The image of women in Victorian times veered between that of madonna and whore, but nowadays in Britain it veers between harridan and slut. This is only natural in a country where vulgarity is not only triumphant, but militant and deeply ideological. The men, of course, are just as bad.
Recently, I flew to an Aegean resort now much favoured by our permanently bronzed proletarians. I was going to a conference of intellectuals there. The pudgy tattooed women en route to paradise had diamonds in their navels; the shaven-headed men, lager made flesh, had skimpy vests stretched painfully over their beer bellies, gold chains and an earring to prove their indelible individuality. One had the words ‘If found, please return to the pub’ inscribed on his chest; another, ‘Lager recycling unit.’ I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did.
As far as I am aware, however, it is only when the British go on holiday that it is deemed necessary to warn passengers in an aircraft that drunken violence will not be tolerated (though how it will be dealt with at 35,000 feet is less clear); and it is only in British airports that arriving passengers are warned that threatening behaviour towards immigration staff is ‘taken seriously’ and will, perhaps, end in prosecution. Welcome to Britain: land of incompetent and impotent official menace. If you are not careful, you will be photographed breaking the law.
French air hostesses are elegant creatures, vastly superior to their passengers, who give the impression that they are gentlefolk fallen on hard times; German air hostesses have evidently missed their vocation as prison guards, but at least give the impression that they would know what to do in an emergency. Only British air hostesses have the voice of fishwives that would shatter or engrave glass, and make you want to scream and block your ears.