Saturday, July 18, 2015

The day Britain awoke to hear the shocking news that the Queen likes to goose-step of an evening. Or not as the case may be. Meanwhile, sadly not for the first time, I sail a little close to the wind

In that magic way we hacks have of skittering from topic to topic (and my innate modesty prevents me from excluding myself from that sorry bunch) rather as a butterfly will set off in one direction for a few seconds, change its mind and head of at a 90 degree tangent, before, seconds later, following an entirely new course, the most recent crises de nos jours have swiftly been abandoned in favour of the latest outrage. And that, of course, is as it should be: experience has taught us that the newspaper-reading public has an attention span rather shorter than that of my butterfly and becomes swiftly bored. And no paper dare take. Lord no!

(The honourable exception here in Britain is, possibly, the saintly Guardian which does seem to take its duty of informing the public just a little more seriously, but as, according to May’s circulation figures, it is these days informing as few as 178,758 readers in a nation of more than 64.6 million – not that a large proportion of them can actually read - a shift in strategy is arguable long overdue.) So whereas for a short while the abject horrors perpetuated by IS (ISIL, Islamic State or Daesh – the choice is yours) were the latest disaster to threaten humankind, the obduracy of the left-wing Greek government in refusing to execute a is pensioners in the face of overwhelming European Union demands and how it was increasingly likely to lead to global collapse soon proved to be a sexier story.

That one lasted the best part of a week, before it, too, was shown the door and a new topic likely to outrage the Great British Public was adopted. And what an outrage that has turned out to be! Apparently, as a seven-year-old our dear, dear Queen and her younger sister Margaret gave the Nazi salute! Well! And to add to the calumny their mother, for many, many years the nation’s favourite granny, did the same! Well! Could it get worse!

Well, not according to the Sun which ‘broke the story’. Further details of just how treacherous our royal family, in fact, were and, obviously, still are, included not just that not a single drop of English blood flows through their veins (though we all knew that), but the Queen has long hidden a secret passion for Sauerkraut and Charles, her son and heir apparent has all 17 verses of the Horst Wessel Lied tattooed on his bum! No wonder Princess Di got shot of the Nazi swine toot sweet.

Sadly for the Sun its scoop, trailed by the paper as ‘of genuine historic significance) lasted barely 90 minutes before the public got bored and the other papers immediately scented blood. Within two hours the story was no longer just on earth has the Queen managed to hide her National Socialists sympathies for so long – at least for all the papers that weren’t the Sun – but just what complete plonkers the Sun were. That was the fluff. Rather more interesting as far as I am concerned was that the photograph of Brenda, Maggie and Cookie raising their arms to give the salute was taken after they were coaxed to do so by their uncle, the then King of England, one Edward VIII (pictured).

David’s fascist sympathies had long been suspected by Stanley Baldwin, who a few years later became Britain’s Prime Minister. And when the hullabaloo over David marrying Wallis Simpson erupted, it is more than tempting to assume that when he engineered Edward VIII’s abdication, he had rather more delicate matters in mind rather than whether or not the King should marry his best shag yet. (Incidentally, it was Simpson who nicknamed Cookie Cookie, and thereby earned herself the Cookie’s lifelong enmity, an enmity which ensured David and Wallis, by then the Duke and Duchess of Windsor would never be allowed to touch British soil ever again.)

To ensure Edward VIII, by then the Duke of Windsor, who with Wallis had made a pilgrimage to Berchtesgarden to meet Hitler in 1937, would never be able even to try to influence Britain’s attitude

to Hitler and Nazi Germany, in 1940 he and Wallis dispatched to the Bahamas where the Duke became its governor for the duration of World War II.

As for the Sun somehow coming across the picy of the Queen, Margaret and their mother giving the Nazi salute, I suggest that it is a measure of how, in this instance, the Sun simply lost the plot by publishing them as it did. A different treatment with an appropriate story would still have allowed publication, but the paper would have avoided the pile of shit currently being poured all over it. Such a story might well have been something along the lines of how ‘evil Uncle David even managed to pervert the minds of his innocent young nieces by conning them into giving the Nazi salute’ but thank goodness ‘clever Mr Baldwin was aware of his devilish tricks and got rid of him as King!’ Job done: pics could have been published and the Sun would possibly have remained on the Queen’s Christmas card list. As it is . . .

The little tinkers, eh?

. . .

Me, I’m off on my travels again. Now that the dreaded 65 has passed and I can call it a day just as soon as I like – well could, as I have a 19-year-old at college and a 16-year-old who, I trust will also go to college – I am taking it just a little bit easier than I have so far been taking it easy. Next Wednesday, it’s off to Bordeaux again to act as my aunt’s walker to various concerts for a week.

Then it’s back to work, before on August 12 I – and my son – are off to the back of beyond in Ostfriesland for a week to see whether German lager really is better than the panther piss served up in Old Bligty. (OK, I know it is, but I just want to reassure myself.) Then at the beginning of September it’s off to the back of beyond in Castellon to visit my old potter friend. I shall, of course, be filing regular updates and reports of my sojourns, so you can all breathe again.

I should, however, in the interest of balance, report that I sailed a little close to the wind last week at work when, a little more under the cosh than usual (though as an excuse that cuts no ice at all on a newspaper) I was – well, the word used was ‘abrasive’ with a young female colleague in a separate department. Sadly, over the years this was not the first time, so this time it was not just a bollocking from my chief sub (who I do actually both like and rate – I want to make that clear should she ever happen upon this ‘ere blog) but a short interview with one of our two managing editors.

He was, as it turned out, as nice as pie about it all and told me that although he and his fellow managing editor are regularly roasted – abrased? – by our esteemed editor a Mr Paul D. (who can teach the world a thing or two about being abrasive, I should in future restrict my abrasion to more senior hacks and leave the younger ones who might not yet be as acclimatised to ‘the working environment’ – not his words, however – in peace. Point taken, especially as I suspect he would not be quite as nice as pie were my abrasion to resurface. I might be stupid, but I’m not daft.

Incidentally, Mr Paul D. and I are both Scorpios. In fact, he is just a year and a week older than me. But as he earns well north of £1 million a year, has an estate in Scotland, a villa somewhere in the West Indies, is over 6ft tall and regularly dines with the Prime Minister, there, sadly the resemblance ends. Also I suspect at the end of the day he is a better journalist than I could ever hope to be. Here endeth the lesson (and, I trust, a lesson I have finally learned – see above for notes on the two younger members of the Powell family who are yet to be fully educated and who still rely on my bringing in the shekels.)

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