Right. Tick off list. Have been warned you can't buy anything in Cuba. Sunburn cream, cold-sore lotion, Nurofen, TCP, plasters, Tampax, feel like a travelling chemist. Mosquito net. Do they have mosquitoes? Tablets to purify water. Do they have water? "Are they, like, poor, at the moment, babes, or are they in a period of relative richness?" The boyfriend gives me an old-fashioned look. "They haven't been rich since before 1959, and then it was just the gangsters who ran prostitution, drugs and gambling." Sounds reassuringly like Shoreditch. "They do have water, babes, but only occasionally phones and electricity." Now know where I am. It's exactly like Shoreditch.

"Don't believe what they say about drugs," says Syd, "place is stuffed with them. Gotta be careful of the coke, though, they cut it with laxative." Surprised they have laxative in Cuba, since I know they don't have toilet paper. Syd rambles into eulogy on dope he has encountered in his travels. "Tell no lie, Kaz, the size of a bush. I mean, I'm talkin Mulberry." "Yeh, yeh Syd, in Cuba?" "Nah... that was somewhere in Sussex."

Back to list. Muchos dineros, obviously. When I told Rosita I was taking $1,000, she said I'd get my throat cut. "We're not going to Bosnia, babes," says the boyfriend sourly. Books. Of course! Our Man in Havana. Check on my other Graham Greenes. The End of the Affair? No, please not in Cuba, left to the mercy of rum- crazed macho men. Tourist found in lobster pot with throat cut.

Clothes. Last summer's T-shirts covered in stains. No question of bikini, the Lycra has perished. So has the flesh it doesn't cover.

Explain to my agent I'm off on holiday. "What. Now?" she says, as though she can't believe her ears. Refrain from saying I was ready to work three weeks ago, when everyone else looked like the walking dead (talking of which, wonder if I should pack garlic and a cross in case have to grapple with voodoo). Gibber on about Cuba place to be, Pope's first visit since before revolution, cutting edge etc. A short silence greets this. "I would expect nothing less of you, Carole," she says, drily.

The derelict, with tears in his eyes, swears he'll miss me. Sure he will. Who else is going to fund his daily habit? Promise to bring him some rum back. "Yeh," he says, brightening up, "and if you could manage some Montecristos."

Try not to think about the flight in some gaffer-taped Russian aircraft. Do they have spare parts? Life-jackets? Sudden awful thought, suppose in socialist country they agree with Camille Paglia about not saving women first? In my brand of feminism, it's sod the rest of them!

Pack to sound of "Perfect Day", because it will be. "'Ere, d'you think the BBC know this is about heroin?" Trust Syd to shatter fantasy.

Go through feeding and flea drill with Richard, who's minding the cats, while boyfriend assembles two tons of camera equipment. Richard asks what we will do on our hols. "Oh," says the boyfriend, "Shoot some musicians, lie on the beach, drink Daiquiris." "I've got a better idea," says Syd. "Get stoned, lie on the beach, shoot the Pope. Do us all a favour"

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