x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

And another thing

The queen and Prince Philp's enduring marriage, heightened airport security, water wastage and memories.

The queen and Prince Philip celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in July this year. They have just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.
The queen and Prince Philip celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in July this year. They have just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.

We are amused

A few days before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived in Abu Dhabi they celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were married on November 20, 1947, and have clocked up 63 years of marriage, a considerable achievement by any standards.

Prince Philip has a very special place in the hearts of the British people, not least for his irascibility and tendency to fire off the occasional direct remark that raises eyebrows. He does not and never has suffered fools gladly and once admitted to the biographer Gyles Brandreth that he knows he is sometimes perceived by the public to be "cantankerous".

He met the young Princess Elizabeth when he was a handsome Royal Navy cadet at Dartmouth, where he was asked to show her and her sister Princess Margaret around the college by his uncle Lord Mountbatten. Philip was 18 and Elizabeth was just 13 years old and according to her former governess Marion Crawford, or "Crawfie", as she was known: "Lilibet never took her eyes off him."

Little has changed in that respect. Royal watchers and biographers always remark on the deep-rooted love and respect they have for each other and the ease with which she defers to him in private and accepts his affectionate teasing.

As Britain's longest-serving consort and the oldest spouse of a reigning monarch, Prince Philip has developed and refined the art of supporting the queen, always there beside her on state visits such as today's, while at the same time developing his own role as patron to environmental, sporting and educational organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund. On Monday, Buckingham Palace announced that on his 90th birthday next year, he will step down as president or patron of more than a dozen organisations, thought to be the first public acknowledgement of his advancing years.

At the last count, that leaves him with just the odd 800 to look after. Not bad for a man about to enter his 10th decade.

Security officers should try a turn at charm school

Hillary Clinton doesn't like it. As she says: "Who would?" but most people will put up with increased security measures at airports because the alternative is unthinkable. We can object as much as we like and even wear T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Don't Touch My Junk" like the young Californian John Tyner, who threatened an official with arrest if a pat-down search became too intimate.

In the end we have to make a choice, do we want to feel safe when we fly or not? I'm never at my best when travelling, but even I have decided to knuckle down and accept the indignities faced at all international airports today. Faced with the option of a full-body scanner or an enhanced pat-down, I'll take the pat-down.

These days I dress accordingly and try to avoid the embarrassment of being ordered to take off my belt, shoes, jacket and overcoat. I've had a few snippy arguments with "jobsworths" over what constitutes a coat, but so far have resisted the temptation to wear a thin, belted Mac over just underwear just to prove a point.

I've stopped wearing belts when taking a flight, or shoes with laces or carrying anything more than one flat make-up palate in my handbag. I rely on duty free testers for a last squirt of my favourite perfume and on soothing music on my iPod to keep me calm.

It used to be that we checked in two hours before travel. Very soon it's going to be three. So, if travellers like me can do their bit to keep the queues moving quickly, then so should the security people. There's no need to treat us like cattle or speak in that bossy manner so many of them have adopted. Maybe a spell at security officer's charm school should be a prerequisite for the job.

My last DEWA bill for the summer months was a whopping Dh6,300 and I nearly fainted at the counter when I learned how much it was. I knew it would be more than usual, as the garden needs more watering in August, but that was ridiculous, so I went straight home to try to work out what was causing it.

Sure enough, the ancient outside water tank had a faulty ball-cock and was overflowing. It also had a crack in the tank itself, which accounted for my unusually high usage.

Since then, I've been checking it every few days and I've also been running around the house as soon as guests leave, turning off heater switches for bathrooms that aren't being used and assiduously monitoring my consumption of both water and electricity.

Now it turns out that a school in Dubai was found to be using the water equivalent of one of the smaller emirates. It's a huge problem in schools, but one that is now being tackled by education authorities with an awareness campaign.

The bottom line is that because the Ministry of Education pays the bills, schools officials don't bother too much about leaking pipes and wasted water.

Clearly, there needs to be a mindset change. May I respectfully suggest that the problem would be solved instantly if DEWA just sent the bills to school heads and it came out of their annual budgets. Receiving a bill like that once is quite enough.

Experiences should not be forgotten

US scientists have been working on a pill that they believe will one day be able to block out painful memories. They have discovered a "window of vulnerability" where proteins are created in the brain as memories are being made and stored.

Those proteins can be removed from the brain's fear centre to wipe out traumatic memories and the boffins hope that their discovery could help soldiers who have witnessed distressing acts of war or people who have been the victims of violence.

The pill could even be used to help people get over painful break-ups.

Admittedly, it's a long way off and so far has only been tested on rats. Frankly, it sounds a bit too sci-fi for me, but the potential is awesome. It got me thinking of memories I would like to expunge, like the death of my much-loved cairn terrior Macgregor when I was 10 or failing my O-level chemistry. Then there was the broken heart after I discovered my boyfriend had two-timed me, and a nasty scuba-diving experience that put me off the sport for life.

But would I really want to have missed those experiences? Actually no, except perhaps my dog running under the wheels of my father's car. Just think, I might have married the cheating love-rat and never met my lovely husband.

I was upset about the failed exam at the time, but I always hated chemistry. The small explosion in the lab didn't do all that much damage either, and it certainly gave me a healthy respect for chemical compounds.

The fright I received diving in murky Irish waters and not knowing which way was up probably saved my life because I know I would have faced something worse at a later stage and would undoubtedly have panicked.

A little fear is good and experiences, however painful, make us what we are.

Planning a wedding is fraught as any mother of the bride will tell you, except me perhaps. I'm taking the easy route and just agreeing to everything my daughter wants to do.

A royal wedding is no different and word is that Prince William has put a four-strong team of aides on the case and is keeping senior members of the royal household in the dark over arrangements which is causing a little frisson of frustration in certain circles.

The Prince put down his markers earlier this year in an interview with the Mail on Sunday's Live magazine when he said he liked to disagree with advisers 'because many of the things they come up with are very old-fashioned and don't work nowadays or are just wrong.'

Although he wasn't specifically talking about wedding arrangements, it's clear that he believes he is more closely in touch with what young people think and how they like to do things and that really rang a bell with me. My daughter is not having a church wedding, like we did so there will be no hymns and it will be a civil rather than a religious service with a blessing from a vicar as well when she marries in April.

It most definitely won't be a case of 'the way we were', there will be no Smythsons invitations on stiff white card with embossed script, no people invited that we haven't seen for years and certainly none that she doesn't know well and no children, all measures of which I thoroughly approve.

I'm not so sure about having Dolly Parton singing 'I'm just sitting here lovin' you' while she signs the register but hey, if that's what she wants, I'll probably be singing along with the CD.

Like most couples planning weddings next year the Prince is conscious of the cost and is determined not to make it as lavish an event as his parents' wedding. On the day it will no doubt run as smoothly as clockwork but if right royal hiccups are to be avoided the older generation should just sit back and go with the flow.

That reminds me, I must learn the words of that song.