It's those Chinese tourists in the Clarks factory outlet again:
The Chinese were well-prepared. Armed with paper cutouts of their relatives' feet, they leaped from their coaches and headed straight for the racks of shoes at the Clarks shop. "It was a bit of a frenzy," said a staff member at Bicester Village, a collection of factory outlets near Oxford visited by a group of 2,000 Chinese salespeople this month. They bought up to six pairs of shoes each and the queue stretched out of the door.
According to Calum MacLeod, director of the Great Britain-China Centre, many Chinese still have an outdated view of Britain shaped by classic literature and old movies.
"Oliver Twist is a very popular book in China and the title of the Chinese version translates as Foggy City Orphan," he said. "When I tell people I live in London they often ask me how bad the fog is."
MacLeod says phrases such as "the home of the industrial revolution" or "the empire on which the sun will never set" still resonate strongly with many Chinese. "But not in a particularly negative way," he said. "They are very interested in the UK's history and traditions."
This amused me:
The British Museum is a less straightforward attraction. "The Chinese section contains precious exhibits from the imperial times, many of them given to the British as gifts from the royals. Many feel that these are looted from China."
This seems to be a common misconception. I remember explaining to my wife (as she then wasn't) about the stuff that foreign governments had so kindly donated to the British Museum, and she also seemed to have the idea that it had actually been stolen. Perish the thought.