Tales of the City: Here comes the fun...

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Ten signs that summer has actually arrived, after a few false starts:

Ten signs that summer has actually arrived, after a few false starts:

1) The chap who walked into Soho Square on Monday morning in a jacket, shirt and tie, removed them all, sat on the grass, extracted an economy-size carton of strawberries from a giant tote bag, ditto a wine box of Sutter Home Chardonnay, ditto a glass and a copy of Nuts magazine, hung a hands-free phone from his ears and proceeded to chomp, slurp, read, chat and sunbathe for half an hour of bliss.

2) The gentleman of a certain age in the Royal Festival Hall who, in full view of his surprised neighbours, fondled the breasts of his considerably younger lady companion for a whole 10 minutes. There was even (reports suggest) nuzzling involved. It's all the effect of the sun's rays on your pineal gland, apparently.

3) The redundancy of blankets at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park. No work for the special paramedics standing by to treat hypothermia sufferers after 10pm. Patrons of this year's Midsummer Night's Dream are going home glazed with Arcadian rapture.

4) Department stores doing wacky things on their rooftops. Selfridges has erected a cinema (go to the second floor and climb), while John Lewis in Oxford Street is giving half-hour tuition sessions in "Creative Barbecuing" on its roof garden from 26 June ("with expert chefs demonstrating complex cuisine, like chicken infused with beer"). Last year, Madonna and Martin Amis launched books at the Roof Gardens. Who's next?

5) Jennifer Lopez announces her forthcoming nuptials.

6) Picnics in the car park at Royal Ascot become more pretentious. The smart thing for this year is to order your salmon from the fish shop at Kensington Place, pick it up (packed in ice) at 10am and amaze your friends by dishing out, at lunchtime, perfect chilled poached salmon in the middle of a field in Berkshire.

7) Two gentlemen in serious business suits in St James Park who, fortified by lunch at Inn the Park, removed their shoes and socks, hitched up their trousers and went paddling beside the ducks, as though on Margate beach.

8) England do unexpectedly well in a Test match, winning by a handful of wickets, but nobody notices because they are distracted by a sporting disaster occurring somewhere else.

9) Press reaction to the Queen's birthday honours list focuses, like a mugging, on a single star of the arts world and gives him/her a ferocious drubbing. This year it's Jilly Cooper.

10) The people on Big Brother whom you originally dismissed as charmless, ignorant onanists and vapid, self-obsessed floozies, suddenly acquire suavity and sweetness. You have no explanation for this behavioural volte-face. But you may just pour yourself another slug of Sauvignon Blanc and watch what happens next...

A small but sobering detail about the recent European elections in Italy sticks in my head. The Forza Italia party did catastrophically, taking only 21 per cent of the vote. But what exercised Italians was the phone call. Friends in Tuscany report the shock on the face of their housekeeper when she received a personal text from Silvio Berlusconi on her mobile phone, the day before the elections. It was a cheery message, inviting her simply to vote for him for a better future. I've no idea if she did - but her pleasure on hearing from the great man faded slightly when it turned out that he'd texted every single mobile phone owner in the country. It's true. For a price, Italian mobile phone companies will blithely sell off lists of their mobile users' names and numbers. So the Berlusconi government bought up the numbers of every Sony and Nokia in the land, and banged off a message to their owners. I'm torn between marvelling at what the operation must have cost Silvio (3p per text, multiplied by at least 20 million phones) and wondering how alarming it would be if Downing Street knew my mobile number and yours, and felt they could ring up the electorate for an encouraging chat every now and again...

Children are getting more demanding. We know that already. You and I, gentle reader, did not ask for (and confidently expect to get) a £400 drum kit for our birthday. We did not insist that our parents bought us a season ticket to Stamford Bridge as a basic human necessity. The modern generation, I'm afraid, wants everything. And they're beginning to want it earlier and earlier. Last week, I was in a children's book shop with my small daughter, who is crazily fond of the Secret Seven books (yes, I know, but it is Only A Phase and she will doubtless be reading the works of CS Lewis and, I dunno, Thomas de Quincey very soon). We looked at a whole shelf of the things - a treasure trove of passwords, dubious foreigners, horrid little sisters, ginger beer-fuelled meetings in sheds, and lashings of homemade jam with clotted cream - all in their original dust jackets. Choose one, I said, but make sure you haven't read it already. "I'll have this one," she said, " Well Done, Secret Seven". I flipped open the cover. "Ah, no, sweetheart, actually you can't have this one, because it's £28." I said. "It's a first edition, you see." A look of hard-done-by outrage crossed her sweet face. "But Daaa-ad," she wailed. "I haven't got any first editions..."

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