It was a moment to make the nation proud.
The heir to the throne, throwing protocol to the wind, has travelled on the London Underground with his wife. He mastered the art of the Oyster card and was ushered to his seat where he stayed for a full three-minute journey.
The prince’s ride on the Tube, attended only by a few equerries, ticket-bearers, seat-finders and London Transport executives, is the first part of a plan to show that the royals are as in touch with the real world as any family in the UK.
The thinking behind the idea is simple. Not only will they be helped to understand how their subjects live, but allegations that their own lives are cosseted by privilege will be shown as unjust. Among the planned real-life experiences are:
- The Queen is to eat a Big Mac. Although Her Majesty once enjoyed a Hamburger Deluxe at a state dinner in Washington, she has never actually eaten the food which is the staple diet of millions around the world. The Big Mac will be delivered to the Palace, prepared by kitchen staff, and eaten in the presence of an official photographer.
- Prince Andrew will travel economy class to Australia. The globe-trotting prince has, in all the millions of miles he has flown, always travelled by private jet or in First Class. Later this year, he will undergo the full economy experience, waiting for hours before the flight, sitting in uncomfortable proximity to flatulent strangers on very small seats, wandering around blearily at Singapore airport before a few more hours of the same.
- Prince Harry is to be entirely ignored at a party. Many problems the prince is experiencing, psychologists believe, are caused by the fact that everyone he meets want to talk, drink or sleep with him. He has fallen for the delusion that he is more interesting and attractive than in fact he is. At this carefully arranged party, he will spend most of the time in the kitchen, pretending to text on his iPhone.
- The Duke of Edinburgh will spend a week in an old folks’ home. The famously resilient prince will be the guest of a modest home where he will sit in a semi-circle in a stiflingly hot room with a blaring TV showing a daytime chat show.
- The Duchess of Cambridge will go to work. In a daring break with tradition, the wife of the heir to the throne will commute to a place of work, and stay there, working, for several hours. Since she has little experience outside working for her parents, her tasks will be straightforward. A call-centre is currently the favoured option.
That was all a bit rum, sisters
Tributes to Patty Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, who has died at the age of 94, have centred on the trio’s wholesome American charm and the clever close harmonies of their music. Yet those who like to divide music into neat categories – the bland or the edgy, the acceptable or the problematic – might usefully look at the story behind one of the Andrews Sisters’ biggest hits, “Rum and Coca-Cola”. The original lyrics were written in the early 1940s by the Trinidadian calypso musician Lord Invader, and poured scorn on the moral effects of visiting GIs on the behaviour of local women.
Invader’s song was plagiarised by a visiting US musician, cleaned up a bit and eventually became a No 1 hit in 1945 for the Andrews Sisters. Jauntily sung by three white American women, a hard-hitting satire was transformed into a jolly, middle-of-the-road pop tune. It is that version which has lived on. Admittedly, the fake, stolen calypso was banned by the BBC. The mention of Coca-Cola, a brand name, was quite unacceptable.