Bob Monkhouse used to tell a story about how an evangelical clergymen came and sat in the audience of his 1970s game show the Golden Shot. The game show involved contestants shooting at a target with (if I remember correctly) a model crossbow, and the clergyman thought that anything involving firing weapons, even in fun, was inappropriate for a Sunday night. Naturally, on that particular night, something went wrong, and the toy arrow was fired into the audience. “And guess who it hit?”
That, said Monkhouse, was when I realised that God writes better jokes than I ever could.
In the last years of the last millennium, the British newspapers, even the serious ones, were interested in nothing apart from Princess Diana, estranged wife of our beloved heir to the throne. There were all kinds of rumours that she was going to run away to America and marry the son of a millionaire businessman called Doddi. She had even remarked in an interview that in the next week or two she would do something which would surprise everybody. And I am afraid that was the first thing I thought when the news came through from Paris. (I heard it the next morning: I couldn’t work out why Radio 4 was suddenly talking about whether the Queen was going to attend Sunday morning service at Balmoral or not.) I wonder whether this is why so many people still believe in conspiracy theories. As an event it was both sensational and surprising, but also too narratively neat: both characters killed off while being pestered by the very newspapermen who had been their nemesis for so long. You wouldn’t quite believe it if you had read it in a Jeffery Archer novel.
It may have been Billy Graham who said “It isn’t that truth is stranger than fiction; it’s just that we are less familiar with it.”
So, anyway. I wish the Prime Minister a very speedy and complete recovery.
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