The world has gone mad, so I'm going to find some sanity in France

ANYONE for a holiday? Me too. It's that feeling of disastrous foreboding that always strikes at the height of summer, the result of having to work twice as hard as you normally do, in order to create space for a holiday.

Summertime... global stress... If it is not the President of the United States being threatened with impeachment, it is the uncannily bad summer weather we have had the misfortune of experiencing. The heavens are showing their hand, and it is not a benevolent one.

This year, while Britain shuffles towards a premature autumn, the whole of the rest of the world is perspiring and expiring in unnatural heat. Athens has another smog alert. The Spanish Costas are ablaze with raging bush fires. Dallas, Texas, is now only marginally cooler than the surface of the planet Mercury. I keep expecting to find deformed babies growing in the trees outside Canary Wharf, or puppies with multiple heads.

No wonder nobody can think straight any more. Because of the wet weather at home, there has been a sudden surge in demand for last-minute holidays, which has provoked price rises on the part of at least one major operator (Airtours). Travelling abroad this summer is not only going to fry your brains, it may also impoverish you.

Ghastly summertime portents are rife. Last Tuesday a German Egyptology fanatic jumped 600ft to his death from the Cairo Tower to demonstrate his belief in pharonic resurrection. He had been to the pyramids and thought he had acquired the necessary spiritual energy.

And now what? Some nutter has published a smokers' guide to Scotland, providing tips on all the best places to wind down over a fag north of the border. (The book even includes an Edinburgh hotel that has a cigarette vending machine in the health centre.)

Is it the countdown to the millennium? Or the countdown to the 1999 eclipse of the sun, which will be only the fifth of this entire millennium to be seen from Britain? The only rock I have seen on this uncertain sea of summer madness is the news from France where, as always, the entire country is starting its holiday this weekend.

Thank God that out-of-season holidays mean nothing to the French. They take their holidays on 1 August. And where do they go? Actually, where they always do; more than 80 per cent of French holiday-makers will be taking their holidays in France, very often in rustic corners of the French countryside so loved by the British.

In the face of this reassuring solidarity in rural France, there seems to be no alternative. I am off to join them.