Last week, I received approximately 1,000 emails. Probably about a fifth of these were offering me something. Some of these things (books, information, a drink) I wanted. The vast majority (Facebook friendships with people I have never met, hot news stories about cleaning products, Viagra) I did not.
I also received a couple of dozen invitations, about twice as many press releases and a few hundred books. I found a "Christmas present" on my desk, tied up with ribbons and full of rubbish novelty Christmas books. I'm the books editor: what I don't want for Christmas is more crates of really bad books. I don't want to seem ungrateful, but it's such a terrible waste. And I have to confess: I didn't always reply. Well, go ahead and take me to the Tower.
It's because of this siege state that for the first and probably last time I have started to feel sorry for Kate Middleton. Prince William's long-suffering girlfriend has been named and shamed by a military charity because she didn't reply to their dinner invitation. It was sent via her parents' business, and nobody can be sure that she received it, but nonetheless, she has been outed to the country as an ungracious slattern. "I may be old-fashioned," said a spokesman, "but surely it is common courtesy to reply to a formal invitation?" No, actually, it isn't; it is common courtesy to leave people alone.
Of the 320 invitations sent, he went on, only four did not elicit an RSVP. And guess what? Two more of these wicked non-repliers were Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, whose invitations were sent to their father's office. "At the Palace, we were told both girls were at university. But we still didn't get a formal response, which we think, to put it bluntly, is pretty rude," wheezed the uncomprehending curmudgeon. The fourth mystery absentee was not named, but the misanthropic buffoon said Prince William had politely declined. Or rather, his private secretary had, on his behalf.
I'm sorry if I'm out of sync here, but I missed the new law decreeing that Kate Middleton and the princesses cannot do anything right. (It might have been that day I was politely replying to a completely irrelevant round-robin press release, only to receive a computer-generated response saying that its sender does not accept emails from unverified addresses.) Some days, they're supposed to get jobs. Other days, they're meant be writing thank-you letters to every unsolicited demand. How many invitations do you imagine that Kate Middleton receives each week? Look at it this way: I receive a lot, and I'm not dating the heir to the throne.
Do you think that she has a private secretary? Should we, as a nation, be providing one for her? Personally, I'd rather not. Since Middleton is not married to a Royal Family member, she is still what celebrities refer to as "a civilian". She was not invited to the dinner in an official role, then, but because she might bring it some publicity. Well, now the organisers have made sure that she has. I hope that it's done its job.
Charity representatives stop me in the street. They send me letters. Sometimes, they include a pen. Rarely do I reply. Does the spokesperson for the charity dinner respond to everybody who asks him to further their cause? Maybe he has that much time on his hands. I might start forwarding him all my emails about new cleaning products, and self-published masterpieces, and herbal Viagra. I'm sure that he'll reply to them all very politely and in his very best hand.