February 8, 2015
November 17, 2013
Glissando More accurately, glissssaaaaando. The sound of Prince Charles sliding and gliding around his words as he has been obliged to step around the everlasting presence of his mother, our Queen. Bending, benighted, bewildered.
Good Life U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, on the podium at the Munich ‘peace conference’, pink-cheeked and aglow with the good life. Never has losing looked so healthy – losing ground to Russia’s Putin, giving ground to France and Germany, gaining ground in health and wellbeing. (Perhaps not the best-ever trade off.)
Good to talk Not caged before burning like the Jordanian pilot murdered by IS, condemned prisoners of Britain’s forgotten religious wars were staked to the ground and consumed by fire (Thomas Cranmer), or drowned in a rising tide of seawater (Wigtown Martyrs). Between two sets of victims, Tudor and Stuart, Shakespeare found a form of words for opposing interests: his Globe, London’s first public sphere. Even now we can hear his joy in staging conflicts in blank verse instead of grisly executions; also his recurring fear of the world struck dumb again, condemned to death screams instead of humanising dialogue.
The epitome of Britishness, only a Royal princess – her formal title, the Princess Royal, makes the point explicitly – is allowed to say the most unBritish thing: it would be better to eat horsemeat. This for the benefit of the horses themselves, Her Royal Highness went on to say.
You can’t be more British than that.
The argument: owners in Britain would take more interest in their horses’ welfare if they knew they could find a market for their nags in the knacker’s yard.
Addressing the World Horse Welfare conference on November 14th, Princess Anne was a lady in red: coat-dress buttoned up high (scrawny neck?); hair coiffed high on top of her head, in the manner of Edwardian ladies whose hair was never cut – except a lock for a locket when their men went off to war.
Tight-lipped (not given to flashy smiles); but to make that same mouthful as Homer Simpson’s, the teeth behind her upper lip must be bowed forward. When she raises her hands to gesticulate, her fingers are pale and reddish purple, resembling raw chicken.
Yet describing Princess Anne as a kind of cartoon – even without resorting to the cliché that she looks kinda horsey herself – obscures the essential characteristic of her conference address: it was truly (a)live; instead of being a secondary rendition of something-I-prepared-earlier.
Here was someone in public life with the courage to go to the podium and talk through, think through a strongly counter-intuitive argument; without reading from a prepared script or committing it to memory in advance.
We could see she had keywords on cards, but these only prompted the Princess to invent sentences containing those keywords, formulating her speech as she went on; and as she went on she all but stopped using them, anyway.
A tiny instance of what life might be like in today’s public sphere, if we really had one. How peculiar that this illustrative miniature should have come from – of all people – Royalty.