My best holiday memories aren't of sunsets or dolphin sightings but of wallowing in the shallow end of a swimming pool, giant inflatable ring wrapped around my middle, my face shaded by a fat paperback. I can't brag about the quantity of my beach reading like some: I'm slow, easily distracted, and usually only notch up two novels over a fortnight's break even while my hungrier holiday companions tear through one Penguin Classic after another.
The holiday library is also limited by practical considerations. I've only got room for a couple of volumes in my bag, and have small patience with the e-reader (it's not safe for the inflatable ring position). So this time around I've been doing deep research before I commit to any author. Unhelpfully, I already know what the perfect holiday novel would look like.
The plot would be by Donna Tartt; psychological insight would be sketched by Jonathan Franzen; Jane Austen would engineer the social situations; Graham Greene would design a creepy, suggestive location and the dialogue would be scripted by David Mitchell. Sadly, that book doesn't seem to be available on Amazon.
On the other hand, David Nicholls's One Day – the literary equivalent of Coldplay - is pretty much what I hope my holiday novel won't be, but it might be, if I choose unwisely. I read it last year because a friend told me that it passed the unputdownable test, and that's true enough. But still, it's not the stuff perfect holiday books are made of.
I don't want every other person who passes by my table at a café to coo: "That's my favourite book too!". I don't want there to be a clever structural conceit that becomes deeply trying after the first hundred pages, I don't want to be in the company of a cardboard cut-out "earnest woman" character who hardly ever thinks about, let alone has, sex (a mistake often made by contemporary male novelists), and I'd rather any novel of mine didn't finish with a self-consciously "difficult" and unremittingly miserable ending.
Not that I'm a snob about trashy novels – which is what One Day is, despite the protests at its transformation into a glossy Hollywood production. I can't afford to be. If I don't find the perfect book by the end of the month, I'll be floating in the pool re-reading Riders.
A few more ideas for Putin the miracle man
When Vladimir Putin slipped into a wetsuit and mask to dive in Taman Bay, an area where archeologists are uncovering historic remains, "to everyone's utter surprise", as Russia Today put it, within moments the PM managed to find two ancient pieces of pottery in the sand. Amazing. Putin, who is the Russian answer to Steven Seagal in his downtime, could put his brains, bravery and sheer luck to better use next summer. Why not launch him out to space so he might discover living organisms on Mars? Send him to Norway to face down migrating polar bears? Or put him in a lab so he can chance upon a cure for cancer?
Size isn't everything, but it can save a lot of money
Much sole searching among women of large feet lately as Debenhams publish a survey that claims the proportion of customers taking a size eight or larger are on the increase. They also claim that 82 per cent of clodhopping women (as the owner of a pair of size eights I'm allowed to say that) are ashamed to admit their true size, although one might reasonably wonder who, exactly, is asking.
A podiatrist I heard interviewed on the radio qualified the "findings", explaining that obesity and greater heights were putting pressure on the average woman's feet, making them spread and, so, become larger. (That's some comfort, isn't it? Your feet are massive because – the rest of you is so fat and huge.)
Actually, we thunderfoots don't care much about the reasons why. We don't even think our feet are ugly. We just wish that shoe shops didn't make us feel like freaks, and that we could take part in what is clearly one of the most enjoyable things about fashion.
On Saturday, in search of a pair of high heels, I systematically searched half a dozen stores for a pair that I might like, and would also fit. When you've got big feet, shoe shopping isn't the carefree, indulgent, put-it-on-plastic experience as advertised by Carrie Bradshaw; it's humiliating and frustrating and you usually come home empty-handed.
Of the 10 styles I asked about, only one was stocked in a size eight. When this happens, I'm careful now to ask if the store actually make my size, or whether they've just sold out – but in all cases it was the latter.
Sizes eight and above are stocked in tiny numbers, and sell out instantly. So really, fellow giant-steppers, we're blessed: big feet make us more decisive, give us better balance, and, given how many shoes we've been prevented from buying over the years, save us thousands of pounds.