It’s not the content of the Meghan/Harry Saga which I find dull- they have chosen to go off to be B-List celebs in Tinseltown, and good luck to them if that’s what they want. It’s not even their relentless use of the media (from whom they claim to be refugees), to attack the very heritage with which they nonetheless adorn themselves. It’s the whingeingly self-obsessed miserableness which the public is finding tedious.
By contrast, it was an honour to be presented to His Majesty the King when he came to Westminster Hall to unveil the plaque commemorating the late Queen’s Lying in State. He is the very embodiment of modest, decent gentlemanliness and of those great British sentiments- the stiff upper lip and the Dunkirk spirit.
We Brits love a bit of a crisis. The wrong kind of leaves on the line; Brr…. Britain freezes; transport chaos thanks to a few inches of snow in places. We love to complain about the weather, the football (especially that referee), the cricket scores and above all about our politicians. ‘Hell in a handcart’ must be one of the most overused pub expressions. We love a good old moan. But then something odd happens. We start to speak to one another. The lift grinds to a halt between floors; the train breaks down, there’s a crisis of any sort, and previously taciturn Brits get quite chatty and friendly; bonding together against adversity; keeping our spirits up; doing our best in difficult times. That’s the spirit we saw, for example, throughout the Pandemic and in other great national crises. Keep Calm and Carry On.
The 130 or so Albanian refugees who are being wholly inappropriately housed in the top-rated Wiltshire Hotel near Royal Wootton Bassett has united us in outrage. Why should we house these fit young men from a perfectly safe European Nation who have illegally migrated here not for political asylum but to find a better life for themselves. I very much welcome the package of measures which the PM announced on Monday designed to return them forthwith to where they came from. The Wiltshire Hotel is quite the wrong place for them, and I have made my views on the matter known in plain language to both the PM and Home Secretary.
They stand in stark contrast to the Afghans to whom we were pleased to give asylum and the 900 or so Ukrainians housed in Wiltshire alone – enjoying our traditional Christmas despite the awfulness of events back home. I had a meeting during the week with the Ukrainian Ambassador who described the truly dreadful circumstances for civilians across his country. Every single power production and distribution unit has been hit by missiles, meaning no electricity at all in this the darkest and coldest of winters; meetings can last no longer than an hour in the Ministries to allow civil servants to go home to use the loo (there’s no central water or sewerage across the country); 10 million or more are overseas, tens of thousands of their young men killed and injured, their children and women carted off to concentration camps in Russia. Their situation is truly awful, but their determination and strength of character second to none.
So it may be cold and a shade miserable here at home; we may well be worried about paying our bills, about heating our homes and getting to work; the handcart may never be far from our lips; but as at least most of us look forward to a half-decent Christmas, to jollity and puddings, a glass or two of wine huddled round our widescreen televisions watching the Kings’ broadcast; we should spare a thought for those so much less fortunate than ourselves, most especially overseas. We should occasionally remember the Dunkirk spirit and acknowledge how very lucky we are to live in this great country of ours and how much we have for which to be very thankful. Bit less whingeing and a bit more stoical rejoicing will make Christmas a truly happy time for us all.