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Posts Tagged ‘Prince Charles’

I can’t say that I have anything in common with Prince Charles, other than a love of gardens, but when it comes to packing a suitcase for going away, we both seem to have difficulty.

His problems are along the lines of how best to transport the dish of favourite salt and the case of martini (a flunkey comes in useful there), while mine centre on how to squash the lid down on a too-small case and should I have packed that third pair of shoes.

Charles will undoubtedly need his salt and his martinis, according to a new biography that’s been picked to pieces in the media recently, but I certainly won’t need even a second pair of shoes, let alone a third.

I guess you’ve either got it or you haven’t when it comes to packing a suitcase. If there isn’t a team of manservants or even a fairy around, then it’s a matter of judgment about what goes in and what has to be left out because it’s too heavy. Prince Charles, lucky chap, doesn’t have to worry about baggage weight restrictions. Ryanair regular he is not.

Those three pairs of shoes that somehow found their way into my case won’t register in my memory, which will be wiped clean by the awful palaver of the journey.

Once unpacked and the case stowed away, the things I’ve brought with me simply because I’m on holiday are instantly forgotten and I end up wearing and using whatever I’ve worn and used at home.

So much for that special ‘being on holiday’ feeling. Anything I might have bought especially for the occasion, adding it excitedly to my holiday trousseau in the weeks beforehand, is overlooked in favour of the comfortable and the familiar. Whose big idea was it anyway to get those pastel-coloured crop trousers? Who did I think I was kidding?

Those so-not-me trousers that, the second I saw them in the shop, shouted ‘Sunshine! Be a devil and let the air get to your ankles!’ stay on their hanger in the wardrobe of wherever we might be staying. Playing safe, and being on automatic pilot in the mornings, I pull on whatever was the uniform-of-the-day back home, enjoying its friendly, unchallenging fit. I’d only get those pastel-coloured trousers dirty anyway, and who wants to spend their holidays washing clothes? Not me.

Clothing from home is one thing, habits from home quite another, and anything that reminds me too much of housework is not given a moment’s consideration.

We once went on holiday with friends and while Geoff and I wore ourselves out on the first day, exploring the city and making interesting discoveries, they astonished us by staying in their room to iron all their newly unpacked clothing. Only later day did they emerge into their new environment and, with military precision (he’s ex-Army, so it figures), quartered their surroundings and learnt their way around.

Geoff and I, of course, expended six times as much energy throughout our week’s stay by continually getting lost, never recognising anywhere we’d been before and, even on the last day, failing to find the street where our hotel was. Someone’s moved it, we concluded, before eventually stumbling into it by chance.

Our cool and savvy friends never once got lost. They even presented a cool and savvy front in the evenings when we met for a meal. They wore clean, pressed clothing, something different every day, while we, well, let’s just say we didn’t.

Our excuse, naturally, was that we didn’t have room in our suitcase, when in reality it was because thoughtful packing is just not our bag.

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I am not an easy person to buy presents for, being neither acquisitive nor needy, and rarely lusting over anything other than a three-day eventer that would carry me to triumph at Badminton Horse Trials. I have put in a few requests for that over the years but since no horse has materialised, not even once, would you believe, I am beginning to think it may never happen.

I can live with that because the dreams sustain me, even while my body ages and the chances of my sitting comfortably on anything other than the sofa recede by the day.

However, some people just seem to get it right. Or, more correctly, get me right. Take my sister, for example, who has had the advantage of knowing me all my life and who understands my quirks and oddities.

It was my birthday on Sunday so she came over to share a celebratory cake with Geoff and me, accompanied by her husband and their quasi-human dog, a Jack Russell that is convinced she is one of us. We’ve all tried telling her she’d be better off being a dog, but she carries on being determinedly human in (almost) all her habits.

Sis presented me with a delightful and eclectic haul of goodies, including something that really intrigued me: a yellowed, slightly faded copy of The Times from December 5 1992. Sis has been enduring Kitchen Wars at her house, necessitating a massive clear-out of cupboards and drawers, and in one of them she discovered this old newspaper. Naturally, she read it from cover to cover, and knowing how much I would enjoy doing the very same, she added it to my birthday box of delights.

And so my birthday evening passed in a happy haze, not grooming my non-eventer in my non-stable but buried deep in the news stories of 25 years ago.

To me, 1992 seems like yesterday. When I read of someone born in the 1990s I think ‘Oh, just a child,’ but of course I’m wrong. Children nowadays were born in the century that begins with the number 20, not 19-something. It never ceases to surprise me.

In 1992 the American president was someone who many had feared would be a buffoon, a lightweight with dodgy hair and a propensity for not always saying the right thing. In fact, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that history could repeat itself, Ronald Reagan turned out to confound many of his critics. He was in Britain that December, addressing the Oxford Union where, as The Times reported, he proposed air strikes against Serbia and was critical of Nato for inaction over the wholesale slaughter in that country.

John Major was at the helm in Britain, Norman Lamont was the Chancellor of the Exchequer,  suffering the fallout from sterling’s forced exit from the European exchange-rate mechanism three months earlier (yawn yawn), and Prince Charles was igniting fury by sympathising with French farmers over European tariffs (yawn yawn).

Virginia Bottomley, the health secretary, announced plans to ‘drive down’ waiting times by introducing new guidelines for GPs (sound familiar?) and there were fears of a sustained period of terrorist attacks by the IRA in the run-up to Christmas.

On the lighter side, and my word that was needed in those days, just as much as now, there was a fashion feature on the seasonal joys of see-through chiffon and strategically placed sequins. Well, thank goodness for the sequins is all I can say.

It has all made such a riveting and revealing read, written evidence that the more things change the more they stay the same.

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