There comes a time in life when you realise you just have to learn to drive. For some, it’s obvious: sixteen! For me, at the ripe age of twenty-nine, it was this morning — a 2h15min car journey from Oxford to Beaminster is what it would have been, if I’d had a license and a car. But no. First there was a taxi journey to the station at 7.45 (Mr Č will be cross when he reads this, but I would’ve missed my train otherwise), because we live on the wrong side of town for trains. Then a rail replacement bus from Oxford to Didcot Parkway (which quite a few people couldn’t get on because there wasn’t enough space — good work, First Great Western). Then a train from Didcot to Slough. Then another rail replacement bus from Slough to Windsor. At this point I’ll break to give you some pleasing photos of Windsor, as I was picking up a lift from a colleague who lives in the castle. And we passed Stonehenge on the way! I’d never seen it before. I think the traffic jam as we approached it was because everyone was slowing down to take bad photos with their phones (like me).
In more domestic news, the garden is exploding. Especially the corn, which is vigorous and tall and reminds me of happy times in Illinois, and the courgette/zucchini, whose floppy yellow flowers are covered in insects (I hope they’re just pollinating it, not eating it). We have tomato plants, too, and my initial scepticism has been mollified by the recent Hot Weather – just like real summer! Everyone told me tomatoes wouldn’t work in England, but they seem to be thriving. And the strawberries are exemplary.
All thanks to bees, of course. If you haven’t already, plant some flowers, wherever you are — preferably bee-friendly ones. Very often the label will tell you they’re good for pollinating insects. Even in a window box – anywhere you can. The bees are dying, and that means we’re in serious trouble. Apparently they’re worrying themselves to death, which seems at once funny and tragic. If you want to read about it, this is a good place to start.
Bees and bee products are trending, it seems. There’s a novel called The Bees that is reportedly rather splendid, and is on my reading pile thanks to Eleanor F of Elle Thinks. I even own a bee-shaped ring, which is cute but catches on everything and seems to cause just as many injuries as it elicits compliments. And honey, of course, is more popular than ever, with all sorts of urban varieties available alongside niche single-origin country ones.
On Wednesday, the swelteringest day of the year, on my way to a book launch (The Ecliptic, by Ben Wood), I ducked into Hatchard’s. There I was seduced by a window seat and then surprisingly moved several shelves dedicated to Terry Pratchett:
They even built them a little town house! Adorable. The marmalade selection was also very fine.
Speaking of palaces and their busy drones, I’m currently doing research for an article about the Houses of Parliament and their state of dilapidation, and what could or should be done about it. I’m going to interview an architectural historian and also feature some non-serious suggestions from a friend whose comic genius was revealed last year in a complaint letter to Eurostar, in response to a hideous experience with the toilets in Gare du Nord… But I digress. I’d like to hear from you on this subject. What do you think should be done about the rat-infested, priceless buildings and their inhabitants? Turn them into a theme park for ravenous tourists? Move the MPs out to Hull temporarily, fix the place up, and then bring them back? Send them to Hull forever? Reply in comments (or to email@example.com if you’d prefer) and let me know, and I might feature your suggestions in the article (which will be in Quadrapheme fairly soon).
Over and out, people. Remember to plant some flowers if you can.