The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Such impertinence from that young Dimbleby

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The Independent Online
I WONDER if you caught a programme on the dread gogglebox last Wednesday devoted entirely to the Prince of Wales? Riveting stuff, and - without wishing to blow my own trumpet] - you may have noticed my own good self, second from left, sitting on one or two of the committees the Prince has set up to keep the great unwashed from clogging up our busy streets, or to keep the dread architects at bay]

But for those of us in the scrivening profession, particularly the Royal Experts among us, Wednesday was a day of hard slog, for in the afternoon we were whisked to a viewing theatre, there to peruse for the first time the younger Dimbleby's effort. I went along on behalf of the good offices of the Daily Mail, who had packed their charabanc with a veritable host of Royal Experts, all of whom were to deliver their verdicts on the character and morality of the Prince the moment the film ended.

Afterwards, we all gathered over a mug of coffee - or something a little stronger] - for a lively exchange of opinions. 'Personally,' I piped up, 'I find it highly offensive that there should be any speculation whatsoever about the Prince's private life. Dimbleby had no right to ask him that impertinent question.' I then took a calming swig from the solid silver Arnold hip-flask. 'By the way,' I added, 'I reckon he was up to no good with Mrs Bowles as early as winter '86, or spring '87 at the outside. Frankly, not my type at all of course - what does he see in her?]]'

After the chuckles had died down, my old friend and poking partner Anthony Holden, distinguished author of Prince Charles - A Hero of our Time (1979), Charles - Man for All Seasons (1993), Charles and Di - A Marriage Made in Heaven (1991) and The Royal Scumbags - A Serious Republican Viewpoint (1994) decided to put his point of view to the assembled company. 'What sticks in my gullet,' he said, 'is the way he's always chopping and changing, cutting his views to suit the wind. He's a man of straw] Do you know, sometimes I think he only says things because they're what the public wants to hear and he sees commercial advantage in it. It's disgusting]' He then told us of his exciting new plans for a royal pop-up sex manual, with rights already sold to over 30 countries.

Next up was my old mucker Mr Paul Johnson, than whom few are more pithy, or indeed more pithed. 'The Prince begins by exciting sorrow and ends by arousing irritation, even contempt]' he fumed. 'He's always going on and on and on and on about what he thinks about this and that, how this exasperates him and that infuriates him - he's driven by a sort of manic need for attention, and he's the worst possible advocate for his cause. Immediately he espouses one thing, I find myself rushing towards the opposite point of view, and what's more . . .'

'Paul,' I interrupted.

'And what's more . . . '

'Paul, could I just . . .'

'And what's more, he doesn't let anyone . . .'

'Paul, could I just ask the others for their opini . . .'

'Let me finish] And what's more he doesn't let anyone else get a word in edgeways. And another thing . . .'

Ten minutes later, my buxom colleague Miss (Mssss]) Trish Trotter ventured forth with her own view. 'It's his lack of concentration that deeply upsets me,' she said. 'He's always flitting from one subject to another, one minute he's painting, the next minute he's skiing, the next minute he's having an affair with someone] He's simply got no gravitas] By the way, anyone know who's winning at Wimbledon? Oooh, I could find room in my cot for Andre Agassi, I really could]'

Dear old Geoffrey Slime, who's promised to make Trish his third wife when the solicitors have finished with his second, then spoke with great passion of how deeply unsound the Prince was on the subject of religion. 'We can't possibly have a divorced King,' he argued cogently. 'We must at all times preserve the idea of chastity and purity. That's what I'll be arguing.'

'A fascinating discussion, gentlemen,' I concluded, 'but our deadlines await us. I must add, though, that I was annoyed by the way the Prince of Wales simply side-stepped so many of Dimbleby's questions - and I shall be saying that in my piece in no uncertain terms]'

'So how much are you being paid for it, then, Wallace?' chipped Geoffrey Slime.

'Mmm] Marvellously sunny day again, isn't it?' I replied, jovially.