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Winding up the Palace? It's child's play for Fergie; BUT THEY'RE STILL JUST CHUMS.

CONFUSED about what's going on between Andrew and Fergie?

Well, you're in good company. So are millions of others as the Buckingham Palace switchboard found out to their cost yesterday by receiving numerous phone calls after The Mirror published those astonishing pictures of the Yorks gallivanting in Verbier, Switzerland.

I suppose it's possible that the naughty Duchess "posed up" with her ex to wind up the Palace courtiers whom she refers to as "the bastards".

But that wouldn't be the whole story by any means.

It's true that Fergie gets great pleasure out of the "men in grey suits" squirming at any thought that she could be getting back together with Andrew on a permanent basis.

But its equally accurate to say that her relationship with the Prince is good, and that the two are prepared to stand alongside one another because this makes their children very happy.

Beatrice, nine, and Eugenie, eight next month - like any other kids with divorced parents - want Mummy and Papa to be together and, as the pictures showed they are.

Whether Fergie really needed to run her fingers through Andrew's hair (at least he is a Prince who's got some) is open to question.

Maybe this was another wind-up, this time of Aurelia Cecil, Andy's new fancy. I had dinner on Thursday with a friend of Aurelia who told me that the relationship with the Prince was "hot and getting heavier by the minute". Despite her dreadful behaviour during marriage Fergie wouldn't be human if she didn't feel jealous.

And while she says she wants Andrew to have new girlfriends I'm not convinced she truly means this.

To sum up, I can confirm that the two will NOT be getting back together as man and wife, but will continue to remain the "bestest of friends" as Fergie irritatingly puts it.

I've often debated whether Andrew behaved like a complete wimp as his wife made a fool of him or whether he was kind and gentlemanly. I prefer to believe the latter and hope that the Prince's new red-haired Aurelia brings him happiness - and that she doesn't have to put up with too much nonsense from the Duchess.

Group therapy

ON Monday I broke all my self-imposed guidelines and, for the second time in a few days, entered a public house.

An hour-and-a-half later I came out with a grin like a Cheshire cat.

I had been listening to a new, exciting and extremely talented band called Equation.

The group is headed by Devon-based brothers Sean and Seth Lakeman, sons of my colleague Geoffrey, and a singer, Kathryn Roberts, who looks and sounds like an angel.

The evening was sheer, unadulterated pleasure, despite the ghastly surroundings.

Equation's debut album Hazy Daze is now out. Do buy it, but, better still,see them live.

Talent with promise..

JUST before my appearance this week on the Richard and Judy This Morning show, I was delighted to meet Ruthie Henshall and her fiance John Gordon Sinclair.

We were in make-up together and I noted enviously that svelte singer and dancer Ruthie doesn't have an ounce of fat on her.

"So when are you two getting married?" I asked, in a desperate attempt to wrong-foot them on something.

"Not yet," said Ruthie. "We're really happy as we are. And early next year I'm off to Broadway with Chicago to play there for the first time."

She went on: "But we will marry, I promise. We'd love to have children."

Well, that's all right then.

I'VE SEEN two good films in recent days. Mrs Brown, a movie that I really should have seen some time ago, and Titantic.

Fresh from seeing Dame Judi Dench in the play Amy's View, I was intrigued to see how she would portray Queen Victoria in the years she became a recluse until her ghillie, John Brown, coaxed her back into the real world. The answer is: extremely well.

As for Titanic - it is a masterful, moving film and it's hard not to weep. It may not always be historically accurate but does this matter?

Princely sum for a meal..

WITH intrigue, I drove into Oxfordshire to have lunch at The Goose in the curiously-named village of Britwell Salome.

Normally, if I go to this neck of the wood, I'm heading for the splendid but hugely over-priced Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons owned by Raymond Blanc.

On this occasion I was having lunch at a far more humble establishment - in fact, in a pub.

Normally, I avoid pubs. The glasses are never cleaned and polished as I like, while standing at the bar being knocked about by drinkers is one of my ideas of hell.

But this pub is different. It's owned by a likeable chap called Chris Barber, who until recently was the chef to Prince Charles.

I never associate any of the modern royals with knowing anything at all about food, even less with appreciating it, so preparing grub for them must be soul-destroying.

I was interested to know what Chris and his charming wife, Kate, would serve me.

Having been placed at a table that was indescribably uncomfortable (they must be looking for a quick turnover), I ordered fresh crab and beef from a short, but adequate, menu.

I finished off with bread and butter pudding, Prince Charles' favourite.

The starter and main course were okay, but the pud was cold and stodgy. However, memories of school dinners are always good for me.

My wife had two "starters", we drank a delicious, beautifully-kept bottle of claret and the bill, at pounds 65.45 (without tip), was far too much. West End or Chelsea prices without the overheads.

I had an interesting confrontation during the meal. A crew from Central Television started filming without asking permission.

I objected (can you imagine!) not on the grounds of intrusion but because of the lack of manners. There was no problem if they had just asked.

Apologies from the former royal chef were profuse. I think Camilla PB would be safe here.

Boning up

WHAT a splendid Sunday lunch last weekend. My naughty, but favourite, butcher produced yet another delicious wing-rib of beef - on the bone, of course. All my family and guests enjoyed every mouthful except my daughter- in-law, Katie, who is a vegetarian.

Dear James

THE time has come to consider introducing an intelligence test on those who read my column.

This feeling is prompted by, among others, E Rummer from Fleetwood, Lancashire. I have no problem being described as a self-opinionated prig, but she really must pay more attention.

I have NEVER spent pounds 140 on a bottle of wine. I'm not against the idea - it's just that I never have.

She also points out that she and her husband have to live on this sum each week. Don't most pensioners often live on rather less?

We've all been poor at times. Even me.

Meanwhile, more fan mail ...

Dear Mr Whitaker,

YOU come across as a very arrogant and conceited person and your condescending attitude amazes me.

You relish the fact that you can go off on two holidays abroad so soon after Christmas.

You may be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle, but there is no need to rub our noses in it.

Mrs T Mason Tyne and Wear

Dear Mr Whitaker,

YOU are an obnoxious, toadying snob. You are also a parasite who has made a living from poor Princess Diana and are still doing it now she is dead.

Mrs H Arundel Pontefract, W Yorks
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Whitaker, James
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 1998
Previous Article:All mums deserve a MEDAL.

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