Ambushed on the M25 and longing to return to Mogadishu

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT'S impossible for a tourist to feel safe anywhere these days, so here, for the unwary, is a shortlist of the most dangerous tourist places on earth. . .

Westminster: This area was traditionally one of the safest parts of London. No longer. Not if Norman's experience is anything to go by. Norman was simply walking along a corridor when a man leapt out at him and said: 'I want you to leave your house immediately and go and live somewhere else]'

'Well,' says Norman, 'I recognised the man immediately. He is called John. He is a harmless nutter who wanders round Westminster talking to himself, or to anyone who will listen. He's always jumping out at people and telling them to leave their jobs and houses. After a while it gets you down, and I have finally decided to move elsewhere.'

Mogadishu: Fairly safe on the whole, but you are always liable to be shot by United Nations troops if you are in a package tour. Advice: don't travel in a group - walk around by yourself.

Washington: Apart from being shot at, it is almost impossible for an Englishman to move in Washington these days without being ruthlessly dispossessed of his football, or being bundled humiliatingly into touch. One man, Graham Taylor, had even worse things happen to him. 'I was woken up at 4am in my hotel room by a total stranger coming in and saying, 'Don't move] Just tell my readers whether you don't think it isn't time to resign and make way for someone else we can persecute?'. Luckily, by the time I'd worked out his double negative, he'd gone, but it was a close thing.'

Mogadishu: Another thing. Don't, whatever else you do, run a radio station here.

Hong Kong: 'The greatest risk in Hong Kong,' says Chris, an Englishman who is passing through Hong Kong at the moment, 'is unwittingly to offend the Chinese, who will then make life very difficult for you, especially as you never find out how you have offended them. The best thing to do, I find, is to take the initiative and to offend them wittingly right from the start - yes, put the backs up of the entire Chinese nation by making impossible demands and laying down impossible conditions - and then you know exactly where you are. Mug them before they mug you, in other words. Mark you, it does help to know that you are only in transit. . .'

Christchurch: Oddly enough, there are two places called Christchurch where you could get into trouble. One is in New Zealand, where, if you are an Englishman and are seen touching a football, a referee will blow a whistle and order you to be taken away and penalised. The other Christchurch is in Hampshire, and is no place for the easily scared - it is haunted by the ghost of the late Robert Adley MP, who wanders the streets at night threatening to torment anyone stupid enough to vote for a government that, after 14 years in power, still can't work out a transport policy which does something for his beloved railways.

Mogadishu: Oh, and another thing. Don't agree to look after an arms dump for anyone, no matter how nice they seem.

Venice: The city is sinking under the weight of books that have been written about the place, many of them by people called John Julius Norwich, and you may run into danger simply by buying a guide book at home and then taking the heavy volume to Venice, thus weighing the place down even further. A tip: leave your literature behind, and go everywhere with a life- jacket on.

Mogadishu: One more thing, and sorry if I have already told you this, but don't, however tempting it seems, call yourself a warlord. Don't ask why. Just don't. Or move. Or breathe. Or anything.

The M25: The M25 is safe enough on foot, but in a car it is a different story. 'I had hardly been on the road 10 minutes,' says one driver, 'when I was surrounded by other drivers who forced me to a complete halt by bringing their cars to a stop. I thought they were going to leap out and rob me, but they just sat in their cars, avoiding my eye. Occasionally they would torture me by moving forward 10 feet as if about to release me, but then I would be trapped again. Finally, my nerve cracked and I leapt out, shouting, 'OK, what do you want? I'll give you anything]' Even then they ignored me] It was the most horrific experience of my life. I'm going back to Mogadishu as soon as possible.'

Comments