THE applause was unexpected but gratefully received – especially as it came from three chums in our favourite Covered Market café. Compliments rarely emerge from this trio.

I thanked them, asking why such an expression of approval had come my way.

“You are wearing a tie,” said TV engineer Leslie. Very observant is our Leslie. He had spotted me earlier negotiating the chaos that is Queen Street.

“Open neck is not your thing,” he stated.

I always wear a tie; I feel undressed without one. However, for the previous three weeks, ties had been consigned to the rack because the weather had been hot, muggy or downright uncomfortable – occasionally all three. This brought about my sartorial lapse.

“That’s no excuse for turning out improperly dressed,” thundered ex-regular soldier Kevin. “Standards are vital.”

Incidentally I have rarely seen him wearing a collar let alone a tie. Drill sergeants set rules without necessarily keeping them.

Retired college scout Eric was, as ever, sympathetic. Once upon a time you could rely on the seasons, he recalled. Spring and summer were always fine, autumn turned chilly and winter was invariably cold.

“We knew where we were,” he said.

I was prepared to support Eric’s recollections when a stranger butted in – we always encourage debate at the café – returning his cup to its saucer somewhat loudly. “Nonsense!” he declared. “I’m older than you four – I’m nearly 90 – and my memory is clear. Our weather has always been odd. It’s never been reliable. If it had we British wouldn’t have had anything to talk about. By the way, I like your tie.”

ON the day Angelina Jolie put husband Brad Pitt on the transfer list, a cheerful woman – a first-time acquaintance – excitedly showed me a picture she had just taken on her iPhone.

This unexpected gesture might have been refused for delicacy’s sake, but she pre-empted this by asking if I thought romance was still alive. The picture showed a couple of about 30, sitting in a bar, drinks on the table, the man holding the woman’s right hand with his left. A tender scene, but...

They were not gazing into each other’s eyes. They were preoccupied. In their free hand each was holding a mobile phone which commanded their attention.

Romance still alive? Maybe, but if this tableau is anything to go by, CPR may soon be needed.

FINALLY isn’t it time everyone involved in the Frideswide Square fiasco admitted the operation has been a nightmare?

Traffic lanes had to be altered. Clearly foundations were not properly investigated and kerb stones were weaker than wafer biscuits. Stop blaming each other and sort it. You are all becoming a laughing stock.