Why So 'Old School', Old School?
The Seed is Sown
It's hard to put my digit, although I do have several of them, on when I became old fashioned. It's no new thing, me being a little stuck in the past. I think I may always have been. At school, while most of my peers were bleaching and gelling their hair and adopting synth-pop attitudes, I was less firmly planted in the 50's and 60's, .... Anything from Sinatra and Martin to Neil Young and The Kinks. Then, I became a huge fan of Brit pop but I, rather unfashionably, decided to like it 10 years after its peak. I've always stuck to my guns too (autocorrect changed that to gins which is odd but would have worked as well) Following my favourite artists through their peaks and well into their perceived declining years. My dress sense was something of a novelty too. Through school and then art school, my clothes mostly came from charity shops and I was rarely without some sort of well worn sports jacket or Crombie overcoat. I harked back to the romance of both the war era and the glory years of Hollywood, when stars were truly stars and had amazing stories to tell. I was brought up well mannered and considerate, stable and thoughtful, although didn't always behave as such. Art School instilled in me a connection with Monet's garden at Giverny, Sargent's Venice and Post Impressionist Paris. It all stuck, resonated, and I had to go, to see for myself.
I loved real ale and classic cocktails and the simple drinks of yesteryear. I rarely got caught up in modern fad drinking - Quite happy to save the Bacardi Breezers and the terrible West Coast Coolers for the gaudy night club brigade. As time wore on, and the influence of America took its grip not only on Britain but on my new home of Australia, I found that many of my favourite pastimes, traditions and places were disappearing, in favour of more transient and disposable options. Even with sports, 'Abide With Me' was being replaced by thumping dance music at football finals, drowning out the sound of the fan anthems in the process and completely ruining the atmosphere. Occasions were being marketed out of my realm by those employed to market rather by those that appreciated and understood the game. Many of my favourite pubs, especially in London, were having their Victorian wooden panels ripped out in favour of plastics and transient modern trimmings. Irreplaceable Victorian artefacts and craftsmanship being thrown away in favour of an all too fleeting trend de jour.
Tourism thrives on the old and traditional, and what we want to see when we visit anywhere on our travels is authenticity. We can get change and modernity at home, especially as it becomes asinine and homogenised into the same global footprint. Pubs and taverns, in most cases, do need to be modernised, but it's in the bathrooms, and the kitchens that this most needed to take place. Ripping out he very fabric of an institution, for it never to be reclaimed, is and always will be a travesty. With food, the traditional dishes have stood the test of time, and I want to appreciate them in their home environment. Like a wine tastes better when you drink it in its place, so does food and good eating. It came about because of the region and the produce therein,
so why would you serve a Thai Green Curry in an English Country Inn? When we travel to Bologna for the weekend, we don't browse the menu looking for Chicken Tikka Masala so we can have a change from fresh pasta, we look for signature dishes of the region. The same might go for Michelin Starred restaurants. They exist in pretty much every major city in the world so why not save that for a treat at home? Why waste valuable travel time on something you can have wherever you are? I realise that this is a broad generalisation but unless there is a particular place that one has always wanted to cross of a list, then I'd rather spend the extra cash that places cost on luxuries elsewhere.
Pictured above, The Old Swan Inn in Llantwit Major is a fine exponent of promoting and producing quality British food and ingredients in it's rich and varied menu.
Back to Britain again for a moment, Why aren't more regional dishes being served in the pubs and cafes there? Using prime ingredients and a pride in tradition, many such dishes are equally as good as others that are lauded across the globe. They are being lost, and as the slow food movement gathers pace, I really hope that a reintroduction of dishes such as Lancashire Hot Pot, Cullen Skink and Glamorgan Sausages to regional menus takes hold. Always, when asked what a tourist's favourite British food is, the answer comes back as "fish and chips" or "British food is terrible". British food can be terrible, but usually because too many styles of food are on the menu and none of them, apart from fish and chips, were even remotely British. A pub menu in Britain would read:
Chilli Con Carne
Thai Green Curry
Burger and Fries
Fish and Chips
Stir Fried Beef
Coq au Vin
Bangers and Mash
Two 'British' dishes that were usually substandard because of the effort that went into making the other more complicated dishes, and this went on for 30 years. It's changing, albeit slowly, but those publican's and restaurateurs making it happen should be congratulated wholeheartedly, and as a real 'Foodie', I could not be happier.
Now that I travel extensively, and the world has become more accessible to many, I find that many of my 'old school' principals are being lost when it comes to modern travel as well. There is a selfishness and isolation that seems to affect a large proportion of contemporary travellers. As a blogger myself, I find it hard to believe that most influencers are actually spending time to take it all in and to experience a place in all its glory. I get a real feeling of box-tickingness when I read. A need to move on, a need to get to the next place, a need to compliment rather than shame, ... as there is no money in shaming, obviously. It's difficult not to offend too. I am 'Old School', there's no denying it. I don't mean to offend when I blather on about the aesthetic quality of natural fibres over man made and a subtle palette over gaudy sportswear and Lycra. It's all a question of personal taste. I don't mean to offend when I say that someone is inappropriately dressed when visiting a place of worship or outstanding historical beauty, but I will say it. It's a belief that we should make an effort when travelling, that we should try to fit our surroundings, look good, take pride in our appearance and dress well. I see so many tourists who seemed to take the attitude of "I'm on holiday, I can do what I want, wear what I want and go where I want". I just happen to think that it's not quite as simple as that. Ultimately it's a question of standards and raising our game. Weddings aside, we take more photos on holiday than at any other time, so why wear your gardening gear, something you've painted the garage door in or something that you'd wear to the gym every day of the week. I see more people dressed up like they are hiking the Cairngorms rather than visiting The Vatican than I see ... actual shoes. You're on holiday - Go for it. Get out your glad rags, your breathables and your jaunty hats and get out there. If you're going to Vegas, knock yourself out. You can wear prison overalls, flip flops and a dayglo balaclava for all I care, but in the Venice, or Rome, or Cambridge, why not have a care? What might be good on top of Ben Nevis might not quite fit the biscuit in Portofino. It doesn't have to be full bib and tucker, ... just something .... more.
I hope this clarifies my stance, my outlook. I'm just trying to do my bit to protect the principals of the past when travelling, and raise a defiant glass of Fino sherry to the bling and activewear brigade. Someone has to, ... I mean no harm.
I'm off on my next jaunt now. Travelling to the UK, Spain and Italy with my Wife and Mother-in-Law (Two different people, btw). Wish me luck - I'm sure I will have something to say on the experience, so watch this space.