‘Megbot’ army linked to Russian conspiracy theories tweeting ‘obsessive’ support for Duchess, says report

Suspicious “bot-like” Twitter accounts and handles linked to Russian conspiracy theories have been “obsessively” tweeting about the Duchess of Sussex, an investigation has found. Analysis of accounts interconnected into a “Meghan Markle” Twitter community found around 1,000 “highly-connected” accounts which have tweeted more than two and half million times since September. One account with the second highest number of pro-Meghan followers, which also tweets about US politics from a pro-Democratic perspec-tive, appears to indicate “bot-like activity” while the fourth most shared account frequently tweets from Russia Today and has questioned Sergei Skripal’s near-fatal Novichok poisoning. The research by 89up, the consultancy firm which carried out an analysis of Facebook data for a DCMS select committee report, published last month, found an “unusually high reach” for the narrow interconnected group of Meghan fans. It comes as Meghan joined a panel of female leaders for International Women’s Day on Friday, saying men should embrace the idea they can be both masculine and feminist, declaring: “Hashtags are not enough” to bring about real change. Insisting men must not feel threatened by women walking alongside them as equals, she joked about feeling the “embryonic kicking of feminism” from inside her growing baby bump and said making men including her husband Prince Harry a part of the conversation was the only way to make progress.

Having been announced earlier as the new vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, the duchess spoke at length about the challenges facing women in developing countries and, when asked about extra hurdles faced by women of colour, acknowledged there could be “an added layer of race [or] social demographic” in their treatment. Last week, Kensington Palace published rules for followers of its social media channels on Monday, warning that anyone who posts offensive comments will be blocked or reported to the police in the wake of escalating abuse of both Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge. On Friday, research by Hope Not Hate and CNN revealed that out of 5,200 abusive tweets directed at Meghan in January and February, 3,600 came from the same small cohort of trolls. Now a new report suggests a similar degree of collusion between some of the duchess’s most “obsessive” champions.

89up, which has previously worked for the pro-Remain Best for Britain group, found a network of 1,103 “highly-connected” Twitter accounts had tweeted 2,555,070 times in the past six months with a potential reach of one billion Twitter impressions.  “This is an unusually high reach for a narrow interconnected group,” said the report by 89up, which used the search terms like “Duchess of Sussex” and #MeghanMarkle” to locate the tweets. While very few of the larger of the Twitter accounts in this community were found to be entirely automated, “many have unusual features, suggesting there could be collusion or automation behind some of the accounts,” said the report. It also found evidence of “coordinated attacks” on royal correspondents who have written negative stories about Meghan, with one journalist targeted with over 7,000 posts. Josh Feldberg, Director of Digital at 89up said: “There is highly suspicious activity on Twitter around search terms linked to the Duchess of Sussex. It is unclear the extent to which this content is automated, but the prevalence of strange Twitter usernames and the overlap between accounts that tweet primarily about politics but also tweet extensively about the duchess, could point to an orchestrated campaign to manipulate public opinion by an organisation or state.

Image result for twitter logo“It is not impossible that there is just a fanatical community of people online who are tweeting all day content about the duchess, but the scale of the community and the amount of content they are sharing should make us suspicious.” 89up undertook an analysis of the network of accounts interconnected into a “Meghan Markle” Twitter community using prominent accounts including ‘PositivelyMegh1′, DuchessOnDuty’ and ‘Sussex__Archive’. The Twitter Image result for twitter logoaccount that has tweeted the most about the Duchess is tvfan00 which has tweeted over 80,000 times in the 3 years since it was set up. The account with the second highest number of followers linked to PositivelyMegh1 is jaydoll51, which also tweets about left wing US politics and predominantly Image result for twitter logo other accounts (an indicator of ‘bot like activity’, according to the report). This account is linked by a follower relationship to other accounts with ‘bot-like characteristics’ that retweet content about Markle consistently. The fourth most shared account tweeting positive posts about the duchess, Lewisno1fan, posted no fewer than 1,596 tweets about Meghan in the last year. In recent weeks, the account has been downplaying the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party, defending suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson, as well as sharing tweets from Russia Today and Skripal conspiracy theories.

March 29 approaches…

Leaked memo reveals ministers warned of Brexit plot to keep UK in permanent customs union with EU

Ministers have been warned that MPs supporting an amendment to delay Brexit could “politicise the monarchy” and lead to a “full blown constitutional crisis” causing the Government to “lose its ability to govern” according to leaked documents seen by the Telegraph. The explosive memo advising the cabinet as Theresa May battles to win Tuesday’s second meaningful vote – warns that supporting any amendment re-tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tories Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles could pave the way for a bill to change the day of our EU exit and bind the Government into a permanent customs union. It comes as at least five Cabinet ministers are poised to vote to block no deal next week if Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement is rejected, prompting the Prime Minister to consider offering Tory MPs a free vote on the matter to avoid a mass resignation. Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and Matt Hancock are all expected to rebel against the Government. If Mrs May’s deal is voted down and there is no support for leaving the EU without a deal in parliament, MPs will then given the option to vote to delay Brexit. Warning that a passed amendment on a vote to delay Brexit would be turned into a bill that would be “fast tracked” into both Houses, the memo states: “Once passed, the Government would have no option but to advise the Queen to give Royal Assent. The Government would have no control of the Chamber. It would have lost its ability to govern. A cross-party majority in the House would effectively have seized control of Brexit policy and would be directing legally binding outcomes.” The advice comes after sources are understood to have told Number 10 that those rewording the amendment are now seeking to not only delay Brexit but “direct” it by imposing requirements on the Government in relation how to use the extension period. The advice predicts that the amendment will call for a legally binding Commons vote on any new negotiating mandate, which it predicts will “likely lead to a Commons majority being expressed for a permanent customs union, which Government would have no choice but to then implement.” The memo warns: “We can expect a legally binding imposition by the House on Government to ensure at the very least: Extension of Article 50, a cross-party negotiating mandate (which we assume will lead to a permanent customs union) and possibly a requirement to legislate for a second referendum”. It suggests the largely remain-backing Lords would expedite any legislation to ensure its passage in the next fortnight, potentially giving rise to the Queen having to give royal assent to a “soft” Brexit bill days before March 29. It adds: “The monarchy categorically cannot be politicised in an attempt to thwart the majority view of the two Houses – any attempt to do so would lead to a full blown constitutional crisis”.


Duchess of Sussex makes surprise appearance at Prince Harry’s speech to students

The Duke of Sussex has urged the “greatest generation” of young people not to feel frustrated with their elders who seem “like they don’t care”, as he brings his wife onstage for a “surprise” appearance in front of screaming fans. The Duke told youngsters at the annual WE Day conference they were the “most engaged generation in history”, as he quoted the Duchess’ favourite mantra from Martin Luther King. After delivering the speech, he told an audience of thousands that he would “try and drag” his wife on stage, before the couple stood with their arms around each other and told them: “Guys, I am with you. We are with you. Get to work.” In an address based on tackling two “absolutely crucial” causes the Duke identified as mental health and saving the planet, he urged youngsters to be “mindful” of their own feelings and surroundings. “To be amongst all of you progressive, motivated, open minded, change-makers, is what gives me hope for the future,” he said.  “Your optimism is inspiring – you see opportunities where other people see challenges; you seek solutions when others just focus on problems. “You are the most engaged generation in history. You care about values, doing the right thing, and championing the causes that will shape your future.

“You don’t judge someone based on how they look, where they’re from, or how they identify. “In this room, you see the world for what it is – vibrant, colourful, mixed and full of promise. “That is who you are, and that is what makes me feel proud to stand in your presence as you tackle the world’s greatest issues.” Saying he knows “it can feel challenging sometimes” he added it is “your role is to shine the light”. “You aren’t always going to agree, you may find yourselves frustrated with the older generation when it seems like they don’t care,” he said, “But try to remove that judgment. “Try to remember that not everyone sees the world the way you do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.” The Duke, who has regularly shared his concerns about social media, also urged his audience to have “less screen time, more face to face time”. “Every day you are inundated with an overexposure of advertising and mainstream media, social media and endless comparisons, distorting the truth, and trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking,” he said: “But you don’t let them sway you. “Because you don’t need to hide behind your device to share your voice. You confidently voice your opinions because you can embrace them proudly.

“As my wife often reminds me with one of her favourite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. – ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that’.” Ending his address with a to-do list, the Duke, who is now a Commonwealth youth ambassador, told them: “Be braver, be stronger, be kind to each other, be kind to yourselves, have less screen time, and more face to face time, exceed expectations, eliminate plastics, conserve water, protect wildlife and their unique habitat, keep empathy alive, ask your friends how they are doing and listen to the answer, be honest, take risks, change your thoughts and change the world.

“Dare to be the greatest generation of all time.”


Our Dad reads “The new clothes of the Emperor”; left to right: Luke Cecil, Dad Geert-Jan Barkhuis, Ninouchka and Clarijalke.

Family Barkhuis: period 1839 – 1969.



Prince Harry pays tribute to victims of the 2015 Tunisia terror attack

Prince Harry has officially dedicated a memorial to the British victims of the 2015 Tunisia terrorist attacks. The Duke of Sussex attended the ceremony at Birmingham’s Cannon Hill Park, alongside the families of the victims, on Monday. The memorial will be a focus of remembrance for those killed in two separate attacks on the Bardo Museum in Tunis on March 18, and a hotel beach resort in Sousse on June 26. ddressing an audience of about 200 family and friends of those who died, Prince Harry said: “In memory of all those who lost their lives.

Image result for Tunisian memorial


Royal baby 2019: The Duchess of Sussex’s due date, possible names, and all the latest news

The Duchess of Sussex once described motherhood as being on her “bucket list”, while the Duke of Sussex has frequently confessed he would love to have children. And now the newlyweds, who married in Windsor last May, are just weeks away from welcoming their first child. As the nation waits for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s eighth grandchild to arrive, here’s everything we know about royal babySussex.

When is the Royal baby due?

Although Kensington Palace has only said the royal baby is due in the spring, six-month pregnant Meghan let slip during an engagement in Birkenhead earlier this year that she is due at the end of April or early May. The couple announced their pregnancy to family and friends at Princess Eugenie’s wedding in October, just days before their royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. This means he or she could easily be born on the same day as great-grandmother the Queen, who will celebrate turning 93 on April 21. If the couple do know the gender, they’re keeping it very quiet. They recently said they’d be “thrilled” with a baby boy or girl.

Where will the Duchess of Sussex give birth?

No one knows for sure, but staff at the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, have been advised not to take holiday in the spring, sparking speculation the Duchess plans to give birth there. Contrary to earlier reports the former American actress plans to give birth on the NHS, she may instead follow in the footsteps of the Duchess of Cambridge, who had her three children at the same private maternity unit. Princess Diana also.

Giving birth in the Lindo Wing

The £6,000-a-night Lindo wing offers a “five-star” birthing experience with expectant mothers accommodated in spacious private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Patients are invited to pick their meals from lavish a la carte menus – including a wine and champagne list – and are offered a celebratory post-labour afternoon tea. The first night in Lindo wing costs £5,900 for the normal delivery package and then every additional night is charged at £1,175. Patients can pay extra for a deluxe package, where the rooms are slightly bigger, which costs £6,275 for the first 24 hours and £1,550 for extra nights.

What will the royal baby be called?

There will be much suspense as to what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will call their baby. The youngster will be born into the British royal family, where tradition is an intrinsic part of the Windsors’ lives. If they go classic, something like Alice, Mary, Elizabeth or Victoria for a girl, and Philip, Frederick, Charles, Arthur, Edward or James for a boy are possibilities. But the pair are also forward-thinking royals, and the duchess has her own American upbringing to draw on. Canadian-born Autumn Phillips, and husband Peter Phillips, opted for a non-traditional name for their daughter Savannah – the Queen’s first great-grandchild – in 2010. In the US, the most popular name for a baby girl is Emma and Liam for a baby boy. In the UK, the most popular name for a girl born in 2017 was Olivia, and for a boy Oliver. In short, it’s anyone’s guess.


Where will the baby fall in the line of succession?

Seventh in line, which means it’s highly unlikely the child will ever be monarch. The baby will have three cousins: Prince George – a future king – and Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, who are further up the line of succession, so it is a safe bet that the throne will stay on the Cambridge side of the family. The baby will bump Harry’s uncle, the Duke of York, into eighth place in the line of succession. His daughter’s Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie move into ninth and 10th place, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex – the Queen’s youngest son – drops out of the top 10 for the first time to 11th in line.

What title will the new royal baby have?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby will not be a prince nor a princess unless the Queen steps in. King George V – Harry’s great great grandfather – limited titles within the royal family in 1917. This means the couple’s first born, as a great-grandchild of the sovereign, is too far down the line of succession to be an HRH. George V declared that: “the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms.” The eldest son and heir apparent of a duke can use one of his father’s lesser grade peerage titles by courtesy, according to Debrett’s. So a first son of Harry’s would become Earl of Dumbarton – one of the subsidiary titles Harry received from the Queen on the morning of his wedding. A daughter would be Lady (first name) Mountbatten-Windsor, and any subsequent sons Lord (first name) Mounbatten-Windsor.

Will the baby have dual citizenship?

The Duke and Duchess could apply for their child to have dual US-UK citizenship. The Duchess is in the process of becoming a British citizen – but it is not known whether she will hold dual nationality, and at present is still a US citizen. According to the American Embassy in the UK, a child born outside of the US and in wedlock to a US citizen parent and a non US citizen parent, may acquire US citizenship at birth if the US parent lived in America for five years – two of which were after the age of 14.

Where will the family live?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due to move into Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle this year, however the property is still under-going extensive refurbishment. Since 2017, the couple have been living at Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace near the Duke of Cambridge and his family, but the move means they will be 20 miles away from them.

From the author

Starting today, Friday 08 March 2019, the blog is back to normal. That implies, that there are no more pages for:

  1. Anwar’s columns,
  2. Student housing,
  3. Solar energy,
  4. Stewart-Wilson and
  5. Royalty.

Everything is back to chronological order.

Birthday dinner “Libero”

Friday, 01 March 2019: birthday dinner at Ristorante Italiano “Libero”, with our neighbors Peter and Marie from Nijmegen, my sisters Clarijalke and Ninouchka Barkhuis from Amsterdam, my friend Bart de Boer from Amsterdam, Pierre and yours truly.

Solar energy#13

Monthly report: February 2019

Figures as per 28 February 2019:

Considering, that the installation was out of order from 31 Januaury till 14 February 2019 included:

  • 121.183 kW  produced;
  • € 23.03 earned;
  • 47.50 Kg CO2 emission saved;
  • equals 0.16 trees planted; total 0.73 trees.

Sunny day!!!


07.36AM Sunrise

07.45AM first solar input: 0.005Kw

05.45PM last solar input: 0.001Kw

06.05PM Sunset

Production in 10h 00m: 11.400Kw = average of 1.140 Kw/h

WotW – edition 103#3

Walk of the World edition #103

Training #3

Itinerary: home – South-West bound all down to Energieweg (Energy Av.) – North bound towards the bridge De Oversteek (The Crossing) – crossing river Waal – East bound along the monument for the 47 soldiers, who died at The Crossing – Lent – river Waal – Lent – South bound over the Arnheim bridge over Waal – West bound along river Waal, on the South bank (Nijmegen city) – South bound to Grote Markt (Market place) – West bound to Kronenburg Park – passing Emperor Charles roundabout – Graafseweg – home.

The app on my smartphone reports as follows:

  • 233 minutes non-stop walking
  • 19.61 Km  (13.1M)
  • 25,238 steps
  • 2,096 kCal.
  • 3h 30m all-in: dep. 10h 05m arr. 14h 35m (2 stops, at the river Waal near Lent and at a terrace on the Market in Nijmegen.



How Meghan showed the world (and the Royal family…) who’s really boss

Five days and an estimated £325,000 later, the Duchess of Sussex has returned from what can only be described the mother of all baby showers. Occupying the most expensive and largest hotel suite in America on New York’s swanky Upper East side, the celebrations included a performance by Kanye West’s favourite harpist, a candy floss machine and £150 steaks. What had been billed as a “private, low key” affair appeared to take on a life of its own after “sources close to the duchess” tipped off American magazines that they would be descending on The Mark – which unashamedly describes itself as “NYC’s most boldly lavish hotel”. Tennis star Serena Williams was already in situ ahead of Wednesday’s afternoon soirée in the £57,000 a night penthouse suite; a two-floor set of rooms boasting five bedrooms, two bars, a conservatory, a library and a terrace so large it hosts small weddings. The seven-time Wimbledon winner, worth a rumoured £140 million, is thought to have footed the bill (no word yet on whether she wangled any freebies or a discount in return for the global publicity). Designed by Valentino’s favourite interiors man Jacques Grange, with ebony fittings and fine Italian linens, Meghan spent six nights in a more modest, two-bedroom suite on the 10th floor at a cost of £15,312 a night in what was described as her “last hurrah” before joining the royal matriarchy. Us more reserved Brits may well baulk at such lavish fare, not least the ‘tupperware Queen,’ who has always taken a distinctly understated approach to wealth. Indeed, the glitzy bash has drawn unfavourable comparisons to the heady days of Marie Antionette; not to mention the palace versus planet conundrum, in which royals espouse our need to preserve the environment while enlarging our carbon footprint by taking regular flights by private jet around the world that have previously hampered Prince Charles’s conservationist credentials. Can Meghan really claim to be a eco-royal and ardent philanthropist while zipping across the globe on hundreds-of-thousand dollar trips?  HM’s subjects tend to prefer their royals to be a cut above showbusiness, which could prove tricky for Meghan, who had carved out a successful career in the glare of flashing paparazzi bulbs. Having so far proved to be a model royal on official engagements, genuinely engaging with people in a thoughtful way, the duchess will not want the trappings of her celebrity to overshadow her commendable charitable commitments. The 37-year-old royal had originally appeared incognito – wearing a flap gap pulled over her head and her hair covering her face – when she was first photographed in the city on Monday, having flown in on a private jet three days earlier. But it was not long before press pens were erected outside the five-star hotel on Madison Avenue as guests started arriving as thick and fast as the gifts – with luxury luggage turning up in the foyer along with pink roses and a Babyletto crib. Eagle-eyed royal watchers were swift to point out that the suitcases from Away appeared to be the same brand as the silver bag Meghan’s former Suits co-star Abigail Spencer was conspicuously holding when she posted an Instagram selfie en route to the festivities, captioned: “On the road again”. A special Clooney arrived in a red jumpsuit as the snow started to fall, along with Meghan’s stylist friends Misha Nonoo and Jessica Mulroney – thought to have been the mastermind behind the out-of-this world affair until it was suddenly briefed that Serena was in fact picking up the tab (Amal apparently covered the cost of Meghan’s private jet back to Blighty). Oprah Winfrey’s best friend Gayle King was also in attendance, along with Meghan’s make-up artist Daniel Martin and her hairstylist Serge Normant. Taking centre stage in oversized sunglasses and an ever growing bump was seven and a half months pregnant Meghan, accompanied only by her royal bodyguards and seemingly no members of the Kensington Palace household staff in tow. So was this the former actress’s way of the reminding the world that she is still very much in control of her own media image? The absence of any palace press officers at what was one of the biggest royal media spectacles of the year has naturally raised eyebrows – not least following reports that William and Harry are to split their households before their move to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor and the birth of baby Sussex in the spring. Last week, Kensington Palace’s communications chief Jason Knauf was forced to deny rumours he will now concentrate only on William and Kate, leaving his deputy Christian Jones to focus on Harry and Meghan amid talk of “tensions” within the household. It comes after five of Meghan’s closest friends – some of whom are thought to have been present at the baby shower – gave intimate interviews with People magazine in the US to “set the record straight” over her troubled relationship with her father Thomas Markle. The cover story, understood to have been tacitly approved by the Duchess without Kensington Palace’s prior knowledge, was considered by some a PR own goal in prompting Mr Markle to release excerpts from a handwritten letter Meghan wrote to him last August. Mr Markle described the letter from his daughter as being not the ‘olive branch’ he hoped for but a ‘dagger to the heart’. Comparisons have inevitably been made to the way Princess Diana kept her closest aides in the dark over her incendiary Panorama interview in 1995, which led to the resignation of her principal adviser. Last week, George Clooney waded into the debate, claiming that Meghan was being “chased, pursued and vilified” like Diana, warning: “We’ve seen how that ends”. While some have questioned the wisdom of Meghan having such a public baby shower amid criticism that her privacy is being invaded by the press, others insist that she is perfectly entitled to celebrate however she wants, especially on home turf. As one royal observer described it: “Here was the old Meg, doing the kind of things she used to do, but just on steroids. It could have only happened in America. There’s no way we would have seen anything like that here in the UK.” It is perhaps worth remembering that when the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister Pippa threw her a baby shower before Prince George was born in 2013, it was held in the confines of the Middleton family home in Bucklebury. While it is understood a party planner was involved, with guests given goodies bags packed with White Company and Jo Malone fare, there was certainly no press pack waiting outside. But unlike Kate’s closest friends, many in Meghan’s inner circle have public profiles to promote – which could go some way to explaining why some of the high-profile guests could not resist a bit of product placement. Even Meghan was at it, wearing a baseball cap to promote Spencer’s new show, Rectify. Her Tamara Mellon boots were perhaps a nod to the presence of the Jimmy Choo co-founder’s publicist Celine Khavarani, who was also at the party. Meanwhile Serena was busy posting images of herself wearing her own clothing range from the bathroom of The Mark and seizing the moment to announce that she is joining online retailer Poshmark’s board of directors. What’s certain is that Meghan appears keen to maintain her own profile in the States. As Sara Nathan, Page Six Features Editor explained, there was no escaping the coverage across the pond: “It was crazy outside the Mark hotel – they had to erect crash barriers for all the fans and photographers – people truly adore her here. She’s their American Duchess. The Americans truly love the royals – and they love that one of their own has joined the family.” That her global appeal is flourishing is no bad thing. But perhaps Meghan might like to make her travel plans a little less Hollywood, and a little more humble, in future.

Waterboarding @ Sandhurst

Sandhurst cadets charged with battery against trainee after reports of water-boarding

The Royal Military Police launched an investigation after the alleged incident last year at the Royal Military Academy in Camberley, Surrey Sandhurst cadets have been charged with battery against a trainee army officer after prosecutors investigated reports of waterboarding. The Royal Military Police (RMP) launched an investigation after the alleged incident on August 7, 2018, at the famous Royal Military Academy in Camberley, Surrey. The Service Prosecution Authority today charged the two cadets, who will appear at Bulford Military Court near Salisbury, Wilts on Feb 26. They were alleged at the time to have pinned down the victim before pouring water over a cloth covering his face, in an act that was said to induce the feeling of drowning, but have instead been handed a lesser charge of battery. The Telegraph understands that the incident did not take place during training. The cadets involved are understood to be in the same all-male platoon and no instructors were involved. The three cadets involved were moved on to different platoons as the allegations were investigated. An Army spokesman said: “Following an RMP investigation two service personnel have been charged with battery in relation to an incident at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. This case is now with the Service Prosecuting Authority”. Speaking at the time of the alleged incident Brigadier Bill Wright, Deputy Commander  of the Royal Military Academy, said: “The Army and I expect the highest standards of behaviour at Sandhurst; anyone found to have fallen short is dealt with robustly, including dismissal, if appropriate.” All British Army officers are trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhust on a year-long commissioning course. Both the Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex are former graduates, with saying that although he felt he had been “treated like dirt”, he had enjoyed the experience.

Therasa’s Nightmare

In about five weeks there will be the decision: a hard one, a soft one, a new referendum or no Brexit at all. English people tend to think that it is only UK politics. It is much more. When I visit her Ladyship from 21 till 24 March, I can travel as usual under the present rules. But when Pierre and I visit her Ladyship in June for a full “Somersethian” week, we could be obliged to have a visa. And the present situation at Labour, where seven people leave Jeremy Corbyn and start a new party, that gives only more confusion. There is no business any more at Brussels. The European Union has had it with everything about “Brexit”. I was happy that her Ladyship told me, that she was a “remainer” just after the cruise in 2016. But she has other problems now: the Balmoral docked in San Diego for three unexpected days, as the ship got caught up in fishing rope, and broke a propellor seal!!! The stays in San Francisco and Los Angeles are due to be shortened.

Image result for Balmoral cruising ship

January 19: Southampton, 23/24: Funchal, 31: Bridgetown, February 02: Kralendijk, 04: Cartagena, 05: Colon, 08: Puntarenas, 13: Puerto Vallarta, 14: Mazatlan, 15: Cabo San Lucas, 19/20/21: San Francisco, 23: Los Angeles, 24: San Diego, March 01: Acapulco, 03: Acajutla, 08: Oranjestad, 10: Philipsburg, 17: Ponta Delgada, 20: La Coruna, 22: Southampton.


Prince Harry dishes up a hot lunch for children as he warns closure of ‘vital’ youth clubs leave them socially isolated

The Duke of Sussex dishes up pasta and salad to feed children at the half term club

The Duke of Sussex has warned that the closure of youth clubs is leading to the “social isolation” of modern children who are already on their phones all day. The Duke, visiting a Fit and Fed youth club in Streatham, said adults had underestimated how “vital” community hubs were to young people, calling them the “one place” many could have “a normal conversation”. As he met children aged seven to 16, the Duke asked children attending the club about what it has brought to their lives, as he donned rubber gloves to dish up pasta and salad for their lunch. The Fit and Fed programme, at Streatham Youth and Community Trust’s John Corfield Centre in Streatham, caters for youngsters during the school holidays, making sure they have a hot meal and sports clubs to keep them occupied. The Duke attended a morning sessions, watching trampolining and jiu-jitsu before being presented with a large teddy bear named Ted to take home. He spent time quizzing teenagers about what they would be doing if they were not at the club, miming playing on their phones and computer games. “I bet it’s given you a whole load of confidence to fulfil your potential,” he said. “It’s so easy to sit and play games or be on your phone.

“Can you do this anywhere else?” The Duke watched a group of youngsters play games on a trampoline, asking girls how long they had been going to the club and what they liked best about it. At the jiu-jitsu class, he talked to sports coaches about the importance of both the sports and the food, saying: “For some families, it’s a real problem to put food on the table.” Speaking to Tiana Baptiste, 19, the Duke listened to her share memories about attending the youth club as she grew up, adding: “Those experiences you’ve had, especially the negative ones, you know you can turn them around, right? “By talking to other people here? That’s the really nice thing. This place that has helped you, and now you can help others.

The Duke of Sussex speak to participants during a Jiu-jitsu session

“There’s this whole cycle of citizens. I love that.” He then put rubber catering gloves on to serve food through a hatch, offering cucumber, and tomato to go alongside pasta and garlic bread.  Summoning them with a cheerful “It’s getting cold!”, he told children: “You need good food guys, you’re growing.” Invited to join a meeting of adults to discuss the scheme, the Duke said he hoped people were “becoming more and more aware” of the difficulties faced by families in providing full meals during the school holidays. As he heard about the challenges facing the modern generation, he added: “We’re adding to social isolation, whether it’s the nine-year-old on the phone, or on computer games or whatever it is, for young people nowadays to be caught up in a world like this, we are adding to a whole list of issues that already existed. “And then by closing places like this down – the one place which they really have to come and have a normal conversation, be it about mental health, their lifestyle, issues at home, whatever it is. “We all understand it, we all get it, but these places are literally a community hub, and I don’t think people over the years have actually understood or realised how vital this is to the younger generation.”

The Duke of Sussex is given the gift of a large teddy during a visit to Streatham Youth and Community Trust's John Corfield Centre 

Fit and Fed is a campaign led by StreetGames which aims to tackle the holiday gap of hunger, inactivity and isolation. The project offers activity sessions and a nutritious meal every day for local children and the duke has visited a number of the projects in recent years. Chuka Umunna, the local MP, said the youth centre was providing a vital service to young people in his community and added: “We have amongst the highest rates of child poverty in the country. “We are the eighth most deprived local authority in London, we’re in the top 30 most deprived in England, and around 35-36 per cent of our young people are children living in poverty. “So this particular programme here is absolutely vital and makes a real difference.” The Duke’s visit, he said, would “shine a light on all the good work that’s being done, in order to attract funding”.

City ranking

Amsterdam (world: 17)

High scores on culture and environment shouldn’t come as a surprise with Amsterdam. The city of canals, barges, flowers and free-thinking is a perennial favorite when it comes to living and visiting. There are enough museums, from Anne Frank to Van Gough, from the Rijksmuseum to Rembrandt’s house, the Science Centre to the Museum of Bags and Purses for you to never see the light of day, but that would be a shame. Mix it up and enjoy a trip on the canals in a brunch boat, shop at the Albert Cuyp Market and the flower market. But most importantly, hire a bike and do as the locals do: go and explore the parks, along the canals, and outside of Amsterdam in this, probably the flattest country in the world.

WotW – edition 103#2

Walk of the World edition #103

Training #2

Subscription for the 103rd edition of the Walk of the World started 4th of February. Not without problems. Because there are 47,000 start permits to get. The server was open for on-line subscription from midnight, but hundreds of participants were eager to be the first to log in. So, within 30 minutes the server was out of order. Also because the organising committee had introduced a new phenomenon: your subscrip-tion is complete when we have received your payment (€84 / £74 / CA$126). But at night the servers of the financial institutions are busy anyway, and now there came on-line payments troubling the systems. So, when you were lucky your payment (and so your subscription) came through, but e.g. Pierre’s payment was a problem. But after a while, in the evening of that Monday, we both had our subscriptions. And, because we finished both the last edition of the Walk of the World, we are sure to get the start permit.

Today was the first training day in 2019. With a fresh 4 Celsius, but a blue sky and a lot of sun, we took an easy itinerary: home – via the center to Nijmegen East, then all South bound to Berg en Dal – via the Seven Hills way to Groesbeek – North bound to Nijmegen South – home.

The app on my smartphone reports as follows:

  • 290 minutes non-stop walking
  • 24.2 Km  (16.1M)
  • 31,152 steps
  • 1,968 kCal.
  • 6h 33m all-in: dep. 09h 45m arr. 16h 18m (2 stops, in Berg en Dal and a pub near the soccer club at Groesbeek).



Prince Harry jokes troops are ‘weirdos’ for Valentine’s Day ‘shrine’ of Meghan inside igloo

The Duke of Sussex visited Exercise Clockwork in Bardufoss, Norway
The Duke of Sussex in the igloo

The Duke of Sussex has celebrated Valentine’s Day 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, in an igloo decorated with photographs from his wedding. The Duke, who made a flying visit to Bardufoss in north Norway without the Duchess, was greeted with candles, mood music and pictures of his May ceremony as he was shown around a snug snow shelter used by the military to survive in the extreme cold. Checking that the British troops stationed at the base had remembered to send cards and flowers to their wives at home, he teased them about getting into trouble as he reminisced about his days as a pilot. In a three hour visit, in his role as Captain General Royal Marines, he admitted he misses his days as an Apache helicopter pilot as he was shown Commando Helicopter Force train to survive in the extreme cold weather. For 50 years, the Navy, Army and Air force have been undertaking training in Bardufoss to provide aviation support to those who operate and fight in temperatures as low as -30C in what is known as Exercise Clockwork. The Duke landed in a charter plane flown directly from the UK in temperatures of around -10C, greeted by Richard Wood, the British ambassador in Norway, Lt Col Dave West, officer commanding Exercise Clockwork, Lt Col Andy Walker, the UK defence attache, and Col Eirik Stueland, Bardufoss station commander. Taken inside immediately for a briefing, he met senior personnel from the base before sitting down for a lesson in the history of Exercise Clockwork and a video of the modern day training programme. It included footage of servicemen undergoing their grueling ice water plunge, which sees them drop through a hole in the ice into freezing water to learn how to climb out again. Afterwards, the Duke joined the troops for a hot buffet lunch in the mess, away from the cameras so he could meet men and women of all ranks to speak frankly. As the snow fell, he was then invited to inspect the four-man, ten-man and 16-man tents used during training, with avalanche rescue gear and a 45kg Bergen backpack ready for inspection. Spotting Chris Anderson, a corporal in the RAF, dressed in a white, snow-camoflaged suit over his uniform with a mask, the Duke joked: “You look as though you’re loving it.”  Inside a tent, he was invited to lift the heavy bag containing rations, emergency clothing, snow shovel, survival knives, hot flask, cooking equipment and sleeping bags, torch, goggles and gloves. “I’d like to but I’m not sure…” he said, making a quick attempt before dropping it. “When you’re out here, what do you guys look forward to the most?” he asked, quizzing servicemen on how long they had served and how long they are based in Norway. “Look after yourself,” he told them. “How’s morale been?” he asked, before indulging in some military banter as Captain General Royal Marines by joking: “The RAF guys will be struggling the most, will they?” Referring to his own time in the army, where he served as an Apache pilot, he empathised with the need to constantly update their training, usually waiting until it was down to the last moment to do so.

The picture of the Duke and his wife on his wedding day inside the igloo

The Duke was then invited inside the Quincey Shelter, a version of an igloo dug out and used in emergencies to stay alive in the snow. This time, the shelter had been decked out to welcome Prince Harry, with pictures of the Royal Wedding printed out and pinned on the walls, candles and ambient mood music. Spotting the photographs, the Duke laughed: “You weirdos! Nice. It’s very kind of you to invite into your private, err, shrine,” he added, proclaiming it “romantic”. “Homely in there isn’t it,” he said, as he stepped out into the fresh air. “It starts to get a little bit weird after a while.” “They’re not always that comfortable,” he was told. Sergeant Ads Lesley said the Duke had asked some practical questions about the shelters, before moving on to personal questions about the troops’ welfare. “He was really keen to engage,” he said. “He asked if they had got their girlfriends or wives or partners flowers for Valentine’s Day – he was keen to make sure no-one was in trouble. “He liked to compare what we’re doing out here, how amazing it is, with what we’re doing back in the UK. He was really happy that we’re in a beautiful environment and to see how happy we are. “There was a little light humour: he saw people in sleeping bags and said ‘oh, have you just woken up?” In the shelter, Sgt Lesley said, “he had a smile on his face. We had some chill-out music on, just to show how creative you can be.” The wedding photo decorations, he said, seemed “almost a bit of a shock” for the Duke, who “had a chuckle to himself”. Moving into a large hanger, where the Wildcat and Apache helicopters were on show alongside their pilots, the Duke confessed: “I miss my pilot days.” “How is it?” he asked young pilots, noticing they were reticent. “You can be honest with me. I’m not going to get anything out of you, am I? Guys, well done. Make the most of it.”

Duke of Sussex speaks with British and Norwegian troops 

Major Huw Raikes, from the Army Air Corps, said the Duke had spoken of how he misses flying the aircraft. “It was a fun period for him,” he said. “He misses the experience he had flying it, he misses the brotherhood. It’s quite poignant to have him here, he’s got a very special relationship with the Army Air Corps.” Offered a chance to get in, the Duke resigned himself to patting the Apache fondly before moving on to meet the teams with the Wildcat and, back outside in the snow, the Merlin. “Did you all get your other halves a card and some flowers?” Prince Harry checked, as he was introduced to a group of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. Mock-grimacing, he added: “There were a few guys out there who said they don’t bother any more…” Before leaving, the Duke was asked to cut a cake celebrating the 50th anniversary of Exercise Clockwork, which featured a helicopter made from rice crispies and marshmallows. Quizzing Leading Chef Matt Roberts, he learned the troops in Bardufoss had a larger daily food budget to account for the extra calories they need in the cold, joking: “No wonder you’re all so happy.” Wielding a sword, he ceremonially cut the cake, shouting “Happy Birthday” to dozens of men and women gathered in the hanger.”It’s really nice to see you all and know that you’re having a good time out here,” he told them. “Use every single day as an experience, and bring that back. I hope you can make the most of it. “I know lots of you have left your families at home to be out here. It’s hugely appreciated. And you still have a smile on your face.  Congratulations on your 50th anniversary.” After the three hour visit, the Duke climbed back into the small charter plane to fly home: back at Kensington Palace in time for the Valentine’s dinner. Prince Harry’s trip marked the 50th anniversary of Commando Helicopter Force and Joint Helicopter Command deploying to the remote base, where military personnel are taught how to survive, operate and fight in the sub-zero conditions, as well as gaining experience of operating aircraft in severe cold weather and mountainous environments. The multinational exercise, hosted by the Norwegian Armed Forces, comprises environmental flying qualifications, cold weather survival, and snow and ice driving courses. The Duke was appointed Captain General Royal Marines in December 2017, taking over the role from his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh, who held the appointment for 64 years.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (left) during a visit to Exercise Clockwork in Bardufoss, Norway

The Duke already has experience of colder climates, facing temperatures as low as -35C on charity expeditions to the North Pole in 2011 and South Pole in 2013 with Walking With The Wounded. Lieutenant Colonel David West, Officer Commanding Exercise Clockwork, said: “We are celebrating 50 years of Exercise Clockwork today and are honoured to be able to welcome the Captain General of the Royal Marines to Bardufoss to mark the occasion. “Clockwork continues to deliver vital training for our people. It provides essential experience in flying and surviving in the extreme cold hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle. “For 50 years Commando Helicopter Force and its predecessors have operated in this region and the skills learnt here are more relevant than ever.”


How Prince Philip reacted to crash – before ending a lifelong passion

Prince Philip car crash scene near Sandringham

It was a surreal moment by royal standards, made even odder by the events that followed. Strolling into the office of the Queen’s private secretary, Edward Young, Prince Philip appeared uncharacteristically unsettled. “Have you got a plaster?” asked the 97-year-old Duke. “I’ve cut my hand”. Swiftly dispatching the former naval officer with a Band Aid, it was not until later that Young apparently discovered the cause of HRH’s injury. Until that point, the Iron Duke had not deemed it pertinent to mention that he had just been pulled out of his overturned Land Rover and was lucky to be alive. Almost a month on from those extraordinary events of February 17, a revealing picture emerges of the House of Windsor’s resident ‘Duke of Hazard’, who yesterday learned he will not face prosecution over the crash near the Sandringham estate. It came after the great-grandfather voluntarily gave up his driving licence following a collision between his Freelander and a Kia on the A149 at . The Telegraph has since learned that despite narrowly escaping serious injury, the Duke genuinely had no idea who was in the other car, or whether anyone had been hurt until the press later reported that passenger Emma Fairweather had broken her wrist. As he later explained in his apologetic letter to the 46-year-old from Norfolk, admitting that he had been blinded by the sunlight: “As a crowd was beginning to gather, I was advised to return to Sandringham House by a local police officer.” Yet it appears it was some time before palace aides or the press office became aware of the true extent of the crash, which was only briefed out after members of the public sent images to the media. The official statement simply read: “The Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a road traffic accident with another vehicle this afternoon. The Duke was not injured. The accident took place close to the Sandringham Estate. Local police attended the scene.” As one source put it: “They played it down because the Duke played it down.” According to veteran royal reporter Phil Dampier, author of Prince Philip: A Lifetime of Wit and Wisdom: “Had the crash had occurred on a lonely country road and no footage emerged, we’d probably never have found out about it.” Not that Philip wasn’t contrite. On the contrary, as well as being “genuinely shaken up” by the crash – he was also “furious with himself”, according to insiders. Determined not to lose his cherished independence – he took to the wheel the very next day – without wearing a seatbelt – in a bid to prove that he was still up to it – despite his hip replacement, spectacles and hearing aid. Land Rover keep “spare” royal cars in case of accidents and break-downs, which is why he ended up back behind the wheel so quickly. “It wasn’t defiance,” said one onlooker. “It was more an act of determination.” So cross was Philip with himself that it is understood his concerned children and grandchildren were warned not to make a fuss, which perhaps explains why Princess Anne said she had “no idea” how her father was when she was asked at a royal engagement two days later. Nor were they to even entertain the idea of the nonagenarian giving up his licence “for fear it might make him dig in his heels even more”, according to a source. The Queen – who after 71 years of marriage has grown well used to her husband’s stubborn streak – also knew better than to press the issue. The royal author Sarah Bradford once gave an insight into who has really been in the driving seat throughout their marriage when she described an occasion when Philip was driving the Queen through Cowdray Park in West Sussex for a polo match with his uncle Lord in the back. Bradford said: “The Queen complained about him driving too fast and and he turned to her and said: ‘If you complain once more I will put you out of the car.’ “The Queen said nothing and when the journey came to an end Mountbatten said: ‘You’re the Queen, why did you let him talk to you like that? “She replied : ‘Oh you heard what he said and he would have done it!’” In the end, the Duke’s reluctant mind was made up following advice from the police suggesting that surrendering his licence was the best way to avoid prosecution. Until the crash happened, it’s fair to say that HM’s “strength and stay” had had a rather cavalier attitude to motoring. On the eve of his wedding to the beautiful young Princess Elizabeth in 1947 he was stopped for speeding on Constitution Hill just beside Buckingham Palace. “Sorry, but I’ve got an appointment with the Archbishop of Canterbury” he told the incredulous policeman, who let him off with a warning. During the two years they lived in Malta, he would roar around the narrow lanes of the Mediterranean Island in a sporty MG with the top down. Such was his love of driving that he insisted on driving US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle  from their helicopter to Windsor Castle when they came to visit in 2016. The Obamas secret service minders were said to be “terrified” when a then 94-year-old Philip took the wheel but Obama said later : “I have to say I have never been driven by a Duke of Edinburgh before, but I can report it was very smooth.” The Duke’s crash last month was also not his first. He left sales director Pat Daynes with whiplash after his Range Rover went into the back of a Mercedes at a zebra crossing in Brandon, Suffolk, in January 1996. But he has also been a knight in shining armour at the road-side. In the early 1970s he was on holiday at a remote cottage near the Inverpolly Nature Reserve 80 miles from Inverness in Scotland. He was driving on a lonely road with local naturalist Rob Tweddle when they came across a Morris Minor stuck in a ditch. Two astonished female teachers looked on as Philip and Mr Tweddle lifted the car back onto the road. Mr Tweddle recalled in a 2011 article: “Philip told them ‘Now don’t do that again’ before we drove off, leaving them open-mouthed.” Although he may have come to the end of the road as a motorist, sources insist Philip will continue to ride carriages and spent his summers waist-high in freezing water fishing for salmon in the River Dee. Dampier added: “I honestly think that the hip operation -which enabled him to attend both Harry and Meghan’s wedding and that of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank last year – might mean he lives to 100. When he went home from hospital I know he was walking up and down stairs and doing exercises to regain his fitness. He has always been a fitness fanatic, doing exercise daily devised by the Canadian Air Force. His figure is the same as it’s always been – meaning he has some trousers fifty years old! He might have given up driving – but the Duke of Hazard will never give up doing things his way.”



Today: Lady Mary in Bonaire. She did not know that the Netherlands had also overseas colonies, like Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçau, St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius…

And here Lady Mary in formal dinner outfit, with my bridge teachers Carol and Terry, during the worldcruise 2016.


Duchess of Sussex writes messages of support on bananas for sex workers

Messages of support written by the Duchess of Sussex 
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also visited the Old Vic theatre

The Duchess of Sussex has written personal messages of empowerment and support for vulnerable sex workers on a series of bananas to be delivered to them on the streets. The Duchess, who visited a charity which helps women break free from sex work, homelessness and addiction, resolved to send a personal, handwritten message to those in need. During a tour of the kitchen at One25, a charity in Bristol, she was seized with inspiration, asking for a felt tipped pen to draw hearts and notes, including the words: “You are strong”, “You are loved”, “You are brave”, “You are special”. The fruit, which is part of a food parcel for sex workers, was due to be delivered by van, along with blankets, condoms, hot water bottles and advice from the charity’s experts, to women on the streets. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the charity during a day-long outing to a snowy Bristol, in which they delivered a series of heartfelt messages on subjects form the arts to mental health and grief. At One25, who had asked for the visit to be kept a secret until after the royal couple had left to protect the vulnerable women, they met volunteers, donors, service users and were given a tour of an outreach van which tours the red light district five nights a week. In the kitchen, as they were shown the food bags being prepared, the Duchess said: “Oh actually do you have a Sharpie marker? I have an idea. “I saw this project this woman had started somewhere in the States on a school lunch programme. On each of the bananas she wrote an affirmation, to make the kids feel really, like, empowered. It was the most incredible idea – this small gesture.” Declaring “I am in charge of the banana messaging!”, she wrote a series of short phrases and decorated the fruit with hearts. It is not the first time the duchess has used bananas to send a message.  Shortly after she began dating Prince Harry’s, she uploaded a photograph of two bananas ‘spooning’, and more recently baked banana bread for farmers during a tour of The Duke of Sussex at the Bristol boxing club. One charity volunteer called Sam, who is a former sex worker, said: “I can imagine being on the van, and [ hearing] ‘Meghan wrote this thing, and what?’ I think they might not eat it. I think that banana would be at home until it is rotten. Because I would do the same.” Anna Smith, the charity’s chief executive, told the couple: “The of our women is often very much misunderstood, and they are stigmatised and hidden from the world.” As she spoke, the duchess spotted that Sam was looking nervous at the prospect of having to talk to the group. She told her: “Sometimes it is the lead-up that makes it more nerve-racking. You go first! It’s like ripping a bandaid off.” Prince Harry, speaking of how vulnerable women can be coerced, said: “When you were being groomed at such a young age, and this is the only thing you know, you completely lose faith in society. You lose trust in every man, and probably everyone else around you. From a mental health perspective you are broken.” They were not the only words of comfort offered by the Duke. In a separate charity visit to Empire Fighting Duchess of Sussex prepares food parcels to go in the charity outreach van and writes personalised messages on fruit in the charity kitchenChance, a boxing club which helps vulnerable youngsters, he cleared a room to comfort a teenage boy who became emotional talking about the death of his father. The Duke of Sussex, who lost his own mother when he was 12 and he previously spoken of how boxing helped his mental health, spent 10 minutes talking privately to 15-year-old Iestyn about processing his grief, telling him: “The same thing happened to me.” The day was completed with a trip to refurbished Bristol Old Vic, where the Duchess made a heartfelt plea for the creative arts. “There’s so much of the emphasis in after school clubs on sport,” she said. “Channeling the energy you have into the creative arts and theatre and all of that is equally as important. “Sport isn’t for everyone, just as theatre isn’t for everyone. “You can know that there’s a place [here] where you can find community, and sort of explore self discovery and other things you might be thinking about.” The Duke told youngsters of drama: “It’s more than a hobby isn’t it? It runs in your blood.” The Duke and Duchess traveled by train, and undertook a walkabout despite the snow-lined streets. Meeting nursery school children, they appeared to be preparing for their impending parenthood as the Duke asked a woman supervising toddlers: “How do you keep them under control?”


The Duke of Sussex pips the Queen to take ‘Most Popular Royal’ crown, according to survey

Prince Harry at a dedication of the Colo-i-Suva forest to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy in Suva

Prince Harry is the most popular royal, according to a new You Gov survey. The Duke of Sussex beats the Queen to first place, with 77 per cent of the public having a positive opinion about the father-to-be, ahead of 74 per cent for the monarch. Prince William is in third place with 73 per cent. The Duchess of Cambridge is the second most popular woman in the Royal Family, with 64 per cent, while the Duchess of Sussex came sixth with an approval rating of 55 per cent – a percentage point less than 97-year-old Prince Philip, in fifth. Kate proved more popular with both men and woman than Meghan, with 72 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men approving compared to 61 per cent and 50 per cent for the former American actress. Baby boomers prefer Princess Anne to both of the younger Duchesses, with 68 per cent of over 55s approving compared to 64 per cent for Kate and 51 per cent for Meghan. While William’s wife may be more popular than Harry’s, the The Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II laugh during their first engagement together in June, where they attended a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway bridge.’ own popula-rity is not based on their rank in the royal pecking order with the Duke of Sussex proving more popular than his older brother. Eighty six per cent of women and 69 per cent of men approved of Harry, with just seven per cent of having a negative opinion of either Harry or William, compared to nine per cent who disapproved of the Queen and Kate, and 10 per cent who didn’t like Meghan. While Harry was the most popular royal among women, the Queen was the most popular among men, with 71 per cent approving. Both princes were much more popular than their father, Prince Charles, who marks his 70th birthday on Wednesday. Almost half of the nation (48 per cent) said they had a positive opinion of the heir to the throne, putting him in seventh place overall. A further 20 per cent have a negative view of him, while 30 per cent have a neutral view. Charles’s wife Camilla is far less popular than he is. Only 29 per cent of Brits have a favourable view of the Duchess of Cornwall, putting her 10th on the list of 15. The 36 per cent of people who say they dislike her is the joint-highest of any member of the royal family – putting her popularity on a par with her brother in law, Prince Andrew. Princess Anne came eighth on 47 per cent, followed by her daughter Zara Phillips on  43 per cent. The Countess of Wessex came 11th in the popularity poll on 28 per cent followed by her husband Prince Edward on 27 per cent. Sophie Wessex proved to be the least famous royal with only 74 per cent of the public having heard of her compared to 99 per cent who recognised Prince William – regarded as the “most famous” royal of all. Princess Beatrice proved slightly more popular than her younger sister Princess Eugenie on 25 per cent and 24 per cent respectively while the Duke of York came bottom of the league in 15th place with an approval rating of 22 per cent.


By royal appointment? Prince Harry and the rise of jewellery for men

The Duke of Sussex wearing a chunky ring and bracelet

The roving Eye of Sauron that lasers in on the Duchess of Sussexand every nuance of her style rarely comes to rest on her beau, a certain chap who’s sixth in line to the throne. This is partly because Prince Harry – as with most men of the royal household – toes the path classic and familiar with regards to his style. Which is as it should be; no-one expects the Duke of Sussex to embrace Gucci’s directional new florals. But there’s one glitch in the matrix with Prince Harry – aside the classic Savile Row tailoring when on duty and standard shirts and chinos on his down-time, he likes a touch of jewellery. Attending the Commonwealth Youth Roundtable last night at Pall Mall’s Lancaster House, the Duke opted for a striking black and gold bracelet, as well as a black ring on his right hand. This ring has been something of a feature in the past – it’s been reported it’s a sleep tracker by wellness brand Oura – and acts as a counterbalance to his wedding band, a minimalist platinum design by court jewelers Cleave & Company. The bracelet has been a feature of his wardrobe since his days at Eton, cropping up at the polo as a late teen and in Africa in his 20s. It’s all the more telling that the Duke opts to wear these decorative pieces in a formal set up, with an elegant black suit and ice blue. Granted, his jewellery clearly has meaning for him – he has long worn beaded bracelets that signify his love of Africa – while his father has been known to wear the same signet ring for decades. Which – as a glut of Tom Woodmale contestants arrive for new series of Shipwrecked decked in cork necklaces – begs the question; should men’s jewellery be entering your wardrobe any time soon? For the naysayers – and I put myself front and foremost of that crowd  – it’s worth considering that men’s jewellery is historically the most aristocratic and establishment type of dress. Signet rings were an integral part of noble lineage long before men’s jewellery became synonymous with Boogie Nights and, later, the cool young waifs of east London. Perhaps to tackle it best is to take it back to those more stately examples. A host of brands now create signet rings in minimalist, pared-back designs instead of the florid and ornate versions of old. That less-is-more approach should parlay into bracelets too. Invest in masculine and discreet versions in sleek steel or rhodium that will complement slate-shaded suits, as opposed to beaded numbers that make you look as if you’ve just landed from your gap year (sorry, your Royal Highness). And that should be the extent of your jewellery drawer – necklaces dangling across tropical print shirts, earrings at Coachella and ankle bracelets should be kept firmly for the millennials and their #summerstyle.


The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have arrived in a snow covered Bristol for a day of royal engagements which will begin with the couple meeting the public in the heart of the city.

The royal couple will also tour the Bristol Old Vic theatre and travel to the Empire Fighting Chance, a charity using boxing to support children failing at school. There were fears the visit may be called off because of the Arctic conditions, but organisers of the couple’s first engagement – a visit to the Old Vic, which is undergoing a multimillion-pound restoration – said they were still expecting the duke and duchess. A Bristol Old Vic spokeswoman said: “We are still going ahead so far, there have been no messages to say otherwise.” The Duke and Duchess will be taken on a guided tour of the revamped theatre, which has been entertaining audiences for more than 250 years. During the day the couple will also meet well-wishers on a walkabout and travel to Empire Fighting Chance, a charity using boxing to support children failing at school and in danger of drifting into a life of unemployment or even crime. The Bristol Old Vic was built in 1766 and has a unique place in British theatre history, having nurtured the talents of countless famous actors from Daniel Day-Lewis and Greta Scacchi to Peter O’Toole and Jeremy Irons. Stirling Prize-winning architects Haworth Tompkins led the theatre’s redesign, which Duchess of Sussex arrives in Bristol as the snow continues to fall a full-height timber and glass-fronted foyer that reveals the original audito-rium facade to the street for the first time. The internal layout has been trans-formed, with the restoration of the Georgian Coopers’ Hall, a new studio theatre created in the old barrel vaults and mezzanine galleries. The project is the second stage of a 10-year, £26 million programme to completely overhaul and safeguard the future of the theatre. During the visit, the duke and duchess will drop in on a workshop attended by local schoolchildren, which is part of Bristol Old Vic’s outreach .


Lady Helen Mary Stewart-Wilson is on cruise again; this time not on the beloved Black Watch, but on the largest ship of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines: the Balmoral.


Southampton – Atlantic Ocean – South America – Mexico – Panama Channel – United States – Panama Channel – Atlantic Ocean – Southampton.

The Balmoral departed on 19 January and will arrive 22 March.

She encountered some well known faces / friends:

Left to right: Lady Mary with choir master Margaret Rae from Edinbourgh.

Left to right: Lady Mary with Assistant Maître d’H Ramil, in 2010 a waiter in the Observatory Lounge of the Black Watch.

As the Wi-fi on the vessels is expensive, slow and of an inferior quality, Mary has to work with her mobile phone when she has a stop or overnight. So pictures are sparse this time, and stops / overnights depending. The first stop was -after four days sailing- in Madeira. Here Mary at lunch in Funchal (Madeira), on 23 January:

Bedtime story

CBeebies to have Will Young read children ‘bedtime story’ about gay adoption as he says ‘inclusivity must start at youngest age possible’

Will Young is due to read a story about same-sex parents on CBeebies, the BBC’s children’s channel, explaining that “inclusivity must start at youngest age possible”. The singer is due to appear on the channel’s popular Bedtime Stories show, broadcast at 6.50pm every night, in order to mark LGBT history month. Famous faces who have appeared on the show include Tom Hardy, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Tim Peake. He has chosen the book Two Dads for his bedtime story, which is the tale of a boy who has been adopted and finds himself happily raised by two fathers. He said: “Children’s books are one of the first ways we learn about the world around us so I’m overjoyed to be reading a story to mark LGBT History Month. More so than ever, families in all forms should be recognised and celebrated – whether that’s two dads, two mums, families with a mum and a dad, those with a single parent, adoptive families and so on.” “I’ve never been more sure that inclusivity starts from the youngest possible age. I hope these stories will be used for years to come.” Will Young recently made headlines by threatening to report Jeremy Clarkson’s Amazon car show, The Grand Tour, to Ofcom after accusing the presenters of homophobic remarks. He said at the time: “How dare they stereotype gay men. I DON’T drive a Wrangler Jeep. I DON’T wear pink shirts . I DON’T wear a—less chaps.” “You can be honest and funny without this ridiculous ‘lad’ ooh being gay and let’s laugh about it mentality. It’s repulsive and how DARE you do it and put it out.” He is continuing his LGBT activism on his podcast, Homo Sapiens, the third series of which is out now. Two Dads is written by Carolyn Robertson, and illustrated by Sophie Humphreys. Young can be watched reading from the book on February 9. The BBC has started to feature more LGBT stories on the show in order to promote inclusivity, with JB Gill reading Families, Families, Families last year, which is a book about diverse families.  Sharon D Clarke is scheduled to read another same-sex parent book, All Kinds of Families!, later this year.