British tourists

Dear all,

Greetings from sunny Gran Canaria. I am here for the joyous wedding of my two wonderful bandmates Joe and Paloma and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house yesterday at the ceremony. Congratulations to them and their little daughter Sabela who is having lots of fun here too! Since the last blog, UFQ headed into three days of rehearsal so we’ve got new material in the works for our upcoming spring tour. Then it was into some teaching before heading to London for a Live Music Now gig at a care home which was a lot of fun and profoundly moving at times. Then it was to Holt in Norfolk for a concert of the Devil’s Violin which is the project I’ve been doing with the City of London Sinfonia. It’s a concert programme based around folk music and classical music and has been a very enjoyable experience. It’s the first time I’ve read music on stage since my university jazz orchestra days! A week later we played the same concert in Shrewsbury which rounds off the project.

In between was a week of work up in Cumbria for Live Music Now and the extraordinary charity Sunbeams. Annie Mawson’s charity has provided music for disabled people, the elderly and many other groups for a long time but now has a state of the art Sunbeams centre in Penrith, the town of my birth! The building cost £2.7 million and all the fund raising was done without lottery funding. We had a wonderful week playing to people with dementia, adults with learning difficulties and a couple of mainstream primary schools. There were quite a number of really memorable experiences – the elderly Welsh man with dementia who sang Autumn Leaves while we accompanied, the rock n roll party with the adults with learning difficulties and introducing lots of young people to folk music. The gig at one of the schools was like being in the Beatles!

We also stayed with my parents which is always lovely of course. It was quite funny on the Wednesday night as we went out for a rather swish meal for my mum’s birthday. I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience but the effect on your menu choices when your father is offering to pay for it is truly remarkable! Doing what I do, I go out for a lot of meals and doing what I do the prices are generally a quite considerable influence. If I’m at a restaurant with any kind of range there’s generally a section that is rather out of bounds to me under any normal circumstances. But as I say this was an occasion when parents were present so it was scallops for starter and a rare steak for main. I realise this makes me sound like I enjoy spending my parents’ hard earned money but there are two things in my defence – one was the instruction was ‘have what you want’ and the second one is I am exceedingly poor.

Anyway, my little rant for this week is British tourists. I can’t say I’m an especially patriotic person at the best of times but I do love certain things about Britain and I do think we do certain things awfully well. Our pubs, our fish and chips, our humour and our utter utter inability to not panic over what to say or do in any social situation – I am quite fond of these. I have recently been enjoying reading my book entitled ‘Very British Problems’ and it does remind me of my fondness for this aspect of British culture. However, and here’s the nub of the matter for me, British tourists make me cringe. All the time. That point about panicking over what to say or do…I think the problem is that British tourists who I meet don’t do that. They don’t worry about doing or saying ANYTHING. On my flight to Gran Canaria I had the misfortune of being sat next to quite a large group of British tourists. Having travelled on trains and planes quite a bit in my time, I always think there are quite a few unwritten rules that make up travel etiquette. Things like don’t be really bloody loud, that kind of thing. Drinking on planes – the rule is you can sit quietly getting sozzled if you want to but don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t be loud. The loud bit key again you’ll notice. This group talked at a decibel volume louder than the monitors I’ve used on stage at massive festivals. You know planes, generally close proximity tends to be something of a feature so why the dickens would you ever need to talk loudly to someone next to you or in front of you? Added to which there was an awful lot of swearing which really was rather unpleasant and only increased as the main culprit finished his eight bottle of Jack Daniel’s. I obviously do mean the little ones just to clarify. And of course if they read this they’ll see it as a badge of honour and say ‘haha can’t take us Brits anywhere’. It’s the same thing in pubs sometimes when groups of (usually) lads chant, take each other’s tops off and god knows what and say ‘haha you shouldn’t let us in we’re a bit mad’. No you’re not mad. You are loud, irritating and make everybody hate us. British people might drive people mad when they don’t just say what’s on their mind and tie themselves in knots but I’d take that over the Easyjet pests I met any day of the week.