It?s usually around this time of year that Lady X and I tend to tire of the panoply of delights found in Jersey and start to look further afield for our kicks. After all, there?s only so many times you can direct tourists to Grosnez (when they asked for directions to Gorey) and even the cows tend to get a bit wary after they?ve been drunkenly pushed over ten or eleven times.
Ironically, the only time I?ve ever had a shotgun pointed at me in earnest was when I was soberly trying to return a cow to its owner having found it wandering on a country road at 2am while driving back from a night out ? I was about three inches from turning it into the world?s largest kebab as I came round a corner at a speed I later described as ?about 40 miles per hour? and my screaming passengers called ?warp factor 6?.
On impulse, I decided to do a good deed by hopping out of the car and leading Begonia Masterpiece IV (or whatever her name was) towards the nearest cowshed and was soon rewarded by the sight of one of St. Ouen?s more rural denizens lurching towards me, swathed in a tartan dressing gown and brandishing a shotgun that (much like its owner) had probably last seen action in 1956. It took me a good few minutes before I was able to persuade my interrogator that I was leading his beloved animal towards rather than away from the farm but eventually (and without thanking me) he sullenly repossessed the creature, which was led away with a faint expression of horror in its eyes.
Anyway, getting back to the subject, it is a sad fact that due to the demanding nature of my much maligned and misunderstood profession, I have to treat holidays like the Belgians treat children, and snatch them when I can. As a result, my holiday experiences have been a bit hit-and-miss – as on the occasion when I booked a last-minute trip to one of the nicer bits of Majorca. Sadly, what the travel agent neglected to mention was that the entire town where the hotel was located became occupied by the Germans (if that isn?t an unfortunate choice of phrase) during the high season and so we ended up being the only couple for a mile in any direction who weren?t of the teutonic persuasion.
All of the shops and restaurants were run and staffed by Germans with barely a local to be seen ? and much like Magaluf is full of fish-and-chip shops and bars with bulldogs and tatty union jacks adorning the walls (and the arms of most of the customers), the place we were staying was full of Wurst emporiums and barely repressed sadism.
We decided to make the best of things and so after a week, my German had improved to the extent that I could tell a barmaid how to make a decent Cuba Libre and Lady X could shock annoying kids by telling them to **** right off. I was also developing a worrying taste for schnitzel. The worst part was that the sun didn?t really show up and so by the time we went home we felt like we?d been on some pointless work-organized cultural exchange program (although we had a strange feeling that next year we should annex Austria).
I?d now like you to contrast our response to adversity with that of David Barnish. David was put in a strangely similar situation by his holiday operator, who took his family to the Grecotel Park Hotel in Kos, only to find that 25 of the 700 guests at the hotel were English and the remainder were mostly German. However, instead of displaying the requisite stiff upper lip and girded loins displayed by Brits found in movies from the fifties and sixties (which, after the drunken yob, is the second most popular stereotype held by Europeans), Mr Barnish decided to complain and whinge his way to the nearest lawyer?s office and brought an action against the travel company for compensation.
The poor diddums was so unable to cope with going to a foreign country and finding it full of ? gasp – nasty foreigners (albeit not the kind he expected) that it turned out that a large wad of cash was the only thing that could salve his delicate feelings. The Judge – deciding in the toy-throwers favour ? believed that the customers at a hotel featured in an English-language brochure should be provided for in their own language – in effect, that the whole world should make a bit more of an effort to make up for the average holidaymaker?s linguistic shortcomings. I feel a more suitable judgment would have involved sending the plaintiff to Piraeus and making him stay there for a fortnight (or until he committed suicide, whichever came first) so that he could appreciate what a really terrible holiday was like. NB ? for the avoidance of doubt I have been to Piraeus and can strongly advise you to avoid the area like a particularly plague-infested rat of loose moral fibre.
Another hapless holidaymaker who defied all common sense is Krishna Thompson. Mr Thompson went on holiday in the Bahamas and was having a lovely time, right up until the moment when he went for a swim and a shark bit his left leg off. Now, there?s no detracting from the fact that having your leg messily removed by a barely-evolved chewing machine with fins is not anyone?s idea of a good time ? in fact, it regularly features in my all-time top ten nightmares and Lady X didn?t even get into a swimming pool for a couple of years after watching Jaws.
Although I?ve read stories of surfers who have heroically jumped straight back into the water after they had parts of them nibbled off by sharks, I could totally understand someone needing years of physical rehabilitation and therapy before going near a beach. I would have a great deal of sympathy for such a person. However (and you?ve probably seen this coming), Mr Thompson was American. Therefore, the fact that Mother Nature had pushed him a couple of notches down the food chain was not a freak and unpreventable accident ? SOMEONE MUST BE TO BLAME. He therefore adopted the traditional US approach to fair valuation of loss and sued his hotel for $25,000,000 as they hadn?t stopped it happening.
Now, I?m not sure what exactly they could have done to stop him from looking like a tasty canapé to a leviathan of the deep (short of sending in Aquaman), and I?m not sure I care. Even if someone has genuinely suffered – and incidentally I?m not including the additional claim for $5,000,000 filed by Mr Thompson?s wife for the distress the incident caused her in this category – punishing people for things that are outside their control sends the wrong message to everyone about personal responsibility.
Even though it?s bad for business, I often end up advising people that sometimes you fundamentally have to accept that 1) it just isn?t your day and 2) this isn?t anyone else?s fault – and if they complain when they get the bill for this particular pearl of wisdom I?m forced to refer them to point 1) again?