Friday, 28 June 2019

Different summer habits. And prejudice and intolerance of one kind and another!

Well, we walked the tideline this morning, almost Spanish fashion except that we had not stripped down to our swimsuits. You always see a quite fascinating range of shapes and sizes walking the tideline, a host of people determined to get as much sun on as many parts of the body as possible. As we left the beach we saw one elderly chap walking with the aid of a stick but gamely carrying in his other hand his folding beach chair with towel clipped on and with a small rucksack on his back. He might not be very mobile but he was determinedly heading for that sand!

I think it must be a national culture thing. The British spend holidays on the beach but that’s it. It’s a holiday thing. For the Spanish it’s a regular all-summer occupation. If you live close enough you head for the beach as much as possible. If you don’t live really close then you try to make your way there at the weekend. And failing that, if you are lucky enough to have a pool in the garden of your flats, then you head there immediately you get home from work. Not quite the case in the UK!

Of course the climate helps. However, I grew up in a seaside town and we did have some good weather in the school summer holidays but as a family we did not gather our stuff and head for the beach at every opportunity. Instead we put up a tent in the back garden, rather as Kate Atkinson describes in one of her novels.

You have to hand it to the Spanish though, they organise their beach trips well. Family groups make their way down with sun umbrellas, folding chairs, cool-boxes full of goodies, frisbees and beach tennis/paddel sets, completely set up for the day. When we used to head for beach when I was a child, usually when family visited from more inland places, we did not take a beach umbrella but windbreaks to shelter us from cool winds and flying sand.

That’s the difference!

The heatwave has still not hit us with the same force as elsewhere. Personally I am quite happy for it to stay that way.

In Germany, as I commented yesterday, they had to stop a chap riding his moped naked. In many seaside places here they have introduced rules and by-laws preventing people from walking along the streets in a state of beach-ready undress. But in Grenoble, despite the heatwave, they have closed the city’s two municipal swimming pools because some Muslim women went swimming in burkinis.

Of course, it was a deliberate challenge to the city’s ban on full-body swimwear and I know that France has this rule about the wearing of face- and body-covering garments. But honestly, in the 21st century surely we can be tolerant of people wanting to swim in municipal pools without being forced to reveal bits of their body that they would rather keep covered!

It’s not just swimming either. Earlier this year the French sports retailer Decathlon was forced to back down from a plan to sell a runner’s hijab in France after coming under fire.

And I am not claiming that the UK is free of prejudice of one kind or another. The second in line to the English throne has three children. And then you read something like this:-

 “Last week a Middlesbrough Conservative councillor apologised after describing benefit claimants as “pond life” who should be “washed and sterilised”.
David Smith said: “There are so many genuine cases. But there is a large portion who are claimants that take the absolute piss. Yet they continue to breed. Rabbits, the lot of them.”
I thought of Smith as I read through a new report by the Child Poverty Action Group into the impact of the two-child benefit limit – the government policy that, from April 2017, cut at least £53 a week in support from some of the country’s poorest families upon the birth of their third child.”

This was journalist Francis Ryan, expressing her opinion that The two-child benefits limit is a sign of society’s growing inhumanity.   We are two decades into the 21st century and privileged politicians are still spouting on about the “underclass” who claim benefits. No-one should be describing people in those terms. If they described the rich and famous with large families as breeding like rabbits there would probably be an outcry, even lawsuits.

 Once again, I remain gob-smacked!

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