Digested week: this laissez-faire version of the Queen is an inspiration

I have just got back from a gorgeous weekend in Bath, after doing a book event with proper writers Marian Keyes and Nina Stibbe at the literary festival. I was high as a kite on my return. Because sure, I love to talk about books and writing, meet amazing authors and fellow bookworms, and revel in the cornucopia of delights offered by reading temples such as Toppings bookshop and Mr B’s Emporium. But do you know what I really, really love? A hotel. An hotel, if you’re a bit of a twunt, but either way – a place where you can go and eat, drink, sleep between clean sheets, shower in an immaculate bathroom, breakfast from a variety of increasingly decadent choices (fruit-toast-cereal-full-English-attenuated-as-best-suits-you-and-any-hangover’s-requirements) and repeat without having to do anything at all for yourself. One 24-hour span on your own in a hotel is equivalent to one week’s holiday en famille. The restorative bang for your buck ratio is unsurpassed. At least until a friend remarked that this was because “staying at a hotel is the equivalent of having a wife”. And this irrefutable truth unrestored me immediately and absolutely.

Well, I’m enjoying this new laissez-faire version of the Queen we’ve got, aren’t you? First there was last week’s announcement that she wouldn’t be attending any of this year’s garden parties – despite them being, yunno, just out in her back garden. Then she binned off the state opening of parliament. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – but not if you send it as your stand-in and make your son read out the speech instead. “Episodic mobility problems” were cited by the palace, which I like to think is royal-speak for “ballasted with sudden contempt for the whole goddamn lot of ya”, as she rallied sufficiently to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show a few days later and whoop it up when her horse was declared a supreme champion in the Highland Class 64 event. And then there was her deadpan shrug at the end of Alan Titchmarsh’s emetic speech at the opening of the platinum jubilee celebrations declaring her to have been “the constant heartbeat in this nation” for the last 70 years. If you haven’t seen it, do take a look. I cannot do justice to the majesty of Her Maj’s moment.

It’s as if at 96, after a lifetime of dutiful dutying, she has decided to have her rebellious teens, carefree 20s, menopause madness and merry widowhood all at once. For the first time in my life, I find myself looking to the monarch as an inspiration. Carpe diem, crown or no.

I took one of my occasional deep dives into the recesses of my 11-year-old son’s schoolbag and brought out – along with some unidentified rotting organic matter, forgotten homework and Shergar – an invitation to an end-of-year junior disco organised by the school.

“Why didn’t you give me this?” I said, despite knowing full well why (it is because, like his parents, he can’t dance, hates noise and pales with fear at the thought of enforced fun). “Because I’m not going.” “Why not?” “Because of the disco. And everyone will be there.”

“The Edwardian actor Ernest Thesiger,” said my husband, who prefers to swoop in to dispense his six penn’orth of wisdom only when it is least wanted, “when asked on his return from the trenches halfway through world war one what it was like, replied: ‘Oh, my dear, the noise! The people!” We waited for him to leave.

“I think,” I said carefully, “that you should go.” “Would you have?” he asked. “Did you, ever?”

I did indeed go to my first disco at 11. My attendance was the result of a knockdown, drag-out fight between me and my mother, and there was only ever going to be one victor. “You’re going,” she snarled as she hauled my protesting form down the front path, “if I have to drag you there myself.” But by going, I came to know myself.

I look at my child. The 35 years I have lived since then concertina, shrink and vanish. I don’t have a leg to stand on. But he should go, and for the same reasons I did. And he might enjoy it once he’s there. If not, well, we all need some iron in the soul eventually. But I have neither my mother’s will or conviction.

“Here,” I say, handing him my phone. “Give Grandma a ring. Tell her all about it.”

In the ne plus ultra of power moves, Coleen and Wayne have gone on holiday for the last day of the Wagatha Christie (AKA The Scousetrap) trial, leaving Rebekah Vardy to listen to closing statements on her own.

For those of you to whom the above sentence means nothing – ‘tis fine. Go on with your lives. Nothing about them needs to change. But for those of us who have been gorging on the only news story of 2022 that is of gloriously little import, this final flourish as the curtain falls on the Rooney v Vardy libel trial is everything we could have hoped for. They say there are never any real winners in litigation (apart from the lawyers) but that’s only if you think in narrow terms of verdicts, damages and the like. Here, high-street fashion has won, amateur detective skills have won, the viewing public has won. And, of course, whoever came up with Wagatha Christie and, especially, Scousetrap should win a lifetime’s supply of Primark tops and Chanel handbags. It’s been a joy.

After watching the odd new sci-fi/love story/conspiracy drama Night Sky on Amazon Prime, I find myself disappearing down a rabbit hole and binge-watching The X-Files. It is a very convoluted exercise in nostalgia. It speaks of a long-lost time when the idea of a government competent enough to engage in large-scaleenduring cover-ups was unproblematic, and outlandish beliefs and crazy conspiracy theories were imaginative feats by the writers to be enjoyed as just that. Now, of course, thanks to the advent of the internet and the retreat of democracy, the situation is almost entirely reversed.

The good thing is that since Mulder and Scully first appeared in 1993, I have acquired my own home, a fridge filled with wine, and independent agency. In other words, I can drink to forget the new truth that’s out there. Happy weekend, everybody!

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