Miles Kington is certainly not on holiday

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The Independent Online
I would like to correct a gross factual error made in the Independent last week. The error was made at the bottom of this page, in a statement which said: "Miles Kington is on holiday." This was not true. Miles Kington was gearing himself up to go to the Edinburgh Festival to take part in a show on the Fringe, and anything less like a holiday cannot be imagined.

Normally when you go on holiday, you pack a car with beach clothes, cameras, tennis rackets and so on. The stuff I was putting in my car included a hat stand, a deerstalker, a pedestal, a bust of Tchaikovsky, a euphonium, an electric piano, two bentwood chairs, an oriental rug ...

You need a roof rack for a load like this. So before departure I went to my local Saab dealer and ordered a roof rack. I tried to buy one on the spot, but the model I needed was not in stock.

"We had one till yesterday," said the man called Steve (I knew he was called Steve because he had a lapel badge saying so, even though I got the impression that he might have punched my nose if I had addressed him as Steve), "but a bloke came in and bought it yesterday."

Are sales staff taught to say this? To cover up for the fact that they haven't had one in for weeks, do they always say it went yesterday?

"How soon can you get another one?" I said, with the sinking feeling that always accompanies that question.

"Well, it's got to come from Sweden," said the man called Steve, scratching his head, "so it's going to take a couple of days."

A couple of days! I have known it taking a couple of weeks to get things from Swindon, and that's only 20 miles away. In future, I'm going to order everything from Sweden.

"Tell you what," said Steve. "Why don't you buy one of those things?"

I can' remember what they are called, but he was pointing at one of those coffin-like things which you sometimes see on top of roof racks, like huge slugs or sarcophagi. I always imagined they were used for transporting skis, or inflatable dinghies, or relations who pegged out while on holiday in France - specialised objects like that.

"I don't think it would hold all the things I have to take to Edinburgh," I said.

"What do you have to take?" said Steve.

"Well, among other things, a euphonium, a hat stand, a pedestal, a bust of Tchaikovsky, an electric piano, two bentwood chairs, a deerstalker, an oriental rug ..."

He looked at me with the respect you give to someone you have suddenly realised is mad, and agreed that the coffin thing would probably not be big enough.

"Do many people buy them?" I asked. "These coffin things?"

"We've had that one over a year," said Steve, very honestly I thought, "and not got near selling it, but I thought I'd have a go with you anyway. Right, one roof rack from Sweden coming up by Friday."

Driving home, I realised that I might need cover for all these things. I had a sudden flashback to the first time I drove up to the Edinburgh Festival, with a double bass on top of the roof rack. The double bass cover was rather thin. We ran into a storm in the Lake District. I still remember getting soaking wet, standing outside in the rain, holding an umbrella over the double bass and having no cover myself ...

So I drove into a splendid builder's yard called Gay's of Holt and asked for a large sheet of polythene.

"For damp course work, is it?" they asked.

"No. It's for covering up stuff on a roof rack."

"Ah. What sort of stuff?"

"Well, I'm taking some things to Edinburgh, including an electric piano, a hat stand, a euphonium, two chairs ..."

"Might I inquire what this is for?" said the builder, who obviously found it an exotic change from damp course work.

"I'm going to the Fringe with a two-man show called The Death of Tchaikovsky - a Sherlock Holmes Mystery, and these are the props."

"Fair enough," said the man. "I'll give you our smallest damp course membrane, then. That should do the trick."

The point I'm trying to make is that considering all this was just part of loading the car - and I haven't even mentioned the rehearsing, rewriting, poster-printing and practising that is also necessary to get on the road to the Fringe - I do not really consider that I was on holiday last week. But I am in Edinburgh now, and the show is up and running, and last night's audience was a bit bigger than the night before, and the sun is out, and I am starting to relax very slightly. In fact, as time goes on, I might consider putting "Miles Kington is on holiday" below this column, even while I'm writing it.

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