Belfast Telegraph

Hunter will be the hunted ...

By Gail Walker

An attractive, innocent young creature, used to freedom and relative anonymity, falls into the path of the Royals. It all seems so wonderful at first; vast estates of unspoiled countryside to roam carefree in; wealth beyond imagination.

And who could gaze upon this long-legged, fleet of foot beauty and want to see her come to any kind of harm?

No wonder we can't imagine the pressure put on one just starting to make her way in life when she realises what seemed like passing interest is much more sinister.

Everywhere she turns, someone watches. When she runs, someone chases. There can never be another off-duty moment because off-duty moments are too dangerous.

She is part of a game, and the game is not equal; she will be hunted for the rest of her life.

And, if what's in the papers is even half true, she could end up dead in some dodgy incident that people may never get to the bottom of.

Sometimes you really wonder at Kate Middleton, a twentysomething in the Noughties.

With the world at her feet, how does she spend the weekend? Dressed in Army camouflage and armed with a bolt action rifle being taught by two ghillies and weirdy Prince Charles how to shoot a deer through the heart.

Is the irony really lost on her? A lovely creature hunted to death?

Remember this moment, because it's a defining one in the relationship of Ms Middleton to the Royals, and of the public to her.

So far, she's enjoyed goodwill. When William dumped her, we scorned the notion that she wasn't good enough for the Windsors and that his toff friends reportedly sneered "doors to manual" in a dig at her mother, a former air-hostess.

The idea of a middle class princess somehow seemed right for a modernising House of Windsor.

And our heroine didn't put a foot wrong. She didn't dress like a tart and even if her prince was one over the eight, she was clear-eyed at 2am.

But she has put a foot wrong now. The vast majority of the public don't understand why the royals enjoy slaughtering deer.

Indeed, there is something visceral nowadays in our loathing of the idea of the Royals hunting. You don't have to be a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist Worker to have your class hackles raised. Their land. Their ghillies. Their deer. Their 'sport'. Meanwhile, we are supposed to tug our forelocks and just recognise 'the rights of our betters'.

You can blather on about tradition and how hunting is 'good for the countryside' but all people see is pampered poshos getting their jollies from killing a beautiful animal whose innate majesty leaves the Windsors in the shade. If the people were given a choice between a Highland deer and, say, Prince Edward trussed onto the roof-rack of a Land Rover as a trophy, I wouldn't give a useless TV production company for Eddie's chances. If Kate does enjoy the sport, shame on her. If she's doing it to suck up to the prospective in-laws, then she should feel even more shame. She may indeed 'deserve' to become a Windsor with all the privilege and unpopularity that brings.

Kate would do well to remember that Diana, the royal who understood the public better than any of them, didn't hunt.

Still, next time she's photographed in the street by paps determined to shoot her no matter how she feels about it, maybe she'll have the decency not to run complaining to the Press Complaints Commission.

There are some things in life that don't seem fair or right, poor deer, but that's just the way it is.

Calendar is really not a class act

Purley for the intellectual enlightenment of their readers, tabloids have been running pictures from a new 'glamour' calendar, 100% Real Teachers, featuring real teachers in various states of undress.

You know the drill - strategically placed school ties and much use of bendy canes.

And naturally the teachers are all - surprise, surprise - women. Not a six-packed sir in sight.

No wonder the Department of Education is worried teaching is increasingly seen as a 'woman only' profession. How many men will look at this and realise they will never look as good in a thong and mortarboard?

Teachers often complain their profession isn't given enough respect, but doesn't a stunt like this put back the cause of women generally and teachers in particular?

Of course, these sexy schoolmarms aren't involved in the soft porn business. Dear me no. It's all just a bit of fun to send up the blokey fantasy of the classroom temptress - the usual post-modernist, new laddish blah blah.

One wonders what really is the message behind 100% Real Teachers. Even if you're a brainy woman, do you really want to get them out for the lads? Or that a young girl should aspire to be the next Jordan? Forget Shakespeare - if you've any sense you'll be learning lessons from FHM and Loaded?

If these are the role models for our kids, we'll be up to our necks in lapdancers in a few years' time.

It's certainly a far cry from Goodbye, Mr Chips. Red ink all round for the Misses.

Shameful finger-pointing at likely innocent man

Up to the weekend, we had the Clue of the Jemmied Shutter, the Clue of the Tiny Window (of Opportunity), CuddleCat Clue, the Clue of the Missing Hours and the Car Boot Clue. The Sunday papers brought us the Clue of the Undisturbed Bedding and, most sensationally, the Clues of the Bloodied Footprint and the Footprint on the Bumper.

For suspects, we've had the Hooded Boatman, Bundleman, Burglar Gone Wrong, The Lone Opportunist, Egg Head Man, The International Paedophile Ring, The Arab Chap, The Moroccan Gypsies, The Filling Station Couple, Jemmied Shutter Man, Drogheda Man (like Bundleman but spotted by a man from Co Louth), Stairwell Man, The English Yachtsman (deceased) ? and, er, the most durable of all, Glass Eye Man.

This latter - also trading as Huntley Man and Hanging Round Reporters Man - appears certain to be revealed shortly as Watertight Alibi Man.

Robert Murat has been an arguido in the Madeleine McCann case since May 17. That's five months ago.

He's been outrageously vilified in the British press. His life has been investigated by the police of two countries and most of what they found - and plenty they didn't find at all - turned up in a media desperate for a conventional villain to round off this most disturbing tale.

Murat's mother's house in Praia da Luz was rooted through in a search for anything which might link the ex-pat Brit to the disappearance. Nothing was found.

At the weekend, his family was able to do a brief TV interview, giving his sorry side to the saga. He isn't able to speak about the case himself, because of Portuguese law - a stricture which doesn't seem to bother the McCann PR team one bit.

For months now, the talk has been that Murat will find his arguido status lifted and be free to resume a normal life.

That's the theory, of course. What has actually been happening is that in an effort to explain those few fragments of the evidence in the possession of the British and Portuguese police which alarmingly have directed their attention to the parents and which have reached the public press, the McCann PR team returns ceaselessly to invoke Man Who Looks Like Murat Man.

The upshot is, regardless of the determinations of the police, Robert Murat may always carry about him, in the eyes of an uninformed few, the aura of Man Who Abducted Madeleine Man.

Which isn't good. And isn't fair.

Especially as he may turn out to be - uniquely among the possible suspects, current or future - the first Entirely Innocent Man among them.

Big impact on air travel

Isn't that ironic as Alanis Morrisette used to say ...

As the Aer Lingus row about relocating its hub from Shannon to Belfast International continues to rumble ever on, just thought that those of you out there who go all pale-about-the-gills at the prospect of flying would be interested to know that the Irish pilots' union is called Impact.

Now, doesn't that make you feel really secure?

The last word

Cherie blair's forthcoming autobiography is rumoured to be a frank account of life in number 10. the bitching, the fights, the raised voices waking the children, the little betrayals and the awful bitterness and wounds that never really heal. isn't it awful when a prime minister and a chancellor fall out of love?

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