The Agreeable World Of Wallace Arnold: The princess's public image is safe in my hands

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The Independent Online
I'M SORRY to say I have never been a great one for 'taking sides' in the arguments that can arise from time to time between married couples, and so I find myself walking once again on proverbial eggshells as I pen this characteristically elegant yet forthright piece.

I trust I reveal no secrets when I say that I am, and will continue to be, an old friend and quaffing partner of both the Prince and the Princess of Wales. When either of them has requested my sage advice - often in the early hours of the morning - I have been only too ready to proffer it on bended knee.

To the Prince of Wales I am what one might call something of a 'Laurens van der Post' figure, but without the mumbo-jumbo. When the Prince wants the benefit of the famous Arnold 'little grey cells', he sits at my feet and simply soaks up the wisdom. You may have noticed that in recent weeks the distinctive Arnold touch - firm, supportive, well-honed and grounded in that most unfashionable of commodities, good old-fashioned common sense, - has been increasingly evident in the Prince's speeches.

For instance, where once he was only too happy to bow to 'experts', he now invariably terms them 'so-

called experts' or even 'self-styled experts'. In the next few months, you will find the Arnoldian preferences for a jolly good slap, cold showers, National Service, marvellous old buildings and healthy scepticism towards the bureaucrats of Brussels creeping into his speeches, and rather fewer calls for - ahem - 'inner-city initiatives' and (dread words]) 'greater understanding between communities'.

But at the same time I have made myself readily available to the Princess of Wales whenever she has felt the need of a manly shoulder to cry on. Our regular Thursday meetings in a light blue unmarked Triumph Herald on the Hammersmith flyover have become very much a part of my weekly schedule, and I like to think I have been able to offer the Princess some sound advice on what one might call - in the words of the modern marketing boffin] - her 'public image'.

I wonder whether any Independent on Sunday readers thought to crane their necks out of the upper reaches of their ivory towers (I jest]) in order to take a peek at last Wednesday's excellent front-page story in the Daily Mail? It was headed 'Diana Rescues Drowning Man' and involved the plucky Princess helping to rescue an 'unconscious tramp' out of the lake in Regent's Park. I trust I am divulging no secrets when I reveal a hitherto unreported fact: reader, I was that tramp.

After intense discussion on the Hammersmith flyover, we had agreed, Diana and I, that the famous Arnold box of theatrical tricks would swing into operation. Borrowing suitably tramp-like clothes from our hopelessly unkempt editor (I jest]), I then slipped on my trusty nose-specs-and-moustache novelty mask, placed a rubber ring round my ample girth and waded swiftly into the aforementioned lake, timing my dip to coincide with the prompt arrival of the Princess in her car, fresh from a keep-fit session.

'Help] Help]' I shouted, before adding, just in case any passers-by were of a European inclination, 'Au secours] Au secours]' Within seconds, a crowd of distressed onlookers had gathered, some of them unpaid, the Princess had leapt from her car and I was finding myself, much against my better judgement, being given the kiss of life by - of all people - a Finnish student from Tooting (a description, one might be forgiven for thinking, that combined the very worst of all possible worlds]).

All in a good cause, though: the headlines were tremendous, The Caring Princess was back in the public eye, and Wallace had once again proved himself worthy of the Royal trust. I am now busily preparing the groundwork for the following headlines, due to appear in the Daily Mail over the next month or two:

Diana Rescues Drowning Fish

Diana Repairs Hole in Ozone Layer

Diana Solves Bosnia Situation

Diana Goes Shopping, Finds Cure for Cancer

And - who knows - before the year is out we might well have chanced upon the most popular headline of them all:

It's Official - Diana to Wed Wallace.