'What about Uzbekistan?" Zaved said. I thought hard. "Mosques," I said. "Silk road. Bokhara. Samarkand – is that in Uzbekistan? And there were those two British officers that got themselves decapitated by an Amir. We could go and see their graves, I suppose. Connolly and Stoddart. I just wonder –" "What?" "I just don't know if it's totally the place I want to go on my honeymoon."
We're getting married in May, and everything else is going swimmingly – register office, museum for the reception, poems, music, flowers, all agreed on with the minimum of fuss. One crucial element, however, seems absolutely no nearer to being solved. Where on earth do people go for their honeymoon these days, now that everyone's been everywhere already? More to the point, where do we want to go?
Fifty years ago this year, when my parents got married, they went on honeymoon to Ilfracombe in Devon, and the information was conveyed to readers of the Surrey Comet. Since then, large parts of the world have been overtaken by the honeymoon industry. Highly tempting though a honeymoon in the Scilly Isles or the Trossachs seems to me, I think it seems unlikely to fit the case.
My observations of honeymoons have, naturally, been from the outside until now. There was the most peculiar trip down the Nile 20 years ago when my then boyfriend and I found ourselves on a boat with 26 newly married Italian couples and nobody else – they all disappeared after lunch to their cabins, emerging four hours later looking glassy and sated.
There was the occasion when this newspaper sent me to the Seychelles to write a travel piece. I'm sure it's really very nice, but it was hard to escape the disappointing impression that the archipelago was full of newly-weds, sitting on a beach watching the unmatched spectacle of the sun falling romantically into the Indian Ocean before turning, and remembering that they'd only got hitched to Dave from Human Resources.
So there is no prospect of going anywhere remotely resembling Honeymoon Hell. (Rule number one: no archipelagos. Rule two, no safaris). Apart from anything else, there is the fact that I appear to be getting married to a man, and I don't think the industry could quite overcome its embarrassment at that fact. It also seems to rule out parts of the world which we would love to go to – to fulfil a long-held ambition and go to Iran would be wonderfully bold, but probably a little bit reckless on this particular occasion.
"What about Norway?" Well, very dramatic scenery, very easy, there's that splendid Hurtigruten cruise that takes ten days to go up and down every single fjord, but isn't it a little bit, erm, elderly and uneventful? The Sahara – what about Mali? You want a little bit of comfort, don't you?
And then there's the whole credit-crunch aspect, which honestly makes you feel a little bit self-conscious about splurging too much. The other day, an acquaintance, sharing the details of their wedding, revealed that for their stag weekends one had taken his friends to Jamaica and the other to Brazil. I don't think I could do that without feeling very guilty indeed.
All the same, you do want a little bit of a trip-of-a-lifetime, don't you? You want to make people just a little bit jealous when you tell them, even if it's only of your ironic originality in honeymooning in Torremolinos. Top choice at the moment might be Japan, where neither of us has ever been. Second choice might be Iceland, which at any rate ought to be nice and cheap, and where you get to eat dried cod the hell of a lot, apparently.
Still radioactive after all these years?
The new owners of Sellafield have advertised to ask people who worked there in the 1960s, 70s and 80s if they can remember what low-level radioactive waste they disposed of. They themselves don't seem quite sure what the previous owners buried, or where they put it. I know the feeling exactly. I spent 10 minutes this morning looking for my red gloves, and can tell LLW Repository Limited the secret of these things. Whatever it is, it's always in the last place you look.
We're not talking about glowing green rods here, thankfully, but only about stuff like overalls, paper and hospital waste. At least, that's what they say, though their cluelessness may not encourage confidence in this respect.
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) says that it may well include "debris from the 1957 Windscale fire, materials from the US Three Mile Island reactor accident and from the Chernobyl explosion."
It does seem peculiar that nobody wrote any of this down, or that they can't find their own records, or that there is no record of who worked there as recently as the 1980s and that there's now the need to advertise in the press. Still, I expect it will all come out in the wash. At any rate, it is about 50 years too late to start worrying about any of it.
That's a killing machine you are cuddling
Some brave researcher at Reading University has tagged 200 neighbourhood cats, and discovered that, once out of your sight, Mr Prickly Paws embarks on an orgy of mindless slaughter. Every cat, it suggests, kills on average 16 wild animals a year – birds, mice, moles, and in one recorded case, even a weasel.
Are you really surprised? Of course the little beasts enjoy nothing more than murdering a blameless vole or two. Personally, I've never looked into the cold, calculating eyes of a cat without reflecting that here is an animal devoted to the conviction that if it were only a little bit bigger it would be very happy to kill you, too.
They're miniature tigers, their innate savagery exacerbated by a sense of complete frustration. And as for its dead victims deposited on your pillow – those aren't gifts. They're warnings, offered in the firm belief that very soon, your day will come, pal. Look on my works, ye mighty, and get out the Kit-e-Kat.