The words "Just another day in paradise" are written rather smugly at the bottom of my cornucopian breakfast menu.
The words "Just another day in paradise" are written rather smugly at the bottom of my cornucopian breakfast menu. I know it's a bit picky but, apart from reminding me of that terrible Phil Collins song, I think I'd prefer to be the judge of what's paradise and what isn't. As a gesture of solidarity towards my fellow columnist Janet Street-Porter, I'm in Mauritius with Stacey on a recuperative break from our children and the UK November weather that I gleefully follow every evening on BBC World as I sup a cocktail on my balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.
As it happens it is pretty much paradise, or what Condé Nast Traveller would have you believe it to be. We're staying in a hotel that I've wanted to come to for ages. I first saw a picture of it in one of those "Luxury Hotels of the World - Volume Six" books that people leave next to their loos for one to peruse as you do your ablutions. It looked like the ultimate tropical hideaway and it is, indeed, everything that it says on the tin.
There is a gentleman whose only job is to clean my sunglasses for me. There must also be a hidden part of the island that has been stripped absolutely bare of any flowers and is currently suffering from a "dust bowl" effect, as petals are almost pathologically sprinkled over everything in sight, from the restaurant tables to our beds to my sunbathing body. I've actually had to put my foot down and stop the man who walks a couple of steps ahead of me sprinkling them in my path as it was becoming a tad embarrassing.
Maybe I'm suffering from what Dave Stewart once called "paradise syndrome". He classified it as a general malaise at everything being so damn perfect. He was probably referring to being a multimillionaire pop star, but for me, it's the fact that I can't even have a bowl of chips without each individual frite being monogrammed.
All joking aside, I can't help feeling that something is rotten in the state of paradise. Firstly this is a "resort" hotel, something I normally avoidas it tends to cater for the unimaginative. It's rammed solid with couples and one can't help getting the feeling that we've somehow stepped on to the set of The Love Boat. I keep looking around for Captain Stubin. As a substitute the creepily immaculate hotel manager joined us at our table last night and kept us entertained with tales of his nightmarish experiences with Michael Winner in his last posting. If I wanted to see something of the rest of the island it would be quite an effort. Not that there's much to see apart from a tea plantation which was once the site of your European ancestors' economic rape of the place. The whole set-up has a hint of the Raj about it. Of course, nowadays you have to pay for the privilege, but it is still an artificially manicured club where a predominantly white clientele gets waited on hand and foot by impeccably well-mannered and attentive locals.
Out of sight, apart from when you are whisked to and from the airport in air-conditioned comfort, are the ramshackle huts and houses that constitute the general living conditions of most of the tropical island's indigenous populations. One can't help but remember reading books such as No Logo and thinking that this might not all be completely ethical and that maybe we should have gone on some holiday equivalent to Starbucks' "fair trade coffee", but any altruism is soon forgotten as you collapse into your sun-lounger and wonder which type of bread to have with your lunch.
The clientele is a mixed bunch, ranging from elderly Frenchmen with their not-so-elderly lady friends to prim-looking Germans and a slightly higher proportion of tattooed English couples than might strictly be desired. When was the moment in history that a place like this turned from a tropical hellhole replete with malaria, heatstroke and isolation into the dream destination of today?
Anyway, the sun is setting and I'm starting to get that itchy-feet feeling, but that might just be my allergy to petals. I'd better enjoy it while it lasts: I get the feeling that the moment I see road signs to Swindon I'll be screaming, "I'm a celebrity ... get me out of here!"Reuse content