First press! And a druid.

King Arthur (the 2020 version)

Column about my first love (Tim Henman, although I think he probably tied with Prince William) from last week’s Standard HERE and last weekend’s Sun Tel below. Delighted to announce that I’m writing this from bed and it’s 7.26pm on a Saturday night. Mostly because am getting up at 6 tomorrow for a v minor operation which I have been bracing myself for all week and therefore I don’t have much news except The Wish List got its first bit of press this week which was lovely. And in very excellent company. Thanks, Metro. It’s out on August 6th and you can preorder HERE if you fancy it.

Is it sad if I turn my lights off at 7.32pm?

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Which member of the Bennet family are you? It’s a question inspired by my friend Daisy, who invited me for a walk in an East London park last weekend. As we strolled under the entrance gates and surveyed the scene in front of us, Daisy sighed heavily. What was the matter, I enquired. She cast her hand across the bleached grass and shirtless men sitting on top of it. ‘I feel like Lydia Bennet,’ she said, before sighing again and lamenting her lack of love life. In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet likes walking to Meryton to gawp at the officers in their regimentals; on Sunday, Daisy and I strolled around the park gazing at men in shorts and white plimsols. It was nearly the same.

‘Let’s go this way,’ ordered Daisy at one stage, diverting her dog off the path and straight towards the most crowded patch of turf. This was the moment I realised I was less Lydia Bennet, more Mary Bennet. While Daisy glanced from one oiled torso to the next, I stared at my feet and mumbled ‘Oh look, a parakeet!’ when one flew overhead. The fleshpots of East London were too much for me. Instead, in recent months I’ve led a quiet, chaste life at home with my books. As the adrenalin levels of Britain surge ahead of the re-opening of pubs next Saturday, I feel like Mary facing the Netherfield Ball, panicked as the thought of having to pull on a frock and go out again. Although perhaps there’s a smidgen of Lizzie Bennet in there too, given that I tend to take extremely long walks when the nieces’ wailing about their maths home-schooling penetrates my bedroom door.

Are you a Jane Bennet? She’s heralded at the angel of the story, the sweet, charming, most beautiful member of the tribe, and yet isn’t there something slightly irritating about her? The Janes of this world have spent the past few months Instagramming their perfect bread, Instagramming their perfect children and they’ve put on lipstick every day but not a single pound of extra biscuit weight.

When I quizzed certain family members with this question via email, my mother replied within six minutes insisting that she was Jane. ‘Slightly passive, letting things waft over her head and not getting worked up, smiling benignly and trying to keep everyone in the family happy,’ was Mum’s view. Hmmm. My sister then called me to say she wasn’t sure this was absolutely true and there was a touch of Mrs Bennet to this answer, which obviously makes my sister Kitty Bennet, ever so slightly prone to telling tales.

Modern-day Mrs Bennets have spent the past few months panic-ordering pasta and carping on about the neighbours having parties in their garden. This has driven the Mr Bennets into the quietest space they can find in their home or, like one male friend of mine, into the car, parked on the street outside his house on the basis this was the only space in which he could work in peace.

Finally, there is one member of the family who, in lockdown, might have tried the patience more than any other. Although not a Bennet, he’s technically a relation since he’s Mr Bennet’s cousin. If you’ve had to put up with a Mr Collins recently, you have my sympathy. May I suggest a long walk?

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I present to you the story of the week, or perhaps year: a druid called King Arthur Pendragon (who claims to be the reincarnated mythical monarch) is taking legal action against Wiltshire Council for refusing to let him park on the roads near Stonehenge last weekend, claiming he missed the solstice as a result. Wiltshire Police had already advised people not to gather at the monument for social-distancing reasons but King Arthur insisted that watching sunrise on a screen was ‘not very pagan.’ The trouble was, he also insisted that the £15 charge for the Stonehenge car park was ‘an affront to paganism’ and, on the day itself, the police kept moving him on from surrounding roads until poor old King Arthur gave up and drove home again. I love every aspect of this story and may give the ‘affront to paganism’ excuse a whirl next time I see a ticket warden loitering near my car.

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Pictures of men stroking cats are a turn-off. No sniggering, this has been proved definitively thanks to a study by Boise State University in Idaho. Apparently, instead of doing something useful like develop a vaccine, scientists in the potato state have discovered that men stroking cats in dating profiles are viewed as ‘less masculine, more neurotic’ and ‘less dateable’. I could have told them this for free. Cats? CATS? The number of men who seem to think this is attractive in dating apps always astonishes me – they might as well be holding up a sign that says ‘I wear socks to bed and have a questionably close relationship with my mother.’ Dogs are alright (although this does slightly depend on the dog), but no cats, please, I’m British.

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