Looks like I owe an apology to dear old England. We’ve just come back from 4 startlingly hot and sunny days camping on the Isle of Wight. It was so hot that I’ve come back to Italy with more of a tan than when I left, which is slightly confusing. My gorgeous other half is as red as a Ventnor lobster (‘The sun’s not so strong here you know’ he scoffed and then, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be brown tomorrow’ swiftly followed by, ‘Have we got any after sun lotion?’). The cliff top campsite where we stayed was full of half naked English people trying to turn their skin from its natural corpse-like blue to fuchsia pink. The beach was heaving with men wearing sandals with socks and carrying trays of milky tea from the café to their families...It was a pure English, stripy deck chair and crab sandwich seaside extravaganza. We even swam and although it wasn’t the balmy waters of the Med, it wasn’t the icy plunge pool that the channel usually is either. We amused my family by being fascinated by watching the tide go out and then back come in. Lovely. Well, it was lovely apart from the fact that all those English people on the beach were, umm, how can I say this without being un-PC? Impossible. I’m just going to say it: They were all so fat. Rosy flesh oozed over the top of too-small shorts which scrunched up between wobbling flabby legs, and big bellies hung over belts like over ripe water melons fit to burst. What has happened in England? Since when did it become a country of Telly Tubbies? Nobody else seemed to be shocked by it or embarrassed, not even the woman running to the ferry ticket office in hot pants and a leopard print bikini top. She can’t have been much over thirty but she was juddering around in several directions at once like an enormous jelly on top of a washing machine in full spin cycle.
I tried not to stare because English people can be a teeny bit sensitive about being looked at (ie: you’re liable to hear the phrase, ‘Wot you fuckin’ gawpin’ at you slaaaag?’ and get head butted by anyone over the age of 10 if you glance at them for more than a millisecond). Nonetheless, I couldn’t help noticing that my native people have collectively tripled in weight since the last time I saw them, hankies knotted on heads, toasting themselves on the beach.
The other shocker back home was that England seems to have become a bit of a Nazi state when it comes to smoking. When you arrive at Gatwick, it’s not enough to get out of the building to be able to light up, smoking is banned outside just as it is inside, except for a couple of designated smoking areas. I noticed a café in my home town where smoking is not allowed at the tables outside. For a country that’s been battling against ID cards because they limit personal freedom, it’s frightening to see such a huge portion of the population made to feel like criminals for smoking outside in the open air. What’s next, bringing back flogging for people who talk in the library? Before you start, I know all the reasons why smoking is bad and would never smoke myself. It’s a foul habit. Maybe living in Italy has softened me up too much, made me too tolerant of things I used to be a fully paid up flag waiving protester against. I don’t think this is true though because I still flare into a rage when cars don’t stop at pedestrian crossings and after 8 years in Italy I still regularly have to resist the urge to leap across the counter in the Post Office and punch the clerk in the face. No, I definitely haven’t softened up, England is just toughening up beyond all recognition and good sense.
It struck me after a couple of days that the English would benefit more from an anti-cake-and-pies law for the over weight, rather than the excessively vigorous anti-smoking-outside laws they currently have. I think that with that idea I might have got to the cholesterol filled heart of the country’s problems. I might even write a nice letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown about it, although I believe he may have more pressing matters to deal with at the moment.
Ps: I realise I may appear a little ‘fatist’ and this is not my intention. I apologise to anyone offended by my anti-chubby remarks. I know I’m blessed with skinny genes and am eternally grateful to my dad for passing them on to me. If it makes you feel any better, I also inherited a 100% intolerance to alcohol, a tendency to get skull splitting migraines if I don't drink litres of water every day and the most ridiculous toes you've ever seen.