To you, dear reader, with love in wonder

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ONEOF THE best things about holidays is that you finally get to read all those books that have been balefully piling up by the bedside for the past six months. My own all-too-rare immersion into books has, however, alerted me to an alarming development in publishing: the exponential growth of acknowledgements. These were once a simple matter of thanking one or two people who helped with research; now they have got themselves all mixed up with prefaces and dedications. Authors routinely thank their lovers, children and pets. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this is simply an attempt to make themselves sound more interesting. (Don't judge me by my dreary book; I have a goldfish.) Why else does Bill Thompson, author of Soft Core, about anti-pornography campaigners (sadly, just didn't have time for this one on holiday), say 'while Sean kept the computers running, Dan kept me rock 'n' rolling'? Why does he send 'regards to Isabel and Zak', then nine others, 'and finally to Remmy Ongala and Orchestre Super Matimila, who put life into perspective in such a beautiful way'?

After th is I just couldn't face the book somehow. Even Terry Major-Ball, not generally known for affectation, is at it. The acknowledgements in his book of memoirs, Major Major, include one to his wife Shirley, 'for answering the inquiries of journalists, when in her view there were more important jobs to be done around the house'; and to his sister Pat, 'who has taken the trouble to come to my house' to read the manuscript. Do we want to know who authors have been having round for tea? I think not. Susan Johnson, an Australian novelist who has a book out soon, thanks several of her friends 'for keeping the light shining'. Books of all kinds are now virtually unpublishable without fawning mentions of agents and publishers, though not many are as cringe-making as Marina Warner's dedication 'to Carmen, with love in wonder'. Of course, it is a great achievement to write and publish a book, and authors can be forgiven for wanting their moment of self-indulgence. But for their own sakes, these should be confined to the home and their closest friends. We don't need several paragraphs thanking their babies.

ONE OF the worst things about holidays is that they wreck your relationships, or so Relate said last week. Apparently holidays are among the most stressful things that couples can put themselves through (narrowly beaten, no doubt, by Christmas). This is presumably because of all the getting up late, reading novels, splashing about in warm water, and getting mildly drunk by some harbour at dusk. No wonder social workers send delinquents on holidays, when you consider the pain involved. I called Relate's press officer to discuss sun lounger stress, but she was in a bit of a rush because she had to leave for the Algarve that afternoon.

Poor woman: I do hope she'll be all right. Renate Olins of London Marriage Guidance Council says the problem for many couples is that they set too much store by holidays. 'They think they'll finally talk to each other and have wonderful sex.' The only drawback is that once they get to Benidorm or wherever they find they've forgotten how to do it. 'They are left walking up and down the beach with each other, and it's poignant, because they imagine everyone else is having a perfect time.'

As a holidays survivor, someone who this year has already endured the strain of many hours sitting in squares sipping cappuccino, I am prepared to offer my radical remedy, free of charge. The only reason people set so much store by holidays is because they're so rare. The sensible way of getting rid of that holiday stress and saving your marriage is to grit your teeth and put yourself through another trip to the sun very soon.

AN AMERICAN physicist, Dr Jane English, claims to have discovered the Caesarean personality. People who miss out on vaginal birth, apparently, 'don't know the rhythm of getting to know someone and sustaining a relationship', and have 'a feeling of not really being attached to any person or idea'. This, Dr English explains, is beacuse Ceasarean birth entails feelings of shock and rape when the mother's body is cut, and terror, loss and the 'explosive dying' that accompanies being pulled free of the uterus.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that this theory (which seems an all too convenient way of explaining away traits that might just be the result of a tiresome personality) is based on anecdotal evidence from those who, like Dr English, have had regression therapy. The suspect nature of retrieved memories apart, only really weird people would want to relive their birth. I also wonder whether Dr English has ever given birth herself, rather than merely been born, however many times. I'm willing to bet she hasn't, or she would know that 'normal' birth is one of the most violent, bloody experiences available (it is, as Kathy Lette has observed, like shitting a watermelon) during which a large baby is squeezed backwards and forwards in a laughably small space and bumps its squashed head until breakthrough. Compared to this, the effortless peace of being lifted gently into the world by nice kind doctors is a breeze.

UNTIL Chris Patten left for Hong Kong, it looked as though Christian Democracy might be about to give British Conservatism a new lease of life. Tony Blair's Christian Socialism now seems to be giving Labour a lift. So the building trade is no doubt hoping for great things from Christians in Quantity Surveying. This is the brainchild of Bill Norman of Poynton, Cheshire, although when I asked him where the idea came from, he said God. He hopes being a member of the organisation will make a difference to the way people estimate their bricks, or whatever it is that quantity surveyors do - not, he adds hastily, that there's any corruption in quantity surveying, 'just those who play honestly, and those who may not do so'.