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If travel jinx Simon Reeve jumps on your holiday flight …get off! CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews BBC2's …

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If travel jinx Simon Reeve jumps on your holiday flight …get off! CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews BBC2’s Mediterranean

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Mediterranean 

Rating:

Lovely chap, that Simon Reeve, but you wouldn’t want to go on holiday with him.

The mop-topped voyager’s adventure round our favourite summer havens in Mediterranean (BBC2) became a nightmare of brawling tourists, corruption, Russian skulduggery and Mafia explosions.

And that was just Malta.

He could find a seamy underbelly in Sugar Plum Fairyland. Wherever he travelled, he uncovered twisted nightmares, from blood feuds in Albania to blighted olive trees in the heel of Italy.

The mop-topped voyager’s adventure round our favourite summer havens in Mediterranean (BBC2) became a nightmare of brawling tourists, corruption, Russian skulduggery and Mafia explosions

He means well, but frankly Simon and his tasselled scarf spell tourism catastrophe at every turn. Skegness and Margate would be well advised to implement a shoot-on-sight policy, just in case he ever visits.

Within moments of stepping off a motor launch in Malta, he was standing outside a bar where 30 or more holidaymakers were laying into each other with bottles and stools. 

I fervently hope they weren’t all boozed-up Brits but, let’s face it, they were unlikely to be Swiss.

The yachts in the harbour, on the other hand, were probably Russian. One boasted a helipad with a helicopter wearing a fitted dustcover, like a tailored egg cosy.

Malta is an oligarch’s playground, apparently.

The island sells passports for $1 million (£760,000) with very few questions asked, which means European Union residency is available at a price — handy for money laundering.

One journalist who followed the dirty money trail too far was assassinated with a car bomb. 

It was triggered by radio from a distant yacht in a murder that was as high-tech as it was cold-blooded.

Even Simon’s cheerful, offbeat snippets had a dark heart.

In Brancaleone, on Italy’s southern tip, he discovered a sealife rescue station where volunteers were preparing to release a 30-year-old turtle called Raoul back into the wild. Here was a feelgood story at last.

Even this segment was depressing, though. Half the Med’s turtles have died, Simon discovered, many because they mistook plastic bags for tasty jellyfish.

By the time he visited an idyllic olive grove, it was painfully obvious what would happen.

Sure enough, the spot was infested with a bacteria called Xylella or ‘olive tree Ebola’. 

When Simon left, the 82-year-old Italian farmer was sobbing his eyes out. 

Much of the documentary looks lovely, and the bits that don’t — downtown Albania, for example — are fascinating. But if you ever find yourself sitting on a package tour airliner next to this man, bale out.

Great Canal Journeys 

Rating:

In contrast, a trip abroad with old romantics Timothy West and Prunella Scales would be delightful. 

These inseparable thesps, married for 55 years, were back on a barge in Great Canal Journeys (C4), though this time it was the Nile river variety favoured by Cleopatra, rather than the Kennet & Avon narrowboat type.

Timothy West and Prunella Scales have been married for 55 years and were back on a barge in Great Canal Journeys on C4

Pru suffers from vascular dementia, which affects her memory, though you wouldn’t guess it to look at her, or to hear her deliver her lines with a mischievous smile.

She’s 86, though she refused to admit it to the camera: ‘I get away with 67 if I’m lucky.’ 

Tim, 83, is attentive and alert, though not in a sartorial sense: he spent the episode in a battered straw hat that looked like a chicken had been nesting in it.

They set a brisk pace from the Valley of the Kings at Luxor to a Nubian village outside Aswan —too brisk at times, because the scenery was so beautiful it would have been better to linger.

And I wanted more of Tim’s outrageous Hercule Poirot accent, when he read from Death On The Nile. Alors, Hastings, c’est formidable!

 

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