Elaine Zerafa is a holiday representative in Malta, where she has lived for 31 years since marrying Max, with whom she has three children, all now in their twenties. Elaine is also a ballroom dancing teacher.

Travel is traumatic at the best of times, and especially so for our tourists who arrive on the night flights. When I meet them at the airport in the early hours I usually take a map and show them where they are because they can't see where they've landed in the dark.

By the time they arrive at their hotels all they usually want to do is get their heads down, but sometimes they ask me questions such as, 'Where can we get the cheapest fish and chips?'

When I'm on night airport duty (fortunately never more than once a week) I'm not home before 5am and don't get to lie in because Max prefers me to be up with him at 7am. If I didn't, I wouldn't see him until supper, which he wouldn't like. The Maltese are very family-minded.

It takes me the rest of the week for my body clock to readjust because I'm not a good sleeper. I've never got into the Maltese habit of taking a siesta between 1pm and 4pm except when I was pregnant. It's lovely but it doesn't feel right somehow. Anyway I wouldn't sleep at night if I did that.

Even when I'm not on duty I can be called during the night if there's an emergency. In my 15 years as a rep I've had four people die when they've been out at night - they had heart attacks and some of them were not that old. I think they relax on holiday and all that bottled-up stress suddenly hits them. Apart from sorting out the practicalities, I also stay with the families and try to comfort them.

A rep's shoulder is the only one tourists have to cry on in a strange place. They'll phone me at all hours of the night: when their kids are ill, when their electricity or water goes off, when they've got sunstroke or they're drunk and they've lost their keys. Sometimes it's annoying but it's all part of the job - not for the faint-hearted.

Max gets annoyed by the way I eat, drink and sleep my job during the peak season. We live near the airport and I've often lain awake at night waiting to hear a certain plane take off with our tourists on it before I can relax and sleep. He'd like me to stop but I really enjoy the people and being out and about all day. I sometimes go on the evening trips as well - I don't think it's fair to dump a coachload of tourists in a nightclub all by themselves. I jolly them along and get them to dance.

Summer nights are my favourite time in Malta. We don't have any such thing as dusk. There is twilight and then, 10 minutes later, it's as though someone had switched out the lights. I have to warn the tourists about that or they'd get lost in the dark. In the summer we move to our flat by the sea because it's cooler. We sit on the balcony for hours at night, just looking out over the bay.

When I get into bed I try to get all the worrying over with first . . . have I sent the coaches to the right addresses, will the flight be delayed? Then I always have to read for at least an hour before I can sleep - I like navy stories and adventures. Before you asked me I didn't realise that I haven't had a dream for years. It's going to worry me now. Maybe I'm not normal. I'm sure Max doesn't dream - he's too busy snoring - I'll ask him later.

It's ironic but despite being in the business, I'm not a good traveller. I go to the UK once a year for my ballroom dancing championships and I look forward to that, but otherwise I'm not keen. I get annoyed by small things - like how hotel rooms have a trouser press but no iron, a shaving socket but nowhere to plug in your hair dryer.

Max took me to India for a three-week trip this year. The minute we arrived at our hotel I had three room changes and after two days I got him to take me home. I didn't like it there at all.

(Photograph omitted)

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