Today in Roanoke, having presented the new Bishop of Southwestern Virginia with gifts from Bradford, we said goodbye to a group of teenagers who are by now on a flight to London where they will spend a few days before heading north for some real culture in Bradford and the Yorkshire Dales. I warned them that they might just encounter some celebrity fever in the capital as “something is happening in London today”.

Well, it has happened indeed. The baby is born, the continuation of the monarchy is assured, the media have something to feed on for the next eight decades, and a family is rejoicing.

I bet there is some trepidation, too.

Massive congratulations to William and Kate and welcome to the unique and precious person who is the baby. I hope the entire extended family is rejoicing over the inexpressible hope that any new baby brings into the world: hope that this baby will grow up safe and well; hope that this baby will thrive and bring something wonderful to family and society; hope that this baby will not make the same mistakes made by earlier generations.

And there's the rub. The baby is barely six hours old and yet, reading some of the reportage and response, already he is expected to bear a weight of expectation that is inhuman.

How about a moratorium on reporting, snooping and comment for the next few years? How about giving them the space to become a family in peace? Otherwise, the parents won't be able to turn up exhausted for public duties without the lazy commentariat passing judgement on appearance, demeanour and performance. They won't be able to yawn in public or hide the marital rows that come when two wiped out parents are trying to work out how to handle this new person in their life. Even positive comment imposes expectations and encourages game-playing.

I think this is a wonderful event and really good news. But, they are people, not celebrities or Canon fodder (see what I did there?).

And I am clearly the same sort of unrealistic dreamer as John Lennon who “imagine(d) no possessions” while playing a Bechstein grand piano in a vast house on a multi-million pound estate. Why? Because here I am commenting on the birth of the baby whilst calling on everyone else to desist.

Oh dear…

 

Have I missed something?

Here I am in the heart of Virginia in the USA for a week. En route last Thursday I read EL Doctorow's novel The March about the destructive sweep from Georgia through the Carolinas made by General Sherman during the closing months of the American Civil War (or 'the recent unpleasantness', as it is known locally). It is clearly still a very touchy subject – only four generations ago and with people able to speak of conversations with a grandfather who fought.

Further north and the hard memory is of the War of Independence. Blood was shed in order to shed the oppressive burden of English regal imperialism/colonialism. There are places here where it is somewhat uncomfortable to be a Brit.

Yet, having escaped the monarchy and fought for an independent, secular democracy, this country is obsessed with the Duchess of Cambridge's womb. It is amazing.

I have never met the Duchess or her husband. I think they have inherited the mantle of hope that the monarchy might have found a future after all. William has credibility – he got his degree all by himself and has proved himself in the Armed Forces. He works hard and defends his wife. Perhaps, fired by the memories of what happened to his mother, he seems rightly and appropriately wary of exposing her to inappropriate attention. I like them too much (from a distance) to want to see them subject to all that is about to hit them.

So, now the press have been camped for weeks outside the hospital where William and Kate's child is to be born – presumably some time today. Every headline screams in expectation of 'a child is born'. Uninformed and speculative comment, observation and opinion have been pouring out for months on every detail of Kate's pregnancy and her physical condition. And it all smacks of the déjà-vu intrusiveness that we recall with horror from the days of William's mother.

OK, Kate knew that she, her body and her family would be public property. But, the reality will be shockingly different from anything imagined.

Having given birth and given a name to the baby, she and William should be left alone to begin the amazing journey of being parents to a demanding and wonderful baby. They should be given privacy and the hospitality of space and time. The media can't bring up this child – but they can deny themselves out of the sheer humanitarian generosity of allowing this family the best shot at being a family.

I will rejoice with them at the birth of their baby and the shaping of their family. And I will pray for them, that amid all the frenzy of intrusion and opinion and commentary and cameras, they will get some space to enjoy their new life with all the demands and stresses (as well as joys) it will undoubtedly bring.

And I will continue to be amazed at the incredible (literally) obsession of independent Americans with the minutiae of the British royals.

(Oh, and didn't 'we' do well in the Ashes, the Tour de France, Wimbledon and, er… OK, maybe not the golf?)

 

I know I should have better things to think about, but someone pointed me to this great commercial celebration of the up-coming Royal Wedding and I thought it was worth passing on.

Just proves that the detail matters…

A Martian landing in London this week would wonder what he had come to. The most intelligent life in the known universe and we offer a royal engagement and X Factor. Blimey.

I was horrified to see that the announcement of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton set the press free not only to have a bit of a joy-fest (something to fill the pages and the screens for a while – it will now run relentlessly for ever…), but also to do its sneery, bitchy stuff, too. Kate’s appearance and dress sense comes under scrutiny; photos of her in a university fashion show get spread all over the tabloids; Kate’s family get the ‘commoner’ treatment – sneery comments and cartoons about their financial prowess, family business and occasional verbal faux-pas. I hate it.

What gives these people the right to take other people’s lives apart in this way? The uniquely English class system? The desire to see the happy couple go the same way as his parents? Anything goes as long as there are photos, stories, talking points and dramas? I want to rejoice for this happy young couple – but, I feel dread for what they and her family will now be subjected to… all because the nosey public has an insatiable capacity for seeing other people’s lives spread across the kitchen table or the train seat. It is a form of dehumanising voyeurism. I hope William and Kate survive it.

Media people, this isn’t a ‘go’ at you – you’ve got a job to do and this offers rich pickings. But, try to remember their humanity during the feeding frenzy. As for me, I’m not going to watch the television for months…

X Factor is bizarre. It has a terrible attractiveness – as does watching Ann Widdecombe dance. Part of me feels sorry for whoever will win the top prize because the campaign is already running to make sure the Christmas Number One is something else. Last year it was Rage Against the Machine. This year the options are being considered and the Twitterati are active in spreading the word.

I’ve got another suggestion.

I’ve posted on blues musician Tim Hain before. He wondered to me in the pub recently how it was possible for a professional musician playing a Bob Marley classic (at an X Factor audition)to be declined after less than half a minute when some acting dogs got through. Good question, I thought. Anyway, Tim has done a song with some excellent musos – you can download ‘Sorry it’s a no’ here. I have no idea how to get this going virally as a potential alternative for the Christmas charts, but it’s worth a go.

Pass it on and say ‘No’ to Cowell’s clones.