Rachel Johnson: Introducing The Mail on Sunday's brilliant new columnist
22:30 GMT, 8 December 2012
01:21 GMT, 9 December 2012
From a Southall council flat to Royal Supergran
This week we’ve all felt some sympathetic contractions and unease as the world’s press camped outside a cluster of cells in Marylebone. Well I did anyway. First I worried for the Duchess, long before she would have heard the sad news that the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who took the prank phone call from the Australian DJs, had apparently killed herself.
When it’s your first child, you know for a fact that you are the only woman in the history of the world to have ever had a baby. But you soon learn that your epoch-making pregnancy is not box office. Plenty of others have done it before.
Carole Middleton leaves the King Edward VII hospital in London where her daughter Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was treated
Kate and her husband, the Duke of Cambridge, leave hospital after she was treated for hyperemesis gravidarum
And in any case most men are not interested – or are actively uninterested – in your condition and would, given any choice, actually pay you not to tell them any details of the birth itself or the current top thousand names for girls and boys.
This is not true in the case of the Duchess, for whom Friday’s ghastly news was an unnecessary reminder that every detail of her life is the subject of a global media feeding frenzy. For the next seven months, the poor scrap really will be the only woman in the known universe having a baby – she is not merely with child but with the Royal CHILD OF DESTINY – and her womb is the biggest show in town.
Then I worried for the baby. This foetus, of only a couple of months’ gestation, is already a monarch-in-waiting. He/she is third in line to the Throne and will some day be King/Queen. Only someone of limited imagination could envy the life that fate has dished out for the Cambridges’ first-born.
This baby won’t ever have what we’ve all had: the chance to make our own way in the world, to be poor, anonymous, average . . . just to be normal.
But then – and I date my recovery to the moment the Duchess emerged from hospital, clutching a yellow posy, not long after a visit from her mother – I brightened. I felt better. I could, perhaps, nibble at a ginger nut after all.
For I’d forgotten the one person who is going to make everything all right for the little mite – Carole Middleton!
Unto us a child is born, unto us a gift is given because, Alleluia . . . a woman who started life in a council flat in Southall and went to a local state school, who made a fortune flogging party bags and is probably even now designing an exclusive range of red, white and blue bootees, is going to be ruling the roost from now on.
Which is absolutely in keeping with the current trend of the monarchy, an institution that has cleverly embraced what might be called ‘downward nobility’ for decades now.
The Royal Family has long realised that when it comes to keeping the brand going, it’s best to ditch the horse-faced German princesses and dilute the empurpled gene pool with middle-class stock: Zara marries Mike, Freddie Windsor marries Claudia Winkleman’s sister and Prince William weds the great-great-granddaughter of a miner.
Even when the Royals just want to have fun, they abandon the Cecil B. DeMille script set in Ruritania and go a bit Gavin & Stacey: the Queen does the washing-up in a bothy, the Duke of Edinburgh drives a black cab around with the For Hire light off, Princess Diana takes the boys to Thorpe Park . . . and Wills kicks back in the lounge of his in-laws, former employees of the nation’s flag-carrier British Airways.
So when it comes to the Cambridges, the real situation is as follows, readers.
As there is sadly no Princess Diana to duke it out with, the attractive, active brunette Mrs Middleton will be the ranking, indeed only, grandmother to the baby. This makes her, let’s face it, about the most important person in the United Kingdom.
But this can only be a good thing. Carole Middleton is more than fit for purpose – indeed after her years on the Dukan Diet, she is ‘Bucklebury thin’ – and it is as if her entire life so far has been in preparation for this bounden duty.
And when, in the fullness of time, nature takes its course, and our new People’s Supergran emerges with that ginger-haired bundle (or bundles) in her arms in June for her ‘we are a grandmother’ moment, be prepared. This will only be the start of the Carole service.
The endless summer of the Berkshire matriarch will have begun.
The Pope is now @pontifex, and has promised his first tweet on Wednesday. It’s either going to be an encyclical in 140 characters or, even better, a picture of what he had for lunch.
Revealing glimpse of the movie world
Do anything to see the V&A Hollywood Costumes show, which exhibits the all-time movie wardrobe-of-fame, from Dorothy’s blue gingham pinny in The Wizard Of Oz and Charlie Chaplin’s clown trousers to Borat’s grey suit.
Among hundreds of iconic, historic, legendary, etc, costumes, you get to see the short white dress Sharon Stone wore in the gynaecological thriller Basic Instinct. We learn that director Paul Verhoeven persuaded Stone to remove her underwear and cross and uncross her legs as it was a ‘story point’ in the scene (whatever that is).
‘You won’t see anything,’ he promised her. Why oh why, I wonder, do women ever believe a word men say
Sharon Stone pictured in the short white dress, which is exhibited at the V&A Hollywood Costumes show
Hurray! I’ve found a muesli unruined by a surfeit of raisins. I’ve spent years of my life picking the spoor out of cereal and giving them to the dog. It’s from Rude Health, which is wise enough to realise that the missing ingredient is its USP, and has called the variety No Flamin’ Raisins!
I’m proud of my booby prize, Paxo!
Jeremy Paxman, pictured, introduced me as a 'Bad Sex prizewinner and sister-of-Boris'
The annual Bad Sex Award took place at London’s ‘In & Out Club’ last week. This is, as everyone must know, a literary booby-prize designed to discourage authors from ‘inserting’ disgusting and unnecessary sex scenes in their books.
My favourite ‘entry’ (OK, I’ll stop now) was Craig Raine’s, for two short sentences in his new novel: ‘And he came. Like a wubbering springboard.’ I won the prize in 2008, for what I felt was a stirring lovemaking scene in my novel Shire Hell that combined moths, cats and slug-clearance, and a goat named Cumberbatch, in one paragraph.
This distinction is one of the two things I won’t ever get away from, as I was reminded last week when Jeremy Paxman introduced me as a ‘Bad Sex prizewinner and sister-of-Boris’ for a forthcoming TV show I am not contractually allowed to mention (University Challenge). I didn’t really mind, as life’s too short. Not that I’d admit this to anyone, let alone Jeremy, but I’m secretly proud of my award, which I collected in person (unlike this year’s winner, who stayed safely in Paris to try to protect her reputation).
The semi-abstract plaster trophy of a sandalled foot (it is supposed to represent ‘sex in the Fifties’) sits in my garden, and does indeed continue to discourage me from ever writing about sex again, so it has served a very useful purpose.
And, meanwhile, I’m proud of all my brothers. So Paxo was fair in his rsum, and I intend to have his words on my gravestone, next to the plaster foot.