Am I fed up with the Duke of Edinburgh eulogies? Mostly yes. But partly no.
I’ve kept my head down to try to avoid the sheer awfulness of it all. I’ve had a great laugh these last two days with a close pal and we’ve entered surreal / seditious territory. “There’s a rumour the flags will be at half mast. Will you bring the diesel and matches or will I?”, he texts this morning. “I won’t have enough room in the car because of the size of the guillotine – vive la Republique!” I reply. I give him the killer stat that Versailles makes twice us much tourism money per year than Buckingham palace, so in the interests of a robust economic recovery post-Covid we need to consider a proper cull. All good knockabout stuff.
Later, over golf, a more measured thread emerges. Firstly, this is the second Phil-fest: they ran with this when the old boy “retired” a couple of years back. It’s actually really lazy cut and paste journalism (“the whole nation mourns” – really? Whit?). It reminds me of the sort of stuff you see in the papers when Stranraer draw somebody decent like Hibs in the Scottish Cup. “The town is buzzing with cup fever!” etc. No it isnae. It’s Hibs. Not Real Madrid.
It’s a strange analogy perhaps, but when Jimmy Savile died the BBC just sort of pressed a button and ran a tribute show, despite the fact that his appalling behaviour had long been in the public domain. My hunch – and I’m not a journalist but I’ll be asking a pal who is – is that they’ve been preparing the obits for so long that their united line – loyal to Her Majesty, war hero, did a lot for charity, refreshingly non-PC – is hardwired, by accident or design. Maybe both. The actual and more interesting narrative would be links to the far right, three nazi sisters, deep reactionary and proven racist married to a woman with an equally dubious worldview.
The Prince Phillip being eulogised as a paragon of virtue, humanity & compassion must be a completely different Prince Phillip from the womaniser, racist & distant father portrayed in The Crown on Netflix. That of course was fiction; as if what we are being presented with today is not also fiction. And I was looking forward to a walk round the Lochans yesterday to get some election leaflets out, but I wasn’t allowed to. And I guarantee you, one hundred percent, that if I had not a single buddy would have said: “look Alec, no offence pal, but I saw on the telly that a posh guy in his hundredth year that I’ve never met in my life died of natural causes. Gonnae come back the morn?” Ludicrous. You could ride a horse over a fence yesterday (and bet on it to win) but you couldn’t put a piece of paper through a neighbour’s door. Although paying tribute to a feudal relic by suspending legitimate democratic process is, I suppose, in its own way, quite fitting.
In the end, it’s personal. The final thing he (my friend) said to me yesterday was quietly moving. He’s still raw from recently losing his dad, who like Phil was in his nineties. I’m paraphrasing here, but not much.
“Life goes on”, he said. “Losing my dad was sad. I loved him. But he was 93. He had a brilliant life. No regrets. And yet they’re calling this (Phil the Greek) a ‘tragedy’. It’s grotesque. Someone dying at nine is a tragedy. But ninety-nine? Get over yourself. If we use words like this over the natural death of a privileged stranger they lose their meaning. We cheapen ourselves. and the memory of people who actually matter to us. What words have we left to use when the really bad shit goes down”?
We finished our round, and headed off in search of something much stronger and more grounded in reality.