BLAISE TAPP: The thought of mandatory budgie smugglers makes my blood run cold
There have been colder winters than this one, but I would wager that not quite as many have dragged on as long.
In fact this winter has been so tedious and drawn out that even I have been forced to dig into my very narrow pockets and book the family holiday later this year, rather than hang on until July and enter the lottery of trying to find a last-minute bargain.
Like millions of others, I succumbed to the wall-to-wall advertising that beckons us to the beach, theme parks and holiday camps and signed on the dotted line long before the seemingly never-ending January drew to a close.
After recovering from the initial shock of being reminded what a fortnight away in the school holidays actually costs, I am looking forward to 14 days of red wine, sweaty cheese and awkward exchanges in hypermarkets as I attempt to put my remedial French to use.
Or at least I was looking forward to it, until I learned about the rules relating to swimwear across the English Channel. I was blissfully unaware that, when using public swimming pools in France, blokes have no choice but to pull on a pair of Speedos due to real concerns about hygiene.
That's right, budgie smugglers are mandatory, which is fine if you are 21, eat steamed fish and nuts and complete 200 press-ups before your muesli and plain yogurt. It's not so fine if, like yours truly, you count chips and mushy peas as two of your five a day.
There was a time when I would have been happy to don a pair of skimpy trunks, but that time was shortly before my 16th birthday, which was prior to me discovering Boddingtons and indolence.
Nowadays I bear more than a passing resemblance to a ever-so-slightly deflated space hopper on legs, which is why I need to take some sort of decisive action if I am to avoid ridicule in six months time.
Those of you who are bloodied-minded enough to persevere with my drivel may remember that we have been here before. Three years ago I suffered the indignity of being '˜invited' to leave a theme park ride after my considerable bulk caused it to grind to a halt some 20ft above the ground.
The humiliation of breaking a sophisticated piece of equipment was enough for me to reconsider my lifestyle choices and I did manage to lose more than a stone, but the memory of that day has since faded and it turns out that I prefer the taste of kebabs than I do being able to fit in a pair of 38-inch waist jeans.
But there is something about the prospect of stepping out in public with very little on which makes the blood of men like me run cold, which is why you see most of us beside the pool wearing our Bermuda shorts and polo shirts while reading our Jeremy Clarkson book.
Thanks to French health and safety laws and their legitimate fear that if we eat brie and pÃ¢tÃ© while wearing our swimming shorts then we are likely to contaminate the pool with our lunch, I have to come up with a way to not only lose two-and-a-half stone between now and the summer, but also how to acquire a washboard stomach.
It may well be that this miserable winter might just last a little longer.