Thursday 21st August 2014 week 165 Croatia.
The shrinking world.
I think some might agree that aimlessly strolling around a foreign city, trying to get a feel for what it must be like to be a native of that city, sounds quite romantic. As is eating the food, tackling the language, engaging in odd customs and of course experiencing the sights and sounds for which the city is famous for, and which, until now, you've only read about or seen in photos. Now you're there to experience the exotic yourself. The memories and photos you take away will be your own. How wonderful?
Well that's perhaps how it once was, but like flying,which was once very glamorous, it ain't like that now.
I only once ever really liked being a tourist and that was when I went to American about 30 years ago to see family. My cousins all moved there when they were kids from North London. By the the time I met up with them again in New York they had wives, husbands and children of their own, all of whom thought me a novelty. My cousins children would invite their friends over just to hear me say: Golly, I could murder a cup of tea, or Gosh!, that's frightfully interesting. I used my best British accent, a less camp version of Stephen Fry. I had old ladies come up to me in the Bronx and ask if I'd say something, just so they could hear me talk. I was, briefly, a celebrity. Being a tourist then was fun. It isn't now.
I've discovered the romantic notion of being tourist doesn't exist any more. Not now its become an industry. You're not really that welcome. Truth be told it's only your money that is and I don't blame locals for wishing tourists would all just bugger off and leave them in peace to live their lives. I'm sure the Venetians would agree with that. With 18k tourists a day it's become a living museum, a stage.
Is it a bird or it is a plane? who knows? but the Japanese have 200 photos of it.
I will say this objection to the tourist is really only tangible in Paris. There they make no-bones about it. They don't even like their fellow countrymen visiting the city let alone foreigners and have a subtle way of letting you know.
Today the world is fast becoming a melting pot. Gone are the borders. Nations are seamlessly blending in with their neighbours and the global franchised market make a city centre look like many others. We are witnessing, in a single generation, a ceaseless homogenisation of cultures. Its unstoppable. It's driven by economics, the internet and world politics. Today a city is a city is a city. They are all overcrowded. Congested and polluted and full of tourists looking for something which no longer exists. Restaurants serve up the same internationally bland food. If you want something local you have to leave the city, and drive up a mountain, to find it. Yes, sure, there are some nice buildings, nice monuments and history which are all worth looking at but the problem is you can't get anywhere near them for the long queues of fellow tourists, and unless you're prepared to queue, which is something Hazel and I refuse to do, you'll miss out.
Split old town has some nice features but that’s it. On the bus ride into the city we passed unkempt tyre depots and garages. Blocks of unpleasant looking flats. Waste ground used as impromptu parking lots. Retail outlets and familiarly named shops. For me it was just another city. Nothing special, and therefore a disappointment.
Still, don't take my word for it, join the queues and take a look for yourself.
We'd just like to thank those who were kind enough to send us their condolences last week, we were both quite touched.
Friday 22nd August 2014 Week 165 Croatia
What’s on my mind?
Hoax emails appear in my in-box daily. Many purport to come from financial institutions I have links with, Paypal, my bank, ebay etc They all ask me, in the name of security of course, to click a link and verify my details. I smugly hit the delete key, you’d have to get up a lot earlier than that to catch me out, oh yes.
I occasionally get emails from Mrs Umdingo. You've probably had one from her yourself. She lives in some God forsaken part of Africa and urgently needs access to a friendly bank account to squirrel a few million dollars into before it falls into the hands of rebel forces. But first I need to transfer some cash into her account to set the administrative wheels in motion. I think whoever came up with that reads too many Tom Clancy novels. I regularly get emails which play on men's insecurities and ask: am I happy with the size of my manhood?. I forward them on to Hazel. I sometimes wonder if women’s in-boxes are full of emails asking them if they want larger breasts? Of course not.
The point is, as I think you’ll agree, it pays to be ever vigilant. So it was with some disbelief that I read a news report which said; 60,000 unsuspecting and trusting – I'd have gone for idiotic and gullible but I didn't write the report- Brits have been swindled by an Indian call centre phone scam.
Well in the interest of investigative journalism and to give me something to waffle on about today I came across a transcript of such a phone call.
It goes: Ring Ring.
“Good evening to you Sir. Is that Mr Smith?
“Speaking. Who's this?
“Good evening Sir my name is Gupta Patel. I'm ringing you from The Bombay Mix and Cash Cow Company here in Mumbai, India.
“Are you really? Gosh! that's a jolly long way”.
“Oh indeed it is Sir. Can I ask you, would you and your most illustrious Smith family benefit from a cash loan?
“Hummm, a cash loan you say”.
“Yes Sir. I am in the very enviable position to offer you an attractive loan with many strings unattached”
“Well now you come to mention it old chum I am thinking of buying a new car”.
“That is truly wondrous news. Surely a most delightful purchase. Clearly then my call has been most fortuitous. We can offer the Smith family a remarkably low interest cash loan at a fixed rate, long term repayments, no deposit, buy now regret it much later which would be much favourable to you all.
“You need only to answer a few very simple questions which assuredly will not tax a clever man such as yourself and then pay the £99 administration cost. This is most regrettable but a formality you understand. You will then, very soon, be the proud owner of a much coveted new motor car made by your very famous Austin Motor car company no doubt.
“Really, that easy eh... spose you want my credit card number?”
“You are most kind Mr Smith”.
Needless to say the loan cheque never arrives. I think these tricksters are playing on the fact that us British are a bunch of thoroughly decent cricket playing fellows and perhaps a few of us lack the sense we were born with.
You all have a good weekend.