Summertime, and the livin' is full of media suggestions on where to go and what to do. And what busy times we live in! This festival, that live event, the other public "happening" — the surface of our society bubbles and glistens with activity. There is something for everybody, is there not? Surely only the uptight, the deeply repressed or the wantonly pessimistic (all traditional left-wing code words for conservative) could fail to enjoy the fruits of what, we are told, is a Golden Age of Arts and Leisure. Looking at the listings pages, the head should be spinning at the range of choices.
So why does my heart sink? Could it be that for years I've tried manfully to enter into the spirit, to be part of something I sense is going against my personal grain, causing me (if you'll excuse the disgusting imagery) to rub up against myself all the time? Have you, like me, secretly felt, in certain circumstances and locales, that you have been parachuted behind enemy lines?
Of course, if you work in certain parts of the media, such a feeling will be recognisable as virtually a way of life. This is particularly true of the arts division. The smug and inward-looking atmosphere in London media clubs, such as the Groucho or Soho House, has occasionally driven me, when waiting for colleagues or friends, ostentatiously to read the Daily Mail and mutter "Too true, too true!" to nobody in particular. This is of course a bit juvenile, so it's a relief that one of the better aspects of the ageing process is the discovery that you needn't pretend any more, indeed, that you might well have valid intellectual reasons for your closeted sense of antipathy to a place or event and those populating it.
So, with the days warm and the evenings long, I offer a brief, personal anti-list of places from local to global in which to feel wretched, together with a suggested antidote.