Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER: Until Rich Astley tried cooking in Corfu, he thought that A-levels were traumatic

To recover from the trauma of A-levels, I decided, along with two friends, my French cousin and Sally, my girlfriend, to fork out pounds 270 on a ticket for a month's train travel in Europe.

We wanted to take in 13 countries and one of our ports of call was Corfu, where we found a quiet guest-house. We did our own cooking on camping stoves, and one night, it was my turn. I opted to make stuffed vine leaves. I don't actually remember what happened next, but I can reconstruct the scene from the accounts given by the others.

Some water was boiling on one stove on the floor, while nearby, I was trying to fit a gas canister onto another stove. Very bright.

I found myself metres away from where I had been standing, over a wall. The distinctive smell of burning hair haunts me to this day, and I will never forget the pain.

Panic and a ride in a truck with my head in a bucket of water ensued. At Corfu general hospital, I was drenched in iodine and told I would be fine in a couple of days. But, after a phone call to the insurance company, I was admitted to another clinic for three days of saline-drip treatment and injections every hour.

I have never felt so undignified, degraded and depressed. My face was bubbling, red and oozing pus, I had lost a lot of my hair and my hand looked disgusting. But Sally was incredible, patiently putting up with all my tears, my anger and my ingratitude. Flashbacks of The English Patient became common.

Of course, I had to abandon the trip and was soon on an easyJet home from Athens.

However, after a week convalescing, I decided to surprise Sally for her birthday in Budapest. It took two days by train, but the look on her face when she opened the door to see a recovered boyfriend in full black tie, complete with rose between teeth, made it all worthwhile.