Firm's hire cars put on the same wavelength Collect a new hire car and what's the first thing you do? Aside, that is, for mistaking the windscreen wipers for the indicators, jerking forward and accidentally hooting at the pensioner in front? You turn on the radio. Until recently I used the rental car radio as an instant social indicator of the area I was about to explore by road. If I turned on and was ready tuned to BBC Radio 3 or 4 I expected a more thoughtful, more serene couple of days - plenty of tea shops and gardens in bloom, that kind of thing. Tuned to local commercial music stations, I was instantly ready for theme parks and shopping for sofas in big sheds on the roundabout, plus plenty of road encounters with 4WD vehicles looking like trainers on steroids. But I've got it wrong. Because on a recent trip to Llandudno Junction where I picked up an Avis car, I discovered that Avis tunes all its cars to TalkSport radio throughout the UK as a matter of policy. In return for "access to Avis c

Firm's hire cars put on the same wavelength Collect a new hire car and what's the first thing you do? Aside, that is, for mistaking the windscreen wipers for the indicators, jerking forward and accidentally hooting at the pensioner in front? You turn on the radio. Until recently I used the rental car radio as an instant social indicator of the area I was about to explore by road. If I turned on and was ready tuned to BBC Radio 3 or 4 I expected a more thoughtful, more serene couple of days - plenty of tea shops and gardens in bloom, that kind of thing. Tuned to local commercial music stations, I was instantly ready for theme parks and shopping for sofas in big sheds on the roundabout, plus plenty of road encounters with 4WD vehicles looking like trainers on steroids. But I've got it wrong. Because on a recent trip to Llandudno Junction where I picked up an Avis car, I discovered that Avis tunes all its cars to TalkSport radio throughout the UK as a matter of policy. In return for "access to Avis customers", the station advertises the hire car firm on the airwaves. According to an Avis spokesman, the two organisations "have a similar target market". Get into practice with your handbrake turns.

Costly air fares won't boost Jersey tourism We all know that Jersey is a sunny little island kept afloat on money - apparently its holdings amount to £8m for every member of the population. It occurred to me, touching down there last week, that this might have something to do with the fact that my British Airways CityFlyer ticket from Gatwick to Jersey, a flight that lasts all of 40 minutes, cost me an astonishing £289. For travellers to the tax haven on business this may be a snip, but for the poor old leisure passenger it rather dents any ambition to eat out at Jersey's popular restaurants. In fact, it may be wise to take sandwiches to Jersey. The food service on the flights to the island consisted of a feeble bun in a cardboard dish on the way over and no food service at all on the way back. There was a drinks trolley - I ordered a quarter bottle of wine but was told it cost £2, and so changed my mind on principle. Jersey is currently on the promotional offensive to stem the decline in tourism. According to the Jersey Tourism Department between 1992 and 1998 overall visitor numbers fell by 7 per cent. There's been a rally among more upmarket tourists but there's still a fierce battle to keep visitors on the island for longer than a couple of days. Patrick Burke, who has just spent £3.5m upgrading his Atlantic Hotel, is concerned about the cost of getting to Jersey. "EasyJet did talk about coming here in the early days but nothing happened. Now, from November, BA is withdrawing its service from Heathrow on the grounds that it's loss-making, and we fear that there'll be even less competition." Though Gatwick capacity will be increased, the loss of the Heathrow flights will mean 75,000 fewer seats in each direction annually. To make matters worse, British European, which also serves the island, is abbreviating its service from Luton. According to Mike Tait of Jersey Tourism, "there's a big job to be done to communicate the availability of good-value fares". Mr Tait advises customers to shop around for good deals. Certainly if I travel off peak, mid-week, I can get to Jersey for £69. But a weekend trip, out Friday, back Sunday, still costs from £121 in chilly November. Until prices improve it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Jersey's tourist potential will remain unrealised.

I can't drink to that music you're playing On another island at the weekend a perfect couple of days is marred only by music. At Yarmouth, a great little town on the north coast of the Isle of Wight, we had lunch in a promising looking pub-restaurant called Salty's. There were oysters and fresh crab and lobster on the menu. There was a big crowd in having a good time but moments after we ordered, there was a deafening onslaught of recorded music over which everyone was obliged to shout. Cacophony is bad for the digestion and the spirit. The good people at Pipedown, the Campaign for Freedom from Piped Music, tell me that several surveys conducted over the past five years all prove more people hate background music than like it. The organisation has some vocal patrons - including Stephen Fry, John Humphrys, Joanna Lumley, Tony Parsons, Sir Simon Rattle, and Prunella Scales - who think, as I do, that music won't give an empty pub a buzz and can turn a full one into a nightmare.

s.marling@independent.co.uk

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