On a recent holiday to France I, yet again, encountered all that is bad about the English abroad. Well, having said abroad, when I reflected upon the matter the section of society of whom I write are equally as bad at home as they are abroad.
On the above occasion we had returned to our favourite hotel in a little sea side village a few miles south of Dieppe. In many ways the hotel is like something out of Daphne du Maurier novel. Located back from the sea on the cliffs it enjoys wide views of the sea. It is a grand old building and, like many of its surrounding houses, was probably a rich merchant's house from a bygone era. Most of the hotel is clad in creeper and its gardens are all very well kept and full of blooms. It is a family run hotel which has been in the family through several generations. It only opens in the summer which is when we found it several years ago.
On that occasion we had embarked upon another trip to France, which we do quite often, the difference on that particular trip was that I had not bothered to pre-book any accommodation. Reasoning, as I did, that there would be so much to choose from that booking was waste of time and it would be rather fun to tour around a bit and select whatever took our fancy. Mrs. Y. was, to put it mildly, uneasy about this turn of events. However, off we went and all was well until we arrived at our destination and it then became clear to even the most casual of observers that "something was going on". Every junction, round-a bout, every layby, in fact almost everywhere was awash with police. The Gendarmes were out in force. So it was that our search for accommodation began against this background. It didn’t take long to realise there was nothing to be found, quite simply everywhere we went was fully booked. We then discovered, in fact we already knew, the G9 Summit of World heads of state was being held in the nearby seaside town of Hornfleur. Hence the massive security operation. This in turn had resulted in all available places to rest your head being requisitioned for police and security personnel.
It was during this process when we discovered La Terasse, the hotel referred to above, it also was fully booked. Having found it and fallen in love with the place and its location we resolved to return. This we did and the rest is history. We don’t encounter many English people at the hotel the clients are mostly Dutch, Belgian and German with the odd American. So, on our most recent visit, it was unusual to see two cars in the car park with English number plates. That evening we encountered our fellow countrymen. Two couples, one the parents of either the male or female of the other couple. Obviously one of the couples was much older than the other. We had just embarked upon our evening meal which is, generally, a fairly lengthy process in French hotels. What with aperitifs, several courses, a digestif and coffee. The dining room was fairly full and people were quietly enjoying their food and pleasant conversation when everything changed. The two English couples arrived, the peace was shattered. They were seated three tables down from where we sat and it quickly became evident that our evening was about to be different. Having been seated and gone through a somewhat elaborate, and noisy, not to mention, showy selection of an aperitif the English group began to talk. The trouble was the whole dining room had to listen to their conversation. To be honest it was the younger man that was doing most of the talking, the older couple were quieter and his partner confined herself to the occasional shriek of laughter and lots of "oh darlings" and exaggerated, "how interesting’s".
The man went on and on and on, hardly pausing for breath. Clearly he felt his conversation was of such great importance that all in the room should hear what he had to say. The truth is he made himself look a complete prat. For the most part, the conversation that was forced upon my wife and I and the rest of the diners was what would, in some circles be described as a complete load of bull manure! I have encountered this behaviour, whilst in France, many times and each time I am left wondering what the point of it is. Are these people so inadequate that they have to put on a show of exaggerated importance in order to impress all around then. There is certainly a large amount of arrogance involved and, frankly, complete disregard for the feelings of all around them. On another occasion, and there have been many, I encountered a husband and wife with a child, this also in a restaurant. On that occasion the male chump was announcing to all and sundry that the family were vegetarian. Back then there was not a great veggie following in France and, other than to suggest a salad, the waiter seemed quite baffled. Well this chap and his wife went on and on about their eating habits and treated us all to a loud running commentary on their likes and dislikes in the food department. I was left, as no doubt many other diners were, with the serious hope that the staff would throw them out. Having disrupted the whole lunch of many diners this particular idiot finally left. The last I saw of him was in the car park where he was running around like a headless chicken searching frantically for the car which he had forgotten to note where he had parked it. You will not be surprise to learn his problems were being shared with anyone within earshot. Fortunately most people shrugged and walked away. Personally, I was left with the overwhelming feeling that the problem couldn’t have happened to a nicer prat.