By the time you read you this I will be in Borneo. But don't take that as a threat. I can promise that I will not be devoting any future columns to stories of how I trekked through the jungle in search of orang-utans and narrowly escaped death at the hands, or rather fangs, of one or other of the 76 species of venomous snakes that ceaselessly roam the island in search of victims. Neither will you be hearing anything at all from me about the extraordinary colour of the sky at dusk or the extraordinary variety of bird life or the extraordinary cultural clash between the ancient life of the country and the crude commercialism of the new resorts.
I realise that this self-restraint has a cost. When Geoff learnt about my trip last week he couldn't wait to help me exploit its commercial possibilities. "Give the Sunday Times a ring. Tell them where you're going and suggest a 1,500-word feature. That's what I did last year when I went to Finland for Helen's wedding to that chap from Nokia. All I did was knock out a piece on sauna culture, which up till then I'd assumed was nasty stuff which grew up bathroom walls, and they came up with 750 quid. No questions asked."
I eventually got off the hook by explaining that I'd be far too busy preparing my conference speech on e-commerce to knock out a plausible paragraph on snakes, birds and sunsets, let alone 1,500 joined-up words. But I was lying. What really deters me from any kind of travel-writing is utter incompetence.
This singular inadequacy first became apparent in 1992, when, because of a chance meeting with an Evening Standard journalist in the Coach and Horses, I found myself invited to write about the Italian resort of Positano. I was told that the editor was looking for "a colour piece" that did justice to the scenic beauty of the resort, as well as the mannerisms of the rich and famous who frequented its bars and hotels: "Keep an eye out for Franco Zeffirelli and Gore Vidal."
After five days in the place, I was beginning to wonder whether or not I'd arrived at the right resort. Could there be two Positanos in Italy? One, like my own, that crawled with noisy day trippers from Naples and another, more exclusive, Positano where it was impossible to stop for a cappuccino without finding Zeffirelli putting the final touches to a romantic epic or Vidal knocking out another aphorism.
There was no alternative but to concentrate on the "scenic" aspect of my commission. That was when I dramatically discovered my pathological inability to think of any epithets for natural phenomena. No matter how long I stared at the hills behind Positano, I was still unable to come up with anything better than "high" or "very high" or "majestically high". The sea remained resolutely "calm" or "choppy" or "turbulent" and the sky was invariably "deep blue", "azure" or, in one relatively inspired turn of phrase, "dotted with puffs of white cloud".
My piece was never published. In a brief note, the deputy editor complained that it had nothing on the rich and famous and that my descriptions of Positano's scenic charms were so lacking in specificity that they might equally well have referred "to the landscape around New Brighton".
Not that this journalistic failure will do anything to interfere with my enjoyment of Borneo. Even now, I can hardly wait to see whether the hills are "high" or "very high" and whether or not the sky turns out to be "deep blue" or "azure".