Even on holiday you can't get away from Prince Charles and hierarchy

Of the other celebrities blithering on about equality of opportunity, I recognise one who employs a butler
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The Independent Online

I am sitting in the sun, on a pretty terracotta terrace overlooking a swimming pool, slumbering volcano to the left of me, palm-fringed larval beach to the right, enjoying a few days away. Aficionados of unfashionable resorts will recognise where I am from the above description, but it is of no matter. This isn't a travel piece. In truth it isn't a piece of any description since I am taking a week's break from writing my column. So just pretend you aren't reading it.

I am sitting in the sun, on a pretty terracotta terrace overlooking a swimming pool, slumbering volcano to the left of me, palm-fringed larval beach to the right, enjoying a few days away. Aficionados of unfashionable resorts will recognise where I am from the above description, but it is of no matter. This isn't a travel piece. In truth it isn't a piece of any description since I am taking a week's break from writing my column. So just pretend you aren't reading it.

I'm pretending I'm not reading anything. No novels; I write novels. And no newspapers. Oh, not to be in England, now that winter's here! And oh, not to hear a word about it!

Below me, by the pool, three workmen in clean overalls are replacing a cracked tile. One digs it out; one mixes cement in a little wheelbarrow; one aligns the new tile, tapping it into position. Then all three stand back to admire what they have done. In a moment they will do the same again with another cracked tile. Dig it out, mix cement, realign a new one. By the end of the day, without fuss, without radio, without inconveniencing a soul, they will have retiled the entire patio.

In London it would take you six months to find the phone number of a workman to replace a tile and another six months to get him to return your call. In London, no one returns a call. We have texting, faxing, emailing, saying sorry by Interflora and a sophisticated system of word by mouth. But no one will phone you back about a job. All too preoccupied starting communication and information technology businesses to ring a person back.

Too busy working out how to become millionaires. Or if not millionaires, celebrities, which many take to be the same thing. If you're a builder you'll be waiting to hear from Ground Force. If you're the person at the front desk it's just a matter of time before you're on the catwalk. If you make the tea, you're rehearsing for The X Factor. Your "dream", you call it.

Sorry, am I sounding like Prince Charles? I have said I am not reading any papers, but days late news is somehow reaching me that the Prince has upset the nation again. I know without reading the details where I stand on that: the nation will be wrong. This doesn't necessarily mean that the Prince will be right. The safe assumption in all instances of disagreement on ideological matters is that both parties will be wrong. But the nation will be more wrong because any utterance from the Prince acts deleteriously on its sanity. Things which we know to be true become untrue the moment he speaks them. Let Prince Charles say it's cold outside and we will all run out naked into the snow.

Well, it isn't cold where I am, whatever the Prince has said. I lie in my recliner and nod assent when the chambermaid asks if she can change my towels. I love having a chambermaid to change my towels. And another one to sweep my floor. Sorry, does that make me a hierarchist like Prince Charles?

Thanks, or no thanks, to that mysterious osmotic process whereby you discover what is happening at home when you are away from it, though you speak to no one and read nothing, I am beginning to piece together the story. A woman has taken a job in the palace and discovered it to be elitist and hierarchical. Well there's a surprise. That both words, despite contemporary misusage, occupy territory which is morally neutral, and indeed might denote a desirable state of affairs in a place where they are properly applicable, I shouldn't have to break my holiday to point out, but the nation is upset with the Prince who is upset with the woman (if I have it right), and will therefore have taken leave of its senses, so someone has to say what must be said.

There is a successful hierarchy in operation in this holiday resort. The manager manages. The tilers, managed by someone the manager manages, tile. The chambermaids, ditto, maid the chambers. And I, not wanting to know anything about it, lie here enjoying the benefits. I am content that the chambermaid should aspire to be the manager, so long as her aspirations don't get in the way of my having fresh towels, and so long as I don't have to hear her musings on the subject of hierarchy.

If she is going to be any good as a manager she will need to understand the necessity of hierarchy. Had the woman with whom the Prince has been barneying not understood the necessity for hierarchy, then he was demonstrably right to have doubted her aptitude for running an ice cream stall, let alone a palace.

Excuse the tactless mention of ice cream in November, but it's hot here, in the sun. My satisfaction would be entire were it not for the three-day-old English paper which has suddenly appeared on the terrace beneath me (another instance of hierarchy: the terrace). So finally, because I cannot say no to words, I am obliged to read the stale pieties the Prince has evoked. "Everyone has genius" - Tony Benn. "Everyone is a unique individual" - Glenda Jackson. But if everyone has genius then we don't need the word genius. And if everyone is a unique individual (ignoring the tautology), then we should deplore, with the Prince, their wanting to be someone they're not.

Of the other celebrities blithering about equality of opportunity, I recognise one who employs a butler, and a second who swears at taxi drivers.

Early evening. Sedately, with no apparent detestation of their work, the men who clean the pool have begun to clean the pool. Is it the sun? Is the sun the reason they are not sick with longing for money and celebrity? I reach for clean towel. View of volcano wonderful. Garlic on the wind.

Wish you were here.

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