I'd love to, but I've got this column to write for The Independent

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What is it that we need a lot of and only have a few of?

Good excuses, that's what, The trouble is that we spend half our waking life trying to get out of things and we usually have no escape hatch to get out by.

Well, today I bring you good news in the shape of a whole bunch of excuses to store away in your personal organiser.

Yes, whenever the words, "Gosh, I'd LOVE to but I'm afraid I can't because ..." form on your lips, you can now complete your sentence with one of the following:

1. "I've had a rather painful accident with a rubber band which I would rather not talk about."

2. "It would interfere with my preparations for the World Cup."

3. "It's that time of year again."

4. "I would prefer not to, not if there is any truth in what Alistair Cooke said last Sunday."

5. "Well, it was a very large rubber band."

6. "I'm double-booked with a man in Potters Bar."

7. "I'm going to my aromatherapist's funeral."

8. "I'm going to a very important village Millennium meeting."

9. "That's the day I'm having my cyst looked at."

10. "No, not cistern - cyst."

11. "I've promised to act as second in a duel that day, which I've never done before."

12. "I have to keep that day clear for organic recharging."

13. "My wife has gone away for some time and she seems to have taken the diary with her, so I can't fix anything."

14. "Oh, that's St Ursula's Day ... Sorry."

15. "That's the day I'm having my cistern looked at."

16. "No, not sister - cistern."

17. "The old trouble is playing up again, I'm afraid."

18. "That's exactly when I've had to pencil in a dry run for my income tax investigation."

19. "Apparently there's a place in Banbury where they still do evening classes on how to be a second in duels."

20. "No, St Ursula."

21. "Well, aromatherapists die too, you know. You can postpone death with pretty smells but you can't cancel it."

22. "The awful thing is that I've just forgotten how to swim and there's a man in Le Touquet who specialises in bringing the skill back, and that's the only day I could get a flight there."

23. "That's the day my ginger beer matures, and it's a non-stop vigil."

24. "Well, much though I'd like to, I can't ring my wife because she's taken the phone book as well."

25. "I'm afraid my old trouble isn't playing up any more, and the doctors are a bit worried and want to see why."

26. "Yes, they use a lot of fragrances at aromatherapists' funerals."

27. "Well, there's a lot more to it than just saying, `Choose your weapons, gentlemen,' you know."

28. "Kitty Kelley wants to come and see me that day and she won't say what it's about."

29. "All our systems have crashed and that's the day the man's coming to have a look at them."

30. "Not cisterns. Systems."

31. "Did I say St Ursula? I meant St Boniface."

32. "I don't think the fragrances do much for the late departed, but they do the funeral guests a lot of good."

33. "I couldn't possibly, not with the Hang Seng in its present delicate state."

NB This excuse can be varied with the French lorry drivers' strike, shadow Cabinet crisis etc etc.

34. "That's the day I am due to have a session with my hypnotist, and once I have made an appointment with my hypnotist, there is some strong unseen power which seems to prevent me ever changing it. Odd, really."

35. "No, hold on - that's Glenda Jackson's birthday. I never miss that."

36. "That's the day the piano tuner comes, and you can't get hold of piano tuners for love nor money these days, so I must be sure to be there, because he tunes everything in the house, not just the piano and spinet but everything from guitars to citterns."

37. "Not cisterns. Citterns."

38. "I have recently contracted that disease ..."

39. "You know, that disease, that disease which never lets you get round to finishing ..."

40. "I can't remember the name of it, but it's the disease which prevents you from ever ... from ever ..."

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