One reason why I miss London and I'm glad to go back soon is that attitude, that "je ne sais quoi" that Brits have that makes them write a little jewel like this (BBC online article) by analysing the small details of our everyday life.

Of course, here the matter is of extreme importance as it threatens the very intrinsic quality of the Englishman - punctuality.

The advent of the mobile phone harks back to a different age of etiquette, the time before watches. In the Canterbury Tales era, if you had arranged to meet the other pilgrims at the crossroads with the big tree on the 29 June, you were allowed a bit of leeway. Maybe noon was suggested, but it could hardly be enforced.

Thanks to mass produced watches and clocks we have had years of enforced punctuality, but now mobile phones allow us to call to apologise. Or rather, they allow sheepish text messages. And there is a code.

"I'll be a couple of minutes late" translates as anything up to 15 minutes after the agreed time. "I'll be 15 minutes late" translates as anything up to half an hour. "I'm running very late" means it might be time to look for more punctual friends.

That last part is so true of certain friends of mine who think that a meeting at 12:30 means they need to leave their place at 12:30, whatever long it takes to get from their place to wherever we are supposed to meet. But, what the heck, that's in France.