If the economy is on the rocks, why is London still bunged up with traffic? One of the consequences of a downturn ought to be that streets empty, particularly with the cost of fuel being what it is. Instead, the reverse seems to have happened. One explanation is obvious: the number of roadworks. Hopping into a taxi, I was treated to a lecture on the subject. I could only hear part of it, thank goodness, but can relay the gist. St James’s, along which traffic can at present only surge north, towards Piccadilly, is being made two-way.

* Subscribe to Country Life and save 40%

On Sunday night, as we came back from East Anglia, we hit another blockage around Southwark Bridge; fortunately, a notice informed us, it was one of London’s two areas for dust-suppression trials (having ‘scoured the globe’, Boris Johnson has found ‘a wonderful contraption’ whose fine spray sticks particulates to the road surface, thereby ‘preventing their dastardly escape back into the air we breathe’). Otherwise, we might have choked. As it was, I merely spluttered. ‘How,’ I fumed, ‘can they afford to do these unnecessary road improvements when the whole country is supposed to be tightening its belt?’ No answer. The others had been asleep since Cambridge.