Friday, 25 November 2011

Bronze, Silver, Gold

At the Leveson Inquiry, celebrity after celebrity has come along to condemn the awful behaviour of the media. Fortunately these are generally REAL celebrities rather than the Z listers who have nothing to offer except their love of being in the limelight. Away from the proceedings the media barons are not slow to suggest that the Inquiry is simply revenge for the MPs expenses affair. This year we've had the Police on trial for their handling of riots. And I hardly need to mention the behaviour of that other pillar of society - the financial sector which has brought the country and the world to their collective knees. This week a judge was sent to prison for allowing their child to die after failing to get treatment for a burn they inflicted. I'm left wondering why it is that in past times when the very structures that support a civilised society have become so de-based, root and branch change has happened. Revolution even. But here we are with little more than tinkering to a tried, tested and failed system going on. Common sense says that a lot more needs to change than is actually happening. But the problem is that the career politicians in charge are nothing more than middle-managers, and we are bereft of political leaders with vision. It's rare that I find myself in agreement with Ken Livingstone, but I couldn't help but nod vigorously when he said on the Andrew Marr show last weekend that at least with Maggie Thatcher she had a view of how the world should be and her policies were there to drive that vision. Of course he did add that it was as shame that her policies were wrong, but at least she had a vision.

One pillar of society that at the moment appears to be going from strength to strength is the monarchy. I suspect Helen Mirren in The Queen and Colin Firth in The Kings Speech may have something to do with this. After the Queen's Annus Horribilis, the monarchy has steadily rebuilt its stature and standing. Well done Kate Middleton. I remain firmly in the 'Chop their heads off' camp, but at least I can appreciate their efforts. Prince Philip has hit 90, and he keeps the gaffs coming...good for him - here are some great examples which I've stolen from The Daily Telegraph and Wikipedia (always a reliable source):

1. China State Visit, 1986

If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed

2. To a blind women with a guide

“Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?”

3. To an Aborigine in Australia

“Do you still throw spears at each other?”

4. To his wife, the Queen, after her coronation

“Where did you get the hat?”


“If you see a man opening a car door for a woman, it means one of two things: it’s either a new woman or a new car!”


Speaking about the rate of British tax, he said: "All money nowadays seems to be produced with a natural homing instinct for the Treasury."


On seeing an exhibition of "primitive" Ethiopian art, he muttered: "It looks like the kind of thing my daughter would bring back from her school art lessons."

The Duke famously proclaimed: "British women can't cook".


When asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union: "I would like to go to Russia very much, although the bastards murdered half my family."

The Duke said to Tom Jones after his Royal Variety Performance: "What do you gargle with, pebbles?".

He later added: "It is very difficult at all to see how it is possible to become immensely valuable by singing what I think are the most hideous songs."

On the Royal Family's finances: "We go into the red next year. I shall probably have to give up polo."

On a tour of Canada: "We don't come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves."

During the recession he mused: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed."

When accepting a figurine from a woman during a visit to Kenya he asked: "You are a woman aren't you?"

He told a World Wildlife Fund meeting that "if it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

Prince Philip's opinion of Beijing, during a tour of China in 1986, was simply: "Ghastly."


To a British tourist in Hungary in he quipped: "You can't have been here that long — you haven't got a pot belly."

To survivors of the Lockerbie bombing he told them: "People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still drying out Windsor Castle."

"Aren't most of you descended from pirates?", he asked an islander in the Cayman Islands.

To a Caribbean rabbit breeder in Anguilla, he said: "Don't feed your rabbits pawpaw fruit — it acts as a contraceptive. Then again, it might not work on rabbits."


He asked a Scottish driving instructor in Oban: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?"


Following the Dunblane massacre, he questioned the need for a firearms ban: "If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?"

The Duke asked a British student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten then?"

In Cardiff he told children from the British Deaf Association, who were standing by a Caribbean steel band: "If you're near that music it's no wonder you're deaf".


To guests at the opening reception of a new £18million British Embassy in Berlin: "It's a vast waste of space."

At a Buckingham Palace drinks party, he told group of female Labour MPs: "Ah, so this is feminist corner then."

On being offered fine Italian wines by Giuliano Amato, the former Prime Minister, at a dinner in Rome, he is said to have uttered: "Get me a beer. I don't care what kind it is, just get me a beer!"

"People think there's a rigid class system here, but dukes have been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans."

To Elton John: "Oh it's you that wons that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle."

While touring a factory near Edinburgh he said a fuse box was so crude it "looked as though it had been put in by an Indian".

To the Aircraft Research Association, he said: "If you travel as much as we do, you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort, provided you don't travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly."

Said to black dance troupe Diversity at the Royal Variety Performance: "Are you all one family?"

To a young fashion designer at Buckingham Palace he told him: "You didn't design your beard too well, did you? You really must try better with your beard."

On asking a female Sea Cadet what she did for a living, and being told that she worked in a nightclub (as a barmaid), the Duke asked “Is it a strip club?” Observing her surprise he dismissed the suggestion saying that it was “probably too cold for that anyway”.

At a prize-giving ceremony for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards a girl told him that she'd been to Romania to help in an orphanage. He replied: "Oh yes, there's a lot of orphanges in Romania - they must breed them".

"YOU have mosquitos. I have the Press."
- To the matron of a hospital in the Caribbean.

"If it doesn't fart or eat hay then she isn't interested"
- speaking about his daughter, Princess Anne.

"Can you tell the difference between them?"
- The Duke's question after President Barack Obama said he met with the leaders of the UK, China and Russia.

"The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion."
- on London traffic.

"Well, you'll never fly in it, you're too fat to be an astronaut."
- to a 13-year-old whilst visiting a space shuttle.

“You look like you’re ready for bed!”
- To the President of Nigeria, dressed in traditional robes.

Of more note though than the man's quips is the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Now incredibly popular, in my day hardly anyone got involved. Of course, many do it as a way of oiling the wheels of the application process to get themselves into University, but some do it for the right reasons. I don't normally ask anyone to contribute to the blog, but by a coincidence of timing, I had an e-mail from Zoe McLean of AtoZ Expeditions which organises DofE expeditions, and here is what she had to say:

"Most people have probably heard of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, it has been around now for 55 years. However unless they have taken part, few people will realise the life changing possibilities that a DofE programme holds. Participants are challenged by the different sections of the award which include volunteering, taking part in physical activity and learning a new skill.

The most memorable and testing part of the programme for most people is the expedition. This is an antidote to modern society where young people are often portrayed as cosseted and inactive. Participants have to plan, train and then undertake an adventurous, unaccompanied and self-sufficient expedition. They are given the responsibility to take the lead and manage the risks of the journey rather than being led by an adult – something many, particularly younger entrants, have never experienced. DofE expeditions are not just about technical skills, they are a journey of self-discovery, participants will need to overcome challenges and hardships; becoming more resourceful and confident in the process.

Most participants choose to expedition on foot, carrying all of their kit for the duration, but for the adventurous there are other options such as canoeing, cycling or even sailing.

Today there is much focus on academic qualifications but with increasing numbers of young people gaining top marks, the ambitious need to find other ways to standout. Completing a DofE programme shows that a young person is dedicated, can use their initiative and is not afraid of a challenge – standing then in good stead for whatever their future holds."

I think in this day and age, every pupil should be encouraged to take's a really valuable learning experience.

I said coincidental timing, and by that I mean that Zoe's e-mail arrived on the same day that The School held, for the first time, an awards ceremony for the pupils who had achieved Bronze and Silver. The Cat and The Boy went to collect their certificates and badges. In both cases, the scheme has been really good for their development and I'm glad that The Boy will go onto do Gold. If he gets through, he won't be going on stage to collect his'll be a trip to Buckingham Palace. He's only allowed to take one person with him...I hope he invites Grandma in Wales as I know just how proud his mother would be.