Belfast Telegraph

Kate baby frenzy - real-life and fantasy collide for an unforgettable soap episode

BY IVAN LITTLE

It just had to happen in the middle of the regally-named Coronation Street, of course.

Millions of people across the UK were left unsure whether to laugh or cry last night as the worlds of TV soap and real-life drama collided in spectacular fashion, first with the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness in Corrie and then with the arrival of new royal baby.

The hankies had been out for ages as Corrie fans watched the world of one of the programme's undisputed queens, the transsexual Hayley Cropper, crashing down horribly around her with confirmation that she had cancer, but the bubble of tragedy was burst in the ad break with an announcement from the real world that a baby boy who could one day become king had been born.

ITN interrupted the fantasy proceedings with a news flash, but the Duchess of Cambridge's long-awaited delivery ultimately had to take a back seat and before a newsreader could finish her breathless piece to camera, back came Corrie's meerkat sponsors to herald the restart of the show about Hayley's life-or-death dilemma.

The irony wasn't lost on viewers that hospitals were at the centre of the two storylines as in Corrie doctors had to tell Hayley that only one in five people suffering from pancreatic cancer survived, while in St Mary's Hospital Paddington, the Duchess of Cambridge's medical teams told her a happier tale that her new son was a healthy baby weighing in at 8lbs 6ozs.

On the Beeb, they went baby barmy and cut to that gilded easel at the front of Buckingham Palace which was supposed to be the first harbinger of the happy new news, but initially it was as empty as the expressions on a number of reporters' faces. Eventually, however, the notice popped up that the baby had popped out.

On CNN, the presenters lost the run of themselves with excitement at the birth and one of the anchors claimed that their royal correspondents in London had been outside the hospital for so long he practically delivered the baby himself.

Belfast's own Eamonn Holmes, meanwhile, was proclaiming himself as something of a modern-day mystic Meg.

For Eamonn was slapping himself on the back after predicting on morning television that the baby would be born around 4.45pm.

"Okay, call me a liar for the sake of 10 minutes," he tweeted.

Actually, Eamonn was 20 minutes out. For the baby clocked in at 4.24pm.

However, it was to be another four hours and seven minutes – at 8.31pm – that the news bulletins about the new boy hit the airwaves.

An earlier announcement could have saved the planet from a lot of hot air emanating from around St Mary's Hospital.

For what seemed like an eternity after it was revealed that the Duchess had gone into labour early yesterday morning, hundreds of journalists and camera crews from right around the world were forced to wait for a sight or a sound of anything or anyone which might have helped them fill in the long, boring hours of live television broadcasts to their millions of – shall we say – expectant viewers.

Instead there was absolutely nothing for the reporters to say. But somehow they still managed to say it.

And on the Beeb, ex-Belfast based Nicholas Witchell – the reporter whom Prince Charles once famously called "that awful man" – was reduced to using shot after shot and soundbite after soundbite of foreign looking and sounding hacked off hacks, all spouting the same ill-informed nonsense about what was going on in the Lindos wing of the hospital from where nothing official was coming out – literally and figuratively – inside the Lindos wing.

And then there were the totally pointless vox pops with the royal fans outside the hospital as they made their predictions about what sex the baby would be. Half of them were to be proved right. Naturally.

But after the waiting game ended last night, came the cue for another national obsession to kick in – the game of the name.

On Twitter Hayley's fans were determined that their character shouldn't come a cropper without royal recognition.

And they said William and Kate should call their son Harold – not as a nod to another royal sibling, but rather as a tribute to the name to which Hayley used to answer before he became a she.

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