We were fortunate with the weather in Siena. At first it was warm enough to sit outside having a drink, a treat in early December, but then the temperature fell rapidly and freezing northerly winds buffeted the ancient edifices in this most compact and beautiful of Tuscan hill towns. The cold did not affect the passeggiata, the ritual evening perambulation, in which everyone takes part in order to see and be seen.
The inanity of minuting these conversations! The madness of putting on paper derogatory remarks about such very distinguished people! These were among the chief exclamations made at the Christmas party held by the Department of Constitutional Affairs, where much of the conversation concerned the leak of a paper in which the merits and demerits of 38 candidates for honours were ruled upon with extraordinary frankness by a committee of top civil servants, including the great Sir Hayden Phillips (profiled in this magazine on 16 August).