Name calling in Latvia

It isn’t often that an important politician visits our corner of the Congo. I make haste to the safari guesthouse on learning that the interior minister of Latvia has arrived. For those of you who’ve been neglecting affairs in the Baltics, Mr Mareks Seglins has been ordered by his president to tour the world on a “cultural sensitivity” sabbatical. This is to atone for his racist outburst at the behaviour of British tourists in Riga, who urinated on a hallowed monument of his nation.

“Those English pigs!” he fulminated. “They are a dirty, hoggish people!”

I find Mr Seglins sitting by himself at the far end of the bar, sipping his drink as inconspicuously as one can. He looks surprised when I greet him by name, his eyes darting suspiciously around the room.

“How you know my name, Gorilla?” he asks.

“I have been following events in your country, Sir. As one who has been pissed on by monkeys from great heights, let me assure you that I understand your anger.”

“You call the monkeys ‘pigs’?” he inquires.

“No indeed, Sir, calling them monkeys is insult enough. Perhaps the next time a British tourist passes water on one of your landmarks you should call him a dog rather than a pig. For it is actually dogs who are most inclined to relieve themselves on objets d’art. Furthermore, this epithet is much less offensive to the British, who are a nation of dog lovers.”

“Next time I call him ‘bastid son of dog’!” he says with a wicked grin.

I accept his compromise and wish him a pleasant stay.

I’m pleased to say that the British tourists I’ve observed on safari have generally behaved impeccably. The manager’s theory is that the cost of these tours keeps out the riff-raff, but I tut-tut such snobbish conjectures. My hunch is that their laudable conduct arises from being placed in small, mixed-nationality groups. This makes them keen to avoid incidents that would cause foreigners to snigger at them behind their backs. In addition, the only grand monuments outside the safari camp are elephants, who are difficult creatures to pee on and apt to hold grudges against those who attempt to do so.

The root cause of the Latvian incident appears to have been over-consumption of alcohol, once described by a Presbyterian minister as “poison from the udders of the cloven-hoofed beast”. Perhaps British tourists should be asked to tick a box, on arrival at their destination, indicating whether wanton intoxication is an objective of their visit. If so, they might be offered accommodation in a gated resort packed with night clubs selling cut-price booze, and restaurants serving wholesome dishes such as egg-and-chips, curry-and-chips, and possibly beaver-and-chips for the more adventurous. Needless to say, the public spaces would be peppered with fountains and sculptures that could serve as open-air urinals.

Should tourists be viewed as ambassadors for their country, as the Latvian minister appears to believe? If one compares humans with crocodiles, it is obvious that the reptiles are far better at representing their species, as they are uniform in their habits and rarely behave out of character. The human population, on the other hand, is subdivided into many strains, including a sizeable contingent of buttheads who rejoice in advertising their coarser traits. Life would be so much simpler if these people were given a country of their own, in the broad open heartlands of Greenland or Siberia. Until such time, the hapless Latvians will have to get used to holding their tongues and washing their public monuments with a powerful detergent.

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