Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The English Tourists Were Split into Tribes-Until Somebody Mentioned Immigrants

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The English Tourists Were Split into Tribes-Until Somebody Mentioned Immigrants

Article excerpt

I have had a week off in Cephalonia, one of the Ionian Islands, aiming to recharge my batteries for an energetic summer. It was pleasant enough. Our hotel sat contentedly at the base of Mount Ainos. The days rolled by placidly. There was little to see and even less to do, other than trudge up steep hills and along arid tracts of land.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It was our first introduction to the "package tour". Tourists, most of them English, piled into this tiny place, which once boasted a population of 76,000. Then, in 1953, an earthquake ravaged the island. Death and emigration reduced the numbers to 15,000. Now, thanks to the tourist industry, the population is back up to 35,000.

The proprietor of our hotel left to join the merchant navy after the earthquake and returned every two years or so. Finally, he had saved enough money to resettle on the island and to build the rectangular box in which we were staying, with its 39 rooms on three floors. All the rooms were so small that you could not use them for changing even your mind.

Within a day of our arrival, the English tourists broke up into ethnic groups. The Doncaster mob, as I christened the largest group, was augmented by a handful of Todmorden folk. Then the Brummies of Burton upon Trent, Sandwell and Smethwick, who boasted about the originality of their history, formed another group. We graduated to the "Sarf" London posse, some with parents who were from Brixton and Thornton Heath and others with grandchildren who saw first light in Lewisham and King's College Hospital. …

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