Diamond Jubilee: Prince Charles and a folly that will never float my boat

Charles and a Jubilee folly that will never float my boat



07:12 GMT, 16 April 2012

Cheers: Prince Charles on a recent rare outing to a pub in Cumbria

Cheers: Prince Charles on a recent rare outing to a pub in Cumbria

The Queen must be regretting the day she let her eldest son take charge of her Diamond Jubilee festivities on the Thames. In Prince Charles’s world, words like ‘affordable’ don’t exist.

Britain’s broke, but the Prince of Wales requires no less than 159 staff. His personal spending in 2010 shot up 50 per cent on the previous year to 2.5 million and each day he’s assisted by valets, dressers, footmen, cooks, butlers and a huge team of PR men and women, carefully burnishing his image.

His mother must despair — she still likes her breakfast served in Tupperware containers, and thinks nothing of travelling to Sandringham on an ordinary train.

Before one of the Prince’s team
wastes more money emailing to point out the charity work he does, being a
benefactor is easy when you’re a millionaire cushioned by staff
anticipating your every need.

For three years now, Tim Smit, the
millionaire founder of the wonderful Eden Project in Cornwall, has
promoted The Big Lunch, a way of encouraging villages and groups of
locals all over Britain to have a meal together once a year.

This is the Big Society in action,
long before Dave Cameron claimed ownership of the concept. Tim, unlike
Prince Charles, sends his kids to state school, and doesn’t just pay lip
service to the notion of participation in the community — he runs a
bakery and eats in local pubs.

He started the Big Lunch to help restore social values. Forty years ago, we knew all our neighbours, babysat for each other, played together in the street and talked over the garden walls.

White elephant An artists impression of Gloriana, the Royal Rowbarge, which will be taking part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee pageant

White elephant An artists impression of Gloriana, the Royal Rowbarge, which will be taking part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee pageant

That sense of community has gradually been eroded and the annual Big Lunch is a simple way of re-connecting with our neighbours, regardless of whether they are posh or poor.

It’s been a huge success. This year, more than 30,000 people from 40 countries have requested party packs. Now, the Duchess of Cornwall has become a royal patron. This makes me queasy.

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Camilla is never out of the papers — hardly a day passes without a photo opportunity to polish up her image. Not one more person will hold a street party because Camilla hitched herself to Mr Smit’s fabulous idea.

This is a privileged woman who has already admitted she can’t cook much, and has a reputation for doing as little as possible. It all smacks of another attempt by Charles to hijack his mum’s big event for his own purposes.

The river pageant — taking place at the same time as the Big Lunch (great planning!) — has been fraught with problems. The Silver Jubilee in 1977 was a smaller event. The Queen sailed down the Thames (in poor weather) from Greenwich to Lambeth. Back then, I judged a fancy dress competition at the street party outside my home in Limehouse, East London, and held a snooker tournament for 60 pals.

We feasted on a vat of cheap chilli con carne I’d mixed in the bath and guests donned Union Jack bowler hats and waved to the Queen as she floated past, with the Sex Pistols’ anthem God Save The Queen blasting out in the background. A wonderful day.

This time around, Charles seems determined to stage an event more in keeping with the last days of Ancient Rome than poor old bankrupt Britain.

Most commoners can’t afford the train fares to London, and certainly not a hotel. Like the Olympics, this event is pitched at wealthy tourists. The snooty toff in charge of raising the 10 million needed to get it afloat, Tory peer Lord Salisbury, said he did not want ‘a Tesco pageant’ and has banned sponsors’ logos.

Consequently, few of the FTSE 100 companies are interested, and most of the funding is from overseas.

The Queen won’t be sailing in the 4 million Gloriana, commissioned by Charles and paid for by P&O, for security reasons. Instead, 18 oarsmen will row Prince Charles on this white elephant, at the head of the procession, while his mum and dad travel behind in a converted pleasure cruiser, turned into a replica of a 17th-century barge.

And where will Camilla be during the Big Float We’re told she’s ‘not comfortable’ on water, just like she’s ‘not comfortable’ in heat on royal tours (unless they involve staying on a luxury yacht) and ‘not comfortable’ cooking.

She’ll be sitting down at a Big Lunch, being photographed surrounded by ordinary people, pretending to be one of us. PR job done. I’m planning another vat of chilli — this time my partner can dress up as a 17th-century oarsman!

'Style guru': Nancy Dell'Olio

'Style guru': Nancy Dell'Olio

Does Nancy Dell’Olio need a translator

On Loose Women last week she chatted non-stop, but who knows what she was saying

A special language has emerged — Nancyspeak — which involves blathering away while flapping your eyelashes like a pair of demented spiders mating.

Nancy is now billed as a ‘style guru’ with a column in a Sunday newspaper specialising in makeovers, but when I asked how she stepped off the sleeper train from Scotland to London looking immaculate, her top tip was: don’t bother removing your make-up, just spray it with a bit of water.

Nancy says this is ‘normal’ and only peels off her eyelashes at night, sticking them back on again before venturing out in public next day.

Even that seemed optional if there was any chance a man might be in the bedroom.

I wondered if she applied the same rule to those tight leather trousers which have become her second skin. I hope not, for health reasons.

The other night I ran into Sir Trevor Nunn, who told me his version of Kiss Me Kate opens at Chichester in June — I doubt there’ll be a part for Nancy, but I did wonder if he’s seen Britain’s top ‘style guru’ without her lashes


The sight of Coleen Rooney and her cronies hobbling into Aintree for Ladies’ Day on their giant platform-soled stilettos with 6in heels reminded me of my favourite childhood puppet — the BBC’s Muffin The Mule.

All that was missing were the strings attached to their arms and legs.

All that's missing is the strings: Coleen Rooney and friends look like Muffin the Mule, right, in their high heels

All that's missing is the strings: Coleen Rooney and friends look like Muffin the Mule, right, in their high heels

All that's missing is the strings: Coleen Rooney and friends look like Muffin the Mule, right, in their high heels

Clunky platform soles might possibly look elegant on slender models, but jammed onto the legs of normal-sized Liverpool lasses, they resemble orthopaedic footwear for the physically challenged.

Nude platforms, even on the Duchess of Cambridge, are ugly and unflattering. Why are so many women willing to make utter fools of themselves


Why talking turnip-head Gregg Wallace felt compelled to spill the beans about his marriage breakdown in an extraordinarily frank interview with this newspaper is beyond me.

Master man-child: Gregg Wallace has split from wife Heidi

Master man-child: Gregg Wallace has split from wife Heidi

Relationships are best repaired through tact, discretion and counselling, not blathering on about ‘being naughty’ and ‘smashing through a couple of bottles of wine’ when you’re staying up in town alone and out with your mates.

Gregg, at 47, epitomises the man-child who still needs a mum-substitute to write a list of what he has to do every day. The first item on my agenda would be ‘grow up’ followed by ‘shut up’.


Nick Clegg says the Coalition is determined to help the million-plus unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds find a job. The Government is about to unveil a 1 billion ‘youth contract’ promising extra help in the form of weekly, instead of fortnightly, contact with JobCentres.

Sadly, this ‘extra help’ maybe just a text message or an email, as JobCentres are inundated with the growing number of people signing on.

The only way to get people into work is through specialised coaching, and teaching them skills like how to write CVs and behave at an interview. Sending a text is a total waste of time.