Clive is coming to stay tonight. In England he a loveable twat but in Greece he is a GOD - a frickin God. Soon you will see images of him on ornate water jugs wearing his Leeds United top. He was a veritable deity in Spain too. It's like one of those HSBC ads: pic of snake in England and caption 'scary'. A pic of snake in China 'delicacy'.
Clive in Greece: 'Phwoar'
Clive in England: 'Shoulda gone to Specsavers.'
In Greece (and Spain) he is catnip for girls and popular with boys in an 'ungay' way (He's a bit sexist and homophobic but can't see it himself). He doesn't even pick up foreign languages easily: By his own admission it took him ages to grasp a sandwich was 'un bocadillo' in Spanish and not a 'une Bodaeccia'. He actually used to refer to Spanish as 'Gibber'.
He wipes his teeth with a napkin after he has a Ducado cigarette with an espresso, but non-English girls still touch their hair when he is around, giggling coquettishly and saying 'Really, Clive?'hanging on his every word. I have finally worked out how he does it - ridiculous confidence and people hoping he might be like James Bond.
Cultural differences can make the person seem so much more glam and people often can't get over their pre-conception of a particular nationality so they just see the stereotype. It took Madonna eight years to finally realise Guy Ritchie was NOT a Cockney geezer and that he wore a flat cap because he shot grouse, not because he swept chimneys.
I was Clive's flatmate in Madrid for a year. He cooked occasionally and some women thought he was the new messiah for doing so. They'd point at me and say "She didn't cook for you?" He didn't need Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to spread the word about what a genius he was with a loaf (it was only sodding garlic bread!), he was his own publicist at every possible opportunity.
Sometimes he did chilli con carne but with Baked Beans because his mum gave him the recipe and she made it that way cos he hated kidney beans despite having never tried them. Clive regularly had people bring him his supply of Baked Beans, Marmite and Viz from the UK. He wasn't even adventurous with Spanish food when at people's houses, but still the adoration came as girls and their mothers (the girls still lived with their families until they had a husband) cooked him fried eggs to go with his Patatas Bravas. Then after the meal, while the girls' dads went and had a whiskey and a cigar they'd invite Clive to come too but he'd decline and offer to help 'the ladies' wash up. BING! He was suddenly covered in shimmering pink lipstick from the girls and vicious purplish out-of-control lovebites from their mums!
To be fair, women in Spain are cool and feisty. Gender expectations have changed since Clive and I lived there 12 years ago and I'm sure the same is true of Greece. He may soon have to move to Saudi to have the same effect on the native people of a female persuasion.
To add to his mystique of 'The Englishman abroad' Clive teaches people idioms that nobody in England actually says. His last Greek girlfriend, told me she liked Obama because he "knows his onions". I've never met a person learning English yet who doesn't love "It's raining cats and dogs." Al Qaeda may hate the West but they love that phrase. If they could just be on Clapham High Street when it's tipping it down and be able to turn to someone in a bowler hat and say "It's raining cats and dogs" and the man say "Yes! by jove you're right." the world would become more peaceful. England is bloody disappointing for visitors; Nobody says 'spiffing', we don't have pea-souper fogs, and we don't even call policemen 'Bobbies' (another overseas favourite).
USA has Disneyland. We should have Downton Abbeyland. I detest the programme, it makes me want to vomit 'un-femininely' on Julian Fellowes' fat peanut of a head with its glorification of the class system, the proper way to behave if you are a woman, servant or 'other', and patronising Noblesse Oblige. I cannot stand all the quaintness of strict traditions like 'what horse goes with what pair of shoes?' and 'Good lord, one must never the port to the left in one's hand if one has a hook.' All these petty rigmaroles and rituals, is it quaintness or OCD? Either way, people outside the UK seem to want more of it along with other fool's gold exports Clive, old idioms and Sarah Ferguson (Yes Sarah Ferguson. Sorry Oprah, you're a genuine hero of mine. I wanted to break the news to you gently.)