It’s holiday time, the season when traditionally we activate the “out of office” response on our email and jet off to spend a fortnight dressed only in a pair of Speedos the size of a postage stamp — on account of our budget airline wanting to charge us £983 at check-in on top of the price of the £17 plane ticket if we turn out to be the sort of crazy travellers who might want to take any actual luggage on holiday with us.
But I have just returned from a fortnight in France and feel bound to confess to some aberrational tourist behaviour: I visited many local food markets during my stay there but — are you ready? — I didn’t take a single photograph of fruit or vegetables.
Visiting food markets and photographing the fruit seems to be a purely holiday-related pastime. Possibly this behaviour is heat-induced. You can walk through the fresh produce aisles of your local Waitrose without ever slapping your forehead and hissing, “Darn it! I can’t believe I forgot my camera!”
You can stroll the length of your local market, past pyramids of bright oranges, and never once find yourself framing your two palms — one facing toward you, the other facing away — into that shape that improvises a rectangular window like a camera viewfinder, the way film directors do when they’re assessing the potential of a celluloid image. You can spend all Sunday in Golders Green without ever itching to photograph a tray of bagels.
But the minute people see a street market abroad, they take photos of tomatoes. It’s a mystery that cameras — alongside their settings for “daylight”, “flash”, “portrait” and “landscape” — don’t also have one for “apricots”. The natives look at these visitors like they’re morons. But foreigners act the same way when they visit markets in London.
Then, a fortnight later, the tourists return home with their holiday booty.
Returning Tourist: “Harry, have we shown you our holiday photos?”
Harry: “These look like peaches.”
RT: “Gee, thanks. I’m no Cartier Bresson, but I guess they’re not bad.”
Harry: “No, I mean they are actual pictures of peaches.”
RT: “But what peaches, Harry! Would you like to see my aubergine shots?”
Harry: “Haven’t you got any photos of famous landmarks? Or of people?”
RT: “Sure I have! This is of me at the casino in Cannes.”
Harry: “You play blackjack in Speedos?”