I'm not surprised we're the world's worst tourists

Everyone I talk to seems dissatisfied with something, the weather, the NHS, house prices, fishmongers
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The Independent Online

Someone called Cindy telephoned yesterday. "Hi, Sue," she said. She had an American accent. "I'm calling from Airhead PR. Can you give us your email address so we can send you a whole bunch of interesting stuff?" I said I didn't have an email address and was going to give her the number of my new mobile phone, but the line went dead.

Someone called Cindy telephoned yesterday. "Hi, Sue," she said. She had an American accent. "I'm calling from Airhead PR. Can you give us your email address so we can send you a whole bunch of interesting stuff?" I said I didn't have an email address and was going to give her the number of my new mobile phone, but the line went dead.

No taxation without representation, no bunch of stuff without an email address – thank God for that. Incidentally, when I say new mobile phone I mean new to me because the instrument itself is what style-conscious people like my children scornfully dismiss as a brick. It's five years old; I think it was my oldest daughter's first mobile, a big, black, heavy thing with buttons the size of Smarties, but I love it. In fashion terms it's about as cutting edge as wattle and daub, whalebone stays and junket, but what makes it a pearl beyond price for me is that no one wants to steal it. I left it on a park bench and two days later it was still there.

Since most of my middle son's waking hours are spent complaining that he has just had his mobile nicked again (he has had five this year, his insurance premium is more expensive than our quarterly telephone bill), I am surprised that no enterprising style guru has thought of relaunching the mobile brick. That, of course, would make them worth stealing. It's a vicious circle and the sooner I shake the dust, preoccupations and vanities of the metropolis from my feet, the better. Roll on tomorrow morning when we set off for our annual summer stint in Scotland.

People who live on Scottish islands don't grumble the way we do in London. Everyone I talk to these days seems dissatisfied with something – the weather, the traffic, the health service, the trains, the price of houses, the shortage of shop assistants, ripe bananas, old-fashioned courtesy, fishmongers. It's no coincidence I have put the last two together. It bears out my contention that most of this all-prevailing dissatisfaction is misplaced, at any rate where fishmongers and courtesy are concerned.

Only last week my mother's neighbour in the country was telling me about this marvellous man who drives up from Chichester every Wednesday in his van and delivers fresh fish to your door. "That's why we are having crab salad for lunch," said Heather – and very good it was too, almost as fresh as the dressed crab they sell on Oban pier. I once asked the wee wifey behind the counter if the lobsters were fresh. "Oh no, dear, they came in last night," she said. Apart from delivering fresh fish, the man from Chichester is, by all accounts, a remarkably good-natured fellow. If, for instance, one of his customers mentions in passing that she has got to take a pair of curtains to Mrs Wiffen down the road, he says "Go on, give them here" and bundles them into his van alongside the haddock fillet.

It's not because they're foul-mouthed, pot-bellied, xenophobic drunks that the British have just been voted the world's most unpopular tourists. It's because they never stop complaining, even when they are on holiday. "Call this Vitello alla Milanese, " I heard a scrawny Yorkshireman in a Hawaiian shirt complain to the waiter at a restaurant in Lucca last summer. "I've had better Vitello alla Milanese than this at the Midlands Hotel in Manchester."

Last week I asked Dawn who shampoos my hair at the Curl Up and Dye salon about her holiday in Tenerife. "It was terrible," said Dawn. "There was nowhere to sit down." When you're in dissatisfaction mode it's difficult to shake off.

I was telling the woman in the bus queue about the £50 I'd just won from the Premium Bonds. I have always believed in sharing happiness. Well, she said morosely, I only hope it brings you better luck than the £50,000 my son won from the scratch card he bought at Waterloo station just before Christmas. Good heavens, what happened, I asked.

What a saga. Her hitherto happily married, father-of-three bricklayer son bought a whole bunch of stuff, including a computer, learnt how to surf the net, met a red-headed divorcee in a chat room, left his wife, and flew to Phoenix to start a new life. They have never heard from him since. "You mean he didn't even leave an email address?" I said.

What a cad.

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