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Home > Culture and Society

Project Holiday

3 July 2005

On Sunday a shocking new Foreign and Commonwealth Office report entitled ‘Project Holiday’ was smeared like laughably low factor tanning milk across the summer news-sheets. It was the usual tosh, revealing that most young Britons go abroad with the sole triple-pronged intention of poisoning themselves with overpriced lager, having unprotected sex with as many partners as possible and battering at least one or two natives to the ground with their bloated, peeling fists. This at least was the tabloid spin. The broadsheets were more dignified. This for example, from the venerable Times: ‘While the most cultured hail from southwest England, the most lively, drug-crazed and sexually voracious come from the West Midlands.’ Sexually voracious. That’s broadsheet for ‘randy’. Randy Brummies on Holiday Romp Rampage. That’s what they really mean. But the point is, haven’t we heard all this stagnant garbage before? Well, yes, we have. Specifically, we heard it in April 2003, when the survey was actually first published.

Why then, were the results of this ageing and perhaps no longer strictly relevant sociological study trotted out at the weekend like a plate of fresh truffles? We phoned the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Press Office to find out. The reason, allegedly, is that not all of the information had been previously released. It was released last weekend in accordance with ‘a Freedom of Information request’. When we asked who had made that request, we were told ‘I don’t know’, then asked to hold. Seconds later – they don’t mess about – we were told that they definitely didn’t know. More specifically, we were told that information regarding the Freedom of Information request regarding the information contained in Project Holiday was not information to which they were privy.

However, we’re not convinced by the whole Freedom of Information angle. It seems more likely to us that, what with it being summer again – and what with the people of Briton still pretty much clueless as to how to behave when abroad and still frankly desperate for some governmental guidance – the Foreign Office decided to just dust down and regurgitate. Surely, what with the UN 60th birthday celebrations and all, they won’t have had time to commission another report into the bleeding obvious this summer. So yes, they regurgitated, bumping the figures up by just a few per cent to allow for the exponential moral degradation of Time.

It really would be enough to make you wash your hands of governmental nannying altogether if it weren't for one thing: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘Know Before You Go’ Travel Advice section of their website. Essentially this is a holding bay for all of that hard-earned Foreign Office worldly wisdom. It includes advice on what to do before you go abroad and has information on *every country in the world*. For example:

Kazakhstan: We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.

Norway: We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.

Jamaica: We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.

You see? Brilliant. What on earth would we do without them?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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