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A Royal Bunny Hugger15 June 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
‘Would you consider yourself a green?’ Fiona Bruce asked in an interview to celebrate Prince Philip’s ninetieth birthday. Prince Philip’s mouth resembled that of Kermit the Frog before he answered, ‘There’s a difference between being concerned for the conservation of nature and being a bunny hugger.’
Even as a youngster I wasn’t a bunny hugger. In the first place, we didn’t have any pets. ‘If we’re getting a dog, I’m going,’ my father said.
Well, we had a goldfish. When it finally died my father flushed it down the ground floor toilet. Even though the film Jaws hadn’t yet been produced, for the next few weeks I used the upstairs loo.
Maybe Prince Philip associated bunny hugging with Princess Diana. The only prize she won at school was for ‘Best Kept Hamster’.
The trouble starts in primary school. They teach you that all animals are cuddly, but not all animals are nice: this is called nature. Maybe deep inside I am like Prince Philip.
Prince Philip grew quite petulant in response to all the obvious questions. At one point he even told the interviewer, ‘It was a profession, which you’d understand if you ever had one.’
To a Scottish driving instructor he once said: ‘How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?’
My father belonged to Prince Philip’s generation and he, too, had a lonely youth.
On shopping trips, whenever my father was handed a plastic bag which advertised the shop he would ask the shop assistant to turn it inside out, ‘If I start carrying your ads around, you’ll have to pay me.’ At such a moment, when you are a child, you want the ground to swallow you up.
During my sister’s entrance examination at the conservatory he asked the porter about the best location for a plaque if she were to become famous. The porter took it seriously and they inspected various locations.
Always saying it straight is a similarity between my father and Prince Philip. There could well be another one: never talking about people behind their backs, rather say it straight to their faces.
Well, apart from when we passed some German ladies of a certain age, on which occasion my father murmured, ‘Blitzmädel.’ For years I wondered what on earth was meant by Blitzmädel. They turned out to be women who had served in the German Army, whereas his own family had been in the resistance.
I do sometimes say terrible things about people. I can’t help it. What about you? I think after many a birthday party a short evaluation takes place in the car on the way home. ‘Uncle Pete really ought to drop dead!’ But it isn’t publicised.
My father never uttered that kind of thing behind people’s backs. As if he wanted to say: you should never lower yourself to their level. The older I get, the more remarkable this seems.
When driving with him as a child you were allowed to instruct him for the next hour where to turn left or right. He always wanted someone to go with him to the supermarket. ‘It’s not quite the same on my own,’ he would say.
At Princess Diana’s funeral, three men and two boys followed the coffin. Under the gate at Horse Guards Parade, almost out of view of the cameras, Prince Philip briefly put his hand on Prince William’s shoulder.
Now that is also something my father would do. He couldn’t pass my mother without giving her a cuddle. He wanted to protect us for ever, but he died thirteen years ago.
I am now stuck with this picture of Prince Philip: the Queen is walking through the corridors of Windsor Castle, she comes across Prince Philip and all of a sudden he gives her a big kiss. Maybe he is a Royal bunny hugger after all and the Queen is the bunny.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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