TOM UTLEY: Prince Philip and I shared two things in common


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Very few of us, I dare suggest, have lived a life so far from the ordinary as that of the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

For my part, I cannot claim to be a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, born into a minor European royal family and clandestinely exiled in an orange crate aboard a British gunboat at the age of 18 months.

My mother was never confined to a sanatorium for the insane. I did not spend two terms at school in Hitler Germany before fleeing to join my Jewish director in Gordonstoun, Scotland.

I did not see action, with great courage and credit, in the Royal Navy during WWII. And, of course, I did not commit to a life of public service by marrying the heir apparent to the British Crown.

As for the Duke’s accomplishments, I wonder how many of us could boast even a tenth. I certainly can’t.

I wouldn’t know how to start piloting an airplane or helicopter, navigate a canoe (let alone command a warship), drive a horse-drawn carriage, play polo, or paint a nice landscape. But Prince Philip could do all of these things, with well above average skill.

“One of the most striking things about Prince Philip, if you ask me, is that despite his unusual talents and extraordinary circumstances, he always seemed to have his feet firmly planted in the real world soil inhabited by the rest of the world. ‘between us”

A young Duke of Edinburgh rides a children's bike, as seen in the BBC documentary special Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers

A young Duke of Edinburgh rides a children’s bike, as seen in the BBC documentary special Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers

Not to mention his tireless work for his dozens of charities, his early warnings of threats to wildlife and the environment – which seem all the more prescient today – and his efforts, far beyond the call of duty, to instill a sense of self – in young people (several million since 1956) thanks to the rewards system that bears his name.

All in all, then, was a truly remarkable man, whose gifts and accomplishments were not simply due to the fact that he had benefits denied to the rest of us.

Ask yourself the following question: Would you have led such a busy life and done such a good job in his place? I know I wouldn’t.

Yet one of the most striking things about him, if you ask me, is that despite his unusual talents and extraordinary circumstances, he still seemed to have his feet firmly planted in the real world soil inhabited by the rest of the world. between us.

Despite the palaces, the banquets, the friendly staff and the relentless attention of my media colleagues – always on the lookout for one of his famous “blunders” – he never quite lost the air of an ordinary man, just as subject to the comedy and frustrations of everyday life as the rest of us, the lesser mortals.

On some level, at least, he was one of us – a point that came out clearly in Wednesday night’s touching and enlightening tributes to the Duke from members of the royal family and others who knew him well. , in a BBC program designed to mark the 100th anniversary he didn’t really live to see.

There were two moments in particular, during Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, in which I greeted the big man as a brother and a soul mate.

The first came with the testimony of Prince Charles that when he tried to help his father with the barbecue, the latter was yelling at him to “go” (although if I think I’m fair he probably used a stronger expression. , unsuitable for repeating here).

The BBC said its new documentary Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers will offer poignant memories and new insight into the life of Britain's oldest wife

Prince Philip in naval Uuiform with medals at St. Paul's Cathedral on the day of the service to mark the Golden Jubilee - The 50th anniversary of the reign of the monarch

Despite the palaces, the banquets, the cheerful staff and the relentless attention of my media colleagues – always on the lookout for one of his famous “blunders” – he never quite lost his ordinary guy air.

There were two moments in particular, during Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, in which I greeted the big man as a brother and a soul mate.

There were two moments in particular, during Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, in which I greeted the big man as a brother and a soul mate.

Now, I may not share many of the late Duke’s accomplishments. But like him, I am proud to be the king of the family barbecue.

And as all of my fellow Coal Monarchs know, there is nothing more irritating in this world, when you have placed the sausages and burgers in exactly the right place on the grill, than having someone from incompetent who gets involved.

Okay, maybe there is something more irritating, and that brings me to the second point of the program where I felt a wave of sympathy for the Duke.

I think back to when Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne, fondly remembered his grandfather screaming in fury at his computer when he failed to do what he wanted.

“He loved technology, he loved gadgets, but it was always a lot of fun watching him trying to figure things out,” he said.

“I remember him getting a new laptop or printer sitting in his office and hearing her yelling at it from the breakfast room because he couldn’t get it to work.”

Is there anyone of us, my age or around (I’m 67), who doesn’t know exactly how the Duke felt?

As I wrote before, I too have a love-hate relationship with what I still consider to be “new” technology.

I marveled at every gadget as it came, from pocket calculator and VCR to CD player, GPS, laptop and Kindle to Amazon’s Alexa and my Newly acquired iPhone 11 (already two generations out of date, I note, and I still have not mastered the hundredth of the miracles it can do).

I even spent a small fortune more than I expected on the car I bought three years ago, just for the wonder of its computer-controlled ability to park on its own – a feature that I haven’t been able to use more than half a dozen times since I finally figured out how to work it.

But while I love the convenience of emails, internet shopping, a phone with a built-in camera and the like, I don’t know of anything more infuriating than an electronic gadget that won’t do what I want, just because I never learned how.

So at least twice a week I find myself screaming in helpless fury at my laptop when it fails to connect to the printer, or screaming at the TV when I press wrong remote control and program button. starts to go up at the beginning.

Meanwhile, my sons, brought up in the electronic age, feel quite comfortable with technology.

Almost from their earliest childhood, they were able to solve my problems, with a few skillful clicks on a keyboard or a remote control, on the rare occasions when they deigned to help me.

But now all but one have fled the nest, and the last is never there when needed, I’m alone and helpless with Mrs U, who just happens to be the only person in Britain less tech savvy than her husband .

I’m not just thinking about their effect on my blood pressure, though. For the wonders of this electronic age have brought a lot of problems with all their benefits.

I think of the imminent death of the High Street, accelerated by internet shopping, and the cyber fraud that costs the unwary £ 4million a day. I am thinking of the diseases missed by general practitioners, who increasingly perform their surgeries on Zoom, instead of face-to-face consultations.

Not to mention the epidemic of fake news, relentless pornography and terrorist propaganda spread across the internet, as the regulator, Ofcom, questions whether words like ‘snowflake’ and ‘gammon’ can be tried. offensive on television.

We can also hold social media accountable for the misery suffered by so many children and adolescents due to cyberbullying, spread by trolls hidden behind the shield of anonymity.

Indeed, I see a supreme irony in this week’s news that Apple is developing an app that will detect the signs of mental health issues from the violence we type on our phones and the number of typos that occur. slip into our text messages.

Speaking from my own experience, as my wife and I rage against inanimate objects like royal dukes, electronic technology is the cause of mental health issues, not the cure.

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