CRETE IN August, with a toddler and a pregnant wife, was a gamble, but with stress overload, a freezing winter and a successful punt on the stock market, the die was cast.

The holiday started well enough. The toddler slept through the flight, and our hotel, 20 miles east of Iraklion, was pleasant. For the first week, we lazed by the pool or on the beach in a pleasant 25C. Our two- year-old ate his Greek food with gusto - why had we ever worried?

But the second week was different. The weather soared into the 40s and the breeze dropped. My wife, never a lover of the heat, suffered. Our son, still in nappies, developed the worse case of the trots I have ever seen. And then ... my parents arrived.

The heat got to them, too, and an already difficult situation was worsened by their constant whingeing and a desire to run our holiday like a military operation. An attempt to visit Knossos was abandoned when we got lost, precipitating yet another row between me (the navigator) and my father (the driver).

The end could not come quickly enough, but there was to be one last twist. The airport was unbearably hot, so we spent our last drachma on soft drinks, expecting to be away in a couple of hours. Some hope! When our plane finally arrived, airport staff proceeded to belt the hell out of the front wheel with monkey-wrenches. The brakes had locked and this was their attempt to sort it out.

The flight was now several hours late. We had no food, drink or nappies and our toddler was screaming the place down. The travel representative had mysteriously disappeared. I was reduced to begging for drinks and a disposable nappy.

After eight hours in this hell-hole, it was announced that the front- wheel problem could not be resolved. A new one was to be flown from London and we were to go to a nearby hotel. Thirsty, hungry and exhausted, we retrieved our luggage and piled onto a coach.

At the hotel, we were given a bottle of water and some bread, for which we received a bill. The threat of insurrection resulted in a hasty change of heart. I got stuck in a prehistoric lift for 20 minutes. Our room was on top of an all-night disco, but we were just too tired to care.

The plane, with its new wheel, finally departed 16 hours late. At Gatwick, the Manchester passengers were told that the plane could no longer continue and they would be transferred by coach. Our final memories of the holiday from hell were their cries of "if you want us off, you'll have to drag us off" as we gratefully left the plane.

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