Thursday, 28 April 2011


‘In France, Mummy, they have a President and we have a Queen’  Trefusis Minor said as we were walking down the street earlier today. ‘In France everyone thought it wasn’t fair that you had to be from just one family so a long time ago they cut a lot of people’s heads off and had a vote and now they have a president.’

‘And is that better than having a Queen?’ I ask, thinking Trefusis Minor seems to have a remarkably precocious grasp on current affairs.

‘It goes both ways,’ he says obliquely, ‘It’s not as fair to have a Queen, but it goes both ways’

I’m not entirely sure what he means by this, but I’m interested in where the conversation is heading, particularly since Trefusis Minor has already declared himself against the Royal Wedding – ‘it’s just two people getting married,’ he said earlier this week, with appealing understatement, ‘it’s not that interesting’.

‘We cut a King’s head off and had a republic in this country about a hundred and fifty years before the French got down to it’ I say.

‘Yes, but it didn’t really work. I think they got it a bit wrong – there was no fun, no singing, no sport, you had to go to church all the time, more than once a day*. It was really boring. We’re probably all right with the Queen.’ I do so love the influence of Horrible Histories on seven year olds - is the '1066 and All That' of their generation.

Sadly, the conversation then veered off down a ‘if-you-had-radiation-what-super-power-would-you-get’ cul-de-sac, but whilst Trefusis Minor was telling me I’d probably find it handy to be able to pick things up without having to actually go and get them, I started to think that his laconic ‘we’re probably all right with the Queen’ captured the reason why republicanism finds it so hard to take root in the UK - we're just not bothered enough to change. According to a recent YouGov poll, only 13% of Britons want the monarchy scrapped in favour of an elected president – and even in the emotionally charged wake of Diana’s death, three-quarters of us remained broadly in favour of retaining the monarchy.

Last month, I went to an Editorial Intelligence panel discussion on the Royal Wedding. On the panel were, amongst others, Rachel Johnson, The Evening Standard’s Sarah Sands, YouGov president Peter Kellner and the wonderful civil rights campaigner and republican Peter Tatchell. Tatchell is, by all logical measures, absolutely right when he says that the monarchy is profoundly unfair:

"This is an issue of democracy and human rights. The monarch is our head of state. The monarchical system is anti-Catholic, sexist and, by default, racist. Catholics are barred. For the foreseeable future, no black or Asian person can be our head of state. First-born girls are passed over in favour of younger male children....Our head of state ought to be chosen based on merit and public endorsement, not on the grounds of privileged parentage and inheritance."

Who can disagree? And yet, 66% of us believe that Britain will be still be a monarchy in 100 years time. How can one begin to sum up the general feeling of the nation? There’s an awful lot wrong with the monarchy, but we kind of like it, and we’re deeply suspicious of change? An elected system is also no guarantee of fairness – the great Republics of France and the US haven’t exactly yielded a representative sample of Presidents. As Peter Kellner said at the same debate, ‘For 123 of the last 174 years, we’ve had a female monarch… for how many of the last 174 years has American democracy produced a female president?’

As I drink my cup of tea from the fabulously kitsch Wills ‘n’ Kate mug Mr Trefusis bought me, I think I’m with Trefusis Minor, we're probably all right with the Queen. Unlike Trefusis Minor, I absolutely love a good Royal Wedding.   

*Trefusis Minor's rather jaundiced views on life under the British Commonwealth seem mostly to have been sourced from Horrible Histories...

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Strictly speaking, Mr Trefusis is not so much unwell as broken: A couple of months ago, he was happily free-wheeling down a hill on his pushbike and, having built up enough speed for things to really hurt, promptly hit an inconveniently positioned speed-bump and came off over the handlebars.

Thankfully, the first thing that hit the tarmac was his elbow: if the force of impact was enough to shatter his left elbow and dislocate his right shoulder, imagine what it might have done to his helmet-less head?  I mean, I can't actually quite write that sentence without shuddering and sending up yet another silent prayer that he's still here so I can make pathetic jokes about my 'armless 'usband.

Of course, he's not literally armless, but he has been a bit 'elpless, and the road to recovery is long and hard. The dislocated shoulder was comparatively easy to treat with a spot of general anaesthetic and a couple of medical students standing on his chest to wrench it back into place, but the elbow has proved to be a bit of a brute - it turns out that Mr Trefusis has a displaced unstable comminuted fracture - I may well have those words in the wrong order, but in laymans terms, it means that his elbow is as buggered as it's possible to be and still vaguely connect the upper and lower arms. Of course, if you're an orthopaedic surgeon, buggered elbows represent a fantastically juicy technical challenge, and Mr Trefusis stuffed his up enough to warrant the attentions of a professor of orthopaedics, a senior consultant, a consultant and about forty five students for his five hours in theatre, and for the follow-up treatment, all working incredibly hard to give him back an elbow. And all for free, too: God bless the NHS.

Mr Trefusis continues to look as if he's auditioning for an AmDram Richard III, with his still-painful dislocated shoulder held slightly hunched and his broken elbow crooked.
Irritatingly, he refuses to launch into "Now is the winter of our discontent" as a party piece, which is rather unsporting: I daresay if I'd been through what he'd been through I'd resent someone trying to get comedy value out of it too. But six weeks on from the operation
the consultant has upgraded his prognosis from "will regain some movement" to "may regain full mobility", so perhaps that's as much cheer as either of us needs.

Update: a little more than six months on, Mr Trefusis is now back to doing forty press ups. I think the surgeon's prognosis of 'may regain full mobility' was something of an understatement.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


At least two thirds of anything I utter starts with the words 'I'm so sorry'.  The remaining thirty-odd percent is taken up by the excuses that invariably succeed any of my apologies.

Of course - not that this is any real defence - I'm mainly apologising for sins of omission than commission. I find myself on the back foot because I am an abysmal time manager - chaotic and unmethodical, failing to differentiate the urgent from the important, or to prioritise the essential. I'm told there's a huge satisfaction to be had from writing 'To Do' lists and then ticking things off as they are done. I tried it and promptly lost the list. Then I found the list and had to add a dozen new things that had cropped up between losing the original list and finding it again. So I bluff my way through without a list, keeping some of the plates spinning in the air whilst trying to pretend I'm indifferent to the piles of shattered crockery at my feet.

This post is no different - it's all about the apology - for I am actually awfully sorry for being such a shoddy, infrequent, uninteresting blogger all year. It really wasn't how I started, honestly: when the world for me was shiny and hopeful, and I was less weary, I posted quite often. Few weeks go past without me resolving to write more often, but then a lack of time and imagination get in the way again, and before I know it, it's a month since I last wrote anything other than my signature on a stack of invoices and some terse emails, bashed out on a Blackberry on the bus. Like everyone else, I suppose, I keep buggering on, post-recession - in a world where we all have to do more, with less, and for less, and that's as big a time thief as any. Yes, being time-poor is a good excuse, but is it really a reason?

As far as writing this blog is concerned, if I continue doing nothing more than saying sorry and making excuses all I'll do is hold the snarling dog of guilt at bay.

I do wonder, though, if I say 'sorry' a little too reflexively:  Am I using it away of acknowledging the things undone without including any of your actual, you know, repentence? What is the distance between rueful and contrite? I have a suspicion that if an apology is heartfelt, it should include more than guilt and remorse, and be all about a fervent desire not to repeat the error?

If I resolve to write more often, and actually manage to do it, at least I'll have resolved something. Who knows, it might show me that I could apologise less, and do more in other aspects of my life too. I'll give it a whirl.