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Is it just me? A touch of class

It is finally summer, and the silly season is here.

The thrice bailed-out Portuguese national airline TAP, otherwise known as ‘take-another-plane’, is still in deep trouble while Ryanair crews – those that are left – are taking strike action, adding to the travel chaos which has already seen hours-long queues at most national airports during the post-covid restrictions get-away stampede.

The perfect time to have a general rant, I thought. By the way, rant comes from the Dutch ‘ranten’, which means ‘to talk nonsense’. Rave is a close synonym. In fact, “to rant and rave” is a very popular expression I am most familiar with.

When rant is used as a noun, it means something like ‘tirade’. The first recorded usage of rant is from the end of the 16th century, in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, although, as far as the Algarve is concerned right now, it might as well read Bognor, Macclesfield or Lambeth – but more on that subject a little later.

First, I must turn my attention to a much more serious problem – Rwanda, not on top of most people’s lists of ideal holiday destinations.

Who had the ludicrous idea of turning to a tiny, overpopulated African republic over 4000 miles away – a population of 12.6 million souls crammed into 26,000 square kilometres – to take care of the UK’s ‘illegal immigrants’ in return for an initial £120 million? Has the 1990-94 civil war, which ravaged Rwanda culminating in one of history’s worst genocides killing up to one million Tutsi within 100 days, so quickly been forgotten?

To me, the scenario is akin to the pre-1917 Balfour Declaration choices offered up for a Jewish homeland which included such ‘exotic’ locations as remote areas of the then USSR, Brazil, Uganda, Japan, Madagascar or Tasmania. But the present British government, already covered in everything but post-Brexit glory, seems to think otherwise.

Let us have a quick look at some of those decision-makers. Quite apart from the fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was born in New York, the current Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister Dominic Raab is the son of a Jewish refugee who fled Czechoslovakia in 1938 ahead of Nazi Germany expansionism.

Then there are two more occupants of the great offices of state, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, whose families escaped newly independent Uganda and Kenya during the East African upheavals in the 1960s. The list does not end there.

Health and Business Secretaries respectively, Sajid Javid and Kwasi Kwarteng’s parents left Pakistan and Ghana a mere six decades ago while Iraq-born Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s Kurdish family got away from Saddam Hussein’s persecution as recently as 1976.

Add in native Indian Alok Sharma, presiding over the Cabinet Office, and you would think that this bunch would be slightly more sympathetic to the plight of those crossing the Channel than is obviously the case – the irony of it, Rwanda indeed!

Fortunately, at the time of writing, the first planned deportation flight out, already reduced to a mere seven unfortunates, was halted at the last minute by a European Court of Human Rights ruling – how long will that be upheld? I know there are arguments being put forward that the policy is designed to stop people smugglers, but why not attack the root of the problem rather than punish its victims?

Even worse, the latest proposal is to electronically tag new arrivals, stigmatising fellow human beings akin to a modern version of 1930s Third Reich forced wearing of Star of David armbands.

Returning to Portugal, the state we find ourselves is quite the opposite – refugees are desperately needed, Ukrainian or otherwise, to fill huge gaps in the job market. Health services, catering and hospitality sectors are all hopelessly understaffed while the privatised CTT postal service, SEF immigration and other sectors find themselves in meltdown as PM António Costa looks on appearing to rest on his absolute majority election victory laurels.

Turning, again, to other matters even closer to home … Some years ago, pre-recession and long before the pandemic, the Algarve tourism chiefs decided to move away from package holidays and turn the region into a quality destination. However, as more and more larger hotel complexes became ‘all inclusive’, much to the detriment of local businesses, that plan has gone out of the window.

The previously desired ‘touch of class’ is sadly lacking with binge-drinking louts of all ages no longer restricted to the Albufeira or Praia da Rocha bar streets.

Here in Alvor, local authorities have over-reacted in an attempt to curb this growing menace, bringing in draconian measures with outdoor seating and noise level restrictions affecting drinking establishments as well as restaurants bordering on the puritanical whilst taxing everything deemed ‘legal’, nailed down or not, to the hilt. Yes, Alvor wants to retain its image of an idyllic fishing village, but the majority of our visitors also want to have fun, let their hair down after a hot day spent on the beach, and enjoy a degree of nightlife – which does not mean urinating in the street or associated types of behaviour.

Whilst on the subject, what is ‘class’ anyway? Apparently, there are 66 different social types based on post codes ranging from ‘bungalow haven’, peaceful seniors, ‘rural vogue’, country-loving families and ‘penthouse chic’ city professionals to the opposite end of the scale beginning with BB11-Burnley.

The obvious differences between working, middle and upper classes have largely disappeared over the past century, but in a very British way, the mostly unspoken nuances remain.

In terms of social standing, the lottery winner with a country house in Buckinghamshire, a flat in London’s Eaton Square and a Rolls Royce can never attain the same ‘status’ as an impoverished Earl’s son. Drinking tea from mugs rather than cups, the breed of dog you own, how often you wash your car and where you go on holiday (and what you do when you get there) are other subtle indicators as to where you come from.

Do you go skiing, horse riding or yachting in Verbier, Klosters, St Moritz, Tuscany and Umbria or is it alcohol-fuelled, sunburnt trips to Tenerife, Mykonos, Bodrum, Blackpool, Skegness or Margate?

Do you have dinner or tea, use a serviette or napkin, high-five, hug or shake hands, go to the bathroom or the loo, say pardon or sorry?

Even more importantly, is your name Crispian, Greville, Lysbeth, Penelope or Kev, Trev, Steve, Wayne, Terriann, Sammy-Jo, Kayleigh or Codie? Is your prized Manchester United kit your idea of dressing up in the evening or do you wear a loose-fitting shirt (no obvious labels!) with a pair of Chinos?

Clothes, bearing, voice and mannerisms are all easily spotted giveaways as to what your supposed background and upbringing are, and, to a degree, say a lot about you – but is that ‘class’?

Both my grandfathers worked for the railways, my maternal grandmother was a typist and single parent of five, my father worked himself up from a clerk’s position to managing director in his company while my mother was a housewife. I was the first in our family to go to university.

To me, most of the above is utter rubbish, the product of ingrained snobbery, inverted or otherwise, and the strange, mostly Anglo-Saxon trait to fail to cope with drink in a civilised manner.

‘Class’ is how you treat others, regardless of ethnicity, position or gender, both in public and at home. ‘Class’ is about integrity, respect, dignity, consideration, empathy and decent behaviour in general, not accents, looks, names, titles or possessions.

You are either a good person, happy within yourself, and able to freely add to the quality and enjoyment of being alive of those you interact with, or you are an insensitive thug only capable of transferring your inability to deal with real or perceived personal problems unto others at the slightest provocation – both categories exist in all walks of life.

In that sense, welcome to summer, welcome to the Algarve and all the positive things it has to offer.

Rant, rave, tirade over.

By Skip Bandele
|| features@algarveresident.com
Skip Bandele escaped to the Algarve almost 25 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.