Arise Sir Phil! (Cobber) by Trevor Plumbly
Idi Amin did. Robert Mugabe still does. But Nelson Mandela didn’t. Neither, oddly enough, did Adolph Hitler. Flaunt it, I mean. There’s got to be a university paper out there somewhere explaining why some people feel the need to emphasise their station in life by adopting titles and festooning themselves with shiny baubles and the like. Is it, I wonder, to dazzle the peasants? Or, more likely, to reassure the wearer that they stand above ordinary mortals? I don’t have any problems with the run of the mill awards for military or public service, although I find Queen’s Honours being bestowed for services to Commerce, the Royal Horses and even Cookery a bit hard to be impressed by. Years ago, such honours were more confined to conspicuous acts and distinguished or long service, but since the 1950s they’ve been doling them out like lollies at a kids’ party. A few games in the front row can get you a gong, right alongside the odd stable-hand and someone who can knock up a decent omelette.
Thank You But No!
That’s going to be my response when the Palace comes to its senses and recognises my extensive contribution to ‘Britishness’ in both hemispheres. It’s not that I feel there are more deserving recipients out there; I just reckon that the game’s got a bit too crowded to be important to me anymore. In days of old, the gallant knight mounted his charger and rode off to do all sorts of nifty things like slaying enemies of the crown and rescuing damsels from a dodgy fate; these days, he’s more likely to be a homophobic, ageing pop star, more concerned with medication than maidens.
What caused this about face in my attitude was the news that Australia’s PM, Tony Abbott, is about to bestow a knighthood on Prince Philip. It’s hard to think of anything more un-Australian, really. Maybe Tony is so short of friends in his own country that he needs to buy a couple in England. Don’t get me wrong, Phil’s not a bad old geezer, but certainly no intellectual powerhouse and, in terms of contributing to Australia’s international profile, he ranks somewhat below Ned Kelly. If that’s not enough, the old boy’s got more medals than he knows what to do with, so it’d be bloody hard to find room on his body to pin another one. The concept of cuddling up to royalty for advancement, or even survival, has been around since they invented crowns. We in New Zealand aren’t above doing a bit of it: our own prime minister recently invested Prince Phil as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In return for that, he was assured of a warm welcome from Phil’s missus at the Palace (and, perhaps, a gong down the track?). So a bit of pocket-peeing doesn’t really hurt, but I do think someone in Oz should explain to Tony Abbott the difference between a spot of subtle back-scratching and blatant arse licking.