I’m currently in Marrakech for half-term and was planning on writing a column about how disappointed my children are by this cosmopolitan city. To them, it’s not exotic at all. On the contrary, it’s indistinguishable from large swaths of west London. My four-year-old woke up in the taxi taking us from the airport to our villa, having slept all the way, and immediately started complaining. ‘Why are we back in Shepherd’s Bush?’ he asked, pointing at a mosque. ‘I thought we were going on holiday?’
But Caroline has forbidden me to write that column on the grounds that it’s ‘racist’ or, at any rate, might be perceived as such by the Guardian-reading thought police. So instead I thought I’d write about how hedonistic the Brits become whenever they go on holiday.
For well-to-do folk like me, it takes the form of obsessing about food. I first noticed this when I was living in New York in the mid-1990s and shared a weekend home on Shelter Island with four other Brits. On a Saturday morning the household would usually be woken at around 11a.m. by a couple of American friends who’d just done something unspeakably energetic, such as playing golf. Americans, we soon realised, like to pack their weekends with activities. For people like us, on the other hand, it was an opportunity to do nothing but sleep, eat and drink.
Admittedly, breakfast usually consisted of a cup of coffee and a cigarette, but as soon as our heads had cleared we began to make plans for lunch. Someone would be appointed ‘the grill master’, while another was dispatched to the local supermarket to buy the beef. A third person would be in charge of securing alcohol and a fourth was tasked with rustling up as many female guests as possible.