Tube Talk: Tally Ho, Old Trout
Like any good Catholic boy, I love funerals. The hats, the flowers, the clenched jaws, and the creeping realisation you’ll eventually die yourself it’s all good. Add the fabulously dysfunctional Royal Family farewelling their gin-swilling queen bee, and you’ve got a grand old evening’s telly viewing.
Personally, I’m convinced that the Queen Mum died years ago, and was being operated by remote control. The toothy smile was just a tad too metallic, the wave of her fleshy forearm too mechanically efficient. But whether dead or alive, the old trout certainly knew how to work a crowd.
As revealed in archival footage, the Queen Mum was a PR machine in pearls whipping her spineless stammering husband into King material, cleverly reinventing herself as SuperGran after his death, and insisting always that she poured her own gin & tonics. No wonder Hitler branded her "the most dangerous woman in Europe."
Despite acres of diamonds, furs and servants, she managed to convince bombed WWII Britain that she shared their pain a feat trumping even Tony Blair’s spin doctors.
Meanwhile, our home-grown funeral coverage provided plenty of horrors. To give the impression of up-to-the-minute reportage, TV1’s Ian Sinclair stood outside Buckingham Palace, mumbling inanities like "It’s all been planned to the nth degree." By the nth day of Ian ("It’s all been planned...") I was ready to scream. Please, TV1 less posturing, and more real research.
Thank God for the BBC, who can always be counted on to point out which chinless inbred member of the European royal families was staggering up the aisle of Westminster Abbey.
"But think about how rich that boy is!" my friend Jackie duBois purred, as we spotted a particularly revolting Bowes-Lyon toddler.
"He looks like a Borzoi, Jackie!" I said.
"I’d marry him. He’s got a better seat than Helen Clark."
"Is that Prince Albert of Monaco behind his sister?" Paula Pistol questioned me in an ad-break teleconference. "You’d think all that Monaco money would buy him a decent toupee." "Oooh, he’s still single, isn’t he?" pitched in Jackie, still determined to marry well.
"Isn’t he gay?" I said.
"I hope Prince Harry isn’t gay," Paula drawled. "Look at that naughty twinkle in his eye."
"That’s probably the speed he had in the limo on the way over," Jackie snapped.
Indeed, thank God for William and Harry, who, apart from the beefcake military boys, provided the funeral’s only eye candy.
Still, there were a few surprise winners on the night. Camilla Parker-Bowles showed she’s following the Queen Mum’s cunning PR strategy of silent forbearance, and Fergie looked chic, pork-free, and pleased to be out of the dog box.
Solemn, word-perfect and dull as dishwater, the funeral plodded through its hymns and sermons, all as the Queen Mum planned. In death as in life, she bought the monarchy a spurt of popularity, and maybe a little more breathing time.
But while uniforms and pageantry are all fun TV, they’re a world away from the multicultural chaos of modern Britain. Until the royal family and our broadcasters confront this, our brains are on a one-way course to the grave.