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

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'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.

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