BOOK REVIEW / Fun geezer on his hols: Here we go: A Summer on the Costa del Sol by Harry Ritchie, Hamish Hamilton pounds 14.99

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The Independent Culture
'I WOULD LIKE to explain why this is not a proper travel book,' Harry Ritchie says in his introduction. 'Basically, I am sick to the back teeth of reading the damn things, so there is no way I am going to write one.' Well, there are perhaps other reasons why he has not written one, and one of them is that he hasn't exactly travelled, by which I mean the kind of thing you do to broaden the mind. He got on a plane and went somewhere hot all right, but he landed no further than the Costa del Sol and while he was there he spoke, by my count, to about four Spaniards.

This is an engaging premise for an anti-travel book, and Ritchie is careful not to fall into the trap of condemning the people who do go to the Costa del Sol for their hols. 'The point of a holiday is to have a good time, and if that means sleeping, and drinking and eating in British bars, well, why the fuck not? Hmm? Are you supposed to earn a merit certificate for learning the lingo or checking out at least five art galleries?' he asks. No, you might say, you don't earn a merit certificate for doing these things, but you might add to the brain's interior furniture if you do (furniture that Ritchie is happy at least to rearrange by scoring and enjoying dope, speed and Ecstasy in Torremolinos, an account of which makes up by far the book's best section). And if you don't, then you are either going to have to fill up a book on the subject with a certain amount of padding or make sure that every sentence you write has a funny hat on.

So Ritchie gets drunk, tries to tan his armpits, tries to pick up girls (or rather be picked up), interviews a few people, tries to get on the set of Eldorado. We learn a few interesting things about the Costa del Sol: for instance, that it was an undeveloped cesspit before mass tourists brought money in. We also learn a few things about Harry Ritchie, such as that he is a fun geezer, game for a dance, breezily demotic and sex-starved.

'You can't peer through your binoculars on a beach here,' he writes, 'without coming across some melon-breasted strumpet wearing only a thong and sun-factor five, shamelessly exposing her full, round, bronzed, oiled breasts, her taut, smooth stomach, and her full, round, bronzed, oiled bottom.' As Bill Bryson or P J O'Rourke could tell you, most solitary male travellers are prone to despairing erotic reverie, but that's still not how I expected the literary editor of the Sunday Times to write.