Picking a holiday is hard when Johnny Isis beats you to all the brochures (April 10)
Last week we were shown some photographs of the Egyptian seaside resort Sharm el-Sheikh. And it looked like Chernobyl. The swimming pools were empty and the lobbies of the vast, gaudy hotels were deserted. And while the market carpet shops were still open, the "For you, my friend, special price" vendors were just hanging around in doorways because they had no customers.
Local tourism officials are trying to put a brave face on it, saying visitor numbers to the country have only halved in recent years but the truth of the matter is that no one in Britain is sitting at home this morning saying: "Mavis. How do you fancy Egypt for a summer break this year?" Yes, the brochures still talk about balmy evenings and camel rides and sipping umbrella-shaded cocktails by the pool but we all sort of know that we'd also get light gunfire, muffled explosions and some beheadings. These are not what we want while on holiday because it's hard to get your head straight if you're on a sunlounger and it's in a ditch 200 yards away.
And it's not just Egypt that's no longer on the list of possible holiday destinations. With the notable exception of Morocco, pretty much the whole of northern and central Africa is now a no-go area for Johnny Brit.
Tunisia. Algeria. Libya. Chad. Sudan. The Democratic Republic of Congo. Kenya. Somalia. Terrorism and lunacy have put the kibosh on the lot. And there's no point moving west for some respite because there you'll probably get bitten by a bat and catch ebola.
Don't you find that staggering? Even when the world was cut in half by the Iron Curtain you could still go to Prague or Zagreb or Moscow and be fairly certain that you'd come home with a head. But today, in half a continent, you can't.
And that brings us back to the holiday brochure. Because it's not just Africa that's a problem. Yemen. Iraq. Syria. Turkey and that whole swathe of consonant-tastic countries that stretches right the way over to India are now no longer available to the drunken greengrocer from Luton with his Kodak Instamatic and Dr Scholl's sandals.
I remember, not that long ago, seeing a map in the Daily Mail that explained what Isis wanted; a huge Islamic superstate that stretched all the way from the Atlantic coast of north Africa to the Himalayas and then down through southeast Asia to the tip of Australia.
And I scoffed because it seemed ridiculous. And yet now it doesn't seem ridiculous at all. I mean, would you go to Bali for a holiday? Exactly.
So it's Greece then? Nope. Not unless you want to share the beach with a tidal wave of migrants. And life is equally distressing in large parts of what used to be called Yugoslavia.
And that's because the creation of the Islamic superstate has caused millions of people who don't want to be crucified or pushed off a tower block to up sticks, load their meagre possessions into a leaky Rib and head for Europe. Where some have discovered that the best way of fending off starvation is by hitting holidaymakers over the head and stealing their wallets.
This time last year you'd have gone for a mini break to Belgium. And why not? It is a wonderful place. All those cobbles and all that mayonnaise. Yum, yum. But now? Then there's Paris. My daughter and her boyfriend went there recently for a weekend and that sounds lovely. But it isn't great any more. It's frightening. I know we are supposed to stand up to the terrorist threat by deploying the Blitz spirit, keeping calm and carrying on. But when it's your daughter on the Metro it's bloody hard to keep your upper lip stiff.
And things aren't much better even closer to home. We like to think of London as a tourist hotspot. We tell the world about Changing the Guard and the Queen and Top Gear. But there's no getting round the fact that the terrorist threat in the UK is "severe". Most of us accept that one day, sooner or later, someone's going to explode on the Central line. And that makes it hard for visitors to relax.
So southeastern Europe, Belgium, Paris, London, Bali, the Middle East and northern Africa. You can cross that lot off the holiday destination list because of Isis and its affiliates. Which, you might imagine, is not the end of the world because there are plenty of other alternatives ... Really? I only ask because I've spent the past week trying to find somewhere I can take the children in August, and it's all hopeless. Italy and Spain have migrant issues and terrorism threats as well and while I love the south of France, my kids can't afford to pay a thousand euros for a bottle of vodka. So that pretty much counts out the Med.
Germany? Hmmm. I'd like the plane I take to go on holiday to have been made there. But I don't want to spend my free time eating sausages in leather shorts to the strains of an oompah band. Scandinavia? Too cold. Eastern Europe? Not really. India will give you diarrhoea and for well-documented reasons I think Argentina is a non-starter.
Chile is lovely in every way. It's a tremendous place. One of my favourite countries in the world. But it's not realistic for a two-week holiday in what'll be winter anyway.
And that's the thing. When you bring realism into the equation, when you look for a destination that's safe, clean, accessible and cheap, there is only one viable option: America.
Which has caused me to sit back in my chair and have a Biro-sucking moment of thoughtfulness. Because we have it in our heads that George W. Bush didn't really know what he was doing when he invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq. But maybe he did.
Maybe he'd worked out that down the line, after he'd made a complete Horlicks of everything, America would become the world's only realistic holiday destination.
Shave off the beards, hipsters. Or prepare for a long wait at Gatwick
Published: 27 March 2016
When the IRA used to run about the place, sportingly giving a brief warning before detonating a bomb, we never dignified its activities by calling the Troubles a war: the group?s members were always referred to as common criminals. And we never used to let it interfere with our lives either. The IRA would blow something up and the next day we?d go to work as usual.
Today the Blitz spirit seems to have gone. We talk about the ?war on terror?, which means we think of the Isis fanatics as warriors rather than tragic, drug-addled losers who treat the world as one big Call of Duty game. And while we all say, after every atrocity, that we will not allow these people to interfere with our everyday lives, we then proceed to do the exact opposite.
After the Brussels attacks last week security was immediately stepped up at airports and train stations all over the world. Theresa May, the home secretary, said travellers must expect extra delays as they head off for their Easter holidays, and in Argentina Obama Barrack was criticised for dancing the tango rather than speeding back to the White House.
Then came the ?experts? with all sorts of idiotic ideas about how we can prevent people from exploding in future. They?ve already decided that we can no longer fly with toothpaste or a tennis racket, or any kind of cream, in case we suddenly decide to moisturise the pilot to death. And they are introducing legislation that means the constabulary can have a look at the websites we have visited whenever the mood takes them. So what?s next? No gloves? No electrical equipment of any kind?
It has been suggested that in future, because two jobless halfwits blew themselves up in Belgium, people must be screened before they are allowed into an airport building. What?s the point of that? You?d still have thousands of people all huddled together in one place. It?s just that they?d be outside in the rain rather than inside, where it?s dry and warm.
If you?re on an Easter break now and it took you hours to get through the airport, then the criminals have won. It?s as simple as that.
So what?s to be done? Well, we?re told that there are possibly up to 600 people in Europe right now who are happy to explode, and I?m not sure there?s a damn thing we can do to stop that happening. We can?t even put our hands up and say: ?OK, OK. We give in.? Because we don?t really know what it is they want. Apart from us all to die.
The fact is that they are going to carry on blowing up until the recruits realise that they don?t end up in heaven with a load of virgins. That they just end up dead, like all their victims. And that?s not going to happen any time soon.
So we have to accept that there will be atrocities in various European cities from time to time. And then we have to work out how life for most people can carry on as normal in spite of this.
I?ve listened all week to politicians saying that we need more EU integration and that we need less EU integration. I?ve heard bleeding-heart liberals say that if the Muslim youths in various run-down suburbs were given a better education and a proper job afterwards, they would be less inclined to blow themselves up. And I?ve heard frothing Nazis say that they should all be escorted back to wherever they came from in cattle wagons.
But because we live in sensitive times when we are not allowed to cause offence, I haven?t heard one person suggest the one solution that everyone knows will work.
Cara Delevingne. Your first primary school teacher. My children. Andrew Lloyd Webber. And everyone in the Salvation Army. At an airport all of them have to put their liquids in a see-through bag and take off their shoes and their belts and their watches. And they all have to queue up for hours.
All of them are treated no differently from a sweating alarm-clock salesman from Homs. And why? Because we know, and the security services know, that they are not suicide bombers.
All the people who exploded this month in Belgium and Turkey were Muslims. So were those who blew up in Paris and London, and those who planted bombs in Madrid. So were those who flew the jet liners into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
And I?m sorry, but if you are looking for a criminal who?s described as male and bearded, with a dark complexion, why the bloody hell do you stop and search a nine-year-old blonde girl with blue eyes and a My Little Pony rucksack? That?s just idiocy.
But of course we all know the problem. If Britain has two queues at its airports ? one for white people and one for those who aren?t ? then we are going to find ourselves on the naughty step at the United Nations. Because that?s racism.
Which means that we are fighting what we stupidly call the war on terror with our hands tied behind our backs by political correctness.
In the Second World War the security services didn?t harass everybody. They went after those who wore lederhosen and couldn?t say ?squirrel? properly. And those who were suspiciously good at cooking pasta. Nobody said that was racist. It was just common sense.
Whereas today things are so bonkers that officials in South Yorkshire didn?t dare investigate a child grooming operation because it was a Pakistani thing and they didn?t want the headlines. And Dame Judi Dench is searched every time she goes abroad because it would be racist to not search her.
It?s potty. And it?s got to stop.
So I?ll say it. If we really want to carry on with our lives ? as we say we do ? we need two queues at the airport. One for people who don?t have beards. And one for those who do.
Chile is lovely in every way. It's a tremendous place. One of my favourite countries in the world. But it's not realistic for a two-week holiday in what'll be winter anyway.
I must look like a terrorist. I am regularly swabbed, gropped, bag taken over to the special table, pulled out of the boarding line and my carryon searched even though it was just done at security. I can't figure it out. I have started getting nervous when I fly, And I don't have a beard.
But I used to not be nervous. Now, every time I step thru the scanners, I am expecting to be asked to step to the side to get swabbed or groped. God how I hate the tsa. Of course, Mohammad behind me walks straight thru.That might be your problem right there, if you get nervous, you act nervous, security people pick up on that, and it becomes a self forfilling prophecy, I have a mate who gets picked out EVERY time, for the same reason we suspect.
I refuse to dry my teabags for Osama Binman (April 17)
As a general rule, I'm not in favour of the death penalty. However, I would make an exception for people who drop litter. There should be on-the-spot executions for people who do that. No excuses. No trial. You drop a pizza box on the pavement and straight away you get a bullet in the back of the head.
I went to Hatfield in Hertfordshire last week and as I turned onto the slip road off the A1, I could not quite believe my eyes, because the grass verges looked like a Brazilian favela. I've seen less messy downed airliners. And, I'm sorry, but if I were running the council, I'd shoot someone in the town square on the hour, every hour until the culprit owned up.
Except that's not going to happen, because actually the problem of littering is in part being caused by recycling-obsessed councils. And now it's going to get worse because town hall chiefs in Hull have just introduced a scheme that means homeowners who don't recycle properly face having their bins confiscated. Yup, the city council is saying that if you can't do it properly, you can't be allowed to do it at all. And that's probably the stupidest idea in the whole of human history.
I'm ashamed to say that I don't understand recycling. It's just not one of my specialist subjects. I'm dimly aware that if I throw away my kettle, it could one day be turned into a Volkswagen or a Boeing 737 but that, I'm afraid, is the full extent of my knowledge.
My kitchen bin is divided into four compartments. One is for general waste, one is for chicken food, one is for recycling and the other is for recycling stuff that won't be recycled if I put it in the other recycling compartment.
All of this means that when I open the bin lid to throw away some onion peelings, I spend several minutes wondering whether the chickens would eat such a thing or whether they could be used to make a Volkswagen, before giving up and putting them in the general waste compartment.
And now I won't be able to do that any more because my efforts will be judged by the dustbinerie. And if it decides I've put something in the wrong section, it'll confiscate my bin and I'll be forced to throw my waste out of the car window when I'm driving down the motorway.
Because I'm not prepared to do this, I decided to try to learn a little bit more about recycling. But it's too confusing for words. Council experts in Hull tell us that one or two baked beans that you've not scooped out of the tin properly can contaminate everything else in the "blue bin", as if we know what a blue bin is or means.
They also say that a used teabag can make cardboard soggy and therefore non-reusable. So where do the teabags go? Or are we supposed to dry them before we throw them away? Because I am trying to make a new television show and I've children to raise and three newspaper columns a week to write. So I really don't have time to dry my teabags.
Retired people do have the time for this kind of thing, which is why your local tip is always full of elderly people putting everything in the correct bin. They seem to enjoy this; getting everything right and tutting scornfully at those who don't. In their minds, it's a sort of golf club. I once saw an elderly gentleman turn up at a tip with a small plant pot full of gravel that he emptied into the bin marked "gravel". He then drove home, pleased, no doubt, that apart from the fact he'd driven to the tip in a Mercedes, he'd done his bit for the environment.
The rest of us, though, don't even have the time to work out what's what. Take cotton wool as a prime example. It's a natural fibre, so surely it could easily be recycled into a jumper or the sole of a training shoe. But no. My local council's website informs me that it contains fibres of some sort and must therefore go in general waste.
Doors? You'd imagine that a door could easily be turned into something else. A table? A rabbit hutch? Or maybe a new door for an immigrant? But for some reason the council will only take three. If for some reason you want to throw away four doors, you have to give it some money.
Garden waste? Apparently this can be handled by the council's composting facilities but not if you've put it in an actual composting bag. I don't understand that rule either. But you'd better not get it wrong because you'll be judged by the dustbin men and if you fail, they'll take away your bin. Probably on the day they come round for the Christmas bonus.
You might imagine that while all of this is annoying, it's necessary because we can't simply chuck the refuse away. But we can actually. The maths show that every single thing America throws away in the next hundred years even if the population in that time doubles to more than 600m could be placed in a hole that's 400ft deep and five miles across.
In a country the size of Britain, all our waste for the next century could be buried in an area no bigger than Jeremy Corbyn's back garden.
There is, however, a better solution. We simply put a one-million per cent tax on all unnecessary packaging. Starting with Gillette. And then moving quickly to tackle those companies that sell microscopic camera SD cards in 2 sq ft of what feels like steel-reinforced titanium.
That's a much better idea. Instead of taking away our bins when let's be honest the dustbin man can't be bothered to do his job, why not take away the houses of those who create all the waste in the first place? And the lives of people who think that a single green pepper needs to be sold in its own plastic mackintosh.
I wonder if Jeremy needs a better lawyer. There are titles that are legally considered generic and can't be reserved. An example of this in news/current affairs is 'Dateline', which has be the label for a number of shows over the years. Words like 'top' and 'gear' are used for various shows, as he pointed out in relation to Fifth Gear. 'Torque' is also widely used.
In any case, just because a word may be used doesn't mean it's unusable; it may mean having to pay to buy off someone who might sue. This sort of thing happens all the time, and I wonder that his lawyer hasn't pointed this out.
My guess is they will continue with 'Clarkson, Hammond & May', and maybe add 'Car Show' onto it.
Hmmm ... methinks JM's been rummaging about in here... trying not to throw my plant pot at James May whenever he spoke. We tried to sound interested as he suggested The Pink Helmet or The James May Show, but then one day he struck gold with Gear Knobs. We all liked it. We thought it was amusing and hurriedly we put in another ?7,000 call to the lawyer.