Why would anybody want to go abroad this year, asks Stephen Fry in the new tourist board ad, one of the most expensive ever made. The part that got me Googling "cheap flights to Spain" is when we see Michelle Dockery pirouetting in a Queen Bess costume on the edge of The Giant's Causeway, fearsome-looking seas howling at her hemline. "You won't find rocks like these on a beach in the Med," she drawls. No, you're right, Lady Mary, southern European coastlines mostly have sand, and nice, warm water.
The weird thing about this ad is that its sales pitch seems aimed at foreigners. The main reasons given to "holiday at home" this year are the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, television events if ever there were ones. How many (sane) Britons will seriously think the Queen's June jamboree is an excuse to "make a week of it", presumably by camping out in a dome tent on the Mall for two nights?
"You won't see the Olympic torch relay in Corfu or Crete," chirrups Rupert Grint, inadvertently flogging holidays to Corfu and Crete. For the inevitable fuss and gridlock and televisual excess surrounding both the Olympics and the Jubilee are pretty good adverts for a two-week holiday, ABBA (anywhere but Britain, actually).
Inevitably, four national treasures were wheeled out to front this £5m ad: Fry, Dockery, Julie Walters, Rupert Grint. Yet I don't so much object to the use of celebrities as the cheesy idea of Britain they all sell. Class, history, royals and flags are all ways to flog Britain to foreign tourists who don't know any better, but it's insulting to assume that people who actually live here need to be reminded of the pleasant things about this land with references to Harry Potter and Downton Abbey and "Will'n'Kate".
The other, equally jarring, message to the ad is: don't go away, because there's more history and culture here than in foreign countries. Yes, we have the Tate but, as Walters says, "there's no Tate Algarve". To imply that, therefore, "abroad" has no history or culture is particularly dumb. Portugal has both by the planeload – and better weather, too.
Why compare Liverpool with the Algarve? Why not with Lisbon? The assumption is that we idiot viewers only know the Algarve in Portugal, only visit Corfu in Greece, that culture itself is a foreign land to us. No passports, no jabs, no visas, no Euros, chorus the celebrity Brits as the jazzy soundtrack fades away, as if holidaying in this country is a hassle-free experience. The weary British holidaymaker might add: no service culture, no bargains, no blue skies, no truly new cultural experiences, no cheap local vino, and no escape from the 2012 propaganda.
Guides may be on to something
The Girl Guides are under attack, for teaching their young charges how to concoct home-made facials and do manicures. This is more sexualisation of children, say critics, and a sign that the good old Guides are dumbing down.
Remember the days of reef knots and camp fires? Well, yes, but I don't recall the Guides being particularly progressive even back then. These days, it no longer offers the distinctly pre-feminist sounding Home Maker badge, a trial of cookery skills and washing-up I managed to claim for my blue cotton sleeve age 11.
Who's to say that learning the basics of grooming wouldn't prepare a girl better for the boardroom later in life, perhaps more even than knowing how to tie a sheet bend?