The experts say that to give your best at work you should always take your full holiday entitlement - and I believe they are right.

So I am back refreshed after my first break of the year.

Well, sort of refreshed . . . I was very tired - so tired it took me 48 hours to stop feeling like a zombie.

And the recharging of the batteries has not been helped by a three-day spring cold which had me sneezing and spluttering over the rest of the family during jaunts to see mother on the Wirral, father-in-law in Harrogate and returning daughter to Southampton.

Of course the only sympathy I got from the wife was a recurring "don't you dare give me your cold".

They say the Osbournes are a dysfunctional family. I sometimes think they have nothing on mine.

The high point of excitement in Harrogate was father-in-law's false teeth.

The plate needed fixing but he had fallen out with the denture repair people. So in a bizarre cloak and dagger operation, which would have done credit to the world's worst sleuth writer, the wife had to take the things in, pretending they were for a "Mr Kenny", father-in-law's newly-created pseudonym.

And then picked up again.

"What's a smart set of teeth like you doing hanging out with the molars round here?"

Just give me the trench coat and I can do Humphrey Bogart with the best of them.

Harrogate's still in decent nick. There's always been plenty of Yorkshire brass in 'arrogate.

The shops are all in good shape and the quality of merchandise is strong - Yorkshire folk won't buy tat.

Not so Southampton.

It seems to have been really shaken by the high street downturn as consumers continue their spending halt, fearful for their jobs amid rising unemployment and worried about their pensions as the system disintegrates.

The main shopping street now has gaps where stores have pulled out and those that remain are the likes of Primark and Matalan - the cheap and cheerless end of the market. Once all garish plastic and compelling yoof culture, it now looks just a touch down at heel.

Old money and new - the difference between Harrogate and Southampton.

Harrogate, underpinned by rich landowners, inherited wealth and the grey pound, can, I suspect, get through the bad times the better.

Don't get me wrong - I like Southampton. I like the way it has transformed itself into a new, vibrant, modern city.

But, compared to Harrogate, it lacks depth. An economy built on the leisure sector and students is always vulnerable to a touch of economic downturn.

Perversely my daughter, who graduated last summer from Southampton Institute, decided to spend a "gap year" afterwards rather than beforehand and has been flogging popcorn in a cinema.

Don't ask me to explain it. The flat runs out in June when she is set to make a reappearance in Birmingham, so the first installment of a mountain of belongings was hauled back while there was a bit of space in the car.


What holiday?