Get me out of Africa
They may not be the paparazzi, but there is a posse of ladies of a certain age in the local community who can tell you who is doing what, where and when they're doing it and with whom.
Which is how we came to learn that a client of ours, booked to travel to Africa, had been spotted in the local supermarket when he should have been in Tanzania.
A phone call to check that all was well revealed that the man in question had returned early 'for some peace and quiet'.
When he booked the trip, he had said he wanted to spend some time on his own 'experiencing' Africa, but he had also wanted to join a tour for a while.
No problem. We'd sorted that out for him and booked a flexible ticket in case he decided to 'stay on a little longer'.
It turns out that, while he had enjoyed much of the holiday, the tour had presented an insurmountable social challenge.
Our client was the only single male traveller on the tour and, half-way through it, the party was joined by a single female traveller who clearly saw her chance and took it.
She latched on to our poor chap and would not let him go. Thereafter he was barely able to visit the loo without an offer from her to join him.
"I felt smothered," he said, "but the ironic thing was, she moaned about everything I did. She told me I'd chosen the wrong holiday, the wrong tour and the wrong accommodation to say nothing of my abysmal choices from the menu and my wardrobe."
The woman couldn't have been pleased with the outcome of her haranguing as the object of her desire left the tour early and flew home for the tranquillity that had eluded him in her presence.
"I'm not in a hurry to go on holiday alone again," he said, "so I'm thinking about going somewhere I can take my dog. At least when she's barking, it's not up the wrong tree!"
More than she could chew
On the flip side of the coin, I have a female client who, having served in the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, has trekked across most of the globe on her own, hooking up with bands of travellers from backpackers to hippies, runaways and bandits.
She has proven to be capable and fearless in any situation.
She told me that, on a recent trip to the US, her flight from Chicago to Shipshewana was cancelled and she had resorted to using the bus to get there. She found herself wedged between two big, burly, unsmiling, tobacco-chewing rednecks.
"I'm afraid I couldn't help myself," she said, "I felt obliged to make them aware of the dangers of tobacco, with particular emphasis on mouth cancers, which are more common for people who chew, rather than smoke it."
"And were they grateful for the advice?" I asked.
"They didn't say a word," she replied, "but I could tell they might have been getting a little bit fed up with me, because they clenched their fists and stared at me intently until I got off. The 'Jesus Saves Sinners' tattoo on one of the gentlemen's arms did give me pause to wonder exactly what kind of sinner he might be, but I thought it best not to ask"
Someone's got to do it...
I think that lady should apply for what has been termed the 'Best Job in the World' by the tourism department in Queensland, Australia.
Applicants have the chance to win a contract worth £68,000 along with accommodation in an oceanfront villa on Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef for six months.
Their job? To write a weekly blog promoting the island and the general charms of the region.
I'm thinking of dropping them a line, but I'm not sure what chance I'd stand. There have already been more than 2,000 applications from eager would-be islanders and I'm guessing they're going to want somebody who can deal with heat, spiders and scary toxic starfish, and who possesses an open-water diving certificate and a wetsuit.
I'm arachnophobic, claustrophobic and likely to break out in a heat rash above 25C, to say nothing of the rash I'd break out in if I was ever to have to don a wetsuit.
As for being scuba certified? Well, I've been told I'm certifiable, but not by a diver
Maureen Hill works at Travel Angels, Gillingham, Dorset
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