I’ve only got one hour to delight and entertain today as Manny has been ‘released’ and is on his way through!  Yes, Nicola – the ‘White Stiletto’ to me – has permitted free movement in Scotland ten days early.  We are all suitably grateful …

Now, I’ve never been one for the name ‘Carol’.  Granted, a name is either tainted or enhanced by the person to whom it belongs but ‘Carol’?  There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s dull; two-dimensional – and I didn’t know any ‘Carol’s at school.  Apologies to all vibrant ‘Carol’s out there but she who was on Ken Bruce, this morning, certainly wasn’t one of them!  Her voice, too, matched her name.  You know that monotone voice, completely devoid of vitality, which suggests said person is struggling to stay awake let alone feign enthusiasm?  That was Carol!  However, participating in Pop Master – who does, actually, pick up the phone and enter? – she confirmed what I, now, know to be out there!  The contestants must choose a bonus category and Carol decided ‘Oh, John’ was the one for her.  Excellent.  So, forewarned that each bonus question would have ‘John’ in the answer … or not!  Worth six points, John Legend was clearly the first voice – and the answer required.  Cue Carol … ‘Is it Michael Bublé?’  Pause to recover.  Michael/John?  Interchangeable.  Easy mistake to make – if one has donated one’s brain to science!

Sorry, I feel increasingly surrounded by numpties!  Surprised that is an actual word but apparently so.  I have just looked it up – well, googled it, I am ashamed to admit.  As my large tomes – formerly known as ‘dictionaries’ – gather dust on the book shelf, I, too, have been swallowed up by technology rendering me too lazy to get up from my seat!  On the subject of books, however, something else made me laugh, yesterday evening, as I tuned in to a virtual talk by the author, Gill Hornby.  A recent acquisition from Toppings, my favourite book shop, was a paperback entitled Miss Austen.  A novel about Cassandra Austen, Jane’s devoted elder sister – the two actually sharing a room for Jane’s entire life – it focuses on her quest to find and destroy lost letters, sent between the two, in order to safeguard her sister’s secrets.  Anyway … Gill Hornby appeared on the screen at 7.30pm as I sipped my Gin on the table beside me, the evening sun streaming in through the window marking the end of another glorious spring day.  The author was definitely not what I was expecting and I wondered whether I could endure an hour of her seemingly affected accent as she, constantly, swept her errant ‘blonde’ hair from her eyes!

Thankfully, the subject matter was sufficiently interesting – and the Gin was tempering the annoyance – such that it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  The author, actually, lives in the Old Vicarage in Kintbury, Berkshire which once belonged to the Fowle family, close friends of the Austens.  Cassandra Austen had been betrothed to Tom, one of the sons, but, tragically, he was killed in battle and Cassandra never married, devoting the rest of her life to her family consisting of a multitude of nieces and nephews.  It was to this house in Kintbury that she was to return to help the remaining Fowle family sort through generations of possessions before, finally, moving out – and to look for the lost letters.

To the point!  In the course of the chit-chat, the author was discussing the large Austen family – Jane was one of eight children of whom there were only three girls.  Their father, George Austen, was a learned scholar with a large book collection from which all eight of his children benefitted.  However, while the boys were educated in the school in the attic by their father, their sisters were – wait for it – ‘sent away to rubbish schools where they had to walk around with a book on their head …’.  The throwaway words of Gill Hornby, seemingly dismissing my education at a renowned school for girls where we were frequently instructed by Martha, our Headmistress, to put our hymn books on our heads as we walked out of Prayers each morning!  To think I believed I had warmed to Gill Hornby …

For some reason, this week, humour has, frequently, been waiting in the wings.  Take Wednesday, for example.  Another gloriously sunny day, Becca was teaching and I drove into town for supplies.  Yes, I know, cowboys, westerns, the lingo is embedded …  Anyway, Becca happened to phone me just as I had parked so I joined her as she drank her ‘cuppa’ (she insists on that word to annoy me!).  Sun shining, time to sit on a bench and people-watch – delightful, as one would imagine!  It seems the world and his wife are on holiday as those with a penchant for leisure wear and Subway takeaways abound, the elegant and academic who once populated the streets of St Andrews long gone.  Oh, help!  A reminder of why I should/could never apply for Gogglebox – not that I ever would, granted that I can’t stand the programme and my commentary would be anything but ‘woke’!

So, there we were, on our bench, bathed in sunshine looking across to the fountain in Market Street when a huge delivery lorry pulled up, beeping as it reversed into place right in front of us!  I mean right there, barely leaving our feet intact!  The writing on the side, which I needed no glasses to read, warned that the driver may not see pedestrians close to the side of the truck – obviously!  It was a scenario befitting of the inimitable Dave Allen, an Irish comedian of the 70s, much-missed.  Quite honestly, he could easily have written the script for much of my life and that of my family.  Humour obligatory.  Suffice to say, when the driver climbed down, I thanked him for enhancing our view!  Apologising profusely, I insisted there was no need.  He had made us laugh …

Whoops!  So much more to write; more humour to be gleaned.  However, the beach is calling as the evening sun dons its amber hue.  Quickly, though, does anyone else own a black toothbrush?  Seriously!  I stood in Boots considering which packet of four replacement heads were correct for the electric toothbrush – hideous contraption!  Bet The Duke thought the same.  Anyway, I saw the word ‘white’ and immediately commented that I didn’t need one for whitening so I took the packet to the left.  Returning home, I scythed my way through the eco-friendly packaging with a pair of scissors only to be met with a black attachment!  Who has or wants a black toothbrush?  Mine is white.  It should be white.  It has always been white.  Now picture the combination I have to live with.  Is this a case of black toothbrushes matter?  Look at it another way, perhaps my inability to choose the right toothbrush suggests that I should seek to obtain the Pop Master phone number from Carol!

Tomorrow is the funeral of The Duke of Edinburgh.  The end of an era, it will be a day brimming with emotion and I, for one, will make no apology for requiring tissues by the dozen.  As the details emerge, I have seen the Land Rover hearse designed by the man, himself – so wonderfully fitting, injecting the humour which defined him.  That humour, however, will do little to erase the tension between William and Harry who will not walk side-by-side separated, rather, by their cousin, Peter Phillips.  Consumed by grief, in more ways than one, each will be aware of a loss which extends way beyond that of their beloved grandfather.

What of the decision that none of The Family shall wear uniform?  Of course, it was going to be a sensitive issue with Harry stripped of his honorary military titles thus preventing him wearing military dress.  Then, there is the disgraced Prince Andrew …  Towering above them both, however, is a father and a grandfather to whom the military meant so much; of which he was so proud.  I disagree with The Queen’s decision – if it is as reported – that the dress code be civilian in order to save the embarrassment of her middle son and grandson.  Prince Philip, her husband, embodied the military.  More than that, he, surely, believed that one should take responsibility for one’s actions?  Prince Andrew and Prince Harry – both of whom let him down – should accept that and allow this remarkable man to be honoured as he deserves, amidst full military regalia.  Somehow, if we could still hear his words, I think they would be, ‘Just get on with it!’.

Finally, Jeremy Vine suggesting that the guest list of thirty – all white, for goodness sake – could be construed as lacking in diversity?  Has he ever considered putting himself forward for Pop Master?  He could, most definitely, give Carol a run for her money!

You’re about to see the world’s most experienced plaque-unveiler!’

Prince Philip opening a new stand at Lord’s cricket ground in 2017.

To him, the world was never about him and for that reason – and so many others – we, who remain, shall never see his like again.  Thank you, Sir, for your bravery, loyalty, intelligence, kindness and unswerving individuality.  Above all, though, thank you for the fun!

Rest in peace …

This is Trish, signing off.