As I watched Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens and Commander Christine Jones introducing the Met's preparations for policing the royal wedding, I admit to harbouring two ignoble thoughts. I suspected, first, that their mean male bosses had set "the girls" up as fall guys in the event of failure. And second, despite my best feminist inclinations, I couldn't help hankering after a big, burly, authoritative man, booming in quasi-military fashion about how everything was in hand. I was wrong.
In a week likely to be uncomfortable for the Met – yesterday a jury found Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed by an officer at the G20 protest, and Lady Justice Hallett delivers her verdicts on the 7/7 inquests on Friday – it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. And it's due in magnums of champagne to those who masterminded and oversaw the policing of the royal wedding, starting with the calm competence of Owens and Jones.
Only days after one of the most successful police operations for years, it's hard to recall how high the stakes – and the risks – were beforehand. It is not just that terrorism is an ever-present threat, with government buildings routinely declaring the risk level. It is that several recent protests have run out of control; some have turned violent, and it's only four months since the Met, or royal security, or both, "lost" the car carrying the Prince of Wales, which was attacked by protesters on Regent Street.
Even acknowledging that the crowds descending on Westminster for the wedding were, for the most part, not going to be in hostile protest mode, it's still quite an achievement to marshal as many as a million people (twice as many as forecast) in a constricted area, allow diehards to sleep out overnight, keep the carriageways clear for the procession, and prevent a stampede on The Mall before The Kiss.
Nor did the marvels stop there. With spruce uniforms, a smile and a "good morning", this was policing as London hadn't seen it for years. "Bobbies" were back; each one I came across between 9 and 10am on Friday seemed to have been accorded a measure of discretion and the personal responsibility to go with it. All right, these were benign and benevolent crowds. But maybe, just maybe, the police get the crowd they deserve, and all this baton-wielding and "kettling" sends its own message. On Friday, in a crowd of a million, there were 55 arrests, and most were released without charge. If this is policing with a feminine touch, let's have more of it.
My one criticism concerns the so-called pre-emptive arrests of that trio alleged to possess effigies and a model guillotine. I think we could have borne a touch of dissent in Soho Square. It would be good to think they got their guillotine back.
Emma Watson and the campuses from hell
A minor furore has attended the departure of Emma Watson from Brown University, one of North America's most prestigious academic establishments. I don't know the rights and wrongs of it: the actress – celebrated as Hermione, before being recruited to take decades off staid old Burberry – denies reports that she was teased or bullied. But if the publicity surrounding her move encourages British students to think harder before applying to US colleges, she will have done her compatriots a favour.
With fees at most English universities set to rise to £9,000 a year, it's becoming fashionable to look across the Atlantic, where needs-blind admission, generous scholarships and new experiences beckon. Those new experiences, however, will not be to everyone's liking. For all their familiarity from films, American campuses can be alienating places, where social and economic segregation is endemic, the cliquishness of American high schools persists, and stultifying conformity rules. Shared hostel rooms are the norm. Oh yes, and across the US the legal drinking age is 21.
There are pluses, of course: the chance to start afresh; the social leg-up courtesy of an English accent, and a first year to explore what you really want to study. But you need to be tough. The difference is far greater than a seven-hour flight might suggest.
Yield management for milkshakes? Come off it
Sorry if you were stuck behind me at McDonald's on Saturday. I found myself at the centre of an embarrassingly trivial and mercenary drama, which took a few minutes to sort out. But what happened deserves a wider airing beyond the five of us who took part. Caveat emptor – even on a budget.
I asked what milkshakes they had (you have to ask, because the selection varies), and the girl at the till reeled off a list. I asked for caramel. As I'd been queuing next to the price board, I knew that a "medium" was £1.49 and produced £1.50 – only to be asked for 20p more. Scrabbling in my purse, I queried the sum, and the girl pointed to another, rather confusing, advert behind her, labelled "promotion", which said caramel was a £1.69 "limited edition".
At this, the woman waiting at the next till said: "You're right; stick to your guns." Which I sort of knew, but it was nice to have support. Then someone else chipped in to say that she'd been told that caramel was extra, and she had noted that I hadn't. (Who needs MI5 when fast-food eavesdropping is this good?) After a bit of quibbling, a supervisor returned my 20p. Still, it seems to me that things have reached a pretty pass when McDonald's vaunts "limited editions" and has "promotions" costing more rather than less. Isn't it supposed to be the other way round? P.S. I enjoyed making a big fuss of dropping the contested 20p into the charity box.