Notebook

The Guardian, 12 May 2015

So Prince Harry would like to be ‘normal’? He could start by getting a job

I have no idea where I stand in line to the throne. A friend once suggested I was 12,957th, but that seems rather high up the list for someone with my background, my Dad having been a council gardener. On the plus side, I think this means I am what Prince Harry calls a “normal” person.

In an interview he’s given from a remote island off New Zealand, Harry says he would like to work with some of these normal people, presumably to give him a break from the ones who have titles. Most expectant parents look forward to a boy or a girl, but he belongs to a family where news of a birth is greeted with the words, “It’s a princess!” Apparently Harry would also like to try his hand at earning a “wage” – although he didn’t specify whether he meant “minimum”. London is expensive and he might find it hard to keep up a flat in Kensington Palace on £6.50 an hour.

What amazes me is the unquestioning way “royal correspondents” respond to these inanities. Members of the royal family talk with faint regret about how hard it is for them to do ordinary things, as though they secretly long to be just like the rest of us.

In reality, Harry’s aunt, Princess Anne, recently used a royal helicopter to pick her up from an engagement in London so she wouldn’t miss the first race at Cheltenham. As I once pointed out about Princess Diana, there’s nothing to stop any of these people ditching the title and getting a job. Oh, and I heartily recommend a railcard.

It’s not helping, Sally

I feel sorry for Sally Bercow. I’ve only met her once and she seemed nice enough, though perhaps lacking in a protective layer that most of us take for granted. Being married to the Speaker of the House of Commons has brought her a kind of fame that she seems increasingly unable to cope with, speaking to the press when every instinct should tell her to stop. She’s currently on crutches, recovering from a badly broken leg, but that hasn’t deterred her from posing for pictures and talking about the state of her marriage.

The fact that she’s distraught after having an affair with her husband’s cousin, who has now returned to his wife, is all in the public domain. I can’t help wishing it wasn’t, not just for her sake but also because of the impact on her husband and children. Sometimes the people who most want to talk to the press are the least able to cope with the consequences, attracting scorn and derision when they are very evidently in need of help. Attention-seeking may be a way of dealing with pain, but it rarely works.

My own green shoots

All weekend, as I reeled from lack of sleep and disbelief at the election results, I had one small thing to comfort me. It’s actually not that small, about four metres by eight. I’m inordinately proud that I’ve managed to grow a lawn. That bare piece of earth outside the kitchen doors is now a lush green; I also have a fine crop of weeds, but I’m frankly amazed to see any grass at all.

When I was a child, my parents moved house a lot and Dad was always scarifying a patch of earth and scattering grass seed. I still regard buying turf as a shoddy compromise, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered that Peter Jones is selling artificial lawns by the metre. We live in dark times, and I keep telling myself it’s healthier to grow a lawn than to curse the Tories.

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