Philip Hensher: Give us a nice day out and we're happy

Share
Related Topics

'What a beautiful day," I said, looking out of the window of my partner's house in Geneva. Lake Geneva was gorgeous in the sunlight; beyond the rooftops, the immense jet of water was sparkling against the blue sky. The mountains beyond the city were brilliantly capped with snow. "Let's not moulder inside watching Battlestar Galactica. Let's have a nice day out."

"A day out?" Zaved said. "Where do you want to go?" "I don't know," I said. "That pretty village on the French border – Hermance is it? There's a bus that goes there. It's awfully nice."

"But what do you want to do?" Zaved said. "Why are we going there?"

"I told you," I said. "We're going to have a nice day out."

The principle of the Nice Day Out is, for middle-class English people, so ingrained in their cultural existence that we have a tendency to think the habit universal. It lies somewhere between the mere drive to a country pub on the one hand, and the 10-mile ramble, the serious investigation of a lump of National Trust baroque on the other hand. In between there is the Nice Day Out.

Here, I think, are the rules of the NDO. First, it has to be a spontaneous response to an outbreak of lovely weather. Secondly, somebody has to suggest it brightly during, or soon after breakfast. Thirdly, there must be some sort of a destination – a view, a village, a garden, a house. Some people think the paying of an entrance fee to somewhere makes their NDO complete; personally, I think you just need to be confident that you haven't merely driven round Sussex for two hours to no particular purpose.

Fourthly, it has to span lunch, whether you take a picnic or have it in a café or pub. Fifthly, the argument out of nowhere is optional, and finally, the minimum outward journey, I would say, is five miles, the maximum 30. More than that and you won't be home for tea.

Having grown up in the sort of family for whom an NDO on a sunny weekend – and quite often, a rainy one too – represents something approaching a moral duty, I grow very restless if the sun starts shining on my breakfast. Zaved, however, grew up in a courtyard house in the middle of Dhaka in Bangladesh, where a Nice Day Out in the country would represent a major upheaval. I'm not sure he quite understands the rules.

Hermance turned out to be extremely pretty, its faded houses with shutters running down to the lake. Obese and ginger cats slept in the spring sunshine; a historic tower stood on the hill above a picturesque little church. "So now what?" Zaved said as the bus pulled away.

"Well," I said. "We walk down to the lake, and sit and admire the view. Then we read the Saturday paper, and you read out bits to me and I read out bits to you. Then we walk up the hill again and have some lunch in the café. We can have an argument at some point if you insist on it, but we ought to make it up before we get on the bus home." "What about?" Zaved asked. "I don't know," I said. "It's not compulsory, though."

"But," he said. "The thing is, I can see the lake from my terrace, just about. We could have read the paper and had some lunch and had an argument, if you insist, without leaving home. Why have we come 10 miles on two buses to walk for two hundred yards down a village street? What kind of insanity is this?" "Well, yes," I said. "But if we'd stayed at home, there's one thing we couldn't have had. We wouldn't have had a Nice Day Out."

The power dressing and the glory

For the first time, Dynasty has been issued on DVD, justifying, as far as I'm concerned, the technology on its own. The clothes! The shoulder pads! The glitter! The swimming pools! The massacre at the Moldavian wedding which didn't kill anyone at all! Glorious stuff. "The cabin is on fire! This is all your fault! Every time you come into my life, something terrible happens to me!"

For Joan Collins, pictured, it was, without question, her finest moment, and the series was wildly superior both to every TV high-camp spectacle before it, and everything that has followed.

Recently, we've been adoring Gossip Girl ("Blair! You will never be as beautiful, thin or happy as you are at this exact moment!") But, let's face it, the wonderful festival of excess and poison that is Dynasty, which ran from one end of the 1980s to the other, is never going to be equalled.

I don't really know why we enjoy expensively-dressed women being vile to each other. But it seems just the thing for the credit crunch. As Alexis says to Krystle: "You've won this round ... but the night is still young."

I'm ecstatic about this sex romp

I can hardly express the happiness I felt on seeing the words "House of Commons Sex Romp" on the front of a newspaper yesterday. How wonderful that people are still interested when a quite unknown politician has sex with someone not his wife within the Palace of Westminster. How delightful that, in 2009, the occurrence is still termed not just sex, but, with poetic dignity, a Sex Romp.

Though few of us can aspire to conduct a Sex Romp, it appears very common in the lives surveyed by our colleagues on other newspapers. As well as Mr Nigel Griffiths MP, "sex romps" are ascribed to an Asbo'd couple in Wrangle, Lincolnshire (on a car bonnet), in a toilet in Carshalton, in a courthouse in Boston, and three gentlemen in a garden in the Hudson Valley, New York State. I feel sure that the man in Moscow who died after eating an entire bottle of Viagra and entertaining two prostitutes for 12 hours knew he was embarking on a "sex romp". It may have come as a surprise to some of the others, however, including lovely, pouting Mr Griffiths MP, 53, said to have been cavorting at the weekend. Whatever cavorting may mean.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?