Saturday, May 31, 2008

Maybe it's just the name that's the problem

A couple from Cleveland went on a couple of cruises a year, all with the same line.

One would be tempted to inquire why they kept going back for more of the same.

Until, of course you think about what their names were.Brenda and Gerald Moran. Perhaps we're just a worldwide family that doesn't like holidays.

Warning: May contain Germans

One the one hand the story of a couple who sued their tour operator because the hotel they were sent to had too many Germans in it is a terrible indictment of our excessively litigious culture.

On the other hand, it's bloody hilarious.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The World Atlas of Disappointing Holidays

Literally some people filled in my probing survey into the crock of crap at the end of the Travel Agent's rainbow. Here are the results. Scroll around to warn yourself of the disappointments and dangers that lurk on every continent (except Antarctica, but then comparatively few tour operators currently offer packages to McMurdo sound)

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You'll find a few of the pins are in the wrong spots on the map, principally because a number of these places are so uneccesarily hard to spell. I'll fix them if I spot them but leave the locations of any particularly egregious geographical howlers in the comments field below.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sod Abroad: The totally web 2.0 interactive survey

In order to celebrate, publicise, and generally go on about the publication of the spectacular new Tragic Travel book 'Sod Abroad' I've made a little quiz which will be extrapolated into The World Atlas of Disappointing Holidays showing all the most popular holiday destinations and the terrible things that can happen in them. Pop your answers in the boxes below. It's worth it - there's a prize.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Drug tourists expect 'quick fix' spirituality. Tossers.

Why travel thousands of miles to buy rubbish drugs when you can get the same stuff off a bloke with dirty fingernails in Camden?

Stealth advert for product reveals unpalatable truth

This piece about a jellyfish sting was so placed by the PR for sting-b-gone or whatever the hell they're selling.

Still, it's a timely reminder that the sea is full of things that don't like us.

They'll never sell us that can of anti-jellyfish spray though. Not while everyone on Earth has seen this clip:

Monday, May 26, 2008

The first GOOD travel news I've ever reported: Free Drugs! Yipee!

Bless those hapless Japanese customs officials and their Keystone Komedy Kapers.

Somewhere there's a lucky passenger with 10,000 Australian Dollars' worth of free weed.

AN unsuspecting passenger who flew to Tokyo has a large package of cannabis in their luggage - courtesy of a bungled Customs training exercise.

An officer at Narita International Airport yesterday stuffed 142 grams of the drug into the side pocket of a randomly-selected black suitcase coming off an overseas flight so that the animal could detect it.

"The dog couldn't find it and the officer also forgot which bag he put it in," a Customs office spokeswoman said.

"If by some chance passengers find it in their suitcase, we're asking them to return it."

Assuming they make it though customs at the other end. I'm looking forward though to this little mishap forming the basis of a defence strategy for some particularly chilled-out airline passenger. Are you listening, Paul?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Just how many Hemingway novels would you have to read..

..before you got stupid enough to fly to Spain and let an angry cow tear your pants off?

Picture of the Day

This is what moths look like in hot countries:

If you must go abroad, for the love of God don't take your cashmere sweater..

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Should you stay? Should you go? The age-old problem resolved

funny graphs
more song chart memes

Two hot new ways that airlines use to rip you off

1: Priority boarding

2: Charging to let you carry ONE bag

It's almost as if they don't want you to fly at all. Maybe they'd prefer it if you spent your money on enchantingly slim volumes of humour instead?

I can make one or two recommendations in that area, if you like....

The evidence keeps flooding in: Holiday disasters are more common then you think

As this piece from the Sunday Times demonstrates:

There were six of us – three couples – sharing a villa in Malta. The maid was horrible, and at one point tried to make us all share a bedroom; the owner’s pet labrador died, and the local vet advised us to burn the corpse in case of infectious diseases; and it was so hot, the driveway cracked in the heat and chips from it broke a window. To top it all, there was a horrendous electric storm on the flight home. By the end of the holiday, all three couples had broken up. - Cherry Cookson, London

It was supposed to be the “Ultimate Robinson Crusoe Honeymoon”. It was actually a two-man tent on a desolate atoll with no amenities, next to a shark-infested sea. We found a box of matches containing six damp ones and just the one that was dry. It was used. At dusk, the beach came alive with creepy-crawlies, which attracted a black cloud of crows. What the crows left, the rats enjoyed. Remarkably, I’m still married to my suburban Bear Grylls. - Sara Wakefield, Worcester

I went touring Scotland with my fiancĂ©e and some friends – another engaged couple. In one B&B, a harridan landlady stood on guard between what she called the boys’ and girls’ rooms. Then we had three days’ rain in Oban and two days’ food poisoning, with three of the four of us circling a single WC. Finally, we got some sun in Aviemore, where I swam in the loch and cut my foot on a rusty can. I received eight stitches and spent the last five days hopping. - Peter Hotchkin, Hilversum, Netherlands

I had all my worldly goods swiped by a machete-wielding local in Zanzibar. I was so scarred by the experience that I hallucinated his presence later that night. I spent all of the next day at the police station as a one-fingered typist took seven identical reports of the crime. - Becky Wootton, Oxford

Went to Thailand with horrid boyfriend and caught a taxi at the airport. We were stopped by police and told our throats would be slit. Took bus to Ko Samui, hijacked by men with machetes. Someone died of an overdose next door. Boyfriend ended up in hospital. - Sam, Brisbane, Australia

We hired a pink 4WD in Jamaica, got lost one day and followed a local on a motorbike, who offered us directions. He took us to a ganja plantation. When we tried to escape, the car wouldn’t start. After we’d paid huge “donations”, we managed to get away – and then got fined for speeding. - Shelley Collingwood, Cambridge

I was driving down the M25 when a lorry crashed into me. I’d only got the car the week before. The police took one look at the wreckage and were amazed I was alive. The tow truck needed three hours to find me; he was going to drop me off at the nearest petrol station, but I persuaded him to take me to Stansted, where I spent the night before flying home. Not good memories. - Erik Pleyte, the Hague, Netherlands

I paid a flying visit to England for my brother’s wedding. The connecting flight to Heathrow was cancelled, and I was transferred onto another flight to Gatwick. But the runway was closed, so we were diverted to an RAF aerodrome near Southampton. It took me three trains to get to the wedding – one was cancelled and I ended up on an alternative route. Nightmare. - Carolyn Haward Bravos, Markopoulo, Greece

My girlfriend and I were crossing the border from America to Mexico on holiday. We were having a drink in a bar when a guy who described himself as an “ex-convict” started chatting to us. He was rather persistent, so we tried to make our excuses. When he went to the bar to order another round, we escaped upstairs to the filthy bathroom, where we had to pay five bucks for toilet paper. We stayed in there for ages, waiting for him to go away. - Muncho, Richmond

Monday, May 19, 2008

Picture of the Day

..or should that be catch of the day?

Every day 1.3 billion gallons of partially treated sewage are dumped into the ocean.

Fancy a swim?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good news: Intolerant B&B owners are now required by law to be LESS tolerant

..which is, when you think about it, terrific stuff.

As a grownup might put it:
As the holiday season gets under way, Meg Munn, a junior minister, has emphasised that it is illegal to allow married couples to share a room at a guest house or hotel while not allowing homosexuals the same right.

If gays are turned away, the only way a Christian or Muslim guest house owner can lawfully stay in business is if he or she offers single bedrooms to all guests - straight or gay
Top notch work by our political masters there. If there's any way at all of making a stay in a seaside B&B remotely tolerable, it's by introducing the elements of a Whitehall farce into the proceedings.

I quite look forward to ducking in and out of bedrooms after dark. Great entertainment.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Top 10 really horrible places on Earth

As enumerated by the fine minds over at Stuff.

Please note, not one of them is in, or even near, the UK.

It's almost as if we live where all the really evil wars, weather and other worrisome events aren't.

There's a lesson there, if only I could tease it out....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ready to buy some Michael Moran books yet?

The fine people at Love Reading sorted out my author profile, which was showing a whole other Michael Moran who writes brainy books about politics and such. I'm not suggesting I'm all that better looking but the photo that they  had of him, wearing some sort of sun-hat and obviously on his hols, made me chuckle a little.

It's changed now and there's a nice picture of me and a shed. Far better.

The list of other books by me still makes for pretty droll reading though. Australia? Erotic Tickling? hard to estimate which is the less likely.

The other books I have worked on, if you are at all interested, are:

Shopping While Drunk - with Amanda Astill, Tom Bromley, and Simon Trewin.
Intended as a followup to our Guilty Pleasures book it's rather a better read in my view. It's a catalogue of useless tat that everyone likes. There are jokes. A few of them still stand up. Best of all it's a hardback, so you can use it to prop the window open on hot days.

The Encyclopaedia of Guilty Pleasures - with Tom Bromley, Simon Trewin, and some damn Yankees.
Exactly what it sounds like. A retooling of the US title of the same name that we probably lavished rather more love on that was necessary. Which was a shame, because it really didn't sell at all well. And whose fault is that? Well, unless you bought it, yours.

Rock and Pop Elevenswith Tom Bromley and Simon Trewin
I can't pretend this is a terrific book. It has its moments but the comedy is rather weighed down by a little too much fact. And who likes fact?

Check 'em out. You can find them in libraries, bookshops, and wherever unwanted books are dumped.

Good news for air travellers!

The much-publicised 'credit crunch' means fewer people will be booking flights this summer.

Don't worry though, you won't be all alone on the plane with no-one to talk to.

Because oil prices are at an all-time high, most carriers are cutting back on how many flights they'll be offering meaning that every plane will be as crowded and indeed overbooked as it's always been.

Perhaps 'good news' isn't quite the phrase I'm looking for.

It's good news for me though. I'll be at home, sunning myself in my garden, laughing at my own jokes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

There's First Class air travel, then there's.. class, premium economy and of course our old friend economy.

Did you know there was also a bog-class option?

I just hope the poor chap had something to read

4 holiday horror stories... real travel writers. Not just parvenus & upstarts like your humble narrator, these are people who go on holiday for a living and know how to do it properly.

Still they endure mystery car lockouts, near-fatal poisonings, near-death bus rides and a mugging followed by a white knuckle hitch-hiking experience.

These are people who are trained to go on holiday properly. And some of them nearly died.

What chance of survival do you think you have?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hot News: Half of all air accidents happen on landing, says survey

I guess the other half of accidents are due to planes are just crashing into the air then.

I shouldn't keep picking on air travel though. There are plenty of other terrible things to mention about holidays. It's just that the people that own airlines and airports seem to be so very good at making very large and amusing public mistakes. Like making public what an absolutely parlous state all of their planes are in.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Picture of the Day

Making maximum use of increasingly oversubscribed runway space
On the upside, wider choice of in-flight movies. As long as you're willing to watch through the window.

One more reason not to use aeroplanes

Tramps sleep in them.

I mean, apart from the fact that he could have been a bomb-crazy terrorist, eeuuuuwwww!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Air France pilot ‘showing off to boy’ has near miss at 33,000ft

No mention is made in this story of whether he actually asked the young lad if he liked gladiator movies, or whether he'd seen a grown man naked, or even whether he was a very tiny terrorist.

Still. We'll be a lot less bored next time we fly, knowing that the pilot can be talked into doing stunts for our amusement.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tragic Travel stories: Now officially flavour of the month

This terrific bit from my Times colleague (and fellow John Murray author) Chris Ayres reiterates many of the points made in my book but, predictably, more succinctly and in a slightly funnier way.

This paragraph gives you a good sense of where Chris stands on the whole 'booking a holiday based on some vague information found on the Internet' caper:

These aren't easy times for holidaymakers, that's for sure. With jet fuel now more expensive than liquid plutonium and skin cancer practically a certainty unless you encase your entire body in concrete, more is at stake than ever. And yet there is so much information available on destinations, you need to book a holiday just to do the research necessary to book a holiday.

Of course, my book is still the only place to find lots of lists of great things you can only do at home, stuff about dangerous fish, and some vaguely libertarian musings on drug abuse &c. Sensibly priced too, at a mere £7.99

Monday, May 05, 2008

Marvellous things you can only do @ Home No.20: Get completely ruined and pass out while while your kids are around this unlucky couple discovered, people overseas are a great deal less tolerant than us. Drinking oneself into a state on insensibility is one of the simple pleasures our forebears laid down their lives to preserve.

Our tolerance of different cultures and lifestyles is the key factor that makes Britain the No.1 destination for migrants across Europe and beyond. hardly anyone seeks asylum in Portugal, they're just too bloody judgmental.

Our prodigious thirstiness is something that's less widely celebrated, but that's something we could easily remedy by getting rid of those pictures of a tubby little German woman on our banknotes and replacing them with engravings of scenes from Withnail and I instead.

While we're at it, we could change out national motto from that preposterous Latin nonsense to the simple homespun phrase "We've gone on holiday by mistake"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

At last someone's applied the 'all you can eat buffet' principle to booze!

But they're surprised at the results for some reason. The Daily Mail tells it like it is, with the totally non-gratuitous picture of a clown pinching some bird's nipples to underline their central point and for no other reason.

The thing is, these people are all probably perfectly decent at home. It's holidays. Holidays have made them mad.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The 'controversial' post

One of the things I did for Sod Abroad was an incisive and (I hoped) witty analysis of the difficulty in squaring the responsible parent on holiday/having a rare old time circle. Basically, if you have young kids and you're on holiday it's a bit of a waste if you go to bed the same time as they do.

So I did this bit, see.. and I was warned by the grownups at the publishing company that everyone would see parallels with the Madeleine McCann case and we'd get told off by the Daily Express or something.

The fact that I wrote this before the poor girl was abducted cut no cheese with the publishers so, like a responsible writer should, I listened to the opinions of the people who were actually printing the thing and produced a shorter, filleted version of this chapter.

You people on the Internet though, you're impossible to offend aren't you? If by chance you're the one person online right now who is easily upset, click here while the rest of us read this, the full and unexpurgated chapter I like to call:

THINGS YOU CAN ONLY DO @ HOME #10: Getting a babysitter in

After marriage, life goes on. 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.

Stray too far from your home base though, and things get terribly complex. A dwindling number of hotels still offer a ‘baby listening’ service, which effectively means they leave the ‘phone off the hook and as long as your offspring are capable of stating the nature of any emergency in a loud, but calm and clear voice the receptionist will pop through to the hotel restaurant (which is as far as you dare go) and interrupt your meal to tell you that your child is choking on a miniature bar of soap. Any use of restaurants other than the hotel’s offering is strictly prohibited, meaning that this solution is only tenable for a weekend away. Two weeks of the same mediocre menu would test your ordering skills well beyond any realistic limit. Larger hotel chains are now abandoning this idea anyway as certain spoilsport elements within our increasingly litigious culture keep pointing out that parents are being charged for an essentially imaginary service.

Venturing further afield of course throws the language barrier into the mix, and whereas teenagers from outside the UK apparently lack the imagination to make low-resolution videos of common assaults or get themselves pregnant at 13 there’s still something slightly questionable about them. It may be the chain-smoking, it may be the reckless scooter driving, for that matter it may be a pernicious inability to name more than two Carry On films but whatever otherworldly quality denies them Britishness makes them unsuitable candidates for the immensely important task of caring for your little bundles of noise.

So., if you’re going on holiday you can’t have a night out without taking the kids. They’ll get tired in the restaurant and either fall asleep or descend into some kind of blood sugar psychosis which will put quite the crimp in your fantasies of sophisticated continental dining.If you can’t have one nice meal the whole time you’re away, it rather throws the whole raison d’etre of the holiday into a cocked hat, doesn’t it? Your option of course is to save a thousand quid and go for a blowout meal in that nice little Italian place around the corner. It’ll probably have better, more authentically Italian food with no laminated picture menus, the waiter will spend more time bringing you food and a little less time leering down your wife’s top - plus you stand a better chance of getting home to find your kids in one piece and not having been taught to smoke like Alain Delon.

*If you don’t know what they are I’m not going to tell you.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And now the US Department of Transport are at it

..soliciting complaints about unsatisfactory holidays that is.

If only there were some sort of book these people could read...

Even the British Council are in on the 'terrible holidays' meme

The fine fine British Council, who are not at all associated with espionage, are canvassing for tales of terrible holiday experiences under the guise of teaching people English.

Why any of these people might need to speak a 2nd language when they're all too traumatised by disco polo dances and faulty radiators to ever leave their homes again is a matter for conjecture by wiser men than I.