One side-effect of the recent heat wave is that I have taken to waking up with stray bits of leaf and twig in my hair. The white summer flannels that I so desperately protect from Beaujolais and bolognese stains have started to display green skidmarks as though I spent my days fielding at third slip. Friends who have long been dismayed by my ignorance of plant life now whinny with surprise as I effortlessly ask, "Is that your handbag behind the ipicanthus?".

It's all these garden parties, you see. I can't remember when there was such a flood of the things through the hot months, but I seem to spend my every evening rubbing shoulders with shrubbery. It's more than just a phenomenon of synchronicity. It's a sign of growing up. Before now, one's friends just didn't own a garden big enough to entertain their entire social acquaintance; the girls had second-floor flats in Finsbury Park, the chaps had studio apartments in Wandsworth with 30-foot backyards mostly laid to concrete and creosote. The marrieds had gardens just big enough to accommodate one child, one baby and one paddling pool with optional floating crocodile. Now we're all at the wrong end of our thirties, we're suddenly able to afford gardens of Babylonian proportions and cram them with beautiful people swilling Frascati.

Gardens are good for parties; they reify the whole concept. Instead of a party being an amorphous thing conducted out of sight in a dozen rooms and a staircase, it's there before you in a garden, sprawling, plenitudinous, arrayed. You can see it, as it were, in the round. One hostess last week even had the conversational dynamics of her fete-champetre mapped out. "Now which would you like to join first?" she asked as we surveyed the scene from the french windows. "Over on the left it's the Rolling Stones, on the right they're comparing redundancies, they're on Why I'm Glad I'm Not In Grozny by the bar, and it's the Dean of Lincoln by the tree..."

There is, however, a problem with gardens. Back in 1947, Prof CNorthcote Parkinson, he of the famous Law, made a special study of how people work the room at a diplomatic or civil service gathering, and revealed how you could tell which were the thrusting ones, which the nervy, the silly or the inconsequential by where they were standing. This invaluable document, however, simply fails to operate at garden level: you don't "enter" a garden like you enter a room, you don't circulate it but traverse it. So here are a handful of tips for successful negotiation of the greensward:

1. On no account should you plunge straight through the crowd like a bowling ball through skittles. You will wind up at the end of the garden among the furtive adulterers and the sheepish reefer addict.

2. If there's a terrible crush, and a danger of being pinned between two arbitrageurs and a resting actor, head for the bar and let the party come to you.

3. If there's a terrible crush but no bar in the garden at all, you have crashed the Spectator party by mistake.

4. Guests at a house party circulate clockwise from the left. Guests at a garden party start, for some reason, on the right. The most important ones can be found two-thirds of the way down, talking to some big noise in broadcasting.

5. After 10 o'clock, be wary of the canapes. It is the height of folly to eat anything you can't see.

6. If you spot a large garden gnome, complete with beard and sleepy eyes, miraculously come to life and start complaining about the iniquities of the literary world, relax. It is Salman Rushdie.

The infamous Ferrero Rocher ad may not currently be seen on our screens, but fans of the ambassador and his cocktail party are still eager for tit-bits about it.

We are not alone in our obsession with this magnificent piece of Eurocrap. The ad's butler, John Abineri, has been telling the advertising magazine Campaign that he is now so famous in Italy that everywhere he goes, fans try to mob him. They even have a nickname for him: "Ambroglio".

This is as nothing, however, compared to Mr Abineri's shocking revelation of jiggery-pokery on set. The impressive pyramid of foil-wrapped chocolates that the butler carries across the room at a nod from His Eccellente was only constructed with the help of liberal quantities of glue. So that's why I haven't been able to do it at home.

Is "cyberspace" overflowing with pornography? Time magazine recently ran an alarming and lengthy cover story warning the parents of America and the world to be on their guard against all manner of carnal horrors, based on a research report from Carnegie Mellon university in the States.

Naturally, there was a backlash from those fighting to keep the Net free and uncensored, but it's a losing battle now that libel lawyers have discovered its potential as ready supply of pocket money. More liberal commentators, meanwhile, have taken to warning of a sinister conspiracy whereby governments have stirred up a bogus moral panic so that they can start regulating a system that might otherwise be buzzing with dangerous political subversion.

Fanciful though all this might seem, the attack on the original research has been extraordinarily thorough. So much so that its author, an undergraduate called Marty Rimm, has come in for a bit of unexpected personal attention himself.

Inevitably, it emerges that his hands are far from clean. Time itself has had to admit that Rimm has a bit of a track-record as an author. First there was a "salacious" novel, called An American Playground. Worse, it was followed by a little self-publishing project: The Pornographer's Handbook: How to Exploit Women, Dupe Men and Make Lots of Money.

Talk about running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

How fitting that the easy-listening music of James Last and Mantovani should be all the rage in the clubs just in time for the 50th anniversary of the BBC Light Programme, which falls today. Fifty magnificent years of melody, you might say, if you were a sloganising sort of person.

What intrigues me, however, is the logic of the timing. Nineteen forty- five, eh? The war in Europe had just ended, the war in Japan was about to end, and a half-century of nuclear terror was about to begin, although no one knew it. What better way to celebrate than by creating something? Not a land fit for heroes, but a channel fit for Arthur Askey and Edmundo Ros. And thus heavy fighting gave way to light entertainment. Since then rock'n'roll and alternative comedy and the Cold War have come and gone, but light music carries on, for ever.

These frightening observations are prompted by a new experience for the Weasel. There are, as I've often remarked, landmarks in a rodent's life: learning to walk, going to school, various mating experiments, garden parties. But when do you start to get old? I think it's when you make your first visit to a record shop's Easy Listening department and, worse, look around and discover that you recognise - and, indeed, rather like - most of the names there.

It happened to me the other day, among the racks of Elkie Brooks and Dusty Springfield. Luckily no one saw me there, with guilt and shame written all over me: on the whole I think I'd rather be found in a parked car off Sunset Boulevard

Comments