Wednesday 15 August 2018

Porkers, porridge and town criers

Crying his heart out: Town crier Tony Appleton announcing the royal birth this week
Crying his heart out: Town crier Tony Appleton announcing the royal birth this week
Cillian Murphy (Aaron Chown/PA)
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

By any standards it was a motley crew that gathered outside the Lindo Wing at London's Saint Mary's hospital for the Royal Arrival.

Two middle-aged men in plastic Union Jack hats held automated dolls in the air, and proudly told news crews they'd be in situ for a fortnight.

Elderly royalists in deckchairs ate complimentary bowls of porridge, while bookmakers tried to get stragglers to place a few bets.

And then there was Sky News' Kay Burley who screamed "another porker!!" when she heard the 8lb 7oz birthweight.

In the following days, a great deal was written about the birth, and much of that was polarised in two different viewpoints.

But both focused on Kate Middleton's polished appearance on the steps. Depending on who you are talking to, she either looked an image of beatific beauty, or was far too made-up.

In fairness, what was anyone expecting? Her job, after all, is to look like a princess. She's never going to emerge from hospital in a gaping hospital gown, hair piled into a hun bun.

But for me, the real star of the show was one Tony Appleton - Britain's unofficial town crier.

With his trusty bell in hand, Appleton announced the glad tidings with a booming, "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!"

I've spotted Tony on the TV before, but it was his face's intense shade of puce that caught my attention this time around.

I don't think we have any town criers in Ireland.

So, this week I rang Tony to find out how you get into the crier game. If this whole journalism malarkey hits the skids, I'll need something to fall back on.

The Essex-based octogenarian really knows his stuff. I suppose he should - he's been town crying for 30 years.

If you want to make it as a town crier, you need to have smarts and stamina. Every day, Tony swims 80 lengths before hopping on an exercise bike, and doing some sit-ups.

"I then shout into a mirror for 30 minutes straight for practice," he tells me, before mentioning that his partner Prunella lives in a separate house down the street. Wise woman.

Appleton served in the British Royal Navy, and has worked as a care-home proprietor, a carpet salesman and a toastmaster.

Thirty years ago, he bought the title of Lord of the Manor of Great Baddow - the parish where he grew up - for £10,000. From there it was a hop, skip and a jump to becoming town crier.

"One day I was in the parish and a little boy said to me: 'You sound like a town crier.' So that's where it started."

Being a town crier is an expensive business - the rig-out costs €5,000, and weighs a tonne.

"I have different hats for different weather," Tony explains.

"The one I wore to the Lindo is made by Patey - the same people who are making Prince Harry's wedding hat."

(Accidental Royal Wedding Exclusive - Harry is wearing a hat!!!)

Tony's next engagement will of course be in Windsor for Meghan and Hazza's Big Day. He's already been down to get a lay of the land.

"Course I'm excited about it! They're a lovely couple, ain't they?" he says. "I know she's a divorcee, but this is the 21st century."

Listening to how much it costs, and all the shouting involved, I don't think I'm up to town crying.

Plus, as we don't have a royal family, the potential events I could show up at are much more limited.

I reckon I'd mostly be standing around Áras an Uachtaráin or Leinster House roaring at the pigeons. And lord knows, there are more than enough people doing that already.

But I do hope they make Tony's title official. "I'm fed up of people calling me a fake town crier," he says. "It would mean a lot if it became official." After 30 years crying his heart out, I think he's put in the spadework. 

Crazy Little Thing called Macrump

Excuse me if I seem a little distracted but I have been completely transfixed by Le Bromance.

Trump and Macron, aka Macrump, have become the world’s new celebrity power couple. This week, French President Macron touched down in Washington, and immediately went into overdrive. He bombarded Trump — a man who hates being touched — with non-stop PPDAs (Political Public Displays of Affection).

Like all good love stories it all started with a kiss; in the White House East Room, where the two men embraced warmly and puckered up.

Afterwards, Trump turned to the press and confided: “I like him a lot.”

Later, in the Oval Office, Trump dusted dandruff from Macron’s shoulder. “We have a very special relationship, in fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off. We have to make him perfect,” he told reporters, before adding, “He is perfect.”

At this point, it’s worthwhile comparing this meeting to Trump’s encounter with Leo Varadkar on Patrick’s Day. Leo was keen to tell The Donald all about going to SXSW festival.

“I started off in Texas...” he began before Trump randomly interrupted saying; “Yes, great guy”. Leo tried to gather himself but Trump continued: “Great story.”

This did not happen with Macron. The two world leaders held hands, and gave each other back rubs and bro hugs. They (definitely) discussed Iran, and (probably) talked about Macron's €26,000 bi-annual foundation bill.

It’s a departure from Trump’s preferred PPDA — the super macho pumped up handshake.

You could say Macron disarmed him. According to Anne Fulda, author of Macron: Such a Perfect Young Man, this is because Emmanuel is an “asexual Don Juan... in whose eyes seduction is not linked to sexuality... but narcissistic reassurance”.

Admittedly, the tactics seem to have paid off politically. But it still felt very odd. In fact, Macrump’s love-in would have been the most surreal PPDA of the week — had Kelly Brook and Nigel Farage not emerged on the horizon.

Brook stunned Loose Women viewers when she interrupted an interview to blow a raspberry on Farage’s belly.

Okay, so those two may not be on the same international standing as Le Big Macrump, but they knocked it out of the ball park in terms of OTT PPDAs.

It’s hard to shock TV viewers, (let’s not forget Sex Box was commissioned as a TV series), and it’s even harder to upstage Trump, so props to Brook and Farage for doing both.


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