What's new? I don't look like this any more

One of the hard things about being in the West Indies for three weeks (I force myself to go there every January - I don't know why, perfectly nice over here, as my mother always said, taking it as a personal insult whenever anyone ever went abroad) is keeping up with British football. Or just keeping up with Britain.

In Barbados, at Cobblers Cove, it was OK. At breakfast, they give you a faxed digest of the Times, plus the Barbados Advocate, which always has bits about British football. At breakfast in Jamaica, at Round Hill, it was a faxed edition of the New York Times, boo, but the Daily Gleaner does give bits of British news.

But when we moved on to Pink Sands in the Bahamas, followed by Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos islands, that was it. Britain was off the map, out of sight, did not exist. It's always the same once you get that far across the Caribbean - you might as well be in Miami or Ultima Thule. So, for two whole weeks, my only source of UK news was each morning's eight-page digest from the New York Times, more boos. You don't realise how insular the United States is until you read a US newspaper, or how many sports teams and star players the country has whom you've never heard of. A bit like the UK, really.

During that fortnight, only two items of British news made it - both of them single-paragraph stories. You'll probably easily guess the first one: the death - sorry, end - of Peter Mandelson. But I bet you won't guess the other story. That was a real death.

We came back on the Sunday and found, to my surprise, that there was a special Match of the Day at 7.20pm on BBC1. Strange day, strange time. I said, goodee, now I won't have to go to bed to get over my jet lag. I'll stay up instead and discover what dramas have happened while I've been away. I put on my PJs and lined up my hot toddy, neither of which I had been near for three weeks. It had been too hot for either. Also, my gob was mostly occupied by a rum punch.

I switched on the TV, but all I could see were animals, which looked like bears, lumbering around. Had George Graham got some players on loan from London Zoo? Had he signed Tony Adams or brought back Ramon Vega? I tried the other channels, just in case I had, in my jet-lagged state, forgotten how to use the remote control. No football at all. What was going on? I checked every TV listing in the papers, which I always do - it's funny how often they have a better class of programme in some papers - but they all said Match of the Day, 7.20pm.

Now, Caitlin, our elder daughter, had been in the house while we were away, with baby Ruby. I asked: have you two been mucking around with my telly? Go on, don't lie. I'll find out. They denied everything, but I was sure something was different. Apart from me.

I am very different. While I was away, I did something I haven't done for 25 years. On the first day of our hols, I thought, I know, I'll get myself an all-over tan this year. So I shaved off my moustache.

I originally grew one to look older and because I hate shaving, especially my upper lip, which I was always cutting. Recently, my moustache has become so grey and scraggy-looking that it makes me look older, not younger - not that I care, oh no, certainly not.

My wife screamed when she saw my upper lip, and suggested I should do lip exercises to stop it just lying there looking weird. My children were also horrified. But other folks said I look 15 years younger, which is nice - again, not that I care.

Was the telly looking at me and saying, I don't recognise you, Hunt, so I'm not going to let you watch the football? With that thought, I fell asleep. Next day, I found out that there really had been no football. Some row between the BBC and Sky.

Now I have roughly caught up - and found that, unexpectedly, the unexpected has not happened. All the league tables look exactly the same. No surprise transfers. No famous manager gone. Still no sign of Hoddle at White Hart Lane, and probably never will be now that George Graham is going for a world record of 150 goalless draws in succession.

Man Utd are still running away with it - or at least the rest of the pack are so mediocre they're now stumbling over each other. I can't see Sunderland as runners-up. Leeds continue to collapse. I haven't seen a mention of Rio Ferdinand, the most expensive defender on the planet. Is he in prison, in a monastery, or what?

The only truly amazing, wonderful change is at the bottom of the Third Division. I couldn't see Carlisle United's name at first. Had they gone into a field with some sheep and quietly expired, or handed over the baton early to Yeovil? It turned out that they were second from bottom. Wowee. Dancing round the town hall.

I have just got back from my first real match - Spurs against Charlton in the Premier League. Yes, 0-0. I don't think I have seen a worse Spurs performance in 40 years. I was even thinking back fondly to the days of John Pratt and John Lacey and wishing that Ronny Rosenthal was still with us. The Charlton fans were shouting at the Spurs fans: "You're worse than Crystal Palace."

Charlton were just as dreadful, so much so that I began to wish I had never returned from the West Indies. I should have stayed there, ignorant of all things British, till the end of the season, even if it meant suffering the boredom of the New York Times.

By the way, the only other bit of British news it carried was the death of Auberon Waugh. I bet that would have amused him.

We'll change Hunter Davies's photo when he sends us a new one