TRAVEL: HOLIDAY DISASTERS

Sue Herbert learns the hard way that when you go on holiday with friends you don't always stay friends

We had been married only a year and had a large mortgage, so we decided we couldn't afford a holiday. Then, two friends of ours asked us if we'd like to join them on a motorcycle holiday to his family's villa in Italy.

We did the sums: if I went pillion instead of taking my bike, we could just about afford it.

The first night we spent in a hotel in Arras. Our female friend held out two room keys. "Choose!" she said. I chose. We got the better room, apparently. They were eaten alive by mozzies and their shower didn't work. It was subtly implied at breakfast next day that this was my fault.

We got kitted up and on the bikes. We had gone 20 yards when our friends came to a halt. Their bike's gearbox return spring had broken. After some fiddling around, he decided it "would do" if he returned the gear lever manually after each change, with a hefty kick. I spent the rest of the holiday fearing that their gearbox would sieze, spreading them, their bike and their luggage all over some foreign road.

On the third day, we hit Italy and a wall of heat. We missed an exit on the motorway, did an extra 50 miles, got lost, got hot, got cross, but eventually found the villa. It was in a small village miles from anywhere and we were in a tiny, cramped, basement flat (there were Italian relatives living upstairs), in a bunk bedroom so small we could swat the zanzare without getting out of bed.

Each night our female friend insisted we go first for our evening shower. Each night we argued about it and then did as we were told. Three days into the holiday, we went to an evening Fiesta. When the others wanted to pay to go into a marquee where there was music, I raised a fairly mild objection on the grounds that it was pleasant sitting outside. This, it seemed, was the last straw for our female friend, who flew into a rage, berating me for various things I couldn't remember even the next day, but one of which was taking all the hot water for the shower. I was too surprised to defend myself.

Next day, I apologised, for whatever I may have done wrong. It was not good enough. Our friend refused to speak to us. She and her embarassed other half took to staying in bed until past midday, by which time the local super-mercato had shut. If we wanted to eat, we had to shop for ourselves. I learnt Italian fast - no one else in the village spoke English. In the afternoons, we went out, baffled by the silence. We considered decamping to a hotel in a resort we visited, 50 miles away, but thought it would seem rude, so we stuck it out. Evenings were the worst - we could sit in the garden being bitten by zanzare, or sit in our room. We took to going to bed early.

After a week, we gradually managed to effect a thaw in the cold war, but relations remained lukewarm.

On our return, a friend invited us all round to dinner; a grim, chilly meal which has passed into legend in a circle of friends which no longer includes our holiday companions. Later, another friend who had once holidayed with them, said: "I wondered if I should warn you ..."

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