Monday, December 15, 2008

These people just keep proving my point

Remember what I was saying the other day? It just got righter:

City 'experts' ? - Absolutely no clue what they're doing

Military strategists - No idea how to do their jobs

The security services safeguarding our country?  - Jerks

Local government officers, of more or less any stripe? - Jackasses

The geniuses who made it through the 'very competitive 'selection procedure for the BBC? - Idiots

The people who are charged with educating our children? - Clowns

And this is just one day's news from one newspaper. Trust me, if anyone tells you they know what they're doing, don't believe them. There's no evidence that anyone on Earth - including me - is doing anything better than bluffing it and hoping they don't get rumbled.

Top 10 locations ruined by tourism

It's a great list that underlines just how many gap-year nitwits are destroying the environments that they profess to admire. And that's not me talking, that's National Geographic Magazine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Expert Myth

Ownership of an electric guitar ought to, as far I can ascertain, confer upon one instant membership of the counterculture. Stars from Elvis the Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols have felt obliged to rail against the establishment until either an interview with Richard Nixon or a knighthood or a lucrative butter advert intervened.

Not me though. I’ve got two very fine electric guitars, but I still can’t help respecting authority. When I meet doctors, traffic wardens, even liveried waiters I automatically adopt a deferential, almost obsequious demeanour. I’m a borderline cop groupie. The same automatic respect for authority has always underpinned my faith in politicians, Whichever party was actually in power I always believed that the cabinet would be composed of people who were better educated, more insightful and basically brainier then me.

The ruling class seemed to be qualitatively different to the people I knew. They had their own special books, giving prizes to their favoured authors to celebrate the fact that they weren’t Stephen King, Maeve Binchy or the late but still perplexingly prolific Robert Ludlum. They have their own special music too. You need only listen to a couple of episodes of Desert Island Discs to realise that the people that actually run the country listen to very old music from Germany, or Italy or one of the other old Axis powers rather than the new pop music that’s so popular with the general populace. If you’re easily impressed, as I am, it’s all very impressive.

The events of the past month or so have shaken that faith. The behaviour of both the main political parties has betrayed more than just a temporary fallibility. It’s more like a freewheeling cluelessness that suggests that they have never understood the world financial system.Further, once you read a some of the news coverage it’s increasingly clear that no-one does. Very few financial commentators foresaw the global economic cataclysm triggered by the transparent short-termism of the sub-prime farrago. Those few that claim they did clearly didn’t voice sufficiently convincing warnings in the correct circles, or we wouldn’t be in this pickle.

Despite the received wisdom that City moguls are a breed apart, to be paid staggering sums for their expertise in guiding the powerhouse at the heart of the British economy, the most tempting conclusion to be drawn from recent developments is that the City boys just got lucky for a while and that now the vast tide of money that has been sloshing around the world since the last recession a decade ago has receded are exposed as the bluffers the always were.

The regular cabinet reshuffles give the lie to the idea that our ministers are experts in their particular rôles, or indeed in anything particular. They aren’t even political idealists in the main. They’re just people who have quite understandably plumped for a job that has a decent wage, a subsidized canteen with a late bar licence and an even chance of a peerage at the end of it all. Who among us wouldn’t make the same choices, given the option?

We, the unqualified electorate, are content to bob along like corks borne upon the great torrent of history without really understanding the forces that drive us. But here’s the thing, a realisation that is at first terrifying but after a short time becomes strangely empowering: No-one really understands any of it. If you look at it in the right light, all human history can be seen as a succession of egregious cock-ups perpetrated by people who ought to have known better. And yet we endure. MPs, the security services, BBC producers and journalists will make terrible mistakes again. They always have before. And everything will be fine.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Sky action: I can't pretend this was a complete triumph

Note the nervous glances to the monitor in those pregnant pauses when I'd said my piece and the presenter's being a bit too quiet:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

See? I TOLD you! Security staff will nick anything..

And in this 'period of heightened security' who's going to stop them?

Transportation Security Administration baggage screener Pythias Brown is the reason you hate flying with expensive gear in your bag, especially if you ever flew out of Newark airport. Over the last few years, he stole at least $200,000 worth of electronics. Not just a camcorder here, a laptop there, or an Xbox 360 or two, either. No, this guy had balls. Among his biggest hauls—literally—was an HBO employee's $47,900 camera.

Get the full juice here

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Multimedia thrills as Sod Abroad visits Essex

I think this link will work - A 10 minute interview with Dave Monk of Radio Essex. Surrounded, of course, by all your usual Essex-based chat and music. He played 'Rock with you' in the middle of the interview. Great choice, but not as great as this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Synchronicity: How 2 quite different people can write the same staycation piffle on the same day

Lionel Shriver, the 'Boy named Sue' of Britain's literary elite, did a bit for The Sunday Times this weekend about how ghastly she thinks holidays are. Not a mile off my own bit for the Indy that I posted about on Sunday.

Indeed, they went with a markedly similar pic too.

One might be tempted to infer from this a woeful dearth of imagination among the editorial staff of our great nation's broadsheet news papers. I would disagree. I just think that flicking the V's at travel agents is an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

119% of adults in the western world have a blog these days

But do they have an automatic blog post generator?

Well yes.

Yes they do.

Because it's out there on the Internet.

(excellent, if rather off-topic, find by Tamar)

Sod Abroad: Best price guide

If, by some appalling oversight, you haven't bought my spiffy collection of light comic essays about the iniquities of travel yet, then here's something handy. A constantly updated guide to the cheapest online prices so you can buy knowing that you've got the funniest treatise about staycations available, by the nicest known author, at the lowest possible price.

You could probably use it to find the best deals on other books too. If you wanted any of them.

Bear in mind, too, that even if you have got a copy of 'Sod Abroad', it makes an ideal gift for people who either don't like holidays, or like them a little too much, or feel fairly sanguine either way but need to have an inexpensive paperback given to them for some reason.

After all, it's got stuff about food, booze, bikinis, illegal drugs, sex, suntans and nazis - so there really is something for everyone!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Schott's Almanac of New Tourism

Lots of variety here, as one might expect from the master of miscellany, but I detect a pleasingly negative tone overall.

Take a look at the PDF & see!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moby says aeroplanes are a great way to travel - as long as you don't wear glasses & like bad smells

This terrific bit from the online journal of ambient electro-advert music pioneer and all-round fellow bald chap Moby:

"I was on a flight recently and I was sitting next to a very professional business woman. I'm guessing she was 48 years old, very affluent and successful and poised. 15 minutes into the flight she took an Ambien and went to sleep. 90 minutes later she woke up, looked at me and said, 'I like your glasses'. She took my glasses and tried them on. She then sat for a second, farted very loudly, and went back to sleep."

"When she woke up later I could tell that she had absolutely no recollection of waking up and taking my glasses and farting loudly. If you're flying and you want to sleep you might want to think twice about what sleep drugs you're taking. Some sleep drugs probably should be reconsidered at 38,000 feet in the company of complete strangers."
So, two more things to be added to the list of airborne inconveniences - untoward ocular interference and intimate ercutations from people to whom you have not been introduced. I'm keeping a list of these, and it's getting rather long.

Jet set to 'blow' instead of 'suck' - hilarity ensues

It's a mistake any of us could have made. If we'd been entrusted with the cleaning of a very expensive aeroplane and somehow distracted at a crucial moment.

It didn't happen to us though. It happened to this poor lady. So let's take a moment to point and laugh.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I expected a Canary, I got a Turkey

Blame early morning check-ins. Blame sloppy staff who haven't checked the tickets properly. Don't, whatever you do, blame the passengers for not paying attention to where they were being shipped. It sounds to me like they're annoyed enough already.

Actually, we shouldn't be assigning blame, but thanks - this one's a purler!

A family setting off on a five-star holidays travelled 2,000 miles out of their way after they were given boarding passes for the wrong flight.

Charlie Coray, his wife, Tania, and daughter, Phoebe, 9, were caught in a mix-up at a check-in desk before their week's holiday in the Canary Islands.The family realised the mistake only after the plane landed and the air stewardess announced: “Welcome to Turkey”.

An investigation was started after it emerged that the family were given the wrong boarding passes at Cardiff airport for their holiday in Lanzarote. Mrs Coray, 44, a teacher, said: “It was unbelievable. I know they send luggage to the wrong places but not people.” Mr Coray, 47, an engineer, said: “It was about 6.30 in the morning when we arrived at Cardiff airport and we were directed to the check-in desk. We did not realise that more than one flight was being checked in there. We were half-asleep. When we were called to the gate we gave them our boarding passes, got on the plane and fell asleep.”

The Corays, from Llanishen, Cardiff, had booked an all-inclusive holiday with First Choice in a five-star hotel. Instead they arrived at Bodrum airport where they had to pay a £10 visa charge per person before boarding a plane back to Cardiff.

They have accepted First Choice's offer of a holiday in Ibiza because they could not get a flight to Lanzarote.A spokesman for the handling agents Servisair apologised and said that the staff member who accepted them on to the wrong flight had been suspended pending a hearing. A spokeswoman for First Choice said that an investigation was under way and that the Coray family would be refunded in full for any additional expenses incurred.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A cheap holiday in someone else's misery

We have an ongoing credit crunch. Some might call it a recession. Whatever language you choose to employ, certainly there's not much money left over for luxuries like vacations right now.

So who has decided to start pitching for your hard-earned holiday cash?

Why, the Iraqi tourist board, of course!

And you thought you already knew about the silliest holiday idea ever.

Hassan alFayath, a spokesman for the Iraq Tourism Ministry, points out one little drawback you might otherwise overlook

“War is never good for tourism...”

But he shares with many of his fellow Iraqis an indefatigable optimism

“...but I think things will get better.”

Of course Hassan might be overlooking one other small point, which is that once the US Department of Homeland Security get a look at that big fat 'Iraq' stamp in your passport, that trip to Disneyland is probably off.

Which, depending on your frame of mind, might not be such a bad thing....

(T-Shirt from Fat American)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

StayCations - The debate hots up

The second you get a nice trend going, there's always someone who comes along to decry it.

The person decrying the StayCation thing is a pleasant-looking lady from St.Louis called Aisha Sultan.

I think her problem might be that she's looking for a traditional holiday experience - and that's precisely what I (and many others) strive to avoid.

Proponents of these staycations tell us to: Rediscover the hidden treasures in your hometown! Visit local attractions! Eat luxurious dinners! 

In reality, a staycation, one-tank trip, holi-stay, whatever you want to call it — is just depressing. It's also a slippery slope. It's too easy to start eyeing your disorganized closets and the messy garage. It's not a vacation when you can walk into your kitchen and see a stack of dirty dishes. And, it's too easy to fritter the nights away watching reruns of "Law & Order."

The thing is, if you're ever going to get your house straight, then this is the time to do it. You're too knackered after a day's work and the weekends are just too damn short. One decent pub lunch can pretty much consume half a weekend if you do it right. Throw in a barbecue on the Sunday and you're done.

Of course if you don't want to tidy up your house Aisha, then don't. No-one's judging you. You can be as messy as you like. Besides, with all that money you've saved by not going on holiday you could always get a cleaner or something.

And you make frittering a night away in front of the telly sound like a bad thing. Personally, Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, and The Mighty Boosh are my pile of DVD poison but if you want to watch Law and Order then watch away, my St.Louis friend. Watch Law and Order until your eyes bubble. It's not like you have to get up in the morning.

And remember, you'll be minted. You can go our for luxurious meals. Meals are ace, try a few. Plus, because you're at home, you can always get a babysitter, if you're the more fertile type of lady.

Fly the empty skies

Not a travel story as such, given that no-one's actually travelling, but it seems some airlines are running empty planes on scheduled routes rather than give up the slots that they evidently can't fill.

So, next time you calculate the carbon footprint of your holiday double it, because chances are that the airline will have made a few dummy runs just so they could be ready at the airport when you need them.

Doesn't that feel good?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picture of the Day

Not sure what relevance this has, but I like it..

You know where it's from

Monday, July 14, 2008

The StayCation meme spreads & diversifies..

We Are Storytellers is running a StayCation theme month at the moment, with a forum, hand-made postcards from home and all sorts of crazy.

The 'home holiday' idea is really picking up now. Of course I'm not so arrogant as to claim it was all my idea.

But it was.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I started a joke..

I must confess, when I started work on Sod Abroad, all those months ago (actually, now I think of it, it’s a big hole out of two years but then I did suspend operations briefly to work on Shopping While Drunk) I didn’t honestly believe anyone would ever agree with any of my points.

It was intended principally as a sort of amusing Deb.Soc. conjuring trick wherein I raised an untenable argument and then attempted to stand it up with a series of entertaining essays, comical pop-culture-inspired lists and the odd unscientific equation.

Now, one apparently unpredictable credit crunch later, all sorts of grown-ups are reporting that the phenomenon I thought I’d invented to raise a few chuckles is in fact for many people a genuine and necessary response as the walls of recession close in like that enormous garbage disposal thingy in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (as we’re obliged to now call it).

The inimitable Simon de Bruxelles, in The Times, gives the phenomenon a name:

"Welcome to the “staycation”, which experts expect to be the trend as families who cancel or cut back their holiday plans opt to stay at home during their summer break"

An associated article quotes John O’Connor, a Somerset shipping manager:

“The cost of everything is rising and we are starting to feel the pinch. A holiday is a big outlay so unfortunately it’s the first thing we can afford to go without. Holidays in Europe seem very expensive at the moment because of the exchange rate and we were very surprised at the cost of self-catering breaks in England"

Meanwhile, Jeff Randall in the Telegraph observes that:

For me, Britain's finest hour comes just as the dash abroad begins. It is only then that one realises how much nicer life would be if our cities were not so crowded.

Peter Riddell has all the hard stats on the thing, if hard stats are your kind of thing:

"Nearly three out of five of us say that we intend to cut back our summer holiday plans because of financial pressures"

I would love to pretend that I saw all this coming. Of course if I had, even for a moment, I’d have been doing something clever on the stock market instead of wasting my weekends writing comic essays for your amusement.

Still. All the same.

I told you so.

Aeroplanes: They’re just common aren’t they?

The appeal of air travel is rooted in a spurious 1960s notion of glamour involving well-groomed people hopping on and off Concorde who are on the one hand entirely unaware of problems like noise pollution and their colossal carbon footprint but on the other hand are carrying really nice little blue bags with BOAC written on them. The truth today is far more democratic and infinitely more ghastly. Every few minutes a chubby little orange-and-white aeroplane takes off from one of the airports clustered around London, packed to bursting point with people who are unlikely to be able to eat, drink, or visit the lavatory for over an hour. They will be flown at speeds well in excess of 500mph to assorted destinations around the world that have become more English than England itself by dint of the current cheapness of flying. International journeys have become nasty, brutish and short.

There are some worthy souls who are very much opposed to the popularisation of air travel. They will point out that British emissions of CO2 from aircraft shot up from a far from acceptable 4.6 million tons in 1990 to a somewhat disquieting 8.8 million tons in 2000. But with the queasyjet lifestyle still expanding (the current annual figure of 180 million sweaty tourists is expected to rise to something like 476 million even sweatier tourists per year by 2030) our gaseous emissions will rise to 17.7 million tons in 2030. 

It’s enough to make the most sanguine Range Rover owner a little concerned. Don’t worry yet, it’s about to get worse: Aircraft emissions that go directly into the stratosphere have at least twice the global warming effect of emissions from cars or power stations at ground level and, based on the Government's own calculations, the effect of the 2030 emissions will be equivalent to a genuinely frightening 44.3 million tons of carbon – around 45 per cent of Britain's expected emissions total at that date. That’s enough to worry a Clarkson.

Some people don’t have time to worry about the ecological effect of air travel because they’re too busy worrying about the ‘plane crashing. In fact this is very unlikely. Statistically the chances of an average person being involved in a major aircraft accident are close to nil. You probably already knew this, but the most dangerous part of any aeroplane jouney ends when you leave your car in long term parking. One you’re aboard the ‘plane you’re probably safe. It’s not all good news though. Statistically the chances of spending the next hour or so trapped in a metal tube full of strangers farts and eating terrible terrible food while potentially fatal blood clots accumulate in your legs are, in defiance of some natural laws, a little over 100%.

The original appeal of air travel was based on its exclusivity. Over the last twenty years it has become one of those exotic commodities like cappuccino, cocaine, or ciabatta that have regrettably trickled down as far as the tracksuit wearing classes. Consequently a trip on a modern airliner is like an extended wait in some vast cylindrical dole office. When the mile high club throws open its doors to people with elasticated waistbands it is time, my friends, to leave the club.

Friday, July 11, 2008

See? See? You thought I was joking!

Actually, I thought I was too...

Big in Eire

Every time I write a book I seem to end up getting a good receprion over there. Perhap's it's the name. Perhaps it's my freewheeling attitude to life, language and punctuation.

Who can say? God bless 'em though!

"I am going on holiday now..I may be gone for some time..."

Having stunk up every other remaining bit of the planet (I draw your attention here to the trash mountains at the foot of Everest and all around Machu Picchu) tourists are now considering Antarctica as a jolly spot for a picnic.

If pressed, the inadequates that are blowing £42,000 on this festival of small-cock compensation would probably assert that they're not 'tourists' but 'travellers' or even fucking 'explorers'.

Balls. Every single person that goes on one of these 'adventure' holidays is essentially shouting 'look at me' as loudly as they can while simultaneously pissing away a huge amount of money that could be put to better use (helping end child poverty, combatting homelessness or organising a really massive boozy book launch for 'Sod Abroad') and dirtying up the 'amazing' scenery for the next overprivileged blowhard that comes along with self-aggrandizement on his mind and ice in his beard.

Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all. Fuck 'em all in the eye.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carousels of death

Remember the site that obsessively catalogued cruise ship mishaps?

There's one for theme parks too, which is sort of unsurprising when you think about it.

I mean..I love a dodgem, but you'll never get me off the ground in anything without its own engines.

Do you know the way to San José?

From the nation's favourite news-and-boobs organ, The Sun:

A JET passenger was lost for words when he took this snap of a Virgin Atlantic plane – with a world ATLAS in the cockpit.

Andrew Bellamy, 27, was left wondering if the pilot needed a hand navigating, after spying the book at Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

And to make matters worse, it was an OLD edition of Collins World Atlas.

Andrew, who was catching another flight to Canada, said: “I know pilots have electronics but I was a bit worried he might not know where he was going.”

Last night a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman explained many pilots like to carry an atlas so they can pick out landmarks, such as mountain ranges, for onboard passenger announcements.

Yay! Road trip!

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Picture of the Day

..and that's how you appreciate art. Seriously. Couldn't they just buy a fucking postcard?

[via Vagabondish]

Air Traffic controller required for Isles of Scilly - Blind candidates especially welcome

There's affirmative action, there's over-eager political correctness, and then there's just doing something wilfully stupid to get your rain-soaked islands back on the news agenda.

The RNIB are, perhaps predictably, in favour of the provision of a Braille application form for potential Air Traffic Contollers. Realistically though, anyone without 20/20 vision has no chance of getting the job. I hope.

The islands have a tiny airfield (and I use the word advisedly, it's grass rather than concrete) used for small passenger planes ferrying the over-optimistic to the tiny outcropping of damp campsites and overpriced tea-shops at the bottom left-hand corner of your British Isles map.

Keri Jones, the controller of Radio Scilly, tried hard to introduce a positive spin on the non-news story.

“We have had loads of calls about it and people generally find it quite funny. The islands are always at the cutting edge of innovation, so it would certainly be something for Scilly to have the world's first blind air traffic controller.”

The emphasis is mine. As are the words 'Ha ha ha'

If innovation is switching off the hot water in your campsite's showers because there's only been eight inches of rainfall in the last week then yes - The Isles of Scilly are our very own Epcot Centre.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


"I hope this will end what has been over recent years an exercise in deceit by some airlines which try to con the travelling public into believing they are buying a very cheap ticket when the opposite is true."

Get these M----------F--------------- ticks off my M----------F--------------- plane!

That's half the trouble with aeroplanes. They keep going to warm places where all the ghastly bugs and slitherery things live. And every now and then some of them decide to hitch a ride.

How to make a minor aeroplane accident exciting: Just add celebrities

And people say Victoria Beckham is no fun: Thsi story wouldn't warrant a mention were it not for the pyjama-clad Posh.

It was then that the horrifying scale of the disaster really hit home for Victoria — she realised she was wearing standard-issue aircraft pyjamas and no make-up.

Sex on the beach isn't just a cocktail..'s a guaranteed 6-year prison sentence in some of those warm countries where one might be tempted to take one's clothes off.

Sex outside marriage is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, as is cohabitation, adultery, homosexuality and loads of other fun stuff.

Now if you stay at home, you can have sex as often as you like, as long as you've got a willing co-sexer. Or one of those internets with all the naked people on instead of this crappy one with just jokes and stuff.

Sure it's not as warm, but you can always keep your socks on, can't you?

The ideal holiday - buried in sand

I don't pretend to understand any art after about 1960. Least of all this spot of craziness.

We used to use the phrase 'publicity stunt' which covered most of the actions now classified as 'raising awareness'. You don't have to have a point to 'raise awareness' - you just need to do something crazyass and shout 'look at me'; quite a bit.

Still. This chap's 'raised' my 'awareness' of fruitcakes burying themselves in sand, an activity that I thought had died out after the filming of 'Carry on, follow that camel'. You live & learn, eh?

Sod Abroad: Vindicated by grownups!

It's all very droll and jolly when I'm saying that you shouldn't go anywhere on holiday. But now a grwon-up's on my side too: Peter Riddell, one of the brainy chaps at The Times, suggests that no-one will be going away this year because of some credit crunch or other.

And all this time you thought I was joking. In fairness, so did I.

In case you can't be bothered to click through to the (generally pretty marvellous) Times Online site, here's Big Pete's rap:

Nearly three out of five of us say that we intend to cut back our summer holiday plans because of financial pressures.
A new Populus poll for The Times, carried out over the weekend, shows that 58 per cent are changing their original holiday plans in the light of the rising cost of living, the weakness of the pound against the euro and the credit crunch in Britain. This provides a striking illustration of the impact of economic gloom upon consumer confidence and spending plans.
There are big variations. Just under a half of professionals and managers say that they are making cutbacks, while nearly two thirds of skilled manual workers are doing so.
Just under a fifth of the public, 19 per cent, say that they are cancelling plans for a summer holiday altogether. If they carry out this intention, these cutbacks would be very worrying for the travel industry, particularly those dealing in overseas holidays. More than a quarter, 27 per cent, of unskilled manual workers, say that they are cancelling their holiday plans.
As many as two fifths, 41 per cent, of the public say that they are reducing the length of a summer holiday abroad. This includes just over half of skilled manual workers.
Nearly a third, 32 per cent, report that they are going on a cheaper holiday abroad than originally planned. In this area professionals and managers are, at 34 per cent, slightly more likely than the average to make cutbacks.
Just over a third of the public, 34 per cent, say that they are switching plans from a holiday abroad to a holiday in Britain. Only a quarter of professionals and managers, 26 per cent, say that they intend to do this. Such switching of holidays could provide a prop for the domestic travel industry against the impact of the economic downturn.
For now, job security is not a big worry. Nationwide building society’s latest survey, published today, found consumer confidence at a record low in June, yet people remain relatively upbeat about finding work: 50 per cent think there are currently some or many jobs available, while 37 per cent expect the situation to remain the same.
Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide’s chief economist, said that this one positive factor may not last. “While consumers appear to be fairly relaxed about the availability of jobs, with unemployment beginning to rise, we are likely to see a change in labour market sentiment over the coming months.”
However, thousands of jobseekers were turned away yesterday when a recruitment fair was overwhelmed. The jobs fair for a shopping centre was closed at lunchtime because of concerns over the crowds of people who turned up seeking work. Police halted the fair and asked anyone else planning to attend to stay away.
The event, organised by WhiteCity Works, an employment partnership set up by Hammersmith & Fulham borough, attracted 3,000 people, many more than expected. The shopping centre, which will have 265 stores and 40 restaurants, is expected to create 7,000 jobs.

Thanks Pete!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

At last! The passengers strike back!

Although, obviously, they still come off worst:

A flight from Florida to New York Sunday night never got off the ground. That's because after the flight crew arrived late, angry and impatient passengers got verbally agitated and hostile. Apparently it was so bad, the crew wasn't comfortable working the flight so they refused to take off. Dick Brennan has the exclusive video report.

Monday, July 07, 2008

It's one thing to break the plane..'s a whole other thing to break the plane and not even notice.

UPDATE: Looks like it was aliens

So much quoteable goodness in this reasoned look at holiday stomach bugs

I'll just pick out a couple of salient points:


It is now scientifically established that eating away from their usual neighbourhood is the relevant factor in causing travellers' diarrhoea. The holiday trade would prefer that everyone believed this was because emotional tensions were raised by battles at airports, anxieties over luggage, niggling doubts as to the hotel booking and the discovery that the reserved bedroom was next to a building site. Travel agents will admit that water can be responsible - not because of bacterial contamination from glasses rinsed in dirty washing-up water but, they suggest, because the geological structure of the local mountains makes a mysterious difference to the water's chemistry so that it becomes mildly laxative.

Travelling stress does undermine the immune system and lower resistance to infection, but in most cases the principal cause of traveller's diarrhoea is bugs from dirty hands of waiters, filthy, bacteria-laden dishcloths and cutting boards in unhygienic kitchens, and the organisms that live around plugholes in sinks. Most people, wherever they come from, have an immune system that is able to deal with the local bacteria. However, if they travel even 100 miles, the neighbourhood strains of E. coli and salmonella encountered are different, so that usually benign bugs upset the stranger's guts.

You know somewhere nice that's within 100 miles of your house? Somewhere that's already got all your stuff in it, perhaps?

As the Breakfast Club taught us - if you mess with the bull, you get the horns

When will people learn that an adrenalin rush is your body's way of letting you know you're in trouble?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Amazon has spoken - It's official!

I'm funnier than SpongeBob Squarepants. Although not as funny as being Engulfed in Flames

The 7 Scariest Airports on Earth

As enumerated by Richard Green for the Sunday Times.

Saba, in the Dutch Caribbean

I'm pretty sanguine about flying, I know all about the relative safety of airliners compared to (say) hot hatches driven by dim young boys on a testosterone high, but seriously: There's such a thing as tempting fate you know...

Friday, July 04, 2008

This is fabulous

In a break from my normal programming I present a song that impressed the bejeezus out of a 22-year old Michael Moran. I haven't heard it in years but it still sounds great now. Check it out...

More half baked nonsense about disappointing holiday experiences tomorrow, I promise. If you're desperate for more why not buy the book

Venice the Menace: Tourism done right

Why go to California when you can see all the finest sun-baked nutjobs on your very own computer?

Click over to Venice the Menace for some illuminating insights into...well...whatever these fruitcakes think they're talking about.

Picture of the Day

From the always super-sized TrendHunter

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wordle cloud

Wordle is a fun online toy that makes pretty-looking tag clouds of whatever you fancy. I tried squirting the whole manuscript of my book in but of course the words that got the most action were rather dull conjunctions that tend to appear a lot in any long English document. These are a shade better, if not absolutely 'true' -

The world's most expensive flight simulator! Try it today!

I know I should be running stories about more varied topics than just the stupidity of airlines, but really - they keep doing funny stuff.

OK, funny stuff where somebody dies, but still. Funny stuff.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We've all done it, haven't we?

Fallen asleep while flying a packed airliner and just gone past our stop.

Haven't you? Well these guys did. If you must fly somewhere this Summer, ignoring the irreversible damage that you're doing to the environment, your finances and your sanity, then just make sure you make plenty of noise while you're airborne.

After all, it seems to happen a lot.

Quite a lot

It's not that surprising, when you think about it.

And if the price of keeping the pilot awake is to be Tasered by an overzealous Sky Marshal, then so be it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And there was I thinking I was the only person that didn't like holidays

The chap (or, equally, it could be a lady) that runs Cruise Bruise hates 'em. Admittedly, he (or she) has a narrower focus, saving all his (or her) disapprobation for ocean cruises. The Cruise Bruise website (see how I avoided the gender pronoun there? Sweet eh?) features a long..surprisingly long..list of people lost on diving expeditions, getting drunk and falling off boats, passengers stranded after liners sink, and a few more people getting drunk and falling off boats.

There's also a hefty collection of pederasts working at Disneyland and assorted terrorist plot rumours. If you were an unusually parsimonious individual, perhaps hoping to persuade a feckless spouse not to squander a four-figure sum on a Caribbean boat ride, the site is your cast-iron guarantee of a nice Summer at home in the shed instead.

Picture of the Day

Austin, Texas: Come for the weather, stay for the HUGE FLOCKS OF TERRIFYING BATS

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Dead Man’s Hand

Once, quite some time ago, I agreed to go on a holiday. My wife and I had decided to ‘start a family’ and it was suggested, not by me I hasten to add, that we should go to Barcelona – Europe’s party town – for one last hurrah before we entered the tiresome world of babysitters and early nights.

As chance would have it, sometime between booking and checking in something untoward must have occurred, because my wife was demonstrably up the duff by the time we landed in Barcelona.

Consequently, the entire week was marked by eposodes of morning sickness, early nights, and afternoon naps. It was fortuitous that Spanish TV was showing George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy on a non-stop loop that week, dubbed into Spanish of course but I already knew who everyone was and what was going to happen and I’m not too bad at Spanish. Well, I say not too bad. I only know a few words but I’m astoundingly cocky so I’ll just have a go and expect to be understood.

By the end of the week we’d hardly spent any money. Now you can’t possibly come back from a city break without having bankrupted yourself. It was time to book the most expensive restaurant in Barcelona.

Which is, if you weren’t aware, some Catalan gaff where everything is painted white and the menu, by dint of being printed in Catalan, is upsettingly hard to read. Catalan isn’t like proper Castilian Spanish, the kind you get in phrase books. Catalan is more like cryptic Welsh Sudoku. There are more Xs on a Catalan menu than there are in a teenage girl’s email. No-one can read the things. To exacerbate matters, the waitress had formed the distinct impression that I was a cocky Londoner who spoke Spanish at approximately toddler standard and had chosen to punish me by electing to negotiate my dining options exclusively in Catalan.

I struggled for quite some time with the menu. My various food intolerances (gluten, tomatoes, foreign muck) weren’t helping much. Eventually I found something that looked as if it might be rice-based. Rice is great. You can make pudding out of rice.

The only issue was, I couldn’t quite make out what might be with the rice. My entreaties for guidance from the waitress were met with bloody-minded Catalan jibberjabber that I probably could have understood, had I but been brainier or more Spanish or something.

Anyway, the one scrap of information I could elicit was that the rice contained ‘marisco’. I had no clue what marisco might be, but frankly the explanations had gone a bit too long, and it was getting a trifle embarrassing. My wife’s contribution to the sketch was to say “ooh, marisco, nice” . That was good enough for me I went with the marisco rice.

As soon as the waitress had gone I asked Mrs Moran what I’d ordered. She had no idea either. She’d just said something positive to defuse the tension.

It later transpired that marisco means, if it means anything, seafood. It can cover a multitude of evils.

The evil in this case was a bed of rice surmounted by a white, five-fingered something that was bony, and possessed of a pallid, rubbery flesh that tasted mostly of nothing.

To this day, I have no idea what I ate. And I don’t want to know.

George Carlin: If you you thought it was all about Bill and Ted, you missed a lot

Splendid, very funny fellow. Few comics retained their early edge so deep into their careers. Few comics had so much to say about airline announcements either.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

So, if you HAVE read the book..

You might have skimmed the biographical note at the beginning and thought 'yes, you say you made some tolerable but not remotely successful records but what were they like?'

Well, they were like this. Here is my band 5TA on Channel 4's pioneering 'The Tube' show in 1986 or so.

I'm the skinny lad with the hair on the right hand side. Or I was. Skinniness and hair are both but fond memories now.

The other members of that tolerable, but not remotely successful lineup are, reading from left to right; The very lovely and very Swiss Colette Meury at the electronic keyboard, the splendid but sadly no longer with us Melanie Lewis supplying the left-hand backing vocal while the established in her own right Julia Fordham pins down the vital right hand backing singer rôle.

The lead singer was the mighty, the inimitable Lance Jowers. My fondest memories of those days are the bits when he wigged out and started singing something that I could never have written or even thought of. There's some of that here. Nick Rhodes sat at the drum throne and occasionally managed to persuade me not to be a complete tit. Not often though. Mark Pinto played the bass guitar for us, more admirably than we deserved.

We recorded a whole album with Cure producer David Allen. It's here, if you're interested. Remember though, don't judge us too harshly, It was the Eighties. Everyone thought that kind of thing was OK.

Anyway, there it is. Or was. Enjoy. If you can.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The secret evil of hotels

We all sort of know that hotels like to add annoying little extras to our bills that we're generally too polite to dispute. 

Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association would like to make it clear, though, that fees for incidental services represent a 'miniscule amount of revenue'

So, in that case, they must be doing it just to annoy us..

Welcome, Guardian Guiders!

Thanks for popping by. There's an extract from my fitfully amusing book below, if you fancy it. Or of you're just here for the map, which is pretty funny (my favourite one's Istanbul) you can find it here. Or you can leave your own tale of holiday woe here.

Or you can just poke around the blog and find stuff. There's another extract somewhere, some slightly comical news items and even an alternative Olympic logo, for some reason...

EXTRACT:5 reasons that everybody hates a tourist

1: Money

Wherever you’re going, it’s a safe bet that you’ve got more disposable income than most of the people that are there. The farther you go, the greater the disparity will grow. Now, money isn’t everything but it can more-or-less buy everything and so it ends up figuring rather significantly in the minds of people who haven’t got so much of it. I’m not suggesting that your squandering conspicuous sums of money on international travel will engender the sort of resentment that, say, the self-indulgence of the French Royal court did in 1789, or the lavish excesses of the Russian aristocracy in 1917. No, Not a bit of it: The fops and dandies in question interacted very little with the peasantry, yet still annoyed them enough to precipitate a bloody revolution. Tourists are there in the people’s face every day for the whole bloody Summer. Which leads us to…


2: Luggage

A lot of foreign travel involves cities. Even if you think you’re going to a bit of exotic countryside you’re bound to end up flying into an airport on the fringes of some major conurbation and then getting a train or taxi through the city centre to your destination. Let’s hope it is a taxi, because that’s just an annoying car like so many others and unlikely to give rise to too much smouldering resentment. If you’re on a train or an underground system of sort you’ll be dragging assorted pieces of bulky luggage around with you, scuffing the shins of pedestrians with your suitcase, obliviously crushing the newspapers of  tube travellers with your rucksack, or tripping absolutely everybody up with one of those spectacularly annoying trolley-bag affairs. You may think that you’re having enough trouble struggling from airport to hotel or train terminus, but the people you’re inadvertently barging into are on their way to or from work, and were probably in a fairly bad mood before you clattered into them with your skis. Which rather calls to mind..


3: Congestion

The joy, such as it is, of visiting a foreign city is stopping to look up at the interesting architectural features, unexpected poor weather, or strange and unusual birds that are about to defecate on your head. The drawback to these simple pleasures of course is that every time you stop to rubberneck at an exotic-looking and mildly pornographic advertising hoarding you will cause a concertina of collisions in the ‘long tail’ of fast-moving locals behind you who have seen all this stuff before and are just trying to get to where they’re going before the monsoon rains kick in. Which naturally takes us to..


4: Time

You’ve got lots of it. The people you’re asking for directions have little or none. The people behind you in the queue for overpriced cups of coffee have even less. Words do not exist to describe the depth of their hatred for you. Please remember that in many other countries knives and guns are more commonly carried than they are in – say – Royal Tonbridge Wells. Which takes us rather neatly to..


5: Money (again)

The presence of a large group of people with substantial amounts of disposable income, generous amounts of leisure time to fill and no way of storing or cooking fresh food tends to skew the local economy somewhat in the direction of overpriced coffee or sandwich bars and expensive clothing shops. Exactly the opposite of what you need if you actually live in one of these places, where all you want is a sensibly priced pastie to reheat in the office microwave for your lunch, a reasonably-priced dry cleaners and somewhere to buy an emergency present for your wife’s birthday and you’re not made of bloody money and you’ve only got an hour to eat, get your suit cleaned and buy the Smallest Diamond On Earth™.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planning on visiting London in 2012?

Read this before you book. I think everyone outside Westminister accepts that it's a massive exercise in hubris bequathed by one dimwitted publicity-addict mayor to another, but all the same some poor bugger's bound to accidentally buy some tickets.

If they do actually complete any of the facilities they're bound to collapse as soon as somone tries to do something silly like walk into them.

Still, could be worse

They always said the logo would evolve. This one's inspired by a comment thread on Fark, created by my pal D-Hutch and I did all the stealing and cajoling.

"Folks, if those of you seated on the left hand side look out of the window you'll see a van wedged under the plane"

I don't normally run stories involving travel fatalities, as this one appears to do, but the news item does carry with it an extraordinary picture.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The 20 most annoying airports in the USA

Forbes has a list of the Top 100 airports in the US for delays. I know you're a modern person, though, with no time to waste on reading long lists or taking your ADHD medication. Here's the 20:

1: Chicago, Ill.: O'Hare

2: Newark, N.J.: Newark Liberty International

3: New York, N.Y.: Kennedy International

4: New York, N.Y.: La Guardia

5: Dallas/Ft.Worth, Texas: Dallas/Ft. Worth International

6: San Francisco, Calif.: San Francisco International

7: Boston, Mass.: Logan International

8: Philadelphia, Penn.: Philadelphia International

9: Atlanta, Ga.: Hartsfield-Jackson

10: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.: Minneapolis St. Paul International

11: Denver, Colo.: Denver International

12: Detroit, Mich.: Detroit Metro Wayne County

13: Seattle, Wash.: Seattle/Tacoma International

14: Charlotte, N.C.: Charlotte Douglas International

15: Los Angeles, Calif.: Los Angeles International

16: Washington, D.C.: Dulles International

17: Phoenix, Ariz.: Sky Harbor International

18: Las Vegas, Nev.: Mc Carran International

19: Miami, Fla.: Miami International

20: Washington, D.C.: Washington National

If airline delays really float your boat, WCBS-TV have (inexplicably) got a picture gallery of the worst offenders

From BBC Radio Kent


With the credit crunch, recession and the whole green anti-flying campaign looming over the summer holiday season, how about focussing on holidays closer to home? Or, cheaper still, AT HOME? In "Sod Abroad" Michael Moran explains why'd you'd be made to leave the comfort of your own home. It's a silly, joyous collection about the impossibility of having any kind of fun on holidays either in the UK or abroad and has assorted lists of great things you can only do at home, if you ever had any time there, plus detailed critiques of assorted holiday destinations and even one fairly scientific equation. "Sod Abroad" by Michael Moran - John Murray paperback original - £7.99

A standard Air Rage first

So here we are with a fairly routine story of some rather silly woman going nuts because she wasn't allowed to smoke on an aeroplane. Irrespective of your views on the creeping criminalisation of smoking, the idea of someone sparking up a gasper in the confined environs of a tourist jet is a pretty antisocial affair. Even if you ignore for one moment the spectre of the 'shoe bomber'

Here's what bothers me about the story though: She was restrained with the standard 'flex cuffs' which Sky Marshals carry to restrain terrorists, or more commonly people who've got a bit carried away with the in-flight gin-and-tonics.

And she Hulked out and broke them. If an average (one assumes) 35 year old woman can bust out of these things motivated by no more than the love of Woodbines, what possibility would there be of preventing some bomb-happy zealot from spearing the next 737 flight to Alicante into Canary Wharf?

Just a thought...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Top 6 things banned by Airport Security

As enumerated by the always rather interesting Unsought Input

Explanation and illumination over at the UI site, but that handy bullet-point chart in full is:

1: 3.2oz of toothpaste

2: A MacBook Air

3: Some breast milk

4: Any book with either some dynamite on the cover, or Harry Potter, or both

5: One of those admittedly rather annoying flashing LED badges

6: Our old favourite, the Transformers T-shirt

I'm sure there are other exciting and unexpected things that airport security will take arbitrary exception to. Why not fly somewhere and find out what they are?

Multimedia Wednesday!

First in a series of at least one, your chance to hear my interview with a nice chap at BBC Radio Lincolnshire as I try to persuade him not to fly to Boston.


This is your captain speaking: We're just going to circle a while until they clear all the jackals, raptors, and giant lizards off the runway...


NEW DELHI - Jackals, monitor lizards and raptors descended on a runway at New Delhi's main airport after heavy rains Monday, delaying flights, an airport official said.

The animals were looking to dry off and warm up after the first monsoon rains hit India's capital, and their appearance on the runway forced authorities to stop planes from taking off and landing for about an hour, Indira Gandhi International Airport spokesman Arun Arora said in a statement.

Animal welfare authorities cleared the runway of wildlife, including monitor lizards that measured as long as 2-3 feet, Arora said.

Arora didn't say how many flights were delayed. The Hindustan Times newspaper said about 100 flights were affected.

In the monsoon season, which runs from June to September, heavy rains routinely delay flights all over India.

I don't need to add anything here, do I?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A long list of delicious foods you can't get overseas

Now, my remit is substantially (as you know) to encourage people to have a relaxing two weeks in their front room, rather than enter a debate about the great Middle England disapora - which has distributed comfortably-off retired cabbies as far afield as Alicante and...well..just Alicante really.

Nevertheless, here's a list of things you'll miss if you leave your own lovely kitchen behind.

Johnny Vegas: He's got it half right

The roly-poly funnyman™ says he doesn't care for foreign holidays and would prefer a break on the North Sea coast. Now, if he can just follow his own logic through and realise that the North Sea is balls cold and that a British coastal resort is basically the same as the town he lives in, except slightly more expensive, he'll be ready to join my exclusive 'stay at home' club.

Here's a marvellous quote about a holiday in Ibiza though:

I was a mass of hypochondria back then. My mate got bitten by a dog on the first night, and later he shook my hand, and I got it into my head that I had rabies. So, everywhere I went, I carried a glass of water, to see if I was becoming afraid of it.

Read the rest over at TimesOnline.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The 12 things you will definitely forget to pack.. covered by the fine folk at Times Online

1. That Book You Really Wanted To Read

There’s this thing you saw on Richard & Judy once that sounded brainy and entertaining at the same time. It’s a hardback though, and they weight a ton so there’s no reading it on the way to work. No. It’s a "save for the holiday" book. It’ll probably make it into the case for a bit, then get taken out to make room for some flip-flops and never quite find a place in your hand-baggage.

Assuming you brought your glasses (see below) , you’ll end up making do with some flimsily unsatisfying paperback humour title you found in the airport Smiths instead. It's bound to be called something dreadful like Sod Abroad

Read on....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sharks: Getting a bit more bitey with all this hot weather

You will no doubt have been told that shark attacks are rare. That's true. As this handy map demonstrates though they're at their rarest on land, in the UK. Where all the pub lunches are to be had.

If you're silly enough to go to nasty hot places like Mexico, and then get in the water where at the very least you'll get soaked, if not definitely bitten, then I'm not sure we have much more to say to one another.

You look good naked: Welcome aboard

"SECURITY scanners that can see through passengers' clothing and reveal details such as their sex organs, colostomy bags and breast size, are being installed in 10 US airports"

It says here...

"Once the transportation security officer has viewed the image and resolved anomalies, the image is erased from the screen permanently. The officer is unable to print, export, store or transmit the image."

Yeah, but he can remember it can't he?

And he will. Mark my words. Men are beasts. I should know. I've been one for a while.

The Top 10 Things you can only do at home.

Holidays are all very well, but the things that really make life worth living can only be done at home. For example:

10: Get a babysitter in

Even after parenthood, some pitiful semblance of life continues. There are, for example, at least three evenings every year on which you’re obliged to squeeze yourself into something uncomfortable and go out for a nice meal*. As long as you remain relatively close to home all you need to do is book a restaurant and find a local teenager who is willing to find a window in their busy schedule of happy slapping and self-harm so they can come round and look after your precious progeny. All it’s going to cost you is the price of the meal, a couple of taxis, five quid an hour for the babysitter and an eye-watering surprise the next time you get a telephone bill. Try the same trick on holiday, the local teens will laugh in your face.

9: Go to the pictures

Holiday time might seem like the ideal opportunity to settle back and watch two and a half hours of delightfully sweary Tarantino nonsense. But of course we can’t: For a start off if you watch films in other countries they will almost invariably have been dubbed into some comically inaccessible language like French or something. Failing that they will have two lines of subtitles emblazoned across the very area at the bottom of the screen where one might normally hope to see the nipples of a promising young actress. Disappointing for many male cineastes, as well as a good proportion of female viewers of a certain stripe.

8: Listen to the wireless

Now, there’s no News Quiz on French radio. There’s not even a Now Show. I have no idea what the French (or the Spanish or the Italians for that matter) do with their bright young men but they certainly aren’t giving them jobs writing topical sketch shows for national speech-based radio stations. If you’re planning on doing any driving, ironing, or general slacking about in your holiday fortnight make you sure you do it somewhere that gets Radio Two, at the very least.

7: Have a nice cup of tea

The essential point about tea is that no matter what so-called ‘historians’ will tell you it’s a British drink. Ask an American to make you a cup of tea and even after you have negotiated your way through a bewildering choice of ‘erb tinctures and described the kind of drink you would like you will be presented with a greyish liquid capped with a thin slick of scum and, as if that were not bad enough, the tea-bag will be cohabiting with the milk in an entirely unnatural fashion. Every British schoolchild knows that the bag shall not lie down with the milk – yea, even in the tea of old ladies it is an abomination.

6: Drink tap water

Blame the French. Everybody does. For everything. Especially though, for those astoundingly expensive bottles of a substance which routinely falls from the sky and one might therefore reasonably expect to get for free. Evian, Vittel, Perrier: Generally packed in plastic bottles that leach poisonous antimony into their contents at a rate that would terrify any homeopath. And, indeed, most astrologers. The British, for all their self-proclaimed faults, can deliver a nice glass of water to your tap whenever you fancy it. Hosepipe bans permitting.

5: Have a lie-in

One of the greatest pleasures known to the working man (and even a few working women) the lie-in is generally confined to one weekend morning – typically a Sunday to commemorate Our Lord’s well-deserved, although disappointingly newspaperless, lie-in after that very first working week. On holiday though there will always be some oddball insisting on visiting some ghastly monument. The one time you can afford a lie-in will be the one time you can’t get one.

4: Waste a night on the Playstation

It’s not uncommon for the wives of Playstation aficionadi to view their husbands’ enthusiasm with disapproval.. This would be a mistake: Games consoles have been ‘proven’ by ‘experts’ to sharpen up reaction time and contribute to much later bed-times which means that the woman of the house is rarely troubled for anything untoward in the nightie area. There’s no such guarantee of an undisturbed sleep in an Andalucian chalet farm.

3: Wear your Comfy trousers

Everybody has a pair of Sunday trousers. Until about age 30 both sexes tend to favour some sporty tracksuit bottoms, even though the only sport that these particular examples would be appropriate for is competitive eating. Once we reach child-bearing age gender preference in Sunday trouser becomes more evident, with expectant fathers plumping for something in a fustian to suggest stability while their spouses stay with the trackies but upgrade to velour for that ‘Primrose Hill Set’ look. After all, you never know when Meg and Sadie are going to pop round in their Britpop Tardis. Thing is, no-one packs their Sunday trousers. And that’s why they can never get a proper rest on holiday.

2: Watch proper telly

Of course foreign telly is rubbish. That’s a given. Let’s not even mention non-English-speaking telly. That would be like shooting fish in a deep fat fryer.

1: Take drugs

Everybody takes drugs these days. Even dustmen. Especially dustmen, in fact. So when they go on holiday, they might reasonably expect to unwind a little further (after all, they don’t have to get up in the morning and the most common side effect of drug abuse is an aversion to alarm clocks) – Except they can’t. The downside of taking drugs for fun is the obligation it confers upon one to enter into commercial transactions with petty criminals. It’s easy enough to spot a British drugs retailer, they all wear those special hats, but overseas it’s a longer, less amusing story.