Thursday, 4 June 2009

Burgers in Paradise

Picture the scene: a sparkling, crystal sea of sprawling azure, stretching off towards the horizon, where it joins a sky of perfect blue. A beach of white sand, curling languorously along the coast line, studded with palm trees that sway loftily in the light, refreshing breeze. Birds swoop and whistle overhead. The sun scatters motes of dazzling, diamond light from the gentle surf. With tears of wonder in your eyes you turn you head, and oh, look, there's a fat, sunburnt man in Speedos gnawing on a burger and glaring out at this island paradise with derision and contempt. He's got a Sheffield Wednesday tattoo on his right calf. You wish he was dead.

Ever been to Tenerife? I have, last weekend. And that's what it was like.

Now I'm not one to be snobby just for the sake of it. I don't advocate the culling of all those without a Mozart cello concerto in their CD collection. But after five minutes of appalled wonder in the midst of the average Tenerife-goers, I can honestly say that every single one of them is a worthless, hateful animal. Again, picture the scene: clots of pale, red-streaked flesh, choking the entrances to dingy, plastic bars. Kebabs sit half-chewed on Formica-topped tables. Ugly, loud voices spew from the chaos, and faces appear, grimacing and leering and with eyes, squinting in the sun but filled with mindless apathy, darting this way and that, in search of something new to scorn. Horrified, you turn away, away to the dazzling beach. It's got a McDonald's on it. A leathery middle-aged couple sit on a cheap towel slathering sun-lotion on their desiccated bodies, each wearing an identical expression of muted dissatisfaction. Somebody is reading the Daily Mail. A seagull pecks forlornly at a chicken nugget. This time you almost wish you were dead.

But it's just like England but with sunshine, innit? And this is not as crass a notion as it might first appear. After all, I quite like England. I'm glad I live here. And fair point - it would be nice if it was a bit sunnier. But what these dead-eyed drones fail to understand is that upending a Wetherspoon's onto a tropical beach does not automatically transplant an entire culture. England is England. Tenerife is Tenerife. And as they mutely squat over their fried breakfasts, trying with exasperated fury to force a square peg into a round hole, it never occurs to them that it just doesn't fit. This isn't, and never will be, anything at all like their home.

It's all so desperate. Somebody should do something about it. And maybe they will. One more time, picture the scene: you cast your eyes upwards, above the gaudy shopfronts and bellowing proles, beyond the swathes of watered-down pints of lager and the fag-ends. There, out in the distance, shrouded in a light mist, sit the mountains. Towering silently, unnoticed, above the melee, these ancient, high-shouldered denizens of the island look down sadly upon their land. They were here before all this began. In the primeval, cataclysmic birth of Tenerife, when volcanic eruptions ripped apart the earth and flung up the staggering, jutting, impossible landscape, they claimed their place as its guardians. They know that this is not what was meant.

It can only be a matter of time before the island reclaims its borders. The brooding power of nature fills the air like a low, solemn, endless note, too low for the shrieking savages to hear. One day the forefathers will take matters into their own hands. In the meantime, you can be sure, slowly and surely they will draw their plans against us.


  1. Smyth's writing works on many levels and there is a subtle subtext to this article that may have bypassed many readers. At first "Burgers in Paradise" seems, purely and simply, to be a diatribe against the lumpen proles he so despises. But beneath the surface is a different message. It is: "I had a lovely, relaxing holiday with my beautiful girlfriend. We stayed in a five-star hotel and saw incredible views from the top of a 3700m volcano."

    Read the piece again. Obvious now, isn't it?

  2. I think even a lumpen prole would known that Mozart didn't write any cello concertos. The man is toying with us.

  3. There's actually an unfinished one, which someone has kindly finished for him ( and some imposters where some genius has just transposed an oboe concerto or the such like.