TV was a bit crap in the UK yesterday, wasn’t it?
In the past, when a momentous occasion took place, a standard question as to where you were when you heard the news would circulate.
“Where were you when you heard that Kennedy had been assassinated?” they would ask of Vox-Poppers, or “Where were you when the moon landings happened?”. Folks would trip over themselves to try and outdo each other as to what flamboyant act they were engaged in when they heard the news, a bit like the competing Yorkshiremen in that old Monty Python sketch:
(And yes, before any of you get in touch, I’m perfectly aware that the sketch actually pre-dates Monty Python, having first been performed on At Last The 1948 Show.)
This is a question which I think we will see being asked less and less as time goes on, for the answer will almost always be: I was at home, same place as I’ve been for the last XX years.
For the record, I was at home, same place as I’ve been for the last 12 months, when I heard the news. I’d been in what we still feel obliged to refer to as a “virtual meeting” all morning which had, as is the norm, over-ran by an hour or so, and so I was already in a bit of a bad mood as this meant I had missed the TV show which has become my lunchtime staple viewing – Bargain Hunt – and I was pretty sure that meant that it would have inevitably been hosted on this occasion by my favourite presenter (and I suspect also the favourite of many other housebound gentlemen), the lovely posh-but-twinkly Christina Trevillian (*sighs*), as it almost always is when I manage to miss most/all of it (as opposed to the occasions when I catch it from the start and it’s hosted – always – by Anita bloody Manning, who, as with Julia Roberts and Keifer Sutherland, I simply cannot stand to watch. She reminds me of a particularly annoying Little Britain character:)
Anyway. My lunch break was at such a late hour that I realised it would actually correlate with my favourite afternoon TV quiz show, Impossible, which – and you read it here first – I’m pretty sure will one day replace Pointless in the prime, just before the news slot.
But no. There it was: all channels showing what appeared to be the longest news broadcast since Wills and Kate (but not Harry and Meghan, oh no) last dropped a sprog, with everything else for the rest of the day cancelled, unless you wanted to venture onto some of the more unpleasant reality/fly-on-the-wall TV shows, like Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!, which you can tell just from the name is a Channel 5 show. It follows
bailiffs High Court Enforcement Officers as they go about their jolly day, catching up with people who haven’t been able to pay a debt, or evicting people from rented properties because the landlord has decided to put the rent up and they can no longer afford to live there.
I was stopped once by a shop assistant in my local supermarket and asked if I was one of said Court Enforcement Officers from the show; I said I wasn’t and had never seen the programme, but caught a bit of it one Sunday afternoon when there was nothing else on. Let’s just say I was not flattered.
But anyway, I digress. Prince Phillip, the Duke Of Edinburgh died yesterday, and we’re all supposed to be in mourning.
Although, the Prince’s favourite show, Babestation, aired as usual, only with the models wearing black armbands as a tribute, I noted when I checked for…er…research purposes.
And of course, whilst it’s very sad that a family has lost a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, it’s news which I think many of us had been expecting for a goodly while now. He was 99 years old, he’d just had an extended stay in hospital after some kind of heart surgery, and, let’s face it, he didn’t look well when he was taken home. This was not exactly a surprise.
Not that I think that knowing someone is likely to pass makes it any easier to deal with their actual passing. I know from my own recent, brutal, experience that no matter how prepared, how steeled you might think you are, when the news comes through it still hits you like a juggernaut and you’re still shattered. There is no escape from grief.
Now, I’m no Royalist, but were we to get a day off work for the funeral then I will happily dress in black and weep into a hanky for as long as it takes. But I imagine they’ll do what they did when Diana
was murdered died: pop the funeral on a weekend so the national economy isn’t affected, but the Union Jack and florist industries flourish.
I was living in Cardiff back in 1997, when Diana died, still working in Boots The Chemist selling tights, tampons and panty-liners to the capital’s finest. The funeral was on a Saturday, and we were given the morning off to watch the ceremony and pay our respects. I didn’t watch it, I enjoyed a couple of extra hours in bed.
I actually had the opportunity to meet Diana several years earlier. At the time I was at college, and serving on the Student Union Executive, in my utterly non-political role as Social Secretary. Because my role was non-political, I gained a reputation for fence-sitting or abstaining when it came to votes of a political nature. As far as I saw it, I had not been elected on the basis of any political views I may or may not have held, I was elected on the basis of my ability to organise a good night out for the students. So, I didn’t think it right that my political views should have any bearing on matters.
And then one day the news came in: Diana was going to be visiting the college, to open the recently completed Princess of Wales Sports Centre. Truly the famous quote from Field of Dreams applies here: If you build it, they will come. The Executive were all invited and expected to attend and meet the Princess. And, much to my mother’s horror when I told her many years later, I declined. And I was the only one from the entire, predominantly left-wing, anti-monarchy Student Union Executive to do so. I gained more political traction from that act, as a man who stood by his principles, than I ever wanted, expected, or indeed anything else I did again. Suddenly, I was a hero. For the rest of their time in position, my Executive colleagues had to answer awkward questions about why they went when I didn’t, were they really in their jobs to work for the students, or to promote themselves and further their own careers? It was quite delicious for a while.
Anyway: on the day of Diana’s funeral, my route to work took me through the Roath and Cathays areas of Cardiff where I lived, traditionally quite a studenty area, and as this was late August/early September, there weren’t too many of those youngsters around. In fact, I remember thinking how quiet it was as I walked to work, and I assumed this was because everyone was at home, watching the TV coverage.
My route took me across the usually busy City Road, and then down an alleyway adjacent to a working men’s club. And I swear, no word of a lie, as I walked down that alleyway, I heard this record booming from an open window of the club:
A nation in mourning, my arse.
There will, of course, be a funeral. It will, of course, be paid for by you and I, the British taxpayer. It’s not a two-way deal, of course. Don’t expect Her Maj to break open the massive whiskey bottle containing one and two pence shrapnel so she can chip in for your funeral, because that simply won’t happen.
But who should organise it? Well, I think the Royal Family should take a leaf out of the British Government’s Covid-19 Handbook, and see if there are any posh toffs who could do it for them. A cursory look over Dido Harding’s CV shows she has absolutely no experience whatsoever of arranging funerals, so she seems ideally placed to do it, for just several billion pounds over the amount one could realistically expect to be spent on such a showcase event.
Needless to say, there is never a good time for any family to go through the pain and suffering that a bereavement inevitably brings. But it occurred to me that this one could have come at a worse time for the Windsors. For a start, Prince Andrew must be feeling strangely conflicted right now, sad that his father has died, but at the same time relieved there will be an extended period now where nobody accuses him of being a paedophile. I wonder if, since he was withdrawn from public appearances after his disastrous interview with Emily Maitlis, he’ll be allowed to attend the funeral?
But also, you’ll recall the recent Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan, where there was an allegation that a member of the royal family made racist comments about the likely skin colour of the couple’s offspring. From a PR point of view, Philip’s death presents an opportunity to the very least put some more distance between those allegations and any response – today’s newspapers are, after all, tomorrow’s fish’n’chips wrapping. But it also affords the Royals the chance to, for want of a better term, throw somebody under the bus, for many people felt the racist comment could probably be attributed to Philip, solely on the basis that, well, he had form for saying things which could be described as inappropriate at best.
As I mentioned when I wrote about the interview in a previous post, I don’t buy that it was Philip; sure he has a history of gaffes but – and I say this not to condone any of his comments, but to offer an explanation of them – generally when he said something wrong it was intended in jest, or as an “ice-breaker” intended to put a member of the public at rest. That doesn’t make it right, that makes it an old man getting it wrong and saying something inappropriate, and I think we all know someone like that.
The comment mentioned in the Oprah interview came from a much more savage, hurtful place, and my money remains where it did when I wrote that last piece.
*Pops tongue back in cheek*
But there is something racist, something with a whiff of cancel culture about the timing of Prince Philip’s death which will inevitably lead some of the more gullible to seek some kind of conspiracy. And it is this: forever more, when you type “Prince died April” into Google (other search engines are available), you will be faced with a screen or three full of references to Philip. You will need to scroll down quite some way to find any mention of The Greatest Prince, who also died in April – April 21st 2016, to be precise.
Since I drew a comparison with the death of Diana earlier, I can’t resist posting this bit of comedy genius from Stewart Lee:
To sum up: of course I feel empathy for the Royal Family as they mourn the loss of a beloved family member. But do you know who I empathise with more? The South Pacific tribe on the tiny island of Tanna in the Vanuatu archipelago, who saw Prince Philip as a living god. Who should they follow now?
I have a suggestion:
In completely unrelated news, my latest Friday Night Music Club mix remains available to stream and download over at Soundcloud.