Stumbling into the living room yesterday, I nearly ended up in hospital after falling over a pile of health books - row on row of advice about typhoid, cholera, malaria, and rabies. Presumably Vanessa, my flatmate, had finally been convinced that smallpox had been wiped out.

"What on earth are all these?"

"They're for Goa," she replied.

"Goa? It's such a de rigueur holiday destination now, you're more likely to catch a cold from a horrible year-off student than typhoid."

"Yes, well I'm in charge of Health and Hygiene on my holiday," announced Vanessa. "Sara is doing Passports and Visas and then when we get there I'm doing Money and she is doing Entertainment."

"Entertainment?" I had a sudden vision of Sara treating assembled tourists to a quick rendition of "Hey Big Spender", or showing off her paso doble.

"Organising trips and so on. If I say we can afford it."

That's the best thing about flatmates. They introduce you to another way of life. My holiday preparations involve: a) 11.50pm the night before making a list of everything you need; b) 11.55pm stuffing said things in suitcase. Result, as Mr Micawber would have said: happiness. I've never forgotten anything really major, and anyway you can buy hairdryers, toothbrushes and socks in most places - can't you?

In comparison, Vanessa has most of her wardrobe contents on the living- room floor three weekends before departure. She sorts by colour, by climate, by newness, by designer. She goes to stores and tries on swimming costumes. She would not, as other people do, bang on the door of John Lewis five minutes before closing and grab the first size 12 bikini she sees. (Serves me right: I had to wear a T-shirt over the transparent-when-wet bikini for two weeks.)

Vanessa does not accept what the first doctor tells her about jabs; she gets a second opinion. She does not pathetically ask the doctor to stick the needle in when she's not looking.

Lastly, when all is packed, she does not do horrible things before rushing off on Monday morning, such as saying, "You do know about the worms in Goa, don't you?"


"Yes. You have to keep your feet covered at all times, even in the shower, otherwise they can enter your skin."

I heard a shriek, and a frantic flip-flop search begin. Oh Lord, forgive me, I'm scared to go home tonight.