In our ever-changing world, at least there is one fixed point. You can always rely on a vicar on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day to say something silly. You pick a topical issue, and you have to relate it, in any way possible, to your beliefs.
It’s the virtue-signallers’ answer to Just A Minute. After waffling for a minute or two, every speaker seems determined to conclude that whatever topic they have picked points to ‘a deeper malaise in our society’.
At the close of a particularly dizzying week, Wednesday’s Thought For The Day once again came up trumps.
The speaker was Jayne Manfredi, billed as ‘an Anglican ordinand’.
‘Jesus of Nazareth was once dismissed as a liar by people who told him: ‘You are testifying on your own behalf, your testimony is not valid.’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey
Piers Morgan returns to his home after it was announced he would be leaving Good Morning Britain
To which he replied: ‘I know where I’ve come from and where I’m going’.’
At this point, I thought that if I were writing a spoof of Thought For The Day, at this juncture I would have the Reverend Jayne compare Meghan Markle to Jesus.
Hey presto! As if by magic, she did just that.
‘This idea that our own truth isn’t good enough on its own is something we’ve seen play out in the media over the last few days to devastating effect,’ she said.
‘Prince Harry and Meghan told their version of the truth and to some this is invalid testimony. What is truth and who has the right to tell it? These are important questions that are worth asking.’
No sooner had the Rev Jayne posed the questions than she dealt out all the answers.
She spoke of ‘the harsh and deeply personal nature of the backlash’ against Meghan and Harry, which – tarantara! – all pointed to ‘a deeper malaise in our society’.
She ended with a biblical tale from the Book Of Jeremiah. God asks Jeremiah to bury his loincloth under a cleft of rock.
‘Many days later, God asks him to dig it up again and when he does, Jeremiah discovers that the loincloth is now useless.’
From this, the Rev Jayne interpreted God’s message to mean that Harry and Meghan were right to talk to Oprah Winfrey.
‘There is something to be said for washing our dirty loincloths in public. If you keep them buried forever, they quickly become good for nothing.’
Not only that, but, ‘When we tell vulnerable truths, we testify to our humanity and confess to our helplessness as precious children of God.’
At the start of the week, there was indeed something weirdly biblical about the way Harry and Meghan and a film crew chose to squeeze into a hen-coop with the all-seeing, all-knowing figure of Oprah Winfrey.
‘She’s always wanted chickens,’ explained Harry.
‘Well, you know, I just love rescuing,’ added Meghan. Harry looked at the ground.
American TV host asked the couple why they chose to leave the UK during the bombshell interview
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry revealed their second child would be a girl during their interview
‘What are you most excited about in the new life?’ asked Oprah, adding, ‘Here, chick, chick, chick, chick.’
‘I think just being able to live authentically,’ replied Meghan.
‘Mm-hmm,’ said Oprah.
‘Right? Like this kind of stuff. It’s so, it’s so basic but it’s really fulfilling. Just getting back down to basics,’ added Meghan.
Being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in a designer hen coop called ‘Archie’s Chick-Inn’ is certainly an exciting new way of being authentic.
‘Authentic’ is one of Meghan and Harry’s key words, along with ‘trapped’, ‘lost’, ‘truth’, ‘share’ and ‘compassion’.
Later, Harry said that, unlike other members of his family, he wanted to ‘just, like, just be, just be yourself. Just be genuine. Just be authentic’.
The pair of them often employ these words in all sorts of unconventional ways.
‘There’s a lot that’s been lost already,’ Meghan told Oprah. ‘…I grieve a lot. I mean, I’ve lost my father. I lost a baby. I nearly lost my name. I mean, there’s the loss of identity.’
As I write, Dilyn the Dog (left) has kept his opinions to himself, and so have Bob Dylan, the Dalai Lama and Kim Jong-Un (right)
From this, an outsider might conclude that her father was dead. In fact, he is alive and kicking, and giving grouchy interviews, complaining that Meghan won’t see him and that he can’t see his grandson.
In this context, what Meghan means by ‘lost’ can be loosely translated as ‘sent to Coventry’.
Likewise, the word ‘compassion’, which Harry confuses with ‘contempt’.
Having revealed that his father had stopped taking his calls and that he and his elder brother were ‘on different paths’, and having hinted that one or other of them might be racist, he said: ‘My father and my brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.’ Ah, bless!
The moment the interview finished screening – ‘Well, thank you for sharing your love story,’ cooed Oprah – the world was swamped by a torrent of opinions, strongly for or strongly against, and sometimes both at the same time, on Twitter and phone-ins and TV news programmes, from friends and former friends and wannabe friends, from sports personalities and disc-jockeys and vicars and celebrities and former celebrities and professors and politicians and pop stars and people in the street and – surely the most forlorn of all categories – from an endless parade of ‘Royal experts’.
‘Is this the beginning of the end for the Royals?’ asked the presenter Ian Collins on Talk Radio, inviting his listeners to phone in with their opinions. Martin from Tottenham said he was black and, ‘I’m sat here wondering how I’m going to get to the end of this month’.
He found it ‘sickening that these idiots, multi-millionaires that go and sit down with a multi-billionaire and just effectively playing the race card, they don’t live in the real world, these people’.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attending the Commonwealth Day Service in 2020
Martin added that, ‘That’s what these new Royals are, they’re not about stiff upper lip, they’re not about being the best this country can be, they’re about how much of a victim can I be and how much can I get paid for it?’
Erica from Eastbourne, a mixed-race woman of 69, was equally unimpressed. She said that when she was born everyone asked the colour of the baby.
Her brother ‘was actually born white and his skin tone changed after about three months’.
‘All these questions are quite normal,’ she insisted, adding, of Meghan, ‘she’s obviously got an agenda.’
Others were equally convinced that speculating about the colour of a baby’s skin was beyond the pale.
‘I thought it was the most extremely distasteful thing for somebody to say,’ said the Labour MP Diane Abbott. ‘…to be worrying about quite how dark the child will be could only be described as racism.’
Once or twice a year, a fresh news story brings forth a host of half-remembered faces popping up to deliver a heated opinion before you have a chance to reach for the off button. It’s the twilight celebrity version of whack-a-mole.
Fast out of the trap was Princess Di’s gooey former butler, Paul Burrell, ready for a busy week ahead.
‘I felt tremendous sadness,’ he confided to Billy Bush on Extra TV in America. Oddly enough, he looked blissfully happy. At a time like this, TV cameras can be a great comfort. ‘There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling,’ he said with a smile.
Never backward in coming forward, Burrell boasted that he had known Harry, ‘since he was a little bump in his mummy’s tummy. He’s a very good boy. He’s Diana’s son – how could he not be a good boy? But he’s been mesmerised by Meghan… I don’t want to see his heart broken again.’
Burrell prides himself on relaying the inner thoughts of all the most prominent Royals, even if he has not spoken to them for 20 years.
‘Our poor Queen is worried sick about her husband… is he lying in bed taking his last breath? We don’t know.’ It turns out he is convinced that Harry is hurting and that he himself is hurting because Harry is hurting.
‘He’s very uncomfortable with the way things are turning out, I’m sure he is… I’m hurting because of that.’
The more solemn news programmes clearly see the race issue as a godsend, because it lets them talk about the whizzy topic of the Royal Family, but in suitably concerned tones.
‘It was always likely to be bad – but in the end, it was worse,’ fretted Emily Maitlis on Newsnight. Over Zoom from America, she interviewed Professor Wendy Osefo, ‘star of the Real Housewives Of Potomac’.
Sadly, Professor Osefo had just got going on the fairytale wedding – ‘we tuned in only to find out her fairytale was actually a nightmare’ – when the screen froze.
‘Wendy, we’ve lost you,’ said Emily, swiftly turning to another academic, Emma Dabiri, who described as ‘incendiary’ Harry’s vague recollection of someone-or-other asking something-or-other at sometime-or-another ‘what will the kids look like?’
Dabiri went on to demand nothing short of ‘an honest and truthful reckoning with British history’.
It was a bumper week for the clergy, too, everyone eagerly awaiting their take on Meghan’s claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury married the couple in private, three days before the real thing.
The Reverend Green, doubtless standing on the Cluedo board in the lounge with the lead piping, tweeted furiously from St Mary’s, West Malling.
‘You can’t get married twice? If it was a marriage, what on earth are we doing ‘playing’ at prayer/holy matrimony for cameras?’
By now, everyone was busy tweeting away. Spring is here! The mad March hares are leaping.
Amanda Gorman, the knowing young poet who spoke at President Biden’s inauguration, tweeted: ‘Meghan isn’t living a life without pain, but a life without a prison.’ Eh?
For former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, Meghan’s experiences were ‘heartbreaking and disappointing’.
At the start of the week, there was indeed something weirdly biblical about the way Harry and Meghan and a film crew chose to squeeze into a hen-coop
Tennis star Serena Williams upped the ante, and won the Hyperbole Open by tweeting that Meghan is ‘my selfless friend… She teaches me every day what it means to be truly noble’.
When no one famous is available, there are always people in the street to fall back on.
Channel 4 News collared a desultory cross-section of pros and antis loitering within spitting distance of Windsor Castle.
A woman in a white coat talked of wake-up calls and brushing things under the carpet. A woman in a black coat said it was a bit sad, really, and should have been done behind closed doors.
They also asked former Times editor Simon Jenkins what he thought. Over the course of the week, he was one of the few souls honest enough to admit to both ignorance and indifference.
‘I haven’t seen the programme, and my inclination is to say it’s nothing to do with me. I’ve seen two very unhappy young people and I feel very sorry for them.’
A secret law obliged all newscasters to say ‘bombshell’ every few seconds. ‘Well, it officially qualifies as a bombshell interview… the revelations just kept on coming,’ said Tom Bradby on the News at Ten.
Another forgotten figure, Princess Diana’s old stenographer Andrew Morton, solemnly declared: ‘Make no mistake, the fall-out from this will shudder down the generations.’
It was one of those self-generating stories in which even the fall-out has its own fall-out, summoning forth yet more opinions.
At the crack of dawn on Tuesday, Piers Morgan waddled off the Good Morning Britain set, having fallen out with the weatherman over the Meghan issue. ‘You can trash me, mate, but not on my own show. See you later.’
His later dismissal acted as a red-rag to the tweeters – Gary Lineker and Sharon Osbourne were pro-Piers, while John Cleese and Jedward were anti. ‘We’ve turned down multiple appearances on @GMB cuz of that dope! And now the future is JEPIC!’ tweeted Jedward, exultantly.
By the end of the week, it was hard to think of anyone, butcher, baker or candlestick-maker who had not delivered a bullish opinion on matters Royal. Everyone enacted their own caricature.
Hillary Clinton said she found it ‘heart-rending to watch’. Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew’s accuser, said the Royals ‘should all hang their heads in shame’.
Tucker Carlson from Fox News said: ‘He’s weak and unhappy, and she’s a manipulative opportunist.’ Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘Her Majesty is held in enormous affection.’
The acidic Samantha Markle said that her half-sister had a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’. Beyonce thanked Meghan ‘for your courage and leadership. We are all strengthened and inspired by you’.
The singer-songwriter Jamelia called for ‘an overhaul of every single institution that the monarchy are the head of’.
His Imperial Highness Karl von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, called what the Royal couple said, ‘gossip and garbage’. The talk-show host Trisha Goddard called Meghan ‘a huge beam of light’.
And on her YouTube channel, the odd-bod ‘Royal expert’ Lady Colin Campbell broadcast a marathon one hour and 21 minute monologue consisting of 38 points against Meghan, concluding: ‘You are an ingrate and a bare-faced liar.’
In the long run, it might be quicker to list those who said nothing, or who had nothing to say: as I write, Dilyn the Dog has kept his opinions to himself, and so have Bob Dylan, the Dalai Lama and Kim Jong-Un.
Speaking on a personal level, I was binge-viewing all six seasons of the New Jersey mafia series The Sopranos before I was diverted by The Sussexes of California.
I now can’t wait to get back to The Sopranos. I fancy a little peace and quiet.