As invented compliments go, this one really grabs the Garibaldi. Other women might dream of being likened to a summer's day, a Lalique vase, an orchid, a thoroughbred racehorse or a mountain stream. But it takes a certain genius to fantasise about being compared to a 900-year-old structure with three enormous towers, a threadbare roof, umpteen flying buttresses and a Bomber Command Memorial Chapel.
Forgive me if I stride by with my nose in the air, but I've just been to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace. I trod with pretended unconcern across the immemorial gravel of the front courtyard, ignored the waxwork guardsmen outside their sentry boxes, wandered through the echoing inner palazzi as though I regularly popped in for tea, traipsed up the stairs to where the royal crockery is on display like some superposh Ideal Home Exhibition.
And once arrived on Buck House's gorgeous camomile lawn, one soon grasps the drill. The pleb tendency scores a tiny glass of iced coffee and doll's- house portions of egg sandwiches and yummy lemon gateau from the Ordinary People tent, and hangs out with any friends you may happen to find, while gazing at the Great, the Good and the recently reshuffled as they drift across the greensward: Lord and Lady Longford over here, Lord and Lady Tebbit over there; Michael Howard and his ex-model wife mixing with the common "pippul" over by the bandstand; Denis and Edna Healey dancing to the Zampa overture; Stephen Dorrell, clearly hoping nobody was going to ask him about hospital closures before he'd blagged some fruitcake; John Profumo in a raffish top hat; Robin Leigh-Pemberton, late of the Bank of England, grown Gregory-Peckishly handsome with age ...
Mid-lawn, a concentration of morning suits and pleated skirts betokened the presence of the Queen somewhere in their midst. She was a vision in UN blue, and every time she moved on to speak to someone, the crowd behind her shuffled forward as though playing Grandmother's Footsteps. As she, and later Prince Charles, chewed the fat with hand-picked commoners, a phalanx of Beefeaters tacked hither and thither, establishing a cordon sanitaire around the conversation in their midst. Does it seem odd to the Royals, I wonder, that they cannot, on a whim, go off to talk to an interesting-looking couple at their own party without having this platoon of halberd-wielding bouncers directing the social traffic at every move?
Somebody told me it was "media day" but the only luminaries I spotted were the poet Simon Armitage, Matthew Kelly, the laughing impresario of TV's Stars in their Eyes and the Asian Babes porn magnate Richard Desmond. Clerics, however, were out in force. Hundreds of them, gaitered and skirted in hierarchical shades of crimson, puce and blanched aubergine. One lanky episcopalian pulled up a chair for a young woman in a fuchsia miniskirt. "My God, look at that," said a friend. "A bishop with matching verger." Pastel shades were the order of the day: lime green, king-prawn orange, myriad shades of purple. My consort turned into a kind of conversational Dulux swatch: "That's puce, that's raspberry-and-cream, that's, um, cinnamon, that's more plum, that's frankly mauve ..."
On the far perimeter stood the tents of the Nobs' Enclosure, where the Royals have their tea'n'bun and enjoy only the most blue-blooded chat. The presence of HMQ drew the crowds, who gawped over the fence shutting off the quality from human contact. We resembled the audience at a gymkhana, eyes fixed on an empty paddock, waiting for a display of equestrian daring. But the only figures who entered the paddock were dignitaries, Whitehall fixers, ramrod-backed servicemen, processing grandly by with their important umbrellas and their wives. And we stood and stared and marvelled to think that the English Season isn't about celebration after all, but the intense satisfaction of exclusivity.
I'm not sure I can take much more of that television commercial for a certain make of automobile. It's not just the grating smugness of the payoff line - "A car company that doesn't believe in dealers? That'll be the Daewoo"; "A car that runs on mineral water? That'll be the Daewoo", etc - it's the way they pronounce the bloody thing. Possibly embarrassed by having to market a car with the silliest name since Eustace Fumblebunny, the legendary American businessman, the company has elected to pronounce it "Day-oo". ("That'll be the Day-oo," trills the ad. "A car that tells you jokes and pours you drinks? That'll be ..." oh, shut up.) The company must realise it's on the wrong track. The expression "Day-oh" was colonised in the Fifties by calypso performers who sang of banana boats and suchlike. The key lines of the song went: "Day-oh. Day-ay-ay-ooh. Daylight come and I wanna go home." Less a line to encourage the purchase of a car than the hire of a mini-cab.
When it comes to the Internet, I'm an amateur. On the information superhighway I'm an overcautious hedgehog on an obscure slip road. But I was fascinated to find that some old-fashioned values prevail.
Like other newspapers, the Guardian has gone on the Net, and you can call up all manner of radical news and features from a complete, endlessly updated, library of back issues by searching through the Guardian On-Line Archive. Excellent. But while keying into this awesome database recently, I discovered the following apology: "Since moving to our new web server a number of facilties [sic] have become unstable. We expect to have given the Guradian [sic] Online Archive a good springclean by Monday 10 July. We apologise to all its frequent and potential callers for the tempory [sic] absence". Nice to see the Grauniad maintaining its ancient traditions.Reuse content