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Holidays have never been so scary

IF you happen to be a woman having a coffee at a pavement café in Barcelona and a pigeon squatting on a ledge above deposits its load into your lap, beware.

According to The Secret Tourist, you could be about to become the victim of a gang of sophisticated thieves.

For a start, the offending pigeon may not be a pigeon at all, but a crafty criminal pretending to be a pigeon. No, it won't be a man wearing a pigeon costume, silly! But it could be a man leaning over a balcony, squeezing fake pigeon poo made from harmless goo and food colourant from a dropper.

And see that nice, young Spanish woman at the next table who asked you for a light a few minutes ago? Beware of her, too. She's on her feet now, using her hanky to clean the "poo" off your skirt. Ah, how kind, how friendly -- except she's not being kind or friendly.

She, you see, is the pigeon man's accomplice, and the only reason she's being so helpful is in order to distract your attention, so yet ANOTHER accomplice, sitting a couple of tables away, can step in and snatch the bag you've stupidly left lying unattended on a chair.

Then again, if you ever do find yourself sitting at a pavement café in Barcelona and bird droppings land in your lap, it could simply mean that you've been crapped on by a pigeon.

Not that anything as mundane as that would ever occur to The Secret Tourist, which enacted the whole pigeon-dropping scam using actors and unwitting stooges, and seems intent on convincing viewers that the wider world (ie, anywhere outside Blighty) is a big, bad, dangerous place full of swarthy-skinned scammers and shakedown artists whose only purpose in life is to relieve innocent visitors of their precious possessions.

It's a horribly narrow-minded, Little Englander worldview bordering on xenophobia -- and the fact that it's fronted by Matt Allwright with a mixture of scaremongering and laddish jocularity only makes it all the more nauseating.

"Like any other major city, Barcelona has crooks," chirruped Matt, who likes dressing up as silly Spanish waiters and seems to fancy himself as the Jeremy Beadle of the consumer programme. "We tourists are walking wads of cash just waiting to be pilfered."

Really? Well, that'll teach me not to walk down any more dangerous foreign streets waving my holiday cash and camera around with mad abandon.

From now on, the camera goes down the front of the shorts (I can still take some holiday snaps if I discreetly unzip) and the credit card stays firmly clenched between the buttocks.

Actually, do you know something? On second thoughts, I don't think I'll ever go on holiday again.

I think I'll just sit at home with the blinds closed, watching Matt adopting silly disguises and funny voices, and console myself that I'm safe and sound in my own little country, far away from the greedy eyes and grasping hands of dirty Johnny Foreigner.

Bar tuning in a few weeks ago to catch part of an interview with the great Alice Cooper, I've never watched one single edition of The One Show, which sparked much coverage in the British media when former hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley decided to jump ship to ITV.

After last night, one One Show is one too many.

Now hosted by Jason Manford and Alex Jones, it's a curious beast that puts you in mind of Pebble Mill at One, the soft-bellied BBC1 chat-cum-magazine show that ran at lunchtimes during the 70s and 80s.

Dreary little items about rescue helicopters, the British Red Cross and the history of the Welsh hymn Love Divine sat uneasily alongside an interview with erstwhile Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson -- though not as uneasily as a clearly bemused Pam sat alongside the appalling Giles Brandreth, who at one point looked as if he was about to devour her.

One man's meat is another man's poison, I guess.


The Secret Tourist **

The One Show *