DUNCAN BARKES Spot a Brit abroad: it’s better than a game of Scrabble

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January is traditionally the month for taking up new hobbies and this year I have clambered on the bandwagon. I have taken up a fascinating new pastime: Spotting a Brit Abroad.

This sport has many years of heritage, dating back to the time when budget airlines allowed us to fly off to foreign shores for a similar price to a bucket-and-spade break in Bognor.

I spent the festive break in a part of Florida where a British accent is as rare as hens’ teeth (I spent a fair chunk of my holiday disappointing staff in the local supermarket by admitting I hadn’t ever met the Royal family).

Putting such amusing incidents aside, a trip to Florida usually includes Orlando Airport or (if you have ankle-biters) a trip to Disney World. This is where ‘Brit Spotting’ comes into its own.

I cut quite a dash in my holiday wardrobe, which includes a Panama perched on my receding temple, a snazzy hanky peaking out of the top pocket of my blazer and a pair of well-polished brogues. I just wish my fellow countrymen would follow my example.

As they do not, let me outline the simple rules and scoring of ‘Brit Spotting’: Spotting a Brit solely from their attire will earn you maximum points. Identifying him or her only when they speak means you score less.

Visually, dead giveaways include the ubiquitous England football shirt. I once overheard a wearer in a Florida rest room claim he only wore it so ‘the Yanks knew where I was from’.

The calves of a man are also a good indicator. If they are adorned by a dubious-looking oriental tattoo, chances are they are from Bolton or Essex. Their female counterparts will be sporting pierced navels, proudly on display, and usually teamed with a muffin-top (the junk food excess overflow that oozes out of the top of their jeans or nylon shorts).

Lesser points are gained when you identify the Brits from their overheard comments. My favourite was the couple in an old-fashioned American diner whose conversation we eavesdropped. Evidently the hash browns were ‘not a patch on the ones from Iceland’. I don’t think they meant the country.

Personally I have never understood why we do ourselves such a disservice when holidaying abroad. As well as iffy togs the relentless search for an English pub that will screen the footy and serve egg and chips followed by apple crumble only strengthens the poor opinion some nations have of us.

Next time you toddle off on your jollies abroad, don’t bother to pack the Scrabble. Just take pad and paper to keep score and start spotting your fellow Brits. Oh, and you win the game outright if you spot a British man with a mullet, wearing socks and open-toe sandals, quoting lyrics from any song by Queen.