How would you like to pay economy but fly business class?

Ladybirds are cannibals, or at least they are at the larva stage, but we won't go into that

WHILE I was on holiday in the South of France recently - well, it wasn't the deep south, it was the Dordogne, where I had never been before, although the bit of Wiltshire where I live was once described in a guidebook as being more like the Dordogne than anywhere in England, which is not quite true, I have discovered, because there are more British people in the Dordogne than there are in Wiltshire - anyway, when I was out in France recently I used to try to keep my French going by reading the local paper, Sud-Ouest, every day, my favourite feature in which was the popular science article on the back page.

This always used to lead off with a question, in order to intrigue the reader. "Why do jellyfish sting?", "Why is sea water salty?", "Why do ladybirds swarm on beaches during the summer?" and so on, and then the writer would explain the phenomenon at great length. I didn't actually know that ladybirds swarm on beaches during the summer but apparently they do in the French Med, so obviously it was a question worth asking.

The answer, I was amazed to glean, was that ladybirds are migratory animals and like to go off to the Pyrenees come autumn to hibernate at the correct temperature. But they are very sensitive to the dangers of being blown out to sea, so if they feel they are being taken off course and away from land they will land on the nearest bit of shoreline till the danger passes, and thus give the impression that they are swarming. (My italics, but you're welcome to share them. Incidentally, I also learnt that ladybirds are cannibalistic, or at least they are at the larva stage, but we won't go into that as it disturbs my image of the dear little things.)

This was all very well, but by the time you've learnt the French for jellyfish (la meduse) and greenfly (la puceron) you feel you can have too much of a good French thing, and that is when you start buying English papers. And that is how I came to read a Guardian article headed "How to pay economy prices and travel business class". It's the sort of thing I've always wanted to know, even more so than why jellyfish sting.

In fact, now I come to think of it, I have read lots of articles with headings like that. And I still haven't the faintest idea how to pay economy prices and travel business. There's a man in the Herald Tribune called something like Roger Collis whose full-time activity is to tell frequent travellers how to get the best deals and I always read his articles and I have never followed or indeed understood any of his advice...

One bit of advice I do have, though, for any aspiring journalist. If you want people to read your piece, it is better to put "How to pay economy prices and travel business class" than "Why do lady birds swarm on beaches during the summer?" at the top. On the whole, there are more people who want to travel cheaply than people who want to improve their knowledge of ladybirds' habits, and that is why I asked for the current heading to be put at the top of this article, even though I have no intention of supplying the answer, and I would be interested to know how many readers started reading this piece thinking (erroneously ) they were going to find out.

As I feel guilty that I have misled you this far into thinking that this piece is about anything at all, I am going to make up for it by putting an amazing extract in front of your eyes, a piece of writing which seems to be about Diana of Wales and yet was written before she was born. (My italics, though completely different ones this time.)

Read this: "There was only one lady in the group, and she was (as the journalists often said of her) a host in herself; being quite prepared to play hostess, not to say empress, at that or any other table. She was Lady Diana Wales, the celebrated lady traveller in tropical and other countries; but there was nothing rugged or masculine about her appearance at dinner. She was herself handsome in an almost tropical fashion, with a mass of hot and heavy red hair; she was dressed in what the journalists call a daring fashion, but her face was intelligent and her eyes had that bright and rather prominent appearance which belongs to the eyes of ladies who ask questions at political meetings."

Odd, eh? The description is not quite the late Diana - sounds more like Fergie - but I think you'll agree it's intriguing. The writer is famous, and the story it comes from is one of a famous set. Answer tomorrow. Oh, what the hell, let's have the answer now. It was G K Chesterton, in a Father Brown story called "The Curse of the Golden Cross".

Tomorrow: How to get your flight upgraded every time!

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?