Since the posting of last week’s Baker Street column, in which I pointed out that the English are the worst bunch of people on the planet and that William Shakespeare wore clown shoes, I have been inundated with hate mail and threats from across the Atlantic. While it’s true I said England has contributed nothing of value to humankind other than some good pop music, can’t the English be happy that I said they have some good pop music?
I’ve been called a git, a wanker, a prat, a nancy, a wally, a tosser, a twat, and a knob by my parents since I was born, which has made me overly sensitive to criticism. Fortunately, the English are noted for being polite, so their hate mail usually starts with a compliment like, “I say, chap, bloody good show giving us what-for last week,” before moving on to point out the inadequacies in my story.
For example, I apparently neglected to give credit to England for producing some noteworthy film actors over the years. Sir Laurence Olivier was mentioned, as was Sir Ralph Richardson. Dame Judi Dench. Sir Mick Jagger, for his role in Freejack (1992). Dame Kate Beckinsale, whom I just knighted myself so we can pretty up the images around here.
Speaking of girls from England called Kate, Ms. Middleton seems to have won approval from my female friends (which are legion, as you suspected). They’re particularly happy she’s not blonde or exceptionally pretty. It makes them feel as if they’ve got a shot at Harry when it’s his turn. Because Harry is sure to pluck a random American girl from an office building in New Jersey to fulfill his destiny of also finding someone not blonde or particularly pretty.
If I’m Prince William and had the pick of the litter, I don’t think Kate Middleton would be it. She looks exceptionally competent as a house manager, ordering servants around and achieving perfection of efficiency. If a sex scandal happens, you can be sure it won’t be her doing. But she doesn’t exactly stir the soul either, does she? She’s the boring-but-nice girlfriend who breaks up with the slacker boyfriend at the beginning of a trendy novel, sending him on a journey of self-discovery yada yada, never to be heard from again.
Here’s the test: If the Internet said “Shocker: Nude pics of Kate Middleton discovered!” would you click on it? I’m sure she looks lovely in the buff and all, but who cares?
Prince William could have taken the other Kate, Beckinsale, especially since I made her royalty just moments ago. Still, I’d keep looking. Kate B is too perfect and probably spends 6 hours a day in the gym to stay that way. I recently lost a push-up contest to a woman (it was actually a tie, but I know for a fact she threw it to avoid shaming me), so I certainly don’t want a wife who can do that plus beat me at arm wrestling.
When I was a wee lad 25 years ago, I would have said, “Jenny Agutter” (we’re still pretending I’m Prince William picking an English bride. Try to keep up), but she’s like someone’s mum now. As William’s advisor, I’d have directed him toward Lily Cole, mostly so I could get closer to her. Then, when he turns out to be a bore, she ends up falling for the charming regular guy (me) she didn’t notice at first. I admit she resembles an alien a bit, but a pretty one that’s weird and dangerous, not too famous, and far more interesting to look at than Kate Middleton.
But since William is going with stick-in-the-mud Kate, Lily Cole is still available. Not having been knighted, I’m not sure how I’d get her attention. The closest I’ve ever come to a KBE is The Smelly Guy.
The Smelly Guy used to visit my music shop in the 90’s (back when I lived in a Nick Hornby book), selling us buttons, key chains, patches, pins, and other trinkets featuring the faces of UK artists like Sade and Annie Lennox, which we then sold to our customers. Apparently he’d collect similar junk with U.S. artists’ faces and haul it back to England in the reverse process. His stuff sold like nuts, because where else in New Jersey could nerdy collectors find a Julian Cope jacket patch?
I knew The Smelly Guy for years, never learned his name, and wondered why everyone called him “The Smelly Guy.” They said he smelled bad, but I never noticed. Perhaps my olfactory sense is weak.
I finally had something to say to him besides, “Gimme three of the Simply Red stickers, five of the XTC earrings, one of those Dave Stewart necklaces,” when I discovered my English grandmother’s great uncle was Lord Somebody-or-other from somewhere that ends in “shire.” The kind of downtrodden lord from an Agatha Christie book, it turns out, who lives in a ramshackle cottage on the estate his family used to own but now belongs to a wealthy businessman who was bludgeoned to death only last night, under the very same roof as Captain Hastings!
So I said to The Smelly Guy, “Guess what. I found out my uncle was a British lord. Probably a courtier to Queen Victoria.”
“That’s lucky,” he said. “I’ve got a great uncle from back a ways, Sir Thomas More.”
Goddamn it. Even The Smelly Guy, a guy who makes his living hauling duffle bags full of pop music novelties back and forth across the Atlantic, has a knight in the family? The Smelly Guy has a better shot of impressing Lily Cole than I do?
You know, we Americans don’t have a Queen who can poke a sword at every Tom, Dick, and Harry who walks in the room and declare, “You’re a knight. And so are you. And you.” Am I supposed to be impressed with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Michael Caine? Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Maggie Smith? Who’s next? Sir Robert Pattinson? Sir Lemmy from Motorhead?
All those actors can be easily replaced by red-blooded American star Samuel L. Jackson, a real workhorse and no doubt worthy of knighthood, were he not a total badass who eats knights for breakfast. Would he be caught dead letting some 97-year-old queen teeter over him with a deadly weapon in her arthritic hand, wobbling like a precarious stack of cups and saucers, ready to fall forward at any moment and slice off his left ear? No. He’d wither her with his glare of death, say “mother fucker” a couple of times, and that would be the end of the British Empire.
We can only hope that a wise and benevolent Prince William rebuilds the nation (after beheading his dad) in a sensible fashion, putting a stop to all this senseless knighting.
And while we’re at it, I’m putting in an early request that he command Bowie to do one more tour, since I missed him in ‘07. I’ve said all along that British pop music is second to none.