Saturday, 9 July 2011


Did Prince Charles “summon” Cabinet Ministers or did he “ invite” them seems to me a far more important question that the Oxford comma.
Obviously he invited them, and good manners assured their attendance. An invitation would never have achieved front page status in the left wing trade to which I increasingly regret devoting my life. In my defence, I have to insist that the newspapermen of my day were neither left nor right wing. After meeting so many practitioners of the shabby trade of politics we were all dodos, the defiantly wingless birds.
For most of my life I have been a reluctant monarchist; approving the office but loathing the occupants of any post-Plantagenet dynasty.
It’s a toss-up which was the worse, the feckless, self-indulgent Stuarts or their successors, the Hanoverians, the last two of whom were spectacularly dreadful: George V let his relations die to safeguard his job and Edward VIII was a pro-Nazi and a traitor to his country.
I think the Windsors may turn out to be the golden dynasty, but only because they have been saved by their womenfolk.
I like to think the stories about the Queen Mother being the daughter of a housemaid are true. Certainly she introduced a better bloodline into the royal nursery. Diana might have been as mad as a hatter but her progeny have been a credit to her. Camilla and the new Duchess have been splendid additions. I would not hesitate to breed from the Cambridges.
But to return to our next king. He was a boy when we met, he making his first royal progress as the Earl of Chester, me writing about it for The Times. I was so impressed by him I came within an ace of writing to the Queen to tell her that her lad done good.
My old friend Charles Quant, who worked closely with him in his charities, endlessly sang his praises ; the son of a friend, wounded in Afghanistan who can scarcely grant human status to anyone who is not an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander was visited by the Prince in hospital. Wales spent twenty minutes at his bedside and he said it was just like talking to an army chum. Coming from him, that is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.
The Prince, of course, with his demands for special cooking times for his breakfast eggs, for special cushions and his insistence on a special bathroom tumbler, not to mention his forest of butlers and valets, comes across as spoilt. Looking back over his predecessors, it seems that comes with the territory.
Seeking knowledge about their departments by inviting ministers and their aides seems to me swotting on kingship and wholly admirable.
I feel very ashamed that I declined an invitation to meet him on the royal yacht when it was moored off Anglesey.
Subject: spring cleaning
First of the month, and exactly half-way through the year.
As good a time as any to do the PC housekeeping - if you are not doing it regularly (and weekly is best).
DEAR ….............,
I have tried disc clean up and defragmenting. Then I got carried away and removed all unwanted shortcuts. Then I thought I would go to control panel and clear away programmes that were rarely used. And for some reason the bloody computer is now running slower and I am going to have to pay a computer mechanic bags of gold to put it right. And that was only the beginning. I have made a small Chinese garden at the side of the house. I thought it would be nice if it were visited by birds. That meant putting back the hanging basket brackets I removed because they didn't seem Chinese; and that meant stripping off the old Rawlplugs and screws. In the process of doing this the screwdriver slipped and severely cut my thumb. When Celia had bandaged it I thought I would repot the pond plants in larger pots. Unfortunately I forgot to line the pots with hessian so the soil leaked out and discoloured the pond. I had just paid £350 for an ultra violet filter but when I examined it I found it had blocked. I forgot how to unblock it so spent a day looking in vain for the instruction manual. I thought I would calm my nerves by cleaning the garden furniture which has acquired a green mold. The pressure hose was not totally efficient so I thought I would attach the plastic container which contains shampoo. Unfortunately in screwing it in I managed to break the neck of the bottle. I consoled myself by proposing to replant three shrubs from their ugly plastic pots into nice ceramic ones. I knew I had plenty of compost and it was a job where it was difficult to think of anything going wrong because I had done it several times before.
So I went to the shed for the compost and when I opened the door all the tools fell out, nearly decapitating me. I stepped over them to the corner of the shed where I keep compost. And of course the compost I wanted was beneath the non-acid compost I bought when I potted a magnolia - and the sterilised aqua compost and the bag of sand Ken the Carpenter left and the potting mixture chippings for the aloe and the lawn fertiliser. But when I had carried all the unwanted bags away to get to the bag I wanted - it was also non-acid compost because I had over ordered.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that when I went to replace the compost and buy the Hessian I spent money I can ill afford on two more Koi and a couple of Tench, the so-called Doctor Fish.
But when I went to pay my credit card wouldn't work.
Then along you come suggesting I should go through the whole bloody process again.
Kindly fall out (without prejudice).
The trouble began when a friend recommended Tesco Scotch undyed kippers and horseradish mustard.
“I have not had time to taste your bloody kippers. My nerves are in shreds in consequence of recent close encounters with my Koi fish. And it wasn't helped because my wife (until the lawyers open tomorrow) had filed the pond manual (see under) as "Guarantees" and denied all knowledge of it. Fortunately my daughter was visiting and put everything right in half an hour by the town hall clock. However, as soon as I have filed for divorce I will go on to Tesco’s to order a shoal of the kippers you were kind enough to recommend. I will also buy enough horseradish mustard to immolate my future ex-wife as an alternative to alimony. As Menken wisely observed, alimony is the ransom that the happy pay to the devil. He also said that adultery is the application of democracy to love, but we had better not go further into that.


Interesting that a charge of bribing the Metropolitan police allows one to be arrested by appointment whereas a luckless underling is dragged out of bed in the early morning. Now that it has been admitted police bribes were authorised, it is not easy to believe that Rebekah Brooks was unaware of the Milly Dowler phone hacking. Newspaper executives of my day know that all payments over a thousand pounds have to be signed off by the editor.
After the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne, Ms Brooks was blamed by critics for driving paedophiles underground and inspiring mobs to run riot in Portsmouth.
Ms Brooks was vilified for publishing the names and photographs of known sex-offenders to protect children. Some police officers claimed her tactics were wrecking investigations. Tony Butler, the then chief constable of Gloucestershire police, denounced her for "grossly irresponsible" journalism. Media pundits accused her of trying to cash in on eight-year-old Sarah's death
It has been an article of faith with me that the half-hour programmes of Any Answers on R4 contain more perceptive thoughts than the hour of Any Questions which precedes it on Friday/Saturday.

So I wasn't surprised that the most sensible comment about the NoW disgrace came from a listener on the BBC's Home page Comment :

"Conspiracy theory: NoW suddenly releases information about police bribes. Why now? This news caused BskyB share prices to slump as the deal looks in jeopardy. Therefore making it cheaper for News International to buy!! A few journalists will be fired, bent cops go down, the plebs soon forget all about it and miss their Sunday pervy, so buy NoW again and Rupert gets BskyB for a bargain! "

Worth noting that the day after this perceptive comment appeared it was announced that shares in BskyB dropped by a billion pounds.
Dog has shown a gargantuan appetite for eating dog. The Guardian devoted 13 pages to the closure of the News of the World, The Times 11, another 10 pages in the Independent plus two in the “i”, eight in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph seven, six in the Mirror, four in the Sun, three in the Express which inevitably included a mention of Princess Diana and two pages in the Star. On the To-day programme Justin Rose, who must be the worst mannered interviewer in the history of broadcasting announced with astonishment that the programme had received more emails about the disgraceful imbalance of university entrants from comprehensive and fee paying schools, than it did than it did about the closure of the Sun. A more perceptive man might have seen a lesson in that. If memory serves rather fewer newspaper pages served to break the news of the outbreak of World War Two. A sad commentary that the closure of a shabby shop, a purveyor of the malign, should attract such attention when a single page sufficed to chronicle the closure of “Focus”and “Habitat”, a much greater loss to the public


A council is firing all 6,500 of its employees, with a promise to re-hire them if they agree to a pay cut. Dismissal letters have been sent by Shropshire Council informing all staff they will lose their jobs on September 30. The letters go on to say employees can return the following day – but only if they consent to a 5.4 per cent pay cut.
Another Council has invited staff to wear woolly jumpers when dentral heating is cut to save heating costs.