E Jane Dickson: 'Big Brother' comes to Buck House

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The Independent Online

Let joy be unconfined. Prince Charles can marry Camilla. The archbishop says it's all right, so long as he asks his mum first. His mum still isn't too happy about it, but apparently cannot resist the sulks of her little Prince. They've just had a run-in over pocket money and the poor old Queen can't take another tantrum. Charles, lest we forget, is 55.

Personally, I couldn't care less whether Prince "I Am a Tampon" Charles has his lavatorial fun sanctioned by the Church of England. I have long suspected that he is the kind of man who calls knickers "panties" and this, for me, is a perfectly good reason why he should never be king. Objectively, I can see why, while those rumours about the male courtier and the highly placed Royal at the court of St James are flying about, it is expedient to hustle the heir to the throne up the aisle with his adulterous old flame. But it sticks in the craw that the happy news of the Archbishop of Canterbury's blessing on the union of Charles and Camilla should come on the same weekend that Canon Jeffrey John was forced to resign his appointment as Bishop of Reading rather than divide the Church over the issue of his homosexuality.

Dr John, a priest of exemplary devotion and openness, whose word we have no reason to doubt, says that he has acted within the Church's law by remaining celibate within a long-term gay relationship (let's not even explore the ludicrousness of such a ruling - the fudgiest get-out clause since ex-President Clinton claimed to smoke dope without inhaling). Prince Charles, on the other hand, concealed his adultery for years yet neither he nor, apparently, the Church sees any reason why this should compromise his future as Defender of the Faith.

It comes as no surprise that the Church of England, an establishment founded on the whim of a sexually incontinent king, should bend the rules for a peevish prince and make a whipping boy of its least turbulent priest. But such stinking hypocrisy discredits both Church and monarchy.

We are used to regarding the antics of the Royals as an ongoing soap opera; in fact, their self-pity, domestic sniping and mind-numbing banality more closely recalls the dregs of reality TV. Perhaps it is time to corall them all, Big Brother-style, into Buck House, station Davina McCall at the gates, and vote the sorry lot of them into oblivion.

Low-down and dirty

Talking of reality TV, what dread mind framed the terrifying concept of How Clean is Your House? This is the programme in which two scary ladies snap on rubber gloves and run their fingers over your surfaces and into your crevices - a kind of Trinny and Susanna with scouring pads.

Ever since those 1960s ads where the perky Glaswegian Molly Weir used to descend on some luckless housewife and whip the detergent from her hands ("Flash cleans baths without scratching!") I have been traumatised by the idea of just such a visitation. Consequently it took me until the age of 40 to employ a cleaner, and I'm very pleased to say that every incumbent so far has been content to stir the dirt around a bit, phone her entire list of acquaintances in Serbia/ Sydney/Sierra Leone, and leave me in peace.

Now, however, I am alarmed to hear that the surprise success of How Clean is Your House? has led to a fundamentalist revival in the domestic arts. All over town women - and men - who to my certain knowledge have never before risked a fingernail on a floor cloth are delving where disinfectants don't reach.

Cleaning, we are told, like cooking and gardening before it, is the new sex. Call me old fashioned or just call me clarty (a peculiar Scots-Irish term beloved of my grandmother, which denotes sluttishness with the sensuality removed), but I think I'll stick with the old kind.

Gilligan's 'guilty' secrets

It is, of course, very shocking that Andrew Gilligan - the BBC journalist who has gone mano a mano with Alastair Campbell over the "sexing up" of the dossier about Saddam's chemical and biological weapons - is behind with his tax returns. Clearly, this lack of fiscal probity discredits everything he has to say on the apparent baselessness of our attack on Iraq. And if he's guilty on the tax issue, who knows what other secrets remain to be discovered? Unpaid parking fines? Uncollected laundry from the dry cleaners? A source close to the BBC tells me that Mr Gilligan once crossed the road before the green man was flashing, but my guess is that the Government will keep that close to its chest until it's really desperate.

The sweetest sting

There is still, it seems, no fool like an old fool. I'm sorry for the retired British insurance man now languishing in a Jamaican jail after being caught with £500,000 worth of cocaine in his suitcase. I think it entirely plausible that John Randall, a 65-year-old recovering alcoholic, was the victim of a honeytrap. When a beautiful Jamaican girl started making up to him he didn't think it strange. When she invited him home to Jamaica, even offering to pay his fare, it seemed proof of her generous nature. When she foundhis suitcase was broken and offered to lend him one of hers, he was charmed by her thoughtfulness. It was only when he was jailed for drug trafficking that he thought there might be something iffy. There is a clear moral to the tale: when lovely woman stoops to penniless old man, it's rarely to hear his stories about the war.