Following in the footsteps, albeit belatedly, of British Prime Ministers and Cuban dictators, I have fled to Madeira, where I am comfortably ensconced in a room overlooking the sea. At the moment, however, it is teatime, so I am on the sun-dappled terrace at Reid's Hotel, and, as I nibble a cucumber sandwich, I survey my eminent, if temporary, domain. Below me are the hotel gardens whence I have just come from reading a Conrad novel under the shade of a jacaranda. On the level just below, shimmering and pristine, is the blue-tiled, seawater swimming pool where, at first light, I begin my regimen with laps each morning. In the distance a phalanx of hotels (several with British names like Savoy and Carlton) cascades down from the city of Funchal to the water's edge. And surrounding all, looming higher and higher, are the mist-covered mountains of Madeira.