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Alas Myth and Cones: Counting the Costa traffic jams in a city of red lights

18 Jul

I am lucky enough to have two homes. One is a sunshine villa 30 minutes’ drive from Alicante airport, the other a modest semi 18 miles north of Manchester’s three flight terminals.

An airport trip at the English end is subject to an electrifying hazard in the form of 50 sets of traffic lights. The consolation is that no more than 47 tend to be stuck on red at any given time.

If you are lucky enough to actually catch your flight, you do at least face a delightful evening discussing traffic lights with the Spanish cabbie driving you to Guardamar on the N332.

Mention the super-hazard of every street corner in Britain and the taxi driver’s conversation is likely to consist of a quizzical look and the words ‘Que es trah-fick-lie-eat?’

Odds are he won’t know what you are talking about because, believe it or not, there’s not a single set of the things between Alicante and my Costa Blanca home.

At the Manchester end one can, of course, avoid the red-light menace by heading for the airport via the city’s Park-And-Don’t-Move service, otherwise known as the M60 motorway.

That trip is no fun either, aRoadworks on the A21nd unless you give yourself at least two days to get to the airport, a couple of hours with your head immersed in 50 Shades of Red may well be less stressful than counting traffic cones.

Either way, both routes to the airport provide ideal material for a ‘100 Reasons to Escape Manchester’ publicity blitz.

What sort of voyeur gets a kick out of watching traffic cones breeding on the M60, for heaven’s sake? Last time I used the so-called ring road I counted 428 million giant ice-cream cornets during a six-mile crawl to the Trafford Centre. The 14-hour trip was marginally quicker than taking the car but my knees didn’t half hurt by the time I reached my destination. And I was suffering from orange-and-white colour blindness into the bargain.

One of the few perks of driving to Manchester airport via the city centre is that you can stop off for a coffee and a bacon butty. The down side is the £60 parking fine you’ll inevitably get in addition to burning off eight gallons of unleaded in a desperate attempt to park sideways on the single metre of kerb untainted by double yellow lines.

I appreciate that comparing the Costa del Salford with the Costa del Sol is akin to confusing Bury Market with the London Stock Market. But that’s a bourse-case scenario.

There are, in fact, many leisurely compensations for those who choose not to drive in what must surely be the wettest part of the UK. One is enjoying a morning swim to the office in downtown Mancunia’s high-street ocean, known to the aquatic community as the Sea of Umbrellas. The rush hour is so busy that there’s no choice but to do the crawl, and not only because the breast stroke is illegal and a butterfly as rare as an English Mark Spitz.

Which brings me on to football or, for the gob-fearing amongst us, the mouths of Wayne Rooney and Kompany.

Manchester is of course home to two top football teams, namely Bury and Oldham Athletic. Fortunately I don’t support Man United or Man City either, which is a bit of a relief since I don’t speak German (heaven help whoever puts the names on United players’ shirts) and with my flight back to Spain only 24 hours away, I’m pretty low on Sterling too (boom boom).

Oh, a geeky friend just called to say there are actually 49 sets of traffic lights between my Whitefield home and Manchester Airport. Using the bacon-butty route, that is.

I believe there are also 49 million traffic cones between Anfield in Liverpool and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

All paid for in Sterling, of course.

Ryanair kicked me in the ribs – my airline fracture’s killing me

4 May

I SUPPOSE it was fated to happen after all the bashings I’ve given to the airline the world hates to love.

Not satisfied with fleecing me of 50 euros on the outward trip, Ryanair kicked me in the ribs on my return flight to Alicante from Manchester.

Well, I’ve got to blame someone – and they’re used to it!

I’ve been doubled up in pain for the last 10 days, with the prospect of  two more weeks explaining why I’m crawling about like a 90-year-old crab.

After my heinous crime on the flight to the UK (and the €50 fine levied by a human Rottweiler at the boarding desk who would have preferred the death sentence), I arrived at the departure gate in Manchester prepared for a handbag war.

I’d replaced the criminally large one I took to England with a mini-handbag which fitted easily into my hand luggage and took my place in the Ryanair ‘Priority’ queue ready for the flak to fly as it had at Alicante.

No such luck – Jonny Rottweiler and the Air Pirates were nowhere in sight,  just a couple of polite lady pussy cats.

Here was the reality of ageism. The young Spanish jobsworths at Alicante had both been in their twenties. The British-Asian women who checked me through the boarding gate at Manchester were double their age – and consequently graduates in tact and diplomacy.

Before joining the queue, I had plonked my 10 kilos of  cabin luggage into the Ryanair size rack and, surprise surprise, it just about fitted. But then, of course I couldn’t get it out. I pulled and pulled and eventually a  male passenger did the job for me.

I half expected Rott-man to appear with a set of scales and weigh my bag in at 10.1 kilos. Which I presume would also incur a €50 fine.

Come to think of it, why do Ryanair not check the weight of hand luggage carried  by passengers  with online boarding cards? (I shouldn’t have mentioned that. They might get ideas).

Anyway, on to the meat of this article – how Ryanair condemned me to suffer.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere at Manchester airport, I was happy enough to get past the boarding gate. A particularly helpful gentleman (yes, they do still exist) helped me get my 10 kilos’ worth aboard  and I settled into my reserved front-row window seat (at €10 extra, a snip for creaking oldies).

OK Mr O'Leary, you win. Please put us down
You win, Michael. Please put us down

Two  po-faced women were already  filling the two adjacent seats. I smiled at the fatty wedged next to me and made a light-hearted comment designed to break the ice. She froze me out with one cold look. No problem, I thought,  she’s probably foreign and didn’t understand me.

She turned to her pal and spouted something in fluent Jamie Carragher. There we are, I knew she was foreign.

As passengers without reserved seats (which was virtually everyone) funnelled through the plane, the male steward asked the Liverpool lasses if they had reserved the seats they were in.

‘’No’’ .

‘’You can’t sit here then,’’ he told them, to my intense pleasure. “Anywhere after Row 6, please.’’

Reluctantly, the Liver Birds  headed for the rear of the plane, to be replaced by two suited young Spaniards who DID have reservations. Great, I thought – convinced I’d get in a bit of  Spanish practice during the ensuing  two and a bit hours.

No chance. Los chicos babbled away so rapido that I barely understood a palabra – and I quickly realised they had nothing in common with a grumpy old geriatric.

Because of back problems, I have difficulty bending down. So when, soon after take-off, I dropped the Ryanair flight magazine, the sensible thing would have been to ask one of the Spanish guys if he could help.

But this was ‘Grabber Granny’ hour, so down I stretched to rescue the fallen literary classic.

After two or three failed attempts, I sat up again and thought ‘I’m making a fool of myself. I’ve got to get it next time.’

I lurched forward and felt a big crack in my lower ribs, accompanied by a fierce pulled-muscle type pain.

Since then, I have thought of little but Ryanair. When I’m not yelling for relief, that is.

I think of them when I wake up in the morning, when I sit down or stand up,  when I get in and out of my car, in fact I never stop thinking about the floor of that plane.’ They had no right to put it there.

I’m in pain just about every second of the day. And I’m told the only cure for  rib damage is rest and patience.

Michael O’Leary, you’re a cruel man.I have only word to say to you and your airline.


My life has gone to the mogs and that’s just…PURRFECT

1 Sep

THEY say that cats have nine lives. Well, my life has nine cats.

At least it seems that way as just about every waif and stray in the neighbourhood queues at my cat flap for its daily food fix.

Officially I have three moggies. The first is mad Molly, who is small, black, weirdly mis-shapen and has learning difficulties (the description of her previous owner, not mine).

MOLLY: Not intelligent enough to have learning difficulties

Poor Molly’s not intelligent enough to have learning difficulties. The cat flap’s been there for three years and she still doesn’t know how to use it.

MOGGY No.2 is Geoffrey (Geoffrey Boycat to give him his full name – apt for an animal that moves as slowly as his cricketing namesake used to score runs for England). My Geoff is a black, long-haired softie of a stray who was probably lost or left by his previous owner a long time ago.

Certainly someone cared for him because he was neutered and healthy when he first started coming to my place.

In fact, it’s possible he still has another home because he sometimes goes missing for a day or two.

MOGGY No.3 is Henry, a young tabby who turned up at my back door last autumn with a hairless, bleeding chest and a mega-miaow.

‘’I suspect he’s been in a fight but I can stitch it up, no problem,’’ said the vet. ‘’I would advise you to have him neutered as soon as possibly, though. Not only will it stop him fighting, it will also help to keep the cat population down and make him more of a house cat.’’

Twenty-four hours later, Henry moved in – neatly stitched, snipped and tucked. When his chest took longer than expected to heal, I took him back to the vet…and a blood test revealed he was FIV-positive, the feline equivalent of HIV.

‘’It’s nothing to worry about,’’ said the vet. ‘’He was almost certainly born with it. It’s quite common and he has a good chance of leading a normal life. Because he has been neutered, he’s highly unlikely to pass the FIV on, even through sharing food bowls with other cats.’’

All of which makes Henry a bit special. After all we’ve been mutually stitched up – him by the vet and me by Henry, who could have saved me a lot of money had he turned up on someone else’s doorstep! (I’m joking…wouldn’t be without him for anything.

Add to Molly, Geoffrey and Henry the half-a dozen feral waifs and strays which turn up at various times of the day and night – and the menagerie-a-trois moves into mega-moggy mode. And thereby hangs another tail…the tale of why I prefer cats to dogs.

Now I’ve written a couple of light-hearted articles in the past about the respective merits and otherwise of each species, so apologies to those who have previously been subjected to what follows.

HENRY: I had him stitched up - then he stitched me up!

Cats are to me the most mysterious, fascinating and wonderful creatures on earth. Not only can they read your mind, they can also manipulate it to their own advantage. That’s the voice of 40 years of cat ownership speaking. Oh, and I didn’t own any of my moggies – they owned me.

I was THEIR pet, not the reverse. If it didn’t suit them to live in my home, they’d have been off like a flash to appoint some other purr soul as honorary daily food-and-milk supplier. Some of us are cat people, some dog people and some, like myself, care for both. Only we usually have a preference and in my household, moggies have always held the edge. To start with, they allow their owner more independence.

If you’re not around for a few days, it doesn’t really matter as long as someone is there to feed them.

Leave a dog on its own for two days and you’re not only in serious trouble with the animal authorities, the poor mutt will also have moped itself into a candidate for the canine nuthouse.

Then there is the cleanliness issue.

Dogs love to pepper their noses with the ghastliest of savouries left for them by their fellow barkers. The browner and smellier the better for Fido and his pals, and the worse for those of us whose shoes squelch the stink into our rugs and carpets when we get home.

From my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to house-train a puppy. It will pee and poo to order providing you let it out a minimum of 250 times a day.

But pop out yourself for five minutes and you open the door on your return to a mound of doggy dung and a floor awash with a ship-load of urine.

The yelps when Little Poo is left momentarily on its own are bad enough. But they are nothing to the yelps of human anger that boom into the stratosphere when Mr and Mrs Owner discover what poochie was up to while they were out of the room.

Yet to a dog lover, those Close Encounters of the T*rd Kind are all acceptable in exchange for the pure, uncomplicated love you are guaranteed in return for just being there.

Who cares that Fido spends all day rolling in mud, urine, vomit and the faeces of every animal on earth? It only takes a couple of hours to clean him up – and then those luscious licks and doggy hugs make it all worthwhile. Unless, like me, you’re already so browned off by those pooper bloopers that you’ve vowed never to have a dog again.

Cats are a complete contrast. House-trained before they’ve ever seen a house, all a kitten needs is a litter tray and it will wee and poo into it ad infinitum.

Mind you, removing the hail of stones that hurtle around the house in mini-puss’s attempts to bury the residue with its lethal back feet can take twice as long as clearing up after any untrained puppy.

Moggies also need no teaching when it comes to cleaning themselves. And thereby hangs another tale – plus body, head and legs.

Before you know it, puss has licked herself bald and is coughing up a two-ton hair ball. You rush her to the vet thinking she’s on her last legs but fear not…they all do it. Unless, like my Molly, the furry one suffers from feline asthma and vomits up nothing but wheeze.

GEOFFREY: Does he have another home?

If your cat is a Tom, then you have another problem or three. First and worst is his territory spraying, and the pungent, difficult-to-remove smell it creates.

Then there’s his sexual appetite, which he’ll inevitably impose on all the local moggettes – accompanied by a cat’s chorus loud enough to drown out a 30-piece orchestra. The solution to that one is simple.

Have Tiger Tom snipped in the bud when he’s a few months old and the spraying and s****ing will be a thing of the past. If you have a dog, you will of course need to take it for walks.

Unless you are a lazy bitch like one or two of my friends – and end up with a mutt that’s even fatter than its owner. In such instances, at least fatso and her pet won’t need a pooper scooper to clean up the dog mess, though not that many people seem to bother if the pavements in my locality at El Raso are anything to go by.

People not clearing up the mess left by their dogs in public places is a big problem everywhere. But here’s a question for you: If you saw a threatening-looking yob’s pit-bull pooing outside your home and he didn’t clean up the mess (the yob, not the pitbull), what would you do?

If your answer is ‘nothing’, score a brownie point for honesty. As for me, I’ll stick with my moggies. I just wish they could purr in English.

Published in The Courier ( September 2, 2011

Ryanair, rip-offs and reason: Micky is taking the Mickey

28 Aug

MY opinion of Ryanair has always been consistent. I wouldn’t touch them with an air bridge.

Michael O’Leary’s methods of making money do work – but at the expense of rubbing an awful lot of people up the wrong way. Including me.

What some people don’t realise is that Ripoff-air’s seemingly low prices are heavily subsidised by those poor people who HAVE to make emergency late bookings for unforeseen emergencies like family bereavements.

And by the millions of families who cannot take vacations off-peak and are forced to pay silly prices to travel during school holiday periods.

Counting the Costa: Talia, boarding card and mum Lisa

My daughter Lisa has just been lumbered with just such a situation – and ended up paying a fortune for a ONE-WAY Ryanair ticket from Alicante to Liverpool for her 15-year-old daughter Talia. Plus heaven knows how much more in £1-per-minute Premium Rate phone calls to verify details with arguably the most elusive customer call centre on the planet.

Talia was away with her school in Holland when Lisa and the rest of the family flew out to my place in Spain last week. So she travelled with me on my return from the UK on Monday – on a single Monarch ticket which cost a total of £54.48, including all taxes plus a suitcase. That reservation was made on July 29 – just three weeks before the date of travel.

A very fair price in the peak season, by anyone’s standards.

However, since Talia is 15, she is not allowed to travel alone, so the only way of getting her back to the UK in time for the new school term was to add her to her mother’s party. And they are booked on Ryanair’s Alicante to Liverpool run next Monday.

I had tried to make Talia’s reservation while I was in England, but Ryanair’s online booking service, unaware that she would be on the same flight as her mother, predictably rejected the booking with a message that under-16s cannot travel alone.

The only option remaining was for Lisa to add Talia to her travelling party herself, which she eventually managed to do – but by now it was only10 days before the date of travel.

Enter Michael Skybandit O’Leary and his rip-off boys, rubbing their hands with glee.

What would be a fair price to pay for a one-way ticket from Alicante to Liverpool in late August? The £54.48 charged by Monarch? No, that would be incredibly cheap. Say100 euros, then – 120 top whack?

No chance. For the pleasure of travelling one way from Alicante to Liverpool, with absolutely no frills, Lisa was fleeced for 228.99 euros – or £212.84 sterling at Ryanair’s. A predictably miserable exchange rate.

And still the expense was not over, because Talia had to be booked as an Adult to circumvent the system – and Lisa then had to call the Rip-offair office to switch the documentation to Child.

That in itself took three days, which won’t surprise most of you.

Ripoff-air even managed to include a €6 administration fee – presumably for the extra work involved in counting the money. Plus another €6 for web check-in. Does that mean Talia can check in for free at the airport…before Ripoff-airs jobsworths tell her she can’t take her hand luggage on board because the bag is 4mm too wide?

Ryanair’s sharp practices are not even clever. ‘‘Passengers who do not present a boarding pass at the airport will be charged a reissue fee of £40’’, they warn. Forty pounds! How much does it cost Ryanair to print a piece of paper, for heaven’s sake.

Oh, and each boarding pass ‘‘’must be printed and presented on an individual A4 page’’. Get it wrong and it’s gonna cost you again but then, when do O’Leary’s boys NOT take the Micky?

A Cork-based friend of mine travels to Alicante with Ryanair because has no other option. And he reckons their attitude is not one of gratitude for his business but that THEY are doing HIM a favour in providing a service.

Another friend’s experience last year suggests that Ryanair should consider adopting the expression ‘The Customer is Always Wrong’ as their official slogan.

My pal Andres Ballesteros, whose English is adequate but not perfect, paid on line for a return ticket from Liverpool to Alicante for his UK-based son – only to realise almost immediately that he had booked the flights back to front.

It was clearly a genuine mistake but Andres, who lives in El Altet, accepted he’d have to fork out another 20 euros or so to have the dates reversed. But when he phoned Ryanair’s call centre, a dismissive female operator told him haughtily: ‘‘It’s your mistake. You’ll just have to pay again’’.

Consequently, poor Andres had to rebook both flights, more than doubling the cost and adding a tasty bonus to O’Leary’s greed machine. World’s Most Popular Airline? World’s Least Caring Airline more likely.

Lisa reckons Ryanair have made a total of around £250 out of Talia’s single fare. No frills? At that price, my granddaughter should be getting all the frills of every inflated fare O’Leary has pocketed all summer.

PS: I just took a look at Monarch’s website in order to make a direct comparison with Ryanair – and guess what? A one-way ticket from Alicante to Manchester on Monday (August 29) would cost me €420.50! I stand corrected – it seems that when it comes to holiday time, the fly-boys are all as bad as each other.

Published in The Courier ( August 26, 2011

When the ‘charity’ collector comes calling…

26 Jul

I’VE never been sure what the Spanish law is regarding door-to-door charity collections.
On one hand I’m told it’s illegal, and that the people who ring my bell trying to raise money for a new school/hospice/orphanage/public toilet are in fact bogus.
On the other hand, you have those charity callers whose impressive documentation .and smooth tongue convinces you they are for real.
‘’Don’t give money to anyone collecting at the door,’’ is the clear message from both my community president and the local Neighbourhood Watch. ‘‘The odds are that they are not genuine.’’
Well, for the last two or three years, this cheerful-looking Spanish guy in his 40s, lways armed with identity card, badge, documents and flyers galore, has been doing his best to squeeze euros out of the expat community around my home.
Some people give, some don’t. And I admit he’s sweet-talked me into parting with a few euros in the past.
But that was before I became Editor of The Courier – and in fact, before this newspaper even came into existence.
This time I was armed with a powerful new weapon and II plotted a scheme that would make or break him next time he came calling..
I would to tell him I was writing an article on residents being pestered by bogus charity collectors. I wanted take his photograph and put it in The Courier, at the same time confirming to readers that he was no Luis the Ladrón and represented a genuine cause.
I figured that an honest collector would agree instantly to being photographed since it would surely improve hisreturns…while an imposter would run a mile.
I was in the garden when he turned up in mid-afternoon a couple of weeks ago.
‘Hola senora, you Engleesh?’’
He clearly didn’t remember me – not that I wanted him to.
‘’Yes, I want to speak to you,’’ I replied in Spanish, going straight on the attack as he pulled his documents out of his briefcase.
I reeled off my proposal (well, hardly reeled it off – my Spanish isn’t particularly good) and then mentioned taking his photo.
He did not like the idea. In fact, it horrified him. ‘No photograph!’’ he snapped, quickly putting his papers back in his briefcase. ‘‘Definitely not. It is illegal to take photos in Spain.’’
‘‘It’s illegal to collect money door to door in Spain, more likely,’’ I retorted, uncertain whether this was in fact true.
With that, he thrust the leaflet alongside into my hand and stalked off to accost another potential victim.
The following day a respectable looking woman aged about 30 appeared at the front gate and began the charity sales talk. Or so I thought.
‘‘I’m sorry but there’s a great suspicion of charity collectors around here,’’ I said, lining up another photographic session. ‘‘People think you are not genuine.’’
‘‘Charity? I’m not collecting for charity, cariño,’’ she retorted indignantly. ‘‘I’m collecting for ME. For me and my family.’’
There followed a party political broadcast on behalf of Spain’s unemployed masses. She told me she had lost her job, her husband was out of work and his dole had been stopped, and they had three kids to feed.
How else could she support them than by calling on the generosity of more affluent people?
I know she could have been conning. But if she was, she deserved the €10 I gave her just for her acting skills.
Genuine or not, her face lit up at the sight of the money and she couldn’t thank me or hug me enough. ‘‘This will pay the lighting bill tomorrow, carino. I’m so happy.’’
And off she went with a parting shot. ‘‘Watch out for those charity collectors. You never know if their genuine.’’


TALKING of uninvited callers, I got into conversation the other day with two very nice ladies about…the end of the world.
Yes, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now although I am not a Christian, I have never been one of those ‘we’re not interested – clear off’ types.
Indeed, apart from the fact that they are invariably humble, gentle people, I have the greatest admiration for the courage of Witnesses in the face of adversity.
Namely the antagonism of so many people who resent their intrusion. It’s all very well to turn them away politely but firmly, but verbal aggression and rudeness is not necessary.
I’d also like to clear up one or two misconceptions about Jehovah’s Witnesses. First of all, they are neither crazy nor any more deluded than followers of any other religious order. Indeed, to me their message rings truer than most.
The mess that mankind has got the world into needs sorting urgently – and who better to handle it than Big G himself? And soon!
I would never have the courage or dedication to become a Witness. But I do wish I could truly BELIEVE because it immediately takes all the fear out of dying
‘‘I bet you get a lot more abuse than friendliness when you knock on doors,’’ I said to my visitors. ‘‘You are so brave to carry on despite all the resentment.’’
‘‘The strength to go on doesn’t come from us – but from Jehovah,’’ they replied.
I come from Jewish roots, but as a lifelong agnostic, I have spent my entire life wondering what existence is all about.
But there has to be more to it than eating, drinking and making a nuisance of ourselves.
Jehovah’s Witness literature often portrays their idea of the Paradise awaiting believers.
We see images of Mum, Dad and smiling kids strolling and playing in a sunny Garden of Eden, their pets – including lions and tigers – sitting obediently at their feet.
Beat you to it, guys. I’m in Paradise every time I sit in my sunny garden, full of glorious summer colour, with one purring moggy on my lap and another at my side.
In this life, that’s as good as it gets for me. It almost makes my chronic backache worthwhile…

‘Dirty, apologetic, drunken, tattooed dog-mad hooligans’

25 Apr


Jose Monllor Perez is small, dark, law-abiding and enjoys nothing more than relaxing with his pals, a cerveza and a cigarette. A stereotypical Spaniard, you might say.

We all have our own views on what exactly constitutes an archetypal native of this particular Iberian nation. But how do the Spanish see the thousands, nay millions, of British holidaymakers who swarm around their country seeking the sunshine that invariably shuns our own grid-locked island?

For the past dozen years Perez, 43, has been teaching Spanish to students of all nationalities (me included) at the Berlingua School of Languages in Quesada in the Costa Blanca – the majority of them English.

Teaching runs in Jose’s family and after seeing 4,000 pupils pass through Berlingua’s doors, he’s a pretty good judge of character. The Alicante-born profesora is also a dab hand at another trait that runs in the family – art. And he paints a hilarious tongue-in-cheek assessment of the stereotypical Brit.

Spainly speaking, it seems we are an apologetic, dog-crazy, dirty, unfit, drunken bunch of tattooed hooligans. And those are our good points!
The bad guys apparently all wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas.

Here’s the lowdown on how Spaniards see us – as interpreted by Perez.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 1: ‘‘They are always saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Sometimes I think that if you stamped on an Englishman he would apologise. And they say ‘thank you’ so much that the Spanish believe you thank cash machines after withdrawing money.’’

Next comes the obligatory condemnation of our drinking excesses. No, not getting sozzled every day and spending most nights, in the words of Billy Connolly, ‘‘talking to Hughey down the big white telephone’’. Something gentler and more refined than that – tea.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 2: ‘‘They drink tea at all hours – and with COLD milk. Uggh! I thought it was meant to be a hot drink!’’

The fun stops when we move on to the UK’s much-maligned drink culture, which arguably represents the most vivid stereotypical image of an Englishman in the eyes of 21st-century Europe.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 3: ‘‘The English drink far too much beer and wine and they all seem to spend all day in a state of drunkenness. ”

Of course, when we’re on the beach or by the swimming pool, all that booze makes us forget that our white skins are being roasted by el sol.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 5: ‘‘They just can’t take the sun. Their white skin never goes brown – it’s always bright red.’’

And then there is our perceived obsession with queueing.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 6: ‘‘They love to stand in a line waiting. Sometimes I think they make queues when there is nothing to queue for!’’

The British attitude to pets is another peculiarity that amuses Perez.

Jose Monllor Perez: ‘Every person is an individual'

BRIT STEREOTYPE 7: ‘‘They really love your dogs. We think they sleep with them, eat with them, take them on the bus, go into bars and get drunk with them – and then take each other home. They spend a fortune on their animals, but as for having a RABBIT as a pet, now that we cannot understand!’’

Perez confesses that the Channel 4 programme How Clean Is Your House? has sparked a suspicion among Spaniards that the entire nation is DIRTY. ‘‘That TV show is incredible,’’ he says. ‘‘The gardens are clean and tidy, but inside the houses it’s completely the opposite. If I go into an English bar after seeing that programme, I always examine the cups and spoons!’’ Then, of course, there is our physical shape.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 8: ‘‘Their fitness levels are bad with lots of people overweight – and the guys all have tattoos and look like hooligans.’’

According to Perez, the Spanish also see us as bashful when it comes to discussing sexual matters and hmmm, let’s say anything involving personal excretions. But when it comes to using the F word, then there’s no holding us back…

Away from the wisecracking, Jose insists that only ignorant people actually BELIEVE these characteristics are representative of the nation. ‘‘Each person is an individual,’’ he insists. ‘‘There are Englishmen who do not drink tea, Spanish who don’t like flamenco, Germans who not have a moustache, Italian pizza haters, non-romantic Frenchmen and Russians who don’t belong to the Mafia.

‘‘Our brain wants to save energy and work quickly, so it creates stereotypes. It’s easier to believe than that each person is uniquely different.’’