Just like in Withnail and I, I'm going on holiday by mistake. For seven days next month I shall not be in London. Where I will be, I can't confirm. This is what happens when someone trustworthy – in this case my brother – drunkenly offers to look after your very badly behaved labrador for a week. "Go!" he said. "Relax! Get some sun!"
It was imperative to bite his hand off before he discovered the downside of the "free house in London for half-term" deal – namely, the daily Kilimanjaro of poo; the stealing and eating of shoes, wallets and other precious things; and the fact that whenever one leaves a room, even momentarily, one will return to find my dog as excited as an Oprah Winfrey audience-member on the day she gave out free cars. Like, really really psyched, her tail clearing coffee cups from tables and hospitalising the brittle-boned.
I can't possibly go away and leave Betty in an awful imprisoning kennels. In fact, like most dog-owners, I can barely stand to leave her at all. Women like me have dogs instead of babies and are smug about our long-haul holiday freedoms, but then we'll end up spending a week in a static caravan in north Wales, sleeping top-and-tail with a 40kg farting hound and, in Betty's case, her phlegm-drenched teddy bear.
Now that my brother and his family are booked to stay, I find myself staring in confusion at the possibilities for last-minute sunny breaks. Yes, this is a column in which a woman whines about having to decide where to go on holiday. But then again the world seems to have became a lot smaller and a lot more dangerous since the last time I packed seven days of fresh pants into a Samsonite.
Turkey, say, or Tunisia, or Egypt will all, I'm sure, be gloriously warm as ever in February, but dying in a hail of jihadi bullets while eating a Bubblegum Calippo sounds like a drag, as does camping out for five days at Hammamet Airport while watching belligerent boob-tubed women from Newcastle quack fruitlessly at British embassy staff. I know it's obligatory to say that "we won't let the terrorists win", but if one is turning down a bargain, seven-day, all-inclusive deal in Sharm el-Sheikh, you'd have to call that a score draw.
At this point some clot always pipes up about the Canary Islands. They might indeed be sunny, but "might" is very much the operative word. In steady drizzle, much of Tenerife is about as pretty as South Mimms services. OK, so there are no jihadis in Lanzarote as yet. But there is something almost as frightening: half-term Brits with their very loud children, hitting the dancefloor at 1am and applauding when their plane touches down, as if not dying in a fireball is a smashing treat. I may sound like the teeeeensiest bit of a snob here, but friends – hell is the queue to check in for the 6.40am flight from Luton to Fuerteventura.
I'm aware that observant readers might by now be suggesting that I take a holiday up my own arse. But booking a holiday makes Hyacinth Buckets of us all, so let me travel up it a bit further and suggest that the problem with North America in winter is that it's basically The Wall from Game of Thrones only with more breakfast potatoes. There's a reason why over there right now they're all hibernating and living on Crock-Pot 10-hour stews made primarily from freezer meat and Campbell's soup.
The Caribbean, on the other hand, is warm, but a long way away, nose-bleedingly expensive, and full of bloated venture capitalists from Fulham sidling up to me at the pool bar to talk me through their stock profiles. And full of Americans making loud threats about TripAdvisor because the omelette station didn't open until 7.03am. The Dominican Republic is not massively expensive but is therefore full of Canary Islands sorts, just further away, and now with shell braids.
Eventually my other half and I plumped for taking the sleeper train from Euston to Fort William, waking up in the Highlands, and spending six days drinking Scotch, reading Nancy Mitford, and doing things that couples do in cold climates to generate heat.
But now I find that there's a rail replacement bus service between Carlisle and Glasgow because the track got washed away in the flooding. There is nothing remotely sensual about a rail replacement bus service. Sure, I once got off with a boy from Aspatria on a rail replacement bus service between Edinburgh and Carlisle in 1993, but it was mainly to pass the time during a traffic jam, and young people will take an opportunity to cop off almost anywhere.
What I probably need is a holiday from my own annoying brain and its mounting fears and low-level prejudices. As it stands, I'm looking at caravans in Rhyl. My brother can have my house, but I'm taking the bloody labrador. It will be freezing, but my snobberies and my dog's atrocious wind will keep me warm.