Monday, 23 March 2009

Son Of "Wot I Done On Holiday" - the return

Things I enjoy doing on holiday but am slightly ashamed of include hanging around foreign supermarkets. NOWHERE do you get a better idea of what a nation's preoccupations are, and what it considers essential and/or exotic. Thai supermarkets (based on many years of keen observation while Mr F drags his feet behind me wailing "I'm booooored") have vast amounts of hair products - not surprising when you consider that all Thai women have sleek and glossy raven locks. Very little for frizzy hair, sadly for me, as I routinely turn into Harpo Marx two seconds after leaving the air-conditioning in my room, and nothing short of WD-40 or a bag will stop this. All skin products, including baby lotion, promise "extra whitening!" as oddly enough my leprous pallor is considered as desirable in Thailand as a golden tan is here. What we consider exotic (ie lemongrass, fish sauce etc) they consider deeply boring and mundane, so there are aisles full of fantastically cheap "staples" for those of you who, like me, would rather come home with a suitcase full of dried shrimp paste than souvenirs. What we consider mundane is classed as extraordinary foreign delicacies (ie Paul Newman salad dressing, Dolmio sauces, etc). And nowhere else have I ever seen Vanilla Mint Listerine, so I had to buy some. Odd, but palatable. I have a secret suspicion that if I chilled it and added vodka nobody would notice it wasn't a cocktail.

So as I was clearing out my handbag last night (big red one has pretty much broken my collarbone) I found the flyer for BIG NIGHT THAI BOXING AT STADIUM NEXT TO TESCO. Sorry to disappoint you all but this was Ban Niang beach, Khao Lak, not a Tesco near you. We didn't go, mostly because the last time I was persuaded to go to a Thai boxing match it was so hot and the fumes of Tiger Balm were so strong that I actually passed out. There are better ways to spend an evening than being driven back to your hotel in the open flatbed of a pickup, with your head between your knees weeping "I'm not on drugs! Please don't send me to the Bangkok Hilton!". What caught my eye this time round, on the flyer this is, was the thumbnail bio of each contender - under their names were their taglines, which mostly said things like "King of the ring!!" and "Born to fight - born to win!!" My favourites, however, were "The elbow specialist!!" and (on further investigation of the website) "The knees that knocked a hole in the sky!!", at least one of whom (guess, go on) is probably an osteopath or something. Or should be.

And finally - I do spend a lot of my time on holiday people-watching - I have come to the conclusion that there are certain sartorial choices no adult male should ever be allowed to get away with.
1) Crocs on any male over 6 years old, especially in natty shades of lime green, acid blue or hot pink.
2) Hair accessories, especially alice bands. Want to play with someone's hair? Get a Tressy Barbie.
3) Short shorts anywhere but a sports field/court. Makes any man, no matter how young or attractive, look like Donna Summer on rollerskates.
4) Any t-shirt that proclaims you to be a Breast Inspector, or that tries to do your chat-up for you (ie "If I Said You Had A Beautiful etc etc")

Yes I know I'm a fine one to talk in my custom-hacked Comic Relief Morecambe and Wise t-shirt and lost property box sunglasses...

27 comments:

Steve said...

I have a T-shirt with two arrows point downward and the logo "The knees that knocked a hole in the sky!!" - is this banned merchandise also? I'd actually love to have a T-shirt that proclaimed me as an elbow specialist. And I'd love to wear it around Wimbledon when the tournament is on.

Liberty London Girl said...

Oooh yes. The joy of supermarkets Abroad remains unalloyed. Even after two years in the US of A, I can spend happy hours in grocery stores marveling at the aisles & aisles of processed food for the obese people.

My best ever was one in the Azores. Bizarrely FULL of frozen & tinned veg which was considered status symbol, even tho Azores are world class producer of fresh veg.
LLGxx

Lucy Fishwife said...

Steve - I'm now very sorry I didn't go as we could have got a Free T-shirt With Entry!!! and hopefully could have chosen Supaporn Tweecurtainpattern The Elbow Specialist as our t-shirt boy of choice - and passed it on to you...

LLG - US supermarkets make me weak at the knees with the sheer sugar-coated glory of their food shelves. Last time I was in San Francisco I put on a stone in 10 days; would love to claim it was the fine wines but it was the double-stuffed chocolate covered Oreos. Damn them. Pathetically I always haunt the haircare aisle as I'm still trying to find "Gee Your Hair Smells Great" conditioner somewhere in the world...

librarylizzie said...

Oh yes - I love supermarkets too. Am off to Utah next week, and plan to stalk the aisles. In fact i had colleagues come over to Sheffield from the USA and do exactly the same thing, right down to taking photos of items on the shelves in waitrose!

lakeviewer said...

YOu'll miss them one day, when in some far away Mom and Pop's place you ask for Arborio rice and they laugh in your face.

French Fancy said...

Crocs should not be allowed on anyone - I hate and loathe them with a passion.

I also love wandering round supermarkets whilst on holiday and want to buy so many things for which there would just be no room in the case. (is that good grammar? whilst studying French so hard I seem to be losing my grip on sentence construction in the proper language of life).

I went to a Thai boxing match once - but it got too hot and I had to leave very suddenly. Maybe it was the tiger balm as well?

Have you escaped the holiday blues?

Lucy Fishwife said...

LL - I totally stand by my view that it's the one uncensored candid view of a nation's psyche (pretentious, moi?) - whatever public face they try to show... Waitrose would be my chosen ambassador for the UK.

LV - The part of London where I live is full of people loudly asking for arborio/shiitake/walnut oil etc - all things I love incidentally but I've learned to look for myself and not say anything if they don't have them! I believe in Making Do With What's At Hand... I did once overhear a huge public school bloke yelling "Darling, don't forget pancetta for the beach house!" - up there with "Mummy I've got pesto on my gilet"...

FF - Horribly most of the (male) Croc-wearers I saw were well over 40. And the Crocs were canary yellow. WHY? WHY???????
Mr F still finds the fainting thing (and subsequent tearful protestations) hilarious but in my defence it was the first time we'd been to Thailand and I HAD just watched "Bangkok Hilton". I still maintain it was entirely the stifling clouds of Tiger Balm. It could have been the cheap beers and empty stomach though...

Cassandra said...

I LOVE "born to fight - born to win!!" Am going to get it printed onto a t-shirt and wear during rows with Mister C, who is currently doing my head in!!!

usedbuyer 2.0 said...

America, here. On our only trip to London to date, the husband and I embarrassed our more traveled friend by walking into a market out first day and giddily exclaiming, "Look!!! Scotch eggs!!!" Which we then, rather dubiously ate. Not a particularly happy memory, come to think.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Yes, I still prowl around the supermarkets here marvelling at how odd some of the things are - they go a lot for grated cheese here - perhaps it is just too hot for the bother of grating it yourself?

I don't get crocs at all. There is a family that comes to our school in the UK - mummy, daddy and their four daughters and they all wear crocs, with silly badges stuck through in various luminous colours. Very odd.

But you know there must be people here who wear them cos you see a lot of people doing so. But no-one is owning up, are they? Let's hope someone decides to be brave and do so!

Nene said...

In the US and sadly now also here: Cakes. Huge, ugly, all-too-colourful, all-too-sweet cakes, which look like pieces of (very bad taste) art. For birthday parties, office parties, you name it. In Denmark, where I used to live, people just make a layer cake and decorate with candles and maybe whipped cream or something. And even the most inept cooks make them themselves. It's not that hard!

I hope the recession takes the air out of that balloon. Yukkkk. Luckily my son (7) has tasted them at birthday parties and likes them not. "They look good, mum, but they taste horrible".

Lucy Fishwife said...

Cassandra - I want one saying "Will take a dive in the second round for money" - I feel one should play ones' cards openly, and I have no scruples. Or boxing talent.

Usedbuyer - I apologise, on behalf of Great Britain, for scotch eggs. Although they are a sort of guilty pleasure if you're 5 years old or drunk. Sausage rolls are much much nicer and don't have that odd "I've left the gas fire on" smell.

RB - Oh my GOD I'd forgotten about the odd plastic badges to decorate them with! I mean isn't it bad enough wearing them in the first place without actually being proud of it??? I'm surprised about the grated cheese - always thought it was a sign of the essential laziness of the UK consumer, and I never think of Aussies as lazy!

Lucy Fishwife said...

Nene - Sorry, not ignoring you, just crossover. Yes, the cake thing seems to be another instance of pester power as all children are bound to want the cake shaped like David Beckham their friend had, etc. As a child I always preferred biscuits anyway because there's no possibility of uneven portion control and yours will always be the same size as everybody else's rather than smaller..!

Brother Tobias said...

Exotic products in foreign supermarkets are oddly beguiling. I emerged from one in the Limousin clutching some liquorice sweets called Cachou LaJaunie, which I bought for the tin, and a packet of desirable-looking vegetable soup. My hostess assured me what I'd got was laxatives and something for slimmers.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Are Cachous Lajaunie laxative? I too am a huge fan of the tin. Maybe they have a similar effect to the notorious Trebor Sugarfree which were reputed to get you prergnant by some odd train of schoolyard logic. I nearly bought a tin of sardines for 5 euros last time I was in France but it DID have a fantastic Art Nouveau design. Luckily common sense kicked in and I had an overpriced pain d'epice icecream instead.

mothership said...

I always leave room in my suitcase for foreign supermarket and drugstore purchases and keep a running list of items from different countries that periodically need to be replaced. I live in the US now so when I come back to England have to bring back proper chocolate and decent biscuits and those cellulose sponges that you wipe counters with (yes, I kid you not, you can't get them here).
You can actually buy 'Gee, your hair smells terrific!" conditioner for $20 at a retro store in town here, but at that price, why would you?

Perfumeshrine said...

Hahaha! How very true!

White/light skin in is definitely a out-of-caste-thing, not merely a cultural beauty ideal, I think we all know that so you don't need me telling you ~it's how Europe was pre-Chanel (who made tanning a sign of affluence)~ but my point is: whitening agents on a baby product makes my skin crawl!! Liteally! Aren't those very harmful when overused/used on so "virgin" skin? Ewww! Isn't there some regulation in place? I guess when there is demand there is a way, but shouldn't they be at least illegal, so people would think twice before getting/using them?

Have to say that with the multi-cultual aspect our own city has taken in the last decade there is nary an exotic thing you won't find in major supermarkets and it's kinda cool. No driving to a deli across the city to get that Russian pickled-cabbage or those Indian chutneys with mango! (although that was fun in its own way)

You're much too brave to venture into such sights as Thai boxing.

Re: fashions.
Men or women should not be seen in athletic gear (and that includes trainers, I'm afraid) anywhere outside a gym/court/stadium participating in an actual sport, period. People, you're not fooling anyone into thinking you're athletic if you look like a couch potato!

Crocs on kids? I think it's akin to ruining their aesthetic criterion for life. (OK, crocs just might be acceptable for people with severe foot problems and in that case they should have a label someplace saying so so we show a little lenience to this otherwise unbeakable rule!)

Basically shoes say a whole of a lot for the man/woman who wears them. It's not just a cliche.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Mothership - Is it out of print (or whatever one says about hair products)? Damn. Actually just wanted it for the name - bit like Teen Spirit, which my husband refuses to believe wasn't invented by Kurt Cobain. When my cousin comes over from Sydney he takes catering-size jars of Marmite back because apparently Vegemite isn't the same. And I remember when I lived in France the things I missed most were cheddar and cottage cheese, weirdly...

PS - Oh so true - repeat after me, people, SPORTS WEAR DOES NOT MAKE YOU SPORTY.
The whitening ingredient was, I think, more or less like that reflective zinc you get in sunblock - not so much chemical as shiny - so not bad per se, just a bit weirdly shiny...

lakeviewer said...

What a trip! Fun, persuasive and intriguing. You made me think about the wasted hours in hotel rooms that all look alike, when I could have walked to a local supermarket and ....

Lucy Fishwife said...

Lakeviewer - I swear, you will never regret it. At the very least you will end up getting some cold beers to keep in the minibar at a fraction of the hotel price. And at best, a whole range of amazing stuff to bring home. I have some huge curls of cinnamon bark I bought in St Lucia three years ago for about $1.50 and they still smell as strong as the day I bought them. Lovely in mulled wine etc...

ScentScelf said...

Wait a minute...is it deviant behavior to ogle at supermarket shelves? Hmmph. I'm starting to realize I've a rather long list of behaviors that might be, well, odd.

Starting to rethink reactions to me over the years...

"Gee You Hair Smells Terrific"? Wowza...that's retro cool.

Crocs. You do know about the Facebook group, "I don't care what you think, your Crocs make you look like a dumbass," right?

Helg, I ♥ you...can you learn to love my gym shoes? (Erm..."trainers"...) I know, I know; all of Europe laughs at my trainers. Maybe we can join hands over Croc mockery. (After I hide the ones I use for gardening.)

My best geek t-shirt of the moment says "reading is cool / {flip to other side} paperbacks are hot." Though I'd love my old "mood" t-shirt, with a removable mood patch (just like a mood ring)...I think it's hidden somewhere with Lucy's GYHST.

sunt_lacrimae_rerum said...

Supermarkets are a must when visiting abroad. Chunchong, South Korea was a peak experience: they started broadcasting over the supermarket sound system about which aisle the"American Family" was in and they gave us many free samples!

Lucy Fishwife said...

Scentself - I don't know what the clinical term for it (apart from "Deliberately Awkward")is but I find I only start liking products the week before they are discontinued. If Crocs ever go into administration I'm sure I'll find myself buying a pair (or maybe that's a bridge too far).
My friend Foxy bought me a bumper sticker (I don't drive and Mr F refuses to sport it so it's on teh fridge) that says "Reading Is Sexy". Damn yes. Want the t-shirt, if there is one.

SLR - We accidentally ended up on Thai TV once when they were interviewing passers-by in a Bangkok metro station about Bangkok Fashion Week. Mostly I think because we stood out as a foot taller than everyone else and red hair not very common in Thailand!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Oh dear, and this was supposed to be a holiday?

Sounds like you had a very dreary time without even a decent hair product to compensate.

;-)

By the way, as a fellow sufferer of frizzy hair, I can recommend 'It's a 10' leave-in miracle mist or Biosilk hair therapy, both from topcuts website,

Lx

Lucy Fishwife said...

Hello lovely Laura - oh that's just me. I love a moan especially when I'm happy. It's whatever the opposite of tempting fate is. Had a truly fantastic time. Thank you for the recommendations! Will try them, and in return I pass to you the best tip I ever had - for emergency Big Occasion defrizzing, wash your hair but don't use shampoo - just conditioner. The follwing day you will look as though you have deep-fried your head, but on The Day Itself you wil look sleek and gleamy...

Paddy said...

Puritan upbringing (comment 3/4/09)?????
Yeh right elektra kettle

Lucy Fishwife said...

Thank you for your thoughtful input en connaissance de cause, Doctor P, I only said my UPBRINGING was puritan... The results of a puritan upbringing are often the reverse of what ones' parents intended... QV vicars' daughters, convent school girls, Catholics...