Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


This was my first trip out of England for ten years. A number of things surprised me.

When I was a kid you took it for granted that mainland Europe was dirty. You braced yourself for public toilets that were nothing but holes in the ground. You expected bidets. Now the standards on the Continent are as high if not higher than at home. The showers in all the hotels where we stayed were much more efficient than the showers in London. In Spain the public toilets are immaculate and smell like churches (really they do- I'm not making this up- I guess it's the disinfectant they use.) And the bidets have vanished.

The last hotel we stayed- in Lille- you could see a ghostly mark on the bathroom floor where the bidet had once stood. What's this about? Why have the French stopped making a big deal out of washing their genitals? Is it all down to globalization?

Talking about globalization, everyone everywhere pretty much speaks English. In the past they used to expect you to struggle with their language; now they take the initiative and struggle with yours.

And the supermarkets look just like our supermarkets and sell much the same products. And the golden arches have sprung up everywhere......

And here's something else. Bugs. An astonishing thing about Spain is that there aren't any. We went armed with all sorts of insect-repelling products- including a device that emits a high-pitched squeal which supposedly freaks mosquitos- and we just didn't need them. I got a couple of bites from walking in the woods after sunset (as all the trendy people do in Catalonia) but that was it. The hotel and town were insect-free zones. Then we come home and there are mosquitos and bluebottles all over.

Abroad is less foreign than it was. You can get CNN and the BBC on the hotel TV. You can buy the Daily Mail at the newsagents (and it's today's edition not yesterday's.) National borders have all but disappeared. You slow the vehicle down and most of the time they just wave you through. There's more fuss involved in going through the barriers at the start and finish of the (very excellent) toll roads.

It's no longer the world I was born into 54 years ago. I like it.
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