WE have guests coming soon, and I am resolved to be as helpful and polite towards them as possible.

I hope you will join me.

I'm talking here about the impending influx of visitors to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, and to Edinburgh, for the Festival. Those latter hordes, of course, are an annual occurrence, and I am afraid to say I can be guilty of treating them as an encumbrance. But no more.

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I have just spent two weeks on holiday in the south of Spain, and the consideration and kindness displayed by the locals put me to shame.

They indulged my pathetic attempts at speaking their language, regarding my efforts with pity rather than censure. To the Andalucian ear my best effort would have translated as: "Good morning sir. Breakfasts. Coffee with milk, two, juices of oranges, toasts, jam. Please. Thank you." This was often greeted with a smile, and sometimes with a fair approximation of what I'd been trying to order.

In Seville, I'd arrived armed with an internet review of a bar that specialised in vegetarian tapas, a rarity indeed. We had an address, but our hotel-supplied city map did not believe in over-egging the detail, and it took a 40-minute slog through 30-degree heat to reach what we believed to be the correct destination. However, we could find no trace of our target, so we asked the nearest local, a lad in his late teens, showing him the address on my mobile. "Si," he said, "it should be here, but I have never heard of it. Sorry."

Disappointed, we wandered on, and had turned into the next street, when the lad breathlessly ran up to us. "I have found it," he said, "Come, see." He led us back to the square, and proudly pointed to La Huerta Mediterranea - whose frontage had been hidden by an orange tree.

Later, in the old tuna fishing town of Barbate, my wife and I were to be spied on the windswept beach, struggling with a giant parasol we were attempting to erect to provide some shade. Whereas this might have provoked gales of laughter on Porto­bello beach, here a sexagenarian worthy took pity on us, and showed us how to corkscrew it into the sand, filling the bag it came in with sand to provide ballast, then attaching it to one of the spokes in a remark­able feat of civil engineering. We were touched that he should take 15 minutes out of his siesta to help us, but he brushed off our thanks with a shrug.

When the tourists arrive this summer, I hope I can return some favours. I'll provide directions galore. To avoid embarrass­ment, though, I'm staying clear of the beaches.