Monday, 22 October 2007

The Tunisian Weekend

You have to forgive me if I’m looking a little ragged around the edges this morning. We’re just back from a whistle stop holiday in Tunisia. And can I just say what a wonderful nation it is. Such colour, such weather, and a nation full of wonderful customs, cuisine, and culture. The only thing that let it down was those damn Tunisians and their inability to understand English. They want to speak nothing but French or Arabic, which you might think suits a man who works on Channel 4. But it doesn’t. There wasn’t a single shop selling subtitles. Judy suggested that we buy one of those remote controls to change audio track but we were sorely let down by the absence of a Dixons on the Tunisian high street. There wasn’t even a Boots.

After struggling to get to our hotel, we decided to do things the old fashioned way, by paying a local to translate everything for us. Only not being used to having a translator, I soon got into some difficulty because I didn’t know who was speaking or what was being translated. Our translator would start chatting to us and I’d think he’s talking to me when, in fact, he was merely translating something somebody else had said to him. I didn’t know who to look at, whose hand to shake, or, at one point, which end of the donkey to give the carrot. I soon realised that the problem lay in our translator looking too much like the locals and I solved this problem by putting a paper bag on his head. We spent the whole weekend in Tunisia being trailed around by a man wearing a brown paper bag, translating everything we heard.

In the end it was a good bit of business. We managed to do our piece for the Holiday Programme before we jetted home again late last night, and landed in Heathrow around midnight. To say things have been a bit hectic is an understatement. The last thing we needed was more trouble.

This morning we were back to our usual routine with a shopping trip to the supermarket. We were walking around our local Tesco, when Judy suddenly nudged me.

‘Richard,’ she said. ‘Did you notice something odd?’

‘Odd? What kind of odd?’ I asked, dumping a leg of lamb into the trolley.

‘Back at the cheese counter,’ she said. ‘When you were buying your weekly Edam. Everything you said sounded a bit foreign.’


‘Well, a bit Arabic but mixed with a little French.’

As soon as she’d said it, I knew she was right. But I was also busy slapping my head, realising my oversight.

‘We forget to pay him off!’ I cried, dragging the figure in the paper bag from the shadows of the cracker section. ‘It was my fault. I was so used to having him with us, I must have paid for his seat on the plane back.’

‘I did wonder why British Airways sounded more like Air France,’ said Judy. ‘But what do we do now?’

‘We might take the bag off his head to begin with,’ I suggested.

Judy whistled and raised her eyes to the security cameras. ‘Immigration,’ she sang in warning.

She was right. You have no idea who is watching the feed from these supermarket cameras. The last thing the Richard&Judy show needs is a reputation for hiring illegal immigrant labour. In the end, we bundled him into the Range Rover and headed straight for Heathrow where we left him by the terminal building, with enough money to buy himself a ticket home. I think he was happy with the arrangement but, with the paper bag still on his head, I really couldn’t tell. But that’s another problem with Tunisians. They are people who very rarely show their emotions. And you can consider that your Richard Madeley Certified Fact of the Day.


Mopsa said...

Dick - you are on the edge of being edgy. Keep it up!

elberry said...

That was just what i'd been longing for, thank you.

Goddamn Tunisians.

Tunisian Warlord said...

How dare this man badmouth and be haughty unto the Tunisian rabble? This Richard Madeley is a whore and babbler it is clear. Forsooth Iblis is in his belly and he has the cloven feet.

I demand apology and execution. Scimitar the Madeley man and wife.

jacqui said...

i think this man needs a reality check not everyone in the world expects to go to another country and they all speak English HOW RUDE and to be honest typical. My husband is Tunisian and speaks better English than that muppet and his side kick wife

Richard Madeley said...

Jacqui, I'm so outraged too. I don't know what I was thinking, being so rude.

Aslemma said...

Utterly attrocious. It certainly demeans Richard rather than the Tunisians. I visit regularly and most of the Tunisians I've met speak fluent English, together with many other languages, unlike Richaard apparently.

Richard Madeley said...

[rolls eyes]

Hector said...

I came to this website because I'd been reading the lovely website. I must say I'm disgusted about your attitude to Tunisia and the lovely Tunisian people. You are an evil man. I think you say horrible things and I think this blog should be banned. You are a disgrace.

A Typical Tunisian said...

Madeley is the Iblis, the Fire-Djinn, Shaitan! The hordes descend in a thousand whirling knives! Death to the man who defiles Tunisia the Sacred! Judy the Whore of Channel 4 Babylon will be cast from a high tower and eaten by wild dogs!

Then Richard will know the error of his ways!

elberry said...

Madeley, once again you've skewered those damn Tuna-vendors where they have it coming. i've eaten a lot of tuna in my life, with mayo, without mayo, in sandwiches, with pasta, and i know a lot about tuna. It's rotten. They catch dolphins in their nets, these Tunisians, and they don't care, that's what.

Once again, you've proven your journalistic credentials by taking on the monster that is Tunisia, Tunisia the Dolphin-killer.

Dave said...

Well I dont know what this Maddley man is on about, I've lived in Tunisia for years. I'm a BRit of course, ex-pat, the best, the natives love us Brits, we treat them with respect and tip them well, they love us, the little brown brothers. I've taught them a lot of English so I don't know what this articel is on about, this man Maddley is up his own you-know-what, he should head over here I've punch his blasted lights out I'm not some pushover I knocked ABdul out the other day, the little rotter I can deal with some goddamn journalist who looks like a gay model I'm not a homohobic or anything of course those sisters can do what they want there's plennty of that lot here of coarse ARabs welll yo utry to educate them but they ain't Christian at the end of the day.

Hope that makes it clear!" Shut up Maddley! Shut up! Shut up!

Dave said...

and annother thing that Judy isnt bad, wasted on that rent boy Maddley, send her here! shut up Maddley and send your wife here!

Martin said...

Hi Dick

My name is Martin. Or Mart, if you like. I'm a pretty fucking famous novelist in England, let's just say my surname is even more famous than me. I was thinking of emigrating to Tunisia but your article is a tad off-putting. I'm aware of your high reputation within English journalism, of course, but this is a bit fucking much. Can you clarify, should I decamp from old Blighty to Tunisia, or not?

Sandra said...

Hi Martin, Don't listen to Dick - and his surname really should be Head after those remarks. Been living here for several years and the majority of Tunisians put us to shame with their linguistic skills - many with a minimum of 4 fluent languages - how many people in the UK can say the same? And as for showing no emotions! - absolute rubbish! You have the choice - stay in rip off, dreary Britain with your taxes going towards those who won't work or live in the sun in Tunisia with some of the friendliest, respectful people for whom family values are top priority and remember if people here don't work they don't eat! There is zero tolerance to crime & drugs and you are not afraid to walk along the street - it's 100 times safer than the UK. It's a fantastic place to live.

Sandra said...

And why do we need security cameras in supermarkets? Oh I forgot some people lift things and forget to pay for them!!!

Zed said...

Is this post meant to be funny? Was there a need for such pointless comments? Tunisia has some of the friendliest and most respectful people who actually do speak good english as they are taught from the age of 10. Its like some Tunisian person coming to the UK and getting annoyed because people aren't trilingual or speak Arabic/French. The difference is they do speak english in Tunisia. All the comments posted in the blog are Medeley's rude/false/judgemental views about Tunisia, staying there for a weekend.

'And can I just say what a wonderful nation it is' I agree with this comment.

Richard Medeley should get his facts straight before posting such pointless things on his blog. If its meant to be 'tongue-in-cheek' then I'm sure Richard himself admits it went to far.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic, I love it youve really hit the nail on the head, take it as it is - comical. I enjoyed reading your intake on Tunisia it certainly isnt everyone's cup of tea I agree. APPLAUD

Anonymous said...

Well Richard, normally i'd be a big fan of yours and judys, however this does go a bit far. I've seen your apology on but i still want to put forward my views.
Tunisia is one of the most wonderful and welcoming places in the world. I have many friends there, some of whom have very little English. Infact one of my closest friends in Tunisia doesn't have any English at all but we still finds ways to communicate to each other. Which brings me to the emotions comment. Tunisians are so open and this is one of the reasons this friendship is so strong. I was very disapointed to see your comments and suggest perhaps you return to Tunisia for a longer visit so you can fully appreciate the country, the people and all they have to offer.

ps I would have to agree that Tunisians language skills are far more acceptional than in Britain or Ireland. Most of my Tunisian friends have many more languages than my Irish ones!!!!

Richard Madeley said...


Oh, leave it off! At first I was amused by these ‘outraged’ comments but now I’m getting pretty tired of them. I will not sit here and be lectured to as though I’m a five year old child. Do you honestly think I’m an idiot? If you believe everything I write, then I feel sorry for you. As for apologising. I don’t believe I have ever apologised. I have been misunderstood but that’s hardly my problem. So, to settle this once and for all, let me stand to one side of this and be explicit about why I wrote this piece.

I wrote what, in my mind, was a mild *satire* about British attitudes towards ‘The Other’, being in this case, Tunisia and the Tunisian people. I chose Tunisia because I like the word. It sits nicely on the ear. The target of the piece – the people who should feel aggrieve – are not the Tunisians but the British. Many Brits go to these foreign countries and patronise the people and their cultures. In a post-colonial world, they fail to set to one side their established modes of thought, speech and action. We Brits impose values on those cultures that are alien to them. In Spain, we build fish and chip shops, import English culture, English pubs, newspapers, television. We abuse the country and turn it into a version of England just with ‘better weather’. Is that right? Of course it isn’t. Do I think the British are better than the Tunisians? No. This is satire. I think the British can be a fairly ugly nation and I speak as a native. I side with the point of view of the outsider. I prefer the integrity of other cultures rather than our own cheap bastardisation of Americana where ‘culture’ amounts to a bucket of chicken and a can of lager. I would not go to a foreign country, expecting the natives to speak my language. The very notion is ridiculous. So ridiculous that it beggars belief that anybody could think otherwise.

You see? I have enough wits to realise what I’m saying.

Stupidity annoys me, intolerance annoys me, cruelty annoys me, and people who believe they have a moral superiority annoy me. I wrote about once killing a mouse and somebody complained. Have I ever killed a mouse? No. Would I ever kill a mouse? No. Do I think it right people kill mice? Not really, though I accept that it sometimes has to be done and would argue that it needs to be done humanely. Does it mean I can’t write about violently killing a mouse it if I think it’s funny? Of course it doesn’t. Monty Python’s sketch where they play the mouse organ is hilarious. It is what’s known as using overstatement as a means of comedy.

In the case of Tunisia, I’m sure it’s like the rest of the world: full of good people, bad people, clever people, stupid people, and every one of them trying to understand what it means to be a living human being. There are also, clearly, quite a few gullible people who believe everything they read, understand neither me nor my sense of humour, and think they have some moral covenant to come and lecture me on behalf of the Tunisian nation.

Yet, what annoys me the most is the assumptions that you yourself hold and seem oblivious to. You write: ‘most of my Tunisian friends have many more languages than my Irish ones!!!!’ Now, why shouldn’t I reply to that with that same tone of moral indignation that you’re so willing to use with me? Why shouldn’t I take offence at that line and those four exclamation marks? I might ask: well, why shouldn’t they? Why are you surprised that your Tunisian friends know more languages? Do you think that your Irish friends are somehow more intelligent? For myself, I know that Tunisians know more languages given the history of the nation and the shifting borders of empires throughout Southern Europe and North Africa over the last millennia and more. The deliberate irony of my piece was the notion that two Westerners could be so stupid as to criticise people for not speaking one language when they know two or three.

In the end, I’m sure it made you feel quite worthy having leapt to defend Tunisia’s honour. However, some might argue that your own actions were a form of paternalism that paradoxically carried within itself the very thing it hoped to censure in others. Please don’t treat everybody you meet on the internet as though they are a fool. I hope you now see that not all of us are.

maykal said...

I'm really not sure how I ended up on your blog, but I did almost choke on my couscous when I noticed you'd nicked one of my pictures...

Daytime celebrities pilfering pictures from the penniless? Don't know whether to be flattered or nonplussed.

Richard Madeley said...

Makyal, oh dear me! I've removed the offending picture. It was a sinful thing to do, along with all the other sins I've been accused of in this single post. How can you forgive me? I can only blame the lazy habits of all bloggers. I'm now going to flagellate myself until my back is raw and I have atoned for my intellectual trespass.

(At least you didn't change the picture to one of rutting German midgets, which many less forgiving people would have done.)

maykal said...

I'm impressed with your speed! Offending picture removed in under an hour? Did you use to work for Vision Express before moving to television?

You can keep the photo, if you can be bothered to replace it...I've decided to be lenient, as it's not every day a man with a wife called Judy plunders my webpage. That doesn't mean you can go easy on the flagellations though.

Me and Him said...

Hey Richard, thanks for reminding me what I love about Tunisia. The Tunisian people have a great sense of humour, much more than all the British ex-Pats living there by the looks of it. Now what did you do with your little man in the paper bag? If he's going spare can we borrow him to teach us Arabic? We had a hilarious time in an out of the way spot last time we were there trying to communicate with one of those rare Tunisians who couldn't understand our French and we couldn't understand any of the several languages they tried to speak.

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