The sub-heading at the top of Will Self’s article (“Out of their minds, TNE #328) begins by saying “Prince Harry and his wife may be absurd…” Why characterise them as absurd? I can’t see it.
Harry himself was raised in a manner chosen for him by centuries of tradition, in which (as he points out) he never bought a car, signed a lease, or carried money. He worked hard to qualify for combat duty in Afghanistan and, by all accounts, served well and with honour.
Meghan Markle developed her own career as an actor and married into the shitshow, finding that it caused her significant emotional harm.
I don’t see that we need to characterise either of them at all, neither noble nor absurd. They are people who were either born or married into a toxic family and have exerted themselves to build some kind of normal life anyway.
Complaints about Will Self on your Letters pages tend to divide into two tropes: those who despair at the flamboyance of his language and those who are upset by the vitriol he unloads on certain sacred cows.
Excellent to see, then, that his piece on Harry and the royal family contains more clarity and less bile on the subject than anything else I have read in our national press since the publication of Spare.
A tiresome six-page rant about the House of Windsor? Really? This is not why I subscribe to the New European – to read at excruciating length about the domestic troubles of the royal family.
I fear ex-Prince Harry, when his thirst for revenge is sated, will have a life as pointless and futile as his great-grand-uncle the Duke of Windsor; more talk shows, more misery memoirs, perhaps a self-help book or two with Meghan, cameo appearances in American TV dramas…
As for the monarchy, the importance of an institution is not necessarily dependent on the character or conduct of those who hold positions within it – after all, if that was so, there would now be a strong case for abolishing the office of prime minister.
I enjoyed Will Self’s interaction with ChatGPT, and the resulting column (Multicultural Man, TNE #328). I liked being referred to as an intelligent reader.
What I would take issue with, however, is Will’s reference to his “rather pretentious show of erudition”. Will’s constant employment of very long words instead of equivalent short ones makes me irritated as I have to Google their meaning as I read. I would prefer “very pretentious show of erudition”.
Lost for words
Regarding Alastair Campbell’s comment (Diary, TNE #328) that Michel Barnier’s book deserves a better title than My Brexit Secret Diary, it has one in the original French – La grande illusion, which encapsulates Brexit entirely. What he meant was that the translation of the title could have been better, which is a different matter.
Alastair Campbell’s diary prompted me to update my good and politically enlightened friend in France on our woeful situation, since she tells me that they now rarely hear of any UK news. Lucky for her, I think!
I mentioned the audacity of Boris Johnson’s request to have the taxpayers fund his Partygate legal fees, when he is pocketing shedloads from speeches and can’t be short of a bob or two. Her reply?
“That was what Louis XVI did and he got the guillotine for that!” Enough said.
Dus and don’ts
I loved Tanit Koch’s “When to do Du” (TNE #328) – almost worthy of Peter Trudgill! Growing up with boys from the Forest of Dean, “thee” and “thou” were still common in the 1960s, especially among their parents and grandparents. One example could probably generate a whole column for Peter.
A friend, now in his 80s, was working on a large house in the Forest. When they finished the job the foreman said to the elderly owner, “There’ll be pleased with that.” The owner replied, “Don’t thee thick and thou me!”
Many thanks to Tanit Koch for her careful explanation of “Du” and “Sie” in German. My German is very rusty, but I’m familiar with the principle – the more so since I now live in France, where (as Tanit explains ) “Tu” and “Vous” work similarly.
I agree that the increasing use of “Du” in corporate settings owes a lot to American influence (“Call me Pete”). As Tanit says, the English equivalent has almost died out – with one exception. In some old-fashioned religious settings, it seems to work in reverse! There’s an instinctive feeling that it’s more respectful or reverent to call God “Thou” rather than “You”.
Interestingly, when we first went to our local French Baptist church, we found people regularly prayed using “Tu”. When I got to know them better, I asked about this. Was it like the English, a term of special respect? “No,” came the reply. “We call God ‘Tu’ because He’s our Father – we’re family!”
I’d be curious to know whether the Germans “Du” the same?
If I were German I would regret the gradual replacement of the respectful “Sie” form of “you” by the more familiar “Du”. We do not have this distinction in English, but a similar example of unwelcome (to me) familiarity is the increasing use of given names in formal situations.
In my view, the default form of address with strangers – especially in the NHS – should be the appropriate honorific with surname.
Similarly in casual encounters it irritates me to be addressed as “mate” or “pal” by people I’ve never met. Sadly, our language lacks a universal non-obsequious form of address such as the French “Monsieur” or “Madame”. Maybe the EU could come up with a union-wide form of address and we remainers could publish our allegiance by using it. Until then, being born and bred in Yorkshire, I’ll be happy with “luv”.
Re: Your Great European Life of Maria Schneider (TNE #328). Channel 4 TV once screened Last Tango In Paris to mark St Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t see why at the time. The film struck me as unappealing, misogynistic, and glum at the very best.
Maria Schneider was scarred by Last Tango In Paris. So, to a lesser extent, were the two old ladies who sat in front of us at the BFI, thinking it was a Fred and Ginger dancing film.
Paul Mason is right about the urgency of planning reform to accelerate approval of energy transmission projects (“Labour’s planning reforms could seal the deal for British business”, TNE #328). However, not all objectors are irrational nimbys.
The current plans to bring power from the offshore wind farms through trenches and pylon lines across East Anglia ignore the well-documented alternative of an offshore ring main. This would connect all the offshore wind farms to the grid at the Humber and the Thames, and leave rural East Anglia undisturbed. It would take a little longer, Tory voters would be undisturbed, and the estimated savings are £6bn.
Sometimes moving fast is costly.
Although agreeing with most of the policy outlined by Paul Mason, I’m always dismayed when nuclear power is included in the list of solutions to the energy crisis. As an engineer who spent many years in energy management, I have always questioned the thinking behind its adoption.
Building a nuclear power station takes 10-15 years to complete, with associated huge emissions of carbon dioxide. Along with this, the nuclear fuel production is highly CO2 emitting from mining and milling the ore, fuel enrichment, and fuel rod manufacture, plus all the associated transport this requires.
After 25-35 years of intermittent operation, it is time to decommission a nuclear power plant. Currently, on-site decommissioning contracts are running at 100 years and again involve extensive use of fossil fuels. Alongside the on-site works goes the radioactive waste management with high-level waste being toxic for many thousands of years.
High-level wastes require continuous cooling to prevent them going critical, and cooling ponds and water circulation equipment need to be periodically replaced.
Given the above, it is unsurprising that not only the claims of being “low CO2” but even the degree of Net Energy Gain are often called into question!
Potters Bar, Herts
I suspect Dave Keating (“Would Europe have us back”, TNE #327) knows that rejoining will never happen. His colleagues at France24 do. And my family, friends and work colleagues in France know that I am joking when I ask about the UK rejoining.
There are undoubtedly people and politicians in France and elsewhere in the EU who would back a UK application, but not many. The French mostly are pleased to be rid of “us”. They would never take the risk of accepting an application from a centre-left UK government only for the far right to win next time and stop everything. Even rejoiners, for reasons I do not fully comprehend, seem not to be too enthusiastic about the euro!
When Pope Benedict handed over to Francis, both knew what needed to be done (“Holy war in the Vatican”, TNE #327). Christ had warned his disciples that the great temptation they had to be alert to was the abuse of the sacred power he was trusting them with.
Look at what Francis has had to contend with. A global sex abuse scandal. Financial skulduggery on a vast scale – and a culture of manipulation and bullying that has become endemic.
He has done an awful lot in a short time. Of course, his enemies want him out. The prayer of this writer is that Francis remains at the helm, wearing not slippers but the shoes of the Fisherman.
Father John Buckley Hampshire
Mitch Benn mentions Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke North, with disapproval (TNE #327). As I live in his constituency, my feelings are stronger. So are those of many other Stokies. His attitude to the 200 “disappeared” child migrants placed in a Brighton hotel provoked an angry response from many. “They shouldn’t have come here illegally,” he shouted in parliament. It is unlikely that they had much choice. Gullis should have been worrying about where they were and in whose hands.
Our local paper, the Sentinel, has described Mr Gullis as “controversial”. Something of an understatement. Readers can rest assured that every effort will be made to remove him at the next election.
Re: “A bigger bang” (TNE #327). We remember seeing Ariane Mnouchkine’s stunning 1992 Théâtre du Soleil production of the four-play Greek tragedy cycle, Les Atrides, at Robins Mill Bradford to mark the European Arts festival and Britain’s presidency of the EU.
Theatre at a lifetime best, given it was their first visit for 21 years in the days when culture could still be adventurous and international. Wonderful to hear she is still directing.
I enjoy your publication; its serious content on European affairs is refreshing and interesting. I have one gripe; occasionally your front page illustrations can be vulgar and insulting. The “One finger salute” (TNE #327) is an example of TNE insulting your potential purchasers by trying to be irreverent or offensive or funny. Other silly/offensive covers include “the peeing chancellor” or the “Harry & Meghan” cover.
TNE is a good publication, please don’t insult it or your readers by having vulgar front covers.
Join the queue
Rather a depressing experience on a recent trip to Spain with my wife, an Austrian citizen.
She was able to breeze through the Spanish customs with virtually no waiting time. I, on the other hand, had to join the long queue of Brits patiently waiting for the privilege of having our passports stamped.
I almost felt like a criminal. It brought home the unpleasant reality of our post-Brexit outsider status.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
There have been no sightings of Larry the Downing Street cat since Rishi Sunak moved in. We are increasingly worried that he may have been considered politically suspect and removed, or worse. We fear it may be yet another instance of censorship.
What is to be done? Can a committee be set up to investigate?
Sebastian the Cat