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Here and There

A.A. Gill

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Italians don't have a sense of humour bc they don't need one. The point of telling jokes and having a laugh is to cheer ys up, to make a miserable life a little better. If you live in Wigan, you need a sense of humour. Italian men don't need to swap jokes bc they are already quite happy being Italian men. What Italians have instead of jokes is a boundless, inexhaustible sense of fun.

Travel writers don't tell you much abt beaches bc there is no story. You just sit on the sand or in the sea and relax.

Clemenceau, the Fr pol, famously said that America went from barbarism to degeneration without an interval of civilization. But what is truer is that America went from austere hardship to immense comfort without an intervening thought for good taste.

You start out as a teen buying soft porn mags. Thern as get older and wealthier, move up to car mags, then aviation mags, and finally, super yacht mags. Boats have gone from being way to get around to destinations in their own right. And they aren't used to explore out-of-the-way places, they're usewd to go where other super yachts are. Their decor is a mystery: they all have phoots of other boats on their walls, and they haVE BArs. To have a bar at home is noveau riche naff, but on a boat is chic. At bottom, super yachts are abt control - the super rich want a personal world, complete, where you can micro-manage evrything.

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Chefs are always asked "What wd you have for yr last meal?" In fact yr last meal will prob be uneaten tomato soup. Far more interesting Q is, what national cuisine wd you choose if you had to spend rest of yr life eating it? You're not allowed to choose yr own, and you can't just say French or Italian, bc there's no such thing - you have to pick a region. AA Gill said his favourite is Vietnamese, with it's enormous variety of flavours and textures.

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The most fundamental division of the world is between those in the sun and those in the shade. If you come from the dark, damp north, the sun is always a joyous treat. It doesn't work the other way round - going from warm to cold is no pleasure. But it's no accident that most of humanity's innovations have come from places where you want to spend as little time outside as possible. It's not that cold, wet people are smarter than warm, dry ones, it's just that they have the greater incentive to change things

Places Not To Go To:
1. The Silk Road - sounds like the most romantic destination in the world, but actually, Central Asia is a catastrophe of soli erosion, pollution, police states, poverty, disease and some of the most mistrustful, taciturn people you cd hope to meet. And the food is inedible.
2. Gondola rides in Venice - an unsmiling boatman who will serenade you with curses at every other boat on canal. Being so much closer to the water you get a much better smell of Venice's effluent. While you can't see anything, everyone on the bridges can see you and pass judgement. And it'll cost you more than everything else you do in Venice put together.
3. Camel rides - don't, and don't ride the donkeys down the Grand Canyon or the horse-drawn carriages around Central Park
4. Swedish massage in Sweden - you imagine Anita Ekberg. In fact its a woman from the kitchen appliance dept of IKEA. And it's no different to a massage anywhere else.
5. Whale watching - you have to put up with the company of other idiots for hours
6. Greece

As far as I'm concerned, you can never know too little abt sport

Play geographic tennis with someone. You say a place name and they say the first thing that comes to mind. It was ever this. Herodotus started it. He populated the world with dogfaced men, people who useed their feet as sunshades, and women with breasts large enough to incubate chickens. We laugh, knowing that in fact that's only true about Armenia.

Have you noticed that the poorest places have the grandest churches? It's bc it's far easier to get money out of the destitute thsan the filthy rich. The poor want to go to a better place. The rich know thereisn't going to be a better place.

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Medicinal food in the Third World usually promises one of two things: boy babies or an erection you can open a packing case with.

A food critic really only needs two things to do his job properly: no eating disorders and the gastric morals of a hooker with a mortgage.

No-one has bothered to make a map of Greenland interior, bc although it's the most spectacular landscape you can see outside of Madagascar, it's not mapped bc there's no point. Nothing survives there.

Every place is 3 places - first the place you imagine, second the one you see when you get there, and third the one you remember.

Space tourism has been promised for 20 years and it still hasn't really happened. Would you rather go to Haiti or into space with fivew American billionaires who want to be Chuck Yaeger?

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Astronauts have been steadily devalued since 1960's. Once they were the apogee of human achievement. If you viewed humanity as a pyramid with the Welsh at the bottom, the pointy stone at the top was a man qwearing a fish tank on his head. Today an astronaut is a plumber who has gone into orbit to mend the air-conditioning or to unblock the gravity toilet.

When was the last time you knew the name of a spaceman? (And we're not counting Buzz Lightyear)

One of the rearely mentioned truths of life is that the rich not only live longer than the rest of us, but they get more summers. For most of us summers come but once a year, unless you live in Britain it doen't even come then. But the leisured rich can have two or three p.a. People whose lives are one long summer. They savour bits of their own and then take bits of other peoples around the world.

Chad - where you can fry an egg on the bonnet of your Land Cruiser - in the middle of the night. Chad, where you never sweat or pee, bc you just evaporate.

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