as he insists everybody has another drink. He’s not with the other three, he’s an interloper and although they laugh at his unfunny jokes, I sense they’re uneasy with him.

The Londoner is on G&Ts with not a lot of emphasis on the Ts even though the measures are ridiculously generous.

Concentrating on the football, I still pick up snippets of conversation. It’s their first day, they’re staying all inclusive and there are 240 steps to their hotel. Another patron staying at the same hotel tells them this, adding he walks down to the centre of town but catches a taxi back up to the hotel as there’s no way he’d make it. He must be in his early 40s. When did Brits become so lazy and unfit? He also tells the Stoke lad his mate has got back to his hotel okay, information courtesy of a text from his wife. Apparently there was another, even more sloshed, Brit who’d fallen at the first hurdle.

The Londoner orders another round which includes some odd concoction for one of the Irish lads. The bill comes to €14. I don’t think it’s much for what is basically a triple gin, a couple of pints and the strange concoction. The Londoner, on the other hand, does.

The Londoner tells J, the barman, he’ll give him €10. He’s trying to barter for his drinks, what a prick. Where does he think he is, a street market in Mumbai?
J stands firm. The Londoner gets a bit leery and, thinking he’s being smart, asks for a receipt in shitty, pigeon Spanish. J happens to be Portuguese.

J and the other barmen are as honest as they come. The Londoner is being a complete twat.

He winks and whispers something to his new friends about not trusting the Spanish and knowing how to deal with them. They try to tell him J is sound. They look awkward. He knows better.

He thinks he is being a savvy traveller who knows how to deal with Johnny Foreigner, everyone else knows he’s being an embarrassment.

J happily prints of a receipt for €14. Through his gin-soaked mist the Londoner realises he’s made an arse of himself.

“We amigos, si?” he slurs to J. “Have a drink, come on have a drink.”

“No thanks mate,” J smiles, but not with his eyes, showing his English is on a far higher level than the Londoner’s Spanish… maybe even his English as well.

He treated J like he was a stereotype. The irony being the Londoner himself is the biggest stereotype in the bar.

The leery Londoner skulks outside leaving us alone to enjoy the end of the match.

Man Utd score in injury time. It’s a relief. Both in that we don’t want extra time and the lottery of penalties, and that we can escape the drunken Brits.

As we drive home we’re overtaken by a police car with blue lights on full flashing mode. It screeches onto the pavement just ahead and two officers jump out with batons drawn. They approach a bald man and shout instructions in Spanish at him. He looks confused. He stands and sways unsteadily.

I know exactly who he is.

We just don’t get people like this in the north of the island… not usually. They corrupt the atmosphere, their behaviour is at the other end of the spectrum from that of the local population.

I feel ashamed to be connected by nationality.

At this moment it seems a pity the dragon didn’t incinerate George.