Picture the scene; your favourite Lady Gardener is lolling about in the garden at our house in France feeling relaxed and happy and terribly smug. I've been in France since the beginning of June, and it's now Tuesday 28 June and the sun is shining; the birds are chirping and our farming neighbours are careering around sifting new potatoes from their sandy fields. I've been to Cora for a little shop for the next few days and had lunch in the restaurant there, and am now back home, with an espresso and a Cóte D'Or mignonnette, when the phone rings. It's Merci Beaucoup Enfant Deux, phoning from England.
MBED: Hi mum, are you busy?
Mum: No darling, I'm just lolling about in the garden. What are you up to?
MBED: I've just had a letter from the uni library telling me that if I don't pay my library fines by 30 June I can't graduate.
Mum: Pay the fines. How much are they?
MBED: Well, they were £1.60 when they sent me the first letter on the sixth of June.
Mum: What are they now?
Mum: Pay the fines.
MBED: They also said I have 5 books still out and I've spoken to the librarians this morning and they said if I don't bring them back by Thursday I'll have to buy them.
Mum: Buy them (thinking how much can 5 books be?)
MBED: That would cost nearly £300. Also I think I packed them with my stuff you took over at the beginning of June.
Mum: Making mental note to check cost of flight against cost of precious university library books...
MBED: Also I've just been reading the graduation prospectus, and it says if I don't order my gown by the 20th June I can't graduate.
(At this point, I feel it is worthwhile explaining to my charming, witty and urbane readers that I have over the years developed a mask-like, unresponsive face for those times professionally and personally when bad news has to be given or taken. I call it my Botox Response Face. This wasn't one of those times.)
Mum: WHAT! (Round 1 to mum... shock and awe)
MBED: I know, I don't know what to do. (Round 2 to Mercy Boo... throwing self on her sword)
Mum: Leave it with me.
Google up the uni library then ring and pay fines with my flexible friend. Get the closing times for rest of week. Google up the airline and Thank You Jesus there's a seat Thursday afternoon, and with a hire car I'll make it to the library before it closes. Google up the graduation prospectus and follow the link to Ede & Ravenscroft.
Do you know why Ede and Ravenscroft, London's oldest tailor and robe maker has been in business since 1689? Because it has an excellent business model that requires universities to enforce strict deadlines with their graduating students so it has the vast bulk of graduation orders already in the bag when the inevitable surge of parental orders appears post-deadline, and its website doesn't crash. Genius.