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Fawning tabloids proclaim Wills as their action hero.

Byline: DanO'Neill

WE had one in our class. Bet you did, too. You know who I mean - always first with his hand up bleating "Miss, please Miss, me Miss", while the rest of us dreamed of shoving his head down the toilet during playtime. He could do no wrong. He was Teacher's Pet.

I wonder if his messmates at RAF Valley in Anglesey feel the same about Prince William as we did about our little classmate. Couldn't blame 'em if they did, could you? They must get fed up with breathless tales about the super hero sharing their duties even though he himself might not relish his role as Tabloids' Pet.

Wills was just one cog in the machine when the cargo ship Swanland sank off the North Wales coast last week. He was the co-pilot of a Sea King helicopter looking for survivors. Note that, co-pilot or assistant pilot, not the actual bloke doing the flying. Yet from the headlines you'd think he'd plunged into a raging sea to haul two Russian sailors to safety, climbing back up with them clinging to his legs.

"WILLS TO THE RESCUE," trumpeted one tabloid. "William Rescues Two Sailors," announced another in rather less frenzied mode.

The name of the pilot was not mentioned. Wonder how he felt when he saw those headlines. Just as I wondered a couple of years ago what his shipmates felt when the red tops went ballistic over "Wills pounds 40m Drugs Bust". Blimey, I thought at the time, not another royal scandal. But no, the ship on which our hero was serving a sort of naval apprenticeship intercepted cocaine smugglers in the Caribbean and Wills was part of the operation that located them.

But the image offered was of the princely young pirate-basher swarming down a rope from his hovering helicopter, cutlass clenched atween teeth (atween: pirate speak, Jim lad) bellowing "Avast, ye black-hearted lubbers", before sending their boat to the bottom. Yes, I know it's hard to bellow with a cutlass clenched atween yer teeth but don't let the facts get in the way of a I over tabloid story. Especially a royal story.

Wills Again, no names except that of the ship's captain, so enthusiastically effusive in his praise of the prince he did his chances of some future title no harm.

A year ago a huge headline announced "WILLS SAVED MY LIFE". This after "the hero prince" (I quote) co-piloted a helicopter to snatch "heart attack victim Greg Watkins" from halfway up Mount Snowdon. Yep, that was Greg's response according to the red tops: Wills saved my life. What about the other bloke Greg? The one doing the driving? Did he just sit there looking out the window? Years ago my favourite comics were crammed with characters like flying ace Rockfist Rogan who single-handedly shot down half the Luftwaffe. Or theWolf of Kabul who, aided only by his native sidekick, cleaned up the Khyber Pass without any help from the Army. Or with Morgyn the Mighty who, again single-handedly, wiped out thousands of slave traders.

I reckon the tabloids have taken over from those comic books, manufacturing their own heroes, with Wills currently the most heroic.

Well, it seems that the lad himself is doing a decent and at times perhaps dangerous job - like thousands of others in our Armed Forces (when we can find arms for them). But these tabloid tales, outrageously exaggerating his role while blithely ignoring the part played by the rest of the team, do him no favours. In fact, I'll bet he feels embarrassed when he joins his mates for a pint in the mess.

And I hope there's a great deal of mickey-taking when he does.

Next year: "Harry Hammers Taliban"; "Wills Sees Orf Somali Pirates".

AH well, one person can't stop telling herself how lucky she is to have a pipeline to the prince.

Pippa Middleton, she of the pert posterior whose only other claim to fame is that she's Wills' new sister-in-law, has just signed a book deal. It's reported that she'll cop pounds 400,000 for knocking out this tome which tells you, I kid you not, how to become "the perfect party hostess".

So no more doubts about which vintage wine to serve at the knees-up in the church hall on Auntie Blodwen's next birthday. No more hesitating over which colour breeches the butler should wear when the in-laws pop in. Which spoon to scoop up the caviar? Pippa will tell you.

Blimey, the housewives of Grangetown and Splott have been waiting years for something like this. But how many of us can afford a party these days? Usual suspects like bankers, CEOs, politicians and WAGs excepted, of course.

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* Prince William's messmates must get fed up with the Tabloids' Pet
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 30, 2011
Words:798
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