I read an article recently about the dos and don'ts of writing a column, which recommended that one should never discuss one's holiday. Anyway, I was in Rome this week for a short break and we stayed in one of those hotels in which it is quite easy to fantasise that you are in The Shining. One night, while four of us were drinking in the bar, we were approached by two strange Italian men who regaled us with stories of all the famous people they had met and generally irritated us until, fed up, we decided to retreat upstairs. I went to collect the room key, which, I was informed by the porter, had gone missing. Two hours later the significance of these two incidents hit me. The men were obviously kidnappers or murderers who had somehow got hold of the key and any moment now would burst into the room, kill my friend Jim, and spirit me away to a dank cave outside Rome where they would cut off various bits of me until my family coughed up the dough. By next morning they had not appeared, but the key had. Perhaps I'm eating too much cheese.
Hotel televisions always have an excess of soft porn hidden in them to brighten up even the most miserable businessman's day. One good game you can play, if you are a woman, is to watch the film and take a salient phrase from it. Go down to the dining room the next morning, stand at the door and shout your phrase and several businessmen will choke on their cornflakes.
Holiday evenings spent in little restaurants imbibing enough booze to refloat the Titanic always result in conversations about when the world is going to end. Women tend to go with the argument that people will just blow each other up. Men seem to favour the more pragmatic ecological arguments. One man in our party remarked that the essentials for survival - namely water, oxygen and phosphates - will all run out very soon. I'm afraid I just found myself thinking, "He hasn't even mentioned chocolate yet."
Is there anything that doesn't give you cancer? Now, apparently, scientists are worried that household appliances could have carcinogenic properties because of something to do with magnetic fields (said she with alarming scientific precision). I wonder whether washing-up, ironing, cooking, scrubbing floors, cleaning the fridge, shopping and getting all those hard bits off the cooker will turn out to be carcinogenic. Just to be on the safe side, I've stopped doing all of them.
Michael Winner in the Sun on Wednesday told us all what a lovely man OJ Simpson is. So lovely, in fact, that when he had just started seeing Nicole Brown and was bringing her to meet the winsome Michael, OJ told him, "She's very pretty, but boring. She won't last long." Who saw to that, I wonder?
Recent investigation into crime reveals that more than one in four people have given up using public transport or walking any distance because of the fear of crime. Added to that, one person in five carries some form of protection when leaving home in case of attack. It seems we all have an exaggerated fear of crime that is not borne out by the actual figures. It's all well and good to say this, but the fact is that newspapers are shot through every day with an ever-increasing catalogue of new and exciting crimes that have been imported from America. It seems these crimes are road-tested over there and within months cross the Atlantic for a brief trial in London before they spread to the rest of the country. Car-jacking and pretending to have broken down and then robbing the person who stops to help, are two of the most recent imports.
I have to confess to becoming a member of the Fear of Crime club. I automatically lock myself into the car when I go out and I carry some protection, so I at least feel I have a chance to give the villains a run for their money. Someone did try and get into my car at the traffic lights recently, so I was glad I was locked in.
I think that there are two ways of tackling women's fear of crime. First, we could make all blokes stay in all the time. Impractical, but I think you'd see the drop in crime statistics. Second, we could arm all women with sawn-off shotguns with a safety catch which responds by locking itself at times of extreme PMT. If this seems a wild idea, why not do it for a week a month? So many women would love the idea for once of being able to go out, without needing to constantly look over their shoulders. They could get all their shopping done with no fear. Providing, of course, shopping doesn't give you cancer.