One to read
THIS SUMMER, as an antidote to all those books rhapsodising about the Tuscan sun, you could dip into The Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World, which may qualify as the most intolerant travel guide ever published. Driving over lemons? Mrs Mortimer would rather drive over foreigners. ..
She was even-handed, in a back-handed way: she despised just about everyone and everything.
The Portuguese, as well as being “the clumsiest people in Europe”, are “indolent, just like the Spaniards”. The Welsh are “not very clean”; the Zulus: “A miserable race of people”; the Greeks: “Do not bear their troubles well; when they are unhappy, they scream like babies”; Armenians “live in holes in the ground . . . because they hope the Kurds may not find out where they are.” Buddhists, Hindus, Mohammedans: all received a thrashing from the aggressively Protestant Mrs Mortimer.
Lao-Tzu, the father of Taoism, is dismissed as “an awful liar”. Roman Catholicism comes off little better: “A kind of Christian religion, but a very bad one.” Oddly, however, she professes a soft spot for Nubians: “A fine race . . . of a bright copper colour”.
... Her sweepingly negative generalisations and racial stereotyping seem even more remarkable for the fact that this doughty world traveller didn’t go to the places she described and disparaged.
We owe Mrs Mortimer a debt, for her little book is the shining example of how not to travel in the British manner, a reminder of a way of thinking that has gone forever.
Gone forever? What the hell do you mean man? That sort of right thinking is alive and well here at The Castle - you won't catch me flitting all over the world, nothing fills me with more dread than the thought of going abroad for a holiday. I would rather lick the floor of the Bristol NHS Children's Ward than eat some filthy taverna food; bathe in the municipal cess pit rather then the oil slicked detritus ridden Mediterranean; roll in nettles rather than suffer the Dhobi rash from walking in the Aegean sun, in fact I think sitting watching the rain come down reading Mrs Mortimer excellent tome will beat any experience that involves queueing at one of our god forsaken aerodromes.