I'm with Charles on this one

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The Independent Online
PRINCE CHARLES may have been carrying on with Camilla before and after his fairy-tale wedding, but what do we really know about whose fault that was? Diana's side has done a book, whipped up sympathy for her discovery that being a princess was no bowl of Frosties, but what about the prince? Fortunately for fair play, Ross Benson has now written Charles, The Untold Story, billed by the Daily Express last week as 'the brilliant new biography that gives his side of the affair'.

Charles, we can now see, has been much maligned. A month or two before the wedding, when Diana crept along the Buckingham Palace corridor in a thunderstorm and slipped into his bed, Charles did the really loving - no, passionate - thing, and put his arm around her. A few weeks later, on her birthday, he gave her a jewellery case over dinner. This, it must be said, was generosity personified. There will, of course, be some, the carping tendency, who will say that she may have found the bed incident a bit humiliating, or that he could have visited her on the morning of her birthday rather than leaving her entirely alone until servants rescued her at lunchtime, but not me.

I am on Charles's side. When Diana worried about how she was going to cope with her future role, he personally sent his assistant private secretary with two 'authoritative accounts' of the lives of former Princesses of Wales. Her stepgrandmother, Barbara Cartland, has meanwhile revealed how impossibly Diana behaved, even throwing a kettle when she discovered that her husband could not make a cup of tea.

She also greeted his first honeymoon attempts at consummation with a fit of giggles, which, Benson notes severely, 'did little for her husband's amour propre'. Those influenced by the Diana-circus's PR campaign will probably say that an experienced 32-year-old man ought to be able to seduce a starry-eyed virgin in such a way that she does not find it funny, but I am with Benson. Diana, as he says, had a 'deteriorating mental condition'.

CONTRARY to government belief, it is not single parents that are responsible for rising crime, but anabolic steroids. The National Institute of Mental Health in the United States has reported that taking steroids to beef up your body can lead to irritability, hostility and mood swings. According to my muscly friend Tom, a regular abuser, steroids are available at body-building gyms all over Britain, and ingested in vast quantities by thousands. To get in on the action you apparently ask your chosen gym the code question 'Do you have Free Weights?' If the answer is no - if it's a poncy place with Nautilus machines - Tom says that members are more likely to be trying to pick up each other than drugs.

Michael Howard should stop telling children from one-parent families that they are about to become criminals, and turn his attention instead to body-builders, who are clearly a much more dangerous group. Tom admits all steroids have some masculinising effect, increasing testosterone, and generally making men revert to their teenage selves - covered in acne, more than usually dominated by their sexual organs, and criminally inclined.

MICHAEL HOWARD should not, however, contemplate banning steroids (which it is not illegal to possess, only to sell). Some American states have tried it, and the mafia has promptly moved in. Here, by contrast, it is something of a relief to see the stirrings of a new attitude towards drugs. Edward Stourton charted the shift of opinion towards legalisation on television last week, and a former drugs squad officer argued the case in the Daily Telegraph.

I was not entirely surprised by this. A couple of years ago, my sister brought Dr Thomas Szasz, a leading American proponent of legalisation, over here from America to make a discussion programme for BBC2. She invited a selection of prominent politicians, psychiatrists, philosophers, and a senior policeman to oppose him. They all declined, acknowledging that his logic was irrefutable. In the end he was reduced to discussing mental health.

THANKS for more suggestions for words which make no distinction between persons married and unmarried. K A McCormack offered the Scottish bidie-in, which, she points out, can be male or female, gay or straight, and which has 'warm connotations of homemaking, long-term residence and emotional commitment'. Susan Grant of Fife pointed out that my favourite, fiere, was used by Robert Burns: 'So here's a hand, my trusty fiere.' The American POSSLQ (pronounced possolcue), an acronym for Person of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters - has possibilities, although it's not terrifically poetic, as in 'Come live with me and be my POSSLQ.'

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