True gripes: Honoured guests?: Tourists and a touch of 'Xen'

Share
Related Topics
Truly gripped by that hoary old gripe that tourists clutter up the capital in summer? Look, stranger, tourists are a gift for Londoners. Tourists are in a state of wonder. We've all been there.

Tourists are snootily derided by the very London-dwellers who are forever bothering the poor foreigner with their polished diffidence in Provence, Tuscany or the Caribbean. These gripers are the very people who expect to be accepted as special abroad. In fact the word 'tourist' is a cold, complacent insult. We're all tourists. We're all on a lease.

In some languages, 'stranger', 'foreigner' and 'guest' are the same word. The poorer the nation, the longer the national anthem and the warmer the welcome to strangers, who bring luck, the chance to give something.

It is true herds, gaggles or schools of tourists can be what we in Britain call a nuisance, a moving, amoeboid, lurching, jellyfish-like microsociety, collectively clingy.

Crocodiles of Euro-youth cross the road as one inseparable being. The kids believe they have right of way, that you can disrupt the traffic in London and it's cool. That in insular England you can be cheeky, naughty, slightly rebellious, endearingly eccentric, without getting into trouble. They believe you could probably borrow a policeman's helmet and all the bobby would do is say: 'Now then sonny, tut tut.' They may even think that our policeman have rugby ball-shaped heads which is why their helmets are so funny.

So much of British life is so inexplicable. Worldwide, English people are widely regarded as mad. So visitors expect a lot from London, England. They expect it to be swinging. They expect a certain kind of whimsy from the English, the kind of friendly cheek represented by the Beatles from Liverpool.

Ray Davies of the Kinks had the tone of London brilliantly in his songs. Waterloo sunset. What are we living for, two-room apartment, second floor. The taxman's taken all my dough, left me in my stately home. The picture is partly of a stately architecture, lush lawns, a yellow Rolls Royce parked, and people behaving inexplicably.

So maybe the groups are a nuisance but, individually, people from away staying here should be able to expect a certain humour, good humour, from London, not just grandeur and pomp. The 1980s have shaved the humour off a lot of London life.

Last week there was a man in the underpass maze of Marble Arch shouting out instructions to tourists baffled by the hieroglyphics: 'Tube straight ahead, Oxford Street first right.'

He was, in fact American, maybe 60, with Buffalo Bill moustache, hair and air. For him, xenophobia was simply alien.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Sturgeon inside No 10: the SNP leader poses in a playhouse as she visits ABC Nursery in Dedridge, Scotland, while on the election campaign trail  

Stop the double standards – the SNP deserves power

Simon Kelner
Harriet Harman, Gloria de Piero and Yvette Cooper launch Labour’s Women’s Manifesto  

The Lib Dems have completely missed the point of a women's manifesto

Anna Cafolla
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power