I wonder where this could possibly be?
Photo: Getty Images/Pixland
So you think the British Empire is history? Well, think again.
I’d like to introduce you to a town in western Tenerife which is an outpost of Empire, and which is where I am currently holidaying. (Very happily, I should add.) I call it Club 60-80, and there are many places just like it in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Turkey and other sunny spots.
They house sleeper cells of rich retired couples, who are biding their time until Britain becomes great again, when they will fan out from their towns in their antelope-coloured clothing and spread the gospel of mushy peas and a nice cup of tea. In the meantime, they are content to create Britain right where they are.
The town I am in is a concentrated version of Blighty – except for the buildings and the sunshine. Oh, and there is nobody except me and the local wildlife below the age of 60.
It’s as if people in the UK have decided that they like everything about our country except the weather. So they’ve designed a sunkissed substitute. Unfortunately, the things that have been exported do not show Britain in its best light. We get fry-ups, Irish-themed pubs, sports bars, chips with everything, and The Sun.
It is a religious movement whose sacred text is the Daily Mail, and Jeremy Corbyn is Lucifer incarnate. Talking about the weather is a holy ritual that is performed at least 10 times each day. (Have you ever noticed how older people are often obsessed with the forecast, and will cancel plans a week ahead on the basis of Carol Kirkwood predicting a chance of drizzle?) I think that when doing it, one has to be faced in the direction of the Met Office HQ at Exeter.
The sun is worshipped with such regularity that some people look like a leather armchair. I’m quite concerned that I might sit down on a seat, only to discover that it is an old lady the colour of David Dickinson. I have even found myself wondering whether the plethora of leather belts on sale has been made from the skin of expired British sunbathers.
The sunshine is wonderful (particularly while you’re all shivering back home), and the scenery is superb.
But when I go overseas, I don’t want to hear Yorkshire accents at every turn, or see sweaty faces and sunburnt skin. I like to experience the essence of a country, including hearing its language, eating its food and soaking up its atmosphere.
Instead, on one evening I found myself in a place that I would call Purgatory, even in England. It was an Irish-themed pub (with the shamrock as its emblem, would you believe?), with wall-to-floor screens showing three different football matches at the same time. The choice of drinks included Guinness, Boddington’s, John Smith’s Smooth, Strongbow, Carling, Jägerbombs and one weak, tasteless Spanish lager for those with a sense of adventure.
There was also that tawdry treat, the happy hour. Classy. Most of the customers were Brits, as were the staff. Tenerife? I thought I was in Tadcaster.
On another evening, which in fairness I did enjoy as a guilty pleasure, I sat in a bar as the sole youngish person in a sea of septuagenarians who were dad-dancing to sixties sounds played by a British couple.
It was surreal. But I think the bottle of La Trappe Quadrupel helped me to cope. And here, in the midst of the partying pensioners, was a man wearing salmon-pink chinos, sandals and yellow socks.
That, in essence, is why it is time to stop taking Britain to the world.