If you've been married ten years nowadays, the least you deserve is a telegram from the Queen

I live just opposite King's Cross. Rushing through the station on Friday morning, I was sure I spotted my old boss Jane Procter, former editor of Tatler, standing in the taxi queue, emanating a distinct whiff of fish-out-of-water. Uncertain that she wanted to be recognised in said arrondissement, I didn't stop; besides, the publication of my novel Simply Divine, which many reviewers took to be loosely based on my time as deputy editor of Tatler, led to a certain amount of indignant pashmina-tossing and Manolo heel-stamping at the offices of my former employer. Tatler was certainly good material: where else would needing the daylight to try out 20 different shades of white paint on the wall of your flat be a valid excuse for not coming into work? Jane, a skilled editor, was a rich source of inspiration - highlights included her toying with the idea of going to Diana's funeral by limobike and her pronouncement that you could spot someone's class by their leg dimensions (short calf and thick thigh meaning lower class, so watch out, Countess of Wessex). Jane's downside was that she could be trying to work with, so there may be relief all round at Tatler Towers now that the charming Geordie Greig is taking over. I'm sure he'll be a huge success at Tatler, but I doubt he suits a pashmina.


I have discovered a new "rage" to add to the road, Tube, shopping and supermarket-car-park varieties. Lift rage. Commuting to work on what remains of the Underground is bad enough without, having arrived at the office, waiting endlessly at the bottom of the lift shaft until one deigns to appear. The lift at Associated Newspapers, where I work on You magazine, then proceeds, crammed, slowly upwards, maddeningly stopping at every floor. The excellent view of the massive carp in the ponds of the marbled atrium is the sole compensation (as it were). "Just look at the size of them," I recently observed to a colleague. "Ah, yes," he replied. "That's newspapers all over. A lot of very big fish in small pools."


At a picnic with friends one evening on Hampstead Heath, I was forced to play rounders, a horror I thought I'd left behind me at school, along with logarithms and grey jelly. Standing shuddering in the queue waiting to miss the ball and get out at first base, I was struck by how many of my contemporaries' offspring seem to be named after old people - Alfred, Eliza, Albert: pensioners' names that sit oddly on infants. But not as oddly, of course, as the Britneys, Kylies, Darrens and Danniis will sit on those so named when they reach their eighties. Come back, ageless Peter and Jane. All is forgiven. As long as you don't want to play rounders.


To Derbyshire for the weekend, where we go to a classical music concert in the grounds of Kedleston Hall. What begins as an idyll - warm evening, champagne picnic, neoclassical house in background - quickly goes downhill as I realise that, once again, we have plonked ourselves next to the Worst People in the World. Next time you're at a cinema, look out for the people with the longest necks, the biggest heads and the most deafening sweet wrappers. It'll be us behind them. Those people that talk and sniff loudly in theatres? We're in front of them. At Kedleston, the people next to us, all at least 40 years of age, began the evening by accompanying Handel with party hooters. Then, as the Bulgarian merlot kicked in, they started screeching and pushing each other off their deckchairs throughout the Vaughan Williams. By the time the inevitable "Land of Hope and Glory" brought proceedings to a flag-waving crescendo, they were staggering around, flinging huge lumps of ice from the cooler box at each other. Cool Britannia, indeed.


We relive the horror next day over a pint or two of Hartington bitter down at The Barley Mow, our local pub in Bonsall, Derbyshire. Alan the landlord is, as ever, a rich fund of eye-widening stories about the area. Today we hear about a family of elderly brothers and sisters in a nearby village. Untouched by the passage of time, they wear medieval clothes and have a dog that lives in a tree. They have nothing to do with anyone else; even the postman, going there the other day with a parcel, couldn't get them to open up. "He banged on the door and shouted, then looked through the letter box and saw all these pairs of feet under the table. They were hiding. They think other people are trouble." After the ice-throwing antics of the previous evening, it was hard not to see their point.


A friend from Scotland telephones. As we chat, it emerges that he has now been married for ten years. I ask what, on the anniversary scale of diamond, gold, silver etc, ten years rates and am astonished to hear it is tin. Tin. After a decade's hard ploughing of the marital furrow, a baked-bean container seems a poor reward, particularly when one considers how few contemporary marriages seem to make it through the first ten months. We agree that it is time to replace the old anniversary system with one that takes into account the high divorce rate - and also what women really want. Paper, wood and tin sound like the divisions of a council recycling centre. Cashmere, Chanel suits, sports cars, weekends at Champneys . . . now you're talking - for the first four years at least. And diamonds after five years, rather than 60: they're a girl's best friend, not a granny's. And ten? A telegram from the Queen, at the very least.

This article first appeared in The transport row: who is to blame?

1999-07-19