We stay in a beautiful house and I baptise it by casting a glass of claret on a cream rug! They were very kind about it (what else could they do?) and produced a marvellous machine which managed to obliterate most of it.
Lost for Words
When we are asked to sign visitors books ( we usually are) there is often a column to facilitate “comments”. The trouble with this is that I am always lost for superlatives. Previous writers have already combed the dictionary for adulatory adjectives. And I suppose we are being asked to outdo the compliments of previous guests. I refuse to play this game and so copy King Lear’s daughter, Cordelia, simply thank our hosts politely and merely add my name and address.
I saw a sign recently that proclaimed, “The person who wants to move mountains, starts off by carrying small stones.” I rather liked this as it sums up the need to delay gratification. It ties into the aim that I have adopted for ZANE, and that is that we should be trying to save the people of Zimbabwe one paper clip at a time. It takes hard work and an enormous amount of time. And it’s only after much effort that we see – just occasionally – that something substantial has been achieved.
I read recently comments made by Nathalie Harrison, a leading dancer with The Royal Ballet. I cannot think of a more demanding job. It’s not particularly well paid, and the work is mentally and physically painful. And because the demands of the dancing profession are all consuming, she claims it’s “a complete lifestyle” – unless you are wholly dedicated, you won’t make the standard.
“Of course it’s cruel,” she says. “What goes on the stage is what the director wants at that time, and he’s not going to do something out of obligation or sympathy to me because I have an off day or feel sick. No one understands the demands of the life. It’s all about striving to achieve perfection. We’re way over the line of obsession but we’re all the same, so we think it’s okay.”
Nathalie reckons she can be proud of about one in 20 of her performances. She deplores the fact that so few young people today take their jobs sufficiently seriously. “I deplore,” she says, “the present generation who thinks that success should come easily. A lesson that my profession taught me early on is that the most rewarding moments that feel spectacular are those we have worked incredibly hard for. The harder you work, the greater the reward, and that is something I am not sure that younger people grasp. This fuels my loathing of current fashionable TV shows; young people who have done no training or hard work wanting to be famous, and crying and demanding it. There is a sense of people thinking they are owed something, but we have to earn success. Anything simply handed to someone doesn’t produce the satisfaction that hard graft delivers.”
I counted an average of four full pages describing the birth of William and Kate’s princess in each of the readable newspapers. Perhaps the attention given was somewhat overdone? I am delighted for the royal couple, but for goodness sake – surely there are other things in the world to focus upon for page after page besides a royal birth!
Then I heard that a group of people had camped outside the hospital for two solid weeks waiting to learn the news of the royal birth. How oddball is that?!
I have always been a staunch royalist: I am a supporter because I am a hard-headed traditionalist and pragmatist, and I realise that it is always easier to criticise institutions rather than devise a workable alternative. Imagine, if you will, a head of state called Bercow or Prescott or Heseltine, and you can understand what I mean. Prime ministers can be removed and replaced relatively easily while the ship Britannia steams inexorably on. You will recall that Prime Minister Thatcher was, for example, unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the Gulf War and the UK got on with things remarkably well. Those who remember the ghastliness of the impeachment of the late president Richard Nixon in the US will understand why the overarching institution of monarchy has advantages.
On top of constitutional advantages, the “brand” value of the monarchy to UK Ltd is overwhelming. It beats the brand name of Coca Cola and Apple into a cocked hat. I watched the French presidential ceremony of Francoise Holland: there stood a fat, little man in a brown raincoat standing disconsolately in the drizzle. This gloomy inauguration was watched by a small crowd of people including his assorted discarded mistresses, his present one(s), and a scattering of illegitimate children. The French soldiers were the cast from The Student Prince. It’s sad for the France of today that in 1789, the revolutionaries cut off the heads of the French aristocracy and monarchy, and all those with a little glamour. The “terror” thus released comprehensively destroyed “Brand France” in terms of pageantry and viewing potential. Did you watch the Hollande inauguration ceremony dear reader? I rest my case.
What do I mean by the vulgar term “brand value”? When the next UK royal ceremony takes place – perhaps the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh – it will be watched by billions stretched around the globe: viewers from Tasmania to Hawaii, and from Wellington to Nairobi. And our ceremony will be immaculate in every respect because in the UK we do this sort of thing really well, in fact better than anyone else in the world. What better publicity can our tourist industry and exporting businesses reasonably want?
So monarchy wins in respect of stability and tradition, and pays for itself many times over. But along with the NHS, monarchy is the nearest thing we have to God in the UK and I find that embarrassing and a tad distasteful. As I’ve said before, the never-ending media whirligig and the public’s devouring fascination must be a terrible burden for those centred remorselessly in the spotlight. The quasi-religious adulation is over the top – there is something creepy going on here and it worries me. And beware: adulation can morph into an obsession, thence into savage destruction in a media nanosecond. Anyone who disputes this has only to recall the life and times of Princess Diana to see what I mean. So for goodness sake, can we please show some moderation?
I recall some time ago there was a wry letter in the Telegraph’s letter column that rang true:
I see that Princess Kate has not appeared in your front page for some two days now.
Is she ill?”