Did you tell the Home Secretary about your master plan, reported at the weekend, to crack the mystery by launching a TV appeal on the lines of Crimewatch? It is sure to attract a large audience: not many of us will be able to resist ogling the Prince's save-the-badger T-shirts, Goon Show memorabilia and, with luck, one of those silver-plated devices for removing hair from the royal nostrils.
But on reflection, is it really such a good idea? The real Crimewatch seems not to handle so many straight robberies as it did, being more concerned nowadays to terrify us with graphic portrayals of abduction, rape and random violence.
In the old days there was a segment called 'Aladdin's Cave', in which an expert from the Antiques Roadshow would be let into a room crammed with stolen property. It made marvellously kitsch TV but it was rather pointless as it was about collars that had already been felt. Tackling the problem from the other end, we would sometimes be shown pictures of a consignment of Mickey Mouse watches 'of a type not usually sold in the shops' and told to let you know if we were offered any such thing in the pub.
I do not recall many of those cases being solved. I've visited a number of pubs over the years and never been offered anything except a pint of Guinness and a punch up the nose. There's always a first time and I suppose it's possible that someone may sidle up and invite offers on a polo stick stamped 'Dieu et Mon Droit'; but if you want to get back into Mr Howard's good books quickly I suggest you explore other avenues as well.
Nor are you going be able to avoid the charge of elitism. If Prince Charles can get his vanished trinkets on to the screen, why not the rest of us? Just after Christmas I was walking in East London and saw a moving, hand-written notice on a lamppost, starting: 'To the rat who broke into our car and stole all the presents.' There followed a list of the missing stuff and the envoi: 'You have ruined our Christmas. May you rot in Hell.'
I don't suppose this anguished soul had any chance of getting his or her gear shown in millions of homes, although come to think of it their method of communication may be equally effective. Now that the Prince has returned, I shall be examining the lampposts around St James's Palace with particular care.
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