Miles Kington: An honour is for life, not just for New Year

'So even if I become a mass murderer, they won't take my OBE away from me?'
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The Independent Online

Many of you will wake up this morning the proud possessors of an honour in the New Year's Honours List, and you will be saying to yourselves: "What do I do next? How do I behave? Am I a new and better person for having a knighthood, or still the same old schmoozer? Can I cash in my OBE for ready money? Although a modest person, should I change my email address to incorporate my OBE? ..."

Whoa there! Enough questions already! Luckily, I have an expert to hand, Sir Vernon Handley Paige, who will answer all your worries in this exclusive Honours Advice Column.

Q. Is an honour for life?

A. Of course. You cannot take it with you. Nor can you pass many of them on to your children. An OBE is not hereditary, for instance.

Q. No, I didn't mean that. I meant, can I keep it all my life, or do I have to give it back when I retire, or something like that? If I get an OBE for being the lollipop lady at the most dangerous zebra crossing in Britain, will I cease to be an OBE when I retire from my zebra crossing?

A. Certainly not. There are certain things which we can keep the title of, even when we have stopped doing it. Wing Commander is one. Doctor is another. Nobody ever stops being called a doctor. Doctors do not stop calling themselves "Doctor" even when they have forgotten what a streptococcus is. I expect Dr Shipman was called "Dr Shipman" in jail even when he had turned out to be a very lethal doctor indeed.

Q. So even if I am a mass murderer, they will not take my OBE away from me?

A. Not so far as I know ... As a matter of interest, are you a mass murderer?

Q, No. Not yet.

A. What do you mean, not yet?

Q. Well, if you are a lollipop lady in charge of what is called the most dangerous zebra crossing in Britain, and daily you are trying to get hordes of children across it, and these very same ungrateful wretches are constantly playing up and giving you lip and not doing what they are told, then the temptation to usher them under the wheels of a juggernaut is very strong ...

A. It is none of my business, but I cannot help wondering if you may not have been in the same job too long. Another query, please.

Q. I wonder if you can help me. I am a very distinguished writer - or, to be more brutally honest, I am an undistinguished writer who has sold millions of copies of my books, and many of my friends have wondered all these years why it is that I have never been offered an honour, so I have always let it be known that I have indeed been offered a CBE on several occasions and have always turned it down as a matter of principle. This was not true. I had not been offered anything. Now, at long last, I have been offered a CBE and have eagerly accepted it. How can I persuade my friends that I have changed my principles with grace?

A. Tell them you did it for your wife's sake.

Q. I am not married.

A. Tell them you did it for your partner's sake.

Q. I am not partnered.

A. Tell them that you did it to help get a reservation for lunch at the Ivy restaurant.

Q. Will a CBE really help me to get a reservation for lunch at the Ivy?

A. No.

Q. Then why should I say so?

A. Because you sound to be a sad, self-centred person, and it is the sort of sad, self-centred thing you would say. Time for one more query, I think.

Q. I have always believed that Bob Geldof was given a knighthood, albeit honorary, whereas Bono was not, because you cannot call someone Sir Bono. Is this true?

A. Yes. For the same reason, Sting has never been knighted. And Madonna cannot be given a title.

Q. Why not?

A. You could never have a titled person named after a Beatles song.

Q. What Beatles song?

A. "Lady Madonna".

Sir Vernon Handley Paige will be back soon to deal with more of your honours list problems.