Sunday, 26 August 2012
I Went Round The Mediterranian In The Womb: 4. The Archetypal British Tourist And The Archetypal Tourist Trap
'Not another Tourist Trap,' was one of my mother's favourite expressions.
Though she used to always head for the nearest one - just to look, of course - rarely to buy. When they travelled on to Greece the sellers of tourist tat and hawkers came thick and fast. As soon as they disembarked out of the back of the bus, they were surrounded by men in white caps trying to sell anything they could.
Of course this was not helped by the obliging British tourist. He seemed to turn up at every stall. My mother was obviously enthralled with this man's behaviour and took snaps of him at every opportunity.
From the back view, typically hunched over the stall, looking at all the items .....
.....to the side view of him doing exactly the same thing. He would keep the bus waiting as he decided on which item to purchase.
It was obviously something I took note of from inside the womb, for as I grew up I did exactly the same as my mother and went seeking out weird and wonderful emporiums around the world. I used to like (and still do) finding places which sold tacky, bizarre items. My very great French friends, with whom I am in lifelong competition to find the worst gifts the world has to offer, have a good adjective to describe this. They label it 'craignos'.
There are loads of fantastic places: Soho in Paris, Da Yoopers Tourist Trap in Michigan, USA, Bangkok market, the Jiggery Pokery shop in North East England and the Tetbury Furnishing Company in Tetbury, Gloucestershire (now closed) were amongst the best.
I even found out that Tommy Cooper's brother ran a joke shop in Slough called Coopers.
There is something fascinating about huge stores filled full of cheap goods. They beat the insipidness of some of the same old, same old out of town shopping centres we have to endure. The boredom of seeing the same shops with the same products.
But I've got a tip for you - if you go to IKEA and do not want to get lost in the one-way system through millions of items of furniture. If you head straight for the Exit doors and wait until someone with a trolley-load of stuff triggers the automatic doors, you can sneak in and miraculously find yourself next to the hot dog stall. The food department in IKEA is, for me, the only interesting part and full of good stuff.
My mother would have been proud of her son.