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Costa Carluke here we come;Opinion

IT WAS my first package holiday and it started off virtually sitcom-scripted. Our flight from Edinburgh to Palma was delayed for four hours, and the airline food was hilariously undersized.

Rolls looked as if they were being viewed through the wrong end of a telescope. Only ice cubes seemed to have standard dimensions, the better for minimising the amount of fruit juice needed in thimblish tumblers.

We reached our apartment at 3am, too tired for even a cursory look out of the window. In the morning we found our phrase book lacked the one sentence we really needed: "The zebra outside our window was rather noisy in the early hours of the morning." In the darkness of our arrival, we had failed to notice a circus across the road.

After that, things got hugely better. Great weather, great swimming, nice folk and, away from the coastal concrete, great scenery, if a trifle arid. Did you know that the highest mountain in Majorca is taller than Ben Nevis? Well it is.

And I got to play with a new language. When I started secondary school I was excited at the thought of learning French. A succession of rather frosty teachers (interrupted by a year with the best-loved teacher in the school - no names, he's still going strong) didn't put me off, probably because I was being rewarded by success.

At this point I should come across all PC and say that the only thing I felt I lacked in those days was a substantial opportunity to speak the language I was learning. That would be a distortion of the way I felt. I was self-conscious about pronunciation and preferred to keep quiet and get on with writing sentences. When you are an adolescent male it can be hard enough maintaining a normal-sounding voice when speaking your own language.

Fast-forward to the present. I believe weans now have much more opportunity to converse in the languages they learn. Self-conscious voice-breaking aside, this seems sensible. Indeed, I had my first taste of Spanish from a pack produced by one of our own mod-lang teachers - although she refused to lend me the tape she'd made to go with it, claiming she sounded too much like a Blue Peter presenter.

Back in Carluke, I soon found that the local Somerfield sells genuine Spanish chorizo. No longer afraid to use a foreign language out loud, I have had to stop myself adding "por favor" on the couple of occasions I have asked for it. Hasta la vista.

Gregor Steele found that being able to ask for four orange juices in Spanish didn't stop him being ripped off in the only expensive cafe in Majorca.

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