AS FEBRUARY DRAGS US BY THE HAIR THROUGH sludgy days and howling nights, I've been gathering my overroat of hedonrsm about me, but I've got scant warmth from a vam bId to IllJOCI some (olour Into my exrstenre

February, the greyest month, traditionally witnesses a spe<ta<ular fall from the post-Christmas bandwagon of righteousness There's the grmdmg Inevrtablllty of ram, the end of the sales, the TV schedule and the stark realisation that there's another ten months to go untrl the next offrte party However, after a'partrtularly nasty entounter Involving eight pmts, two alter<atrons, an uneven pavmg slab (oh yes It was) and mmor (ontussron, the rzptrde of respite has finally swept me out Into the open seas of the il()lld(ly market

Like pension buyers and pd(k(‘(l-ltll‘(lt makers, people who pre-book therr holidays do exrst, but I

needs a holiday


have yet to gom their neatly serrled "anks The llOilOll of blithely trudging down to GOHK] Nowhere and placing a deposit on a fortnight of fun rs as alien to me as a stud beauty regime or the counting of (alorles Holidays yust seem to happen to me, m mut h the same way as \‘\.v'eek-long benders and new harr (olours

Departure mewtably starts months earlier mth an event of a kmd usually ony found m a soap opera storyline m this (ase a dramatx 70- mrle dash to (astralty and an ()‘~./(‘Tll|(]ili stay Ill the head mlurles ‘.‘.'lll(} Affairs gamed momentum until the runaway trazn of Cause and effett found me ll‘. a hotel bar on all fours, barking like a dog tr‘. a kebab- starved frenzy As the stony glares thrown at me by feliov.’ guests denied the trusty altoho sh:e|d, a ha/y :rnage mvolvmg palms and ll'sS()!ll-'!llll)(‘(i Latinos formed m my addled mmd, and l staggered to bed kno‘.'.mg that, by the time you read th;s, l wll be salsarng rhy ‘.'.«'ay to Cuba

Naturally I have my reservatzons The last trme the hol'day fairy grabbed me by the st ruff of the neck and hauled me into Traulflnders, i".(‘ perverse slattern took the zll-prepared book and threw at at me After HTUUl delll,)eratron, a patkage \.' (letlded upon

that tempered the tedlum of b(.‘(l(,ll-ld/lll(} m the Hampshrres with a mainline fiX of four days m NYC It was at this pomt sazd fairy took arm and bounted my (redlt (ard all over the shop

After listening to the whole of the Brandenburg Con<ertos on hold, lvlrss Whiplash at Visa informed me I wouldn't have my (redlt status returned until I had served the mandatory three-day penan<e ‘r‘ (redrt IIlTllX), Suitably (hastlsed, but unbowed, the problem was solved by hastily (obblmg together a fmanre parkage of the type employed by short filmmakers Twelve hours later, I was m JFK airport fending off the advanres of a (ustoms offrter who claimed to be (lose personal friends ‘Nlil‘ Fzsh from

Twelve hours later, I was in JFK airport fending off the advances of a customs officer who claimed to be close personal friends with Fish from Marillion.

Marillion. and had a spare mattress l was welrome to stay on

The type of madness that found me travelling to the (onsume: l\le((a \‘.’liil()lii a funrtvonmg (red't (ard and anywhere to stay has only previously been do<umented Ill severe (ases of lSD-mdmed >uphorla And stag mght Japes This time I have resolved to book the flight at least two days n advante, fmd somev-.'l‘.ere to sleep before leaving S(()il<l.".(i, and ensure travel with more ‘mantlal (lout than some youth hostel vouthers and a mnmng smile Now | Just "need to find my passport

Gill Mills is on Radio Scotland, Suns 7-8pm and co- hosts The Loafers on BBC Choice, Tue-Fri, 10pm.

fez) .: 1999 THE llST7