Simon Calder

Sorry - I was just getting carried away by the current gushing glut of gratitude that seems to accompany every new travel book. The author of the new Cuba Handbook, Sarah Cameron, pays tribute to her daughters, Katie and Jenny, "for their tolerance, encouragement and complete conviction that Mummy's book is by far the best on Cuba".

Not wishing to venture too far along John Gummer and David Mellor's path of enlisting the support of one's offspring for the purpose of career advancement, I have been looking at the acknowledgements across a range of guidebooks. A surprising number read like the covers of Seventies' albums. For example, Mike Parker - one of the writers of the Rough Guide to Wales - offers "a huge diolch to Rhian Williams at the Wales Tourist Board", and thanks an intriguing list of individuals including Squidge, Dr Funkenstein and his co-author Paul Whitfield (the favour is not returned).

Across at Lonely Planet, the backscratching is mutual: one author of the guidebook to the Czech and Slovak Republics, John King, offers his co-author "mockrat dekuji to Richard for heroic work"; the response from Richard Nebesky is "last but not least, dik to John". Among this swath of acknowledgements I found myself wanting to find out more about the events leading up to the fulsome thanks paid to Michal Hnidka of the Vratna dolina Mountain Rescue Service.

A similarly intriguing incident is alluded to by James Henderson, author of the Cadogan Guide to the Caribbean and the Bahamas: "Thanks also to all those at Cadogan who pulled this edition together and were (more or less) unfazed by the author's sudden departure for another continent". Mr Henderson casts his net rather wider in his gratitude to others: "My thanks go to all West Indians".

My gratitude will be limitless to anyone who can come up with a more comprehensive list than my 1982 edition of Alternative London, whose first page begins "Compiled with the help of friends, file-spies, moles, insiders, survivors ..." and ends, after listing 70 other occupations, "... psychotherapists, philosophers". Not a word about children.

Finally, I'd like to thank my colleague, Harriet O'Brien, for attending the first-ever Virgin Atlantic Airways fear of flying course in Crawley last weekend, while I was otherwise engaged in the Colombian capital.

Some of the airlines around here take a rather different attitude to easing flyers' anxieties: in at the deep end. Looking at the accident statistics in this mountainous, stormy country, a fatalist might conclude that if you can survive a domestic flight here, you will be able to cope with aviation anywhere. You could call it a crash course.

The airlines here have even fewer frills than BA's new low-fare offshoot, Go - they don't even bother repainting their second-hand aircraft. I was alarmed to find that one scheduled aircraft on a domestic flight still bore the markings of a now-defunct British charter airline. The front cover of tickets issued by another carrier, Aces, bears a phone number and the invitation to call it to report "defectos de servicio". And the company ambitiously named Intercontinental promises it is the "Young Jet Airline", but I suspect that this doesn't refer to the DC-9 I flew on.

Thanks, anyway.

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