A tourist wears a protective mask as she leaves the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris as the country is hit by the new coronavirus, France, January 30, 2020. | REUTERS/Benoit Tessier


It appears that strident animal campaigning group, PETA is having a beef about animal terminology and expressions in everyday use. It proposes that we address the issue immediately and has drawn up some guidelines with substitute dictums we all might adopt instead. I love animals but even I had to stifle a guffaw over the new proposals. From here onwards we should apparently refer to pets as ‘companions’, and the following terms should be substituted: ‘be the guinea pig’ to ‘be the test tube’, ‘Beat a dead horse’ to ‘feed a fed horse’, ‘killing two birds with one stone’ to ‘feed two birds with one scone’ and my favourite, ‘Take life by the horns’ to ‘take the flower by the thorns’. Ouch! Rather than really get PETA’s goat, it might be best to hold your horses and mind your language. Otherwise you might find yourself winding up in the charity’s doghouse.

Bare cheek

One always has to take surveys with a large heap of salt but latest findings from a British holiday company suggest that one in four people now consider going on a naturist holiday overseas. According to data, 543,000 people search nudist vacations online and one in five claims to have met their partners in the nude on a beach. Well, I suppose that’s one way of getting to know someone pretty well. Nearly 50 per cent of those questioned said that following a naturist holiday experience, they felt much better about their own body and that’s not hard to imagine, frankly. I have a few times stumbled upon a nudist beach and done a quick about turn, horrified by the sights on show.

These are not Baywatch Babe style bodies, with bristling muscles and pert butts but rather beach loads of crepey loose flesh, protruding stomachs and dragging behinds. Most of those bearing all sport raw red or blotchy skin having been exposed too long under the sun’s rays and truthfully, there’s nothing very flattering or attractive in that. I would never in my wildest dreams hang out on a nudist beach because as sure as huevos are huevos there’d be some dodgy voyeurs in the group, pretending to be part of the flock but in reality, just on a lascivious mission to observe men and women in the flesh, undetected. Cynical, moi? You bet!

A glum week

We all have bad weeks but the last proved particularly sobering for me. In London I met with my closest old university chum whose mother had died and tried to offer comforting words. I have known the whole family for years so I too was truly saddened by her passing. And then my good friend Nicholas Parsons succumbed to pneumonia, and on my return to Majorca, I learnt of the death of Karen Chandler, a courageous and wonderful woman who used to visit the island often, particularly Soller, with her lovely husband, Simon.

Karen had been very ill with cancer for some years but carried on travelling and living life to the full. She read my books which is how we came to meet, and became friends. When I penned my recent novel, The Devil’s Horn, I dedicated it to Karen and she flew over to Soller for the launch. She was ably assisted by a good friend and her husband and she looked radiant on the night. Karen was compassionate, fun loving and had a mischievous laugh so it was no surprise that she had countless friends and was known to many locals in our town. She took an interest in everyone and had a sharp wit and intelligence.

So, it was heart-breaking to hear from Simon that her body had finally given up its long battle. Karen was one of life’s givers and so fearless in the face of cancer that I honestly thought she might see it off. As many of us know, it is an insidious illness and attacks its victims in different ways, and with varied outcomes. All I can take from this sad week is to salute family and close friends, remember to appreciate every single day and never to forget those we cherish. Karen will always burn brightly in my memory and will never be forgotten.

Coronavirus and life

In London there seemed little concern about coronavirus amongst those I spoke with. They cited the avian flu epidemic and accused the media of hysteria. In truth, currently most of my chums have so many work stresses and family crises that they simply haven’t time to take on board a new terror. Despite their dismissive attitude I noted that there was a significant number of people donning face masks on the tube, in London stations and at Gatwick airport. One usually sees a lot of Asian visitors wearing masks which I like to think is cultural and due to the pollution, they have to cope with in their own cities but this time, those with masks were Europeans.

I’m old enough to remember The Survivors, a BBC TV series that had the nation gripped when I was a nipper. It was all about a terrible incurable virus that took over the world and so I try to stop myself thinking about it when I read the news. Funnily enough, I found the series available to watch on YouTube. It was made in the seventies and is wonderfully hammy with lots of good chaps speaking with very upper crust accents. There are also many cameo appearances by grey and grubby rats to add a touch of horror but it was all so anodyne by today’s standards and so staged that I found myself smiling rather than palpitating in horror. I may eat my words of course.