Deborah Orr: Dinner, diaries, and how I'm driven to despair by electronic bad manners

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The Independent Online

One of the many dubious gifts that our mobile phones have awarded us is the advent of just-in-time socialising, the phenomenon whereby no one seems to care about being punctual any more, because they can just text you saying that they're about to leave the house and could you order them a vodka and tonic.

Hanging about waiting for the miscreant in question is never, of course, a problem, because you can simply make a few calls, or perhaps even gently launch the evening's banter with some exchanges of electronic information, such as "I am on the sofas in that alcove bit" or "Tell you what. Don't fucking bother".

Oh no. Not the third one. That would suggest that you're some kind of uptight loony control freak with a stubborn fondness for the dreadful old days when half past seven was more than an inchoate guideline.

Entire evenings are now provisional. I emailed a friend the other week and asked if she'd like to have dinner with me the next night. She emailed back, obviously feeling that I was trying to pin her down, like a fascist, with: "I suppose I'll have to tell you now?"

What can you say to this, except: "Heavens, no. I quite understand that there are still 14 hours to go, and that a better offer might come in at any second. I'll text you from the restaurant and tell you the starters. You don't have to decide until then, sweetie."

Expressing any irritation with the joys of life-in-the-moment perma-teenagehood marks you out as living in a Jane Austen fantasy world, in which every social encounter affords the need of a three-day coach journey. Why firm up today what you can put off till tomorrow?

Except that I'm beginning to discern a longing for a return to the slightly more solid diary-blocking of days gone by, and it is represented in the recent fad for the pre-invitation. The pre-invitation comes in many forms, the most flamboyant of them being the "save the date" card. It turns up in the post. It looks like an invitation. It sits on your mantelpiece like an invitation. It gets entered into your diary like an invitation. But it merely presages the invitation to come. Why isn't it just an invitation? I don't know.

Admittedly the save-the-date card does come in at the grander end of the corporate social market. But the idea is creeping in more broadly, in the form of emails, texts or phone calls that enquire as to whether you would be in a position to reply in the affirmative were a formal invitation to be sent out to you. This is a bit weird too, as it's a bit like being contacted and asked if you'd accept an honour were the Queen to offer you one, except that it's really just a birthday piss-up at the Dove in Balham. RSVP.

But my suspicion is that it's actually a touchingly nervous warning that the event is a big deal to its host, and that a text at 6.45 explaining that sorreee, you didn't realise it was the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing is simply not an option. One can only assume that as just-in-time socialising gains ground, so does just-in-time social anxiety. Save that date for the head doctor.

Such a devoted sister

While brothers in the public eye often seem a teensy bit resentful of each other – like Christopher and Peter Hitchens, or Jonathan and Paul Ross – sisters in the public eye appear to have moved on from the darker dynamic explored so gratifyingly in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.

The Olsen twins seem to get along swimmingly. Paris Hilton and the other one are never at loggerheads. Sienna Miller and the other one are in business together. And Kylie and Dannii, well, they're just so adorably close and supportive that one's little heart opens like a flower every time they coo lovingly at each other.

But the sister who reigns over all other sisters has to be Penelope Cruz who has launched a clothing line with her less stellar sibling Monica (both pictured) and even does the latter the honour of letting her model the best clothes.

One shot portrays the extremely beautiful Penelope wearing an outrageously ghastly checked tweed pinafore with patch pockets. Penelope, sportingly, places her hands inside the patch pockets so that she looks improbably rectangular, just like the back of a bus. Even more fantastic, the shot is actually reproduced, huge, again and again, on the backs of loads of buses. She is such a great sister, not just to Monica, but to all women. Bless.

For heaven's sake, just call the election and get it over with

For 10 long years now, the Westminster village has been utterly obsessed with Gordon, boring the nation with its endless speculation. Was he tricked by Tony in Granita? Is he even talking to Tony? When will Gordon take over as prime minister?

One hoped all that, at least, would be over once Gordon got his way and became Our Great Leader. But still, the strange appeal of pointless Gordon-centric speculation carries on, with the odd effect of making Gordon more rather than less enigmatic, and more rather than less popular.

Now no one cares about a sodding thing except the burning question: "When will Gordon call an election?" I do hope he decides this weekend so that we can all rush out, vote Gordon like we're under a spell, then forget the bugger ever existed. I mean, once he goes legit, he just won't be interesting any more.

Even Saatchi is at it, with his assertion that Gordon is "a great brand". I'm sorry, but what can this mean? Gordon dolls? Gordon board games? A Gordon scent? An animated Gordon television series that will eventually become a series of Gordon films? Or just a poster saying: "Not flash. Just Gordon." The whole thing resembles nothing so much as the H H Monroe story, in which a marketing man conquered the world with Filboid Studge, even though no one knew what it was. If I were Gordon I'd start watching out, before I ended up on the subs' bench in a US soccer stadium, wondering where it all went right.

And parades for homecoming members of the British armed forces? I'm all for them. Maybe if we were all expected to turn out and cheer our boys on if and when they came home, then people such as, yes, Gordon, wouldn't be quite so keen to ship them off to wars no one wanted them to fight in, then ship them back home for a couple of weeks in a leaky little hovel, telling them not to worry because next year they'll get a council tax rebate worth anything up to £140, if they're not actually homeless by then. That would be good, wouldn't it?

More people are going to the cinema now than have gone for 38 years, which wise commentators say is an indication of how bad the weather was this summer. But I know different. It's got nothing to do with films at all, has it? It's just about the relief of saying the words 8.15 and knowing everyone concerned understands that you really mean it.

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