YOU will be wanting to know what I did on my holidays. Accompanied by the Home Secretary, or the Keeper of the Purse as she is sometimes known, I travelled first to Barcelona where the talk is all of Catalonian independence, upon which much hangs on the performances of a diminutive Argentine, namely Lionel Messi.

On arrival at the airport we were amazed to discover that the armed escort we had ordered to take us into the city had failed to arrive and we had no option but to take the shuttle bus. God knows what Maggie Thatcher would have thought of that!

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As we waited for it to set off, a gaggle of women, possibly of Glaswegian extraction, tried desperately to attract the driver in fluent Spanish. "Cooee", they called, using a signal I believe was first used in the Australian bush. For some reason the driver seemed to think I was connected with the women and asked with his eyebrows whether he should allow them to embark. Feeling charitable, I replied in kind and off we set.


MANY moons ago I spent 24 hours dawdling in the Placa Reial, which is just off the tacky Rambla with its shops selling junk and its restaurants charging 20 euros for packet paella.

On this occasion the great square was humming with salesfolk, many selling coins and medals and stamps, only the first of which I collect now.

There were also countless other salesfolk who spread their wares on old blankets. From them you could buy handless watches, lifeless jeans and saucy postcards, which were very popular with tourists from the Orient. We sat in a café sipping cold tea and hot milk, because neither the Home Secretary nor I speak fluent Catalan, a deficiency we hope to correct next week.

An accordionist struck up a tune and the bloke beside him began to clap his hands like a lunatic. Or Cliff Richard inviting audience participation.